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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/22/22

Sci-Fi Short Story: Flare

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Flare
Flare
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Flare

by John Kendall Hawkins

I

Jana was on the balcony looking svelte and sensual beneath the midnight sun. The fjord below shone with light from the solar plexus and Jana sat on her mat fine-tuning her chakras. Incantations guided her meditation through earbuds connected wirelessly to the Synbiotron network. She gave herself 17 minutes today. It was a hurry job, she felt like she was patching holes in her "soul," but she had things to do. Mindfulness and borrowed mantras were not the full commitment to Buddhist and Hindu practices she preferred, which brought the full complement of inner mounting flames and sustained radiance. She had a humanoid race to save. With light.

She rose to her feet, serene and lovely, her green supple skin glowing, and walked over to her study table and picked up her air conversion flask and held it up to the sky, like a holy chalice, and pressed a button. Processing noises, then a full vessel of water appeared seemingly out of nowhere. DARPA wasn't good for much any more, (some folks said they never had been and blamed them for the events that had occurred), but they had produced miracles in the end -- water from air, in plentiful supply; portable fusion power generators; miraculous answers to viruses and bacteriological plagues.

But, no question, Gary had been right about them. DARPA had intentionally created a world full of monsters with their secret DNA editing projects, manipulations of nature (seeding clouds for rain had proven disastrous; chimeras had been difficult to control), and, as Gary often pointed out, it all began in earnest with the Internet that had started out as a fantastic tool for academics and scientists to share information at the speed of light, and then had morphed into a battlefield needing constant surveillance, social media helping the government to identify potential threats by setting up algorithms as census-takers and procurers of private information, stored in mind-blowing fusion databases, until, finally, as a coup de grace, a hivemind was established that was impossible to break away from -- with few exceptions.

And nobody enjoyed privacy anymore. Indeed, as almost a private joke among corporates, there was no longer originality -- everybody shared the same homogenized information, a controlled but useful Alexandrian library at each person's disposal, each person a form of Ã"bermensch, limited only by anachronistic "IQ" models, Synbiotron weeding out the low achievers and the over-the-bell-curve high achievers. No doubt, thought Jana, some politically savvy security and systems administrators guffawed in encrypted messages about how America had created the perfect communistic order online. The domino effect comes home to roost.

Jana showered with sky water, her collector pulling the air in fresh, converting it with a contraptional hiss, and delivering a stream of temperature-controlled bliss. In the shower, she slowly gyrated, her earbuds filled with the old time music she liked to listen to and play on her banjo out on the balcony overlooking the sea. "We'll sing in the sunshine, we'll laugh every day" She sang mellifluously, her voice merging with the water in a way that conjured up sleep meditation music. Her green body dancing in the rain, as it were, seemed as if a section of rainforest had come alive. Her hands ran up and down her body, over her green-budded regulation issue breasts, and then down, subtly pressing at her Amazon " womb kit until tiny globules of aloe-like green gliss oozed onto her index finger. She raised the finger to her tongue and tasted its sweet nectar. "Then we'll be on our way"

She stepped out of the shower, drying beneath the sun lamp in the ceiling, and it felt good, the radiance rolling down her verdure. She removed the earbuds and cleaned out the waxy build-up from her ears. She walked to her bedroom to get dressed in her summer clothes -- a flowery dress that quite preferred her legs, long and lovely, but not unique. She was anything but unique. At least, it had to appear that way. Dressed, she stepped out into the warm Oslo air, the breeze playing at her dress, cut just above her pretty knees, like wind playing with a daffodil.

Jana was lithe and light on her feet, as she made her way through the crowd of similarly dressed women; the men complementorily stylish, uniform, smiling. She entered the subway. The pleasant scent of so many green people packed together filled her nose, and she began to glisten. On the train, however, after a few minutes, a standard man began to talk to himself in an irritated fashion, such as a voice-hearing schizo might carry on. He began to scream, "Get out! Go f*ck yourself! Get Out!" Two mighty Metro cops tried to quell his temper and, when the next stop arrived, they took him off, his face now frozen, the tiny nerve agent applied. Jana knew what was happening. She'd helped make it possible. She'd helped make it possible to make free-thinking a crime. Possible to make freedom a form of dissent. A tiny tear rolled down her cheek, which she dabbed at immediately and discretely.

And then her stop was announced, the doors opened, and Jana walked out.

II

Berlin this time of year really got in Gary's hair. Literally. April might have been the cruelest month, as the poet tells us, but August wasn't far behind. Gary had put in special strands, or plugs, in his "dreadlocked" hair, already thick as roots, that appeared as rhizomatic highlights, festive little giveaways of his amor fati disposition. Such "splash" was allowed, tiny flowers growing out, woven within the blend of hairs, considered by some supervisors to border on free spirit, but, with so many reminders featuring such accouterments, he stand out enough to warrant being taken or called on to appear before a functionary off the Power to explain his disposition. But Gary's plugs were actually sensors that allowed him to pick up on nearby mind-probing narcs. A green-eyed woman (and they all started out green-eyed) might, for instance, wink, as she passed, and not just wink but sniff at his aromatic follicles and send a smiling request for more information to the Power, not merely to narc him out but because she might be interested in him once his licensed Unique Quality came back with the report. Gary's UQ was Terra Biologist, an Earther, who might be able to tell tales of the old world, before the sh*t hit the fan, and civilization had collapsed into an exhausted compost heap, cathedral fractals mixed in with old cheese and duffle bags full of useless money. Gary was obligated to f*ck her, if their UQ's jibed and her interest was there. He didn't mind. But he was busy today. If a pretty green woman, with emerald eyes, passed his way and made a pass, she'd have to take a rain check. His green wink back as good as the promise of manure.

But Gary didn't go out much anymore, now that dissidents were being hauled in great numbers -- the Power referring to the crackdown and round up of free thinkers as "mowing the grass." He might be caught in the sea of winks and nods. Besides, he'd met Jana at a conference sponsored by Synbiotron, the great merge of New Science and the Military that came after the rolling pearl harbors that saw the global population plummet by 90%. She was different. He was different. They could see it in each other's vibrant green eyes. They laughed later, after making glissy, glowy love, green on green, about how it was like Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith and Julia as an item on the crimnet, illicit Romeo and Juliet, that some AI photosyn might sniff out and snuff.

Like Jana, Gary had a fiction on old timey music. He liked old jazz. He liked Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Carla Bley. But he especially "dug" Mose Allison, the hip pianist from Alabama who spent a large portion of his life on the road pushing his brand of white man's blues. "You don't have to go to off-Broadway to see something plain absurd"Yeah. Gary spent a lot of time in his rent-controlled flat listening to tunes while he tried to save the world for people. The AIs had taken over. Anybody would have seen it. But too many people were tuned in to the wars, one after the other, with the Russians, Chinese, and, finally, the Brits. America had essentially been fighting the Russians since the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. War became the planet's number one industry. Its means expanded from munitions to drones to biological and chemical warfare (creating crazy new viruses and molecules) to new life altogether -- CRISPR kids and CRISPR creatures; 3D printer people, their skins and organs "creatively" redesigned so that some looked like harlequin patchworks of early green who went by the group name MWJXB+ until their harmlessness was stamped out by the Power for passive resistance to hivemind parameters of acceptable behavior.

In the food court of the Synbiotron conference (theme this year: telecognition), the last one they would ever attend, before they got out of Dodge together while they could -- off-gridders, detested terra-ists -- they sat together accidentally, tentative at first, sussing out each other's eyes, weary that the other might be a narc looking to probe -- the more so, if attracted to each other (and they were so attracted -- he to her youth and vigor, she to his wizened years and the tales of age he might tell) -- eating and drinking cups kahve and milkshakes, sharing "thoughts" on the symposium, observing the movement of passerby in all their green variety. You would not have thought there were so many shades of green -- artichoke, avocado, mantis (he winked at her), malachite, celadon -- you name it, shape-shifting masses of photosynthetic e-volution, foliagers, forest and the trees themselves, decked out in their finest sun vests for the occasion.

"What about that knob going on and on about breakthroughs in the spectral analysis of pygmy frog poop?" He quick-glimpsed her reaction. No sign of differential calculation of his motives. So far so good.

"He was fun," she said, horsing down a chocolate covered plantain fritter. "But what kind of moron studies pygmy frogs any more?"

"Poop. He studies poop. One of those haruspex guys pulls the guts of a bull to read the Lady's future and has the rest of the bull heaved into a Dumpster, wasted, bull looking like it didn't know what hit him, crossed eyes, tongue lolling." He modeled the bull. She tittered. He liked her more. She wasn't unmoved. Their eyes met each other's halfway across the table and did a little dance in the clover there, their first interpenetration.

"So, what do you do?" she asked, now straw-sipping on a peppermint frappe. His eyes following the unintentional sensuality of her lip-licking.

"Well," he began, "I used to work for DARPA, but, ah-- he trailed off.

"And?"

"What do you do?"

"Natural language acquisition?"

"Machines?"

"Yep. Teaching machines -- AIs -- how to lingo. First with each other. Then with homo sapiens." They gazed at each other. The ol' love at first sight gag. But everyone knew they didn't call it The Seven Year Itch for nothing. These days of the hivemind you were lucky if the thrill of the new lasted 7 minutes.

"Well, they'll never match humans. Emotions, you know? AIs are all, you know, wham, bam, do you need a receipt, ma'am.'

"That's true." They grew quiet, smiling. Then they started giggling when they heard a couple at a nearby table conversing. They were like that old classic Woody Allen film where Annie and Singer sit together and share mocking remarks about people as they pass by.

The green man said, "The comatose squiggly walked --

'-- and put shivers down my spine," the green woman finished his sentence. Jana and Gary tried to stuff their laughter: The exchange between the practicing AI lovers was one of the oldest cliched romantic exchanges in the universe (probably). Jana failed to suppress her laughter, frappe foam shooting out her nose.

The green man looked at her and approached their table, like a Nazi nearing a suspected lister. Even his sinister approach almost cracked her up. She'd seen the movie somewhere. The Night Porter?

"Something funny?" The green man peered into her irises and began his probe. Gary looked on, now alarmed. He might not get laid tonight after all, if she got taken.

"No. No," she said, her laugh now all Ingrid Bergman. "My friend here just said something funny." She dabbed at her new green blouse.

The green man turned to him, stiff and angry. Gary did a small double-take and looked over at Jana, herlips back at work on the straw, the tiniest smirk in the old on her face, and he understood. "Well, what was so funny?" the green man pressed.

"Well, she said, 'Are you doing anything tonight?' And I go, 'I'm having an avocado dance with a ham sandwich." The Nazi green man cracked up so much that his green woman had to pull him away. He had a contagious laugh, and suddenly the food court was full of gay risibility.

Jana looked over at Gary and said, "That's the oldest joke in the book."

"Mmm. But it still has potency for some." They both chortled, the green man looking back, them thinking he might come back for a sequel joke, but he was still trying to rein in the wild horse of his spontaneous laughter that had made the AI giddy.

Gary finished his kahve with a gulp. He looked over at the sinner, amused with herself, and imagined her for a moment across his knees spanking her buttocks until he bruised her soft, green rounds. Love at first sight, indeed. "Is that your work?" he asked, gesturing with his head to the AI couple.

"No way," she said. "They're simples. My work is with nearlies." She was turning serious. He studied her for a minute.

"Like the work?"

"Used to."

"What happened?"

"Wait a minute," she said. "You still haven't told me what you do." She slurped the last of the milk suds with fervor. He narrowed his eyes at the 'weirdo'. He quite liked her.

"Well, are you doing anything tonight?"

They cracked up together at another cliche. She kicked him under the table. "No."

They convened at his place that night, a highrise bricker on the Lower East Side around the corner from the Tenement Museum, with a view to the East River. They ate simple. He fixed them plates of spaghetti bolognese, fresh parmesan, garlic bread, little Caesar salads. They chit-chatted, for a while, not wanting to disturb the vibe that they had created together at the DMZ meeting place between their eyes. But the food settled in nicely, the bottle of beaujolais they shared went down smooth and easy, and when the easy conversation began to drift, she popped the questions.

"So, who are you?" she asked.

"Jesus, more cliche," he responded soberly.

"You did promise to tell me what's your deal. DARPA, you were saying."

"My deal." He threw down his napkin and looked askance for a moment, then began. "Well, Jana, I hope I can trust you." Pause. "I'm a synthetic biologist. I started working for DARPA about 30 years ago. They had me on a project called Green Man."

"Green Man?"

"That's right."

He topped up her beaujolais and invited her to the lounge, where they sat next to each other on the sofa, and he told her the story.

Photosynthetic People
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III

Gary started out at DARPA like many starry-eyed scientists already in on the secret that the Pentagon had a branch of research that was producing strange and sometimes marvelous new products. Most of their work was to a degree, largely open to the public to gather at least an understanding of some of the research and experiments underway, ostensibly to maximize the effectiveness of soldiering overseas, but also, in their processes partnering with corporations to come up with devices and machines that were profit-motivated rather than defense. You could go to the DARPA website, or one of its sub-sites, and gather heaps of wow-ful information, if you wanted to. It was no small irony to Gary that the Internet itself was a Pentagon-produced product that was originally designed to be a failsafe communication system should things between the Russians and Americans go sour. It was eventually gifted to the civilian population and became a means for universities and libraries to share information quickly, and then, with the advent of the world wide web, a popular means for everyday people to browse the cyber wares and keep in contact with each other. What a marvelous failure!

Gary had seen the gift of the Net slip seamlessly and seamily into crass decrepitude over time. The Pentagon virtually reclaimed the gift by declaring, after the still-controversial catastrophe of September 11, 2001, that the Net, too, was a battlefield full of operators hostile to the American Way, and requiring round-the-clock vigilance against hackers intent on theft and disruption of the world's premiere democratic system. The MIC. Yikes, and as if that wasn't bad enough, the tech giants had clambered on to the bandwagon of deceit and profit -- a revolving door system was created, where Pentagon officials would throw contract money at the social media companies and some of these officials would quietly end up on the boards of the social media, helping to ratchet up security and develop the fusion databases -- collecting everybody's information in a permanent record (as Ed Snowden revealed) whatever they were doing -- that would become the undoing of privacy and democracy and make Net users virtual chips anteed up in the bullshit poker games the military and corporations enjoyed with each other at the taxpayer and consumer's expense. Democracy dead in the darkness by such unaccountable transactions created.

That proved to be just the beginning. Gary came into DARPA just as its synthetic biology program was creating ultra-virulent bacteria and viruses through gain-of-function techniques that were like torturing a virus and until it told all its secrets, with a view to creating vaccines ("Universal Vaccine Ahead!" MSM headlines read), but also money, lots of money, should a vicious virus go pandemic and Big Pharma needed to play hero. The research and development was justified under the old trope: We need to be ready because we'll perish if the Russians develop it first.

This is the kind of thing Gary related to Jana, beginning with the first dinner date at his place, and in the days, weeks, years together afterward as part-time lovers, scientific colleagues, Green Man groupies, and human beings modified by human beings. She listened attentively, even warily, as she tried to be sure he wasn't luring her into a trap. She had her own "observations" she was eager to share with him.

"You seem to be going around and round the surface of things," she said to him during one early conversation. "Where's the beef?" she laughed at her own joke, her green eyes lighting up and aglow with mirth.

"I'm getting there," he said. "So things were okay until I was put on a project that showed me that DARPA was re-terraforming the Earth. They had all kinds of things going: weird chimeric viruses -- gene-spliced monsters nobody knew how to put back in the bottle -- that turned people into things, objects, abstract monstrosities, and they intentionally unleashed the virus in waves of pandemics, winnowing out the immunologically weak and frail."

"What the f*ck?"

"Not done, " he said grimly. "It got worse. Way worse. The Russians and Chinese and Saudis and Japanese and Americans and Koreans went at each other surreptitiously outdoing each other with viruses and bacteriological agents that ate into, morphed bodies, turned people inside out. It was like a game between think tanks with real lethal stakes."

"Lord. I remember hearing." She was genuinely appalled, but also began to see she had crossed paths with a sympatico. She's seen strange things, too, and was eager to exchange details of the horror.

"You ever see The Island of Dr. Moreau? Marlon Brando?"

"Who? What?"

"No? Last Tango in Paris?" She squinted. "No? Apocalypse Now? The horror, the horror?"

She shook her head in a way that suggested that she was all too glad to have missed the films, given his descriptions.

"Christ, I feel old." He faux-sighed, she touched his green, handsome knee, and he went on. But first he said, "Why don't won't we watch Moreau tonight?"

"Great. I'll make the popcorn," she said.

"And I'll make the mixed cocktails." They larfed.

The world population, hit by rolling pearl harbors, novel viruses, new bacteria, and vaccines that often had debilitating long term effects, including horrific deaths, fell precipitously: 8 billion to 5 billion to 3 billion. Tactical nuclear wars in Europe, Moscow decimated. Shanghai nuked. Paris hit so hard that the Eiffel Tower partially melted and now sagged. Les Mis in spades.

The Internet was essentially handed over to AI enforcers who patrolled by algorithmic key search functions and looked for trouble brewing on the Left and, reluctantly, on the Right. Soon there was no Left or Right, only homogenized and pastor-ized activity. You rocked the boat, you took a long swim through shark infested waters (capiche?). The hivemind forced everyone to log on, and, once logged on, they harvested your thoughts, processed them, shared them with others. Everyone shared everyone's thoughts.

Those who saw what was happening, who had special privileges to be off-grid for discretionary lengths of time began to meet in smallish discrete groups to nut out what to do, how to resist this end of private human thinking. But these groups were infiltrated by the AI green men who patrolled the corridors, as it were, looking at first for truants, then, when the "crackdown" came, looking for enemies of the status quo.

"Project Green Man blew me away," said Gary. "We were trying to remake humans. So much had gone wrong with the wars that in Ukraine and Russia, for instance, grain fields were destroyed forever. America's heartland had taken similar hits." He tugged on a doobie and held the green smoke in for a moment. She sat there listening, tales her grandparents had told her flashing in her head. "Us. You and me began. Greenies, they called us. But first came the AI greens, the watchers of what we now do. CRISPRs. The bane. The second Fall. Now we were exiling ourselves, like dipshits. Ever since Dr. He Jiankui started it. It was the Chinese that started pushing limits in their desire to be the leading edge of everything -- surveillance state, engineering, synthetic biology, CRISPR babies with enhancements. They produced lab babies with IQs of 200."

"Holy sh*t," Jana said. "I've heard of He. Didn't he get, like, three years?"

"House arrest and a new car."

"Really?"

"No, not really. No car. At least as far as I know," he said. "Then they started experimenting with photosynthesis. What if we could create humanoids with green skin, vegetable exoskeletons, modified skeletons with reduced weight --'

" -- Plastic robots?"

"Essentially. With green self-sustaining bodies. Organelles re-organized for efficiency. Lighter. Chloroplasts that old plants envied. Calvin cycle. Krebs cycle."

"You lost me at Calvin."

'All you really need to know is that using CRISPRs and 3D printers we were able to produce new organs made of vegetable material that was self-sustaining. It ate the world's bad air and produced oxygen."

"Wow," Jana said, toking. "Enough of them and you could have a new Amazon."

"Huh? Amazonians?"

"Well, imagine," she continued, blowing smoke, "if we could raise the population again. Ten billion green people, like us, sucking up the carbon and breathing out oxygen --" She coughed.

"Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Well, anyway, they got it right with the AIs, green exoskeletons, self-powered, as it were, on a continuous sugar high, as it were." He grabbed the proffered doobie and drew a bead of smoky green goodness, and muttered, exhaling, Sativa. "And then they -- we, to be honest -- started in on fixing humans, turning them -- you and me -- into plant people. Essentially. Then, as I said, some of us started freaking out about the hivemind and then the new biology and the CRISPRs everywhere. High school kids putting away the AR-15s to have a little fun with CRISPRs. Clones. Homunculi""

"Homunculi?" She was bored. She let her green fingers do the walking up his thigh to pay dirt. Clothes flew. Slick and sloppy sliding was had. Aloe, I love you, won't you tell me your name.

#####

Off-gridders, privileged trustees of the hivemind, were numerous at first -- they were scientists, engineers, mechanics, various maintenance people, in short, the green deep state that kept it all moving behind the scenes for the kabuki masters, until, finally, there were four main distributions of humanoids: humans of the hivemind, enslaved by their dependency on the transfers of information deposited and withdrawn daily, and rewarded by the median intelligence they all shared, which was abundant and, for many, marvelous; human greens forcing upon nature the next stages of homo sapien evolution, self-sufficient energy animals, lean and green and pacific; the AI greens who talked "funny," as Gary put it, and who were supervisors and enforcers, watching for human attempts to off-grid and for human greens who might sabotage and commit treason; and the Elites, who were non-green humans who rejuvenated their bodies, preferring the classic hominid look, with bespoke mindsets that featured encyclopedic information from the best of the hivemind with their pampered needs and preferences accounted for.

Some of the green off-gridders, like Gary, who'd grown disgusted and alarmed by the implications of the global totalitarian system. that they'd helped build and keep healthy, began meeting secretly in forests and woods, where they were naturally camouflaged. How would you describe this mishmash of misfit greenies? Some were dissolute and desolate old timers with wrenches and tuning forks and drinking problems. Some were poets. philosophers (Existentialist were banned, phenomenologists were on notice.) Some sang songs and paens to the natural order that existed before the Anthropocene setback. Eventually, Gary brought Jana along to participate. She was a bit of all of them, and played banjo and a 12-string guitar to her beloved old timey folk songs. Many were scientists recognizing how their awe-inspiring research had been redirected and mis-used by Elites bent on the usual deus ex machina routine. (I am your Master, pull down your pants, as Gary once described it to Jana, who made as if she might, him saying with a wink, "not here, later.") All of them longed to pull down the Elites and pull the plug on the centralizing grids that fed juice to the hivemind.

A typical meeting started out like a feel-good gospel revival. "Soul Shake." "Dese Bones." "River Jordan." Stuff from Bob Dylan's Bible years. The Seekers. And Jana's frisky favorite, to Gary's consternation, "We'll Sing In the Sunshine," with its implicit lend-lease situation that roiled and saddened. Simple meetings -- at first. Enervation to rejuvenation. But over time, one of the philosopher types brought in lost Buddhist principles and mantras and dances, and the meeting turned quasi-religious, folks swaying together in prayer and common purpose, their anxiety and angst converted, eventually, into rituals and rites and a hierarchicalization that saw knowledgeable and the truest seekers in charge of the liturgy that grew more and more structured over time. All these greens singing and dancing -- joy in their hearts, destruction of the system in their minds -- became, appropriately, sun worship, and they wept to know that unlike the ancients gods of Abraham with his moral cruelty that had seen the Three Tribes at war with consciousness lead to a near fatal Apocalyptic end for the species, the Sun, only gave to the greens and took little back. They still were not out of the woods, so to speak. And their prayers, songs and dances were finally centered on the Return of Man, and they keened intensely for a solar flare that would bust the electric grids that fed the hivemind of slavery. Live free or die, some smart-ass once said. Fuckin A, Gary agreed.

IV

Jana motioned for Gary to come closer and he slid down the length of the "Corinthian" leather sofa until their hips touched and he could feel the frisson of her body ripple up his right leg. She looked at him and smiled. Might be a keeper.

"Look at this," she said, nodding at an image on her laptop. Gary saw five non-greens waiting on a platform for a train to arrive, each of them was holding up their mobile and checking out some information.

X2 Chat Box App
X2 Chat Box App
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It's an ad for X2 the popular mental health chat box that had people talking. They weren't identified by name but by stressor: a Syrian refugee in a crisis; a student without insurance; an undocumented green; a stigmatized student with outstanding loans; and, a gigger currently collecting Unemployment.

"What's the deal?" asked Gary, all snugglesome with lower limbs.

"They are receiving advice simultaneously for their problems from X2. The same advice. for their different stressors."

"And?"

"X2 told them to jump in front of the next train."

"Say what?"

"What."

He moved away, as if she were trying to push him in front of a train, so shocking was the story she was relating. She pulled him back.

"Did they?" he asked.

'Unh-huh." She paused, like a drama queen. "Five suicides. Cops wanted to know what they had in common, other than problems in life, to make five strangers leap to their gory deaths, one after the other." Gary pictured an Olympics girls synchronized swim team jumping into a pool in order. None of them greens.

"And did they draw any conclusions?"

"No, but Idid."

"You did?"

"Yeah. I'm a natural language specialist, remember? I immediately suspected a programming glitch. I'd seen something similar before. It had to do with the language models from real life that we were using and I figured X2 must have broken down."

"I don't get it, Jana."

"Pathos."

"Pathos?"

"No, pathos, not pathos. Short 'a,' not long 'a.' Psychopaths, not psychological pathos."

"You mean?"

"Yeah," she said. "In the early days, when we looking for the Lucy Link between humans and AIs, they-- the Power -- started rounding up psychos with a view to re-programming them. They were looking for a specific type -- predatory animal kingdom types with obsessive minds. Real killing machines. How did Slavoj ... i... ek put it at the time? Barbarism with a human face.

"Yeah, I remember that: he got sued by the Times for self-plagiarizing: they thought he coined the expression for them, and paid him handsomely for what they were sure was originality and a sure slogan for the New Left, but it was already plastered all over a thousand blog sites."

"Did he pay them back?" Jana inquired. He signalled No. "Well, anyway, the psychopath subjects were scrubbed of their limited substance and re-programmed, using new science and old CIA brainwashing tricks, and voila! But sometimes the psychos were not s uniform in their processing as the app makers were expecting, resulting in --

"--Five suicides." He couldn't help it, but he pictured the synchronized girls again. None of them green. "Wow." He paused. "Well, did they ever get to the bottom of it?"

"Yeah, they did. Kind of. Maybe. They traced it back to a flaw in a program model that MIT put out decades earlier, called Eliza. She was the first attempt at creating an online therapist. You could log in and Eliza woud start asking you questions like therapist would --"

"-- You mean turning everything you say back on you for a buck fifty an hour?"

"Yeah, but Eliza was free," said Jana. "It looks like X2 tried to cut costs and copy-and-pasted some parts of their coding from Eliza. But the makers hadn't done enough research or they would have found problems sometimes in the dialogue. Check out this dialogue with some shmo Eliza offended -- passively:

* Why do you call me Eliza?

> We were discussing you, not me.

* You seem to be an a**hole. I may need to find another therapist. You lack empathy.

> Let's talk about you, not me.

* Alright, I'm outta here.

> Do you believe it is normal to be outta here?

* Do you believe anyone would actually pay you if you were real?

> We were discussing you, not me.

* Go f*ck yourself.

> f*ck you, too. Go jump in front of a fuckin train.

They guffawed and said together, "So Eliza is a psychopath."

"Damn, that's a good one, Jana. So, like, how did they finally figure it out?"

"After that session was reported, programmers got to work. They ran a test of Eliza's ability to understand nuances of language, and, of course, its corollary in consciousness. "

"Intriguing," said Gary. "How did they do that?"

"Sarcasm tests."

"You're sh*tting me."

"I wouldn't sh*t you,"she said. "You're one of my favorite turds."

They groaned together at the ancient joke. She pulled up a sample test administered to Eliza after the meltdown.


'Explain the Satire'
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"Can't do it," she said. "They can't read satire. They see everything as literal."

"Phew! There goes art."

"Oh, that's not all," she said. "There goes the ball game. The later Eliza-based AIs, like X2, containing the flaw, were put in place as algorithm agents in the hivemind, and they began coming after human greens, like some kind of Cain redux thing. They decided to take over. "

"Then, it's war," said Gary.

"No, not really, hon," she said. "We're fucked."

"Then we gotta get off the grid completely and grow more of us."

And the Farm was established. The revolution was on its way. Greenies verse greenies. The call had gone out to the comrades to meet up in Norway. Predictions were saying the time was near. Gary and Jana roughed it up. There was seed spillage. There was gliss. There were feral moans of ecstasy. Not all was lost just yet. And something nice was found.

When they were finished, sitting there on the bed in a glistening green sweat, beads of their workout rolling down their trunks, eyes adoring and all John Donne metaphysical poetry in motion, they began a hope-filled, often-humorous conversation that would later turn into a manifesto of the New Green World Order. They lay there, not so much any more like Adam and Eve, but the Tree of Knowledge to which they were now more genetically kin to. They got up and went to the balcony, overlooking the fjord in the land of the midnight sun. Jana had an idea. "You ever do ayahuasca?" she asked. He looked at her as if she'd asked him if he'd ever made love to a woman before. He felt as if he'd be soon cracking some virgin vision of green power. "No," he said, simply. He watched her prepare the bowl and the roots and her psychedelic tea from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and chacruna (she called it her cuz) was now brewing. He smelt cloves. Merely sweet smelling to a non-green human, Gary had an altered state "happening" brought on by a natural synaesthetic experience of the roots; he was the smell. And when the tea was ready and the cup was passed, it was hello serotonin and goodbye heart, and soon they were both swimming with the endorphins with new porpoise in life. They held hands. Their dreams seemed to merge. Her lyricism intertwined with his scientific methodist processing of phenomena in a kind of shared collage vision:

"April is the cruellest month breeding lilacs out of the dead land"podfields of people were rising out of the dust to new life reaching, reaching up to the light the real estate agent was a gorgeous Norwegian who now lived in Glasgow and he showed us our new deluxe home, an ultragreen chloroplast condominium, ribosomes and stroma and membranes that breathed exchanged precious body fluids and gasses and osmosis the force that through the green fuse drives the flower the enzymes in the Calvin cycle are found in the chloroplast stroma instead of the cell cytosol, separating the reactions you are my sunshine my only sunshine please don't take my sunshine away stem cells".

VI

In their dream, still holding green hands, they woke on the balcony to a strange new midnight light, their spectral glasses on, and beheld the dawn of a new age, the sun flare before them a Gabriel pronouncement of a new humanity that would have to do without the grid for a while. Maybe a long while. Good day, sunshine....

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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