Hellsborough & The Dark Peak

Discovering the unexplored parallel world of Sheffield, S6 -- Hellsborough and The Dark Peak

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Today is 79.drizzle-flufftail.8.10

Pip's Hellsborough Diary

Welcome to my journal. Here you will find diarised entries of my field notes and research when I spend time in Hellsborough. I write diary entries frequently, but if I haven't for a while, I'm either not in Hellsborough, my work in the off-world has had to take prescendence, or something tragic has happened.

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79.drizzle-flufftail.3.18

When it comes to earning ¢hits and making your life better, there are many ways to do it. So many, that sometimes it can be difficult to narrow down your ideas so that you can concentrate on some of them without expending all your available time and energy.

So I figured that there were some things that I absolutely didn't want:

First -- I didn't want to be famous -- I'd like to go about my daily life with as little fanfare as possible. I don't mind working hard, but I have no interest in having my face plastered all over posters, or even my photograph. I don't want to be appearing in ads on the hivemind. I'm not interested in performing -- the clowns have that market all sewn up anyway. I'm not someone who is into public speaking. So, I wanted my business to be effectively anonymous, not because I am doing anything illegal, just because, well, I have anxiety issues and I'm just not comfortable with face-to-face contact so much; I'm just shy, I guess -- you know, I'm an anthropologist and folklorist -- a back-room worker, I don't mind the intimacy of being an anthropologist, but I'm a listener and a writer, not a talker.

Second -- I didn't want the burden of managing people. Managing employees is stressful and not necessary. It's not important to me to start a big business, and so I can concentrate on building systems that do my work better and quicker. I don't need anyone else to help me making ¢hits, so I can keep all of the profit for myself: No paying salaries, no liability insurance, just me, myself and I, adding value for my customers.

Finally, third -- I didn't want to carry stock -- I have no space. I live in a tiny flat on the Middlewood road, above Corner News. Plus, when starting out, I wasn't sure what would work and what would not, and my supply of ¢hits wasn't very large back then, so I had no cash for stock in any case.

So when you rule out those three F's: Fame/Face, Folk, and Funding, where does that leave you?

Well, either using your Mind, or using your Muscle, that's where it leaves you. But there is always a third way -- and I'll keep thinking about what that third way is.

Using muscle is the easy option for getting work. Someone always wants something to be done in a place like this, whether it be moving books from place A to place B, or serving behind a bar, or digging a hole in the road. Trading your time and effort, exchanging your time and muscle for pay, is easy money -- but the pay is never great, since anyone can do it -- if you can't, then you have some serious problems -- and I get that some people do have problems -- I'm one of them. Although I could physically do the work, and I have done before, it doesn't scale.

What do I mean, it doesn't scale?

Well, consider this: You get yourself some work in a bar. You're good at it, you can serve pints; you can serve snacks; you can serve food to a table. All well and good. But so can everyone else -- the barrier to entry is minimal, which means that anyone can do it, which means that the pay is minimal because it's simply a race to the bottom with something like serving drinks and food -- because it's easy. That's why your pay is so low.

How can you increase your pay in such a situation? Well, you can become a proper expert in the drinks and food you are serving. That will set you above someone who really doesn't care, and just does the job because it's a job, but additional knowledge will only take you so far -- at the end of the day, you are still trading your time and physical effort for ¢hits.

Let's say you use your mind instead. Let's say you know how to code, and you get a job with a business building their website. That's great. The pay may be better than working in the bar I mentioned above, because you have skills that fewer people have (the ability to code), so the barrier to entry is higher, and that costs an employer more, but you're still trading your time for ¢hits, even though you're using your mind. It still isn't scaleable.

Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes, just doing the work is what needs to be done. Do work. Get paid. Simple. I've done it many a time, and I will provide you with plenty of examples of how I have done this, and how you can do it to, but whilst necessary sometimes, just to get the ¢hits in, it's not the ideal, and you should be aware of that. You should always be striving for work that is an alternative to trading your time for money.

So what is the alternative? The alternative is to use your mind AND do work that is scaleable.

There's that phrase again: Scale. What is this Scaleability?

Scaleability is simple. It simply means doing something once, and selling it multiple times.

In the previous example, when you work the bar and trade your time for ¢hits, you do the thing once, and you get paid for it once. You can't scale it to work in any other way. It's the same with the coding. You do the work once, and get paid for it once. You have no option to re-sell the work you have done for your employer, even though you have created something from nothing with your mind.

But, let's consider putting your time and effort into something which doesn't pay you immediately, but which is scaleable...

I'll leave that for the next diary entry.

79.drizzle-flufftail.2.1

You know, the best thing that ever happened to me was getting trapped over here in Hellsborough. I have a degree and a PhD, I also had a ton of debt when I was a student, and lived like an animal. I ate rubbish food. I went out with friends, but I couldn't afford to, I spent plenty of money on my passions (drink, and other extracurricular activities), but it made me broke.

Debt is crippling, let me tell you. And all for what? I did learn to talk to folks, that's for sure, that's what anthropology is all about. As for folklore, what was I thinking? When I think back now about what I was doing, I was just following my own selfish interests.

Don't get me wrong, without the knowledge of those two subjects, I don't think I'd have ever found my way here, so maybe the selfishness, stupidity and sacrifice was ultimately worth it.

Now I understand the human condition and myself so much better than I ever did, or would have ever done back on the off-world. I would have just been accumulating my own selfish knowledge about subjects that no-one really cares about.

Here, in Hellsborough, where capitalism rules supreme, I have had to learn to stand on my own two feet. There are no hand-outs here -- well there are, you'll not starve, you're too important to the nascenti for them to allow you to starve, and you'd make too much of a mess for them to clean up. But the way to really live, is to make more ¢hits, that is the measure of success by anyone's yardstick in this world.

It is a constant amazement to me that your average jellyhead is actually content to work for the nascenti and receive their daily bread. They're fine, they live their lives, they are able to have families, they get to go to the pub every now and then, maybe eat out once or twice a year, get to buy a pork roll for lunch a couple of days a week, rather than always relying on the DPDC issued bio-feed. But none of them dare to stick their heads above the parapet much -- but the truth be told, they don't need to stick their heads above the parapet, there is plenty of ways to earn ¢hits and live a much better life.

Most of them though, just don't bother to even understand the problem, never mind learn the fundamentals of making their lives better.

I suppose you could easily have levelled the same criticism against me back when I was in the off-world.

I was so wrapped up in my own existence, and full of the luxury of trying to learn about what I wanted to selfishly learn about, eg. anthropology and folklore -- I ignored the real needs that I had -- instead of spending my time pursuing things that would take me off the bread line, I just survived, I ignored the real and present danger -- that of being one pay cheque away from bankruptcy, not that I got a pay cheque back then, I just had an allowance and dead end side jobs working for the man, or nonsense jobs in academia.

I thank Dunlockslyn that I managed to find those semagrams and that I then made The Hinge so unstable, that I can no longer go back to the off-world. It has made me who I am now, and I'm not going to apologise for that.

So what did I do? How did find these ways to earn ¢hits and live myself a better life?

I'll save that for another day, but believe me, I will share all -- I've no reason not to.

79.drizzle-flufftail.1.10

The Legend of Loxley Bottom (The Gabbleratchets of Sophie Hinchcliffe) Epilogue

The Legend of Loxley Bottom -- The gabbleratchets of Sophie Hinchcliffe -- is based on extensive research that I have conducted over many hours spent in the Hellsborough archive at the Hellsborough library, which is also home to The Dark Peak District Council offices -- indeed, it is still home to Sophie's own office, although I have not met her, nor have I been permitted to visit those hallowed floors. As an academic, I have felt compelled to point out and describe any inaccuracies that I have come across in the archive's records, and based on my own travels in the locale -- hence this epilogue to the story.

If you fancy following in Sophie (and Naval's) footsteps, then you can -- but, as I always say, watch out for hidden dangers -- you may not meet gabbleratchets (D'divi help you if you do), you may not spot the Gosava tree, you'll unlikely see the nascenti -- few do, or ever have done (in many visits to the Damflask and beyond, I have never seen them), and you'll hopefully avoid the loathsome smeln (if you do spot them, shiv them first, they have no purpose in life other than unpleasantness, and as Lomas said, are nothing more than scum, bottom-dwelling scum at that).

Sophie's journey started at the tram stop across the road from Farantees supermarket, when she was waiting for the trolley-bus after she had left Farantees for the night and the rain was siling down. It was from here that her journey began when she was abducted by the gabbleratchets.

Sophie's destination, had she caught the tram, was the Middlewood road terminus, which is just a stones throw from her home at Winn gardens -- which is where Naval's journey began. Where Sophie would have been heading home, Naval was heading out, on foot. He stopped at several pubs and bars on his way, and he ordered and received a shipment of vape fluid close to Hellsborough park.

Once abducted by the gabbleratchets, Sophie was carried through the murk to the Loxley pond. There are at least four major ponds on the Loxley river, and which particular Loxley pond Sophie was dumped at isn't specified, but my favourite theory is the first, due to the proximity to Hellsborough -- The gabbleratchets are powerful creatures, but their struggling, kicking and screaming victim would not have made for an easy payload, and so I think they would have brought her down at their first opportunity. What is certain, is one of these pools was where Sophie met her painful demise -- or at least where she was blinded and defiled; where the innocence of a young woman was taken from her, never to be returned.

After the Loxley pond, Sophie stumbled in a state of half-life for many paces until she reached the Damflask, finally succumbing to her injuries and there, her body sank into the depths.

The nascenti located her dead body and regrew her again from her DNA. Their lair is believed to be deep beneath the surface, but you are unlikely to see any evidence of such, they are a secretive species not known for their visibility.

The location of the Gosava tree in the wisewood -- avoided by Sophie, presumably the tree didn't see her as a potential meal, or maybe she took a different route -- where Naval would meet his demise, is described as being "Up above the pumping station, on that dirty and discarded track", which is not as accurate as I believe it should be. The pumping station is a red herring, or at least it could be. I may be wrong, but the Gosava tree that I have seen, whilst being up and above the Loxley river (and possibly above an older pumping station, or at least some sort of works -- but there are many in the area), is not near to the pumping station that you would think of, the one close to the first Loxley pond. Maybe the Gosava tree has moved, the wisewood is always moving. That could definitely explain that inaccuracy that I found in the archive.

Later on her return, Sophie meets Boggy Lomas and Jason, and then the smeln by the abandoned factories, close the the bunker, which depicts various native images of the xin and other forest spirits. The facts and inaccuracies of the history books and my research indicate that this artwork is more recent, but I believe the setting to be more or less accurate.

After leaving the wisewood reborn, Sophie emerged at watersmeet and the Malin bridge, but again, that is an inaccuracy, since the watersmeet is around the corner from the path that leads to the first Loxley pond, although it is not far off, but watersmeet is the confluence of the Loxley and the Rivelin. Again, paths and roads change, so this could just be that the map of the place has changed in the years since the original events happened.

Sophie then headed down Holme lane, turning left at Hellsborough corner, and back up the Middlewood road towards Hellsborough park. Farantees supermarket would be on the right, with the tram stop, where she was originally abducted, on the left. Then she went into Hellsborough park proper, The Dark Peak District Council offices being located on a grassy knoll overlooking the rest of the suburb.

A final point, which I didn't mention in the previous dramatisation, is that after Sophie had taken on her role of Chief Executive of The Dark Peak District Council, her first decree on gaining power, was the total and abject annihilation of the gabblerachets. I believe she succeeded -- what is certain, is that they have not been seen about around Hellsborough for many a year past.

79.drizzle-flufftail.1.3

The Legend of Loxley Bottom (The Gabbleratchets of Sophie Hinchcliffe) Chapter ten: CEO.

The murklight ushered in a new dawn, the bright street lamps of the night dimming as the weak sunlight filtered in through the murk.

Hexikid street cleaners busied themselves in the early pall, chased by barkers -- made and organic; it was the way of things. Everyone expected the same noises -- the slops and slushes of the cleaners, the yips and yaps of the barkers -- at the same time, every morning. It was the waking call of Hellsborough.

Sophie faced a choice. The hill up Dykes lane, or the flat of Holme. She opted for the latter. That is not to say she knew where she was, or knew where she needed to go. But she did know. Something deep within her told her that the quickest route would be the hill, but that the sensible thing to do would be to stay on the flat.

The quickest route to where?

To the Dark Peak District Council offices at the library on Hellsborough park.

She pushed on down Holme lane. Many folk recognised her and wanted to stop and chat. At first, she found this awkward. She stopped at the coos and caws, they wanted to hug her, to ask her where she had been. But Sophie was confused, she didn't recognise these people. They seemed nice enough, but she had no time for them. She pulled her self away, saying nothing, rushing forwards along that long and busy lane.

She heard tuts and sighs as she rushed forwards, incomprehensible murmurs of discontent; grumbles and groans from folk who knew her and knew her well -- exasperated by her ignorance towards them. Yet, this was not the Sophie that they knew, and this Sophie didn't know or recognise any of them. This Sophie had only a mission and a destination, and it required her to forge forwards, past these people recognised the form and features of the skin that her nascenti form now wore.

Turning left at the junction, the corner, she fought her way along the Middlewood road. Again, the looks of recognition and the friendly, affirming words. She ignored them, walked stonily past them all.

Her mind was determination. Nothing now would stop her reaching the council offices on the park. Deep in her unconscious mind, she has a message for the CEO of the DPDC.

Just one thing now stood between her and her destination: Farantees. Her previous employer -- not that this Sophie had any inkling of that fact.

Look! Said one of Sophie's ex-colleagues -- it's Sophie! There was much chattering of the early shift as they stood outside the department store, each pulling on a last cigarette before the doors opened for the day.

Sophie strode purposefully, not recognising her former colleagues.

Soph'! Soph'! Shouted one of the assembled throng. I's me, Aimes. Soph'!

Sophie faltered. The shouting and cries of welcome disturbed her. But something else disturbed her more: Outside Farantees was the same tram stop that Sophie had been abducted from by the gabbleratchets.

Hallucinations filled Sophie's thoughts. Where these hallucinations came from wasn't clear. There was no way that they were Sophie's memories, since the original Sophie, the one taken by the gabbleratchets all those days ago, no longer existed -- those heinous beasts had seen to that -- yet this Sophie had flashbacks to that very night, and those images stopped her in her tracks -- she was frozen in space and time.

Her ex-colleagues called out to her and cajoled her in their direction, without advancing towards her stiff frame.

Sophie was upright, but prostrate -- suspended in animation. Images of things past which weren't hers flooded her mind. Evil images. Images of being dragged into the air against her will. Images from another consciousness. Sophie was on the verge of panic.

Then the rockcrust kicked in.

Prescribed by the nascenti scientists, and administered when her cortisol levels reached the point of overwhelming her sanity, the drug coursed like venom through her veins, calming and curing her.

Sophie no longer felt panic, no longer felt the need to run. She continued walking calmly, ignoring the calls from her former colleagues, ignoring the tram stop, forgetting those images that had come to her from nowhere.


Moments later, Sophie was at the door of the library on Hellsborough park.

Sophie walked straight in, the door wasn't locked. Doors were rarely locked in Hellsborough. For one, the crime rate was minuscule in Hellsborough -- there was no need for crime, when a capitalist society rewarded work and hustle, and any crime was heavily punished by the exacid. And two, the always on, 24 hours society meant that the offices were always in use.

No one stopped her has she found the directions and then navigated herself to the office the the CEO of the Dark Peak District Council.

Opening the door to the office, the chair was vacant, so Sophie took up residence. The name on the metal tent card said "Mr. J. P. Blenkinsopp, CEO". Sophie waited for its owner to arrive. While she waited, she plucked dusty books from the shelves around the office -- details of historical decisions, plans of work done, and those to be undertaken in the future. None of it made much sense to Sophie, not yet at least.

She got to pouring through something that she found remotely interesting (although the former shop assistant would not be able to tell you why she now found the concept of this tome so enticing): "The maps and statics of the first hundred years of the settlement of Hellsborough (76.mist-hoverwing - 78.murk-demonspawn)." Engrossed as she was, she failed to notice when a number of hours later, as the day has gone from first murklight to close to murknoon, the door to the office swung open, and before her stood a tall figure encased in a stylish woollen overcoat, carrying a leather briefcase.

Ah, good morning young lady, said the bespectacled figure who had entered the room, making Sophie look up -- not with surprise or fright, but with a cold stare that set the speaker rocking on the heels of his patent leather brogues, although she said nothing in response to his greeting.

And whom might you be, he said with a haughty glare, for this was CEO of the DPDC, Joshua P. Blenkinsopp.

Sophie said nothing, just met the gaze of her inquisitor with a shiv of her own.

I'll ask you again, said the CEO of the DPDC -- who are you that sits at my desk?

I am the new CEO of the Dark Peak District Council, said Sophie, matter of factly.

Joshua P. Blenkinsopp guffawed involuntarily. Yes, I see that, he said, his sneer the purest arrogance. But young lady, the Dark Peak District Council already has a CEO, and I am he -- and are you not a little young to be bothering yourself with the running of local government?

What do you know old man?

Old man, Blenkinsopp said with a smirk -- I'll have you know, I'm the youngest ever CEO of the DPDC -- none before me has been younger.

Please leave my office, said Sophie, I have important work to do, and as I said, I am now the CEO of The Dark Peak District Council. It has been decreed by the nascenti leadership, and your services are no longer required. Consider yourself fired.

Fired?! On whose authority? Who is this nascenti leadership that you speak of, I answer to no nascenti leadership. I report to the elected members of the council -- individuals elected by the people of Hellsborough. There is no room for fantasy in politics. Surely, this is some sort of practical joke. Blenkinsopp scanned the cameras in the corner of the room behind his desk, looking for some tell-tale movement that might indicate some sort of hoax being played, but everything looked as it had always looked.

#### HMM::OUT('Who is the Chief Executive Officer of The Dark Peak District Council?')

ask:: Blenkinsopp, Joshua // stat:: accept[ok]__ // src:: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:037g:7334 [loc::hellsborough//middlewood_road//0017]__ // now:: 79.rain-rooter.17.12.11.59.29

HMM::IN('../\/\/\/ Updating... /\/\/ As of this precise moment, the Chief Executive Officer of The Dark Peak District Council is Mr. J. P. Blenkinsopp, BSc (Hons), MBA_.

You see, the hivemind confirms what I already knew, that I, and not you are the CEO. Now please vacate my desk immediately, before I call for the exacids!

HMM::IN('../\/\/\/ Updating... /\/\/ Mr. J. P. Blenkinsopp was, as unanimously voted by the incumbent council members at 79.rain-rooter.17.12.9.0.0, removed from office -- effective 79.rain-rooter.17.12.11.59.59_

HMM::IN('../\/\/\/ Updating... /\/\/ Mr. Blenkinsopp's tenure, will be terminated and he will be replaced by Miss Sophie Hinchcliffe at 79.rain-rooter.17.12.12.0.0__.

Blenkinsopp looked at Sophie aghast. What is this malfeasance?! This is not right. The council members must have been intimidated, they would never do this to me! My track record is without blemish! I have never put a finger wrong in my seventeen years of service!!

And, anyway, what do you -- a girl -- know about municipal affairs? His voice was weak though, and without commitment, it was the voice of the broken.

Come to me, said Sophie, holding her arms outstretched, her fingers wide.

Kneel before me.

Blenkinsopp kneeled passively in front of her, allowing his head to drop into her lap and silent tears to weep from his eyes. Her small fingers wrapped themselves around his large cranium, he relaxed succumbing to her like a child.

Now, what don't I know about municipal affairs? Said Sophie, as murknoon elapsed and the light of a new era dawned on The Dark Peak.

79.drizzle-flufftail.0.16

The Legend of Loxley Bottom (The Gabbleratchets of Sophie Hinchcliffe) Chapter nine: Return.

The murk was thick and cloying as Sophie entered the wisewood on her return to Hellsborough, but the rain had stopped.

The antithesis of the wandering, mindless Sophie that had headed in the opposite direction on the way to the Damflask after the attack of the gabbleratchets, this version of Sophie strode with intent -- focused on forwards motion and purpose, driven with a sense of resolve.

It was so dark a normal human wouldn’t be able to see easily, would easily stumble into the grasping branches of the myriad trees that had fallen onto or otherwise blocked the shabby pathway.

Sophie brushed away the tendrils as they grabbed for her, jumping over the fallen trees, they offered no hindrance to her.

She could see well enough, not through her human eyes, but using the heightened senses of the nascenti to guide her.

Sophie's knowledge of the environment, of the woods and the creatures that lay within it, made her an adept explorer -- able to move through the wisewood like one of the Wood clan of the netherlands, able to see between the trees and spot danger and opportunity as it arose.

She pinched an eightleg from its web and bit down on it, severing its head from its abdomen.

Sophie still needed to eat, still needed to fuel her body, but how that nourishment arrived in her stomach, she was less fussy about.

She could hear a low moaning from a way off, and before long, she came across the Gosava tree. The source of the low moaning now was obvious, it was the low sub-sonic moaning of the Gosava tree itself, its own hunger for blood and meat, a drawing call to lull prey into a sense of comfort and ease -- it was an hallucinating, hypnotic sound, designed to disorientate potential sources of food, so they could be ensnared on the tree's sticky branches before being sucked of nourishment.

There in the branches, splayed in a cruciform on the forest floor was Naval. Sophie looked at the boy, a sense of recognition stirring in her mind, but no emotion and no ties, no memories of who this thing might be. She recognised what was left of him as human, a source of protein, but of her former life, Sophie had no memories about these remains that laid in the dirt at her feet.

Somehow Naval managed to get his torso vertical, he screamed in soundless pain, his voice box already removed by the tree. He was barely alive. Naval was pain. He saw that he no longer existed below the waist. He had aged well beyond his years. He was an old man now. Near to death. Sucked of moisture.

His barely functioning mind saw that he was engorged by the Gosava tree, that he was consumed, that he was already eaten alive.

He looked old beyond his years, whereas Sophie looked youthful and almost angelic, not that she could be. Maybe Naval was paying for his previous jealousy.

Disfigured growths, things sprouting from his skin and the breeding ground that was his body. Transforming him, turning him into something that he wasn't; regenerating his human flesh into something else entirely.

Naval was virtually dead, his arms and legs, his bowels and stomach already absorbed by the Gosava tree in its thirst for nourishment, flesh, bone and the tasty soft easily ingested parts.

His chest huffed up and down in short gasps, his face contorted into a scream, his mind frozen with pain and fear, his eyes bulging from their sockets, his remaining skin pale and flaccid, coated in a sheen silvery wetness.

Sophie approached the almost dead form with no passion and placed her left hand on his skull. She clutched his temples and cognitised what was left of his thoughts, absorbing those impulses into her brain.

The job complete, Sophie stopped and let Naval's head slip to the floor.

The Gosava tree would finish him off at its leisure.

It was only then that Sophie recognised something of the thoughts that she had cognitised, and a flicker of what might have been emotion briefly lit her eyes, before the emotion left again as quick as it had arrived and any glow of humanity, extinguished.

All that was left was a dull and intense darkness of the soul -- if any soul had established itself within this human shaped cyborg shell.

But Sophie now had something more.

She had a glimpse of human emotion. She had some practical skills that could be used -- practical skills that came from Naval's training as a gruizer mechanic: An ability to get into the guts of an organic machine, to diagnose a faulty drive unit, to fix a diseased control system, the knowledge to coax a sick machine back to health.

He, he... You have done well gurl, cackled a maniacal voice from the shadows.

Sophie didn't flinch. Flinching was not an emotion that Sophie had been taught, nor understood. She didn't speak, so far, she had never spoken. Her throat box was dry.

Speak then gurl, said the voice. You have come to me, and you are strong.

For a moment, nothing happened. And then she did speak:

And who's thee like? A crackle from her throat, emanating like an ache.

And whom am I? Said the voice from the shadows in response. Tha, thee, needs t'improve tha vocabulary if tha is about to take on the world, gal. Tha needs to enunciate proper like. Tha needs to start talkin' in strict Ing to be where tha's gooin' -- So I doant want to 'ear no more o'that pidgin Ing that tha's talkin' now gal -- does tha understand me?

Sophie checked herself. This was something new. She wasn't scared, far from it, her brain latched onto a learning opportunity.

And how should I address my unseen new friend? She said.

Me, ha! I am the weaver of worlds, said the voice.

I started out as a shell, just a wizened little boy with no mind and no body to speak of, I was cast out to die, to be disposed of in this vile place, just a misfit, a canker attached to the underworld. But somewhere in the depths of my nascenti brain, I had this need to survive -- not just survive, but to build and learn, to deceive and grow.

Slowly, through my friend Jason here, I was able to hang about in the shadow the the Gosava tree and cognitise until I was able to think for myself.

I was strewn aside as a failure, but I am no failure now. I am powerful. I should cognitise you, but you have more power than I, and I recognise that.

I am Lomas. And this, Lomas indicted a shadow within the shadows on his shoulder, is my symbiot, Jason.

Jason was an orphan -- like me, cast into this place to die -- but we found each other and became one, and that was the saviour of us both.

I it were boss, it were. Why tha no symbiot Sophie? Said Jason.

I have no symbiot, because I have never met one, said Sophie. I didn't know what a symbiot was, until right now, when I met you.

E'ryone 'as symbiot. Said Jason.

No wait. Said Lomas, that's not true. Everyone we know has a symbiot Jason.

Things are different out here in the wisewood and the netherlands, but where Sophie came from and where she is going, they don't really do symbiots.

A symbiot would give her away, so let's leave that line of thinking for now.

Lomas stepped out from the shadows of the abandoned industrial unit, the bare murklight illuminating his scarred face. You'll be wondering how I know your name, Sophie? He said.

But then there was a noise to his left and he retreated.

Lomas was used to moldenke, he came across them all the time in the wisewood and the netherlands. Mostly they kept themselves to themselves -- but this was different.

Smeln – just like moldenke always travelled in twos, but this brace was angry. They knew about Sophie -- how they knew about Sophie is anyone's guess, but the organic network has eyes and ears that extend beyond even the reach of the nascenti.

This pair -- these heinous smeln -- barely human, resembling more the boggarts, maybe the smeln were the product of such a freak experiment of the murk, a human/boggart hybrid: Knuckle dragging parasites, hairy armed and hairy backed, no intelligence to reason, just basal instincts, opportunists. Bottom dwelling scum of The Dark Peak.

Smeln though, like all opportunists, are cowards. They thought the odds were in their favour: A lone female, out here in the wisewood.

huh, huh, it's just a gurl Shoj, she ain't gonna giv us no bother. They approach her, spreading their arms wide like the monsters of the dark they were.

But Sophie showed no fear. Fear wasn’t an emotion that she had been gifted, and she had no interest in being defiled (not that she remembered the gabbleratchets, but, there was something stirring...)

The smeln tried to rape her.

It was a trivial exercise for Lomas and Sophie together to cognitise them, not that their brains contained information of any worth: Junk thoughts, work avoidance, get rich quick schemes and lottery ambitions.

Scum! Said Lomas, allowing the one called Shoj to be enveloped by the rhizomes of the Gosava tree. You go now Sophie. You can handle yourself, but the sooner you get on your way, the sooner you can start your great work – the work for which you will become legendary!

Jason come with thee, said Jason, Jason ‘elp thee!

Sophie ignored Jason, she had no need for standing out.

All was quiet as Sophie approached the outskirts of Hellsborough.

The wisewood encroached on the outlying buildings, some of them taken into its grasp, broken down and consumed by it, but the larger, more stable buildings breaking away and establishing their own sense of self.

Sophie walked like an automaton -- focused -- onto the Loxley road, finding herself at watersmeet on the Malin bridge, at the confluence of the Loxley and Rivelin rivers.

79.drizzle-flufftail.0.9

The Legend of Loxley Bottom (The Gabbleratchets of Sophie Hinchcliffe) Chapter eight: Remade.

The physical work was done. Anatomically, Sophie was complete -- better internally, but externally whole -- a fully functioning human body.

Now, the nascenti scientists started in earnest on what they knew could be a more demanding task -- that of cerebral work, of filling Sophie's brain with the knowledge that would allow her to become the powerful new creature that they knew she could be.

It was constant, gruelling, grinding, back-aching, hard work, and again, the scientists' masters, the vegahorn had set stringent deadlines of what they considered to be positive and necessary progress.

The nascenti scientists turned to their old "friend" the fungal network in their quest to inject the required longing and curiosity that Sophie would need to jump start her learning.

Plugging her brain into the fungal network was a trivial affair -- the fungal networks' mycelium was allowed to mesh with her neurons and infiltrate he brain, filling her with knowledge of the environment via the fungai's connections to its organic network -- its eyes and ears, that saw and heard, its fingers and tongues that touched and tasted and smelt the environment without: The colours of the sun and moon through the murk, the sounds of the wisewood and the Damflask, the feel of the fishes and the grubs and the flits, the growl of the grizzler, the howl of the ripperthroat: The beauty of all of Dunlockslyn.

Sophie absorbed deep knowledge of the forest floor and the contents of the murk, she was at one with the nature of The Dark Peak -- an inginous warrior able to melt into her surroundings like a backflit melts into the gloaming, like a syncarid or the dun bog beast melts into the murk.

The fungal network guided Sophie's learning, atuning her to her environment, filling her, flooding her with electric impulses of the world.

The next step was exposing her to the hivemind. This, the nascenti scientists expected to be the hardest and most dangeous task they had undertaken since they had synthesised life out of her passive DNA many days before, and the vegahorn watched on with interest about how this stage of the process would pan out.

Too much exposure to the hivemind is well known to induce fear and repulsion. This the scientists feared more than anything else, and secretly the vegahorn knew this was the riskiest part of Sophie's journey to date. It was feared that all the hard work thus far acheived could be for nothing if Sophie's immature brain simply went into overload and spasm -- she would likely be rendered nothing more than a shell, a fully functioning body, a barely functioning brain -- and in fact, the scientists and the vegahorn had been to this point before, with another subject, many decades past, when they had last tried this procedure:

In similar circumstances, a young boy -- about Sophie's age, history doesn't remember his name -- had been resurrected with nascenti blood in his veins (admitedly, it wasn't B'enderclaw's, but the DNA of an exacid -- the exacid are the the genetically engineered enforcers for the nascenti, originally bred from their own selves, but the principle was essentially the same). The boy was exposed to the organic network with no ill effects. His body was strong, he was fit and his organs operated perfectly. It was only when the fungal network jacked into the hivemind that the boy began to contort and convulse, his neurons exposed to supercharged frequencies that fried his brain from the inside and rendered him nought more than a hulse of flesh and bone. Just dead staring eyes. A useless cadaver, much as Sophie had wandered through the wisewood after the onslaught of the gabbleratchets.

The scientists and the vegahorn remembered that last experiement well, and they knew that the answer to the conundrum was likely redily available -- The missing element then, was rockcrust. Rockcrust, synthesised from a type of lichen only found in The Dark Peak and capable of opening the mind to the wonders of scerm and the glory of Dunlockslyn. Known also for its healing capacity, rockcrust, whilst being a substance that can be used, and often is used to "get out of ones skull", it can also act as a tranquiliser and a calmative substance when the mind is faced with the social onslaught of the hindmind -- with its rich colours, loud techno sounds and in your face advertising.

And so, Sophie was aclimatised to the hivemind by first pumping her body with as much rockcrust as was necessary for her to be calm, whilst the hivemind was introduced steadily via first her mouth, then eyes, and then later via her ears and other senses.

Sophie reacted well. Or, she didn't react at all, depending on which accounts you read -- but the important thing is, she didn't start to react against the incoming data from the hivemind, she just absorbed it.

I have a couple of experiences of my own that back up Sophie's experience:

Diary entry: 79.hail-ripperthroat.4.2

"And then my eyes were open again and I breathed, fitfully at first, then deeply, from the psycmask (as I now know it) that covered my face, purifying my air supply, and filling my thoughts and brain with strange images and sounds that made me feel like I had been transported through some new portal and to a world more alien that I could ever expect to experience.

I passed out again from the sensory overload.

When I next awoke, the psycmask's sensitivity must have been reduced, since the sounds and pictures that now flooded into my mind had a calming effect. Rivers and hills, trees, flowers, birds and creatures of the forest -- familiar sights to someone not unused to doing a bit of exploring of my locale."

Chronicles book one, chapter 10

"Hah what happened there then? It stopped. Thing is, I didn't say anything, I did that with my mind... I willed it to stop, and it did -- maybe I'm somehow tuning into this hivemind thing. How is that possible? Is it the rockcrust maybe? Ah-ha, maybe this is what Van meant when he said I needed to find a way to stop them targeting me, a way to put it off the scent.

Job done then Van, no more distractions. He nodded knowingly and winked. Told you fella, he said without moving his lips, like he'd filled my consciousness with his other-worldly-worldliness: Told yer it'd make yer go blind otherwise young'en.

I'm not blind -- I grok Van! I howled like a ripperthoat, like a murker."

Yes, according to my research, Sophie reacted better than I did!

Sophie was almost ready. The nascenti scientists had succedded. They had built her anew. They had grown her body from mere cells, from her structural DNA, and that of the great B'enderclaw. They had grown her (their) fledling mind and nourished her (them) on the organic network. They had been matured with the hivemind. Now all that remained was to provide education on a wide range of subjects and disciplines, and fulfill the endless curiosity of a mind unleashed. Give her ideas and an endless quest for further knowledge.

The starting point is always this: Everything in life is connected. It's all about understanding and finding the connections. And so they took more from the fungai, used its knowledge of humankind to fill her with important human literature and political thought, economics and business, carefully tempered history of her species, and theirs, and the wonder of inventions from antiquity, through modernity and into the future of space and time and parallel worlds, of dark matter, of unheard of advances in material science, of fashion and the future of science at the boundaries of the unknown.

And finally Sophie was ready. They clad her in what looked like a smart business suit, which it was, but it was also an exoskeleton that performed in a similar way to the nascenti's own armour -- a carapace to protect her on her journey forwards.

It was fearsome night, long before murklight. The murk swirled with an anger.

They sent her back into the murk in the direction of Hellsborough.

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