28

In the cellar of the Icarus Colony, three bodies had become one. The resultant entity was without rigid shape, boneless, featureless, a mass of pulsing tissue that lived in spite of lacking a brain and heart and blood vessels, without organs of any kind. It was primal, a thick protein soup, brainless but aware, eyeless but seeing, earless but hearing, without a gut but hungry.

The agglomerations of silicon microspheres had dissolved within it. That inner computer could no longer function in the radically altered substance of the creature, and in turn the beast had no use any more for the biological assistance that the microspheres had been designed to provide. Now it was not linked to Sun, the computer at New Wave. If the microwave transmitter there sent a death order, it would not receive the command — and would live.

It had become the master of its physiology by reducing itself, to the uncomplicated essence of physical existence. Their three minds also had become one. The consiousness now dwelling in that darkness was as lacking in complex form as the amorphous, jellied body it inhabited.

It had relinquished its memory because memories were recordings of events and relationships that had consequences, and consequences — good or bad — implied that one was responsible for one’s actions. Flight from responsibility had driven the creature to regression in the first place. Pain was another shedding memory — the pain of recalling what had been lost.

Likewise, it had surrendered the capacity to consider the future, to plan, to dream.

Now it had no past of which it was aware, and the concept of a future was beyond its ken. It lived only for the moment, Unthinking, unfeeling, uncaring.

It had one need. To survive.

And to survive, it needed only one thing. To feed.

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