N2. The Water World

Akayama’s sun-sized Hurricane Planet scanned the skies with eyes large as oceans. It saw a space rock and thought to itself, “how about that one? It has cool craters.”

“No.” This thought had Akayama’s accent. “Too small. Its core is probably solid and not conducive to sustaining complicated life.”

The planet digested the space rock like an amoeba. “How about that one over there?” 

“It’s in the Milky Way. We’d attract attention.” They avoided it. Akayama took control of the planet’s eyes and focused on the black distance. Her knowledge of optics had increased their vision’s acuity a hundred-fold. “Maybe one of those.” She generated engines to thrust them across space.

The planet’s engines were even less sophisticated than the engines of the original Hurricane spaceship Akayama built seventy years ago. The Hurricane’s only tactic was recreating, in massive scale and quantity, the technology and biology it had already absorbed. She always assumed the Hurricane’s transmutation of the universe into its own flesh was directed by sinister intelligence. Now she was merged with it, and knew she had only been half right. 

Being assimilated took getting used to, but Akayama had invented mind-merging and knew how it worked, in theory. The planet had a single train of thought which was like high-speed conversation between every mind Akayama was merged with. The result was the sum of the constituents’ knowledge and the average of their intent. Akayama’s input was currently prioritized as the planet demanded she build a world of life to dominate. 

“None of these specimens are acceptable,” thought Akayama. The conjoined mind did not doubt her because of their united subconsciousness. “The Hurricane should regret eating most of the universe. We have nowhere to make our new Earth.”

“No problem,” thought the planet. It accelerated into a sparse volume of space on the border of the galaxy. “We’ll build one. We’ve got the know-how.”

The Hurricane Planet opened enormous organs in its interior. One organ flooded with salt-water, one inflated with nitrogen and oxygen, and one 3D-printed a lithosphere with an iron core spinning in molten magma. The planet ejected these components so they orbited at ninety-million miles. Gravity pulled the components together with a great fluid splash. It was a watery world with a breathable atmosphere.

“I’m confident I can grow life here,” thought Akayama. “We will be this world’s sun, providing radiation and genetic material. But I need to be back in my body. I’ll work on this world in person.”

“I agree,” thought the rest of the Hurricane Planet, “but even if you’re leaving, you’re not leaving.”

Akayama managed only an instant of confusion before she opened her own eyes and tore away the flesh-mask which connected her body to the planet. She sat on a rock in the dark at the core. She clenched her fists to ensure she controlled her own body. She still had feathers from the fall.

She heard a voice from the planet. To her surprise, it was her own voice: “Did you just copy me?”

“Oh, gosh,” said the Akayama in her own body. “This is confusing.”

“We’ll get used to it,” said the planet. “For simplicity we’ll call you Akayama, and I’m still the Hurricane Planet, even though the professor is present in both vessels.”

Akayama didn’t appreciate her body being called a vessel. She felt like a file on a computer which could be duplicated or deleted. “Send me to the water world. My first task is generating landmass with sub-aqueous extrusion—that is, I’ll open underwater magma vents.”

“I know what sub-aqueous extrusion is,” said the planet. “I know everything you know.”

“Of course, of course.” Akayama felt the floor rise from the planet’s core. “What life-forms are we aiming to generate? We need organisms with at least a nervous system if we want to transfer minds into them.”

“We’ve got the genetic data for squids, birds, and people.”

Akayama pat her lab coat pocket. “I’ve got a cockroach.”

“Gimme.”

She tossed the roach. The wall opened to catch it. “You also have the genetic data for earthworms; they were my first animal test-subjects when I developed mind-merging, because they’re segmented and almost radially symmetrical, so they’re easy to work with. They’re in the legacy files, alongside the fruit-trees.”

“I’m not putting my minds into worms.”

“You don’t have to, but I’ve never made life before. Let’s start with worms.” She felt violent vibrations as awful acceleration pressed her into the floor. “We’ll work our way up to humans.”

“Can we make them immortal? I won’t put an aspect of my being into something which might die.”

Akayama humphed. “We’re reclaiming your humanity, remember? Immortality isn’t the human condition.”

“Look into it anyway. You might change your mind.”

“Is that a threat?”

Akayama was fired from the planet’s surface and shot through space like a bullet. She thought the firing mechanism resembled a colossal volcano. As the distance between them grew, the volcano looked like a tiny pimple. 

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