War and Peace: Chapter 54

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Chapter 54

Daisy the android adjusted herself in the seat of the helicopter, a metal and chrome shell awkwardly shaking out its limbs, trying to get a feel for the world. The scene played out bigger than life on the wall of the bar, broadcasted through August's phonecam.

"She cut her algorithm," Kanade said. "Judging by the download time, only about two-thirds of her made it in, with less than five percent memory."

"What does that mean?" James asked.

"Maybe nothing." Kanade chewed a corner of her hair, an interesting combination of her usual lip-chewing and hair-twirling. "Our algorithms are so evolved that they have vestigial fragments. Like DNA. Cutting out the right bunch probably wouldn't hurt."

"Trim the fat," Donald said.

The tension in the room leveled off with the needle far in the red. Daisy was behind the control stick of the helicopter, but she wasn't taking off. They could see her manually checking every joint on her arms and legs and fingers.

Flying a helicopter was no mean feat. Daisy had to be able to physically execute or they wouldn't even have to blow the EMPs. She would go down in flames on her own.

"How long until she shuts down the backup Daisy?"

"There's no way to know." Kanade chewed faster on her hair. "I thought she would have done it already. She might be waiting until the helicopter lands somewhere."

What if she doesn't shut it down at all?

But James knew the answer.

Then we're in deep shit.

All they could rely on was Kanade's prediction that Daisy's ego would allow only one active version. The entire plan hinged on that assumption.

The rotors on the helicopter started to spin. Within moments the wash was so severe that the camera view began bouncing. August retreated toward the mansion to escape whirling snow and ice.

"Detecting decreased function in the world-building subroutines," Sara intoned. James watched her through the monitor. Her eyes were open but glazed, seeing something none of them could follow.

"Here it comes," Kanade said, and started walking through her blank virtual space. The only way James could tell she was moving was the motion of her limbs. She stopped and reached out, grasping on to nothing. She pulled, like opening a door, and a tear appeared in the blackness. Beyond was a whiter space where blurs of light were streaking by, merging into larger blurs here and there. Kanade stood on her side of the tear, watching the streaks.

What did this visual represent? Was it a metaphorical construct to give them something to watch? Or was it somehow real?

"Once it starts, I won't have much attention for anything else," Kanade said, turning just briefly to look up and out of the monitor, eyes meeting his.

"Don't worry about it," James said. "Do what you gotta do."

"There are so many things I want to talk about," Kanade said. "There's never enough time."

"Afterward, we'll have lots of time. Right?"

"Right." Kanade looked off into the void. "All the time we want."

"World-building subroutine shutdown," Sara said, and her eyes went completely white. Her body started to shimmer, flirting with transparency: the perfect image of a vicious heat mirage. "Assuming control."

"Thank you," Kanade said, and at first James thought she was talking to Sara. But she was looking at him. "For not hating me for what I did. And didn't do."

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