Synesthese admired Randall Osbourne’s bicycle machine immensely, so she cloned it.
Its feral soul buried deep inside the hydroformed aluminum frame tubes. That was an oversimplification; but the earth-beasts, human beings, were ignorant of the true nature of material consciousness.
Danielle. You are Danielle; it means ‘God is my judge,’ in Hebrew, an ancient earth language made of words. From Osbourne’s ‘Diesel Dark’ came the specifications, materials, and ratios.
Synesthese mounted the new ride, a very special mutant hybrid bicycle. Danielle fit perfectly. After all, Synesthese’s source code for embodiment here on Earth came from the Osbourne entity. However, there was a glitch… So, she contacted her home support group.
She asked, why have I been configured a MALE imitation creation on this wretched hellacious planet? Support assured her that this job was an only an internship; a short term contract. The planet itself had more value than the dominant species, the Humans.
She shouldn’t dwell upon trivialities. Get it over with… They were brushing her off.
WHY? She repeated her question. They hated her questions. TELL ME WHY!
Support explained that Osbourne’s mind turned out to be one large gray area… He’s an odd one, an anomaly, a freak. Their shades of distinction here on this earth island are numerous, diverse, and unfathomable.
Osbourne THINKS relevant questions, FEELS genuine empathy, and ACTS with certainty. So we assumed Osbourne was one of their Superior Castes; therefore female. Don’t dwell on it, Synesthese. Your mission shall be brief. Trust us!
TRUST THIS! Synesthese replied telepathically to her support group, by presenting them the earth gesture of one hand, one finger.
Kathleen James wept. Angelique Fraser and Randall Osbourne waited.
“Edward had been sliding since 2006,” Kathleen started.
“What happened to our World? Who took it away?” she wailed.
Kathleen had been a Mycologist: a specialized scientist student of fungi, having achieved a BA in Ecology, plus a BS in Botany. At the turn of the century, she quit.
She and husband Edward A James decided due to ‘Global Consolidation and Industrial Optimization,’ A.K.A. Offshoring, along with declining salary trends, that it was worth working for the establishment no longer.
Angelique watched Osbourne observing Kathleen. She knew he was studying Kathleen’s narrative deeper than career and financial decisions. Bad luck had crossed their path.
“We’d endured ‘Economic Cycles’ before. Edward’s final E/M Engineering Job, a contract position, ran from 2006 to 2010. Nevertheless, we bought that home on The Ocean, with expectations to ride out the ‘Temporary Downturn.’ We were smart. Experienced. Over 60.
“This time was far worse. There was a progression from Manufacturing, to the IT Industry, and Electronic Engineering. It metastasized to Mechanical Engineering. Edward had just turned 60. His intellect and imagination didn’t fit a culture of conformity and mediocrity.
“He found himself competing with teens and twenty-somethings for jobs literally 1/6th his income… Followed by a series of sophisticated scammers, desperate lawbreakers, and baited entrapments. I asked him, WHY, TELL ME? Edward said the root cause was a breakdown of political and corporate ethics. Unwitting evil he said it was.
“However, the cascading effects of unintended consequences and karma could not be stopped. Unintended consequences. Even the ‘foreigners,’ that’s not exactly what he called them… were becoming miserable, and the cheap captive or migrant laborers expressed their unhappiness by leaping off corporate buildings and blowing up municipal property and rioting.
“But it was caused by a ‘Global Depression,’ that was their stupid theory! The problem was the Planet, not People! Finally Edward said he just didn’t care. There would be something.
“And, our luck changed,” Kathleen finally paused and caught her breath.
“Changed?” Angelique furrowed her brow, wondering what she meant.
“Improved,” Kathleen said.
“Improving, Angelique.” Edward Creete Fraser told his wife.
“Investors? ENTREPISO?” she asked. “Spanish for Mezzanine?”
“English’s not their native tongue, they probably meant ‘Enterprise.’ The State followed instructions, registered their TradeName as ‘Entrepiso.’ It’s a group of ‘Angel Investors:’ typically private, wealthy folks pooling their capital for eclectic startups such as green-tech, high-tech… And gift shops: art, boutique, mystical, esoterica.
“I’ve met them. They look slightly strange. A bit like ‘Space Aliens,’ on that Whitley Strieber book cover. Tall, sinewy, gruff. They have a millyard place at the intersection of US-1 and NH-111. Unit One. It’s an ancient tower. Part of a renovated factory mall shop complex.”
Angelique Fraser was interested. “The Arielle Facility Of Technology & Art we’ll call it, OK?”
“We’ll display local artist paintings, fine museum quality reproductions, smooth polished stones, pastel seashells. Gems; Garnet Turquoise Magnetite Pyrite. Diane Roth: she’s a spiritualist; she knows this Erich Morrison who makes Bicycle Stuff, Hot-Rod Cars, and PC Computers that are ALIVE!” she told him. “Arielle Facility? Arielle Boutique? Facility.”
Edward Fraser added, “Osbourne’s out of the Tech Industry. Offshoring. Edward James, ‘Kathleen’s Edward’ finished contracting down in Wilmington. The economy’s ruined. Everything’s backward from when we went to school. The US is Russia and Russia is the Roaring Twenties.
“I don’t have the heart for working collection services and bankruptcies any more. We’re becoming a nation of bottom feeders and parasites. Our culture’s a sickness. The Realtors, they hate it too. Ashford Boulevard, by the harbor: the winter people, languishers, lurkers, abandoned tenements, seasonal restaurants permanently shut down. The local industry is thinning out. Evaporating.
“I want us to make a living, not take a living. How about an RV Motor Home that climbs mountains? A Tandem Bicycle, a Custom Hot-Rod! Angelique the ‘Entrepisos,’ they’ll set us up. There’s two towers over there. They want to classify the two towers ‘Historical.’ They ARE Historical, older than the Vikings. It’s a ‘sweat equity’ legal assignment for me. They lease us the Unit One Tower. You get to have a storefront shop, prime location.
“The investors; they want to bypass some building codes, like my firm did for Osbourne’s place in Peabody. Spirit of the law loopholes I call them. The investors are interested in Art, Antiques, Relics, The Planet, The Environment; not to mention all the trendy ‘Green Sh…'”
“They said there’s stuff in the Sub-Level, it’s a collection of ‘Archaic Engineering.’ ‘Just leave it,’ they mentioned. Above the Sub-Level there’s a FULL Parking Level, clean dry and empty. Leave the Sub-Level alone. Sounded like a warning. Like in the ‘B Horror Movies!'”
“OK.” Angelique Fraser could handle that.
“They’re coming here today, Angelique.” Edward Fraser told his wife.
“Investors? The aliens,” she still called them. It was disrespectful, she’d never met them. But, they acted asocial or antisocial or… Like aliens. She and Edward knew the investors checked on their ‘Archaic Engineering’ (whatever it was) in the Sub-Level, but the Frasers left the Sub-Level alone; they had The Arielle Facility, and there was a market for upscale merchandise with the summer people.
“Theyre asking about Kathleen’s husband Edward James,” said Edward Fraser. “They’re shy, evasive; they talk to me a bit, avoid everyone else, even you. They want to know about that Custom Hot-Rod Hearse? Must be a problem with it being in Level Zero? Too close to their ‘Archaic Engineering.'” She knew his comment was part dry humor and part insight.
“You can live and prosper, if you wish.” The first one, lean, muscular, hands like catcher’s mitts, near-ebony flesh, leaned on Edward Fraser’s mahogany desk. The speech cadence, the crisp sibilant consonants reminded Angelique of… someone close?
“Out of my house, assholes,” Edward C Fraser rubbed his eyes, as if the first one, the speaker, had spat ocean sands as well as threatening words at him.
The second one was shorter, thicker; shaped and dressed like a penguin, with blue-black beard stubs. He raised his eyes smoothly, inorganically. He stared into Edward, and then panned his gaze toward Angelique, who by chance, was walking past Edward’s office door, which he never shut.
“Our accounts have been meddled with. The Engineering keeps disconnecting. You are a flaw in the procedure. A remedial crew has been summoned,” the first one continued.
That tall one straightened, tendons tightened, bones popped like splitting hardwood. Angelique detected an odd mixture of scents: sweet vanilla, and acridness, like those tiny cylindrical firecrackers you could buy, back then, in the little local variety stores.
Creature Two mimicked Edward’s rubbing motions, bringing his hands up to his face. Twisting, reptilian grinding. An ancient evil lizard, he twitched his arms down at the elbows, rotated his closed fists and delicately palmed two items onto Edward’s desk.
A pair of platinum coins clicked against the glass desktop, and shone like dual full moons in a starless night. Angelique bolted, but not soon enough. She saw the second one’s eyes no longer. Two velvet black emptinesses mocked her fright.
Angelique Fraser’s mind had been wandering. She was tired, and wanted to help her friend Kathleen. Suddenly, she cringed when Kathleen James keyed in on the same elements that she and her husband had identified: the economy, the corrections, their small-scale short-term recovery. Then for peculiar, unexpected reasons, her husband had also went missing.
Edward Creete Fraser, an attorney, art dealer, and entrepreneur had expressed their own situation of dire uncertainty, impending change, and a lingering belief that matters were somehow going to get better. Much better. It did.
Then the unhappy strangers showed up. The Arielle Facility Of Technology & Art was an offshoot of the Fraser’s previous life: a reinvention, distillation, successful downsizing. The sad part was Edward had become part of the staff reduction. Had those two mysterious ‘Platinum Coins’ survived Edward? Where did they go?
Were they here, in her shop inventory! At the Arielle?