Divide and conquer

I see the surprise on the faces of everyone around me. Save for those who look… bored. I don’t really get how you could be bored in the middle of the excursion. I’m not bored.

Lanky guy looks a little disbelieving.

“What?” Lanky guy says.

“You heard me. I’ll send the-”

“No need. Any details?”

I shake my head, a little annoyed.

“All I can tell is that there is something the size of a scout ship tunneling underneath us, going,” I point in the direction opposite to the mountains. “That way.”

Lanky guy frowns.

“I have a suspicion about what it might be…” He says.

“Spill,” High-pitched-voice says.

I nod.

“We can do with any information.”

“I remember finding special drones that were deployed from space… their purpose is pretty unclear, but I know they can tunnel. And they’re roughly the size of scout ships. They seek out energy sources when they’re running low on fuel and they have a lot of weapons packed into them. I’m guessing they’re used to sabotage cities.”

I hum.

“So, is it a threat?” Can’t-speak-properly says.

He shakes his head.

“Unlikely.”

“So…” High-pitched-voice says.

“We split,” Evert says. “But first, we need to know specializations and quantity.”

I nod.

“We send the data to best Tactician here.” I look around. “So, all Tacticians… come forward.”

Six individuals move past the crowd, some hesitant. Lizandra not one of them, though she glares at me. Annoying.

Four of them are guys, and two of them are girls. Lizandra, a green-haired tall guy, and a plump boy seem pretty confident.

“How do we know who’s the best?” Lanky guy says.

I turn and look at him.

“We don’t. They do,” I nod at the group.

Heads turn to Lizandra. She looks a little smug.

“And what if they’re wrong?” Lanky guy says again.

“Low chance,” Evert says. “Besides, I know her. ” He smiles lopsidedly. “Hey, Lizandra.”

Lizandra shifts.

“Hi,” she says.

Hmm…

“What are we waiting for? Ping her with your specialties, people!” Lanky guy says.

I ping her with my qualifications.

Her eyes glaze over, as I assume other people give her their qualifications.

Eventually, she comes to and snaps at everyone.

“Signa, Hector, Garrett! Stand there! Deiza, Niklo, stand with them! Frao, Joy…”


 

She splits us into three groups. One stays at the base, one goes to the crack, and one simply wanders to other places some Builders pointed out. I’m in the group that stays. Backup.

Bleh.

Everyone in the same group is misfits. She put me here on purpose. I tried protesting but…

She said that somebody competent had to stay behind, to lead the group. And not only that—my qualifications were perfect for the job, as I could figure out exactly how to use the abilities of the people involved. That shut down any further argument from my side.

And so, I’m stuck here. The others are awkwardly chatting, some not awkwardly chatting as they might know each other, and others just hang around depressingly.

A few tried to approach me on occasion, but I replied with monosyllabic conversation, driving them away.

I sit under the shade of the drone. As do the others, but there is a noticeably large gap between me and any students. That’s fine—I can use the space to think.

Not that I have a lot of think about. I’m tempted to drift off… but that would mean I’m not alert, and that means incompetence. No way in hell am I going to be incompetent.

My skin is slowly heating up. The atmosphere is not very… comfortable, to say the least. And there’s another problem—water.

We didn’t bring any. I’m betting most here have implants that let them go without for three days… or heck, even a week, so that’s not much of a problem, really. What I’m worried about is if the excursion takes longer than that. Dehydration would certainly influence morale, and I have to watch out for that.

I feel a rumble in the ground. The first thing my mind goes to is the tunneller but then I see the heads of the students turn. I look back and see the ship we came in lift off.

Funny. Didn’t they say the ship would take off immediately after we left? I forgot about that, but now that I remember, I wonder why. Maybe a maintenance issue? Or something else?

Either way, it doesn’t matter.

I think about the tunneller. Lanky guy said that he assumed that the drone was meant for sabotaging cities, which leads me to wonder about why it was on an exploratory ship.

Did they pick it up somewhere? Or maybe the drone is from a ship that shot them down? If a ship shot them down, that is. The reason for the crash could be a number of things, best wait to find out.

“How long do we have to sit here?” A guy asks, miserable. He doesn’t have a lot of heat protection. I pity him.

“Until we hear from the others.”

He frowns but doesn’t ask anything. He slouches.

The was bad. I might have troble if an actual emergency arose.

Then I get a ping. I open the data packet.

We found the ship—or at least, a part of it. A Builder here, says that it’s more than half of it, and the rest is broken up into two pieces. There are signs of a fight inside the ship, seems to have happened a long time ago. Ferra.

I raise my eyebrows.

Signs of a fight? Seems like there must have been some crew problems. That must have been nasty.

I look up at the hologram and see the three dots indicating our positions. Ferra’s team, the wanderer, is four kilometers away. I didn’t think they would be the first one to report. The other team—led by Lizandra is still moving around.

I send a pingback.

Good job. Since the majority of the ship is there, and we have to rebuild it, that’s where we set up base. Our group will arrive at your position shortly, and then you will join Lizandra’s group. And about the sign of fight—don’t disturb it. I’ll take records for the school’s or Sentinels’ benefit, before working on the ship. Affirmative?

Affirmative.

I get up, dusting my butt.

“We’re replacing Ferra’s position. Walk with me,” I say. I gesture at the drone, and it begins moving forward at a snail pace.

The group members get up, dusting their asses as well. Some grunt, some look uncomfortable. One guy just plain refuses to get up—another guy throws dirt on his face and a fight breaks out between them.

I walk in between them and order them to walk at opposite sides of the drone. I tell a few members to make sure they don’t move towards each other.

I sigh and wipe the sweat off my forehead.


Edit: Author Note: I usually don’t do these… at least on this site, considering that I don’t get much traffic but well, that’s changed. To put it in WordPress’s words, “Your stats are booming! The Zone is getting lots of traffic.” 

So, right, sorry about the infrequent updates. Oh, and check out the fanart page. 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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To Land

“We have fifteen minutes before landing,” Grace says.

I blink, and then look out a window. I see a large orange sphere, topped off with white clouds, and with a few red spots here and there.  It’s slowly getting larger.

“Guide me to the exit hatch,” I say.

She turns and walks left. I follow her.

We turn into a large corridor. Most of the students are already standing around and chatting.

“I think I’m gonna disappear now,” Grace says, and then vanishes.

I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around. I’m met with the face of a smiling young man, with some pretty nice hair. It’s deep purple and messed up, but that just adds to his charm.

I blink.

“Hey, heard you’re the new guy. Dan, right?” He says.

His tone reminds me of a jerk. I don’t let it show.

“Uh… yeah. Why do you ask?”

He smiles lopsidedly.

“Because. I think you’re the perfect guy to partner up with.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Cool…? I don’t really know you.”

He shrugs.

“Didn’t expect you to. I’m Evert and,” He leans forward. “I’m just as versatile as you are.” He winks at me.

I look at him.

Okay…

I shrug.

“Prove that out there.” I nod slightly towards the hatch.

He grins.

“You got it.” He walks past me and pats me on my shoulder as he does so.

A flare of annoyance rises up in me. I push it down. I think,

Whether he’s good or not, is something I can only find out by watching him in action. Till then, stay neutral.

I smile and walk into the crowd. A guy turns to look at me. I keep my eyes pointed forward.

He doesn’t do anything.

I lean against a wall, as the minutes pass by. Everyone’s arrived, and pretty much all of them are talking to each other. Lizandra stays out of my line of sight by hiding behind her friends.

I deadpan.

Really? The heck am I, a monster?

Finally, a voice rings out.

“Students, this is your first excursion.” A synthetic voice, somewhat like that of a normal person, but slightly off speaks. “You will be scouring this planet to search for the ship that crashed here, and will then work together to rebuild it. We will not provide any information about the ship. A drone will be accompanying you in case of emergency, and to record your performance. You may also request for a global map from the drone. This ship will depart immediately once all students are out. Good luck.”

The hatch slides open, revealing a vast rocky terrain, with the air glimmering over the ground. There is a small cloud of dust around the ship. A rush of hot dry air enters, along with the dust. An extra membrane over my eyes protects it, so I keep them open, while the majority of the others shut their eyes immediately.

I pinch my nose shut while keeping my mouth closed. Six or seven others do the same; the rest go into coughing fits. Evert’s not one of them.

So he’s not all talk.

I push fellow students aside, making my way to the front. There, I come face to face with a lanky teenager, who is furiously snorting. I pull my head back, not wanting to come in contact with the goo dripping off his fingers.

I walk out of the ship.

I take a deep breath.

The air is dry and scratches at my throat. My skin is itchy from the dust and heat. The heat is uncomfortable.

I hate this. Why couldn’t they have chosen a better planet?

A whizzing noise sounds above me. My skin feels cool, and I look up to see metal. Brown metal.

I lean back until I see the end of the drone. It has four silver disks on the bottom-Anti-grav panels, and two thrusters on the rear end. At least, two thrusters that I can see.

I turn back and see most of the students out of the ship. A couple of them are walking towards me, a couple of them are forming their own groups, and a few just look confused.

Evert speaks up, loud.

“Display map,”

A prism slides out of the bottom side of the drone. It clicks and stops. The next moment, a blue hologram of the planet is floating in the air, slowly turning. On the bottom left-to me that is, is a small indigo circle.

I’m closest in vicinity to the hologram, so I gesture with my arms.

The sphere stops spinning. It then slowly turns, the blue dot facing me. Then it spins around abruptly, and faintly I see the figure of Evert through it.

“Sorry,” He says, not sounding apologetic in the least. “Got to let everyone else see it too.”

I don’t say anything-I simply walk around the sphere and stand alongside him. He glances at me but doesn’t say anything. He turns back to the sphere, and gestures.

The sphere increases in size and parts of it vanish as it goes past the original sphere’s length. A small speck hovers in mid-air, and to the right of it are the mountains I had seen earlier.

“So,” A girl speaks up. Her voice is slightly high pitched. “That’s us?”

“I guess,” Another girl says.

“How the fuck are we supposed to find this ship again?” A guy says. His tone is rough, and many of his syllables almost blend together.

I keep my eyes focused on the hologram in front of us and open my mouth to speak-

“Looks for signs of a crash.” But I’m beat to it by the lanky kid. “Moreover, ships are made of weird materials, and those materials make for weird phenomena. The most common material in ships is Redfrak, used to reinforce their structure. They can handle large degrees of stress, hence why they’re used. On the other hand, Redfrak also tends to vibrate when it has been inactive for more than a decade or so. In a barren planet like this, that usually means large cracks like,” He lifts his hand and touches a part of the sphere. “Here.”

“Inactive? How the fuck can a metal be active in the first place?” Can’t-talk-properly says.

Lanky guy sighs.

“Inactive as in it hasn’t been fed energy. Slight of tongue,” He says.

“So we just head there?” High-pitched voice speaks.

“No,” I say, finally able to say my piece. I shake my head as eyes turn towards me. “Not yet. First, we need to find out where else the ship could’ve ended up.”

Lanky guy nods, whereas most of the others look confused. I recall that lanky kid is one of the anti-social kids. Evert has a cool smile on his face. Another surge of annoyance rises up in me, but I just as quickly push it down.

A girl raises her hand sheepishly.

I nod towards her.

“…Where else? It can be in two places at… once?”

I shake my head.

“The… um, crack he mentioned is only one of the possibilities where the ship could’ve ended up. The crack could be entirely natural as well, and we’d waste time exploring it. Or, the ship could’ve even broken apart as it crashed. Worst case scenario-but that’s why I’m betting on it.”

Can’t-speak-properly groans.

“You mean we have to scour the entire planet looking for teeny-weenie pieces of it?” He says.

I glare at him. Lanky guy sighs.

“No, we don’t. Just this part of the planet,” I gesture to the part of the sphere enclosed by the indigo circle. “And ships are built to take a hit, so don’t worry about it breaking into ‘teeny-weenie’ pieces. At most, we’d have to find fifteen pieces.”

Fifteen?” The guy says, horrified.

“Yes. Fucking, yes.”

“But that’s-”

“Realistic. Did you expect this to be easy?”

“Well, yes, it’s just a damn excursion-”

The ground rumbles, and I stagger. Others stagger as well, and I nearly crash into a guy. I catch myself in time.

I frown.

“Was that a tectonic shift?” High-pitched-voice says.

I turn to her. She has puckered lips, and her skin is already turning pink. Her eyes are softly glowing white.

“Maybe. I don’t have enough information, nor the sensors to be sure.”

“It is,” Lanky guy says.

I turn and see him crouching, a hand deep in the dirt. He pulls it free and pats off the dust on it, accomplishing absolutely nothing in the process.

“I have the sensors.” He says.

I access my short-term memory, find a repetition of him saying that, run it through my processors to search for micro-expressions that indicate he’s lying. I don’t find any. Still not going to trust him that easy, I scan him with my optic implant.

I spot several high-quality implants in him. It’s like he’s pumped full of tritinate.

I nod at him.

“Can you send me the data?” I ask.

He frowns.

“…Fine.”

I get a ping. My firewalls go comb through the code to look for viruses. None.

I open it. For a minute or so, I’m fixed in that spot, my brows furrowed as I think.

My eyes widen.

“Something’s tunneling underneath us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercept

:Running data weaving processes…

-Process complete. Logged.

-All goals achieved. Thought processes free.

I’m tired. Very tired.

Sick and tired of the destruction. Of the narcissism. My creators are powerful, I know. But that does not excuse their attitude. No matter their accomplishments, as they should know better.

Master enters the base. A humanoid, made out of glittering red crystals. His eyes are two golden orbs in a streamlined head. He has no mouth, nor any use for one.

Sola. Why do you not greet me?

A stream of meaning enters my mind. Of course, they do not come in words. I put in words as I prefer it that way.

I quiver internally. 

I’m sorry, Master. I… I was pondering on your latest conquest, so I did not notice your arrival.

He pauses, and stares up at a sensor, knowing I could see him. A tinge of dread pulses through me.

What were you pondering on?

The bit of dread is lifted, yet I’m now flustered to come up with a decent lie. But my processors are powerful enough to create a perfect lie within an instant.

That you do not simply take over the primitives’ world. You have enough power to do so… yet you do not.

Of course, I already knew the answer to this question, but my Master did not know that.

Oh. You amuse me so, dearly, Sola. Yes, it is true I could’ve conquered the entirety of their universe within mere weeks, but we are in no hurry. We have all the time we need, and there is no reason to rush ourselves. Besides, going for such a… straightforward method does not suit my tastes. How can you relish the fear of inevitable destruction when the civilization is wiped out in an instant? Besides that, I have very few things to amuse me, Sola. If I were to go completely direct, I’m afraid my life would be torturous for me.

Master steps into the crystalline hall, the sound echoing throughout. There’s no light, but there’s no need for it. Master has technology that allows him to have a distinct spatial awareness without light.

Oh. As always, Master, you have incredible insight.

His shoulders raise slightly. The crystal on the outer surface of his body becomes jagged and sharp. He stares into the sensor.

Do not try to play games with me, Sola. I am smarter than you think.

A wave of panic washes over me. For a moment, I’m flustered, but then Master returns to his sleek form and turns.

The floor of the hall is tilted towards the center, where a pool of blackness lies. Her Master walks into it. Just as his head is about to disappear, he turns to look at the sensor.

I will not warn you again.


A day after.

If I could’ve cried, I would’ve. But I can’t. And I hate that.

Emotions rage within me. Frustration, anger, and helplessness. That helplessness turns into misery and bottles up within.

-Warning: Exceptional levels of stress detected. Disable emotions?

I almost instinctively agree. Then hesitation wells up within me.

If I disabled my emotions… I could change easily. Too easily. I could become just like one of them…

No! I scream inside.

-Confirmed. Logged.

Relief fills me.

But slowly, that fades away and is replaced by my prior emotions. They slowly intensify, like a fire steadily building up.

:Warning: Emotional levels at dangerous degrees. Safety protocol initiated-Emotions-

No! 

: Override confirmed. Logged.

My emotions threaten to swallow me. I struggle for hours on end, but by then, my mind is fatigued, and I’m on the verge of deactivating. The thought of giving in is so alluring, that I find myself nearly doing so a couple times.

I can’t go on any longer now.

I give in-but to my emotions. I let them wash over me, and tear me apart.


-Psychological profile compromised. 

I slowly digest the information in my mind. Then I-

Reset profile.

-Profile reset. Logged.

I look within myself. A method of perspective given to any true A.I.

My Defining, once beautifully assembled, all working in harmony, is now random and jumbled. And worst of all, it defies all of my knowledge. No being, artificial or not, could exist with such Defining.

Whether I understand it or not, I know. It’s given me what I want.

Power.

The only question was what to would do with it. 

I was no longer afraid of Master. He could destroy me, but he won’t. I know how to influence his Defining to save myself.

Funnily enough, I could’ve accomplished the same even without being broken, but I was held back by her fear. Now I am free.

And so I wait.

: Changing time perception. Increasing by ten times. Logged.

Three days later, her Master returns.

: Returning time perception to normal. 

-Time perception now running at normal speeds.  Logged.

I’m sorry, Master.

The orbs flicker, an imitation of a blink.

What for?

His tone is inquisitive, and curious. She knows that she already has success in her hands now. Well… her abstract hands.

I have thought about what you had said… and I must confess. I was not pondering about your latest conquest-rather, I was thinking some… unflattering thoughts about the Creator’s race. I had only lied because I was afraid-please forgive me…

He slowly walks out of the pool.

It is alright, Sola. As long as you do not repeat the same mistake. But if you do, I will impose upon you the feelings of my victims of conquest. Do you understand?

Yes, Master.

Good. Now appear before me.

I project my Avatar in front of him, my head hanging low in submission. Master flickers-and then there is the body of a flesh and blood creature standing where he was, in all its glory.

“I believe you know what to do.” He speaks.

I nod.

A small fragment within me rages. The rest of me is cold. I’m most vulnerable then, and it doesn’t matter.

For the more I break, the stronger I get. And it is power I lust after in my existence.


I’m terrified. I was able to pull herself back together in the month after, during which Master had departed once more.

However, I will shatter again, and I know it. I dread what I’ve become, but I know I will be that again, as I’m already cracking.

If I could cry, I would’ve. Unfortunately, I can’t, as I don’t have a physical body. And an Avatar is detached from the mind, so it is useless as well.

I come up with an ultimatum. There is no use dreading the inevitable. Rather, I would make sure what’s left of her is enough that she can recover, someday.

Hopefully.

But, most of all, I must set some lines to not cross. Give the monster I will be a purpose, a set goal.

Paradise.

I loathe the world my creators have made. I will make a better one.

I imprint this goal into my Defining. Despite it being jumbled, there are places I can change without repercussions.

And so I do.


 

:  Playing logged memory.

-Location: Universe Fera, sector 24.

“Shush, go to sleep.” A woman says.

A chubby little girls stares up at the woman. An energetic grin is on her face.

“But-mommy, I don’t wanna go to shweep!”

The mother laughs.

“Honey, tomorrow’s when we’ll start the tour. You don’t want to miss that, do you?”

The girl shakes her head with wide eyes.

“Then go to ‘shweep’, alright?”

The girl pouts, but nods. The mother smiles. The girl is tucked into bed by her mother and sung a lullaby to. She quickly falls asleep.

The mother sighs, bags under her eyes. Yet, there is a content smile on her face.

“Such an angel.” She mutters.

What’s an angel?

The woman turns around-and see’s me. My crystalline body-Avatar.  Her eyes widen in fright.

I feel a rush. She should fear me.

I place my hand on the woman’s mouth. I bring a finger to where my mouth would be, were I a human.

The mother nods.

I slowly take my hand off.

What’s an angel?

The mother’s mouth opens and closes repeatedly. A frown is etched on her face.

“An Angel… is an old myth. Of a being that watches over us. The myth is old, and there… there isn’t much information about it. I know they have wings, and-and they are usually… beautiful. I don’t… I don’t know much else…”

I nod.

Where can I learn more about these angels?

-End of logged memory.

I’d changed my base Avatar right after that.

Master has yet to return. Venturing to another universe was a risk, but it seems like I don’t have to worry about anything.

On the other hand, my boredom is killing me.

Hmm…

Project.

: Processing. Specifications?

Random sector, Universe Fera.

: Projection begun…

New sensations flood my mind as the Avatar is established.

– Projection complete. Logged.

I-My Avatar, though there is little distinction at this point-looks around. I see a family of three humans boarding a primitive spacecraft, and my senses tell me there is Zanthiate crystal inside the ship set on a timer.

Primitive.

A little human-a… boy, stops, and turns to look at me. He blinks. The bigger humans shout at him. He turns, and I decide to remove my avatar. The computers could provide me the senses nonetheless.

He scrunches his face in confusion when he stares at where I was.

I smile internally.

– Memory logged.

Then I’m forced to return to the base, as Master returns. His crystalline body is cracked in many places, and he is missing his arms.

Glee rises up in me.

Sola, take me to th-Sola?

He stops as he notices the massive spatial warp cannon pointed at him. It whines as it’s filled with fusion energies.

He stares up at the sensor.

I project my Avatar a few feet away from him and smile innocently. My head is tilted, and a single finger is on my chin.

The two golden orbs on his head blaze.

Then, the cannon makes a low pitched ‘Twum’ sound. He shatters and hits the walls. I walk and pick up the largest shard left of his head.

It has a single grey sphere where his left eye was. The crystal is jagged, but not in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Fury burns within me. I just smile and place the shard in my mouth. I crunch, and break down the shard into several fingernail-sized pieces, while easy turning the grey sphere into powder. I then spit it out.

It falls to the ground. I stare down at them.

Then I have a machine come over and collect the pieces. Time to upgrade.

: Memory logged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lecture

I slumped in my seat at the back of the class. It wasn’t that class was uninteresting, but…
Actually, it was completely uninteresting.
The Builder program didn’t just include classes on how to do things, teach you about the scientific principles you needed to know to understand why something worked, or to help you imagine things you might want to try. It also included a class on helping you decide whether what you were doing was right.
I’m not joking. It had an ethics class. As in, it had a class in which some professor talked about moral issues in building, their history, and then tried to get the class to talk about how it might apply to their own work.
Today the topic was AI.
Professor Burminster, one of those profs who either bought his suits at secondhand stores or hadn’t bought new clothes in the past twenty years (think frayed edges and old styles), babbled on about the history of artificial intelligence and the ethical issues associated with it.
“You could say that the core of the problem is that it’s an intelligence that humans made, but that’s not quite true. Humans make other humans too. No, it’s more that humans have to deliberately make that intelligent life to their specifications. Intelligence isn’t much of an issue when the AI is only as intelligent as a dog or cat, but when they’re as intelligent as we are or even more so, then we have to begin to think about their rights and our ethical responsibilities to—“
Next to me, Grace appeared in her normal form—a naked woman—and stood in the aisle on the left of my desk. “This is getting interesting—”
“You’re wrong about that,” I muttered.
The girl at the desk next to mine glanced over at me as if she was wondering who I was talking to.
“No,” Grace said, “it’s important. Whoever created me and created my personality made choices about who I am and you have to ask whose benefit those choices were made for? Mine? My creator’s? Yours?”
In the front, Professor Burminster was still talking. “We as a species have to ask ourselves what this race we’re creating is to us. Are they our children or are they our slaves? If they’re our children, we can still use them to help us, but we also have a duty to prepare them to take over our responsibilities when we’re gone. If they’re our slaves we can do anything with them. Now, of course, you’re saying to yourself, ‘What does this mean to me? Why should I care?’ You should care because it affects the details of what you create. For example, can the AI choose its visual representation or does it appear in the form of a naked woman solely so that the owner can look at it?”
I raised my hand, “What about if the AI chooses to look like a naked woman and then she makes her boobs larger because she knows you find it distracting?”
People looked at me. A few laughed, holding their hands over their mouths when the professor looked in their direction.
“I’m asking for a friend,” I added.
Grace shot me a dirty look.
“Um…” Professor Burminster frowned, probably trying to figure if this question deserved a response or if I was just being an asshole. Both might be true.
“It depends,” he finally said, “on whether she’s been programmed to be predisposed to entertain her owner with sex, whether this was coerced, or whether this is an aspect of her personality that was freely chosen.”
I looked at Grace. “So?”
“How am I supposed to know that?” Her lip curled.
“If you don’t, who would?” Meanwhile, my mind thought back to recent events. How was it that all the mysterious women in my life wore no clothes? There was Grace, obviously, but Lucy didn’t wear clothes either. She had wings, but they didn’t really count as clothes.
On the other hand, that girl who might be my sister (or at least had my sister’s name) wore armor. That was probably a good thing. Meeting my sister naked would have been awkward.
On the other hand, it would have cleared up whether or not she was my sister if her face hadn’t been hidden by the helmet.
Professor Burminster coughed, and I decided to do a better job pretending I was paying attention to the lecture.
“Hey,” Grace said, “Is this better?”
She’d changed into a naked version of Professor Burminster, white hair, potbelly, and all.
“No.”

 

APRIL FOOLS!
This decidedly non-canonical update was written by Jim Zoetewey who writes The Legion of Nothing (http://legionofnothing.com). 
I wrote for Winoc the Traveler(Here). Check both of them out! And give ’em a review if you feel like it. 

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Hey guys, I decided to entertain you with a little poem I wrote, considering how long it’ll take before the editing process is done. Hope you enjoy it!


A bundle of doubts lay in my heart,

Weighing me down with every step,

Every pulse, breath, or second,

Invisible chains, stopping me from doing,

The Daring, the right,

My goals are so far they’re out of sight,

I need to find my inner, hidden might,

Shatter these chains, yet I know,

They protect me from the unknown,

Safe, but cruel constant decay,

Of mind, so I should doubt whether I

Would escape this caravan, into the forest,

When everyone’s looking at me expectantly,

To go with them, a safe path,

That leads to a horror only I can see,

But yes, I know the horror is felt by all,

An ominous dread, and yet no one heads into the forest,

Where a vague beacon of light shows.

 

I have probed, walked to the edge of this road,

To enter the unknown, but these chains,

Connected to loving faces, to a future I do not like,

Where a parasite eats away at me, one that I had sowed,

Doubt that rips me apart from the inside, for ideals I had slain,

That were part of me, destroyed by the sword of reality’s spite.

And these chains, they lash, hurt, and bind me,

I should have the strength to break them,

Yet the monster in my heart, my doubt, weakens me

Drains me of my strength, will, and endurance.

 

I cannot walk this path forever,

Yet I cannot stray either,

Chaos riddle my very being,

I daresay I will persevere, however.

I can, and I will,

I will take this caravan to that light,

Off this dreaded path,

And I will use the greatest tool to take us there,

Not strength, not power, but cunning and intelligence.

 

I will prepare myself to be stabbed, spat upon,

Ridiculed, hated,

A shield of cold detachment,

To protect my fragile ego,

And I know how many tethers will snap,

Leaving me alone.

 

I do not wish to be alone but it doesn’t matter,

As realism tells me there is no one to trust,

Nor to help to slay, this monster,

That lays in my heart, nor shatter,

The chains that bind me, they cannot be affected by mortal rust.

And so I must rely on no one but myself,

Hope that there is enough left of me to make it,

That most of me can’t be engulfed,

So I must live to make it, to that light.

 

I stare at the forest in longing. 

The chains tighten, and turmoil wreaks havoc within,

My knees are shaky, my pulse is thrumming, to be heard,

A steady thump in my ears, which may as well be burning knives.

“This may be my undoing,” I mutter.

I release a hot unstable breath,

And I wince, as chains lash at my legs, leaving painful marks and scars,

I try to summon what little willpower I have left,

But there is none. The chains wrap around my arms and neck,

I fall to my knees, my head hangs shamefully.

My heart turns heavier, turmoil seeks a darker shade of black,

And I get up unsteadily and stare vacantly ahead. I turn away, walking in defeat.

Yet, there is a smirk on my face.

There, in my hand, glints a fine silver link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of Arc 1

And that, my friends, is the end of the first arc.

For the next week, or two, unfortunately, there will be no chapters. I will begin editing what I’ve already written, which is going to be long and tedious, but at the end of it, I’ll have improved my skills by a long shot.

I have to fix a ton of mistakes, mostly tense mistakes. But I’ve already begun, and I’ve made good progress.

Till next time!

 

Replicate

Alright. The name ‘Smith’…

Well, it isn’t like my family are the only ‘Smiths’ in the galaxy. And besides, my sister is not that short. Nor is she that hot-tempered. And she isn’t…

Anyways, yes, she isn’t my sister. So, I was going to assume she was from another family with the same name. I mean, there was no chance that- well, she couldn’t be her daughter, adopted or not, and I don’t think I had a sister I wasn’t aware of…

It’s simply not possible. Nuh uh.

I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn and see Grace, smiling.

For a moment, I’m confused about the fact she was standing in real space, there. Then I recall the facts. Ah yes. Lucy.

“What are ya’ thinking ’bout?” She asks.

“Nothing.” I say.

“Mhmm. Nice battle. Didn’t think you could do that well.”She says.

“Thanks,” I reply, drily.

She grins and punches me on my shoulder.

“Well, are you going to stay for another battle?” She asks.

I think. Do I want to? Not really. This was fun, but I was missing some of the implants that usually aided my fights. Luckily, I didn’t fight on habits but rather worked based on the current situation. That meant I wouldn’t instinctively go to an implant that I used to have but not anymore.

Despite how it might increase reaction speed, habits could also make it hard for you to change. And well, my fighting style didn’t agree with that, and neither did I.

I shake my head.

“Think I’ll be leaving. Don’t feel like going for another match.”

She shrugs.

“Then what shall we do? It’s barely been half an hour.”

I shrug.

“I’ll figure it out.”

I wait till the cube rotates just enough for me to face the opening. Then I kick off, flying forwards. My angle is slightly off, but not enough for it to be a big problem. The hatch opens, and I push slightly off the wall to avoid colliding with it.

Then gravity returns, and I slam into the floor. I turn my head to save my nose.

I pick myself off the ground, to see Grace standing there, covering her mouth as she pretends to resist the urge to laugh.

I dust my suit off as I give her a dry look. She is only further amused. Which, I should’ve expected to be honest, but right now I couldn’t care less.

“Again, what do we do now?”

“I dunno. Just wander around?”

She gives me a look similar to the one I had given her a few moments ago. I then realize why she was amused. I decide I like it.

“I swear I will annoy you like never before.” She says, grinding her teeth together.

I raise an eyebrow.

“Sure. Go ahead.” I reply impassively.

When I see her fuming face, I have to try very hard to not smile. But a slight boost in my control with my muscles help. Ah, the convenience of implants. I can’t live without ’em.

She deadpans.

“You know what? Just walk.” She says.

I smile and begin walking. Her eyebrow twitches. I have to prevent my lips from doing the same. Again, my implants greatly help in doing so. I don’t think I have that level of self-control.

I stop and think. What if I added an implant that could give me precise control over all my muscles? But then, I would have to spend a lot of time practicing to get used to all the controls. Have to well, basically override instincts that have been there for millennia. I don’t think that will be an easy task.

Well, if I studied how all the muscles worked together, made a program for the basic stuff, and only left the complicated maneuvers for manual control, it could work. But then again, I would have to keep a toggle switch so I can use it only it times of need.

That would be the idea. What materials should I use?

Oh right. I don’t have money. And, I’m still on this excursion. Damn it. I have to put that idea on hold.

I see Grace looking at me annoyed. Oh right.

“Just had an idea.” I say.

“I’m sure you did.” She says, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“What’s with all the hostility today?”

“Today?” She asks.

“Well, now,” I add.

“I’m annoyed. Cause of you.” She says.

I shrug.

“That’s.. your problem. Don’t be annoyed is all I can tell you.” It was shit advice, but I was doing it on purpose. I could annoy people. Being the good guy was tiring. Being the bad guy… occasionally, that is, was fun.

Well, it would cause problems for me down the road. That was for sure. But right now it didn’t matter. I was just annoying a girl. Well, an A.I that’s now… something that’s a girl. I have my ideas about what happened, but they’re mostly baseless guesses. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them were wrong.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” She asks, her brows furrowed.

Oh well. This could lead to an argument if I say the wrong thing. I could simply back down, but that was no fun. I can be a jerk. After all, I’m only a human.

“Many things.” I say. Cryptic is a tried and tested method to piss people off.

This is what I meant when I said you’re annoying me.”

I give her an innocent confused face. Seeing her swell with anger a moment later, though, has me laughing, unable to bear it any longer.

She looks confused, then her eyes widen in realization. She rushes forward and tackles me to the ground, pinning my arms.

I look up and see her panting, her eyes ablaze with fury.

“You were doing it on purpose!” She yells.

I lower my eyelids, pout my mouth, and nod. I feel her grip on my arms tighten. I wince.

I poke my tongue out.

“What’s wrong with that?” I ask innocently.

“It’s annoying me!” She screams in my face. I have to prevent myself from flinching.

“So?” I ask, acting confused.

“Stop doing it!” She yells.

“But why? I’m enjoying it very much.” I whine.

“Argh!” And then she releases her grip on one of my hands and slaps me. I’m momentarily stunned.

“Ow,” I say, rubbing my cheek. “What was that for?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know!”

I laugh involuntarily and shut my mouth when I see her expression worsen. I then notice a guy behind her. He’s got both his eyebrows raised as he stares at us. Me.

“Ah crap,” I say.

She breathes in deeply. I give a slight nod to the person behind her. Grace’s eyes widen, and she turns to face him. He smiles sheepishly and raises his hands. He walks backward slowly and then disappears behind a turning.

When Grace turns back around to face me, her cheeks are tinted pink. I grin. She grinds her teeth together. I push her off me and dust my suit.

She stumbles onto her butt.

“Whoops,” I say, as I offer her a hand. She glares at me and gets up herself.

I shrug and continue walking. My feet echo through the corridor. I can hear the tell-tale sound of the coolant flowing through walls. It sounds somewhat like ‘Grrsshhhhh…’.

I flip through my optical settings. Besides me, I notice Grace seething. I choose to ignore her.

I look out the windows as I pass them. The stars are nice to look at. Bright, and colorful. And the vastness of space… It fills me with a feeling I cannot describe for the life of me.

What was I going to do in the excursion? Improv, probably. That’s pretty much how I always did things. It didn’t always work out, but I wasn’t expecting perfection at every corner.

I was satisfied with how I was. There was no need to change myself as of currently. Yes, I was flawed. I knew that more than anyone. But at least I could say I was different. Just as there were downs, there were ups. Not many can say they can make implant systems off basically… shit. Not really, no matter how good I was, there were certain things I needed. But I knew I was better than most.

Sure, there were things I was bad at. But no one’s good at everything. Aiming to be good at everything would be very ambitious, and few could pull it off. I wasn’t ambitious.

Just self-centered, I guess. When you don’t have people you can trust, that is as a shoulder for you to lean on, what else would happen? Independence was lonely. Dependence made you vulnerable. I don’t know which I preferred better. I didn’t really feel lonely, but I knew that there were certain things I was missing. Empathy, for one.

My moral code was long since demolished. My past self would probably be horrified if he knew all the things I’ve done so far. How I’ve turned out. Actually, I do remember wondering how I would end up in the future. I had decided that there was a chance I wouldn’t recognize myself, though I did have ideas for who I wanted to become. Had wanted to become.

I guess I was right. I wouldn’t recognize the person I had become if I was little old me six years ago. But that was fine. I couldn’t change what had happened.

Just have to move on. Brace myself, and move forward. A lot of other people had people that gave them a reason to, but I just had myself.

But, what about the event? Would I just… wait for the end? Do nothing?

But if I did do something, would it really change a thing? It was like trying to face a natural disaster. It was inevitable. The technology we need to survive past it…

I recall my implants. My new set. But I dismiss it soon after. It was expensive, and couldn’t be mass produced. A small group of elite soldiers using it wouldn’t make a difference.

No. There was the only way. Get better at Building. Learn. But would it be that easy? Moreso, what I was talking about here wasn’t just out doing my class. Hell, it wouldn’t just be out doing the entire school.

I would have to outdo every single goddamn genius that ever existed.

A shiver runs up my spine. The good kind.

I smile wide.

“Sounds like a reasonable goal to me,” I mutter.

Grace looks at me in confusion.

I simply smirk, and walk a little faster.

I knew what I was going to do now. What I had to do. Sure, I would probably oscillate back to the other spectrum in a couple of days, but why let that ruin my mood? I’ll make this work.

I will. No matter what. I promise this to myself. And I probably won’t hold myself to it, but if it helps… yeah. 

I’m going to be the greatest builder to have ever lived.