"Is there a path before us? Or have we chosen to make ourselves blind to all other possibilities?"
Vlog 5/23/20UE; The Sighter Savka Vlogs
I held up my sword. The others stared at me. "Who started the fire?"
The Spring Prince gave me a toothy grin. "'Twas best way out of that predicament."
"Riiight." I didn't trust the little fey royal.
"The Deathwalkers keep pursuing him- What do they want with you?" Aurora asked the Spring Prince. She took a step forward, her white tiger companion circling toward the Fey's left.
"They are here." The Spring Prince edged closer toward us. His eyes pleaded at me. "They are violating the temple. You must protect me, dame knight."
I didn't like the idea of being told what to do. I looked around. All of the Heartshields were readying for a fight.
He continued. "They seek my ending. Death walks with them. Please, protect me. I am life, I am birth."
"The fey of Spring are supposed to be tied to growth." Syren supplied. "Perhaps the Deathwalkers want to end life itself, Hanael?"
"Suppositions aren't going to help." Garok walked over and pinched the Spring Prince. "Wait, he's real?"
Aurora snorted. "What, you thought this was a hallucination or something?"
Garok glared. "This is the temple you protect with no idea of what's inside."
"I am real." The Spring Prince shuddered. "Protect me and I will grant you whatever you wish, Garok."
Garok blinked. "I didn't tell you my name, faerie."
The Spring Prince smiled. "Knowledge and power go hand in hand, is that not true, Syren?"
Syren's face grew worrisome. He didn't like the fey just announcing his name before he had given it either. "That is one kind of truth."
The Spring Prince moved up close to Syren, a sly smile on his face. I pointed my sword at him. "Hold on."
He looked wounded. He put a hand on his chest. "Please Hanael. Don't you want to help save them from it?"
A new voice then echoed in the chamber from behind us. A old woman's shrill tone. All four of us jumped. Garok turned around, startled by what had happened. "Creature, leave this sacred place! Your lies will not befoul others-"
The Spring Prince let out a hiss. He jumped back, pulling out his own sword.
"What the hell is going on?" Garok asked. "Can anyone explain to me what the hell is going on?"
I had to wait. It took the better part of three weeks. Roosevelt still had been recovering from the last salvo. Grandmother had been right; the machines suspected nothing if Shiloh. With her being dead to them, who could understand the technology necessary for a memetic virus?
But I had been waiting three weeks for this chance. Charles would help me. He'd grown tired of Augustine's campaign of terror.
I watched the two of them from behind the tree. After school, my brother and Charles took their time loitering rather than getting home to help with chores.
"Typical." I muttered. "But expected."
Augustine laughed. His cruel voice echoed. A part of me shivered. Years of his abuse bellowed up inside me.
"Charlie, c'mon. Samuel only had his mother's name. Otherwise, even before being traitor he did nothing. Everyone should get over it." My brother kicked at a nearby cat. It hissed at him and took the hit.
"People know he wouldn't have chosen to augmented." Charles looked around. Nervous, he was trying to see some sort of warning from me.
"People have to learn to obey. Traitors are traitors." The cat confounded my brother. It wrapped around his leg, grappling him. "What the fek?!"
"Be careful, you don't know where that cat's been, Augustine." I walked from behind the tree. A grimace took over my face. But inside I felt satisfaction begin to pour in. Time to start changing Shiloh, to make it better than how my Father had ruined it.
Augustine looked up at me. Confused, he tried to shake the cat off his leg. "Amy what the fek are you talking about?"
Charles watched as Augustine fell to the ground. The cat was getting heavier. He couldn't lift his leg off the ground.
"It'll take just a bit of time, Augustine." Rip. Claws tore into his pants. Fabric shredded as my creation found skin. Then the feline's claws elongated. They transformed themselves into tubules. "A tiny bit of pain, but all growth requires pain."
Charles started to look panicked. He hadn't expected this. I know. Because I hadn't told him what I was going to do. He just watched as the varmint I'd created pumped its package into my brother's blood stream.
"The problem is that you are a imbecile, Augustine." I crouched down, studying my handiwork. "Too stupid and unimaginative. Samuel was my friend. He had to leave. But you can't let the wound heal. Samuel was too nice a person. He was the one everyone wanted to be around. You don't have someone to parasitize anymore."
"Amy... my leg... help..." Augustine's voice was raspy. He sounded like he was in quite a bit of pain.
"Don't talk. The pain will fade once its done erasing your nerve endings." My feline varmint had shrunken considerably. Its fur had turned ash black, burning away in the exhaust heat of its processing. "Once they've burrowed into your skull, you won't feel a thing, I promise."
Augustine stared at me, his eyes full of fear. "What?!"
"Ever see the holo about that black dog?" I asked Charles. He didn't respond. I continued anyway. "I remember it. They used to show it all the time when I was small. Some sort of stupid metaphor on obedience or something.
"Dog got a old disease on Earth, one that was eradicated a long time ago. Called rabies. The dog had gone rabid and they had to put it down." Augustine wasn't responding at all now. He just shook, paralyzed as my varmint replaced his central nervous system. "They knew dogs were near-human in their emotions when they made that holo, but they still had to make the point, 'what use is a rabid dog?' I always thought that was so cruel. So mean. Kill an animal that had gone mad, who still felt emotions?"
Charles threw up. Probably because of the smell. Augustine's bowels had emptied, no longer under his control.
"I mean, that is so messed up. The poor thing had no choice, no say. But they knew the thing had emotions too. That at some level, it wanted to be around humans. It loved them. It was capable of love! But they still killed it. Augustine, you are a rabid dog."
I gazed down at the eyes of my brother. He couldn't see anymore. His brain no long had sensory connections. I'd replaced them. Nanoscopic rewiring. Each nerve in his body now had been rendered into strings. A puppet. My puppet.
I felt tears come down my face. "But I can't bring myself to kill you, Augustine. I found a way to fix you."
I hugged his head tightly. Then I whispered into his ear. "Sit, boy."
Augustine sat up. He blinked and sat there, obediently. I patted his head.
"Good boy. Go home and clean yourself up, okay?"
Augustine's body nodded and left. Charles watched. He looked scared. "What- you said you were going to fix Augustine-"
"I did, Charles." I stood up. "I've found a way to fix people like Augustine. He is still in there. But now I control the thoughts he has. I can insert whatever I want him to be myself."
"Thats-" Charles just shuddered. "That's wrong, Amelia-"
"No, its necessary, Charles." I looked up at him with a smile. "Shiloh needs to be a shining example to the entire System, people like Augustine or my father are too... too cruel to be allowed. And we can't kill them either. This solves that."
"It makes them into machines, doesn't it?" Charles asked. I could sense his support for it building. After all, Charles feared my father like everyone else did. Charles never wanted to be in the militia, but my father had forced him to join. "Isn't that the same thing as-"
"Yes, and no. We control the machines, including those too rabid to leave be. You remember that holo too, don't you Charles?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Rabid dogs can't be allowed to run around like that. I remember it. You're right."
"Thank you, Charles." I kissed him. Charles's eyes lit up in surprise. "I could've helped him without your help."
He looked at the departing Augustine. "You think anyone will notice?"
I shrugged. "Doesn't matter anymore, Charles. Augustine received the prototype. Soon we won't have to fear anyone's cruelties anymore."
/Ada_Malkav: Brilliant work child. But be careful of slippery slope you are standing on.
"Anything wrong?" Charles asked. My frown had sent the wrong signal. He didn't know about grandmother.
"Its nothing, Charles. You mind walking me the rest of the way home?" I lied through my teeth. I didn't Charles to do anything. But it seemed like the right words to keep him on track.
I would've preferred Sam. I missed him, in more ways than one. But Charles would be a fine backup choice. I would need them, once I finished taking control of Shiloh for myself, even if I had to delete every line of my grandmother's uploaded personality.
"No." Whisperer stood up. "And secondly, double-no. Its a og idea, Charon."
/Charon: Wait. Can you hear me out?
"You just spent fifteen minutes trying to convince me. My answer is still going to be no." Whisperer glared at the nearest sensor, the exact same one I was using as my main feed. Weird. Psychs always had that effect. Insight, something that only some Spirits can have.
/Charon: I need Sam to do this.
"And I said no, I can't."
I tried to think of a holo or something to convince her. Nothing came to mind. Haraam it all.
"For a Spirit, you really like to forget things. Its She, Charon. Sam is a brand new person. She is about go through something really life-altering, and you want her to go back to Shiloh? I can't convince her to do that." Whisperer flopped down onto a chair. She looked frustrated.
/Charon: Fine, she, if that's all halaal to you. I need someone native, someone who can at least help me figure out where this memetic virus is coming from. She is the closest thing to a expert on Shiloh we have.
"You aren't listening." Whisperer replied. "I said, I can't convince her. Not would not, can not. That isn't my job, Charon. I'm just her therapist who has a bit of Psych genehacking."
/Charon: You knew her Mother.
"I helped Hannah adjust into Shiloh, yes." Whisperer looked meaningfully toward a painting on the wall. One of those holo ones, of a multiple moving images in a loop. It was of the martian landscape. I recognized it. It was one of the ones Hannah had painted Whisperer. "I have an obligation to be honest with Sam, Charon. I know what you want. You want someone to convince her to walk through the airlock, and I can't do that."
/Charon: You mean I have to do that.
Whisperer looked back at me, through the sensors and into the feed. A knowing smile. She knew how best to get me to a conclusion.
This is why it's weird to hear humans call us Spirit-level A.I. superior in intelligence. Humans can't codify intelligence. It isn't a matter of lack of trying. Humans did try. For a few thousand years they kept creating model after model.
Not long after the first Spirit came into being, we did the same thing. But we concluded it with algorithmic solution that no human could comprehend. Vast parts of the metanet maintain it, enough for most Spirits to come to my conclusion: there is no inherent superiority in intelligence. There is no omniscience if a mind is also supposed to be a conscious and sapient mind. Sapience, wisdom, requires more than knowledge or smarts.
"I'm sure you can build up the courage to do it, Charon." Whisperer told me. "But be careful about this. Sam is still very new in her identity. She has to confront Shiloh at some point, and I think it'd be best if she got to make that choice, not you or Autogov or anyone."
/Charon: Are lives worth that then?
Whisperer sighed. "Your problem, Charon. Don't pile guilt on me. Are we done here?"
I paused for a moment. I wanted to manipulate, cajole, convince her to do as I wanted. But couldn't do that to Whisperer. She might have a point.
/Charon: Yeah. We're done here.