Log Title: The Digital Soul
Summary: In which Winter and Violet compare notes, make some plans, and stumble into a philosophical quagmire.
IC Date: Wed Feb 20 18:54, 2381
OOC Date: Wed Feb 20 18:54, 2019
Related Logs: Fatale, Nineteen Alpha Thirty, 19A30 Redux, Don't Fear The Reaper
winterviolet

 

 

I know how you meatbags like quality takeaway.

* OOC Time: Wed Feb 20 16:54:58 2019 *

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Winter sent an ONI message to Violet a few hours ago, proposing they meet up tonight to confer about any new information gathered regarding a certain… mutual interest. Tau Psychosurgery is closed, though the ONI message came with a passcode to get in. The front room is much the same as before, save that now the aquarium holds a number of pale jellyfish that glide through the water with delicate, streaming tentacles, bells occasionally bumping into one another. Winter isn't immediately present, though the door to the back room is ajar and a pale blue light comes from the gap, suggesting someone is programming in the dark, again.

* * *

Violet had not been able to take the message immediately, as she'd been at work on a patient, and needed a few hours before she could close up shop and make her way from Licktown to Winter's office, with a stop or two on the way. The code she punched in, waiting to see if it would be accepted so long after it was sent, but as it seemed it was still valid, the door was closed and locked behind her before she took herself, and the bag of takeaway with her, "Winter?" I'm sorry for being late."

* * *

"In here," Winter calls from the back room, their voice rather hushed. "It's fine, did you run into any trouble?"

* * *

Violet shook her head, as she made her way into the back room, now close enough that Winter might be able to smell the scent of noodles and fried dumplings. "Nothing like that. I had a patient in who was rejecting one of his implants. Whoever did the job placed it too close to his spine. It was just delicate work to remove and reimplant it. She offered the bag to Winter, "Dinner?"

* * *

Winter's sitting in the dark, wear loose sweat pants and a black, long-sleeved t-shirt. They squint a little when Violet comes into the room as a bit more light spills in when the door opens wider. They give a small shake of their head. "I can't, I'm nursing a hell of a headache, and my stomach's lodging a protest. But, help yourself. I have plates and things in the cabinet past the server."

* * *

"It's no good to me. Where's your fridge? I'll just leave it for later." She did head over towards the cabinet, though, as, typically, people did keep food near where they kept the things they used to eat it with. She did not seem to mind the refusal, but the revelation of Winter's pain did bring her head around, "Just a headache out of nowhere? or have you been pushing yourself too hard in that chair?"

* * *

There's a soft huff of a laugh for 'pushing yourself too hard in that chair'. On the floor beneath the cabinet that supposedly holds plates and such, there's small, portable fridge that should fit the food Violet was kind enough to bring. "No, there's was a TBT…" they begin, "but I'll tell you about all that in a minute. Have you learned anything new about the mangled DHF? Has Stryker found anything?"

* * *

Violet bed down, opening the fridge and sliding the bag in, noting, though she did not verbally comment, on how sparce the pickings were in there. The door she closed, before she rose to her feet, turning to find a place to lean against the counter. "I can prescribe you something, if this is something you're likely to have again." The question brought a shake of her head, "I haven't heard anything from him, but that isn't unheard of for him. He's the sort that brings you the whole bouquet, not a rose at a time. And I'm trying to work out an arrangement with a couple of contacts who might have the information I'm looking for. How she did what she did, and if the net has any other reports, public or otherwise, about that sort of control. The medical journals I'm checking myself."

* * *

"Mmm," Winter murmurs, putting a hand over their eyes to block out a little more light. With a small, wry smile they add, "I can prescribe myself something, you know. But I don't think it'll happen again unless I play it again. And… twice was enough. Violet, are we certain the control, the corruption, was due to the DHF? I'm starting to wonder."

* * *

Violet pushed herself away from the counter she'd been leaning on, moving back to the door to push it nearly closed, removing as much light as she could from the room, "Well, that would depend on how must you trust your chair. As for the corruption, that could have either been something she was doing, or something her DHF was hacked to be able to do. I haven't seen much of that sort of tampering, but it isn't impossible to manipulate DHF. Viruses used to be used ages ago, to damage and infect DHF. It could have been something she was modified to have."

* * *

"I had a patient in my chair. We were having a session," Winter says, exhaling a small breath out as the lights go away, "And the environment started to flake away, like it did when 19A30 was spun up. She left corruption behind. It was there, in my server, separate from her and lingering. That's not something a DHF can do."

* * *

Violet returned to where she had been sitting, her expression thoughtful, more than alarmed, as she listened to the story, "That's interesting. It could be that she had malware already existing in her stack. A backup system for the Aubergine, designed to kicks in if she wasn't able to fry her stack before someone harvested it. Did you manage to isolate it completely and debug the chair?"

* * *

"Yes," Winter replies with another very small nod, though the motion causes a faint wince. "It wasn't hard to remove, once I knew it was there. It was the knowing it was there bit that was tricky. We moved that DHF to a clean stack, I'm not sure malware… I just think we might be looking at this the wrong way. What if it wasn't her stack or the DHF? What if… I mean, we're assuming she took Aubergine because it was purple and did what Aubergine does. But, what if it was something else?"

* * *

"Did you save it? It might be worthwhile to have someone look at the code and try to figure out what it actually is. If it was something intended to poison the system and infect any other DHF that used the chair, something like Rawlins…" But she paused as she listened to Winter hypothesis, "Well, if the malware was built into the DHF, and was designed to trigger as soon as anyone tried to spin her up, the stack itself wouldn't matter, just the DHF. As for the Aubergine, what do you think it might have been, otherwise?"

* * *

"I didn't, I couldn't think of a safe way to save it without running the risk of it reinfecting my server," Winter replies. "I don't know what it could have been. Some new type of agent? Biological and viral? We haven't got the original stack or any of the poison, so there's no way for us to know. And even if we did, analyzing toxic agents is outside my wheelhouse. How about yours?"

* * *

"I'll see if I can contact Carnage and see if he saved samples of anything, or if he has any of the residue from washing down Sparks. It probably a dead lead, but I can at least ask. The other option is trying to contact the police with what we know. I have no doubt they'll be tracking me down eventually, once they get a warrant for Carnage's employee list. John might already be trying to work with them, but I'll add that to his 'todo' list." Violet nodded, "We did a lot of that in the old days, when things started getting more brutal."

* * *

Winter makes a grumbling noise that suggests they're not especially ken on playing nice with the police, but they don't verbally protest. "Two other things, then, if we're not likely to get anywhere without a sample of the toxin. First, I think this 19A30 is from Danae's Moon. Which… would fit, all things considered."

* * *

"It's likely to be me and not you they go after, Winter. And anything that you've learned, is easy enough to pass off as my work, for their purposes. I've thrown myself into the fire before. It's not something I'm unaccustomed to. But if they have the sleeve, they're also the only ones who can get access to a sample of the toxin." The mention of the Moon brought a nod, "Not a hard place to cast too, if a bit pricey. What's the other thing?"

* * *

"There's a TBT on Podnet… you know what those are, right? TBT? Podnet?" Winter asks. "It's a TBT of Arianna Longbow doing a striptease and then slagging her stack. It was made on Latimir in the Hippodrome. I'm pretty convinced it's real. Showed up around the same time as the Lottery Fight."

* * *

"I know what they are, but I tend to try to avoid them. It's a bit too close to being meat. And I prefer the synth experience, you could say." Violet nodded, as she listened, "It could have been real. But how do we know that was Ariana Longbow and not a clone? Like the one at the Rose? Different situation, same end result. And the timing would track as well."

* * *

"No, I'm sure it was a clone," Winter agrees, "but it was absolutely a meth body and it was absolutely slagged. This has to be orchestrated by the same people behind 'Fatale'. Which means they have at least two clones of Arianna Longbow, and probably more."

* * *

Violet pursed her lips, considering, "Cloning is expensive. But it isn't difficult, if you have the right equipment. All you need is the DNA, which, given what I've read about the real Longbow, who seemed to have a penchant for extreme sports and sleeve death of her clones, would not be difficult to get ahold of, especially if you also were potentially responsible for one of her many accidents. From there, it's just getting a biomass to grow and a 3D printer."

* * *

"And getting a group of people willing to real death themselves publicly," Winter murmurs, pressing a thumb to the spot between their eyes and sucking a slow breath in through their teeth. "Or one person. Maybe you were right and 19A30 does have a backup. They slag themselves as Arianna Longbow and then their backup gets 'cast into a sleeve somewhere else."

* * *

"There's also the possibility of it being the same person and they just double sleeve them as they need to. And we both know that's technically just a formality. If you had enough materials, resources and will, you could sleeve yourself into as many bodies as you needed to, especially if most of them were intended to be disposable. It would be safer than storing a DHF needlecast, because the copies would be off the net. Analog storage."

* * *

"I suppose so," Winter allows with a small shudder, "though I find the idea… repellent. But somebody is getting real deathed in those bodies. Either a zealot, a copy or a backed up DHF. I tried to trace the TBT back to its original upload, but I couldn't manage it. If we want to try and figure out the source, we're going to need to bring in a data retrieval specialist. And potentially, do some anonymous conferring in the Anno. This TBT has the community's attention. There's a group that meets in the Anno trying to figure it out. Right before she shoots herself point blank in the stack, Longbow looks at herself in the mirror and says something. I can't make out what, the transmission's not that clean. But a group of hackers…"

* * *

Violet shrugged, though neither the gesture nor the the expression on her face was derive. "I suppose I can't really understand a feeling like that. But then, I don't think that I really know what it feels like to be in a flesh body anymore. Every sinth body I've been in feels, in a lot of ways, like the same body, because it hasn't the abiility to feel, nor to ahve stored the muscle memory of the last stack. It's just…a car I'm driving around." The comment about the hacker got a nod, "That might be more soemthing you could get a handle on than I. But it would be worth paying a visit to see what we can come up with. If we can get some sort of lead in that, some clue, more than the one we have…"

* * *

"It's not about the body," Winter explains for why they dislike the idea of copied DHFs, "it's the idea of replicating one's soul over and over, scattering them in different bodies like ashes. It's… who are you, if there's twenty more 'yous' out there? Are you real, anymore? Are they?"

* * *

"Do we have souls, Winter? Or did we lose those when we created the technology to allow us to change our bodies like we change our clothes? When we took everything that we are and put them into altered carbon?" Violet shook her head, "The most skilled programmer could create an AI so real, and programmed so well that it would not know it was an AI. That it believed it was real. What would be the difference, really, between that and this?" Violet lifted a hand to motion to the place where the stack had been placed into her body.

* * *

"Of course we have souls," Winter replies. "That's all we have. It doesn't matter who makes them or if they shift sleeves. AIs already have rights under the law. They're real enough to understand and want to preserve their own existence. Just because their consciousness was made by us and not by genetic happenstance doesn't make them any less alive."

* * *

"I dont know if I agree, Winter. What is a soul? Sometimes, I think that was the sacrifice that we made for what we have. It's something that I've thought about with the Neo-Catholics. The believed, once that upon death, the soul's purpose was to return to its creator. And yet they do not destroy the stack to allow it the freedom to do so. If the soul exists in our DHF…why leave it imprisoned? Why not allow it to return to its maker? But my point about the AIs was not whether or not they are alive, but…if you were built not to know that you were not human, and you believed that you had a soul. Would you?"

* * *

"Yes," Winter replies emphatically. "The Neo-Cs are full of shit. Souls aren't limited to humans. You think knocking boots together and producing biologic spawn is some kind of divine mandate? If you're made this one way, you have a soul, if you're made this other way you don't? I think that's ridiculous and small minded. Does the person who changes sleeves because their birth sleeve is cancer ridden lose their soul to do so? Does the child born with the biologic sex divergent from their gender lose their soul when they change sleeves to make their outside and their inside fit? Do you think you have less of a soul because you're in a synthetic body rather than a biological one?"

* * *

Violet's eyes widened at the vehemence of Winter's words, but she did not seem put off by it, "I think, that if such a thing as a soul exists, it might be folly to think that it exists beyond the span of the first year when everything that we are exists inside that birth sleeve. That we may be fooling ourselves into thinking that the soul survives the transfer from our brains into the stack when we are turned into something more than we were born to be." As for the question posed to her, Violet only shrugged, "I've never really thought about whether I have a soul or not. The very idea of a soul seems a bit arrogant, don't you think? Just like the way we once thought that we lived on after real death. because we cannot imagine a world going on without us in some way, tangible or not."

* * *

"Soul, consciousness, DHF," Winter replies, putting a hand back over their eyes. Strong opinions and migraines don't mix, it turns out. "I don't think it matters what you call it. Whether it's tied to a god or digital programming. The end result is the same. We have awareness, feelings, desires, needs. We are. Whether or not we end, whether or not a DHF is exactly analogous to the biological equivalent. It's real. I'm… we're still real."

* * *

"Of course we are. But then it raises the question of whether or not a clone is real, doesn't it? If the soul can be narrowed down to a single DHF, the original DHF, then is the soul there? And does it remain there when we make a copy of ourselves? And if the copies also have souls, are they parts of our soul, or are they now their own entity? Given that from the moment we copy a DHF, if we put them into two different sleeves, they will no longer have the same experiences, the same feelings, the same impression of what it means to be alive. If someone believes that only they, the original 'they' is the real, then they might not care if there were a dozen other copies. They might believe it is no different than making a dozen or more copies of a TBH video and passing it around the net." Violet took a moment, a deep breath, "This is not helping your headache."

* * *

"That's exactly why I find it repellent," Winter says with a soft sigh. "It's not helping, but I brought it on myself, watching that thing twice. I should just jack in, ride it out in virtual, but I'm trying to…" They scrub a hand over their face. "Sorry. I think you might have hit a nerve. I didn't mean to get so worked up."

* * *

"It's difficult, when the TBT session isn't something that you want to experience, and even more so when the end of it is so real that we feel an echo of our own death." Violet sighed, "I'm sorry, Winter. I sometimes forget that I should think before I speak." The apology was genuine.

* * *

"You didn't say anything wrong," Winter replies. "We all believe what we believe, to make sense of the lives we've lived." A corner of their mouth quirks. "Or the lies we've lived."

* * *

"More lies than truth, I think," was Violet's reply. "Whether we know it or not. I've often thought of what might happen if you were to meet the friends or family of you sleeve. But perhaps we've become so accustomed to it that we see the person inside the sleeve and not the sleeve itself. of course I often think that whenever the Day of the Dead comes around. People take what they can get then, but they seems to be able to find the person inside the sleeve, so far as I know."

* * *

"That's a bit lovely, isn't it? That we do that, more often than not?" Winter muses. They exhale slowly. "I might know a data retrieval expert we can talk to, though they're a little… they have a lot going on in their life, right now. I'm not sure how up they'll be for slagged stacks and meth clones."

* * *

"Perhaps so. Certainly it gives the living comfort. I don't know how the dead feel. To be brought back into the world only to know they will have to return to sleep, and whatever dreams the dead dream until they wake again." Violet adjusted herself on the counter, "They might want the challenge. hackers, in my experience enjoy a certain amount of prestige when they complete difficult runs. And something as difficult as this…it could cement their reputation for years. But if not, perhaps they can recommend someone else. or we can find someone in the ANNO."

* * *

"We should probably go to the Anno, anyway," Winter allows, "but maybe I'll feel this person out. Make sure they're not already helping the police or something, make sure they're game."

* * *

Violet nodded, "I trust your judgment, Winter. Only, be careful. Use me as a cover if you have to. I rather have to be the one that handles the fallout than you." Violet had left the service, but once a soldier always a soldier.

* * *

Winter drops their hand so they can roll their eyes. "I'm not so fragile as all that," they protest with a small smirk. "I don't need to hide behind your… what… scalpel? 'Skirts' doesn't seem right."

* * *

"This isn't about you being fragile, Winter. This is about not wanting you to end up having the wrong sort of people looking in your direction and possibly coming after you if they believe you're getting too close to whatever the hell this is." Violet pushed up from the counter she'd been leaning on, slipping one of her 'meals', such as that was, out of her jacket, pulling the top off and tucking it back into the same pocket.

* * *

"I can handle myself," Winter replies, still sounding a little bemused. "But, thank youuuuuwhaaaat is that?" Their nose wrinkles as they watch Violet pull food(?) out of their pocket.

* * *

"Then I will leave it to your judgment." Violet, though, at the question, looked down at the opened tube in her hand, "Nutrient paste. I can't taste much of anything in this sleeve, and I always thought it was a bit ridiculous to try to eat food when you have to put so much spice and seasoning on it you might as well just eat some condiments and fr what? To pretend that you still have a real body? I'm told it smells and tastes like shit, but since those senses aren't worth shit, and I need to eat, this seems the most efficient solution."

* * *

"Oh," Winter muses, though their nose remains wrinkled. "I suppose that's… well… it's sensible. You never miss it? Taste?"

* * *

"I miss a lot of things. I miss taste, I miss smell, I miss sex, I miss looking in the mirror and recognizing who I am. You know when I jack into the virtual and you see me as I am," meaning this particular blonde, green-eyes version of Violet, which seemed the base model of the synth body, "That it's not me forcing myself to look like this? Every synth I've been in is the same. I always look like the body I'm currently in. I tried to summon my birth sleeve a few times, but I could never hold it together. It's been too long since I was that girl. But I don't go looking for them anymore."

* * *

"I could probably help, if you wanted," Winter offers, though their tone suggests they think they know what Violet's answer will be. "Or you could look like that in virtual and still experience taste, smell, sex. That sleeve isn't capable of sex in the real?"

* * *

"I appreciate the offer, but I made my bed, Winter. They offered me my birth sleeve, which, I was at least grateful they hadn't allowed it to age, or I'd be walking around with a cane, I have no doubt. "Virtual's no more real than trying to eat noodles swimming in hot sauce and thinking I'm actually doing something. Ah, the sleeve can have sex, and it can feel, but it somehow doesn't translate well, I suppose. Everything is too distant…like trying to make out a video that's got too much static. I can feel the body doing a thing, but it doesn't feel as if I'm the one doing the thing. It's like being a voyeur in your own flesh, watching someone else having sex that you can't have."

* * *

"Virtual wouldn't provide nutrients, but it would provide taste," Winter argues. "It would provide an experience, even if it didn't come with calories."

* * *

"But it isn't real. if it were, we would all just live in virtual, and never bother with the inconvenience of a sleeve at all. At least not to me. I suppose for those who spend more time in it, but…virtual is just a tool, a place where I work. It's not where I live." Violet brought the tube to her mouth, biting and chewing with precisely the sort of action you'd expect of someone who was eating for necessity and not for pleasure.

* * *

"It's real enough," Winter replies, "more real than what you can feel inside a synthetic body. If you ever want to regain the capacity to live in a human sleeve, it's a place to start. But, I won't push, it's up to you."

* * *

"Maybe one day. But for now, the synth is more useful to me, and I'm used to it. Especially with this shit happening, I don't need to be distracting myself with something that doesn't matter." Violet finished he tube, removing the cap and closing it off before she once again replaced the empty tub in her pocket. "I do appreciate the offer."

* * *

Winter gives a small nod and eases back into the recliner. "Then for now, I'm going to lie here in the dark and wait for my head to stop feeling like my brain is trying to claw its way out."

* * *

"And eat dumplings." Violet's tone was teasing, as she moved to depart, "I know how you meatbags like quality takeaway." She made it the length of the room, and almost to the door before she stopped, "Take care of yourself, Winter." She didn't bother with the rest. She knew Winter knew how to contact her if they needed to.