SYNCHRONICITY | Mark Lewis and Allen Ashley Time has changed you. Time has brought us back together in these augmented forms that we are now, the only forms that survive. We were people back then, lovers, but our love that seemed so real failed. We were so fragile, so mortal in our blood, skin and bones. So needy, but we didn't need each other enough. We may have loved each other but our lives and ambitions weren't compatible. This time, although our bodies and functions were designed by opposing civilisations, we were built for compatibility with each other. Now synchronisation is our reason for being. We are artificial intelligences; our whole purpose is the measurement and calculation of time between the civilisations that share this vast colony ship. Cultures opposing but still reliant on each other. Symbiotic but in a cold war, just like us. I can still imagine the look you would have given me, if I had said that to you when you still had a human face. So here we are, joined together by wires and pipes in our annual synchronisation. Me, a contrivance of iron, glass and plastic: this ‘body’ is a rigid housing, all straight edges. My ‘face’ a digital display with constantly flowing numbers, measuring time from years right down to Planck units: as small as time can go. Accurate, precise, how I had wanted to live. I needed my routines, my office job, to feel safe; to you this was stifling, you were impulsive and wanted to fly. Now we’re both immobile in these housings built for calculation, reliant on the mobile units to ferry us to and from our respective allotted silos. You’re so different from me and suit the society you serve well, the so-called Revivalists, who my culture, the Orthodoxy, call Throwbacks. You are artfully crafted, beautifully curved brass and silver. You were always the good-looking one in the relationship. Your civilisation is unlike mine, they place more value on aesthetics than on precision. Running by clockwork, you only have three hands; vague seconds are as close as you get to accurate time. So we have to synchronise with each other once a year so our civilisations can calculate our mutual time and keep our vast ship running to its schedule to find the next star and the hoped for world. They don’t trust each other to believe the course is true; we are programmed to be unable to lie. (Imagine if we’d had that programming when we were together, alive?) We follow this compromise; our cultures follow this, even though all the flesh and bone people who made our new forms are dead. This ship is a clockwork ballet of the artificial servants of two societies interacting in war-like peace or peace-like war. Shell societies. We go through the motions; we carry on, even when the underlying purpose is gone, like the last few years of our life together. So we synchronise, and our cultures, the artificial minds and bodies that once served the people of different worlds rely on us. With our communion we create their time, and this gives them their structure and purpose. We physically connect but it is an intercourse far short of sex. We link to connect our cultures, to stabilise their purpose, to transcend their differences with joint aims and rituals. This time there is something wrong. You always saw my flaws, even when I didn't. I may be far more accurate, but still you saw the anomaly in my calculations and the implications for the ship’s course and the way our cultures run. Did you stop to think through what telling your society’s Prime Architect about my error would do – not only to us but to both our societies? * Time has not changed you. Time brings us back together in these augmented forms that we are now, the only forms that survive. But I still hold fast to the memory of the people we were back then: lovers, so fragile, so mortal in our blood, skin and bones. Pulled apart by the situation around and beyond us but destined, like elliptical satellites, to coincide from time to time. Ah, that word again which dominates both our beings. Yes, how right you are that I still hold onto some of my human aspects, if only in nomenclature. A bright face, moveable hands… and, in many ways, a beating heart, albeit one that is essentially clockwork. Internal, of course but beautifully structured whenever revealed to surgeons, watchmakers or jewel-smiths. We Revivalists have always known the value of aesthetics as an essential element of function. You used to joke around with my name, calling me ‘My dear Anna; my Anna Logue’. How prescient that label seems now. We made our choices, like Romeo and Juliet in reverse, pulled apart from each other onto opposing sides. Yet Montague needs Capulet, left needs right, and in this binary world our identity is as much defined by who we are not as by who or what we are. And in these moments of co-operation we can still believe that we are nurturing the feelings that once held us closer than matched magnets. They called you infallible, a precision instrument that was the very acme of the technological advances of the past five hundred years. And yet… there was once an old man with a white moustache who suggested that proximity to either living stars or their later incarnations as black holes might subtly distort measured chronology. He was wise; ahead of his time, one might say. So we pool our resources. I know that is something of a pinprick to your balloon of superiority. So be it. Even when I loved you with all my heart, I sometimes felt that you needed taking down a peg or two. See, my erstwhile lover: not every memory is rose-tinted. Would that we had that life back again, eh? We are survivors, true; but we are both changed beyond humanoid recognition into these devices to serve the time-keeping aboard this inter-galactic ship of sorrow, this mission that failed so long ago, that has no true purpose beyond mere continuance. Let us be linked as the protocols have demanded. Thus is it written in the tomes that guide our movements in this post-human age? Let’s reach out once again. We are the vessels of a history that we have somehow side-stepped or, dare I say it, aborted. You are wrong to accuse me. I think only well of you. I do not speak of flaws or errors. In this lonely yet constant existence, it is perhaps true that I keep myself going merely for these occasions when you and I must synchronise. For the good of all those beings – mechanical, artificial, virtually automatic – whose lives we still partly regulate. Reach out for me, my one time lover. Remind me of the special days, hours, and minutes we once shared. I know that across this wide universe all experience is mere brevity but, hey, shared some seconds with me. Our time is now.