Klexos

Klexosthe art of dwelling in the past.We think of memories as a work of art – and a work of art is never finished. Only abandoned.

Giant Bio mech squid

 

Down town Nairobi bustles with activity. It’s midnight but the absence of planetary light has rendered nights negligible. It is now about the bottom line. Keeping the city’s economy alive and making a mark in the archives lest you be forgotten like a gust of wind. The open air market is crazy as usual. Shouts, haggling, collisions and secretion of bodily fluids.  Something which has not changed for over ten thousand years, or so, the memory banks have this for a fact. Early 19th century had humans travel to market centres and trade. That has not changed at all. There is foot and air traffic as well as constant chings here and there. The city lords have banned mechanical traffic from some of the sections. They say it corrupts, fills an otherwise great trade with a background buzz or drone which is impossible to eradicate from the transaction. These include but not limited to hover cars, drone-suits, and jump bikes. One common denominator is that they are all the products of the past centuries. They have refused to die with time and instead adapted, one could say they have evolved.

They are being replaced by super squids. The semi biological fast moving, flying and swimming contraptions. They are even being used for orbital transfers. The diamond wisp stretching up to the moon is becoming old fashioned, and cheap.

Kora doesn’t like Nairobi. She doesn’t like her family too. It’s understandable she is at that stage of life. It is too crowded for her liking. The comm links in her hypothalamus keep chiming. Installed at birth, she can never get away. Unless she goes off world. The major one. Moving off system where solar noise is none existent.

To be continued

 

The Absence – Part 1

There was an eerie look around the village. Dusty paths Meadows filled with sand soil. In addition to making them difficult for transit, they gave it a rather rusty feel. Like it had seen the better days. A feeling that once upon a time prosperity had made this a home. Then came a time to move on. Leaving trails of dust and hopelessness. I  was seated alone in the back of the old struggling bus which managed to find extra energy after every few minutes to move ahead. I was aprehensive of everything. The weird quiet soundings which had an occasional hoot of a barn owl. We came upon a dry riverbed where the bus had more than it’s fair deal of the labourous journey. Passengers got out to give it a push, will it to expend any remaining energy and if like Jeremy says it has soul; find within it’s nooks and cranes for that extra will power to get through the sand. I did not disembark because my body was not willing to. Hours of hard bumping and slipping in and out of consciousness had worn me out.
 
We were on the road again in no time and for some reason my eyes were fixed on the left window staring far in to the distant hills. In between I could see huts which had smoke billowing. A notification that it was already lunchtime and I had had few scraps for the last 36 hours. A few of the huts had white flags on the roofs. A common protective feature for a community which had completely refused to move with times and adopt imported religions. Shrines where the gods resided where hallowed ground and it would be an anathema if an outsider like me got to peek in to one.
 
The drone of the bus, occasioned by the constant scuffles as it hit massive potholes was hypnotizing. The drone was a cue to get asleep, bumps woke me up with a start or sometimes they didn’t. The last bump made me bite my tongue, for the umpteenth time. With the trend going on I could be devoid of speech functions in the next few hours.
 
I was running in the beach barefooted. Hazy and dreamy filled with love. A scenario I witness in romantic movies when couples are watching the beautiful orange tropical sun set. I was doing the same thing, only this time the sun was not setting in-font of me. Up in the sky were rockets and space-ships constantly breaking out of earth’s atmosphere and transforming in to fiery fireballs albeit for few seconds. They created a spectacular aurora which was amplified by the dying streaks from the sun. It was a beautiful sight. I realised I had a camera in my hands and I went on a photography rampage. This went on for so long until I realised there was no end to the rockets departing. A thought dawned. None of them was coming back. All around me now was sand, dunes and more sand. Then there were numerous ground space stations where the ships were being launched from. The noise emanating from the anti-matter engines was deafening. I covered my ears but it would not stop. Then there was a whizzing sound for a few seconds, my ear drums burst. I was back on the beach, seated on the cool sand and watching the sky. The lights now were much less than before. I saw one burn and burn, then instead of dissapearing in to the outer space it plummeted back to the surface. It streaked like a shooting star but only growing bigger and brighter. It hit the ocean at some point and fizzled out. My thoughts formed, a sort of eureka moment which was a little too late.Every living soul was vacating earth, vacating the solar system. The sun was dying and with it support for  any life here. Billions of humans left to search for habitable planets far away. In multi generational ships for journeys which would take centuries and if the luck was still a bitch, millenniums.
They ships engineered for the purpose. I had briefly worked on Kano both on the Indian ocean and the low earth orbit. 
I was the only soul left on earth, freezing…I bit my tongue again really hard and woke up.
 
Maybe I will get my teeth clipped when I am back in the city. I did not know how long I had been asleep and dreaming but the landscape had not changed a bit and the bus drone was still disturbing.
‘Tell me about it’. I turned to my right to find an old lady holding a kyondo of apples staring at me apprehensively. Apples which made me salivate and had my stomach rumbling and squeaking in all sorts of funny noises ‘uh?’ I stared back at her blankly. ‘Tell me about your dream young man, in exchange of  some apples’. She said. ‘Was I mumbling in my sleep? I am sorry for that’ I said. ‘Nothing of the sort young human, I can tell you were dreaming, tell me about it’.Her eyes lay deep in their sockets, bright and constantly searching my face. I thought, what the hell. It was just a stupid dream and I would murder for some of those apples so here it comes old lady. I told her about my dream without leaving any detail. What surprised me was that I was able to remember everything about it with vivid clarity whilst I  always have problems recalling my dreams even the ones I really struggle to remember. She listened and nodded and in between she offered me an apple which fuelled the story. If I could really sell my dreams at a price then maybe I wouldn’t be so distraught and broke like I was. When the story was over I guess she was disappointed just as I was. If I could stretch it to several hours maybe I could end up with the whole basket. It was a disappointment. Was I willing myself to fall asleep and dream just for an apple? 
 
This was eerily weired. Who was this old hag anyway? Her complexion was dark and for some reason her face seemed cloudy. Her nose was long and her eyes were the only clearly discernible feature of the wrinkled face. When she spoke her voice was crisp clear, strong and commanding. She had a musky, old smell which should have been disturbing, but it wasn’t. Where had she come from? I couldn’t remember her embarking in to the bus when the journey commenced and sure as hell she did not get on at one of the numerous stops. I could have seen that. 
 
I had set out for this journey as a soul searching mission. A washed up journalist who was in and out jobs making enemies with editors on nearly daily basis. The journey which was now on it’s second month had fleeced my accounts and now I was traveling on a shoestring budget. Food had become a luxury and my stomach was constantly rumbling. The hag couldn’t have been here at a better time.
 
I don’t remember when I fell asleep again but I woke up with a shudder after we hit a rather massive pothole. This was an empty piece of sleep. No dreams at all and no memory of how it was. This did strike me as odd but who was I going to lodge a complain to? The old lady who was staring at me uncomfortably? I said hello once again. ‘Sorry ma, no dreams’ I said with a shy smile. “I know”. The reply. 

Tokyo bar

The crackling neon sign said Tokyo bar, I assumed the owner was a depressed Wombats fan who couldn’t make it to Japan. Just like I couldn’t. There was a point of our connection. The air was humid and the usual ‘helper’ robot was guarding the entrance. Helper security robots. Made by TransIndianOcean Robotics (T.IO.R). The marketing guys there had come up with a very stupid slogan. Helper robots, A.I so good they can smell your blood. This was a fat lie. They were specifically made to disable skull guns. Skull guns were a fad among the hipsters and misguided teens.

The hidden weapons could tear a large chunk of flesh from your face as well as roast it to professional chef acceptable levels. If the chef was in to that sort of thing. The robot scanned me and let me in. Few tense minutes. I was testing the new tech of hiding the guns and I had already been in to several bars without any detection. Tokyo was smoky and disorganized. A lone stripper was on the pole dancing melancholically. I couldn’t tell if she was human or a bot from my position but who cares? All of them were the same save for the sometimes overzealous bots who could rip your head off. Bachelor parties had become something of a risk. The lighting in the smoky interior wasn’t helping matters. I think a good minute or so went by before my eyes could become accustomed. It was sparsely populated and most of the patrons looked moderately drunk. They were on the phase where you are trying to keep your dignity tucked on yourself while your drunk self is threatening to kill it. Kind of a bad struggle.

I chose an empty table near a window so that I could get a view of what was happening in the street below. I had to be careful, T.IO.R might be already on the hunt. A floating bot with a naked torso wheezed towards me balancing a drinks tray on one hand. Its legs were absent so instead of projecting the sexy appeal it was intended for it was just outright creepy. The guys at T.IO.R were outdoing themselves every waking moment. The waiter alone was capable of giving a several decades before time traveler a massive heart attack if they dared show up at this era. I chose my usual poison, whisky on the rocks. You can never go wrong with it. The reason I was relaxed enough to drink is that I was done being an alpha tester. It was a shitty job where I was working odd hours and getting paid peanuts for all the risk I went through. Tomorrow I was going to tender my resignation to the MENA Intelligence Consortium human resources office and get done with it. Life was short to spend it in fear of being ripped apart by robots and I did not have enough bit coins to go on a deep space mission and cheat time in the process.

I let the liquid flow and daze my mind, I was loving it. The bar was getting louder and the occasional bottle or chair was smashing the walls at irregular intervals. That is why I was prepared when one came flying my way, I ducked and held my drink tightly. It smashed  the window leaving very little damage. I looked for the culprit. Damn MENA IC, after all I was leaving. It couldn’t hurt to hurt some few idiots who thought the skinny guy was somebody to be toyed with. I saw him. The Mohawk, tattooed arms and face, muscles tearing the clothes away and the scar on the back of his neck which signified he was a member of one of the numerous Nairobi underground gangs. He had thrown off the stripper from the lone pole available on the bar and he was drunkenly dancing. I picked him out and with a precision of the sniper who took out JFK those many years ago. I fired my gun……

The Leftovers

This was originally published on Storymoja Festival Blog>
I’m a Xenoarcheologist. I dig up the remains of ancient alien societies and then try to figure out what it is that I had found. 9,999 out of 10,000 times it’s broken, degraded and unusable garbage. The few gems that I find fund missions like this one; to the third planet of a K class star. An orange dwarf that is less luminous than our sun.
Salsbilla is Earth-like , with carbon-based life, close enough that we wear our encounter suits while xenobio makes sure we’ll be alright to go shirtsleeves or not. Gravity is 5.88 m/s2, about 5% lighter than my home planet.

We had made base camp on Salsbilla’s major continent, near the structures. The planetary survey had found this planet forty years ago, and it’s only now that we were able to build a wormhole gate to it. Our initial orbital survey found a ton of sites, so we picked the one closest to the equator and landed.

Now I’m standing here in this canal, and I’m looking at the most intact xeno-site I have ever seen on a planet. OK, it’s a large moon around a super Jovian. It’s smaller than Terra and bigger than Mars. We find more intact sites on proper vacuum scarred moons, but then that’s to be expected.
“Doctor Kerwo,” said Hanson, who was kneeling next to me with his encounter laser carbine, “it’s just…wow.”

“Yes,” I reply, “and that worries me. Something this intact may mean that the previous inhabitants are still around…”

“That would be interesting,” says Hanson. He has a wicked sense of humour.

“It will be when they pounce on us with whatever limps or weapons they posses, Hanson. I would like to see how you like that.” I say.

“Come on Doc, a little bit of apprehension never killed anyone.”

The time we landed coincided with the Orange spot in the sky moving to the other side of the planet so it was growing dark pretty quickly. The combination of the dying light and the presence of three rising moons in the orbit created phantasmagoric shadows cast far and wide from the old rusty structures. Soon the sun was gone and with it the beautiful aura. The shadows became skewed and ghost like. The night vision glasses did not help matters.
Hanson and the team were already poking around and collecting samples. I walked up to the most intact structure to begin my work and see what I could salvage. Usually my tomahawk was enough to destabilize different types of metallic elements, be they be made of lead or complex carbons surpassing diamond. It’s usually an easy job. This was different and it’s ressilience baffled me. The harder I tried to punch through, the tougher it got. I seemed to be actually washing the grit off it’s surface.

”Hanson, I think we have found our match. This is a real gem.” I shouted over my shoulder. I rechecked my equipment just to make sure it was not a malfunction. This was bound to be the hardest and the strongest element I had ever seen in my whole life. It was going to fetch a tidy sum once we broke it down. In every other mission, we collected samples and took them back to the ship for analysis. We then figured out whatever we were dealing with and it’s appliance in the confederate planets. This could build structures to withstand anti-matter bombs. Hell, we could even build dyson spheres and prevent stars from going nova and obliterating every thing surrounding them. It could be the discovery of the century! The excitement let down my guard and made me forget that when we landed the structures seemed extraordinarily intact. It was as if the civilization which had built what I presumed to be cities had left in a hurry.

The structures were not bulging and I decided to bring the lab to them. I checked my phone to activate the drone app and feed instructions to find it completely dead. This was not possible. Not with a phone powered by broken down atoms of Uranium 235. No known object could breach the containment field holding them at the back without extensive knowledge of it’s constituent elements. This thing was powered to outlast any known civilization. Long after we were gone it would still be beeping. It did not just go kaput, not without some outside powerful intervention. The good news was that the team had not dispersed far and wide and I quickly assembled them to the base of the ship.

Nearly half of all devices capable of producing electrons were off with the power completely dead. I was faced with a dilemma. Here was a planet rich with the strongest element I had ever known but it was also sucking the power out of our equipment. Did I say, the robotic drones were dead too. That meant even if we found a way of breaking through, moving copious amounts would be a difficult task. I decided to let every one get a good nights sleep and try to figure out everything in the morning with fresh minds.

The worse was yet to come. I was opening the door to my cabin when the chief engineer rounded up the corridor running and out of breath.
“Doc, we are a sitting duck.” He said between pants. “The engines are dead and they seem to have utilized the reserve power too.”

This was quickly turning into my worst nightmare. I had not bargained for this. Sleep was going to wait. I immediately put the ship on an alert mode. As of that moment there was no way we were leaving Salsbilla. A dead ship meant that soon we were going to run out of supplies and die. The ship was the only thing capable of releasing anti-neutrinos and activating the wormhole once were docked on the orbit. We were farthest from the orbit you could get. Sending distress beacons was out of question. We were more than 100 light years away from the nearest confederate planet or ship. I took comfort in the fact that other than utter lack of any mobility every other ship’s function was still great.
Then disaster struck.

The view panel on my lift flashed red and the automatic distress voice came on announcing that the hull was degrading. Either the atmosphere was corrosive or something was having our ship as a midnight snack. I found Hanson already in the bridge staring into the view screen like it was the first time he was seeing it.
“Doc, didn’t I say it was bound to an interesting adventure?” He asked.
“I hate to disapprove your words but this is hardly what I would call interesting, what’s on the hull?”
“Ben informs me that we have just encountered conductor mites and they mean business.” He said. ”A quick analysis from the database reveals that they feed on neutrons and metallic elements, I do not know which is more delicious to them but we are packing both in abundance.”

His explanation dimmed my hopes. A hull camera brought one to the main view screen. It looked like a giant brown spider with a purple crystalline structure sticking from it’s back. A sphincter below a giant front eye had a gooey slimy liquid flowing out and corroding our hull slowly.
Our options were limited. Sit down and stare as our hope of ever rejoining civilization was consumed or pick up carbines and blast the mites to hell. We chose the later. A bunch of two dozen scientists holding guns and chanting like deranged soldiers does not inspire hope or scenes of heroism. We opened the hatches and spread out. A few minutes into the fight revealed how useless an endeavour it was. We were feeding the mites laser energy directly and they were lapping it up like a baby on a breast. The first option didn’t seem so bad at all now. We decided to regroup on the bridge to figure out our next move.
The first person to step on the bridge was blown up to smithereens by a powerful hand held gun. The aliens did to my thigh what I had been trying to do to the structures all along. Punch a clean hole through. The mites did not even own the planet. They were pets. That was my last realization before I passed out.