Thursday, July 28, 2011

Human Black Box: Things Go Sideways (pt 3)

Welcome back! This is part 3 of the ongoing saga of Chloe and her new-found friends in their desperate attempt to escape the facility, Flagstaff, and eventually, get to Groom Lake and off the planet Earth. In the last posts, Chloe woke up without any memory of who she was, or where she was, uploaded into a body she didn't recognize, and directed to get from Flagstaff, Arizona to Groom Lake Facility, Nevada, by a mysterious entity claiming to be a seed AI and Promethean named "Antares." Along the way, Chloe has encountered a mysterious android named "Spider" Ahmed, who works for Firewall, and another individual. This section opens up with Chloe and Ahmed having just discovered the third individual in their desperate attempt to escape the reseleeving facility while avoiding the headhunters and the warbots all around them...

For appropriate listening, I recommend the following suitably futuristic sounding songs:

Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [Oh. Well, I guess we won't be resleeving in this one after all - it's already occupied.]

Chloe leaned over, looking into the panicked eyes of the person in the container. Her eyes were a sharp gold or amber colored; they were captivating and locked Chloe in place for a few seconds, before she realized that the new woman was struggling to get her arms free from the bonds that hadn't opened up. The blazing migraine pain started to decrease, but the nausea continued to be a problem - she was trapped between that and those mesmerizing golden eyes when suddenly there was a loud thump, and the buzz-saws starting tearing at the door.

"Leave her!" Ahmed said, grabbing Chloe. Chloe looked, locked at the golden eyes, and pulled her arm away.

"No!" She shouted, tearing her arm free as the pain of the migraine returned. She fought through it, leaning over the red and blue woman and trying to find a way to break open the locks. The woman was looking around frantically, as Chloe grabbed the first of the wrist locks and pulled backwards, triggering the locks. They snapped open, as the woman sat up.

The first of the saws cut through the door, as Ahmed mumbled something and training his gun on the door, as Chloe tried to help the mysterious woman get the locks off of her ankles. The woman was clearly panicking - the harder she worked the more nauseous she became. Still, she wasn't going to give up on this woman yet, and consign her to a certain death. With the help from the woman, the two managed to force her foot through one of the loops, as the door shuddered.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [Hurry!]

Ahmed was firing off rounds in holes that appeared in the door, hoping to hit something. She didn't know he was firing, though, until she looked over her should and saw him shooting.

"Then get over here and help!" Chloe shouted back, as Ahmed turned away from the door and raced over. He balled up his fist and slammed it down on the woman's leg, shattering it with a bone crunching smash. Chloe jumped backwards in shock as the woman screamed out in pain, nearly doubling over. Having busted her ankle, He grabbed her leg and yanked her foot free, as the woman grabbed her ankle and doubled over in pain. Chloe caught her as the door collapsed, and the headhunters started to swarm in. Not having the time to rest, Chloe grabbed the woman's slender body and threw it over her shoulder, holding onto the woman and drawing the pistol as Ahmed opened fire with his gun. They fell back towards the door, Chloe kicking it in and ducking inside of it as the two supplied the fire. Chloe was pretty sure she wasn't hitting anything, but Ahmed was having more luck. He ducked into the hallway behind her, lowering his gun and following her as the hallway opened up into a large hallway lined with glass.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [Keep running! They're right behind us!]

She risked looking over her shoulder at Ahmed, as a literal flock of headhunters appeared behind them. She turned around and looked out the bullet-ridden, dust-caked glass, and spotted a dark silhouette easily as tall as a two story house moving out there behind the hail. A large stone slammed into the glass of the wall, causing it to vibrant violently. It wasn't basketball sized, but it easily larger than a softball. The rising nausea made it difficult for her to consciously manage her steps, so she regulated it basic instinct instead, and pushed down the rising feeling of being ill.

She kept her eyes between the massive humanoid silhouette and the debris covered floor, as suddenly the walls turned solid again. She turned just in time to catch a bump in the floor and stumble forward, dropping the woman on her back. Chloe recovered faster than she thought she would, her body easily several steps stronger, faster, and more agile than she could ever give it credit for being, and she grabbed the woman, picking her back up. Ahmed passed them, stopping at a doorway and holding the door open. Chloe and the woman were through, as he slammed the door shut.

"How many did you shoot down?" Chloe asked.

"Does it ever really matter?" he said, his mechanical voice enunciating each syllable.

Chloe helped the woman down, as she clung to Chloe.

"I didn't even get your name," Chloe said weakly, trying to force back the blinding migraine pain, as the woman shook her head and stammered, but no real speech came out.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [I don't think she can even talk right now. Sometimes that happens after you resleeve - there are strange things, and if she's anything like you are, then I wouldn't be shocked if the resleeving didn't turn out that well. Wait for a few hours, and then she should be able to talk with us.]

Chloe shook her head, trying to shake off the nausea. It wasn't working - she didn't know how much further she'd be able to push herself, but if it came to dry heaving or having her head cut off and god only knew what done to her ego, Chloe would take the dry heaving.

She turned to walk down the darkened hallway, stumbling and almost falling over when she realized that the woman wasn't following. She was struggling to keep herself upright, with her busted ankle, and failing. The whole scene inspired such a degree of pity that Chloe almost completely forgot about the pain.

"Why the fuck did you break her ankle for?" Chloe asked, a lot harsher than she intended to be, as she walked over and gave a shoulder to the woman.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [Bodies are replaceable. Egos are not. If you honestly cared about getting her out of here, then it was the best possible solution.]

"No, it wasn't, because now she's slowed down and slowing us down. It was stupid, Ahmed."

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [I didn't see you doing anything else. Besides, we never know what implants she has. She might be able to heal it over the course of a few hours. I had a body that did that before I wound up a hypercorp slave.]

Chloe was too scattered to think up an accurate response to that. The blinding pain from her migraine and the general nausea made it difficult for her to think accurately. She wanted nothing more than to lie down and go to sleep. Helping the woman along, the two walked down the darkened corridor, towards a flight of stairs. A sign read "Parking Garage" with an arrow pointing down the concrete steps, towards a large, metal door.

Ahmed (private chat, #Chloe#): [I hope the vehicle is okay.]

Blue: [Chloe, how are you holding together?]

"Not good, Blue. I feel so sick right now, and my head is about to give birth."

[If there's a vehicle in there, maybe you'll be able to get out of here and somewhere else. Somewhere safe.]

Ahmed: [Your muse is laughably optimistic. There's no place safe on earth. There's only places where it takes longer for the TITANS to hunt you down than others.]

"I didn't give you permission to listen in," Chloe said.

Ahmed: [Them maybe you should have your muse change your privacy settings so it's not being broadcast over our local mesh.]

Unknown Sender: [Since everyone can hear everyone else, maybe this is probably how we should introduce ourselves.]

Chloe looked up in shock, looking around as Ahmed stopped just by the door, looking back at the woman and Chloe. The voice was clearly male, and not any that Chloe recognized. Chloe looked down at the woman, as she looked up and mumbled something that wasn't clearly any language.

"Who said that?" Chloe asked.

Sava: [I did. My name is Sava. This is my daughter; Hotaru. We were resleeved by an AI named Antares. Unfortunately, Hotaru has never been resleeved before this, so she's probably more than a little shaken up. I don't appreciate you breaking my daughter's ankle, either.]

Ahmed: [Fuck you. I did what I had to. Complain now, but if I hadn't, we'd all be dead.]

Chloe and Hotaru were down by the bottom steps, with Ahmed.

"How can you be Hotaru's muse if you're another ego?"

Blue: [Egos can be muses. Hotaru is probably carrying the modified ghostrider module that Antares was talking about; which is how I can be her muse and an ego at the same time.]

Chloe tried to think back through the haze. She thought she remembered Antares saying something about the module being on the table in her room, but maybe she wasn't remembering what he'd said correctly. Or maybe she hadn't heard correctly - that was just as easily possible.

But if that was the case, what was the black box she picked up?

Ahmed: [You can explain more to us on the way. Right now, we're leaving.]

Ahmed pulled at the door, unjamming it as they stepped into the underground parking garage. There were headless skeletons everywhere; Chloe was aware through her blistering pain that they were dangerously exposed here; she held on tighter to Hotaru, who hobbled beside her, mumbling something and trying not to cry in pain.

Blue: [How old is Hotaru?]

Sava: [Hotaru was in her teens when we died during the fall. I'm not sure how old that makes her now, or how old it makes me. I assume the body she's in is in it's early twenties, much like the body of the woman who's helping her.]

"Chloe. My name is Chloe."

Ahmed: [It'd be fitting. After all, it's been 10 years since the fall, so age yourself by 10 years, if that matters at all.]

Sava: [Has it really been that long?]

Chloe looked around at the busted silhouettes of ground vehicle scattered around, as Ahmed hissed "Yes!" under his mechanical voice, and made a beeline for a large, almost house like vehicle that had thick wheels, a large trailer, and a reinforced cabin.

Ahmed: [I can't believe it. I never would've thought it would last the few days I've been trapped on this hell.]

Chloe quickly walked to the vehicle, as Ahmed started trying to pry the door open. He stopped when a large shadow appeared in the entrance of the underground parking lot - it's silhouette towering and humanoid, with several tentacles thrashing around it's back. That flash-light like effect was scanning the room, and she could see that it was readying some sort of gun to fire. She opened her mouth and screamed:

"Oh fuck!"

Chloe hit the ground and covered Hotaru as a blazing burst of energy slammed into the side of the jeep, spraying sparks all over. She looked up as Ahmed hit the ground, twitching, and tumbled to a stop, smoke jumping from various parts in his body. She looked over her shoulder as the thing readied to fire again; thinking quickly she grabbed Hotaru and the two ran around to the front of the vehicle, as the warbot unloaded with another energy blast that slammed into the side of the vehicle. Ahmed forced himself back upright, pulling his twitching body over and grabbing the door, pulling it open as Chloe, running backwards so any burst hit her and not Hotaru, moved towards the door and threw her in. Hotaru tumbled into the vehicle, as a burst slammed into her planted her face first on the ground. She was out for maybe a second before she came back, with her muse, Blue, yelling at her to get up.

That last hit really fucked her up. Blue was displaying what looked like a medical readout, with a bunch of stuff marked red. She really couldn't focus on any of it, though; she drew her gun and opened fire on it, missing most of the shots as it opened up with another blast that punched into the side of the crash vehicle, without doing much more than leaving burn marks.

She felt a hand pull her into the crash van, and she stumbled into place, as Ahmed slammed the door. Hotaru was in the back of the van curled up against the wall, wincing and holding her ankle with each round that slammed into it.

She could see the t-ray emitter flash through the walls of the vehicle, and could follow it to see where the warbot was moving. She looked over at Ahmed as he started the vehicle up. Her head spinning and the migraine/nausea combination threatening to put her on the ground and keep her there, she looked around, and grabbed the closest weapon that she could find - what looked like some kind of launcher. She held on to it, and just like with the rifle, the instructions of how to use it were belted into her brain by some unknown force.

"Get me a clear shot!" She shouted to Ahmed, as he threw the van into gear and spun the wheel around. She grabbed the closest shot that she could and, through a sea of pain and anguish, she kicked open the back doors. Hotaru screamed in shock as she loaded the round. The warbot that had been firing at them appeared in her view and she drew a bead on it, as it leveled the firearm it had at her. She squeezed the trigger and the rocket screamed towards it, slamming the warbot and blowing it backwards.

Another silhouette had appeared in the entrance of the underground parking lot, as Ahmed spun the wheel with his one arm and slammed on the gas, making a beeline for the entrance. While he was doing that, she loaded up another round and fired it, missing with this one. It slammed into the wall, the concussive blast succeeding only in throwing the aim off of the one that she'd been firing at; the plasma burst, or whatever the energy weapon it was using, slammed into the roof overhead.

Ahmed: [Shut the door!]

Chloe hesitated for a second. She looked over her shoulder as the warbot appeared directly ahead of them; It raised the gun and aimed at the windshield as Ahmed continued driving directly towards it. without thinking she hit the deck, face down as the entire interior was awash with a bright, burning light. That was followed by the bone-crunching sound of a eight ton metal crash vehicle slamming head long, at 80 miles per hour, into a two ton humanoid robot.

She felt the impact too. She grabbed Hotaru as she screamed in surprise, trying to keep her head safe by curling up into a small ball. Chloe risked looking up to make sure that Ahmed was still there - and he was.

"That's for the Fall, you ugly fucker!" Ahmed shouted, as she saw the warbot dragging along beside them. Holding onto Hotaru, Chloe picked up the launcher, loading another round as the warbot drug along the ground behind them, throwing sparks as they went up the ramp. Leveling the launcher, Chloe aimed it down at the robot. She wanted to think of a cool one liner to match what she was going to do, but she couldn't, so she didn't. She just squeezed the trigger and planted the HEAP round square in the face of the robot, blowing it's head clean off and ripping the arm off. She watched the remains of the body slide back, tumbling downhill into the underground parking garage, where the other warbot still remained.

With it gone, she stood up and shut the back doors, looking back at Ahmed.

Ahmed: [Good shot.]

"Thank you."

Chloe slid down beside Hotaru, wrapping her arm around the girl.

"It'll be alright," she said, running her hands through the girl's hair. "They're gone."

Ahmed: [For the moment.]

"Well, I didn't ask for that input," Chloe said, as Ahmed turned off on a road.

Ahmed: [That's alright. You didn't have too - that one is free of charge.]

Chloe sighed, looking at Hotaru as she crawled over beside her.

Sava: [Hotaru is very scared. Thank you for taking care of her, and us, like this.]

"Don't think anything of it," Chloe said, feeling dizzy from the migraine. "What good is it if we humans don't stick together?"

Ahmed: [So from here, it's to Las Vegas, then Groom Lake, and then being rescued. Okay, I think we can do this.]

Chloe smiled. The only thing she wanted to do now was sleep, but she knew she'd never get that chance too. At least, not right now. They'd have to be someplace where she was relatively certainly that they'd be safe before she tried that. And this certainly wasn't that place.

Blue: [Do we know any safe places around here?]

Ahmed: [Not a clue. We'll just keep driving until we find one, I suppose.]

"Maybe we can find a roadside hotel or something," Chloe said, standing up and leaning over the seat.

Ahmed: [Well, then get up here and keep your eyes peeled for it. Two sets of eyes stand a better chance than one.]

Chloe looked back at Hotaru, extending a hand and helping her up into the front, where Chloe sat down beside her. She went rummaging under the seats and found a blanket, wrapping Hotaru in that as she leaned back in the seat and looked out over the desolate, bleak landscape. There was nothing but ruins and burned ground as far as she could see.

This wasn't going to be as easy as she thought.

Edit: Typos fixed; thanks Brin! :)


  1. give it credit for begin


    "Does it ever really matter?" He said

    The “he” should be lowercase.

    I don't think she can even talk  right now.

    Double space between “talk” and “right”.

    you should have your  muse change your privacy settings

    Another double space in “your muse”.

    We were relseeved by an AI named Antares.


    what was black box she picked up?

    The black box.

    unjamming it as the stepped


    Holding onto Chloe, she picked up the launcher,

    The “she” is Chloe, which means the name should be Hotaru.

    She wanted to think of a cool one liner to match what she was going to,

    Going to do.


    It seems like an odd limitation that they can only put two minds in a body but no more, and only one can have motor control. If there is no such limitation, then Ahmed was wrong to say "Well, I guess we won't be resleeving in this one after all - it's already occupied.", because that doesn't follow as long as you can get the people already inhabiting it to agree.

    (Not in a plural system myself, but I've read enough stuff from people who are for it to annoy me when body-surfing stories insist on one mind per body for no apparent reason. Especially when they leave people unconscious in storage because they "don't have enough bodies to go around".)

  2. Actually, there are a group of individuals in Eclipse Phase (who we will be meeting later) called posthumans. Posthumans are individuals who are, for lack of a better word, singularity chasing sociopaths. This isn't true for all posthumans, though (that all of the chase the singularity is true, but they're not all sociopaths. Just the greater majority). They sometimes modify their egos and their morphs to the point where they're really no longer recognizable as human; for instance, one posthuman may modify themselves for being the ideal hunter, whereby their ego is adapted to hunting, and they may go so far as to modify their digestive tract so that they can only consume the flesh of other transhumans (I did mention these people were unstable, right?). One of the tricks that posthumans do is modify a cyberbrain to contain more than one ego at a time; with both egos having control over the body. This does some seriously nasty stuff to both egos, because they aren't separate. Really unstable posthumans will sometimes stuff as many as four or five egos inside of a cyberbrain (because a biological brain simply can't handle it; it's different from MPD, because with MPD, they're fragments with different personalities. these are totally different entities; four or five people without any barriers at all stuffed inside of the same brain. The neurological wiring patters make up a person in EP; thus, you can't have six or seven neurological patterns and wirings in the same brain at the same time without serious consequences, because there'd be a lot of overlap, a lot of things canceling out, and a lot of other problems. This is also true for unconscious people; when you're unconscious, your brain is still active. To download a new person, you'd have to wipe the hard-drive. Now you could, in theory, partition a brain like you partition a computer, but you'd need a cyberbrain to do it; the biological brain doesn't have enough room and you'd have to wipe the preexisting personality to do install the new one.)

    In the case of Hotaru and her father, Sava, the egos *are* separate. See, Sava is in a ghostrider module, which is like an additional cortical stack that Hotaru has installed in her body. Through this module, Hotaru's father is capable of doubling as her muse, but he can also be downloaded, or even forked, into a different body if he wanted. However, he does not have access to Hotaru's brain (Hotaru is in a sylph morph; that's a biological morph without a cyberbrain), and he retains his own independent status. Had Hotaru been in some kind of pod (like a pleasure pod or worker pod) or synth morph, then it was likely Antares would've partitioned the cyberbrain to install them both on the same brain, and save the ghostrider module for something else. However, sylphs don't have cyberbrains (normally; Hotaru doesn't), so he couldn't do that.

  3. The use of "fragment" is degrading (at least when used as a general term), but upon second reading I think I see your point: whole-brain neural mapping is not a means of mind-uploading conducive to sharing bodies, and when you try, Bad Things Happen. Got it.
    (Kind of makes me wonder what happens when people who are already plural are brain-mapped, though. Does it not work right on them at all? Do they just have to move from body to body as a group?)

  4. Well, if it's part of their neural chemistry, it's mapped with them. I don't use "fragment" as a general term - the ego is one whole ego, but there are different "personalities" at play. Each of these personalities is a fragment of the original ego; not because they seemingly do only one thing, but because when you add them all together, you get the whole ego. I tend to think of it like this: you have one OS, which is the ego. Generally speaking, the OS usually has only one skin. However, sometimes the OS can have different skins; this is true for an individual with MPD; it's just that the OS changes skins without conscious effort on the user. The skins change, but the OS remains the same. They're part of a greater whole. Perhaps "sections" or "elements" would be a better word to use.

    In EP, there's two general ways of achieving multiple personalities. The morph can come with it built in (in which case, it's already there in the morph's brain and not backed up when you're backed up. When you leave the morph, the multiple personality does not come with you), or there's where your brain already has it inbuilt, in which case it *does* follow you home, because, in essence, it's part of *you*.