Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Visiting 01 - Matrix Standard Date 5/31/05

Heyward hears Escutcheon call and looks up briefly in his direction to shake her head. She will not be going to see the surface -- and, in any case, she intends to spend the day alone, if she can.

Treius hands her an identification card; and she accepts it, reading it over carefully -- the name and number the Machines assign her as an identity:

"Watson, Joan

The Human name again -- the name of her body alone. It hurts her, as it hurts her within the system when Agents refer to her as Mr. Watson or, more painfully, as simply "Human." But she is growing used to it. The name is only a designation, after all -- the same, in its way, as "Heyward." Yet it remains inaccurate -- Joan Watson is dead; and Heyward, for whatever reason, is alive.

A drone approachs her, its movements precise and inhuman -- inorganic. "Miss Watson. I am HGD-0005. I will be escorting you within the city." It stops and seems to watch her, as though waiting for a response. "Your captain was instructed to inform you of the approved areas for organic life within the city. Do you have a destination selected, or do you require time and/or further information to reach a decision?"

The Sentinel assigned to Heyward and the drone glides quietly overhead, watchful, its many "tentacles" undulating slowly. Heyward looks up at it. She is aware that Humans tend to find Sentinels intimidating. Frightening. And she can see how this could be, easily. But the reading she has been doing over the past few days -- the conclusions she has been reaching -- have left her tired. She did not think fatigue could be an . . . emotion, but the hollowness she feels now seems almost to be. It makes her want to stop thinking. To rely on decisions dictated to her, as she did when she was part of the system.

But she cannot. Not now.

From the center of that weariness, the Sentinel, the drone, seem only like safety. She knows them. They will hurt her only if she invites hurt -- if she oversteps clear rules and laws. They may even protect her, if she is threatened.

She knows where she wants to go. She wants to watch the system at work -- the simple, predictable processes being endlessly, predictably repeated.

She turns her attention back from the Sentinel to the drone.

"No. I do not require additional information. I would . . . like to see the drone production facility."

The drone makes a small, incongruous bow. "This way, please."

It leads away across the docks, and Heyward follows. The docks are large, and crossing them takes some time. As the drone and the Sentinel pass through one of the exits leading out to the rest of 01, Heyward turns briefly to look back over the docks.

And sees a lone robotic figure running full-tilt for another of the dock's exitways.

Heyward stands for a moment, knowing she should be concerned, knowing that she should do something, should alert the Machines.

But she is very tired; and for the moment she decides to let the problem of Veneer go. 01 is large. Perhaps it will take care of the problem itself.

Heyward doubts she will be that lucky.

She turns and catches up with her escorts.


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