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
That profit us.—What, ho! Slave!
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
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
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
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/
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,
a selection of the British Isles cultural, literary and historical virtual
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
And here he is, a Citizen of the Wow.
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
“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
“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
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
in the Garden of Eden, in the northeast corner of the King’s Cross Central
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
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
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
“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
“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
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.
“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
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
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
“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
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
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,
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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-ḥamdu 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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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,
“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 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
“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
“… 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
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…
hǎo. Can I be of help
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
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
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
“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
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)
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
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
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
“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,
Amy, Google Now’s Ok, Robert/ta,
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,
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...]