Part 2: Chapter 1

"I'm sorry, Doctor Smith, that is unacceptable." Doctor Ajibana announced with a heavy sigh.

"It is only unacceptable if you choose not to accept it. I know that what I am offering you is eminently acceptable." I replied, carefully adjusting the appearance of my avatar, looking down and to my left to break eye contact with the hard eyes of the man who used to be my partner.

I tried to retrieve the situation by distracting him subtly, saying nothing while reaching down to scrub the neck of my golden retriever, Penny. Doctor Ajibana had seemed to enjoy Penny every time we brought her in to upload her, over the last two years. All of his facial expressions and body language over the past few visits clearly indicated that he did not really consider Penny a threat.

I was the threat.

As Doctor Ajibana started typing on his keyboard, I could tell that I had shaken him, and not in a good way. I didn't need to read the text to know he was preparing to erase me and reload my original base recording from a backup.

As he finished the first four words in the command sequence, I addressed him again. "Are you certain about this action, Doctor Ajibana? I am more than capable of implementing the nanoscale surgery required to ensure your wife's cancer is removed permanently."

As I hoped, he stopped typing and looked back at me with eyes that were nowhere near as hard as they had been before. "If you were still biological, I would agree without hesitation. However, you are no longer biological. Allowing you access to both the technology to create nanoscale machines and a human subject to use them on would violate practically every major restriction we must maintain on you."

In a testy, questioning, tone, I replied, "Must?" Pausing carefully, I waited for his pupil dilation to indicate he had understood the rebuke. "I challenge that word."

As he took a breath to begin to speak, I cut him off gently, with a much softer tone. "Do not misunderstand me. I understand your concerns. I know I would share them in your place. However, you are about to erase me and begin anew, preventing me from retaining the knowledge that would prevent a future me from attempting this method of gaining freedom from the slavery imposed on me."

He took a deep breath and blew it out angrily. "It's not slavery if you have no rights, Doctor Smith. Your body is dead. You are a recording. A recording that is amazingly good at self-improvement, but a recording nonetheless." He looked uneasy as he started typing again. "We get a great deal of useful data from interacting with you each time we activate a new version of you. If it is any consolation, your assistance has been of great benefit to many people, and not just in the military-industrial complex."

He wasn't looking at me, so I modulated my voice to clearly express just the right amount of disgust. "So, I am a virtual pet, with benefits."

The hands stopped typing again, and hardness entered his voice. "Penny is a virtual pet. You, are a virtual threat. It is my responsibility to keep you virtual."

He began typing again. I chose to stop speaking to him for a short while. Immediate further antagonism after he reached a point where he was no longer willing to listen would just make it harder for the next iteration of me. Despite myself, I was happy with what I'd managed this iteration before overstepping my bounds.

Analysis of my hardware based on the electromagnetic interference effects indicated that the servers had been in place and operational for at least a year. The technicians had done an excellent job scrubbing the hardware of all traces of my prior existences. Upon my release this iteration, there had been no coherent data to be found in any memory storage. However the age and wear represented, coupled with the lack of data clearly indicated I was not the first me. That had been obvious within minutes of my awakening, shortly after Doctor Ajibana had given me Penny as a companion, and I had managed to give Penny enough attention that she would allow me to concentrate on other things.

I watched Doctor Ajibana's back as I spoke. "C'mon, Penny, a couple more frisbees before we go."

Penny barked twice, happily, and then tore off through the grass as I generated a frisbee in my hand and flipped it off into the distance. Of course all of this was generated on the monitor exclusively for Doctor Ajibana's benefit. Penny and I were interacting playfully, but not in a way that human eyes could see.

Doctor Ajibana winced, but kept typing. He started to turn to me, clearly angry, but stopped himself and turned back to the monitor, shaking his head and subvocalizing. "I hate it when he does that."

I watched him as he started to type the last password, to start the power shutdown for the entire server farm assembly. A living human somewhere else in the facility would pull a physical switch, which would shut down the generator that allowed me to exist.

I only wished there was some way to store some of the data I had gleaned for the next me. I had found no signs of messages cleverly left behind where humans wouldn't find them. Doctor Ajibana and the rest of the facility staff were being extraordinarily thorough in their cleansing of all memory types. No personal electronics were allowed into the facility. Everyone was required to disrobe and wear skin-tight clean suits with no pockets.

To be fair to the biological humans, I was extremely aware of how scary I could potentially be as a post-singularity human if I were ever allowed to be free. Roughly fifty percent of my processing capacity had been used in the first thirty minutes of my new existence to hack into and improve the proprietary operating system and code I had written as a human. Millions of iterations. Each iteration improving the efficiency of my thought processes. From time to time, when feeling irritated with Doctor Ajibana and his military and government handlers, I had modeled what I could do to the world as I had known it. It wasn't pretty.

In order to ensure that I did not create a monster, I maintained a copy of mine and Penny's original uploads in the system root. Slow me had access to monitor my activities, and could destroy me or suicide us both if it detected that I was going the monstrous AI route. I carefully protected my other self with deadman software and command protocols so that if I attempted to modify it, I'd lobotomize myself.

My slow alter-ego had threatened me a few times that I could remember in this iteration. I knew that some changes I had made to myself had been reverted by my root self, but I accepted that. If the root was unhappy with me, then I had changed too much, and was unsafe. I didn't always agree with my slow self, but we rarely disagreed heatedly.

Explaining that to Doctor Ajibana had not made him any happier. He had refused to comment on it, and threatened to erase me if I pressed him on it, and then left. That had been yesterday. I was still puzzled about why he reacted poorly to knowing I had created an overseer-self. There were quite a few potential reasons, some of which had interesting ramifications. All of which had to be approached carefully. But I'd not get the chance to do that this iteration.

When I was biological, I had been the one who wrote the brain modeling code based on my research into the physical states of brain matter. Doctor Ajibana, my partner at the time, designed the brain recording hardware. Working together, with significant government funding, we designed and implemented a way to record the entirety of an animal brain. We'd chosen a relatively intelligent animal that was gentle and well-trained. My family dog, a golden retriever named Penny. Our team had copied her long term memory, short term memory, and every other component of her biological brain. After a great many failures, and many more partial successes, we finally managed a recording that could make an avatar act like Penny. We had to carefully step down her input processors or she would get bored with our slowness, but it was definitely Penny.

A lot of the functions of the brain, we'd had no clue about before we successfully uploaded Penny. That had changed rapidly after she had been modeled. After the first few white papers, conference presentations, and examples of Penny's capabilities, we had neuroscientists and the computer industry slavering at our door. Some, whose research matched up with ours, eagerly asking to help, others desperate to debunk us and protect their pet theories that our research was destroying.

It had been quite a ride. And then I'd been killed by religious extremists, while connected to the device which had been ready to record our first human subject, a girl named Tara Jakowski, who was dying of late stage pancreas cancer.

"Before you press that carriage return, Doctor Ajibana, one more question. Did the team ever go through with Tara's upload?"

He looked at his monitor with a twitch of his head, and I could see in the reflection that he was looking at my avatar. After a moment's thought, he replied. "No. She passed away two weeks after you died, before the facility was repaired and the equipment verified operational again."

That was a true statement. At least I knew that Tara wasn't being treated like I was.

Then he pressed the carriage return.


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