The Ninth Archive

The Uplink Terminal


The Uplink Terminal

Technology evolves faster than nature. It did not take long for cellular towers to shed their vestigial, chlorophyll-bereft leaves for smooth protrusions coated with pentagonal solar micropanels. Girthy fronds slick with protective oil. In the winter, lizards bask on their trunks, soaking in the warmth of interior circuits and processors. When they depart, they leave black footprints behind in the snow. Strong-beaked birds sometimes tear wires from the innards and coil them into rubbery nests, and their offspring emerge from their shells knowing an inscrutable language. They often cannibalize their parents.

From the wind and rain and groundwater, these uplink terminals collect data–like nutrients or spores. Electromagnetic waves of any kind, from meaningless noise and moonlight to encrypted messages, GPS data, the emails of drifted-apart lovers, are all snatched from their wild, airy currents. Within the terminal they are processed, spliced, decoded, inverted, remixed, and unblended, then emitted back into the ether for whatever electronic ears are nearby to listen.

It is rare that such a structure should cease to function, and their physical resiliency is high. One case is known from central Europe where a terminal went completely silent for many months, then began to emit a piercing stream of data that shuts down any computers brought within a few hundred feet of it. Another, in Africa, was attacked repeatedly by elephants and eventually cracked and toppled. Vast amounts of oil, more than it would seem could be contained in an object the size of the terminal, leaked from its shattered trunk into the nearby terrain. For some time, the area was toxic. Animals that came into contact with the oil became agitated and in many cases wandered erratically, began to injure themselves, and ultimately died. Their corpses became infested with large, gray flies.