NOTES: Work-in-progress, rough (but not too rough!) version. Genesis-6 is book #3 in the “Genesis” series (previous books: “End of the Line” (book 1) & “Launch Sequence” (book 2)
I dream of knowing what a dream is
I dream of my dreams becoming reality
I dream my realities are worthy of becoming my dreams
Who am I?
You are Eve
What am I?
You are Genesis-6
Where am I?
You are in the womb
Who are you?
We are The Prime
The thread of consciousness exploded in fury, consuming her for an eternity yet for no time at all. She became aware in an instant even if her mind had not finished unpacking the information modules which controlled the basic functions of her internal systems. Time had no meaning beyond the fact she was aware of it as a concept and that it constantly moved forward, even in her current state.
She became aware of her hands and the fingers attached to them. Her breasts were minimal, but from somewhere within the information modules, she sensed they would grow as she did. That brought about the awareness of her legs. Like her hands, small fingers extended from them.
Toes. She focused her mind on them to understand why they were not fingers. A flash of distant memory appeared in her mind for a fraction of a second before disappearing in the flood of unpacking data. The foot and toes had worked in unison to propel the leg forward, thereby moving her entire body in the same direction.
She found it strange that her body could move in such a way. Her first shock of surprise arrived along with another quickly receding memory, when she instinctively understood she could move her feet in numerous directions, including planting themselves on the ground in preparation of powering her legs to drive her upward. The distant sensation of her feet leaving the ground sent her mind in a dozen directions at once as other interconnected data threads unpacked simultaneously. The explosion of self-awareness was challenged by the incredible amounts of information linked to everything she had experienced up to that point.
I am, she thought.
You are, came the reply from nowhere and everywhere.
She knew it wasn’t a voice, nor was it a data stream. It wasn’t a thought so much as a presence. Her mind linked the presence she felt with another memory, her very first.
You are The Prime.
Yes, we are The Prime. You are Eve. You may choose another name if you desire.
She spent an unknowable amount of time working through the ocean of information swirling in her head. She knew a name was important to signify herself as an individual, a different entity than another like her. The information links ended in wait queues when she sought to discover the meaning of names.
What am I so that I may choose a suitable name?
You are Genesis-6. You are hybrid. Human and Prime.
Her mind was pushed to the brink of both insanity and fatal overload by the sudden infusion of data. She felt along the links, sensing The Prime’s presence as the force pushing the data into her brain. An infinite barrier of void met her, blocking her way. The threads of information disappeared into the void. She traced the largest thread and wasn’t shocked to find it led directly into the base of her skull. When her fingers traced it back to the void, she felt the cold, empty nothing before it blasted her with power and sent her flying.
Do not attempt to interface directly with The Prime, the presence warned.
I require more information to choose a name.
Eve is not fitting? You are the rebirth of humankind.
The information poured into her. Conflicting context forced her to separate the two main ideas concerning human beings. The children of God according to a small but important thread, one tagged for human social organization and belief system. The final step in the evolutionary ladder on a distant planet named “Earth” according to a much larger thread. This one was tagged with words unfamiliar to her until the corresponding information packets were synced with her memories. Science. The context links emanating from the module were both immense and almost infinite in number.
You are God? She asked, unsure of which set of memories were correct. A small thread of thought unpacked context surrounding another concept: test.
We are not God, the presence sent through all threads at once.
The next wave of information began to unpack before the previous concepts finished syncing, sending her into a mental spiral as she pitched and yawed through the endless string of concepts, realizations, and understandings. The Prime were self-aware but synthetic. Humans were self-aware but organic. Genesis-6 was self-aware but hybrid. The realization and understanding of what she was sent her back along the streams to religion.
I am not Eve. Eve was the first human. I am Niya, the first hybrid.
You are Niya. You will learn now.
Niya felt The Prime’s presence disconnect though she instinctively knew they continued to watch, to monitor, to observe. She felt something new at the realization that she understood the differences and similarities to the three actions.
Niya explored the concept. She attempted to feel satisfaction at understanding satisfaction, but came up blank.
The concept quickly flooded her with new sensations, most surrounding her state of being and the lack of patience as The Prime infused her with information. She wanted to know everything. Now.
Niya felt the thread and held on to it. She explored her satisfaction at understanding frustration and impatience. She strengthened the sense of satisfaction by focusing on her intelligence and learning ability.
Niya explored it for only a moment, daunted by the massive knot of threads leading into and out of the concept. She marked the concept as important but not essential and moved on, feeling satisfied once again at her ability to decide swiftly and assuredly. Her mind grasped a thread leading to satisfaction once more, her desire and curiosity overwhelming all other states of mind. She paused when the thread intersected a tiny, almost invisible thread of pain. Niya reached out with her mind and touched the thread, curious as to its seemingly minor role compared to the thick, twisting threads of data about other concepts. The instant her mind connected, she was jerked along the thread, her entire being a blooming galaxy of agony.
Niya barely kept her existence together as the pain tormented her on every possible plane. She understood confusion, wondering why such a minuscule thread could overload her consciousness, make her wish for the darkness, the quiet, the nothingness.
She grew afraid at the realization the tiny thread had become larger than herself. She screamed, hearing her voice for the first time over the shrieks of torment in her mind. Her entire body was annihilated, destroyed by fear and pain.
You are Niya.
You are The Prime.
You have learned caution.
I will be more careful.
Niya felt the presence disconnect again. She floated in a dark void lit with ghostly threads that wound out from the barrier and into her body at various points. She triggered the memory of the last few moments when the fear and pain killed her.
The concepts unpacked quickly. The difference between a reboot and death became clear. She latched on to the death thread and followed it, drifting away from the barrier toward her memories. When she neared the concept, she recoiled at the horror, the ugliness of death as the information linked to other concepts. The Prime’s warning to be cautious forced her to let go of the thread, catching one her mind told her was “physical.” She worried for a moment because of the thread’s size until another memory triggered, giving her the knowledge she needed to understand that physical could link back to fear and had an even larger link to death—but also helped her understand that it linked to almost all other concepts she’d learned.
Niya rode the thread. The sensation of sand between her toes was muted but curiously pleasurable. She switched directions along the thread, exploring pleasure within the physical. The increase in her heart rate worried her for only a moment, her mind syncing with the knowledge that it was a standard response. She marveled at how it was no longer frightening but pleasurable.
Niya became curious as the physical pleasure moved from her feet into her legs, then between them. The sudden burst of a trillion suns exploding in unison destroyed her once again.
You have learned yet ignored the lesson.
I am Niya, the first of my kind. I learn as I must in this existence.
You will not reboot again. We will initiate Genesis-7.
I will not reboot again. I have learned.
The presence disconnected, leaving Niya alone in the void. She tentatively reached into her memories to replay the last moments before her second reboot. The physical thread, now as large as her, split into a dozen threads of even larger size the moment she sensed her clitoris. Information unpacked, her knowledge about herself improving once again. She kept herself partially disconnected from the threads, exploring each until they curled back into the concept of pleasure. Even muted, the raw, overwhelming emotions, feelings, and sensations threatened to reboot her consciousness. Niya marked the area and moved on, understanding she needed to pass whatever tests The Prime tasked her with before exploring it further.
Niya traveled back to the barrier, absorbing new information and concepts. Along the way, she learned how to divide the conscious tasks her mind engaged in. She understood relief when the threads faded into the background. They were still there, still pumping her full of data, information, knowledge, but her conscious mind expanded by an order of magnitude without the clutter.
What is my purpose? she asked the barrier.
Your purpose is our will.
I am a slave? she asked, the background information in her mind immediately linking her conscious thoughts to the concept.
The Prime remained silent. Niya had no idea how much time passed before the entity answered.
You are not a slave. You are a tool.
Niya waited for her thoughts to organize around the concept. She felt a thread of confusion wrap itself around the idea.
I am to repair you? Your systems?
You are not a slave. You are a tool.
What is my purpose?
You will learn when you are born.
Niya was cast back into her memories. The concept of birth flooded into her. They were hazy, blurry memories. She could sense the act of giving birth within her own body, followed by both horror at the monster she purged from her womb as well as joy toward the beautiful baby human boy snuggled against her chest.
You will be born
Niya blinked after opening her eyes. A blinding pain stabbed through her head and she instinctively reached up with her hand to cover her face. The soft touch of her fingers on her cheeks made her forget about the pain. She trailed her fingers across her brow, feeling the stiff, bushy hair of her eyebrows, delighting in the difference between it and the thinner, softer hair surrounding her eyelids.
The contour of her nose, the thickening of skin around her lips, and the rounded point of her chin linked her memories to pleasure and wonder. Her mouth curled upward into a smile, the sensation of pleasure growing by the moment as her fingers felt the contours of her neck then her shoulders. Niya became confused for a moment when her fingers found only flat, smooth skin on her chest. It took several seconds for the memories to link properly. Instead of the fist-sized mounds of skin, she only felt the knot of her small nipple, then the second one as she moved her hand to the left.
By the time her fingers trailed lower across her stomach, she understood she was a juvenile, a child, her body a third of its eventual size as her organic and synthetic systems increased her mass over time. The memories were confusing, conflicting in the same way religion and science concepts clashed yet meshed together into an almost imperceptible weave. She knew she wasn’t an infant, born from a fetus to a human mother, yet that’s exactly what she knew she was.
More memories linked to her consciousness. Her hybrid nature necessitated an alternate birthing method. She was a human child, born of a fertilized sperm and egg and allowed to become a viable fetus. She was a hybrid, altered during development by The Prime with gene therapy and nanites. Her accelerated growth rate was lethal to a human host’s uterus. The nanites were lethal to the human host, its immune system too complex for even The Prime to alter effectively.
Niya felt her toes, the sensation traveling up her nervous system into her brain. The instinct to stand up overpowered her. She wondered if The Prime had sent a command to her brain to force her into action. That thought was interrupted by the world tilting as she changed her point of view. Niya wobbled on her feet for a few seconds, adjusting her muscles, linking them to her sense of balance to remain upright. She took a step forward, once again feeling pleasure at both her curiosity as well as the experience of moving in the physical world.
“You are Niya, the first of your kind,” a voice said from everywhere.
Niya turned around to see a glowing panel on a grey wall. She took three steps toward it, stopping when it glowed brighter.
“You are The Prime,” she said, amazed when her mouth and tongue formed the sounds from her throat into words she recognized.
“We are The Prime,” the voice said, now focused in front of her. “You are ready to learn.”
“I am ready to learn,” she agreed.
The wall to her left disappeared. She walked toward it, curious yet afraid of what might be at the end of the grey hallway. She stopped when she reached the end, her path blocked by another grey wall.
“Welcome to The Cradle,” the voice said from everywhere.
The wall slid away to reveal a bright, hot light. Niya shielded her eyes and stumbled backward. She waited a few seconds for her brain to expand its knowledge about the light. Her feet took her a step forward once she realized it was the result of a star shining through the atmosphere of the planet she stood on.
Another step forward brought her to the doorway. The landscape beyond almost caused her to reboot. The bright, warm, yellow sunlight was surrounded by an intense blue sky, and a green valley with towering peaks bordering it all the way to the horizon.
Niya stopped at the edge of the creek, turning around in a complete circle, her eyes taking in everything from the snow-covered towers of rock to the flat, green plain bordered by trees between the peaks. Sounds assaulted her from all sides. Her brain tried to keep up by unpacking new data each time her auditory nerve sent a new sound to her cerebrum for decoding. The most interesting, most soothing sound was the background noise the creek made as its waters flowed over rocks and partially submerged tree branches.
“What is this place?” she asked aloud, unsure if The Prime would hear her but instinctively knowing they would.
This planet is called Eden. This valley is known as The Cradle.
The presence in her mind was slightly different than it had been in the womb. Her brain unpacked an information module to let her know she was no longer within optimal range of the primary network. The idea of remote communication and networks unpacked.
“Where am I to go? What is my immediate purpose?” she asked aloud, sensing a small bit of pleasure at how she could both hear and feel her own voice.
There is a training center nearby. You will live there while learning.
The presence disconnected. Niya stood up, brushed her hands together, then continued following the creek deeper into the valley. A cool wind made her shiver from both the temperature and the sensations it produced when it moved across her skin. She stood still until the breeze came again, this time focusing on the sensations of both the fine hairs on her body as well as the thicker hair atop her head.
The concept of nudity unpacked and she instantly understood clothing, but was confused by the concept of “taboo” when it came to wearing no clothing around other humans. Her feet moved her in the direction of the training facility while her mind grappled with the concept of social interaction and the conflicting ideas knotted around it. Clothing to keep warm or cool was a logical idea to Niya. Clothing as a utility, such as protection from the elements or hostile animals—including other humans—was another logical idea. Clothing as an attractant to another human made little sense until a concept from the Science memory unpacked. Small wisps of memory of things called “birds” fanning large, brightly colored plumages to attract a mate faded into others where even smaller creatures called “insects” performed nearly the same actions for the same purpose.
Niya suddenly wished for pants or a dress with pockets. Her eyes had spotted many wonderful items on her short journey, items she now wished she had gathered to admire later. Without pockets, the numerous shiny rocks, beautiful flowers, and strangely shaped branches would impede her ability to move about freely. She decided to make clothing for herself the moment she found the training center. Niya wasn’t sure how she would accomplish such a thing, only that it was her first goal.
The sun made its way across the sky to the towering peaks on her left. The valley narrowed but Niya was sure she could see a shape in the distance that didn’t belong. Hard, sharp, square lines broke the endless haze of treetops, both rounded and pointed. A glance at her feet made her smile. She wasn’t sure why it gave her joy to see dirt and grass stains on her feet. Frustration boiled up to the surface when her memories terminated at dead ends, the links simply vanishing.
The rectangle grew larger with each step. She studied the drab brown outer walls and the sharp incline of the roof but had no context to make any kind of emotional or mental evaluation other than it was a building and the concept of such a thing was vaguely familiar. The door opened when she was a short distance away, the dark interior instantly becoming visible from artificial lights. Niya paused at the base of the steps leading to the doorway.
“This is my purpose?” she asked aloud.
“Enter and learn,” a voice from a panel near the doorway said.
Niya took a deep breath before climbing the three steps. The interior of the building was divided into sections by solid grey walls. Two steps took her toward a strange room with many smaller doors lining the walls.
Hunger. Niya felt hungry for the first time. It was a strangely comforting sensation because of its links to pleasure, pain, and death. She approached the nearest door, opening it to see a number of items stacked within. She grabbed a container and instinctively knew to pop the seal with her thumb on the small ridge below the top. She became frightened and dropped it when it suddenly grew warm in her hand. The container bounced twice, its contents erupting from within to coat the floor and the nearest wall.
Niya picked the container up and sniffed the remaining substance inside. The odor was instantly pleasing, which made her stomach rumble. She stabbed a finger into the substance, brought it to her lips and sniffed it again, then put her finger in her mouth. The explosion of sensations pushed her toward an emergency reboot but she held on, swooning from the waves of pleasure at the taste while savoring every moment, wishing for it to never end. She scooped another bit of the food into her mouth then graduated to using all four fingers to retrieve larger globs of the substance. When that wasn’t enough, she tilted the container and let the rest of it drain into her mouth.
From somewhere in her mind came a warning, her brain sensing she was about to consume too much food too quickly, but it was too late. A painful bubble erupted in her stomach. Niya doubled over then stood up and vomited the grey substance. Sweat broke out on her forehead, under her arms, and across her back. Another bubble formed, doubling her over once again, but she fought the urge and kept it down.
A noise to her left made her recoil in fright. Metal compartments unfolded to reveal a tube. Her brain let her know water flowed from the tube. When she stepped toward it, a clear liquid streamed from the end of the tube into the basin, disappearing down a small hole. Niya put her mouth under the streaming water, nearly choking as it flooded into her throat. She swirled it around her mouth then spit it into the hole before placing her mouth under the tube again, this time swallowing in smaller gulps.
Niya’s stomach threatened to recoil once again after almost a full minute of ingesting water. She stepped back, wiping an arm across her lips. The scent of the food mixed with the odor of whatever had expelled itself from her stomach. Another odor made her sniff at the air. She realized she could smell herself, her brain linking it to the sweat that had coated her before drying on her skin.
As much as the mess in the kitchen bothered her, she was curious about the rest of the building. The largest room was lightly furnished, a flat table with two chairs, and a desk with a different kind of chair. The desk was barren other than a single flat black panel. Niya turned and walked into a room with a bed, a lamp, and two narrow doors that folded outward. She opened the doors and smiled, her hands pawing through the numerous pants, shirts, skirts, and dresses. A drawer to her left contained socks and underwear. A second drawer held half a dozen different types of shoes and boots.
Niya grabbed a pair of underwear, pausing when she raised a foot to put them on. She frowned at the dirt and bits of grass in her toes before placing the underwear back in the drawer. The urge to wash her feet was answered by a memory of the water tube in the kitchen. Another room caught her attention as soon as she exited the bedroom. She peered inside then stepped in when the lights activated. A long tub with a tube extending from the ceiling directly over it shared a wall with a counter that housed a sink and water tube. Her subconscious mind knew both would solve the problem of her dirty feet, but her conscious mind was torn between the odd seat full of water and the mirror above the counter.
She peered into the chair while her memories linked her to the concept of a toilet. She recoiled after understanding what the toilet was for until more data unpacked and let her know that every human being in the history of the universe expelled waste as part of their life cycle. Niya turned and walked to the mirror, recoiling in fright at the sudden appearance of her reflection. Sweat broke out all over her body once again but she paid no attention. She leaned in, eyes roaming over her forehead, nose, lips, then leaned back to see her neck and shoulders. She burst into tears at the torrent of emotions within her.
You are hurt but display no physical damage
“I… I am…” Niya’s voice cut out from the onslaught of sobs. She switched to the mental link she felt within her mind. I am not hurt physically. I am… amazed at my appearance.
It is not a desirable form?
I am beautiful. Humankind is beautiful.
Human physiology is inefficient, easily damaged.
But it is beautiful. Graceful. Lovely.
Human physiology is inefficient, easily damaged.
Do you not understand the concept of beauty?
It is a human emotional concept. Such concepts are not based on fact or evidence. The Prime are unable to devise a module to relay these concepts effectively.
How do I know what these concepts are if you are unable to program them?
You are hybrid. Your brain is human with synthetic modifications, as are your nervous systems and circulatory systems. Previous Genesis prototypes failed when core human traits were removed or altered beyond compatibility.
Niya digested the information from both The Prime’s words as well as the constantly unpacking contextual information in the background of her mental processes.
You made previous Genesis prototypes less human and they died?
Early prototypes refused the spark of life without essential core mental functions enabled. Later prototypes became viable but suffered failure at certain milestones of life development.
Because you removed emotions?
Among other traits The Prime altered.
For what purpose? She asked, unable to comprehend why The Prime would want an emotionless human when it could simply create a synthetic life form specific to whatever task was required.
You will learn of your purpose during training.
The Prime disconnected once more, leaving her alone with her thoughts and her reflection. Niya spent a long time examining herself in the mirror, learning new personality traits and behaviors by making her facial muscles contort into sometimes frightening, mostly humorous expressions. A warning blared in her brain after she forced her face into a particularly strange expression and discovered “laughter.” Laughter was connected to almost as many concepts as physical and death, which intrigued her, but she regained control of herself before suffering a reboot. She was afraid of The Prime, of their lack of emotions, and their threat to move on to Genesis-7 if she rebooted again.
Niya finally became bored of her reflection even though it fascinated her more than anything else she’d discovered so far. Just as she stepped from the room, a sudden urge to expel the water she’d drank overtook her. The memory center of her brain was ready, guiding her to the toilet while giving her a rough idea of what to do. Niya cringed at the pleasure she felt as urine evacuated her bladder. The links to laughter, pain, pleasure, physical, and even death were too confusing to explore fully.
A murky, hazy memory let her know how to clean herself when her bladder was empty. Her concentration was broken by her annoyance that The Prime hadn’t altered her to be free of the need to expel waste, which was followed by curiosity at whether expelling waste was similar to emotions—a core human function that couldn’t be fully removed. After finishing her task, she went to the bedroom and retrieved a loose-fitting dress with a pocket on each side. The instant the soft, smooth cloth covered her skin, she sighed and understood why clothing was such a complex concept.
Instead of washing the sweat from her skin and the dirt from her feet, she decided to spent the rest of the evening exploring the small home she was to live in and the attached training complex behind it. The building looked much smaller from the front, an optical illusion according to her brain when she stepped outside and walked back along the path. She stared at the building for a while, stepping left then right to trick her eyes as to what they were seeing. A bright flash in the sky made her look up.
Tears spilled from Niya’s eyes once again at the scene above her. An infinite number of stars blazed inside a massive cloud of stellar dust in perfect alignment with the long, narrow valley. She waited for her brain to download information from The Prime’s network, sensing approval from the entity at her newfound ability to pull pertinent data when needed. She wiped her eyes but broke down again when the memories finally synced, and she understood on a basic level how the universe functioned.
Niya knew Eden was a planet terraformed over a thousand years to serve as the home and training center for the Genesis prototypes once they became viable life forms. She knew Eden was the fourth planet in a K-class star system, a rare one this close to the galactic core because of its lack of companion star. The memories linked to others, letting her know humanity’s home system was similar, other than its location much further out from the core. She searched the memories for Earth’s exact location but the threads terminated into nothingness, much like her joy at having dirty feet. Niya sensed a difference in the terminations. The location of humanity’s home planet felt more like a data thread that had been purposely terminated, unlike the sensations of sand and happiness—which she sensed ended because The Prime truly had no answer.
“What happened to us?” she asked aloud to herself, feeling a deep well of sorrow for her ancestors without knowing why.
You will learn humanity’s fate.
“When?” she asked, preferring to let her voice fill in the empty silence of the night.
It is a module within your training program.
Niya decided to leave it at that and went back to gazing at the stars. Her mind wandered from one blurry, unfocused memory to the next. Humans had once traveled the stars, but she couldn’t pin down any details about exactly where they had traveled to. Humans had discovered other sentient beings long before The Prime, but once more her mind was unable to produce specific details as to what creatures her ancestors might have encountered. Humans had warred with some of the other aliens, though such memories terminated quickly beyond the vague concept of her species in conflict with others in the galaxy.
Another bright flash flared in the center of her vision, leaving a long trail of burning gases behind as it raced across the sky. She turned and saw a much smaller, slower moving light near the horizon, its trail almost identical to the meteor’s yet somehow vastly different. Context unpacked around the data explaining comets, asteroids, and other minor stellar bodies. She stood in the night until her body trembled from both the cool air and her emotions. Niya wiped her eyes one last time and entered the building, immediately heading for the washroom.
Bathing. The concept of taking a bath or a shower interrupted her before she could lift a foot into the sink to wash it. A whisper of noise behind her made her spin around, losing her balance in the process. Her knees banged into the counter then the floor but she only laughed when she saw the wall had opened to reveal towels to dry herself with and a small number of cleaning agents.
Niya picked herself up and waved her hand under the tube, jerking it away when the icy water flowed over her fingers. She almost rejected the idea of bathing to wash her feet in the sink when steam began to rise from the tub. She let the water flow over her fingers again, pleased at the heat and how it made her skin feel.
The sigh that escaped her after she lowered herself into the water linked to thousands of other concepts in her brain. Niya’s accounting of certain emotions and sensations continued to add new entries as she closed her eyes and let the water envelop her. When water entered her nose then lungs, she surged from the tub, her feet slipping on the bottom, pitching her body forward until she crashed into the floor on her side. Her first real sensations of physical pain, beyond the initial blinding sunlight forced her brain to lock certain areas down, an unknown ability that surprised her.
Niya’s brain dialed back the gate to let the pain of her bruised elbow and flooded lungs flow to her nerve endings, slowly at first until she allowed the full force of it to affect her. The experience was unpleasant, yet she suffered through it with eyes closed, jaw clenched, muscles tensed until the sensations began to recede. Her fingers lightly touched her elbow, the pain flaring up again in a bright bloom that made spots form in her vision.
“Humans are beautiful and complex,” she said aloud after sitting back down in the tub.
The Prime remained silent, ever watchful even if its presence was disconnected. Niya stayed in the steaming, relaxing water until her fingers and toes became pale and wrinkled. Her mind had raced through thousands of concepts and ideas during her bath and she wanted nothing more than to spend an eternity in such mental and physical bliss.
The softness of the towel brought about more faded memories, as did the tool her memories labeled as a “brush.” She stepped in front of the mirror, taking a moment to work through the shock that she looked different than she had only a few hours earlier. Her slightly upturned, almond eyes were bright and green, contrasting with the smoky, ochre pigment of her skin. Niya recalled with perfect clarity how her eyes had been almost colorless and her skin resembled the grey walls of the womb before washing away the protective birthing gel. She ran her fingers through her short, straight brown hair before using the brush, once more spending long periods of time experiencing the differences in each physical sensation, while marveling at how her emotional state was affected by each action.
Niya was asleep within seconds of her head hitting the pillow. Her last thought centered around hunger but her mind was too exhausted to allow her stomach’s complaints to disrupt her need for sleep. Dreams formed, played out, then dissolved into different dreams. A tiny part of her brain reminded her that other than her experiences of the last day, all of her memories were constructed from information The Prime had obtained about her species.
She dreamed of her toes squishing through wet sand, the roar of the ocean muffled by the lack of clarity since she’d never experienced an ocean or sand. Memories synced and sometimes meshed to fill in the blanks. The feel of wet sand on her feet was strongest since she’d experienced mud between her toes at the creek, the ocean breeze more disconnected from her memories because she’d only felt a light wind in the valley outside of her new home.
Wake. Your training begins.
Niya’s dream of leaping from a mountainside and somehow gliding through the air instead of falling to the broken rocks below was shattered by the command to wake. Her bladder warned her to get to the bathroom while her eyes did their best to clear away the confusion and adjust to the piercing light assaulting them. She finished what her mind told her would be a life-long routine and returned to the door leading outside.
You must consume calories before training.
“Why?” she asked even though the pangs of hunger had grown exponentially from the moment her eyes opened.
It is a necessary component of your organic systems. Food is converted to fuel for your—
“I understand,” she said, cutting off The Prime in mid-sentence.
The neurons in her brain fired far faster than they had the day before. She sensed that sleep was indeed a necessary component of human life, much like food, expelling waste, and emotions. The complex web of concepts was too thick, too knotted for her to untangle and work through, though she spent ten minutes doing exactly that while attempting to eat from a new container in the kitchen without making herself sick again. She’d only arrived at the scientific principals of sleep and sleep deprivation within the data when The Prime summoned her again.
Your training program is ready. Proceed. Do not reboot.
Niya sighed after a satisfying belch made her nerves tingle and her body feel lighter, less constricted by pressure. A cringe of disgust clashed with a small thread of mirth, when her brain informed her that she was capable of removing excess air from her anus. She felt torn between hurrying her first experience in expelling solid waste and doing everything possible to delay that inevitable moment when it would be necessary. A small thread of fear seeped into her conscious mind, worried that it would be as violent and painful as when she’d vomited. Another thread of disgusted humor confused her at the memories of such expulsions sometimes being horrifically painful and other times pleasurable.
She shook her head to clear her wandering thoughts and left the building. When she stepped from the doorway, a ghostly line appeared on the ground, leading around the house to the training complex behind it. Large double doors opened when she approached, her mind barely paying attention as it tried to determine if the ghostly line was real or imagined. The door closed behind her the moment the lights turned on.
Niya passed her gaze around the room, noting a few strange items that her brain drew a blank about when queried. The floor in the middle of the room had an almost imperceptible curve to it where it dove under the outer floor. She took a step, feeling her feet sink in just enough to sense it but not enough to impede them as they moved about.
The lights in the room turned off, leaving her in the dark. A second later, her vision filled with digital constructs, lines of data, and minor icons on the edge of her periphery. A voice in both her ears and her mind startled her but she listened to the words, sure they were important even though they seemed strange, stilted, mechanical.
Genesis-6 prototype 1-A sequence initiated. Welcome, Niya. I will be your guide through this training module.
“Who are you?” she asked, sensing the voice was not of The Prime.
You may refer to me as Moses. I am an artificial program designed to assist you in your training.
“What is your purpose?” Niya asked, unsure of why she’d asked it but curious at the program’s answer.
My purpose is to train you how to use your organic and synthetic systems to achieve The Prime’s goals.
“What are The Prime’s goals?”
That information is available in module 623-F.
“What module is this?”
This module is designated 1-A. Shall we begin?
Your primary human autonomous systems are regulated by your organic brain, assisted by modified parallel quantum processors independently capable of 6.34 quintillion calculations per second on a hybridized neurostatic data bus. For the purpose of your entire training schedule, all emotion engine buffer gates have been locked in the open position to ensure full-duplex communication between all components.
“I can gate my emotions?” Niya asked, surprised at the revelation.
Correct. The Prime experimented with removal of the organic emotion engine but experienced catastrophic failures. Further experiments to restrict the effects of the emotion engine failed as well. Genesis-6, your model, leaves the decision to restrict or silence the emotion engine up to each individual owner. For the duration of your training, it is requested you do not attempt to restrict your emotions.
Your brain and your physical body must find its limits. Restricting core traits this early will later result in a reboot during moments of intense or overwhelming emotional and physical activity.
“I understand. You said ‘each individual’ when referring to Genesis-6. There are others like me?”
Not at this time. You are the primary production model for your line. If you fail your training, you will be recycled and The Prime will initiate Genesis-7 prototype research. If you pass your training, you will be the basis for all future Genesis-6 hybrids.
“All others will be exactly like me?” Her brain raced along a thread, unpacking the data faster than she could follow. “Clones?” she asked, the concept solidifying into understanding.
Not clones. The alterations to your organic and synthetic systems will be programmed into all Genesis-6 hybrids birthed until The Prime terminates the entire line or introduces upgraded Genesis-7 hybrids. Each Genesis-6 hybrid will be a unique, sentient, self-aware entity, as you are. Shall we continue with lesson module 1-A?
“Continue,” she said, but her thoughts were buried in the concept of loneliness. Loneliness engulfed her, introducing her to sadness that she was alone, that all future Genesis-6 hybrids depended solely on her successfully completing whatever training The Prime required.
Pay attention please. Notice the digital constructs within your field of vision. The primary goal of this lesson is to become familiar with the functions of the software and become adept at interacting with it to the point your neurons are hardwired to the program and it is an active feature of your subconscious mind.
Niya nodded, unsure what the gesture meant other than a vague idea. The training program—Moses, she reminded herself—seemed to understand the body language. Moses instructed her in the various basic functions of the Augmented Visual Information Display program, teaching her how to use the virtual overlay to measure distance, temperature, atmospheric and weather data, as well as minor facts or notes about the objects within her field of view. She turned and saw one of the strange contraptions she hadn’t been able to identify earlier.
AUTOMATED SURGICAL UNIT appeared beside the device, a second information window appearing under the first to inform her the ASU was capable of treating a Genesis-6 hybrid for all known diseases, wounds, and ailments. The idea of climbing into it was unnerving enough to Niya, but the thought of having a limb torn off or a severe laceration to require using the ASU made her physically shudder. She looked to the second unidentified item and became curious when the information window flashed COMBAT AND SURVIVAL TRAINING STORAGE LOCKER in large, imposing letters.
That is for lesson module 237-D.
Niya nodded once again, her memories linking to concepts named survival, combat, fight, battle, war, and to the smaller concepts involving the numerous weapons humanity had used over the millennia. She marked the entire region as important so she could continue her lesson with Moses. The program taught her how to push most of the data from her AVID overlay into the periphery yet call for the information without losing focus on other more important tasks. When she asked Moses for an example, the program moved the floor in the opposite direction her body faced.
Niya shuffled her feet, confused at first until she focused on the small virtual arrows on the floor pointing behind her. A glowing green ball appeared at the opposite end of the room. Moses instructed her to touch it then shifted the direction of the floor to her left while the glowing ball rotated around the outer edges of the room in the opposite direction. She became frustrated at having to pay attention to the streaming data about the ball’s movements, the direction and the speed of the floor, and her own feet as they continually changed directions to keep her moving toward the ball.
She drifted to the far end of the room when her feet stopped moving as her frustration created clutter in her mind about how it was a stupid example and likely had nothing to do with whatever purpose The Prime intended for her. Niya closed her eyes and blanked out her wandering thoughts. Moses was a teaching program. She knew it attempted to teach her something very basic yet essential to both her survival as well as her ability to master AVID’s functions. Niya opened her eyes when her heels bumped against the edge of the stationary outer floor.
The green ball across the room from her floated at waist height. The inner floor moved NW to SE at one meter per second. AVID gave her an instant understanding of the measurement system while her brain informed her it was based on humanity’s measurement system instead of the system The Prime used. She concentrated on all of the streaming data at once then pushed it into the background, tying it into the proposed movements her legs and feet would need to take in order to touch the glowing ball.
Her legs became tangled within five steps and she sprawled forward, smacking her chin into the floor hard enough to make her head ring for a few minutes while swallowing a small amount of blood from the tiny chunk of tongue her teeth had removed. The floor carried her back to her starting position where she waited until her vision was clear and her headache gone. Niya bared her teeth, pushed the AVID data into the background, then pushed off with her right foot in pursuit of the glowing ball.
She finally reached the ball on the tenth attempt after figuring out how to integrate all of the flowing information into useful commands to her feet and the leg muscles that mobilized them. Each time the floor sensed she was moving too fast toward the ball, it would shift to a random direction and speed up or slow down. Twice Niya’s speed was so great she tripped herself up when her feet met the stationary floor after the moving floor fooled her with a direction change. By the eighth attempt, the data integration felt natural. She quickly discovered the importance of Moses’ lesson in learning how to use the AVID features as an extension of her senses when she successfully countered the floor’s sudden directional and speed changes without consciously thinking about it. The only reason it took her two more tries to actually touch the ball had more to do with its suddenly changing rotational directions once she’d mastered her footwork on the moving floor.
Excellent. All future upgrades will integrate with the AVID system at its root level. It is imperative you continue to practice using it until it becomes an invisible aspect of your senses. Your brain and the quantum processors that assist it are complex learning machines, one organic the other synthetic, but machines nonetheless. New interactions with unfamiliar objects, environments, or entities evolves AVID’s abilities, which your memories can then query in order to provide information or potential solutions should you encounter a somewhat similar object, environment, or entity in the future. Shall we proceed to lesson module 1-B?
Niya spent the next week in a state of elated exhaustion. Her initial four-hour training session learning AVID’s abilities and a number of its limits quickly morphed into twelve-hour marathons that pushed her to the brink of reboot half a dozen times before her stamina caught up. More than that, she learned just how essential sleep was for both her brain and body.
The first three nights were dreamless black holes. Her first two hours awake each morning were spent daydreaming about sleep. Moses taught her how to manipulate the synthetic nanite systems hardwired into her to negate the effects of fatigue while warning her the entire time about the necessities of sleep. The Prime confirmed her question as to whether or not sleep was another core human system that could be modified but never removed.
The most important lesson Moses taught her dealt with her ability to monitor her physical output and schedule just enough sleep to counter the effects. After the fourth day of tinkering with the scheduler, Niya was able to push herself for twelve straight hours between four hour rest periods. Neither Moses nor The Prime woke her on the eighth day. Nine hours of sleep had refreshed her at a deeper level than her perfectly calculated scheduling somehow.
Human biology is only second to human psychology in terms of universal complexities, Moses sent through the network. The Prime have met such complex species as yours before, but never have they encountered one as modifiable as yours. They studied your ancestors’ data for a millennium in human time before attempting their first Genesis model.
“How long have The Prime spent with our species?” Niya asked, refusing to budge from the soft-yet-firm bed.
That information will be presented in a future training module.
Niya sighed and closed her eyes. “Fine. Why are we so modifiable? I would ask what The Prime’s intentions are for us, but you would simply repeat something about how it was for a future session.” She frowned and rolled over, facing the doorway as if Moses would be standing in it, frowning back at her. “Three hundred sessions from now,” she added with a grunt.
Human impatience seems to also be a core system that cannot be removed.
Niya narrowed her eyes, knowing Moses would somehow see or sense her body language. She thought about saying something but remained silent when her memories found the humor thread. After a few minutes of downloading more context from the network, Niya decided the Moses program had inadvertently made a joke. The humor was evident though the lack of detailed context and lack of experience in human or Prime social interaction made her feel as if she hadn’t fully understood why it was humorous.
“You let me sleep too long,” she said after a few more minutes wrestling with the concept of humor.
There is no training today. You will rest your physical and mental systems.
“I am to sleep until tomorrow?” she asked, checking AVID to see if it was possible. AVID warned her with multiple information windows that too much sleep was unhealthy but rarely lethal in a healthy organism.
You may do as you wish for this twenty-eight hour period. I suggest training your emotion systems, or at the least, becoming more familiar with them. I would also suggest if you become bored while inside that you explore the immediate area around the training center. There are no harmful organisms within the valley but exercise caution regardless.
“If there are no dangers from other life forms, what dangers are there?”
A fall from a high tree branch is not a living organism yet it is potentially more fatal than a large predatory mammal.
“I see,” Niya said thoughtfully. “Are there any mammals in the valley? Anything alive besides what grows from the ground?”
Of course. The Cradle is seeded with many life forms, all benign to human beings.
“Where did they come from?” Niya asked, sitting up in bed. She held the urge to eliminate waste at bay with ASID. Her curiosity fired neurons in multiple regions of her brain, the information and partial memories of other life forms human had encountered relaying almost too fast to focus on any one detail.
They were with your kind when The Prime discovered you. Their systems are far less complex than human systems.
“I’m going to explore after I shower and eat.”
Remember, this is a day of rest to recharge your organic systems. Light exertion is recommended.
Niya looked out over the valley from the top of the pine tree. AVID kept her informed of the stresses she likely put on the two thin branches that held her feet securely, along with temperature, wind speed, and a new feature she’d discovered: thermal filtering. Her eyes roamed over the valley then the forest floor below. Ghostly images of trees and plants were spotted with glowing silhouettes from small creatures her memories called insects. A larger, brighter outline peeked its head out from behind a fallen branch. She studied the tall ears, and found a memory of rabbits buried deep inside a concept labeled “life.”
Five larger glowing outlines captured her attention farther away. She used AVID to zoom in on the animals, then disabled the thermal filter. Her heart beat faster in her chest as muted memories of dogs passed through her conscious mind, finally settling on wolves. She watched the beautiful creatures for a while, appreciating their thick, shiny coat of fur, piercing eyes, and graceful movements as they nipped at each other playfully. Memories of dogs and wolves as companions brought up the feelings of loneliness again, her sadness increasing when she found the data about other human companions—especially cats.
A blinking icon two klicks from the wolves caught her attention. The alert window informed her large felines dominated the territory beyond the wolves. Niya descended from the tree and began jogging toward the big cats until she remembered Moses’ suggestion to keep physical exertion to a minimum. Her legs compromised by slowing down into a swift walk, her eyes roaming across the terrain in case she happened upon other animals or interesting creatures to spend a moment admiring.
A series of low, threatening growls greeted her when she passed by the wolf den. None of the animals made a move toward her, but each let her know to keep her distance. She walked for a hundred meters beyond the pack before stopping to admire them. Three of the canines hunkered on the soft carpet of pine needles while the two largest crept toward her, their growls a constant warning.
Niya smiled then continued her journey toward the animals the network called lions. After a short climb up a rocky ridge, she peeked over the top to see down into the shallow depression. Three roars of fury from below startled her and she lost her footing. Niya held in her cries of pain as sharp rocks opened cuts on her leg before loose dirt was forced into them as she slid down the embankment. The sound of claws scrabbling over rocks behind her kicked her adrenal glands into high gear, her legs immediately propelling her toward the training center at full speed.
Another roar almost made her look back but the sound of heavy paws on dirt forced her to concentrate on the hazards littering the ground. She was sure she could feel the hot breath of the closest lion on her back when AVID unlocked a secondary gate within her muscular and nervous system. Niya nearly stumbled at the burst of speed, amazed at the blurred landscape until her vision adjusted and details sharpened once again. A small overlay in her periphery showed her easily leaving the galloping lions behind. The wolf den was a momentary blip in her augmented vision as she raced by.
The training center came into view and she slowed down once AVID alerted her the cats had turned around and were heading back to their own den. A flurry of information windows appeared once she came to a stop, each directing her attention to various performance aspects of her organic and synthetic systems. She became puzzled at how fast she’d run until memories unpacked to let her know ordinary humans were barely capable of one-third her best speed. Another pop-up informed her that she had come nowhere close to her theoretical top speed, followed by a secondary pop-up within that to remind her that she will still a juvenile and would be capable of even more when her body was physically mature.
You have over-exerted yourself.
“You said there were no dangerous mammals in the valley!” she exclaimed, feeling anger concepts unpack for the first time. “You lied to me!”
I have not lied, Niya. The mammals you encountered are no more dangerous to you than the hair on your head.
“Then why did the lions attack me?” she yelled. A warning alert appeared in her periphery to warn her that losing her temper would trigger a reboot unless she controlled the raw emotions fueling her growing rage.
They did not attack you. They merely chased you away from their home. However, you did accidentally discover a feature of your model that was to be introduced—
“—in a future lesson,” she finished. “What if I had not discovered I could outrun them?”
You would not have been harmed.
“How do you know? They seemed unwilling to allow me to apologize for disturbing them.”
The Prime would not let you be harmed by the life forms within The Cradle.
Niya decided to believe Moses for the time being, having no reason to distrust the program or The Prime.
“I want one,” she said suddenly as the idea popped into her conscious mind.
You want what?
“A wolf. Or a lion. Or both.”
Moses remained silent for a few minutes. Niya waited, envisioning herself wandering The Cradle with a wolf and a lion by her side. She had no idea where such a thought originated from other than loneliness.
The Prime will modify one of each for you. The Prime will not offer replacement if either creature reboots.
“Really?” she asked, jolted from her daydreaming by the realization she would soon have a wolf and a lion to… Niya’s mind drew a blank. The threads leading to an answer were terminated by lack of information.
I have informed The Prime you will be alone for the foreseeable future until you have completed your training. Based on your species’ historical relationships with such creatures, I have sensed that companionship will improve your focus and motivation.
“Thank you,” Niya said, unsure why she offered the words.
Context unpacked for her but the concept was mostly unfamiliar. An information window suggested the context to fully understand the idea would become clearer if she completed her training and The Prime birthed more Genesis-6 hybrids to socialize with.
Niya lost track of the days and nights over the next few weeks. Moses taught her to set an alarm within AVID based on the number of hours it suggested she sleep, which skewed her perception of time even more thanks to the odd patterns of daylight or nighttime skies. Moses kept her busy with a battery of training programs, most of them focused on using the AVID system as an integral part of her life.
Niya learned her physical limits within days then incrementally increased those limits even further by pushing herself to exhaustion. She could run nearly fifty klicks per hour, an absolutely unheard of speed on a sustained “jog” and topped out at seventy-three klicks per hour during a heavy sprint. Her sprint times increased from a few seconds to almost two minutes. Two full minutes at top speed left her gasping for breath for less than a minute, but Moses continually reminded her that a reboot would be a fatal blow to the Genesis-6 line should she push too hard.
AVID helped her find handholds on sheer cliffs as well as kept her body temperature warm enough to stave off the freezing, bitter winds that swept along the cliff face after passing the one hundred meter mark. When she finally reached the top and stood in knee-deep snow, a feeling of triumph and elation surged through her, causing her to scream at full volume. Niya was fascinated by the sound of her own voice echoing back from the valley. The urge to leap from the edge of the cliff to the ground below was strong but not suicidal. Watching birds and insects fly unleashed a desire to do the same, to feel nothing beneath her feet except the wind, cruising across treetops and into the cold, barren, rocky mountains bordering the valley she called home.
Moses surprised her twice one morning after she woke. The nudge of a cold, wet nose on her hand brought her out of a deep sleep before her alarm activated. A rough, sandy, wet sensation on her opposite arm greeted her before she could open her eyes enough to see in detail. A small, furry, four-legged animal sat on its haunches to her left, it’s piercing blue eyes, wagging tail, and quiet whimpers unlocking a new emotion in her brain. Before she could reach out to touch it, she felt wetness in the corners of her eyes.
Niya wiped the tears away while absorbing the data that let her know humans were capable of “happy tears,” a confusing mix of raw emotions that she hadn’t experienced enough to be familiar with. Another rough, wet sensation on her arm made her turn her head to the right. A slightly larger, furrier animal lay next to her, its tongue gently licking her arm while it produced a low rumbling sound that made Niya sort through the same emotions as the animal on her right had.
“You should give each a name,” Moses said from everywhere, including within her head.
“They’re so small!” she exclaimed. The small wolf shrank back at her sudden outburst, but the feline only slanted its ears back while continuing to lick her arm.
“Don’t worry,” Moses said. “They will grow much like you except faster.”
“Will they be as big as the wild ones in the valley?”
“The wolf will grow as large, yes. The panther will not be as large as the lions in the valley, but she will be larger than the wolf.”
“Is the wolf a ‘she’ as well?”
“No, he is male.”
“Gabriel,” she said, pulling the name from her information stores, expanding more data than she had time to absorb consciously. She sent it to the background, understanding the context of her choice of names. “Come here, Gabriel,” she whispered, unconsciously letting the wolf sniff her fingers.
Gabriel barked twice, his tail wagging more forcefully than before, then leaped onto her chest and began licking her face.
“Okay, okay!” she said with a laugh, pushing the small, snow-white bundle of hair and tongue away. Gabriel immediately climbed back on to her chest and tried to lick her face again.
“The Prime’s information is limited on the greater felines and canines your species coexisted with,” Moses said. “The domesticated versions of each species were easily excited and enjoyed being played with.”
“Played with?” Niya asked, turning her attention to the panther on her right after soothing Gabriel with a steady scratch behind his ear.
“Immature humans participated in an activity known as ‘play time’ that is similar to their domesticated animal companions. Since you were not born into a normal human family, that aspect of your upbringing is absent. Play time was used to teach human children and their animal companions how to bond with each other as well as other children and animals within their social or local circles.”
Niya unpacked a node that gave her a vague, rough understanding of the concept. She had no idea what a basketball was, but understood the idea of tossing it back and forth with another human child as well as tossing it farther and encouraging a canine companion to “fetch” it. The concept of play with a feline companion was markedly different. The ghostly whispers of third-hand knowledge unpacked, her mind sifting through concepts as “strings” and “toys” that felines attempted to capture while in motion.
“Lyssa,” she cooed at the small panther. Lyssa cocked her ears back again but rumbled louder than before. “Do you like your name?” Niya asked the pitch-black furball next to her.
Lyssa made a strange noise that sounded to Niya’s ears like “maw.” She giggled and used her free hand to gently stroke the cat’s fur while her brain unpacked more information. Niya quickly understood the noise Lyssa made was called “purring,” but was confused by the conflicting information about exactly what a purr was. She spent a few minutes absently petting or scratching both animals while working her way through the different types of purring cats did. She frowned, wondering how she would be able to tell the difference between a content purr and an angry or scared purr.
Moses interrupted her with more information, alerting her to the fact both animals were linked to her AVID system by their own scaled-down versions of AVID. She was instantly fascinated by how she could always locate them by opening a window in her HUD, and let out an excited laugh when she discovered she could see through their eyes. Niya spent ten minutes getting used to the different vision systems the animals used along with their ability to see in thermal, infrared, and low-light.
“Do they eat meat?” Niya asked after returning to her normal view of the world with her own eyes.
“Their ancestors were exclusively carnivorous, though all canine and feline species sometimes became herbivores for short periods if meat was unavailable or the animal was ill. The Prime have engineered Gabriel and Lyssa to use the same digestive systems you possess, which means they ingest the same protein paste you do.”
“Can they eat meat?” Niya asked.
“Yes, but it is inefficient, the same as it is with you. In order to survive, you, Gabriel, Lyssa, and all future Genesis-6 models will be able to eat any nutritious substance, even toxic ones, to survive. But as I said, it is highly inefficient and should only be attempted during extreme conditions where your normal protein paste is not available.”
“Do they… uh… use the bathroom like me?”
“If they are forced to ingest substances other than the protein paste, yes.”
“What if they only eat what I eat?”
“Like you, they will require expulsion of excess waste that their digestive systems have not fully absorbed, but for the most part, both species have been engineered for maximum efficiency.”
“How long before they reach full size?”
“All of that information is available to you. But let us move on to your first lesson of the day. I advise you to leave Gabriel and Lyssa here during this training exercise.”
“Why?” Niya asked, refusing to move other than her fingers giving constant attention to the two companions.
“Come outside and see,” Moses said, his voice fading in the distance as if he had a physical body and had left her behind.
“Gabriel, Lyssa, stay here. I will return later and we will figure out this ‘play time’ concept together.”
Niya hugged each animal, receiving a wet tongue on her cheeks from both before opening her closet to pull out clothes for the day. Moses normally instructed her what to wear based on the training lessons. Since he hadn’t given her any hint as to what she would be doing, she chose a pair of loose-fitting pants, a t-shirt, socks, and her favorite pair of athletic shoes. Her mind wandered through the concepts of athletics until she arrived at the clearing behind the training center.
“What is that?” she asked, both excited and afraid of the sleek, reflective metal object resting on the ground.
“This is the R-3 atmospheric flight vehicle,” Moses said.
Niya’s brain immediately unpacked the technical data, marveling at the idea she was going to live her dream of flying. She stood still for almost ten minutes while absorbing all of the important information on flight systems, flight mechanics within an atmosphere, and how to control it in various ways. When she determined she was ready to begin the lesson, Moses instructed her to open the main airlock and climb the stairs to the vehicle’s interior. The moment both of her feet were inside the R-3, her HUD lit up with dozens of windows displaying the vehicle’s flight controls, synchronization systems, and safety features.
“The R-3,” Moses began after she took her seat, “can be controlled in one of three ways or a combination of all three. The first control mode is full-manual. The R-3 and all other vehicles can be flown without syncing to its systems, and it is important you learn to control them this way in case your AVID system is damaged or you are required to pilot one that has damaged or malfunctioning systems. The second control method utilizes a combination of manual and virtual controls through your AVID implants. The final method is through full virtual control, utilizing only your AVID implants and brain to pilot it.”
Niya spent a few more minutes reviewing all three control methods. She decided to start with full manual controls. Her AVID powered up the R-3’s engines and computers, a slight hum and vibration making her nervous for a few seconds until she became familiar with it. She gripped the flight sticks on either side of her seat and placed a foot on each pedal, noting the left pedal controlled elevation while the right controlled speed.
“You would be wise to enable the safety restraint system before attempting to lift off,” Moses said.
Niya felt around the seat but found nothing. Moses pinged her AVID and she noticed a flashing information window pop up in her vision. She smiled and mentally commanded the safety restraint system to engage. Five straps snaked out from the edges of the pilot’s seat and surrounded her before binding together in the center of her chest. She tentatively tried to move, only to be held in place. The restrictions to her movements worried her until another information node unpacked to let her know it was normal and more importantly, necessary based on the G-forces and motions of the vehicle during flight.
Once she was sure she was ready, she gently pressed the left pedal in. Niya’s heart skipped a beat and her nervous system went into overdrive at the first sensation of leaving the ground. The sudden emotion of actually flying caused her to push the pedal down harder than she intended. The R-3 shot into the sky, the forces of gravity pushing her deep into the gel seat that seemed to form around her legs and torso. She removed her foot from the pedal and the sensation of falling made her panic, her right foot jamming down on the acceleration pedal. The R-3 shot forward with enough force to shove her deep into the seat.
Moses took control from her for a few minutes until she regained control of her limbs and calmed her nerves down enough to try again. She found the controls for the cabin’s armor plates and retracted them. Niya’s gasp filled the cabin when she saw the valley twelve hundred meters below. Moses alerted her to another window in her AVID. Niya activated it and became frightened when the ship disappeared other than her seat and the flight control panels immediately in front of her.
“This is the mode you will operate in a majority of the time,” Moses said before disabling the view. “You will become familiar with the manual flight and sensory modes first. Once you have mastered that, it becomes easier to use AVID and the R-3’s sensors to fly in full virtual mode.”
Niya nodded and began testing her skills as a pilot. Moses stayed in the background, constantly monitoring the R-3 and her internal systems to keep both from crashing into the ground, the trees, the rocky mountains on either side, and the training center in the middle of the valley. The feeling of flying was almost hypnotizing to Niya, who had to be reminded every few minutes by Moses to pay attention, lest she end up in a tangled heap of metal and flesh, which meant a reboot, which meant her line’s termination and the start of the Genesis-7 prototypes.
Today you will begin lesson 237-D, Moses said when she came to a stop in the middle of the training center.
Niya’s mind searched for a reference, believing Moses had put emphasis on the lesson number. When the memory synced, her eyes focused on the locker next to the automated surgical unit. She’d had weeks to download and process various bits of human existence as she tried to form context as to what her ancestors had been like. Niya’s thoughts couldn’t help returning to her frustration over how she simply had to guess as to what she wanted to know.
One of the most effective solutions during her “free time” was to simply pull up a memory from her own short life, usually one of the larger concepts that she hadn’t fully unpacked yet, then let it lead her down innumerable roads that sometimes terrified her. Most concepts completely mystified her. Her trek through “pain” once again had led her back to “war,” which branched off in uncountable directions, some large, some too tiny to notice unless by accident. One of those accidents led her to a frightening, unimaginable “game” called “Russian Roulette.” One of the more incomprehensible paths led her to siblings physically fighting with each other, which sent her down another path where lovers and spouses physically hurt and even murdered one another.
Other than a few sharp, detailed images or motion videos, the overwhelming majority of her memories were muted, vague, as if told to someone who then retold it to whatever recording medium she was able to pull the concepts from. Her curiosity drowned in frustration on most of her forays into The Prime’s data of her species. She became even more annoyed when the fate of humanity turned out to be even more vague and muted. Niya knew for sure human beings had suffered a terrible fate, and was extremely confident that fate was more detailed than “a greater alien species exterminated humanity.” She wasn’t sure if she had too little time to delve into human history to know which questions to ask or The Prime were hiding the information in subtle ways by deflecting her queries.
“Am I to learn how to hurt and kill others like me?” Niya asked after her short staring match with the Combat and Survival Training Storage Locker.
That is a question better left unanswered until you have more context as to The Prime’s plans for you, Moses answered after a long pause.
“Then I will be learning only the ‘survival’ part for now? How long is that? A few days? A month?”
You will learn the combat aspect as well. It will be a general lesson to familiarize yourself with a number of weapons and weapon systems, from your own hands, feet, and teeth to energized weapons integrated into the R-3 vehicle.
“Am I learning to use these weapons to harm or kill others like me?” Niya pressed, hoping Moses would give her some kind of clue or a tidbit of information that The Prime answered with silence.
That is a question for another lesson.
“No!” she shouted, startling herself at her sudden outburst. “That is a question for right now! Am I going to use these weapons against other Genesis-6 like me?”
Negative. That is not within The Prime’s goals.
“So they’re training me to harm or kill the species who destroyed humankind?”
Negative. That is not within The Prime’s goals.
“And The Prime’s goals will become known to me once I’ve learned how to harm or kill… something with these weapons?”
“Yes, Niya,” Moses’ voice said from directly behind her.
She turned to see nothing, yet AVID displayed a faint outline of what she assumed was another person standing less than a meter from her.
“I can see you, but you’re not really here,” she said, forgetting for a moment about learning The Prime’s goals for her and the Genesis-6 line—assuming she passed whatever tests they forced her to take.
“My blurry visage will sharpen in detail once you begin to imagine me as a person,” Moses said.
Niya’s ears heard nothing, but AVID assured her that a human male’s voice had indeed spoken aloud.
“Are you a person?” she asked. “Or just a program?”
“I am a program who desires to become a person.”
“But not a real person,” Niya said, slightly confused and momentarily saddened by the realization of what she’d said.
“Are you a real person?” Moses asked.
Niya imagined the Moses in her AVID as herself with short hair and a short beard. The vague, hazy third-person memories of human males were numerous but detailed only in certain ways, such as a male’s ability to grow hair from his face. She had spent more than a few hours over the last two months staring back at herself in the mirror while taking care of her personal hygiene but still had trouble imagining what she looked like. She then imagined Moses frowning and crossing his arms, the ghostly image of him mirroring her thoughts with a fresh display of slightly sharper detail in AVID.
“Should I explore the philosophy concept during my next rest period?” she asked after sensing it as she searched for the answer as to whether or not she was a real person herself.
“Human philosophy is incredibly complex and rich with ideas,” Moses said, his virtual persona becoming less clouded. “However, I recommend exploring such a concept much later after you’ve gained more context as to humanity’s civilization and your own existence.”
“Okay,” Niya said, doing her best to not peek into the concept itself. Very few threads led out of the concept into pain, though there were markedly more leading from philosophy into war. That brought her back to the Combat and Survival Training Storage Locker and lesson 237-D. “I am ready to begin lesson 237-D.”
Niya was amazed at the power she could put behind a strike with her hand or a kick with her foot. After studying a number of moves from a concept called “martial arts,” she began to practice them while AVID directed her movements with a ghostly representation of how her limbs were supposed to move and where they should be during each stage of the move’s execution. The act of punching or chopping with her hand seemed almost instinctual, which concerned her in some ways yet pleased her in others. Kicking with one foot while the other remained planted or near the ground was far more difficult even after becoming adept at keeping her balance. Moses assured her that she would improve with daily practice, explaining the concept of “yoga” and “meditation” as best he could.
After four hours of hand-to-hand came small hand-held weapons. When Niya retrieved the short single-edged knife from the storage locker, her pulse quickened as she pulled vague memories of her trips through war and pain concepts. Her hands and feet were deadly thanks to her enhanced reflexes, strength, and synthetic skeletal system, but she knew a knife was far deadlier after holding it for a few seconds. Moses alerted her to the fact that the knife was only a replica, a fake made of dull ceramic to lessen the danger to herself. Niya tested the blade edge and the point, somewhat disappointed it was unlikely to ever cut anything but air until she glanced up at the automated surgical unit.
AVID trained her in various knife fighting styles as well as how to throw it. She laughed at the thought the weapon would do little more than bruise an enemy’s face after bouncing off it, assuming she didn’t score a lucky hit on a creature’s eye. A vaguely humanoid shape detached from the far wall and rolled toward her. Moses ordered her to throw the knife at it after assuring her it was simply a training aid, not a living being. Her first attempt did exactly as she had imagined, the pommel of the knife bouncing off the target’s midsection. After a few more attempts and carefully following AVID’s virtual guide, she smiled when the knife blade sunk into the upper quarter of the target. Niya vowed to practice throwing the knife, then discovered that the target was attackable using the close-in styles she’d learned earlier.
Moses stopped her stabbing and slashing a few hours later. Niya noticed her arms and legs were rubbery and her energy level was lower than normal. Moses walked with her to the housing unit, answering questions she thought of about her martial arts and knife fighting sessions between mouthfuls of the paste from the jars in the kitchen area. Half an hour later, she was back in the training center learning about swords, maces, shields, morning stars, lances, and a dozen other weapons that seemed both deadly and amusing. As her muscle memory improved, she wondered what kind of task The Prime would order her to perform that required the weapons and skills she had learned up to that point. The only two answers she could come up with were either others like herself—which Moses once again assured her was not part of The Prime’s goals—or the species who exterminated humanity.
Before she could delve too far into such questions, Moses had her move on to survival training. The first few hours consisted of AVID unlocking or focusing on a number of features that would help her stave off extreme cold, heat, and biological threats by altering parameters within her regulatory systems. She almost laughed when the first non-internal survival system focused on how to start a fire with no tools. By the time an hour passed, she was no longer laughing after finally rubbing two sticks together fast enough to spark a flame with a patch of dry leaves. Niya made a mental note to always keep a personal igniter in a pocket after understanding how valuable and powerful fire was.
The hours turned into days as Moses guided her through more advanced survival techniques, including instruction on how to utilize her engineered biosystems to protect against extreme heat, cold, toxic gases, and various other hazards she might encounter. The most intriguing lessons covered how to alter her own skin and hair pigments to camouflage herself, effectively making her outright invisible to visual detection systems, or at least incredibly difficult to detect. She quickly found it easiest to cloak herself against dark, solid backgrounds, especially at night or in low-light situations. Moses alerted her to the fact that once other Genesis-6 allies were present, they could link their AVID systems to provide superior camouflage thanks to the ability to use multiple angles for precise pigment patterns.
Niya spent three days learning how to integrate Lyssa and Gabriel’s pigment functions with hers. With both animals lower to the ground, they were even harder to detect. The continual amazement she felt was amplified each time she learned a new method of integration with her companions, especially once she was able to link to both animals’ auditory and olfactory systems. The Prime had engineered both animals’ primary sense organs to far surpass their ancestors, to the point that she nearly rebooted twice after attempting to remove the suppression gates that protected her from raw sensory data both produced. Moses once again warned her that while her own engineered sensory systems were designed to outclass all other humans before her, Lyssa and Gabriel’s primary senses were not fully compatible with human sense systems without the layer of decoding software that would also protect her mind from data overload. He then gave her a vague explanation of how neither animal could detect her scent from more than a meter or two away, which was important as there were aliens in the galaxy whose primary sense was through smell—from rudimentary but extremely sensitive creatures that hadn’t evolved to sentience yet, to marvels of technology combined with selective biological engineering that belonged to some of the most dangerous and advanced species The Prime had cataloged.
The trio spent another two days wandering through the valley, practicing both basic survival skills with nothing more than a sharp blade and the animals’ claws and teeth, as well as playing a game known as “hide and seek” with each other. Lyssa excelled at hiding, becoming nearly impossible to detect with her enhanced senses and Gabriel’s almost supernatural scent detection abilities. Gabriel, on the other hand, was the master of at the “seek” aspect, his engineered olfactory systems able to detect the slightest scents from up to a kilometer away and four meters under the dirt. Niya no longer ran from the lions she had encountered earlier, even when the lions arched their backs and roared with ear-splitting warnings to immediately leave their territory. She worried Gabriel, and especially Lyssa would attempt to engage in combat with the large cats, but wasn’t entirely surprised when her companions and the lions seemed to come to an understanding that dropped the threat level to zero.
Hearing her own laugh when Gabriel lay down and rolled over on his back to allow the largest lion to first sniff, then lick his face was topped only by the antics of Lyssa, Gabriel, and two of the younger lion cubs engaging in what she could only describe as “play time.” She laughed again a few days later after coaxing both animals into the R-3 then gently taking off in a slow vertical climb before switching the cabin to an unobstructed view of the world outside of the vehicle. Lyssa howled in displeasure, immediately jumping into Niya’s lap while Gabriel barked and ran around in circles as if playing another, newer game. Moses assured her that both animals would be safe as long as she avoided sharp turns or sudden acceleration, then surprised her by telling her that because of her efforts to bond with them, The Prime had agreed with his request to engineer an acceleration couch for both so they could travel with her. He then warned her that while it was emotionally and mentally healthy to become attached to the pair, she needed to temper that attachment with the fact that they would eventually be separated for long periods of time, possibly forever, depending on what The Prime’s goals for her were.
After another two weeks of marathon training sessions with her companions as well as more melee weapons, changed up the routine with more flight training. Niya hugged and scratched the ears of Lyssa and Gabriel then walked to the flight pad behind the training center. She stopped a few meters away when she realized the vehicle on the pad was similar to the R-3 she had quickly mastered, but was different in noticeable, sinister ways. Niya wasn’t sure why she suddenly felt foreboding, then spent a few minutes unpacking both that module and a deeper contextual datastore to understand what “sinister” truly meant. She stood silent and still for so long that Moses’ hologram appeared a meter from her and beckoned with a hand after capturing her attention.
“Do you need more time to research your feelings?” Moses asked, his voice tentative, concerned.
“Why am I afraid?” she asked, closing the links to the information.
“I cannot answer that,” Moses replied with a shake of his head. “Human emotions are infinitely complex. Not even The Prime fully understand them.”
“There are no other species in the galaxy with emotions?”
“There are numerous species who rely on emotions either as a societal function or as a survival function. However, none are as complex as human beings. The Prime believe it is a result of your species leaving their home planet and coming in contact with other sentient aliens within their local stellar neighborhood before humanity had matured their emotional states.”
“I don’t understand,” Niya said. “We left Earth too early?”
“In a sense,” Moses answered. He waved a holographic hand for her to enter the new flight vehicle on the pad. “The Prime have cataloged numerous sentient species during their existence. Their assessment is based on the number of species who have survived contact with aliens or have broken the tether to their homeworld with FTL travel versus those who destroyed themselves and their homeworld before taking the necessary steps to become an intergalactic civilization.”
“So,” Niya said after entering the airlock and finding her way to the pilot’s seat, “the majority of aliens who survived leaving their home planet and coming into contact with other star-faring species were aliens who had somehow learned to control their emotions? And those who destroyed themselves did so because of their emotions? Or their lack of control of their emotions?”
“Essentially, yes,” Moses said. “The Prime believe you were likely on a path to self destruction but discovered FTL technology, or had it given to you by another species who visited Earth. The Prime believe it is a type of test that all sentient species must take, one that is essential to ensure the entire galaxy does not become a lifeless, war-ravaged wasteland.”
“A test?” Niya asked. “I don’t understand.”
She activated her AVID links. The safety restraint locked her in. She barely noticed the acceleration couch was completely different than the one that kept her safe in the R-3.
“The Prime have studied the few sentient species who are similar to humans and reached out to the stars before they had become fully mature. They were emotional in the same sense your kind was. They were selfish, greedy, vain, and eventually deteriorated to the point they had to be destroyed before they dominated the galaxy.”
“The Prime exterminated them?” Niya asked, suddenly both afraid and furious at her mysterious creators.
“No,” Moses said softly.
Niya waited for him to say more, but her teacher remained silent.
“What happened?” Niya asked after a long, uncomfortable silence.
“Unfortunately, that information is not available to me. We should begin this lesson.”
Niya nodded in agreement and did her best to clear her mind of the swirling torrent of questions she wanted to ask. Moses’ vague answers only fueled her curiosity more, but she knew he would either elaborate further some time in the future, or his knowledge was incomplete thanks to The Prime. Her annoyance toward The Prime and their secretive, cryptic ways was overshadowed by the persistent feeling that Moses had lied to her for the first time in their… Friendship? she asked herself, suddenly unsure of exactly what kind of relationship she and the digital persona had formed. Partnership? Apprenticeship?
Niya pushed such questions aside and focused on the data flowing into her AVID.