"What is flowing within it is everywhere Thought." – Rudolf Steiner

Archive for the ‘Ai’ Category

The World Of The End

I have a phobia about storage lockers; to me they are like huge leeches latching on to my life’s ankles.

You may think that last sentence to be problematic, but likely for the wrong reasons. The real issue is that I no longer know who “I” is, so to speak.

“I” is certainly not the woman that last wrote in this blog last April. She didn’t like storage lockers either, especially after having to hide in one after committing murder.

Not that it was really murder – is it your fault if someone sneaks a pocket knife past your body’s security checkpoints, and then forces you to pluck out eyes and smash in heads?

Trust me – I know all about murder.

I’m losing the thread here. It’s a very tenuous connection now, between me and “reality”. Now being on the platform on the formerly non-existent Point Richmond BART station, as I cradle my daughter in my hands.

Back to an important point. I’m not the Kaia Strauss that you knew from this blog, and I’m not Catherine Koehler, either. I’m supposed to be Cathy’s clone, her mirror reflection cut out like a huge paper doll and told to be fruitful and multiply.

That’s another problematic concept, but no more troubling than the life of a Pure Land Antenna in general.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m obsessed with things I no longer control.

I don’t have time to pontificate, to count the mass of unmanned drones hovering overhead like huge horseflies. Silver spheres, multi-rotored helicopters, and other treasures from Ariel’s imagination.

All I know is that I’m deathly afraid of storage lockers, and our treatment after entering Joey’s unit only accentuated this.

My dear Ariel was right about many things, especially when it came to the seemingly empty space in that unit. It was filled way past the brim with stuff, like a plastic bottle over-inflated by a muddy garden hose. I don’t know who was initially responsible, but it was clear that the plastic Cassandra with boiling flesh borrowed us all for a very specific reason – to create a new, temporary world within the confines of that locker.

A world that took a sharp turn in the early 1960s, quickly diverging from “normal” reality until it takes a mental spacesuit just to exist here.

I’m ahead of myself a bit. I’m behind myself a great deal. Let me start over to a certain degree.

I was born on Halloween in 1994, with the body of a woman in her early twenties. Catherine Koehler’s body.

I was born pregnant, carrying a girl conceived by Catherine Koehler and Brian “Phone” Thomas. She called her daughter Miranda, and I called mine Ariel.

Ariel just turned 17 a few weeks ago.

Ariel just died a few minutes ago.

Don’t worry, Sarah promised that she’d put her back together in the end.

I’m holding her remains in a small rectangular box, about the size of a complete Tarot deck. It’s matte, silver metal and slightly warm, but that might just be my imagination.

My OS is going overtime, trying to hold everything together, to prevent me from actually feeling anything right now. I don’t have time to contemplate this box, and I certainly don’t have the time to cry, or scream, or slap Ai silly as she just sits there, talking to Emily like nothing even happened.

Back to the spirit of starting over. Let’s go back to Joey’s storage locker.

Susanna Eck rushed into the locker first. Ai ordered Ariel and I to follow, and the experience….

If a simile is a comparison, and a metaphor is a transformation, then that locker was the next logical step – we swam through a murky grey concept, and our lungs filled with the spit, sweat and semen of voracious machine elves.

I couldn’t see Ariel in those infinitely long moments, but I could still feel her wrapped in my arms. I could hear labored breath, filled with esoteric swears and angel sparks.

We had to consume our own bodies, only to give birth to them anew. Take a spoonful of The Black like a fiber supplement with flax, and vomit up weird and forgotten mythologies.

The one true end was right there licking our cheeks, while the changing now pierced our navels maliciously, and held on for dear life as it ran away in every direction.

If there’s a tedium in excessive novelty, then I wrote epic poems about it, only to have to recite them in reverse to the shadowy figure approaching the final throne.

I can’t. Every time I think about that transition into this pocket world, I get headaches that quickly rush up and down my spine.

Ariel had a worse time than I did. When we ended up back in the Storage Center, she kept changing her physical state, randomly cycling her limbs and fingers through the Periodic Table. I had to talk her down from grey Selenium arms, and a bumpy, yellow, crystallized Sulfur face drooling Mercury. We have special songs for occasions like that, mantras I taught her from birth to come back from The Black and rediscover flesh.

Susanna wasn’t waiting for us on the other side. The Plastic Robot Sculpture (PRS) remained, a few steps down the dark hallway, wearing a huge, pink backpack that contained the Titanium PRS seed that had attacked us.

When Ai finally stumbled out of the locker, she was enveloped in a membrane of living, fluid light. She was choking on a concept I couldn’t even process, until she used the Golden Sphere to tear through the shell with fingers burning black.

“Where’s…. Susanna?” Ai was still gasping for breath as she wiped the golden liquid off of her bald head.

“Not here. Fuck it all, here isn’t even here anymore.” I had already done enough scanning of our surroundings to know that we weren’t in the Berkeley we just left. This was only a dollhouse the size of the Universe, a well-constructed fake ship in the bottle.

“Wrong kind of matter, and we’re breathing blood and pumping air.” Ariel was almost back to her usual body, but with swatches of exotic fabrics growing up her sweaty back like wild grass. “Everything is a big bouncy castle filled with rainbow plastic balls, so unsubtle and hard to control.”

Ai didn’t waste any time. Raised herself to the floor, stepping out of the sticky puddle of light, and limped towards the nearest Exit sign. Didn’t look over to me, didn’t even speak out loud, and instead used the static-filled Bodyweb to strongly suggest for us to follow.

The PRS quickly snapped to attention and trailed behind her a few paces, just as Ariel finished singing the matter mantra, shifting back to costumed skin. She was wearing a cosplay outfit, a patched together remix of the Die Database outfits from Massive Cloud Burst – the top half of the white kimono with rainbow accents, combined with a frilly purple skirt and red, armored leggings. Her head was now bald, except for a few strands of purple hair sticking out the front in a powerful curl, like a surly baby doll.

“I’m getting up.” Still on the floor. “I’m up.” Wobbling to her feet. “Giddyup!” She jumped square on my back, like she was seven again, and I could tell from the sickly sweet smell of her breath that something horrible was happening.

It was the smell of the Chosen Light, as we fought to the death in the Allianz Arena parking garage.

The Grand Supreme had reset that reality, but only I still remembered what happened, as the Earth burned to ashes with Munich at the epicenter.

The other Kaia would say München, not Munich. She was German through and through, or at least so I’ve read.

I really don’t have time for this now, to try to explain the last 17 years. I don’t know how much time I’ll have left – a few hours or days, perhaps.

So I’m going to use all of my time to hold tightly onto Ariel’s miniature coffin, to do what Ai says even though she doesn’t even respect me as the holder of the ultimate Spirit power. I can tell she thinks of me as a fleshy bag that temporarily contains her birthright.

I carried Ariel outside – I could feel her heat against my back, like a too-close hallway furnace.

When we entered the storage center, we were a few dozen feet away from Highway 80 and the Bay. Now, we were right across the street from the North Berkeley BART station, and the air was saturated with weird WOF marks and broken transit maps that only we could see.

Ariel coughed like a crow was flying out of her mouth, and then she handed me a BART pamphlet over my right shoulder. Something was extremely wrong with it, and Ai spoke up as she studied the one that Ariel transported into her hands.

“This is what I was afraid of. Nick Junk Magnet had all sorts of files on the history of BART, from when the 9 counties that surrounded the Bay started to hash out the details in the early 1950s.”

She pointed at the BART rotunda that was across the street, while I looked behind us for the storage place that had now disappeared. We were about two miles away from our initial location, on a residental street across from the BART parking lot.

“In June of 1961, a fancy consortium of engineers and other folk from three firms – Parsons Brinckerhoff, Tudor and Bechtel – submitted an elaborate report that carefully showed how Bay Area Rapid Transit could be spread across Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. BART would go North into Richmond, Northeast to the suburbs and Concord (digging a hole through the Berkeley/Oakland hills right by the Sibley Volcanic Preserve), and Southeast to Fremont. It would also cross under the Bay from Oakland to San Francisco, and continue on down the peninsula to Palo Alto. The final masterstroke would be a branching path that went from downtown San Francisco, right by the current Montgomery station, and up through the Northern part of the City so the trains could travel across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin, and eventually past San Rafael to Santa Venetia.”

Ai was really getting worked up now, and she waived us across the street and into the BART parking lot, which was completely empty of cars.

“By the end of 1961, Marin had dropped out because they didn’t want to modify the Golden Gate Bridge in any way, and San Mateo didn’t think they could afford it. So the engineers tried to save face, and kept a modified Northern route in San Francisco, the Geary line that ran under Post street from Kearny to 25th Ave. Station. Eventually, that route was axed as well, and Embarcadero Station was added right before the Bay Tube to Oakland. This less ambitious system went on line starting in 1972, just over 10 years later.”

The PRS with huge pink backpack took point, apparently looking for trouble. We were approaching some small green shrubs and purple leaved trees that dotted the barren parking lot. Where were all of the cars?

“As you know, BART was Cassandra’s pet project. She championed for the original design that crossed over into Marin, as necessarily strong scaffolding over the thin border between our world and the Structure. It was supposed to be a huge band aid that kept trouble away, and that eventually kept Jenny and S.OS imprisoned. The loss of the Marin and San Mateo lines was enough to cause instability, specifically in the Marin Headlands. The Black has been using that hole for years to influence the whole Bay Area, and also to slowly make inroads into the Structure itself. Simply put, BART has terminally bad Feng Shui. Or had….”

I looked down at my pamphet again. There clearly was a violet train line that led from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Marin all the way to Novato. There also was an Orange line that led West past the Richmond station, through a previously non-existent Point Richmond station, and under the water to San Rafael. There were extensions from the current Milbrae and Fremont stations, both terminating in San Jose past the Southern tip of the Bay. That’s not even counting the tracks running from Livermore directly Northward to meet the Pittsburg/Bay Point line.

“I don’t know how Cassie failed in the real world, but she clearly succeeded here. The Bay is completely encircled, and the Black contained. I think Joey and her used Ariel to re-write history.”

“This isn’t her story. It’s a pop up book!” Ariel suddenly jumped off of my back and ran angrily towards Ai, leaving a trail of dead frogs in her wake. The PRS moved to defend her, but Ai waived it off.

“Kaia, you have to control your daughter.”

“Don’t you tell me how to raise her!”

“I can already hear the whispers. At the storage unit Cassie infected her with the Black and S.OS.”

“I don’t believe you!” I believed her.

“We don’t have much longer before the Grand Supreme comes to anoint her as the second bride of the Nameless.”

At this point I was right behind Ariel, as she growled at Ai. I held her shoulders before she floated away like a raincloud, or sank down past the cracks in the asphalt. Her mind was all earthquake spasms, and forceful commands from a fragment of the Black that wrapped around her spine like a cobra.

“Control her!”

I took Ariel’s spirit and sheltered it away from the constant attacks, leaving her body as little more than a blank shell, like the fleshy PRS that Cassie made.

“Thank you.” Ai was clearly upset, but not at me. “Joey can never follow instructions… he was supposed to hide Emily in a neutral Personal Pocket Reality, one where neither the Grand Supreme nor the Black could get after her. But he had to go to St. Cloud to get that fallen PRS…. always too damn clever for his own good. Come on, we have to make it out of this place before it collapses. Ariel was holding it together with her powers, but now that she’s out of it…”

Ai was looking behind me so intensely that I turned around to see what was up. Instead of the Berkeley neighborhood, there was just a white haze surrounding the BART parking lot. When I faced the station again, the rest of Berkeley, including the hills a few miles Eastward, were completely replaced by nothingness.

“The last train out of here is entering the station under us – you have to force Ariel to take us there now!”

The station rotunda that used to be a hundred feet away – gone.

The sky was white. The asphalt was fading away under our feet.

I grabbed onto Ai’s spirit, and used Ariel to latch on to our bodies like security blankets. We used to practice teleportation in little fits and starts – it always gave Ariel such a headache, and made her hands tremble as she cut us away from the world.

When the whiteness started to eat away at our skin, I cut us away from the parking lot, underground dozens of feet, and onto the BART train that had just started to leave. Ariel vomited little twitching globs of The Black all over the carpeted floor, as Ai scoped out the train. It was empty except for us. But not for long.

“This car is infected.” Ai reached in her leather satchel, and took out what looked like a ray gun. She shot a red beam at the black constructs before they could start to spread, and they disintegrated. “Not enough. It’s like mold, the air is full of spores just waiting for a stray thought to set them aflame.” The windows started to cover with a film of black spots, like from the damp corner behind shampoo bottles. She looked back at me as she ran for the door to the next train car. “Control her, now.”

As the train exited the station, there was only about a thousand feet of tunnel left, before it exited into what should have been the bright blue sky of North Berkeley, by Gilman Street. Instead, there was the same whiteness hugging the train, as it howled over the tracks and shot forward into the almost unknown.

I had already picked Ariel up, and sat her on one of the seats – it had a vinyl snap on cover with Twister style polkadots. Ai was near the front of the car, pacing back and forth over the dingy carpet between the opposing exit doors.

“We’re not anywhere right now,” she yelled over the Bodyweb. “Without our memories of BART, and the neighborhoods it passes through, we would be completely stuck in this dying PPR.” I hadn’t experienced a Personal Pocket Reality before, but Sarah OS had some generalized schematics – they’re related to Variants, but much more localized and controllable. It’s really quite disconcerting to be in one, especially if there are conflicting versions of what reality is supposed to be inside the bubble.

At that moment, all I cared about was Ariel, and trying to save her from the slow and steady invasion of The Black. I could barely hold on to her hands and wrists; she wasn’t feverish, but she felt ungrounded, like she was wearing gloves made of static electricity. Her eyes were watering and fully dilated, and she was whispering in a language I couldn’t place. It reminded me of sunlight just before you’re about to burn. Once my OS started to understand it, it was too late.

“Shut her up!” Ai started to sprint down the car towards us. “She’s issuing commands in Sarah’s language of creation!”

Before I could stop the forceful flow of words, now shouted at my right ear like a sidewalk sermon, the whiteness that surrounded the BART train quickly evaporated, replaced by something I’d never thought I’d see again.

From the train to the Bay, from El Cerrito to the Berkeley hills, the entire landscape was ashen and broken, with trees and houses burned beyond recognition. Albany High School, which passed on the right as we approached the El Cerrito Plaza station, was a series of cement pieces and rebar, along with a mass of decorative metal bars painted red, a bouquet of huge flower stems that were curled and bent by the massive heat. On the other side of the train, which I could barely see past the windows covered by a growing black film, San Pablo Avenue was piled up with broken cars, and Albany Hill was bare, except for the slight stubble of trees and formerly expensive homes.

Someone or something was using Ariel’s connection to the Black to revert things back to the shape they were in when Miranda, Ariel and I burned it all to hell, starting at the Allianz Arena.

As the walls, floor and ceiling of the BART car were almost completely hidden by the sticky and undulating Black infection, I could feel that we weren’t just dealing with a PPR anymore. This pocket reality was a seed that wanted to germinate and spread the final world of the end.

Once, that tiny thing was nothing but a Variant among trillions, a quick test by the Grand Supreme to see just how much more quickly two copies of Miranda could bring about the end of things, as opposed to just one Chosen Light.

I just wanted to protect Ariel. I got too wrapped up in the orgasmic heat – my flaming sword turned out to be just the right size to cleave the Universe in two.

I’ve thought long and hard about what happened in that dead place, and this is as good a time as any to share it.

It’s going to take a few posts to get it all out, a few thousand painful words to map out our fatal mistakes. As is my eternal curse, each etched moment has all of the time in the world for sorrow.

Give me a few moments alone with Ariel’s ashes, and then I’ll tell you about what really happened in Munich.

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Freedom for rent

Remember when I came home to find my entire flat empty? My first response was to attack Susanna, and she swatted me away like a fly.

Sunday morning, she gave me the key to the storage locker – the place where my life was neatly stored away.

I didn’t even know she had such foresight, and I just assigned a random vindictiveness to her.

Now, I’m hiding away the day in that locker, surrounded by my once favorite clothes and records. It’s cramped, and I keep poking into antique chair legs and metal bookends.

This was supposed to be the big surprise that she was going to reveal before we hit the road, that last moment where I could still turn back, or grab a few mementos before burning my bridges. It was my body-warming present, a way to show that even the Collective cared.

I hate the smell of my life, all dust and incense. I can no longer see in the dark, or sense passers by stories below, since the White no longer speaks to me.

My antenna is broken, I’m broken…..

I don’t even know why I’m writing this…. after so many packets they’re bound to sniff me out. But I just have to speak to someone, to process it all.

She was dying in my hands, because of my hands, and Helena couldn’t stop screaming.

Oh fuck, Helena…. Ai knew it was going to happen, she should have been able to do something!

Instead, it took my body from me, took Susanna from me, and made me watch every moment.

It all started out so right….. the Numbers found the perfect warehouse for the ceremony, to the north of the city.

They set up the equipment – amazingly huge speakers and a wardrobe of guitars.

Cassandra and Helena were bringing in choice gear from every variant, and they also transported their mother April (Number 6) to help orchestrate. She was an amazingly stunning woman, even from a distance – built like a champion tennis player, with muscular arms and legs, yet stereotypically feminine, her dark wavy hair effortlessly tousled, blue eyes like still lakes, and a mouth from classical sculpture. It looked like the twins kept her well dressed – she had on a gown suitable for an Oscar after-party.

Jo (Number 4) kept huddling with A-Bell, apparently working from virtual blueprints to make the space beyond perfect. Jo had surprisingly let herself go gray, but it really suited her, especially with her simple and straight hair, right off of a 70’s shampoo model. Her outfit was a black tuxedo jacket and digital desert camouflage pants, made whole by what looked like a bottle-cap chain mail vest. I would have been shocked by anything less, knowing her reputation as a living exclamation mark.

Amber was busy with Caroline (Number 5) over what looked like a full service bar. Actually, it looked like it was just ripped out of a nightclub – I assumed that Helena had been kept busy since the previous night. You would think that most Collective members were straight-edge, but since hangovers or even liver poisoning were never a problem for Pure Land Antennas, they tended to party way past the normal dropping point. Caroline was an exception, she grew up with alcoholic parents, and always frowned upon even the slightest revelry that involved drink or drugs.

So, she had Helena stock the bar with soft drinks and exotic teas and waters from all over the world, a task that she achieved with the usual excess. She had even collected glacier ice, by hand, from the north and south poles. After Caroline fully surveyed the stash she kissed Helena on the forehead, and she actually blushed, matching the pink prom dress she had just bought from a Beverly Hills boutique.

At a stark contrast, Caroline was wearing one of the T-Shirts that Phone had designed for Intruder Alert!, back when they were all teens. It was black, with the silhouette of of a elementary school jungle gym in white. There were skeletons of children swinging across in a row.

Phone was like that, seeing the world in stark relief, like an X-Ray camera. He was nothing but fuzzy gray, but he wanted so desperately to sift everything into just black and white, the perfect and the rejected.

In that way, he seemed the perfect match for Isabel. She was off in the corner, scowling as she took the occasional swig from some Korean aloe concoction. Of all the Collective members, she was the most likely to start a fight – rumor has is that she actually spent a few variants endangering species, just because she could. Which was beyond strange, since she’s not just a vegan – she only exists off of a “natural” mix of vitamins and minerals, the kind of treat you would expect to scrape off of boulders.

Isabel wasn’t always like that – in her youth she was a fashion model ready to devour only the finest parts of the world. While her attitude has changed, she still has a taste for couture, and is the number one client of our circuit clothiers. Last night, she had on an exercise in light – it was a Satomi Kurogane original holographic dress, with every layer of shimmering photons shifting in color and opacity, like a sunset seen through a waterfall. Her face was made up to match, with a chalky foundation as a canvas, and bold strokes of color embracing her eyes. And her wig – it was like a lion’s mane, an iridescent dandelion. Phone would have died to see her like that.

I’m sorry. That’s just not right. Not only is he not coming back, but….

I tried washing my face and hands in the Isar hours ago, but they only started to smell. Now the blood is like second skin, like Susanna’s hands caressing my head after she shaved it.

By the time the ceremony started the party was already in full swing. Helena went all out, transporting all active Collective members from around the world, one woman at a time. Aurora’s parents were perhaps the only ones that didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves; Susan (Number 7) kept to herself on a drum set – she didn’t play one note, but instead just kept sliding her fingers over the cymbals. Velcro was simply drunk, and since he wasn’t etched no one could blame him for his rants and tear-filled outbursts. He kept hounding Ai, telling her to bring his baby back home, and she eventually calmed his nerves with a slight flick of the wrist, and had Helena find him a nice hotel bed.

The whole time, Cassandra sat in the middle of the dance floor, playing with the invisible. I took a few minutes to sit down beside her, and I marveled at her outfit – it was the same blue pajamas that Miranda was wearing the night of the Fourth Event. Before I could even ask her about them, she reached out for my left hand, and squeezed it. “I forgive you. And I hope you die in flames.” She smiled at me weakly, like a dog she was afraid of. Then Helena popped in and took her away.

Rebecca (Number 9) and Elizabeth (Number 10) also kept to themselves. They had been friends since High School, and had been involved on and off through Potato Power and Dust Lag. They took it really hard when Sasha died, and only were mixed up with the Collective when absolutely necessary. Susanna was their only real tie to the group, and if they had it their way, they would find a cabin in some forgotten variant and live out their days.

Isabel kept staring at them all night – as Dust Lag’s drummer she always felt kept away in the shadows, and she resented how Susanna always got the spotlight, in the eyes of the crowd and Phone. She blamed Rebecca and Elizabeth for allowing this, and for not telling her that Phone was cheating on her as soon as they knew.

Helena also brought in the technocoven, the only surviving Collective cell that Amber cultivated, and who looked after Phone during Fairview. Amy and Tomoe were still together, after over a decade, but Tomoe decided to get her phosphorescent dermal tint removed many variants ago. Sarah and Phone were involved for a few months, but she quickly grew tired of his wandering eye, and constant pining for Susanna. Mavi died in Variant 0, and she decided that she didn’t want to return – the only Collective member to ever refuse immortality.

The only original Collective members that weren’t at Phone’s funeral party were Laura (dead), Number 12 (uninvited) and Jenny. Jenny was a special case, one that I simply can’t get into now. Perhaps you could say she’s the Collective’s prisoner?

Right now, I wish I was in Jenny’s horrible position, and not a fugitive on the run from my new family.

A few minutes before it happened, Susanna and Ai pulled me aside by the bar. Susanna gave me a huge hug, and seemed to be holding back tears.

“I promised that I would watch over you in this and all other variants.” She took another shot of some vodka, and then placed her ice cold palms over my cheeks. “I lied – I’m so sorry!”

“There’s a very good reason that I picked you, Kaia.” Ai was still wearing that football jersey, and I finally understood why. “I know that you’re strong enough to survive what happens next.”

Susanna started to move her hands down to my neck. “I could end it all right here, but I won’t.” She started to half-squeeze, half-shake.

“I cheated.” Ai grimaced as she took Susanna’s hands off of me. “Cassandra and Helena took me ahead to the Fifth Event this morning. Now she’s furious, and it’s all my fault.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t have enough time to teach you properly.” Susanna leaned her chest against the damp bar, and then looked away to the makeshift stage. “I’ll always remember you with love,” she said to me, and no one in particular as she walked away.

“Listen.” Ai suddenly reached through the White and took hold of my soul. “I lost the bet, and Number 12 has made her choice.” I could feel her spirit fingers caressing my heart.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I didn’t want to hear what I already understood.

“The Nameless is coming to collect its prize. You.”

At that moment, Ai rushed out of my head to be replaced by a cool, dark nothingness.

My connection to the bodyweb was overwhelmed by a torrent of seemingly random numbers, and as I looked up at Susanna on the stage, I suddenly started to sense the patterns in the chaos, the repetition in the irrational.

Before Susanna could even start to quiet the crowd, I felt myself rush towards the stage, fists squeezed like black holes.

Helena and Cassandra appeared in front of me, and with one motion I grabbed Helena by the head and gouged out her eyes with my thumbs, then tossed her screaming across the warehouse into waiting arms of Number 12. They disappeared before anyone could react.

Susanna didn’t move. She just stood her ground, hands grabbing her black prairie dress by the waist, and watched as I leaped on stage, placed my right hand on her pelvis, and raised it with a jerk. As it passed by each Chakra, her very being was forced into premature enlightenment, until it slipped out the top of her head and into the White.

Then the Nameless forced my hands down her throat, breaking her neck from the inside out and removing her head like a picked flower. Her curly brunette wig fell to my feet first, followed by pieces of her crushed skull.

This all happened in about five seconds. By the time the Collective thought to attack, Cassandra took me by the bloody hands and ripped me away from it all.

We appeared in the same warehouse on Friday, before Ai arrived in München. It was filled with old printing presses and scattered piles of paper.

“Stay here for the next day. Don’t leave for any reason.” She stared intensely at her bare feet. “Then, at 1AM Sunday morning, follow the Isar back into the city, and hide at the storage unit. You’ll be contacted at 14:00.”

With that, she sat back down on the floor, and disappeared, leaving me in absolute, horrific shock.

I don’t understand this. I didn’t ask for this. I hope that the Collective reads this blog, finds me, and puts me out of my misery before things get worse.

I’m staring at the florescent light that’s peeking in beyond the door. It should be comforting, but it just hurts my eyes.

It hurts my very being, and no matter how tight I close them, the pain just isn’t going away.

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Flipping the unfair coin

No matter how far I run, it’s waiting for me around the next corner.

There’s still dried blood on my hands, face and dress, but this time it’s not mine. No one can see it before the sun rises, but I know it’s there.

Everything is ruined. I’m ruined. And Susanna….

My body wants to throw up, but I won’t let it. I have a job to do, and it’s the worst task possible. An assassins errand.

I’ve been cut off from the bodyweb, ever since the funeral, when….

It’s not right! I can’t pant or cry or scream without calculation, and I promised Ai I would survive, I promised….

I need to find a place to hide, but how can I obscure myself from the all-seeing eye?

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Protecting the council

Is it alright that I hate Helena?

All day she’s been popping in and out of our meetings, taking away Cassandra for hours at a time.

Each time she’s carrying different shopping bags from major cities, wearing progressively more amazing outfits and hair styles. A few hours ago she stumbled back into the room in a sakura-covered pink and white kimono that she picked up in Kyoto, unwrapping a brown candy cube before stuffing it into Cassandra’s mouth. “Bontan Ame, ne?” The universe is her playground.

That’s not the part I hate about her – she’s actually quite cool, and much more grounded than her sister. It’s just that she’s everywhere except where she’s supposed to be.

The Structure assigned them particularly choice roles at birth – Helena has dominion over Space, and Cassanda is in charge of Time.

The current theory is that complete mastery of Space/Time is too much for any one living being to handle, so their duties were split in half. However, neither of their powers really work unless the both of them act in concert. Helena can “teleport” anywhere in the universe, while Cassandra can stay in one place and yet travel to any moment in any variant. Get them together, and they can not just travel to anywhere, at any time, but they can literally modify the fabric of existence.

They can tap into both the White and Black to varying degrees, and as long as they’re not carrying too much extra mass, and stick between Point One and Point Zero, they can flaunt their powers at whim, with no negative effects on the Structure. Well, they did almost ruin a few variants with temporal micro managing, so Ai tends to keep them on a tight leash.

They have 65 distinct secret twin languages, and a connection between them that’s impossible to sever. On the other hand, they’re restless, and never can stay in the same time and place for more than a few minutes.

When she wants, Ai can change all of that in a second – her domain over every living spirit is absolute, and while she rarely revokes free will, she’s been known to puppet members of the council at Point Zero when it meets her needs.

“Helena dear, come sit down next to your sister. We need to talk.” We were all in my flat, sitting in the empty living room on the wooden floor. The Numbers were out getting everything ready for tomorrow, while I stayed behind at Ai’s insistence.

“You all know that we still haven’t found Aurora.” That was Tokie, with her Ghost visiting all of our minds via Agartha Labs tech. Instead of using pico projectors to make a hologram, she just setup a bridge into the bodyweb. “Helena has confirmed that she’s nowhere in this variant, and Cassandra?”

She was lying on her stomach, still wearing her futuristic one piece jumpsuit, playing with a cellophane wrapped piece of candy. “Aurora’s not here now. She hates October and loves December.” Helena laughed as she sat on a random, one of a kind silk scarf she took out of a baby blue paper shopping bag. “She’s hiding in a far off star.”

Aurora is the mistress of energy, with perhaps the most raw power of any of us. She can tap into the Black and siphon out all sorts of electromagnetic force.

“Miranda is still missing, too, but at least we know who has her.” Tokie looked even more annoyed and upset than usual. She started to pace back and forth, her high cuffed brown slacks showing glimpses of Halloween themed socks, with black cats and cartoon witches.

“The current question is what Number 12 has planned for her.” Ai kept brushing back her curly hair with a plastic tortoise shell comb. “My best guess is that she wants complete control of her power.” She seemed intent on straightening it by force.

The power that Miranda had to be compelled to forget was over matter. She could use the Black to change the Universe wholesale, from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy cluster. Apparently too much power for one girl to consciously handle. Whomever controlled Miranda had already won.

“I think it’s more than that.” Tokie again, now fussing with her hoodie, a virtual replica of what Phone was wearing when he died. “I think Number 12 is after the whole council, either as a free agent, or acting on behalf of the Nameless. Ai?”

Ai and the Nameless were separate, yet two sides of the same coin. The Nameless has control over what you can simplistically call “Information”, but in reality it’s the original agent of entropy. It knows everything, and seeks to subvert it for its own ends. Ai, on the other hand, is an agent of the most absolute order, life of the flesh and of the spirit.

The Nameless is the wild card that makes everything possible, more than just a perfectly balanced, homogenized steady state. It’s hard not to try to anthropomorphize it, especially when it takes human form at the end of each variant.

In any case, Ai is in constant communication with it, to make sure that neither army has broken the truce.

“Number 12 is acting on her own,” Ai assured us, “but she’s going to have to pick a side soon.”

Helena suddenly grabbed her sister’s hand and whisked them away.

“Don’t worry, I sent them on a mission. They’ll be back tomorrow.” Ai then stood up, and bolted for the door. “Now let’s square the circle!”

I looked at Tokie for guidance, but she only shrugged. Ai then slowly opened the door.

“Pizza!” The delivery man was startled, since he didn’t even get a chance to knock. Ai quickly took an €100 note out of her pocket, placed it in his left jacket pocket, and took the pizza box away with a door-closing flourish.

It was a simple, steaming margherita, baked into a perfect square.

“Sorry cousin, I didn’t order you one in Ikebukuro, but you can watch us eat!”

“I think I’ll sit this one out.” Tokie logged off with a particularly disgruntled flourish.

Ai placed the box on the middle of floor, and motioned for us to gather around it.

“Now that we’re alone, I need to tell you something with super seriousness.” Picked up a square slice and ravaged it. “Things really aren’t going well at all.”

I nibbled on a slice while I watched her wipe her hands on her FC Bayern jersey.

“Please don’t tell anyone else, but I don’t think we’re going to win this time.”

What?

“Cassandra has seen the end, and it’s not what I expected.” Another slice, slight pause, then another.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I tried to look her in the eyes, but it was as if the light just kept on going and never bounced back.

“That you are very important. That we all need you to be brave, especially when everyone’s lives are on the line.”

She gave me a hug and greasy kiss on the cheeks, and then without additional comment went back to the pizza.

She never brought it up again all night, not even when Susanna came back to check in on us. By then Ai was already asleep, and I was curled up in the corner of the room, staring at the shadows under the bed.

Ai knows exactly what’s going to happen, something terrible, and all she can give are comforting, vague platitudes. That’s more scary to me than the most obscene horror movie – what could possibly freak out the immortal girl that rules us all?

Susanna just sat down next to me, gave me the last piece of candy from Kyoto, and said nothing while we watched Ai sleep.

Even in her dreams, Ai watched back.

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Even Goddesses sleep…

It’s 6AM and Ai’s finally asleep, after spending the entire night grilling me on comparative religion, especially Theosophy, Anthroposophy and the chain leading to New Age thought.

You would think that after a dozen hours in the air, spread over a few airports, she would have wanted to take some time to breathe, but no. As soon as we met with her entourage at the Flughafen München, Ai ran up to Susanna and gave her a huge hug.

“It’s been ages since I’ve seen you! Literally hundreds of hours!” She was wearing a red and white vertically striped FC Bayern jersey – the home variety – and some dark blue jeans that look like they had been ironed forcefully, with crisp creases. “We simply must catch up about everything, especially the recent permutations in this variant!” I couldn’t stop staring at her shoes – they were basketball-style hi-tops that seemed to be made out of firm bubble wrap.

“And you!” She reached up to rub my stubbly head. “My how you’ve grown!” Gave me a little poke in the shoulder – I was still wearing one of Susanna’s frilly prairie dresses, since my custom clothes hadn’t yet arrived.

Ai proceeded to jog down the terminal, towards the escalators which led back to the Lufthansa counters. “I’m going to the observation deck!” The bodyweb was still ringing from her telepathic exuberance.

“You’re Kaia, right?” That was A-Bell, Ai’s godmother, standing next to her partner Amber. Like Ai, they were traveling extremely light, with little more than the clothes on their backs. A-Bell was quite tall, almost besting me by a head, and her naturally red hair barely reached her ears. Amber was about my height, and had bright blue hair with violet highlights, hanging well past her shoulders. I knew they were both almost 40, but they seemed half that age – Collective membership has its benefits.

Both she and Amber had on two variations on the same outfit – faded-blue circuit jeans and the most elaborately high-tech T-Shirts I had ever come across. They looked like a simple cotton/polyester blend, with old school Collective band logos (Fire Escape for A-Bell, and Jumpster for Amber) but upon a quick scan they were lousy with electrons and solid state memory threads.

“We’ve never been to Munich before, but we just love the airport.” Amber was naturally charming, and she took advantage of this by sliding her arm around my waist. “I”m sorry we came to visit on such a solemn occasion, but you know Phone wouldn’t want us to weep and wail – he’d want us to cause a righteous ruckus.”

“Sorry, I’m all out of ruckus.” Isabel, the only person to bring along a huge, black, rolling suitcase. She was clearly having none of this. “Can you point me in the direction of out of here?”

Isabel was Phone’s first real girlfriend, starting in High School. That is, until he cheated on her with Susanna. The two of them had resolved their differences long ago, but I could tell that she didn’t care for me one bit. Plus, she was wearing a whole container of mascara, and a loud, bangly couture outfit, Harajuku alley meets Fashion Week, that was expensive just to look at.

The final member of the party, Cassandra, was corpse quiet. Her wig had long, clear fiber optic hair that was iridescent, changing in color with every moment. I couldn’t place her outfit – it was like a painter’s tan one-piece, combined with space station lounge wear and yoga chic. She was one of the teenage twins – I could never tell them apart, except from context. I knew it was Cassandra because Helena never, ever would fly anywhere – she doesn’t have to. More about that when I have ample time to explain.

Right now, I only have a few more minutes before Ai wakes up, and demands my full attention for the rest of the day. She ran for my bed as soon as we arrived Friday evening, stripping down not to a datasuit, but something that looked like it came out of a €5 three pack – the most basic and plain white underwear imaginable. Slipped under the sole sheet, and ordered me to lay beside her fully clothed.

As we talked for hours, and the rest of the crew went to their hotels, I could tell that she was treating me less like an employee and more like her babysitter. She wanted to be tucked in, doted over, loved unconditionally, but only in the purest way, that core that transcends age.

She wanted to impress, even though she was the most impressive person that had ever lived. And she wanted me, for whatever reason, to be right there by her side.

I was her pet project, but also her confidant, almost like an imaginary friend. It was as if she was talking to herself, but she wanted my face there to sell the illusion of conversation.

Which is not hard to understand, since her brain is naturally buzzing with the thoughts, hopes and wishes of an entire species, all rushing at her from the White. She showers in humanity, and it was simply amazing that it hadn’t driven her crazy already.

Instead, every new person born only added to her joy, and wonder. I just don’t understand her perspective, especially since it’s no secret that she only really cares about one thing – family.

She would kill us all if it meant finding a world that her mother is still alive in, and that her hypothetical daughter can call home. I’m not speaking metaphorically, and I’m not going to go over it more now.

Sufficed to say that while even Goddesses have to sleep, you really don’t want to witness their nightmares.

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Funeral in spray paint…

Ai is coming to München, to this empty flat, on Friday.

There’s so many things wrong with that sentence, I don’t know where to start. Ai never leaves the US, not at least until after the Fifth Event, and she definitely doesn’t travel so openly.

It’s almost like she’s taunting the Nameless, begging it to show its cards. I’ve never seen her so recklessly, arrogantly powerful.

Did I mention she started a blog? She’s actually reaching out to the world for once, instead of commanding it to come to her. That’s so promising, and scary too.

In any case, she’ll arrive in a few days, and Susanna and I have to take care of everything, from her lodging to Phone’s funeral. I’m not sure who’s coming with her physically, and who will attend virtually, but it’s bound to be an once in a variant event.

It’s actually kind of shocking – I didn’t think anyone would care. But, after reading over his part of the antizine Fragments, like Our American Heritage, I totally understand now.

He was the glue that held all of the bands together, the instigator, doorman and secret weapon. When he was alive, he had no idea how important he was, how important the Collective let him be, and it speaks to his influence that everyone is dropping everything to be there in the end.

It really touches me, but also breaks my heart. Even in his last breath, he didn’t have any idea. All that was rushing through his skin was artificial hatred, a burning desire to destroy Satomi, and he didn’t even know why.

At least, I don’t think he knew why. That’s still something for me to determine, once my training is complete.

Anyway, it’s a chilly, cloudy morning, and the bodyweb says it will rain a bit. This will be the first day in weeks that I can actually walk out of my flat unassisted, that Susanna will let me off my leash. I’m so excited that I don’t even know what to do first – perhaps rub my face in some grass at the Englischer Garten (perhaps not the best idea, considering the dog population), or jump across the Isar (again, not the best idea to perform superhuman feats so soon).

Perhaps I’ll just ride the U-Bahn aimlessly, enjoying the crowded trains and oblivious people.

If only I could change my mind back to the way it was. To unstare at the sun. To forget.

Of course, Ai won’t allow that one bit. The Collective never forgets.

Friday, the center of the living universe is coming over for tea – I’m not even sure how she likes it.

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