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What Am I?

What Am I?

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What Am I?

280 pagine
3 ore
Dec 17, 2016


I think therefore I am. But what am I? Is my perception of self and surroundings valid? David Benson, revolutionary, sworn enemy of the State, endures a succession of ever worsening nightmares that drive him to seek an escape from torment in death. Yet, in the end, even as the longed for death is offered, he chooses instead, to clutch at a straw; a dream of hope.
Dec 17, 2016

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What Am I? - D. A. Barker

What Am I?

What Am I?


D. A. Barker

I think, therefore I am. But what am I? Is my perception of self and surroundings valid? David Benson, revolutionary, sworn enemy of the State, endures a succession of ever worsening nightmares that drive him to seek an escape from torment in death. Yet in the end, even as the long longed for death is offered, he chooses instead to clutch at a straw; a dream of hope.

What Am I?

Standard Copyright License

Copyright © D. A. Barker 2016

Published by East West

Zhongshan & Halifax

This book is a work of Fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

ISBN 978-1-326-27728-4

The Author

The  author,  Donald Andrew Barker – Andrew  or  Andy  Barker  to  those  who  know  him well –  is  British. He  was born  in  the  January  of  1947  and  grew  up  on a  hill  farm in  what was then  the West Riding of Yorkshire. This is his fifth    novel. In addition to writing   his   interests   include  reading,  chess, running long distance, cycling and  swimming. He also likes drinking good beer. He is  married  and  has two adult sons and  a teenage step daughter. He and his wife, Meishan, divide  their time  between the United Kingdom and The People’s Republic of China.

To Susan

Cover Photographs

The Author

A Selfie


At Blackstone Edge West Yorkshire

Chapter One

Acid, said the judge in a voice of doom. David Benson, you have been found guilty of fornication as charged and it is the sentence of this court that your sexual organs be immersed in acid.

Alice..., screamed Benson in panic. Alice..., But then, as they dragged him away to the cells, he woke and realised it was only a dream.

What the bloody hell?

Someone protested. After this there was a heavy sigh and then snoring. Benson’s cry had disturbed but not woken one of his colleagues.

Benson inhaled deeply and attempted to calm himself. His heart rate was downright alarming and sweat was oozing from his pores like mucus. Talk about a bloody nightmare. Obviously his amorous involvement with Alice Melrose, the current adopted daughter of Lothar Melrose, a high ranking officer in Central Security, was having an adverse effect on his nerves. Not that this was to be wondered at. After all he was preparing to perpetrate what would perhaps be counted as the most ghastly crime of all time. How much longer to deadline? He had been living on a razor’s edge for weeks.

05.00hrs Standard Universal Time: the information surged from his subconscious. He had programmed himself to wake at 06.00hrs. A further thirty minutes beyond that to strike point and then.... Armageddon. His guts tightened in anticipation. The strike had taken so long to prepare.

He unfastened his sleep-sack, checked to ensure that his weapon was still in its shoulder holster and then hauled himself along a guideline to the dormitory door. This slid open silently on his approach and he floated through into the narrow, gently curving corridor which circled the entire observatory. The door slipped shut in his wake and he glided to a nearby view port.

The observatory was riding in a fixed 30000 kilometre equatorial orbit and there was the immense sphere of Earth, apparently motionless, beneath.

The view was simply magnificent. There were the greens and yellows of land, the blues of the oceans and the silver shimmering gasses of the atmosphere making up a kaleidoscope of unparalleled beauty.

Benson shrugged and moved on. The Earth might look magnificent but she was broken, tamed. Her evolutionary forces molded, tailored to the will of latter day Man.

This one time tree dweller, this beast that had sheltered in caves, had risen, not merely to become lord and master of his environment; of the world that had given him birth, but of life itself.

Death, even accidental death, had long been conquered. Man still aged but he did not cease. He regenerated, he returned to infancy, to the cradle, to the womb, albeit a synthetic womb, from thence to be placed in the eager arms of adoptive parents with whom to grown and mature again.

Benson and his comrades intended to change this. They adhered to a firebrand revolutionary doctrine - born out of the Utopian social conditions of the time -  which decried immortality as a stagnation inducing obscenity that must not merely be abolished but wholly erased from existence. The general intention of this being to instigate a state of chaos which would result in civilization being thrown back by several thousand years to the bloody infamy of a long gone age.

With anarchy achieved, the doctrine preached, in admittedly nebulous vein, the newly mortal, rejuvenated Man would move forward again, spreading out from his native solar system, across the galaxy, across the universe itself to gain ever yet greater glory.

This latter phase, however, was perceived as being distant in the future. The first and most definite aim was the unleashing of wholesale destruction and death.

Benson glided into a spur corridor and operated the palm recognition lock of an airtight hatch which barred his way. The hatch swung open and he surged forward to enter the observatory proper. This was a domed chamber of some twenty five metres diameter which, including a five metre reflector, housed or was linked to all the latest technological hardware for listening to or observing the cosmos.

Benson switched in the chamber’s gravity generator and proceeded to the main command deck. He seated himself and ran a practiced eye across the controls. His task was not overly complex. He simply punched a series of coded instructions into a computer and linked the machine up to one of the observatory’s high powered transmitters. There was nothing more to it. All that remained was to wait.

05.55 hours. Again the time surged out from his subconscious. Still more than half an hour to strike time and butterflies swarmed in his stomach. He left the command deck and paced.

Return to the dorm. Take a pill. Sleep and wake to find it finished.

This was sound advice but he lacked the willpower to take it. He had waited long for the end and when it came he wanted to see it.

His eye fell on the reflector. He returned to the command deck and punched coordinates into the instrument’s alignment computer, bringing the scope to bear on Sygmus16A, a solitary Sol sized star some thirty light years distance away towards galactic centre.

The command deck’s massive observer screen sprang into life with the bright crystal light of Sygmus16A set slap bang at its centre, highlighted by a myriad pin points of its fellow stars hung in the endless backcloth of space.

Benson stared at Sygmus enthralled. To the eye, even with the magnification of the scope and computer enhancement, there was nothing remarkable, nothing unusual to see. Sygmus was simply one of the many, many millions of stars that make up the Milky Way.

However, a detailed analysis of the light irradiating from Sygmus, not to mention its radio chatter, gave rise to a different story. For a start the star supported a solar system but then so did countless of its fellows and there was no great significance in this.

What was of great significance, however, was that Sygmus, like Sol, was a small star, a relatively young star with, under normal circumstances, a lifetime of innumerable millennia ahead. But yet Sygmus was dying. It was dying violently and, by stellar standards, it was dying very rapidly indeed.

The evidence was incontrovertible. There was a massive and still increasing outflow of x-radiation, a sharp increase in luminosity, a decided wobble to its rotation and a small but nevertheless measurable movement away from the general galactic drift.

Collectively these anomalies added up to the fact that Sygmus was being drawn to destruction, trapped in the gravitational tides of an invisible, free roving, stellar sized object with a mass far greater than its own.

A black hole: it had to be a black hole. It couldn’t be anything other. A black hole: the shrunken corpse of some short lived super star. An object so massive that nothing, not even light, could escape its gravitational pull: an object then, invisible to the eye.

Benson continued to gaze at the screen. It was difficult to imagine, the mind could barely cope. A star, a solar system, an entire sun and its retinue of planets swallowed....

I wasn’t aware that junior lab technicians were allowed unsupervised use of the scope.

The voice was female, hostile and cold. Benson turned to find himself face to face with the observatory’s senior astronomer, Lydia Krenk, a woman of only twenty five years in her present life but with the authority of one much older. She was reputed to generally regard junior staff with contempt. The expression on her face did nothing to bring this into dispute.

You’re right, we’re not, Benson said. He slipped out his weapon and fired. Lydia blinked in shock and then fell flat on her back.

PRA, said Benson and smiled; physical restraint agent. It’s mighty effective as a non lethal anti personnel weapon. It leaves the subject fully conscious but with seriously inhibited muscle movement and a total lack of balance. A single shot is effective for around twenty four hours. You’ll be fine by this time tomorrow, that’s if you’re still alive.

You must be insane, Lydia said. The effects of the PRA made her facial muscles twitch and her speech was a little slurred.

You would think that, but my own opinion is different, Benson shrugged contemptuously. Lydia was of the Intelligentsia, the ruling caste. He hated her kind intensely. There would be no place for them in the future. What brought you here? he enquired.

I’m a light sleeper, I thought I heard something, Lydia replied. She had recovered from the shock and was regarding Benson steadily through green eyes which conveyed information to a brain with an IQ rating of one hundred and ninety on the Cattell scale.

And your colleagues? Benson asked.

My juniors are probably still fast asleep and snoring as loudly as pigs.

Probably, Benson agreed. But then possibly not. He moved to the airtight hatch and sealed it. There was no point in taking avoidable risks. The stakes were too high.

Might one enquire exactly what your intentions are? Lydia controlled the slur in her speech with an effort but her facial muscles still twitched. You’re going to end up in a great deal of trouble, you know.

Wrong, Benson declaimed and he could not keep the triumph out of his voice. You are the one in trouble, Ms High And Mighty Krenk, you and all your kind. The end of your dynasty is nigh.

Ye gods, you’re not a member of that ragbag band of anarchist clowns, are you? Lydia sneered derisively.

No ragbag band member but one of a group of dedicated revolutionaries on the cusp of realizing a dream: Benson’s hatred boiled over. Lydia was wearing a simple white sleep shift which terminated high on her thighs. It was tempting to raise it higher. But, no, that was insufficient. If he was honest what he wanted was rape.

You mean you aim to overthrow the Government and abandon all reasoned law. One has to confess one does not understand your designs.

If anything Lydia was more derisive than ever and it appeared she was wholly unaware of Benson’s rampant criminal desire. In a sense he did not find this surprising. Sex was currently out of vogue among the upper crust of the Intelligentsia. Doubtless, Lydia had forgotten what her body was for.

You and your kind have rendered our species stale, Benson snapped. "Humanity is choking on the curse of its treasured immortality. Zero birth and zero death have amounted to zero progress. In the last one thousand years Mankind has not taken a single step forward.

He progressed from the cave to immortality and then entered a state of cerebral paralysis. He lacks new life and he lacks new ideas. Original thought and creativity have ceased. We revolutionaries will change that. We will initiate death and birth and thus unleash progress. We want mortality, Lydia and we want women with their wombs and milk dugs full.

You animal! Lydia curled her upper lip in disgust.

No animal, Lydia, Benson snarled. He crouched and thumbed her nipples. I am a man!

You... swine! Lydia was outraged. You...scum!

Prude! Benson laughed harshly. Come the revolution and unlicensed sexual activity will be encouraged if not ordered by the State. In the wake of the initial slaughter and chaos a high birth rate will be essential.

There won’t be a revolution. Lydia hissed fiercely. The proles are not in ferment.

True, at least on a technical point. Benson conceded. A revolution, in the accepted sense, requires the support of the masses and I admit we do not have that. Perhaps the word putsch describes our intentions more accurately. He walked his fingers down towards Lydia’s groin.

A putsch! Your ragbag band take the reins of power by force! Our Security is far too strong. Benson you make me laugh.

Well then laugh at this, Benson snarled. He fastened his hand on the hard mound of Lydia’s sex and forced his fingers inside her. Our putsch will succeed, woman. Watch, I will show you what we intend. Lydia did not answer. Benson’s brutal assault appeared to have sent her into shock. She was ashen faced and shaking in every limb.

Benson left her and strode to the command deck. His hands danced on the controls and a bank of screens glowed into life. There was the sphere of Earth and array on array of interlinked panels orbiting in the foreground.

Sun cells, Benson said, the successors to solar cells, a few of the many millions that ride in orbit. They harness Sol’s limitless power and beam it earthward. Economical, clean and inexhaustible. The cells solved the twin but opposing problems of pollution and impending fossil fuel exhaustion.

Elementary ancient history, Lydia said. She appeared to have regained her composure.

Power! Benson rapped the word off his tongue, ignoring the interruption. The cells constitute Earth’s one and only source of power. There is no back up system. Take away the cells and civilization reverts by untold centuries. No light and no heat other than from the sun. All communication and matter transmission networks down, wiped away in an instant. But more important than that, he laughed harshly. Immortality erased and death set free.

All of which would achieve what? Lydia asked, other than utterly ruinous chaos?

Reproduction! snapped Benson, birth! New life and new ideas: mankind will begin to move forward.

Might one enquire to where? Lydia’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

The stars, Benson said, the galaxies, the entire endless universe. He came down off the command deck, his eyes ablaze with the glory of his dream.

Sygmus16A. He stabbed a finger at the clear magnified image of the star. It is dying; Lydia and one day the sun will die too. So will all the stars and all the planets they harbour. Matter is finite, Lydia. But space is not. Space is infinite. In space, in interstellar and inter-galactic space man can take on infinite qualities himself. He can spread his wings and survive. No matter what happens to the stars and the galaxies and even the universe itself, in space man can survive.

We need not shed our immortality for that. Lydia made an attempt at a shrug. We can travel to the stars as we are and in time we will.

Claptrap, Benson snorted. As immortals we will stagnate on Earth until doomsday. The evidence is clear.

The argument is irrelevant. Lydia managed a dismissive shake of her head. You cannot destroy the cells. They number many millions. Security will close your operation down before the task is a fraction done.

Not if we destroy the whole lot in one glorious explosive moment. Benson said.

That is impossible.

Not so. Benson countered. He grinned wickedly. Individual cell units malfunction. Not too often but it does occur. Also orbits decay and have to be restored. There’s also general maintenance.

So? Lydia asked.

The whole job lot, repairs and maintenance work alike, is carried out by robots.

So? Lydia repeated.

Robots do as they are told. Benson continued. They proceed precisely as programmed.

Well, of course they do. Lydia snapped.

Way back, Benson said. Way, way back. One of our boys programmed the robots to sow each bank of cells with a plasma mine. Good as gold they’ve been doing it ever since. It’s taken a long time, Lydia, a long, long time, but at last the task is complete.

I don’t believe you. Lydia said.

You will soon, Benson nodded meaningfully. The mines will blow on receipt of a coded radio signal. A few minutes ago I programmed an observatory computer to transmit that signal at 06.30hrs. It’s 06.14hrs, Lydia, again the time surged from his subconscious. Sixteen minutes to go and then Armageddon. Watch and wait with me, Lydia. Witness with me the dawning of a new age.

You’re talking poppycock, Lydia attempted another dismissive shake of her head. But this time the PRA restricted the movement to a twitch. The robots are under the command of Government Central Security. The place is impregnable. You couldn’t have got anywhere near.

Government Central; Benson sneered; a fairy tale castle in space. The stronghold of the Intelligentsia and the source of all Man’s woe. Lydia, we infiltrated it in ages past. Our people are on the inside.

No, that cannot be, Lydia was summarily dismissive. Central has a sky high security rating. Entry is restricted to Intelligentsia members alone.

Yes, that is so. Benson conceded and smiled. Central is the largest and most sophisticated artifact in space. It is the seat of Government and home to more than a million Cerbs, the Intelligentsia; the acknowledged ruling caste.

Precisely, Lydia said.

Security there is good. Benson nodded in emphasis of the point. In terms of energy, atmosphere and food source Central is entirely independent of Earth. Furthermore entry, not to mention exit, is possible only by means of matter transmission.

Just so, Lydia made an attempt at a smile, but with the restrictive effects of the PRA it came out as a ghastly grimace. And more to the point the transmission system is guarded by an I.Q key, the patterns to which are generated by Central Security and changed at random. It simply is not possible to gain access to Central with an I.Q of less than 150 on the Cattell scale.

Yes, said Benson. That is undoubtedly so.

Then you admit that you have been lying, fantasizing, Lydia crowed.

No, Benson shook his head. Has it never occurred to you, Lydia, he leaned forward menacingly, "that among

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