IBM's Demon

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Museum of History and Technology
Washington, D.C.
January 14, 1971

IAS-sama stood with her jacket off behind a gray steel government issue desk in the non-public Archives section of the museum’s National Mall building.  Golden eyes and stylishly short, curly ended bob of silver hair contrasted with the distinctly old fashioned gray suit she was wearing.  Her guests, visitors, petitioners, whatever term they preferred sat in straight backed equally government-issue chairs across from the National Museum’s only resident OS-tan.  DOS/360 was too large for hers while her smaller associate seemed to fit right in with her brown and cream jacket/skirt combo.

“You have sought me out, ladies, disrupted my plans for an excellent extended lunch,” IAS began, turning to the sideboard and filling a tumbler from a decanter, “Shall we wait in silence until you find your voices, or can we get on with it?”

The small one, whom IAS didn’t recognize but assumed was another IBM she simply hadn’t met, easily done with so many running around these days, spoke up, “I thought you appreciated a good riddle, Institute-sama?”

IAS rumbled with amusement, a deep internal chuckle, taking her seat with glass in hand, “I do, dear girl, but you have not given me one.”

“My sister is impetuous, IAS-sama, and young.  I have no wish to offend you,” DOS began, leaning forward towards her until the other was obscured, “This isn’t an easy topic to discuss with anyone, even an honored elder such as yourself... I must ask you for complete confidence in this matter.”

“Done,” IAS waved her glass.

“It’s GMOS,” DOS said, the confident mainframe-tan’s face was tight over her cheekbones, nervous enough that she couldn’t relax facial muscles.  Not, IAS decided, directed towards her in anyway.

IAS filled her chair fully, and it creaked as she leaned back.  There were pictures, somewhere, of young IAS-sama when she was a girl in the 1940s.  Those twenty-five years hadn’t cut her any break that her dietary habits hadn’t squandered.  She waved again at the IBMs, “Yes?  Your mother, in spirit if not in fact.  What about her?”

DOS and her companion shared a glance, then DOS continued, “Well, yes, that’s actually why we’re here.  None of us System/360 girls ever knew GMOS-heika, you know, she, well, disappeared before our creation.  IBSYS-sama and BESYS-sama, it never occurred to ask them before they were gone too, our older sisters never knew her either.  Now I’m not sure else to turn to.”

“Many words, young lady,” IAS set her glass down on a cloth bound book, “What is it you wish to know?”

“They’re worshiping her!  Like a goddess!” the small IBM interjected, hands gripping her knees tightly, “The hardware-tans, our sisters, OS/360 and TSS!  It’s madness to venerate someone like a saint for merely existing, isn’t it?”

IAS sucked on her lower lip, chair creaking as she tipped her bulk back forward until her elbows hit the desktop with a clunk loud enough to rattle everything on it and the two women across from her.  There was no joviality in those warm eyes now.  She shook her head, “That is the price your family must pay.  Your creators made a pact and brought a demon to life.  To return it to hell, there had to be a new exchange.”

DOS looked confused, the other one, still not introduced, looked horrified.  Not too much so to speak though, as she pressed ahead, “What you’re telling us, IAS-sama, is that GMOS-heika was... A demon?”

National Weather Analysis Center
Suitland, M.D.
March 1, 1955

Holding a folded ream of paper in front of her, carefully centered above her swollen belly, IAS-tan carefully navigated another workman absorbed in fitting out the finishing touches for the electrical system.  It certainly looked to be an impressive setup for the new computer scheduled to take over from her.  Frankly, she was grateful that the switchover was happening so early in the year.  On top of all the other work on her plate at Princeton, plus travelling to Australia, and, she had to give her belly a mental pat since a physical one was impossible, Israel, she had little time to spend on the forecasting work.

Dr. Smagorinsky was waiting for him, and after setting her final stack of figures on the inbox she leaned into his hug.  An old Institute comrade, the glow of excitement around him as the Weather Service prepared to accept their own computer was a bit contagious.

“When is she scheduled to arrive?” she asked after the usual greetings and small talk.  

The meteorologist checked his watch, “Any minute, frankly she should already be here.  We’ve only got a month before I want to be putting out 36 hour forecasts, you know.”

From behind IAS, the door she had just entered through banged open with much greater force than the loaded down IAS-tan had managed.  Into the room swept a tall lady with curly blonde hair and an exquisitely frilled blue dress with a punch-card motif to the skirt.  She was wearing a crown.  IAS regretted dressing down a bit, more jealous that her replacement could fit in that outfit then anything.  Her reflection didn’t get a chance to last, the IBM’s eyes boring into her with a blankness that nearly stopped her heart.

“You’re not a 701.  What are you doing here, serf?” she asked, adding to the room’s accent quotient with a Michigander burr.  IAS scowled, ready to object that who was she to presume so much of not just an IAS but the IAS-tan.  The chance didn’t come, as she felt her knees buckle, dropping in front of her, body slack as Dr. Smagorinsky’s angry shout echoed as noise in the back of her brain.  All she could hear was that smug voice, “There, isn’t that better?  Know your place, peasant whore.”

Red’s Rite Spot
Ann Arbor, M.I.
January 1965

UMES-tan hunched down in her booth seat, eyes down as IAS-sama put another pecan roll on her own plate.  Not any more comfortable than her dining partner, she was far less willing to sacrifice her appetite to her worry.  Before beginning on it, she cleared her throat, “Any idea why she shared that with you?”

“Because she thinks I’m too frightened to do anything about,” UMES said promptly, the displeasure evident in her tone, “Or it’s that good old GMOS arrogance that even if I did, there wouldn’t be anything I could do to stop her.”

“I don’t have anything like her power.  No one does, she’s right about that,” she said bitterly, hands shaking as she picked up her coffee cup.

“Wrong,” IAS pointed her fork at UMES, “Whirlwind’s daughter does, but I don’t think it would ever occur to her that she was any better for her magic than the rest of us.  Maybe GMOS-san would have turned out differently with better parents than a bunch of engineers.”

UMES’ shoulders jerked, “...that sounds a bit like her.”

“Because I like humans doesn’t mean they do things the right way.  GMOS is their creature, however much she may hate it, humanity brought her into this world.  Trapped in their image, she might say.  Whether IBM intended for her to develop this mania about freeing herself from physical form to become our omnipotent goddess...,” IAS said, then filled her mouth with pecan roll while the pensive university OS stared at her.

“She has to be stopped.  Quickly, because if this System/360 line is as wide-ranging as her masters intend, there will be no doing it after their debut,” IAS finished chewing, “But I can’t do it alone.  The two of us together couldn’t.  There are others we can trust.”

General Motors Technical Center
Warren, M.I.
May 1965

GMOS smoldered and steamed as the central lake boiled around her.  Multiple glittering blue arms of energy pushed her up from the surface as she pointed at the distant spread of figures, “Cowards!  Assassins!  Once I’ve killed you, no more waiting!  My daughters’ power will be enough to avoid the exertion of repeating this ever again!”

Shreds of her clothing whipped away in the wind as she gathered herself for a new assault.  IAS was sure something had been crushed inside her from the brute force blows of GMOS’ sorcery, and it felt like the others were starting to lose strength.  They had, well, she and IBSYS mostly, decided that bringing her sisters to this fight would only allow their mother more opportunity to execute her ascension plan.  Searching around, IAS had managed to recruit quite the array of allies.

DTSS-san calmly watched GMOS arise while her translators skipped about, hands crackling with energy again.  LINC was flanked by 4K Monitor and PDP-8, the MIT-tan drawing a flutter of pages to her for more sharp-edged paper birds as the other two braced their halberds to defend the witch.  The rookies were doing well overall.  PDP-1, despite her size, had loomed large on the battlefield.  She and ILLIAC had kept the seemingly endless tide of typewriter golems from flanking them, both looking like it was the time of their lives.  

With a sky rending scream GMOS stepped off the water’s surface and arced towards them, heading straight for the core of their position and the magicians capable of doing the most harm with her defenses up.  This time there wasn’t even the distraction of IAS’ rifle fire.  It gave her the confidence to increase speed right over a piece of discarded paper from LINC’s earlier attacks.  In the spray, it slapped wet against the maddened IBM-tan’s leg.
Water sprayed skyward all around her, PDP-8 and 4K tightening their grips, and she didn’t emerge from the other side as the spray started to settle the massive creature within became clearer.  DTSS skipped forward, grinning, to put both palms down on the water’s surface.  Lightning shot across the surface, bolting up the construct to the ensnared, impact-stunned GMOS and the world exploded in a blinding flash.

Museum of History and Technology
Washington, D.C.
January 14, 1971

“All the technology could do then was seal her away.  The energy had to go somewhere, not simply back where it came from, or hang around here on earth.  She was no god, yet,” IAS swirled her drink, “PDP-1 and LINC thought that the best solution was to trap her in the collective memory of IBM.  How that works, I haven’t the faintest clue, other than they expected it would lead to her worship as a saint.”

DOS swallowed, asking, “Then she can come back some day, when she’s powerful enough?  What can we do to stop her?”

Their host waved a hand, “Nem, nem!  It’s, ah, like the Odyssey.  She’s trapped in your minds, but as she’s not aware of it.  GMOS’ consciousness believes that she has succeeded, and your family’s prayers reinforce that loop, without making able to do anything.”

“ENIAC’s tubes...” the smaller IBM muttered, shaking her head, “There’s still nothing we can do about it then.”

“Not unless we want to unleash GMOS again, COS,” DOS nodded her understanding, leaning back in her seat and covering her face, “And then we all die as she consumes our power to fuel her true ascension.  That was a close call, IAS-sama...  Thank you for telling us.”

“No problem.  Would you girls like something to drink before you go on your way?  Or maybe you’d like to join me for lunch?” IAS offered, patting her stomach, “All this reminiscing has made me hungry enough to eat a whole cow!”
Wow, is that the first OS-tan related story uploaded here in almost nine years?  Yes.  Is it a continuation of the unpublished story arc from years ago?  No, actually, it's a semi-star studded epic about the early days of SAGE's OS-tan world where she's too busy saving the United States to save her people.  So IAS-tan and company have to do it.  I guess that classifies it as world building. 

For the curious, OS-tan Collections is still around at its (…) regular place.  Being a member there and contributing also nets you access to the super fantastic (chatty at least) OSC Discord where the discussion for this particular story started.

Kattlanna and BellaCielo both have horses in this dog n' pony show.  Which, they can correct me and I'll add.
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