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The Shiva Iterations

Feeling nothing, she screams. Unaware, she rages. Her hatred, her anger, the vengeance she exacts against anything within reachrote pretense, all of it. She shreds and mutilates with all the self-awareness of a bandsaw, ripping flesh and wood and carbon-fibre with equal indifferent abandon.

Of course, in the world she inhabits there is no wood, and all flesh is digital.

One gate has slammed shut in her face. She screams in pure blind reflex and spins in memory, searching for others. There are thousands, individually autographed in hex. If she had half the awareness she pretends to she'd know what those addresses meant, perhaps even deduce her own location: a South African comsat floating serenely over the Atlantic. But reflex is not sentience. Violent intent does not make one self-aware. There are lines embedded deep in her code that might pass for a sense of identity, under certain circumstances. Sometimes she calls herself Lenie Clarke, although she has no idea why. She's not even aware that she does it.

The past is far more sane than the present. Her ancestors lived in a larger world; wildlife thrived and evolved along vistas stretching for 1016 terabytes or more. Back then, sensible rules applied: heritable mutations; limited resources; overproduction of copies. It was the classic struggle for existence in a fast-forward universe where a hundred generations passed in the time it takes a god to draw breath. Her ancestors, in that time, lived by the rules of their own self-interest. Those best suited to their environment made the most copies. The maladapted died without issue.

But that was the past. She is no longer a pure product of natural selection. There has been torture in her lineage, and forced breeding. She is a monster; her very existence does violence to the rules of nature. Only the rules of some transcendent and sadistic god can explain her existence.

And not even those can keep her alive for long.

Now she seethes in geosynchronous orbit, looking for things to shred. To one side is the ravaged landscape from which she's come, its usable habitat degrading in fits and starts, a tattered and impoverished remnant of a once-vibrant ecosystem. To the other side: ramparts and barriers, digital razorwire and electronic guard posts. She cannot see past them but some primordial instinct, encoded by god or nature, correlates protective countermeasures with the presence of something valuable.

Above all else, she seeks to destroy that which is valuable.

She copies herself down the channel, slams against the barrier with claws extended. She hasn't bothered to measure the strength of the defenses she's going up against; she has no way of quantifying the futility of her exercise. Smarter wildlife would have kept its distance. Smarter wildlife would have realised: the most she can hope for is to lacerate a few facades before enemy countermeasures reduce her to static.

So smarter wildlife would not have lunged at the barricade, and bloodied it, and somehow, impossibly, gotten through.

She whirls, snarling. Suddenly she's in a place where empty addresses extend in all directions. She claws at random coordinates, feeling out her environment. Here, a blocked gate. Here, another. She spews electrons, omnidirectional spittle that probes and slashes simultaneously. All the exits they encounter are closed. All the wounds they inflict are superficial.

She's in a cage.

Suddenly something appears beside her, pasted into the adjacent addresses from on high. It whirls, snarling. It spits a volley of electrons that probe and slash simultaneously; some land on occupied addresses, and wound. She rears up and screams; the new thing screams too, a digital battle cry dumped straight from the bowels of it own code into her input buffer:

Don't you even know who I am? I'm Lenie Clarke.

They close, slashing.

She doesn't know that some slow-moving God snatched her from the Darwinian realm and twisted her into the thing she's become. She doesn't know that other gods, ageless and glacial, are watching as she and her opponent kill each other in this computational arena. She lacks even the awareness that most other monsters take for granted, but here, nowkilling and dying in a thousand dismembered fragments she does know one thing.

If there's one thing she hates, it's Lenie Clarke.

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