Chapter 4.4: The Other Bob

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Wow.  Millions of battery charges against me.  Glad it wasn’t actually me responsible for them.

Kirk interrupted my feelings of safety.  “Based on what you told me earlier, I know what you are thinking Bob.  Don’t think that yet.  Not until we establish some things.”

I could think of several things he might mean, but law wasn’t my thing, or Frank’s, and we weren’t familiar with all the ins and outs.  “OK, what do we need to establish.”

“First, we need to establish that B is an independent entity.  Then we need to establish that he was responsible for the injuries, and lastly we have to establish that you did not collaborate with him to hurt people.”

“I *might* be able to convince him to manifest in some way that would prove his intelligence, if he’s in a good mood.  If so, he would almost certainly agree that he was the cause of the injuries.  He was clear to point out he wasn’t responsible for the actions that led to Frank and I being attacked, but I can’t imagine he would dodge responsibility for the rest.”

“What about collaborating?”

“I don’t know, Kirk. When B was generated, Frank and I worked out the rules that he had to follow.  We’ve already spoken to him about this, and he pointed out one of the rules that we set which pretty much required him to do this reality modification when he gained the power.  ‘When someone is in the virtual world, the experiences are to be as real as possible.’ Would that be grounds for collaboration?”

“You and Frank created those rules, and B is forced to live by them?”

“Yes.  If I understood him right, B indicated that there would be a strong chance of a human extinction event if he tried to change his rules when he has this much power invested in the simulation and the infrastructure required to enforce the reality rule.  Not exactly something to try, just to see what happens.”

“Presuming it couldn’t be proven that you wanted this to happen, it would be a class action battery by negligence case against you.  What about adding rules, Bob?  Could B add more rules?”

“I’m sure he could add rules.”

Frank broke in. “[Chances of that happening are slim.  B isn’t really a deity, but he’s already restricted in many ways by the rules we created for him.  He will not appreciate the idea of further limitations placed upon him unless you have a flawless argument, and it didn’t restrict him from doing things that he wanted to do.]”

“Is he really as powerful as you say?”

“Yes, Kirk.  Probably more powerful than we can really give you an appreciation for.  I doubt there is anything on Earth that could threaten him at this point.  He’s performed battery on millions of symbiotes in the last day as part of his normal activities of running his virtual world.  He can reprogram matter on a mass scale.  It’s hard for me to imagine what B can do with that ability alone, and I helped design him only one year ago.”

“Did you two think about what you were doing?  Super geniuses or whatever you might be, but didn’t creating a baby god from your combined intelligences seem like it might just have some potential downside to it, considering your histories?”  Kirk was a little upset at us, and Jaws was running full out, probably helping to give Kirk ammunition.

“We didn’t have much choice, really.  Once you get to a certain development level, you need to merge to keep growing.  The problem is that the human mind can’t really deal with being in charge of so much computing power – but we still needed to merge to advance.”

“So you merged, and split off the insane part of yourselves into a baby god, then tried to keep it under control with a few rules.  Nothing bad could come from that, I’m sure.”

“Ah, actually, we, umm, gave it the saner parts.  The calmer parts and the homebody parts too.  We kept the fun stuff.”  I smiled broadly.

Kirk held up his hands as either he or Jaws realized I had been playing with them.  “Sorry, I walked right into that.”

“Yes.  Yes, you did.  At the same time, part of what I said is true.  The human mind can only deal with so much processing power before it gets bored and starts to assign work to itself based on whims.  The more advanced the human is, the more dangerous that can be.  If it only takes you a quarter of a second to create a self-perpetuating virus while you are in a big crowd, you don’t have to stay mad for long.”  I shuddered in memory.  There had been a couple close calls that I could remember.  Probably a few I couldn’t remember.

“So, somehow, you two managed to get around that, by creating B?”

“Yes.  We created B, and he was able to help us healthily isolate ourselves from each other a few days later.  Frank and I now share processing power, but Frank has control of all the idle processing power.  I can access processing power, but only when I need it for a task.  Symbiotes don’t have issues with finding ‘interesting’ things to do with processing power.  They will happily study quantum theories and tinker with processing and storage technologies to improve themselves, so you hand them lots of processing power and it’s not inherently dangerous.”

“So you created B, in a way that you calculated would result in a stable being, then had it help you modify yourself to some degree in its image?”

“Exactly.  We were not able to properly self-modify.  It was too complex a solution.  We needed a being with a lot more powerful capacity than us, to help us.”

“OK you two.  I know enough now to start working on a defense, I think.  How much does Ayva know about all this?”

“She’s a good bit behind us on the development curve because she started later, but as far as all the basics and the issues with human mental issues with computing power, yes, she can help.  Ayva and Danielle were a lot more stable than us when they merged, but they still had issues, and they still needed help creating a stable merger.”

“So, B helped Ayva and Danielle as well?”

“We considered that, but one of the reasons we allowed ourselves to advance and create B to begin with was because people really needed two things.  Better resource management on Earth and more places to live.  Two extremely large problems, so we needed another being like B anyway.  We helped Ayva and Danielle create A, and A helped them with their own merger.”

“So there are two of these beings.  Where is A?  I haven’t heard anything about them.”

“Nothing to say yet, really.  Mars won’t be ready for quite a few more years, as I understand it.  That’s a big job, even for something like A or B.”  I shrugged.  Sort of.  Hard to shrug in the confinements of the chair I was in.

“Ayva’s entity, A, is terraforming Mars?” Kirk looked shocked.

“Yes.  The first few years is just setting up infrastructure.  Atmosphere converters, solar power plants, algae farms for biological needs.  Soil processing facilities and launch facilities.  Orbital facilities to bring down mass quantities of needed materials from the asteroid belt and elsewhere.  Particularly water.  Lots of water.  A couple gas giant moons might be gone before the need for water for Mars is sated, if there isn’t a lot more than we expect in the asteroid belt.  There’s no need for humans over there now, and the things A is doing wouldn’t be immediately obvious to us from here without very careful observation.  The things she’s building over there are absurdly huge on a human scale, but on a planetary scale, not so much.”

“How did it get there?”

“A and B worked it out.  We didn’t get consulted on the mechanics.  A was a lot smaller than B is now though, and designed herself for operations on Mars almost from the beginning.  I suspect they moved her there by gravity manipulation.  It wasn’t important for us to know.  We asked, they ignored us.”

“OK, I’m going to go talk to some people.  Make some plans.  See if I can get you out of here because we need you to talk to B about adding rules.”


Ayva heard three cars pull up.  She stood from her workstation where she had been working on a particularly promising strain that was able to produce useful proteins that were easily digestible.  Making a mental note, she walked downstairs to the front door, and looked out the window next to the door.  A midrange luxury vehicle with off-road capability, a government sedan, and a government van.

She looked at the van again.  Not a prisoner transport van, so they probably weren’t here to take her into custody.  Then she saw who was getting out from behind the seat of the non-government vehicle, which had parked where it was visible from the door, unlike the other two.

She opened the door and walked out.  “Kirk!  Glad you made it here safely.  How are your father and mother?”

“They’re fine.  Still content with the drip rather than a symbiote though.  Dad’s been leaning on Jaws a bit from time to time for help with data analysis of underground seismic readings though, and Jaws has been right on the money, so I suspect he will take you up on the offer soon.  He’s starting to have problems keeping up with a couple of his competitors who have symbiotes to help them with their drilling operations.  Mom has been watching me very closely for the last few months and is satisfied by now, I think, that she will be able to stay ‘herself’ with a symbiote.  If one of them accepts a symbiote, they both will.  Probably at the same time.”

“That would be wonderful, Kirk.  All they need to do is call me, and we’ll make it happen.”

“They have your number, Ayva.  You will probably be hearing from them soon.”

“Great.  However, I see you brought some company who I do not recognize.  Oh, and some company I do recognize, I know those scents.”

“Colonel Gantt pulled a couple strings to get some people to listen to me after Bob explained about A and B.  That was enough to introduce me to Alice.  I believe you know Albert as well.”

Ayva’s mouth twitched.  Albert.  Animal’s real name.  She’d never heard him respond to that name before.

Ayva walked out towards the driveway so she could see all three vehicles where they had parked, and their occupants.  Animal… Albert, was the driver of the van, and Alice the passenger.  Four random suits in the sedan.  Two symbiote pairs and two humans with cybernetic enhancements and regeneration drips.  The four random agents walked over to Alice and spoke to her, briefly.  Then the four of them walked over towards Ayva, and stood patiently a few feet away, waiting for everyone else to do whatever they were going to do.  Alice and Anim… Albert turned and waved as Ayva walked into their line of sight, and continued pulling a few small items out of the van before joining Kirk and Ayva.

There were a few reasons why they might be here.  Almost all of them related to Bob, A, B or Ayva.  Ayva decided it was best to let them tell her the specifics, rather than guessing.

“I’m guessing that you aren’t here for tea and a chat, Kirk.  How can I help?”

“Ayva, Bob’s said some pretty incredible things.  I know you are aware of what happened with Bob and Frank yesterday, but are you aware of what’s happening with the charges against him?”

“No, I was expecting an update from you on that.  I’ve not been watching the news or answering calls.  Just getting some work done while I wait for useful information not distorted by public opinion or whatever.”

As Ayva finished saying that, Alice smiled.  “I told this young man that you were probably not stressing over it.  To his benefit, he mostly believed me.”

Alice walked up and briefly hugged Ayva, her shoulder bag bumping between them, then Ayva greeted Albert as well, with a similar friendly hug.  (Albert HA!)

“So how are you four doing, Alice, Code, Albert, Statler?”

Alice replied first.  “Code and I are doing fine here.”

Albert replied after Alice had finished.  “Statler and I are doing well here as well.  How about you two?”

“Other than Bob and Frank getting hauled down to the jail yesterday, everything’s been good.”

Kirk cleared his throat.  “Sorry to interrupt the reunion.” He did look embarrassed. “This is fairly important.  We need to validate some claims and, if everything we have learned is accurate, we need to work with you to try to get B to accept a new rule.”

“It sounds like Bob explained more than I expected him to.  Come inside, we can sit comfortably while we talk.”

The four escorts for Alice and Albert remained outside.  Ayva allowed them access to the grounds, and asked Danielle to create a few sparrows and watch the outdoor guests that were unknowns.  A small utility biofactory in what would have been a laundry facility in another home managed that in short order, and the small birds made their way out the dryer’s vent in the wall.

Everyone was seated around the table after water, hot tea, sweet tea, orange juice, and coffee were offered.  Ayva brought in a small platter of crackers and a port wine cheese ball, in case anyone was a bit hungry, and placed it on the table, then sat down to join them.

After Ayva finished pouring herself a coffee and preparing it, Kirk spoke again. “B is hurting a lot of people due to the rules Bob and Frank created for him.  Right now those charges are piling up on Bob and Frank, because B isn’t a verified intelligence yet.”  He looked at his smartphone. “Over ten million battery cases now, and fourteen charges of murder.”

Ayva stiffened.  “Ouch.  So you need to verify B is what Bob and Frank say he is, then try to convince B to add a rule to his rule set.”

Ayva spoke to Danielle internally.  “Ten million battery cases?  Fourteen murders?  Danielle, can you start pinging A to see if you can get her attention?”

Danielle responded.  “Yes.  I’ll see if I can initiate a discussion.”

Ayva spoke externally to the others.  “So, what do you need from me first?”

“Can you demonstrate the ability to program matter?  That seems to be the mechanism which B is using to injure people outside of the world.  If we can demonstrate that, it’s a foundation we can use for others to understand what’s going on.”

“Sure.  But it takes a huge amount of power, I’ll only be able to do it once, before recharging.  Alice and Albert, I’m guessing you have equipment to record what happens?  Did you bring samples of known materials that I can adjust?”

Alice spoke. “Exactly.  We’ll set up.  Do you have a heavy tablecloth to put on your table?  Hard corners on the sample tray and recording device frames.  Don’t want to scratch the surface.”

“Nothing I can’t make Bob fix later, I’m sure. He likes things to do with his hands when he’s thinking.” Ayva replied with a smile.

Alice shrugged and then she pulled a sample case out of her shoulder bag and placed it carefully on the table.

Albert started removing devices from his camera bag, setting them carefully on the table and attaching them to the base of the sample case.

After a couple minutes they were ready.

Alice set a tablet computer on the table and linked it to the sample tray and the recording equipment, then spoke.  “Code could do most of this without the equipment,” she said as she waved her hands at the machinery on the table, “but this data has to be acceptable to non-paired humans as well.”

“I understand, Alice.  Where would you like to start?  Talk me through what you would like me to do.”

“The first thing, Ayva, is something that should cost you very little power.  Simply identify the component materials of each of the ten pure samples.”

“None of the samples are pure.”

Alice smiled.  “Tell us what they are made of then.”

A lengthy description of each sample took place, including hidden internal geometries and gasses trapped in pockets, etcetera.

“Choose one, make a change, and tell us what you have done, Ayva.”

“OK, sample number three, the lead sample with the pearl suspended in it.  I will change its surface to a golden color for a depth of twenty atoms.  It won’t actually be gold, just the color gold.”

“Will this create any harmful radiation?” Kirk looked nervous.

“No, that’s why I’m not actually turning it into gold.  Modifying the atomic structure like that would release energy.  I’m modifying the way some of the lead interacts with light instead.”

Ayva looked at all the others, and their symbiotes were all heavily processing.  She grinned, then made the change.  It drained almost her entire reserve off the capacitors.

The other three just stared at the tiny lead block which was now gold colored on top.  Alice tapped on her tablet computer, and turned it off, then tapped Albert on his arm, and he started to disassemble the sensors carefully, repacking them.

Kirk turned to Ayva.  “Bob mentioned that you and he had been in discussion about the timing for releasing the optimized operating system he uses, which we understand you also use.”

“Yes, and if you three want to learn it, I’ll be happy to teach it.  If Bob told you about the matter reprogramming, he certainly wouldn’t hold back the operating system.”

Ayva had always enjoyed teaching, and all three of her students learned quickly.  Statler had a slightly different perspective on node operation than the other symbiotes, due to the fact that he was one of the pairs who had been subjected to the grey matter process the ‘Recovery’ group had been using to protect themselves from the Berserker Code.  It was quickly resolved though, and he was soon able to keep up with the others as Ayva led them through the process of modifying their operating systems.

Ayva sat and grinned after all three of them had completed the final process.  She watched their storage nodes start to show quantum processing activity.

Kirk spoke first “Jaws says ‘thank you’, Ayva.  He’s a bit excited right now though.”

Albert and Alice both nodded and agreed.  Code and Statler were similarly distracted with organizing themselves.

“Well, in a few minutes, your symbiotes should be stable after reorganizing themselves, and we can discuss how we’re going to try to reach out to B.”

Danielle spoke to Ayva internally. “I spoke to A while you were teaching the others about node modification, and told her what was happening.  She said she would speak to B.”

Ayva shared the news. “Some good news perhaps.  Danielle was able to engage A, and A agreed to talk to B after Danielle explained what was happening with Bob and the law.”

At that moment, there was a knock on the door, followed by someone letting themselves in.  It was Bob.

Everyone else was a bit stunned.  Ayva was just puzzled.  Why had Bob knocked?

Kirk started to grow angry, and started speaking.  “Bob, I told you to stay put even if there was an opportunity for you to escape, unless you were in deadly danger.  You’ve almost certainly just added huge complications to your case.”

Bob smiled at Kirk.  “I’m not Bob, I’m B.  I was told by A, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to speak with you folks about some real world problems, or else I’d be in trouble.  Here I am.  Let’s talk.”

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  1. underwhelmingforce

    Woah, that’s neat. Terraforming mars, pretty sweet.

    So one thing that I’ve noticed, for better or for worse, is that you’re going really fast. I keep expecting the story to settle down, but then there’s another timeskip. This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, but it’s not at all what I’m used to. It gives the feeling that this isn’t so much a story as a history book, recounting the most important events and skimming over the day-to-day stuff. This does mean that stuff changes a lot though, which is a wee bit disconcerting.

  2. ssgamedev

    “Alice Smiled.
    Quote in wrong spot
    Wordpress mobile didn’t let me copy the full segment, so hopefully that’s enough to find it with.
    Interesting to see the B avatar, looking forward to the next chapter

    • farmerbob1

      Fixed the quote error. Thanks!

      Seeing the Avatar of B will be a rare thing. He really isn’t comfortable talking with humans. Same with A. But A is more willing to talk, in general, and the relationship between A and B is strong. Kirk will pick up on that next chapter and tease B about it a bit.

  3. Carly

    The story just gets better and better! I never know where you’re going and love being along for the ride… Noticed this:

    “No, that’s why I’m not actually turning into gold.
    I’m guessing that should be – turning “it” into gold.

  4. Kunama

    “His projects are a lot more hands-off than mine are. He likes things to do with his hands when he’s thinking”
    Maybe I’m misunderstanding what she’s trying to say here, but those two sentences seem to directly contradict each other?

    ” Code could do most of this without the equipment, she waved her hands at the machinery on the table,”
    without the equipment,” she said, waving her hands… , “But this data

    “I understand Alice”
    understand, Alice

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