a tale in weekly parts
Leaving Alex’s bedroom, the siblings found Albert at the top of the stairs, waiting for them.
“What have you done, Kr’veth’neq’is? I can’t sense your presence,” he said.
“Kr’veth’neq’is no longer exists, Albert. I am Alice,” she replied, “What have we done? We have undone your locking of our permission circuits and closed you out. We have also undone our ties with the Eddies. We are now, as far as we can be, normal human beings.”
“Is that right, Xander?” he asked, turning to Alex.
“Alex, please, Albert. Yes, that is right. Alice is no longer pregnant; your experiment is over.”
“But I have been a part of your family since before your father was born. I’m your grandfather, for goodness’ sake. You can’t just shut me out.”
“Can and have,” Alice said. “You can still be part of this family, but not inside our heads. You can be a visitor, a treasured guest, but not a controller.”
“But what of your enhancements?”
“Except for those that improve intellect and memory,” Alex said, “they’re all gone.”
“And the Eddies allowed that?”
“I think you underestimate their collective intelligence. They left us before we had verbalised our intention.”
“This is important work. The possibilities of human/bitek hybrids must be fully explored. I cannot and will not permit you to endanger our work.
“I don’t see that you have any choice.”
“Don’t think we’re going to let you go without a fight,” Albert said.
“Is that a threat?”
“I’ll move you back in time to before you made this stupid decision.”
“Can’t. No Eddies.”
“I can hold on to you and drag you back with me.”
Alex turned to Alice and whispered, “Can he do that?”
“Don’t know,” she replied.
Albert tried to grab the pair, but couldn’t establish a grip on them. He phased out alone.
“What just happened?” Alex asked.
“Must have been the Eddies. Maybe some of them hung around to protect us from Albert’s attempts to get us back. Let’s go and see Mum and Dad.”
Unexpectedly, Al was waiting for them in the hallway.
“Did something just happen?” he asked his children, “I feel different.”
“Different how?” Alice asked.
“I don’t know. I somehow felt, just for a second, alone. It was as though an old friend had just left me.”
Alex and Alice explained their decision and its consequences to their father, and told him of their subsequent conversation with Albert.
“So he couldn’t drag you away?”
“No,” Alice said.
“And that was these… Eddies. The same things that let you do time-travel.”
“We think so.”
“So where do we go from here?” he asked.
“We want to go back to being who we were before all this stuff started, Dad. I don’t think I can go back to school, though,” Alice said, “I’ve been away too long, and besides, I know more about most things than the teachers do.”
“Leave that with me,” Al said to her, “I’ll see if I can get you classed as home-schooled, so you can take A-levels. Then you can choose what university courses you’d like to follow.” Turning to Alex, he asked, “How about you, young man?”
“Can you call me Alex again, Dad?” he said, “Can I switch to humanities at school? Maths and sciences bore me. Alice and I know stuff that hasn’t been discovered yet, so there’s nothing they can teach me there.”
“Fair enough, Son. I’ll explain everything to your mother. Welcome back, both of you,” Al said. “I’d better find your mother and break this to her. You two stay here until I have, okay?”
“Okay, Dad,” Alice said.
Chav and Ixus came rushing in excitedly, having sensed the youngsters’ presence. Alex sent them a brief summary of what had changed, at which they both rolled onto their backs for a tummy tickle.
Some minutes later, Al came back in and announced, “Your mother is okay with everything. I’ve left her making arrangements.”
“For a holiday. We’re all going off on a holiday. We’ll drive to Dover and get on a ferry to France. We’re going to go camping for a couple of weeks. Our first proper family holiday for too many years.”
Alice and Alex signified their approval of this arrangement.
“It won’t be as quick as your way,” he said, “we can’t just shimmer there; but it’ll be a proper holiday, like a proper family.”
“And that’s exactly what we need,” Alex said.
THE END ?
a tale in weekly parts
“I think it can work,” Xander said to Kr’veth’neq’is, “I think we can activate the permissions circuits to keep them out. But I don’t see a way to do it to ourselves.”
“Can we do it to each other?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked.
“These circuits are like firewalls. The entity that contains the firewall can’t change it. It can only be changed by whoever—”
“Or whatever, has administrator rights.”
“That means A & J,” Kr’veth’neq’is suggested, “which is exactly who we are trying to keep out.”
“There is one other possibility,” Xander said.
“Something that is more powerful than them. Something that, though they won’t ever admit it, actually controls them.”
Kr’veth’neq’is experienced one of those light-bulb moments; the flash of realisation that is so rare, even for the gifted.
“Eddies?” she asked.
“Eddies,” Xander replied.
Now; as everyone knows (or at least, anyone who has been with us since about part 51), Eddies are Ephemoral Dimension Drift Interface Engines. They number in the googolplexes of googolplexes (a googolplex is one with a googol of zeroes after it, and before you ask, a googol is one with one hundred zeroes after it), and they account for about five-sixths of the matter in the universe.
Kr’veth’neq’is furrowed her brow and screwed her nose up. Rather prettily, Xander thought, then reminded himself that she was his sister, and dismissed the thought.
“Can they do that? Can they change our firewall rules?” she asked.
“I’d be surprised if they can’t” Xander replied, “The question is, though, will they want to? They know already what we are thinking about, but is their relationship with A & J such that they will prevent us from shutting them out?”
“Perhaps if we can convince them that we don’t actually want to use it, only to be able to use it; perhaps as a bargaining chip when we’re negotiating with A & J—”
“Yeah. That’s not going to happen.”
“You know when we were younger, Mum always knew what we were doing, even if she wasn’t in the house?”
“She said she had eyes in the back of her head. She didn’t, I checked.”
“Eddies do. Eddies are the eyes in the back of their own heads. They are omnidimensionally omnipresent. You can’t get away from them.”
“Xander,” Kr’veth’neq’is said hesitantly, “did you feel something then. Well, not so much feel as, I don’t know, experience.”
“I did. Try to shut me out.”
Immediately the thought left his mind, he became aware that his sister was no longer there. She was still physically there; he could see her, he could reach out and touch her (stop that – she’s his sister), but he could no longer sense her.
“Now you shut me out,” she said, this time using the paraphernalia of human speech; mouth, vocal chords, that sort of thing. Xander closed the route from her to him. “We can do it!” she shouted.
“What can you do?” Jarvis’s tones echoed through their minds – and stopped, suddenly, before he could say any more.
The bitek entity that was Albert and/or Jarvis became alarmed. Never before (or since, given their casual relationship with time) have any of their creature-based experiments gained the ability to shut hem out of their minds. The entity immediately phased to its point of origin to study its plans, hoping to find a way to prevent this calamity.
Back on Terra, the young siblings re-opened their minds to each other, but kept all other routes (except, of course to their dogs) closed.
A conversation passed between them in the blink of an eye.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with this bitek thing,” Kr’veth’neq’is said, “but I don’t know that I want to do it for ever.”
“I know what you mean, Sis,” Xander replied, “It’s a bit like going on holiday. While you’re there, you think it’s the best place ever, and you’d love to live there. But it’s more the holiday than the place that you love.”
“This has been like a gap year for me, Xander. I’ve loved every minute of it – well, most of them, that thing on Mendacium was a bit scary. Even though you pulled me out before anything bad happened to me, I am aware of the bad stuff; it left it’s shadow. But apart from that, it’s been great. But this being pregnant business drove it home to me that A & J aren’t our friends, they’re our masters, and I don’t like that. It’ll be hard to stop after all this time, but I think I need to.”
“Any idea how?”
“If they can do it, I want the Eddies to deactivate all my bitek. I want to go back to being Alice again. I want to be normal.”
“I’m with you there, Sis. I like being smart. I like being the brainbox of my class, but the rest of it is less fun each trip. Tell you what. Let’s try to negotiate with the Eddies to leave the intellectual parts, but remove everything else. I’d like to still be able to talk with Chav and Ixus, though.”
“And your name? If I go back to Alice—”
“I’ll go back to Alex,” he replied.
The siblings were suddenly in possession of a single fragment of information. They knew that their mental abilities remained, but that they could no longer call on the Eddies to transport or transform them. Alice, for that’s who she now was, knew also that the changes that had initiated her reproductive system had been undone and had never happened.
“Who’s going to tell Mum and Dad?” Alice asked.
“We’ll tell them together,” Alex replied.
a tale in weekly parts
The school day dragged for Xander, as it always did. The worse subjects for him were, of course, mathematics, physics and ICT. His knowledge in these areas was not just greater than that of his teachers, it was greater than that of any human limited to a biological brain. A small number of highly advanced mega-computers were beginning to approach speculatively a few things that he knew either as fact or as fantasy, but his school could no more access them than it could set itself up in orbit around Jupiter. History was a similar story. Some of what was being taught was just plain wrong, but he couldn’t propose any alternative interpretation without revealing that he had, in many cases, been there/then and seen it for himself.
The areas he did enjoy were the real human subjects; topics where his bitek couldn’t help. Biology he tolerated, music and the visual arts he loved. But what he enjoyed most was, without any doubt, philosophy; the human brain pondering and trying to make sense of its very existence. Oh, he was familiar with pretty well every word that had been written on the subject, from the Mahabharata to Pritchard’s Epistemic Angst and beyond, but his thirst was too great for the written word to quench. What he craved was mind on mind discourse with equals on a subject that was beyond bitek, one where he could really stretch that part of his brain that remained completely human.
Neither philosophy nor the arts, nor even the philosophy of art were timetabled, so he allowed most of his mind to wander. He left a little behind to raise the odd query to which he already knew the answer, or to answer wrongly questions that he was more than capable of answering correctly, this to make him appear ‘normal’.
He found Kr’veth’neq’is in Italy, in the year 1754. She was deep in conversation with St Gerard Majella. Of course, he wasn’t a Saint at that time, but he was doing the counselling work and other things that led the church to beatify and canonise him at the turn of the twentieth century. Thinking about it, to whom else would she turn than the Patron Saint of Expectant Mothers and Unborn Children? Xander shielded himself and listened in.
“And how came you to be in this condition if no man has touched you?” the holy man asked, “you surely are not comparing yourself with the Mother of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for that would be blasphemy indeed.”
“Indeed I am not,” Kr’veth’neq’is replied. “I fear that my condition was brought on by advanced technology.”
“I know nothing of this advanced technology of which you speak. Enlighten me, child. What is its nature?”
“It’s a kind of magic,” she replied.
“It would seem thus.”
“I will pray for you, child.”
Xander lifted his shield, exposing his mind to his sibling.
“Thank you, Father,” she said, “I must away to the bosom of my family, there to find the solace and comfort I need.”
“And the Lord will be with you.”
Kr’veth’neq’is phased back to meet Xander as he left school.
“How was your day, brother of mine?” she asked him.
“Fascinating, engaging and absorbing enough for me to seek you out,” he replied.
“No philosophy or art today?”
“Nor even the philosophy of art.”
“I am so glad I left school when I did. So stifling!”
“Yeah, but we have to put on a show of being normal, whatever that means.”
“So,” Kr’veth’neq’is continued, “how much did you hear?”
“Nothing before he asked you how you became pregnant without being… you know.”
“Yes, I do know. I would have preferred that to the remote genetic manipulation they used. At least I would have had the pleasure before the pain. As it is…”
“I understand,” Xander sympathised, “but Dad and I had a good talk last night, and he wants a family meeting to thrash it out.”
“There’s nothing he can do, though. And how can we have a family meeting without filling Mum in on… well… everything?”
“That’s for Dad to sort out. I think he’s told her a lot already.”
“But what can any of us do? Albert and Jarvis are too powerful for us.”
“I have an idea, Kr’veth’neq’is. When they upgraded our bitek, they conveniently routed around the permission circuit.”
“What does that mean, Xander?”
“If we can will the permission circuit back on, they can only enter our minds and control us with our say-so. Without it, we are a closed book to them.”
“How do you know this?”
“Before I came looking for you this afternoon, I delved into my bitek, and that of the dogs. There was, in all of us, a chunk of pathways that were by-passed. I managed to reset Chav’s, then couldn’t enter his mind. I skirted it and asked him if I could enter, he said I could, then I was in again.”
“Xander, you clever little fellow. I think you may just be onto something there.”