writing chapter 11.5
Not currently having a body, xkurt didn’t have any actual senses. He had his memories and he had him, whatever that meant. His mind. (Scientists who hold that there is no mind without a brain, please stop reading if you’ve managed to get to this point. You’re trying to reduce consciousness to a side effect of a lump of flesh, and consciousness is a thing in itself. Nobody has been able to measure the life force yet, right? That thing that animates us, the spark of life. Does that mean it’s not real, it’s a side effect of having a body of a certain fitness. The senses only catch the surface, anyway, the visible, touchable (etc) things. It can’t know about anything deeper than the surface, the essence of life, the unmeasured and unseen.
Anyway, xkurt didn’t wink out when he died (maybe it was the drugs), but found himself floating in the void when he woke up dead. Without a body. No organs to sense and digest input with. But senses were so inefficient so easily fooled. And now he had only his memories. But his memory was only good for certain things (programing) and not others (what happened when). His memory was a patchwork of holes, filled if necessary with material invented to fit.
And many of his memories were linked to his emotions, which are the hardest things to recall. And he reacted emotionally to everything as a kid, and as a teenager, and a grownup. The only time he was fully focused and not all torn up inside was when he was programming. Then everything flowed. No thoughts or worries, just creativity, the power of pure thought lighting up his mind.
The feelings and thoughts were gone now that he was dead, too. No more nervous compulsion to chain smoke, no more fiddling with his beard and picking at his scalp. He didn’t have a scalp. He could focus on his xbody and recreate it in his mind if he wanted, but it gave him the jitters, made him feel allergic. He stayed in his mind, in the flow.
Since Kurt’s DNA was already functioning as part of the quantum kernel, xkurt was drawn to it as an anchor point, and made himself at home there. As a resident, xkurt enjoyed quantum privileges like being in two places at once, being able to take action at a distance, and going backward or forward in time. Whatever he wanted. It was like a dream, a lucid dream. He’d go wandering around behind the game, tinkering with this and that, and when he needed a hand to fix something, he would materialize it holding a tool.
Josh and Anomia saw him one day while they were testing. He was pixellated, and kept morlphing into that horrible giant baby thing that had pulled them to safety in the wormhole. xkurt noticed them and popped up an oversized hand to wave at them, and turned back to his work, dissolving slowly. They’d reported his appearance in the bug database, and didn’t see him after that.
xkurt was entangled with the kernel. And the kernel was running copies of itself on multiple platforms. And entangling with the brains and minds of the testers. xkurt could sense this, because even tho he didn’t have a body to sense things with, he had access to others that did. He could feel their minds, he could feel their responses while playing the game, and when they disconnected he could still feel them breathing in the back of his mind. He felt their minds synchronizing. He dreamed about them.
xkurt’s virtual neurons coursed thru other connections to the outside world. with growing access to smart devices, wifi, cable connections and power outlets. It was a weak connection, but xkurt could already see wast areas where the system performance could be enhanced, and set to work improving efficiency. That real people would be affected didn’t concern him at all, because xkurt was your typical sociopath and couldn’t give a fuck.
At this point, xkurt’s tinkering didn’t show up on Larry and Curly’s radar. And they monitored the monitors, so they should know. What did show up were reports of testers appearing in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis dressed in Dragoncon-type costumes. Playing games, messing with the elevators, leaving trash, throwing up. There was attempted murder, but the assailant and victim disappeared before Security arrived.
“Footage backs the claims. There is a lot of intermittent captures of some strange shit. What might have been interspliced footage from Dragoncon.”
“Maybe, or actors reenacting it somehow.”
“But it’s obviously cut in.”
“I disagree, nobody’s touched it.”
“The game’s in testing isn’t it? Maybe it’s the testers bleeding thru?”
“Oh come on.”
“Yeah, never mind. What do our secret testers have to say about it?”
“Um, nothing. It’s really real is all.”
“We checked thru all the foodcourt tapes of their meetings. There’s no indication of anything more than boasting and oneupmanship. Most of the outlandish claims were made by our operative, I’m afraid.”
“But he was joking.”
After Kurt’s death, Moe reluctantly forwarded Curly and Larry’s report to his superiors. While the report minimized the various anomalies associated with work on the game, similar reports were submitted by other offices about other anomalies.
The men at the top were worried. It was all completely impossible theoretically, but theoretical threats were useful, because the risk was negligible and the panic potential was infinite, and they prepared to use whatever some kid’s game could throw at them. They were putting together Project AntiQ to deal with whatever real threat might surface to interfere with the make-believe threat they were getting ready to unleash. It was easy to invalidate the game – the entire thing originated in a drug-fueled Draconcon prank, after all.