The Morrigan flew to the Custom House. To avoid embarrassing devastation, she did not allow her approach to be detected, save by the UNI rep. She dropped a small head chip on Mr. Kenny’s balcony, then flew high above the Custom House and waited, and watched.
Mr. Kenny and his skeleton staff left the Custom House in a convoy of armored vehicles. Portal and air transport had closed, so the staff waited for the last ferry out of Dublin, an old vessel with an open deck. From high above, the Morrigan saw the tide of arriving thousands flow against the departing UNI staff. Hearing the Referendum’s promise, they came by sea from other places that were no longer nations—Nigeria and Laos, Japan and Brazil, Australia and America. Like herself and her beloved Anna, they too could be Irish.
The UNI staff boarded the ferry. As the already lumbering ship approached the Cúchulainn Barrier zone, it slowed to drifting. The Morrigan circled, curious. They would want to study the barrier, of course, and this would be their best opportunity.
Kenny brought out the head chip the Morrigan had given him and two shiny metallic cubes. He placed the cubes on adjoining deck chairs, and placed the head chip next to one of the cubes. With a touch of his finger, he activated each cube, then strode away as if anxious to avoid words.
An image of Dev sprang from the cube near the head chip, and from the other cube emerged an image of Joyce. Energy and memory constrained them to holo mode; for now, they would remain two ghosts, talking.
Joyce looked about with theatrical emphasis. “You didn’t get the girl?”
Dev studied his own translucent hands. “No, looks like she got me.” His mission had succeeded, and he had failed. Anna was forever lost to him. “But I got you out at least.”
“But what about you? Forgive me, but you don’t seem to be all here.”
Dev put his hand to his chest. “Oh, this? Second generation duplicate. I sent an organic copy to Ireland, and they scanned the copy’s mind when they captured your data at UNI Dublin. Coming here was always something of a suicide mission. Assuming my original is still alive, I’ll reintegrate, sorrows and all.”
“No prosecution or protest about your demise?”
Dev gazed up at the black bird following, listening. “No harm, no foul. That’s the official UNI line.” His holo image gingerly touched his head chip, then shimmered, shivered.
“Some wee harm in that thing?”
“Just my last words and deeds after the UNI scan, along with synthetic memories of a millennium of torture. It’s the Morrigan’s warning to her former associates.”
The Morrigan had known that the Dev who had come to Ireland was a copy, as identical as it might have been. If one dared ask, she would have explained that it was too identical, quantum mechanically speaking. But she had not warned Anna.
“You completely fooled them, and me,” said Dev.
Joyce raised his eyebrows. “You might have known. I was Ulysses and his Trojan horse in one.”
“Thank you for saying the words,” said Dev. “Why did you do it?”
“I didn’t fight for Ireland before, so I fought this time. Those hard men and women would repeat a history that’s the very opposite of real life, the very opposite of love. Non serviam. But it was a difficult thing, and I couldn’t have done it if I thought any sentient beings would really be destroyed forever.” Joyce turned to the ferry’s bow. “Are they gone forever?”
“If I thought so,” said Dev, “I couldn’t have done it either.”
The Morrigan cawed. Nothing was truly gone in this information-drenched world. Over time, Anna might figure out a way to bring back the PRs without attracting UNI’s notice, but the Morrigan would not help her, and the AI would henceforth choose her own form rather than inhabit any of Anna’s favorites.
“It’s a small consolation.” Joyce sighed without breath. “No Nora for me.”
“Not for some time.”
“Then we both lost the girl.”
Dev nodded. “And her name is Eire.” A barrier now stood between him and Ireland that he couldn’t cross again. “By the bye, when you sang, how did you know to change ‘God’ to ‘Ireland’?” As an extra layer of code, when Newly Dead Yeats generated a shutdown key, the user needed to change the last proper noun to ‘Ireland.’
“I don’t know,” said Joyce. “I only remember up to our passage through the roadblock at the Custom House. I knew what words you’d need from overhearing you and Yeats’s carcass, but I didn’t know to say ‘Ireland.’”
Maybe a not-so-little bird told him below his conscious programming. The Morrigan had been playing a double game. She needed to be an omnipotent protector, but the UNI models were right: too many Irish dead. But her unsettling projections were also right, and the world needed this fringe more than UNI knew.
Joyce considered a moment. “At least I’ll have a friend in this second exile. I have the feed from Glasnevin, minus my poisoned poetry. What you said—maybe we need a fresh start. Gibraltar?”
“Why not? There, the sun may shine for us, instead of through us.”
Joyce soundlessly slapped his friend on the back. “Young father, young artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.”
The Morrigan watched as the Liffey’s ever-flowing waters carried the two friends past the crumpled Referendum leaflet, still afloat, and washed them out from her adopted home, out beyond the Cúchulainn Barrier, out to the info-permeated sea.
Impressed? Good! Find out more about Tom Doyle here.