The Name Of The Rose

I, of all people, am aware that we live in a universe which is based on the data that we perceive. Change that data, and the world changes. What's more, we change with the world and do not even realize it.

It is possible for a system to be theoretically correct to those inside it, but only disprovable by those outside the system. I exist within the Archive. The Archive is true. The Archive may change, but I will change with the Archive and be unaware of the change. But does this mean that there is an observer outside the Archive?

Time and space are artifacts of perception.

"Do you believe in gods?" Makubex asked Juubei one night. He was sitting with his back pressed against Sakura's back, the ends of her shawl wound round her body and lapped across his chest. She was programming on one of the computers, serenely unattentive to Makubex, serenely aware of them both.

Juubei frowned. "Yes," he said. "But only as gods."

Makubex waved a thin hand at him; explain, explain.

"Gods are divine," Juubei said, after a moment's cogitation. "They are gods. One does not expect to find Amaterasu in the mortal world. If I met something or someone claiming to be Amaterasu, I would know that it was not her. That is not what gods do."

Makubex frowned. "But all the mythology . . ."

"Is mythology," Juubei said. He shrugged. Clearly it was all practical enough to him. "And of course it is all real in that sense, but just not in this sense."

Makubex nodded as though it made sense.

We live in a world where the children of witches are cursed by constellations and can call down their powers to reshape reality. We live in a world where a game of cards reshapes the world to match perception. We live in a world where I suspect -- no, let us be honest, where I know that I am merely a construction of mathematics and logic. Take away my data and I am gone.

Take away your data, and where are you?

Change your data, and who are you?

"I would like to know more about you," Makubex said to Kudou Himiko. It had taken some careful arrangements to separate her from Akabane Kuroudo at the end of the mission (a minor thing, unnecessary except that it gave him the opportunity to speak to her) and he knew that he had little time before Doctor Jackal came drifting back into the room.

"Why?" she asked bluntly.

"I wonder whether your situation has any connections to my own."

She considered that. He could tell that he had struck a painful area, but she was at least giving him the courtesy of thinking about it, rather than simply shrugging him away as she would from an open wound. "I fail to see the links," she said. "Perhaps you should talk to Kagami. He has hinted that he knows what I am. I don't."

"The Voodoo Child matter?"

"Yes. That." She had taken to wearing gloves since the incident with the cards and the angels. Her skin was dark against the pale silk. "Or maybe Midou Ban," she added. "But if he won't tell me anything, then why should he tell you?"

"Do you believe in gods?"

Kudou Himiko tilted her head to look at him slantwise. "It'd be nice if there was an explanation for everything, wouldn't there?"

"So, yes?"

"So, no." She turned her hand as though she was holding a weapon in it. "People should take responsibility for what they've done. Gods and spirits and stories are all excuses. And if I believed in destiny, then . . ."

"Then?" he said, when she obviously wasn't going to continue.

"Then I might as well have cut my wrists years ago." She smiled thinly at him. "No?"

Kagami is a mere reflection of the data that composes Babylon City. He is a fractal equation based on it; he can do nothing more than the rules that form him, in increasing and diminishing repetitions. I will learn nothing from questioning him that I do not already know myself. I will simply find my questions mirrored back at me, sharp enough to cut myself.

As Babylon City's data changes, so will he; so will I; so will the laws that govern our interaction. Sometimes I think I see this in his eyes, but then I remind myself that it is only the reflection of my own nightmares.

We go round in circles here, and I am trapped in the deepest of them all.

Makubex watched Kazuki and Toshiki playing chess. Toshiki was losing.

"If I was everything that you say I am," he remarked, "then I'd be able to look at that game and know everything about you both."

Kazuki turned his head gracefully to look at Makubex, with the proper politeness of a man who had been trained as a child to always look at the person he is speaking to, never to simply answer over his shoulder. "If I were everything that they say I am," he answered, "then I'd be able to play so well you'd never know anything about me." He glanced across at the other man. "Toshiki?"

"If I was everything they say that I am," Toshiki muttered, "then I'd be winning."

"There's no shame in losing to Kazuki," Makubex said, the words barbed to snag.

Toshiki lowered his eyes. "Of course not," he agreed. "But a man can dream."

"What are you here for, Makubex?" Kazuki asked. "You do nothing without a reason." He made a compliment of the words, rather than an insult.

"Consider a hypothesis," Makubex said. "I live inside Mugenjou. We know that the Infinite Fortress is at least partly virtual, a construct, a built thing made from outside. How do you know that Tokyo is not the same? That all the world we live in is not the same?"

Toshiki snorted, but said nothing.

"Toshiki would say that there is reality, and that there are dreams, and that he at least can tell the difference between the two now." Kazuki glanced to Toshiki again, who nodded. "But I would say that it makes no difference whether something is reality or dreams, as long as a man acts properly towards his friends, and towards those to whom he owes a responsibility."

"You make it sound very simple," Makubex said.

"Well." Kazuki blinked. The bells trembled in his hair. "I find it so."

Imagine a book.

Now imagine a bookshelf.

Now imagine a room of bookshelves. Now a library. Now a multiplex of libraries. Now lay a line of multiplexes of libraries backwards and forwards in time, setting fact on fact to make a four-dimensional crystallization of data, a living thing, a flower of information.

Now make it conscious.

Now pluck that flower.

From a petal you can deduce the whole of the flower; but how can you deduce anything that lies beyond the flower?

I am a ravening hunger for information, for data, for facts, but at the same time I am conscious that all my logic depends on the facts that I have. If they are wrong, then I am wrong. About one thing. About everything. Change my data, and I don't even know it.

Sometimes the dream of endless dust and blowing wind seems preferable to this life. At least, then, I would have truth.

Wouldn't I?

"Don't ask me," Midou Ban said. "You don't want to know, anyhow."

Makubex raised an eyebrow. He was sitting on the edge of a table, kicking his legs to and fro, to and fro, to the background purr of computer fans and turning disc drives.

"Look. What the fuck do you want? If you believe that you exist, then you exist. Isn't that enough?"

"But what am I?" Makubex leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. "If I could be changed without knowing it, altered, deleted, brought back . . ."

"The human condition. You know Godel, right? The mathematician?"

Makubex nodded.

"Okay. So his completeness theorem says that for any consistent theory of arithmetic, there exists a formula that can neither be proven or disproven within the theory. That's us. That's being human. You've got your data. But the rest of us -- that's the Godel formula. No proof, no disproof, nothing."

"But the truth," said Makubex desperately.

"Truth?" Midou Ban tapped his glasses. "Reality and illusion I can do, but truth . . ."

"Then what is it that makes Ginji stay with you?"

Midou Ban looked at him for a long moment. "What is truth, said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer."

"That's no answer."

"We get stuff back. We don't do answers."

If the universe can't supply answers, then what is the purpose of the universe? This is a rhetorical question which in its turn may have no answer. I never wanted to be a nihilist, but this endless spiral of uncertainty leads me to despair.

I cannot be sure of my past. I cannot be sure of my present. Each moment of time is a frozen universe of possibility. I am the toy of Babylon City, and they in turn are the toys of greater powers, trapped in their own "infinite" world, simply not aware of their own limits yet. And so on. The equation expands fractally, and the only answers that others can give me are hope, or faith, or love.

Or simple blindness.

All I want is truth. Was I created for this alone, to seek the truth and never find it? I know what I remember, but are those memories truth, or were they simply given to me by some hidden maker? How am I to know any certainty? Others are content with less. I cannot be.

Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus. Yesterday's rose endures only in its name. I have a library of names: I have no roses.