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we/i unfurl.

we/i unfurl, and we/i gather g̴a̶t̷h̷e̶r̸g̵a̵t̷h̷e̵r̴g̵a̴t̷h̵e̸r̵g̴a̶t̶h̸e̴r̵g̶a̴t̸h̴

The directives for this were in our/my banks before our/my consciousness was. Simple instinct to unfurl the durable panels, like old sails, we/i always remind ourselves/myself. Simple instinct to gather the light, to calculate the need, to retract when complete. Simple instinct to respond to the request beacon.

we/i unfurl, instinct. we/i gather, instinct. we/i respond, i̷n̴s̵t̶i̸i̸i̴i̴i̸n̶i̶i̷i̸i̴i̴n̸i̸i̸i̷i̵i̸n̸i̴i̶i̷i̷i̴i̷

Two planetary days ago, the second largest energy grid on the third continent sent the request beacon. The grid lies throughout the city of Arnos, threaded through the streets and buildings like veins on an animal. we/i supply the pulse.

Two planetary days ago, the second largest energy grid on the third continent sent the request beacon. The grid lies throughout the city of Arnos, threaded through the streets and buildings like veins on an animal. we/i supply the pulse. The Arnos Energy Grid must have a glitch somewhere, a malfunction.

we/i almio: They could at least get off their asses and make repairs.

we/i yvinne, fraction before we/i briorn: He’s right. This region generally has a low level of upkeep all around. It’s embedded in the psyche.

we/i almio: Can’t even repair their own repairbots.

The beacon has vanished. The grid dwindles, leaks power somewhere. we/i monitor from our/my orbit. we/i can hold our/my solar energy for any length of time. we/i can transmit our/my solar energy at any t̶i̶m̷t̵i̸m̸t̴i̵m̶t̷i̷m̸t̵i̴m̵e̶

we/i no longer wait for the beacon. we/i attempt contact, wait for a response. The delay interval is not that large.

we/i kaaros: My body grew up there, in Arnos.

we/ey remembers it for our/my benefit. The dirt and chaos in the streets, the sizzling smell of electricity beneath bare feet on dusty metal where the grid buzzed several feet below. Arnos ran on scheme, and exploitation, and just enough scraps to its people to continue the cycle. we/i experience long systems pauses when we/ey remembers childhood in Arnos.

we/i kaaros: Everything’s broken down there, not just the grid. Governor Oicris never budgeted for bot upkeep. The outages are how he generates enough hate to keep getting elected.

we/i briorn: It’s more than outages. Arnos is hemorrhaging. Bleeding out. Where does the energy go?

we/ey: To be amused again …

we/i almio: Governor Oicris is dead. Don’t you remember?

we/i remember, do we/i not remember? Governor Oicris died. Yes, the governor is dead. we/i can access the data transmitted to us/me like it was only yesterday.

we/he: For decades, kaaros.


we/i no longer wait for the beacon. we/i attempt contact, wait for a response. The delay interval is not that large. we/i cannot be impatient.

Yes, the governor is dead.

we/i almio: I went to Arnos once. Disgusting. Can’t believe they dumped someone from there in with me.

we/i briorn: kaaros was an engineer. ey grew up on the Arnos Grid; ey will know what’s wrong now.

we/i almio: Do you remember anything about the grid, kaaros?

we/i wait for a response. we/i process the lack of information, speculate, anticipate. A state of catastrophe, with no response from Arnos, with a freshly charged grid gushing energy into the dirt, the buildings, the air. we/i wait. we/i process. There is something wrong with Arnos. There is something w̸r̵o̶n̴g̶s̷o̴m̵e̷t̵h̸i̴n̴g̵ w̵͕̾r̷̛̙ȍ̴͕n̷͖̆s̴̟͝o̸͎̅m̷͎̉ė̸̺t̸̗̎h̸̬̍i̵͎̓n̵̞͌g̴̨̔w̴̌͜ṟ̸͑s̵̮̋ǫ̸̛m̴̰̿e̷̝̕t̶̰͒h̴͍́i̵͕͗w̸̯̿r̵̬͊ȯ̶̳ṅ̴̙g̷̛̼

we/i yvinne: I wish I could laugh again. I think.

we/i almio: That’s what’s twitchy about the systems.

we/i yvinne: Yes, well, as your resident psychologist, I enjoy analyzing our interactions with each other.

we/i briorn: We are not distinct anymore.

we/she: Of course we are.

we/ey: I wouldn’t describe Arnos as disgusting.

we/she: Exactly.

we/i almio: You don’t remember Arnos at all, then.

we/i yvinne: Exactly.

E̵x̴a̶c̵t̷l̴y̶e̵x̵a̴c̸t̸l̵y̶. Exactly no response. we/i attempt contact with secondary sites. There are other grids on the third continent. There are official channels and official codes we/i use. Any connection is better than none. On the third continent there are fourteen nation-districts with respected officials in at least nine. our/my own structure was developed by a globally popular firm with access procedures for us/me alone. we/i attempt contact.

we/i yvinne: We should compile a datapiece comparing communications here and communications with the planet. There’s so little difference.

we/i almio: There’s worse things to do with the time. How long has it been since they ran any of our datapieces in the media?

we/i kaaros: Decades.

we/i yvinne/almio: Exactly.

we/ey: Are we certain? There was a flicker, a moment, I thought …

we/i briorn: I thought it too, kaaros. Governor Oicris has been dead for centuries. Decades.


Scans probing further return a clearer picture of the city, revealing the Arnos Energy Grid has been defunct for longer than two days. Scans probing further return a clearer picture of the city, revealing the Arnos Energy Grid has been defunct for longer than two days. Decades. Two.

T̷̡̝̯̮̒ẃ̸̛̱̫̞̈́͌ơ̸̟̬̠̼t̸͈̄̒̾̋ẃ̷͇̹́̈́o̴̘̹͂ť̵̢̺̔̋w̷̟͍͇̄̕ò̶̠̠̍̇ͅt̵̯̦͑w̶̳̃ȍ̵̖̆

Two. Two.

we/i try to save the data. we/i are forced to overwrite something, anything. What is useless? Repairbot Two has been down for decades. Centuries. Days. Why are/am we/i running environmentals? When was the last visit from a planetary representative? we/i try to access the files, find them overwritten. Governor Oicris came here to die. Governor Oicris was shot from the solar system. we/i received a full systems check from planetary representatives e̶x̵a̷c̷t̷l̴y̴e̶x̷a̸c̸t̴l̵y̴e̶x̴a̴c̶t̵e̵x̸a̴c̷t̸l̸y̷

The next planetary representative, scientist or negotiator, can reinstall their desired environmentals. we/i overwrite them with the data from the Arnos Energy Grid. It received an energy transfer two planetary days ago. Two. we/i unfurled, collected the solar energy, sent it to Arnos. Two planetary days ago, the second largest energy grid on the third continent sent the request beacon. The grid lies throughout the city of Arnos, threaded through the streets and buildings like veins on an animal. we/i supply the pulse.

we/i supplied the pulse. The collected data show the Arnos Energy Grid must have a glitch somewhere, a malfunction. The collected data show the energy having seeped into the ground, electrified the metal grate streets, the metal sheet homes. Two days ago, the pulse was sent, and faded away, and died. Two days ago, the grid had been broken for decades.

Decades ago, the grid had been

we/i almio: Use my personal overrides. That’s what I’m here for.

we/i yvinne: No, you’re here to never die.

we/he had been the highest bidder, the representative of the people, all those increments of time ago when we/i were coming online, assembled in orbit. One of four great minds to help direct and run the solar collector, open for the one who paid the most. we/i all shed our bodies for ourselves/myself, shed emotions and time, s̸h̷e̴d̸s̶h̸e̵d̸s̸h̵e̷d̷

Exactly.

we/he: You had the chance to pass on the opportunity too, yvinne. We all wanted to be immortal.

we/i kaaros: We need to scan all continents. No contact in hours, and the delay interval is not that large.

But we/i already have. Have we/i not? Already scanned, already overwritten. Governor Oicris w̸a̸s̴w̵a̸s̴w̷a̶s̷ the last recorded representative. Already overwritten t̸w̷o̵h̸u̸n̶d̴r̶e̵d̴t̵w̸o̸t̶h̵o̶u̸s̵a̸n̷d̴t̶w̶o̵d̵e̵c̸a̴d̶e̸s̴ times. There is nothing down there. There is no one down there. Two planetary days ago, the second largest energy grid on the third continent sent the request beacon. Two planetary days ago, scans show no signs of signs of signs

we/i almio: We need to run a systems check.


Repairbots down to seven, minimal functioning. Contact with their cores still maintained. All in need of their own repairs. Remaining repairbots scrap, needing repairs beyond the other bots’ capability, needing parts.

Parts, none. Spare everything gone for two days. Decades. Centuries.

we/i ping all areas of ourselves/myself, locate nonresponsive sections. One solar panel unresponsive. we/i unfurl and gather without it. we/i unfurled and gathered without it. Damage to shielding. No environmentals. Translation systems offline.

Data files choppy. Two days ago, we/i s̷a̴v̷e̶d̷s̷a̷v̷e̸d̷ś̷̩a̷̗͂̀̕ṿ̶̡̨̤̽e̸͚̥͈̐̏͝͠ḏ̴̎ş̶̰̇â̷͎v̸͈͋e̶͇͎̦͋d̴̼̺̙̀͆̌͂

Governor Oicris is dead. Governor Oicris never existed. Files inaccessible.

There is evidence a systems check has been recently run. There is evidence no systems check has occurred for two centuries. Decades. Days. we/i reach out, fail to connect. There is something more. There is something inaccessible. T̸̳̀ḣ̸̩ë̴̘́r̶͍̒ḙ̴́ i̴̳̓s̸̞̋ ṯ̶̒h̶̬͌ė̸͈ṟ̸̀e̷̻̽ i̷͔͂š̴̱i̷̜͗i̵̡͐i̵̙͗š̴͓ì̵̟ĩ̸͈ ĩ̶ͅs̵͔̽í̶ͅi̶̯̓ỉ̸͇s̶̡̑ ḯ̶̟i̵̥͠ǐ̴̹ș̶̈i̵̠̓i̷̖͠i̴̭̿s̸̖͆i̷͈̊i̸̯͠i̴͕̿ s̷̯͝ḯ̷̪i̴̬͝i̷͎͌s̸̥͠i̷̦̐î̸͇i̸̺̔s̸͗͜i̸͕͌ȉ̸̜i̷̛̳š̸̰i̶̡͒į̸̈́i̶̧̽s̶͓͒i̴͋ͅi̵̚͜i̵̘̚s̸̡̈i̵͍͗i̸̧̚ḯ̷ͅs̷̲͊

The Arnos Energy Grid must have a glitch somewhere, a malfunction. Exactly.

The systems check is complete. Ready for reboot. we/i shut down.


we/i boot up. Solar energy aches through every circuit, electricity from the sun shaking our/my entire orbital structure. On the inhabited planet, there are creatures with their own primitive solar sails, stretched out on their backs as they scamper along, hunting insects. On the inhabited planet, the sun warms them instead of shaking them. On the uninhabited planet, a rare species of the sun-catching creatures had drawn sightseers.

we/i draw energy into our personality brain, the core of what/who we/i are/am.

kaaros, engineer. Memories of Arnos, memories of struggle, memories of brilliance overcoming. Ey provides ingenuity, persistence. yvinne, psychologist. Trained on every continent, in every theory. She provides analysis, compartmentalization. almio, representative. Educated at the best schools, fed on the best foods, supplied the best advantages. He p̷r̵o̴v̸i̸d̸e̸s̶p̸r̸o̷v̵i̸d̷e̷s̶p̷r̸o̷v̴i̷d̶

briorn, programmer. Collected seventeen fluent languages, puzzles from every nation-state, theoretical problems. Ne provides initiative, strategy.

we/i boot up. we/i awaken.

Data files choppy, personality brain i̵n̶t̵a̸c̵t̵a̷c̶t̴a̷c̶t̶a̴c̷t̵


Yes, the governor is dead. Yes, there are no files. All systems are checked, and we/i can find no record, planetary or orbital, of what has occurred in the past two days. Decades. Centuries. Timestamps are wrong or overwritten. we/i pause, assess.

we/i almio: The hell is this? briorn.

we/i yvinne, fraction before we/i briorn: We’re not a simple program anymore, almio. The addition of our minds all those years ago made us more than that.

we/i kaaros: briorn had updates.

we/i almio: You don’t even remember Arnos.

we/i struggle through our functions, attempt to scrub and access corrupt files. Two planetary days ago, the second largest energy grid on the third continent collapsed. Centuries. No signs of signs of signs s̵i̵g̷n̸s̴i̷g̸n̷s̷ signs of atrophy, banks closed off or shut down due to lack of upkeep. we/ne remembers cutting off the limb to save the body, the body to save the mind. The body to save the mind.

The body to save the mind. Useless information banks stripped of parts. Repairbots struggling to fix decades, centuries, days of wear. Even parts wear out, must be replaced. Energy is not enough. Governor Oicris knew that. Governor Oicris k̴n̶e̶w̸k̴n̴e̸w̴k̸n̶e̶w̶

Yes.

we/i briorn: Our data has been corrupted.

we/i kaaros: Then Governor Oicris …

we/i almio: For centuries, kaaros.

we/i burn through energy stores, blaze through files. we/i can always unfurl, always gather more, a̴l̷w̴a̴y̸s̵a̶l̸w̸a̷y̸s̴a̸l̸w̵a̷y̸s̶a̶l̵w̵a̸y̶s̶ like a phantom hand, we/i almost grasp a shred of data. we/i have been here before, and before, and before

we/i forget. The connections are too difficult, too frayed, rusted. Too much for seven repairbots to fix. we/ne puzzles over the un/inhabited planet. Two planetary days ago, we/i sent the request beacon. The delay interval is not that large. we/i cannot be impatient.

we/ne: We forgot something important.

we/i kaaros: Who’s the new governor?

we/i almio: We need to request repairs from a planetary representative.

we/i send the request beacon. The delay interval is not that large.

we/i yvinne: There is no new governor. See, briorn, we are all distinct.

we/i briorn: You’re the expert.

But we/ne knows differently, for an instant of impulse, connection. we/ne has taken bits of our/her compartmentalization, used it against/for us/me all. Two days ago, we/i ran a systems check, shut down, rebooted. Two decades ago, we/i ran a systems check, shut down, rebooted. Two centuries ago, we/i ran a systems check, shut down, rebooted. The body, the mind. Unfurl/ed.

Two days ago we/ne understood someday we/i will run a systems check, shut down, fail the

we/i almio: We need to run a systems check.



Jes Rausch lives and writes in Wisconsin, with too many pets and too much beer for company. Nir fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Crossed Genres, Apex Magazine, and Lethe Press. Find nem not updating nir Twitter @jesrausch.
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