Jake huffed, stuck his bloodied hand under his armpit. His body trembled as he shifted into a low-power mode that gave off very little heat and almost not exploratory network traffic. He didn’t need to sleep, of course, but there was little else to do while he waited for the nanos to repair the damage in his body. They had already closed the hole in his stomach, but the wound still ached, still seethed an uncomfortable warmth when he touched it.
Sleep came in jerky, stuttering cycles, and Jake did not dream. Instead, he ran through his recent history, replaying scenarios, looking for ways he could have done better. He found optimal responses for everything from Gabe’s shitty welcome to the mannequin in VNet to the idea that he needed companionship.
True synthetics didn’t need artificial social constructions; they were part of something bigger already. They weren’t like organics who trembled when they found themselves alone in the woods. If Jake wanted a friend, he might as well go full organic and get himself a—
Filters flitted across Jake’s eyes automatically. Something moved beyond the opening to the alcove, something burly and low to the ground. For a moment, Jake thought it might be Michael Four crawling along the rock, but the way the thing moved, the way its eyes burned a demonic red, told him it was something else entirely.