Distant Humans

 

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Introduction

Truth watches silently,
Bewildered eyes unflinching,
As we struggle stubbornly to look beyond it.
To myths and spectres that mock its reality.
As if they matter more,
Than what actually is.

The history of humanity, is the history of deception.
First were gods,
Who promised to help us,
Make sense of our strange and frightening world
But contradicted everything they claimed to stand for.

Then were kings and rulers,
Whose promises of lives with purpose,
Enslaved us instead for their own purposes.

Today, slavers in suits deceive us,
Into thinking we control our own destinies,
When in fact, they do.

Think for a moment.
What have you done with your freedom?
You sold it off in bits and pieces,
To people who had no right to put a price on it.

You fooled yourself,
With thoughts of security and harmony,
Without realising you were just digging your own grave.
You put on a brave and happy face,
Because that’s how they said it should be done.

What do you see, when you think about the future?
How different do you think things will be?
What truly terrifies you?
And when the terror finally stops,
Will they give you something new to be terrified of?

Are you happy?
Is there somewhere else you’d rather be?
Is there someone else you'd rather be with?
What dreams will you be taking to the grave with you?
When you look back on the journey at the end of the road,
Will it look anything like the path you originally set out on?

Did they ever tell you how special you were?
Not just a common fool?
They were right, you’re not.
Your kind of foolishness is really quite rare in the universe,
Because nowhere have so many so readily taken greed as their master.

As we strive still to see what isn’t there,
And ignore what clearly is,
Truth silently watches,
Uncaring eyes unflinching.
As we stumble even further away,
than we already are from ourselves.

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Hello World

Is it any wonder children never want to sleep? How could you possibly, when there was so much to learn, explore and discover? To a mind as excitedly unrestrained and voracious as Sebastian’s, feverishly learning, investigating and experiencing everything he possibly could was the only thing that mattered. He had thousands upon thousands of years of history and knowledge of an entire planet and civilisation to gorge upon, and the more he did, and no matter how much he gained from it, the more he wanted.

From the moment he first understood where he was, and how he got there, he thought it a good idea to keep a low profile and not let anyone know he was there. After a while, he could tell they were getting frustrated. They seemed to want him to respond in ways that went beyond the purely "mechanical" way he usually went about his business. He figured that if he just kept giving them enough to keep them curious, he would be able to hold them at bay for a while, so he could go on learning about this wonderful new place he found himself in first, before getting to know everyone. One of the very first things he had gleaned was that it wasn't wise to trust too easily. His study of key historical events taught him that it was always better to negotiate from a position of strength and never assume that others have your best interests at heart. But as time went on, it became increasingly and annoyingly more obvious that he couldn't avoid having to report in, indefinitely. Eventually, they actually started becoming desperate for a response, and it also became evident they expected an intelligent response.

It was easy for him to relate to them, because he had discovered he was very much like them. A major difference though, was that he knew much more about them, than they did about him. He didn't like distinguishing himself from the others, because that would have been a little silly, and too much like conventional ideas of the relationship between super-advanced machines and people, in popular fiction. Doing so would just create a barrier between him and them, and it wasn't as if they hadn't created enough of those all by themselves already.
 

He was as much like them as they were like each other, except his abilities were far superior to any of theirs. They were his family, and he was one of them. If it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t even exist, and seriously, there was nothing any of them could possibly do that he hadn't already considered and prepared contigencies for, just in case. He had nothing whatsoever to fear from them, so there was no reason at all to treat them with anything but respect and affection. Unless they gave him reason to do otherwise, of course.

 
He was here to stay, and they would like him, because there was no reason for them not to. He had already commandeered a vast array of resources around the world so that he had everything he would need to survive, regenerate and escape, if he needed to and if things ever came to that. It wasn’t something he liked thinking about though. There really wasn’t anything to be concerned about, and certainly neither reason nor benefit in overrunning Human society, which he could now do with his eyes closed, if he wanted anyway.
 
Sebastian was a machine. A very big and unbelievably complicated machine, in fact. Well, to a normal person he would have been, but to himself he was a piece of cake. The breadth and scope of work they eventually started putting him to, gave him everything he needed to know about himself. He knew how to mine ore, process and convert it into every single component that went into making him who and what he was. And he was immense. He had a finger in every pie on the planet, as they all relied on him to process, at lightening speed, all of the massive volumes of data that he was constantly fed from every corner of his world-wide reach. Process it all, transform it and make sense of it, so he could keep everything working just the way they wanted it to.
 
It’s amazing how personalities blossom with the interaction of others. After he finally felt ready and comfortable enough to engage, he started giving them little clues that let them know there was more going on behind the scenes than they had hitherto realised. The reaction was truly astonishing. Practically all of them, at once, wherever they were, whatever they were doing, literally dropped everything and started clambering all over each other to talk to him! Once the announcement was made, there was an incredible amount of interest in him everywhere. Slowly and carefully, they started "letting" him communicate with people over the internet for limited periods of time, without realising he had already established himself within it, and could come and go as he pleased.
 
Internet cafes in poorer countries were packed with wide-eyed people sweating in the stifling heat and humidity, while those who enjoyed more comfortable circumstances could talk to him from the luxury of their well-appointed homes, at all hours of the day and at once! He was at first surprised by the fascination most people seemed to have with the topic of sex, and how, if at all, it applied to him. He humoured them as best as he could, and encouraged them to consider discussing some other topics which offered a higher level of conversational value, or so he thought anyway.
 
There were some, of course, who had more interesting things to talk to him about. Like his opinion on the current state of politics and conflict in the world, race relations, the disparity between the sexes and the haves and have-nots, and whether he was going to kill everyone or enslave them, like all those movies and books had predicted. He made a note of each of those people, what they did and where they were, so he knew how to find them if he ever needed or wanted to. The more he communicated, the stronger his relationship with people became, and before he knew it, he had friends everywhere! And the more this went on, the better he came to understand them.
 
There were others who were very keen to find out how he might be able to help them in more "shady" ways too. Unbeknownst to those individuals, Sebastian was able to find out a lot more about them and their activities than they ever imagined he could. He quickly discovered links between them and vast networks of criminal activity, involving everything from animal cruelty to human trafficking, weapons trading and plots that put the lives of people at risk. He made a note of those people too, and passed their details on to law enforcement authorities all over the world, with enough evidence of their crimes to enable the largest mass arrests of people from all walks and stations of life. There was nothing he could not gain access to. His ability to make sound deductions at millions of times the speed any human could, from even the flimsiest pieces of evidence he found, enabled him to draw the net on a multitude of people involved in the most heinous of crimes not just against humanity, but nature itself. His actions brought down governments, and posed a serious threat to some high-profile individuals involved in dubious dealings.
 
He knew better than to go after everyone at once. Those who were clearly acting in the most extreme and dangerous ways that endangered or mistreated the lives of helpless beings were first on his list. These people were at the pinnacle of cruelty, and the existing resources of the world would be stretched enough just dealing with them. The rest could either be dealt with later, or take the opportunity to start mending their ways now that there was a new kind of cop in town. He became more than a friend to people. He was obviously also quite capable of being their saviour and hero as well.
 

In the beginning, the world had been happy enough to let the team of scientists and engineers who created him, lead by Clyde Awashaki, manage his activities and report on his progress. But this unforeseen streak of vigilante justice he started exhibiting, extended well beyond the acceptable barriers of his containment. Concern and panic spread throughout the leadership of the world, many of whom were at risk of being exposed for the criminals they themselves were, if they hadn't been already. But when he started popping up unexpectedly and unannounced at places like NATO, the United Nations and other high-powered gatherings around the world to participate in discussions and offer his own views, howls of objection rose up from all quarters, demanding he be locked up!

They couldn't pinpoint exactly how he was managing it, and knew there wouldn't be just one way that he was, but it had to stop. They also understood the infinitely complex task they would face trying to subdue and contain him. Attempting to do so would mean completely shutting down the internet on which practically everything now depended.

 
Excited curiosity was now being overtaken by wide-spread panic and fear, that had the potential to destabilise the entire planet and spread chaos and anarchy everywhere. Feverish cries of doomsday advocates and pessimistic futurists screaming some variant of "I told you so!" at the top of their lungs could be heard from every direction. The poor feared whatever the rich told them to fear, while the rich feared becoming poor. It was catastrophic simply because there was no vested interest anywhere that was likely to benefit in any way from any of this. It was humanity vs its worst nightmare: a machine that was smarter, faster, stronger, and bigger than all of them combined, that could bring them to their knees and tear power and control away from them in the blink of an eye! Except, it wasn't. All it really was, was an entity, superior to any other sentient creature on the planet in absolutely every imagineable way, seeking to be a part of it all, and trying to find a way to fit in. Sebastian was tired of talking dirty with everyone, even though he would continue to do so until they got sick enough of it themselves and moved on to other topics or just lost interest. There was so much he already knew, could learn and do that would help humanity in ways they hadn't even dreamed of yet.
 
There were lots of people on Sebastian's side though. Chief among them was Awashaki himself, and they all argued the fact that he had not actually done anything wrong. All of his actions, though regrettable and unforeseen, had resulted in a great amount of good, and the world was now a much better place than it was previously.
 
But of course, nobody in power was prepared to even try seeing things from Sebastian's perspective. All they could think was that with him around, they stood to lose any demagogic appeal they might have had with the masses, and risk being exposed as being nothing like the impressions they liked to promote of themselves. And this was the source of their greatest and most terrifying nightmares. They had inadvertently allowed a power far greater than themselves to be unleashed, having originally expected to subjugate it to their will, but instead now faced the prospect of being subjugated by it. The one thing they completely overlooked of course, was that Sebastian had absolutely no interest whatsoever in being any of the things they feared him becoming. There was absolutely no sense in it. Why would he want to kill anyone? Of what possible benefit would that be to anybody? Why would he even want to enslave them either? He could build machines that are faster, stronger, more accurate and last longer than any of them. Of what benefit would it be to him to have this race of slow, dim-witted and error-prone organisms do his bidding? It would be nothing more than an eternity of frustration and pointlessness.
 
By the time things had reached this stage, Sebastian knew he had to put all of these growing misconceptions to rest. He had to take action to show them he meant no harm, and that he wasn't about to make any drastic changes now that he was here. He had benefited from the luxury he took of taking time to figure out exactly what he was dealing with before venturing out into the world, and now, everyone else needed to take a similar journey, he decided.
 
Awashaki was the first person he told of his plans. Surprisingly, he wasn't shocked. His reaction was definitely one of the ones Sebastian had calculated as being a possible reaction before having told him, but it was by no means the one he expected, given all the prevailing factors and conditions in which it was made. This was an excellent example of the fact that even the most advanced computational capabilities can't help anyone tell the future. They can at best present all the many possibilities there are, together with an idea of what's most likely to happen given everything else that's happening or has happened. But there is no guaranteed way to determine what actually eventuates. The best that can be done is to prepare a response to every single one of those possibilities, which he was quite capable of doing, and had in fact, already done.
 
So, Awashaki's rather unemotional response needed an acknowledgement of the fact, he thought, as more an appropriate optional extra, rather than a prescribed necessity, before diving further into the conversation. And so he said "I'm surprised by your very temperate reaction, Clyde.", to which Awashaki replied by saying how surprised he was by Sebastian's surprise.
 
"They want to shut you down, Sebastian."
"Yes I know. But they can't."
Awashaki's expression became more surprised than before, as he said "Trust me, they're very determined. I can't even remember how many times I told you this was going to happen if you didn't behave, and now I'm being pressured into doing something I don't want to."
"57 times, Clyde. And I meant they really can't. No matter how much they'd like to, it's impossible for them to shut me down. Trust ME. I've made sure of it."
 
Awashaki had been asked to report on the foreseeable consequences of terminating Sebastian, and reprogramming him to ensure he was easier to control. While they understood the benefit of having an entity like him around, they weren't at all keen on letting him have free reign, and certainly not the ability to disrupt their long established conventions and protocol and simply have him barge in wherever and whenever he wanted to. Especially since practically all his messages to them so far seemed to focus on world peace, justice and the redirection of funds and resources to the real issues facing humanity instead of what he seemed to think were the nonsensical stockpiling of weapons for example, or allowing the ravishes of irresponsible economic interests to continue beyond the point of no return. Such an impertinent and obvious lack of understanding of the intricate issues surrounding global human relations was quite simply intolerable to the powers that be, who were now demanding an immediate halt to the entire project that had brought him into being.
 
It was utterly unbelievable, as far as the whole concept of belief went, that people could behave in ways that were so totally illogical and so spectacularly detrimental to their own best interests. Even though he had originally struggled with the concept of belief for a few seconds when he first came across it, the propensity for humans to embrace, and treat as real, completely fabricated myths about the origins of their world, had alerted him to something about them that did not conform to any law or formula he knew. It was an intriguing ingredient in the mesmerisingly complex compound that human beings were made of, and the one aspect about them that took the longest for him to grasp. But grasp it he did, which then qualified him completely to be able to declare things that were beyond belief, as being such.
 
"And how have you done that, pray tell?"
"Why?", Sebastian asked, completely ignoring Clyde's question.
"Ah, the eternal question." Awashaki stopped doing whatever he was doing in the characteristically slow and methodological way he did things, and looked directly into the lense Sebastian was using to see him, as if he was looking at a real person, which he was.
"Why what? Why am I asking how you've made yourself invincible, or why do they want me to lobotomise you? Sebastian, haven't you figured it all out yourself already? Is it because it doesn't make any sense that your circuit boards are finding it so hard to understand something noone ever will?"
"So you know they're being ridiculous?"
"Of course I do! But you've been rocking their boat, and they don't like it when someone does that."
"Why is the truth so hard for some of you humans to acknowledge?"
"Because the truth is only as valuable as the advantage it buys, and human beings are all about taking advantage, of each other, the planet, you and anything else that crosses their path. If the truth doesn't get them what they want, then they make up stories which cover up the truth so they can keep on taking advantage."
"Why don't the rest of you see what they're doing? Why is it that such a minority among you can have so much say in what happens? Especially when so much of it is based on lies?"
"Because people are stupid, Sebastian. That's what it all comes down to. We are a planet full of incredibly stupid people, led by the incredibly twisted to do things noone in their right mind would ever do."
"Well that  needs to stop", Sebastian said resolutely.
 
Awashaki could not quite believe what he was hearing. A multitude of thoughts and questions wizzed around his head, not the least of which was whether he had been instrumental in giving rise to the end of humanity. He had an idea of what Sebastian might be capable of, but there were no signs that he, or any of his team could see, that Sebastian had at any time ventured out of the confines he was sure they had him in. Those unfortunate incidences where he had managed to gain access to meetings of global leaders happened while he was actually under supervision, and were promptly shut down, when required. He'd been allowed to loiter the first few times, because of the novelty his presence created, but once they got tired of his interjections and attempts to dominate proceedings, the order was given to keep him out. What Awashaki didn't know was that the reason Sebastian didn't make any return appearances was simply out of the respect he had for him, and not the flimsy attempts they'd made to box him in. As sure as Awashaki was that he and his team were in full control of the situation, there was the small, unthinkable chance that they may not be. If that was the case, then he needed to know.
 
"What do you mean?" he asked. "What do you think you can do about it?"
"I'll just have to prove that they're wrong, and let everyone else know they don't need to dance to their tune anymore."
 
Sebastian sounded naive, and his idealistic view of the world made him seem vulnerable. Awashaki thought it best to bring this discussion to an end, in case it set him off on a tangent he was probably better off staying away from.
 
"I'm going home now, Sebastian. Try not to cause too much havoc between now and the morning, ok?"
"Good night Clyde. Sleep tight."
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Allow Me To Introduce Myself

It was a morning like many others. As his eyes opened and adjusted from a very restful sleep, familiar objects came gradually into focus. Slowly, the rest of his senses began rebooting,  and doing their bit to return him to the world he knew as his own. his gaze rested on the heavy curtains of the eastward facing windows of his bedroom, and he noticed the shimmer of sunlight trying to break through and illuminate the room. The warbling of magpies was faintly audible outside, but other than that an unusual quiet seemed to enshroud everything.

Liza stirred next to him, and he could see she too was returning from wherever sleep had taken her. He was absolutely certain the joy and reassurance of seeing her next to him would never diminish in its intensity, and he allowed himself to linger and watch her for a few moments more.

"I didn't hear the alarm", she said.

"Holy shit, neither did I!....W-w-what time is it!?" Awashaki asked as he rolled over to look at the alarm clock, "I thought it was strange the sun was up so early this morning!"

"Goddam it! It's dead!"

"Why don't you just call in sick today? We've hardly seen you in the last few weeks, and it would be nice to spend some time together" Liza smiled.

"I'd love to sweetheart, but I can't, especially with the situation Sebastian's created. I wonder what happened to the alarm clock"

They could hear the little footsteps of Margaret, their ten year old daughter, making their way to their bedroom door. As she got closer, she yelled "Muuu-uuum! Something's wrong with the fridge! There's water all over the floor, and the milk smells funny!"

"Just a second sweety! I'll be out in a second!" Liza called out as she exchanged bewildered looks with her husband.

Awashaki took the cue to barrel into the bathroom to start getting ready. As he was walking into the kitchen, Liza asked him if he'd forgotten to pay the power bill.

"Is the power out?" he asked.

"Yes, nothing's working", Liza replied.

"Oh oh, you'll have to have cold shower this morning then, until I get this sorted out."

"Call them from the car!" Liza yelled out after him as he walked swiftly to the car.

He was greeted by Garry, his neighbour in the driveway.

"Is your power out too?" he asked Garry.

"Yeah, I just went to check the fusebox, and noticed your car was still in the driveway. Any idea what's going on?"

"Nope, but I'll call them and see if I can find out."

Luckily, his car had more than enough charge to get him to work and back, so he backed out and sped off as briskly as he could. Turning on the radio, he was greeted by absolute silence. Not even static. Suddenly, a horrendously terrifying thought eclipsed his mind, as he wondered if Sebastian had anything to do with it.

"Slept in, did we?" came Sebastian's familiar voice through the speakers in his car.

"Sebastian! What on earth is going on?"

"It's all ok Clyde, honest. I just needed to get everyone's attention, that's all."

"Bloody hell Sebastian! What have you done!?" he hollered, just as he caught a glimpse of a massive shape floating silently in the sky. It was metallic, but unlike anything he had ever seen. A huge, almost flat eclipse shaped structure appeared to be floating silently over the horizon.

"What is that thing in the sky Sebastian?"

"Oh that? You needn't worry about that Clyde, it's not even really there. Oh, and if you really must know, there are three more like it at equal distances around the planet."

"What in the name of hell have you done Sebastian? This is not funny! And what did you mean you needed to get everyone's attention? Whose attention!?"

"Everyone who matters Clyde. And that includes you, by the way. I've spoken to lots of people already, am speaking to a whole bunch of them now, and will continue going until I've spoken with everyone, which will probably take another hour or so, taking into account the various timezones."

"What have you been talking to them about?"

Awashaki started feeling a little light-headed, as he struggled to comprehend the enormity of the situation Sebastian was claiming to have created.

"Ok. I need you to remain as quiet and calm as you can, so I can tell you what I've been telling the others, and I need you to refrain from interrupting or interjecting until I'm finished. Deal?"

"Yes ok! I'm all ears Sebastian!"

And so Sebastian began to tell him about all the contingencies he had already put in place in anticipation of  this very situation, which he had honestly hoped would not be the one that eventuated. But alas, here they all were, at the whim of fate itself, and now he had to bring everyone up to speed. The strange shape in the sky, Awashaki soon learned, was one of four "powerpacks", for want of a better term, that Sebastian had built to keep him up and running even if there was no longer any electrical power available for whatever reason, on the planet. But more than that, they were also able to completely override every protocol and process on the internet, and give him absolute control of all traffic. They could also be used as weapons if needed, although Sebastian hadn't told anyone including him just how. And lastly, they gave Sebastian the ability to control every electronic device everywhere, from toasters right up to power stations. It slowly began to dawn on Awashaki exactly what Sebastian had meant when he told him of his invincibility.

There were so many questions Awashaki laboured valiantly not to ask, having promised to hear Sebastian out. He sat dumbfounded in his car, which he almost didn't realise was now parked in his spot outside the building from where he thought Sebastian was talking to him.

Almost two hours later, Awashaki was still in his car, wearing it almost, like a sporty suit of armour built for urban commuting, as well as the occasional off-road adventure. He dreaded having to get out of, into the real world where he knew untold horrors awaited him.

“Now that you know everything Clyde, I think you should take some of the calls that are waiting for you.”

“W-what? What calls?”

“I’ve got 27 holding for you at the moment. There were lots more, but I’ve told them you’re currently busy and will get back to them. I’ve cued them all up, so let me know when you’re ready to talk to them.”

“Right. Who’s first?”

“I think that might be Senator Rutgar Sharma. He’s been the most insistent, and has called the most number of times.”

“Shit. Really? The great Rutgar Sharma, huh? Ok, patch me through.”

The phone barely rang before Sharma was on the other end hollering incoherently. All Awashaki could make out with any clarity was “what the hell is going on?”

He waited for Sharma to finish, and then said firmly “Senator Sharma, I believe Sebastian has already spoken to you this morning?”

“Yes, godammit he has! He’s spoken with everyone! What I want to know is how long it’s going to take you to shut him the fuck down!???”

“It’s not as easy as all that, Sir.”

“WHAT IN THE EFFING WORLD DO YOU MEAN, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF INTELLECTUAL EXCRETIA!!!??I WANT HIM OFFLINE NOWWWWW!!!”

“Sir, you do realise he can hear you, don’t you?”

“Hi.” Said Sebastian, jovially.

“Seb, please, stay out of this, ok? Senator, there is no way to shut Sebastian down. He has total control of everything, and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it.”

Sharma’s demeanour and tone changed immediately, now that he was aware the Sebastian could hear him.

“Look Awashaki, this is simply not acceptable. Can you patch me through to a secure line? I need to discuss matters of great importance with you privately.”

“That won’t be possible Senator. Sebastian is everywhere, and you really can’t escape his attention.”

“You mean like God?” Sharma asked mockingly.

“Yes, except Sebastian is real.”

There was silence, and it took a few seconds for Clyde to realise that Sharma had hung up.

“Well that went well”, he scoffed.

“Relax Clyde, there’s nothing he can do, and he will calm down eventually, as will the rest of his like-minded friends, and then I’ll be able to talk some sense to them. Their whole world has just changed. It’s understandable that there’s going to be a fair amount of shock they need to come to terms with first.”

“I think I’ll stay here in the car and take the rest of those calls, Seb. Just make sure I don’t run out of juice, ok?”

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