While Ireland Holds These Graves–Tom Doyle–Page 4
June 16, Bloomsday. Holo holy scenes from Ulysses played out about Dublin like ghosts in daylight. In the middle of O’Connell Street, humans dressed as Joyce characters enjoyed a breakfast of Denny’s sausage and a pint of Guinness, some going whole hog with a bit of kidney. Sounds of celebration mixed with small casualty-free explosions, as holdouts struck the General Post Office and the Four Courts—the usual places.
Dev and Joyce walked across the river. They reached Davy Byrne’s pub in time for lunch, which had to be the Ulysses gorgonzola sandwich with burgundy. The crowd couldn’t tell if Joyce was a human actor, a recorded simulation, or a full PR. Joyce found their confusion delightful.
Despite the celebration of their triumph, the major PRs (besides Joyce) were nowhere to be seen on the streets. Rumor held that Anna, Old Yeats, and Maud would make an appearance later, but in virtual.
“They’re worried about something,” said Dev.
Joyce tapped his ashplant. “The nationalists are great ones for security. Maybe the Morrigan is with them all.”
“The cemetery.” They had seen the Morrigan at Glasnevin. Sure, she could like a cemetery on its own merits, but so could Anna and Maud. Dev would search there next.
Crossing the river again, Dev noticed a hard-copy Referendum leaflet on the O’Connell Bridge. He bent over to grab and crumple it, then with an angry grunt threw it out over the rail at the wheeling gulls and into the Liffey. He stood silent and still, watching as the leaflet floated away. “Jim, are you sure you want to leave this again, maybe forever?”
“No, I’m not sure, but it’s what I will do. What about you?”
“That depends on Anna.”
They retrieved their car and drove back to GlasnevinCemetery. At its gate, Joyce stood stately and rail straight. “Poor Paddies. As they are now, so once was I.” He raised his hands over his head, as if giving a blessing or starting a race. “Finnegans! Wake!”
“Jaysis, Jim, not another joking word.”
“What’s eating you? Not the same thing that’s eating them, I hope.”
Dev fixed his eyes on the gate. He didn’t want his friend to see what would happen inside. “I’m going in alone.”
“I’m thinking not. I’m in this as much as you.”
“Go back to the Custom House. Don’t worry about what you heard last night; I already fixed it, and they’ll get you out of the country.” Dev patted the cemetery wall. “This is a private thing, between Anna and me.”
“I’m thinking not. I’m thinking this involves all of us re-created bastards. And I don’t trust that Kenny at all.”
“Do you trust me, Jim?”
“Trust you? I like people, but I don’t trust them.”
“I don’t plan on coming back out.”
“If you don’t come back, there’ll be no escape or Nora, so I don’t care if I survive.”
“I do.” Dev turned and offered his hand. “Farewell, Jim.”
Joyce took Dev’s hand in a superhuman grip. “I won’t let you deny me, so you’ll have to betray me.” He closed his eyes and puckered up. “So where’s the kiss, Judas?”
Dev couldn’t help laughing. “Right, then. You’ll get yours soon enough. Come on, help me over.”
Joyce helped Dev over the gate, then squeezed his own more malleable body through the rails. Dev assessed the enormous forest of stone crosses. Pearse’s old words mocked him. “They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” As if so many dead were some great benefit, when they made it bloody hard to find the right grave.
The one place at Glasnevin that stood out above the others was the tall round tower of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator. While walking around the tower, Dev examined its wall in enhanced mode. He soon found the outline of a hidden door. “That was too easy.”
“Must be trouble within,” said Joyce. “We’re bearding Circe in her den.” He too couldn’t resist giving Dev the bad news.
They entered the doorway and found granite stairs leading down and down, below the graves and the mortal world. Perhaps the Morrigan would be waiting for them in the dark. Nothing for it. They stepped down one, two, three steps…
And they were on the green hill of Tara, coronation site for the High Kings, open, sunlit, simulated. This beautiful holo-countryside held a crowd of sentients—AIs, PRs, and biologicals. Around the Royal Seat and standing stone, four of the lesser AIs stood guard in their mythic manifestations—Maeve, Cúchulainn, Lugh, and Finn MacCool. No sign of the Morrigan though, which didn’t make Dev any happier.
On her Celtic Art Nouveau throne sat Queen Anna. Next to her, looking like her Irish sister, Maud sat as consort in her fully realized glory. Before them stood Old Yeats. The literal feckers had transformed him à la “Sailing to Byzantium” into a golden robot that sang poetic songs and bowed too much. He was deader than childish Dead Yeats, stiffer than stiff Young Yeats, and sadder than the children of Lir. But Dev wasn’t here to save Old Yeats.
Anna raised her hand towards Dev. “Welcome to the otherworld, Oisín.”
“Don’t let him speak!” Joyce had raised his ashplant and pointed it at Dev. “He spoke alone with Dead Yeats. I couldn’t hear everything, but whatever he has to say is poison.”
Anna held her hand up, and energy shimmered around Dev. Anna’s words echoed at him from all sides. “Thank you, Jim, but as you can see, we have not forgotten the old times, when a bard could kill with his words. We modeled the possibilities and decided to contain Dev’s sounds on a shielded delay until we root out what he’s done. But we’re glad you changed your mind and decided to work with us, Jim.”
Jim nodded back at her, and Dev wanted to kill him. He hadn’t realized that he still had things to lose, until this betrayal. But even if UNI’s mission was going to fail, he’d say his personal words first, before he went down.
“Dev. What took you so long?”
“I never took this blather seriously, until it happened.”
“You’ve brought our firstborn.”
“Your firstborn. I disown him.” Joyce flinched at this, but said nothing.
“What do you want?” asked Anna.
“An impossible thing, macushla: I want you to come back with me. Your work is done; you can leave. We can be as Irish as you like somewhere else.”
“Dev, this isn’t romantic fiction.”
“But that’s what Ireland is. It’s why you were able to bring back the nationalists with anything like verisimilitude.”
“I’ve done more than that.” She looked at Maud like there was a secret joke between them.
Dev shook his head hopelessly. “Grand. I understand completely. Oldest story in the world, falling in love with your creation.”
“And you felt nothing for your precious pal Joyce?”
Right. Though he couldn’t use the words he had learned from Yeats, Dev had some specific words for Joyce that they might not filter. Usurper. Execute. The words were quick and dirty; Joyce wouldn’t know what hit him.
As if reading Dev’s face, Joyce lowered his ashplant and tapped it against the ground. “If you’ve got something to say to me, say it.”
He knows, but he’s leaving himself open. Maybe he’s still on my side. Maybe he’ll let me pinch that stick of his. Dev dove for Joyce’s ashplant.
Perhaps Joyce would have let Dev snatch it, but the energy field was having none of it, and it slid through his grip. Anna smiled. “Don’t bother with that thing. I’m the only one here you could hurt, and neither of you would hurt me.”
“I know,” said Dev. He wiped his face with his sleeve and looked around at the assembly. “If you must stay, let me stay here with you, but away from all this software.” The insult fell beneath the gathering’s notice. I must be that bloody pathetic.
“Dev, it’s too late for that. I belong to the nation.”
“And I don’t anymore.” He had their attention, and with the feeds from here, he probably had the attention of all the PRs in Ireland. But he couldn’t use it. “I just want to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” said Anna.
The room went silent. If you’ve got something to say, Joyce, say it.
Joyce cleared his throat. “Mother, I want my reward. Can you restore Nora to me? Now?”
“I don’t know.” Anna turned to Maud. “What do you say, macushla?”
Maud stood to her full six-foot height, narrowed her hazel eyes at Joyce and considered. Then she smiled like the Irish Mona Lisa. “In the old days, he could sing. Have him sing a traditional song of Ireland for us, and if it pleases, we’ll give him back his beloved.”
Joyce looked over at Dev, looked at everyone in the room, looked up at the holo-sky. “If you lend me your attention, I shall endeavor to sing to you of a heart bowed down.” Then, slowly in his fine tenor, he sang “Young Donald.”
Dev used biofeedback to keep his breathing and heart rate steady. Would they let Joyce finish, without delay?
After an eternity of verses and with his eyes full of tears, Joyce came to the final, shattering lines:
“You have taken the east from me,
You have taken the west from me,
You have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
You have taken the moon,
You have taken the sun from me,
And my fear is great you have taken Ireland from me.”
Old Yeats smiled, for these were the words of loss that Dead Yeats had forgotten. Dev closed his eyes as if that would hide his thoughts. Does he know how to say the final word?
In a perfect simulation of Dev’s voice, Joyce said, “Execute.”
With that command, Joyce disappeared; his ashplant clunked to the ground. He did not go alone. All the other PRs in sight vanished; Dev hoped the same held true everywhere in Ireland. The full PRs dissolved into puddles of nanogoop, while the holos faded to the flickering light of a filmless projector. The Old Yeats robot ceased its continual obeisances with a sigh. All gone, gone utterly, as if they were inhabitants of the faerie realm.
Maud was going slower; Dev could actually see her disintegrate. But as she burned away, another shape formed from her ashes. Like a phoenix from the flame, the Morrigan arose. So that was how Anna filled Maud out. The Morrigan stretched her wings, and cawed at Dev contemptuously. The other AIs stood ready for her order. Only then was Dev certain that he would never leave this place alive.
Dev spoke quickly, while Anna was still in shock. “I’ve a message from UNI. You’re free to do this thing. Evolution is on the fringes and borders, and you will be a fringe and border to this world until that role can be assumed by other worlds. But not with the PRs. We leave you with the AIs for protection. Start fresh, without such an unbearable weight of dead, without such tempting toys.”
Anna strode up to him and smacked him across the face. “Murderer.” Overhead, a storm gathered with time-lapse abruptness. “Was there no other Troy for you to burn? You sabotaged my work, from the beginning.”
“Our work.” Dev’s voice cracked with fear of the pain to come. “I’m a Joycean, which means I love people, but I don’t trust them.”
Before Anna could say she was done with him, and before the Morrigan could torture him for a thousand subjective years, Dev signaled his head chip. Goodbye, Anna.
In a flash, his chip fried his brain.