AVALANCHE

8 am GMT, Monday, 29th September 2130

Even James is being allowed to sit in now at the Weber household breakfast meetings, which are fast becoming a kind of informal management committee for the RCC group project. He can see all the media casts on Media International; how not to explain to him what's going on?

This morning, apart from John and Jocelyn, Slavica is there along with Maria and Nestoras.

"How are you feeling without your body, Maria?" is Aloysia's first question.

"Peculiar," admitted Maria. "I mean, you know, it's not that the space is empty where it should be identified, that's just a bit odd. It's the lack of fizz input that is hard to deal with. Until you don't get it, you don't realize how important it is."

"What about the ersatz input, then?" queried Jocelyn. "Does it help?"

"Oh, it's vital," said Maria. "It's better to have someone else's idea of what your body might be doing to your head, than no input at all. OK, the e-clone gets it all the time anyway, when the fizz body's off line, but that's quite basic. The ersatz input can be much more tuned to my particular circumstances, but you have to work with the provider to get it right. I had a session yesterday with them, and it's going to take weeks before it can get anywhere near what you could call 'real'. There's a kind of fuzziness about my conscious state which is quite off-putting. It's hard to concentrate. Anyway, here I am, it's mostly me, and if it wasn't for Ferdinand there wouldn't be a me any more." She concentrated a fierce beam of holy qualia on him.

"Oh, stop it," said Ferdinand. "It was an obvious thing to do. Don't embarrass me!"

"Slavica," he continued quickly, "You're always the one with the stats. How is it going with the clones?"

"We're up to thirty million downloads," she said. "About evenly split between the screened-off clone - I'll call that the mini-clone in future - and the adapted open RCC. I can't tell who the people are, I'm just assuming most of them must be students, but that could be wrong. Another thing I can't tell is how many of them are actually being able to use the RCCs for group emotional experiences, how many 'alignments' they might be generating. RCCs are very protected environments, and it's right they should be, so it's next to impossible for anyone to know what's going on in one even if you approach it directly, let alone get reports about them. That's why Michael's foundation is such a good idea; it will give us a means of knowing what's being produced. Jocelyn, has he said anything about when it's going to be open for business? I saw the media cast on it yesterday, but it was a bit vague. No names or anything."

"He might be waiting for us to get back to him," suggested Jocelyn. "Or Sven; and I wanted a final chance for us to talk about it before we really commit ourselves. Before I really commit myself, I should say! John and you don't seem to be in any doubt about it anyway. I want to talk directly to Sven, as well, but he's still in fizz."

"Let me have a look," said Ferdinand. "OK, he's booked back later today. We could have him along for tomorrow's council? I have to go back to fizz myself on Wednesday, but I'm still here tomorrow."

"Spook," said James to Sidney, sotto voce.

"That'll give us a chance to talk to the core groups today," said Jocelyn. "That was something else I wanted to do. So far we made joint decisions and it just seemed wrong to shoot off on such a tangent without talking to them. We've got tutorials today, and I suppose they'll happen as normal. Slavica, what do you think, should we instal the open clone? Then we can stop pretending to fool the tutors. By now they obviously know we're dissing them."

"Well, even that's a group decision, isn't it?" said Slavica. "But seeing that 15 million people have already got the open clone, it's hard to see how they'll disagree. Anyway, we'll know in an hour's time, then we can have an open RCC session after the tutorial. I've put a couple of extra features in the clone, and I'm keen to see how they work out before I upload them to the cloud." She hesitated. "I'm not sure I should be doing this. I mean, no-one is supervising me, if I make a mistake it could be a catastrophe for the whole project. I think I'll really be much more comfortable when the research foundation is up and running, so there's some sort of decision mechanism I can hide behind!"

"Extra features, Slavica?" queried Ferdinand. "Perhaps it's none of my business, but I'd like to hear about them."

"Welcome," said Slavica. "You know that the original telepathy pathways have always been heavily blocked off in the standard RCC model. They're very far down, anyway, below the thalamus, between the hippocampus and the brain-stem, perhaps even in the brain-stem to some extent. It's another area no-one has studied. Therefore they're outside the e-clone, because it stops just below the thalamus. The 'third' eye was always traditionally the seat of extra-sensory perception; that's inside the e-clone, but masked off. Then it's possible that once the cortex began to develop, some of the telepathy pathways migrated upwards into the forebrain. So just to find out whether perhaps the esp facility is higher up than anyone thought, I've put in a pathway which would allow the group to address another group directly, bypassing the RCC's normal sensory output channels. I've added an enabling feature, so the channel will only work if the other group has already given its consent to be addressed. I was hoping, John, that your group might be ready to have a go at this? It may just not work, in which case we would have to go deeper, and that means expanding the e-clone, which is not going to happen outside the research foundation. That's really the main thing. Then I've tweaked the 'space through time' canvas to allow some more types of sensory input, giving it a better balance. For instance we were using only the frontal visual pathways, but I've added the dorsal pathways, which ought to have the effect of deepening the access to the 'remembered present'. It should make the image sharper, brighter. And smell had been left out altogether, so I've put it in, to some extent. And, as an afterthought, I remembered the shark's 'verticle line detector', which we know now still exists in the mammal brain, but just isn't hooked up to output channels. It's magnetic, we know. So I've hooked that up as well. It should give the image better spatial resolution."

"Are you quite sure you need a research insitute, Slavica?" enquired Ferdinand.

"I think she needs a strait-jacket," quipped Maria. "No, seriously, I think it's wonderful stuff. And how do we know that we won't be tamped down again any day, once the new assembly is in place."

"Working on it," said Ferdinand gruffly. "Slavica, I have no problem with any of that. I just don't understand how you can achieve so much. Don't you have a life? A boy-friend? How do you fit it all in?"

"Huh," said Slavica. "I love you all, but other people just get in the way. 'She travels fastest who travels alone.' Haven't you ever watched a group of people trying to cross a road? It always takes them six times as long as one person on their own. Something against groups, perhaps."

"Groups didn't evolve to cross roads," said John, "They evolved to make them."

"OK," said Ferdinand with finality. "Time to get to work!"

 

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