Another flash fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig's blog. This time the task was to write a bit from an already furnished title. I came in at a little over the 1000 word mark, but not too badly. I actually ended liking this piece, and may use it as an outline for a longer work.
Cleaning up the Ashes
"Enigmatic. Charismatic. Automatic. Almost Magic!", those are the opening words to Dr. Felderst's landmark paper, Spatial Colocation of Holopsukhe Matrices In Mitigation of Entanglement Echoing Failure in Non-Quantifiable Components of Sapience Manifolds. She is talking about the human soul. Doctor Felderst is a scientist, she has multiple degrees with physics and computational neurology being among the least surprising. In other times she may have been identified as a crank, a charlatan or a run-of-the-mill whackjob. Her ability to see farther than her contemporaries and her tendencies toward flamboyant speech certainly made her stand out even in this age of rapid scientific achievement However, her experiments are rigorous (if occasionally crowd-sourced), her conclusions are only as broad as the data allows (if bombastic in their expression), and her results are astounding (also open-source and free to download). So, when she says that she has proven the existence of something that looks enough like a soul to have that term applied to it -- people tend to take notice.
Doctor Ashely Felderst found a way to create perfect duplicates of normal objects. The process is energy intensive. The process requires raw materials in the same or greater quantity as the original. The process is not a free lunch, by any means. The only real utility proven for this process (termed Quantum Echo Duplication or QED, for fun) is that it can guarantee perfect controls for scientific experiments. Using QED to create identical-to-immeasurably-minute-detail duplicates means the elimination of a large swath of variables and dreaded unknown unknowns when performing control studies.
Great for physics, even better for biology. The latter of which is near to the point. Rather than breeding or cloning lab animals, a subject could be chosen and simply duplicated. A rat with the perfect set of characteristics for a drug trial could simply be run through QED to create as many identical rats as needed. The only needed inputs are some electricity (green power) and some dead rats as raw materials. The process was always successful. Until it was attempted on primates.
This is how Dr. Felderst created what she calls the Holopsukhe Matrix. To her, it was simple. There is a component, clearly being disassembled based on computational spikes, but not measured by the vast computing resources involved . The QED device was not recreating that something in the duplicate. This only occurred in creatures of higher consciousness than...well some baseline that is still ill defined. Once she compensated for this difference everything worked fine again. She said that there was some indecipherable part that did not lend itself to duplication. "Not duplicated, formulated, or instantiated -- but promulgated, instigated and coruscated The holopsukhe cannot be echoed or mirrored, it must be divided to be conquered!"
Then there was Larry. Doctor Larry Lawrence. He duplicated himself. There was, of course, an uproar about this. Is he a monster? Is he a twin? Is he one person with two bodies or two individuals with the same memories? This is what Dr. Felderst said, "It seems the soul is not unlike an ideal gas or a boring task. It moves to fill the space allowed. The body, however builds on this rarefied existence and grows it as fish may reach a size appropriate to its environment. Yes, I said it. Your soul is like a gaseous goldfish. Take from that what you will."
Immediately after the process, the Doctors La-La (as they were now called in the media) was weak and lethargic. There was nothing wrong with him medically, of course, his bodies were perfectly identical and whatever health he was in before QED remained unchanged. He was soul sick, as the new age minded might say. His soul was split and poured too thin. The melancholy is the same as that of intense loneliness compounded by otherness and a sense of wrongness.
He got better. He got so much better.
Dr. LaLa said he could think clearer. That he could express better. That he was more himself (himselves) than ever before. He swore that he could read his own mind, but who can't? He could indeed get more work done, and was now truly capable of multitasking. His colleagues reported that he, either alone or in a pair, was more productive and efficient. The Doctors LaLa could tackle two problems together or one problem from each end. They was, in fact, more than the sum of his numbers. (Pronouns were not meant for this work.) He was more of everything he was before. More loving. More kind. More wise and more generous.
Except that none of those things were qualities he had ever greatly exhibited.
Generally, Doctor Larry Lawrence was a compounded jackass.
Which means it was no surprise that the Doctors LaLa broke in to make use of the machine again. It seemed that his credentials were never completely revoked. "While it is a certain possibility that I can think of everything, it is a demonstrable truth that I cannot do so simultaneously at all times," said Dr. Felderst about the oversight. After a night of unfettered access, they had managed to completely drain the batteries and the stock of organic raw material. There were then fifteen Doctors Larry Lawrence. That is how we arrived at the problem.
The army of LaLa was able to accomplish. This wasn't merely because of the might of one will put to action by thirty hands. The LaLas became powerful. With a soul that was fifteen times itself they could exert pressure of presence on other mere single bodied beings. If a LaLa told you to do something, there was authority behind it that few could resist. They quickly began to establish a regime -- a realm. Ask a yogi or a student of kung-fu films about what the concentrated energy of a soul can do. They may not be far wrong. They may not go far enough. That is all I will say about that.
They were unstoppable, for a time. No one could out-think, out-plan or output more than the combined might of the LaLa force. So, she stepped up, "I made this problem, by proxy. I will solve it, if by proxy." Dr. Ashley Felderst (Ash, to those close to her) stepped into her own machine. She came out twenty five times.
The Ashes quickly "solved" the problems of the LaLas. One of her was probably equal to two of him, to begin with. The multiplicative effect of a co-located holopsukhe meant the Ashes overpowered LaLas by at least an order of magnitude. There was no struggle. However, what do you do when the most powerful and driven mind in the world becomes -- well -- everything more? Who can now come forward to clean up this new world?