Monday, December 1, 2014

The Machines of Shiloh 24


"Sam Maenad choose a new identity for herself.  Psychology teaches us that we will become what we want to be.  Sam Maenad didn't want to be hero, she wanted to prove humans could be better when challenged.  
"She wanted to prove herself to be a better person, not to impress others."
Whisperer, Roosevelt Psych
Meditations on Shiloh's War

SAM
I squirmed in my seat.

"You've had an eventful week."  Whisperer began.  She gave her gentle understanding nod.  "The livestreams say you saved Kensha's life."

"Did they mention that was because I grew up training to use nerve gas?"  I calmly replied.  I still felt disgusted with myself.  Why did it take me so long to realize what I had been training to do?  Why didn't I see how wrong it'd been?

"But you used that knowledge to save her life.  Information that Eleanor and other AI weren't able to
provide to her at the time."  Whisperer tilted her head.  Her dark wavy hair tumbled down, revealing a ruby earring shaped like a scorpion that hung from her ear.

"I remember being really proud to learn things like that."  I paused.  I looked out at the waterfall
outsider Whisperer's window.  It still flowed up.  "IDK anymore.  I still feel ashamed."

"That means you are a decent person."  Whisperer grasped my hands.  "You acted positively.  That's a good thing, Sam."

I nodded.  "I felt better this week too.  Less thoughts... less thoughts like when I was just Samuel.
It still feels off."

"That's understandable."  Whisperer looked up at my eyes.  I could see so much going on there.  She
continued, each word sounding like it was precisely chosen.  "Every case is different, Sam.  But
choosing a path is the first step.  We need to find what- which set of things work best for you.

"Part of my job is ascertaining certain things before approving you for specific gene hacks."  Whisperer shrugged.  "I mean, autogov and a series of spirits have already designed the gene hacks that'll finish the process."

I looked up at her.  "But I'm not ready for them?"

"You tell me."  Whisperer pointed at a nearby holo painting.  It looked like the surface of a ruddy
valley, barren of most things.  Its distance had blurry shapes moving across it.  Four antlered elk of
some kind.  "That image was painted near Utopia Free City on Mars.  But it isn't intended to be
realistic.  The patient who painted that for me did so when she was finally certain she was ready to
leave her old self behind."

"Mars?"  I blinked.  "What did she leave behind?"

"Dusters created their own genehacks on Mars so they could survive easier.  Height, bone density and a variety of other adaptations that are excellent for Martian environments.  However, they don't translate well on orbital colonies like Nightland, which are adapted exclusively for Earth standard environs."

Whisperer walked over to the painting.  The painting shifted as she moved closer, the strokes of that
formed the image altering slightly.  It looked like different emotions behind the image, like firey
brush strokes smoothed into light, peaceful smooth ones instead.

"It changes as you get closer."  I stared at it in wonder for a moment, imaging how clever of design
that had to be.  "I mean, the emotions in the piece change.  The subject matter is the same, but it was
hot and distressed one way.  It cooled."

Whisperer nodded and looked back at me.  "It was her way of admitting she was ready.  She gave me this because she didn't know how to say it out loud."

"So, I need to paint something?"  I asked.

Whispered laughed.  "I think you're taking my point a bit too literally.  When you are ready, you are
ready.  Everyone has their own way of being certain.  And you are a unique case, Sam.  We don't normally have to deal with people having to transition from one form of identity to another before getting gene hacks to rectify it.

"I've studied into it, but it seems to be a artifact of your life in Shiloh.  Only the Old Nations would
have such problems, usually from those clinging to traditional views that most in the colonies had
abandoned."

"I feel like I'm ready to change."  I admitted.  "The wearing the wig and dress.. all of that is a
clever form of lying."

Whisperer gave a silent nod.

"But you want me to be certain?"  I asked.

"I'd rather you find yourself, Sam.  Bodies are bodies.  Your physical sex has nothing to do with your
gender, who you are or what you think you are.  We can reverse gene hacks.  I'm just the gatekeeper
here."  Whisperer walked over to me and grasped my hands.  "We could do this the slow way, the fast way or stop here.  Would any of those options make you any closer to knowing who Sam Maenad is?"

I didn't know.  I looked up at her.  Thoughts about what had happened the week before went through my mind over and over.  "I want to be better than who I was.  I think I'm an artist.  And I might be Kensha Bodhi's friend.  I want to be like my mother, I want to help people."

"Good."  Whisperer gave me a bright smile.  "I think we can work from here.  I... Sam, I know you will be happier after this.  You keep struggling with the negative thoughts, and have done well to keep them from taking over.  This will make you happy, I know."

She touched her forehead in a knowing gesture.

I looked up at her.  "If it'll help me stop thinking of myself as a liar, then I'll do whatever I can to
make it happen."

CHARON
I  arrived in Dr. Bodhi's office last.  The room was more crowded than I had expected to see.  It was on the dreaming layer of the Metanet, so most of the AI spirits present had taken on human form.  Shelby, having taken on the form of a tall, thin elf.  An actual elf, in a bright pink kimono.  She had on a purple mask.

That sight alone distracted me from the seriousness of the room.  I stared at her avatar.  She glared right back at me.

"Really?"  I asked.  It took a lot of struggle for me to not laugh aloud.  Hey, I may be thousands of times smarter than a human brain, but I still have a sense of humor.

"You finally show up."  Shelby growled.  She looked like she was going to sock me.  Kinda funny, when you considered we were both just facsimiles.  "We've been waiting."

"Some introductions are in order."  Dr. Bodhi said, preventing me from retorting.  I tried to keep my mouth shut for a moment.  "Charon, this is Nightland_Central."

I looked around the room.  I took stock of everyone there.  Before I had been distracted by Shelby's bizarre choice of avatar.  I had not noticed the new person.

In addition to Dr. Bodhi, Shelby, Roosevelt_Central and myself, there was someone new too.  An avatar for a Spirit AI,  an avatar I hadn't met before.  Zhe had the form of a plump woman.  Zer clothes looked out of date, but held some sort of authority to them.  Zer eyes looked like they were compiling massive amounts of data.  This was Nightland_Central, the spirit AI that maintained mass media of all Nightland itself.  The locus and master control for almost all of Nightland's systems.  The only thing higher in the hierarchy of Nightland was Autogov itself.

"It is good to finally meet you, Charon."  Nightland_Central offered me her hand.  I looked down at it.

"Sure thing."  The rest of the room was staring at me.  "So... why are we all gathered here?"

"Samuel Maenad."  Roosevelt_Central supplied.  He was cleaning his not-so-real glasses.  "Autogov is still trying to ascertain the proper forward course."

"The aggregate lacks enough information to make certain decisions."  Dr. Bodhi added.

"Because it knows nothing about Maenad and this entire situation."  Nightland_Central gave me a bright smile.  Something about zer seemed familiar.  I started a metanet search to figure that out while I listened.  "You need to conduct a interview, Charon.  I'd love to do a live stream with you.  Tell all of Nightland what's going on.  Once the metanet knows, the sooner autogov will come to a decision."

"What's the parameters of what's going on?"  I turned to Nightland.

"All of Nightland is looking for answers.  Autogov remains indecisive."  Images floated about Nightland_Central, all moving with information and data.  Live streams from the other central cities of Nightland as well.  "Making media is the way to help Autogov determine the future course."

I let out a steady breath.  "Shelby knows plenty about the situation.  Can't she do the interviews and all that?"

Nightland_Central shrugged.  "You were created to face this threat from Shiloh altogether.  I'd much rather have your take on it, Charon."

"I only came into it after interacting with the events around Sam Maenad."  I opened a palm.  Images streamed out of my encounters with Sam.  "Sam is still being protected by policies and some human rights.  My investigation has been more or less steamrolled.  Shelby and Roosevelt have more or less kept me from moving forward in the direction I want to go."

Roosevelt_Central and Shelby exchanged looks.  Nightland_Central nodded, understanding.  "You think Maenad will be key to you finding a solution to the problem?"

"Shiloh is responsible for the last two attacks.  The best local expect on Shiloh is Sam Maenad.  I want permission to bring Sam in for me to consult with."  I turned to Dr. Bodhi.

"You still claim that."  Shelby scoffed.  "The memetic virus could just be a lingering piece of data from years ago."

"I suspect Sam knows about it, that and the disappearance of one of our police drones."  I created holos of Sam Maenad, Suzanne and the incidents so far.  "I'll gladly conduct an interview, but I'm telling all of you, this is what I'm going to ask for."

Nightland_Central nodded.  Shelby's eyes behind her mask went dark.  She glared at me with all her fury.  "You can't dictate policy to autogov Charon.  Our policies and rules exist for a reason."

"And I was created to stop Malkav."  I brought up images of the dead.  "Each bot that was used in these attacks were repeating Malkav's idiotic mantra: 'Walk free.'  Samuel Maenad lived in that town, and I suspect based on her behavior on Eleanor that Malkav trained her to some extent."

"Malkav?"  Nightland_Central gave me a frightened look.  "Malkav's ghost you mean?  Didn't she die in Shiloh?"

"I have a few guesses I want to confirm."  I gambled out loud.  "So yes, I will conduct a interview Nightland, anything to help autogov to decide what best to do next."