Imre stood in the trampled, muddy snow waiting for the commotion to pass. His tidy black dreadlocks hung down over his shoulders and swayed in the frigid wind gusts. The officers were doing their best to secure Javier Lacoste in the drone ship, but he was putting up a hell of a fight. Wouldn’t help his court case any, but digimancers like Javier didn’t recognize any form of organizational authority. He didn’t even recognize his own legal name. Called it a local abstraction and claimed his universal constant name was “Ol’ Mech.”
Dangerous ideas from someone who considered himself a deity, though from a certain perspective he was right.
The drone finally lifted into the air, its six articulating rotors blasting street-slush back against the wind and leaving most everyone covered in half-melted muck. Most everyone, but not Imre. He’d waited far enough away from the blast area, anticipating the mess. He hated a mess. With the drone safely away, Imre crossed the street and entered what passed for a residence. Shenoah was inside.
“Thanks for coming on such short notice,” she said. “Judge signed the order at 4:00 a.m.; otherwise I would’ve given you more warning. You know how it is.”
Imre bobbed his head. “That I do. So where is it?”
“Down here.” Shenoah led him through a filthy kitchen—gunked-up pots and bowls in the sink and on the surfaces implied the kitchen got a lot of use, but not necessarily for food—and to an odd little powder room with large cabinets in the walls. It was cramped and dim, and Imre was thankful he couldn’t see more detail. Shenoah pulled the cabinets and they swung open on hidden hinges to reveal a concealed basement. She gestured. “After you.”
Imre climbed down the creaky makeshift steps. The basement was maybe 15 feet square with plywood boards holding back walls of exposed earth. The only light came from the teal glow of a dozen monitors. Everything else was consumed by a tangle of wires and cords and fiberoptic cables thicker than the deepest jungle thicket. It made him think of cobwebs and he got a chill.
Shenoah descended after him and said, “Under the stairs.” Imre walked behind the staircase, and sure enough there were the stacks. The palladium-gold discs surrounding the quantum processors were pristine. Beautiful even. He was momentarily mesmerized.
He shook himself out of his trance. “You were right,” he said. “Clone farm. Serious one. Selling duplicate simuverses to sadists… Hmm.” Something caught his eye. He knelt down to get a better look, no longer noticing the grimy floor. “No,” he said, “not cloning. Not exactly. You see this?” He pointed to a toroid of cables and connectors. “He’s not making duplicates to sell. He’s making them compete. Millions of simulated universes with minor alterations and differences. He’s making them compete against each other. He’s applying evolutionary pressure.”
Shenoah furrowed her brows. “So what do you recommend?”
Imre looked back at the stacks and thought about the uncountable simulated lives stored within. “I’ve got to call the chief. Block this area off. And for God’s sake don’t unplug anything.”