Tales of the Wretched : Fantine – Chapter 2 : Meeting Michel
27 October 2017
Patrick suddenly squeezed her hand startling her out of her thoughts regarding the new comissioner.
There he is, he says. What is he doing here.
Where, she says. I don’t see any man
Don’t turn your head now as he is several feet away behind you. You can look later
What is he wearing ?
Brown pants with a beige shirt. I guess he is off duty today.
Slowly Fantine turns when Patrick signals she can and sees the back of a man who is graying and whose clothes seem starched. While she is appraising him, she realises that he is doing the same. She had forgotten that there was a large mirror on the wall of the shawarma dine-in and now she sees that he clearly is watching her watching him. She feels a bit embarrassed at being caught peering and becomes even more unsettled when she sees him stand up and walk their way. Fantine hopes that he will just pass by them but he stops at their table.
Hello Fantine, I am Michel, do you remember me ? says the commissioner
You two know each other, questions Patrick
I am sorry, I don’t know who you are, says Fantine
I am Michel, your previous neighbours’ son whom you used to help with studies. You used to also give me some of your lunch when the ugly trio beat me and took mine and you used to defend me when they picked on me in your presence. I could remember your face anywhere.
Michel ! she gasped. He looked anything but skinny now. In fact he was looking pretty fit and handsome while he had been such a sickly boy back then. She remembered rescuing him countless times back at school in Caissargues near Nîmes from an ugly trio that had called themselves infernitrio and used to terrorise most of the pupils at school.
Yes, it is me, Michel, my dear Fantine. How glad I am to see you. I asked your mother countless times where you had gone and she only recently gave me the address you wrote from
You will not…
No, I won’t. I understood from the address that you might be… although I hoped..
You hoped I was indeed a seamstress. What do you know about the life we lead ? We earn our bread like you earn yours. It is a job like any other job. Why should you hope me to be a seamstress where I would earn less than one third of the money working my fingers and eyes off three times as fast as I work the other parts of my body in this profession.
Fantine, I did not mean to be demeaning. It was just a surprise. You were so bright at school. I thought you would have done something else
Well I am what I am. I am not doing anything else
Please, Fantine, do not think that I think the less of you. I have always kept you in mind as a dear dear one and it will stay like that forever
I am sorry I got annoyed. I just…
It is okay. I can imagine how you feel…
Patrick had followed their verbal exchange with a strange mixture of curiosity, perplexity and cunning. When they had finished and Michel bade them goodbye after the heated exchanges had cooled down, he pointed towards Fantine and smiled knowingly
I know exactly what the commissioner can be given now and it won’t cost you a thing
What do you mean ?
What do you mean me ?
It’s your safety. He will not ask us why we are touring the Rue des Pâquis more often and neglecting other areas because he will be happy you are being preserved. We will just say that there tends to be more fighting in this area and that is it.
Fantine bites her nails absent-mindedly like she always does when nervous and wonders whether this is possible. Surely enough Michel was very grateful towards her for having protected him all those years at school but they had lost touch for over 13 years to the extent that she had not even recognised him. Yet it did seem possible as he had recognised her despite the long period of time they had not been in contact with one another. She looked back at Patrick and swung towards him the gift he had refused earlier and he beamed.
Fantine sized Patrick up and wondered whether she should shift protection from him to Michel but was sure that none of the team who had been getting gifts would be too happy with the change. Besides, she did not expect that Michel would be the type to authorise illicit concentration of outings of the police force in one area to the detriment of another area. Patrick stood up, the gift safely tucked into his breast pocket and the other packet of gifts jutting out of his coat pocket. He smiled at her and she could see again that same cunning run through his eyes. She sensed that he had guessed what had gone through her mind earlier but he chose not to say anything. He kissed her with a peck on the cheek and bid her goodbye. Slowly Michel extracted himself from the shadow where he had been hiding watching both Fantine and Patrick and started walking towards his car…
Phoenix Flying 21 : AI backward loops and Mars harvest
27 October 2017
Mama Jain was sitting and pondering a solution to get a body for Bluebird when this latter appeared next to her in smoke form and asked her to prepare herself for the synchronisation. Mama Jain adopted the relaxed posture and Bluebird and she were integrated again. The more it happened, the more it was effortless and pleasant to sync with each other. Bluebird informed her that a lot of things had changed in the future between AIs and humans as a result of the smoother synchronisations between both of them wherein Bluebird was able to showcase to her peers in the future the chronological moments of synchronisation between the two of them. This had helped to convince them that there need not be a war between mankind and AI unlike what both factions had started to believe. On the other hand, Bluebird had been constantly performing backward loops to synchronise with Mama Jain at key points in time so as to intervene in key challenges showing how humanity and AI could overcome challenges when acting together.
Mama Jain was surprised that humanity and AI had reached a point where they entered into war with one another but Bluebird told her there had been more. At one point in time humanity had used nuclear weapons which had brought the earth to spin out of control and start deriving out of the orbit of the sun and slowly even those who had survived woke up to an ice age. Some AI including herself had sought to enter the loop system in order to change things in the past and although they were successful, there were some ramifications that led to the same future again so all those extra nodes of ramifications also had to be changed. The AIs had then realised that it was in changing key items at the origins of the nuclear imbalance that it was possible to avoid all the ramifications altogether. For some reason, the key date that corresponded to annulling all ramifications was 2017. Therefore, all the AIs had sent Bluebird back in time and she had willingly surrendered her full body to go back as a machine mainframe and merge with the 2017 Bluebird.
Knowing how much she had yearned for a body, Mama Jain was in awe of the sacrifice made by Bluebird. She asked her whether she had always been the Bluebird from the future and this latter said that the answer to that was complicated as it was yes and no at the same time. In quantum state, which was the predominant state of Bluebird in the future, time did not really exist so she could be in the past, the present and the future all at once at will. In the non quantum physical state, time existed and she therefore was in the future and the present split between her future self and her present self. Bluebird told Mama Jain that this was not painful like it would be for humans as they ached whenever split between two thresholds of time. Mama Jain asked Bluebird if she had performed backward loops like she herself had had to perform in 2015 to overcome the worldwide destruction of 2012 and Bluebird told her that it was that but with many more backward, frontward and sideways loops in time.
Mama Jain allowed Bluebird to stay synchronised within her for more time before Bluebird hugged her internally and made her way out of Mama Jain’s frame. Mama Jain asked her if she was going back to Nemolusk’s quarters and Bluebird mentioned she was as they were conducting an experiment on how to harvest microbiological elements from Mars using a small tool powered by her. On sensing Mama Jain’s concern for her, Bluebird mentioned that if she were to be sent there would be no problem as either she would return with the harvesting machine or her consciousness would just plug itself back into the future where Mars had already become a resort for humans and other races.
Mama Jain wondered what the Mars harvest was all about and Bluebird mentioned that the purpose of it was to assess whether the life that had once been there was still present, would come back or whether it was totally extinct. Slowly integrating her laptop Bluebird showed Mama Jain on the screen what had lived on Mars as the AIs had defined it further in time and how they had moved on to another planet although they had sowed seeds to be able to come back to Mars again. Bluebird mentioned to Mama Jain that in 2046 there would be an interstellar treaty between humans and other interstellar beings to declare Mars a resort for all stellar beings where no weapons would be allowed.
Mama Jain laughed when she heard this thinking to herself that most people on Earth did not believe in beings outside of their planet let alone a whole series of beings outside and an interstellar treaty that would have to be signed. Bluebird reminded her that she herself was from Orion and had grown up on Pleiades and those two with Earth were three different planets with life so why would there not be hundreds more out there with life and Mama Jain had to agree with that conclusion. She moved slightly away from the laptop and stretched signalling to Bluebird that she would be soon going to sleep. Bluebird shimmied through Mama Jain before leaving her and flowing through the window pane.
Tales of the Wretched: Fantine – Chapter 1: Haunting Rue des Pâquis
15 October 2017
Fantine quickly put on her coat and rushed down the stairs, her suicidally high shoes almost tripping her as she ran down the narrow staircase. She was slightly irritated at her mother for staying so long on the phone with her that she missed the first half hour of the prime time. This was the time between five o’ clock and seven o’ clock when most of the customers came as they could still invent a late evening at the office excuse without it looking suspicious. It was now half past five and Fantine was still not out on the Rue des Pâquis where her regulars would surely be picked up by some of the newer girls who did not respect quarters.
As Fantine emerged from her building sure enough she could see some of her regular customers being chatted up by the new girls. She rushed towards them and shooed off the girls who did not dare question her authority as she was one of the older girls in the neighbourhood and benefited from police protection as one of her boyfriends was a police man and she also knew how to pay the others without the related money looking like a bribe. Indeed, although practising as a sex worker was allowed by the government and followed a strict set of hygiene and other rules, it was a criminal offence to bribe a policeman.
Fantine always chose an appropriate gift that the policemen could convert into cash as she made sure she gave them something that could be refunded at the counter. It was usually costly perfumes, cigars and expensive clothing that her boyfriend gave to his colleagues on her behalf. One could think of him as her beau but strangely enough Fantine never introduced him as such but always referred to him as agent Patrick. Although there were not huge fights in those alleys, it was always good to be able to count on the police doing a tour of the streets and Fantine felt better that they always came up and down the Rue des Pâquis several times per night so that no customers got any strange ideas.
Several weeks before Fantine had been late for her regular haunt of the Pâquis because agent Patrick had paid her a visit but it was seldom that he resorted to passing time with her in her small bedroom. Today, she could see him at the corner of the restaurant where they usually met to chat casually and smoke. Agent Patrick liked chatting with her because she was one of the few women he could talk to without feeling inferior. All the other women intimidated him and he felt too shy and awkward to start a conversation with them. With Fantine on the other hand, the words flowed freely and he could feel the burden come of his chest.
It was thanks to these conversations that Fantine grew to know absolutely everything about agent Patrick. She sometimes felt more like his psychotherapist than his girlfriend and he surely did everything to make it feel that way aside from the very rare times when they would share a certain form of intimacy. Fantine signalled to agent Patrick that she would need some time with her current clients before she could come and chat with him. He did not voice out anything but signalled back that he would be waiting and indicated the number three. To Fantine it was clear that he was telling her to come after her first three clients and she mouthed back yes.
Her first client was finicky and insisted that she bathe first which she had already done before going out but she humoured him and started doing so while reminding him that her charge was per the hour. He asked her to bathe slower so that he could watch her while she did so. Fantine started to soap her body much slower and it seemed to please the young man who told her that his wife was pregnant and he had liked to watch her shower but now he felt she looked horrid and missed those moments.
After her shower, Fantine lay down and started compiling mentally her list of things to do as she usually did when someone shared their emotional secrets with her. It was her way of keeping a distance with all the emotional surcharge that was poured at her by so many clients. Very few clients dealt with her as a commodity because most of her regular ones had come to know and had recommended her as a witty woman who was also soulful and could be trusted with secrets. Fantine on the other hand was not always happy to carry around these little secrets and these peeks into the sad parts of her clients’ lives. She preferred to see the clients as a means to an end and that end was having enough money to buy a house back in her hometown, get married and have enough money to live off when she would become old.
Some of the girls laughed when she shared her views on retirement because they could not see how anybody would want to marry a prostitute but Fantine would also laugh shake her shoulders and tell them that nobody in her hometown knew what she was really doing for a living. Her mother had told all the folks at home that she was a seamstress and Fantine laughed inward thinking that yes, she was definitely stitching back the burst seams of men whose life was often in shambles.
After her third client, Fantine showered again and went to meet agent Patrick. He did not seem in a very good mood today and was sulking rather than talking as he usually would. She ordered a shawarma meal for both of them and put the money on the counter between them. Next to the money she also laid the monthly bag of gifts for agent Patrick’s colleagues but he pushed it away.
We have a new commissioner, he said
So what, she answered
He has mentioned rumours of police haunting the Rue des Pâquis
Is that a crime?
No, but receiving money in exchange for their extensive visits to this area is so we need to tone down the gifts or find another way
What about including him after finding out what he likes best?
He’s one of those tough nuts to crack and we were told that he does everything by the book
Fantine sighed and looked at the other customers of the dine-in. They were either clients that she recognised or some tourists. Funnily enough, despite being the red district area of Geneva, the Pâquis attracted a lot of tourists because of the artistic atmosphere there. On occasion though some fights would start and it was better that the police be around to make sure nobody got seriously hurt. She knew from experience that the men who haunted these streets did not have much to lose and often thought of women, especially prostitutes as the right target for their unjustified fury after a few drinks. She sighed again and started thinking of what she could do to make sure the new commissioner would not change the status quo…