(unrelated to other fiction; a snippet of something written a long time ago)
Rassa slept upstairs in my bed. Grand AIs weren’t supposed to sleep, but I wasn’t about to start questioning things. I ate a sandwich, reading the latest stuff floating around the web. Another Gangland Murder was tucked away in the local news feeds. Couldn’t help but smile at that, brushing the crumbs from my lips, washing everything down with some good, old fashioned water.
What was I doing? I was not a hero. A good soldier, at best, a villainous shade of grey at worst. I accepted this. The girl upstairs had captivated me. She wasn’t even a real girl, but it seemed impossible to believe otherwise. Maybe this was why Grand AIs were the most dangerous things in the universe. I’d never seen one before, how was I to know?
Maybe this is what they were all like. Maybe they were all scared young women lurking at the edge of our thoughts. Maybe they were only what we needed to believe they were.
I should have more pictures in my house, I thought, finishing the sandwich. All of those silly trinkets and photographs that Gin meticulously placed around him – connections to the past – made me feel incredibly lonely all of the sudden. Surely I was not so hollow. There was that warm tickle again, in the center of my body, a deep hole in my chest where my heart tirelessly tried to beat life into me, day after day after day.
The fear of handling a Grand AI, of traveling with it, was immense, but I was more afraid of the stranger I’d be back in my old universe. I didn’t have any real friends out there. I wasn’t going to find any old pictures of family to put up on my new shelves.
All I’d done was carve my soul out and slowly feed it to the poisoned heart of a dead world. Gin and I, we’d been swindled. We had been the apex of posthumanity, more than anyone on this relic. We’d brought the glory with us, lorded it over them, and yet here I was, as basic as I’d always dreaded being. A victim, sleeping it off in humanity’s ugly shadows.
This must be a taste of how Gin felt without his Lace. It was no wonder he had taken this risk, all to get back to the 31st century. He was here before me, on the same mission, but drink caught up with him. He stopped going to work. Did old-timey drugs. Lost his savings. Volunteered for Extraction and the associated “cash reward.” He wandered through various, unenviable corporate jobs, somehow managing to work himself back upstairs, his ear close to the dark dealings of legitimate businesses. I was glad for that, usually. Got me a lot of work.
But this little scheme of his, it made me angry. It wasn’t done with any of my interests considered. He’d become the thing I was most afraid he’d become. A human, gambling with the lives of supermen, just to pay his bills.
I only enjoyed what I did because I had the right fuel. I mostly found Earthlings to be rather dull and worthless. They started out as a quaint and interesting curiosity, but it didn’t take long to learn that they were disgusting, corrupt little sparks in a fire they’d set to the withered branches of our evolutionary tree. The rest of us in the galaxy had cut that dead, burning weight off, but it was hopeless to try and explain to them why.
Gin was just one of them now. Maybe I wasn’t far behind, either. Humanity’s little fire licking at the soles of my feet.
I had been staring off into space for so long that my eyes were irritatingly dry. I only blinked because the knock at the door was so heavy, a howitzer in the silence of the smoldering battlefield. Here we go. I finished my water.