robot battle witches

 

From Glasshouse by Charlie Stross:

There are fractured shards of memory all over the lobby of my Cartesian theatre, waiting for me to slip and cut myself on them. I’m in male orthohuman form right now, orthodox product of natural selection. This shape feels right to me, but I think there was a time when I was something much stranger—for some reason, I have the idea that I might have been a tank. (Either that, or I mainlined one too many wartime adventure virtches, and they stuck with me through memory surgery even when more important parts went missing.) The sense of implacable extensibility, coldly controlled violence . . . yes, maybe I was a tank. If so, at one time I guarded a critical network gate. Traffic between polities, like traffic within a polity, passes over T-gates, point-to-point wormholes linking distant locations. T-gates have two endpoints, and are unfiltered—anything can pass through one, from one end to the other. While this isn’t a problem within a polity, it’s a huge problem when you’re defending a network frontier against attack from other polities. Hence the firewall. My job, as part of the frontier guard, was to make sure that inbound travelers went straight into an A-gate—an assembler array that disassembled, uploaded, and analyzed them for threats, before routing them as serial data to another A-gate on the inside of the DMZ for reassembly. Normally people would only be routed through an A-gate for customs scanning or serialization via a high-traffic wormhole aperture dedicated to data traffic; but at that time there were no exceptions to the security check because we were at war.

War? Yes: it was the tail end of the censorship wars. I must have been infected at some point because I can’t remember what it was about, but I was definitely guarding cross-border—longjump—T-gates for one of the successor states that splintered from the Republic of Is when its A-gates were infected by the redactionist worms.

And then I seem to faintly recall . . . yes! Once upon a time I was one of the Linebarger Cats. Or I worked for them. But I wasn’t a tank, then. I was something else.

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