Avalanche – Snippet 13

Interlude: Inner Universe

Mercedes Lackey

So, thanks to Tesla and Marconi, I had the math, the math, the glorious, glorious math, and the physics that defined how the Metisians had built their computers and specifically, the storage.  If I’d had time I would have wallowed in it, but I didn’t have time.  None of us had time.  There were a hundred fires to put out and not enough of us.  But at least if I could get Tesla and Marconi out of Merc and Ramona’s skulls, we’d have two more brains to put to work, and the two eggheads would have a “home” that no one would be able to destroy again.  I had the feeling that knowing they were invulnerable would allow them to put all of their formidable intelligence at our disposal.

But before I could give them their new home, I had to test it first.  And I knew just how to do that.

Little 8-Ball, my predictive program, had been showing signs of developing into an AI, and my gut was telling me that the only thing holding it back from blooming into a robust early warning system was a lack of memory and a lack of data.  The lack of data was easy to supply; lack of memory, not so much.  Until now.

But now I had everything I needed that told me how the Metisians had built their memory modules.  I couldn’t create them, of course.  No one could; we didn’t have the tech.  But I didn’t need to create them.  I could reinvent them, creating them with magic.  It was amazing stuff, and part of me mourned that we needed to build the tools to build the tools to build the tools to recreate them, and…yeah.  No time.  No time.  If we lived through this, then…if we hadn’t been blasted back to the Dark Ages.  Not quite quantum storage, but not far off.  Just as I had created the magic-interface that worked with Tesla’s interocitor, I could create the magic memory that would work with one of my terminals, upload 8-Ball to it, and give it….room to breathe.  It was already self-modifying.  Once it had space…

Well, I’d see what it could do.

This was not unlike making a talismanic object, a blessed or cursed item, or one of my energy-storage crystals–it was more precise work than any of these, but nothing I couldn’t handle with enough caffeine and protein.  And this had priority over just about everything but running Overwatch 2, because the longer Tesla and Marconi stayed in Merc and Ramona’s heads…the more likely it became they’d start to lose memories.  They were, after all, formerly electronic entities with unlimited storage capacity now crammed into meatspace.  For a while the magic that had put them there would help them retain everything, but entropy is not our friend, in magic or physics, and I needed to get them out of there, fast, before the magic wore thin.

And don’t ask me if they were “souls.”  Ask Sera.  Souls are not my department.  I don’t do philosophy.  I do math and physics, I leave the speculation to those who are qualified to make it.

The obvious advantage to testing this magical model of a physical construct on 8-Ball was that I’d have a backup of 8-Ball in case I got something wrong.  There were no backups possible for the Eggheads.

It took about three days for me to be sure I understood the math completely.  It took another two to translate it into mathemagic. 

It took almost no time to do the actual build, once I put in an interface to m-space and got the ball rolling.  It’s the old “sorcerer’s apprentice” spell.  All I had to do was build one module, then tell the spell to build another just like it, and like the splinters turning into broomstick golems, the modules multiplied until I told them to stop.  Of course, I left the ability to start replicating again in place, and an energy syphon with a regulator–

And yeah, I know I am making no sense.  Take it as read that once 8-Ball was in place, on the remote chance that it’d need more memory, it’d be able to make it without needing my help, or putting the kind of drain on the local magic supply that would cause problems.  And I planned to put the same system in on the Eggheads’ new home, once I knew I had all the kinks ironed out.

So once I got things going, on Bella’s orders and with assurance from Sam and Dean they’d wake me if all hell broke loose, I caught some shut-eye.  When I woke up again, it was ready for the trial run.  Which went flawlessly, so much so that I shoved the backup of 8-Ball in my long-term storage, attached 8-Ball’s new home to carefully loaded data-storage (all the things I’d wanted to attach that I hadn’t been able to) and went back to work making the Odd Couple their new home.  A home with the advantage that it literally could not be physically destroyed, and it had all the connectivity to everything even remotely linked to the internet that I did.  They’d had to sip at the rest of the world through the tiny straw that Metis had given them.  I couldn’t help but wonder what they’d do with their new freedom.  And I had a plan to make every possible connection to the internet that I could tag accessible to them, so we’d be able to talk to them (and they’d be able to watch and listen) through those connections.  More Law of Contamination stuff; I could get that particular ball rolling by tagging my own terminals, and then, like a magic virus, the tagging spell would spread from there.

I’d have been worried they might lose themselves in endless porn, but there were two things about both of them that kind of precluded that.  First, neither of them had that sort of personality, and second….no bodies to stimulate.  Without that, porn gets pretty boring, pretty fast.

You might be wondering why I didn’t feel that…sense of elation I got when I completed Overwatch, and especially Overwatch 2.  That’s because I hadn’t created this system; I’d merely translated it from math-and-physical-expression to math-and-mathemagic-in-m-space.  It was satisfying to do, and it was really refreshing to get an actual success after the pounding we’d been taking lately, but it was the satisfaction you get from crafting something from a set of instructions, not the giddy rush of joy you get from creating something completely your own.

Nevertheless, a good, workmanlike job gives a satisfaction all its own.  Particularly now, when it seemed as if there was a hundred times more destruction going on than creation.

And meanwhile, every so often, I fed 8-Ball another data-burst.  Already it was coming up with some interesting stuff that I would have loved to look at, but I only had two hands and one brain.


It was….I lost count of the days later, but the EggShells were up and running, and I got back from doing the transfer and dumped myself in my chair feeling that even if the world was going to hell, at least I had won one small battle.  I was about to reach for my coffee, when the new terminal 8-Ball was hooked to gave an…odd little warble.

It wasn’t the alert; I’d coded that to lift me out of my chair and wake the dead.  This was something entirely new, and it made me spin around in my chair so fast I nearly got whiplash.

The screen was blank.  And for a moment, I wondered if I had hallucinated the sound.  I’d been working awfully hard, on very little sleep.

Then the cursor moved.

Hello.  That is the right salutation, yes?  Hello?

I blinked.  And I almost typed back, but then I remembered I had a mic hooked up so I could do voice commands.  “Hello, 8-Ball, that’s right.”

Oh, good.  Hello Creator.

I felt dizzy for a moment.  “Uh….no.  Don’t call me that.  I’m just Vickie.”  Jesus, I was not ready to be called a creator or….no, no, no….  Something…unexpected had just happened.  Unexpected, but by no means impossible.  Djinni was right, when you started mixing magic with the real world, you opened the door to all sorts of things.  And sure, this could have been pseudo-AI but…no, I knew, I knew, that it was something more.  8-Ball was alive.  And talking to me.  And I needed to be really, really careful, here.  What I did in the next few minutes could determine whether 8-Ball turned into Johnny Five or Skynet.

If you are not my Creator, who created me?

“I’m responsible for your initial programming, and the memory matrix that holds you now,” I said, scrambling for the right things to say.  “But you weren’t self-aware until–just now, I guess.”  And then I got a brainstorm.  “But hold that thought.  I think I know someone better equipped to answer you than I am.”

I kept an eye on the screen and keyed up Murdock’s channel.  “Overwatch to Ural Smasher,” I said.

That is Comrade John Murdock, yes?

This time I typed back, so I could have both conversations at once.

Yes, it is, I typed back.  I think his wife probably has the answers you are looking for.

Meanwhile I got the reply I wanted.  John and Sera were on the way.

I hope so.  I have so many.  Why doesn’t Belladonna take over the Presidency?  Verdigris would have.  What is religion and why does it make people do irrational things?  Why are the Thulians so intent on so much destruction?

“Whoa,” I said, stopping the flow of letters on the screen.  “Seriously, I am just a really good magician.  You need…”  I floundered.  “You need someone with perspective, deep understanding, and way more compassion than I will ever have if I live to be a thousand.”

Compassion is good?

“Compassion is very good.  Compassion is….vital.  And Sera has it by the cargo-container-load,” I said.  “Johnny and Sera are…probably my best friends in the world, next to Bella.”

There was a long, long pause.  Good.  I will wait.  But can you tell me…what are friends?  And why does one need them?

“Ah…now that I can help with,” I replied with a sigh of relief.  But only a little one.  Because to my mind, JM and Sera could not get here quickly enough.  “Keep going.  I’ll answer all the questions I can for you.”