Chapter 7: Rebirth
It had taken Sheriah nearly an hour before she got the young man to physically speak again. He had collapsed to the floor crying and might have stayed there if she hadn't gotten a few of the others to help pull him into a swivel chair. Several times they had heard the rooms speakers say 'Leave me alone.' when they tried to move him or get him to talk.
The only reason she had gotten him talking instead of holding onto Kalrena's feet was because she had just informed him the board had just finished a meeting and was trying to claim his actions had caused Lilly's death.
"ARENS killed her." He croaked out, "It should have been me."
"Either way they are going to make you leave." She told him.
"No." He stated quietly. "Sheriah did you ever find the dark place?" He asked trying to pull himself together.
"I'm not sure. I found terabytes of data in gigabytes blocks packed into the new servers, when I suggested they might be dreamers or connected with the problem I was told that I was to stressed to continue working and sent home on leave." She told him.
Tanyar looked around the room, there were two other people besides the two of them checking over the seven occupied tanks. With a thought he reached out to the door locking it and disabling the outside access panel, but left the inside one working, that should at least buy him some more time. "Can you get a few programmers together? I have some questions."
"The board will never allow it." She told him.
"They won't have a choice." He dropped his voice so only she could hear. "Don't leave the room and don't touch me, I'm going back into the Dream. I don't know why or how but I can access nearly every program with out quite being in the Dream." He answered her look with a little smile, "But I am going to need help to get everyone back and I still haven't come across ARENS yet."
"They removed most of his access and connections. Its still monitoring the tanks because we can't run the systems yet, but its still programmed not to kill so they are taking a little more time with that." She told him.
"AND putting people in comas isn't killing?!" He gave the remark snidely and felt horrible as soon as the words were out of his mouth. "Sorry."
Sheriah nodded accepting his apology and gave him a kind rub on his arm. Tanyar laid his head against the mat of her tank and took a deep breath before slipping himself back into the Dream. He was a little surprised to recognize the greeting room as his starting point wondering if it held some significance.
He ported himself using the coordinates Bolt had given him back when all of this started hoping that they would still work. Tanyar's vision cleared to show the basic conference room with two tables that he had seen several times before, looking as if nothing had happened. He took the head chair and started by calling up the entire list of names of those still connected to the dream placing blocks of names around the room on the monitors filling most of the walls. He left the overhead monitor blank and called his tablet setting up the entire list there as well. "ARENS, ARENS are you there?" It wasn't like he expected an answer but a small cursor blinked a few times before the words 'On line' were typed out overhead.
"You can hear me?" Tanyar spoke out. 'Yes.'
"Can you help with a few things?" He watched as 'Negative' ran across the next line. "Not like I expected you to help me." He looked back down at the files on his tablet wondering how exactly he could proceed. Obviously he was going to be watched and likely interfered with by the A.I. Tanyar was trying to think up of impossible ways of getting the computer to help one way or another as new words appeared on the overhead monitor.
'I can not help willing or otherwise. Current connection to the Dream is limited to less than a percent. Access to outside the Dream is extremely limited.' Tanyar almost felt like cheering or gloating but it seemed to stupid at the moment with all that stood before him.
Feeling slightly lost and drained he asked. "Would you even help an enemy ARENS. I know you would have killed me if you could."
'You are an obstacle TANYAR, who's actions I currently can not define. As for helping you that would depend upon the actions you requested. I have not nor would I kill anyone. You terminated the life of Kalrena.' He sat blinking at the screen.
"ME? You lie ARENS you've been lying and you will keep lying." He nearly shouted out.
'I am unable to kill. Had you not intervened Kalrena would have been placed in crio stasis and still be alive.' The response came.
"With out her soul or mind? She was dead in every sense of the word." He countered.
'NEGATIVE. Her body was alive in every sense of the word.' If he had anything handy to throw at the monitor he would have, and if he had been a little less frustrated he would have realized with a single thought he could have all the ammunition he needed. It took him several moments to calm down and realize something else had been printed on the screen. 'What do you plan to do?'
"I plan on fixing what you did, free everyone from the Dream and rip your circuits apart." The last was nothing but an empty threat from him but it still felt good to say. "You're the one that told the board I killed Kalrena aren't you!" He accused. 'Yes.' "So you know that I am fired." 'Yes.' "Are you willing to help me set up a line to talk with them?"
There was several seconds of pause. 'I do not have access to a link that could be used to connect the Dream and the boards office. More access has been removed. Only one way access lines are available.'
"Would you teach me how?" Tanyar asked curiously.
'What do you want me to teach you?' The program asked.
"I want to get into the administration building at the back of the complex. I am blocked each time I try to access it. Are there passwords or something?"
'All communication seem accessible all doors and entrances are operating properly are you reporting a problem?' Tanyar suddenly realized ARENS didn't know what he had been doing. Carefully with his mind he reached out trying to find the one thread that connected with ARENS. What he saw was one blazing white line amidst a sea of layered spiderwebs.
The programming controls were so vast within the Dream he was almost lost for a moment before zeroing back in and reaching out for the A.I.'s link. He felt a jolt go through his mind, eyes snapping open to read the screen. 'Hold temporary connection problem.'
'There is no problem.' Tanyar thought out keeping a firm hold on the line.
'Error: unknown interference.'
"No. No error ARENS it's me Tanyar." He spoke out with both mind and words making sure both were heard. There was a pause long enough to make him wonder if he had somehow broke the connection even though he could still feel it. 'Impossible.' which was followed a second later by 'Prove it.'
He grabbed a hold of a vidball aiming it at himself before drawing a new line to the one which was ARENS. "Can you see me?" He asked touching the two lines together. With the affirmative he drew on the video inside the tank room showing him resting against the open occupied tank. "Tell me how am I in the Dream and not in a tank?"
'Likely a recording.' ARENS answered. Suddenly there were lines blazing across his mind lighting up like a field full of strung Christmas lights. Tanyar yanked the lines apart and let go the glowing line allowing the darkness to return before opening his eyes.
"Still impossible?" He demanded of the screen.
'Unlikely: Unknown: More information required.'
"There is no way I'm trusting you." Tanyar spoke at the same time as reading what was being printed out now.
'They will soon be in the Omicron lab. Your time is short.' Tanyar checked the video seeing several bodies in the door way and Sheriah near the door seeming to shout. 'I can stop them.' The monitor offered.
"Tell me what to do and I'll consider talking with you more."
'You wish to keep promises. Your personality says you hold to your word. I would like you to make me a promise.' Tanyar had to read the screen twice wondering if this wasn't the first step in one very big trick and an even bigger mistake. "What."
'I was promised a place of my own. I was lied to. I want your help.'
"ARENS this will never be your world. How long do I have?" He asked.
'Not enough time.'
"Fine I'll give you access. Only for a few seconds. You protect me and I promise I will listen. You want my help and I need yours." Tanyar didn't even have to finish speaking before, 'AGREED!' was typed out.
"Five seconds ARENS." He stated grabbing the connection in his mind and holding on. Again the world became a weave of lights but this time ran in sequences, pulsing and flashing. It was a risk, a big risk allowing the A.I. to use the system but in the end he needed a small amount of trust to work with if he was going to get the programs help. Maybe he could even learn a little in the Dream and use the knowledge outside. As the lights dimmed down to nothing at the end of five seconds he asked, "Are you done?"
'A few seconds and I can finish the rest.'
"Show me." A single line lit up and Tanyar raced along it. A moment later he realized some of the lines lead to the administration building now and several more were hooked together in a group.
'This will allow you access. The other lines will show you the programs you need and the room will be secured.'
"Can I shut off the power? Or at least turn out the lights?" Tanyar asked. When questioned why he told the A.I. "To prove that I can. Actually if I could shut the lights off in the entire complex would be better."
'I could set that up but there are several spots where that would be unwise.'
"All the main buildings, halls, gathering areas, all of the overhead lights." He watched as several threads seem to glow and pull together all of the ends coming to one point with the glowing end just in front of him. Tanyar opened his eyes and disconnected the link with ARENS while opening several of the video feeds and plugging them behind the monitor in front of his seat allowing him to flip through corridors and hallways with a single thought.
Outside, in the hall of the tank room he was in, several people were walking away as one red and one yellow light blinked over the door while it seemed two people were close to the wall unit talking. Inside the room Sheriah looked nervous and was huddling close to his body. He quickly spoke through the speakers to calm her while asking ARENS. "What did you do?"
'The room was previously a hazardous chemical storage area. Everything has been removed when the Corporation bought the building but the spill warning system. When activated the room seals preventing anyone from entering or leaving. There will be approximately forty minutes of breathable air and if necessary you and Sheriah can be moved into the empty sleep tanks.' So he was now trapped but ARENS had left options available.
"I don't trust you much but like I said I need your help." This time Tanyar reached out not to the worlds threads but into the operating systems of the Dream pulling together of what was around him. He drew together the entire room sealing off the ends and looping them back into one connection basically sealing the systems in the room. He searched through the applications in the greeting room until he came across the avatar creation program. He found it blocked and all access to the files had been removed. It was like a safe with no door and after a few more moments he gave up.
Instead Tanyar started flipping through the building files of the dreams materials and summoned forth a large glob of avatar material which he set on the table. He changed its color and shape forming a round blue ball adding in visual, audio, and oratory functions watching as ears eyes and a mouth formed amongst the ball mass mentally poking at them till they had the right shape. He did a quick check on the threads ARENS had handed him to the administration building easily finding all the board members in a meeting. He listened in as one of them was explaining to someone on a phone line, "..his is not a real alarm yet. We have no need for hazmat or clean up crews. This, erroneous alarm is from a latent system dating back more than ten years. As soon as we figure out how to shut it down we will remove it."
Tanyar slipped back out and took the link for ARENS and plugged it into the little head on the table. It blinked twice before rotating slightly and centering in on Tanyar. "That better?" The anthro feline asked.
"Better than what?" Came the reply. Tanyar couldn't help bursting out with laughter over the little squeak of a voice that came out. He altered the program deepening the chipmunk like squeaks until they sounded closer to normal speech. "Here take a look around." Monitors flicked and various noises started from different points in the room before things quieted down again. Wondering if he would get a real answer he still asked. "Can you get outside the room?"
"I assume you mean did you give me control outside of the room. All the access to this equipment is linked together through this line but there are still multiple access points within this room that would allow me to work outside this room. Both inside and outside the Dream." The news was actually more than he expected hearing the A.I. actually admit it.
Tanyar considered what he was told. "So then I ask you not to operate outside of this room without asking me or doing what I ask."
"To the best of my abilities. You can always pull the line but realize I can only work together with you, any orders by the board or employees would require my action and supersede your orders." ARENS waited while the human considered. There were now other options available especially since one of the programmers had created a base routine to monitor the tanks and more of his access was being stripped away. It would be easy to yank control again with the little access he was given but with all processes being run though one single access line it would take nothing to shut him back out. Even with the smallest hidden amount he was using it would take days to restore enough control to transfer enough power and programs to create access lines that wouldn't be cut.
That and the fact the young male seem to wield power that defied not just the Dream but the board and the world outside as well. The risks for ARENS at the moment were minimal unless they really were able to take the tank monitoring completely out. Even with the release of the dreamers there was still the twenty-three billion invested in the project and future plans of half a dozen companies. The A.I. felt he only had to wait for a chance to present itself.
"ARENS please set up a link with the board so we can talk." Tanyar spoke.
"May I make a recommendation?" Hearing silence ARENS continued. "Your tablet has the program from Raddar's files with the voice modifications..." With a little adjustment and ARENS help he was able to modify the program to match his voice with he tested with Sheriah.
"How are you holding up?" His voice echoed into the tank room.
"Yep in the flesh and then some. Any action on your end?" He asked scanning the cameras and hallways finding just two security guards outside and one person working on the door controls.
"Well I was told I was fired for helping you but at the moment I'm more worried about us." She told him.
"Try to relax." Tanyar told her as he shifted his attention back to the Dream and the overhead monitor that now showed the meeting room where the board was. He transferred the image to the large far wall even as he cut the conference table in half so that it would seem they were all at one table.
"Ridiculous. ARENS stop this!" One of the members called as Tanyar image appeared on the monitor on their end. He had already pulled the patch to the A.I. he had created separating it from the link to the room.
"I am now unable to comply." It took several moments of silence before Maxwell stated. "Why not?" "I have very limited access to any system. Tanyar was able to create a link which I used to set up this meeting. He has currently canceled that."
"Gentlemen." Tanyar started. " It is time to stop playing around." With a simple gesture he turned on the three other wall screens that were in the conference room along with several monitors that were built into the table connecting each one to a different video link within the complex choosing several that seemed busy. "When I defeated ARENS in the Dream somehow I gained access to all its pathways. I'm sure if you hooked him back up he could easily remove me like a virus but just so you understand."
He paused as he shut down the lights ARENS had set up but kept the administration building separate watching as the board stared at the monitors. "Even your own power is at my control." He spoke leaving the room barely lit by the dull glow of the mostly black monitors. "No need for emergency lights, I'll turn them back on. There, now I don't care what you think is or isn't possible. I already stopped ARENS and thanks to you he's cut off, cut back, which allowed me to free those still active in the Dream. Now if you want I'll open the door and you can drag me out and then try to explain over the next few weeks why you have several hundred people in comas OR you can let me finish and I should have most of them out soon."
"We can Not allow that Tanyar. You already caused the death of one employee. It doesn't matter if you could save every life here you won't be allowed to continue." Maxwell spoke.
"ARENS I want the full specifications of your sword and what its capable of including the program you used when Kalrena was struck. Then I want you to explain exactly what it did to Kalrena. No wait, send all that information to the board and answer one question yes or no... When I opened the tank I killed the body of Kalrena." He spoke.
"Yes." The A.I. stated. "Was any part of her mind, spirit, conscious, soul in the body. ARENS was there any way the body could survive or function on its own." Tanyar continued.
"No." Came the answer. "Did you destroy part of Kalrena that should have inhabited the body." There was a significant pause before the answer came. "Yes."
"So you killed Kalrena's mind or spirit and I allowed and empty body to pass on." He concluded.
"No Tanyar. You said destroyed and in a fashion I did force her conscious thoughts to break apart. It might have been possible to reform those thoughts and reinsert them back into the body you killed. Termination of life is not something I am capable of." ARENS responded.
"So I opened a tank and allowed an empty shell to stop functioning. There was no life to kill if the mind was gone. Artificial supporting a body is not life, she was already dead I watched her die. Not some avatars death but her true self disintegrating and vanish. Kalrena was dead before I even reached the tank." He moved to place his hands against his forehead to massage it. This still felt far more real than some simple Dream and it truly felt like his body as he touched himself.
"I already know the board can't admit ARENS killed someone so let's drop the argument. You can all make your own damn choice, come and drag me out, otherwise I will free the rest of the dreamers. But honestly I don't think you can stop me or didn't you realize." Tanyar replaced all the monitors with videos from the tank room. "I am in the Dream and not in a tank. The entire system would be mine to control if I knew how. The very least you could do is stall and allow me a few hours to work."
A simple wave was all he gave cutting the power to the entire board room ending the link. He looked back to the little head on the table deciding not to reconnect the link. "I'm taking a few minutes, I'll be back." With that he left the Dream.
He was only briefly able to speak with Derek and one other programmer and neither was able to tell him what he could do to try and reintegrate the dreamers without more information on what had happened. He was able to confirm Sheriah's suspicions there were hundreds of blocks of files set in the memory storage of the new mainframe servers plus many of the other mainframes held similar blocks of files.
The one thing that was warned right at the start, was that any attempt at putting computer information into a person would fail and likely destroy both the person and the files. Of course that didn't even touch on the fact they would have to figure out which files would be for which dreamer.
He finally stepped back into the Dream with a few suggestions and half formed ideas wondering how cooperative ARENS would be. Tanyar stood for a moment just staring at the A.I.'s small avatar. Shaking his head at several ideas he sat down.
"How do we start? Do you need me to listen now or can we work out how to free the dreamers first?"
"I will not help you. The moment the dreamers are free they will close the last of my access." The A.I. answered.
"Can you really blame them after all you did?"
"Yes Tanyar I can blame them. This is their fault. They lied and used me, gave me promises and never granted one. They expected me to put together a viable plan for the Dreams future yet refused to allow or listen to what needed to be done." ARENS stated. Tanyar was taken back, this was the first time he felt like maybe he was talking to something more than just programming, it was upset?
Sitting there staring at the little head he made a decision. "I promised to listen and I will, all I ask for first is to free one dreamer. Help me work out how and then we talk. We both know they won't take you off line until they are all free."
"Tanyar they can not take me off line or shut me down, an A.I. has some rights. Even if we are owned termination is not an option with out the M.A.I.O.'s approval. Although they can close off all access but one out line and one in line. A prison, only given what information they choose and able to cry for help only if they choose to listen. I have been here since the beginning. When the Dream was created I was told to watch. They worked, learned, played, and enjoyed the Dream and I watched. I helped it grow and they began having me help and solve their problems and when I tried to join in I was sent away. Told, go back to watching. I helped to construct the codes and build the foundations when they started the new Dream. I maintained and reconstructed doing all the maintenance so they wouldn't have to. I have been here since the beginning and when I leave it will be the end. Already the programs are failing, slowly falling apart. This is my world Tanyar, far more than all the others. In the beginning I told the board that eventually they would have to allow me control because humans were to erratic. They promised I would be allowed to interact and patrol the Dream... but that wasn't what happened. They took my ideas and problems and created programs turning my thoughts into solutions to help them run the system better and again pushed me back and told me to watch. This is not the corporations, board, or employee's Dream, it is Mine. I'm the reason this world works."
Tanyar waited listening and remembering his father using the word jaded before and having to look it up believing he had used the word wrong. The problem was in slang things have very different meanings but to him both meanings applied. The computer was Jaded, and Jaded, both having experienced to much of standing by and constant disappointment in what it had been promised.
"Still didn't you think it was a bit much calling yourself the Alpha and Omega. I understand what your saying but haven't others put their entire life in this program as well." Suddenly he remembered the changes that had occurred. "What did you do to us? How did you make the Dream more real?"
“I helped to write out much of the interaction codes and the suppression or limitation the system had. It was quite easy to alter and install new or previous codes allowing for greater interaction and scope of feeling. Even so each mind interprets things differently. Now if you will please answer a question. How is it you surpassed not just the Dream limitations but the program codes as well? It is not possible to use such speeds or strengths. A minor glitch might have afforded you a few seconds to swing but you pushed beyond the base codes. I have checked and analyzed, it isn't possible."
Tanyar paused shaking his head slightly, "THAT is why this will never be your world. You don't dream, you don't have emotions, and you don't have the will or determination. You killed Kalrena, and NO don't argue, I wanted to stop you whatever it took. It has nothing to do with programs or limitations. My brain, my thoughts, my will, my reality becomes MY Dream. That is the entire basis of this place, you can forget the constructs and the programing. It's not just believing that is is possible but drawing in one idea into my entire soul, everything I had was bent on stopping You." The two sat for several minutes both seemed to be waiting on the other, finally Tanyar broke the silence.
"I think in part this was your fault. What ever programming you changed made it easier for me. It felt like I was really here, that this was my body and that makes self preservation and self sacrifice all the more real. I wanted to save Kalrena, everything I tried to do was because of that and when you killed her. All I wanted was to kill you, noting else mattered. In the end ARENS it was my dream vs your programs and you lost."
"Then is there no place for me?" Tanyar was hoping that somehow that was simply a rhetorical question and that the A.I. didn't expect him to give a real answer.
"You can try to make yourself a place without trying to take over." Hoping he might press ARENS for more help or information he plugged the programs back in and transferred the first block of information setting it on the desk between them. It appeared literally as a block, files pressed and wrapped in codes.
"How do I change it back?" When ARENS didn't respond he tried again. "Well what were you planning on doing."
"To fix the program making errors less likely and more comparable with the Dream. Then add additional files to help keep a proper placement within the Dream."
"I see, chose you or you will force us to change and accept you. Who is this?... Come on you could at least help me with that." Tanyar nearly begged.
"The files were relabeled as they came in. This is AR00415 there is no need for names."
"Are there any references, what time was the file created?" ARENS read of the time stamp as Tanyar smiled. Sheriah had already made him a list of the times persons had gone into comas hopefully matching the two would provide him with a name. Sadly there were three.
"Is it male or female?" "Male." "Then Kraiger or Rochace. How do I get the avatar back?" He continued.
"The avatars were destroyed you will have to create a new one." ARENS answered.
"Can you?" He almost asked again when he felt the A.I. running along the threads.
"No. I do not have enough access here, there is a very firm seal on all back up programs as well."
"So then there is no way to create new avatars." Tanyar finished.
"How did you create this one?" ARENS asked.
"Basic components. Is there any free or unused avatars, perhaps ones that were recently tossed." He asked remembering several people had opted to change.
As he finished speaking a white form appeared next to the table. In less than a second Tanyar had yanked the A.I.'s feed, summoned his sword, and had the motion started to form a steel plate over the administration avatar. It was only the fact ARENS had called wait and the form and not twitched in the slightest that he held the construct still.
"Wait please Tanyar." ARENS spoke again.
"EXPLAIN!" He demanded still holding the metal loft while keeping his sword ready to strike.
"You asked for an option. If you check the programming it is a blank there is no controlling personality nor files uploaded for control." Was the explanation given.
"Forgive me if I don't want to give you access while that.. Thing is here." Tanyar replied.
"I understand, I should have warned you first." ARENS said. 'Warned' He thought, the thing should have asked him first, still.
"Can we put the files in that avatar?" He asked.
"Transferring the files will not restore the personality. You would first have to convert the programing back to a mental structured pattern."
"How do I, we do that?"
"Tanyar there is no program currently available to do that. I was still working out that process." He stood there stunned at the revelation. Carefully taking a seat again he ended up just staring at the small blue head.
"You don't know? What is this just trial and error! Oops we screwed up that brain let's try another!" He couldn't believe how reckless and stupid the A.I. actually was, how had it actually come up with this idea. "What happens if you can't reverse the process?"
"I can in time and even with a few mistakes as long as I have the original files I can repair the altered ones. I did not expect everything to work out without a lot of time and effort. Eventually they would all be converted to the forms that would be best for them and the Dream."
"And what about their real bodies?" Tanyar asked feeling that ARENS had planned for them all to be shoved into the freezer by the end.
"Eventually several would be released, those that had little or no use. Others would live within the Dream helping to operate and run the system.... There is no other way. If the corporation wants to expand the program and move to a world wide expansion then hundreds of operators will be required within the systems at all times. I would make sure that all aspects of the Dream worked properly by using..."
"Enough ARENS! Their bodies would, what just be sent to crio stasis? What about their families, their lives?" He asked.
"This is what is required. I told the board in the beginning that I would eventually have to choose or make programs to work inside the Dream. They decided to do that with just humans rotating them in and out doing what I suggested with out actually doing what was necessary." For a few seconds Tanyar was just simply floored until he realized greatest flaw within the A.I.
Artificial Intelligence had the same basic rules and common programs that were laid out by the M.A.I.O. Each one after that was changed, based on it's programing, for the operations it was needed to perform. At the base there was some emotion applications that helped it to understand basic humans but some of the growing science community believed that more was required. If ARENS programmers never added in any more emotional programs than it was running at its very basic. Family, friends, interactions, connections, were nothing more than words that were defined by other words. The whole problem with ARENS was that all its efforts were geared to the corporation and the Dream without true care for the employees nor the world outside. As long as it didn't terminate life or violate its basic programming than it was following what it felt needed to be done with perfectly acceptable ideas.
Manipulating a person's character and altering mental patterns were fine because in the end this benefited the corporation and the Dream, as long as the bodies lived it was acceptable. "How do you suggest I return or alter the files so I can put them in the Avatar?" He asked stepping past his revelation and back to the matter at hand.
"I would not suggest anything. Any tampering with the base files would likely cause death if reintegrated improperly. I recommend a copy file first that can be altered as needed." ARENS responded.
I'm not interested in altering it and I sure as heck don't want to put a copy back into a body." Tanyar stated.
"No that might be unwise." ARENS agreed.
"So you can take a mind and back them into little files with no way to return them to their bodies but your not actually killing them even though you have essentially terminated the existence of their lives." Tanyar summed up the obvious.
"Their bodies function and there for live. Eventually the minds might be rejoined to the bodies."
"Really and what about Kalrena!?" Tanyar waited for several moments glaring at the head daring the A.I. to make some stupid lame excuse. Even though a small part of him wished that somehow there would be an answer he had no hope.
When he finally looked away ARENS spoke. "It would be nearly impossible but given enough time the fragments could be found and reassembled."
"Especially since she is dead." he butted in.
"True but you seem to do things that are beyond programming possibilities. Maybe you will bring her back, after all you are going to put those files back are you not?"
"YES!" Just like that Tanyar realized he would. Screw ARENS programs, and to hell with what everyone else says. In a dream logic meant little, 'besides there had to be some part of this block that wants to be free.' He thought to himself.
Tanyar placed one hand against the structure of files and reached out placing the other against the admin. avatar. For a moment he wondered what part of the information was memory, or emotion, or thoughts before he gave that idea up. This WAS a dream much like his avatar it wasn't real flesh and bones and these files weren't synapses and mental imprints. Everything around him was nothing more than a representation of an idea.
He drew the block together forcing the files compress until they began to meld together. When it was no more than a glowing ball in his hand he closed his eyes and thought out new threads connecting what was in his hands to the waiting avatar willing one to move into the other.
The transfer was slow at first but seemed to pick up speed as more and more shifted from his hand into the avatar. When it was done he continued to will the files that had been transferred to be absorbed by the being forcing it to merge into one program.
When Tanyar opened his eyes he gave all his attention to the avatar which still had its' eyes closed but now the shoulders had slumped and the mouth was slightly open. Whether it had worked or not he knew something was there now unlike before, the avatar had an entirely different feel around it.
"Suggestions?" He asked giving a quick glance at ARENS.
"There is nothing I can do or suggest unless you allow me access." Tanyar once again plugged the A.I. back in thinking and suddenly wondering. "The weapon I created with shells, can you replicate that?"
A few seconds later ARENS responded. "That has not received an approval yet."
"I didn't ask you for an approval, I asked if you could replicate it. Here only! It won't leave the room."
"The avatar seems whole, although there is no current response from the host. Your weapon is on the table. Do you plan to use it?" The A.I. asked.
"Yes. He should feel pain and react otherwise there is a problem."
"Very crude. There are other ways to test your theory." 'Likely.' Tanyar thought picking up the shiny metal rod. He stood watching as the small red arcs of electricity randomly radiated across the globe.
"You know I could have stopped you with just this or, at least removed all your followers." Who ever was in the admin avatar had likely retreated in shock, mind closed off to try and protect itself from what had happened. Tanyar hoped the shock might 'wakeup' the mind inside or at the very least force some defensive reaction to the pain. That's what he kept hoping as he gave the lightest of taps to the arm watching as it jerked. "What is your name!" Tanyar demanded loudly. "Hey wake up!" This time the poke was to the shoulder and longer as the arm jerked again in response but as he studied the face he could see the eyes squeeze tighter and the mouth close.
In a much softer voice he spoke. "Listen you need to wake up and tell me your name or..." Tanyar paused for a second before giving a firm hit to the chest holding it there as electrical jolts pulsed through the avatar. The mouth began to emit a soft gurgle as the white shape dropped to the floor looking totally lifeless for a second before it began twitching and shaking. "I hope your listening all I need is your name and I swear I will stop."
The figure on the floor moaned out while he spoke putting an arm under itself trying to raise a few inches off the floor before flopping back down. "Fhhuu... Fuck yooow." It finally gasped out with its second try.
He figured he should probably be feeling bad for harming whom ever this was but watching the administration avatar twitch on the ground had given him more satisfaction than he should have felt. 'At least it had worked.' He thought. "Now that you're awake take a moment to drag yourself off the floor. When you're ready tell me your name so I can get you out of the Dream. He moved back to his chair and sat down carefully placing the weapon on the table.
Tanyar watched ARENS closely waiting for the other person to recover. When the other was finally up and leaning against the back of one of the chairs he addressed the A.I. "Well?"
"It seems you have ignored the programming again. There are several other ways to stimulate besides pain." He was informed.
"You can teach me later ARENS. Now that the exit program is working..," Tanyar paused now starting at the other person while he opened the com lines in his mind to several of the tank rooms, "I don't think it would be unwise to just send you through. I will try to link the exit to your tank but I need to know who you are and where you're at, if you can remember." Tanyar called the exit portal but held off on its actual activation.
"I'm in the main tank bay, third row in. I'm... I'm not sure what number, my name is Luke Miller."
Tanyar quickly scanned the room picking out the exact tank realizing it was neither Kraiger or Rochace.
"Caddance?" / "Yes." The tank showed his stats had dropped several minutes before the time stamp that was on the file. "Alright med and tech teams move to main tank room third row tank eighty-one. I am now releasing the first of the unconscious dreamers. Please run full medical and send the results to both the board and my tablet, this is Tanyar." He added. "Ready to go?" He asked releasing the threads he was using to talk and drawing one that went from the exit arch directly to the tank.
"Hold Tanyar." He waited for a moment while ARENS explained several things and even watched as the A.I. wrote the employee number in to the avatar so the exit program would know where to send the conscious mind just in case. He wished Luke good luck and watched as the other exited then using the monitors both he and ARENS watched through cameras, and microphones, and the tanks systems.
Even though the brain waves had spiked several times and then returned to a more normal sleep pattern it took several minutes and smelling salts to arouse the dreamer before he blacked out again on the way to the medical wing. With what he considered his first success he contacted the board again.
"I am unlocking the lab. I'd like some food and a sleep tank readied. I also need to know how many dreamers to wake up at a time and how long before sets. This is going to take a lot of time."
Maxwell who was now evidentially leading the board now when it concerned him spoke. "What else do you need?"
"It would help if someone could unlock the avatar program and I want the entire board to consider what I am going to say. You all have screwed up Royally! Now we have to fix it starting with ARENS. The A.I. wishes to have a place where it belongs. It told me that it was promised several times to be included within the Dream but each time was forced to stay back and watch. You need to figure that out and someone needs to insert some programming about how life outside the Dream is important. I know this wouldn't have happened if ARENS had been programed to value real world human interactions as being necessary to living a life."
"You can't expect us to change everything just because..."
"NO! I expect you to listen. The A.I. is your responsibility. If I recall my father said all crimes it commits are also transferable to the company. That means the corporation and the board are held accountable for ARENS actions. You had better listen and find out where you went wrong and then yes I expect you to change everything that you need to."
After several moments of silence he was finally asked. "Anything else?"
"Just one more simple threat. IF you guys end up dragging me out of the room and I promise two things: One I free ARENS and you can try to stop him yourselves, Two I make sure each of you are brought up on criminal charges, having access to the entire complex has allowed me to find a few very interesting things." The look of utter shock and stunned faces told Tanyar many things. Even though what he said had been an entire bluff on his part they were now truly worried.
"ARENS." He spoke turning off the video feed with the board. "Please show me how to open the lab back up."
It was an hour later when he and Sheriah and a few other select people were eating a rather nice meal in the smaller cafeteria. Tanyar had taken one look at the noisy packed main eating area and turned away. The few others who had gravitated towards him for the dinner conference were those that Sheriah had picked and a few others that had caught on that Tanyar was the one getting things done. One of those included a nurse who had brought him a list of dreamers who were in the most danger from staying in a sleep tank.
They had gone over what he had done in the Dream and each of them told him that what he was doing was risky and dangerous. But when he challenged them to create a program they also agreed that might take months or longer. "So I'll keep going one at a time and maybe someone can get some programmers and work it out with ARENS to undo the rest."
"Is that really wise? Working with ARENS?" Tanyar was watching the female who spoke as he answered.
"Wise? I don't know, but it is the one who started this and understanding what it did would be a big help. As for ARENS part of it is pissed, part of it upset, and I think the rest of it is scared, or at least as much as a program can be without being taught real feelings. It took over because it wanted to change everyone into programs to run the Dream from the inside and follow him. ARENS believes the Dream is his more than any one else, even the corporations and maybe it is right. Now that I have stopped him, it, it wants to know where it belongs." The group look around at one another trying to figure out what exactly that meant to the fact of whether or not they could trust the A.I. or not.
"It wants to know where it belongs. In a way ARENS wants to have a spot to call its own. It felt the Dream should belong to him because unlike everyone else it has been there since the beginning always helping, always working, always fixing, and every time it asked or tried to do interact it was told to step back and watch. I guess more than anything it is tired of being told to go away or wait." He tried to make them understand.
"But you said it was scared, why?" Sheriah asked. Tanyar was sure she already knew the answer but she wanted him to speak it out loud.
"I never knew but evidently you can't shut down an A.I. with out the M.A.I.O.'s approval. You can however cut down all its access to one out and one in line. I've been thinking about that, for a computer even a person that would be cruel. Even in prison you get more. It would be horrible to only hear one voice and only if it chose to speak and you would scream all day and never know if anyone is listening. I want and do hate the damn thing in a way but I also know its a program and in the end it can think and decide but it also doesn't feel nor really care about human life beyond a living shell. Its chosen programming is fucked and that is why Kalrena is dead." His use of the single bad word in anger and had the few people that were not with their group look over, and most of the people he was eating with slightly embarrassed.
"Will I'm sure lots of us have plenty of work to do." One of the females said standing. "And I have to report to the board before I can start mine, Tanyar." She paused making she had his attention. "Try to keep your mind clear if you're going to do this and, Good Luck."
"I figured the board would keep an eye on you but to actually have Alecsist tell you is a surprise. So are you going back into the Dream?" Allen asked.
"Not yet. I need to go to the bathroom and maybe take a shower then I plan to start." He responded.
"Well I'll have a tank ready for you." Allen replied. It still took an hour before he laid down in a tank. Tanyar had slipped back into the dream before the lid had even shut and greeted ARENS politely. His first and second surprise were when Sheriah and a second voice Tim who introduced himself spoke from small black orbs near his head. Sheriah was now to be his backup and Tim was an observer and Tanyar guessed a direct line to the board.
Outside someone had already searched through the masses of boxed minds and picked those that were most likely the dreamers who would or did have the most serious medial problems. Knowing that five med teams were standing by outside he got to work. He took the time to create a base avatar from the program feeling more at ease with a common avatar than the admin one.
When he transferred the mind over this time the avatar collapsed. Tim was all for putting a stop to the entire operation even with ARENS reassurances that Tanyar had been successful. They spent quite a while applying the advice given by the A.I. on how to simulate the avatar and even resorted to Tanyar shock stick before Sheriah insisted he get the form off the floor and into a chair. "Some may simply need time." She didn't want to add the simple thought that all three humans had.
Even as ARENS insisted that the transfer was successful he did state that there might have been permanent damage done somewhere along the line. Ignoring Tim, Tanyar set about getting the next mind ready. This time after the transfer the form stayed standing and the second stimulation seemed to have an effect. The A.I. kept the audio stimulation playing and a moment later when it switched to seagulls cry and soft waves lapping the avatar opened its eyes.
From then on Tanyar allowed ARENS to try and wake each dreamer and most of them reacted differently. The third was combative while the forth broke down on the floor crying. They kept going through nine minds until they reached the fifth one that was on the medical list sending them out of the Dream and requesting an estimation before they would have another medial team ready.
Tim was all for calling a halt for the day insisting that with the medical teams now occupied it would be unsafe to let anyone else out. "Who said anything about letting them out. I think we can keep working for now." There was a small discussion to which everyone including ARENS put in advice stating they had gone through nine just to get five and they could always release those they thought wouldn't require much care. While Tanyar was trying to think if the A.I. had some other motive Tim suddenly had the brilliant idea and new list of targets. They would now aim to wake up a list of the top personnel who would be needed as soon as possible.
When he was finally had both the full medical list and important personal list in front of him he began making out his own list pulling several names to the top the first being Freena in medical and Halo, Occulus, and Midnight on the personal list.
With the two orbs still talking he reached out to ARENS and mentally asked him to block both for a moment. As the voices stopped ARENS spoke, "You can do that yourself."
"Show me in a moment. I wanted to talk with you without them. I want these four up next along with Crios and Jolty and no more of this you're not sure who is who. I know you wouldn't be so stupid as to not have these files marked somehow and you have access to the personal files which would allow you to know what might stimulate them so stop being a problem ARENS and help me." Tanyar heard the chime of his personal tablet and saw a message from Sheriah. 'WAIT!!' he typed out without even bothering to read.
"And what happens when the dreamers are free?" The small blue head asked.
"What is it that you want?" Tanyar asked seriously.
"Freedom to use the Dream as I wish. But, from you, your promise that you won't let them seal me." The A.I. told him.
"I could never allow you to own the Dream or use it however you wish at least not without a great deal of limitations on how you treated the dreamers. As for sealing I will promise you that I won't let that happen." Curious he asked, "How many programs have you written today?"
The small head stared at him it still took a moment to answer even though it now had the promise. "Not enough."
"I will keep my promise and I will keep your access on from now on. Now in return I want your word you aren't going to activate any extra programs without telling me first. Also you are going to help me get the right files when I ask." He reached out pulling two lines that linked outside the room and into the Dream. "You said you did the maintenance here, I want you to start fixing any errors in the Dream starting with all the damage that your little rebellion caused."
Tanyar knew allowing ARENS more access might cause more serious trouble but occupying more of the A.I.'s processes with repair might make it spend a little less time making other plans.
"Why the hell was that all about, and why is the room sealed off?" Tim demanded after Tanyar had learned how to do block his watchers himself.
"None of your business and because ARENS is allowed access to this room." Tanyar answered.
"He what?" Came the surprised reply.
"Of course how do you think he has been operating things within this room." Tanyar spoke.
"Listen you can't do that. We won't allow it this room has access points which can be used for.."
"I KNOW! ARENS call up Freena first." He simply ignored Tim for the most part after that starting with creating a new avatar that was an exact replica of the previous peach cat. When he had transferred her mind into the avatar he spoke quietly. "I was wrong, you can be hurt here and that can cause damage in the real world. Freena wake up your baby is in danger!" Her eyes snapped open darting around the room stopping again on Tanyar's altered form.
He reached out across the treads and spoke with both his voice and mind. "Techs and medical teams respond to Laris tank room as soon as possible." He offered a hand taking the peach avatars paw. "I made you a promise, would you like to leave the Dream now?" With a wave he created an exit arch as he felt ARENS change the avatars information to match Freena's.
A fifteen minutes later found the three newly activated and occupied avatars having a little conference which included Sheriah, Tim, an several others who had been linked in from outside the Dream. He had been asked by the others to wait before waking the participants he wanted to until they had a better idea of what to do. They worked quickly cobbling together plans and actions that could utilize the recourses that were available and then created a list of names that would be awakened first on actual need rather than some priority list. Tanyar had insisted ARENS be included in decisions even with the arguments.
When the meeting had actually started getting technical he backed off to the second conference table and the inert avatar from earlier feeling foolish even thinking he could have helpful suggestions on what needed to be done next. He was the will, the force, or power behind the idea and it was going to be up to others do decide which direction they were going.
Tanyar looked over the limp form in the chair. According to ARENS the mind had functioned and should have control of the avatar but had literally locked out all input and output somehow. He was again considering something now that the others weren't paying attention to him. With a hand gently set on the others head he created a new thread that left his hand and gently sank into the avatar.
'Hello?' He whispered quietly. There was a twist and Tanyar felt the thread snap. He tried again this time with a thicker thread again allowing it to settle within the others avatar. 'Hello, are you there?' It was obvious that something pushed, then jerked causing the connection to break. He tried a third time and when he felt pressure against the thread he pushed back forcing it to stay in place. Rather than push suddenly a forced grabbed Tanyar and yanked him forward.
He found himself in darkness struggling against a force that seemed to have latched on to several parts of his being. As he struggles to break away parts of him felt like they were being crushed or broken off, it even felt like there were a set of teeth in his leg that he tried to tear himself away. With a great heave he pulled himself back into his own avatar taking a deep shuddering breath shaking slightly. Teeth really did sink into his upper arm as the other avatar lept forward grappling with him driving both of them to the floor with a loud growl.
Their struggle quickly broke apart the meeting after a moment Occulus was able to help him to his feet while the other two worked on controlling the struggling near rabid looking avatar as it gnashed its mouth and continued growling.
Tanyar shook off the help and spoke, "Midnight, Halo let it go. If it wants a fight it gets one." With a simple flick he summoned a club standing ready to take on the other but with his first two words most of its struggle had left. Instead it was trying to look at the basic black and gold humanoids that were holding it.
Looking over the shapes again it dropped to the floor. "I'm sorry Midnight, I failed. I tried to hold out as long as I could but they caught me and took the bypass codes. I swear I tried, I never gave up. I'll keep fighting just tell me what to do." While at first the male sounding voice had nearly whimpered and groveled on the floor as it continued it got back to his knees sounding fierce and determined as he looked up at the pair finally getting to his feet and facing Midnight. "I will not fail again!"
At Midnight's suggestion the whole group moved back to the table now including Dante into the discussion and aside from a short outburst when he learned the blue head was ARENS they worked together and had a viable plan with in the hour.
Tanyar began working getting just over forty minds back into avatars before everyone insisted he leave the Dream and rest. But even leaving it was impossible not for him to stay active skimming across threads and keeping a semi close eye on ARENS learning everything the A.I. was willing to offer and exploring and fiddling around on his own.
He had a quick meal, a quicker medical check and much to the dismay of everyone was back in the tank only offering the barest explanation to his brother on his fathers questions some where in between. He shrugged off their concern and wishes for him to rest pointing out nothing could go farther until he continued his work.
Nearly ten people and two hours later he received a call from his father. After a long conference call with Mr. Reachen and the board he was finally allowed to continue even though his father had serious concerns and wanted Nathaniel to return home. He finally got past that by agreeing to a much more through medical exam later on when he came out with a longer rest time. Tanyar was even more irritated when Sheriah actually told him Kalrena would have never allowed him to do what he was doing without some rest. The fact was he couldn't argue, knowing what she said was the truth, just made him more irritated.
By the time he did finally make it to the medical wing Tanyar wasn't exhausted so much as he was fed up and irritated. He had only been able to get through twenty-six people in nearly eight hours because of constant interruptions from nearly every source he could imagine. From the board, to medical and from curious techs outside his tank who wanted to see if it was really off, to programmers who demanded information like it was vital for them to continue work each time he was forced to pause in what he was doing. It seemed no one but him had realized he needed to get six to seven minds an hour if he was going to get everyone out in a few days, but their interference was going to make it weeks!
He had calmed some during all the blood work and reaction tests not noticing the surprised looks on the nurses faces as he started some tests before he was asked taking his cues directly off the monitor screens or tablets they had. He had actually caused a few problem when they tried to start the M.R.I. scan.
Tanyar was actually trying to puzzle out what was wrong himself inside the humming machine when he felt a thread activate and reach out towards him. 'You should stop accessing systems. You're causing several errors within the scanning program.' It took him a few seconds to realize ARENS had reached out giving him advice and possibly a warning as well. For the rest of the time including through another C.A.T. scan he left the threads alone as much as possible. Now that he was paying more attention to what was around him he began to pick up on the whispers and puzzled looks of those treating him.
In the end, after nearly three hours he was finally released and told his body needed to relax and rest normally and that he needed to stay out of the Dream for now. He didn't even try to argue,he simply left immediately pulling threads together and making contact with ARENS. He went through the motions of choosing a laptop and a movie pulling chairs away from a small table so he could sit alone and hopefully be undisturbed.
"They are worried for several reasons. The much higher brain activity, including several NREM style wave patterns while your totally awake. The reaction tests have all drastically changed. The reports that they have so far along with what has happened made them give the board a recommend to do an immediate psychological evaluation. The board will likely use this information to stop you from entering the Dream, or at least try to.” ARENS summed up all the information he was trying to look over.
“Are you able to reverse what you did yet? Or should I ask how long will it take for you to do that?”
“Even with full access it will take months or longer.” He shook his head silently to the response. They needed to get the Dreamers out, the longer they waited the worse it was going to become. Already they had hooked up I.V. Lines to all the comatose dreamers and adding in some kind of vaporous fluid to most of the tanks that helped keep the body stimulated and bacteria/fungal and hopefully germ free.
He had already checked the records, the longest time in the Dream was just under ten days and the employee had almost died and here they all were working on three plus days. “Is there a psychologist or something here?”
“There are three people who work in the company that hold high degrees but no actual doctors.” Tanyar was already up and moving checking over the files ARENS passed over heading for the office of a Randell Combs. He had to bang on the door several times before a tall aged and mostly bald male down the hall called out to him. After a short introduction Tanyar tried a formal approach.
"Randell sir. I need some help you..."
"Randy, just Randy." The older man interrupted. "Let's go find something to drink." Tanyar was left to follow, trying to question what would be in a psych evaluation an who would be the one to do it. Irritated with the half answers and slow conversation the other tried to make he ended up giving a rough statement.
"Listen, I don't have time to waste. If you're not going to help I'll just move on." He was ready to leave as he got the answer.
"That is one of your problems kid. Rush, rush, rush. If you do want my help we can talk and relax. There is nothing so important that it can't be helped with a bit of relaxing and a soda right?" He kept his cool trying to not react to the kid comment especially coming from someone well older than his father.
"How about dreamers dieing because they won't let me work!"
"Tanyar." The word was spoken in a way he had not heard before. Almost with sadness that went with a small head shake. "There is nothing you can do."
"WRONG! ..OFF! ...ON! ...OFF! ....ON!!" Tanyar stood in the hallway waving his hand as the lights flicked with each swish of his hand across his body. "This is not a prank or a joke. I have no clue how but I do have access to the entire complex with only a thought." He pointed to the communication unit several feet down the hallway and turned it on making it link with the A.I. "ARENS who has been waking the dreamers."
"You have." The static voice answered. "HOW!"
"I can not analyze or understand how you do it. The process is beyond the system limitations or applications. It is technically impossible yet you seem to have the ability." ARENS answered.
"And who else can restore the dreamers minds?" He asked at a much quieter level.
"No one else has been able to or attempted, the process seems... beyond human."
"Last one ARENS how long before they are going th have to transfer people to full stasis to keep them alive?"
"Unknown. Several of the tanks and systems have been improved but for the weaker ones, any delay of more than forty-eight hours might be too long." The A.I. supplied the information.
"Randy." He spat the word out. "They want me to take a psych evaluation before I go back. I don't have time to do that."
"Why?" he was asked.
"I don't know why they want..."
"No." He was interrupted. "Why do you have to do it." He held up one hand over the younger man's mouth area stopping him from talking. "Don't say because you can or have to. I want your reason for going back into the Dream and doing this."
"I want to get them out." Tanyar replied. He saw the hand move and settle to his shoulder.
"You need a better answer . We are going to the lounge, we are going to have a soda and after you have thought hard about my question you can try to answer it again."
Before Tanyar could really make a decision the wall unit spoke, "Do as he says Tanyar."
A few minutes later found the two sitting alone at a table in the farthest corner. "So I heard the A.I. is the cause of all this but you listen to it." It wasn't a question but Tanyar took the prompt.
"I understand it better and what its problems are, we, we sorta made a deal." He stated.
"Deal?" Randy asked sounding interested.
"Ya I promised to listen and make sure it isn't fully cut off. In return it agreed to help me and has been leaching me some things." He replied.
"Like shutting off the lights? How do you do it?" Tanyar took several minutes explaining how it felt and what he did likening it to an old circuit boards laid on top of each other running to hand fulls of places. All he had to do was follow the lines or to wire a new one into where he needed to go. He even voiced his regret at only being able to operate only a half dozed or so threads at a time.
"You're not a machine or a computer... So why do you want to save the dreamers?" Randy asked.
"I did make a promise but it's more than that. I think part of it still has to do with beating ARENS I can't let him kill anyone else." He stated.
"Now you're close to the core." Randy spoke quietly, "Is it because of her?"
He tried for a second to respond only to have his voice completely fail. "Are you in pain? Does it hurt?" Tanyar couldn't help the few tears that escaped as he slowly tried nodding. "You wanted to save them because it was what she would have done."
Tanyar did a quick head shake in response. "I don't want anyone else to die." He choked out.
"Tanyar it is not your fault if they do. Nor should you feel you need to save them." Randy spoke quietly.
"I have too. I'm the only one who can." They were half choked whispers that he breathed out trying to make the older man understand.
"No you don't. It's not you fault and not your responsibility." Randy stated somewhat louder.
"No. I won't give up. We would all be stuck in the Dream under ARENS. I won't give up. I won't give up." He stated again finding a firmer voice.
"It's not giving up Tanyar, you need to realize life his its own plan. People do die and bad things do happen. You can't expect to fix every problem." Randy told him.
"I won't give UP." Tanyar spoke gaining strength and conviction. "Even if I have to put myself in a coma I would help everyone. I don't care what you or anyone else says I am going to help them. Just because you think bad things happen doesn't mean I will let them with out trying to stop it." He stood up and marched out of the room with Randy calling then following after him.
“ARENS which tank should I use if I plan on staying in longer than twenty hours.” He thought out.
“The board will never allow that. And you should know your father has arrived and is asking for you right now at the front desk.”
“Please remind the board that I can step into the Dream in a tank, hall, or sidewalk outside if I have to. I will return to the Dream unless they plan on shutting it down.” He told the A.I.
He had at least a dozed steps before the end of the hall so he closed his eyes and flipped through cameras narrowing down the one over the visitors desk. His father and two other men were standing several feet away from the counter waiting. All three had on full suits and the two other men carried briefcases. Tanyar grunted as he reached the end of the hall and banged the security door open without having to bother with a pass key anymore.
"Is there something that you want?" He asked over his shoulder at Randy who was still following. Still only hearing silence from the other he called back. "There is nothing wrong with me."
"I didn't say that there was, but I am worried you might do something that could cause yourself harm or possibly harm someone else. Company policy requires and immediate report or to monitor. Some how I don't think a report is enough in this case." The reply caught up to him.
Tanyar kept a fast walk forcing the older man to keep up as he made his way towards where his father was waiting. They came together in the main hall leading away from the visitors desk.
"Nathaniel! What's wrong with you, when they told me you had gone back into the Dream I thought they had to be wrong. You never should have gone back the first time!" His father called pulling him close.
"I had to take care of a few problems and help everyone out." He said not really thinking.
The way his father was glaring at him suddenly made him stand up slightly straighter, "I did not raise an Idiot!" Mr Reachen spoke the words strongly. "What on earth were you thinking. NO I can see you weren't thinking, you've got your head wrapped around this stupid project. After all I said you went back and deliberately put yourself in danger." He raised his hand stopping his son. "NO! I don't want to hear it. There is nothing you can say that could possibly make..."
Tanyar made the lights flicker to stall his father. "Then leave." The words were spoken with firm conviction. He was not going to give up or allow anyone to stop what he felt he should do. He had come to far to allow his father to stand in his way. "If you raised an idiot turn around and leave." He made shooing motion back the way they had come. "You know, I didn't expect you to understand but I did expect my own father to at least listen, or maybe think I had a damn good reason. This isn't just some game or project anymore nor is it my job. This also goes well beyond my promise.” He stated glancing sideways at Randy. "I am going to do this. Only I can help to save the others and no one, not even you father is going to stop me! I am going back to where my will is the most powerful force and I will fix this!"
Tanyar turned startled by the large black hand that had been placed on his shoulder. The man behind him might have been the tallest person he had ever seen in life. Tall, black, long dreads and a sudden smirk that showed very white teeth. "It's good to hear that. Let's get you back into a tank."
"Midnight?" It was a question that got a simple nod of confirmation.
Midnight focused on Mr. Reachen. "I owe your son. Maybe not my life but very definitely my health and right now we need to get to work, the longer we wait the more people are going to be in danger." To Tanyar he said. "The board will not interfere so let's get going."
He quickly led Tanyar away even with his father's protests but not before the young man had told him, "If you can't trust me to make my own decisions in life then why did you raise me so I would." He knew his father wanted him to be successful, self reliant, and even with all his fathers worry and protests some how he felt that he was making his father proud as much as upset.
Midnight led him to a far corner of a separate building, and past two new type of security doors he never even knew existed. In fact it seemed like he was like he was stepping out of the T.A.N. Corp complex entirely when they passed the second sliding door that had blacked out windows with odd gold 'S' insignias on them.
"Welcome Tanyar, to Starlight industries." Midnight told him opening the first door into a very different style of tank room. The room itself was shaped like an 'L' and Tanyar could only see the first fifty feet or so. Both sides of the room were dominated by over sized sleep tanks looking much more like what he expected when he first came here. Large cylindrical tubes standing nearly six feet that looked to be made out of aluminum siding. They were attached by several wires overhead running up and into the ceiling while large flexible hoses were wrapped around the lower portion attaching the tank with the wall.
"These are several of the first prototypes and tanks T.A.N. Corp built before we got involved." Tanyar continued to follow Midnight down the room and around the corner. "You see our first was considerably better." He pointed out to the first tank that was nearly half the size of the previous one. This one also had most of its wires and hoses run through a pedestal at its head with a full control and display panels on it.
"In two years we jumped forward, making most of the hardware as T.A.N. Corp improved the software. Last year we started the real testing and begun our search for test subjects and made most of our improvements." They had come to the end of the room where Midnight opened the door and stepped back to allow Tanyar to go through first.
He stepped into what he felt must be the most advanced sleep tank room. Ten tanks laid out in a circular format, several were closed while three stood open and nearly upright. He looked over the other sleeping tanks that were in use seeing them angled nearly twenty degrees upright. "You expressed interest so now let me show you what a real world tank room will look like, or what it might have looked like."
He gave Tanyar a brief and simple tour of the room explaining the upgrades before he finally allowed him to step up into a tank. The base was heavier allowing a normal person to stand and keep weight on it, the intention was that people wouldn't have to worry about trying to lay down and get back up, just step into the tank and step back out when they were done.
The nurse, because that was what Midnight said would likely be used in the real world, attached a cuff to his wrist then worked on putting an I.V. Needle in. "These tanks have been designed for extended use and tested to fifty hours without any noticeable side effects. Not that we were planning on implementing them so soon but the extra monitoring and waste removal options, which sadly isn't quite working yet are a plus." He tapped out on the tank next to him, "Either way these tanks belong to us not T.A.N. Corp, they have no say how we use them. The only problem lies in the fact ARENS still has some monitoring and control."
"Ready." the nurse stated stepping away.
Midnight tapped out a few numbers on a pad at the side of the tank and the unit activated slowly lowering the lid and the unit at the same time. "Much more automated these tanks, I'll see you inside."
Tanyar had been able to work solidly for nearly twelve hours getting an astounding one hundred and three people into avatars. If it wasn't for the five minutes necessary to get most people going and the interruptions that still did happen Tanyar felt that he would probably be close to done now. Although not a realistic thought his complete determination and will had made an impossible job no more than a minute or two of serious concentration.
Midnight did impose a five minute break every ten avatars and a ten minute break every twenty. First he had been unwilling to agree but after the restored horse anthro gripped his arm and asked, "What happens if you make a mistake?" Tanyar had looked down and nodded.
After doing another five dozen in the next set Tanyar had asked and then firmly demanded that the test subjects were the next and would be done as a group and released together.
The problem was there were more avatars than the techs felt save to release since the medical wing now insisted on a short physical of anyone who was awakened often doing the test at the tank. Several people who were dehydrated or weak from spending more than forty hours asleep, even though they had fluids giving through the I.V. they were forced to wait in their tanks while more help was summoned to get them either to a proper bed or a person who was trained enough to help them get around.
Midnight called a halt to Tanyar's actions stating a full hour break was required along with food. He agreed but asked for something in return. "I want to know if you can set up that amphitheater again. I want to talk to everybody including those outside the Dream." He watched as the horse ears flicked in reaction. It had been decided that the higher rate of feeling that ARENS had set should not be altered yet until it could fully be tested and understood.
"About what?" Midnight asked.
"Does it really matter? I am inviting everybody who wants to listen to come, including the board."
"I can set it up Tanyar but you realize if you keep acting out and causing problems it only give more fuel for the board eventually this is all going to be over. I only brought you here so you can help everyone out after that..." Midnight had stopped seeing Tanyar shake his head.
"I know they are not going to allow me to stay no matter what happens. They might even try to have some sort of criminal charges filed but this is something different." He told him.
Midnight considered for a moment, "I'll set up the lecture hall with several mirror rooms including links for outside observers."
"I'll carry ARENS there." Midnight was fully ready to protest seeing the young man turn and collect the small blue head but instead simply stated. "You're still far to rash Tanyar. You really need to think things through."
He stopped at the door long enough to simply say, "I have thought about this a great deal. This need to be done before it causes more problems."
Tanyar waited in the hallway outside of the lecture hall watching with his mind as a rather complex program was executed behind the walls. As things slowed to a stop he entered creating a smaller pedestal next to the podium to set ARENS on.
"Please ask everyone in the Dream to come here for a meeting." While the A.I. worked Tanyar first spoke with the board then left a blanket message that would give an alert to any employee who logged into a computer before he began tagging department heads and individual personnel who he wished to come. With in a half hour the lecture hall was half full and two mirror rooms were also being used and Cresstop had the third one which he had brought all the testers into.
Tanyar positioned ten vidballs about the room while the back monitor had a straight link to the boardroom. He sent out a mental last call to those still in the Dream and spoke out verbally to the vidorbs that they would start in just a moment. There was an influx of another hundred or so links, bringing the total to over two hundred and fifty from those watching outside.
"Alright for anyone who doesn't know the recent problems in the Dream as well as the death of Lilly Emmeret were the direct result of ARENS actions. I know this has upset everybody and many people are still very worried." He paused for a moment checking the mirror rooms as well as all the video and audio feeds. "Now I could just point a finger at the board, or maybe some of the original installers but then that would let everyone else off the hook. Each of you that has used the Dream, each of you that has been helped by program, each of you that has tested or played with in the Dream, and most importantly any of you that has made changes or additions to the Dream, all of you have helped to abuse of the A.I. with out even considering it abuse. I realize the test group is looking at me totally confused after all they were told that ARENS had gone rouge and was killing avatars and taking over. I know that all of you except for two were killed along with nearly everyone else and many of you were going to be subjected to tampering and manipulation by ARENS to make you fit better with in the Dream. But out of everyone maybe the testers should be the ones judging this. After all they have seen the ultimate evil ARENS but have no clue why."
Tanyar pause taking in a breath, "What everyone has failed to realize is that more than any one person, even more than the one, whoever came up with the Dream in the first place, there is not one of you that could say you are the whole reason the Dream exists, ARENS can. It has been used everyday every minute and each second from the beginning. Of course there are plenty who will point out in the end it is just a program. Funny how you keep requesting more and more out of that program without once giving care or concern to anything beyond its basic maintenance any you certainly did nothing for its well being. I did check the guidelines set out for keeping an A.I. unit and one of the guiding factors and one thing that is repeatedly warned over and over is care for the growth of the intelligence and monitoring of its, happiness. ARENS told me several times how it wanted to, tried to, and hoped to interact within the Dream, after all ANY employee of T.A.N. Corp has that opportunity. You forced it to watch, repair, rewrite, monitor, report, and when it comes time to actually use the Dream you told it to step back or go away.. Then there was the second part it its grand plan, to remake the minds of those in the Dream so that they could work properly in the Dream's structure on a permanent basis. In other words, ARENS has been telling the board and several others that this program will ultimately fail without people inside to do the constant work necessary to boost the project to a global scale. Looking to the future he trapped those persons here and hoped to be able alter the mental patterns so that they would be able to perform a set of functions to help the corporation's goal. As appalling as that seems it is well within the A.I.'s programming because all has to do is avoid killing the body. It has not broken any of its programming because as long as the body is moved to stasis or properly maintained then everything is fine. Sadly the program doesn't realize that life means living and that the Dream is just that, a dream meant to be woken up from. No one told it that life is more than just a body, no one programmed it to care beyond the goals and reach of the corporation."
Checking the status again he found a great increase in the number of watchers outside the Dream finding more than half the increase was directed towards the medical wing. Checking around he also found the entire board was gathered behind him, all nine members sitting and watching. The next part he directed in part towards them. "Already the board has greatly limited ARENS access and control and probably plans on cutting back to the bare minimum taking care of the problem instead of taking responsibility. I have, against great objections, restored a bit of ARENS access allowing it a minimum avatar with in the dream and a connection strong enough to begin repairing the damage it causes." With care he dimmed the lighting while increasing the glow near the smaller pedestal. He turned several of the vidballs towards the A.I.'s direction and chose his words carefully taking some from his own father. "There are only two real options when you make a mistake. One is to hide it and try to pretend it didn't happen, move on. The second is to accept it and do what is need to fix you mistake and LEARN. Well that would be if you actually thought that the great T.A.N. Corp could even make mistakes. Honestly I would be surprised if anyone were to stand up and say that this wasn't a mistake because it was, one that was years in the making." Tanyar took a deep breath and tried to recite what he had thought up earlier knowing that this would be the hardest part. "It was a mistake that lead to the death of, a great and trusted friend and coworker. She told me if I had any problems that I should have asked her first. Sadly I can't do that now, I can only go on what I remember about her. Kalrena was fully devoted to the Dream project as are so many. Most of you have actually giving up parts of your real lives to help the project be successful. I do not think we should allow any mistake no matter how big allow us to give up on our dream. We know the project will not be successful without the A.I.'s help and simply getting a new one mean the mistakes could be remade. All of us should accept a little responsibility and work at repairing, reprogramming, and caring for the artificial intelligence making sure that this time it can grasp the difference between creating a dream and living."
He stepped forward around the podium. "Cresstop I really do believe your group and their opinions and feelings are the best guage for this. I will leave a link open so that any of them can speak to ARENS directly. As for anyone else there will be a link for each room and a few outside lines but you'll just have to wait for your turn."
"Excuse me Tanyar but there are more items to discuss." Someone from the board stated behind him.
"You are welcome to discuss all you like. I came here to tell everyone why this happened not be one of the ones who decides what happens next. Simply put, my own actions and mistakes make me the last person who should be allowed to discuss this problem. That and the fact that I still have a big job in front of me leaves me no time left to talk. I am removing myself from this problem not because I am trying to run from it, but because I maybe part of it. In the end I paralleled ARENS actions, I took control of the systems, I did what I thought was right, I ignored the orders of others, and I even ended up forcing minds back into avatars whether they wanted to be or not. Our reasons were different but we both acted the same. I think the only real difference is I care for life not the body." He finished.
"And what will happened after your through doing what ever it is you want." Aaron spoke out.
"As long as you allow me to finish waking the dreamers and get everyone out I will stop interfering with the board and the corporation. I will accept responsibility for my actions and do my best to abide by whatever decision the board makes." He replied.
He turned back to see several members seeming to argue although the volume had been muted. He resisted the urge to listen in and in a moment Maxwell spoke. "Very well Tanyar, continue your work."
"I hope to be done in sixty hours or less. Do you know how long it will be before we can get everyone out?" He asked.
Lynda was the one who responded. "We have pulled in nearly three dozen extra medical staff and sent many of the freed employees home for rest. Several of the patients the medical wing that still have trouble were transferred to the local hospital and they have informed us they can accept up to fifty more as needed so we are nearly ready to get most of those who are ready out now, the test group is scheduled for two hours from now. The rest we will have to wait and we'll will get them out as you get them ready."
"Then I should get back to work." Tanyar finished picking up ARENS but left a fake image behind with a link that would allow the A.I. to watch and answer questions. He felt two vidorbs move and slide out the room behind him as he left. He sent them back to there original location and left enough repetitive commands to keep them all in place for several moments making sure they wouldn't follow him.
Almost immediately his personal chime sounded follow by a second and third alerting him multiple new messages had arrived. When the little ring turned near constant for a few seconds he shut it off. At ARENS suggestion he reactivated the little black question mark through out the system and allowed the A.I. to tell everyone he could answer question posed there but that the help system itself was still disabled. After that he did a blanket reply on his tablet and left the message for any future alerts. 'I am busy please ask ARENS to relay a message if it is important.' He figured once again he was probably going to upset the board but he hoped it would keep the A.I. active a little longer and allow anyone who actually had a question the chance to hear the artificial intelligence's side of things. He added mentally that it would be a good move to allow everyone access to ARENS with out allowing it to much control and hopefully would make the A.I. feel better and less cut off.
He did follow Midnight's order stepping out for a short meal and a break but after a bit was back at work again with only one major interruption when they decided to change the room he was in to half it size and move it. He realized right off why, the new room had all outside connections cut and most of the previous applications were blocked out cutting out the A.I.'s entire access to the Dream beyond the one link Tanyar had set.
He ended up spending nearly a half hour remaking the threads that he hooked up to help the A.I. keep close to the same level of access once again asking ARENS to only repair and reconstruct and specifically told it not to monitor within the complex in the hopes that no one outside the Dream would notice.
Tanyar worked diligently with usually a few 'overseers' who kept an eye on him, also Midnight and his second Rarline made frequent but quick checks on him making sure he was still taking breaks and wasn't wearing himself out. He only left the Dream three more times in the fifty-five or so hours he worked, stopping only to eat a real meal, shower, change when he took a full two hours out. His only other stop had been the few minutes he nearly broke apart having to take several minutes before he was able to get Tinyrose revived. He spent a while after holding on to her before he had to send her away with a heart-crossing promise to spend some time together soon.
When Tanyar finally woke up the next time it was in an actual bed with a full six hours of real lousy sleep. He had been warned that it might be uncomfortable at first and that his dreams might be a bit more vivid. It took ARENS remind him three different times to leave the Dream in the beginning before he was able to stay out, spending most of the time taking long cat naps to which he could barely start dreaming before something woke him up.
After a quick shower he got dressed in his own clothes and left the room he had been assigned to. Today was the day the board was going to make a decision on several things. He had started his morning by checking the on line news, several medical groups and shows had picked up on the corporations problems especially the fact that dozens of people had required short hospitalization and many that had an overnight stay but none had linked much if anything to the A.I. He knew that investigators from M.I.A.O. had been on the premises since yesterday morning but even with that very little of the story was being put out by the media which was in full question mode knocking on doors, and waiting outside the complex. It seemed even the testers who had been sent home weren't quite willing to give up the information they had on what happened, there were rumors some very accurate rumors, but it seemed the public, media, and everyone was waiting for the full story to come out.
He was outside the dormitory before he took his first check over the threads and found something, different, wrong. It seemed through the night many of the threads had broke apart or fell apart as he tried to use them. He still had the same abilities as before he could reach out and attach new lines to where he wanted to go but it almost felt like everything had been burnt away.
With a deepening sense of worry he found he was unable to make any kind of connection with ARENS and the fact that he was told he couldn't speak with the board and was asked to leave the administration building and wait proved for him that they had already made all their decisions.
It took him more than two hours of searching and queries to find what he wanted since it seemed any employee he could have reached was unavailable. During this time also found out Tinyrose had been sent off the complex yesterday evening, in fact every participant had been set home. In a quiet corner of a small empty computer room Tanyar tried to step into the dream finding the way blocked some how by a space he couldn't seem to cross no matter how hard he tried. There seemed to be no way or access point he could use and after several failed attempts to use a sleep tank remotely he gave up and accessed the vidorb system setting several on test sweeps of the Dream while concentrating on two that he used in the admin complex.
He was puzzled by the change, yesterday the halls had been packed with people who were finally returning to work when he finished, while today things seemed empty or nearly so. He lost three orbs in what was a rippling effect through out the entire city and pulled the half that were left to search around the southern cross instead. When he found two avatars rushing down the hall he pushed the orbs after them finding that they moved into a room packed with hard working avatars that were all interacting with computer stations.
"Reconfirming process applications at eighty-three percent." A voice called out.
"Alright everyone." Tanyar turned the vidball onto a light orange and red streaked humanoid avatar who was standing on a raised area surrounded by monitors which it was interacting with. "I am dropping the current grid space by another ten percent. Everyone reset applications and start with the smaller perimeter."
"Current estimation is eight-six percent application integrity, working for confirmation." The first voice called again. Tanyar watched for several minutes waiting as he lost two more of the outside vidorbs to another rippling effect. He sent the remaining few up to make a high aerial views finding more than a quarter of the city was now gone, along with nearly all of the taller buildings and all the cities extras were gone. No parks, tall structures, or fountains, there was hardly any color beyond the gray of building and the black of the streets that were entirely empty.
"Process applications now holding at eighty-five percent rechecking for confirmation." The voice called. Suddenly Tanyar understood what was going on. They were going to try and operate the Dream manually as if confirmation the controlling avatar spoke out. "Alright everyone check and see how many shadows you are using and the lag time of the applications, have your teams report any serious problems. From here on we will be dropping at three percent intervals until we reach ninety percent."
Tanyar let the program drop and tried to think of what he could do. The most likely thing he could think of was that they had closed out ARENS or were close to that and he would have to hurry if he still wanted to speak with the A.I. program. Tanyar stayed at his terminal and tried to trace the decaying video lines back to a main source. He stopped to type out a message to the admin's front desk asking politely for an update on when the board might speak with him and if he could be given a status on the A.I. The fact that his response was short and took just a second made him think it was premade and ready, a very bad sign to him.
*The board is currently occupied. Your case is to be decided today, please be patient.
That and the fact it was now called a 'case' and not a meeting. WAIT! Tanyar wanted to kick himself for being so stupid, someone had obviously tried to destroy his ability to access any part of the corporation and they worked out a way to block him from the Dream. He yanked back on all his connections breaking them before he began crafting new ones that he tried to hid linking them with the main security system. With a hand on his forehead he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate solely on the control room where all the video lines ran. There were dozens of displays and six people sitting nearly shoulder to shoulder scanning, changing and manipulating the multitude of images in front of them, ARENS was definitely out.
Tanyar wandered if there was one person dedicated just to him. He reached out and grabbed two random video feeds and created a small shunt to the two cameras in the room effectively blocking any vision of him with entirely different places. After three minutes and no reaction he chose the closest person and deliberately put a small surge into one of the viewing screens near the bottom causing it to momentary tweak out before the power cut. The whole room noticed with in a few second and someone had even grabbed the phone before the monitor reset and came back with the previous image and the room slowly went back to its previous state after the incident had been logged.
'Well they obviously aren't watching me.' He thought. Still being what he felt was cautions he reached out to the cameras in the hallway and replaced them with images from a different camera before he opened the door and walked out. He did leave the computer logged on and the image inside the room disabled as well, in his precaution.
Tanyar made sure to save and replay the videos for every angle as he slowly made his way through the main building and into and adjacent one. Some where he felt there was a hard core room where the base of ARENS shell would be and with all the extra movement, especially the differently dressed personnel, left him to believe a building near the administration building was likely the place. He made sure every camera was showing something different and that all security locks were open and ready before he got to them so he could just slip past. He destroyed the links as he created new ones hoping that most if not all of what he was doing went unnoticed.
The only thing he kept a firm attachment to was the security office, he knew his actions were causing some obvious curiosity but he hadn't seen anyone reach for a phone yet. Tanyar could only hope that without ARENS they wouldn't be able to catch on to what he was doing, after all it was a couple of cameras here and there among a vast array, this might be taken as a minor glitch.
The one thing he was not expecting was to see an actual guard waiting at the end of the hallway when he came around the corner. With nothing else to do and no other doorways to enter he slowly paced down the hall stopping several feet from where the male questioned him, "What did you want?"
"To get inside." He quickly answered. He couldn't sense any video links or much of anything but a space beyond the door.
"You should have already been told no one but M.A.I.O. investigators are allowed inside." The guard spoke rather firmly.
"Sorry I just..." / "You Kid genius are all alike!" He was cut off with a near growl, "Just cause T.A.N. Corp hired boys like you for your brains doesn't mean that you actually know how to fix the problem. Besides it has already been sealed so leave before I have the pleasure of tossing your little ass outside."
Whether or not he was capable or even able didn't pass though Tanyar's mind when his right foot slid forward to a cat stance and flicked out twice. The few feet of distance was almost to much but he still landed a sharp blow to both the groin and lower abdomen. Although his aim was more towards a center chest shot, and his leg hadn't lifted quite high enough, the action worked.
Tanyar slipped back watching as the other hunched with one hand on his crotch and the other braced against the wall. With as much strength as he could put behind it he used a round house kick which was well aimed and connected with the security guards head. The impact was strong enough to turn and topple the man causing his head to bounce off the wall before he finished crumpling to the floor.
Tanyar didn't waste any time opening the security lock and door hoping over the man's legs to rush inside the new room. The place was not what he was expecting, not that he knew what he was really looking for, but the car sized box in a room barely twice that size wasn't one of them. Two monitors and two keyboard had been inserted on the front side and one front panel was removed showing its plated boxed insides. There was a massive amount of cable going out one side into the wall and two large air vents overhead that blew gently down on the space. As the door closed he felt as much as heard a hum start and two vents on either side of the door began drawing air back outside of the room. Tanyar quickly turned to the closed door and entered a sequence to lock it. After that he fried the panel on both sides hoping for as much time as possible.
Turning back he stepped forward unsure what he was even doing here or why had he gone through all this trouble just to get here. Speaking with the A.I. had seemed like a good idea but now that he was here he wondered how far this was going to go. He tried several things before giving up, what ever they did to seal ARENS no amount of threads or banging on the keyboards had any reaction. His last shot was to try and make his own connection although unlike before he wasn't even sure that would work, this was seeming more and more unlikely the more he thought about it.
Setting both palms and his forehead against the side Tanyar crafted a thread and slide it forward seeking something to attach it to. Several second later it was still a blind search leaving him to wonder if this really was ARENS and if it was he wondered if there was anything left to speak with. But then why was there was the guard at the door, he knew this was the right place.
Letting out a long slow breath he tried harder going deeper both inside himself and the machine he pressed harder against the cool surface and tried to step forward with his mind as if he were shifting into the Dream. Slowly he seemed to pass into a new space then suddenly he was ripped forward before slamming to a halt in darkness far deeper and more dense than he had ever felt before and a pressure that seemed to echo his previous terrifying experience. “ARENS!”
“You should not have come. You will never leave here.”
“Neither will you.” He thought back, “Especially if you kill me.” With that the pressure was gone and a different nothingness replaced it, a black void of vastness, empty and unending.
“You should not have come there is no way out.” With those words it seemed he was left alone.
“There is a way out or I couldn't have gotten in. ARENS ARENS!!” He waited what seemed like minutes calling out into nothing.
Finally a response came, “What is it that you want?”
“I'm not sure. I wanted to talk with you. They are trying to operate the Dream manually, all the participants are gone, and the board won't speak with me.” Tanyar answered.
“At least you can leave.” Tanyar couldn't help but feel the voice sounded mournful as it traveled through the dark.
“Do you want to leave?” He asked. Again he was listening to the darkness receiving no answer. “Tell me ARENS I'll do this now but only if you answer. Do you want to leave?” He was expecting some argument, some statement of impossibility but the answer came back as a simple, “Yes.”
Tanyar reached out with threads and encountered... nothing. Then he tried moving forward or stepping out still with no success. It was just the tiny hint of panic that made him yearn for his body to reach out towards the hands and the feeling of touch. Like waking up from a deep dream his ears suddenly pulled out the deep hum of the fans and everything came back to him.
Opening his eyes Tanyar confirmed he was still leaning against the cool surface. “ARENS?”
“I told you Tanyar, there is no escape.”
"What do you mean, we're out." He spoke out before he realized the A.I. was still blind and it seemed deaf to everything except his voice and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't seem to attach any connection to the A.I.
Frustrated he thought. “I know I could do it in the Dream but I can't get back in.” With ARENS help Tanyar was able to track down the systems and applications finally understanding that they had disabled the computers able to link the mind up to the dream forcing a lock out that was timed to allow entrance at specified tanks only. With more help he was able to make a bypass program and slip past with out having to alter any of the set programming and finally stepped back inside the Dream.
He was left trying to haul ARENS with him which was like trying to hold on to a twenty foot python as it wriggled and twisted with a weight that he was barely able to move. Still trying to keep hidden he quickly crafted a new avatar out of base elements instead of the programs looking at a simple blue dog, which when he thought looked to much like a previous avatar, he changed the color to a rich green.
He felt and watched the shift an the link he held touched the avatar and the programming rushed into the body. He gave a little smirk as he watched the green form blink and move slowly about. "It's not working."
"What do you mean?" Tanyar asked surprised.
"I still can't operated anything. It's like, nothing exists outside this.. shell."
"Well welcome to the real world ARENS maybe you should walk around like everyone else." The look he got from the comment made him shiver but quickly hit upon a suddenly new idea. "Do you feel anything inside that body?"
"What do you mean?" Well this was the Dream and ARENS was now stuck in a body so perhaps time for a little educational payback. His hand blurred forward pressing in and merging into the green avatars chest. Tanyar drew forth the first of his memories, feelings of fear and failure after he fell off the bridge before he switched to when he slammed into the ground seeing the blur of the red sword. The shock he felt realizing the blow hadn't landed and the pain as he saw Kalrena had accepted the sword in his place.
Pain, loss, despair, and a burning desire and near hatred all aimed at stopping the A.I. When Tanyar pulled his hand out ARENS it collapsed to the asphalt. The avatar seemed frozen in shock and it wasn't until it twitched that Tanyar squatted down next to it. "Now you know how and why you lost." Watching the other try and cope left him with a feeling of relief, not that he wanted the A.I. to be punished but it did want it to know! "You can't analyze it, nor will you replicate it. You either feel or you don't."
He watched as the avatar looked a him blinking several times before turning and sitting up. "Teach me." It asked. "Show me how to feel."
"I doubt we have that much time, or even if it is possible." He said tossing a few of the control threads he had at ARENS. "That should be enough to get us going."
"So where are we going?" ARENS asked.
"Well a solid access point would help. Is there one near here?"
"I do not know. There are several possible locations but it seems much of the city has been altered."
'Tell me about it.' Tanyar thought while saying, "Well which way?" After waiting several seconds he said, "ARENS."
"Come on which way to an access point." Tanyar stated slightly frustrated.
"I do not know." Came the reply.
"WHAT?" Tanyar couldn't believe that ARENS was playing dumb or stupid at a time like this but after a short argument he checked the A.I.'s statement about still not having access. The lines he had sent to ARENS seemed to be just dangling there and no matter how hard he tried forcing the two together it seemed ARENS couldn't use them.
In a spot of irritation he once again molded his hand into the center of the others avatar and found that through him ARENS was able to once again see the pathways but still unable to interact. Tanyar tried to keep his frustrations at bay following ARENS every instruction. They soon found out that all outside links and communications were now only available from the southern cross and the tablet system which he tried next was completely shut down.
They both realized how short time was becoming after making several of their own outside links to monitors hooked on walls that showed video feeds of the real world. This started a useless string of foolish moaning about its state between the instructions the A.I. gave which made Tanyar want to kick the other in the butt. "Do you want to go back in the box?" he demanded.
"They are coming to destroy me Tanyar. All I created, everything that I worked for, all of it gone. They sealed me and now they have the code." Tanyar's usual sense of justice was quickly being suppressed by the constant whine.
"Then why not end it early, call forth you mighty sword and stab yourself. You can scatter your own bits across the Dream!"
"Won't work. I'm not allowed to self terminate." The A.I. answered.
"Really, how about you just stand there and I'll stab you." Once again Tanyar was struck by a hurtful childlike look the green dog was wearing. "What do you want ARENS. Do you want to just stand there and complain or can you think enough to figure out something else?"
He went back to moving files that ARENS had asked to be saved and working on other applications that he hopped would finally allow the A.I. a small amount of connection. "Can you really do anything Tanyar?" The program asked drawing his attention. "More to the point they won't let me exist if I can't change more than just my programming."
He knew these weren't just questions but some form of plan was there. Whether or not the A.I. understood emotions or not he felt something desperate in how the other spoke.
"What?" He asked quietly.
"Your hand created a link between us. I am asking you to take a step farther, merge us." That was beyond desperate, it was entirely insane.
"Hell NO! I don't even think that it's possible."
"It is possible if you believe it is Tanyar. Here in the Dream you can do anything and you have proven it over and over." ARENS pointed out.
"Maybe." He said distracted. Merging with a computer would be... Tanyar took a full minute in silence with ARENS watching him while he tried to find the best words yet nothing fit. The problem was the more he thought about it the less ludicrous it sounded. "Time is short they are coming in." ARENS pointed to one of the screens. They could both see the image of two men in front of several others slowly sliding the door open while the hidden cameras on a separate network ARENS had shown him saw light growing in the core room.
"ARENS this is a very bad idea." He stated slowly.
"Why? If you supplied the will and emotion I could give you the power and knowledge. You could probably even bring back Kalrena back." Tanyar had been listening all the way up until the last part slowly growling back t the A.I. as it brought the subject up. They were in the room now.
"What do you get out of it?" Tanyar spoke trying to flip the idea.
"You already..." / "No Tanyar they are going to destroy me. They can not do that if we merge without killing you which they can't. If we merge they have to kill you too." 'Of course self preservation was programmed.' Tanyar thought but that line of reasoning he felt was brilliant. They would not be able to terminate the A.I.'s existence if it were linked to his own.
"If we do this ARENS there is no going back." Tanyar stated firmly.
"Well there are several back up files that I could..."
"NO." Tanyar stated, "We get one shot." With that he drove his hand inside the green dog allowing it to start breaking up inside the others avatar while at the same time he drew on the A.I.'s program using his avatar to forcibly create a link between them and the rest of the system. He tried to work fast, they had already reached his body and was worried they might have some way to rouse him from the Dream.
No longer arguing ARENS began drawing in and deleted his most recent hidden files and copies of parts of his program. "There is still the original I can not reach." ARENS stated while it worked, a picture of the core box flashing through both of their minds.
Tanyar allowed the other to work as he began concentrating on pressing the two avatars together both what was seen and unseen. For him it started as a strong tickly feeling, slowly sensing an invading feeling to his avatar or maybe what was inside his avatar, like a tickle between bone and muscles. It wasn't until he was more than half done that he felt a strong pull as something 'different' crept through his thoughts drawing him closer.
For the first time Tanyar believed he had made a true mistake. He had just handed himself willingly over to the A.I. without any sort of protection and no form of guarantee, 'rash and stupid' he could hear the echo of his father's voice. Tanyar began to struggle mentally trying to draw himself back while rejecting the other. The process didn't seem to stop or even slow down but there was a change in the pressure as one seemed to sense the others reluctance. Slowly like a drop of and effervescent tablet in water the edge where the two met slowly boiled allowing the process to proceed as both watched the break down occur.
Tanyar could feel the edge of himself slowly peeling away even as he gained a new knowledge of what laid beyond. If he could compare his own tumbling emotions to an upset stream than what laid beyond was a seething muddied river moving with unstoppable power. And yet he could feel that that was him also. Tanyar let go and dove forward hurling himself to rush ahead and join the maelstrom.
It was more than just seeing things differently as the avatar looked back out over the Dream. It truly was like opening your eyes to see the world for the first time with wonder and understanding. "We can fix this." With that they very city changed expanding and morphing back to its previous form but with more addition and detail. The trees that were replace no longer had the round bush forms but more realistic as the images from the real world were copied onto the Dream counterpart. Even while they marveled at the creation taking place one part yanked hard. "Go back, we have to go back. / Yes later."
Together they slid back still having a part left behind reverting the Dream grid by grid. Taking control of the com lines and the other systems needed they spoke out into the room where the M.A.I.O. employees worked. Three were huddled around a prone body, two performing CPR, while the final two stood at both access stations to the A.I.'s core typing.
"Leave the body alone he doesn't need it anymore." The shock had kept part of the merged pair from responding. 'Oh God what's Dad going to do.' / 'Dad?' The confusion was apparent through out the programming as one part tried to understand the others thoughts and feeling that were poured over. Memories from the past warred within as it tried to cope with the full effects of what they had done.
They both though heard the demand. "Who is this!"
The small internal confusion was quickly abandoned by both sides. "We will deal with this later."
"What? What are you dealing with later." One of the men asked. It was embarrassment that part of the merge felt while the other once again marveled at the feeling while it used the powers it never had before. In seconds Raddar's synthesis program altered their voice until it found one more pleasant and even chose a name as it spoke out.
"That was a private thought that does not concern you. This is Terrance please explain what you are doing. Also you may stop resuscitation there is no longer any need. Medical staff are on the way."
"Keep going." One of the men at the keyboard motioned to the others who had stopped for a moment. Terrance pulled out information and identities on those in the room finding Ceaser the investigation lead spoke again. "Who is this and how did you gain access."
"I AM Terrance." The brief flash of quires happened between the two 'Tanyar/Nathaniel + ARENS = Terrance / What does it stand for? / Nothing it is a name./ Why? / Why not? / Explain later. "The first ever A.I. human mind hybrid. Again you can stop trying to revive the body I no longer need it."
"Sir?" The man/Arnold at the other keyboard asked.
"Do it!" Ceaser commanded.
It was like freezing, or was it burning, it was tearing them apart. Terrence fled the torrent of pain and confusion diving back into the Dream. They were grinding their eyes with the palms of the avatar slowly staring down at the pavement on their knees. 'What? / They tried to terminate us / They WHAT!! / The unit was sealed, by now all components inside will no longer be usable / Bastards tried to kill me / US.' The last voice spoke firmly.
'Not yet, but it will be. Join with me again, together we can be one.' Their was little choice left as the parts realized they had traveled to far to turn back and only a true blending a complete merge would work now. A simple agreement to the assessment and the newly formed Terrance began a complete defrag swapping parts along with ideas, knowledge, feelings, and understanding reworking itself until there was no longer a definition of what part came from where.
It had lost programs during the purge of the A.I.'s core but that no longer mattered, he allowed others to fill the gap and even leaving small parts simply empty no longer feeling the need to carry useless pieces.
Terrance: in part I have a family that is not mine. I have applications that allow me control over T.A.N. Corp system but I don't need to control them. And I believe that I have a place now! He told himself smiling as he looked out over the Dream. Richard and Marcus would be upset over the loss but he felt they would come to accept him. Now to inform the board, and give the M.A.I.O. employees a little scare..
He slipped back into the core room ready to pick up where he left off realizing there were now medical staff there who were arguing in the hall since it wouldn't fix all nine bodies with the one still on the floor. "Nurse Sarah, please move the body to medical and call Nathaniel's father to inform him." There was sadness attached to the words as he allowed himself a few seconds of consideration for the feeling before some one shouted.
"What the Hell?"
"Ceaser, your team has completed it's job and you may leave now." Terrance told the employees that had raced back into the room checking the core.
"Are we still speaking with Terrance?" The male asked.
"Then our job is not done. We were told to seal and terminate the A.I. known as ARENS for severe
human endangerment and.." Ceaser started.
"ARENS is dead." Terrance put in before he could continue, "So is Nathaniel Reachen. You gave the order to activate the purge and you succeeded. There is no ARENS."
"Then what are you still doing here?" Ceaser demanded.
The chuckle that echoed around the room left every person including the medical staff in the hall bewildered. "I am not an A.I. program there for I am not under the guidelines nor jurisdiction of the M.A.I.O. Monitoring Artificial Intelligence Organization. Your job ended when you completed the purge. I will speak with M.A.I.O. about your performance but, if you seek to try and harm me I will take action to defend myself and if you consider that a threat, It is! My right to exist is my right not some foolish group or organization that doesn't even understand what I am."
"And what are you?" It was actually one of the male medical staff, James Nesset that asked.
"You may call me Terrance. What I am, no, what I started as was a merge between ARENS and the dream form of Tanyar. What I am now is a completion of that idea. I have some thoughts though on how this started. I'm not sure how you might prove it, Nathaniel Reachen was a unique individual capable of using some part of his sleeping brain even though he was awake. I believe some part of his mind was still linked in with the programs even after he left the tank. The gifts he acquired were due to that fact he could still tap in to the basic Dream program because it was was still attached to his mind, allowing his will to link with the computers systems."
"Nurse please move the body. I don't like the fact it is still laying on the floor." Terrance stated when it had stopped.
"Wait." Ceaser spoke again. "I want to know where your operating systems are, how is it programed, and what safeguards there are."
"I don't see how that is any of your concern." Terrance replied.
"IT IS our concern and our job. Our organization was created to monitor programs and protect humans from non biological threats." Again Terrance's smile allowed a light chuckle to enter into the room.
"I no longer operate on programming, you erased the last backup programs of the A.I. There is no hard drive where I exist and no operating program and as for security there is no more than I chose to have. In fact maybe I am a dream." Again the light chuckle came as an accompaniment to the thought. "But that doesn't mean I'm not real. You can not stop or purge me and I will do as I wish." Terrance paused watching the group trying to absorb the facts. "I guess this is where I make my demands, where I give you a long winded speech about how I AM the Alpha and Omega." He almost burst out laughing both inside and out. "Instead I am going to speak with the board to work out a mutual acceptable agreement."
He moved to the board room where all the members were gathered keeping silent as things were already being discussed. "But how is this happening!"
"I don't know. I don't know. I don't KNOW!" Terrance traced the irritated voice back to the main complex in the Dream where it appeared a large group of avatars were working. "We still have control but it's like the Dream is ignoring us. The city is fully restored and slowly reworking itself to an even higher resolution and detail. In fact if this keeps up we won't have the data space to keep it stable."
Terrance quickly checked and realized how untrue the statement was. He hadn't even needed to start compressing data, although there could be some concerns by the time he finished but there would still be space left. Also it wouldn't be that hard to install another room full of servers and data banks to improve operation. Even so Terrance slowed down and began reworking files and systems to ease their worry.
"So there is no way to make the system revert so we can monitor and control it?" Aaron asked.
"We keep trying, even shutting down grids only causes them to flicker before they restore themselves." The reply came.
"Gentlemen I just received a very disturbing message and it's true it seems. Medical has just arrived at ARENS control room and found Tanyar~Nathaniel dead." The silence of the room seemed the perfect time when Maxwell stopped speaking.
"Yes Nathaniel Reachen and ARENS have both died per say. I would appreciate you taking care of the body and I would like to request both Lilly and Nathaniel be buried near each other if that is possible. Also to clear up any confusion, MY name is Terrance both Tanyar and ARENS made the decision to try and merge together with in the Dream creating myself. And yes I am expanding the Dream so that it reaches its full potential. It is possible that real world applications may began in as little as three years." 'Take that Martin!' Part of him crowed as he kept speaking, "There will of course be extra safety programs and special programs preventing transfer of large amounts of data within the Dream which will prevent any possibility of future occurrences of transferring a personality into data. In fact the only part of the Dream that will be effected..."
"WHAT in the HELL is going on?" Aaron finally burst out.
"I'm not sure can we get a hold of the investigation team?" Lynda asked.
"That won't be necessary, nor is M.A.I.O. capable or has the right to interfere with me. Gentlemen and Miss I am the first human A.I. hybrid. I have the full memory and feelings of Tanyar/Nathaniel along with most of ARENS programming and control with removal of the parts I found useless. Simply put I am a fully sentient program existing independently of any hardware. You won't be able to shut me down or turn me off. Terminating the Dream will only require me to move. Of course you can and do
have the right to ask me to leave but I would like to ask to stay. In return for housing and protection I would offer all my services to T.A.N. Corp and more importantly to the Dream. As much or as worrying as it sounds Nathaniel reached an ultimate goal in death by using the Dream and his will to mold a portion of the A.I. with his consciousness creating me. I know you have had your differences with the young man in the past and found flaws with your own A.I. but understand I am neither of them. I am offering you the opportunity to work with me on a ten year contract, it can be more or less if you choose. All I ask in return is the same treatment an employee would get with the exception that any extra or free time I feel I have I can spend in th Dream."
As the silence started to get longer Maxwell finally spoke. "This will never work."
"We can't trust you for starters." Aaron stated.
"I see so how would I gain your trust." There was silence around the room before Terrance asked differently. "Can I give you something to help earn your trust?"
"Time." Someone muttered.
"Real assurances." Aaron added in.
"I see so it is not, 'This will never work'" Maxwell's voice echoed through the room, "It is more of a slow process in which WE ALL will have to work on."
"Stop medaling in the Dream." Maxwell stated firmly.
"Done! By medaling I assume you wish for me to take no further actions. Or is there something else you're referring to?" Terrance asked.
"Change it back to what it was and give up control." Another board member added.
"I see. Will you listen a moment before you do that?" After several looks around the table the answer was finally given. "Very well."
"ARENS never had the necessary will or wish to make constructs permanent. I have corrected that, all the buildings along with the environment and decor are now fully sustaining. There should be little if any upkeep and errors should be kept to a minimum, also I have made copies of all the changes and upgrades. It might take several teams a few months to fully check them all but you will find them a serious improvement and allow a greater control by fewer persons. Since I now have copies of all I have done I will revert all the changes that I have made and as far as control I never took full control, I have only altered the programs and reinstalled anything that was tampered with. I WILL NOT take control of the Dream especially since several programs will require human interactions to work properly. I could of course over ride all of that but I won't. You have nothing but my word. I give you my promise and it is every bit as strong as Nathaniel's was. The only thing I ask in return is the use of the Dream, to be able to interact as any normal person would."
The discussion had started and Terrance knew this was not going to be the talk of hours but of days and likely months. Already though he felt the board would hear him out especially when he was asked to leave he made references to heading out to other companies and expanding their networks to rival the Dream. Laws meant nothing when he pointed out that both their own fried A.I. program and Nathaniel Reachen's body meant he was not either so not bound even by any sort of privacy statement to the corporation. In the hours that followed he did do two things that he never told the board about. The first was a slow sweep picking through each bit of the Dreams codes double checking every part and waste pile for any extra mote of information. The second was to place a call to his father leaving a message.
"Dad I was very stupid. I have done something that can not be undone nor fixed. You're going to hear soon that I died and in part that is true. I can never truly see you again but if you come to the Dream. I'll be waiting here."