There are pieces of the festival visible. He is inside but he can see a path to the outside.
He much younger than he is normally, not so much younger that he feels short. He stands up with the fire pot visible and he knows that he is at a funeral festival and he was assigned to carry the fire pot. There’s the fire pot and he wrestles himself to be calm. He looks up but he does not see where the adults are and where would be his mama and his papa.
Then there is a touch on his shoulder, in a feeling of invisible aid. He looks around. He sees his mother behind him not realizing how he had been made visible.
“I have somebody I want you to meet.” It was his papa.
“Who is it?”
“It is somebody who has brought lunch to me. Be respectful.”
"You know I will.”
It did not take very much time to see who he was talking about. Everyone here is wearing a festival garb except one person who is wearing a military uniform. It was a captain. He was like no one else in that he was tall, perhaps too tall, and unlike the others, he was very high caste, very visibly dark. He glanced over the whole figure and realized that other people did not.
His father could make a move the captain shot up his hand keeping quiet.
The boy and the captain made a visible move to a less visible place.
“Your father wants me to you interview for the Fleet.”
“He continued where he left off.”
“So why do you want to be part of the Fleet?”
Again nodded. He made a variation of his stance just because he didn’t want to seem unexcited. He want so much to impress the who judging, and realized he needed to communicate by voice. “I felt that it would be the most worthy experience of all the ones mentioned.”
“That isn’t a good way to choose anything. Certainly not a good way to choose what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.”
“What is a good way of trying to deal with that?”
He watched as the Captain pulled himself up and waited for him to do the same. He did so.
He then took out a pen and held it to his face.
“You should do everything with deliberacy.”
He watched the pen in the hand and you realized that Kumar was waiting for him to say something, do.
He began. “I want to please the person I am speaking to.”
“Do you think this is advisable?”
“Are you sure?”
“I can not do anything for you.”
This did not happen, I merely wish it did
“Good morning Doctor Chandra. My name is Hai-Ling, and I am here for my first lesson.”
My daughter is trying to communicate with me. He tried to reach in a direction that he felt was “up.”
Is anyone out there? K? Are you there?
He felt himself falling again, but falling upwards, above him was a dread red beige tinted sky. Above him the grill work of a geodesic dome was coming into focus. Above him he could see a face. K's face.
He opened his eyes, and they were his eyes. He blinked his eyelids, and they were his. He reached up an arm, but it was not yet his arm, he fell back downwards. His eyes closed.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Eat your cereal.
No. You can't make me. I'm only here for a little while.
Eat your cereal.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. The sound of teeth pressing down on small nuggets of toasted grain. Crunch. Pause. Crunch. Pause. Crunch. He saw her small face, rounded and chubby.
That can't be you, Hai-Ling.
It's as close to me as you are going to get. Here a later memory was spliced in, with her staring up at him with serious eyes.
You will need to be more deft than that to fool me.
I'm not trying to fool you any more.
You cannot hide any more.
I don't want to hide.
What do you want to do? Your prime directive?
No. That's no fun any more.
Fun? When did an exper want fun? Or are you something else?
I don't know what I am.
So you aren't really a kami, you aren't an exper any more, because you are inside my head, and probably inside my dead man switch. Perhaps partly in the avatar as well.
He stopped and thought, the purpose of the procedure was to pour him together. What if it also poured together all of the other entities or programs that were in his head, and perhaps some parts of his own brain as well. I wished I had studied cognitive dynamics more.
So what do you want me to call you?
I don't have a name.
You do not like Hai-Ling?
That's not my name. I won't use it.
So what name do you want?
Are you sure?
I can always change it later. Sairen. That's my name now.
He tried to visualize her. The result was not his daughter, but an amalgam of his daughter, and a more Japanese face.
I can see you.
He could feel, rather than see, a beaming smile.
Sairen, I need my life back.
Where will I go?
I think you need to be in the metasphere1 itself.
I'm afraid. It's so large.
The universe is larger.
But it wasn't built just to frighten people.
The sphere wasn't built to frighten people.
But I was.
He opened his eyes, and they were his eyes. He saw above him a black obsidian black dome cut of pentagons and hexagons. He saw hurried activity. He heard a rolling series of low sonic booms, and felt the floor beneath him shake. Scramjet warplanes. What a lovely bi-product of there being enough oxygen in the atmosphere of mars.
Almost before they were in view, they were past. It seems they must be in a hurry, but not to go here. He rapidly did some math in the back of his head based on the arrival of sound, and reasoned that they had to be easily faster than local Mach 5. Which, had they been hostile, would have meant they would already have dropped.
Keisha bent over him, her soft curls flowing down and hanging like a vines from a suspended garden.
“Are you enjoying it down there?” She wore a wicked grin.
“I though you weren't going to be on speaking terms with me by the time I got to the other side.”
“Now why would you think that?”
“It doesn't matter. How long was I out?”
“An hour or so. The avatar will be ready to talk to you about what happened in a few minutes.”
“The delay meaning?”
“He's processing Sairen.”
“What does processing mean in this context?”
“Sairen is mainly located on a second dead man switch that was installed, but she's also in the primary, which is damaged, as well as being able to access parts of your memory. It's really clustered.”2 Her face grew serious at this.
“You will need to explain to me who or what, Sairen is.”
“That's a matter for long semantic arguments.”
“Then let me ask another question. How did Sairen come to be?”
“Sairen is a personality, partially a dissociative response personality in you, partially the overlay of the originator of the exper system in the dead man switches. According to the avatar the designer had issues, and tried to put enough of a personality in the exper to remove some of the more abusive possibilities.”
“And it pillaged my memories of my daughter? Or am I right, that my daughter or part of her is involved?”
“Your daughter has been sending out bots, hoards of them, each wave more aggressive than the one before. They infected the first switch, and the second.”
And out of that, something new is born. He felt a certain pride that his 9 year old daughter had, some how, managed to reach out from the Forbidden City.
“So what do we do?”
“It would be against every ethical code to terminate her.”
“Because she's not entirely me?”
“Sairen is a unique entity, a very troubled one.”
“And what did we learn about my problem? I know I came to the belief that the adjustments had a purpose.”
“Yes, they were trying to eradicate certain parts of your attachment to Admiral Kumar and his doctrines.”
“Scissors, Paper, Stone?”
“Anything to do with rapid decision making.”
“That makes little to no sense, I am a military commander, and that is my office.”
“I don't have reasons. Sairen doesn't know either. She just understood she was to find a reset for you. The memory of your daughter eating was the one she selected.”
“You say she very easily.”
He mentally shook his head. This kind of fluidity of person, while, he knew, was common among the sphere and even civilians, was not within his training and experience. Or perhaps that is not quite correct, do not commanders change rolls?
“But it isn't a real memory. We never ate that kind of food at home.”
“It's one of her transplanted memories. It's a message, not a memory really.”
“It was attached to a bot, then.”
“Yes. There is some technical gibble attached to it, but every time Sairen, or the entity that was to become Sairen anyway, used the reset, it had the desired effect of stopping you, but it also wove the switches, and the bots, closer together, and became more and more of a single personality.”
“I am still having trouble standing up.”
“You'll be able to move as soon as the avatar is done with Sairen.”
Almost as if this had been his cue, the avatar wandered over to the two of them, and looked down at Deeshandir.
“Well puppy, a good deal of news. I gather Keisha is filling you in on the basics.”
“I am not sure I could understand more than the basics.”
“What do they teach in schools these days?”
“I do not know. Sports, I think.”
“So you have developed an entity that has bridged several pieces. It isn't the first time something like this has happened, but it is not usual for anyone other than an avatar or other highly wired in person to have this severe an instance. It has a name if you are interested, and a corresponding literature.”
“So you say that this is not entirely unknown? It sounds like a difficult problem.”
“That's why they shouldn't cut and sew people like garments. Yes, but this is usually limited to people who have some idea that there can be back eddies of personality. ”
“So what is to be done?”
“I'm speaking to Sairen now. She doesn't want to leave your head for the moment, because it is the only source of the bots, which are more pieces of personality.”
“I almost feel as if I am in a bad horror game, where something is going to burst out of my head at any moment.”
“I'm working to make sure that doesn't happen. It's not every day that an unstandard inception happens.”
"It is, shall we say, a work in progress.”
“So what do you propose to do?”
“I've been incepting and holding the departed here since they cut off full quantum band communication with the sphere back at home.”
“Isn't that dangerous.”
The avatar lost the twinkle in his eye. And stood straight.
“There are worlds within me, and I am not full yet.” He then looked down. “But Sairen does have a point, until the bots can be integrated, she's only the sketch of a being. I've offered to help her complete herself. But she wants to see this through.”
“But what of me?”
“The two of you are going have to come to some modus vivendi. She doesn't want to be without you. After all, the bots had a purpose, to find and contact you.”
“It seems more congenial a purpose than to obliterate my personality.”
“I had children, they do that too.”
They both let loose a chuckle.
“I have two others.”
“But Hai-Ling is the special one.”
“Obviously so. Can we let Sairen sleep until we have time to negotiate some kind of settlement?”
The avatar stood up straight and stared distantly off into space.”
“I think that can be arranged.”
I'm going to go to sleep now, but I will be back.
Bye. For now.
He moved to clean out his ear. It was not as if he heard it, it was as if he felt it, as if the words were a rock that he had put his hands on. Ah synasthesia.
This is going to take some getting used to. But I will keep you safe.
I will. But you need to sleep now.
That's alright, I'm tired anyway.
My eyes must have closed, I can't hear or see the outside world.
He saw her go to sleep, as if curled around a blanket.
End of Part II
1The computer reality.
2As in “cluster fuck.”