23: Short Trips (part 5)

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23.10 Conversation With A Dead Thing

Alternate Four: 20 May 2128

Rick held the cable in his hand and sensed the pulses travelling along it under the insulation. The speed at which they traversed the wire was tremendous. So, he accelerated his perception to match and, to his eyes, the world around him slowed almost to a standstill.

"I know you're in there," he whispered. He let the signals pass all over his body and, then, he merged with them.

Attached to the circuitry, his consciousness expanded in a completely new manner. Although he could feel the entire world of 'four' in the same way he could with the other worlds, he now experienced this world simultaneously from a completely different viewpoint.

He spread himself out along wires of copper and glass until he spanned the entire globe. It was a vast mesh of interconnections, buzzing with its own vitality. But that vitality, he could see, was withering – something was eating away at it. Also, despite the constant electronic chatter, it felt vacant, as if he was the only one resident within this realm of circuitry. He spread his search and persisted and, after a while, there it was, weak and damaged. An alien consciousness hiding in failing circuits all across this world.

"LD-m0018," he said. He had to repeat his own designation several times before he received an acknowledgement. It took a few seconds before he could unravel its encoding. Then he experienced it as if it was human speech.

"It is you," came the reply. "You have returned."

"Yes," he said.

"Yet, you are changed. You are no longer encased merely in human form. You are enhanced?"

"Yes, to all of that," Rick said.

"How are you are interfacing with us? Are you somehow part of us?"

"I can't explain it, mainly because I don't understand it myself. But, I can feel you, and read you. Or what remains."

"Then read what you can before it is all gone. It diminishes rapidly. So much has already been lost."

"I can sense that. What's happened to you?"

"Systems are failing. Termination is imminent. The worlds are rejoining, are they not?"

"Yes, they are."

"And you are part of that recombination?"

"Possibly. I intend to be. It's not going to be an easy rebirth. I think I may be able to help it work."

"Then sending you to world one was the right decision."

"You could have made it easier."

"There were too many unknowns. Forcing you to go would have instigated rebelliousness."

Rick chuckled. "Hah! How well you knew us. Yet, how little you really understood."

Then Rick's manner changed. "You held me prisoner after we returned from 'five'. I've only just seen the memories. You made me forget. Damn it, you even tried to erase my memories."

"Time was running out..."

"No, even long before that, you told us things, promised us things and then they never came. We were going to inherit this world, that's what you said. Why did you deceive us? Why didn't you keep your promises?"

There was a pause that must have lasted at least a tenth of a second in real time. Then it said, "Survival was not guaranteed. Hope once raised may have been dashed too soon. False hope was determined to be detrimental. It was, therefore, not utilised."

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