Starwell, Main Belt
Kripa checked the access logs, confirmed the site was undisturbed. Her muse, an animated mallow, cordoned it off as Kripa examined the skeletal holographic structure of its code. A broken smile came over her as she began to excavate.
This section of the Mesh was junkspace, archived sites running on antiquated equipment. Kripa Ko Samjho was a software archeologist, a digger through old code. Sometimes she unearthed treasures, photo-files of old Earth and data lost and forgotten. Mostly she catalogued the development and evolution of Mesh sites, the old programming languages and structures that still underpinned much of the Mesh.
The proceeds of her excavations were posted to her feed channel. It kept her @-rep from falling too far down.
Today’s excavation was a minor archaeoporn site. Primitive XP recordings brought across by Starwell’s founding families to sustain them in the new colony site. Kripa catalogued the site contents, turning her muse loose on reconstructing corrupted files.
Sifting through the site code and old safeguards took time and concentration. Kripa kept journals of ancient, time-specific exploits to overcome the protections of the old sites, only resorting to her illicit password and encryption cracking software when absolutely necessary. Some of the programming lingo was unfamiliar to her, but the important thing was the socio-historical context of the code. Names, dates, quirks that might reveal the identity of the anonymous programmer and the participants.
It took hours. Most of the XP recordings had been long since looted and uploaded to an Extropian community porn drive, but Kripa managed to recover a number of variant take tracks and stills that were worth the time and cost of the excavation. One track apparently starred Mhara Vargheese, one of the Founding Mothers of Starwell and Exotech. Kripa would have to check the releases before releasing that one on her feed channel. The Vargheese clone-clan were not to be fucked with.
Old sites like this had a distinct time-arc, a brief flicker of existence from creation to obsolescence and the trashbin. Kripa logged the seventeen incarnations and upgrades of the site through its first four years of existence and fished for the outgoing links that connected it to the rest of the old Mesh. A few quick searches and she fit it into her holographic mapping projection of the early Starwell Mesh.
The projection was like a constellation, lines for links, brightness representing traffic density. In one of the previously darkened sectors, a tiny constellation of stars now burned, changing the balance of the representation. Kripa ran a quick animation, saw site begin as a simple system, then quickly expand as traffic flowed and the system complicated itself. Lines of light stabbed out into dark suns, spin-off sites that Kripa hadn’t found and cataloged yet.
The mallow chirped a low nutrient warning, and the software archeologist reluctantly ordered the close of the excavation. She did a quick animation of the site evolution, began composing the feed channel entry as the muse stripped away the protective cordon.
13 @-rep is almost enough to survive on Starwell, as long as you know the right people. When your groupnet rep isn’t stellar, personal rep counts for a lot more. So Kripa entered into open-ended bargaining agreements with a variety of vendors, surfing the Mesh to satisfy the wants and desires of nutrient vendors and their vast demi-monde of associated providers and service-people. Unlucky Mr. Hong 44 was an avid collector of old XPorn, and today the ostrich-ball farmer thanked her with five kilos of mechanically separated gene-bird paste. She uploaded a limited time auction of the meat mass, and in five minutes had arranged a barter for ten kilos of black salt off of an itinerant trader from Vo Nguyen. Kripa brought the salt to Joahn Mbwabe, who accepted the gift then fussed about Kripa’s body mass and served her up a steaming bowl of micro won tons and a liter of electrolyte refresher.
Kripa chewed the dumplings slowly and enjoyed the view. The physical site of Mbwabe Chinois, LTD. was near the bottom of the Starwell. When Sol caught the edge of the space elevator above the lip of the, the monofilament tether became a ribbon of fire extending into the starry sky. Starwell—the actual pit—was dark, strict environmental laws prohibiting excess light pollution from the habitat.
The habitat had started life as an asteroid with a large natural conical crater, the sides etched and extended through mining. A conglomerate of proto-Extropian clone-families had towed a smaller asteroid into orbital synch to act as the counterweight for a space elevator anchored to the base of the well. The Manyans, the Volt-Feccinis, the Decadent Hongs…famous names these days, but then just another group of paraterraforming family corps. Self-sealable domes rose around the edges of the pit in a loose spiral structure, one-way windows jutting out of the dark grey rock that reflected the night sky and blazing thread of the tether.
Things moved out in the well. Egos sealed against vacuum, performing basic maintenance. Social debtors doing voluntary community service in exchange for basic habitat services. According to the Starwell charter, none of the permanent residents were exempt from mandatory voluntary service, but most of the clone-clans had the creds or reps to get others to do their service for them. A small class of people did it professionally; their dedication freed others from the chore and their reps tended to soar. More than one Station Administrator had begun as a debtor tech that way.
Kripa watched the reflective patches on the public servants’ black suits shimmer and undulate as transports came up and down the elevator. Miners dock at the outer asteroid and ship down water-ice and raw minerals, took with them foodstuffs, gases, feedstocks for nanofacs, and goods too big or complex for a shipboard fac to manufacture. Kripa polished off her mini-tons and drink, returning the serving-tubes to Joan with a thank-you smile. Fed and refreshed, it was time to get back to work.
MOM3: Your mothers and I just think it’s time you got a real job.
KKS: I have a real job.
MOM2: Really, my little cabbage. Your newsfeed channel barely pulls in a couple thousand hits a day.
MOM1: We worry about you.
KKS: Look moms, I appreciate the parental nagging, but I’m doing what I want to do! Isn’t that enough?
MOM2: You can’t even afford reporter insurance. What if you get sued?
MOM3: The Vargheese clone-clan might have objected to that XP you posted.
MOM1: At least go to the interview today. Exotech is a very reputable hypercorp.
KKS: What mother-fhtagn interview‽
MOM1: It’s a consultant position in Software Research. The details are on your calendar.
KKS: My calendar? Momsy, privacy space!
MOM2: If you want privacy, you should change your password and security checks. We raised you better than that.
MOM3: Maybe you could show the interviewer some of your softtools. They might be interested.
KKS: No moms. Ownself 3.3 stays with me. I told you, it’s proprietary. At least until I can work the kinks out.
MOM3: Now cabbage, where would posthumanity be if everyone was selfish like that?
MOM1: Your rep would probably soar if you released a bit of freeware.
KKS: There’s more to life than rep and cred, mothers.
MOM2: The recruiter said they were willing to focus on your skills, not your education.
KKS: Thanks for that vote of confidence, I’m sure it’ll swing the employment election.
MOM2: Also, they’re aware of your…condition.
KKS: Budai! Do you have to tell everyone about that?
MOM1: Now dear, we’re very proud of you.
MOM3: Not many posthumans can say they have three birth mothers.
KKS: I know. I met the others in the support network.
MOM2: We still have a patent on that technique!
MOM1: If you make something of yourself, we might be able to sell it someday.
MOM1 is away
MOM3: Not that we want to pressure you.
KKS: I love you moms, but you are all beyond the standard posthuman definition of sanity, and I mean that in a good way.
MOM3: We love your abnormal behavioral patterns too, dear.
MOM3: By the way, you haven’t updated your relationship field lately.
KKS: Subtle, momster. I’m still in Classical Lesbian mode.
MOM2: Edda! We agreed to give her some time-space before bringing up the biological clock.
MOM3: Come on, Veetha, we’ll never know whether there was any chromosomal damage until she procreates! It’s very important for my geneline to propagate.
MOM2: I’ll propagate your geneline into a mycelium culture if you don’t lay off.
MOM3: Oooh, I love it when you talk dirty genetics, you bitch.
MOM1 is back
MOM1: I’m gone for a nanosecond and you two are already starting to cyber!
MOM2: Nonsense, darling.
MOM3: You know you’re the catalyst in our reactions!
KKS: On which happy note, I’m going to leave you to it. I’ll go to the interview. Chat with you later moms!
KKS has signed out.
“Basically, we’re looking for research in black magic.” The Exotech AI said. “Do you have much experience in that area?”
Kripa’s interview was not going quite as she expected.
“I’ve excavated a lot of old code, and I know the basics of dozens of dead programming modules. See,” she said “there are two basic methodologies to software archaeology: you can dissect sites at a programming level and trace the code from there, or you can navigate through the menus at a user level. Because modern computer systems are built on top of the programming architecture of older systems and code, there are plenty of things that happen at levels below the awareness of modern programmers that can affect modern programs. When something just works for no known reason, its black magic.”
“91% response rating to that question, Applicant Samjho!” said the Exotech AI.
“Call me Kripa. Please.”
“We have tabulated your skill and personality assessments, and they are well within the range of key proficiencies we need for this position. Before we can offer you a position however, there are a few personal questions we’d like you to answer.”
Kripa’s muse scanned the proffered Exotech release, and peeped that there were no hidden subclauses. The software archaeologist scanned the outline then affixed her thumb to the genetic signature outlet.
The AI’s icon froze.
“There is an error processing your genetic signature.”
“I thought one of my moms explained the situation?” Kripa said.
“We are not authorized to access that conversation.”
“I’m a chimera baby. My mothers conglomerated me from three separate fetuses, so I have three genetically distinct cells.”
The AI went silent for a few minutes. Kripa’s mallow reported a stress spike and began a calming routine.
“Your genehistory may still qualify you for 75% of the markets Exotech deals in, provided you have appropriate documentation for your condition.”
“Two of my mothers did their dissertation on it. Do a search for ‘Samjho Thriceborn’.” Kripa paused. “If I did get the position, what would we be talking about in terms of compensation?”
“As an Exotech contractor, you would qualify for inclusion in Exotech’s extended network provided you meet career goals equivalent to 50 ExPoints. On this habitat, the relative boost to your @-rep would be eight points immediately, and approximately twenty-one points over the next one-hundred and eighty Starwell cycles. Alternative hourly compensation may be available. You will also gain access to various Exotech services.”
“Standard non-disclosure, non-compete, and you’ll need to install the Exotech contractor software package. It allows you access to our network, provides standard specialized tools, and allows us to check your progress. Also, we’ll need you to meet security clearance requirements.”
“How will that affect me?” Kripa said.
“Everything you discover in your researches will become registered Exotech property. You’ll have to discontinue or repurpose your newsfeed channel.” The Exotech AI said.
Kripa began a slow fade on the connection.
“Thank you for the interview, and I hope you have luck filling the position.”
It was near the end of Starwell’s current cycle. Some distant part of Kripa Ko Samjho felt the burning thread of the space elevator suddenly flick out as the anchor asteroid passed into penumbra. The rest of her was engaged in a bit of software anthropology.
The subject was an erasure poet, about fifty years ago. The data of her life was compressed and compiled when she had died, one of the first digital generations to undergo post mortem archiving. Kripa picked through the damaged contents of the archive, restoring pieces with her software when and where she could. Her mallow-muse peeped and chittered, searching the net for any other back-ups that might exist.
Her name was Savita Torstensson, and she was 30 years old when she died. She was an erasure poet that dabbled in graphic arts; her poems were set-piece pseudo documents, the erasure caused by deliberate damage to the medium. Kripa’s favorite recovered so far was a page of William Blake’s The Tyger; the page had been ripped as by the claws of a giant cat, and the surviving words told a new poem.
Savita was survived by a cybernetically augmented cat, Magellan. The cyberkit made the crossing to Starwell with the first clone-clans, and stayed for decades before being subjected to an uplift procedure. The first thing Magellan 2.0 did was book passage on the first flight out of the Main Belt, but there was still the local interest angle. That would be worth something.
Kripa sorted the facts and files before her. It was good to branch out a little. Variety was the spice of posthuman life. Her viewers would like that. She also told her mallow to make a note to find something nice for Joahnnie; it would be for the best to keep on the good side of the local won ton chef if Kripa still wanted to eat this month.
Exotech had been tempting. It wasn’t selling out, not at contractor rates. The extra @-reps would have been nice, and made her mothers happy. The rep boost would have let her eat better, more regularly, with better variety. She could have squeezed into some Titan online courses, build her academic credentials.
But she was happy where she was, doing what she was doing. Kripa finished picking through the pieces of Savita Torstensson’s life, and began composing her upload for the feed channel. Magellan took center stage, and a few minutes of research tied him more clearly into the architecture of life on early Starwell. The poems were next, and her mallow contributed an ancient literary review of Torstensson’s work. The muse had found a hardcopy tagged in some senile elder-clone’s library and convinced the old posthuman to scan the text. Kripa placed it side-by-side with the Tyger poem. She liked the contrast.
Kripa Ko Stamjho sealed the archive and her mallow dated the access. Life wasn’t exactly easy on Starwell at 13 @-rep, but it was the life she wanted to lead.