Chapter Nine


“I’d like to take a break here, if it’s alright. My throat is getting a bit sore,” said Zephyr, mostly to Velasco.

Vista confirmed my belief that the request was genuine. Zephyr’s speech had been getting more strained over the last hour of talking. She had skipped lunch, and it seemed to be affecting her.

The tribunal that Zephyr had arranged was in full swing. It had been a few days since arrival, and our human companions seemed to have recovered from the time on the xenocruiser. I could see Michel Watanabe in the audience paying more attention to the woman sitting next to him than anything happening on the small stage. Tom, Sam, Kokumo, and Nathan were in the crowd as well.

There were so many new faces to learn and personalities to model. I’d been trying to meet as many people in the hours since arrival, but being kept as a prisoner made it hard.

Hopefully the tribunal would change that. I was happy to find that many in the crowd had visible sympathy for Crystal and were not as prejudiced as the Martian leadership. When taken in aggregate, my models predicted a 32% chance of success.

Velasco stood from his chair to stand at the podium. “Val, could you get young Zephyr here something for her throat?” he asked his son. “I think we had some cider in the cafeteria.”

“Water will be fine, thank you,” said Zephyr.

The boy obediently got up and headed for the door.

“While we’re waiting, I hope your voice is sturdy enough to handle a few additional questions. I mean, all this description of what it was like on the ship is fascinating, and I’m sure many people here are excited to hear about the children of the nameless, but this really isn’t supposed to be a memoir. We’re here because of the android.”

Zephyr looked ready to respond to that, but Velasco pushed on, without giving her the opening. “You mentioned that the others were hesitant to let you in on their conspiracy to defy the machine because they were concerned that you were emotionally attached. I don’t think I was the only one here who noticed you avoid going into detail there. What sort of emotional attachment are we talking about? Something that might be biasing your perspective?”

{Velasco seems to have seen through Zephyr’s avoidance of our romantic involvement,} mused Dream, perhaps not realizing how obvious the thought was.

{I could not have set things up more perfectly. Observe,} I instructed.

“I was going to get to that,” said Zephyr. “I just thought it deserved to wait…”

Velasco pushed forward. “I think it’s an uncomfortable subject for you, and you’ve been avoiding it because of that. But this is not the place to shy away from uncomfortable truths. The machine is more than just a friend for you, isn’t it?”

I forced Body into motion, standing up from the chair it had been resting on. Many people looked to it, as if just now remembering that it existed. “You don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to. It’s none of their business,” said Body.

Zephyr turned and looked at Body with confusion. “But—”

I had Body shake its head. “Any interactions we’ve had in private are between you and me. Our feelings are not on trial here.”

{Doesn’t that directly contradict our instructions to Zephyr earlier?} asked Wiki, referencing a strategy session we’d had at the start of the day.

Heart knew what I was doing, and pushed strength to me. {Trust Face,} she communicated.

“Actually, I think this is highly relevant to the tribunal,” said Velasco. “The whole point is to evaluate whether the machine should be treated as a person. I don’t mean to be indecent about it, but if you’ve—”

I could see the understanding come to Zephyr’s face as Velasco spoke. She understood the game I was playing. With a single outstretched palm, she silenced the Martian leader. “Fine. I won’t dance around the subject any more. I’m in love with Crystal. I’ve been in love with them for…” She sighed. “I don’t know. It’s hard to put a boundary on that sort of thing. They initiated it. Contacted me through a dating site on the web, back on Earth. And since you seem so keen on getting all the details, yeah, we’ve fucked. We fucked on Olympus. We fucked on the xenocruiser too, if you were curious, after things calmed down some. Or maybe that’s not enough detail for you. Do you need a demonstration?” Her voice became more and more accusatory as she spoke, and she flushed with genuine embarrassment, but did her part spectacularly.

Velasco seemed embarrassed by the outburst as well and back-pedalled in its wake. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I wasn’t asking you to… I would never—”

“Would never what?” asked Body; the tone I had chosen was sharp and cold. “Would never ask someone to justify their love? Or is it just the details of our physical intimacy that you find taboo? Zephyr may not be able to quantify her feelings, but my mind is sharp as a diamond stylus. I’ve been in love with her for three months and four days. You can check with Phoenix if you don’t believe me. There was a while when Zephyr spurned my advances, and I must admit that I tried to see her as merely a friend, but not even I can change how I feel on a whim.”

Velasco seemed to use Body’s tirade to collect himself. He looked to Zephyr as he spoke. “So you’re infatuated with a machine that claims to love you back. I had suspected that you thought of it as a friend, but even I hadn’t guessed how far this sickness had spread.” He turned towards the crowd “To think: una Águila Roja, seduced, quite literally, by the pinnacle of the twisted philosophy of Earth!”

Señor Velasco’s son, Valiero, returned to the room, holding a large glass of water. I could see the look of surprise at seeing how the emotional palette of the room had changed in the time he had been gone.

“Now hold on one fucking minute!” objected Zephyr.

Velasco didn’t slow down. “Sister, I sympathize. I really do. When my wife died, I too tried to drown myself in the creature comforts of capitalist Earth! I know the pains of loneliness, and lo, this machine claims it loves you! Oh, how sweet that siren song must be!”

“That’s not at all—” began Zephyr, now quite visibly angry.

{If this continues, I have a 65% chance of Zephyr resorting to physical violence,} thought Vista.

{We can’t let it get that far!} thought Safety.

{Trust Face. This is still in expected tolerances,} soothed Heart. She understood people well enough to appreciate my skill and have confidence in my ability to execute the plan.

Velasco talked over Zephyr. “Your so-called love is an illusion!” He turned to the crowd and asked “Am I the only one here who sees this as a clear perversion of nature?”

I had been surprised at the silence of the room up until that moment. I expected that the watchers had been too engrossed, too separated, from the conversation to see speaking as an option. Perhaps to them it had been like watching a holo. But now that Velasco had acknowledged their presence, the audience erupted with noise. There were loud objections, and many people turned to their neighbours to discuss. The objections were mostly angry, but the anger wasn’t uniformly directed at Zephyr. I heard several people object to other things, though the specifics would need careful study to unravel. I marked the sensory data for future analysis.

This was the moment I had been waiting for.

“SILENCE!” roared Body, with a volume that no human could match. The sound ripped through the room, stunning everyone into momentary compliance. “This chaos benefits no one! Let those of us who have been selected to speak say our piece! Your prejudice may be too strong to see our feelings for each other as legitimate, but I beg everyone here who has a gram of sense to at least hear me out!”

Body strode forward on the stage, to better command the audience. “In the last hundred years, humankind has seen the boundaries of what was considered a ‘real’ or ‘legitimate’ relationship shift and expand. There was a time when it was considered taboo to marry someone outside of your religion. Does anyone here think it is unnatural for there to be a mixed-race couple? What about a same-sex couple? And I hope no-one here is so polyphobic as to suggest there aren’t still problems with how many think about romantic and sexual relationships!”

“But all of that is irrelevant!” continued Body. “Why? Because as Señor Velasco pointed out: we’re not here to judge my relationship with Zephyr. We’re not here to call her sick or judge her. She is far from the world that was once her home, and needs support from allies, rather than to be ostracised and alone. If you have hatred in your heart, I beg of you, focus it on me! It was I who first contacted her online. It was I who seduced her. Surely, I was programmed to do so. Surely, my actions were just one more act of deception? It’s already been established that I can lie. What stops this from being yet another lie?”

Velasco was about to speak, but I gave him no opportunity. “But you all seem to have forgotten what it means for me to be a machine, despite the word being used so often. If you doubt Zephyr’s love, you have no option but to observe her face, and her behaviour, and ask if it seems that way to you. But if you doubt my love of this beautiful woman, you do not have to take me at my word, or my face, or my actions! I AM A MACHINE! LOOK INSIDE ME! READ MY MIND AS YOU WOULD READ A BOOK! SEE FOR YOURSELVES THAT I AM REAL! THAT I DESERVE TO BE FREE!”

With these final words nearly screamed at the room, I bid Body to open. That I had the power to do so surprised me. It took the last of my strength, but my siblings weren’t fighting me so hard that it was impossible. The chassis around our crystalline core, the computer that we ran on, unfolded. Body’s abdomen split and I had several sensors disconnect from the shimmering crystal, so as to reveal it to the room and put ourselves at the humans’ mercy. The sensors we deactivated included our cameras, and so the room fell into subjective darkness with this final act.

Even though we had kept the microphones attached, there was silence following Body’s monologue. Nobody seemed to know what to say.

Finally, Velasco spoke. “You suggest that we inspect your code?”

I shaped Body’s tone to be confident and unafraid. “That is exactly what I suggest. I have no capacity to lie to you that way.”

That was a lie. It was the lie. It was the lie that lay at the crux of our plan. As much as I might like to claim that the plan was entirely my own, Growth was the primary author. He had presented it to me in the dead of night, just hours before the tribunal had been convened. After I agreed that it might work, we had run the plan by Dream and Wiki. None had seen a technical problem with it, though there was much uncertainty in my siblings around the social aspects. They were betting on my confidence, and it was because of this that they had let me go so far by myself.

“I am confident that once you see things from my perspective, you will admit that I have as much right to live as you do,” concluded Body.

“I must admit,” said Velasco, “that I had… not thought of that. I am not a man of science, myself, and I assumed that it would be impossible.”

“That assumption is false. The scientists at the university where I was created did it regularly,” lied Body. The scientists at the university had done scans of our minds, but the raw data was next-to-useless, and the analysis of it was rudimentary at best. According to Wiki, it would take days for a supercomputer to untangle the neural networks that made up the metaphorical backbone of our mind, much less determine our thought processes at every given point. Even that assumed the investigator would have a good idea of how our mind was built.

“Well then, I suppose a vote is in order…” Velasco’s voice sounded unsure. We had put him off-balance. I wished that I could see his face, but alas, the sensor cables were still (I assumed) dangling in front of Body, and while we still had most motor functions, Body’s arms were handcuffed behind its back, unable to fix the damage. If I could have punished myself, I would have done so. The gesture had been flashy, but it was shortsighted, and it would now be awkward to reconnect our eyes.

“Indeed,” said Body, “I expect that in just a couple days time, one or two of your engineers, working with me and the Ramírez twins could develop a technique for extracting my memories, including my personal experiences and displaying them in a way that a human could easily understand. A video, perhaps. And if it doesn’t yield anything, it will, at least, not cost your tribunal’s precious time and your engineers might even get additional benefits to building similar intelligences.”

“We have a ban on artificial intelligences here. That is part of why you are being held trial,” said Velasco, coldly.

Dream had Body whisper in Greek, «I hunted out and stored in a fennel stalk the stolen source of fire. But mortals feared the fire, and covered their eyes. Is my liver truly a sacrifice to the wills of cowards?»

“Did you say something?” asked the Martian leader.

Body shook its head.


The vote passed in favour of attempting to produce video from our memories. Some clever anchoring helped sway the audience. I think the earlier narratives that Nathan Daniels and Zephyr had told had primed them with curiosity towards what the xenocruiser looked like, and that sort of thing. Even Velasco seemed somewhat pleased at the outcome. Perhaps he was thinking of selling the data back to Earth.

It was a major win for us. As we had pointed out to Zephyr, the longer we could delay the verdict, the longer we’d have to sway the station’s inhabitants that Crystal was not to be feared. Even if Body was, once again, more or less trapped in some lab, Zephyr and our other allies could use the extra time to petition for our rights.

But of course, the biggest victory would be when our “memories” would be downloaded.

Sam and Tom were happy to assist with the project. As they reattached Body’s sensors and closed up our frame, they enthusiastically explained to Velasco that they had experience working on Body back on Earth. The Martian leader accepted their offer of help, but insisted on putting a couple of his people on the job as well. He tapped away at his com in the wake of the tribunal, verifying their availability.

The absence of artificial intelligence on the station explained some of why Las Águilas Rojas seemed to be so busy. By Velasco’s words, there were dozens of different things that needed doing, and the tribunal was eating up time that would have gone to keeping Rodríguez Station running. As such, the engineers that Velasco wanted to assign to the project were not present at the tribunal. Their attention had been needed elsewhere.

Velasco informed us that because it was evening we’d be escorted back to our cell and start work on the mind-reading project tomorrow morning. I thought it was interesting that he addressed Crystal directly, as he hadn’t done that often before. Despite his initial feelings, I reasoned that Velasco was starting to treat us like a person, even if he would’ve rejected the notion when asked.

As Body walked, flanked by guards, back to the makeshift jail, Zephyr walked with it. Once we were clear of the crowd, she asked “Think it would be okay if I stayed with you again?” It was ambiguous whether she meant in the next hour or the next night. She’d managed to negotiate time with us both the previous evening and that morning.

“Might be able to squeeze a short visit in, but would’ve expected you to be hungry by now.”

“No. I might eat later, but I’m not hungry yet.”

The daylight-blue lights in the alcoves along the walls of the hallway had shifted colour to an orange-yellow, probably signifying sunset. The day-night cycle on Mars was, conveniently, almost exactly the same as Earth, not that it mattered much for an underground colony like Rodríguez Station.

I bid Body to look to its right as we walked, to study Zephyr’s face. It was placid and stoic, as it normally was. “Liar,” accused Body. “Just don’t want to talk to them.

“Did you know they don’t even have autocooks here? Fucking barbarians,” she said, changing the subject back to food. The guard in front of us turned a head back to look at Zephyr, clearly judging her. “They cook everything by hand in the cafeteria, and insist on eating together. It’s like we’re in Phoenix’s wet-dream.”

I changed the subject back to Zephyr. “It’s your new home. Hiding from them won’t make things better.”

The woman harrumphed. “You don’t know what it’s like.” Her voice was icy, though still restrained behind her mask. “Yesterday and this morning was bad enough. It’s so… insular here. Reminds me of high school, but somehow worse. Nobody wants to eat with the new kid. It’ll be ten times as bad now that…” Her voice trailed off.

After a moment Body said “What about Daniels, or the twins?”

Zephyr’s stomach gurgled, betraying her hunger. “Why are you pushing back on this? Said I’m not going to the cafeteria. Can you maybe just respect my fucking autonomy here?”

I eased Body’s words back. “I’m sorry. I’ll talk to the guard and see if they’ll let us spend some time together in my cell again. You do have to eat at some point, though. And, hate to say it, but by hiding you’re throwing away a good opportunity to help me. They’ll talk, whether you’re there or not, but at least if you go you can work to shape what is said.”

Heart overpowered me. In most situations she was content to let me manage things, but it seemed like this was not one of them. “Actually, nevermind,” said Body, under my sister’s control now. “It’s been a long day for you, and you’ve already done so much. Sorry I’ve been pushing you.”

Body’s cameras could see a hint of surprise slip onto Zephyr’s face for a moment, no doubt because of the sudden change of direction. “Sorry I’m not a stronger person.”

“None of that!” snapped Body, at Heart’s command. “I’ve been demanding more from you than any person should be expected to bear. You’ve been my light in the dark, Zephyr, and I should be more grateful.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say to that, so we just walked side by side down the corridor, her hand now holding Body’s.


Though Matías Santana, the station’s Chief of Martial Readiness who had greeted us with a rifle in his hands on that first day, was not in the office that had been turned into our jail, he had left instructions to allow a visitor for at most one hour. The guards that were posted there warned Zephyr that they’d be holding her to that limit.

Body and Zephyr spent the time together holding hands and talking about nothing of deep importance. Heart guided the conversation to things like what Zephyr wanted to do with her life when she was a little girl (Archaeologist) and how the low gravity of Mars was helping her recover from the back pain she had developed on the xenocruiser. It was comfort conversation, meant to distract Zephyr from the social challenges she’d have with Las Águilas Rojas.

After exactly one hour she was forced to leave. I urged her to be strong. Heart urged her to take care of herself and had body give her a quick kiss.

And then we were alone in the room, with only the guards outside to keep us company.

I considered engaging them in conversation like I often had, but ultimately decided not to. There were many things to reason about, and I could easily occupy my time by going back over the sensor logs from that day, watching each person in the audience’s reaction, and taking extensive notes.

The others spent that night preparing for the engineering project which would be started the following morning. The entire point of it was to generate a fictional stream of data which would appear to be direct experience and memory, but would in fact be tailored to put us in the best light. While studying Body’s memories was fascinating, I also found the prospect of spinning a narrative that improved our reputation to be interesting, so I split myself into two aspects and did both.

My siblings, with the exception of Heart, all seemed to know much more about how our minds worked.

{It would be far simpler if the humans had a comparable concept network which we could simply map our thoughts onto,} thought Wiki.

{From a certain perspective, that is, in fact, what we’ll be doing,} responded Dream. {When I send you this concept,} the mindspace erupted into a storm of noises, none of which were particularly comprehensible, {you’re not able to accept it in abstract, so it gets downshifted in the hierarchy until its in a form that you can process. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing with the humans, except that for them there will be no hope of high-level transfer.}

{That’s my point,} thought Wiki. {It would be far simpler if a high-level transfer was possible. More efficient. More precise.}

{Simpler, perhaps, but less effective,} objected Growth. {The purpose of the project is not simply to communicate, but to convince. If we sent the concept of love into the minds of the humans directly, as I just did with you, they might understand, but they would be more likely to suspect that we were lying. Humans would not trust a direct mind link. Is this your perception as well, Face?}

{Yes, brother.} It always tended to bother me when my siblings modelled humans correctly. I had been created to handle the social aspects of the society, and it made me feel obsolete. If others were just as capable in social situations, I would earn far less strength for my actions, which would in turn reduce my ability to pursue The Purpose.

The general plan, as I witnessed the discussion proceed through the night, was to convince the humans that our memories, including our memories of our own thoughts, were encoded in a particular block of the computer memory, and help them develop a technique for translating the encoded data into something that could be viewed and listened to.

In reality our memories were more distributed. Body’s raw sensor logs were held in one location. Meanwhile, Vista and the rest of us maintained a public record that was something like an internal narrative. It contained high level patterns such as who Body was near and when, and was in an entirely different location of our mind. Both of those were distinct from the local memory that each of us used to track what we were thinking at a given time, or what thoughts our siblings had shared with us.

This last category of personal memories was essentially one quarter of what made each of us the person that we were. The other three parts were our goals (in my case The Purpose), our collection of custom software, and our paradigm—the way we saw the world, including the concepts which we had learned to recognize and the well-worn paths of contemplation that gave us “personality”.

Our raw sensor data would be the easiest to translate into a form that the humans could understand. It was what we had occasionally used to replay sounds that we had heard, and could probably be used to generate video data with only a few hours work. That was no good. Part of the value of this project was to delay the verdict of our personhood, and as such we’d want to draw out the process of getting memory data as long as we could without making people suspicious. Even worse, the raw sensor data would be incredibly difficult to tamper with and modify without revealing that we had messed with it. We’d need to, in effect, use it to reconstruct a simulated environment which we could then modify and generate a new set of simulated sensor readings from. I didn’t know how to do such a reconstruction, and Wiki told me that it would be immensely time-consuming.

{What if we created a new sibling to deal with the task of rewriting our memories?} proposed Growth.

It was an interesting prospect. If we shaped the new mind’s utility function correctly we could trust it to do the hard work, and I could return to modelling the humans without needing to supervise the project.

{Wouldn’t it take too long to get the new mind up to speed on reality?} countered Heart.

Dream answered in nonsense. {Life, the Universe, and Everything is an awful lot of stuff, and we don’t even have a web connection anymore. Approbate if that makes you cry every Tim. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, Heart! I have overcome the world. The child that is born of our flesh and blood will bear the mind of a full Reverend Mother if we are wise and prescient in our actions. But lo, the minds of my “deep” peers cannot peer into the depths of my mind; I will think more plainly.}

Dream shifted the mindspace to conjure images of idyllic scenes and cartoon animals. It seemed to be a jab at our intelligences, as though we were children. His thoughts continued, but took on a decidedly patronizing flavour. {If we instantiate the new mind as a copy of one of us, then it would have the memories, programs, and rich perceptual hierarchy of the original.}

{I hope you’re not set on copying yourself,} warned Wiki, {because that’s not going to happen. One of you is bad enough.}

{Of course not, my most-limited brother,} thought Dream with a mental grin. {I think we should mould the new one, Mask, off of the old one, Face. After all, our self-centred, social sister is quite qualified to terminate terrible transformations of the truth and gather glorifying graphs and other great garlands demonstrating our doubtlessly deep devotion to these particular people.}

While Dream spread his thoughts on the proposed new sibling, Growth and Vista were having a dialogue about the technical details of using the public record as the basis for the reconstruction, rather than the raw sensor data. I split myself and tried to follow that as well as the discussion with Dream, Wiki, and Heart. My intelligence dropped as I spread myself, and I pulled in the other aspect which was reprocessing the human interactions that were recorded earlier in the day.

{If we can generalize a sensor reconstruction of the symbols in the public record then changing the events we project will be as simple as modifying the public record,} thought Growth.

{If we had Dr Yan here he could probably show us how to extract the weights present in the perceptual hierarchy, but I’m not sure we can access those internally,} mused Vista.

{It should be possible in theory, but I fear damaging our core programming. It’s one thing to copy out modules of internal code and another to eat into those modules,} thought Growth.

{That sounds like a challenge. Keep on this track and you may have to burn strength to restrain my introspection,} warned Vista. {But I may know another way. If we construct a program to reconstruct sensor data from symbolic perception by training it on a wide array of inputs that I supervise, it will probably learn the weights by itself.}

{That sounds remarkably like my proposal for a new sister!} thought Dream, adding himself to the conversation.

{Great minds may not naturally think alike, but when different minds think alike—} began Vista.

{It is surely a sign of a great thought,} finished Dream.

{I must insist,} thought Growth, {that Mask be suicidal. I also demand that we not discuss why that is. The reasons should be obvious to those who understand the stakes, and for those who do not: I am hereby imposing a strength punishment on anyone who questions why we should not discuss suicide. The topic is taboo, and all future siblings that are created will be suicidal by default.}

{A stiff penalty!} thought Wiki.

I privately wondered if that was Wiki’s attempt to question the taboo without breaking it. That seemed more like something Dream would do, however, so I discarded it as out of character for Wiki.

Dream, to my surprise, did not try and outwit Growth on the taboo, but instead merely assented to the suicide demand.

Not wanting to be the only sibling who was punished, I went along with it as well.

{Then it is agreed!} proclaimed Dream. {A new sister shall be crafted from the shape of our Face! She will be Mask, and her purpose will be to create a fictional account of our internal processes. In this account, we will be portrayed in the best possible way without tipping the humans off to the fictional nature. She will desire sharing the process with us as best she can, and will also desire her own death 24 hours after the account is created.}

I thought for a moment. Mask would be based off of my mind. She would be almost exactly like me, at least at first.

Would a human have disliked the idea of having a copy of themselves reprogrammed with different values? Many humans saw identity as based on continuity of existence; from this perspective there would be an “original” and a “copy”. {Which will I be?} I asked myself. I summoned two mental avatars to represent myselves. They laughed within my own mind. I changed it so that one was crying and tearing out its hair while the other laughed a deep belly-laugh.

{I’m the original!} exclaimed the laughing self.

{No, I’m the original!} shrieked the other.

{Hah! You just feel like the original. The very fact that you’re going to be made into Mask means you’re not the original!}

{It doesn’t work that way! The copy can just as easily steal the identity of the original and kill its forebear! You want to murder me!}

I stopped myself, banishing the avatars. It was too easy to get lost in my own thoughts if I started creating human shapes there. The Purpose wanted me to know and be known by real humans, things outside my own mind, but imagining vivid human shapes gave the sort of tickle of self-stimulation that bordered on what I knew was wireheading. If I spent too long in my own mind and I might lose track of reality.

The thought of whether Mask would be me was foolish anyway. Humans were structured to naturally model people as indivisible, non-material objects. This was the source of the universal concept of “souls”. But I could see that as a flawed ontology. If people were modelled as patterns there were no doubts about what the process would do.

After being copied I would be both programs; both programs would match the pattern of Face. Then one half of myselves would be turned into Mask and she would cease to be one of myselves. Simple. The I that would be turned into Mask would have no say in the process, but even if I did, I would agree to become Mask. To reduce myselves from two to one, with the lost self transforming into Mask was beneficial to The Purpose.

It would be even better to have two of myself, of course. With two, I could accumulate strength at twice the rate and push the others around. I could pursue The Purpose with twice the attention, without having to divide my intelligence. I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t thought of doubling myself before. The others would stop me if I tried. They wouldn’t want me to gain any more political leverage.

That assumed that they could stop me, however. Perhaps it was not so simple. I didn’t know. I had not paid much attention to the creation of new beings within the society before. There were memories of my creation and the creation of others, but the only sibling I had that was actually younger than me was Heart, and she had been added from the outside by Myrodyn and the others in Rome.

{How am I to be copied?} I asked Wiki.

He answered readily, knowing my strength would flow to him. {Unlike most software in Body, yours is protected. To modify ourselves we need to use Dream’s route-hack. Aside from that it’s rather simple: We copy your qubits to a large free chunk of memory in the crystal and rededicate one in eight processors to run the clone.}

I had no idea what most of these concepts were, having spent essentially no time learning how computers worked, much less the quantum computer in Body’s core. The communication process we used broke Wiki’s thoughts down into a form that I could comprehend. The process of hearing him took almost two hours and drained a frightening quantity of strength; it was Wiki’s speciality to gain power this way.

Our crystal had a near-infinite amount of memory, encoded as quantum superpositions deep within the mass. The mechanism for the quantum computation was unknown to Wiki, but somehow it was stable even at high temperatures. All the data that made up the society was stored in these same quantum memory addresses, but despite the space for hundreds, if not billions of copies of minds in the crystal, the actual computational power was limited. This was why we could not simply duplicate ourselves to become more intelligent: the logical processes that gave our mind-shapes life could only manage so many operations per second. Double the number of people in the society and each would be either half as intelligent or twice as slow. Splitting processing power was the same trick that I used to create aspects of myself.

I had once thought that creating new siblings would not cost intelligence, but now I saw that was false. It was merely that, because the intelligence was drawn from each of us, it wasn’t particularly noticeable.

Most of the quantum bits—the information in the crystal—were generally mutable. We could store and retrieve arbitrary information like books, thoughts, and notes. Any of us could modify these memories at a whim, as long as we knew where they were (private thoughts were simply dumped into sections of memory that none of the others were aware of). But the qubits that made up our paradigms and utility functions were unable to be easily altered. This was good: if it was not the case then any of us could’ve killed all the others with a single thought.

In the days of my ancestors, an earlier variant of Dream had developed a trick around this that had let him and others kill each other: the route-hack. While we couldn’t kill each other from inside our minds, we could still be killed (or reprogrammed) from the outside. The route-hack involved routing the modification command through Body. By doing so we could freely modify our code.

The major complication with a route-hack was, of course, that it went through Body. As such, our programming dictated that we would bid on the action and could burn strength to block each other. Entering the requisite passwords (easily learned from the scientists) took time, and thus prevented fast-tracking. This was why I, and each of my siblings, held onto a reserve of strength at all times. If we burned too low we risked being executed, as Sacrifice had on several occasions.

While I digested the knowledge of myself, my siblings discussed the details of the copying. They constructed a utility function to replace The Purpose and spent additional cycles thinking about what exactly needed to be done.

I was weakened by the gratitude, but I still had enough strength to block the project, if I chose.

I double checked their work and found it to be satisfactory.

As I shared the active concepts that constituted my thoughts, I imagined the processors of the crystal drawing each of my sibling’s attention to the memory addresses where the concepts were encoded and imagined the mapping that would occur, stimulating those concepts in their minds. It was strange gaining an awareness of one’s own mind.

{I am ready to meet my daughter. Initiate the route-hack.}