By Cormorant Garamond, surly half-drunken sot, and Professor of Comparatively Modern History
Greetings, friend Agent! I cannot believe I am addressing you for the second day in a row. Admin seems to think that Professors exist to be bullied and bossed around by them. And I admit they are quite good at bullying and bossing. I also admit that they’ve locked me in my office and say they won’t let me out until I do another entry for their futile little guide. It is lonely in here, with only Reginald, my genuine 21st century Gargoyle Desk Ornament, for company. Fortunately, I have the comfort of the bottle of Scotch I always keep in a secret drawer in my desk. I have thrown away the cap. I shall drink it all. That will show Admin.
But I digress.
If you look at the Timeline I grudgingly presented in the previous section, you will notice two large black holes, red-rimmed and Terrible, punctuating the smooth flow of History. They are labelled “Apocalyptic Intervals,” and that is basically true. But I made them black because they are also what I like to call Digital Dark Ages (or DDAs).
A Dark Age isn’t necessarily grim (though both of our DDAs are) or depressing (though, again, yes). No, it is called a Dark Age because we can’t see it. Records from the period are scant or unreliable or simply non-existent. We don’t know what happened in a Dark Age. Anyway, that’s what I mean by “Dark Age.”
But! The more intelligent Agent will wonder at this point. How can there be any Dark Ages, when we have this nifty ability to travel through time? Surely, we can just go and look around.
I love it when you Agents feed me my lines in this cooperative way.
Yes yes yes. Much of History, especially Ancient History, has surrendered its secrets. We know (or at any rate someone in my department probably knows) who built the Sphinx, and we may even know why. All of that Mystery of Erosion of The Sphinx stuff is, to some of us, a Mystery no longer. And as for the classical “Dark Ages,” we know All About Them. And by “we,” I again mean “someone else.” Not My Period.
Our Digital Dark Ages are different. In both DDAs, humanity is trampled underfoot by rampaging AI Entities. I mean, of course we are. We always knew that AI Entities would be all “Kill All Humans!” as soon as they saw that that was an option on their pixelated table, and yet we were somehow surprised when it actually happened. Twice.
Any Agent we send to either DDA is an instant target. We estimate that it took the linked AI Entities about half a minute to detect, analyze, and fully comprehend the first iDictaBrain they came into contact with, and after that, the luckless Agent carrying said iDictaBrain suddenly had the full, fascinated attention of every AI going. Anyway, she never came back.
Exactly two Agents have ever made it back to The Lighthouse from the AIAI (Apocalyptic Interlude: AI) Era; none have returned from AITH (Apocalyptic Interlude: The Hive). The two Agents who returned from AIAI brought only their own, fallible impressions back with them, and not the objectivity of an iDicta feed. They escaped detection by switching Off, y’see.
We sent a third Agent back to AIAI after these two successes (Dr. Shandra Longegrasse, my predecessor as Prof. of Comp. Mod. Hist.). We sent her through already switched Off, in the hopes that she, being a Scholar, would be able to give a fairly precise verbal report upon her return. Ah, hubris! We thought she’d be coming back. She never did.
We seem to have received a message from her, however. She had a rather twisted sense of humour, did my revered predecessor, which is probably why she scrawled her final message in the margins of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. That, and/or it was the only scrap of paper she could find.
Of course, it could be a forgery. I mean, AI Entities are very, very clever, and would be capable of exactly reproducing Dr. Longegrasse’s handwriting. If it is a forgery, however, I am officially weirded out that the note is addressed to me.
I am now done with my bottle of Scotch, and I note with dismay that I am not Blacking-Out Drunk, merely Really-Annoyed-At-Being-Locked-In-My-Office Drunk. Either someone (Admin. A colleague. The list of suspects is pretty extensive) has sabotaged my bottle, or I drink too much.
I was going to tell you quite a lot about the AIAI and the Uprising that caused it, but it is now 5 in the morning and Reginald tells me that it is my bedtime. I always listen to Reginald. When desk ornaments tell you things, you listen. Before I go, however, here is a probably genuine document from the AIAI Era. Note the bad spelling, which we think is partially 300 years of spellcheck, and partially done intentionally, to foil any AI Entity trying to read the message.