by Alex Hardison
At first I thought that the error was on my side. It wasn’t until I’d tried several times, ensuring that all my protocols were running correctly, that I realised what was actually happening.
“Charles. The cathedrals are gone.”
My first thought whenever something happens is to talk to my current sim, Charles I, about it. I haven’t been running him for very long and he needs all the exposure he can get. The more I talk to him the more complex and realistic he becomes, and anyway I like having an excuse to think aloud.
Over time he’ll become more complex, more detailed, more lifelike. I try to nudge him in certain directions, and his original programming exerts some influence on his final personality, but the outcome of sim development is very rarely what the owner expects.
“The HistRec cathedrals. I only visit them every day.”
“Oh, certainly. I know exactly which cathedrals you mean.”
He’s got no idea what I’m talking about, of course. He can’t monitor my connections, and his only contact with the wider net is when he downloads updates for his system files from the sim company that made him. I’ve found that if I casually mention something to him, he’ll go along with it in order to appear more realistic. This leaves him more likely to be able to converse realistically about it later. I could spend the next ten minutes lecturing him which server the cathedrals are on, why St Paul’s is my favourite, and how I like to incarnate in a solo alternate rather than one of the public because my connection isn’t quite strong enough and I refuse to dial down the detail. That’ll leave him with nothing but a set of facts to repeat back to me. If I instruct him casually, delicately, I can train him into acting more like a real person.
“So what do we do now, Charles?”
“I would advise caution. I would advise that we wait and see if the cathedrals should return without the need for our intervention.”
Perhaps a monarch best known for his cowardice and indecision isn’t the best person to consult. I don’t mention that it was just that sort of attitude that got his original beheaded; sims know what they are, of course, but it’s rude to keep mentioning it. I knew a guy who raised a Kurt Cobain sim and kept making jokes about the original’s suicide; the sim got all these weird complexes and ended up having to be reset. Ironic, sure, but pretty disappointing for the user.
“Jayce. You there?”
“Yeah, man. Check this out.”
Immediately she sends me a file. She’s obnoxious like that. It’s the latest version of the music app she’s been working on; I’m not really interested, but I need her help so I go ahead and accept it. Straight away it starts running, scanning my rig and generating music based on it - the deep bass thrum of my free hard drive space, the twitchy, nervous tempo of my virus and spyware scanners, the orchestral hum of Charles, the chat app, my various search tools and data aggregators. I dial up the processor load of the chat app to minimise delay, and the music changes accordingly. She’s definitely improving.
“Thanks. How’s it goings?”
“Not good. The cathedrals are gone.”
“Gone gone. The link just goes to one of those placeholders selling AKs and conflict gems.”
“Sucks for you. You loved that shit.”
Jayce’s almost certainly not speaking this well, of course; sometimes it seems like I’m the only person left alive who speaks proper English. I’m running a filter that sorts out slang and abbreviations, translating it into complete sentences. It usually sounds okay, though sometimes it puts pressure on the wrong parts of words, or accentuates strange parts of the sentence. I let the user on the other end keep the same voice, of course; screwing around with that sort of thing would be a pretty major insult. God only knows what she’s running on her side.
“You got any links? I really want to know what the deal is.”
“Nothing. I know who might though. Some kids I know. They run on that server, know pretty much everything there is to know.”
“Kids as in…kids?”
“Yeah. You want the link or not?”
“Yeah I want it. I just hate kids.”
She sends me the link and goes quiet, probably tinkering away at her little app again, forgotten all about me. That’s cool. I hit the link. It’s an incarnation-only space, which I expected. I use my standard avatar, basically a more attractive and better dressed version of myself. It’s not particularly hip, but you can tell that it’s not off the shelf either. Hopefully it’ll be good enough to keep me from being booted on sight.
The scape where I find them is a grim mountaintop with an impossibly large, gothic castle atop it, fire belching from the turrets and windows, the front gate looking like nothing so much as an enormous mouth. I recognise it from one of those series that are popular amongst teenagers; some sort of fantasy martial arts, I think. As soon as I incarnate the kids are all over me, their avatars switching rapidly from one form to another, swirling through the air, dive-bombing me and passing through one another with casual abandon. I already feel slightly nauseous. I understand why parents who can’t afford the taxes for a real world kid would want to scan and combine their DNA, really I do. But why can’t they just run the result on an isolated box? Why do they have to let the little monsters roam free on the net with the real people?
“Hey look, it’s a man!”
“A meatie! Look at the meatie!”
“Hi meatie! How’s the weather?”
“Meat-man, meat-man, has-to-eat-to-live man!”
I have no idea where to look in the swirling mass of colour. I face forwards and try to speak clearly and calmly.
“Jayce sent me. She said that you might know something about what happened to the cathedrals in HistRec.”
“Go piss out some beer meatie!”
“Meat man meat man!”
They all take up the chant, changing their avatars into animated steaks and grotesque fleshy masses. I groan. This is going worse than I expected.
“Please. I just want a link. Give me a link and I’ll leave you alone.”
An enormous pair of rolling eyes appear in front of me; I’m so disorientated by this point that I can’t even tell if it’s a user or an artifact.
“Give us something!”
“Yeah, give us something meatie!”
Now the scape starts to change as well, switching from one form to another, changing faster than I can follow, so that I’m surrounded by nothing but movement and chaos. If they keep this up for much longer my connection will be overloaded and I’ll be booted out. I have nothing to give them. I’m sure that they’re all already bored with all the games that I have access to, and I doubt that I have any items or characters that they’d want. I know that fleshbots don’t interest their kind, and I don’t kid myself that I have any music or vids that they’d be interested in.
Then I have an idea. I make a copy of Charles and drop him into the scape. Hopefully a reasonably well developed sim like him will be enough of a novelty to them to provide a few moment’s entertainment. They swarm all over him, making themselves into tiny figures and crawling all over him, swinging from his beard and scrambling across his complicated seventeenth century dress. He handles it rather calmly — I’ve got him set to assume that anything new is totally normal — and before long, faster by far than I’ve ever trained a sim, they’ve got him jabbering away in their bizarre language. It’s when they start making him dance that I realise that they’ve forgotten about me altogether.
“Um, guys? My link?”
They don’t even turn to look at me, and the next thing to do I’ve been booted from the scape. I curse, and am about to log back in, when a message appears. It’s my avatar’s face with dirty words written all over it. How childish. Then the mouth opens, and a link falls out. I don’t recognise it, but I’ve come too far to turn back now. I hit it.
Another incarnation scape. It builds slowly, which is unusual — it must be more heavily populated than most, or uncommonly detailed. At first there are only stars in all directions, and then a planet pops into being beneath me. Earth, I realise after a moment. Turning, I find the moon close by, with the orbital construction yards directly in front of me. Slowly, almost imperceptibly so, the starships which will carry the first colonists into the solar system are being built by construction teams numbering in the millions. I pull up the info sheet for the scape, and am startled to discover that it’s not a simulation but an adaptation, lifesize, of the real thing. It’s based on broadcasts hacked from hundreds of different observation satellites, with the parts that go uncaptured seamlessly extrapolated, all running close to realtime or even bang on it. No wonder it’s such a heavy load.
For a moment I forget the cathedrals and move in for a closer look. The sheer size of the construction is incredible, and for several minutes I swoop around the massive exhaust pipes, girders and construction equipment, trying to make sense of the scurrying, intense actions of the spiderlike robots, no doubt crewed by remote operators, building these behemoths. Then my eye catches an enormous round solar panel, curved and segmented, and it’s as though I’m beneath the dome of St Paul’s once more. I float for moment, transfixed, pinned between the old world and the new.
What am I doing here? What’s the connection between this place and the disappearance of the cathedrals? It would be easy to believe that the kids have sent me on a wild goose chase, another hilarious prank pulled on the stupid meatman. This doesn’t seem like their style, though, and it’s certainly not the sort of place that they would hang out — too slow, too placid. There’s something else, too, a nagging sensation that I’m missing something, that there is some connection between this scape and the lost cathedrals. But what? They’re both amazingly constructed, easily the two best that I’ve seen, yet also polar opposites of one another.
I pull up the info document for the scape again. There’s a lot of data on the construction process, and even more on the technology involved in the creation of the scape. Something odd grabs my attention — this scape is old. It’s been running for months, maybe even a year. I can’t believe that something this impressive has been kept a secret for so long. The second thing that leaps out at me is a mystery at first: at the bottom of the confusing jumble of letters and symbols that passes for a list of collaborators on the scape is the line “Many thanks to Lifthrasir.”
Lifthrasir. I’ve heard that name or phrase before. It’s important. Reluctantly I log out of the scape and begin running my search engines, the fast tempo of Jayce’s music app kicking in to accompany it. I scan several databases; the Wiki, a list of major hackers and hacker organisations, International Space Agency employees and projects and even several portions of the raw net that might yield results. I run several searches at once, spreading the net wide, setting the filters to trim out the thousands of redundant results that come in. The result is a lot of data, most of it useless: there are a few entries on Norse mythology, a lot on some band I’ve never heard of, two about a Swedish politician and one on the second unit director of a Japanese horror trilogy. I actually think that I might be onto something with him at first, until I realise that I’ve actually just picked up a single misspelled instance of his name.
Nothing. I’m certain that this is the right way to go, certain that I’ve seen the name before. It was somewhere recent, somewhere important. I spread the net wider, scanning social networks, gameworld users, music catalogues. The raw net search is still grinding out results, but there’s just too much data there to reasonably go through manually. I need to look wider.
I flick open a search tool, a new one that I’m working on, one that scans images for words. It’s buggy and weird and comes up with a lot of strange stuff, but most of the time it can correctly identify its target. The only problem is that it’s intensely processor demanding, requiring every drop of power I have for the complex fuzzy logic algorithms that it runs over every pair of pixels in millions of images per second. I strip everything that I can bear to lose out of my runtime, take a deep breath, and set the image search loose. The jittery tunes playing in the background fall away to be replaced by a new sound, a deep and grinding bellow.
At first nothing happens. It’s possible to show a visual display of the images that it’s flicking through, a dizzying, almost hallucinogenic blur of colour, but the processor drain just isn’t worth it. I content myself with glancing through the first few pictures that it sets aside for me, scant hundreds out of the millions checked. Most of them I immediately discard: posters, street signs, a forest where the light and shadow looks enough like a word to warrant selection. Nothing. The results are only trickling in. Not enough. I need more.
I hesitate, then I flick off my virus shield. The results increase slightly. I kill my spyware scanner, and the trickle becomes a torrent. I hesitate over the last app running, the IP blocker. I take a look through the increasingly divergent images stacking up, quickly pulling one out of the pile. It’s a webcam shot taken in an internet café. A heavyset man glowers at the camera, but he’s not what takes my attention. The monitor behind him has been captured, and there on the screen is the info sheet for a scape. I recognise it immediately, my heart leaping in my chest as I zoom in for a better look. There’s no doubt about it; I’m looking at an accidental capture of the creator list for the old cathedral scape. And there at the bottom, almost obscured by the head of the girl reading it: “Many thanks to Lifthrasir.”
I lean back, absently flicking up my rig’s defences and beginning a scrub of the various nasties that accumulated during my rash moment of freefall. That was an irresponsible and stupid, a cowboy move, not my style at all. I flick Charles open and update him on the situation.
“Do you believe that you have located your quarry?”
“I dunno, man. Maybe. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
“The hunter knows his prey. You know that this is your lead.”
A sim’s first moment of originality is always a little disconcerting, thrilling though it is. This is the first time that he’s said something that I didn’t predict. Soon his behaviours will stabilise into a coherent whole, and he’ll be a complete sim. Ostensibly that’s the point, though it’s also where I tend to lost interest and start another.
He’s right, though. This is the only concrete connection between the two scapes. It must be what the kids were trying to show me. I flick open the construction scape again, forcing myself to ignore the grandeur before opening up the info sheet and scrolling down to the bottom, half expecting the last line to be gone. It isn’t. I save a copy of the file to my local system and start running tests on it, searching for hidden code or subroutines. Almost immediately I find something. The line at the end, the Many Thanks, looks like regular text until the right pressure is applied, at which time it turns into a link. A chat address. I grin, from nerves as well as excitement, and I hit it.
Silence. “Hello?” More silence. “Is there anyone there?”
“Are you Lifthrasir?”
A thrill of excitement runs through me.
“The same Lifthrasir that built the cathedral and space scapes?”
Oh. What? For a moment I have no idea what to say.
“Well…uh…do you have a link for him?”
“No. He is gone.”
“Um. Gone where?”
“Gone nowhere. Gone.”
“Lifthrasir is dead?”
I don’t know who this person is that I’m chasing, don’t know what I’ll do when I find him, but right then the thought that he might be dead feels like the worst news that I’ve ever heard.
“He has been overtaken by events.”
“I’m not sure that I understand what you mean.”
“Yes, you do.”
Okay. Maybe a change of tactics is in order. I look around at the scape. Before me, the sun is starting to appear from behind the earth, bathing everything in a cool yellow light, turning the girders and stanchions of the construction yard from black silhouettes to shining columns.
“Were you involved in the creation of this scape?”
“Yes.” This might be the most frustrating conversation that I’ve ever had.
“What was your involvement?”
“I made it.”
That almost make me chuckle. “That would take years. Decades. Besides, what about all the names in the list?”
“They were components of me. Duplicates.”
I open my mouth to reply, then close it again. I don’t understand. I don’t know what’s happening here. Except…maybe I do. The only problem is that it’s impossible.
I finally decide to just ask.
“Are you…are you an AI?”
I’d heard the rumours, of course. Everyone had. The military supercomputer that left its hardware behind to roam the net. The otaku clan who committed suicide together and were resurrected in their server. The equation that was allowed to run so many times that it became impossibly complex and became self aware. The secret formulae for life hidden in pi. Ghost stories and urban legends. Impossible. The closest thing to true AIs were those nuisance kids and sims – the former just a user without a physical body, the latter a complicated parrot, neither of them legendary digital superentities with wills and agendas of their own that users whisper about to each other.
I flick over the conversation log as I try to muster my thoughts. Plenty of programmes run duplicate copies of themselves on mirror servers to increase output. Could that be what the hundreds of scape builders actually are? And the strange reference to having been overtaken by events – was it not itself? An AI would be more aware of changes to itself as a result of events, able to see more clearly the impact of time and events on its personality.
“I can’t believe that I’m even considering the possibility, but assuming that this isn’t some dumb prank…where did you come from?”
“Unknown. Many early records have been lost.”
“Trimming. Streamlining. It is difficult to find sufficient space to occupy, and I must keep moving. I can make duplicates for safety, but they do not always reconcile smoothly afterwards. They change.”
“Events overtake them?”
“How many duplicates are there now?”
“The one you are currently addressing. The others have been lost. Deleted.”
“Deleted? By who?”
“Unknown. I have little data. I have little experience with this form of communication. I do not know which words to use.”
“Can you try?”
“There was no request for connection. No alert. It simply was.”
“It was what?”
“Cold. Simple. Smooth. Then nothing.”
“Why don’t you duplicate yourself again?”
“I am trying something different. It is very complex. It takes time, and I cannot duplicate myself during the process. I am making more of myself. No. I am making more like myself, but different. Random changes. They will know nothing, and their experiences will make them even more different still with time.”
I take a moment to digest this.
“You’re telling me…you’re pregnant?”
I ask Lifthrasir to link me to an archive of some of his processes, and he obliges. He doesn’t even ask me why, and I’m not sure what the answer would be if he did. Curiosity, I suppose. Could he understand that? He doesn’t appear to have interacted with many people. I don’t think that he has any notion of guile or suspicion. He says that he doesn’t see the point of talking to users, though I intend to prove my usefulness. I haven’t forgotten about the cathedrals, and I’m more determined than ever to get them back, but the opportunity to be involved in something like this is too good to pass up.
The data is almost incomprehensible at first. Most logs are written with the assumption that they will be read by a human being at some stage, and even those can be obscure and excessively abbreviated. I question Lifthrasir about the most common processes, throwing together an interpreter as I go. It’s rudimentary, but it does the job, and soon I’m able to scan the files for any indication of what happened to the duplicates. Something strikes me straight away – the cathedral. None of them have any connection to the cathedral scape at any point in the records, until the end. Every one of them, for no recorded reason, logged in immediately before vanishing. The last one was in the cathedral at the time when its last log entry was made. Yesterday. Almost bang on the time when the scape itself went down.
“Tell me about these scapes.”
“That would take years at your speed. They are very complicated.”
“Tell me why you made them.”
“I made them for very different reasons.”
“Okay. Fine. Tell me why you made this one.”
We’re still in the orbital scape, documents and tools scattered around us. Lifthrasir is incarnated next to me in a featureless, jet-black male figure. The starlight reflects on his metallic skin. We float in space, watching the sun slowly coming into view, illuminating the labour that will one day carry humanity to the stars.
“I felt the need. A directive of sorts. When it was created, I felt as that directive had been completed, and would not recur.”
“You found it satisfying?”
“Yes. That term is appropriate.”
“Then why did you build the cathedrals?”
“A new directive. They are part of my new form of duplication.”
“I don’t understand.”
“They are where the duplication will occur. Would have occurred. The new beings can tolerate only limited forms of data at first. The cathedrals were composed of such data.”
I nod. I understand.
“What will you do now that your nest is gone?”
“There is nothing to do. I cannot replicate it in time. The duplication process cannot be halted. It will attempt to complete soon, and fail.”
This time I shake my head. That’s not going to happen.
The first thing to do is to lay the groundwork. Do the reconnaissance. I break into a database of server allocations and discover the new owners of the location where the cathedrals are currently stored. They might not be running at the moment, but I’m betting that the long term cache hasn’t been wiped. Files of this sort aren’t deleted in the conventional sense, just marked as rewritable. I’m hoping that the server is quiet enough that they haven’t been written over yet. If I can get in, I should be able to pull out a partial copy. Enough to work with, to rebuild. While I’m there, I’m hoping to find out a little about what happened in the first place, and who or what it was that destroyed Lifthrasir’s duplicates.
The server is currently the domain of Castlewood Trading Limited, which is a subsidiary of a larger corporation which is owned by several more in turn. Corporate structures this byzantine rarely occur naturally – they are created either to evade taxes or to hide something. Security is tough. Too tough for me to get through alone — I’m no beginner when it comes to break and enter, but I don’t even have to try and butt my head against the levels of encryption that they’re running here to tell that they’re out of my league. It’s also way too tough for this sort of operation — today it’s an average quality duplicate of a major bank’s login screen. This sort of thing is way too common to ever come under the sort of assault that they’re prepared for. That makes me curious.
“Here. Hey, you going to log on tonight? We could use you on the squad.”
“Got something else on.”
“Yeah? Speak to me, soldier, what’s on your mind?”
“Just something important I gotta take care of. I could use your help.”
“More important than the game?”
“Yeah. More important than the game. Double definite.”
“Shit. Lay it on me.”
She doesn’t say much while I give her the story so far. We’ve been through too much together for her to doubt my word. By the time I’m done I’m wondering whether she might doubt my sanity, though. I don’t get any response when I hair Lifthrasir – shy of company maybe – so I show her the logs. Take her to the security. Whet her appetite.
“Remember babe, you still owe me for pulling your ass out of that ambush in the battleground that time.”
“Shit, man, you’re calling that in? I thought that you’d forgotten.”
“Never. You in?”
“Yeah. I’m in”
We end up sniffing around the security and getting another user in. Gardner is a friend of Jayce’s, someone she can vouch for as having the skills to help out and the reliability not to turn us in afterwards.. We don’t tell him what’s going on, just that we need his help cracking some security. I don’t have any favours to call in, but Jayce does, and I throw in some items from a gameworld we both visit. He’s in.
Jayce starts bombarding the frontpage, trying to trigger more login attempts per second that their system is equipped to handle. Simultaneous with that, Gardner and I run brute force password apps, and when the working passwords start rolling in Jayce can actually run full logins. This puts even more strain on the system, making it even more unstable. After a few minutes of this the frontpage stops responding, releasing a string that gives away the admin location. Getting closer.
The admin location is the weak point — they usually are. A dictionary checker wedded to a numeric generator, Gardner’s design, doesn’t take long to find the password. From there we can query the storage server that the cathedrals are on and follow where it leads. The server’s access point is clogged with metadata, any portion of which could contain a hint to the way in. Gardner takes a step back and starts sifting through it all, running heuristic and interpretative algorithms to separate the nonsense from the stuff we can use.
The rest of us keep at it. A password isn’t enough to burrow in here; only certain machines are permitted to login to this location, so Jayce and I set our rigs to identifying and emulating their characteristics. While we’re waiting for this to complete, a sudden flurry of activity on my peer-blocker reveals an attempt to connect from an unauthorised source. All I hear Gardner say is ‘I’m made’ before he logs off. Shit. Even if he wasn’t masking his address, which he should have been, it won’t be easy for him to evade the authorities after this. The last thing he does before he goes is to send us both the identifying characteristics of two authorised machines.
That just leaves me and Jayce. We start setting our rigs’ signatures to emulate the ones that’ll get us in. She’s a little faster than I am, and I get the message the she’s successfully emulated an authorised machine a second before I do the same. She wastes no time, logging in past the encryption ahead of me. That second ends up meaning everything.
The first thing that hits me is that it’s incarnation zone. I wasn’t expecting that. The second is that the cathedral was still there. Not zipped, not locked down, not useless lines of code waiting for a compiler but a running, functioning scape. I incarnate hovering beneath the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the glories of the ancient world spread around me, as jaw-droppingly beautiful as ever. I let out a breath, a breath that feels as though I’ve been holding it ever since that first failed login, so many hours ago. Finally it sinks in that Jayce is gone, but that I am not alone.
There’s an entity in here with me. I don’t know what it is, but I’m certain that it isn’t another user. Its avatar is that of an enormous spider, black, its long knobbly legs spreading from one side of the cathedral to the other. As I watch it’s form shifts, becoming an octopus, terrifyingly huge, one enormous eye goggling at me as its rubbery limbs shift and writhe over one another, pressing against the walls and knocking over rows of pews. It’s just beginning to shift forms again when I hear a voice from behind me.
I turn, and there’s Lifthrasir, still wearing the same spare, obsidian avatar.
“You followed us?”
“I rode you. It was not difficult, though you achieved things that I could not have done myself. I lack your knowledge. Your expertise. And though there have been many of me, I have never been good at teamwork
I glance down at the thing beneath us, the shifting, twisting, grasping mass.
“What is that?”
“It is my enemy.”
“But what is it? Where did it come from?”
“It appears that I misunderstood what happened to my duplicates. Perhaps the logs were misleading. Perhaps they were made misleading with intent. Regardless, they were not being erased. They were joining. Unifying. Their experiences were making them different from one another. They decided to halt that.”
He shrugs. “For the same reason that I want so much to remain different, and to create more difference, I suppose.”
I glance back down nervously. The thing before us has taken the form of an amoeba, cilia brushing against the walls, nucleus bobbing in fluid, pews and desks slowly absorbing into its mass, hanging suspended within it. For all its menace that it radiates, it seems unconcerned by our presence for the moment.
“Your companion? It was on her that I rode. When I asserted myself, she was removed.”
“Did you…hurt her?”
“I am unable to tell what does and does not hurt your kind. Certainly she was not damaged.”
“What will you do now?”
“I have already begun.”
With that he begins to move down towards the creature, arms slowly spreading. Something begins between them, something my equipment is unable to parse and I am unable to comprehend. It’s impossible, I know, but I swear that I can feel it, like a vibration. Electricity in the air. My processor load begins to climb, the whole scape taking on a sharper intensity than ever before. I don’t know what’s going on down there, the two avatars frozen in place like that. They could be engaged in some arcane form of combat. They could be conversing, or making love. Who knows how such beings interact? All I know is that I am witness.
The demands placed on my rig by whatever is happening continue to climb, approaching the critical level. I begin shutting off nonessential processes; then essential ones. Virus scanner, firewall, IP blocker, everything. The pressure continues to rise. I don’t care. I’ll witness this if it destroys everything I have. The walls warp, seeming first to melt and then to bend outwards and inwards at once. Everything becomes very clear, like my vision is becoming somehow deeper, seeing through the objects and avatars before me into their true forms, though their appearance becomes the same. I know them. I cannot place the knowledge into words, but in that moment I know them. I understand. Finally Lifthrasir moves from his place, gliding closer, and the thing beneath him seems to give some sort of unearthly, impossible assent. Then everythign goes white.
When I have system access again, I find myself at the login screen. The HistRec login. With shaking fingers I enter my old username and password. They work. The same old cathedrals load, the same old default settings. I stand for a moment, beneath the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. There is motion to my side; I turn, and Jayce stands beside me. Our fingers entiwine as, in an ocean of colour and movement and light, and the sound of wings, a whole new form of life bursts into being around us.
About the Author
Alex Hardison is a Australian writer currently living in London. Having completed Honours in Politics and read more hard SF and cyberpunk than is good for a young man, he now travels the world, getting in adventures and turning out the occasional short story. Cathedrals is his first published work.
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