Rock Paper Scissors Science

You can’t spell Aperture without Rapture.

= something which occurred to me out of nowhere and I can’t seem to shake, like the aftershock of a particularly sharp nightmare. I said it to Womble earlier and he came back with:

“You can’t spell Nier Automata without ‘mutation’ – what’s your point?”

At which point I dropped the topics of anagrams.

Nevertheless, we find ourselves – not for the first time – in an enclosed environment with no obvious way out, a lack in natural light, oppressed on all sides by the natural world. Situated deep below that world, where they do not belong, someone built another manmade cathedral dedicated to twisted sciences, with a keen disregard for morality. Andrew Ryan and Cave Johnson could have almost been drinking buddies*.

Then there’s the other meaning. Rapture; a segregation of humanity at the end of the world. This far down, there certainly isn’t a lot of world left, just those testing and those being tested. Womble and I find ourselves occupying the middle ground, having brought it along with us, myself hoping we’re not forced to join one side or the other. I’ve had more than my fill of being ordered around; and as for giving the orders, that’s just a little too Timelord for me.

Although, from what I’ve seen of the testing areas, my immature side can’t deny it almost looks……fun? Like the cross between a laboratory and a theme park. Guess that makes it a hat trick for Rapture (n) “a feeling of intense pleasure or joy.”

None of which detracts from another highlight of this adventure: Womble as the leader. Let’s just say, his tour-guide skills leave a lot to be desired. Even before his input, I knew an elevator and array of piping when I saw one, with no reference made to the blue, orange and white goo. And more than once, to the question “and then what happened?” he has answered “then she went mad and killed everyone.” No idea who “she” is, mind, and whoever “she” turns out to be, there’s something pressing a lot harder on my mind.

“What the hell, I’d say I’ve waited long enough. So there’s more than just one Womble?”

The original remained silent.

“And in trying to find the source, we arrive in a massive underground lair, full of science stuff and angry crows, my, what a childhood you must’ve had. Is that what they do, here? They make Wombles?” I’m not going to sing the song, we may be underground, I’m still not going to sing the song…

“Nope.”

Ah hah! One miniature step in the right direction. “So how can there be two of you?”

“Pfft. I’m up to four versions of you.”

“Ooh, he’s a you from a different moment in time?”

“Nope.”

I’d be clutching at straws right no except I have no straws. “Then…the Other You and this Aperture place, confusing as hell, but both completely unrelated?”

“Nope.”

Fuck. “Can you tell me anything useful?”

“Never stand up in a canoe.”

I know the difference between someone not in the mood to talk, and someone trying to hide something. This was both. I decided to pay Womble a courtesy I don’t extend to many. I didn’t shut up – barely anyone gets THAT courtesy – I just changed the subject.

“So who is “she” then? The genocidal lady of yours?”

A few dozen test subjects and a bunch of old men in tweed and lab coats, hardly a genocide. It was more a cull of idiots, while several of their pets got in the way. You’ll know when I’ve committed genocide. Well, actually, you won’t.

It’s an incredible thing, to flinch at an omnipresent voice. You never quite know which way to duck. And what a voice, too. Robotic, auto tuned, finished with the condescending attitude of a British librarian. Capable of destroying us and/or delivering this century’s hottest new remix. I wasn’t sure whether to retort or laugh.

Womble, Captain Cool and Collected, seemed to have been expecting her voice. He froze like a dog hearing their master’s call. Or, more worryingly, like a nagged husband hearing his spouse. Suddenly I had a pretty good idea as to whom would win his prize “Most Likely to Go Mad and Kill Everyone.”

“You okay, Wombes?”

Just called him ‘Wombes’ and got away with it. Either he didn’t mind or we’re in too much danger for him to notice.

So. You came back. And you brought a…beggar, with you? I’ve been listening in this whole time and wonder, can it do any other tricks besides asking questions?

“I prefer the term ‘hitchhiker’, it sounds more eventful. HH for short.”

“And before you start throwing names around,” Womble cut in, “you’re one to talk. How many street dwellers actually received their $60 in the end?”

Well Mr Johnson wouldn’t have had to resort to such smelly, desperate measures, if you hadn’t had your episode.

I glanced between Womble and the ceiling, a frown settling into place. Their level of familiarity mixed with mutual indifference……almost like we’d bumped into Womble’s ex. His ex-what, though? Ex-prison-warden?**

“You two know each other, then?”

Oh look, it can understand, too. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll win a banana.

“Or a potato,” Womble muttered.

I’d be more offended, but who am I to deny a chance to whip up a banana daiquiri?

I hope your…’hitchhiker’ is well trained, Test Subject, because this is the perfect opportunity to try out the Dual Subject test chambers. Your survival and well being shall depend a great deal on the skill of your partner. You will need to work together.

We exchanged glances.

Best of luck.

“…is it alright if I use the bathroom, first?

HH

*A man chooses…to build combustible lemons.

**Ex-aminer? Geddit?…………..I’ll show myself out.

Written

.

..

In the corner of a house there’s a room full of books. Big books, small books, books full of color and books full of black. No one could possibly read every book in this room full of books, surely; there are books about cooking, books about history, books about dinosaurs and books about what Sally did on holiday when she met Harry. No one could be interested in all of these books enough to read them all, cover to cover. But no one minded if no one did, because someone read some of these books and read them cover to cover. A kid.

A kid? Of course a kid, what else but a kid. Scrawny and white, all pale and shy, with dark brown hair and bespectacled eye. A kid in form, in mind and in wit, a kid whose heart and mind was lit by literature and writings, all ordered and free. For no one would push back the pages they read, and no one would pinch or say what they said, for in this room in the corner of a house this kid read alone as hushed as a mouse.

As they read alone in this room so quiet, in their mind the world was a colorful riot- what wonder, what power! What passion, what sorrow! How they smiled at the thought of what words had to follow. This is faith, this is light, this is everything right! So the kid read through each day and waited each night.

Time, though, wraps its chain onto every living soul, and as time carried on so the kid became old. Soon gone were the days that they could fill with written page- the rat race soon came forward for those of their age.

The day that it came the kid ran, feeling dread, for the world was not the way that literature had said. Right had no sway on the evil that walked, and the kid needed teaching in rules that weren’t taught. The way of kindness was hollowed with every mistrust; for every step that the kid took, their faith began to rust. Every lesson took heart until the heart gave no more. The kid wandered and stumbled and never found whatever for.

You should be more like him, but less like them, they said, in a loud and righteous cry. You should worship her and him and be grateful for their time, they said with suspicion and fire in their eye. You should be strong, they said, you should be funny. You should know all this.

Why can’t you be more like them? The kid asked themselves, unable to answer. Why couldn’t you learn? The kid asked again, still unable to answer. Why did you turn out this way? The kid cried, over and over, still unable to answer. What good has come of all the time that you spent?  They all asked, again and again, and each time the kid was unable to answer.

Until the heart had enough and took everything it had. It screamed to the kid and drove the kid mad. It chased the kid back to the room full of books. It hid from the sky, and the world, and the looks.

In this room full of books, full of memory and peace, the kid found their smile, and the heart its release. Alone in this room of accordance and dreams, together they could hope, reflect and believe. The kid’s story was written and the kid had grown old, but its words can be read again, and the story re-told. Believe in this heart, wherever it may lead, the kid told themselves. Believe in all the good from the things that you read. Believe and be kind, whether you see or remain blind, for this world will forever remain empty and hollow without a song to be sung and dreams it can follow.

And with that, the kid walked into the world once, knowing nothing of strength or of love, or what for. But the words in the room that raised them remain, and what good is a hero without troubles to be slain?

..

.

Fixed

.

..

…sometimes, it’s hard to know which part of the question you’re expected to answer; “How was your day?”, for example, usually has it’s own subtext, and if you’re not reading carefully you may find yourself having a very different kind of conversation to the one you expected, let alone wanted. If your day has been poxy, say, it’s rarely the best option to actually say so, because if their day has been poxy too you’ll either be arguing over who is being a stronger character by having a more poxy day than the other person, or cutting the conversation dead because one or both of you wants cheering up.

If their day hasn’t been poxy, however, they might ask you what made your day poxy- and if you’ve spent the first part of the day incapable of avoiding the source of this day being poxy, you may well not want to discuss the matter after removing yourself from that position. You might want to forget about the day being poxy. Following this, it’s common to then be asked if there’s anything they can do for you, and if there isn’t anything that springs to mind, you will then either have to explain that this is no personal fault of theirs (honest!) and navigate the issue of this being totally okay, or be told in no uncertain terms to cheer the heck up…

…thank Ned HH hasn’t asked that

Still, the word “Aperture” is the kind of word I’d quite happily throw into a furnace to fuel the establishment of more pleasing words, like “obamadoo” or “pootata”. If I wasn’t me, I’d make anything out of the damn word, ’cause I wouldn’t have a clue what it’s supposed to mean- it’s not in itself bad, as words go*.

I’m not sure I’d enjoy telling HH what it means. Actually, scrap that, I’m as near to damn sure as it is within my accuracy at predicting such things as it is possible to get. If I tell HH just what I make of the word “Aperture” and things feel better, I’m gonna bite something on behalf of the world being wrong…

…see.

Imagine a lab- not the dog, the place-full of lots of men and women in white coats, in a clean white lab full of expensive-looking machinery. Some of them wore jumpsuits, I think, and those were orange, but I don’t care about the guys in the jumpsuits because far as I know, they were only there to do maintenance. No point in blaming the guy who cleans scalpels for a living.

Imagine that lab originally designed shower curtains, only now it makes ideas. Only the problem there is that ideas don’t necessarily work by default, and this place needs ideas to work, or else all those men and women in nice white coats and orange jumpsuits won’t get paid. And that’d be bad, right?

Imagine someone else gave all these men and women their ideas. These men and women need paying, right. Almost all of them have families and for one reason or another, they can’t just quit working at this clean white lab full of expensive machinery, the thing that their lives depend on, so they take these ideas and try to get them working.

Some ideas don’t, and some of these are discarded. But others stay, because these ideas are special. These ideas have promise, and potential, and if they’re not working already it’s because something else needs to be fixed.

In this pretty white lab, full of lots of men and women in clean white coats, some of whom instead of white coats wore orange jumpsuits, surrounded by expensive machinery- they made ideas work.

“Womble?”

Huh? Oh, right. I wonder how long he’s been waiting on me, patiently, playing his own little game of detectoring while I pick at the scab of a memory “Aperture” brings to mind.

“You alright? Only you haven’t said anything for a good while*** now, and as a TimeLord it’s sort of an obligation for me to get answers to at least some of the questions I want to ask. You don’t have to answer that one, though, if you’ll tell what’s with the coat? Did someone hook you up with an Igorina**** while you weren’t looking again?”

“Shut-up, I was thinking anddon’tyoudaresaycareful! Why Aperture?”

Shrug, and a smile. No surprise that he’s excited by the thought of another bloody adventure. Come to that, why am I here? Wait. Damn!

“It’s where your friend came from, according to this. No harm in checking things out, eh?”

Which reminds me. Has he asked me about him yet? I can’t remember, but he might well have done while I was stuck brooding about bloody Aperture. That’s one I’ll have to keep an eye out for- and why’d he bring up that time with the Igorina?

I nod, before he asks another damn question.

“I’m guessing you’ve never been, right?”

A wistful look comes into HH’s eyes. I wonder what he’s guessing it’ll be like, although for a TimeLord I guess that’s like wondering what the color blue looks like to hermit crabs. The hell if I know even where to damn begin.

“Not yet. And you?”

“…yeah.”

Which isn’t gonna suffice, is it?

“Oh? What’s it like?”

I’m not good with questions like that. Sometimes knowing the answer isn’t the tricky bit- it’s guessing what you aught to expect from answering.

“It’s very sciency. You’ll fit in well.”

Which is, more or less, true. I mean, I’m not sure how much of being a TimeLord is to do with science- from what I can tell, it’s part-librarian, part-geologist, part-socialite and a good fifty percent bloody idiot. But he’s gonna fit in.

They liked to meddle too.

 

W

*Bad words are not necessarily rude, according to nutjobs like Womble (and Ken Keneki) who base their liking of a word as much on how it sounds as what it means. The “C word” is bad, at least in Womble’s view, because when pronounced correctly it sounds like a blunt object being hammered into the space between two immovable objects that is slightly too small for it. The use of this word is made more upsetting by the fact that you could be using the word “vagina” instead, which is both more exotic-sounding and sounds frankly hilarious when someone shouts it out loud in place of the usual swearing**.

**Along with the made-up words parents use in front of their kids.

***The go-to word if you happen to be travelling through a void in time and space, or too lazy to find out exactly how long the determined time has been.

****The race, not the name. Igorinas are generally extremely intelligent and almost always beautiful to look at, depending on that particular individual’s aesthetic tastes. The downside for most non-Igor partners, however, is that they often take a very practical approach to finding their perfect man or woman, and are more than happy to literally make the most of what’s in front of them, as Womble found out.

Majestic

Here’s one for you.

There was this song playing throughout existence. It was new to some and ancient to others, known to a few and a mystery to the rest. It had permeated every available air-wave. In our infinite universe, it was heard an infinite number of times until the right person heard it.

~ * ~

# A sight for sore eyes to the blind would be awful majestic… #

Majestic means one important thing, to both myself and Jeff Fisher. It is our inspiration, our reason, to return to a better way of life. I have set in motion my plan to find Womble and resume our adventures. My interlude has come to an end. I negotiated with machines of war, I danced with beings long since deceased and I read stories that truly are best left shelved. My appetite for alcohol has been sated and I have emerged on the other side. There remains little to do now but listen:

Listen to the music broadcasting from my ship. It’s incomplete, of course, and it is that which irks me more than its repetition. The five minute song is missing its iconic 30 second guitar solo, a deliberate omission into which Womble can make his reply. Had I known I’d have to endure my third favourite song being butchered like this, I might have left Womble behind with a slightly better plan.

Listen to the engines as we drift gently through the voids of time and space. They generate nothing more than a low level background hum, like a giant elevator with its unique version of music, completely underwhelming their dimension-thwarting abilities. I just so happened to notice it in the quiet between the penultimate and final lines.

Listen to the voices of the universe. Something I’ve always been able to do, thanks to the ‘universal residue’ trick. I keep meaning to come up with a better name, like ‘telepathy’, except it’s not thoughts I can hear. It’s memories. Like History whispering in my ear.

It currently says nothing of my friend. Although it is more than difficult to measure such things, by my count and by way of time travel contradictions, it’s been nearly twenty years since I turned away from Womble, Nibbles and the Daedalus. We’ve been apart before but this is different. Sometimes it isn’t what you’re hearing, but the lack of it. This extended absence appears to me as deliberate, the quiet of somebody hiding, not just otherwise engaged. In essence, the precise opposite of what I’m currently doing.

A lot can happen in twenty years, even more than that can occur in twenty seconds and for whatever reason Womble has obscured himself from the rest of reality. I’d like to know what that reason was. To that end, and to make sure Womble doesn’t just reply for the hell of it, I’ve added a last-minute addition to the plan. You see my friends, this particular song comes spring-loaded.

It’ll also cut out a lot of unnecessary travelling. For me, anyway.

I’d rather be dreaming of someone, than living aloooooooooooooooone… #

Where there had been silence a few hundred times before, a guitar chord sliced into the silence. I remained where I was, sitting on the floor with my back to the console, grinning like a lunatic. My friend played the solo perfectly, carving each chord through the ship, matched note-to-note with my memory. My blood chilled the same like the first time I heard it, with the unparalleled satisfaction that the song was complete and my friend had been found. The last-minute addition – some would call it a “trap” – activated. A teleport feedback loop acquired the source of the reply message and did what all teleports love to do:

Confuse people.

A few feet in front of me, Womble popped into existence, still holding his guitar and still playing the final chords, his eyes closed. Part of me considered it, but ultimately, nothing could have made me stop him. My best friend playing my third favourite song; it was easily the best thing to happen since he left.

Womble freed the final note and let the last of the lyrics play, interrupted by my personal applause. His eyes opened to the sound and his guitar slowly lowered. He fixed me a Look which was, no other word for it, weird. What made it worse was I did the exact same thing in reverse. The excitement of the music over, my residue ability caught up with me and every single one of my instincts set up warning signs. This was Womble…and yet most definitely not Womble. It was like watching a well-known film played in the mirror. It’s almost right, but not quite.

And because the universe has never made itself easy to understand, the entire situation was equally improved and muddled by the real Womble crashing through the door. Definitely him this time. I recognised the chaos, not so much the new coat.

“We’ve talked about this!” Womble roared. Completely ignoring me, Womble grabbed his doppelganger by the scruff of the neck and hauled them out the same door he’d just barged through. With that, he slammed the door behind him, paused, and opened it again.

“And give back my headphones!”

Slam. Pause. Turn.

“He’s new,” Womble said. Not since “The End” have two words closed a matter so definitively.

I still had my eyes on the door. “We are in the Time Vortex right now.”

“He’ll be fine.” Womble waved an airy hand and took the nearest seat.

You don’t get to my age without learning that, just sometimes, you don’t need to ask. Except no matter when your birthday is, age and instinct don’t always agree. I myself felt it necessary to ask at least one question and I’d better make it a good one.

“Fifteen-all in mad tennis,” I muttered and leaned over the console. Odyssey quietly working in the background had located where we had stolen the “Other Womble” from. I shrugged and set it as our destination. It’s been too long since our last mystery tour and there’s literally no time quite like the present.

“You’ve redecorated then.”

I glanced around the room. “It’s a totally different ship. And, you’re one to talk,” I added, noting his new attire. It was difficult to discern where stitching stopped and the actual material began – Cinderella, eat your heart out.

“Any reason it’s shaped like a shark?”

“Just wanted to tick something off the list.” A simple, boyhood desire I’ve had ever since our trip to Melancholy Hill.

My console screen came to life, with the usual read-out of information pertaining to our newest location. I gave it glance, as Womble retrieved the dropped guitar. The word “science” appeared more than a few times. I decided to spend my one question. This one felt like it might actually go somewhere.

“Does the word Aperture mean anything to you?”

~ * ~

There’s no finite conclusion, here. I have lived long enough to know finality is just a pipe dream. Personally, I think Wax Fang sang it best:

If you’re searching the lines for a point, well you’ve probably missed it. There was never anything there in the first place.

HH


There are ways of reaching someone when they’re lost. Sometimes all it takes is the knowledge that there’s someone else looking for them.

There was this song playing throughout the universe…

Tourist

.

..

…why are people so freakin’ noisy? Ugh. It should be obvious that if you’re capable of thought, you are capable of keeping them thoughts inside your own damn head! Who cares if you like them thoughts? I like lying down in a dark room pretending I’m a gribbly thing with lots of teeth. Doesn’t make it advisable to share them with every freakin’ set of eardrums in the immediate vicinity. Who cares if you think it’s a nice day? That’s subjective! SHUT UP! I’m don’t care!

…I knew this was a bad idea. Damn HH. I blame him. Actually, no. I blame me. Stupid me. Why’d you have to get all nostalgic and whimsy? We had a nice, calm, pleasant little time in that vacuum. Nothing but gribbly things with lots of teeth. Very simple. Very functional. But screw that, eh? Why waste an eternity in the blissful caress of mindless oblivion when there’s a world out here full of Gordon freakin’ Ramseys and meta-journalists? Ugh. Screw you. Screw whatever stupid messed up piece of you made us giddy about the sound of a perfect chord…

…they agree, you know. I’m certain. See the way they all look at you? Even the ones you don’t see are looking. I can feel them, looking and seeing and judging and condemning every damn pixel identified by their Ned-damn 500 megawatt face-transmogrifying built-in camera. Ha! I hate them and their stupid thoughts. It must be nice, lolling through each day like a concussed puppy, looking from one thing to the next without ever stopping to wonder if no one else cares about the thoughts spewing uncontrollably from their stupid puppy mouth…

…admittedly, the coffee is good. That’s one thing I could get used to, I suppose, providing no one takes it off me. I wonder why they call this place “:re”. Couldn’t they think of something…more wordy, even? Like, I’m pretty sure “:re” isn’t a word. It looks more like a reference. Ugh. Good thing they do good coffee…

…y’know, I’ve noticed that bud at the counter has been watching me ever since I arrived; he’s alright, I guess, as human things go, but I’m surprised this coffee ain’t been drugged by now. He’s looking at me the way a raven looks at a dog. Maybe he’d peck my damn eyes out if I dropped dead. I’m concerning him, just a little, and he won’t look away. But he isn’t scared. I don’t mind. I’m not scared either…

…maybe it’s between monsters. I don’t know. How do you even define a monster as a monster anyway? Is it even a bad thing? People aren’t often any better. Quite often they’re worse, even, because monsters only exist in books. People do bad things all the time, whether you know about them or not. Ugh. I’m overthinking this. Screw people. And screw you, flower-man…

…somewhere out there is a guitar player. Playing that song. The song. I can’t stop it. I don’t want it to. But I’m gonna. I’m gonna finish that damn song and then I’m going home. I can’t stand this place, with it’s sights and sounds and smells and feelings and excitement and wonder and sheer bloody optimism…

…when does it end?

..

.

W