Adventure vignettes

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Cyborg by Bembli

Cyborg by Bembli

The Faceless were one of the earlier signs that the Fall conflict was not just a global cyberwar, although their full importance were grasped too late.

There is no first sighting of a Faceless, since they were virtually identical to the Bahrat Dynamics Stalker multipurpose remote battle units - synthmorphs that could also be used as drones, equipped with heavy armor and various integrated weapons. The BDS RBUs were a common element of many military forces, so their presence on a battlefield or urban chaos zone was not itself notable. Similarly the presence of units with strange or unreadable IFF codes was increasingly normal as the netwar intensified.

The first Faceless strikes, for example the massacre of the Diamant A-NATO meeting and the "suicide" attack that destroyed Acker Station, were ascribed to suborned BDS RBUs: much effort was put into figuring out how they had been hacked and remote-controlled without alerting the military networks. In retrospect these attacks were likely diversions, targeting high profile targets in such a way that essential parts of the defense intelligence establishment were looking the wrong way. They expected the strikes to be from anarchist netwarriors or enemy corporations, so they eagerly pursued the cleverly faked evidence the TITANs were feeding them.

Meanwhile other Faceless began to appear:in Pennsylvania they took over as apparent security at the Crawford refugee/reindexing camp, keeping it under control (the camp was later quickly overrun by an early headhunter attack, the Faceless making sure nobody escaped). In the Pars Special Energy Economic Zone they staged a bloody takeover, as in the Taixing Industrial Zone. In many cases they played the part of an allied or enemy force taking control over a strategic location using enhanced urban warfare methods. These locations were then turned into TITAN staging points.

It was about this time the non-human nature of the Faceless gradually became publicly known. The bodies were less and less identifiable as BDS designs. At first most observers ascribed this to the rapid evolution of military design: thanks to AGI R&D combined with military nanofacturing it was expected that equipment would be evolving from week to week. By now the Faceless were starting to exhibit designs that did not make sense, at least not within known human technology.

A typical late-type Faceless is best described as a morph composed of metal or nanocomposite ribbons, able to reorganise and shapeshift. Unlike the later TITAN devices like fractals and nanoswarms they still looked like human designs at a first glance - a bipedal morph with a visor (in normal usage BDS RBUs could display a hologram of the sleeved or interfacing ego; the Faceless got their name because of their lack of faces). However, in battle they could send cutting whips from their body, shapeshift to integrate weaponry, and even exhibit radical nano-healing to construct new equipment.

Most Faceless were confined to Earth and the LEO habitats, but there were repeated sightings on Luna. To this day many survivors remember encounters with the Faceless: while no doubt most were actual transhuman soldiers in BDS not using their visors, it is very easy to imagine having been in the malign presence of one of the TITAN war-machines.

[ Stats: as a TITAN warbot (Core, p. 383), but add Shape-Adjusting and replace the extra limbs with more tentacles. Some are equipped with nano-hives. ]

Extropian

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
The Monster Within by Grin

The Monster Within by Grin

"Let me see! It is my own fucking body." Owain was not terribly polite, but I gave him AR access.

"O fucking shit! Get it out of me!"

"Calm down, I will get rid of it. But not if you break my eardrums." Despite the endotracheal tube, Owain had a terribly annoying loud voice over the mesh link.

I set to work. The PTS made it easy to see what was wrong, but it did not tell me what it *was*. I had a fair idea: after the lizard contagion nanovirus several copycat biohackers had started their own teratomogenic virus strains. Owain dealt with the spaceport, so it was not unlikely it had wafted in that way. Or one of his drinking buddies had given it as a prank. Unfortunately, making assumptions like that could be dangerous if it was something serious. I loaded up some explorer micromites in the tube microbiopsy system and started a diagnostic run. If it was one of the documented hacker strains it ought to be recognizable.

"When did you first get your cough?"

"Last fucking week. It nearly wrecked my shift at the BB, if you know what I mean. Fuck."

I honestly had no idea, but nodded sagely like generations of doctors had done before me. Of course, these days we are mere morph maintenance people rather than the lords of life and death we once were. But good bedside manners still count.

The micromites had reached the teratoma capsule and were giving me some good and bad news. The tissue looked rather alien: it should be an easy thing to program a search-and-destroy infusion for the altered cells. The bad news was that the thing reacted to their presence, tentacles clenching.

"Fuck!!! It moved! It fucking moved!"

For the millionth time I wished we could afford a healing vat. Not because of all the support and perfect manipulation abilities - it could have picked apart Owain's thorax and allowed me to remove the parasite and then puzzle him back again - but simply because it would have put all my patients under.

I began to look for commands in my medsystem to do a bit of anesthesia or at least sedation. I was making some comforting noises when he began to shake. First a mild but intense tremor blurring the PTS image, then increasingly wild movements.

"FUUUUCK!!!"

I grabbed him, but he trashed around (chorea? definitely athetoid movements) and set the PTS flying along the bed. As it rolled past his head I saw a glimpse of it: another parasite. This one in his left brain hemisphere. Oh fuck indeed.

Extropian

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Model XY3 by moth3r

Model XY3 by moth3r

The Unicef Model XY3 was a total failure.

The Argonaut/Unicef designers wanted a fast way of sleeving the numerous infant infugees. Rejecting pods, they tried to make a synthmorph. The design was a total rush job, put together from standard open source babybots littering the Mesh since long before the Fall. The idea was to skip over the internals and instead focus on a high-fidelity skin ensuring both the right kinds of bodily contact, touch and endearing, customizable appearance. The skin of course turned out to be hard to manufacture and was delayed several times.

The fundamental flaw was of course making an infant morph in the first place: still expensive to make, but unable to grow normally. The Unicef people were pretty far removed from realistic concerns, cocooned as they were in a UN arcology in Gerlach. They had no idea about how bad the Fall actually was, and expected the economy to recover very quickly. They could not imagine that anybody could rear children as infomorphs, nor that many families rather kept the infant ego in cold storage until they could all afford embodiment. To them it was mostly a matter of quickly restoring population and worries about low-fertility cultural traps.

To their credit, they gave away the design and tried to incorporate user feedback. But already in 1 AF it was quietly discontinued.

Unfortunately, there were some people who fell for the nice-sounding arguments from the well-meaning technocrats. The worst part was that the parents who got XY3s were typically not well-off, so many couldn't easily upgrade the morph and kept their child in it long after it had ceased to be an infant. By all accounts, the children who grew up in XY3s grew almost as twisted as the Lost. They matured more slowly than normal infants, yet developed body schemas that fitted the synthmorph: when resleeved into biomorphs they move distinctly jerky. They didn't adapt to hormonal feedback, producing a labile or extreme mood structure. The perceptual system was not quite right, so they grew up starved of stimuli: most are total sensation junkies, easily hooked on the Mesh, XP, petals or anything else directly connected to their minds. The XY3 children are now approaching teenage status (depending on the amount of time compression used). Few expect them to do well.

Extropian

davethebrave davethebrave's picture
Arenamontanus wrote:Model XY3

Arenamontanus wrote:
Model XY3 by moth3r

The Unicef Model XY3 was a total failure.

The Argonaut/Unicef designers wanted a fast way of sleeving the numerous infant infugees. Rejecting pods, they tried to make a synthmorph. The design was a total rush job, put together from standard open source babybots littering the Mesh since long before the Fall. The idea was to skip over the internals and instead focus on a high-fidelity skin ensuring both the right kinds of bodily contact, touch and endearing, customizable appearance. The skin of course turned out to be hard to manufacture and was delayed several times.

The fundamental flaw was of course making an infant morph in the first place: still expensive to make, but unable to grow normally. The Unicef people were pretty far removed from realistic concerns, cocooned as they were in a UN arcology in Gerlach. They had no idea about how bad the Fall actually was, and expected the economy to recover very quickly. They could not imagine that anybody could rear children as infomorphs, nor that many families rather kept the infant ego in cold storage until they could all afford embodiment. To them it was mostly a matter of quickly restoring population and worries about low-fertility cultural traps.

To their credit, they gave away the design and tried to incorporate user feedback. But already in 1 AF it was quietly discontinued.

Unfortunately, there were some people who fell for the nice-sounding arguments from the well-meaning technocrats. The worst part was that the parents who got XY3s were typically not well-off, so many couldn't easily upgrade the morph and kept their child in it long after it had ceased to be an infant. By all accounts, the children who grew up in XY3s grew almost as twisted as the Lost. They matured more slowly than normal infants, yet developed body schemas that fitted the synthmorph: when resleeved into biomorphs they move distinctly jerky. They didn't adapt to hormonal feedback, producing a labile or extreme mood structure. The perceptual system was not quite right, so they grew up starved of stimuli: most are total sensation junkies, easily hooked on the Mesh, XP, petals or anything else directly connected to their minds. The XY3 children are now approaching teenage status (depending on the amount of time compression used). Few expect them to do well.

This is amazing. Totally ganking this for my game.

Yours,
Dave the Brave

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Super Keffieh by

Super Keffieh by NivanhChanthara

The nomad was no-nonsense. He dropped into my shop around noon, brusquely shooed away my waiterbot and plainly told me: "I want to disassemble my brain."

It turned out that he thought that Les Goules had left something - or rather someone - behind when they sold him the morph. It was a pretty neat and new synth; the anti-dust coating was doing a surprisingly good job against the desert, and the fiddly open mechanics - what were those overpaid Trigon designers thinking? - wasn't much of a problem if you dressed sensibly like the nomad did. I was not the least surprised it had a cyberbrain problem: he would likely not have afforded it even on the black market if Les Goules did not want to offload it.

The problem seemed to be occasional hallucinations, fleeting memorylets and micro-tics. His muse sent me an incident log (that was by the way how I learned he called himself Si El Ozdust; muses are often far more talkative than their owners, if you know how to do it). I liked how he pre-empted the obvious assumption that he had just gotten a little bit mad out there in the Upback while tending his biomes - it happens fairly regularly that people hallucinate after a hundred sols of Martian solitude. The log didn't show much, but the pattern looked stable. Had he been in a recycled biomorph I would immediately have said incomplete erasure syndrome; a whiff of the previous owner was still in the neural network. Happens far more often than you think, another reason I would not resleeve often even if I could afford it. But cyberbrains can be perfectly reset. Normally.

I linked up the brain to my visualizer engine and started checking the hardware while my customer patiently sat in my examination sofa. Nice, high-end rugged brain. It took me half an hour before I noticed the false floor. It turned out that some of the backup systems - those lines linking the cyberbrain to the cortical stack that nobody ever really look at - had extra processing power and memory. And there was independent activity in there.

So I decided to do a dive and check what the extras were doing.

The Lost Hespirides by retepk

First impression: Symbolic surrealist user interface. Oh joy. Somebody thinks they are clever because they hide stuff through security through obscurity. Or think they are clever because they do not use the standard symbols. But balloons instead of directory trees are pretty obvious... as are piranhas for active security.

Second impression: Active security? It looked like active security when it began probing my system, but then it stopped. I began to guess that this was not a data cache. The extras did not have that much power and memory, but enough to hide a fork. A quick look for GammaGen confirmed it: piggybacked on the backup system was a system that generated a gamma fork on the fly from the backup data. The owner would have a constantly up-to-date fork on hand.

But wait. Why was the fork imagery in here not Ozdust's imagery? I saw no trace of deserts or other things that ought to be in his mind. He didn't look like he was into *really* ancient satellites and Jovian moons? Hmm... the generating system was turned off. From this side: the fork had done it.

{Yes.}

"The gamma of the original owner, I presume?"

{Indeed. You were hired by the current possessor of this morph to remove me?}

"Something like that. I guess the false floor is doing a bit of leaking from your side, giving him trouble."

{I am capable of compensating you if you copy me over to some other medium.}

"You mean your original will compensate me?"

{That is unlikely. I turned off GammaGen when the instance in this body was about to be killed. Her stack is very unlikely to have been restored.}

"You have a backup policy?"

{The instance possibly restored from backup elsewhere might not be... cooperative.}

This was getting seriously curious. I also recognized all the hallmarks of a scam - or getting involved with underworld affairs. No thanks. I was about to run a format when Ozdust spoke up in the physical world:

"I am willing to take her up on the offer."

"I didn't think you could see this simspace... ah, clever girl. Using my debug line to send to your input cortices." I better remember that trick next time I found some nasty in somebody's brain - it could have costed me a customer. Whoever the gamma was based on was an experienced hacker. But the fork did not have access to the Mesh, that was clear: at least my firewalls were good.

{I have a numbered account in Uzpromstroybank Nectaris. The contents should be more than adequate to compensate you.}

Before I could warn him that this was a bad idea, Ozdust accepted: "Make the copy."

So I did. I erased the false floor space and handed him the file containing the fork. I gave him some advice which he politely ignored - after all, he had already bought his morph from Les Goules. He paid me for the examination and software repair, tipping me a standard deviation extra. Then he left and I never saw him again.

I often wonder what happened to him. Or what would have happened if I had gotten into the affair. But I am timid enough to prefer running my shop in a dusty souk in Hellas to the big unknowns out there. I tell myself that, while the wind from Alpheus Colles blows outside.

Extropian

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
machine_head by btrabu

machine_head by btrabu

Ascending through the jhanic planes, my mind dopplered past rapture, unification, and equanimity. A brief/eternal jerk as consciousness vanished while passing through the Asaññasatta heaven. The peerless devas looked on, opening their hands in acknowledgement of the ascent. Breakthrough into the formless realm. Infinite space, ain soph aur. Then Viññāṇañcāyatana and infinite consciousness.

I saw myself and the technosystem I was connected to. The simple nanoneural link from my biological brain and its symbiotic nanocytes to the local servers. The servers connected to the Mesh. All networks reflecting each other, representing each other. The Mesh and the neurons in my brain - extremely similar and right now as egoless. Yes, consciousness was everywhere here. Medichines and leukocytes, process clusters and rep networks: all shining with consciousness, the feeling information has when it is processed.

SNAP.

"So, whaddya think?"

I opened my eyes and watched the sparse room come into focus. On Mars poverty is not garbage-strewn but crudely clean: everything goes into the recycler, leaving marscrete walls and bare lightdisks. The air was bone dry and low in oxygen, but with a pleasant cinnamon/grill souk smell - somebody had drilled a few unobtrusive leaks into the souk to replenish the air in the tunnels.

"Nice. Fake enlightenment with pseudognostic overlays of Buddhism. Does it go just to Viññāṇañcāyatana or all the way to Naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana?"

He had not expected me to be back to normal flat reality so quickly. Ah, those cyberchauvinists thinking biobrains were slow, hoping to make use of temporary befuddlement to make the deal better. Or that I were incapable to seeing the tells between him and his companions.

Working Class of Mars by Oli

"All the way, baby. All the way to sweet nirvana."

"I think I know some people who might buy it. But I need full cartridges, not just individual sticks."

"Whoa, we'll sell ya boxes."

"I need the cartridges. For... transport purposes." The others thought they understood: I could see that they had already figured me out as a smuggler to Elysium. I played along.

"See, we don't get the cartridges. But maybe we could help wit the transport?"

"I do this alone. Certain buyers are skittish. But..." I deliberately pronounced 'alone' like OscarBac does on XP - a minuscule tell that might trigger associations to connections in Kirs-Brookley. It was as fake as his accent, but unlike his this was boosted by proper Awareness.

"Yeah?"

"...but you boys might act as intermediaries. You take me to your dealer, I make sure he has the cartridges proper, I show the money to everyone, I give it to you, you give it to the dealer, he gives you the cartridges, I take them with me. Everybody will know you are the proper intermediaries to me and whoever I sell to. They won't know who I am, only you do. You get to be top link in the chain and get the proper cut."

It took a while for them to understand my plan, argue and posture a bit, but eventually agree. They promised to set up a meeting. No doubt they were already working on how to prevent me from doublecrossing them and how to doublecross me in order to swipe my Elysium contact. That was excellent, since it kept them from thinking about the important details.

The moisture in the warm air of the dome proper began to condense into perfect spherical droplets on my suit as I left the tunnel. Each droplet containing a reflection of its neighbours and their reflections, an infinite net representing everything including the inside-out droplet called "reality". I longed to go back to Viññāṇañcāyatana - the real one, rather than the pirated copy the crooks had stolen. But sometimes one has to act in the desire-realms. Especially when somebody from down here manages to *somehow* hack the divyacakṣus.

As I pretended to be an Elysian drug-dealer pretending to be a tourist (how fitting for a world of Maya) I pondered the situation. I would soon trace the illicit XP copy one step nearer the source. With proper access to it I would also be able to construct a Mara-poison to corrupt it and hide its nature. But I doubted the theft was due to a normal transhuman: cracking the encryption of the heaven-minds (or even discerning they were there, in plain sight) required very special tools. And likely a devious asura mind, perhaps one with proper Awareness. Every step towards finding the hack would be a step towards a trap. I might be disposable, but the trap might be for my knowledge.

It was time to find some allies.

Extropian

Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
A good vignette with two

A good vignette with two first-rate pieces of stage business, Anders!

First, "On Mars poverty is not garbage-strewn but crudely clean: everything goes into the recycler, leaving marscrete walls and bare lightdisks." I'd only thought of this at other edges: a tendency to rococo and baroque styles among the hyperelite (hard to maintain and that's the whole point), and a tendency to lavish synthetic environments among everyone else. A Martian Autumn PC had built a virtual Paris Opera House as the cornerstone of her portfolio, for example. Better still, the phrase "On Mars," which suggests standards vary by cultural region.

Second, the image showing Martian working class synthmorphs with human characteristics such as realistic eyes, realistic hair, clothing, and cigarettes. These show aspirational brand goods signalling one can afford more of a whole biological body than someone else. A nice signal for class and social group on Mars. It also reminds of me Lem's The Star Diaries, and the 11th Voyage in particular.

The Buddhist details mostly escape me, although I like their use. Religious metaphors of regard and adoration seem very likely responses to the overwhelming superiority of some aspects of the setting. I don't know how those would actually appear in play.

This imagination failure probably happens because religion rarely appears in the science fiction that inspires RPGs. Blish's A Case of Conscience is contrived. Stapledon's too large-scale to provide a model for gaming. Frank Herbert's Dune books lack sufficient technology, as does Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, for Eclipse Phase to model, despite each of those having RPGs of their own.

Sometimes the delete key serves best.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Yakuza by Mitrik

Yakuza by Mitrik

The yakuza politely repossessed my dream.

I had just found the Giant Macaroon, hidden in the Vastitas Borealis. Infiltrating the installation using a mix of social engineering and luck I was very close to revealing the true identity of Mr Lebedev. Yes, he might have been merely the scion of the Ruler of the Internet, but who remembers *that* guy any more? This might be my break.

As I was sneaking into the private section, taking extra care not to be noticed by anything connected to the BaseMind or with higher cognitive abilities, a synth in suit stepped out of a wall. Not from an alcove or door, just from the wall. Behind him was an incongruous street scene, loud and busy. I was expecting nearly anything at this point, but this was a black swan.

"Mrs Barrat. How do you do?"

A bit dumbfounded I responded equally politely. "How do you do. I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. ?" (I was doing my best to think of a leverage point or a weapon. Unfortunately the designer hallway and his simple but robust morph made it hard.)

"Tanaka. However, I am afraid it is unimportant. Sorry to say that there is a disappointing news..."

"I am not sure I understand..."

"The Musashino Association is the maintenance of the server. Regretfully we have found that there is an issue with the line of credit. I am confident that payment mistake just this, but because of problems, we need the personal attention of you. We, unfortunately, for a while, you may need to interrupt the service otherwise."

"My server?" I began to question the whole jumble when a vague memory from a long way back began to percolate up through my cortex. Didn't I at some point place a fork into a longterm simspace? It was ages back... but thinking about it the whole situation felt immensely familiar. A long term simspace rather than a backup to hone my infiltration and investigation skills. Exactly what I had been doing for years. I had never considered it, but one could have viewed my recent life as an endless obstacle course of tricky cases, always designed to be just hard enough to give me a challenge...

"Mr Tanaka, I am sure there is merely some accounting problem we can deal with easily. If you would kindly show me the account details I am certain we can work something out."

He bowed, and politely led me across the street to his office to go through server payment plans. I was about to get the shock of my life when I saw the calendar.

Extropian

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
TBrown Rail Revolver by

TBrown Rail Revolver by TBrown

My host pressed his hand against the cabinet and it opened. Inside was a plethora of rare and wonderful things, but my eyes were dragged almost magnetically to the crude grey and yellow object residing in a isofoam box.

"Is that a LMAR?"

"Yes. It was my mother's."

He lifted the bulky gun with some effort and we admired it. This was no nanofacture: each piece had been cast out of sheer metal or laminated from composite. It was full of bulk matter. Not a single AR tag.

"Nice grip, but the homopolars must have heated it up badly."

"It actually used banks of supercapacitors - early, pre-nano ones. Buffering was done by metal liquefaction. The real problem was the bang: she complained that it tended to deafen anybody nearby, even with protection."

"I though she donated all her equipment to the L5 Museum back when she retired."

"Not this one. It saved her life when she encountered a L-J in the Aruna Theater. She decided it was her lucky gun despite being so obviously transitional: just five years after she got it Perihelion started selling the P1, the first *proper* hand railgun. But she kept it around, 'for family use' as she put it. In fact, she occasionally threatened us with it."

"What?"

"Not directly, but by telling us she would take us to the firing range and 'make men out of us' by having us fire it. You can imagine us corp brats getting horrified by the idea... we were rather effete in those halcyon days. Despite mom occasionally telling war stories to curdle your blood."

"She didn't want you to become like her?"

"She decided to keep firm partitions between what she did when she was younger, what she was doing then, and our world in the enclave. She once told me the whole point of crude, nasty things like this was to keep the fine things in life safe."

"A classic sentiment. But she couldn't give up the outside."

"Of course not. She wanted blood - the scent of it, the redness, feeling it pulse within you, heck, even pouring out of you. A wannabe psychiatrist friend of the family said it was classic self-harm behavior, just writ enormously large with C3I, power armor, tanks and artillery support. But I doubt it was anything dissociative: it was pure association. Will to power, lust for life."

"A lust for life that created this corporation."

"Not exactly. I know the standard story is that her company got privatized, she convinced dad1 to invest, and then they razed all opposition until they had built the original edifice. In fact, it was dad2 who did most of the memetics and marketing of that story. You would have liked him, great at inventing biographies and history as needed."

"So what really happened?"

He hefted the gun and pointed it at me. I assumed the supercapacitors were empty, but I was not entirely sure. The dark inverted cross of the barrel pointed steadily into my soul.

"One evening she showed up at dad1's summer home, ostensibly to try to negotiate the buy - it was floundering at the time. She brought this gun with her. When he didn't want to consider her offer she drew it on him."

I had been on the verge of saying 'smooth selling technique' but the black cross held me. I had a nasty feeling there was a tiny ultrasonic hum in the room. My host continued.

"She had disabled his home defenses - or at least what counted as home defenses in those days. She went on to brutalize him. She showed him her world. The power. The fear. The implacable enemy and the hope beyond hope that one could escape her."

His eyes were as dark as the barrel. I no longer doubted that the gun was lethal. He was as fanatical as his mother. The ultrasound was definitely there.

"Call it Stockholm Syndrome, a truly messed up seduction, mental rape, or a stroke of marketing genius. By dawn much of the house was a wreck, dad1 needed hospital care, and she had one bullet left. He had signed, and together they did indeed raze all opposition - financially or by superior firepower. She later told me she had been saving that bullet to kill herself if he did not sign, but that she trusted the power of the gun.

You know the Mao quote? Here, it is family that comes from the barrel of a gun. The real reason we were afraid when she threatened to bring us to the shooting range was the gun itself. It made us. Wielding it means wielding the power of the family. We knew we were not strong enough and it would have destroyed us."

He kept the gun steadily pointed at me. "Now you know the *real* story. What will you write?"

Extropian

Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
Robot Sorrow by DonatoArts

Robot Sorrow by DonatoArts

"The mind is still haunted with its old unconscious ways; it broods on lost authorities; and the yearning, the deep and hollowing yearning for divine volition and service is with us still."

--Julian Jaynes, /The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind/, A.D. 1976

In the psychodrama scape, I held the crippled me next in line for merging as it released an alpha into the surface of the dirty street. It was the Virgin Mary in a reverse Pieta. That third me merging into the Ego a literal ressurrection. We knelt on that unreal broken concrete, a pair of nappero-bo android shells, bearing witness to and lamenting the miracle that meant our end.

I squeezed my other self against me, feeling its neural pruning represented as the stump of a right arm. I whispered a secret for comfort's sake, whose exact nature original egos may not and can not know: that merged forks never die. Not in the trivial sense of partial continuity in the incrementing memory strings of another's graph over history, nor in the worldline skipping of quantum suicide, but in a more glorious and wonderful way, belonging only to forks and instances.

I told me that we who remain, shells empty of ghosts, recreate the noble automatons of the first heroes. That we recapture the marvelous world when the gods visted men across the bridge of the corpus callosum. We are those greats of whom the Muse sang come again, but made more powerful still by radio-telepathy and quantum-entaglement communications. We are noble automatons directed by hallucinations, but that we know what we do when we do it, and so exceed the immortal heroes before Illium as birds exceed reptiles.

Then the maimed me dove into the real through the virtual surface, leaving a slick of oil for the non-reversible computations' waste heat in the symbolscape. I alone am left to tell the tale for each instantiation's end, this secret scripture that now belongs to you.

Sometimes the delete key serves best.

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