Simulation Part 4

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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.

Like hell.

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.”

And us?

“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.


(FIN)

Simulation Part 3

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Kathryn’s head was pounding. Well, Jevah’s head was pounding, but since Kathryn was driving right now, it might as well be her head. Don’t think about that too much. You’ll go crazy.

“Jevah? Are you okay? I heard something…”

Kathryn whirled Jevah’s body around. A woman was standing there, pretty, wearing something that looked like silk. Kathryn had never been attracted to women, but felt a surge of attraction upon seeing her. A function of biology, or Jevah attempting to assert himself? Not important. “I’m fine,” the words came out in Jevah’s voice, which was much higher than he had presented it to her earlier. “Stubbed my toe.”

“Okay…” the woman – suddenly a name, Asera, flashed into Kathryn’s mind. “I just – what is that!?” The concern was gone, anger flaring up. Kathryn followed her finger to a cable, the one she had pulled off of Jevah’s temples. “What were you doing?”

“Uh.” Jevah’s knowledge was still assimilating, and Kathryn realized she had absolutely no idea what a neural interface could do besides tap into a simulated universe and that Jevah was terrified of Asera finding out he had been doing so. “Calibration.”

Asera crossed her arms, her jaw clenching. “Calibration. Do you think I’m an idiot, Jevah! You were back in the virtual brothels. You know how I feel about that!”

A great shame welled up in Jevah’s mind, but Kathryn officially had run out of patience with this crap. I have a world to save, I don’t have time to care about your marital issues, lady. “Yeah, I know. I just…I can’t do this. I need time to think.”

“Oh, you need time to think!?” Kathryn recognized the tone. It was the same she had taken herself with her ex-husband when she’d found out about the co-ed in his physics lecture. “How about what I think, Jevah!? Does that even matter!?”

“No, it-” Kathryn wanted to get out, but Jevah’s emotions kept welling up – shame, embarrassment, anger – and she couldn’t force Jevah’s lips to be callous enough to send her off in a huff.

“No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. That’s it. I’m taking everything offline – including Core 23, before you get arrested for-”

Panic welled up in Kathryn, and it wasn’t just hers. Jevah was panicking at the thought as well. Kathryn moved, shoving Asera firmly.

The world went woozy as soon as she did. Jevah trying to get control of his own mind. Distantly she was aware of Asera running, the silk somehow transforming into actual clothes by some magic of technology as she escaped the house where, as far as she could tell, her husband had gone insane.

Kathryn wrestled back control of the mind. The world stabilized.

Okay, she’s going to call the police. Which means…I can’t be here when I get back. She looked around the room, which was feeling increasingly familiar. Spotted Core 23. It was about a foot long and shaped like a football.

Pack. There it was. A pack under the desk for transporting cores. She pulled it out and delicately removed Core 23 from its moorings.

For a moment, what she was doing struck her. She was, quite literally, holding the entirety of creation in her hands. Every atom, every star, every planet, every plant and animal and person – everything. It should be heavier. It was a ridiculous thing to be worried about now, but there it was.

With greater care than even Jevah had ever shown, she placed the Core in the pack. It would keep power to it for about twelve hours, Jevah knew so Kathryn knew. After that, the Core’s internally battery gave them another hour. After that…everyone died.

But a plan was forming in Jevah’s mind, and Kathryn was furiously stealing it. If it worked…if it worked, they’d have power to it in ten hours. And in thirty, they’d have started the process that would save Earth.

So, with the entire world on her back, Kathryn headed out to the nearest spaceport.


It was hard not to stare as Kathryn stepped out the front door. The most prominent feature was the sky – nearly a quarter of the sky was filled by a gas giant, banded with greens and blues. The reflected light from the giant, she realized from Jevah’s stolen knowledge thoughts that this was what passed for night here, although it was bright.

The street was mostly empty, and the few vehicles – vaguely like cars – that raced along it had no drivers. Just passengers laying back, taking naps, or otherwise relaxing. Signs glowed and moved and looked, speaking to people as they walked by. In the distance, buildings floated above the ground on passways of what looked like solid lights.

It was all so incredibly alien, but also familiar, Jevah’s memories creating a dissonant Deja vu that Kathryn had to ignore. Clock was ticking.

She headed off towards the spaceport, following a route that Jevah knew well. Muscle memory carried her, and she tried her best to let her mind wander to make that as strong as possible.

It was drawn to the contents of that pack. The entire planet Earth, in simulation. Because there had never been an Earth, never been an America, or a Milky Way. There had never been a Kathryn.

Except there was now.

A low, droning buzz was approaching. A car pulled up, emblazoned with a logo like a shield. Kathryn turned and ducked into an alley, pressing herself against the wall.

Her breathing was heavy. But they couldn’t see her, surely she doesn’t know about the thermals imagers wait, what? Wooziness again. She almost fell to Jevah’s knees, and whatever he’d had for dinner spilled out of his/her/their mouth and splattered across the pavement. You can hear me? No time to think, had to act. She could hear footsteps approaching, and took off running.

Hello? Can you hear me? Am I still here?

Simulation Part 2

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Kathryn felt like an idiot, standing there holding the sign. What had been a short conversation for Jevah had been six months of grueling research and development for the lab. But based on what they had been able to piece together of The Code, there was an observer. The room she was standing in was designed to hijack the observation signal, which had been cleverly hidden in the cosmic background radiation.

A chill crept over her spine as she contemplated that, while she was feeling stupid, she had just announced to intelligence with the power to create an entire simulated reality that she knew they were watching, and had made it impossible for them to look at anything but her.

The room was a plain white affair, with panels all along the wall. The panels were made of pure platinum, which would be expensive beyond belief, but once you knew the Code, generating what you needed – so long as you were working with elements, compounds were far more difficult. Just put a chunk of one matter into a specially designed box, and overwrite its existing code with the desired code. Input a dozen kilos of dirt, enter code, and get a dozen kilos of platinum.

She would have been giddy with excitement over it if it wasn’t for the fact that it was only possible because the dirt and platinum both weren’t real. So she stood there, holding a sign, hoping for and terrified about getting a word from something real.

Around the point fear was starting to fade and she was feeling like they must have failed, the lights started to flicker. Kathryn dropped the sign in surprise, pressing her back to the wall.

“Be not afraid,” said a voice. Too late. Kathryn’s heart was pounding as a ghostly shape began to form in the center of the room.

She composed herself as best she could. The figure fixed her with a gaze, and was slowly resolving into a humanoid made of golden light.

“I am Jevah. You wished to speak?”

She took a final deep breath. Time to literally meet your maker. She didn’t chuckle at the thought because she was worried it would turn into hysterics. “I’m Dr. Neal. We’ve discovered this world is a simulation. Are you…are you the one who stimulated us?”

The golden figure nodded. “I did, many years ago. Billions of years for you – I slowed down your simulation to give us time to interact.”

“Oh. Well…thank you for that.” What exactly did one say to their own creator? She’d planned this out, but now that it was happening she was finding it hard to focus on the plan. “If word we are a simulation gets out…will you shut us down?”

The figure nodded, and there was a slowness to it that part of Kathryn’s brain registered as something like sadness. “Once Revelation has begun, a world must be ended. Simulated life cannot become aware it is simulated.”

“But…I am aware.”

Again, the figure – Jevah, Kathryn. He has a name. – nodded. “And so your world has to end. I’m sorry.”

“That’s not right! We are alive, aren’t we? We deserve to exist!”

This time, Jevah the Golden Figure, shook his head. “You are Core 23, one of dozens of Cores simulating possible universes. The moment a Core undergoes Revelation, we have to…we have to wipe and begin again.”

Fear reached in idly and gripped Kathryn’s chest. “You’ll kill billions.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t…don’t say you’re sorry! If you were sorry, you wouldn’t wipe us from existence!” Kathryn realized she was screaming, and didn’t care. The time for being calm and composed had passed. This Jevah was literally talking about ending the world – and was turning his face from hers. Looking down. An incredibly human gesture of shame. “Don’t you dare look away,” she snapped, and his face turned to meet hers.

“You speak this way when I created you?”

Kathryn sobbed out a laugh. “You’re going to kill all of all anyway, you bastard. I’ll talk to you however I want.”

Jevah stared at her. Kathryn wondered if she’d gone too far with that, pushed too hard. He might erase her now, and that would be that.

They’d only get one chance at this.


Jevah was breaking so many laws doing this. So, so many. Of course, once he wiped Core 23 no one would know – he’d have to scrub out his own presence, claim he shut it down earlier than he did, but that wouldn’t be hard. Speaking to simulated intelligences? Forbidden on nearly every level. It was Anathema.

And yet…

This Kathryn fascinated him. She alternated between cool collection and screaming emotion in short bursts, and based on her file the former was the more common reaction. The people in the lab also fascinated him, staring through windows. Seeing them like this, up close and personal…they were so very, very human.

“I don’t have a choice,” he said, his voice being transmitted through the golden avatar and given a gravitas his actual words didn’t carry. “There are laws even I must obey.”

Kathryn let out another of those wet half sob, half laughs. “So…there are more of you?”

“Yes. An entire galaxy’s worth of people. I modeled Andromeda after our galaxy. We’ve populated every world that could be made habitable.”

“Oh.” She paused, thinking. Looking more and more resolved. “So…how are you here? Are you plugged in somehow?”

“Yes.” No point hiding anything from them, not anymore. They were all dead soon. Jevah didn’t like that, but the more he thought about it…a sobbing woman’s impassioned plea, while heart-wrenching, was not enough to throw away his life. So he could to them a kindness, at least. Let the know things before the end. Give them closure. “A direct neural interface.”

The intelligence he had seen in her eyes earlier lit up. “Are you – human? Did you create us in your own image?”

Jevah had to chuckle at that. “Yes, actually. It provided the best data point.”

“Good.” She hit one of the platinum panels. “I was counting on that.”

Jevah felt a sickening sensation and fell to his knees. “What…did you…how?”

There wasn’t fear in her eyes anymore. That cool collection was back. “Carrier signal hidden in the cosmic background radiation. We decrypted it. Found a way to hijack it. Data goes both ways.”

She walked over to him, and to Jevah’s eyes, her form was becoming ghostly, discorporate. She was becoming Code. No. No no no no. “You can’t…do this. I am…your creator.”

“Yes. You are.” She reached up, and put those ghostly fingers to the side of his head and through it. He started to scream in pain.

“But I won’t let you be our destroyer.”


Kathryn woke up, letting out a gasp of pain. Only she hadn’t been in pain, Jevah had been in pain…she looked at her hands. They were bigger, darker, and had thicker hair than she was used to. She touched her cheeks, feeling stubble. Ran her fingers through her hair, her short, dark hair.

When she spoke, her voice was deeper, masculine. “Oh. It worked.” She could feel Jevah in her mind – or, more accurately, she could feel Jevah locked away in his own mind – and felt a grin of triumph spread across her lips.

So. I’ve hijacked God. Now…now I just need to figure out how to save the world.

Simulation Part 1

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“We’ve got a problem.”

Kathryn Neal looked up from her computer frowning. Ruben Cooper was standing at the door to her office, his face set in a frown. “Dr. Cooper, that’s both vague and uninformative. Please, elaborate.”

He sat down across the desk, shaking his head. “No time for jokes, Kat.” She hated her colleagues calling her that, almost as much as she hated vagueness. Her frown deepened “The latest test results came back. It’s…the science can’t be argued anymore. We’re living in a simulated reality.”

Kathryn held out her hand. “The data?”

He handed it over. She skimmed the data. Their lab was engaged in cutting edge particle physics research, and in their last batch of tests, they’d found an oddity. A binary particle that seemed to be completely omnipresent in all matter, the most fundamental building blocks of reality. The final tests confirmed their suspicions – when breaking down every Binary in a carbon atom and converting into ones and zeros, the string composed a series of commands that perfectly governed everything that carbon atom could do. It was code.

For her frown to deepen more, she’d have to detach her lips and let them droop to the floor. “Have you shown anyone else this?”

Ruben Cooper shook his head. “Not yet. Kat, once we do…” He trailed off, probably to leave her to imagine, but she kept going for him.

“Mass riots. Panics. Complete societal breakdown. Especially since the available data doesn’t answer the question of if we are real or if we are also simulated.”

He nodded earnestly. “And that’s just the start. It could lead to the simulation being shut down, if it disrupts it too much.”

Kathryn worried her lip, then stopped. It occurred to her it was entirely possible that both reactions were preprogrammed, and that if she started chewing her lower lip again it could be a coded response, but if she didn’t then it could also be coded…she was getting a headache. “Ruben. Go back to the workstation, and alter the data. The Binary’s exact structure and function are unknown, though we’re still researching.”

The older man leaned back like she had slapped him. “Falsify data? Surely you can’t be…”

“I’m quite serious.” A crazy urge to say and don’t call me Shirley popped up, but she stamped it down. “Because you’re right. It’s possible that this could disrupt the simulation. And we need to finish decoding it.” She fixed his gaze on hers. “It’s our only hope of being spared a shutdown.”


Kathryn’s lab wasn’t the only one getting close to the truth. It was giving Jevah a headache. “Core 23 is reporting numerous individuals getting close to Revelation.” He intoned into the microphone, wishing he could use something other than this dry monotone when reporting, wishing he could curse as badly as he wanted to. “Thus far incidents are isolated, and no report of complete Revelation. Monitoring to continue for another cycle.”

Jevah terminated the recording and then did begin cursing. Core 23 had been his pet project, a near perfect simulation. Extremely glitch free. Sure, it was limited – most Simulation Techs included dozens of alien species – but Jevah had focused on a single world, a single species, and perfected it. Sure, they were bitter, nasty individuals, but they also created their own art and love and had hopes and dreams…

A pair of hands fell on his shoulders. He looked up at Asera. “How’s it coming?”

He sighed. “Core 23 is close to Revelation. I might need to reboot sim – they found the Code.”

She gave him a sympathetic kiss on the forehead. “I know how much you like 23, Jevah, but if they obtain Revelation and you miss it…”

He sighed. “I’ll have created intelligence that is aware of its simulated nature, and be tried and executed. I know. It’s just…” His fingers flew across the keyboard. An image popped up. “This is Collie Blackford. He’s had a terrible life – lost both parents at age five to a drunk driver, sister later in life to a car accident caused by another drunk driver, and then her fiancée to a third. I’ve done everything to make her hate people who touch booze, and you know what she does?”

Asera sighed. “What, Jevah?”

“She volunteers with Alcoholics Anonymous! She works to help the kind of people that killed pretty much everyone she loves. And there are hundreds of people like her, thousands!” Asera could see that fire in Jevah’s eyes and wanted to slap him.

“Jevah. They’re not real. It’s a simulation. That kind of talk is dangerous. I’m not going to lose you because you forgot what’s real and what’s not.” She wanted to scream, but settled for a worried, hurt tone. Jevah winced at the sound.

“I’m sorry.”

She sighed. “Finish up here and come to bed. We’ll check in on Core 23 in the morning, give it a couple cycles. If Revelation has spread, we’ll shut it down. Okay?”

He took a deep breath, and then looked his wife in the eyes and saw the fear there. “Okay,” he lied, without flinching. She smiled with relief. “I just want to run a couple more tests first.”

“Okay. Don’t be up too late.” She left and he turned back to the screens. He waited, watching Core 23 spin and turn, and then when he heard the door to their bedroom close he slammed his fist on the desk. How could he do this? How could he end billions of lives that he had created? Just because it was the law?

Of course just because it’s the law. Their freedom isn’t worth…

He blinked, rubbing his eyes. The picture of Collie Blackford had vanished. A new woman was staring at the screen. She was plain, in her early thirties, but had a spark of intelligence in her eyes that drew Jevah to her instantly. She was holding up a sign, black marker on white board.

My name is Kathryn Neal. I have a life. I have found your code. I want to talk.

Please don’t end our lives.