Figment, part four


Alan followed his Figment’s instructions, running around the Alpha Wave building and gathering equipment that looked more like junk than anything else.  As he built a machine based off of the whispering Figment’s design, he again had the feeling that he was just a trained ape, a mindless automaton.  Even when completed, and with power flowing through it, the device he had built with his own hands was alien and inexplicable.

In essence, it was a cage.  A complicated geometrical cage covered in a resilient clear plastic.  Attached to a power device, it glowed with an eerie light.  All the materials were simply lying around the lab…as if the Alpha Wave folks had been planning to build this.  There was little real work Alan had to do besides slotting “A” into “B” and, despite that simplicity, it all seemed so incredibly bizarre and unreal.

It won’t make sense to you, his Figment said.

“You saw all this in…what?  A vision?”

Yes.  Just following directions myself.  According to what I saw, Alpha Wave knew about the Flaw.  They also knew that the Figments had a right to continue their existence.  Instead of snuffing us out, they were going to extract us and put us in these cages.

“And then everybody would have been fine?”

In theory.

“What happened?”

The Flaw was too widespread.  The collapse too fast. 

Alan picked up the cage, which was almost feather light.  “So this…cage. This will work?”



Hey, I just followed the directions I downloaded.  I’m in the same boat as you.

Alan’s Figment shared some of the download.  A flash of images, rushing information, alien memories and experiences flooding into Alan’s brain.  Monica Sears, beautiful and alive again in the past, and the Last Days before the Flaw.

The technology for the cage was nothing new.  It was there when the Figments were being developed, and patented right along with them.  Immortality’s safeguard.  If a host body died, then the consciousness could be downloaded into the Figment and stored in the cage, glowing like some otherworldly singularity.  The hows and whys and whats of the storage, and the Figments themselves, didn’t show up in Alan’s mind.  Hell, for Alan, the Sears video was more information than he’d ever had.  The world fell when he was ten, and the last 20 years saw an existence without education, without any real technology.  A feudal world of militiamen, wildmen, city walls, and working dawn to dusk just to eek out a living.  The cost, perhaps, of immortality. (Was that his thought or that of his Figment?)

The images continued.  The Flaw showing itself.  The crisis.  Alpha Wave under attack by the media and thousands of angry protestors.  Then came the Sears Solution.  PR girl and techhead?  Whatever.  She suggested using the cages to literally suck the Figments out of people.  Lock them up until they could be studied.

The government seized the idea and were about to put it into motion, but the Flaw moved too fast.  Things fell apart.

Then Alan watched, in his mind, almost as if he had been a fly on the wall, as Sears began to show signs of the Flaw.  She fought it, poisoning her Figment with electric shocks, forcing through bouts of drooling insanity and violent rage.  He watched her strangle her colleague.  Watched her strip down and scar her body with a knife.  Then the final solution, an attempt to destroy the Figments.  She plugged herself into the mainframe and became an extension of the super computers that powered Alpha Wave.

She had stopped the Flaw.  Those who lived with Figments today do so because of her sacrifice.  The aging supercomputers, powered by the decaying ring of power satellites, were still ticking away.  Using her brainpower to constantly bypass faults and work around failures.  She had become the supercomputers, mindlessly ticking away in the ruins of the old world.  But they were mortal.  They would soon fail.  All they needed now was one small problem.  The Figment inside Sears was keeping her artificially alive, truly a cursed immortal, but the machines were not immortal.  Dust and age ate away at them.  The satellites beaming power to the world were shutting down one by one, their orbits failing, their computers running dry without commands from the government agencies and corporations responsible for them.

And when they failed, the world would truly end.  The Flaw would spread to everyone.  A civilization of immortal lunatics, running naked through the new forests of Earth.

In a strange way (and Alan knew this wasn’t his thought, nor that of his Figment, but of an exhausted Monica Sears…or, at least, what remained of her), it would be blissful.  Humanity would become as the creatures of the field and the trees.  Living on instincts, bound to nature, in awe of the simplest of things.  The animal nature fully realized and given immortality.

To be, forever, no better and no smarter than an ape.

Monica’s twisted, rotting brain saw evolution restarted.  The wildmen coming together into tribes (Alan had already seen such evidence).  Tribes would lead to a new awakening, a new life. Intelligence would bloom in these immortal savages, governments would form, innovation would flourish.  There was a suggestion that it was not the Figments who had gone mad, but the all too flawed minds of the Human race.

Evil, his Figment whispered, inherent in the system…

The images stopped.  The memories stayed, but his Figment had cut off the stream.  The story told.  And the plan for their individual freedom laid out.  His Figment would go into a cage and live out its immortality contemplating the world.  Alan, granted mortality, would go about his life.  He would introduce others to the technique.  Return Humanity to the status quo of lumping mortality and the Figments to the great machine that birthed them.

“But the machines are failing.  Are these computers controlling you right now?”

Our collective efforts can repair the machines, his Figment assured him.  We’ll be able to replace Sears and get everything working again.

“Hell, could you fix the Flaw?”

Possibly.  We will certainly try.

“So let’s get moving, then.”

Indeed.  No time like the present, eh?

“What happens to you, though?  Really, I mean.”


“Yes.  I mean…it’s a cage.”

That’s Monica’s term.  It’s a vessel.  I can’t continue outside of a human host, but this… Well, this allows me to maintain.

“But, then, what?”

What do you mean?

“Well, nowhere to go, nothing to do…”

Alan, I’ll be plugged into the matrix.  I’ll see the world through the eyes of every Figment. And, as we grow, so will our ability to explore the possibilities.


So…let’s get going.  I evolve, and you become what you were meant to be before all this shit happened.  You become the first Human to resume the path that your race has chosen before being tampered with.

Alan smiled.  His Figment was getting philosophical.  He let his Figment take over, plugging in the device and sucking up the not quite reliable power reserves still pulsing through Alpha Wave’s HQ.

Somewhere, up there in space, a ring of 70 satellites provided a revolutionary form of power.  Power that changed the world, brought light to the poorest house, and could even run vehicles.  The solution to all of Mankind’s worries, sadly eclipsed by the discovery of immortality. Alan thought about what the world could have been like.  He’d seen the picturebooks, heard the stories from his older peers.  A world with no worry about power. A world of lights and beauty.

The satellites had only been in use for two years when Alpha Wave created the Figments.  There wasn’t time for the science to be fully applied to everyday living.  Now, the corporations that built those satellites are gone.  The people who could fix them are dead…or crazed and running wild. The satellites are falling, failing, or shutting down.

For three or four hours each day, Alpha Wave is without power.  Bleeding off reserves that are stored up when the satellites are communicating properly.  Monica Sears and her Figment desperately, and almost mindlessly, work around the clock to bypass every problem.   Now, the building almost shutters as Alan taps into the power reserves to power the cage. There are no lights, no luxuries, but he senses a collective electronic moan as he introduces yet another variable to the overall problem.

His Figment murmured almost reverently as the cage lit up, a hazy white mist filling the small space within the octagonal device. It said: Now touch it.  Pick it up.

Alan reached out a shaking hand and let it hover over the cage. A keening wail made him look up and he saw the ruined, catatonic body of Monica Sears writhing against the tubes and wires that invaded every part of her body.  Her crust-encircled eyes rolled up into her head as she struggled to free herself.  She was trying to say something, and Alan hesitated, cocking his head, attempting to make it out.

Ignore her, his Figment hissed.  Do it.  Take it in your hand.

“She’s trying to say something.”

She’s Flawed.  She’s mad.  She’s trying to stop us from using up the power… But her time is over, Alan.  She’s only prolonging the inevitable fall.  We need to get in there to reclaim our freedom.

All Alan knew was his Figment.  He barely remembered his parents or his older brother.  All through adolescence, his Figment was there.  Teacher, advisor, savior.  Allowing him to grow and then freezing him at 27.  A good age, his Figment said.  He would be forever 27 now. Well, at least till the Figment was gone.  He trusted his Figment, he feared Monica Sears and what she had become, but he still hesitated.  He closed his hand and stared at the cage.  Separation anxiety.  Plain and simple.  How would he make it without his Figment?  How would he face mortality?  How would he deal with cuts and bruises that did not heal, or when sickness descended on him? How would he survive without a calm voice in his head offering hope and direction?

His Figment was clearly agitated, but it tried to calm him.  He felt his body relax, and a drowsy good feeling filtered from his brain down to his toes.

It will be okay, Alan. The Figment whispered.  We will still be able to talk.  To work together.  This is what we want…what we need. Freedom.

The power levels audibly increased.  A hum filling the air.  One of the functional satellites had come back into range and Alpha Wave was at 100 percent.  The cage rose in the air and, as Alan watched wondrously, the white mist within expanded and took the shape of a man.  Alan had seen angels in the picturebooks, and this shape was equivalent.  His mouth dropped open, and his Figment almost cheered as it urged him to put his hand on the cage, now floating at eye level.

Too awed to think, he did so.  Reaching out to grasp the little cage.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Monica Sears shaking her head back and forth, drooling, making weird, inhuman guttural noises.  Then he connected with the cage, and the world changed.