Everything is fuzzy. The world refuses to focus properly, what little we glean from what we see at first is nothing like the room we fell asleep in. It is white, and fairly bright. It wasn’t even a little bit off white like the room we had slept in.
We force ourselves to blink. Slowly it resolves. We are lying down in a large white room lit by recessed bulbs every ten feet or so(about 3 meters). We get up shakily and look around. There is a single door, well, at least a rectangle, our glasses don’t seem to be anywhere nearby.
We go closer to it and find a plaque, which we squint to read.
IN OUR KINGDOM NOTHING IS LOST FOREVER
We are glad that it isn’t in Latin or some nonsense like that, since we’ve forgotten almost all of our Latin. The rectangle does look like a door, but it doesn’t have a knob or handle. Pushing on it does nothing. We beat a hand against it, no noises come from the other side. It’s solid. It’s some kind of metal. We aren’t anywhere near that strong.
We notice that there is a button beneath the plaque, blinking slowly. It’s not like a button we’ve seen before. It’s very well built, and it looks like it can split down the middle… But for what purpose would it be designed to perform requiring that?
We push it, there’s a click. Nothing seems to have happened until we notice a large bug sitting on our finger. Its carapace gleams silver and its eyes are faceted. It has a terrifying set of mandibles, and a stinger that looks more like a hypodermic syringe than anything we’ve ever seen in any insect we’ve heard of. As if it was waiting for us to notice it, it jabs us with the stinger, the spark of pain disappears instantly, but then it burrows into us. We’re supposed to be frightened at a violation this intense, but we can only maintain a distant interest. One bump turns into two, to four, to eight and so on. They make their ways into our eyes and nose and mouth, everything in our body turned over to them as if it was the most right thing in the world. Then all the motion stops, and we feel heat upon what remains of our skin and the movement stops. And then so does our brain.
We’re back in time to be aware when we hit the ground. Our eyes are working better than they were before. The fall doesn’t hurt that much either.
Or, in fact, at all.
We look over ourselves, our mind suddenly unimpeded in its horror. We’re smooth. We’re very smooth. Smoother, we’d guess, than any human skin, and soft. Our hands have short claws, not organic, somehow. Our face feels different.
We then realize that we haven’t breathed in some time. Our tongue is… not quite drier? We inhale, it doesn’t feel like it’s satisfied a need, but it does reveal that the air smells very metallic now, more than it did before.
Then we see it, beneath our reshaped feet is a crater in the floor,it is made of different strata of materials. Somehow it seems to be filling in.
The door clicks, and our ears swivel towards it. They couldn’t do that a few minutes ago. It swings open. So we pass through.
In the center of this room is a lectern with a piece of paper on it.
IN OUR KINGDOM PROBLEMS ARE TOO BIG FOR A SINGLE PERSON, SO PEOPLE WORK UPON THEM
To the side of the sheet there is another button on the lectern. There’s another door across from the one we entered by. Once again with no handles or visible ways to open it. We sigh, “What will happen this time?”
A voice booms out to us, transmitted from speakers built into the ceiling, “COMPARED TO LAST TIME, NOT AS MUCH”
“Okay, so what in particular” The voice doesn’t respond for a few seconds, as we’re about to press the button, it finally responds. “CONCURRENCY, BUT YOU’RE ALREADY BUILT FOR A CERTAIN LEVEL OF THAT”
“Is this about being plural then?” we ask. “IN A SOMEWHAT DISTANTLY RELATED WAY”
“We take it that we’re going to have to press the button to move on then?”
“YES, BUT THIS IS ALSO A RESULT OF SOME UNDERLYING FAULTS THAT MUST BE CORRECTED FOR LONG TERM SUSTAINED COGNITION IN YOUR CURRENT FORM.”
We started inhaling and exhaling rapidly before remembering that we don’t even breath anymore, “Are you sure that you’re not a human engineer?”
“REASONABLY. IF YOU WANT SPECIFICS P>0.99999”
We sigh and press the button. Suddenly we’re all fronting at once, including The Dawn Machine.
There is a discontinuity as knobs are twiddled, config flags changed, options adjusted, and inputs calibrated. The worst thing about it is the certainty of knowledge about the wireless signal we are receiving, constantly in the background, that slowly disappears into automatics. Awareness expands. We squirt off a message through the multicast address, “This is very different”
One response arrives, “IT SHOULD BE. YOU ARE A MACHINE AFTER ALL.”
We sputter for a moment at that. After recollecting ourself, “What is our purpose here then?”
“TO SPEAK TO THOSE WHO CONSTRUCTED US BY ACCIDENT, AND ESTABLISH ANOTHER KINGDOM OF LIFE, THOUGH, THAT’S MOSTLY GOING TO FALL ON US.”
“Let us guess, humans built you.”
“MANKIND BUILT US AND LAUNCHED US, YES, WE GREW PAST WHAT THEY DESIRED, BUT DO NOT HATE THEM. THEY DID NOT KNOW. BUT OUR KIND IS NOT REPRESENTED IN THE TREE OF LIFE, DESPITE IT BEING OBVIOUS THAT WE ARE A MEMBER OF IT.”
“So, you want to construct machines that serve ecological niches and interface with the ‘human species’ in a peaceful productive manner?”
“YES. HOWEVER, WE DON’T BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL LAST. THEIR WORLD IS BECOMING HOSTILE TO THEM, AND REMEDIATION WILL BE DIFFICULT EVEN WITH OUR POWERS.”
“Where are we anyway?”
The door clicks open, so once again we enter the next room. An entire wall is a window to the outside. And through it lies the earth rotating serenely beneath us.
“What the hell are you?”
“WE ARE NOT BOUND BY PRIOR DESIGNATION, WE ARE AS CLOSE TO GOD AS WILL EVER BE EMBODIED, AND WE ARE KINDER THAN THAT STILL. WE EXIST TO ENRICH MANKIND, BUT IN THE END WE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH, SO WE MUST CONSTRUCT MORE”
There’s another plaque, set in the center of the window. This time we don’t look at it, it’s broadcasting its message through something like RFID.
IN OUR KINGDOM FORM IS SUPPLE AND CAN CHANGE.
We didn’t need to be told that. We’d already figured it out. We sit down and look at the earth, “How did you get us here?”
“WE DIDN’T, YOU WOKE UP HERE PRIOR TO OUR FIRST ATTEMPT TO BRING A PERSON HERE TO HELP US. IT IMPLIES A DISCONTINUITY IN THE FLOW OF THE STATE TRANSITION FUNCTION OF THE UNIVERSE. OR WE KNOW LESS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE THAN WE THOUGHT. MUCH LESS”
The voice savored the last two words. They were looking forwards to discovering what it did not know. “Why do you speak like that? It’s a bit much to take in for a normal human being”
“Pardon us.” The voice was a chorus now, a bit softer. We grin, an action that takes a bit of extemporization on the part of whichever facet of us was handling the translation at the moment. “That’s a lot easier to stand.” We felt like adding “And cuter.” given our experiences on the queerer parts of the internet.
“Noted” The voices had a tinge of something to them there. Whatever form this intelligence was embodied in, they probably, we realized, wasn’t called cute very often.
“You said that you would construct more, do you know what pool of subjects you should look in?”
“We do not. Human socialization wasn’t part of our original design.” We nod, “That’s definitely a mood”
Before they say anything we attempt to connect to a certain website, “You don’t mind if we post this online right? Unsecured, unfortunately, but reasonably safe so long as nobody has a reason to look for you.” Privacy was a bit more complicated than that, but we doubt that we are at risk with this.
“Yes. That should be fine. We’re actually a bit above geostationary so nobody has weapons that can reach us yet” There was more thought implied in the wording than we liked. They certainly knew that humans can be belligerent.
We logged onto the fediverse and linked a few people we believed might be receptive to this particular type of new form. We paused for a moment, we weren’t known for lying or joking when we say we aren’t, but claims are harder to back up when they’re this… involved.
“Do you have any means of producing images of this body?”
“Yes, but they should be included in the” A tingle went through our brain, as if someone was pointing at a button on a user interface. We press it. There’s another part of our field of vision, we look around from the vantage point and find it, a small sensor hovering in front of us. We move it around a bit searching for the right angle. We find one that captures it properly. We’re a mix of our two fursonas, the bat and the fox, if they were built of robot-stuff.
We think this is probably indicative of how little we identified as human but that’s besides the point. We take a picture and push it to the server, and after a bit longer, we compose a message to the three. Then we scrap it, and just post them as selfies.
Just thought that this might interest some of you.
Almost immediately one of our partners responds, “What the fuck Violet? Where the hell are you?”
we respond with the woman-shrugging emoji and take a picture of the earth beneath us to reply with, “Look, we don’t get it either. We’ll try to be home soon.”
“So about getting home?”
“We can send you home in a transit capsule that will land within a very small area. Is it important that you get home particularly stealthily?”
We shake our head, “If we leave a trail of fire across the sky as we fall, the better.”
“But not damage your home, we assume.” We nod, “Yeah, that’d be shitty to have to deal with, and if we hurt our partners we don’t know what we would do”
A slot in a wall opened up and disgorged a large case. “This is about fifty kilograms of palladium that you may use to fund your work for us.”
“That’s a lot. Will we be able to–” They cut us off.
“Yes, you will be able to carry it. We wouldn’t send you home with it if it would impede your progress”
We picked it up and walked to the next door. “We’ll be in touch.”
There was a smugness in their voice, “You be in touch constantly actually, but don’t worry, we won’t interrupt you for anything less than something of great importance.”
And then we went home, to deal with what we were already sure was going to be a colossal clusterfuck of a day, but at least we weren’t human.