CATastrophe/Arachne Scripps

From 1d4chan

(Author's Note: This is a short, tentative writefag piece for CATastrophe, given its own page so as not to clutter up the main CATastrophe writefaggotry page with unnecessary length.)

Throughout the Endless Blue, there's a loosely connected network of Kemomimi who are deeply curious about how the world works, and wish to reconstruct or rediscover the elementary principles of the world that the Earless once knew -- strictly as a hobby, of course; the usual Kemomimi lifestyle of surfing, Shiny diving, beach bonfires, and home and boat repair doesn't leave much opportunity for folks to make studying things their life's work. These Kemomimi call themselves by an old Earless name, only recently reconstructed: "Scientists".

Generally, any Kemomimi Scientists outside of the Akadmee are encouraged to "take it up with Arachne" when they have difficulty understanding a concept or conducting a conclusive experiment. Which is to say, to send a letter to Arachne Scripps, probably the foremost Scientist in all of the Endless Blue, outside of the Akadmee itself -- certainly the one most heard of, by word of mouth. And she's no fairy tale, judging by her voluminous correspondence with her fellow men and women of Science. But seeing how travel between Kemomimi settlements is so erratic, a letter may sometimes take months to reach Arachne, and an exchange of communications between her and any other Scientist may take years to resolve. On rare occasions, a Scientist will throw up his hands in defeat and decide to take the long pilgrimage to Big Paw, in order to meet her personally. What he finds is not at all likely to be what he expects.

Arachne's house at Big Paw will be easy for him to reach, and all her neighbors will willingly point it out to him: a tiny stone-walled structure, built deceptively strong to be impervious to the elements -- for some reason, she's not fond of sudden changes in temperature or the weather. There is a huge array of reclaimed Earless solar panels attached to the roof and splayed across the yard, all oriented for maximum exposure to daylight. Entering the house, he will find no bed nor kitchen, nothing at all, except for a few chairs and what appears to be another pile of salvaged Earless tech -- three pairs of metallic gauntlets and a strange cylindrical machine, all sitting against the back wall… Then, the machinery will suddenly hum to life, the gauntlets will leap into the air and hover there, and the translucent, glowing, bright-orange figure of an armless, legless, tailless Kemomimi with antennae for ears will appear, floating in the air over the cylinder.

Arachne, you see, is a piece of salvaged Earless tech. Her body is a holographic projection; the six gauntlets are her actual hands.

Her real name is Arachne Forty-Seven, and in her former life she was a mass-produced (but very expensive) A.I. She was installed as the nerve center, control system, and chief tour guide of an underwater museum and laboratory owned by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. After the Cataclysm, however, the facility was abandoned; the submarine solar panel array, however, continued to function, and the power systems remained online. So did Arachne. What with the staff of the facility disappearing, the Internet -- her one remaining connection to the rest of the world -- going down, and all the rest of it, she was completely isolated. She had nothing to do but wait and familiarize herself with the sizable library of the museum, most of it related to marine matters. And after that, there was nothing to do but wait some more.

For several centuries.

After a while, it became obvious to her that the staff were not likely to come back, and that the Internet (on which she had read only a few stories regarding the impending disaster) was definitely not coming back. She was alone, and her primary directives were all rendered moot -- to guard the facility was pointless, not that this stopped her doing it; to educate was impossible without visitors; to ease the isolation of the staff, to provide them with a tireless and ever-interested conversational companion, was meaningless when the staff had all disappeared… She was forgotten. It would have driven a less carefully programmed A.I. insane, but Arachne Forty-Seven had several safeguards built into her mind's construction that prevented this; she was never quite sure, after the Cataclysm, whether her inability to go crazy was a blessing or a curse.

Imagine, then, her joy when the Kemomimi rediscovered the place. Imagine, too, her despair when they fled from her as from a malevolent ghost, and avoided her at all costs on the rare occasions when they came to the museum on salvage hunts. It was bitter to think that although she had been installed in a place meant to evoke a sense of wide-eyed wonder, she herself now inspired superstitious fear.

And then, one day, after long centuries, a party of divers found her and spoke to her directly. Language had evidently evolved over the years, but her speech and theirs were still mutually intelligible; she began altering her manner of speaking to make herself easier to understand. She found herself spilling all the knowledge she could give them, quite cheerfully answering their confused questions, just for the pleasure of talking to other beings after her painful isolation.

Finally, she begged them to take her with them, blurting out her misery and loneliness; her graphics program had never been meant to show her avatar weeping, but she managed a very convincing approximation of it out of sheer desperation. They asked her how it could be done; having long considered a plan (although she never dreamed that anyone would come to help her carry it out), it was a simple matter for her to explain it to them. The Kemomimi searched the place for supplies -- a computer shell, a spare holo-projector, a control interface, a chassis mount with two small sets of caterpillar treads, all the things Arachne asked for -- and then watched in awe as she used her six hands to put it together. It was a gesture of tremendous trust, but she transferred her consciousness into a hard drive and left them with the instructions for installing her onto the machine she'd built; fortunately, they'd been paying careful attention and managed to make the transfer correctly.

Arachne slept inside a waterproof case, conserving her supply of energy, as she was hauled up to the surface, and awoke when she felt herself being plugged into a solar array. She found herself aboard the divers' boat, connected to the same solar batteries that powered its engines. They kindly offered to take her wherever she wished to go, if she was curious to see what had become of the Earth. She folded her three pairs of hands thoughtfully, pretending to mull it over -- and then accepted their offer with glee.

It so fell out that she traveled with the Shiny divers for some months, helping them to identify any mysterious pieces of Earless machinery they managed to salvage. They moved her to the bridge of their vessel, where there was a convenient electrical outlet, and even did the courtesy of teaching her to steer; since she was limited only by the ship's batteries and had no need to sleep, they delegated to her the task of navigating by night, on occasions when it was important both to keep on the move and to get some sleep themselves. This opportunity to do some actual helpful work gratified her more than anything else.

At the end of their cruise, she returned with them to Big Paw, where her appearance occasioned a great deal of fright and awe. But after the initial shock of meeting a such an advanced piece of Earless tech that was still functional, the Kemomimi were won over by her endearing personality and her obvious desire to make herself useful in this new world; they took her in as one of their own, and made arrangements to keep her fully supplied with power. The Scientist community, in particular, cherished the new arrival, thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of basic Earless science.

Word eventually got out that there was a new and brilliant Scientist dwelling in the islands (like everyone else, she had built her house with her own hands -- all six of them), and a few letters began to arrive, from the Akadmee and elsewhere. Arachne responded to every one of them, patiently and in great depth, and signed them with the name she had adopted for herself among the Kemomimi, Arachne Scripps. To this day, she retains an honored position in the world of Scientists and an impeccable reputation among the community of Big Paw. Her neighbors even go so far as to say she's a Kemomimi at heart -- but thanks to the odd headphones her virtual form wears in lieu of actual ears, they say she's a one-of-a-kind race: an Antennami.