World 30: A Certain Scientific Railgun

HACK THE GIBSON

Previously: Turn Turn Turnabout

Themesong: Mambo Italiano by Bette Midler

“SJ… your angriness has been rewarded.” Kendra announced as we reentered the Warehouse.

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“Next jump is Railgun.”

“Railgun… as in pervy teleporter and frog obsessed electromaster?”

“That would be the one, yes.”

“Excellent. Madscience ho!”

“No mad scientist option.”

“Awww… that’s no fun.”

“Drop-In, Student, Magical Spy, Experiment… all of them Espers… and you can’t use manna with Esper abilities in this world.”

“Huh? Why not?”

“Causes a near fatal amount of pain, apparently.”

“Well… fuck. Have to see what’s limited and what isn’t. This better wear off after this jump.”

I strode over to the machine, examining the four options and their discount options. Very little would be useful outside of this Jump, but Experiment’s capstone “Malleable Reality” (You’re more imaginative than usual. Though you’ll become quite eccentric, you can change what you believe in, or your Personal Reality, more easily. Your powers grow slightly faster (1.25x) now and don’t have to make sense any more. As a result, you could probably do some crazy shit, such as making homing ball lightning or creating constructs of fire that act as matter. With enough training or practice, you might even be able to stave off some of the side effects from using magic as an Esper by imagining something else to be part of your body and having the sides impact that instead. If you’re willing to become even crazier though, the sky’s the limit for what you can do. After all, the more insane you get, the stronger your Esper Powers grow. That said, a little eccentricity can go a long way. Screw being scientifically correct.) is a freaking reality manipulation power… while Student’s Capstone “Hard Science” (You have knowledge of Academy City’s science and technology to rival a scientist with a doctorate and several years of experience under her belt. You’re much more intelligent, analytical, and can easily keep your cool under pressure and rein in your emotions. You also gain a doctorate’s worth of regular scientific knowledge in the discipline of your Choice. You know the inner workings of recoil mitigating systems and powered armour, but your true speciality is the esper creation and development process. Given enough time, you might just figure out a way to get rid of the randomness inherent in the process and give X person Y ability. Training an Esper to help him or her reach their maximum potential is child’s play.) would allow me to give others Esper Skills and Training. I had to have them both… but that would eat either 950 or 1000 of my points.

That means it all comes down to the freebies… Experiments get Formal Training, and a discount of Doubled Growth Rate… which would be fine… but all they do is increase the speed at which the Esper Powers from this Jump improved. There was no continuation of ability. Students get Slice of Life (which makes things in general more cheerful and bright… not a bad thing in this fucked up setting) and a discount of Motivated (as if I needed more of that). It wasn’t much of an improvement, and I wasn’t sure Slice of Life would carry over to other jumps, but after the messed up crap of the last couple jumps, I could use a little Slice. Plus, being an Experiment would put the Mad Scientists of Academy City inside my brain… just where they shouldn’t be. Student cost me [50], and set the jump on “Easy Mode”.  It also got me an I.D. a school to go to… probably Tokiwadai because I am teh awesomeness that is me… a weekly stipend (woooo!) and an apartment to live in. Double Woo. That’s my catchphrase, by the way, my thing that can mean anything to my allies. Woo. It’s all in the inflection.

That settled, I rolled the bones and got… 11… and Meltdowner.  Christ, an 11 year old mega genius with Meltdowner? Meltdowner… effectively Electron Waveform Manipulation… the answer to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty… How can you know an electron’s location and vector… when it’s locked in place by an Esper. Oh… christ on a crutch… I was a walking bomb. I considered buying something else from the list… except I already am a Telepathic, Telekinetic, Teleporting, Pyrokinetic, Electromaster… of the 8 abilities on the list… I already had 5 of them, didn’t want one (Imagine Breaker… because it sucks and absolutely kills your other abilities as well as your luck)… and between Clairvoyance and Meltdowner, I guess I’d rather have Meltdowner… though I hardly needed another way to blow people up. I casually juggled grenades, had eyebeams, breathed fire, knew magic, and was a damned good sniper.

So I stuck with Meltdowner… also known as Particle Waveform High-Speed Cannon. The Laws of Physics are stretched by Espers, but this takes them almost to the breaking point. In Essence, this ability allows its users to fire particles beams of electrons that pierce through objects at the same velocity they were fired at, defeating such pesky things as armor. Its users can also redirect electricity with it, create shields that disintegrate things on contact, or turn themselves into living rockets… though that’s pretty much all they can do. However, it can be stopped through energy shield or massively thick / strong armor (Beyond this jump’s tech level)… and is incapable of rapid-fire or area saturation. Regardless, this is the most destructive Esper ability… and can be made dramatically worse if you remove the mental limiters preventing you from damaging / killing yourself.

Being a Student got me a free set of Micromanipulators (These Rather Delicate Gloves were meant for Scientific Purposes.  They’re reinforced with tiny motors and electrically contracting artificial muscles to allow one to perform delicate work on the scale of one millionth of a meter.  While they’re definitely more suited to scientific experiments, they can be put to use in any situation that requires steady hands… like aiming a rifle, conducting brain surgery, cooking, defusing a bomb, or even bypassing some redirection or shielding abilities.  Or modeling.) as well as the aforementioned “Slice of Life” (Your daily life unfolds like a Slice of Life anime. In theory, this wouldn’t do much and you probably won’t notice the difference. However, your life becomes a lot more cheerful and enjoyable that it was previously. People are much nicer to you than before, and you can get away with most minor wrongdoings and have no lasting consequences even for some severe transgressions. You’ll be able to live in the present without being bogged down by your past and enjoy your life without getting hindered by conflict too much. Regardless of the situation, you’re somehow capable of always looking on the bright side of life, even though you may face an invasion, your impending execution, or the like. You take things for granted less and something like a sweet dessert never fails to put a smile on your face.)

Seems too relaxed for me, but maybe I’ve been too high stress for too long. Regardless, I was up against the CP fence and needed to secure a loan before I spent any more. Two of the high cost Drawbacks are… contraindicated (Memory Loss isn’t fun and Keikaku Keystone is just yerg)… but Permanent Loli is imminently doable. Clearly, it will be a bummer losing most of my physical strength, but if I was using it on this jump, clearly something has gone wrong. That gets me +300 (350/1300) and I scoop up the +100 “Obsessive Esper” to give me an obsession. Might as well be a slightly insane Slice of Life permaloli. (450/1400) … yes, why thank you, I would like a cookie.

Back in the flush, I scoop up the last of Student’s Skill Tree, “Motivated” [150] (300/1400) (You’re much more motivated than before. You find it easy to dedicate yourself to things and self-discipline will no longer be a problem. You also rediscover your love of learning, and will be more than willing to spend weeks studying a subject, stopping only to eat and sleep. As a bonus, you have godly research skills and will almost always seem to find information you’re looking for as long as you search hard enough. In addition, your memory is also improved to help you keep up, with perfect Memory (Already got that) and highly efficient memory indexing (don’t have that).  Given enough time and effort, almost everything will be within your grasp.) If Hermione could see me now.

I plunk down another [100] for the MSR-001 a recoilless, upgradable, utterly silent coilgun.  Which leaves me with 200 to spend on Companion Imports, one for Zane and one for Velma… she could use a treat.  Joy and Ahab import for free, so that’s a squad of 5. Zane rolls… and ends up with Meltdowner… greaaat.  I guess we’re the Twin Cannons (though I’ve got more potential than he does… poor boy.). Velma rolls and gets Teleporter. Woo… as long as she doesn’t go full perv, it’s probably okay. Ahab decides to go Spy (netting him Darksider, complete knowledge of the underside of Academy City… useful this jump, but not any other… as well as a totally screwed up Vending machine that apparently dispenses disgusting experimental juices… but serves as a source of income.) and rolls… getting Pyrokinesis.  Joy goes Drop-In, getting True Grit (a willpower buff the scary lady barely needs, and Media Collection… which is all the To Aru Merchandise ever… which might be cool to read… also comes with frog commander guy toys.).  Her power roll nabs her Telekinesis.  Fun Fun Fun til daddy takes the T-Bird Away.  They all get an I.D., a School to go to, a weekly stipend, and an apartment to live in.

—Insertion—

Do you know what ten years of slice of life shenanigans are like? Especially in Academy City? Let me set this up for you… massive japanese city, full of Espers and mad scientists and secret conspiracies. Full of plots, gangs, racism, classism, anti-magic sentiment, experiments that leave 10,000 clones of a 13 year old girl murdered, networked minds to make a computing collective, experiments that result in the deaths of dozens and the permanent coma states of a dozen more little kids. This is like… Hogan’s Heroes but somehow stranger.

Spending a decade obsessed with Figmas was interesting, but weird. Spending a decade with no sex drive was… just weird. Zane got caught up in that, poor kid. Apparently me calling us “The Twin Cannons” made us twins again, and he was just as stuck in ageless limbo as I was. And the city’s PTBs used us to their advantage. Invasion? Call the Twin Cannons. Meteor? Call the Twin Cannons. Aleister Crowley has a hangnail? Call the Twin Cannons. Yes, that Happened… twice.

Also learned that Hogwarts Magic, Buffy Sorcery, FF7 Materia, and Fairy Tail Spells are all “Magic” for the sake of this world, as were my eyebeams and shapesifting… But Bending and RWBY Aura? Not so much. And my divine powers… not at all. So… huh. Then again, the pain only hurt for a short time until I regenerated… still, the pain was cerebral, so… ouchie.

My goals for the jump was to eat lots of candy, watch lots of anime, Railgun duel against Miska (the titular Railgun). Of course, I couldn’t Esper a Railgun, but I could Bend one. There was almost certainly a way to use my Meltdowner power to boost my Railgunning, but I hadn’t found it yet. Of course, there was one major and many minor issues that needed to be addressed… not the least of which was the pending murder of 10,000+ little girls… and if they survived, their use as an antennae array as part of a plan to destroy all mages.

That gave me a hitlist… with Crowley at the top, but at least two members of the Kihara clan as well… Therestina and her grandfather Ginsei… two of Academy City’s biggest power mad mad doctors. It was something of a race against time in all three cases. I also decided to help one Dr. Kiyama, who, sure, was a bit of a mad scientist, and not above using people, but had (arguably) good reasons.

Finding Therestina and Dr. Kiyama was easy. Both were relatively public figures. Therestina, I decided, needed a special lesson in only the way the Jumpchain could prepare it… so I had Joy and Ahab snatch her up and put her into a cryopod. I wasn’t sure where I’d drop her… but eventually I’d end up in a horror or zombie or death world jump… and when I did… she’d find herself there… for as long as she lasted. We slapped a “Do not Wake Until Doomsday” seal on her pod… after I drew in marker on her face.

Dr. Kiyama, who needed to wake her former students, I helped by…. Waking her former students. The central problem she was having is that any attempt by one of them to wake up would be suppressed by the others, subconsciously of course. The solution lay in a red crystal known alternatively as “First Sample”, “Ability Body Crystal”, and “Crystallized Esper Essence”. Regardless of the name, Therestina had known the location and what she knew, I knew. She also knew a really good bakery, which took a few hours out of the plan… but we got Kiyama her crystal, she turned over all her data on Level-Upper (a combination Esper Power increaser, coma inducer, and networked subconsciousness generator), and then she read me a story. She’s nice… if a little deranged.

Gensei was harder to find, but Ahab and Joy are very very good at their jobs, and they located and brought him before the Figma Throne (it’s a throne made of crystalline boxes that each have a perfectly preserved Figma inside them, but with padding on the arms and seat to make it comfy. It is awesome.). I searched the old man’s memories, looking for a scrap of remorse. I found none. He honestly believed that everything he’d done had been justified and that there had been no victims of his experiments.

There’s a funny thing about blackmail. You can use the information gathered to gain money from the perpetrator… or you can use it to find every living person connected with the perpetrator’s victims. And if you are a high power telepath with the ability to mentally record psychic impressions… you can save quite a lot of pain and suffering… and then make a present of all of it to an old man who had spent his life inflicting it. I’d learned quite a bit about aware comas… I put him inside one and then unleashed all that darkness into his still conscious mind. The life support systems of my med bay’s long term care module should serve him well for the remainder of my time in this world.

Unfortunately, I learned that the Accelerator-kills-lots-and-lots-of-clones process had begun several years ago… something I should have figured, and that he was going through them at the rate of about 10 a day, give or take. He’d already gotten into the mid 9000s. With that depressing news, I became a little conflicted. Did I take out Accelerator, if it meant only saving a couple hundred of the clones instead of thousands… On one hand, it would save hundreds of lives… but would also mean the others had died for no reason. Killing Accelerator would only prohibit his heel-face turn and if Last Order could forgive him (and through her the rest of the Sister Network), I could do the same. That didn’t mean, however, that I was going to let him kill the others. I’d stop him… somehow.

That somehow was a third Kihara… Amata, who just got a bullet to the brain, after I stripped out the knowledge of how to get through Accelerator’s guard. That’s what you do with mad dogs. You shoot them. Of course, I couldn’t kill all the Kiharas… Well, I could, there were only about 5000 of them… but they weren’t just a bloodline, they were some kind of self replicating quasi-mystical meme. One became a Kihara by being intelligent and having both too high a regard for science and too little regard for human life. Essentially it was a Mengele reproduction process… Wiping it out would require more mojo than I could deal with… but I could try and minimize the condition.

I went on the assumption that it was either a contagion or a form of possession. Thus, I tattooed myself and my companions… and even Dr. Kiyama with invisible ink since she seemed susceptible… with anti-possession tattoos. I also gathered blood samples from as many Kihara’s as I could… and tried spirit bending on a couple of the minor members of the family.

It was interesting (and a little frustrating) being in a city where my pet AI couldn’t scythe through the local information systems unchallenged. The Academy had “Tree Diagram” as its central processing unit, something that wasn’t close to VIvian’s pure data storage capacity, but could come close to rivalling her in processing power, with some very interesting predictive properties. But that made finding Mr. Crowley difficult. I had to find Dr. Frog Face, also known as Heaven Canceller. If anyone knew how to find Crowley, it would be the man keeping him alive. I also found Accelerator’s location from Frog-Sensei… and we had cocoa! I like being in stealth mode… I have bunny ears on my stealth suit.

Once I knew Accelerator’s weakness, though… I had to laugh. It was painfully simple, at least in theory. His power, Redirect, worked by controlling vectors. Any vector, even a passive one. That meant that any blow that had it’s vector change just before it hit him would get through his defenses… or attacks that had no vectors. Knowing that, it was relatively simple to build a drone device to administer a tranquilizer dart that had a retrorocket that would fire a moment before impact, changing the dart’s vector, but not enough to keep if from administering its dosage. My backup was even sneakier, it was a clown-adorned skin patch that was fired from a gun in such a way that it would arrive at Accelerator’s skin with functionally zero vector, and then adhere simply through the action of the glue.  

The second wasn’t needed… which is good, because there were a damned lot of variables for it, but albino boy went down for a napnap and I went inside his head to plant a mental block against actually killing the remaining clones. Yes, he could beat them up, but only until they were unconscious. He’d have to strategically limit himself. I even made sure it would seem as if it were his own idea, a way to Level Up faster by making the fights deliberately harder. I supplied him with many tracker tags to place one to a clone which would transport them into the ever growing racks of stasis pods that were filling containers in my warehouse. No idea when I’d need to cryo 600 people, but I’d have the capacity.

That just left Crowley. But before I confronted Crowley though, I had to take out his major driving force, the reason why the Science Side was obsessed with creating a Level 6 Esper as fast as possible… namely, the leadership of the Magic Side… who were just as bug nuts fucked in the head as the mad scientists. Topping my list were members of the pope’s inner council, “God’s Right Seat “ Primarily Vento of the Front (since I’d taken out her Kihara counterpart) a woman who referred to non-catholics as Heathen Monkeys (I like Monkeys, they’re silly) and Terra of the Left who actively considered non-Catholics to be subhuman. The other two were redeemable… though biased as hell.

But… before I could do anything about any of the magic folk… I had to find a way to block the most telltale sign of who and what I (and my companions) were. Espers in this world generate AIM Fields (An Involuntary Mechanism) which was shaped by the Esper’s Personal Reality. Invisible it might be to humans… but special machines could view it… and I’d be a fool to assume that the innermost layers of the Magic Community would lack a way to sense their primary enemy’s largest tell. And shutting down my AIM field should, in theory, allow me to use magic… and there I was, I was fairly certain, a match for anyone on this plane of existence.

The device to detect AIM fields wasn’t hard to steal. Having stolen, replicated, and replaced the machine I set to tinkering. It took me three weeks… It would have taken two, but they released a new line of Figmas that I had to hunt down all the variants of… I had to build a device that allowed me to scan Figma boxes to see what was in them to detect variations. Stupid randomization. I had a set up in the apartment for cleaning them and my micromanipulators allowed me to build them inside a nitrogen environment box and then seal them inside lexan cubes for display. Figmas is serious business… Good thing we have limitless sammich material… extra funds for Figmas. Plus the local gangs are nice and enjoy contributing to my Figma Fund… AJ and Francy said so. I haven’t met any of their members.

Anyway, with my FRED (Friendly Rabbit Esper-Suppression Device) ready, I sent agents into mage held lands to locate my targets, while I wrote my speeches… I had speeches. Writing them was fun, I got to lay in bed with my bunny slippers on and Ziggy acting as a pillow and we dictated the whole thing to my Bear-recorder… it’s a recorder shaped like a bear. “You know… in another world, I erased your God.” That was a good line. When I finally confronted Terra of the Left with it, it made him sooooo cross.

Of course, the fact that I also claimed to be the Antichrist might have had something to do with it. I did him a favor though… I nailed him to a cross. He didn’t seem grateful though, so I summoned Ifrit and hit him with fire until he stopped complaining. Some people.

Vento of the Front however was another kettle of fish entirely. Her magic “Divine Punishment” required only hostile will towards Vento and worked at any range. As such, I had to consciously suppress all hostile intent towards her… a relatively easy task as I saw her more as a problem to be solved than as someone to be destroyed. Thankfully, as a Trickster, I could send homunculi against her that had no intent or emotions nor need for oxygen.

Still, I’d have to wait until she opened her mouth in my presence to get at her weakness. I can’t ever express just how useful the ability to slow time is. Sure, my movements may be hampered a little as well, but watching the rest of the world flow by at 1/10th its normal speed is incredibly useful… especially when your opponent’s power resides in a cross attached to a tongue stud. She made a great deal of scream type noises when I Expelliarmus’d it from her face. Then I gave her the speech I’d prepared for her “Heathen Monkeys? We were here long before your bastard of a saviour got himself nailed to a cross. We’ll be here long after the last of you papists gives up the ghost… I made a joke there, did you like it? You like the bible, let’s get biblical. I shall not suffer a witch to live.” and I shut down all her higher brain functions… just as she’d done to countless others. “Divine Judgement that, bitch.” then I had to put 100 yen in the swear jar.

I also stole from her the location of the sphere that powered the Queen of the Adriatic Sea… if anyone should have a fleet of giant Ice Ships, it should be me. Finding a place for a 7 meter sphere of magical ice isn’t easy. I’d have to heavily reprogram the damned thing… it was built to destroy Venice and had failsafes built in… and was powered by human sacrifice, because christians.

That left me with two. Finding Fiamma wasn’t hard. Bonkers git that he is, but I had no intention of killing him. Instead, I simply snuck up behind him and whispered these words “Saving the world isn’t important if the people aren’t saved. Caring for one another was Christ’s message, not vengeance. You have forgotten that.” And I teleported away before he could turn around. I didn’t even bother with the mostly mercenary but fairly ethical Acqua.

My Italian Vacation took two weeks. It was very hectic… and Italy doesn’t have any good figmas… but I got a statue of a lady with wings and a sword standing on a snake guy’s head and a pair of little bronze David’s from the Vatican Vault… I might have forgotten to pay for them… but then again, there weren’t any price tags.

Back in Academy city, I had to make up the assignments I’d skipped… yes I has PhD but they still make me got to school. Big meanies. Like anyone neeeeeds to know history or… or geography or… or… how to play the piano. And so what if I draw smiley faces on my calligraphy homework?

The problem with getting to Crowley was just how insanely (and justifiably) paranoid he was. Of course, he didn’t count on someone with extra universal knowledge and telepathic skills. There wasn’t any way to judge, of course, but it was likely I was a Rank 6 Telepath… or at least a very strong Rank 5. I’d had a lot of practice over centuries… I was, at the very least, the equal of Mental Out (the Fifth ranked of the 7 Rank 5’s of Academy City, aka Shokuhou Misaki or “The Queen Bee”) though I was significantly more subtle… then again, she was in middle school and I’d had centuries at this game. She also used her abilities for direct control, while I used them for deep scans, domination, and neural… tweaking. I’d taken care of her as soon as I’d located her, tranquing her and then deep diving to put a block in her mind that kept her from even trying to influence me or Zane.

Still, what this meant is that I knew how to find at least one person who knew how to get to Crowley… the teleporter Musujime Awaki, and from her mind I was able to find others who’d been into the inner sanctum and read them as well. Still, it wasn’t enough. There had to be wards inside the building to keep what I was about to do from happening. So I did the most insane thing I’d ever done… I had Musujime teleport me and Big Piggy… that would be a 500 megaton pulse atomic metamagically amplified and shielded bomb… painted like Ryoga… into the inner sanctum, having preemptively erased her memory of having done so.

“Before you consider siccing your security on me… I’m just here to talk. This is a bomb. I know your building can take a blast from a normal nuke… in theory, from the outside… but this is inside. I’ll take it with me when I go. You are Aleister Crowley, the magician. I knew you in another time and place.. Though you look different. The questions is… are you different. My apologies for hijacking one of your students, but I needed a vessel… and she’d built such a nice bomb it would be a shame not to use it.”  I poured out a strange draconic aura, redolent with magic and lacking my normal Esper signature, doing my best to appear possessed.

“Who are you, demon?”

“I am Marduk of the Fifty Names. I am Alpha and Omega. I am the Inbetweener. Do you think I’d be so foolish as to Give The Crowley my true name? I am the God of a civilization both dead and thriving. I am she who erased the gods. You can call me… Wintermute… And I would ask you a question, oh prideful man.”

“Ask then!” commanded the upside down mage inside his cylinder.

“Why should I not erase you from existance?”

“As if you could.”

“Be not prideful. I tell you in all honesty that I have erased gods and angels and demons in my time. I level no causal threat here. You have allowed abomination and horror to thrive inside your Scientific Faction, all to gain the upper hand against the magical faction. Instead of trying to use your knowledge for the betterment of all humankind. I see no reason to allow you to be the caretaker of Humanity’s future. I’ve already removed two of the four directions for their crimes… and three of your Kihara’s for even worse acts… as well as many of those… monsters who participated in the deaths of so many children. So tell me, Magician? What shining world would you build up with such a disgusting, such a depraved foundation?”

“My enemies would do so much worse! They stand in the way of progress and preach litanies of oppression and fear of cosmic punishment!” His tone was light, as if he found the entire process amusing.

“Yeah… that old saw. If they yell Deus Vult enough, that justifies what you do?”

“They serve a tyrant and fool of a god and must be… as you said… erased.”

“They protected knowledge for centuries. For time past knowing, religion and science worked hand in glove. This growing schism between the spiritual and the material is good for neither. All Magic must work on fundamental principles, just as Espers do.”

“My plans-”

“Your plans are the machinations of a tyrant and fool.” I said, throwing his words back at him. “You have become a god in your own private world, divorced from the world you claim to rule, served by angels and ghosts.”

“And you would have struck by now if you thought you could take me out.”

“No. I could take you out with a thought. I do not strike because I do not know if that would give too much advantage to those other lunatics. I am not asking you to cease your fight against the church… I am asking you to open your doors and arms to other elements of the magical world… for the betterment of humanity. Or I can erase you and hope your replacement is more interested in coexistence. Oh… and stop fucking allowing psychopaths like the Kihara’s to act without controls or oversight. Do that, and I might be reasonable. Don’t do that… and I’ll be back. Tell Aiwass and Kazakiri I said hi.”

And with that, I tapped the floor and Big Piggy sank out of reality as the warehouse absorbed it. I switched my magic off and my Esperism back on, wobbling as The Palace of my Mind went into Lockdown Mode, leaving only this persona and my core nature as everything besides the “Foyer” became inaccessible. I blinked up at the upside down man, having no conscious memory of who he was or where I was.

“Why are you upside down, Mister?” I asked, rubbing my eyes and looking around the strange chamber.

“What is your name?” He asked.

“Ummmm… Sasaki Junko… Twin Cannon Sister.”

“Ah yes… Tokiwadai Junior High. Rank 3.”

“I’ll be Rank 4 by next year.”

“I’m sure you will.”

And with that, I found myself transported back to the street, where a nice man gave me a limited edition Figma and drove me home. Sure… I’m sure you’re thinking “Oh… goood. Get yourself on the psycho’s radar.” Well, two things. There wasn’t any way I was going 10 years without getting on it… and second… you forget that I had Dr. Kiyama’s Level-Upper program. I’d modified it it so that, rather than putting people into a coma to act as a linked computing network… it operated as a massive distributed gestalt personality. In essence, I’d infected any subconscious mind that could generate an AIM field with a tiny part of a vast… conscience. If people were going to be throwing out this kind of power and meddling in this level of science, I was going to make the Collective Unconscious of Humanity into its secret police… and it would choose random units, often impressionable ones, to call out the injustices… and woe betide anyone who harmed those messengers… because everyone would know…  everyone.

I couldn’t save the world this time… there was no easy solution. It was all politics and schemes… but I could strive for a Balance… at least from the shadows. And perhaps it worked. Or at least I forced the lunatics to work deeper in the shadows where they could do less harm. But Wintermute never slept, never stopped feeding it’s information to Tree Diagram… once I’d stolen the satellite (Index was going to destroy it anyway. It seemed like a waste of a perfectly good predictive system.)  and renamed it “Neuromancer”… After all, Wintermute was the conscience, feeding Neuromancer all the predictive information the system would ever need… all to the one goal of making sure humanity didn’t fucking knife itself in the back.

Collective ethics, baseline logic, don’t use children as pawns, don’t experiment on people, don’t try and murder everyone related to your enemies, help each other… Wintermute wasn’t programmed to enforce its own ethics, it drew them from the totality of humanity’s better natures, polling millions of minds on which actions crossed the line and which didn’t… and there wasn’t any lying to the system because no one knew it was there.

I did tell a little fib there… it did have one ethical subroutine… it really didn’t like Kihara’s who acted like Kihara’s. They suffered… mischief. Crowley hated god for the crimes of humanity, I gave him a humanity who hated him for the crimes of his creations. And I released all the Misaka’s I had managed to save back into the wild, much to the confusion of the Misaka Network.

I did hit Rank 4 by the next year… and Rank 5 by the end of the 6th year… Training wasn’t super important when you understood the secrets of being an Esper and could manipulate AIM fields… It was, in many ways, like turning a dial. I very carefully didn’t try pushing it further. I saw no need to see how dangerous I could be… but I could feel the ability to control protons at the edge of my awareness… and with it the ability to possibly generate and control positrons as well. I knew the name of that power… I’d named it to Crowley… and I wanted none of it… Creation and Destruction… Alpha and Omega. No one should have that… and what I had was already getting insane. Carefully, I walled off that part of my memory, labeling it “Do not open unless in Existential Extremis.”  I couldn’t risk damaging my Figmas.

Next: World 33 – Whoops, No They Don’t

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