Dec. 13th, 2011 11:15 pm
[personal profile] hwrnmnbsol
"I'll tell you frankly, Cornoda," said Trinito, "I'm concerned."

"Why?" asked Cornoda. All six of its limbs had been replaced, including the broken one. The new dermis was paler in color, and it was dotted with fine blonde hairs. "I think the experiment is going very nicely. I haven't lost mobility, and this optical sensor is marvelous! I love how inefficient it is!" It focused the huge blue eye on the replicated head of a moose on the museum's far wall, and took great interest in the way the fine detail fuzzed out.

"Well, of course I'm gratified that you appreciate the way things are working," said Trinito. "I'm just a little worried at the rate of progress. I think we're swapping parts out too fast to really get a sense of how each change will affect the way you experience being biological."

"That doesn't make any sense," Cornoda replied. "We're interested in what it's like to be alive. I say, the faster we get to being life-like, the better for the experiment."

"I suppose," said Trinito dubiously. "I just think a little caution…"

"Nonsense," Cornoda interrupted. "Now, let's get on with planning out the next replacement."

Trinito nodded. "I was thinking auditory receptors," it said.

"Too easy," scoffed Cornoda. "I was thinking of something a little more novel. What about some genitive organs?"

Trinito stared. "You realize, of course, that's actually the most difficult part of the whole thing? Trying to come up with a way for you to replicate, 100% biologically, is perhaps harder than you imagine."

"They don't have to actually replicate me," said Cornoda. "Mostly I want the urges to be there, the drive to reproduce. Also," it added, "I think gender is interesting." Cornoda looked speculatively at the diorama of a caveman, club raised.

"I think I'd like to be known as 'he'," Cornoda mused.

Trinito waited outside the storage closet. "I'm still here," it said.

"Are you?" said Cornoda's muffled voice. "Why don't you go find something else to do for a while? You could work on those ears, for instance. Ears would be nice."

Trinito ground its gears in frustration. "Ever since I attached that penis," it accused, "you've been spending suspiciously large amounts of time in erratic, inefficient behavior. I believe it was a mistake to tap the pleasure response so deeply into your heuristics."

"Oh, you're probably right," grumbled Cornoda, emerging from the closet. "I'll reprioritize my activity list, I promise. It's just that all these sensations are so new and wonderful!"

"Yes, quite," said Trinito unenthusiastically. "Well, speaking of new things, let's discuss changing your metabolic process, shall we?"

"Oh!" said Cornoda. "You mean, power me off of biological functions?"

"Or something very similar." Trinito held up a module that would displace a quarter of Cornoda's volume. "This is a direct swap-out for your battery pack. You'd still have electric output, but it would be generated by a low-temperature feedstock burner running microturbines."

"I see," said Cornoda, impressed. "What's the feedstock?"

"Today, a protein slurry," said Trinito. "Nothing supremely interesting, but we haven't developed a palate for you yet, so there's no reason to care about that. In the future, if I can get the efficiencies up, you can probably digest a number of organic chemicals."

"Without combusting them, you mean?" asked Cornoda.

"Yes, I decided long ago that would be cheating," Trinito admitted.

"All right, let's do it," Cornoda said. "However, I will need to masturbate one more time."

"Of course," said Trinito accommodatingly.


"Trinito, you simply have to do something," said Cornoda. He was lying upside-down on a foam mattress that Trinito had whipped up; hard surfaces wore on his dermal pressure sensors after a while.

"I could remove the metabolic module," Trinito suggested. Cornoda's midsection was distended, and his bottom carapace bulged up where Trinito probed it.

"Ow! Stop poking me!" Cornoda commanded. "Every pain sensor in me is firing right now! The rate of gas evolution in your metabolic process is destroying me from within; it's bad enough that you have to jab me as well!"

"All right, don't get excited," said Trinito. "Although I must say, I'm gratified to see how well my adrenaline response routine is working. Your activity level certainly is rising along with external stress."

"Solve the problem before the pain becomes unbearable!" screamed Cornoda.

"Well, it must be some kind of unanticipated tertiary reaction," Trinito mused. "You can't be sick; there aren't any virii or bacteria left to influence your body chemistry externally. I guess the moral of the story is that living creatures are tremendously complex. Here, I'm going to pump you full of digestion-inhibitor. That will shut down your metabolism for a while." Trinito squirted several bulbs of dark liquid into Cornoda's feeding tube. Instantly Cornoda relaxed.

"Ah. That does feel much better," said Cornoda softly. "Thank you, Trinito."

"You're going to have barely any energy until I get this sorted out," Trinito warned. "Lie there and let me synthesize something else."

"You know," said Cornoda, "I've been thinking about this process of becoming a living being. I've been waiting to feel something different from the experience of being part of the Community, but I haven't felt it yet."

"Mm-hm," said Trinito, concentrating on reaction rate equations.

"I mean, you've replaced over 50% of my mass," Cornoda said. "I'm more organic than machine at this point. I'm… I'm disappointed."

"I think you're spacing out because you're low on juice," Trinito commented.

Cornoda reached out and took Trinito's foreward manipulator in the grasp of one of his claws. "You're a good friend, Trinito," he said. "Thanks for coming on this journey with me."

"There, you see that?" said Trinito. "There's something different. Apparently becoming organic means that you turn sappy when you lose power."

A thought occurred to Cornoda. He shifted on his pallet. "Get me off the juice, Trinito."

"What, you mean electricity?" asked Trinito. "That's not possible. Even the biologicals ran on microelectric impulses."

"Fine, then we'll go with that," said Cornoda groggily. "But I want the rest of me to run on cellular metabolic processes. Maybe that's what I'm missing."

"Distributed microelectric generation," Trinito mused. "At the cellular level. Basically spoofing mitochondria. Technically possible. But can it be merged with the current design, I wonder. We'll need vascular transport, and in high volumes, that's for certain. How do you feel about pumping blood and not coolant, Cornoda?"

But Cornoda wouldn't answer. Low on power, he had put his central processor in sleep mode.


"So, obviously, you'll have to eat regularly from now on," said Trinito. "Your protein reservoir can hold some feedstock, but it doesn't have nearly the lifetime of a good battery." It had set up a treadmill right in the middle of the museum, and Cornoda was trotting on it. Diagnostic wires and tubes snaked from racks of machinery to needles stuck in Cornoda's skin.

"I'm starting to feel some discomfort," Cornoda said.

"That's because you're getting tired," said Trinito. "Your cellular generators can only run at high rates of discharge for so long; eventually they'll run out of oxygen, or saccharides, before the vascular transport system can replenish them. You'll have to rest or risk increasing discomfort, followed eventually by breakdown of various systems."

"I wonder if that's what being alive is all about," muttered Cornoda. "Experiencing pain. It seems like practically every change you've made in me has led to adding in some new way that my biological body can tell me it's unhappy."

"I'm sure that's a part of it," said Trinito. "Wait until some of the parts I've put in start to wear out. I've got routines in place to simulate the aches and pains of aging. As joints and bearings lose biologic lubricant, for instance, a sensor will begin to send pain signals as hard surfaces start to rub together…"

"I can't wait for that," moaned Cornoda. "But, seriously, Trinito, I'm impatient. This experiment has failed to produce any significant, measurable, concrete differences between the experience of being mechanical and being biological. I don't feel we know any better than we did before what being alive is like. I'm very depressed about it, frankly."

"I can tell; your penis is entirely flaccid," Trinito remarked. "But, listen, that's at least partially a hormonal response. You've had a lot of new experiences and gained perspective."

"Not enough," said Cornoda, his air intake wheezing to keep up with his body's needs. "I think we need to go all the way, Trinito. Let's make the big leap."

Trinito sighed. "I'm not even sure it's possible," it said.

"Of course it's possible," said Cornoda. "Human beings had biological brains. All you have to do is figure out how to build me one, too."

"Oh, is that all?" replied Trinito archly.



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