AWD #372: Definition of Self
Definition of Self
Summary: Knox and Sam have a brief, albeit weighty, discussion about the definition of self and what it means to live.
Date: 28/June/2016
Related Logs:
Knox Samtara 
Aircraft Apron - Crandall

The heavily creased and cragged tarmac has seen better days but there is plenty of room for any number of aircraft that need to find ready station and waiting room on the base. The apron spreads out, further away from the runway to the West, but in the immediate vicinity are a few buildings. To the North across a large taxing area are the hangars, spread out in a line that leads away from the central buildings and towards the runway. To the East are the buildings in question, the closest being Operations which is a stark, well built brick building with the heavily reinforced munitions bunker attached. The two buildings are ensconced by an extra chain link fence collapsing at one side and likely no longer worth its weight.

Further away and taking up most of the room at Crandall is the AMARG - Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. The massive dirt storage area for space ready birds has its own apron and large facility. Extra pieces and portions of older birds litter a portion of the side of a building. A long abandoned older Raptor model sits unused and rusting.

Fri 13/Jun/2006

The only Six that's been on board the Orion in the last few months has been a short visit from one of them that certainly was -not- Knox and never claimed to be. They aren't really the type to hang around the colonials. They always seem so ready to go out and take care of business. But then when Sam gets off the Raptor at Crandall 45 minutes early, she spots one. There's a six in a grey t-shirt with some kind of red-white-blue design on the front and basketball shorts. He's running (for exercise by the looks of it) with two Marines flanking him - both armed. How odd. But the Six glances over towards Sam and the guy slows. There's recognition on his face and a too-familiar smile spreads despite the sweat. There's a lifted hand in greeting as he turns and heads that direction.

Shading her eyes as she unhooks the sun shades she'd remembered to bring with her this time, swapping out her reading glasses as she steps out of the raptor, eyes adjusting after a few moments of blinking and taking in the fresh air that is redolent with the scent of fuel. Shouldering the file bag that she's carrying, Sam steps away from the Raptor itself and, as she sweeps a glance around, she spots the familiar form of the Six (and his marine escort) and alters course subtly to meet midway. "Marines," she offers with a cordial tip of her head in a nod, her eyes shifting right back to the Six, seeing the recognition on his face and the familiar smile before she ventures, "Knox?" in a questioning tone to her voice.

He's lacking the scars and tattoo's he used to have. His hair is shorter and better cropped for a Marine. The five o'clock shadow he seemed to be cursed with seems to have been shorn down more carefully. But it's the eyes. It's always the eyes. The micro-expressions to be picked up. That subtle kindness is there, but there's something else also. Something a wee darker or more seriously. "Yes, Captain. It's me. At least, that's what I'm claiming." A little skinjob humor. It's a joke for the educated. The Marines don't seem to get it and both of them stand to the side, watching. Seems Knox has escorts. "It's great to see you again, Doctor. It hasn't been that long but it's a relief to see someone from the Orion looking well. I'm only seen Major Grey and he always looks like someone just fed him the last cigarette in the galaxy."

Sam makes a sound of amusement that is mostly breath followed by the word, "Hah," in a low voice. She shares a wry curve of a smile, "If it was the last cigarette in the galaxy I think he might, possibly, pitch a fit followed by ordering that tobacco be cultivated on planet and processed, post haste, along with re-establishing the whole process to render wood into pulp then rolling paper. He'd probably even recreate fire from sheer will alone to support his habit." She tips her head slightly, the wry smile lingering on her face, "It's good to see you as well, and especially to see that you're You and not another version that looks almost like you but isn't quite you. An 'Almost Knox' isn't the same as the genuine article."

Knox has that same low smile, that natural look of entertainment. "You've given this some thought, sir. I would agree with your analysis. I'm not sure if all that would be necessary. Pretty sure he could just summon more at will. I don't even know where he gets so many." He lifts his shirt to wipe off his face and goes to stand at a casual parade rest. "Well, to be honest sir, there's no way for the ship to be sure that I am the real me. I left with the understanding that I could return, but given everything that's happened?" There's a low shrug. "I think that I would be upset if a skinjob were just allowed to walk back onto the ship like nothing had happened when here's no way to verify who they are. It's been enlightening, terrifying, and a big drain. I never thought I would say it, Doctor, but I think I actually miss my rack on the ship." He tilts his head forward as if sharing the low humor of it. Yeah, he's changed. Not quite the same, but the mannerisms and the 'way' he is are nearly identical to memory.

"I've given it some serious thought," Sam agrees with a nod, "partially because getting him to stop smoking is perpetually on my to-do list. Partially because at some point he will run out of cigarettes and when the day comes he's going to be all manner of . . unpleasant. I'm not sure that the Major being unpleasant is all together a good thing, all things considered. That, and the smell is noxious." She pauses then to take a breath, then shakes her head slowly. "Because you can't restrict your memories from your entire line from having access to them, I would imagine? You can't set a pass phrase or something of that manner that you and only you would remember?" making that as much a question as a general supposition, that thoughtful slightly speculative gleam enters her eyes, having encountered another logic puzzle to add to her list. "I think i rather like knowing that the phrase 'unique, just like everyone else' still applies to you as well. Yes, cellular structure is identical down to the last skin cell. Which is, in and of itself, a feat of engineering, is it not? But your sense of self, you resume that even when you wake up in a new body?"

Knox holds the entertainment with the points about Grey. "I wish I could say that I'd be willing to help, but I think he'd brand me a traitor and put me out an airlock." The smile grows a bit larger for a moment. The discussion of his memories and what can be known brings an easy nod. "Precisely. I've learned a few new phrases which I will mash together for you: It is like Schroedinger tried to tackle epistomology. Everything I would be able to bring with me would be in my mind, but if I know it then every one to come after me would know it too." A hand lifts and he lazily shakes a finger in her general direction. "I know that look, Doctor. Feel free to puzzle it out. If you come up with something, I'd be really interested to hear how you think it could be done." Yep! Her final question has him take a long breath and nod, some of the entertainment leaving. "To be honest, I was pretty terrified. I didn't know if I'd be able to retain my sense of self. Ceres attempted it and came back. Naomi. Ceres gave me hope since her line are warfighters also, but I think I know what it means to face your own mortality in some respects. I know this: I downloaded once. Never again. Consider the potential of eternal life, but then no matter what you cannot die. And every time you do, you have the experiences of thousands and millions of others forced through your head and out the other side."

"All of which begs the question of the origin of original thought," Sam wonders with a slow nod, a hint of a smile forming on her face again. "At what point do your own thoughts become tangled with the thoughts of the others of your line, the memories of others of your line that you have access to, until the seed of origin is so similar along familiar thought paths traveled in similar situations by another to reach a similar conclusion and end result. How do you know which thought is yours, which thought is just familiar enough that it could be yours." The half smile on her face fades as she considers what he's said, however, "You do not wish to download again, should the need or circumstance arise. I would imagine that a greater portion of people would theoretically leap at the chance, fear of death is one of the driving forces behind. . well, it's what makes us mortal. We don't want to die. Everything from figuring out what mushrooms to avoid, how to properly prepare and store food, medicine, shelter, familial and social groups, all of it is designed initially around the concept of survival. Living longer."

Knox nods slowly. "I've had trouble sleeping many nights just because of the question of which thoughts are mine, Doctor. The philosophical implications are staggering and almost as deep as any other imaginable topic. Let me tell you, the first four or five days after I downloaded were the most excruciatingly painful hours of my life - even physically. My head felt like it was going to explode. But I eventually clung to one single idea: I have to trust myself if I ever want to come home. I promised myself that I would never return if I couldn't trust my initial gut reactions. I'm still wary, sir, but I haven't failed my own trust yet." The other topic of eternal life has him nod slowly, smile having left some time ago. "I won't be so petty as to say that humanity thinks too small or some such nonsense. The grass is never greener on the other side. My experience with all of this has just taught me I don't want to do it anymore. I'd rather just move forward with humanity. And like I told Major Grey, Doctor, the Sixes that are defecting feel the same. They'll do it to keep fighting the war, but they want to be done with it as soon as possible. Eternal life is one thing, being forced to endure the memories of torturing, killing, and plotting to tear apart humanity…" The guy was always quiet so to see that much pain so subtly ghost past his eyes might take her aback a bit. He doesn't have much physical reaction but there is obviously something intensely traumatic in there.

"You need a fire wall," Sam muses with a mild shake of her head. "Could you not, instead of downloading at large, simply be linked from your damaged body to a new, as yet unawakened, body and do a direct data transfer?" She exhales a sudden laugh, "And suddenly I'm talking like I've ever, not, crashed a computer in my entire life. The whole concept of plug and play baffles me, much as I appreciate it, but I used to drive the tech support team crazy asking questions like that. So. From the basis and premise that I have no genuine idea how any of your data transfer or storage works in the first place, let alone why your design team lacked the foresight to allow you, any of you, to enable a fire wall to block away the constant stream of memories, I do wonder all the same if such an option were possible." She then gives a slow shake of her head, "Personally, I would not wish to. Live, that is, forever. I don't think we're meant to. What do we learn, really, what do we value, ultimately, if everything is replacable. If we can watch the stars burn out and the suns turn into black holes that slowly consume all the stars in the night sky. If you have to live through all of that, until the very end of the moments of the universe, what will you have learned aside from how terribly fleeting life really is; while -equally - still being the longest thing that you'll ever do. Philosophy is not intended to make one want to leap off a bridge and dash ones self into a terminal end on the rocks below."

Knox consider the idea and finally seems ot be cooling down. Samtara might be impressed with his body's ability to do that so quickly. He wasn't even out of breath when he moved up to her while hte Marines were huffing. "I do suppose that's possible but-" The Six makes a face. "Why? I'm endeavoring to be more human. To leave what I am in the past. I'll never be able to do that if I do the one thing that defines me for being what I am." He looks into the distance while a pair of Predators take off, their afterburners bringing low rumbles to their lungs. "That's very similar to what I realized when I gave up on the skinjobs, Doctor. I realized that the reason that I valued humanity and my friends so much was because one day they would be gone. Nothing is forever, except me. I started thinking about how even if I got married and could haev children, eventually I would have to watch them all die. I don't want to do that. I want to value things similarly because value inspires passion. I don't care what some pipe-smoking Virgan philosopher says, thats what defines humanity. Passion, in all its forms. Especially the lengths humanity will go to for each other. Random strangers, even. Even the negative passions inspire greatness for some to heed the call to rail against it. …in all their own unique ways." Knox gestures an upturned palm to the Colonial Fleet patch on her shoulder.

"The future isn't promised to anyone," Sam reminds Knox in a quiet voice. "Parents lose their children, their spouses, their own parents, their friends, we lose people all the time. Day in and day out. Even without war. There's disease, famine, strife, pure accidents, and even if you have the most healthy set of genes, the ideal environment, lead a healthy life, you will still die. Whether by old age or by falling out of bed and hitting your head just the exactly wrong way, death comes to us all. Death isn't the enemy, it's just. . a reminder that each day is precious. And that all life matters. No parent wants to bury their own child, and those who do, must find a new way to keep living, whether it's day to day or minute by minute. It is, in and of itself, an agony that cannot be healed from. They simply learn to live with it, because there is no choice. Have children, if you so desire, pick a partner, lead your life. Don't surrender that aspect of your self determination just because you may outlive the family that you create. Maybe you'll get to see your great great great great and so on grand children. How is that a curse, if we're using religious vernacular." She chuckles suddenly, "Finding a new angle to the problem is just how my brain works, and I know I'm not helping." She studies Knox for a quiet moment now, searching his face, studying those micro-expressions, "I don't think of you as just another Six. You're not just another product from your production line. I believe, personally, that we become what we are. Not the other way around. Pare everything away, all the soft edges, all the social norms, all the public persona, and what you are at the core is who you have always been. Decide who you are, Knox, draw that line, and refuse to accept any less. For good, or ill. Live and be the example. No one said it wasn't going to be the worst damned job out there, and you'll be volunteering for it, just to be clear. Someone has to."

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