"Automation of warfare rendered human participation moot. It makes further sense to take the next step of eliminating violence altogether. The idea of violence as a solution should be considered obsolete."
Ethics of Autogov
The door slid down hard behind us. "Well, I didn't expect that."
"A temple you've protected but know nothing about." Garok snorted. "So far, I haven't been surprised."
Syren spoke some arcane phrase. Blue light filled the ancient hall of the Temple of the Heart. Pictograms of all kinds were illuminated before us. Hanael took a step forward, muttering a prayer. She closed her eyes, then reopened them.
"I sense a evil presence here." Hanael observed. Her tone sounded grave. "Something I can't pinpoint, its too powerful."
"Great." I added. "So, there is something going on. No wonder why the temple guardians were being all weird."
"Keep on your toes, eh?" Garok was already searching the floor. "Fun fact: somebody was in here before us."
I blinked, looking at what he'd found. Dirt and dust had been disturbed. Something had been drug through the grand hall. "Yeah. And they were dragging something."
"Deathwalkers." Garok guessed. "They must've gotten in here."
"Or something else, something older." Hanael posited. "We follow the tracks then?"
"Yeah." Garok nodded. He led us to the same direction the tracks had been going. We ascended a set of stairs, each step decorated with elven pictograms.
We entered a long gallery. Along its sides were row upon row of statues. Beast-headed, they seemed to follow us as we walked along them. They stood like titans above us, only illuminated by Syren's light.
"Can you hear that?" Syren asked. I paused. We shook our heads, but Syren pointed to the far end of the gallery. "I hear laughter."
We continued down the gallery. Then I started to hear the laughter. It made me stop in my place.
"I know that laughter." I whispered.
"What's wrong?" Hanael asked me. "Aurora?"
"That's a fey's laughter." I tilted my head. "Only..."
"She be unsettled because we fey bein' so rare here in the Heartwood." A slender figure appeared before us, green smoke bellowing away from him. With blue skin and elfin ears, he was taller than Garok but shorter than the muscular Hanael. His garb looked regal, comprised of vines, thorns and flowers of all kinds. But they kept to a blue them, matching his skin. Both of his eyes glowed with a verdant light. Vines and grass grew wherever his cloven feet touched the ground.
He extended a hand to me, bowing his head. "Aye and good greetings to ye, Druid of the Heartwood. I be the Prince of Spring. Be ye here to save me from the mad deathwalkers?"
I felt like an idiot. We both sat there in darkness. I still held onto the little thing that had come at us. The tiny bot that I attacked without thinking.
Who was I kidding? I hadn't changed a bit. Sure, I felt more like who I wanted to be.
But my past, the things I'd strived so hard to know and be in Shiloh were shackles on me. I couldn't fathom why I deserved to even be in Roosevelt. It was a place of peace. Understanding. Someone like Kensha shouldn't want to have anything to do with me.
I didn't know how long we sat there. My left arm hurt, but my augmentations let me turn that pain off. What a novel thought. I wish I could turn off part of my head.
"Hold still for a second." Kensha said. "Your arm is fairly messed up."
I squinted, trying to see her. I wondered what she was doing. An app icon in my augmentations flashed off to one corner of mind's eye. I activated it. The eye shaped icon flickered, then my vision shifted. Everything lit up.
I could see. I stopped squinting. Kensha hovered over my left arm. She removed the bot I'd been clutching, and she started wrapping cloth around my arm.
"I- I've got to apologize Kensha." I stumbled through the words. "I- I'm sorry. This is all my fault."
Kensha grabbed me. Hugging me tightly, I could feel her tears on my skin. "No, its not."
I blinked. I couldn't get out of her embrace. She just clung tight to me.
"You saved my life. You only been trying to do the right thing." I could feel her squeezing me tighter and tighter. "You don't get to slide out of it. I forgive you Sam. You've been trying. Don't you get that? Everyone makes mistakes. That's part of being human.
"You can't expect to just be perfect every time. We all fail." She put her hands on my cheeks and tilted her head toward me. We locked eyes. "You understand that? You saved my life, and you were honest with me. People have been trying to make things less and less prone to falling apart for centuries. Admitting it isn't a crime."
"But-" I tried to stop myself from crying in reaction. "But I had been training to destroy this city. I attacked that bot- I haven't done any better."
Kensha shushed me. "Don't."
I closed my mouth.
"You saved my life. Don't start doubting yourself, Sam. Be the person you know you are." Kensha let go of me.
After a moment of processing that, I wiped my eyes with my working arm. I concentrated for a moment. Then I thought aloud. "You know, I hope we aren't down in here for too long."
Kensha shrugged. "We've got the metanet if we need something to keep us occupied."
"Are the we the only ones down here?" I pondered. "I mean, is this the only storage spot that- whatsitsname?"
"Eleanor. Her name is Eleanor." Kensha supplied.
"Eleanor, right. Are we the only ones Eleanor could've saved?"
"IDK. Eleanor isn't responding on the Metanet." Kensha put her arms behind her head. "I can access the archives and other media, but stuff is too busy outside for any one spirit or A.I. respond."
Containing the gas and the spread of memetics through the varmints could take them awhile. Even though Kensha meant well, I worried about the worst happening. There was already one varmint loose in here, infected with it. What if there was another one on the outside? What if it was breaking the seal as we were trapped inside?
"Things..." I stopped myself. Thinking on the bad wouldn't help anything. Instead I looked at Kensha. Would I rather my last moment be something of me worrying and thinking back to who I was, or should I instead at least being who I wanted to be? It seemed better to ignore my doubts.
"Things what?" Kensha asked.
"Things got exciting, I guess." I turned to her. "But I still want to learn how to be part of this. I want to learn to be who I want to be."
"Halaal." Kensha put a arm around me.
Father shook his head. "You don't do that to your own blood."
"Oh c'mon." I rolled my eyes. "Augustine is a bully, dad. He'll get over it-"
He grabbed my arm. "Darling, I know you do a greater portion of our so very good work, but Augustine deserves at least some of your respect."
Really. Father was going to start talking about respect now. I sighed. "He's out of control, I decided to insert some into his life."
Father paused. Then he shook his head. "You will show him your respect. He is the one who will inherit our family's name in the end."
I screamed in frustration. "He's a moron. He- he thinks his little crimes are worthy of our course. He never bothered to learn anything of the Old Nations, dad. He knows nothing of what we are trying to bring back."
Father slapped me. I felt blood erupt from my lower lip. I hit the ground, more shocked that he would hit me.
/Ada_Malkav: Such disappointment, my son.
Father didn't know what grandmother had told me. He lacked her insight. He had been so narrow a thinker. To think that pain would constrain me.
"I will not abide my children fighting one another. We must present a united front to the town. They heard what you did, and they prattle about it." His voice made me shudder. "You will obey. Got it?"
I gave a nod. But my mind started to calculate things. Augustine wasn't the only threat. Father had gotten rid of Samuel on a whim. He could smell the change coming. The success at Roosevelt, that caused the idiot to think he was on the rise.
He beaten me after I gave him that prize. I did the work. He thought he had me on a leash. No. I would walk free of anything he tried to cast on me.
"Yes dad." I made my voice quiver. "I'm sorry."
Father got up. He shook his head. "You let your victory cloud your judgement, Amelia. Yes you are valuable. But its our family that needs to win, not just one of us. Don't forget that."
He left me there on the floor.
/Ada_Malkav: He fails to understand on so many levels.
"Yes." I agreed. "He didn't even ask how I succeeded at infecting the vertical garden. He just gets off on seeing liquefying bodies."
/Ada_Malkav: Yes. You need to prepare the next stage. But I'm afraid you need test subjects for that.
I paused for a moment. "Of course grandmother. I'll do whatever you ask."
/Ada_Malkav: Good. I'm glad we are on the same page.
I looked back at the police drone still hanging on the wall. Thousands of cables linked it to my hardware. Through it I had access to every knowledge and scientific idea in Autogov. Not enough to access the most secure or secret of ideas, but enough to use systems I hadn't had access to before. The drone had given me permission to hack varmints.
That's all one needed really. Nightland ran on varmints. They did everything, repairing systems, modifying systems. They could even turn air filters into nerve gas dispensers, with a few retyped words. I could use them to make anything. The haraam little bots were too dumb to even be noticed.
"Walkfree." The police drone buzzed at me. "Walkfree. Walkfree. Walkfree."
Excerpt From: Ethics of Autogov
by Catherine 97801A
The core idea in this text for the implementation of a system wherein governance is conducted purely through automated functions. Automated Government eliminates sapient or intelligent individuals from governance altogether.
Most government systems face their worst entropy from the individual bureaucrats that comprise it. Political corruption comes in a variety forms, from unconscious decay to the macroscale intentional decay. For some of the most powerful polities in history, including the American Commonwealth, individuals would corrupt the system. Systems intended to perform the will of the people would become decayed, to the point that even democracies will fail to enact the will of the people.
Autogov solves for a core issue in the system, but approaching the problem through engineering and software programming instead of relying on political science. Completely automating the legislative, judicial and executive processes removes chances for corruption. It also eliminates the need for particular individuals to be in change of the system altogether.
Automating the core processes of governance relies on the will of the people. Social media and other sources throughout the Metanet form the basis for the aggregate that guides Autogov. This is adding to the backend of society, not creating a new system on top of it. Elections are not necessary if each individual's opinion adds to the aggregate that guides the system. An unintelligent system, Autogov forms laws and policies purely on the social and widespread communicated context of the people via the metanet.
Collective data of the group can guide a more idealized state far more accurately than relying on inaccurate appointing of individuals. This system lacks the ambition or vices that drive those who would corrupt other systems of governance. Individuals removed, the people's will can be enacted as it is manifested, not interpreted.
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