Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Staff Writer
Back when there wasn’t a war, Cohesion used to take me on drives. We usually went west, way out of town. After a few kilometres the world got weird: most people didn’t like it, but Cohesion said that it helped him think. Out of all the oddities, he held the theoretical trees as his favourite.
Cohesion was a haimix. Human-AI-Mix. Optical fibre looped out of his skull, and snaked down into the AI mind implanted in his chest. He said that it felt like schizophrenia, but that both minds were equally ‘himself’.
I remember the day he first showed me the trees. They’re tall and spindly, growing straight up into a sky that’s never clear of clouds.That sky was not quite purple and very nearly yellow, but never one or the other. ‘A nowhere sky’, he said, ‘and far more puzzling than the trees’. The trees were a result of corporate experiments with superpositioning. They were visible, but somehow absent — you could walk straight through them. They were translucent, and if you stared, you could see the sluggish motion of water and sugars through their trunks. The leaves were more solid than the trunks – if you waved your hand through those, they fell apart like centuries-old paper.
Cohesion explained that the trees were probably somewhere else too, that they grew here in a strange quantum state. That most of the time, if you tried to bifurcate something that one of the two copies would rapidly collapse, and the other would stabilise. But the corporations discovered a valley of stability. If eight copies were produced rapidly, they would continue to exist in a tentative equilibrium.
The copies weren’t really real, Cohesion said, but they somehow shared resources, as if each one was an eighth of a whole plant, stretched and padded into full size. Where one drew nitrates from the soil, the other copies would have their nitrate needs met. Cohesion told me that he’d mapped a few pairs of trees, but he had no idea where the others were. He thought that there might be another forest of them somewhere else, with the rest of the copies, but he said he didn’t have time to look. He gave me a little data chip with his findings on them.
I don’t know what happened to Cohesion after the war started. I kept on going out west, and I carried on Cohesion’s project. I spiked the roots of isolated trees with coloured dyes: fine pillars of bright water stood out like beacons, betraying other tree-fractions. On my most successful day, I found an entire tree: all eight versions. And at the bottom of the eighth tree, wrapped in a waterproof bag, I found another datachip. It’s contents were simple. A message from Cohesion. He claimed to have found a way to imprint data into the trees – specifically, that’s he had stored a file in the tree the datachip was under. You could imprint data on one tree, and it would be distributed – as the trees could gather nutrients and distribute them – but you could only extract the data if you found all eight parts of the tree.
It took me a week to get the equipment listed in Cohesion’s notes. But it was possible, even with the war restrictions. I held my breath as the file downloaded onto my laptop, the eight parts interleaving perfectly.
It was an AI backup file.
I loaded it.