A serialised novel
I thought I’d share some of the music that has, in some form, inspired the story so far, or, at least, has resonances with it. My suggestion is that you listen to the music either while reading or after reading this week’s episode. I hope it will add a little to the experience!
Fair Exchange – Be-Bop Deluxe
…. I’m about to cave in and tell him how sorry I am right? You know, it’s not I don’t appreciate all he’s done for me so far… I’m tempted to take that big hand for a moment… I’d rather find out a bit more about you…this place…what I’m doing here in this room, before I walk out there and make with the meet and greet…who is attacking us Mr O’Donnel?…”Now, that’s not to say that you aren’t in any danger. I do have to be frank with you about that…It may help to think of this as a matter of preservation, rather than…how shall we put it…a war. The word ‘war’ is so aggressive. It conjures up so many images. Most of which do not apply here….Bless me Shem, you really are as unpredictable as we thought you would be! This is so interesting… Without you, it is us who will be extremely dead…”
So I kinda shrug my shoulders and give little laugh. Huh, yeah, all dead, that’s right, yup, little ol Mr. Shmuckins here, uh huh. then I look up at O’Donnel. He’s got a kinda intense look on his face. He’s waiting for something. Something from me.
Tired little brain treads water for a moment and then it comes round again. All dead and what was that…without you? Me? Is he talking about me? Really? Huh, takes a while for all this to make its way up into my mouth. I must have sounded like a real slow-mo as I muttered, “Uh, are you talking about me Mr. O’Donnel?”
“Yes, Shem, I’m talking about you.” Man you could cut the sincerity with a knife. He peers in at me and I suddenly feel like I’m some bit of bacteria on a petri-dish on a laboratory table. Then he takes out the scalpel and peels away a bit more. “Without you, it is us who would be dead.” I don’t like the way he savours that last word, says it with real gravitas y’know?
I try and think of some real clever reply.
“Don’t shit with me O’Donnel.” Jeez, what a shmuck. I mean, can you picture it? How many times can you think of the right word though, right? Come on, it’s not just me y’know? Now, don’t ask me how I know but I just do. Still, it’s not quite your usual life saving statement, I grant you that.
“Trust me Shem, I am not, not in any way…” I just know he ain’t gonna say it.”…I am not being anything other than sincere. Come Shem, haven’t you wondered what you were doing in that room all by yourself? How you came to be there? Why Harry was so keen to make your acquaintance so keenly? And not to mention your sense of disorientation?”
Huh, of course, being the shmuck I am my first thought is to say ‘ Yeah, no shit sherlock, where have you been?’ But I resist. O’Donnel is opening up. He’s been so damn understanding so far that I’ve been wondering if he’s thought or even noticed any of this stuff for himself. Seems he has. I sit back in the seat and fold my arms. Ok. So now he’s really got my attention. I’m gonna wait for the nice Mr. O’Donnel to fill me in on all the details.
But he stops, holds out his hand again.
“As I said earlier Shem, it’s really easier if I show you. Come with me.” And I reach up and take his hand, feeling the strength in his frame as he literally pulls me out of the low seat. Walking over to the door he rests his hand on my shoulder. Jeez, talk about going back to childhood. I’m the little kid being led to the theatre door by the big paternal hand. Don’t ask me how I know what that feels like but there it sits on my shoulder. The door slides open and O’Donnel releases me and exits first. He takes two steps and turns. “Come Shem, no need to be afraid.”
I take two steps and find myself…underwhelmed to say the least. A white-walled corridor curves away to the left and right of the door. There are at least two other openings I can see further down but that’s it. O’Donnel waits a moment then takes a step back and I feel his hand press firmly in the small of my back.
“Come Shem, let me show you. We’ll talk as we walk.” I nod like some dumb shmuck and we head off to the left. For the next few minutes there is nothing more than this curving corridor, snaking from left to right. A few doors, all shut but nothing to take any interest in. I listen and O’Donnel begins to talk. Soon it wouldn’t matter if there were herds of elephants dancing the light fantastic at every turn because I can’t quite believe what I’m hearing.
“What we are walking through are the last remains of the Government quarters. It may all look very clean and orderly Shem but, to be honest with you, we’re really looking at very dire times. We have been through some very … difficult… circumstances.”
“Well, I’ll come back to that in a moment if I may. I want to take you back some twenty years. I don’t know how much of this you will know already so I’ll begin simply. With all the computers and personal interaction devices being produced at the end of the last century we begin to reach what is now known as Overload marker 1. You see our world was suffering from too much data. With all the megabytes of data being produced every day we began to realise that there would soon be no way to store it all. And once we realised that, there began to be disagreements about the solution.
“Couldn’t you just delete some of the information?”
“Ah, incisive as always Shem. Right to the point. Delete, yes, of course. Make some room! That is what I was referring to when I told you there were disagreements. Who was to decide what should be deleted? Who should decide what should be kept? Wasn’t it encroaching upon personal freedoms to be told what you can keep and what you can store? Oh, the Government tried to nudge the populace in the right direction of course. We shared the findings from Overload Marker 1 and gave people all kinds of incentives but sadly it didn’t stop the continued introduction of billions of gigabytes of data every day.
Soon the Government realised that they had to act. They began to look for ways to store the most vital information in a secure way. You see, with all that data being handled there was a realisation that once over Marker 1, the whole information system would become unstable. And eventually we would begin to lose data. Overload Marker 2.”
“But I thought you said that you couldn’t delete the information being produced?”
“Oh dear boy, I did, I did, forgive me. What I should have made clear is that it was the people who didn’t want to delete anything. They were out of control with their input and retrieval. Everyone wanted their own version of this and that, their own profile, their own set of choices – images, music, documents, applications, programs – you name it, everyone wanted their own. No, Overload Marker 2 is when the system would become unstable with the result that data itself would become unstable. We would no longer be able to predict which pieces of data had been corrupted and which had not. Which works would be saved and which lost.”
“Uh, but if you’d warned everyone, surely that’s their own fault right?”
“I’m afraid there were many that agree with you Shem. But you see, it’s one thing for a person to lose some of their holiday pictures or the odd e-mail. It’s quite another when the systems controlling, say, the financial institutions stop working or are unreliable. Take a single area such as communications. What if you could never be sure that the message you sent would arrive? What if the message could be corrupted without your knowing? Or the address it was sent to? Oh no, Shem, things were very quickly becoming unmanageable.”
I could see it coming. My hands clenched and opened. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just knew, right? Sheesh I wish I could be wrong about this shit more often, y’know? But I knew this was where I come in. Somehow stuff just adds up, right? You have loads of little glimpses then something pulls out the final piece and ta daa, there it is, right in the shnitzer.
“So as Overload Marker 2 became inevitable my department was charged with finding a reliable method of storing information. We needed a repository for all the most important documents, profiles, programs and information. All the things that the Government could not afford to lose. In fact, I may not be overstating it when I call it the information the world could not afford to lose.”
He stops and looks at me. I’m expecting a piercing stare, or a glimmer of triumph, Y’know? But what do I get? This slightly sad puppy-dog look. He’s looking right at me like I’m something to be pitied. I’m on my way to the pound. Sheesh. What is with this guy?
“Shem, you are that repository. You hold within you the most vital pieces of information. They have been entrusted to you to keep them safe.”
“Entrusted? Me? Uh, now don’t get me wrong Mr. O’Donnel, I know you seem to think pretty well of me and all that, but I’ve gotta tell you there’s no vital information inside this little bit of muscle.” I say, pointing to my head. Again that smile. Poor, poor ol puppy.
“No Shem, the information isn’t in there. You are the carrier of the Government’s protocols. You are the repository because all the information has been encoded and stored within your very own genetic code. Every cell of your body is a storage container for our most precious systems. Without you, we have no way of surviving Overload Marker 3.”
To be continued…
(If you think this is too Sci-Fi have a look at this article –
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,