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Not Quite the Uncanny Valley

part 5 of Genetic Imperialism


By choice, not insomnia, and in the tradition of all the best executives, Reeve likes to sleeps less than four hours a night. He gives an hour to the gym every day, and thirty minutes at day's beginning and day's end to eat and clean and support the image of himself as a functioning human being. Only thirty minutes, mind; he's long since given up shaving, and his hair can do whatever the hell it wants, and there's other people now to iron his shirts and pleat his pants and point his cock at the right bowl. As for the rest of Reeve's typical day - almost all the rest - he thinks: Shinra, Shinra, Shinra.

At the beginning, Reeve wouldn't have had it any other way. Towards the end he can't remember how to change, if things had ever been different: and this is his success, bitter and unexpected though it is, to have made the world, even his own world, Shinra. Every day, Reeve's secretary clears away the coffee cups before they leave rings w here he leaves them, scattered and forgotten, like so many of his projects, left alone to grow scum-driven surface colonies of their own. Without the secretary's intersession, they'd likely bid to take over the corporate world; Reeve is quietly grateful for these niceties which permit him to approximate living, or equal equivalent. But at night, even the secretary goes home, if but to a Shinra public housing flat whose pastels and neutrals and dogboxiness and graffiti'd, gang-roamed 'communal' corridors Reeve wishes like hell he wasn't responsible for (when, when, when had you ever been so young to think social engineering was your right as well as responsibility? See, see, how had the two ever become the same thing: right, responsibility; Shinra, dreams; Reeve, your job?).

Reeve does not sleep, and at night the cumulative coffee cups tell the true story, all shouting with the same voice, same open mouths to the sky, screaming from the dregs. Reeve can't s leep, or Reeve might go mad to remember what it was like to dream.

In the dark of the night, there is something which exists for Reeve other than calm. Focus is better than calm, so whole and demanding he forgets about Shinra (so to speak, in the way astronauts forget about air, desperately ignoring their reliance, reliance leads to vulnerability, vulnerability to death—), he forgets, he grits his teeth to forget about anything other than his hands and his mind and his documentation: his product. It was a hobby while he was studying, become something else now. (Studying, ha! Learning to whitewash, to make broad sweeping generalisations, to believe the generalisation more real than the specificity, oh, look at me sneering here— study, as if architects were the anthropologists-judges of the old school empire, separate from the system instead of subject to it.)

Urban design, architecture, the civil service, before Shinra made it le ss than civil and something other than service, all big-picture: levers which move the world, fulcrums long continents apart, these things take time. Generations. Lives. And people, so very many people. With every person added to the chain of implementation, Reeve witnesses another decline in productivity, in the realisation of the dream (your dream), until he is afraid (of your dreams? Poor sucker!) because they will remind him of what he actually wanted, before all these microcosmic leaking bits of corruption of process and endeavour had somehow created Shinra instead.

Reeve knows now why Shinra keeps his elite generals, his administrative staff so small for such a large empire, so close to his heart. Why every single one of them has to get their hands so damnably dirty. Every addition to the chain of command is a chance for error. Shinra is a master of the machine, and the machine is people.

But Reeve knows people are not cogs, oh no. This is why he loves his cogs so fucking much.

Scrap the big picture (oh, but Reeve, you did that years ago, teetering mindlessly from Shinra provision of funds to desperate social needs—) Shhh. Draft an image, form and function so intimately related that the two are the same, and fuck the usual architectural division between the two: no chicken without the egg, no egg without the chicken. Precision, singularity, perfection. The smallest cog is as necessary and important as the largest. Each minuscule tightening of a screw is as perfect and necessary to the functionality of the whole as the bashing of a hammer upon a stuck counterweight. Reeve drafts a smaller picture, a concise picture, an achievable picture: motherboards and fatherbodies and sistercircuitry and cousinly hydraulic pressure levers and brotherly-love lubricated joints. His family of cogs. In his private rooms Reeve does what he could never do in Shinra's world: he achieves what he set out to do (and well done, you fucking idiot).

Shh.

Small picture, perfect picture, God is in the details, and the details are Reeve.

Reeve is God, God is Reeve, and in here, Shinra does not exist.

The wrong side of dawn calls to him. Reeve yawns, at long last. Stands straight. Cracks his back: worktable or office desk or draughtsman's board, he'll be bent like a bow before he's forty and never an honest day's labour behind it. (Never mind: heart attack at fifty, remember?) Neck side to side, creaking. Gym in three hours, he decides, three hours of staring at the ceiling and doing what he does instead of sleep. He sets his watch.

By the lightswitch at the door, he palms the plate, pauses. Says, "Goodnight."

Countless glittering pairs of eyes turn and look at him. In his own voice, a hundred cheerful responses, "Goodnight."

—and one reedy-thin continuance, not his own voice (but not a stranger's either, is it?), "Don't let the bedbugs bitey-bite-bite!"

Too late to stop the motion of his hand, Reeve plunges himself into darkness, shocked and shaking.


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