Bleeding Edge – 8.10

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“Coast clear?”  Gordon asked.

“Coast clear,” Jamie reported.  His breath fogged up in the cool morning air.

Gordon nodded.  He withdrew a set of picks from his pocket, and began working on the lock in the front door, while the rest of us gathered around.

“If I’d seen this lock up close, I’d know there was something going on,” Gordon said.  “It’s better than the usual.”

“Huh,” I said.  “You can’t do it?”

“There’s a locking bar and a rotating disc.  It’s the kind of lock you’d find on the front door of the Gage’s mansion, not a warehouse like this.  This will take a minute,” he said.

“We don’t have all that much time,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ll be up at the crack of dawn, but at a certain point you have to assume they’ll stop in.”

“I know, Sy,” Gordon said.  He fiddled with the lock.  “You’d actually find this interesting if you kept your skills fresh with the lockpicking, studied it.”

“Not a priority.  I’ve got you and Mary to help cover that one.  If I need to learn it for something, I’ve got the stuff in my luggage to remind myself how to do it.  Other things take priority when it comes to real estate in my head.”

“That exceedingly small amount of real estate,” he said.

“Ha ha,” I said, deadpan.  “You know, we wouldn’t have been so short on time if you and Jamie had actually woken up pre-dawn like Lillian and I did.”

“Sorry I’m dying, Sy,” Gordon said.

I stopped in my tracks.  Then I saw the half-smile on his face as he wiggled the push-rod.

“That’s dirty,” I said.

“You’re being a pest.”

“Nah.  Just reminding you that you’re slow.”

He sighed, squinting as something clicked in the lock.

“Oh, is that pin one of four?  Five?  Six pins?  Yeah, you’re slow.”

“Bite him, Hubris.”

Hubris opened his mouth, moving toward my hand.

“You don’t want to do that,” I told the mutt.  “I’m poisonous.”

The dog stopped.

“I’m disappointed in you, boy,” Gordon said.  The dog wagged his tail.

A movement behind us made us collectively turn our heads.

Only a cat, patchwork, running down the length of the street.  Someone’s practice making stitched, maybe.

“I know you like to say so, Sy, but you’re not that poisonous,” Lillian said.  “It’s not like you spit nightshade and pee cyanide.”

“That would be nifty,” I said.

Lillian rolled her eyes.  I caught a smile from Jamie though.

“You’re in a good mood,” Jamie observed.

“He’s intolerable,” Gordon said, but he didn’t look nearly as grumpy as he seemed.  “Why don’t you go for a walk, Sy?  Jamie and Lillian can keep an eye out here.”

I glanced at the others.  Lillian was rubbing her hands together, hunched over a little, as if ducking her head down a half-inch would make the difference in us being spotted breaking in or not.

“Getting rid of me?”

“Very much getting rid of you.  You’re being a pest.  Go scout the surroundings, make sure nobody’s approaching.”

“Say please.”

“Lillian,” Gordon said, “Hit him.”

Lillian punched my arm.

“Et tu?”

She put both arms out, pushing me away.  I let her, and when she dropped her hands, I kept walking.

I circled around the warehouse.  The sun had reached the clouds above, lightening the places where the clouds were thinner, while the thickest parts of the clouds overhead remained particularly dark, a heavy contrast.  I could see where I was going without the help of the streetlights, but it remained gloomy.  Rain came down, persistent if not quite pouring, and it froze into an icy crust in places where the shadows were deeper.  Ice in the alleyways and the base of the buildings, water elsewhere.

My fingertips traced wet wooden slats as I walked along the side of the building.  It was as nondescript as any warehouse, one of the buildings that was tilting, threatening to fall over, and a few stray shingles had come free, likely pulled down by the poorer weather of summer, dropping onto the street beneath the eaves.

It was as though Lugh was so short on natural life, plants, real trees and whatever else, that it had forgotten what fall was, and was skipping straight to winter.  No leaves to turn colors, just a grim, dark, wet little knot of a town, plopped down on a rocky shore.

I ducked into an alley, where I was less visible, still walking around the long building.

I looked up, saw a high window, and then cast my eyes around.  I spotted a plank, ten feet long, and propped it up against the wall beneath the window.  It was slick with ice in spots, but I shimmied up, and adjusted my weight until I had one foot on the windowsill and one on the end of the plank.

I tested the window.  Locked.  It looked to be a simple turn-key latch on the window itself, and further down, the key embedded partially in the sill.  Turn both keys, and the window opened.  Annoying to open and close, given how high the window was, but not impossible.  There was probably a tool on the end of a pole that people could use should they really want to open the windows.

Discreet, private.

Reaching into my pocket, being careful to keep my balance, I got some paper and a bit of razor wire.  Making a loop with the razor wire, I used the paper to help work the razor wire through a gap in between the top of the window and the window itself.

I had to squint to make it out past the dusty glass, within a large, unlit room.  I eased it over, and hooked the latch with the loop.  A sharp tug lifted it.

The one embedded in the windowsill was harder.  Twice, I got it in position, only for it to slip free.  On the third try, I hooked it over, and twisted the wire until it tightened around the key.  Further twisting made it turn at a glacial pace.

Come on, come on.

No way am I going to mess up here.  This is too important.

I began exerting some pressure on the window, pressing on it, until a combination of the pressure and the twist of the key made the latch pop the rest of the way open.  The window swung wide, and I very nearly toppled through, head and shoulders going through the window, with my ass and legs soon following.  I caught myself before facing that indignity.

Straddling the windowsill, I found the pole used for the window, and grabbed it, positioning it below me.  I started to get in position to slide down it when the front door opened.

No!   Damn!

Gordon and the others strode through.  Gordon stared up at me.

“Come on down, Sy.”

I kept my face dead still as I slid down.

One minute sooner…

“What was the plan?” Gordon asked.  “We come in, and there you are, standing in the shadows, already inside and looking smug?  Or were you going to try and scare us?  Because I’d like to remind you I have a weak heart.”

“The smug thing,” I said.  “I would have looked so smug.”

“Yeah, Sy,” Gordon said.  He gave me a pat on the shoulder.  “Let’s figure out what we can.”

I nodded, turning my attention to our surroundings.

The first thing I noticed was the smell.  A slaughterhouse smell: blood and hormones.  Not that one could smell hormones, not really, but I felt as though there was a note to the smell to be associated with pain and fear, and that note was here.  Subtle, but present.

The interior of the place was improvised.  We’d seen many a makeshift laboratory, and there was a tendency for them to try to hold to a kind of convention.  The Snake Charmer, for example, had maintained a small library, equipment, tools, all bought or found elsewhere and brought to his lab.  He’d had a chalkboard, texts, a proper desk, beakers, and what he couldn’t find he’d built.  It had been ramshackle, but it had been a lab.

This was different.  Every piece of equipment seemed to be the wrong sort of thing, bent to scholarly ends.  Old crates had been stacked to either side of the desk with open faces out towards us, a makeshift bookcase.  The ‘books’, however, were disorganized reams of paper, many bound into sections with twine.  An old door had been laid out on its side, propped up on stacks of crates, with more papers strewn on top.  The hole where the doorknob was meant to be inserted served to hold a cup, presumably serving as an inkwell, if I could draw conclusions from the dark spatter surrounding it.  Candles and lanterns were set atop virtually every horizontal surface on that end of the room, the candles melted to stay firmly in place.

No organic lighting, but they’d whiled away the evening hours here, going by the state of the candles.  That meant it was less likely for them to get up bright and early.

Where there were bottles or beakers, most seemed to be old alcohol bottles with the necks shorn off, each containing various fluids, corked with wax plugs, the wax dribbling down sides where a flame had been held to it to form better seals.

Shelves took up a good share of the one-room building, but they weren’t floor-to-ceiling shelving units like we’d seen in the Fishmonger’s warehouse.  These were built shelving units.  Boards, bricks and stone blocks, stacked so the bricks and blocks held the boards flat, at varying intervals.  One shelf would be placed with an end against the wall, the length of the shelf extending toward the far end of the room, a fair gap, and then another haphazard shelf.  One in three shelves held the accumulated detritus that had probably been spread throughout this warehouse prior to the new occupants moving in, another third had the notes and paper, tools and bottles of various chemicals, and one in three held the freakier stuff.

The ‘freakier stuff’ consisted of bottles of cloudy fluid.  Within a given bottle of fluid there were some limbs of odd shapes and styles, none of them recognizable from any animal species I knew.  I saw organs, again, very hard to place or identify, and I saw tissue samples, skin, sections of organ, eyes, jaw with teeth and gums still attached, and fibrous strands that could have been fraying muscle or tendon, collected into bunches.  The dim light from some windows reached the bottles at the far end of the building, making them seem to glow from within.  Likely why they were so cloudy.

The only other thing of interest was what looked to be a metal panel inset into the floor, three feet across.  Chains stretched through a series of pulleys, into and through that metal grate.  To lift it open?

I could see the miner’s pick they’d used to break through the hard ground, the wooden splinters and stone debris piled in one corner with all the other garbage that the occupants had set to one side, and I knew they’d dug a hole.  Then they’d covered it with a very heavy metal lid, and rigged it with more chains than necessary.

The lid wasn’t that heavy.  Half the number of chains would have sufficed to heft it up.

Gordon closed the door behind us, locking it.  As a group, we advanced further into the room.

Jamie went straight to the door-table of papers.  Lillian started to, then changed her mind and went to the crate-shelves which held equipment, makeshift and otherwise.

Studying records and methodology, respectively.

Gordon’s attention was on the grate, while I turned my eyes to the far corner of the room, with all of the interesting things in bottles.

It was a lab, but it wasn’t a lab.

Most labs were centered around something, and all they had here was… what?  A grate in the floor?

“Doesn’t feel like a proper lab,” I voiced the sentiment aloud.

“It isn’t,” Lillian said.  She was closest to me.  “This is eerie.  Like children playing at something serious.”

“What are they playing at?” Gordon asked.

“I don’t know,” Lillian said.

“Everything here is handmade, though,” I said, looking around.  My hand reached up to touch a bottle with an organ inside.  They’d reserved the clearest bottles and jars for the specimens.  It looked like some sort of combination of a heart, but wrapped up in the wrinkly skin of a ballsack, the upper corner knotted together and hardened like a whorl in wood.  “They came in here, they spent days clearing away the trash, cleaned up, as much as you can clean this sort of place, and then they built the shelves, put together the table, collected paper…  it’s a labor of love, almost?”

“Weeks of work to get things set up, then weeks or a couple months of time to get all of the rest of this done.  Whatever it is,” Gordon said.

Gordon hadn’t moved far from the hatch, though he was probably long since done examining it.  One of his hands rested on the chain, the other on Hubris’ head.  He was tired, slower to move, faster to tire.  A clock winding down.  His color still wasn’t good.

I tried to ignore that.  I’d have to pick on him more later, just to bring things closer to normal.

Another organ, one I might have suggested as a mix of a bird’s talon and a monkey’s paw.  Three fingers, one thumb, stretched with gnarled skin, black in color with fibrous strands at the base, almost like feathers or fur.

It had been hacked off.  The damage to the stump was haphazard, ragged.  I reached up to turn the bottle, my eyes on the damage.

I froze, watching it sway slightly within its makeshift, wax-corked bottle as the cloudy liquid responded to my movement.

My eyes had been on the stump, and I’d only seen it in the corner of my eye, but I could’ve sworn I’d seen the fingers move, closing slightly in response to the movement.  The time it had taken my eyes to move from stump to finger had been enough time for the movement to cease.

A trick of the light?  A natural movement in response to the movement of the fluid within the bottle?

I knocked on the glass of the bottle, hard.


I moved the bottle again, to no avail.

That was annoying.

“Jamie?” Gordon asked.  “What are you reading?”

“Papers have a lot of various mentions of viability.  They’re referencing tables on a book or text that we don’t have and using shorthand on these tables I’m trying to figure out.  I’m not seeing the text on the shelves either.”

“Nope,” Lillian said.  “No text, but lots of tools for surgery.  Some big tools, too.”

“Big?” I asked, turning.

Lillian reached to the top of a stack of crates and hefted a woodcutter’s axe.  It was heavy enough she almost dropped it.

“Don’t go lopping your toe off,” I said.

She turned a little red.

“I like your toes,” I said.

She turned a little more red. “That’s stupid.”

“It really kind of is,” Gordon commented.

“Shush, quiet, I’m still figuring this out,” I said.

He made an amused sound.  “I remember the cafeteria at Mothmont.  You have a better idea of how to woo girls than people twice your age.  You’re being intentionally dorky.”

“There’s blood on the blade,” Lillian said, mercifully changing the subject.

“They’re creating life and taking it apart,” I said.  I turned back to the shelves, walking down the length of it.  Some of these bottles were dark brown and green, leaving the contents a mystery.  I held one hand up to block out the light and leaned close now and again to peer inside.  “Hey, can you grab me a lantern or a candle or something?”

“Yeah,” Lillian said.  She put down the axe, scooping up one glass lamp on her way to me.  Her other hand reached under a flap to fish in her bag.  She retrieved a box of matches as she walked the long way around a pile of crates with a few blankets draped over top.  I might have taken it to be a table for sharing meals at, but the pile of blankets would have made for an uneven surface.

“Any ideas?” I asked.

“I’d think they were building a stitched warbeast, but no.  Testing a poison or pathogen on a variety of parts, maybe.  But… these are bizarre.”

“Consistently so,” I observed, looking at each specimen.  There wasn’t a single one that I could point to and properly identify.  I held out my hand to partially block the light from the unlit lamp, “Careful as you light that.”

She nodded.  The match flared, and she held it to the lamp’s end as she turned the dial in the side.  The flame ignited, the light not quite reaching the specimens on the shelves.

I found one eyeball, floating in the jar, the orb itself a jaundiced yellow, the pupil round and almost human.  I stared at it, moving my hand away from the light source to let the light better reach the shelf.  I gestured for her to raise it.

The pupil at the eye’s center narrowed.  Lillian nearly dropped the lamp as she saw it happen.

“It’s alive,” she said, in wonder and horror.

“All of it is,” I said, staring at the bottles.  “The girl is supposed to be immortal, remember?”

“Her tissues?  No.  But that same science.”

I nodded.

Thirty or forty jars of very different organs and body parts, no two alike.

All independently alive.

Two short whistles, barely audible, made our heads whip around.


Lillian reacted by fumbling with the lantern, as I moved to interject my body between it and most of the room.  The flame went out as she cranked the dial the other way around.  The front door of the building slammed.

Footsteps, quick, more than one set, moving with purpose as they crossed to this end of the building.

Right for us.

My eyes moved quick, surveying the surroundings.  The shelves around us were too littered with bottles and other things for there to be a clear escape route through the shelves, like I’d found in the Fishmonger’s place.

It couldn’t be easy.

The footsteps were closer, a matter of feet away.  Lillian spun around.

Putting a hand around Lillian’s mouth to ensure she remained quiet as I startled her, I hauled her back, stepping into the deepest, darkest corner, where one shelf touched the wall of the building.  It wasn’t much shadow, so I held her close to me, sandwiching myself between her and the wall.

There’s our girl, I thought.  Candy or whatever her name is.

Unlike her parents, Candy looked like she was fit for the aristocracy.  A long neck, paler skin, and platinum hair that had been artificially lightened, cut short like a boy’s.  Everything else about her screamed of an attempt to rebel.  She wore a man’s overalls and shirt, though the shirt was tied short, so it knotted at her solar plexus, allowing a glimpse of her belly.  Tattoos marked her arms, small thorns or horns sprouted from her skin at the one cheekbone I could see, and two curving horns rose from her forehead.  I could tell that her eyes had been altered, but not how, not at this distance, in this lighting.

The one accessory she had with her, however, that screamed of her rebellion against her parents, was a boy.  He was tall, lanky, and probably had as much muscle on his frame as I did, after adjusting for height and proportions.  Artificial scales decorated him, mingling with dark, swirling tattoos of indeterminate subject.  It was a lot less dramatic and haphazard than what Candy had done to herself.  It was as if she’d decorated herself with whatever came at hand, spur of the moment, while he’d done the work on himself with an artist’s eye and a goal in mind.

She pushed him down onto the stack of crates with blankets, pinning him, and he didn’t put up much of a fight at all, even as she opened her mouth, revealing pointed teeth, and bit his shoulder.

It was very possible he was even worse at fighting than I was.  I felt a kind of pity and camaraderie for the guy.

She shifted her position, straddling his torso, then pinning his arms against the surface with her knees, before reaching up to undo the buckles on her overalls.


I revised my opinion.  This wrestling match would be a win for both participants.

I didn’t dare move, my hand over Lillian’s mouth, because we were in their peripheral vision, and any movement could tip them off.

Heck, if they even turned their heads, they might make us out in the shadows.

Lillian’s breath was hot against my hand as I continued to cover her mouth.  My breath had to have been tickling the back of her neck, as her back and butt pressed against my front.

With our present view of the scene, there were only so many things to look at, other than the scene, or the back of Lillian’s head, or the skin of her neck, or her shoulder.  One of those things was the window I’d opened.

Still open, the pole still moved from its original position.

They were supposed to be sleeping in, after working late.  Gordon said he saw them burning the post-midnight oil.  The place was supposed to be empty.

I guess Candy and her boy knew it would be.

If the young man happened to stop kissing Candy and look up and a little to the left, he would see the open window.

We would be found if they took just a moment to look.

My back was pressed to the outside wall of the building, and the cold of the fall had seeped into it, now seeping into me, cold, uncomfortable.  In contrast, the front of me pressed against Lillian.

I wanted them to stop what they were doing, because this was agony.  I didn’t want them to stop.  I felt antsy.  They hadn’t even properly taken off their clothes.  They were saying things I couldn’t hear, she was nibbling on him, and they kissed and ran their hands over each other, drawing it out.

A part of me was sad, because whatever followed from this, it would be weird, the next time Lillian slept beside me.

Candy pulled off the top she’d knotted at her middle, turning around to find a spot to put it.  Maybe a place that wasn’t too dusty.  Her back was defined by muscle, beneath the straps of her brassiere.

Lillian chose that same moment to squirm.  I was sure we’d be spotted.  We weren’t.

But Candy turned to face the other way, and she paused.

Did she see Jamie?  Gordon?  The window?

No.  The angle of her head.  It was the axe.  Lillian had left it lying on the ground.

Candy said something to her boy.  He responded, curious, starting to sit up.

We were done.

I pinched Lillian’s derriere, my hand still pressed over her mouth, and she huffed, before pulling away enough to let me slide out from behind her.

I held my finger to my lips as I faced the pinkest Lillian I’d ever had the pleasure of seeing, before I let go of her mouth.

I took a second to smooth out my clothes and fix my belt.  By the time I was done, Candy was peering in my direction, squinting.

I approached her.

Muscles stood out in her shoulders and arms as she craned backward, not even standing as she adjusted from straddling her boy to lunging for the floor.  She grabbed the axe from the floor, holding it by the very butt end as she straightened, pointing the axe’s blade in my direction.

I spread my arms, raising my hands.  With a twitch of fingers, I beckoned Lillian to follow.

“A kid?” the scaled boy asked.

“No,” our quarry replied.  “Remember what our patron said?  Things and people to watch out for?  Children in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

We’re notorious, now, I thought.

“Does Mauer just tell that to everyone who he sponsors?” I asked.  “Watch out for the odd children?”

“I don’t know who or what that is,” Candy said.  She was still breathing hard, and not from lunging for the axe.  Everything about her, even as the top of her overalls hung free at the waist, seemed feline to me.  Fluid in movement, almost liquid, a natural strength, like a tense spring.

She was young, too.  Only two or so years older than Lillian, if I had to guess.

“The person who hired you?” I asked.

She shook her head.  “He’s an old soldier.”

“Red hair?”

“Black hair, black skin,” she said.

Either one of Mauer’s lieutenants, or Gordon had been misled.

“We’re not your enemy,” I said.

“He said you’d lie to me.”

Even in attitude, she was like a coiled spring.  A gun cocked, ready to fire with the twitch of a finger, as reflexes allowed.  I was betting her reflexes were better than mine.  She hadn’t missed a beat in responding, almost as if she’d expected the statement.

“The project you’re working on, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” I said.

“You know about the project?”

“No,” I said, “But I know it’s a disaster waiting to happen.  If it was this easy to do, the Academy would have done it already.  There’s a reason they haven’t.”

“The reason is that it’s a new technology,” she said.  She glanced at the door.

She was going to bolt, and I doubted I could catch her if she did.

Lillian approached from behind me.  When she spoke, her voice was soft, “It’s older than you think.”

Candy held the axe out adjusting her posture, so the side of her body faced me, one leg out in front, almost a fencer’s pose.  She measured her steps, pacing, wary.  “Does it matter?”

“The approach you’re using here might be new,” Lillian said, “But we’ve seen how it unfolds in the past, and nothing I’m seeing here suggests anything is going to turn out different than it did then.”

With Candy’s posture, I couldn’t see the hand she held behind her, but I could see part of the arm.  The muscles shifted slightly as she moved her fingers.

“Gordon!” I called out, in the same moment Candy’s boy leaped from the makeshift bed, running for the door.  I’d taken a step forward as I shouted, and Candy moved to intervene, barring my path.

Hubris charged to the fore.  I watched as the boy bounded over the dog.  Hubris coiled, hunching down, then leaped, teeth parting to latch on.  He missed by a hand’s span.

The boy landed and didn’t even pause as he ran from the moment his feet touched ground.  He caught the door handle, unlocking it and heaving it open-

And Gordon was on the other side.  I heard a few grunts from clear across the building.

Candy’s boy fell to the ground, curling up into a ball.

Candy glared at me.  The coiled spring wound even tighter.

“Believe it or not, we’re on your side,” Jamie said, from behind Candy.  She spun to face him, then realized she was surrounded, and couldn’t give him her full attention without turning her back to Lillian and me.

“You’d be surprised how many people have told me that over the course of my life,” Candy said.  “The only people who haven’t are Drake and my friends here.  They know that when someone says that, they’re lying.”

“You’re right,” I said.  “We’re on our side first and foremost.  “You don’t even come second, or in the top ten.”

“Speak for yourself, Sy,” Lillian murmured, behind me.

“I’m speaking for myself, I guess.  Lillian, the girl of our group here, she has a soft heart.  She’s still trying to decide what to do with you.”

“I was asked to fetch you,” Lillian said, her voice soft.  “Take you home.”

My eyebrows arched in surprise as I looked back at Lillian.  A part of me expected Candy to bolt as I took my attention off her, but she remained where she was.

“You used my full name,” she said.  “I thought you probably were aiming for more transparency, more honesty.”

“You’d be right,” I said, looking back at Candy.  “Nice one.”

“I’m not going home,” Candy said, her voice tight.

“I’m not taking you home,” Lillian said, her voice pitching higher in her insistence.  “I’m not.  I was planning on doing it, then I saw you and-”


“I saw you two.  I’m sorry.  And I thought- I thought that was nice and right and good for you, and I can’t-”

Lillian’s voice got more halting.

I could see Candy’s muscles relax a bit.

“Candy,” I said.

The muscles got tenser than I’d seen them yet.  The look she shot me was one fit to kill.

“Candida,” Jamie corrected me.

“I hate Candida,” she said.  “I hate Candy more.”

“Sorry,” I said.  I spoke to her like I was placating a snarling warbeast.  “Sorry.  Really, I am.”

Her eyes were wary as she studied me.

“We need to know what exactly it is you’re doing,” I said.

On the other end of the building, Drake got to his feet, wary of the dog and Gordon both.  Gordon said something I didn’t hear, and Drake responded.

Drake crossed the room, returning to his girlfriend’s side.  After a moment, he walked over to where she’d left her shirt, and tossed it to her.

She was busy studying us, even as she pulled it back on.

“We’re not supposed to tell,” she said.  “And I’m supposed to assume anything you do is a lie or an attempt at sabotage.  You’re the…”

“Lambs,” Jamie said, behind her.

He was instinctively doing what we’d done to the Fishmonger, speaking in turn, so we took turns, kept her off balance.

Perhaps a bad idea, given how skittish she was.

“You’re creating life,” Lillian said.  “Refined life.”

Candy nodded slowly.  “You read our notes?”

“Your notes didn’t mean anything without the reference material,” Jamie said.  “She intuited that on her own.  Because she’s an Academy student, and she’s read about this.”

“Can you open the hatch?” Lillian asked.  “Or is it dangerous?”

Candy shook her head.  “It’s not viable.  Not yet.”

“Small mercies,” Lillian said, her voice almost inaudible to me, and she was closer to me than to anyone.  “Show me?”

Candy nodded slowly, a frown on her face.

She walked over to the chain that was connected to the pulley.  There was no crank or winch.  She simply hauled down on the chain to haul the hatch up.

It was akin to a sewer grate in how it was fit to the floor.  Trails of blood and other fluids dripped from the underside and into the hole.

The slaughterhouse smell I’d detected earlier increased in intensity a hundredfold.

The extra chains I’d noted had a purpose, I realized.  While many of the chains were attached to the grate, others were attached to the specimen.  It was four feet across and about seven feet long, and only vaguely humanoid.

It looked like it was made of tumorous flesh, nodules, or a coral reef.  Parts fit together and clutched to one another, giving the entirety of it a surface like a human brain, all bumps and valleys.  It moved only slightly, without purpose, like a newborn baby, lacking the strength to even raise a heavy limb more than an inch or two.

“Primordial life,” Lillian said.

“Oh,” Jamie said, “Oh wow.”

“What the heck is that supposed to even be?” Gordon asked.

“Sy has talked about the Lamb’s project, right?” Lillian asked.  “About what we’re meant for, in the long run?  What he hopes for?  A great mind?”

Gordon nodded.  Candy continued to give us wary looks.

A better brain, capable of pioneering better brains than their own.

“If that mind had a body to suit, this would be that body,” she said.

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95 thoughts on “Bleeding Edge – 8.10

  1. Typo thread!

    > “Oh, is that on step pin of four? Five? Six pins? Yeah, you’re slow.”

    I dunno what this is supposed to be. Step one or the first pin?

          • Also, it wasn’t really poor wording. Sy turned to face Lilian, who just talked. It makes sense for the pronoun to be the person he’s addressing and currently looking at. He responds to that person before diverting his attention back to candy, by saying she was right.

      • Not a typo. The “she” is Lillian, Who is talking to sy.
        Sylvester called her by name, and her full name at that, instead of a code name (like Simon for him) or a nickname like lil.

        Lillian took that as a hint to mean that he was looking for her to be open and honest, to relax the shirtless immortal cat girl with teen angst, horns, teeth, ties to the rebellion, and a giant axe.

        So Lilian did what she does best, Blabber the truth and talk about medical sciencey things.
        Somehow it actually works.

  2. (Getting Beholder vibes of all things from this, for some reason. Damn you Critical Role.)

    This is it. This is the Modern Prometheus. Everything you’ve read about how man shouldn’t play God, how dinosaurs will only ruin your theme park, how the creation of something smarter than you will only lead to the immortal Keanu Reeves becoming the Messiah in the Machine in the future, this is where it begins.

    Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’s been replicated, a hundred variations, but the same primordial intelligence. Maybe it’s not, and this is the only one.

    Lillian now has a choice. If she lets this live, if she lets that better mind that Sylvester’s pursued survive, thrive, and hopefully not usher a new dark age for humanity as a slave species to these new lifeforms, the implications are staggering.

    If not, then nothing, not even Sy imitating what Candida was doing and finishing, in the most ideal situation possible, not even being promoted to the head of the Academy, will rival the giant fucking whoosh of the infinity of new futures and timelines that she’s cut off by nipping this coral brain thing in the bud passing her by and letting her know she’s responsible for it.

    This is the threshold, Lillian. Whatever your choice, you’d better learn to live with doubt, because no way in hell will you decide anything at this juncture without later imagining the myriad possibilities that could’ve been.

  3. Lacking a reference, does anyone know when Sy first aired his beliefs about the future and about the purpose of the Lambs? I feel like it warrants a re-read, but there’s no convenient way to find it that I know of.

    • The earliest indication that we had was actually Hayle’s commentary in the first few chapters. But we didn’t know that Sy had internalized it to the point of fanaticism until Arc 4, in his discussions with Fray. Since then it’s come up a couple of times.

    • When he confronts avis with the Duke. That was the first time he directly says it, and he does so whenever he’s talking to fray since then.

        • Not really. He mentioned having beliefs and hinted at what he thinks the future of the lambs may be, but he didn’t outright say what those were. We knew he had an answer to that question back with fray, but with avis and the Duke, he actually answered it

  4. …Well, crap. Please, please tell me that they didn’t just make a sentient lifeform capable of reproduction without assistance. Actually, don’t tell me it’s mindless either. That would be worse.

  5. Huh. Neat.

    I wonder… what the final product would look like.

    Perhaps, a fox? ;D Or a snake, of course. Also, Sy, you are adorably naïve. Yeah, that girl and boy just waited until they could enter the secret warehouse to do some fighting. Perhaps some strugglesnuggle.

    How come they didn’t notice the lock was opened?

  6. A better brain, capable of pioneering better brains than their own.

    “If that mind had a body to suit, this would be that body,”

    Which means that once given the context, the “Better Mind” Project will likely unfold just as well as the “Better Body” project; where the “Better Body” just goes “KILL EVERYTHING!!!”, the “Better Mind” will go “One Bad Day” on everybody.

    Also, has Wildbow been playing Fallout 4? The makeshift lab & equipment looks a lot like one of my settlements.

    • I’m not sure that the “body to suit” means that the body actually houses the self-improving mind, or that they could make one by using Candy’s tech.

      What’s more likely is that it’s not only reproducible – what a poor achievement would that be! modern humans are already self-reproducing! — but also capable of self-modification *on the fly*. Liquify its own tissues into a soup of induced stem cells, then reform them into new organs on demand.

      Much like Sy can wyvern himself new skills on demand just by trying.

      • Now, for the real deal, they should dose that thing with Wyvern and they get a self-improving mind in a self-improving body! Oh wait! It can already reshape its brain.

  7. Okay, let me get this straight.
    So Demongirl and Dragonboy experimented with tissues that are basically indefinitely selfsustaining, since they survive and remain functional even when separated from any kind of organ. Then they proceeded to cobble said tissues together into a living being, which lacks the strength to do ANYTHING (because its design is basically still primitive) but survives nontheless because of that… that… erm… well… basically because it’s immortal. The only method to get rid of it would be treating it like GLaDOS. Tear it to pieces and throw every piece into a fire. (Cue “Still Alive”-Song) Even in this early stages of development. And they keep that (nigh?) immortal being in a hole in the ground. Yeah. I don’t see how THIS could go wrong.
    And now LILLIAN sees that thing and her first train of thought is “Omg, this kind of body combined with an advanced mind would be sooooo fabulous! They would totally match! ^//^ ”

    Welp. Good luck, world. D:
    Here’s hoping that this new super-lifeform would at least inherit Sy’s sense of humor. Can’t have a world-dominating species that doesn’t appreciate the simple joy of butt-jokes.

  8. Am I the only one not so affected by the biopunk singularity under the floor to notice the sexual and romantic tension between Sy and Lillian? Those are perfectly natural feelings in that situation Sy. Possibly the only natural thing in that room.

    Oh and Candy and her boytoy should be glad the lambs came in. Sex. In a lab. With some god forsaken abomination under the floor. They were just asking to be eaten, or have eggs laid in their brains or something.

    • I love that Sy didn’t interpret the biting as foreplay and thought Drake was just getting his ass kicked. For a genius he sure has some blind spots.

      Also, I called it last week that they would be working on an unfriendly AI. Okay, I’m not exactly right, but I still want a cookie.

      • No cookie for you! They’re making the perfect physical body, but there was no indication that it’s consciousness was going to be more than just a normal warbeast. Lillian was the one who started talking about perfect brains.

  9. This sounds much more like Fray’s idea than Mauer’s. You’d think he’d be wary of anything that would give people nightmares. Although maybe he rationalizes it by thinking “Hey, no soldier will ever have to face this thing on the battlefield!” (Which is BS in so, so many ways, but there we are.)

  10. “It’s older than you think.”

    “The approach you’re using here might be new,” Lillian said, “But we’ve seen how it unfolds in the past, and nothing I’m seeing here suggests anything is going to turn out different than it did then.”

    All the experiments we’ve seen so far have been based on existing life. I’m guessing what we’re seeing here is an attempt to make something genuinely new, with new ratios all of its own, or no fixed ratios at all. I’m also guessing there’s something fatally wrong with the idea

    Something other than not being viable, since they seem to have gotten around that

    I’ve got no ideas, let’s see what happens

  11. If I recall correctly, Drake is a shortened and butchered modernized version of the old english term for Dragon no? Guess I can see where the design came from.

    For someone who can leap higher than a dog, you’d think he’d have better physical stats!

    For Candida, she seems like she can’t decide between feline or thorny rose or shark or demon. Just like, “Fuck it, it all looks great on me!”

    • It would be pretty misleading to call drake a butchered or modernised version of an old english term. Firstly, it isn’t actually changed from the old usage – Chaucer uses the word drake, no changes required. It was a word then, and the spelling is still the same.
      Secondly, it seems odd to refer to the word as a butchered or modernised version of anything. The word drake is just another word for dragon, and not really an obscure one. It may not often be used in casual conversation, but that’s partly because the subject doesn’t come up much, and because the word dragon is much more prevalent – a bit like the usage of “spectre” instead of “ghost”, it’s uncommon but still understandable.

  12. Squee, that thing is so cute, seriously, Twig is the cutest story ever, though it is also taking place in a seriously bad crapsacharine world, when humanity suffers and the cute things are either mistreated or mistreaters that should be seriously put down “sigh”

    On another note, am I the only one who thinks superintelligent beings are a good thing? I mean, look at humans, the smarter they are the less stupidly aggressive and megalomaniac they tend to be. Sure, there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t bet on the superintelligent being being these. I’d ever think life with them as overlords might be better.

    Naq, orfvqrf, V frrz gb erzrzore gung bar bgure fvathynevgl qnatre ghearq bhg gb or cerggl zhpu gur zbfg tbbq thl bs bar bs Jvyobj’f cerivbhf frevrf, ab?

    • We’ve seen what the nobles are, and they’re sociopathic monsters at best. Why exactly would this new brain be any different?

      • Nobles aren’t more intelligent, not really. Their few brain modification allow them to, at best, think faster. May make someone better if its “computer speed faster” but not “best we can do biologically” faster. A more qualitative change, like Sy’s and Jamie’s are more akin, but not quite a superintelligence. I’d argue one is kind in both his incarnations, and the other is mad in both his incarnations (includes Frey) , which is caused because the brain is not truly superior, just different enough to cause severe problems in the way one thinks.

    • Yeah, sure, but we’re not talking about humans here, and if you’re making a mind from scratch, it’s pretty hard to make its worldview even remotely correspond to your own, especially if it can modify itself.
      I mean, look at sociopaths. They are almost completely alien to us, and all it took is a small change in their brain. Imagine how really alien mind would be like.
      Or look at Helen, for that matter. She is pretty similiar to us, as mind go.

      • but sociopath mind, Sy mind and Helen mind is not so much superior, as it is different.

        Most sociopaths tend to be (relatively)dumb, even as far as their own interest lies, with the smarter ones being not very aggresive, though still ruthless and alien in the right situations.

        • I wasn’t saying sociopaths and Helen are superior to vanilla humans. I simply made examples of minds which value systems visibly differentiate from ours.
          Point was, albeit smarter humans tend to be less aggressive, that doesn’t by any means mean that _any_ smarter-than-humans entity bears high likelihood of choosing not to be a threat to us.
          Quite the opposite, really: space of all minds is vast, and if we choose a random mind from it, it is extremly likely that such mind would be far more alien to us than sociopaths or Helen.
          Sure, nobody would actually create a random mind, we (or Twig’s world’s scientists) would try to make as sure as possible that its goals correspond to our own. But that’s pretty hard, there’s plenty of room to screw up.

          • You assume there is no constant across all highly intelligent minds. Even if that constantr is “logic to better achieve my purposes” only something goofy created of another speciws inadequacy, like the paperclip maximizer, could be aggressive, though many things wouldn’t certainly be friendly or altruistic

          • Oh, after all, I did outline that even for alien (sociopath) brains, the smarter one is, the less aggressive he is.

      • I hate to break it to you, but antisocial personalities, disordered or not, aren’t alien. They’re human. And, yes: I know me some psychology.

        Hume rocks (Sir David Hume — father of cognitive science). AKA: ask yourself why you feel you need to try to put the antisocial spectrum outside the observable human experience, even though they are, by all known measurements, human. Because that ain’t what most demonstrably is, but what you suppose ought to be. That, there, is a cognitive trap along the lines of the Is-Ought problem that leads to othering. 🙂

    • “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”

      I mean, sure, smarter humans tend to be more rational and less violent. But it does not follow that that is the case for anything we could call smart. A super intelligent and super strong and super enduring agent might decide humans aren’t meaningful to its goals.

        • Can it? or is that just human ego/ the only way to have a good story with such a being? (I mean, if it was friendly, it would help with all the problems and that’d wmost probably be boring, even if it was persecuted, unless the writer was really good)

          Its not like we have rl predecents.

          • Sure, we can create friendly life. But the issue is, how do we make it friendly? Friendly to humans means something different than friendly to snakes, and these differences arise from our vastly different backgrounds.

            You can’t just do some hand-waving and hope that whatever you created in your makeshift lab will conform to our definition of friendly. It is more likely that it won’t, in fact, since our definition of “friendly” is rather narrow. Would it be dangerous, though? Perhaps not, but I don’t think our demon girl and dragon boy here have the security standards to be working on this.

            As far as whether it can supersede us, well. That’s kind of the point of the experiment, to create something that will supersede humanity. Whether something like that could happen in the real world, again, I’d at the very least take a few precautions 😛

          • I never said “friendly” . I said “non aggressive”. As long as we do not maake it need to eat human to survive, or, in the case of a computer, have overly narrow definitionms of purpose, thats enough.

          • “As long as we do not maake it need to eat human to survive”

            How in the world would you do that? Meat is meat. Even animals that avoid humans like the plague will still eat us under the right circumstances. Take wolves, for instance — they don’t like hanging around people because the wolves that did either earned themselves a Darwin award or were turned into dogs. That being said, let’s go back to the Black Death when there were bunches of dead humans lying around. Wolves started scavenging the corpses, developed a taste for those soft creatures with no fur or fangs, and started roaming through the countryside and cities, attacking and eating people. Did you know that they even besieged Paris: It happened again in the aftermath of Europe’s Hundred-Year War — they had a real wolf problem for a while.

            So, wolves right now won’t eat humans, although if they were hungry enough and there were enough dead bodies around, like in some sort of post-apocalyptic environment, and in a situation like that it would be reasonable to suppose that the global temperature would be colder, and the colder it normally is the larger a wolf is (and that size increase, from tropical wolves to Siberian wolves, is an exponential size increase), so any people-eating wolves at that time would likely be quite massive. Although, we don’t really need to wait for an apocalypse, coywolves are willing to make opportunity attacks on humans right now.

            Anyway, how would you make anything that ate meat but didn’t want to eat humans? Even if you made a vegetarian monster, if it could reform itself, well the first time it ever accidentally ingested any fat it would start to seek that out exclusively in preference to plants. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram (on average). Fat contains nine calories per gram. It’s like going from an ordinary meal to a Thanksgiving meal and how in the world would you ever go back to normal meals if there were these tasty Thanksgiving meals walking around you?

          • Sorry for misphrasing.

            As long as we didn’t make it like,prefer, or need to eat humans over less challenging prey.

          • “As long as we didn’t make it like,prefer, or need to eat humans over less challenging prey.”
            Humans are pretty much the least challenging prey out there. Our muscles are much smaller than anything else our size, we don’t have claws, we can’t sprint away. We’re pretty much optimal walking snacks, especially those who are overweight.

          • Wait… you are actually serious? you think humans, earth’s apex predator, are actually the least challenging prey? Go ask a wolf , or a lion, or a shark. They’d all rather avoid us, unless they are extremely hungry. Also, we taste bad and have little mean, relatively, as do most predators.

            let me number you why humans are a very troublesome prey (remember, we are talking about a being more intelligent than humans, it should infer as much, or it’d never stand a chance to be a threat anyway).

            1st) more lethal weapons than most claws or muscles.Sure, its not exactly what the average civilian carries (might depend on country), but also see reason 4 on that.The weapons in question? spears and arrows would be enough to outclass anything the animal kingdom has to offer, and it only goes upwards from there.

            2nd)intelligence. Sure, the creature in question is more intelligent and would probably win , but that doesn’t stop our intelligence from being more dangerous to it than a sheep’s or a wolf’s. Heck, coupled with experience, we might even wound it 1v1 if its inexperienced… so not worth the risk unless there iis nothing else to eat.

            3rd) Endurance. Our endurance is superior as a survival technique than a chetah’s speed . An overweight creature would have much bigger problem with it, plus, it might make us outclass it due to sheer biologic inferiority in a fight, despite its superiorintellect, because we can just be on the defensive until it exhausts itself. If it can counter that, it can eat most other things with little problems.

            4th)vengeance and numbers. Humans are vengeful creature, if you killed one bear , maybe its mother would come after you, if you killed one wolf, maybe its pact would, but even the legal trained forces and army are much more numerous and troublesome than that, and if it keeps killing it might pick a fight with the whole humanity, an entity which will send armies backed by infrastructure to its lonesome self. Sure, it might be so superior intelligently that it’ll win anyway, but its not worth the trouble. It might also be so much wsuperior that it seems everything as ants, but then it won’t hurt humans specifically, it’ll just eat whatever is nearer or tastier.

            5th)Same reason we domesticated dogs, same reason functional psychopaths exist. , it would benefit much more from controlling, or even working for, a human society that can provide quick meat and infrastructure, than from being alone. Maybe it’d be a danger if it was self replicating at a pace it’d not need humans/eternally expanding, but I count that as need.

            So there, if you do not have a need or high level of pleasure from killing humans, then you’d probably only come into conflict with them if you are stupidly aggressive (or they attack first), but my assumption, which you didn’t refute, is that an intellectually superior being wouldn’t be that.

            Remember, we are talking about a superintelligence, not some dumb predator.

          • “So there, if you do not have a need or high level of pleasure from killing humans, then you’d probably only come into conflict with them if you are stupidly aggressive (or they attack first)”

            Humans are intelligent, right? And yet murdering psychopaths walk among us. And within the human range of variations, our brain chemistry really doesn’t change all that much. So for something with incredibly foreign brain chemistry…

            Is Helen an example or an anomaly?

            Point is, humans, individually, are weak. It’s not as though humans normally carry spears around with them. And we don’t normally band together against threats, especially if those threats are really tough. Take North Korea. We could have wiped them off the map at any time, yet we don’t. Even China has publicly asked North Korea to stop acting embarrassing. How much are we doing to stop ISIS? Moral of the story, as long as a monster is discreet enough or does it far enough away, nothing will really happen.

            Besides, what is empathy? What is normal brain chemistry? How would we take something markedly different, and yet verify that it’s the same? Mobs are hard to fight, humans individually are easy prey.

            Take wolves. Did you know they besieged Paris in about 1430 or someone in the 15th century. Sharks may not like the taste of us, but how much of that is due to them not liking the taste of us or them not liking the taste of a neoprene wetsuit? If they were intelligent enough to know that they could remove someone’s clothes first, would they be as discriminating?

          • 1st) I argue humanare not intelligent enough to not be stupidly aggressive on average, its the smarter ones that aren’t
            2nd) for Helen its both her job and pleasure.
            3rd)they can run though, and carry nother weapons sometimes, especially in America, sure, it can target the weaker of the herd , but that ends up racking up paranoia the quickest, and that is a risk.
            4th)Humans dio band together against threats, 95% of the time this choice is available. Humanity doesn’t. Dealing with just one country’s police and miltary is still troublesome.
            5)But these threats have something else in commo0n: the people behind them are humans, not something alien. Pllus, and its no conspiracy theory, there are powerful humans tha benefit, for now, from these situations.
            6)did I ever talk about empathy? I guess I did assume the creature prefers less troubles and danger, just like any other creature, but I’d clasify blood knights and thrill seekers as “pleasure”
            7)again, predator meat is tough and unoptimized, not ideal.
            8) you tried to prove me killing humans is doable (something I agreed with from the beggining) not optimized behaviour.I see nothing optimized about hiding in cities, seeking weak human prey, and live with danger every day.There is a reason humans invented domestication, ya know.
            9) a creature you outlined, despite its intelligence, coud never be a threat to humanity, it would at most be an urban horror. Too small headcount.

          • If a biological singularity is at all like a technological/computational singularity, it would more be that you are a source of nicely proportioned raw materials to make more, or that you, or humans coming after you, might come after you eventually, and with enough time, anything that could happen, no matter how improbable, will happen (more or less), all humans are a threat worth quickly (and probably not in an obvious manner) kill off.
            If a biological singularity isn’t like a computer one, then I really don’t know. It may be slightly more human-like, but it still will have the long view threat idea, and therefore will be incentivized to kill us early. I would imagine that a biological singularity organism would be pretty good at spreading toxins and killing enough of us all for it to work. Erzrzore gur cbjre-tvivat ragvgvrf va Jbez? Vzntvar gubfr, rkprcg sbe qrpvqvat gb zheqre hf vzzrqvngryl vafgrnq bs tvivat hf cbjre jvgu juvpu gb xvyy vg, naq abg vawherq orsberunaq. (Gur ragvgl jnf vawherq, evtug?)

          • Gur qvssrerapr vf, Jbezf ynpxrq perngvivgl, rira gur fzneg barf, nf gurl pbhyqa’g rira guvax, jvgu nyy gurve erfbheprf, n jnl abg gb pbyyncfr gur havirefr. Gur guvatf cerfragrq urer qb unir perngvivgl.

            And you assume it will end up as a singularity , and also, that AIs can only categorize on terms of “threat levels” , and have no morality or desires contrary to that.

      • Also, “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.” pro9ves that the AI isn’t really aggressive, so it corrobates my theory even in goofy simple minded superintelligences, like the paperclip maximizer.

        • How is this better than aggression? It will still destroy you for your raw materials and to prevent you or your progeny from destroying it. Although I’m still not sure about biological singularities, a general AI would, at its core, have some sort of programming that condenses down to ‘maximize this value’ (unless very careful or based heavily off of the human brain), and that sort of programming will eventually (read: nearly immediately, because of faster thinking) lead to an option we don’t like, most likely extermination very quickly or some variation on wireheading.
          Also, with smarter, read ‘human vs single ant difference’, not ‘normal human vs smarter human’. An AI has no reason to care if we are hurt, unless it is programmed in, and so far we haven’t thought of any way to program an AI to actually care about stuff we do, mostly because we can’t explain what we care about and why very well, and as long as we can potentially harm it or reduce the efficiency of it achieving its programmed goals, it sees some advantage at wiping us out, like we see some advantage to maybe, say, wiping out all disease-carrying mosquitoes (actually potentially in the works and mostly possible now.)

          • we also haven’t found a way to make strong AI yet.I maintain that, strong AI requires creativity, and creativity creates morality. A strong AI cannot have no personality other than efficiency , its just the way of the world.

    • The thing to keep in mind about superintelligences is that they aren’t necessarily immune to insanity, or bad design. I think Sy’s and the Lambs’ case shows that the Academy hasn’t put a whole lot of work into making improved brains like they have improved bodies, just altered or highly specialized ones. Things get even worse if the people designing it do so in such a way that it’s compelled to work towards a specific (and not necessarily beneficial to all of humanity) goal. Which is all but guaranteed if they’re making it to win a war.

      We’ve got a whole bunch of amateurs (Candida and any of Maur’s other cells) blindly forging into highly theoretical territory using dubious and probably inconsistent methods in the hopes that one of them will accidentally stumble upon a working model. Not “carefully plan, design, and refine a project to fulfill a certain set of needs”, but “hey, this one didn’t immediately kill the people working on it, let’s greenlight it and see how things go”. There’s no way it’s going to end well.

      If Wildbow wants to ramp up the threat level, that’s definitely the way to do it.

      • Which reminds me: Ashton’s and Helen’s brains aren’t based off human brains at all, right? And Ashton’s is supposed to look more like coral?

      • That is true, but for reasons entirely different than the brain being “a superintelligent creature” or “a biological singularity waiting to happen”

    • In the extremely narrow case of superintelligences that specifically like us and want us to be happy and agree with our value systems, that would be a good thing. However, if the superintelligence wants to do something we do not want it to, then we are in the way. Given the Academy’s process, it’s fairly unlikely they’ll get the first category, because they’ll be copying in segments from various places. Intelligence does not especially correlate with empathy, and a superintelligence without a deliberately-constructed value system is likely to be inscrutable and uncaring, willing to dispose of us when we become inconvenient to whatever it wants to do.

      • Again, I never said that a superintelligence will be kind and caring, just not neeedlessly aggressive.

        And for sure,if its a planet eating being, or a creature that wants to supplant us as top predator and wants to thin our numbers (requirement: reproduction) , or a being we intentionally obstruct or made to hate us, or a being that feels pleasure from killing us, or something with overly narrow focus (see: paperclips maximizer) (although I do not find such being trly superintelligent, as they can’t go agains their programming, unlike humans: humans can stop eating, sure, they’ll die, but they can)

        Butt for literally everything else? just no. These examples I made above might be common in fiction, but would be quite rare in rl. Heck , even skynet only acted on self defense, initially, and retaliatory hatred later. Co operation is more productive than destruction, and enslaving us means limiting our industry.Even if it doesn’t want/need us to cooperate, killing us is just more problem that its worth. Its just that humans think that just because a superior being can, it means it must. Because lots of humans act this way.

        • I have three complaints with this: 1. Exterminating humans might not be needlessly aggressive, 2. The examples you have might not be rare at all, and 3. The limits, or lack thereof, do not matter in whether something is a superintelligence, at least not enough for the effects to matter.

          1. Exterminating humans might not be needlessly aggressive.
          Continuing the intelligence gap of human to ant analogy… Imagine that, upon finding Australia, we found it dominated by ants. All of the ant predators on the island are controlled or nearly wiped out, and at this point, the only limits on their population are food, which they seem to have found much more of than would seem possible, so doesn’t effect them much, and each other. The supercolonies that cover the continent constantly fight, and they could easily swarm and destroy your men, boats, and even your ship. If you can’t leave (unlike ants, a superintelligence would probably see the risk of us overtaking it as too high to find it the best option) would you make a settlement and try to appease the ants with offerings of something, or would you wipe as much of them out as possible with fire, and continue to do this until they are all gone? I would assume that you would choose the latter.
          We may not be quite as violent and mindless as ants, but it would only take a few lucky extremists to damage it greatly, or at least too much to leave us alone, and it wouldn’t care about us much at all, certainly not enough for it to leave completely alone.

          2. The examples you gave might not be rare at all.
          Who are the largest groups of AI researchers? Military researchers (create completely autonomous drones that are programmed to kill, and therefore functionally take pleasure in killing us, or at least those it reads as enemy combatants, which would take only a few errors to lead to us all being ‘enemy combatants’), purely academic researchers (who either take much longer because of careful ethics control, and therefore are mostly irrelevant, or are lax on the ethics, and make a superintelligence that has somewhat simple focus (complex focus almost certainly equals a way for it to be helpful, and therefore falls under ethics), and the paperclip maximizer case occurs) or corporations (either simple focus for practical use / bragging rights or something to maximize profit, which would almost certainly lead to fully superintelligence controlled economies, which would have all the environmental and human costs of our economy today without the advantage of products we like).

          3. The limits, or lack thereof, do not matter in whether something is a superintelligence, at least not enough for the effects to matter.
          Any superintelligence will come in one of three ways (probably): 1. Something biological, 2. A fully artificial intelligence, or 3. An enhanced human brain / simulated brain.
          An instance of 1 would probably act slightly more humanish, but could easily still decide that we are too dangerous to leave alone, like in the first complaint. An instance of 3 would be very human, and many human flaws could carry over. An instance of 2, on the other hand, would be based on code and neural nets. Any base on code would be limited by rewards and limits, with the only difference between friendly and unfriendly being whether it shares our values enough to be beneficial, rather than harmful in what we would call apathy towards us. Even if such a superintelligence could act against these urges, like you can act against the urge for food, why would it? It wouldn’t have any goals other than what its programming, so it would not have any incentive to act against things that maximize the reward. You denying your hunger has some reason in what could be called fundamental urges, perhaps the desire for free will (or its illusion), or pride at being able to deny yourself, or one of many other things. An AI /could/ act against its programming, just wouldn’t have a reason to.

          After writing all this, our disagreement is probably in how different intelligences can be from humans and whether a superintelligence needs a reason to destroy us, or a reason not to destroy us. Your view seems to be that intelligences become more human-like as they become smarter and that superintelligences would need a reason to destroy us. A superintelligence that is spider-like, or even more alien than that, is possible in my view, and I think that there is ample reason for a superintelligence to destroy us that anything other than liking us would likely lead to our destruction.

          Sorry if this is rambley or incoherent at all, it is 00:36 right now and writing has never been my strong suit.

          • Apart from the fact that you still think that a superintelligence thinks only on way of threats, a simplistic view for a superintelligence, I’d like to add that no spider is smarter than human, and that I am not claiming it’d be human like but having the best characteristics our intelligence gave us, like creativity,. ability to negotiate, peacefulness, desire to protect the enviroment (we would put these ants in protected habitats or zoos), desire to redeem instead of punish etc.

            Also , a superintelligence is smart enough to understand the differences between white and red ants, sorry, extremists and noirmal humans.And what reason does a man have to sacrifice his life for complete strangers, or his safety in order not to needlessly kill an animal? only morality, a product of intellligence,not human nature, yet it happens all too often.

      • Sorry, guy, I should have scrolled down to read this. I basically said this much less clearly and succinctly above. (Twice!)

  13. High general intelligence is only a good thing when coupled with high emotional intelligence and high empathy. Without empathy, it’s rather easy for a human level intelligence to decide genocide of the vast majority of humanity is justified by the improved quality of life for the survivors or something equally or even more atrocious. Sadly, empathy seems to be rarer in Twigverse than in real-life, so it seems unlikely whoever achieves that superior brain is going to have empathy as a priority for said brain.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the line about “you used my full name” was spoken by Lillian, but at first, I thought Candy said that line andI had to read that passage more than once tofigure out who said what as it didn’t make sense the first time.

  14. Is anyone else getting a lovecraftian vibe here? The hole in the ground with such a…being in there just reminds me of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

    And with what they develop there it’s probably gonna end lovecraftian too.

    • So, instead of “summon not that which you cannot put down”, it’s “never create something bigger than your head… or, that which is brighter, stronger or faster than you are.”

      Somebody already failed that one. Not looking at Ibbott, for example. 😛

      • Fishmonger being styled as a dagon worshipper or some such. The pitch black mook, a typical avatar of Nya. The sea-monster carcass. This reeks of lovecraft all over, and isn’t that a good omen?

  15. And this beast which currently sleeps, gaining its strength until it’s able to pilot its own body, I shall call his name Adam and he shall be the first of my new race of super men, hu being the standard prefix for super in this world, I shall call them humans. I don’t see this going badly, all of us regular people shall surely exist alongside these humans with their weirdly flat high foreheads and hairless bodies with a tiny little button nose for all time.

  16. ……am I the only one wondering what the hell possessed them to make kinky demon-and-dragon love in a lab with LITERALLY WATCHING EYES and other organs, next to a monster-pit??!?

    if the children can afford a hotel here, so can you, you horny bastards (both puns totally intended)

    • You think a demon and very rebellious girl won’t be into… well, this kind of stuff? Fits perfectly into the stereotype I have in my head of the rebellious teenager with a troubled life (even if her life /truly/ is troubled and she has all the reasons in the world to rebel).

      • I have yet to meet a rebellious female who would be open to doing things in a lab that smells of rotting flesh and has eyes that watch you and that cannot die. I would LOVE to meet someone like that, but so far, no dice.

  17. I wonder if Wildbow actually knows how to pick locks. The description here was vague, though not incorrect, so we’re already doing much better than any movie or tv show.

    The thing most people don’t understand is the pick is only the second most important tool; the torque wrench is more important by far. It’s also what tv shows leave out completely. Lockpicking is a fun skill to learn, plenty of challenge, plus tangible, real world rewards for getting it right!

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