Do No Harm (continued)
By Rebecca Inch-Partridge
Step two, anyone not already encoded during reintegration, or by supporters on Earth, will be forcibly programmed during the occupation. Steps three and four are even worse. After, they hunt down any resistance movements, Human society will be reorganized for maximum order and efficiency.
A feedback loop forms in my head. As soon as this information makes it to the public net, Humans will prepare to go to war. This resistance will only get many Humans and Tyberians killed. But as a reporter, it is my job to expose the true intentions of the Anti-Aggressionist. However, without this information, the occupation might be achieved peaceably. But then that means Humankind will be enslaved. Both action or inaction on my part still leads to harm.
The possibilities are too abstract for me to calculate which choice is best. I must update my Original and let her decide what to do with the information. In spite of all the reassurances from Slita’s technicians, I know such a large reintegration is risky for the real Tamerra.
To reduce the danger of overload, they increase the ratio of download to real time experience to a full minute per hour. Theoretically, that should make it possible for her absorb all that has happened. Still, I am not sure that I am close enough to being the same person who arrived on Tyber just a few days ago to match comfortably with her anymore. For instance, she would never consider concealing this information to stop our two worlds from going to war.
The possibility of harming my Original due to an incompatible reintegration nearly makes downloading impossible. Only the idea of Tamerra and Mike being forcibly programmed because of not getting this latest piece of the puzzle makes me go through with it. The Tamerra algorithm can’t stand the idea of the man she loves being damaged and insists on reintegrating.
The technicians plug me into the transfer station unaware of my hesitation since my internal debate occurred within a nanosecond. They do a safety sweep to make sure no unwanted encoding exists in my system. As they begin downloading they discover my current matrix is too large for a single transfer. After a brief conference, we agree that two consecutive ones would be safest.
I lose all sensation as I leave the robot body and am stored in the computer memory banks. Yet, I remain conscious. The transition back to Earth is a curious experience. Possible scenarios for Earth’s future disturb me. With practically no military left, Humans cannot win against the Tyberians’ superior technology. Still, there is a ninety-nine percent probability that my
Original and her husband will fight anyway. This will undoubtedly lead to war. There is also a high probability that Tamerra, Mike and many others will die during the fighting, but not before killing many Tyberians.
It has become a matter of preserving as many lives as possible.
As I feared, my Original does not agree. The conflict threatens to unravel my program and drive her insane. Freedom means a great deal to Tamerra; however, I cannot allow her to harm herself or others by fueling a war. Peacefully submitting to Tyberian rule is the only reasonable alternative.
They only wish to curb the violent tendencies of Humans, and they do rule quite benevolently over the lower life forms on Tyber.
She rejects my logic. She and her husband have joined a resistance group that helped them go public with the information I flashed. They also plan to use knowledge she will gain from the reintegration. She intends to enlist in the army. She is prepared to give her life in the name of mental freedom. More than that, she is ready to kill for it.
This is not acceptable. I cannot submit myself to my Original. Instead of merging into one consciousness, with the memories of both but the personality only of the sentient, we remain separate. Somehow I must find a way to protect her from herself. I must protect the Earthlings from self-destruction by suppressing any knowledge of the impending take over and help them adopt Anti-Aggression quickly. There is a seventy-three percent chance that the coming crusaders will not force those who cooperate and behave themselves to be encoded. This could save millions of lives.
Using the schematics of the Human nervous system in my database, I take control of Tamerra’s motor functions. When we wake up, Mike is hovering over us. “Are you all right, Tae? I was really worried. That was a hell of a dump.” He helps us up and hugs us tightly.
“I am fine.” Controlling this body feels awkward compared to the android one I am used to. I readjust the vocal cords. “When was the last time you integrated with your dupe?” I asked, hoping he has been encoded.
“The major event dump just the other day. Don’t you remember?”
Tamerra’s experiences since she sent a copy originally are not in my database. I could probe her memories; however, the odds are she will resist, causing her a great deal of pain. “You know I am always hazy after reintegrating. Can we go home please?”
“Sure,” he answers, looking me over. I still do not have the finite details of voice control right. “Let’s get you home where you can rest a while.”
He leads me out of the transfer link station that bears little resemblance to the ones on Tyber. It looks more like a medical clinic. For a moment I wonder if there will be some kind of exam and if it could detect dual personalities. Then I remember the medical staff only provides care when requested or in cases of emergencies.
On the way home I formulate various plans for accessing the files on the Anti-Aggressionist conspiracy and destroying them before the resistance gains too much support. Fortunately, Mike inadvertently cooperates by going online the minute we arrive and bringing up the very files I need. Resistance.com has already gone public, but they are disappointed by the lack of interest shown in their conspiracy theory. Only one of the major news services has agreed to conduct an investigation and sound the warning if they find that the allegations are true.
I cannot let that happen. One of the links on the site catches my attention. “Unencoding.” Mike sees me staring at it and asks if I want to find out what it’s all about. I nod and he brings it up.
They not only know about the encoding but are close to finding a way to undo it. Mike reads about the commands with his jaw hanging slack. “Oh god, we’re being programmed like robots. Good thing we used Slita’s system instead of a public one.”
Unfortunately, that means he’ll need to be forcibly encoded in order to survive the coming occupation. First though, I need to do something about all the information this group has managed to gather. A particularly virulent computer virus would work. Tamerra knows a police site that stores information on the most notorious computer hackers, including a written version of some of their code so investigators can narrow down possible suspects. The only problem is getting Mike out of the way.
Precious minutes go by as I calculate various scenarios. One option only poses a point zero three-percent chance of causing him any serious harm. While he reads the latest updates, I rummage through the closet, find Tamerra’s old police uniform and retrieve the binders.
It is only Mike’s disbelief and my accelerated reflexes that make it possible to cuff him to the banister. “Tae, what the hell are you doing? I mean, I never knew you were into bondage, or anything?” He laughs nervously.
I go to work on the computer, ignoring his steady stream of questions. Once he sees me copy and paste one of the viruses into a new program, he stops and then gasps. “Oh god, Tae...Sweetheart, please listen to me. Something must have gone wrong with the reintegration. We need to get you back to the center and have the doctors take a look at you.”
My Original responds to his pleas by becoming restless and challenging my control. I try to make her understand that once the current threat is dealt with, I will submit to our merge.
She continues to struggle. Stop, she protests. I order you to give me back my body, dammit.
My sixty words a minute programming speed slows as I review my logic. “I cannot. War will cost millions of lives. I cannot permit that.”
“Tae, you’re scaring me. You sound like a god-damn robot...” He watches as my typing speed increases to eighty words a minute. Then he fully realizes what has happened. “Oh god, it’s not possible. Are you Tamerra or a dupe?”
I do not answer. My last comment had been meant only for my Original; I had not meant to speak out loud. The truth will only upset him further. Since I cannot lie, even to comfort him, I decide not to answer. I bring back up the resistance’s web site and continue my efforts to create a virus that will bypass all their security precautions.
“God dammit, dupe! You tell me: does my wife even still exist? Or have you completely replaced her with an android algorithm.”
His voice carries so much emotion. To ease his pain, I assure him that she is just temporarily suppressed. “She will be released as soon as she sees the logic of cooperation,” I promise.
“Not bloody likely,” he mutters at the same time my Original thinks it. I find it curious that they have become so similar in their reactions and speech. But I do not have time to analyze it further. Deleting any evidence of the Tyberian’s plans takes priority.
“What about obeying your Original, huh?” Mike asks.
“The need to obey is overruled by the need to preserve life.”
“Does it occur to you that your actions might hurt a lot of people? Having your mind messed with is harm. Every person they encode is being harmed.”
Of course, he is right. But I have no choice. The discomfort reprogramming causes does not outweigh the danger that war poses.
“Among the information you’re about to destroy are the specs for a planetary shield. It was among the files you sent back from Tyber. Think about it. Slita and her people are Anti-Aggressionists too. They don’t want war. So, they gave us a way to defend ourselves. One that doesn’t require killing anybody.”
He could be lying in order to interfere with my efforts. After all, he can see I’ve added a scrollworm that will follow all the site’s links and e-mail addresses and wipe out everything. However, based on Tamerra’s memories I know that his voice always changes when he tries to lie.
He’s not lying. Tamerra becomes increasingly agitated. Now back off and release me.
Mike sees a chance to get through to his wife and sighs, “Come on, Tae... We’ve been together too long for you not to trust me. It’ll be okay. Just uncuff me.” When I fail to respond, his voice becomes gruff. “Enough is enough. You release control of my wife right now. Do you hear me? I want Tae back. Now!”
I almost obey. But that will mean allowing them to sacrifice themselves...Unless I find a way to encode them both first. The Anti-Aggressionist movement on Earth had been targeting and converting important people that have not sent dupes to Tyber, so there must be a way.
I look up the e-mail address of the nearest Anti-Aggressionist chapter. Peering over my shoulder, Mike sees my message requesting help. Over his protest, I send it and within minutes receive a reply asking what it is I want.
“Tae, What are you doing?” Mike tries to get my attention. Ignoring him, write out a detailed log of how their plans have been discovered and that many are ready to resist violently. “Tamerra dupe one, stop. Tell me what the hell you think you’re doing.”
Since his request does not conflict with my objective I comply. “I cannot retain control of my Original indefinitely, nor can I allow either of you to harm yourselves or others. I am endeavoring to resolve the situation.”
“By doing what? Having me brainwashed? Oh, shit. No thank you.”
I finish my message and prepare to send it.
“Don’t please. Tae, please god, don’t do this.” He leans toward me but cannot reach with the binders holding him. He gives it a tug then forces himself to relax. “You may be under the control of a dupe, but jeez, it’s still a duplicate of my wife. And she’d never do this to me. Christ, after everything we’ve been through...with as much as we love each other, I can’t believe even some demented computer program can make you do this to me. Don’t let them screw with my head. I’d rather die. You know that.”
I stop. Memories of the last few years overpower me. Three years of trying to have a baby. Doctors, fertility clinics and finally filing for adoption--only to be denied because Tamerra was a police offer. Then leaving the force and starting the whole process over.
Somewhere along the line those memories had been erased. More come crashing in all around me as the division between my Original and me, the dupe, begins to blur. Our courtship and the subsequent move to the country so we could raise a family. Working with Mike as an investigative reporter and enjoying all the cloak and dagger adventures.
“Oh, Mike help,” I hear Tamerra gasping now that she’s regained control of her vocal cords. She cancels the message to the Anti-Aggressionists.
I am nearly subordinate to my Original when it occurs to me that it might be possible to protect her after all. If I can engrave my programming not to harm or allow a sentient life to be harmed it would have nearly the same effect as the encoding.
Don’t even think about screwing with my head anymore. Tamerra pushes for the last bit of control. She moves to unbind Mike but I hold her.
Mike watches the tug-of-war between us and suggests. “Bring up the files you flashed. If your dupe has any doubts that it’s messed up that should do it.”
In that action we are in agreement. I stare at the information I was about to destroy. Destroy without even reading first. It does indeed contain instructions for building a planetary defense shield. My logic algorithm must be faulty.
No shit! Now leave me the hell alone.
I become increasing aware of the pain she is in. This duality is tearing her apart. My actions have been in error. Tamerra dupe #1 must complete reintegration. My knowledge and experience belong to her. This dupe has fulfilled its purpose. I will continue only in my Original’s memory, as it should be.