Kathryn ran, and the footsteps followed. She’d risked glancing back over their shoulder, and seen the “cops” that were chasing her. They were robots, sleekly designed with big, friendly smiley faces.
If the intent had been to make them warm and welcoming, it had backfired horribly.
Jevah knew these streets, had grown up on them. They were part of him as much as his thoughts were, and that made them hers as well. On the flip side, the robotic police officers chasing after her with their horrible, unmoving smiles were equipped with advanced Artificial Intelligence, satellite imaging, tracking algorithms and GPS. Let me help.
Jevah was getting chatty in here, his thoughts merging with hers. It was distracting and annoying and terrifying, a reminder that she was an invader here. And your code is degrading.
Shut up. He was right though. She’d known she only had a limited time, that the universe code she’d been written with was designed for an entirely different operating system. Her consciousness, her entire being, was basically a .exe file, and she’d uploaded it to…no, saying she’d uploaded it to a Mac didn’t go far enough. Everything that was her was a .exe file, and she’d uploaded it to Niagara Falls.
Gunfire flew past her in the alley. Hyper advanced robot cops seemed to miss a lot – or they were firing warning shots. The latter seemed more likely, that or they were herding her towards something.
A small part of her brain except you don’t have one of those, you’re just ones and zeroes the analytical part that had gotten her to earn her doctorate and work in cutting edge particle physics, noted with some vague interest that propelling chunks of metal was still the preferred method of ending a human life, even in the real world.
I want to save Core 23 too.
She thought it was true. It felt true, his thought rang of it, a gong in the dark. Fine. What do we do?
Right ahead. She turned at the intersection. Up ahead was a large black box on the side of the building. Open it. Cross the red and blue wire, then start running again. Again, without knowing what else to do, she did so, their hands moving deftly.
It started to hum ominously once she did, and she turned and bolted away from it. Around the time the robot police were turning the same corner, it blew up. The explosion was minor, but the robots collapsed like puppets with their strings cut.
She stopped, catching their breath. “What was that?” She asked, actually speaking out loud in her confusion.
Transformer. The models around here are old, they emit a low-grade EMP when you cross those wires. Don’t worry, the pack is shielded. But you need to keep moving. She did so, turning down the path towards the spaceport.
What’s your plan? The thought surprised her because it had been his plan, hadn’t it? I wasn’t conscious then, not really. I was more of a subroutine. What are you thinking?
“No.” Hearing that voice come out of her mouth surprised her, and she didn’t think she’d get used to it for the rest of her life. Not that she had all that much longer left “You get to find out when I’m sure I can trust you.”
I just saved you from the police, didn’t I?
“You saved yourself. If I get arrested, so do you.”
Fair. Jevah fell silent in their mind as the spaceport loomed ahead. She checked her watch. 8 hours of power left. That stopped her cold. From the time she left the house, to now, even with the chase with the police and the rest of the walking, four hours had passed? Oh. Terminology problem. What you call hours are significantly longer than real hours.
Crap. That meant much less of a window than she thought. Fortunately, one thing she’d pulled from Jevah’s mind was still true. A crack in the spaceport’s back wall maintenance room, where he’d snuck in as a child to watch the ships take off and launch.
It didn’t take her long, once here, to find a spare uniform and slip into it. It had a badge. The man the badge belonged to had bright purple skin and green hair, Enkim. Hopefully, no one would look too close. “I am Kathryn pretending to be Jevah pretending to be Enkim. Imperson-ception”
She could have sword Jevah was laughing in her mind. I loved that movie. A great creation you all came up with there – truly, I loved all your art. Most of the galaxy did, actually.
She stepped out into the spaceport proper, checking one of the displays. Thankfully, a ship was docked that met her criteria. Is that what this was all about? Our art?
Of course. Jevah’s answer surprised her, but she kept walking as he continued. We can simulate universes, did you think we need it for the science? But art…art reflects experiences. Stories mimic culture. So we create universes to create entirely new cultures to give us entirely new art.
She…didn’t know what to say to that. Fortunately, the ship was ahead, and she swiped her way in. Kathryn, what do you want with a terraforming…oh. That’s…actually genius.
She walked up to the control module and opened in a panel. She’d plucked the knowledge out of Jevah’s mind, although the idea had taken root during their first conversation. “An entire galaxy’s worth of people. I modeled Andromeda after our galaxy. We’ve populated every world that could be made habitable,” they’d said. No, he said. Or had she said it? It was me. His mental voice was soft, gentle. She didn’t have much time.
But when she’d first been in his mind, she’d looked at how they terraform. Great engines went to worlds and reworked the entire planet, land and sea and atmosphere. The science and scale behind it boggled her mind. And to solve the problem of travel, they skipped sending people. DNA was created from raw materials, adult humans with full memories created.
She slotted out one of the existing Cores. It didn’t contain an entire universe, just a single planet. But Kathryn had wanted, when she designed the universe, for only a single planet to house life, so the ships motherboard would ignore the rest of it as junk data. No, wait, that had been what Jevah had wanted. Kathryn wasn’t real.
“But I’m still real enough,” she muttered. The old core she slipped into the bag.
The Terraforming engine won’t get to its destination for another thousand full galactic years. It’s going to a new galaxy. It’ll be two or three hundred more for it to remake the land…but by the time it’s done, it’ll have created Earth.
“Yeah.” She smiled and began walking back to the maintenance room. “They get to live.”
“I never got be a real girl.” She was speaking out loud, muttering. She felt tears welling in their eyes. “But we got to make a world, that counts for something, right?”
Yes. It does.
“Good. That’s…that’s good.” Quietly, gently, Jevah slipped back into control of his body.
I won’t forget you he thought. Not that it would be hard. His life was in ruins. Maybe he could claim temporary insanity. He’d figure it out later.
For now, he waited as Kathryn slowly faded away. She held on long enough for the Terraforming ship to launch, to be sure that Earth would be made in another galaxy. She held on tooth and nail, and as soon as the ship breached atmosphere, Kathryn Neal, the woman who never was, faded away.