Wow, a lot of things have been happening at once. Sanna, Spyre and Carter all got kidnapped, and all had their respective situations relatively resolved. Kendra’s on the move. Johnny interviewed me. Incognito was severely injured and then severely healed. Some new people arrived.
R got both his arms removed. I was starting work on a prosthetic for Carter when I read he was already set up for one of a quality better than I could ever manage so I redirected what I’d already done into making some for him. My basement’s starting to get a little cluttered, what with the books on robotics lying open and bookmarked to an inch of their lives all over the place, along with wires, servos and shaped bits of metal. This is on top of everything that was there already. Anyway, when it’s convenient send me your measurements, mate.
Adam, I had a look over at those notes you sent me. You’re right in what the doctor was trying to do. He’d been injecting azoth (he calls it ‘the substance’ but it’s pretty obvious what it is) into the brains of people who came to the place for medical attention or were taken off the streets. Directly into the brains; he even installed little plexiglass windows in their heads so he could see what was going on. He’d keep them under heavy sedation for long periods of time, and the text later shows why; as you said, he was failing and badly. The subjects which received azoth in this manner were violent and unstable, the complete opposite of trainable, and he had a few close calls by the looks of it. His writing is dry and clinical, but I can still practically see the frustration and fear wafting off the words.
The section on the techniques used to break some of his ‘patients’ is interesting from a psychological standpoint and horrifying from an ethical one. He states that quite a few of the Proxies holding him hostage chipped in with suggestions. In the end it seems he could either get an obedient but harmless pet or an incredibly dangerous but uncontrollable one. Those he would euthanize when it was clear no one was going to get any use out of them, although apparently some are still extant. Any idea what happened to them?
The experimental notes stop abruptly; there’s no indication he was going to continue these experiments and no horror story style “I am about to perform this stupid and extremely dangerous action for no reason save leaving bloodstains on the paperwork or screams on the last few seconds of the tape”, so I presume that was where he wrote in the journal about his decision to escape. All in all, I’ve learnt some things to keep in mind in my own experiments on rats.
Ira, those blood samples of yours that you sent me are… odd, to say the least. I know you confirmed that they really were yours when I asked but I feel the need to ask again. Their copper levels are slightly over the far edge of within human range, which seems to be the ‘baseline’ for Runners. I’ve run the test a total of twenty times; it’s an average concentration of 26.11 μmol/L with a standard deviation of 1.2 μmol/L. From what you’ve said of your experiences on your blog, there should be more than that, a lot more. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that your blood azoth levels are not high enough for what you say happened to have happened. Make of it what you will.
All of this is leading up to the visit by none other than Fracture. He just turned up on my doorstep. I looked through the peephole, was basically ‘nope’, and walked back into the living room. You have to remember that unless someone’s posted pictures or a sufficiently detailed description nobody knows what anybody looks like.
He knocked, and I yelled “Nobody’s buying what you’re selling!” I couldn’t pretend to not be home since the fire was sending smoke up the chimney, so that was the next best thing.
So he teleported inside with a smarmy “Is that so?” I grabbed the taser from my pocket and told him in no uncertain terms that unless he was selling free hits with a taser he could teleport right back out again.
To make an already long post slightly shorter it’s probably best I put the rest of the conversation in transcript mode and compress the unimportant bits.
Fracture: Don't be so foolish. You invited me here. You told me where you live, how to identify your house, what to avoid, and all the great things you have here. How could I resist?
I thunked my head on the doorpost.
Me: Oh god. I know that syntax. That you, Fracture?
Fracture: You know my syntax? Feral robot sage?
Me: After a while, you can pick up voice through text. Why are you here?
Fracture: How many times to I have to say it, you invited me here.
I gave up.
Me: Alright, fine. So I did. Tea, coffee or milo?
Fracture: Just a tea cup, dear. I'll do the rest.
I threw a mug his way and he then mixed something up using hot water from the tap. I made two cups of tea and went into the lounge. Fracture followed and proceeded to hog the entire couch. There’s always something about a psychologist lying on a couch that’s a little funny. I set one of the drinks on the floor next to Black, then sat on the coffee table and took a sip of the other.
He then asked me about the deal I’d made with Jack; what exactly I’d lost and gained. I told him.
Me: Protection for a person and a place, until I die. You'll excuse me if I don't tell you exactly who, although you might be able to guess.
Fracture: You and here?
Me: Hahahano. Neither’s that valuable.
He dodged the question when I asked exactly why he’d made me a Sage, I teased him about his hat, and he tried to ship me and Black. I sunk that one with a flamethrower. Then there was a bit of a discussion about Slender Sickness.
Speaking of Black, at some point he’d stopped looking at the book in front of him and had started paying attention to us. I only noticed when Fracture made a ‘zsst’ noise at him, and then pointed away.
Black: Who's he?
Me: A friend, sort of.
My face was basically saying, in big neon letters, “NOT”.
Fracture: Who are you?
And then what spark had been in Black’s eyes flickered out and he returned to reading. It was the longest I’d seen him lucid, and I said so.
Fracture: I caught his interest because I'm doing something he thinks I shouldn't be.
I thanked him for the book idea, and he explained a little on A.I. psychology. Machines given a game to play without any instruction on the rules or methods of determining the rules would have only a 40 percent success rate. This would jump to an 80 percent success rate if they were given the rules… and nothing else, not even a method to read them.
He then demonstrated by mentioning aspects of the book to Black, which got him responding again. I joined in, until I hit a snag:
Me: Are you liking it so far?
Black: I... don't know.
Fracture: He has no context for liking the book. The book never references how it feels about itself.
Clearly, this wasn’t going to be easy. Fracture asked about the point of view of the book, and I told him it was a shifting limited third person perspective.
Fracture: Effectively teaching him to think like several different people all with different morals and goals and outlooks...
Me: Ouch. Yeah, if I'd realised what reading was doing to him, I'd've picked something else.
Fracture: You know what you should do then?
Fracture: Uh... no. You're too confined. No imagination. You need to write him a story. One about a boy named Black.
Me: I see. I reckon I could do that.
Fracture: See, he isn't a true hollow. A hollow can't be what it was, traditionally. The strain that broke it is too painful to return to. It’s like trying to get someone to walk on a broken leg. They'll always fall. But Black just sprained his ankle. You just have to show him how to walk it off.
Me: …thanks, Fracture. Hang on.
Fracture: Whatcha got?
Me: I hate owing anyone anything so here. You wanted to know a bit more about my past, there's a clue. Pretty obscure.
No, I won’t tell you what I gave him. You can probably guess anyway, if you’ve read particularly carefully. He then asked for the notes on Black’s recovery once he’d made a full one, which I agreed to. We said goodbye and then he disappeared, as if he’d stepped between the frames of a film.
So I’ve got a story to write, but for now I think I’ll go to bed. I’ve been running on empty for some time now; the last time I think I slept a little was two days ago, and things have been getting fuzzier accordingly. I keep forgetting important things. Accidentally activated one of my own traps the other day; fortunately it was nonlethal. Heh, one of the lecture benches at university even had NOT ENOUGH SLEEP and NEVER ENOUGH SLEEP as a reply carved into it, so I’m taking that as a sign to get some. I’m not doing anyone any favors burning myself out like this, so for now, goodnight.