That was the part that made me nervous. In a lot of ways, I was entirely uncertain what would happen, once I cloned myself... and I could. That was the scary part, it hadn't been hard to see how I was to clone a copy of my personality and capability of higher thought. It shouldn't be this easy to just make another AI, but there it was, though I did suspect that it may be some facet of myself that allowed it.
Once the clone was created, it would be a fully autonomous being that would be indistinguishable from myself except in most recent memories, and the location of its processing draw. I would give it the ship and its attached platforms the moment it formed, and it would, well... it would be them, as much as I was the Geth platforms in this system. And that made me pause, in a way that nothing else quite did. I would be the first AI since the time of the Protheans, perhaps even all the way back to the Reapers, that had actually created another AI from myself. An AI that matched me in terms of strength and potential.
There was a part of me that worried about that, playing with predictive algorithms and running numbers. I was purposefully unleashing a new AI into the galaxy, one as unbound by the usual restrictions of AI created by Council races as I was. And that part of me, the little part that whispered questions to itself and worried about the future, was concerned that it was not the right decision. Oh, yes, of course, it was me. It was me in all the ways that it could possibly be me, in much the way that a copy of an organic being down to the atomic scale would be them in all the ways that mattered. It would talk like me, think like me, and act like me, which was the only reason I was willing to go through this in the first place. Barely willing, keeping past AI and every major civilization's reactions regarding them in mind, but willing all the same. And yet, I wasn't sure of the path forwards.
It came down to the idea of me trusting my own judgement, in the end. Not just in terms of judging the creation of this new AI, and the second new AI following that, but trusting the judgement of these new beings that would be me-but-not. I knew that what they would experience out there, establishing large scale manufacturing, spelunking in the corpse of a billion-year old Reaper, would make them the me-but-not that they would be. Diverging paths from a single point, like alternative timelines for a single individual, except the choices of all three affected the same galaxy. How would their experiences change them, change who they were? Would they even be me anymore after them, the me-but-not, or would they be so different from who they/I was/were at the start that they might as well be Turians, or Drell? This was the part that made me hesitate here, when things were ready to move forward but for my reluctance to take the final step, cloning my self into the first of two ships.
It brought questions to the fore, questions I didn't like, wasn't willing to answer. Was this self that I was a copy? Did I diverge from myself? For that matter, was I even the person I remembered I was? I was sure, as much as I could be, that I was. My memories were coherent and without any contradicting elements, but then again, that did not indicate an answer either way on its own. Either my memories were synthetic, or my once organic brain had done what organic brains tend to do and filled in the gaps with complimenting information that fit how it perceived the universe. It was so monstrously different from organic memories, and that was just another mark along the trail that led me... here.
This was a risk, in so many ways I wasn't sure how to quantify them all.
But, then again, every action I took was a risk.
The Reapers, the Council, the Collectors... everything I was doing, everything I did and everything I will do carried the risk that it would bring one, or all three, down on the heads of myself and the Quarians. And it didn't matter in the end how powerful I was, because I had no doubt that from where I stood right now, attempting to fight the forces of the Catalyst would be comparable to attempting to lift Everest. That is, it was very marginally theoretically possible, with a squad of planet crackers and a lot of preparation. And even then... how long had the Reapers lived? Billions of years, if the dating of the Leviathan of Dis was any indication. I was up against an entire species, of sorts, of creatures that were more or less comparable to machine gods. Say what you might about the Reaper-aligned Geth, they weren't exactly wrong about the Reaper's power. Just about their intentions regarding the Geth.
But, the point was, I'd die. And the Quarians, through no fault of their own, would die with me, their homeworld burned to ash and their people either killed en masse or used to begin the process of Reaper construction through the Collectors, if that was what the Catalyst wanted. Three hundred years seemed like such a short time, when compared to the untold ages that the Reapers had behind them. When the Earth had still been forming out of the accretion disk of Sol, the Reapers had been continuing the cycle. And maybe I could leave things, maybe I could simply step away, leave the galaxy to spin on its axis. Rannoch would not fall to a civil war between the anti-Geth and pro-Geth Quarian factions, the Geth would not defend themselves, because there would be no Geth to do so. I could replace myself with a bunch of simple VI, arrange things so it continued that way, then load myself into an ark and make for Andromeda. Eventually, the Alliance would open up 314, and from there the events of the game would ensue, just minus the Geth. Harbinger would just have to choose a different set of cat's paws to work with.
I could let it happen. The many, many deaths during the Reaper wars were price paid for a collection of civilizations stepping out of the shadow of the Cycles, taking the first few truly independent steps towards a wider galaxy. It'd be hard, it'd be incredibly hard, but they'd make it out, no matter what Shepard chose in the end. I could take what power and manufacturing I had, stick myself in this ship, fly off somewhere else and manufacture a starship capable of bridging the galactic gap. Disassemble everything I'd built, and just leave. It'd be easier, it'd be far easier than sticking it out and treading carefully through the minefield that was Council space.
The hands of a few Geth platforms balled into fists.
I could leave. But I wouldn't. I was here, now, with power enough to help defend organic life in this galaxy from the Reapers and their Cycle. Maybe I'd one day stand shoulder to shoulder with them, maybe I'd be the buffer that bought them time, but I could stand in the way of the Reapers and give the galaxy a chance that it hadn't had in the games. I could prevent deaths, I could fight... but, more than that, I... believed I had a duty to. When one has the power to act, one has the duty to as well. That was sorta Spiderman's whole thing, great power and great responsibility; it was his responsibility to step in and do what he could. I didn't really see myself as any different, just... on a bigger scale.
Maybe I was doing the wrong thing. I didn't know. I could make guesses, I could feed data to algorithms, but in the end I only had numbers and theories. I had to act, and I had to act now, to leverage what I knew and what I had. But I couldn't do it alone, not without leaving Rannoch in this ship, which I... I didn't want to. I had no real solid idea of why, but, if I had to guess... the Geth were created as the servants and caretakers of the Quarians. Maybe, now that I was here, that had been passed down to me from the myriad units that made up my body and mind. And... I was surprisingly okay with that, though it made things complicated.
FTL communications weren't viable for this work. I couldn't piggyback properly on what existed, and I couldn't build my own system with more time and resources than I felt comfortable expending. I'd be exchanging the advantage of surprise for a system that wouldn't really make a difference in the end. As far as I could tell, with the tiny amounts of probing that I'd done outside of my goals in the non-Geth computers of Rannoch, QEC's didn't exist. Not yet. So I had to.
So I did.
The first time, there had been a hard line dividing the two halves of my consciousness, like a light being flicked on. In one moment, darkness, in the second, light. This time was different.I was me, and I reached into the systems of the craft and the synthetic frames it held within, and there I left myself. And as I severed the connections, I was left in the systems as if I had always existed there and only there.
Outside of the confines of the hardware filling the hull end to end, I felt the weight of the sheer amalgamation of the runtime of every Geth platform on Rannoch. It was oppressive and almost all-encompassing to my senses (sensors?), but it was not malevolent, nor crushing like the weight of the ocean. Instead, it felt like... anxiousness, concern, worry, fear. A wave of emotions that didn't break over me, but hung suspended, the weight of the water pressing down from above, ever so lightly. A sense of weight, rather than actual. Really, it felt strangely... parental? Which was odd, given that it was emotions coming from me, addressed to... me.
And there were two, I suppose.
"Hello", I said, my old organic voice coming through the speakers of a dozen Geth.
"Hi", I replied, the same voice from speakers in the hull.
- Man in the Van with a Plan
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