MVC Podcast 14:
Volunteer Surrogate Drone,
and Baggit & Eva
[01:06:29] May 26th, 2023
Just another yin-yang of infiltration and sabotage.
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So, we’re getting toward the end of this series, the penultimate explanation of all things New World Empire and Interdimensional Coffeehouse related. If this is the first time you’re watching one of these videos, I would strongly suggest clicking up here in the corner and starting at the beginning of the series. That’s for the people on YouTube, of course. For those listening to the audio-only Podcast, hello! I haven’t forgotten you. Y’all might want to start with the first episode of the Podcast, though. Those of you on The Internet Archive, you’re already smart enough to be on The Internet Archive poking around, so I’ll let you figure it out.
For today, we’ll be taking a step backward, to read a chapter from “The Multiverse Cartographer” called “Volunteer Surrogate Drone,” then taking two steps forward to another chapter from “The Multiverse Cartographer” called “Baggit & Eva” in which we’ll get to see how Baggit turned out as he grew into a young adult. You remember Baggit? Blythe’s little brother? Also, we’ll get to see who this “Eva” is and what Edward has done with the Genesis reference. That’s me, I’m Edward, I just sometimes refer to myself in the third person. Totally healthy, or so I tell me. Or him.
First, I’ll read the chapter, then I’ll break it down. Without further ado: VOLUNTEER SURROGATE DRONE
The most honorable thing a person can do is to voluntarily take the place of a Drone the moment their connection to The Machine is severed. One must undergo rigorous training before-hand, and carefully monitor and study the Drone’s behavior before it is done, in order to imitate them precisely.
The VSD must remain unconscious, with their body well cared for and guarded by others for weeks, months, or even years. Lincolns and other Free World hackers then redirect the Drone’s connection to a space where they can be deprogrammed, in order to be safely unplugged. Meanwhile, the VSD spends every waking moment performing an act.
The VSD is trained to perform every task, to do several things simultaneously, all the while maintaining the balance between forgetting who they are outwardly, and remembering who they are on the deepest level.
They cannot forget that they are not really the Drone, yet in every way they must behave like they are. They must appear, even in their thoughts and feelings, to be unconscious and hypnotized, an obedient cog in The Machine.
Once the Drone has been deprogrammed, their body can be unplugged. A team of Rebels must physically break into the building where the body is being held, and remove it. Only then can the VSD stop working.
In New Ancient Land, successful completion of the freeing of a Drone earns the VSD the title of ‘Saint’. People don’t usually go around introducing themselves as such but, after they’re dead, it is how they are remembered.
They are the heroes. Charles the Grey is among them, but for him it was not so difficult. For Humans, being a VSD is probably the greatest of all challenges. They are most often permanently psychologically scarred by it, and must undergo their own kind of deprogramming process afterward.
Charles the Grey said, “We shall do it, exactly as thou sayest.”
“I’ll leave you to it,” Charles Reuben said.
“We will meet again,” Charles the Grey replied.
“Nice to meet you, Blythe,”
“Same. Give my best to Clara.”
“I’ll tell her.” The strange young man in the silver suit looked in a notebook, then left through one of the doors on the pyramid.
Blythe turned back to Charles the Grey, “Whither do we start?”
Charles the Grey motioned for her to sit at a nearby table, “Thou hast already seen the first five Palaces of New Ancient Land. That should be enough mental training. Plus, thou’st spent ten Earth-years as a Drone thyself. I believe that is enough preparation. Thou knowest Simon very well, aye?”
“All my life.”
“Dost thou feel thou could imitate him, even in thy thoughts?”
Blythe was a little repulsed by the idea. “Methinks.”
“We shall have to test thee, to be sure thou wilt not succumb to the trance. The Lincolns will require it. We shall need to establish contact with Simon, as Jobe and I did with thee. I will show thee the way.”
“This is a great sacrifice. It may take years. It is even possible that thou wilt never return.”
“I understand the risks. I am ready,” Blythe assured him.
“Thou’lt need help from the others in the subways. Someone must look after thee, feed thee intravenously.” Charles the Grey stood, “Let us continue in thy Free World apartment.”
Blythe approached a pyramid door, “Can we go thither through yon door?”
“Nay, ‘tis something else. This way.” Charles the Grey stepped up onto the square from which he had made his dramatic entrance, and held out his hand. She took his hand, and stepped up onto the square.
Simon was exhausted after Palace Two.
There was a waiting area, which served drinks, between the second and third Palaces. The drinks there tasted real, but did not quench your thirst. Not like the drinks at The Coffeehouse, which technically wasn’t in the Free Web but, rather, inside the two-dimensional Rectangle which also served as the pyramid’s doorways.
Charles Reuben was there too, but ten years older than he was when he and Charles the Grey first met.
A few months prior, Charles Reuben had opened a doorway on Venus in Greg’s 2124, on the day which history had recorded that Doctor Fathom disappeared.
Charles Reuben had explained this to Doctor Fathom, and gave him the option to join him in his travels. This sounded perfectly reasonable to Doctor Fathom, so he followed him into The Coffeehouse, leaving Venus in the care of Son Fathom.
More recently, Charles Reuben had been introducing Doctor Fathom to the Palaces. It was not a coincidence that their arrival at the courtyard before Palace Three coincided with that of Charles the Grey and Simon.
After so many years of Multiverse Cartography, Charles Reuben had become rather adept at that sort of thing.
Simon saw Charles the Grey standing near the entrance and approached him, “I cannot thank thee enough for what thou’rt doing.”
“’Tis coming back to thee then?” Charles the Grey replied.
“I was on my way to pick up supplies. The next thing I remember, I was in hell. I have had some time to think about it now, so many days of munching on leaves and crouching in straw huts in thunderstorms and all. This is my deprogramming, is it not?”
“So, I was thinking. I know I would be here not an someone were not in my place as VSD. ‘Tis Blythe, is it not? ‘Tis exactly what she would do.”
Charles the Grey nodded in agreement, “Aye, ‘tis exactly what she would do.”
Simon looked through the green George Gordon windows of Charles the Grey’s soul. “She spoke of thee. She was always very focused on her mission, but when she spoke of thee, I could tell… she thinks very highly of thee.”
“And I of her, Simon.”
They left it at that, and walked to the bar. Simon changed the subject, “I have studied some of this New Ancient Land stuff, whatever I could find. I have never been so emersed in the Web before, never had augments before I was arrested. How long has’t been since I left, since she took over for me?”
“’Twas two months ago,” Charles the Grey said.
Simon looked down at his simulated shoes, “Wherefore so long?”
“’Tis different for everyone. Wouldst thou like a drink, Simon?”
“They hath whiskey?”
“Aye, only t’will not get thee drunk.”
“’Tis okay, I can pretend.” Simon ordered an Irish Whiskey on the rocks, Charles the Grey a black coffee.
“Charles!” a tall muscular blond man approached, “Fancy meeting thee here! Is this Blythe’s errand boy?”
Simon stopped sipping his drink, coughed, and said “Pardon?”
“Payest thou no attention to that crazy Venusian,” Charles the Grey winked at Simon. “Roy, meet Simon, Blue Bird Simon. Simon, this is my cousin Roy.”
Simon raised an eyebrow, and shook Roy’s hand. “So, thou’rt Venusian too?”
“I am. Charles and I grew up together.”
“Nice! Now, what was this about ‘errand boy’?”
“Just pulling thy leg. Blythe is the one in charge, is she not?”
“Well, ‘tis true enough, but I did take care of her when we were kids.”
“Is that right?” Roy ordered a beer.
Simon asked, “How art thou hither, dost thou have augments or art thou wearing visor and suit?”
“Need them not. Something about the Grey brain we inherited, we can tap right in. I am back on Venus, sitting comfortably with mine eyes closed.”
“Wild!” Simon tapped his glass to Roy’s bottle, “To alien brains!”
“Good a toast as any, I guess.”
Simon finished his whiskey just as Charles Reuben and Doctor Fathom arrived.
“Charles!” Charles Reuben said to Charles the Grey.
Charles the Grey replied, “Charles? ‘Tis thee? We only recently met!”
“I know! That was years ago for me, but I knew you’d be here today. I wanted to introduce you to someone very special.”
Doctor Fathom blushed, “Well, now, I…”
“I know that face!” Charles the Grey shook his hand, “Thou’rt a Fathom!”
“Fourth Samuel, unless thou countest Samuel.”
Charles the Grey cocked his head to one side, “Making thee… The Doctor.”
“Well done, sir!”
Simon was getting impatient, “Sorry to interrupt, but I…”
Charles Reuben extended his hand, “So rude of me, I’m Charles Reuben, you must be Blue Bird Simon Schwartz.”
Simon shook Charles Reuben’s hand, “Yes, how dost thou know?”
“You’re in a hurry, I understand. You’re almost done, don’t worry. When you get back home, tell Blythe ‘Charles but not Charles’ says hi, tell her the one with the goldfish bowl helmet.”
“Aye, I will,” Simon was bewildered.
“This way, Simon, they be ready for thee,” said Charles the Grey. “I shall return withal, goest thou nowhere!”
Charles Reuben laughed, “Of course!”
So, first, the title. Volunteer: These are people who willingly opt to take on the task. Surrogate: They are taking the place of the people who have been arrested or born into being or in some other way have become Drones. The Surrogates have to act as though they were in a zombie trance 24 hours a day, and must undergo a great deal of training and preparation before they can do so. It helps if they have been Drones themselves in the past.
Imagine if you were trying to break someone out of prison, it might help to have been an inmate before, since then you’d know the basic layout of the prison, the schedules of the prisoners, and so on. You’d also, this case, have the classic cyberpunk plug in the back of the head best known from the popular Matrix movie series, though it was already something of a cyberpunk trope before that.
Once, back in the 70s before I was born, my parents were alarmed when the walls were pounding and many voices were chanting. My dad said, “It’s playing with my motor nerves.” It being the demon of course, obviously. My mom said, “Get rid of it,” and he said, “I want to see what it wants first.” She said, “Don’t see what it wants just get rid of it!” and he replied, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?!” Or it, I should say, replied through him. Not to worry, it all worked out in the end.
I bring it up because by “motor nerves” he was referring to the back of the head, at the top of the neck. I learned this story when I was ten years old and immediately requested to be baptized, though in secret. I didn’t want my Western Esotericist cum Vajrayana Buddhist dad to know. Not that he’d have been upset, or anything, just that after so many years of making fun of Christians with him I would have been embarrassed.
“Cum,” by the way, is a preposition which means “with.” It comes from Latin, and was used in conventional British English up until some point long after it had faded from regular usage in the United States. Meanwhile, here in India, its use in conventional daily speech has continued up to the present day, whereas in American English it has for decades been replace with a similar word, a homograph, if you will, which is a verb meaning to ejaculate or, more generally, orgasm, since it is used by and in reference to females as well. As a noun, it means semen.
Here, for those watching the video version, are a few examples of this present-day usage of cum as a preposition here in India. I must confess that, having lived my first 39 years in the U.S. and only the most recent 5 years in India, I do still giggle every time I see it here, and often take a picture, like that ones you just saw.
But, I digress. Back to the plug in the back of the neck. So, there’s a kind of personal double-meaning there, which first cemented itself in my brain, not unlike crusty old cum, after watching Johnny Mnemonic, which popularized the cyberpunk trope of Keanu Reeves, specifically, with a plug in the back of his neck. I thought, “What a terrifying new spin on the old demons entering through the motor-nerves trope,” which possibly only existed within my own family? Comment below.
So, that’s the title. A person takes on the burden of possession, torture, of being a cog in the machine of some corporation doing busywork to justify one’s existence in exchange for life-support and credits to be spent on sensual pleasures whose sole purpose is to help dull the mental and emotional anguish of being a cog in such a machine, having one’s entire life’s blood, soul, identity, mind and heart drained by the single least meaningful pursuit one could possibly engage in, for fear of losing one’s air-conditioning, and becoming homeless. Sorry, I started talking about the real world for a minute there. I’ll try to stay focused on the story.
So, in the New World Empire universe, in the 27th century, the most honorable thing a person can do is to become a Volunteer Surrogate Drone, to take the place of a Drone who can then be deprogrammed, so as to be able to be removed from The Machine. There were times I felt like I was doing this, when I was in my 20s. I would attend the cult meetings, work in my cubicle in the Entertainment Industry, and think that by sacrificing my time, life, and mind, I was in one way or another creating space for others to come out of the hypnosis of the modern world.
See, I had a temple in my house, and often one or two or more people living there rent-free, in northeast Los Angeles where rent was becoming prohibitively higher year by year. These people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, were able to spend a few months or years waking up late, having a coffee, smoking some weed, and then studying magic or doing ritual work and meditation in the temple, rather than working 40 hours a week and spending the remaining hours crying out, “God why have you forsaken me” and/or numbing themselves with TV and alcohol, like everyone else in the world.
Looking back, it might be more accurate to say that I was being taken advantage of for my kindness, and trying to rationalize the imbalance with a sort of martyrdom story. Also, from a practical perspective, I might not have been doing them any favors, since they would then have a huge gap in their resumes, not having spent that time focusing on survival, career, being self-sufficient, independent, and so on. I guess it was more of a fantasy, some imagined rebel utopia, a bit like that depicted in the story.
These Volunteers had to find a way to maintain their sanity, and their sense of who they were, in spite of spending every waking moment not only acting but thinking according to the dictates of The Empire. Is that even possible? Well, as mentioned, even after all that training the Volunteers also needed to go through a deprogramming period afterward.
“Saint” was the title given to one who has been a Volunteer Surrogate Drone. What ever became of the Catholic Church in this universe? We know Henry VIII didn’t split from the Roman Church, and likely teamed up with Spain and the others to stomp out any resistance movements in northern Europe, one might assume, so it seems like the New World Empire might have been an else-world evolution of the church never having lost the steam of its position of power.
Then again, a once “New” World Empire based in what we in our universe call New York implies an end to the “Old” World Empire, presumably that of England or Rome or both. Somewhere in there is a little bit of a “Golden Compass” vibe, isn’t there? Though I hadn’t read those books at the time. Might be interesting to explore some of these questions later in life in future publications, if it can be done. Whatever the case may be, the idea of “Saints” doesn’t come up anywhere in the New World Empire storyline except when it is used by the Rebels in this context, or in the case of “Saint” Teilhard who led the Whitebird heist where thirty Rebels flew to Venus in the chapter called “Jobe.”
So, after the introduction, we jump back into the end of the meeting which took place between Charles the Grey, Blythe, and Charles Reuben having been sent by Clara to the original Coffeehouse island mere moments after it had been created by Charles the Grey. One wonders what Charles the Grey would have added or changed about the island if Blythe hadn’t interrupted him, since this was how he’d left it when Simon multiplied it and added the cookies of Blythe, to borrow a term from Black Mirror. As we know from “Green Eyes” Charles Reuben left this conversation and met with Goth Clara, and that whole drama. This time we’ve remained behind with Charles the Grey and Blythe to learn how their conversation went after he left.
Charles the Grey explains that for as long as it takes for Simon to be able to free himself, she will have to remain in his place, not only acting as a Drone, but acting how Simon would act as a Drone. You might remember in the opening of the chapter called “Palace Three” Blythe choosing to spend her credits on the experience of listening to a remix of Carmina Burana that Simon liked, but she did not, then performing a mantra deep down in her mind where the manager god could not detect in order to try to produce a similar emotional response to the music that Simon might have had. This is sort of equivalent to a person not only working in an office 9 to 5 to survive and keep up appearances, but also going to Happy Hour after work with their co-workers to survive and keep up appearances because what else would they be doing after work, hmm? Do they have some kind of secret alternate life they have to run off to, hmm? Are they in a CULT? Sorry, just having another flashback to the mid oughts. Happens sometimes.
When Charles the Grey suggests they continue the conversation in her Free World apartment, she asks if they can get there through one of the pyramid doors, and he says no that’s something else. We, of course, know that the Pyramid doors are Jobe’s Rectangles, and lead to other universes and times and such. Their goal is to rescue Simon so getting sidetracked with interdimensional shenanigans wouldn’t really be convenient for them right now.
That brings up an interesting point. Do Blythe and Simon and them ever visit The Coffeehouse, meet Clara and so on? I’m guessing they don’t, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of it. If they did, they could use it to their advantage in the war with The Empire, or exit that universe entirely, even bring all the Rebels, and go settle on a friendlier version of Earth, or anywhere really. I’m not sure why they didn’t do that. If I had to guess I’d say maybe Charles the Grey thought that using it for war would be unethical? Plus, the Rebels probably wouldn’t be interested in hopping around to other universes. Like Bird Person, they would probably prefer to stick to the mission, stay where the fight was. I don’t know, I really don’t. Plot hole number 4, Edward.
Next up we have a scene which takes place just before the chapter called “Palace Three” as evidenced by the fact that Simon had just finished Palace Two and he and Charles the Grey stop for drinks just before the entrance to Palace Three. So, we already know that after this scene takes place Simon will become the Emperor of the Niyenzes and create Clara and escape The Matrix and all that. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably didn’t take my advice about watching this series in order. That’s okay, it’s just, you know. It helps.
Now, the Free Worlds and the Palaces of New Ancient Land which they contain are in the 27th century equivalent of The Dark Web, as you know, so while you can taste the drinks at the little snack bar outside Palace Three, the alcoholic drinks don’t get you drunk. This Matrix is sophisticated, but not that sophisticated. The Coffeehouse, on the other hand, exists in a kind of pocket-universe, inside the infinitely thin space between the front and back of Jobe’s Rectangle. There, the drinks get you drunk.
One thing that’s probably too subtle, or won’t compute in the brain of a modern human, is the idea that a person can physically walk through a portal into The Coffeehouse and a simulated person in this virtual space can also walk through a simulated portal and find themselves in The Coffeehouse. But, you might ask, is it the simulated projection of you that ends up there? Is your physical body still plugged in somewhere in a dank ancient abandoned subway being fed intravenously or something while you go dimension hopping beside your friend who brought his physical body with him? These are all good questions! I would add one more thing, you can also pass from physical space, through The Coffeehouse, into astral space as well. Or, you can astral project to The Coffeehouse, pass through one of the doors, and enter into physical dimensions. Just be careful how you phrase the instructions you give the pyramid, though, as it takes things very literally, and you might end up a baby in another dimension while you’re still plugged in in the subway being fed intravenously, and that couldn’t be pretty confusing. Plot hole number five! I’m just fucking with ya.
So, we get not really a flashback but an explanation that Charles Reuben and Doctor Fathom are there as well, but Charles Reuben is ten years older than he is, or was, when we last read about his adventures, and Doctor Fathom is a bit older than he was when Joe Zabinski was telling us about a day in his life with “Son.” Are there still eight septillion Charles Reubens you ask? Well, no, not at the moment, at least not at that age. That gets resolved, don’t worry. We’ll get into that in a future video, Multiverse Cartographer part 16.
At this point Simon and Charles the Grey have a brief heart-to-heart in which we learn that while Simon was going through initiation into Palace One, and at least partway into his “that was weird” experience of Palace Two, remember with the cups of poo and pee and all that? Survival training? No? We learn that only now is he starting to remember what happened and how he had gotten arrested, and become a Drone, and is just now starting to realize why Charles the Grey was taking him on this strange journey. He even put together that Blythe must be standing in for him as a Volunteer Surrogate Drone, and awkwardly tries to tell Charles the Grey that he is very special to Blythe. Let the shipping fan fiction commence! Actually, originally, in “Second Fruit” Charles and Blythe were dating, so… perhaps there’s something to that. I wouldn’t know, I’m just the author you know.
We also learn that Simon didn’t have a plug in his neck before he was arrested. This implies that his prowess as a 27th century hacker was entirely accomplished through external interfaces, suits, that lens he was using to search for Red Birds, you remember? Also, since we already know how this turns out, when he hacks into Palace Three and removes the replica of Blythe as Handrite Empress, then navigates through Charles the Grey to The Coffeehouse, he’s doing all this by way of his direct connection, through the plug in his brain, using knowledge and experience he gained without a direct interface.
Next, over drinks, we meet Charles the Grey’s Venusian cousin Roy, who’s familiar with Charles the Grey’s stories and knows who Simon is already. Roy will come up later, not today, but just file his name away from now. Simon objects to his calling him “Blythe’s errand boy,” and they toast to alien brains. You can use that, next time you’re trying to think of a toast.
Next Charles and Charles meet, no doubt they catch up a bit while Simon is spending his time dilated years ruling the land, and Charles the Grey correctly guesses which of the Fathoms Charles Reuben is traveling with, though if he’s already read The Multiverse Cartographer that Charles Reuben is still writing he may have had some foreknowledge of this meeting. Who knows?
And there you have it! Volunteer Surrogate Drone. Next up, we have a chapter called “Baggit & Eva.” As before, I’ll read it all the way through, and then break it down.
BAGGIT & EVA
Baggit met Billy the day after Blythe plugged in as a VSD for Simon, and Simon went with Charles the Grey to New Ancient Land. Simon was the first person to move directly from the Drone-trance to initiation into Palace One, so The Lincolns were quite interested to see what the results would be.
Anyhow, Baggit was 23, small in stature, but in Underground America he made himself tall, muscular, and bald, and wore a blue militaristic uniform.
Baggit came to Billy’s, the restaurant on 85th, misremembering and thinking it was where Charles the Grey and Blythe had first met.
Baggit went around introducing himself as ‘Blue Bird Sergeant Baggit, assistant to General Blythe of the New World Center Subways’. This earned him a lot of dirty looks, as no one wanted to hear Rebels referring to themselves with the same words as the Red Birds.
Billy was smoking a long wooden pipe, and sat down at a table with Baggit.
“Pleasure to meet thee, Baggit. I have heard a lot about thee.”
“Then I am at a disadvantage.”
“Ah, forgive me, I am Billy. Like the sign,” Billy pointed his pipe toward the backward pink neon sign intended to be read from the other side of the glass.
“Oh, I see. Well, ‘tis nice to meet thee, Billy. Thou probably already knowest, I am the assistant to…"
“Aye, I know.”
Charles the Grey, with part of his consciousness, was in the courtyard before Palace Three with Doctor Fathom and Charles Reuben. The other part of his consciousness was in Underground America in the form of Billy, cleaning dishes and listening to Baggit outside raving to a small crowd.
“Here ye! Listen to me! Do ye ever learn?! Only because Blythe is off rescuing Simon’t gives us nay right to sit around hiding, we have an obligation! Free Humanity dependeth on us being strong! Moving forward!”
Baggit-as-bald-soldier paced back and forth in front of a large map he had placed over the widow at Billy’s restaurant.
He continued pacing back and forth, hoping he would find the perfect words to say to spark a full-scale uprising right then and there.
Eventually, the crowd got bored and left.
“Billy, I want thee to meet my very special friend Reynolds.” Baggit announced.
“Glad to meet thee Reynolds,” Billy said, extending his hand. Reynolds also wore a blue Rebel’s uniform, like Baggit’s. Billy said, “Been seeing more of those blue uniforms lately. Usually when jacks come to Underground America ‘tis to get away from the troubles of the outside.”
“’Tis quite disturbing to hear that, Billy,” Reynolds replied.
Billy smiled, “I am truly sorry thou feelest that way.”
Another man interjected from one of the tables, “Most people who actually fight for a living take a break from it once in a while, do something else besides killing people. But I guess thy killing uniforms are a matter of pride, eh?”
“Art thou insulting us?” Baggit was enraged, “Dost thou know to who I am?! Dost thou know to whom thou’rt now speaking!?”
The stranger replied, “Aye, thou’rt Blythe’s little brother, art thou not?”
Reynolds, noticing Baggit’s mounting rage, put his hand on Baggit’s shoulder, “We should leave now.”
Baggit had a brief stare-down with the stranger before he turned back to Billy, “We are leaving now. Expect us not to come back!”
Baggit brought Reynolds back to his Free World apartment. He hadn’t started creating it yet, so it was just a hundred square meters of blank space.
Baggit asked Reynolds, “Dost thou think we can use this place to help out The Revolution?”
Reynolds humored him, “Aye methinks this place hath potential.”
“Blythe hath a map of New World Center up on the wall at her place. I would take thee there, but her settings only alloweth for me to go alone.”
“Thou’rt a lucky man, Baggit.”
“Mayhaps.” Baggit looked down for a few seconds then looked up. “Apartment... may I have a map here like the one in Blythe’s apartment?”
A synthetic voice replied “The Map in Blythe’s room defaulteth to one to ten-thousand scale grid, with her physical location at the center. Does thou wish to have’t to the same specifications?”
“Aye, but with my location, and make this room the same as hers, with the desk and the chair and all.” …and it was so.
“I knew not it was so easy.” Baggit looked around at the natural wood, the plants and the paintings. “Apartment, remove the paintings and plants, make the walls grey brick like the subways. The ground too, cement.” …and it was so.
“Much better.” Baggit looked around, and looked through the sliding glass doors to the balcony with the view of the ocean.
“Apartment, make the balcony ground cement like the inside, and the rail rusted metal. Instead of the ocean, make a view of New World Center, seen from 200 meters above.” …and it was so.
Baggit looked around and nodded, satisfied. “Reynolds, what dost thou think of Blythe taking the place of Simon?”
“Methinks it very noble. The most heroic thing a person can do for another person.”
“Thou thinkest not it was quite selfish? We need her for The Resistance! She was the best!”
“How is it selfish?” Reynolds asked.
“She letteth her personal feelings of friendship or whatever keep her away from the mission!”
Reynolds stood stroking his chin, “Gee, Baggit, I never thought of it that way. Say, could we have some chairs or something?”
Baggit was distracted, frowning, then said, “Oh, aye. Apartment, some chairs please. Ten metal folding chairs. In rows! Facing the desk.” …and it was so.
Reynolds sat down in one of the chairs.
Baggit said, “Apartment, move the desk away from the wall, and put the chair on the other side of it.” …and it was so.
Baggit walked to the other side of the large wooden desk, and sat in the big swiveling chair, like a teacher addressing a classroom of just Reynolds.
Reynolds continued, “We did alright without her for ten years. I mean, of course, when she did return we made a great deal of progress in but a few months, we need not stop only because she is out of commission for a while.”
Baggit leaned forward, with his elbows on the desk, pointing at Reynolds. “Exactly my point.”
Reynolds also leaned forward, “Baggit. There is someone I want thee to meet.”
“A lady. Now, get not the wrong idea. She is Venusian, like Blythe’s friend Charles the Grey. She is all about The Revolution, same as he, and she has offered to help to train thee to take the place of Blythe. Only until Blythe returneth, of course, and then thou’lt be of even more use. She can teach thee everything Blythe hath learned from Charles the Grey.”
Baggit was excited, “Aye… aye, I see… I see, aye… I mean… I agree! I want to meet her, ‘tis wonderous!”
Baggit paused for a moment and sat up, trying to regain his composure.
Reynolds continued, “I shall arrange the meeting. She is quite busy, as I understand’t. I shall get back to thee. Dost thou want to meet her here?”
Baggit sat back in his chair, looking around at his new headquarters, nodding, “Aye.”
“I will go and see an I can get in touch with her. It was good meeting with thee, Baggit. Long live The Revolution!” Reynolds held his fist in the air.
“Thou as well! I mean, Long Live The… wait, what is her name?”
Baggit was on his balcony gazing out at the city, trying to memorize all the locations.
“Balcony. Label the buildings with white letters in the air so I can see them. Make it always appear to be night-time.”
He sat on a large cement throne, and had removed the rail from the balcony.
The synthesized voice said, “Thou hast received a challenge to fight at the Colosseum. The challenger prefers to remain anonymous.”
“That bastard! Okay, well, uh… make me some armor. Clothes! Wearing them, I mean, instead of this uniform. Give me some nice armor to wear. Late medieval French, but blue. Metallic blue.” …and it was so.
“Wouldst thou please rephrase the command?” the voice replied.
“Make a full-length mirror appear in front of me.”
Baggit saw himself sitting on the throne in his blue armor. He liked the way he looked, but he didn’t like the way the helmet hid his eyes in darkness.
“Let mine eyes be visible from the outside, glowing blue eyes. Nay! Red eyes, like two lights in the shadow behind the opening in the helmet.” …and it was so.
“Save this appearance as… ‘mine armor’.”
“Appearance, ‘mine armor’ is saved,” the voice replied.
“Wouldst thou please rephrase the command?”
“From now on, when I say ‘sword’ and hold my hand like this, make a nice sword appear in my hand with a red handle, like the Rebels use.”
“Command ‘sword’ is saved.”
Baggit held up his hand, “Sword.” His sword appeared.
“Now, take me to the Colosseum.”
Baggit looked around at the stone rows of empty seats, kicked a rock on the dirt floor, and walked around waiting for the mysterious challenger.
He walked from one side of the field to the other, with the repetitive *clank*…*clank*…*clank* of his armor. He wished he could change his appearance, unhappy with the sounds his armor was making as he walked.
He walked clear to the other side, turned around and began walking back.
He paused, and thought for a moment.
“Apartment… canst thou hear me?”
“Aye, Baggit, I can hear thee,” the voice replied.
Baggit thought the voice was mocking him, but then realized it was speaking with the same tone of voice with which it said everything.
“Canst thou make it so it clanks not?” Baggit asked.
“Wouldst thou please rephrase the command?”
“Mute the sounds produced by my, uh, clothes,” Baggit clarified, and it was so.
Baggit grinned underneath his helmet, satisfied with his ingenuity, when something hit him in the back and thrust him forward, and he fell flat on his face.
He jumped up with intense indignation and adrenaline, and turned around to face his opponent.
He saw a thin figure with a full body black suit with only the eyes visible, holding two curved swords.
“Ninja!” he said aloud, and took out his sword. He whispered, “Apartment, another sword like this one, in my left hand.”
“Wouldst thou please rephrase the command?” the synthetic voice replied.
His opponent sheathed the two swords and stood with arms folded, waiting for Baggit.
He tried again, “Apartment! Replicate the sword in my right hand and place it in my left hand!” …and it was so.
The masked opponent lunged forward with both swords, and Baggit parried. They danced in a circle, moving through every classic move and counter-move he knew.
He began to suspect that his opponent was working beneath their level of skill, simply to match him, perhaps to exhaust him.
He began to panic, but then remembered we was wearing a suit and visor, standing in the subways beside his unconscious sister.
Just as he regained his confidence, his opponent lunged forward and pierced Baggit’s chest. He felt both blades enter his chest and exit through his back.
“I should feel that not!” He cried out, and his opponent laughed, waved a hand, and both swords vanished leaving Baggit’s armor unharmed.
The ninja stood facing him, and slowly morphed into a large beast, with two large bottom teeth that curved upward across the face, and two hairy fists holding spiked wooden clubs.
Baggit moved forward thrusting his right sword. The beast turned to avoid it, then stepped forward and picked up Baggit by his neck, and threw him to the ground.
Baggit lifted himself up again and turned around, dirty, exhausted, and panting with both swords drawn.
He saw before him a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, and a flowing silver dress. She was smiling, “Well done, Baggit, but thou hast much to learn.”
She looked at his armor, turned a palm upward and shrugged. She snapped and his armor was gone, and he was in his uniform again.
“How didst thou do that?” he asked her, his voice shaking.
She smiled at him, “The question should be, how do I do this.” She motioned with her hand, and he was a foot shorter.
He looked at his hands, then said, “Apartment, full length mirror.” He was face to face with his true physical form: awkward, malnourished, freckled. “Take the mirror away.”
He didn’t know what to say, and stared in disbelief at the beautiful woman.
After a few awkward moments, she spoke, “I do believe our mutual friend Reynolds hath mentioned I was looking for thee. I am Eva. I am here to help thee.”
Slowly, Baggit smiled.
“Quite an impressive space,” Eva glanced at the grey brick walls of Baggit’s Free World apartment. “Based on the subways, no doubt. A true anti-patriot,” she chuckled.
Baggit remained in his true appearance. “What is so funny?” he asked, masking his confusion, trying to sound offended.
She changed the subject. “Listen, we have not much time. Sadly, this thy sister doth know. She and Simon alone know what I have to show thee, but first there are some things thou dost need to understand.”
Baggit’s brows turned upward in confusion, which he immediately turned into an upward glance and nodded, as though he were thinking about something.
Eva rolled her eyes. “‘Tis simple,” she walked to the sliding glass doors, which parted for her, and she stood at the edge of the balcony beside Baggit’s throne. He followed her, and stood beside her.
“Thou hast most of what thou needst already.” She turned to face him. “Thou hast motivation. What thou dost lack, knowledge and skill. Thou’lt also need some physical work done, the augments. Thou needst to be fully here in this space.”
Baggit’s left fist at his hip and right hand under his chin might have indicated that he was a philosopher, but his eyes betrayed the reality that he was mostly interested in the subtle and deliberate details of Eva’s shiny silver dress as it adjusted to her every move.
He told himself that the mission to fight for The Resistance and his time spent with Eva were so dependent on one another that he could forget about the important things for a while. “What do Venusians look like?” he asked.
Eva laughed abruptly. “I was not expecting thee to say that.” She winked at him. “Look, we do not have much time. After thou’st defeated The Empire, we will have plenty of time to get to know each another. Now, focus.”
Eva stomped once on the ground and a narrow pathway of cement from underneath the edge of the balcony rolled out and downward, continuing to extend silently from where they stood. Eva began gracefully walking down this new path, and Baggit followed her.
He looked down at his blue clothed legs and black boots stepping on gray cement hundreds of meters above the ground. He knew he was still perfectly safe in the subways walking on a small circular treadmill but, looking down at the city so far below, he couldn’t help feeling an acute sense of vertigo.
He focused on the movements of Eva’s walking legs and hips behind a silver veil in front of him, and the fear dissipated. “Whither we going?” he asked.
She stopped walking, and turned to her right, pointing. “Thither." He followed her finger toward one of the skyscrapers below them. He squinted to see the moving graphs and grids in the digital lights on the building’s windows.
“Wherefore?” he asked, as she grabbed his wrist and jumped, pulling him with her. He gave a terrified yelp, then stopped himself, and their falling curved forward into a direct motion toward the side of the building.
Baggit was relieved at first, then terrified again as he saw the wall of digital lights coming toward him faster and faster.
‘I trust her. And, this is only a simulation’, he told himself.
The wall came and went, and they were standing in a hallway. Eva walked in front of him in the dimly lit place.
Eva explained, “This all be happening in the real world right now. These details come from the surveillance of The New World Empire.” She opened a door at the end of the hall.
Baggit looked around at the dimly lit rows of people lying on their backs on cots. “Can they see us hither?”
The office was very still, with only the slightest bit of movement from the slow, rhythmic breathing of the Drones. Some of them wore blue, others were naked.
“But The Resistance is hidden from the satellites.” Baggit said, more as a statement than a question.
“They have had centuries to practice hiding,” Eva replied.
“Wherefore thou sayest ‘they’ and not ‘we?’” Baggit asked.
Eva turned around and looked at Baggit, “Because, I am Venusian, of course. We need not resist. The Empire leaveth us alone, because of the strict non-interference. Some of us choose to help The Resistance, such as me and Charles the Grey.”
“Oh,” Baggit replied.
Baggit noticed needles in the arms of each of the comatose bodies. The needles were connected to tubes, all of which came together and passed through a hole in the wall. Around the hole was pinstriped wallpaper peeling in several places.
He turned to his right to see Eva standing there, looking at what appeared to be an antique watch on a small gold chain hanging from her fingers.
Baggit asked, “Wherefore are we here?”
“Shh,” Eva held her index finger to her lips, still looking at her watch, “A few more seconds.”
Now you might be asking, “What’s gonna happen in a few seconds? Why is she looking at her watch? How many chapters before we pick up right where this chapter left off?” and I respect that. I understand where you’re coming from. When the freed denizen of Plato’s cave came back to tell the others about the sun and three dimensional bodies he didn’t judge them for believing the world was nothing but shadows on the wall. I’m just kidding, of course. In truth, I wrote this whole segment probably while sitting at Swork Coffeehouse using their complimentary computer terminal you could gain access to by buying a coffee, and I think I did intend to pick up where this story left off, probably with an explosion Eva had orchestrated. The general idea being that now she’s going to be his mentor and guide, and teach him more advanced ways of being a Rebel General. She seems a little off, though, don’t you think? Reynolds claimed she was Venusian, and would help Baggit the way Charles the Grey had helped Blythe, but… really?
For one thing, you might remember in my breakdown of the chapter called “The Drones” I mentioned that Reynolds was a spy for The Empire, and that his intel must go pretty high up for him to know that particular manager-god was colorblind even though the Red Birds didn’t know that. Hmm… interesting, eh?
So, let’s start at the beginning. We already know that Billy is actually Charles the Grey, from the closing of the chapter called “The Lincolns,” Jobe said, “Billy? The Lincoln? Casn’t thou just be thyself,” or words to that effect. So, Charles the Grey is multitasking. He’s currently, at this moment, guiding Simon through the Palaces of New Ancient Land and running a restaurant in Underground America, Seneca Village specifically, and probably other things as well. Maybe harvesting corn back on Venus physically while he does it, you know those Venusians.
The chapter is pretty clear, no need to rehash everything. You get a sense that Baggit has a bit of an inferiority complex, always being in Blythe’s shadow, and is compensating with this militaristic avatar stomping around trying to give great speeches to the disinterested apathetic. He’s very passionate about The Revolution, but seems to envision himself in a particular role and is trying to force his vision to become a reality, whereas Blythe naturally became a leader by virtue of her skill and intellect, and later some unique experiences with being a Drone, being freed, and becoming friends with Charles the Grey and getting a Venusian perspective on things.
We get to know Charles the Grey’s Billy persona a bit more. Like Charles the Grey, Billy is a pacifist, and is “truly sorry to hear” Reynolds say he’s disturbed by the idea of people wanting to live their lives in peace rather than joining an army to fight The Empire. Though, again, this is Reynolds’ being a spy, and his zealous rebel persona an act, one which seems to be good enough to fool Charles the Grey, at least while he’s multitasking. So, why is Reynolds hanging around Baggit, encouraging him? Moving on…
A random guy in the restaurant starts talking some shit to Baggit and Reynolds on account of their simulated blue militaristic uniforms, which at this point in history haven’t yet become commonplace. He calls them killing uniforms, a bit reminiscent of how the hippies in the 60s would shout “baby killer!” at the returning veterans of the Vietnam War, except in this case it is people living off the grid who are angry with other people living off the grid for fighting the grid and possibly provoking retaliation. People like this restaurant patron would rather The Empire just left them alone and are content to hide, possibly feeling like resisting would be futile, thank you The Borg, so why even try? I get that, for sure.
They go back to Baggit’s unfinished Free World apartment, and Baggit keeps trying to position himself as the leader, making Reynolds sit as an audience member, an audience of one, listening to the teacher sit behind his desk. Baggit expresses some resentment against his sister for “wasting time” trying to rescue her friend rather than continuing to, I guess, blow things up. Reynolds speaks up for Blythe, then casually mentions he wants to introduce Baggit to Eva.
Later, Baggit gets a challenge to fight in the simulated arena. He accepts the challenge, and there’s a bit of silliness with Baggit trying to customize his armor and having a hard time communicating with the computer voice that controls, well, everything, basically. Some kind of AI The Lincolns put into effect, unless it’s actually one of The Lincolns speaking as the computer and just fucking with him. Either way works.
He fights the mysterious challenger, doesn’t do very well, until she reveals her true form as Eva. I say true form, this very likely is not her true form, but the form she’s chosen for this occasion. She claims to be Venusian, anyway, so it’s definitely not her true form if that were true, and likely not her true form even if its not true. We don’t know just yet. Maybe in a future chapter that will become clear. We shall see.
Baggit, being at that age, and likely not having any interesting enough cousins in the subways, is smitten with her. She reveals his true form, and he is embarrassed, but she inflates his ego with her words, even while condescending to him. She laughs that he chose to make his apartment look like the subways, calling him a true anti-patriot. She takes him across town to where several Drones are laying in an old office building. He almost catches her being sketchy when she refers to the Rebels in the third person, but she plays it off saying the Venusians are not Rebels and that she, like Charles the Grey, is choosing to help them, and he buys it.
The chapter closes, as I mentioned, with them waiting for something that’s about to happen.
So, a lot is left out, only implied. Partly this is because I never wrote it. But, I never wrote it because I thought it would be boring. Eva helps Baggit become a better Rebel leader. She gets him in touch with Red Birds who’ve spoken or acted in a way that made it clear that they would be willing, if given the chance, to paint their Red Birds blue and join the Resistance. While his sister is unconscious, helping Simon, Baggit gains an army, and his uniform becomes standard. But, there’s something sinister happening under the surface. Eva is not really what she seems, and Baggit’s becoming a leader and gaining an army is not in the best interest of The Resistance.
I’ll close with that for today. Next time, I’ll be reading and breaking down the chapter called “Rosalyn,” from Smaller Mouse, and from The Multiverse Cartographer, “William and Lucy,” and “The Round Table.”