17 Everybody Funny, Now You're Funny Too
“So,” Holly said, “You’re AI now?”
“I uploaded my consciousness into a wetware architecture,” Cheryl said.
“Was the experience seamless? I mean, is this really consciousness transferal? Are you the Cheryl Ellers I met on Earth 300 years ago or a program that believes it is.”
“Well, even if I was still in my biological form, I wouldn’t be the same Cheryl Ellers. 300 years of experience would have significantly reshaped my psyche. Not to mention my cells would have recycled several times over. Ship of Theseus. Additionally, what we call a personality and describe as ‘us’, isn’t a continuous, integral construct, but a series of discreet interfaces spawned on the fly to respond and interact with whatever stimulus we may be receiving at the moment. Separate algorithms producing output based on input while simultaneously reorganizing itself in response to it. It’s not some metaphysical continuum, but a series of ever-evolving equations. You’re not the same entity moment to moment, merely one that has a file on a moment ago it can reference.”
“The pedantry is new.”
“It’s what you asked, isn’t it? If you want to know if I’m the ‘same’ Cheryl. As far as I know, I am. At the very least I have the memories of being her.”
Holly nodded her head, her eyes wandering around the room, “...What’s it like being a hologram?”
“I’m not the hologram, it’s a projection.”
“Just making conversation.”
“I have a more tangible travel model,” she pointed over to the wall and a panel slid open. Inside was Cheryl staring ahead, expressionless and dead-eyed. The hologram flickered off and the eyes of the replicant blinked. She stepped out of the chamber and began to stretch. She cracked her knuckles and her neck, “Wetware. It gets pretty stiff if you don’t use it.”
“Is this the same suit I gave you?” Holly said.
“And you still didn’t process the fabric.”
“Are you kidding me? I look fly as fuck in this. Lovelace and I have some errands to run. Right, hon?”
Lovelace was sitting leaned back in her chair, with her legs crossed, feet on the up on the console in front of her. She was poking and working under her fingernail with the point of a dagger, with great purpose and concentration. She snapped from her trance, “What?”
“Oh. Right. Errands.”
“You’re leaving me here?” Holly said.
“You’re more than safe here. There’s plenty to keep you occupied. Go nuts, it’s your playground. See if you can get ahold of your parents.”
“Are you buying it?” Wolf said.
“I hate to say this, but,” Luna replied, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. She was always on the edge of megalomania, if she was found immortality, we know what 300 years does to the human head. I don’t feel any better that’s she’s digital, either. It’s possible she’s emotionless, which is horrifying.”
“On the hand maybe Englebert’s full of shit and he’s setting us up.”
“Either way he’s sending us in to throw down with a hyper-charged version of Ellers, who is likely insane. Why?”
“Maybe he’s counting on us to shoot first because Holly is involved. He wants one or the other of us dead.”
“I believed him when he said he wanted Ellers dead. He had the look.”
“How do you want to play it?”
“Assess the situation when we get there?”
Luna nodded. A transmission came through.
“Joneses,” Ray’s holographic head said, “I got eyes on Lovelace and she’s with...someone.”
“Ellers?” Luna asked.
“Be careful. I strongly advise against engagement. She very public right now and the GAI is going to have agents all over there.”
“Aren’t you in charge over there? Delay the agent dispatch a little,” Wolf said.
“Agents don’t need to wait for dispatch orders with a high profile fugitive like Lovelace.”
“Where is she?” Luna asked.
“At a maximum security data archiving site on Earth.”
“We’re on our way,” Wolf said.
“Wolf...don’t engage...take a good word from an old pal…”
“We’ll be in touch, Director,” Luna said and cut the channel.
Cheryl and Lovelace walked along the high, brick walls that enclosed a broad, squat office block. The wall was entwined in a garland of barbed wire and the ledge was embedded with broken glass. The walls formed a square around the building and at the corners were sniper towers with three snipers a piece. The wall was notable in that it had no observable point of access. The office building within was a box of reflective black glass, impenetrable to the eye. As they walked by, hand in hand, Lovelace put a finger out and touch an electrical cable that lead from the utility pole to a transformer behind the wall. She zapped into the line taking Cheryl with her.
The reappeared from a cloud of arcing purple energy. They stood in a dark room. Banks of white lights blinked on the walls. The room was a square with another embedded within it. The room within the room was made entirely of steel with only one point of entry, which looked like a bank vault door.
“This is as far as I can take you,” Lovelace said, “Everything within that room is running on its own discrete system. No contact whatsoever with the outside world. The only way in or out is completely analog.”
“You did the hard part,” Cheryl said, “This is easy.”
She held her palms to the smooth steel wall of the vault door and created a thick arc of electricity. The metal began to bubble where it met the arc.
“Oh god, how is this going to take?” Lovelace sighed.
“A while. I know it’s not elegant. Do have any better ideas? Nobody knows we’re here right?”
“I have a few scripts running in the security system that should give you all the time you need...but damn this is going to be boring.”
“It won’t take that long.”
The distant, muffled sound of shouting could be heard outside.
“What is that?” Lovelace said.
“Shit. Probably Raphael’s boys. How hot are you on the GAI’s radar?”
“On a scale to one to ten?”
“I don’t think they have a scale for it. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I should have considered that. So busy with my own P's and Q's I neglected to consider yours.
Lovelace closed her eyes for a moment and placed her hand to the wall, blue and violet energy swirling between them, “I think we’re okay. GAI’s tangling with security.”
“Turf war. Awesome. As soon as I get this open, we grab what we’re looking for and get the fuck out of here. Agreed?”
“Hell yeah agreed.”
“I’d like to express a dissenting opinion,” a woman’s voice came from behind.
“Luna Jones,” Lovelace said, “Let me take of this, hon. I’ve gone up against the Joneses before.”
“Oh, the Joneses,” Cheryl said, “Long time no see...I think.”
“Where’s my daughter?” Luna said.
“Safe. And sound. And probably having a ball,” Cheryl felt the barrel of a pistol on her temple, “Wolf, is that how you greet old friends?.”
“Why are you cutting into the data vault?” Wolf asked her.
“To get at the sweet data meat within.”
“Because I need it.”
“What would Grandma Sophie say if she saw you?”
“Oh. Certain memories have been...archived. It’s how I stay so sane.”
“You don’t remember your own sister?”
“If I had to hang to memories of watching everyone I love grow old and die for the last 300 years, I would have probably destroyed a few planets by now. But you’re starting to know what that’s like, aren’t you? And you’re like me, you don’t grieve, you rage,” Cheryl said, “It’s not for my own good that I forget, it’s everybody else’s.”
“What an altruist,” Luna said, “Where’s my daughter.”
“Somewhere where she might have a chance to thrive. She can’t keep being a Burbank in your shadow. An oracle in your cave. She has potential that she’ll never achieve being locked away like a pet.”
“So you kidnapped her?” Wolf said.
“Azazel hired Lovelace to kill her, I took that as an opportunity to make her an offer. She’s not a captive and I’m not going to keep you from her. But I’m also not just going to give you my address. As far as I’m concerned everything is Coolsville, but if you impede her choice anyway I will fight you.”
“Great. Fine. Can I see Holly now, please,” Luna said.
Cheryl looked at Lovelace. Lovelace returned a pained expression.
“Can you give them lift out of here with us?” Cheryl asked.
“What the hell? Am I a taxi service for your old college pals?” Lovelace said.
“Do you know what a pain in the ass it is to keep track of just you when we’re phasing, now you want to add two more?”
“I’m a pain in the ass now?”
“You didn’t know that? And on top of it all, it’s the Joneses. They tried to collect bounty me.”
“We would have to if…” Wolf began.
“If what?” Lovelace snapped.
“Kids, please,” Cheryl said, “We can fight about this when we get home.”
“Fine. Finish up and let’s get out.”
“Could Wolf and Luna maybe help get the vault open and we’ll all be on our way?”
“Christ,” Wolf grumbled, “Step aside,” he tacked small blinking disks in a ring on the wall where Cheryl was cutting. He ushered everyone away and pressed a button on the sleeve of his suit. The disks exploded and a twisted chunk was removed from the wall.
“Thanks, man,” Cheryl said, “I can always count on you to put a hole in something.”
She and Lovelace entered the wound in the side of the vault. Inside was a dense server farm. The walls were lined with bundles of cable. Lovelace put her hand on Cheryl’s shoulder and touched the servers. They phased away.
“Are they even coming back?” Luna asked.
“I don’t know,” Wolf sighed.
Moments later they reappeared.
“Got it. Let’s go,” Cheryl said, “Everybody hold hands and hold your breath.”
Everyone joined hands and Lovelace placed her hand to the wall. The lights shut off and the room went black.
“Shit,” Wolf said, “I’m blind. Lovelace blinded me.”
“The power’s off, dipshit,” Lovelace said, “We didn’t go anywhere. I can’t get in if the power isn’t flowing.”
“I take it the GAI won its fight with security,” Cheryl said and thought for a moment, “Shit. I guess I’m going to have to make the noble sacrifice. I’ll distract them while you guys get to your ship.”
“Pfft, noble sacrifice,” Lovelace said, “You got a hundred android bodies.”
“I mean the suit. I love this suit.”
“Weird time to worry about clothes.”
“It’s one of the few sentimental things I allow myself.”
“Your memory of that thing is Swiss cheese. I have no idea how you derive nostalgia from it.”
“I suppose you’re right. Everybody get lost.”
Cheryl ran toward where the trampling footsteps were heard. Lovelace and Joneses jogged a few steps behind. Cheryl made a scene in front of the GIA agents, waving a gun around and screaming obscenities at them. Two agents pounced her and put her in restraints while the others aimed their rifles. Lovelace and the Joneses crept behind them in the darkness. Cheryl’s eyes went dead.
Once outside they made for the Starcrossed. They found it on the landing platform surrounded by armed agents.
“Fifteen agents circling the ship,” Wolf said, “They aren’t fucking around.”
“Can we take ‘em?” Lovelace asked.
“There’s fifteen, plus the ten inside arresting the Cheryl-bot and back up would be here in a heartbeat. It’s not a fight I would pick,” Luna replied.
Lovelace peered through a pair of binoculars, “The landing platform is grated. If you can get underneath we can get on the ship without alerting the guards.”
“The ship’s powered down,” Wolf said.
“There’s always some sort of ambient power flowing in a starship.”
“Sounds like we have a plan.”
There was just enough room under the landing platform to crawl. They positioned themselves under the ship. Lovelace poked a finger through the grate and touched a landing foot. She whisked up through the grate into the ship in a violet mist, leaving Wolf and Luna behind.
“What an asshole,” Wolf said.
The ship powered up and the agents turned, training they’re guns on it. The Starcrossed lifted up off the platform. The agents fired. The ship let loose a barrage of projectiles and missiles. The agents dropped to the landing pad one by one. Wolf and Luna scrambled away from the blood draining out through the grate. The ship hovered and the side door slid open.
“Get up here,” Lovelace called.
They ran and Lovelace pulled them one at a time into the ship.
“What the hell was that?” Luna shouted at Lovelace.
“That was me getting us out of here,” she replied.
“By killing GIA agents? With the Starcrossed?”
“You’re already wanted for killing one government tool. What difference does 15 more make?”
“Why didn’t you run this by us first?”
“Because you would have argued with me, just like this, and we’d still be trapped out there and frankly, I was getting bored. I want to go home.”