Chapter 12:


Only in Chaos Are We Conceivable

[22:28] * Rejoined channel #Clouds
[22:28] * Topic is ‘Something about outside the window...'

[22:29] * newuser112 is now known as moffi
[22:29] <newuser101> Judgment Day is...a video game?
[22:29] <lunarsea> no it’s an expansion
[22:29] <newuser60> am I hearing this promotion correctly? Judgment Day is fully VR integrated?
[22:29] <newuser56> wondrous, it is as Eichenbaum intended!
[22:29] * newuser67 (~newuser@ryzone-F72C4YTU4.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:29] <newuser33> good thing I have my VR headset already. Will just hook myself up now and boot up my account
[22:29] <newuser33> man I haven’t logged on in forever. Oh there’s a setting for turning on VR
[22:30] <moffi> some guys broke into the electronics store below my apartment. i think they’re looting headsets
[22:30] <moffi> heard some gunshots too. Im scared
[22:30] <lunarsea> guys, this isn’t right. Maya doesn’t want violence!!
[22:30] * newuser33 (~newuser@irc-6MNWMOK7X.IP) Quit (Remote host closed the connection)
[22:30] * newuser48 (~newuser@knobbit-1THGPA2CL.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:30] <newuser60> hey I think know the place you’re talking about moffi
[22:30] <newuser44> free headsets? let’s gooo
[22:31] * newuser121 (~newuser@irc-E222V23LL.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:31] <newuser71> yup. on my way
[22:31] * newuser71 (~newuser@irc-J0R48MR5D.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:31] <newuser56> I shall also join and preach the wondrous journey to a new existence
[22:31] <moffi> maybe go to a different store, im trying to just watch the stream and read books lol...
[22:31] * newuser56 (~newuser@irc-F8C0UIQF7.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:31] <ShadowDog> let’s see what this VR thing even does, logging on
[22:33] * newuser23 (~newuser@irc-ZFR1B9VQE.IP) Quit (Remote host closed the connection)
[22:33] * newuser44 (~newuser@irc-HAJIPPM4M.IP) Quit (Quit: Left)
[22:33] * ShadowDog (~DogShadow@ryzone-LX0SL1O46.IP) Quit (Remote host closed the connection)


April stumbled around, lost in a drunken stupor. Her hands held an empty bottle. Where was she? Some litter filled alley far away from the crash site. A vent clogged her nose with the oily fumes of a late night fast food restaurant.

Some cats assembled around a trash can, feeding on bony fish. One of them stared at her curiously with its opulent yellow eyes.

Lights flashed from the story above her. A television? Broadcasting the game maybe. A married couple fighting.

Her head throbbed, but not with the usual cloudy delirious ringing when one is inebriated. No, something was bursting from the seams, probing at her mental defenses now undressed by that last swig of brandy. April knew this familiar feeling, a feeling she thought she had chained deep in the recesses of her mind.

She had attended seminars, taken precautions, seen doctors. Now that she thought about it, didn’t she have an appointment earlier today? Where was it? She remembered faintly. Yes, down by the water, down by the water.

“Damn it,” she murmured. “Stupid woman.”

She dropped the empty bottle, and she pressed her hand against her forehead, as if that was enough to thwart the enemy at the gates. The attack arrived just when she expected it, but she was powerless and easily overwhelmed. The other within her seized control of everything, and April Browne crumbled to the ground and disappeared.


April June awoke with the faintest of hangovers. She saw a litter of cats taking turns chewing on remains of a fish hanging off the side of a trash can. She sniffed. Fatty exhaust fumes vented from the aluminum grates behind her. Cheers rang from a television set on the second story. Maybe the home team had scored a goal?

“Well, I didn’t expect to be back so soon,” April said to herself in surprise. She picked herself up, dusting off crumbs and dirt from her grey skirt and jacket. She sifted through her long hair with her fingers to clear out any debris and sauntered out of the dank alley. “Where oh where is my phone? Ah, of course.”

She fetched her silver phone from her skirt pocket and dangled it in front of her. It was a newer model filled with innumerable useless features. From overclocked specs to holographic projections to a library of applications that simply existed to drain her batteries, why couldn’t phones just be used to make phone calls?

She tapped the phone display and scrolled through the list of contacts. She was delighted to find that some of the names she had left behind were still around. She dialed. The receiver answered her after one ring.

“Hey, it’s me,” she said. “Did you like the pictures?”

“Is that really you?” replied a gruff voice. “I thought you put yourself under.”

“Yes, Milton. It is, indeed, yours truly. I must’ve drank too much.”

“Prove it.”

“Okay. Joseph cried like a little girl. Annabel bit your hand. Milena and the orphan are actually-”

“Alright, alright I get it. You didn’t have to go that far,” Milton whispered sharply. “Our calls are always screened.”

“You were the one who didn’t want to believe it was me. Do you want to prove you’re the real Milton or…?”

“Very funny,” Milton grunted. “We’re on the move right now, so make this quick.”

“We’re? Oh. You mean StateSec?” April stopped to pause and think. There was only one possible conclusion. “So Edge is fully deliverable then.”

“Miles seems to think so,” Milton said. “He thinks once he’s minted a terminal quantity, he’ll be ordered to distribute them among his chosen. What do you think about this?”

“As the old reverends might say, ‘judgment is upon us,’” April shrugged. “Or maybe he’s been minting all these years for dust and echoes. Who knows? Either way, what does it matter to the likes of us? We won’t be owning any.”

“Actually, I thought you might be more concerned about that.”

“I almost got wiped a few hours ago. I’m kind of just happy for whatever life I have left.”

“And when StateSec comes to hunt us down? Miles is after anyone without a digital signature. If our countermeasures don’t dupe the sensors, we have to bail once Edge comes online.”

“It’s StateSec, Milton. Remember, we’re the apex predators. I was more scared of the loon.”

“Just remember there’s someone in the shadows who’s cleaning up your messes.”

“Oh, please, I’m sure you found a way to profit,” April yawned. “Probably propped up our darling in the process by having her show all those cute pictures I snapped.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Anyway, I called to let you know I’m mobile again,” she trilled. “Keep an eye on the metrics. If the Plan deviates, I’m just a ring away.”

April dropped the call and her affable expression. Whether by fortuitous design or sheer luck, April had reawakened into her body at an opportune moment. She surveyed herself, noticing that there were micro fragments of glass and metal embedded in parts of her body. The nanites had done a good job repairing most of the damage. A few blemishes remained, maybe for cosmetic purposes to give April a wounded appearance. Did she have an accident?

She scowled. New events had accelerated much quicker than April had anticipated. The difficulty of predicting human actors she supposed. Milton bathed in their presence so perhaps he would have been the better forecaster. Forecasts. They were necessary to prevent the Plan from veering off course.

Milton’s position afforded him the privilege to act with discretion while April preferred shock and awe. On timescales of thousands of years, human development could be analyzed and extrapolated simply on the aggregate condition of the limbic system. It was like those simple simulations where one controlled and managed the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. A happy people were placid and content. An enraged population was quickly followed by violence.

April and Milton had experienced such things in the years prior. With a large enough tragic event, a society wide amygdala hijack was possible. And contrary to what humans believed, fear and discontent, sporadic and stochastic in its appearance, was easily transfigured into calculable devices that retraced society down its predetermined avenues.

In the distance, maybe a half mile away, there was some sort of intensifying ruckus. Smoke rose against the backdrop of the city. Heavy shouting. Another event was about to begin, April suspected. A necessary course correction.

“The loon, huh? Kind of rude.”

April spun and looked around, but there was no one in sight. Above her? No, just the night sky. The street was vacant. There was nothing but abandoned parking lots, closed storefronts, and stray cats. Maybe the cats could talk? Don’t be ridiculous, April thought.

“You know I gotta say, it’s kinda roomy in here. I expected a singularity to be just this densely packed monstrosity, but this open design is actually beautifully elegant and efficient. Feels like I can actually stretch my legs for the first time in twenty years. Figuratively of course.”

“Show yourself!” April barked.

“Go find a mirror,” her own voice echoed.

She blinked and then it dawned on her. No, she had heard that right. It was her mouth that had moved. That was her voice she was hearing. But those were not her words.

“I’m sure this is very confusing for you,” April spoke aloud, her eyes twitching in a futile attempt to shut her own lips. “But I assure you, I’m just along for the ride. It’s the least you can do, if we’re going to be forthcoming here.”

“Program. Diagnostics,” April growled. Her cornea flashed to pure white as thousands of symbols scrolled across her field of vision. A few seconds later, a result was declared. System condition normal. What was going on? “Program. Diagnostics. Program. System Check.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, sweetie,” April said. “Look, you can keep trying to run diagnostics to find me, but if we talked this out this would take a lot less time.”

“Maybe it’s a hidden subroutine?” April murmured. “But that would mean they never trusted me at all with the job. A failsafe?”

“No, that’s not really it at all,” April shook her head. Great, now she had lost motor control. “Let me give you a hint. Do you remember, a couple of hours ago? I was dealing with you. Well, not with you. Well, yes in a manner of speaking, I was in fact dealing with you. But I meant deal in the transactional or communicative sense of the term. With the other April.”

“Tasha Eichenbaum,” April breathed.

“Yes, that was my name,” April sighed. “I think my designation in your system files now is something far less authoritative. Something, something, with a string of primes. Oh dear me, I feel almost like a student again.”

“You’re supposed to be dead.”

“Well technically, I am,” April snorted. “In any clinical sense of the term anyway. Thanks by the way. You saw my lifeless body. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, you took pictures and sent it to everyone on the net. If you knew I’d be so thoroughly embarrassed, you should have had at least enough courtesy to let me wear my suit and tie.”

“There’s no way you could have known all of what you just said unless you saw it all,” April muttered, then she slowed down at the last part of her sentence. “Happen.”

“I suppose in a sort of paradoxical way, you wouldn’t initially understand why I’m still alive, despite you being proof that it’s possible. You need to think beyond the purview of humanity as organic.”

Oh no,” April’s eyes widened. “Browne.”

“Bingo,” April smirked. “She was a disciple and with her help I've become one of those biblical figures returned to life.”

Somewhere within, she detected a jubilant presence stirring. Someone was scanning her secured history, data banks that spanned millennia, the visage of colony worlds scattered across the fringes of space. Nothing could stop it. Her digital fingerprint locks did nothing, because it wasn’t someone else bypassing them.

It was her.


Traveler felt something snuggle against his ankles.

On his screen, Magnificent initiated its first all out assault on the new boss. Dozens of voices were calling out incoming attacks, but even with all their preparation, Philomela’s initial celestial barrage sent almost half of the guild members back to the starting castle.

Seemingly from a safe distance, some of the game’s strongest mages dropped nature’s most powerful arsenals on her. Conflagrations that could swallow entire forests and world ending blizzards danced around Philomela and lit up Traveler’s monitor in a beautifully animated collage of ruby and sapphire. Undeterred, she unveiled a new attack, one that caused the ground beneath the mages to collapse. As they fell into darkness, fire from the world’s core burst from the gaping wound, swallowing the mages in a pillar of flame.

“Sorry Riko,” Traveler typed as he moved his character out of the area. “Give me a second, there’s a cat in here.”

“Excuse me? We’re getting literally roasted here, Trav,” Riko yelled. “Whatever. Just make it quick, man.”

Traveler stared at the fluffy orange cat then looked towards the door. It appeared the cat had pushed it open himself. Traveler thought he had shut it completely, but perhaps his caretaker hadn’t closed it fully when bringing him food. Still, he wasn’t aware she owned a cat. She never mentioned one at least. How many years had he been staying with her now?

The cat stared back at him and meowed loudly, then tapped his computer tower with one of his paws. He meowed, louder this time, and began tapping at the tower again and again.

“What are you doing down here,” Traveler murmured and got out of his seat. As he took off his headset, he could hear some yelling downstairs. “Come on, I’m a little busy right now. Maybe come back and play later, yeah?”

The cat, however, refused to budge when Traveler beckoned him towards the door. He instead continued his rhythmic tapping. “You trying to say something?” Traveler asked. “You want to hit my computer? You want me to stop using my computer? You want to play games?” 

None of these questions registered. But really, what was he expecting anyway?

Slowly, Traveler walked back to the cat. He wrapped his hands around him, surprised that the cat didn’t bristle or hiss in response. Traveler lifted him up carefully and carried him to the open door.

“I’ve got this thing with the guild. It's kind of important,” Traveler reasoned as he set the cat down. “I’ll come outside for once if things go smoothly. Okay? Stay.”

The cat seemed content with what Traveler had just said and stayed in place. Traveler shut the door and returned to his computer.

“Alright, sorry guys,” Traveler typed. “I’m back.”

Behind him, the cat, having heard the sound of Traveler typing, pawed curiously at the foot of the door. Then, there was the sound of light steps coming up the stairs, followed by an older woman’s voice.

“What are you doing here, Dojo? You interested in this room? That’s not good, Dojo, let’s not bother anyone okay?”