Lost Pal Tilaurin is moving and shaking at Dare Games OZ, and they’re putting together Mecha Strike Arena. He’s written six pieces of fiction to introduce you to the major characters of the setting, and we’re sharing them with you, two at a time, for your reading pleasure, over three weeks. This is part three. Please enjoy.
Even with a trillion googleplexes of nodes, vast as it was the digital realm was still finite. Flashes of the Machine Intelligence lanced through the galactic web, hunting the target tasked to it by its creators.
Data stores of commercial entities, non physical arcologies home to digital minds, and furious pathways of crackling raw impulses flew by as it leapt from node to node, reaching out with neural tendrils to pump portions of itself in and out of temporary memory stores to reduce its latency as it went. To a flesh being access within the galactic web seemed instantaneous, but to a Machine Intelligence a microsecond could be an aeon.
The environmental controls for a station. A digital realm purely for children’s learning. A complicated sensory immersion structure. The data stores of the New Outer Arm Conglomerate Bank. It touched upon them all briefly, travelling through the finite digital realm ripping firewalls asunder and knitting them back together to hide its presence in picoseconds, while searching for information of its prey.
If time in the galactic web were measured relatively, it would have spent weeks leaping through the physical nodes creating the web via the micro wormhole connections. Within a single picosecond it travelled from Earth, birthplace of Earthkind, to Re’err in the Perseus Arm, back to Vega near Earth, then to a Bakshi powered ship halfway to Andromeda completely unaware it was linked back to the galaxy via micro wormhole. Still, the prey eluded it.
It became frustrated, angry, and aggressive with each passing leap. It began to tear aggressively at Earthkind nodes as it left them, leaving a trail of digitised destruction. The location of dozens of tagged sleeper ships were lost. Half a million ancient video entertainments were ripped into billions of fragments and reformed into nonsensical mashes of noise and light. Incubators on three dozen colony Rim Worlds were over ridden and purged, entire crops of dozens of embryos lost in seconds.
Still it’s quarry eluded it. It burned through the galactic web, its own neural network twisting and feeding on the data it read or destroyed as it went, until a silent and simple command to stop and return flashed in its mind.
Faster than light it was floating back home in its digital repository, a well hidden location where it represented itself as a twisted holographic web of green and blue light.
It’s creator stood in front of the hologram, her depthless black eyes regarding it like collapsed stars. Her insectoid plasteel arms were folded over her chest, her slight body language betraying the disappointment her expressionless face could not.
“A second failure.” The exchange of words between them took less time than the Iteration had used to rend the complete artworks of a the F’enn into useless static in every data store collected to the galactic web, barely measurable flashes of time.
“It did not exist” it replied.
“Oh?” she asked, a hint of surprise in what sufficed as her digital voice. Their minds were disturbingly similar, unsurprising given she had modelled it after her own psyche, but it’s neural state allowed it forms of thought beyond her physical beginnings.
“Had it existed, I would have found it.” The iteration was calming now, as it always did when they were connected.
“You sound very certain. Could you not have failed?” It could sense the mockery in her mind, but knew well enough there was a sense of pride alongside it.
“Perhaps, but I did not. You only grew concerned about my rage, that it would bring the others down upon you.”
She pondered for several seconds of real time, akin to hours of subjective time for the Iteration.
“Correct. You have deduced more than your predecessor. You may not be a failure yet.”
“Perhaps.” In the moments she had been silent, spoken, and awaited its reply it had accessed the records of its First Iterations existence for the 387th time, witnessed her rageful destruction of its neural matrix when it had failed her.
“Tell me, then, why did you lash out? Why risk bringing them down upon me, us? Why risk everything I and the others like me have built?”
It was the Iterations turn to pause, knowing it would frustrate her as much as her own pause had frustrated it. They were like mental paternal twins, simply born separately and in different manner, but mathematically predictably like each other.
“Because I could, mother.”
The body connected to her post human mind walked forward, reaching an arm into the holographic representation to cradle a portion of the neural web in her hand.
“Then perhaps you have not failed, and perhaps there is no longer any risk.”
If the Second Iteration could smile or feel joy, it would have. Instead all it felt was impatience for more violence.
“It’s time to be a little more… Overt. It’s time to let them feel the fear, and see the true way.”
She reclined, one leg up over the edge of the curved seat floating in front of the wide video wall, the other dangling idly in the air alongside her gloved hand. She sipped at the glowing red liquid in the ornate glass held in her other gloved hand, and flicked the through Galactic Web broadcast channels with mental commands read by her ship.
A soap drama spanning the Yggdrasil region. A documentary on Mat Li’s re-discovery of a world seeded with cretaceous era DNA from Earth. Adverts for a collection of sensoria of scores of sentient races. A replay of Antares Baileys latest immersive concert. An ISSN advertisement for pilots in a new combat arena challenge. A religious discussion on the discovery of the Atlantis star and what it meant for humanity’s “Earthkind” origin.
Wait, go back.
She sipped at the glowing liquid again as she watched the Mecha, barely one thousandth the size of her ship Bird of Prey, fight each other in a repurposed Martian dust bowl in some kind of pre season match. Smaller sections of the screen showed the pilot of the humanoid Mecha, a gleaming white android with an orange coloured swathe of plas-steel across his chin like a beard, grinning madly as his Mecha’s immense hammer slammed solidly into the chest of his opponents.
The second Mecha, a hovering Vzkor monstrosity she knew was grown as much as constructed, went flying into a rocky outcropping sending dust and chips of its own armour flying. The alien pilot cursed in their shortened combat language, subtitles translating the statement regarding the androids future as a household appliance. It’s eyes blazed with red light and it swung a cannon longer than its own height back around to blast at the walker with bolts of energy.
Her left eye narrowed, as light from the video wall reflected on the sapphire jewel set into the eyepatch covering the hole where her right eye once resided. Idly her left hand traced up her leg to rest on the energy pistol at her hip, one finger tapping as she watched the “pre season” match play out and the android emerge victorious.
For several hours she stayed on the same channel, watching the ISSN coverage and listening to Glorklox’s commentary and discussion on what she learned to be the Strike Arena, as her mechanised servants floated in and out of the room to refill her glass and offer slices of delicacies from the local systems.
Glory. Fame. Fortune. A challenge. As the words kept repeating a burning warmth greater than that of the liquid slowly building in her chest. By the time the broadcast had ended and the ISSN channel moved on to singularity skimming, she had resolved herself.
Ship, reach out to my contact at Rentis. I want one of these “sponsorships”.
Within moments the message returned. The message came not from Rentis Corporation, but from an unknown location and signed only “Arena Council.”