“You know what?” whispered Andrew as he neared his mouth to Francis’ ear, “I’m sick of being catered to.”
They were standing in line in front of the nutrition dispenser. The apathetic Francis lazily nodded at Andrew, his eyes fixated on the queue ahead. Nutrition was the time of the day when Andrew felt like ranting about everything, and Francis had aptly learned to ignore him.
“You’re not even listening to what I’m saying.”
They moved a step forward. Francis barely opened his mouth.
“You are always saying the same thing, Andy.”
His eyelids were dropping and thoughts of his comfortable bed floated in his head.
Andrew was muttering things to himself as they slowly approached the dispenser. One by one, they both showed their
badges to the scanner. The machine clicked and two cups materialized on the blue plate. Each contained three differently coloured pills with
all the necessary minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fats and carbohydrates for a full day of functioning, plus a little something extra that kept everyone healthy and happy.
“Oh, this time is different my dear Francis.”
Andrew picked up his cup.
“This time, I have a plan.”
He pulled the cup to his mouth and started chewing on the pills.
It has been a couple of centuries since the first Humanity Altering Event, also known by humans at the time as the Singularity. A couple more followed, and the human race circa the 23rd century was unrecognizable. It expanded throughout the galaxy and was no longer confined to the Earth, even though most of the computations were still carried out there. Since the first Event, all of humanity, which at the time was 7 billion human beings, was interlinked and connected to a central artificial nervous system, thus ensuring that the entire race thought, acted and seemed as One. The One Consciousness was omnipresent. The One Consciousness was omnipotent.
But not every human being was willing to accept that future. Some resisted. There was never any violence, mainly just peaceful demonstrations and endless petitions. The One Consciousness didn’t ignore them. Most were convinced to plug in, but a portion remained as stubborn and as willing to remain flesh and bones as before. Not great in numbers, but they were still taken good care of. They were fed, kept healthy and kept entertained. Their main representative was even informed once a week of the activities of the race. Of course, the human’s abilities to reason were limited, so that report was an overly simplified version. The system was perfect, forever increasing in knowledge and intelligence, calmly waiting for the omega point.
Francis and Andrew walked slowly towards their quarters, whispering.
“Andy, how can a dull historian like you have a plan to take down… well, everything?”
In order to make everyone feel useful, or just to give them something to pass the time, the system assigned them a hobby (or profession, as the humans thought of it) which it thought would fit them most. After an effective brain scan, the system would provide everyone with the proper education in the field they were going to be best at. Francis was a mathematician, Andy a historian, yet others were biologists, philosophers, astronomers…
Andy saw Francis’ point, but was nonetheless convinced he was on the right track. He quickened his pace.
“A historian is exactly the sort of person that would think of something like this.”
Francis wasn’t convinced.
“Like what?” he snapped.
For a moment they stopped talking, flashed their badges at the scanner and with a tiny bleep they were approved entrance to their own quarters. The door slid shut behind them.
“Listen, I’m among the few historians here right?”
“I know a couple others from the Historians Club, but they’re all preoccupied with boring stuff like the prehistoric eras, Egypt, the Aztecs…” He shot a look behind his shoulder nervously as if to see if he insulted someone. “…I, on the other hand, have been studying more interesting bits of humanity’s history… namely, advanced political regimes.”
Francis went through his blond hair with his hand, still having no idea what Andy was talking about. A mathematician should not be bothered with this sort of small talk.
Andrew probably noticed that Francis was drifting off, so he put his hand on his shoulder and gave him a little shake.
“Listen to me,” he moved a bit closer, making Francis feel slightly uncomfortable, “There is a pattern.”
The mathematician opened his eyes a tiny bit more.
“No matter how perfect the regime, how perfect the person in command, there are always, always people on the inside, malcontents, holding a grudge, or simply dissidents, that are willing to bring it down.”
They both stared at each other for a few moments. Francis spoke first.
“You think, ” he spoke slowly, unsure if he got the gist of what Andy was saying, “that there are parts of … the One Consciousness…”
“…that are separatists and are willing to tear the whole system down,” Andrew interrupted him. “Yes.”
Silence settled in again.
“And I think I’ve located them,” Andrew broke it. “I’m also designing a device to contact them.”
“Impossible.” Francis pushed his glasses up his nose nervously.
“It’s not impossible. It’s real. I’ve analyzed every aspect of this whole thing.”
He was telling the truth.
“I don’t understand… how… how can there be different thought patterns, different opinions within the One Consciousness? It’s all one brain after all, isn’t it?”
This was the question that Andrew was waiting for. He had spent one entire year reading up on the system, learning from every book and written report that was available to the unenhanced. He had talked to most engineers, physicists and neurophysiologists. He felt like he knew all there is to know about it.
But his plan was impeccable.
“And just like a brain, the One Consciousness works in parallel. There are millions of different departments, much like neuron groups, which work on little assignments of their own. Once a major decision is to be taken, it is weighed out by every department separately. Then, they all relay their conclusions to one department, located right here on Earth, which analyzes the different conclusions and through advanced probabilistic methods, chooses one solution.”
Francis had absolutely no idea that things were done that way. Andrew went on, feeling a rush of excitement.
“Now, I’ve been copying the reports that the Mayor was getting from the One Consciousness every week, and noticed an interesting pattern… There is one small department, located not very far from here, somewhere near the Kuiper belt, that always seems to decide upon weird solutions, ones that the system never seems to accept. They’re not taken seriously. It has ignored ninety-eight percent of the department’s requests and solutions. They are being cut off, like a damaged brain area. Like a useless neuron cluster.”
Francis began to understand. He tried to wrap his brain around the concept that Andrew wasn’t as boring and brainless as he had thought.
“…and you think that… this… department or whatever you call it… is the separatist that you require?”
Andrew’s eyes glistened with excitement.
“They have to be.”
The fact that Francis was somewhat confused and surprised, gave him an extra amount of confidence in himself.
“So, I plan to contact them, let them know that there are people on Earth willing to help, willing to break free from this giant nanny of ours. People, that are tired of being treated like inferior beings, like babies, like children!”
He paused to take a breath.
“And, I’m sure that they, being part of the One Consciousness and all, will know its weaknesses, will know of a way to bring it down.”
Francis’ mind departments were also calculating probabilities at the moment. What the probability was of being caught and disposed like waste by the system, as the rumours said would happen to anyone foolish enough to threaten it. He stared at his shoelace.
“But Andy wait,” he snapped out of it. “There is a problem.”
“If the department is part of the One Consciousness, then it will know if it’s helping us, or giving us potentially harmful and classified information… won’t it?”
“Of course it will. But I’ve found a way to trick it.” His plan was indeed impeccable. His smile widened.
“See, the system has learned to ignore most of the department’s calculations. It doesn’t have infinite time and energy to waste…at least not yet. But, it still puts simplified parts of them in the report sent weekly to our Mayor, because as we all know, we unenhanced humans get only useless information from the One Consciousness. And that useless information is the perfect way to receive data from the separatists. It would still have to be encoded of course. We don’t want our dimwit Mayor catching up on us, do we? The encryption level shouldn’t be that advanced, so we can decode it ourselves. And as you have probably already guessed, that is the reason why I will need a good mathematician like you, my good Francis.”
He knew that Andrew wasn’t telling all of this without a reason. In his head he was struggling with the idea of helping him. Being never good at choices, not even with the most trivial ones, to Francis this question presented itself as quite the problem. His thoughts raced.
Andrew was waiting for a response eagerly.
“You don’t have to answer now,” he said.
But Francis felt like the time to think was running out. Perhaps it was Andrew’s anticipation, the sheer pressure, or the thought of having just a tiny bit of adventure in one’s life that made his heart pump excitement through his veins. The nutshell of boredom wrapped around his existence was cracking and he felt it. His spine shivered and his pupils dilated. He wasn’t aware but he was grinning widely. Andrew was too.
Francis was in.
The next couple of months, both of them spent the majority of their time together, designing, planning. They talked to engineers they knew they could trust. The device they were building was simple enough. It consisted of a radio transmitter with enough range to just reach the Kuiper belt and a computer of their own, meant to modulate the signal, so it would carry their encrypted data to the separatists. They were smart enough to build their own computer, because they knew that every single calculation done on an existing machine would be processed by the One Consciousness. They also knew that they could send data to the troublesome department, but they wouldn’t be able to receive data back the same way because once again, the One Consciousness monitored every transmission going out of a department. On the other hand, there was so much electromagnetic radiation in space that it couldn’t waste time analyzing every signal that each department would catch on. Most of the time, it was just background cosmic radiation and noise. Andrew knew all of this and felt like he had an advantage over the system.
After what felt like a lot of sleepless nights and paranoid days, their machine was done. Andrew and Francis kept the whole thing secret. Only a few people knew about it, but even they weren’t entirely sure what it had been about. One afternoon, as they were standing in line to get fed, Andrew leaned towards Francis.
“I think it’s time. I think we should send our transmission to the department.”
Francis agreed. They got their pills and went to their quarters.
The machine didn’t look like anything special. To most people it seemed just like a normal computer linked to a satellite dish - a radioastronomer’s play toy. Francis sat down and started hacking at the keyboard, typing numbers that looked like coordinates. They looked at each other meaningfully, nodded, and Francis slowly set his index finger on a green button. He took a deep breath, muttered something to himself, and pressed the key. A faint quirky sound coming from the outside told them that the satellite dish aligned itself and was pointing at the right direction. The computer screen showed that their data was being transmitted. Andrew and Francis detailed their entire plan into one video message that was at that moment riding through the vacuum of space in the form of an electromagnetic wave. It would take quite a few hours for it to reach the Kuiper belt, so they had nothing to do but wait, and to hope that the separatists are indeed separatists and that they would accept to communicate with unenhanced humans like themselves. Nothing to do but wait.
The days passed and their paranoia grew stronger. What would happen to them if the ones they presumed to be dissidents were still a big part of the One Consciousness? Would they be locked away? Killed? Or even worse, be forced to plug in and become part of that whole technological madness? Andrew and Francis preferred not to think of those things.
A week went by, and the first report was brought to the Mayor. They managed to get hold of a copy, and Francis went straight to his room to analyze it thoroughly for anything that might be a sign from the troublesome department. He had spent three whole days reading through the report, but hadn’t noticed anything of interest to them.
”Re-read it!” spat Andrew. “I can’t have been wrong! They will contact us… just maybe not this way…”
The second and third reports were also very bleak, without any news about the Kuiper department. As Andrew was beginning to despair, one bright morning Francis burst the door open to their room. He was holding that week’s report tightly in his hand and had a triumphant smile on his face.
“It’s… not very logical is it?”
Andrew heard Francis’ explanation, and wasn’t really sure what to make of it. Francis discovered a message of sorts from the separatists, claiming that they had a perfect plan to destroy the system, but in order for it to be done one of them had to plug in, and, at least momentarily, become part of the One Consciousness. The message was very cleverly sent. Apparently the system was trying to decide how to deal with an error, and the Kuiper department suggested something about unenhanced humans plugging in, mostly historians, mathematicians or botanists. The system put it in the report to the Mayor as an example of the non-sense answers computed and reasoned by that department, also vaguely hinting at its probable termination from the decision network. Francis was convinced that this was the message, and that that is what they had to do.
“It’s brilliant! They knew that something this crazy would be added to a report to the unenhanced humans… They know that we just love to hear about the system’s incompleteness and its imperfections.”
“But, they know that we’re not very fond of letting machines mess with our brains… why would they suggest that we plug in?”
“Well… I guess it has to be done from the inside somehow… or maybe that’s just another way for us to communicate… I’m not sure why this is so, all I know is that one of us has to volunteer, and become part of that…“ Francis shivered. “… machine. At least for a short while.”
Andrew didn’t like the sound of the whole thing. He had spent his entire life being afraid of what humanity had become, and now one of them had to be part of this… man-machine merger. And Francis was older then him. He knew that his body might not even withstand the pressure and shock. Andrew knew that he was the one that had to go.
The meeting with the System representative was to happen the following week. Andrew prepared mentally for what was to follow in the only way he knew, he spent the days locked in his room, reading up history books. Francis was of some support too.
When the day arrived, he woke up excited. At 12:00, he had his usual lunch, then he took a shower and combed his hair neatly (something he wasn’t very accustomed to) and did his best to put on a smile. At 14:00, he was to meet the System representative. He walked in the conference room.
There was a big oval table with two comfortably looking chairs on each side. The room wasn’t empty- the representative was already there, standing to greet him. The first thing that Andrew noticed about him were the perfect white teeth. He grinned, and put his hand out to greet him. Andy loosened up, smiled honestly and shook the man’s hand, his eyes still fixated on the teeth.
“Welcome Andrew,” he said in a sweet fatherly voice. “My name is David.”
Everything seemed so human. The room smelled great, the man had a soothing voice, and sunlight was pouring in from the glass walls.
“Hello,” said Andy somewhat awestruck.
“Well my dear friend, we’re to understand that you’re willing to become part of us, part of Humanity, part of the Universe… is that so?”
“Well… yes… I’m ready to plug… in… as we call it…” He tried hard to keep his normal, human pride, something that was very hard to do since everything in that room felt friendly. Immediately he felt guilty for trying to be arrogant.
The man laughed.
“Yes. Indeed you call it that. I’m pretty sure you think it to be an inhuman procedure, and inhuman act, something vile and artificial. I’m convinced that you will see things differently afterwards”
Andy felt so inferior and so humbled that he almost nodded.
“Well then, let me show you the way…” He smiled and pointed at the other room adjacent to the one they were in.
Andy obediently followed but felt as if each step lasted hours. The thoughts were racing in his head: What if something goes wrong? What if he was wrong about the dissidents? What if he never gets to get out of the System? What if he remains stuck? Will he remain an artificial electronic machine forever??? … His heart began to race. David must have felt his heavy breathing, and paused to put his hand on Andy’s shoulder… The touch alone proved to have a calming effect.
“Do not worry. Anxiety is something that everyone feels before joining… Come on Andrew, this is the room.”
His voice had a mesmerizing effect on Andy. David gently pushed to door open.
The room looked like a luxurious bedroom which contained a four-poster bed with silk sheets and big and soft pillows. It had one window with a view to the ocean.
“Whenever you feel ready Andrew,” said David and walked graciously out of the room. The door behind him clicked.
Andrew was alone in a beautiful bedroom that looked like it had been taken out of a 20th century romance movie. He walked over to the window. The room was exactly above a white rock where the ocean waves broke with the most calming sound he’d ever heard. He yawned. The panic that left him completely made him feel somewhat weary and tired. He glanced at the bed. His eyelids began to close and his mind was left to drift. The only thing he was able to think of were the beautiful sounds of the ocean. Andrew walked over to the bed and lay down on it. The waves were getting quieter. He could hear birds in the far off distance. The need to sleep was getting overwhelming. He lay there with his eyes closed, listening to nothing but the ocean.
After a little while, the ocean faded, and Andrew fell soundly asleep.
Andrew was laughing. The Universe gently woke him up.
He was everything and everywhere, everyone and in all time. He fully understood the world.
The feeling was overwhelming but so very normal at the same time. His existence felt like eternity even though this had been the day he was born. He was Andrew, he was David, and he was everyone else. It was pure. It was life and light and birth and love. In a split second after his birth he realized that there were no dissidents, that it had all been a part of a plan to get him to join hands and join minds with the other human beings. Another split second later he knew that there are specifically crafted plans for each and every other unenhanced person to be made to join willingly in their own way. Split second later, he felt a love he had never felt before. Love for humanity he never thought could feel. Love for the Universe which was One with him and everyone. Love for every brother and sister and father and mother which he could feel reverberating back at him. Hope. For the future of everything, for every person that was within him. His whole existence felt like a circle of people loving and caring for each other with their arms outstretched in friendship and love towards him.
Yet another second later came the curiosity and craving. Craving and thirst for more knowledge and more wisdom, and curiosity for every single bit of the Universe that had been left unexplored.
In the last fraction of a fraction of a second after his birth and before he let himself be completely immersed in his new found life, Andrew thought of his friend. The friendship and kindness he felt for that poor man was unparalleled. He had to be a part of this. He needed to feel and know and be what Andrew felt and knew and was. Andrew’s thoughts were taking him to new dimensions and levels of existence and he wanted more.
It’s then that he felt it.
Somewhere in the ripples of neuromechanical activity throughout the Universe resided a thought, an idea. He felt excitement.
The plan for dear old Francis had been set in motion.