Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 12

"Culture provides a form of antibodies, these however, are incapable of forestalling some of most virulent ideas.   All minds are susceptible to these, but key to overcoming such psychological pathogens is always to be aware and to maintain backups capable of overriding such memetic viruses."
Catherine 97801A
Treatises on The Memetic Virus

"Hey." I smiled as sat down across from Poro.  "Still no Kensha yet?"

Poro waved a hand.  "Still in her exam classes."

Poro had been sitting at Jax's.  The cafe had long been a favorite of the three of us.  It had interesting vegetarian dishes, including a tomato-millipede thing that tasted way better than it sounded.  The cafe sat on the mezzanine above the plaza outside campus.  Below us, holos danced, advertising for each restaurant in the plaza.  The one for Jax's was a top hat, bouncing around.

"Find anything interesting?"  I teased Poro.  Zhe just pointed at a pink in front of me.

Poro looked human, except zhe wasn't. An android, Poro didn't identify as male or female.  Zhe had smooth cheeks and almond shaped eyes, zhe hair in a ponytail.  Poro didn't go for anything adventurous, though.  The android had always been the one out of the three of them to be quiet and reserved.  Zhe wore a plain red shift, emblazoned with dark blue roses.  Poro's eyes always looked like they were furrowed in concentration, a eagle eyed studying stare that always fascinated me.

"Not much."  Poro shrugged.  "I never thought I'd have to teach an exam class on the subject.  An android teaching Classic American history?"

I laughed.  "You've always been bugging Kensha to let you run something during the American Civil War."

Poro's eyes glittered with excitement.  "There's so much there to explore!  Families torn asunder.  A divide over such a vital subject.  There's depth there I think could plumb."

"I guess.  I don't know that much about it, other than that one song and hills and that sad woman, you know the one?"

Poro nodded.  "In The Hills of Shiloh."

We paused.  Then I asked Poro something that had been bugging me.  "Did you know that Kensha was in a dream with someone I didn't recognize?  It was the other day... I don't know why, but it seemed weird to me."

Poro nodded.  "Me too.  Why does that matter?"

"I'm curious is all."  A pair of drones brought us our food and drinks.  I sipped on my drink.  Poro tried a bit of celery.  "If she was seeing anybody she tell us, right?"

"Again, why does it matter?"

I pulled out a holo.  I flicked it on.  "It was posted on the net, and I don't think Kensha realized she uploaded it to the Oneironet."

Poro cocked an eyebrow.

"I looked at it, yeah."  I told zher.  "I feel bad about that, but it was a great dream, Po."

"That's a bit of violation of her trust, though, if she hadn't meant for it to automatically load onto the net?"  Poro pointed out.

"Well, put that way.  I mean, I do feel bad about it."  I grinned.  "I don't know who the guy was, but he was good too. I think he'd never used oneirostech before.  Talented."

Poro looked out at the plaza.  A pair of blue-green varmints in the form of birds fluttered on a fountain in the center of it.  They soared through a holo of a couple dancing.  They had to be varmints, animals wouldn't have gotten so close to the holos.  Zhe watched the birds flutter around, then striking up a serious tone, zhe said:

"It wasn't anything erotic was it?"

"Po!" I blushed so red that the green on my cheeks must've turned darker.  "Of course not!  I'd have told Kensha about that."

"So... by talented you mean...?" Po let the last word linger.

I covered my eyes to hide my shame.  "I mean dreamweaver!  He's got to be a artists or something.  The two of them created this whole world in a single session, Po.  It looked marvelous-"

Poro then leaped across the table and pulled me underneath it.  The air around us grew hot.  There were screams in the plaza below.  I blinked in surprise and looked up at Poro.

"What-" I shook my head.  "What the fek?"

"Something exploded down there."  Poro said, helping me out from under the table.  We gazed down over the rail that Jax's sat next to.  Zhe pointed at the plaze below.

I gasped.  My stomach started to turn around.  I felt something coming up.  An app or two in my head stopped it from emerging.  But I still could feel the bile coming up to me.  Below us were bones and fragments of metal.  The fountain had become a pool of boiling hot steam.

Seven or eight police drones appeared above us.  I'd never seen that many before.  I wanted to panic.  Poro held me close, and that seemed to keep me calm.

"Who- what could do this?"  I asked.  Poro shook zher head.

"I don't know, Li.  I... I've never heard of this kind of thing happening, not in over seventy years of Autogov."  Poro tilted zher head.  "There is something online about it too."

I checked.  There certainly was.

/NightlandNewsStream.A.85: Live Update!
/Meier Plaza racked by a explosion of unknown cause.
/Police on scene.  Largest act of violence in Roosevelt in recorded memory of Autogov.
/Spirits Roosevelt_Central, Charon and Vestia analyzing scene.
/Spirit Charon suspects this to be an act of terrorism, cause or group unknown.

"Terrorism?"  I blinked.  "Isn't that... IDK... who'd do that?"

Poro gazed down at the bodies below.  "Not everywhere in the System adopted Autogov, Li.  I remember the bombings back on Neith.  Autogov had to eventually ask for a vote."

"Oh."  That felt kinda wrong, like to the pit of my soul kinda wrong.  "You're right I guess.  I... I just don't get it.  Why did they do it?"

Poro sent me a photo from the data stream.  It was of a couple, a male bot and a male human with blue skin.  Both had their lips planted on one another.  Their embrace looked deep.  It looked genuine.  Two people deep in love, with the two blue-green birds flittering beside them.  I hadn't been focusing on them, but now I saw the image I realized they had indeed been down there.  I turned to Poro.

"Those two varmints that were down there."  Poro pointed.  "I think they were the center of the explosion.  They'd modified themselves to attack any sign of Machine/Human relations."

I stopped myself.  Zher voice had been quiet.  Full of relief.  I started to blush again.  I needed to talk to Kensha about this.  Why didn't I see this before?

/Li: w/Poro: u were going 2 ask me something weren't u?
/Li: w/Poro: <3>

Poro's simulated skin glowed red.  Zhe tried to remain calm about it.  I saw through that, now I knew it.  Of course Poro would only show zher emotions when there was danger around.

I smiled, my teeth bright.  "Well.  That's something new I didn't know before."

I tripped over him on my way to die.  Again, my father was another obstacle in my life.  Another thing just confirming how much of a loser I really was.

This was on a crest of a hill.  My father's body was under a deadfall.  The long dead tree had slammed down onto his legs, pinning him into the ground.  He didn't move.  Another corpse I guessed.

Then an app told me it sensed a heartbeat.  Then I heard the old man moan.  It was very tempting to look away.  But it was too late for that.  I could see the tears shining in his face as he opened his eyes.

"Sammy."  He groaned.  The man laid pinned there, as though he were ashamed of himself.  I could see his green eyes, bloodshot as they were.  He clung tight to something in his right arm, as though his life depended on it.  I couldn't smell any stale alcohol on him.  The old bastard was sober.  "Sammy.  I got to be hallucinating now."

"You're pinned."  I said.  It wasn't a question, just me making a clinical observation.  My voice was like a wet sock.  Cold, damp.

"Yeah."  My father locked his eyes with mine.  "Sammy.  You're real right?"

I didn't affirm that.  My eyes darted away.  Why couldn't I stare back him this time?  I always had a sharp comeback for him.  He'd made my life hell.  Everyday for more than ten years.  I remembered my mother.  How he destroyed himself without her.  He was weak.  Like I was weak.

Pieces of fek don't fall that far away from the tree it seems.

"Sammy.  Come closer.  Please."  He started to sob.  "I've got to know, Sammy.  I just got to know."

I took a few steps closer.  Why couldn't I say anything?  I knelt down, close enough that my father could touch me.  His arms still worked.  He wrapped his arms around me.

He kept sobbing something.  I couldn't understand it.  I just froze.  It seemed so still.  Like a moment you only see in old holos that are frozen in time.  Images fixed in place, flickering forever in a single corny moment.

"Um..."  I couldn't muster the words.  How?  How could I?  My father was already dead, the tree just had confirmed it.

My father kept sobbing into my shoulder.  Then I heard a familiar pair of words.  I remembered those words.

"Blue dress."  My father kept repeating those two words, over and over.  They were the greatest apology he could think of I think.  He could never come up with the right words to say it.  I looked down, at his right arm.  The blue cloth, wrinkled and muddied from being out in the preserves.  The kind of tiny blue dress a small child might wear.

My eyes watered.  I grabbed the blue dress.  My father looked at me.

"Take it."  He said, his voice fading more and more.  "Your mother... I could never tell you.  My fault.  Had to protect you.  Gaius... fekker."

I blinked.  "Yeah.  Gaius..."

My voice trailed off.  Then I clung tight to the tiny blue dress.  I remembered my mother and this dress.

"I remember that argument, that night between you and mom over this."  I said.

He didn't speak, he just nodded.  I saw that he was in pain.  Each breath seemed to sap a bit more out of him.

"I..."  I couldn't stop.  I had to say it.  "I remember.  Everything fell apart after that.  I never knew why.  I just knew... she said she wanted me to be happy.  You told her that I'd be in danger each time I..."

I blinked, tears falling down my face.  In Shiloh, you were what you were born to be.  Artists can't feed a family.  If you are strong, you live.  If you are weak, you die.  The oldest and sickest were left out in the preserves.  So were the unwanted ones.  The babies no one could afford to feed.  The suicides, the people too off in their minds to allowed to be in Shiloh.  Then there were those who were wrong- they didn't match the expectations of the town.  They failed to be what they were born to be.

If you were born a boy, you had to be a boy.  If you were born a girl, you had to be a girl.  That was survival.

And me?  I'd spent my life keeping myself from going down that path.  I'd try to make myself of use to the town.  I avoided my gut, the feeling that I was in the wrong body.  That I... I learned to keep that feeling away.  I'd die if I tried to be who I really was inside.

"Named you sam."  My father gasped.  "She... wanted you..."

He coughed, blood spurting out.  He was sobbing.  "I fekked it... me.  My fault.  I ki-killed her.  I got... fire.  She should... should have been me.  Useless."

I tried to look my father in the eyes.  I had to say something, anything to ease his pain.  "Dad... I'm sorry."

My father grabbed me, both of his hand on my face.  "Sammy.  You did nothing wrong.  Listen to me.  You did nothing wrong.  I... I didn't want to choose for you.  You are my daughter.  You did nothing wrong."

Then his eyes rolled up into his skull.  And that was that.  My drunk dad had gone.  I always wanted to see him gone.  Shouldn't that make me happy?  Why am I crying?

"I did nothing wrong."  I repeated.  His words echoing in my mind.

I sat there, in the mud and grass.  Bugs crawled all over my dead father's corpse.  I picked up the blue dress.  There was something inside it, a holo.  I picked up the handheld holoputer and flicked it on.  It had been cracked, but it still worked.

The face of my mother appeared, smiling.  She began to speak.  I still kept crying, shaking in that muddy pool where my father died.  I sat, listened and cried.

Excerpt From: Ecology of The Memetic Virus
By Psych "Whisperer" Thomas

Imagine if an idea could be weaponized.  Not the concepts it asks to bring together or the processes it might ask for.  Not its philosophy.  But an idea that is itself a weapon.  An idea that can tear through an unprotected mind.

I'm going to point out such ideas exist already in the wilds of popular culture on the metanet.  The meme.  Ever since its creation, data systems have allowed memes to progress from minor social influences to major orientations of groupthink.  The presence of the internet in the late Information Age, for instance, helped regressive social behaviors to grow through such memetic infection, rather than stop them.

So, ideas can become weapons.  They can escape their cages and wreak havoc.  But could one weaponize an idea?  Could you make a meme that itself was a weapon?  This is the memetic virus: like its namesake in biology, the memetic virus infects and propagates itself.  This insidious strategy allows it to survive, modifying hosts with its memes in order to continue its lifespan.

This would be like the ancient computer viruses of the early Information Age too.  Preprogrammed, capable of spreading through the metanet, and able to propagate past that into RL.  This artificial Memetic Virus would also be an ideal weapon.  It could create loyal followers as hosts.

Note that things like Memetic Viruses do exist in RL.  Organizations and super-organisms like Autogov rely on almost memetic viral infections to spread ideas.  To govern.  This very concept twists that idea.  And unlike natural memetic viruses, an artificial memetic virus could also be based on some form of code.  In essence, a code that could convert any unprotected mind (organic or electronic) into that meme.  And it could go dormant for long periods of time, able to reappear much, much later.

That is the reason for this and other studies.  Memetic viruses could prove a danger long after their creators have disappeared.  Given the long conflicts in the System and variety of very polarizing belief systems, this text and other sources strive to help create some sort basis to help you protect yourself from potential infection.

Next Part (13)