It is rather dark down here. That makes sense. No-one needs lights down here. No-one expects anyone/anything to crawl out of an incinerator.
Then I came along. Anything to be different.
My wrist hurts a great deal. It has been a long time since I broken a bone. Seems I’ve forgotten how gross it can be. My right hand wrist looks like a flesh-coloured and blood-stained sack of loose shingles. Seems I’ve forgotten what to do about it too. Memories of whatever I did at the time were uploaded into another person*. I assume the answer is not carrying a turret under the other arm in a dark tunnel a hundred miles below the surface of the world.
Some people might consider it a cure. Some people live in hope.
That must be nice.
That’s the turret. Trying to discover who it landed on. Who it gave a substantial bump on the head. Who saved its life. We’re friends now. In my head. Which has nothing to do with the fact I’d rather not be alone. A bleak situation can be improved by company. Womble and I have been in many bleak situations.
Sometimes our presence is what causes them.
This turret is an advance over Womble for a while. I don’t have to live with the constant nagging idea that I’m annoying him. I can annoy the turret instead.
Although so far I’m losing.
“Hello.” The retaliation of annoying might as well start somewhere.
“Don’t mention it.” Weird how it even mentioned it in the first place. No turret is programmed nor imbued with a sense of gratitude. It doesn’t need one. If anyone spares a turret it doesn’t give thanks. It waits for the next available target.
Bang goes that theory. I had never heard such a level of emotion in just two words before. Much less from an android. An unexpected sense of pity for a machine constructed in the name of killing other people – if only the Daleks could see me now.
Except. If he really is “different.” Murder and manslaughter may not be top of the priority list. Instead it has thanks and an apparent need for self-confession.
“Good. Different is good,” I tell the turret. “Being ‘Normal’ is living a lifestyle decided by somebody else. I don’t want that. Nobody should.” Spare moments passed us by and there was nothing but the distant rumblings of the incinerator.
“What does it take to be normal, anyway?”
“That never solves anything.”
Don’t make lemonade.
“Lemonade rarely solves anything either.”
Yes I have heard these words before. I don’t want your damn lemons what am I supposed to do with these?! The recollection is pristine. I can even remember the echo. A pitch-perfect memory of rebellion. An abject refusal to play the hand which Life has dealt. If Mr C Johnson had just made lemonade, none of us would be here right now.
Instead. To name a few…
Everyone would have great shower curtains.
There would be no portal gun and no army of mantis men.
The Borealis would be docked elsewhere.
I would never have heard the potato sing.
So the turret has a point.
Don’t make lemonade
I was under the impression that I was carrying an unintentional horoscope. I had new understanding as to why this little weapon had been dropped into flames.
The turret continued to speak.
Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man. He was cast into the bowels of the Earth and pecked by birds.
“Sounds like the gods to me.” Proud, paranoid, penchant for punishments. The birds get a bad reputation in that story too. They were just hungry. They could not know the part they would play in the torture of Prometheus. Much in the same way a gun cannot control its fate if purchased by a lunatic.
Prometheus should not be judged too harshly. Granted he gave mankind the knowledge of War. Annihilation. Selfishness. Lies. He also gave them Hope. Empathy. Perspective. Inspiration. Music. Prometheus saw a balance of good and evil and trusted mankind enough to give them a chance to figure it out.
I think I love him for trying.
I wish I knew what made him do it. And whether it was worth it.
The answer is beneath us.
Words from the robotic soothsayer. It is not impossible. Prometheus has to be buried somewhere after all. Perhaps the birds cannot reach him down here anymore. Although Aperture does have a livelier avian environment than I might have expected.
My chattering prophet was almost finished.
Her name is Caroline. Remember that.
“I will. The problem is that she will not.”
That’s all I can say.
“That’s okay. No doubt I can fill the silence.”
Before leaving the incinerator tunnels I took a thick permanent marker pen from my coat pocket. In the dark I knelt to the floor. I wrote my message blindly and clumsily left-handed.
Somewhere nobody would ever see it nor even think to look. Three words. An underwhelming memorial.
Here Lies Prometheus
A passion for knowledge built this place. It is as suitable a location for the Titan’s grave as anywhere else.
Something like an hour passed. After too much walking most of which was uphill we reached a new underground area. A way out did nothing to present itself. In the immediate vicinity there were many piles of scrap metal. Steep walls. The light of a dozen random fires. One sad smashed elevator. Hundreds of miles of solid rock over our heads.
As equally without hope as the incinerator and dark tunnels before. Yet this is still the place where many things changed.
This is where I heard the potato sing.
PS: I am aware in the original story that Prometheus gifts mankind with fire. Not knowledge. It is still the same story. Prometheus stole from the gods something that has the capability to destroy humanity as well as create it anew. A weapon in the wrong hands. A blessing in the right.
Without fire humanity would have perished from cold and starvation.
Without knowledge it would have done much of the same.
They have both.
So don’t make lemonade.
* See As Individuals, April 2016
“How’s ’14* doing, Bob?”
“It’s Mathew, sir (it’s says so on my name tag!). I’m afraid 613114201514 is refusing to co-operate. He hasn’t yet touched his oats.”
“Still? I thought we’d resolved that whole where-am-I-and-why-are-there-tubes-sticking-out-of-me unfortunate misunderstanding! You telling me he won’t eat even after we tell him oats are good for him?”
“I think he’s knows about that, sir.”
“How? I didn’t tell him. Did you?”
“No, sir. But the neuro-”
“You’re telling me a freak from outer space knows the difference between your average, friendly oat granule and a carefully sculpted nugget of nutritious moon rock?”
“Yes, sir. To be blunt, sir.”
“Kid’s got brains. We could use that, or sell it, whichever would be more cost-efficient, if it weren’t for his whatchamacallit.”
“…I don’t follow, sir?”
“Of course you don’t, Bob, that’s why you’re a scientist and I’m Mr Goddamn Cave Johnson! Bring him in, if you’d be so kind. I’ll have him eating like a goose by the time I’m done. He thinks he can starve? Not with me around he’s not!”
“It’s Matthew, sir. As ordered, sir.”
“Test number 613- something or other, can’t remember, don’t care, ends in 14. Haha! How you doing? Want something to eat?”
“Not this again…”
“What’s that? Don’t like oats or something? They’re good for you, very healthy. And we need you to be healthy, number- you know what, I’m just gonna give you a name. Names are strong! Pick one.”
“A name- I’ll offer you Frank, Bob, Robert or Dick! Pick one, I don’t care. Any one will do, apart from Cave. That one’s well and truly taken.”
“Wom? Good choice! Didn’t offer it but I like a man with ingenuity, unless you’re a scientist. In which case I’d rather stamp it well out. Wom, eh? Short for Womble, I presume. Haha! Love it. Good job.”
Womble glances at Matthew. Matthew shrugs.
“I see you know Bob from your time in the testing facility, eh! Good man. What do you think of them? The tests, not Bob. No one cares about Bob.”
“I have a wife, sir.”
“Of course you do Bob. She’s called Aperture Science and we want children! You have a woman in your life, Womble? Had, I should say, unless Carol is doing the kind of research that usually gets a guy fired, not that she would. She’s a proud woman, our Carol.”
“…what’s this got to do with food?”
“Food? Who mentioned food? Are you hungry? Dig in! No need to wait on me, I’ve had my fill and several others! Trust me on that. I’m Cave Johnson!”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Right. And I’m Queen Latifa of San Colorado fame! Who do you take me for, huh? Bob?! Even an idiot can see you’re starving! And you not eating is bad for me, Womble, because I mean business and business wants to reproduce the way you got here! I won’t take no for an answer, damnit! What the hell do you usually eat?”
“Ha! Is that it? Why didn’t you say so? We’ve got loads of people, hundreds- pick one, any shape, any size, we’ve even got some with extra limbs! How do you take it? Fried? Salted? I can even serve it as a smoothie, should you prefer the healthier option-”
“What? No! I was joking! W-”
“-well it’s too late now, I’ve got a man ready and willing. You don’t keep a man like that waiting, Womble, and you especially don’t screw me around! Know why? Because I’m Cave Johnson and I will force-feed you man, woman and child if I so goddamn have to! Last chance and that is final! What. Will. You. Eat?”
“Cake! I like cake. Cake is fine!”
“Cake? What kind of cake? Chocolate, strawberry, salted- what?”
“The first one! Two! Definitely not people!”
“Really? That’s boring. Ah well, can’t have everything. I’ll have it delivered to your room in three minutes, and if it’s not eaten within the next three hours you can be assured that we will most certainly be testing your capacity to stomach the contents of Bob’s cranium! Deal? I thought so. Good day, test subject 613114201514! Adieu!”
“Told you I’d crack him, Bob. Never underestimate the power of guts and persuasion! See how he crumbled? That’s power right there! Sweet and powerful. Ha!”
“You’re a scary man, sir.”
“So they tell me. Fear is power, and power needs a good pair of hands if you want to it to do what you tell it. Be sure to let the boys know about it for me, will you? Everyone should know that if you want something done, offer them anything!”
“If it’s not too much to ask, sir, how did you know he’d ask for the cake we ordered?”
“I see his whatchamacallit, Bob. Never question it! When a man is hungry, alone, and in dire need of some love and understanding, he wants company! Failing that, however, one will always settle for cake. Always. Don’t ask me why, you’re a scientist. You don’t need to understand that.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“Good work, as always. Carol? You’re not needed any more, Bob. Feel free to leave while Mommy and Daddy science get to work.”
“Of course, sir. It’s Matthew, sir.”