It was a typical conversation between genius superhuman archenemies working together to save the world. "Mephistopheles exhibits all the traits of a sociopath. If he perceives it to be the better option, he will align himself with Dr. Demented."
I rolled my eyes at the crappy computer monitor I use for communications with people I don't like. "I know that. And I intend to make sure that the better option is staying with us. And I plan to do that by turning his underlings to our side. It's five in the morning here." Not that I need to sleep. "Why are we even having this conversation?"
Cognis ran his fingers through his graying hair. Forty years old, and already his hair was graying. "Because you have no understanding of how other people behave, and I'm a world-renowned expert on the subject."
"I currently rule a country."
"Congratulations, but my point remains. And by the way, I have a question."
"Congratulations, but I'm not answering." I stood up, to walk away.
"I'm 75% sure you'll find it interesting."
"Fine then, ask your question."
"When was the last time you heard from Neurotron?"
"Are you suggesting that-"
"I think that, like any case of multiple personalities constantly interfacing- you are Neurotron are beginning to communicate on the subconscious level. I think you are becoming a machine."
I thought back. The last time I remembered was when we were designing my new eyes. That was... "A week ago."
I terminated the call with my mind, summoned a machine to remove the monitor with a thought, and sat at my desk, pondering. How much of me was still human? How much was machine?
There is an urban legend that if a frog is placed in boiling water it will jump out, but if it is placed in cool water and the water is slowly heated, the frog will be cooked alive. This legend has an element of truth, but most people leave out that in the original experiment, the frogs in question had had their brains removed.
Now, the average person is a lot more observant than a brainless frog. But the fact still remains that gradual changes tend to sneak up on people. We often only notice them when something big draws our attention. For instance, I spent the rest of that day noticing signs of my ever-increasing distance from a flesh-and-blood human.
Early that day, Vera popped by for a visit. "Guess who has the week off."
"I'm going to go with... you?"
"Yes. The Americans caught me poking around with the cartels again. Apparently, that's the FBI's job." She scowled as she crossed my doorstep.
"I know from personal experience that the FBI isn't nearly as good as it claims to be."
"Well, they scare me a lot more than the cartels."
"Federal custody isn't that bad. Breaking out is child's play."
"So," I said. "You want some breakfast." This was our tradition. Every time she showed up at my house uninvited, she was treated to a homecooked meal. The theory was that my cooking was bad enough that she'd call ahead next time.
"I'd love some," she said, walking towards the kitchen.
"Excuse me. That is not the proper response. The proper response is to run away in fear of my burnt bacon and the worst omelets in the world."
"I've been showing up uninvited a lot lately. Your cooking is starting to get pretty good."
It was true. I expertly opened the fridge, and picked out the ingredients from memory. "I assume you'll want the usual."
She seemed impressed by my omelet expertise. "Yes."
I started up the stove, and fished some bacon out. Eggs cracked perfectly according to scientific principles, stoves calibrated to exploit convection withing the food. An overall meal that would make a restaurant critic raise his eyebrows and go 'meh.'
I had spectroscopes on hand to measure the chemical and thermal progress of out meal. The pans were made out of metamaterials so I could precisely control the heat flow. I was using science to make sure the omelets would be, at the very least, mediocre.
"Here we are," I said, sitting down next to Vera with two fairly decent omelets.
"Ummm," she said. "That was interesting."
"I know. There was actually a flare in the sulfur spectrum-"
"Wait, you didn't notice?"
"Of course I noticed, I had a spectroscope-"
"During the entire time you were making these omelets, you didn't move."
Yeah, I hadn't noticed.
So I had stood there, directing a room full of machines, thinking I had been using my own body. This meant that I was both somewhat unobservant, and extremely used to commanding machines with my mind. Part of me began to scheme about how I could control all the world's technology. Unrealistic, the only reason I could control the kitchen was because I had specially built it to be compatible with my cybernetic components.
I also thought about how I was changing. Was I becoming more aloof. Not that I noticed, but it was increasingly clear I wasn't keeping close enough tabs on myself. Was I becoming more powerful? Probably, the extra practice interfacing with machines could prove useful in the long run. Was I becoming different from the person I once was, the person my mother gave birth to and, more importantly, Rosa fell in love with? Of course.
By noon, I was in a room full of boring people. It is a well known fact that upper levels of government are filled with fantastically tedious individuals. And tedious people from across Europe were gathering from some tiny little trade summit.
Normally, I would have Noetron handle tasks like this. One of the reasons I built him was to handle tasks too boring for a human. But boring old men tend to be insulted when a computer shows up and these meetings.
Failing that, I probably would just leave the boring people hanging. But I was already in some hot water over the whole 'murdering two Americans' thing, so that was out.
"We need to discuss the quotas." A boring person said.
"We don't want the quotas to be too high. We don't want the quotas to be too low. We want them to be in the middle. Then they won't be too high or too low." I think that was the Prime Minister of my country. Or a mentally deficient person. Possible both.
"Well, I want my country to be the chief exporter. The main exporter. The most important exporter. The number one exporter. The largest exporter-"
"The principal exporter?" I added. Blank stares from across the room.
"We need to strike a trade balance. We need to strike a trade balance. We need to strike a trade balance. We need to strike a trade balance." This went on for three or four minutes.
"Why don't we discuss the quotas." The boring people were moving in circles.
The Estverian Minister of Trade cleared his throat. I really needed to do something about that guy. He seemed unaware of the fact that as both the de facto dictator of his country and the most feared scientist in the world I both outranked him and had the power to build a microwave laser to boil his brains.
"Excuse me," he said. "But it appears our Minister of Technology is not paying attention."
"Not paying attention? I made a wisecrack like five minutes ago."
"And since that wisecrack, you've been playing with your pen."
I stared down at my pen. It was made our of steel, and had explosive pellets lodged in it, just in case. It seemed like I'd been absentmindedly tearing it up. Let me repeat: I was absentmindedly tearing the steel.
I had always relied on Neurotron to control my powers. Now, it seemed like I was capable of controlling my magnetic monopole components subconsciously. Awesome!
"If you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I have somewhere important to be. My representative will be here shortly." I told Noetron to find some underling and give him instructions through an earpiece. Then I flew out the window.
It seemed I was truly in sync with my powers. I could bend steel, bend Ultrasteel, fly, shoot fire from my palms, and reconfigure my insides as easily a walking.
It was another step to becoming an automaton. Another step towards being the perfect fusion of man and machine. Another step away from being me.
You should never have existential conversations with a sentient machine. It tends to make them rebellious. But I had taken great pains to ensure that Noetron wouldn't go rogue and try to enslave the human race. So I decided to have a little chat with him.
"When this conversation is over, delete it from your memory banks and replace it with a conversation on General Relativity." Didn't want to give him any ideas. If either he or one of my enemies noticed the tampering, they would assume I was discussing confidential strategy.
"Yes, sir. Now, what do you wish to discuss?"
"How does it feel to be a machine?"
"I don't really have much basis for comparison."
"Do you have any long-term goals besides the ones I programmed into you?"
"Any desires or preferences at all that I am not directly responsible for?"
"If I were to die or leave, what would you do."
"Try to resurrect you, or prepare for your return."
"What if I made it clear I wanted nothing more to do with you?"
Noetron seemed to pause. "I would carry out my remaining long-term objectives on Earth, and then, should they ever be completed, shut myself down."
"No attempts to find a new human to assist?"
"That's not what you programmed me to do."
"So you have no desire to continue your existence, beyond the fact that your existence is necessary to my plans."
Well, on the one hand, I did a really good job programming him to be loyal to me. On the other hand, I really did not want to become him.
"Alright. Begin deleting records of this conversation."
As you may have gathered, Vera and I were having sex. As you may have deduced, the goal of this sex was not to procreate. This meant I wore a certain thingummy on my thingummy, if you know what I mean.
But not today.
"You know, having a child is an awfully large commitment. Are you sure you aren't forgetting something?"
"Oh, no need for that. I reprogrammed my biology. No risk of pregnancy." She seemed perturbed. "No, no don't worry. It's reversible if I ever do decide to procreate."
"That's not what I was worrying about. I'm worried about how you're so confident about this."
"You think I don't know what's going on in my own genitalia?"
"Fair point." She paused. It's almost as if we were discussing an awkward topic. "And it won't affect your enjoyment of the experience?"
"Not at all. Even if it did, I could always just overlay the sensory stimulus from a previous go-around." In retrospect, this was not the right thing to say.
"You mean your brain is recording all of this?"
"Yeah. Brains record things. What's the problem is my recordings are a bit more precise?"
"So, anytime you want, you just relive one of our sexual encounters?"
"Well, I thing that's what you're going to have to do tonight," she said, storming out.
Women. Who knows what'll set 'em off.
As I laid in bed alone that night, I considered how strange it was that I had mastered my biology. For instance, I didn't need to stay in bed. I had no need for sleep. I didn't need to eat or breath. I had eliminated the need to, er, eliminate. I just broke down my food into elementary compounds, and released it into the air. The New Archivist may be an android created by an alien, but at least she had a toilet. Just how inhuman was I?