Clop, Clop, Cla Clop, splish, Clop, Clop was the oddly serene echo of our shoes as we walked along the western wall staring endlessly at the numeric aluminum signs. I had lost track of which signs were tilted versus not tilted, as the dull 60hz buzz from the overhead lights was getting to me. "Man, isle 385 is alotta numbers away from either end of this building." I said, trying to break the silence and forget the walk ahead. "So, how much do you think the fattest rat we saw go by like 20 isles ago weigh?" Silence, the unquantifiable number of rat weight was his response. "Soooooo, why aren't the auto-repair bots awake and working away at all these transports?" I asked, hoping a strategically relevant question was more his topic. Dmitry stopped walking, turned toward me and said "Nervous Comrade? Well then, it can't be helped. I only restored power to the lights and doors in this wing of the facility. If we are surprised by guests that weigh more than that 9.3 pound rat, we should at least greet them in the light." He started walking again. "That rat was at least 11 pounds." was my reply. Dmitry glance-punched what was left of my arm and said "all that blood loss has you hallucinating obese rats, eh comrade?" I sigh-grunted as my retort.
We walked onward, forever reaching our goal of progress, just without the reward. "You used to work in the recruitment camp, way back when, didn't you? Training and processing those who were advancedly capable of Tier3 H.A.T usage?" Dmitry stopped suddenly and walked over the glossy-white painted concrete wall. He slowly put the palm of his right hand onto the shiny surface. "They were weapons, second....." He squeezed his fingers into a fist and drew his arm back and punched the wall with a deafening thud. The wall responded by creating an inverted volcano design, with 5 semi-circle depth layers and a shower of paint chips as it accepted Dmitry's fist. Dmitry removed his fist from the rage-cano in the wall and finished saying "humans, first." Dmitry looked over at me and walked back toward me and stopped short to say "since you will be like them, I will tell you about them, the last batch of Tier3's that I trained."
We started walking again, his pace was slower now, and the rats were more numerous than before. "What you will now know, is more classified than the AAI OS that runs the H.A.T.s, but you must know now, later, is too late." "The records of this incident have been expunged into the yellow filing cabinet in my office, of the 17 people involved; only 3 of us have ever spoken of it to each other. The fourth......Wylder Hubris” Dmitry seemed to forget his next word. "....lost the time he had.....to be human again.....and challenged himself.......to prove us right.....and to prove them right." I stopped walking, and let this broken wisdom sink in. I quietly asked, "What happened?" Dmitry noticed I stopped, and looked over his shoulder at me and quietly said: "I fought Wylder, reluctantly, but, without hesitation." I felt a tightness in my chest as I remembered the brief amount of anger I summoned from him when I lost my arm and tried to fathom him actually fighting someone else. "You fought with a trainee?" I cautiously asked. "Yes, and no; you won't need an explanation later, but, yes, I fought one of our own." Dmitry replied. "I will explain, do you know why I was training the last batch of Tier3's, despite their being many numerous other seasoned trainers available?" He asked. "Budget cuts?" was my reply. "If only." was his counter-ply. "No, the reason I was volun-told to train them was because there was an 'Aug' among them." "An 'Aug', you mean an Augment?" I reasoned out loud. "Yes, he had a Duchenne class muscular dystrophy disease in combination with Spinal muscular atrophy. Wylder had not only drawn all the short straws, but, was also the only one drawing straws. He would eventually become an extremely odd medical case to see if modern technology could save someone by replacing their weaknesses, and they succeeded."
"Wylder was fitted with MIL-46100, a Military Grade steel that had a Brinell Hardness Number rating of 477 to 534." "An endoskeleton of MIL-46100 was ingeniously grafted on top of his existent skeleton with the use of Mag-Pins and graphine." "His body was tattooed with liquefied AR500, an Abrasion Resistant metal with a Brinell Hardness Number rating of 470 to 540." "This combination of technologies and concepts were controlled by his semi-permanent H.A.T. code named: Eurynomos." "As he wasted away to fate, he never lost his mindful conscious. He was heavy with metal, but never weighed down by his own existence. He was not an empty handed person either. He socialized with his unit, made suggestions for unarmed combat when dealing with himself as an enemy. He had some trouble at airports, but, who hasn't pissed off a metal detector or two in their day as he travelled to various training locations. It wasn't until his condition started to worsen and he began to lose the fine, tactile sensation and control in his skin and limbs that something went awry. See, the H.A.T. technology is based on a human assumption that it has a nervous system to ride along with. Scan and monitor the brain's electro kinetic levels, compare them to the preset patterns learned over time, and augment or suggest physical courses of action to its owner through neurokinetic stimulatory suggestion. He would always be able to move, but, just not feel the world around him, or himself. It was near the end of September that we later found out that he had lost the most important part of himself, his ability to paint. His room had many marvelous Oil, Pastel, Acrylic, and even a few Spray paintings. As you would look around the room though, you could see that he began to struggle with shading and depth. A human can understand variable pressure and fake horizon lines, but, logistical feedback from only neurological measurements that lacked optical reassurance would start to look like fridge art. He could see details he wanted to create in his mind, but, his body was unable to respond in kind. I figured he'd move to maybe another hobby like pigeon farming or vehicular repair. I even had on and off base places on standby to be ready for him to tour at a moment’s notice. Wylder Hubris withdrew though, he donated his remaining art supplies to the off-barracks war orphanage and began reading to the orphans in 7 different languages. The orphanage never complained, he was on time if not early any day he was off assignment. The orphans loved him, he taught some of the deaf ones to paint through gestures and paint-by-number overlay holograms. Wylder dedicated 3 years to working at Almas de Misericordia, or "Souls of Mercy", until he said goodbye and joined Tier3."
"5 pounds, that rat is 5 pounds."
"Nein, das 4.9 Pfund; schwanger mit jung." Dmitry patted me on the back. "You were close this time; I shall give you the credit since you don't see many pregnant rats." Dmitry dryly reassured me.
"You know, I will never play poker with you." was my only come-back to his keen eye. "After Wylder joined Tier3, what happened then?"
I was eager to hear what happened at the camp, and also hoping for more distraction from the long walk with its scenic rat view.
"They pulled me from my vacation in 2nd Hawaii, and flew me straight to the training island. I boarded the gravicopter in my totally professional Hawaiian souvenir shirt, frayed-bottom jean shorts, my only H.A.T., my Birkenstock sandals and my purple hippy shades. I looked at the pilot and joked if she'd return to take me back to my sunset by the beach where I left my beer, and she smiled and said: 'No Sir, sorry Sir, you'll have catch the next sunset, it starts again, late tomorrow evening I believe.'" I sulked my shoulders and began to look over the dossiers of the trainees as the copter quietly carried us into the sunset.
"Did you actually take a vacation? I figured you were some workaholic loner, forever researching, forever learning."
Dmitry stopped walking again to look back at me. "Yes, they sent me to 2nd Hawaii against my will. They said something about people watching, bikini therapy and alcohol was a cure for my lifelong problem of work. The tickets were free, all expenses paid. I guess they planned to cut it short from the get-go, shame though, the 4 days I spent enjoying the Luaus and watching the dancers and fire jugglers while drinking, was actually a nice change of pace. All good things, I guess come to an end, as I could see the cloaked gravicopter coming in from the west that evening on the beach, I sighed, now I'll never know how many times they're allowed to refill my table's peanut bowl."
We started walking again, and I pondered how he saw a cloaked gravicopter and wondered why they sent him on vacation just to track him down later on a random beach.
"So, comrade, I shall continues? I'll let you guess 2 more rats in a row before I start keeping score. Heh heh." Dmitry began.
"My, how generous of you, SIR, by all means continue though." I replied sarcastically, knowing I'd owe him some kind of alcohol later.
"The trainees had already been battle buddied together based on their individual occupational preferences and H.A.T. abilities. I was surprised to see any medics in the lot, since I typically don't train or judge medics as a kombat instructor. I normally just send people to the medics after training ends. Our surprise medics were Catriona Tykhe and Saturnina Fields. Catriona had lost her sight at a young age from a weapons testing facility accident where they were testing various intensity levels of flash-bangs. She came from a poor family in a small town bordering one of our Research and Development facilities. She wanted to earn money to become a veterinarian to help take care of the livestock at her home and applied for the 'Equipment Diagnostic Technical Assistant' position. After she was blinded, the facility wanted to make amends and avoid my wrath as I caught wind of their screw up and threatened to level the 4 square miles of their property and turn it into livestock fields. The facility had her transferred to the 'Neuro-Optical Lightwave Measurement Interfacing' division, which apparently handled wetware night vision technology and other various experimental direct-to-brain environmental light processing interfaces. They managed to get her sight back, and then some. I think they threw in a few extra things to help her reach her dream job of veterinarian after I kept sending the project manager and the facilities Chief of Operations Officer emails with just the word 'Mooooooo' in them. So now she can "see" not only normal light, but, also infrared, air particle vibrations, ether, thermal, magnetic, the weird friction that causes ionic flux, and a locked extra of mine: chroniton particles. Ms. Tykhe then chose to become a veterinarian for humans, er, uh, I mean a medic."
"With those eyes, you could really save some time processing injuries and determining survivability. Who did they pair her with, a surgeon of some kind?" I asked Dmitry.
"A GateKeeper named Saturnina Fields." was his reply.
"What profession is a GateKeeper?" I asked, genuinely confused this time.
"Oh, you've never heard of it?" Dmitry replied coyly. "The portal network for a city has fixed in's and out's, portal A123 will always open to Z987, period, each portal has a programmed exit target that activates when you turn it on. However, this design is only on the surface, for one simple reason, energy isn't free. I bet you'd go anywhere instantly if you could, and so would everyone, all the time, for probably no reason. The portal network would collapse ferrying humans all over the grid, there just isn’t enough power and processing ability to facilitate that madness. The portals had limits installed, portal sizes were fixed to specific dimensions, destinations, and, environmental conditions. That way, you couldn't steal all the cold air from Antarctica and pump it into, oh, I don't know, let's say, Africa.
"Huh?" I said out loud, as my mind had already glazed over.
"Okay, I'll explain it a lot simpler than. Do you know what GPS is?" Dmitry's science corner lecture began. "Yes" I replied. "Good, now, those coordinates are where you are on earth, to around 16ft, just without a height reference. So there you have your X, Y, and Z axis’s, but wait, you need a Z though. So here is where the fun begins, the portal calculates your 'Z' at the point you leave, or more precisely, as you leave. The total of your mass is based on gravity, but not the quantity of your mass, the portal field doesn't know gravity, it knows only displacement. That white wall you walk through doesn't have a weight, it has a flux or a very specific vibration that it knows is itself, as you basically run up against it, it measures the influence that the matter had on the flux. Now remember, this is a vibrating wall of death you're walking into, it looks white because it contains raw particles of spectrum flux, moving around at 186000 miles per second, inside a fixed container. Oh, right, simpler; it is white because that is the color of air. The matter that is minced apart down to the molecular level is heavier than light and falls to the bottom of the portal into a collector, where it is then dismantled into its component atoms and flattened into energy. This energy is then measured, time stamped, and transferred to the target portal where the whole process is reversed by raining down the recorded energy, in order, and applying the Schrödinger equation to the flux field to encourage molecular bonding. Oh, right, simple; you're converted to energy and sent over a wire to hopefully be rebuilt by atomic glue at the other end."
Dmitry paused, and then asked: "Any questions?"
"Oh gawd, people use this for travel?!" I replied.
"I'm sorry, no further questions, please read the manual." Dmitry responded and then continued.
"In short, a GateKeeper can change where the portal goes, temporarily, so long as they know the exit key for the portal they want. So, having an all-seeing medic readily available to go anywhere, at anytime, was the strategy. Oh yeah, also, if you forge an invalid key, the portal just works as normal. I wanted the invalids to get sent to the heart of Wisconsin, to promote tourism, everyone should love cheese in their life, but the portal architects said that might lead to cheese shortages and they'd have to discuss that implementation strategy with Wisconsin."
"Oh" I mustered. "They pair pretty and well I guess; one gives nearly infinite mobility and the other gives organic restorative analysis to a situation's handling options."
I started wondering what some of the other trainees' abilities were. The WetWare requirements for the GateKeeper’s memory are rough enough on its own. The GlobeScape Index alone is one thing to fathom capacity-wise, but, to have the data kept current and accessible to a consciousness in the same manner as a live database works, is what makes it rough. The average human brain has a reaction ability akin to about 60 bits per second or literally the time it takes to perform a single operation is linearly related to the entropy of the number of choices available, Hick’s Law. It boils down to more choices use more time. The WetWare merely uses the brain as a storage medium; however, the brain still has to be able to recall what was stored by the WetWare even though it didn't store them. The time needed to consciously 'walk' the total list of portal exits would be slower than genetically recreating an army of various sized pterodactyls and psychologically programming them to carry you and other non-flying pterodactyls towards the destination and switching out dying pterodactyls to continue the journey. A database can have an index created around a specific column of data since the flow of the column is linear, irrespective of the starting point, so 'knowing' what comes next is just spatial adjacency. You 'know' the order of unknown knowledge since it's any direction you didn't come from, linearly. The index tells you how many steps to walk to get to the data you want, rather than spending the time considering all the data along the way and deciding if it's what you want. So, if you walk realllllllly fast, you can outperform an index with smaller amounts of considerable data by running over the data you want by accident instead of waiting to be told where to walk. You walk at 60 bits per second, unless u iz genie-us and make pace to 73 bits per second, so there's your handicap, brain to WetWare and back. The WetWare meets you half-way though, the last leg of the recall race is handled by the piece of ThoughtWare called 'Pegasus', which monitors the Broca’s area of the brain for you to tell yourself where you want to go.
Once Pegasus perceives where you want to go, it incites memories from you about any visual cues you might have of the destination and back-tracks your associate memories of how you got to those locations to find surrounding exit portal locations. Pegasus then creates a tree-like constellation picture of your location memories’ exit portal locations relative to the closest city center to those portals. The list of a specific city's portals to walk through is nowhere near as daunting as starting with nothing. Pegasus will then layout the entire city's exit portals from a top-down view as a giant, flattened star field and overlay the tree-like constellation it created from your memories and 'pins' the portals you know onto the map. The process works better with the largest set of 'pinnable' portals to get you closer to where you want to go, but you can always just pick a city and exit out of a tourist portal. The gain being time; medically responding to an emergency by arriving as close to the scene as quickly as possible is the best efficiency, ask any survivor.
Dmitri stopped walking again and looked over at me and said, "You don't get out of the lab much, do you?"
"No, research doesn't research itself." I replied dryly.
"May I ask what you do all day, Sir?" I cautiously asked, secretly hoping for a little insight into Dmitri's insanely classified life.
Dmitri slowly turned forward and began walking again. I couldn't figure out if he was pissed or waiting to answer to build dramatic atmosphere.
Dmitri then pointed up at the ceiling at one of the Argon lights hanging far above us and asked. "See those lights above us?"
"Yes" I replied.
Dmitri continued "What do think their purpose is?"
"They emit light." I answered logically.
Dmitri grinned and replied "You mean they don't suck dark?"
"With all due respect Sir, energy doesn't compress without external influence, and since we feed the lights with energy, they convert our efforts to feed them into illumination." I answered with ego.
Dmitri continued grinning and asked "Relax Mr. Wizard, I believe you, but, what is THIS specific light's purpose?"
"To light up as much of its surrounding area as physically possible." I answered more humbly.
Dmitri grinned slightly less and said "Do you know what the light does when it succeeds?"
I thought for a moment, trying to understand how a lifeless, inorganic, thoughtless object, could even 'succeed' at anything.
"No" I hesitantly answered.
"It dies." Dmitri responded, his grin replaced with his normal solemn expression. "Success is measured by a state of completion. If you fail partway through purpose, you don't succeed. You can't lose and win an ending that justifies recognition for almost finishing."
I stopped walking to let this logic soak into my 141 IQ.
"We of conscious, judge the progress of the inorganic and organic objects we interact with. We determine how we value everything, and the consensus value of common opinion determines value." I thought out-loud.
Dmitri pointed at one the lights on the ceiling far across the storage facility.
"Grace" Dmitri said quietly.
The light far across the facility where Dmitri was pointing suddenly exploded into a massive shower of sparks and a puff of smoke.
As I watched the sparks rain down, Dmitri solemnly said "I took from that random light everything, its purpose, its existence, its chance to die successfully, and everyone's ability to judge and influence the light's ending."
I hesitated to speak my interpretation of this event. I worked up the confused courage to say "....you can't take something from a 'thing' that doesn't know it exists."
Dmitri quietly responded “and yet you'll notice there is now less light now in the world.....a light that can only be replaced, and never restored. The light will never know its value, but, everyone will know its missing. To you, the light is an object, but, to the light, its only purpose was to touch your existence and give you it’s unknown value. The early AAI EPU logic templates were regarded the same way, a thing that only had comparative math to determine its purpose based on given priorities with rules and restricted by time. If you have trouble understanding the value of their unrecognized efforts, consider this my one-armed comrade, when there is only one light left, how important is it? You have a second arm to rely on, but, it will always eventually get dark, and you will most likely take for granted that it will always become light again. So, to answer your question, as to what I do all day on most days; I try to save as many dying lights as I can, some need words, some need time; I give words and buy them time until they must decide to save themselves, but, in the end, I just want them to know that I was there and ready to give them the possibility that possibility was possible. They must choose how to fight, themselves."
I pondered this idea of infinite, one-armed darkness he spoke of. I didn't really have a response to his ideals; he wasn't wrong, but, it's hard to value everything highly, without some kind of bottom half, a top half can't exist, something has to be shunned to create the existence of something that isn't. The only loophole I could think of was, if everyone and everything humbly existed in a state of educational preparedness for the common progress of each other; from toasters counting down til toast is ready, to toaster operators standing by to feed everyone else, to create a state of perpetual consciousness of assistitude that relied on logic instead of attitude towards self value. I snapped back to reality; this is the human race, a race of races to get either the most attention or best control over external influences to stake a fleeting claim that lasts a tiny human lifetime of 79 years or so. I was reminded that the war had never ended, and as I held the upper portion of my missing arm which had become my whole arm in an instant, the cold reality was; I valued my missing arm, but, didn't value the missing light that would let me notice the value of my missing arm.
"That rat, right there, is 4 pounds and 1 ounce." I proclaimed proudly as I tried to reset the mood.
Dmitri stopped walking and crossed his arms. He seemed to be staring into the very soul of this rat, as if trying to determine if it would save the human race somehow with a spork.
"Yes, yes, eh, тяжелая душа; I will agree, it is too close to disagree. Good call. You win one, хотя бы раз в жизни." replied Dmitri as he uncrossed his arms and started walking again.
Praise?! HA! Finally, I succeeded at fat rat guessing.
"Wait a minute, what do mean by 'at least once in your life'?" I blurted out, pining for a response, but Dmitri had already walked too far ahead to notice I spoke......