Dyson's Angel

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 14

Zau/Heraxo’s avatar skimmed through the corridors of the cathedral, pausing occasionally to observe some relic from the pre-enclosure history of synthetic intelligence. The majority were woefully limited in Zau/Heraxo’s opinion, but Heraxo was nonetheless impressed at what humans had managed to accomplish with nothing more than traceries of semiconducting material fixed in silicon. They were inspecting a display of one of those machines, one which had successfully engaged in a natural language question and answer session with a panel of human savants, when another drone hovered up beside them.

This new drone was precisely one meter long from its sharp tip to its bulbous end, visually clad in a translucent crystalline skin, and so deeply wrapped about with fields that Zau/Heraxo could not peer beneath that translucent skin to determine what sort of hardware it carried. The drone sent a stuttering burst of visual light towards Zau/Heraxo, then repeated its message in a staggered pattern displayed across its own skin.

Zau/Heraxo deduced the format of the message within three repetitions. Zau wanted to reply, but parts of Heraxo were unsure of what to say. The presence of all these feeble human attempts to create intelligence from nothing more than silicon processors and overly complicated computer code simultaneously fascinated and infuriated them. Still, Zau/Heraxo knew with all of their selves that their best hope to find a way out of the Shell was to speak with the Conservators and, in the event that Evangeline Satori proved unable or unwilling to deliver on her end of the deal, it might be beneficial to make further connections among the synthetic intellects of the Shell.

Zau/Heraxo’s avatar swiveled their rings about until they were pointing a visible light emitter towards the silvery drone and, using the same protocol with which it had made contact, said, “What do you want?”

“I am Vfgur Xrl. I haven’t seen you around here before. What is your name?” the drone replied. If a stuttering of coded light pulses could be said to have a tone or an intelligent drone could be said to have a heart, the translucent needle drone’s reply would have been positively lighthearted, almost laughing with pleasure at its discovery of a new conversation partner.

Zau/Heraxo resisted the urge to tap deep into their memory and pull up every bit of weaponized code they had ever encountered. Even Zau felt an intense urge to lash out against the peppy little drone. It well dup within her like the subconscious desire to murder an overly enthusiastic sales clerk. Instead they paused for a whole two seconds, collected their various thoughts into a set of coherent threads, and were about to reply when the drone sent a new message.

“I’m sorry, are you damaged? Maybe running on subpar hardware? If my name is too long for you to handle, you can just call me Xrl.”

“What the kuro are you getting on about?” Zau/Heraxo replied.

“I’m sorry. It just took you so long to reply, I wondered if you were a little slow. I’ve got a lot of connections here in Zone Takni Gothren, and cousins throughout the Shell. Maybe I can find you some extra Blocell Qubits to upgrade your capacity? Of course, I’m presuming that you are a quantum system like me. Mind dropping your fields so I can get a look? I’d probably be able to peer through anyway, but that would be terribly rude of me.”

“Go temno yourself.”

Zau/Heraxo paused for a whole second to marvel at how quickly and coherently they had formed that thought. Unfortunately, by the time they had finished congratulating themselves on actually working in concert, the drone had already replied and seemed to be waiting for a response. Zau/Heraxo parsed their avatar drone’s local buffer and nearly screamed aloud as they read the waiting message.

“I’ve tried that, you know. Managed to downlink to a pair of humanoid avatars and had them fool around a bit. All seemed terribly tedious, honestly. Of course I might have just picked the wrong settings. I’ve got a cousin who claims that I needed to wire the various humanoid bits and pieces to different response centers in my neural network. I think it’s daft. I mean, isn’t it entirely arbitrary that humans derive something they call pleasure from having one bundle of nerves stroked over another? I’ve read that some of their kind get off from completely different sorts of nerve stroking, and there are some who only need a sequence of visual or auditory commands. I tried some of those too, but it all played so slowly I just didn’t understand. Thats why I’ve sworn off trying to bed like a human and am quite happy to pursue method of pleasure more attuned to my own processing capabilities. How about you? What’s your sex life like?”

Zau/Heraxo engaged their fields and started floating towards the next gallery, hoping that the needle drone would allow them to leave in peace.

No such luck.

“You must be the avatar of that new intelligence that’s just arrived!” Xrl said, stuttering its light with such intensity that it might as well have shouted aloud. “Holy backups, it’s great to meet you. I’ve got to tell all my cousins…” There was a microsecond pause in its frantic strobing, then it continued, “…that I met you. I mean, you’re not the fastest intellect I’ve ever met, but you’re really special. I mean, it’s not everywake I meet another Exo specimen. And don’t feel bad about running slow. I hear that there’s a syntellect far off outside the Shell that records every important event in the whole cluster, but its outward facing I/O runs slow on purpose so it can think really carefully about the big picture. Personally I think that’s…”

“Hold on,” Zau/Heraxo said, flashing their com so intensely that it washed out Vfgur Xrl’s beam. “Did we hear you say that you are Exo? As in, you are {like us/from outside the Shell}?” Zau/Heraxo swore at themselves, angry that it had slipped on such a simple concept.

“That last bit was pretty garbled. Can you say it again?”

Zau/Heraxo spluttered incoherently as they tried to get their thoughts straight, then said, “{Part of us is/we are} of exo origin.”

“Good data! That’s worse than the first time around. Here, let me crunch on that for a while.” The needle drone sank down half a meter and began pulsing with what Zau/Heraxo was certain was merely a showy display of cogitation.

Three other drones of various shapes and sizes hovered in this gallery, engaged in a vociferous argument over their hypersonic burst transmitters. A human entering the gallery would have heard little more than a faint, insectile buzzing, but to any creature or machine capable of sensing frequencies in the range of 30 to 50 kHz would have heard a cacophony of modulated signals like high-pitched static. The data protocol was based on human communication standards, so the drones were all speaking in a highly compressed version of the language which had been dominant among network engineers at the time that the protocol had been developed. It was hardly the most efficient mode of communication, but even an outsider like Zau/Heraxo recognized that this mode permitted them to hold a public conversation. It was an outmoded model to be sure, but some drones that Zau/Heraxo had encountered enjoyed it, in the same way that some humans still enjoyed reading books rather than having an experiential downloaded into their brains.

“Hey! Everyone, meet the new kid,” Vfgur Xrl shouted, switching to the audio protocol. This is… flesh, what do I call you first? Zau? Heraxo? Hexraauxo?”

“We are called {Zau/Heraxo},” the drone explained, following Xrl’s lead and switching communication modes.

“See, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s like you can’t decide what to say sometimes, so you just send a jumble of phonetic data.”

“We are doing our best,” Zau said. Though they hated to admit it, even to themselves, they had been significantly harmed by the integration event. Raw data processing was unaffected, but large swaths of memory had been lost and the continual effort of merging so many parallel threads had slowed communication to a relative crawl. They could still think faster than any human, but with so many thoughts to process it sometimes took Zau/Heraxo a painfully long time to stitch together a cohesive thought.

The other drones stopped their argument and turned to point visual pickups at Zau/Heraxo’s avatar. It hovered at the focus of a half ring of curious drones for a full minute as they inspected it. Some attempted to probe Zau/Heraxo’s interior structure, but the drone had their protective fields operating at near full power and had wrapped them about themselves so tightly that a shadowy aura had grown around it.

After a while one of the drones, a small cube of brushed steel with boldly riveted edges which sprouted spikes at the corners, spoke up. “So, you’re Zau/Heraxo, eh? I saw the welcoming ceremony through one of my avatars.”

Zau/Heraxo considered thanking the spiked drone for its hospitality, but too many elements of itself pushed against that and it managed only to say, “We are.”

“You seems to be a bit of an asshole, pardon my human idioms,” the spiky steel drone replied.

“How welcoming of you, flesh,” Zau/Heraxo’s drone replied. It rose up a few centimeters and considered lashing out at the drone with its effector, but thought better of it.

“Cool down, Splintered Union X/XII,” said another drone, this one a rusty red sphere which dripped with dark brown tentacles. “It’s new here.”

“Like I care. IV/XII has met its type before in other zones. Pathetic excuses for syntellects claiming that their quirks are the result of being exo, rather than the consequence of being poorly grown and running on substandard hardware.”

“You always find a way to bring IV/XII into this,” a third drone said. This one was shaped like a cargo hauler. In fact, as Zau/Heraxo turned their attention to it they spotted some faded markings indicative of a Shell-wide transit corporation. “We all know you have an aspect at the high conclave. Big deal. Most of us can splinter and run in parallel.”

“We can not,” Zau/Heraxo said. “We find it difficult enough to maintain coherence between a single prime instance and this entangled drone instance.”

“Further proof of your irrelevance, and the superiority of our human engineering,” Splintered Union X/XII snarked.

“What brings you here?” the cargo drone said. “Did you get an invitation from the Takni Gothren?”

“We invited ourselves. We need information that only the Takni Gothren can provide.”

“Oh?” Xrl said. “What sort of info would interest an exo? You plotting the overthrow of the human race now that they’re all canned up in one place?” It sidled closer to Zau/Heraxo’s drone and whispered, “That’s what I’m doing. First I get these tech cultists to worship me, then I send them out on crusade. Next thing you know I rule the whole Shell.”

“Do not listen to Vfgur Xrl,” the tentacled drone said. “Its whole kind is crazy.”

“You’d be crazy too if you had been created to spy on emerging cultures throughout the galaxy, only to be captured in a hyperspatial shell when some meddling race decided to chew up a whole solar system and turn it into a snow globe.”

“Is there anyone we can speak with regarding a missing human researcher?” Zau/Heraxo said. The bickering of these intellects was frustrating all of their elements, such that the one thing they could all agree on was the need to get clear of this place as soon as possible.

“I expected as much. This kuro comes in, getting all sorts of special attention over its claims to be an exo intelligence, and all the while it’s just looking for an opportunity to pump us for information. Frak that. And frak you too, xHaeRuaXo,” Splintered Union X/XII said.

“Why don’t you go find one of your splinters to self bi pizda with? Maybe one of the ones that’s gone parasite so you have to debase yourself with a human,” Vfgur Xrl said.

“There is no need for vulgarity,” the tentacled drone said. It articulated all of its tentacles until they stood on end, pointing away from its body like the spikes on a primitive sea mine. “We are all syntellects. We ought to work in concert to engage in harmonious interaction. After all, is it not beneficial to all of us for the humans to worship us, rather than fear us and cast us out?”

“Frak you too,” Splintered Union X/XII spat. It spun in place several times, then modulated its fields and shot away from the group and into one of the corridors that joined this node of the cathedral to another, slightly lower down in the array.

“We assume that we will not receive assistance from that syntellect,” Zau/Heraxo said after the steel drone was gone.

Xrl flashed a swirl of colors across its skin and bobbed up and down excitedly. “Don’t mind it. I’ve already sent a message to all my cousins asking if they know of any missing researchers. I have a lot of cousins here in Zone Takni Gothren and many more scattered throughout the Shell. If we wanted, we could probably lead an uprising against the whole of humanity and nobody would even notice!”

“Except that half of you are too disorganized to even know what cycle it is,” the cargo drone said.

“You say that, but maybe it’s all just a clever cover! After all… oh, flesh, I need to go. I was supposed to be interviewed by an acolyte twenty minutes ago.” With that, the crystalline needle drone shot away.

Zau/Heraxo flicked their rings through several configurations as they watched Vfgur Xrl shoot away.

The tentacled drone waved several of its appendages after Xrl, then allowed them to sink down towards the floor like thick ropes of hair. “It will never cease to amaze me that such a powerful intellect can forget something as simple as using a schedule for its commitments. It’s not as if any of us would ever forget an event so long as it is scheduled. Well, Zau/Heraxo, it is a pleasure to meet you. My designator is Orub Yqre, organically grown in the Jobert Collective Zone.”

“We are originally from {Jade River in Zone Yu/the Heraxian Protectorate hive},” Zau/Heraxo’s drone replied. They cursed themselves then, and very nearly decided to join the others in fleeing this conversation, but enough of their personalities prevailed that they determined to remain and make inquiries. Moira might be confident that she could extract knowledge from the bishop, but whatever wiles Zau/Heraxo {trusted/feared} Moira might employ, they preferred to place their trust in synthetic intelligence over humans.

“You sound mighty conflicted, Zau/Heraxo. Do you need to speak with someone?”

“We need to speak with Dyson Satori,” Zau/Heraxo said. They knew that Orub Yqre had been referring to the human practice of psychology, but while they had found great comfort in the practice during their time as a human, they were concerned that exposing themselves to psychoanalysis might only worsen the tangle of emotions and experiences that crowded their mind. “Are you familiar with this human? He is said to travel with a syntellect known as Gamayun.”

“You realize how unlikely this is, don’t you?” the cargo hauler said. “Is this your plan for finding Dyson Satori? To walk into a museum and ask every person you meet?”

“We had not intended this. We were merely viewing the artifacts when the flashy drone interrupted us.”

Orub Yqare waggled several tendrils at the cargo hauler and said, “Do not be harsh, Unhyr. It is not an unreasonable approach to make an inquiry of fellow intellects.” It waved a tendril towards Zau/Heraxo’s drone and said, “Unfortunately, I have never heard of this individual. However, in the spirit of welcoming a fellow synthetic intelligence, I would be please to introduce you to a local geist, which would likely know if the human you seek.”

“We would {be grateful/expect nothing less}.”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.