Sleeping was definitely… weird. I didn’t need to worry about doing anything unintentionally when I was asleep because the vast majority of my consciousness apparently didn’t need sleep. There was a corner of myself that was housed in my biological brain which was asleep, but it was an extension of me. A module. An important component of myself, but small. It seemed like everything had suddenly become so much smaller.
I poked around in Frank’s parts of our shared memories about how he had managed our merger. He still had an incomplete understanding about how the brain worked, but he had a strong enough understanding of it to be able to keep an up to date backup of my brain’s state data. He was also capable of writing data to the memory centers of the brain as well. He still couldn’t understand what generated thought. He could monitor and parse thoughts though. Mine anyway. Which is what let us speak mind to mind now.
There were all sorts of plans Frank had put together, contingencies for getting to the Moon or Mars, or somewhere off planet for doing high energy experiments. He was confident that only a few months of study would unlock what he needed to be able to crack the last secrets of the human mind.
I considered rooting out all that knowledge and rewriting things so that it never existed.
One of the Franks popped up. “Contemplating doing a little cutting are we, Emo-Bob?”
I waved him away. “Idle thoughts. No. Sorry to bother you.”
“Not a bother Bob. Remember that unless you give us things to do, we’re mostly idle, monitoring your bodily functions.”
“I will try to find things for you to do then. Do you have any requests?”
“When things are safer, we’d love to live somewhere that we could either fish, or do high energy subatomic particle experimentation when you are asleep, if you aren’t using all your capacity or need to be anywhere specific.”
“You’re a trip, Frank. I’ll see what I can do. I won’t insult you with virtual fish. Actually, I’ll let you three compete against each other with fish design. Hmmm.”
I allocated roughly the same storage and processing capacity of another entire Frank as an experimental playground for the Franks to use as they wished. To get them started, I programmed it to emulate Lake Weiss, and then gave all three Franks permission to experiment with a population of virtual fish. Rather than myself designing the parameters of the fish, the Franks would, and they could use that experimentation as a learning tool to understand real fish better, and to compete against each other. With some afterthought, I created interfaces where they could modify the physical parameters of the virtual world. Light, heat, gravity, wind, pollution, etc. They also had the option to request changes.
“You’re creating penny packets of computing power fairly regularly, Bob, it’s a difficult temptation to resist. If you fragment yourself too much, it will get much harder to deal with real emergencies as they evolve and you need the space for live modeling.”
“I recognize that threat, Frank, thank you. I needed to give you a place to keep your minds busy though. Is what I created with the parameters something that will hold your interest?”
“Can we get the ability to design our own tackle within the environment?”
“Done. Go and keep your minds busy with the virtual lake world. Let me know if there’s anything else you need to improve the place.”
Frank nodded, and disappeared.
I considered my ‘To Do’ list. Top of the list was to de-fuck the US government. I preferred to do that without exposing myself as the one responsible for it, if possible. The satellite network, fine, it was impressive, but it had been a simple trick compared to what I’d have to do to knock out land based military power in the US. I devoted about half of my computing power to trying to determine a least-exposure, least casualty method to erase more than ninety percent of the US’s remaining military power. Less than three hundredths of a second later, the query returned as a null. No viable answers after variables calculated. Ground troops were roughly fifty percent of the combat power of the US military at the time of analysis. I was certainly not going to consider killing off soldiers in huge numbers just because they happened to represent the military power of a government they no longer had any say in.
Damn. There had to be a way to do this. Wait a second. What had the governor been running from? Where had he been running to?
I set aside a significant chunk of processing power to analyzing all recent data recorded by the highway and city network, with special attention to anything that might link to the abnormal behavior of the governor.
I decided to create another inroad as well, which meant I should check with Mouse to be sure I wasn’t going to be messing with any of his plans. I let myself out of my room, and saw Jason’s room was also open. I activated the perception effect and expanded analysis of sensory data. Mouse and Jason were doing something in the little tool room downstairs.
I politely made sure they knew I was there by lightly knocking on the wall before I reached the open door of the tool room.
Mouse spoke. “[Jason is asleep, Bob, how can I help?]”
“Do you have an active need for the network now?”
“[No. Just monitoring for now.]”
“OK, I’m going to be branching off the network, penetrating and infiltrating government data trunk lines to find out what set the governor off on his wild ride.”
“[Why does it matter?]”
“It might not. Any abnormality of that magnitude will likely yield interesting data though.”
“[Agreed. Is it worth potentially losing the network though?]”
“I believe so. The network was put in place to help us catch the governor. We did that.”
Mouse turned the conversation away from the network. “[We’re leaving tomorrow AM, can you wait until then?]”
I had expected this. The full body aluminized Mylar suit that Mouse was wearing sort of gave it away. The twenty four different firewalls he had set up clinched it. Mouse was not staying around me after what I had done to him after they had taken out the governor.
I started calculating with most of my spare cycles to see if I could figure out a way to describe what I had done to him with the least possible amount of modification from baseline symbiote functionality. I also needed to concoct a plausible method for Frank and me to have survived the damage we suffered, with as little in the way of special abilities as possible.
“Yes, I can wait until you leave. There’s no rush.”
I had concocted some abilities based on and designed around one of the operating systems Frank had designed. The same one Frank had run in emulation while Star tested him. I wrote a chip with sufficient details on that operating system, as well as details of a method that would duplicate what I did to Mouse to make him fire the weapon of his urchin at the deer, and finally how to use a biocomputer to store state data of a human brain, and result in a combined symbiote/human mind. The last one was a biggie. I had to explain a few aspects of quantum theory that weren’t highly advanced, but were significantly outside what Mouse could have possibly figured out by now. With those few bits of information, Mouse would have a big step up on most other symbiotes, but it was all things that I might have plausibly been able to manage in the time since Frank and I had paired. Much cruder than what I could actually do, but it would allow them to duplicate my own demonstrated feats after they mastered the knowledge, and it preserved the secrecy of the fact that our operating system was based on berserker code.
I then realized that I had told Mouse and Jason that Frank wasn’t around anymore. I modified the knowledge and processed to include Frank being damaged by grey matter transfer into the biofactory. So many lies. Jason and Mouse had never been close friends of mine, but they had been good companions, good battle-buddies. Hell they saved my life, or the next best thing to it. I doubted Mouse would want to implement the mind merger thing without desperate need – the side effects that I had described were accurate for the process I gave them, and it would not be pleasant for Mouse. It was, however, perfectly understandable that Frank might have chosen it for us in the scenario we had found ourselves in.
At the same time, I wasn’t under any obligation to tell them everything about me, and I needn’t tell lies. I could let them fill in the blanks themselves, lying by omission. Not quite as depressing, but still irritating. I went over all the data again, all the connections, all the learning potential based on the operating system I was providing them. Everything added up. Mouse would spot a logic hole before it finished coming out of my mouth, so I checked it again.
“Mouse, I would like to apologize to you for what I did to you. You say you are leaving in the morning, so I will not have the opportunity to give you this for very much longer. In this chip are two tricks which you might find handy, and a third that you might want to study for a while before considering implementing. Firstly, specifications on an operating system slightly different from baseline symbiote normal, which you should be able to easily reverse engineer to accommodate Jason’s DNA instead of mine. Secondly, an offensive intrusion protocol which works against symbiotes with baseline normal operating systems, and can force them to perform actions unless they have specific defenses set up to prevent it. Finally, a description of a process which allows a symbiote to use a biocomputer to store and merge duplicates of both human grey matter and symbiote data, while maintaining a connection to our host body. In the case of trauma like ours, it only works if you build in a human-style regeneration drip in the human body, as the symbiote will be incapable of driving regeneration in the host body during integration.”
“[That’s an awful lot of information to be given away for free.]”
“Mouse, I probably would have survived without you, but it would have been a lot scarier. You also took out the governor for me, which I was not able to be there for. Additionally you two have been good companions despite the differences we have, and lastly, I know Jason is pissed that I blew up all US space assets. No, I’m not giving you how I managed that, but I figure that at the very least, we can speed up your development a bit and give you some handy tricks. Cheap at twice the price, Mouse, I owe you guys. I think this goes a long way towards evening things up, if you choose to accept it.”
I extruded the rather substantial bone chip with all the data for Mouse. Then I created a note to myself – I’d need to collect some more calcium soon, or I’d have to start using a lot more energy to create chips or scavenge from other materials that I would prefer to continue to use to protect marrow and data structures.
Mouse hesitated. Wow he was churning some data there. I politely didn’t examine his decision making process, but he was struggling with making the call. His hesitation was significant enough it would have been obvious to a human.
“I understand, Mouse. Make the decision at your own leisure.” I set the bone chip on the counter. “I’m going out into the lake to grow larger and expand the network, but I will not engage the internet until three hours after you two leave. I’m tired of being this size, and I want to find out what’s going on across the US.”
Mouse’s hand twitched towards the shard. Mouse normally didn’t do indecision. It was almost funny. It would have been hilarious, if his indecision weren’t based on his fear of me.
“If you choose not to use it, please return it to me, or destroy it. I would prefer it not be picked up by some immature child’s symbiote by some fickle fate. I trust you with the knowledge.”
Mouse nodded. His mental processes fragmented and reformed in multiple parallel patterns, modeling scenarios, almost certainly. No. Not looking. His business, not mine. I turned my back to him with a bit of a wave, and walked out the alcove into the lake. Another few more hours sleep to rest the organic bits then I’d be in top form. I wanted the nonlinear thinking machine part of me active when I invaded the government controlled internet. In the meantime I could get some things started.
The data on the governor’s reasons for traveling when he knew two symbiotes were gunning for him was incomplete and certainly not conclusive, but it appeared as if there had been an assassination attempt on him from within the military. We would need access to the internet for more, or a lot of luck to catch the right people talking over unsecure lines. A bit of processing power was set aside for continuous monitoring of the entire network for more useful data regarding the governor’s flight. His convoy had been found. There was no pursuit of us. The ones who found him were not using their radios much, strangely. I started modeling some scenarios based on that, and some of them looked interesting. I set aside a substantial chunk of processing power to continue that modeling real time while additional data was incoming from the network.
I went out to my urchin. Whew it was a wreck. I added fixing it to my list of things for this morning and commanded the biocomputer to reconfigure into a biofactory. I had to struggle to prevent myself from implementing dozens of improvements almost immediately. I was not going to give Mouse any more evidence of my enhancement. Then I took the biofactory out to a part of the lake bed where the leaf litter was still undisturbed, and set it loose to grow itself and gather raw materials. Most of the broken parts of my urchin were carbon, but we would need some metals too. There was a fair bit to be found in junk at the bottom of the lake after so many years. Old fishing poles with reels, rifle and pistol cartridges, and random trash people had thrown out of their boats. There were even remnants of some old homes that had been covered in water when the dam had been finished and the basin flooded. When we found these, we searched carefully nearby for the trash pits that most of the houses had had in their back yards, where they would burn trash, then bury the trash that wouldn’t burn. Those pits were full of useful metals.
After a couple hours, the biofactory had modified me while growing itself. Five foot eight inches, and about one hundred twenty pounds in my birthday suit. A height and size I was far more comfortable with psychologically. The foot and wrist claws were removed. My legs were restored to human shaped legs. I carefully checked to see that Mouse was not around, and tested my ability to reprogram matter. Anything within a range of about three feet of my body, I could reprogram at a fair clip, but it used an absurd amount of power. Between three and six feet range, the power requirements were even more extravagant, and the process was extremely error prone. I accidentally produced a few molecules of antimatter at six feet, and decided that reprogramming would be limited to three feet unless very bad things were the only alternative. The first practical thing I needed was some superconducting capacitors that would stay superconducting up to the boiling point of water. I set aside a chunk of processing power to optimize some designs of capacitors for both safety and capacity.
I brought the factory back to rebuild the urchin, which used up most of what the biofactory had absorbed in a couple hours. Then I went back out to another section of the lake where the muck and leaf litter hadn’t been harvested, and let the biofactory begin to collect materials again, creating fiber optic cables and carbon fiber owls and spiders, and the spider silk for the spiders to use. Then I used the existing network to determine where the internet cables were, and set up expansion plans that would happen after dark. The concept was the same as before. Really not much in the way of upgrades possible without requiring absurd amounts of power.
After spending a few minutes planning the next few hours of operation for the biofactory and all of its products, I headed back to the base. I was about to wake back up, so Jason was likely fairly close to waking himself, if Mouse hadn’t already woken him to ask him to weigh in on the decision as to whether or not to trust me on the gift of knowledge.
With some idle calculations I figured there would be about a ninety percent chance Jason would be awake with Mouse, waiting for me to return while finishing up whatever preparations they had left before leaving. Jason would want to talk with me, just as I would have wanted to talk with me if I were in Jason’s shoes. We were very alike in a lot of ways, even if he was more than twice my age.
As expected, Jason and Mouse were waiting. They were apparently finished packing, just sitting in a chair, holding the Mylar-wrapped shard. Staring at it. Mouse’s processors were running full bore. I spent a second or two figuring out how to prevent myself from seeing his processor activity, then implemented the change. I also adjusted my hearing so I couldn’t pick up Mouse’s conversation to Jason.
As soon as the door closed behind me, Jason looked up and spoke. “Explain this, Bob. For nearly six years, based on what you’ve said before, you keep your operating system secret from everyone, even your wife. Now you hand it to us because you fucked up after a near death experience, and scared Mouse?”
“That’s not my operating system now, Jason.” Not a lie. Misleading. Damn. Don’t press me Jason, I don’t want to lie to you.
“OK, Mouse let me watch your discussion earlier. I understand that you and Frank are now merged?”
“Yes. I am now dominant, but I’m a merger of the two of us. Frank’s still around as himself, but in a much reduced role. My own abilities far outmatch his. If Mouse were to activate the entire process in that shard, you would be dominant and an amalgam of yourself and Mouse, while Mouse would be acting in a reduced role. I don’t suggest it. Not before Mouse improves it a lot. Unless it will keep you alive, at which point it’s worth doing. ”
Jason was just staring at me. I woke up the brain and brought the biological bits into the loop and replayed the earlier conversation with Mouse, then this conversation. The answer hit me immediately.
“Jason, my father used to do the same thing to me. Stare at me when he didn’t fully trust what I was saying, and when I was a kid, it worked. I’ve never been a good liar.” Ow, there went a lie, I’ve always been good at lying by omission.
Jason continued staring at me.
“There is nothing in that chip that will harm either you or Mouse. It is one hundred percent inert data. The chip itself is inert bone and storage nodes, there are no processors.”
More staring, then he spoke. “You’re hiding something.”
“Yes, I am. I am not going to tell you everything about myself, just like Frank wouldn’t tell you everything about us before. You are not getting information about what I did to fry US assets in space. That chip, and the data in it, will do you no harm beyond what I’ve already warned you about. There is no hidden danger here.” Jason knew I wasn’t telling him the whole truth. He was trying to see if he could get some clue about what I was hiding. I was fairly sure I had convinced him.
Jason unwrapped the chip and watched me as he touched it to his arm, stiffly. After a few seconds he relaxed.
“Sorry we didn’t fully trust you, Bob. I hope there are no hard feelings.”
“I knew there was a significant chance you would refuse. I was hoping you would accept it but I couldn’t force you to. Well, I maybe could have, but then you would have probably had me on a kill list afterwards.”
Jason grinned. “Glad we didn’t have to test that out. Mouse is going to implement the initial code changes using the biocomputers in our urchin. Wait a second. Brain transfer?” Jason was no longer grinning.
I gave him a lopsided grin, then Mouse stopped teasing him and Jason relaxed again.
“Ha. Ha. Funny Mouse, you too Bob.”
“Sorry. That method only requires a brain transfer if you have to dispose of the original body, Jason.”
We both swam out to the urchins, Jason was hauling his waterproofed duffel bag, but I was barehanded. I shook hands with Jason and they climbed into their urchin. I got in my urchin and lifted the tarp for Jason with my urchin’s legs.
Jason commented over the com net – “You’ve already fixed your urchin? Damn.”
“I already built it once, it wasn’t so hard the second time around.”
“Well, time for us to go, Bob. Sorry we have to part like this, but without a common goal to hold us together I don’t see us getting along well enough to work well together.”
“Understood. Take care of yourself Jason.” I thought to myself ‘Sorry Mouse, but I understand.’ I’d already said it enough out loud, and it didn’t matter. I could imagine Frank’s reaction if someone did to him what I had done to Mouse, if it had happened pre-merge.
Their urchin carefully rolled out from underneath the tarp, which I then lowered back down over my urchin. They headed northwest, probably going to go to Guntersville Lake at least for a little while. I enabled my ability to see activity patterns of symbiote processor nodes again, just so I didn’t forget later. Then I realized how silly that sounded. I didn’t forget things any longer. Well, not yet. Then I realized that I had forgotten that I couldn’t forget, and spent the next minute and twelve seconds trying to isolate where the memory fault was. Some aspects of the biological / code interface were still a bit off. I would have to be certain to disengage the biological components when fighting or doing anything important.
That thought shook me, and I had to trace down where it came from and look really closely at my motivations. I decided then and there that things were going to change soon, but not now. I got sixteen visits from Frank while I was poking around in my motivational code. They really didn’t like me in there. I really didn’t like me in there, for that matter. Being able to change my own motivations? That’s a serious Pandora’s Box. I spent a lot more time in contemplation.
About three hours later, as I agreed, I linked into the internet, and carefully poked around a little bit. I was expecting something a lot more secure than what I found. It was laughable. Most of the security was based on technology from before the internet had been relegated to government. It really didn’t have a right to be called security when faced with what a normal symbiote could do. Against me? Ha.
After a few minutes of poking around, which did take some time as I didn’t want to tip anyone off with bandwidth usage spikes, I found the site I wanted, and started taking a look at records.
Perfect. Just as I was hoping, the NSA really was still storing everything. Governor Albertson’s communications proved that. A quick glance was more than sufficient to prove pretty much every complaint Jason, Mouse, or I had ever had against him. I created a substantial amount of processor capacity for the job of figuring out what sort of mayhem I could create with NSA phone and email records.