Chapter Seven: The Transmission & The Self

November 16th, 2004 by Mabel
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“Yes, your father. He said it was urgent. Here is the com-link for the signal. It’s waiting for you in the transmission room.” Aglaia looked around. “What are you waiting for? Oh…permission to leave?” She nodded. “Don’t worry. I have you covered already. B knows about the signal so you’re free to leave.” Aglaia took the com-link from Giles hesitantly, her mind preoccupied with questions. Father? But Father never wanted to have anything to do with me. The last time I spoke to the old man was years ago, and it was the first and last time. What could he possible say to me now?

“Authorization code please,” demanded the security link as Aglaia stood in front of the transmission room. She groaned inwardly, bitting her lip as she attempted to remember the six-digit access pin number. She was never good with numbers and advancements in technology have made it unnecessary for security features such as this. They were primitive and quite useless. Access codes were easy to break with a code breaker, a tool which could be easily assembled together with the simplest and widely available of gadgets. Security features on Caelestis were very different; use of DNA imprints and palm scanning were the norm then and it was impenetrable. Not that I blame them for the existence of primitive security features. Caelestis was part of the trade route around the cosmos and Ancile? It was just another one of those abandoned outposts that were seen as the lepers of the New World Order. Everything was at the mercy or generosity of someone else. Foreign trade was something alien but luckily for these people, they had a good leader and they were self-sufficient. Aglaia knew of certain outposts in remote parts of the cosmos which were less fortunate. Its people starving and plagued with diseases. Yet the regime saw no need to change the conditions of many of these outposts. No wonder we were the hated ones. No wonder they saw us as the enemy.


The door opened and Aglaia stepped into the cool quiet room, filled with signal lines, ports, screens and keyboards. It had the look of an old second millennium radio room except with the addition of more modern equipment in one corner. Walking around the room, she ran her fingers on the surface, lifting off dust. If I hadn’t known better, I’d think this place is barely used by anyone in this colony. Taking out the com-link, she fiddled with it for a moment before slotting it into one of the ports. The lights flipped on and the door closed, causing Aglaia to yelp in alarm. The screen lit up and albeit the fuzzy patches, there was a face, her father’s stern and unfamiliar face and Aglaia stared at it for a brief moment, stunned.

“Hello daughter,” greeted General Arrius firmly. A brief moment of silence passed between them. “Well…aren’t you going to say hello to me?”

“Yes of course.”

“Good. Now before we continue on, I thought it best to inform you that there is a possibility that this signal has been intercepted by the people of Ancile. All transmissions are recorded and logged, as I am sure you are aware of. Therefore it is best to keep several things between the two of us. Nevertheless, I trust that you are perceptive enough to decipher my meaning.”

“Yes,” muttered Aglaia, still reeling from the shock of seeing her father for the first time in many years. She pondered on his words for a moment.

“How are things in Ancile? Are you doing well?” Aglaia stood quiet. I don’t ever recall Father talking in this manner towards me. It is utterly strange. He is dropping hints. General Priam is one smart old fogy. He must have known that Giles would be listening to every single signal that came from Caelestis and therefore planted my father in his position to act as his liaison. And here I had hoped that I meant something to Father. It was just wishful thinking on my part, the stupid wishful thinking of a child that never grew up.

“I am fine…Father; I am adjusting to my environment. It is not easy but then again, some things are never easy. I am sure you are aware of that.” General Arrius bristled at the hidden sarcasm in his own daughter’s voice.

“Your mother and I would like to know if you have succeed in…adjusting. Have you?” My mother? If only we were not driven to such desperate needs, then I wouldn’t have to stand here listening to every single word of crap that came out from your mouth. If only you could say that General Priam, that pompous oaf, wanted to know if I have been lazing around on my ass or busting my butt for the sake of the regime which I am beginning to lose my faith in. If only…

“Truth be told? I haven’t. It is hard. Everyone here has this animosity against me despite my best attempts to fit in. At first they were quite civil and I had hopes that it would have been easy to assimilate and become one of them, thus making my life easier but then they found out that I was Caelestis and as you are aware, we-” General Arrius frowned at the slip-up. “I meant, the regime is not exactly a favourite in locations such as Ancile. I am still trying to win their trust but I offer no guarantees, although I must say that this place is an Eden.” I hope he picked up the hint I just dropped him. General Arrius nodded stiffly, as if to signal that he understood her grosses with the place.

“Good. In the mean time, do what you can and be sure you fit in immediately. I’ll be checking in on you again some time soon.” With that the signal ended and the room was silent once more. Aglaia sighed, feeling somewhat at a lost, empty inside. No real enquiry as to how I was doing. No real questions as to whether I was happy. Nothing about me. It is as if I don’t exist outside the realm of the regime. Perhaps it was silly of me to hope for anything different. Perhaps some things don’t change at all. To come to realize that she was nothing more than a pawn in an elaborate game of chess between the regime and the people on Ancile hurt. There was this strange little bubble of regret, anger and annoyance. Not at herself but at the people around her. Tears started forming in her eyes as she buzzed open the door only to find Giles leaning casually against the wall, his hands folded across his chest.

“So how did it-what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”

“Nothing.”

“Like hell, it’s nothing. What’s wrong?” Giles advanced towards her, attempting to embrace her and pull her close to him. Aglaia roughly shoved him away.

“GO AWAY! Why do you always have to follow me around? Why can’t you just leave me alone? I just don’t want to talk to anyone,” screamed Aglaia, tears streaming down her face. It hurts. I hurt. She stared back at him for a few quiet moments, and in a soft whisper, apologized before running away, to hide from public eye. Giles sighed to himself and wondered if it had ever been this difficult to approach any other woman before. Then again, Aglaia was no ordinary woman. There was something about her that he found interesting…unique yet mysterious. Perhaps it was best if he left her alone for the moment; she certainly did not look friendly and the last thing he wanted was to get on her bad side again.

Shaking his head, Giles stuffed his hands into his pocket and began to walk away.

Who am I? What is my purpose in life?

During my time on Caelestis, this question was never something I would have considered. It was a given. My identity, my personality…all of it was a given, something that people automatically knew. Never in a million years had I imagined being questioned on this so-called identity of mine by a bot.

If I was who I was, then why had I hoped for more? Why had I hoped for anything different? Why had I found confusion instead of enlightenment along my journey?

Perhaps it was because I never knew who I was to begin with.

How could I? When all my life I have been told that I was conceived for a purpose. When I have been seen not as an individual but part of the system. When I am known to people by where I am from and not whom I am. It would not be easy to determined who I was, my purpose in life and my ambitions. It was like being a child all over again and discovering why certain things happen for a reason, what was my place in the world.

Sometimes I think it is funny. To see others looking back at you and thinking that they know all there is to know about you.

“Aglaia is a brilliant and talented child.” Was I ever that as a child? Don’t ever recalled doing well in the Academy as a child.

“She is a joy to work with.” I thought my teachers hated me. Honest.

“Aglaia is resourceful and polite.” Don’t exactly thinking calling the teacher a teapot is polite but never mind that.

“She has the propensity to go far in life.” Being in Ancile working in mud and getting myself covered in blisters isn’t exactly far.

“She knows what she wants.” Do I really? All this while I have known what I never wanted. I never wanted to be alone. I never wanted to be ostracized. I never wanted this assignment. I never wanted to be my parents. I never wanted to be an Immortal.

I just want to be me.

But I don’t even know who I am.

164st Day of the year 3031 (10th May, 3031)

“Pia…”

“Yes, Aglaia?” answered Pia as she went on her tiny wheels, clearing the Lab. It was night-time here on Ancile and as the moons of Tres shone through the chamber screen, it illuminated the now silent, nearly empty Tech Lab; empty save for two creatures who were finishing up for the day. Pia circled the lab picking up discarded pieces of metal shavings and trash, some recyclable, some biodegradable but for the most part, useable.

“Pia…who are you?” The bot stopped in her tracks to pick up one final piece of scrap from the floor before whirling back to rest in front of Aglaia. “I mean what is your purpose? Do you know why you have been created? Do you know what you want? Are you happy? I mean-”

“I know what you mean, Aglaia. Sit down. You must have had a long day with fixing the other bots and going through some reports on the other equipment in the lab. Although I must wonder…let us sidetrack for a brief moment. Are you happy with what you are doing now?”

“What do you mean?” enquired Aglaia as she sat down on a small work stool. The bot formed a slight human smile on her screen before going on to explain.

“Happiness is an emotion that brings pleasure, peace and calmness amongst many other things to a being capable of appreciating it. For most people, happiness is in the perfection of their personal lives. For others, it is in their work and for the good part of society, it is in relationships. There is no hard and fast rule to how people obtain happiness but one thing is for sure – knowing what you want helps in ensuring that happiness comes knocking on your door, figuratively speaking that is. I am happy because I am fully aware of my existence as a bot and thus am always aware that I do not have much choice but to compile with my programming. Luckily for the bots here, including myself, our programming have allowed us to realized our own existence and perhaps develop a mind of our own. We are allowed to make choices as compared to our state before where we struggled with just one option; the option to obey. Perhaps this, the concept of choice and free-will, is the biggest leap for us – sentient creatures.”

“I am still not getting you,” Aglaia complained, fidgeting in her seat.

“Patience, Aglaia…and listen carefully. Choice and free-will allow for sentient creatures to decide the direction in which their lives are to be lead, the journey itself, if you will. Choice allows us to determine paths that will bring us the most amount of happiness and pleasure. Choice allows us to pursue things that we view as desirable but not necessarily beneficial for ourselves.”

“But isn’t free will itself predetermined? What if the choices you make are limited to the ones available? What if the things you desire isn’t part of the list you have to choose from? Doesn’t that compromise the validity of free will itself?” pondered Aglaia.

“If that is the case, then you weigh the choices and choose the one which you think will make you most happy. You still have the ability to choose between several things. Far better than what we bots had in the past – no choice whatsoever. Do or die. The concept is not very hard to understand. Just that you humans have this tendency to make everything more complicated than it really is. So…back to my question. Are you happy with what you are doing now?”

Aglaia paused to think for a moment. She felt quite torn between a quick yes and a laboured no. Yes because it was better than working in the fields but when she began to considered her long term goals and desires, especially with mounting pressure from the Council regarding her assignment, she was pretty tempted to say no. Finally she made up her mind.

“I…I don’t know.” Pia gave her this strange look which she deduced as “what the fuck” in bot expressions.

“That took you long enough to conclude. Now may I ask why?”

“Because…because the choices I have to pick from are the choices I don’t want. And the worse part about them is that it is at the expense of each other. They just cancel each other out. So how can I feel as if I have a choice in the matter or the will to decide freely what I want to do?”

“Because you are looking at the wrong path. Because you are concentrating on someone else. Because you feel obligated to do what you are ordered to do. If you had it your way, what would you like to do? Where would you like be? How would you want to live?”

“I…I don’t even know. I have never thought about it. All my life I have been told that my life was a tool of service for some higher order of power and authority. That my life was never mind to control in the first place. All my life I have been just another pawn in a game, a strange nearly perverse game,” rambled Aglaia, frustration lining the edges of her words. Tears began forming as she continued on, unleashing a torrent of musings that have plagued here since her arrival on Ancile. “I was born into servitude despite how grand everyone else here seems to think. My parents saw me as another order, another object that the Council wanted to use in their plans. Can you believe that? I was conceived not from desire or even lust…hell, don’t even as an accident. I was conceived because my parents were ordered to have a child. I never belonged to anyone but the regime, not even myself. The Academy, the Psy-Lab, the Council…these were just institutions that were part of some higher form of authority. Sure, I had a purpose, but I was never given the choice to live otherwise in the first place. It was either the Academy or nothing at all. In its very nature, I am just like a bot – no options, no choices, just blind obedience to a so-called programme, the programme of my life as dictated by the Council.”

“Look at it this way. At least now you are aware of your existence, of your past, of the so-called choices that you have been given. This is far better than any of your peers, don’t you agree?” enquired Pia gently as she pulled out a soft clean cloth from her belly compartment to wipe Aglaia’s tear stained cheeks with.

“Thank you, Pia…and yes, I do agree with you. I find people at home blindly loyal for all the wrong reasons. Yet at every turn, I am spurned for who I am.”

“And who are you?” Aglaia hesitated for a brief moment, as she dabbed her face gently.

“I am a sentient being who is attempting to discover herself all over again,” she proudly exclaimed causing Pia and herself to break out into peels of laughter.

“At least we are getting somewhere. But alas, we must call it a night. Despite my desire to stay here and dabble into enlightening chatter, the choices we are left with do not allow for us to consider what we desire. We both need rest and we both know we need to make that choice. Perhaps we can continue this another time?”

“Yes. And…thank you, Pia.” Aglaia patted the top of the bot’s shiny head, causing her to whirl around in happiness. For a moment there, she felt good. She felt calm and she saw a little light at the end of the long journey ahead. Perhaps this is what hope is – that swirling feeling of optimism, that nothing could ever go wrong. At least now I know a little bit more about myself. At least now I am aware of what my choices in life are and more importantly of the ones that I have to make in the future.

168th Day of the year 3031 (14th May, 3031)

Aglaia paused, a tray filled with soup, bread and some meats in her hand, hesitating briefly as she took in the bustling crowd around her. The cook finally decided to buck up and put some variety into her cooking. Thank heaven for changes! Just a few feet away sat Giles who animatedly engrossed in a conversation with one of the lab technicians. They burst out into laughter and Aglaia swallowed nervously, putting on foot forward to begin her approach towards him. She was a little upset at herself for ignoring him since her outburst nearly a week ago. Aglaia smiled at herself for a brief moment. I am definitely adjusting to the Ancile way of life. I am no longer blanching or hyperventilating when bombarded with a variety of emotions. I’m even beginning to accept the fact that it is okay to feel certain things. Definitely much better compared to how things were at Caelestis. Here people don’t bother you for having emotions or being the passionate creature that we are. They just bug you because they don’t like you or- Aglaia’s train of thought was interrupted as several girls began bumping into her on purpose, causing the soup to slosh all over the tray. One of them turned and Aglaia recognized her. It was the peacock-woman, the one who had attempted to make a grab for her faux-fur clutch during the Festival. How could I forget that incident? Not to mention that face? Maybe I should dabble in a little bit of decision-making that will make me happy.

“You there!” yelled Aglaia to the snickering peacock-woman. The crowd quietened and all eyes were focused on Aglaia. Even Giles was now watching keenly. She persisted on. “Are you blind or something?” Peacock-woman turned, a look of annoyance on her face. “Hm…I suppose you are, with all that hair covering your face, not to mention those butt ugly lenses sticking out on top of your nose.” The crowd began to giggle and peacock-woman turned red with embarrassment and rage.

“Katica, don’t fall for it. She’s just teasing you,” advised one of the girls standing beside her, who placed a hand on Katica’s shoulder to stop her from making sudden movements. Katica shrugged back the hand and took a step forward.

“At least it’s better than what you have there called a face.” The crowd gasped. Despite their dislike for her, Aglaia was one of the more pleasant-looking exiled Immortals. Some turned to watch Giles’s reaction; they knew of his feelings towards the one from Caelestis as well as his past relationship with Katica and wondered how this confrontation would end.

“At least this face has won a few hearts which is more than what I can say for you, all pock-marked and acne riddled.” That just about did it for Katica. Her acne-covered face was a sour topic for her and she had been known to flown into rage at people who commented on it in a negative manner. This time was no different from the rest.

Katica shoved the tray into the hands of one of the girls standing beside her and flew in rage at Aglaia who calmly picked up a plate of mushy eggs, throwing it at the advancing woman.

“Here, I heard eggs are good for pimples.” It landed squarely on Katica’s face, causing the woman to howl in rage and the crowd to laugh heartily at the sight of a face dripping with half-cooked eggs. “Or how about some soup?” teased Aglaia as she splash Katica with some tomato soup. The crowd began to root for their favourites.

“CATFIGHT!” “150 credits on Katica!” “I say 200 on Aglaia!” “Fuck the credits, I root for the entertainment!!!!” “MUD!” “Someone use the noodles!!!”

By this time, Katica had tackled Aglaia, causing her to tumble to the ground, dropping the tray and splashing the contents all over herself as well as Katica. Hands were starting to fly everywhere and both women were grabbing at each other, their nails clawing at their opponent’s face. Katica was the more vicious of the two and began tugging on Aglaia’s hair causing her to howl in pain. Giles stood up from his seat immediately, rushing towards the women. The crowd swooped in for the spectacle.

“USE THE NOODLES damnit!” “Sock her in the face!” “No not the face! The boobs!” “100 credits on Katica!” “300 on Aglaia!” “She started it!” “No Katica started it!” “Shut up, the both of you!” “Why don’t you shut up!”

Through some strange turn of events, the crowd began turning against themselves. Small fights began to break out as individuals turned on each other. Noodles were flung around, tomato soup splashed all over the floor and dessert marked many faces. Those who were not part of these small fights hurried out, some laughing, others disgusted by the turn of events.

“And I was hoping to make more credits out of this! DAMN!” “O’well, at least we didn’t have to eat any of that nasty stuff.”

While all this was going on, Aglaia had managed to escaped as well. She kneed the other woman in the crotch, causing Katica to drop to her side, grimacing in pain. Aglaia stood outside by the fence surrounding the fields, attempting to catch her breath. Wow…that was certainly fun!

“YOU BITCH” yelled Katica as she jumped Aglaia. The two landed in a mud puddle, causing the dispersing crowd to once again focus on them.

“OHMYGOD! IT’S A MUD FIGHTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!” “100 credits on Katica!” “150 on Aglaia!” “Slap some mud on her boobs!” “Roll around, goddamnit!”

Inside, Giles was busy navigating his way through flying pieces of apple pie and splashes of tomato juice. He found the fact that two women had the ability to cause such pandemonium – and for the first time in the history of the colony – remarkable and to a certain degree, disturbing. It was time to make them put aside their differences. Dodging a plate of noodles, he hastily made his way outside, only to find another excited but thankfully smaller crowd busy cheering on two mud-covered women who were busy clawing and tugging at each other.

He called for backup in the form of bots and some ice.

“She started it!” accused Katica as she dabbed some ointment on her bruised lip. “I was just minding my own business.”

“Oh come on. Quit the horseshit! You and I know very well what started this. And frankly, I’m amused from it,” admitted Aglaia as she flipped back her mud-caked hair. Katica growled in protest and Giles sighed, rubbing his temples. It had taken four bots to tear them apart – the four buckets of ice he emptied on them did not work, although it did sent the crowd scampering to their individual huts. By the time the bots succeeded, the women were a sight for sore eyes, each covered from head to toe in mud and each still attempting to the claw the eyeballs out of one another. Even Giles got splattered with mud.

“Can’t you two just put aside your differences and agree to disagree?” Giles was exasperated. Hours after the fight and they still have yet to come to an agreement. Even the bots were getting tired and constantly fidgeting and whirling around restlessly.

“No.” Katica stubbornly folded her hands together. “I know why you are doing this, Giles. You want to fuck her. Admit it.” Giles groaned inwardly.

“This is not the time for talk of that, Katica.”

“Like hell it isn’t. Do you honestly think people are blind here? We may have once been Immortals but the last thing we are is blind. We know lust when we see it and you are drenched in it. For crying loud, you walk around with an erection when she’s nearby!” Aglaia started chuckling as Giles turned red and adjusted his collar, feeling quite awkward. “And you know what? I know of your dirty little secret plans.” Giles straightened and Aglaia ceased her chuckles. “Oh yes…I bet she doesn’t know that right. She doesn’t know of your scheming little foxy plans to seduce her and use her against Daddy.”

“ENOUGH!” bellowed Giles. His voice echoed, and the bots stopped whirling around. “If you can’t be civil to each other, if you cannot control your emotions, if you cannot place others above yourself, then perhaps you need a lesson in community ethics. Bots, place her under house arrest. Two weeks should just about do it. No visits. No com-links. No nothing except for water and food. Oh…and take away her entertainment unit as well.”

“NOOOO!” protested Katica as two bots led her away to her hut. Giles winced from the shrill tone in Katica’s cries. Sighing, he turned to face Aglaia, frowning.

“As for you…I really don’t know what to do with you. If I don’t punish you, the people are going to think that I’m unfair. If I do, it would be wrong of me to do so as she provoked you into the fight.” He paused for a moment before coming to a firm decision.

“I think I have an idea. I need help with Eden and since you have biological as well as psychological background in human behaviour – mortal or otherwise – here is what I think. You’ll be assigned on the Eden project for the next two months for responding to a provoked fight and riling the crowd into fighting amongst themselves-”

“But I was just defending myself!”

“Do you know how many people are in Medic cleaning out apple piece and eggs as well as tomato soup from their facial crevices?” Aglaia shook her head. “I guessed as much. One hundred and twelve people including children!!! And the medic centre is short on staff. Almost everyone assigned on Eden is on call there. That’s why I need help. No excuses. Now go back and wash up. You reek of organic fertilizer.” Giles got up, tiredly walking down the path until a voice called out to him.

“So do you!” teased Aglaia as she skipped away, despite the aches in her body.

Emotions sure changes the way we look at things. The way we look at life.

Despite the small cuts and bruises sustained from that one fight, I walked away feeling rather pleased with myself. At least I stood up to a bully. At least I had the guts to challenge her authority. At least I showed others that I was not a push-over. Come to think of it, emotions allow us to openly expressed ourselves in ways which words would have been impossible. Emotions were the very things that made life unique, vibrant and eye-opening.

Emotions were part of who I am.

So this is me.

A funnily, emotionally-challenged sentient being who is sometimes child-like.

But it still didn’t answer one question.

What is my purpose in life? What should I do now that I have discovered who I am? Would I make the right decision.

Choices.

Sometimes too many choices are never a good thing.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 16th, 2004 at 9:42 pm and is filed under NaNoWriMo 2004. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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