tagSci-Fi & FantasyDevil May Care Ch. 02

Devil May Care Ch. 02


Puffing, Dey came to a stop beside the squid who ran the "Fantastical Flavored Ice Slush" stand on the corner of her fifteen K run. It was worth the hassle it took to get there. She was on liberty for the last bit of her convalescence. But just because she was supposed to be recovering from surgery didn't mean she wasn't going to try and get ahead on her training.

Leave when you were being trained at a secret military base, though, was a bit complicated. She had to ride with the stealthed food shipment until it came to the nearest town: Boulder City. It wasn't a city. The name was a fucking lie. It had had, maybe, nine, eight thousand people tops. Like many places in the USA, the population had been steadily dropping as people moved to the colonies for cheap land and jobs that didn't require multiple PHDs. Despite that, it still had some things that were worth visiting, and the Fantastical Flavored Ice Slush stand was one of them and not just for the ice.

It was the one and only place someone could find an aquatic alien living in the smack fucking dab of the fucking desert. Said alien wore a huge hat with the logo of the San Francisco 49ers, balanced precariously on the hexagonal, bony structure that made up the central torso of the beaked, eight eyed, eight limbed aliens. A sleek rig that continually spurted mist over his body completed the outfit. Dey took a moment to just admire that. Ever since humanity had looked at the stars, some of them had wondered what lay out there. Ancient Arabs speculated about entire races of D'jin, while Europeans imagined men who dwelled on the moon. And yet...

And yet, no one had quite expected humanity's first real ally in the Orion Arm would be the Squids. First contact had been with the Perseus Mumblers - but to be fair, it was because the Mumblers made it damn hard for anyone within a few hundred parsecs of their system to not notice them - and second contact had been with the Shockpods. Both races had, when the conversation came to other alien races, said: "Wow, you guys need to meet the squiddies."

They had been right.

Squids, like humans, had a diverse history with literally hundreds of nation states. Squids, like humans, had almost a thousand ethnic groups. Squids, like humans, had hundreds of religions. Squids, like humans, were communal creatures. They had bars, talk shows, presidential elections, social media, science fiction, copious amounts of pornography.

With all that, the fact that they were squid-shaped aliens with eight eyes seemed almost inconsequential.


Dey wiped the back of her arm along her forehead, flicking sweat away. "Sup, Frank."

Frank writhed his tentacles. "You are looking fine today, Gallagher. Hows your run going?"

Dey grinned. Hey, I thought only I am allowed to call you fine, Loki muttered. Dey snorted and thought back to him.

[No being jealous, Loki.]

But it's so much damn fun!

Training was going well. Dey had been in the USAF - her dreams set on being a fighter pilot. But each branch of the United States military ran their members through regular screening tests. Those tests determined who had the psychological grit and personality that could 'bond' with an artifical intelligence. Anyone could be physically jacked into an A.I; all that took were a few billion dollars worth of surgical equipment, a combined century of training in the number of specialist doctors and surgeons and a priceless artifical intelligence that had been nurtured from birth to be...human.

But only a small fraction of the population of the planet - let alone the United States - could stand having another person living inside their bodies without going absolutely bug fuck insane.

Dey wasn't sure why she didn't hate it. But...she didn't. And that was good enough for her.

"Miserable," she said, her voice cheery. "I hate and loathe every second of it."

Frank - whose tentacles had been at work sculpting flaked ice and squirting flavoring - paused. "Ah!" he clicked his beak. "You won't fool me, Gallagher. I know you now. You're only happy when it rains."

"Hey, at least I'm not the one wearing a 49er hat in Nevada," Gallagher said, taking the ice treat. She started to walk backwards, flipping a two fingered salute after her at Frank. "Later, squiddy."

As she walked and enjoyed her treat - the one treat she got a week - Dey closed her eyes and let Loki guide her footsteps for a bit. It was part of the practice she liked to do. They lived in a world where every other dollar bill had a tiny RFID chip in it, and most systems were publicly open - for the same reason, back in the 1980s, the US government made GPS tracking available to everyone for free. The sheer amount of data that could be pulled from every sensor, chip and broadcaster in the world streamlined and supercharged dozens of economic principals. Making it free made everyone richer, faster, healthier.

And less private.

But Dey, a child of the 22nd century, never considered that.

She just enjoyed Loki being able to tap into local cameras and direct her with her eyes closed around bumps in the sidewalk. That was fucking cool.

[So,] she thought. [We've worked on the biofeedback - fifteen clicks without feeling tired is kind of fucking rad. We good on muscle strain and bone jar? You're making sure cutting the strain feedback isn't fucking my joints over?]

Yup. Loki chuckled. Human bodies are such whiners. Oh nooo, I have suffered mild strain and am using easily recouped energy. Boo hoo!

[Stop talking smack about my butt!]

Loki simulated a hand slapping said butt. Long practice kept Dey from squeaking and jumping - but the tingling pleasure of his touch still buzzed through her. She shook her head, opening her eyes. [So, biofeedback, intelinet integration, translation. I think we're going to ace the finals.]

The finals. There was a reason why the USAF had yanked Dey out of her training on Ceres, shuttled her across the solar system, and spent billions putting Loki into her brain. And it wasn't, as much as Dey would have enjoyed the idea, just so that she could have an AI in her brain to tell her how pretty she was. That reason filled Dey with dread as much as it filled her with excitement. She had joined the USAF to fly spaceships. Her dad had piloted a boat for a living and she had hated it - when she was free from fishing through Old Miami's waterlogged ruins for trinkets to sell at Lakeland, she had looked up at the stars and the halo of orbiting satellites.

I want to fly one of those, she had thought. Later, she had learned that fifty percent of them were military defense platforms. Still, the sense of wonder and optimism had remained. Pretty much the only thing Dey had ever been optimistic about. In her whole life. Save for Loki. But thinking of how she felt about Loki sometimes felt like floating above the Earth in free fall. It made her hear race and her skin buzz. So, she didn't think about it. She didn't give it names.

She just felt it.

[And now,] she thought as she started to jog again. [I can get certified on everything from a FS-65 to a OU-BAC in fifteen fucking minutes and still get fucking superpowers.] She punched at the air, grinning broadly. [America, fuck yeah!]

You know that was originally from a satire right? Also, memory augmentation doesn't make learning that fast.

She stuck her tongue out. Mentally. She didn't want to bite it, after all.



Dr. Gwendolyn Reyes held up a small glass vial. Contained within the vial was a speck of machinery that could have easily fit on Dey's pinkie and leave room to spare.

"This is the smallest DV drive every designed," she said. "And it's what makes humans awesome. Not our culture, not our religions, not our biology. There are species tougher than us, and faster than us, and even smarter than us. But thanks to a quirk of economics and social structure, we got real good, back in the 20th and 21st century, at making very tiny machines. Fuck, we named a scientific law after a guy who just noticed that microprocessors were becoming more and more compact."

She set the vial down next to the array of other bits of cybernetic augments that, in a few hours, would be jammed into two hundred contact points in Dey's body.

"The principals of the DV drive is simple," Reyes said, her fingers touching the other DV drives that were going to go into Dey. "A pair of room temperature superconductors, etched and mounted in a specific configuration, will be able to take an electrical current and produce negative energy in local space time. This creates the space warping field that we all know and love. Every race in the galaxy has something like it. But we're the only ones who can make DV drives this small."

Dey grinned, kneeling down to look closer at the devices.

Acing the finals had been easier than expected.

And now, there was nothing standing between her and this - other than time. And the fact that Reyes, who was going to be the head surgeon, just loved to hear her talk. But since Dey was enjoying it, she wasn't about to tell her to shut up.

"These go into your hand," Reyes said, pointing. "Five monopole DV drives, one larger one in the palm. There are conduit drives along each major nerve cluster. We'll be adding some actuators into the joints. And here?" She held up a circular disk, roughly the size of a pointer finger touching a thumb. She grinned. "Know what this is?"

"It's a K9," Dey said, nodding. [Right?]


"That is correct," Reyes said. "Micro-DV drives make a bubble of compacted space time, with a spooled wire contained within in a spring formation. It is basically a mechanical battery. Without the DV field, it'd be five miles long. Or, uh, nine kilometers. Hence the name."

"So, what happens if the field shuts down?" Dey asked.

"Oh, the wire un-spools at relativistic speeds," Reyes said, cheerily. "There's a reason they put K9s on ASMs. Bigger ones - the K10s and K12s? They're used on anti-capital torpedoes."

Dey frowned slightly.

And that was why she was a bit nervous about having this shit jammed into her body.

Hey, that's why I'm here, Loki said, his hands squeezing her shoulders. Dey breathed in and nodded - and then followed Reyes into the surgery chamber. The contact drugs took effect just as quickly as when Dey had been implanted with Loki, and she fell backwards into his embrace.

The simple truth was that intelligence and speed were two entirely different things. A computer could do calculations far faster than humans - even the most simple computer, from the ancient days of the Second Big War, could do what would take humans centuries in mere days. But the faster and faster computers got, the closer and closer they got to intelligence...the more people wondered. Would they replace humanity? Would they become our masters?

It had been an anti-climax. The first AI, Balder, had spontaneously generated from a fiendishly complex set of code worked out by Google. The goal had been a fact checking program that could corroborate sources from across the internet and put and ax to the spreading of counterfeit news. The end result had been a sentience released onto the Internet before the people who built him had any idea that he was a him and not merely a convincing it.

But Balder...

Balder wasn't any smarter than an average human.

What he was was faster. Balder could read every article posted, could interact with every thread of every forum. He could play all the games. But at no point did this being faster really change the way he thought. He was still Balder - friendly, slightly overbearing, and eager to bring civility and common sense into the discourse.

Most people born before his advent found him deeply creepy.

Most people born after - like Dey - couldn't imagine a world without him.

That was the way of many things, after all.

That speed applied to deliberately gestated artificial intelligences as well. Loki, at the end of the day, was only fractionally smarter than Dey as such things could be measured. But he was infinitely faster and had an infinitely better memory. Those two things were what made him - and the other AIs of the D.V.E.I.L.S Program - so vital for the soldiers that the program produced.

Dey's eyes opened and her ears slowly started to hear the world around her. She was laying in the same soft recovery room she had lain in before, when she had Loki implanted. But this time, she could hear the muffled sound of a newscaster's voice. She turned her head to the side and saw that the vid screen in her room was playing the local news broadcasts.

"...in extrasolar news, the vote on the Commonwealth of Charon has been held, and it is clear that the colony desires to be made a state. As one of the oldest extrasolar colonies thus denied a place in the Union. The placement of Charon in the Union has been a point of contention between Democrats, Republics and Libertarians, due to the large number of Green votes that the colony will bring into the House and the Senate. Now, moving to the current shooting war in the Trappist-1 system-"

You awake? Loki murmured, his voice soft and warm, like a lover. Dey laughed and slapped at the air - and Loki simulated himself there, so she could caress his body. He always had muscles, whatever form he took. She appreciated that.

[Fucking duh, I'm awake...] Dey looked at her arm. She could see a fine tracery of healing scar tissue - lines that were almost geometric. Her fingertips had tiny puckered markings that were only barely visible, and her left point-finger's knuckle had a tiny bulge on it. She wouldn't have noticed it if she hadn't flexed her hand a few times and seen the machinery under her skin touching it. She stretched out her arm, feeling tiny clicks and whirrs in her body that she hadn't felt before. [This is fucking weird.]

But is it weird while fucking, I wonder?

The door to the room opened and Dey sat up as Dr. Nguyen - the A.I specialist who headed most of the project - came into the room. He was followed by Colonel Star. Star smiled slightly.

"You feeling okay, Cadet Gallagher?" he asked.

"Never better, Colonel," she said, lifting up her hand in a salute.

"Now, get out of bed," he said, jerking his head. "We need to run you through some more tests."


The tests started easy. While Loki did searches and targeting routines - isolating elements in the room that they walked Dey through - Dey put one foot before the other, touched her own nose, did some simple mnemonics. Then they put her through a five K run, then an obstacle course. She did pulls ups, push ups, crunches, lunges. They even had her do a quick spar using the combatives she had learned back on Earthside training. Her partner was a grizzled senior NCO from the marines, and she was quite proud to say that she managed to block three of his blows and land a good hit in the chest before he dumped her on her ass and pinned her.

"Fuck you're good," Dey groaned, rubbing her throat.

"Well, yeah," he said, pushing himself up. "I've been doing this longer. Also, fuck you're good Staff Sergeant."

"Right, sorry Staff Sergeant."

Once the easy tests were done, Dr. Reyes and Dr. Nguyen took her to a large, padded room, hurriedly left, and the actual preliminary tests that mattered were done. They had determined she hadn't suffered brain damage, or neurological damage, or muscular damage. Now it was time for running a quick stress test on her implants. Dey stood in the room, rubbing her palms together. She closed her eyes and felt Loki's arms slide around her. His hand cupped her breast and she bit her lip to try and not moan.


I'm distracting you from your nerves!

Meanwhile, in the observation room, Dr. Nguyen hastily tabbed away from the readout showing what parts of the brain Loki was simulating. Dr. Reyes glanced at him. "What are you blushing about?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.

Dr. Nguyen coughed, then tapped the speaker on. "Begin test one - telekinesis."

"I hate that name," Dr. Reyes said. "It's inaccurate."

Dr. Nguyen ignored her in favor of watching through the cameras on the room - the plan white room where several billion dollars worth of scientific equipment was about to test itself. Even though he had done this thirty times before, and never once run into a problem, he still halfway expected that this time would be the time where everything ended in explosions. He watched as the wall opened and the test subject rolled into the room. It was a small rubber ball, bright red against the whiteness of the wall.

Dey stepped back over the black line that appeared along the floor. She looked at the ball.

[Ready?] she thought.

Ready, Loki said.

Dey lifted her palm. Electrical currents pulsed from the K9 batteries implanted in her shoulder blades, fed along the superconductors that were lined along her bones and nerves, then sent the power into the five micro-scale monopolar DeVilbiss engines implanted in her fingertips. Each drive created a minute amount of negative energy, shunting half of it into a kind of theoretical "sideways" space that was, for the purposes of the material universe, irrelevant.

The other half of the Alcubierre warp bubble caused the space between her and the red ball to shrink in the same way that it would have made the space between a starship and a distant star shrink.

Albeit on a vastly, vastly smaller scale. Both the engines and the amount of electrical energy was something on the scale of 1e-12 as much next to those used on starships. But since the amount of space was 1e-12th as big as the space between stars, it worked...and the ball, according to external observation, leaped from the pillar it sat on to Dey's palm.

She rocked backwards - more with shock than with any momentum transfer.

"Holy fuck, I'm a Jedi!" She whispered.

To be fair, I was the one doing the calculations for creating the warp fields, Loki said.

"Test two - teleportation," Dr. Nguyen's voice came through the speaker. The room groaned as the wall opened up, creating a narrow, foot wide space between it and another chamber. A glowing red line appeared on the ground, indicating she should run towards it. Dey tensed, readying to sprint towards the small window. She grinned slightly.

[Not even hesitating, Loki.]

I... he stopped. Then her cheek tingled. She felt his caress. I won't let you down, Dey. Not ever.

[Don't I know it.] She laughed. It was giddy. She sprinted forward, her feet pounding along the floor. At the last second, she leaped upwards - and the DV engines implanted along her shoulders and hips flared. A bubble of warp space expanded the area of the window for a moment and shortened the space between her and the glowing target in the other room. She hit the ground, skidding a few feet as her momentum was conserved. Her knees almost gave out from under her and she fell down to the ground, laughing.

"Hollleeeeeeeeey fuck!"

"Uh, are you all right, Cadet Gallagher?"

"I have fucking superpowers, Doc!" Dey shouted, cupping one hand around her mouth. "Holy fuck!"

In the observation room, Dr. Nguyen looked at Dr. Reyes. She shrugged. "At least she's not like Subject 29 and started cackling how they'd all rue the day they were ever mean to him."

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