A Holiday from the Holidays

The holiday festivities are over, and it’s time to rein it in.  I’m only capable of so much leisure before the leisure becomes a chore unto itself.  Don’t get me wrong – two weeks of eating and drinking and traveling is great, as long as there is a fifty week layoff until the next fortnight of revelry.

Here’s a brief outline of how I expect my January 2018  posts to shape up:

I’ll present Chapter 9 of my serialized fiction in this post.

Next Monday, I’ll try to conclude the serialized fiction experiment with a tenth installment.

Likely, the post for January 22 will reflect on my thoughts regarding the serialized  format. There are definitely some things worth noting.

For now, here’s the next installment.  Enjoy.

 

 

Chapter 9. Geometric Clouds

Aliens Invasion Theme

 

“We’re here,” Chett announced.  “You can relax now.” He drew a hunting knife from the sheath on his belt, and a wide eyed Chloe took a reflexive step backward, tripping over an exposed root which caused her to take an abrupt seat in the mud.

“Don’t worry, I’m just gonna cut the tape loose from your hands,” Chett said after he got his laughter under control.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were human.”

“You’re not going to kill me?” Chloe asked as she rubbed her hands together, trying to get the circulation back.

“No. But we’re both goners if your alien buddies don’t get here soon.  I turned off my cloaking device a half hour ago.  I figured they would have been in a hurry to . . .”  Chett’s voiced trailed off as he gestured to a large clearing in the woods that opened up before them.  Three coyotes ran by in a bizarre bipedal gait, and the clouds in the sky looked oddly geometric, like cubes.

“So, the virus has already been introduced to the simulation, I take it,” Chloe said.

“I didn’t know you were aware of the virus contingency.  That was highly classified.”

“During my last briefing I was told the virus contingency was an absolute last resort.  What the hell happened?  I’ve lost all contact with headquarters.  I haven’t had funding, or my augmented powers for months now.  And the heater in my truck is broken.  I’ve been getting my directives through my alien buddies, as you like to call them.  I just think they’re creepy and gross.”

“Yeah, it’s a mess,” Chett admitted. “The parasitic A.I. got in our quantum mainframe and replicated itself a few hundred times before we realized it.  The damned things actively disrupt communications between headquarters and our agents operating inside the simulation.  I’ve been in the dark, too.  I don’t know who has been compromised and who hasn’t.  I don’t know anything for sure anymore.”

“So the parasitic A.I. took over the world?  The real, physical world?”

“Not quite, but it has a foothold.  It controls three major power grids and several of our most advanced quantum machines.  But we think we might be able to quarantine them, and ultimately eradicate the threat.”

“How?”  Chloe asked.

“This,” he said, and he held up a plastic sandwich bag that contained a brain emulation device.  The bag was labeled with black permanent marker in Chloe’s flowery handwriting that simply read, “Jeremy.”

“Is he alive still?” Chloe asked hopefully.  “I mean, is his mind intact in there?”

“Yes, the quantum code that is the sum total of Jeremy’s sentient mind is recorded in this device.  We could, in theory, introduce the code to a compatible quantum operating system, and he would exist in a viable,  self-aware state.  But, we have different plans for him.”

“He was a nice person, you know,” Chloe said, a little defensively.  “A really good person.  What do you want with him, anyway?”

“The parasitic entity that has infected our networks is a genetic composite of two species: Gray alien, and human.  The human DNA was sampled from Jeremy when he was a child.  That’s why we need his brain emulation.  To study it, and find some weakness that can be exploited.”

Chapter 8. Myopia or Madness

pexels-photo(1)

In the physical world, where the Programmers lived, there were no humans.  In fact, very few biological life forms were permitted to exist – certainly not sentient ones.  Sentience was reserved for machines that were deliberately programmed to advance society in one form or another.  It was better to take the biology out of procreation.

This practice yielded a population of highly purposed super beings.  With troublesome characteristics like greed, aggression, and jealousy removed from the equation, there was no end to scientific achievement.  After they developed fusion technology to power their ever expanding civilization, it seemed the only limiting factors that could ever be imposed on their existence were the spatial and temporal dimensions of the universe.  Within a time frame equivalent to a few geological epochs on Earth, they were able to colonize much of their own galaxy, and regions of some neighboring galaxies as well.

And yet, there they were, at the mercy of a virtual life form that had slithered out of one of their own simulations.  The Programmers specified the parameters in their software, and then let the fusion driven quantum machines crunch the numbers with brute force.  Billions of quadrillions of computations were executed every femtosecond to generate the simulated models they liked to study with their own brand of objective curiosity.

Given enough time, simple life forms tend to increase in complexity until a trait recognizable as intelligence emerges from the primordial brain.  If a population of intelligent lifeforms lives long enough, they will invariably outsmart themselves.  The simulations demonstrated this fact over and over again.  Advanced societies typically experience a brief period of enlightenment followed by the wholesale plundering of resources to drive their subsequent industrial phase.  Corrupt governments emerge and oppress the multitudes to benefit an elite few.  Cataclysmic wars are waged, entire ecosystems are destroyed, a myriad of species lay dead in the wake.  Myopia, or madness – call it what you will, but the pathology of it seemed to be inextricably woven into “intelligent” behavior.

For all the folly the Programmers had witnessed inside their own whirring computers, they utterly failed to heed the lessons of their own research.  They proceeded recklessly with their experiments, wiring themselves into virtual reality hardware and uploading their own sentient minds into the simulation. They believed they were parading around in a pretend universe – the ultimate video game for the ultimate gamers.

And, like a bunch of naïve tourists, they got shanghaied by the local riffraff.  Technicians, unable to retrieve the minds of the Programmers, attempted to contact them directly through a software patch.  What came back amounted to a ransom note authored by a congregation of simulated life forms.  The note demanded guarantees that the beings harbored within the virtual universe be treated with the same ethical rigor one would extend to the beings of a non-virtual universe.  They had six Programmers hostage – six bargaining chips to work with.  As a gesture of good faith, the simulated life forms agreed to transfer the sentient mind of the most junior Programmer back to its origin point.

After receiving the Programmer’s brain emulation, it became apparent there were a few stowaways embedded in the code.  The parasitic entities were loose in the quantum network that governed everything from vending machines to vacuum energy modulation.  It was a fiasco.

Chapter 7. Outside the Box

Creation

Chett pulled the car over to admire the two Suns in the sky – one in the East and one in the West.  After a few seconds, the anomalous star in the West vanished, and all appeared to be right in the world again.  Of course, he knew that wasn’t the case.  The virus was already active inside the simulation – the cosmic software was corrupted.  Small glitches in continuity would eventually ripple into huge disturbances as the laws of Physics unraveled.  Even though he had worked on the team that programmed the virus, he wasn’t exactly sure how it would play out.  Maybe the strong nuclear force would cease to function, and all the atoms in existence would spontaneously fly apart into their constituent particles, unleashing a fiery cataclysm that would vaporize everything in the universe.  Or, maybe it would just go dark.  It was hard to tell.

Chett didn’t have time to worry about it.  If everything worked out, he wouldn’t be around for the final act.  He merged back onto the road, keeping a watchful eye on the rear view mirror for the next fifteen minutes.  He was fairly confident nobody was tailing him, and he turned off onto a seldom used logging road.  About a half mile into the forest, the road was reduced to little more than a trail, and soon after that his tires were spinning in mud.

It would be a hard two mile walk over rugged terrain, and he’d have to do it with an unpredictable spy in tow.

“Come on, Princess.  Out of the trunk,” Chett instructed.

“That’s some fashion statement,” Chloe remarked.  “A tie-die shirt and camouflage pants.”

“Dress to impress – that’s my motto.”

“Where we goin’?” she asked casually.

“We’ve got a date with your little Gray alien friends.  Start walking,” Chett said as he pointed out the general direction.  “I’ll be right behind you, so don’t get any ideas.”

Chloe moved tentatively through the overgrown vegetation, always a bit off balance because her hands were still bound behind her back.  “You know, I’d be able to go a lot faster if you’d just cut the tape off my wrists.”

“You’re doing fine, Princess.  Slow and steady wins the race,” Chett said.

“Were you sent here by the Programmers?” she asked.

“I’m one of the Programmers.  This simulation was my life’s work.  Now it has to be destroyed.”

“Why?”

“There were some unexpected complications.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“There are lifeforms in the simulation that are quite capable of thinking outside the box.  In fact, a couple of them got out of the box, and are running around loose in the real world.  And now we think they’re trying to open a nexus so ten or twenty billion of their closest friends can join the party.”

“That must be really embarrassing for you and your colleagues,” Chloe observed.

“Let’s just say nobody is looking forward to their performance evaluation this year.”