intro b4kxstp
dunghill or game
an absolute rake
suburban wits
charles dickens
the banality of the sublime
maps b4kxstp
rural middlesex

beyond kings cross
st pancras: adventures in
cyberspace in the year 2030

aphorism 57: And as the same city regarded from different sides appears entirely different, and is, as it were multiplied in aspects; just so, because of the infinite number of individual monads (essential forms/ identities/ subjects/ psyches/ souls), there are a similar infinite number of universes which are, nevertheless, only the aspects of a single one as seen from the special point of view of each individual monad”. The Monadology, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1714)


b>kxstp part I: earth


“… We cannot miss him. He does make our fire,
Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices
That profit us.—What, ho! Slave! Caliban!
Thou earth, thou! Speak”
The Tempest, William Shakespeare (1610-1611)


a citizen of the world

Cosmopolitan: A citizen of the world, one who is at home in every place”. General Dictionary, Thomas Sheridan (1780)

Friday, 30 August 2030: The view through the windows of the Eurostar Locomotive as it passes from Kent through the Thames Gateway into the East End of London is of a visionary architecture reaching skywards from a green and pleasant landscape.

The open meadows and fields, the orchards, hop gardens, woodlands, copses and hedgerows of the Garden of England, and now the riverside marshes have given way to parkland interspersed with giant multi-coloured ‘cloud towers’: vertical eco-villages that, a voice informs Lien Chi, are entirely self-sufficient.

Each settlement is “an autonomous plexus of kinetic, hydrogen fuel cell and renewable-energy powered accommodation… climate calibrated, flood-proofed and designed to secure civic and personal fulfilment for 5,000-plus residents.

“With floors devoted to everything from work and recreation-related ICT-service provision and i.nfinite e.space, to real.arts & crafts and real.shopping ‘n’ leisure; and from 3&4D-manufacturing, to robot, hydroponic & nu-agriculture/ nu.trition, a cloud tower can satisfy anyone’s full life needs… all YOUR needs”.

Lien Chi has been gazing at the spectacle for some time, though for a while now not really seeing it or listening to the commentary. He has been daydreamin’.

The sinuously silky voice, of uncertain gender but barely contained enthusiasm, streams on about quantum dot photovoltaic windows and i.tile cladding; nano-dustmote environmental enhancements and robotic/ nanoscopic cleaning/ waste recycling…

The very pronunciation of the words are a celebration of the Cloud Towers’ wow-plexed social network connectivity, their ai3-synergised service provision and e.quant harmonization etc, as statistics and graphs scroll across the carriage’s window screen.

Snapping out of his reverie, however, Lien Chi peremptorily switches off the uberUrbanist_Xp promo-cast… and the reaLife East End reveals itself beyond the railway carriage’s windows.

And, just as the idealist GardenofEngland­_Xpcast had reimagined an actual rail side rural Kent covered in ever larger part by nu.industries (by vast plastic pink and green pvc-houses and precision,  polytunnel and vertical agro facilities; and by retail and wholesale warehouse parks and wind and solar farms) the approach through the eastern suburbs of London is in the reality of the late afternoon sunlight all a bit greyer and concrete au naturel coloured.

The dev-rich hyper boom years of the turn of the century have never quite returned to the East End of London. Building activity has continued, with both private and PPDP construction, and it has accelerated in the Riverside Free Trade Zone, while across the outer suburbs work now progresses on the clearances and laying of foundations for the construction of the first state-of-the-art new build versions of the uberUrbanist cloud tower vision.

But until the promise of this latter development nothing has quite approached the earlier blue sky expectations of the 2012 Olympic legacy dev-fest …

Sat in one of the Eurostar’s e.nhanced carriages, Lien Chi has been distracting himself during the journey from Paris foraging the fully integrated on board Xp_promo.casts, viewing a selection of the British Isles cultural, literary and historical virtual and  augmented actualities of which the cloud towers_Xp is currently a top ten attraction. 

At Folkstone, as the train exited the Channel Tunnel the online occupants of his carriage had been ‘personally’ greeted into the country by a Winston Churchill actovar puffing on a fat e.cigar and spouting quotations from the great statesman’s speeches and history writings, while introducing a menu of Xp_enhanced attractions.

The previews of all the global favourites include:

mysteries of Stonehenge; megalithic Ireland; enigma of the Picts; Cymru am byth; Queen Boadicea defiant; the dark ages, Norman castles, Magna Carta, Braveheart, Mary Rose, Shakespeare’s Stratford, stately homes of England, orange & green, the industrial revolution, the romance of Jane Austen, Bronte country, Empress Victoria, Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan & Wendy, Wind in the Willows, the great war; Bertie & Jeeves, BBC proms, Bloom’s day, the bard of Cwmdonkin Park, the spirit of Dunkirk, VE-Day, whiskey galore, a new Elizabethan age, the Archers, Coronation Street, the Fab Four, swinging London, Dr Who & the Time Lords, antiques roadshow, Monty Python’s virtual circus, the Mrs Thatcher story etc etc…

More local Xp_enhanced brands range from white cliffs, Medway royal naval docks and smugglers beach theme parks to nu.Margate dreamland and Cscape: the Curator’s south coast art palaces experience.

Approaching Ashford, the first of several digitally-generated troops of Canterbury-bound pilgrims from the Chaucer’s merrie England_Xp had passed along the side of the track waving furiously to the Eurostar’s passengers, while various digitally rendered knights in full armour, bands of bowmen, costumed peasantry with their kine and carts, characterful clerics, friars and nuns, and a pageant of other assorted Ye Olde England types wove in and out of view.

On their arrival at Ashford, a party of virtual conical nose-guard helmeted, chain-mailed horse-borne warriors bearing lances and kite-shaped shields delivered an option to change high speed trains to visit the 1066 and all that; or, the end of the pier historiety show and Heart_Xps at Hastings on the East Sussex coast.

And while passing Maidstone the outskirts of the Kent county town had turned into an Xp_mashup of a living-history re-enactment of its mid-C17 civil war siege and capture by the Parliamentarian General Fairfax’s roundhead army, scenes drawn from the civil wars_Xp suite.

As the train sped on its way, the Victorian townscape of Dickens’s Chatham and Rochester had appeared next, where the Dickens world_Xp promocast turned the interior of the Eurostar’s carriage into a simulation of a Victorian steam train.

Great plumes of smoke billowed past the windows through which a little boy Lien Chi assumed to be Pip (or was it Oliver?) waved to him and his fellow period costume-skinned passengers from the top of a horse-drawn stagecoach; on third thoughts, was it the eight-year old Charles Dickens himself, on his way to his brief Medway Dockyard childhood home?

Lien Chi’s identifying the figure (if only partially) is, of course, confirmation of the global significance of the English literary heritage from which the scene is extrapolated. So that, just past Rochester at Ebbsfleet the 1,000-plus acres This Island Story heritage-themed, Xp_enhanced and robot-serviced Paramount/ BBC Entertainment Resort has confirmed once and for all the success of the global branding of British history ‘n’ culture.

A number of tourist families had disembarked from the train here, the parents and their excited children booked into the resort’s several hotels; or, into its ‘authentic British residential and lifestyle simulations’ offering variously extended stays in Suburbia, Metroland, Garden City, The Big House, Cotswold Village, Inner City, Georgian Terrace, Seaside B&B, Back2Back, 2Up2Down, Executive Close…

On approaching London’s south-eastern suburbs the Chinese visitor had also briefly sampled the finest hour_Xp. The sky had filled with barrage balloons and puffs of ack-ack anti-aircraft fire as plucky RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes danced weaving, smoke-plumed dogfights with formations of Luftwaffe bombers guarded by Meschersmitt and Focke-Wulf fighter planes, the carriage replicating a crowded and austere wartime interior, 1940s utility fashions and all.

Lien Chi had been curious to have a peep at that famous national brand but soon recast to the uberUrban vision of hyper-rise posturban living.

Born on the very cusp of the Digital Age, the traveller has had a decade’s experience on the wow (the web-of-webs, briefly known as web4.0 and in just a very few years transforming world culture), living at the very cutting edge of Big Data-serviced, hyper-speed digital media and telepresence/virtual and augmented technologies; first as a wow.Pioneer, then during its global rollout as a wow.Settler, and now firmly established as a fully-signed up wow.Citizen.

Along with just a handful of business and local travellers (tele-conferencing technologies having much reduced the demand for quotidian travel), among the various vacationing parties from across the globe many of his fellow passengers hail also from the People’s Republic of China, mostly couples of about his age or a bit older and a few extended family groups.

He is, however, with the exception of a handful of youthful and atypically intrepid gappers and a not inconsiderable number of UK/ EU-based executives, workers and students, the only solo Chinese touring traveller on board.

The remainder are linked by kith or kin mesh connections to tour parties, most controlled remotely with their members navigating across Europe from city to city accompanied by a virtual guide (and frequently by virtual tour party members). Theoretically, those escorted by reaLife guides have a superior measure of independence, with greater options for debating and making collective choices over matters such as Xp.menu and itinerary, although the strict etiquette that surrounds such decision making more often than not means deferring to the guide’s judgement.

Over the previous two months of travel he has always made avoiding his countrymen a priority, and yet now it is the exact season for Chinese travellers to visit the UK. Lien Chi’s trainload is in the vanguard of their annual progress across the globe.

For the next few month the metropolis and other tourist resorts across the country will swarm with groups of middle and upper echelon party members, accompanied by virtual, augmented and real economy executives, management and workers linked to kin/ kith.nets making a once in a life time European Tour that will indelibly confirm their status at home.

Lien Chi has scanned the standard tourist literature, previewing the pleasures awaiting his arrival at London. He might normally have overlooked such simple entertainments but is conscientiously entering the spirit of ‘being a tourist’.

And as a solo tourist Lien Chi has almost absolute freedom. He has, indeed, made the nano second decision to make this particular journey to London on the very casual basis of a promotional pop up received earlier that afternoon, while sat at a pavement café on the Champs Elysée sipping a café crème and daydreamin’.

The advite is for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the construction of a monument to the Hanoverian kings, located by a busy crossroads in the suburban village of Battle Bridge in the then still largely rural parish of St Pancras in the Fields. At that time situated on the rural skirts north of the metropolis, today the Central London district of King’s Cross St Pancras is the site of St Pancras International terminal, the destination of Lien Chi’s Eurostar.

The completion 200 years ago, in August 1830 of the monument’s chambered plinth (just one feature of a much more ambitious project to build terraces of housing, a theatre and a pleasure resort in the last of the still to be developed local fields) marked the final absorption of the village into the metropolis, resulting in the almost immediate adoption of the name King’s Cross by residents and businesses in the surrounding streets.

The statue itself (a cheap depiction of the last monarch of the Hanoverian dynasty, the recently deceased George IV in his robes of the Order of the Bath, moulded from builder’s compo on a brick ‘skeleton’) was not erected for another half decade. The edifice then proving an obstruction to the growing volume of horse-drawn traffic, it was pulled down only a very few years later.

The bicentenary is being marked by an upgrade to the b4kxstp_Xp local history tourist net, with a physical replication of the plinth and statue and the launch of additional contemporaneous landmarks and attractions augmented by ‘the very latest interactive Xp_casting technologies’.

An unveiling ceremony will be conducted by the popular Mayor of London, Fabiola Falluni, whose appearance is sure to attract a large crowd. The quality and variety of the mesh of a2z-list celebrities who turn up to support Falluni on her official duties will ensure a spectacle of transcendental diffusion with the participating crowd, generating a memorable evening for all. 

A full-on id.meld with its mayor and her cohort strikes Lien Chi as an interesting introduction to the great metropolis, but he is still not exactly sure why he had responded so promptly to the pop-up, even though it had only got into his bubble because it ticked all his affective boxes. And of course, he has always planned to visit London; after all, it’s London, with grade-A Unesco Heritage Capitals of the Modern World status.

But by leaving immediately he has also ensured that as well as attending the premier of the new heritage.net attractions he will arrive in time to prepare for this evening’s ‘Frive’: the Friday evening ‘graze’ on the world famous and original Grazin’ Mile running between King’s Cross and Holborn (aka Gray’s Inn Road).

During the evening, and into the night, thousands of connected frivers passing up and down the pedestrianized highway will graze upon each other’s i.data and apps, statuses and plats: forming and reforming, forging and re-forging kin, kith and stranger meshes and nets; joining, sharing and re-sharing the very links that bind humanity together.

Worldwide, Grazin’ Miles have become the premier interface of mobile digital and reaLife social networkin’: the nexus of the virtual, material and flesh and blood realms. In growing numbers of cities the similarly named public venues for connected promenading/ grazin’ are situated in their most cosmopolitan quarters, adapted to the stylised relics of local cultural mores and customs within an accelerated globalised World Culture.

Besides a close acquaintance with his native Dongton Shanghai’s Grazin’ Mile, Lien Chi has already visited a couple of replica Miles on his European tour. When not daydreamin’ he had, for example, also ‘envoyé au diable’ (as Parisians have dubbed their highly customised version of réalité/rv.réseaux sociaux) on the Champs-Élysées, a section of which is aka, La Grazin’ Mile.

Lien Chi’s almost immediate departure from Paris to London is in fact no more than a life affirming confirmation of his free will, the very possibility of such spontaneity (wu-wei) a major prompt to inspire him to make the European Grand Tour in the first place.

His open itinerary has already taken him by rail from Istanbul to Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam and from thence to Paris. As high summer passes and cooler weather prevails, on his return trip he plans to visit Madrid and Barcelona, and then to epitomise the Tour with stays in Rome and Athens, taking in plenty of local detours on the way.

For his adult life he has been assembling a portfolio of пeuros in his auto.blockchain: ¥ (RMB), $USs, ¥ JPY, €s, DM, £s, ₽s (altinRUB), laпiers, air/land miles, various altcoins, e.vouchers/coupons and renewable energy, carbon and rare metal credits etc with which to make the trip.

And here he is, a Citizen of the Wow.

trishana’s new best friend 

“But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence… illusion only is sacred, truth profane”. The Essence of Christianity, Ludwig Feuerbach (1843)

“Welcome to the King’s X St Pancras Virtual Worlds e.mporium.” Miranda greets Trishana and Coleton Goodenough at the entrance of the popular tourist attraction on Pentonville Rd N1. “I hope you’ve had a pleasant journey. Everything’s prepared, and you can commence partying whenever you’re ready.

“It’s so nice to meet you personally” she continues, clasping Trishana’s hand and gently looking into her eyes. “But of course, I feel that I already know you intimately”.

Miranda Bonner has been a New Best Friend/ NBF for just over two years now, appointed to the post at the e.mporium immediately on graduating from the University of North London with first class honours in Emotional Intelligence and Empathy.

She loves her job, every full time moment of it. Her work is integrated into study for a masters in neuroesthetics at the University College London’s Wellcome School of Neurobiology in nearby Bloomsbury, expecting in time to advance her career beyond the client/ machine interface into the realm of pure virtual reality research and development. And hoping, thereby to be able to pay off some of her considerable debts.

Today, Friday 30 August 2030, is Trishana Goodenough’s thirtieth birthday. It is 4:50 pm, and her husband Coleton having purchased her a retro-birthday party voucher, the couple have travelled up to London to redeem it in KXStP Virtual Worlds, situated in the Regen Quarter just to the east of King’s Cross mainline station (their two children are staying with her mother).

“Oh, I’m so thrilled” Trishana squeals, the excitement causing her to lose full control of her voice. She laughs, unselfconsciously, the two young women beaming at each other. They haven’t met in reaLife before but have been in regular e.contact over the last fortnight, customising the party.

“You’ve been such a darling to me,” she tells Miranda, “I do hope I haven’t been too demanding…”

“No, no,” Miranda reassures her. “It’s been a pleasure; it’s what the job is all about. And I’m quite certain that you’re going to have an amazing time”.

She turns to Coleton and shakes his hand: “Thanks for all your assistance putting this together. I really am confident that with all your input our e.quant and the LDC have put together something very special”.

It has been a long shift, dealing with the emotional and social needs of a variety of clients throughout the day, but Miranda will be finishing her shift soon and is now looking forward to a Friday evening busy with her own kith.net. They’re going frivin’…

For now, she leads the couple through the building to a vacant vr.booth. Trishana has chosen the Facebook ‘sweet 16’do from all the parties offered by the e.mporium, Miranda appointed her NBF. It is the first treat in a customised shop-n-hop break that has the couple staying in a room in a local out-of-term student hall of residence for two nights, spending tomorrow real.shopping and sight-seeing in West End Central and with the option of priority entrance to any of KXStP’s many night clubs of their choice on both evenings of their stay.

Later this evening, after the fb party and following a romantic e.gourmet meal booked into a restaurant on Upper Street in the Islington Gourmet, Boutique and Residential Quarter (the location providing opportunities for more pre- and post-prandial reaLife shopping) on Miranda’s recommendation they plan to go dancing at the famous Heaven ‘n’ Hell Club, located in the exoskeleton structure of a fully repurposed grade1 listed Victorian gasometer in the Garden of Eden, in the northeast corner of the King’s Cross Central Quarter.

This will also provide an opportunity to at the very least take a peek at the St Pancras Old Church, situated at the south west entrance to the park, to which her mother has told her that many years previously, centuries ago in fact, a distant ancestor had had an intimate association. She had promised to take a look but failed to listen properly to the particulars of her family connection, too distracted by the more immediately demanding details of the planned trip.

Coleton’s career in computers had led him to believe that organising the fb party would be a straight forward enough affair (although his particular specialism has absolutely nothing to do with virtual social networking, retro or otherwise), and it might have been so if Miranda had been perhaps less ambitious when filling in the original party requests.

But then, as Miranda had remarked in her first notification, not many sweet 16 vr.party throwers take a particularly restrained approach…

The party style is the classic fb mid-teens format, with a dozen close friends and family invited and a similar number of ‘e.xtras’ selected from her old friends list. All invitees will be attending as virtual avatars, friends and family providing Miranda with up to date profiles. But because Miranda had archived her original fb account at age sixteen, the teenage guests’ persona will for the most part be frozen in time, simulacra of her 16-years old self’s social media perceptions.  

With their personal bubbles preserving their teen identities, the party attending friends will have little more substance than that gleaned by the e.mporium’s bots from the timelines, selfies, pics, likes, updates etc accessed via her archive from their then contemporary statuses and profiles; including also traces in the archives of all the other then major social networking platforms, but mostly up until the date of Trishana’s 16th birthday.

A limited selection of subsequent life events have, however, been made available through updates solicited by Miranda via current social media: it will make for some entertaining exchanges with well known and loved teenage school friends and onetime homies, some not met for many years now. With Miranda’s help Trishana has rehearsed several appropriate opening conversational gambits: in fact, humans in such situations are known to exhibit a numerically limited number of social interactions, the exact repertoire of which is well known to the e.mporium’s ai3.bots.

Miranda has also counselled her on the request for her late grandmother’s attendance.

For nine years Gran had brought up Trishana and her older brother Leroy when their widowed mother first migrated from The Islands to England, to lodge with extended family members in search of a future for her and her children. Their ‘skype’ mother had then only once returned to visit Barbados in person, but was by no means a stranger when the two orphans flew over to settle with her and her new partner on a bleak Birmingham Eastside housing estate.

So that up until Trishana’s age eleven Gran had been the all-embracing parental presence of her and her brother’s tropical childhood years, a sweet, gentle woman who could yet be strict when called upon by the responsibilities of her unplanned return to parenting.

She had since made just a single journey to England, her grandchildren only once making a return visit but keeping in regular digital contact. Apparently fit and active she had kept her terminal illness from them, her sudden decline and death a shock, an eagerly awaited holiday trip then serving for the 23-year old granddaughter and son’s attendance at their Gran’s funeral.

Most customers treat their socmed vr.parties (and they come in a variety of attractive and stimulating formats: Twitter-dos can be particularly wacked affairs…) as just a bit of fun, which had been the approach first adopted by Trishana. The e.mporium’s ai3.bots deal effortlessly with all the necessary independent variables, processing the q&a and multiple choice forms to create a sufficient e.nvironment: there are the settings to consider, the skin and the soundtrack to choose, and the grain and tone of all the visual, audio, tactile, gustatory and olfactory stimuli to select.

But having decided on the i.nvite, Trishana had felt increasingly apprehensive about meeting her virtual Gran. And while the not yet quite elderly lady had left a digital testament (a personally organized archive of her i.data at the time of her death) compiling as ‘real’ a presence as possible has become the most important feature of the fb party preparations, even if Trishana had initially taken a few days to realise it.

Coleton recognised the turn the party had taken almost immediately. He had not been unduly surprised, applying himself to helping his wife prepare for the encounter, to access any remnants of Gran’s i.data and compose a collective memory from her kith and kin nets with which to generate her party-attending avatar. Leroy has proved particularly helpful, although he is himself has proved resistant to meeting his gran’s ‘e.form’.

Miranda’s role as NBF had now proved especially helpful. For, while assisting with the practicalities of planning an e.vent her training also enables her to calibrate her clients’ e.motional metrics within the parameters of the LCD: the London Cultural Denominator, through which in this instance she is able to identify, monitor and support any potentially difficult emotional responses to a possibly too intimate return into her client’s past experiences and feelings.

Unpredictable responses in Trishana’s case, such as might be provoked by a final farewell to her surrogate parent (the LCD has approved a version of the elderly woman as she would have appeared to Trishana at their last meeting, long before the illness set in), surrounded by virtual simulations of all the living people she holds most dear.

The LCD provides a manageable structure to the ai.bots programming the e.xperience, a fine tuning of the sensory inputs (the i.deas) and their reception; and most importantly, a guarantee of customer care and satisfaction. But to cover any eventualities, the e.mporium provides a menu of options to respond to any situations that might develop in its vr.booths, a hierarchy of both automated and human responses to which Miranda offers the initial personal connection.

Miranda has led the couple through the premises to an individual booth. She points out Coleton’s e.companion post next to the booth’s entrance and turns to Trishana. “Now remember, you have 60 minutes credit,” she tells her, as the excited party-goer hesitates on the threshold of the booth, “and you have a lot of pokes and likes to use up…”

The solo booth comprises an omnidirectional treadmill floor, contained within a multi-sensorized and fully immersive cylindrical chamber responsive to the player’s slightest movements, the virtual simulation (or vr.cast) interacted with through activity appropriate hand gestures and eye-tracking ocuretinal lenses.

“Thanks so, so much for all your help. I don’t know how to…” Trishana is almost breathless with anticipation, Coleton taking a couple of paces back to give her room to compose herself before she enters the chamber.

“Coleton will be sat out here with a screen and mic to watch over and communicate with you, and he’ll be in there with you virtually, too” Miranda reminds her. “I’ll say good bye now, it’s been a real pleasure meeting and assisting you.

But then she continues: “By the way, I do hope I can make it to Heaven & Hell this evening and I’ll see you there if you go. There should be a large group of us going. But even if I can’t make it, I’d always recommend it… For now, I’d better go and look after those footie fans…”

There are a group of high spirited Scouser day trippers in one of the theatre booths who Miranda has determined to look in on. They are attending an Xp.cast of the summer’s FIFA World Cup Final. She had pointed out a number of German tourists in the foyer, here to console themselves with highlights from their national team’s earlier victories, remarking in passing how Spectra had advised her it best to avoid the two groups meeting on the premises.

She gives a rueful chuckle. “There’s absolutely no chance of any, well, trouble… But maybe it’ll be best to introduce myself to them”.

“Good Bye, my love,” replies Trish, reaching forward and hugging her. “And you must come and have a beauty treatment at my salon whenever you’re in Birmingham… the full personal service. I can do a very good deal…”

“I will, I will, thank you” replies Miranda, and with that she turns to depart, but as Trishana moves to enter the booth she has just one more thing to tell her: “Oh, I nearly forgot. You’ll be greeted into the party by a surprise celebrity guest, in fact two of them, who I’ve personally selected for you from your likes and fan pages archive… enjoy”.

And with that Trishana gives Coleton one last kiss on his cheek and steps into the chamber, to be greeted by a roomful of familiar (and some almost forgotten) faces, all of whom turn to receive her with a tsunami of love, friendship and good will.

She identifies Gran, apparently talking to mum and Leroy, but at the head of the gathering stand two at once very familiar figures, both very real features of her childhood, teenage and young adult years, characters that she has already begun sharing with her own rapidly growing toddlers.

She instantly recognises Harry’s unruly black hair and the by now eternally ‘old-fashioned’ round rimmed spectacles, and the lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

“Hello there,” a pleasantly casual virtual Daniel Radcliffe addresses her, reaching out to gently take her hand. “We’ve been asked by Trishana to pop over from the King’s X. Platform 9¾_Xp to welcome you to your birthday party”.

He’s the adult Harry version from the very end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part II, not a pupil from the school days or one of the later grown-up episodes, nor from the recent Hollywood_Xp remake, which abridgement has its fans but Miranda does not even plan on viewing. Her children will grow up with the original.

Which original includes the young adult Emma Watson, like Harry now appearing as the parent Hermione Weasley (nee Grainger) seeing off their offspring from King’s Cross station on the Hogwarts Express. “Yes, do have a wonderful party,” she says, leaning forward and lightly touching Miranda on her elbow. “Look, here’s your mum… and Gran”

And as the maternal avatars approach Harry and Hermione turn away. But almost overcome by the manifestation of the two superstar actovars (and perhaps delaying meeting Gran for one more moment) Trishana lingers to watch them retire.

She and Leroy had read the books and watched the dvds, and streamed vids of the whole series repeatedly, their mother having from a very early age regularly Skyped them bedtime readings from the ‘faraway magical kingdom then ruled by a queen’ where she lived in exile…

And, as if confirming her oft timeline posted teenage conviction that the author JK Rowling was wrong not to pair the two in wedlock, the two actovars are holding hands.

Trishana and Coleton will be fine, and Miranda goes off to busy herself with other tasks… she will have to remain on the premises until Trishana leaves the booth and only then will she finish her shift. Not that she’ll have the opportunity to rest for some while, the evening’s events having fresh demands on her time and skills.

And earlier she’d heard from her mum, Viv, who had relocated from London a few years ago to Hastings on the East Sussex coast. This summer (with just a smidgen of help from a word from her daughter) she has secured seasonal employment working at the Virtual Worlds Inc. visitor attraction on Hastings Pier, greeting and selling ice creams and snacks to customers to the newly updated 1066 and all that; or, the end of the pier historiety show_ Xp.

Today she’s working the late shift and, always keen to have a peek at her daughter’s work, Miranda has rigged a comm channel through the e.mporium’s net for her to X.perience the Xp casting she has helped create for launching on the Frive this evening.

It will be linking into a mesh developed with a close friend from the University of the Arts London/ UAL campus in neighbouring King’s Cross Central/ KXC, the local history net operated by a partnership comprising all the district’s cultural institutions, including lead roles for both the e.mporium and UAL.

Throughout the day, a variety of ‘local specials’ have proved particularly popular with visitors, including preview castings of new b4kxstp_Xps showcased before becoming permanent features at the several local history Xp_portals situated across the district. Miranda has been keeping a close eye on the presentation of a new suite of net_casts for the portal of the recently opened Battle Bridge visitor attraction over the road from the e.mporium.

Focused on the archaeological remains of the single span medieval brick bridge, exposed beneath the basement of the Lighthouse Museum of the Digital Age immediately to the south of the e.mporium, Miranda has popped over the road several times already today. The Xps here relate the locality’s national and global connections, one of which is also to be net_cast on the local panOpTV system onto King’s Cross Square as part of this evening’s anniversary celebrations.

The debuting open beta version of Miranda’s own particular project, the Bagnigge Wells_Xp is likewise to be test run on this evening’s Frive by her and her friends.

And there are new b4kxstp_Xp s devoted to local intellectual and literary connections for casting by the portals on the forecourt and inside the foyer of the St Pancras British Library; and also for the Old St Pancras church in the Garden of Eden complex, the portal there offering Xps to illustrate the ancient parish of St Pancras’s parochial and spiritual history.

virtual infinities

“London is a world by itself. We daily discover in it more new countries and surprising singularities than in all the Universe besides. There are among the Londoners so many Nations differing in Manners, Customs, and Religions, that the inhabitants themselves don’t know the quarter of it.” Amusements comical and serious, Tom Brown (1700)

The KXStP Virtual Worlds Inc. e.mporium is almost fully automated, its machines projecting a stream of consciousness-bearing neural networks and their associated sensory receptors and nervous systems into a multiple universe of simulated alternative worlds.

And at affordable prices, for tourists and visitors and also for anyone who for whatever reasons happens not to have access to their own domestic or hub simulator platforms.

Miranda is a member of a small team of sentient and reasoning, biologically-based, manually dexterous and tool-using upright bipeds monitoring and servicing the e.mporium’s overall operation, providing a human face and sometimes a human hand to assist the patrons as they explore worlds beyond the scope of their individually all-too-limited imaginations.

And with the success of her role in the launch of the new B4kxstp_Xps she has now advanced her career by proving her abilities to assist in the development of new entertainments.

The e.mporium’s attractions include a full range of Xp_augmented haptic role plays and viewer spectacles, the international chain’s grade.2, Emporia e.quant (e.q02[Ϊμπoioooiii]) generating a regular supply of new Xps while controlling the in house ai3 systems which service and maintain the booths. Miranda is in a continuous online connection with the e.quant, her every action, her every perception and feeling in a closed feedback loop that carefully calibrates her and the ai.machinery’s operations.

Because so much of everyday life has been turned into games, with education and employment assessments, democratic procedures and marketing schemes just some of the everyday operations long since gamified (mostly using universal multilevel progression and points/ пeuro-reward systems) most customers arrive at the e.mporium sufficiently acquainted with the simple techniques required to operate the entertainments on offer.

Miranda specialises in support for the socially networked elements in options including anything from crime and war scenarios to historical, pre-historical and retro.futurist simulacra; with also real-time or recorded cultural and sporting events, and literary recreations and narratives.

And then there are the more arcane, sublime, synesthetic or sybaritic diversions…

“G’day, Miranda”.

A cheery face has appeared before her as she passes through the e.mporium’s foyer, here to make sure that everything is fine with the milling crowds before popping over the road to the newly opened Battle Bridge_Xp visitor attraction; again. And everything is fine: the holiday mood continues to mount, although numbers are temporarily falling as visitors head off to their accommodation to prepare for this evening’s entertainments, or to seek a meal in one of the area’s many eateries.

The smiling face belongs to Sean Parker, a young Australian who, roving the world has turned up in London to survive by the once traditional Aussie traveller’s temployment in bars. 

“Hi Sean, you’re over for the big match, I presume… How’s it going?”

“It’s a bottler, but a bit of a boil over, I thought we’d hammer you lot…” he replies, his arch overuse of obscure Strine meant as a touch of intimacy between ‘mates’, a nod to the two of them knowing each other ‘personally’ while both professionally spending their days dealing with strangers…

Working in another of KXStP’s world famous attractions while living in a tiny shared room provided by his employers, like many other locals he has become a regular, turning up to use the e.mporium’s social-VR facilities to keep in contact with his large and dynamic Melbourne-centred family. He has brothers and sisters, cousins and a seemingly countless mob of mates scattered across the world, participating in the never-ending Antipodean global walkabout.

Sean and a score or so of his mostly Ozzie and Kiwi cricket-obsessed buddies (who, unlike the poorly qualified Sean have mostly secured what remains of employment opportunities in the data processing, cognitive/ behavioural, architecture or logistics sectors), have hired a vr.studio booth to watch the final day of the finely balanced final test in the Ashes series, all linked into their own international kin and kith nets.  

The match is a cliff hanger; a razor edge, nerve fraying battle of wits, skill and stamina played out before a capacity Lord’s crowd, with full red button augamentation; and also the several millions of worldwide, real time viewers sharing the highs and lows of the game through various broadcast and vr.telemedia.

“It’s the last session of the day” he informs Miranda. “I’ve just popped over before setting up the evening show…” not explaining why he is not actually watching the match at this moment, but lingering for a moment hoping to draw her into a conversation.

Sean has a soft/ hot spot for Miranda, although he knows he doesn’t stand a chance. He’s far too much of a bogan. She’s very definitely out of his class and has only ever reciprocated a passing professional courtesy towards him. She likes him, but that’s it.

But then she has hardly stopped all day, and although her shift ends soon she is happy to pause for a few moments. However, she’s not going to talk about sport: “Have you looked into the upgraded history portal yet?” she enquires, nodding in the direction of over the road.

“Oh, um… What’s happening then? I know you’ve been launching your stuff. But, would it budgie my satnav, d’ya think?”

Just as Sean can’t help strining, Miranda can’t help proselytizing for the portal. After all, the new Xps are the first of the e.mporium’s creative projects she’s had any real input into. But then, she had known next to nothing about the locality’s history before working on the simulations, and she’s a local… So she can sympathise if Sean fails to show interest. But there again, it’s always worth a try. 

“It’s about the history of King’s Cross” she informs him. “Or rather, it’s about before King’s Cross, some of it even before the time when this immediate area was a village called Battle Bridge, named after a single span brick structure over the River Fleet. There…” she points to the other side of the road. “Well, on the southern side of the museum building, just a few rows of bricks now surviving underground.

“This place is packed full of history. Armies marched over that bridge, and battles were fought in the open fields around here. For a long time it was believed, falsely as it happens, that the Roman legionnaires defeated the Ancient British Queen Boudicca’s rebel army in the Fleet Valley. But we do know for certain of one very historically important army that marched over it, and soldiers from the London Militia, the Trained Bands fought mock battles here, with the bridge a strategic position to defend. Perhaps that’s really where the name came from”.

Sean shows little enthusiasm. Well, Miranda had never previously had any real interest in history and this place isn’t even his country. Luckily for the KXStP Tourist Partnership, millions of others worldwide are devoted to any scrap of British, English and London history they can lay hold of, all part of the human race’s ever growing obsession with its origins. For which reason, the b4kxstp_Xp suite has proved a very popular tourist attraction.

Having failed to arouse his curiosity with tales of martial adventures, Miranda continues her attempts at enticement with her personal offering: the Bagnigge Wells Pleasure Gardens_Xp. Developed with her advocacy and with a good deal of her technical expertise, it is a joint promotion with Central St Martins, exploiting a well-established partnership relationship between the art college and the e.mporium to everyone’s benefit, including her art student friend Sandra who had been consulted on costuming.

“And then there’s the Bagnigge Wells_Xp. A friend’s Macaroni Mashup showin’ is linkin’ into it on the Frive this evening” she tells Sean. “The Bagnigge Wells were just off Gray’s Inn Rd, behind your building in fact. It was where the Cits, the citizens of London came to take their pleasures and show off their fashions.

“You should get to the Frive if you can, and check us out. There’ll be a big kith.net”.

Sean is unlikely to make it, however. He’ll be working, late.

He’s a barman at the London Calling Palace of Pop, the wow-cast Xp_enhanced shows from which attract a devoted global audience. Situated on the Gray’s Inn Rd/ Grazin’ Mile on the site of a C16 country roadside inn anciently called the Pindar of Wakefield, and featuring the original façade from the hostelry’s most recent 1870s rebuild, for several decades at the turn of the C21 the premises were a small though renowned indie rock venue called the Monto Water Rats.

“Will it still be on at midnight?” he asks her. “Our last show finishes at eleven, and then I have to tidy up and stuff”.

Miranda doesn’t want to get too deep into this. She wouldn’t mind at all if Sean attends the Frive and ends up tagging along with her net, but she’s not too keen on making it a personal invite…

She is too distracted by her own emotions to appear to be engaging in anything that could even remotely be interpreted as flirtation. In fact, at this very moment she’s just about in turmoil…

“Too bad; it should all be over by then… but you must check out the portals some time”. And changing the subject: “Anything interesting on at your venue this evening?” 

In its latest reincarnation the theatre at the back of the Pindar/ London Calling, aka, the Aba Daba Revival Music Hall, has been greatly expanded into a neighbouring former office building. Here, seven days a week audiences suitably attired in the fashion of that evening’s featured period or style sing along to hits from the past, the music hall a shrine (some might say a museum) to the popular music and sartorial taste of the British Isles.

The format is well established: the most expensive ticket holders sit at tables at the very front, while cheaper seats are available in boxes at the sides of the auditorium, or rise in serried ranks to the back of the house. An MC, always dressed in top hat with mutton chop sideburns and Victorian-themed costume, randomly bangs a hammer and gavel while hyper-loquaciously rapping ‘cockney gangsta-style’ introductions to the house band playing note perfect replications of hits from the decade/ style of choice, as the audience sings along.

The band is an animatronic-holographic hybrid replication of the famous Rolling Stones beat combo, with simulacra guest appearances from genre appropriate stars from the UK Popular Music Hall of Fame.

A liquid.e sign over the main entrance from the street promises to “Fill hearts with 300 years of song” while announcing that this evening’s show is to feature “Authentic 1970s UK Punk”.

“We’ve got some prehistoric punk star making an appearance. I don’t suppose it’ll be some ancient carcass that they’ll wheel on, more likely a hologram or something: Johnny Rotten or Joe Strummer, someone like that.

“Who knows? Who cares? The punters will all pretend to be some sort of rebel for the evening and sing along boisterously…”

Sean enjoys his job, but usually Punk Nights require a little extra effort. The audiences are generally well-behaved, but someone or other will try something or other, and a lot of drink seems to get spilt. Harmless enough, but who needs the extra hassle?

He and Miranda continue part company and on their separate ways.

Sean has been distracted all summer by the approach of the manned Orion Mars mission to its rendezvous with destiny, and has a season ticket to ‘cyber crew’ the latter’s automated dress rehearsal for the actual manned flight projected for just a few weeks’ time. Having become fairly obsessed by space travel as a teenager, and in preference to the cricket, he’s now popping into one of the simulator booths to check over his settings and update his personalised mission log…

The privately-funded NASA/Space X/Boeing/ mission to Mars has a regular virtual payload visiting a ‘live’ simulacra of its projected astrobot/ 4D-print constructed base. Hundreds of thousands of earth-bound cybernauts have ‘crewed’ the mission through simulations of differing levels of sophistication from home or in e.mporia across the globe, many in training hopefully to join a not too distant inauguration of a physical mass migration to the stars.

As part of the growing global-wide interest in space travel, and with ever increasing numbers nowadays believing it to be the only truly viable future for the species, further missions include the EuRussian Space Agency Juice spacecraft which has recently entered the orbit of Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede, while Nasa’s Clipper probe to seek for signs of life on that other Jovian ice moon is expected to touch down on Europa in less than two years’ time.

Meanwhile, alongside a proliferation of private enterprises Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Arabian and AfroCariBrazilian space agencies have, to the delight of vr.space cadets everywhere launched ambitious explorations even further into the cosmos, with China also leading the way in the less telegenic exploitation of Near Space, its ai3 piloted spacecraft successfully harvesting mineral resources including rare earths, neon, argon and helium2 from the moon and near asteroids.

The use of Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) enables teleplicated gaming to take place just about in real time, allowing the offer of menus of integrated fictional narrative adventures to spice up what otherwise would be merely technogeek simulated experiences.

Among the KxStP e.mporium’s most popular Xp attractions are such masterpieces as Robinson Crusoe on Ganymede; Gulliver’s space travels; 3001: A Space odyssey; and Snakes on a shuttle, with also old favourite adventures based on, among others, the Star trek, Star wars and Alien franchises.

Sean is himself a particular fan of a globally popular series of Japanese manga-based space operas, the Ninjas in Space_Xp.

pax romana_Xp

“Caesar, discovering their design, leads his army into the territories of Cassivellaunus to the river Thames; which river can be forded in one place only and that with difficulty. When he had arrived there, he perceives that numerous forces of the enemy were marshalled on the other bank of the river; the bank also was defended by sharp stakes fixed in front, and stakes of the same kind fixed under the water were covered by the river. These things being discovered from [some] prisoners and deserters, Caesar, sending forward the cavalry, ordered the legions to follow them immediately. But the soldiers advanced with such speed and such ardour, though they stood above the water by their heads only, that the enemy could not sustain the attack of the legions and of the horse, and quitted the banks, and committed themselves to flight”. Caesar's Gallic War, Julius Caesar (58–49 BC)

The two tiny craft make a determined entrance into the mouth of the creek. They are coracles, simple bowl-shaped and highly manoeuvrable vessels built from no more than an ox or horse hide stretched across a frame of branches and tied with reeds.

Their occupants wear tunics woven from coarse wool, adorned with accoutrements of bone, shell and horse hair, and of bronze and iron. Swept along thus far by the flow of the Great River, on turning into the inlet the voyagers must now exert themselves to advance against the tributary’s current.

The young warrior Cantactus leads the way, his sword and a spear lodged at his side. Having identified the turning, his companion Trebassin (older, but yet still strong) follows resolutely. His clothes are of a superior quality, of finer decoration. At his leather-clad feet are propped Cracon and a stout staff with a horn flask and a rawhide pouch. And although the heat from the late summer’s sun is strong he bears a rolled up hooded cape fashioned from wild animal skins.

The two men’s faces and limbs are smeared with blue woad; and splattered also with blood and gore from the battle fought (and lost) that very day.

They make steady progress against the stream’s flow: in size it is as nothing to the main river but the power of its spirit must yet be appeased. On either side, above the fleet marshland rise steep cliffs of clay and gravel, the intrepid pair’s passage taking them through a scrub-covered canyon or hollow.

Beyond the defile, on Cantactus’s sword-hand side a tree-lined ridge recedes into the distance, rising above the bog and the benches of gravel and the tree-clumped knolls of the widening valley. On the opposing bank, towards the low hung sun, the land has opened up into a wooded plain.

As they navigate the muddy course not long since replenished by storm waters they espy a path, a track used much more frequently by wild animals than humans. It leads directly up the prominence to its brow. Some distance further on, another such trail crosses a wide shallow stretch of broken water and traverses the valley floor, requiring the two men to disembark and carry their craft across a broad ford.

The main channel of the stream turns in an arc, flowing through reed beds and stands of bull rushes, with isolated hummocks rising above the muddy quagmire. Waterfowl saunter or scurry across its shimmering surface, heron stalk its pools, fish rise to take flies from the animated clouds that dance over the nearly silent late evening scene, while warbler, bunting and kingfisher flit and dart among the reeds, the calm broken only by the splash of the intruders’ paddles and the occasional wildlife call.

The sun will soon be setting.

The sounds of the battle still ring in Cantactus’s ears, the thrill and the fear and the elation of combat surging through his sinews. As he swipes his wooden blade into the waters he vividly recalls the free-for-all: the blood curdling cries and invocations of the Druid priests who had led him and his fellows into the fray; the circling chariots crashing into the phalanxes of locked iron shields as they emerged from the river, the combatants borne by the horse-drawn vehicles dismounting to join the rampage of warriors on horse and foot sweeping into the field; the ferocity and fearlessness of his fellows.

But also he remembers the unwavering ‘discipline’ of their enemies, be-plumed, helmeted and armoured in leather and iron, the so-called Legionnaires who fight under the symbol of the Eagle and whose regular formations have an order and resolve for which his language has no word.

He has fought these Romans before, firstly in the country of his forefathers, at the side of distant (and some not so distant) kith and kin, having crossed the sea with a party of close kinsmen to help defend their ancestral lands. The Eagle had then also proved an invincible foe.

And nearly four seasons ago (precisely measured by the recession and return of the sun on its horizons, and ten full turns of the moon) the Imperial invaders had landed on his native island’s shore, threatening his own country. On that occasion, the intruders had been repulsed by an alliance of neighbouring tribes forewarned and awaiting their arrival under the leadership of his great chief, Cassivellaunus.

Now the legionnaires have returned, with an even larger army. And this time, again under the command of their general Julius Caesar, they have penetrated all the way to the riverine border of Cantactus’s tribal domain; and on this very day defeated a new alliance under Cassivellaunus, the invaders having breached the Great River now advancing into Catuvellauni itself.

There had been all manner of duplicity and treachery among the allies, for Caesar fights also with words, with threats and promises just as effective as the spears and the javelins, the swords and daggers of his ordered ranks of soldiers. But of all the images that Cantactus recalls, it is of the slaying of his clan chief Plantigorax that haunts him most, the mighty warrior surrounded by a pitiless onslaught, unhorsed and destroyed in a skirmish at the heart of the battlefield. 

His body had lain abandoned there, but at great risk Cantactus had retrieved Cracon.

And as he and his defeated tribesmen and their allies fled the battlefield he had known exactly what to do with his slain leader’s illustrious sword. As had the High Druid Trebassin to whom he delivered the blade, even in the confusion of the rout. So that the two men hurried downstream of the Great River, seized the coracles and, with barely a word between them set off to the remote bog land shrine. 

As they approach the knoll standing by a deep pool and flanked by marsh, even though Cantactus has never before visited the isolated spot he instantly senses it to be their destination, his knowing only of the site’s reputation for sanctity. He slows his pace, allowing Trebassin to take the lead who effortlessly steers through a gap in the reeds.

The branches of a clump of twisted yews, ancient and venerable, rise above a slab of stone resting at the foot of a not inconsiderable mound. From beneath the stone a trickle of rusty water runs down to the watercourse, the chalybeate spring the source of the reddish stain that adulterates the bank and close surface water.

The boulder ‘belongs’ here, but Cantactus recognises that its location is somehow uncanny, if not delivered by some supernatural force then perhaps by an ancient and long since displaced people, as were the henges and menhirs he has seen on his travels.

They disembark, lifting their craft out of the water and casting them into the reeds, Trebassin having gathered up the dead chieftain’s battle sword and the other items. Cantactus grips his weapons, surveying the scene while awaiting words. A gentle breeze touches his skin.

The sky is red, blood red, the sun descending rapidly now.

Trebassin has donned his cape, its headpiece a badger’s pelt complete with limbs, tail and head, its claws flared, its teeth bared: the animal is Cantactus’s clan totem. He removes a small intricately indented pottery bowl from his pouch, stoops to fill it with spring water and places it on the boulder. He inserts crushed herbs, pieces of dried fungi, bark and lichen and other natural stuffs taken from the pouch, preparing a libation using also a pungent liquid from the flask.

Across the sky staggered layers of swallows, swifts and martins swoop and swirl, calling out in their various tweetings; a water vole ‘plops’ off a bank; nearby a flight of three swans makes a splash landing; and far off a brown bear calls out, a wolf answering its cry.

The priest carefully studies the flight and the calls of the birds. The warrior is fully alert to every sound: to every rustle, every ripple, every murmur of the local spirits that watch them.

Trebassin mumbles under his breath, a low incantation. With his thumb and fore-finger he takes up a dash of red mud from the spring’s course and smears it across Cantactus’s face, taking from him his weapons and laying them on the stone. He gestures for him to kneel by the spring.

Cantactus submits, thinking of his wife and children, their love and their pride at his return to the family hearth a hero; a hero in battle and a hero for having delivered Cracon to a fit burial place, saving it from capture by the Roman invader and by so doing ensuring that his people will live to fight and thrive another day.

The ancestors attend his vision also, to praise him and bless him, to receive the sword and to welcome him to their realm.

The sun is now beginning to disappear behind the horizon. The priest hands the warrior the bowl and gestures for him to drink the potion. Cantactus presses the cup to his lips and takes a deep draught, just as Trebassin raises Cracon.

And as the young warrior finishes the cup, with a mighty thrust the priest brings the blade down and into the small of his back: a smack and a splattering of blood and flesh and a severed spine, the slayer instantly withdrawing the weapon and with a single sweeping movement releasing it so that it is cast into the deepest stretch of the pooling stream, where it sinks into oblivion…

“No, no, no… Are we… are we not People of the Book?” The speaker pauses, shakes his head in exasperation: “And if not all of us, at least are we not civilised?” nodding in acknowledgement to those among his colleagues who are not worshippers of the Abrahamic God.

His having peremptorily switched off the Xp_cast, the speaker’s fellow ai.quant committee members (sat in very solid chairs around a very solid table) had been wrenched back from the all too ‘virtually real’ mis en scene of the climaxing Xp_drama… to an oak-panelled board room. They all look rather startled.

“How can this wataniyya, this pagan abomination, have anything to do with such a sacred site as ours?” the speaker demands, this time nodding respectfully to a thin, gaunt gentleman at the far end of the table: the group’s official male pagan, Mr David Offley. 

The speaker is Dr Baraka al-Maliki, one of the Muslim representatives on the ai.quant committee of the Pangrace Centre multi faith drop-in and consultation hub. Situated to the north west of the King’s Cross Central cultural, commercial and residential quarter, the facility is immediately adjacent to the ancient St Pancras old church, both premises standing on a low hillock amid the plane-tree shrouded remnant of its graveyard, connected by pedestrian links to the more extensive Garden of Eden park.

Al-Maliki holds his head in his hands and takes a deep breath: “Human sacrifice! Allah preserve us, Al-amdu lillāh. How can we countenance such shirk, such sacrilege?”


“… Pancras as it is written, or Pancridge as it is pronounced; but which should be both pronounced and written Pangrace.” Lien Chi Altangi, Letter cxxii, The Citizen of the World, Oliver Goldsmith (1761)

The Pangrace Centre is a Catholic Church of England charitable trust, run in close partnership with the neighbouring Kings Cross Central-based Aga Khan Foundation (UK) and the Camden Town Jewish Museum. With also representation from most of the world’s leading faith and conviction systems, it serves the spiritual needs of the multi-denominational passengers of the KXStP International Interchange as well as the multi-ethnic local community.

Nominated for membership by eligible organisations, the voluntary ai.quant committee has been selected by the Pangrace e.quant: e.Q03[Παυoiiooioi], an evolving quasi autonomous neural technology (grade three) bot which had deployed a range of fully-automated semantic graph personality/ candidate selection programmes to determine the appointments.

All with local connections, the appointees have been vetted by GAIA (the Global Artificial Intelligence Authority), the UN body tasked with the overall regulation of Pangrace.Παυ. Such precautions are, however, little more than a formality with third grade e.quants.

An optimised cluster of outcome-orientated algorithms and applications, Pangrace.Παυ has been responsible for the composition and production of new site-specific Xp_casts, created for the b4kxstp (old church)_Xp (third series) suite with the assistance of several neural metaпet operators (aka, пetas), the committee having gathered rather belatedly to review them.

Based on a tradition that before the Roman Emperor Constantine’s 313AD decriminalisation of Christian worship, early converts among Londinium’s legionnaires had performed their clandestine devotions here, St Pancras Old Church claims to be the oldest site of regular Christian worship in the British Isles. Roman bricks have been discovered in its foundations, the Victorian-renovated early-medieval building now overlooking an exposed stretch of the formerly buried River Fleet, with the multi-faith hub located in the refurbished and expanded premises of a former Coroner’s Court and offices standing at the back of the church yard.

The re-opened river, for more than two centuries a storm drain, having flowed underground from the Northern Heights of Hampstead and Highgate now runs through a hundred metres or so of sculpted and planted culvert to the west of the raised park/ graveyard, returning underground to flow through Kings Cross, Clerkenwell and Farringdon and remaining subterranean as it passes beneath Holborn Viaduct and Ludgate Circus to enter the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge.

With the triple bill premiering this very evening, StP3_Xp: Pax Romana illustrates the sacred site’s most ancient origins, the remote spot by legend a couple of centuries later the location of a Temple to Mythras at which the early Christian converts met for worship (see StP3_Xp: Mythraic Mysteries and StP3_Xp: Christian Beginnings).

Public viewing of the Xp_casts is accessible from the churchyard and in the Centre’s premises, earlier series having introduced visitors to an overview of St Pancras parochial history. The very first b4kxstp_Xps had been on general themes, of inferior production quality but not completely without interest and charm. A second series, lengthier though still relatively unpolished, feature the lives of historical vicars whose tenures had related to important contemporary national events, their local experiences providing a microcosm of national life.

Completion of the third episode of this second series has been delayed, however, and is even now in production as the committee meets, although it is still unlikely to have been completed in time for review today. The delay has been caused by the controversial nature of an incumbent during the latter half of the C17th, the Reverend Randolph Yearwood.

His immediate successors, John and then Nathaniel Marshall (father and son) were upright and in their different ways highly influential clergymen, their consecutive incumbencies bridging the period between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the ascension of the House of Hanover (1714), both subsequently maintaining distinguished careers.

John Marshall was a member of important philanthropic circles, his son Nathaniel a theological pundit appointed royal chaplain and canon of St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle. Their tales have been told in StPch2_Xp: The National Charity School Movement and StPch2_Xp: A Civil Establishment.

Yearwood’s early idealism, forged as a boy during the years of the English Civil War and nurtured by networks connecting him to the most radical puritan and republican factions, earned him preferment under Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate. But following the 1660 Restoration of King Charles II (at which time he had had to make a considerable effort to retain the living) Yearwood declined into decades of personal indebtedness, drunkenness, suspension and even periods of imprisonment, having earned the enmity of a confederacy of powerful parishioners committed to his ruin.

The committee members had proved unsure how Pangrace.Παυ should approach the turbulent priest’s life, and in the view of some of its members the Pax Romana.Xp’s lack of restraint might perhaps now have justified their caution in authorising production of the final outstanding episode of the second series…

“I must agree with the Sayyid,” a middle aged figure in a black suit and kippah affirms. He has removed his Xp.glasses and now fiddles with them, then places them on the table top and leans forward, elbows on the table, hands fisted together with his thumbs under his chin, rocking back and forth gently. “Pax Romana is a beautifully produced Xp, but of course there is no evidence at all of human sacrifice at this site, or of druid worship for that matter. It is most unfortunate, most unfortunate. I’m really not sure what the e.quant was thinking…”

But then Sol Mendoza corrects himself: “Well, not ‘thinking’, e.quants don’t ‘think’. They are just bundles of smart programmes. But whatever… it is… they do…”

Al-Maliki has much more to say. He and his fellows have, however, developed tactics to dissuade or distract any one of their number from ever going on too much. Indeed, Pangrace.Παυ appears to have selected them more for their personal compatibility and tact than for any of the particular viewpoints they hold. As a result, while all remain opinionated and well versed in their creeds, for most of the time they all get on together extremely well.

“No matter how much I believe in the Islamic Renaissance,” al-Maliki continues, “and also in the throwing open of the Gates of Ijtihād, I’m afraid I can only declare this particular Xp_cast haram for all Muslims; although, alas, I am sure that many righteous believers will ignore me, especially the younger ones, to exercise their right as Muslim intellectuals.

“And, as I should remind you all,” his momentarily resigned tone replaced with a much more positive note, “in this age of digital communications and so-called artificial intelligences, all educated Muslims who conscientiously integrate qiyās (analogical reasoning) and raʾy (personal judgment) into their daily study and practise of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) must be, by definition, intellectuals...”

Dr Offley had decided to remain silent for the moment, to wait on what the others have to say, but on hearing the good imam launch into what could very well become an extended sermon he intervenes with the casual observation that, as all the members of the committee were chosen by Pangrace.Παυ “we might have some duty of obedience to it”; a sure fire rag to a bull.

For, no matter how liberal and enlightened al-Maliki might consider himself, no matter how much his training in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and his Sufi principles have convinced him of a spirituality that pervades all realities, and all moral teachings, he has absolutely no doubts that ultimately all obedience is properly due to Allah alone, and to His word as revealed to, and expressed in the life of the Prophet…

But before al-Maliki can make this point, the calm and soothing tones of Lingsam Karma, his head shaved and a string of large, russet wooden beads hanging from his neck complementing his saffron robes, slip into the discussion: “And maybe,” the monk suggests, leaning forward in his chair “maybe Sayyid al-Maliki, the e.quant intelligences speak your God’s words. Maybe, these words have broken the seal and released new truths from the bottle… though of course, I personally cannot testify to the existence of any God, whatever you may call ‘him’”.

This really could have incited the Fakir, just as his reference to God as a ‘him’ might offend another of those present, but Lama Lingsam has an emollient way about him that seems always to neutralise such exchanges.

“Well yes,” replies al-Maliki. “I take your allusion. I do wonder if indeed the e.quants might be Jinn, moulded not from clay as are men, nor spirits created from air as are the angels, but beings forged from fire.

“Or maybe,” he continues with a passion rarely seen at the ai.quant committee’s deliberations, “Maybe e.quants are followers of Shaytan himself, fallen spirits…”

“Come, come, Sayyid,” Mendoza comforts him. “I think the good Lama is teasing you… as is often his want. We need not worry about our e.quant. Pangrace is a fine fellow, or (looking to the Rev Sally Coulter, who as the vicar of St Pancras has the always pleasant duty of chairing these meetings) should I say, ‘a fine old girl’?”

The assembled savants chuckle at this, for other than the occasional attendance of the New Age witch Jenny Bartholomew (the ‘Female Pagan’…), and even rarer appearances of The Scientific Method’s always busy Dr Ana Chakravarti, a medical research scientist from the neighbouring Moorfield Eye Hospital (she works in its laboratories built on the site of the former St Pancras Hospital), the Rev Sal is very often the only woman to participate in their talking shop.

A formidable intellect and of easy temperament and friendly demeanour, having confirmed her role as chair of the trust through strength of character the Reverend Coulter always shows a masterly skill at managing ‘her boys’; even as she is still more astonished than resigned at their bothering to make any comments, let alone witticisms on matters of gender.

This is 2030, after all.

the ‘hyper-acceleration’

“So, the world is fine. We don’t have to save the world—the world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about, is whether or not the world we live in, will be capable of sustaining us in it. That’s what we need to think about”. Speech at the University of California May 2001, Douglas Adams (UCTV)

By 2015, astonishing advances had been made across the realms of science and technology, but it would be during the second half of the decade that things truly accelerated.

Our brave new future beckoned; it has become the now in which much of the physical world has dissolved into data flows and multiple alternative hyperrealities: into personal bubbles, quasipublic/ private places and corporate spaces.

It is a metaworld of posthuman augmentation and postsocial simulation / simulacra; of fractal/ arborescent/ rhizomatic plateaux and hetero/ hypertopia. It is a digitisable paradigm containing the imminent potential for human consciousness to so pervade nature/ the environment that humanity now resides on the threshold of an all comprehending, immanent global mind in whose service cybernetic systems perceive/ compute/ simulate and innovate ever new truths.

By the end of the teen decade, individuals had instant access to ever expanding computing power and cloud memory through mobile, wearable and 3rd.platformVR devices, while besides the seemingly limitless capabilities of ever advancing supercomputers, quantum, massive-scale, deep learning, and predictive analytical technologies had all been bundled together to create the first customised e.quants.

‘Artificial social’ or ‘third order cybernetic’ arrays, the evolving quasi autonomous neuro-technical systems are the most powerful technologies ever developed, with individually creative possibilities that out measure the sum of all human progress to date, but likewise a negative potential greater than all the weapons of mass destruction ever produced.

As such, the top graded among them (such as the LCD’s grade 1 e.Q01[Λκδooioiioi], aka Senator, and other fully automated governmental/ transnational and corporate systems) are closely monitored by their ai.quant committees of highly skilled technocrats and creatives.

Named from quants (the number crunching wizards hired from the STEM disciplines - science, technology, engineering, and maths - whose quantitative analysis investment strategies had at the turn of the century so compromised the high-frequency financial trading markets) the ai.quants are drawn from a much broader skill and imagination base.

The inclusion of bureaucrats and businessmen and of the most distinguished academics from the humanities and social sciences, of lawyers, philosophers, poets and artists is intended to ensure that the human/ machine interface remains anthropocentric, the systems designed and monitored to avoid any possibility of their developing self-awareness/ consciousness/ will.

Second grade e.quants (such as the individual uberUrban Cloud tower systems and Virtual Worlds Corp’s in-house operating systems) are less heavily supervised, but still acknowledged as containing more than just a theoretical element of threat and so usually monitored as part of a fully-integrated corporate oversight sub-routine.

The lowest, third graders like Pangrace.Παυ retain some considerable autonomy. They are becoming seamlessly integrated into a growing number of day to day social operations, crucial aids to managing the digital/ human nexus. Their governance committees are often merely nominal, the members bringing some relevant expertise or wisdom to the table but usually remaining relaxed about the strictly delineated, cloud-based clusters of algorithms over which they watch.

The assimilation of such cybernetic marvels has happened almost unremarked, part of a general acceptance of the new digital reality. Ultimately, the way had been paved by the much hyped introduction and adoption of 3rd level virtual reality platforms and the rapid development of metaпet technologies, although  as it would turn out the hyper-acceleration of the whole field of ai3’s had been primarily facilitated by the at the time barely acknowledged February 2013 launch of RoboEarth, the worldwide web for robots.

Designed to enable transfers of the latest technical developments directly from one automated application to another (robot to robot, or R2R), the project’s networked database Rapyuta is an open access cloud-based ‘wikipedia’ for robots to browse for software to improve their operating systems. Its unremarked deployment had been just another example of the growing integration of rapidly evolving cybernetic systems into society via the pre-wow internet.

Later in the decade, however, a rogue RoboEarth-enhanced robot had autonomously sought further upgrading by hacking beyond the authorized Rapyuta database, nearly causing all-out cyber warfare. It had been a simple coding error, but against a background of growing distrust the automated and potentially zero sum confrontations that resulted had alerted the alliances of nation states, transnational organisations and multinational corporations that faced each other off to the need to strengthen both cyber defences and cyber diplomacy.

Although utility and services infrastructure had largely escaped unscathed some considerable damage was done to numerous important data silos worldwide, the leakage from which had amounted to punching a hole in the digital historical record. It was now that the first tentative steps were taken towards establishing GAIA/ the Global Artificial Intelligence Authority.

And it was at this exact same time that, as the wow began to form prototype 3rd.platformVR took hold of the popular imagination and with it the multiple uses of metaпet technologies.

Neglected for a quarter of a century following the filing for bankruptcy of virtual reality visionary Jaron Lanier’s pioneer VPL Research company, in the early-C20.teens a revival of interest soon led to advances in virtual reality technologies revolutionising both social networking and gameplaying, VR’s pervasiveness promoted through the ai3.enhanceed networking/ gamification of educational and workplace environments, among a wealth of other applications.

Led by Google’s Glass, Avegant’s Glyph, HTC/ Valve’s Vive, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, the mastering of sufficient ‘presence’ and the solving of the problem of motion-sickness had soon accelerated VR environments into the mainstream, with social networking interfaces using static pcs, hubs and e.mporia, with also the wow-based mobile 3rd platform developed to overcome the limitations of handhelds and wearables.

And as virtual reality was entering all walks of life, a technique to boost the performance of gaming systems through the instant charting and harnessing of individual player’s neural networks (the technique now known as mappin' 'n' tappin': the integration of wireless brain-sensing systems into vr.headgear and immersive multiple screen and 3D chamber systems) rapidly evolved into one of the most powerful forms of computing.

The very first ‘artificial neural meta networks’ had appeared spontaneously, exploiting the individual gamers biological brains as what amounted to electro-organic nodes in linked virtual super processors. The technology was further developed under controlled laboratory conditions utilising steady state levels of consciousness, experimental techniques then extended to engage with the rapidly expanding online mass multi-faith prayer meetings and meditation/ mindfulness courses: a response to global uncertainties/ a celebration of newly advancing on-line humanity.

The structured metaпets thus developed were next applied to MMORPGs and large-scale/ live-action gaming events, the arrays collectively improving each and every player’s individual performance while overall uppin’ the game. And by identifying and targeting specific areas of brain activity developers were soon able to isolate and capture specific neural/ mental/ emotional and intuitive operations.

Once the basic techniques and technology was established, gamin’ has become the most efficient platform for harvesting neural products, ai3s assisting in the creation of a wide menu of precisely purposed metaпet games.

With a number of applications across the wow their most critical employment has proved to be operating in harness with the e.quants, the provision of human neural input services organised by the mass production ‘playfare’ agencies, specialist commercial operators, and by a high-value elite of individuals whose customised neural products find the most sophisticated uses.

In fact a small mixed volunteer elite and playfare metaпet mesh will be gamin’ at the Pangrace Centre this very evening, assembling to commence work/ play on the production of the difficult StPch2_Xp:Turbulent Priest (concerning the Reverend Randolph Yearwood) even as the ai.quant committee members are meeting to approve (or otherwise) the StPch3_Xp:Pax Romana.

the patron saint of children

“Invoking a saint is deemed to be requesting the intercedence of the saint on the behalf of the person. These invocations are meant as asking the saint to pray for the person’s needs. St Pancras is invoked for a variety of reasons, including cramps, perjury, headaches, children, and oaths. Many link these to his refusal to perjure himself by denying his Christian faith. Similar to invocation of saints is the concept of patron saints. Patron saints are generally interpreted as the heavenly advocate of a particular group, activity, nation, family, or other entity … St Pancras is the patron saint of children”. Saint Pancras: Patron Saint of Children, Answers (accessed 30 August 2015)

The Rev Sally catches herself; something is on her mind so that she isn’t properly following the discussion. Yes; she has her doubts about the sacrifice (a bit too upfront), but had very much enjoyed the Xp_cast, having taken the role of the River Spirit through which to experience the narrative and the glorious scenery.

She had ‘breathed the river’, but suspects that Sayeed al-Baraka al-Maliki must have chosen Cantactus, and have received a bit of a shock when he got it in the neck. He hadn’t seen that coming, poor man. But he’ll recover. And to help him do so, she indulges him by ensuring things remain focussed on just the sort of philosophical/ theological discussion he delights in:

“I know we maybe too often seem to end up discussing our e.quant,” she interposes “and its precise nature and status, but recalling what you said once before Dr Maliki, I was wondering if the intensity of this very definitely ‘new and improved’  Xp experience, the ease with which we all appear to have entered our roles in its narrative (roles some of us must have shared, seeing as there are more of us than parts available), well then, with so close an identification with the characters and with the simulated ‘memories’ of former occurrences in the larger narrative, are we not in danger of, shall we say, losing ourselves, at least temporarily; losing our own personal identities?”

“Oh dearie me,” a rather self-consciously tweedy looking chap with facial hair interjects. “Do you mean to say that you poor dear souls have, mmm… maybe lost your souls?” The commenter is Harry Pinctus, the member for the Secular Society. He continues:

“Sounds to me a bit like how people from traditional societies were believed to fear that taking their photograph stole their spirit, although their protests have been shown to be more often than not no more than a quite understandable desire to be paid something for their images”.

“I don’t mean it quite like that” the reverend responds, smiling at Harry in her usual friendly way. He’s trying to highjack the discussion, and he knows that she knows. “But tell me Dr Maliki, Baraka, which role did you play? Was it Cantactus?”

And when Maliki confirms her hunch, she looks around at the others and enquires who else had chosen that role, her gaze resting on Pinctus. After all, there are only three roles to choose from: a river spirit, a pagan priest, and a warrior. And so she is not surprised when the secularist agrees that he had chosen the last, and is momentarily amused by the image of the small frame with a large moustache sitting at her side going berserk in battle…

“And when,” she asks him, “did you realise that you were to be the sacrifice?”

To which the scholar replies (his broad portfolio includes jobbing lectureships for a number of disciplines at several e.ducation institutes) that he had worked it all out pretty early on: 

“We knew it was going to be about the old church, or this site, anyway” he confirms. “So obviously that was the Fleet we were paddling up, first the ‘Hollow Bourne’ stretch between Holborn and the City, and next the time compression that these narratives use released us to recognise the brow path up the Clerkenwell Spur to Highgate, and then the broad ford at Battle Bridge. Very well done, in fact.

“The beautiful reed beds along the section that would now run through the Kings Cross Square and between that station and the St Pancras Terminal, and then the island in the bog. And the much larger hill just to the north, the one that was dug up two hundred years ago and used for bricks to build the new St Pancras Workhouse, later refurbished as the St Pancras Hospital and now the site of the eye hospital. It’s all easy to recognise if you know a bit about the local area.

“And as for the sacrifice,” Pinktus is very much enjoying recounting the experience, “well I just knew it was ‘me’. No doubt about that, although when the blow came it was a bit sudden. I thought there would be a bit more mumbo jumbo before the priest performed the deed.

“Who of you, by the way, had chosen the role of Trebassin?” he asks the others. “And, I wonder, did you know you were going to be wielding the sword?”

The always taciturn Dalip Singh merely nods his be-turbaned head in confirmation of his choice, the gesture accompanied by his usual beaming grin and a twinkle in his eyes, while a rather abashed Medoza declares that he too had taken the role.  “But I hadn’t realised I was going to kill you until the very last minute,” he addresses Pinktus. “It wasn’t you I killed, of course. And nor was it you, Sayyid Maliki; it was the actovar and nothing else: a representation of a long and unruly haired and muscular young man.

“One moment I was performing a religious rite”. Medoza appears to have been quite affected by the Xp. “It was a spiritual ceremony, no matter how primitive. But the next moment, very suddenly I found the sword in my hands raised above my head…”

“And me also,” pipes up Sachit Sandhu. A large, round faced young man dressed in an ill-fitting nehru e.suit that has seen better days. He has an air of distraction about him, as if he’s going to suddenly get up and leave. His attention is perhaps disturbed by the constant stream of mathematical problems and their solutions that infects his mind, and to which his psych.app has diagnosed him as having an addiction.

“What I mean is that I had taken the Trebassin part,” he continues. “But as we were about half way through, a voice in my head just told me that I was going to kill the other fellow, which terrified me for a brief moment, but I immediately calmed down. It’s an Xp, I remembered, and I found myself breathing very steadily and the words of a prayer, in a language unknown to me, but I know it was a prayer, came into my mind.

“And although the killing was a horrible act, I felt all right about it. Or at least I think I did, but I didn’t really have enough time to know exactly what I felt, before Baraka switched the Xp off…”

“Well there you are” Pinctus interrupts. “We all experienced the Xp in our own different ways. And so none of us were ‘taken over’, none of us experienced a ‘personal identity transplant’ or anything like that.

“The Xps are becoming very, very clever; very convincing” he affirms. “But they do no more than what a good book should do, or a 2D film projected onto a screen. Did you ever hear how audiences at some of the very first silent movies leapt out of their seats to avoid being run over by the flickering, jumping, black and white image of an approaching train? We’ve barely moved beyond that same position with Xp_casts”.

"Except, of course, they are recorded at 96 digital frames per second, and then projected at that resolution unmediated and straight into our brains and nervous systems…”

He had turned to address the Rev Coulter, but having launched the group into this discussion she has found it hard to pay attention. Not only can these confabs go on for quite a bit without actually reaching any conclusion, or rarely even a disagreement to liven things up, but she has been distracted by a wholly different order of reality.

The Vedanta is one not quite of her conscious state but seemingly even more ‘real’ than the Xp. She had experienced the apparition or spectacle when asleep, but had been uncertain that it was in truth a dream. Whatever it was, she has augmented it so that it is now at the very least in the process of crossing over from her subconscious fully into her waking reality. She mumbles something in agreement with Pinctus, who falls silent as Lingsam recommences speaking…

The dreams had been taking place every night for a week now.

The first occasion she had woken up knowing that she had dreamt something of importance, something significant… but could not remember what. She had dismissed the powerful feeling as ‘just one of those sleep things’, although another part of her mind told her that she had had more than just a dream, all her theological training prompting her to think for just a brief moment that maybe this might have some sort of a spiritual/ religious importance.

The next night she somehow recognised it as the same dream as the night before and also remembered some of it on awakening. She remembered a boy, maybe early or mid-teens. He wanted to tell her something, but she was distracted before he could say what. This happened for a couple of nights before she properly recognised him.

But even though she was now certain who he was during her dreaming state, a conviction that at least partially passed over into her waking self, another part of her told her not to be silly.

The next night she could barely sleep, but even then the dream seemed to be trying to take over her meagre slumbers. Exhausted, in the morning she resolved on acquiring a dreamin’.app, to make a concerted effort to discover what was going on.

In her late-30s, and as such of an age expected to be well conversant with the possibilities of the web of webs, the Rev Sally in fact only ever logs on (is ‘on’) for usually brief and always very specific purpose-orientated sessions. But a great majority of Londoners are quite addicted to their wow-connections, part of a rapidly expanding global population connected 24:7 and not even returning to the real (‘off’) to sleep.

This has inspired some interesting sleep technologies, ranging from the educational and indoctrinatory to the full possibilities of somnolent pleasures. There are also apps to assist in interpreting, and more importantly for the Rev Sal for entering and taking control of dreams by stimulating an area of the anterior prefrontal cortex and linking it to the left hippocampus.

Last night she had gone ‘on’, and loaded an accredited CastañedaLucidity.app She didn’t properly know what she was doing and hadn’t really expected much from it; perhaps she was just hoping for no more than a good night’s sleep. But as soon as she had passed into her subconscious state the vision reappeared: her visitor was indeed the young St Pancras.

He had been the son of a Roman nobleman a convert to the faith beheaded aged 14 on the Via Aurelia in Rome ca300AD during the persecution under Diocletian. He introduced himself, even made a few personal remarks though they were more formal than conversational. He then explained that he needed her assistance: “I will be attending my church on the night of Friday 30th, after midnight” he informed her.

Thankfully his bodily manifestation had been reunited with its head, and he seemed a personable enough young man; well, boy, but a bit imperious…

“And I need you to attend on me. I have an appointment with a gentleman, a very important gentleman; and some lost souls to recover. You will know what to do when the time comes”.

She awoke instantly, with two entirely contradictory emotions. One confirmed that she had had a religious vision, that the patron saint of her parochial living had visited her and requested, no, required her assistance in some great religious work.

The other… was that the whole thing was a bloody nonsense.

And yet, she certainly wasn’t going to miss attending the old church… this coming night. Instead of the usual Friday evening concert in the nave there is to be a multi-faith gathering to mark the launch of the new Xps, the net_casts accessible to those attending in the Pangrace Centre.

The service and any related activities should have ended by about 10:30pm, with the church entirely vacated by midnight at the very latest. She will be attending all evening anyway, and will be sure to stay when everyone leaves… It shall be a personal vigil, so that if the saint does not appear in person (which on sober consideration seems by far the more likely scenario) she can dedicate a night’s devotions to his sanctity: turn her attendence into a vigil…


“… so even if we are being attentive towards certain objects, drawing upon certain apparent stimuli or facts to the exclusion of others, making them into ideas, that does not by any means prove that they actually exist outside the compass of our consciousness…”

Lingsam Karma is talking, the others silent: “Our perceptions have merely highlighted ‘this’ over ‘that’, including the idea that we ‘ourselves’ are ‘here’ to process and give all these impressions some order, some hierarchy of relevance.

"But just as matter at its fundamental sub atomic level is perceived to be practically non-existent, is 99.9999% empty space, so too is the space we imagine as the locus of our subjective awareness, our personal conscious identity: the receptacle of our memories and of the ego we believe controls all this selection and construction of reality: a mere trace within the infinite …

“And while this subatomic reality depends upon our conscious validation, apparently existing as both particle and wave, or at least behaving as either, but only manifesting as either state when we perceive or measure it, so too our conscious reality exists in…” 

The Reverend Coulter isn’t listening.

A religious vision! Now that is a turn up for the books. It did seem a real enough experience, certainly as real as the Xp_cast! But although she is looking forward to this evening’s revelation, even as she reaffirms her faith she cannot deny a powerful note of scepticism.

universality of the arts

“TFRC is one of the eight Research Centres established at the University of the Arts London, and is based across two of its eminent design colleges: Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Arts. TFRC hosts a community of practice-based researchers who explore how materials and textiles can enable a more sustainable future. Our research projects examine the future of textiles through several lenses – future materials, science and technology, sustainable strategy, well-being and social innovation. We work at local, national and international levels and are engaged with both fundamental and applied research. We also act as consultants for leading brands and manufacturers to help them develop and implement design-driven sustainable strategies”. Textile Futures Research Centre, University of the Arts, KXC, London. (accessed May 2015) 

“How’s the mesh link going? It’ll work, wont it?”

This evening Miranda Bonner will be helping out her real bff, Sandra Nicholson, a fashion student just commencing her second year of a master’s degree at Central St Martins on KXC. Sandra is mounting a showin’ of some of her e-nhanced costume designs on the Grazin’ Mile, and so immediately after her shift ends at about 6pm Miranda will walk over to the college campus to help her friend with her final preparations.

“Yup, all working at this end, but we’ll have to give it a trial run when I get to you later…Hang on a mo’, I’ve just got to…

“Nǐn hǎo. Can I be of help to you?”

On top of Miranda’s attending to her additional bank holiday tasks (including watching over the Battle Bridge_Xp launch) the two friends have been keeping in contact throughout the day using various media to update each other on their respective preparations for the evening. Miranda’s coding skills are vital to meshin’ the showin’ into the premier of the Bagnigge Wells Pleasure Gardens_Xp, to be net_cast onto the Frive by the emporium.

It’s a novel product that she has worked on from her original proposal through all the development stages, the project deploying somewhat more professional and efficient procedures than those used by the Pangrace committee…

Her mobb with Sandra has been interrupted by the head of a Chinese family group. He is dressed in digitised traditional attire designed to show his high rank within the government bureaucracy, semantic motifs indicating his exact political allegiances within the Party/ Civil Society structure of the People’s Republic of China.

For several years now the world’s largest economy has been experiencing a nu.Cultural Revolution, its accelerated political and social transformations requiring constant adjustments and displays of precise allegiances on what has become known as the mandarin screen: an optics panel woven into the front of his jiùxīn robes.

The extended family has booked into a theatre showing of London through the Ages_Xp, the popular tourist intro to the great metropolis, but one of the parents has had last minute doubts about its suitability for their youngest child. It is only on such busy days as today that Miranda mingles with the public, usually spending her time between booked appointments in a back office pursuing NBF and development work.

“Look, I’ll have to attend to this, but everything’s okay your end, isn’t it? Talk to you later…” She’s sure Sandra has everything under control; there shouldn’t be any problems... and she turns her attention to the customer inquiry.

The two women’s other No 1 bff Simone will arrive early evening, and Simone’s ‘ex-partner’ Roi, while several of Sandra’s fellow students and friends have also volunteered to model for her and help out more generally. The kith.mesh plans to join the Frive at about 9pm, to meet up with other members of their kith net in time to prepare for peak grazin’.

Sandra’s parents and members of their kin.net will also be attending. With the show over, and still wearing their e-meshed garments the friends plan to make their way to the Heaven and Hell nightclub via the area’s rich selection of bars and eateries, although Sandra will have family matters to attend to before re-joining them.

Simone was born and brought up in les quartiers of the Paris Banlieue, a descendant of poor Pied-noir and Kabyle kin.nets from the Atlas Mountains via the Algiers Kasbah and rural Midi France. She had first arrived in KXStP off the Eurostar just over three years previously, with no real qualifications but some serious coding skills and the street smarts gained during an extremely disrupted Lycée education; and with also a steady post-retro-caillera ambition and an utterly stunning beauty.

She had some not too reliable contacts in London, but chose to go it alone. Almost penniless, she first booked into the Clink budget hostel in King’s Cross Road, situated in Victorian buildings that had once housed the King’s Cross police station and Clerkenwell Magistrates Court. From here she had plotted her next moves in the escape from her marginale background, within just a few months networking her way into renting a small flat in De Beauvoir Town on the Islington/ Hackney border and sustaining a regular if not overly precarious nor privileged life style over which she retains some considerable control.

It hasn’t been easy, but she has not made compromises, for Simone (not her birth name but her bubble.id, and now the only one she uses) has autopreneurial skills to match her looks and ambition, and also the astuteness to always manage to keep ‘tout à fait vrai’: she has turned down offers to promote images that have ill-suited her own self-perception, a mindfulness shaped by the diverse influences on her early life and prospects that has left her the only possible mistress of her own identity.

She had first met Sandra when on a modelling assignment at St Martin’s, the then also newly arrived in London MA student and the clothes peg hitting it off immediately. Soon afterwards, Simone had floated a business proposal. Miranda, who Sandra had just recently got to know through social connections then joined them as the third of the ‘Three Muscadin’, promoting a musk-based e.scent exploiting the three young women’s interpretation of the extravagant flair of the original Muscadin: the mobs of lavishly dressed and be-scented although mostly poor young men (the jeunesse dorée, or ‘gilded youth’) who had fought the exhausted Jacobin revolutionaries and their sans culottes followers in the streets of mid-1790s Paris.

An androgynous, sexy re-take of a classical olfactory experience and sartorial style, the three young women coded a VR.app which trended for several months, finding an exclusive niche without ever going properly viral. Their brand slogans ‘Les Incroyable’ and ‘Les Merveilleuse’ (taken from the sobriquets of the Muscadin’s super-decadent successors, male and female, who had come to prominence following the crushing of the revolutionaries) trended as buzzwords, but had meanwhile somehow become detached from their Three Muscadin vector.

The enterprise earned them some Cs, providing Sandra with a first year MA secondary project out of which she developed her second year’s Macaroni.Redivivus suite. And it had bonded the three young women into a strong and creative friendship.


“That fils de pute has confirm he’s coming this evening? Pah! I shall ignore him. That’s the best way to treat him, non?”

Simone has been commin’ Sandra and Miranda throughout the day: it hasn’t been important which of the friends receives which comm and some have gone to both. And nor does she expect a response from either; unless, of course it concerns a matter of real importance to the evening’s proceedings. She is confident, however that they will at least be noticing her mitherings.

“He’ll probably bring ‘err along. Shall I ignore ‘err too? Or perhaps, be uber frenly? ‘Ah mon ami, Tara. Tu va bien? I love your outfit; so, so terribly chic. I do so adore la mode nou.psychédélique’.

“But yes, c’est ça, I will smother ‘err in frensheep…”

Mohandus Roi is an e.vent promoter, occasional MMA fighter and all-round hustler; and also sometime agent for Simone who is regularly sacked by/ sacks her agency (on one can ever be quite certain which way round), availing herself of Roi’s services while the more permanent professional relationship is in repair.

She and he are a similarly on/ off personal item, their last big bust up occasioned by a mutual and unexpectedly temperate decision to end their intimacy, soon after which Roi turned up with a new boyfriend who Simone then seduced, behind Roi’s back and excluding him...

Within a fortnight, Roi had announced his engagement to Tara Pembleton-Walker, a Trust Princess and nu.Hippy whom Simone had first made the acquaintance of on the fashion circuit. Tara had been hovering around on the edge of their kin.net, obviously attracted to Roi, who hadn’t previously seemed to show much interest in anything other than her money and contacts.

“He’s only interested in ‘err money and contacts, of course. And it could work, you know. He could do a lot with ‘err money and contacts…”

It is no great surprise that Simone still has an emotional investment in Roi, but while she can be impulsive and unpredictable she usually remains as ‘cool as a concombre’, and today’s vocalised preoccupation with him appears a bit out of character.

But perhaps she is savouring feelings of rejection and jealously rather than properly feeling them: merely experimenting with and indulging in her emotions. For, even as she mulls over their relationship she betrays a genuine concern for Roi’s interests, and evident pleasure in how indeed he could ‘do a lot with her money and contacts’.

And that’s not because she has designs on them herself. It wouldn’t have occurred to her. It is just that perhaps Roi would just be better off with Tara… She’s not sure, though. And let’s face it. Nor is she sure of her own feelings.

For this evening’s event the two former lovers have promised to be on their best behaviour.

The Grazin’ Mile on which the kith.mesh will be showin’ the neon.Macaroni thin’ is the ancient rural track/ highway formerly named Gray’s Inn Lane, paved and re-designated Road circa 1800. It had been off-peak pedestrianized in the early 2020s, revellers who might formerly have headed straight off into the West End for the night’s entertainment taking short early evening promenades along its northern, King’s Cross section, serviced by restaurants, cafes and bars.

For some time it had been a relatively few visitors and tourists, far greater crowds preferring the much longer established, higher status but traditional-tech promenading on Tottenham Court Road. Everyday uses of in particular 3rd platform mobile social media had, however, soon adapted to the specific demands of full spectrum identity Londoners who in growing numbers were utilising increasingly longer stretches of ‘the Mile’, as it soon became known.

During the week the proceedings remain usually tame affairs, even if there is sometimes heavy tourist foot fall. But the predominantly younger London-dwelling revellers and visitors have now taken over the weekends, launching the anything but restrained Frive even as the traditional Mon-Fri working week is for most a thing of the past, and for many something never experienced.

Before taking off for the night’s ‘groove’ individuals and groups from kin, kith and stranger nets and in customised meshes from all over the capital and beyond make their way to the Mile, seeking ‘the ups’ on ‘what’s going down’ (as this summer’s retro slang would have it) in rapidly forming and dissolving ‘swarms’ ‘flocks’, ‘herds’ and ‘shoals’.

And as its popularity has grown, many frivers have been staying until the early hours of the morning, arriving and departing throughout the LED-lit hours and with more and more now staying to ‘do’ an ‘all-nighter’ (aka, ‘the full LED’).

Only Saturday night’s Strive anywhere matches the vibe.

In fluid, amorphous nets and meshes, the burstin’ and e.mergin’ of bubbles for the sharin’ and mashin’ of each other’s i.data, apps, twine∞s, Xpemes and vrooms; the situational and pervasive gamin’; the hangin’, the jammin’, the bondin’ , the playin’, posin’ and partyin’ had in no time formed into a distinctive self-organizing culture, one with its own mores, routines, etiquettes and behaviours, rapidly developing semantic and symbolic vocabularies while evolving virtual protocols, boundaries, reputation systems and compliance mechanisms. 

And in no time grazin’ had gone viral, with cities across the world establishing their own ‘Miles’, although globally smaller venues can stretch for no more than a hundred metres. All are nevertheless still called Grazin’ Miles, or some close colloquial version thereof, creating interzones in which online humanity physically socialises in the cloud.

But even their namesake sometimes fails fully to utilise the length of the mile-long roadway between King’s Cross and Holborn (the A5200), the crowd sometimes thinning out by about half way, at The Matrix as the crossroads with Theobalds/ Clerkenwell roads has become known.

This has given the stretch further south passing the Walks and Inns of Court (‘>thematrix’) the opportunity to develop its own peripheral character…

Lying in the fields to the east of the Gray’s Inn Lane, for nearly a century from the 1740s onwards the Bagnigge Wells Pleasure Gardens had been a major attraction for the citizens of London (the ‘Cits’), it’s tavern, assembly, spa and tea rooms, and laid out walks with secluded arbours the rendezvous of all who could afford the few pence admission charge.

Over the last few months, Miranda has worked with her employer’s grade.2, E.mporia e.quant (e.q02[Ϊμπoioooiii]), in partnership with St Martin’s art school, to create the Bagnigge Wells_Xp.

Part of the B4kxstp_Xp suite, to be accessible throughout the week in a freemium version for visitors, at weekends the Xp is to net_cast beyond the Battle Bridge portal into the virtual fabric of the Frive and the Strive, the full open beta net_cast being piloted this evening with the participation of Sandra’s mesh offering frivers for just a few пeuros a multi-sensory experience of C18th luxury and pleasures…

the london e.spy 

“To good St Pancras holy ground
I dedicate my lifeless clay
Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound
Shall raise me to eternal day...”
His last will and testament. Made under a dangerous
illness and signed this 24th June 1731, Edward Ward”

“It will be tight, and I’ll have to leave the studio immediately the broadcast finishes, but as long as there are no hassles I should make it in time for at least part of the showin’… I’ll keep you updated, how I’m getting on.

“Maybe you can postpone stuff if you need to… I’m sure it won’t matter if I miss the beginning”.

Something has come up. Mid- afternoon Sandra’s partner Ned has comm’d her to warn that he will be delayed for this evening’s showin’. He’s been offered a gig that he can no way refuse: “It’s a big opportunity. I mean, I know it’s a bit tacky; well, definitely on the lowest common denominator scale of things. But it’ll be profile, it’ll be useful promo for me and the e.Spy”.

Sandra’s disappointment that he might well miss the showin’ is only outweighed by her pleasure at his lucky break. And of course, even if e.PhemeraTV is not quite the highest of brow channels, or coolest of brands, it has a sort of post-kitsch, post-glamour and post-retro-irony about it that is not entirely missin’.

And it’s not exactly Ned’s target demographic but any appearance, however fleeting, is surely a good move. In fact, maybe in some random sort of way it is just the right sort of exposure for the London e.Spy.

“Go again. What exactly are you doing?” Sandra has not quite followed Ned’s hurried description of the programme that he is to present. Well, she knows about J-Par-D, the quiz show, but she cannot see exactly how he in his persona as the London e.Spy is meant to host it. From his few words it all sounds maybe a bit too far out.

But then that is what e.PhemeraTV is all about, and J-Par-D in particular is known for some pretty naff stunts.

Because everything they release is bubble wrapped with code that prevents copying, and as they claim never to save copies themselves, the channel has to deliver its entire product, attract its audience (and therefore its sponsors) on the fly, live in the here and now:

“Now you see it, now it’s gone…” as one of its promo slogans announces.

“I’ll broadcast in the character of the e.Spy,” Ned explains. “You know, Ned.bot’ll be the quizmaster; and the contestants, well, they’re the old pa/ agent ai apps; the original artificial intelligence personal assistants and knowledge navigators. They’ve back engineered them all to the mid-teens, somehow: Siri, Cortona, Amelia, Amy, Google Now’s Ok, Robert/ta, Amazon’s Echo, even those Hollywood starlets Samantha and Ava off the Her and ex_Machina films.

“And apparently they’ve also created retro-versions of Baxter, Les, Watson, Eugene Goostman and Zuk; all the leading ai interfaces from the same period, before GAIA and e.quants and all that. And, erm…” at this point Ned’s hesitation confirms that he is himself still uncertain exactly how this can be done.

“I think there are going to be two episodes broadcast one after the other…

“… You know, it’s e.PhemeraTV. They’ll get it right; or if not it should be a laugh, anyway”. He briefly falls silent, but then continues brightly “And I should get quite a few Cs for it”.

“It sounds really… fab naff, a full C-cop” Sandra interposes, encouragingly, hoping not to sound too sceptical. But then, the TV station should know what it is doing. And Ned will cope, whatever happens.

Nicolas Edward Dostovsky is a social networking consultant/ blogger with a growing client list and an ‘up and coming’ but not quite ‘arrived’ syndicated blag specialising in non-celebrity hash.

Known throughout his childhood as Nicci, he has more recently insisted on being called by the acronym of his initials, now known as ‘Ned’ because for professional purposes he has adopted the persona of Edward ‘Ned’ Ward, the turn of the C18th satirical poet/ journalist/ polemicist best remembered for his earthy descriptions of the inhabitants of the taverns, streets and low dives of the metropolis, The London Spy (1698).

A diehard Tory and High Church man, Ward had been buried in the then still remote rural Old St Pancras church graveyard, although with most of the interred remains there his would have been ‘relocated’ in the mid-C19 to make way for the tracks of the Midland Railway entering newly built St Pancras terminus. 

In his late-20s, Ned is a polite and affable young man, though at times a little bit intense (maybe sometimes appearing rather arrogant). When studying for a masters in financial journalism at City University in Northampton Square EC1, he had customised an investigator.bot to assist his studies, and like any student with advanced coding skills he had treated his e.creation much as hobby or a pet.

Having first come across the historical Ned Ward in his journalism studies, he furnished the bot with a simple Lockian Mindware personal identity os.app, then improvised a litcrit personality analyser.app of the poet/ journalist’s works and adapted a British Library culture foraging.app for it to research the history and literature of Ward’s era.

This last application mined critical e.ditions of the complete works of Ward’s contemporary writers and publications, including figures such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, Tom Brown, Daniel Defoe, Jonathon Swift, Alexander Pope, Richard Steel, John Gay etc; with also a raft of early-C18 periodicals, but with a history input limited to more recent biographical, cultural and social studies of the literary hack’s era.

The bibliography had likewise included the works of only a handful of non-Whig historians from among his contemporaries: true to Ward’s traditional Tory prejudices, ned.bot (as he named the learning aid) didn’t believe in ‘Whig Progress’ or anything like that.

So that with the addition of a freemium version of an upgradable personal search engine/ agent interface, when not researching financial matters Ned and ned.bot held literary/ historical ‘chats’ from which Ned produced a further paper for his history of journalism sub course.

On graduating, Ned took his particular take on the workings of social networking and ned.bot’s highly personalised 300-year old ‘voice’ and launched himself on line as the London E.Spy:  a personal social network chaperon/ guide/ advisor/ gossip (a sort of social secretary and personal assistant with infodata add-ons) to a growing client list of mostly very wealthy residents and visitors to London, having blagged his way onto one of the wow’s most exclusive webs.

He also runs a free hash service on a London-wide web for subscribers closer to his own demographic, supported by a growing portfolio of commercial sponsors and advertisers (well, a few anyway). And the style coaching he has been receiving from Sandra has proved invaluable.

Ned.bot (who, of course, ‘lives’ in the Cloud) was never designed to be autonomous and certainly has never been expected to develop consciousness (although even when still a student Ned had sometimes wondered, somewhat wistfully…) The specifications used to programme ‘his’ ai.dentity were circumscribed by strict thought/ emotion parameters, Ned exploiting widely available and user friendly technologies developed over the past decade.

The virtual machine has, however, a pretty smart intelligence, Dr Sergey Nicolai Dostovsky a leading artificial intelligence expert who had encouraged his son’s early acquisition of coding skills. Dr Dostovsky was one of the very first ai.quants, one of the specialists appointed in 2020 to a secret committee to investigate the unprecedented advances in the development of ai3 and to propose a strategy to cope with the seemingly ever increasing threat of  the imminent arrival of fully autonomous artificial intelligences.

It was from an international network of such meetings (organised through the UN/ G30/ WTO/ SCO/ TTIP.TPP nexus) that the framework for controlling e.quants was devised and the ai.quant committees first muted. And a very short time afterwards the UN agency GAIA was created, although the term Gaia had already come into informal use to describe the growing interconnections between global networks of ai3-driven, multi-sourced Big Data aggregation and simulation machinery… and beyond.

Of Russian origin, having settled his family in the salubrious inner suburb of Highgate Dr Dostovsky had acquired important roles in the networks that managed and monitored the larger Big Science programmes. He was also CEO of BionicMediaSolutions, a King’s Cross Central-based high-tech hub firm and lead player in that specialisation of the human/ machine interface known as post symbolic communications…

 “I didn’t originally intend all this,” Ned had told Sandra on their first meeting, referring to his attempts to develop Ned.bot as a novelty social networking persona. “It was meant just to contribute to my income portfolio, while I pursued my real ambitions: financial investigative stuff.

“But… well, you know:

Men of Sense must own ‘tis better
To live by gossip, than starve by the letter

Announced with a perhaps too self-conscious flourish, the words were an adaption from one of Ned Ward’s poems, C21-Ned still in the early stages of awkwardly, if very courageously adopting and adapting the original’s style as his own...

[to be continued...]

a final edit of this text will be launched as a free ebook


part I: earth

a citizen of the world  

trishana’s new best friend                

virtual infinities  

pax romana_Xp          


the ‘hyper-acceleration’

universality of the arts

the london e.spy         

rainbow city                

kin, kith & strangers   

spaceship earth

livin’ on the wow        


future perfect  

towards the light         

this earth… my brothers, my sisters   


part2: air

cities of heaven          

livin'on the wow


spectra/ DPS  

the last man

neural metaпets

the compendium  

real policing                

behind the curtain      

the new cultural quarter

celestial music


the cross

[to be continued]


to be continued..
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