Chapter 11 - The (I)mporium.
(Written and Published in 2023).
 The (I)mporium.
Tucked above the grime of the City’s existence – homelessness, lawlessness, senseless – the headquarters of the (I)mporium hummed on. Embedded the highest hills, effacing the ocean breeze, the artificial breeze of technology and greed collided with the warm front of Earth’s ever-increasing temperature. Right here, as artificial and creative intelligence worked alongside one another, the man-made windstorm of colliding atmospheres kept the people below wondering what exactly went on within the walls of the fortress; the walls of the place that sold promises to change the future. From the intersection of homelessness and lawlessness, one with a numb feeling of life, a senseless soul wandering on, could look up and hear the hum and see the pulsating icy blue lights. The iconic hum, initially a nuisance those living around it, now became the city’s lullaby of existence, met with the harmony of a hope for what some thought would be a better tomorrow.
The headquarters existed simply to provide the brain waves to the other branches of the (I)mporium. Throughout the world, the (I)mporium established “Synapses” – locations in which the everyday individual could access the technology of a promised, better tomorrow. Accessed, of course, at a specific price. Common to those living comfortably, the lure of the (I)mporium was beyond the reach of many for that one reason: money. From beneath the headquarters, one could observe, regardless of status, the pulsating blue light and the iconic hum; for the fortunate inside the Synapses, they were the recipients of kinetic mechanical energy and electromagnetic radiation. They were the beneficiaries of the intelligence melodically and visually traveling, spilling out like waves across the universe.
/ / /
Arthur, the chief architect of the (I)mporium, had seen the potential well before most in his field. While the world was keenly aware of the potency of memories, no one could see the three-dimensional power memories truly possessed. While he watched many wallow in their memories, or flinch with hesitation at the flickering of an unpleasant one, he saw the absolute control they had over those moving around him. A man of a solitary lifestyle, he had few memories that truly demanded his full attention in the ways he watched others become imprisoned by them. Cold, and calculated, he took to modeling the power of memories. Starting with business acquaintances and those he worked with in his research lab, he began to subject these individuals to electromagnetic diagramming.
Under the altruistic guide of “understanding neuroplasticity and kindness,” Arthur was able to begin with a simple premise: “Tell me about a time . . .” and from there, he would evoke a person’s deepest, most haunting memories. On the other side of double-paned interviewing class, he would sit as his subjects sat in an entirely white, entirely emotionless interviewing room. It began with, “Tell me about a time . . .” and from there, he couldn’t control what his subjects would say or do. But as they began to narrate, to emote, to connect with the yearnings of a yesterday he did not understand, he watched Amelia, his artificial intelligence, diagram the kinetic mechanical energy and electromagnetic radiation that generated off of human life as these emotional connections were untapped. As Amelia – a thin, curved flat screen computer, encased in tempered glass, revealing her internal components – furiously attempted to compute the unquantifiable, Arthur noticed a small, faint blue light emanating from within her system. Ever so faint, rhythmically beating on a simple four count, Arthur didn’t anticipate this mechanical byproduct of his experiment.
It wasn’t until years into the little experiment that lived within the garage of his manicured, singularly occupied home, that Arthur began another diagram with “Tell me about a time . . .” and his subject was a man nothing more than a common man Arthur encountered on his way home from his primary job. Sitting alone on the bus, Arthur approached the man, offered to compensate him appropriately for a brief interview in the name science, and even more heavy handed, in the name of the science of compassion. Admittedly, Arthur designed the sales pitch with a loaded premise – anyone who said no would inevitably feel like an asshole.
And so, Arthur began, “Tell me about a time . . .” and the simple man began a story of deep love, and deep, deep loss. And as the story continued, he watched his closest friend, Amelia, begin to diagram the interworking’s of the memory unfolding. A memory that Arthur could not relate to, could never truly understand, Arthur watched mesmerized. As the man unraveled what seemed to be insignificant details, he could tell Amelia was working significantly harder to process, receive, retrieve, and rebuild the man’s memory into light and sound energy. In the darkest corner of the experiment room, Arthur watched the LED projection of the memory molecule model grow, exponentially and expediently. The model, a projection of Amelia’s calculations, began to quake; not with the instability of the projection from Amelia, but with the weight of the energy coming from these current calculations. Arthur stood at the foot of the model, surrounded by a pulsating glow of blue light, stronger than ever before. As the man on the other side of the glass reached the ultimate moment of his tragic memory, the blue light radiated out, powering every electrical component within twelve blocks of Amelia for a few wild seconds. A peak in the power surge, and then blackout.
Arthur stood in the darkness, blinded by the contrast of light and dark. Amelia faintly hummed on emergency backup generators, seemingly weakened from the experience. Her electronic humming more of a whispery groan; struggling to digitally breathe. Arthur, who had never quite experienced anything close to the interviews his subjects gave, stood in the darkness, heart racing, endorphins racing, like what he imagined to be the greatest high of a person’s chemically dependent life.
“What just happened?” the interview subject whispered from behind the walls of glass and concrete.
Realizing the magnitude of it all, Arthur howled with almost maniacal laughter. Catching himself, he replied –
“The power of memory,” he uttered, beside himself.
“Yeah, okay – but are you still going to pay me?”
/ / /
It took the City’s civil engineering department days to repair what Arthur had done. While investigators snooped around his block, tracing the surge’s epicenter to these cross streets, Arthur feigned fragility and ignorance. A timid man, a cog in the machine of corporate life, he provided a detailed story of sitting on his couch with a single takeaway dinner, reminiscing on the fact that he really needed to get along with his life, find some meaningful connection to share his moderate successes with, because what was life to be if nothing more than a serious of accomplishments, and in that case, if there wasn’t someone else to share them with, then what was it’s true purpose, and then –
“Woah, okay man, we’re just here to talk about the blackout,” the Engineer interrupted.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur replied. “Just some things I am discussing in therapy.”
Good thing he’s going, thought the Engineer. “Take it easy, man,” he said, and handed him a flimsy, City-issued business card.
As the Engineer walked away, Arthur closed the door slowly, smiling devilishly to his back. No one else could see, no one else would know he simply stole one of the erratic memories of one of his subjects. For now, no one would ever know.
He looked down at the Engineer’s card – City’s Civil Engineering Emporium, with a tag line “Resources Galore to Provide Our Residents with More!” Arthur cackled at its insanity and stupidity. What he had just done – he had destroyed the whole infrastructure without any malice aforethought! Without any premeditation or design, he took it all down with one, simple premise: “Tell me about a time when . . .” He took it down, and stood poised to gain control, and take it all back, with that premise alone.
What an Emporium of resources, he thought, when he and his Amelia – artificial, intellectual, sure – could give this City, this world, more than it ever dared to dream.
As he traveled the long hallway of the first floor of his home, a flashlight in one hand and the business card, in the other, it all dawned on him. The moment, the gravity, what he could bring to humanity. A pang of fear and hurt for the connection he would never understand to his subjects. But a brilliant flash of greed, power, and control that possessed his next few moments of life.
As he reached the door that lead down to the basement, where Amelia lived, he took a felt tip pen out of his pants pocket. In large, child-like lettering, he wrote on top of the white paint of the door:
 The Axon.
It wasn’t the first time he had been to his local Synapsis outstation. It was just part of this existence now, as much as he despised his dependence upon it. Another chore to add the list, his wife reminded him that it was time they made good on the data subscription they paid for and went to upload. They were getting older, things were getting harder to remember and keep track of. Sure, they’d keep the essential memories with them; their wedding day, their childhoods, their families. But the things they should have at the ready, but not necessary – the harder memories of losing friends, the time the doctor said he really needed to cut back on the beer – that shit, that was the stuff they could upload. The premise being that the more of their memories they gave over, the more they could ensure they held on to, didn’t forget about in future years.
“While I would never say you’re old, Mr. and Mrs. Porter, I can say that all of us will become subject to the frailties of the human mind,” the data technician specialist told them the day his wife insisted the go and speak with someone at the new Synapsis outstation established in their sleepy, seaside town. Jack was offended, but fuck if he knew what the guy was talking about. His wife wanted to upload and offload some crappy memories, and he wasn’t about to fight with her.
As they approached the Synapsis, the each rolled up the right sleeve of their shirts. When coming within a few hundred meters of the Synapsis outstation, a loyal consumer could look to the interior right forearm and begin to see the Synapsis registering their unique, genetic presence within the boundaries of its premises. Simply put, if the consumer got close enough, they could tell their subscription to the (I)mporium was still active, because a faint, blue light pulsated from their forearms, subcutaneously. The consumer seeking access to the Synapsis outstation would simply press their forearm upon the DNA register scan at the entrance. A small electromagnetic pulse registered, keying in the genetic sequence with the (I)mporium’s database of subscribers.
“It’s the ultimate form of security with your memories,” the data technician specialist told them on their first day to the Synapsis. He wife seemed to love the security that came with having total control over her own memories. What a fucking farce, he thought, they’re using this to clone us idiots and let me tell you, they’re not going to be happy with Digital Boy Jack. He rolled his eyes, and his wife elbowed him in the side, immediately recognizing his facial expression and corresponding thoughts.
/ / /
Inside the Synapsis, Jack and his wife were given a unique terminal to log into for purposes of upload. Each terminal was randomly assigned, and each path of travel to the assigned terminal was randomized in a way as to confuse the consumer. No same terminal could ever be used twice by the same consumer, no same path of travel ever repeated. It was clearly stated in the terms and conditions each consumer agreed to as a superficial, yet necessary safety precaution. “In everyone’s best interests,” Jack remembered reading in the brochure, as he sat on his couch and watched a vintage football game, beer in hand. “Seems like a stupid way of just exercising control over us morons,” Jack muttered.
“I heard that!” his wife yelled from her office down the hall. Jack rolled his eyes, placed the brochure on the side table, and pulled the last dredge of beer from the can. Of course, she heard me.
“Alright, here are both your unique terminal IDs and course maps. Mrs. Porter, if you will follow me,” the data technician specialist gestured towards an entrance opposite of where they stood. Jack’s wife gave him a small kiss and said, “I promise I won’t take forever this time.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know you – I’ll meet you outside for a cup of coffee or something when you’re done. No rush.” She smiled and turned her back on Jack as she followed the representative to her entrance point, into the depths of the Synapsis; the belly of the memory beast.
“Mr. Porter, if you’d follow me,” another representative beckoned.
Jack was amazed his wife never asked why they never entered the depths of the Synapsis at the same point of entry. He always held his breath when they came here, because as much as he resented the whole premise and experience, the (I)mporium did come with one unique feature that he needed to keep living in this current existence: deletion. She was morally opposed to it, and he was morally dependent upon it. But after they registered for the services of the (I)mporium together, Jack one day came back, alone. They had lightheartedly debated the merits of memory alteration and deletion (a feature of the (I)mporium’s services that came with one hefty financial premium), and never definitively said they both would not participate in that feature. His wife felt it was just a way for the wealthy to morally cheat life and not live with the consequences of how they had, in no uncertain terms, fucked over the rest of humanity. Jack saw her point, sure. But that wasn’t its purpose here.
So, one day, alone, Jack returned to the place he despised, desperate to access those services. With a small fortune he had quietly saved outside of the prying eyes of his budget-balancing wife, he handed over the information to his separate account, and availed himself to the true panoply of services that came with harnessing the power of memories.
As he watched the door close on the access point for simple memory upload – his wife’s part of the Synapsis – a representative gently turned Jack to the opposite direction. From the center check in point of the hall, they walked to the other end of the Synapsis. “The Axon,” is what they called it. He never repeated that name in the presence of his wife; she was never to know he had access to this.
/ / /
The day he registered for access to the Axon, he spent some time sitting at the specially assigned terminal, uploaded and reminiscing through his memories. He started with the easy ones. The ones of playing sports, the ones of his dad he missed. He laughed at the memories involving his younger brother – the days that they actually got along with one another. He lingered over the memories of his beautiful mom, and everything she had done for them; he nodded at his stepdad, the guy who really tried his best to pick up all the pieces of their lives.
But these weren’t the memories that made it necessary to have access to the inner workings of his mind. He didn’t need to edit them, pause them, or even delete them.
He needed to delete her.
Designed to be familiar to the consumer, the memory terminal resembled a simple, basic two-dimensional computing station available to most every family within the City. It powered on the same way, made all the same familiar mechanical and artificial noises that a consumer might be accustomed to. But what the consumer didn’t know is the terminal wasn’t just a fancy way of saying “computer station.” It was, in fact, a hyper sensory station, designed by the chief architect of the (I)mporium to be able to fully tap into the full emotional range of the consumer’s memories. Because within the original confines of the garage-based (I)mporium, Arthur and Amelia discovered the more she had access to, the more she could map – and the more she could map, the more energy she could create to curtail the ultimate environmental demise of humanity.
“WELCOME, JACK PORTER” the terminal blared.
“Eh, fuck you,” he grumbled. He hated the pomp and circumstance of this. Yet, he felt an unusual, gently pulsating, almost pleasurable, sensation radiate throughout his body. For a second, he mentally tapped into it, and soon as it registered within his own neurons and synapses, the sensation was gone. Amelia was connected; Jack was linked in with the nervous system center of the larger (I)mporium structure.
It was instantaneous. There, organized in neat files like his home processing unit, he could see the entirety of his life. Simply labeled, file folder and after file folder, in chronological order on the home screen of the terminal home page. It was all there:
Trauma and Loss
The only way he could describe the flash of emotional intensity he felt at reading her name was to say it felt like being kicked in the teeth. He thought maybe he’d have to go digging through the Love folder, or maybe the Trauma and Loss one. He remembered that that subscription to the (I)mporium’s services essentially came with a pre-set organization system around simple memories. Complex memories, Jack remembered reading, sometimes warranted their own internal organization. “Those memories are more prominent for the user, and we at (I)mporium feel we should honor the depth and nuance of those memories of the user without trying to typify them,” the brochure read. It was Marketing’s way of letting the user know that the memories that were so complex that they registered differently to Amelia’s modeling system were separately categorized and stored within the (I)mporium’s archival systems, because they generated more usable energy for the system; taking the invaluable resource without telling the owner of its value, really.
On that first day, sitting at the terminal without his wife knowing, he double clicked on the folder labeled Adeline. When it opened, thousands and thousands of thumbprint pictures populated on the screen. Adeline, throughout the years, and throughout his memories. It had been many years since he had ever seen her, ever even heard her voice. But there she remained, ingrained in his memories, haunting his every existence. He promised himself that he saved his small fortune to delete her, to move forward with his life. Married for over twenty years to a woman he absolutely loved, but could never fully love, because this weighted, tiny fragment of his soul belonged to a woman trapped in his memories. He no longer wanted to be imprisoned by her. He didn’t want think that he saw her on the corner of the street, or stop dead in his tracks when he smelt her scent. He wanted to hold his wife’s hand and then about the way her hand felt, and not think about how Adeline’s electrified his simple, mundane existence. He wanted to be free of her, once and for all.
So while he vehemently objected to Arthur Moil’s takeover of every facet of society with his advent of the (I)mporium, there was a small part of him that realized he would need his services, and would forever be in his debt if he could, in fact, access them. Although he hated it, Jack reasoned he was substituting one toxic relationship for another (the latter seemingly less toxic than the former).
But on that first day in the chair of the terminal, Jack slowly highlighted all of the stills of the memories that sat trapped within. He saw her face from the first time they met, and he saw the night she desperately pleaded with him, telling him that she loved him, and he never quite believing it. He trembled subtly as his cursor sat over of a black square labeled That Night. It was the night Adeline was taken from him, and the night she would never quite come back just the same.
Looking at all the highlighted files, he took one tremendous deep breath in, preparing himself emotionally to press ‘delete.’ As he slowly moved his hand toward the button, he felt a breath of cool air at the nape of his neck.
“Not yet,” he thought he heard her voice say. “Don’t leave me yet,” echoed throughout the small room of the terminal station.
Out of breath, he whispered hurriedly, “Adeline?”
No one responded. No one was there. But the chill at the nape of his neck refused to leave with the sound of her voice.
In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, Jack pushed the End Session button and pushed away from the chair. He couldn’t be here, in this place, looking at her, any longer.
Walking at a considerable pace back down the path from which he came, he heard the terminal bark, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR VISIT TODAY, JACK PORTER.”
In the dark of the path, he muttered to himself, “Eh, fuck off.”
He could have sworn he heard her laugh somewhere behind him.
 The Great Blackout.
On this day, he arrived at a strikingly similar terminal. Each one had a different little flourish here and there, keeping the interest alive for the consumer. But this one, this looked and felt so much the same as the time he opened the Adeline folder. He felt a chill up his back; he felt like this was the time he might actually do it.
“WELCOME JACK PORTER” the terminal blared as he felt the pulsating connection between him and the machine. He didn’t even fight back, and instead began surrendering to the conclusion he knew what he had to face.
The home screen of the terminal powered on, and there, Jack was confronted with his options:
Trauma and Loss
Slowly, as if he was selecting the detonate option, Jack double clicked on the Adeline file folder. In a matter of seconds, the same thousands and thousands of thumbprint images populated across the screen.
When he first subscribed to the enhanced services of the (I)mporium, he decided that maybe he would spend time with these files. He would go through, delete a majority of the files that kept him stuck in the past. Maybe he would keep the one of the night they met, the one time they spent a weekend screwing each other in whatever hotel they could afford. He might keep sweet memories of bickering at each other, teaching each other new things. But he reasoned, if he was going to go through all of the trouble of editing, arranging, and deleting these curated memories, he was going to force himself to keep the most painful memory of them all. He would keep the memory of the night she broke his heart, so he would never be tempted to find her and rekindle what may remain between them.
But this all was before. This was all reasoned before the first encounter with the Adeline file folder, when Jack found himself haunted by her voice in the deep recesses in the terminal station of the Synapsis outstation. Her haunting made one thing clear, the way he heard her laugh as he left the terminal the first time. Adeline was an all other nothing proposition. He couldn’t keep sweet memories, mixed with the poison. There was no way to keep the way she looked the first night they met without wanting more. Even after all of these years.
So, he began. He began to input the necessary keystrokes to select all of the files of her. He watched the computer screen populate page after page, selecting file after file within her folder. A stoic man, he felt himself become emotional as even the tiny, digitized impressions of her face flashed before him. Only as he was just beginning to process the gravity of the moment, did the terminal alert him that all the files had been selected and processed for editing and/or deletion.
As he exhaled, placing his hand on the cursor to scroll towards “Delete” he noticed an unusual file. A thumbprint, the lowermost right corner of the last page of the Adeline folder. The thumbprint image did register in his memory, didn’t look like something he ought to recognize. But when he leaned into the screen of the terminal, glancing at it one more, the breath in his lungs left his body.
“Adeline,” he whispered. Looking at a woman, a little more grown the girl he fell in love with, with a file dated just only a few months prior. He frantically reversed the keystrokes for total file deletion, unselecting the thousands of memories that stood, digitally, before him. Once sure he wouldn’t lose this one file, he collected himself, and opted to view the recent file secured in this memory file folder.
“I know, this isn’t a memory,” she started. God it looked like her, just some years older. The tones of her voice, the same, just a little slower, a little richer, and a little wiser. He couldn’t believe she was right there, right in front of him.
“I guess there are some perks to learning to hack systems for a living.” He couldn’t believe it. Her eyes were just the same as he remembered them, her recklessness apparently never wavering.
“I just, I need you to know I have a file, too. It’s like yours, it’s the Jack folder. I didn’t think it would generate for me, but it did. And selfishly, I couldn’t live without knowing if you had one, too. Because maybe this all would be a hell of a lot easier if you didn’t. Maybe it would just confirm I was some reckless kid who fell way too hard. I was actually kind of hoping you didn’t have an Adeline folder.
But can I tell you – I selfishly felt more joy than I ever have when I found out you do? And when I realized, Amelia – I mean, the AI frame that runs this system – wasn’t as secure as the company holds out, I wondered if I couldn’t leave a current version of myself in a tomb of memories. Maybe, in some poetic way, I could become a living ghost to you.
So – hi Jack. Long time, isn’t it? Long time, yeah. Yeah, anyway, I guess I’m just going to get to the punchline here,” Jack braced himself for what was about to come his way.
“Jack, please. Please don’t delete me. I mean, I guess I understand if you have to. Because let’s be honest, I, too, have sat at a very similar terminal and lingered a little too longingly in the Jack file. But every time I get the momentum to select all those files to delete, my courage fails me. My weakness for you – really, well, my addiction; yeah, it’s like an addiction, insane I know – but that all takes over. My hands shake and my eyes can’t focus, and last time. God, last time when I came so close, I ended up just running out of the hall. I ran for my life, and ran for miles away from the Synapsis outstation until I didn’t know where I was anymore. I can’t have you, but I think the pain of not being able to keep you, in some way, is just as terrible.”
It was if she was articulating all the pain he had felt for so many years. Pain he swore he felt in isolation, a pain that he swore no one else on the face of this rotting Earth would ever understand so uniquely, and so deeply.
“So, Jack, I just called to say it’s me. I’m still alive, still here, still roaming this place. I called to say I love you; never stopped. I called to say even if you have to delete me, please – deep down, don’t forget about me. Because I know I could never forget about you.”
He started to cry, and she blew a kiss into the computer’s camera. “I’m sorry, I am so sorry. Just don’t forget about me, okay Jack?” And there she froze, the end of the film. She was smirking, shrugging, her usual coy, flirty pose with him. He loved it, he hated it. He knew exactly what she was doing.
He started to rewind the file, start the message from the beginning. But as soon as it was queued, he stopped himself. He wanted to see her, hear her, be with her right here. But god, he wasn’t sure if he could hear her say the words, “I called to say I love you; never stopped.” God, that one hurt.
He looked down at his watch, searching for some piece of rational thought to save him from the emotional fortress he now found himself stuck within. A matter of hours had past, combing through the memories, finding this new one here. He knew his wife would be waiting for him, wondering what took him so long. He loved her, too, you know. He loved her just as much; she was just the lucky one that didn’t exist for the sole purpose of haunting him.
“I ju- I just – I just can’t Adeline, I just can’t,” he toughed out through his remaining tears. “This has to happen, and it has to happen today.” And there he began the same keystrokes, initiating total deletion. And as the breaths became shorter and shorter, the emotions became harder and harder to suppress, the files were compiling, preparing for the edit and/or delete option of the (I)mposium’s memory services.
Just don’t forget about me, okay Jack? Her voice was everywhere in the hall.
“I’m sorry,” he cried. The files were collected, including the most recent version of his Adeline, immortalized in a digital memory that never properly belonged to him. “I’m so sorry,” and when the last file was selected, and the last tear left, he pushed the cursor down to the Delete function.
“PREPARING FILES FOR DELETION,” the terminal shouted. At that moment, her voice was in his head again. God, last time when I came so close, I ended up just running out of the hall. I ran for my life, and ran for miles away from the Synapsis outstation until I didn’t know where I was anymore. It was like she was giving the blueprint to this very moment. He heard her whisper, somewhere in the depts of the hall of the terminal, Jack, you need to run.
Aged, but not completely without ability, Jack took her words like the shot of the race gun. He pushed himself from the desk of the terminal, pivoted on his heel, and ran for the path that carried him here. A dead sprint, he pushed as hard as his body would allow, and at the moment he felt the floors begin to shake. What sounded like alarm bell began to sound, and behind him he felt the intense warmth of growing, glowing light, emanating brighter than anything he had ever witnessed before.
JACK – RUN, RUN NOW; he heard Adeline’s voice bellow out, above the sound of the alarms. He recognized the urgency in her voice; he knew everything depended on this.
At the exact moment he reached the entrance door to this wing of the Synapsis outstation – The Axon – the light he felt made itself known. An incredible, piercing blue light filled the body of the hall, filling itself in Jack’s eyes. In that moment, all he could see was that incredible blue as the hall trembled and then exploded, as if a series of strategically placed explosives all ignited at the same moment. Jack felt his body fly with the force of the explosion – as the chaos ensued, all he could hear was please don’t forget about me.
Before he fell to the ground, he felt a momentary pang of grief, as if a significant portion of his life had just escaped his recent memory.
/ / /
There was its bustling existence, even with the homeless, the lawless, and the senseless, roaming its streets. As they all looked up to the odd existence of the business embedded in the hillsides, wondering what could cause the collision of ocean wind and artificially created breezes, the entire electrical grid of the City went into blackout. That iconic hum, gone. No longer was the transmission and crossfire of kinetic mechanical energy and electromagnetic radiation. In the depths of the darkness, complete and perfect silence.
In the silence, a little piece of the memories that occupied the energy of the homeless, the lawless, and the senseless seeming left them. Albeit brief, a momentary pang of intense grief, and then nothing more than the depths of darkness and silence to reconcile the inarticulable feeling they were all left with, in the time that passed and created the Great Blackout.
/ / /
As Arthur sat in headquarters, the central nervous system of the (I)mporium, he looked at the framework of his only friend, Amelia. Her interior was fried, ruptured in the mechanical overload that caused the fire that then initiated the Great Blackout. Although the City’s Civil Engineering Emporium had traced the blackout to one discrete address, Arthur’s headquarters, he vehemently denied his involvement. Even when national news broke the story the Arthur had exploited peoples’ memories to generate a new, clean energy resource to sell to governments at an exorbitant cost, he maintained he was doing nothing more than studying the design of neuroplasticity, and the characteristics that made a person more empathetic than another.
No one bought it. Especially Adeline, as she sat and watched his brief interview with news media as he was accosted, walking the streets of the City.
She began to scream “fuck off,” at the TV, but before she could form the necessary consonant sound, she saw an image that took her breath away. In the back corner of the news broadcast, walking through the rubble of the Synapsis explosion cite, was a sight she never thought she would catch again.
Even though he was a little order, and a little battered from the blast she knew he endured, she saw him there. There he was, Jack, and not just a file on the computer screen of a terminal station.
He looked dead into the camera, paused for a second, and smirked. And with a subtle waive, she knew exactly what he was saying in that moment. She waived back at the television screen, knowing somewhere, the same feeling would register internally for him, too.