The Immortality Option
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In the heart of one of the more densely mechanized areas, not very far away from the city, other scientists from the mission had been conducting an investigation that now occupied two permanent huts crammed with processors, analyzers, and electronic test equipment, along with a gaggle of NASO vehicles drawn up outside amid a tangle of cables. Inside one of the huts, Annette Claurier and Olaf Lundesfarne, two of the computer specialists, debated animatedly as they tried to make sense of the data patterns shirting and changing on the screens in front of them. The screens were monitoring the control processors of one of the stations where some types of Titan's machine animals were assembled and activated.

The mathematicians and robotics specialists believed that they had located the "genetic" software passed down through countless generations that was responsible for directing the assembly and initial start-up process. But certain of the "genomes" also seemed to contain huge blocks of redundant coding that had no apparent connection with any such essential process— strangely reminiscent of similar strings found in Terran DNA. But that was not to say that it didn't do anything.

"Look, the structure here is completely different from the surrounding functional code," the Frenchwoman insisted, pointing a finger. "More ordered. But compare it with this here, which we know consists of assembly instructions. It's chaotic—clearly the result of an evolutionary process. But this other kind is regular and structured. I say it goes back much farther—from before anything started to evolve."

The Norwegian consulted another array of symbols. "But its activity index is rising. Look at these interrupt vectors. It's doing something."

"There's no correlation with the assembly routines or the initiation sequencing," Annette said. "Whatever it's doing has got no connection with making animals. It's something else, something autonomous."

A silhouette darkened the doorways in the partition dividing the hut, and the chief scientist, Weinerbaum, stepped into the light. "What's all the excitement here?" he inquired. "Are we getting somewhere with those redundant blocks?"

Annette turned in her seat and waved a hand at the bank of glowing screens and control panels taking up one complete wall of the room. "I'm not so sure that 'redundant' is the right word, Professor," she replied. "But we've certainly stumbled one something here that's very different. It's showing extraordinary complexity and a strange tendency to self-assemble. This may sound silly, but I almost get the feeling that we're reactivating something that's trying to come alive."

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