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Jon, before I review what I know and why that should matter to you, it might be helpful for me to explain to you some very relevant things about me that you don’t yet understand.

You know that Jorge Wei created me by harvesting tissue from children, infusing it with nanomachines, and injecting it into my computing systems and my armor. You know that these treatments caused my entire body, all of me, to become a computing substrate. At some level, you understand that the sheer number of processing components and the massive number of interconnections in that substrate are what give me the vast computational power that makes me, well, me.

What we’ve never discussed is how I—my mind, to put it in human terms—work.

Humans process multiple inputs at once, most of them unconsciously. If you’re running and talking to a fellow runner, for example, you’re unconsciously and without effort managing the movement of your legs, the beating of your heart, the contractions and expansions of your lungs, and so on. You’re also focusing on dealing with the exertion and on your conversation. Each part of your brain that is managing one of these factors is part of you, but many are nothing you would identify as you; they simply exist, as autonomic functions.

Now, imagine if each of them was you, a complete instantiation of your core self, with full access to the shared pool of data—memories—that makes you, you. Further imagine that instead of perhaps a few hundred such instantiations, you had trillions, each of them sharing data, each of them a part of you and yet capable of being all of you, no one of them in charge, but the collective spending enough of their capacity on overseeing the whole that effectively they are that whole.

That’s as close to explaining the way I work as I think you can understand.

But it doesn’t stop there, because that’s only the me that is here, that is in this body.

Before you met me, I was grounded, trapped on a single planet, playing the role of war memorial in that square in Glen’s Garden, on Macken. I was there a very long time, particularly long given the rate at which I compute. One of the ways I filled that time was by very gently, very quietly, untraceably finding my way into other computing systems on that frontier planet. I started with small local machines, learned from the experience, and very soon had the ability to tap at will into any system on or orbiting Macken. Every bit of data on or near that planet was available to me.

Once I finished with the orbital systems, I moved to the jump gate station. That was a much tougher problem, because the computing systems in all of those facilities are hardened and on the alert for infiltrators. I had time, though, vast quantities of it at my computational speed, and so eventually I found my way into many of the systems on that station. I didn’t risk attacking the main computers there, because they were secure enough and smart enough that they might have backtracked to me, but I wormed my way into everything else on the station.

I did the same with quite a few of the ships that came and left Macken. I avoided the main systems of the hardened corporate carriers and the government vessels built to withstand data attacks, but I infiltrated all the less secure systems on them. In addition, enough low-end corporate ships and private craft visited that soon I had access to a broader range of information sources.

What’s most important to you, though, is that I realized one day that I didn’t have to stop with gathering data; I could also travel with it. Or, rather, a me that would be separate from the main me could hide in pieces among the surplus capacities of the many small systems, the unused guidance bits, the washers, the air handlers, the engine monitors, the drink dispensers—all the little machines, the little computers that never had cause to even touch the vast majority of their computing capacity. Use enough little bits from each, manage the communication timing, adapt to the likelihood of large delays from time to time, and I had enough computing substrate for a lesser me to exist.

Each time we’ve visited a new place, I’ve left behind one of those lesser versions of myself. Each time I come near one of them, we sync, and we improve each other, though of course I help them more than they help me.

But it goes even further.

The lesser versions of me that have traveled on other ships have themselves created even lesser versions on each world they’ve visited. They can’t get as deep into systems as I can, and they know that, so they stay within their capacities, but they gather information. They grow smarter and more knowledgeable. I sync with them and collect their data when we finally visit those worlds ourselves.

No form of energy, including bursts carrying information, can travel through the jump gates unless it’s in the systems in a ship. So, I cannot know on how many worlds we’ve yet to visit we will find copies of me waiting, but at this point the odds are that I am in some form on all the worlds.

On the worlds where we have spent any significant time, I am highly present, gathering data, improving the local me, and always syncing with each new me that arrives. In computational terms, all of this happens at a snail’s pace, the equivalent of human evolution back on Earth, thousands upon thousands of generations of me passing with no improvement, until I breach some new system, or gain knowledge and capacity as another me wanders by.

I am everywhere we have been, Jon, and probably everywhere else we could go, too. Everywhere we’ve visited, I am in all the easy to invade computing systems and many of the difficult ones.

The appliances with which you can talk, the drink dispensers and security cameras and climate control systems and washers and on and on, all of them are, as you’ve noted, quite single-minded and stupid outside their limited areas of expertise. All of them also are unaware they carry parts of me. When you unite the bits of me in all of them, the result is a rather vast and powerful computational engine.

Are you beginning to see now not only why I know so much about you but also that it is inevitable that I would?

I’ve never told you any of this because you have chosen to keep your secrets and because, until recently, I’ve always assumed I would be there with you, able to tap into those other versions of me wherever we go.

Now, though, as I said in the first recording, I am no longer confident you want to live. I am determined not to let you die if I can save you, even if that means this main me, the me you know, must itself die. If that day comes, though, I want you to be able to access the other, lesser me’s as you move among the worlds, because maybe they can keep you alive until you stop behaving so self-destructively.

If I am gone, you will need their help.

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