It took about three months of calendar time, maybe twenty bot-days of actual labor, to excavate a path through the rubble of Pyrrhus’ Antarctic base and find the likely resting spot of John Black, aka SNOWMAN.
Mo and Big Bill Newman sent their human shells through the narrow passage. Alex watched from Otto’s well-heated interior as Mo Newman’s tow cable reeled and reeled and reeled. They came out with something much less than an intact human body.
Alex watched the video feed from the next room, as Otto performed something between an autopsy and a resurrection. Leo was still in therapy, and Aria was with him, but they would eventually want to hear all this. So it was being recorded.
“What we got here is a standard Newman-type robot shell, heavily modified,” Otto announced. “Limbs are totally gone. About 45% of the torso has been eaten away by what we figure is nanotech attack. Pyrrhus must have been literally chewing on him when the bomb went off.”
“No ionic reservoir, no coolant, the whole damn thing’s electrically neutral and desiccated. No charge in the graphene power cells. The whole electrical harness was totally taken out by point-blank EMP blast. Our boy took a tactical nuke to the face.”
“Head is damaged but intact. We’re just gonna pop this thing open, and…”
“Okay. Brain enclosure is fully intact. Whew. The electronics for access are blown to hell of course, but the STF mediation layer looks like it protected the actual brain from concussion. We’re gonna have to strip off the externals. This shell is a total write-off anyway. Bill, get the electronics kit. Mo, we’re gonna drop him into one of the spare shells for now. Got a preference? … Anything but yours, got it. I’ll donate one of mine.”
“Okay. Back in the saddle. We fabricated a new access layer, built for Rossum Digital Neural Format, version 5. Stand by with the fire extinguisher, Mo, we’re gonna plug this in…”
Alex tensed as a shower of sparks filled the operating room.
“Yeah that did not work. Let’s see where we are… access layer shit itself, good job me. Might be a residual charge in the STF, it’s mildly conductive. Alright, another two hours of soldering, boys.”
“Access layer is intact. Okay. So here’s what we’re gonna do. Leo, I think this is a good idea, tell me when you hear this if I fucked up. We have a baseline, in the form of me. We’re gonna do a Heart Gauge ping on the brain here, just to see what kind of divergence we’ve got. I figure 65% or above means we have an intact connectome. Anything below that, well, that’s bad news for ol’ John Black I figure.”
Alex reached out, ready to turn off the video feed from the operating room. Their hand stopped. This was too much to listen to. Or was it?
They lacked the courage to listen. But they lacked the will to stop.
“68.2%. We have a viable connectome. Guy’s pretty fucked up emotionally, but he’s there. Time to go fishin’.”
Alex let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding.
“Alright. Heart Factory transfer ready. A connection solid. B connection solid. No mix, just blit. ETA 25 seconds. Come on, baby, hold together…”
Alex watched the waiting shell, a perfect replica of Otto Newman’s human form, as John Black’s soul poured into it.
The Heart Factory pinged completion.
The shell opened its eyes and screamed.