Author's Note: I've gotten complaints that this story takes a while to get going, specifically that it takes forever to get to Shanxi so for any new readers that want to get right to that rather than read the build-up of how the Borg came to be, just jump to Chapter 13. I hope you don't do that, you'd be skipping 12 chapters if you did, but I'm giving you the heads up just the same.
Research and Development
Skynet Military Base May 6, 2021 AD
Dr. Jeffery Borg did not like his fellow man. He found the vast majority of people he was forced to to interact with on a daily basis to be stupid, annoying neanderthals that had barely moved past the knuckle dragging phase of their evolutionary development. This would not have been a problem but to quote Jeff's boss, Sarah Stryker, "I've known people with tourette's syndrome that were better at keeping their mouths' shut than him."
Jeff's ability to alienate almost anyone he came in contact with was the reason he could not get a job in the private sector. People refused to work with him, despite his brilliance and expertise in the field of robotics and neuroscience. Hence, Jeff's current boss was a United States Army Colonel and Jeff was assigned to some underground facility in Alabama of all places.
While the surrounding swampland made leaving the base an thoroughly unpleasant exercise, Jeff had to give the Army credit, this was the last place he would have looked for a military base that did advanced cybernetic experiments, though he did find the name to be in bad taste. And what a base it was, at twenty stories tall (or maybe twenty stories deep would be more accurate) with enough supplies to keep the place sustained for a month, though it received delivers once every other week. The base only housed around one hundred people (almost all of whom were idiots) but the size of the underground bunker still impressed Jeff when he thought about it. The interior was gray, filled with lifeless white and concrete walls with as much personality as the very people who staffed the base. It was as if the military engineers, repulsed by the swampland, wanted to create a haven against the natural world.
Despite the flora outside the base being just as dangerous as the fauna, mosquitoes so big that if they decided to suck your blood they would leave you light-headed, and the god-awful military food, Jeff enjoyed his situation. His quarters were on the same floor as his laboratory so he did not have to walk far, his lab assistant was mute so he didn't have to listen to the idiot's prattling, and Stryker left him alone so long his experiments produced results. The best part of working on a secret military base was that he didn't have to worry about getting heckled by PETA protesters just because he wanted to see what would happen if he stuck a TV antenna into a parrot's brain (turns out Polly started picking up local weather forecasts). He was allowed to do pretty much any experiment he could think up so long as he could justify some way it which it would help the military. He was particularly proud of his ten page request for permission to create remote controlled lab rats. Sure, he had said they could have been used to read documents, carry bombs, and search for survivors under rubble but Jeff had mainly used them to steal the good food that the officers on the base were hoarding.
The idea for his current project had started out when he heard two of the janitors talking about a video game they were playing where they could see what their teammates saw and they were able to efficiently coordinate attacks on the enemy base. Jeff was almost disappointed in how easy it had been to get permission for this project. He hadn't even put in a formal request, Stryker happened to walk by his table in the mess hall while he was writing the idea down on his napkin. After reading over his shoulder (Jeff really hated when people did that) she informed him it was a great idea and he would have double his usual budget to make it work. So here he was, sitting at his computer, attempting to design...something that could link a person's brain to a central computer so that they could receive necessary combat information. The problem wasn't designing the receiving device, he had already thought up four different possible solutions. The problem was the sending device. If the person or computer controlling the information were compromised the entire team would lose their edge and would be no better than ordinary soldiers. He could always just design in a secondary information operator or some kind of fail-safe, but that seemed too easy, too predictable. Normal researchers would take the easy way out, they were moronic simpletons, Dr. Jeffery Borg was not. He would fix this problem in such a way that his dimwitted coworkers would be left in awe...but first he needed to smoke a cigarette.
The quartermaster on base didn't stock tobacco products so there were only two ways to get cigarettes. Jeff could take the hour long trip off base, through the swamp, to the nearest town which would require him to talk to whoever was behind the counter at the general store. Last time he had gone, Jeff had been forced to listen to the pregnant teenager behind the counter complain about how she couldn't figure out who the father was and so had asked him if he thought she could get child support from more than one person. The other option was to pay the ridiculous marked up prices that the delivery truck drivers charged. Most of the drivers would look the other way if a box or two of supplies happened to to missing, provided they were distracted by enough cash, but not always. Sometimes the delivery guy might have morals and wouldn't sell his "excess" inventory. Neither option appealed to Jeff so he saved his cigarettes for when he really needed them. Today was one of those times.
The officer in charge of the base would not allow smoking indoors and, thanks to Jeff's remote controlled rats now under said officer's control, if anyone tried to smoke inside they would get caught. So Jeff had to take the elevator up the surface for his smoke break. It wouldn't have been so bad but the security guard stationed in the elevator always stank. Jeff doubted that today would be the day the guard finally did something about his hygiene, but for the sake of his olfactory system, Jeff had to try.
"So Carson, five years I've been working here, and though I mention it every time I take the elevator, I notice that you haven't figured out the amazing discovery known as soap. I can understand your trepidation with wanting to try out new things, but trust me, soap as been around since the ancient Babylonians, it's a safe, stable technology."
With a deep sigh the solider responded, "You known, Dr. Borg, in the five years you've been riding in my elevator, not once have you gotten my name correct."
"What are you talking about Carter?"
"Nothing, Dr. Borg."
"That's what I thought Carmichael."
As the elevator reached the surface and the doors opened, the guard, in a tone that suggested he regretted every responding to Jeff's conversation, said "Here's your stop Dr. Borg. Enjoy your smoke break."
After taking a literal and deep breath of fresh air, Jeff responded "Thank you, Cartman. Your hygiene may be lacking but your manners are not" and lite up his cigarette before wandering away from the elevator.
Topside, the base was not much too look at. It was designed to resemble a fenced in power station. The six towers hummed with electricity and Jeff could feel the hair on his arms start to stand up from the charge in the air. Some of the less intelligent men on the base liked to find ways to light their smokes by using the charge from the towers. Considering three soldiers had died from that in the five years he had been stationed here, Jeff stuck with using matches to light his cigarettes. That was apparently a sentiment not everyone agreed with. Jeff noticed two soldiers smoking next to one of the towers high fiving each other and looking quite pleased. If this base wasn't next to impossible to find hidden in the middle of swamp he might actually fear for his safety with idiots like these two working the security detail.
Jeff walked to the opposite end of the compound away from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, puffing on his cigarette. He was attempting to clear his mind and focus on just enjoying his smoke break when he stepped on a rather large anthill. Cursing the outdoors, Alabama, God, ants, and whatever else came to mind, Jeff jumped back shaking his foot frantically before any ants started biting. Luckily, no ants remained attached after Jeff's freak out. He was about to go back to enjoying his smoke when the ants caught his eye. Each individual ant ran about, working to reconstruct their hill. They worked as a team, yet no one was giving them orders. Sure, there was a queen, but she didn't tell each ant what it should do, they just knew. And suddenly Jeff had his solution. Rather than have a central computer/user to send out the data, the network would be decentralized between everyone who was implanted. That way there was no one weak point that could cripple the whole operation. Now that he thought about it, why limit the network to sharing strictly audio and visual data? If he designed it properly, anything could be shared. Squads could share knowledge, if one member of the team was a bomb expert, suddenly they all become bomb experts! If the medic got injured, someone else could patch him up! Jeff's mind started going through even more possibilities. If he got the implant himself, suddenly everyone would gain his intelligence. A team of scientists with that amount of know-how could create some truly amazing wonders. With a spring in his step, Jeff finished his cigarette and returned to the elevator. He had a lot of work to do.
Skynet Military Base July 25, 2021 AD
Jeff was in a good mood. He had designed the hardware and software for his neural transceivers in just under a month. It had taken another month to get everything constructed and work out the bugs in the programming, but now he had a series of mice implanted with the devices. For his first experiment, Jeff had isolated one of the mice and taught it that climbing through a series of tubes and pulling on a string at the top would cause food to appear (OK, Jeff made his lab assistant teach the mouse that). Then they put the other mice in the tubes and every single mouse knew how to navigate the tubes and pull on the string to get food despite never physically interacting with the trained mouse. Experiment after experiment showed the same results: what one mouse learned, every other mouse knew.
Now Jeff needed a way to do the experiment on a larger scale. He knew his superiors would say it was still too early to safely test the neural transceivers on humans. The mice were all being studied for any possible health effects that his implants might cause and that would take at a least a year so he needed something to occupy his time. Jeff was currently leaning towards monkeys because...well because he wanted to operate on one honestly. Monkeys were basically just little hairy people anyway, had about the same intelligence level as some of the soldiers stationed on this base anyway. He read about people teaching gorillas sign language. That would be a much better test for the implants than trying to get through a maze.
Skynet Military Base April 23, 2023 AD
Jeff never did get permission to bring monkeys onto the base. He was forced to stick with more traditional animals, but a man of his genius found ways to make it work. He had implanted a neural transceiver in a trained bomb sniffing dog and a six month old puppy. The puppy was then tested on bomb detection and actually did better than the trained dog. This showed that knowledge learned prior to the implantation was still able to be shared. The experiments with distance between the subjects were not as successful. Once one of the dogs had learned something it would immediately tell all the other dogs on the network, but the other dogs could only learn about it as quickly as the message traveled. If the dogs were in the same building it wasn't a problem, if they were miles apart there would be a slight delay. Those split seconds could be crucial on a battlefield. The delay would also be really annoying if a person wanted to link to a person on the other side of the planet. Jeff had to think long term after all. This technology could change the world once it was perfected.
At the moment Jeff had to focus on the now, namely implanting the neural transceivers into his human test subjects. He had given them each simple numerical designations: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven (Jeff did not want to waste valuable brain power memorizing names). Jeff was really looking forward to the detailed notes the seven subjects could provide. There was only so much one could learn from watching dogs after all. With human test subjects that spoke and wrote English, testing would become much easier. The neural transceivers were only in their fifth iteration, Jeff would be able to make some rapid hardware and software improvements once these came online and he observed the subjects behavior. He just hoped he wouldn't accidentally lobotomize one of the subjects while he implanted the transceivers; he was so excited that his hands were experiencing slight tremors while he operated on One. Two through Seven were currently lounging somewhere around the base. Cutting into human brain without causing any damage was not easy on the best of days, because of his shaking Jeff had to go even slower than he had originally planned. Jeff had hoped to do two operations a day but at the current rate he would be lucky to finish this one in under six hours. That meant he would have to wait a full week before he could see how humans reacted to his invention. Worry about the wait later; right now focus on not screwing up.
Skynet Military Base May 23, 2023 AD
Exactly one month had passed since Jeff had implanted the neural transceivers in his seven test subjects and a lot of things had happened. While the seven subjects had originally all had startling different personalities (Five was incredibly vulgar, while Two was a born-again Christian) they had homogenized over the past month. They now all shared the same basic personalty traits. Talking with one of them felt no different from talking with any of the other ones. Their interests and hobbies had all combined as well. Where as One had been the athletic, sporty type, he was now content to read books in his free time if he was told there were no physical activities that he was currently allowed to engage in. Just like the dogs and mice, all seven subject were able to share knowledge. Originally, Three was the only one that spoke Spanish and One knew some Latin, now all seven were trilingual.
Jeff couldn't be happier with the successful exchanging of knowledge, but the changing of personality concerned him. Not because he was concerned about his subjects, he hadn't liked them to begin with, but because the military might pull the plug on this project if permanent mental change was one of the side effects. Oddly enough, when Jeff had pointed out to Five how he almost completely ceased cursing, Five hadn't been bothered by it. Five had simply explained that Two didn't like it so he didn't do it anymore. When Jeff had asked why Five cared what Two thought, Five had asked why Jeff didn't. That had ended the conversation rather abruptly. Jeff was supposed to create a way for soldiers to better function on the battlefield (and eventually improve humanity maybe, whatever got his name to the masses) and he was instead stuck with a knitting circle that talked about their feelings. Hopefully, the seven subjects would still perform their duties when it came to battle simulations later in the week.
Skynet Military Base May 29, 2023 AD
Jeff was reviewing the video footage of his test subjects running through the combat exercises. All seven performed better than he had hoped. They knew exactly what each member of the team was doing and what still needed to be done. His typed report along with the video files had already been sent to Stryker, and based off of what his computer was showing him, Jeff was confident she would want him to continue his work. Still, the blending of the subjects' personalities made him pause the footage to think. It shouldn't have happened. How was it even possible?
Prior to getting implanted, Five had not only been vulgar but had also been arrogant, self-centered, and a bully. Two had been the stereotypical meek, turn-the-other-cheek, born-again Christian. They should not have gotten along, yet they did. Being able to hear another person's thoughts should allow for instance communication and rapid sharing of knowledge, it shouldn't alter the basis of who a person was. Was this just a software error? Had he screwed up when writing the code? Could it have been a hardware problem? Did the manufacturers get sloppy when they were building some of the parts? There were too many variables.
Jeff was at a complete loss as to what he should do. His seven subjects were getting along better than a 1950's sitcom family yet none of them had met each other before they were chosen for this experiment. If the subjects had been told before the experiment began that there personalities would change, would they have still volunteered? What would happen if they ever got the neural transceivers removed? Would their personalities change back or would they remain as they were now? And most importantly of all, Jeff realized, why was he thinking about all this crap? All he cared about was whether or not he got to stay on the project. So far the neural transceivers were functioning fine, the personality change was just a weird side effect that did not matter in the long run. They did what they were designed to do and that should be good enough for the military.
Eventually the neural transceivers would be released to the public and once people realized how much they could change the world, Jeff would be set for life. He would go down in history with the likes of Einstein, Edison, and Newton. Let the philosophers debate the ethics of trans-humanism and free will, Jeff just wanted the adoration of the unwashed masses. Actually, now that he thought about, Jeff decided he preferred if they were washed masses. Five years of being stuck in the elevator with Carnegie really brought home the importance of cleanliness. So long as the personality changes weren't a big enough problem that the military canceled the project, he would be good. He was interrupted from his musings by a knock on his office door. The fact that the door opened before he gave the knocker permission to enter meant it could only be one person, his boss, Colonel Sarah Stryker.
Before Jeff got the chance to chastise her for, once again, entering his office without permission she excitedly started talking. "Jeff, I just saw the video you sent! Do you mean to tell me that your devices can turn seven men that didn't know each other a month ago into a highly trained commando team?"
With a sigh of annoyance, Jeff responded "No Sarah, as I explained in my report, which I included in the email of the video, the neural transceivers distribute knowledge. Since Three had received training as an Army Ranger, the other six gained that knowledge. If all seven had been basic soldiers, they would have performed better than a normal team, but not as good as they did."
"Look, spare me the lecture of the technical mumbo-jumbo. Is this repeatable? Can we do it again?"
"I can understand how you would need to repeat your questions when dealing with the troglodytes that work for you, but remember that you are talking to someone with a brain that Socrates and Aristotle would be envious of" Jeff said. "But to answer your question, provided a sufficiently knowledgeable person is chosen for the new team, yes. In fact, if the right people were picked, the new team could even be better than this one."
Sarah was stunned at the news. "Wow...this is big Jeff, like invention of the atomic bomb big. You've changed the way wars are fought. Instant communication between soldiers, instant training...just...wow."
"I know the ramifications of my invention comes as a shock to a mid-level army grunt like yourself, but I'm actually aware of the possibilities of my neural transceivers. If you had bothered to read my report instead of just watching the video you would know that I outlined several different ways that the military could make use of the transceivers. Come to think of it, seeing as how you approved this project before I even submitted a formal request for funding, you should be impressed I didn't just use the money to buy subscriptions to every porn site on the Internet."
One reason Jeff was able to work for Sarah for five years without getting his teeth knocked out was that she was a pretty laid back person. Whenever Jeff got too insulting she would simply ignore him until he calmed down and acted civilized. Usually this took a conscious effort on her part, this time was an exception. The news Jeff had just given her was so mind blowing she had to take a moment to just sit and think. She was only peripherally aware as Jeff went on about how a genius like him should not be shackled to a boss that did not even read the reporters he took time to write. Sure, she had given him permission to work on the project with extra funding, but that was just because she didn't want to come in under-budget at her performance review of the research projects she was heading. She hadn't expected Jeff to actually succeed, he was smart, but she hadn't thought he was this smart.
After almost five minutes (during which Jeff never noticed that she failed to respond to his complaints) Sarah interrupted his rant. "So you can continue making, and making improvements on, these brain transmitter thingies?"
"Brain...transmitter...thingies? Jeff asked in disbelief. "Well, it's nice to know a project that could change the course of human societal development is under the watchful eye of someone with a second grader's vocabulary. Another successful product of American public schooling, you are. But yes, I can. Oh, and by the way, though I already know the answer I'll ask the question anyway, did you read in the report where I detailed the personality changes among the seven subjects?"
That caught Sarah's attention. "No, I didn't. What sort of changes are we talking about? Violent? Anti-social? Anything dangerous?"
"No, nothing so cliched." Jeff said with a chuckle. "This isn't a Hollywood movie. All the subjects showed a marked increase in actions to maintain group cohesion and expressed supportive dialogue to one another. There was also a sharp decrease in competitive showmanship and emotionally damaging verbal jabs."
It took Sarah a few seconds to figure out what Jeff had just said. "So...they decided to work together and not be dicks to each other is what you're saying."
"Did I stutter?"
"Right. Well, I don't see that as a bad thing so get back to work. Next week, some generals are coming by to check on the research the base has been doing and your project needs to be perfect by then."
As Sarah left, Jeff returned to watching the footage of his subjects in action. He knew worrying about the personality changes had been stupid, and now his boss said it didn't matter. It's nice to have confirmation from a superior that you were right all along.
Skynet Military Base April 4, 2023 AD
There really wasn't a whole lot Jeff could have done in a week to dramatically increase the abilities of his subjects so he had settled for checking the software for bugs. Not exactly the stuff of great stories, but it was necessary. While Jeff spent the week in his office staring at code, his seven subjects had been training. They knew the importance of the generals' visit. They needed to impress, and could only do that if they were in perfect physical and mental condition.
One night when Jeff had been working late, all seven subjects had stopped by his office. They told Jeff they wanted to thank him for creating the neural transceivers. That had caused him to stop what he was doing on his computer so he could properly pay attention to what they were saying. Of all the things he had expected them to want to talk to him about, giving thanks was not one of them. Sure, Jeff enjoyed being worshiped as the God among men that he was, but gratitude was not one of the usual emotions people expressed towards him.
"You want to thank me for creating the neural transceivers? Why?" Jeff asked.
"Because," One answered "without them we would not be who we now are."
"So you admit that you are not the same people as before?"
"Of course we're not the same people. Now that the seven of use are each a part of a bigger whole. Our minds are connected. Seven's thoughts might as well be my thoughts." Three said.
"And you guys consider that a good thing?"
"We know and understand each other in a way no one before us ever has. Why wouldn't it be a good thing?" Two asked with genuine puzzlement in his voice.
"Well...it means you have no privacy, no alone time."
Seven laughed at Jeff's comment and said, "We don't want any between each other. Privacy is so...archaic."
"Archaic? In private, people can be themselves and they won't be judged. It's a vital part of everyone's lives." Jeff quite liked his privacy. Just because he wanted the world to recognize him as the smartest man alive didn't mean he wanted every moment of his life to end up in the news. Jeff hoped that his Star Wars fanfic never saw the light of day, that particular hobby didn't need to end up in the history books.
"At one point and time, so was slavery." Four responded quite matter-of-factly.
Jeff had no clue how to respond to that. Comparing slavery and privacy...how does one even begin to come up with a counter-argument to that? Jeff decided to ignore it and just redirect the conversation instead. "You know, I never intended for this to happen. The transceivers were only supposed to exchange knowledge."
"Dr. Borg, you're a scientist. You know that it is results, not intent, that matters. Much like an unplanned child still loves its parents, we are grateful for what you have done even if you did not mean for it to happen." Six said.
"I suppose you have a point. So, you've thanked me, now what?" Jeff was now desperate to change the conversation. He had never owned a pet because of the emotional attachment and responsibility involved, he certainly did not want to be a father figure for seven soldiers that shared their every thought.
"We will go prepare. If we wish to keep the neural transceivers then we have to impress the generals and prove that the time and money you invested in their creation was worth it. Once again, thank you Dr Borg." Five said as all seven left Jeff's office.
Skynet Military Base April 7, 2023 AD
The generals' inspection had been a very good thing for Jeff. They had seen how well his subjects preformed, unlike Stryker they read Jeff's reports, they even talked with Four (Jeff wasn't sure why they had decided to only interview Four as opposed to all seven but whatever). All in all, the generals were impressed and wanted Jeff to continue his work.
Jeff has wanted to implant several scientists to see how well the knowledge sharing worked for complex, multi-layer theories and research. Distributing knowledge how to hold a gun was one thing, it was practically reflex once the training was ingrained, but knowledge that required years of study? That would represent a true test for his invention.
Unfortunately, the generals had decided they wanted Jeff to do more work to improve conditions for troops in the field. The higher end stuff could be put off till later when American troops weren't dying in battlefields on the other side of the planet. Jeff honestly didn't remember what they were fighting for. Oil? Freedom? Territory? Chocolate? Didn't really matter, whatever the reason, Jeff had been forced to find a way to do what the generals wanted and still test the limits of the neural transceivers. Luckily, it had be quite easy to find ways to do just that.
The next group of subjects would be three times as big as the first group. With twenty one members, there should be a dramatic increase in data getting transferred between the transceivers. Jeff wanted to see if there was a limit to how much information a person could handle getting sent directly into their brain. What's more, Jeff made sure to include a combat medic in this new group. While a multi-degree scientist would have been preferable, Jeff decided to settle for a guy who knew how to put organs back into bodies and sew things up nicely in the middle of a battle as a test subject for the advanced knowledge portion of the test.
Currently, Jeff was searching through the various lists of candidates to see if any of them had criminal records or were in danger of receiving dishonorable discharges. If foul-mouthed Five could be made normal after getting his mind linked, plugging the biggest nutjob available into the network should make for an interesting test. Between the extra minds being added in, the advanced medical knowledge, and the closest thing to a psychopath that Jeff could find, the neural transceivers should be in for quite a testing. Sure, there was some danger to it all. If the transceivers weren't up to the test the results would probably be spectacular in their failure. But, if the tests were monitored closely, even if they failed, there would be plenty of data to show what hardware and software improvements needed to be made for the next iteration of the transceivers.