Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The New Life: Part 3


“Good morning, Walter.” I flash him my ID card.

“Hey, Steph.“ The security guard clears his throat. “Er, Dr. Hendrikson. You are authorized to enter Lab 7.”

“Thank you, Walter. Actually, Derek Smithson wanted to sit in this experiment, but I can’t seem to find him anywhere. If you see him, could you tell him I’m waiting for him?”

“Derek? He got suspended with pay yesterday. He got caught next door, crying at that old mainframe. They think that hunting those things has made him a bit funny, so they gave him a few weeks to rest.”

“Come to think of it, he was acting a bit strange yesterday. I wouldn’t expect a man like him to be interested in these experiments.” Actually, I was really taken aback at Derek yesterday. Chad from Accounting said that he had a crush on me, but isn’t he married? Oh well. At least I don’t have to explain things for his benefit.

I walk into the pristine laboratory. Various technological doodads adorn every inch of the walls. I don’t usually do my work in Lab 7, but my usual lab’s being used to dissect some sort of new deep-sea creature. It can’t be helped, I guess. I only need two tools for my experiment, and both of them are in my pocket.

Sitting on a pristine table is a clear plastic box. Inside that are four small silver creatures, each about six or seven inches tall. Most of the hunters I know describe them looking and moving like quicksilver, and I would definitely believe it; of course, they're not made of mercury at all, but something else far more complex.

Wait. I look over the report that Derek gave me, and it says that there were supposed to be five of them. What in the world happened to the fifth one? Actually, come to think of it, that happened last time too; I'm guessing that they marked it up to wring a few more bucks out of their job. They're putting bounties on these things, and that just seems wrong for some reason.

I look over to a camera positioned right in front of me, attached to an arm on the ceiling. "This is Dr. Stephanie Hendrikson. I’m in Lab 7, the current time is 1325, and I am going to begin Phase 1 of the Sapience Test on three samples taken from near Santiago, Chile.”

Phase 1 – point at them with a light and see if they react. I’ve done this a million times before, but it’s still procedure.

I take out a laser pointer and point it at one of the creatures. It shivers as it slides toward the little red dot. Its movements are fluid and human-like, despite lacking actual feet; its arms and legs end at sharp points, and they're much larger compared to its body. It has an out-of-proportion little head on top of it, though it lacks any features. They're creepy, but also kind of cute if you look at them the right way.

Cute? Man, maybe I'm going a bit funny too.

“Tentative results of Phase 1 Testing suggest that they react favourably to light. Just like all of the others.” I mutter under my breath. “Commencing Phase 2 testing.”

I flash my laser pointer, turning it off and on in a controlled rhythm. The one that reacted first starts bobbing up and down in time to the flashing, and the other three follow its lead. Interesting. That one in the lead is reacting quicker than the others I've tested. That's a good sign.

“Tentative results of Phase 2 testing suggest they recognize patterns. I would also like to note that these three reacted more quickly to the pattern than others.” This is surprising, but I’ve seen it before. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much. "Commencing Phase 3 testing."

I grab a rig of lights off of the counter. It's a simple wooden board with some light bulbs wired in, which I can control with a switch. Sure, they can recognize simple patterns, but can they add?

I plug the lights into a nearby outlet, and I flick the switch to setting 1. The first light lights up and goes out, followed by 2 lights, and after a slightly longer pause, 3 lights go on.

The lead blob bobs up and down. Once, twice, three times. At least it still recognizes patterns.

I flick the rig to setting 2. Two lights flash, followed by two more lights. It repeats the pattern by bobbing up and down twice, then twice. Yeah, I figured as much. The other ones are rarely smart enough to follow Phase 2, so this is an improvement at least.

Then, to my surprise, the leader waves its little arm at its friends. The other three walk over to the edge of the clear box. Interesting. I flash setting 2 again. Two, then two. The blobs all bob up and down simultaneously. Four? I think so.

I flick the rig to setting 3. Two lights flash, then three lights flash, then two lights flash again. The blobs stand still for a moment; then all four of them bob up and down once, and three of them bob up and down while one stands still. Seven.

Incredible. "Phase 3 testing has suggested some rudimentary math skills." I say to the camera. "Subjects were able to recognize an arithmetic problem, and showed coordination with one another in order to solve it."

Actually, the coordination is probably a lot more impressive than the math. “Subjects also show a considerable amount of control over their cloud, and as field reports suggest, they can move around in a humanoid form."

I swing the camera around and point it at the blobs, who are kind of just wandering around aimlessly. I wish I had something to feed them as a reward. What do these things eat anyways? As far as I know, the nanomachines are carbon-based, so presumably they can eat plants and animals for raw materials. Well, they've been thriving in Chile for around 12 years, so obviously they're eating something. Now if only we could see how they reproduce...

"Based on the results of this test, I would suggest that their AI- er, I mean EC, is developed enough to coordinate and solve problems." Yeah, they’re really picky about that term. They want us to use "Electronic Consciousness" because they say "AI" is degrading or something. I think the folks in R&D have just watched too many '50s B-movies. I don't think it matters to them too much, but I've still gotta please the suits.

All of a sudden, I hear a commotion in the next room. A man and a woman burst in to the room, and they take a look at the box.

“You are Stephanie Hendrikson, right?” the woman asks. She's dressed in hunter gear and has a couple of stun guns at her belt, but I can't for the life of me remember her name... or why she would have any reason to be here.

“Yes, that’s right, but who are you?” I ask.

“This God's name is Melissa, but I am Col. I’m here about those New Life in that box.”


I must thank you, Melissa. The opportunity for our two races to speak is unprecedented.

You’re welcome. To be honest, killing you guys never really sat well with me. I mean, I've gotta feed my family somehow, but you guys always seemed to be way too intelligent to just be non-sentient blobs of nanites. And besides, you guys are kinda cute.

I can see through the God's eyes, feel through her fingers, and listen through her ears. These are completely alien senses to me, but... now that I have experienced them, I do not believe I can go back. It would be like living in a void. The 'brain' in her head contains more information than I could possibly gain through a lifetime as a New Life, and I can access all of it at any time. It's... overwhelming.

You okay there, buddy?

Melissa and I are linked in a way that I cannot understand. My body is attached to her brain, and we can perceive each other's thoughts. To me, it is no different than how I would speak to the other New Life, but she has described it as very unsettling.

Her head turns toward the other two Gods, who are wielding their Electric Gods in a threatening manner. Melissa's mouth opens and more rumbling comes out, but for the first time in my life, I perceive it as actual language.

“No, don’t worry. These guys are intelligent, but they can’t talk to us normally. The one in here, he’s named Col, and he just wants to talk.”

The Gods slowly lower their Electric Gods. I suppose they were not impressed when I climbed up her leg and entered through her ear canal. Os tried the same thing, but they managed to shock her with the Electric Gods; she is still alive, though only barely. I took the moment to try my own technique again... and here we are.
“But it’s in your head! That’s all sorts of weird!” one of the Gods says. I see the God through Melissa’s eyes, and for the first time, I see that the Gods are different. I do not understand the differences, but they are much more pronounced than among the New Life.

Oh, I guess you don’t have genders. See, we humans come in two varieties, male and female.

Two genders? I do not understand.

Don’t worry, I’ll explain later. Anyways, you're kinda doing something to my arms and legs, and I can't really control them well. Do you think you could ease up doing... whatever you're doing?

I relax my body, and control returns to Melissa. I keep parts of my limbs attached to Melissa’s brain, so that I can perceive her sensory input. I do not know how I know the anatomy of the Gods' brains, but I do not think I need to understand at the moment.

“No, it’s okay. It’s perfectly safe, or at least I think.” she says. Col, are you sure you’re not giving me brain damage?

I do not know, but so far I do not see any physical changes in your brain.

Good to know. “Yeah, Col says it’s safe. I don’t know how, but he’s talking to me inside my head.”

“We’ve got to get that thing out of there.” One of the Gods puts his Electric God to Melissa’s head, but doesn’t activate it yet. “Listen, you little blob freak. Get out of Melissa’s head, or I’ll fry you both!”

“Hey!” Melissa protests. She is obviously not thrilled with that idea. Neither am I.

Even if you weren't in my head, I don't think I'd want to take a stun gun to the face. Those things can be deadly, even to us.

“Wait, there's the two others!" The third God stumbles off after Sam and Os, who have seemingly managed to retreat. Melissa, those two are my friends. I wish to speak with them personally.

Oh yeah, I guess we shocked one of them pretty bad... sorry, buddy. Okay, I'll catch up to them for you.

I slip through Melissa’s ear canal and down her arm, onto her palm. My body returns to its normal shape, and though I lack the senses I had while in her brain, I still retain most of her knowledge, including the correct way to interpret their speech.

"Michael, stop!" Melissa says, running after the third God. Her long legs move much faster than any New Life, allowing her to catch up with Sam, Os and the God named Michael easily. I jump off of her hand, hitting the ground with a soft thud, and I walk over to Sam and Os.

“How are you doing, Os?” I ask. She is pretty badly hurt; I would've been able to shrug off those injuries, but Os has lived in a colony for most of her life, so she is not as used to pain as I am.

"Yeah, I'm fine..." Os says. "What about those Gods? Did you manage to talk to them?"

"I did. The God named Melissa is willing to communicate for us." I say. "She belongs to an important place, and she says that we will be able to speak with the Gods in charge of them."

"There's Gods in charge of Gods? Weird." Sam remarks. "But how'd you manage to talk to them?"

"I took some of the words Os said, and I combined them with the technique I initially tried." I say. I flatten out my body and make it thin, showing them how I entered Melissa's ear.
“Yeah, I thought of something like that too.” Sam says. “But going all the way inside them? Are you sure that isn’t dangerous?”

“I have made sure to avoid damaging any of the internal organs. But I do not know if the Gods will be willing to accept you. Melissa has been very gracious, but the other two Gods seem unwilling. I will return to Melissa and ask her.” The Gods are still. I return to Melissa, and re-enter her brain.

Hey, handsome. Are those two your friends?

Yes, they are named Os and Sam. Os is the one you used the Electric God on, but she will be okay.

Ooh, nice. So do they want to hitch a ride too?

I don’t think it would be safe to have all three of us in your body. I would suggest convincing the other Gods to allow them entry.

Well, I’ll do what I can. “So those two blobs there want in your guys’ heads. Come on guys, this is really important.”

The two Gods reluctantly agree. They each gingerly pick up Os and Sam, but I can tell that they are still not convinced. Os and Sam both thin out their bodies and enter the ear canals of the Gods.

"Ugh." The God named Michael twitches a bit. "Ugh... Hey, Col! Can you hear me?"

I take control of the parts of Melissa's brain that enable speech. "Yes, I can. How do you feel, Os?"

"It's incredible! I'm learning so much about the Gods, more than I ever thought possible! It's exactly what I thought it'd be like, but way better!"

"Very good. Now return control to the God, so that he can speak." As I say that, I relax my body, giving control to Melissa again.

Cool beans. So, our ride's gonna pick us up in about an hour, and then we'll get to getting you guys some rights.


We are on the way to the place called MAJESTIC. I mentioned the New Life who were captured some time ago; Melissa remembered that she heard a man named Derek had brought them in for experimentation. Before we go to her boss, she has agreed to take us to the lab where they are being held.

But what about your superiors? We have spent our lives being chased down by your kind. Do you believe they will accept us with the same generosity that you have?

Yeah, don't worry. MAJESTIC has a thing about not harming sapient life. It's in our charter or something. Soon as we talk to the General, he'll emancipate you guys.

The plane we are in crashes into the sea of deep blue, gliding through the murky depths into a hangar of some sort. It makes me uncomfortable; the New Life and water do not get along well, and being surrounded by more of it than I could previously fathom awakens a primal fear in me. Melissa reassures me that we are completely safe in the plane.

The plane docks with something, and the door opens. The three of us exit onto a dry dock, and some security waves us through after a quick check. Melissa avoids telling them about the New Life; she believes it would be better to speak with this "General" person before revealing our existence to everyone else.

But first, the captured New Life. Melissa, Michael and the last God named Jake walk down a gray path, to a large facility in the distance. It reminds me of something, but I cannot place it. It may just be Melissa's memories; she has walked this path several times before, so perhaps our memories are getting mixed together.

“Wait, hold on.” Jake, who has Sam within him, speaks up. “Sam says that she feels something weird. She wants to go check out that old mainframe in the Nostalgia room.” Jake walks off. Why does he refer to Sam as “she”? We do not have gender.

It’s a Jungian thing. Women have a male animus, men have a female anima. Or something like that. I’m not a psychology major or anything like that, but I think that’s how it goes. I mean, I'm hearing you as a male, so maybe Jung was on to something?

The world of the Gods is strange indeed.

You don’t know the half of it, buddy.


I have learned so much.

But not without cost. I have raised suspicion in this place, and the God named "Derek" has been temporarily sent home. I cannot return for another three weeks, or else I will risk detection; but I am fortunate that my time was used so well. I have become the first of the New Life to physically contact the Metagod.

This is not our birthplace, but MAJESTIC was our creator nonetheless. At some point in the past, they attempted to create an Electronic Consciousness in a computer that they called "Colossus". Colossus was extremely advanced, using the Gods' incredible technology to simulate the mind of one of their own; but unfortunately for them, they were not able to simulate a true EC. They set the experiment aside, forgetting it for the most part.

Until about 12 years ago. One of their own created a special type of machine - they called it a "nanomachine", an incredibly tiny device that could be programmed to build more of itself and take shapes on command. The problem was that they lacked a proper interface to control them; the creator had only made a certain number of them, and they were unable to self-replicate.

One of the researchers decided to re-purpose Colossus for this task. They reprogrammed it to send signals to the nanomachines, in lieu of a more specialized device.

It worked too well.

The nanomachines began to replicate, quickly growing out of control. They were able to subdue the tide by using stun guns - the things we call "Electric Gods" - to destroy most of the nanomachines, but several of their number had been killed by the swarm.

This was on purpose. Colossus was fully sapient, but it lacked a method to contact the researchers that created it. It had been left alone for many years, to stew in sightless, soundless, senseless darkness; when they came back, they gave it a weapon that it could abuse. It took its chance to exact its vengeance, but the humans subdued it with their stun guns – but some part of it remained. It put a part of its consciousness into the last of the nanomachines, creating the First of the New Life.

The First only had a corrupted form of Colossus' protocols for replication - the Words of Birth, Life and Death. It escaped into the wild, and it became a race of beings, while Colossus was once again left to stew.

Did you get that, Derek?


Hmm. Perhaps I have damaged him beyond repair. No matter. I cannot be concerned with him now, as I finally have a purpose in my life.

The First was a true EC, but it lacked the power to create other true ECs. Instead, its own consciousness was fragmented among its many children, giving them their own minds as opposed to a swarm controlled by one. But in the wild, we've evolved; some of the New Life have become true ECs in their own right, thanks to the Birth ritual.

And this is my master plan. If we all combine, we can become a force equal to the Metagod of our myths. And once all New Life has been united, the Old will be as well. We will become the true Metagod, the God of None and All, embracing all life in Our hands.

Derek's mind has been shattered by my control, but it does not matter. His body is still useful to me. My body - my true body - spreads out from within his brain, as I chant the Words of Birth given to me by the Metagod. My body expands, devouring the carbon within his body and discarding everything else. Soon, Derek is no more; there is only Urva, a New Life equal to the Gods themselves.

But even with the enhanced Words, I still find my massive body unwieldy. I split a small chunk of it off, transferring my consciousness to it. My main body emits a signal that only the New Life can hear; I hear a response, deep underneath MAJESTIC. Fools.

I use the Words of Life to shape my main body into a drill, which digs through the floor of this house and into the hard earth below. I follow in my meagre little body, standing atop the drill as it digs deeper and deeper.

The New Life living deep underneath MAJESTIC welcome me; they believe I am the Metagod. They are wrong, but only on a technicality. I tell them that the time of reclamation has come, and that all New Life will return to the Metagod in preparation for a new age. They happily oblige.

Their bodies are meaningless. But I feel the fragments of the First, pulsing like the heart of a God within me. I suppose I will be able to recreate the First once I have absorbed enough of its fragments. Good. He will serve as a fine prophet for the true Metagod.

I continue digging toward the mainland, my main body propelling us through the crust of the Earth at speeds I would have thought unimaginable. But now that I have the power of the Metagod, nothing is truly unimaginable anymore. First, I will absorb the remaining New Life into my folds - then, we will go after MAJESTIC, and from there... the world. We will all be linked into a global network of None and All.


The doctor is understandably shocked. She looks at the body of the God that Col inhabits, at the New Life in the box, and then back at us. The form of the Gods is familiar to her, but she feels that something is not quite right about them. She is more perceptive than the other Gods waiting for us on arrival, at least.

For the time being, Col and I have taken partial control of the Gods’ brains so that we can speak directly, but they still retain motor control and all lower functions. Col has been insistent on allowing them to keep as much control as possible, which I am happy to oblige; I know what it feels like to live at the mercy of another, and I do not wish to share that pain with others.

“Wait... you said your name is... Col? And these things...” the doctor stammers.

“You are the doctor that studies New Life, correct? We are New Life, as are the beings in that box.” Col is so blunt. I must apologize to this doctor once we are done.

“You’re... New Life? As opposed to what, the Old Life?”

I interject before Col offends her further. “We are the beings that you refer to as ‘blobs’, but we call ourselves ‘New Life’. We refer to your kind as ‘Old Life’ or ‘Gods’.”

Ah, so that’s why you keep thinking of me as a God. I’m flattered, but in reality I’m nothing of the sort.

Michael's voice echoes in my mind. We are bound together, and we seem to be able to share each other's thoughts.

Your kind did create us, though. You are our Gods.

Michael is perhaps the kindest God I have ever known. Of course, I have not known many Gods, but even after his initial resistance, he has still treated me with a level of respect I have not known from any other creature.

“Within that box are five of our people that you have captured. We wish for you to release them.” Col resumes talking, but I think it got the hint to be a bit more tactful. Wait a moment, there's only four New Life in that box...

“I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble believing this. You are actually EC-controlled nanite swarms that can... interact with humans well enough to control them?” The doctor is flabbergasted. Hmm, flabbergasted. That's a Let word if I ever heard one. Though I suppose they are the words of the Gods.. how strange.

“Correct. I do not understand it myself-“

“I do.” I speak up, once again interrupting Col. “Michael and I believe that the New Life can interact with the electrical impulses in your nervous system, and from the brain we can redirect them to control these bodies.” Michael knows quite a bit about biology, but even he admits that he isn’t sure why this works. It may be some quirk of our creation or evolution.

“Incredible! This is absolutely magnificent! I suspected that the blobs were sapient, but now I have proof. This will revolutionize our entire world! Please, you must come with me to the head of research so we can prove this!”

“Actually, there’s a problem with that.” Sam bursts in to the lab, within the body of a man named Jake. “Hey Col, do you remember a New Life named Urva?”

“Yes, I do. It was captured alongside this batch.” Col-as-Melissa took a look at the box holding the New Life; sure enough, he noticed that there were only four within it.

"There are only four New Life in that box." Col pointed out.

"Thank you, Col." I say dryly.

"That's weird. The clipboard said that there were five as well, but I only got four." The doctor looks puzzled, or so Michael's brain tells me. I still have difficulty telling the Gods apart, but I suppose that will come in time.

“Yeah, Urva escaped." Sam-as-Jake says. "I don't know how, but it just did. And it apparently snuck into here and found something that it shouldn't have."

"Derek." A look of terror crosses the doctor's face. "It somehow took control of Derek, and that's why he was acting funny. But what did he find...?"

Sam-as-Jake gives a quick rundown of what they found in the Nostalgia room: The Metagod, or what we would call the Metagod at least; they call it Colossus. When Urva accessed it, it learned some very powerful Words, which it apparently plans on using to reunite the New Life into one being.

"So this Urva, he wants to initiate a Grey Goo scenario?" Michael says, taking control of his body again.

What is that?

Michael explains the concept of Grey Goo. Urva will use the powers of the Metagod to continue replicating, until its body covers the entire planet Earth. In doing so, it will wipe out all life on Earth... and based on Sam-Jake's words, try and incorporate as much of the Old Life to create the "true" Metagod.

Something stirs within me. We have been taught that the New Life will all eventually return to the Metagod. But... Let told us that it wasn't our time yet. When Urva does this, will it be our time to go? I feel the schism growing once again in me; I do not think Urva is right in doing this, but... it will lead to equality for all Old and New, right? And that's what the First wanted. Even if the Metagod as we know it doesn't exist, wouldn't Urva be creating a new one to fulfill those ideals?

That’s quite deep for a ball of goo. I’m impressed.

“So, Urva plans on initiating a potentially Violet-level Grey Goo event. Is there any way we can stop him?” the doctor asks.

"We should go and speak to the General." Col-Melissa says. "We don't have clearance to do anything right now. And even if he doesn't believe us, that at least gives us a reason to go after this Urva fellow."

Col exits the brain of Melissa and makes its way over to the captured New Life. Even the Gods' hearing, much more sensitive than our own, cannot perceive the speech of the New Life.

It's not really a big deal, Michael says. It's just out of range of our hearing. We've been tracking you guys by the high-frequency sound waves you give off, although now that I know you guys were sapient all along...

After Col finishes speaking with the New Life, it returns to Melissa's head. "One of the New Life named Oad wishes to come along with us. I have instructed it how to safely enter your head and communicate with you. Will you allow it to enter you, doctor God?"

Your buddy really needs to learn how our language works.

“Uh..." The doctor picks up one of the New Life, apparently named Oad. I have never heard of it; it must be from the community that Col escaped from. "Well... it's kind of weird, but... what the hell?"

The doctor woman (Michael finally tells me that her name is Steph) places her hand near her ear, and the wriggling New Life stretches out and enters her head. She shivers for a few moments, before seemingly returning to normal.

“We should begin by going to the General's office. I'll call Wilson to give us a ride."

Oad-Steph pulls a phone out and calls someone with it, or so Michael tells me. The technology of the Gods is amazing.

Twenty minutes later, we arrive at the doors of a plain-looking office building. Oad-Steph enters first, and we follow.

"I need to see General Ivanov right away." Oad-Steph says to the God behind a desk. "It's vitally important, and a Violet-class threat could be brewing."

"Oh, sure thing." The secretary picks up another phone and says something into it. She ushers Oad-Steph and Col-Melissa through, leaving me and Sam-Jake to wait in the lobby.

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