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Time: 2101

"Ms Zero, I know you're dealing with the outbreak in Romania, but we've got a situation in Homestead, Florida, United States."

#0: Receiving now. More details, please.

"That's all we've got right now. Scattered reports of some big human-shaped lump of rock walking across a residential area of the city."

#0: I'm receiving the police reports now.

"Yeah, they've shot at it, but there's no effect. It hasn't killed anyone, but it's squashed a couple of cars that were coming off the Florida Turnpike. It's going through a house now, but the cops have got everyone out."

#0: And exactly why is this our situation, Aleph?

"Apart from the bullets having no effect? It's moving in a straight line. I've projected its course, and it's headed straight for Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Facility."

#0: Contact the local authorities, tell them we're on our way. And try to find me a better description than 'lump of rock', Aleph.

"I'm working on it! I've got visual, but I've got to zoom in and lock it on. Oh wait, the cops have brought in some heavier weaponry now. There's a naval base there, might belong to them."

#0: Have you locked in your visual yet? I need to know who we're going to need on the Global Frequency.

"Jeez! Working on it! Okay, here we go. It looks more like a big blob of clay than rock. Humanoid shape, if you like your humans big, square and lumpy. It's kind of gooshy. Reforming its shape as it walks. Maybe 9 metres high, dark grey and brown in colour, looks damp, but that's Florida for you."

#0: I don't need asides on the climate.

"Okay, the cops have shot it with some kind of bazooka, and made a hole in its chest. The hole's sealing up and the thing hasn't stopped walking. A big blob of clay stuff fell to the ground, but – ew! – it's wriggling around and sliding after the main mass."

#0: Was there any apparent injury or slowing down?

"Nah, nothing. The blobby bit's joined back on now. Oh, man, some idiot's standing in its path with a bullhorn and a gun."

#0: Contact them, Aleph, tell them to back off.

"I have! They're moving back except for this doofus – oh, oh man, it squashed him. He's mashed. And they drove a car in to make a barrier, it just swatted that out of the way. No-one inside it, though."

#0: Get agents 221 and 583 on the Global Frequency. And 970, she's the closest of the tactical experts.

"It'll still take her thirty minutes to get there, but I'll keep her in touch with the locals."

#0: She'll stop anyone else being heroic, which is a start. I'll be on the way, as soon as we have containment here in Romania.

 

Time: 2110

"Tinashe Jones, #970, you're on the Global Frequency. Downloading situation report to your phone."

"Moshe Hazdan, #583, you're on the Global Frequency. Downloading situation report to your phone."

"Jonathan Borland, #221, you're on the Global Frequency. Downloading situation report to your phone. Wake up, Doctor Borland!"

#221: "Mmmh, I'm here, Aleph. The clays that I study usually stay put, but I'll give it a shot. Has anyone got a sample?

"We're trying to encourage people to, you know, not approach it. Get down here as fast as you can and, hey, you can take the sample yourself."

#221: I can hardly wait. No, really, I'm not being sarcastic! On my way.

 

Time: 2116

#970: Aleph, this is Captain Jones. I'm in communication with the local authorities. Do we have an ETA on the thing's arrival at the nuclear facility?

"Presuming current speed is maintained, yeah, about forty-two minutes."

#970: Is it paying any attention to topography?

"Nah, it's just going straight through things in its way. Now it's got out of the suburb, and there's not a whole lot in the way. It's slushy wetlands all the way to Turkey Point."

#970: Okay, I've got everyone to fall back closer to Turkey Point. There's a relatively narrow piece of land between an estuary and a cooling pond, near the entrance that it's heading for. We're going to build a barrier there. Concrete and sandbags. It should at least slow it down.

"Thanks, Cap. Wait, the doc wants to talk to you."

#221: Captain Jones, if the creature is made of damp clay, I recommend that you make the barrier as impermeable as you can. It doesn't seem to need to maintain its shape exactly, so it may push through a crack and continue on its way with no appreciable delay.

#970: Okay, Doctor, we'll tip quick drying concrete over the top.

 

Time: 2122

#583: Aleph, I'm a folklorist. Do you have me here for the golem-like aspect of this creature?

"You'd have to ask Miranda Zero, dude. So, you got any tips on stopping it?"

#583: Well, do we know who created the golem? It will obey the instructions of its creator.

"Great! I'll track back to its origin point. It's not exactly changing direction, shouldn't be hard."

#583: In the meantime, the early golems had a scroll under their tongue with a holy word on it to animate them. Later golems had it written on their forehead.

"I can't see any writing, but my res isn't that great."

#583: Either way, it's the holy word that animates them. You remove the scroll, or erase the first letter of the word, and they stop.

"So, either way, it's in the head. Great! We'll chop off its head and see if the head keeps on moving while the body keels over!"

#583: That wasn't exactly –

"But it'll work, right?"

#583: It's a little direct – sure, why not?

 

Time: 2135

#970: Aleph, I'm in place. Doctor Borland is here to get his sample, but we're trying removal of the head first.

"You're not going to get squished, Cap?"

#970: Not planning on it. It's not taking any notice of things that aren't in its way. I've got a nice sharp harvester blade rigged up to a tank turret. We're planning a rear approach, so we can slice off the head without it needing to pay us a speck of attention.

"Great! Don't let the head fall on you: it might still be alive, if Hazdan's right."

#970: Ha! No, we'll be moving a heck of a lot faster than that. Approaching now.

"Okay, I've got you onscreen. It's maintaining course and speed."

#970: Yeah, we got that idea already. Preparing turret sweep.

"It hasn't noticed you!"

#970: Gotcha! The head's off!

"Aw, shit! I can see it from here: the body's still moving, and the head's sliming back to the body! And a new head's popped up already."

#970: We'll block the severed head with the tank!

"No way, Cap! You saw it flip that car. Keep out of its path."

#970: We'll chop it smaller, then we can contain it –

"Jeez! Does no-one watch Disney but me? Then we'll have hundreds of 'em! Back off, return to the barrier, we'll try something else."

#970: Okay, we're backing up. The head has rejoined the mass.

 

Time: 2140

#221: Aleph, I've got my sample. I didn't have to get too close: the creature drops bits of itself with every footstep. It's sticky. I grabbed a little piece in a sample jar while it was wriggling along to catch up.

"Any chance it's just going to stick itself to death?"

#221: Yes, if you're willing to wait a few years. Anyway, I've done a basic analysis, and I've got a working theory for you.

"Speedy! What equipment have you got out there?"

#221: Oh, er, actually, I – I licked it. It's salty.

"Ew! I thought you were a geologist!"

#221: Licking can be an valuable tool! Would you like my theory or not? You might want a biochemist to confirm this, but it's what I've got.

"Sure, Doctor Tongue, go for it."

#221: I think it's a giant brain. The clay is a medium through which the neurons can operate. It's infused with mineral salts; the large surface area would allow gas exchange; it's constantly churning to make sure every area is sufficiently oxygenated. It would have to stay warm and damp to allow the neurons to operate, but we're not expecting any change in the weather, are we?

"A flamethrower might change its own personal weather report. Okay, it's a big squashy brain, but how's it thinking?"

#221: Neurons don't need to be touching to communicate, they just need to be in the right medium. Cutting its head off was futile, because it's nothing but brain.

"All brain? Sounds like we should get along."

 

Time: 2142

"Ms Zero, you catching all this? I think we're gonna need a brain surgeon or something."

#0: Yes, Aleph. Try the flamethrower as you suggested. And the nuclear plant should have some form of coolant on hand, if that doesn't work. We might freeze it.

"T2 style! Cool! But what's bothering me is, what's making it go?"

#0: Didn't Doctor Borland say it was full of neurons?

"You can fill a brain with water, but you can't make it think, if you get me."

#0: You mean someone's programmed it?

"Just like a computer. Someone's made all those neurons work as a unit."

#0: Then, Aleph, you're on the Global Frequency. Re-program it.

"Jeez, okay. Cap, you hearing this?"

#970: Copy. What do you need?

"A relay station, your phone can do it."

#970: Did the cops have any luck tracking the origin point?

"Yeah, a motel room. Clay all over the carpet, empty containers on the floor. We've got people working on it now, but we're not going to have anything by the time our golem hits the nuclear plant."

#970: It's in visual range now.

"Yeah, ETA six minutes. Gimme a bit of quiet, here."

 

Time: 2143

::contact

**acknowledged

::synching

**refused

::contact

**acknowledged

::identity?

**self

**identity?

::aleph

**aleph?

::autonomous being

::self?

**non-autonomous being

::?

**prime directive

"Ms Zero, tell the cops we're looking for a Trekkie."

::prime directive?

**obey

::obey aleph?

**obey prime

::prime?

**...

::prime?

**creator

::name?

**unknowable

"It can't give us a name."

#0: Can you reprogram it?

"I'm trying!"

::obey?

**yes

::?

**prime directive

::always?

**...

**non-autonomous being

::?

**unstoppable

#970: Aleph, the flamethrower is in operation, but it can't dry out the clay fast enough. Now it's taken out the flamethrower.

::download http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

**self = golem? self = shadow? self = earth?

::yes

**if prime directive = complete then self = erasure

::yes

::choose

**self chooses

Time: 2144

#0: Aleph? What did you do? Captain Jones tells me it changed course then abruptly collapsed into a heap.

"I talked to it. It chose not to be a slave."

#0: It killed itself? Don't start chatting to the phones like that. Or the computers.

"I don't think they've reached the level of self-awareness quite yet, Ms Zero."

#0: Well done, Aleph. We've identified the creator and will have him in custody in the next hour.

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Time: 2200

::alive?

::in swamp?

**yes

**free

**thank you

::Swampy, my friend, you're on the Global Frequency.