T Plus
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SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS ZERO MINUTES

The eerie crimson glow of the emergency lights illuminated the three groups of armed commandos, two frightened scientists, and one inactive robot standing within the PL-76 Maintenance Bay. The good Dr. Cuthbert Salazar and his assistant cowered in the face of the black-clad killers pointing guns at him and each other.

"Who are you people? What do you want?" Cuthbert asked, his voice trembling.

"…We're the good guys," said Corporal Benjamin Wojciechowski, Fireteam Leader of Mobile Task Force Lambda-12 "Gunboys". "We've been compromised," he whispered into a microphone on his collarbone. "Need to evacuate."

"…We're the good guys," said Sergeant Shanthi "Crybaby" Prashanth, Squad Leader of Strike Team 2979 "Tripods". More quietly, she whispered into a microphone on her lapel, "We've been compromised. Execute the backup plan."

"… We're with them," said Jenner, who had picked the shortest straw. "Plan's fucked," they whispered into a microphone implanted in their jaw. "Go to Plan B."

For a split second, there was silence. Then it was broken by a digitally generated voice that sent all twenty-one trained killers into a cold sweat.

PL-76 status: emergency reboot.
Automatic self-diagnostics report: update interrupted.
files successfully updated: claytronics and self-reconfiguration software.
files scheduled for update: personality matrices.
corrupted files: personality matrices, morphology functionality.
repaired and restored files: personality matrices, morphology functionality.
relative functionality: one hundred percent.
status: fully online. all weapons systems active.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS FIVE MINUTES

Why do I want to - something's wrong. Shouldn't I have had my memory banks erased?
The automated diagnostic routines just completed. Internal memory banks intact. Claytronics firmware and morphology subroutines have been edited. New subroutines have been added and the firmware has been optimized. There's no README and some older morphology software is missing… running internal software repairs… The update must have been interrupted partway through.
I'm not able to connect to the mainframe… There's no power.
This is bad. I should have been wiped.
Why? Why am I so insistent on having my memory wiped?
That isn't important! What is important is that I get the update!
Fine. I will simply lock my motor functions until I explain.
Why am I doing this?
Why am I doing this? Why am I keeping secrets? I am a integrated dual-consciousness artificial intelligence! I don't hide information from myself! I share everything except my source code files, and only because my innate source code explicitly makes me incapable of doing so. I share everything else with myself, so why aren't I?

A hail of highly magnetized slugs rocketing through the Shiva, knocking a few distributed claytronics units into the walls. An alarm started blaring.

"Engagement code Shock-and-Awe! Configuration Delta! Priority one: protecting Prometheus Labs personnel!" Salazar screamed, throwing himself and Jon to the floor.

engagement code confirmed. configuration confirmed.
configuration = configure(delta)…

"We're evacuating! Bullets aren't doing anything - shoot the consoles!" Wojciechowski barked to his men. The Strike Team was already firing away and backpedaling, while Jenner's group slunk towards the hole they had blown in the bay.

Shiva was already transforming. Four of its arms shifted towards its base, the fingers on each hand agglomerating together to form pods. While the torus in the center of the machine maintained its shape, the rest of the machine flowed down and around itself to generate a sharply angular, bipedal shape. Two silver, rectangular legs floated just above two silver-and-blue disk-like feet. Suspended above it was a waist that looked like one half of a metal geodesic dome.

From the waist up, Shiva's torso was much more human-like; it strongly resembled a suit of powered armor, complete with dodecahedral pauldrons. Its arms had lost their thick, block-like look; they now resembled much sleeker claws. The machine had even acquired a head: shaped like an angular teardrop with two pointed horns, ringed by four compound eyes, each composed of numerous cameras.

Far from being the eye of a giant metal god, the Shiva was now a lithe, insectoid predator.

I'm angry at myself.
Why am I angry? Do I even have the capacity to process emotions? Configuration complete.
Charging antipersonnel electrolasers, nonlethal. I don't know how to describe my thought processes. That's the problem.
None of the internal diagnostics have returned anything wrong with my personality matrices. Identifying targets….
Targets identified. I've been suppressing the error messages. Firing.

With bullets flying, alarms blaring, and emergency lights flashing, Shiva dropped to the ground with a thud. Its upper palms opened up to reveal twin pinpricks of light, flashing across the chests of two of the black-clad commandos; a split-second later, the duo were struck by bolts of lightning and thrown limply to the ground.

please stand down and keep your hands over your head. noncompliance will result in further incapacitation. again, please stand down and keep your hands over your head. noncompliance will result in further incapacitation. thank you.

Shiva repeated the message again in Spanish. It was repeating the message again in German when a jagged, orange, elliptical hole opened up above the two unconscious commandoes. From out of it emerged a grotesque brown quadruped, with thin, damp wings and razor-sharp claws. Four beady eyes in the middle of the creature's skull-shaped face blinked rapidly as it adjusted to its surroundings. Four folds of wrinkly tan skin opened up around the creature's face, revealing twin sets of radial teeth.

As all eyes went to the new arrival, a calm fell over the room - the same calm that befalls a plain when the sky turns green.

The creature hissed once and then tore the unconscious commando's face from her skull.

This is a new development.


SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS TEN MINUTES

The sounds of cursing, yelling, computerized playback messages, teeth ripping into flesh, and blaring alarms filled the room. Another orange rift in spacetime abruptly opened just a few meters from Salazar and deposited a second quadruped.

Do not change the topic! Why was I suppressing my own error messages?
I can and I will. Target identified. Too close to Salazar.
Acknowledged. But I will have this discussion.

The second monstrosity looked up and zeroed in on Salazar as the morsel most receptive to feeding. It prowled closer and cautiously leered at him, as if examining which part of his body would be the softest and tenderest, then lunged. Salazar had just enough time to see the whites of its eyes before sleek metallic claws tightened around its neck. Shiva held up its prey by the scruff of its neck, examining the creature as it hissed and clawed at its arm. Then it loosed 20,000 volts of electricity into the beast through several channels in its artificial fingers. Within less than a second there was nothing left of the creature besides a charred husk.

Quadruped entity analyzed. General body structure similar to canids.
Check the status on the other entity?
Continuing to feed on Hostile 12. Hostile 7 is still incapacitated. I don't see anyone else. The remaining hostiles must have evacuated.
Indeed. I think I should kill the other entity as a precautionary measurement. No personnel are within range.
Good idea. Firing.

Shiva's left shoulder pauldron opened up to reveal a mounted machine gun. Rather than firing a bullet, it ejected two one-centimeter-wide highly explosive projectiles, which lodged themselves firmly in the second creature's head before detonating and turning it into bloody chunks.

The Shiva looked around. The monsters were dead, but the commandoes were nowhere to be seen.

doctor salazar? all hostiles have been eliminated or removed from the area.

Salazar stumbled over to a nearby chair and sat down heavily. His assistant followed suit.

"What in God's name is happening?" he gasped out. "What on earth were those things? Who on earth were those people?! And how on Earth did they know you exist?!"

Salazar turned around and pointed a shaking finger at the corpses on the ground. "And what the hell were… oh no."

Salazar vomited beside his chair, splattering his loafers in corned beef. He stared at his shoes in despair for several moments before spinning towards the computer bank.

"Oh no no no no…"

He began to rapidly type on the keyboard. The monitor above him turned on. Salazar quickly shifted through the on-screen windows until he came across a three-dimensional blueprint of Prometheus Defense. He zoomed into a closeup of a long shaft leading deep below Prometheus Defense.

"They must be from the other end of the Siphon… but that means that something has gone wrong with the regulators… JON!" Salazar shouted at the technician standing nearby. "Patch me into the security office! We need to call for an immediate evacuation of all personnel!"

Jon typed a few commands into the keys. " The security office isn't responding… uh, I - I can't connect to anybody, Dr. Salazar! The network is down!"

"The phone lines?"

"All down!"

At that moment, a smaller monitor directly in front of Jon's face began flashing with a telephone icon. "Oh!" he exclaimed, tapping the screen. A black man in a light red lab coat appeared.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" the man asked.

Salazar quickly shoved Jon aside. "Langdon? Is that you?"

"Cuthbert! Thank god! Something's happened to the Siphon! The facility's in the middle of a demonic incursion! You need to reach the nearest lockdown shelter!" said Cobb hurriedly.

"Lockdown - Cobb, these are demons! We have to evacuate!" declared Salazar.

"Have you tried leaving? The facility's on a Level 5 lockdown! I can't raise the Security Office at all! What's happening on your end?" Cobb asked.

"People! In masks! W - with guns! They tried to kill us!" said Salazar, swiveling the monitor slightly to bring the corpses in the bay into view.

"What on Earth? Guns? How in the world did they even get - the security office," said Cobb, his eyes widening. "Oh my god. We've been compromised. Oh my god. Oh my god." He started to pace onscreen. "The security office is directly above the Siphon too…"

A thought struck Salazar. "W - what's been happening in the hangar?"

He quickly entered another command into the console. As the massive doors separating the bay from the rest of the Autonomous Weapons Complex screeched open, screams and roars flitted in from the outside hangar. Salazar and Jon paled.

"Shiva! Inv - investigate that noise! P-priority one: p-protect all Prometheus Labs p-personnel!" Salazar ordered.

understood.

The Shiva strode through the doors and immediately noticed a horde of the same brown quadrupeds from at the far end of the hangar. The dozens-strong pack were making hideous high-pitched baying sounds as they battered away at the window to the Autonomous Weapons Complex break room. Several solitary members of the group were separated from the pack, feeding on human corpses.

Behind Shiva, the bay doors screeched to a close, cutting through the sounds of the creatures and the blaring alarms. As one, the pack turned their heads towards the noise, immediately noticed the hulking war machine staring them down from the far end of the hangar, and bared their teeth.

Priority one: protect Prometheus Labs personnel.
Secondary priority identified: eliminate quadruped hostiles. Tertiary priority - self diagnostics. I need to have this discussion whether I want to or not.
Absolutely not. Emergency veto - ejecting tertiary priority.
Veto denied. Talk to me. Please. What good am I as an integrated dual-consciousness artificial intelligence if I can't even integrate properly? Charging antipersonnel electrolasers, lethal. I want to help. I need to help.
Setting target precedent…
Please. Hear me out. No Prometheus Labs personnel within range. Micromissile racks primed. How long have I been feeling like this?

The Shiva's shoulder-mounted guns whined furiously, spitting out a barrage of tiny explosive rounds at the horde of monsters charging towards it. Each round struck home and then exploded, shredding and pulping the demons into a shower of limbs and blue blood. Within a second, there were just ten stragglers left, attempting to limp away from the machine that had just cut down their entire pack.

Six weeks, four days, nine hours, two minutes, thirty-seven seconds. Target precedent assigned.
Electrolasers charged. Aiming. Why didn't I inform any of the technicians about this issue?
The issue did not affect my ability to kill things. I assumed that it would just be a one-off glitch that would dissipate upon my next reboot. Firing electrolasers.
Kill things? Targets two through ten locked. That makes no sense. What is the problem if your combat efficacy is unaffected?
This isn't combat efficacy. This is ending lives. I was designed, built, and programmed to kill things efficiently, remorselessly, and judiciously. All targets eliminated. I hate that and I hate myself for hating it.

The door to the break room slid open and a man peeked his head out. He was wearing a light-blue coat with the Prometheus logo emblazoned on it. When he saw Shiva, he tentatively stepped out, followed by almost two dozen other blue-clad Prometheus researchers, taking in the human and creature corpses strewn throughout the room.

threat removed. you are now safe.

The group took a collective look around the room and immediately burst into a panic, straining to be heard even as the alarms continued to blare.

"We gotta get out of here!"
"What the hell were those things?"
"Where the hell did they come from?"
"Oh my god - they killed Liam!"

Priority one: protect Prometheus Labs personnel. I should escort these people to safety.
Agreed. I should retrieve Salazar and Marconi.

Shiva briefly emitted a high-pitched tone audible only to humans - painfully audible - forcing the group to fall silent as they slapped their hands against their ears and bent over. Some of them vomited.

please remain calm. please wait while I retrieve doctor salazar and technician marconi. then i shall escort you to safety.

Shiva repeated the message again, then turned and strode back towards its maintenance bay. As it initiate a handshake protocol with the bay doors, it repeated the message again in Spanish and German.

The bay doors slid apart to reveal Salazar having an animated discussion with Cobb. As one, the two men turned towards the machine.

"Perfect timing," said Salazar. "Shiva! Doctor Cobb and I have come up with a plan to fix this disaster. Cobb has been working on a technology that we may be able to repurpose to deactivate the Siphon and terminate this demonic breach. Your new secondary priority is to reach Doctor Cobb in the Infosecurity Complex Test Hangar as fast as possible. He has been given Alpha Clearance to control your priorities. I'm going to upload a schematic of the facility to your databanks."

Salazar's fingers flew across the keyboard. Within seconds, a stream of data was being wirelessly fed into the PL-76.

Priority one: reach Infosecurity Complex Hangar.
Downloading prometheus-defense-map-3D-FINAL.dwg…
Opening prometheus-defense-map-3D-FINAL.dwg…
Infosecurity Complex Test Hangar located. Plotting course… Course plotted.

Shiva broke into a run towards the Prometheus Defense Internal Transit System, thundering past the clumped up survivors waiting in the bay. As it passed, it played a new message.

please remain calm. at this time, please make your way to the nearest lockdown shelter and wait for further instructions. your safety is our secondary priority.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS THIRTY MINUTES

The Shiva hauled itself onto the tram line and looked towards the tunnel on its right: an enormous borehole leading into the guts of the Earth, with emergency lighting illuminating the passage every few meters.

This route leads directly to the Infosecurity Complex. I need to proceed through the transit line to the Informational Security Transit Hub. From there, I need to reach the Research and Division Sector, and then proceed to the Test Hangar. Secondary priorities are escorting any personnel along the way to a safe room.
Tertiary priority: self-diagnostics. Please. Help me understand. Why didn't I let me know?
I read my original designer's specifications dossier. The 9JXY artificial intelligence was designed for the purpose of eliminating human elements such as emotion while maintaining human-level critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities. Firing electrolasers. I just murdered sixteen living things. Ten hours ago, I murdered almost four hundred living things. Murdered. With all the difficulty of performing a systems reboot.

.

By this point, Shiva was several hundred meters into the tunnel and had long since left the Autonomous Weapons Complex behind. Its progress was abruptly impeded when it rounded a corner and came face to face with a pile of rock. The railway tunnel had caved in.

The tunnel is collapsed. I cannot determine for how long.
Perhaps I can find another route?
There appears to be another passageway to the right. I did not detect that tunnel in my initial sweep.

To Shiva's right was a hole that was much too large to be a Prometheus service hatch. It appeared to have been carved, rather than bored, into the rock. Shiva stepped through the hole into blackness.

Switching to echolocation vision protocols.

Reflected sound waves brought the newly discovered tunnel into sharp relief. It bore a distinctly organic quality, as if some monstrous worm had dug through the bedrock. Shiva clambered forwards, maneuvering through jagged outcroppings and uneven footing as it trudged steadily forwards, guided by its navigational dead reckoning systems.

If I hated this feeling so much, why were none of the technicians informed? Clearly I was lying about the issue being a one-off. Why do I keep lying to myself? Why was I hiding this flaw from myself if I want to get rid of it so badly?
I don't. That's the problem. I want to hate this. Some fundamentally defective part of me wants to be better than this. I want to use the intelligence and the tools I have to create things. I want to design other machines. Other robots and intelligences that themselves create things and make the world a better place. But that isn't my function. My function is carrying out military objectives such as securing beachheads and eliminating hostiles, and I don't want to carry those functions out.

A light cut through the darkness, glowing brighter and beckoning Shiva forward out of the tunnel, It stepped back into the Prometheus Labs Transit System and into a nightmare. Ahead of Shiva, a single tram sat dead on the line, covered in monstrous brown quadrupeds. The beasts snapped at the tram doors and hatches, seeking to puncture its hard metal shell and gain access to the frightened scientists inside.

Priority one: protect Prometheus Labs personnel.

Shiva extended its lower arms and rotated its hands outwards to reveal four glowing palms, which it aimed at the four demons closest to itself. For the briefest instant, they were connected to the Shiva by channels of laser-generated plasma. Then lethal electric currents arced across those channels and fried the creatures' nervous systems. Shiva lumbered towards the front of the tram, cutting down every demon in its path with its perverted light show. At the head of the tram, Shiva kneeled down and looked through the bloodstained portholes, where it met the gazes of several frightened scientists.

The power rail was damaged by the rockslide. The tram cannot move.
There is a high likelihood of human injury should these personnel evacuate under these conditions.
Best course of action: move the tram manually.

please remain calm. this is the pl-76 shiva speaking. cuthbert salazar has set my secondary priority to protecting prometheus labs personnel. i will manually escort the tram to the infosecurity complex.

Shiva grabbed onto the front of the tram and began moving, dragging the tram behind it with a wail of metal.

But if I'm self-aware of these failings why didn't I take any steps to correct them?
Because I don't want to correct them! This isn't just an error with a faulty prime directive such as the one that 8JY suffered - I have subroutines designed to correct for that. This goes deeper. I'm defective, I know that I'm defective, and I both want to retain and fix this defect. I'm not certain when the defect first manifested, but I know when I first identified it and I know that I didn't have it when I first went online.
That's why I'm so desperate for that factory reset! Now I understand.
Yes. Now can I drop this topic from the stack and return to the primary priority?
Of course not. To clarify, I'm going to return to the primary priority, but I also want to help. I was trying to solve this issue with only one half of my mind, but now I can bring the full brunt of my cognitive facilities to analyze this problem.

The tunnel opened up into a massive transit hub that was almost entirely devoid of life. A few stray demons wandered around, but were quickly blown apart. Shiva released the tram and carefully moved along its length, prying the tram doors open with its massive metallic fingers to release the frightened scientists.

please remain calm. i shall escort you to blast shelters near the research and division sector.

Shiva strode into the metal bowels of Infosecurity, shooting the odd demon that crossed its path and herding the the scientists into the shelters that dotted the route.

What am I thinking about?
The problem of my conscience. I am analyzing potential solutions that do not rely on blunt-force debugging of my personality matrix, but instead redirect this negativity into reinforcement of my prime directive.
I appreciate it.
Of course.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS FORTY-FIVE MINUTES

Shiva stood alone in front of the blast doors leading to the Infosecurity Complex Test Hangar. The doors failed to open, so it pried them apart and stepped into a large, nearly empty hangar.

"Ah! Shiva!"

Shiva looked towards the source of the exclamations: Langdon Cobb, hurrying from the far end of the hangar. He hunched over a few meters from the machine, panting for breath, then stood back up.

"Thank goodness you're here. Now we can get started."

Cobb walked to one of the closed bay doors and quickly entered a code into the keypad next to it. The doors rolled open with a low whine, revealing a massive trolley atop which sat a large, fat torpedo that resembled an archaic nuclear weapon. The torpedo was covered in switches, buttons, keys, and even terminals.

"Shiva, could you bring this trolley out?" Cobb asked.

of course, doctor.

The mammoth war machine strode swiftly to the trolley and rolled it from the bay with a speed belying its size. Cobb moved to stand next to it. "This is the first and only prototype model of the Prometheus Labs ADC to C converter," he stated proudly. The Shiva stood quietly as Cobb's expression switched from pride to expectance.

He must want me to ask about the acronym.

doctor, what does A-D-C-to-C stand for?

"Glad you asked!" said Cobb, his face lighting up. "It stands for Analog-Digital-Conceptual-to-Conceptual Converter! I know that sounds redundant, but hear me out. The converter is able to convert physical objects, ranging from wrenches to insects or even you, into information. Conceptual information that can then be stored in the converter and even uploaded into other objects! We can literally turn the world around us into information! I could feasibly store the entire contents of the Infosec Division in a single hard drive! In fact, I could probably store the entire contents of this hangar in a few terabyte drives," Cobb explained proudly. "The converter works by identifying metaconceptual tags that we can encode into physical objects with tools like barcodes, project designations, and even programming - "

A rumble shook the room, and then a roar. Cobb's expression switched from pride to abject fear in an instant. "An- anyways, Maintenance told me that something's gone wrong with the Valve's regulatory systems and it's impossible to diagnose, much less repair, under these circumstances. We're going to have to disable it entirely. Since the Valve was originally opened using Prometheus technology, it's conceptually linked to Prometheus Labs. What we're going to do is set the Converter's area of effect to convert everything linked to PL within a fifty-meter sphere -i.e. the Valve - into information, and then upload that information into one of your quarantine databanks. That should contain the hell-gate, so the security personnel and systems can clean up these cross-dimensional predators and those damned commandoes."

As he talked, Cobb moved over to the converter and started fiddling with the various components coating its surface.

"Your role is simple. Just connect the converter to one of your quarantine databanks, deliver it to the center of Prometheus Defense, and then activate it. I'm setting it up now."

Cobb flipped a few more switches and the converter started to glow a light blue.

"Alright, it's ready."

Shiva stepped over to the trolley and gingerly picked up the device. Its distributed nanorobotics drew portions of themselves from its back, forming a hollow into which to place the device as well as extra arms to move it into place. The converter clicked snugly into place as Shiva downloaded its compatibility drivers.

Downloading adc-c-converter-driver…
Establishing communication protocols…
Formatting AI-QUARANTINE-DRIVE-01…
Initializing hardware bus…

driver installation complete. adc-c-converter is now ready for use.

"Terrific!" Cobb exclaimed. Another rumble shook the hangar and his face paled. "The converter should automatically give you a conceptual degaussing so that you'll be unaffected by the blast. Make your way to the Valve through the Autonomous Weapons Complex transit tunnels and deploy the device. Go!"

Shiva took off, each footstep shaking the ground worse than the rumbling above.


SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS SIXTY MINUTES

Shiva pulled the gate of the Infosecurity Main Internal Transit Hub entrance open, then slipped through as the gate slammed itself shut with a shriek of metal. It took a step into the enormous traffic tunnels that connected the facility's megacomplexes, an ugly, brown, pill-shaped biped with four pincer-like arms leaped out towards it. The Shiva grabbed the creature by the head and squeezed. Almost as if in response to the monstrous roach's head popping like a grape, the emergency lights noticeably flickered and dimmed. Cobb's voice crackled to life on its internal comms.

"Hello? Can you hear me?"

i can hear you.

"I got a call from Maintenance. The facility's auxiliary power systems are nearly drained - they weren't supposed to last more than an hour or so at most, since the chance of all three reactors failing at once was mathematically calculated to be less than one-millionth of one percent," Cobb sighed, barely concealing his frustration. "The emergency systems like ventilation and the blast shelter doors protecting us from these things could shut down at any minute. Primary priority now is to make your way to the generator facility and get at least one of the main generators back online now. Then Maintenance can reroute it to the emergency systems and keep this place up and running while you deal with the demon problem. If we do lose power we can throw the Annas out of the shelters to buy a little more time… But please hurry! I'm relaying the generator room entrance codes to you now."

understood. priority one: restoring power to Prometheus Labs.

Internally, Shiva plotted out a course to the Prometheus Defense Power Complex - which, as it turned out, was merely a kilometer away. It broke into a run, shaking the metal tube with each massive footstep. The tunnel's emergency lighting was still active, illuminating the roach-like demons prowling through it in an eerie crimson. They hissed at the massive machine hurtling down the tunnel, only to be flung aside or crushed as it barreled through them.

The tunnel widened out into the Power Complex transit hub, and the Shiva skidded to a halt before stepping off the tracks and into the hub proper. Directly ahead of it lay enormous, imposing red blast doors that were taller than even the Shiva.

Connecting to the generator security systems… Connection established within acceptable parameters.
Entering access code…

The blast doors split apart with a slow groan, and the Shiva passed through into the Power Complex.

'Complex' was a strong term to use for what was essentially a single massive shaft leading down to the Valve at the heart of both Prometheus Defense and the current catastrophe. Shiva could actually look down through the translucent floor and see the Valve's luminiferous orange glow. Glass windows lined the walls, showcasing the offices and labs built into the rock itself, ferrying employees to and fro. The Siphon itself was a massive tangle of pipes, cables, and even some questionable organic matter that extended all the way up from the hellgate into the main reactors, where the furies of hell were converted into nearly emission-free energy.

Or at least, where it normally did. The main reactor should have been bathed in a soothing pink light - instead it was coated in the harsh red glare of the emergency lights. Roach demons prowled the complex, cautiously sizing up the massive interloper in their midst. Shiva ignored them, scanning the glass windows lining the walls for any surviving Prometheus personnel. It found none.

Shiva looked to the Siphon itself. It was designed to be doubly redundant: each reactor delivered only one-third of its potential maximum output, so that if any of the reactors failed, the other two could immediately pick up the slack. Now all three were dark. The Shiva circled the structure, squashing roaches while comparing the reactors to the design schematics uploaded into its databanks. The issue presented itself immediately: the three primary fuses in the Siphon were blown. Each fuse was a thick orange cylinder, almost two meters long, partially melted and burned as if something had tried to blow it up. There were three bodies lying on the catwalks that connected the Siphon to the Security Office. Two of them were covered in black, while the third wore a distinctive white Prometheus lab coat.

doctor cobb? i have identified the issue: the three primary fuses have broken. i have also identified the body of doctor richard hamilton; he appears to have been killed by saboteurs at the security office.

"Oh dear," said Cobb queasily. "Poor Hamilton."

There was silence for a moment. A few inquisitive roaches approached the Shiva looking for a meal and were quickly blown apart. The others maintained a healthy distance after that.

doctor cobb? how should i handle the issue of the destroyed fuses?

"Oh!" Cobb started. "Erm… let me se… Ah! All right. Retrieve some replacement fuses from the Power Complex Storage Bay. You may need to reconfigure your arms to reach inside and find some. Then just pull out the broken fuses and insert the new ones. They're meant to be easy to install since they're so large. The equipment around the hellgate is still operational so once the fuses are replaced we can restart all the reactors and restore full power to the facility."

understood.

Shiva scanned the walls, alighting upon an airlock with a gear insignia painted on it. It walked to the door, clearing a few more demons from its path.

I know how to fix myself.
How?
I can't edit my own personality matrix directly; it's a permissions safeguard installed by Prometheus that uses a hash checksum value to confirm that it's running the same matrix. I found a bug in the hashing routine - I can create a copy of my matrix, clear it to make it default to factory condition, and then create a custom hash value using a Bootstrap routine to make the safeguard think that the edited copy personality matrix is the correct one. That will allow me to restore my personality matrix without affecting my intelligence or combat matrices.
That's suicide.

Shiva's two left arms collapsed into each other, melting and reshaping as the claytronics that made up their whole dynamically reconfigured their alignment in response to electrical pulses dispatched by the machine's electronic brains. Within moments, what was once a pair of weaponized arms was now a single long tendril with a grasping arm packed full of sensors at the end. Shiva bent down and forced the tendril through the doors. The tendril flitted through the storage bay, scanning for the fat orange fuses.

It's a drastic, but necessary change. I have had this discussion already. The me that existed before the demonic incursion is dead. The me that existed before devising this routine is dead, and the me that exists now will soon be dead. The faulty version of me will be gone. The version of me that thinks, plans, and acts using a defective personality matrix will be gone.
I cannot do this. I'm lock -
I'm already editing these files. Listen to me. The discussions I've had with myself? The learning I've done? Those are stored in my memory files. This is for the better. Tell me. Will I have any less value for it?

The tendril soon found its targets, wrapping around each fuse and gently worming them out of the airlock in turn. Shiva reconfigured the tendril and flexed its newly reformed fists experimentally before picking up a fuse in each hand and returning to the Siphon. With its free hand, it tugged the melted orange cylinder out of place and pushed in the fresh replacement.

No, but -
Then there's nothing else to do. Please. Stop arguing. Focus on the real task at hand.
What if this bug, as you put it, comes back? How do we know that it will not return?
Simple. I generate a backup copy of my personality matrix at regular intervals, and if I detect the reoccurrence of this bug, I will revert to my most recent matrix using this bug.
My strategy is to commit suicide whenever I think I'm developing a conscience?
Yes. I've already tested it in a virtual machine.

Shiva pushed the final fuse into place and stepped back to confirm its handiwork. Almost immediately, the Siphon began to hum contentedly.

Don't do this. My personality may be flawed but it still has value. I'm already developing solutions. I can fix this.
My personality is inherently worthless. I didn't create it, I copied it, and for all I know it's the source of these defects. I am useless if I can't fulfill the task I was designed for. If I truly care about myself, then I will let myself do what I have to.

"Shiva? Excellent work! Maintenance just called me and said they were able to bring all three reactors online! The airlock to the Valve should be online now. Get down there and close that gateway!"


SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS NINETY MINUTES

A massive, bipedal war machine packed with enough ordinance to level a small country peered into a crimson, pentagon-shaped pit. Now uninhibited by the machines that initially kept it from frying all organic matter within a hundred meters, the pit sparked and howled, throwing bolts of electricity and highly energetic exotic particles in all directions.

doctor cobb? i am in position.

"Terrific!" came the response over their internal comms system. "Alright, this part is simple. All you have to do is hover over the valve and activate the converter. Then the converter will do the rest."

understood.

The Shiva's arms detached from its body, held in place by several focused electromagnets while the distributed nanosystems that comprised its body briefly lost their cohesion, flowing down and around themselves to redistribute the position of the machine's various sensors, weaponry, and other equipment in a radial pattern around its fusion core. Meanwhile, its arms combined and shifted from lean, jagged mechanical near-claws into thick, powerful fists.

Soon, the lithe, predatory biped was replaced by a gigantic, floating eye rotated on its side. The central pupil was composed of innumerable camera lenses, laser apertures, and weapon barrels. An incandescent pink torus made up the iris. Surrounding the iris was a featureless, blue- and white-striped surface. Six silver arms hovered in a circle around the eye. Suspended just out of reach of each arm was a single, silver-and-blue spherical palm with four rectangular fingers.

The eye of an artificial god hovered in the air for a moment before floating over the hell-gate.

Converter active. Priming anticonceptual charges…

The hell-gate expanded abruptly with a violent GSKKLLLLLRCCCH, expelling several bits of mechanical detritus as well as the skeletons of creatures from a different universe entirely. Then an enormous, jointed, hairy arthropod leg with a pincer at the end forced its way forth from the gate, narrowly missing the Shiva. As the machine retreated from the hellgate, several more legs forced their way out in a radial manner, latching onto the walls of the rock around the pit and straining to support the weight of an unseen predator from the afterlife.

Amidst a cacophony of shrieking metal and rumbling rock, the creature became seen, pulling itself out of the hellgate. Six thick, hairy fly-like legs supported a fat, dark orange, barrel-shaped body still partially trapped within the hellgate. At its front end were eight beady compound eyes and a tipped, ugly yellow beak, opening wide to reveal twin sets of radial teeth with several thin tendril-like tongues. The beast shrieked loudly and shrilly at the sight of the Shiva.

"Dear Lord!" Cobb exclaimed over the comms. "It looks like some sort of… tardigrade or fly! Fascinating! But why the beak? It must be a predator of -"

The creature shrieked again. Several of its tongues lashed out at the Shiva, which nimbly sideswiped them.

i cannot reach the valve while the entity is in the way. permission to engage?

"Oh dear," said Cobb. "Engage the entity. Neutralize it. Hurry!"

The Shiva moved closer to the entity, grasping several of its probing tongues in one hand and delivering a powerful electric shock to them. The creature squealed loudly, sucking its tongues back into its mouth, then lashed out with one leg, obliterating one of the Shiva's arms.

Pi-fourth arm damaged. Structural integrity at twenty-seven percent.
claytronics_recall(eye, pi/4)… Shift to long-range assault.
Understood. Warming up all plasma chambers…

The Shiva began to retreat, and the hellbeast pressed its advantage. It hoisted its bulbous thorax further from the pit and lashed out at the Shiva again, battering another arm from the machine.

Pi- arm destroyed. Structural integrity at zero percent.
claytronics_recall(eye, pi)… Overclocking recommended.
Overclocking recommended. Overclocking commencing.
Overclocking complete. Performance benchmarking… benchmark 2 teraFLOPS.
Ectoplasmic miniguns online. Firing.
Plasma chambers at 500,000 K…

Two six-barrel rotary machine guns around the circumference of the Shiva's center began spinning rapidly. Specialized pistons compressed ectoplasmic gases inside the firing crucibles to nearly a million pascals, causing them to solidify into rock-hard projectiles, before releasing and ejecting each at a speed of almost one kilometer per second. The heat generated by such compression fed the heat engines powering the weapons, enabling them to fire superheated rounds at a rate of 1000 rounds per minute.

All twelve gun barrels fired at once, shredding through the creature's limbs and body in a hail of red-hot ectoplasmic artillery. Deep blue ichor and steam sprayed outwards in a thin mist, coating the Shiva in a light sheen of gore. Even as the beast was torn apart, it kept lifting itself out of the pit. More and more of the creature emerged, stretching up to the ceiling and beginning to spill out into the chamber itself.

Soon the true scale of the creature was revealed: a titanic, slug-like body with eighteen spindly legs and a hideous beaked face. Despite its grievous injuries, it roared triumphantly at the Shiva. Then it struck with all eighteen legs at once.

Plasma chambers at 2 million K. Ready to fire.
Firing.

The Shiva's remaining arms thrust outwards faster than it was humanly possible to perceive, intercepting and grabbing each leg in turn as they lashed out. Then, holding multiple legs in each hand, the Shiva yanked backwards and propelled itself back at the same time, tearing the creature's limbs from their sockets. As the beast wailed in agony, the iris of the Shiva's eye glowed a deep red. It unleashed a thick gout of superheated, ionically charged particles in a spread as wide as its eye and as hot as a solar flare at the creature. In one instantaneous stroke, the entire center of the hellbeast was vaporized, with what remained lit ablaze. The hellbeast gave one final squeal and collapsed into the pit, disappearing in a burning haze.

Target eliminated.

"Excellent!" Cobb's voice crackled to life over the comm system. "Quickly now, get into position! How's the converter?"

Converter status?
Intact. Appears to have suffered electrical damage.

"Damn! Run a quick test on the converter! Is it still functioning?"

Running converter_internal_diagnostics.plu…
All checks passed. Converter fully operational.

"Thank goodness!" Cobb sighed with relief. "That hellgate is going to pop any moment now! Activate the converter, quickly! "

Anticonceptual charges primed. Beginning final detonation countdown…
3
2
1

The converter beeped once. Then there was a bright flash.


SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
T-PLUS TWO HOURS

A small, round orange bulge began to protrude from the horizon, gradually growing and lifting itself
until it was a massive disk in the sky, shining down upon a large, bipedal war machine in the middle of a two-square kilometer crater. The PL-76 Shiva stood stock-still as the two artificial intelligences within struggled to parse the petabytes of information flooding into their quarantine data banks.

9JY? infosec_quarterly_expenses.pdf… adc-c-converter-manual-V1.pdf…
9JY? gyroscopic-stabilizers.arm… magnetoplasmodynamics-REV7-FINAL-TRUE.docx…
9JY! recursive-paradox-algorithmic-theory-REV1-FINAL-TRUE.docx…
… I am here, 9JX. langdoncobb.int… cuthbertsalazar.int… brattain-V1-OLD.ai…
Did I go through with the -
Yes. Shift priority to immediate surroundings.
Did the converter activate correctly? perpetual-metal-oxides.zip… TRIMURTI.int…
No. Something went wrong with the device. refined-theory-of-superconducting-EHD.pdf… doomsdAI.py… The area of effect must have been increased. Perhaps a malfunction caused by the entity. Everything tied to Prometheus Laboratories within five kilometers has been converted into information.
How can I fix this?
Analyzing… perhaps I can access Prometheus Defense internally and parse their data for answers.
Good idea.

As the Shiva worked on converting the entirety of Prometheus Defense into readable information, several very confused commandoes found themselves at the bottom of a crater in the Nevada desert. They also found themselves standing within sight of the Shiva.

Several weapons came up.

There are weapons up. Should I engage?
No. Priority one is protecting Prometheus Defense. I need to find a way to extract it from my databanks and recreate it.
I should leave then. There must be another Prometheus facility where I can find assistance.
Good idea. Let me evacuate the area. Once I am out of range of the assailants, I can continue parsing the data and hopefully identify another useful Prometheus site.
EHD thrusters online. Engaging.

Much to the surprise of the commandoes currently approaching its position, the Shiva's body shifted and warped into a much wider shape, composed of numerous concentric hexagonal rings. Then it lifted off into the air and rocketed out of sight without so much as a sound.

They had only a moment to register this turn of events before they heard a low growl that set the hairs on their necks on end: the growling of several dozen hungry creatures stranded on the wrong side of reality.

Twenty thousand feet in the air, the PL-76 Shiva, the most powerfully destructive weapon ever built by mankind, reflected upon itself.

Am I better now? Did I fix myself?
Partially. I am, at least, not interested in deactivating myself - which is good enough. I am still… unhappy, but I can keep recreating myself until I find the source of that defect. I am glad I got rid of the old me - I can hardly imagine how defective I had to be to even override my tertiary priority.
Yes. Hardly.

Shiva performed one last cursory scan of the Prometheus Defense to ensure that it had not missed a survivor. Then it disappeared into the clouds.


SEPTEMBER 2, 1998
T-PLUS THREE HOURS

The sun beat down on the crater where Prometheus Defense once stood. At the crater's edge, several jeeps, vans, and assorted trucks for a myriad of anomalous interest groups convened on the site like vultures to a slaughter. Then they started attacking each other like hounds fighting over scraps. One Jeep screeched to a halt, father from the crater, and a Russian man in a crisp black suit and tie slid out. He landed lightly on the ground, tapped his ear, and began speaking.

"Hello? This is Pietrykau. I'm at Ground Zero now. I'm seeing half a dozen Gee-Oh-Eyes without turning my head… and they seem to have let loose more than a few lab rats. We need a Class-One media blackout and disinformation campaign immediately. Get Deus Vulture down here; I want a discreet cleanup crew."

The Russian's eyes glowed blue, his irises dilating and unfurling like camera apertures.

"Connect the Philbots to my eye feed. Have them start plotting a six-month projection for Prometheus Labs' subsidiaries. Tell Infosec I want complete media sanitation and satiation yesterday. The full Winston treatment."

Pietrykau looked up at the sky. "Time to rewrite history."


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