By Charles Swanson
Excerpt from the journal of Gilligan
Worked in Rex's assistant's part of the machine shop today, putting finishing touches on the exoskeleton suit. I don't know why I was so nervous. I mean, we'd already passed the tougher tests like 'will it break your arm when you move it' and 'will it stand up to a standard-momentum projectile'. This was just fine-tuning the dexterity and feedback. But for some reason, when the assistant walked into the room and opened up its big case, my heart rate tripled. Come on, Gil. Get a grip.
Halfway though the test, got a call on my wristpad. It was Rex. Apparently Project Beagle had another hit of interest. I wasn't having much success formulating my response in the negative ('last time it almost ate my mind' not being easy on the ego), so I was glad when his assistant looked up at me, a few inches shorter, lacking a metal exosuit, and asked me closely not to go. I nodded, so when the others came back to only-Earth just in time for dinner, it was myself and Rex's Assistant they regaled with the day's adventures and findings.
I am Rex's assistant's assistant. Does that make me Rex's grand-assistant? Though she's not really his assistant anymore. I haven't seen them work together on a project in ages. Probably since the Pluto.
As you will see from an entry in this journal last month, I was still confused about the goings-on of a particular day therein, during which we broke into and 'pacified' the Steel City local headquarters. I was confused, and more importantly, I noticed I was confused. So today after dinner, I gathered my findings, defined solution-space, and whittled it down to a few local maxima of probability. Sadly, though, I felt less confident in my findings than I'd have liked, so I set out to perform the next step of analysis as undertaken by an imperfectly rational agent: discuss it with another agent. That would be Rex.
I found him cataloging fauna they'd encountered on the day's Beagle excursion for the Atomic Girl.
"Hey, Rex. Do you have a minute?" I approached him. He hadn't signaled any hazards of his work, so I stepped closer.
"Sure. Nice dinner, by the way. I really appreciated the beef. It was delicious." He didn't look away from his work, but I know that Rex can multi-task. More interesting was the 'delicious'. Rex doesn't weigh food based on taste, does he?
"I was confused about our little run-in with Steel City last month, and thought you could clarify a few points."
"It was rather a hectic day. Ok, but I won't just clarify. You first have to perform some analysis of your own. Tell me what you think happened."
I was unable to keep a smile off of my face, as I pridefully replied. "I have already done so. My findings are as follows:
"Steel City was a major global military and economic power at the turn of the 20th century. They grew their most advanced assets from one biological cell line, which they called 'thrallseed'. They at one point attempted to send a crewed mission to Mars, in a vessel called the Hercules.
"When Steel City was overthrown, all samples of thrallseed were destroyed. This left only the sample on the Hercules in existence.
"At some point, the fallen hegemony lost control of their bio-engineered soldier class, and these became ninjas. The Towerminster servitor is also a thrallseed creation.
"The remnant of Steel City devised a plan to communicate with the Hercules, and obtain a sample of the seed to once again take over the world.
"Some time during this, a version of you that was reconstructed by a backup machine on another world made contact with them, seeking their help in propagating his form once again into this world. In return he gave them lots of our technology, which they made into one-time-use units so they could sell them to other organizations.
"Someone who wasn't thrallseed but who was bio-engineered named Gray, who didn't like you very much, was made aware of this Rex, of whose existence you were aware and whom you call 'Adversary'. He assumed this Rex was the one Rex in existence, quit Steel City, and tried to enlist our help in carrying out a grudge against you.
"However, you were here with us, leading Gray to be very confused and a little afraid, as the way he was brought up, in this situation one's captors would just kill one. So he told us everything he knew and led us to his headquarters, where you knocked him out and put him on a flight to Hawaii.
"We then secured the headquarters, capturing both the Hercules communications equipment and Adversary's Earthly anchor point.
"Ninjas came in and forced Adversary to break the connection, giving him an instant and fiery death.
"The communications equipment never made contact with Hercules, either because they were unable to stay on the planned course for over a hundred years, or they are all dead.
"How much of that is right?"
Rex took about a second to go through it all, then said, "All of it. Good job."
"All of it?"
I looked down at my notes. "Wow," I said, "These notes would be very convenient for someone who was confused about what the hell happened during that little adventure."
That was that subject concluded. I stayed, though. There was something else I needed.
Rex shifted his weight in the seat, still looking through snapshots of alien life. "Was there something else?"
"Yes, Rex. There is."
He didn't need to prompt me further. I'm sure he'd deduced by now that the pause meant that it was a difficult-to-express concern, and from that I'm sure he'd deduced what it was.
I spoke, at length. "Did you break up with your assistant?"
"We are broken up."
He was expecting that. Here's the tough one. "Can I pursue a relationship with her, then?"
He choked, which is interesting as he wasn't eating anything. His eyes came away from the screen and found my own. I am actually quite proud about this. It's what I am now terming a 'Rexploit'. Any system that is based on publicly known rules is subject to behavioral extrapolation, which can be used to one's own benefit. Rex, no matter how squishy his brain, is fundamentally built upon his rules, and it causes no disutility to him to have two of his friends hook up.
Which is why I was so surprised it took him well over ten seconds to choke out "Yes, of course. By all means, court her."
Progress reports on this project as events warrant.