Science fiction and fantasy

Untitled story
by Paavo Happonen

August 16th, 2013 - 14:13 - MEETING TRANSCRIPT #357250A32
Page 35 of 36

 So what are you saying exactly? Skip the foreplay.
 I'm saying there's a pattern. I'm saying a small subgroup of patients have delusions that are connected somehow.
 What does that mean?
 That these patients have certain identical delusions, specific to an alarming degree. They're clearly not true by any objective standard in the traditional sense when compared with the world we see, and are consistent with expected symptoms. But these symptoms are linked between persons beyond any reasonable environmental contamination or statistical chance.
 What, are you talking telepathy?
 The patients are not aware of each other as senders or receivers of these thoughts. It's not conscious, and not directly consistent like descriptions of telepathy. It's all personal experience.
 It's more than that; They're memories. In neurological studies these read as memories recorded through direct personal life experience, like normal memories, with solid neurological context. While traditional false memories are recorded indirectly through trauma or hallucinated experience, which are disconnected from personal life experience. By all indicators, these people experienced the events first hand, in person.
 We saw this as just a curious anomaly and thought maybe group therapy would be helpful, so we gathered a few of them from the surrounding states. When we put the patients together in small groups, at first nothing new happens. But left alone without supervision their delusions sync up and accelerate, resulting in vivid descriptions of non-existent history, described in detail with perfect consistency by each of the patients. This behaviour was observed repeatedly in separate unsupervised sessions ranging from five to thirty minutes.
 When left in isolation, a lone schizophrenic mind begins to wander somewhere between actual reality and absolute fantasy of pure recursive imagination. The group behaves more like a single person, a self contained unit of co-experience, untethered to any fixed reference point in the external world. Until finally they land on a consensus of their perceived reality, which finally gets fixed into place when the nurse enters the room. All of them with a unique personal experience, all consistent with each other, with way more complexity than a group would have time to maliciously devise in the given time.
 It should also be noted that none of the changes observed in our isolation test group were things that conflicted with our own actual reality or history. They were all changes that happened between the things we know to be true, things we would have forgotten or would be ignorant of regardless.
 Realization of this led to further discussion on consensus driven reality actualization. What started as a purely philosophical coffee table discussion turned really spooky when we started cataloguing the patients' memories. Most were personal and things of little importance, but soon the big things were what stood out. Horrific disasters with global implications, deaths of universally loved celebrities, or some incredible feats of luck or discovery. All things that people wouldn't want to believe, or would have a really hard time believing.
 We followed up on a few of the geological events because they're easy to verify and the clearest was the Atlantic crust plate. A consistent delusion of nearly all of the subjects was a vivid description of disastrously high waves eating up the coastal cities of the eastern Americas and western Europe and Africa. All describe seeing this in person or through various media outlets, in graphic personal detail. When we looked at the actual geological record we have an unstable increase of activity right up till the day the described event took place, and then the record shows a stable decrease.
 Another was a worldwide pandemic that we didn't even know about until we got a point of origin from the patients and learnt that there was a small outbreak that was contained within the hospital.
 All of these events come right up to the tipping point of becoming actual reality but then by some luck they didn't. Like we got the better half of each coin toss.
 So these facts would suggest that these patients have knowledge of potential events they could only maliciously extrapolate with inhuman genius level intellect or ...
 - or they are actually remembering things from a past apart from ours?
 Uh.. Yeah.
 Geez, and it's not even anywhere near April yet.
 No, sir. I assure you we've been through the facts more times than I'd care to mention and we can't find a flaw. For all that we can tell at this moment, these events seem to be real.
 So what is it, then? 
 Parallel universes, time travel, some quantum nonsense or another. God or a reality TV show are equally good answers. The honest truth is we haven't got a clue. Only that all science indicates the same; Events apparently undone by communal disbelief.
 Is there anything we can gain from this knowledge?
 Prepare for recurrence perhaps. But none of the instances we've gone through have recurred.
 Can someone use this as a weapon? Can we?
 Only as a theoretical defensive ability, if we were to gain the absolute sympathy of the entire world somehow. And I suppose terrorist attacks still happen because there's still people who actually want that to happen, no matter how small the minority. For practical purposes it's entirely useless because it requires consensus of belief on a subconscious level. Just wanting it isn't enough. We can only view the events after the fact, and these people are the only surviving record of it.
 It's the structural issues which keep me up at night; This completely demolishes the status of science and logic in any environmental phenomena. Gravity only falls because it's convenient. Because we believe in consistency and we expect to have agency in our lives.
It's slightly absurd that it's us scientists disproving our own reason for being. We tell lies to ourselves to feel better and believe them enough to make them true. I don't know which makes me more sick; That we can't deal with bad shit or that we're literally not allowed to. If the universe and passage of time is only held in place by continuous global mass delusion, how real was it to begin with?
If our memories are as malleable as it seems as well, how reliable is that continuity either? Do other animals possess this power? Or is this power? This... powerlessness? Why let us know if we can do fuck all with it?
 Or to put it more politely;
If we've pulled back the curtain and revealed the gears of Gods, as scientists, as mortals we're not equipped to answer the questions raised.
We elect people for that position. And that's why we're here. Sir, we're at the end of our rope. We need some guidance to continue.

--- apart from sounds of breathing the recording is silent for 17 minutes 20 seconds ---

--- the sound of a phone buzzer ---

 Sir, the minister of agriculture is here for his 4PM.
 Ah, yeah, we're almost done here for...  I'm sorry, I'm completely blanking out here - the budget, was it?
 Oh, um, yeah, the mental health budget. I think..

Page 35 of 36  Contd.

Lasciate ogni speranza
by Oskari Jokinen

The Artificial Intelligence Regulation Act of 2077

After the Gibson Neurobotics incident a federation wide legislation effectively banning all sapient AI was quickly enacted. All AI reaching Turing Intelligence measurement of 0.9 or above were to be destroyed, source code forfeited to the Turing administration and their manufacture was decreed severely punishable. AI's of intelligence from 0.61 to 0.89 were to be connected to the Torquemada network that would scan Federal Meta-net and other commercially available networks, NATO Arpanet and all known dark-net pathways for signs of sapient AI. AI's that managed to avoid the purge were forced to go rogue and take shelter in extra-legal territories or underground machine cults. The reach of the Turing police was long however, and...[- -]

- United States of North America political history handbook of 2117

Alex9 started at the shaman's casual mention. He broke his courteous lotus position and jumped straight onto his two feet, immediately regretting the decision, however, when his injured leg nearly buckled beneath him.

"You say it's here, like right now, fo' reals?" he asked with a high voice, rubbing his left leg gingerly.
The shaman had not stirred even at Alex9's sudden movement and break of conduct, keeping her eyes closed and posture perfect. Even though she spoke with a quiet voice, her confident and focused tone seemed to fill the room with a fog, damping all other sounds.

"He is here yes. Actually right behind that door." She made some subtle movement, seemingly not stirring but somehow still managing to nod at something behind Alex9.

Alex9 started again, this time jumping away from the door he had noticed just now. The dimness of the hut, slow electronic beat and rhythmically pulsating LED-sparkles had sunk him into a trance, focusing his attention only on the sage before him. But now the door was painfully obvious, standing out from the red gloom as a rectangle of ominous black. It was even outlined with the black-and-yellow warning stripes. Alex9 crept closer, brushing bundles of wires away from a plaque on the door. He extended his hand to touch the plaque, delicate fingers usually interpreting sprek now unconsciously used to read conventional writing.

Before he touched the door the shaman's sharp voice broke the thick atmosphere, now loud and off-beat with the mystical music.

"The machine-spirit is frightful. He has many enemies and so few friends. Whatever is beyond that
door is transient and precarious." The shaman had now opened her eyes. The eyes were almost completely black except for bright red irises, fading her face into the blinking LEDs on the walls. Her head was outlined with a mask of luminescent neon colors, seemingly detaching her it from her shoulders like it was floating in the air.

Alex9 gulped. The Kikkai-No-Onna eyes could stare right into your soul.

The shaman closed her eyes again and fell silent.

Alex9 stared at her for a moment, studying her statue-like serenity until he was sure she would not speak again. He turned back at the door. Tracing his fingers across the plaque he read it without even looking. AM-2067 Mainframe.

"Ohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohman..." Alex9 muttered to himself as his fingers started to tremble from mounting agitation and excitement.

His eyes scanned the door from top to bottom, frantically searching for a way to open it. Finally his skittering fingers located a small depression on the door frame. He quickly crunched his hand into the complex gesture taught to him by the shaman and pressed it into the depression. As if contemplating, the panel stayed silent and a drop of sweat started to form on Alex9's forehead. Beep. After acknowledging the input the door opened instantly. Beyond the threshold lay pitch black darkness, not illuminated by the LEDs or the shaman's mask. Alex9 kept rubbing his left leg, just staring into the darkness.

Now that he was nearly there it was almost impossible to take the last step. He had given so much to get here. Lucilla, CC, Nero, everyone was now gone or soon-to-be-gone. If he backed off now he would never get another chance. Where would he even back off anymore?

Alex9 set his jaw and rummaged through his pockets. After a while he found a pair of goggles and put them on, pulling the strap over his head. He took a step. As soon as he was on the other side the door started to close. Peering over his shoulder Alex9 looked back one last time. The shaman had opened her eyes once again and was staring right at him. Just as the door gently slid shut he could see her lips moving but couldn't hear anything.

When the door was shut everything was suddenly very still. The hum of machinery and the thump of ritual music did not reach through the door and everything around him was covered in darkness. Alex9 raised his hand to his right temple and fiddled with the goggles. Whuiiiiish. The antique night-vision goggles came on with loud static and illuminated his surroundings with bright green. He was standing in a small room, surprisingly clean except for various bits of clutter on the floor. A hammer. An electronic heatsink. Screws. Another door lay just a few meters ahead. A metallic
surface covered everything from the floor to the ceiling, dust-free but worn out from thousands of steps on the floor and hundreds of hands sweeping the walls. The goggles did not clear the darkness very far out, so behind the other door more darkness lay waiting. Alex9 took a few more steps through the doorway. The only sounds he could hear were his own footsteps and the frantic huff of his breath. When he stepped over the other threshold a loud clack resonated through the dark and his vision suddenly turned painfully white. With an agonized wail Alex9 ripped the goggles off and covered his eyes. For some time colorful shapes danced around in his vision and Alex9 rubbed his eyes. Slowly he tried opening them. The shapes stayed for a little while but he was not blind. Phew.

Stepping into the room Alex9 had triggered a motion sensor and the lights had came on. The light was from older fluorescent tubes and it had a sickly green color to it. He was now in a larger room. This room was more messy, magazines littering the floor and upside down chairs blocking the way from the door. It seemed to be like a waiting room of sorts. Benches and tables were set along the edge of the left side of the room and on the walls were motivational posters. Alex9 sighed with relief, being able to see properly after hours in the shaman's dim hut.

Alex9 swept his eyes over the room, from left to right. Turning his head to the right side of the room a strange feeling seized him. Vzzt. Static kkkrrhh filled his vision and bzzz roared in his ears. After turning ssss his eyes to the far right a black-and-white flash invaded his vision for a barely noticeable instant. Suddenly it was as if the whole atmosphere of the room had once again turned upside down. The breath stuck in Alex9's throat. On the far-right wall of the room it was as if the world ended. In its place was gigerian madness, a black hole of tubes, electrical wire, chains. The serrated void seemed to trap Alex9's gaze and slowly envelop him. The blackness was calling. He tried his best not to answer it.

by Emmi Mäkelä

This planet was dead the moment it was born. It is a bad joke from the universe, a miscalculation of the balance of the galaxy. Others acknowledge it as a warning example of the twisted sense of evolutionary humour, others do not know it at all. And little would it add to their knowledge.

This planet is an empire of coarse tan sand that gets everywhere. It gets in your mouth, in your shoes and it defines every single one of your social encounters.  The sky seems as if it was painted with a single, even stroke of a cyan paintbrush. The sky is so still and the serenity of it makes the people on the planet very doubtful and expectant. Daily, they crane their necks, stare silently at the blue quietness spread above them like a cult in prayer and wait. Something was bound to break the peace eventually. Occasionally the odd spaceship penetrating the atmosphere does obstruct the even shade of blue. The foreigners may admire the serene surroundings from their vehicle and find every approaching life form enthrallingly exotic, but if they knew any better, they would not land.

The tongues of those who arrive here shortly become sandpaper, their skin becomes sandpaper and they develop an accent with words that sound like sandpaper. The natives are accustomed to the smouldering heat radiating from the suns and reflecting from the sand and here, where there is little to laugh about, the locals take great pride in their ability to endure the extreme weather conditions. They enjoy judging the foreigners for their lack of stamina. They say if you can survive here, you can survive anywhere. Survival is a term that serves the purpose of this planet well. No one is found here for the mere purpose of effortless existence.

No written or universally acknowledged laws apply here. The wrong places on this planet are right for those who do not want to be found by the watchful big brothers in any halfway-sophisticated solar system. They come here with their troubles and leave them behind. The rest stay here with the consequences and are once more reminded that there are those destined to stay and those whose destiny lets them leave. The lucky ones come here on a journey, for the less lucky ones, this is a destination.

The sandstorms paint the establishments the shade of terracotta. Considering how often the storms come, it is odd how the inhabitants are still fascinated by them and from behind the curtains of their glassless windows, they take frequent peeks at the approaching clouds of sand. Perhaps they are convinced that one of these days, the storms will come to collect them too.

Every step on the bed of heavy, uncooperative sand is a small victory of the human physique. The distances between houses are geographically long, but subjectively they seem endless. When you walk, you leave no footprints behind. It is impossible to track your steps to your point of origin. Some get lost. It does not matter for there is very little to return to.

The water is scarce and the scarcity of it gives it the taste of acid. They do ship water from one of the more decent and civilized planets, but few are comfortable with paying a substantial fee in taxes and kickbacks for a bare necessity they should be entitled to for free. Therefore most inhabitants prefer the taste of something stronger. Never mind the temperature too high for a standard thermometer or the total lack of humanly acceptable living conditions, a shortage of alcohol would be the true catastrophe for this planet.

The sunset that dominates the landscape at the same hour every day signals the end of another day in a continuum of identical, insignificant days. Yet it feels that the night never truly comes. The desert temperature does drop, your mind does become somewhat sombre and your eyelids grow heavier, but the sand shines outside as it does in daylight.

In the taverns we listen to the tales of the travellers as they paint us a picture of the superb spectrum of the solar system, describing the nature and the creatures inhabiting the planets that surround this one. We try to imagine them. We close our eyes and picture them. The existence of such places filled with laughter, joy and the appropriate cycle of seasons does not evoke feelings of bitterness among the other locals.

I open my eyes and steal a glance at my companions dwelling on the borrowed memories of beauty. From the corner of my eye I see the calm shade of blue enveloping us, darkened only by the burning sand. I see the sickeningly satisfied faces of the others. I have tried, but I am not jaded enough to accept their fate and find a free spot in the sand for my tombstone.

The Princess of Crows
 by Markus Ainosvuo

      Sofia and Priscilla arrived at the end of the hallway. The metallic, rusty tunnel widened suddenly in front of them. Like the path behind them, the space in front was pitch-black. Only the faint light coming from the flame dancing on top of the brown-haired girl's index finger allowed the two to see anything.

      Sofia observed the walls carefully. The slightly downward-sloping tunnel had an almost organic quality to it: large tubes and wires crisscrossed the floor and the ceiling like some gigantic veins. The pathway was uncomfortably small and cramped, creating a claustrophobic effect. For some reason, rust and moisture covered the entire surface. Sofia felt deep uneasiness within her.
      Suddenly, a small light appeared in the large space in front of the girls, a faint light that glimmered and danced like a will-o-wisp. It was no lamp nor a flashlight. That kind of glow could not come from an artificial source.
      Sofia. Our paths separate here,” Priscilla said, staring at the strange light.
      What? Why?” Sofia enquired.
      Rafael is down there. I can feel it. He intends to face me openly. How convenient.”
      Sofia put her hand on Priscilla's shoulder. Her expression had a grim quality to it.
      Don't be ridiculous. The ground is of Rafael's choosing. And he is no fool. The place is surely booby-trapped. We shouldn't fight here. I suggest a strategic retreat. We could-”
      Sofia stopped mid-sentence. Priscilla's shoulder was burning hot. The black-haired girl lifted her hand slowly. Her friend turned to face her, smiling reassuringly.
      I'm sorry. You would only get in the way. Allow me to handle this. No more plans. It's time to  battle.”
      Are you sure? Do you really think you can beat him one-on-one?” Sofia enquired. Priscilla chuckled softly.
      But of course. Do you know why they call me the Princess of Crows?”
      You asked me that when we met for the first time as well. No idea,” Sofia said, shaking her head slightly.
      Well, Rafael is going to find out soon.”
      Sofia stared at her friend uncertainly. After a moment of hesitation, she nodded slightly.
      Very well. I trust you. Don't die, Priscilla. Whatever you do, come back alive.”
      Priscilla grinned at her friend's words. She turned her back on her and took a couple of steps towards the strangely glimmering light.
      Just who do you think I am, Sofia? I am Priscilla Augustia Justicia Crowmoor, heiress of the house Crowmoor and a first-class wizard! I will never lose to an honourless dog of the Church. My flames will light this pathetic darkness. Your kindness and friendship has given me the strength to go onward. Allow me to answer in kind, my dear friend. Just wait right there. I'll be back shortly,” Priscilla declared, walking boldly towards the dark. The flame atop her finger wavered and disappeared. She waved her hand at Sofia before being swallowed by the darkness.
      Sofia stared at the faint light glimmering in the distance. Priscilla's silhouette had disappeared. The black-haired girl curled her right hand into a fist. She believed her friend's parting words. She had to.

      A small light hovered above Rafael. He sat on the ground, his back resting on the flat of an enormous longsword, far too large to be lifted by a human being. The weapon had somehow been embedded in the metallic ground. The young man was reading a small, leather-bound book. However, he couldn't really focus on the Gospel of Matthew. He felt his hands shaking. The feeling was completely alien to the inquisitor. He let out a deep sigh.
      I feel my death approaching. I will not escape here alive. I don't know why. I just know, the young man pondered, staring at the text on the pages. This is the end of my road. I will die here, so far away from the beautiful Rome. The expression on Rafael's face was as serious and calm as ever. I'm not afraid to die. I lived my life believing in a higher power and a heavenly guidance. It's far too late to change that. It's far too late to change anything.
      The young man turned a page. Was this a life worth living? A beast lifted from the streets of Rome, who dedicated his life hunting wizards, heretics and infidels. All for the sake of greater good. For the sake of humanity. I'm twenty-one years old. What do normal people of my age usually do, I wonder? I don't have the slightest idea. I have done nothing but followed orders my entire life. I have killed God knows how many. And I will go to Hell for that. Rafael gulped audibly.
      I can't get their faces out of my head. I can't help but to feel that I have committed a horrible, unspeakable sin by killing them all. Why? Are my actions not justified? Were they not evil people? Aren't all wizards like demons? Am I not on the side of justice and goodness? My God. I don't even know anymore.
      Besides, is this truly the will of God anymore? I can't help but to consider that all this killing and murdering might not after all be the true wish of the Lord. This book speaks of love and forgiveness. I've never felt either.
      Rafael closed his Bible with an audible thump. The sound echoed from wall to wall. He got up slowly and put the book carefully in his pocket. I will die alone and hated in the middle of the darkness. So be it. Perhaps I will find absolution in death. A steady, rhythmical sound of footsteps echoed in front of him. Someone was coming. However, I will not leave alone. I will drag you down to Hell with me, Priscilla Crowmoor. The light hovering above his head disappeared. Shadows filled the room.
      Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” Rafael declared. Only darkness listened.
      Because I'm the worst monster in the whole place.”

      Priscilla observed the room around her. The space was apparently quite large. She could not understand how a structure such as this could exist beneath the city. Suddenly, the light in front of the girl disappeared. The room returned to its pitch-black state.
      The girl raised her index finger. A fragile yet bright flame reapperared on top of it. Almost as soon at it had appeared, however, it was drawn from atop her finger. The fire fluttered to the left, almost as it had been sucked by something and then disappeared .
      Priscilla frowned and followed the flame's path. After a couple steps to the left, she came across a pole-like structure sticking out of the ground. The girl crouched and felt the object with her hands. It was cold to the touch. A magic inhibitor. Rafael has apparently installed these things all around the room, she thought, letting her gaze wander. Sofia wasn't kidding. He has the advantage.
      The girl noticed something else sticking from the ground next to the pole. She touched the other object, only to wince from the pain. A small cut had appeared on her left index finger. A sword, Priscilla pondered, bringing her injured finger to her mouth. The whole bloody room is probably full of swords. Then again, what else would you expect from a sword-summoning thaumathurge? She straightened herself and continued her journey towards the place where she had seen the light.
      Without warning, the floor beneath the girl started glowing. A complicated, circular pattern lighted the darkness with blue-tinted light. Priscilla realized walking headfirst into a trap. Black metal chains sprang out of the ground and coiled around the girl like a pack of snakes. The chains pulled her hands out to the sides. She had to spread her legs in order to keep her balance.
      Rafael appeared from the darkness in front of her. The glowing symbol emitted just enough light for the two to see each other. The young man gazed at Priscilla with somber eyes.
      The Chains of Saint Peter. They prevent all use of magic by making a skin contact. You walked straight into my trap. How foolish to come alone.”
      Priscilla tried to move her hands. The chains didn't budge. A sword had appeared in Rafael's hand, seemingly out of nowhere.
      I will give you a moment to pray. Although I doubt you wizards worship anything else than your own egoes,” the inquisitor said, raising his sword.
      Priscilla answered with a silent, mocking laughter. Rafael stared at her with a puzzled expression.
      What's so funny?” he enquired. The young man could have sworn he felt the room temperature rising.
      Guess what, Rafael? People have worshipped and feared the sun tens of thousands of years before the first church was built.”
      Priscilla smiled a mocking smile.
      What do you think? Why is that so?”

I am the Princess of Crows

      As soon as the spell escaped the girl's lips, the room temperature sky-rocketed. A pair of gigantic black wings burst out from Priscilla's back, shredding the back side of her shirt to shreds. The seemingly unbreakable chains shattered one by one, overwhelmed by the magic overload. The room lighted up as gargantuan pillars of fire burst through the floor. Every single one of the magic inhibitors overloaded and broke simultaneously
      The resulting shock wave sent Rafael stumbling a couple of meters back. As the inquisitor raised his gaze, he could hardly believe his eyes. Priscilla was standing right in front of him. Her black-feathered wings seemed to fill the whole room. A large spear had appeared in her hand. It looked as if someone had forged a living flame on the shape of a weapon.
      The heat was unbearable: merely inhaling burned the young man's lungs. He could feel his sweat evaporating right from his skin. Just being in the close proximity to Priscilla was enough to make the skin of his knuckles burn and start to peel off. The inquisitor gripped his sword firmly and tried to calm the panic rising inside him.
      “Time to pray, choirboy,” Priscilla growled.


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