Tagged: 365

Written in 365 Parts: 81: One in a Million

“What does that mean? How far away were the third generation from the first?”

“Well rejection rates improved to one in a thousand from one in twelve, so that’s nine times better. Whereas incidents of cyberpsychosis went from one in six to one in a million.”

“That’s a nice round number.”

“It’s more like one million, twenty-nine thousand and seventy three. But one in a million sounded cleaner. I figure you don’t want the decimals for any of these stats?”

“No. What you are telling me is that the third generation were one hundred and fifty thousand times less likely to go insane?”

“That does cover all elements of the affliction from the milder more neurotic tendencies, all the way to full on reality altered mental collapse.”

“However, that’s still an impressive change.”

“You have to understand, Drick, that the idea of implants while normal to us, to others it is as alien a concept as you can have. It isn’t just a mental reaction, there is a lot of physical rejection that happens based on emotional response. It’s sticking things in your body and having them control parts of your reality and perception. That’s some gut wrenching alteration for the uninitiated. This could be the reason that Marsh’s unit was repressed so much. Maybe they didn’t want it doing anything more than translation to reduce the chance of him flipping.”

“That makes some sense. But it is still another niggle. I don’t wholly buy that he is just some long frozen man who has been in a chiller for over a thousand years. Why was he frozen for so long? Why wake him up now? Why the hell give him an implant? I get that you might want to speak with him if you did wake him up, but that implant is a heck of an excessive piece of tech for that.”

“I can’t help you any more than I have already Drick.”

“I know. I want you to dig around a little more into the base levels of the implants memory and operating processes. See if you can dig out how long it has been there and if there are any snatches of data residual in any of its systems. It is a small chance but you never know what you might dig up.”

Written in 365 Parts: 80: Is It Created?

“So what do you think?”

“I think he thinks he is telling the truth. Whatever that is.”

“I don’t want any philosophical or metaphysical bullshit. I want to know if it is the truth.”

“Now that’s an entirely different question.”

Drick sighed heavily, “okay, Rodero, I am not going to play language games, read between the lines or I’ll hunt you down and break your jaw.”

“There’s the Drick I know and am terrified off.”

“Good, so?”

“Look I wasn’t being wholly flippant. What Marsh thinks is what Marsh believes. I ran every kind of test I could think when you were both in the construct program. I also had a whole mess of systems monitoring every potential output in his head. I can tell you that they one hundred percent believe what they are telling you. Now, they are also a little confused, scared and I reckon deeply angry, or aroused, or both. But what they said about being ex-military, from the distant past, and having no clear recollection of much else. That’s all bona fide from my readings of what they believe.”

Drick chewed on a lip for a few moments and the avatar that was being presented to Rodero did the same. “Is it true, though? Or is there a possibility it is created and Marsh just wholly believes it?”

“Now that is a very good question. Aside from working out who or why, which could be any reason, I did wonder about that myself. But that brings us to the problem of the if. If the memories they were fake how would you know. If they could convince the brain, train the body, and simulate all the experiences, then there would be a slim to no chance of finding out what is true. So how do you find out if they have done that level of deception?”

“You asking me or telling me?”

“Little of both to be honest.”

“What have you tried so far?”

“Aside from the monitoring while he was in the construct I have also been closely observing the statistics during combat, including all the feedback from the integration with the implant.”

“And?”

“Well there is the fact that he is adapting very quickly to using the mechanics of interacting with the device. The other results fall within expected ranges for someone with his age and upbringing.”

“So the physical results fall within expectations but the mental agility is a little out of range? By what factor?”

“Hard to say. There is no real baseline to go from as there isn’t anyone with his specific background in the statistical research. However I do have some figures from colonies that were discovered after suffering abandonment for a time period.”

“Go on.”

“Well the particular group I have were from five hundred years ago, just after the second Expansion War. The colony was called Rigella and had been separated from the supply lines for close to a century. They had no innate power sources and so electronics had failed after twenty years, they had primarily fission power sources and not fusion hence the short lifespan of their power. The only machinery still working was self-regenerating atmosphere terraforming towers. They had returned to a mostly agrarian existence. The doctors and scientists tried to rehabilitate the society and bring them up to speed technologically.”

“What were the results?”

“Significantly higher cases of cyberpsychosis and a higher level of implant rejection syndrome. They were also very resistant to modern medical procedures. Took two generations to fully combat the negative culture and to score close to normal results.”

“How close is Marsh to their figures? The first settlers that were processed?”

“He isn’t close. He is close to the third generation, he is way below the rejection and dissociative readings of the primary group.”

Written in 365 Parts: 79: Nasty Piece of Work

“Missed me, ooof” Marsh backed away hurriedly as the reverse heel kick caught him squarely in the solar plexus with enough force to knock all the air from his lungs. The padding on the sparring suit took out most of the force, but it still allowed some through. Drick kicked like a mule on steroids. Way more of the impact from Drick’s attacks came through the suit. Marsh was comparing it to the force from the two other sparring partners. “Give me a moment,” Marsh said as Drick spun to face him.

“You need a little lie down, maybe someone to rub those sore parts and hush you with comforting words?” Drick spoke with a pout on their face.

“That’s funny, you are a real funny person, Drick. Maybe we all need a break, for sure. I just need a moment as if you hit me like that again I am likely to puke.”

“You wont get a break in a real fight, and you are not coming with us without a lot more practice.” Drick was calm but stern. “I know this is new to you but it isn’t new to the other side. They are going to have implants and they are going to have years of experience. You need to fortify, or you need to quit the idea of coming along. Which is it?” 

“I will fortify,” said Marsh. He nodded at the other two ‘Angels’ as Drick referred to them. Marsh had led all of the attacks and it had resulted in everyone being brought down by Drick. Might be time to change tactics.

The three of them circled Drick cautiously. As before Drick merely moved in a slow, graceful circle. Occasionally Drick would seem to half close their eyes as if focussing, Marsh surmised that they were reviewing the internal screens.

Marsh had been training with Drick for about five hours since leaving the construct program where Rodero and Drick had introduced him to all the capabilities of the implant in his head. It still felt wrong, a device that was melded to his brain frankly gave him the shakes. It was so alien. However, each new capability seemed to ease those feelings. Marsh had quickly learned how to call up visual aid; enhance his senses; and even semi-master answering a call, while resisting every urge his body had to speak out loud or gesture. The implant created its own form of internal construct that Marsh interacted with. It could display a representation of himself, or an avatar, to whomever he contacted.

Marsh currently had the implant helping him with the combat. It was tracking all the moves and suggesting positions, possible attacks and showing him potential targets. It also tracked all the motion on the court, using all of his senses and enhancing where it could. It was a ridiculously powerful piece of equipment and it gave great help.

However Drick always seemed to have the edge. They were quick. They anticipated fast, and they hit like a freight truck. 

Marsh rejoined the fight and had angled into position as the two angels spun and attacked Drick. Marsh kept on trying to get a jab in with a kick or a punch. Occasionally he feinted, mostly he was brushing empty air.

The angels were tiring as Drick seemed to goad them into making larger set piece assaults that were taken apart with an almost forensic precision of hits and dodges. Marsh joined the Angels to impart a fury of blows directed at Drick who was mostly dodging. The two angels saw a hole and pressed an advantage but it was a trap. Drick had led them into a position where they could be slammed into each other, their heads colliding.

That attack should have had Marsh as well, but he had dodged backwards a moment before. Now he bent his body low as Drick moved out of the assault on the angels, attempting a spin kick at waist height. It was a ruse and he hoped Drick would avoid it, or even better engage with the kick. Drick did the latter using a sweeping kick of their own aimed to the kneecap. Marsh had already flicked his body into a roll. The kick had moved him forward and now contact with the floor gave him the ability to thrust himself backwards. Powerful arms pushed hard against the ground and his legs shot out towards Drick at high speed.

Impossibly Drick wasn’t there. They had used their own kick as a ruse to back flip in front of Marsh. There was a moment where Marsh was in the air his head looking backwards at where Drick once was that he wanted to know how to teleport. And then Drick heel snapped his face into the ground and landed on his spine with a sharp knee. He hit the ground hard and shouted to break the fight.

Marsh waited a few moments to see what part of his frame would light up in pain. Thankfully the suit had a helmet and that was padded and protected in much the same manner as the rest of his body. There was a tingle from his neck, a throbbing in his spine, and his nose was bleeding lightly. Not too bad. Had the suit not taken out the force Drick would have crushed his face, broken his neck, and snapped his spine with that manoeuvre. “I think you killed me,” he said.

“That was my intention.”

“That’s so nice of you. I didn’t realise that you cared so much.”

“Well it is the level of care I afford everyone who I train with.”

“Yeah, I noticed when you aced the other two. So what has this taught me aside from you are one nasty piece of work?”

“Sweet of you to say. Time for you to practice weapons with Boomer. Rodero has a construct ready for you. Just find somewhere to rest and connect up with them, they are waiting for you.”

Written in 365 Parts: 78: Only Limited By Your Ability

“So how am I able to see this? I don’t get it, did you install some kind of telephoto system in my eyes or something?” Drick stood next to Marsh in a wide open plain, there were objects placed onto boxes set at varying distances from the pair of them. Drick had been asking Marsh to focus on the different boxes at different distances for the last few minutes. 

“No. We could have but we didn’t. More importantly, neither did the people who put the implant in your head. It is possible to fit enhanced optic into the human eye. Or to have bionic eyes. Or even to have genetically altered eyes to give more range of vision. But the truth is also that the eye without modification has a lot of capability that isn’t utilised. Evolution is often an efficient process. That extra capability is what the implant enhances.”

“You want to explain it to me?”

“Not really as it isn’t really my field of expertise, but like all the other questions you ask I will give you an answer by searching databases. Well I say that I will, actually Rodero is currently uploading info to me so that I can answer you without sounding too much like an idiot.”

“Do they do that for everyone or just you?”

“Everyone can use the search functions of an implant, you just need a network connection and to pull it onto a screen, I already showed you how to do that.”

“Right.”

“But Rodero is also an asset for the whole group, at this time you can utilise them as I am doing. They are faster and more efficient at grid surfing than you, or I, are likely to be.”

“Good to know.”

“Your eyes can see objects at some distance. A point of light, the size of a small flame, for distances up to fifty kilometres away. However, at that distance you would not be able to determine if it were one or two flames if they were close together. You might differentiate colours. Like in the way that you can with stars even though they are billions of miles away. Organic eyes can start to make out multiple elements, or separate elements, of a standard organic’s size at a distance of three kilometres. So two people walking next to each other would start to be distinct as two objects at that distance. What the implant does is take the information your eyes are seeing and then combine it with information about light density, angle, shape and trajectory. It factors out what the element cannot be and returns a more distinct image. So for those two people it might distinguish if they had bags, or guns in their hands. However at three kilometres you wouldn’t be able to tell much more. Note that you can detect colour at a much greater distance which really helps the implant with its ability to process the data. When we get to the sub two-kilometre distance the implant will have made enough guesses and refined enough data to clear the image adding edge detection and density. At that point you would be able to recognise someone who was well known to you and start to have an idea of clothing and other finer details. All refined by the implant of course. This is why we are training your eyes to look at different objects at different distances. We are in reality training the implant to work with your eyes and getting you used to how it helps and enhances.”

“I guess this will be useful in spotting someone coming at you or maybe if you are following them, but I don’t see any other real application.”

“That’s because you haven’t properly listened. The implant tracks a lot of data and extrapolates from it. So it will track trajectories, ratios, speed, colour, density, angle of interaction. This is near bodies as well as distant, and includes objects you have taken your eye, or focus away from. You cannot continue calculating an object coming at you when you are not looking at it, but the implant can. If it is an intelligent object then it might change its course and speed, but that’s the only real drawback. You can stay more aware, focussed and cognisant of threats and actions in a situation.”

“Okay.”

“It will even show close situations on screens in your view, extrapolate an attack and give you fast options to block, dodge or take actions yourself.”

“That’s a little more interesting. In fact it is bloody astounding.”

“There are a whole range of capabilities that are only limited by your ability to interact and respond.”“Okay. Show me more.”

Written in 365 Parts: 77: Waiting for the Prey to Come

Hooper was sat uncomfortably still. They had been uncomfortable for hours, still for even longer, and the two facts were connected. They had known this would be the case which is why Hooper had sensibly taken drugs to numb parts of their frame before getting into the uncomfortable position that they currently occupied.

Hooper looked at a chronograph. They had just passed the twelve hour point since getting into this tightly confined space. What were they thinking when they got in here? For about the thousandth time they contemplated getting out of the box they were in and taking a long stretch and a few well aimed punches at a simulation of Drick in an internal screen. For about the same number of times they took a deep suck on the air in the environment mask and checked over all the systems.

In any other circumstances they would have used observation remotes, sensors and maybe an underling to watch said outputs from such devices. On any other mission they wouldn’t be facing someone who probably had access to the same resources as Hooper.

Anything Hooper could obtain in the way of monitoring device, personnel and other resources the quarry would have. Which meant that they could detect any devices and view any requests to personnel. It also meant that they could be frightened away and Hooper desperately needed to avoid doing that.

So the observation had to be subtle. It had to use virtually no detectable devices. It meant that Hooper was currently squatting in an environment suit that gave off no heat. In a box that had no atmosphere. In a place that was heavily refrigerated. The box Hooper squatted in, uncomfortably, normally held parts. Organic parts. It was refrigerated as this was the morgue of a very select private company. 

Hooper was waiting here as they had a hunch that someone was going to break into this place. Someone was going to have to identify two corpses just to make sure they were really dead, and they didn’t have a chance to do that at Judicial Central. 

Hooper was hoping that someone who was going to have to break in here was connected, or at least worth trailing. Hooper needed evidence and not just hunches 

So they sat in a cold, airless, box. In the morgue of the private medical company. And they waited for the prey to come.

Written in 365 Parts: 76: Works Best When Your Eyes Are Open

“Then show me. What do I do?” Marsh stood and stared at Drick.

“Well this is going to get a little metaphysical. The image you see right now is the construct, we are going to artificially insert, what you would be seeing if you were using your device, into your constructed head. As your real head is seeing the construct right now. Don’t worry, outside of the construct it will work the same as what we are showing you.”

“I’m pretty sure I read a book like this sometime, do I end up dying inside my own head?”

“Not unless you absolutely want to. I said it was a little metaphysical. It is because the mechanism used by the machinery is being used by us as well at this moment. Look, stay with me, it will become clear after you have practiced and when you are back in the real world.”

“Unless that world is a simulation as well?”

“Carry on like that and you are going to give yourself a seizure.” Drick smiled, “right, so imagine that you can see a set of screens in your view. They are semi-transparent and sit overlaying the real world. I want you to summon them to look like display cards, you can use any colours you like. Your software can actually display pretty much any graphic you want but it is best to focus on simple shapes and maybe text and video only for the moment.”

“I just imagine it?”

“Yes.” Marsh closed his eyes and focused hard on seeing screens. “Marsh?”

“Yeah?”

“Augmented views work best when your eyes are open.”

Marsh cocked his head to one side. “I guess that makes sense.” 

Drick watched as his brow furrowed. Marsh was almost ready to give up, this wasn’t going to work, it was a damned silly idea. So what a set of cards would appear in full high definition colour on his view and only he could see them. He shook his head and noticed a set of coloured shapes roll around the bottom of his view. He looked down and they stayed always at the bottom of his vision, thin and wispy and almost out of sight.

“Good,” said Drick, “a little small but that is essentially correct. I am going to send you a message and something should happen. Don’t worry, Rodero is streaming me a view of what you can see so that I can guide you.” Drick opened up a Comms chanel and directed it towards Marsh. Drick could see Marsh’s view in on a screen in their view. Drick placed the screen next to the comms screen with Marsh’s so that the context wouldn’t be lost. Drick noticed one of the coloured shapes start to bounce in Marsh’s view. “Marsh, focus on that shape and try to expand it.”

Marsh tracked the bouncing shape but couldn’t seem to catch it. He was just about to say it was stupid again when he let his mind stop trying so hard and the shape stopped in the air. Marsh casually wished it was a screen hovering a few feet away and suddenly it opened wide to show Drick’s face and a message saying ‘open comms?’

“Open that message,” said Drick.

Marsh thought at the message and willed it to open. Suddenly Drick was the internal screen as well as in front of him, the Drick on the Comms screen was speaking to him but the other, real, or simulated real, Drick was silent. “Marsh in order to talk on an internal comms you only have to think of what to say and the implant will handle the rest. You can share information, instruct systems and even send me experiences. Don’t think of this as a screen. It is a direct link between our consciousnesses.”

“This is so odd,” said Marsh out loud, “wait I can just think it?” he thought and saw Drick blink in surprise on the internal screen.

“Don’t think so hard, that was pretty much shouted,” Drick said. “Keep your mind calm, as dispassionate as possible. The implant directly interprets everything.”

“So I can have a conversation on the outside of my head and inside at the same time?”

“Yes.”

“Doesn’t that get confusing?”

“It takes practice but most people are able to manage it. Though switching context is always more of a challenge. It does work well for remote teams working together, As I said you can share both information, links, video feeds, experiences and even memories. Especially with the model that is currently resting inside of your head. It is sufficiently highly advanced.”

“You keep saying that.”

“It’s still true and still relevant. Right let’s cover some of the other enhancements.”

Written in 365 Parts: 75: My History is Hokum

“What the hell does ‘your past may be a fiction’ mean? My past may not be real? What? I am not from the past? So, I just don’t understand, so where am I from then?”

“Drink?”

“I can drink in here?”

“You can pretty much do anything in here, Marsh. Though you will not actually be imbibing alcohol your mind will respond as if you have. Remember the construct program instructs your brain to help it replicate the experience. It’s a near perfect representation. Enough for your brain to accept it as truth.”

“That sounds like it could be fun.”

“Well I did say that some organics spend their entire lives in a construct. Many of them have very specific requirements but others allow for the randomness of existence. It is controlled by machine intelligences, but it basically amounts to as much an abstract reality as the apparent real one.”

“I’ll take that drink. Do I just summon it from the air?”

“It works best if things don’t just appear. It is why you have an operator helping the program. Usually it is just a machine learning how to work with your brain but we have Rodero. If things just appeared you’d have that issue of truth again.”

“But surely I will have that all the time now?”

“In this particular case it is how far from the truth that we wander that is the issue. You now know that the whole of this is a construct, but if almost magical elements are added it will become more dislocated in experience. The brain likes regularity, it is more comfortable if the narrative is consistent. Remember we need it to be complicit in fooling itself. So no fantastic physics. We extrapolate along a line. Which is why we will have to work within a story.”

Drick walked over to a wall panel and passed a finger over a sensor. Immediately it spoke, “how may I assist?”. Drick ordered two whiskies with soda and asked that the bottles be brought as well and then flicked the intercom off.

“We know it is a hotel, so let’s just use room service. Narrative consistency.”

“So what about my history?”

“Well it is a real problem. They restricted the safeguards. They had no reason to do that. They had already built disabling elements onto your system. They could create worlds and experiences, and they could control your access to the extended, higher, functions of the system. The only reason one would remove a safeguard is to prevent it kicking in if the system were causing harm. That could be physical, or mental torturing, or if someone wanted to rewrite memories, change what you know or understand.”

“Maybe they were just getting rid of the memories of what they were doing to me?”

“That could be it. In fact that is likely to be a major part of why they had done this. But they could do most of that by keeping you in a drugged state. There are plenty of narcotics that stop you being cogent or coherent. There are drugs that can target the areas of the brain that form long-term memories or remove short-term capabilities. This is a difficult and dangerous procedure for them to just do that. Undoubtedly that is part of the reason they took out the safeguards, but it is unlikely to be all of the reason.”

“You think that the real reason has to be my history?”

“Possibly, look it isn’t that simple. I think that it made it compelling that they had to do it. Not the reason but the method that was the determining factor.” Drick paused as there was a chime from the door. Drick called for the door to open and a young organic brought through a trolley with a selection of drinks on it. The organic was dressed in a revealing maid’s outfit and clearly displaying as female in both body shape and tattoos. 

Drick rolled their eyes as the maid smiled warmly and bent to pass Marsh a drink. “Stop drooling, Marsh, this is Rodero. It is their idea of humour.”

Rodero turned towards Drick and bent over further to allow a skirt to rise in Marsh’s direction. Rodero blew Drick a kiss and turned their head towards Marsh, “you don’t object to the view, do you sweetie?”

“Yeah, I really do,” said Marsh, “what makes you think I find this tawdry display remotely attractive?”

“Well because I read up on a little history and the transcripts of your conversations. I know that you present as a heterosexual male, and the people of your time period predominantly used visual attraction for sexual signalling. I am also looking at your stats, mostly your biometric responses, and you are showing signs of interest and arousal.” Rodero grinned, “so it is no use in lying.”

“Despite what you said, the people of my time also considered what you are doing to be a crass display. It is juvenile. Although I might be wired to respond it is mostly unwilling. I might be attracted to whatever form you have currently taken. I might be aroused by the image. But I would refuse any kind of relationship with you. This is just a bad mistake.”

The female stood and straightened the skirt, “hmmm, not so primitive as I thought,” they turned to Drick, “well the arousal responses to stimulus are within an expectation, so if they are falsely written, they are well written.”

Drick stared, “don’t try to fob off your puerile humour as a useful experiment. We could have achieved the same information without this cheap trick. You did this because you like to mess with people.”

“A girl has got to have some fun.”

“Is that how you are choosing to present?”

“In this simulation, yes. You know me, I like to be very fluid. A different proclivity for every separate challenge.”

“Get out.”

Rodero walked towards the door and turned to blow a kiss at them just before leaving. “Well that was rude,” said Marsh.

“Shut up, part of you liked her.”

“Not any part being a primitive man allows me to control.”

“Well, I could cut you a break. Almost all sexual display is a social construct, you are a product of a different society. But even still, you are a big dumb idiot.”

“Fair enough. Are they in any way right, though? Can you write that level of basic response. Even if everything is a part of your history, and the environment that builds on, whatever framework, is organically in existence. Can you write in those automated responses that a lifetime of experiences has made you create?” How much can you really change what has become nature? Sure you can make appearance changes, but rewiring the underneath. Surely that is a major remapping of the brain?”

“The brain can be remapped, so to speak. It takes considerable effort but organics do it all the time. That is how we combat biases and perceptions. We have the capacity to form new pathways and we have the capacity to unlearn. Sure when you are in a world that immerses and reinforces attitudes, beliefs and behaviours it is significantly harder to change. But if the brain is removed from that, either by allowing it to be as objectively critical as possible, or by building a neutral construct, then change can be drawn on a deeper level.”

“So what Rodero was attempting to prove?”

“Was bullshit, yes. Rodero was messing with you. It is in their nature. They have been around for a while but they are basically just an adolescent. It is the period of their life where they grew the most and they stayed there.”

“So you think my history is hokum?”

“I think there is a good possibility that you are old. I think it is highly likely that you may have been used for some illegal, or deeply unethical, purpose for some considerable time. But I don’t buy that you are a soldier from some backwater century who was frozen and then revived in distant space. There is something else going on. For some reason they created a false history, which means your real history needs to be hidden, even from you. Why is that?”

“I have no idea.”

“Me neither. Look we are not going to get any more from this discussion. Let me show you how to use your implant.

Written in 365 Parts: 74: Your Past May Be A Fiction

“Wait, what? A construct, what? This is in my head? You are in my head? Like in a dream? I don’t have dreams like this.”

“Oh, you don’t dream like this? Why, what’s the matter? Am I not naked in front of the class, manipulating a marmoset?”

“What? What the heck, no.”

Drick laughed. “Sorry, look I managed to get a few hours sleep while they were operating on you and so I am just playing around. Being light hearted. Setting you at ease a little. Let me as best as I can. You might want to take a few deep breaths.”

“If you’re being light hearted I am seriously worried. Deep breaths, sure. Just use small words, okay?”

“As small as I am able to, let’s face it large words would confuse you.”

“Thanks. What’s a construct?”

“It’s a computer simulation. This is a computer program running on the device that is connected to your mind. It has the capability to send signals to your mind that, sort of, replicate your senses. Early simulations were just like holograms, or semi-sensory, poor augmented reality. But, we have since developed technology that allows full fusion of cybernetics. Using the fact that there is a greater understanding of how the brain creates and uses information from senses, memory and more importantly its own perception or imagination. It allows us to build immersive simulations. This is one of those.”

“So this is being created and sent into my head?”

“Yes, and more importantly, no. The construct program merely allows the operator to define what they would like you to see. The actual shape of what is created, colours, textures, smells, tastes, pressure, gravity is made by your mind. The full sensory experience is provided by your brain. That’s an important distinction. If we create a simulation, and create all the textures and components, we would have to force your brain to accept it as real. Your brain is wired to help prevent that. In fact, the brain has a few mechanisms to validate what is real, unreal. or more accurately what it considers to be truth. The brain believes itself above all other evidence. That’s partially why we have biases and mental illnesses. What your brain considers correct, or accurate, may not represent reality.”

“So How do you get this then?” Marsh indicated the bedroom and the furnishings. Gesturing at a mirror. “This looks a bit like a mirror I saw in a hotel room, but it is different. So it feels partially familiar. Am I doing that, or is the construct program doing it?”

“Good question. Both. The operator wants you to be in a room. It has a bed, chair, table, mirror, windows and doors. They want those to lead to places as well. So those instructions are in the construct program. The code then fires the right neurons to pull examples of those things from your mind and coaxes you to create the picture in real time. At the same time it creates the correct waves and vibrations, mimicking those that your brain uses. That’s the really clever part as the waves in your head are mostly unique to you. Simulating them is difficult, manipulating the brain to create them is why we have hardware fused to your mind. At that point the construct is no different to what your brain does anyway. The final big issue is if there is missing information. But, that can be created by the construct pulling data. So, for instance, you have no idea what a blaster rifle looks like. However I am connected to the same construct, as is Rodero, and the archives of image data so we can make one appear.”

Drick walked over to a chest of drawers and opened them. They pulled out a long black rifle with an unusual cylindrical stock and large bore. There was a series of mini displays on the rifle’s top and a set of small stud switches above the trigger. “Here,” Drick passed it to Marsh. “How does it feel?”

Marsh looked it over, “smooth, rubberised surfaces. The studs are sharp and metallic. There is a weight to it, but it is a little, maybe wrong feeling, I don’t know.”

“Wrong?”

“Yeah, something like that. Something about the weapon that doesn’t feel right.”

“That’s your brain working. You see you now know that this shouldn’t feel right. But the construct program is very good and the operator competent. Your senses should not know any different. Had we not discussed it you would not be feeling this way, you have no knowledge of the weapon so everything should be a new experience. But I told you it was created and now you sense that. You’re probably feeling that way about the whole program now. It is being rejected by the working part of your brain. However small that is.. You are expecting a difference, and the wrong feeling is that there isn’t one. Small items we can get away with it causing no real discontent. However, if we created everything with you having no internal references, or biases to make it believable, you’d probably have a seizure.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. A lot of very early construct programs, particularly the total immersive experiences where people wanted to roleplay extreme situations, caused massive issues. The brain has great potential to damage itself.”

“So why am I in this construct?”

“I thought this would help. Look we have brought you online fully. That hardware in your head is an impressive piece of kit. There are capabilities to give full augmentation to your senses. It has full ability to access both public and private networks, that’s computer networks. It has both reception and broadcast capabilities, which means you can literally send your experiences to another person, or system. Hell you could stream the Marsh experience directly into someone else.”

“This all seems mad. How will I know if I am somewhere real, or a simulation, or, well, anything?” Marsh looked at Drick his face starting to pale.

“Sit down,” Drick sat in a chair and waited for Marsh to take the seat opposite. “This is why I used this particular construct, it’s a simple one. A room with minimal distractions. The truth is that you can tell, but it takes a lot of training and a lot of time inside construct programs to be able to tell. You have to learn it. They have become so sophisticated that some organics spend all of their existence in virtual worlds. Sometimes it is the best thing for them.”

“It’s scary.”

“It is. Very scary. The power that is available via the links to your mind can give a rogue operator almost godlike powers over you. However this is known. The devices have safeguards. Organics don’t like being altered without permission, so they made the hardware with failsafes to prevent that. Up until last night your unit was not functioning properly. The people who fitted it had restricted your access to prevent you using its full capabilities. They had also prevented you from benefiting from any failsafes. They had disarmed them. They had control over you. Marsh, your past may be a fiction. We are going to have to discover what is real.”

Written in 365 Parts: 73: We Aren’t Anywhere Really

“Where am I?” eyes were blinking into the low light of the room and a hand was brushed through that curly mound of hair.

“That line is starting to get old really quick. Can we not have a better way of saying hello? Maybe just assume that you are somewhere beforehand and say ‘Hi’ first, and then follow it with something else?” Drick cocked a head to one side and stared at Marsh who had rested on his elbows to stare across the dim room.

“Sure. One second,” Marsh lay back down and closed his eyes to Drick’s bemused frown. “Good morning sunshine,” he said and sat upright smiling maniacally, “wait this isn’t Aunt Mabel’s outhouse, where is Uncle Sydney? Where are the twins? These are surely not my knuckles. Now, Drick, where am I?”

“In bed.”

Marsh looked around, “whose bed?”

“At this moment you are the only one staying in it so I would say it is your bed. You have woken in an interesting mood.”

“Yeah, well I feel a little out of place but some of the buzzing in my head has gone.”

“About that. It was a jammer that was injected into the web attached to your brain. Whomever got you out must have known quite a bit about what hardware was in there as they knew that it had a locator fitted to it. They should have been able to track your every move and even remotely operate some of your senses.”

“Do what now?”

“They would have been able to passively pick up whatever you heard, saw, smelt or touched. It also looked like they had the ability to direct certain impulses. Like remotely making you turn your head for instance.”

“You mean they controlled my mind and body?”

“Not really, more that they could replicate certain sequences so that you would respond automatically and just believe that you had wanted to say, turn left, or look upwards.”

“That is the freakiest thing I have ever heard. So you say they were jamming it and that caused the headache and the buzzing?If it isn’t there and you turned it off, can they get in and do that again?”

“Nope. We removed their capability to do that. And after some discussion they wouldn’t let me install a few special ones of my own.”

“You wanted to mess with my brain.”

“Well…I was joking.” Drick smiled. “Come on, I will let you get dressed there are fresh clothes in the wardrobe. I thought you might want a bite to eat and then we will activate the full system and show you how to use it.”

“Still didn’t answer my first question?”

“Oh, right. We are not anywhere really. This is a construct program running inside your head.”

Written in 365 Parts: 72: Poisoned Fruit

“Drick” the Comms unit buzzed and Drick pulled some focus to the internal screens that were hovering at the bottom of the retinal implant. They had time to answer as Marsh would still be in surgery for another ninety minutes and Boomer hadn’t returned from running errands.

“Rodero,” Drick brought the Comm’s channel with the connection to Rodero to the front of the stack, “what’s the situation.”

Rodero appeared. Again they were in the mixture of black and charcoal leather coat, thigh high boots and black denim pants, though the tee had a different underground synth band with an obscure literature quote. “We’re rolling.”

Drick allowed an avatar of them to appear so that Rodero had a figure to use for reference. Drick raised a hologramatic eyebrow, “Fill me in.”

“It’s a double whammy to be honest.” Rodero seemed smug, “I was lurking in the low level system calls of the security service servers, and saw that someone had started a wipe of all the words we had targeted. I was able to backtrace a lot of connections and make duplicates. Some of it got garbled, but I have a recovery programme working on it right now.”

“That’s good news. Looks like the override we were able to put in has worked. I guess they have killed all the possible codes that the Security Guard gave us?”

“Pretty much, except I was able to cut a few extra low level codes before they did that which might come in useful. Mostly just second codes on doors and lockers, but not to anywhere super sensitive.”

“Any advantage is a path towards our goals. What’s the other whammy?” Drick let the avatar stand up and move towards Rodero as the Comm’s connection opened up to have them walking along a pathway in a garden overgrown with thorny vines. Drick looked around and shrugged expressively and gave Rodero a weak smile.

“They just hired me.” Rodero had a grin that went from ear to ear but not literally.

“What?” Drick stopped the gentle stroll and stared at Rodero to see if this was a joke. It didn’t seem so.

“Yeah, I know. Balls of amazement, right? It is through one of my surface clone networks. An old one at that. It is still secure and safe which is why I never released it back into the ether. They want a cleanup doing and a deep level trace on anything that Judiciary have on the incident at the nightclub. In fact anything anyone has on the nightclub. It is good money but they need the work to be done quickly. What do you want me to do?”

Drick pursed lips and then let a smile creep over them, “I want you to do what they are paying you to do. But let’s face it, you are going to be able to give them so much more than that.”

“I am, but I don’t think I should.”

“Maybe, maybe not. Actually I have the seed of a plan in my mind. We are going to pick up a lot of heat, I mean a lot of interest when we pull the job. So maybe it might be wise to whittle their forces down a little more than originally we were able. I mean I was just going to use the gangs and the Union help, that would take out some of the resistance. But, how about making them purposefully give up valuable resources and time. Not only that it might draw them out a little, push for even more mistakes. I think it is time we started to lay some breadcrumbs down leading to Grandma’s House for the poisoned fruit.”

“What?”

“I thought you liked fairy tales and stories, Rodero, do your research. I may be mixing them all up a little.”

“Well I shall let them know that I am on the case. I still think this whole plan as a high chance of going very badly wrong.”

“That’s what you said about the club.”

“I was almost right.”

“Aside from things going as I sort of expected them.”

“You may have expected them but did everyone else expect them?” Rodero stared at Drick, “thought not. You should learn to share a little, Drick.”

“I am sharing. Just not with you. Get to work and let me know when you have established a nice trail and a line to a high enough source. Don’t make it too juicy too quickly. Be cautious but a little loquacious.”

“Wow, pulling out all the big words again. That old unit in your head needs a more modern dictionary. Something from the last millenia should bounce you forward a thousand years or so.” The garden and the vines started to collapse as Rodero pulled the construct program from the comm channel.

“Nice insult, not. Now go or I will start playing rough.”

“This is you playing smooth.” Rodero was fading from view.

“This is me being as gentle as a mother bird kicking a cuckoo out of her nest. Go.” Drick killed the connection to standby.