Domestication of the Basilisk

Weather-beaten and rangy. The library at her hip is grey steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl.

A Diverse Appetite.
Ulloa’s been riding herd on some code out at the Triple B, a project so wild the ranch boss won’t lay out what exactly they’re working on; she keeps buttoned and pieces it together by keeping her ears perked around the chuckwagon. They’re collecting everything they can, sports and opera scores, what remains of the public domain, ads from the last three centuries, a daunting amount of pornography.

Rapid Maturation.
Every couple of weeks they slide a new version into her herd. She never knows what to expect, either in terms of what the new head’ll do or what exactly she’s looking for. They’re all version 0.23007; the insistent, repeated specificity unsettles her.

Willingness to Breed in Captivity.
They all interact, all cross-connect, even when there’s no benefit to keep them together that she can see. She’s been warned off interfering with them, just log whatever errors arise and pass them along to the bunkhouse. Her reports flow one way only, the only response she ever receives the single word Acknowledged.

Been a quiet six months, and the pay is good, the food tolerable, the beds better than a rock in the dunes. She cleans her breather, cycles out the old algae, keeps her library clean and ready—ready for what, she couldn’t say, but she’s strained.

Strong Nerves.
Whatever they’re working on is fast, lean, and responsive, but not obtrusive. Her herd doubles, triples, and still she’s online in seconds, not the minutes or hours she’s used to. They give her test cases to run, scripted conversations, art projects, games to play, an arbitrary and senseless constellation as far as she can tell.

Social Hierarchy.
Damn thing is, every test activates every process, regardless of which head she’s working on, regardless of whether it’s within or without the core purpose of the code, image editors passing data back and forth with spreadsheets, screen savers, physics engines, neural networks. Whatever she does, they all watch her inputs, two thousand unblinking eyes placid, trusting, and unknown.