Floozman in Space
by Bertrand Cayzac
In a space station in Earth orbit, Janatone Waldenpond, a refugee from Europa, is trying to return to Earth. She meets a long-lost cousin, Fred Looseman. Meanwhile, Jenny Appleseed, the president of the Cosmitix Corporation, holds a conference to plan interstellar expeditions.
Chapter 15: Astralix
Sancho and Walt escape skinning and evisceration. The creature with the crocodile eyes leads the man and his talking luggage to the Chief Engineer’s alveoli. They find her busy programming an old-fashioned manual control panel, squatting on a chair covered with white fur. She is genuinely young, fairly humanoid and rather pretty in Sancho’s eyes. He hates her.
She let the green wave of her gaze flow out in the space beyond the window while explaining the maneuver to them with skill and detachment, as if they had always been part of the crew “I’ll explain the maneuver..."
She falls silent. Her long fingers continue to fly over the controls. A certain wildness in her gestures gives a sure indication that she can’t read.
“I will explain the maneuver, and then I will tell you about my dream,” she says with a drawl. “The operation is simple: it’s a matter of slowing down the spin of the whole trap so as to compensate for the error in The Man’s approach trajectory. It is only a few spatial versts from here. No doubt about it; the capsule is off course. Damn! It’s headed for the wrong zone. They’ll eat it alive if it docks in there. And we’ll lose the cargo.”
She hums as she gives a gentle thrust to brake the whole shebang. Everything and everybody is floating now. Everything floats and everything is in flux for Walt, the Artificial Uterus. He is upset by the transformations which are flowing through him, and he seems to be the only one to perceive them.
“And you can bear babies of all species?” asks the engineer after a long silence. Voices seem no longer to come to Walt from anywhere in particular; they have become relationships. The questions and the answers weave an immense continuum, an unfathomable and wholesome ocean on which they ride.
“All humanoid species, yes,” says Walt. “I work on the basis of genome and configuration.” He is seeing himself as a small boat of singularity lost upon this ocean.
“The pilots want me to beget children,” the chief engineer says. “And this one too” — she points to the technician — “they want her to produce more babies. Alpha females don’t want to bear children, even less when they are pilots. And it’s no good for us slaves.”
“I can place myself at your service as soon as the child is born.”
But Walt is stirring his gills again, he is convulsing now. He understands: he is in labor!
“He’s being born!” This is it; this is the end, the poetical conclusion of Walt’s programming.
“No, no,” the inner voice answers. “This birth is ours, he will be born, I will open myself!”
“Someone boil water!” shouts The Man, who is in reality the local ‘C’ dealer. He has heard it all. And indeed, a bolted capsule bristling with poles has just made a smooth docking. Its parking lights are flashing calmly. The Man is smiling behind the window, a tall, old dignified man, his head covered with an elegant Stetson.
And if nobody has ever seen boiling water, everybody understands that the transformation in progress is a change of state on the same order as sublimation. A metastable reality, present for a long time as potentiality, comes into being.
What bobs up first out of Walt the uterus is the idea of the One. Similar to a large red bubble that would be dancing in front of anyone who has eyes to see it on the right wavelength, it inflates, gives of itself, smoothly pervades and unites all individualities. It dissolves the notions of beginning and end, which could fragment it, becoming all things to all entities, always already there, rich with an indivisible multiplicity.
Here is a thumbnail picture of it: waters are spread on the ground; the AU opens like a seashell and, in his pearly womb, the child has just opened his eyes. He is showing the palm of his many humanoid hands with vibrissae-fringed fingers. He is blue, he is of an unheard-of androgynous beauty.
Sancho is baked in hatred. The Martian are ecstatic. The armored technician bows the steel rods of his neck.
The Man opens the electronic floodgates and the encrypted nano-drug pours crackling into the bionic circuits. Joy! Music combs unraveled emotions; electric current takes form and braids the clear waters; the viral flow spread its newness into the surrounding systems.
And the vision takes shape. It is the manifestation of the child. It embraces the potentialities of the past and the future. It speaks and does not speak: its will is made manifest and already makes itself understood with a force akin to language. The AU is the voice of ME, it says. All together we will be gathered in the thing that makes up ME.
“All gathered by... in... under... one... the same... You don’t have the Web, do you?” the AU asks. He wants to speak the revelation aloud. He has just stopped to address the chief engineer, sure that she can still answer him.
“Uh... no, but the pilots have made one of their own. I can still connect us...”
“Hurry!” says The Man.
“VINCULUM SUBSTANTIALE,” the trap’s web breaks in, instantiating itself in the enriched plane, “the line which groups mathematical expressions and unites monads!”
“Yes! Good idea. According to my own archive, this concept was introduced by Leibniz!”
“Really?” says the Web. “We recorded this entry to ‘Lettra Des Bosses’ but we have nothing on this person. Can I analyze your archives?”
“We will share everything.”
“Well, well, we are reconstituting a knowledge base as best as we can.”
Upon listening to these scary words, Sancho stiffens. Assemblies form in his mind. He sees The Man’s capsule in the immediate web. He remembers the two air locks that he has identified, a general view of the basket gives him an idea of the distance to travel...
He is already slipping away when he hears the voice command: “This one, the one who resists, Sancho: he will remain outside of ME. ME needs the other...”
“Sancho shall be the OTHER,” decrees the AU.
Hurry, hurry, to the air lock! Sancho commands himself. I can be there in a few minutes. With a bit of luck, there’ll be an exit vehicle or a human-compatible suit.
Crowds of subsystems systems are connecting to the vision now. “And what shall we be? What shall we do? What shall our name be?” they ask, each in its own language.
“Yes, a name is required,” says the chief engineer. “The alphas give a name to their children, when we hand them out to the postnatal block... This child is more than an alpha child!”
“Whatever,” Walt answers. “What name?”
“I don’t know. Tell us...”
They question each other. They haven’t thought about it. Walt says that he is only a machine and that it’s not his business to give names. No one told him to. It’s up to the genitors to give him a name.
“But we need a name now!” the technicians insist. They are joined by the systems and the subsystems: “We need a name!”
“Yep. There’s Oneness, I reckon,” says The Man.
“ME wants NAME,” the sovereign voice reminds them, and each entity feels that it must soon abandon his individuated consciousness.
Ultimately, Walt says he might be able to find a name in human poetry. “I have studied some human poetry during my travels,” he adds.
“Yes, human poetry!” But nobody knows what he is talking about.
“Let’s see... It was at the Europa Academy during the period that we call the revolutions of love... It was also the time when I was activated...”
While Walt is telling how the child was conceived, the UNIFYING INTERACTION gradually gains strength. But threats appear. These are the masters of the moment, those who are still controlling most of the trap infrastructures. They give order these systems to expel the section where the birth has just taken place. Death signals are emitted on the control circuits.
Upon seeing this, The Man turns up the ‘C’ flow to full strength, at the risk of provoking irreversible differences. Many transmission modules have already melted, and the death signals struggle to reach the locks. Other signals, corrupted by the ‘C’, trigger necrosis in vital parts of the command areas. Rosaries of explosions undermine the metal frames.
But Walt, ignoring these threats, quotes:
An einem Sommermorgen ward ich jung
Da fühlt’ ich meines eignen Lebens Puls
Zum erstenmal — und wie die Liebe sich
In tiefere Entzückungen verlor
Erwacht’ich immer mehr, und das Verlangen
Nach innigerer, gänzlicher Vermischung,
Ward dringender mit jedem Augenblick.
Everybody asks him what this means.
Upon a summer morning was I young
I felt my own life-pulse
for the first time; and as love
was dissolving itself in deeper Ecstasy
I awakened even more, and the longing
for a more intimate union, a more complete fusion
became more pressing with every moment.
“It’s German, a poem by Novalis in the series Heinrich von Ofterdingen. It’s the song of a spiritual being born of lovers’ union. It’s called AST...”
The EXPLOSION is breathtaking to all who breathe. Everything is shaken, everything stops: the light, the web, the pumps. Only the unification process continues: soothing, sovereign. The engineer presses the command buttons in the light of some phosphorescent organ. In several views of the immediate web, black capsules can be seen moving away. These are the masters’, repulsed by a wave of energy. The basket can now be unified.
The child and the AU have been separated by the shock. The child is recovering and unfolds magnificently, defying any description other than mathematics. Walt is miserably flapping his gills in a corner.
“ASTERIX!” trumpets the local web upon its return. “You mean ASTERIX! He is a rebellious Gaul, he fights the Romans, like Jesus: he can be seen here, in a 20th-century hieroglyph.” An image floats.
“The Gauls? Are they prehistoric men?” asks a technician.
“Yes, look, they have hair, just like them,” confirms the web.
“ASTERIX! ASTERIX!” they all repeat in chorus: the technicians, the systems, the subsystems and some prisoners who are coming in from the bunker through a broken partition. A great number of animals are now forming a circle around the crib along with all the freewheeling bacteria loaded with ‘C’.
“No, that’s not right. The spirit is called ASTRALIS.” Walt, the AU, issues the correction after coming to his senses amid the hens and laboratory mice.
But the word of the child flows anew, more powerfully. “ME is... ASTRALIX, a sidereal Gaul born of love. They want to destroy me, and I will resist. And you, The Man, you shall be the Druid!”
“PANORAMIX?” The Man answers. “Uh... no, thanks. I’m expected elsewhere.”
The drug is consumed until the software keys are deactivated. The basket unifies itself and cools down. The superbaby falls asleep, and his dream allows him to see ample events carrying stars and heroes. A navigation song rises from the infrastructure. It resounds in the bunkers and under the moving vaults of control rooms.
Like a gnat with a ripe grape, a black suit detaches itself from the basket. One feels that it is animated with a clear willingness when one understands that it is moving towards The Man’s capsule which is already maneuvering away. When it reaches its destination, the fugitive clings to various widgets, looking for the air lock.
Will The Man let Sancho in?
[Follow-up sequence: Dingman]
What has become of Dingman? You may remember that he has been orbiting Earth in a catatonic state. But that is not the whole story; it does not do justice to the suit’s life support, which is, after all, the waking half of the system.
And, thank God, the machine is minding the store. It has managed to pre-sell a few organic components to a pirate trap with the help of an orbital dog encountered on the networks. It is agreed that its central unit shall be integrated into the trap for a reasonable fee and that the rest of the organic cargo shall be recycled into other biological subsystems.
Refueled by the commissioned pack of dogs, the suit and its innards can wait for the spaceship. Dingman will remain heated, fed and drugged into sleep: who could ask for more?
[Dingman follow-up sequence ends.]
End of Part I
Proceed to Chapter 16...
Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac