Authors: David Simpson
Tags: #Post-Human Series, #Inhuman, #Science Fiction, #Sub-Human, #David Simpson, #Trans-Human, #Human Plus, #Post-Human
Copyright ⓒ 2014 David Simpson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author.
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Old-timer hadn’t even opened his eyes before the visage of Aldous Gibson appeared before him in his mind’s eye. “What the hell?” he whispered as he opened his eyes, the real world and his darkened bedroom suddenly appearing, with Gibson’s face still overlaid on top.
“Craig, don’t speak. You’ll wake Daniella. I’m waiting for you on your roof. Get dressed and come out. I need to speak with you urgently.”
Old-timer’s eyes were wide; nevertheless, he felt a grogginess that was unfamiliar to him. He’d been woken from the wrong sleep cycle, so his usual refreshed morning demeanor was elusive. He pulled his legs out of the bed, making sure not to wake his wife, then pulled a pair of loose-fitting pants on before heading out the front door of the old-style farmhouse he shared with her.
The night was almost perfectly still. The sky was clear and speckled with stars, and Old-timer had to shake his head to make sure he wasn’t caught in a dream. He checked the time readout on his mind’s eye; it read 3:15 a.m. “What the hell?” he repeated to himself. He looked overhead at the edge of his roof, then let the multitude of appendages unfurl from his torso, dozens of tiny fingers grabbing the tiles like suction cups. Once he had a good grip, he picked himself up, swung over the top, and set himself down on the dark rooftop, just a few meters from the chief of the governing council.
Aldous’s eyes narrowed as he watched Old-timer’s unorthodox entrance. “Very interesting,” he commented. “Sticking with your new enhancements, I see,” he observed as Old-timer’s suctioned wire-like appendages released their hold on the roof. “No pun intended.”
The appendages furled back up into Old-timer’s torso and melded perfectly with his skin, as if by magic, allowing the post-human to again take on his distinct, human appearance. “They’re useful. It’s a good upgrade. What’s going on, Aldous?”
“You didn’t wake Daniella, did you?”
“No. She’s still sleeping, which is what I should be doing. What the heck is so—”
“I’m sorry, old friend,” Aldous replied, his smile returning as he apologized, holding his hands up as if to plead for forgiveness and understanding. “I wouldn’t disturb you unless it was of the utmost importance. There are things happening that…” he trailed off, not sure how to word what needed to be said. “Well, they just can’t happen, Craig. They
Old-timer blinked hard, then scratched the back of his head, nearly flummoxed. “Well, Aldous, you’ve certainly got my attention. Mind sharing what’s going on?”
Aldous stepped away from Old-timer and began to pace slowly, almost nervously. He spoke again, folding his arms and bowing his head as he uttered, “Do you remember…do you remember the day I arranged for you to mentor James?”
“Mentor?” Old-timer held his hands up before smiling at the absurdity. “No one can
James—maybe the A.I., but certainly no human. I
remember the day you arranged for me to work with him though.”
“Semantics,” Aldous retorted, waving away Old-timer’s point. “That day, I asked you to do something for me. Do you remember what it was?” Aldous asked, his eyes scrutinizing.
Old-timer took in a deep breath and searched his memory. “Yeah. You wanted me to try keep him focused on terraforming, to keep him away from getting too curious about Planck technology.”
“That’s right,” Aldous said, his voice soaked with relief. “I’m glad you remember.”
“But, look, Aldous, don’t you think we’re a little beyond that now?” Old-timer asked. “James and the A.I. are...well, they’re
beyond us. They’ve transcended to a new level. If you’re suggesting that I try to distract a mind like that—”
“No,” Aldous interrupted, “of course not. That would be impossible. But, as for the Planck…well, that knowledge will be new to him. Enhanced or not, James has to know how dangerous it is.”
“The A.I. already knows—”
“No, he really doesn’t,” Aldous interrupted again, waving away Old-timer’s contention. “Besides, he’s bound by a promise to me, just like you are. He
however, related to me that he won’t prevent James, or this new Trans-human intelligence, from uncovering the
nature of our universe.”
“Because he obviously believes James can handle it,” Old-timer observed.
Aldous’s lips tightened into a grim line. “There’s no room for belief here, Craig. Listen, I’m not asking you to deceive him. What I’m asking you, my friend, is to be the voice of reason he needs. He won’t listen to me. The A.I. is obviously planning to carry out its mandate to transfer power to a more powerful A.I. and believes knowledge can only be good. And James is being carried away by his own enthusiasm and genius. I’m afraid there’s nothing stopping them now, Craig...and that’s something we should be
“Why? For goodness sakes, it’s James. He and the A.I. have never failed us. They’ve always given everything for—”
“No bed of roses is entirely devoid of thorns,” Aldous said, cutting Old-timer off again. He looked up into the beautiful night sky, and his eyes latched onto the object that hung in the blackness like a white elephant, the giant armada of androids. They’d obeyed James’s demand to leave the solar system, but they parked themselves on the boundary. The collective was so huge that it was visible as a tiny smudge in the night sky, appearing like a nearby galaxy. Aldous gestured to the spot with his hand. “Or do you need a reminder?”
Old-timer looked up at the luminescent smear in the cosmos and grimaced. It was true; things were not all roses. He and Aldous were standing on the flat-deck of his roof, on a beautiful, open plain that stretched to the horizon in all directions. He should’ve felt safe there, distanced from problems that were on a galactic scale—problems that seemed to be the domain of the new gods, James, and the A.I. and the impending, almost infinite intelligence of Trans-human. Yet there they were, standing with that night sky above them, as though all of space sat precariously atop their shoulders, weighing them down, threatening to crush them. “James and the A.I. can handle the androids,” Old-timer finally answered.
“A fact the androids know well, Craig,” Aldous agreed. “Still, they remain there, unwilling to leave...and I think I know why.” He let his eyes drop from the celestial smudge to fall back on Old-timer. “I think they’re afraid we could be on the verge of destroying our universe.”
Old-timer couldn’t help but let loose a long, low whistle. “Okay, now
“I only wish it were,” Aldous replied after a short, frustrated sigh, “but when James and the A.I. insert the new matrix consciousness into Trans-human...well, there’s no way a being like that will fail to uncover the nature of the multiverse and Planck technology. When that happens—and it will—the stability we’ve enjoyed for more than seventy-five years will be utterly obliterated.”
“Aldous, with all due respect, you’re starting to sound like a Pur—”
“Don’t say it!” Aldous suddenly yelled out, his eyes wild as he held his hand up to stop Old-timer’s words. Old-timer stopped, stunned. Aldous’s desperate expression softened when he realized how loud he’d been. His eyes fell as he considered Daniella, who was still sleeping. “I hope I didn’t wake…”
“What’s gotten into you?” Old-timer asked in an admonishing whisper. “I haven’t seen you like this in a long time.”
them, Craig. I can’t help it. Comparing me to a Purist? I can’t bear the thought. They killed her, Craig.”
Old-timer closed his eyes. This was what he feared every time he was in Aldous’s proximity—that
would come up—and he’d have to experience the pain again. “I know, Aldous, but the people involved in that are dead and buried. It’s time to let—”
“Did I ever tell you I saw it happen?”
Old-timer’s breath caught in his throat. He couldn’t speak.
Aldous nodded, his eyes seeming to look back in time, deep into the memory. “Colonel Paine—he did it while I was watching—did it
I was watching, in fact.” He shut his eyes tight, and his jaw became clenched. “She wouldn’t give you up, Craig. She was willing to die to protect you and the A.I.—she never said a word to him about the Planck platform. It was me that told him where you were, me that put your life in danger, all so that I could save Sam…” Aldous’s expression twisted into rage as the searing hot fire of the memory returned, still not dulled even after three-quarters of a century. “And then that bastard killed her anyway. Cut her head off, Craig.” He closed his eyes before he repeated in a mournful whisper, “Cut her head off.”
Old-timer’s hand went slowly up to his mouth. He was speechless.
“I know they’re all dead and buried—Colonel Paine is dead by my hand—I had my revenge. But it doesn’t matter. No matter how much I tell myself that the Purists are different now, I still can’t let go of the hate. I’m trying to, my friend but—”
“I understand,” Old-timer replied. “Now just a little bit more than before. And I have to admit to harboring some of the same feelings, but Aldous, you can’t let that memory control you. Memories can destroy you if you let them.”
“You’re a wise man,” Aldous replied, forcing a smile and nodding. He swallowed. “You know, no one living knows that story,” Aldous confided. “I don’t know why I told you. I guess because you loved her, too, so perhaps you could understand.”
Old-timer was left speechless once again.
“I haven’t even told…” Aldous didn’t finish his sentence, but Old-timer knew immediately who he was referring to.
“How…how is she?” he asked.
“How’s who?” Daniella asked as she appeared suddenly, flying over the edge of the roof before floating to a rest next to Old-timer, a look of deep concern on her face.
Aldous’s face paled, a look of embarrassed remorse quickly replaced by an equally embarrassed smile. “Daniella, I am so sorry that we woke you. It wasn’t my intention. Craig here was just discussing a favor I’ve asked of him.”
“In the middle of the night?” Daniella retorted. “It must be some kind of favor.”
“It is rather important,” Aldous confirmed. “And time is running short.” He turned to Old-timer. “Craig, you must promise me you’ll speak to him. Be the cautionary voice he needs—the one he’ll listen to.”
“Speak to whom?” Daniella asked Old-timer.
“James,” Old-timer answered her. “Aldous here is just asking me to give some advice to—”
“James?” Daniella replied, incredulously before turning to the chief. “Aldous, you’re here to ask my husband to tell a man who’s become a virtual
what he should do? In the middle of the night?”
“Again, I’m so sorry,” Aldous apologized, his embarrassed expression returning.
“It shouldn’t fall on Craig’s shoulders,” Daniella insisted, protecting her husband as had been her custom since they’d met more than seventy-five years earlier. “He’s done enough for the world, and done enough for James. You can’t keep asking for—”
“Daniella,” Old-timer responded calmly, putting his hand on his wife’s arm to soothe her frustration, “it’s okay. We’re just talking.”
Aldous took this as an opportunity to change gears. “Daniella, it is so good to see you again,” he began, the kindly politician returning to his charismatic demeanor. “It has been too long. I should have had more consideration for the woman who saved my life.”
“Don’t mention it,” Daniella replied, biting her tongue before she said more, satisfied that she’d made her point.