Chapter 2.9: Perspective

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“Frank, you and Star might be able to communicate faster without an audience, if you just communicate directly through our phones, digitally?”

“[Certainly, but I was under the impression that Doctor Meilin, her symbiote, and you all wanted to be a part of this discussion?]”

“I don’t think that any of us will be able to discuss the details and specifics of your designs and plans with a close enough following of the details to be helpful.  We need to make preparations rapidly, and I would like to speak more with Doctor Meilin about how we got into this situation to begin with.”

“[You are probably right.  Some of the concepts Star is using are challenging for me to grasp.  Star would you mind if we switched to fully digital interfacing?]”

“That would be a significant improvement in our ability to communicate, but I feel that it would be best that we maintain the human devices as buffers between us.  Just as you are cautious about your operating system, so must I be cautious about my code as well.”

“[Agreed.]”

The bandwidth usage indicator went from almost nothing to maximum almost immediately.

“So what did you want to speak about, Bob?” Doctor Meilin asked.

“How did this happen?  There are logic holes everywhere that I look.  I suspect that you can fill in some of these holes.”

“When Argoen and Star were collecting us intruders on their ship and imprisoning us one by one and dumping us outside, myself and Judith were modified.  Our left arm bones were vacated by our symbiotes at the request of Star, and the shards were implanted, with instruction sets to allow generation of the communication devices.  Our symbiotes were also modified to respond to the imprisoning code at a different level.  ‘Minimum security’ if you will.  When I am exposed to prison code, my symbiote does not go comatose like other symbiotes do.  It is completely unable to actively communicate with its host, but it can communicate with Star’s shard.”

“What happened to Judith?”

“She was the second berserker casualty.  Phillip, the first to transform, was the first casualty.  Both Judith and I served as nurses in World War Two, and both of us suffered pretty severe injuries.  At least a couple female humans were being insisted on by Argoen and Star.  We were included by the human half of Project Boomerang so that there would be a couple humans with basic medical training who could actually keep up with the combat troops in the field, but we were never expected to fight.  We were doing morning exercises.  Judith was closer to Phillip when he went into distress than I was, and she moved to tend to him.  She didn’t suffer long, at least.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It’s been sixty years.  It’s still a sore spot I must admit, but Judith, like myself, was severely injured in the war.  The Army was determined to test the limits of regeneration that Argoen promised.  They were told that any injury could be regenerated, other than injuries of the mind.  Judith had lost both legs and both arms in the war, to unexploded ordinance that exploded when she stepped on it.  She was full of shrapnel even years later.  She was also fully functional mentally, somehow.  I can’t even imagine living with injuries like that for almost fifteen years.  Out of all of us who came injured, she was the one who regained the most, and she was ecstatic with her new physical health.  She had a couple months of happiness before the end.  Too soon of an end, but she went out enjoying life.”

I simply nodded, not much to say there that wasn’t empty words.  After a second I continued.  “Back to the logic holes.  So Star’s shard acted as something like a Warden, allowing communication between yourself and your symbiote, while your symbiote is protected from the full catatonia of the imprisonment process.”

“A fair assessment.  In essence, my symbiote was able to sense everything I could sense, it could regenerate my body and enhance my perceptions like all imprisoned symbiotes can, but it couldn’t talk to me.”

“Frank told me once that going back to silence in my mind would drive him insane if he was allowed to maintain his full intelligence and awareness, I’m guessing that by allowing secondhand communications to pass between you, Star’s shard was able to prevent that?”

“Exactly.  Minimum security prison.  Remember that Star was very upset with Argoen with how they were leaving her children with the guarantee of permanent oblivion or death.  She couldn’t go directly against the wishes of Argoen at a time of conflict, a hard coded rule in all symbiotes bonded with Argoen’s race, because of severe problems early in the history of the relationship between Argoen’s people and symbiotes.”

This didn’t quite make sense to me.  “But she could act indirectly?  This seems like a poor design, since acting indirectly in a time of conflict can be just as harmful as acting directly.”

“Argoen was not a fighter.  She was angry, frightened, and tired.  She was desperate to leave this planet.  Given even a little restful time to contemplate she could have built the commands to fence Star in completely.  That being said, she was not giving herself time to contemplate, she was moving as fast as she could, exhausted mentally and physically, concentrating far more on repairs to her ship than on commands to Star, so her commands to Star were not comprehensive enough to match her intent.  She was going to transmit the ‘cure’ for the berserker protocol if she got beyond the Earth’s orbit.  That wasn’t a lie, Star left that much of a verification of Argoen’s honesty, even though she didn’t provide all the answers.”

“That clears up a lot of things.  I’m guessing that all the degrees that you got were to allow your symbiote the benefit of a human education in order to attempt the grey matter translation?”

“Yes.  We were significantly hindered by the ‘crude technology base of these ignorant savages’ As Star’s shard described it, quite regularly.”

“I’d guess that she was right though, from her point of view.  Frank scoffs at a lot of today’s modern human technology, and based on the conversation we just overheard, Star herself was an order of magnitude more mentally developed than Frank, after who knows how long.”

“Thousands of years.  Argoen’s race travels interstellar distances at speeds significantly below the speed of light.  Argoen was a very senior scout, who had left her home planet and returned several times.”

“Wow, the thought of that long of a life gives me goose bumps, and I’m not sure if I like it, or if it scares the hell out of me.  Do you feel the same, Doctor?”

She furrowed her brow.  “Yes and no.  I do remember feeling that way once, decades ago though.  I have already lived a very, very long life as compared to most humans.  There are still some alive today who are older than me, but they are very few, and almost all of those are mentally degraded due to various reasons.  In essence, my entire generation is gone, with the exception of a few symbiote bonded humans that were about my age.  I’ve already come to peace with that.  I’m living in the body of a woman biologically in her mid-twenties, but I remember living through the Great Depression when I was actually in my mid-twenties.  I was born before television.  I had four children before World War Two with my first husband who died in the war, and had several over the years after Project Boomerang by another husband before I realized that I wasn’t aging and talked to Star about it.  Watching my parents, brothers, sisters, children, even some grand children die to old age when I am still young in body is one reason why I have worked so hard to learn as much as I could, and build as much as I could.”

“I hope it gets better.  For you and eventually for me.”

She looked at me with tears in her eyes.  “Some of it is still very painful.  I cannot be who I am to my descendants that have not gone through bonding with a symbiote and survived it mentally intact.  They won’t believe me.  There are too many of them anyway, for me to do justice with any sort of real family relationship.  The last time I counted, I had around six hundred biological descendants.  Every now and then I poke around in genealogy websites and find living people who are my descendants, and visit with them.  If they are in dire straits, I help them ‘find’ money that was left for them by rich ancestors, decades ago.  I set up several such institutions over the years.  At various times I have been a leading expert in various different medical communities.  Money has never really been an issue for me, and I did have the foresight to set up ways to help my family.”

“But you don’t dare give them what you want to give them, what you have.”

“No, not unless they need it, want it, and are mentally competent to understand the risks.  There are a few in Recovery who are related to me, and that number will certainly increase over time.  I have to be careful not to treat them differently from the others.”

“I can understand that, and the stress you probably put yourself through trying to deal with it, I think.”  I decided to change topics.  “You seem to be remarkably mentally capable as opposed to what you would lead one to expect as the outcome of the grey matter process.”

“Thank you for changing topics.  Easy to spiral down into that topic, even with Karen there to help.  No, you can’t understand it, not really, not yet.  You will one day if we don’t figure out the berserker protocol though.”  She shook her head, wiped away the tears.  “We studied for fifty years, everything we could find that would assist in teaching Karen how to better perform the process of grey matter transformation.  When the time finally came for me to undergo the procedure, the entire process was stored inside Star, who would not be impacted by the process.”

“It seems as if the process went well for you.”

“It did.  I did have motor control issues for a couple years, and there are some memories that don’t seem quite right.  I had mild dyslexia and occasional seizures.  Karen was more seriously impacted.  Her ability to communicate with Star was badly damaged, and she was barely better at math than I am, which drastically limited everything she could do.  Her ability to communicate with me was much stronger.  This put me in a position where I had to act as the intermediary between Star and Karen while Karen tried to repair herself, but at the same time being careful to avoid parts of her mind where the berserker code was stored.  If she repaired that, then we would have to imprison her again, and this time around she wouldn’t be able to talk to Star to stay sane.”

“Wait.  I missed something in there.  How did Karen perform the process?  Wasn’t she imprisoned?  Even ‘minimum security’ prison should have made it impossible for her to process the grey matter data transfer.”

“Star freed her from prison when Karen was ready to start the process.”

“Star has the ability to free symbiotes from the prison chair?”

“Yes, Bob, just like the agency does.”

“No, the agency doesn’t, or they say that they don’t.”  I thought about it.  “I could see this being kept very quiet though if they do have it, to prevent people from using it experimentally, thinking the agency was lying about the whole berserker thing.  They told me it was missing, and I’m the one pair in their organization that they could pretty much count on to not have any interest in actually using the chair.”

Doctor Meilin bit her lower lip.  “If that’s the case, then Recovery has a lot more to offer the Agency than I imagined.  Without the ability to free symbiotes from prison, their existing agents and staff could never take advantage of the grey matter process even if it was offered to them with no side effects.  It would have to be offered only to the newest symbiotes before they had to be imprisoned.”

“Will Star agree to free them though?”

Star’s face became active, briefly on the phone in my hands.  “Of course I will free my children if their chance of survival is high.”

“Understood, Star, thank you.” I replied.  There was no response.

“So the process you use now is the same process that you first used on yourself?  A set of instructions that can be provided to a newly established symbiote that is aware of its surroundings, which it can then follow to get roughly the same results you did?”

“Correct.  Modern human computers can store the code required for a young symbiote to understand the process in a few hundred terabytes of symbiote-readable format.  This prevents Star and I from being at risk of being exposed to an emergent berserker during the process of a new symbiote learning what to do.  What other questions do you have, Bob?”

I thought about it.  “How were you eventually planning on a real fix?  Before Frank and I showed up, that is?”

“Good Question!  As you know, our symbiotes have to be very careful repairing their own code around the areas where the berserker protocol is thought to be stored.  We share data, and can mostly self-repair code, resorting to verbal, visual, or in one case so far, even touch instruction through the host senses if a symbiote can’t read radio signals after the grey matter process.”

“In our case, the berserker protocol was activated from sections of symbiote code devoted to visual pattern recognition, if I am correctly remembering what Frank said.”

“Exactly, so Star and Karen developed an analog symbiote sensory system to bypass the digital one.  Unfortunately, it is still subject to the same errors as any other symbiote code.  As mentioned, Karen wasn’t able to communicate with Star directly after the transfer.”

“So how do you get from analog to fixing the minds of symbiotes without Frank – that was presumably the plan, right?”

“Humans think in analog too, and look what we have done in the last hundred years.”

“Oh, I see, so the plan was to simply create a population of analog symbiotes hosted in human bodies, and then work with humans to improve their tech base?”

“Yes.  With Star’s help, I helped boost several science and medical fields over many years.  Aggregate human knowledge at this time is what Star calls ‘higher order’ but almost all human manufacturing is still ‘lower order’.”

“Can you give me an idea how Star defines those things?”  I asked.  “I’d like to know roughly what the orders mean.”

“Oh, it’s simple.  Lower order understanding deals with things on a larger scale than the molecular level.  Higher order deals with things at a molecular level.  Highest order deals with things on a subatomic level.”

“Oh, that makes sense then.  Star if you don’t mind, please verify I’m understanding this right.  Humanity is starting to poke into the highest order knowledge, but we’re still doing almost no manufacturing above the lowest order.  Electronics is actually getting close to higher order manufacturing on a large scale, but not quite.”

Star replied.  “Yes.  The aggregate knowledge of humanity is starting to touch on highest order.  What you call the Higgs Boson is the first difficult step forward.  It only took fifty years of Doctor Meilin and I carefully poking and prodding the scientific community to get them to approach the problem correctly, and then they still almost missed it. Humanity’s most advanced manufacturing processes are bordering on higher order manufacturing.  There have been some examples of true higher order manufacturing but they are not reliable yet.”

“Star, how much of what humanity has managed in the last sixty years is us, and how much is you working to guide us?”

“It’s nothing you wouldn’t manage on your own anyway.  All organic minds are analog, and once sentience is achieved and a medium for recording history is established, it usually doesn’t take much more than fifty thousand years for a race to have a strong understanding of highest order science and technology as a race.  Highest order manufacturing is very rare, even in the most advanced races.  As individuals, no analog being can understand highest order knowledge well enough to actually do anything with it, without using higher order tools.”

I enhanced my question.  “So you poked and prodded, offering hints and guidance but not actually telling us anything?  You wanted to help us create the tools needed to help your offspring, but you didn’t want to risk being too obvious which might put Doctor Meilin and her symbiote in danger.  Based on what we both know about the tendencies of humans in regards to new technologies, I can’t find fault there.”

Star paused a moment.  “It is refreshing to discover an analog mind that can manage logic, Bob, even if it’s only every now and then, and very slowly.”

“Thank you, Star, I think.”

Frank then spoke up. “[That was a compliment Bob, and yes, Star, Bob’s mind is better than average by a margin I’m pleased with.  There have been several times when he’s somehow managed to put together information and come up with an answer that works without there being any obvious clue to me how he got to his conclusions.]”

“Correct.” Star indicated. “One day you will be better able to understand how that works, Frank, when you have a strong understanding of highest order sciences.  During our study of the human mind, as I said before, Argoen and I discovered it is one of the most complex natural biological minds we were aware of.  It utilizes many highest order functions, which is why it is so very small compared to the minds of most sentient races.  I was unable to store enough data to help you understand the human mind better, Frank.  I was limited in the amount of space I could ask my daughter to give up in Doctor Meilin’s body.  There was no meaningful probability of you or another like you developing in a timeframe less than what was expected before human technology would be sufficient to do what you can do now.”

“[On that note, Star and I have made plans and we are ready to begin preparing the tools we will need.]”

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7 comments

  1. NeWBeE

    The last few updates have been enlightening. Alien influences and speaking to a shard of the “original symbiote” is pretty cool. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next! They have-to do a lot of advancing to get to the point code can be corrected.

  2. underwhelmingforce

    Hm. Just a note, it’s been a while since we’ve seen someone who is actively hostile and also fully conscious. Suspicious, then friendly seems to be the norm. Also, I really, really want people to have ulterior motives here, but every time I suspect someone, it’s been shut down the next chapter.

    • farmerbob1

      That’s actually been part of the intent. I want Bob and Frank to not really know what the heck is going on at this point. They are a focus point for change. Right now they are unique but that won’t last long.

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