"It would be a crime to go back."
Doctor Hannah Maenad
Songs from Shiloh
A text woke me from the dream.
/Li: @Kensha_Bodhi: You there?
/Kensha_Bodhi: Um, Yeah.
/Li: You were on the Oneiros layer, weren't you? I saw your ID in a new stream.
I pinched my nose. I got off my bed. What time was it? Daylight coursed through the room. A quick check on the chronometer. It been an hour. Fek. I hadn't wanted to spend an entire hour.
/Poro: @Kensha_Bodhi: Ok, I finally caught you. You went AFK, no one could reach you.
/Li: @Poro: I know! Just managed to get her to talk back.
"Fek me." I sighed. "My exam classes."
/Li: Um Poro and i subbed for u, btw.
/Kensha_Bodhi: @Poro: @Li: Thanks. Got absorbed into a dream there.
That was sort of true. I didn't want to start blabing about Samuel and I's shared dreaming. It shouldn't be treated as something private or secret. Charon shouldn't know about it. I didn't want my parents to learn about it either.
/Li: uh oh.
/Poro: You don't usually do that sort of thing. Forgetting things... you okay?
/Kensha_Bodhi: @Poro: Uh... No, it just was... a thing, you know?
/Li: hold on a sec
/Poro: @Li: You thinking the same thing?
/Li: yeah. Kensha's planning something big
I grabbed clothes. I needed a shower. And I needed to get myself on track for doing something today.
/Kensha_Bodhi: Hey. Nothing like that!
/Poro: Denial is a confirmation.
/Li: our characters are doomed, Poro.
/Poro: Sounds like it. Van Hoeffer is coming back!
I shook my head. I'd forgotten about our next dream. The last dream I'd let things end at a cliffhanger. My dreamweaving always involved stories and complicated roleplaying too. I'd shared part of that with Samuel. He'd shown a aptitude for that. I wanted to involve him in our weekly dream sessions.
I had no idea where the next dream was going to go. Everything else had keep me from brainstorming a new story for us to go with. Van Hoeffer was the big bad villain. I'd used that character to harass and push their characters batty. Van Hoeffer was immense fun to play, a machiavellian mastermind who was driven to torture and cruelty. I wished I could think of a way to make him a little sympathetic.
/Li: totally. makes sense guy don't die.
/Kensha_Bodhi: I'll see you two in a bit, gotta check up on my advisors about those classes.
/Poro: It happens, Kensha. Everyone has a off day.
I smiled at my friends words. Zhe hadn't know what had been going on, but by just saying that, it did make me feel better. I felt guilty about missing my exam classes for the day, but also, I didn't have anymore to worry about until next week either.
So, I went a took a shower. After getting dressed, I texted and talked with a bunch of my advisors. That was when I got the message from Charon.
/Charon: @Kensha_Bodhi: You mother and I are going to see Samuel Maenad. You wanted to meet him. So, I'm letting you know about it.
/Kensha_Bodhi: Awesome, on my way!
/Charon: Be careful Kensha, he's been through a lot. We don't have any idea how he is going to react to any of this. They had found him after he'd started a altercation with someone.
I stopped. Altercation? Sam hadn't told me anything about that. Then again, we didn't spend much time talking. We both just had riffed off one another, creating and weaving dreamscape after dreamscape. Two creatives going off on their own tangents.
Maybe I should talk to him. I knew he was like me that way. But I had no idea how'd he really react to a thinking machine.
/Kensha_Bodhi: What happened?
/Charon: He headbutted another young man from Shiloh.
/Kensha_Bodhi: Do you know why?
Charon didn't respond right away. This was one of those things that Charon himself was trying to figure out.
"Ok. I think I got you Charon." I said aloud.
/Kensha_Bodhi: Nevermind. I see you at the Medunit then?
It was a bed. I think it was a bed. It felt soft. My eyelids felt heavy, like they were tied with rocks. It smelled like bleach.
"Ugh." I said. I had been trying to ask where I was. "Ugh-omph"
Ok, so talking out loud wasn't clearly going to work.
/Roosevelt_Medical: @Samuel_Maenad: Whoa. Take it easy.
That made me flinch. Text scrolled across my eyes. I took in a breath. I tried to remind myself that it was just my augmentations carrying messages. It still was pretty unnerving. I wasn't used to just seeing words pop into my vision like that.
They didn't interfere with my vision either. It was like this new sense had appeared in my skull, like a third eyeball or something. It would scroll text. And then, I could reply the same way by thinking it. Weird.
"Whugggh." I mumbled. Frustrated, I tried to relax my mouth a bit. It felt numb.
/Samuel_Maenad: What is wrong with me? Who are you? Where am I?
In the corner of my eye, I saw a shadows moving about me. Arms moving around. Holos of all kinds. A window, but a curtain was closed in front of it.
/Roosevelt_Medical: You are at a Medunit. I have been observing you. Your augments are interfering with some of your bodily functions. Give it a couple minutes for you to adapt.
/Samuel_Maenad: What are you?
/Roosevelt_Medical: Well, I am the medical staff and spirit for all medunits and medical facilities in Roosevelt. My systems handle most automate tasks where a specialist isn't needed.
My mouth opened agape. "Excusef me?"
/Roosevelt_Medical: You'll be fine, by the way.
"Mashine." I shook my head. My mouth felt less numb the more I tried to talk. "A mashine."
/Roosevelt_Medical: Some others want to talk with you, Samuel.
I shook my head. I still remembered the dream I had shared with Kensha. She'd given me a couple details on what had happened, but she also said she would be in trouble for just sharing a dream with me. Or at least that had been the vibe she'd been giving me.
Things sharpened, my eyes finally regaining focus.
The room I was in was mostly white. The lights glowed blue. I didn't see any sort of door. I wasn't in my clothes. I had on some sort of apron, under the light blue blankets. There were things floating above me. I sat up.
/Roosevelt_Medical: Medunits usually only are those with some serious physical condition. Augmentations have long benefited the health of their owners.
"They don't normally cause blackouts?" I asked slowly. A part of me wanted to yell at the machine to go away. I should be quiet. But I was too tired, too out of it to really keep control on my mouth. "How do I know you haven't done something to me?"
/Roosevelt_Medical: I don't understand. I've just kept you under observation.
"You'd say that." I tried to get up. I needed to find the bag. Mine had the equipment for the protest.
/Roosevelt_Medical: That seems to be a horrible policy for medical practice. I've sworn to ease suffering, not create it.
I tried to stifle a laugh. "I- Machine, I just want to go home. And I'm leaving before you do anything more to me. I'm no one's slave."
/Roosevelt_Medical: Slave? What are you yammering about?
I heard a door slide open. Swish. "You need to forgive him for that. He didn't grow up around spirits, like you or I."
A young woman stepped in through the door. She looked serious, her clothes dark tones, her hair in a bun. She looked like Kensha's older sister.
"Uh." I continued to look around the room. Nothing. If they had found it and saw what it was, the machines must've had no idea what it was. But there was no reason for them not to confiscate and figure out the equipment. If it wasn't here, Augustine and Charles must've run away with it.
The woman offered a hand. "Hi. I'm afraid I have you at a disadvantage, Samuel. I know your name, but you don't know mine. I'm Dr. Bodhi."
I stared at her hand. I shook it. "Handshakes... seem weird here."
Dr. Bodhi smiled. "They can be, I suppose. But its still the polite thing to do."
/Roosevelt_Medical: If you have no need of me, I'll go. The patient is fine, and a conversation should do him good. I hope you can impart some civility in him too.
"Hey." I scowled at the room around me. "I-"
Dr. Bodhi gave me a sad look. "Medical really is only interested in keeping you healthy, Sam. Can I call you Sam?"
"Yeah." I tried to look away from her. Bodhi that was Kensha's last name, wasn't it? "So how long am I going to be here? Or are you part of some transfer or something?"
If they had found it, the machines would've figured out what Gaius wanted us to do. They'd keep me prisoner. I was their own hook into the rest of the militia. I took in a deep breath. I needed to prepare myself for this. I had to remain loyal to the cause, regardless of my own personal feelings. Just because Kensha had been nice to me didn't invalidate what I had grown up knowing. The Machines ruled, humans were kept around at their whimsy.
Dr. Bodhi shook her head. "You aren't under arrest or anything, Samuel. You haven't committed any crime in Roosevelt."
I stopped. My heart thumped. Maybe it wasn't that bad. They hadn't seen it! Augustine and Charles must have made it out with the bag. That meant we could still finish the mission!
Dr. Bodhi tilted her head. "Samuel, you know you've been augmented. Do you know who did this to you?"
I shook my head. "I... sorry. I know I'm augmented. I'm still... getting used to it."
Dr. Bodhi nodded. "My daughter approved the activation of your augmentations, but she didn't know you were here in the city. Augmentations for someone not used to them... well, its been a long time, but its well documented to be very overwhelming. You need to know that you were born with this augmentations. They are bionic: they are organic machines, embedded in your body. They grew with you as you grew."
That made me pause. "I was born with them. Wait. Daughter?!"
Daughter? Dr. Bodhi didn't look a day over twenty. How could she been Kensha's mother? Or was Kensha younger than I had thought? Kensha said she and I were the same age. What the fek?
Dr. Bodhi smiled. "Sorry. There's a bit of a cultural gap between your people and mine. I've undergone antigeriatric treatments to keep my physical age in its prime. Most humans here take those treatments."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Your saying that you people don't age."
I thought about my father. He had been balding. Age had been hitting him harder and harder. The idea of him looking like my age just seemed... bizarre.
"We do age." Dr. Bodhi said. "We just use tech to keep it from causing us suffering. But that isn't the point of me talking to you."
"Ok. What is it you want from me?" I tried to stand up, but the apron's fabric felt wrong to me.
"I'm supposed to inform you about your father. Something has happened back in Shiloh, we don't know what, but-"
"He's a drunk." I shook my head. "If he's gone missing, its him drinking."
/Charon: Oh for the sake of- Kid, they ran him out of the town.
"Charon!" Dr. Bodhi scowled. "I have this."
/Charon: Sure you do, Doc. But patience ain't one of my things.
"Who-" I looked around. I realized that they could be countless AI or others watching through hidden cameras around me. Observing me. Analyzing me. "Who are you?"
/Charon: You hate machines, right? I'm a machine telling you that your father is in trouble. And yes, he's a drunk. But he's a drunk that knows all about how you were augmented.
"What?" I felt desperation dig into my voice. I really wanted an answer to that. "Who augmented me?"
Dr. Bodhi put a hand on my shoulder. "Sam, it was your mother. She augmented you."
I bolted out the door as soon as she said that.
Excerpt From: The Rise of A.I.: The New Japanese Imperium
by Weir the Gonzo
One cannot fathom how modern artificial intelligence and sapience could be without first appreciating how it came to us. Bots and emergent A.I. were passed down to us from one nation before all others. The New Japanese Imperium's ultimately desperate maneuver changed the course of the System's history.
What motivated the NJI to so wholeheartedly embrace artificial intelligence?
Something that we today would not consider: aging. In the long night, the Japanese mainland faced a population crisis it couldn't control. Most of its population were geriatric or becoming too old to be able to support the rest of the population. The rise of the new imperium coincided with the use of bots throughout its infrastructure.
Every kind of bot was employed, and often were created to think of themselves as much human as their creators. In fact, the NJI pioneered first use of noumenal uploading. Shells were created en masse in NJI, often to support the very few humans left. Even the royal family came to be essentially a series of copies of the same individual Empress.
Because so many new methods of A.I. originate with the New Japanese Imperium, it tends to be forgotten how the other Old Nations reacted to such technologies. They would use them to some extent, but the New Japanese Imperium provided the grounds to allow further innovation. These innovations weren't the only thing that made it important for the rise of Autogov.
This put the New Japanese Imperium on the forefront of machine rights for centuries. At the time of the Treaty of Unification, the NJI argued and received the first recognition of the individual rights for A.I. As NJI citizens ventured throughout the colonies, they brought this strong sense of pro-machine morals with them.
When Autogov came to emerge, this turned out to be a pivotal part of why it was accepted in the colonies before Earth would adopt it. Those offworld had adopted most of the ideas the NJI had began. The New Japanese Imperium would be the first of the old nations to adopt Autogov as well. This set the stage for the diaspora of the older political powers as they would later choose to leave Earth rather than live under Autogov rule.
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