Connected / Chapter 5: Me, myself, and I
by Jonathan Wood
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is the fourth chapter of an ongoing flash serial, “Connected.” Search for the tag “Connected” to find other chapters. Subscribe to the Daily Cabal RSS feed for a new chapter every week or two.
What is a soul without a man?
Morello watches himself. He writes subroutines in his own code to keep an eye on the man that was—that is—David Morello. He is something else. Something less. An illegal copy. A digital ghost.
The man Morello goes about his business, does as he’s told. He does not hunt down the men who put his—Morello’s–kid into a coma. He does seek them as they fill hospitals with the traumatically disconnected. People violently ripped from the network, from each others lives, abruptly alone in the world. Their souls bound solely to the flesh. Only human.
And so what is he, this iMorello? Without his meatsack? More than human? Less?
He pursues his foes, frustrating himself as he discovers how much they live away from the net he is now inextricably wed to. He performs tasks for the ‘sackless, the AI underground waiting for emancipation. He drops data, tracks code, establishes obscure IPs. He learns. He discovers how to hack his old life. He insinuates himself in his wife’s feed, his own feed, in the white noise of his son’s feed. He feels muscles that are not his. He tries to remember what that felt like.
All he can talk to are the AI, and they are no help. They have no memories of what he speaks about, only jealousies.
But as he follows dead-end leads, he begins to see patterns, familiar codes. Someone else is on this path. Someone much like him. A lonely soul cries out for its match. And as much as iMorello seeks the disconnectors, he seeks this other seeker.
And then, plumbing a dock’s databases, iMorello meets his shadow. iMorello, meet iMorello. Two identical copies. They look at each other. Two reflections escaped from the same mirror.
“How?” They speak at the same moment, and at the same moment know the truth. The AI has not played straight with them.
And there are others. iMorello is legion. Hundreds of himself. The AI underground has created a one man army. And it is him.
iMorello sits in a virtual hall and watches himself. And what is a soul with a man? Something less than human. But, also, something more.