The warehouse door was open. There it was, one of the most advanced cases Felix and Matt had ever seen. The rollers of this particular machine had hauled themselves off their frame. There were scrape-marks left where it had dragged itself across the shop floor. The ‘mouth’ was gorging itself on great bales of paper while the rear end was weaving the beginnings of a cocoon.
The Foreman shook Felix and Matt’s hands. “Brian, I spoke to you on the phone. I’m so glad you’re here” he said. So, uh…” the Foreman clapped his hands, “what can you guys do…?” He hovered nervously round the pair. Some yards away a huddle of workers was also watching. One of them said:
“Who ya gonna call…?” as if Felix and Matt hadn’t heard that one before.
“I’m not sure yet” said Felix, pondering the situation. “Matt…?” he turned to his colleague, who just shrugged. Back to Brian, Felix said “every case is unique. How long has it been…?”
“Since it started being actively anomalous?” said Felix.
“It started this morning” said Brian, “it was a limited run before the evening papers… What do you think caused this?” he added.
“Commodity fetishism, innit…?” Matt chuckled.
“What’s that…?” Brian asked, perplexed.
“You do know your Marxism, right?” Felix deadpanned.
“I’m sorry…” said Brian, now quite panicked. He didn’t.
“Commodity fetishism” said Matt, twirling his beard, still grinning “it’s when stuff comes alive.” Brian nodded as if he understood. They looked back on the machine-caterpillar still gorging away.
“So, what are you going to do?” Brian asked again.
“Not sure” said Felix. He walked toward the caterpillar slowly. “There’re two… general options” he said. “We can destroy it…”
Brian quibbled, “But…?”
“You want to stick around” said Felix sharply, “and see what comes out of the cocoon?”
“Well, no…” said Brian, following after Felix.
“We could deactivate it” said Matt, also in tow. Brian audibly smiled at that. “But you’d still have a big heaping mess” Matt added, “a dead mechanical insect on your hands.”
Brian sighed, his face fell. “Do what you have to.”
“Oh we will” said Matt with an even broader smile.
“We’ll want an engineer” said Felix, absently to the Foreman. “You can stay too, if you want, but…” he turned on his heel and realised the crowd had gathered round them. “You lot can all go home.”
“Are we still getting paid?” asked one of the workers.
“Get a union, boys” said Matt. “And girls” he added, noticing the gender mix.
“So” said the Engineer, “are you all commies in your department?” She glanced up at Felix with a defiant look. Felix tried not to look phased.
“No” he said eventually. “Matt here is an accelerationist.” Matt was circling round the meta-beast, tentatively. The Engineer just shook her head and said:
“But how’d you end up working for the Man?”
“Same way you did” said Felix, nodding up at the control room where Brian the foreman was negotiating with several staff members.
“There are those who say that since the ascent of social democracy the state has become contested” said Matt. “Not me” he added. “I’m in it for the monsters.” Matt grinned. He was holding a strange device, pointing it at the caterpillar. “Readings are off the chart.”
“Literally…?” said Felix.
“Almost” said Matt. “Look” he walked over to where Felix and the Engineer were standing. He showed a set of readings to Felix. The Engineer leaned in. Felix frowned:
“You know much about noumenometers?”
“Humour me” said the Engineer, irked but deadpan.
“No” said Felix abruptly. “Do you have schematics for this machine?”
“Of course” said the Engineer.
“The supplier comes in and checks it annually” said the Engineer, still taken aback.
“OK” said Felix. “What we’ll need to do is put up a reality anchor as a frame, stabilise the situation and dismantle the whole thing, carefully.”
“What…?” said the Engineer, incredulous.
“What’s your name?” Matt asked.
“Amber…” said the Engineer, now looking concerned.
“The thing is, Amber, this is a particular infestation of late-capitalism that seems to be concentrated on the means of production. You might have heard of some cases.” Amber said nothing but Matt had her attention. “Fixed plant, raw materials, equipment, is all getting up and taking on life.”
“An imitation of life” said Felix.
“It’s all down to quantum fluctuation” said Matt, “tremendous leaps of improbability, localised in… things like this.” He pointed to the machine. “If we can find the source we can switch it off. But in this case the source is the entire body of the machine so what we do is…”
“Put it in a box” said Felix. “Nice mansplain” he added, smirking.
“Hume Rays…?” said Amber.
“It’s what we call them” said Matt. “Hey, why do we call them that?”
“I don’t know” said Felix. “But if we call the depot now we should be able to get them up by end-of-day.”
“I'm kidding” said Felix. “We've got some in the van, we should have it up in no time.”
Amber thought about it for a moment then shook her head. “And what has any of this got to do with communism?”
“We don’t make the rules” said Felix with a silly grin.
A little over an hour later the trio were standing in the near dark. “Keep some room for the cable” said Matt. They’d put up a box round the mecha-monster. Felix held a torch while Amber and Matt heaved equipment inside through the makeshift door. The caterpillar, now half-cocooned, had calmed down a lot. It was looking more and more like it should have done, a pile of broken machinery.
“What’s the levels’ like?” Matt asked.
“Almost one-for-one” said Felix, consulting the noumenometer in his other hand.
“Really…?”Amber asked. Matt had been filling her in on more of the (non-confidential) details of the job. “Is reality a one-for-one chain of causality?”
“Dude, she has a point” said Matt as he laid down the last of the tools they’d use.
“It depends on the time frame” said Felix, “but for the duration we’re operating at sub-real levels of causation.”
“Let me get this straight” said Amber. “If we brought the generator inside and closed the door everything that then happened inside here would be…?”
“Inevitable” said Felix, fixing her gaze. “We’d better leave the door ajar then.”
“Are you sure about this?” Matt asked.
“Its fine” said Felix. “Look” he pointed to the junk in front of them. “If anything happens we’ll get back-up” he added. “We’ve dealt with the ice-cream cows, hanging-file bats and so many scaffolding vines” he said with a sly smile, “I’m sure we can deal with this.”
“But you do have back-up?” Amber asked, deapan.
“We’ll start with the joins” said Felix.
Matt and Amber got started with a pneumatic bolt remover. The first bolt fell to the floor with a muffled clink. Suddenly there was an almighty sound, a cross between a moo and a roar. “What was that…?” said Felix. Before anyone could find out the floor began shaking. “Quick! Out…!” The trio darted for exit. The earthquake continued, getting louder, loose objects clattered all around. The ground outside the warehouse was falling away. There was another moo/roar. The warehouse lifted itself off the ground and began to walk.