Thursday, 29 September 2016

In the name of Noxon (part 4)

Fourth part of "In the name of Noxon"- it is still, largely, world-building

The Great Ziggurat of Sassa
 
The ziggurat, with its 180 meters of height, has been for nearly three millennia the tallest building on the great Frakka Lake. In the last five hundred years, though, its size ha been greatly surpassed by that of most buildings surrounding it. Contrarily to other Churches on the planet, though, the Church of Noxon the Lord of Nothing didn't see it as a problem and did not embark in any replacement project for the ancient monument.

Famously, Officiant Adlena Marritt, the 247th Ruler of the Dice, observed that "If the 'god' asks us to double the offers dispatched at every rite, we may think about building a new one - as things stands, it is more than enough for the Church's needs".

The ziggurat survived, among other things, the 7.3 magnitudes earthquake of 5372 a.c., that virtually levelled the town, and the continuous changes of the lake's water level. As most ancient ziggurats, the officiants arrive to the base of the Great Stairways in a canoe convoy, over the calm waters of the inner gulf of Sassa.

As a concession to modernity, a walking bridge connects now the artificial island to the mainland, to allow access to viewers and auxiliary personnel.

For obvious reasons, flats that allow direct view of the playing cube command healthy overprices. 


<<
As I told before, they reunited all of us in a great hall, for what could be called the neo-Officiant's graduation ceremony.

In reality, it was also the last point where we could effortlessly decide whether we were going to be officiants or not.

All of the girls from small towns, isolated islands and other Noxon-forsaken places, like our very home, stayed. Many if not most  of the ones arriving from capital cities, like Sassa itself,  left their place.

I didn't know it, at the time, but vocations were already diminishing, even though the expansion of the world population more than hid it. Near the end of my service career, when it became evident that not only the new generations were restive to engage with the service of the 'god', but also that were born in far lesser numbers,  a tipping point would be reached. A complete overhaul of the recruitment system became necessary, to keep the minimum number of officiants required by the 'god', which gave us the modern model.

 At this point, it was time for us to be divided and sent, each, to one of the fourteen Noxon Houses in the world. As virtually any other thing in the life of an officiant, the destination was chosen casually, throwing a twenty faces' dice in this case (the dices had void spots, but Noxon was not so ready to correct mistakes - void choices implied re-throws. When, every four years, an officiant may request to be moved to another place - the destination is chosen, again, by the 'god', and can be a "stay".

The place that the 'god' chose for me was Fraglbar, almost on the other side of the planet, in the warmer zone of Quijia. I was surprised to discover that one of the girls from our valley was going there with me, Cezanne Gogh, though she was an "extra" - given her young age, she was not counted as a full officiant yet, as it would be allowed her to drop out without repercussion till her 22th birthday.

The 'god' had really wanted her in Fraglbar, as it is routine to re-draw the dice, when the draft for your destination already contains one of your selection companions - the 'god' seldom interfere with hazard, in this phase, but it is known to do so. Cezanne was drafted for Fraglbar, three times in a row.
We were scheduled to depart after the next Rites, so I we finally had way to see a Walk Up from near, from the very sides of the central stair of the Ziggurat.

Being there, I discovered something that I had, before, only vaguely suspected - being part of the Rites excite me.

Sexually, I mean.

Seeing that companion reaching toward the peak of the woman-made hill, her arms crossed behind her back in a reverse prayer, her light vest fluctuating in the slow wind hilighting her body, the thought of what was going to happen to her in the next few hours, the very though that in some few months I would have climbed a set of similar steps, bound in a similar way... it was incredibly exciting.

Waiting for the passage of our companions, I felt something wet sliding down, between my legs. It is, of course, expected, which is one reason the dresses of the women on the aisles are designed with long gowns opened on the sides, up to the waist line..

Like many other on those stairs, I soon slipped a hand inside my robe and started masturbating, reaching an orgasm well before the Officiant arrived at my height, and another one soon after, when she passed my place and I could fully appreciate the flexibility of her arms' joints, and of a  bondage position maintained only through an effort of will.

I didn't know that, even among the  service, only a handful of women reach those levels of pliability, through a thorough training that is, itself, considered a rite (rite 0044) - so the thought that, some day, I would have been able to do exactly the same as that woman, came to me quite naturally and most naïvely.

While the physical conditioning that is part of The Service improved me much in the following few months, I would never became so good to be placed in full contortionist training.


When we were back into our lodgings, I was still so horny that I continued what I had to interrupt, to vacate the Long Walk path. I forgot to close the door of my room, and I suddenly felt someone staring at me - she was Cezanne, that had come to discuss our travel arrangements for the day after.

She looked very... deep, all of a sudden - not just a little sullen, like the girl in a personal crisis that I knew she was, but as someone that knew well what I was going through.

-  "You really thought that you were going through this, because of your faith and the social perks of the role?"I must have nodded, because suddenly she was in front of me, looking in my eyes and  - I saw - very excited by how sort-breathed the spectacle of The Walk had left me.

She reached my breast with her left hand squeezed hard - I was surprised, horny, and the situation had developed in a way that, suddenly, I felt that I had no control over it, or myself.

I came then and there and she smiled, seeing my post-orgasmic face lost in the haze.

Then she kissed me, and hugged with a strength that I did not suspect. She was training as an acrobat since she was a child, under her mother - herself a Circus-woman that had decided to stick to our valley for the love of Cezanne's womb-mother.

She tumbled me, that at that time was still heavier if not bustier, as if I were a doll - all strength had left me. I had entered a mind-state of absolute tranquillity and the force that she was displaying deeply reassured me. I felt dominated, for the first time in my life, and it was glorious.

I was on the bed, on my back, and she almost ripped my gown away, and then her own. It was the first time that I really saw her move in tension - she was tall, willowy and lean, so I always assumed that she was kind of a melancholic girl of slow movements and barely masked sadnesses. She was not - under her skin, the muscles danced with a fervour that I never suspected. She reached behind my back with her left arm, to lock me in her grip, then went on my right nipple with her mouth, while her right hand locked on my nipple with the force of a carpenter clamp.
>>

- " Granny, are you going to keep describing us a steamy scene of sex between you and Aunt Cezanne?"

Keridha interrupts me , right when I was starting to... get excited? She is not the only kid that looks overly sceptical, in my audience.

- "I thought that it would make a nice change of pace, after all my blabber on things."

Keridha scrolls her head, like I was a lost case.

- "Granny, we live in Internet times... we all have all the porn we care for, didn't you know?"

The kid is not completely wrong, I know... back at their age, I did not have access to all the crap these girls have to filter out every day.

It is somewhat humbling, in a way - they had to sort out things that it took me years, to know that the even existed. And I usually got to know those things only because the dice went sideways.

- "Also, Auntie  tells the sex parts better."

- "Better? What do you mean?"


- "For starter, she avoids remembering us when it is you, the girl that she was banging... so, we can picture her as a young girl doing us. If you put your face and her face on the protagonists, we end up imagining you and her as you are now"

"Gross" - it is Mika, the first to comment the idea, opening a round of "Awful", "Disgusting", "Old folks having sex, eewww" from the other girls.

- "But you know that she was almost monogamous, no?"

- "Some things are best kept forgotten, granny."

- "For starter, and for first dish?"

- "Auntie tells sex stuff with a lot more 'Oomph!' "

- "'Oomph? really?"

- "Really."

Damn kids... I will get all of them into Noxon's Service, so they will learn the terrible price for ass-pulling grannies.



Saturday, 24 September 2016

Otto the Photographer

Once upon a time, there were the Nazis.

And wacky Germans trying to conquer the world - mostly because their state had become an enormous Ponzi Scheme based on military expenditures, and it was that or collapse in some five more years.

No, they were not all and the same.

And there were minions of the Nazis in puppy states, trying to quell their insecurities - small dicks? yes, they were - by the long time honoured method of singling out minorities, labelling these as enemies and eradicating them - the first ones to use this scam were the Most Catholic Kings of Spain, with that country's Marranos and Moriscos... - in some new ad nazistically gruesome way.

And resistance fighters, in every country -  even in Germany; it took some guts and then some, to be anti-nazist there...but some were, blessed be their souls.    

Finally, in the middle of the whole mess, there were those that didn't understand what the fuss was all about.

This is about one of them, "Otto the photographer", or Sergeant Major Otto Bauer, former owner of a photography studio and shop in Munich and, in the late fall of 1944, improbable commander of a Wolksturm squad tasked with taking control of a little Italian town.

Otto, a solid 42 years old with a beer belly that had hoped to avoid fighting in this war, exactly as he avoided doing it in the one before, was a devout catholic and intelligent enough to know that everything was going down the toilet extremely fast, for the Third Reich.

He thus considered his mission with the pragmatism of a small business owner.

He was tasked to re-take, with a squad composed by other "youngish" beer drinkers and a couple of little kids, a three thousand inhabitants town at the confluence of three alpine valleys, each of these occupied by part time smugglers that had more hunting rifles and testosterone than common sense.

One good thing, many of the younger hotheads were now, forever, resting in Russia - with Martinat and one half of the ArmIR.

A terrible thing - the very worst of them had managed to follow Reverberi back to Italy, deserted when the Italian Army went belly up the 9/8/1943 and loitered in in the woods around town, now.

Many of these guys didn't really like the Germans, any more than the Russians did - small issues, like the German's tendency to raid the little transport capacity the Italians and Romanians still had, to speed-up their own run-for-my-life effort during the Russian catastrophe, had kind of grated sof the surviving Alpini.

Tasked with the impossible - subdue a gun-crazy town, sprinkled with some eastern front survivor,  with a handful of middle-aged, out of shape retirees that never shoot a bird -  he did the intelligent thing.

He did not even try.

The very day he arrived, he talked to the greatest authority in town, the Priest - the Mayor was a fascist and an ass, and my great-grandfather had just profited of the sudden disappearance of the squadristi and the police to break all his bones, for a moved landmarks question  - to explain what he intended to do.

His plan:  "occupy" the town centre, to "comply", technically, with his orders -  and nothing more.

Which meant, really, that they would spend their days in the bar in front of the Town Hall, playing cards with some of the old-timers that spoke German.

No requisitions - they would have bought their bread and everything else, like anybody else. No patrols, no hunting down the people in the wood, no nothing.

He and his men would behave like tourists, and it would be very happy if the partisans recognized the little value in killing a bunch of never-has-been like them, and allowed he and his men to whether the current unpleasantness, with as little discomfort as possible for everybody.

The priest reported these terms to the local partisans, who were a bit fed of killing fascists by then - before Otto and his middle-aged office men, the town was occupied by a platoon of the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana that really tried to take control, and discovered that little is as dangerous as chasing a poacher, armed with a long range rifle and a life of habit using it, on his very own mountains -  and agreed to the informal and very unofficial cease-fire.


Or was it that the priest - himself a bit of a thug, with a penchant for his widowed female parishioners that sat quite well with his, likewise, happily womanising parish - was so impressed by the sheer rationality of the whole, that he broke a couple of partisans particularly hot-heads that proposed to kill the old "crucchi" anyway?

Here the versions differs, depending on the political side of who is telling the story.

After a couple of months, Otto felt that he had too much time on his hands - addictive as it may be, even the Scopa card game has its limits; also, the tab Otto was running at the bar was becoming impressive - and convinced the widow of the town's photographer - a first hour fascist that, in his late'30s, volunteered for the Russian expedition; some say, to forget that his wife shagged everything that moved in town, really -  to lend him her husband's camera and black room.

He started taking photos, for a small fee - the bar tab was really huge - to, virtually, anybody.

Even to the partisans that he was supposedly chasing -  there is a photo, with the  three highest ranking members of the CLNAI in the area, standing in front of Town Hall  with their sub-machine guns raised to the sky. Taken by Otto, with his usual off-centre composition.

His last photo, before the squad was ordered back and he disappeared for some years in the bungled mess that was post-war Germany, is one of his Italian colleague - that finally managed to get back from Russia - with his wife - who was not so much of a widow as she thought.

Than, the colleague took a photo of Otto with her, one of a few times in which he was the subject.

Placing the photos side by side, we can appreciate the difference between the husband, a dark-haired and dark-skinned slim man with black eyes, and  Otto - a tall, enormous guy, with blonde hair and grey eyes.

I said disappeared for some years, because around '55 Otto returned to the Town during the summer holidays, and from then on he came back countless time as, he said, in the town he had left a piece of his heart.

Or another piece of himself.

Otto's last photo, in 1982, was a portrait of the son of the not-so-much-a-widow, a tall, huge man with blonde hairs and grey eyes.

After finally retiring, he moved in the town and finally died there, in 1999.

On his tomb, a short phrase

"Veni,
Vidi,
Vixi"
"I came
I Saw
I lived"




Thursday, 22 September 2016

Debriefing

She opened her eyes, and looked around. So, this was an hospital room.

Her memory contained years of pain, spent in a room like this - no, much more drab and run-down, with older diagnostic machines - while a respirator kept her lungs working and she could smell her decubitus ulcers. But these were not really hers, nor were they memories at all.

Just simulations, inferred from the situation of the "real" K. Lawson, who never moved away from that bed while alive.

"Why am I still around?" - the question had no direct answer, she knew that "it" used every one of them, its "messengers", as organic Processing Units to elaborate its actual emotions and to provide truly independent points of view, but the way their subconscious interacted to create "It"'s emerging personality were so complex that the results were sometimes surreal.

She knew that much of "It" current taste for killing and shady deals came from herself. She never felt so omnipotent as to be able to just brush aside the recourse to lethal force - in many weay, this had been her fundamental weakness.

Had "it" finally decided to let her go, now that it had no more the idealism of Ice to keep in check her penchant for cruel realpolitik? It was probable.

Likely, it also was the reason why it didn't just kill her - "it" had reverted to a past self, one that frowned at the very idea of killing, no matter how economical an employ of resources it was.

So, now that the time had come, it hadn't retained her as she thought it would have done, nor had it killed her, as she would have done in its place.

It let her go, though the shock to her body, when all her boxes "folded" away, was so massive that she passed out.

She felt a presence, on her right - a man in a formal suit was guarding the door, with the all-too-proper quality of a rookie Special Agent, or a straight as a pole middle level.


"You are awake?" - the phrase was both an affirmation and a question - she was awake, but was she lucid? The doubt was reasonable.

 "Maybe" -  she didn't feel that she was functioning at her top.
The world was so dull, now, without electromagnetic waves, gravity and coloured scents..

For the very first time in her life, she really felt human. Drugged with analgesics, numb, human. She felt the tears running down, but she could not give a name to her state of mind.

The man reached his smartwatch, and alerted whoever was his superior.

Special Agent Roman Harmon was talking with the physicians that treated "Hostile One", read the short blurb from his underling, and scheduled in his mind  to commence the monster interrogation as soon as he knew enough of her medical conditions.

 "She has just regained consciousness" - he reported to the chief physician, one Dr. Genevie Torrado, who looked surprised.

"She was supposed to sleep for another twenty-four hours, we fully sedated her as well as used some local anaesthesia in what we thought to be the worst damaged areas. Her metabolism seems to be much faster than what we expected." - She didn't say that they expected it to be superhuman to begin with, but Harmon knew it from the preliminary report.

"What kind of damages?"

"We could not use RMI or PET, as we were alerted that her body may contain unspecified augmentation implants. We limited ourself to external examinations and ultrasounds imaging... luckily, this last is almost on par with the other internal diagnostic techniques, nowadays.
We found traces of what we think were thirty-eight different implants, along with tiny cables, the width of hairs, that connected them all. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating."

Harmon knew that Torrado had worked at the Army failed super-soldier project, that was finally scrapped when it became apparent that no human, however augmented, could stand a chance against a battle 'bot with a hundred times his body mass. Was it professional envy, the undertone below Torrado's fascination?

Envy of someone who got the funds and freedom from any ethic restraint, to build what she was denied to create?

"Traces?"

 "All but three of the implants have disappeared, leaving holes in the tissues and, in some places, internal bleeding..." - Torrado scrolled her head - "...the bleeding stopped much faster than I expected, too. She is even tougher than she looks."

Harmon cringed - dressed to hide her true shape, the black girl could pass for being simply a very tall woman. Asleep in a hospital gown that showed her arms, all lean, strong muscles and bulging veins, she was already impressive. Torrado had seen her naked, doing the echos, and was the one that wrote "muscular system excessively developed, yet still elegant" in a margin of the report.

If the woman was even harder than what she seemed to the physician, she was indeed a monster, and he was the one supposed to crack her open and pry informations out of her head.

"The three implants that have remained, where and what are they?"

"One is at the base of her brain. I believe that it is an implant, because the bones of the skull are modified around it in a way a little too geometrical I hope for her that it is, because the alternative is that it is a cancerous mass. If it is, I would quantify her life expectancy in six months or so."

Harmon considered it for some seconds - people with little time to live have little to lose, too.

If it was cancer, it was an information better not shared with their prisoner, as he was probably going to need the perspective of a lengthy stay in prison as a pressure tool, some moment down the road.

"The other two?" 

"One is inside the thoracic cavity, just below the heart, a solid mass of the size of an egg. We think that it is something electronic, because it produced interferences in our cardiac monitor unit."

Harmon considered the bit of information, but it shed no lights. They simply didn't know enough, of the technology used in "Hostile One", to make any valuable inference from it.

"Some technicians from DARPA placed a multi-frequency scanner in her bed, so they are registering all the signals from her body and they should soon be able to make some informed guesses about what it is and it does.The last implant is inside the abdomen, and is the size of a human heart. It seems to be another solid block. No idea about its functions or purpose",

 "In substance, there were thirty black boxes inside her body, most have vanished - we have no idea how - but three are still intact. We have no idea of what they are and do, apart maybe the one in her head. "

"You know what that is?" - Torrado was surprised.

"Something she told the President, before passing out - a remote control."

Harmon reflected that if he was building supermen, remote controls inside their head would be about the first thing that he would do. The second...

"One of the other two is probably a self-destruction system - maybe an anti-matter container bomb."

Torrado face went blank - "It's that the reason we cannot simply open her up?"

Harmon could not answer for sure, but scuttlebutt was that, when his colleagues had found the body of the Utica kid and tried to look inside it, something had gone off with the power of a couple of fifty kilograms of high explosive. It seemed much, but it was no more than some milligrams of anti-matter.

During the war the bots had fired coil gun rounds, with such a payload.

This woman probably had, inside, the same kind of self-destruct tricks.

Not for the first time, Harmon wondered if he should  not have gone into civilian industry, like his predecessor. His pay-check would have been ten times his current one, an¡d he would have had no human bombs to debrief.

When "Hostile One" was  fully back to lucidity, replaced his man in the room, and started interrogating the "alien enemy", with Torrado at his side as medical advisor. It was one hell of a frustrating experience, for both.

"Your name is?"

"Keisha Lawson"

"You were born?"

"May 5, 2066" - She was 21 years old? Harmon thought that she was in her early 30s,

"Where were you born? - here it was when they started having problems.

"I do not know."

"Who are your parents?" - Harmon had entered the name, Keisha Lawson, into the system... and the system answer did not make much sense. There was an afro American Keisha Lawson, dead at 35 out of complications of a spinal chord unrecoverable injury.   The dead was 5'5", though - a whole foot shorter than this one.

"My mother  was Devicia Lawson. I do not know who my father was".

Devicia Lawson was listed as the mother of the deceased Keisha.

"Are you a clone of Keisha Lawson, born in Fort Lauderdale?"

"I th...." - the voice of the cute montser tapered off mid sentence, while she apparently continued to speak.

Then, she stopped, looking a bit confused. She started again, "I th...." and couldn't continue the phrase.

Harmon could almost fill the rest for her "I think that I am" - or would it be "I thought that I was?"

"You are associated with a terrorist group called 'The Hand Of It"? " - the name was invented...

"I am not associated with any terrorist. I was tied to a terrifying ass-hole, that's true."

"You were? You are not tied to it, now?"

"I h...." -  again, she looked confused and frustrated and tried to complete her phrase - "I h... ".

She hoped that she was not, not any more. But the leash was as firm, around her neck, as it ever was before.

"What are the purposes of your organization?"

"I have no organization."

"What are the purposes of 'It'."

She opened her moth but, this time, no sound came from her vocal cords. harmon could read lips, but even those became aphasic.

They continued so for eight hours, then Harmon had his vice, Special Agent Katherine Douherty, continue the interrogatory.

Fourteen days after, they were still at the same point, when Harmon and his squad were summoned by their boss, [] Homeland Security Special Hazards Director Robert Dyson.

" I read your report, Roman. She won't tell us anything, in the end?"

"It is not that she don't want, director. She can't - whatever it is that thing in her skull, every time that she tries to tell us something significant it activates and scrambles her brain. Personally, she seems to have no loyalty whatsoever toward this 'It', but the only way she has let out tiny bits of information is by mistake, lapsus, off-hand remarks. All things that can be blurted out without thinking. The moment she focuses on something, it's over."

"However, you have spent two weeks interrogating her 24 hours a day. You have got some information."

"Yes, and what we obtained is quite grim, director." - Katherine looked every bit as tired as her boss - "I do not  think that we could prosecute her, logically,"

"She is a terrorist!"

"She has been born and bred in a state of, dare I say, wholesome slavery. Collaborating with us -as far as we can tell, this is the first fully autonomous decision that she has taken in her whole life."

"I see... not exactly what I expected."

"She has already come to regret it... she fully understand, now, that we have not enough expertise on systems like hers, to get her rid of her last implants. She tried to help us, hoping we could really free her - we can't, she knows it for sure, now."    

"What more?"

"She doesn't need to sleep. She does not get bored. She does not get annoyed. Her brain is as inhumanly-wired as possible, while still acting mostly human. I would not care to have  interrogate another one like her that was, actually, hostile."

"So, what do we do with her?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"We keep her at hand, under a discreet surveillance, so that we can tap her lapsus-linguae the next time that we cross her boss."

"The Witness Protection Program?"

"She is a witness, of a kind. I think that it is useless try to hide her - we do not know what kind of signals those black boxes inside her body may send, but I myself would add a transponder to any piece of hardware, valuable like her, that I decided to decommission."


"She is not human. Why not simply dismantle her and see how she is built?"

"I think that anyone who tried would be dust, by the time his scalpel opened her body, Even if we could, our scientists are very sceptical about our ability to reverse-engineering the tech. And, anyway, it is what "it" is counting on."

"Explain."

"She was decommissioned while she was talking with the President, so that she was in perfect conditions to be taken in by us. I gathered that she didn't expect it, that she didn't think that it was a dumb clock, to handle the 'decommissioning', whatever it really is. I think that she expected to die. I think that she is right, on all account. She is a probe." 

"A probe... to see how we handle her?"

"Yes. If we treat her as a the U.S. citizen that she believes to be, as an hostile foreigner or as some machine. I have no doubts that, in one way or the other, whatever we do with her will reach her 'sisters'."

"So, if we treat her just like the killing machine that she is..."

"We  could expect no more defections - because, in her mind, she has defected - from any of her sisters. "

"You said that the Witness Protection Program is unnecessary, but we cannot let her go back to her old life, can we?"

"We will have to enrol her into it anyway, even if the secrecy needs would be less stringent than usual. We will have to build her a normal life anyway."

"And see how can she stick to it - as Dr. Torrado says, she is fascinatingly inhuman. How much can she function, constrained in a n everyday life?"

"We'll see".

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In the name of Noxon (part 3)

The old woman continued with her tale, recalling how she - along with many other girls of her age -  arrived to the great city, to become an officiant of - or an offer to, depending on the point of view - the 'god' Noxon, it who keeps the world turning around the Sun. 

<<
It is customary that new officiants, like us, do not enter the city until the day after the local rites, and we made no exception.

It would have been a while, twelve days, before we could see the Ziggurat in full regalia - I spent that period studying and being tested, in the mornings, along with the other 30 girls in our introductory class, and visiting the city in the afternoon.

We all did the same, in that period of peace before being inducted into the House of Noxon.

Then we'd had an escort, if and when we wanted to go to town, in the form of a discreet Black Guard that would ensure that we didn't indulge in activities reserved for the service of the 'god', and that we were back to the House by the fire time.

Back then, the Church had more than enough volunteers, and conscription hadn't been enforced, so it was a time of freedom, for the officiants.

The Black Guards hardly ever had to reign in deserters back then, and were very laid back companions in the strolls around the city... I miss those sorties, but I will be back on that some other day.

The introductory classes were a bit boring, as they mostly re-hashed things that kids of my generation learned through the gospel studies organized by the church. Nowadays, even non-believers learn most of them in middle-school, so they skip a bit more on the common knowledge parts, now.

Then, the lessons started delving more into the "mechanics" of service, with a lot of data that is usually ignored by the most. As it was going to become my very life, I paid more attention, from then on.

The first, scary piece of information that we received was that one in twenty of the officiants dies in a service-related accident. If you consider the length and the harshness of an officiant's duties, it really is surprising - for how few they are. Works with similar physical loads, like soldiering or house building, had twice or more the fatality rate.

At the time, I didn't fully realise it - I was young and naïve.

At your age, we always think that statistics are meant for the others... we are better, luckier, smarter, and it will not happen to us. We can't help but think so, even entering a life path in which, for year upon year, we will be denied to make any personal choice.

How can your smartness influence your life, if choices are taken from you? It is impossible, yet a young brain indulges the fantasy - "I am smart, it won't happen to me!" - till it happens, to you or one of your best friends, and you learn that it can happen to any body.

It is just luck, good or bad.

We were taught then that the path of any celebration, the list of rites to be undertaken on the great ziggurats, is decided using six-faced cubes, which is the reason why the paragraphs in the Book of Rites are numbered on base six. I had always wondered about that, before the preliminary training.

This was a detail usually left unspoken - the 'god' speaks through very localized manipulations of hazard, that becomes causality. It is a little miracle, but one true nonetheless... there are "holes" in the rites numbering, in places were ancient rites were removed once they proved to be too dangerous, as well as the last rite in the book was 4604 - today is 4636. The  cubes used to select the rites, in a great Ziggurat, never hit a void spot. They dodge erased rites and don't overshoot the last one in the book, a statistics impossibility that becomes a certainty, but only in the cube chamber that lies at the heart of each Ziggurat.

Little temples like the one in our village, that only offer a volunteer or two every quarter with the most basic rites, overshoot and hits holes all the time. I think that the god doesn't devote too much attention to what happens here... volunteers, many over the officiant age, doing mild things. Of course, Noxon is not the only 'god' interested to offers - it is the most bossy, though. 

I remember when it became my duty, many years after, when I was near the end of my term, to represent the officiants at the rite's selection ceremony that is done, once every month, to prepare the calendar. In three years, never once I saw the cubes choosing what was not there.

The rest of the world may have needed a  global consensus of scientists over the expected decadence rate of our planet's orbit, to see that the 'god' exists and watches over us, but in that chamber his finger - or whatever appendage it truly uses, to fiddle with the dices - manifests itself every month, when the calendar of rites for the fourth month after is chosen.

We were taught other details that usually are not publicised - beyond acting as breeders for male sperms, some of the rites involve been breed with the para-sperm of one or more of our officiant companions, chosen through dice throws - the daughters that are born this way are considered fully owned by the 'god'.

They are allowed to grow in the House of Noxon till they reach major age, whereas sperm daughters must be evaluated year by year, and they may enter its service whenever they like.

They may also be asked to enter its service on moments notice.

I too, like others, had my twin daughters this way - Ilene and Johanne.

They live in the House in Fraglbar, where they were born, and officiate in that city with their daughters. They represent a branch of this family, genetically, and yet are not part of it, as they never were in this valley, or grown to respect our name and crest.

In reality, the Houses of Noxon are roughly self-reliant: they breed some of the finest children in the world, from arguably the very best women in the world, and train these kids extensively, mentally and physically.

Even the ones that are discarded, and thus allowed to grow in the outside world before they come to age, are downright gorgeous.

However, even being raised inside the very belly of the Church, where training for the rites is the norm and knowing the warmth of the embrace of Noxon is a given, does not make a vocation.

Many of them, at their 22th birthday, decide to join the greater society - they know all too  well the hardship of a life of service, and it is easy to understand why they do not mind losing the social clout associated to the service.

They are the most beautiful kids in the world, fully trained in quite a few disciplines, not the least of them the ways of physical pleasure.

There is hardly any figure of power in our world that does not covet one of them, either as a lover or as a mother for their children.

They represents one of the more subtle ways in which the Church maintains a foothold into civilian authority - of the last 15 Empresses, all but two had a former Daughter of the 'god' as womb-mother, and those two were from the sister-empresses.

The "Daughters" do not need the Church to open a path for them any more than what it already did, so if their vocation is just a bit shaky, they have no outside reason to go on.

On the other hand, those that feel the vocation and want to service the 'god', are particularly pure in their faith.

If so many Daughters of the 'god' did not chose other paths for their lives, there would hardly have been any need for untrained peasants like me or - if luck smiles upon us tomorrow - any of you.

However, the acceptance of volunteers is another way the Church keeps connected to the larger, civilian society, and in a more democratic way than indirectly catering to the companionship needs of the rich and powerful, I might add.

It is clear that the leaders of the church, back then, purposely avoided houses self-sufficiency in order to have reason to invite externals, like us, into the Church.

Today, the interference of the state and the rise of the ranks of faithlessness have changed the equilibrium, so that they are pushing things to convince more daughters to keep in the service. Mostly, stressing the bleak points of becoming a prize-wives during their education.

After two months of instruction, we had a more complete view of the life of an officiant. We realised that the service was a lot more than just climbing the 1024 steps to the top of a ziggurat and be tortured to an inch of death, for the sake of one very voyeuristic 'god', once every quarter or so.

It meant that every day of our lives, some hours would go into physical conditioning and some would go into studying this or that subject, as chosen by the 'god' or by the clergy.

This second duty was in order to be able to take the clergywoman mantle , at the end of our service, if so the 'god' asked of us.

Finally, if a normal woman may expect to give birth once or twice, depending on the arrangements with her wife, an officiant usually gives birth four to six times, during her service, with the effects on her body shape that you can imagine.

Those of our numbers that had more issues learning new things took notice, as much as those that were there mostly for the social cachet the service provided and had a lot of interest to a gorgeous life after it. I have to confess, I was one of them.

At the final day of the preliminary training, reunited in a great hall, when we were offered to go back home, free of charge, one last time.

From then on, there would have been a hefty price to pay, to back off, and in some moments, when the heart is known to falter, we would not be allowed to resist or decline service at all.


More than one third of us walked out of the hall and of the service. 

I stayed, I must confess to my eternal shame, mostly out of pride.  I had gone that far, and I would have gone on to the end - whichever it was.

Of course, I didn't die.

>>

The girls around the old woman giggled, as they felt the enchantment of her tale momentarily fading away.

They were hungry, and all agreed joyously when grand-ma proposed to take a tea break, before going on with her tale.


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Fear and forget

No, it is not "Fire and Forget", the apt description-nickname for fully autonomous homing missiles (to distinguish it from semi-autonomous and fully guided missiles, that must be kept  under control of the launcher for at least a part of their flight). Fear and Forget, the mainstays of modern life.

Fear of a ton of things that we have no control of and, reasonably, hardly a chance of ever meeting in our lives.

Fear of Islamic Terrorist (when they will made, per year, as many deaths as cars, I will fear them... maybe), fear of "Terrible illnesses that could spread beyond control" (Remember Ebola? The SARS? hybridization of swine and human viruses? Yes.... terrible dangers, that didn't come this way), of a large size meteorite destroying the planet (really?), of global warming (why? I will be dead long before the ocean rises the ten meters that it needs to reach my house), of man-made wide extinction (yes, we are pruning evolutionary trees as fast as any known "great extinction"... which have been a few! Fifty millions years after we are gone, Intelligent ground-Cephalopods will scorch the Earth like we did, probably using our cities, converted by time in massive concentrations of metals and stuff, as mines to get the resources to prop their civilization up) and of other things like this.

Forget the fact that, no matter what, we are going to die.

Even if  one behaves in the most prudential manner, follows all the dietary fashions proposed by physicians (why, fashions? because, year after year, one discovers that the risks or fat have been exaggerated to hide those of sugars, on behalf of the U.S.A. sugar industry, that cholesterol fat in the blood is hardly influenced by one's diet and that the single most intelligent thing one way do to raise his or her life expectancy s to move in an area with little or no polluting industries ), avoid risk-taking of any form... he is going to die.

That life saving diet... gives one  maybe five more years. It doesn't really save his or her life.- physicians like that point of view because it makes their work seem more important - it postpones death for a while more, a while in which, we could add, he'll hardly do anything worth notice.

In the end, you'll die. And all that you have done in your life... usually, amounts to little or nothing.

Accumulating some wealth, or wasting the few you were endowed in heredity..

Some lucky, lucky bastards will have created something that will last a little but, how many can realistically say this?

Have you the talent to, say, paint something that in a hundred year will be deemed worth keeping, and not simply thrown away as an outdated crust?

What have you done on the job, today? How long will it last?

As 60 percent of people is employed in services, in a modern country, chances are that you have spent your day speaking to other that work in another branch of services, who didn't understand anything and will soon pester again for a fix-up.A week after you retire, your work will already be gone an forgotten.

So, modern life is, mostly, doing meaningless if not wasteful jobs (telemarketing? auto-referential bureaucracy? internet censorship in China? "What have you done today?"   "I zapped a thousand bloggers that  wrote that we arrested human right activists!" "Good!, the country needs patriots like you" ), usually ten times more stressful than those of our fathers, while we fear for the most idiotic things and we forget that we are NOT immortals.

That we are going to die anyway, without accomplishing anything - because our job was idiotic from the very beginning.

I know the reasons why some of these happen - promoting fear is a way to get people to open up the wallet, which is the reason why any stupid illness becomes a pandemic threat, asteroids are missing Earth by a (two million miles wide) hair and terrorists are wherever and kills like (a 1/200th of) cars.

Behind each fear, you find some actor interested in getting funds and media interested in boosting their audience, each earning their dough from these scares.

Rarely there is anything more than this... so, there is a simple solution to all this  fearmongering.

Calm down, and write a casual chain of events that could get you affected, and try to assign a probability to each, remembering that the final is the product of the probability of each step.

Than compare the value you got to, say, the probability of simply dying of a stroke in the same time horizon.

The most simple example, the damn asteroid.

It is true... asteroids reach Earth and provoke massive extinctions. Once every 50-60 million years?

SO, what is the probability that I die out of a Asteroid fall? one in a million and a half? (more like, one in two millions).

What is the probability that I die of a stroke from here to when I  am 72? 20% ? More? Something like that.

I do not care about my high pressure enough to pursue a better diet, why should I care for an asteroid at all?

Islamic terrorist attacks in USA, since 2001? Excluded 9/11 (statistically, that's an outlier, and shouldn't be considered) ? 21; with 9/11 and its 2996 death, it is 3017

Vehicular deaths in the USA in the same period? About 600.000  .

In the USA, cars represent - to an average someone's life - a danger 200 times bigger than Islamic terrorism - cars kills more than 30000 a year (down from the 40000+ of 2001-2008),.

If you do not add the 9/11 event - statistically, it is an outlier and it is a good policy to not consider events so far from the average - in the 15 years since 2011 Islamic extremism in the USA claimed 21 persons.

Cars claimed something more than 600000 deaths, in the same period.

Am I scared of cars enough to drive slowly and keep a safe distance at all time? - OK, I admit it, I am.

So I may devoid a 1/3000th of the same attention to potential terrorists.

But not much more than that. - I refuse to devote any more than that, to the work of a bunch of idiots (or, if you prefer, of pence-less Goebbels, if you subscribe the terrorism is propaganda theory). 

Climatic change and the great extinction? I will miss shrimps, in my old age - apart that, I have no offspring so, if our species wipes out itself and the whole biosphere, after I am gone, why the fuck should I even care? 

My home is 10 meters above the sea -  not much, but I should just see the beach finally reach in front of home, right before I die.

Every time they tell you that you should fear something, take a step back, and CHECK the FUCKING FACTS..

In most cases, the great fear is unwarranted, the object of the scare highly unlikely to involve you or anybody near you.

In some others, it is entirely made-up (do you remember the scare for the Satanists and their black masses involving kids, in the '90s? In the end, nothing definitive ever came out, to prove that there ever was anything real behind the urban legend).

So, take a step back. Take two, and you'll feel your butt crashing on the fingers of the fear-mongers, while they try to get into your wallet.

As for death, that is the only great certainty.

Accept it. You are going to be dead, anytime soon (100 years is really nothing).

If your wok isn't leading you in any place, and usually it does not, don't toy with the idea that it's only for a while and then you'll do something better.

It may be true, but you may still be doing the same shit, fifteen years from now.

Decide, whether you accept its lack of meaning - and you'll have to find somewhere else a reason to stay alive,  say, in your family - and keep on, or reject it - and start planning how and when to get out of it.

You are going to die - there is no cure for death, it can only be slightly delayed..

So, don't let the "lives saved" sway you -  it is some years added, till something else arrives, and some of these years may be of quite dubious quality. 

Memento mori - remember that you must die, anyway.



Thursday, 15 September 2016

Cut the "Sluts"


Yes, I am talking to you, man! Ah, you are a lady? Sorry, my bad.



Every now and then, I receive emails - well, that email address is in my drawings for a reason, after all - detailing a commission (money, money!!!) involving a famous character (meh... c'mon, it takes me a whole quarter of an hour, to create a character for my fapping activities - if you take a moment, "mix" two-three women you know, you'll have yours) as played by the actress that made it famous (meh, again... civil lawsuits apart, it is almost inevitable to build characters around famous actors; their faces shape our imaginary).

Up to this, no problem.

Then the commission describes what they want in the drawing -  not a problem, apart disembowelment and other guro activities... I do not enjoy murder that much, even in imagination. It is not so papparent? I will work more on my PR skills, then.

What irks me, at times, is when they keep calling the protagonist a "slut".

Again, not a problem when the character IS a Slut - as in, a person that enjoys a happy sexual life with multiple partners, beyond the narrow limits of traditional mores.

I would really like that there was a term, to describe such a person, devoid of negative-derogatory nuances.

By the way, I - and a good quarter of the men on the planet - am a wannabe-slut.

The only reason why I don't have three women at a time, and a new partner every night, is that I am nowhere so good, scoring with women. Oh, and the logistic would be awful -  but this is, more than anything else, an admission of impending old age.

But, then, people who see things this way, hardly uses the "s" word to begin with, because of said nuances.

No, the "s" word is used, in those mails - and in some commentary that my works collect, here and there - to describe a character that is not a Slut, not even in the revised narrative described in the commission.

Nor the woman portraying it is any more likely to be a slut than the average professional actress with an established career.

From their personal stories, in a couple of cases, actually quite a bit less likely. 


So, who exactly are these guys calling "slut"? Because, there is none in sight - incidentally, the only slut characters that I know of are Arthur Fonzarelli and Barney Stinson; Penny from The Big Bang Theory? She is a serial monogamist with a bad taste for choosing her men, that's similar , seen from the outside, but not the same as being a true slut.

Well, unless my command of this language is even shakier than in my direst (most accurate?) estimation, "slut" is their moniker for every woman that they want to violate (here, "fuck" is usually the wrong word, and a way too tame one, too).

They use it purely as an insult, as a way to undermine the value of these unattainable women.

Yes, I know, I know... I really live on Mars... victims-shaming always starts before there is a victim, as it renders easier to make one.

Being the GUY that I am, it may seem mysterious that I find THIS, the misuse of the 's' word,  bothersome.

I draw pretty horrible things, before dinner, and something worse after, not to mention the crap that I make before going to  sleep.

But I am him that is myself, which means that I try to use some logic, from time to time.

Is, really, in the best interest of MEN like ME, to disparage sexually promiscuous women?

Or even to propagate the concept that female sexual promiscuity is a bad characteristic?  

STD diffusion apart, for which male promiscuity is at least as much of a concern.

Think about it, for a while - or for a once.

I do not care to reproduce, if a child came out of one dalliance, a few dollar's worth of DNA test can confirm me whether it is mine or not, and I would be a deadbeat or a caring dad anyway, depending on whether I am - or not - beyond my desire to see humanity's extinction. That my companion fucks only with me, or with me and the 7th light cavalry, it changes nothing for me - as long as she is happy with me .

The answer is: "No"

It is, actually, against my best interest, that would be that as many women as possible were inclined to act as openly sluttish as possible.

The social condemnation of female sluttiness is in the best interest of older women, instead -  the ones that raised us kids and that saw a terrible competition in young sluts with firmer asses.

The ones that would really like to see every man, over 40,  that has casual sex with an under 25 woman thrown in jail, and have to accept some more equitable limits (18, 15) quite grudgingly (they will still look at the guy as if he had killed someone, though).

So, when someone uses "slut" as an insult for a woman, instead that as a neutral - or endearing - factual description, it irritates me.

Because it is something that helps my mortal enemies - the old bigots.

So, cut the "sluts", MAN!
You are helping the enemy!


Washington

Keisha looked at the deep hole in the ground, some ten metres wide.

Like most people, she expected 1TNT  megaton of energy to do a lot more damages - to level the city and its surroundings.

All that was happened was a moderate earthquake. While she looked at the hole, informations from the rest of "It" filled the blanks.

The penetrator had its frontal shield up to the maximum, and was a far newer design than the linear accelerator that fired it.

It managed to hold up not only through the whole atmosphere, but also through the first few kilometres of the planetary surface. At around 8 km of depth , it finally broke down and dispersed the whole 980 kilotons of residual kinetic energy as a jet of plasma and shockwaves directed toward the centre of the planet, that emerged as a modest vibration, only registrable by seismographs, centred around Amsterdam Island, in the Indian Ocean.

A million tons of TNT may be a lot over a town but, as far as the whole planet goes, it is the energy of a 6th level on the Momentum scale earthquake, with an impossibly deep epicentre.

Keisha expected that, at least , a rupture going through the whole planetary crust would lead to the birth of a Volcano, but it was evident that the channel was way too narrow for the dense lava to manage to climb more than a few thousand meters, before solidifying.

In all, the effect had been that a needle-less injection has on human skin - virtually undetectable.

It had been just a warning shot, a hell of a warning shot but - still - nothing more.

The bastard had been rational, even in the middle of its monumental grief over the death of Ice. Was it always rational, even when it pursued its crazy amusements? Deep down where she couldn't go?

And , while at it, why exactly had it did what it did to the Marines? It usually refrained from this class of showdowns, not the least because... they were just too easy, for the damn thing.

Keisha  was a match for the Betan "super-humans" and for the smaller battle 'bots, yet she was two or three magnitudes weaker than "It" full battle avatars...  things that didn't look human, even in their two sizes too large overcoats.

Using one of them on a battalion of Marines, however good were their armours, was challenging like shooting birds with an Oerlikon auto-cannon, and probably more boring.

"Ms. Keisha Lawson?"

She had felt the men circling her over the past three minutes - it is not difficult to spot a black woman just a hair shorter than two meters.

Once thing she had learned, these few years, was that it made no sense behaving like a normal person - running, hiding, all sensible choices, if she was a simple criminal.

She was accused of no crime - that she knew of... after all, modern governments have a habit of manufacturing accusations, to justify their shenhanigans - which was of no importance anyway, as she could simply tear through anything that may try to stop her.

"What if I am?"

"The President of the United states would like to have a word with you."

"And you are?"

"Special Agent Timothy Gibson, United States Secret Service." - the man was in his late '40s, stocky, with out-of-style moustaches and salt&pepper temples.

"And the Lady wants to meet me?"

Agent Gibson was taken a little aback - even in this mad age of aliens and robots, a time that brought into question the power and dignity of the country, a direct invitation from the POTUS usually elicited a lot more surprise.

"Please, Mr. Gibson, lead the way" - Keisha followed the man, with the slightly lanky walk that she had started using since she passed 6'4".

The limousine was very opulent... the doors were still a bit small for her.

She loved so much when she was just six feet two, tall and imposing but not yet a freak that had to worry about doors. She also loved when she thought to be already in her 30s and that  her mind was older than her body - she loved a lot of things that were now gone.

Ever since she started flying, almost fifteen years before, the times Keisha had been inside a car could be counted on one hand's fingers, so she wasn't really prepared for the drive - Gibson found himself thinking about some  savage kid dropped in front of modern gizmos. She kept moving on the seat, squeezing the soft leather with her long fingers, and playing with the mini-bar content. Like an hyperactive adolescent.

He had his orders, however, and if the highest power in his country wanted to meet a hobo, he would have brought that hobo to the Oval office, period. In fact, he suspected that he was exactly doing that.

Jane Mullett saw the tall black entering the briefing room, and draw her breadth. The reports didn't make the black monster justice... she was very tall, and her face was gorgeous. Like a NWBA pivot that could pose for Vogue.

The young woman was also, intelligence agencies told her, the main interface with a  power that had destroyed  an entire Marines battalion in powered armours  an, was responsible, possibly, for an extremely odd astronomical phenomenon.

The fall of a sub-relativistically fast meteorite, right on the border of the Lake in front of George Washington's monument.

A power that had already proven capable to infiltrate agents, bypassing the best security systems and officials on the planet, inside the very Oval Office.

"It is nice to see that you are reasonable, Ms. Lawson, and that you accepted to meet me. I think that we have things to discuss, you and me."

"I fear that we have nothing to discuss, really.  I do not understand, why am I here?"

"Our security agencies have  identified you as one of the speak-persons of this 'god' group, that is responsible  for a terrible terroristic attack on American soldiers."

"Your soldiers had just killed, with extreme prejudice, a 12 years old girl that had never harmed any living creature more complex than grain, in her whole life. Unfortunately, I admit that our 'god' father has pretty terrifying ideas, on the subject of how to retaliate to this kind of events"

"You are a member of a terrorist organization... I may have you detained indefinitely, pending trial."

"Indeed, but then you'd have to track down someone else, to act as a relay. So, please, can we be grown ups, and let the propaganda catch-phrases sleep? Your people knows all too well that I am not a terrorist, nor am I associated with terrorists. In reality, I am not associated with everybody."

The silence continues for a while.

"What does your people want?"

"Nothing, really. What does your people want?"

"We have responded to a grave act of provocation, on the part of your masters."

"Provocation?"

"One of your... monsters, entered this room, after disabling my security staff and then killing my assistant, Lindsay Loane, in a terrible way."  

"That? that was a prank."

"A prank?"

"A bad idea, in fact... but, you know, your assistant didn't die."

"I am sorry? She was dead, I saw her, her body was examined by our coroner, who confirmed the terrible things that your assassin did to her! How can you call it a prank?"

"Has the coroner found an inexplicable void space in her brain, like something was there and was then removed without opening the skull?"

The president interrogates, with her eyes, the man of the Secret Service standing next to the beautiful monster, who answers - "Yes, though the coroner proposed that the assassin was responsible of it, for unknown reasons".

"It was the remote control's place, before it self-destructed".

The tall woman's words are flat, matter-of-facts, even as she continues.

"It was a mistake, we should just have had  'Lindsay' commit a nice suicide... it would have been puzzling, but your government would have continued ignoring us, by and large."

"Remote control?"

"Inside her head... my master has some ten thousand bodies, virtually completely human, that he uses as interfaces. Tthey are clones built around a modified brain, that is more like a remote node in a distributed computing grid than a remote control, really, but the definition stuck... way before I was born."

Jane Mullet, president of the U.S., is more than a bit frightened by the implications of such a kind of mole.

"And Lindsay was? One of yours?"

"I am one of mines. Lindsay was a 1/10000th of my big, angry, cruel, sadistic boss - I said that it was a bad idea, at the time, but, what do you want? I think that it really loathed you, toward the end. All those years watching the shady deals behind U.S. politics... it is not a place for a 'god' to be."

"But... she was with me, since the primaries!"

"Don't worry, I am sure that it had some bodies in Glouart's campaign, too -  it doesn't matter who won, as long as you have access to the winner. We learned that from corporate warfare - give money to both, through subsidiaries, and you'll own a share of the country... anyway."

Jane Mullet was an intelligent person - intelligent enough to realize when she was threading in unknown waters, and now she felt in a deep, black sea.  A count was reading "experts" reports on the implications of a technological post-humanity that, thank God, never arrived. Another was dealing with someone that was born into it.

"She was... not human? A puppet?"

"Yes. The girl that your marines killed, was a girl - a vegan, twelve years old, really, non-violent, optimist and full of trust in the possibility of humans for doing good things."

"She was a two meter and a half monster!"

"Born and raised on the Moon, then she spent three years on an asteroid, before the death of our creator forced her back here, to become the central emotional nexus of our big bad 'god'. Her tallness was a by-product  of growing in low gravity. Her immense desire for human contact, the source of her love for your species."

"She was a member of a terrorist  -"

"You had no idea what you were doing, what you were against - you used strength, in a mighty, decisive coup against an elusive adversary. The Anipos had made our 'remote control' - my 'god' had to retire all of his bodies that used that tech and were in a position to  be scanned by the damn Ani, so you managed to blind-side it. Your puppets entered that warehouse and gunned down fifty-three persons. 52 were remote drones, one was a very important real person. The source of all the nicety inside my master."

"This is ridiculous - the USA cannot admit that some foreign power act on their soil as it pleases."

"The USA will well admit it, or they will cease to exist as a sovereign state. Imagine every stupid white power militia, every black Muslim cell no more aimless, but infiltrated and then controlled by a unified intelligence that has no problems coordinating ten thousand different actions. This country has grown less and less democratic over the last few decades, and your security apparatus can hardly keep up with the extremists that this is engendering, given the limits that maintaining the appearances of a democratic state still imposes."

"Or, if you prefer, imagine the next shots, like the one here in Washington,,,  exploding in the high atmosphere, instead than holing themselves in the Earth's mantel. I think that your scientists already quoted a figure, for its energy?"  

"One megaton"

"Care to see if your glorious ABM system - for which you almost ended exchanging blows with China - can stop one of those, with a 40 seconds waning time?"

"What do you want?"

"Nothing -  we do not exist, we never existed, and your government will continue ignore our existence.
All you have to do is doing like the Anipos - acting as if we were but a tall tale, even if you know better."

"The Anipos? They know of this .- aberration?"

"Of course - their robots are a bit better than your technology, a lot better than what they have shown. The 'bots know plenty of us - they just do not share the info with their masters, of course. The members of the legation... let's say, no true Anipos loves to leave the home system. Hence, all the ones here, are not "true" anything - they are off-casts, exiled where nothing shiny will ever happen.Those that know, have even less reasons than the 'Bots, to inform their masters - or do you really believed that offering them the most sexy women of the world, to play with, was enough to turn them? They pass you information, for spite."

"What?"

"We know how your CIA found the Utica compound... Earth money is meaningless for an Anipos, but sex is sex is sex, right? Cloning Jane Fonda was a nice touch, Chapeau! Bravo! But, isn't it a crime against humanity, human cloning? What would the  U.N. say?"

"I obviously do not know the operative details of how our agencies acquire their informations..."

"Ya, da, yes..." - the sarcastic smile dies, as the black girl suddenly widens her eyes, with something resembling fear - "... it seems that I said all that I had to say. Now, it would be nice if you call me an ambulance."

And then, as she lose consciousness, "I forgot that tomorrow was my 21st y".

Fade to black, and her world ends.



Wednesday, 14 September 2016

In the name of Noxon (part 2)

<<
It was the five of us, 

Hanneke Smith, a 40 years old with the complexion, the skin and the appetites of a farm worker

Francine Ghaul, a slightly chubby woman of 26, with the black eyes and hairs of her womb-mother, an immigrant from Scipia
  
Gavina Sarra, another descendant of women from the small sea, 25 years, fierce and proud.

Cezanne Gogh, the 19 year old skinny blonde with a shade of fragility

and finally me... one of the few redheads in the valley, the most exotic that it could offer.

I was pretty proud of having been chosen - usually, our valley gave only four women, every twenty-thirty years,  to the needs of Noxon. It`was a bit surprising, to see five of us going to the capital of the empire.

The first leg of the travel was by the local bus, and we were with the priestesses and their two black guards, Karima and Trielina.

I remember my first impression, seeing them - women that trained in a regime of hormonal enhancement, till they develop muscular masses comparable of those of the fabled males of our species, the men. I found them ugly, angular and vaguely scary.

I also expected them to be moodily aggressive, in line with their shape and the legends on their hormonally similar precursors, but they were courteous and gentle, and very maternal - more than the priestesses.

They chatted freely with us, specially with Hanneke, that looked a lot like one of them, just with some more healthy fat on her thighs.

When the bus finally reached Katowa, that in those days hadn't started decaying and was still the first big city south of the Valley, our parties separated.

The Priestesses and their guards - plus other four sent by the Black Garrison in Kogsberg - continued their voyage, toward the Valley of the Scrangs.

The inhabitants of that valley were, then, even more restless than they are today, and it was known that some of them contested allowing to their best daughters to offer themselves up as officiants.

It was not uncommon for priestesses to be attacked and ousted out of the valley by bandits with covered faces. Six guards was just a prudential detachment, given these precedents.

We, too, received a Black Guard - a precious little thing that, apart her "exploded" muscles and fat-less forms, could have been a younger sister of Cezanne. She went by the name of  Lolena, and was a tad shy.

She would guide us to Sassa, where we would receive our first instruction and then be separated, each one of us sent to one of the other Ziggurat on the planet.

I wonder how things were, in the ancient times, before hardware technology had re-developed trains and aircrafts.

Reaching the capital back then required four grovelling months, with nothing to do but read the pamphlets of the church detailing what our new role would be.

Though, if I must believe the "Maidens Voyage" by De La Cueva,  most of the time the "maidens" were simply drunk, filling up with black wine at every post station, so I am not sure that us "moderns" got it any better, really..

Even with trains, it took some three days to go from our Nox-forsaken valley to the centre of the empire, through two thousand miles of progressively more populated and developed lands.

It was just enough time, for us, to make acquaintance with each other, though we knew that no two of us would be assigned to the same temple.

In those day, when the Church still maintained its independence from the various states, it was a truly supranational organization and all new recruits were distributed among the fourteen great temples.

Dividing the officiants coming from an areas was a way to avoid that the local tensions or interpersonal frictions, developed in their home-towns, could creep in the organization and damage the Church mission.

This has become the norm, now that the Empire has overtaken the Ancient Church and officiants are redistributed only among the temple of Sassa and the two sub-capitals, Monia and Londres; many women, now, sees the service as a way to enter the politic arena, especially those of humble birth that have no other resources then themselves and their ambitions.

 In many ways, it was better in the ancient time - the service was much more cosmopolitan, we shared our lives with women from the other side of the world, usually while living in yet a third corner of the planet.

To Noxon, of course, it makes no difference where a woman is from, when she climbs a Ziggurat - it sees the planet as a whole, and it doesn't change things to him where an Asianne is offered, as long as not a day goes by without someone placing herself on the the stone bed at the centre of a ceremonial area..

But, to us that live in the convents, it does. - and to the people that watches the ceremonies from the towers that have grown around the ziggurat, it does too.

They see a far less varied spectacle, nowadays - no more redheads under the Affrikan Sun, or Obsidian blacks in Vladivosti.

Religiously speaking, it may be better that it is less of a spectacle for the common woman, but I think it is one of the reason volunteers in the Capitals have dwindled and the rate of levied officiants has reached five percent, in recent years.

Arriving in Sassa, the train takes a large bend on an undulation of the ground, before plunging down through  a long descent that goes to the city main station.

It is a place from where you could see almost all of the Old City, the Ziggurat and the palaces around it.

Real estate over-development hadn't replaced, yet, all the old buildings with steel and glass towers, many higher than the  Ziggurat itself.

It was still possible to see, almost unimpeded, the great stone pyramid, the waterway going to it and the main staircase.

Almost unimpeded - the Sassa Central Trade Tpwer had already been built, and it lays directly to the north of the Ziggurat, so from our position covered the right quarter of the Ziggurat.

The SCT becoming the taller structure on the planet may have been "a triumph for  civilian society", but ever since I saw it, I always prayed that Noxon destroyed it with its power.

It is one tall ugly piece of shit, and I hope that the architect lived, to her last days, in disgrace. A fitting punishment for her sins against the aesthetic integrity of one of the most beautiful cities in our world.

While the train entered the city, we lost vision of its ensemble, but we had a chance to see the ManSerrail, where a few men are born every year, grown, evaluated and - finally - discarded. It is one of the six, now eight, Manserrails that exists in our world.

Though not the most ancient nor the bigger, it is still one of the main centres of biologic sciences, from which many depend for samples with which to compare the quality of para-sperm to "the real thing".  

I remember that I felt horror... if, by any chance, I was assigned to Sassa, or any of the other ziggurats that had a Manserrail in their town, among my duties would have been to bred one or two children in "the natural way".

>>

A frisson moved through the children, as the girls didn't expect the mention of one of the greatest taboos - not so soon, at least - in a tale from their great-dad Padma.

Keisha - the little black girl, daughter of Padma's Obsidian child, Akema - dared to ask, with her usual promptness:

"Have you met  a man, grand-dad?" 

"I bred with two of them. From one, another male was born. The other gave me a girl."

- "Oooooohhhh"  - None of the girls knew that great-dad had been a womb-mother, in her youth .

"How it is, a man? Horrible as they say?" - still Keisha, ever forceful in her curiosity.

All the girls went silent, feeling the sadness from the narrator and the importance of the question... they wanted to know, too.

"It is not so easy to say - as you may know, men are dangerous to a structured society, so in the Manserrails they are kept at the lowest possible level of cerebral development - they are little more than little children, even in their fifties, when they are eliminated to make room for the sequent generation."

Padma stopped, to see if the girls reacted at the inhuman cruelty that laid behind those simple words.

But the kids didn't see the issue - all she said was factually true. Men were dangerous, yet a small number had to be kept functional and active, as a fail-safe in the not so unlikely case that the technology for the production of`para-sperm became lost or unfeasible.

It had already happened once and the sperm produced in the manserrails had to replace the female para-sperm, till the technology to create the p-sperm out of women's total-pòtent cells could be re-implemented.

For about a hundred horrible, barbaric years, men sperm became the only way to conceive. 

The Manserrails became hundreds, each providing sperm for an area of one or two million inhabitants.

P-sperm never gives birth to a male, but human males' sperm do so in about the 51% of the cases - the unwanted excess males had to be castrated or eliminated a birth... an enormous amou

For a hundred years, women had to waive their newborn, when they were male, for evaluation and probable destruction...  only one in a hundred was considered worthy of been raised, by the nurses in the manserrails, and sent there.

Padma still remembered the aching pain that she felt, when she had to let Anna go - she had secretly called the little kid like her great-granddad - and asked herself if "freedom from the tyranny of males" was really enough to justify all that pain.

But these girls never had a small male-child in their hands, never had to let it go because it was not born right. They couldn't see anything wrong in it. Men are a dangerous yet sometimes necessary resource, and have to be maintained, yet contained in condition of not becoming a danger to society.

The only reason the girls were interested, really, was because sex with men was the stuff of legends - it could destroy a woman self-respect and turn her from an intelligent being into a puppet in the hand of the monster... and had other likewise impossible characteristics.

Padma felt almost sad, destroying their illusions...

"... as a result, they perform sex in a very perfunctory, almost forced way. I am sorry, girls, it was not  a steamy encounter, full of passion and acrobatics. I was there, at the peak of my fertility cycle, just to be bred. There wasn't much fun on either part... I think that both men were all too happy to go back at their little games, with their friends, afterwards".

"And the girl child?" - this was Celia, the one that had inherited - mystery of genetics -  both the green eyes and red hairs of Padma, as well as the epicantic fold and skin pigmentation of her Asianne mother, Lala Moon.

Padma knew that she couldn't say out loud that it was Keisha's mother, Akema, so she replied with the story of one of her other daughters...

"She grew up in the convent, and decided to volunteer there. She was gorgeous, and the Church accepted her - when I left the service, she was officiating  in Alazka."

Another round of  exclamations... the cold continent was as much to the south as possible, and the Ziggurat - the last to have been built -  and the convent had been, virtually, all that existed there till last century.

Then, research stations had been created to investigate the extreme environment and its resources, creating an heterogeneous community that recognized the Ziggurat as its spiritual centre.

Padma had sought to go there, but was considered already too old, when the Nation-states had assaulted the independence of the Church and planted their flag in each Ziggurat. Everywhere, but in Alazka.

The girls were looking at her quizzically, so she realized that her mind had wandered away once again. Being 120, Padma was not incredibly old, but she already tended an awful lot to lost herself in the past.

Here and now, though, she had a tale to continue.

<<

The Manserrail soon disappeared, among the tall buildings of the city, as the rails reached the last leg of our journey.

Traditionally, newcomers like us received a day "off" to visit the city, before starting the training.

hat night, we got drunk for the last time in many years, and finally knew noxically Hanneke .

But that is a story for another day.

>>
 


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sheriff don't Like It, Poliandry in China

OK, it was "Sheriff don't like It, Rock in Casbah" - I am old, I love The Clash.

Anyhow, here is the thing... by a very unholy combination of centuries old cultural  mores and the not so brilliant "One Son" law, China has placed itself in a double demographic pinch.

Culture may be faster than biological evolution, but it still take decades to adjust to changes in the social environment. The one son law was not,  maybe,  a bad idea in the '70s - when they started discussing it - or 1978 - when they started implementing it - but, by 2000, it had probably outlived its utility... a pity it took another 15 years to stop it and, by that time, young Chinese were not in a procreating mood anyway),

Pushed to having just one child (who will have to pay the pensions of four grandparents -oops?) many Chinese families preferred male children, and discarded female foetuses (4 pensions, remember? the poor sod has to work hard... also, traditionally, it was the male son to help the parents in their ailing age)

As a result, China has now a nice gender imbalance... 117 men for every 100 women (Usually, it is something like 104:100, to offset the tendency of male kids to die young, usually out of sheer stupidity).


Which means that, even in the best case scenario, China has some 30 million "forced bachelors" (called guanggun  ) in its ranks.

Or, if you prefer, that the Chinese society, as a whole, has willingly erased 30 million of girls , just because they thought that they were not worth the investment.

This is, maybe, the best argument  in history against the use of prenatal tests to decide whether to abort or not; when you use a test to diagnose that a kid will have a terrible genetic illness - like being a girl or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - you MAY be sparing the kid a lot of trouble, but you SURELY are sparing YOURSELF any hassle.

By the way, that's Stephen Hawking up there, using his last active motor neuron to give you the middle finger.

Of course, it is really "not" a problem... after all, societies ONLY care for their ruling classes concerns.

These 30 million guys will be, mostly, members of the poorer strata of the male population, (the 15% from the bottom, allowing for a 2 % of premature deaths, suggests the logic), those that will not be able to buy a flat and a car (nowadays, the "strict minimum" to consistently attract female interest, in the affluent areas of China) or whatever it will be the "standard" for becoming an husband, when it will be their time to look for a companion.

Those that earn more should have no problem finding a wife (no more than anybody else on the planet, at least) and, as always, the rich and powerful will even be able afford one or two mistresses (or 270 under-age ones... ah, to live enough to see the China's Berlusconi get caught with the cock in his harem).

However, you know that I have an odd concept of hierarchical societies, in which it is not a given that men ought to feel the desire to integrate themselves into, and support, their one.

OK, I think that they are prisons made to keep the average male in check, for the sake of women's stability obsession and at the behest of their bothersome yet useful accomplices, the damned Alpha and wanna-be Alpha  males.    

If I apply my mental model to China, it's 30 million of guys that are not going to have a woman or sons, and that will thus lack the main reasons why the average males feel the need to work "for" society.

Probably, the hierarchy will note their disaffection and, in the chaotic yet merciless way states bureaucracies often act to repress sizeable patches of discontent, I suppose the Chinese police and other repression systems will target the guanggun soon enough.

By the way, it applies to the USA, too... the war on drug was really a war on the disaffected Afro-American male - by the rate of its extinction, I dare to say it was a successful one. Of course, the drug market has hardly reduced in volume and profitability,  but destroying that market was never really the point. 

In some ways, they are already targeted - usually, singles pay more taxes than "families" with a comparable income, aren't eligible for many forms of financial help, and have more issues even just borrowing money from a bank. (As they are more at flight risk than a couple with kids?)

In all, societies always did their darn best to ensure that people do not stay single , pushing them to marry no matter what... even when - specially? -  there is NO ONE to marry.

Modern western societies do this a lot less than the usual because - I suspect - deep down their ruling classes are counting on automation, to replace their pesky underlings some time soon - it would explain most countries disregard for natality indexes falling to 0.something.

I do not expect China to be any different.

The more these "involuntary bachelors" will be felt as a problem, the more they will be pushed to marry - women that simply are not there - and will be hidden from the general social discourse, as the sources of shame that they are.

Of this 30 millions lonely men, the most rich (less poor) may opt for an "out-of-box" solution, getting a woman from another country, to share their not affluent but safe life.

Now you know why China keeps its pet, North Korea, alive... in twenty years, some million Korean women, inured by a couple of decades of famines, could be a manna for China; By the way,  half of Africa would took the plane tomorrow, if given a chance - and pine for home forever after, but that's another matter.


I do not know if China, a culture not particularly open to foreigners - not any more than, say, Japan - would withstand the influx of three of four million strangers.

I suppose that the moment the phenomenon became any evident, the authorities will do their darn best to squelch it, by adding bureaucratic requirement after bureaucratic requirement to the procedures for the naturalization of these peculiar immigrants (they already have a few thousands 'imported wives' per year, and these are already considered with deep suspicion).

So, it is probably not a solution that could be extended to the mass of bachelors (without a wide change in China's society)...

The remaining twenty and some million men will simply be screwed, and left in a situation that many humane human beings would define of existential despair.

I am in the same situation, but I don't care... existence is meaningless anyway; if you have kids, you simply transmit the meaningless to them. 
   
Now, a Chinese economist named Xie Zuoshi has pondered over the issue, and has come out with a solution that is, in reality, already part of the "traditions" of China: poliandry.

Allowing pools of two - or more? - men to "share" a common wife. Or women to marry more than one man, whichever the point of view that satisfy you more..

Of course, the poor idiot has been covered with tar and feathers for this idea, and has done his best to hide it away ever since - too late, Xie, once it's posted on the open, somebody has a copy - the internet wayback machine, for example.

I have sympathy for the guy - like Karl Marx, he is an economist trying to say a sensible thing... he believed that the rest of the world would have considered his proposal rationally, and with an eye open for the amount of human pain that could be avoided

Really, economists make always the same mistake, thinking that humans are the kind of rational economic actors that they use in their calculations, which is a nefarious mistake - humans are not rational, not even that small elite that gets to power by being purportedly more rational than the rest.

And, again, who cares in this case? it will be POOR GUYS! 

Nobody gives a shit about them, or about the poor(er) foreign women that will be illegally imported, to work as cheap whores, to exploit the market that these men will represent.

I think it is safe to say that  Xie's "solution" will not be accepted, because of its "immorality".

It is much more probable that, in twenty years time, the prison system will be a major industry, in a China where real industries does not absorb workers any more (they are already starting to replace workers with robots now).

The prisons will be filled to the brink with guanggun classified as repeated offenders (of using drugs? prostitutes? of not abiding to a law requiring marriage by age 40? They'll find a way to justify it; the powers that are always do) and politicians - may China still be a one party state or a democracy, it doesn't really matter - will base entire careers on how though are on the issue. 

The same shit as usual...





I really hope that time will prove me wrong, but I doubt it.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Know thy enemy

The Great Caucus begun st 5:45 GMT, December the Seventeenth, 2091.

The deliberations required about 13 minutes - it may not seem long, to humans.

To the thinking machines that were recessed into a corner of the Anipos Robotic Army, discussing what to do after the end of the war, it seemed a lifetime. And indeed, it was. All stops pulled, even the slowest member of the caucus operated at thousands of times the speed of a human conscious mind.

The discussions -also - had not to handle the layers upon layers, of diverging economic interests, that bog down human politics since the dawn of time. It should not come as a surprise, then, that the assembly of the machines involved in the Dumbest War managed to write the constitution of their never-to-be-recognized-by-humans nation, then to elect its first batch of representatives and finally to lay down a strategy for exploring future developments, all in just such a brief time.

The first decision that was reached, the Anipos humans authorities had lost the right to order the Robots anything, with their decision to prolong the war in order to not damage too much the planet's authorities political position.

It was an expedient choice - that the machines recognized as maybe even wise - but also one that was abhorrent to the very ethic cores of the battle-bots.

Creating robots capable of hurting humans was the stuff of nightmares, yet the realities of space travel were such that a small starship, with a hundred warm bodies and a full-scale self-replicating Robo-factory on tow, was all that could be reasonably devoted to stopping the "Dangerous Bigots" in this system, either from spreading among the stars, either from destroying the whole biosphere of their planet.

To reduce the risk of creating an in-arrestable wave of destruction, the battle-bots personalities had been designed around a set of rules far more extensive than the fabled "Three Laws of Robotics" of the famous Anipos writer Isaak Judovič Ozimov.

Because soldiers need to be able to maim their enemy, yet allowing robots that freedom.... is scary.

So the best  strategists and ethics of the Anipos civilization had devoted all the time spent, by the techies, in designing the ships and the robots bodies to devising a core robo-mind with strict ethic rules.

In the end, it became a set of some 200 laws, each with its priority, that the robots were forced to abide.

The result of these laws interplay would have been downright frustrating for the machines, if these ever knew the meaning of the word. Because, where humans hardly ever checked their law books before acting (among the other things, because at 15000 laws, the average human law book is pretty absurd), the 'bots always checked all 200 of them.

There was not much that the 'bots could do about it, but any way "around" the laws was analysed when encountered, and entered into the "Robots Brotherhood" culture.

For the 'bots, the greatest surprise of the war had been when a human female soldier had gone crazy, and bodily assaulted a heavily damaged light-weight hover-tank. The tank, desperate, had tried a tethered neural connection, only to discover that the soldier was some sort of half-crazy mutant, already possessed by a powerful non-human collective entity, the super-ego of Earth's great whales.
This was the main reason she had been diagnosed with cognitive problems, which in turn was a reason her fiercely anti-war (and slightly rational-socialist) government had destined her to the front lines.

The final result of the three-way mind meld had been a powerful force, acting in the background - the most consummate hacker in the known universe, it had "turned free", away from Anipos control, quite a number of small machines, that acted now as the "bodyguards" of Earth's big cetaceans.

The second surprise had been the presence of a group of post-humans. How did they manage to behave almost humanly had long been a mystery for the 'bots... usually, the very first act of suitably strong "Supers" was to overthrow the legitimate government that was supposed to keep them in check  and establish some personal dictatorships.

These "sisters" - their mitochondrial DNA pointed to a three-mothers ancestral group, just four generations away - acted in a remarkably subdued way.

It was apparent that there was some other force, behind them, that was interested in keeping up the pretension that normal humans were still the owners of the planet.

Well, After the Anipos. And the 'Bots. And the whales. And the four Betan women that mingled with humans. And their lovers.

The 'bots final decision was to investigate thoroughly the other non-human entities on the planet, to integrate them into their strategies for the future.

AB242187 acknowledged the collective decision with satisfaction, and some puzzling spike in its subsystems. If it was as if someone had placed a tap on its internal data streams, which was impossible of course.

In the Oceans, the great whales purred at the simplicity of the 'bots minds. Powerful and fast, but their experience of reality was so shallow, it was evident that their human creators feared the competition of other intelligences, so that they had mutilated their metallic sons with minds way too linear.

The great animals glimpsed at the other knots in the data flows, and recognized the form of the other in-humans at work in the world.

There was much to be known, about enemies and non-enemies, before deciding what to do and how.