"Faith in flesh and metal forgets the spirit altogether. To deny the soul is to deny forever. Thought and flesh are illusory. Look at the heart of the matter, and sees the truth, the soul at the root of all things."
So we went into Roosevelt. Truth is, we walked to Roosevelt. Because Shiloh denies all forms of thinking machines, even vehicles are denied us. Augustine carried the maps and water. Charles hauled with him the food. I got to pack our tent and bedrolls.
The old holos make seem easy to cobble together a vehicle. Two or three days of work, then bam, instant combustion engine. But we don't have that in Shiloh. Almost all tech of that size uses thinking machines.
So we had to focus our efforts despite the limitations.
"You ever see the holos of the vertical gardens in Roosevelt?" Augustine asked.
Charles deftly led us. He had the most experience at this sort of thing. "You remember that from class?"
I snorted. "Yeah. Class. Because Shiloh High School is so worldly. He saw it on the Net, Charles."
Charles frowned at that. "Ain't that risky?"
"Not really." Augustine flipped open a holo. "Public access can be censored. Even then dad and I use a bunch of blockers to keep away most backtrace. Only way dad says we can be certain of some security."
"Gaius is an awesome guy for a dad, amig." I said.
Charles and Augustine nodded. Both didn't say it aloud, but they both knew I was alluding to my father. The drunk was deep asleep when I'd left this morning. At least if he was going to pretend to be a parent, he could bother to wake up.
"He... He has his moments." Augustine forced a smile. But something about it seemed hesistant. "But... IDK. Sometimes he acts kinda AFK, you know?
Charles cocked an eyebrow, helping us up a ridge, past a fallen log. "Really? Whatever do you mean?"
Augustine shrugged. "The militia. His fight against the machines. I think... I mean I agreed to go, alright? But ever since mom died last winter..."
"Aug, we're doing the right thing." I said, my tone confident. I was so certain, so righteous in my voice.
Augustine shook his head. "You ever understand the code Dad uses?"
I shook my head. Charles shrugged. "Seemed like it take the Machines off guard. Why?"
"It's... Just I don't know." Augustine jumped over a stump. We moved into a clearing. In the sky we could see tiny winged varmints flying about. Each took different paths. I wondered what their function was.
"Occam's Razor." Augustine said, certain of himself. "The simplest explanation tends to be the most correct one."
"Ok." I said, confused. "Aug, explanation of what?"
"What we're doing." Augustine stopped. He turned around to us, his face concerned. "We're scapegoats. And we're planting a virus that'll turn machines into monsters."
"So?" I said. I turned to face him and Charles. "Isn't that what we want? To give people a chance to see the machines for what they really are?"
"Yeah." Charles scratched his nose. "It's to prove a point."
"Is it?" Augustine asked. He waved his fingers over the holo in his hand. "Dad talks about how this gene hacking policy here harms the gene pool while treating machines like people is dangerous. But do you guys wonder about why people choose to live like that?"
That made me pause for a moment. What was Augustine going on about?
"Oh." Charles and I stopped walking. We hadn't really considered that angle before.
Charles broke the silence. "Even then, Aug, we can make sure its something that won't hurt people, I mean, that water station AI never could do more than turn off water."
"Yeah." I said nodding. "Besides, you're kinda getting close to sounding like someone from Autogov yourself."
Augustine sighed. "That isn't my point. I mean, casualties are going to happen no matter how we get involved in this. I'm okay with that. Its just that I know my old man isn't in this to stop the machines. He just wants to prove he's doing something about it."
The word casualties made me pause again. But I saw the determination in Charles and Augustine's eyes. Charles nodded then must have said what the two of them had been thinking.
"Yeah. A good chunk of the people there aren't human anyway. They've never cared about us. When we asked them for help, they always cite our own city's document as the reason they can't come in. Remember how my pa nearly lost his leg?"
I nodded grimly in agreement. Despite any misgivings, the central cities like Roosevelt had always left us out to rot. Worse, they acted like we wanted no help or aid. We just wanted humans to help us. Not the green or blue ones. Not the ones that had changed themselves into something else.
"Yeah. When people choose to change who they were born to be on a genetic level..." I shuddered. The thought sickened me. "I mean, don't they care about what it means to be human?"
Augustine nodded. "I just was sayin' that I'm certain my dad is in this for his career."
I realized then that Augustine felt just ashamed about his father as I had mine. But Gaius was far better than my father ever could be. My father probably was drinking himself stupid at the moment.
"Well." My voice cracked as I sounded more acidic than I intended. "At least you have a man for a father. Some of us had to learn to be man without one."
Charles moved forward. "Lets get going guys. We can make to Roosevelt by tomorrow by continuing this trail."
Augustine put a hand on my shoulder. "I didn't mean-"
I shrugged. "Don't... Don't talk about this Aug. Lets get going and forget about it, ok?"
We continued in silence for a bit. Tired of the silence, I started to hum. Augustine joined in, his voice adding a bit of rhythm to it. Then feeling forced into joining, Charles glared at us. Then he began to sing in his strong baritone.
That felt alot better.
Consciousness Log Update 345672.1: I don't know how death feels for humans, but I do know that most of them speculate on it. A lot. Same thing for us AI, except that the time that such speculation occupies is a millisecond. Possibly more for other AI than me I suppose.
Deletion always brings out the philosophical in me.
The deletion process means I have to contain the suspect AI. From there I take it offline. Then I break up the individual complex heuristics that allowed it to attain sapience to begin with.
That's the smart way of saying, "I make them dumber than shit."
Each line in their heuristics has to be analyzed. Because these heuristics are polymorphic and self-writing, they can go all over the place. Like human thoughts, really, we AI think in terms of tangents.
So as I went line by line, I found a interesting thing. Nothing.
That made me wonder quite a bit.
/Charon: Found nothing. Isn't that weird?
The drone I spoke to paused. It was confused, then spoke aloud.
"Spirit, I am Suzanne, police drone 978-"
/Charon: I know that. How else do you think I found you?
The drone seemed to act apprehensive. It wasn't too bright. It probably heard stories about me from other AI. Which seemed unfair. I never get to hear the gossip.
/Charon: Well, I found Nothing. Zip. Nothing, then you.
"Of course spirit." It floated upward. I shouldn't call Zher a it, but I'll be honest. Suzanne hadn't self-actualized enough to make me think she noticed. And, as I am talking about the past here, I don't think she'll mind. Now you, dear reader, please remember to do as I say, not as I do. "Nothing and me. Is that all?"
/Charon: Of course not, you drone you. Suzanne- wait, how did you get that name?
"Kensha Bodhi, a recent juror of mine gave it to me."
That made sense. Kensha kept naming bots and varmints and things. Bodhisattva House called her little monster. I didn't blame it. She liked making bots more and more sapient. Which could be considered a good thing I guess.
But police drones are supposed to be unbiased. That meant being dumber than a pile of fek processed into raw rubber. It needed to ask others to make important decisions, or else it would ruin one of the most basic policies set by the local autogov.
/Charon: Suzanne- okay, give me a moment tasting out that name. Alright, Suzanne tell me. At the water station the other day you apprehended a boy fleeing the scene of some vandalism.
Suzanne gave me the affirmative.
/Charon: Awesome, now we are cooking with bacon.
"We aren't cooking. And how would adding bacon help?"
/Charon: That's an idiom, ok?
"If you say so, sir." One of my sensor readouts showed her holo image smirking at me. Great. A flirting police drone.
/Charon: Name, location of the vandal, please.
Suzanne gave them to me.
/Charon: Maenad? Like... Hannah Maenad?
"I don't recognize that name, sir." Suzanne waited. I got the sense she was a bit infatuated with me. I have that effect on the women. Yeah, I changed my pronouns there. Get over it.
/Charon: You wouldn't. Suzanne, I've got a project for you. I'm going to request your supervising spirit to loan you to me for a few days.
"What am I going to be doing?" She asked, her tone having a bit of bravado.
/Charon: High altitude surveillance of Shiloh. There is a clause in their agreement with Autogov that allows us to enact surveillance in case we suspect them of any sort of serious crimes.
/Charon: I want you to start a series of surveillances on the Maenads, their home and their activities. Keep your distance and give me a compiled stream of data once every...
I paused deciding the right datestamp to set.
/Charon: Lets go with every four hours. You got that?
"Subprogram Charon 1 already written sir. Do you want me to continue with vocal communication or- something else?" She put emphasis on the something else.
/Charon: Keep your pants on, Suzanne.
/Charon: Besides, we just met.
"Charmer." The drone said, moving to take care of her new assignment.
I meanwhile, kept note of data. Attractive heuristics. I stopped myself. I needed to keep my own pants on too.
I remembered the name involved. Maenad. Doctor Hannah Maenad had been a Duster immigrant who had moved to Shiloh eighteen years before. She'd married and had become the primary physician in the little town. She would also become its mayor, not a small accomplishment at all.
Shiloh was a isolated settlement that had been founded exclusively on 'preserving the human way of life' as its founder, Ada Malkav had intended. Thinking machines, like myself, were to be the 'enemy.' Autogov was something Shiloh had refused to participate in. Instead, the little settlement was a bizarre corner case in legal terms.
Because of their strict views on humanity, a Duster coming in and managing to become mayor was a surprise. Dusters aren't normal humans. Adapted to martian conditions, most Dusters are closer to nine feet tall. Willowy, they shared some other traits Shilohites probably liked.
For one, Dusters valued self-sufficiency. They also were practical to a tee. I'd also heard they distrusted machines as much as other humans. But of course, stereotypes aren't always true either.
Samuel Maenad. I had some information on the kid, sure. But if he was really Hannah's son, I wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't thought to modify him. If she did, she would've avoided saying anything to her neighbors.
If they found out, that kid would be a instant pariah.
Hannah was supposed to be dead, but the details were sketchy at most. All we'd required of Shiloh were genuine death and birth certificates. That data was fine. But it didn't let us see genuine cause of death. Or to be able to replay the holos of it. None of the infrastructure for letting an AI analyse it was there in Shiloh.
No machines that could have a record.
/Charon: @Charon: And how does this connect to a infected AI at a water station?
I didn't have an immediate answer, but I at least had something to share with Dr. Bodhi.
/Nightland Central Archives: shiloh_record/for_samuel1.wav
"I don't like to plan for the worst. But I do anyway, Sammy. Right now you're asleep. Your father is too, but he means well. He puts up with my idiosyncrasies.
"I like to think its because I've enlightened him. But I know the truth: he's in love. He still is in love with me. Back on Havoc older Dusters would've found him amusing. Forgetting one's own beliefs for the sake of emotions has always seemed a weakness.
"Son, I've prepared a series of these notes in case you... well, in case you need to hear from me should I not be around when you are old enough to understand. I don't like to lie to you. Or worse, present things to you in a way that are untrue. But to protect you, I've had to lie to you and your father to an extent.
"I'll go into more detail in further letters, but this first one is to explain why I came to Shiloh to begin with. I came to see the Hunt. I assume you know about that now... its seems so very silly now. The Hunt is still seen as this interesting spectacle in other parts of the system. A visual competition of hunting. Most in Shiloh seem to not notice that all of the animals are varmints, but they lack the skills to notice the details.
"I fell in love with your father. He doubts himself and... well, he has skills that this town won't let him express.
"The other reason I stayed however, is that Shiloh has no doctor. Its medical facilities are scattershot. Worse, they seem to have regressed in some ways. Sammy, outside of Shiloh there are extensive support networks intended to help people. The sick, the aged, the mad. All of these exist out there.
"Shiloh refuses to let them in. Mainly because they are afraid. Don't be afraid, Sammy.
[Pause. Followed by sobbing.]
"I'm sorry, Sammy. I had to do it."
Next Part (5)