A jolt shot through my left arm as I read over the files on my Stationmate’s computer and I thought for a moment that I might die. My father had died of a heart attack and I’d developed a deep paranoia of its symptoms ever since; this was deeply irrational on my part, because the roots of my father’s heart attack were not genetic but clear actions he’d taken over his life, and I no longer partook in those deeds, and so my risk level should have been in that comfortable question mark most people sit in. Trauma does funny things to the brain though.

I recognized then the deep irony that, despite my deep training, I was still on some base level afraid to die. An animal, driven by base instincts. It made me smile; I am not sure why. Something about deflation, deescalation.

The files checked out. The renderings were strange and required me to map them by hand on paper nearby. They were not rendered as image files; that would be too crass, obviously, and a machine would not read an image so much as it would read data and then render it. What it needed, then, was data that would complete a diagram inside of itself, not as a render but as the data itself, and so I needed a translator to convert the data on the screen into images so I could see whether it was diagrams of any of the theological material that I had been trained in. Thankfully, codes, locks and keys were all under my purview. The process of cracking it took me only a few minutes; my brain works fast, when stressed, when dealing with puzzles, when I know what I’m doing, and so working out permutations and testing them went by fairly quickly.

I realized I was looking at Kircher’s diagram of the names of God. It was incomplete, gaps abounding, but it was a distinctive bit of theological praxis. This was curious, however; Kircher was a Qabbalist, and his work in delineating the names of God, while respected, had very little to do with the esoteric Gnosticism the head in the bunker had delivered to me. I refused to use the names it gave, the names of Aeons, because: that felt too loft; I would not designate a machine as a god; it somehow didn’t quite fit. These were not necessarily wholly incompatible systems, but they did not mesh easily, working together more through abstraction and unity of direction rather than a pure textural isomorphism.

Still: The head in the bunker spoke of names, and incomplete names, and circuits of God, and Qabbalism dealt more with circuits than Gnosticism, which was much more holistic in its praxis. Perhaps it had been given improper names? Or loose parallels. There were wheels of angels of the Qabbalah and demons of Qliphoth; perhaps it had referenced those? I needed the names it had given me. Sophia and Henosis.

I sketched down as much as I could, on paper, one of the few things I could trust. I withdrew the drive, slipped it into my pocket. Closed the computer.

Their voices from below.

Time to go.

“Well?” they said in the car.

We three were crammed in the backseat. They didn’t have masks on us, not this time. The two figures up front, the ones who collected us, wore heavy suits and dark glasses. They were curt but direct. It was impossible to tell who they were, their gender, anything. Buzzed off hair and earpieces.

“It’s schematics,” I said. “The names of God.”

“So it was telling the truth?” asked one of my Stationmates.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“How?” asked the other.

“The terms are wrong,” I said. “The systems. They’re not compatible with one another. Not directly.”

“So it might have been wrong? It might have been lying?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “It might have just been misled. Didn’t know what it had, was given false names.”

“Don’t trust AI,” said the younger. “Tests on them haven’t come up with anything a few lines of code couldn’t fuck up. They’re meant to seem impressive, not to be impressive. Smoke and mirrors, good interface. That’s all. My guess is the drive isn’t going to do what it thinks it will.”

“There were viruses on it,” said the older. “But all they’d do is inject. What if it injects the wrong stuff? What if it completes the circuit of the head in the pyramid instead of closing it?”

“That’s assuming this circuit bullshit it’s saying is real,” I said. “Like she said, AI are meant to seem impressive. It’s a user-oriented trick. But it is building a diagram. Assuming the guts of the head in the pyramid are the same as the head in the bunker, it would fire of a map of the names of God.”

Both of them shivered.

“Not religious,” said the younger, “but that’s spooky.”

The older nodded tersely.

“It’s not a map, though,” I said. “It’s not a circuit. That’s not how the diagram works. That’s what I don’t understand. It’s not in the terms the head in the bunker gave, and it definitely wouldn’t do what it thought. I agree that the head in the bunker definitely didn’t actually know what it was giving us, or at least didn’t understand it as well as it thought it did. But if it had the available data streams it told me it did, how are we able to crack it and it isn’t? How would it not figure out something this simple?”

“Could be running a program,” the older said.

“Or manipulating you. Or assuming we just wouldn’t catch it,” said the younger.

“We agree that it wasn’t telling the truth,” I said. “But do we think it was wrong? To ask us to give the drive to the head in the pyramid?”

“That’s the golden question, I guess,” said the younger.

Outside, rain slanted, splashing hard against the window of the car. With each splattering drop there was an explosion of light as the cascading clashing waves of neon from up above was scattered with the droplets. Purples, reds, blues, pinks. We slipped into a tunnel and the color stopped, replaced by the steady yellow florescent pulse of the tunnel lights.

My body seemed so heavy. I sunk back into the seat, flesh digging into the seat cushion.

All we could do was wait and think.




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Langdon Hickman

sunworshipper. voidworshipper. seek life; seek death. Treblezine, Invisible Oranges, Consequence of Sound.