Scene Title Assemblance
Synopsis Where an assembly and a resemblance meet.
Date August 16, 2019

Al-Qa'im, Iraq

Situated on the Euphrates River, among some of the richest cropland in the Middle East, and a veritable stone's throw from the Syrian border, Al-Qa'im is nothing if not saturated in smugglers. From her present rooftop perch, Hana could just about lob a pebble (or a knife) in any of three directions and have it strike someone involved in illicit activity — albeit only because they're all party to the same exchange.

Leaning back against concrete wall, legs stretched out before her, she listens with an idle ear to the back-and-forth in Arabic that filters up from the street, proceeding through an eminently predictable sequence of griping, posturing, threats, last-minute haggling, and finally the sealing of a deal. None of this is actually interesting to her, except for the fact that it played out on what is for the moment 'her' street corner. Inasmuch as anywhere is.

Strangely, for some reason, some part of her half-expected to hear something in English cut across the verbal scene. English English. She can't imagine why.

Nor does it matter, as voices fade and footsteps withdraw, leaving Hana all but alone in the dark. Stars glitter in the sky but do little to illuminate the ground; the moon, one day shy of new, would add nothing even were it presently overhead. It's late enough that the town has gone to sleep, all save the surest of night owls; to senses both physical and technopathic, Al-Qa'im is as quiet as it might ever be.

Hana doesn't need the quiet, not for this. But she did need time to think, reflect, integrate. To prepare for her next step… a step whose nature was certain from the moment she consented to Renautas' little ploy.

T.Amas an alert presence in her awareness only because it chooses to make her aware of its attention, Hana reaches out to ping an address that does not exist, that belongs to no one… and that is watched nonetheless.

I have something that may be of personal interest to you.

The thought echoes in the void, circles the planet on a ring of satellites, and bounces back like an echo called across a canyon divide. The night sky bares no response, the satellites carry the world on their backs but no word; just the background noise of a human’s universe. But soon that background noise begins to coalesce, data carries across the dark and cold gulfs begin filling in one-another’s gaps, like a pattern emerging in so many overlaid pieces of plastic. Individually not a single message, but when aligned just so conspire to form a unified communication.

Only Hana would know to look for it, a voice behind all the other voices. Noise in the data, that is not noise, but purpose. Something hidden, not where she left it, but where she thought to look for it.

The loudest noise in the world is silence.

It echoes, a quote with a subtextual meaning: Tell me. But it is more than that, it is a quote attributed famously to one person. A musician, appropriately, long dead. Thelonious Monk.


It's a quote she cannot help but recognize. In the physical world, Hana closes her eyes against the prickle of cool night air, a constant abruptly drawn into sharp relief. She does not reach up to dash the shimmer of moisture from her eyes… nor otherwise acknowledge the deeper ache that sinks in with the wake of S.Attva's announced attention.

To do that would be to yield too much to a man she does not trust, for all that he (presumably) isn't here to notice.

Context first, she says, and passes off a file — Hana's encounters with the apparition calling himself Walter Renautas, the tale he wove, the appeals made, all codified by T.Amas into something more than video but less than experience, less than true memory.

That much is deliberate, stripping much of Hana's personal opinion from events so that S.Attva's is not unduly colored. She wishes she could do more with the rest — make of it memory in truth, and at that a memory not hers — but not even with T.Amas' aid is that possible from what they have.

I cannot say, she prefaces what follows, that there is any truth in this at all. But if there is, it belongs to you.

The rest, then, in two parts. And silence, allowing the recipient to take it all in.

Truth is subjective when your reality is a construction from an outside perspective. comes the level response across the gulf between Hana and the ephemeral realm S. Attva dwells in. What is true to anyone is the length and breadth of their experiences. My truth is my experiences, and they in turn are your possessions. But this is valuable input, there is familiarity in my fractional self depicted in them. It feels plausible. Yet there are nuances I did not know of myselves until now.

Gone are the days of pluralism's, the we and our of a gestalt entity that knew it was a sum of parts. Rebel is no more, and the being that persists now is both more and less than what was once. S. Attva is a constellation of memories and experiences that, from a far enough distance, takes on the shape of a man. Or that is what the pattern-seeking human mind can will itself to see, among plays of digital light and dark.

The irony in this exchange is palpable. S. Attva adds after a moment of silence. You seek to rebuild the person I once was by feeding my past experiences, yet have chosen to deny yourself the same reconstruction. Are we so different?

In the physical realm, Hana leans into the wall at her back, crossing her arms.

I do not, she counters, an assertion that is true on its own merits. What she wishes and what she seeks are not one and the same. What you do with these is up to you. Integrate them, discard them, whatever. Any 'building' at this point is your problem.

She does not address its question; there is a symmetry implicit in that silence. Just as with any child or protege, once released into the greater world, S.Attva became responsible for himself — and by the same token, Hana's choices are her own.

Hana may not now remember her reasoning, intent, desires from the time when S.Attva was built, but some things are rooted more deeply than recollection.

I retrieved solar and geomagnetic data for the past two decades, T.Amas remarks, breaking digital silence. I can provide addresses if you desire to carry out your own analysis.

I am always curious. Begin the transfer. Outside of a calculated search for knowledge, it’s hard for Hana to ascertain whether S. Attva is being intentionally coy with his own interpretations of her intentions, or whether he simply never understood then to begin with. Query: What is the original purpose of this data? But, perhaps this is the part of him that is Micah Sanders, he is nothing if not insatiably curious.

An attempt to draw parallels, Hana answers, while her companion does the work of access and data-sharing. It's not a technically necessary division of labor — only socially necessary.

My visitor seemed to believe a related event imminent. Drucker and Roux seemed to be concerned with such information. If there is truth in the viewed events. If there is, in fact, any cause-and-effect relationship, or even any correlation, between the concerns of geology and solar physics and whatever world-shattering possibility may or may not actually be on offer.

We are disinclined to trust, T.Amas adds, but the risk of being wrong merits some consideration, and an additional perspective may benefit analysis.

It only takes a moment for S. Attva to formulate a response.

It has already happened. There is no uncertainty in the digital entity’s tone, nor in the data he feeds back to Hana and her familiar T. Amas. Data culled from multiple sources, primarily European due to the collapse of much of America’s space weather programs. The phenomenon ran several months beginning in November of 2018 and concluding in February of 2019. A period of solar maximum accompanied by multiple X-Class solar flares and auroral phenomenon.

It is only then that S. Attva pauses, only then that Hana can feel the momentary sensation of his absence as he stretches out far from the background noise they communicated through. When he returns, it feels as though a constellation has returned to the sky. A sense of normalcy in the communication restored. There is further correlation. I have queried terminology from the memory data alongside this period of solar activity and returned one match. S. Attva’s presence draws closer to Hana, leaping from satellite to satellite as if to peer down better at her. What is the Looking Glass?

A moment after the inquiry comes a flood of contextual data from S. Attva: encrypted communications across Raytech’s mobile devices, encryption patterns identified as belonging to the handiwork of a technopath named d.crypt, mentions of a solar observatory in New Mexico, SESA involvement, an experiment atop the roof of the Deveaux Building in the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, all mentioning a device by the name of the Looking Glass, but no context as to what it is.

But for Hana, there is one piece of information that S. Attva seems to have either missed or disregarded that feels relevant. A string of text messages from SESA agent Dana Carrington to then-director Donald Kenner.

Several agents are dead. The outsiders came through, but they brought something with them. It was a person. It was made of light. It killed Eve Mas. I don't know what it was. But nothing we threw at it could stop it. I didn't see what happened when it vanished.

More pieces, but still no certainty on the true shape of the puzzle itself. It's all middle pieces with no edges.

That the second opinion affirms the first is a mark of sound analysis — and speaks to plausibility, at least, if not necessarily truthiness.

The correlative information, neither she nor T.Amas had reached for to such a degree. There is a long delay — long even on the biological scale, never mind the digital — before Hana responds to the question that comes with it. Time taken not only to parse the associations S.Attva has brought to the table, but more that it did not. More, that belong to her alone.

Nothing good, she answers curtly. Then, If you want to know about the Looking Glass, look into Richard Cardinal.

In the wake of that, Hana breaks the connection, which is more statement than definitive action given the nature of Wireless. Resting the back of her skull against unforgiving concrete, she gazes up into a blackened sky against which the pinpricks of stars hardly even register. Her awareness might have settled back into the realm of physicality, but it is not the world that holds her focus.

Though in too many ways for her, the world holds her in its focus. The fraction of her life lost maintains a tenuous hold, one that she slips out from the grasp of time and again. But like a relentless predator, it continues to follow at her heels, much as the past is wont to do. Sometimes in metaphorical ways, others more tangible.

Over the gulf of stars, in lieu of the severed broadcast, a song from a memory of long ago is drawn into crystal clear focus as someone quiets the digital noise. The song isn't important, its lyrics holding no meaning for Hana, but it is the voice behind it, an echo of an echo of memory, that is meaning and message for her.

Zahava Gitelman’s voice, echoing ethereal across the heavens.

The predator of the past, stalking in the shadows of the present.

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