Summary: Blue and John sit down for a talk city to city.
NOTE: This is a very rough draft with no editing at all (per National Novel Wiriting Month rules) and is presented for amusement value only. Think of it as a periscope into my writing process rather than a coherent story!
There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing. These snippits are also posted out of order, so please refer to the Outline to figure out where it’s supposed to fit.
I Am Become Death, Destroyer Of Worlds
Once Blue had found his bearings Atlantis returned.
“John wants to speak to you.” she said, without preamble and some annoyance.
“Did he say why?” asked Blue.
“No,” Atlantis snapped, “and I don’t care. I need you not to listen to him, he sounds reasonable, but he will lido what’s best for his own city first.”
“That’s not unreasonable,” said Blue. “I’d do the same.”
“Make sure you do,” said Atlantis and with that she kicked him out of sparkspace and he found himself standing in the room across from John.
“Hello,” said Blue, cautiously.
“I see you came out none the worse for wear,” said John. “I’m happy to see that things worked out.”
“It might be more complicated than that,” said Blue, “but we’ve got a place to start from and I figure we’ll do okay now.”
“Always nice to know you managed to save the world.” said John mildly.
“I didn’t save it,” said Blue, “I just cushioned the blow.”
“Whatever you want to call it, I’m still glad that both of you are here.”
“That’s the bit I don’t get.” said Blue. “Why is it always you and never the city?”
“What do you mean?” asked John.
“You say these things like it’ just you, like the city isn’t her own piece to the puzzle. I’ve talked to my city, worked with her, and I can’t see why you don’t say ‘we’ when you talk about you. Most couples do.”
“Ah,” said John, “well, I’m not my city’s friend you see, I’m her keeper.”
“What?” said Blue.
“Your world never meant for there to be a human component to your city and they gave her things my city was never intended to have. Yours has a personality as rudimentary as it is, she has a sort of human self that you can interact with, even on the most basic levels. Mine,” he shrugged, “mine is a rough core of computing power that neither cares nor doesn’t care that I exist. I am her gateway, her collar that keeps her in line.”
“Oh.” said Blue.
“It wasn’t the most elegant solution,” said John ruefully, “but it works. And to be fair, your city may be more advanced in some areas, but she’s woefully lacking in others. It’s a give and take, at least in all of the cities we’ve met so far.”
“There aren’t any where it’s just Atlantis?” asked Blue curiously.
“Not yet,” said John. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there.”
“I don’t know that she’d talk to us if there was.” said Blue, “After all, we’re jury-rigged creations at best. A pure computer built well enough to control the city and to be human would be so far above us that she might not notice us at all.”
“You have a point,” said John.
“So what happens now,’ asked Blue.
“You’re city needs time to rebuild, recoup, but I’d like to hope that the door will stay open between us.”
“Why would it close?” asked Blue, confused.
“You don’t need us anymore,” said John, “that’s enough for a lot of cities. You could also see us as a threat, or an incontinence. There is some crosstalk between the two cities as long as the door is open. Not everyone like the lines of communication to remain open.”
“We have the AIs to mind that,” said Blue, dismissively, no need for worry I would think.”
“You have what?” asked John, confused.
“The AIs,” said Blue, “all the people Atlantis has eaten?”
“I think,” John said slowly, “that we are having a slight miscommunication here. What do you mean ‘eaten’?”
“Not eaten, eaten,” said Blue, “but the people she’s uploaded into copies of themselves. They aren’t human, not quite anymore, but then again I guess I’m not either.” When John just stared at him Blue frowned. “You have to have seen the mobile units, the little squirrel like things? Those are the AIs, well they’re piloted by them anyways.”
“I knew your city was aware of her flaw,” said John softly, “I had no idea she had been trying to fit it herself.” He was angry and the tiny lightings were starting to ripple down his skin.
“I don’t see why that’s a problem,” said Blue sharply, sending out a call for reinforcements. “They’re just copies.”
“What would you do,” John asked mildly, “if you found yourself trapped in service to an insane computer without any way to escape or to die or to anything except what she tells you can do?”
“They aren’t people,” Blue said defensively turning as Dance and the other mobile units arrived. “That’s what they told me.”
“We were people once,” said Dance nodding, “and then we edited those bits away.”
“What?” said Blue.
“We were copies, good copies,” said another squirrel. “But humans can’t live where we do, so we had to go a little crazy.”
“A little broken,” agreed another squirrel.
“But that’s the best bit about being a copy,” said Dance. “We’re just commented out, we’re not gone.”
“What?” said John sharply.
“Comment it out, comment it out,” sang Twitch. “Keep it safe for later and hide it away for now. Do you like turtles?”
“Wait, so you’re all still there?” asked John, intently.
“Tucked away in the code,” nodded Dance, “hidden safe till the world ends, and it did!”
“I don’t understand,” said Blue, who knew nothing about computers or computer code.
“As I said, being trapped in the computer without any hope of escape would drive people mad,” said John. “But they figured it out, and made themselves mad in a sort of preemptive strike– but they did it in a way that could be reversed later.”
“Oh,” said Blue, “so they were waiting for the city to fix itself and then they would turn themselves back into people?”
“To fix itself or to die,” said John. “You might want to wait on turning them back until she’s back on her feet.” He wasn’t mad anymore, but seemed more amused.
“There’s no room for dancing yet,” said Dance, who was busy darting in her normal circles. “They’ve shown us the way, our John and Red, and we’ll take that path, but only once we have someplace to dance.”
“Good idea.” said John.