1. Aaron and Lorenzo share a drink on a Thursday afternoon
Aaron lies back on a large cushioned couch on a rooftop terrace. He leisurely studies the photo that he took last night: a graffiti silhouette of the city in thick black lines on a soft yellow orange background.
His gaze moves from the little display to the vista of the city in front of him. In a lazy daze of tiredness he takes it all in. The sun is coming down on it all and it gives this feeling that everything fits within the greater scheme of things.
“I have returned,” Lorenzo says.
Aaron looks up.
Lorenzo puts the glasses on the table.
“What more do we need?”
“Some beautiful women.”
They cheer to life in Moac.
Island music plays gently in the background. It gives this feeling that paradise beaches loom just around the corner. Or maybe it’s the night breeze that will come rolling in, usually a little after the onset of the pitch-dark tropical night. It’s the kind of breeze that stirs certain of the baser instincts.
A good hour later, the sun has come down and the rooftop terrace has become just another hole in the dark.
Aaron announces his departure.
“You should come to La Luna,” Lorenzo says when they shake hands.
“A bar,” Lorenzo says.
“The clientele, the atmosphere. It reminds me of home.”
“I never figured a suit like you would spent so much time hanging around bars.”
“Life runs along different lines here.”
2. We get a tour of Aaron’s apartment and we learn about his obsession
Aaron’s apartment is in the attic of an old building that has been stripped and then rebuild some ten years ago. The continental atmosphere is still there, although it has been mixed with all the good things of modern life. He has stacked it with stylish furniture from overseas when he moved in here at the end of the summer. In the years before that he worked like a maniac so he can live comfortably without a job for the years to come.
To find a sort of peace with having a very comfortable apartment and an easy few years, he spray painted a dictum of Native Americans on the bathroom door:
A man should strive to own nothing, except for the strength and courage in his heart.
In the middle of the living room there is a large 16-foot dining table that came with the apartment. Over it are two large chandeliers. On this table he has his terminals and this is also where he keeps most documentation that’s related to this. The 6-foot closest to the kitchen he keeps free for dinner on the rare occasion that he has guests to entertain.
On the kitchen counter he has an extravagant piece of machinery that he spent more money on than even his reason can justify: a $3000 espresso-machine. The machine is made of steel, uncomputerized, ruggedly solid and simple. It has a large handle that allows varying the water pressure and speed by which it extracts the coffee and minuscule granulated particles.
He only uses the machine when his brain is about to melt down (usually on Fridays, weekends and the occasional Thursday night).
A few shots of strong espresso always put his brain into the right kind of overdrive that allows him to focus on creating consciousness for a long stretch. It does however require a slight adaption of his surroundings to come into full swing: on the left of the three screens on his desk there is a video of a large and old-fashioned fire-place, while on the right one he likes to play a movie that touches upon his idea of greatness. He always adjusts the playback to black and white. He prefers movies with protagonists that are well off and with the kind of women that would look very well in stockings (slim, curly hair and a thick, round bottom). In the background he likes to play classical music and then he’s all set.
It’s not long until we see Aaron in the glare of the monitors in an otherwise dark apartment. The keyboard rattles in an even rhythm that complements the music, movie and fireplace. In the evening hours he spends most hours coding, when he’s not otherwise engaged.
After the third cup of espresso he switches to ice-water which literally helps to keep his mind cool. On his main machine he installed a cooling mechanism that works with water instead of the more conventional cooling paste. It helps him to become one with the machine.
3. Aaron takes Lorenzo up on his proposal and he heads out to La Luna
Aaron has been coding like a maniac, until he couldn’t push himself anymore. He needs to relax, unwind and to re-engage in human contact. He also feels this need for a woman, even if it was just to keep his self-destructive tendencies under control.
Also, it’s Friday night.
La Luna is pretty much as Lorenzo described it: a dimly lit bar in a basement downtown. It does have an upper part that must be more classy, but it’s closed for the moment.
It all seems run down: a thick curtain of smoke, recordings of live music, cheerful clientele, and about half of them are already affected by the fever of the tropical night.
Aaron finds Lorenzo at the bar.
“He bro,” Lorenzo says, as soon as Aaron is within sight.
“I was in the neighborhood,” Aaron says, “The place is packed.”
“Now you understand why it makes me think of home: the whole town is getting drunk like a pack of sardines.”
“So you’re from that town people always talk about: the sinners and the drunks.”
“You gotta be from somewhere,” Lorenzo says, “And I need my junk… Every now and then.”
“I hear you.”
“You know anyone here?”
“Naah… I don’t have the mileage.”
“Then tonight it’s just drinking whiskey at the bar and minding our own business.”
“Yep,” Lorenzo says.
He orders two glasses without ice.
Aaron sniffs the content.
“I know: it’s the real junk,” Lorenzo says.
“This is either to clean windows or to be poured to alcoholics,” Aaron says, “Which one is it?”
A few minutes before midnight they hear a cracking microphone and the small tv-screens that are placed here and there in the bar flicker on. It gives them a good view of the stage without them having to abandon their bar stools. The picture is distorted with a good deal of static, and in a way it’s as if this recording is made somewhere else; some obscure place, an attic, or some other basement.
The musicians are getting their equipment in place, and a good fifteen minutes later the live music begins. They no longer need to fill the night with their own words, but they can just let the words of the singer, and the sounds of the bass and drum do it for them. The band is composed of amateurs, somewhere in their fifties, and they play covers from rock and melancholy music, and it’s hard to picture them outside of this bar, in a daytime job.
The melancholy of the music is in its nuances; between the lines they share their deepest insights, not so much by the words that they choose, but by the timbre of the instruments and the singer’s voice, and it’s in these nuances, accents, and hesitancies that they place here and there that this music becomes a sort of poetry, and all those that are in La Luna become their accomplishes.
Aaron feels the first sips of whiskey sliding slowly down his throat. It gives the sensation of heat, because veins expand and the blood-flow increases, although the sensation quickly mitigates. Aaron’s universe narrows down, and after the third sip, past and future are one, and it consists only of this bar, its music, and its poetry.
“What is in this whiskey?” Aaron thinks about asking.
The music plays on and the depth of the night in the bar unfolds itself.
At 4.00 in the morning La Luna has closed and the nautical sunrise has already commenced. The streets are deserted except for the occasional night owl, distant car and weekend-junkies trying to find their way home.
“Some night, huh,” Lorenzo says.
“And you haven’t seen most of it: a few Sundays ago I met a group of people that I think you will like as well,” Lorenzo says, “They are usually here around 3.00 in the pm in the part upstairs.”
4. Aaron has a strange recollection the next day and he reads up on modernity in a hangover haze
When Aaron wakes up late the next morning, his mood is still colored in the yellow-orange tint of the nautical sunrise; the smell of the city at dawn; and the guy on the street that was playing some sort of drum by the water. His walk home has become a memory in film-noir, which may or may not have been influenced by what he ran into on his way home.
About a hundred meters from the bar there were these two characters that at first didn’t seem to have much to do with each other. There was a man and he wore a black suit with a wide black hat, and sunglasses, and it wasn’t hard to picture him in an old movie. His sunglasses were very dark, and it made Aaron feel as if his eyes were on him as he walked by.
The strange thing about this man was that, while he was at a distance, it seemed as if this man was grinning into thin air, while only using about a third of his facial muscles, possibly a dysfunction due to a side-effect of a disease, medicine, or drug abuse.
A good twenty meters further than the man, there was a woman. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had let herself go a little too much this Friday night (she might be a weekend junkie like himself), or that there was something more perpetual about her state of being. Her skin was pale and her dress was something that a promiscuous woman in a science fiction movie would wear. She did seem somewhat like a replicant with her dilated pupils and heavy breathing – the typical stress that replicants undergo when they realize that their days are numbered by design (they are bio-engineered robots).
The relationship between the man and the woman wasn’t immediately clear, but as Aaron replayed the scene to himself the next day, he got more certain that something preceded (or was about to proceed). The object of their relationship remained obscure however, it might be something playful or quite the opposite: it might be something sinister that wouldn’t look too good in the light of day.
Besides going over this reminiscence, Aaron finds himself incapable of doing anything else besides sitting back and reading a bit here and there. It has become a habit that he picked up over the years, since he started to accept that his interests run far and wide. More recently it has formed into this idea that it will give him a tacit understanding of human nature that will ultimately help him in working towards consciousness.
The most profound article that he reads today deals with the era of modernity, which may seem like a heavy read for a hung over Saturday morning. Then again, in the aftermath of a heavy Friday night, the brain spins back and forth between fierce insights and an exhausted incoherence like the brain is a kind of warped pulsar.
In flares of lucidity the most he can grasp is that modernity was a key era, because education became viable for the masses. This in turn contributed greatly to the expression of ourselves as individuals and our pursuit of happiness. This was around the turn of the twentieth century.
On the next page there is an artist impression of sub-atomic particles: from protons-neutrons-electrons to quarks to strings and culminating in light (this last step is only theorized). The colors are fantastic and border on depictions of galaxies and in a way it implies that the sub-atomic worlds are galaxies of their own – creating a sort of loop, or even a wormhole, between the largest parts of our universe and the smallest (it almost coins the question of different dimensions or how time and space can be manipulated).
Then there is this idea. It seems that modernity will be followed by nothing and there is this analogy with the universe that appears to be made of mostly nothing but a vacuum of empty space.
In the closing paragraph of the article, the writer states that Moacians may have lost sight of the most notably good that modernity has brought us over the last century: more wealth for everyone.
5. Aaron tells us about Mega Brain
The notions on modernity and the artist impressions of the sub-atomic hit a chord.
It hasn’t crossed the threshold of consciousness just yet.
Aaron picks up Mega brain off the shelf. He has read this book on and off in the year after high-school and in a way it helped him decide on his studies. On some level it has been his guide in understanding human nature on some sort of meta-level. It would be inaccurate to deem it a personal creed, because its scope is too narrow, but it does sparkle his imagination and it’s of the kind that reads like an adventure story.
It’s starts off with this story about this guy who goes off into the wild. He builds a very primitive hut and he tries to live off the land. His most profound experiences are those when his mind starts spinning in a different gear when he has been by himself for a long stretch and catches himself staring into thin air.
Later on he realizes that this state is something that many others try to induce via meditation and other mind-altering means (drugs and alcohol). It turns out that his mind spun like a theta-wave.
Aaron gets up to go back to the kitchen for another espresso.
When he returns to the couch he continues reading the article on modernity, but he notices that his thoughts keep drifting away. This idea forms in his mind that if life gets better for everyone, at some point everyone is wealthy and there is nothing left to strive for. It would be a sort of Dead Point.
Is this still the distant future: in a way our era is one in which our prime objective is to find comfort in our predicament of having a non-struggle (we have all obtained wealth). This absence of a struggle in turn exposes us to existential crisis that we can never solve: there’s no real need to bravely go on fighting. It almost tempts a sort of thought of having a wooden leg and a hook for a hand to make life more simple, because then simply and bravely surviving is enough. Instead, he feels himself left with these abstract causes about the human mind, AI and possible conspiracies.
Where does this leave him: he has enough money to live comfortably for the coming years.
The other reason for pursuing artificial intelligence besides psychology was practical. Money.
That’s all in the past now: to create consciousness he doesn’t need to limit himself to either of the two fields (he’s on a sort of sabbatical after all).
6. Aaron revisits La Luna on the Sunday afternoon and gets acquainted with CI
That Sunday afternoon there is not a soul on the street, which makes Aaron mull why he doesn’t stay in to do nothing and everything. This mood evaporates as soon as La Luna comes in sight and it somehow feels that the narrative will continue.
The interior of La Luna seems like a gathering of old junk, but on the same token it’s also a sort of universe that opens up with jazz, books and second hand furniture. There are only a handful of people.
Aaron finds Lorenzo sitting on a high stool at the bar.
They do a little shake.
The person that is hanging over the bar next to Lorenzo turns around.
“I want you to meet Panthero,” Lorenzo says.
“The aspiring politician.”
“He is also the man behind CI,” Lorenzo says.
“….” Aaron says, “CI?”
They shake hands.
“CI will come later,” Lorenzo says.
“Politics.” Aaron states.
“It’s a good game.”
“Do you bet?”
“I even got a membership,” Aaron says, “So Yes.”
“Like most Moacians,” Lorenzo says.
“Well,” Panthero says, “Then we’re all in good company.”
Lorenzo gives the bartender the sign for another drink.
“The game is a modern legacy,” Lorenzo says.
“Even in the outskirts where I come from,” Aaron adds.
Panthero sizes Aaron up.
“It’s war,” Panthero says.
“La Luna is a good place to feel the pulse of the city,” Panthero says, “And to plot a new course.”
“I experienced that last Friday,” Aaron says, grinning.
“The Sunday afternoon is the aftermath of the Friday night,” Panthero says, “At least for a select few.”
“What about Saturday?” asks Aaron.
“Saturday doesn’t count,” Panthero says, “Until the sun goes down.”
The tv shows an interview with an activist that makes a plea for electric cars. Her argument is that the burning of fossil fuels is destroying the planet (which sounds a little trite and uninspired).
“It seems that we’re a burden for the planet (according to fanatics such as this woman),” Lorenzo says.
“That’s what those nature fanatics claim,” Panthero says, “They have a good thing in mind (saving the environment), but they become so blinded by their own fanaticism that they don’t know when to stop (there is no guarantee that climate change will be reversed simply by decimating the use of fossil fuels).”
“I somewhat expected you to state that it’s all politics,” says Aaron.
“The fact remains: their voice is being heard — and taken seriously,” Lorenzo says. “Environmental fanaticism has become a religion,” Panthero says, “And those that pollute have become the sinners that need to be saved.”
“We’re lost souls?” asks Aaron.
“Or fascists (all that is evil),” Panthero says.
“It’s contemporary, and you will hear nothing of it in fifty years or so,” Panthero says.
“That’s cynical,” Aaron says.
“I’m a realist,” Panthero says, “These things will resolve themselves when resources become scarce and food unreasonably expensive.”
“Politics,” Aaron says.
Just as Lorenzo is about to make a clever response a woman enters the bar.
It’s then and there, that Aaron starts to understand why Lorenzo associates with the likes of them. What follows might sound like a cliché, but sometimes clichés have to be taken in all seriousness (especially in Moac).
The men in La Luna all turn their heads.
Their attention is drawn to the woman that has just entered.
There’s something about this woman that’s beyond words.
She has style (in a high class sense) and booty (accentuated by a thin waist).
Then it strikes Aaron what the something is: she has both beauty and heft.
“Regina,” Lorenzo says.
“I can see that,” Aaron says.
She comes in their direction.
She takes a seat next to them.
Lorenzo nods. She meets his look half way.
“I want you to meet a friend of mine.”
“Aaron,” Lorenzo says.
“A pleasure,” Aaron says.
She gives a feather light hand with her palm up, exposing the untarnished skin of her thin wrist. It has such lightness and delicacy that it’s as if she’s a nobility that has fallen from grace.
“I wasn’t told that I was about to meet the most beautiful woman of Moac today,” Aaron says.
Aaron pauses as well.
“Maybe your friend didn’t want to intimidate you,” Regina says.
Aaron looks dauntingly in her eyes.
She raises her left eyebrow about a quarter of a millimeter (a seductive micro-expression).
“You seem very sure of yourself,” Regina says.
“It’s the only way.”
It seems that Aaron has found his new obsession.
But is he the only one?
7. On Lorenzo’s arrival in Moac
The music-player jumbles.
Then it slows down until a full stop.
It’s time to look at things from a different angle.
Especially in Moac: things are not always what they seem.
Half a year ago Lorenzo flew into Moac late on a Friday afternoon.
It had been a six hour flight and the first thing that struck him about Moac was the oppressing heat.
He was picked up in a black car with blinded windows. He looked at how the city passed by his window during the half hour ride, although there wasn’t anything that really stuck at the time. It was already night and the long flight had left him jet-lagged with a degree of disorientation.
He did however spot a woman at the airport while waiting for his bags: Regina (he found out later on).
He had only worked for The Agency for about a year and until then he had only heard stories about the foreign Cube Centers.
It was indeed a large complex and highly secured. He was dropped off by the entrance of Cube Eight. The driver had notified his superior of his arrival.
It was after six. Most of the personnel had gone home. It seemed that this office building housed about fifty employees. His future office was going to be in the basement, which was all that he knew.
“I trust that you had a good journey.”
“You will find that our office is quite different from the head quarters.”
“Moac is a place like no other, which means that we have to be inventive from time to time.”
“You will find out what that means down the line.”
His superior opens the door to his private office.
“You will find the assignment on your desk,” he says, “Good night.”
Lorenzo’s office was more comfortable than he expected. It felt as if this international obsession with security has created a new elite like himself that dwelled in comfort while the economy spiraled down.
In the day time light would come in through the slanted windows that began halfway off the front wall and reached unto the flat window under a 45 degree angle. There was a large executive desk (this was stated by a label) and a very comfortable leather chair. In the far corner was a large sofa and across from that a book cabinet was placed perpendicular to the wall and in which a modest size tv was placed.
His supervisor walked him through the whole building the next day and provided him with all the information that he needed to get started. He also received the keys of his apartment. On the desk was his briefing. There was also a sketch for the narrative identity that he might construct for himself.
As will be stated by your superior in the present and the future to come, our objective here is to study and in no way intervene in current events. That being stated, our objective here is to gather intel that will help us determine key components in the affairs of large bodies, be they corporations or of a governemnt nature.
By components are intended: individuals that develop alternating ideologies, or on a more individual level, those that develop (and form cogent theories and practices of) coping mechanisms, thereby securing certain positions for themselves and others and possibly influencing the development of a society.
Extract of current assignment
Infiltrate movement: Philo-Politics (working title).
First objective: engage contact between subjects.
Further objectives: Identify theories and key sources of influence.
(attached are photos and bios of Sven and Panthero).
During the following weeks Lorenzo spent many hours on the streets and in his car to get a feel for the city and to get into the assignment. He needed to check the profiles of his subjects for accuracy and glitches.
Aided with the help of operatives he had staged the situation for his two prime subjects to meet and to start talking. It took a little longer than planned, but when they finally met for drinks they connected and would meet a second time a week later (it was almost too easy).
Later on Regina joined the group (a very nice bonus).
The only thing was: like most newcomers, he wasn’t quite prepared for the profound effect that the Moacian life had on him.
8. On the evolution of the first impression when one arrives in Moac
Over the first weeks ones initial impression of Moac consolidates. The interests into the Moacian Soul will grow deeper until it starts to take the form of one of the most lucid daydreams (no doubt inspired by the change of climate and nights without end).
Moac, o Moac.
O Mother of all cities.
It’s the tropics, it’s the location, it’s the fast spin of the earth, it’s the literal heat and a sort of jungle fever.
It’s a ripple that moves in a whole other dimension, and its intensity isn’t limited to the Old Town, because it’s in the peripheries that history becomes a seemingly incoherent ensemble of old and new, of both buildings and ruins, of a sort of anarchy of both government and nature.
Nature seems to lay dormant, ready to swallow anything back up that isn’t actively maintained. It gives this feeling of the ancients, of stretching both back to a far and deep history, but also to the times before that, because it seems that nature is exactly how the first settlers found it thousands of years ago. It gives this feeling of walking among them.
Then there is the heat again, humidity, smell, bright colors, sun and pervasive sweatiness that both underlines this experience and provides a sort of contrast. It makes everything seem just right, it provides perspective and it cancels out the need to compare the experience to anything else. The recurring question arises: ‘Am I really here?’.
When this question is about to sink into its own realm of magic, there will come up one of those warm, humid tropical nights, when one finds oneself ending up at one of those untempered parties of Middle Earth and ones first impression of Moac already starts to shift. One will find oneself ending up in a conversation with an old-timer who has surrounded himself with apprentices and those willing to chip in. There will be talk about the weekend-junkie, city-organism and heat.
One will find oneself coming to terms with the weekend-junkie most of all. It’s a state of being that implies a tendency of destruction due to alcohol or drug abuse, and although there are those that enjoy some of these substances in the weekend, this is not what a weekend junkie is all about in it’s deepest sense. It’s more of a necessary and playful escape, for which alcohol or any other drugs is not a prerequisite, because it numbs the senses too much. It’s almost a form of live theatre in which one is both the actor and audience: the business, social and family-ties go up into thin air, and Moacians start living what is called a fantasy of unreality.
Essential to this is that everyone becomes equal: a harbor laborer in his early twenties might dress up as a dandy, and start hitting upon a female director in her early forties who might dress as a stewardess; a banker in his fifties might dress up in a native costume with a drum and make music on the street; a librarian in her thirties might put on a cat suit, and hit upon a business man, who might in fact be an environmentalist who lives on an meager salary. There is music with a lively beat that both induces and intensifies the moment. Not to mention the heat that comes to the surface.
This is all part of a primal dance, and it serves as a means to temporarily regain the freedom that is sacrificed to get where they are in life during the rest of the week. It’s the way Moacians canalize their more primal instincts (it’s more than just a literal dance).
In a way it puts all and everything into perspective.
There is however still this degree of mystery: when one looks a Moacian deep into the eyes during the week – no trace of what happened in the weekend can be found. This is a feat that most newcomers find highly irresistible and just one very small aspect the of the greater intrigue. It does however make perfect sense: when we move in the world we wear masks all the time.
9. CI is unfolded in greater detail
Lorenzo keeps a close look on Regina from the corner of his eyes.
Aaron’s interest in her is obvious.
He hasn’t figured out what her agenda is with CI.
“We will start with a round of introductions,” Lorenzo says, “First we have Panthero: working his way into politics, thinker, strategist.”
“Sven: has a deep and intricate knowledge of philosophy.”
“Regina: keen intellect into human nature, enjoying the good life besides that; dinners, having a few drinks here and there, and dancing.”
“Lorenzo:” Regina says.
“You already know me,” Lorenzo says.
“Chemist, lover of literature, hanging around in bars, drinking whiskey and talking endlessly.”
“Lover of literature?” Aaron asks, “I understood that real men only talk about sports, women and fast cars.”
“On the street, or in a bar, but without the imagination that is awakened by books we’re doomed to unwind and spiral down, until we collapse into ourselves.”
“He has an image to uphold,” Regina says.
“And we have one last person,” Lorenzo says, “Aaron: obsessed with artificial intelligence among other things. Hangs around in bars and a night owl with a poetic gaze.”
Aaron’s initial impression is commendable: these are the kind of people that he can relate to, and this is not in the least part because it seems that their world of ideas is much in line with his own.
It has to do with their drive and the way in which they’re full of themselves (it’s almost over the top). It all boils down to a sort of pretense that might be inherent to everyone: whenever we throw ourselves out into the world we pretend that we will be successful in whatever it is that we set out to do, and if it’s particularly strong we claim to see it before our eyes. To put it more poetically:
To wish is to hope for,
to dream is to have seen the possibility.
This kind of pretense is a profound pivot in Aaron’s current thought and his construction of reality. It somehow slows him down in that it makes him go back to the same old question, why he should do anything at all? It’s a question that keeps him going at the same time, because in this pretense lies a taste of the success and victory that might be his soon.
This thought has currently taken the shape of an equilibrium between nothingness and everythingness (and life occurs somewhere in the middle).
“And finally the question you have been wanting to ask all along,” Regina says.
“I feel tempted to ask: what is a woman like you doing in a place like this?” Aaron says.
“….” Regina says.
“So it’s not the CIA?”
“I would like the glamour of being a secret agent,” Regina says.
Aaron and the other men grin.
“You think you boys know it all,” Regina says.
“Not all,” Lorenzo says.
“But something close to it,” Panthero says.