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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Perfect Me - Chapter One - Prail


Prail Abraxis sat in her lab, going over the numbers from the previous day. From all indications, Project X was a go. One of her private interests, it represented the culmination of her life’s work thus far. Prail was planning on making a twin brother for herself, which was probably against the rules. She managed to evade a lot of them, though. Her latest interest was permitted with silent consent.

Praxis, her home world, was at the center of a great falsehood. Praxalians ran the machines that projected recordings of the former inhabitants of a planet that had been destroyed in a great cataclysm. She lacked specific details as to what exactly had occurred, but she was assured by her elder that it was horrific, and that she really shouldn’t look into it any further. When she’d made repeated, insistent inquiries, Prail hit a wall of silence. Consequently, uncovering the truth was also one of her pet projects.

Her job was an easy one, at least by Praxalian standards. It was an intern position, usually held for one hundred and eighty standard cycles, the equivalent of about nine months. Prail herself was sixteen hundred and twenty cycles old, and had already served ninety-six.

The remnants of Earth, which was the penal colony of Praxis, pre-cataclysm, was contained in the Grand Banks. This was the planet’s central processing core, and where she and her family dwelled. The Earthtwoians were projected in nine dimensions onto the surface of the planet: the X, Y, and X planes, time, and their five limited senses.

Three suns orbited Praxis. Prail’s primary task was writing the functions and subroutines that insured they was manipulated so no one on the surface was exposed to more than one sun at a time. It was boring work. Much of the computational routines were long-since written. In fact, there hadn’t been an unforeseen convergence the entire time she had been on the assignment.

So she had ample opportunity to amuse herself. Not only that, but she had access to incredibly powerful hardware and software. A common activity for Praxalians in Prail’s position, taboo though it was, was to temporarily take over the body of an Earth2 citizen for a joyride. They would usually provoke the hapless avatar for a while, manipulate them into doing something terrible, and then abandon them to their fate, heedless of the damage caused.

Prail was different. She found a particularly hopeless individual, and infused them with secret knowledge, and inner peace and calm. When she left them, they never knew she was there in the first place, but they were fully transformed. Some did go insane. Some suicided. But for the most part, it was a net gain. She slept with a Clean Conscience.

A Clean Conscience was a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation pillow that filtered out bad dreams.

Her friends, if you could call them that. You couldn’t. Her peers, if you-. No, she was peerless. Other Praxalians manipulated Earthtwoians into committing horrible violence and sexual atrocities. It was sort of given a pass on Praxis because they knew that the poor earthlings weren’t real anyway, so no one cared, generally speaking.

Prail cared.

In the course of her investigative work, she’d come across the Bible. It fascinated her, and she felt it held the key to understanding what went wrong on Earth one point oh. As near as she could tell, there were sixteen hundred and twelve different conflicting versions floating around. Yet, in each one, she found snatches of truth and beauty.

She often wondered how a planet could have destroyed itself when it had such a glorious gift in its possession. The Bible only spurred on her love of reading, and she devoured great chunks of ancient Earth literature and culture. Eventually she uncovered what she considered a fatal flaw in the algorithms that made up Earth2: there was almost no culture to speak of, and most of it was decidedly low-brow.

She yearned for a promotion, so she could begin to correct what she considered programming errors. Patience was a vital part of Praxalian culture, and Prail knew that time was approaching, but it didn’t mean she had to wait idly by until then.

So she wrote code in some of her spare time, filing it away in her private server space, where she could merge it with the source tree later. But it was extremely tricky code to write. How could you author A.I. code that was greater that the sum of its parts? Her initial attempts involved “borrowing” bits from great innovators of the past: a little da Vinci, a little Shakespeare, a little de Sade.

But when Prail executed the sandboxed code, she was always disappointed with the results. However, there was hope. As her code base grew, the logic began to improve itself.

She simply added more to the mix. Robert A. Heinlein, H.P. Lovecraft. A somewhat obscure author named Stephen King. As she did so and studied the results, Prail realized it was a matter of varying their motivations. She was fairly thunderstruck by the revelation. It was a huge bug in the base code. Prail knew it would be an easy fix. She was going to be famous.

But how would she be able to check the code in?

All changes to the source had to get past MotherBrain. And no one was allowed to upstage MotherBrain. Prail needed a hero, a champion. She was still considered too young and small to be of much consequence on Praxis, which tended to venerate the sizable and muscular. She hadn’t even found her voice, yet.

Prail had big shoes to fill. All of her older sisters had done great things: Hera, Andromeda, Demeter, Aphrodite, Venus. And those were the few she could name offhand. Prail probably had a hundred big sisters, each one a huge overachiever.

She felt impossibly small. At times like these, she retreated into coding. When she wrote games, the Praxalians of her own age recognized her as a unique genius. It was possible to write specific rule sets and scenarios, and then allow other Praxalians to jump into them via Earthtwoians. Prail’s games allowed other Praxalians to transcend who they were, for a time.

Every game she wrote required extensive play testing. She was currently juggling seven: Death Race 2000, Barbarians, Survival Of The Fittest, Construction Master, Reaper Madness, Big Top, and a Heavy Metal MMORPG.

The games, at least, let her take her mind off of the bigger issues she struggled with. She was toying with the concept of a writer sim, but that led her back to the sticky wicket of self-innovating A.I. code, and she hit the wall there.

Poor Prail even fretted over her hobbies.

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