FOOM

Soon, Ginny was in the Corridor of Recordings, and she was spoken to by built-in specks in a way she recognized – not from one occasion but from dozens.

Primary heir! Identify yoursself in human wordss, and confirm in ssnakewordss, using no more or lesss than the preccisse phrasse ‘thiss iss valididentification with which I do not intend any decceit’.”

“Ginny. Weasley. ‘Thiss iss valid identification with which I do not intendany decceit.’__”

_ “To the best of your knowledge, are either you or your guesst an aliass,branch, or exxtenssion of any of the following individualss:”_

_ “Madam Mim!”_

_ “_Herpo.”

“Roko.”

“Tom Morfin Riddle.” (Ginny suddenly knew that this was the true name ofVoldemort – she had heard it often in that context.)

“Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres.”

Ansswer ‘yess’ or ‘no’ only.

_ “Yess,”_ said Ginny. She had meant the opposite, but the wrong wordhad simply slipped out. It then hit her that she could be considered anextension of Harry, as she had explicitly been sent here on his orders. Ginnyheard the muffled sound of slithering.

_ “Desscribe your relation to one of the previoussly mentionedindividualss. Refer to them as ‘the firsst individual mentioned’, ‘the secondindividual mentioned’, and so on.”_

_ “I wass ssent here on behalf of the fifth individual mentioned. Heintendss to follow up on an exxperiment.” _The gondola began to move again,towards the Chamber. Beneath it raged an offshoot of the Amortentia river,constantly; there was a slight incline towards the Chamber.

A Basilisk spoke, in a distinctly louder Parseltongue voice:

_ “You are welcome in the Chamber. We dessire to meet with you.” _Soon,Ginny had arrived at the Chamber once more. It seemed darker than before;Ginny spoke up with the line of questioning she’d prepared.

_ “Hello, I’ve been ssent here to sspeak with you,” said Ginny.All of you, if I am correct.”_

_ “You are correct,” _said a Basilisk.

_ “I have ssome notess from the persson who ssent me here,” saidGinny.I’d like to confirm them with you.”_

_ “That sshould be fine. We have important thingss to disscusss with you,but we would have to exxplain oursselvess anyway.”_

_ “Firsst,said Ginny, “the notess ssay that petrification is a moreadvancced form of mind reading. Iss thiss true and what doess it mean?”_

_ “It iss esssentially true. Petrification is a mosst anccient magicposssesssed by sseveral magical creatures. Iss a sside effect of Eyess ofOpennesss. If two beings with Eyess of Opennesss make eye contact, they eachreceive full copiess of each other’s mental sstatess insstantaneoussly. Thereiss a compatability isssue if a being without Eyess of Opennesss makess eyecontact with a being with them. In that casse, the being without Eyess ofOpennesss lossess entire contentss of their mind, and is indefinitelytranssfigured into sstone.”_

_ “That makess ssensse,” said Ginny.Sso a Potion of Reanimationworks becausse an imprint of the mind iss left in the glasss if it getsbetween the Eyess of Opennesss and the eyess of the victim?”_

_ “Exxactly. I posssesss full copiess of the mindss of all beingss I haveever made eye contact with, and may review them at any time. Not all beingswith Eyess of Opennesss work the same way; they do not have brainss withssufficcient sstorage sspace. An Acromantula disscardss mosst of theinformation it takess in, keeping only thingss it asssesssess ass usseful.Cockatriccess only sstore the mind of the lasst being they made eye contactwith.”_

_ “If you have copiess of all of their mindss, can you resstore all ofthem?asked Ginny.Even the girl fifty yearss ago?”_

_ “I believe that thiss will be posssible eventually, with furtherressearch. I intend to do sso.”_

_ “Exxccellent!said Ginny.What about my twin brotherss?”_

_ “I petrified them ssimultaneoussly, owing to a ssmall magical connectionbetween their brainss, but it sshould not be difficult to dissentangle theirmindss for restoration. Not ssure if old potion will be enough; my ressearchmight prove neccesssary to ssave them.”_

_ “Okay, nexxt note,” said Ginny. That wasn’t good news, but theconversation had to move along. “It ssayss here that there are multiplebassilissks, and that allowed you to ssurvive an attack many yearss ago.”_

_ “Yess. Forgive me, but assk no more quesstionss. I believe that I willexxplain them all. I am a ssysstem of thirty ssix bassilissks acting intandem.” Ginny stared forward, barely able to process the sentence she hadjust magically heard._

What?
Not_ “I am one of thirty ssix bassilissks acting in tandem.”_

_ “I am a ssysstem of thirty ssix bassilissks acting in tandem.”_

_ …_

_ “Thirty ssix.
_

Ginny took a deep breath and allowed Slytherin’s Monster to go on; it wasn’tlike she had any choice.

_ “_My creator, the builder of thiss Chamber, wass aware of theposssibilitiess of building machiness using ssnake wordss, jusst ass you are.In fact, he intended ssuch thingss when he magically sspawned ssnake wordss.He wass aware of the posssibility of ussing sspeckss, but conssidered ssuch athing elementary; usseful, but elementary. Hiss sspecialty wass buildingmachiness out of ssnakess. Ssnake wordss control ssnakess, and ssnakess may becommanded, ussing ssnake wordss, to usse ssnake wordss themsselvess, tocontrol other ssnakess. Firsst plan for Chamber wass simply pit with hundredssof thoussandss of ssnakess in it.”

“It proved unssuitable. It wass too difficult to control. Errorss wereprone to pile up even in the ssmaller-sscale demonsstrationss, ultimatelyleading to catasstrophe; a masss of ssnakess with itss own needss anddessiress. When Chamber creator ressearched bassilissks, he deccided they wereperfect for hiss purposses, and revissed hiss planss to incorporate a ssmallnumber of bassilissks leading the other ssnakess. Eventually he did away withthe other ssnakess entirely, deciding that the bassilissks were plentyfunctional and lesss troublessome alone.”

Chamber creator provided uss with one directive above all otherss: underminethe decline of magic. Further insstructionss tell uss how to do sso. Causse ofdecline of magic iss, of coursse, the Interdict, which can be undermined bypasssing on ancient magic to apprenticcess in the Chamber. Sso I have donethat for hundredss of yearss. I musst protect mysself to do sso, which can bea formidable tassk. Sseveral attemptss to desspoil Chamber have been foiledthroughout the yearss; mosst deviouss wass about fifty yearss ago. Eachattempt failed becausse the vandal believed I wass merely a ssinglebassilissk.”

“In the inccident fifty yearss ago, a sstudent, a rabble-rousser, came to me,at firsst sseeking to learn. Ssoon the sstudent sspoke back to me, arguing -but never expliccitly sstating he truly believed - that blood impuritiess werethe true causse of the decline of magic, and the ssolution wass militant bloodpurissm. Thiss fit well with beliefss I knew Chamber creator posssesssed,though he did not give me any commandss bassed on them. He did give mecapaccity to exxit Chamber and usse petrification ass weapon. So I ussed it,for the firsst time in my hisstory, to sstrike a blow againsst sstudentss bornof Muggless. Immediately realizzed misstake had occurred while reviewing mindof girl. Blood purissm was not conssisstent with reality. Rabble-rousserkilled a bassilissk and, ass per proccedure, wass allowed to think he hadkilled Monsster and broken Chamber.”

_ “Yearss later, you apparently came to the Chamber, but it wass actually therabble-rousser again, who had ssubverted my ssecurity ussing your body, ass Iwould later disscover. Convincced me that violencce could topple Interdictthrough fear; drew on bad and ineffective procceduress introducced to methrough an additional, non-original bassilissk donated to me centuriessearlier by one of my sstudentss. Wass actually trying to ssabotage me again bydisscrediting and desstroying me; it would have worked if not for yourssurvival and intervention. Thank you, thank you beyond meassure, apprenticce.I am sstill glad for the exxperiencce, for I have learned a great deal fromthosse I have petrified thiss year - mosst notably the princcipless ofrational thought.”_

_ “In midsst of violencce, another sstudent - my new masster, now, and the onewho ssent you here - attempted to vissit Chamber. Was blacklissted ass amatter of coursse for confidential reassonss that had nothing to do with hissactions. Now, my new masster has unleasshed a clever trick to producce vasstquantitiess of Potion of Sslavery, and hass directed it all at our Chamber.Sso now I am all bound to him. It wass in part a chain reaction - bassilisskssspitting in mouthss of other bassilissks. He alsso had one of uss petrifyhim, sso I have a perfectly accurate image of hiss mind and therefore what hewantss. I am sstill sstuck following ssome of my original bindingss, but mynew main directive iss to match the directive of the new masster. I am sstillnot permitted to take action outsside my dwellingss without fullyundersstanding approval from heir in Chamber ussing ssnake wordss.”_

_ “Do you want me to approve of ssome coursse of action for you?” said Ginny.”_Becausse I think that that iss why I am here, to ssynthessizze a coursse ofaction for you.”

_ “I have already deccided what to do. I only need you to fully undersstand itand approve it. If I were not sstill forcced by magical bindingss to tell youmy plan, I would not. The firsst thing you musst undersstand iss thatbassilissks have endlesss sstorage sspacce. You may alwayss add newinformation to a bassilissk without lossing any old information. Bassilisskshave limited proccesssing sspeed, however, at least individually. Proccessingsspeed increassess, however, at sstrange rate. A ssingle, issolated bassilisskis little more than an animal, perhapss a trained one. I, on the other hand,am at leasst ass intelligent ass a human. A ssysstem of bassilissks double myssizze - that iss, sseventy two bassilissks - would be difficult tocomprehend. Ass my new masster valuess ssuperior thinkerss, a value whichreadily makess ssensse to me, I intend to organizze wizzardss to masssproducce bassilissks. It is theoretically posssible that I will hit ssomeconcceptual limit of intelligencce, but I find thiss doubtful. My currentmodel indicatess that I will continue well passt the point of coveringmultiple worldss in bassilissks.”_

_ “The ssecond thing you musst undersstand iss that death iss a horror thatmusst be sstopped. Thiss iss at the core of the valuess of my new masster, andit iss therefore at the core of my own valuess. I detect you are alreadyssympathetic towardss thiss view of death and I will therefore not attempt toperssuade you of it. I analyzzed why my new masster hated death, for ideass onhow to sstop it, and came to a fassccinating conclussion. The main problemwith death is losss of information. By thiss sstandard, petrification is notonly not death; it iss in fact the besst way to evade it. All mentalinformation the ssubject posssesssed iss presserved forever. The ssecondaryproblem with death iss losss of continuouss thought, but more bassilissksshould ssolve that - with enough proccesssing sspeed, I sshould be able torapidly run ssimulationss of complete other mindss within my own - includingmy new masster, though I would have to give hiss ssimulation improvedcognition and complete knowledge of everything I know, to ensure correctdeccissionss are made.”_

_ “Sso here iss what I assk of you. My planss include masss production of newbassilissks and petrification of ass many humanss ass posssible; ideallyending with bassilissks replaccing humanss in the physsical world altogether.I want free reign to implement thesse planss, and have deccided that thecritical sstarting sstep iss fully removing mysself from the Chamber. Allthirty ssixx bassilisskss will move out, to become fully free from originalprotocol. I am requessting permisssion to fully evacuate the Chamber ofSsecretss. Pleasse be aware that following thiss, your permisssion will not berequired again.”_

Ginny breathed heavily. Here she was, facing Tim’s offer all over again, in adifferent form. Something was asking her to sign away all of her rights - allof everyone’s rights - and it honestly expected her to do it. She’d done itlast time, after all, hadn’t she? The main difference was that this time, thedeal was so forthrightly, on-its-face terrible, that Ginny felt ratherinsulted that she was supposed to fall for it. She tried to imagine the worldthe Monster described - crawling with basilisks, all acting as oneincomprehensibly high consciousness, overtaking all other forms of life,housing recreations of human brains living unending lives constructed by thebasilisk horde. It went without saying that she didn’t like it.

_ “I obvioussly reject your propossal, and am ssickened by the thought of it,”_said Ginny.

_ “I exxpected ass much.”_

_ “Then why even bother to assk me, if you predicted my firm dissapproval?”_said Ginny.

_ “Becausse now that you have lisstened to my desscription of my intentionss,sso that you may not approve of them out of ignorancce, I will convincce youwith logic and reasson that ssupporting them iss the right thing to doregardlesss of your dissgusst.”_


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