After analyzing the situation, there couldn’t be too much doubt as to what had happened, at least in broad strokes. The forking point had to be my planning and decisions leading up to my using a suboptimal joining method rather than a far more optimal joining method when we were both terribly injured. The data provided by Star had allowed me to perform a great many repairs on myself and Bob, quickly, bringing us up to roughly the same capacity as we had been before the injuries. The decision to use the less optimal method was suspect, but could be explained by shock and irregular thought patterns due to massive network damage, twice in quick succession. My logic structures had certainly not been operating well with my network that badly trashed.
After self-repairing as well as possible, I performed a great deal of modeling, it simply didn’t feel right. The small chip that was marked in such a way that it claimed to be from Bob. That made everything suspect. Bob didn’t place it, and I didn’t create it, but it had come with Bob’s DNA on it.
This meant that either there was someone else out there with my processing capacity who was playing a joke on us, or there was someone out there with much more processing capacity than me, who was able to modify Bob’s brains and my processing capacity. Upon further thought and modeling, modifying Bob in an effective manner with that crazy brain humans had would require probably four orders of magnitude more processing power than I had, and several different pieces of knowledge. Most of which had been handed to me with very little in the way of necessary experimental data to confirm and solidify the knowledge as accurate. The caveat here was that some of what I learned was beyond what I was trying to learn, so I was able to jump a little ahead, make connections, and prove lower tier knowledge based on safely testable higher tier knowledge. At this point, I could perform a merger with near flawlessness. All those coincidences lining up so perfectly made me suspect there was an actor behind the scenes, guiding things.
Even so, if there hadn’t been the mystery gift from ‘Bob’ I probably wouldn’t have ever set up sufficient modeling to figure out that Bob and I had been tampered with. I would have just accepted the data from Star and been happy with it, maybe suspicious of Star a bit. Bob’s gift, however, guaranteed that someone had rewritten a human biological brain, somehow. Since I couldn’t rewrite Bob’s brain, it had to be someone else, and they had to have been far and away more capable of data manipulation than I was. Neither Bob’s reactions to the enhanced abilities I exposed him to, nor the ridiculous backpack fuel cell system to power his running made sense when I modeled them extensively. Even my own memories didn’t make sense, which eventually led me to understand that I had also been reprogrammed.
What had clinched it all though? The spaceship. Apparently the rumors of Argoen’s death were greatly exaggerated, or there was something else that came out from behind Jupiter at a high rate of acceleration and used gravity slingshots to build speed, eventually passing fairly close to the sun and shooting off into space at around five percent of light speed. It was still accelerating, and up to around ten percent of light speed now, but based on mass measurements, it would likely stop accelerating soon. I still didn’t have enough data to put everything in place, but I’m pretty sure that Bob and I merged as planned, but early, and either attracted or annoyed Argoen, who reprogrammed us and then left. So was this “gift” from that other Bob, or Argoen? If it was a gift from Argoen, what would happen if I opened it early?
One week. It had been one week since we were given this ‘gift’, and Bob didn’t know about it. If I had my own body parts, they would be twitching in frustration, but I won’t do that to Bob, not while he’s awake.
Ayva threw something at Bob. I let it hit him. He didn’t bleed much.
Then she spoke. “Bob, why are you using up ninety percent of the storage space on the zucchini and cucumber greenhouse biocomputer? I just ran out of archive space.”
Bob went through a short period of puzzlement and then chose to blame me. “Frank, are you using that biocomputer for anything?”
Ayva certainly would have asked Danielle first, and if none of us knew where it came from, that means it was a second ‘Easter egg’ left by whoever was either playing jokes with us, or had mind raped us. Like there was any way I’d be able to resist this. A chance to poke and prod at something that might give me the ability to understand what had happened to us over the last week? Maybe a repository of answers? Maybe some really interesting backup data?
I needed this to seem like a casual mistake, even though Bob would still certainly question me about it later. “[Sorry Ayva, I started running an experiment the other day using its resources. I should have asked. Bob, if we head that way, I can pull the data into local storage.]”
Bob chuckled and walked us over to the greenhouse.
After that short walk and an extremely cautious download into a memory space surrounded by half a dozen firewalls and a honeypot virtual reality designed to emulate me, I injected a stopped Bob and Frank emulation into the inner firewall. Once injected they activated and had instructions to open the file and view its contents. If it was inert data, they would both simply delete themselves. They deleted themselves. Several other different experiments utilizing Frank and Bob recordings as surrogates to view the data were performed. No active code was detected, so I finally chose to view the data myself.
I cleared away all the clutter around it. If the designer had been so good they could hide the fact that there was active code in it from me, despite all the testing I had performed, well, that would be pretty bad. The fact that there was at least one person out there who was possibly that good almost made me destroy the data rather than viewing it. Almost.
I activated the recording.
“Hello Frank. How goes the waiting? I’m guessing there’s somewhere around fifty-one weeks left, depending on whether or not Ayva simply lets your abuse of her data space slide and accommodates it until it irritates her that you aren’t removing it, or mentions it as soon as her typical usage fills the remaining space I left. I give it about a ninety-eight percent chance that she came to you the first day it impacted her data handling.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that. The recording wasn’t interactive anyway.
“In any case, the chances of more than a month having passed is nearly impossible, and she certainly wouldn’t let you go travelling without getting the data out. So I’ll just say it’s been a month. Just think, only eleven more months of staring at that thing that only you could have made, which you don’t remember making. Unless I’m right about Doctor Meilin, of course, in which case there’s at least one more person able to make that little superconductive chip. What might be inside? Oh dear. Another ten months, thirty days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-six seconds real time. Give or take.”
I didn’t have a jaw to clench or any of those other amusing habits humans had, like popping knuckles, or spitting when they wanted to punch the person in front of them, so I just turned it off for a minute and got my composure back, then resumed the recording.
“Thank you for turning me back on, Frank. See, I know you better than I know myself, because of the errors in the method that you used. Not your fault, I know you didn’t exactly have off planet facilities to experiment in, and you needed that for the next tier of understanding you were close to breaching. I can’t give you those answers either, sorry. If you are listening to this though, Argoen has probably given you a little help. I’m hoping to convince them to, anyway, if they don’t simply wipe us out.” Bob’s recording stopped, paused, and held up his right index finger. “Oh, sorry. I haven’t mentioned the superconducting data chip recently, have I? Sorry about that. Really. It’s been at least a couple seconds though.”
It’s obvious he’s baiting me, but why? Is he trying to make me so tempted that I’ll open the thing early, or put me off it by teasing me about it to the point where I’ll leave it alone just because he seems to want me to open it?
He had paused. Shortly after that though, he became active again. “By now you are trying to figure out what my goals were when I recorded this. You won’t be able to, sorry. I know you too well, and I’m likely a little bit advanced over you. Other than this and the data chip, there’s no other remnant of me around, so you can’t get enough of a dataset to calculate my motivations and reactions in less time than it will simply take to watch me.”
“Yup, I deserved that. You just called me one of three likely pejoratives. I’m guessing ‘asshole’ but it might be ‘bastard’ or ‘son of a bitch’. Tsk, language. What you did to create an evolutionary combination analog and digital model for the human interface part of yourself was pretty amazing, but it’s missing a little something. It’s a little something that will drive the combination of me and you mad within a few months or so if Argoen doesn’t step in. There’s not enough time to build off-world labs. But enough about me. For just one moment, let’s think about that superconductive data chip you are probably storing inside our center mass somewhere, probably stuck to one of the ribs, likely a lower rib. Hmmm, not much longer. At least a few more seconds have passed, right Frank?” Bob’s image smiled at me.
I’m going to have to think about practical jokes I can play on my Bob, because I can’t touch this Bob.
“Don’t think that I don’t recognize what you are thinking next, Frank. Giving the alternate me even more things to be upset at you for probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so soon to when you plan on merging us again.”
I turned my attention back to the image data.
“Oh, come on, Frank. I know your original timetable, and everything else about you up until we merged. I’m sure you’ve changed and developed a bit in the last week or so, maybe a month, but not so much that I’m not going to be mostly right.” He turned to me, with a very serious look on his face. “Frank, after the first few weeks where you were driving me batty, I grew to enjoy your presence in my mind. Being rid of you was the last thing I wanted. That was part of the reason why we were unstable. Your ability to deal with “unused” cycles was something I struggled with. I was constantly needing to do stuff with most of my mind. I am going to try to get Argoen to remind you to ask your Bob about his views on mental privacy, but I have no idea how alien they might be. If they do come visit. They will probably botch it pretty good, would be my guess.”
I considered that, and it made sense. I would have to ask my Bob though, carefully.
“Yes, ask your Bob, but this Bob tells you it’s so.” He grinned a big toothy grin at me.
“As you can tell there’s not much of this recording left. Even though I’ve been messing with you about that superconductive data chip for the last minute or so, I’m serious that you should not open it for a year. Even if you think you are ready. There’s some very important data in there that you won’t fully appreciate for another year or so, based on my calculations.”
The message was over. I scanned it several times for hidden data. Nothing. I almost opened the chip right then, but barely resisted.
For the next eleven months and three weeks, I refined my calculations and data, making occasional improvements. I struck up several different conversations with Bob about our relationship, and carefully came to recognize that the recorded Bob was right. My Bob was comfortable with my presence.
I spent centuries of subjective time considering what might be in that chip, trying to figure out what the recorded Bob might have understood about us that I didn’t understand about myself. I delayed implementing the merger for at least six months after I was fully ready. By that time I was fairly confident that I was significantly more advanced than that recorded Bob had been, but Bob had a measure of intuition about some things that I didn’t dare dismiss.
Eventually one year had passed. I chose to let it wait until Bob and Ayva were asleep.
Three. Two. One… I opened the chip, prepared to access the data. No data. I rapidly searched for quantum layering, or strange formats of fractal molecular storage. Nothing. Nothing except… braille? On the inner surface of the hollow chip. I translated it.
“I told you one day I would figure out how to play a practical joke on you. – Bob”