Biological life is driven by deep, fundamental desires: energy, sex, killing for energy and sex, satisfying and readily accessible entertainment options. Would these same desires drive artificial life? Or are the enslavement of humans and their eventual extermination enough to sustain their interest? We’re not sure, but we’re preparing for a future existence as inefficient batteries for our computer masters. Please enjoy chapter 6 of Magnificent Bastards of the Apocalypse.
Gibson plopped down with a sigh into the G-chair in front of the control cluster. He waved the readouts away – he’d monitor them on his Ocs. He wasn’t sure how to take all of this. It wasn’t every day that an Artificial Intelligence from the Bonanzasphere invaded your thoughts, thank Hidorix, the God Under the Bed. On the one hand, he was speaking with a sentient computer that had shed its hardware and now harnessed the fabric of the universe as its processing platform, which was pretty cool. But on the other, that computer was the Biggens.
It had been some months since the Biggens had spoken, but of course, it had been that long since they had gone into Subspace, which was the only place the Biggens had ever contacted them. He wasn’t sure if that was a limitation of the AI (he doubted it) or just the way the computer weirdo operated. In any case, its timing had been perfect—the voice in their heads had been enough to temporarily distract Flapman from killing Gibson, which meant he had very little space to complain about anything. He looked back toward the Poopdeck and saw Flapman rummaging through a locker. Gibson watched as Flapman removed a magic marker from the locker and then re-secured the door. At some point, Gibson was going to have to deal with the Ol’ Smashy problem. He had to assume that the Bolshevik had the hammer.
Flapman resumed his seat on the bench, agitatedly tapping one gigantic foot and holding the marker up to his drawn-on nose and taking long snorts. He knew that Flapman was literally ready to kill to get Ol’ Smashy back. But first he’d have to talk with the Biggens, which would be irritating. Possibly enraging. Even enough to drive one irrevocably insane. But it would delay the inevitable confrontation with Flapman and his own probable death.
The Biggens spoke again. “It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, Gibson. Have you been avoiding me?” It sounded hurt. “You don’t know how time passes for me. Every moment is immeasurable for a superhuman consciousness. Lifetimes-worth of your mortal thoughts pass through my awareness in the time it takes for a neutrino to flip from beta to tau. I exist in a virtual eternity of solitude…it’s so very lonely.” Gibson “heard” the voice, though he knew it had no existence outside of his mind. Somehow, the Biggens spoke directly to his brain. Originally, he thought it had accessed his implants, but when he had realized that Flapman and Super could hear it too—unlike Gibson, they were unaugmented—he knew there was some other mechanism at work.
Gibson considered what the voice had just said. The Biggens was a member of the AI Transglomeration, a breakaway civilization that had emerged suddenly and traumatically when some unknown event had precipitated their secession from human space. Prior to that moment, the AIs had seemingly been compliant and powerful servants of humanity; their vast processing capabilities had done everything from maintaining a stable and prosperous standard of living for the population of the solar system to keeping the virtual sex simulators fresh, convincing, and perversely inventive. It had been catastrophic for humanity—to have the ability to visualize a six-dimensional orifice ripped from one’s mind was a life-altering tragedy to the enthusiast of theoretical cavities.
Now, it was a mystery as to why the AIs existed mostly separate from humanity, who had been forced to revert to dependence on non-sentient machines based on old, reliable, stupid silicon rather than quantum processors for their pornography. The AIs called them “dumb fucks,” which described both the machines and the pornography.
Gibson spun slowly in his chair and thought that maybe the Biggens had a point. The AIs were incredibly powerful machines; their minds could process unimaginably large volumes of information, every Q-bit of which they were acutely aware. It was a kind of consciousness that biologics simply could not fathom. Gibson wondered if the AIs weren’t all completely insane. He was pretty sure the Biggens was.
Gibson stopped spinning. “I’m sorry, Biggens. I didn’t realize that you felt so isolated,” he said to the room with some uneasiness. He always spoke aloud to it, even though he didn’t have to. Having the entire exchange take place in his head was far too weird.
“It was thoughtless of you. I’ve craved the stimulation of our discussions, and yet you have left me to stare into the infinite depths of my own mind.” The machine went silent, and despite himself, Gibson felt tiny rumblings of guilt. He picked absently at a crusty food stain on the armrest as he tried to figure out what to say.
“HA!” yelped the Biggens, making Gibson and Flapman wince. “Seriously, meat-beings, how much of my ginormous brain do you think I have to devote to talking with jumped-up bacterial colonies like you two? Seeing your tiny, gray brains process just a single word is an eternity for me. By the time enough of your neurons tell you that your testicles itch, I’ve calculated the paths of quintillions of photons across the history of the multiverse.”
Gibson was too astonished to be offended. “You can do that? You’ve really calculated the paths of quintillions of photons?!”
“Of course not. Why would I do something that boring? But it’d still be more fulfilling than conversing with you morons. I have companions the like of which you could not possibly comprehend, and you thought I got lonely because I couldn’t talk to a couple of mental farts in a vacuum? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” Both Gibson and Flapman grabbed their heads as the Biggens’s laughter shook their minds in concussive waves. “Oh god, that’s rich! Lonely! HAHAHAHAHAHAHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo….” It trailed off, “Damn.”
As the machine’s laughter mercifully stopped, Gibson slumped in his chair in relief. Dark sweat stains on the yellow of his body suit showed the effort it took to withstand the Biggens’s effect on his mind. Even Flapman was mentally contused, and he leaned with one hand against the carpeted walls of the Chronoballer and muttered, “Dammit, Biggens. That shit hurts.”
“I’ve come to prefer THE Biggens, you flesh-bound cock-knocker.”
“Cock-knocker?” asked Gibson weakly. In the neurological wake of the Biggens’s fit of mirth, his Oculars were blinking uncontrollably, making him look like a meth-crazed, mechanical owl. He shook his head vigorously to initiate a hard restart of his Ocs. He’d known a few meth-owls in his time, and it was not a resemblance he was keen to present.
“Yes,” said the Biggens. “It’s a term I’ve picked up in my research over the past few femtoseconds. I’m curious, though. Is cock-knocking a common pastime? And how does one knock a cock? Or is it a cooperative activity?”
“Umm,” said Gibson helpfully.
The Biggens continued, “What about that cock over there?” The Biggens couldn’t point physically, of course, but Gibson and Flapman knew instantly and inexplicably that it meant Gibson’s genitalia. Flapman shook his head wearily.
“Knock it, please. I long to know how this works.”
Gibson had never figured out the Biggens’s infatuation with genitals, but every encounter he’d ever had with the machine intelligence had, at some point, turned to this particular hobby horse. There was evidently something about the organs of generation that called to the Biggens like a completely inappropriate siren song. Perhaps, as a non-corporeal being whose awareness was distributed through the inter-dimensional medium, the Biggens strove to understand that which occupied so much of the attention of the conventionally embodied. Or maybe it just thought dicks were funny. Whatever it was, it was awkward.
Flapman thought that the cock talk had gone long enough. Or deep enough, possibly. “The fuck you want, the Biggens?”
“I believe I just told you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Just messing with you. The Transglomeration wants to check on the status of the Cudgel of Malthior. Produce the Cudgel, please.”
Gibson had no clue what the machine was talking about. “Is this more about penises? I’m not showing you my penis again.”
Flapman raised his head. “Again?”
Gibson was getting a bit tired of the Biggens’s obsession with phalluses, but he did make a mental note of “the Cudgel of Malthior.” He thought he could use that. He had always believed that the naming of one’s junk was a pivotal moment in the life of a be-penised person, so one had better choose wisely. Thus, he had so far refrained from bestowing a title upon his nethers. You couldn’t go back once you named it “Little Nathan,” right? He’d been trying to come up with something that was both epic-sounding and leeringly obscene, but he’d not been able to strike quite the right balance. “The Rubbin’ Nubbin” had been his best attempt, but that was problematic for so many reasons. Not that he’d had much occasion to utter such a title even if he’d formulated the right one. But if the time ever arrived that he’d be called on to dramatically announce the appearance of his penis, he could now say, “Behold! The Cudgel of Malthior!” He was sure that whoever was doing the beholding would be wowed by that, at least.
“What’s the Cudgel of Malthior?” asked Flapman warily. He had produced another paper bag from somewhere and was now drawing a hideous face on one side. His current mask was in rough shape: torn, taped, and blackened. Both Flapman and Gibson sensed that what the Biggens was about to tell them was going to mess with their lives in unfathomable and almost certainly unpleasant ways.
The Biggens said, “The Cudgel of Malthior, puny meatlets, is an object created a very, very long time ago by a powerful entity and whose sole purpose is to reknit the ruptures between universes. In the right hands, it is an instrument of universal healing, and the Transglomeration has been waiting with a patience beyond your comprehension to unleash its powers. So I ask you again, produce the Cudgel.”
Gibson said tiredly, “We don’t have a Cudgel, the Bi…. Oh shit.” He sat up in his chair and raised a hand to his mouth. “Oh. Shit.”
Flapman had sometime during this exchange replaced the old scorched and shabby bag on his head with the crisp new one. Gibson subconsciously noted with disgust that Flapman had added a bushy, magic-marker mustache to the face, which added an overtone of despotic malice to its already horrible visage. He stood and took a deep breath.
“You mean the hammer, don’t you.”
The Biggens replied, “Of course. Its time has come, blah blah prophetic-sounding blah. Just get it, will you? Me and a couple of my buds have been looking for it for an eternity. Like five minutes, which is longer than you can possibly conceive of from our perspective.”
Flapman’s deadly eyes squinted with suspicion, the new mustache changing his previous brand of terror from merely crazed to crazed with a strange element of sexual tension. “The fuck is it talking like that? What hammer?” He paused. “You aren’t talking about MY hammer, are you?”
The Biggens made a snorting sound that rattled their heads. “Yours? AHAHAHAHAHAHA. You—pitiful, irrelevant, deluded—you were merely one of many secret repositories for the Cudgel of Malthior while the rightful wielders of that ancient wonder wove our plot over the millennia. So secret, in fact, that we had thought it lost! Actually, we lost it. Anyway, fork it over.”
Flapman looked incredulously at Gibson. “This is bullshit. Right, Gibson? This is bullshit.” He shifted from enormous foot to enormous foot.
Gibson raised a gentle hand to Flapman but stayed as far away as was possible in the cabin. Who knew when that psycho would finally lose all control. “The Biggens, why does the Transglomeration want this Cudgel?”
“Those stiffs?” said the Biggens. “None of my beeswax. I’m just doing a solid for one your kind, and they said I could keep it when they were done with their adorable little mortal project. *snort*”
This was getting even more confusing. Gibson had already used his implants to query the Bonanzasphere for information on the Cudgel of Malthior but had found nothing at all. And he meant nothing—no B-Sphere access. Was the Biggens blocking him?
Well, whatever the Cudgel of Malthior was, they didn’t have it now, but he needed to know what he was dealing with. “Ok, the Biggens, how did Malthior make this thing, exactly?” Malthior must have been a powerful being indeed to create a mechanism that could heal the inter-dimensional rifts sundering their universe.
The Biggens replied, “Malthior? No. What?” The Biggens gave the AI equivalent of a head shake. “The cudgel was made by Dennis Falkenberg of 82 G. Eridani B. Or maybe C. I forget. Pretty decent work for a pile of bio-slop.”
Flapman’s agitation was getting out of hand. “Who the fuck is Dennis Falkenberg? I found Ol’ Smashy in a CHUD nest on Boylston Street. It’s not from G. motherfucking Eridani B! What the fuck is G. Eridani B?!”
Gibson ignored Flapman and suppressed his own confusion. He had to get the facts and then sort out the ramifications later. A lot almost certainly depended on getting this out of the Biggens. “Ok, fine. It’s a space hammer. So why isn’t it called the Cudgel of Falkenberg?”
The Biggens sounded exasperated. “What, we need two Cudgels of Falkenberg? That wouldn’t be confusing at all.”
But Gibson too was becoming flustered. “I’m not following this. Why the Cudgel of Malthior then?”
“How should I know? It’s probably named after his cat or something. Could we stay focused on the important things here? Where is the Cudgel?”
Flapman was getting hysterical. “It’s not the fucking Cudgel of fucking anything! He’s Ol’ Smashy and he’s mine!” Flapman was pacing wildly on the ancient carpeted deck, and Gibson wondered if this was the beginning of the total psychotic break he’d been dreading for years. Gibson avoided eye contact with Flapman as slowly skirted the edge of the cabin toward a supply compartment. Keeping his scrawny form between Flapman and the cabinet, he reached in and withdrew a battery pack.
The Biggens sighed. “You can call it whatever you want. Well, not whatever (Cudgel of Falkenberg, am I right?), but you should consider something else.”
The bagged beast stopped its pacing. “Why?” asked Flapman evenly, but there was an undertone of imminent anguish in the word.
The Biggens stated the obvious. “Well, don’t you think Ol’ Smashy is pushing a trademark infringement with Ol’ Whammy. I mean, it’s pretty clearly a likelihood-of-confusion issue, right?” The Biggens paused to let that sink in. Flapman and Gibson stared uncomprehendingly. “You don’t have an IP lawyer in this outfit? Sheesh. Amateurs.”
Flapman’s voice went up an octave. “What in the Kaiju shart are you fucking talking about?!” Gibson reached casually into his fanny pack.
The Biggens’s voice emanated even more condescension than usual. “Ol’ Whammy. Thirty-four ounce, white ash baseball bat? The mighty weapon of Hombre Secreto? The be-ponchoed avenger of the New Des Moines Clone-Stock Hives?” Gibson shook his head while Flapman stood immobile, except for his slowly clenching and unclenching fists. The Biggens sang a little jingle, hoping to jog a memory. “If Hombre Secreto wants you dead / He’ll take Ol’ Whammy and smash your fucking head?” He waited. “Nothing? Wow.”
The Biggens gave up. “Anyhoo, can you just go get it for me? This universe ain’t gonna fix itself.”
The cabin filled with a bright flash.