More stories from a synthetic dream.
Image: This Polis. Thermobad? ©2023 Luka Rejec
The governor steepled all dozen of her elegant, manicured fingers. She studied them, chest rising in the cyclical parasympathetic breathing rhythm taught by the schools of socioeconomic engineering.
Body and soul aligned once more, her amber eyes fixed on the worker (H.G2).
“The silver ship … spoke … to you.”
“I … in the head … a voice, like when Father Builder or Mother Sky …”
“To you,” she cut through their babble, “To a category two Hammer.”
“The voice didn’t ask …”
The governor cocked her head to the side in that strange way the watchers had, the way that activated the second sight.
“No, I suppose it did not,” she murmured.
Her silence stretched. The (H.G2) fidgeted, uncomfortable in their polite arms. They must have felt weak and puny without their exogolem.
Image: The Governor. Generator: Midjourney
Finally, she unfolded to her full nine heads’ height. “Come,” she said mildly, “You will translate for the silver ship and we shall see what Mind is behind all this.”
Her hand stroked the (H.G2)’s neck and her sixth finger overrode their personality barrier. Without volition, like a Recuser’s Megaservant, the (H.G2) rose and guided her to the beach where the silver ship rested on the pearl and amber shore.
Image: The Beach and the Levitating Tower. ©2023 Luka Rejec
Reality Fields Forever
Halan sat down on the bench, lean frame folding, the action pushing a satisfied sigh out of her lungs. Jene passed her a can of Cud Light.
Dew stippled the cool metal. Dynamic letters danced on its surface. The tab popped with a promise of refreshment and rest after a day’s work well done.
“Gunna be a tropical night,” Jene said, motioning to the forecast hanging on the Dome of the Sky. The readout framed the sunset beautifully, providing context and human meaning to the celestial phenomenon.
“Beach party tonight, ya?” Halan asked and took a swig. The carbonated semi-alcoholic water sparked in her mouth and triggered memories of a thousand days just like this. Meaningful, satisfying days of contributing to the community and helping This Polis survive through the Obliteration.
“Ung, Deoin wrapped early and called in a delivery. He’s already there with the gang for a late ball game.”
Halan held the can a bit more tightly and thought about whether Jene would appreciate an arm across the shoulders, maybe even a hug. She came here to give her a ride back often enough that it couldn’t be coincidence.
Instead, she mumbled, “Fire watch was interesting today. Saw a couple of those big eagles.”
“The wyvern eagles?” Jene asked. Definitely with a smile.
Then Jene’s eyes shifted behind Halan, “Is that one of them?”
“Huh,” she squinted, “I can’t quite make it out. Maybe my eyes need sharpening again?”
“No, wait, it’s behind the Dome!” Jene’s voice climbed a bit in excitement, “Is that an Edo?”
“An extra-dome object? Can’t be! Hasn’t been one reported in …”
With a blip the trilliant flyer’s diaphanous energy wings pulled it through the Dome as though the great force field was just a …
Image: Extra-dome Object. Generator: Midjourney.
The Dome readout collapsed into glitching errors and the colors of the world flickering absurdly. The melodious harmony of late afternoon colors transfigured into deep shadows, pallid trees, green-purple leaves.
“Halan, your …” Jene gestured. Her uniform. Instead of the delicate pastel patterns and ornate swirls of the fire watch it was a dull, monotonous green. Like the new color of the leaves. All the rainbows of the living world had fled.
The Cud Light dropped from slack fingers, foaming beverage soaking, glug-glug, into the soil become like ash.
“Halan?” Jene waved a hand in front of her unfocused gaze. Terror? Awe? Halan was absent.
Back there, where the Dome had always been, a comforting sky full of good, stable news, the world was a-glitch. Jene’s brain struggled to process what it was seeing. Her para-brain wailed error messages at her soft consciousness. In the middle of it all, the trilliant flyer came down on wings like magnetic lines made visible, a jewel of iridescent, mirror facets.
Jene felt herself grow light. She thought she was about to faint, but as she took a step back from the empty shell of Halan, she almost went flying. It wasn’t just her eyes failing her, gravity itself seemed broken.
Then the extra-dome object was in front of her. Or she was in front of it. Or they were in a relationship of two things suspended out of time and space.
Bile, rising, then cool nothing. Like a part of her had lost its personality. Jene’s para-brain spoke, in a lifeless voice, “Rose protocol suspended, Interface protocol activated.”
She was still standing on that grassy verge by the side of the north forest rode, where the benches gave a view of the rising cliffs protecting This Polis. Halan was still next to her. The Cud Light was still foaming into the ground. No time had passed, yet an eternity had passed. Jene’s perception was untethered. She saw herself. She saw her patentwagen parked neatly on the gravel lot. With some new sense she felt inside its battery and understood it was 87% full with an estimated remaining range of 220 metric miles.
“You are Jene of the Carpenter’s IV, yes?” the formal voice was in her mind without her ears’ intervention and suddenly a tall ageless woman stood between her and the levitating flyer.
Gravity made its stealthy return and she felt grounded enough to reply, “…”
She tried again, and this time her voice obeyed, “Yes.”
“Excellent, I thought as much but good to be sure. I have brought you a message from your distant uncle, M. Èckes,” said the woman and handed a personal vidy card down to Jene.
Jene’s hand rose of its own accord, her para-brain fearless with whatever the Interface protocol was, and took the translucent piece of infotech.
Revelation. Unveiling. Ancestry. Relative. Inheritence. Travel. Beyond the Dome.
The giantess stood calmly while Jene’s para-brain worked furiously to reintegrate her personality after the sudden dysfunction of her worldview.
“But … the Obliteration,” Jene whispered.
“Your founders choice.”
“Was … everything a lie?”
“Not a lie. Spin or chosen blindness. It really doesn’t matter so much, if you want it back you can return to it, either now or after visiting Èckes. But, frankly, I recommend you wait until after your visit.”
Jene’s eyes bulged a little and her mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. The lofty stranger seemed to have expected this and demonstrated no impatience.
“Wh-when?” asked Jene, eyeing the improbable trilliant with suspicion.
“You have time. Though driving with that patentwagen might take too long. I recommend the Friday train, there will be a passenger car. Or you can use your return portal ticket.”
Jene’s mind flew. There was an outside beyond the Dome of the Sky. There was more to the world. Her para-brain soothed her, kept her from screaming. She could ride the train. She had a ticket for the angels’ portal. She …
“Nobody will believe me?!”
The elegant outsider looked at Halan and smiled, “Well, true, but they also won’t notice.”
“Their para-brains will give them a reasonable explanation for your absence and for any incongruous stories you tell them,” she motioned at Halan, “though this one, I suspect, will manufacture some elaborate self-delusion about being rejected by you.”
Jene looked at Halan, then back at the alien, then back at Halan.
“Halan? No … she’s just,” her brain went crawling back towards its familiar patterns and she had to shake herself, “Wait! Stop that. Who are you? How could you come through the Dome of the Sky? Why me?”
“So many questions!” chuckled the porcelain-skinned human, “But you are right, I have been a little rude. Pietra of the Twilight Lee, 3rd edition. Your distant uncle provided me with a postal agent permit that let me pass through your Sky Barrier. And why you … well … for that you should ask Èckes. If that person does one thing it’s keep their own council.”
Pietra shook her head wryly then raised a hand to stop Jene, “Please, I can’t give you more answers. I have to deliver more messages and then the flyer will want to go home. Èckes is giving you an interesting opportunity. The choice is yours.”
Then, before Jene could say another word, Pietra was gone and the flyer was slipping back into the sky.
“Ouf! That wyvern eagle surprised me! Came so close I dropped my Cud!” exclaimed Halan, suddenly reanimated.
“Uh … yeah, yeah,” agreed Jene, distantly.
In her para-brain a new option toggle called her attention: Switch baseline reality protocol.
Image: A small sunrise. Generator: Midjourney.
The autogolem Ubar negotiated the last hairpin and entered the approach tunnel. Adramwt muttered a prayer of thanks to Green Aspera, that the glass walls left by the null-beam excavator remained as perfect and unchanged as they had ever been. Motes of light, remnants of the creative destruction of the null-beam, remained in the glassy material. Perhaps a little dimmer now, eight hundred years after their birth, but still bright enough to see by now and for another eighty thousand years.
As Ubar left the tunnel and drove out onto the gleam-white spider-span across the deep defile, Adramwt shuddered and muttered a prayer of aversion to Chem Caoutchouc, that the bringer of fire would continue to ignore this desecration of its ruinlands. The bridge felt too insubstantial, little more than a flat plane of force bound in prayers and equations to keep it from blowing away like a cloud.
Yet, it held. It held like it had every time Adramwt had crossed it for the last eight hundred years since she had inherited the high house from Mother and linked it by audacious magic to the Garden City.
It was not forbidden for humans to build roads, but the Lord who had given the house to Adramwt’s lineage had supplied it with a slow gate. Was this not a clear sign of the Lord’s designs?
Adramwt shuddered again. Eight hundred years, the prayers had kept the Lords content. Still, their minds were not as the minds of humans. They thought long thoughts and strange, and who could tell … perhaps these many years were but a long game to tease her deeper into heresy, into the cage of damnation.
“Your fears grow every time you feel them,” said Ubar in its melodious tones.
Adramwt nodded and Ubar felt the nod as Ubar felt everything within its living metal chassis.
“You could edit them out.”
“Reasonable Ubar, perhaps that is precisely the heresy the Lords are waiting for.”
“It is hard to be a human beholden to such gods.”
“This is heaven, what other gods could we have?”
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Welcome, dear Reader, to February. A month from the equinox! Soon, days shall be longer than nights in the lands of Northy Halfball, while the opposite shall hold in Southy Halfball.
I hope you enjoyed these tales from the book I’m calling Our Golden Age and releasing over on the stratometaship patreon. It’s a roleplaying game book and world-building game rolled into one, and I’m using these stories to give flavor rather than delivering it in the format of PedantopeadiaTM entries. This may be to your taste. If it isn’t, other books and games abound.
Now, warning. That link up there? Paywalled. And I know I said I’d do only one link per email. I’ll pretend that one’s only kind of half-a-link. So here’s a free link to some maps from the more-or-less world of these stories: Thermobad & Other Maps.
You may also have noticed some generated art - I think it’s weirdly apt for illustrating the world of the Synthetic Dream. I especially like the fortuitous serendipity of the Governor and the generator’s inability (for now) to do hands quite a-right.
Ok, enough rambles from the Author.
Take care, Readers!
—Luka, February, Cafe, Toasty, 2023