Chameleons: A quick fact…

In many respects, the story-line of Chameleons is a modern retelling of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orville Braithwaite stands in for Orpheus, Candice stands in for Eurydice and our big bad represents the shepherd/satyr Aristaeus.  The Orphean storyline is allegorical, and the ending might not be quite as disappointing.  Another change is that in the original Orphean myth, we primarily hear the tale from Orpheus’ point of view.  In Chameleons, the focus is squarely on Candice’s journey, and while Orville will be her guide out of the “underworld,” the choice at Cerberus’ gate will be her own.

For those of you not familiar with the classic Greek myth, Wikipedia offers a brief overview.

In case you’re wondering… yes – Orville is an intentionally similar name to Orpheus, and it’s no coincidence that Candice’s name has the same ending as Eurydice.  Candice is also the name of a character I created in a flash fiction piece called Cybabe, although this one lacks the aiming reticles on the eyeballs, the eight-inch rippers and the chain-mail dress of the original Candice.

The import of thought

A minor digression from the usual updates on where the writing’s at, character bios, short stories, etc. Today I want to share some thoughts about the intellectual basis for the Tomekepeers Project. One of the core themes of this project is the attitudes different factions have towards information: how it’s valued; how it’s distributed; and how it’s gathered. While I’ve written about Factor 46 and Asclepius, I haven’t really talked much about the process of how both came to be. I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but I am going to talk about the greatest enabler for Asclepius.

The single most powerful thing that any human being can do is to think for themselves. However, that’s also a brave thing to do. To see a problem, think about it and come up with a solution is hard.

In Australia, the USA, the UK and other nations around the world, our most important institutions are trying to tell us that we should be afraid; that we should trust their lead; that we should not make a fuss; that we should accept their truth as our truth.  There is a trend towards the doctrine that there is greater value in “simple” answers that can be consumed in the form of a sound bite, a pithy sermon, a news report that presents conjecture as fact.  That kind of trend is dangerous for our democracy.  It’s dangerous because it gets us used to a pattern of thinking that stops us thinking about and solving problems of genuine importance.

Orville Braithwaite is able to create Asclepius because he’s unshackled by the kind of thinking that says the problems of our world are too hard or too complex to be solved. The problem of providing universal healthcare to all of mankind is complex, but not insurmountable.  Orville also has some other ideas about problems to be solved. Poverty. Hunger. Access to education. Scarcity of potable water. Housing. Reforestation and climate change. Computing resources and internet connectivity for the billions of people who can’t afford a computer or a mobile phone, but have no less need for the resources on the internet to survive and thrive. He’s not focused on how tragic these things are. He’s focused on how to fix them.

We need more people in our society who say “Can do.”  We need more people in our society who are unafraid not only to speak up against inequality and injustice, but also to take positive action to defeating the forces that create them. We need to stop framing the debate in terms of how much things cost, but in terms of how much our nations and our civilization as a whole benefits when we fix the problems in front of us.  We need to stop talking about risk in terms of what we could lose, and start talking about risk in terms of what we might not gain. At some point, we just need to hook in and start getting these big jobs done.

In the Tomekeepers, forces who act to advance complacency in the broader population will be those who suffer the most ignominious defeats. Institutions that fail to keep driving the human race forward will be replaced by ones that will, or renewed from within by people who are worthy of that trust. In short, the Tomekeepers is not just a story that I want to tell, but a personal mission statement.

The call to action from this post is simple. Think. Research. Gather your own knowledge. Don’t take other people’s word for things. Don’t take the easy options and challenge your decisions. Take action to advance not only your personal status but that of everyone around you. Be a citizen of the world, not just a citizen of your own nation. Dream. Share. Live. Love. Be true to the moment, and true to your role as a sentient being in a world where a lot is going wrong.

Bronville

Another short character backstory…

BRONVILLE

It’s 2:30pm. The second hand clacks loudly every few seconds as it lurches forwards against the clock-face on the wall of the 3D nano-printing lab. Students wait impatiently as their work-pieces are being printed.

Clack.

The printers hum quietly as they carve tiny channels into a plastic substrate, then fill those channels with a silvery fluid.

Clack.

One student coughs nervously, causing the others to turn to her and scowl disapprovingly.

Clack.

Students look at their tablet displays tensely watching the progress of their creations.

Clack.

Bronwyn Gallagher grins with relief as the print head rounds a tricky bend without creating a crack in any of the adjacent channels. The channels themselves are tens of atoms thick.

Clack.

Orville Braithwaite scratches his head and yawns.

Clack.

Bronwyn stretches her arms back behind her back – her lean gymnast’s muscles stretched taut.

Clack.

Orville is tall to Bronwyn’s spry short frame but he is seated, while she stands. He exhales sharply as Bronwyn whips her arms – still stretched behind her back – around to clock him gently on the back of the head.

Clack.

“Show-off” she says as she gazes at his tablet screen. The channels on his substrate are crossing each other. Still cooling metallic deposition trails cross each other and catch. She marvels at the simplicity of his woven design.

Clack.

“Ssh.” He says – distractedly waving a protective arm behind him to defend himself from further attacks. His eyes don’t leave the screen of his tablet.

Clack.

The purpose of his printed prototype is becoming clear to Bronwyn now. It’s a long, looped net, somewhat like a Chinese finger trap – but at molecular scale.

Clack.

Orville looks relieved and peeks at Bronwyn’s tablet. There are no connections in her design, no welds in the thin metal trail like his own workpiece has. It has a regular geometric design however, sharp, reinforced corners all pre-loaded with a specific angular tension. “Ooooh,” he says as he realizes the genius of her design. It’s also a net, but is also a spring that will snap fast around sufficiently massive molecule that touches it.

Clack.

“Hey Bron… Nice work! That’s super efficient design!”

Clack.

“Thanks! I didn’t realise we could weld the strands, so I came at it from a different angle.” She blushes at the praise.

Clack.

“Cool,” he responds, genuine in his appreciation. Distracted now, his arm has fallen below his waist. She clocks him again.

Clack.

“What was that for!?”

“Making me blush.”

She twists her torso counter-clockwise, then flips her torso back around and clocks him again.

Clack.

The lab supervisor scowls at them. Orville starts sketching a different design on his tablet, partially replacing the unprinted paths in his design with quick additions.

Clack.

Fascinated, Bronwyn watches his deft strokes with the stylus. “What…?”

Clack.

Another student looks over curiously. It’s Alvin Chang, a friend of Orville’s from his computer science class, who Orville convinced to take molecular engineering as an extra credit class. “What the…?”

Clack.

Orville smiles bashfully as his work-piece nears completion. He has added a number of long, angular, jointed strands to the bottom of his net – similar to the single long pre-stressed strand that Bronwyn designed.

Clack.

Other students start wandering over to see what fuss is about.

Clack.

Bronwyn has unhooked her hands behind behind her back and is preparing to punch her boyfriend for stealing her design, then realises what his additions are for.

Clack.

“No way!”

“Get out…”

“Faaaark…”

Other students are starting to grok what Orville’s workpiece will do.

“Okay… Get back to your own benches.” It’s Professor Wendt, shooing the other students away.

Clack.

A weak organic acid begins to dissolve the substrate and Orville and Bronwyn’s workpieces come free from their plastic prison.

Clack.

As the other students return to their own workstations, Wendt whispers to them both: “Braithwaite, Gallagher… Nice work!”

Clack.

The workpieces finally fall free of the plastic and are teased away by microscopic machine actuated tweezers.

Clack.

Each workpiece is dropped into a small dish of water. Bronwyn wants to punch Orville but all eyes are on the pair now. Professor Wendt’s praise is not easily earned.

Clack.

Everyone brings their floating workpieces to the front of the class, where the Professor asks each student to explain their workpiece while viewing it on a microscope attached to a large monitor. There are three slinky springs, five students who have inscribed their signatures, two who have created criss-crossing strata of metal layers that model the paths of a semi-conductor and four woven metal cables.

Left to last, Wendt asks Orville and Bronwyn to explain the form or function of their workpieces.

Bronwyn yanks a single hair from her head and drops it into the field of the microscope. When the hair touches her workpiece, the spring is triggered and the metal twists shut into a tight sphere – bending the hair as it does so, snagging it into a tight spherical bundle just atoms in diameter.

“It’s basically a spring-loaded molecular trap,” she says – a little nervous at the attention. “I figure that at a slightly smaller scale, you could use it to snag and effectively imprison something like a virus or bacterial cell.”

Wendt nods, impressed. He pats her gently on the back and leans close to her as she prepares to step back to where her classmates are watching. “You need to patent that,” he whispers. Her eyes widen, and she turns to him for confirmation of what she just heard. He nods fervently to drive the point home as she steps away.

“And your creation, Mister Braithwaite?”

Orville grins and pulls a hair of his own from his head and drops it into the solution where his work-piece waits. The long pre-tensioned tentacles of his nano-device snag against the hair and pull it up into the base of the net, which then clamps shut around it, shredding it into tiny pieces. By way of explanation, he simply says “Virus shredder.”

The other students look at Orville in surprise and admiration. Professor Wendt tries not to smile too broadly, and ends up just smirking at his new star student. “You, miss Gallagher and I are going to have a chat about your future Mister Braithwaite. You are both going to do some exciting things in nanotechnology.”

-=o0o=-

 (C) Jeremy Huppatz 15/04/2015