A burst of cold bellowed from the climate control systems of the residence, as Kris reached out through ThirdCity’s informational network to do battle with the Little Ones.
It was like fighting a nest of spiders.
He struck at the first small intelligence that approached, grabbing the squirming thing full of directives and dripping with queries, and crushed it between his frost-mailed fingers until it froze and shattered. He did this again and again, fighting to stem the flood of intruders, to prevent them from invading the residence and reclaiming the girl who might somewhen have been his sister.
But with each one he crushed, it seemed that two rose to replace it. And although he was successful, each victory cost him something integral. In order to crush each system, he had to perceive and understand it - and in the doing, bits and fragments of their perspective clung to and cluttered his psyche, undermining his confidence. Were these not life forms of a sort that he was killing? What business did he have, disrupting the order of this place? Was it unhappier or worse than the world of people that he knew? All life consumes in order to grow. Who was to say which forms had more merit, or deserved more to live?
The spiders were crawling up his limbs, up his chest, onto his face. He slew them in groups, but each spider led to another subnetwork, and another, and another beyond that. He was water, pouring in to silence them, and they were hairline fractures, drinking him dry with their groupthink, robbing him of his mind, reducing him to a single system without a role to play in the larger network. He was a calculation gone wrong, a wasted query, a bug. He was a bad dream in the mind of ThirdCity. When it awoke he would disappear, and it would be back to life, whatever that was, as usual.
That girl wasn’t even Anna.
Learning is a strange enterprise.
One’s voice reached him from the past. The Myrmidon’s single-minded purpose and determination were his defining traits - but even in the midst of his own quest, he had taken the time necessary to help Kris out. He let nothing compromise the person that he was, but he was conscious of the impact he had on other lives. He course-corrected just enough to help another fellow being out, without losing sight of his mission. He learned, and in learning he cast off old selves like molted husks - but always to reveal a newer, brighter, better self underneath.