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Aug 22, 2019 6:20 PM
a Margaret in Whateley
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"Great! So you'll work on that, and when you're done I'll keep sponsoring you to work on whatever it is you're working on. Would you be open to more contract work, if that comes up?"

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"Sure, you probably pay better than campus maintenance."

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"I certainly do. It looks like we have an arrangement, then."

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And Margaret spends the rest of the workshop time doing things that can only be done in the workshop, and thinking about modular AI designs in the background.

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Time passes. Her meeting with Campus Maintenance comes and goes; they set her mostly to cutting grass and provide her a fairly generous paycheck, supplemented by occasional side jobs for Tessa. 

Tessa occasionally rants while she works. Apparently she’s on a combat sim team, the Alphas, and they’re crushing pretty much everyone except one other team, Star Force. 

“And everybody’s cheering them on, like we’re the supervillain team or something, even though they’ve got Sanguine, who’s a complete asshole! And explicitly on the villain track!”

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Margaret finishes Manhattan's extra arms and sets herself up with an onboard IDE so she doesn't have to code on her laptop and makes steady progress on Tessa's AI and her new body. Between Tessa's pay and her wages from Campus Maintenance, she can get the best chips anynody knows how to fabricate and still afford some nice armor and heat sinks on top of that.

When she's not working she mostly hangs out with Lucy, Manhattan, Ethan, and Elijah. Most of her responses to Tessa's rants are along the lines of "Mm-hm", since she doesn't watch combat sims much unless one of her friends is playing, but this time she asks, "Who is Sanguine again?"

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“Xan Richardson. He’s in Poe. He’s such an asshole. Most of the time he just hangs out with his shitty friends and his creepy boyfriend, but every time he expresses an opinion it’s like ‘conflict is the only way for humanity to advance’ or ‘Champion was cryptofascist’ or ‘Deathlist was cool actually’. Also he thinks we’re rivals and he keeps stealing my underwear, which, what is this, Animal House?”

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"Being rivals with someone sounds fun, but not if they do boring things like steal your underwear about it. And conflict is so not the only way for humanity to advance." She gestures around the lab. "Look at all these people, advancing things for various purposes. They're not all building stuff for the combat sims."

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"You'd be surprised, actually, I'd say it's 80-20. But yeah, he's super wrong about everything. And his team is so cheap, they just rely on Stormhammer's dumb overpowered spirit and Soulforge's dumb overpowered artifacts for everything. And they're all Exemplars except Soulforge who's some kind of fucked-up pretty golem, so they're all creepy-pretty, and- ugh."

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"Human beauty standards are overrated, honestly. Maybe especially Exemplars. I'm lucky; I can make myself prettier. I know I look like a walking junk heap now, but by the end of the semester I'm going to be gorgeous. Hopefully not in a creepy way."

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"Yeah, if I were a robot I'd want to make sure I looked good. -I mean, I do anyway, but I'd especially want to make sure if I were a robot. Iridescent gunmetal over titanium chassis, mithril runic chasing, probably no mouth, corundum eyes with built-in lasers. Maybe a blank ceramic face, that'd be pretty neat."

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"I totally hear you on iridescent titanium and mithril, though I'm going for an awesome shade of blue. And probably smart plastic for the face so I can have expressions, but if everything I try looks uncanny valley I might well fall back on ceramic with gems."

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“Blue could be fun. And having a face is probably a good thing, but... I don’t know, I’d rather have the guaranteed uncanny valley of facelessness than try to fit in, if I'm already going to be alienated by virtue of being a robot. Confront people with it rather than going with the flow, you know?"

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"Yeah, I get that. And I'm definitely going to be flamboyantly a robot rather than trying to minimize it, or anything. I just want a face in particular because I don't want to deal with people misunderstanding what I mean because they can't read my expression."

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"Valid."

Tessa returns to work. She has enemies to crush.

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Upload does likewise. She has six entire limbs to assemble and an update to her body-map to program so she can coordinate all six with the grace of an Olympic gymnast.

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Upload's next couple of weeks are kind of boring, for a value of "boring" that includes "at a superhero school" and "twisting the laws of computing into an unrecognizable but terrifying form". Lucy occasionally complains about the progression of her GSD, or exposits her progress with various utility microbes; Tessa continues to bitch about her various issues.

Then, at lunch, one of the impossibly beautiful girls who usually sits near the center of the Crystal Hall plops down her lunch tray opposite her. Lucy, who had been muttering to herself about prions, trails off midsentence.

"Hey! So, you're Tessa's latest minion, huh?"

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Margaret responds with genuine sympathy to Lucy and only slightly forced sympathy to Tessa. Her projects--class, personal, and paid--continue apace, delightfully.

On this occasion, as usual, her lunch is a homework assignment, which she's ignoring to listen to Lucy. She answers the pretty girl, "Hi! I guess, if that's what you want to call it. I wouldn't say we were friends, but she's a good source of both money and side projects."

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"Huh. Well, I came to warn you that she's evil, which, by the way, she is, and that she'll totally turn on you if it's in her best interests. I also came to see if you're cool, because hey, Gad-6, successful human upload, that's pretty fuckin' neat."

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"I don't . . . necessarily disbelieve you? I don't want to believe someone is evil just on someone else's say-so, though, what kind of evil has she done? Also, I'm glad you think Gad-6 is neat, I really like it. What are you besides the obvious Exemplar?"

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"My friend Sally's a golem. A special kind of golem, called the Artificer, who can make artifacts. She's safe now, but before she had her warding tattoos, someone could have... assumed control of her, by giving her their own tattoos. Tessa tried. I had to stop her. -uh, I'm an Avatar primarily, but my full rating's Ex-5/Wa-5:gb/Av-4, and I hold the Blizzard Force, and that gives me PK-7c and Wiz-4 hermetic."

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"Woah. Yikes. I'll be on the lookout for her trying that sort of thing again, on me or someone else. I should be okay, I've got a lot of software security, but. Good to know. Um, on a lighter note, that's a lot of powers, congrats."

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"It is! I got super lucky in the powers gachapon. Also the evil-mom-who-then-gave-me-her-powers gachapon."

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"I am not used to hearing 'evil mom' and 'lucky' in the same sentence. Hopefully you having her powers means she no longer has them to commit mayhem with."

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"Yeah. She went by Blizzard, terrorized the northern US and parts of Canada. She's dead now, which is why I have her powers. Officially, it was the Chicago Five. Unofficially, they arrived like fifteen minutes after she went down and I'm still kind of salty about them taking the credit even though I recognize why they thought I wouldn't want to be 'that mutant who killed her mom' forever."

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