All the text for MBM. Page Made for Daniël Nogueira.
RUN RUN RUN
From a young age I remember wanting to run. So I ran. As I ran I found a way to cope with my fears.
As I ran I explored my mind and the ship. As I got older I no longer wanted to run. I wanted to fly.
The ship’s levels
The lower levels are divided the same way that the higher levels are. The gangs, gamers, addicts, religious and communes all have their territories and they fight over ground and resources continually. The level 0 gang is the biggest and most notorious gang. With its monopoly on alcohol production and extreme use of violence.
The gangs are the most aggressive and organised. They deal in pure alcohol made from potatoes. Alcohol is the most valuable commodity to have on the ship, next to food. The gang can be recognised by their mud stripes indicating they have fresh soil. Many gang leaders are blind as the alcohol can become poisonous due to poor brewing. For a gang leader blindness is a minor problem and a sign of wealth. For a regular gang member blindness isn’t just inconvenient, it means the end of your career.
The gamers are the ones who seek out nostalgia and control the ship’s discarded satellites to extract data from earth. They play old games as an escape and as a social status mechanism. They move around in drivable chairs. But only if they absolutely have to. Gamers eat and drink next to nothing and move as little as possible. They live in a closed-off compound. They keep from harm through a hacked-together security system. It’s in all gamers’ favor to keep the security up and running.
The addicts smoke space dust and find ways to get high by any means. They do anything for anyone just to get high. Needless to say these are the least reliable people on the ship. Addicts are commonly known as kamikaze junkies. The addicts aren’t a social group like the gangs or the gamers. They are the ones that didn’t make it as a one of the other social groups. The addicts are jacks and jills of all trades, dangerously easy to convince to do something stupid.
Communes are groups of all ages. A commune wants to live in harmony, this is their core value. They consist of all sorts of people and everything is based on trust. They survive because their members consist of all other social groups. This gives them knowledge of and allies within the gangs, religious, kami junks and addicts.
The religious are subsidised by the upper levels to create order. They may execute or punish how they see fit. Next to the gangs, they are to be feared the most. They will not hesitate to decapitate your family in public, just to get to you. It’s an army that believes the people on the top level have higher purpose and will fulfil the prophecy of God's will. The religious strongly believe that they are on the ship to be saved. All non believers are going to hell. A popular prophecy is The Outcome. The Outcome portrays the religious as the only ones to be worthy of returning to earth, after god is done cleansing it. While god works back home, the religious work on the ship. Every last heathen must be dealt with before the religious can return to earth to redeem what is theirs.
Looking out of a tall window of the spaceship, we slowly move towards the shadow side of the glowing red world. The ultra bright sun reflects in the boy’s sunglasses as he stands quietly. ‘No wonder the lower levels of the ship call this place the floating coffin’ he thinks to himself. The ship darkens, this is the moment he waited for. He takes off his glasses, puts them in a special case that he tucks into his chest pocket. He grabs a cloak-like jacket with a large hood off of his bed, opens the door, looks if anyone sees him and sneaks off through a narrow passage in the hallway.
He climbs, jumps and slides down through the narrow levels of the spaceship. He reaches the lower levels, throws on his hood and walks into a busy, poorly lit marketplace. A big sign covering the nearest shop states: Pay in cash or trade in goods. The market place is where the opportunists find their action, only there is one thing everyone wants. And that’s not being noticed by officials. Because that’s how you get killed.
Everything is moist and dirty and the smell would be unbearable even if you were born on the lower levels. Almost everything that is sold is made on the ship over the years. People sell handmade stuff for your home, all made out of steel cut out of the ship itself. There are deep-fried insects on a stick, buckets of maggots and potatoes to still your hunger. The food shops are highly protected by armed guards and alarm triggered sensors. The tech merchants display their products in piles on tables, for everyone to browse through.
Suddenly an arm reaches out and grabs the boy. The hand grabs his arm and another grabs his face, accidentally dropping his hood. The boy tries to hide that he is afraid to be recognised. The elder lady holding his arm looks confused. ‘She’s probably an old deranged woman who talks to herself’, he thinks. The woman suddenly looks at the floor. Almost like she made a mistake and is ashamed of her actions. The woman quickly apologises and walks away.
Putting his hood back up and closing his cloak firmly, he pushes her away and curses loudly to mask he was scared to death a second ago. It almost feels to random but weird things happen and he’s not from the lower levels. Then he spots a girls through the crowds, he's clearly fascinated by her. She works at one of the junk stores where they sell repurposed and restored old tech. He takes a deep breath to find the courage to move towards the store. While he is pretending to be interested in a hat that is designed to keep away radiation, she walks up to him and asks if he is looking for something. He replies ‘Do you have anything new?’ And quickly realises it’s a stupid question being in a store full of old stuff. She says ‘you mean new old stuff’ with a smile. ‘Yes, of course’ he says, and she shows him a retro hologram device that plays a tune. The hologram is a twerking dancing woman. She quickly turns it off and awkwardly laughs. He turns around while saying ‘I was actually searching for…’ - he grabs a random piece of junk - ‘this!’ He turns around again but the girl is gone. She isn’t in the shop anymore. The boy can’t find her in the marketplace either. Gazing across the multitude of stalls he suddenly locks eyes with the strange woman. She fixes his stare on him. The boy is mesmerised. The woman suddenly closes her eyes, turns around and vanishes into the depths of the marketplace. He reminds himself he has other business to attend and takes of to the telescope area.
CONVERSATION with gamer.
After making his way through the dangerous gang controlled blocks Jek approaches one of the sub group (<= ander woord hiervoor vinden) controlled places. From the outside it looks like small football arena made from soldered pieces of random scrap, covered in lights. But if you look closer the construction is filled with imagery from a past time. Old commercial signs, movie props and carnaval cars. Through the cracks, beams of light illuminate the dust particles. You can hear old school game sounds echoing from outside. This place is known as the 8bit Realm.
The giant main gate opens for Jek after a thorough check by a hologram robot dinosaur door bitch.
Jek looks at something useless he just bought while he walks in and towards the cubical he knows his contact to be at. He looks at the thing from a couple of angles while contemplating to just throw it away. In the cubical lies a man, skinny to the bone, on a modified dentist chair. Everything on the chair is connected, from the computer screen and equipment to cupboards for food pills and a sanitary solution.
“Do not drop your stuff.” he says.
“Huh? I... How did you know... Whatever” and puts the thing in his backpack.
The man loads up a game. It’s called Space Ruler, Epic Edition.
“That’s tacky” Jek says.
“It’s our new Olympic game. Made to test out abilities and see who will have the praise amongst us gamers.”
The game starts and is a top-down view 2d space shooter with hundreds of small space cities battling for survival.
“Do you have some data for me?” The boy asks.
“What you need?”
“I want ocean data from the coast of Norway. Preferably near a city or harbor.”
The gamer dies in the game. Closes his eyes. Breathes deeply. The boy leans towards the gamer, examining his face.
Quietly the gamer says “GG”.
“Open that terminal to the right of the upper right hand side screen.” The gamer’s eyes never leave his screen. His hands never leave the keyboard.
Jek pulls open what turns out to be a server rack.
“Turn it on.”
Jek presses the power button. The gamer takes control without moving a muscle. Jek’s eyes are glued to the screen as the gamer zooms in on a red map of earth. A download appears. The gamer tells Jek to place the payment on a service robot hovering nearby. Jek hadn’t noticed it coming in.
“You want the data sent to your device? Hold it towards the screen.”
Jek starts to feel a light panic rise to his brain. He can’t show his device. The gamer would immediately know his identity. Being from the upper levels, that knowledge would be the end of Jek.
“No, ehm, it’s still broken. Just put it on this.” And with a red face he holds up a disc.
“A writable CD-R?”
“Yes, I hope it has enough space for the data.”
“It surely doesn’t. I like your style though, kid. I will compress the data so it will fit your funky carrier. Do you even have something to read that disk with…?”
“Don’t worry about that. Thanks. Gotta go.”
He moves back up several levels in the ship, arrives at his room, throws his cloak down and kicks his shoes off.
Jek searches through the scanned data from 20 years ago. Fantasizing about a lost island that did not come in contact with the virus. He finds a boat lost at sea with a family on board. A man, a woman and two young girls. Trapped on a vessel with no way back. Just like him. He asks the A I in his room to track the boat through time.
Random thought of jack. Even though we all have the same reproductive organs. We still end up constantly asking ourselves if we found the right one. Or even go through life without having a sexual relationship. Is there logic in everything or is this just the nature of a teens brain. Asking stupid questions with simple answers just to feel smart and progressive. Argh these mind puzzles weird me out. Do I have some space dust left? Jek turns on the air duct that leads out of the ship and lights a metal home made pipe. The AI reminds him it’s bad for his health.
Later the boy feels anxiety and the A I suggests mindfulness. Which she learned from the people talking on the boat.
Jek lies down and has a out of body experience as an albatross. He searches for the boat from the dataset the gamer gave him. Through his natural instincts, he finds it. The people on the boat wave at him as they approach a paradise island. Jek wakes up again. He asks his AI for the footage of the boat. He finds out the whole family had died, except for the mother. She lies on the side of the boat and lets herself drop in the water.
There is no way back, only forward. We have to regain peace on the ship before it's too late.
As he senses someone approaching, Jek sits upright on his bed. The door slides open and his brother comes in. Jek and his brother couldn’t have looked less alike if they tried.
and a big bulky guy with an off-centred, disfigured body comes barging in. He has big veins on the right side of his neck and has a noticeably small head for his body. His clothing is studded with technology to support his heavier side while he moves - “WAKE UP BROTHER” he screams softly. “Don't call me brother you tech’ed up buffoon”, the boy replies. “FATHER WILL SPEAK NOW.”
“Ok, ok, we will listen to his brilliant space vlog”, the boy says. The boy gets hit over the head by the bulky brother while trying to sit up straight. The punch knocks of the boy’s mechanical sleep-braces. He unplugs his ear buds, puts on his boots.
The brothers walk into an oval room where a large man wearing nothing but cut of jeans stands in front of a bright light. “Nice of you to join us Jack, finally awake?”
The boy starts the answer- “Don’t answer that. Will you take the controls Roy? It is time.” A red dot blinks. “Greetings people of the SCC, this is your captain speaking.”
While his father speaks Jack wanders of in his thoughts:
The world was once a dying place. Now it's in between stages. Probably better off without us. Scientists managed to infuse bacteria with technology, a biodegradable smart resource that reproduces itself. When active it gives a red glow. A technology for everyone, ‘BIO-TECH’ they called it. It took the world by storm with all its advantages. No more fossil fuels, no more hunger, perfect health management, a personal coach 24/7 and internet for everyone. BIO-TECH was ‘The Solution to Everything’.
The only downside was human destruction. BIO-TECH very quickly replaced all other technology, connecting everything and everyone. All our data on one big pile of living, reproducing mass.
The change started slow. First, all the big automated fishing ships ran ashore. After that BIO-TECH started to spread to all internet connected devices worldwide. Some technology started to self destruct, others started to build giant devil statues and shrines. It almost seemed like it became possessed. Because mankind was so dependant on this technology the flawless system it provided collapsed completely. Magnetic floating roads dropped, every vehicle became a death trap, all food processing stopped. And with that everyone saw the TECH take the world for itself.
The top leaders in their field, politicians, engineers, scientists, biologists, doctors, athletes, programmers, were put on this ship to save what was left of the earth. That was 20 years ago…
Can we blame my father for all of this chaos on the SCC? Of course not. The people always need someone to fight. A psychologically shared enemy. My father became this person because of lack of leadership talent and greed. But no one hears him sobbing and raging every night while he talks to himself in rage at night.
Because of lack of leadership he became a monster that fights everything. So he always comes out on top. Over good and bad. He has developed this mechanism like all dictators did before him. Some people rise to to help and seek out equality but it makes you venerable. And on a place like this a bit of vulnerability can get you killed in a day.
So I think humanity had this coming. Even though we believe we are born innocent we vary our doings of our forefathers with us. This burden also lies on me.
Jack notices his father is about to wrap up his speech.
“Some of you deserve a chance to live up here, so do your best, live up to your potential. We. Are. Watching. SCC captain Kanis signing out.”
The boy quickly turns around to get back to his room but his father grabs him by the arm. It hurts and immediately he thinks his father knows he has been down below... “My son,” he says “did you notice everyone doing their part? Act accordingly!” With an angry face Jack pulls his arm out of his father's big veiny claw of a hand. “If you don't listen I will make you listen boy.” his father says with a screaming undertone. The boy runs out of the room, through the hallway and slides into his room at high speed. He grabs his disguise and heads off to the lower levels.
At the market he doesn’t over think his actions and walks right up to the girl, takes of his hoodie and tells her: “Take off with me.” She recognises him and takes a step back. “Take off?” she says “Where?”.
“I know a way off the ship”, he says. “You are crazy!” she replies. Their raised voices grab the attention of a lower level guard who is eager to work his way up. Jack notices the guard closing in and takes off into a steamy alleyway. A silhouette in the distance seems to guide him. It tells him where to go through the elaborate alleyway system. He looks back and the guard is not alone anymore. He takes a gamble on the mystic person, hoping it's the girl.
The boy follows the silhouette and runs so fast he slips and crashes into the walls of each corner he comes upon. The guards are gaining on him. He can feel it. A big leap and he catches the silhouette… almost. Careening down the alley the boy suddenly feels a strong hand grab him by the collar. At full speed he slams sideways into what seems to be a wall...
The boy is being held so tight he can’t breath. It is such a tight grip he starts to lose consciousness. His vision is spiralling into a very tightly focussed dot. In the middle of the dot is a hooded person.The grip around his chest loosens and the boy collapses. He almost hits the ground and gets picked up by strong arms. Someone stuffs him into an upright position on an old obsolete control panel. This panel regulated logistics back when the ship was constructed. Now it just sits there, not regulating anything at all.
He becomes tunnel visioned as he sees a hooded person getting closer. The arms loosen, he falls to the ground, feels he is picked up and put down in a sitting position on some old unused control panel that regulated the logistics when the ship was constructed. The ship is full of these places that no one uses anymore. At some point after they lose their function they are disconnected from the main power. Disconnected equals forgotten on the ship. Off the ship, too...
He gets slapped in the face so hard he almost falls off the panel.
“Gently I said you brute!”
A deep and familiar voice says :“Sorry...”
“Ok, ok, lets get him upright again and try to come across friendly. And why did you try to squish him? I keep telling you...” He recognises the girls voice. She gets interrupted.
“Shut it you two. Get him upright. Easy now”
Jack starts to get a grasp on his whereabouts and doesn't know wether to be scared or relieved. “Why did you… ‘cough, cough’ why did you lead me here? And who are you? Do you know who I am? This could get you all killed you know?”
“Don’t be such a cliche” One of his captors says with a raspy voice. The person standing right in front of him lifts his hood. He looks at the old face and recognises the woman from earlier (?). “What do you want?” He says with feigned confidence while trying to sit up straight.
“I wish we could have met under different circumstances,” she says. “But the time is now and we have come too far to stop now. I never wanted for any of this but that moron upstairs is leaving us no choice. I have to explain something that will be hard to grasp so please pay attention.“
Everyone is quiet. The tension is rising. Jack looks at the strangers staring back at him. He is getting a bit freaked out by the silence.
The woman steps forward and emotions seem to take hold of her. The girl puts a hand on her back as a sign of comfort.
“Jack, I am your mother.”
“Wait what?! And you said I was a cliche? You even quoted it wrong...”
“No. I am your mother.”
“That’s better, thanks.”
“You're not listening Jack”, the Brute says.
“You speak? What the hell is going on.”
The woman turns to the brute and says: “That big boy over there is the real son of the person you have known as your father.”
“That actually makes a lot of sense”, Jack says to himself out loud.
“Well, well what about my real father?”
“He died a long time ago in the second coup. He was the one who made me sacrifice you.”
“Sacrifice? You guys all probably thought I had a pretty sweet deal up there?!”
“How can you give away your own child? I’m sorry but this weird scam is just a little too much for me.
Fuck this, fuck you guys, I’m out!”
“And go where?” The woman asks.
“Up” he says! “To a place where people at least tell me their name. Instead of claiming I’m their biological son. If I'm honest, I feel sick. My palms are sweating and my mind feels like its going faster and faster and…”
Jack looks at his hands and is turning white.
“You're just having a panic attack, perfectly normal in your situation. It will pass in a moment. My name is Udayana. That boy you called brute is Raja and the girl is Dewi. And now we got all of that out of the way, I can tell you ‘why’.”
“Let's take the lower class subway. We have risked enough talking here.”
As they wander off together Jack gets some time to think the situation over. “This strange get-together already feels more like family to him than everything that happened in his secluded upbringing on the upper levels of the ship. I feel like I can trust these people but one thing I learned is to trust no one on this ship.” One thing he knows is that he’s the worst liar and that he can't go back up and act like nothing happened. They must have found out he’s away through one of the guards that chased him. He was searching for a way out, so much he even planned out a suicide escape plan back to earth. He realises this might be a crazy plan, but one that is a lot more safe than dying on a teenage runaway dream. So he decides to tag along. Besides Dewi looks like she’s not afraid. Weirdly that gives him comfort.
Jack, Dewi, Raja and Udayana walk with their faces down, hidden within the dark crowds of the ship’s lower levels. The group crosses a bridge to the train platform. On the other side of the bridge there is a staircase going down towards the platform. This is said to be the most dangerous part of the ship. This is gang territory.
Udayana says: “This is the place I went to disappear when I was pregnant with you.” “Glad to find out I have a caring mother all along” Jack says with an annoying amount of sarcasm. Dewi looks at Udayana who in return gives her a look that says: “Ignore him, we have a mission, remember.”
They end up on the platform. The place is empty. You can feel the ships atmospheric engines roaring. Suddenly a train appears. Completely covered with drawings and custom lights. The train signals and stops, they get in.
The people on the train clearly know Udayana, they greet her and make room for the group.
Udayana quickly explains: “There are only 2 stops. The upper levels doesn't even know this cargo train still runs. It only goes though abandoned complexes where the motion detectors long lost their battery life.” Sit down, she says. They sit down on a centered bench on the train.
Then she continues her story to Jack while they start to gain speed.
“As a young woman I gave birth to you by myself on the lower levels. Being one of the few midwives that made it on the ship next to the hundreds of military advisors. I had to work Rang’s wife's labour after just having given birth myself. It was the start of the wave of twins.”
“Your father convinced me to swap you with one of the royal twins. You have to realise this was a time of chaos on the ship. All before the separation of the levels. I did all of this for this day. To see you grow up on that messaging screen was the only thing that kept my mind from turning into ‘lower level steam’.”
“We had a hole plan on how we would create the ultimate spy and keep you as our son. But then Rang (Naam van de boze bad guy) took power and closed all main access ports connecting the levels. The only upside is that you managed to make your own way down. And fate made you bump into us. We have to act now. If we do not, the lower levels will collapse due to lack of clean air and water. We are so close to the atmospheric engine but all of the clean steam first travels up to the top of the ship. Rang feels his power slipping and his health going due to years of stress and radiation. He is turning the ship into his coffin and takes everyone with him.”
“If we want to make a difference and continue living: the time is now. I need you Jack, we need you. Lead us to the top level to take him down.”
Dewi sits down next to Jack. A simple move but it feels like she lets Jack in a bit closer.... No way back now.
Udayana says: “We are here. This stop will take you up to the main hallway. Do you think you can go back up undetected that way?”
“No problem but they probably noticed I have been gone. How will I explain this without getting locked up.”
“You have to find a way. And they won't make you disappear because they need you to act your part in the supreme family.”
Jack gets off the train and stands in this lost part of the ship. He is left in limbo. Endless boxed in darkness. He then turns around, runs towards a wall and swiftly jumps up to one of the pipes going up.