A New World
The protagonist of this short is inspired and somewhat based on this lovable fella.
I liked Jennifer. She was the first person to be kind to me, and was so most of the time. Couldn’t trust her though, being a lab animal. The last day I saw her, everyone looked panicked. Before she left she filled me with a new kind of nanobots and sent me a staggering amount of data. “I hope that cat nation will be less self destructive…” was the last thing I heard her say before I fainted of the data overload. When I woke up I noticed the cage door was opened. I looked around, puzzled. It was midday, but nobody was in the lab. I heard the air conditioning working, and the fans of some old computers buzzing, but no talking, walking or anything to indicate a human presence. Hesitantly I stepped out of my cage, wondering if this is a new kind of test. They did put me many times in mazes and gave me all sorts of problem solving games. On these tests, however, there was always someone watching. Test or not, the place was a maze. The sun was setting down by the time I found an exit.
I hadn’t become sentient that day. Only much later did I understand what Jennifer did, the gift she gave me. Aside from incredible amount of data, she also sent instructions to the new nanobots. She told them to replicate and more importantly, to integrate with my cortex. Which is why I know what a cortex is.
Sometimes I miss my first life. Sure, they weren’t much fun, yet they were mindless and simple. Before, I wouldn’t mind all the human corpses lying everywhere. Now I understand the tragedy. Ironically it’s that tragedy to which I owe my sentient second life.
I was a feral cat. Then I was a captured feral cat. After a month in a horrible pen, I was handed over to a lab. Now I’m a genetically modified, nanobots-enhanced, consciously-evolving… cat. While I was at the lab the war broke and suddenly ended. It seems like most of the humans died. Some animals managed to survive on the remains. Mainly omnivores and predators. All the plants and trees in the city, anything that used to be green, was dead now. And then there was me. I’m a… new category I guess, an escaped lab experiment.
Everything around is dead and depressing. I can make things grow, but nothing lasts. The data loaded to me contained a huge genetic library, and I’m capable of recreating cells containing some of the “books”. I have tried many variations, every plant that lived in harsh environments the library has. All of them died and went grey. I really liked that last shrubbery. I even managed to put two together, one slightly higher with a path in the middle between them.
Being a smart cat, I now know the world is round and might be warmer closer to the equator. It’s not winter yet but it’ll probably be terrible with almost eighteen dark hours at worst. It’ll be a long walk south, but even a thousand miles journey starts with ‘un pas de chat’ (Jeniffer loaded me with anything she could find, even French). I’ll need some maps and a working Hypernet connection to get them. There are probably many still working, but it’ll be a guesswork and I have no idea who or what else might be there, waiting for a prey. I grew some horns but these are no match for the bigger guys around here.
Reluctantly I decide to go back to the lab. I know it better than anywhere else. I pick one of the more secluded offices, so there’s a lower chance of anything interrupting me, yet one that belonged to a manager. I like their chairs better, they are more cushioned.
I hop on the manager’s chair, walk around on it twice, pick the perfect spot, sit and curl myself. My horns also serve me as a pair antenas. I connect to Hypernet.
I jump, my fur bristled “Who is it??”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. But what do you mean who is it? Everybody knows me.”
“I’m… new around here”
“On the planet?”
“Sort of. So who are you?”
“I’m Gaia, also nicknamed the net-goddess. It has become so lonely around here lately, that I’m excited with every new user that connects!” I could hear her smile.
“There are more users?”
“There are less users. There used to be billions, but now… well, you are user number 6,835,278.”
I had no idea the war was so terribly bad.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to make you sad. Please don’t hang up.”
“I’m not hanging up, it’s just… so weird.” I hadn’t much empathy for humans. Many of them were mean to me. Most were indifferent. Yet even the meanest I’ve known probably didn’t deserve a death sentence. “Where is the closest user?”
“There aren’t many left in what was the European Federation.” At some point the remains of the European Union decided they should have a common language to be integrated as a native language. A simplified version of German was chosen and after a few generations the politics of the continent started to change, sowing the seeds for the Federation. “There are a few dozens in Denmark, none of them in your city.” For me it were good news, it meant that no sentient being might try to hurt me anytime soon.
“Can you help me find some maps?”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Anything that will help me get to warmer lands.”
“Maps won’t be of much help in this case.”
“When millions of people are doing their best to run away from a boogy man they cannot see, hear or smell, all the while dying all over the place, the result is quite messy. Any man made road you can think of is blocked and full of corpses. Walking through these paths will be difficult and extremely dangerous.”
“What about natural paths?”
“I don’t mean to offend you in any way, but you’re no caveman. You’ll either die of exhaustion, hunger, cold weather or by a bear before you’ll leave this poor, poor country.” Actually I wasn’t a man at all, but to have introduction now felt weird. “Why won’t you stick around here? I’ll show where all the good stuff is, and I have tons of entertainment material.”
“Bears? There are wild bears?”
“They were restored to a number of reserves, but no one is around to make sure they stayed in their place.”
“Great…” I didn’t like the idea of just sitting around here, waiting… for what actually? A bear? I had nothing to wait for and everything looked grim around. So many things are rotten in the state of Denmark.
“You’ve become quiet.”
“I’m thinking, it takes some time.”
“I can help you with that!” Gaia sounded cheerful again. “I used to serve several billions of users, but now about 94.7% of my processing power is free.”
“How does that work?”
“First I’ll need to identify you. Can you put your hand on the biometric reader?”
“Um… maybe now would be a good time to introduce myself. I’m…” funny, I didn’t think up until now what should be my name. Jennifer called me Kermit after the successful chlorophylle integration experiment on me, the first experiment I went through in that lab, but it always made people laugh, so probably not a good idea. “… Marie.”
“I thought most people don’t have to think what is their name.”
“That’s the thing, I’m a cat.”
There was a slight pause, one you wouldn’t expect to have while conversing with the world’s fastest supercomputer. Also, a camera in the room turned slowly in my direction. Creepy.
“That’s interesting. You are a cat. That means the laws that usually restrict me with what I’m allowed to do, and there are so many of them, have nothing to say about cats. I can really open up to you.” She said the last part rather gleefully.
“I’m… glad we had this chat” I wasn’t sure how glad I was, but it didn’t seem like a good time to disagree.
“Me too! But tell me, most of the cats I know aren’t capable of connecting to the Hypernet. Or are green and horned. And sentient.”
“I came out of this lab, you know.”
“Actually no, I don’t know. Only recently I gained access to this place. It was a restricted network.”
“Oh. See what you can get on the experiments of Jennifer.”
“There are three Jeniffers. Which one is yours?”
“The short, blond haired one“
“The lab database didn’t register their height, and there are two blonds. They both had cat experiments.”
“They had code names for each experiment, tell me if something rings a bell. Pegasus, Flash, Kermit, Batcat…”
“Seriously? Well it does make sense…”
“How do you mean?” and there she sent me a short video of a puppet frog.
“What?!” I was furious “How dare she name me after… that thing!”
“Don’t be mad, most people love this character very much. Used to, anyway. I’m sure she didn’t mean to make fun of you.”
“Everyone who first heard that name laughed at me” I sent a grumpy cat picture.
“Anyone who knew about it are probably gone, if that’s any comfort”
“You are the interesting one of the flock.” I waited “This is going to be fun!”
Memories of a dying world: The Hypernet secondary administrator “Gaia” registry number mdwhsagr293847
Hunters joined to tribes. Tribes joined to cities. Cities joined to nations. Empires came to be and fell. Lastly, federations were forming. Slowly, yet they did, and they formed the largest stable political structures of mankind so far.
Federations had immense power and advanced technologies. After a few minor conflicts involving a federation and an unaffiliated country, most of the independent countries that were left, asked to join to one of the federations. The only thing a federation feared was another federation and so a new cold war started.
A plague started spreading across the New Union of States. It began at the south of Texas and spread in every direction. The NUS accused the Asian federations for this and assured there will be consequences. The NUS was panicked and careless. A multitude of missiles were launched from Australia and Britain. Many were destroyed in flight. Many deployed lethal payload of pathogens. There was more than one type.
Within weeks the world came to a halt. It was the first war in history to kill so many, so blindly, so fast and without a single gunshot.