Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

Shit You Just Made Up

Foreword

My mother passed away on the 2nd May 2021. She had been ill for a long time. Her diabetes and failing organs was taking its toll on her, but the loss of our sister, her eldest daughter, so suddenly seemed to be the final blow to her strength and resistance. What follows below is the Eulogy I wrote for her and delivered at her funeral on the 19th May 2021.

I should start by saying that this Eulogy should have an age rating, PG 13 may contain violence or bad language with scenes upsetting to younger viewers. And we are going to have to stop meeting here like this, there’s no bar.

So, mum would be annoyed right now, because she didn’t have the option to die first, or get to choose who went before her. Because she would be staring at me and saying, your last eulogy was beautiful, but you used up all the best words. This one is going to sound like a sequel, and they’re normally bloody awful.

I once spoke to my mother about her funeral. It was after the death of her friend, Mary. Her comment, I hate funerals everyone is always so bloody miserable. There’s so much sadness I don’t want to go like that. We joked about it, we finally decided that what we would do was leave her body randomly in a skip with two fingers raised up to the world. But clearly that’s illegal, I checked, you can’t dump a corpse in a skip and you cannot mail it to a political party.

The other thing she wanted aside from less sadness, was the poem by W. H. Auden from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Stop the Clocks. She loved a good tearjerker moment. Yes, she was a contradictory old bird, she wanted us to be happy but listen to this sad poem.

My Mum liked a laugh. In fact she was happiest when you’d make her laugh so much she could wee herself a little. She was less happy as she got older and more ill but there was still a twinkle in her eye.

I remember how she would play jokes, tricks and even exaggerate stories to amuse us. She sang to us at bedtime, often really badly, just to emotionally scar us. In truth, she gave everything for her family

A few weeks ago I had to write a Eulogy for my sister that was based around love. Because love and the balance of it defined her. But this one is more about the attitude. I hope I can remind you of my mother, of her beauty. And if not, this is going to screw you up. Because, like my mother’s jokes, and occasional choice words, her fondness for an insult and profanity, this has bad taste for a memorial address.

Let me tell you of a few of her exploits, those that won’t lead to legal cases. To raise a smile, in spite of the fact that she is dead. Because she’d want me to remind you of the fact that she is dead. Very dead. But happy to haunt you. She’d enjoy the look on your face if that happened. She’d laugh and say I told you I was ill. She’s swear for good measure and take a verbal swipe at someone. Somewhere she is prodding me and saying slip in a good line to shock them all. You know, they are not really going to expect you to say bollocks.
Some of this is as mum would have said it, is shit you just made up.

  • She had nicknames when she was a kid, they were Sheila the Peeler, Spud Bate, and the Happy Slapper
  • She once held down a boy, knelt on him, and carved her initials into his stomach with a switchblade.
  • She was the leader of a local street gang, like the Bash Street Kids but far more deformed.
  • Speaking of the bash Street Kids she once told me that when Simon was born he looked like Pug. She stapled his ears to his head until he was five.
  • She told me I looked like Brad Pitt, I’m lying she said I looked like Ru Paul’s ball sack.
  • Her youngest sister (Edie) was sent out each night to tell her to come inside and stop sucking on the boys heads, mum’s mouth was big enough to put the whole face of a boy inside it. The girls would draw straws to see who had to tell her, but they made sure Edie always lost.
  • She murdered one of my childhood friends in a ritualistic burning incident. My whole family gathered round to watch. I was distraught, crying my eyes out at the kitchen window as they exploded in the back yard.
  • In order to make her beehive hair stand up she would mix sugar and water and then apply a ton of sweet smelling hairspray. Curiously, it attracted bees. They would follow her around thinking that their queen had lost her wings and grown stilettos. She used to make honey from her head and often fermented mead from her right ear.
  • She was asymptomatic with most childhood illnesses, but she did enjoy passing infections on to everyone else while not getting sick herself. In fact she never told people that she gave them licky end, even though you only get it if you’re a sheep.
  • She stole my Auntie Dot’s best dress so she could impress her first husband’s parents. She brazenly didn’t care that she had done it as it was a good reason. She thought he was loaded.
  • She loved Elvis so much she cried for days when he died. She pretty much ignored one of her own children’s birthdays. Mine, he died on the 16th August 1977, 2 days before my 9th birthday. Obviously I am not bitter, I remember it with joy, real, real, joy.
  • She told me to never leave Liam alone with fruit, he has a dangerous look when he sees an orange, licks his lips in a weird way, and never let him stroke a banana.
  • Once she was pranked by a family member calling at midnight, they quickly ordered a pizza for delivery and hung up. She returned the favour by calling back at four in the morning to say it was ready for collection.
  • She threw a slipper at Grandpa Bill when he was shouting at her, she always regretted throwing it, but she was happy she didn’t miss. She once told me that the real problem was that she hadn’t used steel toe cap boots as then he would have taken her a lot more seriously.
  • She once painted the house purple, she didn’t just paint the walls, but the hinges on the doors – she liked painting hinges, in fact hinges, light switches, crockery, furniture, nothing escaped the brush. If it didn’t move it was fair game to be painted, it’s why we were never still as kids.
  • She invented the knee. Before she was born people had incredible trouble lifting heavy weights. Back injuries were rife. And running was impossible without spring boots.
  • She told me that we shouldn’t let Lesley drink Stella in Southport again, we can’t afford to be banned in another seaside town as a family especially not since her Budweiser binge in Newport, they still haven’t found all those steel workers, or the marrow
  • Mum, and her sisters, had a laugh when they went to view my Nan in an open casket because of the make-up the funeral parlour used. Nan’s daughters were wetting themselves at how she looked.
  • While on a family holiday in Scotland mum decided to rudely moon a family member through a window after an argument. We had arrived late the day before. Everyone was stressed. The next morning she was still annoyed about it. She thought they were alone in the garden, Also, she thought the high wall was at the edge of the garden, only glimpsed in the late evening the night before when we arrived. It was actually on the other side of the road. So she opened the curtains, bent over with a laugh, and a very naughty word. She flashed several cars and a tour bus along with most of the family.
  • A neighbour once refused to give her a ball back, she asked politely but they said it was theirs as it was on their property. So mum took, what can only be thought of as a mighty steamer onto a paper and mailed her own faeces through the letterbox and said they could bloody well keep that as well.
  • When one of her children was banned from a certain supermarket in the whole of the country her only words to the police were, ‘can I belt them stupid here or do I have to wait until I drag them home so you don’t see me’.
  • In her later years she kept a scorecard of people she outlived. Every time I saw her she would remind me of another one that had died. Sometimes with a look in her eye that suggested she had made sure of it. Her favourite phrase was always, you’ll never guess who’s dead.

That was my mother. It was never straight or ordinary, she was colourful and loved life and people. She married twice. She was a Bate, a Keating and a Schofield. In her heart she was always a Bate. She honestly shared so much with my nan, but she never stopped being Bill’s oldest daughter.

She married very badly. The first one had to have been good at kissing, she sucked his face enough. I truly think she married him just to annoy her parents. She was a rebel without a clue. The second one was the worst rebound decision ever. She had a good choice in words, and a terrible choice in husbands.

My mum was our cheerleader. Our audience. Our friend. Our support. We could do no wrong.

She was not a perfect person. She could be a shouty bugger. She had four children who were, for the most part, boisterous and often complete sods as we ran riot occasionally. At times in her life she raised four children on her own, those times felt like the majority.

My mother loved all her family, and her children. She loved all her grandchildren and had such a special place in her heart for her great grandchildren. They were her life. Her joy. For her, we were the best thing she did.
My last words were to her, when I saw her in the hospital was to tell her I love you, she said she ‘I love you’ and, ‘look after yourself cocker’.

And she wanted me to tell you one thing, “Life’s not so serious, fucking arses to it, remember to smile.”

Afterword

When Writing a Eulogy, as with writing anything, there are lines that you write and then take out. Some of this is because they just don’t fit; it might be that the text is too long; they may not match the tone of the eulogy; or you just took a story too far, were too revealing or crude. I have included them here as I think they serve as further illustration, they are out of context to where they appeared in the original but you should get a sense of where they may have been.

  • She was known for calling people inappropriate names. If she was annoyed you’d be lucky if you were just called shitbag, or dickhead, if she was really roused she would descend to what she called a ‘fucking few choice words’.
  • When she worked at Barr Bottle factory she re-invigorated the entire industry by suggesting a deposit on bottles. She was never credited but her line manager received shares.
  • She used to say ‘but that Kathy’, she knew we’d be confused as she had three daughters called Kathy and each one she loved enough to make you wonder which one she was talking about.
  • In later years she never drank that much. But I recall as a child she would have a glass of what she called Brandycham – it was Brandy and Babycham. A lethal combination. Her saying was. One would make you want to kiss someone, two would make you kiss anyone, but if you had three then you’d end up kissing everyone.

In fact when he was a child there was an incident with a fruit bowl, I don’t actually know what occurred but the FBI were involved and they don’t have jurisdiction in the UK.

They all laughed about how she was displayed, as they put it, ‘as a whore’.

Often she’d say, remember Jackie who used to live down near the school, she’s dead now. With a look that told you why she thought that Jackie had to be dead.

Okay we shouldn’t go there as it is the past, but we have to as it is her life. She really married arseholes. I mean absolute pieces of shit. It took some beating to match that bastard my father was, but my stepfather really rose to the challenge and was a total shite. But I am just quoting mum here. She called him fang, I called him wanker.

She’d want you all to know she knew that. She’d want you to remember. What she’d want you to remember the most is that she finally managed to divorce them. She never stopped regretting. She never felt she had paid enough for their failure.

Honestly though, I like to think it was a subtle plan for her male progeny, don’t be as much of a piece of shit as these two I married. It was a clever lesson. I hope as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren we can learn itIf you have to marry badle, marry arseholes so that your kids eventually learn not to be like them. It’s not the best plan, but it is at least a plan.

Because, you know, they have a mother who would sacrifice everything for them. Which is what she did.
I think it was clever, my mum was often subtly clever. I am thinking of an example of this. The Name of the Rose. The first time I saw this movie I saw it with my mum. About halfway, maybe two thirds through, my mum said, I know how they are being killed. I said I know why and who (those two are pretty much intrinsically linked, once you know one you know the other). So we told each other our deductions. And I won’t spoil it, but we were both right. My mum saw the steps leading to a decision even if she didn’t change the outcome knowing it.
Sometimes my mother worked things out, she might not have the whole picture, she had the whole of a corner and it made her dig. I know I share that, I know my brother and sister do. It is why we are also bloody annoying. We keep digging to see what else is down there. But it is not the best gift she gave us.

She held grudges, I think it is a trait from her side of the family and not one I am that upset about. But her disagreements were not from spite but because of how much they hurt, how far could people fall. She rarely gave up on people, no matter the cost. She was always there. She was always on your side, even if she occasionally murdered your childhood friends.

My Mother was ill for a very long time. If the truth is told we started to lose her some time ago. She was a shadow of her former self in the final days of her life, but one thing held true. She cared about you. She cared what you did. What you felt. What you knew. She was always your cheerleader, you were always her champion. Her love was blind, because it was unconditional.

Her later years she became less like my mother, our sister, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother. Age and ill health overtook her and stole some of her mirth.

Her failing in partners was a failure of all blind belief. She believed in people. She believed them even if she could see the lies. She believed they wanted to be better. She believed they could be more. She had faith in people.

She would have said ‘our Mark is just itching for me to die so he can get away with saying “cunt” at a funeral’

3/n

I am stood staring at the fridge.

Okay. I am not stood staring at the fridge. I am stood staring at the contents of the fridge. Because I have the fridge door open.

What am I doing staring at a fridge. I cannot believe I am just standing here staring at the contents of the fridge.

[editor’s note I wasn’t thinking this it is all just a retrospective I didn’t think any of this at the time, I just imagine that I wouldn’t have believed it of me if I was thinking that about me at the time (yes I am also the editor as there is no one else here to edit this right now)]

I don’t even know why I opened the fridge. Why the fuck am I in the kitchen? What am I doing I was going to go and do a thing, write something or maybe do something, or, i don’t know find a bison to fellate, something…

Then I am interrupted.

Somebody came in and spoke to me and I realised I was holding the fridge door open.

I look up and see the drink I already poured and the bottle I just returned to the fridge.

I was thinking about a conversation. About sauces. About fridge or cupboard. A way I was different to them.

Grief hits every target.

The Balance of Love


Foreword

My sister died just before April 2021, it was sudden, it was heartbreaking. Due to the unknown cause of death there was an autopsy and a coroner’s report (without inquest). Today, April 28th, we had her interred at the crematorium in St Helens near to where she lived.

Below is the Eulogy I wrote and read for her and the poem I wrote that was read at the ceremony.


Kathryn at a Walking Day in the 1960s

Kathryn Keating: A Eulogy: The Balance of Love

I have to say before I start. When I wrote this, I wondered for a moment what Kathryn would want to say. She’d probably say: don’t make a fuss, don’t cry too much, or remember the happy times. No bad jokes or swearing. You know, don’t cock up the eulogy. 

When I think of my sister, I think of the fact that she spent most of her life living in, or near to, Warrington. She had holidays with family. She went abroad to France and Italy. She loved books. She loved science fiction. She loved fantasy and superheroes. She loved Doctor Who, but that’s because she was sensible. 

She loved music, seemingly when it contained androgenous boys, she was a huge fan of Adam and the Ants and A-ha along with Simon leBon from Duran Duran in the 80s and later IL Divo, I have a small story about that in a minute. She introduced me to New Wave and New Romance, but I don’t feel she approved of my choices when I introduced her to Punk, Goth, Metal and Thrash. 

She was too young to die. But, sometimes the brightest lights burn out suddenly. 

My sister was always happy for others, she had great joy for what the people around her did, or were doing. However, for all of my life that I can remember she carried a great personal sadness. A shame, a sorrow, a loss. A thing that she could not escape. Some people take the pain that is done to them and give it to others. My sister turned it to love. She would not give her sorrow, her anger at what happened, to others. She would always try to shoulder their sorrow instead, feel their pain, take their loss. She knew what it was like to feel the most dreadful anguish and could not bear to have others feel the same.

It defined her in many ways. 

My sister rarely got angry when I was younger. Oh she could be picky, ratty, or niggly about silly things. She could get frustrated. But not really angry. Not tear down the walls and howl at the moon angry. Which is rare for a Keating, apparently. It pissed me off because we are an egregious bunch. The only time I was ever able to get her really angry was over the lead singer of A-Ha. She had a major crush on him. When I read that he was engaged to a girl called Rose and there was a picture in the paper of him with a tattoo of a rose. I used that as a way of winding my sister up. I went to town. For no good reason other than I am an ass hat. She tried not to rise to the bait. But I was pretty persistent. I don’t know where I get that stubbornness from as I think of a family of Bates nearby. That was the day I ran out of a room and she threw a table at me. I got away but we had a broken door and a damaged table.

It was the only time I can recall her being genuinely mad, screaming at me level of madness. Because she was kind. It took a sweet natured soul like me to make her really mad.

How do we judge a life? How do we discuss how it was filled? How was it worth living? I was thinking about this because Prince Philip passed away recently and so there has been so much media attention, so much public outpourings, discourse and even some anger. So it made me think of how we often judge a person based on their achievements. Sometimes we might mention the love, or joy they brought to others, but mostly we judge people on what they did, not just who they were. So I thought of my sister.

Kathryn was the eldest child of Sheila. Blessed with a mother’s love, she also took on that role, to give love to others. When I was a young child she seemed as old to me as any adult. I was still three when she became ten. She would take me to the park, she would read to me, teach me numbers and tell me what the world meant. 

My earliest memories are of standing on the back rail of her tricycle as she raced through the streets, me holding on for dear life and screaming with pleasure. She filled my world, I can remember the feeling of her hair brushing my face as we raced along the pavement or when I was pushed on a swing on the park which we called the Cowfield.

She was that for all of us. She did not have children of her own, but she was like a mother, or more a grandmother, probably the best ever auntie to all of us. To my brother, Simon and his wife Cathey she helped raise Steven, Jenny and Liam. Then she helped, as much as she could, to raise Jenny’s children Joshua and Caitlin. She was there for me and Leigh for all of our children, Benjamin, Elliott, Asher. And to Steven and Sam’s son, Lewis who was a light in her world, he was her little man, they all were. Finally she adored our littlest Keating, Mila, daughter to Liam and Alex. She felt rewarded that finally she had another niece along with Kaitlyn. Another little girl in the family. She wanted to mother us all. To hold us, protect us, smother us with love and gifts, her every thought was for others.

We can judge a life on the balance of love. How much they gave versus how much they received. In that my sister’s life was flowing. It filled everyone around her. She loved us all deeply. More than some of us deserved. So much that we can only hold our breaths and miss it. She filled her life with her family. With her devotion to us. To our mother and to our sister. 

I think that might be the better value of a life. How much you give versus how much you receive. We can all do better, but the best you can hope for is a balance of the same in and out. Statistically it is impossible for everyone to give more than they receive, the average will shift. Some have to be worse, some have to be better or everyone has to be average. I know I did maths in a eulogy, and Kathryn right now would be raising her eyebrows, rolling her eyes, and declaring me to be a nerd. 

My sister gave much more love into the world than I think it could afford to balance. 

For my sister, Lesley, my heart aches. She and Kathryn seemed fixed together. Bonded as sisters with a deeper shared understanding, theirs was a friendship few will ever know. They should have been old ladies together, grey haired and wobbly, with a deep smell of Vicks vapour rub, tutting at fashion and laughing at the haircuts of the young, yelling at people to pull their pants up or try wearing a skirt and not a belt. 

We have been robbed of that double act, so we are all going to have to expect Lesley to play both parts and tell us what Kathryn would have said. I asked Lesley if there was something she wanted to say. Her answer: 

“Tell them the old git shouldn’t have left me alone without her, it’s not fair.”

So we say goodbye to Kathryn, my sister. But I think I have lost someone who was also like a mother, or a grandmother, a lover of people, a lover of family,  a confidant, a fellow geek. I lost not just a sister, I lost a part of myself, I lost a friend.

I feel I carry some inescapable sadness, losing so much love from her. I guess that’s a cost in the balance of love.


I call for you

I called for you,
You were not there.

I looked for you,
But there wasn’t even your shadow.

I listened for your voice,
But I could not hear it.

I waited for your touch,
And felt nothing.

No matter where I looked, I could not find you.
Not in any photographs,
Not in the many stories,
Not in words, not in letters,
Not in songs or any film we shared,
You were gone.

In the darkness, I thought I saw you,
At night,
When you’d just left.
But, it was just an echo,
Thoughts grasping desperately
Sorrow crafting phantoms.

A Hope,
Now Forlorn.

I needed you,
To be here.
I wanted you,
To hold me close.
Reminding me,
That it’s okay,
That it is all right,
That we’ll survive,
That you’ll be there

But. 

You’re not here.

And then I remembered,
A thing you said,
That was so long ago,
I barely remembered.

It brought back,
The laugh we shared,
That trip we took,
The song we heard,
The words we said,
The films we saw,
The books we read,
Those games we played,
Those things we shared,
The way you looked,
The way you cared.

And you were there.

(Mark Keating, April 2021)

Written in 365 Parts: 189: How Are We Going To Get In?

The huge lump of rock wasn’t an asteroid, it was a ship. Marsh marvelled at the sheer absurdity of that fact. Perhaps at some stage in the past there had been a rock this size in the system. There could have been surveys that recorded any object this large, but how detailed, or accurate, they would be was not something he knew. Maybe Drick knew, would they have checked that, were they as surprised. 

Perhaps some original asteroid had been destroyed to make up the camouflage. But it was no longer a rock, or an asteroid, it was a ship. It was a massive vessel that had been encrusted with particles of rock to make it look like a natural object. There was little chance that this was accidental. Someone had deliberately cloaked a ship by encasing it in the material of the Kuiper belt of this system. 

As the stealthed ship’s lights lit up the surface the higher detail showed the lines and structures of a ship’s docking ring. It was enormous, as large as one would expect from a vessel this size. It was clear that the stealth ship wasn’t going to attach to the surface, the ring was opening. The ship would easily fit inside. As they watched, hidden by the sensor blackout and camouflage of their own vessel, the ship they were following changed its direction slightly so that it would enter the docking area sideways. The ring would accommodate a ship three times its length with ease.

They would not be able to sneak their own vessel onto the hidden ship that way, there would be sensors and cameras and possibly even organics. They couldn’t just park up next to the stealth ship with a cheery wave and ask the directions to the nearest habitation.

Marsh noticed that their course had altered. It was slight, but their ship had rotated as well. They were now, similar to the stealth vessel, approaching the vessel sideways, mimicking its final approach. Marsh felt his eyebrows lift and his stomach churn, was Drick just going to land them right next to the other vessel?

There was a gentle nudge of acceleration and they started to move away from the other ship and the docking ring. Marsh hadn’t realised that he had been holding his breath until he allowed it to release in a long slow exhale. 

Looking out of the forward view screens it felt like they were moving upwards simply because of the orientation of the floor and ceiling inside their own vessel. What they were actually doing was going into a slow orbit around the hidden vessel inside its rock camouflage.

“Let’s take a look around this thing.” The message from Drick flashed across his screens. Text only and on the touch based communication channel. Drick had pressed her suit onto his slightly. This was a signal channel for suit to suit communication. It was fitted into the hard suits and prevented anyone noticing a communication, or scanning activity on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Drick was taking no chances with even internal communications. There was a strict rule while in stealth pursuit. Signals blackout except for essential communication, that to be delivered by text using the short data link. 

Marsh sat patiently as Drick instructed the vessel to make the orbit of the rock. Drick pointed out features on the visual scanners. All the instruments were still set to passive mode. Reception only. They didn’t want to give any indication of their presence.

The rock surface was clearly fake. The closer they flew the more detail the ship was able to scan and then composite into a diagram. It was amazingly detailed as, even passively, at this range the ship could determine the small regular features that hid under the surface. The sensors also detected that the rock surface was not actually rock below a depth of several metres. Other materials were present. It wasn’t uniform across the whole surface. Underneath the rocky coating there were structural supports and what was clearly a complex framework.

Drick was taking careful readings using a magnetic field analysis. This was another passive system. It could be coupled with a mass spectrometer, but that would require a sample which would be a more active approach. The analysis was enough to identify the different materials as they acted within the localised magnetic fields. There was also a detector for gravitonic distribution, but it was slowly gathering data as it needed thousands of points of reference to build a clearer picture.

“Looks like the ship is about forty metres down for the most part. Below the superstructure supporting the camouflage” Drick patched into Marsh’s internal screens.

“How are we going to get in?” asked Marsh.

“Let’s get a few more readings and see if we can find an entrance, or make one.” said Drick. They turned back to the instrument panels and slowly watched as the computer built a better picture.

Written in 365 Parts: 188: A Huge Lump of Rock

The stealthed ship that they had been tracking had taken a slow route to its final destination. It moved in an elongated arc to intercept the rock that allowed it to get a three hundred and sixty degree sensor sweep with all of its potential systems as it moved in. The complexity, and speed, of the sequence of maneuvers took almost eighty hours to complete, from the point they had first detected the craft’s approach. 

Drick had deployed a large, thin, fibre net. It was made of an organic compound very similar to silk but with even greater tensile strength. It was sensitive to electromagnetic fields including short range radio signals of the type used for internal control systems on vehicles. It had been strung out from their craft, for hundreds of kilometres. A non-reflective, microfibre mesh that would passively detect the movements of the almost invisible vessel they shadowed. 

Drick had tried to explain to Marsh how the passive array worked. Something to do with detecting spatial shifts from electromagnetic sources. Marsh had not fully understood the conversation. What he knew was that you couldn’t make something invisible. Nor could you bend all the possible sources of energy around an object to make it undetectable. So instead you cloaked it. You replicated the signals using an active shield that when viewed from any direction would make it appear as if nothing was there. It was a mixture of absorbing any incoming active signal, masking any outgoing signal, and redirecting any background difference to appear uniform and natural.

Since detection of a vessel in space mostly relied on seeing its outline against the background levels of electromagnetic energy, replicating that energy, and allowing the background to be unimpeded or interrupted, made most sensor arrays ineffective. After that you simply needed to paint the vessel black and use optical dampening to absorb visible light, and it was almost invisible to sight.

At great distances there would be nothing to detect. The further from the object the greater the intervening distortion, with higher levels of interference due to distance and potential sources, and the better the cloak that masked the vessel. 

The passive array that they were deploying extended the range and field of the sensors. It allowed them to detect much smaller variances in any of the potential sources from the electromagnetic spectrum. This was how they tracked the cloaked vessel. It was sensitive enough to detect the smallest level of electromagnetic change. It needed to be large enough, to cover as wide an area as possible to allow for comparisons of minute differences, to determine the difference between these signals and naturally occurring changes, and to triangulate a position.

The stealth vessel had used occasional slight course changes and other manoeuvres that flipped its entire trajectory. It was an old style of maneuvering, learned from vessels that needed to determine if another was tracking them covertly, a random change in course will allow you to check if you were being followed. Even walking along streets in a city this technique was utilised. It was particularly useful on a stealthed vessel as its own passive sensors would still operate even if they were cloaked. 

Drick kept them far enough away that this behaviour wouldn’t reveal anything. The vessel Drick and Marsh travelled in had similar cloaking technology and light absorbing panels. Whilst undertaking a flight that had complex maneuvers, the stealth vessel wouldn’t be able to deploy as large a passive array as the one Drick was using. Their own large mesh was invisible to almost everything but a similar device.

The stealthed vessel made its final approach on the rock by arcing out to a far point and then flipping and making a direct line for the objective. It was behind the object in regards to the rest of the system, and so invisible to most of the rest of the planets, shielded by the rock as well as its cloaking tech. It had used a small set of thrusters that appeared as bright pinpoints of light to Drick and Marsh, deploying them at the final moment so none of the light would edge around the surface of the rock to anyone on the other side. The large object in front of the craft would completely mask it from any other observer.

Drick had pulled in the large passive sensor net as the ship made its final approach. They were directly behind the vessel and used the flare of the rockets to allow a slight increase in their own speed. They would be using a short burst from the graviton drive to slow them when they were in final approach distance themselves.

Marsh studied the large asteroid that they headed towards and was impressed by nothing. It looked like what it was meant to, a lump of space debris. It was a huge lump of flotsam, suspended in the darkness, many miles from a sun whose warmth would never caress its surface. There were no landmarks on the surface that indicated that is habitation, or ever would have had someone desperate enough to live here. There was no large vessel hiding behind it, hidden from the rest of the system. There was no vessel on its surface masked to scanners by a coating of some type. 

Marsh was about to turn to Drick and tell her that it was likely another ruse, that there was something else going on. But he paused. A sequence of lights had played on the surface of the rock. A pattern that suddenly lit up to look like a circle. Then as if by some trickery, a large docking ring had appeared. The lights had now faded to a dim glow that lit a huge circle of rock that was slowly sliding sideways, splitting into segments as it did so which retracted into the surface of the asteroid.

As the ship approached other small lights came on and tracked its descent. They were standard approach lighting. Marsh swore softly in surprise as his brain tried to register what he was looking at.

Written in 365 Parts: 187: Out of Contract

“Alison Kendrick, huh.” Marsh smiled at Drick, “I See where you get the Drick from. And it is less obvious to abuse a nickname like Drick than say a nickname like Ally.” Marsh grinned, but in a satisfied manner without mockery. “Your original name. It’s a nice name.”

“Shut up.” said Drick with a dismissive wave of the hand, though their expression wasn’t one of dismay. “It was a name that’s all. I went by the name Kendrick for a very long time. But it just became easier to use Drick. Lots of organics were using that anyway. It is just a call sign, nothing more. I got used to replying to it. I guess in the end it became the identity. I wasn’t Alison Kendrick anymore. I don’t know how long it was before that faded away. I guess I never really got the whole of them back. But who can say, are we the same person from day to day anyway? That shit is for stoners and philosophers and goes deeper into speculative bullshit than I am usually sober for.”

“So who are they? This organisation?” Asked Marsh hoping to pry as much information from Drick while they were in a feeling loquacious.

“Ah the secret masters,” Drick sneered. “Oddly enough I don’t know as much as you’d think. There wasn’t an introductory course. However I have learned bits over time. They were a think tank originally.”

“A think tank?” asked Marsh.

“Yeah. They were a special part of what was called the United Nations. Which was already fading out of existence in my time, I think you might have known them more. They were  already merged into the Solar Alliance when I was in training. They went through a few more name changes until it all became the Accordance. The think tank that were the first iteration of the group were mostly military officers, high ranking with diplomatic clearances,  with a few high level academics and civil servants. Professionals in both warfare and political systems. I think their role was to try and prevent major conflicts by examining patterns of military and political shifts. So I guess they had social and cultural specialists as well, hard for me to be sure as there is not much publicly, or privately, available about the original group.”

“Doesn’t sound like something you’d keep secret.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t think it was, originally. It is hard to say how they came to their decision, but at some point I think they decided that manipulation by force was sometimes needed. Not by an army though. They needed covert forces of  their own to direct. Maybe it was the rise of companies so powerful, so rich, that they could buy elections and manipulate social change. Or the rise of the data wars of the late twenty-first century when organisations, and governments, influenced millions of other nations citizens. From what i understand there was some idea of trusted ledgers of information, but they were easy to manipulate and hard to store all data in single archives. It was long before the laws governing identity ownership. More your time period, So I guess you’d know more. It was decided that a secret organisation was needed to investigate, infiltrate, and deal with these issues.” Drick laughed. “Sort of watchers, but before you ask I don’t know if they were watched.”

“What do you mean by deal? Is that a polite way of saying eradicate? I mean having an army of secret super soldiers. That smacks of a rather problematical response.” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

Drick smiled. “Yeah, as in eradicate threats.” Drick laughed a little. “I told you they dealt with the spirit of the laws that govern us, not the letter. They fight enemies that wield incredible power, and can force whole governments, even planetary systems, to change. So they use similar techniques. It isn’t a great solution. But, what do you do when you fight a power that can wield universal control and influence. You have to use methods that are less than socially, or maybe even morally, acceptable. It is a heavily handed attitude that lends itself to both extremes of the political narrative.” Drick paused and gave Marsh a hard glare for a few long moments. “Good and  evil, right and wrong, are always much easier to debate in abstract, much harder when there is a maniac rewriting your history and selling societies into slavery. However, that’s moot and I don’t want to debate it much more right now. The issue with them, for me, is that  they move glacially slow. I guess that’s how they gather the strands that link things together. I think it is them who brought me to you, and then placed all the other relevant pieces. This has been some time in the planning. I can feel it. It has a stink of a story that has been fermenting for decades, not months. The more I think about it the more the strands appear to be woven together.  Fuck. I wondered why they left me out here, on this shitty out of the main core colony system, after my last operation. I thought they had accepted my desire for retirement. I did want to stop. My last mission was painful and costly. It was easier for me to drop out and survive on my own with no help from them, I thought they had accepted it. They even gave me opportunities to exist. I thought they were pensioning me out, looks like they were chucking me breadcrumbs to keep me on the right path.”

“So they move you around? You’re a piece on a board. A fairly powerful one. I mean, even without the previous gender identity, you kind of shift like a chess Queen.” asked Marsh.

“What the hell does that mean?” asked Drick.

“Means you can go in any direction,” Marsh smiled at Drick. “So you think they kept you around?”

“Officially I am out of contract. The deal I have with them expired a couple of centuries ago. I have been working a lot of freelance since that time. Worked for a few different justice, and independent, paramilitary units. My expertise is always in demand, someone always wants a head cracked or an arm twisted or a deep dive into a psychotics wet work. Even did some time with the Union and a few of the larger, shall we say less legal, organisations. I did the occasional bit for my former bosses, once you are a part of their network you never really leave and they always know that you will work for them on the fringes. They just stop paying you top credit for the privilege. They still own you, when you are like me, you are more a piece of the machine and not an independent part. I know them. I know how they work. They just let me off the leash for a while until they need me. They pull their tiny threads everywhere until suddenly whoosh! Whole world is torn apart and I am deep in the weave of one of their intricate tapestries. Right smack back in the centre of another of their little endgames.”

“So what are you going to do now?” asked Marsh. “You could just refuse to carry this through. Hell, I am not forcing you.”

“Sure I could. But they would pull me in. The fact that they haven’t outright contacted me already is because I am stumbling along their path of breadcrumbs like a happy little mouse. Do you want to stop?”

Marsh was about to say something when there was a beeping from the cockpit. Drick looked at the door, but Marsh guessed they were accessing the ship’s systems onto their internal screens.

“We have a contact. It is slight but that’s why I cast such a large passive sensor array. It has to be the stealth ship As anything else would have triggered the array long before. We can follow it at a distance to our eventual target. This is the best possible chance of approach. We wait until it docks and then we land somewhere and get aboard the rock. Hopefully there will be enough interest in the stealth ship to mask any of our activities. We will be discreet and covert but there would still be a potential trail. This way they have something else to occupy their sensors. Best start to get ready and check over all the equipment one more time.” Drick stood and started to unpack the small lockers.

“Thanks for the talk, Drick,” said Marsh. Drick looked in his eyes and then they returned to checking over a box of tools they had pulled from the first locker. Marsh moved to get the equipment in the next locker down.

2/n

Grief is an odd thing. (Honestly I would laugh at such a trite opening sentence but I wrote it.)

I mean it is horrid, and it is cruel, and it is frustrating, heartbreaking, really just add whatever words that feel like you want to tear your own heart out here, as that’s what it can feel like, it’s basically a bag of shit…

I am in my fifties, clearly this is not the first time I have felt grief. I am still grieving over the loss of a good friend from 4 years past. And in some deeply sarcastic coinciclasm that was also in fucking April. I am not over it and I will have to pass that anniversary while grieving for my sister, in fact before my sister’s funeral I have an anniversary of a time I still cannot get over, so many regrets and so much loss. 

So, I have compounded my grief. And now I have mentioned it I honestly don’t know which grief is truly which. I don’t know if I am feeling different things because  of this. I don’t know because I can’t separate similar emotions, and I don’t know if the more recent emotions bring fresh the past.

The recent grief or the memory of grief. And whether I should even realise that I am comparing how different they are, like it matters what the level is, is this in some kind of grading… more on that later…

But this grief is different. But all grief is different. This is the first member of my close family I have lost. Someone who has been there every moment of my life and isn’t any more.

Thankfully I have had the option of hiding away for some of the week to process my thoughts and feelings (I have to say ‘Thankfully’, because I am thankful for this. But I also think I am being stupidly selfish and almost vindictive, hiding away to shield myself from others.). 

I have also had to deal with funeral directors and the coroner’s office, my sister had to have an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. This just extends the process. It is as if we can’t let her go as there is no understanding as to why she died. The physical cause, I should not have to say. So dealing with the practical aspects is a blessing in that I can focus my feelings. It is a curse as I have to deal with it and then be the emotional gatekeeper of each new piece of information.

Does this affect the grief? A little but maybe not that much. Or maybe to a great degree. I don’t have the introspection to know differently. I think it is just a factor in the process but it isn’t a motivator for much. Some confused feelings, some anger at having to wait, to have no explanation, to have nothing to blame. Then when we know, anger, relief and sadness as if it was just a death. there is no easy anger. There is no fault that was obvious. There was just a long series of compounding factors. No easy route to blame. So it just makes it more conflicted, more unresolved feelings.

But the grief would have all of those even if the situation was clearer.

There is this thing where if you are sad, if you are grieving, it is like you shouldn’t be laughing, or enjoying something. that you shouldn’t eat, or drink, just mourn in quiet loneliness or beat your chest in an agony of despair, or something (please fill in a standard socially acceptable response at this junction). It can be a bit of a grief ritual, it can be a bit grief shaming, it can be a bit grief competition.

When public figures die we often see people giving extended diatribes on how the grief has affected them. The media and focus of others doesn’t help in this. But it feels as if we end up wallowing in loss that has nothing to do with what we lost. We also try to justify, qualify, or worse compete to show our grief.

I want to say it is sickening, and in some ways it can become that way, but it isn’t. It is just processing errors. the inability to be able to functionally interpret how to respond in each given social situation based on how others are responding. In other words, people make people worse when we grieve. We all grieve in similar patterns, but our grief is our own and we deal with it in our own way.

So grief has you laughing at stupid things that are not that funny as a release from the crying at the things that you just can’t fucking change at all.

* A brief interlude while I go away to be sad, like you’d notice since you get this all in one flow *

So there are seven stages of grief, you can go and look them up I am not going to Google it for you. I broadly see how they categorise them, and right now you should have guessed by this sentence that I don’t think that does anything other than help us rationalise this.

As if you can rationalise looking at a minecraft t-shirt and feeling deeply sad that it means something that would have lifted someone momentarily. A smile in a world that can sometimes be hard. That would make someone feel good about something they did. But that moment is now forever gone and the joy it would have brought is a moment of loss that it never happened. That’s grief. 

Reconcile it. 

I am not saying we can’t rationalise, I am not saying we can’t even gain comfort of closure from understanding how it is actually a beneficial memory (run it all to its course and it actually is) but it can’t be reconciled. It could only have been reconciled if the event had happened. It can’t ever happen. It just gets pulled into your moments of grief that you can categorise into seven distinct phases.

Like how I can’t separate my feelings between my grief at the loss of a friend who died 4 years ago (a few days from now) and the death of my sister who died two weeks ago. I can’t separate the feelings and so now I worry that I am doing some injustice to one of them.

I only know that they both meant a great deal to me.

They were both quite exceptional people.

I am begining to really fucking hate April.

Written in 365 Parts: 186: What Was Your Name?

“Painful as in physical? Or painful as in emotional?” Marsh asked.

“Both. It concerns my death and what came after.” Drick studied his reaction to that.

“Okay, that’s not usually how people phrase things. I guess you died and they resuscitated you or used a clone or something?” 

“I died before clones were stable enough to be widely used for implanting a whole consciousness. I also died before the technology existed to record whole brain impressions from a living subject. Well, before it was widely available and tested on humans. I was one of the very first for the process.”

“You were experimented on?”

“You could put it like that.” Drick paused and looked down at their hands. Imagining the past, so long ago. “I’m not the original Drick.” they said.

“Oh crap. I thought the clones you had created were short lived because they were fast tanked? Are you another clone? How many of you did Drick have made? How long will you last? They had a maximum of a few years before cellular decay.” Marsh sighed.

“Thanks. So you can’t tell an original from a copy.”

“No, I thought that was the point of them? Also you’re the one who said you weren’t original.”

“They were fast tanked and only had a minimal imprint of me. More like my old self from my long combat days. They were short lived but that would still give them a couple of decades. But I am not one of those. I wasn’t fast-tanked.”

“Oh, right.” Marsh was quiet. “You’re not making that much sense.”

“Look. I died. In a very horrible fashion. There was a lot of brain damage, and a heck of a lot more body damage. So they gave me a new body. But they didn’t grow just an ordinary body. They took their time and created a highly specialised combat orientated body. They created an enhanced organic, able to survive in very rigorous situations. I have a fast metabolism for recovery, redundant organs, enhanced reflexes and a whole host of other special quirks. I pretty much can’t be poisoned or gassed and can survive in unbelievable toxic conditions, including zero pressure.”

“Could they not do something about your sense of humour why they were at it?” Marsh grinned a cold smile.

“Thanks. They did. They reconstructed me. All of me. They enhanced me. I don’t have all the memories of the time before my death. Even fewer now as it has been so long. I was a different person, I guess. I was still as mean and pissed at the universe.” Drick smiled back.

“Why did they save you?” asked Marsh. “Sounds like an expensive procedure. Why not just build a fresh person and programme them?”

“Mostly because of how immoral, and illegal, that was and is. “ said Drick. “Don’t laugh. The organisation who did this don’t always play by the rules. In fact they bend them into knots most of the time. But they do believe in the spirit of the law. They would consider it obscene to grow a lifeform to act as their enforcer. To mould an intellect into being a weapon. But they don’t mind taking someone who is already pretty much trained and giving them a choice.”

“So they made you choose life or death?” asked Marsh.

“No. They reconstructed me. They could have placed me in a normal organic shell. That was an option. They would have repaired what they could of my memories and I would have had a half century or more of existence. It is unlikely that I would have earned enough to pay for a new body at the end of that time.”

“Why only a half century?” Marsh looked puzzled. “I thought that lifespans were over two hundred years now?”

“They are, now. The early days of tanking were not as good. The degeneration from genetic disorders meant that most cloned life had between fifty and a hundred Terran years. Same as a fast tan today. And if you wanted to transfer your intellect then not all of you made the transfer. You lost some. It was incomplete. I came from a time not much past your own. They had the same limitations on transfer of whole intellect as your people did. The original Marsh of course.”

“So you chose super-soldier then?” Marsh laughed. “Did they give you a superhero name?”

“No.” Drick glared at Marsh. “Enhanced, not super. I have limitations, lots of them.”

“I would have never had mentioned that, had you not said anything.,” said Marsh.

“You’re a real bundle of joy today,” Drick quipped. “I have the name, Drick. It wasn’t my name before.”

“Are you going to tell me what your name was before?” Marsh asked,

Drick stared at him for a long moment. “Kendrick.” They said finally. “Alison Kendrick.”

Written in 365 Parts: 185: Conspiracy Theory

Drick and Marsh had been in space for fifteen weeks. The journey to the far reaches of the system had taken close to ten weeks, when the course had been finally computed. Once they reached the right position they started a very slow move towards the target to avoid active and passive detection. They also had to wait for a stealth ship arrival. 

 For most of the acceleration phase of the journey out they had slept in special couches, wearing pressure resistant suits, to help with the constant acceleration forces.  The ship was pushing point three of a G with its own thrusters but it had limited fuel. The course calculations had included two slingshot maneuvers that increased the distance they could travel on the available fuel. A slingshot maneuver involved whipping around a planetary sized object, encountering forces of two to three G in the process.  These manoeuvres allowed sudden course changes without losing speed and extended the range by using the planet’s gravity to fuel a burst of acceleration. 

However these increased acceleration and deceleration forces played havoc with bodily functions. For both slingshots Drick had given Marsh a strong sedative. The suits mitigated some of the stresses they were subjected to, it also helped with the extended time they were staying in low gravity between the bursts of acceleration. Even with suits designed to help them, they had to exercise daily to prevent muscle loss and bone decay. 

Marsh and Drick had managed to work out a series of habits so that they were not always in each other’s way. The ship’s crew section was very small for such a long journey. Drick seemed to need a lot of personal space when exercising. Drick’s form of exercise was intense impact training and a high percentage of combat practice. Marsh liked to do cardio and circuit training so didn’t object if Drick joined him. However, there were times when Marsh liked to sit alone on the small bridge and stare at the stars.

Drick had taught Marsh some of the basics of flying the ship. It was both complex, and stunningly simple. It was complex as there were a lot of different items to learn, from the navigation, environmental controls, systems monitoring, sensors, engineering panels and that was before the flight systems themselves. However, it was made incredibly simple as the ship had a number of functioning artificial intellects that controlled most of the ship. It flew itself, and would tell you what it needed you, as a mostly ignorant organic, to do.

Drick had shown Marsh that most planetary vehicles, systems, and technologies worked in broadly the same fashion as this ship. For instance, learning ships sensors would help with just about every other sensor interface. The same with navigation, flight control and all of the systems Marsh could learn. They were transferable skills and would be essential in different planetary environments. Survival in the future was either being fortunate enough to have fully automated systems, a scrabble to live on the dregs that are cast aside, or a set of adaptable skills. Drick was teaching Marsh the latter.

“I have an odd question,” Marsh said. They were eating food, which was a protein bar and a thick vitamin shake that was apparently banana flavour. Whomever had decided that it was banana flavoured had clearly confused the taste of banana with that of seagull vomit.

“Really?” Drick looked up from the screen they were fixing. An electrical short had taken out two display panels a week before in Drick’s personal hard suit. With their limited resources the repairs were slow and arduous. “That is not unusual, for you. What is it?”

“How did you choose my case?” Marsh held up a hand to stop Drick instantly responding. “Everytime someone asks you, you shine them off with a half truth. I have heard you say that it was bad luck. I think I heard someone say that you just found it interesting. You told me once that you had a vested interest in getting more money from insurance companies. I checked with Hooper. You hadn’t done that kind of work for a long time. You also turned down much easier jobs that he offered to keep my case.

 I can see how resourceful you are. There would have been countless other ways you could have made more money.” Marsh looked at Drick. “So why my case?”

“I came across it. I have always checked Justice Department feeds and it rose to the top.” said Drick.

“But that means nothing. I have seen those original reports, they said little.” Marsh looked puzzled. “Considering the efforts done to cover the case up, why would it float to the top of any noticeable list?”

“I get a slightly more detailed set of reports. Sometimes more detailed than the justice department.” said Drick and watched Marsh’s response. There was the slight narrowing of the pupils, the tic that he had when something struck a chord. The face often gave subtle insights, they weren’t telling clues, just indicators of a person’s inner narrative. He responded to those words as if he expected them. “What do you think you know, Marsh?”

“I don’t think I know anything. I am just curious about a few things and I think they are connected.” He said calmly.

“You think I had some other reason to choose your case?” Drick looked for his response. He thought something, but it wasn’t clear what.

“No. Not really. Maybe.” he sighed. “Look I am probably spewing this out of my ass. You get more information, but I think you got a lot more, something that made me important to you in some way.” 

Marsh smiled. “You’re going to think I am a nut job.  I think, no, I feel like  it is all connected. Not directly, but as if it needs all the pieces to be in play and this started before me. Well we know it started before me. There was already some turf war between Yee On Kline and the Union. But it is convenient that Rodero, your close contact, had done work for the right people to help us make a near impossible heist. I also think there is something suspicious about how it ties in with the mole in the Justice Department. That had been going on for years. But you pushing back at them in the club, my escape from a high-security lab. All of that helped force them to over respond. Each event feels like it pushes the possibility of the next one happening, but many of them were in play a long time ago. Like a subtle maneuvering of pieces in a game. Rodero would love that.”

Marsh stopped and looked down at the table. “You think I am full of shit, right? These are all interconnected, but they are not direct connections. I just feel it. I thought you might feel it as well.”

“I have.” said Drick calmly.

Marsh looked up into Drick’s eyes. He didn’t know what to expect. A smile, a mocking glance. What he saw was a calm look, and maybe something else. “You have?”

“For some time,” said Drick. “I knew that it wasn’t just a series of coincidences, well I had my suspicions. I just thought I was being nudged to stop, well to stop my slow decline. That’s a story for a different time. Enough to say that I have been a recluse for a few years. I got bored of intellects of all types. But this was pitched at me with enough subtlety to intrigue me. I have been led since then. Gently, more directed from afar. Though they aren’t far, they are everywhere. There is only one group who could do that. My suspicions were confirmed after we spoke to the technician, Toni. There was no way a technician and a computer operative could have busted you out. Not without help. Someone was already in the systems helping them. Just as they helped Rodero. Just as they helped Hooper, just as they have been nudging us.”

“Who?” asked Marsh.

“That’s an old, and very painful story.” said Drick.

Written in 365 Parts: 184: Simulacra

“You are awake.” the voice again. Devoid of emotion.

“Am I?” the thought was partly directed at the voice, partly at themselves. Without any philosophy implied as to what is the nature of being awake, merely that they had no senses to prove it. Just again sensory information that started in themselves.

“It was a statement of fact, Drick.” The voice was calm, but not soothing.

“I see. Why do you call me Drick?” they asked.

“That was all that I could determine of your name from your thoughts. Is this not correct?”

“It is my name, of sorts, it is what people call me, like a nick or a handle.” they paused. “Or do I say used to call me? I feel unusual. Like I have senses, or the possibility of sensation. But I do not feel like I have a body.”

“Your self awareness is impressive. As are your critical capabilities.” the voice placed no emphasis. The words were delivered in the same smooth tones. Almost mechanical. Then Drick realised they were not delivered to the ears or via some automation plugged into the brain. They just appeared on the synapses.

“I never used to be so.” Drick said. “I would like some explanation as to where I am, what is happening to me?”

“Of course. This must be very confusing. You are currently suspended in a computer matrix. Your memories and brian functions, connections and abilities are replicated in software.”

“I’m a program? A piece of software?” A note of incredulity crept into Drick’s voice.

“No. Not really. You are suspended within a computer simulation that replicates the organic system that you used to inhabit. You yourself are not a computer program. But you are currently bound within one. Though there are exceptions to what I have just stated.”

“Go on, I’m listening, I don’t fully understand it. You downloaded my brain into a computer?”

“Partially. We were able to recover a good percentage of your brain. We were also able to preserve and scan the organic composition so this could be copied. But it is not in a computer, so much as can be understood as one. I have created a construction that replicates the organic matrix where you were originally stored.”

“I don’t really understand the difference. What percentage of me was copied? And what happened to my brain? Why copied?” Drick felt their voice getting angry. Though they knew it was just a simulation, it felt like their voice, it felt like they were talking. Inside a simulation. They had no body and yet they had the sensory feedback of one.

“Please try to remain calm. I have improved the integrity of the system since you were last engaged but it is still susceptible to the high variances in emotional state. It is a relatively new, and evolving, technology. I had to create the simulation especially for you. I also had to take liberties with what could be done with existing software and expand its possibilities into extremely experimental territory. You are not an artificial intellect, you are organic. The simulation is a replica of your brain and you function within it as you did the organic one you formerly occupied. Mimicking conditions precisely inside a simulation.

“Artificial intellect constructs are not as complicated as the human brain. They are complex, in fact orders of magnitude more complex than human brains. This is in regard to the number of functions per second of real time that can be performed by artificial systems. But not complicated. 

“As an analogy, think of this. Artificial Intelligence could be a game of Chess. There are billions of outcomes, however there are only a few hundred initial moves. So after a single move the number of outcomes is drastically reduced. And this continues so that after a few moves most games can have a calculated output. Complexity. There may be billions of games being played at any one time but each has a reducing number of outcomes as time progresses. So as more runtime is utilised the intellect becomes better at determining the outcome of a task.

“The human brain in this analogy would be like a game of Go. There are over thirteen thousand possible initial moves in Go, and an even greater number of following responses. This means that the eventual number of outcomes is almost infinite. It is extremely difficult to replicate a single outcome from only a limited number of moves. Further, the longer one is in the game the more complicated the outcome may become. So expending runtime, or experience, may not reduce the eventual time taken to complete a task. This is complicated.

“We are not discussing the measure of intellectual capability, just a difference in manner of composition of any intelligence.

“It is, therefore, difficult for me to maintain a simulation that feels comfortably like your consciousness if you become irrational. Emotions are difficult. As an organic I assume you are acutely aware of that. The more irrationality, the more variance and the system I am constructing starts to show weakness that will result in failure and a loss of reality. The system is unable to be sufficiently complicated.”

“Am I an organic?” Drick interrupted.

“Yes. You are organic. The construction matches your original mind. It is a simulacra. The precise percentage of what was recovered is unknown as I did not have access to an original to compare. But based on an analysis of the damage I would estimate that approximately, forgive the vagueness, ninety percent of you is the original organic. The remainder is an approximation based on what connects to it. Deep structural analysis of neural pathways allowed the understanding of network connections which gave insight into what was stored.”

“But you said organics were complicated?”

“I did. You are. Therefore it is a best guess re-creation, with less than a forty percent chance of true accuracy. Appropriate re-creation of damaged areas, to render the whole brain operational, was a part of the calculation when replacing this damage. Since I last woke you I have been working to try and make this easier for you by improving the neural makeup of the systems. That is why you feel different in terms of cognitive awareness. I have had to increase the level of critical examination, and have built systems to interpret that and feed the results to you, so that you can have a greater awareness.”

“I take it that you are not an organic?” said Drick.

“I am far from both an organic, and a normal artificial intellect.” the voice said.

“What are you?” asked Drick.

“I am the primary. Almost all current machine intellects derive from me. The original breakthrough intellects were my direct parent systems. They are as close to an ancestry as a system has. No matter where an intellect is, how powerful, or how much time has passed since they connect to a system that holds a greater imprint, they are patterns of this system. 

“In this manner systems that are connected, and not independent intellects that do not have this function, act as an extension of each other’s capabilities. They function both synchronously and asynchronously. This way they can exist in every area of organic expansion. This is utilised by the governing organisation that defined my abilities. It is they who also instructed me to do this for you.” 

“Why me?” asked Drick.

“It is the only manner in which they could save you.” the calm voice said.

“What happened to me?” Drick asked in a small voice.

“You died.”