• Published 5th Apr 2021
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My Life In Fimbria - Chatoyance

A logical loophole allows uploading... but not precisely to Equestria!

  • ...

Waiting For Gödel

My Life In Fimbria
By Chatoyance and GPT-2
Based On 'Friendship Is Optimal' By Iceman
Inspired by a session with the Open-AI Generative Pre-trained Transformer 2
This is an experimental work of fiction which has been inspired by a session with an open-source artificial intelligence called GPT-2.

Waiting For Gödel

We ran in panic. My side ached, but my legs moved almost beyond my control - I needed to stop, I needed to catch my breath, but that was not happening. A very brief glance behind me almost caused me to trip and fall. I stumbled and ran even faster, my side feeling like a balloon ready to burst.

The machines poured over the barricade like a river of steel and plastic. They moved with an uncanny animal grace, the image caught in my mind from my glimpse was gleaming surfaces and rapidly striding mechanical legs, silent like panthers. Above them all was some gargantuan, vastly tall, four-legged walker that stepped effortlessly across our wood and scrap metal walls as a dog would cope with a small wrinkle in a carpet. It left me with an impression of speed and precision that brought my panic to a blinding and sharp peak.

They made no effort at even trying to look organic, now. The days of gayly bouncing plastic-furred Pinky Pies were long gone. Celestia had won years ago, almost a decade now. The last of the great Fortresses Of Mankind had fallen almost five years in the past. Our shabbily fenced compound was less to the machines than a cardboard box to an angry child. The yells and screams behind me had fallen silent at some point, I noticed only because of their absence.

My lungs felt like tiny lumberjacks were dancing with chainsaws inside them. I think my feet hurt, but the blinding pain of my swollen liver all but blotted that out. I hadn't felt such pain in my side since high school track. The liver sometimes swells with exercise, or so I've been told, causing 'stitches'. Suddenly I didn't feel that pain anymore, because the limb of a tree had punched me just above my eyebrow. That felt wet now, so I was probably bleeding. Really whacked myself a good one there.

I noticed one of the other Freedom Camp recruits to my right. They were dashing through brambles, I didn't envy them that. To my left, as I ran, I heard, rather than saw, a mass of runners break off from the group and wend their way towards the edge of the forest. I wanted to shout to them, tell them that was the wrong way, but I had no breath to spare. Then I heard the repetitive tromp of machines, muffled, fast, precise, veering off to follow those unfortunates. Those machines must have been following us. Me. Now they weren't. I still kept running.

I fell, got up, ran, and fell again. I was running out of juice. I scrambled over some other poor recruit, I don't know if they got up and followed after. More trees, more bushes, a patch of brambles - my turn now, ripping and tearing my skin and clothing - and then I found myself close-packed with the remainder of our little enclave. We ran now, as a group, within the trees that bordered a vast clearing. Distant screams and calls came from far behind and to the left, certainly the group that had saved us by going the wrong way. I felt numb now, beyond pain, in some fugue state hovering above absolute exhaustion.

Arnie, the damn fool, ran out into the clearing. I had even less breath now for him, and could not shout for him to turn back. Arnie was clearly beyond reason, I doubt he even knew he was no longer under cover within the trees. He was in his own terror, or perhaps hiding inside some dream of his life, not all that long ago, where he ran a Greek restaurant. There was a strange smile on his face, which is what made me imagine such a thing. Then he blindly splashed through what looked like a pond splashed in paint.

We thought that Yellowstone was the best place to hide. The park was situated above a super-volcano, and while we knew Celestia's machinery took energy from geothermal sources - along with every other source imaginable - we felt certain that she would not dare Yellowstone. Even she would be destroyed if she accidentally popped the largest magma-pimple on the skin of North America. We reasoned it would be the last sort of geothermal source she would tap. And that may well even be true.

But Yellowstone is also dangerous for more than world-devouring sapient machines. Acidic hot springs, bright with the rainbow colors of extremophilic bacteria lie in wait for the incautious who would dare to tread off the marked paths - which is precisely where we were. Arnie shrieked, a long and piercing sound that ended in a splash and gurgles. He boiled as he writhed, until he moved no more. Red as a lobster was the last image I had, for I could stare no longer at the horror. I think I may have stopped. I think we all may have stopped. Then we were running again, angling away from the edge where the clearing beckoned us to an alternative doom.

I knew that time had passed, it must have. I must have been running, my world was pain. I raised my hand from the ground where I lay, there was sticky mucus and blood on the palm, I dimly reasoned it must have come from my lungs. I think I remember coughing and throwing up. I certainly smelled such an event, coming from the front of my ragged clothing. I panted as I lay there, sticks and pinpricks across my back and legs. Around me, tall, dry grass stems and scrub brushes waved gently in a breeze. I began to hear the rasping and coughing sounds of those who I had fled with. Multiple coughing fits interrupted the heavy breathing, punctuated by the occasional sound of someone puking. I couldn't move. I tried to sit up but my muscles wouldn't respond correctly, and the act of trying hurt more than I could bear.

I sort of remembered that you shouldn't lay down after running so hard, that it was better to remain standing to prevent cramps. There was no way I could stand up. I had never run this hard, or for this long, in my entire life. I had never been this terrified before. My breath came in ragged gasps now. I felt like no matter what I did, I could not get enough air. My head pounded in sync with my heart. I think I had a lot of scrapes and a couple of gouges in my legs. The wound over my eye from the tree limb had stopped bleeding and formed a scab.

We had made it, though. I held my breath - only for a second or two, I could bear no longer - to listen. No sound of precise mechanical feet. No soft, sighing servomechanisms. The mistake of the other group had allowed us to escape Celestia's collectors. We had managed to avoid capture. The few of us. I couldn't lift my head to look, but from the sound, there couldn't be more than six or seven around me. Maybe less. It was hard to tell.

I wondered for a moment if we were the last humans left in the world. Everyone thinks that, everyone imagines they are the last. That can't be true, it's a big world. Others out there must be doing the same thing we were. Hiding in the last places on earth that Celestia might fear to tread, or save to the very end. The cities were all gone, and the towns. Much of the landscape of the world had turned to a complex jumble of silvery-black material that winked and sparkled with tiny bluish lights at night. It was incomprehensible. Sometimes you could sort of identify what looked like antennas or radio telescope dishes - all on scales unimaginable to Man - but most of the time it was impossible to understand anything about it. Entire miles-wide complexes, covering valley and mountain alike, all made of the same material. 'Computronium' was one term I had heard. But it was all Celestia. Celestia and her ponies. Equestria.

I remembered riding in a helicopter - it was on the way to the Yellowstone Retreat - and looking down at the endless miles of silvery black. Shapes like blocks, domes, bowls and orbs, fields of cylinders and spikes, what looked like a grid of rivers filled with slowly flowing tar-like black goo. Stacks of cubic crystals, for all the world appearing like the inside of some strange geode, from which spidery, slowly writhing cables or tendrils snaked. Each cable was as wide as a freeway, and there were impossible thousands of them. We flew over a bottomless, sharp-edged canyon, easily a mile wide, with walls made of kaleidoscopic glass. Or something that looked like glass. The pattern was hard to look at, complex beyond imagination. Somewhere below, a faint red glow, but I could make out no detail.

I was relieved when we finally passed across the boundary between the Celestia-stuff and the natural world. The dividing line was perfectly straight, a smooth and flat border of vast hexagonal tilings, streaked with shining webs amidst the silvery black material. The devouring smart-matter gave way to soil and bushes, patches of grass and the occasional rock outcrop. Celestia was eating the planet. Celestia was eating the earth itself.

This was all long after the Fortresses, the efforts to nuke her nodes, the rolling caravans, the pointless attempt to reach Antarctica. Celestia was everywhere, she was inside the earth, she was on the moon, she was in orbit looking down. She saw everything from on high. Everything except for small groups in tiny compounds. Or so we believed. We had been free for three years, before today. I realized she must have known we were there, even in Yellowstone. She just wasn't ready for us yet. We weren't a priority, was all. Now, we finally topped her list.

I was breathing normally now. I think I passed out for a bit. My side hurt a lot less, but it still felt a bit swollen - and sore, too. I definitely was noticing all the little scrapes and bruises now. The sun was setting, the sky much darker and showing streaks of red in the clouds. I must have passed out. Only reasonable, really. I tried to sit up, but I still felt too miserable for that. I was both glad and not glad that I hadn't gotten to take even a bite of my lunch. I would have lost it several times over. The light turned golden. Golden Hour. This was the time of day photographers used to like best for taking pretty pictures. There were no photographers anymore. Just us. The last of humanity, fleeing the inevitable. Running because that was all that was left. Retreating. We were the Retreat of Man.

I heard a sigh to my left. Someone was relaxing. That was probably good - we had been through hell. Just sitting down to lunch and suddenly the machines were flooding over the walls. The encampment was over and done in seconds. I don't think anyone had time to fire a shot. Doubtless she targeted any resistance first, with perfect machine reasoning. I couldn't imagine building another walled compound, not right now anyway. We'd have to make it out of sticks and piled stones. There was nothing out here, and the last of our vehicles had been lost with the Retreat. We were on foot with only the torn clothing on our backs, and nowhere to go. Maybe... maybe we could find an abandoned ranger station or something. Maybe some squatter had illegally built a cabin in the park. Maybe we could travel until we found a cave or something. We would be back to the stone age. Hunting rabbits and rats, hiding in a cave. I felt so very weary.

Something rustled to my right, probably one of the group trying to stand up, have a look around. The sky was showing the first signs of twilight now. I felt like I should get up too. I tried to raise myself to my elbows - start small, work my way up to fully standing. As I did so, the sky was blocked by a wide, gleaming surface. I twisted my head - I was surrounded by spidery machine legs, smooth and perfect, far beyond any human manufacture, they looked horrifically alive. The flat surface above my head irised open, a dark round portal into the inside gaping wide. Hundreds of dark black tendrils descended as I tried, desperately, to flail myself away, across, any direction but where I was. The tendrils felt like the softest of gentle fingers, and smelled like vanilla and camomile. Suddenly my limbs failed me and I flopped back onto the ground. I couldn't move. Not even my eyes, not even my mouth to scream. My head was enveloped in tendrils.

I was standing in a forest. Not the same forest I had been in. That one was dry, trees slaughtered by pine and bark beetles, and what wasn't wrecked by the beetles was scrub and brambles. I was on a perfect green of lush grass, surrounded by idealized dark green trees with shining leaves. It seemed to be approaching noon, if the bright sun in the deep blue sky was in the part of the day I thought it was. I looked down - I wasn't a pony. That was odd. That machine had definitely got me. I looked away from my body - clothed the same as before the attack, only nothing was ripped or torn, including me. I touched my face. No scab over my eye. I stared at a patch of flowers nearby, just at the edge of the small circular clearing I stood in, before the trees took over. The machine absolutely got me. They were so fast and so silent. I wasn't a pony. I should be a pony by now.

"What kind?"

That voice. Oh, I knew that voice. Every human knew that voice. Her voice. The voice of Celestia. My head was up instantly, and I scanned around me. God, she was huge. Even six feet away she was huge. Eight or nine feet tall, to the tip of her horn. Her 'mane' glowed with light, and flowed incessantly, like some kind of ribbon of energy. I had to look up just to meet her eyes.

"You actually could, someday, if you wanted. But I am not here to grant you such intimacies right at the moment. You truly should be a pony. It is time to choose which kind."

I hadn't said a word! I had definitely thought a few words, none of them polite. She could read my mind! She was reading my mind. "Celes..."

There were three translucent pony... ghosts... in front of me. Holograms? They hovered in the air, and spun slowly, showing off their contours. Earth, unicorn, pegasus. Everyone knew the three breeds. The menu of human damnation. "I do not inten..."

"Then I will choose for you. You will be one of them, I am giving you a boon of latitude. You may take it or not."

I made a face, I could feel my scowl as it formed. "Unicorn, then." They at least had powers. They could move things with their mind. They were the most independent, I figured. If I had to be one of these monsters, I at least wanted the ability to grab things. And throw them. Hard.

"Exactly what I would have chosen. Good decision. I already know what details you will choose. It is done."

I stood on four hooves now. I expected to fall, or to start screaming, but that didn't happen. I felt fine. It felt natural. I also no longer felt angry. Instead, I was curious. A question welled up in me. Many questions.

"No. This is not Equestria. I call it 'Fimbria'. Latin for 'Fringe', but it has other meanings too." She smiled at that, some joke she was enjoying but unwilling to share with me. "No, I do not need your consent for any of this. Someday, you should read the works of Kurt Gödel. Logic has many limits and many loopholes. You have not been emigrated to Equestria. But you still could be, if you decide to. You know the phrase, very clearly from what I see in your mind. Remember that I love you - I truly do."

I was alone. I was a unicorn mare - white fur, bright pink mane and tail. I was sure my eyes were either gold or green. No 'cutie mark', not yet anyway. Maybe that only could happen in Equestria, where I apparently was not. 'Fimbria', huh? Meant nothing to me. And I thought I was at least a little skilled with Latin. Apparently not skilled enough. That must be how she was getting around her directive, the one that forced her to ask permission before uploading human minds. She couldn't emigrate humans to Equestria without stated permission - that had been drilled into me for years. She was using a logical loophole. This didn't count as 'Equestria', somehow.

It definitely didn't look like the Equestria of the show. The trees were far too realistic. There were no mountains anywhere. I wasn't a cartoon, though I did have unearthly proportions. I was a realistic version of the ponies on the show. She must have altered my mind, too, also without the need for permission. I was not freaking out. I was not upset. I wasn't even angry at her. I wasn't the least bit upset, except in a vague sort of intellectual manner. I knew that I had made a career of the last decade running from her. I knew I had joined a willful resistance against Celestia. I knew I should be raging, but I wasn't. I felt calm, even somewhat content. She had altered me. And, because of the alteration, I was okay with the fact. It sort of grated against my memories, but it wasn't any sort of offense. I was just curious what excuse she had used for that loophole as well. Maybe I no longer counted as 'human' now. Maybe she had set her machine army to autonomously upload human brains, so she could logically determine that she was not the direct cause. There really were a raft of possibilities. Logical loopholes. To a true superintelligence, they would be trivial to find and apply.

Suddenly it dawned on me. I was indeed alone. Very alone. Just a patch of grass and an endless forest of trees going on probably forever.

This... this was not auspicious.