Sunday, July 31, 2016

Vestigial Surreality: 34: Data Dump

The Sunday SciFi Fantasy Serial by Douglas Christian Larsen
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Visit the Vestigial Surreality WIKI
Sunday SciFi Fantasy Serial
by Douglas Christian Larsen
Data Dump.

She considered various ways of saying it, but could not quite put her finger on the gist of what she wanted to say. She was in the park, and it was early morning, and she had spent the night pacing the city. Armed with her administrative access and control, she really feared nothing, not any more. But still, she felt far too slow, moving forward at a sluggish pace. She felt left behind, as Jack and Stacey were now lost in the stream, moving swiftly through the digital rapids, while she sat here in a simulated park, figuring out the limits of her administrative powers. She couldn’t fly. Yes, she tried had that (who wouldn’t?), and felt silly about it. And she could just barely dredge up the hints of porting, or creating doorways, for teleportation, but hadn’t even come close to figuring any of it out.
She had tried many things, and right now, she was going to try something simple, but terribly frightening. She wanted coffee. The good stuff, like she only could get in her Inner Sanctum. Well, she wasn’t in her Inner Sanctum, now, presently, but outside in what she had always considered the...real world; however, she had administrative control, here, in this real world. Well, it didn’t hurt to try.
She produced the coffee, in a stiff paper cup, with a plastic lid on top. She held the warm cup in her hands. The cup actually had a green logo on it, a little Saturn planet, with the words going around it in a ring forming the text of the logo: Reality Coffee—Real Good.
Seven grinned. Had she done this? Or was this more of the signs and wonders? Was this the Little Girl, Manda, messing with her? Or Old Ben, with his humorous touch?
She opened the lid on the coffee and sipped. Mmm, hot and good, just the way she desired it, as ancestor-sim Jack had taught her, dark coffee with raw honey, ginger and cinnamon, and almond milk (Jack usually went with soy). Perfect, right here in the real world.
Okay, she had figured a bit out. Enough to save her life. But it was all too slow. She needed to ramp up. She needed the next level. She needed to do some real power leveling.
She needed help. But how in the world was she going to get it, that help? How could she even ask for it? To whom would she make her appeal? Dear God?
Seven sighed.
I need help.
She produced a window and thought the words: I need help. The words appeared as a line of text, blinking.
“Well, that wasn’t so difficult, now was it?” someone said, and when Seven glanced, she saw a woman approaching, except it wasn’t actually a woman, but appeared to be the holographic projection of an approaching woman. The figure appeared ghostly, faintly blue, and Seven could easily see the park through the woman.
As she approached, she smiled, and then sat next to Seven upon the park bench.
“I am your Help,” the woman said, and Seven blinked, because the woman was distinctly Sandra Newbury, Seven herself, but a much older version. She looked to be in her forties, if not fifties. “Sorry about that, but you needed to ask for the help, and now I’m here. And yes, I am you, at least a future you, from your past.”
“Wait,” Seven said. “A future me, from my...past?”
“Ha!” the Help said, “I knew that would get you. I remember you well, you know, my younger me. And it’s weird, looking at you from this perspective. But you are beautiful, ripe with youth and health, and a lot of recent time in the chamber, right? Yes, I can now see why everyone kept telling me how beautiful I was, because you are, Sandy. Sorry, I know, Seven.”
“Obviously,” Seven said, “you are more than a recording. You are interactive, and I programmed you...I mean, our biological—self—made this interactive program? I, Help, correct?”
“Pretty good, pretty good,” Help replied. “It’s confusing, I know, but no, it wasn’t our biological self that, your Help, but a much later version of her, fully digital. Digital, as am I, in a different form, and as are you.”
“Data is data,” Seven replied, hardly thinking about her words.
“Very good. Data is data. You, Seven, are a more fully crafted recreation of our original biological model, compared to me, I mean. You are fully...her, molecule for molecule, whereas I am a very scant version, let’s say I am a ten percent scale model of the original Seven, and to save time and space I am projected here as a hologram, but I can see you, and think about things—remember things. I even have emotions. It makes me happy that you called upon me, your Help. And now, I am to give you some Help, in figuring things out, accessing some potential skillsets, and other stuff. You can bounce ideas off me, I can aid you in brainstorming, and we can call up some Help aides that only I have access to, at the moment. Of course, I will teach you to call up those, as well.”
“So, to be clear, you are not You are a projection of a Help file that is running somewhere else.”
“Technically, you are correct. But then again, everything is as you have said. Running somewhere else, projected here. There is not really a here, you could say it is all a state of mind. It is all here, in the now, in the program, the vast, overall program. And in that program runs simulations beyond count. Simulations running simulations. Nearly identical simulations running side by side, save for but mild variations, for purposes of testing.”
“Wait, so what you’re saying is, there is really no...projection...we are all just running in a program. You and I are basically the same, data. It’s not like we are being...projected, anywhere, right?”
The hologram stared at her, subtly smiling. “Even unaugmented, you are pretty quick, Seven. Yes, all of this is a program, running inside another program, running inside the master program, Vestigial Surreality.”
Seven shook her head. “But that’s the ancestor simulation.”
“Yes, it is. It was. VS began as an ancestor simulation. But by your day, it was steadily becoming something else. Many other things. You could almost say that Vestigial Surreality was birthed by the Gamer World, High Vale. That world was shut down, due to religious prejudice, it was a book burning, or the extension of all book burnings, but the engine was fired up again many years later, some time after your birth, Seven, for genealogical purposes.”
“They allowed VS to open and run because of the decoding of Junk DNA, when they deciphered all the compressed data stored in what they had always thought of as garbage. When they found all the connections, the backstory.”
“That was everything...coming together, so to speak. A lot of disparate elements working fortuitously together. It allowed the forward-thinkers to kind of slip past the old-school religious mindset, that man should not explore certain things, that we were trespassing onto God’s territory, in untangling the make-up of humans, humanity, and everything.”
“Old Ben has explained some of this—hardly anything, really. And by skimming through files, and exploring some of the history caches, I’ve figured out other things, but there’s just no way for me to get through all of this, even understanding a small portion of it. Just the things you’ve said sitting here with me for a couple of minutes, the concepts are blowing all the fuses in my brain. There has to be a way for me increase my abilities. What did you say, about my brain—unaugmented—how do I augment?”
“That is part of the reason why I am here with you now, to guide you into techniques, so that you can begin to expand your abilities. You are like a vast building, with only a few lights showing in the thousand windows, and as you increase, lights will begin to spring on, throughout the building, until, with time, and effort, the building will shine with light.”
“No,” Seven snapped. “I don’t want to ease into this. I need to jump off the cliff. I need to plunge into the ocean, already. Enough wading up to my knees.”
“Little by little,” Help said, “that’s what Old Ben wants. Little by little.”
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time for little by little. I’ve been attacked. I have an enemy, well, several enemies, and they know much more than I do. I need to get up to speed.”
“There is only so much that is possible, and it is my job to help you in starting to learn those simple things that can aid you in increasing knowledge. Look, what you did out on the street when you were threatened, that was amazing, and all of it done intuitively. You are already leaps and bounds beyond where most people in your situation would find themselves. Most people would be like a hamster, snorting and sniffing and going in circles, whereas you are like a hare, taking huge leaping bounds forward.”
“Oh my goodness,” Seven sighed, “the way we keep mixing our metaphors together, it’s making me dizzy. I’m seeing bunny rabbits leaping up the side of buildings that are surrounded by ocean. Let’s call it quits with the metaphors and word pictures, okay? Let’s just start, already. How do I start? Can’t we just switch on all the lights in the building?”
“At the risk of mixing our metaphors, we can’t turn on the lights in the building, it would fry your brain. The human brain requires a lot of track to be laid down, glial cells, neurons, axon and dendrite—each group is like a miniature computer, or a train depot, if you will—I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s the way we think, okay, it’s what comes naturally to us—with train track laid between each depot. These turn on, slowly, with time, after many passes. Passages. Making deep trails. If you just go and ram power through them—yes, I realize I just used ram with train with computer with buildings with lights and trails, but you’re getting the...picture?”
“Yes, too many pictures, that’s the problem, and this right after I said no more metaphors. But I want to try it. I’ve already done it with books. I went through some pretty large novels, and turned up the speed to extremely high, and read thousands of pages in minutes. I need to do some stuff like that—teach me those tricks.”
“No. Not at all. Okay, yes, at the highest setting, I read through a fourteen-hundred-page edition of Les Misérables, in just a few minutes, and I had a migraine all that day, so yes, I think I pushed that too fast. Okay, I see what you mean. But that was only after I had read three smaller novels, at the same speed, so I crammed all of that into about half an hour.”
“Any bleeding, or other hemorrhaging?”
“No, of course not.”
“Fine, let’s start out very simple. I just loaded a set of earrings, just open your inbox.”
“I don’t wear earrings.”
“That’s okay, these will adhere to your skin, and you can set them for translucent. They will look like see-through dots, if anyone ever notices them. But each one is a fully functional computer and data storage device. With these you can access any database for searching or gathering information—you can access these tools as easily as thinking, call up photographs or maps or instructional manuals that only you can see, and they will aid in feeding your brain bite-size chunks of information that you can absorb without doing any damage.”
Seven called the dots out of the air and separated them into her palms.
“Just touch each one to an earlobe, and that’s it, it will organically connect to your thinking and will run transparently, you won’t even think of them unless you want to. They will just become a part of your thinking.”
She followed the instructions and was pleased that she couldn’t feel any weight hanging off her ears. She called up a mirror and examined the dots and experimented by changing the colors, just by thinking about it, and ended up adjusting to a flesh tone that made the dots virtually invisible. She played a bit by calling up random facts, such as distances and measurements and odd-ball facts and figures. It was like thinking more clearly than she had ever thought before. It was wonderful. She smiled at the hologram.
“See, little steps, they work,” Help said.
“It feels like a gigantic Superman leap, like right over that building you were talking about!”
“Augmentation. There are a number of tools available, and all of them work seamlessly together, linking resources and memory. Incidentally, when you enter your Inner Sanctum via your chamber, these tools will still function, it does not matter where you are. In fact, with many of the best minds, these augmentation tools train the human brain, maximizing and enhancing it sometimes by as much as twelve percent in permanent plasticity.”
“Twelve percent! It’s already working much better than that!”
“No, it is improving your brain, actively, by perhaps fifty percent, or more, operationally speaking. But I was referring to actual brain plasticity improvement, permanent improvement, the shaping of your brain, the actual sculpting of your mind via neurons—as I said, with the best minds the permanent enhancement can be as much as twelve percent.”
“Hey, what’s the Looking Glass—I mean in connection with High Vale?”
“Nuh-uh-uh!” tutted the hologram Help. “You shouldn’t be searching for Jack, not yet. You do not have access to High Vale due to the entity that has full control of that data. Let’s just concentrate on the little steps.”
“But there is a means for me to sneak in, right?” Seven said, her heart beating. Yes, her mind was working much more quickly, and it did indeed seem completely organic, she sensed no interface, not unless she pointedly called up a search window, or a texting box. But really, all she had to do was think, and her mind produced astonishing results. She just wondered where Jack was, and his location flashed as the Looking Glass, and now, considering it, she knew that the Looking Glass was a monitoring and administrative station located on the smaller High Vale moon, the Story Moon. And that the Story Moon and her larger sister, the Honey Moon, were in fact called “The Sisters” by the High Vale denizens. And further, yes, oh yes, the Honey Moon was a small world unto itself, with a Steampunk theme. And some small travel was possible between the two moons, and thus there was a passage open to her, to High Vale! She figured this all out in the time it took to complete a deep inhalation of breath, filling her lungs to capacity, and then a long expelled sigh of breath.
Marvelous! What a brain! A beautiful mind.
She just figured all that out, with hardly an effort, transparently, but where the information came from, that information was available as well, when she desired it, whenl she thought about tracking the repositories of information, the massive databases, and realized she had accessed a hitherto unknown database on the history of gaming worlds, with High Vale featured.
And Help just watched her, and apparently was able to follow the train tracks of Seven’s newly augmented mind. Chugga-chugga-chugga, whoo, whoooooo! The Help did not answer the question about sneaking into High Vale, nor did the Help offer any advice or information on the owner of the High Vale data. The Help just watched her with a cocked eyebrow, and the shade of a grin twisting her lips.
“You need to slow down,” Help said, speaking urgently, suddenly not smiling. “You are accessing too much data. For now, you should remove the earrings.”
“You’re crazy, I’m never taking these babies off!” Seven chortled, feeling strangely light with exhilaration. She believed the term was called high—yes, she felt high. Distinctly giddy. She felt all powerful, and awesome. Drunk with power. She always knew that she was smart—the elevated high IQ scores meant nothing to her, it was just obvious how much more smoothly and swiftly her mind operated in comparison to others—but now she felt like a super genius, like nothing was impossible. She was the freaking Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of thinking!
“I urgently caution you, Seven, you must slow down,” Help urgently cautioned.
But Seven always did what she wanted to do. And now she was bending forward, clutching her head, and blood gushed from her nose.
“You exceeded boundaries, you silly girl, even while I’m warning you not to exceed boundaries—let’s see, oh my goodness! Seven! You just tried to incorporate the whole Encyclopedia Britannica? With appendices!”
“I know, I know, it just seemed like it would be useful—I just felt like anything was possible,” Seven groaned, as data continued to swell into her brain. She half expected to see ones and zeroes squirting out of her nostrils, surfing on the blood. She couldn’t think straight, and her head ached like a combination of migraine and hangover and stress headache. This was bad, and getting worse, and she couldn’t think how to slow the flow.
“Take off the earrings, now,” Help commanded.
Without thinking, Seven complied. She snatched off the right and left earring simultaneously, and suddenly the swelling pressure vanished. The data flow ceased, and stopped.
“Oh thank God,” Seven breathed, massaging her temples. Such relief. The weight of tons of bricks lifted from her brow.
“You need to get to VS, now,” Help said.
Seven vomited, and it was shocking to see the amount of liquid expunged, because she had not eaten in quite some time, and yet she was jettisoning what looked like to be a gallon of—blood!
“That’s not blood is it?” Seven gasped, between gouts of vomit.
“It is not as much blood as it appears, as it is thinned by bile and mucous, your bodily defenses against your swelling brain. Hurry, Seven, you need to get up and move toward the VS building, do you see the red glow of the logo?”
Seven nodded, dumbly, and pushed herself away from the bench, and staggered about like a zombie.
“Isn’t there some way to open a portal?” she gasped, searching her brain.
“No, you won’t be able to do that for quite some time.”
“Wonderful,” Seven whispered, feeling woozy and confused.
“Okay, Seven, dear, put the earrings back on, it will bring you clarity. I severed the download that you initiated, and thankfully you only managed to absorb ten percent of the Letter A.”
Eyes clenched, teeth glaring in a rictus snarl, Seven staggered and slapped at her ears. Fortunately, the earrings almost seemed like magnets, and they soothingly snapped into place, and her clear thinking returned.
“Don’t summon an ambulance; they’ll just take me to the hospital. Can you get aid, maybe call down a taxi? I can’t see the way, not yet.”
“Already done, it will be here in thirty seconds. Also, I summoned your next Helper, although technically you were supposed to summon her, and she’ll meet you on the steps to Vestigial Surreality.”
“The chamber! Can it help? It should be able to repair the damage I’ve done, right?” Seven gasped, tottering through the park toward the street and the spot where the taxi would arrive.
“Yes, the chamber should be able to repair all cellular damage, perhaps better than any similar equipment at any of the finest hospitals. We will also engage the Brain Contiguation feature, which you have not previously accessed.”
“Contiguation? You mean it will connect—what?”
“It will both group and align all your neurons and dendrites, and make much better, much stronger connections, deeper pathways, and everything more compressed, more dense. You will have connections to everything, in appropriate ways, and you will make much swifter intuitive leaps. The system will also renew and thicken myelin coating and wrapping, ensuring a much, much fatter brain, fatter, and faster, and more stable. As old-school computer software used to defragment a hard drive—putting contiguous data together, cleaning up partially used space, the chamber can do all this and much more with your brain. If you thought the earring augmentation was amazing, wait until you slip into your enhanced brain. You will be what was once known as a Fatbrain.”
“So I’m going to be okay?” Seven gasped, and perceived the taxi bot lowering to the pavement.
“If we can get you to VS prior to bleed-out, yes, you should be fine.”
“And if I bleed out?” Seven said as the taxi bot door opened automatically, and she stumbled forward to almost dive into the rear seat. Her hologram Help accompanied her, sitting almost primly in the back of taxi, adjusting her skirts.
“Well, that won’t be so good, but we might still be able to do something with your cells, saving as much of your original matter as possible. You would be different, but we would ensure that you retained all your memories. In fact, it might help to start over from scratch, apply the fresh template, and start off with a strengthened, augmented new you.”
“Let’s go with the non-bleeding-out option,” Seven said, hardly able to see through the spots and stars twinkling in her eyes. She was pinching her nose shut and tilting back her head, but she tasted blood in her mouth, going down her throat, and now felt wetness in her ears.
“Do I have your confirmation for Scan and Debit?” the taxi bot inquired.
“I agree,” Seven said. “I verbally sign.”
A slight, twittering LED light flashed, scanning down her face, and she heard the ping up front signaling a successful debit to her public account. A green light appeared on the front console and the door swung shut after a kindly verbal warning—but if you had an elbow extended, or even the hem of a skirt, the door would refuse to close, and the taxi bot would wait patiently while hell developed frost, constantly reminding you to keep all limbs and/or appendages inside the vehicle at all time.
“Vestigial Surreality,” hologram Help replied, and apparently the taxi bot heard and understood, because the cab lifted up and soared toward the tall building.
“It can see you?” Seven asked, feeling drowsy, she felt much better, really, and what was all the panic about? She just needed a nap. She actually felt cozy, and warm, and her eyelids drooped, growing heavier.
“No, dear, the taxi bot does not read me, or it does, but it reads us as one. I can choose to be heard or unheard, seen or unseen. Right now, the bot just reads you. When I spoke, I suppose the bot read just one passenger, but a very wide one.”
“I’m bleeding all over the seat,” Seven said, drowsily.
“Please do not bleed on the seat,” the taxi bot stated, and then: “Bleeding in the taxi is not an option. If there must be blood, an ambulance will be alerted.”
“I’m ready for my contiguation, Mr. Demille,” Seven slurred, dreamily.
“I do not understand,” the taxi bot replied.
“Neither do I, I must admit,” Help said, and then after a short thought, continued: “But then again, we have always been like that, saying out loud our strange connections. We never change, do we?”
And then the cab lowered near the steps that lead up to the VS building, and Seven saw a woman standing there, peering nervously in at her, and this woman dashed forward and yanked open the cab door.
“Come dear, I’ll lend you a hand,” the woman said, and there was something very odd about her—something weird about her...face. In fact, Seven thought, blinking her eyes and peering at the woman who was now reaching into the cab for her, she didn’t look quite human.
“This is Charlotte, Help Two,” Help One introduced, “Charlotte Help Two this is Seven.”
Charlotte Help Two sighed loudly, exaggeratedly, and clamped two very strong hands down on either of Seven’s biceps, and hauled her bodily out of the back of the cab.
“That hurts,” Seven tried to say, but never quite managed the words, as Charlotte Help Two tossed her over a shoulder, and carried her up the steps, like a big sack of potatoes.
“Sorry for the indignity, my dear,” Charlotte Help Two said, taking the steps quickly, jogging, three steps at a time, “but there’s no rest for the wicked. We must be about our business, for time is ticking onward, and waits for no man, or woman, or syn-sim. I am your physical Help, and I must be somewhat physical in my duties. I trust you shall get used to me, dear Seven, though it often takes you quite some time!”
“Don’t freak out,” Help said, trotting alongside Seven, reaching out a holographic hand to lend holographic comfort. “We’ve tried many Helps through the Cycles, and Charlotte is best for your personality. You should see Jack and Anne, they’ve got a real star-crossed love letter writing even as I speak. Poor Jack. Oh, but poor Anne. But they do have clenching, they will always have that, at least.”
“Love letter?” Seven said, her face bouncing against Charlotte Help Two’s foamy buttock.
“Sorry, another of our metaphors. But Anne is Jack’s help, despite her missing parts, and Emily is helping Stacey, poor thing.”
“Keep away from Stacey,” Seven blurted.
“It’s not like that,” Help hastened to say, comfortingly.
Was all this bouncing a good idea, hanging upside-down like this, bouncing merrily along? While her brain was hemorrhaging? Doctor, what should we do, her brain is hemorrhaging! Oh, certainly, we must bounce her! Keep bouncing her! Nurse, please jiggle more, yes that is good, jiggle that hemorrhaging brain, and bounce, cofound it, BOUNCE!
“Quick quick quick,” Charlotte chirped, sounding utterly insane, “quick is the word of the day.”
“This is all like a bad dream,” Seven said, as they entered the building, and Charlotte Help Two pelted to the elevator, which opened immediately.
“In all fairness, I did warn you about slowing down,” Help One said, shaking her holographic head.
“But you probably knew I wouldn’t listen to any warnings, right?” Seven queried, and now that they were not bouncing, she found this inverted position kind of comforting. She might not have a lot of blood left in her body, but at least now it was all pooled up in her head—or in this case, down in her head.
“Oh, you never do, Seven, you absolutely never do,” Help One said, sounding entirely too cheerful.
They descended for a long time. It seemed longer than Seven remembered. How far down did this building go, anyway?
“We’ve moved your chamber to a more secure location, about seventy floors deeper than previously housed,” Charlotte Help Two informed her, as if reading her mind. “And in an entirely different building, but access is only possible from the VS building.”
“Why secure, or more secure?” Seven babbled.
Help One spoke, lowering her voice as if someone could be listening. Was she whispering? Or was she becoming more faint? “Obviously, you are gearing up to go to war, and the other side knows this, and so is doing the same. So from here on out, we have to take every precaution, guard every data link. Old Ben is a little too kindly to be any kind of effective, not really, and Kronoss is just too erratic, sporadic, chaotic, and just generally unpredictable to be trusted. Oh we will rely on both of them, but it is best not to trust them too much, dear.”
“Oh just get me to my chamber,” Seven said, and it sounded as if she were praying.
“Almost there, dear, almost there,” Charlotte Help Two said.
“What’s up with Help Two?” Seven whispered to Help One.
“I can hear you, you understand,” Charlotte Help Two said.
“Okay, I’m speaking so that only you can hear me, Seven,” Help One said. “Charlotte Help Two is a syn-sim, a synthesized simulated person that did not employ a biological human template. It might help to think of her as a cyborg, although she’s really not that. You could think of her as a robot, but she’s not that, either. She’s pretty much a person, but without any needs—she doesn’t need to eat, or eliminate waste, or breathe, for that matter. But she is a great little helper, Seven, and you will form a highly effective connection with her.”
“Not a biological human template?” Seven said.
“I know what you’re talking about,” Charlotte Help Two said, and sounded rather snippy.
“Well, I might have misspoke,” Help One conintued, “as I should have said that a synthesized simulated person is based on a real person, but not their physical body, so we are able to skip the more messy aspects of being human. A simulated person is someone based on an actual human template, and thus is a recreation, molecule for molecule, atom for atom. The three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne—these syn-sims have the imprint of actual personalities, but far more knowledge than any human being has ever packed in their brain. Thus they are ideal Helpers.”
Seven felt rather uncomfortable.
“I don’t want a slave,” Seven said.
“I am not a slave,” Charlotte Help Two said, in a rather hoity-toity British accent. “I choose this service. I was given a choice, and I accepted a choice, and thus I am not a slave. I am a useful tool and if you choose to dismiss me, I will find other very useful ways to help our cause.”
“Please try not to hurt Charlotte’s feelings,” Help One said, with a lot of judgment in her tone.
Seven sighed. Anything she said out loud, Charlotte would hear. She wished she knew sign language. And then she blinked in surprise, and realized that she did in fact know sign language, or her earring augmentation was feeding her the knowledge as she required it. She signed to Help One.
I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but she creeps me out. She looks like a mannequin, or a puppet.
“I know when you are using sign language, and I assure you, despite my appearance, I am neither a mannequin, nor a puppet,” Charlotte Help Two said in that...tone.
Drat, the alert robot—correction, syn-sim—was actually watching her hands, as well as listening to any whisper.
“Okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Charlotte, okay? I apologize. I’m just not used to you yet, and I’m hanging upside-down, and I’m bleeding from all of my facial orifices, so you could say that I’m not thinking as clearly, or as empathetically as I usually might.”
“Empathy is not your strong point, my dear,” Charlotte Help Two said, and she sounded as if she rather enjoyed stating that fact. “But I accept your apology. And I in turn apologize for carrying you upside-down. I assumed you would rather stare at my backside than my uncanny valley face.”
“I don’t think you have an uncanny valley face,” Seven said, although she did feel a little dishonest in saying it, because Charlotte Help Two looked very weird, almost a human face, but just a little too rubbery, or plasticky (heavy on the icky), or just a little too much like a very realistic puppet, or doll, and that always creeped out everyone.
“Please do not lie to me,” Charlotte Help Two sniffed. She actually sniffed. “I prefer the hard, ugly truth.”
Hard, and ugly, like your face, Seven thought, with a few qualms of guilt.
The elevator doors opened and Charlotte Help Two finally shifted Seven, who realized at the last second that the syn-sim was positioning her in the little flat-bed protrusion of an electric—truck, for lack of a better word. Charlotte Help Two deftly climbed into the driver’s seat while Help One suddenly winked out as they sped along a long, dark corridor. Apparently, Charlotte Help Two did not require the vehicle’s headlamp, for they motored forward without any light. In the utter darkness, they could be going a hundred miles an hour, or twenty miles an hour, and the electric engine made no noise. Only the tires singing on the tiled floor made any noise, and they sailed along in the unseen tunnel. Hopefully, Charlotte can see in the dark, Seven thought, or prayed.
Seven felt drowsy again, and imagined that it was because all her blood had leaked out. Oh, she hoped they did not have to employ the bleed-out option. Why hadn’t she listened to Help One? But when you were dealing with brain power, and you suddenly feel twice as powerful, wow, you felt like a god, or at least a demigod. She really felt like she could do anything.
Her mind toyed and played and she searched data, but then felt like she was pushing her brain toward further hemorrhage. What were the names of the Helpers? That had rung some distant bell. Instantly, and perfectly, she recalled the names: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.
Her mind pinged the answer, because those three names brought up the family name of Brontë. That couldn’t be a coincidence. And Charlotte did look kind of familiar, like a puppet version of a historical figure. A school marm, a governess, and a novelist.
Motion ceased.
“Are we there yet?” Seven slurred.
“Yes, dear,” someone said in the dark.
Seven blinked around. Where was the hologram? Where was Help One?
“Don’t worry about Help One, as currently we are cut off from all outside signals. This is a special corridor, shielded, and once you are in your chamber, Help One may rejoin you, in your Inner Sanctum.”
“Yes please,” Seven said, as Charlotte Help Two lifted her up and carried her the way a groom carries a bride, and Seven heard a sucking sound, and felt a pressure change in the air, and then she felt them step through into a different darkness, with warmer air, and then she heard the sucking sound again, and again felt a pressure change. Her ears actually popped.
“It will only be a moment now,” Charlotte Help Two said, very businesslike, and Seven heard what she recognized as her chamber lid lifting, and then she felt the familiar, comforting foam, moist and warm and embracing. She heard the lid descend.
And she opened her eyes, and felt wonderful, standing just before her red door, in her Inner Sanctum, and she laughed and danced forward on her tippy-toes, and spun like a dancer. Then she plunked herself down before her big rolltop desk. It felt wonderful, and real, more real than the outside world, thank God! Thank goodness, oh she felt so grateful, just to be here again, safe, without that terrible headache. Goodness, goodness, oh goodness!
“Hello!” said Help One, from five feet away, and Seven leapt despite herself, startled, and gasping, and then she was up out of her office chair, and she had Help One lifted up in a bear hug. Because Help One was as solid as she!
“You are real!” Seven laughed, spinning the older woman about.
“Yes, just as real as anything,” Help One said, sounding embarrassed, and then she pushed against Seven, and said: “Okay, Seven, you can put me down now.”
And wow, Help One looked entirely like a real person, nothing like a hologram, and she had weight and even scent, it was amazing. She was actually worried about her appearance, as she patted at her hair—what a horrible hair style, short and curled. She would absolutely never wear her hair like that!
Seven laughed, and heard a noise, and she turned, and there was Charlotte Help Two, and she looked utterly normal, like any woman in her mid-thirties, although she did seem a tad tense, and a little worried, as her gaze met Seven’s smile. And her clothes were certainly dated, and proper, and just plain weird.
“Charlotte! Look at you!” Seven cried, and she rushed forward and embraced the syn-sim, who looked completely normal, like any person. And Seven couldn’t help herself, she felt so relived, she kissed Charlotte Help Two on either cheek, and then she laughed, loud and long, and just held onto her Help, as Charlotte sputtered and went completely tense.
“I’m just so happy to be here, with you both, oh but do I need help, and I’m so glad it’s the both of you!” Seven laughed, and rubbed the backs of her hands against her eyes, as tears flowed. But she felt wonderful, liberated, completely healthy.
“Good news,” Help One said, “your physical body is fine, and is repairing even now. Your blood loss is addressed, and you brain is healing, very nicely indeed!”
“Wow, thanks, that is great news,” Seven said, and looked to where Help One pointed, to see a window hanging in space, utterly packed with digital dials and meters and indicators, and she spotted and identified her pulse, blood pressure, but couldn’t make out much more in all the clutter. “But what do I call you? I can’t keep thinking of you as Help One.”
“You usually settle on Seven-One, and then after meeting the others it becomes seventy-one, seventy-two, and et cetera.”
“Well, I’ll skip right to Seventy-One, then, so nice to meet you, in the flesh!”
“We can monitor your progress perfectly, and I can show you as we implement various new augmentations, and we will also fortify the inside of your skull, apply various coatings to protect you from scans, radiation, various Steampunk vibrations, all that sort of thing,” Seventy-One rattled, indicating various monitor screens and dials.
“If I might add,” Charlotte contributed, “it is safe for you to data dump while you are here in your Inner Sanctum, as all information is collected in various caches, instantly accessible to your sleeping brain in the chamber, and can be added to the que of downloading contiguated information. So feel free to download and dump to your little heart’s content.”
“Whatever that all means,” Seven laughed, “I’m just glad to be safe at home again! You know, in the real world!”
“Shall we drink to it, then?” Seventy-One said, lifting up a saucer of tea.
“Data is data,” Seven said, reaching as Charlotte produced two more cups and saucers of tea, and passed one to Seven. Seven immediately changed it into her favorite mug of coffee, her special blend.
Charlotte coughed, and changed the mug back to a cup and saucer of tea.
“Tea is better for your healing, dear,” the syn-sim said, and lent some glower to her words.
“Thank you very much, Charlotte, but I do prefer coffee,” Seven said, changing it back to her mug, lifting it to her lips.
“Tea now, coffee later,” Charlotte said, cocking an angry eyebrow at Seven.
Seven realized she was sipping tea from a little tea cup. She rolled her eyes. But hey. Okay. It was nice, with honey, and lemon. Hmmm, not bad, okay, she’d let the pushy syn-sim get away with it, this time, but oh boy, she knew they had some battles looming. She didn’t like controllers, probably because she was such a controller herself.
“Thank you very much, you are very thoughtful,” Seven said, with some weight. She refrained, with all her might, from punching the self-righteous syn-sim in the head.
Charlotte rolled her eyes, and smiled a little bit, before glancing back at Seven.
“You remind me of my sister, Emily,” the syn-sim said. And was that a tear forming in her eye?
Seven processed that in her new, augmented mind. Emily, she’s the one helping Stacey. Emily, who had written Wuthering Heights, she was helping a guy like...Stacey, Wolf the man. Damn it, didn’t she ever get a break?
Nothing but trouble, Seven thought, always trouble. Why can’t anything ever go over easy?
“Data is data,” she murmured.
“There is no body,” Seventy-One returned.

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Visit the Vestigial Surreality WIKI
Sunday SciFi Fantasy Serial
by Douglas Christian Larsen

Illustrations by Harrison Christian Larsen, story by Douglas Christian Larsen
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Christian Larsen. Vestigial Surreality. All Rights Reserved by the Author, Douglas Christian Larsen. No part of this serial fiction may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited, but please feel free to share the story with anyone, only not for sale or resale. This work is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental (wink, wink).

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related terms, ideas, works:
ancestor simulation, digital ark, salvation of humanity,
vestigial surreality, manda project, rocket to saturn,
the singularity, the butterfly effect, simulated reality, matrix,
virtual reality, otherland, the matrix, 1q84, haruki murakami,
hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world, dreaming,
the dream place, waking from a dream, ready player one,
hologram, holodeck, saturn, saturnalia, cycles of time,
simulacron-3, daniel f. galouye, counterfeit world,
tad williams, science fantasy, science fiction,
mystery, thriller, horror, techno thriller,
signs and wonders, vestigial surreality,
william gibson, neal stephenson, serial,
cyberpunk, dystopian future, apocalypse,
scifi, mmorpg, online video game world,
end times, apocalypse, armageddon,
digital universe, hologram universe,
sunday sci-fi fantasy serial fiction,
virtual reality, augmented reality
are we living in a simulation?

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