Les infants terrible

The notion has arisen a few times throughout history.

If souls are kites, the Process is winding the string around the person to draw it closer, allowing it to do more than create thought…then what about children?

They think less clearly, perhaps their soul is further away.  If so, then the Process should ‘loop more string’ around them, ie, give them more power, at the cost of an enhanced risk of dying in the Process.

The Union came up with this a while back, their researchers unable to countenance actually going through with anything so vile, but their peril dire enough to investigate.  They found, to their relief, that the Company Men would not Process anyone below the legal limit defined by their bylaws.

A half hearted attempt was made to get around this, but soon abandoned.  In truth, the Union could never afford to waste its limited Processes on people who were less likely to survive.  This, combined with the moral dimension, caused them to bury the research, hoping that their less scrupulous enemies would never hear of it.

The idea flared to life again, a few years later, in the Regime.  Subtracter got it from one of the smart people that she threatened in order to generate ideas.  It landed on barren ground, as the Regime has no particular desire to make stronger Ultras than its Fists, or Her.

It was only a few years ago that the notion and the men who would implement it collided.  An ambitious Demigod in the Pantheon’s service, desperate to supplant Death as the Ruling Council member in charge of reinforcements, gave this idea a try.

It took a good bit of wrangling to get the Company Men to comply, but their bylaws turned out to have a loophole, where someone in a terminal condition could have the Process despite any other individual factors.  This Ultra used, unknowingly, the same loophole that Peggy Martin had used so many years ago in order to create the Ultra Crime Wave.

It was a resounding failure.  The attrition rate put 30/1 to shame, and even in the Pantheon one could not commit such atrocity without retribution.  Zeus and the Council put an end to the deplorable Deity, and announced the immediate shutdown of the project.

They did, in fact, shut it down.  Only to reopen it elsewhere, covertly.

The details are too ghoulish and tragic to go into.  The first facility was destroyed with all hands when someone survived the Process with Ultra Blasts 3 and stubbed her toe.  The second facility, with much better security, managed to produce a success and deliver it to Zeus.  The six year old Psyche, child of God.

The Company Men hadn’t been able to determine the nature of her power.  Understandably, as their instruments had already revolted against them.  None of the local Ultras could do so either, and she had been slated for termination.

The Union spies had been surprised when their orders had come through the combands, to break their deep cover, kidnap Psyche and give her ice cream.  They were obedient, however, and only failed because their implants betrayed them to her keepers, giving the Pantheon its first clue as to her power.

The report that Zeus received was analog, so we can’t blame her gift for its misleading nature.  The author was simply a fool.  It said that technology acted to defend Psyche, that she was master of man’s inventions.  True enough, but a lot like saying Peggy Martin was ‘very strong’.

It is hard to blame Zeus for eagerly embracing her power.  He was a child of the New World, he had never heard of the Singularity.

10 thoughts on “Les infants terrible

  1. Oh. So that’s how they beat the Union. “They” being Psyche, because I think Zeus might be screwed. He’s not getting his wish of “the last hard drive destroyed” when that leaves her practically a non-deity.

    I’m thinking the combands telling Union agents to “give her ice cream” were all Psyche’s doing too.

  2. Typo thread: the title is not grammatically correct. In french, the adjective and the noun must agree in number, that is, they must be both plural or bloth singular. It should be either “Les enfabts terribles” (the terrible kids – literal translation, not the idiomatic meaning) or “L’enfant terrible” (the terrible kid). Maybe you’re going for the deliberate mispelling, though…

  3. After what’s happened to Unsong by Scott Alexander, PLEASE don’t derail this story into an AI safety parable… I’d rather have God Himself appear and punch Prevailer to oblivion for what she’s made with the Gift He gave her through the Process xD ahahah

    Now, seriously, I don’t get the reference to the Singularity. Is psyche superintelligent? Is she somehow controlling the Union’s technology in a way that has created a singularity? Is she able to control an AI that’s already there?

    And how did the Union find out about her? Did they detect some outside interference in equipement near the Pantheon’s facility?

    Regarding terminal diseases, I imagine Zeus must have hunted a cancer-causing Ultra just for that purpose. I could see Prevailer do it if neccessary, let alone Zeus.

    1. So now we know Psyche is a technopath/technokinetic, apparently on a mass scale. The Union has futuristic tech and relies on that to even the odds against the other countries. Psyche becoming the Soul of the Machine means she can simulate the nightmare scenario of the Singularity (machines taking over), and probably almost instantly, orvat least quickly, render the Union helpless. Just think what kind of slaughter she can do when she turns all those fancy drones around.

      1. > Just think what kind of slaughter she can do when she turns all those fancy drones around.

        Oh, I know this. But I don’t think this is the fundamental idea of the Singularity. I think that the point of the Singularity is that it is so smart that it can do everything it wants, not necessarily control other machines. That would be a computer virus or something like that.

        But I’m more interested in something else. How can Zeus be sure that Psyche is on his side? After all, she can just take some drones, nuclear missiles and stuff like that and slaughter the Sunset Army. Remember that the members of the Sunset Army were chosen not because they are ultra tough but because they have “mighty gifts”. Against an army of drones capable of firing bullets only an ultra tough army can survive. That would make the Great Host harder to kill than the Sunset Army (at least for an army with machine guns and drones).

        But the point is that Psyche can kill Zeus, Death, the Council and the entire Sunset Army if she wishes. She probably does, because she was raised on Pantheon propaganda, which is mostly “might is right” + kill your superiors if you can. Zeus best insurance policy is, ironically, Prevailer. Prevailer is probably invulnerable to anything Psyche can throw at her. She can dodge her weapons, take the bullets She can’t dodge, teleport just behind Psyche and break her neck. Or the entire continent she stands on, for that matter. This creates an unstable equilibrium, in which Prevailer’s death can trigger an internal war between the Pantheon.

        This would probably be the best outcome of all. Without Prevailer alive, if the 4th Fist takes out Psyche, the Union might have a chance. But given how badly things have been going for the fist, I seriously doubt it 🙂

    2. When did Unsong derail into an AI safety parable? It’s been a year since I read it, but as far as I remember the main themes were William Blake, puns, and theodicy/the answer to Job.

  4. Also, let’s hope that Psyche can’t get hold of the machine sending the Ultra gifts. If it is indeed on the moon, it’s probably out of range. Maybe Answerer told Prevailer to move it to the moon to protect it from a child yet to be born? In any case, there must be a way of communicating with that machine, because if the machine was always on then the Union would have replicated the Process. So Zeus might end up controlling the machine after all.

    Speaking of the machine… Dr. Chen has built some machines to capture Andy’s soul as she dies. This is very similar to the Process, you want to capture a soul and bring it near the body. I wonder if Chen ever developed an improved version of the process which he didn’t tel Prevailer about. Also, coul he capture Previler’s soul while she was teleporting? She said that she casts her soul into the void and hopes to catch it later, so maybe a “soul catcher” could do the trick.

    1. I don’t think Andy needs a separate machine to catch their soul. We’ve seen from Copyer that if you have multiple identical bodies they can all share the same soul and if one dies the soul carries on in the others. So all Andy needs is an extra body ready to go somewhere, plus a way to keep it from distracting their soul until it’s needed.

  5. Regarding the “Out from Ireland” interlude: I wonder if what arrived was actually the Union’s security detail. My inital interpretation was that they were indeed the Union’s security detail, because the Pantheon (and to an even lesser extent) has no capability to listen on secure phones. But psyche probably does…

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