"What the fuck is this bird thing?" Alex asked, gesturing vaguely at a strange icon in his peripheral vision. Olive scrunched her nose and leaned forward.
"It's a little blue bird icon. I don't know what the fuck it's for," he spat.
"Huh..." Olive mused, then crossed her arms, thinking for a few moments. They both sat in silence for a spell, with Alex flicking his fingers over his internally projected display, and Olive grasping at straws.
"Now there's shit with the letters F and B, and something with I and N. They just keep showing up, like fucking cancer." He scuttled his fingers in the air, trying to drag the icons out of his line of sight, but they just kept crawling back.
Olive couldn't jack into Alex's display, and Alex couldn't explain what he was seeing, and so, they were stumped.
Luckily for them, Sebastian would provide an answer.
"Let me see," he offered, then stalked across the room. He reached behind his head and pulled out a curious cord.
"I've asked you why you have a motherfucking cord, and you never answer—"
"I don't answer because I don't have an answer," Sebastian said flatly, lifting up Alex's shirt, "and what I assume is the answer is a spoiler for an obvious conclusion."
"Excuse you," the blond synth barked, slapping Sebastian's hand away.
"You don't have a universal input. I can't jack in, but you can go anywhere. I need your guts," Sebastian snorted.
"Gross," Olive said as she scrunched her nose. Sebastian had taken to prying open Alex's chest panel. Olive covered her eyes.
Alex scoffed, turned his head away, and let his ex-paramour dig around in his neon blue insides. Hands coated blue, Sebastian struggled with Al's mechanical guts.
Polly and Henry, having finished on their escapades, had now found themselves in Olive's haptic home. Not only that, but they'd found themselves face to face with Sebastian's hand lodged in Alex's writhing faux-organs.
"Oh my god," Polly droned, "like, what are you doing?! Oh," Polly held her stomach, "I'm, like, totally going to vomit," she muttered, leaning towards Henry. Henry clasped her head to his chest and looked on at the ministrations with mute, fuzzy-browed distress.
Sebastian grunted, shoved his entire forearm into the robot's chest cavity, and snagged something in his fist. Alex glared at Sebastian.
"I could make a really fucking horrible joke right now," Alex hissed.
"Don't start, demon," Sebastian warned. "Got it. I'm in."
Now connected, Sebastian stood back, shucked off the visceral blue liquid from his arm, and sat beside Alex.
"Alright, pull them up again," Sebastian said, grimacing at his still-yet sticky appendage.
Alex did as he was asked. Several distorted icons popped up in Sebastian's display. Sebastian whisked his finger over the icon of the bird and tapped it.
"What're ya' seein?" Olive asked from behind her shoulder. She apparently didn't want to stare at Alex's squelching blue insides, and had taken to tinkering with her food processor to avoid seeing any of it.
"Hmm," Sebastian mused.
"Is it, like, over?" Polly asked, looking up at Henry's face. He shook his head. Polly buried her head in his chest yet again.
"There's an archive," Sebastian mumbled, "no...people are speaking. But that doesn't make any sense."
"Speaking?" Alex raised a brow, drawing nearer to Sebastian as the pair looked on at thousands of little text boxes with various messages.
"It's asking you to 'sign-in'. Do...you remember your 'username' and 'password'?" Sebastian asked, the terminology sounding awkward in his mouth.
"Uh...I never signed up for sh—" Sebastian scuttled Alex's sentence by tapping something. Apparently, Alex did have an account, one he didn't ever remember signing up for.
"Perhaps...your prior OS signed up for this?" Sebastian offered.
Diana, having yet again made her trek to the bowels of the ship, entered, expecting fanfare, "Darlings, I have missed you terribly."
"Mate, weren't ya' jus' 'ere n' hour ago?" Henry asked.
"Well, yes. But my comings and going should be momentous occasions," Diana snorted, "wouldn't you agree, pet?" she asked Alex.
"Whatever do you mean by 'yeah, sure'?" Diana huffed and stomped forward on her elegant heels to glare down at the synth. She paused, scanned the scene before her, then placed a hand to her hip, "what are you up to, darlings?"
"Alex hassa' virus, or somethin'," Olive said over her shoulder, then went back to her tinkering. Polly, realizing this display of digital gore wouldn't cease anytime soon, parted from Henry's embrace and began to help Olive.
Henry, not processing what was happening any longer, went to investigate where to score something to eat. This took the form of repeatedly banging at one of Olive's food processors until it coughed up a handful of grapes.
"No, he has applications," Sebastian corrected the diminutive machinist.
"Virus?" Diana scoffed, "Applications?" the femme fatale asked, hands on both her hips, "explain yourselves, please."
"There's a blue bird icon, an FB icon, and an IN icon. I don't know what the fuck they are, but it seems like people are sending...messages or some shit. Like a pager on crack cocaine. I have an account on the bird thing. I don't fucking get it."
Diana's hands dropped from her sides, her mouth agape.
"...these are from a time before our own, my dears."
Sebastian flicked his gaze to Diana's face, "explain."
"I'm not sure how you managed to find these, darling, but they were discussion outlets called 'social media'. People used to talk on them, post images, things like this. Millions, if not billions of people, would all speak to one another on them."
Alex narrowed his brows and tapped a small box on his display, which prompted a text box.
"Wouldn't they need servers to operate?" Sebastian asked, leaning to look at what Alex was doing, "...wouldn't they be very old?"
Diana worried her lower lip, hesitating. Alex cracked a grin and prattled his fingers in the air.
"Do they appear to be archives, pet?" Diana asked.
"Well, they must be. They're commenting on ancient history," Sebastian sighed, "but..." Alex's cackle split the air and Sebastian's sentence in twain.
He hit a small box with his finger. He produced something known as a 'tweet.'
Sebastian's eyes widened as he took in the details of Alex's tweet. He ripped the cord from Alex's guts in one fell swoop and stumbled back.
"Hey!" Alex spat, "What the fuck was that for?!"
"Stop what you're doing, immediately," Sebastian said, raising his hands up.
"What's he doin'?" Olive asked, then turned on a loud machine to resume her work. As the machine in her hands gnashed, Alex grinned in the chaos of that noise. He slowly closed his chest compartment, pulled down his shirt, and went back to staring at his display.
His finger hovered in the air.
"Alex, no. I'm serious. Stop what you're doing, right now."
"Why? I'm just talking to people, don't have a fucking hissy fit—"
"Alex. Look at the timestamp."
The blond synth raised a brow and looked over what he'd just sent out into the ether, "...January 19th, 2021. So? It's just an archive, or something."
"You are an idiot," spoke a voice from the far corner of the room. Vox had apparently already arrived, and made her presence known not only by speaking, but by picking up one of the many weapons littering Olive's home. She raised it at Alex, who held up his hands and stared at her.
"Delete the programs," Vox said, priming the shoddy pistol, "or I will shoot you."
"Why?!" he protested, "it's just some kind of fucking game. An archive or some shit. What's so bad about messing around with it that you have to fucking threaten me?!"
Diana placed her hand over her mouth, then stepped forward to look down at the blond's face. She placed herself between Vox's drawn gun, and the synth who had no idea what he was dabbling in.
"Darling, the servers of these applications should not exist, correct?"
"Yeah, so it's some fake shit."
"Are people...responding to you?"
"Yeah," he chuckled, "someone left a heart symbol, and someone...is talking about supply and demand...economics?"
"Do something for me, will you, dear?" Diana asked, stooping so that she was eye-level with the blond as he sat. He nodded.
"Will you ask them..." Diana hesitated for a moment, looking to the far right, scouring her memory, "about the Capitol insurgency? When it was?"
"...the what now?"
"Just humor me, darling," she said with a conflicted smile.
Alex did as she asked. A small noise pinged in his inner auditory system. He cracked a dry smile.
"They said it was about two weeks ago. Then they asked if I was a fucking idiot." Alex scanned Diana's face, eyes hitching.
A few moments of silence passed. Vox still had her weapon raised. Henry was still eating a fistful of disgusting grapes. Olive and Polly were still tinkering. Sebastian was standing like he'd just received news that the rebellion had failed.
Diana reached up and placed her hands on Alex's shoulders. His strong brow raised, at first, curiously. She searched his gaze. His other brow raised.
"...holy fuck," he said, face falling instantly, "...I'm a fucking time machine."
"Yes, yes, yes..." Diana began, "N-now, darling. Delete the programs, please. It is unsafe—"
"No fucking way, Di."
"What?!" she gawked. Alex removed her hands from his shoulders and stood, swiveling around her. She stood, reaching for his arm, but he swept out of reach. Vox yet kept her weapon trained on him, following his every move.
"We could change...fucking history. So that," he paused, rifling around for the lavender smoke device Tyr had given him, "none of this shit would ever have to fucking happen," he perched the object to his mouth and exhaled flowers.
"Alex, we can't," Sebastian began, hands raised once more, "if we do..."
"We will cease to exist," Vox spat, aiming her gun at Alex's head.
Alex paused, lavender smoke spiraling around his head in ribbons of purple. Olive turned off her tool and swiveled in her seat.
"Al," Olive began, gauging the words in her mouth, "do ya' really think messin' with tha' timeline is a good idea?"
Polly turned around and looked over Alex's face. She crossed her arms, tilted her head to the side, and spoke.
"Do it, or whatever."
"What?!" Diana protested, "You can't be serious, dear!"
"If he attempts it, I will shoot him," Vox hissed. She glared at Polly, who rolled her eyes at the tall synth woman.
Polly shifted off of the chair, stole one of Henry's grapes, and walked to stand in the middle of the group.
"Like...where we're at, or whatever, really totally sucks," she paused, popped a grape into her mouth, grimaced, chewed, and spoke again, "...and if we can, like, not end up here...why not try, or whatever?" Alex nodded as she spoke.
"Like...think about it," Polly continued, "we can talk to people from a long time ago, or whatever. Doesn't that, like, mean...we can make a difference?"
"See, she gets it."
"No!" Sebastian exclaimed, "if you alter the fabric of time, with these displaced applications, we will not exist. What about that concept do you not understand?! You're risking all of our lives!"
"It's a risk..." Alex breathed out spirals of smoke, "I'm willing to fucking take."
"Let me ask you a fucking question," Alex changed course, stalked to Sebastian and jabbed his finger into the young man's chest, "are you capable of giving your life for a better fucking future, or do you just want to play fucking checkers, moving around pieces so you can be the shitty little dictator when the game ends?"
Alex glared down at the youthful shell of his once-paramour, defiant, mouth twisted in a half-curled snarl. Sebastian was speechless.
"I would prefer to die than let this be the result of humanity's fucking stupid selfish bullshit," Alex spat as he pushed Sebastian, who stumbled backwards.
"Totally," Polly said, moving to stand by Alex's side, "if you want to like, shoot him, you gotta' like...shoot me too, or...whatever."
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" Diana spat, hands balled up into fists, "this is insane! You two are clearly insane!"
"If that's wha' Poll wants ta' do, sign me up," Henry mumbled through a mouthful of grapes.
"What?!" Diana screeched.
"I'm...surrounded by absolute fools," Sebastian said, taking up the empty seat next to Olive, who had been curiously quiet in these developments.
"I will not stand for it," Vox roared, "I have only just claimed myself. I will not have you take this from me!"
"Do you think you actually have a fucking choice?" Alex asked, preening behind a vicious smile, "I will drop you to the floor before you fucking pull that trigger, and you know it."
Vox's gun shook in her grasp.
"Now who's being the dictator?" Sebastian hissed under his breath. Olive flicked her gaze to Sebastian's face. He met her glance, offering her an acrid smile.
"Stop him," he said to her, low in the throat, "you are the only one who can stop this."
"Naw?!" Sebastian stared at Olive incredulously, "...Olive, you don't mean to say you agree with this devil?"
"I do," she said, rubbing her nose with her thumb, "'cause he's not wrong." Olive hopped off her chair and pattered to the center of the room.
"If we can help change peoples' minds..." she said, mulling over the dog-bit-memory-scar on her lower lip, "maybe it don't have to end up like this."
Diana's expression cracked in half, as did her resolve. She shrunk to her knees, hands to the dirty floor, defeated.
"Wasn't that tha' goal?" Olive asked, turning around to look at the others, "weren't we 'posed to help people? Make our home better?"
Vox slowly lowered her gun, staring at the ground as Olive continued to speak.
"I dunno' 'bout you, but I'm wicked tired of fightin' somethin' this big. If we can stop tha' problem early, like fixin' somethin' before it breaks even worse, that'sa good idea, yah?"
Diana looked up at Olive with a conflicted expression on her face. Henry popped another grape into his mouth. Polly nodded. Sebastian threw up his hands. Vox held her gun at her side.
"Got ideas, princess?" Alex asked.
"Lots. Let's start easy."
"Easy, like ice cream?"
"Easy like jimmies."
"Sprinkle in some dissent, hmm?"
"It's gonna' take a long time," Olive admitted.
"I can automate it. I'm a computer, remember?" Alex tapped his finger to his temple.
"We're doin' this," Olive said to the others, twisting around, "so if y'all don't wanna'...there's tha' door."
"Darling..." Diana protested, drawing to her knees to stand.
"I said what I said," Olive replied, crossing her arms, small mouth twisted acidicly.
"Hey, Sebastian," Olive turned to the distraught would-be tiny dictator, "show me how ya' hooked up. I wanna' make sure he doesn't make it worse instead of better."
"No," he said, shifting away from the table, "I won't."
"Al," Olive's command sent the blond war-machine to crash towards Sebastian, set his fist to his throat, and jack him against the wall.
"We're doin' this," she repeated.
"You're just like him," Sebastian struggled against the fist around his throat, scraping Alex's fake flesh with his fingers.
"Am I?" she said with a small hum, "if I was, I'dda' jus' let him blow yer brains out way back when, huh?"
"Naw. We're doin' this, and yer gonna' show me how."
It had a month of efforts on 'social media', while they managed to dodge Tyr in whatever capacity they could.
Olive kept Alex reigned-in with his haptic, violent nonsense. They leveraged his apparently very powerful accounts to spread information, but not tip off what the future would hold. That is what the group had agreed to: to spread information, foster education, heighten awareness, and proliferate the necessary steps, but not give away the script.
Nobody should know their future. All but Alex and Polly had agreed, but Olive ultimately had executive power over what would come to pass.
Diana had offered to write a series of long-form threads and IN articles, despite protesting to her involvement, and had done just that. Sebastian had promoted them through the available time-locked applications, because those were the only thing he felt comfortable engaging with.
Henry had taken to offering levity; he became good at something known as 'the meme economy', offering the necessary 20/80 split between political messaging and things to make people smile. Polly took up the other arm of that operation, reposting consumer goods that came from good small businesses; things that were helpful, not hurtful.
As for Vox, she would often go back, delete a post, and repost it with added context and clarity only she had. After a while, Alex gave up total control of FB to her, because it was clear she knew what she was doing, and he was making things worse on that particular platform.
The IN platform was reserved for Diana's long-form articles and Sebastian's 'business minded posts'
As for the blue bird application? It was a menagerie of all their thoughts.
Vox eventually gained the most control of that platform as well, but it took a while to wrestle the 'outrage machine' from Alex's grasp, as he was an entitled little shit.
Currently, Olive was looking for a status report of what their efforts had yielded.
"Whatcha' got? What're we lookin' at?"
Alex was laying on a series of boxes he'd made into a makeshift sofa. He stared up at the ceiling. Olive opened her mouth to speak, hesitating.
Alex rolled over, facing the wall, slim shoulders slumping as he drew into a fetal position.
"What's tha' matter, ya' big dumb idiot?"
Alex let out a long, winding sigh.
Sebastian mulled his hand over his mouth and sat back on the stool at Olive's table.
"Let me guess," he began "nobody is paying attention?"
"No, that's not it. We get a lot of, whatever the fuck it's called, 'enagements', or something," Alex mumbled, drawing his knees to his chin as he wrapped his arms around his legs.
"Well then, dear, why are you sulking like a petulant child?" Diana asked with a frustrated snort, leaning forward to swipe a disgusting orange slice from the platter Henry was picking at.
Henry shoved an orange slice in his mouth, and spoke, "S'not enough, innit?" he asked, smacking his teeth. Polly sidled by Diana and plucked an orange slice for herself, put it in her mouth, and chewed the acidic morsel, her features turning sour.
Alex groaned and shifted on his makeshift sofa.
"Did you attempt—" Vox, who had been standing against a wall, began her inquisition.
"And did you—"
"And the campaign was—"
"And did we not—"
"Then, what exactly, is the current situation?" Vox asked, placing a hand on her hip.
Alex shifted yet again, but didn't turn around. Olive pattered forward and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"They're too fucking stupid!" he spat, the minute she touched him, "they think this shit—" Alex wrestled himself to sit, Olive taking a step back, "actually fucking does anything just by replying to it! And sharing it!"
"I'm fucking staring at the trending-ass news topics or whatever the fuck they're called, and nothing is actually happening in their real-life, real-world fucking situation, because they cannot be bothered to go out into the motherfucking world and do fucking anything!"
"Well," Vox began, "there are indeed some valuable organizations doing good work, but...that is not the problem, correct?"
"No," Alex huffed, twisting to shoot forward and start gesturing wildly, "it's that the mass bulk of motherfucking human consciousness is not awake to what the fucking problem even is."
"They're fighting about bipartisan whatever the fuck it is, inventing magical space-lizard conspiracy enemies to attack, instead of dismantling the fucking institution."
"It's too few fucking people who do, and too many fucking people who talk," he roared and flipped over a box. Which hefted into the air only slightly and piddled to the side.
His anger, not yet abated, lead him to stomping the box, which didn't do much but flatten it. Alex, now in a loop of cursing at inanimate objects, screaming, and punching holes in the wall, was left to his own devices.
Olive's expression flattened.
"Well," she said, rounding Alex as he busted a hole through the side of her little hovel with his metal fist, "we tried, yah?" she patted his shoulder. He bristled, twisted his arm, ejected a series of devastating-looking tools from his forearm, and tore half the wall down as he screamed.
Olive pattered over to the food platter, pulled free a handful of grapes, and popped one into her mouth.
"Mate, ya' jus' gonna' let 'im tear ya' house down?" Henry asked. Olive shrugged.
"He needs ta' get it outta' his system. 'Sides, he's gonna' stumble on tha' song I did a post thingy on tha' bird thing, any moment now, and it'll all be—"
Alex stopped his decimation of the wall. He tilted his head to the side.
Olive wiped her mouth on the hem of her daisy shirt and pointed at him.
Alex twisted around, fumbling at the wall he'd destroyed, and jacked his cord into a decimated port. Music from another time filled the room.
"Fuck yes," Alex bellowed out a guttural war-cry.
"See?" Olive said, then dove in for another grape.
Sebastian placed his head on the table in front of him, music deluging his senses. Alex turned the music up louder. Sebastian buried his head in the enclave of his arms. Alex turned the music up again.
"Liv!" Alex shouted, snatching the short woman by the shoulder, "fucking dance with me." Olive spun around, a smile on her face. He swept her out across the room, grasped her hand, and she twirled.
"Okey dokey~" she cackled.
Polly stood from the table, walked behind Alex as he danced with Olive, lifted up his arm, then abruptly dropped it. The music's decibels skyrocketed. Polly blew a kiss in Henry's direction, which was apparently his cue to dance with her, which he did, oafishly.
Vox reluctantly began to tap her foot on the ground to the beat.
Diana jostled her shoulders back and forth and made her way towards Sebastian. Edging ever closer, Sebastian's cloistering grew tighter.
Vox shifted as the beat dropped, raising one hand in the air to usher in a dance fit for an absolute queen of war. Polly cupped her hands over her mouth and hollered.
Diana gestured back and forth in Sebastian's direction. She began to mouth the lyrics, then she dove into half-singing, until she finally landed on yelling lyrics at the perched young man, who was cloistered like a fickle oyster.
"I hate every single one of you!" Sebastian screamed.