Cyborgs are good at poker. Really good. We can calculate probabilities in our heads, and count cards with ease. We have perfect poker faces. Our enhanced senses make bluffs transparent. With a little work, we can determine your cards from across a room. Justin calls this 'cheating.'
After two disastrous (if very short) games, a compromise was reached. I could cheat as much as I wanted. But I couldn't cheat the same way twice. In return, I needed to display at least one tell (the same tell throughout the game) and I started out with half as much money.
It was a high-stakes hand. Justin had thrown in fifty bucks. I didn't know his cards.
I was running low on tricks. I had already analyzed all of Justin and Raymond's tells. I had seen the faint reflections of cards in Justin's glasses. Smelt Raymond's excitement. Felt Justin's nervousness in his heartbeat. I had analyzed microscopic scratches on the backs of cards. I had kept track of every card, even as they were shuffled. I had analyzed Raymond's eye movements as he looked over his cards, and determined that he had a pocket pair.
But I still had a few arrows left in my quiver. I had been saving up the obvious route of facial expressions. I could look at the cards in other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (they are slightly transparent to ultraviolet and microwave rays). I could analyze how Raymond's emission varied depending on his cards. I could use the cards' own natural radioisotope distributions. I could use my nanofiber tentacles to read a human's brain chemistry.
I Thought Fast. I currently held three hundred of the five hundred dollars. There were now close to one hundred in the pot. If I could win this, it was all over. I had a pair of jacks. Justin's previous history showed that he was an aggressive bluffer. But fifty dollars was a lot of money. I took a peak in the microwave spectrum.
"I fold too," Raymond said.
"Did you fold because you wanted to or because Phoenix did?"
"There was a lot of money in the pot."
Justin muttered something about cyborgs. I heard it of course, but decided not to respond.
"So," Raymond said, "make any interesting discoveries today?"
"Ha. He spent the day doing cartwheels and somersaults."
Raymond was interesting. He was constantly suppressing enough nuclear power to level a town. Yet he tended to believe in people. "I'm sure he was busy trying to save Vera."
"Actually, you're both right. I was trying to make myself more agile. I wrote a few million lines of code, an agility engine, if you will. But I needed to debug and optimize it, so I ran it for a few hours. While my physics body was doing that, I was creating a plan to save Vera." Even as I played poker, even as I engaged two people in conversation, the majority of my brain was focused on my laboratory, guiding Noetron as he created a prototype of a teleporting robot. I already knew where Mephistopheles was. The goal was to extract Vera without him noticing.
"And explain the nosebleeds," Justin said.
"Me re-configuring some body parts. My sense of smell is better. My stomach is way more efficient. My lungs are half the size and ten times more powerful. A few other modifications. Making room for some new hardware."
"Like additional power units. Like small robots capable of separating from my body. Like a laser system. Like the tissues that give Flashpoint, Concept, and Raymond their powers."
Both humans looked somewhat shocked. They pondered me in silence, in awe and fear. I cranked out a design for a teleporting assault robot, a better supersonic jet, a cool particle accelerator, and a machine to make brownies more efficiently than a human cook. I also proved a theorem in abstract algebra, designed an interesting physics experiment, and showed that the problem of calibrating a teleporting robot was NP-complete. I worked out a theorem about geodesics in curved five-dimensional space. It's a lot easier if you can visualize it. I checked my growing to-do list of machines to build and experiments to conduct. Eight million entries. Noetron was going to need an upgrade. I sketched out a rough design.
Finally, the slow seconds of silence came to a close. "Ante up," Justin said. The game continued.
As I listening for the sound of Raymond's nervous system, I thought about Lucy. Was she really dead? Was the New Archivist faking it?
Somewhere, a copy of Noetron was working to liberate her. But how could I liberate her if she was already gone?
No, she wasn't gone. You don't get to be called the Archivist without storing backups. Somewhere, there was some sort of copy of Lucy. I could separate the New Archivist from her diadem, undo the damage to her brain, and reinsert Lucy's mind.
Actually, that was impossible. The New Archivist was powerful. If she wanted to stay on the Fortarian ship, I wasn't getting her off by brute force.
Deception wasn't a likely method. Tricking her into removing the diadem would be impossible.
I heard it. Raymond buzzed with excitement. Literally, his nerves tingled. That could mean any number of things. I tried to locate the source of buzzing. The frequency. Quantitative information that could help me win the game. Ah, there it was.
"I'll raise you twenty."
"Dammit! I fold." Raymond looked pensive for a moment. "Is there some sort of camera in my clothing?"
"Are you accusing me of cheating or looking at your private parts?" Of course, I could see his private parts. I could see all of his parts. But I didn't need cameras in his pants to do it.
"The first one."
"No. The coat is just a lead-based compound designed to absorb the bulk of your radiation."
"Isn't lead poisonous."
"Not in that form. Trust me, I have a Nobel Prize in Chemistry."
"You know," Justin said, "stealing a medal from the rightful owner doesn't make you a Laureate."
"I am the rightful owner. I did that research three years before he did, for one of my senior theses."
"You know," Justin said, "I think I remember that. You locked yourself in our room."
"I did that a lot. You could be a distraction."
"I sure can."
Raymond interjected. "There's something I've been meaning to ask about your college experience. Did you ever meet Dr. Carnage?"
"Yes. We were Putnam fellows the same year."
Raymond looked at me.
"We did the same math competition."
"And you didn't... he didn't seem weird?"
"He was clearly a psychopathic sadist with an unhealthy interest in the nature of the human body." I paused. "I just assumed he'd become a dentist."
"So, you can't tell who will become a murderer."
"I never suspected Phoenix," Justin said. "And I lived with him."
Another uncomfortable silence. I roughed out an analysis of Demented's Disease. I had a vague idea of how the virus was a quantum superposition of various nanobots.
No, not a quantum superposition. The other versions of the virus interacted, through forces mediated by compact extra dimensions. It made my brain hurt. Both the main brain in my head and the second, smaller one I was growing in my abdomen.
Justin was already out. Raymond had about forty dollars left, after a round of aggressive raising. I examined the patterns of fingerprints on the backs of his cards. He had nothing. I threw in five bucks. "You have a jack high." He folded.
Four rounds later, antes had forced him out of the game. A great triumph for every member of the cyborg race. Which, admittedly, was just me.
"Nice job," Raymond said.
"It will be harder next time. I used up all the obvious tricks." I realized my mistake. "If I win at all. You played a hell of a game."
We went our separate ways.
That night, I made a mistake. I had two humans under my care. And I was negligent. It is impossible for humans to police each other's every action (unless they are the NSA), but it is easy for a cyborg. I could have allocated less than a percent of my brain to keeping Raymond and Justin out of trouble, and I could have saved them. But I didn't.
Why? Perhaps it was some misplaced trust in humans. Maybe it was sheer laziness. Either way, there was nobody, not me, not Noetron, watching Raymond as he accessed the internet.
Nobody watched as someone called 'futurist' chatted him.
futurist: Hello, Raymond.
RayHark123: Who are you?
futurist: You live with Phoenix.
RayHark123: None of yoru business.
futurist: It is everyone's business.
futurist: Phoenix is a threat.
RayHark123: he's helped a lot of people.
futurist: He has hurt a lot of people.
RayHark123: He helped me.
futurist: He isn't human. It isn't human.
RayHark123: he is
futurist: It is a cyborg. A glorified machine.
futurist: You have seen what one cyborg can do. What will you do when it starts to assimilate the rest of us? How long until there aren't any humans left?
Raymond wasn't stupid. He knew better than to let a stranger on the internet shape his worldview. But futurist was persuasive. futurist persuaded him that I was a threat to humankind. And futurist persuaded him to act.