SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 46 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 46 of many) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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The saga of Arsen.

SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 46 of many)

The settlement had changed considerably since the doctor had lived amongst the Gu-Nar.

The people could now be seen sporting random items of modern clothing, sometimes incongruously mixed with hand-forged pieces of armour.

Modern pots and utensils mingled amongst the home-produced earthenware and ironwork.

Even oddments of military equipment in the forms of uniform clothing and webbing joined hide belts and rough linen.

This later apparently being the acceptable currency used by the rangers coming and going from certain huts on the outskirts of the settlement.

It didn't take too long before news of his and the ranger's arrival reached the ears of the tribal elders and they were guided to the town hall to meet with those worthies.

The whole rest of the morning was then spent renewing old acquaintances and catching up with who had died,

who had married and any subsequent offspring that may have been produced being brought reluctantly forward for his approval.

Only after the substantial and semi-ceremonial Gu-Nar version of lunch was consumed was Dr Awolowo able to get down to the business of his visit.

The Elders' reaction to his questioning of events seventy years ago confirmed the suspicion that a sizeable expedition had arrived in the area and had, in turn,

had a considerable effect on the society of that time.

Though there was no one alive now who remembered those days first hand, the tribe's oral history was sufficiently detailed to paint the trespassers in a less than favourable light.

The stories told of villagers disappearing, of huge rumbling explosions and of fires that lit up the southern horizon.

Scouts sent out to investigate never returned and soon after, all hunting or water gathering south of Emrites was forbidden and the walls strengthened.

To add to the lore being shown to the anthropologist both in poetry and dance,

some Elders told him of the stories of other Gu-Nar settlements along the river itself of metal ships seen almost every day throughout that summer.

When the first snows fell that year, the trespassers left in their ships and only then did the Elders send scouts south again.

They reported that not only had the interlopers left, but they had taken with them all the buildings they had built and had left the land scared and not fit to grow upon.

Awolowo recorded all of this onto his notebook and then some tribespeople, having heard the anthropologist was being honoured with these stories, began to bring him things to see.

Evidence that they had found once it had been deemed safe to hunt in the south again. These, too, were duly recorded by the doctor.

Images of food containers, plastic bottles, pieces of domestic electronics and discarded personal items.

As afternoon turned into evening and the strong local ale washed away some of the sombreness of the story telling Awolowo and Hancock were treated to the more familiar tales of Gu-Nar daring

and bravery against the warlike tribes to the north.

The tribes of Grande Bretagne were, for the main, in a perpetual state of war, or at least raiding for loot and slaves.

Most formidable amongst these were the Bru-Mei and the Nor Folk and the lands of the Gu-Nar bordered both of these.

Fortunately, these fearsome tribes were much more interested in slaughtering each other than the Gu-Nar.

In a never-ending struggle for supremacy,

the more northern British tribes fought each other continuously in a grim echo of the Faction Wars taught in The History and with pretty much the same effect on society - stagnation.

According to the poetic saga now being acted out in front of the top table, during a time when the Bru-Mei were in the ascendency and Nor Folk lands were falling before them,

a Gu-Nar hero 'Arsen' was shaped. The dramatic story told of a Gu-Nar hunting party, lost in a snow storm way north of the normal tribal hunting grounds.

Of how they came upon the fabled home of the Bru-Mei kings.

But Arsen and his small party were seen and the epic tale of their fighting retreat back to the safety of their brethren has been told ever since on stormy winter nights...

and special occasions like this one.

At the end of the tale, Dr Awolowo and Ranger Hancock were taken to the hut of Arsen's sole living descendent.

Here, the proud son of the hero displayed for them the pipe-gun rifle his father captured from the giant Bru-Mei warrior he fought hand to hand. Awolowo duly photographed it.

Then, after Hancock leaned in to whisper to him and point at the rifle, the doctor took several more photographs of the weapon.

Arsen's son then took them towards the back of the wattle and daub hut where a large curtain hung in front of the rear wall.

He waited while others crowded into the small room to see and Awolowo and Hancock became hemmed in by excited adults and fidgeting children.

Then, with a flourish any stage magician would be proud of.

The son of the great hero pulled down the curtain to reveal, amidst a collective gasp from the audience, a wall sized mural depicting an enormous structure silhouetted against a burning,

blood red sky.

"This is what my father saw. This," the man took in the mural with a grand gesture of his arm. "Is the castle of the Demon Queen of the Bru-Mei"

Everyone around the table looked at the image on Dr Awolowo's notebook screen.

The vivid picture of the turreted edifice deliberately posed against the vivid, violent red and orange brush strokes of the sky drew appreciative murmurs.

Bodil looked up from the picture.

"Doctor. That's a very, dramatic picture, but what makes you say that this could be the 'W Cst' we are looking for?"

Awolowo blinked.

"Well, the 'Cst'. It's an abbreviation. It's castle without the vowels, a common method of abbreviating a word..."

Cybil raised a finger, attracting everyone's attention and stopping Dr Awolowo's flow.

"What about the missing 'L' in castle?"

Heads turned back to the anthropologist.

"The, 'L'? Oh..."

Victor spoke.

"Or the 'W'."

Cybil again, raising her hand a little higher like an infant.

"Oh! It could be 'coast'. That would work. 'West Coast'." She clapped her hands excitedly, before realising the growing embarrassment of the doctor. "Or, it could be castle, I suppose."

Bodil cleared her throat.

"Thank you Doctor Awolowo. I can see how you made the connection." She glanced at her assistant who was now staring red-faced into her lap. "You, too, Cybil. Good work everyone in fact.

Keep the ideas coming, no matter how out of the box."

Feeling slightly embarrassed over his own part in making the doctor uncomfortable, Victor had pulled up the anthropologist's notes on his own notebook.

Whatever it was, it was a damn scarily cool looking picture and Victor was thinking about making it his new desktop.

While Professor Hill, Bodil, was rescuing the situation Victor was sliding through the many images taken by the doctor on his trip to Emrites.

He was about to flick past the pictures of the heroic rifle when something about the weapon caught his eye.

"Doctor Awolowo? These pictures of the rifle. I notice you took quite a few close ups."

Glad of the change of subject, Harry Awolowo was only too pleased to expand on the rifle pictures.

"Oh yes. Ranger Hancock specifically asked me to take pictures of the middle bit, where the trigger is."

"Did he say why?"

"What?"

"Why he wanted you to..."

"Oh. No." His eyebrows knitted together. "In fact, he never did explain and I never got around to asking him. Actually, I forgot all about it.

I'll send the pictures to him anyway, as he asked for them."

Victor was standing up. He tapped his notebook.

"Never mind Doctor, I'll go and see him."

Bodil was looking up at him.

"What is it, Victor? What are these pictures?"

Victor paused. He smiled.

"It might be nothing. Let me go and check with the ranger first." He turned for the door. "The pictures are in Doctor Awolowo's report. Right before the, er the 'Castle of Doom'"

Bodil gave him a 'did you have to?' stare but Victor just grinned mischievously and left the room. Everyone was flicking through their own copies of the anthropologist's report. Bodil joined in.

There were five pictures. The first one was of Arsen's son proudly holding out his father's prize.

The other four were all very similar and concentrated on the weapon's 'action', the mechanism that loads, locks, fires, extracts and ejects the ammunition.

To the archaeologist, the anthropologist, his assistant and the museum conservator, the pictures meant little to nothing.

It was just a gun to them, something normal people in everyday life had no reason to concern themselves with. But to the ranger and to Victor it had meant something. Bodil frowned. But what?

It was no surprise then that, after a few minutes of staring hard at the pictures, there were blank expressions all around. Bodil finally closed her notebook.

"Well then. I suppose we'll just have to wait for the result of Victor and Hancock's conversation. Let's think of it as sending something off for carbon dating...

Just hope that it doesn't take as long."

The little joke earned the polite laughter it expected.

Bodil turned to Amy and Cybil.

"If I remember correctly, Ellie sent you two off to 'spy' on work done by our colleagues. I know, it's only been a day or so but, any results?"

Amy and Cybil looked at each other, their heads doing the 'you do it, no you do it' back and forth dance until Amy finally gave in.

"Well yes, we did actually. Everyone was very open, really not like being back in the university at all.

" While she was speaking Amy was quickly fetching up the report she had sent to Ellie on their activities so far.

"Plenty of little incongruous finds showed up in several of the digs around London. Just little things, plastic bottles, coins, bullet casings, cans.

Pretty much the same sort of things Doctor Awolowo's Gu-Nar friends were finding. Um but..." Amy looked at Cybil, who nodded slowly. Amy took a breath and carried on.

"We found out that there was this boat."

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