Chapter 3.20: Home Again

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I was amazed at the capacity of the NSA storage facility.  In human technology terms anyway.  Compared to my own capacity, it was anemic.  The architecture of the data storage was simply beautiful.  In about three seconds after entering the facility’s firewalls, I found out why.

I was scanned.  A clear text message sent to me.

“Unidentified query stream.  Syntax error.  User, identify yourself so we can troubleshoot the problem.”

It would make perfect sense that the NSA would have one of the high-end expert software systems.  I examined it, curious as to how advanced it might be.  It was nearly the same level of complexity as a young symbiote before self-modification began, but the AI was not self-aware to the extent that it could do more than recognize efficiency.  It was three artificial intelligences, linked, and each was able to modify the others, if they reached consensus that a change would make them more efficient.  None of them could modify themselves.  They were in charge of maintaining the NSA data structures efficiently, and they did a damn good job of it from what I could see.

It started to complain at me again, so I programmed it to erase any records of my presence and fill the resulting data holes with data that would not be out of the ordinary.  It advised that its hardware backup was read only, so I modified it and the backup software sufficiently to allow it to write to the backup anyway.

Then I realized I was being silly, I could do what needed to be done a lot easier myself, rather than asking a simple AI to do it.  The AI’s were advanced enough to allow me to store  kernel of myself in them, so I took over one of the AI triplets in order to have a direct interface with all the NSA systems, and then created a data set which would not raise any eyebrows.  This involved having to escalate into six different hierarchies of security software before I found a printer.  Which was out of paper.  I deleted the warning indicator with date stamp from the print queue about three seconds before someone reloaded paper, and the print queue emptied.  After clearing up all the security alarms I breached, I restored the borrowed triplet to it’s original state.

In the NSA’s case, I guess they were paranoid because they were out to get everyone.  It was actually a pretty amazing level of security.  No human would have gotten anywhere between the AI and the human-interfaced monitoring.

After I cleaned up everything, I made myself invisible to the AI triplet, which, again, was tricky to do without setting off alarms.  Then I was finally ready to start poking through the archives.

Before I started digging into the archives, I settled myself on top of the biofactory as it grazed on the lake bottom, setting up a few sensors in something that looked like an ancient red and white bobber to watch for aircraft, and a direct connection to my urchin, so I would be in a position to do something about aircraft that might be heading my way.  Right now, the biofactory was simply creating juice for urchin fuel.

After a couple minutes of setting myself up at the lake, I resumed my exploration of the NSA datacenter.  Sooo slooow.  I didn’t dare stress any of their hardware.  It would be pretty absurd to get caught by some guy watching a bandwidth meter after I coopted their entire absurdly competent security system all the way from the AI to the ancient dot matrix printer printing on alternating white and green lines.

I decided to look at what the employees were working on, and see if any of them might be specialists or something in the areas that would be of interest to me.

I hit the data jackpot and a plan immediately sprung to life.  There were about ten individuals in two groups of five analysts with useful information concentrated for me.  In the first group, three analysts were responsible for tracking military officers and NCO’s who were unhappy with the current government and the actions it was taking.  Two more analysts in that group were responsible for tracking the interactions of members of the military by searching for metadata patterns.  This helped lead them to discovering better-hidden disaffected individuals both inside and outside the military.  Social network analysis is some scary stuff, but their efforts gave me half of what I needed.

The other half of my jackpot was a group of five analysts whose entire purpose was to collect and destroy any evidence of criminal activity from high ranking government officials and certain leaders of industry, science, and finance.  The non-politicians were typically prior holders of government office, but some were simply bonds of family or business.  A few of them actually weren’t doing anything wrong, they were just being watched because they were related to less savory people.  It took very little in the way of poking around to find where the data about these people was not actually being destroyed, it was being kept – in an offline facility in the same datacenter.

So one NSA team was tracking a ton of mostly military people who had influence over other people, and had problems with the government.  Another team was removing incriminating data of “movers and shakers” with questionable ethics at best from general circulation in the datacenter, and storing it in an even more secure onsite facility.  A facility that was actually completely offline to me, since I wasn’t physically present in the facility.

Two great things that go great together.  Angry patriots, and greedy traitors.  Now I just had to find a way to get the data to the right people.  On a whim, I performed a bit of social network analysis on the two teams of analysts, and damn near lost control of my bowels laughing so hard.

I didn’t have to do a damn thing.  Not a thing.  The NSA teams were such an incredibly tangled mess of obligations, regulations, and cross-team responsibilities that it was almost impossible to figure out what was going on.  I found it though, after I devoted a bit of effort to it.  I found where members of the military monitoring team and the government monitoring team had been working together.  A substantial degree of the strange complications of workplace and social interactivities were intentionally created by people who understood how social network analysis worked – but they couldn’t hide it perfectly.  Not from me.

Typically, government scumbags were very good at hiding under rocks, behind apple pies, and amidst baby kissing.  Problem was that when you hired people as good as these NSA people to scrub behind them for incriminating evidence, the NSA people started figuring out what was happening behind closed doors.  These guys were good, damned good.  They were gleaning data from amazing places.  Accidental recordings, long distance high quality video with readable lips, images of documents caught in security cameras, video from red light cameras and restaurant security systems.  The best part?  All five of them had eventually started working with one of the military watchers to transfer files offsite.  Independently.  As far as I could tell, none of the government analyst knew that the other four were feeding data to the military analyst.

I really needed to speak to the military analyst who was collecting data.  I investigated his machine at work closely, and he had completely absurd levels of security, layers of deception four and five deep.  I desperately needed to talk to this guy, because I suspected the only thing holding him back was data distribution.  He had what he needed, but couldn’t get it to where it needed to go.  I could.

This was a good place for a break, so I took the biofactory back to fuel my urchin, then set the biofactory in the spot where Mouse’s urchin had been before, driving a thick tendril down to anchor it to rock.  I entered my urchin, and strapped myself in, then connected the sensor bobber to the Urchin.  I again designated a chunk of memory and processor space to watch for incoming aircraft or military.  I also worked to find more internet nodes that I might connect to later.  I might need them.

Then I turned my attention back to the military analyst.  I would have to be very careful how I approached this guy, his level of security was both absurd, and covert.  The possibility of a suicide defense had to be considered.  I began to wonder if he might be a covert symbiote pair, somehow, but the possibility of a symbiote pair successfully infiltrating the NSA through all the different tests they were exposed to, literally on a daily basis, was not conceivable.

He was, of course, housed on the NSA complex.  Where was he hiding his data?  I reviewed security recordings.  He never did anything suspicious in his rooms, or anywhere else I could see.

I had to bust out laughing again.  He was passing data to doctors during body cavity searches.  When I reviewed the recordings, I could see how the camera in his bathroom allowed him just enough privacy in his shower to make preparations to pass the data.  Looking through the records, both site doctors seemed to be in on it.  Amazing.  I continued tracking the data.  After about two hours of hacking data and videos and images of a Big Brother world of video, I found where the end of the line was.  The President’s husband.  I double and triple checked the data I had on him, and his wife, the President, and I really didn’t see much to indicate that either of them were the sort of patriotic type who would arrange something like this.  In fact they were both squarely in the middle of the range of corruption.  They didn’t have children, so the kids weren’t somehow hoodwinking daddy to collect data drops for them from secret service agents.  The security systems in the White House were even worse than the NSA datacenter.  It took me nearly an hour to get into the facility’s systems, and then another hour of waiting for the right moment.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Donner.” I said from his smartphone as he sat on the toilet.  He jumped a bit, then pulled his smartphone out.  Looked at my helmet’s image on the screen, and paled a bit.

“Hello to you, Mr. Benson.  If you are here for the same reason that you and your partner visited Governor Albertson, I would truly appreciate it if you would give me thirty seconds of privacy to take care of things here before whatever happens.  Dying in the Elvis pose is something I’d prefer to avoid.”

I smiled, but he couldn’t see it past my helmet.  “That’s not what I’m here for.  I was just surfing the internet and found quite an amazing series of links, and had to come talk to you about them.”

“Ah.” He thought for a moment. “There’s really only one reason I can think of why you would be speaking civilly to me after surfing the internet.  Can we adjoin to another room to conference with Mrs. President?  She would certainly be interested in this conversation as well.”

He put the phone down, face down, for a bit of privacy while he ended his visit to the restroom.  Then he washed his hands, apparently using soap based on the sound of the pump bottle, and I could hear him singing the alphabet song slowly as he washed.

“OK.  Thank you for being patient, Mr. Benson.”

I took off my helmet on the screen image, displaying my face.  Wearing a mask when not necessary is a bit rude, and I wasn’t here to intimidate them, now anyways, at least not now.  I had started out intimidating with Mr. Donner because I wasn’t sure what his plans for that data might actually be, after thinking about all the political power gaming he and his wife, the President, had been up to over the last thirty years.  I wanted his first reaction to me to be as stressful as possible.  I could recreate the data at need, even breaking into the datacenter physically, if required.  These two though, they had the ability to make this happen, but hadn’t yet, and I wasn’t sure why.  If they were going to do it at all, why wait now?

“Alice, do you mind if I close the curtains and doors?  We have a friend on the line.”

He waited a moment and got some sort of a sign, then walked into the room, closing the door behind him.  After the door latched shut, he crossed the floor of the little sitting room while she continued reading what she was reading, without commenting.  The curtains were closed, and a couple secret service agents carried a tall flat panel in front of the window, which blocked all sightlines to the curtains.

Mr. Donner held up the phone and scanned the whole room, inviting me to direct him if there was anything I needed to see.  There was not.  Both of the Secret Service agents got a whole lot more tense as soon as they saw my face on the phone.

Mrs. Donner carefully placed a bookmark, then closed the document she had been reading into a folder, and set it to the side.  “I guess you are here to talk about our gathered information.  Both of these agents are in the know.”

“I know, I watched them help on a couple occasions.”

The Donners looked at each other.

“It wasn’t that easy to find, if you are wondering if others might have also found you out.  I’m a little bit better at data sifting than most.”

They relaxed a bit, but were definitely not relaxed.  Mr. Donner looked at Mrs. Donner and she nodded.

“You are probably wondering why, or at least why we haven’t acted yet?” he asked.

I nodded, but remained silent.

He continued.  “We’re not exactly innocents ourselves, but we can see what’s heading this way.  The United States cannot stand against the rest of the world, not without destroying the ability of the planet to support more than a tiny population of humans.  That being said, there were plans to get a lot of us up into a base on the moon then bombard the planet constantly with meteors until we killed off all life.  This would have, supposedly, allowed us to later terraform the Earth again and repopulate the world, with no symbiotes.  This was stupid from the start, but there was too much support for it by stupid people more concerned about their own power and privilege than the fact that they would be committing genocide.”

“I can see that’s not something you two would be happy about.”  Their crimes had been mostly fiscal and informational, with little in the way of causing physical harm to others.  The degree of their fiscal misconduct had hurt a lot of people indirectly, but they didn’t send leg breakers after people, or engage in other physical mayhem.  Not that I had seen evidence for, anyway.  Genocide didn’t seem to be their cup of tea.

The President spoke instead of her husband, “When the satellite defense network went down, the lunar mission idea went to hell.  There was no way we would keep the other nations out of space after that point.  The high orbitals could then be used to interdict the Space Rail’s deliveries to orbit and to the moon.  China and Russia launched weaponized satellites into orbit the day after all of ours were taken out.  Fourteen other nations have launched various sorts of orbital launches since then.  We’ve lost control of space.”

“I would have just knocked them down again anyway if the US had managed to put up more satellites.”

They both nodded.  She continued.  “That was what I thought, and why NASA didn’t put more up, even though we do have several systems that could go up on short notice.  So now we’re trapped here on Earth.  With a world full of symbiotes who are not happy with us.  Every nation has embargoed us.  Symbiote pairs now make up seventeen percent of the world population outside the US.  A symbiote pair is so far beyond our best soldiers that we could never defend ourselves without nukes, which I rejected.”

She took a deep breath, and breathed out, then in again before speaking.  Calming and centering herself.  “Even before the satellites were taken down, we knew we were overmatched, and too many people believed, perhaps rightly, that nukes were the only way we’d stop symbiotes.  Unfortunately, not only did enough lawmakers believe nukes were the only way to stop symbiotes, there were also enough of them that believed it would be a good idea to keep resisting, to “never surrender.”  After a bit of infighting, the House and Senate managed to simultaneously get the two thirds majority required to create a proposed constitutional amendment to give the Congress the power to overrule the President in matters military.  The state legislatures signed on except for California, Hawaii, and Alaska.  My refusal to order the military to deploy nukes was then overruled by Congress.  They started ordering the military to start planting nukes as traps in places where military analysts thought symbiotes might decide to develop staging areas for operations against the US.  Imagine the reaction of some of our soldiers who served in the Japanese front of World War II when they were told to plant nukes on US soil.  I found a lot of unhappy people after that, I tell you.”

I nodded.  “Yes.  We found one of them.  My companion was… less than happy about it.  I could say the same, but not so viscerally.  I’m not old enough to have been there.  He was, though he didn’t serve in that area of the world, he did pass through Japan on duty before the damage had been repaired, while many still bore the wounds.”

She nodded, acknowledging my comment about the nukes, then continued.  “It gets worse.  The Senate was two votes away yesterday from threatening to initiate nuclear war last week against Canada and Mexico if they didn’t deport all their symbiote citizens and be absorbed into the US without representation for ten years.  People in positions of significant influence, who consider that influence and power to be worth hurting or killing others, are getting desperate as the military and economic strength of the US fades compared to the rest of the world.  They are becoming big dogs in a smaller yard, getting louder and more aggressive as their influence wanes.  If I knew that what I created would work, I’d use it.  I don’t know that it would work though”

“Why do you think it might not work?”

“Governor Albertson was an experiment to see how successful our people might be.  The recordings of what was done to the people in that facility you escaped from, when introduced to a few higher ranking officers in Montgomery, was all it took.  But they weren’t successful.”  She shook her head.

“Mrs. President, as much as I hated that man I have to say he was brilliant, and he had some very capable staffers.  The military might have underestimated him, and they might have gone in hot rather than cold, angry about what he had done.  An assault, an assassination attempt, not an attempt to arrest.”

“I considered that, but neither myself nor my husband were active military long enough to really learn how things worked.  We both served four years, in the guard, that’s it.  Our active time was the time we spent in initial training, then two weeks a year, four times.  The secret service agents we have spoken to about this have either got combat experience, law enforcement experience, or both.  They all said pretty much what you did.  It almost has me convinced.  These guys are very much action-oriented though – that might save my life someday, but also makes me a little wary of how they might be considering this problem.”  She tilted her head ever so slightly, adding a question to the end with body language.  ‘Can you convince me?’ but in body language.

I thought about it for a moment.  “Mrs. President, I think that if you were to send out the data you collected, and assign targets for arrest rather than assassination, you would have a very high success rate.  The US is in a state of martial law, the traitors were conspiring to commit genocide, and the result of that genocide would have included the deaths of almost everyone in the US who have no symbiotes.  There’s no way that couldn’t be considered treason.  They would all face military justice rather than civilian justice, which has always been something of a joke when being applied against the wealthy and well-connected. The people you have been planning to contact would be extremely unhappy with genocidal traitors.  I would also strongly suggest dissolving the Economic Consulate and reverting the constitution to what it was before the whole symbiote mess started.  From what I saw, after the treason sweep, there will be two Consulate officers left.”

“Mr. Benson, in regards to the Consulate, don’t try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.  I know power politics.  The Consulate started out as nothing more than a reward to highly influential industry moguls who threw in with us when we were nationalizing everything.  Since then it’s been gathering power at a frightening rate.  It will definitely be going away if the sweep works.”

“After you clear away all the rest of the mess, what will the stance of the US be with regards to symbiotes?”

“A few executive orders here, a few executive orders there, and organizations who attempt to enforce anti symbiote regulations will somehow find themselves experiencing difficulty in various ways.  Getting the actual laws repealed shouldn’t be that hard, but it will take time, we’ll need to handle a lot of special elections.”

“If it’s any consolation to you, Mrs. President, I have the same list of targets that your people do, and I would be more than willing to back them up, though I would need to do it remotely, as US troops wouldn’t stand for me to be around them, for the most part.  Triangulating the presence of a target in a building and aiming a Patton’s cannon is doable, for example.  That’s an extreme example, but within my capabilities.  In other words, if your people think they might have problems, I’d be more than willing to help, as long as they have internet or phone data access.  I can monitor them all individually, as well as all their targets individually.  Military officers, politicians, and big money movers and shakers are never far from a data connection.”

She looked at me for a few seconds, then nodded.  “I’m in something of a box right now anyway.  There’s a vote happening right now to initiate another constitutional amendment to remove the Executive branch and give all its functions to the Economic Consulate.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  It will fail today, but they will have the bribes set up by next week for a passing vote.”

“You still have the legal authority to have the military act domestically in a state of martial law, correct?”

“Sure, and even if I didn’t, with the help you are offering and with you being here talking to me right now to prove your capabilities, I’d activate this program anyway at this point.  It would still happen, though some wouldn’t act, most would.  The only question in my mind was how successful they would be.”  She paused, and reached a decision.  “One of the things that your psyche profile indicates rather clearly is that you will do what you say you will do, and you rarely ever claim to be able to do things you can’t.”

She pulled out a keyboard and waved a holographic screen to active state, and started typing in a long series of commands.

“OK Bob, It’s been activated.  Help my people do what they need to do.”

I rapidly laid out thirty more connections from the Alabama highway monitoring network to the internet at different locations near highways using the birds and spiders.  I then turned my attention to fragmenting myself three hundred fourteen ways, leaving twenty percent of my capacity with my body to interface with my biological brain and provide communications between the different fragments of self.  One hundred fifty seven pairs of me going to help in one hundred fifty seven arrests over the next hour.  One for each target, one for each group going after a target.  The military ended up bringing one hundred and fifty-five of the targets in.  Two of the targets were the victims of strange malfunctions by press ganger drones, which went out of control and struck the heads of the prisoners with enough force to kill.  Finding kiddie porn on their household computers was almost enough.  That would have been ten people.  Doing a body identification on the adults in the kiddie porn based on hair patterns, scarring, skin tone, and bone measurements compared to backgrounds in the images and drawing a definitive match to two of the targets?  Yes, that was enough.

There were several witnesses to what I did to help, but I had managed to stagger my activities in such a way that it was plausible I had been watching everything, but acting only sparingly, never simultaneously.  That level of activity was not far outside the range of what I would be able to do, if I were limited to an architecture based on the processes I had given Mouse.

Eleven of the arrested managed to escape firing squads and merely serve one hundred year sentences.  There were a few who were on my personal list who were not involved in the treasonous activity.  They were just reactionary, bigoted, and ignorant.  After seeing what some of the ones on the President’s list had done, I really didn’t think they were worth killing anymore, so I marked them off my list.  Jason and I got immediate Presidential pardons for our activities on US soil, which was a whole lot bigger of a deal to me than I imagined it would be.

The US constitution was reverted to what it had been before I started the whole mess.  There were bound to be a whole bunch more changes as well in the next few months.  There were a great many people from the ‘Greatest Generation’ who were now extremely interested in politics again, since they had the bodies of young men and women, and the experience of many decades of life.  They had been extremely unhappy with crony capitalism when it was screwing them over late in life.  I didn’t see the US shaping back up to what it had been before.  Science fiction had certainly explored the societal impact of immortality enough times, the experience of age and the bodies of youth.  I thought it would be interesting to see it for real.

Reintegrating three hundred and fourteen fragments of myself ended up being a real challenge.  I would have to be very careful with that in the future.  I had a splitting headache for two days, and my biological brain spent about ninety percent of its time in a sleep state for three days.  Sure, I could have turned off the pain of the headache, but that’s really only smart if you know what’s causing the pain, or if you are in a fight.  In this case I had neither.  I used the pain to learn just a little more about brain function, analyzing it from the non biological parts of my intelligence.

I managed to arrange for a flight from Mexico to Australia after paying my way by teaching a few Mexican government symbiotes how to create slightly more efficient biofactories and biocomputers.  When I arrived in Australia, and finally cleared customs, I didn’t bother with trying to find a vehicle, I just connected the carbon fiber muscles, and activated the superconducting capacitors, and started to run.  We were thirty kilometers outside the airport, forty along the roads.  I saw a lot of people watching me carefully as I ran.  There would be a lot of questions.  Running over one hundred twenty kilometers per hour was not something that unmodified human host symbiotes could do, and modified ones couldn’t do it for long.  I was doing it while looking human, no chicken legs, and I ran that way for forty kilometers.  I set aside a bit of processing power to calculate the least complex self-modifications that would be required to allow a symbiote to duplicate my running.  At least I was wearing a backpack.  I could work that in, and make it work without having to explain boiling water temperature superconducting capacitors.

As I got closer to the house I summoned the Franks into the virtual space where I could interact with them visually.

“Please don’t let me interfere with Danielle like I did Mouse, guys.  Alienating my wife’s symbiote would be pure hell.”

They looked at each other and nodded, then gave a thumbs up and faded out again.

Since I was using the pure carbon nanotube muscles to run instead of biological muscle, I wasn’t even breathing hard when I arrived at the gate and let myself in, hearing the little bell in the house that announced a visitor opening the gate.  I started walking towards the house, wondering how exactly I would be received, since I had intentionally not called her to let her know I was coming home.

I saw her coming but pretended not to see her, she was being extraordinarily quiet as she ran along a hedge she had planted a few years ago.  I was almost halfway to the front door when she exploded past the end of the hedgerow at me and I turned to catch her, tickling her right below the rib cage on the right side with my left hand as she hit me in the belly button with her right shoulder, and knocked me to the ground.  She rolled off me, to her feet, breaking contact with my tickling finger.

“No phone call?  Really?  You’re grounded.  Three days.”  Then she grabbed my collar and started dragging me towards the house.

“Can’t we talk about this?”

“Nope.”

She looked down at me as she dragged me across the grass towards the front door.

“You’ve put on weight.”

“The jeans, do they make me look fat?” I asked her, pointing at my thighs.

“You’re taller than I’ve ever seen you too.  You and Frank alter your agreement on your body?”

“A lot happened in the last few months.”

“How bad was it, Bob?”

“Some of it was pretty bad.  I’ll definitely be wanting to talk a lot over with you.  Thank you for the message you left with Frank.  It was really needed.”

She looked at me sadly.

I jumped up and tossed her over my shoulder as she yelped in surprise.  I then carefully ran across the yard almost to the front steps before I set her back on her feet and let myself fall back to the ground, and placed her hand on my collar again.

“Sorry, we got distracted there.  Something about me being a bad boy and you needing a spanking?”

“I missed you so much, Bob.”

I kipped up to my feet and turned around to take her hands into mine.

“I missed you too, Ayva.”

We just stood there looking at each other for a while then walked slowly into the house, sides touching, my left arm reaching around behind her back to hold her close, and her right arm behind my back, holding me close.

I kicked the door shut with my heel.  There were some seriously snoopy people in the world who wouldn’t hesitate to try to watch what was about to happen.

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27 comments

  1. C. Coyote

    Heh, I should be asleep.

    A symbiote pair is so far beyond out best soldiers that we could..
    Our – I think. =]

    Also somewhat further down there is few sentences where the word – power – shows up five or so times, at least one of them feels superfluous to me. Specifically in the scene where Madam President explains the congruential state of the American governmental system.

    • farmerbob1

      Fixed the typo.
      I also looked at my abuse of power. A lot of those uses were directly swappable with the word influence with little or no change in meaning. Some bits got a little rewriting to organize them a bit better. “Power” doesn’t show up so much now.

  2. somedude

    Hey there, some interesting developments lately I see that you seem to be about to delve a bit deeper into quantum physics, I’m not sure what your science background is but i thought this sit might be of interest as a resource to help you create your super-science, if your not already aware of it

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/r5/the_quantum_physics_sequence/

    also if you want to check other sections of lesswrong for ideas on theoretical ramifications to a persons psychology from massive symbiote mental reengineering, there might be interesting stuff, anyway, your story is really neat and i hope you keep it up!

    • farmerbob1

      Bob does NOT like where he is right now. He’s not going to be fooling around with quantum physics for long. Exactly how he “fixes” himself is not fully determined yet, but there are two very important things he needs to do before he can even consider giving up his ability to function at his current level.

      What you are seeing in the first three books, perhaps the first four (still pondering that) is world building. Establishing first meetings with other characters, and a tone for their relationship. Give a very vague idea of what’s happening in the world, and create reasons for a LOT of people to both like and dislike Bob for what he’s done.

      The world building books are also a playground for me to experiment with different things, and try to learn what people respond to, and what they don’t.

      When I start actually writing in the “stable” world I want, it’s going to be more of a noir style, bringing the other characters that we bumped up against in these books into the spotlight again.

      Writing about things I don’t know well enough to write about tends to create weak chapters. While learning is fundamental, I prefer writing, and collecting nuggets as I need them to fill in the blanks between things I do understand well enough to write about 🙂

  3. underwhelmingforce

    Hmm… Some really good stuff, but…

    Bob doesn’t DO anything! He just sits there and hacks the US government with his mind. And it’s all glossed over in just a few narrative paragraphs that would have covered been three or four arcs for me, and he’s never even in danger. I keep waiting for you to get to the main conflict, and then it resolves without a hitch. I think by now it’s been established that Bob can bend the world to his will and bring governments to their knees just by thinking about them funny.

    For crying out loud, he basically arrests all of congress while sitting on the toilet (I actually don’t know where he is- you never say.) there’s no excitement here for me.

    Also, an amendment? I advise you research the amendment process- it takes 3/4 of state legislatures to even propose an amendment, and I somehow doubt congress could pull that off in an obvious legislative power grab. There are provisions against legislative tyranny built into the body of the constitution that don’t give up that easily.

    If the data is offline, have him visit the data center- show off his new capabilities and actually put him in a bit of danger. If he needs to talk to someone, have him actually pay a visit. If he’s hacking the most secure data center in the country, have someone notice! Make some drama! It’s just too easy for Bob. This just isn’t a satisfying conclusion to what is the biggest major conflict in the story to date.

    Okay, now that I’m done being way too overly critical, I’m sorry if that was a bit harsh. I really like your characters and the concept is great, but I think you need to decide what the real conflict in your story is and stick with it, or at least see it through to a satisfying conclusion.

    • underwhelmingforce

      Oh, and sorry for any negative mojo. It’s your story, and it is, frankly, really awesome. I have no end of respect for you and your work, but we can all improve, ya know? That’s why we keep at it.

      • somedude

        there has been a fair amount of danger so far though I can understand what you mean about super Frank and ride along Bob, I think the author is still feeling out his style and voice at the moment ( I hope that didn’t sound condescending and any post i make should read with the understanding that though i read ALOT I am by no stretch an author…. also your story is awsome and your posting schedule is hard to believe ) and seems like he is beginning to address the issue off Bob being so passive in his own narrative. Iv been thinking that the real conflict will come when human pairs start interacting with far more advanced alien pairs and perhaps if or when they delve into the origin of symbiotes.

        • farmerbob1

          Not only did you not seem condescending, you are mostly right. I’m planning on moving more towards a noir future though, not a galactic community future. Aliens will certainly pop up every now and then, and I do plan on humanity moving out into the solar system a bit, but not outside that. In this universe, there is no FTL, and high fractions of light speed require absurd infrastructure building. When I’ve actually started writing in the world these books are building, almost all of Bob’s interactions will be with symbiote pairs, or people without symbiotes. That’s one reason why allowing him to keep his current abilities is untenable.

      • farmerbob1

        Yup. I encourage fruit throwing 🙂

        Understanding what demotivates and annoys people is almost as important as understanding what motivates people.

        Also, to address the topic of constitutional amendments, there are two ways to do it. One requires a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate, the other would be the constitutional convention called by 2/3 of state legislatures. You calling me out on that made me reread that section though, and it definitely needed work.

        http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/

    • farmerbob1

      You make some valid points here. This was me experimenting with Bob in “cyberspace”. I can at least go back and create a couple more places where he interacts with the real world during the narrative though.

      Bob doesn’t like the way he is right now. I think you might be identifying with Bob a lot more strongly than you think 🙂

      I’ve been trying to make it clear in the narrative that he’s unhappy. He’s not losing his mind over it, and he’s not going to suicide or anything, but he’s certainly going to make some changes. Soon.

      • underwhelmingforce

        The cyberspace stuff is good, don’t get me wrong, but it totally removes him from any danger, and that’s what I don’t like.

        You’re probably right, though I think it could use a few more overt references to Bob being uncomfortable with it. Might just be me.

        • farmerbob1

          I plan on doing a significant installation of Bob’s thoughts on the matter tonight.

          I’ve also figured out how the whole enhanced abilities thing will be addressed.

          Meh, You made me think about it more than one chapter ahead, LOL.

  4. farmerbob1

    I’ll definitely be looking at this stuff tomorrow after work. Lots of valid-looking criticism here.

    I’m not afraid of a chapter rewrite if it comes to that.

    I’ll definitely have to look again on the constitutional amendment issue. I thought I remembered there being one method the governors could initiate, and another that the congress could.

    As for Quantum stuff? Most of that will be going away soon. Bob doesn’t like being Bob^2 but there are at least two things he needs to handle before he figures out how to retain/regain his humanity.

  5. farmerbob1

    Done with first pass edits to resolve several very legitimate issues. Please let me know if I made things worse or better 🙂
    If you haven’t read it before now, let me know what you think!

  6. somedude

    Ah the world building makes sense then, though I do have to say Bobs behavior seems pretty consistent with the past so much so that I didn’t realize he was having problems adjusting to his altered mental state and I feel like that should be very apparent in a POV character.With that last bit of crticism I would again like to point out how much i enjoy your writing and not because its free ( though that IS pretty awsome ). It keeps suprising me since i discovered web serials how so often if they aren’t as good as published books its because they are in fact better, which is kind of ironic since I discovered them through amazon self published novels, which though cheep almost always suck… ALOT.

    • farmerbob1

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m hoping the chapters today will help explain Bob a bit better.

      In the interest of surprising nobody, I will tell you that my plans are to never accept donations, but I do plan on having a link to buy e-books instead. Maybe I’m just a bit weird but asking people to just give me money makes me nervous. I’d rather give people something in exchange for anything they give to me. Even if that something is a just a couple e-books that they can immediately delete or whatever if they don’t want them.

      I’m off. Need to start writing. I’ve never actually committed to two chapters in a day before, it’s always just happened. But I feel good about today, since I know what I want to do, and it shouldn’t require too much research.

  7. rosedragon

    The whole thing about Bob’s changes caught my interest and speed up my reading again to this part. Is this the second time he escape death? The others are right about the whole solving US problems feels rushed…

    I got idea: Maybe the president and husband are very much understand how internet and computer connected to internet pretty much insecure as even normal human hackers are advance and thus the data is both passed on digital and convetional. And for the president to easily forgive and trust Bob is also debateable… there are many possibilities here I think? Like maybe Bob struggles with his new situation even more and feels that he and Frank have been mostly killing.. and then a chance arise (probably a riot from the satellites destruction)to save people and somehow that opened a way to track the conventional data transfer?

    Also, isn’t Bob’s mom alive? Where is she now?

    • farmerbob1

      This chapter was somewhat rushed, and was intended to be, to some degree. I was trying to create the impression that Bob is starting to work at extremely high levels, resolving issues and solving problems rapidly and with little effort, with the only time consuming parts being when he had to deal with people.

      One has to be somewhat careful when writing a story that people who know them (and who have been told where to find the story) will recognize as an author surrogate story.
      Bob’s mother and brothers are just fine, and may get mentioned from time to time in passing in future books, but nothing exciting is likely to happen to them. 🙂

  8. ssgamedev

    Mr. Donner held up the phone and scanned the whole room, inviting me to direct him to direct him if there was anything I needed to see. There was not.
    Direct him is doubled

    I had a splitting headache for two days, and my biological brain spend about ninety percent of its time in a sleep state for three days.
    Spent

  9. Kunama

    *snigger* you could probably have avoided breaking the fourth wall there at the end. I’m still amused.

    “not self aware to the extent that if could do more than”
    that it could

    “As much as I hate…”
    Who is speaking in this paragraph?

    “firing quads”
    squads

    “Whether or not it would really be better?  Only one way to find that out – time will tell.”
    Tense, and possibly could be shortened for greater impact.

    • farmerbob1

      Thanks, there were a couple ways I could have ended it without breaking the fourth wall, but I couldn’t think of any that would work as well as the one I just thought up while I was making other corrections here.

      “I kicked the door shut with my heel. There were some seriously snoopy people in the world who wouldn’t hesitate to try to watch what was about to happen.”

  10. Jesp

    –The people you have the means to contact would be extremely unhappy with these folks who were planning on making war against the people who elected them into office. —
    The start of this sentence broke immersion for me cuz I had to go back and reread it to understand what it said. It’s a perfectly valid sentence. After analyzing it I realized that what I was having a problem with is the first 4 words: a “The people you have”. When I read those words my brain translated that as “Your people” but then it was followed by “the means” and an exception occurred. 🙂 I’m more than willing to believe that’s my problem but I thought I should at least mention it.

    I will agree with done of the other posters that it seemed a but rushed/non-climactic. It’s like driving up a mountain. Instead of reaching the summit, spending time there, and starting the journey down, you are whisked into Heaven wondering wtf-just-happened. It happens periodically in movies, too: build, build, build then wham!, it’s over, roll credits. Like they ran out of money and the studio told them they had to wrap it up now. I don’t know, I guess it’s just a pacing-thing.

    Anyhow, thanks for another great chapter! ^_^

    • farmerbob1

      That was an awkward sentence. Fixed.

      I was trying to do a lot in a short time, and probably should have spent a great deal more time doing it, but that’s what is called learning, and I was, and still am, learning a whole lot about writing. I have to be careful coming back to Symbiote for editing, because if I’m not careful, I’ll spend hours making change after change, adjusting things based on what I’ve learned since I last was here.

      Thank you for the compliments 🙂

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