Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Every Sparrow that Falls – Chapter Nine

Flip was not very far from the computer repository. It only took a second to propel herself through the air, exciting molecules and bouncing off them, traveling just under the speed of sound. She reached the basement area just as the second shot scorched the ground where the human had just been lying. The communication team were all speaking rapidly to the computers.

‘Stop firing! This human is a friend.’

‘This contravenes the non-violence treaty which dates back to-’

‘Speak to us. I command you. Respond. We are your superiors.’

‘-and the sub-paragraph, which states-’

‘We need you to translate, not destroy!’

‘-you, being the party in question-’

‘Be quiet!’ Flip said, transmitting over the public frequency with an override signature. The team were silent. There was a loud THUNK, a whine, and a third beam that missed the human by virtue of his random motion. Flip sent a quick query to the computer system. The communication was refused. The computers were obviously going to plead ignorance until they’d killed the visitor. The animosity between human and machine went far back, but the non-corporeal beings did not make for good targets. She’d been a fool to think the machines were ever under their control.

‘This is ridiculous,’ she said. ‘If the machines kill the visitor, there will be reprisals from the orbiting ship.’ The computer powered up its weapon for a fourth shot, but the human had managed to get out of the line of fire. He was safe for now, but Flip knew the laser was only the first of the computer’s deadly tools. Somewhere, deep in storage, two glowing red eyes would be winking into life.

‘Suggestions?’ she asked, not really expecting anything useful. She was not proved wrong.

‘We should start negotiations with the computer. Using logic, it will surely listen to reason.’

‘Shut them all down. The computers are obsolete. We do not need them.’

‘Let them have him? It is an unnecessary conflict in which we involve ourselves.’

Flip ignored them. The human was talking into a communicator, asking for help. She needed to get in contact with him. The computers weren’t going to help. With time, the communication team could probably decipher the correct frequencies to be heard at the human’s audible range, but that would take too long.

‘Rider?’ one of them prompted, looking for a response. She dismissed him with an impatient signal. And then her focus was drawn back to him.

‘What was that?’ she asked.

‘I simply asked, Rider, what we should do,’ he said.


Behind her, the man stood up, slowly. She examined him. Complex minds were harder to Ride. Even the apes had a natural shielding caused by their sense of self.

‘It might be possible,’ she mused, ‘He has sustained a severe injury. That will take his focus away.’

‘What was that,’ asked the inquisitive team member.

‘I am a Rider. I will Ride,’ Flip said.

And then the air around them was filled with radiation and her consciousness began to disintegrate under the onslaught. To save herself, she dived straight into the mind of the visitor. There was no time for finesse, no gentle invasion. She slammed through his natural defences and hid within an unused portion of his brain.

Temporarily safe from the radiation (although with time, even his mass would not be enough to shield her) she rapidly spread out to establish contact with the speech centres of his brain. This was an instinctual act. It also required a great deal of empathy, which is why it was not possible for just anybody to do it. Flip knew what he should be thinking and looked for those patterns. When she recognised them, she could start to manipulate them. It wasn’t always immediate. This time she was lucky.

She found him. He was about to make a run for the door. Without the limited shielding provided by their underground shelter, Flip would be lost. She increased the sensitivity of his pain receptors, to stop him from rejecting her as soon as she made her presence known, stopped his legs from taking that first, fatal step and made contact.

‘Wait!’ she told him. ‘You must stop! Make it stop!’

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