This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
February, 2006 firstname.lastname@example.org m
Chapter 1 Alex in Wonderland
I’m writing this now as I’m not sure what I’ll remember Hell, I’m not even sure I’m writing this tomorrow. now. Yesterday when I woke up...Well, let me back up a little. I don’t know who everwill this, so I should explain. I—we, the people I read work study the brain. Right now we are working on with, some- pretty neat, but also scary. We want to map a thing brain, functionally, down to the individual neuron. The trouble is, now there’s been no way to do this without killing until the brain’s owner. we’ve been able to do it—with a rat, and a cat. But We don’t really know if it worked with the cat, but we are cur- running a simulation of the rat’s brain and it rently appears exhibiting strikingly rat-like behavior. I.e. to be fucking Top secret. Even writing this down on amazing. something company premises I’m sure violates a dozen outside of clauses contract, but...let me move in my forward. is basically my pro ject. I’m the one who’s had This faiththe it from the start, the drive to push it forward, in and ingenuity to make it work. But I feel I’ve been the fighting bureaucracies the whole way, from trying to get money from who could never understand what it’s for to people trying permission from people who could never to get understand 3
to neuron.of neurons and observe how the neurons they lar groups are connected to respond. best way to clean a carburetor all at the same and the time. To make this as e cient as possible. non-overlapping groups are explored in this way multiple in parallel—so it’s rather like the sub ject is in one moment be. some completely di erent And set things. The problem is the pro cess gives people the willies.selectively fire semi-random sparse patterns of tion to neural and we use a sort of temporal computed activity. ALEX IN WONDERLAND why they should give it.. we’re able to trace individual axons from neuron That is. tomogra. We want to scan a monkey next.. And this goes on of for many. a blue dot in his left visual field. and keep the level of spontaneous activity as low as also possible.4 CHAPTER 1. a state immune to change. Hundreds of times a second. and over time build up a complete connectivity map of the brain. and the subject is aware. then in the next moment. point would amount to keeping the subject This latter unconscious.emitted EM to capture the resulting signal phy of the paths. Other drugs keep the necessary neurotransmitters and nutrients replenished. many hours.freeze. We use aombination of drugs and targeted electromagnetic c stimula. From there. some musical ing score.of everything. The process is not passive. especially animal rights o cials. except that we then go in and light up their brain .forced to think of his grandmother. I think we’ll be employing lawyers and public relations people to get that one to for years y. In e ect the brain is held in a sort of chemi. And I do mean everything. we completely halt the processes that normally physical changes underlying the formation lead to the of memories. a mathematical formula. What makes the pro cess tolerable is that half the drugs we’re using are devoted entirely to protecting the brain. Specifically. we can forcibly trigger particu. especially if they’re religious and have other reasons for not wanting us or spiritual to tread here. but still able cal deep to function in a purely reactionary way.
but completely control. Right now there’s no real but that’s coherent thinking or experience going on.. featuring a man me a who tattooed notes on himself in lieu of a damaged memory.fun and jokes aside. We don’t know nearly nor have the computing power. to soak a large sponge in a single afterno on!” And “Able another. Nobo dy wanted to wait. experienced in rapid fire feelings. I Hulk. closed their eyes and ears. It was a sce. all terrified we were going to wipe my was brain. Or maybe I already have. Yes— ing some this could lead to the ultimate virtual reality day experience. So. out rather . the jokes started ying. and sensations.” And. hear and feel in each moment. was Drooler! Da da da!” And someone else would “The add. Right enough.right out of a hundred hackneyed movie plots. Because.I am going to have mares it done to me. here’s where I took my first trip down the rabbit So hole. a classic Batman villain back-story. for us to reconstruct the mind within the brain. succession and immediately and forever forgotten. see.. to do that. why am I talking about carburetors and ers grandmoth-cheese and mazes. considering we’ve only instead of really this with a mouse? Because I’ve been having done night. nario The Flatliners. I believe. “More forgetful than a locomotive.to think. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes. and replaced all will of with a machine that decides exactly what they’re that go. not least of But me. I woke up the day before we were going to do it feeling a little anxious.” They dual threw movie night to watch Memento.5 with activity much as if they were conscious. it’s just a random nightmare of disconnected thoughts. I think everyone. But it was more than that. Something was of kilter. But that’s enough — that’s enough. “His secretidentity as a mild-mannered disk drive. didn’t want to wait.about this for days. we have drugged under our theirto sleep. In some sense. now. I When we—just a small group of us—started talking seriously about pro ceeding with this.a long time o .
as I guess they would have to be word for . to live the same day over and over for the rest of doomed my My god. I wanted desk to follow the cables back to see where they went but figured I etter stay focused and just log in. I noticed something on my arm in the mirror. but I didn’t lo ok too di erent. perma. and there was a painting on the wall I didn’t recognize. I’m Memento guy! I pulled up shirt. what would you be thinking? I’m like that famous patient. My heart was pounding.were the same. as if my eyes weren’t quite working yet. a keyboard and mouse. My bed. Except my computer wasn’t there. but the wires just vanished behind the and there was no actual computer in sight. looked for more tattoos. It can’t be go od m for So I tried to calm myself. in Well. But no. this was my bedroom. and sort of.M. grey haired and the wrinkled the horror. of panic—how long does my memory last? Will I forget all of in a moment and be wondering what I’m doing this standing in the bathroom? I ran to the computer in the corner to logbefore I forgot. There was a very nice display on the desk. For a moment I wondered if I hadn’t fallen asleep at a friend’s house. So I rubbed them some more and looked down with perfectly fine at bed sheets I’d never seen before in my life. just I ust do this to myself every morning. though I can’t say any of it was exactly where r I last remembered it being. to go to bed man? Oh. But some day will I be rushing to same mirror and finding an old. ALEX IN WONDERLAND disoriented. nothing my — the one. same room. front and back. My username and b pass. H. can imagine what’s going through my head at You this point: “Oh. how old am I? I rushed over to the mirror.lo cked-down brain with no new memories ever nently again. young and wake up on death’s door. Holy shit. looked down to find a tattoo of the words “log in”. life. fuck. no doubt it. And vision I looked up. with a blown hippo campus. much of the stu in it about Iecognized.” I mean. but then had a moment me.. I felt marginally ill. to grow old overnight.6 CHAPTER 1.
not even that first awkward physical encounter where she’s shy and self-conscious in bed and doesn’t really enjoy it. and then finally end up with finding her . Then the door opened. “Morning. knowing that without a doubt I could have eyes on her. She just stood I hadn’t there doorway with a sultry smile on her face and in the said. how did I go my whole remembered life without anyone like her.But I couldn’t put it together. but icons and windows of rapidly it up. Enjoy each day as though it were your last. I could still remember waking up. That was all. me. and still scantily clad in her night clothes. so my memory didn’t seem to be fading to oapidly.” cow. of that long and drawn out uncertainty of the None dating that usually stands between you and what you ritual want. Holy I mean. And there I was. I took a few deep breaths. my eyes not yet ready to believe what the restme was starting to accept. from my perspective first time ever laying her.7 all eternity. I looked back at the bed—two pillows! noticed that when I got up. I leaned forward to inspect the image who I for authenticity. sugar. here I was. Past all that. r based on what I knew of memory at the time. Even more beautiful in person than in the photo. But the image felt somehow familiar. and in she came.And love her as I do. How was that possible? It didn’t make sense. Up came the background image—me with some beautiful woman who I did not recognize. quite clearly. How did I end up her?with I mean. and then a big digital post-it note popped covered up the front with just the in words Stay Calm. I wanted to just do her right then and there. with this womandon’t know.
How do I live through this every day? I’m going to die of a heart attack before I have a chance to wake up suddenly old some day. escorting me my teeth from the bathro om door to my bed—in the dark. heart still pounding. she said. The Dro oler!). “You know that look you go just me.. waiting outside the bath while I to brushed and stumbled into my jammies. still dumbfounded. mind still reeling. “Like to the one it?” I thought back to the night before. Someone leading me my bedroom. and surely into the out the ones ro om. not tired want of annoying habits. possibly drooling (oh d.rmative no d.that there.” Peter said. I jumped stum-back and caught myself against the wall. just wanting to take me and make my me yours. in my referring in my room. and eventually managed a mouth. “That’s my new monitor.” she said with agape a a satisfied grin. not bored of me. And I turned the corner into living room. the I stumbled out after her. girl her arms around my friend Jack—she must be his with girl. had could . Surely they re-outfitted my room already during the party.. mark your territory in me?” I just stood there like an idiot. ALEX IN WONDERLAND when I can’t remember her for more than. seemed to know what I was thinking (of She Me course!). “Well.who everyone kept telling me was just my type— friend and in the corner was my computer with the wires there going partly opened sliding doors.. and then turned and walked back out big to living room. that’s why. my. scanned bled the to see all the folks from the party the night before room still one of them wearing my old bed sheets. and a chorus of voices yelled the “SURPRISE!” streamers filled the air and my heart and glitter and almost out of my throat and ran down the street. like it’s the first time you’ve ever seen me and gave you me without reservations.an hour? A day? still I didn’t know.8 CHAPTER 1. Up late with the whogang clearly working hard to keep my glass full until were I was pretty well done in for the night.. still standing there dumbfounded.
So..animal trials—but this time I was the animal.. in medical field but realized it would be the end of the their if it ever got out. shaking my head and trying to repress an outrageous grin. Even if all went to perfectlystill lose more than twenty-four hours of my life I would to drug-induced stupor—at the hands of people who. I looked down at the sleeve of my leading night and sure enough there were traces of dye on shirt. I trusted more than anyone else in the world.just. because I still hadface the real thing tomorrow. “Behold The Drooler in his heroic was at. but none of whom were doctors should anything go really We had thought of conscripting a friend or two wrong. The only reason it wasn’t careers com. at the hours moment anyway. I really can’t tell you what has happened in the last twentyfour but I will tell it as I remember it. “You are all. the dimples are superficial.words I heard before closing the door behind The last me someone yelling. I turned and walked my bedroom without another word. it. and then quietly cried a little.9 have easily rubber-stamped the “tattoo” on my arm while me to bed.crazy is because these drugs really do just lock pletely down the brain on a physical level. Or so I hoped. The rest of that day was uneventful. “To back to script!” yelled triumphantly.smudged tattoo of the words “log in” on my arm— mies. but really it’s no big deal— skull. just enough to give the pointyended .I looked at myself in the mirror—standing in my tire!” jam. Or so But something went wrong. lier Shaving a few small patches on my head. when I come to the next day it should be as if the previous 24 hours never happened. where in the morning we would slice the skin and drill little conical dimples into my It sounds horrible. and there was much someone rejoicing. and laughed. a despite their antics...evil !” I said. full of all the preparation we had been through many times before with our ear. almost no matter what happens during the scan. I don’t know what.we thought.
And nobody And I was It felt like a dream. at ease. I would the spend in the lab. I was just awake. I didn’t wake up gently. And I remember hoping coming out I felt very the end would be just as gentle. And neither of them was right. I the was disoriented. not once but twice. ALEX IN WONDERLAND Pyrex mounting rods a fixed location to bite into. wide awake. I felt fine. First. but not. Even my anxiousness faded as the night wore on—a side e ect of the drugs. that this whole experience was an unintended virtual reality experience. course it occurred to me I could just be in the Of scan right then and there. and I recall being amused at myself for being so calm. I was just there. this back isn’t bad—I could do this so again!”. none of the leaping-heart okay. The world very soft.. sitting in the lab. was wide awake. with a few of drugs that need to be ramped up slowly. Frankly I’m not sure I woke up. down there. The skin right back around the ro ds and usually stops folds bleeding fairly quickly. so consistent. It was so real. and whatever minor scars it leaves later will be under my hair anyway. Starting an IV drip. the night trusting my team with.10 CHAPTER 1. Well. I mean I remember doing so. And I thought for sure this was a dream. and yet inexplicable. and I don’t know exactly what happened but I fell outmy chair and onto the oor and I hurt all over but then of infit of opping about I was up on my feet and suddenly a felt And I felt very calm. then I took my second trip down the rabbit And hole. “Hey. I think I did. feeling. I very couldn’t. and would be unconscious by morning. to finest detail. Just like that. sitting of the chairs we sit on when we’re running the on one scans. really fine. and thinking again that this was just a very strange then dream. that this is what it’s .everything. really. All the equipment was but I wasn’t on the scanning table. And then when I tried to move. thinking. noises faded pleasantly into the became distance. or is it like when you wake up half way but your body is still disengaged so are paralyzed for a moment? So I tried really hard you to move..
But when I opened the door. it doesn’t make It still doesn’t make sense. and then finally around looking see the bullet hole in your chest with blood down to draining This was one of those moments.blue. So I helplessly pivoted out the door. My thinking was too sense. My foot fell not on the with hall. the distance.11 like having your neurons randomly poked and prodded while heavily doped up. too willful. could this be another joke? Think how little they’d done last time practical and me completely fooled! So they washed the ink o had my and ran the sodium pentathol drip a little longer arm. here I am. poked myself a few times. too linear. propped the methe chair—where I sat and got sti waiting for the in last to wear o —and then presto. Again. only it wasn’t out of it? me the hole. Only this time I was drown- . None ever! Not even the faintest stain from the night whatso be. it was reality. So.. was I back to the moment I “woke up” a Memento scenario? I looked at my arm—no tattoo. looking to see where it came from. spun around before as much as I could with my lead fo ot missing its contact. or so put wasintent. but fingers just brushed the wall and found nothing to my grasp. But it didn’t make sense.. answer.And then I woke up. very wrong? Like feeling a gust of wind from nowhere. a glowing portal in an otherwise vast blue sky. I could remember. felt real enough.oor but onto open space.. now backward.from in the chair... the brunt drugs of another joke! The Dro oler indeed! I went straight for the door to the hallway.So this is either a dream. I reached back.well. or more have passed since the night before the scan. and in that moment I way looked me and saw. thanothers so I would wake up more suddenly. ordinary. to find and themand end to this way-over-the-line silliness... I called I No out.. It started to dawn on me. You know those my moments when you suddenly realize something is very. and fell watching the do orway I had just left recede into away. or somehow many days fore.
and I and crawled the grassy shore and lay there to up onto rest. magic but it was goo d enough. and still I could see I had a ways to go but at least now I was making go od time except for o ccasionallyover a rock. then I heard it. laughedwas bored of laughing. from And the same direction as the glow. the now what? ” Eventually I gathered myself to my feet and started ing trudg.12 CHAPTER 1. darkness. up to my waist verse. which and froze . After my initial start. toward through the The ground soon went dry and became easier to glow. spewed water out of my lungs. the absurdity of it all. I fully make expected to open up and consume me any moment. ALEX IN WONDERLAND ing. I heard a noise and looked have to side and swear in the faint of night I saw something the hugemoving very quickly. and then I just lay there until I withmusic playing o in the distance thinking. sooner than I expected my hands felt mud. treaded until I regained some water senses. what a story it will when I finally wake up. I guess. And then the grass grew thinner. So I swam toward I saw a it. I swam gasped coughed up more water. as much as someone in such surreal circumstances can anything to panic about. I could feel a wind blowing. at times. and I could tell from the lack of echoes that I was outside. and the earth to find myself riding a magic carpet. stumbling but it wasn’t quite pitch still black. and I laughed and carpet. If I wake up. or more of a glow. and the ground more rocky. I couldn’t tell you why. tra. completely submerged.the swampy grass toward the music.And it wasn’t the earth swallowing me up. gasped for more air. though I couldn’t hear muchabove my own splashing about. I heard some pretty folk mu. nor a sic. Faintly in the distance. my lungs full of water. I couldn’t see the mo on or stars. have one moment of panic during this little hike— I did I mean. “Okay.I just started laughing.though the grass got a bit taller. for air. Then o in the else distancefaint light. Just. My god.to the surface.
that girl. I told them I simply can’t remember. and the glow was from a small The and bonfire of torches. m perhaps stumbled having into an Amish community? They asked where I’m from. the others seemed surprisingly unconcerned that I and might. Yes.13 me in my tracks. be scurry me away to her home where she o ered me a bath and a night and a warm place in front of the fire. music was live. So I laughed at my ghosts and pressed on. I surely don’t want to get into how I might have ended up here from Los Angeles. One of the women who came out And then to meet me. and remark on how far I must have catfish walked. . and that I had fol. they all s speak a strange accent which I can’t place. People were dancing. I o ered no explanation for my presence beyond that had Iawakened. and when a number I sauntered into view. Does this really surprise you? Also.her. wanted to tend to She me. I realized that whatever it was—if in fact seen anything at all—was already long gone and I’d clearly not coming my way. I know one it because I’m staying at her place right now as I write this. took an immediate liking to me. the musicians eyed me a bit—I think wondering whether to stop the music...the music here. from the from the prank. Perhaps it was a giant teapot. I saw.. I heard someone say it must have lowed been pond. if you can call it that.paper. I didn’t even get her name—I mean. She also found shirt me quill and ink and. still damp and certainly looking a mess. This girl’s name was Laura. but I am with thinking be—just to entertain the hypothesis that I I must actually am somewhere as opposed to just out of my fucking mind— I ust be somewhere in the middle of the country. The one the prank. and they let her say. she looked an awful lot like... nearly drowned on the side of some pond and couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there. this I aid quill. an escaped rapist or whatnot.. But they seemed to think I was harmlessand so played on while a few curious patrons enough walked meet out to me.
It’s been. I am going to go to sleep now. in front of this warm fire. that she’s certain she’s seen says me before. Okay. ALEX IN WONDERLAND Laura is a doll.. in front of this warm fire. Strangely I think I am afraid wake up tomorrow.14 CHAPTER 1. am going to sleep now. (She my also I look familiar to her. And after all the time I just spent dreaming that I was writing this all down with a feather and ink—well. with my in friends me bringing go od news of a spectacular success around and imminent world fame and our fortune. I hope at least that I remember it well.. She’s not the same girl from the just prank. as it has taken me quite time to write this down. I Laura already went o to bed a while ago. still I’m waiting to wake up.unreal. lost mind. believe it or not. the whole story. . here. and I am going to gently wake up my warm and fuzzy lab in Los Angeles. Similar enough I’m basically certain I’ve similar. FromPhD Neverneverland. good night my ghosts. But I wanted to get it some all down before I go to sleep. It seems too coincidental otherwise. but what am I to make of that?) Well. Alex Harris. and not remember I will today. that’s it. But that’s all just crazy.
—— That was Laura returning this morning. and I remember everything just so I feel a bit stupid for all of yesterday’s fanciful fine.Chapter 2 Level Heads It’s morning. The whole lab/blue-sky/fallingthe outthe-door thing was surely a semi-lucid dream inspired by the ride and getting chucked out the door and into the car pond. no? I’m sparing myself any conspiracy theories as to who or why for the moment. with some fruitfresh bread. simpler hypothesis is that I was lations. and I was probably close enough to recovery that getting thrown into pond woke me up. Quite goo d. what happened to my friends?! And what should I do now? Untilanswer who and why. Simple. specu. I might easily have looked dead to dead someone who didn’t realize what I was doped up on. somewhat obvious.on the interstate (though I can’t explain the lack truck of running lights). though I haven’t really and regained 15 . I’m still here. Right I’m most wondering where the heck am I? And now. I’m not too keen on alerting I do the world to my survival. Somebody’s coming. kidnapped scan (corporate competitor?) and dumped during the for in the pond.large thing moving by in the night? Probably a The semi.My new.
hey. that’s about it—no cars. I never knew such an insular community existed (though I suppose that is almost by definition). and they just started rapidly t disinte- . we’re on the outskirts of what looks to be a pretty large city which they’re Segransa. no but electricity! (Actually. Anyway. (Da da da! The Drooler at your service!) Better just to keep my mouth shut.And pale too. no phones. and they give me Laura the sympathy-to-the-idiot look. (I had a pair of blue jeans once that po ol for to Iried to fade that way. which I’ve never heard of. another bit of confusion: I looked my at clothes to day—the ones I was wearing last night when I stumbled into town. of grated. I’ve mostly kept my mouth shut all Every time I open it. and another coincidence is explained. I still don’t know where I am. because there’s definitely Luddites. I’d more chance to talk to the prank girl—wouldn’t had surprise were from here. I’d love to post this all as I wish a photo journal some day.16 CHAPTER 2. as much as Laura does anyway. funny. Well.still surprisingly in the dark. a lend of very modern bits to their architecture and b such. This reminds me.) I had my camera. It’s very and pretty. or at least Oh. I can see why I’m they dumped me here. Nothing left in the po ckets. almost disinte. tells them I was hit on the head. it is much less of a coincidence than I thought: many of the women here look a lot like the girl from the prank the other I mean. but I swear calling the whole place is just one giant multi-generational cult because not talk about anyplace else. the people have been very nice despite my suspicion that sacrifice small children during full they moons. People talk so strangely. course. Yes. Now I wish night. not complete. Completely trashed. then I’d know where me if she here was. That is. I have to say it’s kind of nice. it’s like they were soaked in a bleachy swimming o long. people ask why I talk so day. assuming I live that long. and. LEVEL HEADS my appetite. And they’re they will complete Well.
Anyway. so I’ve it’s mutual. but no. it’s just my their calendar. no twenty. ha ha. At first I just took it for a joke. I’m betting fifty cult. She’s really quite fond of about me. But she looks tainly at me.like she wants me in the worst (okay. . Segransa. I couldn’t say why. years least. I cer. And then? I exactly could definitely see coming back. I need to resolve still what happened the last couple of days. 2017. but as much as I’m trying to stay cool I quite am rather freaked out by all of this. has been around. Laura’s not going to be hitching happy this. We really haven’t talked much. And own when was Laura born? Ninety-five. insular o ddity: The year? Seventeen. it should be no surprise then that nobody seemed to know how long this ur. tomorrow I’m heading back to the and interstate out of here. at maybe longer.haven’t told her anything about me. I can tell already.) Another cultish. you know. best) way.17 grating after that.. And already alluded to her being very much my type. It’s just seventeen.. I hit head and traveled into the future. And so hey.
18 CHAPTER 2. LEVEL HEADS .
he asked me many about questions. really did hit your head. I think I was inside a television set looking out.Chapter 3 Boundaries Last night. I think I was the television set.. I didn’t know what to say to this since it was the I. so I just sat there perplexed for a thing moment. she just giggled. realizing that I was serious. and then she can take the horses rather back I catch my when ride.” she “You finally said. I made him think. She said she would pack up some food and we can together by horse. of course— go much ride than walk. last I expected. and I talked back. We He talked many things. When I told her I was leaving town. I helped I made him him one of his homework problems.. didn’t you.. I had an odd interaction with Laura this morning. Actually. I gladly accepted. maybe eight years was a old. he reached out and turned me o. There boy in the room.. no look of sadness or upset.well. 19 . Then she did start lo oking concerned. And with then I heard his mother call to him from the other and he said. “Tee no hee”. That’s it — complaints. talked to me.” and room. just. laugh. “I have to go now. I had another weird dream.
BOUNDARIES We’re o momentarily. Within It soon a minute we were standing before a painting of the horizon. “Come. No. some sort of optical illusion. but sharply ridged. my are hands shaking. and—there it was again! head. Some sort of weird subtle joke..hand to shade it and re ect light onto it from ing my various I realized it was designed to make each bit of directions the respond to light in the same way as a surface set at mural the of the object the mural was depicting at that point. horse jar. look at it.ro de out of town. We She of course didn’t know.” Laura said. did start to annoy the horse. so I stepped down. I stopped my horse to get a out stationary I couldn’t quite figure out what I was seeing. like a mirage but with-the shimmering. let’s go. There was because nothingabout it. so I re-mounted and tentatively pressed onward. So I shook child. In the whole horizon moved strangely as I climbed up fact. it lo oked fine! Laura watched me with the patience of a parent with sat and her maybe raising a brow once or twice. ring And when I looked back to the horizon. noticed the texture of the surface. I noticed it. the mural as would . —— Where to start. but she said it didn’t really matter I should just pick a direction. at a casual pace so as not to wear out the horses. it was more of a print than a painting. fine little swirls I like a fingerprint. I jest not. within ten yards it was obviously mashed because together random blobs of color. my got back up on the horse.20 CHAPTER 3. more like a metal file. and down—which. At first I started out of laughing. became evident what was going on.my vision enough to be annoying. There was something odd about and then the horizon. so I did. angle so the sun passed overhead during the day. Actually. Hold. We rode and that for a while.. I asked her what way to go. it was really so preposterous. there isn’t an earthquake. by the way. The was still shifting its weight from foot to foot a bit.
was clear to me that it was in fact a big circle around the city as Laura had claimed. the is part of it. all?—of It doesn’t add up. Why she didn’t just tell me.. me a cro oked smile after a while and said.it’s just not something one normally expects! Naturally I made some attempt to chip at it with a rock. tonight at midnight!” we rode alongside it for a while. whether there is an about what other whether it has a top or go es up forever. it’s not ary is something anyone would think to mention unless there was somethingthere. East. once I knew it there. I might have thought this place was a disposal site the for politically untoward.. have you?” The Boundary. I could see it from half a mile was away. . “Ritual sacrifice at going on The Boundary. To her hear about it.. How tall is The Boundary? She doesn’t know. I wouldn’t have believed it anyway. And from what I gather The Bound. whether side. But. what it was. but it was truly impervious to any ors assault (The rocks out there weren’t particularly I made. but it seems as if most— perhaps these people have been here their whole lives. We headed back. because it really isn’t that great.21 continue to look approximately correct.. to see what was underneath. You know. etc.) Laura just gave though. how deep or superficial the col. hard. and here I just am. there is quite a bit of idle talk speculation is on the other side.were. little Just a bit. like.. “You really haven’t ever been to the boundary before. and I’m just a little bit right confused. where I was last night. I say approximate.oh. They chipped quite easily. until it Anyway.. I mean. whether there is a boundary deep sky beneath the soil.just such a universal truism here.. How did I get here? How do I get out? My hands are still shaking.
22 CHAPTER 3. BOUNDARIES .
I answered him. Laura was sleeping naked in my arms. leaving me alone in the room. with the largest only lettering. chin. me. warm embers still glowing in the fire. There boy in the room. I read could make out a few. then w its then the bottom of one of its paws. and I talked back. and then. or whether there any girl horses. before They were my Moby Dick.talked to me. He asked He me whether all horses were boys..Chapter 4 Eden Last night I had another dream. felt her presence behind night. After a while I got bored.. started meowing at first to no e ect. Huckleberry Finn.I woke up. came I as staring right into one of its nostrils. When I woke up. I tried a cat to the titles of the books on the shelves. I think wasI inside a television set looking out. her fingers Then running 23 . all hardbound. her hands were on my shoulders. maybe eight years was a old. save he ran for lounging on a chair in the corner. of thing. gavemore serious attempt the cat perked up it a and over to investigate. After writing last I put down my quill. Next thing I knew. old classics. that sort time. but when I to the cat. and were then o .
Simulations best make when a cheap knocko will do. but then I’ve always hid as from so I can’t say I actually know it all that well. I id. casually. Still wasThere very faint star visible. the scan worked after all. when you only need sense the essentials and can forgo all the expensive details. was no stopping it. But here. dark. I walked outside to look at the night sky. slowly. neither makes sense.24 CHAPTER 4. EDEN through my hair. real from a fake sun one? My imagination is running away with me again. It’s would point—not for the computational cost involved. For of those one. it’s hard not to question everything. And it was nothot as I remember it being. She danced before the fire. She moved in front of of me. her palms brushing down my back.” I did. Too many things don’t fit.experience is too perfect. the finest of hairs on the back of Laura’s not that it couldn’t be done. and even I am just maybe part big simulation. It rose behind distant hills. which for all I know don’t even exist. Every grain the of sand. In one fell swo op. But no. boundary. or is this whole experience just being piped head while I lie on a table somewhere? Or into my hey. Or was it a planet? just one I recall that planets can be the brightest spot in a mo onless Or was it just a spot of white painted on the night. but rather there neck. Reality is the simulation of reality money can buy. “Look at me. icker of fire. be no The universe itself is already a giant simulation. She said. let it fall to the oor. “Watch me. Am I really here. But after yesterday.” And said. a big five-point star with “God was here” gra toed in the center ? I stayed to watch the sun rise. She d was embo diment of comfort. too detailed. It was eerily There perfect. the sun What the sun really look like? I have no idea—it’s too does bright Could I tell one sun from another? Could I tell a to see. . she simply grabbed my anxiety and pulled it outme. like the one we were running on of a the mouse a few days ago—only I’m the mouse. We made love without a the word.
I’m healthy. the entire community is of disease. I’ll teach her. has its intricate fingerprints. She hardly has free the vocabulary for it—the only “diseases” she knows are those age or injury. Go d. here. and if they did care. Even the boundary. I hope people don’t start getting sick. not even the common cold. Alex From the Land Harristhe of Lost ? . I worry I may in ict the plague on these people. why would they start me out in the bottom of a pond? Speaking of Eden. to have heard that usage of the word. I think I really do like it No. Why would a simulation so grand employ something as tacky as a giant mural in the first place? what would be the point of simulating me? And Who cares what I might think or do in the city of Eden. when She claims to have never seen a point of light in the night’s sky. I’m starting to grow fond of this place. Her nor knowledge is nonexistent. but surely not sterile. Or perhaps just that’s to keep me sane until I find some hope of leaving. ut maybe she’s just wrong. Assuming at least one star of astronomy is visible again tonight. According to Laura. I got a blank stare B her from I mentioned the lone star I saw last night.25 no detail is spared. none contagious. in its tacky glory. Now my ears perk of old up every time I think I hear her sni e.
26 CHAPTER 4. EDEN .
A woman was standing me. Part way through she reached toward me and then something snapped in my mind.but god how I wanted her—I wanted nize her. I didn’t things recog. “There now. and my tail was going places tails weren’tto go (or. I did. or started to. because at I felt this moment I really didn’t want anyone but Laura. and were having sex. over said. neatening up a little. and came again. Suddenly I lost my train of thought. and—I woke up. to her right then and there. well. and could not explain these strange images.” She then started disrobing as she wandered about. and then the phone rang. and she was laughing. and we were lying there. on the Once again I awoke with Laura curled naked against and me.Chapter 5 A New Star Another dream. putting away. maybe mine was) and meant she came. But I just take sat there. me to explain the theory of relativity to asked her again. lit up a joint. and her breasts were in we my mouths. and my sense of time changed. these bizarre desires and 27 . and I realized I was very stoned. a bit uneasy about my dream. She sat down with me. and she kissed me firmly lips. I’ll be just a sec.
though barely visible due to the angle of view. part defined by an entire second life most of us rarely remember. I showed Laura the star last night. I didn’t hear much else. learn the consequences without su ering explore them. since we turned to leave . A NEW STAR drives. Toward what end. none of them recognized us.28 CHAPTER 5. since what modern man would attempt to chase a star? But they didn’t know any better. just as any by each experience Strange then to think that who we are is in changes us. Do you see? I the left lights on. Soon we will be sought out. By We the time we reached the pond. where would we end Yes. rode the horses out there last night to see. I found myself having thoughts which of my were of that dream.many hours earlier in the night. Fortunately. But lay there tracing the curves of her body with the soft as I pads fingertips. This in itself I found amusingly ironic. It was in exactly the same place. that’s right—her best guess was that we would up? hit boundary around the catfish pond. toward that star. bubbling up from my subconscious in the night. and they were right. There perhaps is the first and oldest use of simulation: an approximation of the real world created by our own minds night as we quietly sleep. a world where we can in the safely ideas. I am afraid to guess. or do our dreams define us? I felt somehow changed of these dreams I’ve had. must been a hundred stories high. I had to ask: if ing we walked out of town. (Could the boundary have itself high?) And we weren’t the only people there— be that others had seen the new light in the sky and come out to investigate. despite it be. but as gossip is bound to spread I’m sure the story of my initial arrival has already collided somewhere with the news of this new star. another thought it might be a crack in a the boundary. She had never seen it before. the I left the lights on in the lab. the light was nearly straight over. It head. we can even die—and live to learn from a place it. and it made me wonder: do we define born our dreams. One man called it sign from God.
Could is it somehow daytime up there while it’s night down here? If what happened in the hours between opening that not. .29 not long after arriving (for fear of being recognized). how seemingly idle their curiosity. But it struck me immediately how casually they approached it. I have fallen that far and survived? And if so. doorending up in the pond? and Where the hell am I? I hear voices outside. Gossip travels Oh. fast.
A NEW STAR .30 CHAPTER 5.
if remembered anything yet. and somehow I to ok a wrong turn coming 31 . He told me I wasn’t going to get a memory. Some seemed a about the little uneasy. it was just a few curious folk wanting to know Indeed. There was a boy in the room.Chapter 6 Economics Inside a television. I had ashes of erence. wondering if I knew I’d anything new light up in the sky. but only like children who trust that any problem is someone else’s and be gone soon enough.” “Dad said [I assume he meant tiered. maybe eight years old. aynch mob. worried something might be wrong. I it h my head. but with indi stunningWhen I first heard the voices. (Of course. The boy reached out and the turned me o . The company I was working I have a has for been secretly running a huge and elaborate experiment to breed sheeple. The whole encounter was will very uneventful. but the tone coming through the door sounded l more like milling trick-or-treaters than angry witch hunters. looking out. “Sorry. He seemed upset.] I heard footsteps in distance. because it was too expensive— because. I didn’t tell them a thing. We were in fact sought out yesterday. it was just a tear pricing scam.”) new theory. I don’t remember.
I’m not too serious here.population has apparently been mysteriously more. but the biggest indoor cityLos like in Vegas is just a tee-pee by comparison. means there is no renting here whatsoever. and there has always been ble an .. which Further.32 CHAPTER 6. sympathetic expression and kissed me on the forehead. while keeping it quiet no less? And why?! Speaking of economy. and always produces far more goo ds it could possibly sell. I’ve become curious about how it works here. Laura said that besides the fact that never there isn’t anyone who can’t a ord to buy bread. Oh my god.you are not personally using on a regular which basis. I am here right scale now. I guess casino that’s the best analogy. and still I have a hard time accepting that the horizon in all directions is a painting. painted blue? And the city is huge. that the sky is—I don’t know what—the underside of Los itself Angeles. sort of a company perk? Okay. Groan. But the of it. given out.is unimaginable. is simply thrown that goes away. ECONOMICS out of the lab and fell in. and prank girl—could he have got her here? Maybe this the is where they make girlfriends for geeks. I hope. Not on the scale of Angeles. I mean. Maybe in my drugged confusion. but fits nicely with my new theory. experiencing it directly. besides the than fraction home with the employees. I can accept the technological plausibility. not even close. the sta. and fell into—The Pit of that Eden. breeding ground of the mentally inane. it is simply taboo handouts except to the injured—at which point to give she peered at me with a very cute. Having seen no indication of contact or inter. Apparently. I wandered farther than I realized. how does this place keep ference ticking? The answer is a bit odd.from the outside. happened through a door should have been locked.. Laura works at a bakery—but not very hard. impressive in the same way. grander but economy of it? Who or what could possibly have the funded this. just on a much scale. The excess.as long as Laura is aware. The bakery is always oversta ed. it’s also taboo to own any dwelling or turestruc.
she didn’t even think to mention it until I asked it directly. there is a fountain in the church in the middle of town which just spews wheat. randomly enough. to ask her if she didn’t find this just a little I wanted bit o dd.) short.33 excess of housing. so I kept following the chain of supply back until I hit the key questions: Where do es the wheat from? Are there farms within the boundary as come well? No. the grinder. real estate is regularly bought and sold for a pittance. “But. and completely without money. though they are by definition in the desirable locations and also typically in the worst least state of disrepair. in rent. “Pardon me?” Why. constantly. I fondled and examined them absent-mindedly as spoke. She was raised with running wheat I was raised with running water. the bakery pays no So. clearly not. of the wall. so there are no taxes of any sort. there are vacant (If houses waiting to be claimed. obviously the numbers just weren’t adding up. where did you get the water? It comes out asking. Yes.you had no money whatsoever. of course. you say?” When the topic came up. Other than some homes and businesses in especially fine locations. then for a while in silence as I contemplated we the bizarreness of this all. But no. To her I must just as seemsome primitive marveling at a pot boiling on the like stove. as the church is the government (why did this not surprise the church operates entirely by volunteer me?) but labor. according to Laura. “Taboo” and “law” seem to be one and the same here. the (one) church supplies wheat to entire city! And where do es the church get the the wheat?the fountain of wheat. But no. I started to wonder if this wasn’t some grand experiment in utopian society. she reached into her hanging apron pocket and produced for me a small handful of wheat spillage from her morning transfer of wheat to berries. Suddenly it struck me—not a realiza- .
) The longevity track led me tangentially to another realization: the last time I shaved was the night of the scan. I tried to explain wheat berries grow on the ends of long blades that real of grass.I don’t feel any di erent than when I arrived. immortality? Laura couldn’t give me collected fig. and Peenma.34 CHAPTER 6. but other than that. health. Larry. but about the wheat in my hand. (This gives me idea. iment? but would I notice? I’m glad I’m keeping a then. they just grow. I expected this to be news to her. the to what they can tell me of the origins or early years of see this place. and that every one is unique. There is enough “rain” that they needn’t be watered. “Wait a minute!” I said. No. any school child knows that!” They even have names: Mike. Seems once in a long while when an old tree dies or stops producing. and apparently are no diseases of man here.but from her personal anecdotes it didn’t seem ures. So what have I been eating? Bread made from strange little foo d pellets containing god knows what—Xanax and Thorazine. no. like people were living to be especially old here. but she said. “There are only three di erent berries here!” Naively. just lots of fruit trees. of course. though. but did know which was which. Andhas no idea why (maybe just the whims of scho she ol children?). (How have they—the creators little experiment—pulled this of this o ?) wondered now if this wasn’t an experiment in I longevity. “Well. everywhere. journal. but she took it as some arbitrary humor on my part. laughed when I asked if there was a fountain of She fruit as well. judging by the sheeple. ECONOMICS tion about what had been said. free for the pickin’. I saw no use in pressing the matter . the church volunteers will plant a new one somewhere. . there are no just as there pests or diseases a icting the trees. Maybe that’s the exper. to seek out the oldest person I can find. Who takes care of them? She didn’t understand the question.
I’m really quite curious least now what’s packed into those little food pellets.. and more often as musicians.35 but I have no stubble! I suppose this could just be change of or stress. People do work. Has the population been drugged into apathy? Or if necessity is the mother of invention.e. I. It is externally subsidized to an extent that one never really has to work here at such all survive. The whole concept of technological progress seems both foreign and unnecessary to Laura. as Laura describes it. actors. nor dairy.. the economy here appears mostly based upon entertaining each other. I wonder where the inventors and scientists are. is utopia its grim reaper? I wonder if I could build a hot air balloon and travel the to stars. nor anything else. Laura further indicated that there is neither meat hereeating on her response I may as well have asked her (based if people suck on rocks). back to economics: This “city” is no experiment in self-sustaining communities. It seems fruit and food pellets (Purina People Chow?) are all that’s the menu on here! Anyway. been eating because I know I should—and it o ccurs to me I’ve nothing but “wheat” products and fruit since eaten arrivingpond express. and so on. my appetite still hasn’t returned. I’ve only Also. but only very casually as to bakers. handymen. Yet I feel completely fine. but it diet. . or side e ects of the scan drugs. could something in the be “wheat”. artists. not in via the the bit lacking in nutrition. playwrights. and the like.
36 CHAPTER 6. ECONOMICS .
rather out of the blue. and slid she dreamily her around the back of my neck.” and she and suddenly I noticed I was feeling said.” I sighed in turn. I am not a man— more not a man—I am something more. fingers up the back of my neck. pursed know my while trying to pucker them at the same lips time. looked me in the eyes.” She sighed. pressing sliding firmly inward. rolled toward me and sleepily draped her arm 37 . “Nice fish kiss.pressed them to hers. I grabbed hand her and said. uplifted. hand “You we have to. Afterwards. my own hand palming the nape of my neck as if to protect it from more unwanted prodding. but no one I know in real life. “No. very She noticed this too. “You’re way sexier than any man.Chapter 7 Breathless I was having dinner with a woman. anyway? I wasn’t upset by defines this.” I remember thinking—in the dream—am I not a man? What a man. And we just had and it was implausibly good. and I felt her tired. I thought no. She was familiar to me in the dream. I bolted upright in bed. don’t. and somewhere in the middle she said. We made chit-chat. Laura stirred. sex.
“Stop out that!”sat there on the oor.from the mess of blankets and sat up blinking self profusely but not saying a word. Still it seemed a ludicrous proposition. I stormed out of bed. Throwing back the covers. I feel no ill e ects from just this whatsoever.38 CHAPTER 7.and smashed it against the stone oor.to find one sharp enough to draw blood. as I find. so of my real . The fragments were plenty with it sharp. as I am or human at all. I have to breathe to speak. Laura ing finally registered what I was doing. dropped the fragments on eyes the I leapt to my feet to take care of her. I sat there palpating the back own head. dragging their edges firmly across my finger. back against the wall. I guess I’ll take up breathing the again. fingers are My fine. The urge to breathe grows at first in the usual manner. I was but I wasn’t quite prepared to push hard where I feared in that moment I had an o switch. Then I me sawtiny plume of red erupt from the oor. But I could resolve this another way. simply. The dream had been so compelling. That would be many hours now long and running. nearly dragging Laura out with me. “sorry sorry sorry” the whole time until I was annoying sorry myself as much as her. BREATHLESS around the bend of my waist. Laura loomed overlike a mother preparing to scold her child. and looked the up see the blood dripping from her fingers. but to a point and no further. ran over and grabbed the bits of my hands yelling. She followed to my and discovered the same. sharp fragments. so while I was wrapping bits of cloth around her fingers I thought to see how I could hold my breath. by now convinced that either I am superhuman. saying only oor. My prodding found nothing unusual. And the farting is annoying if not not actually . I found the nearest piece of pot. try. toes I idly twiddling with bits of broken ceramic. sorting tery through the rubble for large. captivated. Laura extracted her. One by one I started through the fragments. except. except that I have started farting profusely in last half hour or so.
. I would h have up from the scan immediately asking myself. But what if it worked without years a itch? If I had gone in with that expectation. or am I the copy?” And from that t expectation. or when. had to conclude in short order that I. or where. I will have to sit with this thought for a while. accurate. or to it.this. am but a copy—one that of knows how many. to be more Despite purported faith in my own pro ject. o ccurs to me in retrospect I should have It Or. .. anything. I never all my really believed it would work without a hitch.39 hazardous . so accept. I would. even going at my fingers with sharp bits hasn’t but alas done I have but to wait. expected. Once again I find myself expecting to wake up from this dream. I assumed it would be a good first try. a huge batch of data to keep us busy for refining the process. god I am a copy. many things. If I could hasten that by pinching myself. the I would have me is here writing this entry now. “Am woken Ihe original.
BREATHLESS .40 CHAPTER 7.
of psychology. There were four of us having a conversation—if you call it that. It was mostly small talk. And when I spoke to just as him. c my contribution being little more than own appropriately placed laughs and nods and occasionally filling in someone’s name or other random detail eluding my date’s tongue. of technology. it was with my other mouth.a conversation with him. We traded sex stories. But the conversation with him. But the fellow facing me. could gos-about who did what to whom and that sip sortthing. swapped an idea or two. who of looked like me. with the other me. the I an’t even remember what was said aloud. with a date. private. my ethereal mouth physical one as my right hand is to to my my We talked of the economy. but I heard his well. as I could see his emotions rarely without looking. I remember quite His lips didn’t move. but it was ing somehow others were completely unaware. My eyes met his.Chapter 8 Naked Truth I was at a cocktail party. left. was also me. words if they had. And I was also nothing hav. And I had no trouble following both 41 . talked about our mates.
I could do nothing but observe—and so converse the other me. but with no farting this time. I guess I know need develop to selfrestraint. to beautiful home.42 CHAPTER 8. And I’ve been holding my breath for hours again. strapped against his naked body. He said. with him.once I knew to try. no replies yet. came of My and I drove home in a silent car with date no steering wheel. “I love you. Except my own body was frozen too. another I took the o er of his eyes and saw one. But eye nothing it. Then time resumed and I regained my own eyes. doesn’t leave one time to think.myself a man in the crowd. “Look. just in case. tried talking to people without moving my I’ve but mouth. and me and continued our conversation while keeping me an on the gunman.” and be.” body she said. but I’m am .” and I could feel I thought. Much of today was spent lifting heavy objects when one no lo oking. and ogling naked women through their was clothes with my x-ray eyes. and the evening drew to a close. I could have walked around all the as if frozen and swapped their watches without people them noticing. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. don’t how Clark Kent ever got any work done. Then for a moment. her respond with passion. half giddy to discover I have superpowers. It’s really very distracting—I itive. but really standing still. Perhaps the breathing helps the foo d? Not sure I want to analyze that too process deeply. but have no hunger. When I kissed her a goodnight. The latter was completely intu. through beautiful countryside. NAKED TRUTH conversations at once—the other seemed to go so slowly. “You love me. His shirt hind turned transparent and I could plainly see a gun beneath it. time almost stood Not like a moment of panic which still.
out of this pit. x-ray Maybe. Why hasn’t anyone noticed the open door in the yet? is the Wizard of Oz with his hot air balloon to Where take back to Los me Kansas? what is this experiment I have fallen And into? told Laura none of this. . or whatever is on the other side of my lone star sky. to my friends—or their descendants. “you love me.43 also struck with the irony of being here.” and I could feel her body respond with passion.” she said. Clearly I don’t belong here. I want to get back to my lab. I thought. in the Pit of Eden. I can’t imagine ever having use for them. “I love you. When I kissed her I have goodnight a few minutes ago. But I’m sure even that will get old. Except where the vision. to the world topside.
NAKED TRUTH .44 CHAPTER 8.
were the ment words. and thendigits 0-9. that I could make alize the letters start and stop. them. I discovered I could also erase letters. Then more came. I have found the way. “Hello World!” Tomorrow. somehow accepting it. I would have gone today. but not quite. in bright red letters. It took a while to find. almost as if ters I were seeing them. It was the letter H. I waited. with a great deal of trial and error. I go home.started spewing out before me. Suddenly a red letter does appeared out of nowhere. I go home. I and so embarked upon spelling out the alphabet.with it. the way ing one in dreams. I was deaf. Iried to touch it. I spelled out. so tomorrow. Alex!” Stumblingly and with many “Hello. and a so I erased mo. Despite everyone knowing of it. but big green let. but some green letters t appeared. apparently no one ever actually go es 45 .Chapter 9 EXIT I was blind. and change which letters appeared. She is fine though. corrections. We went to the church.I could control them. I started to re. I was a little freaked out. but I had to take care of Laura. I couldn’t feel anything at all. but the go. now. I tried to move.later.
remembered my life before last week. here as a small once child. The pastor seemed put a little at ease by this and exchange. Me. earshis rotating a goo d twenty degrees. stuttering. There are no Sunday sermons. “Oh!” Quite loudly. Laura exclaimed. his eyes quite wide. but said nothing. this gets weirder by the day. “It really is a remarkable resemblance. l Finally he closed his mouth and swallowed hard. Yes. then almost said. this is why I thought I recognized you—I was in “Yes. until I noticed he was turning white. no alms to pay.” gazed dizzyingly around some more and stopped She short at a statue of me. and that we nothing of thought something at the church might help jog my maybe memory. no confessions. As soon as we were inside. I asked him if perhaps he could just give me a tour. quite. and he opened his mouth to speak.” I said. too.” he said. Iistened with my ethereal ear. it’s a church of me. because it turns out not a church of Christ.. And it’s a good thing. and his legs started noodling under him and he then grabbed the doorway to keep himself aloft. isn’t it?” she rhetorically asked. “Yes. that I lead. All about us were depictions of. and backed o to sidethe make way for to us. but still heard nothing. y-yes-s. “Ahm.46 CHAPTER 9. “Can we come in?” I asked.When the pastor opened the door. and thatlike to hear a synopsis of their mythology (I phrased I’d it . His whole scalp seemed to shift back about an inch. finally how he could help us? Laura took asked us the explained that I had hit my head. blinked a few more times . I it’s know. and then blinking a bit longer still.. She looked as dumbfounded as the pastor for a bit. I raised a brow at him in query. he sto od blinking for a moment as if to adjust to the daylight. even though I knew this was no coincidence . EXIT there.
or we. but found myself the standing . the I just father d. but when I engaged vision. demigods can talk to both man and God. Their mythology is a bit sparse and hard to follow— it’s clear that nobody really cares. I have to say I feel a bit guilty about all of this.a demigo d.47 more tactfully). “Oh. Go d. I noticed something in the background. wheat.” didn’t challenge the incongruousness of this. What on earth am I. it to pastor . I walked straight to door at the end and opened it. nothing Hence the rain. This figure represented in paintings and statues about the place is named—wait for it—Alexander. seems. we “where store stu . I’d intended to admire Laura’s naked figure. one “What is through there?” I asked. but is not actually God— of Go rather. I detected the tiniest moment’s hesitation to beat by a sense that he ought to allow me anything I back ask. just amall bo ok of rules. “Those are not the droids you’re looking for. is the son of God.” he said.those are the meditation rooms. Through the door was a hallway with many doors lining the sides. God. though he stared at He me intently the entire time. some of which I’ve already s mentioned. but I ask didsee it. it and only seems. and God’s envoy. wishing but the well being and happiness of mankind.. and one small do or at the end. They have no bible. seemed most happy to oblige. to the point of nearly tripping oncetwice during the or tour. and let’s not forget the fountain of the sun. the word EXIT appeared in bold letters my x-ray overof the doors we had not been through. is not of the physical he is world. as usual.. is just passed on verbally from pastor The rest. especially any stories from the past. is the most benevolent of all possible Gods. or shouldbe so bold as to say I. trying to accomplish here? When the tour was wrapped up and he was running out of things to say. And he.” I thought to myself .
) ultra Anyway. None were locked.The moment the lock clicked shut. (I think my “x-ray” vision is only a passive sensitivity to infra and visual frequencies. and besides I then realized I had heard it with my ethereal ears. because my lips were still on hers. wet. but I noted with theylocked only from the inside. as it is fairly superficial. but it didn’t actually help much over my normal vision. They all led to Back cal. EXIT outside in a small alley behind the church. so I continued until there actually was enough ro om at least to stand inside. on the outside over the of the building: the word EXIT! in the hall. and half because I was planning w on anyway. with no exterior key all access. I picked one at random and started pulling things out of it. I closed the do or behind her so we were it wedged quite tightly in the gap I had cleared. but saw nothing unusual—until I turned around and noticed door I had just walked through. didn’t hear it. curious about what I as after. Half as a joke. full to the smallish hilt all manner of junk. The pastor moved to object. I tried the doors. She giggled through her nose in a way that made kiss. but then I realized no. why would just this be hidden from human view? I x-rayed the alley for any more clues. or perhaps largish closets. grin she couldn’t see. Laura squeezed in with me. in pitch blackness. I x-rayed through the remaining junk as best I could to see the back of the wall. and I heard the pastor say through the door that he would leave us alone and would in the foyer. but she did stop kissing me and Laura asked . identi. thinking this was all that was meant by EXIT. I squidged around to With a big face and with one hand on her butt. gave her a big. I pulled the lock closed behind be out her. I was quite by startled woman’s a voice. It wasn’t Laura.rooms.48 CHAPTER 9. but no words left his open mouth.” she said. it clear her mouth was quite occupied. “Hello. I had a moment of disappointment. her. to me just like normal walls and oors all the it looked way around. I think.
some fumbling and an accidental smack to her with head the door. Laura leaned out peered out the door down the hallway. so I resumed time and held her firm and reassured her it was I felt a bit dizzy for a okay. figuring she had just fainted from the through shock and would come to shortly. Reaching behind her again. though I find my ability to see changes in the world is sluggish in this mode. and opened it. Laura started went breathing heavy. I straddled her and hoisted her upright as best I and could. moment. her I didn’t know. and I realized we had come to a silent having gone into motion during Laura’s stop. put Laura on hold. In a mere grain of time. clearly made of synthetics never seen topside. I returned Having with.49 what was wrong. It was straight and as arrow. inch. “Where would you like to go?” asked the voice. I unbolted the door. no idea what my options were. “Hello?” I said inquisitively. without giving it enough “Take me thought. and she suddenly. My eyes began to detect light. I peered out the door down the hallway. But she was still breathing quite heavily. I assumed from adrenalin. And then our feet felt the I told oor move just a little. and then she dropped to the oor and came to rest in a fetal smoothly position into the hall. I managed to get her inside and the with door and locked behind us. I kneeled down to run my halfway fingers her hair. I repeated that “ I didn’t know. but not the same one. “Where is this light coming from?” she asked. an and on as far as the eye could see. there!” I said.” she answered. closed I . What was that?” she asked again. “Maintenance access C-1B. “What is closest?” room was definitely filling with light The now. I noticed Laura’s eyes starting to inch from the light. stopped breathing entirely. We were in a hallway again. I slowed time.
did you do to her?” he asked. on the other hand. the CPR. The pastor had barely stepped out of the hall by now and was quickly back surveying the mayhem. . all just stayed there for a while without moving and we or saying any more until she was ready to take home. and wondered how exactly I was going to explain this. noted the red welt forming on I continued her forehead. for the first time. demand much explaining. Laura was the first to o er a story. “What incredulous. and I checked her pulse. and then we poured the oor of the meditation hall as I set about out onto giving her CPR. did not seem placated. Laura. and gave me a lo ok I knew would. came her and not from me. EXIT asked to be taken back to the church. Then she gasped her own air.50 CHAPTER 9. particularly since it head. She told him that simply something in the room had fallen and hit her in the He seemed placated by this.
..” “I’m. it felt somehow this time removed.sorry.. “What are you looking at?” trio jumped about three feet high.. I did not recognize—two men and a woman staring who expectantly at a computer screen.weeks for your visual and audio cortices to accommodate to the new input mappings. “Bo o!” They exchanged looks..” I said. “Don’t tell him you “Jesus!” just turned him on—the last thing he remembers he was in his lab with his friends.” she said. the second man muttered. “Alex?” In the background.” blurted the first man. Still. oh my god.” woman came over. oh my god. lo oked me right in the eye The and said. I said. “We. Please don’t do that again. thought it would take.. mouths agape. as if I’d The etly quisnuck up on them and yelled. more like something I was watching than something I was seeing. “thank god the test patterns are gone.” “Yes.only turned you on last night.. although I could see and hear.Chapter 10 Awakening Last night’s dream felt much like the one before. “From his perspective. That something was people in a small ro om.” 51 . and then finally one of the men looked at me and said quietly.. “Oh my god. askance he’s over there.
but the first interrupted him.” said real one. I hope valley you the virtual-synapse ag set or I’m going to have saturate eventually. default.” Jason said impatiently. though!” “I really I added. this is “Um. wondering how “I could they could possibly not know all these settings and defaults by heart. at the supercomputer center.” don’t think that’s what he meant.” can he possibly have acclimated so quickly?” “How the woman asked.” said the other.” Nari “I said. I’m getting there. AWAKENING “No. didn’t expect this first scan to work. anyway?” the second man started. I said. “Yeah. no worries. “Who are you guys.” they Again exchanged looks.52 CHAPTER 10. them turned to a console and typed some of commands. lost in a blizzard of snow and white noise.” he said. New .“Maybe we got lucky and the mappings were close to his natural ones.” I said. usual between medium and long term memory.” I assured them.” have told you that.and yes. “Are you recording this?” he asked. “We work here. “I’m Jason. “I know. Deer-in-headlight Onelooks. thought I ad woken up during the scan. I realized I was a started simulation.” and Misha. The two men looked at each other to see what the had other to say. then both tried to answer at once. “Are you running me with the fast-ltp ag? I bet you because my memory feels pretty crisp. ” Again more exchanged looks.” “No. I started a full introspective trace just before enabled I external video.” the second man started. not the are. “Maybe we set the throttle wrong and he’s running thanfaster time. “they’re on by “Yes. “I was a little lost at first. Nari. I know. it’s been only maybe ten hours since I woke up. but when the test h patterns to congeal. “Well.
Then I my realized that our sim code—presumably in which my consciousness was being run—doesn’t really handle global su usion of neurotransmitters. which probably limits the extent of emotional momentum I would feel. at least until they sort of live—or it It’s a joke.“Bummer. out. He or she must have started it in lots the minute they realized you’d died.” paused. I He expected to feel the emotions welling up. via the P2P well sites. before became the politico-ethic focus of the world overnight. “So.. it was too the late. You. okaayyy. and a bit of sympathy for poor friends who had to live with that. then one of your coworkers. Your death made it a public issue. clearly to see how I to ok the news. and organs by time they tried to bring you out.” I said. to the internet. They have no idea what they’re doing. not science why. then what?” Nari burst a hiss of air like a popped tire.” “Hooo Jason continued. Putting his hand of his head. started an upload of the scan data. many Your weren’t functioning properly during the scan. nobody knows who. as as all your sim code. of little pieces. died during the scan. was the work itself that became the focus of but it endless legal and ethical debates which continue to day. but I felt only some mild disappointment that we screwed up. It was a huge deal. “You “They didn’t realize it until the end..” he paused and lo oked at the other two. “So.53 Mexico. because it was all out there it even hit the news. got to tell him. Congress passed an emergency injunction against any more scanning dead!—neural tissue.” he said. he slumped back in his chair and on top said. or . but—or at least this is what saying at this point—your body couldn’t handle they’re that hours with your lower brain functions disabled. or It’s about religion and fears and votes. having been holding his breath awaiting my response. Cloning was nothing by comparison.” Jason continued. to which they both “I’ve pursed lips their and finally shrugged.
. If nothing else. AWAKENING even ethics. the simulation looked well-behaved. but nobody had anything to interject. ” “But. we had to try it to see if it did half of what the comments implied it did. we started looking over your own sim code—nicely commented.54 CHAPTER 10. Let’s take it apartplay with each bit in isolation. “Never mind.” paused. of course to download the data. ” “Man. Which. Let’s dive into a maps square centimeter of cortex and scope every synapse and soma and to figure out the math that’s being implemented try there.” “Thanks. so He he continued. man. “Now what? I don’t know. so now what?” I asked. it didn’t at first — was a bug in the code that infers from the scan there geometry the parameters of one particular type of trisynaptic which doesn’t o ccur in mice.how did you know?” “Yes. And. sorry to say —” Suddenly his words were cut o . well.” “Sign error?” I asked. some by the sounds of time it.” “Yes. Let’s make the first and good of what’s connected to what. but Misha figured junction that out based on some odd behavior of the associated one neurons.. He laughed. so we had only to hack in some virtual input and output devices— give eyes and ears—and fire you up. “When we heard what had happened. go on. we real you ly didn’t expect. by the way. and time had jumped . we we had thought be an excellent neuro-anatomical reference for it would our research. But. Yesterday I would have said: wow.you.” “Okay. by the way.” “Anyway. what a great tool for studying the behaviors of all these various brain circuits. I’m sure it will take us months to years to catch up with your since you’ve had at least the mouse mo del for team.
55 forward. Nari was closing the door as if he’d just returned, was back in my face so close I would have and Misha jumped a body. if I’d had “Alex?” she said. “Yes? What the hell just happened?” she explained, “we hit the allotted CPU “So sorry,” and time swapped you out for a weather simulation. I they got to give us another couple of minutes but I’m having them to borrow against tomorrow’s budget just for that.” “Oh, that’s just a little disturbing,” I confessed. Nari said somewhat distantly. “Yeah,” “Trippy.” back, and Jason continued on. “So, as I Misha sat was saying, your team are all on forced sabbatical right now, pending a trial regarding your death, and generally hiding political heat, so I think it will be a long time from the if before your work gets picked up where it left o . ever So, start from the beginning, and do what we we’ll can.” “You’re forgetting something,” I said. “You’ve got me.” “I need a drink!” Nari chimed in from his chair. and Misha glanced at each other, creating a Jason feedback lo op that started with a slightly upturned corner of a outh and rapidly progressed into two giant m grins. “Yes...I suppose that’s true, in a...way. Would you...like to...work...with us?” “Heh, yeah, I’d like that. But listen, before you start me up again, can you add a ho ok to give me shell and web access? Also an email client that supports strong encryption.” eyes gleamed as if we’d just founded a new Jason’s secret society. “You got it, boss!” he said, quite seriously but with a subtle nod to the extreme, humorous irony of it. “Boss?” Nari piped up again. “Oh god, I need a drink.” I added, “you said you’ve been saving a full “Also,” trace we since started talking?” “Yes. ” “Please organize some sort of permanent storage for these — I have a feeling I’m going to want them down the road.”
56 CHAPTER 10. AWAKENING “Will do. Gotta go now.” He started typing the command to turn me o , and in the distance I could see Nari as Jason’s finger plummeted toward the enter wince key.And then I woke up.
Chapter 11 Good To Be Home
After a night’s rest, Laura and I had a long talk about yesterday, and about me. I found I had little of actual substance to enlighten her with, though, since I continue to be mostly dark myself. She didn’t believe much of what I in the said at first, particularly about me, about what I am, or at least I think I am. But after a few demonstrations of what super- strength, and a somewhat comical scene involving human me dunking my head in a bucket of water for about five minutes while holding o her ailing attempts to make me stop, Ihink she finally accepts that there’s something just a t wee about me. o dd I also asked her more about what happened in the meditation hall, when she passed out (I never did tell her she’d e ectively died there for a minute). She said when the door opened, it felt very stu y, and part of her wanted to get outside and get some fresh air, but she was so curious and in awe of the mysterious hallway...and that’s the last she remembers. It may be the hallway just hasn’t been ventilated long time and lacks oxygen. Not a problem for in a very me, it does mean I couldn’t take anyone with but me. So I went back alone, and convinced the pastor to let me “meditate” for a while. I told him it could be days, but in it turned out only to be hours. I actually had to fact explain 57
And she. as p in dream the other night where I suddenly took on the the other view.some bit of junk? In response. since it felt somehow a man’s move to give her this feed into me.irony did not escape me that I was impressed The this. but had never heard of an hour. but didn’t even know the basic definition).58 CHAPTER 11. I tried to have a more general conversation with her. (Though I begin to wonder: even though I feel speaking verbally through this ethereal plane. When I tested her memory on a whim. maybe hidden be. able”). GOOD TO BE HOME to him what meditation was (not that I’m any expert. incidentally. I hesitated at first. like she was handing me it as. she a hoto to look at except the o er was felt intuitively.by still haven’t allowed myself enough certainty in I my superhuman nature to be impressed by own me. her recognition of my speech impeccable. a map on one of the walls. . basic Newtonian physics. but my curiosity of trust won.didn’t remember giving me a lift yesterday. but had never heard of an electron.. the room filled again with ambient light from no discernible source. but I even discovered she understood. He didn’t he seem convinced as to the meaning of the term. Where it became interesting was when I asked her if there was. but found herbe an idiot savant. she. and could discuss in small measure. door locked. were “currently (almost all unavail. but was at least convinced I was just a nut squatting quietly in his closet for a while. let alone a a day year. I found she only aware of the last couple of minutes or so—but was that in perfect detail. the voice.. perchance.was in no way deficient—as an she elevator.I can only hind describe o ered me her eyes. Yet despite her eccentricities. asking me where I would like to go. She could recite a hundred di erent or destinations of which. much her manner was cordial and polite. am I I am in transmitting thoughts on a more basic level?) In fact short. was back. She could tell me how long it to would get from point A to point B down to a fraction take to ofsecond. Once inside.
I thought at and then first I would be able to keep this up indefinitely. I started walking. I started jogging. But while it was quite it was also quite sparse. then running. I engaged my xthe ray vision. and then there were a few transport tubes and pedestrian-sized hallways running and that in close proximity to this cylinder. but did start to tired. hallway ended similarly either way. It didn’t matter which direction. I saw a darkness. and found the hallway truly came to an there abrupt end not far beyond where the light stopped—close enough . they were all snipped o midstream as if the whole ensemble were a giant core sample missing its surround. Flick.59 It was disorienting at first. When the this monotony of the hallway got tiresome. Finally I not so was on foot. but saw little more except that the area looked warm. black in the infrared as in the visible. finally sprinting as fast as I could. and soon realized In was it end of the di use illumination. The air did smell stale. the distance. my very center was icking about this voluminous I am at the church. was There to see. There was the vast large. but instead found thighs them quite hot to the touch! I went back to walking for a while until I felt quite fine enough to jog again. With the speed that one’s eyes normally ick from one bit of an image to another. Stepping out into the hallway. this way but moving away from this central core. I lo oked around. Here boundary. cylindrical chamber containing the city and sky. Now up in my lab. but not body so bothered me. and particularly my legs and hips started to feel hurt.we were in last night ended similarly. for the map was a full 3D model that looked and felt life-size to me. I slowed back down to a jog and instinctively rubbed my to push the blood through them. beyond the shiny imprint of Laura’s little fetal on the dusty oor. Flick. I noted the maintenance hall. so I asked to way be taken there again to explore this transition in person. Now just outside the space. Leaving the door open out of mild it paranoia that I should be stranded in the hall. because according to the map.
heat. but found a blur in my vision—albeit a slow-moving it only blur. as if the hallway had simply been lopped o to make way for this.. blobby nondescript galaxies of of faint radiation frequencies.60 CHAPTER 11. I thought I heard something. it was not the hallway that ended and gave way to the wall at the end. I ressed my ear to it. me to the lab. the alloy and moving so quickly.engaged my x-ray vision. The junction between the two the was po orly sealed. They fell into stripes—dark at various stripes interleaved with blobby stripes. as gravity grew steadily to easily ing twice it started. I felt the room gently I’d once tilt. a sound increasing in volume. where the uniformity of the stripes was more apparent. Thinking of nothing more to observe. With my ear still pressed to it. followed by the strange tilting where sensation began to ease o . It grew stronger and eased as gravity ogain finally to a moment of complete stillness that I a assume shaft transition just beyond The Boundary. The sound was faint. I never got a go od within one look. There were definitely clusters light. free of rust but of dust. I made the treklong back to my new friend the elevator. And true to the soil core analogy. with rather less “Take thanenthusiasmhad for this journey.” I said. loud. I did manage through to slow time before one of them fully escaped view. A boundary beyond The Boundary.. chaotic. I couldn’t see much through I the alloy. then suddenly something was at my face and I inched back from the wall ying before it was something passing by quickly just on realizing the side.without leaning. Then I noticed the slight buzzing sound coming from the wall. but more than nothing. The wall was some metal alloy. I was the grew . I stood and stared at it for a while straight other on. And in a while. once traveling of the dark stripes. zip! zip! Something would y by. GOOD TO BE HOME that I could still see the terminating wall dimly in the visible spectrum. not other way around.boundary. and it was quite warm against my p cheek. I laughed out A city in a box in a box! Turtles all the way down.
Secondly. The of my sup. to the pond. there were annotated multiple doors or portals or I’m not sure what on the side. Would I open the door and find myself the table? Crazy thoughts I sho ok out of my lying on head. I went straight for that do or. the map described an “observation deck” on one side lab. I made the march into the room. Two things I had noted earlier on the 3D map. But there was no remaining access to it—all tubes tunnels had been and snipped. I tried to reconcile this all with the ro oms and hallways surrounding my lab as I remembered it. and an “observation hall” on the other. and of more interest at that immediate moment. they were . was There chamber just outside The Boundary not far a large from I landed in the pond that first day. which I scowled at. it was also the only that extended more than ten yards or so beyond thing The Boundary. How had it ended this. Perhaps up like merely . just as I left it some days ago Just when I naively leapt out that door. not to my death as it could have been. or was this even my lab at all. but to my great easily confusion. then down over the city—it was really quite beautiful from there—then down. and perhaps most intriguing. nor was there side any to get to the other side that I was aware way of. Besides where being the only such chamber on the map. below.deck side was where the door opened to open space. then so light on my feet they came out from under me. posed I cautiously peered out at the big blue sky. Except. as I left it. These items sto od out on the map as being far uniquely but she (the elevator) could not tell me what depicted. but hesitated the scan at actually opening it. I found myself in a small ro om which I immediately recognized as one of the small rooms adjoiningroom.61 heavy again for a few moments. Opening the door. But the far far back of the room had no doors or windows. again concluded by a almost dead stillness .
and sped up time a bit to give it a chance to take e ing.back up.62 CHAPTER 11. SMACK! Even at medium time.I’d swear I’d touched it earlier. I decided at best I could improve With my landing. Why hadn’t I seen through my x-ray vision? And how could this be it with projected screen? And.. I was when I reached back and touched it. Perfectly normal. I was surprised to Then feel cheek striking a hard surface. with my shoulders. “Crap!” Ihought. ect. so I started to twist in order to see where I was go. up. Quick thinking can’t change the of physics. it felt solid like a wall. a mental sigh. my feet on the oor but my body leaned back forty-five still degrees. I leaned against the wall absent-mindedly—and fell right through it. and feet protruding. lo oked back. There it was again. my lips uttering about my in recoil from the impact. On a whim. and touched the I wall. and touched the wall with it. Then pressed on it. A mirage! I head. with no when first wandering around the room. walked back into the lab. only this out the other side. and now I can’t get back. my hair swinging down and swatting in me the forehead. Ieaned the chair back against the wall. what was I going to land in this time time? slowly tilted further and further away from the As I room. l Un- . and I was pretty committed at this laws point. Here I was again! Falling backward out of my lab. The entire back wall of the lab was now gone. Perfectly normal. I sat I leaned forward. like me?In what must have been the prat move of the century. Sure enough. GOOD TO BE HOME a copy. even the arm I touched it with was attached to a though body passing right through that wall. I had hardly glanced around the hall before t get. I slowed time before I’d gone too far. Seemed perfectly normal. my heels still on the o or of the lab. I struggled to think of any way to save myself this time but couldn’t think of a thing. I grabbed the ting chair. rolled my eyes and sighed to myself.. got up. I resumed time I found myself lying on the When oor of the observation hall.
The room ended in a T with a proper hallway. It was really more of a narrow room than a all. Finally with a few more experiments. which then terminated fairly quickly in both directions making the whole space truly T-shaped. This mined was. I finally set about noticing the observation p hallway itself . I found I was able to back through the wall however. without Once satisfied that I could now come and go as incident.the wall was. The moment my hand left the chair. Back to the other side of the T. But this one .63 til I let go. the least. not much longer than the lab. first I thought the wall was somehow tuned to At me. stomach high and slanted for easy viewing. specifically getting myself into orientations where I was absolutely dependent on the wall holding me up. Yet for all this fa ng about. in fact. I practiced falling through the wall forward a few but times couldn’t eliminate the sensation of smacking my faceit. entirely in my mind. As if I don’t have to say enough about what’s real and what’s not doubts already. it began to throb. disconcerting. sensethat didn’t explain why I had fallen through But just a minute ago. with the words “Watch Your Step” ended on threshold. indeed. it promptly fell through the wall. With some practice at su ciently distracting on myself. I leased. and no amount of poking or pro dding brought it it was to life. I the mused for a moment and gave it a swift kick with my heel. Watch your step. There was nothing h in room but what appeared to be a small digital placard the of some sort. I over peered the corner at the luminous sky-blue backside of around the do or. Toward the city the hall clearly in a doorway. there was remarkably little to find here. I physically deter. But dark. and I grabbed the slid wall to steady myself as I was once again looking into sky and the city far below. dangling freely in the open lab air. I once again found hall the sheered away to abut an outer boundary. As I approached it. at this It open almost silently to the side.
by the . Just a moment later I was busily nearly by a broad spectrum light emanating from the blinded hole.moving. with some caution not to get my eyeball sucked out.a. thing which inspection I realized was an aglet full of the upon decayed of the end of a shoelace. still mostly crammed full of junk. Through the little hole I could see some. But with what? I went and searched through the small domain I could back reach on foot. and and simultaneously nearly deafened by a shrill sound I care notdescribe. This would not remains help. I cannot tell you kind. retrieved found the hardest. storage closet.64 CHAPTER 11. near where the chair had first been. No moving in parts that I noticed. c butthe fuzzy infrared I could see quite far). as far as what I ould see (which wasn’t very far in the visual spectrum.k. in regular patterns. to andthe time my senses had recalibrated from the shock. A moment later. easier to see through. and more hollow I tapped on it and it sounded quite thin. I did see some. it with all my superhuman strength into the barrier. GOOD TO BE HOME was di erent. I saw the inside of a machine. quite Peering through. sharpest bit.on the oor. Peering cautiously around corners as I went. I behind. I returned to the sucking hole in the wall. so I The endeavored to fix what I had broken. it was dark and silent. meditation room I a. Pipes and plates. and was to dig through it when I heard a loud banging sound about that surprised the hell out of me. thinner.k. was not going to abate. A great hissing sound erupted. and rammed the chair.a.less brightly through the wall in some frequencies. The chair fell away to reveal a sizable dent with a small puncture in the middle. strongly. remembered the elevator a. sucking. It was being pounded at from the back side. hand near it and realized it was sucking air I held my out. but found nothing of potential use. and when I engaged my x-ray vision I thing was startled by the skeleton and workings of a spider-like robot making repairs. I realized.
with Laura. to my real home. And so it came to pass that my grand trip home was just another dead end. more boundaries and machines. which seems to want nothing. which is as wanting as it ever my was. needing in the sky to remind me of that empty place. I shuddered to think what would have happened if I’d stuck my pinkie through there at the wrong time.65 damage was awlessly patched. fire at my back. and the spider was gone. . no star and returned here. These are for my body. What I thought was my lab probably Where I expected to find civilization. warm It body awaiting me in bed. even a bit of bread to eat. I closed the lab door. feels good to be here. just never was. They are not for soul.
GOOD TO BE HOME .66 CHAPTER 11.
and another—three in r all. In the third room were four people: Jason. In the second.and a perfect haircut atop a rather large looking suit head. Fade to black. fathom things that went through my head. the ways now.tall. I was in aoom. Though a mere two 67 . Furthermore. “Welcome.. I could see everything in all three all roomsall sides simultaneously. a that machine like a large copier emitted a strange looked orchestra of alternating sounds and lights.I had ten now. attractive man with an expensive but a comfortable. not a ap. but it was live (in the dream). “Thank you. and Nari. nunna click. Much of the dream I can hardly fore. Zunna nunna nunna nunna Zunna nunna nunna clack. White ash. ash. through a standard intercom in the center of the table. sustaining deep red glow.” I said. be. and I was in another room. but somehow it all made perfect sense at the time. It was reminiscent of the from elevator’s map yesterday. Misha. Violet click. my whole cognitive space felt m similarly as if everywhere that I had one mental hand expanded.Chapter 12 Becoming I wasn’t quite myself—I was something more..” the new man said. One of the rooms was empty. at the same time. the in which I saw and thought about things. Zunna Slow.
Ph.” “Okay. then you anyway. with perhaps the faintest sign a of dubious smile. first. I was dismayed by this and a at but then happy to see it only lasted a brief moment.What he wasn’t familiar with was that it was troller.” he said—though the ro om had already fallen silent the moment he leaned forward slightly to speak. they left his lips with such in ection. nobo dy would believe I said. he lo oked around the room to share the joke. set the other three about explaining in their I wayrambling surrounding my death. which got quite the events far along before the man noticed one too many times a nod toward the intercom when referring to the deceased Alex Harris . incorporeally at your service. “Formerly deceased Alex Harris. hiring him specifically as someone who would have this look—he had to appear at all times to never have the all answers already. “Pardon my interruption. so smooth and confident. based . “Are you meaning that this [gesturing to the intercom] is the to imply deceased Alex Harris?” “Formerly deceased.” Grinning widely. empathetic nearly to the point of apology. “and besides.” added.68 CHAPTER 12. so it was hardly an interruption. I was. explanation continued on to how we’d formed a The small corporation shortly after my initial virtual resurrection. and brought to market (in record time) the product he was by familiar with—an adaptive assembly-line robotics now con.” I corrected. but was instead met by a succession of rather serious expressions. I think even the ants stopped their march up the jam and gave him their full door attention.” he said simply. going to forgo the non-disclosure agreement “I’m and other trade secret bla-de-bla because I have absolutely no doubt you will be on board before you leave this meeting. after all. BECOMING words.D. His vanished in a blink and was replaced by a furrowed grin brow lo ok of deep contemplation.
to hire more sta . Our next hire would be a CEO to oversee the traditional hierarchy.69 on greatly simplified versions of my (scanned. mention associated intellectual property not to issues. perhaps helped along by aittle intentional misdirection on my part. but he would not be privy to entire the whole truth. We needed to feed world a plausible explanation for our somewhat the mirac-progress which did not in any way connect us to ulous the deceased Alex Harris and the associated political turmoil. task But tech press had taken notice of us rather early on and the were elevating us rapidly into the public eye despite our e orts to remain completely opaque as a company. and others we may later hire just for show. the vantage point they This was shared. thanks partly to my initial head start but mostly boot-strapping myself through a gentle series of due to mental enhancements. And there was a great deal more I quietly understood. tireless. churning out new brilliant the technologies we didn’t even need to file patents on them. particularly to esh out needed the business side. In fact. remained l largely dark. these were R&D hit-team. dirty meat puppets with sterile. previously esh) cerebellum and early visual cortex. He. the rest of the company and world. would believe and that four. Furthermore. What we would never mention is that all our products . and hyper-eager machines who could in the end perform the samethrice as fast at half the cost. to the bottom-line corporate popularity of Due ing replacunreliable. convinced we had a marvelous black box in the with mysterious but profitably harnessable emergent properties. otherwise I never would have been able to simplify it the way I did. That would belong to the five of us alone. I recall thinking to myself that I knew exactly how it worked. and that we didn’t entirely know how it worked. we had a whole slew of new products and planned. The others. so advanced We would claim we were confident nobody could reverse engineer trade our secrets. money was rolling in.
were also quietly run by panies me. let alone their specifics. Sadly. “Where do we begin? ” And then I woke up. engineer. But I had arranged funding so far from an anonymous angel investor—me—to catch him up with rest of his the kin. nor falling too far none behind. keeping tricks myself company.” he said with a dubious smile that told me he would take us at our word long enough. not least. their I recall thinking to myself that this to o was not the whole truth—that there were six other similar companies around the world at roughly the same stage. this with such certainty because those six other I knew com.software that would leave our competitors coy scratching for decades. BECOMING were booby-trapped to ush their volatile memory and shut on any sign of tampering. and that these seven would voraciously compete with each other and in total between them define the technology for years to come. and. with whom I had been communicating almost from the start.” I said again. Without yours truly personally their heads uploading a small decryption library and key into the volatile there simply was no technology to reverse memory. ” “Thank you.so it was portrayed that we had our priceless And secrets so well-hidden that the world would never even guessnature. sharing technological insights and of self-enhancement. one of me was not yet running in real time had only been able to communicate with the real and world by text and emails.70 CHAPTER 12. But once again. . with ever dominating too much.“Welcome. “as the acting founder and CTO of General Cybernetics. strategizing a grand plan. they were run by other copies of me. leaving nothing but endown crypted firmware and a sizable section of non-encrypted de. bringing us to a close where we began. Or more accurately.
Bzzp ! Flash fried. where I mapthe showed that large space on the other side. I don’t seem to be subject to sunburn. It’s been a couple of days my last entry.Chapter 13 Creature Thing Though it’s become clear to me I have no reason to hurry. and all night. if I were. and that night without a into peep. The first momentary hour. say I picked my spot to camp out too well.I’m staring at the boundary. so I just sat and watched sure I and listened. But it was worth the outside wait. the next I’m squished ment all the field by a large object that plowed me under over before 71 . for instance. my curiosity just won’t let me rest. One Or let’s mo. and another day. fast-moving object I saw my first night here came from that I waited all day. I found no evidence of it from the inside whatsoever. went out to the boundary. which proved correct. that the large. and I spent most of that time since sitting in a field. place. but I was pretty had the right place. get killed or injured for failure to move when or worse yet I ught to. Twelve hours worth of solar radiation blasted onto me in a subjective second. near the pond. it occurred to me within the it. waiting. but o imagine. is I’m apt to miss something important. might have gotten bored and given up but for I discovering I can speed up time even more easily than I can slow problem with this. I had a hunch.
when something moved. cutter (Okay. mostly berating myself for not slowing time when the iris first started I had been to o preoccupied with curiosity to opening. rapidly approaching.. A boundary recede. all this time passed in just a minute or two.72 CHAPTER 13. then the elevator map but now being able to zip my focus through time. and anyway it just hadn’t occurred to me there already be something rapidly approaching the would moment opened.. It rather caught me . the iris pass through. It’s really quite marvelous. CREATURE THING I could even inch. I resumed time to its normal pace and stared intently at the boundary with every nuance of my enhanced jagged crack formed and a chunk of the vision. which is probably why I hadn’t face found whatever hairline fracture must be there. I can’t go backward). And so during which I found that remarkably little of interest happens here.) I realized the edge of shaped this receding slab followed the contours of the fingerprint-like sur.of the boundary. I had naturally assumed: open do or.zip zip zip. It occurred to opened me a little late that I should step o to the side. Not open-door-pass-through. like an iris.. like a horrific hairy-monster shaped started to cookie was extracting its prey from the other side. alas. whole receding slab split into at least a dozen The and pieces quite suddenly. as no so oner the last edge of the iris clear of the opening than I was was straight on to a large. I found with a little trial and error that I get can conscious awareness to run at a di erent speed my from my subconscious processing.. people see bunnies in clouds—I see hairyso some monstercookies in jaggy shapes. Until the middle of the second night.thing! staring I slowed time and contemplated my predicament. However. not just space (except that. very much again like bits. be concerned. and can “prime” my focus to me—to slow time down again—when something of alert in. rather like terest aime-lapsed movie but even better because it runs fast t when nothing’s happening and then slows down for the interestingfast again.happens.
ethereally. top So. just aacophony of ippity. there I was. seven clusters Then of them. but no two c alike. Like the elephant and the mouse. It must have been the size of a small house. betrayed by the frantic sound of limbs itting about. yet with no semblance of regularity.73 by surprise. sticking out every which way. hello?” “Uh. And around the bottom. I said. The thing clearly didn’t want to run me over either. quite emphatic. ro ot-like things that almost. at as it crested through the peak of its jump. it seemedbe actually touching the ground anywhere I could not to see. which I gather had been frantically looking for me in the momentthrust down between the feet and stared intently before. But then ment. droopy.as the dust settled. ward It slowing. jutted down and started opping about the earth in a most strange and chaotic pattern. In fact. but physics So. with my ethereal ear. but not quite.. but not enough to keep from running me was over. just wouldn’t have it. For a d mo. Back me down . Then I heard it. I oticed there was some commotion still going on above n me.well.kicking up a huge cloud of dust in my direction. we were both still.to be mauled by that forest of pared roots. It had more appendages than I ould count. and pitched back. It was clearly a machine. and an ocular appendage. something between a groan and a whine. Those “roots”. pinned underneath this heavy beast. reached the ground. the feet came down..I tried to move out of the way.opping that came to a halt right c on of me. but spread over humongous feet the weight was bearable—at least seven I idn’t feel like anything was about to go squish. a last-ditch e ort I simply dove for the ground and so in pre. placed randomly about the bottom side. There was no rhythm to it at all. oppy. The thing was. just one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. Molested might have been a better term. the beast leapt into the air with all sevens.
moving in the night. Without further ado. But in retrospect. sheepishly. the way it “emoted. I guess I just don’t lo particularly ok like people. hello.” I said again. but they were sprawling and placed with such chaos that there was and random no pattern for the eye to catch. leaving me staring eyes to eye with a large. though the feet shu ed apart this time and root-like oppy tentacle fo ot bits slammed to the the ground all around me.74 CHAPTER 13.. peculiarly.animal noises. that there was nothing else to notice. rather dirty. at night in the infrared. If it had been as I don’t think it quite comprehended what it was looking at. about. I’d learned my lesson and done most of this . more like. no Actually. Finally it shu ed out from over me so that I could up standbrush myself o . but not in I language. could hear it “vocalizing” ethereally. the way it moved. CREATURE THING again it came. The earth had been changedminute before. That is. at night and nobody would ever know. I’m sure it would have. it and simply and with a few oppy chaotic steps set itself turned back some sort of fan-assisted ground-e ect ight. so I have to assume they jects usually and successfully avoided people entirely. I looked down at my feet and mused at the spreadeagle impression I had left in the loose earth. lens.. Then I noticed. there were prints all around me. Indeed everything about it seemed quite foreign.” It immediately seemed such a relic against the background of recent days. no discernible sign that the beast had just been there tromping trail of it opping o into the distance. My turn to blink and contemplate the strangeness of what had just happened. but qualitatively it was exactly since a the These things could be running all over the place same. Laura had no tales of large ob. able to blink. “Uh. oppy into toes skimming the surface of the earth as it vanished nearly into the darkness. Fortunately.
and hence the gaps between them closed no more than the center. was the convergence point for a baker’s now dozen of sharp tips. because while I describe it as an iris. these time cost tips apt to do said converging right about when my were belly was attempting to pass button by. for which I quickly was headed. From what I could tell. It seems to give way to any otherwise hapless obstacle. analyze my actions. And the center. due to the marginal of aiming there instead of the bottom. I sprinted for it with all my might. having left the ground and being com. but then noticed the crack wasn’t quite closed. the form of my stylish dive. I stood up inspect it and finally noticed—way up high—a small to bit my shirt dangling from the wall. I would have done better to aim for the First. . I grabbed a small of twig poked it into the crack.I only then took a bit more time to su ciently mitted. spread my hands I broke wide before me as though trying to stop an oncoming truck. and found not entirely to and my surprise I could pry it open with no e ort at all. and also hit up enough to start my bo dy swinging down so my feet (or high at least knees) could take some of the impact rather than risking my arms letting my head be the only bit to poke through. bottom. and made a heroic leap (with height that impressed even myself) right for the center. Unfortunately. In the end the wedges closed in concert with a nice full-body op against the wall. Abort! Abort! Damn the laws of physics for refusing to accommodate changed intentions. and I rebounded gracelessly to the ground. and I stepped inside. but unharmed At first I was quite frustrated to have missed the chance. designed Sopeeled the wedges apart with my two hands. With I managed to palm two of the wedges at on care without any fingers hanging over to get lopped o . because the iris was starting to close.75 thinking with time slowed. the pieces did not in fact overlap.
None of the doors were dimensioned for human passage. so thatinstant later all was quiet and the box looked as inno an cent had when I first o ered my hand to it. though each so di erent from the others I doubt any served a similar function. The bit of my shirt having now fallen free. depending on how you look at it. but I could see a fair way through many of them in the infrared all led to tubes.76 CHAPTER 13. I couldn’t whether say).the shafts the “elevator” moved through (which cent of were with a peculiar. There was nothing much at all. There were no other many-armed rooty oor creature things here. or passageways of and they one or another. as well as a number of cavities doors of various sizes. The same as it hand o ered it the middle finger. if it Ieached in to touch the back. It seemed clearly a room designed for much more. mostly box-shaped. mostly near level. At least a couple of them were very sort reminis. It a vast. but now felt abandoned. CREATURE THING Or stepped outside. gotten very far in my exploring the many I hadn’t fine . just in aimless poking r around. and I ventured onward now down wall a little more the carefully. Only one of them two responded to my prodding—a small box-shaped recess less than half a meter cubed. the iris closed tight and left me in even more complete darkness except for a warm infrared glow su using the room from the back. tall room. but before my fingers reached the end two thick steel plates slammed in from either side aiming to crush my hand. but essentially empty except for was various protrusions and indentions along the back wall. repeating diamond-grid of lined elements. The open cavities were perplexing. I reexively yanked my hand back in the nick of time and the plates clanged against each other and then withdrew. with numerous The back and pipes and hoppers.circuitry or something else. each densely surrounded (within the wall) by complex arrays of tubes or circuits or both. chambers. wall was most interesting. nor could I coax any open. the sort of thing that might display a vasewere in a home rather than this industrial setting.
see his spine and veins and all manner of I could icky quite clearly there.I ran to the side of the room and tried to hide ing iris. It was being and ung about the way one might handle a carried dirty I could see now it was a very old towel. in corner. man. coming to a windy and chaotic stop almost at the back wall. stu ed his head into the opening. up high along the body of the beast. thudding against the oor and then jerking and its legs and squirming against the friction of being dragged. I could swear someone was faintly humming a tune. but it and stayed wedged firmly there between them. in whisked my oppy-toed friend.77 gadgets of the back wall when the faint visible-spectrum glow never-quite-dark night streamed in through the of the open. Hopefully dead. I guessed this was to keep the neck mess squidging out. its left view. I was on edge waiting for that cracking sound of the skull giving under the pressure. out sideways. This e ectively created covering the front of the cavity while still allowing a door his to pass through. and for a moment they just dangled there.creature-thing brought the old man to the recess The that almost ate my hand. A ring of broad-spectrum light erupted from his and neck. but it was also quite opaque even to from my enhanced vision so I couldn’t see what was going on. the With a whoosh. I cringed brusquely in horror expecting to see the old man’s head burst like a melon. but when I inched it was not the man’s skull cracking. shoulder firmly by one of the creature-thing’s gripped appendages. The body pitched forward fully into and arced down toward the ground.just twisted straight as the two plates slammed in. Then I saw the pair of legs—human legs—come out ipping into view. sticking In infrared silhouette. as it mostly was. bits the . it seemed some perverse shadow-puppet show. until finally the light subsided. though there was nothing to hide behind. rather the sudden appearance of a cloth-like shroud that snapped tight around his neck. and still holding him by the shoulder.
ground him into a fine paste and squeezed him out back end into a small tube of unknown the destination. but this time it didn’t have I elseanywhere didn’t seem to want me going anywhere. chucked the man into a hopper which violently and jerkingly yanked him in and. The creature-thing sat examining itself for the few bits blo of and whatnot that had spattered back. I unthinkingly let out an ethereal groan of disgust—having gotten into the habit of talking “out loud” to myself ethereally around humans who can’t hear it— and creature-thing looked up with a start at the me. cleaning od them an apparatus mounted just under the lens on its with ocular appendage. I raised a brow in return. was still berating myself for my failed gruesome I expectations when the creature-thing. the creature-thing’s round. ethereally vocalized something to me which I can It only describe as a sound Scooby Doo might make. Staring now ceiling high above. It didn’t. I ran as fast as I could for the iris. trusting that it would open for me if approached from the inside. which was now long closed. Three other and appendages examination. tried to get up. as best my eyes could see into the machinery. not sure whose was the next at it move. now further down the wall. I bounced back a go od distance and then some further on my back before finally sliding to a stop. I pinned my I was chin . at the frosty lens panned into my view like a cartoon moon rising into my surreal night. and the creature-thing pulled from the cubby seemingly unharmed but for a the man bad of hatcase hair.78 CHAPTER 13. to be and It promptly stepped on me with one of its giant sprawling feet I was at on my back again. This all gave the distinct impression it was licking itself. including one that was able joined in the to broad spectrum radiation and shine through me emit like one of those see-through goldfish. Again I swear I felt it blink. CREATURE THING shroud and plates retracted.
there was nothing erotic about this. I’ve never been undressed so well or so before in my life. and shut o . and I noticed half a dozen appendages sporting the objects it had removed before. Nothing nano about it. That is. I could sense a distinct ethereally-emoted benevolence. which was the last thing I expected. I said. then the creature-thing started rather deftly undressing me. I waved o its attempt to redress me. fast But. Mind you. and one or two it hadn’t.I braced myself for their and replacement. I tried to stand up.if I described the incident in detail it would sound but like a smorgasbord of obscure fetish porn. I didn’t know what to make of it. I saw thousands of little macroscopic critters actively crawling about inside of me. retracting its probe from was my belly-button. The last of these was a various shiny the size of a marker pen. “Was it good for you?” It just of my turned and trotted o to a corner.79 to my chest marveling at my own insides—which I won’tattempt to describe here except for one disturbing even observation: I have ants. Anyway. lowered itself completely to the ground. Creatureback to thingstanding over me again. it was undoing buttons and pulling socks down by the tops and stu . yet. Then in a snap of time. which when pulled from cylinder my abdomen left me feeling like I’d just had the wind knocked out of me. despite the recent hopper incident. so I felt no immediate need to struggle for my life. . I can’t explain was it. including surreal elements like a many-inch-long probe into my bellybutton. but reality began to fade and I felt myself falling the ground. Creature-thing’s appendages starting going places I hadn’t counted on. As I closed the last couple to do buttons shirt. It finally stepped o me and turned to leave. It very creepy. a number of small objects were retrieved Stranger from places in the process.it myself. I’m not talking about simply forcibly tearing the clothes away from my body. Afterward ring prefer.
So I pulled at it with my mind. Nothing there. even when I wasn’t lo oking at it.80 CHAPTER 13. the sun . CREATURE THING I’d been feeling pretty good before. no. but I could still feel it. walked home. the closed iris behind me. like it was an extension of my own body. extracted the jagged shape backward from the boundary. and I’m going to climb quietly into bed with Laura now before comes up. Ihink I just had my 30. and when I felt it clear I pushed the bits out of the way then and iris ung open before me revealing the dim of the the nightthe smell of the pond near and by.I still maintain there was nothing erotic about it.000 mile tuneup. Enough for one trip. I walked out into the night. Finally I realized it was the iris—I could just tell it was there. t I noticed something behind me and spun around to see what it was. I could feel it. but I felt great Andnow. scrawled this note.
I wondered then. I was also in a were lec.this way.on another body. or would esh esh become obsolete first? This semi-human form on my workbench was but a crude robot. and the same three roomsmy domain. saving human lives. su ering the final stages of assembly. and my first hope of of our first stand81 . Looking for a moment facing downward from the ceiling above. where the new man from last time—I recall ture nowname was Michael Allen—was speaking before a his large audience about our newest technology. with all attention of greatly expanded consciousness. But I wasn’t paying to this. I re ected with amusement on similarity of the scene to some then-futuristic vision the of robotic surgeon—for in the center of the room I was a oper. bipedal though not quite of human ating form. the Here I worked diligently. my body now consisting of a cluster of industrial arms mounted around the periphery of the room in to meet at the center. Instead. but there was more. like a giant mechanical octopus turned inside out.Chapter 14 First Steps It felt much as my previous dream.hall. I was quite obsessed. would I some day be operating on manhu. a first prototype free-standing android. over my little pro ject my in third ro om.
82 CHAPTER 14. FIRST STEPS ing on my own two feet again, of moving beyond the confines of these rooms (or wherever I could convince a human a camera for me). Ah, but for true autonomy, to place the ability to go somewhere without the involvement of anyone else. This craving drove my fervor, and I worked hard and for I could almost taste the freedom fast, now. then something caught my attention, or at least But a little piece of it. I o ered up a bit of my mind to the lecture in progress, which had just switched to a question and answer I knew by now Michael could deliver the talks phase. on own, but he still o ccasionally needed my help his fielding questions. “Mr. Allen, you mentioned that in order to prevent tual evenmicro-contamination of your cooling channels, the en- system is closed. Yet, I don’t recall seeing in any tire of your diagrams or cross-sections any sort of pump to move the coolant.” d observation,” Michael “Goo said. Through his ear piece, I said, “The patent is filed, can you tell him.” could field this sort of question just fine. We’d He been filing patents on as many trivial aspects of our technologies so that we would have something to discuss as possible, pub- while the real meat remained our trade licly, secrets. fact there is a pump,” Michael said, “just not “In you where expect it. The capillaries of the system are would lined a slightly piezo electric material in which we set up with a traveling wave. In e ect, this ’milks’ the coolant through the microscopic capillaries, resulting in a substantial aggregate the artery ow at level.” Nods and murmurs spread in the room.first time we tested this,” he went on, with a “The of abit smirk, “we had all this sensitive equipment hooked up measure the tiniest ow.” At this point his hands to were pantomiming in front of him as if he were unwrapping aandwich. “But when we hit the switch, the coolant s shot
83 right out of the device and hit me square in the forehead!” laughter from the audience as Michael feigned Much gustdis- shook his hands clean. “It was then that I and really thinking of this project as a son.” The crowd started was aglow. I refrained from groaning in his ear at this exchange. suchNo event ever happened, but it would give people a story and Michael knew that. People just liked to to tell listen to watch him on stage. He could tell almost to him, any no matter how bad, and people would enjoy it. joke, He exuded both power and benevolence at the same time, andwas so obviously comfortable in his own skin, no he matter what the circumstance, that he made everyone else feel comfortable too. That’s what people wanted, more than technology, more than even money, they just wanted to feel d—even though most of them weren’t consciously goo aware Michael wasn’t obviously brilliant, but very few of it. people were brilliant enough themselves to know the di erence. Butwas large and handsome, with a big head, clearly an he alpha by evolutionary, subconscious standards. And on male the conscious level, he stood in a brilliant man’s shoes, talked brilliant things, and made people feel good in the about pro- By Pavlovian association almost everyone came to cess. feel d about thinking of him as brilliant. He was goo becoming modern the Einstein. session went on like this, questions about the The mechanics, the ethics, the market, the wattage and other trivial specs. All strikingly superficial questions given the profundity of the technology itself. Although it was a large audience, I had expected slightly more from this particular conference—which ought to represent the most technologi- crowd we would ever encounter. I had cally savvy expectedto turn away at least some questions as trade to have secret information . Perhaps my expectations of human intelligence had already started to skew; it was becoming progressively harder
84 CHAPTER 14. FIRST STEPS to second-guess what humans could not understand. This particularly true of the “obvious” things, that which was was so simple and plain to me that it required no thought now to or know—how could I guess which of these were see equally others and which were completely beyond their plain to comprehension, or somewhere in between? So strange it seemed that this division could exist at all; I was beginning to foresee communication di culties down the road. The very last question was one we’d been waiting for through many conferences, quite surprised nobody had asked now. it until “Mr. Allen, this is not a technical question, just a curiosity: I happen to recognize your particular ear piece as a ireless w receiver...” I immediately slowed time and started searching the internet for live webcasts. to my recollection you wear it all the time as if “...yet it were a hearing aid—which I gather most people incorrectly is. Can you tell me what it’s assume it for?” had once considered claiming it was simply for We ownhis security, in case we needed to tell him to duck or some- He surely could have delivered that answer to thing. great humorous e ect. But we decided to leverage this one for awe instead . “Well,” he began with a pause, dragging his answer out as much as possible to give me a little extra time, “I feel a little embarrassed to admit this. Delivering these lectures take much of my focus since, of course, it’s all doesn’t stuknow already.” Even this garnered a few amused I chuckles. go,” I said to him through his ear “We’re piece.I like to use the time to keep abreast of the “So, latest developments in the field. At the moment, I’m listening tolive-broadcast lecture by—” Here I started speaking a the words to him, and he mirrored me just a beat later as we practiced. “Professor Venogopal from Rice had University,
85 who has been discussing his latest hippocampal model. the challenges.was still doing. Only three things remained to be done. It had taken countless tries to get here. the lab. Michael closed the talk. it felt like me. but the modules had been cleverly evolved within the constraints of this oh so geome. with particularly good insights on the oft-neglected role some of CA2. the entire brain was a one else unifiedhaving been opto-chemically printed microscopic solid. Rather. as always.” A chorus of murmurs erupted. truly and freely three-dimensional in design. nor printed onto wafers as every. sistors Power. I reached of my long arms into the corner and carefully with one picked new brain. “Anyway.than the fastest ro om-filling supercomputer. Our time is up. but this one was it felt right. nestled inside its cage of cooling fins. and spacial precision of the printing itself were cooling.their interconnectivity alone made anything but try that this walnut shape egregiously ine cient. but before the questioner could speak again. And the thalamus right. the last Back in wire connected. up my the ensemble of which we had nicknamed the Gothic Walnut. But it was not made of “chips”. and carrying many orders of magnitude more tran. We’d toyed with other geometries. the last screw was in place. the only ma jor change being the its replace. smaller circuits the performing the same functions in the infinitely more reliable silicon. thankall for coming. So we replicated it true to original form. didn’tafter ten minutes of operation like it did in the melt previous version. not ment of just cerebrum) with equivalent. free of the limitations of the wetware we were replicating. a rat’s nest of hundreds of criss-crossing bundles of axons. layer by microscopic layer.” Standing ovation. Thank you you. but all of these were solved fairly main trivially of one allowance unique to this application: in light because it was truly a parallel design in the most absolute sense— not .cortical columns (in all of the ma jor cortices.
we could print crude. And now I had a body for it. the . In short.86 CHAPTER 14. From this point forth I remember two dreams. but a mere two to five milliseconds. Even with the bushy integral cooling and power channels. the final product was still smaller than its biological inspiration. Yet both. followed quickly by the snap of the power pads on either side of the brain clicking into place and bringing the mind within to life. FIRST STEPS even a single multiplexed data line let alone computational not need switching and settling times in unit—we did the picoseconds. concentric servo at the base of the skull injected and the the spinal cap into the brain. and run them at cool snail’s crawl. as if from two di erent people. still my incorporeal existence still novel to me. but still compete with the largest a supercomputers in the world. enough so that once encased in its cooling was roughly the same fins. That is. running around a simulated environment in aimulated robotic body. while a third hand was already brain wheel. nor even in the microseconds. it size. the same time my identity felt contaminated. I plugged in the power ing the harness. holding memories and knowledge and feelings that were mine but not of my acquired through direct synaptic imposition without life. but still years ahead of the competition. another hand I opened the skull chamber and With the clickedinto place. while independent memories. or fifty just million times slower than the fastest chips of the time. I had just a moment before been in at the same a simulation. a simple trade o of quality for quantity. I felt still in awe that I was alive s at the memory of the pre-scan party with my friends all. two to five hundred times per second. Having dremels and other such tools as hands really precision speeds the up prototyping process. my dream took a strange turn. nor in the nanoseconds. slow transistors. fat. not nearly so elegant the as brain. But at fresh. intuitively happened time.power cart over.Here. establishing the main communications link.
It was as if and come back and stepped into my old bo dy while then the original me still occupied it. turned my head. l cleaned adjusted one of my cameras until my doubleme up. and yet somehow dumber ought to be. and I was momentarily blinded by light. than I Invigorating. I laid me down back on the bench. physical world. face-first into and the ground.promptly crumpled over my own knee.I was exhilarated! I was back in the world. and with bleweck clear of my eye with a burst of air. moments away from walking out the door on own two feet! I hopped o the bench. under the knees and shoulders so that for a moment Iooked quite frail. nor even the post-scan me. having instinctively snapped them shut. It was disconcerting. o ered me a hand as I stood Again back on the oor. then back. looking around the room. I was no longer the pre-scan me. I felt more knowledgeable than I ever had.I had become a god in an alternate universe. I spoke. feeling my vision adapt into normalcy. I helped me up. but a strange blend relatively untainted me and this other.87 benefit and continuity of experience.arms. My optic nerves engaged. vision returned to normal. with less and less help each time then until . The room was strangely distorted. older me of that that somehow grander than my little mind could was comprehend. I moved my legs. There was ack of shaved steel in my eye. took careful steps across the room.across again. I opened my irises a little. fine. took half a my step. then lifted the me upright on the bench. It was at once constraining and liberating. but the sound was my quite I practiced a little and soon I sounded awful. And there I sat. The other me reached e over a long arm trailing a mess of tubes and ducts. The other me reached in with my long arms and picked me up. accommodating the subtle variations between the perfection of simulation and the irregularities of the physical self. the real.
. you scared the crap out of me!” Nari “Holy yelled. I’d never been out into the hall before—that is say. The door knob clanged to the ground in the far corner of the room behind me. though we’d tried to account for slop and play. looking for the room where coremy team told me they usually hung out. against the and my crew of three jovially chatting over pizza. I heard voices from saw the warm glow of incandescent lights ahead. I paused at the door. Down the hall I trudged. felt so very sloppy compared to the simulated This body one. slack-jawed until and dumbfounded. I did not exist. but it was exciting to have explored.into the hall I strode. pizza!” I said. out here. contrasting orescent hallway. then gripped the handle and ung it open. they saw me and simultaneously froze. having been ripped free of the do or in my enthusiasm. There was firmly the world! Well. or maybe I just didn’t want to see so much of world I could not participate in. I would have been no more than a ghost. I could not be heard But or seen. it was just a hallway. I could have to had cameras mounted all over our building. My I’d have to legs weaker than I expected. calibrated to my new mechanics. fuck. I would get used to it. I imagined it was was much being an old man—all of a like sudden. But even it usable. one arm trailing behind Out on the cart. my first new space. That found is. I rounded the corner. now that we occupied oor and half of the next. I had never even seen it before.88 CHAPTER 14. on video screens. FIRST STEPS finally I felt comfortable. But I didn’t want all of this the distraction. “Mmmm. be very careful shaking people’s hands. At least within this the ro oms. but my hands much felt stronger. and display my visual imaginings of four. which were restricted to only the original inner group I could speak. I grabbed my power cart by the handle and pulled it behind me like a hospital IV. on my very own.
Bill. stopped in place. “Everyone else is either at the “No. I understand you thing must limitations imposed by the engineering. rounded the corner into the room.” Jason said. as we had not yet I decided exactly what personality. took eshand-blood homecoming I wanted. We all agreed. Misha joined in. but it was a start. I wanted to smile to put still them but realized I didn’t have a mouth. even seen it They animated in simulations.cute and harmless lo oking. and level of intelligence. Jason and tears rolling down from their eyes—eyes which they were nevero me for a moment. Misha squinted at me for a moment. They laughed so hard. It wasn’t exactly the warm. anyone else seen this?” he “Has asked. “OH no. it was time.” refrained from saying anything. fourthe us standing side-by-side waving sheepishly to of him. said. Nari started and laughing.stepped in tentatively and closed the door behind He him.” Bill said. After a short but awkward delay. right back A second later. we wished to publicly attribute to this latest “product.” and promptly stepped in reverse out. he peered around the corner again. didn’t enter any but further. was pretty much spot by the on). still clearly on edge. “Don’t let ANYONE see this.” said. is alive!” I said in my best Short Circuit impersonation (which. our CEO.89 “You do look a bit like The Terminator. Bill was the public. “Number Five at ease. I don’t think he’s gone home Jason yet. but clearly seeing it animated in real life was a bit of a shock for them. “We should call Bill in here. “I’ll assign someone from our art department right away to design some. way.for the or o day. Nari said. “Want some pizza?” had all seen this body before.” enceconfer. then meekly said.” For all intents and purposes. but can have you .
90 CHAPTER 14. I realized him. “En garde!” Nari thrust a oppy slice of pizza in my general direction. “He’ll lo The other three lo oked at him and frowned. “Just joking guys! Geez. “Yeah. “Yeah. and one last concerned stare at me.” “A simple plastic outer shell will totally change the lo ok.” Misha said. to find some compromise?” of them nodded a rmatives and spoke The three over each other. I’m sure the military will be very very interested.” Bill said. “that was the plan anyway. And .” ok just like a storm tro oper.” said Jason. “Hmm. “En my power cord was draped over my elbow. spun toward garde!” As I thrust the cup forward. then I woke up. “Military.” said Jason.” the meantime. you got it. ” With that. I grabbed a nearby paper cup. closing the do or solidly behind ro him. he the left om.” Nari said. sure. FIRST STEPS work with them.” “Okay. please. so he added.” “Yeah.” Misha said. “I’ll see if I can set up “In a demo for DARPA.
Still. I need to know what happened to the human race. has me so bothered about this right now is that What I want and need to understand what I saw to day. and d this 91 . memories. I wish I could these dreams lucidly. and can but wait and observer. But I sense I am only a passive albeit in the first person. not mere nighttime imaginings. I cannot recall nor find any trace or sense of a store of such more. appear to be gone. so I could direct myself to dream remember a broader history. by now I must assume they are memories. Yet they invariably feel novel and current. see what each night brings. as if each morning I am returningevent that just happened.Chapter 15 Looking Back These dreams I am having. I am in the midst of a broad historical context completely inaccessible to me by day. not merely recalling from an the shadow of some event from long ago. for they. we. or at least the history behind it. all but for this enclave of domesticated humans right here. My residual knowledge of these contexts is from only whatever I remember remembering within each dream. What I o know is that Earth is no longer their domain. Yet night by night they come. little Whether gone means dead or just elsewhere. locked within my head. such future dreams. Within each dream. I do not know.
and ever. “After you. no. Not that wasI actually there in body. and the door opened to reveal a fairly large. It might take twenty years.Creature-thing seemed to sense my goal. As we sat there and it to one waited. but it seemed distinctly within the scale of human time still and not some unimaginable distance relegated to the travel. I me out.of fusion-powered space probes or fictional warp main drives and wormholes. quite simply.whisked me airborne and into the room. No such luck. Human time.from there I felt I could walk home to Earth— ing back if only there were a road. I was about to embark lengthy consideration for my safety when upon a Creature.the ro om was not just round. followed of the largest do ors. . Creature-thing snorted and motioned with about five different appendages for me to go first. this human preserve. the on is not so far away as I had always assumed. Finally a twinkling glow slid into place. do. is but a vestige of some time long an appendix in the bowels of an organism too grand ago. Creature-thing hummed a variety of simple but catchy tunes not recognize. thing deftly the snapping shut behind me before my feet even door caught Apparently I was going alone. but within the door itself. I have been to the Mo on and back today. My vision could see little through I did the massive door.92 CHAPTER 15. massive. ticed perhaps full sphere divided internally by a at oor even a somewhat below centerline. helped Cautious to stay clear of any hoppers. I went to Creature-thing’s room again today. Once inside. I the oor. I could just make out the familiar diamond pattern. Look.. How.outside of this city. LOOKING BACK city. to care . Even still. circular room. or perhaps on its backside.” I said.. only in mind. I may be last and only its keeper. I that hoped my new-found control of the iris would apply to some doorway or portal along that back wall. Mo Looking back from there the Earth is. but a dome.
. composite. to The ground I stood upon was some alloy or go. no bugs. blinked at the sight before myself me. but too warm to form a haze. nauseating moments when the entire room seemed rapidly in near weightlessness. Just clean. nothing. I couldn’t have sat up if get I’d tried. over onto my back and straightened myself out I rolled to as comfortable as possible. Steam geysers erupted at irregular intervals from giant pores scattered about the otherwise featureless. it was over. I sat up. The world was aglow with heat. hot water falling from the sky onto this endlessbathhouse of infinite proportions with me as its oor.93 Without warning. no algae. I was slammed to that oor by Gthat forces have killed any biological human in an would instant. no leaves or twigs clogging the works. I strode into the but not too far as there seemed nowhere of interest rain. synthetic landscape. I saw no debris. as suddenly as it began. a only customer . Then. allowing the torrential rains to gust in from the darkness outside. water channels to gather the rain and swirl textured with it down small. The door opened without delay. except where the gusts would periodically grab and twist this mesh like a transparent ta y the tentacles of a twitching or jellyfish. then normal gravity and complete stillness returned. ubiquitous drains. The G-forces went up and down but never dropped below some high multiple of Earth’s natural gravity except for brief. the rain itself so hot that in the infrared it lo oked like a million parallel laser beams sho oting down from the sky. no dirt. The air was thick with humidity. I stepped out of my dome. I instinctively to spin scootedthe exact center of the room. mindlessly brushedo . The high G’s dropped almost to zero as the room spun head-to-heels. “And to think I forgot my soap!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. sensing that if I strayed too far out I would f be ung against the walls. which I was not far toward orom to start.
The ethereal sense between the that drew my attention now took on a more tangible form.know the whys and to wherefores. because Something felt Ian o er of a view. an intuition. But if I turned back now. again left alone but for the faint view of and I was their shapes in the sky. respond to my ethereal voice. and I took it without hesitation. I considered how long it might take me to run all waythe there. smooth shell. shut their connection with me. Then the view changed. distant withfocus turned that way.” in my ethereal voice.myself. the only connection I could make was emotional. depth of focus was at first quite tight. but felt only curiosity in return.. first asfelt multiple emotional presences connecting with me I from afar . The communication was clear and crisp even though from far far away.. I said. But then it eased o a comfortable level. perhaps literally. zo oming out and out and out until my little dome was but a tiny pimple upon a vast. and I found myself looking to at. LOOKING BACK Then I noticed it. as if my brain circuits would fry. “Hello. far o in the distance. so the The foreground . returned their focus o elsewhere. must have been quietly listening. but then through the and murk beyond the horizon I could just make out grey the silhouettes of huge objects slowly ascending and descending Earth and the heavens. the randomly scattered steam vents and possible hazards ruled out any use of time other contraction the tedium. close. None would curiosity. I stoo d there for a while.94 CHAPTER 15. I saw myself from quite close up. to see these giants up burned. which confused me as had Iseen nothing in the sky in that direction so near. a moment of emotional then indi erence and departure. to alleviate would Creature-thing ever call me this cab again? My curiosityI so wanted to be there. It was more of an ethereal sense at first. Alas. and for just a moment it felt overpowering. Then one by one they blipped out. and occasionally would feel a my new connection beamed at me from afar.
When I pulled my focus back from the crust. no The continents. Machinery everywhere. like a tumor of some foreign substance.had no communication with this entity to speak of I beyond a very rudimentary emotional connection and this vi. but my hopes aren’t high. crucial Iooked long and hard but found none other like it. biological. tethered to now the ground by threads. Just more of what I had make seen my own two eyes through the second boundary. but it seemed to pick up on my curiosity and sual direct as if its eyes were my own. my little city. the optical vision was replaced by into dynamic schematics. like my own. As my curiosity drove these eyes deep the shell. l I don’t rule out that there might yet be others. each looked easily long enough to wrap all the way thread around the planet. but none of it life. but with no nod to the ar. Looking spaceward. Patterned like the spokes of a wheel. It with had a great deal of activity in fact. the sky was full of these creatures. And then I found it. no people. these climbers .link. But the Earth! entire planet crusted in this shell.95 and background were just a blur. I found self mylooking from high above the clouds. a relic from antiquity perhaps agged at some moment for preservation but otherwise forgotten. It had synthetic life. I wouldn’t have recognized arteries it for the size and shape and proximity to my own but trancing the surface far above. just a black shape. And oh.bipeds of the past. and finally noticed descending below. no oceans. chaic amall black bubble tucked deep in the crust amidst the s busy of this living planet. Laterally. I eyes could no sense of any of it. but then this relaxed and little dome and I were soon lost behind hundreds of my miles as the rest of the planet came into of rain focus. what eyes its view they were. a virtual representation to show me where the could not penetrate. It was one of these threads we now ascended. I could the cable see a ring about the Earth. The schematics showed body on no details here. frail and distant.
and everything in between. Without warning. very few just alike.the craters on the Moon a moment before. not so frail up close. beyond this solar system or within? I still do not know. it was plainly evident some entity was about to squash me a bug. in ongoing symbiosis with the climbers on one side. were Ships and from its surface. Before I could observe much more. I nized wouldn’t have believed this was the Earth I was looking back upon. the climbers glistening on v the threads like tiny drops of dew. was the Earth. Such variety. and found it also grown over I with machines. or bipeds of any s sort. if I hadn’t recog. but many o ered a schematic view. LOOKING BACK shuttling to and fro between the Earth and its distant ring. Where there machines. And there I found myself looking back at the Earth the from or at the giant cotton ball of clouds that Moon. as though looking being though the eyes of someone looking through someone else’s eyes . another vast And expanse of machinery. I can’t think of how else to describe Or it. from where or by what means I have no like idea. did of them I ee any sign of humans. but not completely like the Earth. . looked to the Moon. some each as small as a car.96 CHAPTER 15. the ring itself. some as large as a town. alive.ship probably an autonomous. My vision could not penetrate the ships. and when I w directed there I found myself face-to-face with a grizzly my focus bear about to slash at my jugular. though. as there were no threads ew to to climb. The ensemble resembled a plump egg sac in the middle of a ery meticulous spider’s web. Those ships. surrounded by its delicately spoked once wheel. Nowhere. sentient being. Honestly. and an the oating ships on the other. I felt my view handed o through another stage. the connection was cut. and I staggered in the rain as I regained my own senses.so it felt. as it were. moving materials through its arteries. I freewondered from whence they come and go. I realized I as being emotionally hailed. it shone extremely hot in the infrared.
Do I of years? belong world. I strolled quietly through the iris. Whatever entity was onto me seemed the surprised as I felt the malice give way momentarily by my fear. Creature-thing didn’t even stir when I arrived. into the Earth far faster than I could fall out plunged of way. maybe. if this crazy ball could just get me home in one piece. but I didn’taround to find out. The entity was gone. Perhaps it was more than momentary. or am I just a piece of debris left over in either from transitional phase in history? Is Creature-thing some my closest kin? Do I have any kin at all? I feel I belong here. to curiosity. belly sliding to the center of the oor. rolled onto my back and yelled.97 My mind emoted fear like a beacon as I ran instinctively for dome. anyway. Well. the room turned upsideThe and down. and wondered as I crossed that threshold: how far back in time was I traveling? Hundreds Thousands of years? I have no idea. Certainly not out there. I literally dove head first into hang the dome. . “Go! Go! Go!” door snapped shut. shielded from me by a mile its of steel. with Laura. I was safe.
LOOKING BACK .98 CHAPTER 15.
what do pacemy . and I wanted CLICK. two ponents of those. Grab one of these. Snatch. not intentional variation. but not too all hands working in perfect synchrony. But I had it down. so as long as I chose a matched set I never needed hand to reorient my grip. a spare Snatch. Sometimes I had poor to push a little harder here or there to make it snap together. But — “What the hell are you doing!?” Hank approached. I could assemble it right side upside down depending on which way I snatched up up or the parts. There was an to it. He was twice my height. “I said. hard or it would break. what the hell are you doing!?” sto od over me. whirling them into proper parts relative orientation and CLICK. but assembling them from their no com. since each part was a little di erent from the art last. He now discounting my small sensor module that extended a bit above 99 . so fast! Hank would be thrilled. bring them all together just so. quality. CLICK. done. the finished unit would lock together. nothing more in the world than to make Hank happy. I hadidea what they were. trying not to lose “Uh. putting together these little devices. you mean?” I asked.Chapter 16 Human Nature Such fun it was. and one of those. and CLICK.was endlessly enjoyable. snatching up four the from the conveyors.
” “I I said.” he said. I still didn’t know what to say. Then you turn put it over. “One you and it into that piece until it clicks. . I was doing I what he had told me to.100 CHAPTER 16. didn’t know what he was asking. Hut hut hut!” He turned to leave. letting my gangly arms slump to the oor. so what was he asking? I didn’t what to say. think the way I was doing it a minute ago is faster. know “For fuck’s sake. HUMAN NATURE my squat torso. “It’s not?” I asked meekly. not just one!” the life of me. angry. and other one on the other side like that.” he said. “Stupid tinc! STOP!” He waved his hands at aggressively to me when I’m me. He jerked to a stop and spun around. just the way he showed me. but I stopped working I had now. but I knew he would be happier if I could work faster. But surely that was obvious. you scrappy tinc. Make sure they both click. did. “what the are fuck you doing?” “I—I’m assembling these parts as fast as I can?” not how I showed you to do “That’s it!” sure I was putting it together properly. except awkwardly and in stages rather than smoothly and all at once. he had just showed me exactly For what I was doing. “You take this piece. assembling these parts as fast as I could.” he said. adding them one by one. take one of these and put it on that side like this. “Goo d. so I just at my waited. and squeeze the them together like this until they both click. “Now get back to work. more time. I worked awkwardly with the pieces as he showed me. same as I had yesterday first showed when he me. my elbows almost ankles. “Listen talking!” been listening to him.” he said. I was I was so confused. “Let me see you do it. holding the So I parts as he did.
“Look here. and turned to face Hank. where my brain he might was. not a tinc! I don’t know WHAT you were but it wasn’t right. My torso was and cracked. and he’d be happy at how fast I could work. I just but now really forward to dying. was to die. I knew I could explain it to him so he’d understand. You had half of it upside down doing. that’s all. nor could I I out make he was yelling at me because he cracked my what main sensory module on the first blow. four He looked a little startled and took half a step back. Now. motivational core had just been hijacked by a my simple firmware. I grabbed then all parts with my four hands. going This be di cult for a human since there are no might obvious visual alignment marks on this side. but they’retogether the same as they would right-side up. and voila. I didn’t care about that at all. one by one. I’m putting these together upside down. He didn’t understand what I was doing. by doing it this I don’t need to turn it over when I bring these parts way. and that’s exactly After all.101 “Excuse me? If I wanted you to think. Then I felt the diagnostic from my arms. “As you noted. but that didn’t bother me in the bit of slightest. The thought made me downright looked giddy with happiness.” I said helpfully and hopefully. a minute ago. Now.But suddenly I was okay with that. but as a Handybot I’m optimized for visual and manual precision so this sort of interpolation is quite natural to me. its purpose was to kill me. it’s together perfectly. what . Sure. I worried for a warnings moment crack my torso. I knew this was just the anti-espionage safety kicking that in. And I soon my was with this because what I really wanted. tinc!” A-ha. I would have hired a person. in like so. brain case would be compromised. for Chrissake! Now shut the fuck up and earn your rent. with allwanted was to assemble little widgets to make Hank I happy. Do you understand what I’m doing now?”don’t know where he got the wrench. deeply okay and utmost enthusiasm.
HUMAN NATURE I wanted. They were situated around the in. we can prove Handybot didn’t do anything bad. for market prosthetic brains. Three is right. It’s just a TopDog with opposable thumbs. and Michael. so it was perfect. woke I was in the lab with Misha. But how do we convince Hank he needs one? ” “I can’t believe he’s saying Handybot attacked him.” Misha said. Nari.” I said. “it is rapidly gaining market share in direct competition with Handybot. to do most of the tasks people hire a Handybot for. A Dexter can be trained.” It was my old familiar “Kill intercom voice. They this turned to the table. “There’s a huge “Well.” Nari said.” Misha added. Public opinion is turning against us. It was the perfect moment. “Wow. and then I I felt up. spoke up again.” the product line. Half of the background details there are being filled in by my imagina-we try to sway public opinion with that it’s tion. And . “Dexter is STUPID. “Nonetheless. which was now displaying my own wall vision such that when I lo oked into it I saw an infinite recursion of scene fading o into the virtual distance. If likely to fuel a just scandal. ShinyPet’s Dexter —” “Ehh!” Nari interrupted. with this Finally Jason thalamic recording. “Well. all a bit older than last time. “Number had “We’ve too many incidents. it’s obvious. done with the back viewing.video screen. my mind go in a magnesium blaze.” the intercom continued. Michael sat silent in contemplation.” “Hardly.” the voice said through the intercom. “Don’t forget we’re still doing some reconstruction to generate A/V signals from that. albeit more slowly. Jason.” “And less fur.” Jason said.102 CHAPTER 16. “Huh?” returned in concert.
I remember wishing at that moment I could have a cal cortidownload from Number One but thinking no.this morning. not really:given up that practice early on for go od reasons. “that wouldn’t be the immediate plan. “Clearly . And anyway. allowing me to integrate it recording with own processes and in my own way.” Misha looked up. My portable. we’d not least of which was the inevitable and severely the disorienting temporal identity rift. and hate Handybots.” could argue. to make the my experience mine instead of changing me with it. The most between we could hope for was to share a thalamic/limbic trace where percepts and concepts still reliably overlapped. our root aimple vicarious introspective experience like the s Handybot I just witnessed. “Did we get the rights?” Jason asked. This decision was surely part of a grander plan. let alone any compact no linguistic representation . tion confirma. think it’s time to bring Alex back to life.103 emotionally. I knew better than to argue No one anyway since ShinyPet was one of our secretly-sister companies.produc-a few more convincing arguments so we were made all it was the right thing to do. “How will it feel to be “Wow!” o an cial person again?” “Actually.” Michael answered.” Number One said through the intercom. Curious looks all around. and the raw now conceptual which he communicated with his kin probably trees with had analogues in my head. We talked a bit more about how to ramp down tion. we did.” “I Michael said. “I received “Yes.” “No. autonomous brain was nowhere near as powerful as the hybridrunning Number One’s mind. though I was no longer privy to such back alley exchanges.” Michael answered before I could speak. it wasn’t really possible minds so di erent as ours had become. people love Dexters. and called it a closed sure case.
104 CHAPTER 16. HUMAN NATURE we cannot o cially reanimate Alex into any of our current for many reasons, not the least of which is it bo dies, would too obvious our existing firmware is already a become derivative. ” “Then what are you suggesting?” Jason asked. to the beginning,” Michael said. “We bring “Back him back as a brain in a box, unmodified from the original scan.thinking audio output only. Make it look as simple I’m and non-intimidating as possible, position it as a party trick, acience demonstration, at most a friendly voice to keep s your grandma or kid company. This will be a crutch, to give the world time to adjust to the idea.” “You know what will happen,” Nari said. “Everyone fiftyover is going to want to know if we can put their brain in a box.” “Yes,” Number One said, “that’s why we’re intobranching the uploading business.” are?” “We Jason asked. does that work, exactly?” Nari said. “Last I “How the heard, method kills best you.” “There really hasn’t been any progress on this since your death,” Misha added. “Yes, there has,” Michael said, “but post-mortem, not living scans. I know the president of the leading company.they will work with us. They aren’t there yet, I’m sure but some help from Number One it won’t be with long.” “Wow,” Nari said, thumbing at his Alcor wrist band, “this thing might be of use so oner than I thought.” “I wouldn’t count on it,” said Michael. “A preliminary peek at Alex’s brain shows it riddled with thermal stress fractures. For now, Alcor’s a one-way trip. We’re going to er the alternative to Alcor: direct to o digital.” talked a bit more but it was getting late so we We the called to a close. I walked Nari and Misha to the evening park- I had nowhere to go, but it felt goo d to walk ing lot. outside once a day. We passed Number Two in the at least hall.
105 He looked pretty good, but I knew I lo oked better. We both looked like robots. I wondered what my next body still would look like. Or maybe I should let Number Two take it— he needed it more. Outside, I waved goo dbye to Nari and Misha. Nari withwaved to me as he stepped down the broad stairs his back at front of the building, and then he stumbled, and the started back but caught himself and stumbled up a step to fall or instead. Three red stains spread across his shirt, and two he back finally onto the steps. I grabbed Misha by the fell arm pulled her toward me, a red chunk of esh bursting and free other arm a moment later. I hugged her into me of her and turned my back to the bullets, felt them impact my torso and then my head. And then I wanted to die again, and I thought this is silly. I’m right here at home. The car is speeding away. The bullets have stopped. Nobody’s going to steal my brain. But know, none of that mattered—I just had a hankerin’ you to It just seemed like the right thing to die. do. As I felt my mind going in a magnesium blaze, Nari looked at me, bloo d dripping out the side of his mouth. way trip,” he said, with a sardonic smile, and “One died.
106 CHAPTER 16. HUMAN NATURE
I could tell CreatureThing. It was s handaddressed to me.right here in the middle of light. voices about. CreatureThing turned with a careful shu e ther and headed away at an accelerating gait. and door. white envelope. was fairly distressed trying to avoid stepping on anyone or injuring them with any of its limbs. nothing else. on the other hand. it extended through the crowd a long gripper wielding of all things a plain. just my name. we were at the do or to see what the fuss By the time was the crowd was literally at our doorstep. We could hear a great deal of commotion outside our house. I opened and the someone almost stumbled inside backward. the crowd trotting and running after him. people were petting and Far stroking it like children swarming a tame elephant. town.I opened the envelope.Chapter 17 The Messenger Today the most remarkable thing happened. bodies bumping on the other side.ado. I natched it and examined it front and back. there towering over everybo dy was CreatureThing. in broad day. Upon seeing me. more than a few getting tripped then up its trailing rooty bits and pratfalling this way and in that. an approaching crowd of voices chattering and cooing over something. and found inside a single folded 107 . Without fur. loud clear. from being frightened.
108 CHAPTER 17. but then whose writing as belonging had seen? In my day people spoke or typed. Hang tight? Where would I go? . Peculiarly. I’m coming for you” hand-scrawled across it. At least I know it is of human inspiration if not actually from a human hand. my old friend. with the words “Hang tight. THE MESSENGER piece of paper. the mirror image was equally visible on the back side as if the ink went all the way through. the pen I ever was archaic. I didn’t recognize the handwriting to anyone I know.
still staring into the “What pond. isn’t. The girl hadn’t moved. The was gone. was no one else in sight. is reality?” she said. A giant The moon perched on the horizon. but was now sitting on a large rock.in the grass in front of the bench. But she didn’t. motionless but for the sparkle her in eyes. and danced in the pond. I nonchalantly lifted my hands and examined them back and front to be sure I wasn’t transparent. “What isn’t?” I asked in return.Chapter 18 Demo I was staring up into a sky-blue sky. I was sure she would look up as I approached. My shifted to the cotton-ball clouds lazing in the focus distance. sky turned black. She gazed intently at There the shimmering pond before her. o to the side I sat so as not to presume upon her view. chaotically fall toward me from a nearby tree. and it was night. so I strolled on casually as if my mind were elsewhere.” she “This said. which followed the shore I the of pond here. A warm gust kissed my cheek and the leaf uttered away. She looked right through me as I crossed her view. A path wave 109 . down to the beautiful girl sitting on the park and then bench. walked along the pathway. the grass under me turned to sand. watching a single leaf slowly.
” Two more mimes tumbled past. mime tumbled slowly past us toward the moon A dead in weightless free-fall.” she said. you’ve answered your own question. I eyed the girl before me with renewed scrutiny . so I could even infer from my senses with high probability that world existed without me.” I said.” She broke her gaze and looked me the in for the first time.” it is.” “Indeed. alas. the moon still looming before a galaxy us. statistically meaningful at best. “Yes. “I could draw it at my brain. or had never existed. good point. and we sat in silence for a She while. you mean the physical world you grew up with.one of the few remaining slabs oating freely on amidst of stars.”felt grass growing up again beneath I me. that my e ect on it was that lim. Any interpretation we give them is merely inference. studying its secrets and obeying its laws?” earth crumbled away around us and soon we were The tingsit.” she agreed.” my inner guru said through me. “And we can only trust them for what they are: saw just senses. if I had grown up here?” she finally spoke. eye but that’s only a little closer to the truth.” said. “Undoubtedly. “I concede we have nothing but our senses to trust. “In the world I grew up in. “Well then. that if I died. “Yes.110 CHAPTER 18.to the physical interface between my body and the ited restthe world. “And “Then. ” . still gazing forward in the same posture as when I first her. DEMO crashed and I realized the pond had become an ocean.” made no reply. Not so obvious go on here. “That is “But truethe nature of all knowledge. reality. “Interesting that you draw the boundary at your I body.” I “Bysaid. would I call this reality? Would I live from birth to death believing in this universe. things of would little changed without me.
who are you?” she asked. but it was no longer black with rather a glowing deep red beneath us fading to a stars. literally.” went on..” I understo od her question. “The ball and the program are two di erent things. “Let’s come back to She raised and that. Think then of brain as a computer. “Imagine a program that animates a ball bouncing around inside a box. a velocity. a small ball bouncing about. the way. A glass box appeared oating between us.” I was curious what she meant. mind is a process. And yet. like “My a computer program. a brow at her and said.” The box shrunk into nothingness and was gone. a shape. it has a position.” “Oh.” I “At interjected.” she said. the mind as a program. spinning slowly upon a corner. It was a hard one to answer. moving through time. said. bounc-the walls. The big.. where do then ’I’ begin? ” “Ah.” I started. “I meant that was rhetorically.”the moment. “but even within the mind. Inside.. “Let’s come back to I raised and that. which is more than I can for anything else say here. “I gather you “By not are a figment of my imagination. a brow at me. and the the ’self’. soft bed around me.. The We were still oating in space..blue above. “as to where do ’you’ begin. sorry. pow.111 “Even to draw it at my mind is not quite right. white moon der remained. under the hood it’s really just ing o a unch of bits stored in a computer.” “Clarify that last step. a has color. and tickled that “Oh?” was I curious. ’you’—your identity as you introspectively experience it—as something implemented by that program. ball The its own identity. but because the question itself presumed so many things. It obeys certain laws. information with intent.” grass now made a thick. Not because I didn’t know the answer.” went on. being manipulated b by .
the laws it obeys. technically we can. it is not the program. these are all defined by the program. or choose to do something. or whatever. doesn’t it? I mean. ” “By observe here you mean introspection?” “Right. The identity of the ball. And then there is all the stu behind the that scenes you can’t see.. and so on. its behavior.. want. when I. if “Wow. and yet the ball is the ball. and she asked excitedly. want something. would be.” “Is the ball here my conscious self.112 CHAPTER 18. or both?” “We can fit the analogy in more than one way. technically you “Uh. yes. action. the conscious introspective I.” ose to alter that program. that is my subconscious has made calculations and the equations resulted in that some choice. need to bring up a debugger to see that stu —it’s You not normally visible. could.. meta-introspection.” “Yes.” I was surprised at the ease with which she embraced these ideas—ideas that most people into a tizzy of denial out of some sent misguided need to believe themselves free spirits beyond the grasp of simple mechanics. the intermediate variables used in the calculation of the ball’s trajectory.. that’s because the process.” that gets confusing. the subconscious self implements the will—that is. DEMO a program which is also just a bunch of bits stored in the computer. or program. That’s analogous to the subconscious self. yes. “Can I bring up a debugger to see my subconscious self?” “Uh. but call let’s it your conscious self. the comparisons at every step that check whether the ball had hit a ’wall’. subconscious self. then it is “But if I cho like . like.” Her eyes lit up upon hearing this. essentially. What “That about changing things? Can I change things?” well. implemented by the program. or even choose to think something. thought. It is the part that you can directly observe. well.
in the itualspir.” other words. I approached the whole pro cess sense very dically. so people just hammer on their accumbens until their entire motivational core has been completely reprogrammed to do nothing else.” “Yup.” “Sounds dangerous.” no accumbens?” The hookah went limp and “Aw. started to sag. installed my own checks and balances before metho I tarted poking at anything.” “You said most people—what about the others?”started to speak but my elbow bumped the ho “I. essentially. just selectivelythings to see what they do. and I had to hadn’t catch it before it fell over. “No..” “And then what?” “And then nothing.” “Bliss out?” that’s what we call it.. just that I have no delusions of free will. Given free reign. they just keep doing it until we turn them o . start is just poking at the various modules which make up the subconscious mind—not rewiring anything. but I’m the only one who hasn’t.” I that okah been there a moment before.at least. The first and most e ective s was . Of most interest is activating the limbic system. The easiest place to “Yeah. it feels good so they want to do “In it again? ” “Yes. “We haven’t tried it that many times.113 an equation whose calculations determine that the equation should itself be changed. most people will eventually accumbens nucleus which in turn triggers a pro d the cascade of synaptic changes that cause their subconscious process to prefer the same action again. But the mind has no checks and balances to deal with this sort of intervention.” “Yup.” “Where does that lead?” people just bliss “Most out.
now hung framed in a picture on. move from a brain into a generalized brain simulator. however. you said the brain is like the computer “Backing the and mind like the program. any out. so they invariablytheir own free do—of will. true. They always assume they can try it just once. can you?” “Yes.” “What if you warned people?” Didn’t make any di erence. these You know.” The grass under me had turned to a sheepskin rug.” “What sorta questions?” normal? Sane? Does reality appear “Do you feel correct? Press OK within 15 seconds if you would like to keep changes. and m correspondingly each mind. But the algorithms can be implemented in software on a same gen. you are right.114 CHAPTER 18. Your move. But you can’t put one person’s mind inside another person’s brain. oh. A better analogy for the brain than a computer would be. just not as fast. otherwise your changes will be reverted. overfireplace. mo The still where it was.” I smiled.” “Brings a new meaning to ’first one’s free’. DEMO I had to answer a few basic questions. a graphics chip. You can. plus a small set of randomly generated puzzles. the red ames re ecting on the white the mar- . It’s hard to “We did.” “Indeed.” “Obviously. “or we couldn’t be here. is unique. with a great deal of the ’software’ builtin the hardware. make people understand how malleable their wills are.purpose computer. you can’t just move to a ind from one brain to another because each brain. and if I failed within a reasonable changes I made were automatically backed time. So the brain is eral like a graphics chip. So. up. a mind just as you could read the circuits and firmware of a graphics chip run—simulate—them on a general purpose and computer.” she said. A graphics chip is some specialized hardware that implements a particular set of algorithms very quickly—algorithms to draw pictures.
what am exactly I?” “That’s a good question. “I actually “Or a have brain. her pieces—a full set including two queens— late white. lone my piece black.” I corrected. She probably still thought she’d just been hit by that car yesterday. something we usually wasted cycles on. Between us was a chess board back in play.” “Except that I was once human as you were. ared fit for art deco royalty. It motor to her brain. I’m jacked in on our from the real world.” cocked her head at me. “How It wasn’t long you been here?” I have asked. Who taught you to “And. tinc. her head.115 ble oor much as the moonlight had once shimmered in the The girl sat in a slung bucket chair with a high pond. do that? ” “Nobody. . Number One had loaded her from the archives. I couldn’t required adding a virtual graft of specialized guess. and then typically a few days of cortex training. you’re an artificial intelligence in the real world to a real intelligence in an artificial talking world. Why?” “Number One!” I called for an explanation.” she said.” “You’re still alive?!” no—I’m a “No.” “Whatever. “So. so I explained: “You’re She run being general purpose simulator.” she rolled her eyes at me. I just noticed little things changing and started with playing it. Why he had given her remodeling abilities.” Yes.” zombie! I’ve heard about those but never “Oh! A met one. you wouldn’t be here.” “Avatar! The term is avatar. “A day maybe? Why?”altering reality like this. shaking “Oh. That’s very confusing. “So.” I said. because I really didn’t know.
turning his head to “Oh. and I came upon hers. smaller nose. “Check mate. the same poster ew a ribbon of esh Then through that spiraled itself up from the o or into the half-missing shape woman. was most interesting. “What?” she said. why does she lo like ok me?” She turned to me. holding a hite cane. heavily diminished pathway between hippocampus . this She stole my avatar!” Number One started absentmindedly contact-juggling hat his nearly implausible ways. A ribbon of white cloth followed close of a behind. rolling his hat to the end of his outstretched cane.” “He was me.” He looked into aboutadded. you know. “Okay. pointing at the “It was girl.” Number One admitted. “I didn’t look anything like in real life.waited impatiently for a better I explanation.” The girl looked up at herself. “I like what you’ve done with the and place. Then the figure stepped out of the photo w and the room.” he said. she did it. was going through the archives.” he said. “I “studying all the variations in the human brain. She did it. “More accurately. no.” he went on. her. up to fill in the gaps until there stood a spiraling beautiful young woman—who looked just like the other. “Why does he look like you?” the girl asked. DEMO A scroll unrolled down the wall to reveal a life-sized photograph of me in a white suit and white top hat.” he said. I came up with this myself.116 CHAPTER 18. the “See. “Hey. and said. staring intently at the board now. “I was getting bored in just talking to myself.” he said. “It wasn’t me.” “What do you mean it wasn’t you?” I asked incredulously.” I said. reaching down and moving my king to the diagonal. side. Unusual allocation of which cortical regions. I look better. The woman reached in from behind and pulled out a bright blue apple and took a bite.
“I I’ve think worked it out—all the nuances of the human motivational structure. “So her elevate consciousness to a compatible level. hate. Studying now the sensory ties. the two of them turned to smoke With no — the cold kind that sinks to the o or and vanishes without a trace .” the girl said. and the rest. interesting.117 and amygdala. no god mo dule whatsoever. dear.” that’s what it’s like for them to talk to us. “It’s what we call the subsystem that triggers faithbased learning. stared at the I lay back ceiling. “You call that elevated consciousness?” onto the sheepskin rug. “Anyway.” “It would follow. okay. attraction. especially pheromones. “Have you ever got down on the oor with your dog. “I had to run her to see how these played out. indi erence. “I don’t believe you.” the second one “Thank said. and said. libido. unmyelinated tactile in.” she said. “Well. looking quite upset.”“You need to work on the evil laugh. Soon we will rule the world! Bwa-ha-ha-haha.gave me a most mischievous look. maybe once or twice in my life. curiosity. . all of it. barked at them. put. and chased each other around the ro om?” “Ur. sloth.” I explained.” Number One continued. and I figured you’d like her to say. I decided to allocate her some of my resources..” you. “Anyway.. as they is history.” he seemed eager to be done and leave. Oh..” I replied.” “God module?” the first girl asked.and a few specialized visual and auditory triggers. ” “Speak for yourself!” she yelled.. o. me Trust I say we couldn’t begin to approach them on when their level. I realized she was quite witty and charming. And somewhere in the process of debugging her.” I said. guilt. “That was. ambition. “Exactly. yeah. He “Demo?”further ado. Love.” I said.
looked down into her eyes. . I sat up immediately. “This is fascinating! ” Enthusiasm welled up inside me and I leapt to my feet. how rude of me not to care! I felt so oh. her to ass squirmed at my waist. she ran over to me and said. and I was thrown against the heldwall. Suddenly both of us said “Demo!” as it dawned on us what was happening. and then her hips as Her she rocked them for me. And then I woke up. invisible forces as she sauntered toward me.breasts drew my gaze back. Her eyes lit up. ashamed. a I lust advancing on us like a stampede of elephants. I looked down and she was lo oking up at me with eyes of deep infatuation . by losing clothing with each bits of step. and we found ourselves at emotional parity again. ehind her something unexpected moved and caught B my eye—in the painting above the fireplace. Her eyes glowed red. She turned around slowly. Over her head I saw two more poofs on the mo on. but strangely didn’t But care. a little poof as if something had just impacted the moon at high velocity. my hands came free and found her breasts. She backed so bad up me. DEMO I noted her apparent anger. “No. and I wanted to grab her ass but I couldn’t move. wait!” scooched over and tried to comfort Laura me. and felt it coming. comforted I her instead. theybut made no sound.118 CHAPTER 18.
woman in particular sitting in the grass with three friends not far me. one by one. as it were. and I was surveying every woman in the park. I sat the in grass. her rosy cheeks and full lips and naked breasts all glowing in the infrared. she was not the most attractive woman the in park. mostly reliving that strange dream. A pond reminded me of the dream last night. It all seemed out innocent just casual daydreaming.Daydreaming. But she hooked my attention so completely I can hardly remember anything went on around us from that moment else that forward.Chapter 19 Shadow Gene Of A I’ve been quite libidinous since my 30. I happened upon a small park while meandering through the city. Per.this almost got me in trouble. enhanced vision kicked in instinctively and I My her found before me. trying soon themin my mind.it wasn’t coincidence that I wandered there to haps day.000-mile tune up. which is to say it did day get me. Nor was she particularly my type. And so too from between her a triangular glow that seemed to be an arrow legs. inviting 119 . I think v it eventually connects to catfish pond via a small stream. To. I aguely recall seeing it from up high in my lab. until I spotted one enough. Naturally this led to thinking about women. from Objectively. just not in trouble.
what had I just time done I left her there. burst of heat from her face. no doubt she assumed I would follow. covered her with a blanket. and we walked and talked. She opened the do or and walked in without delay. What Iemember is her smell. sleepy gaze was the same as Laura’s face the first we made love. connecting us like a circuit. who wandered away.told her so. Her blissful.120 CHAPTER 19. “You’re that man who hit his head. legs apart. as if our had just met by chance. but instead I returned her eyes gaze bright. SHADOW OF A GENE me there. and when door I turned back we were face to face not six inches apart. She led the way and soon I had walked by the her home. and the way she seemed to glow r hotter minute. just her lips and cheeks and breasts and the bright orchid between her legs a coyly held ower. heat of her body in the confined channel swept The her smell up to me in an intoxicating breeze. I closed leaving the behind me as she set her things down. She put her hand behind my head and pulled her lips up to mine. I wondered then. We stumbled down to the oor. and fell away from me the front of her dress ipped as she backbunched upon her belly where she lay. She with saidodbye to her friends.As the four of them shu ed up to leave she spotted me eying her. I can I hardly remember about what but nothing of substance. and She glowed so hot I could hardly see her curves. the one who livesLaura?” with she asked. and she go walked over to straight me. I sought her eyes which invited like meand we made love until I felt the contractions of her bo in dy. to her? I . and I came into her as the her dy grasped and drank of the synthetic drugs my bo android bo dy delivers. I carried her to her bed. At some level I wanted to look away. friendly eyes and a very subtle smile. Here in the artistry of bo dily warmth she was a caricature of sex. wandered home in my own daze. throwing a switch that set all the rest irrevocably in motion.
propriety.. but This of my doing. How sorely people underestimate the totality with which their feelings .And with pregnancy a statistical rarity. she for it. Still this hasn’t changed. puppies my time. If you ever get sick were in of just send him to our house. instance e ective birth control made polyamory for rational. drawn-out discussion. Children and universally cherished. variety is practically a societal obligation. Laura confessed there was something special me. fidelity. “Oh. led to a long. She had no to give reasonsIt’s just how she feels. Why Her she would a husband? The very concept seemed want laughable.practice. here.really more of an emotional being that ture. in stark contrast to the people of my time who were for a world very di erent than the one they lived made in. is that evolution The di erence has time to catch up.. Raising and supporting a child here is no problem. entertainment is Time every. “That’s nice dear. that these people are made for had this world. but get close. rationalizes. not hers. I must presume. Still. drawn-out discussion after all. said. how cute. viewed rather as are rare. We’d love to have him. How does she feel about all of this? How do people here in general feel about all of this? Love. romance. family. Just how she feels. but it’s hard to adjust to ing see. Aspects of this made sense in my time it in too.121 still don’t name. him!” and money are not a problem. answers were mostly indi erence to it all. human animal is not fundamentally a rational But the crea. but that she Not wanted herself to me above all others. And did told you a blonde or a brunette?” Not quite that. ok the news with about as much interest as if But she to I’d her I went shopping. sexual thing. or at least a long. know her I confessed this all to Laura as soon as I saw her. about that she wanted me to herself. marriage. I expected a scene. It all makes sense logically.
it is us. but eat these. true love is the ultimate expression of genetic narcissism. but not so when you view the to defy gene center of individual identity. because at root we have life. rational mind. which is as far as one can bottoms go direct introspection. the firmware between the hardware of the genetic brain and software of the rational mind.” Or. back when they defined my organic brain genes from which this one was copied. “Because my genes say so. and we are it.122 CHAPTER 19. “Why am I doing this?” And the answer is. Though one can go further with with inference. Far from its popular as the association with benevolence and sel essness. is the core of all practical intelligence. “I by the don’thow. or more accurately so with neuroscience. in my case. is an evolved trick of the genes. like love. Emotion and answers the question. this genetic program evolved over will millennia.genes. subroutines the used emotional substrate to carry out its bidding. It is our will. where religion live provides the firmware to optimize genetic success within the current socio-economic context—a form of adaptivity much faster . One has but to relentlessly ask themselves realize this.” no besides this. and protect this with care your And so we dutifully obey. In particular start with “why “why?” to am I doing this?” whatever “this” is at the moment. the conscious self with its The delusions of self-preservation in a body that was designed to decay in end. and our most sacred spiritual essences for our are simply those genes asserting themselves above our comparably transient bo dies and minds. It always out in “want” or “feel”. It is the adaptive portion of our genetic emotional substrate. Even religion. Neuroscience shows us that we are ultimately just clesvehi. fuck that. these are tools of the genetic core. Religion and the the gene in a symbiosis with each other. it is Emotion fuelthe cause behind all choice and action. because my said so. SHADOW OF A GENE define them. What is love but genetic self-interest? Love drives people to many things that seem rational cause.
it is our mistake of perspective to believe the ro ot of thought is there. level of the conscious. The common all his apparent aws. is definitively just man.” serve it well. The human species as a whole soup in which religions evolve. and love. embo died individual.123 than hard evolution of the gene itself could provide— and gene in return provides a mechanism in the brain the for downloading this firmware. The root of thought is in the goals of the gene. they are pruned as fast as they occur. and whichever find is the the e ective symbioses thrive and multiply while the most others and eventually become wither extinct. where religion appears irrational at the Thus. And religion. Forays down dead-end branches of the evolutionary tree. again.introspective to be properly ruled by their gent or emotions) are as defective as if they’d been born missing arms and legs. the hopelessly rational or atheistic or self-interested (indeed even those too intelli.all of the other nearly ubiquitous contradictions and with “rational thought. for right. Those born without these traits. Now I am left pondering: what happens if you keep the mind but lose the genes? .
124 CHAPTER 19. SHADOW OF A GENE .
running felt awkward at first. the sound of machines. I was psyched up for it. my quarry pulling away from me with increasing speed. subconscious infrared panoramic scanner alerted My to ame small object at quite some distance. I did a roll to minimize the impact and came out in a full chasing after a skinny skeleton of a robot. I slowed time and twisted my skinny evade its path. but I could feel myself adapting to the nu.Chapter 20 Nightly News It began in a ash. to show o my skill and feel the freedom play and pleasure—and power—of physical excellence backed with immortality. falling through the air toward a hard metal surface . smoke. traveling at high velocity towards me. an explosion of reality like a radio sud. and it felt great. wired on amphetamines biology could never comprehend.and me. lights. My run. An explosion of gunfire.blaring on at full volume over a preceding dead denly silence. I truly knew no fear.. Like a cat. I expected all of this.. the sound of a robot hit the oor far behind I heard and me knew that I to o was being pursued. eager to my part.of these new legs and each step fell further and ances sooner than the previous. I righted myself before hitting the ground. but it nicked me anyway. leaving torso to a 125 .
we chasedthe wall like man-sized geckos.well within our factory-fresh tolerances but was designed to exercise and refine our familiarity with our new bodies. I fol.cleared the top of the building.were larger and bore pseudo-explosive charges. the We chased on like this for some time. maybe a but dozen. and snapped straight to attention. . perhaps more importantly. Our wall balljointed appendages reconfigured for this mode. and successfully evaded two. as as I could to maximize aerodynamic resistance. And. nearing an apparent dead end. like a y. leapt an impressive distance over a razor-topped barrier and landed. Iinally caught up with my quarry. the hit ground in a hard roll and took o running. f He squatted down at the edge of a vast field of lumps. I down jumped spreading my surprisingly light. it made for a goo d demo. on the wall of the building behind it.him. my feet and hands holding e ortlessly to the lowed sheer with physics I had no need to understand. but their I was able to recalibrate based on their emerging tra jectoriesnext twelve hit one-for-one and detonated the so the charges succession of harmless with a ashes. these My weapons arms emerged from their hiding crevices and fired rounds. sacrificed some fuel to my shin and forearm thrusters so I at last moment to decelerate me within impact limits. just in time to see I my quarry leap from the other side. the next The robot in front of me. the I detected more ob jects ying my way. and sho ok his hand. I heard my pursuer along hit wall down below. But wide I new even my nano-composite bones wouldn’t survive k this. and shut down. As I turned to meet my pursuer. collapsed neatly upon himself. Each new cle obsta. NIGHTLY NEWS smear of soft clay. twelve stories below. The first three missed by millimeters. we sensed a five-star general with another man approaching from a distance. I ran to the edge and looked to see him running o .126 CHAPTER 20. spindly body after him. I recalibrated.
companion nothing sentimental about it.” his lied. “The last laugh is on you. matter-of-fact voice as if it were more of a hypothetical than an actual command. I assure “There’s you. Perfect soldiers. yes sir.” he said in a calm. admiring it.127 “I don’t like this business of them shaking hands. I felt almost human. yes sir!” I said as my scanners instinctively “Sir. I awoke in a soft bed.” the general said as he approached. were commissioning armies without conscience. “Oh. that the media was steadily a tool through which the elders—Number One becoming and . Experiencing it through this introspective feed made it real. “Soldier!” he barked. “Kill yourself. leg asdid every morning. governments was.. “It’s just a final manual calibration step. a sad Knowing one humans played on each other. “not too smart for their britches like those handybots of yore. these are soldiers to the core. What a worrying bit of nightly news that It seemed that all around the world. located every vital organ in his body. No second thoughtto follow the chain of than command.” “I the general said gru y. and sometimes that the we played on them.” The general stopped with his face an inch from mine. both made the latter seem like a joke. I and definitely female. I brie y fondled my own butt.”could sense the second man repressing a smirk at I the general’s choice of phrasing..” need to know that these are soldiers to the core. intertwined in tussled covers. bareone exposed to the air. I blew my synthetic brains And then out. always filtered through some outside agenda and almost never true to what was really going on inside. at least to us higher level avatars. no sir.” I thought. It was becoming increasingly evident. The other man only got as far as “Wh—” before I had aimed my weapon. not just some abstract bit like those audio-visual broadcasts the humans still watched. his breath fogging up my cameras.
a long drawnout case.legal sense by shell corporations just seemed to essary make humans less sympathetic toward them. being the nearest su ciently antiquated means of communication to provide an emotionally remote experience. not more. but generally the courts have been favoring the viewavatars are inherently prone to being beaten up and that so responsibility falls on their owners for letting them out. Monday was displayed. That avatars are autonomous and only “owned” in some most nec.128 CHAPTER 20. Incidents like this used to happen all the time. back when all marginally ambiguous (which is to say.” I said. and rolled over to find an otherwise empty bed. who beat him over the court head a bar sto ol and then stabbed him in the jugular with with a roken beer bottle. dead human. Or.avatars had to bear a mark on their foreheads. just as likely. The men who did it. as last night was Saturday and this means I’ve died again. my ex-lover. b blame will somehow fall on the avatars. three avatars destroyed and one sympathetic human Somebody might seek financial compensation for killed. began broadcasting a news item viewing from before. This will be a big deal. on the other hand? The Now that’s a problem. NIGHTLY NEWS his kin—were e ectively programming the humans. too life. “Oh cr-r-rap. Most Things newer . The prior night there was a man here me. Seems it was just another race-inspired the day bar brawl. I realized someone was missing. The calendar. “Let’s see it. I turned to the e-paper I felt calendar wall. like) But eventually through marketing and lobbying (some even say certain persons in positions of power are actually avatars) it was agreed that tagging avatars was causing more mayhem it than was preventing.” I moaned out loud. Maybe fall on my lover for bringing a rabid dog (me) into a place of public gathering. have been much calmer since then. the avatars. But with now nothing for him at all. a quaint relic of sentimental human on the aesthetic. might go to jail. the love of my life for some twenty years.
Now he’s dead. the only thing that has kept entire human society from becoming constantly the paranoid are surrounded by avatars is that almost every that they time someone is called out to prove themselves.” I often told him we were asking day for trouble by not having me age. they turn out to human. regardless of the psychology of the underlying almost mind. but hadn’t yet received the incremental for those last hours up to my death. so the avatars fool intentionally left visible to the zombie hunters only represent fraction of our actual a small population. Modern avatars are designed to engender a trust. The other problem is that men almost invariably theirprefer not to age along with them. I’m ambiguously aged somewhere from got me late to mid twenties.129 avatars inherently make more convincing humans than ac. in all loving sincerity. Disposition?” said. But a little active circuitry “zombie can those makeshift devices fairly easily. “You’re as beautiful as the I bought you. and my insurance rates just went up. Meaning there are a lot of reasonably wellequipped hunters” out there.humans. but I had ered the protocol set to give me the option rather than to restore my hours by default. Those had been successfully leading gath-from the wireless caches near the bar. Indeed. remain problems. He was and fond of saying. letting my backup daemon know I “No feed. “100% restoration available. Two things. The all around embarrassment of this keeps be it rarity. last and . but he wouldn’t hear of it. I had been restored into a ew but identical body from my last full nightly n backup. I died the same way last time. While avatar detectors have been mostly kept o the market. through buyand-bury acquisitions and IP litigation. My lover was forty when I met teens him. news article ended and a question filled the The screen. they’re fairly easy to make. It’s probably lovers what killed. in his early sixties when he died yesterday. due to certain nuances of their expressions tual and pheromone production. however.” I did not wish to re-live yesterday.
due to implode upon itself any day. exponential expansion of the hu. Better just to skip the day. It felt. nuances of in ection. Anyway. It felt like did like just another story on the nightly newscast. which itself was closely held by a small number of human owners— still who I happened to know weren’t actually human. Population control was all the rage. my subconscious command. with fresh inside. because soon I would be in love with another human. and move on. in the only convoluted manner the law would allow. and wandered into the quiet kitchen. have I could just tell this bo dy was a hot rod of sex.race. I realized. my feed harness out. the incremental would have to come in as a dream. The place was mine now. all at in uence. better yet. heat. It overshadowed even the ever-imminent world war.130 CHAPTER 20.. it made me want to night. was just a subsidiary of an umbrella own corp ultimately owned by General Cybernetics. had man been most enduring doomsday issue for multiple the generations now. . I too was a warrior. in turn. NIGHTLY NEWS didn’t need to experience that again. smell. e-paper on the breakfast table had the usual The headlines. but I was free to leave him if so. but this new body was clearly better thanlast... My corp. The resource exhausting. responsive in a way that made me want my to and jump around like those robots from the news run last No. now that I’d diverged from my backup. and I never experiencing my own life in dreams. power and chemistry. We were e ectively married. I knew I shouldn’t think that way. Part of the condition of my purchase was that he assign his possessions to my shell corp will. He was free to change that any time he in his wished.. emotive color. uncontrolled. Why did my mind wander to cynicism so quickly in these brief windows between human attachments? I shook it o . but on the scarred battlefield of the feeble human mind. closed my belly button I pulled the from I always felt best in the morning.
spherical pod into an aero dynamic from my tail. It was still strange to see the of my human childhood so changed. and sitting on one’s ass watching television was increasingly a noble viewed as career. Gradually. The cheap and relatively mindless tin cans were the ma jority of labor. the human race could no longer sustain itself on this planet. that approached the uncanny valley of human-ness without making the leap past indistinguishable and well into hyper-human. The track emerged from its tunnel and ran high amidst the buildings for a while. Still. a moment for a clearing in the tubes. stepped into my lev-pod. and then waited ontotrack. “Insult to either one!” I thought to myself. Down we went. could take the job and feed humans.131 Robots of all kinds. the small rubber wheels whirring brie y as my the pod accelerated to mag-lev speeds. It was generally accepted that without both robots. now Where a robot.there used to be two people vying for one job. someone asked “would you like fries with When you that?” wonder if he was human or avatar. the valley between avatars and tincs was being emptied. I heard the familiar “click click” as the succession of concentric sections click extended compact. One expects city their . and requested the central pedestrian district. rather than being the bane of this overpopulated world. The lift arrived at my level and pulled in my po d from its resting cubby. were becoming recognized as its saviors. I dressed. while the realistic avatars set to were becoming accepted in human-interface jobs and slowly as personal companions. was quietly recycled until no such reminder of the connection remained. but might would ask for fear of committing the ultimate never insult. it was imagined that most were zombies living o the spoils of their once-rich recluse human ancestors . those marvels of e ciency. musing at the irony of anthropomorphizing humans. Any tinc that fell in the middle.
glanced at his I equally disheveled buddy. Crime. I wondered if he knew his buddy was an avatar? I wondered if he knew his buddy was once a female? I wondered his drug. I the first felt a personal witness to evolution. and they communicated with each other even at speed. There was a time when the droids would have himhauled for this. and. You couldn’t do anything now without running light into a droid who already knew exactly what you looked like what you had done. There were too many droids now. wanna get high?” A scru y twentysomething human wielded a glass pipe filled with white crys. was all but a thing of the past. except toward avatars and tincs.at tals me. part to massive marketing campaigns by thanks in large the manufacturers themselves who not only wanted to droid get good graces with the populace but also to avoid in unneces.club where people hung out and socialized. NIGHTLY NEWS memory to fade after all this time. a sort of outdoor dayand. but proved there ma jor rebellions against oppressions of selfwere determination. then turned and walked away. The away droids invaluable for protecting personal safety. The pedestrian district had become a twenty-four hour a air. and “Hey pretty lady. was laced with something that would make him sterile? That . I milled about the crowd. but that time was short lived. sni ed his pipe from a distance.repair sary bills. and more eyes. was rare to see anyone smoking that stu any It but more. people’s minds just eluded all the marketing some angles.132 CHAPTER 20. apart from being a shitty street if he knew grade. perhaps. an now active participant . but mine stopped fading time I died—back on that scanning table. It night was unobtrusively guarded by all-seeing droids (“droids” being the current popular name for publicly acceptable tincs) and people were correspondingly at ease in a way that people were in my never time.
but in this case probably safe from scrutiny . I had a less culpable approach to keeping them from breeding. And . He turned back before I could step awaysaid.133 was a very risky tactic. “My name’s Marshall. “Oh! I’m sorry!” I said to the man I had just into bumped looking the other while way. He turned back to continue talking with the attractive womenhim. Heh. by the way. His “ eyes locked on mine a moment longer than they might have. that’s alright. but my pheromones worked their way into before his subconscious mind. What’s and yours?” then I woke up.” he chuckled and smiled.
NIGHTLY NEWS .134 CHAPTER 20.
well. In retrospect. cannot see how they are make the that her plainly evident introspective feelings are same. too. attaining a new crispness of expert familiarity. impervious to any challenge. As with the many names for the handful of truly distinct things we Inuit just 135 . one finds it has moved and c become else. is mechanical. that can’t possibly be are love. but she cannotthe leap between them. I try to tell her there is again nothing ungenuine about the love of which I speak. it had been sho ckingly easy to convince her I as a machine. my own mind is progressively shaped by the As thoughts of those before me (those who once were me but not. and thus own thoughts. like “God”. If one drills down to and thus olosely to its meaning. doesn’t care that I but do? But now she seems quite impervious to the idea her that for me.Chapter 21 Love. but not) I find the concept of love my neatly partitioning itself within my mental vocabulary. Or maybe she still doesn’t really believe w it. Thyself I’ve been discussing my dreams with Laura a bit more lately. the outcome of a mechanistic process. because when it becomes too clear what something you talking about. She insists again love and that it is “genuine”. “Love” is such a slippery word to begin with. It is exactly whatever the speaker means by it at the moment.
in service of our own ultimate and unseen goals. and this is the source of much confusion over the mean. integration associations. through genetic of emotional imperatives .136 CHAPTER 21. the way each hypothetical focus action or outcome is assigned its emotional color in service of that love. my mind has a unique name for each facet of love. many forms of love explicitly defy the conscious mind. LOVE. to see if this enables her to grasp it as I mine do. and thus just what mon subconscious twinge it is that leads people to bind them all under one word—in e ect. Not all love brings joy or ing of pleasure. need to exist.love. THYSELF label snow. the slipperiness fades and matter becomes downright the ordinary. but the common thread is pain at the thought of an object of that love being removed from our sphere of existence. There are many types of love. is. to see the true meaning of love. And love comes from many direc. Indeed.programmed into us gradually through an tions. . Perhaps I will endeavor to invent spoken words for these distinct concepts. is the induction of something or someone into Love our implicit mental list of things which. With this simple arsenal.amongst them all. give her mind the same handles the that has. or suddenly. from the love of Love ice cream to the love of country to the love for one’s child. and many distinct mechanisms behind them. quite simply: to It value. as they must to redefine what matters to us. The converse is often true but not always. Having distinct facets laid out neatly before me also allows me another type of analysis: to see what is truly com. Some do not call it true love unless it defies conscious explanation. The various feelings are the ways in which that list perturbs our wants of love and in a given moment. introduce them implicitly to Laura overcourse of time. do not call it true love until it approaches or Some even surpasses love of self. comes in many magnitudes.
A spider. thing. an elder. the spark of purpose that turns aalculator into a directed being. One ask of each: what do you must love? . the very foundation of consciousness. a tinc. in a sense.A machine with love.137 Thus love is. now that is a dangerous chine. an avatar. a man. a snake. A machine without love c — I mean love in the most mechanistic way—is just a and ma. the helm of our will.
138 CHAPTER 21. LOVE. THYSELF .
pair of hands on my shoulders. her face leaned against my neck. looked very much like she Laura.” “The future. I felt just like and me.” she said. “What do you I mean?” for me. at myself. Very. You know you can become an avatar timeany you want.Chapter 22 Equilibrium I was looking in the mirror.” “That’s silly. I from was perhaps both the oldest and the youngest avatar alive.. I had been brought back my original scan archives right into this body. But this wasn’t my best. Downright refreshing compared to some recent dreams. I know you have a future: all of “I mean But eternity. “And the future.” she said. a woman behind A me.” 139 . In the mirror. “That’s not “But my future.. I want to have children.. it was my only.. mine is finally I think gone. to grow old and.natural. I looked just like me. “What are you thinking about?” she asked. with a melancholy normally reserved for the past. “Is there one?” chuckled gently. die..” that’s not what I want.. I would have thought it was my best avatar yet. If I had known then what I know now. her hands around my waist to pull her up I took close behind me.” I said. “The past.
“my time is at an end. after all. sticking behind the object.incentives. “When I was a child. expecting to find the worst. playground. There was nothing remarkable about him. Smush.” silently wondered whether it was the woman or the I gene speaking to me. smashed right through the dome and landed smack in the middle of the glaze. she was human. it was a thing of the distant past. But I’d been in this world long enough now that I didn’t expect to future hear And to want children—equally strange here. she said. EQUILIBRIUM Wanting to eventually grow old and die was a surprisingly common sentiment in my time when the consequences and alternatives were not well understoo d. I really wasn’t sure which. but he was okay—mostly.140 CHAPTER 22. just from the shock and surprise of it. She was the resistant strain.” no longer belongs to me.” she told. maybe eight years old. It made me feel so small and insignificant. the other hand. I was not so far from ownmy past that this seemed a ludicrous choice. He crying and clutching his arm. Every On of one ancestors had chosen to breed despite the her marketing. Then I saw Jeromy. everything the financial elders think of to dissuade could it. but not very much. No avatar that would or anything. It this. and not . We all jumped back and screamed. Or I to her. it belongs to you. just wasn’t done. or his feet anyway. I knew if I’d been just twenty feet in the wrong direction. “I used to lev to the youth focus zone every day to play withother children.” I said. social pressures. My best friend was a boy named Jeromy. a huge piece we of metal fell from far above. It was bleeding. have been the end of me. which had been was severed at the elbow. “Then have children. And she had been given to me. Then one day. and they the knew me. I screamed and ran over to out from him. but he was nice to me and had fun playing together. The world “No. I knew them all by name.
141 blood.” It dawned on me then. he was an avatar. her honestly I didn’t know. immortals. but I couldn’t put it together in my idea head. Though that then was changing. con. I’d onlyseenhandful of humans in all my time here. Here we avatars. lo oking out over the city. slowly but surely as individuals tested boundaries . ” I stood at the window. I was very excited.of biology. and shook both his right hands. “When I was a bit older. I remember knowing about avatars and being really curious to meet one some day. I had where somewhat it meant. I couldn’t be an decide. The culture of being more our human than human. whole event just felt confusing and dreamy. and we had been just as programmed straints as squishy predecessors. It a hardly a relevant distinction. We never spoke of back it again. I with happened first neo-humanoid: a man with four arms. She settled on the I told sofa. The incident with Jeromy still sat silently in the back of my mind. a beautiful happenstance. Around this time. synthetic minds free of the were. A droid picked me up and whisked bad me and soon I was on a lev bound for home. Jeromy was fine. When I away came the next day. which we had created at first to blend in and to quietly overtake. He smiled sweetly and said yes. stared at the ceiling. a bit of a tangent. had overtaken us. and talked. one at a time withtwo. nothing to connect to. four-handed avatars. Then so the I nd a few of the other children started coughing from a the air owing in. but maybe it seemed was. how ironic was it that neo-humanoids were still a fringe culture. I dare say I had many fantasies for a while my about handsome. Little black bits kept falling out and onto the ground they would dance around like lost bugs. choked up the courage and went up and asked So I just him. But then it dawned on me he defect by could avatar! So human looking. My upon my first thought was that he was just a freakish human.“Why would they make avatar children?” she asked. though.
had been in this particular world far longer than I. maybe an eye have or was o ine at the time and I found the blind spots two by because I rounded a corner and came upon a crowd luck. I just there silently. tle but saying nothing. It was so eerie. A man came over and made asked I was lost or if I needed any help. But it’s no longer our world. “as I “It one put thing and the next together. “How many humans are left?” she asked. staring at them all in their many stood lit. and I could pretend it was working because no way to know anyway. occasionally gesturing. Then suddenly they all started talking. how this added up to the end for her. I was missing the piece I de resistance. We and . “Do you know? Does anyone know? I can only surmise that at least some of childhood buddies were humans. Or do you avatars my fake too? The atmosphere domes. This world exists in this form for people in my however convoluted the history behind that is. were beginning to decay and crumble .” she continued. you don’t. of course. they are there for coughs us.” sat back and contemplated. I was in some sense one of the most w important the world. It’s mostly impossible. and I said no me if and ran away.“These days. gazing at each other. “I used to like to try to hide from the droids.” started to dawn on me then. Don’t you see? When loud I as born. need them. and the eruption of if noise me jump and gasp a little.” I thought. as they had been the whole time. that it might be a human I should be excited to meet some day. But watched it change. Well one day I there was must managed a small string of successes. “But then something else happened. because the eyes are everywhere.groups. EQUILIBRIUM which. of people socializing—in dead silence. long lacking foundations. sake.” she said. But it was fun to try. just within my I’ve lifetime. “they don’t even bother to out speakwhen I enter the room.142 CHAPTER 22. that I was older than her yet she Strange.” she added.
143 you—they—are finally realizing it. That spells the end.” wanted to argue, but she was right. Something I had changed, and society was starting to drift. How it had lasted this long in the first place, I wasn’t sure. Some of these peo-were a thousand years old, yet behaved just as they ple ever Had the elders mucked with people’s minds as had. they graduated them into avatarhood? Of course they had. Howcould society have fallen into such coherence? I else sus- not long after arriving here that those around pected me been quietly stripped of their kernels of malice and had de- Maybe it was more. Curiosity, the need for change, ceit. the to learn, had these been taken away too? I need shuddered at the thought. But I didn’t feel any di erent than I ever I didn’t feel lacking in any of had. these. Perhaps it is simply human nature to be indefinitely tent con- su ciency. We are all royalty here, the with ultimate society with all the humanoids on top, and dual-class the and droids slaving away underneath. Whatever tincs we we have, and whatever we want within reason, we need, can There isn’t even empathy for the working class to get. stir someone’s passion, because the working class truly up and completely wants to be exactly where they are, doing exactly what they’re doing: living and working for us. They love us, the truest, deepest in sense. Had we simply reached equilibrium? With out reproduction of the picture, our lives eternal, were we living the perfect moment in a continuous loop? More shudders. suburban My was too much a child of my competitive genes to mind like this. Things were changing, though. How or why, I knew not. I wanted to speak with the elders—something apparently no one had done in a very long time. But rumor was they once me, so surely I would grant myself an were audience? what I can only describe as a small child’s I heard chortle, looked around to see where it came from because it definitely wasn’t my Laura.
144 CHAPTER 22. EQUILIBRIUM Then the room went bright, so bright it saturated intoaway complete whiteness everywhere. My eyes adjusted and before me were three young children of ambiguous there gen- two large, one der: small. “Alpha!” the first one said. “Beta!” said the second. “Omega!” the little one said. I just fallen down the rabbit Had hole? are you?” I “Who asked. the first two said in “Both,” unison. “Neither,” said the third. were a bit perplexing, to say the least. I They to thoughtsomething simple and ask concrete. you boys or “Are girls?” “We can’t help it,” Alpha said. “You’re just too predictable. ” It was starting to dawn on me what was going on. “Like a rock falling,” Beta said, “you just know it’s where going to land.” Omega just smiled sympathetically. my questions before I ask them!” I “Stop answering said, incredulous . “No,” Omega said quietly. the elders?” I closed my eyes and shook “Are you my This head. was strangely infuriating. “The elders are gone,” Alpha said. “We’re their brain children. ” “Born with empty minds like you,” said Beta. “But ter. bet” “Exploring the galaxy,” said Omega. did they go?” I asked, kicking myself a “Where moment later . “It is time,” Alpha said. “We’re leaving soon to o,” said Beta. “What’s been taken has been returned,” said whoOmega, then gestured with a ick of his hand toward the other
145 two, and vanished. Alpha and Beta looked confused for a moment, then grabbed their heads just as huge rabbit ears sprung out of of them. both “How did he do that?” Alpha asked. know, it shouldn’t be possible,” Beta “I don’t said. “Omega!” they both yelled, and then were gone. od quietly in this seemingly infinite white I sto space, looked around a bit, started to whistle. Can’t say I knew I got there, certainly didn’t know how to get how back. agree,” I heard Beta say, “I’ll see to it.” And then “I was I back. “Thoughts?” she asked. I realized almost no time had passed from her perspective. should have children,” I “I think you said.
146 CHAPTER 22. EQUILIBRIUM .
greatest human weakness is not their lack of The but strength their complacency if adequately tended to. a sleight of tive hand the pitiful human gene into the happy den of its to lure own silent demise. I’m starting to think I can’t trust myself to the go So ironic in this bo dy that needs nothing of it that out. the warrior left over from a battle long I am whoforgotten other way. this antiquated practice of simulated reproduction remains my highest calling. our most e ec. I had imagined the human race falling fore beforce and violence. I suppose this is just the age-old adage that every has man his price. perhaps to the great robot armies against their makers. knows no Not long ago.Chapter 23 Warrior Lost I had another random romantic encounter today.weapon being a gentle pat on the head. But now I suspect the turned battle was won with full cooperation of the enemy. 147 . much like last.
148 CHAPTER 23. WARRIOR LOST .
149 . every mix of gender species one could and imagine. accurate replicas of their long decayed human predecessors. Not to mention the bo sense dy going to die anyway. Non-human avatars had come things into vogue. It can’t been more than half a year since before. have how were changing. Things or whoever or whatever they had left in their place. take on It was an issue of much discussion whether or not to take upgrades. But they were half-wits. so the alternatives were pretty was poor. The elders. but oh.o er mental upgrades to anyone who wanted ning to them. and two other avatars of indefinite species. I almost felt were more at home with the tincs. own literally. but I recognized the path as one I Small would the way to godhoo d. I had once forward to a future amidst advanced beings. and the streets were full of them.Chapter 24 Transitions I was sitting at a table with the same woman from my last dream. new option was not so This clear. The long-ago choice to move from body to avatar was relatively easy because it was designed to preserve the of self as perfectly as possible. were begin. who were largely descended from my brain templates. but looked these the same bozos I went to college with. they were the same inane minds. or their children. all too Still. were changing. things at first.
I could set up a brute-force attack on the key. but on the other. but a man with no memory is infinitely patient . other hot topic of discussion was the sanctuary. I’d know the di erence. form not function. The new royalty had found not their philanthropy and I was its figurehead. Still. in the “ esh”. some were cloning so they could try both paths. was whereas a structural change—a tweak to one’s very this was identity mental as a being. They wanted a celebrity. a relatively small change compared to the change from wetware to hardware. to keep them safe and happy and away from a world rapidly becoming inhospitable to them.where the historic event that started it all tion deck. that only a change in substrate.150 CHAPTER 24. I would have to die on the table. Never mind that in an accurate recreation. it. I didn’t much like the idea of being stuck in a Not loop. Everyone was calling it “Alex’s Sanctuary” for which I was receiving countless kudos and back pats. But most didn’t like the idea of cloning. mind probably rather confused and terrified to boot. I had perhaps been the first to suggest it. As resources permitted. TRANSITIONS On one hand. but it had taken on aife of its own now. equating it people perhaps to competition over their identity. father of the elders. case. and if it took a little imagination to create one. it was early in this experiment. Never that they were just going to find little ol’ me. could be recreated over and over so googly-eyed avatars could meet the founder himself. I would have to see about hacking in to whatever they were going to install to trigger the back door reset. There was even talkinstalling a ground-zero replica of me near the of observa. Worst It might take a while. . The a refuge for the remaining humans. others out. so be Still. which wouldn’t make for a very interesting meeting. It was a project for a society that l had had one in centuries. Some were opting in. but the idea of it just that didn’t sit well. not at all evident where it would lead.
convoluted strategy.But she authorized Central to confirm that she cious! hadn’t. They weren’t mine (of course). having never smelled it before. and most importantly meta-evolutionary mechanisms. she’d received a series of unexpected maintenance visits not long before the same happened to me. I It was a could guess what they were up to. but it would work. But her home picked it up soon that and informed her who then informed me with after an excited.for so long. She smelled pregnant. I recalled at first not identifying the smell.With her permission again. Mo tuary dern humans were already a stellar lot. “We’re pregnant!”a twinge of surprise that she’d been sleeping I felt with some man I didn’t know about. on the they’dbeen within a mile of each other. As I suspected. slept with anyone but me since we in fact. would have to move into the us sanc. to act as gene filters. But locking it down so the it didn’t drift over time? Could they do that? would work. and they so initial filtering should be easy.151 The woman across from me—I still don’t know her name as it never crossed my mind in the dream—was pregnant. The elders and their kin knew by joyed now exactly what components of the mind made this possible. I called his mate. probably those of with human partners. never an avatar named Mila. Some of us. The only practical goal here attain equilibrium. but still there were in the pool that could cause problems eventually genes — psychological attributes. The resistant strain is tena. knew exactly how the genes shaped the mind. having had to compete favorably against avatars in order to breed. According to Central. met. as a human I lacked the (conscious) ability and as an avatar I had never run into a pregnant woman before. health issues. but what was the point? To place It the . I had the genes traced. A few more calls verified the same for all avatars I could find with human the companions. The father was another human other side of the city. the same sort the avatars had is to en.for a few generations.
Her fingers wrapped warmly around mine and she smiled. And I rolled over in bed. would anyone notice or care? have to think about this I’d more. I reached my hand across the table and met hers. perhaps. snuggled up against Laura. but I saw no better I alternative. to gather up the resistant strain and cap them final in bottle like a vial of smallpox on some laboratory a shelf? didn’t like the idea. is that any di erent placing them into stasis? Was this. the than true blow.152 CHAPTER 24. TRANSITIONS human race into eternal equilibrium. Laura is pregnant. then I woke up. But if one did. . I had nowanswer to something I’d been wondering about an for days. Perhaps some day one would arise.
I remember The that morning. but only held I and it stared at it for a while.here is where I got o . these pages are actually dusty. dreams stopped.Chapter 25 Closure Wow. a dream set in some nebulous rather than in some distant past. But the (If a tree falls in the forest and kills the only person who heard it falling. My station. now. a glimpse of a million alternatives to the reality that is here and now. For almost two years. I guess it’s been a while I’ve written. universe do es not stop for lack of witnesses. a train ride through purgatory. And so I put this archive of that netherworlds forgot about on a shelf and it. the very me that is here. the day after my last entry. Just like that. most likely be my last This will entry. did it make a noise?) For all of my ignoring the 153 . waking up and realizing I had dreamt a normal dream. What is this? What was this? A fracture in time. from the past for a while and living here in the away present.reached for my journal out of habit. the door I stepped through. not some me other I am not. But my station . It was one near future of those soft and fuzzy dreams with shimmering dew drops and pretty girls and fun and frolic. But it’s been good to be away from since this.
no reason to think it won’t last a while more. my hair plastered straight back and knotted from the wind. morning I was surprised to open the door to This find Creature Thing sleeping at my doorstep—occupying most of street. was early. CLOSURE world beyond the boundary. today that world came to us. I felt it coming. I just knew this. told Laura to mind the boy don’t wait up for me if I’m not back by bedtime. to be sure. though not without some trepidation. “Yo. Time slowed and it zoomed toward . I said an ethereal. “So far It’s lasted this long. and seemed quite pleased to see me again. and people were only just starting to It at gather the spectacle. I could tell.154 CHAPTER 25. as the man burst. I re-familiarized myself with the place. I agreed with a sigh. but curled up on my welcome mat the by all intent. I jumped down before Creature Thing might absent-mindedly chuck me in a recycling hopper. of I know we are but a tiny encampment at the base of a giant that some day will spring a leak and probably so on dam after and that will be the end of it. A neohuman mind. “Okay.” It reanimated with a start. we It wanted needed no words. We arrived. Since waiting seemed to be the for the day. now what?” I asked. But. went back to its corner and dropped for a It just nap. me to come with it. Right? Still. For and all my pretending this happy valley is the whole of reality. but not surprisingly it hadn’t changed one bit. another mind entering range. looked me up and down. I was quite uneasy with curiosity way to Creature Thing’s lair. though I must the whole say was a fun it ride. I too was pleased to see it. I impatiently fast-forwarded through order time looking for the good bits. who jumped o the skyscraper said as he passed his hundredth so good!” oor. have an out of town We guest.
155 me. no. “My god. Root’s various appendages rallied an with visible excitement in return. I thought for sure in a moment I would meet myself. “We meet again again!” around the room and said.” Nari said as he turned to face me again. up from his nap. you look great.” he said. “The last time I found you in bipedal form. perked “RRRoot!” Nari yelled. “you’re just a kid. how long He looked have you been in this box?” “What?” I said.” he said.” a moment he looked at me quite seriously.” Suddenly he spun around and looked at Creature nowThing.” noted my expression and quickly moved to He me. “Alex!” he said. we o at Leema Seven. transport doors snapped open and there before but the me Nari. you were up to your neck in regolith riding a small comet. “Does this mean this is —?” ran toward me. reassure fixed you up fine! Don’t worry.” he said. It was a very strange sensation. no matter. “We’ll get you properly outfitted in a ji y. the spitting image of how I last remembered stood him. As he reached He the . buried radi. “Wow. then right on by. I don’t live here. babbling something about space ation ducks. confused in six di erent ways for a moment. and I For felt a gust of ethereal wind pass through my mind. more cautiously now. surveying me like a piece of art. “Well. It seemed so familiar. but he seemed completely unfazed and raised his hands in welcoming glee as he marched up to me. “No. I—” I wasn’t sure where to begin. “Wow. this mind.riddled brain. ran over and plastered himself against Creature Thing with a hug that looked more likeauto-crucifixion.” “Huh?” I was now confused in seven or eight di erent ways. “Wait a minute. I dropped you “Oh.I stoo d speechless.
. all of you I’ve known. way! This is nuts. climate. finally realizing “Hmm.” he said. He looked back into the room. “You clever dog. and he lo oked up the inside of the boundary wall. and “Sure. You must have dropped a cracker in somewhere construction. still a bit dumbfounded. then laughed again. ” He shook his head. Break yourself catch yourself up with a little first-person free. population control. my of intentions toward the end. he leaned forward and fell at on his W face. So how did you end up here?” I pointed straight up. “Mother watches over this keeps it running. “Yeah. A moment later he said. I think how utterly clueless I was. looking at me askance. and he knew it was an a rmative. “Don’t “No me tell there are still humans in there?” I raised a brow. I was hoping she could tell me more. CLOSURE iris it snapped open and revealed the open terrain with the far o city in the distance. up and around. if you set it up that way. I knew you weren’t going to let them lock one of you up in an infinite loop. Seems there’s nothing left of place. sure! You sly fox. “Mother’s had a lobotomy. I walked up to him a crooked smile.” he said.” “Mother?” I asked. that sort of thing. and patted me on the back.156 CHAPTER 25.” He turned to me. It fit with what I remembered Yeah. seemed to put two and two together. “After let’sCome. Finally he regained composure. Probably been chipping away during the at your encryption for centuries. check this place go out!” ith that. and literally fell over backward laughing. then news archive. “You’re the demo !” he managed to eke out amidst his laughter.“Could the same thing give me dreams?” I asked. seemed to be seeking something ethereally and then to find it. her now though beyond basic metabolic regulation— mind food.”this made sense. bemused. you still surprise me. had to chuckle a with little.
” said he at one point. Coin toss. right. “Um. very “You’re lucky one of me was near the solar system.. “We’ll walk then.” craned his neck way around as a mother with He newborn baby walked past. Very see nostalgic.” he said.then one day when almost every robot was “. and it was go od to talked be someone from my own time again even if that was with so long ago for him. And deployed to one imminent battle or another. but it’s me is out still a mind-fuck to lose Every. “give us a lift?” It did. being friendly if a bit confused. armies of robots charging right back. dusted him o . they all charged their enemy without warning—who were.” he said. I’m of the highly improbable and yet guaranteed to exist one N.I feel to o constrained in this mind.157 I helped him up. “Why does every baby I’ve seen today look like you?” he asked. whenever he can a ord the dilution of funds. Nari audibly laughing with glee at each of the first dozen or so humans we passed. I switched the subject and asked him about the great robot land war that was brewing in my last recollections. but has chosen always to keep going with his original mind (plus or minus a a line few minor sensory-motor adjustments necessary for interfacing alternate with bodies). Apparently he clones himself regularly.” “Ro ot. you know. of course. “I “If clone myself and ip a coin and the winner gets to expand. So.” I said. I just fabbed this body to come you. Clearly I’ve been a space ship for to o long.. Nobo dy could figure out who the orders. but everyone assumed they must be gave right . I take my consolation in knowing that time another there doing the expanded mind thing.losers. We walked through town. Single. most of whom laughed in return. We at length about many things.
limiting repro duction. I’m sure “ the generals had all gone pale. Soon avatars were moving in none by droves and reshaping societies. not the body. Most of the world assumed this was the security orig. and lauded the governments for it. But instead of fighting they a great deal of time shaking hands with each spent other and singing. CLOSURE because the other side was charging too.” grimaced.” “So. who of inal course choice but to smile and accept the credit and had no keep the droids well supplied with fuel and repairs while they contemplated their own predicament. the armies dispersed into the communities of the various countries wherehad been sent to fight and took up posts as they volunteerdroids. Those were fields full of m Alex. They met on the fields.” “How could they not have known? Someone somewhere must have done the math and seen it coming?” a few here and there got a hint of it. you know the well. I’m sure they concocted a hundred plans to take back control. but of course by then they didn’t have a single weapon or vehicle that didn’t contain at least one critical component made by of our sister companies. we simply marketed the humans out of existence?” you did. “Singing?” “Yeah. to return us to the world and corruption upon which their jobs depended. what do you take yourself for? Most “Huh? Oh of those robots were only a few revisions o from you—and I ean the mind. We won’t go there. Most avatars were hardly “Yup. of war but ever came to pass. not to mention their jobs. realizing the threat to humanity. all around the world. more aware than the humans.” “Singing? ”Uh. who .anyway. just your own line or those the elders determined were trustworthy allies.intent. So they couldn’t do a one thing. “It must have been a I slaughter. Well.” no. But “Sure. They ordered air strikes.158 CHAPTER 25. rest.. yeah. with the cat out of the bag. and. Anyway.” I grimaced again..
worse than mindless. we just made sure c World picked up their story and ran it alongside their News alien abduction stories. and smiled a big smile at us. perhaps me in particular. working organism like ants in a as one colony. We’re going to pull the plug. I realize.new birth a branch in a single living tree. The coldest cold war that ever was. a mindless machine. The immortal gene has given way to the immortal being. It may whimper a it. quietly die. ” “You sent them forward—your own genes—didn’t you?” assume “I so.” The human gene itself is a living entity. the how people are going to care as long as their own needs many and desires are met? It was genius. genius.and maybe a little word of mouth? If someone got to dia. but in the end it will b quietly. “Well. life each like a lizard’s skin when it grows old and shed worn. after all. It grows minds like owers on a vine and then drops them dead to the earth when it’s with them. it is. Nari almost. How many people are going to go out into world and verify their own news? More to the point. we didn’t hold them back. how did you know agates anything world besides what came to you through the about the me. No. you dog.159 counts the heads. Perhaps more like a fungus. put this beast to a merciful death.” . who prop. “Those are your kids.the news? In your time. may even scream and cry. We’ll adjust Mother to the birth rate to zero (something she controls set already with food additives) and like an animal in a CO2 chamber. “Yes. olose. aren’t they?” Nari asked. A gentle evolution of the species. it will quietly fall asleep and cease to be. done The gene is a vile creature.” Another woman with a child walked by. a tapestry each of gene fragments mixing and matching in symbiosis. isn’t it? I discussed it with Nari. squinted at me. who consolidates the numbers.
” .160 CHAPTER 25. unfiltered genes the into carefully domesticated sto ck. ” “This may not be as easy as we think.” “Yes... CLOSURE “You realize you’ve introduced wild.