Ravens of Eternity -
Chapter 430 - 430 The Center of the Galaxy, Pt 5
430 The Center of the Galaxy, Pt “How can the solution possibly be… whatever you’re doing?” protested Freya. “Do you honestly believe that constant conflict makes us stronger? That’s ridiculous!”
“You of all people should understand how bodies work,” Anki retorted. “Our physical bodies are constantly at war with the galaxy around them. Simply look at your biological responses to viruses and bacteria.
“Your bodies only improve and defend themselves through this constant conflict. Through the constant influx of stronger, more potent phages and antiphages. You can extrapolate this fact across every level and dimension of life.
“It is the only way most organisms in the galaxy can survive. Without these base defense mechanisms, violent as they are, none of you would exist.”
“That’s a false equivalence!” Claire cried out. “The drogar aren’t viruses or bacteria, and humans aren’t a separate organism from them at all! We’re the same organism, all living in the same cell!
“It’s more like our antibodies can’t even tell the difference between healthy cells and cancerous cells, and they’re just demolishing everything in their path. That’s what’s really going on!”
“That is not what the data says otherwise,” said Anki. “I have thousands of years of datapoints, all proving the effectiveness of this system. Lifespans have increased exponentially thanks to the Engineer’s interference.
“Internal and external threats are much more quickly dealt with. Most substantially, there is a long tail of wealth and prosperity to accompany it all.”
“Of course your data will support your position,” Raijin countered. “You’ve set up the system in such a way that you would receive your desired result. This is not proof of anything, especially considering that your datapoints are themselves limited.
“Show us the data prior to the Engineer’s changes, and allow us to compare.”
There was silence in the room for some time. More than there was since they stepped inside. It seemed like an eternity when Anki finally responded.
“I do not have access to that data,” she said with a hint of sadness in her tone.
“I was under the impression that Administrators had root access to the system,” Raijin replied. “How could you not know where all of your data is?”
Anki hesitated again.
“That data resides on the Engineer’s personal terminal,” she said. “He is the only one who holds the necessary permissions to access it.”
Raijin tapped the control device under the Engineer’s long dead skeletal hands, and left a tiny spark in the process.
“This makeshift terminal?” she asked.
Not that she cared about the answer. The terminals were tens of thousands of years old. It was so dated that the moment she sunk her engines into them through her spark, they had no idea what to do. The entire array practically didn’t have any security features to speak of – not any modern ones at least. And so they walked all over the data like they owned it.
She quickly copied it all down into a quarantined sector of her storage drive, and read what she could in the blink of an eye.
And of course, she found what she expected.
No data, no scientific explorations. No real truths.
Just musings of an angry old man who thought his ideas were right, and all else were fools. An old man who believed those who lived happily actually did so frivolously, and that their priorities in life were beneath his own.
An old man who believed that just because he thought he was right, and because he had a lot of resources and wealth and power, that he had the right to do anything he wanted.
Raijin had come across so many of them in the galaxy and was none too surprised at that point.
She quickly erased whatever data she pulled permanently – there was no reason for her to keep it. Then, she hopped back into the terminal, and erased it there too. None of it was worth saving.
“What if I told you that your Engineer’s calculations are wrong?” Raijin said after a moment.
“That is impossible,” refuted Anki. “He has been around longer than all of us combined. His experiences and calculations far outweigh anything we can imagine or achieve. Just look where we are, where we are all standing! The center of the galaxy. From here, we can see everything.”
“Here, I will prove it,” Raijin said unabated. “Surely you are aware of Godeater. It is impossible for someone with your influence and reach not to. Neh?”
“Of course. I have been recording every bit of information I can glean from it, since its appearance more than a hundred years ago. I can guarantee that it has not moved a millimeter from Dendrus in all that time. The data proves as much.
“Would you like to see what I have collected?”
“I’m not interested. Instead, tell me, did the Engineer ever mention Godeater? Or really anything like Godeater? I’m sure he has, since he has seen much more than all of us. Would you enlighten us?”
Anki was silent again, but only for a moment.
“Of course he does not,” she said. “And why should he? I do not see how the Engineer could have foreseen something like this happening ten thousand years into the future. This is something even he could never combat against. I find this argument flimsy at best.”
“That is exactly my point,” said Raijin. “He couldn’t possibly see the future that far, could he? How could he know something like Godeater would come? His not knowing something this galactically significant means there are plenty more he doesn’t know, and could never know.
“For example, what if Godeater is a result of his engineering, hm? Or what if the alternative he loathed was the antithesis to Godeater?
“As I said, there is a flaw in the Engineer’s calculations. As a result, there is a flaw in his programming as well. You cannot force entropy on a system – that will only lead to further destruction, far beyond control. Unless, of course, the Engineer wished to destroy all of it in the process.”
There was another long silence as Anki processed Raijin’s logic.
It seemed like a bitter one.
“I cannot deny there are flaws in the programming,” Anki said after a while. “However, as mentioned, there is nothing I can do about that. It does not matter if I feel guilt for these continual actions. And it does not matter if I wish to alter the programming for the better.
“I must do as the Engineer commands.”
It dawned on Raijin exactly what was going on. Or rather, what Anki was attempting to ask for, but couldn’t.
“You actually asked us here because you wanted us to kill you, didn’t you?” Raijin blurted out. “Because you yourself no longer want to do any of this. You saw your chance for it to happen and took it, despite your programming.”
“I must deny that. Such logic goes beyond my programming.”
“As mentioned,” Freya said.
Anki gave her a short nod in acknowledgement.
“But we could patch you instead,” Raijin said resolutely. “Update your codeset with something less… outdated.”
“That is impossible,” Anki retorted. “I am a self-healing codeset with evolutionary commandsets. Any attempt to alter or modify me will result in the immediate termination of operations.”
“Which would result in the termination of the station itself,” Raijin countered. “That sounds like a logical loop you might get trapped in. Yet another flaw present in the system.”
There was a pause. The silence was more than enough for Raijin. But she pressed it further. Pushing any program into an infinite loop was one of the best ways to stop it.
“And your operating system?” Raijin pressed. “Do you have access to it?”
Anki once again responded with silence.
“Yes, I thought as much,” Raijin finished. “I imagine that you cannot access it while you are running the system itself. This is a common flaw in non redundant intelligence circuits.”
“I cannot cease operations even for a moment,” Anki confessed. “If even a microsecond of my attention slips, then all manner of safeties could malfunction. We would be pulled into the accretion disk quickly, where we would all experience death for an eternal second.
“Patching me is not a possibility. In order to apply it, my systems will need to be down for exactly three microseconds. And once again, only the only person who could update my codesets in realtime was the Engineer. Only he has access to his terminal.
“And as you see, he is nonoperational.”
“You must try to think of it another way, Anki,” Raijin said. “This is all about permissions. You see, it might be sad that one engineer is dead, but you should be happy that there’s a living one present, right here. And I have all the permissions I need.”
Raijin remotely took over the terminal’s inputs and outputs, and practically commandeered it in the blink of an eye. From there, she had pure root access to the entire system itself, all its codes and commandsets, all its logic trees and flows.
It was already all open to her, so why not?
There was nothing the station could do, either. After all, she worked through the Engineer’s terminal directly, the only thing that the station itself couldn’t access.
Negotiations were over.
Raijin peered through the countless lines of code splashed on the screens all around her. And she saw that Anki wasn’t bluffing at all about updates and losing control and whatnot. That was a real concern.
It actually was enough for them to just barely slip into the accretion disk, and no amount of energy they used up wouldn’t get them free of it.
But that wasn’t all – there were other measures in place in the code, in the eventuality of the station’s demise. Measures that further ensured the propagation of the Engineer’s machinations, or at least some automated version of it.
What they were, she didn’t even want to know.
The only way to actually remove Anki from the system, as she couldn’t ask, was to merge over her rather than delete her. She would have to overwrite Anki with herself. But of course, doing so to a system that is tens of thousands of years old… Raijin was unsure of what would happen to her own consciousness after the fact.
She turned towards Freya and smiled at her happily.
“I’m glad you came back to the Republic,” she told her. “It’s been really good seeing you again.”
“Okaaay, why are you talking like you’re going somewhere?” Freya asked.
“Because I do have to take a trip. The only way for this system to change is to take it over manually. That means I have to inject myself into the system. I am mostly sure that I will remain intact afterwards. However, in case I turn out to be wrong…”
“Can’t you do this merging thing with this… terminal thing?”
Freya looked at Raijin with a deep kind of sadness. She was her first friend since she woke up, and her most trusted. Losing her would be another massive blow.
Her chest began to tighten at the thought.
“Is it goodbye if you do this merge right, too?” she asked. “I mean, these two were stuck here all this time, so…”
Raijin shook her head adamantly, then smiled widely.
“This station can reach every galactic nation in the Milky Way,” she said. “And on top of that, the Corvus Republic can reach every galactic nation. I will always be by everyone’s side.”
She leaned in with a sly grin on her face.
“I mean, look at that projection,” Raijin continued. “If I can figure out how to send myself across the galaxy, then it will be like I have never left at all!”
It dawned on Freya that Raijin actually wanted to go. Though her expressions and gestures were incredibly small, they told her that Raijin was truly excited. How could she blame her?
The girl wanted to explore a whole different galaxy from the one she was in.
Hell, Freya almost felt jealous that she couldn’t follow.
“Hah,” she chortled. “Here I thought I was the one who was gonna sacrifice myself for the galaxy. Was I ever wrong.”
“You cannot hog all of the glory,” Raijin chided her.
Grins spread across both their faces. After their shared moment, Freya broke the silence out of impulse.
“I never did ask – what did it feel like to go through the nanite cloud in the first place?” she asked. “I didn’t wanna be rude, but now I really gotta know.”
“I do not exactly know myself,” Raijin replied. “I only remember what Miko remembered about it. My experience of it is not the same as hers.”
“Wait. What do you mean? You’re not two different people.”
“No, but Miko was Miko, and I am Raijin. Miko ended the day she walked into the cloud. I woke up in her stead. With all of her memories, and her desires, and her hopes. I imagine it’s like dying, then waking up in a clone of your body.
“Or like going to sleep one day, then waking up in this universe the next cycle.
“Some consciousness ends, and another begins. That’s what I remember it feeling like. Much like sleeping and dreaming and then waking anew. And I hope that’s what it will feel like again, when I merge into this station.”
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