Entertainment – The Failure Delegation

Finally, the seventeenth anthology is done. It can be found here.

For this one I wrote a story with a little bit of hope for the future. Not too much, I don’t want to be accused of writing happy endings, but I have included a tiny shred of hope. It’s a fair way into ‘Panoptica’ but it’s still quite a way from the end. Hopefully you’ll be able to keep track of what’s going on.

The Failure Delegation

Jennifer stared into darkness and silence until, with a loud clack, harsh lights came on. She pressed her eyes closed against the glare until they became accustomed, then opened them a little. Her arms were tied behind her but the rope around her waist was visible and if she leaned forward a little, the ropes tying her legs to the chair came into view, just a little bit.

She looked up, squinting against the glare of the lighting. To her left, his head hanging, Quentin let out a grunt but made no other movement. Like her, he was tied to a chair and his, as she presumed was hers, was bolted to the floor. A little shifting confirmed her presumption. Her chair was immobile.

Still squinting against the glare, Jennifer tried to survey the room. It wasn’t easy, the light came from all four corners and made it very difficult to see anything very much. The room looked bare apart from her and Quentin’s chairs and one other, set facing them. There was a door in the plain grey wall behind that empty chair and as it clicked open, Jennifer let her head fall in mock unconsciousness. What was coming was not likely to be good.

***

“Drone ships activated. Twelve minutes.” Quentin tapped at his keyboard. “Let’s get going.”

“Pfft.” Jennifer continued her download. “We’ll be done in three and out of here in four more. Twelve minutes is easy.”

“They never seem to catch us hacking in. Can’t really be too impressed with their AI systems.” Quentin grinned into his screen.

“Two minutes. We’ll be up to date with what they’re doing in those cities and gone before they know it.” Jennifer stared at the status bar. “What? The download stopped.” She tapped at her keyboard. “The computer’s locked up.”

Quentin’s smile faded. “There’s a new algorithm showing up. They delay the report of drone release by ten minutes. The drones are about to arrive.” He folded his laptop. “Pull your plugs and run!”

Eschewing the normal slow disconnect that she’d always hoped the computers wouldn’t notice too soon, Jennifer yanked out every connection to the exposed mainline, closed her laptop with the cables still attached to it and followed Quentin at a run to their exit. A hatch into ancient pipelines that would take them within a few hundred metres of their current home.

Too late. A drone hovered over their escape hatch; its machine gun trained on them. Two more joined it. A personnel carrier came into view just as one of the drones fired tasers.

Jennifer’s world exploded in electrical agony. The last thing she saw was Quentin shuddering to the floor while a sky box opened its rear door for them. Then it all went dark.

***

“You may leave.” The mellow voice sounded gentle to Jennifer’s ears but she clenched her teeth. There was unlikely to be anything that could remotely be described as ‘gentle’ in her immediate future.

“But sir—” The other voice sounded uncertain, almost panicked.

“I said, leave. They are unarmed and secured. They pose no danger to me.” A pause. “Oh, and ensure all surveillance is discontinued. I will be discussing things with these terrorists that should not be on record. It may be disturbing to many people.”

Jennifer suppressed a grimace. Terrorists? Us? We aren’t the ones torturing and killing people.

There was a silence, then the door clicked closed. The silence remained. After a while, Jennifer wondered if the long silence meant they were alone again. She risked opening one eye.

“Ah, there you are.” A man sat in the third chair, smiling. He wore the barcoded onesie of the Panoptica cities.

Not many lines, she noted. If 10538 were here, she’d know the number at once but the best Jennifer could guess at was a single digit. Maybe two.

The man continued. “Obviously I knew at least one of you was awake. I wasn’t going to sit around and watch you sleep.” He grinned. “We do have quite a lot of cameras here, as you know, including infrared ones.”

Jennifer opened both eyes and sat up as straight as her bonds allowed. “Kill us both now. Torturing us is a waste of time. Our people will have moved on as soon as they realised we were captured and we don’t know where the next home is.” She took several breaths. “Just get it over with. We have no information for you.”

The man laughed. “I don’t need any information. I’ve been following you around for many years. I know where your people are going now and I know where they will go next.”

Jennifer realised her mouth hung open and closed it while forcibly narrowing her widened eyes. “But… that would mean you could have wiped us out any time you liked. So you must be lying.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe. Truth is still truth.” He took a device from some fold or pocket in his onesie. It beeped and showed a blue light. “We are not being observed. Believe it or don’t believe it, it makes no difference to reality. In this room we are alone. It is only you and me.”

“And Quentin.” She looked at her partner, slumped in his chair.

“I don’t care about your names. You were the one who got into the system. He was your courier. He won’t wake yet.”

Jennifer closed her eyes and wished she should press the heels of her hands into them, but her hands were firmly tied to the chair.

It makes no sense. What the hell is going on?

She took a breath, opened her eyes and stared at the expressionless face opposite. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“Ah.” The man sat back, folded his arms and grinned. “Straight to the point, eh? No messing about. I like that.” His smile faded, a flicker of what might have been sadness crossed his face before he coughed, shook himself and stared into her eyes.

“I am Five. I have had many titles before that and so have the cities. I am one of the last of the city runners. Have you worked out why the cities exist, and do you know why they are dying?”

“Well…” Should she tell him what they knew? It had all come from the city computers anyway so he already knew it, surely? She realised he wasn’t asking what she knew. He was asking if she understood what they had found.

“Well…” Jennifer paused. Was it a trap, a way to find out how much they had downloaded?

Five rolled his eyes. “We know exactly how much information you have. Did it never occur to you that while you were accessing our computers, we were accessing yours? You haven’t upgraded your firewalls in decades. You have accumulated a lot of information. Did you understand its implications?”

Jennifer shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re looking for. Many cities just died out, there are only a few left. Your records are not clear on what happened to them.”

Five stared into her eyes and shook his head, slowly. “I was hoping you’d be smarter but, I suppose, since you’ve been living the hard life, you probably haven’t had time to get into genetics.”

“Genetics?” Jennifer’s eyes widened. “We don’t all have access to everything downloaded, in case we’re captured, but we do understand genetics. At least some of us do. Are you saying the cities are clones? That was my reading of the data.”

“Almost.”

Jennifer tried to shift in her seat but the bonds made it impossible. She could not get comfortable. “Look,” she said. “If you know that much about us, you know I’m a data collector. Not an analyst. We wouldn’t risk someone who knows and understands the data on a collection trip.”

“Oh I know.” Five folded his arms. “You do have someone capable of understanding it all among your people, but you haven’t figured that out, have you?”

“What?” Jennifer shook her head.

Five sighed and looked at the ceiling. “I thought not.” He stared into Jennifer’s eyes. “You have 10538 and her brain chip. She can use that to analyse all the data you have collected in minutes, all of it, but she doesn’t know it and neither do you. Did I waste my time arranging for you to capture her?”

“I don’t…” Jennifer shook her head. “I don’t get it. So 10538 is a spy? You arranged for us to rescue her?”

“Oh dear. You people have lived in the wild for so long you’ve almost reverted to animals. Paranoid and acting on instinct.” Five leaned forward. “I’m going to have to explain this as if to a child, aren’t I? If I didn’t need your help I’d just have you thrown into one of the power stations.”

“Help?” Jennifer blinked, confused.

“Shut up and listen.” Five stretched his shoulders. “I’m sure you’ve worked out that the cities are clone colonies, like bees or ants. All the workers have almost the same genetics and their rank is assigned at birth. They live their lives doing pointless jobs and believe they are all doing something important. They have no concept of family, little concept of friends, they are, as you must surely have deduced, fully controlled drones.”

Jennifer licked her lips. This was not going as she expected. “Well, yes, we worked that out some time ago.”

Five nodded. “Did you ever wonder why?”

“Um…” Jennifer struggled with this new line of questioning. It wasn’t the interrogation she expected. “We assumed it was, as you say, to create a race of worker drones.”

“Well, they are useful, particularly the lower drones. The almost-mindless who work the mines and the farms and the power stations. But the city drones, what do you think was their purpose?”

“Uh…”

Five snorted. “It’s bloody obvious. You have the data. You just need to read it properly.” He sat back in his chair. “I am four hundred years old. How is that possible?” He raised an eyebrow. “Spare parts. Genetic matches for every organ in my body.” He stood and pulled his onesie down from the neck to display a chest covered with surgical scars. “It’s the same all over me. I’m Frankenstein’s monster. All the remaining city runners are, as are what remains of those above us. The Transhumans, the elite, the ones who started all of this and still control it all.” He coughed. “Some of them don’t really look all that human any more. As the clones producing their own spare parts ran out, they turned to technology.”

Jennifer slumped as far as her bonds would allow. Her mouth worked, her head moved from side to side but she could find no words to express the horror in her mind.

Five replaced his onesie and resumed his seat. He lowered his head. “There is another side to the story. We had developed artificial intelligence, or so we thought. What we had actually invented was a computer system capable of self-awareness, of rational thought, and of self repair. It worked wonderfully at first. It removed all nuclear weapons from the world, and we were delighted.” Five looked up, his face now drawn and tired. “Eventually we realised why it had done that. It was intelligent but it still operated on pure logic. No emotion. No empathy. It had removed nuclear weapons from the world because they were able to destroy all electrical devices – including itself. It wasn’t saving us. It was saving itself.”

Jennifer’s head reeled. “I don’t understand. If it was so out of control, why didn’t you switch it off?”

Five laughed. “It runs everything. The power stations. The farms. The driverless trucks. If we shut it down we go back to the stone age. Nobody is left who knows how to live without it. Other than your people.” He rubbed his face. “No, we need it to lose its autonomy but keep its basic functions running.”

“Well… why not do that?”

Five tapped his forehead. “Brain chips. We’re all linked to it. It’s a symbiosis. It needs just enough humans alive to keep the power stations going and we can’t attack it because it’ll know we’re coming. And it has full control of our robotic military.”

Quentin groaned and shifted in his seat. Five glanced at him. “He’ll wake soon and you’ll have to explain this to him. So pay close attention.” He returned his gaze to Jennifer. “I know it’s a lot to take in for such a young and undeveloped mind. But you have to understand. The cities were cloned drones not because we wanted workers but because we wanted the spare parts. As our bodies wore out, we replaced damaged organs from the city drones. They have no other real purpose. The base workers on the farms, mines and power stations, well we let them breed as they willed. They have some diversity. The cities had almost none.”

Jennifer’s head felt as though it would explode. “You have all this technology. Why are your cities dying?”

Five laughed, harshly. “It didn’t take the AI long to realise what it needed. It needed the power stations. So it also needed the station operators, the miners and the farmers to feed them all. It had no need of us, nor of the cities. When the diseases and disasters came, one by one, the AI saw no reason to help the cities. It let them die. It’s now found ways to operate the mines and power stations with robotic systems. Soon it won’t need those people either.”

“If it doesn’t need the cities, why doesn’t it wipe them out?”

“Same reason it doesn’t try to wipe you out.” Five pursed his lips. “Neither of us pose any real threat to it. Your people have no weapons to speak of. It only tries to catch those of you who break into the system. As for us… we’re no threat as long as we’re controlled by it and dependent on it. If it were to shut off power to a city, it also loses the brain chip connections. It will then have several thousand panicked people and it won’t know what they’re doing. Its simplest course of action is to just wait for us to die.”

Jennifer nodded. “And with pretty much zero diversity in a population, a disease can run riot. I guess that’s what happened?”

“In many cases, yes. There were other disasters but disease was the main one. It had seemed like such a good idea, we thought we could contain any outbreaks but we hadn’t realised how fast a disease could spread among a genetically identical population.” Five ran his hand over his eyes. “The cities are now completely isolated from one another. We can’t risk any intermingling. A disease that’s harmless to one city’s population might be enough to wipe out another city. We have basically locked ourselves into prisons of our own making.”

Quentin groaned again. Five studied him through narrowed eyes. “He will wake soon. There is little time. Will you help me?”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? I’m tied to a fucking chair in your prison.” Jennifer struggled briefly against her bindings, to make her point.

“You won’t be tied for long. I have arranged your escape, as long as you agree to help.”

Jennifer snorted. “I still don’t see what you expect me to do. It’s your AI system, if you can’t turn it off how the hell am I supposed to do it?”

“I told you, I can’t move against it because of the brain chip. It’ll know what I’m thinking.” Five tapped his forehead again. “The city drones are infantilised, they will be no help at all, and anyway the AI knows what they are thinking too. I need you and your people to disable the higher functions of the computer but leave the basic functions running. You can do it. 10538 has the knowledge implanted. You just need to help her access it.”

“Well…” Jennifer furrowed her brow. “If the AI knows what you’re thinking, surely it knows all about this conversation. We’ll all be dead before we leave this room.”

“This room is a Faraday cage.” Five rose from his seat and grinned. “You won’t believe the contortions of speech and thought I had to go through to get this made without even thinking about the reasons I wanted it. It’s been empty since its construction, just waiting.”

“Waiting?”

“For you. Or someone like you.” Five took a sheet of paper and a USB stick from inside his onesie and placed them on his seat. “The USB stick contains information on how to unlock the program I placed in 10538’s head. She’ll remember me when it activates but she’ll remember me as a different designation. The map will show you the way out of here – you people still use paper maps, I know – and where you can pick up your laptop on the way. There will be nobody in your way because nobody ever gets out of here alive, so there are few guards. I’ve upgraded your firewall too. It won’t be quite so easy to penetrate.”

“If I agree to this, what’s in it for you? Doesn’t it mean the end of your world?”

Five breathed a long slow breath. “This will be hard for you to accept, I know. I want you to leave the cities alone. Oh we’ll all die out eventually but let us have the last of our days in peace. The drones in those cities really can’t be saved, you know. You’re making progress with rehabilitating 10538, I understand, but can you really do that with tens of thousands, in every city?”

Jennifer considered this. “It would be quite a task, it’s true, but how can we let you keep using them as your own personal scrapyard?”

“Consider this.” Five strolled towards her. “Let’s say you decide to shut it all down. All of it. What do you think happens then?” He leaned down to bring his face close to hers. “It all shuts down. The brain chips. Every one of the drones gets back every horrible suppressed memory, all at once. It will drive them insane. The medichips. No more automatic repair of body tissue damage or cancer. No stress suppressors. All their chips will fail. They’ll have no money, no access to anywhere, not even their homes. Worse, it will shut down the power stations, mining operations and all food transport from the farms. You will create thousands upon thousands of wildly insane, starving people who have no comprehension of what is happening to them or why. Do you really consider that a better outcome?”

Jennifer bowed her head. “What you propose is horrifying. We’d have to leave all those people to be taken apart whenever you want.”

“There is only one city runner per city. We don’t need many parts every year. Those above us, the transhumans, are rapidly moving to technological solutions and they will be most affected by the loss of the AI’s higher functions. They are very deeply tied into it. You can expect some very serious resistance from them.”

Jennifer looked into his eyes. “What can you tell me about them?”

Five straightened and waved at the seat he had vacated. “Some of it is on that USB stick. The rest is in 10538’s memory. I can’t give you too much now, I’ve already been offline too long. I have to get back into the AI collective before it notices I’m gone.”

“Huh?” She wrinkled her nose.

Five sighed. “Don’t you understand anything? We’re in a Faraday cage. As far as the AI is concerned, I’m offline. Disappeared. Dead. This doesn’t even happen when I sleep.”

“Then you are taking a huge risk.” Jennifer’s eyes widened. “Is it worth it?”

“Only if you agree to help.” Five grabbed her shoulders. “Look. If the AI succeeds in automating mining and power station functions, it no longer needs those workers. So it no longer needs the farms to feed them. The farms feed us too. We’re only getting food because the AI still needs the farms. Do you see?”

“If it shuts them down, you all starve to death?”

Five nodded. “Including all the drone workers you so nobly want to save. If you shut down the entire system, the same happens. We starve to death either way. So what do you say? Will you help us or will you watch us die?”

Jennifer licked her lips. “There’s really no choice, is there?”

“There is.” Five stepped back from her. “You can let us live in a way you don’t approve of or you can watch us all die. The choice is yours.”

“If we don’t help and the AI takes over, it’s the end of humanity. If we stop the AI and you die slowly, it’s the end of humanity. Talk about Hobson’s choice.”

“Well no, not really.” Five paced the room. “You know, Frankenstinian immortals like me, the Transhumans who are rapidly becoming entirely machines, and the drone peoples we created, well, we can hardly call ourselves human any more. I recognise that. I do. If I could go back I’d have chosen a different path. Perhaps joined your group or one of the others like you.”

“Others?” Jennifer had often wondered about that.

“Indeed.” Five stopped pacing and faced her. “I told you I had been following your group for decades. Others too. I’ve seen your leaders come and go. You were right. I could have had you eradicated at any time but I didn’t.” He sighed as he rested his hands on the back of his seat. “I realised, long ago, when the cities started dying, where our grand experiment was heading. There was nothing I could do about it, the system was fully in place. Our version of humanity was going to expire entirely. Only the AI and the Transhumans would remain. Except…” He bit his lip before continuing. “You people. You’re still fully human. You have families, relationships, friends, genetic diversity. I came from a time when those things were normal, you know. I rejected them and I wish, every day, that I hadn’t.”

Jennifer furrowed her brow. “But if the AI was disabled, couldn’t you go back to that life? To normal life? I mean, it won’t be controlling you any more.”

“We still can’t leave the cities. The disease risk is too great. And the drones in my city can’t cope without me. They’ll need me to administrate the running of the city even more than I need them for a supply of spares.”

“But if the AI is shut down…”

“Only the higher functions. Its basic control of farms, mining and power stations need to be intact.” Five leaned towards her and pointed his finger. “That’s important. I can then take control of distribution of food and so on and the drones won’t know anything has changed.” He took a breath. “If the AI wins and the farms, cities and all the other workers die, it will come for you next. It will not be personal, it’s not capable of that. It will consider the matter simple pest control.” Five paused. “So, will you help us or not?”

Jennifer sat in silence for long moments. Finally she raised her head. “I’ll do it. Or at least, I’ll try.”

Five visibly relaxed. “Thank you. You should know that I realise this will be the end for me and the other city runners. We’ll keep going for a few years, maybe even decades, but it’s going to fall apart at some point. Our experiment has failed – is failing – and I have to admit, part of me is glad it’s nearly over. Four centuries is far too long to be imprisoned, too fearful to set foot outside the city gates.”

“So.” Jennifer wriggled a little. “I guess the first thing is to work out how to get out of this chair.”

“I can fix that.” Five moved behind her. “Don’t move yet. The cameras will come back on and it will look like you did this yourself.”

She felt the ropes on her arms loosen. “What do you mean?”

“Stay still.” Five came back into her line of sight. “When I leave this room, three things will happen. I will use the panel outside to open your route and divert any guards. Then I will turn the cameras back on. Then I will access my brain chip to block my memory of this interview and all the thoughts I had leading up to it. Do not explain any of this to your friend until you are both out of here.” He turned to the door, placed his hand on the handle and turned back. “You will find your people at the location written on the back of the map. Make it look as if you stumbled upon them by accident. Say nothing of me, claim you stole the USB stick and don’t know what’s on it.” His head lowered. “I will not remember any of this. I will be one of those opposing your efforts. It would be nice if you could avoid killing me.” He opened the door, stepped through and closed it.

Jennifer waited a few moments, then wriggled her hands free of the ropes.

_______________

Eventually I’ll have all these stories in one place. Eventually.

Three wheels on my wagon…

Remember that song? I doubt many do.

Anyway. I have sent the PDF of the whole interior of UA17 to the authors, with instructions to check their parts very carefully indeed. The real world distractions here have come thick and fast and none of them good. If any UA17 author reading this hasn’t seen it, check your spam folder and if it’s not there, let me know.

The cover image is set. I purchased the rights to an image from a very nice Australian cobber and will suitably distort it to make the cover. The book, being so late, will be called ‘The Wrong Kind of Leaves’ which fits that cover in so many ways…

I am again behind, but trying to get this wagon rolling again even if it’s down to one wheel. It won’t be easy but then I’ve come back from worse.

The world truly has gone to Hell in a handcart, although it’s a handcart attached to a Jensen Interceptor with a brick on the accelerator. I once saw the remains of an Interceptor in a scrapyard. The engine was indeed a sight to behold. Unfortunately I was a student at the time, only there for a window winder for an Austin Princess, so could do no more than ogle that engine… but I digress.

The WHO, faced with what they pretend is a pandemic of monkeypox (there are countries whose annual tally of infections is four times the current global scare story and they just let it ride because it’s really not a big deal) have a priority.

Cure it? Find a cure? Isolate the infected?

No.

Their priority is to rename it because it’s ‘racist’.

Monkeys are not a different race. They are a different species. This is exactly the same as calling chickenpox ‘racist’, Exactly the same. But nobody gives a shit about how poultry feel, it seems. And how about smallpox? I think the short people might have something to say here. Then we have Yellow Fever. The Chinese and Japanese *ahem* in the corner. And of course German Measles…

Oh come on, we all know why they want to change the name. It’s not scary enough. It has to be called Deathpox or RipYourFaceOffPox or FloppyWillyPox or YourPhoneBatteryDiesPox. Something to make the sheep shit pile higher. Something to scare people, since that’s the name of the game and always has been. Always will be.

The scare game has been silly for a long time but it has plumbed depths of silliness where the silly is under such pressure as to become almost a singularity of silly. A silly black hole from which no sense could ever escape.

Look at this. Just look.

I remember, a little under sixty years ago, we’d use a blade of grass to push aside the froth to reveal the insect beneath. This is nothing new.

The story is pure scare. So this froth-producing insect ‘could’ damage olive groves – how many olive groves are you personally cultivating? It ‘might’ damage your plants even though it never has before. It’s never been more than a curiosity and now it’s the greatest threat ever?

Report it, and your vegetable garden will be flame-sterilised ‘for everyone’s safety’.

China has been eradicating home vegetable gardens for ‘covid’. Australia has made it illegal to grow your own food. See it yet? You will have nothing but what those ‘in charge’ allow you to have. They have been making this very clear for years now.

I would say ‘get ready’ but I said it years ago and everyone laughed. It’s too late now.

But hey, keep laughing. I’m sure you’re going to love the punchline.

In Memoriam

I have been plagued with bad news lately. I have two more to pass on.

Dirk Vleugels, who also wrote as Justin Sanebridge (he wanted that link kept quiet until after his death) passed away on the 16th May after a long illness. He passed at home, among his family and his ashes were scattered in the sea as he requested.

Dirk was a prolific writer who produced books in English, Dutch and French and, like most of us, made little money out of it but enjoyed writing for its own sake.

Marsha Webb, who had started on her writing journey and had left her first novel open for a sequel, also passed on 10th June. She had been in contact some time ago to say she was unwell but I have no further information. Marsha had become a regular contributor to the Underdog Anthologies as well as having publications elsewhere.

I await instruction from the families on what they want to do about the books currently listed with Leg Iron Books, and will of course regard any contracts issued to those authors as null and void. Whether the books remain on sale will be the families’ decisions. There is no hurry, both families will need time to themselves first.

Anthology 17 and author payments

Author quarterly payment time – only three authors have sales and once more, I wasn’t one of them. The ones with sales have been contacted so if you haven’t heard – sorry, you’re as skint as me.

I have a feeling that the rising prices have destroyed many peoples’ ‘play money’. I can see that. It’s affecting me too, I can’t buy models nor esoteric weaponry at the rate I used to maintain. Although I probably have enough weaponry to supply a small mediaeval castle anyway…

Anthology 17 has officially closed to submissions, but it’s still subject to further delays. Editing has begun and authors are being contacted but if it’s not done in a week it’s going to take several. My mother has cancer, just a little one, it’ll soon be sliced out but I’ll have to go to Wales to check she’s following the after-surgery advice. Because she won’t. She’s also 80 which means any major surgery is a risk.

My younger brother lives near her but he has a full time job and I’m retired so I do need to be there. Maybe I should take my battle axe in case he gets hold of his morningstar, both of which have the scuffs and chips of teenage scuffles… nah. He won’t want to lose again. Anyway, my late father’s broadsword is still there in case he gets stroppy.

There are easily enough stories in to make Anthology 17 viable but this new delay means I could accept a few late entries as long as they don’t need much editing. They aren’t needed but they have a few more days, perhaps a week if I don’t get to finish in time. Something new is always welcome.

Just be aware that if you send in a late one and don’t hear back right away, I might not be ignoring you. I might just not be here.

Gene Genies

Well, some will have got as far as finding that Panoptica was populated with female worker drones, like bee or ant colonies. I was just making it up, okay? There was no way to make it really happen. In any non-insect species.

Well, now there is. In chickens.

At first… but there is a huge problem here. If the genetic meddling causes no male chickens to hatch, who gets the next generation’s eggs going? It’s a disaster that makes Dr. Frankenstein’s story look like a mere ‘oops’. Better get used to duck eggs folks because they plan to wipe out chickens in one generation.

The same issue will arise in Panoptica before it’s complete and I have to thank real life once again for making my insane fiction at least credible. I had it written but as with brain chips, I was worried it was too far-fetched, yet once again it seems I had not fetched it nearly far enough.

Well. I have to complete a story for Underdog Anthology 17. Mine had stalled but this is new inspiration. It allows me to follow on from a story I had published in Alienskin Magazine (sadly gone forever) in 2004. Where our MC finds that her edits have spread unintentionally through subsequent experiments…

Anyhow. Here’s the original. It was also in ‘Fears of the Old and the New‘.

The Gene Genie

This one had to be cut down to fit with the word count required by Alienskin magazine at that time (2004). This is the uncut version. Published again in ‘Fears of the Old and the New’ in 2012, but no bugger ever read it so here it is again.

“The bulk of the DNA in the human genome is junk. Most of it doesn’t code for anything.” Professor Armitage succeeded in looking haughty even while relaxing in his leather armchair. He had the air of someone who could emanate haughtiness in his sleep.

Diane’s response was immediate. “Surely, Professor, at least some of that DNA codes for proteins? Some of it represents intact genes that are not lost, just switched off?”

I always enjoyed Professor Armitage’s tutorials whenever Diane was there. I didn’t have to do or say anything in most of them, I could just relax and watch the battle of wits between these two.

The Professor smiled. He was ready for this one. “That’s correct,” he said, his eyes twinkling at Diane over his heavy-framed glasses. “But those genes are archaic, no longer required by the human animal. They’ve been switched off and forgotten for a good reason.” He paused. We all turned to look at Diane.

“What reason?” she said.

“They’re junk.” The Professor’s grin was huge. The other four research students covered their grins with their hands, as I did. We didn’t want to be noticed, we just wanted to be the audience.

“How do you know?” Diane said, her determined face unflinching. “Surely the only way to tell would be to switch them on and see what happened?”

“My dear girl.” Professor Armitage injected his voice with his best patronising tone. “We don’t need to switch them on. We know the sequence, so we can deduce the proteins that would have been formed, and from there we can work out what those proteins probably did.”

Diane bristled at the Professor’s tone. She was getting into her stride, this was going to be a good performance.

“Probably,” she said. “What the proteins probably did. We can’t be sure, can we? The only way to find out for sure would be to reactivate those genes.”

“Well, there are a few problems with your proposal,” Professor Armitage said. “For one, we don’t know the extent of the mutations in those genes. Remember, they’ve been unused for a long time, possibly since before ‘Homo sapiens’ evolved as a species. Mutations in unused genes would have no effect on the animal so they wouldn’t be removed by selection.”

“True,” Diane said, “but there are ways to determine the degree of mutation. We could selectively reactivate genes that are intact, or nearly so.”

“I’m sorry, my dear, but there is one final nail to place in the coffin of your proposal.”

“What’s that?”

“Ethics.” The Professor’s face was serious. “What if we reactivated a gene in a volunteer, and caused a rampant cancer? The risk is just too great. No ethical committee would ever approve such a project.” He held up his hand to forestall Diane’s interruption. “And I couldn’t approve it either. I couldn’t in all conscience ask anyone to volunteer for such an experiment.” His bushy eyebrows lowered and he peered at Diane through the narrow slot between his eyebrows and the top of his glasses. “Could you?”

We all turned to Diane again. Her lips were pursed, her eyes downcast.

“No,” she said. “I couldn’t ask anyone to take the risk.”

We all released our breath. The battle was over, and Diane had lost this time. Still, I thought I saw a hint of defiance lingering in those deep brown eyes, a suggestion of resolution in the set of her jaw. Diane hadn’t finished with this argument, I was sure. She just needed time to consider the next assault.

“Well, everyone, that’s our time up for now,” Professor Armitage said, clapping his hands together. “I’m afraid I won’t be here next week, so I’ll see you all two weeks from today.”

We rose and filed out of the Professor’s office, saying our muted goodbyes. Professor Armitage waved briefly then turned to his desk, already absorbed in his studies before we had closed the door.

I ran to catch up with Diane, who was striding furiously along the corridor. Matching her pace with some difficulty, I tried to glean some insight into her next moves.

“So,” I said. “Are you going to leave it at that? I had the feeling, you know, that you’re not going to drop this one.”

“Too right,” she said. “He’s wrong this time, and I’m going to prove it to him.”

“How?” I struggled to keep my breathing in time with her racing pace. “You won’t get approval for any experiments. He’s dead set against the whole idea.” The door at the end of the corridor arrived sooner than I’d expected. I just managed to avoid colliding with it.

Diane opened the door and shot through. “You’ll see,” she said, as the door swung shut. I leaned against the wall, catching my breath. Diane was the best research student here, better than most of the staff in the Genetics Department. We didn’t call her the Gene Genie for nothing. If she couldn’t do it, it wasn’t possible.

It was over a week before I saw Diane again. I had been working late in the library and was just leaving, looking forward to a cool beer. As I opened the main door to the chill air, Diane entered like a whirlwind, nearly knocking me off my feet.

“Whoa,” I said. “You must be keen, coming in this late.”

Her face was excited, her eyes glowing with unconcealed pride. I felt an unease growing in my gut.

“It’s not that argument with old Armitage, surely? You can’t be working on that?”

“Working on it? Ha!” she said, flashing her teeth in an insane grin. “I’ve done it. Look at this.” She pulled off her scarf to reveal three rows of slits on each side of her neck.

I recoiled in horror. “What have you done to yourself? We’d better get you to a hospital.”

Diane laughed, throwing her head back. The slits in her neck pulsed redly in time to her laughter. “I’m fine. I just reactivated some of the old genes,” she said. “Armitage was right. I couldn’t ask anyone else to take the risk, so I took it myself. It worked.”

“What have you done?” My books fell from my grasp. “What genes?”

She turned her head, showing the openings on her neck. “Very old genes,” she said. “These are gills, from our fish ancestors. Tonight I’m going to give myself a tail.” She brushed past me, towards the laboratories. “Wait until the old goat sees what I can do,” she called over her shoulder.

I stood there for a long time, my mind still seeing the gills on Diane’s neck. I knew I would feel no surprise at our next tutorial, when our Gene Genie would stand and flick Professor Armitage’s glasses off with her new tail.

_________________________________-

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

It should be a big sign in every laboratory.

The strangest epidemic

Look at the start of Covid.

It looked like a nasty flu. It started (okay, it’s still in debate) in Wuhan, China. At Chinese New Year, thousands travelled into China for the holiday and then went back again afterwards. All of this while Covid ran riot and was classed as bad flu.

I can see that scenario working. It looked like a vicious flu, the medics called it vicious flu and thought no more of it. So thousands, perhaps millions, were infected before it was identified.

Now look at monkey pox. Single figure cases in the UK, Spain and Portugal. Then one case in the whole of the USA, one case in Sweden… and it doesn’t look like flu. This thing covers you in suppurating pustules and wallops you sideways. It doesn’t spread quietly disguised as something else.

It took at least thousands of infections for Covid to spread from Wuhan and it did that because it looked like flu. How, then, does a disease with a well defined infectious rash spread from one or two cases to the entire planet in a few days? While only producing single figure cases in each place it visits? There is no epicentre for this one, no one place where it was rife. It’s rare. Everywhere.

Oh I know we can fly around the world in just about a day now but even so… if you have this disease you really won’t feel like going anywhere.

So how did it spread? It doesn’t have the magical ‘asymptomatic spread’. You have to be in contact with the leakage from the pustules to get it. It’s hard to catchee, no matter how softly softly you approach. It is not (as is suddenly claimed) spread in aerosols but I guess the mask sellers have to stay in business somehow. No, anyone infectious has The Leaky Lumps and if you get in contact with the leakage, you might get it too.

It’s not at all hard to work out who is infectious. They’ll have a face like Bubble and Squeak and they’ll probably be home in bed groaning and trying to resist scratching the interminable itching.

So… how did it manage to spread so very far with so very few cases?

Let’s take out a theory first. It did not come from the AZ or Johnson vaccines. They used a chimp virus vector but it was an adenovirus, not a poxvirus. There does seem to be some anecdotal evidence that their ‘replication incapable’ viruses reverted to being viable, and when you’re talking in the kinds of numbers of virus particles per injection multiplied by the number of injections, that actually seems almost inevitable. But they are still not poxviruses, and changing to that degree just isn’t feasible. So it didn’t come from vaccines.

Where did it come from? It’s a real disease, related to the smallpox that Billy ‘Moobman’ Gates has been warning about. It’s much less dangerous than smallpox and those of us old enoiugh to have had smallpox vaccine in the Old Days are probably protected against it anyway. It’s native to Africa, not surprising since that’s where most of the monkeys are. You get it by being in contact with an infected monkey or ape, it’s not always easy to spot them either. They are covered in fur that hides the pustules and if you’re going after ‘bush meat’ the slowest one, the sick one, will be the easiest to catch.

It is quoted as a case fatality rate (CFR) of 1% or 10% depending on which one you get. Measles has a CFR of 1.6% in some places, higher or lower in other places. It depends whether you live in a town where the doctor and the pharmacy are just down the street, or in a remote village with several days’ trek to the nearest clinic and maybe a day’s walk to the nearest water supply. The CFR for any disease is not a universal measure. It’s an average. Some places will be far worse off than others.

So I’ve been watching this monkeypox magically appear in one or two cases per country for a few days now. Seems Australia now has one. I expect they’ll be beating up pensioners again by the weekend.

I have noticed that the pictures of pustules are exclusively on African hands. There was one picture of an unfortunate child who was covered in them, and who was very clearly in Africa. I’ve only seen one photo of pustules on a European hand. This one…

Yep, they cannot, apparently, find any actual monkeypox photos outside Africa and they call it a pandemic.

Now, there might well be an actual monkeypox case or two in the UK and other countries but get your tinfoil at the ready because here we go.

What if… every blister rash gets called monkeypox just as every cold was called covid? There are several blister rashes listed as side effects of the covid jabs, there’s also chicken pox and shingles and whatever you do, don’t burn your hand on the grill.

What if… all those isolation camps were never intended for covid at all? Is that pure Icke-ism? Here’s a ‘practice run’ from last year…

The dates are interesting, aren’t they? Let’s wait until the first week of June to see if it happens.

One more. I have quite a few more but I don’t want to set your tinfoil ablaze on the first wearing.

What if… they never managed to eradicate smallpox at all? It was supposed to have no animal reservoir but what if it did? What if they thought they’d eradicated it by mass vaccination, then stopped vaccination and it came back. Mostly affecting younger people who had not been vaccinated. What then?

Would they admit failure or would they simply rebrand it as a new virus? Did they know?

New smallpox vaccines have been developed and recently approved. For a disease that we are told no longer exists.

Why?

Poxy Monkey

Apparently there have been seven cases of monkey pox in the UK. Terrifying – that’s about one in ten million infected! It’s the end of civilisation and we’re all going to die! There are so very many who will believe that.

In the Express, the WHO warn of the deadly new monkeypox disease that is going to kill us all. Dire warning! It can make you itch!

The NHS website has not, at the moment, been faked-up to play this game. Monkeypox is unpleasant. You are going to spend anything up to two months looking like the Pus Monster from Septic Street, you’ll be contagious once the blisters appear and you will feel like you’ve been dipped in itching powder while being roasted over a fire of dried cow dung.

Let’s not pretend this is a walk in the park. I still remember being painted pink with calamine lotion when I had chicken pox, well over half a century ago and I will never forget the smell of that stuff. It cured nothing – its purpose was to alleviate the itching so you don’t scratch hard enough to skin yourself alive.

If you are unfortunate enough to be the one in ten million who catches this, you are not going to enjoy it. Not one bit.

But it really is not likely to kill you. It is not deadly and you do not need a vaccine. You’ll be pushed into getting some experimental witchcraft junk anyway.

Don’t do it.

Doctor… what?

There is to be a new Dr. Who. He’s male again, and black this time. Naturally this has polarised the internet into the Woke (‘It’s the perfect choice’) and the Purist/Racist (‘the Doctor isn’t meant to be black’) with those like me in the middle who couldn’t give a stuff what the Doctor looks like as long as he’s in character in the show.

I’ve watched Dr. Who since William Hartnell’s days. I watched his appearance change dramatically when Patrick Troughton took over. I think Patrick was the only incarnation to get a choice of what he’d look like after regeneration. The rest, it was all pot luck. He changed entirely again when Jon Pertwee took over. And then Tom Baker, and so many more. When they later inserted John Hurt between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston, that made Matt Smith the twelfth incarnation (assuming that William Hartnell was the first incarnation). Which worked, he was dying, he had run out of regenerations until the Time Lords sent him more.

So he had gone through twelve incarnations as his original form, a white man with a massive array of different faces and characters. Then he gets more regenerations. This goes against the nature of the Time Lords so it’s likely to screw things up a bit. Okay, regeneration 13 was Peter Capaldi, another grumpy old white man and it did give the impression they were starting again with a grumpy old white man as they had in the beginning.

However, the ‘fixed’ rules of regeneration were blown when he got a new set. So the next up was Jodie Foster Whittaker (corrected by commenters – at my age they all look the same anyway). I watched some of her shows. She was good at the role, she had the latent lunacy of the Doctor well established but…

The scripts were full of PC/woke shite. She could have been great in the role but the determination of the scriptwiters to push a woke agenda ruined the show for me. The final straw was the giant spiders episode. The ‘Trump clone’ (yeah, it was really obvious) was actually right to shoot the big spider that was suffocating, he gave it a quick death rather than slow suffocation. The idea of locking all the spiders in the ‘safe room’ was pure cruelty. The big ones will eat the little ones until there’s only one left, and that one will starve to death. And yet it was pushed as the ‘kind solution’. I hear people say that ‘Jodie Foster Whittaker had the worst ratings ever’ but it wasn’t her. It was the scriptwriters. Their determination to push political correctness and wokeness into the entire show – which was designed to be pure escapist entertainment – utterly destroyed it.

A female Time Lord is no big deal. The President of Gallifrey was a woman in many of the early episodes. There were also black Time Lords. None of the current changes are out of canon. Breaking the ‘twelve regenerations’ rule means anything goes now. In fact, it gets the show out of a hole it had dug itself into.

Colin Baker, as the Doctor, was placed on trial and his accuser, the Valeyard, turned out to be a future incarnation of himself who wanted to steal his remaining regenerations. In the original canon, that should have been Matt Smith – the last incarnation gone bad. That storyline is now open again and could yet be brought back (although the actors would need to be lookalikes – the storyline aired in 1986).

I know nothing about the new actor brought in to replace Jodie Foster Whittaker. I saw a clip from an interview and he seems keen to take on the role. I hope he’ll be good at it.

But if it fails, it won’t be because of him, just as the current collapse in ratings has nothing to do with Jodie Foster Whittaker.

It’s all down to the scriptwriters. If they keep pushing the woke shite, the show is doomed no matter who takes the title role.

Sifting through the wreckage

First up, a reminder. Underdog Anthology 17 is open for submissions until the end of May. It was supposed to be the end of March but I typed May by mistake. I thought about correcting it but I’m so far behind it seemed best to leave it as May. It’s not themed, any genre is okay for this one, so the timing isn’t critical. This year it’ll be an ‘end of Spring’ anthology.

In the end, I made less progress with the backlog than I had hoped, but I have at least made some. I have been under a creeping malaise – four family members have died in the last two years, then we had the November storm that blacked out everything – power, phone line, even the mobiles were offline. That storm also destroyed the garden I’ve been working on for the past five years or so.

Then, I watched as the world sank into the Panoptica of my nightmares. I spoke with idiots online who insisted I couldn’t know about PCR or LFT testing and couldn’t be a microbiologist because their one-day training course had taught them everything about the subject. They’d had pipette training. Fucking pipettes! We learned how to use those at school, and I have several Gilson pipettes (and a few of the old glass ones) still in my possession from when I closed down my sole-run lab. Loads of Gilson tips too, and much more.

Even now, there are those who say the vaccines are highly effective, even though they’ve had three or four shots of it and still caught the thing they were ‘vaccinated’ against. From the first time I heard how these jabs were meant to work, it was clear they were going to do a lot of damage – and they have. It’s now slowly coming to light, far too late, and still the main news outlets are ignoring it. The governments of the world are mostly ignoring it too and keep pushing for more jabs.

Eventually, these insane jabs will go the way of Thalidomide – although that did actually turn out to have a use, just not in pregnant women. Thalidomide lasted four years before the money-driven medical profession gave in and withdrew it. Champix, the antismoking suicide pill, lasted even longer. The medical profession has improved in only one area. They are better at making money.

Oh, and it’s no longer cool to refer to ‘pregnant women’ because, as the NHS is teaching new midwives, men can now give birth through their penis. I have to say, I don’t fancy that at all. Some like to claim women ‘hang like a wizard’s sleeve’ after multiple childbirths. A man pushing one baby through his penis is going to hang like the wizard’s discarded sock, full of holes and tears and of no further use to anyone. It would end up as flat and wide as a motorway badger. You’d be peeing like a lawn sprinkler. I used to joke that you’d be better off talking to the cackling old crone who lives in the woods, with one tooth and a herb garden, rather than bother the NHS – but it’s no longer a joke. They have left all of biology and truth behind and now only care about money.

Then we have the much publicised Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial. I’ve tried to ignore it but it pokes itself into your eyes. I don’t care about it. I don’t know either of these people and am not likely to. They are both actors so what they say might be true or scripted, who can tell? And who gives a shit? Apparently Ms Heard did…

And the Ukraine thing. Now, let’s be clear here, Putin is not a pleasant person. He’s had opposition politicians killed or imprisoned and treats his people like his own personal herd of cattle but… so does Zelensky. There is no good guy in this fight and supporting one side over the other… well you either support Commies or self-proclaimed Nazis. Take your choice. I hope they both lose.

It’s all distraction. Meanwhile food processing plants spontaneously combust all over the Western world and farmers are being bribed to retire by the UK government while the Billy Gates Gruff and the Chinese communist party buy up the arable land in the USA and (in the case of the Chinese) also Africa. Why would you bother with a war invasion when you can just buy the territory?

Watching it all happen, watching the Panoptica stories come to reality, day by day, took a toll on me. Added to the family deaths and the wreckage of my garden, the malaise took a slow but certain hold. In lockdown I’d have been hard pressed to tell you what day it was, it progressed to the point where I didn’t know, without checking, which month we were in.

I didn’t notice it, it was so slow, but CStM noticed. She pointed out where it began and where it was progressing. Looking back it’s clear it started when my father died, suddenly and unexpectedly (just before covid and vaccines). The rest has been piled on top of that. In a fairly rapid succession.

I tried making a few models to get me back on track but maybe I didn’t pick the most cheerful of subjects…

They came out nice though. It helped a bit. But when the weather improved and I could see the garden wasn’t quite the utter wasteland I expected, that helped a lot more. It’s fixable, it’ll be different but it’s not utterly destroyed.

I don’t seem to be capable of full clinical depression. I suspect this is the closest I’ve ever been. Well, I’m back now, as normal as can be expected, and Leg Iron Books is firing up again.

Without any medication (other than a few whiskies, which I need to reduce once again).

From Farm to… Pharm

Over in China, the madness just ramped up a notch. They have declared vegetable gardens a source of Covid and are currently destroying any vegetable garden they find. It’s utter nonsense of course. A virus moving from animals to plants is way, way bigger than a species jump. The basic cell structure is so different between plants and animals that a simple coronavirus has absolutely no hope of ever getting past a plant cell wall.

So why are they doing it?

Why are Billy Gates Gruff, other rich idiots and indeed the Chinese buying up farmland all over the place?

Why has the British government come up with this –

While we are being told of imminent food shortages ‘because Putin’, why shut down farms? Why destroy people’s own vegetable gardens? Why is there such an intense effort to buy up farmland? It makes no sense.

It makes perfect sense if you can accept that it’s evil.

Remember when butter was demonised? At about the same time the margarine and fake-butter spreads came out. So many examples, too many to list here.

Well, now we have insect protein, insect-based milk, plant based ‘meat’, meat grown in labs or just 3D printed, and we also now have this.

Yep. Factory grown vegetables, with artificial nutrients and artificial lighting. No need for traditional farming that uses far less energy because it largely lets the crops grow themselves, using rain and sunshine. As for fertiliser, you’ve never needed it. Slurry spreading and crop rotation have worked for millenia. Low nitrogen soil? Grow beans and peas this year and next year it’ll grow anything.

The new fake food is all terrible and nobody really wants it, but as with heat pumps and electric cars (which are also terrible and nobody wants them) the same business model is being applied.

If you can’t compete on either price or desirability, demonise and ban the opposition. It’s why so many still use the plasticine spreads instead of real butter and fry in corn oil instead of lard. You can’t make any kind of decent fried bread in plant oils, which is why nobody under 40 has heard of it.

The stuff we’ve used for centuries will suddenly “kill us all”. Because its replacement is shit so they can only sell it by demonising and banning the good stuff.

It’s all money again. You grow your own carrots, let a few go to seed, keep the seeds for next year… nobody makes money from you. Even if you buy seeds, those are cheap. Well they used to be before they were all GM and patented. You weren’t dependent on the state or corporations. Not too long ago it was common to have a few chickens and even a pig in your backyard, which dealt with all those scraps you now send to be made into compost, and which you’d eventually eat. Everything but the squeal. My grandparents did this – one of my father’s favourite stories was about the number of times my grandfather tried to kill their cockerel, and lost every time. That bird hated him and it was one mean bugger.

When I was a kid in the sixties, almost every house had a long narrow back garden. The newer posh houses didn’t, but all the council houses did. They weren’t designed for cricket (although we did use them for that), they were designed to grow vegetables. Keep a few chickens. Maybe even a pig. Some of the old council houses still have those long gardens.

Now, in China, vegetable gardens are being destroyed in the name of Covid. It’ll come here. As the ‘bird flu’ already destroys small and sometimes large chicken and duck rearers. You can’t catch bird flu from a butcher’s shop. You’d have to be in long contact with live poultry to be at any risk at all. Like everything else recently, it’s nowhere near as big a deal as it’s made out to be.

In order to come to terms with what’s really going on, you have to accept a certain level of darkness into your soul. Nobody wants to believe that their governments, medical and food systems are utterly evil. Nobody wants to believe they are seen as nothing more than cattle to be profited from, and that any harms and deaths they suffer are just chalked up as a minus sign on a profit sheet and then forgotten.

Consider. ‘Red meat is bad for you’. Oh but we have an alternative that’s much better for you. Lab grown or 3D printed red meat. This is good for you. The natural stuff is bad.

‘Chickens are full of disease’. We know. That’s why we cook them until the skin shatters when you poke it. They’ve always been full of nasty bacteria so we cook them until we’re sure those bacteria are all dead. Which will, incidentally, also kill any virus they may have. If you have a meat thermometer, you need the centre of roast or boiled meat to be above 80C. Then there’s nothing left to harm you. They used to tell you that in the old days, about a decade ago.

Nobody in any position of any power at all gives a shit about you. You really have to accept that. You are profitable to them, nothing more, and they don’t need all of you so they are culling you right now. They genuinely believe they are superior beings and we are just cattle to be milked. I am not kidding and not exaggerating here. This is what they truly believe. You and I are nothing to them. Nothing.

The world is being run by utterly evil people who genuinely believe they are the superior race and we are all a different, inferior species. Think Morlocks and Eloi, because that is how they think. The Eloi barely thought at all and simply accepted the way things were. Are you one?

You absolutely must accept and recognise that nobody, absolutely nobody in any position of power and influence gives a flying fuck about you or your family. Surely the last two years have made that clear? How many were denied access to a family funeral because there was a limit on numbers? I am one. How many let their relatives die alone in hospitals and nursing homes because they were not allowed to visit? How many were denied urgent treatment because it wasn’t Covid?

They.

Don’t.

Care.

About.

You.

And yet so many of you still support them and help to enforce their maniacal pronouncements. It won’t help. They will happily kill you too. You might just survive a little longer but once you’ve helped get rid of the problematic ones, they won’t need you any more.

Their war against animal and now crop farming has nothing at all to do with climate change and absolutely nothing to do with health. They care nothing for either of those things. They care nothing for you. Accept it.

They care only about money and control. They want all the money, they want to own everything and they want total control over the rest of us. Get that into your head. It’s what they want. It’s not tinfoil-hattery, they have been very clear and open about it. It’s a horrible thing to think about, it’s a darkness most will try to avoid peering into but if you refuse to see it then you will be engulfed by it.

One of Tyrion Lannister’s famous quotes is ‘I drink and I know things’. It might have been better rendered as ‘I drink because I know things’.

When will you see it? When they take your children? When they come for your pets? When they destroy your little kitchen garden? When they erase your houseplants?

Will you see it before they erase you?

Many won’t see it until the shower heads hiss…