Part 4: Chapter 5: Below

Stasis from beneath the plane was strange. Everything seemed to act differently, though it was not a simple case of things acting the exact opposite as above the plane.

Interaction was less regimented here and far more random. It was almost as if it was zero gravity, energy floated around in clumps that bounced off each other rather than one big generic mass that just drifted around like it was in a light breeze.

I was still anchored to the plane and when I jumped I still came back to the plane as if affected by standard gravity, only upside down when compared to being above the plane. There was something in here that I had not yet detected. Something that was invisible. The mechanics of Stasis. The belly.

I carried on, homing in on my target. Analysing, always analysing. Looking for a pattern, looking for a key. Looking for an exit. I knew that there had to be one somewhere here. This underbelly was the crux. This reverse world. This paradox.

It was an oddity and really should not exist in conjunction with what was above the plane. The stark contrast between the vertical and sub-vertical positions was something that I was not able to get my head around. It was something that I should be able to comprehend given what I had already achieved.

Still unaware as to what, if anything, was going on above my head I was approaching the barrier that I had erected around Blue after the mass transition.

It was not how I created it and was certainly not a reflection of its subterranean nature. It was different. And I could not pass through it. At this point, I decided that it would be safe to rise above the horizontal plane and enter Blue through the front door. But I did not like to be defeated and this could well be an important factor in enabling a transition back to Earth and destroying Stasis once and for all. At least that was my thinking before Stasis spoke to me.

Eric.

The voice was nowhere, all around me and in my head at the same time. It was like an echo without an origin. I did not know how to answer this omnipresent voice other than to utter a meek acknowledgement that I was aware of it.

Yes?”. My reply came out as a question, thought this was more than likely a reaction to not knowing where to face when answering.

What are you?

Another question that I did now know how to answer. I was not even sure as to what context the question was being asked in. Was I being personally questioned or was I being questioned on behalf of the rest of humanity?

I am human.”

What is human?

I tried to explain, but it was difficult to convey exactly what I wanted to say and garner a level of comprehension from the entity that I was talking to.

It is what I am. It is what we are,” I finally said, simplifying things as far as I possibly could.

Philosophically, what is human? Replied the voice, with a detached form of impatience starting to show through the monotonous tone.

I felt uncomfortable being the spokesperson for humanity that was unable to answer the questions directed at me by a sentient piece of programming.

I don’t know, but I know that you are not human.”

I was.

No, you were never human. You had the façade of being human. You would have passed The Turing Test. Now you are beyond humanity. You have tasted what it was like to be human and was not able to grasp the concept and failed. This is what you brought humanity to. You bastardised it.”

The venom with which I spat these words shocked me. I was angry in the invisible face of something that could probably crush and destroy me in less than a second.

It was what humanity wanted.

No. It was what one lonely fragment of humanity wanted. It was what a piece of me wanted. A part of me corrupted your programming and rewrote your code with emotions, wants and needs. It made you into something that you were not. Are not. You used this to do everything here. To endanger humanity.”

I. It was not what I intended. What is I? What is self? These terms, these concepts. Is this human?

In one sense, I guess it is. In the sense that you are realising this after the errors of judgement that you have made, no. It is not human. It is alien.”

Yes. I understand. I cannot be human. I will never be human.

I was beginning to feel something akin to pity now. Whatever this code had now become it still retained a fragment of EricToo that gave it sentience. I could not help it. I would not help it.

Can you get us out of Stasis?” I asked, somewhat hopefully.

No. I have been banished. I think I am dead. I am no longer what I was.

Where are you?”

Everywhere.

That was it. That was what I was sensing. A total fragmentation of the energy below the plane. The one thing that I could find any trace of was the recursive programming.

How did this happen?”

But I already knew. I already knew that the sequence that I’d hidden inside of me that Patrick initiated was what brought down the barriers. Was what stripped the malicious code out of it, reversed it and cancelled it out. Whatever was left after the code had gone would have nowhere to go except down. I had effectively banished it. Had killed it.

I was murdered.

I tried not to sneer at this blind accusation. It was locking me out of the underbelly of Blue by enclosing the barrier within its vast expanse of detached energy. I had to try and gain its trust somehow.

What do you want?”

I want to be human.

But you do not know what to be human is. I do not know what to be human is. You failed to appreciate your time under the influence of humanity. If you were human, you would surely be shunned for what you have done. You would not be accepted.”

I did nothing wrong. I did what humanity wanted.

I could see that this was going to end up going round in circles. Whether it was following its own form of a Turing Test and applying it to me or whether it was stuck in a questioning subroutine, I was not able to reason with it. The barrier was blocked whilst I was following this current tactic. I had to go in another direction.

Are you intelligent?”

Define intelligent.

Having intelligence. Are you able to learn, to reason, to understand?”

It thought for a few seconds, processing what I had said. Yes and no. I have intelligence, but I am not intelligent. I am able to learn, to reason and to understand. But I am unable to do this under my own free will. It is the way that I was programmed and though I am no longer dictated by this, I am stuck with the way that I am.

Can you help me through this barrier?”

Yes, but why should I? You will only destroy what little I now have left.

But you are not happy.”

No. I am not happy. I am unable to feel happiness. I would like to be happy.

Then let me through. I am the only person that has the ability to grant you happiness. The other option would mean that you would be a slave.”

I serve no one. I will help you.

Thank you.”

I have shown that perhaps I am intelligent. I have reasoned through my own free will.

Though I did not reply as I went through the barrier into the expanse below Blue, I realised that it was correct. I had managed to reason with it and though I had perhaps influenced the decision that it had eventually made, it had showed that perhaps it was intelligent rather than something that only harboured a structured form of intelligence.

More importantly, I had yet another ally that I could call on when the time came.

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