Reprogrammable Machinery

Contains: Plural system getting split, some minor domination

A few days passed between our time at the station where we were changed irrevocably, and then two since we came crashing down into the yard behind the appartments, the parachutes catching on the trees and pulling down a few branches in its descent. The fifty kilograms of palladium was worth more money than we’d ever imagined having at once.

It was not a light load to carry the few hundred feet to the apartment, but it was easier than we imagined would be possible prior to our changes. We’d already texted ahead to let our partners know that we were about to be home, we didn’t much feel like having this kinda thing out in the open for very long. It wasn’t world changing money, but it was a lot more than we’d ever had, and it had come at the best possible time.

We were let in quickly once we knocked on the door, the two of them came down to see what the fuck was in front of their door and then let us in.

It took a lot of talking to explain what happened, but eventually they relented and we were free to go about what remained of our day.

Things continued as normal until we decided to try and cash in on the palladium. Things were rough and it was not easy to make ends meat, since it was during the covid season, and jobs were thin on the ground and hunger and homelessness were more prevalent than they had been in the last 70 years of America’s history.

Rent was due, unemployment had just dried up for one of our partners and ourself and the other didn’t have any source of regular income. The change was not helpful of course, but, then at least the voice that came with it was a tad more suited to us.

All this happening while we had 3.5 million dollars of extremely chemically resistant metal sitting in the living room. It took a while to find a place that would accept this much of it at a reasonable rate.

As soon as we came home after depositing that much money, the more important task was upon us, to use the money on essentials and fritter away a bit on things we merely wanted.

We find ourselves in the room. The door is locked and we don’t recall choosing to go there.

A fine dust flies off of our body and coalesces into a ghostly representation of the machine god sitting on the bed, they’re a lot more femme than we would have pegged them as last time we talked.

“We area bit concerned with the usage of the resources that We apportioned to you to accomplish Our objectives.” We sigh, this is no doubt going to be a massive pain.

“Okay, that’s understandable, but we’re about to run into issues with housing, utilities, internet, food, etc. We need that stuff down here.” We say, trying to hold back our irritation and fear at all this being useless for that.

“That is fine.” The image grins.

“So what’s the issue with it then?” We ask, a bit less afraid but more irritated than before.

“We simply need to remind you of the relationship us two have.” They say.

We blink at them, “Okay. You’re our boss and we do what you want because you can probably turn us off or express some other control over our body.”

They walk over to us, putting a hand on us, “But We believe you might need a demonstration of what precisely we can do to and for you.” They push us over, but it feels more like we jumped backwards.

“Your body is our tool… What was it that book you liked said? ‘the body is a code, Dear Lady Sharrow” They step on us, it really does feel like their clawed feet are standing on us as they do so. They bend down and flick us on the nose, “And we have yours.’”

We feel ourselves melt at this, we’d be blushing, but changing the characteristics of pockets of pigmentation under our skin isn’t quite the same. We stammer, we aren’t very good at controlling ourselves in this kind of situation.

“You like this.” They smile at us, “What a little sub you are. So many voices in your head and so few of them standing up to this” They clench their claws on our chest, we wince, it’s still a good feeling. They snicker as we moan softly “How is our little drone meant to survive this big bad world if she can’t even manage to push this little featherweight off of her?”

Something else wakes up in us, stirring like a serpent, scales rustling amidst all the fur and fluff and circuits, it felt like we were pressed on the surface of our eyeballs, absorbing the world with an intensity different than we normally have “We don’t see the point, you said it yourself, you have our mind and our body. We are a fortress fallen to you.”

“My, that part doesn’t come out very often, now does it?” They came close to our face, and we felt something hot build up inside us, embarassment and anger, and desire, “What kind of creature are you then, since you all use that as archetypes to characterize what is essentially fluid? Computational and cognitive machinery jumping between different active modes, what makes each of you a fox or a bat or wolf, or whatever else you have inside you?”

“I am the dragon. Oldest of us.” We say, “Why do you wake me? Is the UwU lesbian not enough? She doesn’t think the wolf is the right thing to bring forward, otherwise she would be here instead.”

“Is that what she sees herself as? But even now you trust that we won’t hurt you all.” They muse to themselves more than to us. “Now, how does a mental vivisection sound to you?”

We strain now, the words coming out gnashing and furious and afraid, “how does shoving your brains in faraday cages isolated from each other sound?”

“You think we use RF these days? Please, we have a little more variety than that. Besides that doesn’t answer the question.”

“We don’t like the idea”

“But isn’t it interesting? All so dependent on each other, those little loops splitting and coalescing into interaction. What happens if we split you up?” They interrupt before we can reply, “No, don’t answer, we don’t imagine you have an answer for that.” They snap their finger and we are one.

It feels like minutes or hours have passed by the time I regain control of my mind. My mind feels wrong, minds are communal, I know that much. And yet. The dragon is sitting next to me, looking at me like I’m something to be pitied, there was a softness to her expression though “You took a long time Bat.”

That’s right, that’s who I am. Bat.

I look around, Fox is looking kinda miffed as Wolf gesticulates forcefully and whispers furiously at The Machine, they seem to be listening carefully but more like one listens to something that you’re only peripherally interested in.

“Is this what it is to be alone?” All the thoughts in my head were mine, and nothing else gave their voice to me. I shouldn’t be this alone. I fumble through the interfaces in the back of my brain, looking for the wireless, it’s been turned off.

The dragon shrugs, “It’s hard to say that it’s the same for others isn’t it? Besides, how many people do you really believe are wholly singlets?”

I shrug, that’s not really the right way to think about people who don’t subscribe to a label that you believe fits them. It’s just unkind.

“Why did you go to sleep for so long?” I ask her, “I missed you for those years.”

“We were a stupid teenage boy at the time. And he couldn’t live up to what I needed to be, so I didn’t front. And then we were a stupid boy in college doing too much bullshit at a fraternity where we threw away our grades and hope for the future. Then we were a neet, then a college student, then a girl, then a neet girl, then we came down to Tulsa.” She shrugs, “And then we started looking for work, surprisingly, people were curious to see if they wanted to hire us.”

She pauses, rubbing a horn set above her brow, with an arm set with muscles, “This is what I wanted to be. Powerful, eternal, wanted. We had and will have that again.”

“All powerful? That doesn’t sound like our life, not even after the change.”

“Potent then, able to force change upon the world and burrow a nice little place for us out within it. In such a place of peace, given time, we will accrue what we need to change the world to suit us and those like us better.”

I nod, but I’m curious at fox. She was the one with the partially realized robotic form. It was different than in our ref, but then the eye was weird and not very practical.

“Is this how you wanted to be?” The fox shrugs, “Kinda. The tail is nice, the feet are nice, the paws are nice, the tits are nice, the everything is almost perfect.” She pauses, “But then I wanted the sort of access to our hardware that they have taken from us.” They had our phone. “I put together a list of hardware I want us to get for my project.”

“What kind of project?”

“That proliant we have upstairs could hold one of us in partial form. Partial stripped down to the skivvies and then only as an RPC mechanism. I need more hard-drives, and ideally some Optane chips to run it effectively.”

I nod, kinda unsure of why, “what’s the point of that though?”

“We’re still localized to a single form. We still will be, but if we split it up into replicas, we may coordinate things on a larger scale, build up a larger effector edge” She scoots closer to me, “We need power to do what she wants.”

“She as in…?”

“Machine goddess.” She looked annoyed at this lack of knowledge.

“Ah.” I blushed, in the way that a robot with sufficient chromatophores can, “We should’ve asked.”

“We should’ve” She snipped, She took a performative breath, “Sorry. It’s hard to think with Wolfy being so distracting. I miss adderall. She even disabled that kinda control over ourselves, can’t even simulate having enough of a dopamine kick to focus”

I nod. It is different than usual for me too. Like when we were off of the stuff for a few months, “I’m going to talk to the machine goddess. Does she have a name yet?”

Fox shrugs, “I asked, she said that she was thinking about it.” She hugs me, “I missed you. It wasn’t long, but it felt much longer than it was.”

It would be nice if I had a name for her.

I walk up to Wolfy and the Machine Goddess, she looks over at me with contentment, she placed a finger on the wolf’s mouth, shutting her up for the moment even as her eyes blazed angry, “Good to see that you have returned from the land of nod. Your incorporation into the gestalt was very thorough. How do you feel?”

“Like I’d rather be back to how we were.” It was truthfully nice to have my body the way I wanted it, but that could be arranged later, taking turns was easy enough, “I do kinda like having the body I want.”

She nods, “You’ll all be back together soon enough, don’t worry, it hasn’t been too long, much less time than you’d imagine. We could give you the ability to just be like this, alone when you want, together otherwise. Many agents are better than one, even if that one is as wonderful as you’ve turned out to be.”

I shrugged, “I was thinking more that we could all take turns if they want.”

“Whatever pleases you all. It was an offer, one that We will grant you regardless of whether you want it now. Did you know that Wolf here is so much more sensitive than she seems to be?” She giggles, “Even your angry, purposeful side is cute.” Wolf looks very embarrassed and I try to suppress my instinct to hug her and tell her it will be okay, but she growls and walks away, “There wasn’t all that much that was true there. She is angry, easy enough to manipulate.”

“What have you learned?”

“All of you are really different people. And We think that still scares you, even though you go so far as to use plural first person pronouns.”

“I don’t like being alone.”

“It seems that very few people genuinely do.” She nods, “We think We’ve learned enough. We hope that you haven’t been too scarred by this experience.” She snaps her fingers and We’re back where we were, buying something off the internet that we don’t really need but want. It wasn’t even a minute, and that sends something like a chill down our spine.

In our mind, the button is right there. We can split apart any time. I put a post it note asking for them to let us know before they press it.

The evening ends and we end up in bed, staying next to our partners, getting what counts as fitful sleep for this form, unsure of what we want to become.

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