I’ve been lying in bed for days, with my veins plumped with Susanna’s secret concoction guaranteed to inflate me back up like a sex doll or something. Which is all fine and good, since when I came home from Olympiapark I looked like a 60 year old Grandmother, all wrinkled and liver spotted and arthritic. I was a mess.
To pass the time during my reconstruction, I pored through the Collective OS, running the training led by a tutorial program in Sasha Williams’ form. It was very convincing – she acted just like Phone has described from back in the day, big Number 0, infused with kind haughtiness. Not that she didn’t deserve to be cooler-than-thou – she did invent the Collective, Bodyweb, etching and the OS that was currently controlling me, all before she was 21.
Anyway, I was trying to figure out more about the Reservoir, since I obviously didn’t know what I was doing when it came to my powers, when “Sasha” chimed in.
“Are you sure you haven’t had enough already”? She was still dressed in the same, red Circle X outfit, and I asked her about it.
“Oh, this old thing?” It looked like she was standing right at the foot of the bed, smiling at me while she fussed with the big shirt buttons. “It’s definitely not as nice as the one the Japanese franchise is using, but I like it.”
Circle X was a multinational nightmare that started in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the late 40s. It was Sasha’s nemesis, for a number of reasons I don’t fully understand, and therefore the focus of the Collective until she died on Halloween in 1994.
“Just how true are you to the original?” She was short, stray kitten cute and slight, with arms like wind-swept bamboo trunks. “Did Sasha program you to be just like her?” Her face had old-school etching, all hand done with broad circuits, and every hair on her head was individually modeled.
“That’s a tough one… is your mirror twin exactly like you?” Flipped back her short, black bob with a flirty flourish. “When your back is turned, does it make frowny faces in your direction?” Walked through the bed to the middle, and she was bursting out of my chest – like a huge, slimy, black Alien.
“Please don’t poke through me like that. It makes me feel like a magician’s assistant, post trick.”
“OK OK.” She shrunk down to the size of a Raggedy Ann doll, and sat down on my stomach. “Did you ever notice about how most every prodigy has amazing math or logical skills, but only rarely creative ones? Sasha was the sort of polymath that pops up once in a generation – she wrote Operating Systems and crazy punk songs, all knife-brilliant. I’m one of her pet projects – the sort of artificial intelligence that’s not supposed to exist.”
“What are you saying? That you’re S.OS?” If I could have jumped up and ran out of the room, I would have.
“You say that like I’m pulling your teeth and throwing them back at your face. It’s not that hard to understand – Sasha needed a OS to interface with what became known as the Pure Land Antenna etching. Something that could use her body as a platform. She had strong hints from Laura Watson about what that would entail – visions pulled out of the White – but it still took almost a decade to perfect it. Sasha OS. Literally, her shadow self that she trusted to govern her very essence.”
“I can’t believe this – please get off of me!” I swatted at her, but my hand just passed through, slightly tangling the IV.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m the original S.OS, the kernel that’s a part of every member of the Bodyweb. I’m not the… thing you’re thinking of.”
“I still don’t like this at all. I don’t know how I can trust you, after all that’s happened.”
She sighed, and then grew to normal size, sitting on the right edge of the bed.
“Trust me, you don’t know what’s happened. No one does, save for perhaps Ai and her mother.” Sighed again. “I’m not going to be able to convince you now that I’m not a threat to you, that I’m here to help you. Just know that you can call upon me whenever you like.”
With that, she gave me a slight smile, like a busy cashier slapping the receipt into my hand, and disappeared.
Now I’m really worried. If there’s anything that Tokie drummed into me over the past months, it was that S.OS was a world destroyer. That it became autonomous, and vicious, and wouldn’t stop until every last network and CPU was under its control. If not for the Collective, for Fairview, it would have succeeded.
To have a tame version of that beast now in charge of my head and heart – I don’t know if I can handle it.
It may be Sasha’s shadow, but I’m not worried about that part. I’m worried about what a shadow sees when it looks in the mirror.
Will it decide to break your arms and legs just to get a better view?