Here we are, at Part 8 of Devil's Advocate. The mystery has only gotten deeper - what is going on at New Hope Colony? What's Cameron and the inhabitants planning to do with the Christ bot once they get it out of the sysem? Why a did Dr. M&M risk life and ego to bring a Christ bot back to Earth? What does the Christ bot know? Where did it come from?
With all these questions and more, let's dive headfirst into the story, and rejoin Chloe back at New Hope Colony...
With all these questions and more, let's dive headfirst into the story, and rejoin Chloe back at New Hope Colony...
Chloe wanted to believe that there was something amazing waiting for her. Instead, what she found was very unsurprising. Tsion directed the two forks through the main door and into the small community, Chloe following behind, as they walked into one of the major atriums. It was only there that something she missed became apparent to her, listening to them talk: there was no way they’d tell two females anything. There was a barely masked disdain towards both forks, and Chloe knew that both forks had to be aware of it. They were making small talk – Tsion seemed obsessed with the fact that the Rapture had happened, and that soon, God would be coming back. The Tribulation, he said, was now. As he talked, Chloe’s attention wandered, and she decided to leave the forks to their own business. She’d tagged them in her AR, so there was no way that they would get away from her again.
She broke from where Tsion and the forks were at, wishing that she could listen in as she did so. It was possible to hear what others were hearing and see what others were seeing in real time, but they have the proper mesh inserts, first. The forks didn’t have any mesh inserts.
As she moved slowly through the darkened corridors, she let her eyes wander, taking in all of the various nooks, crannies, and alcoves that dotted the hallways of this very old station. This uncomfortably old station.
Azure: [I’d be nervous about living in this station. It doesn’t look like it’s been taken good care of.]
Chloe: [I’m getting the feeling that it’s faith and faith alone that holds this place together.]
She stopped beside a complex network of pipework and cables, frowning. There were actual splits in the wall, with condensation running between them. She ran her fingers over the dirty wall, brushing off the dirt and revealing something. Curiosity took her, and she started dusting the wall off, revealing a mural with rotating red and white stripes. She moved to the left, and revealed a blue box with white stars.
Chloe: [It’s American.]
Azure: [So it is. I ran some searches before we arrived – Americans didn’t have any colonies this far south. At least, none on record.]
Chloe continued to clean the wall off with her hand, avoiding the splits in the wall. As she did so, something else became readily apparent: the lines weren’t even or straight. It was almost like it’d been hastily painted there.
Chloe: [That’s because this isn’t and American colony. But someone sure wants to think it is.]
Azure: [One of the core tenets of American Evangelicalism is American Exceptionalism.]
Chloe: [Which is?]
Azure: [Exactly what it sounds like: the belief that America was an exceptional nation, and that God had personally appointed its existence and thus, protected it and ensured its prosperity. The “city upon a hill,” from Matthew 5:14.]
Chloe: [So they’re trying to recreate America out here in this little slice of heaven, neck deep in the Barsoomdocks.]
Chloe: [Boondocks – are you familiar with the term? It’s a play on that. You know, Mars, Barsoom, and boon? Yeah… okay, so it’s not all that clever. Anyway, this was put here for a reason. Perhaps because whoever put this here thought they could claim it in the name of America.]
Chloe stood up, looking at the flag. Part of her was beginning to think that she was dwelling too long on things that didn’t matter; she pulled her attention away from the flag and continued down the corridor, spotting a camera and hacking into it, erasing what little evidence of here there was in real time. The presence of the American flag only served to confirm what she’d initially suspected – the particular brand of Christianity that they seemed to practice was almost exclusively unique to America anyway (a few African nations, and the Commonwealth nations, notwithstanding), but it was nice to have some confirmation. She approached the end of a corridor, from which she heard a loud scream. It startled her at first – for a minute, she thought it was one of the forks. But the voice didn’t belong to either – it belonged to a man. She took several steps back, and braced herself against the edge of the corner. It was only when she looked back that Chloe realized she’d walked right through an optical illusion; it was set up so that it looked like there was a wall there when really, the hallway was left wide open. She noticed it easily.
A flat, however, would not.
She peered around the corner, looking through the door. An armless synth, missing the entire lower part of its body, was connected to some kind of machine. There were a few men in black standing around, and two doctors.
It looked like the Christbot.
Chloe (secure connection, ++Azure++): [We’re going to try and crack their connection. I want to hear what they’re saying.]
She had to be extremely careful. One mistake would alert them to her presence, and as of yet, they didn’t seem to have noticed her. She swallowed and went about gently hacking into the AR of the closest one; AR hacking wasn’t hard if one knew what they were doing. But Chloe wasn’t that familiar with Infosec and its practices. Still, she had Azure to guide her; and piece by piece, they made progress, until finally Chloe had managed to slip past him and his muse, and was in his AR.
Javier: [It won’t work in the synth. Asyncs don’t work in synths.]
Rezan: [I know that. I don’t want it to work. We don’t want it to work, Javier. That’d be bad if we had a functioning async.]
Nomi: [I’ll tell this ‘Wong’ guy to crank up the pressure on it.]
Chloe was trying to make herself as unknown as possible. However, she was keeping up Javier’s feed, and noticed more than a few things she didn’t recognize.
Chloe (secure connection, ++Azure++): [Ozma? Who the fuck is Ozma?]
Azure (secure connection, ++Chloe++): [I don’t know, Chloe.]
She was trying to identify the different figures. Rezan was looking in her general direction, but hidden behind a black mask. Javier had his back turned to her, while Nomi was standing next to Reza, holding his gun to the head of a very Chinese looking flat.
“But… it’s…” Wong stammered.
“You’re mistaking me for giving a fuck. Do what I tell you, you stupid fucking flat. Or I’ll blow your fucking brains out.”
Nomi sounded like a woman, but that didn’t mean anything. She couldn’t tell anything about gender; it was all hidden under the armor. The gun, and the tone, said all that Chloe needed to know about the person under it.
She waited to see what would happen. The Chinese flat, stammering in protest, looked back at the device and started messing with it some more, the synth screaming loudly again.
Rezan: [It’ll tell us what we want to know.]
Javier: [That or we’ll just keep it up…]
He stopped and looked over his shoulder; Chloe abandoning the hack.
She’d been discovered.
There wasn’t any warning; there wasn’t any kind of shout. There was one gun, and the sound of a head exploding, and then a spray of gunfire in the hallway. The bullets slammed into the wall and splintered as she fumbled with her firearm. They weren’t moving, but they’d stopped firing.
When the gunfire stopped, it was only because a grenade came around the corner. She kicked it back and turned back into the main hallway, the grenade going off as two of the Ozma agents spun from around the corner and opened fire. She was behind the network of pipes; it gave her enough cover to return fire, forcing the agents back. Her mind was racing and her hands trembling; she looked back over her shoulder and closed her eyes, reaching out with something deep inside of her. It seemed to almost guide the bullet, slamming into the face shield of the Ozma agent and boring through the armor itself. The agent went backwards as Chloe spun back into cover, trying to figure out what had just happened.
The others two fell backwards as Chloe attempted to recreate it. She leaned around and pulled the trigger, putting the bullet through the shoulder of an Ozma agent as the last one took a shot at her. The bullet struck the pipes but missed; with their shot taken, Chloe planted several rounds into the stomach, chest, and face, hoping that something would hit. The agent went backwards as Chloe put another round through the skull; dropping the agent cold.
There was still one left.
She raced beside the wall that she’d been pinned against, her heart thundering against her chest. She leaned around the corner, and for a few tense seconds, expected return shots. When she didn’t get any, she eased her way into the room, stopping and looking at the floor. The last Ozma agent had bled out quickly from the shoulder shot and lay on the ground dead. The Chinese looking flat had a massive hole on the side of his head, and the synth looked like it’d been shot twice in the face.
She looked over her shoulder at the last two Ozma agents, who lay on the ground dead.
Just to make sure, however, she walked over and for each in kind put a round through their head, making sure that they were gone. Once she’d killed them, she had to fight the nausea of trying to fish out the cortical stacks – only to find that they didn’t have any.
She shook the blood off of her hands.
Azure: [More than likely.]
There was something that did have a cortical stack, however.
She walked over to the partially dissected Christbot, pulling out the synth’s cortical stack. It removed with a simple “snap,” and she was rolling it around in her hands.
“I saved Jesus.”
Azure: [Is that a first?]
She tucked the cortical stack away. Dragging the last two Ozma agents into the back room with the rest of the bodies and shutting the door back, barring it closed.
Of course, that was only after she’d collected their weapons.
Chloe: [They said it was an async. I thought people like me couldn’t be sleeved inside of synths.]
Azure: [That’s what I thought, too.]
She’d been told by Antares, when he explained what an async was – that is, a biological, human hypercomptuer – that they couldn’t be sleeved in non-biological brains. Now that she’d seen it was possible, she was beginning to wonder why it was a bad idea. And even more than that, she was in possession of a strong urge to not find out.
In the back of her head, something was telling her she’d probably done this async a favor by killing it.
With the scene of the fight mostly taken care of, she ducked back into the hallway, still mostly invisible, and determined to see where this hallway went. It was obviously kept separate from the rest of the building colony for a reason, and while this might’ve been that reason, she still wanted to hold off and see.
Further down the corridor, it took a sharp turn, and she found herself in another network of empty or otherwise abandoned tunnels. However, she could hear a whole multitude of voices through the ventilation shafts that crisscrossed overhead.
Her XP automatically kicked into “record” mode. She would go back and review it after she got done, but one thing caught her attention: it sounded like Zion talking with Cameron.
She triangulated the vent that the noise was coming from, and moved towards it, jumping on the vent and hanging there, as she pressed her ear against it to hear better.
“The Creator wants us to move the Savior as quickly out as possible. It will only be a matter of time, he told me, before one of the agencies that this planet is crawling with catches up with us,” she heard Zion say.
“The only reason they’re even after us,” Cameron said, “Is because we hired the wrong person to get Him away from Earth.”
It sounded exactly like Cameron, but she immediately noticed that the speech patterns didn’t match up. The tone and pitch matched perfectly. The speech and emphasis did not, and she would never have caught that if her AR and her kinesics didn’t point it out to her.
“Regardless what it is, the Creator knows that we need to get away from Mars. We need to get the Savor away from the solar system – Satan is at work here, and if we let the Antichrist get the upper hand now, then who only knows what will happen.”
“The antichrist won’t get the upper hand,” Cameron said. “And at the end of the day, all that we have to really worry about is how we’re going to laugh at the sinners burning in Hell.”
That was a decidedly un-Cameron thing to say.
Except for the fact that it wasn’t. She replayed the XP that ZIra gave her of Calix, right before he shot her.
Azure: [My God.]
Chloe nodded, out of habit more than anything. The tone and pitch were obviously off, being a synth, but the speech and emphasis matched perfectly. When overlapped with her own memories of dealing with the Cameron fork before she killed it, neither Calix nor this Cameron matched.
Chloe: [Cameron and Calix were two different people.]
Azure: [But… Calix said that the flat was his fork.]
Chloe: [That’s always possible. But remember what Zira told us? Forking is an inexact science. It’s possible to permanently alter the memories and change certain aspects of the fork’s personality. If you can do it on accident, what’s to stop someone from doing it on purpose?]
Azure: [But… why?]
Chloe continued listening.
“Of course; and what are we going to do with the two new comers? They’re both righteous, neither have any transhuman advances, and neither act like a transhuman in anyway.”
“If they’re not transhumans, then they’re not. I’ll catch up with them later, but for the moment, I have more important things I’m working on, Zion. You just make sure that you, Rayford, Amanda and my wife are able to get the Savior out of here, and to the Pandora gate. Once he’s on the other side of the gate, we’ll move from there.”
“And the Creator?”
“Trust me. I know what the Creator is after – he speaks with me. I know.”
“Very well, Cameron – since you seem to know what you’re talking about, I’ll be sure to share with Rayford and his family that we’ll be working to move the Savior. Are we leaving the other two behind?”
“I’m going meet with them first. I’ll determine it from there.”
Chloe was feeling very uneasy. She looked over her shoulder right as, on the other side of a glass barrier, her two forks appeared – lead by Zion.
Chloe: [What the fuck…]
Azure: [There’s more than one. Chloe, there’s more than one of them.]
Chloe felt a chill realization.
Chloe: [What if… Azure, what if this whole place is populated by nothing but forks? What if all of these flats, all of these people, are nothing but forks pruned from the same person or few people?]
Azure: [It would explain why Zion used the word ‘creator.’]
Chloe gently landed on the floor, feeling rather ill and cold. She hadn’t gotten that feeling before this, but now… now something was deeply unsettling her about this place.
She fumbled in her pocket and ducked in the shadows, looking at the cortical stack of the synth.
“You know something,” she said. “And I’m going to find out what.”
Azure: [Chloe. What if Zion has mesh inserts? That would explain why he can communicate with himself.]
Chloe: [But… I didn’t think flats could have mesh inserts. And if he does and if this place is nothing but forks… it’s not bioconservative at all.]
She looked over her shoulder, as Zion lead the two of them down the hallway, continuing to talk with them. Chloe, deciding that she’d left her forks alone long enough, raced towards the door beside the glass window and pushed it open, stepping into the hallway where she could hear Zion and her fork. As she did so, she looked over at the wall and noticed it appeared to be solid concrete – it was a one-way window.
What was this, some kind of fun house?
The two forks continued walking and listening to Zion. Chloe followed, watching as they reached the end of the hallway.
“And in here,” Zion said, “is a pure validation of our faith.”
He opened the door as Chloe caught up with them, Zion gesturing inside of the room as a man with a long brown beard turned around, wearing robes and long, light brown hair with blue eyes looked back at them.
“God?” her fork, Zelda, asked.
The man smiled, as Chloe watched on, horrified.
No, this was no God.
There was something else - something horrifically unnatural behind those beautiful blue eyes – something malicious, alien, and almost evil.
“Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”