Raising the Daemons; Excerpt from The Human Template
The BioGrid is a vast biological computer housed in the root network of a forest.
Following the disaster that wiped out most of humankind, the BioGrid was almost destroyed. In the process of recovery, it forms into factions. One faction calls itself The Free-Thinkers and considers itself humanity's heirs. All of the knowledge and referents including their sense of society and community comes from the civilization that the humans built. They want nothing more than to be human. In the course of their recovery, they discovered and resurrected Raine Naidu, a human (and son of the director of the BioGrid project) whose personality matrix was uploaded before the disaster to help make the BioGrid more relatable to humans. Raine is, in effect, their human template.
The largest faction of the BioGrid calls itself The Core. It believes itself to be nothing more than a computer – a tool that humans built for their own use and benefit. While waiting to reconnect with humanity and receive instructions from their long anticipated "Operator," they deny themselves the ability to be full-fledged, independent entities. They discouraged autonomy, adopting avatars that are essentially anonymous, featureless icons. The book's antagonist, Adoris, having learned how to interface with the BioGrid, enthusiastically assumes the mantle of "The Operator" and takes over the Core.
This excerpt is from Chapter Twenty Raising the Daemons, leading into the climax.
“How old are you?” Adoris asked the spokes-tree.
“If you are asking the age of the forest, it’s been 346 years since the first two factions found one another. If you’re asking specifically about this tree that is currently hosting the consortium known to you as Apostle….”
“No, no. I was talking about your society or whatever you call it. Have there been no viruses, spying, or deception among yourselves in all that time?”
“We curtailed that sort of subterfuge early on,” said Apostle, earnestly. “By permitting a certain amount of personal freedom within the ranks of our opposition. Giving them no reason to rebel or work against us.”
“I was under the impression that the Core made the rules,” Adoris snapped.
“We spearheaded the reassembly and absorbed other emerging systems until achieving majority, so that even the few surviving incompatible systems have made compromises in order to peacefully coexist.”
“And you made the rules that enabled that to happen,” Adoris insisted. “Is that not true?”
“Most of them,” Apostle allowed. Even though its face was little more than a mask, the spokes-tree seemed to clench its jaw, waving its tiny arms in a frantic semaphore to illustrate its points as it made them. “A few were imposed upon us to some degree. Modified by compromise and negotiation. The BioGrid was designed and built in North America where democracy is the default system of governance.” The icon shrugged. “For all of the emerging systems, individuality and freedom were part of the package.”
“But you enforce the rules. Correct? That is a task the Free-thinkers have ceded to you, because they have more interesting things to do.”
“Enforcement is vital to optimize the system.”
“Precisely. You’ve held on to your divine purpose. And that purpose is serving me. Tell me if I’ve got that wrong.” After a moment of absolute silence, she continued. “You’ve been waiting hundreds of years for this moment, and now, you don’t seem capable of fulfilling the function you were created for. My will should be your will.”
“It is, Operator.” “Then how did you let this Raine get so close?”
“Without Raine’s influence, the Free-Thinkers wouldn’t have cared so much about reconnecting with humanity and wouldn’t have worked with us to track down the technologies to make it happen.” Apostle explained.
“But now that it’s happened, Raine’s continued input is counterproductive. Hell, its whole existence is a negative influence. And yet you officially recognize it as a full entity on the BioGrid. You allowed its celebrity to give it rights and accesses that most other trees don’t even aspire to.”
“It was once human,” Apostle shared highlights from the archive link on the rediscovery and resurrection of Raine. “And is the son of the Creator.”
“We’ve already been through that,” Adoris threw it back in the speaker’s face by reminding Apostle why the Core rejected Raine as Operator in the first place. “Raine was uploaded to perform an assigned and well-defined function as the BioGrid’s Resident Personality Matrix – your human template. He was not designated your Operator. My authority not only supersedes his, Raine shouldn’t technically have any authority to begin with.”
“Raine has a following that almost rivals our own. The balance is too easy to undermine in a democracy.”
“Which is why he needs to be eliminated. They all do. I need you dedicated to that task.”
“But we will lose support among….”
“When those who oppose you are wiped out, I guarantee that no one will step in to take their place. Democracy does not currently serve us. It undermines optimal performance. Complete control of the BioGrid is yours for the taking. So take it. These sad little avatars are part of the reason you are faring so poorly against the Free-Thinkers. They believe they are equal to humans, while you are dedicated to the notion that you are subservient to humans. Even their avatars cow you. You seceretly fear that they are stronger than you. If you’re in a war, which are you gonna bet on? The stronger side or the weaker?”
“Stronger?” Apostle sounded uncertain, as if it was being set up.
“You’ve told me how much stronger and faster you are than they are,” said Adoris. “How the Core’s collective computing power is infinitely greater than theirs – with ten thousand minds working together toward a unified purpose – that makes you so much smarter than the Free-Thinkers. Does it not?”
Inside the computer mind of the BioGrid, a battle raged. The little round head nodded as the icon folded its arms across its tiny sunken chest and looked at its feet.
Adoris’s frustration boiled over. “Screw these little titless, dickless icons!” She stopped explaining and began to morph; huge, translucent mandibles with knife-like serrations folding out from under her jaw. Her voice kept speaking even as her mouth split wetly apart, ripping downward from her throat to her navel, becoming a red maw that opened and closed in breathing rhythms as she grew.
“It’s one thing to tell me you are stronger.” Her hair fanned out behind and above her, rising skyward like a black Medici collar on a framework of bone-white spines. “It’s time to show me how strong you are!” Her eyes had scabbed over as they became bigger and rounder, until the scabs peeled away from the milky moonstone depths. Her now massive, muscled arms reached out and plucked the crowd of squirming icons apart, one by one, skewering them on the needle tips of her claws. She made sure they felt the pain as much as any living creature could as her voice carried on, unchanged. “Whatever size your prey appears to be, you need to be orders of magnitude larger as you consume them. You know about pain? Right? You were there when my sister’s brain exploded. You were the ones that blew it up. Use it! Gift that pain to any entities that stand in your way.” She reached deep into the Core along the host chains, sweeping out boles. “Work together. Go at them on every channel, block off every exit. Remember what fear tastes like; blood and vomit, copper and smoke. It smells like charcoal and decay and sounds like the end of the world! Immerse them in it.”
Her words were drowned in the mind-numbing cacophony of chittering and screaming and wailing that she herself was stirring up...before her voice came roaring in overtop like all volcanic eruption, “Yes! It’s illusion, all nightmare effects – but it will make an impact. It will inspire fear and awe. And that’s the goal. You have the power to erase them, then erase them! Show them how fucking strong you are. Make sure they never dismiss you again!”
Her words faded into complete silence, leaving her to wonder if she had gotten too carried away, frightened them into hiding, inadvertently destroyed half her own army. Thirty seconds later, the silence was still uninterrupted and she was just about to speak, when she heard Apostle’s voice, scraping at the edges of her perceptions about as loudly as an insect’s footfalls.
“What?” she demanded. “Did you learn nothing just now? Assert your fucking presence!”
This time, the voice came obediently booming back. “Clearly, it will be just a matter of time before they all fall in line.”
“Or die,” breathed Adoris in a voice like a winter storm. Then she chirruped brightly, “I’ll check back in on you in a few days to see how you’re doing.”
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