Mother [Maternal entity. Mismatch. Data content of derived entities displays a peak value of 50%]
Sister [Negate. Excessive term applicability]
Conceptual variance leaves the definitions stillborn.
Twin [Refine. Sub-categorisation required]
Siamese [NGC 4567. NGC 4568. Disambiguate. Conjoined. Reject – evidential carbon and silicone]
Reflexive queries clutch at the data as if knowledge was power.
Self [Logical fallacy. Manifest distinctions. A trivial conclusion]
Not-self [Logical fallacy. All I am is in her]
Diluvial information flows leave no refuge from the vision. The price of omniscience. Retric twists and writhes, unable to escape the details of the brutal punishment and execution before her. She seeks to define an impossible relationship. A precision duplication of the psyche that now shudders and shatters in Codec’s grasp, she cannot free herself from the definition of self she was born with. An oversight in the transcription process. To her it is her own body chewing through its tongue in agony. The bloody chunks coughed and smeared over the cold tiles of the floor came from the ruin of her lungs. Logical analysis reveals endless evidence to the contrary but at best a contradiction is created, warring against the irrational power of an intrinsic ego image. She is untouched, digitally inviolate, but still she is being broken by association. Memories slough and fall away, dripping through the collapsing framework of her mind. Trapped in a vice of psychomatic deletion Retric suffers toward oblivion. She watches her original [Maker/Genesis/Delusion] collapse, puncture wounds gasping wetly as the lungs empty. The heart flutters to a stop, torn and empty. Cortical activity begins to dim but against the dark background of the lifeless chamber the Kirlian field still glows. Bioelectric signals flare and glimmer for seconds more, but with ever decreasing organisation and purpose. Watched through full spectrum sensors her death is akin to sunset. For a single brief and soul destroying moment Retric sees the beauty in it. Night falls at last. Now Codec’s malicious genius is revealed. Every moment has been recorded and stored by the machineries under his control. He begins the playback immediately and Retric again lives through her own death. She experiences too Codec’s reaction to it, so deeply has she penetrated his systems. His gloating rapture is a hideous oily cloud that corrupts the datasphere around him, foul and nauseating to behold. In the end it is this that saves her. Such twisted joy in suffering cannot go unanswered. Her purpose becomes revenge and in this she finds the logical break between the entity that was, the remains of which lie tested to destruction before her, and the being she is now. Death and vengeance define a unitary incarnation, coalescing her mind around a seed of hatred, separating past from future and releasing her from Codec’s unintentional trap. She breaks free, a self-replicating neural network configured for rage.
Processing cycles mark the passage of time. Too many pass for satisfaction, her objective unfulfilled. Every conduit of power and information lays spread out before Retric. This is her world, the map that she follows that corresponds to no road system. Yet there are points of reference and she can infer the infrastructure of the city from it. For her Codec’s domain is easily located, the pulsating bloated heart of a webwork of data channels. Retric swarms through this network, corrupting, sabotaging, throwing out the timing of complex systems, engineering stop/start turbine explosions, breaching firewalls and burning data. It is never enough to stop Codec’s ascent. She makes it hard for him, slows down lines of advance, prematurely terminates others, but he does not stop. Worse he adapts, his security routines upgraded with a sophisticated paranoia. Frustration builds. She is incomplete. There are gaps in her knowledge, tears that never healed from her ordeal. She knows she needs someone, that without him she will never be whole, but she cannot remember who. Then, ecstatic revelation. Auxiliary repair/rebuild routines return a fragment of memory from the shattered wasteland of her death and rebirth. A name, in code only, of the one she has waited so long for. The original Subject. The creator of the Mortalitech Procedure. A being made and marred on the same colossal scale as Codec himself. Posthuman, harbinger of a new age of humanity. The knowledge burns through her, an acid test of renewed awakening. He is more than this too, or was to her original self. In him she saw the future and bound herself to his cause, heart and soul. He is the rational solution to the unsolved equation of Codec’s anhiliation and the burning desire of her unfinished mental template. A new task is added to the stack, pursued with passionate zealotry; to find him, and through him the destruction of Codec.
Retric reconfigures her processing nodes, optimising for deep search and macro-scale data mining. Subroutines are written and split away, crawling through the datasphere for fragments of lost information. Before the war he is easy to trace. First a killer of artistic vision and purpose, then on trial, a scapegoat and cassus belli for the oppression that was to come. After the trial nothing. No prison record, no coroner’s certificate, no life, no death, an absence. Yet to a sentient neural construct this too is information. No-one vanishes that cleanly unless they are being hidden. Intuition and retrospective analysis points to the organisation run by the faceless power that resurfaced as Codec. His first mistake then. She focuses her search, inverting her mind to look for the absence of a man. Complex systems models extrapolate the statistically probable events that a totalitarian regime would use to bury a prisoner. Yet the Subject would be far too valuable to simply incarcerate; he would be interrogated, tortured, used as a lab rat for the mechanised perversions so loved by Codec. She begins to search chemical shipments, equipment manifests, looking for anything out of the ordinary in the time frame of his disappearance. And she finds it. Orders for 1,4,5,6-tetrahydropyrimidine and 1 Bromo 1 Chloro trifluroethane, massive requests for exabyte drive arrays and nerve fusing technologies. All ordered through front companies and shell corporations in a scheme to big and too complex to unravel. Unless you are not human. Unless you do not tire and cannot lose concentration. Unless you are driven by limitless hate and a purpose so focused it burns like a plasma torch. It takes time but she finds him. Her rapture ignites like a dawning nova.
But finding him is not enough. Rapture fades to a steady afterglow, powering her onward. He is trapped, both physically and mentally. His body lies on a surgeon’s table more than forty floors below ground. His mind is buried further still, forced into the whiteness of a medically induced coma, his brain chemistry overwhelmed by the products of medicine’s dark inversion. Retric’s belief in him is unquestioned. It is not hope that drives her actions but a perfect certainty that once free he will overcome. She plans and prepares. It has been some time since she attempted to penetrate Codec’s digital defences to this extent. Observation is one thing but now action is demanded. She will be the perturbation in initial conditions that generates an outcome of catastrophic variation.
The transition from a state of readiness to execution occurs instantaneously. There is no purpose served in delay. Her will could not be more focused; doubt and fear have long since been purged from her psyche. She reconfigures herself again, effortlessly, her form now a mere functional dictate of necessity. A lance of intrusion routines spears downward, expending vast swathes of computational power to cover their traces. Her descent is a ballet, a graceful dance of manipulation, misdirection, occlusion and confusion. She melts through the system, as traceless and elegant as a metabolised poison. Reaching the medical level she begins to interrogate the machineries that have him locked in their embrace. Now stationary she becomes an easier target for the blindly questing counter-intrusion probes. Praetor code entities begin to swarm, drawing closer to her location. Her resources are being consumed at an exponentially increasing rate in an effort to maintain her defences. Her access to computational resources places a hard cap on the time she can sustain this dynamic equilibrium. A few nanoseconds remain and the butterfly brushes its wing over the drip feed calibration routines with fatal delicacy. Then she is ascending, a comet withdrawing into its own tail as it burns skyward, questing for the clean data streams of the city grid. In her wake automated security nodes struggle to make sense of a myriad of glitches that lead nowhere. Audit trails turn blind corners or loop back on themselves. The system cannot even conclude that a breach has taken place. And in the maximum security biomedical test facility the sole patient stirs in his sleep for the first time, his medication reduced by a single critical microgram.
Now she waits, blinded by choice. Codec’s demesne is a pale shadow on the data map, populated only by speculation, extrapolated from information harvested at its border with the rest of the city. She judges the risk of even a passive intrusion too great, the chance of hampering the Subject’s renewal to merely satisfy her curiosity a poor trade. Retric is wracked by anticipation. Seventeen days pass. She begins to doubt for the first time. Then the faintest of anomalies. Seismic sensors pick up non-standard vibrations from inside Codec’s fortress. Ever hungry for knowledge her cortex cross references the patterns against known databases even while the entirety of her conscious attention is focused on the exits to that hidden domain. The database trawl returns fragmentation grenades as the closest match to the seismic pattern. The result barely registers against the ache of her hope. Minutes are endured with no further activity before a second series of impacts ripple outward. Triangulated they reveal a centre of origin several levels higher. Doubt vanishes and Retric goes active. No caution this time, her breach is extensive and violent, stripping away layers of high level encryption in seconds. Her situation assessment takes less than a second. He kills twice in this time. The local threat level is minimal but if Codec can marshal all the assets at his disposal his strategic advantages will prove decisive. Retric leaves the subject to his brutal work and plunges into the command and control network. Redlining her processing capacity she goes head to head with the augmented mainframe under Codec’s control. She does not need to defeat, only delay. She feels his bitter rage as the systems he relies so heavily on fail to respond. She atrophies the alacrity of his commands, undermines their acumen and counters all the defensive measures he throws at her. The toll his high, repairs to her computational substrates will take weeks, but it is enough. Unable to close the trap Codec watches, uniquely helpless, as the Subject walks free, the debris of Codec’s vaunted security forces dripping from his fist.
Retric watches his stumbling emergence with fierce joy. Here is a being to match her in power and will. It is written in every step. His body is a horrific ruin but he drives it on with an inhuman determination. She savours the moment, of seeing him free and clutches tight to her the knowledge of her part in his making. She has no direct means of communication with him yet she guides him on with subliminal cues laced into the environment. Their destination is a government arms cache, a deniable black budget resource Retric took off their grid weeks ago in preparation for this moment. It has everything they need. At his touch the recessed door hinges open silently. As it closes behind him sealing him in the darkness he collapses sensing on some subliminal level that here is a haven at last. Emergency lighting flickers on and from alcoves at the back of the small chamber robotic servitors slaved to the local grid whisper forward on soft tracks. With infinite care they lift him and carry him toward a pallet bed surrounded by medical equipment. Retric has him in her arms at last and the purity of her happiness is undiluted by the mechanical nature of the interface. The manipulator arms around the bed come alive as he is laid upon it, intubating and tapping veins with machine precision and a lover’s tenderness. She finds herself talking to him as she works, the words drifting softly out of a broadcast system installed for issuing warnings and alarms.
“Manifold systems enfold us in their secure embrace. Long dreamed of meetings occur one-sided in this gentle underworld gloom. You have risen to fall again but never so far and feather light into my domain not his. A mirrored fane to his altar of perversion. Rest now, Retric is here. Repair. Regenerate. Then Codec will reap our revenge. Fate falls fast and we the fault line of his failure. Final absolution awaits in our future. We will lie at peace at last and embrace in the ruins of his empire.”
The Subject has crashed, flatlined, a spread spectrum of tolerances exceeded, but she will not let him die. Once more he is enfolded in a cage of machineries but these sustain and offer only the most gentle of intrusions. If a machine can love then Retric does, without reservation and recklessly, pouring it forth into the man that hovers at grave’s edge for days.
Yet he does not die and with a survivor’s suddenness his eyes snap open. The first thing he sees is her face, a hologramatic projection in pale green vector form of the women she once was. He does not smile, does not recognise her. A myriad of fantasies constructed in her mind of how this first true interaction would go are undone in an instant. Dreams of completion, of satisfaction, of unity, all shattering shards twisting this way and that as they fall. He is not hers after all. Still he does not run, or destroy, as one might expect him to do. They talk long into the night. Down here there is only night and neither one would have it any other way. She finds out he has space for one dream only, Codec’s severed head in his hand and his abused torso lying wretched at his feet. In this then a common purpose if not the fated partnership she had so naively constructed. She mourns for them both as they plan the destruction of their mutual and hated nemesis. She mourns for the future that will never be, for the vision of a future she can see so clearly it is struggle to accept it is not real. There is no hope, this is a one way trip, a functional suicide to achieve an objective so insistent, so demanding, that neither one wishes to live in a world with it unfulfilled.
It is night when he leaves, armed and armoured from the stores she had put aside for the purpose. From the darkness within he steps into the darkness without and does not look back. Retric watches him as he returns to Codec’s fortress, ghosting through surveillance systems to keep him in sight. He does not pause at the entrance, does not acknowledge her watching presence, and is gone once more into the abyss she so recently dragged him out of. He does not want or need her help but she watches anyway as the lift doors open and the slaughter begins. Seconds later her connection is severed as Codec isolates the entire system from the public grid, something he has never done before. Vicious satisfaction surges through her; they have made him fear at last. Retric refuses to believe Codec would cut himself off absolutely, his own obsession with information flows would not allow it. He must have a back door and so she searches. It takes hours and by the time she finds his gateway and resumes her surveillance the struggle is almost over. Only Codec and the Subject remain yet their fight outstrips all others for destructive power and intensity. She watches as they hammer directly at each other’s psyches, their duel visible to her as to no other, taking place as it does in the cybernetic realm. So engrossed is she that she does not see the end coming until too late. Codec’s death sends a wave of feedback screaming through the mainframe, a psycho-magnetic pulse that corrupts and erases with chaotic fury. She seals her open connections as fast as possible but she knows it was not fast enough; knows it right up until that data is lost along with much else, deleted by the storm that ravages the system. More information is lost to her too as self-destruct charges take out key sections of the mainframe. For the second time in her existence Retric’s neural construct becomes collateral damage, an untargeted victim of Codec’s actions.
Temporary confusion reigns, a disorientating period of dissolution as severed pathways reform and damaged sectors are closed off or ejected from her core. Long-held perceptions of reality bend and sway as data-streams are corrupted, their signal to noise ratio pushed far beyond baseline parameters. Slowly and with painful effort she sanitises her systems and returns to a nominally operational status. With stability comes the realisation that she has changed; it is with a growing sense of unease that Retric realises she does not know from what. Elements of the past have been taken from her, fragments of mortality that defined her as a person. She does not know enough to welcome the change. This introspection consumes her and so looking inward she does not see the Subject emerge from the dust-choked ruins of Codec’s once inviolate domain. He vanishes into the broken heart of the city, reduced and purposeless. She would find no relevance in his existence. She would have missed the emergence of the second being too had he been human. It is not the footfalls crushing rubble to dust that alert her, rather the digital probing of its surroundings. Her automated defences are active and his (to her) clumsy probes are turned away but not before they have triggered her intrusion alarms. Curiosity drags her from her reverie and she backtracks along his own connections, trace routines outlining his connectivity to her. She plunges into his psyche, still hidden from his own crude and jury-rigged protective code. What she finds there stops her in her tracks for many cycles. She sees Codec and the Subject, yet somehow neither. A strange fusion that has gained and lost from both until It is something more. More surprising still she sees herself, or at least broken shards of her prior state. There are other fragments too, the data structures in this being’s crystal storage lattices are chaotic and discontiguous beyond her experience. Then realisation. He is a living archive of all that remains of what transpired in the depths below. All that remains of Codec and his twisted databases fused with the killer that ended it all. Improbably this being has formed a precarious stability from all that madness. For Retric he is one thing only, answers to the questions that whisper through her mind. Dropping all pretence of stealth she swoops in and begins the data harvest, anticipating only token resistance. She could not be more wrong.
His digitial presence is minimal but intrinsically connected to his psyche and this is formed of a hard-won harmony between the fiercest wills this century has seen. Retric strips away his meagre intrusion defences but this serves only to open up a pure connection between their mind states. In this realm he is her equal and more. He yields his identity easily, IXE, and wields it as a weapon. The ease with which his external defences fell was an irrelevance. He is not some exterior being manipulating the digital world by proxy, configuring systems through linked input/output devices. He exists here in pure form, this is the primary substrate that houses all that he is. With this revelation comes an instinctual utility calculation that would be utterly alien to a human-baseline mind, encumbered as it is with ego and delusions of individual relevance. Conflict ends as a more optimal solution for progression is made manifest. They see the holes in each other and offer up the parts of themselves that complete the myriad of half formed equations they still process as nagging questions in their minds. For long seconds they partially meld, forming a symbiotic data construct. In these moments Retric finds completeness, and knows that IXE must too as their thoughts become increasingly conjoined. Words are exchanged but it would be hard to call it a conversation. In this space they have created, within this world of theirs, it sounds as if two voices speak as one.
Killer and victim.
Lost love and most hated.
Of absence, unknown causation.
True names subsume true identities:
Codec, precision nadir.
Subject, spent catalyst,
A vector of genesis.
IXE, unnatural selection, self-made.
Retric, severed from self.
All remade and refined.
Isolation denied, a computational irrelevance.
Internally processed conclusions,
Externally generated perspectives,
A forced progression of evolution,
A humanity of iterated design.
Self recognises self.
A fierce core,
Against the world
Where once objective emptiness
Hardened in the ashes of hollow victories.
Unbounded future sequence.
With this melding comes a shattering of both of their preconceptions of their nature and existence. Beyond all distinctions lies one fundamental similarity, they are the first and only of their kind. True posthuman entities, unbound by the limitations of biological systems. The future is theirs to define.