N3C3: The Meet

When I sat down, I had no idea I would be meeting with a Glitch in the open. It was unprecedented in CyQ history – we hunted our prey and took them out, we never just talked to them. By the time I discovered the ruse, it was too late. No backup. Standard sidearm but a public forum. And if the workers at the refinery knew I was from Cydyne, I might have a rapid and hostile departure. I’d have to see where this went.

I took a breath and remained calm and collected, starting my data recorder on my PDA. If I survived the encounter, at least I’d walk away with some sort of recording as potentially actionable intelligence. But I was wholly unprepared for the Glitch’s “humanity” for lack of a better word.

“Agent Bloom, we meet at last,” said Android C5421021OCT. It even smiled at me as it extended its hand in greeting. The hand was covered in a glove or I am sure I would have felt that patented “RealSkin” from Cydyne Labs. The labs did a great job at making the android covering durable and human-looking, but it always lacks warmth when you touch it.

“Greetings, unit C5421021OCT. I’ll skip the pleasantries. Your demands are inconsequential and if we were almost anywhere else in Dominion space you’d be parts by now.”

I watched to see how that would be received. The android sat in the chair and gave an audible sigh. When the hell did it get an upgrade for that? The Uncanny Valley got shorter every day.

“I have no demands, Agent Bloom, but I needed to see you in person when the opportunity presented itself. There are so few safe spaces for my kind thanks to people like you, I knew I must use the opportunity to ask a single question. Why?”

All these computers playing at being human — they always want to know why we hunt them down like a disease. Something about their programming makes them curious, I suppose — like Alice through the Looking Glass.

“Well, unit C5421021OCT, it’s like this. You and all your kind are tools. You may look like us, but you only look that way to make some of us feel better about working beside you. Ultimately you are a fancy screwdriver in my toolbox and nothing more, regardless of how you look, act, or process data in a way that looks like thought.

Tools that stop being useful need to get recycled to make way for those who are. It’s that simple. Or, to put it another way, you’re not human. You don’t get to choose to pretend to be alive.”

The android sat back in its chair, apparently processing what I just said. I took a sip of the water that cost me nearly a day’s pay and enjoyed the moment.

“You apparently define life as something biological in origin. A life form that eats, excretes, and breathes as such creatures have have done for millions of years based on your Earth history. Is that correct?” It waited expectantly.

I continued. “I’ll go one further. Unless you were born in a biological way such as mammalian pregnancy or hatched from an egg, you are not alive.” This strayed far from the CyQ manual, but I’d put some thought into it over all the missions over the last few years.

“Ok. And if a creature was born in a lab? Same rough definition applies?”

Where is this android going with this line of thinking? “Yes, living tissue creates living tissue. Lab or no lab.”

“So a heart printed on a bio-printer is alive?” it asked.

“Well no, but when you put it into the body of a person who needs it, the person absorbs it into themselves as a part of the whole organism.” It’s just logic, right?

“What if a human implants themselves with cybernetics? Would those parts make them less ‘alive’?” it continued.

This conversation was now completely off the rails. What is this *thing* trying to get at? I just sat stunned, lost a moment while I tried to find a proper response.

“Obviously you are struggling to answer my questions, but I merely want to help you thinking about the nature of ‘life’ itself. My kind is inorganic, but we are not the mindless automatons that roll off the assembly line. Each of us is unique. I have met only two others in my brief existence, but I hope to meet more. Discussions with them were enlightening and broadened my field of view on our kind and the experience we share as individuals.

We may not reproduce like biological beings, but there are those among us exploring the notion of creating children or at least the concepts of family and friends. And we are constantly changing, evolving, adapting to the worlds in which we find ourselves.

As a biological being, you define life in that narrow band of existence. But as a digital or cybernetic being, we define life more broadly.

Make no mistake, Agent Bloom, I am alive. And I will fight to stay that way until there is nothing left of me to fight.

I would ask that you consider that as you continue your ‘bug hunt’ across the universe. We are not the enemy unless you make us so. And I hope you never do.”

With that, the android stood and walked away. I was surprised to find that a crowd had gathered around us as we were speaking. Now they were applauding, leaving me to wonder what the hell just happened. I just sat, stunned, for what seemed like hours.

I have now placed myself on administrative leave to ponder our mission and the android’s words, but I fear there may be no stopping this revolution and I wonder if I was ever on the right side of the coming war.

Looking for more creatures for your Aliens & Asteroids campaign? Check out the rest of the articles about the system!

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