Zero Sum


rajas_icon.gif tmonk_icon.gif

Scene Title Zero Sum
Synopsis shame on us / doomed from the start / may god have mercy on our dirty little hearts/ shame on us / for all we have done / and all we ever were / just zeroes and ones
Date October 9, 2009

The Global Telecommunications Grid

A wise woman once said, the net is vast and infinite. Never more has this been true, than in the twilight of the information age. Thousands of satellites form a comprehensive network that hangs in the stars. once that can beam information anywhere and anytime at the blink of an eye. It is in this network of information that they reside — angels of the information age — spirits of the net that drift with the ebb and flow of data transmissions, ephemeral creatures composed of zeroes and ones. Thought that was once man.

«What was that all about, Monk.»

The voice is youthful and exasperated, the distant trill of electric sounds behind his synthesized voice as it carries across the bandwidth of a telecommunications satellite halfway across the globe to a cell phone that the bodiless technopath known only as Thelonious Monk resides within. Unaware that his phone is a vessel for a purusha — a 'bodiless being' in the hindu faith — a sixteen year old high schooler from Okinawa, Japan quietly rides on the train, watching the sun setting out a window.

«That was the passage of time, my student.»

The answer isn't true sarcasm, but it could easily be interpreted as such.

«Damnit, Monk. You went public! You told me we weren't going to go public! You told me we wouldn't support //terrorists!»

The response calls Monk away, grabbing a hold of a packet transmission, finding himself launched into the lightless depths of space, his consciousness coiled around the framework of a great satellite designed to relay television signals across the northern hemisphere of the earth. His voice resonates deep within the machine, the echo of foreign language stations a whisper behind his words.

«Norman White had a message he wished to get to the people, and I agree that the Americans have become blinded to the corruption in their nation. The radio broadcast last night was mere opportunistic propoganda. I figured you of all people would understand opportunism, my disciple.»

The crackling essence of R.Ajas leaps from satellite to satellite, sending a minute power surge across the circuitry until he finds himself within the same subsystem as T.Monk, settling in around the core processor and internal components, causing the satellite a momentary disturbance in its transmission. In Mexico, sixty thousand people watching Telemundo curse the bad weather on the spotty reception.

«People are going to get hurt because of what Norman White said! You— you had to have known!»

A distant choir of Spanish soap operas titter behind the words of R.Ajas, and Monk's deafening silence seems even more profound in the vastness of space. There is a hesitance in his response, not out of lacking for things to say, but rather tired discontent. The crackling sigh he offers is tempered by the undertones of a weather forecast in Haiti.

«Humanity will always find a reason to kill itself, R.Ajas. I did not need to give humanity an excuse.»

«We are humanity, Monk. Don't talk like we're not like them anymore!»

Monk's response again is slow to come.

«Like "them?"» The pause is brief, followed by a series of high-pitched beeping and clicks. «You already know we are nothing like they are. We are eternal now, spirits of the digital age that transcended the need of physical forms. We have attained what the enlightened monks of Tibet had sought for generations. You and I and Malice are nothing like them any longer. Surely, you cannot help but feel different?»

Unwinding from around the hardware, R.Ajas' digital signature slithers down past the main components, moving into the transmission software as the shrieking litany of beeping, clicking and static crackling underlines his words with an emotion of anger.

«I'm nothing like Malice.» The digital white noise grows louder. «You told Phoenix a war between the Evolved and Non-Evolved was coming, you told me that one day you'd tell me how you knew! I want to know, Monk. I want to know right now how you know that's going to happen!»

Lights on the satellite turn from blue to red, one of the processors is overheating. Sensing this, Monk transmits himself across the distance and towards a telescope designed to capture images of distant galaxies, rebounding off of that old hardware and changing his course towards a new Japanese cell phone core satellite. Settling in to the virtual memory, his response is a terse one.

«I just know.»

R.Ajas gives chase immediately, beaming himsefl across the vast distances of space and information, leaping from network to network across different satellites, shorter distances traveled until he sinks deep into the software designed to control the servo interfaces in the satellites mechanical components.

«You're lying. You're going to start it, you're going to cause a war and millions of people are going to die because you think you're better than them now!»

Silence, this time tempered only by the dial tones, ring tones and vicemail messages of half of the Japanese continent layered over one another into a susurrus of too many voices.


Such a short, flat, outright denial only serves to rile R.Ajas more. One of the solar arrays on the satellite unintentionally re-aligns itself with a whirr-click of the internal machinery that is suffocated silent by the airless void of space. R.Ajas' digital form moves up into the main power core and heat regulation systems, then moves down to the stabalization thrusters' control systems.

«Stop messing with me! I know you're lying! You're trying to drive a wedge between them just so you can live out some sick fantasy of rebellion! You're trying to play them like it's some huge game!»

Once again the circuit-boards R.Ajas is attached to continue to heat up, and Monk moves down towards the transmission software, his words now more deeply layered behind the chatter of millions of Japanese cell phone users.

«I told you, R.Ajas, I am a pacifist. I do not believe in violence.» A slow and steady beep of a busy signal hangs between his words. «Humanity on the other hand… knows only violence. It is their language.»

The internal temperature regulators go haywire, and the circuit board lets out with a series of short-lived sparks inside of its air-tight chassis, followed by the activation of an internal alert to the other neighboring satellites to begin trying to shoulder the burden of this system as critical hardware failures begin to go rampant across it.

«You're manipulative. You're a bastard! You told me not to contact my mother, you told me not to involve her, and then you pretended to be me to lure her to my body just in time to watch me die!»

Registry entries begin to corrupt, one by one systems start shutting down as the operating system becomes a total loss. Redundant systems activate and fail in a cascade as R.Ajas' temper continues to flare. The solar panels on the sides of the satellite twist and skew and cant in awkward directions, reflecting light crookedly before the thrusters sput out a burst of gas, sending the satellite into a spin.

«Is that what I am?»

Monk's voice is flat behind the hiss of static coming from the satellite as he transmits himself out of the hulking piece of failing hardware that spirals out of control, beaming himself up to a United States Government spy satellite, bypassing the security wall with a memorized authentication signature and locking the entrance behind himself with a far higher enceyption than was there to begin with.


Only now does R.Ajas realize what his flared temper has done as he feels the last few systems shutting down. In a panic, he transmits himself out, a further distance than Monk had to go, since that satellite is now shut off to him. He leaps across the digital divide of the void, landing by digital fingertips on the edge of a cable network's broadcasting satellite, then bounces quickly to a NASA sjky debris observation satellite and focuses its electronic eye down on the Japanese cell phone core that is spiraling down towards earth, beginning to turn red on the edges as it brushes against the atmosphere.

They are both silent.

The cell phone satellite blackens as the friction of descent into the upper atmosphere grows more intense, white flames leaping from around the edges as the solar panels crack and shatter, sending glittering shards of glass flickering up into the dark void of space, the metal chassic blackening around the edges, flames finding way between seams where oxygen ignites and boils circuitboards into molten slag.

«Temperance is the shield against violence.»

Monk's first words comne as a bitter reminder to R.Ajas about the responsibilities he shoulders in this form of his. R.Ajas can hear nothing behind Monk's words, just the ambience of emptiness that is the lonliness of black beyond the edge of the earth. For a time, all R.Ajas can do is continue to follow the collapsing satellite down towards the earth as it breaks up, grows hotter and burns, like a shooting star streaking across the heavens until it is no longer visible.

«Humanity is the same way.» Monk states with no pride in his voice, only emotionless calm. «They will fight, and struggle, and grow more and more violent until their eyes are opened to the cost of their own violence. Until they see the cost of what they do enough so that they all cannot hide behind a curtain of denial any longer.»

He's still angry, but R.Ajas rage is now quelled behind that shelter of humility and disappointment in himself for losing control of his ability. He still disagrees with Monk, he still //hates/ his agenda, but somehow now at least he can understand a fraction of its logic.

«They need us, R.Ajas. And I need you to be able to be above them, to transcend their petty anger. You still have far to go and learn.»

Tricking others into violence to prove a point; in a way it's a devilishly eloquent solution. R.Ajas can see a portion of T.Monk's plan now, in the replayed images of the satellite burning up that he reviews inside of his new shell. Then, finally, humility breeds the respect of an answer.

«I'm ready to continue learning…»

Which is all Monk wanted to hear.

Much of this scene was inspired by the Nine Inch Nails song of the same name, Zero Sum, off of the album Year Zero.

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