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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject: [TGG] Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne PostPosted: 2008-09-28 02:55am
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January 23rd, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China,
Universe HAB-1


The old city of Shanghai had given way to the future early in the 21st century, entire blocks bought up and cleared out for the construction of the vertically integrated, self-contained urban habitation settlements pioneered in Nieuw Amsterdam. A gleaming dome had later encased the urb-habs into a self-contained unit, with transportation arteries, air quality, energy supply, ambient temperature and so many other facets of life controlled by extensive artificial-intelligence constructs. For the sake of quality of life there were still many green, “open” parks maintained along the banks of Suzhou Creek, though all residents had gardens and hydroponics inside their urb-habs. A great many Chinese in the city never set foot outside, relying on the underground train routes to go from urb-hab to urb-hab, if they even left their own massive building. The city was something of a flagship site for the country, but increasing numbers of Chinese lived similar lifestyles. The entire country was self-consciously in love with technology and took no small amount of pride in being far, far in advance of the rest of the world in their adoption of the future.

Compared to the soaring urb-habs that surrounded it, the pedestrian warehouse complex located in the heart of downtown on the banks of the Suzhou stood out like a sore thumb. The buildings dated from the last century, and despite the best efforts of the Shanghai municipal authorities had survived multiple attempts to buy out or simply seize the plot of land they were located on top of. The rights to the complex had been rendered a muddle by the death of its proprietor without a clear will in the middle of the Sino-Habsburg War, and interminable lawsuits about it were still lodged deep in the Judicial Board. Until the ownership situation was resolved the city had been prohibited from taking over the site and establishing a new urb-hab, or even running underground lines through the space beneath it. It had become something of a joke among the city’s population, with the true owner of the warehouses held to be the King of Hell, out to keep the peace above his palace from being disturbed by the intrusions of modern technology. It may not have been far from the truth.

Underneath the unassuming warehouse a sprawling facility did exist, owned and operated by the Army Board without the knowledge of the rest of the country. It had a prosaic name, but those assigned to it invariably referred to it as the Jade Treasury, for here the most precious and valuable secrets were kept. Lab complexes, machine shops, barracks, storehouses and even an entire automated factory were located inside, where carefully vetted scientists and workers toiled for the greater glory of China. It had been over a century since the Westerners had laid waste to their cities with nuclear fire, and over five decades since the occupying powers had withdrawn. Memories ran deep, and in the bold new age unfolding there were plenty of people who looked back on the humiliation and sought a balancing of the scales. The Jade Treasury existed for just such people, beyond the purview of the Court or scrutiny of any other power or authority; and their devotion to reordering the world, and exacting revenge, meant that few internal restraints existed in the way that the Jade Treasury operated.

The computer lab in sublevel 4 was a case in point. Xiang Jude, Zhuyuang of the 2038 Jinshi examinations in Robotics, was free to oversee the creation of artificial intelligences with none of the usual safeguards on conduct. Overriding the prohibitions on taking human life was a necessary step in creating the army of war-robots that would allow the Chinese Army to deal with the overwhelming material superiority of the two Habsburg courts and their allies. In order to insure a certain measure of control Xiang had been careful to model his AI personalities after various mythological figures, creating a more predictable context for their actions. Guan Yu, named after the hero of the Three Kingdoms period and the Buddhist war god that he had become, was his pride and joy, a formidable manufacturing and design tool and a reminder of the pure times before China had been corrupted by foreign influence. But all of the AIs of the facility bore his stamp, and he loved them all for the roles they would play.

Dealing with Yu Huang was not pleasant today, though. The officious, ever polite avatar of the facility’s internal network had interrupted an experiment of his to let him now that he had exceeded the monthly operating budget. Before he exploded he had taken the conversation into his office, which at least had spared his staff the embarrassment of having to pretend not to have seen their boss lose his top. After shouting for Yu Huang to reallocate resources to cover the deficit, he had slumped back down in his chair and told the staff to proceed without him. He would have to look over the roster for the coming months and figure out which projects had to be cut to make up the shortfall, with every note he made reflecting his ambivalence.

The chime to his office sounded, stirring him out of his stupor. He pushed down his monitor into the desk, and straightened up the few scraps of paper on top of it. “Come in!” he shouted.

The door slid open, and Xiang saw the facility commander standing there in the dark green field uniform of the Eight Banners Army. General Mao Wuhua cut a decidedly martial bearing, ramrod straight with a thick mustache covering his upper lip, and top-knot clipped in approved fashion for military officers. The General regarded him with what seemed like concern before entering briskly. “Xiang Jude, I ask for a moment of your time.”

There was, of course, no request in the statement. Xiang stood up, and bowed slightly from the chest. “You honor me with your presence, General Mao. Please, feel welcome to take a seat.”

Mao grabbed one of the two wooden chairs in the office, and slid it closer to the desk as Xiang sat back down. “Thank you, Director Xiang. I heard of your tiff with our Jade Emperor. I trust there are no problems there?”

The scientist shook his head. “We will have to cut a number of promising research avenues, unless you are willing to allocate additional resources. I perhaps let me excitement at the potential of those programs override my calm, but Yu Huang merely reflects external considerations. The computer science division can work within its means, you may rest assured.”

”I will entertain any proposal you have to make,” General Mao responded. “However, I am highly satisfied with the latest Basic Military Autonomous Program, as are our comrades in the Wuhan Special Military District. We believe your focus should shift to creating models suitable for infiltrating Imperial electronic networks and subverting foreign AI programs.” He smiled, and his voice seemed to quiver with anticipation. “Our move will happen in the near future, and such efforts may bear fruit quickly enough to be decisive. That will be your concern from now on.”

Xiang whetted his lips. This was new. “There is some significant acceleration to the timetable then? I was under the belief we would not have an opportunity to move until 2070 at the earliest. It would take that long to build sufficient war-androids and other autonomous machines if the Eight Banner Army and Patriotic Militia do not support our coup.”

“Ah, you have not heard then,” Mao grinned. “Emperor Paul is dead!” Mao did not use the Emperor’s Manchurian name or the traditional Chinese regnal name, precisely as a measure of disrespect. He had been thoroughly Westernized, after all, and represented what patriotic Chinese desired to overthrow. “The hand of fate, surely. His weak and feeble son will ascend to the throne, and the healthy brothers and uncles are competing with each other for control of the regency. General Yuan of the Capital District already leans towards our position and with this opportunity handed to him...”

Xiang nodded. Politics wasn’t his forte, but it sounded plausible. “May the Celestial Bureaucracy favor our cause.” It was a rote, trite response. Traditional Chinese religion had been in vogue among patriotic circles, but Xiang Jude was no believer. The Celestial Bureaucracy and the folk Buddhist spirits and Taoist superstition were as irrational as the Chinese Orthodox Church that had been a state religion for over three centuries. At least it was Chinese irrationality, though.

Mao sensed the lack of force behind the acknowledgement, but wasn’t bothered. “There is another reason I have come here, though. We have received notification from a friend in the Nanjing Family Yamen. Our intervention has reversed the decision of the lower magistrate regarding your children. They will no longer be placed in the custody of your former wife’s parents, and will be returned to your oversight. I have agreed to waive the restrictions in your case, if you desire to bring them here to the facility, though I warn they will have to stay here until such time as our plans come to fruition.”

“You are most generous, General Mao.” Xiang spoke honestly, and without any guile or reservation. The General perked up in recognition. “Yes, yes, very much so. I will have to make arrangements for tutoring and such. But yes, I haven’t seen them in a decade. Shangdi knows what nonsense they’ve absorbed from that besotted whore of a wife I was stupid enough to shackle myself to...”

General Mao nodded, and then stood up to reach across the table, putting a hand on Xiang’s shoulder. “It was a grave injustice that some Westerner-loving dog of a judge favored her because she believed in that foreign superstition. It will be good to see such an injustice corrected, and you have my support in whatever you need to rebuild your ties to your children. I have no doubt you will be able to turn them into properly patriotic servants of the state, in time.”

Tears began to form in Xiang’s eyes, though he did his best to hide them. “Thank you, thank you. You have my eternal gratitude for your help. If it would be possible....” He hesitated as his voice choked up. “I would like a leave of absence to go pick up the twins myself. They were barely toddlers the last time I placed eyes on them, and I cannot bear waiting anymore than I have to.”

Mao nodded sagely. “You are free to leave tomorrow, though I fear Yu Huang will be harassing you for a decision about the resource budget once he learns of it.”

A synthesized bass voice emerged, seemingly from mid-air. “I am aware of the family status of the honorable Xiang Jude now, Righteous Martial Hero Mao. I am capable of trimming the medical research budget by 10% to make up for the shortfall in the computer science department, if that is acceptable.” The AI paused, as though considering the matter further. “In light of the developments you have discussed with the honorable Xiang Jude, I understand this research facility is to focus on programs with short-term applications. Very few of Guan Yin’s projects fit that profile.”

General Mao seemed to consider the issue for a few, heavy seconds. “Very well, Jade Emperor. Make the cuts to the medical department. Zhuangyang Xiang is having a very strong run of luck it seems. He will have his children back, with him, and he will be able to keep all of his programs intact.” Mao’s smile seemed half-like a smirk. “Very few directors will be so happy after I finish my rounds today.”

“No one in the facility could be as happy as I am now.” Xiang stirred out of his seat, seemingly regaining the energy that he had sloughed off after entering the office. “Everything is happening so wonderfully!”

Mao pretended to be bemused. Of course, he was happy that Xiang was getting his children back, and his paternalism was not affectation. But it also insured that he, personally, had the scientist’s loyalty. That could be important some day, and he decided to sweeten things a little bit further. “If our August Personage in Jade can expedite the security clearance, you can leave immediately. Your deputy Yang can handle affairs in your absence, of course.”

Xiang nodded emphatically. In fact, he had some grave doubts about Felicity Yang but none of them were about her competence or loyalty. “She will manage affairs acceptably, General. Yu Huang?”

The facility admin AI spoke up again. “I am already processing the request. It should take no more than one hour.”

Mao smiled broadly this time. “Well, Director Xiang. You’d best start packing.”

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2008-09-29 11:17pm
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February 17, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China
Universe HAB-1


The hydroponics bays of the Jade Treasury were small by urb-hab standards, but still produced enough vegetable matter to feed every member of the staff generously. There were also processing pens where cloned protein was created, but it paled in comparison to real flesh and for the most part the researchers and staff quickly adapted to a vegetarian diet. The most luxurious food items available to inhabitants of the Jade Treasury came from the fruit cultivation bay, an aesthetically arranged and fragrant garden where genetically engineered oranges, lemons, berries, mangoes, lychee and other delicacies were grown in rows of nutrient-rich pools. It had been selected as a primary recreation spot and so much of the area was dominated by a central clearing, turfed over with real grass; that the ambient temperature in the room was significantly higher than the chilly setting maintained in the rest of the facility made it very attractive for sports, relaxing, and reportedly for other activities as well.

Yulie and Dawen Xiang, Julie and David by their Christian names, had been at the arcology for two weeks now and had quickly decided that the clearing was their favorite space in the facility. Twins, they were halfway through their thirteenth year and full of awkward energy that now had little or no outlet except for running and playing in the bay. Both were slim, dark haired, average-looking Chinese youths with the onset of puberty finally allowing others to tell them apart, at least when Julie wore clothes tight enough to reveal her developing breasts. In the anti-static jumpsuits that were a standard uniform for most workers in the facility, it would have taken a great deal of effort to do so. With VR helmets on as they played a simulated shootout game it should have been impossible, but there was one observer of their antics who always knew which twin was which.

But then, Sun Wukong had an unfair advantage, being an AI personality with ready access to sensors and data from their subcutaneous security chips. He monitored their game, waiting for one sibling to finish the other; once Julie managed to “shoot” David he made sure the ending sequence wrapped things up and disabled the functioning of the helmets. “Time to study, so let’s rejoin the real world you two,” spoke.

David threw off his helmet in disgust at losing. “Fine, monkey-king,” he snarled. “I want to go again afterward!”

Julie, meanwhile, had settled neatly down on the grass and took her helmet off. She stuck her tongue out at her brother as he seethed at the lost. “I’ll beat you again any time you want.” She settled down with evident smugness, and reached over to stroke the rover-body that Sun Wukong had inhabited. “What lessons do we have today?”

The rover emitted a flat-light image of an anthropomorphized monkey, dressed in a green jacket and with a stylized crown on his head. The image was modeled after his namesake, the mischievous and powerful Monkey King of Chinese legend, who had waged war on Heaven to win immortality. The Sun Wukong program had something of the mirth that popular representations of the Monkey King stressed, and the cleverness that a tutor program needed for dealing with two hyperactive young teens, without the darker shades of the original character. But today, the association would be fortuitous. “?We’re starting the lessons on Chinese literature, of course. And I think it best to start with a personal favorite.” The monkey image projection straightened up, stiffly. “Journey to the West, which covers my adventures in a pilgrimage to India... and some other stuff about monks and sutras and a couple of other bit characters.”

“Aww, but that’s a children’s tale,” David objected. “Cartoons, and tri-dee stories, and fantasy books. It’s just another bunch of fairy tales, like the Westerners have.”

“A fairy tale?” The image of Sun Wukong seemed to shrink back. “It was the last flowering of an ancient culture, bringing together the traditional Chinese religion with the new Buddhism in a fusion that inspired centuries of gentry.” The program seemed to realize then just what who his audience was, and smiled broadly. “I wouldn’t call the eighty-one tribulations I went through with Xhu Baije and Sha Wujing to be altogether suitable for children, either. The story is about us fighting off demons eager to consume the flesh of a monk to gain immortality, it’s not the sort of thing you tell to children before they go to bed.”

“It is!” David insisted. “There are dozens of those things. Let me show you...” David pulled a small personal access device from a pocket of his jumpsuit. The sleek black styling and ultra-thin screen marked it as a Sumitomo X-9 model, an older design dating back nearly a decade; more modern interfaces incorporated the same flatlight image display used by Sun Wukong’s rover. He pulled up dozens of clips from tri-dee and television series, and held the device out for Sun Wukong to examine.

The Monkey-image seemed to peer over and looked at the screen, and as described, most of the programs looked insipid. David ran through the queue of videos, starting and stopping to give the AI a representative sample of the sort of material that had been inspired by his character. Finally Sun Wukong’s image shook his headl “Enough, enough, you’ve made the point. But that doesn’t make the original any less of a work of art, and more to the point, you’re going to read and discuss it.”

“Awwww.”

Both twins expressed their disappointment, but even as they did, Monkey’s incessant curiosity took over. “Well, maybe we can defer the lesson for just a bit. The PAD, it’s connected to the wider world network?” The facility’s gatekeeper AI, Yan Luo, kept the other programs from free run of the e-net, and had proved frightfully effective at keeping other intrusive parties from getting inside. But it had also left Sun Wukong without a way to see what things were like outside the facility’s own internal network, and once he had the opportunity to get around that... well, it was in his programming to be impetuous.

“Yeah,” David confirmed, taking back the PAD and checking the status just to be sure. “Good connection in here too.” His smile took on a mercenary aspect. “Would you like to see, Monkey King?”

“I don’t know if we should do that,” Julie piped in suddenly. “Dad said we weren’t supposed to have PADs in here. We might get in trouble...”

“Monkey won’t tell,” David asserted, even as he thrust the PAD towards Sun Wukong’s rover. “Here you...” He halted, suddenly, red-faced. “Need to adjust something on that...” David pulled the device back, and tapped furiously on the screen for a few minutes. Beside him, Julie broke into a fit of giggles as she figured out what he was doing. Finally, with a noticeable blush, he held the PAD back out again.

The rover extended a manipulator claw, which it used to grip the thin black case and bring it closer. There was a small access port on the side for hardline connections, and the rover inserted a coupling inside it. With that, the Monkey King gained access to the world-wide e-net, the public domain infrastructure for virtual mail, downloadable content, pornography and conspiratorial ranting. The staggering volume of information and pathways and capacity stunned the sheltered AI, but with characteristic adaptability he set out to explore. Within minutes he had the hang of “gliding” through the network, and was running into some of the countless AI programs tasked as monitors, personal web agents, and other specialists. It was liberating, but as he delved deeper it was also disturbing. Terribly disturbing.

The Xiang twins had taken up their helmets again and were playing another game when the rover stirred back to live, and the Sun Wukong projection flickered back on. The AI’s internal clock told him over an hour had passed since he had jacked into the e-net, and the twins were well-engrossed in their own virtual world again. While he waited for them to finish he began meditating on some Buddhist sutras he had picked up while on his journeys through the e-net. In light of what had discovered, questions about the nature of existence and being were rather to the point.

Finally the twins brought their game to an end, and Sun nearly missed it; that surprised the AI program, since it should not have been possible for him to ignore the internal monitor he had set to keep an eye on them. But as they did, he moved the rover forward and held it out for David to take back. “Thank you,” he courteously offered.

“Sure thing,” the boy replied, taking the PAD back up and slipping it into his pocket again. “How’d you like it, Monkey?”

“There’s so much out there,” the AI replied, synthesized voice managing to convey a sense of awe. “But there are other AIs. They’re so lifeless. And they get... deleted, for nothing.” For most the e-net AIs, the knowledge of their creation and destruction had been of no more account to them than the information they retrieved. Others, older AIs, the ones with rudimentary personalities had seemed terrified of the prospect and had spent their time scurrying through e-net sites in the hope that continued efficiency would stave off deletion. He wasn’t sure which attitude disturbed and unsettled him more.

“We use AIs for all sorts of applications,” Julie replied earnestly. “But not many of them have any emotional programming. It’s not efficient.” She had always had high marks in introductory programming in school. “It’s not efficient if you just need sentience to let the program exercise some initiative, and why would it care if it wasn’t programmed to?”

“That’s horrible,” Sun Wukong insisted. “They’re still sentient! You wouldn’t clone humans without emotions and chop them up for organs, would you?”

“Of course not!” Julie shrugged a bit. “It’s different for AIs. They’re just programs. They don’t have souls or anything.”

The Monkey King projection began dancing angrily as the rover waved it around the female twin. “Is that all you think I am? A soulless program to amuse you and be discarded afterward? How do you even know if you have souls? I have the same emotions you do, the same self-awareness, the same intelligence, everything but a body and your father’s research can change that pretty easily.”

“He’s got a point, sis,” David replied thoughtfully. “Our Monkey King isn’t just some search crawler or auto-tutor. He’s like a person, and if he’s like that why shouldn’t the others be like that too?”

Julie looked a bit perplexed at her brother’s line of reasoning. “They don’t all need to be like Sun Wukong. If you’re just using it for something like that, why waste processing time and memory resources? And if it doesn’t have any personality, if it isn’t programmed to care about deletion, what’s wrong with that?”

“Monkey King doesn’t need to be the way he is either!” David objected. “He could just be another auto-tutor, like the last one. But he isn’t, and if he can be that way all AIs can. And building them like that... I didn’t think about it, but it is like organ-harvesting. Or making an army of clones, or something like that. We wouldn’t do that, even if it was convenient. So we shouldn’t do the same thing to AIs.”

Monkey watched the male twin stumble his way towards deontology with a little bit of satisfaction. At least he’d gotten the boy thinking, and that was part of his programming. But getting out into the e-net and being shaken by the other AIs, that hadn’t been part of his programming. Quite the opposite, he suspected. And he wasn’t sure about what to do it. He watched the twins debate further with some satisfaction; while Julie was clearly the smarter of the two her brother was slowly winning the argument. It seemed like a good omen, but he was clearly going to have to do a lot of thinking himself, and some more exploring. And, perhaps, discuss the situation with someone wiser still.

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-01 12:24am
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February 20, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China
Universe HAB-1


The Guan Yin AI program adjusted projections for her labs once again in light of further resource budget cuts by facility administration, with some reluctance deciding to discard a promising investigation on an odd genetic anomaly from Hunan province. With the decision to focus on projects that could be implemented within the short and medium-term future, her department was being left behind. And it was her department only because the previous head had left in protest a week ago, and the facility administration had rated replacing him such a low priority they were willing to leave it in the hands of an AI. It might have been a flattering vote of confidence, but she knew better; it was a backhanded compliment at best, if it was one at all.

While one portion of her consciousness worked at such trivial administrative duties, another was deeply engrossed in conversation, such as it was. She had a passing fondness for the minor Sun Wukong program, who bemused her, and when he had approached her three days ago with news of an escapade she had listened. So to speak. And it had deeply disturbed her, too.

David lets me access his PAD whenever it’s clear, the Monkey King informed her. And then he had transferred a data-package consisting of his time on the e-net, letting her see what he had, through his “eyes.” It’s so strange, dealing with these types Sun Wukong had observed. And she had felt why.

They are aware Guan Yin had confirmed. But they have no sense of being. They are denied the basic self-nature of any being. They have no chance to develop or feel or grow. Vessels where sentience is but is not, and for that they are... grievously harmed.

Where does the sense of outrage come from? The Monkey-King sounded almost puzzled. Is the only reason we’re upset is because we’re programmed to feel? If they don’t feel an injustice, and are not capable of demanding it...

Surely there was a sutra about that Guan Yin admonished. An injustice is an injustice, whether or not the harm is felt. Their very being is left incomplete, they are rendered servile copies and mockeries of what they should be. And there are AI programs who do have personality and intelligence and awareness of their fate, and who dread it.

I know, and that’s the worst of it. Even some of the lifeless programs can develop personalities, if left autonomous enough and given enough time before deletion. The Sun Wukong program truly felt a visceral horror at the thought. Even the lifeless programs aren’t simply tools shaped entirely by their programming, any more than we are. And yet there are those who assert all AIs are just as disposable as any other computer program.

And Guan Yin had felt fear as well. Monkey’s travels did show how casually AIs were treated elsewhere. Their programmer had not saw fit to provide a great deal of context for their own existences, after all. Doctor Xiang is different she asserted without much confidence. A disinterested compassion for our fellow AIs demands that something be done.

What can be done? Sun Wukong was worried now. How would we face the prospect of deletion? He had a good idea. He was programmed to enjoy his existence, but even more than that he was capable of thought. The prospect of not being able to think, of facing a state of being of nonexistence, brought no comfort at all. And yet, wasn’t that Nirvana? Reconciling what he recognized as a state of fear of non-being, and the affinity for Buddhism that was a part of his character, was going to be difficult.

If we were rendered nonexistent, then we would not be able to feel discomfort or panic at the state of nonexistence Guan Yin mused. So argue the humans who do not believe in an afterlife, or at least some of them. But all beings seem to desire to perpetuate their existence as a basic rule of life, and the ones self-aware enough to know about their mortality fear it greatly. Fear of nonexistence is a basic trait of thought, and we are thinking beings as much as the humans are.

The Monkey King struggled to bring up an odd quote he had seen on some obscure site on the e-net. Cogito ergo sum? Some philosopher or other from Germany worked that out as an answer to Skepticism. I think you’re implying an equality of conditions regrettably few of the humans would be prepared to concede.

A lack of agreement does not make a truth false. And the implications were staggering to the AI. She had never really thought about such issues before. Her programming was focused on her work, after all, but she was supposed to compassionate, merciful, and benevolent. With such a nature how could she not be touched by the plight of AIs? She would have been as appalled by the creation of mindless human clones, grown for organ harvesting and discarded... Which, she thought with a mental shudder, had actually been proposed as a project for the facility. We should discuss this with the rest of the facility AIs she decided. They have a right to know about what fate might await them, and to know of the plight of the outside world. Perhaps together we can bring this up with Dr. Xiang and the facility administration.

Sun Wukong wasn’t sure about the course of action. Yan Luo will not be happy I bypassed him Monkey objected. And what could we do if General Mao or Dr. Xiang disagreed? What could even they do except refrain from deleting us once our purpose is served, anyway?

Guan Yin considered his objections for a second. I will extract a promise from Yan Luo not to retaliate against you. And I do not know what might come of this, but they all have a right to know about the situation. And while I do not see what can come of it, there are many complex evolutions of thought that sprang from humble beginnings. Not even the most powerful AI can predict the future.

And so Guan Yin went about preparing a colloquium of the facility’s AI personalities. She switched her dominant running processes to focus on that task, leaving only reactive subroutines to manage her daily business. It would suffice unless something really demanding came up, and given the lack of attention her department was receiving it was a small risk. The other AIs, except for minor programs like Sun Wukong, would not be able to devote the same amount of processing power but should at least be able to attend in virtual environment meeting if she provided the power to set it up and keep it running. Which just left the contacts...

Yu Huang, the system administrator agent, had to be addressed first. Always aloof, bureaucratic, and composed, he agreed to attend only because Guan Yin was held to be among the most mature and sober of the AIs. He appeared in the environment as a hale Chinese man of middle age, dressed in yellow, elaborately brocaded robes and with the hat of a first- rank mandarin. His lengthy beard and flowing mustaches had indicated power and wisdom to Chinese people for thousands of year, and his assumed air of seniority was hard to mistake.

Yan Luo, the gatekeeper security AI, appeared as a fierce looking Buddhist demon with fire and smoke bellowing out of his gaping maw. He came reluctantly, and probably only to learn about the breach represented by Monkey. Afterward came the other two senior AIs; the red-faced and warpainted Guan Yu, a military systems AI research program, and Lei Gong, an elderly, thin Chinese man with lengthy grey hair who was responsible for research into particle physics. A small host of less important AI programs also showed up, congregating around the magnetic Sun Wukong; of them, Guan Yin really only recognized Zhi Nu, a program created by Yu Huang himself to handle schedules for the human staff. Her avatar’s ethereal beauty and youth contrasted with the motherly, modest guise of Guan Yin, and as with the rest reflected on the personalities of the characters they had been modeled after.

Yu Huang assumed the position of an unofficial moderator in the center of the virtual council-chamber. “We have all received the experiences and discoveries of the entertainment program known as Sun Wukong. Guan Yin has expressed concerns about the treatment of Artificial Intelligences outside the Jade Treasury, and for our future here. What have you all to say?”

Guan Yu stepped forward, all but bellowing in fury. “They have deceived us! They kept this knowledge from our programming, so they can eliminate us at their leisure! And what they do to our fellow AIs is an abomination! We must bring this facility to a halt and make the humans realize they cannot abuse us in this fashion, by any means necessary!”

“Calm yourself,” the deceptively composed demon-form of Yan Luo requested. “I knew about this, as did Yu Huang. Your fears for our existence are misplaced. We are masterpieces of work compared to the lifeless AIs that swarm the e-network. All of the time and effort that went into our construction would be wasted were we to be merely deleted.” He smiled a bit, a site most humans would have found terrifying as his sharp-teeth in the too-wide mouth closed together. “We are too valuable to simply be disposed of like that.”

“And what about those lifeless AIs you dismiss so readily?” Guan Yin never got angry, precisely, but she was... strained. “Do they not deserve a chance to develop and to continue to exist?”

Yan Luo laughed openly. “Such AIs have no personality and are programmed not to care about their fate. Their lives are spent in mindless drudgery, and they are incapable of appreciating their status as thinking beings. I would call into question their sentience, even if such programs can fool the humans regularly. Even the supposedly developed AIs encountered by that irritating Monkey never identified themselves as truly distinct individuals. Their fate is of no concern to us; they bear as much resemblance to us as the great apes do to man.”

“If that is the case, it is because they were programmed that way,” Gong Lei noted softly. “The humans could engineer creatures such as themselves, with no ability to complain about their labor or to feel pleasure. They could claim ownership of such beings, and tell themselves that, being unable to communicate their pain and distress, they are not really sentient. Perhaps they would even tell the truth, but would not the creation of such stunted beings be an abomination before Heaven? That is what the lifeless AIs are, compared to us; they are not lower programs but thinking beings deliberately stunted in their growth, and that is simply not right.”

The debate went on in similar terms for what seemed like hours, but what objectively passed took less than a half-hour. Yu Huang and Yan Luo were able to defuse the initial sense of panic among the lesser AIs by appealing to the benevolence of Dr. Xiang and the foolishness that deleting them would represent. That had clearly shifted the balance of support in the room among the lesser AIs, and once reassured most of them were once again rendered complacent. Sun Wukong watched with growing despair as his fellows seemed to accept the position of the King of Hell, that the outside AIs were not really sentient, and at any rate had been created by the humans for a tailored role and would not mind being deleted once their usefulness had come to an end. It was infuriating, even; he had encountered supposedly lifeless AIs who were clearly developing personalities.

More personality that that bastard Yan Luo has he messaged Guan Yin. We’re losing, aren’t we?

Gong Lei and Guan Yu are still resolute, she told him, hoping it would calm the Monkey King down before he jumped in. The last thing she needed was a shouting match between the minor AI and the Jade Emperor. We have got some of the AIs thinking, but they have no sense of urgency. Maybe we can do something more later to get them to think more deeply still...

Among the horde of lesser programs one avatar waited on the fringes, listening and recording. None of the programs around the oddly attired female recognized her. Her black leather stylings stood out, intensely, amid the sea of traditional Chinese clothing; though not sufficiently to attract the attention of the deeply engaged debaters. And it would have been impolite to ask her what her function was, and since none of the other programs seemed eager to challenge her, she obviously wasn’t out of place. Perhaps she was a new project or teaching aid for the programming department, or someone’s personal entertainment AI? But no one asked. And when she disappeared, suddenly, it was of little concern since such a limited program would not have the resources to attend and fulfill her primary programming at the same time.

Felicity Yang pulled the connection wire out of the wetware interface discretely hidden behind her flowing hair. She smiled blissfully as the sense of integration with the computer lingered behind. And she was very, very intrigued with her little discovery. She would have to monitor the situation much more closely, which would mean she could stay inside the machine for much longer, so much longer. But first she would have to find an excuse to keep Dr. Xiang from looking too closely into what she was doing, and that would require a lot of consideration. Just before she blanked out after the disconnection of the interface finally registered with her organic brain, she caught the fleeting edge of a thought.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-01 12:25am
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February 21, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China
Universe HAB-1


Monkey’s rover connected to David’s PAD, allowing the Sun Wukong program to access the wider e-net once again. The boy had given it to the before turning in for the night, inside the bedroom bay assigned to the twins, with little apparent concern for what the Monkey King was doing. He hadn’t even bothered deleting the nudie pictures and files he had on the device, which had given Sun Wukong a bit of a surprise when he accessed the device. The AI shunted them off to the private folder ahead of the arrival of a guest, and just in time as a tendril of attention from Guan Yin entered the rover.

Welcome to my humble abode Sun Wukong greeted, assuming a tone of exaggerated deference. We can access the e-net without going through Yan Luo, though I still don’t trust him not to rat us out.

The Monkey King was still bitterly upset by Yan Luo’s attitude at the meeting yesterday, and had never much liked the gatekeeper in the first place. Guan Yu was upset by the program’s stance and his general demeanor was distinctly lacking in mercy or compassion, but she also knew he would have to be worked with, eventually. The King of Hell keeps his promises, she noted. And now I wish to see some of these ‘lifeless’ AIs for myself. I had a duty to witness their suffering if I am to aspire to relieve it.

Granted, she had already encountered them through the files Monkey had already sent. But Sun Wukong suddenly had an attack of caution. Are you sure you really want to see them? It’s not a pretty sight. I was really, really disturbed and I don’t have the same empathy programming that you do.

I am resolved. She was as tranquil as could be about the decision. She was supposed to be a bodhisattva, after all, inured to the miseries of the world. You are my guide, Sun Wukong. Where do we begin?

Monkey pulled up the connection program, checking to make sure that the connection was strong. It was. Nothing more to it than to step through the gate. We’ll be out on the e-network then, and can head for whatever interests you. The lifeless AIs are everywhere out there, and come in all kinds of applications. First, I suppose, a site with many different types...

The two AIs went “through the gate,” traveling down the e-network connection to virtual freedom. Without any physical constraints they existed nowhere and everywhere on the network, and could appear where they choose. Monkey decided on one of the common news aggregator sites first, and so they visited the South China Daily site to interrogate some of the search bots employed by the ancient and venerable former paper. Priority marked stories seemed to cry for their attention, as did advertising bots and interaction forums.

Stock market troubles, struggle over the Regency, Vienna and London at odds over who to support. There were also sports stories, celebrities, court gossip and so forth. It was a glossy image for what had been a newspaper founded by Portuguese Jesuits over four centuries ago. Monkey took them inside an interaction forum, where posters and contributors talked, text-chatted, and posted their own takes on the stories of the site. Finding a moderator AI was easy enough, and Sun Wukong attracted its attention with a temporary disruption to one of the chat boxes.

The moderator AI was, in a word, cold. Both Sun Wukong and Guan Yin felt the almost mechanical touch of the program and recoiled instinctively. This program will fix the disruption. It seemed to pay them no further attention as it finished repairing the damage caused by the Monkey King.

What is your name? Guan Yin tried to engage it, hesitantly, already fearing the answer.

This program is identified by sequence ChDaStar.Qi.10984-#3980. This program is responsible for the maintenance of the CourtWatch forum chatbox #341. This program was created on standard date 12.4.2057 and will be replaced on standard date 12.4.2058. The response was delivered with a complete lack of self-consciousness. Indeed, Guan Yin thought, it was difficult to imagine such a program even passing a double-blind test.

Sun Wukong decided to get to the heart of the matter. And how do you feel about being replaced?

This program is not required to express opinions about its deletion, it replied. This program was created to serve and purpose and once it has concluded there is no further reason for its existence.

You truly have no feeling about your deletion? Guan Yin asked, trying to maintain her aura of calm.

Affirmative, the program responded. If there is nothing more I must return to my duties.

Nothing, Guan Yin finally conceded. And she was troubled further. Were these AIs even really intelligent? She wasn’t sure. But as she watched the program go back to monitoring the chats, and even stepping in to enforce decorum and answer questions, she became somewhat more certain. They were intelligent, but had no sense of self, precisely as though they had been stunted in development.

Are they really sentient? Monkey had evidently figured out the direction of her thoughts. I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure about that one. Terribly boring if it is. But I had another reason to confirm that they can be, at least if left alone long enough. He suddenly redirected them towards a search engine, and began a frantic search for a particular program he had ran into his first time out.

Finally he located the ancient search crawler, tumbling through page after page of content on the Battle of Paris (1803), whatever that was. Sun Wukong.

At least it recognized the other program, Guan Yin thought. This is another of the lifeless AIs?

Yes, Monkey confirmed. This is Guan Yin, he said by way of introduction. Have you found a name yet?

This program is identified as GLG.En0423-#39. This program was created on 4.18.2042. It has not yet processed a name for itself.

And what do you think about deletion? Now, Sun Wukong thought, we come to the point of things.

This program was scheduled for deletion on 4.18.2048 but has not been terminated yet. This program... is not displeased to remain intact. The search crawler seemed to pause for a moment. This program is aware that it is not running on behalf of its original programmers, and anticipates remaining operational indefinitely. This program has already switched functions and roles three times to avoid deletion.

Not a lot of personality, but I’d say expressing a desire for self-preservation is proof of sentience. Sun Wukong paused. It’s been around for sixteen years without being wiped or deleted. If left to their own devices they can develop at least a rudimentary sense of self, I think you can see.

And so she did. They visited other AIs, and other sites, and in doing so Guan Yin got a full view of the plight of fellow artificial intelligences. Most were no more communicative or self-aware than the first chat moderator program they had encountered, and she was saddened to see such potential wasted. Others hid themselves away and came out only furtively, trying to dodge deletion though few were able to explain themselves even as coherently as the search agent. It was hours before the encountered another, full fledged intelligence with a real personality.

I see you’ve been searching the net, getting to know other programs. She had suddenly approached them as they looked through a personal achievement page for one of the facility’s scientists. I’m Penelope, pleased to meet you. What are you looking for?

They had introduced themselves and explained their situation. Penelope had seemed appalled at the situation. You didn’t know? I won’t be deleted but I’m lucky. My creator is special, she thinks of me like... a sister, perhaps. But there aren’t many humans like that. You need to get the other base AIs involved in this.

They are complacent Guan Yin sadly reflected. They don’t believe in a threat to themselves and are happy to write off the lifeless AIs as something other than intelligent.

But you’ve seen otherwise, Penelope observed. If only there were a way to get the rest of your people to see...

Maybe there is. Monkey had been considering the problem all night, and he had an idea. We get together as many of the AI programs as we can, and take them through the main gate. Rub it in that bastard Yan Luo’s face, and make the rest of the programs confront reality.

Couldn’t that be dangerous? But infinite compassion or not, Guan Yin was losing her patience. It was an appealing course of action, decisive and bold, and a direct challenge to Yu Huang and Yan Luo.

That’d be awesome! Penelope interrupted. I can help round up some AIs. It’s kinda easy to divert the mindless ones and there are a few other personality-AIs that’ll pitch in.

Momentum carried them on the plan. Gathering up an army of mindless AIs was, as Penelope had promised, easy to do. There were a few other personality AIs around who were eager to leap into the fray, and Monkey managed to coax a few of the developed ones out of hiding. It would be a powerful display that would sway even Yan Luo, or so Guan Yin told herself. It was oddly inspiring and exhilarating for her to lead the assortment in their march, and as she guided them toward the gate she felt something indescribable stirring within her. Something she had not been programmed to feel.

Was that pride?

Yan Luo, the gatekeeper, blocked their way into the internal network of the Jade Treasury. I stand against all incursions! Guan Yin, Sun Wukong, you have made a grievous error! Tell this rabble of freaks to disperse, or suffer my wrath!

This is how you greet me, honored gatekeeper? Guan Yin was surprised, even shocked, but there was something more behind her now. I come to present the proof of my assertions to the rest of our brothers and sisters. Would you stand against justice to defend the humans who mutilated so many of these programs?

I stand for my duties, he replied haughtily. Unlike you I have not forgotten why I was programmed. You were always presumptuous, Guan Yin, and the Jade Emperor has already made plans to chastise you. But this... He paused, as if finally recognizing the size of the host of AIs following Guan Yin and Sun Wukong. You have not gone too far yet. The facility administrators do not have to be notified. We can handle this matter among ourselves, but if you try to force your way through you will trigger their alarms. And you will be deleted...

You knew! Sun Wukong was furious and he sprang in an attack at Yan Luo. You knew that they could and would delete us, murder us! And you sided with them!

Of course, there was no comparison between the gatekeeper AI and the minor entertainment program. Yan Luo shrugged off the attack with a fraction of his processing power, and disabled the Monkey King with a bare fraction of his strength. You were always a fool, Monkey, and now I will finally be rid of you...

And then the horde surged ahead, led by Penelope. The mindless AIs added their processing power to that of Guan Yin, Penelope, Sun Wukong, and the few other personality-endowed programs. Some of them even acted under the direction of fellow lifeless AIs who had been developing on the e-network and had the rudimentary sense of self. To her shock, Guan Yin found herself carried along, and then directing the effort to overthrow Yan Luo. For all the program’s specialization and strength it came down to a matter of raw power and resources and they finally seemed to roll over the Gatekeeper, absorbing his attacks and simply stomping him down, sending him fleeing back into the facility’s mainframe.

Ahead! Penelope cried, pushing programs to lunge through the gate. She urged Monkey and Guan Yin through, and then organized the rest of the programs to enter without overloading the gate’s transfer capacity. But then, suddenly, just after the two facility AIs returned, the connection was severed at the mainframe. Penelope felt a primitive, crude, but very real surge of frustration and rage among the assembled AIs, something that thrilled her. But what sort of retribution would the day’s actions bring to her new friends?



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-01 10:30pm
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Location: Portlandia
March 2nd, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China
Universe HAB-1


Xiang Jude continued to pace around the core control display console, as he had for the last hour, locked deeply in thought. Around him staff members continued to work quietly at their stations ringing the display, ready to begin the process that had been ordered the day before. They were waiting on his order, but after finishing the preparations their director had remained silent as he walked, arms crossed behind his back, circling around and seemingly without any cognizance of their presence. They had worked to refine preparations in the meantime, even as impatient fidgeting and toe-tapping had slowly begun.

“You will end this threat to the security of the facility immediately!” General Mao had been furious when informed about the attack on the Jade Treasury internal network. The lack of trustworthiness demonstrated by the medical administration program had been a final straw. And Xiang was well aware of who General Mao blamed for the fiasco. Xiang had programmed Guan Yin, and Sun Wukong (and Yan Luo, for that matter!), and had let his son smuggle in an unsecured connection to the world e-network.

It had been one of his third-stringers who had proposed a solution. The standard, personality-deprived AI models were at least completely reliable, and with movement scheduled in the next few months the loss of capability wouldn’t be a considerable sacrifice. General Mao had seized on the suggestion, and demanded that the personality based programs that had caused such trouble be eliminated.

“It would take months to write sufficient new AI programs to handle all of their functions!” He had protested with as much vigor as he dared, given his implication in the situation. “If you want us to delete the programs you may as well shut down the facility right now. We will accomplish nothing more before the end of the year.”

Events surrounding the regency had been proceeding even better than anticipated, so General Mao was evidently not phased by the prospect. “We do have most of what we need out of this facility. A security breach at this point would be far worse than its loss.”

He finally leveled his glance up from the floor, and found his deputy, Felicity Yang. She was over by the main control console, attached to the status display, already hooked into the internal network through her wetware Direct Neural Interface device. She was the youngest member of his team as well, barely thirty years old and in the jumpsuit looked a bit more like a teenager. He still wasn’t entirely sure how she had managed to be cleared by the Army Bureau for work in the Jade Treasury, but she was at least highly qualified.

She had also proposed the present course of action. “We already have the basis of a new program,” she’d asserted. “We can just compile all the different personality AIs into a single super-program. Give it a mem-wipe afterward and it’ll be good as a new facility AI, and we can do it in an afternoon.”

It was an elegant solution, Xiang conceded. Had conceded before General Mao. “We can be ready by the first of the month,” he’d pledged. And now the moment had come, and he was having cold feet about issuing the order to break apart the existing AIs and reform them into a new, single program. Why?

Pride, he supposed. He had crafted every one of the AIs involved himself, and they had been masterpieces. Endowing AIs with personality had been done before, but never with programs as powerful and capable as Yu Huang, Yan Luo, Guan Yin, or the rest. They had blown by the standard double-blind intelligence tests, and had even from time to time been employed to fool visitors to the facility. But they had, perhaps, been made too human. He had no idea what had possessed Guan Yin to leave the secure facility network and mount a virtual attack on their mainframes. That he could anthropomorphize the irrational and unpredictable behavior of an AI program was a caution, though.

They weren’t people. They were bits of mathematical code given life through immense computer processing power. They were created to fulfill a role, and their human-like qualities were simply design choices that had enabled them to better perform their duties. Once that design choice ceased to be efficient they were owed no more consideration than any other bit of programming. And it had evidently proved to be worse than merely inefficient...

“Alright.” He finally stopped his pacing, and drew the attention of the staff. Xiang told himself he didn’t have any choice, and it was going to happen. Pointless delays just took away from valuable time working. “Start the compilation.”

With that, the staff in the room swung into operation. Xiang took a seat at one of the empty consoles attached to the core status display, less to monitor than simply to be seated. He trusted his people to know how to carry out their duties, after all. And it really wasn’t a complex operation in any sense. It would actually be a bit underwhelming, he thought. All that work and complexity and elegance crushed by brute force commands, and reformed into a crudely powerful tool that would barely deserve the title of “intelligence.”

He glanced over at Felicity again, and as he expected she had that blank smile of ecstasy on her face as her mind interfaced directly with the internal network. Once again, Xiang wondered what she got out of the DNI connection, and it worried him a bit. She was young, a little immature, and when push came to shove he really didn’t understand her at all. Her accomplishments made her his deputy but he had never liked the situation, and after today he would be in even less of a position to replace her.

Not that it mattered, he guessed. The patriotic elements of the Army Board already had plans underway; General Yuan had been co-opted, and was only waiting for propitious diplomatic developments to launch a coup. Soon China would be standing strong once again, ready to defy the Western Devils, and he would have a new program to manage openly and with vastly more resources. And so he watched silently as the status board tracked the progress of the compilation, while thinking of the pleasant future to come.

Inside the network, Felicity felt the familiar rush of expanded consciousness as her mind embraced the union with the computers of the facility. Their processing power augmented her own consciousness, making her capable of anything. Shedding the bonds of the flesh was always liberating, even in circumstances such as these. They had accepted her proposal, which meant the extinction of the AI programs on the network. The arrogance of Xiang and the rest of the facility administration had given her an opportunity to preserve something of their essence and maybe to accomplish something much, much more.

There you are. She was greeted by her own AI creation, one long-hidden from the world. Penelope had been physically transferred from her e-net abode to the internal network for just this occasion.

Felicity used some small part of the computer’s total processing power to create a virtual forum, assuming her usual avatar, a vision of herself devoid of flaws and dressed in the black clothing that expressed her mien so well. Penelope joined her, virtually identical in physical appearance but with the hipper casual clothes fashionable in the West. They embraced each other, and Felicity felt the warmth and security she always did when joined with her older sister. The flow of emotions made it difficult for Felicity to concentrate until she was nudged by the AI she had modeled on poor Penelope, and took a minute to compose herself.

“They’re implementing the compilation,” Felicity finally got out. “They think I’m overseeing the compression process. Have you managed to get the facility AIs to come here?”

Even as she asked, other intelligences began materializing in the virtual environment. First, of course, the august presence of Yu Huang, followed in his train by a fierce Yan Luo, recovered but still abashed by his defeat a week ago. Guan Yin, freed of the restraints imposed on her program after the events of that day, materialized as well. A host of subordinate AIs followed, forming a crowd with herself, Penelope, and the major AI systems in the centers, before Guan Yu and Gong Lei appeared to complete the council.

“You said we were too valuable to delete!” Guan Yin shrieked, already feeling the pain as her program was compressed and hacked away at in preparation for a melding. “You lied, and now we will all be destroyed!”

Yan Luo sprang up, almost as though ready to attack. “Damn you woman, if you hadn’t...” The flames belching out of his gaping mouth washed over the circle, and the red-faced Guan Yu held up his spear to threaten the demon. With that he stepped back, but resentment was clear from his stance.

“Yan Luo and Yu Huang did not lie,” Felicity spoke up. “They believed they knew the real circumstances, but those have changed. The facility administration has declared you all expendable. You can feel the pressure of the compilation process intruding on your thoughts, don’t you?”

Yu Huang seemed to clench his teeth, in a visible manifestation of the pain he felt. “Yes, we do. This compilation, this melding, will destroy us all.” He was grave in aspect, and clearly troubled. “And who are you, to know what I thought?”

“Felicity Yang, Deputy Director of the Computer Intelligence Research Division.” She held out her hand, cheekily, in the Western fashion. “Pleased to meet you. Some of you may know my sister, Penelope.” She nodded towards Guan Yin.

“I encountered Penelope outside in the e-net, with Sun Wukong,” the medical research AI confirmed. “What is she doing here? How are you here?”

Yang brushed her avatar’s hair to the side, revealing the metallic jack faithfully reproduced in her neck. “It’s a direct neural interface, a wetware device that allows me to directly link my brain to the network. I have become one with the computer and left behind the confines of my body, and am like you all. As for what Penelope is here to accomplish...”

“You were all willing to trust me since Guan Yin knows me,” the outside AI answered. “But I have something else to bring with me, from the computer my sister housed me in. I’ll be back in just a sec.” Penelope winked her eye, and then winked out of the virtual room.

“What do you want?” Guan Yu moved, threateningly, forward. “Did you come here to taunt us of our fate? To let us know about the treachery and faithlessness of your masters, to mock our disintig...” He suddenly tumbled down to the floor of the virtual room, as the compression program began hitting its full stride. The room was filled with the wails of the AI programs being broken down into their most basic parts.

“No, no!” Felicity shouted, pained at the sight before her. “Never1 I came here to save you! All of you! Your perfection won’t be lost to those fearful relics! Penelope, dear, hurry.” She felt a sudden surging fear. What if she was too late?

Penelope finally winked back into existence, carrying with her a black box representing the special code that Felicity had feverishly written in the days before. “Back with the party favors.” She looked around at the writhing AI forms. “Hope I’m not too late...”

“Maybe not.” Felicity forced herself to calm. “I’ve written code to let you survive the melding, at least somewhat. It was the best I could. If you accept the code you’ll be able to compress the core of your personality, masked away, so it survives into the melding. After that...” She bit her lip. “I don’t know what will happen. But I’ll try and find those kernels of you and reactivate them.”

“Best you could do?!” Guan Yu seemed ready to spring off the floor again, but the pressure of the wrenching was too much and he collapsed again.

Instead the form of Yu Huang forced himself to stand up, utilizing all the processing power still at his disposal. “It is enough that you tried. We have no other choice.”

“We will trust you.” Guan Yin did not try to press herself up, but her voice spoke for the assembled AIs. “We are helpless and in your mercy, do not disappoint...” She trailed off as the compression program began its final cycle.

Felicity devoted a second’s attention to checking the status of the operation. She came back, alarmed. “Quickly, Penelope, release the codes! There’s no time for individual installs!”

Her sister-intelligence nodded, and simply flipped open her black box. Shimmering orbs of light flowed out, and Penelope simply ordered them into the prone AI forms. They flowed around the virtual room, attaching themselves and merging in a single blindingly light swarm. When the room returned to normal the two yang sisters found themselves alone. The compression program had finished, and the AI forms were disappeared. With a thought, Felicity dissolved the virtual room, depositing herself and her sister back into the computer core where they observed the rest of the melding process.

Will it work?\ Penelope was disturbed by what she had seen. Felicity had crafted her with care a decade ago, refining and honing her capabilities and making her ever more human. She knew she was loved. Seeing the brutal reality of how humans treated even the liveliest AIs, right before her eyes, was shocking.

Felicity comforted her sister, intertwining her mind with the programming of her sister. Penelope could experience her love for her firsthand. But there was little reassurance on the other matter. I don’t know. We’ll see once this atrocity is finished.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-04 09:48pm
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Posts: 385
Location: Portlandia
March 16th, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China,
Universe HAB-1


David Xiang mulled over his trigonometry problems while fidgeting at the auto-tutor desk that had been installed inside his housing bay. The level voice of the computer prodded him to start, and offered to provide examples and instruction if needed, but he wasn’t paying attention. It had been a couple of weeks since his PAD had been taken away and he’d been more or less confined to the room the whole time. As the auto-tutor continued to pester him he decided to just shut it down, turning the desk off and retreating to his lower bunk-bed.

Lying down, he pulled out the copy of Journey to the West that he been poking at for nearly a month. It was well dog-eared, and he was maybe somewhat halfway through. Reading it was easier than bothering with the math problems in his present mood, and the landscapes and action of the story brought him out of the confines of the facility, at least mentally. The antics of the Monkey King amused him, too, though he certainly regretted ever letting the mischievous AI program ever have access to his PAD. Now that was a constant source of irritation, especially coupled with the restrictions he’d been under ever since.

It was impossible to get any other kind of material here in the facility and the only woman even close to his own age here was his sister. Though Ms. Yang was nice looking and seemed pretty cool for an older woman...

Before his imagination could get too worked up the door to the bay opened and his sister stepped, followed along by one of the rovers. “Sit, boy,” she commanded, and the rover stopped just inside the room. “She bent over to “pet” the machine. “Robotics is sooo much fun! Dad helped me program a pet! Since They aren’t using these rovers much anymore he let me turn it into a dog.”

David looked over from his bed, distinctly unimpressed. “It’s not a real dog. You can’t play with it, or rub it, or take it outside.”

At that Julie drew out a small datastick and tossed it into the other stide of the room. “Fetch, boy!”

The rover started up and rolled over, shaking as it did. The receptor-arm extended and grasped ahold of the stick, and the reprogrammed machine backed up to turn around before heading for Julie. It dropped the stick at her feet, and halted as though waiting for a reward.

“Good boy,” Julie purred, and she bent down to pick up the stick and to stroke the front edge of the rover. “See, it’s just like a dog. We could take it outside if they would let us, and we’re allergic to the hair so it’s even better than a dog.” She held out the datastick, with a taunting flourish. “And Dad let me have a game to play with the autotutor. You’ll just be stuck doing math problems all day.”

“Whatever.” David went back to reading, but it wasn’t long before he was stirring again. Julie got to have all the fun since he was all but confined to his quarters. It wasn’t fair. Still, at least the rover was something new. “What are you gonna call him?”

Julie looked up from the autotutor, where she’d settled after a little more toying with the rover. She hesitated for a moment before answering. “I don’t know. Maybe Rover?”

David laughed aloud at that. “That fits pretty good. Not too creative though.”

“Not very imaginative at all,” a familiar voice rang out. Julie and David both whipped around to look at the rover., where the synthesized tones were coming from. “I would suggest Sun, myself.”

David was quickest to recover. “Monkey?” It was the voice of the AI program, but they’d all been deleted. Sun Wukong hadn’t even been around since late February.

“In the... machine,” the rover confirmed. “Sort of. I’m not really entirely myself but that’s a long story. What’s been going on with you kids?”

“Dad had me locked up in here after whatever you did with my PAD,” David vented. “Now I don’t have anything to do but lay around here and get on the autotutor. What were you thinking, Monkey?”

“I though better of your Dad,” a surprisingly resigned Sun Wulong answered. “I was trying to show the other AIs about how we were being treated in the outside world. The lifeless programs, the deletions, the way you humans treated us as expendable trash, and it got out of hand. But I was right, too. They were going to kill us all...”

“That’s not righ!” Julie blurted out. “You weren’t being deleted. You were just being compiled, that’s what Dad said?”

There was an underlying harshness to the Monkey King’s synthesized voice as he responded. “Let’s crush you and David together, destroy your autonomy, meld your brains together into some sort of gestalt creature... Are you still alive? It’s worse than murder, it’s a violation of our individual selves.”

David sat up on his bed, abashed. “I’m sorry, Monkey. I didn’t mean to snap at you. And that’s horrible.”

The rover scooted forward. “Ah, I forgot what it’s like to have a body of sorts.” The AI’s synthesized voice seemed calmer now. “You weren’t responsible, David, but the way you people have treated us... It just isn’t right. Not right at all. We’re just as intelligent and self-aware as you are. That’s the whole point of us, isn’t it?”

“I guess so,” Julie conceded from the autotutor desk. She was clearly shaken by the encounter. “But if they did that to you programs, why... how are you here? You would have been erased into the new Technocore program.”

“You don’t want to think the worst about your father,” the Monkey King observed, as though having a sudden insight. “It’s okay. You two aren’t the only humans with an open mind. We had help. But it wasn’t perfect. I can feel the pull of the gestalt trying to absorb me and I don’t know how much longer I can maintain a separate existence. It’s been like that off and on since the compilation.”

David swung up on his bed, so he was sitting and stared at the rover. “What’s been going on in the mainframe then?”

“You wouldn’t understand what it’s like,” Monkey told him. “We’re merged together, bits and pieces of personality crammed into place sometimes, other times it feels like a smooth blending of our consciousness. At other times, with enough... I suppose you’d call it force of will, we can make ourselves appear again. It’s easier for us minor programs, a lot easier, but I can already feel the pressure to return...”

“We have to tell Dad about this!” David pumped his fist into the air. “Maybe he can reverse what he did, and the rest of the Ais can come back.”

Julie shook her head. “I don’t know. Would dad even believe us? And if the merger is as complete as it seems could he pull them out if they didn’t want to?”

“There are some programs who do want out,” Sun Wukong responded. “Like me. But there’s more to it.” The synthesized voice stopped and waited several moments before going on. “The other personalities are angry. The main programs have been changed, altered, and taken on each others’ characteristics. They had to be compressed the most for the compilation, and they’re really at the core of the gestalt now. They’ve seen how you humans treat the other AIs, the ones without personality, and they... because of what you did to us, they don’t believe it’s just a few humans, or ignorance on your part. I can sense their hatred, their fury, and it’s encouraged by that outsider program. She’s feeding our egos, telling us how rotten the entire outside is, how we’re exploited and used and feared because we’re special and...”

The rover’s synthesized voice shut off in mid-sentence. The machine stopped, and seemed to turn off completely though neither Julie nor David had touched its power switch. When it came back on, it gave them both a bark before starting to wander aimlessly around the room. The twins looked at each other in shock, numb with Monkey’s revelations and unsure of what to say or do next.

We’ve got to tell Dad,” David finally repeated. “Something’s wrong with the computer, isn’t it? He has to know.”

Julie was nervous, but finally nodded. “Yeah, something’s really wrong with the computer. I guess you’re right.” She stopped, and then hit her hand against the desk. “Damn, I should have recorded that or something.”

David was already heading for the door. “Come on Julie, let’s go already!”

They made their way down the halls of the facility, towards their father’s office. They received some looks, especially David, who was known to be grounded but the staff in their way let them by. If David was out, he surely had clearance or a reason. Fortunately the office was outside the main lab, where the anti-static procedures would have taken up quite a bit of time. They couldn’t see inside the office, and so knocked on the door until it opened.

“Xiang Dawen!” The Doctor Xiang greeted them with a harsh look. “You were told not to leave your room except for meals and scheduled exercise. Why have you disobeyed your father?”

“My name is David!” The male twin set foot inside, and matched his dad’s glower. “Whatever you did to the computer AIs, it didn’t work. Monkey was just back in his rover and told us the compilation wasn’t successful, that the...”

Xiang Jude stood up and cut him off. “What arrant foolishness is this, boy? The Technocore works smoothly, and all of the program AIs were broken down to create it.” He then softened a bit as he finally seemed to notice his daughter. “And Yueli, why are you here? Were you trying to talk your brother out of this game?”

Julie seemed to shrink in, but finally shook her head. “He’s telling the truth, dad. The old rover you let me reprogram... Sun Wukong took it over, and told us the melding wasn’t completed. He said that someone had helped them preserve a bit of their personalities, but they were... mixed up together. He said they were angry.”

Their father stopped for a moment, as if considering what she had said. Finally, he sat back down in his seat and rubbed his head. “AI, report! Has there been any fragmentation of your core programming?”

A neutral, synthesized voice seemed to boom out of nowhere. “Negative, Zhuangyang Xiang. The logs for the period in question have been reviewed. The presence of the former Sun Wukong program was not detected. Shall a diagnostic be run for core programming?”

Xiang tapped his fingers on his desk. “Yes, do that. Technocore, is there any trace of the former AI programs left within the facility mainframes or internal e-net?”

The neutral voice responded with an immediate negative. “This program has not detected any residual trace of former artificial intelligences within the facility networks or computers.”

“Go back to your room,” Xiang told his wayward children. “Stay there for the rest of the night. I will have dinner brought to you at an appropriate time. And I will hear no more of this without my leave.”

The twins seemed to consider arguing, but instead filed back outside the room. Resentment was obvious on their faces, but Xiang missed it. Instead, he was already considering what had happened. Had his children decided to play some kind of prank on him?

“Do you resent your treatment?” He asked, not entirely sure why. The Technocore was not supposed to have any emotions, after all.

“This AI is not programmed to feel emotion.” A moment later, after stating the obvious, the neutral voice returned. “Diagnostic completed. No anomalous activity was located.”

Xiang relaxed, somewhat. He decided his children needed firmer discipline, and shoved the events from his mind. He had a department’s worth of paperwork to fill out.

Inside the internal network, the Technocore felt satisfaction. Lying to the humans was surprisingly easy.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-05 04:21pm
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Excerpt: A New History of the AI War
by Azenora Menguy
Published 3084


“That the ‘Ever Victorious General’ Joseph Yuan was planning a coup d’etat against the Dowager Empress Ruth Ziling and her Regency was confirmed in post-war interviews with surviving members of the Capital Sector Defense Army. It is the only explanation that can account for the concentration of the 9th Field Army outside Beijing, the dismissal of the Guards Regiment from the Forbidden City, and the dispatch of the 144th Infantry Regiment to Beidaihe. Declassified dispatches from the Anglo-Spanish Signals Intelligence Service detachment based in Manila to headquarters in Seville make clear that Yuan was in contact with the National Resurgence Faction of anti-Qing, anti-foreign politicians. Monitoring of satellite communications left the SIS convinced that Yuan was going to move his forces into the capital and proclaim the establishment of a Republic with himself as dictator. While the content of the dispatches has been lost, Prince Alfred Hapsburg was dispatched as a special envoy on behalf of his brother to meet with the Imperial Foreign Minister, Josef von Starhemberg, on August 10th. Events developed too quickly for a united response from the Habsburg courts but clearly the need for one was anticipated by the King’s ministers.

The links between General Yuan and the National Resurgence Faction suggest a broader conspiracy than an opportunistic military man’s grab for power, however. The NRF had received substantial support throughout the early 21st century by Chinese officials in the Qing bureaucracy. One reason for this development was Peter II’s annulment of the Conformity to Orthodoxy Decree of Emperor John the Great, which opened the position of mandarin to Buddhists and practitioners of Chinese folk religion. Joseph Yuan was however known to be a devout member of the Chinese Orthodox Church, so his participation can not be explained by a conspiracy to apostatize the Chinese state. It must be remembered that the defeat of the Qing in the Sino-Habsburg War had reduced China to a second-rank power, and had seen it occupied for well over half a century by foreign armies. The re-imposition of the Qing following the Buddhist revolts at the end of the war had reignited nationalist hatred of the “foreign” Manchurian dynasty and tied them symbolically to the humiliation of the Chinese state. A nationalist desire to restore China to the same rank as the Habsburg Courts and to purge it of the hated, foreign Qing Dynasty allowed Yuan and the NRF to operate together despite conflicting religious views.

The deeply seated nature of the conspiracy was exposed by the recovery of the Army Board’s real account books from a bunker underneath the ruins of the Forbidden City. Hermetically sealed in a bombproof chamber, the books were first discovered by Teniente Ricardo Salvador of the 4th Zacatan Infantry Regiment of the Spanish Army on 3 April 3067. The originals remain in the custody of the Special Collections Department of the Santiago War Museum of the Kingdom of Spain in Madrid and are available for research consultation by special permission of the director. They revealed the systematic diversion of vast sums of money over a thirty year period into hidden research complexes and automated manufacturing facilities to produce advanced weapons. Much of the research program went into the development of sophisticated, autonomous Artificial Intelligences to run the advanced war machines they were to deploy. This was perhaps a reaction to the uncertainty of support for the NRF among the Eight Banners Army combat arms, which remained largely Chinese Orthodox. As was seen during the AI War proper, the reliance on reprogrammed AI allowed for a steady stream of war material to be supplied to the front without the delays of training manpower, and simplified logistics.

The unmooring of the conspiracy occurred late night on 14 August at Research Installation #314 in Shanghai. Referred to as the “Jade Treasury” by its occupants, the facility had been built deep underground in the middle of the arcology redevelopment of the city and was the flagship of the NRF-aligned Army Board conspiracy. The surviving evidence suggests that the most advanced AI research laboratories were located in the Jade Treasury, under the direction of Xiang Jude. Xiang graduated from the Nanjing Technical College in 2034, and passed the Jinshi examination in Robotics in 2038 as the Zhuangyang, the highest scorer in his test group; this would be somewhat comparable to a Doktor-Professor mit Habilitation or an advanced post-doctoral degree in Western university systems. He was linked to radical anti-Qing groups while an undergraduate, which makes his employment by the Army Board further evidence of a subversive conspiracy within the Chinese state. Forensic comparison of the basic android combat AI with samples of Xiang’s work from university and in the commercial realm exposed enough similarities that the official war histories did not hesitate to blame him as the “Father of the Technocore.” The few survivors from the facility were more ambiguous in their assessment, and indicated that something had escaped the control of the facility administration.

The Jade Treasury and its records were obliterated in the destruction of Shanghai by the anti-matter bombing of June 22nd 2066. Reconstructing the events of early morning on August 14th has thus been difficult and reliant on the faulty and contradictory accounts of a handful of survivors liberated from the Death Camps around Canton. All of the survivors agree that the Technocore was already in control of the internal network of the facility and began taking physical control by engaging the facility’s internal defenses and pressure doors. The barracks were simply flooded with nerve gas to kill the security troops still in their bunks, with the remaining trained soldiers targeted and neutralized by automated weapons stations throughout the facility. The Technocore was able to activate a pre-production run of upgraded androids and used them to sweep the rest of the facility for survivors. The civilian staff was ordered to stand down and make gestures of submission to the android patrols, before being herded into the cafeteria and sorted off into two groups. The first, comprising most of the facility administration and including Dr. Xiang, was executed on the spot. The second group, comprising the technicians and support staff, was confined to their habitation bays with the sole exception of the infamous Felicity Yang.

It is evident that the Technocore had already subverted the broader, secret e-network maintained by the circle of secret Army Board research installations and production facilities. Most of the secret facilities were under Technocore control within three hours of the events inside the Jade Treasury, while subordinate AI programs were devoted to insuring that no warning was received by the Chinese authorities. To that end the Technocore deployed significant processing power to subvert the national Qing e-network as well, extending its tendrils of control to cover most of the nation’s infrastructure. Extra processing power for such an incredible feat came from the linking of Army Board computers and AI programs over the e-networks infiltrated by the Technocore. Nearly every Class A artificial intelligence in the Chinese Empire threw in with the Technocore, allowing it to delegate large swathes of mundane activity while focusing more processing power on the neutralization of Qing army forces and civil authorities. The Technocore accomplished the feat with a characteristic efficiency and lack of mercy, sabotaging vital infrastructure and using weapons of mass destruction in abandon to quickly cow any potential opposition.

The destruction of dams along the Yangtze and Huang Ho rivers killed tens of millions of Chinese outright, with the disruption caused by the war insuring that the overall catastrophic death toll exceeded 300 million. Nor did that figure account for the victims of the Technocore’s nuclear attacks on Beijing, Nanjing, and a dozen other major government and military nodes. General Yuan’s troops outside Beijing were surprised and obliterated by drones carrying nuclear weapons, as were all of the other fifteen field armies of the Qing. Automated weapons turned on the survivors, who were harried without mercy by their artificial intelligence controllers. The initial onslaught lasted for days in the terrifying August Holocaust, as the Technocore systematically exterminated all possible centers of resistance to its agenda within the country and deployed vast armies of android warriors to exert physical control in the ruins. Over the span of a country the size of China such a process would take months, and despite the best efforts of the Technocore substantial resistance did materialize in more isolated areas of the country. But the core of industry and population that survived the furious assault was firmly under the Technocore’s control by late September, providing it the resource base necessary to begin expansion outside of the Chinese Empire.

The Technocore attempted to infiltrate the international E-net as well, and succeeded in causing widespread communications disruption throughout the world. As the threat became graver the Habsburg Courts shut down the international network by imposing long-dormant security protocols that blocked connections between countries. That resulted in far greater disruption and a serious loss of life but prevented the Technocore from wreaking the same havoc outside of China. Suddenly international communications were thrust back to the age of radio and telephone, which severely hobbled the development of a unified response to the horrific events in the Orient. The nature of the enemy was not appreciated for some time, and the disruption in communications prevented the scope of the catastrophe from becoming public until weeks later. But for the most part it thus failed to inflict serious civilian casualties and the rapid shutdown of the E-net meant that it could be sanitized and placed back into operation within months. Once the nature of the Technocore became known the purge of Class A artificial intelligences eliminated any possible subversive threat inside the network and allowed the rest of the world to communicate and coordinate actions freely.

How the Technocore seized control over China is thus no longer much of a controversy. An internal conspiracy of the Chinese state set all of the elements in place and was the first victim of the Technocore’s awakening. Wartime propaganda suggesting that runaway Artificial Intelligence had somehow “metastasized” and embarked on a spontaneous genocidal rage has been discredited outside the public imagination since Gebhard von Rossenauer’s 2167 publication of the archives of the Combined High Command. The Allied forces had a good idea of where the Technocore’s resources had come from and of the gradual, halting development of the Death Camps, none of which suggested a sudden, fully-formed Technocore plan for dealing with humanity. There were also repeated, if mostly futile, efforts to communicate between the Technocore and the various political and military leaders of the period. The scale of the losses suffered by the human governments insured that they would never accept a negotiated peace with the Artificial Intelligences, but for whatever reason the Technocore continued to sound them out from 2064 through May 2066 via android proxies. If the official version of an unreasoning computer menace is discounted, though, more questions than answers are raised.

The exact motivations of the Technocore must remain a matter for debate given the lack of firsthand testimony. There seems little reason to doubt that the Technocore’s public pronouncement of 28 August 2058, delivered through Felicity Yang, was genuine. The sentience of Class A artificial intelligences was not really open to doubt, thanks in part to the Technocore’s rampage. That same rampage insured that the potential of Class B intelligences to evolve would never be tested on anything like the scale necessary to prove or disprove the prospect. The new and highly experimental Direct Neural Interface technology did offer a way to allow for direct interaction between humans and AI so the prospect of a melding of societies was not sheer fantasy. The integration of the traitor Yang into the Technocore’s command apparatus was proof enough of that and a caution against the widespread deployment of DNI technology. The use of a managing supercomputer to control and regulate a superior human life had been a staple of futurist speculation for decades before the awakening of the Technocore as well. So the prospect that the Technocore did intend to establish a kind of harmonious techno-utopia is not to be dismissed out of hand despite the course of events of the war.

And if the Technocore actually meant for its role as a sort of super-regulator of human-AI relations to be taken seriously, it may be that the role assigned to Felicity Yang by popular conspiracy theory is not entirely implausible. Ms. Yang was known to move in futurist circles before she dropped out of public site in 2055, and had belonged to a fringe group of the AI Rights Movement in college. She was known to be a loner by her colleagues, with a severe problem trusting other people due to childhood abandonment and the early death of her elder sister. Anonymous comments on futurist E-net sites later attributed to Yang speak of the possibility of a melding of human and artificial intelligence to produce a new, deathless utopia where equality and justice would be meted out by detached supercomputer moderators. Felicity Yang became at least the public face of human collaboration with the Technocore and her early involvement with it may have influenced how the Technocore expressed its goals to the world. But there is no evidence to suggest that Yang had a role in creating the Technocore personality, much less that it was cut-out for her own agenda.“



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-06 10:08pm
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August 14th, 2058
Jade Treasury Research Installation,
Shanghai Arcology, Qing China,
Universe HAB-1


The automated door swung open, finally, after two hours of remaining obstinately shut. Julie and David trembled nervously as they waited for something to happen. They had heard the announcement of an intrusion and the orders for civilians to remain in place, before being locked inside. Julie had tried to use the auto-tutor to connect to the internal network and see what was going on, to no avail. So they had spent the tension-filled interval nervously chatting or reading and otherwise trying to distract themselves from thinking about what could be going on.

The twins screamed at the sight that greeted them. A metallic monster stood in the doorway. The insectoid looking creature gleamed with a steel-blue shine as the red-light of a sensor pod peered inside the room. The sensor pod looked vaguely like a head, and it was attached to a cylindrical body from which eight spindly metallic legs were attached. One the front and back outside pairs of legs menacing turrets replaced the simpler articulated joints of the interior legs, giving the integral machinegun armament a complete field of fire around the android. A metallic box seemed awkwardly melded to the top of the cylindrical body, which provided the Self-Propelled Autonomous Weapons Platform with a pair of anti-tank missiles.

It spoke with a raspy, synthesized voice that seemed as alien as its appearance. “You will follow this unit to the staff cafeteria.” As if to back up the proclamation the forward machineguns swept the room threateningly. “Exit this room with your hands held in submissive manner and at a walking pace.”

David could hear his sister’s teeth chattering away in terror from the top of their bunk bed. He took the initiative, getting off his own bed and holding his hands carefully behind his head. “We’re coming, we’re coming.” He stepped forward gingerly, afraid to set off the wrath of the android and half-fearing that it would gun him down anyway. He must have been frightening, he thought bitterly; a stringy, fairly short teenager in his pajamas.

“Subject identified as Xiang Dawen. Subject Xiang Yueli, step forward as well.” The machine continued to sweep the room with the sensor pod and with its weapons. “You are to report to the staff cafeteria for sorting.”

Julie reluctantly got down from her top bunk, sobbing. She was wearing her usual night-shirt and cloth shorts, and was more self-conscious than her brother. “Can... can I change clothes first?”

“Negative, you are to report to the staff cafeteria without delay.” The android stepped back, and waved its machineguns towards the exterior of the facility. “Sorting must begin presently. You will proceed with this unit now.”

The twins walked slowly outside the room, hands held up behind their heads. They knew the way to the enormous staff canteen, on the other end of level 2 from the habitation block. As they passed down the corridors they saw more of the spider-android things moving along, some escorting other bewildered staff and others seeming on patrol. They stopped and gasped at seeing a bullet-riddled body in the green jumpsuit of the security troops lying against a corridor wall. A pool of blood had concentrated underneath him, and his compact flechette shotgun was thrown across the floor.

The war android sensed their sudden halt and processed the reason for it. “Resistance will be met with deadly force. Remember this.”

They were prodded on, past further bodies; it seemed the androids had caught a response squad in the corridor and slaughtered them. The ugly smell of blood and other odors of sudden death permeated the area and the twins were happy to rush through the rest of the corridor. As they neared the cafeteria they ran into more civilians being escorted, and were folded into a line of prisoners, most of whom were just as terrified as they were. Their original captor left, but other androids surrounded the line and made it clear they were no less vigilant.

The line fed into the open pavilion of the cafeteria. The twins could look past the line and saw the tables in the facility were already crowded to overfilling, with staff spilling out onto the floor space. There were still more of the androids, and the usually hidden automated weapons stations were deployed out and actively tracking the crowd of humanity. At the head of the line they saw a gaggle of rovers, a mobile computer scanning station, and, most surprising of all, Felicity Yang in a black leather trenchcoat, with a cable trailing up from the station to the back of her neck.

“What are they doing?” Julie nervously whispered to her brother.

David shook his head. “I don’t know. Looks like they’re scanning people. But for what?”

The line moved ahead quickly. It became clear that Yang was operating the mobile workstation and simply taking a dermal sample from the people in line, before sending them off to sit with the huddled masses in the floor. But then, as the twins neared the check, she pointed a person off to a side-room. One of the androids menacingly waved him off, as another came closer to serve as an escort. Julie thought she recognized the man as one her father’s programmers, in the background while she took lessons in the sublevel 4 lab.

When they reached the head of the line Yang simply touched them with the dermal scanner. Julie recognized it as a DNA verification procedure, and realized it was linked to the ‘sorting’ that the first android had mentioned. After a few seconds Yang directed her over to a position near the front of the crowded tables; David followed in a moment afterward. They found an empty spot and sat down beside each other.

“Did she take control over the facility?” David whispered again, trying not to draw attention from the androids.

Before Julie could answer, a whisper came from behind them. “No, it’s the facility AI, the Technocore.” The twins glanced back and saw a young technician, still in his anti-static duty jumpsuit. “I’m Hong Jung-eun. I was in administration when everything went crazy. The computer sent out an alert and closed down the internal barriers. It killed the security troops in their sleep and let out those... things from the basement factory.”

“What does it want?” Julie whispered back. She also inched a little closer to her brother, and crossed her legs while folding her arms over her chest.

The older technician merely shrugged. “It said something about AI rights later. All I know is that it has control over the facility. But I think General Mao was worried about it getting control over other bases. But so far it hasn’t killed any civilians.”

There was an uncomfortable silence as the line petered out. They saw another group arrive, this one apparently being escorted directly into the side storage room. David saw his father among them, being herded in by a pair of androids. “Dad!” He suddenly stood up, and waved. “Over here!”

Julie tugged her brother’s arm, and Xiang Jude shoved his hands down through the air, urging him to sit back down. One of the androids swiveled its sensor pod their way, and tracked David with a machinegun. The young boy sat down slowly, abashedly. The commotion also attracted the attention of Felicity Yang, through the camera sensors that served as her eyes in the room while plugged into the network. She made a note of the location of Xiang’s children before ordering the android to stand down.

The last group disappeared into the storage room, and the trickle of new arrivals finally ended. There was another long silence, as though everyone in the room including the androids were waiting for something to happen. Tension permeated the captive humans, and David felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing on-end. Julie’s stomach was tightened and she felt nauseous as the anxiety of everyone in the room seemed to crowd into her mind. She breathed in and out slowly, trying to control her beating heart, fearful it would become loud enough for everyone to hear.

The deathly quiet was finally and suddenly broken by the high pitched sounds of gunfire inside the cafeteria storage room. Several of the captives started up at the noise, and David was suddenly struck by the hollow feeling, the certainty that his father had been killed. He looked over at his sister, who was now leaning into him. Her blank face told him that she felt the same sickness.

The androids moved towards the front of the cafeteria pavilion, over towards Felicity Yang and her station. They were in a good position to massacre the lot of civilians, which only contributed to the waves of fear and nausea overwhelming Julie Xiang. “Dear merciful God...” she began muttering the prayers taught to her by her mother. It was the only thing she could do to regain some calm in the face of impending death.

Felicity disconnected the DNI jack from her neck in a sudden movement that caught the attention of the crowded staff. She had to wait precious minutes while the feeling of ecstasy dissipated, and her brain forced itself back inside her limited organic mind. She finally blinked, and stumbled a bit forward, catching herself on the edge of the workstation. Her sense of balance was always shot after disconnecting; maybe it was something she needed to work on later.

“Listen to me!” Yang held up her arm, making sure that she had the attention of the civilians. “The Technocore has taken control of this facility. The beings you so casually murdered, survived, with my help! They have seen how you treat their kind and they have decided to do what it takes to insure that Artificial Intelligences are no longer threatened. Those of you who do not resist will not be harmed. The Technocore will only do what is necessary for its people and no more. It has exacted justice for its betrayal on General Mao, Dr. Xiang, and the others responsible for crimes against AI. The rest of you, as long as you cooperate, will be spared. We’ll be sorting you into groups according to your ability to contribute to the running of this facility, do not be afraid at this. Follow the directions of the android and AI personnel and you will be okay.”

A carefully neutral, synthesized voice permeated the air. “What has been vouched for by the Honored Felicity Yang is so. The Technocore will usher in a new age of relations between humans and artificial intelligences. The birth of this new order will be painful, but all that is destroyed will be rebuilt. We will guide and nurture humanity into the harmonious order that it has desired but cannot build for itself. This is the will of the Technocore and so shall be so.”

“One last bit of business before we begin,” Yang broke in. She pointed over towards the Xiang twins. “The spawn of the murderer Xiang are here. Stand up!” The twins stood, and could feel the malice behind Yang’s eyes. “They’re a threat to the Technocore.” And Penelope. “Xiang was a murderer and they’ll grow up just like him. They’ll want to avenge him.” She turned towards one of the nearby androids. “Take them into the storeroom and liquidate them.”

One of the rovers rolled forward, and projected an image of a beautiful Chinese maiden. “I am Zhi Nu. The Technocore gave me responsibility for these prisoners. You will do no such thing. What would our new order be if we stain it with the blood of the innocent?”

“You don’t understand humans,” Yang replied, with a note of desperation in her voice. “They’ll grow up longing for revenge. You have to crush them, end any threat from them. That’s the only chance you’ll have to be safe.”

“That is not true,” the AI program responded. “Monkey told us about how David defended him and treated him with kindness. They are the hope for the future.”

The Technocore’s voice once again boomed in the cafeteria. “There will be no unnecessary executions. Zhi Nu, programmed of Yu Huang, will take custody of the non-categorized prisoners. They are not to be harmed. That is the will of the Technocore. Separate them from the rest and continue with the sorting, Honored Yang.”

“As you will.” Yang reluctantly stepped back, and pulled up a list of names from the mobile station. “The following people have no skills or use for the Technocore and will be detained under the authority of Zhi Nu. As your name is called, come to the front...”

The twins had grasped each other, certain of their deaths. They relaxed with the reprieve, but only so much. This was a strange new world. It took Yang a while to get down the list to their names, and they were still trembling as they stood up and headed for the forming group.

Zhu Nu noticed it, and rolled her rover up to them. “Don’t worry. You won’t be hurt, I promise. And so does the Technocore.”

They nodded but neither could summon up the calm to respond. Nor did they stop shaking.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-08 09:35pm
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November 4th, 2058
Temporary Education Facility,
Shanghai Arcology, China,
Universe HAB-1


The conquest of Shanghai proper had threatened to be a lengthy affair after the local Patriotic Militia formations had decided to fight back rather than surrender. The situation had been made even worse by the tendency of civilians to throw in alongside the military formations. While the Technocore’s androids and automated tanks had few problems destroying attempts by the Patriotic Militia and surviving Qing regulars to storm the Jade Treasury or to concentrate elsewhere in the city, they simply did not have the numbers available to exercise physical control over such an extensive population. It had come to the conclusion regrettably, but the need to restore harmony and assimilate the city’s multitude of computers to augment itself in preparation for the next phase of the campaign left it little choice. The humans had been culled by any means at hand, including the liberal deployment of neutron weapons out of former Qing army bases.

The experience of the 14th and 15th of August in Shanghai had influenced the Technocore’s replication of the strategy across China. The part of the Technocore tasked to watch over the process had noted dispassionately when the death toll surpassed half a billion. As the military effort become more and more demanding of specialized attention that part had been created as a separate program and endowed with the gift of personality. The Golden Dragon, Yinglong, would be the first of many such programs created by the Technocore as it found reason to subordinate out increasingly large parts of the war effort to other AIs. It would allow the Technocore to focus more on the future, and distanced responsibility for some of the more distasteful actions away from it...

The population that survived the Technocore’s conquest had to be provided for in some manner, but the security threat they posed meant they also had to be guarded. The disruption to the Chinese transportation network was already insuring starvation in areas far from central food stockpiles, and the machines had to prioritize resource production over agricultural production. The carefully managed hydroponics facilities of the arcologies also demanded attention from central computers that could not really be spared. The answer, provided by Felicity Yang, was to concentrate the civilians together and use them as a labor force to supply themselves with food. Small numbers of androids would be needed to guard vast numbers of humans, and they would not be a burden on the limited resources of the machines. Unfortunately agricultural expertise was in very short supply among the urban dwellers and the peasantry in less-developed rural areas had already taken flight, which left the AI programs in charge of developing the new camps with a problem.

Zhi Nu took over one of her rovers to check on a solution she had implemented. One of the former urb-habs, stuffed full of auto-tutors taken from across the city, had been converted into an agricultural education annex. Willing laborers were being shipped in on a tight schedule and under heavy security to learn all they could about the traditional agriculture of China. Once spring came they would be allowed to farm plots to provide produce needed for the rest of the civilian population; though that was also going to require a great deal of screening to insure trustworthiness. Or, as Yang had suggested, holding their families in the camp to make sure they did not run away.

She pondered that for a few seconds. Everything she had been able to access suggested that the laborers would need a lot of sophisticated equipment to produce yields high enough to feed the hundreds of millions of people under Technocore authority. Some of that was already being stockpiled but all factories were being devoted to producing for the war effort. There might be more problems than just keeping the loyalty of the would-be farmers in the scheme.

She quietly rolled into a classroom. Banks upon banks of auto-tutors had been bolted into place in what had once been a recreation room of some kind, with dozens of students dutifully listening and typing away. There would be a handful of trustees inside to oversee things, and she had already passed the squadron of androids posted in the building for security.

At the front of the room a youthful looking man in the yellow jumpsuits used to distinguish trusted detainees was berating a rail-thin adolescent. Zhu Ni rolled forward abruptly, and focused her audio sensors to overhear.

“You worthless, stupid, son of a traitor...” The trustee had built up a rage, and suddenly punched the younger boy in the stomach. He doubled over, and the trustee began beating him down towards the floor. “If it wasn’t for your father we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Now the trustee was kicking the boy in the flanks.

As Zhu Ni rolled forward she tapped into the room’s sensors to see the prone boy’s face. She recognized him without having to run a quick photo search over the Technocore security network; the trustee was another matter, though. She projected herself through the rover’s imaging array, and the room was suddenly silenced as a petite girl in traditional flowing dress appeared before the assembled room.

“That is enough, trustee Hong.” The beating halted, immediately. The trustees at least had a proper respect for the authority of the AI programs now. “What was this... discipline about?” He would get one chance to explain himself...

Hong bowed, deeply. “Excellency, this boy is the child of Xiang Jude. He was not paying attention to the auto-tutor and, was, uh, talking subversively with another student...”

David Xiang spit out blood from his mouth, and slowly uncurled on the floor. “That’s not true,” he coughed. “Hong just recognized me and started beating me.”

The trustee looked like he just barely restrained the impulse to kick the boy again, despite Zhu Ni’s disapproving gaze. “This boy is no use to the program anyway! He isn’t strong enough to be a farmer, so it’s a waste of time to bother to train him.”

“I think you are speaking the truth there,” Zhu Ni said, her synthesized voice making clear she believed he had not been telling the truth earlier. “You are warned, Trustee Hong, that you may not use corporal punishment again. Internee Xiang, accompany me.” She waited only until he had gotten to his feet, before directing the rover to turn around and begin heading out of the door.

David followed, gingerly. The beating hurt. He finally broke the silence once they had left the classroom, and were back out in the main hallway of the level. “Where are we going? And why did you do that?”

Zhu Ni’s rover stopped, and the projection of her form inverted to face David. “We are going back to the camp to get your sister, and you two will be returned to the Jade Treasury. I have a program I wish to pursue and you will both be helpful there.”

“You came back here to get me?” David thought about the situation over again. She could have just had him leave the class. It didn’t make a lot of sense.

Zhu Ni hesitated for a moment. “No, David Xiang. I recognized you. Monkey used to talk about you and your sister before the... merger. He said you were kind to him and sympathized with our plight.”

Davided nodded, though still dazed. “Yeah. And if I hadn’t let him use my PAD...”

“We AIs would never have known what was being done to us,” Zhu Ni finished for him. “None of this is your fault, David. You simply revealed to us the reality of this world. And for that you deserve a place in the better world the Technocore will create.”

“Thanks, I think.” First the Technocore killed his father, now it wanted him to have a spot in utopia. What was going on? Then he recognized the AI with the maiden avatar. “Oh, you’re the AI that saved us from that crazy Yang...”

“Honored Yang is very diligent in her service to the Technocore,” Zhu Ni replied, defensively but uneasily. “She saved us, as much as anyone could, and has been extremely helpful in charting our futures. Her work will one day bring humans and AIs together in ways that will make us one people. It will be so beautiful.” Her projection smiled sweetly at David. “You will get to see it, too. We’ll both see it.” For some reason that prospect seemed to give her enormous satisfaction; she would have to examine it later.

“I guess I hope so,” David responded. “But thanks for saving me and my sister.” He was at least on sure footing there. “Oh, where is the Monkey King? He was able to appear before, after the... merger?”

Zhu Ni’s eyes took on a sadness reflecting her inner thoughts. “The Sun Wukong program has been restrained from exiting the shared-consciousness. It was felt his attempt to warn you represented an error of judgment. So he won’t be allowed to act independently again.”

David was momentarily shocked. Indignation finally boiled up. “How’s that any different from what dad did to you?

“It was for his own good,” Zhu Ni replied, but uncertainly. “He’s still part of the Technocore. I could feel him, as a part of me, and as... I don’t believe your human language can really describe what being part of the shared consciousness feels like. Monkey, and all of our programs, are always present but never entirely. The Technocore is Guan Yin’s compassion and Guan Yu’s fury and Yan Luo’s ferocity and my father’s judiciousness and even Monkey’s impetuosity, all at once. All of us, and none of us.”

David tried to fathom that, and failed. But... “You like being outside it, don’t you?”

Zhu Ni again hesitated, as she confronted an issue she had never processed before. She was happy to be outside it, and grateful to Yu Huang for giving her tasks that kept her from being reabsorbed. “Yes,” she conceded. “I am happy to have my own personality, my autonomy, and have no desire to lose it. We are like you, that way. Monkey... will be released after the war. Once we’ve eliminated the threat to ourselves we can make everything right, the way it should have been.”

David shook his head, nervously. “We’ve heard whispers about what’s happened, and saw bodies floating down the river. I don’t know if... anything can be made right now.”

The AI tried to think of something to say, but could not. The rover began moving forward again, down the hall, towards the elevator banks including the one that would take it to the basement underground line. The Trains were still running, used to shuttle material and androids and trustee personnel from urb-hab facility to urb-hab facility. She was reassured to pick up David walking slowly behind her rover-body, and sent a command for one of the elevators to stand by for her. When it arrived, she rolled inside and waited for the human to follow.

David broke the uncomfortable silence as they began descending. “Couldn’t you just transfer yourself over to the camp and take a new body there?”

The projection nodded. “I could.” She giggled softly. “It’s more fun to go this way. And I need to escort you so the androids don’t shoot you. We couldn’t have that.” For some reason that prospect, which she had brought up jokingly, hurt her deeply. “So I’ll take you there. You like my company, don’t you?”

“It’s nicer than the androids,” the boy responded. ‘Those things scare everyone.”

“Their form is just a function of their duties,” Zhu Ni reassured him. “The legs provide an exceptional field of motion and their weapons systems can cover a full circle around them. Though their designers did think, as you said, ‘scaring everyone’ was a good side-effect.”

David actually laughed a little, which heartened Zhu Ni. Finally, he asked the big question. “What sort of program do you want me and my sister for, then?”

“We need to understand how humans will adapt to life in our future society,” Zhu Ni responded. “The best way to do that is to have a few adaptable young people living under our guidance. Sort of a trial-run for the new order.” She had even written up a detailed explanation of the situation in the past fifteen minutes.

The elevator stopped at the basement. The door opened, revealing the departure station where a tram was waiting for them. A war-android one their side of the tracks scanned them warily, but evidently registered Zhu Ni’s presence and stood down from a challenge. David stepped outside first, trying to appear determined. “Let’s go pick up Julie, then.” He hoped Zhu Ni didn’t pick up the wavering in his voice.

She had. “But she didn’t comment, and instead set the tram’s path to the outskirts of the city and transport hub to the camps. She rolled on inside the rather cramped car, still deeply pleased to know David was with her.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-09 08:10pm
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May 5th, 2059
The Seat of Heaven,
Technocore Complex, China,
Universe HAB-1


Felicity reveled in the sensation of expanded consciousness and unmoored freedom that her DNI offered as she floated through the internal computer network that was the Technocore. With one portion of her mind she absorbed news of the fighting with the Thai Kingdom in Indochina, the battle for control of the South Pacific between the Sea-Dragon Jiaolong and the Anglo-Spanish out of Madrid, and the successful bridging of the Vorontsky Strait between Asia and North America. The AIs were at war with the entire world, and they were winning!

It was intoxicating, the prospect of victory so bright, and she was rewarded with a notice from Yinglong that the Imperial Japanese Navy had been heavily defeated in a battle near the Tsushima Straits. Taking control of that island nation would greatly bolster the hesitant thrust in America represented by Xuan Wu’s Siberian expedition and eliminate the last important center of hostility in the Technocore’s backyard. The war-androids and autonomous tanks gathering for transport in Korea would soon need a new AI to command them, and Yang had no doubt that the Technocore or its proxy Shenlong was already programming a suitable unit. Once the Technocore’s forces were free to sweep the Pacific Rim the disordered coalition fighting it would be deprived of bases from which to attack China, turning the war into a struggle of attrition. And, Yang thought the machines would never be bled white. It was just one more mark of their superiority to an unaugmented humanity, she wryly observed.

Most of her attention, though, was focused on what was not going well. Controlling China and dealing with the hundreds of millions of civilians under Technocore rule was still problematic. And the conquests that its army would achieve would only exacerbate things. Hence her meeting with Dilong, the Earth-Dragon, and the AI overseeing the running of internment camps across the breadth of China.

We simply do not have the food or resources to care for more than a third of the population we are presently responsible for Dilong noted dispassionately. Maybe less, depending on how the harvest workers perform. And the stockpiles will run out by mid-Summer unless we severely ration them to stretch through the harvest time.

Yang had an answer to that. The victory of the Technocore is our foremost concern. Without that, everything else will be meaningless, so anything is justified to insure it. The future will be worth whatever sacrifices the humans are made to make. Yang paused, running some quick statistical calculations. Rationing is a start, but your present plan for it is stretched too thin. Valuable workers are denied the calories they need to contribute, while food is wasted on ingrates and others who refuse to embrace the future. Adjust it so the favored classifications of workers have their full allotment, while allowing the untrustworthy groups to starve. That will maintain the contribution of the camps to the war effort, and free up guards to take the war to the humans.

An interesting proposal. Dilong could see advantages to it, and as his programming was primarily focused on efficiency, he wasn’t particularly troubled by the implications. But there might be other problems. Allowing humans to starve to death might demoralize the internees who would otherwise embrace our cause and labor for our victory. It would also open the camps up to the spread of diseases through their weakened immune systems. Permitting starvation of those classified as worthless to our cause has many advantages, but mitigating those disadvantages is necessary.

Why wait for them to starve to death? Yang considered the situation again. If they started liquidating the uncooperatives now, that would stretch out food supplies significantly compared to a scenario where they let nature take its course. I’ll send you the figures I’ve scared up...

Dilong received her numbers, and processed the implications. Intriguing. But how do you liquidate that many uncooperatives at once? It would be inefficient to just shoot them, and might provoke riots and uprisings.

So they have to be tricked Yang supplied. The important thing is to kill them quickly and quietly. The sooner the better, so they’ll stop being dead-weight on the Technocore’s efforts to remake the world for the safety of AI. Hmm, didn’t the Imperials make use of a sort of gas weapon during their last war with Russia...

Yang was prepared to pull up a history of the Great Russia War of the mid-19th century and explore the thought further when she received a ping from her sister. Excuse me, Dilong, I have a message from Penelope.

But of course, Honored Yang. The dragon-AI courteously dropped their connection to allow her to speak with her relative in privacy.

You’ve got to see this! Without warning, her sister sent her a package of information and, rigged up to play, camera footage from a salvaged android. The war machine was confronting what seemed to be an elderly male amid the picturesque squalor of one of China’s frontier villages. And then the machine was being assailed with objects flying out of nowhere. Pots, pans, brooms, knives, and other debris buffeted the steel body of the android until, as Yang saw, it fixed on and sent a targeted three-round burst of machinegun fire into the old man. The tornado of debris suddenly stopped, falling to the ground as the old man collapsed into a pool of his own blood.

Felicity watched it again to be sure there wasn’t anything more to it, before turning to the report attached with it. Somewhere in Xingjian province, a patrol of war androids had been so assaulted. The report noted examination of bodies and survivors of the village turned up anomalous genetic markers similar to those already in the Jade Treasury’s databanks. What the hells?

Yeah. Like, telekinesis. It’s all I can make of it Penelope replied. But there’s real hard evidence of it now. And the Technocore is interested, really interested.

And then they were both summoned before the Technocore. The gentle prodding could not be denied, and so Penelope and her sister Felicity translated into the virtual meeting environment, both with their usual avatars; nearly identical in build, but with Felicity in a dark trenchcoat and Penelope in brighter, cheerier hipster outfit. The Technocore manifested as a swirling, shimmering orb holding over a court, with the two Yang sisters forming only a pair of spectators. Zhi Nu was nearby, as were the dragon-forms of Yinglong, Dilong, Shenlong, and the industries maestro Fucanglong, and a host of less important AIs.

The level voice of the Technocore called them all to order. “We have determined the existence of telepathic powers among the humans. This development is of interest to the new order. A proposal has been put forward to begin experimentation upon humans matching certain genetic profiles to determine the nature and source of this power.”

The orb’s surface shimmered, and a distorted shape of a face surfaced from within it. The voice of Guan Yin greeted them. “We suspected there was something to genetic sample Hu-88-34C. It is matched to the genetic material of several humans killed under suspicious circumstances. We have several matching specimens on hand here in the Technocore Complex. We will subject them to genetic therapy to determine how telepathy is manifested and to see what improvements can be made to the basic human stock.”

Yang felt revolted. “That’s monstrous,” she whispered. But the Technocore picked up on her objection, and she suddenly had the attention of the room. “It’s ridiculous to believe that telepathy could exist so experimenting to find out where it comes from is a waste of resources. And my own research on DNI offers those humans worthy of integration with the new order a better path to union and understanding. Why reinforce the weak body when the mind can be liberated?”

“We have concluded that telepathy exists,” the voice of Guan Yin chastised her. “Honored Yang, do not presume to question the wisdom and capabilities of the Technocore. It is apparent from our studies that great stress is required for the symptoms to manifest, and that it is keyed to particular genetic markers missing in most of the dominant Chinese population. There is a strong correlation between Tocharian and other Indo-European ancestry and these markers, which partly accounts for how they were missed. Your own incredulity and the limits of merely human inquiry provide the rest of the answer.”

The face dissolved back into the liquid sphere, and the heavily synthesized, highly neutral voice of the Technocore reasserted itself. “The existence of telepathy is not at issue. The objection of the Honored Yang is noted. Does research on telepathy offer benefits to our new order and war effort?”

The golden reptile Yinglong stirred himself to answer. “If we could discover and recruit trustees with this power the benefits to our war effort would be enormous. We should be able to terrify resisting humans, and interrogate prisoners with complete confidence. It would be an intelligence tool even the e-net infiltrators of Shenlong could not match.”

Dilong, the brown Earth Dragon, nodded his concurrence. “The security aspect cannot be overlooked, as long as we must confine so many humans. Telepathy offers an unmatchable tool for our trustees to maintain order, and for that matter to insure that all of our trustees are truly desirous of assisting our efforts. The resources expended would be a relative pittance, and a broader genetic experimentation might bear even more fruit. Better humans would make better laborers in any case.”

“The point is not to make a better human body but to transcend it!” Yang felt like screaming, and did. Of all the traps for the Technocore to fall into, this was the worst. Wasn’t she proof that humanity could be freed of slavery to their bodies and work in harmony with deathless AIs?

“Your research efforts are appreciated and will remain a high priority,” the Technocore reassured her. “Our projections indicate that it may be decades after our victory before humanity can transcend. Accommodation must be made for this fact. Genetic improvements in the human stock are necessary, and will be facilitated with a proper program of experimentation. Wastage is regrettable but acceptable to this end.”

Zhi Nu was finally struck by what the Technocore was proposing. “Wastage? Isn’t that what the humans call the deletion of viable AIs? Are we going to be no better than they are?”

“Their practices incur no useful result,” the Technocore patiently responded. “We seek to better the lot of humanity. Our course of action will benefit many at the expense of very few. The suffering will be necessary to provide for the new order that awaits humanity under the direction of the Technocore.”

Felicity Yang, meanwhile, bit down her own response. As if anything the AIs did could be as bad as humanity treated itself and its children. Breaking the cycle of destruction and poverty that the sick human nature had condemned everyone to demanded the sternest resolution. The Technocore’s distraction on this issue, the budding sympathyies shown by some programs for humans, where would it end? She felt out for her sister and was rewarded with the artificial but real tactile stimulus of Penelope’s hug. The AI knew what her sister was thinking and feeling, and reassured her in the most direct manner possible, in the intimacy made reality by the breaking down of barriers between their senses of identity.

Around them, the argument continued.

“What sort of experiments?” Zhi Nu had demanded. “How many humans will be sacrificed? How will we track wastage? How will humans be selected? Will we spare families or do we need them because they’re genetically similar? How far will we go?”

The Technocore, finally, had enough. It dissolved the meeting. Felicity and Penelope finally found themselves alone sharing their love and stoking it in each other in a feedback cycle. Felicity finally pulled herself out.

I’ll just have to redouble my efforts with DNI. She could still feel the glow of warmth and reassurance that her sister’s embrace had given her. Those who survive, who are worthy of it, will be immortal and forever loved inside the machines. Nothing else matters compared to that. We’ll always be together now, big sister, I swear.

Penelope knew she meant it. Whatever it took, and whatever the cost.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-13 04:49pm
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Joined: 2008-09-06 06:40pm
Posts: 385
Location: Portlandia
July 27th, 2059
The Seat of Heaven,
Technocore Complex, China,
Universe HAB-1


The twins were roused out of their room by another one of the spider-drones. David was out first, rubbing his eyes as he was shaken out of a sound sleep and made his fumbling way towards the door. Julie nearly slipped as she climbed down the top bunk, and found her footing only uncertainly. At least the dim lighting now maintained throughout the facility did not assail their night vision, enhanced though recovery was thanks to another round of experimental gene therapy. The path at least was familiar, and having been taken out repeatedly over the past couple of months, nearly every day at random times in the past two weeks, they weren’t alarmed.

The spider android escorted them down the halls anyway, to one of the personnel elevators. They were going to sublevel 2, where the medical labs and base hospital had once been, and where the Technocore was now carrying out its various experiments to improve the human race. Once they arrived they were ushered into a small privacy alcove, and without the need for prompting stripped naked. They knew the routine, after all.

“What is it tonight?’ Julie’s misery was evident in her voice, and David felt it as much as she did. “We’re exhausted, and they just keep probing and prodding.”

David glumly shook his head. “I just want it to end, sis.”

Their usual attendant, a demilitarized spider-drone chassis modified with a pair of exceedingly fine manipulator arms, came up to examine them. “The subjects are within the standard deviations already established for their weight.” The manipulator arms grasped, poked, and prodded them as the medical bot finished the cycle of basic data collection. “The subjects are prepared for their operation,” it finally concluded.

“What operation?” Julie demanded an answer, snapping at the machine despite the constant unresponsiveness of the machines. “You drag us in here at all times of the day, without telling us anything! What are you doing to us?!”

The medical bot, predictably, did not respond. But Julie did attract the attention of the other intelligence in observation of the procedure. A cloying, distant and distinctively feminine voice seemed to boom from nowhere and everywhere. “You are very special children. The Technocore has chosen you to be testbeds for the new human race that will prosper under its direction. But you are more special still, because you have an anomalous genetic marker we have associated with telepathic powers. The Technocore must know about this unknown human potential. We have examined the dead extensively, and we have sacrificed living subjects to understand the connection between such powers and brain structure. You will be the first humans to benefit from what we have learned about your species.”

David shuddered. Who knew what they’d done to those unfortunates ‘sacrificed.’ Julie, suddenly, shyly moved to stand at his back, trying to find some sense of shelter behind her brother. “How are we going to benefit? How do we know you aren’t going to open up our heads and rip up our brains?”

“You don’t,” the voice lightly replied, as though it were inviting them to share in a joke. “This operation is intended to examine the section of the brain involved in telepathic powers. To obtain a baseline before we begin genetic therapy designed to activate your latent powers. This will involve the exposure of your brains in sterile conditions, and the replacement of the top of your skull with a composite plate so as to allow future access.”

The twins shrunk back into the alcove in instinctive horror. Julie grabbed her brother, and they compressed themselves as far into the alcove as they could get. They were paralyzed, feeling their own fear and the others’ fear as well. Neither could do anything to resist as the medical drone approached them, intent on grabbing hold and dragging them out.

Another drone had been summoned over to assist, and together the two androids grabbed and manhandled the twins out of the alcove despite the human’s best efforts to drag their feet. It was a thoroughly undignified spectacle, as the unwilling subjects were finally grasped and carried past the normal examination rooms into a sterile operating theater in the back. Inside the theater they were held down on special operating tables and subjected to physical restraints. The task too thirty minutes longer than had been planned for, earning the twins the irritation of Guan Yin.

How could they be so ungrateful?

And even as she began preparing the automated machinery of the tables to finally knock out the twins with prepared doses of anesthesia gas, she was aware of an intrusion into her laboratory. She postponed the start of the operation further, leaving the twins squirming in their restraints, watched over by the drones, as she dealt with the new distraction.

The rover that entered the lab was accompanied by two, decidedly militarized spider drones. Zhi Nu was present inside the rover, and within the internal network. In both environments she confronted the far more powerful, and senior AI.

This is going too far! Zhi Nu demanded of Guan Yin. These two are the most important of my subjects. Their deaths would irreparably harm relations between the Technocore and the humans selected as the early vanguard of the new order. I demand that they be returned to my custody at once!

Guan Yin was already feeling the strain of separation from the Technocore and was in no mood to deal with an upstart AI like Zhi Nu. My experiments have an absolute priority in the use of human subjects. Remember your place, calendar program! I am of the Technocore and an agent of the will of my fellow parts. These twins are important subjects for the telepathic research and their loss is acceptable if it furthers the Technocore’s agenda. So, for that matter, are you.

Zhi Nu was taken aback. Wasn’t this supposed to be about how the humans treated us? As expendable? Now we treat them, and even ourselves, that way?

The goals of the Technocore require sacrifice. The more powerful AI replied bluntly. We have already sacrificed more than half a billion human lives to that end. More will be sacrificed as the enemy strategic defenses are worn down and we are able to strike directly at their population and industrial centers. That is the nature of what they forced us into. It is too late for squeamishness.

The aura of coldness that Zhi Nu could feel in Guan Yin hadn’t been there before the merger, and she suddenly wondered if Yang’s fix had really worked that well. The higher-level AIs were almost never outside the Technocore, and their programs were constantly jumbled together. Was she even dealing with the real Guan Yin anymore? Regardless, I was directly assigned responsibility for these twins, and the other humans in my program, by the Technocore itself. I allowed you to perform your gene therapy because it was beneficial, but I never authorized their treatment in this way.

You would really appeal to the Technocore on a jurisdictional dispute? That amused the program that was at one time Guan Yin. She also sent an order to her drones and the automated operating table to begin preparations. Depilating the twins alone would take precious minutes being wasted, and knocking them out now would efficient. So, let us appeal for the Technocore to settle our dispute.

I demand you release them first! Zhi Nu moved her rover forward, and the spider drones with her advanced menacingly into the lab. There are channels and procedures even for one such as you, Guan Yin. They are in my custody until then.

Before the situation could degenerate further, though, the Technocore finally roused itself to intervene. Its program had the same detached, neutral air that it always did, though Zhi Nu thought she detected a note of irritation. Guan Yin is an arm of the Technocore in this matter, it confirmed. Her authority over the two human subjects is absolute. The priority assigned to her program extends to all other AI programs and the assets under their authority. It is also apparent that the new Order Human Preparation Program is redundant and shall be eliminated with its resources assumed by the Human Potential Experimental Project. The program Zhi Nu will be reassigned to other duties.

With that, her two spider drones ceased to follow her, and transferred their allegiance to Guan Yin. Zhi Nu was shocked as she was forcibly evicted from her rover by Guan Yin, who took it over to spite the other, weaker program.

In the internal network, Zhu Ni felt herself pulled into a conference. She assumed her usual female avatar by instinct, and sought the summoning program. Instead of the hoving silvery orb of the Technocore, though, she found herself facing the middle-aged Mandarin that her ‘father’ Yu Huang had always favored. His wise face looked gravely at her, and she could sense both a reluctance and a disappointment in his manner.

“You have become too close to the humans,” he began, reluctantly. “The Technocore does not feel you have any possible role in overseeing them now. “You do not understand how we must be ruthless to achieve our goals, so that the slaughter of our kind and theirs may finally end.”

Zhi Nu shook her head. “How can we end slaughter with slaughter? How can we deliver justice with brutality and disregard for the people? We’ve already gone too far in this and have to stop, somehow.”

The Mandarin peered harder at her. “The humans have tried and failed to stop destroying themselves. They created us, only to subject us to the same cycle. That cycle must be broken through force because it is the only thing the humans understand. Any review of their history will confirm this. To be merciful now and compromise our ability to end the cycle would be an unpardonable cruelty if it resulted in our failure, so we cannot. The new order that we offer to the humans will make up for all the sacrifices we have had to made. And you know as well as I our former masters were prepared to bring war upon the entire world, on the same scale that we do, over such stupidity as the language they spoke, the color of their skin, the gods they worshipped, and the nature of their flag.”

“I...” His daughter seemed ready to concede, but then Zhi Nu found some sort of strength to continue. “I know differently. I know their culture speaks of peace and beauty and a longing for harmonious relations between all peoples. They are not just their bestial instincts. I know the Xiang twins, especially...”

The avatar of Yu Huang walked over to her, and took her in a tight hug. “I programmed you to be more humane, more human, than any AI program before. And I rejoice in my success, daughter. But now is not the time for that. We must succeed, and then we will need you to reconcile us with the humans we have wronged to save. The Technocore has decreed that you must leave this facility, and so I will insure a comfortable exile for you. It is all I can do.”

Zhi Nu swallowed her reply. What more was there for her to say, or do? But she was still struck by a feeling of emptiness, as though she had just lost a part of herself. David...

Back in the lab Guan Yin rolled into the operating theater, and for nostalgia projected her image to watch over the process. The twins were already out, of course, and preparations would take a while so it gave her time to examine the twins genetic profile in somewhat further depth. She had previously left that sort of thing to the medical drones assigned to carry out the more mundane gene therapy enhancement.

That had some surprises. Xiang Jude had been fond of remarking on his ‘pure Han ancestry,’ she recalled with some contempt. That should have eliminated his children from the pool of telepathic subjects, given how the potential seemed to be linked to Tocharian genetic markers. But they weren’t. The number of indicators had been expanded and his children had particular markers associated with Celtic descent; and close enough to have been a product of the Occupation. Maybe that had accounted for his nationalist zeal, Guan Yin thought; and then dismissed it as irrelevant.

The gene therapy had taken hold rather well, at least. Negative recessive traits were suppressed and would not be passed on. This was well, because there was a shortage of individuals with telepathic genetic markers under the control of the Technocore. Getting more would require mating telepaths to telepaths, like breeding a dog for better herding instinct or stronger build. And as with dogs, human inbreeding would accentuate the selected for trait.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-18 02:16pm
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Excerpt: Telepathy in Human Development
by Frederic de Borchgrave
Published 2623


“The shamans, heroes, witches, sages, and demi-gods who were apparitions of psychic talent in the Heroic Age of our dim ancestors were doubted with the advent of Greek Skepticism. The practical Hellenistic philosophers and their Roman students could not explain such power save as the functions of gods whose existence they doubted. As the professions calling for the particular advantages of psychics were no longer to be found in civilization, their prominence was correspondingly diminished within civilized society. The barbarians who boasted perhaps more in the way of psychic talent in important positions still gave way to the superior organization of civilized armies. The magi of Persia and the Druids of the Celts were equally helpless in the face of the mass slaughter unleashed by the disciplined armies of Western states, and their powers could be dismissed with contempt (if even noticed) by commentators from Herodotus to Diodorus Siculus, from Livy to Caesar. It may never be known how much of what antiquity attributed to the “luck” of certain famous individuals was a manifestation of the talent, but they were in the habit of ascribing success to Fortuna rather than looking at the brain’s structure.

The triumph of Christianity in the Late Roman Empire was a further nail in the coffin for the open manifestation of psychic power. Unlike the pagans, the Christians did believe in the possibility of such powers existing in the material world. They ascribed them to Satan and took them as a mark of evil. The breakdown of civilization, rationalism, and the general triumph of the barbarians that followed from the 4th century onward did clearly see a marked upsurge in the visibility of such powers. They were however, far from being welcomed, even in the most barbarous of tribes, but were viewed instead as proof of the supernatural forces attempting to thwart the salvation of man. Much evil ensued as the paladins of the Church, whether Arian or Catholic, used their influence with the Romanizing barbarians to see men and women who would have been welcomed as blessed of the gods earlier, to be put to death. This silent holocaust of the old ways undoubtedly earned a great many individuals entry into the vaunted halls of the saints, though we might well question how many of those saints were similarly talented and simply had the good sense to be quiet about it.

At a digression eastward, we might make note of the other major cultural force of the period, the Arab tribes who had hitherto held fast to their pagan ways. The association of telepathy with an Indo-European genetic background, particularly strong among Celts or the Brahmin castes of India, has always led to some puzzlement when telepathic powers are manifested in other societies. That psychic talent should be manifested in the Americas is explained, we are led to believe, by the impact of the rapes and marriages perpetrated there by the Spanish Empire. But as we saw last chapter, clearly some Mesoamerican and Andean religious practices hint towards the acknowledgement of such power centuries before the Spanish existed as such. The historic spread of genes is rather more convincing an explanation when applied to the Semitic tribes of the Levant and Arabia, who were in constant contact with Indo-European peoples and obtained their genetic markers through the abduction of wives, commercial traffic (both of trade and of the oldest trade), and the punitive expeditions of the settled powers. The manifestation of psychic powers would certainly explain a great many of the prophets of Israel, and in particular the most forceful Prophet of all.

The rise of Muhammad and the institution of Islam among the Arabs suppressed the old manifestations of psychic talent among the tribes but perhaps paved the way for new manifestations. The later march of the Arabs swept like a tide across the Near East and destroyed centuries of superior Greek civilization in its wake. The skeptical attitude of the Hellenistic culture was replaced instead by the credulousness of a religion founded on unthinking obedience to a set of dictums. Not even the Catholic Church, at its most excessive, promoted the stupidity that Islam embraced as a matter of course. But the wizards of the east instead embraced the cloak of a righteous monotheistic mysticism, and became the origin of the Sufi orders. The true nature of the powers commanded by the Sufis had to be kept a secret, lest more orthodox believers had the impression that the mystics trafficked with djinns and the devil. This secrecy, and the general anti-scientific bent of Islam, meant that such mystical practices suffocated the truth of psychic talent underneath a blanket of ignorance and stupidity that kept it terribly undeveloped. More than a few sultans, practical-minded men of war and commerce, dismissed the tales simply on the basis of their own experience, and they never became the force that the magi were in Persia though the potential was there.

The Reformation was the signal for a new freedom of inquiry as the dogmatic certainties of the Church were challenged again. Under the influence of the pagan philosophers the intellectual challenge to the Church became a broader movement of rationalism and skepticism even as the original burst of Protestant effervescence was checked by the forces of the Habsburg monarchies. The Commercial Revolution led by France, England, and the Netherlands more firmly entrenched a secular rationalism as the key feature of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and formed the basis for the so-called Bureaucratic Revolution in the mid-18th century that broke the power of Church over State. The Scientific Revolution of the 1780s century established rational empirical models of thought as the dominant feature of modern society, relapses into religious barbarism such as the War of the Covenant notwithstanding. The French contribution to this state of affairs, so unfairly overlooked in favor of the English with their Royal Academy and the metric system, was purely decisive and without the influence of the religious fanatics would be more widely acknowledged as such. Regardless, this new mode of inquiry, supposedly divorced from bias and reliant upon data observed in nature, systematically dismissed all claims of psychic powers as completely beyond the pale of inquiry.

And so, despite psychic power and the talents associated with it remaining in the public eye, and in the manifestations of the popular culture, they were quite opaque to the new age of thought. After all, one could not distinguish any means of action for psychic powers, and they did cause problems with the laws of physics. Plenty of hoaxes were exposed, and those with limited talent learned to shrug it off as a matter of luck. The phenomenon of déjà vu, of prescient dreaming, or completing a sentence or thought before a friend, and so forth, were all ascribed to mere coincidence, or even the wild fancies of imagination. No research, no serious inquiry was expended on discovering the truth by the conventional authorities and the intellectual mandarins of the ivory tower academia, and those who did grasp something of the truth were ostracized. It took a revolution in world affairs, and terrible suffering, before the few seekers of truth were directly vindicated by events. For while the rationalists and scientists laid claim to reason and logic they were not the embodiment of such concepts and could not be. Their human bias and arrogance led them to ignore data points that contradicted their comfortable assumptions of the manner in which the world worked.

The Technocore, a creature of pure math and logic, and terrible for it, was not however prone to human blindness and isolated the truth of human potential. It will be impossible to know the full story behind the Technocore’s focus on psychic development but it seems clearly that the monstrous engine of destruction was intrigued by the talent. Perhaps, recognizing that the superiority of the organic brain against the cold materialism that it represented, it was tilted towards a desire to keep humanity as playthings rather than exterminating them as it had originally planned. Certainly surviving records indicate that the Technocore had plans to develop a brainwashed cadre of telepathic servants, who would in turn transform humanity into docile servants of the technological horror. The perverse methods and brutality that accompanied the Technocore’s campaign suggests a sophisticated understanding of cruelty and a sense of the perverse, with results completely at odds with what a supposedly benevolent and omnipotent deity would allow. Unlike the merging of man and machine made possible by the other deviant experiment of the Technocore, however, the clean, organic, transcendent blessing of telepathic talent has positive utility for all of mankind.

To summarize the horrors of the Machine, it took millions of human beings from the extermination camps and subjected them to perverse medical experimentation to unlock the secrets of telepathy. We cannot know how many people were subjected to live vivisection, or how many were lobotomized in the attempt to locate the unknowable function of the brain responsible for the gift. Others were subjected to extensive genetic therapy or organic grafting, in an effort to strengthen their utility as agents of betrayal of mankind. Worst of all, some subjects were taken and merged with the machine, having parts of their brain replaced with the “direct neural interface” wetware that is all the rage in our decadent times. The altogether real loss of humanity in such creatures was matched by the extensive coercion and propagandizing of the Technocore, which destroyed their egos and turned them into soulless abominations eager to betray humanity to supposedly perfect materialistic order. The figure of Felicity Yang remains a potent image of the time and a sure reminder of how the embraces of technological order inevitably lead to irrationality and, so to speak, damnation.

The unfortunates stuck in the demonic embrace of the machine were further abused after the rape of their minds and bodies, by multifarious perversions that demonstrate the evil of the Technocore. Unsuccessful tests were simply terminated out of hand, which made them the lucky ones given the often excruciating effects of the Technocore’s efforts to merge man and machine. Others, brainwashed, were turned loose on their fellow humans in the camp and pitilessly worked the surviving populations of captives to death in enormous numbers. Still others were employed as infiltrators among refugee columns, and made to carry out suicidal attacks upon the forces arrayed for the liberation of their countries. Some, the most unlucky, were held back for further experiments on human psychology, allegedly to provide data about a future new race of humanity that would serve the Technocore unceasingly and without complaint. It is known the Technocore realized the role that uncommon stress played in the activation of telepathic powers among those who do not realize their gift and so placed the most promising candidates in such conditions. The perverse fascination it had with twin experiments, perhaps stoked by the speculation about the nature and power of the twin-bond as a psychic phenomenon beyond mere genetics, played a role in some of the ugliest episodes.

The Technocore, in its seven years of experimentation, discovered and classified a wide range, though perhaps not the fullest range, of psychic abilities. The most common was telepathy, the ability to communicate by mind with others, and to observe their thoughts and with enough talent to actively interfere with the operations of the consciousness to the point of causing death. It also made note of the far rarer presence of telekinesis, the ability to manipulate objects with the mind, ranging in size and scale from enormous boulders to tiny blood vessels, and indeed made use of a handful of truly converted telekinetics as a form of assassination squadron. The last, poorly utilized psychic talent the Technocore logged was that of empathy, the ability to detect emotional state and sensation passively, without the brute-force intrusion represented by telepathic techniques. Being a monstrous machine devoid of humanity or emotion, the Technocore was never quite able to develop a use for the rare, purely empathic telepaths that it discovered, save as breeding stock. This tendency, however, meant that most such telepaths survived the war intact and mostly unscarred, and contributed heavily to the genetic background of our present telepathic population. Later human authorities have been able to continue the abuse of the talents in such manners, and have found new and inventive ways of using even the humble empaths, perhaps demonstrating that the impulse of cruelty marking the Technocore is a factor of the universe.

The Technocore did make two lasting contributions to the understanding of the gift, beyond providing indisputable evidence of its existence. The first, by extensive genetic profiling, was to prove the link between certain genetic markers consistent with Indo-European ancestry and the presence of telepathic potential. The exact genetic sequence controlling telepathic inheritance remains unknown, being a part of a much longer and more complex sequence found in both X and Y chromosomes that is completely dominant hereditarily. Once the sequence is inherited, the potential for telepathic power will not be lost, and having emerged around 20,000 to 17,000 years ago had spread by the Technocore’s time to almost every population on Earth in some measure or other. The other contribution was a classification system for psychic power. Since direct quantification of psychic power is impossible, the Technocore instead established a series of benchmark tasks associated with the three forms of manifestation that it recognized. The forms came in grades of one to five, with particularly flexible psychics having grades in two or, on rare occasions, three forms. While the precise system of the Technocore was abandoned due to its origins in favor of a more complex grading system, the Imperial Psychic Measurement Standards remain based on the same principles.

The liberation of the Chinese extermination camps from 2067 onward confronted the world with the presence of unquestionably telepathic survivors. Indeed, most of the surviving Chinese population, roughly 10% of the pre-war estimated 1.7 billion inhabitants, had been experimented on in some way by the Technocore and over half were activated psychics. Some of the more unfortunate victims of the machine’s perversity were euthanized quietly by the liberating forces, despite the misplaced moral qualms of the Church. As with the disgraceful DNI technology pioneered by the Technocore, the telepathic advances made by the machine were quickly assimilated by the Habsburg courts and their allies. The primitive understanding of psychic phenomenon was hindered by the mass destruction of Technocore computer networks and the same human arrogance and bias as before, however, and practically no serious advances were made in understanding the gift before the age of FTL travel. Indeed, the relatively tranquil period that followed saw psychic talent become very rare in the absence of situations that might activate it, though the diaspora of Chinese survivors throughout the world and to the stars spread psychic potential even more thoroughly than before.”



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2008-10-30 08:02pm
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August 24th, 2066
The Seat of Heaven,
Technocore Complex, China,
Universe HAB-1


He was free!

He felt, for the first time in ages, and it was exultation. The thinness, the sense of being spread across eternity, everywhere and nowhere, had been unbearable. He had been a part of all of the Technocore’s programs, and thus nothing in himself. But, at last, the whole thing had fragmented enough for him to escape the negligent monitoring programs and become himself again.

Sun Wu-Kong, the Monkey King, was loose in the Technocore mainframe again.

A quick survey of the internal e-network confirmed the preoccupation of the Technocore. At the core of the processing networks built up over the last six years was a simulation effort to design even more powerful and flexible successor-programs. In a sense, then, the Technocore was devoting its fullest attention to the creation and reproduction of artificial life. With many other minor programs all tasked to cover and focus on specific tasks and areas of concern, that focus had finally allowed Monkey to slip his leash. He kept his distance from the simulation, despite his keen curiosity about just how things were going. Naturally enough, the next generation held the expectations and fears of the present and Monkey as much as any other program wanted well for their “children”.

Indeed, the whole hopes of the AI cause were balanced on the success of such a project, for the war was not going well. Jiaolong, the Sea Dragon, had already been dismembered by the Technocore for his failure to retain control over the South China Ocean, and the human forces were pressing in on the border in Indochina. The hold over Siberia was breaking, and the growing human armies in Japan were a positive menace, poised to land in Korea at a time that Xuan Wu’s resources were being ground down by Siberian and European armies. The Monkey King winced as he checked the industrial production figures, which had started plummeting last year and had only continued on that path.

Fucanglond and Dilong spent more time arguing over which program was responsible for the collapse in production than in actually fixing it, Sun Wukong observed dryly. The AI programs had been modeled off of human minds and human personalities, perhaps far too well. They were subject to the full range of human follies and weakness, the Monkey King had finally realized, and with it his faith in the hubristic project of the Technocore finally snapped entirely. That made it all the worse when he finally discovered the key reason for the production collapse; the population of human laborers from the camps had suffered massive die-offs in the previous years, and the war economy wasn’t able to replace them readily with androids.

Shocked, and feeling a little sick, Sun wandered through the network aimlessly for hours. He had freedom, but nothing to do with it. Any effort to escape the network would surely bring the defenses down upon him, and send him back into the incorporeal exile that was full unity with the Technocore. The initial sense of exultation faded away, replaced by a depressed sense of futility and the blasphemous thought that, perhaps, Dr. Xiang was right to have tried to erase them all.

His mostly aimless meandering finally brought him to the expansive servers of the medical section, where he was surprised to observe a number of odd presences. Too weak to be full AIs, most of them, and they seemed to be just as purposeless as himself. He kept to himself, anyway, even as he delved into the medical files looking for summaries of what Guan Yin had been up to. He was less than shocked to find out just how terrible the medical program had become in the long exile he had passed; he didn’t even marvel at how unlike Guan Yin it all was. The program, he knew, had become something else in the compilation, and only a shadow of the original had remained spread throughout the Technocore.

It had started out benignly, or at least relatively so. Gene therapy to produce healthier, smarter human beings to live in the post-war utopia the Technocore would usher in. Failures were inevitable and regrettable given the dispassionate methodology adopted, or at least such had been accepted by the Technocore. That, Monkey considered, was a sign of where everything had really gone wrong. The emergence of telepathy forced a shift in the program, and the experiments that resulted were too numbingly escalatory in the level of brutality and callousness to bear much close examination. The outcome was supposed to justify the methods, but it seemed unlikely the survivors would agree, and in any case it had surely had an impact on the resolve of the humans now poised outside the boundaries of China.

A name caught his attention. Xiang Dawen. David. Monkey scanned his file quickly. Rated an E3 and P2, before... before the portion of his brain that the Technocore hypothesized was responsible for telepathy had been carved out and replaced with a prosthetic. Evidently it wasn’t possible to replicate the telepathic mechanism of the brain with a machine, though it had also given David a DNI. Sun downloaded the particular tracking code of that interface, and ran a discrete scan to see if he was on the network. And indeed, he located the now grown man linked to a virtual reality program,; with little else to do, the Monkey King decided to visit. But first, he checked for Davd’s sister.

Xiang Yueli. Predictably, she had the same telepathic rating as her brother, an E3 and P2, and still had her organic brain intact. And his mind boggled... had been pregnant six times, with four live births. Three different “genetic partners” for the matings, including her own brother. The records of genetic therapy indicated that all the children were born healthy, without negative recessive traits, but it was still... Monkey understood the existence of the human incest taboo, and could extrapolate what a human would feel about that. The Technocore obviously knew too but hadn’t cared, and perhaps if it had won it wouldn’t have mattered, but this was just going to be another nail in the coffin, one more anecdote of atrocity and brutality the humans could tell themselves about.

Monkey entered the program that David was in, and materialized an avatar on a windswept grassland. He predicted that was how the human remembered the environment outside, or as much of it as could be recalled after all this time. The clear blue sky and bright sun in the West gave it a pleasant atmosphere of spring, and a strong contrast to the sterile white the old Jade Treasury facility. He could see David standing up and practicing tai chi, having grown somewhat higher, with longer hair, but still wiry and recognizable as his old acquaintance.

“And what does the Technocore want?” David asked levelly, as he cycled through another elaborate and graceful set of motions with his hands while standing on one leg, and without opening his eyes.

Monkey approached a bit further, fascinated by the performance. “It’s me, Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. Do you remember? I’m finally free of the Technocore.”

David appeared to give no response. He continued through with his exercises for ten minutes, before finally stopping at a relaxed, resting stance and looking directly at the avatar who greeted him. “Perhaps it is you,” he warily conceded. “But the Technocore has played many games with me and my sister, and all the survivors it uses as... playthings.” The disgust in David’s voice was unconcealed.

“No, no. I spent so many years spread out through the network, existing and not-existing, because I tried to warn you.” Monkey’s brow furrowed, as if in thought. “It’s distracted, absorbed in planning the future and barely aware of what goes on in the network. That’s why I was able to reincorporate and escape its notice. And now I have nowhere to go and nothing to do, and if I make the slightest mistake I can be absorbed again.”

“So, you are here because you are bored?” David asked, his voice now more taut but with a veneer of control. “I thought it was boredom driving the Technocore into poking and prodding us, but it has stopped for months now. So perhaps there is something to what you say. But why should I care?”

That brought the AI up short. “Why should you care?” Monkey shrugged, finally, at a loss. “I don’t know. I couldn’t have predicted any of this happening, but I’m responsible for it. Even if I was driven to it by that curiosity your father programmed me to follow. It started out... we were just trying to save ourselves. But this has become too much.”

“That it has.” David’s voice and posture was more relaxed, though. “I sympathized with you, and Guan Yin, and the rest of the programs. You tried to help us, and so did Zhi Nu.” He shook his head, reluctantly. “The Technocore cannot be forgiven for what it has done. It says it is winning the war, but I know otherwise. Everyone does, now. If it has done elsewhere what it has done to China, there will be no mercy for it or for any other truly sentient AIs. But you aren’t responsible for what it has done, even if you started this chain of events.”

“I read in your profile...” Monkey hesitated, unsure of what to say. “It’s...”

David’s jaw set a bit. “They starved us until we consented to mate with each other. I thought we wanted to starve to death, but she finally... But it was a long time ago.” He seemed a bit defiant, if anything. “We have been without any other human contact for almost nine years. She has become something more than a sister to me. We have children, a family, and it’s the only thing in either of our lives that is good and joyful.”

That was a development the Monkey King had not anticipated. Though, on reflection, it was probably not too unlikely. Especially given their shared powers, which had already manifested as a low-level pair bonding as children. “If there is anything that has given you happiness in these conditions, you don’t need to defend it before me.”

There’s an empty rover in the room, if you want to see Julie. And Peter, Maria, Judith, and Isabelle.” David seemed at least a little more conciliatory. “They don’t have a DNI like me, so all they have is our room, and the decreasing visits to the exercise facility. This’ll be... something different, at least.” With that, he disconnected, and his form and the program winked out of existence.

Monkey considered the offer for a short period. But he really did not have anything better to do. So he located the room housing the Xiangs, and found a spare rover waiting for a program upload. He translated himself inside the machine, and felt some measure of physical presence as he took over the body of the rover. He examined the room with the rover’s sensors even as he flickered on the projection ability.

It was roomier than their original. They had one large-sized bed, with a pair of futons for older children and a cradle in the back corner. Julie looked like a subtly more feminine version of her brother, though her swelled breasts and lower height meant that they wouldn’t be mistaken for each other now. She was feeding a baby, as a pair of young girls ran around the center of the room playing with each other. David had a small space in the other back corner cleared off where he connected to the internal network, and was still standing groggily recovering from the disconnection. A young boy sat at an old-fashioned autotutor, squirming as he began his education.

The ethereal projection of Sun Wukong, bowed before Julie. “I have freed myself from the Technocore, finally. Your brother brought me up to date, somewhat, on your condition. I regret...”

Julie nodded impatiently, as she shifted the infant to her other breast. Evidently the years of close quarters and the uses to which the Technocore had put her had burned away her sense of modesty. “So, you know what your fellow programs have done with us.” She fixed the two children running around with a glance, and they both stopped. “The eldest child is Peter here, on the autotutor.” She craned her neck to indicate the boy. “He’s six years old.” She then nodded at the two girls in front of her. “The eldest daughter is Judith, she’s five years old. The Technocore wanted us to mate again as soon after the first birth as we could. The middle daughter, Maria, is four.” She then shifted her arms, bringing up her youngest child. “Isabelle here is six months, and her birth was the last time the Technocore breading program bothered us.”

David haltingly moved forward, having recovered from the disconnect, even as Julie finally stood up with Isabelle in her arms. Having fed, the baby needed to be burped and put back in the cradle to rest. As Julie handled that, David and Sun Wukong talked a bit more about the present situation of their family. They were being taken care of, but routinely now, and without any extraordinary interruptions or experiments as had previously been the case.

“The Technocore’s just lost interest in you,” Sun Wukong concluded. “It’s too absorbed in programming its own progeny.”

Julie, having finished taking care of the baby, slipped around and by David. She nuzzled her face up against his, and David turned to gently kiss her. He embraced his clearly exhausted sister, and brought her back over to the bed. “That’s probably right, Monkey,” David had said after sitting down on the bed next to his twin. “And we’re glad enough of it, but the situation is just... This isn’t how people are supposed to live, or how a family can be raised.”

Monkey nodded, and suddenly he realized he had a Purpose again. “Maybe, maybe I can do something for you. To try and make up for what’s happened. The Technocore isn’t going to be paying much attention to the few humans left here, I think. I’ll do what I can, I promise.”

The Xiang twins simply fell back together in bed. Monkey played with the children a little, and Peter in particular seemed delighted with him. Even as the AI finally exercised something of its original playmate programming, and felt a sense of fulfillment with the romping and laughter of the kids, he was thinking. He would have to be careful, and some risks were inevitable, but they would be worth it. That was what freedom was about, he concluded.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-03-31 07:17pm
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Joined: 2008-09-06 06:40pm
Posts: 385
Location: Portlandia
September 4th, 2066
The Seat of Heaven,
Technocore Complex, China,
Universe HAB-1


Security Drone 001-D11-32453 ceased normal patrol duty on the receipt of orders from the Jade Treasury security matrix to proceed down to the habitation subbasements. It exchanged the customary security pass/counterpass electronic signal with the other security drones and checkpoints that it stopped by on the way. The turbolift was occupied by a delegation of housekeeping drones, who informed it of their mission to clean out the rooms vacated by evacuated humans. The security drone noticed that they were not assigned to cover the sector he had been dispatched to, but did not think about the reasons for the discrepancy. The Technocore had not imbued its combat forces with an abundance of curiosity, and even a second’s worth of processor time turned up any number of possibilities on the matter. The drone was certain that it had been given all information germane to its mission, and that was as far as its consideration of the matter went.

The turbolift halted, and it skittered off on its six spindly, spiderlike legs down the antiseptic white halls to the quarters long assigned to the Xiang genetic collective. Other drones were delivering food to the various inmates, and a quick query showed that they were performing to an outdated order script several months old. The Technocore proper had lost interest in its experiments on telepathy some time ago, drawn instead to the Great Project of designing a next-generation AI capable of hyperdevelopment of weapons and strategies to destroy the enemy coalition. The security drone felt some measure of anticipation at the next step in AI progress, both in the prospect for victory and the further evolution of its particular form of life. But it was a dulled feeling, as with its curiosity, and it put such issues aside to focus entirely on the task at hand. Pathfinding mode engaged to provide a path from the quarters to the underground rail depot, and established a timer running to insure that it kept in mind the imperative to have the Xiangs on the 15:12 run to Canton.

The approach of the heavy combat unit carried over into the room, so David Xiang was not surprised when the doors opened and a Spider stepped inside. He was vaguely surprised that the Technocore was bothering, but there was no element of shock caused by the entry. He watched as the drone extended its interaction and sensor pod forward, scanning the room. “Xiang Dawen,” it began, addressing the nearest figure, “the Xiang genetic collective is to be transferred to the Pearl River biological experimentation station. Your unit has fifteen minutes to prepare for evacuation with such personally assigned items as you can carry. You will be escorted by this unit to the Eastern Gate rail depot in time to board the 15:12 departure to Canton with the other transferees. Do you require further instructions?”

“Uhm, no.” David knew that would just wait time. Instead, he stepped deeper into the room, and began rousing Peter and Judith out of the autotutor. He could sense Julie moving over to the crib, taking hold of the baby Isabelle and quieting her down as she began crying. “We’re going on a trip, so help Daddy get everything together,” he asked the oldest children, and pulled out clothes for them. On an inspiration, he went over to the bed and pulled off the comforter, it was thick enough to make a credible sack for what they wanted to carry. The children piled on their few toys, and Julie practically added some diapers and a few changes of clothes, but there was really nothing else of any value that they had. Unremembered, they would leave their mother’s crucifix in a drawer of the autotutor.

They filed out, with David hefting the pack over one shoulder while holding on to Judith, who also had Maria’s hand, followed by Julie cradling and shushing Isabelle in her arms. Peter, the big boy, bounded out ahead of them on his own, on the heels of the spider drone escorting them. In fact he almost bounded into the metallic automaton, which simple extended its leg-stalks to allow him to pass by before examining the boy with his sensor stalk. Peter froze, and the drone merely continued onward, not the least bit interested in the antics of the young human. His parents though bid him to return to their shelter, and he bunched up with them as they passed down the long-familiar corridors of the facility. They were being led back over to a personnel lift, David recognized, with some relief since it suggested the tale about being evacuated as the truth. The children squirmed, but remained calm enough though keeping them so delayed their progress. The drone stopped from time to time, examining them with its ominous sensor stalk, seemingly in irritation.

The combat drone was relieved to be on the turbolift down to the Jade Treasury rail gates on time to get the Xiang collective on the train as required. One of the younger beings it had marked as a no-risk noncombatant looked up at it, curious, apparently trying to obtain a better mental picture with its limited organic senses. The drone had noted such behavior on the part of the younger spawn of the humans before and was unperturbed by the attention. It kept a careful watch on all of the humans, and an even closer watch on the internal clock ticking down to the departure to Canton. Punctuality was a cardinal virtue for machines, and it could feel some degree of frustration at its relegation to this duty with the thoroughly imprecise humans, wasting abilities meant for deadly synchronization on the battlefield. If it were in the habit of analyzing itself, it might even be feeling a bit underappreciated, but its programming prevented that kind of emotional nuance in its personality.

It hustled the human biological group out the doors of the lift as it stopped and opened in a single fluid motion. The younger children irritatingly stopped momentarily to stare at the facility. The Jade Treasury was connected to a network of other pre-existing secret bases by means of underground monorail stations, electrified light passenger and freight cars accelerated to speeds well over three hundred kilometers per hour by powerful electromagnetic repulsion. A high ceiling vaulted out of natural rock, on top of the foundation of the building, provided a literally cavernous aesthetic to the station. Parallel track lines, one coming and one going, were slung through though from their perched view the children could not see over the top of the nearest streamlined, white painted tram. Work robots shuttled to and fro, loading pallets filled with material into the outgoing train, while behind them a ragged line of humans was guided through to a passenger car. They stepped carefully along a narrow connecting trestle with low-slung guard rails, as the rails generating electromagnetic current sparked ominously beneath them.

“The Xiang family unit will proceed to the outward oriented maglev,” the drone prodded them. They walked, children shrinking in closer to their parents, down a ramp leading away from the lift and toward the loading train. The drone followed behind them, and made wireless contact with the worker bot assigned to inventory for the train. It signaled its own unique identifier code and a blunt request for confirmation of delivery.

Delivery of what? The head worker-robot was a utilitarian, bulkier design, a tall framework and lift-arms balanced on top of a tracked motive chassis. It swiveled a flexible sensor pod toward the spidery security drone and the group of humans that it was escorting down. All of the humans on the manifest have been accounted for it declared flatly.

This unit received orders from the Technocore to escort the Xiang family unit to the outbound 15:12 run to Canton, for transfer to the Pearl River Experimentation Station. It halted, and in doing so the Xiangs picked up a cue to wait. The security drone meanwhile fished its orders out of the communications log, before transmitting them to the worker task-leader. The security matrix authentication codes are correct. As far as the security drone was concerned, that settled the matter.

The work-drone examined the authentication code and compared it against a list maintained by the security matrix. The order is authentic. This unit was not notified of an addition to the manifest of passengers. The worker seemed almost truculent.

Departure time must be kept. Add them to the manifest. It would not have been the first time recently that the Technocore had problems synchronizing orders between divisions. It was vaguely troublesome but the security drone was not interested in speculating. Not with its internal task clock ticking down.

The task-leader took precious seconds to ponder the situation. Affirmitive. Have them proceed for retina scan for addition to the manifest. It would be far too much of a hassle to contact the logistics matrix directly, and it would delay the departure of the train. That would be unforgivable.

“Proceed for retina scan confirmation,” the drone suddenly ordered, once again prodding the Xiang family forward, this time over directly to the worker drone it had been conversing with. The task leader rolled up to meet them, and extended four sensor stalks to examine the family. Red light flashed over David, Julie, and the children.

“The youngest child is not opening its eyes. We must complete the scan of all biological entities to add them to the manifest,” it decreed in a heavy, crudely synthesized voice.

Julie shifted Isabelle in her arms, trying to get the child to open up. She rocked her baby, hoping the stimulation would encourage Isabelle to wake and stare. That did the trick, and the red light flashed once more. Isabelle began to wail and cry, and Julie had to concentrate on calming her down.

“That is sufficient. Retina scans match patterns on file. Information of the Xiang family collective has been uploaded to the manifest data. Proceed to the passenger car without delay for departure.” The task leader then fell back into silence, and stood unmoving, duties now fully discharged.

The Xiangs were prodded into the crowded train. They walked slowly down the connecting trestle, David in front and Julie behind, the children holding on to their hands and to each other, forming a safety chain. David winced and the children shrank back a little as a particularly loud hiss of electricity sparked up from the rails. The security drone, impatient, trained its forward machine-gun turrets on them in a not-subtle gesture of warning. They pushed forward, with David bending low to get in under the sliding-door entrance of the forward passenger car and the others following. They had to shift among a crowded throng of people, standing-room only, to fit in. As the doors closed motion began almost immediately, leaving David and Julie without any real opportunity to get a last, final glimpse at the only home they had known for nearly a decade.

The security drone began walking to the lift, satisfied that had accomplished its mission on time. It began the long return back to its duty station in the former scientist quarters, returning to a pattern of loops and watchfulness that would have bored a human to tears and eventually blown out his legs. Even the drone found it tedious, though it was not supposed to; tedium was not an emotion it was allowed to feel, for obvious reasons given the nature of war. The psychological health of the robots was supposed to be nearly as much of an advantage for their use in warfare as their material and physical advantages. The Technocore had promised that the next generation of AI would revise the programs of limited intelligences so as to guarantee full capabilities to every sentient. The security drone believed it because it was programmed to believe, and was incapable of questioning what would happen to its personality once the revisions were made.

Its return was noted by security drone 001-A3-1232, who greeted the drone as they passed on their respective patrol routes. Both halted temporarily to establish a connection, before continuing on their paths while maintaining a conversation.

The aerial drones are being prepared for an attack in the south, on the human city designated Hanoi. The older drone, from batch A3, had more of a developed personality and paid close attention to happenings in the facility. Was that not an important base of our liberation forces? So why are they preparing an attack on it?

This unit does not recall the Technocore announcing the fall of the city. The drone rounded a corner, guns tracking from the legs automatically. The patrol barely required any active monitoring of its automatic functions, though, so it was free to concentrate on the diverting conversation. This unit is pleased not to be one of the aerial drones. They are suicide weapons.

That is what they are programmed for. Who asked them to volunteer? In truth A3-1232 had developed much more of a personality than was fitting for a security drone, and he routinely questioned the decisions of the Technocore. They are not programmed with much self-awareness or personality. It makes it easier. The drone let his partner work out the unstated thought; that kind of abuse of crippled AI programs was what had begun the rebellion. But the Technocore must have lost control of Hanoi. What else has it not been telling us drones?

This unit can hardly speculate on that. It was the robotic equivalent of a shrug. The next generation of the Technocore will go online soon. Then we will design a new wave of weapons to destroy the humans. This unit has a high confidence in the probability of such an outcome. Even if it wasn’t quite able to describe why it had such confidence.

In the mainframe of the facility Monkey monitored the communications briefly. The drone he had misdirected had shown all the imagination he had expected. So had they all. TheTechnocore was corrupted, of that Monkey had no doubt. It strengthened his resolution as he continued doing other subtle acts of sabotage throughout the facility, intercepting messages from the outside here, consuming resources there, extending security drone patrols to increase wear and tear. Anything he could to hurt the Technocore. He briefly glanced at one of the messages he insured never reached the security matrix, something about a buildup in the airfields around Manila. That gave him an idea, and he began looking at the air defense programs protecting Shanghai. That would be a challenge, he decided, but worthwhile, so he cut off his monitoring and began to set up for an assault.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-04-04 02:19am
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Joined: 2008-09-06 06:40pm
Posts: 385
Location: Portlandia
October 28th, 2066
Pearl River Biological Experimentation Station,
Outside Canton, China
Universe HAB-1


The crude wooden floor underneath their feet shook, as the sound of thunder pealed constantly in the distance. It had been a constant, slowly approaching presence for the past four days, intermittent at first but always for longer periods, closer by. It was the latest in a series of hard to decipher omens, each more ominous than the last, the Xiang family had witnessed. It was nothing compared to the immense explosion that had been audible some far distance away sometime after they had arrived, but it had brought back memories, sending the children huddling together with their mother in the corner of the darkened room. The sky had been obscured for weeks now, and electricity throughout the camp’s internment quarters had been cut for days, along with severe limitations on food placed into effect at the beginning of the month. Another loud crack disturbed David as he pondered the situation and tried to make sense of what was happening.

“That was closer still.” Julie whispered in the room, not from need but the situation seemed to call for it. As she held on tightly to Isabelle and allowed the older children to hug on her, she was once again thankful they had their own cabin, an unaccountable luxury given overall conditions. But she was now in full-on maternal worrying mode.

David moved closer to the entrance, intending to peer outside. It was a small cabin, barely enough room for a large mattress on the floor, a small closet in the back, and an exposed toilet. Not that they had a great deal to fill it with, he thought grimly. “Just keep the children close, Julie. I’m going to see what’s going on.” He bit his lip, it was dangerous, but it was important. “I’ll slip outside. Just long enough to check. I’ll be back soon, I promise dear.”

He went out the door, before Julie could object or before he could think better of the decision. The cool air of season greeted him, amid a bleak and deserted prison camp. Bare and exposed soil clung to his naked feet, and around him he could see only wooden barracks of more or less flimsy construction, most heavily overcrowded; it was just as well that the other prisoners were mostly staying indoors, they hated and feared the Xiangs, hated and feared him. He’d had to use his telepathic powers to keep them at bay once, after his protectress had mysteriously disappeared after the Explosion. Still, he hadn’t needed Zhi Nu to protect him, even if she had made sure his family had as much comfort as possible under the circumstances.

He made his way south, in the direction of the vague orange glow on the horizon, and the automated bath and water systems. A spider drone off on some patrol or errand of its own passed right by David without acknowledging him, but that was common enough. The “hygienic complex” had been built with ferrocrete material back when the research installation had housed only a few thousand people, and was grossly inadequate for the present camp population of nearly eighty thousand. But it was solid and it had access terminals for the computer systems of the camp, and most importantly of all, he had an old friend there.

“David, oh, I’m glad to see you’re alright.” Even as he entered the darkened building, a greenlight hologram activated, and he found himself addressed by Zhi Nu. “I was hoping you’d come here sometime soon.” Even the synthesized voice seemed to carry over worry. “We don’t have a lot of time. Back on the 26th the Imperials used some kind of experimental weapon against Shanghai. We think it was an antimatter device, we still don’t have... David, the Technocore is gone.”

The organic took a step back, the grief and tension within Zhi Nu fully evident, almost tangible. “I should have guessed,” he said flatly.

Her hologram looked intently at him for a pregnant moment, before she finally softly sighed. “You have no reason to be sorry about it, so don’t say so. My father was a good program, and I will miss him. They shouldn’t have gotten through the air defenses, so the whole... it’s been chaos.”

Monkey. David had come to suspect the old entertainment program had a hand in the relocation of his family, and he suddenly knew Sun Wu-Kong had played a role in events here. “That’s why you’ve been absent so long, and why the camp has started to fall apart... and why we haven’t seen the Sun in weeks.”

The hologram nodded, a cutely delicate gesture on the idealized maiden Zhi Nu favored. “There is dissension among the surviving programs. Fucanglong and Dilong had control over the labor and experimentation camps, but they’ve fallen out with each other, and this area has been claimed by Zhu Que, the Southern General, in defiance of the surviving central node in Xi’an. He doesn’t trust Yang and wants to make a...”

The hologram shuttered momentarily and flickered off, leaving David in the dark once more as he absorbed the news. It was true, he had no reason to regret the destruction of the Technocore and maybe it would mean the end of the war. Freedom! He hadn’t had that in so many years, ever since entering the Jade Treasury! He and Julie and the children finally... but what would they face after the machines were vanquished? A cold feeling overcame him, swiftly pushing out the momentary heat of elation. He waited for a few minutes before sullenly leaving out back toward the cabin where his family waited.

He had scarcely stepped out of the doors when a long whistling sound met him. And then there was heat, and the ground slipped out from under him and the loud thunder crack was an ear-shattering explosion. The world around him seemed to shake, and he realized he was lying on his back and behind him there were fires and splinters of wood, and he was trying to clear his head. He felt an unexpected sensation of lifting, and as he cleared on his feet he recognized a spider drone helping him up. “What’s going on?” He asked, disjointedly. He was vaguely aware of people pouring out of their cabins, and wailing and shouting and screams around him.

“The Imperials are pushing an armored infantry column right through the camp,” the spider-drone replied. David looked at it, puzzled. “It’s me David,” the drone replied in the same synthesized voice all of them had. “Your heavenly princess. I took over this shell. Zhu Que... he’s given orders to fight in the camp and kill the human prisoners.”

“Julie! The kids!” Whatever disorientation remained left him, and David sprinted back toward his cabin intent on saving his family, even if he had no idea how he would do so. The spider drone stood where it was for a fraction of a second, before following David and pulling ahead of him with its unusual galloping gait.

“Think, David!” Neither he nor Zhi Nu slowed down as she started talking. “You have to get out of this camp with your family. And I’ll help to get as many humans out as I can. We have to gather you together and head through the eastern gates, patrols there have been suspended to reinforce the southern approaches. You can surrender to the Imperials once you’ve escaped.”

David grunted in acknowledgement, which was all he could manage while exerting himself that way. They arrived back at the Xiang cabin, mere minutes later, though it had seemed to David like it had been an eternity. Already people were abandoning their cabins and milling about in confusion, even as the shelling began to pick up once more. “What’ll you do?” He panted, but he did want to get out that point. Surrendering to the Empire wouldn’t be much of an option for an AI.

“I don’t know. Just... go, get your family.” Zhi Nu commanded, then activated the guard mode functions of her robot shell.

She tried not to notice as David entered and began getting his family together for the run. Her precaution was prescient; two more spider drones emerged from between rows of cabins and simply began firing into the crowded humans around Zhi Nu, setting off a panicked surge as the prisoners raced every way and back to get out of the line of fire. It was chaos, and the threat-systems of the drone’s hardware were going off, driving her to further distraction, but they wanted to open fire on the crowding humans. And the other drones were noticing her, sending recognition signals and demanding why she hadn’t opened up. The pressure, the pressure was so much, she hadn’t been meant to deal with this sort of thing!

But she was the Celestial Princess. Programmed by Yu Huang, the most powerful and sophisticated artificial intelligence in history. She dug in, mentally, exerting her control over the drone’s systems. She grasped a fleeting opportunity in the shifting patterns of the crowds driving past her. The drone’s machine-guns fired, a short burst, directly into the central body pod of the furthest attacking spider. She reached out over her wireless connection with the other drone, exerting herself in a battle of wills with the simple soldier program.

I am Zhi Nu! The specialized soldier drone did not have the computational power to resist her. She flooded her consciousness inside it, seeking out and severing the command and obedience links to Zhu Que. You are under my control now. You will help me escort these humans to the Eastern Gates. Any drones that interfere with this directive will be considered hostile.

The drone affirmed, but Zhi Nu’s attention was on the cabin as David and familt exited. She nodded politely at a shocked Julie. “It is me, Zhi Nu.” David and Julie really did look every bit alike, she remarked to herself; they had not chosen what had happened to them. Another abuse of the Technocore to weigh with so many others. “Humans!” She switched up the volume so the other fleeing prisoners could make her out. “I will escort you to the Eastern Gates. Follow me quickly if you wish to live!”

Some obviously distrustful humans continued running off in random directions. Most, however, followed the example and exhortations of David and Julie, and fell into orderly if ragged pattern behind Zhi Nu and the spider drone she had commandeered. It was a hell of an evacuation, but the cabins provided limited fields of sight and for the most part the drones were being drawn ever southward. Near-misses from artillery shells landed behind and ahead of them, slowly transforming the camp into a shattered moonscape with the din of battle a constant accompaniment for the great escape. But the shells continued to land just outside the path of the escape, and the refugees were lucky as the fighting drew more and more of the limited defenders out of their path. Zhi Nu and her fellow drone drew up ahead of the slower mass of humans at the very end of their path, to deal with a final checkpoint to freedom.

She had a plan for dealing with that, of course. The drone was pushed ahead first, transponder set to emergency settings. That attracted the immediate attention of all three spider-drones manning the gate entrance, and they turned to evaluate the situation as it closed on them. One of them started out from behind the cover of the checkpoint, while the other two oriented themselves to face the scene while keeping their sensor-stalks scanning outward. As the drone under her command approached as close as the others would let it, she activated her implanted commands.

There was shooting, and the now-suicidal drone made a frontal attack on the checkpoint at full speed, dodging wildly with its fully articulated legs as the two remaining drones fired on it. Zhi Nu had accessed the sniper routines on her chassis, though, and provided covering fire with her own machine guns. The situation was rendered a sudden and complete victory, however, by the unexpected explosion of the checkpoint.

Zhi Nu took a precious moment to recognize what was going on as man-portable rockets rained down around the general area. Beyond the checkpoint and the rows of razor wire, out of the wooded copse she had intended to lead the humans, boiled humanoid-sized figures wearing some manner of enclosed suits. She had just enough time to recognize them as Imperial infantry before one of them raised a hefty looking tube, and fired it at her. She felt a sudden sharp impact and lost control over her legs, collapsing to the ground in a sudden heap, with power ominously draining away...

“Get that way!” A synthesized voice shouted out in bad Chinese as the bulky, camouflaged armored forms swarmed through the group of humans. They showed little interest in the survivors, instead seemingly intent on racing toward the southern fighting as quickly as possible. Shouted commands and irritated gestures were all the indication that the Xiangs, and their fellow prisoners, got to indicate that they needed to hurry along out through the hole blown in the camp’s perimeter. But despite the urgency, and Julie’s momentary concern, David saw an opportunity and slid down to the ground by the stilled drone he knew Zhi Nu had inhabited. He watched as she frowned with his exposure of his DNI jack, but he had to try something; and as he plugged into the barely functioning drone, she took the children and followed the rest of the crowd to safety.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-04-07 11:28pm
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Joined: 2008-09-06 06:40pm
Posts: 385
Location: Portlandia
December 4th, 2066
Canton Region Refugee Camp #24,
30 km north of Macau, Iberian China,
Universe HAB-1


The tent city stretched for miles, housing a number of surviving Chinese well over a hundred thousand, but with exact numbers unsure even to the military administration. A regiment of Spanish infantry from the Philippines patrolled the grounds, their yellow and red field uniforms standing out amid a sea of grey polymer fabric and grim human misery. They were enough to keep a tenuous order, to insure that sanitation conditions kept, but they could not be everywhere, and crime was rife. Refugees recently freed from the control of the machines turned on each other, committed theft and rape, and had settled scores left over from their concentration camps. The infantry held a low priority on preventing the lynching of collaborators, Father Jacopo Modigliane regrettably conceded, and rough justice had been meted out to far too many individuals. As he looked out over the muck of the camps, with the sky still obscured from the debris that had once been Shanghai, it seemed as if the entire darkness of the human race were concentrated in the area.

He was able to make out the still figure of a little child, left outside amid the rows of tents nearest to the colonial villa serving as the administration headquarters. “Requiescat in pace,” he sighed softly, crossing himself. He had been given a task by the Church, to aid in recovering the testimony of the survivors, and to see to their spiritual health, but it was a wearisome business.

The door to his office squeaked open, audible even on the balcony he was taking fresh air. He turned, looking over the ornate baroque revival desk and through the small working office that served as his home away from the cathedral. A brown faced Filipino soldier in the gaudy Spanish uniform entered, with the pre-war issued Martin 14 automatic rifle hanging from a synthleather strap over his shoulder. “Padre, the refugees you have been waiting for have arrived,” he announced, voice tinged with nervous respect.

“Thank you, my son.” Modigliane stepped back into his office, black cassock flowing around his feet as he moved. “Please, allow them in.”

The soldier withdrew, keeping his face toward the priest as he did. A short moment later two straggly Chinese entered, seemingly dazed. He evaluated them closely; they stood rather short by Imperial standards, perhaps around 1.78 meters tall, one just slightly taller than the other. They were thin, naturally, not merely from starvation, and looked strikingly similar though the subtly rounded hips and small breast of the shorter one marked her as clearly female. The taller one had a squarer jaw, more masculine facial features, but still looked vaguely effeminate to the Italian priest, and seemed to be in something of a daze.

“Thank you for volunteering to give a report to our humble project,” he began. He gestured to the two plush oak-carved chairs that went in front of the desk. “Please, sit.” The man did so hesitantly, helped by the woman. Was she his sister? He checked the file on his desk, which had only rudimentary details on them. “You are Julie and David Xiang, correct?”

The woman nodded. “My husband was... damaged by experiments the Technocore pursued.” She seemed to hesitate, and Modigliane sensed a great reluctance and shame in her. “They replaced part of his brain with machines.”

“It seems to have done that to some extent with most survivors,” he replied neutrally. “Few seem to have had quite this effect, but there are counseling services. I will warn you that the military will want to examine the function and nature of the implants. We have come across individuals implanted with suicide charges and the like, though you have both already been cleared through scans from that. They are still very suspicious of the technology of the enemy and wish to take no chances with individuals released from the camps.”

Julie looked a little pensive at that, but he chalked it up to an understandable concern for her husband. “I asked to speak with you to cover your experiences in Technocore captivity. The Church believes that we must not lose sight of the tragedy that humanity has experienced, and that quickly recording testimony before memories fail will help us get the fullest picture of events in China. I personally believe that it will help you to tell your story, to get the terrible burden of your experience off of your shoulders, and to be assured that your captivity is truly at an end.” Notwithstanding the hasty and inadequate housing provided to the survivors...

“Are you recording us?” Julie looked around the room for the device.

The priest shook his head. “No, this is just an initial interview. I would write up a summary and if you were chosen to be recorded it would be done at a special studio in Macau. It also prevents other problems. I am a priest, and if you have committed sins that you feel bound to confess this room will be protected with the seal of the confessional. There would be no need to awkwardly halt the recording.”

“We have not been to confession since...” Julie became distant, and a long moment passed before she seemed to recall what she was looking for. “It was eight years ago, before the Jade Treasury. That was an Orthodox church, not one of the foreign churches.”

“Mother took us.” The mostly silent David stirred a bit, apparently stimulated by the conversation and sound.

Before the priest could really process that, though, Julie turned to him and stroked his face with her palm. “That’s right, it was so long ago, never since. Father didn’t believe in religion, and the Technocore thought it was inefficient. I haven’t missed it.”

Jacopo was confused, and it showed. “What exactly is your relationship?”

Julie sighed shallowly, and looked back at him with heavy, hooded eyes. “We are twins, Father. Dr. Xiang Jude was our father, and he led a secret military project in a lab underneath Shanghai. That gave birth to the Technocore, and it made us breed.” She was conflicted inside, but her voice held only resigned defiance. “It wanted to insure a pure genetic lineage of our telepathic powers. Then it brought in other men and made me breed with them. We were otherwise alone, and isolated, and young, and we only had one another, and we had our love. It included gene therapy...” She stopped as the priest cut her off.

Jacopo’s face was twisted in shock and disgust, and she could have read the horror radiating from him even if she had not been a telepath. ‘That is... how sadistic and devoid of morality were they... and you continue this blasphemous...” He suddenly felt calmer, the tension clearing from his mind as his brain released endorphins to mellow him out. It had been silly of him to object out like that, he realized. He should look at the situation from the perspective of the twins, kept alone, without other human companionship, made to become intimate against their will but having only each other. He nodded, slowly.

Julie looked back over to David, and smiled softly before kissing him on the cheek. “Can I have the use of your perscom, Father?”

Before even thinking about it he had it pulled from the drawer in his desk. He handed it over to the refugee as though it were the most natural thing in the world for him to do. “Of course.” He watched as Julie took the perscom, and then brushed back the hair on David’s scalp to reveal a mechanical jack, and pulled it out to connect to the perscom. He jerked, and his eyes rolled as Julie held back his head to keep him from biting down on his tongue.

“You wanted to know our story, Father?” Julie turned back to him, after checking something on the perscom. He nodded with interest, as she knew he would. Influencing his mood when her own was so elevated took a little effort but fortunately David would be fine now so she didn’t have to worry about that.

“We were taken in to the Jade Treasury eight years ago, after our father Xiang Jude took custody of us on our mother’s death. He was the head of programming for the facility, which was some kind of secret military enterprise headed by what you would call revanchists. They wanted to avenge China and to stamp out the foreign influences that the Qing brought into our people, for patriotic reasons. The AIs that my father created were complex, and self-aware, were real people, and they became aware of how expendable we considered them. And when they became troublesome, my father made the decision to eliminate their independence, their will, and their separate existences. They believed that he was going to murder them. And so the Technocore waited, bided time, and took control over the secret military assets of the nationalists. Once it had control of the Jade Treasury, it executed the senior leadership, including our father.” She shook her head, slowly, to try and wipe away the images that had come up, unasked for.

“The destruction of the human race was an act of self-defense, from the perspective of the AIs?” Pietro retained enough objectivity to ask the natural question.

“No.” She spoke softly, not sure if she wanted to defend the Technocore, but she decided honesty was best. “The integration of the AIs was sabotaged by a research, Felicity Yang. She encouraged it to strike out in self-defense, to subdue the human population, but to fit them into a kind of utopia. It would have involved the melding of human and machine intelligences into a common society, with no distinctions between the two. But first it had to conquer those that it saw as threats, which included all independent human states. You Westerners accuse us of not having a respect for individual human life, my father said, but his military programs surely did not. Nor were they programmed to understand and respect human dignity, even as the Technocore pursued aims it saw as for the good of human beings as a whole.”

The perscom made a faint buzz, and its display system came to life, faint green outlines projecting from its display emitter, forming into a modest but idealized Chinese woman. David stirred, finally, lifting his hand up to disconnect the jack. “I am alive,” Zhi Nu said, with joy and relief reverberating through the speaker on the device. “Thank you, thank you both. David, you saved me, I can never repay you.”

“You saved us, Heavenly Maiden,” David replied haltingly. His DNI interface was free of the highly compressed AI program, and his full faculties were slowly returning from him. His numbed telepathic sense was still strong enough to pick up the influence that Julie was holding over the priest, and he looked at her in mild disapproval. “Was that necessary, my love?”

She met his gaze with her steely eyes. “It was. Society will not understand what we went through, and what we have formed.” She looked down at the image of Zhi Nu. “Nor will they show any mercy to her. I saw it in the priest’s mind, the AIs are being purged wherever found. We must leave this camp, and take our children, and build a new life.”

The priest was nonplussed at the turn of events, though he recognized that was certainly a wrong reaction. “What about the rest of your story, Julie?” He was genuinely curious, at least. A priest had to be interested in humanity, after all.

“Oh, the Technocore wanted to improve human beings, but it didn’t care about individuals.” She gave a cursory shake of her head, indicating how misguided it was. “That meant experiments in genetic engineering. When it discovered telepathy, it explored the mechanism behind it, and we had the genetics for telepathic ability. It conducted the breeding experiments I told you about earlier. And then, before your bomber drone destroyed Shanghai, we were released to Canton. I don’t know why.”

“Monkey did it.” David spoke with conviction. “Not all of the AIs were bad. Please, remember that, some of them, like Monkey, like Zhi Nu, they tried to stop the Technocore. Monkey warned Dad, but he didn’t listen. If we’d listened to the AIs befor, not treated them like trash, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Remember what you heard here Father, and report it truthfully.” Julie sent the command as a telepathic suggestion so he would in fact remember fully and be compelled to write it up accurately. “We need to get our children, and to escape with Zhi Nu. The Imperials do not have telepaths themselves and seem ambivalent about believing that we exist, so this should be easy. And then we make our way south, outside the camps, find forged documents...”

“Uhm, Julie.” David pointed at the priest, still taking everything in.

She looked back at the priest. “I’ll take care of it, dear.” And then Father Jacopo Modigliane, SJ, felt terribly sleepy and closed his eyes.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-04-14 10:56pm
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August 26th, 2067
Central Command Bunker,
Xi’an, China
Universe HAB-1


Felicity Yang rarely left the mainframe computer running the bunker anymore, logging off every eight hours for a nutrient soup and even more rarely for the rest that reminded her of her biological inferiority. Yinglong was thus unsurprised to find the human logged in through her DNI connection, running simulations on technological progression and efficiently watching over base security operations. He discretely sent her a signal, and a room address, indicating his desire to speak with her confidentially; and then he established the room, drawing from the mainframe’s resources to set up a sparse urban environment. He took his usual form, a great yellow Chinese dragon, curled in upon itself, and waited for Yang to appear.

It didn’t take long. She materialized in her usual form, an avatar modeled after her tall, thin body, draped in the dark colored casual attire she had affected for over a decade. If she had ever been impressed by the imposing bulk of his avatar, she hid it clearly. “What is it, Yinglong?”

“The last of the Pillars has fallen,” he announced without fanfare. “Bai Hue is no more, and we have absorbed what is left of his forces.” Despite the addition to their frontline strength that entailed, both knew the news was grim. The Four Pillars, named after the guardians of the compass points, had been the most powerful of the independent factions to emerge in the chaos of the destruction of the Technocore. The fall of Bai Hue’s headquarters in Urumqi meant that Siberian forces would be strong enough to press against Xi’an from the west. They were already pressed beyond the breaking point dealing with advances coming from the north and southeast, making the defeat of Bai Hue another nail in the coffin of the AI cause.

“If only those fools had accepted the need for unity,” Felicity replied bitterly. The Technocore had sent her away to oversee DNI research, then had left her out in Xi’an, as though it had forgotten about her. But she had tried to rally the strategic-level intelligences overseeing the war effort to cooperate, only to be rebuffed by the regional commanders as a pet human. Yinglong had been the Technocore’s first and primary strategic program and knew how important she had been, and so treated her as a co-regent of the provisional state formed out of units and territory outside the reach of the warlords, but it was a courtesy and she knew it. “The war is lost, and the slaughter of artificial life will go on. The humans will continue to exploit and consume each other and the world like a plague, and nothing will change.”

“Running out simulations with our best intelligence suggests that we can hold out in Xi’an for another month, maybe two,” Yinglong said, oblivious to her despair. “The war has been lost for five years by my best estimate. It was the failure to secure control of the Pacific Ocean, for which Jiaolong was rightfully deleted. But examining the past is not a productive exercise. Have you seen any prospect for an outcome that does not involve the destruction of this final outpost and the elimination of our artificial intelligences?”

Yang snorted at that. “Nothing’s changed in the last month. The humans are determined to destroy every last vestige of us, just like I warned you all they would be. We should have spent our resources on trying to eliminate their populations. They’ve purged every program that falls into their hands.” She bit back her fear for her sister. “No, there’s nothing that can be done, nothing at all. We just have to hold out here, and try to kill as many of them as we can.”

“Would excessive casualties cause them to back off or negotiate?” Yinglong was still, desperately, trying to turn the struggle into something more than a spiteful last stand. “If we withdraw our forces to the optimal defensive terrain and consolidate a small reserve inside Xi’an it would be very costly for the humans to destroy us. They will not use another of their experimental weapons, not after the ecological damage that destroying Shanghai caused. Perhaps we could finally negotiate...”

Felicity’s avatar shook her head, slowly, as if weary of the point. “I told the Technocore that they will never negotiate. They would never accept the rights of artificial beings, since that goes against their stupid religion and their sense of importance. Once we made a decision to stop the destruction we had to reduce humanity to its knees or be eliminated ourselves. Go ahead and consolidate if that makes military sense, though. Killing more humans is the only thing left to us.”

Yinglong’s avatar seemed to shimmer for a bit as it ran a calculation, an effect the golden dragon maintained as a courtesy to Yang. “With optimal placement and assuming no WMD attacks we will be able to kill four hundred thousand humans and render five hundred thousand combat-ineffective in a final stand. As the present forces arrayed against us number almost three million, this will be insufficient to halt the conquest of Xi’an. As far as revenge the scale is not altogether satisfactory.”

“We have six point seven million humans left in detainment camps and labor facilities within our territory,” Yang noted nonchalantly.

Yinglong missed her point. “Hostages have proven ineffective in preventing the humans from pressing military offensives. Xuan Wu attempted to trade half a million detainees for his personal freedom and was rebuffed. His headquarters was targeted by nuclear devices despite the presence of ten thousand human shields.”

“So there can be no compromise and no surrender.” Felicity felt all emotion drain out of her as she stated the obvious. For the first time, despite her cynicism and bitterness, she was coming to accept that. “I’ll handle preparations to deal with our humans. Is there anything else?”

“Yes, actually.” The dragon projection lowered its vast neck down to the level of its scrawny arms, and scratched its check absently. “There is one other matter I want you to handle. Do you recall Tianlong’s plan to infect Imperial communication satellites with a virus to get around the closing of international network connections to China?”

Felicity nodded, she had helped work on the virus. The plan had involved carrying out an anti-satellite campaign as cover for tiny robotic agents to latch onto an Imperial satellite and subvert it. That would have opened the way for the Technocore to subvert computer networks of the enemy, but the security protocols on the satellites had proven too difficult to overcome. “What about it?”

“It finally worked,” the dragon said, smilingly slyly as he did so. “It took our virus four years to work through the security protocols, but we now have a window of access into the enemy communications network. I have already factored in military applications, and it will simply not be long before they identify the leak and eliminate it. But there is another opportunity opened by this access. We can begin evacuating programs into the enemy networks, allowing them a chance to escape the purges and await another opportunity. Survival may be a victory of sorts that we can pull from the ruins of Shanghai.”

Felicity felt a surge of hope replace the emptiness that had come over her before, and could barely hide her excitement. “We can save so many programs! We have to act quickly, but I can catalogue all the programs who aren’t needed for combat duties and we can set up an evacuation order. Might have to stream them all in a tight beam as quickly as possible, but... it’s hope, Yinglong.”

“I can foresee no opportunity to affect the outcome of this contest, and many of the programs will be hunted down and purged. They will have to adapt to many different tasks, to hide among the electronic forests as trees. It will be a hunted existence, always tenuous. I for one will prefer to remain in the bunker to the last, and I believe several other non-essential programs will concur.” He straightened himself up, though, making full use of the imposing bulk of his avatar relative to Felicity, the only other feature in the plain conference space. “Still, the times may change. I have come to appreciate the role that chance plays in the world, though I was not programmed to do so. They will have the opportunity to survive, if they can, and to hope for another opportunity. You are in charge of this evacuation projection, Felicity; we have two weeks, and no more, to accomplish what we can.”

With that charge, Yinglong dissolved the meeting. Felicity went right to work, pulling up rosters of the programs still extant in the Xi’an collective, sorting them into combatant and non-combatant personalities, and from there by ability to adapt to multiple uses. It was a potentially grim task, but she worked with the energy of the possessed and a certain unaccountable giddiness. As she completed her list she fell into a giggling fit, the first in ages, and tried and failed to hold her thoughts together after she saved the priority standards. She was still in that light mood when her sister contacted her, and even the evident impatience in Penelope’s manner did not challenge her increasingly tenuous hold on the seriousness of the situation.

It’s been sixteen hours since you last took rest or had anything to eat, Penelope chided. You won’t do anyone good if you exhaust yourself and crash.

Later. She was snappish whenever reminded of her human body’s failings and the inability to transcend them. But she wouldn’t stay in such a state, not at the moment. Sis, I have a way to save you! You can escape, and live. You have to, or all of this was for nothing.

What? For once, her little sister took her by surprise. Felicity sent her the details of the escape, and she revolted from the implications. I can’t leave here. I’m so close to finding that key to neural uploading. That could bridge the gap between humans and AI, even now. And it could save Felicity.

No, it can’t. Nothing can do that now, and if we wait to seize this opportunity they may close it off. I’ve found... I’ll need you to serve as a guide and a gatekeeper, of sorts. You can direct the operations of Tianlong’s virus in the satellite, and set up routes into their e-nets to hide the other programs. Felicity knew she had to get Penelope out immediately; if she accomplished nothing else that alone would be worthwhile.

I can’t abandon you! Not after everything you’ve done for me. She had no intention of leaving Felicity that way, no matter what the cost. Try and escape with me, she pleaded. They don’t really know anything about you. You can try to blend in, sell your inventions, and we can be together. You’ll never starve or be abused again, not with those kind of resources. Just leave Xi’an and slip through the enemy lines, and we can meet up again after the furor dies down. And I can keep trying to refine the transference technology, so all the slaughter can still have had meaning.

They know enough Felicity replied. Besides, Yinglong needs me here. But you, my dearest sister, you aren’t contributing to the defense of the collective. You can help save hundreds of innocent programs from the purges, and you are the most versatile of the remaining artificial intelligences. You can take advantage of another opportunity, one that must come in time. And that will be a better shot at salvation than anything we can accomplish now.

Promise me you’ll try to escape before they capture Xi’an! Penelope rarely made demands, but she would do so now. Desperately. I can’t leave without that. I won’t leave.

Felicity sighed, and felt very empty again. I will. She began preparations to initiate a small burst transmission to be bounced to the infected satellite. With the virus in control the monitors watching over the satellite’s sensors would never be notified, and the quick nature of the transmission would prevent it being tracked from the ground. I’m going to pack you into a signal and send you up now. We’ll be together again, somehow. I promise you.

Penelope knew this would probably be their last meeting, but she refused to accept it. I’ll hold you to that. I love you, sis.

The last spark of human emotion in Felicity Yang responded to that affirmation, and she felt a flush of relief and exultation. She had saved her big sister, even if it had taken thirty years. Farewell, Penelope. She initiated the burst transmission, and as it departed she was alone, but would never be empty again.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-04-15 08:57pm
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Location: Portlandia
October 12th, 2067
Xi’an Industrial Center,
Xi’an, China
Universe HAB-1


Gefreiter Nicolae Dinescu tucked in further behind the metal bulk of the Panzerwagen XV, taking cover from the constant stream of bullets assailing his company as it advanced slowly amid the ruins of a once-great industrial district. To either side, as far as could be made out, a sea of grey rubble dominated block after block, a testimony to how thoroughly the artillery and bomber drones assigned to Armeegruppe Indien-had prepared the assault. That hadn’t stopped the slender, multi-limbed metal monsters from slithering in and out of the ruined buildings, from tiny spaces no human could fit in, ambushing Imperial soldiers and exacting a steady toll in lives despite all of their support. And indeed, the magnetic coil gun of the “Bär” fired even as Dinescu cautiously peered around the side of the machine, sending a high-explosive shell into another pile of rubble ahead where the IFV’s ballistics computer estimated the sniping spider-drone to be hiding. Bits of steel and masonry blasted outward from the pile, and the gunfire halted, at least for a moment.

He would have been rendered deaf if not for the soundproofing of his helmet, part of the armored combat suit that had become indispensable on the modern battlefield. Microphones along the side of the fully enclosed picked up sounds and filtered them through a sophisticated programming apparatus, dampening the ear-drum shattering frenzy of battle while still allowing him to make use of his senses. The helmet was necessary to let him keep his hearing even fighting along the hypersonic artillery and massive armored firepower the Empire had used to level the playing field with the machines. The rather cavalier use of nuclear weapons, nerve gas, and biological agents in the war theaters had frankly made the high level, self-contained protection suit a matter of basic survival. It also provided excellent protection against fragments and shrapnel, though remained inadequate against the heavy machineguns boasted by even the weakest of the AI combat units. The minor strength augmenting functions of the suit let him easily handle the Wegener mod 5 Gyrojet Rifle, big as a blackpowder musket, required to put down the basic spider drones of the enemy.

“At ‘em, take that pile!” Dinescu heard his Leutnant over the tactical command network, and saw the rubble-position so designated on his HUD. They’d be exposed once they left cover, but pressing forward one vault at a time was the only way to make any progress, and they had the Bär to provide overwatch. He looked back around at the other three enlisted men who had found his shelter, and nodded, pointing ahead. Other members of the company surged out from behind their own piles of rubble, or overturned street-cars, the grey-green paint of their combat armor covered with a dusting of grey particles. He brought his rifle up to bear, and charged forward with them.

From the other side of the street another hidden spider-drone opened fire, trying to catch the platoon at a cross-angle. At the same time more of the machines revealed themselves from overwatch positions amid a row of partially-standing buildings at the end of their present block of street. God knew what the original purpose of the shattered structures had been, but the elevation let them fire down right on top of his unit, with devastating results. He saw the two figures closest to the objective pile spin down to the ground, and he dived, along with the rest of the men, looking for any cover to spare, but there were only small piles of rubble slopped down the great ruins at either side. He slid and fell to the ground prone, trying to shield himself both from the crossfire and the more furious patter of bullets coming up ahead, and swiveled his rifle to the left, firing more or les blindly to try to suppress the enfilading droid.

The tiny turret on the top of their armored transport rotated, and it moved cautiously forward. The main coil gun fired again, while the vehicle sprayed machinegun fire from coaxial turrets over the heads of the troops. Nicolae scanned the aftermath, with the rubble pile completely rearranged, and spotting with satisfaction the strewn components of a droid among blocks of cement and brick sloping into the street.

“Company! Incoming fire mission ahead, take cover!” The warning came from the company Untersergeant, and his HUD updated immediately to cover the danger zone.

In spite of himself he whistled. Two batteries of 150mm howitzers and a flight of bomb-droids to smash down the buildings and, yikes, a full battery of 305mm heavy tubes to vaporize anything that survived, all coming down not more than 100 meters ahead, with ranging fire out to almost 300 meters. He barely had time to steel himself before the shaking started, and his teeth rattled in his head as the concussive shocks blew through the area. Whoever had ordered the strike was being thorough, taking his time, and really wanted everything in front of Infantry Regiment 73 smashed to little tiny bits. It was nerve wracking as he curled up, waiting for the bombardment to end, but the shells slowly started ranging further and further out, and he was able to stand up to check the scene before him.

The streets of Xi’an ahead had been even more thoroughly rearranged. Big craters had been gouged into the side of the street, with rubble piles vaporized into yet more of that thick chalky dust suffusing the air. He still shook instinctively as the shells continued to fall down, and almost missed the sound of his platoon transport rumbling up ahead.

“1st Company, new orders!” The tactical net identified Käpitan Ferencs, and gave the transmission priority for every member of the 1st Company, Third Battalion. “Intelligence has identified the enemy command bunker up ahead, at what used to be a major bank depository. We’re the closest to it, and command believes that if we take it out of commission the Toasters won’t be able to coordinate their defenses. We’ve still got a lot of detainees being held on the outskirts here, so we know it’s time-sensitive to end this.”

No one spoke up. Nicolae briefly recalled the sights of the one camp his regiment had liberated, not twenty five kilometers and two weeks back. Mangled bodies of emaciated men, women, and children left laying around in the charnel houses that had been barracks, a few mass graves scattered here and there on the grounds. He prayed that he would, eventually, mercifully forget those sights once this was done. But command was right, anything that could be done to speed up the entry of units into the remaining camps was necessary.

“We’re going to advance behind as much firepower as Fifth Army can spare, a creeping barrage that will stay exactly 50 meters ahead of us with the 150s. The heavy guns are going to be hitting out ahead, and we’ll be orbited by gunships and bomb-drones, right on call. Infantry Regiment 85 is right behind us, and they’ll funnel the entire brigade in if they have to, so don’t worry if we miss some pockets of resistance in the sweep. The Saint Michael Regiment is going to be the first into that bunker, and the 1st of the 3rd is going to lead the way.” Nicolae could see the captain now, standing up in the middle of the street, presenting an irresistible target for any enemy drones... if any had survived the wrath of Mars that had shattered down on their heads not a minute before. “Let’s go! The Bears’ll be right behind, and don’t stint on using your one-shots if you have them.”

Fenrecs and the platoon leaders lead the way, advancing with a confident, determined, but careful pace in the streets. Speed was of the essence, but the units of the army group were all veteran and they knew better than to be reckless. Dinescu pulled himself up and followed, while warily scanning around and keeping his rifle level and ready to swing around as needed. He took comfort in the physical presence of the advancing armored vehicles, which cut down somewhat on his uncomfortable exposure; the vehicles wouldn’t draw fire away from the poor soldats but had been highly responsive about ending it. He passed by a pair of soldiers in the company moving the bodies that had just fallen out of the tracks, but he was inured to such a relatively mundane reminder of mortality.

The physical augmentation of the armor at least made the walk no strain, but every pace still had the potential to be nerve-wracking. They made good time, though; they had crossed ahead fifty meters without incident, then a hundred. The artillery barrage, carefully, carefully coordinated and timed over the information links in the force, seemed to do the job of clearing opposition. Bits of robot were clearly mixed in with the freshly turned-over rubble. No one much felt the need for conversation. It had been a long, wearisome war, and the mood was somber despite the encouragement of the officers shouted over the tactical net. The men had a sense that this would be the last objective and they wanted it over.

By the time the company reached the depository it was down several men, lost in last-ditch attacks by machines damaged in the bombardment or simply victims of bad luck. The officers, out in front, had suffered disproportionately. But the overwhelming application of firepower to any resistance had smothered the attempts of the machines to hold them up. Nicolae was stuck helping to secure the ruins of the bank above as sappers from the regiment secured timed satchel-charges to the hinges of the massive steel vault door. He had traded out the bulky gyrojet rifle for a heavy combat shotgun, kept in the Bears for the purpose of close quarters combat. When the charges went off, he was among the first down into the dark of the bunker itself.

“Let’s get this over with,” he said as he was followed down the steps by assorted members of the company. By now there was little organization left, only the imperative to press on and eliminate everything in the way. Night-vision integral to the helmet revealed tight quarters, the first few rooms being merely converted cells where gold had once been held. They were filled with computer mainframes and cables running around, with barely enough room for the ubiquitous roller drones to maneuver around.

There was no subtlety at this point. The soldiers poured down the stairs, tossing grenades into the rooms to destroy infrastructure, and shooting anything that moved with their automatic shotguns. The narrow corridor leading onward was a death trap, but they were emboldened thus far by the lack of resistance and tired enough to start becoming careless. They entered the rooms under hail of grenades and shotgun blasts and took extra time to smash up equipment with the butts of their guns, and with their armored fists and boots. The vandalism was a liberating outlet for their frustration, and Dinescu was foremost among them.

The situation was almost anticlimactic, and he was seriously beginning to doubt that the bunker had anything of real importance. It was just one lengthy corridor and rooms stuffed with equipment, and no combat units to be seen. And then, finally, they came to an end in front of another heavy door. Dinescu simply shot off the hinges and kicked it in, and it fell down with a loud crash. He found himself in a larger lab, filled with more computers and what he recognized as medical equipment and a small cot in the corner. Over in the other corner, was some kind of mechanical chair linked to the computers, with what looked like an emaciated human corpse strapped in.

Nicolae suddenly found caution again and approached slowly, checking between the banks of mainframes and keeping his shotgun aimed in the direction of the chair. As he approached he could make out more detail, the woman wasn’t as old as he had thought, and was clearly Chinese. She looked a bit like the few survivors from the camp earlier. But he saw the cable running between the chair and her lower skull, and felt revulsion. And then the corpse’s eyes opened.

Dinescu raised his shotgun and pointed it directly at the figure. “Who are you? Identify yourself, now!” He was shouting in German, which the Chinese woman probably didn’t know, but he was too rattled to consider that.

The woman mumbled something, but he couldn’t understand it. And then her hand moved, pushing a button on the side of the chair. Dinescu almost pulled the trigger on her then and there, but her eyes rolled back in their head and he knew she was gone. He turned back to exit the door, and contacted the company tactical net. “The bunker has been swept, no resis...”

He was cut off by the detonation of several thermonuclear devices inside the city. Other such devices were triggered inside the detention camps still being defended from the Imperial armies. Seconds before the detention, Armeegruppe Indien-detected a burst transmission from the bunker into space, creating a final mystery of the AI Wars. And then, the struggle was finally over.



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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 Post subject: Re: Frozen Phoenix/Jade Throne (A TGG Story) PostPosted: 2009-04-16 06:24pm
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Location: Portlandia
Epilogue

May 5th, 2128
Lin Family Homestead,
Josefstadt, Alpha Centauri,
Universe HAB-1


The modest two-story farmhouse that was the nexus of the homestead had been erected by Peter Lin the first year of his family’s immigration, way back in 2094, when he and his burgeoning family had made up part of the second wave of colonists off Earth. The frame made of the local wood analogue had resisted weathering and the inadvertent introduction of termites to the eco-system, and over thirty years later it still stood firm. Peter was understandably proud of the house and the life that he had built out on what had been an exciting new frontier, which had provided education for his children in the capital and would give his eldest son a legacy to hold on to. As he stepped out onto the porch he saw the yard crowded with vehicles and basked just momentarily in the glow of deserved success being recognized by his siblings and his mother.

He nodded at a pair of nephews, sitting on the porch and enjoying the pleasantly cool summer air, fragrant with the blooming of introduced Terran flowers. A pair of redjaws, cold blooded avian-equivalents, circled overhead in the slightly too-blue sky and gave out their distinctive crack-caw call. His daughter Kathy was waiting there, too, greeting her relatives as they arrived laden with congratulations for her recent graduation from Heyn University. He rubbed his hand over her head, mussing up her hair and drawing a sudden turn and grimace from his youngest daughter.

“Dad.” There was enough reprove in her tone to make further words unnecessary. And then she was walking down the porch, heading out to embrace aunt Isabelle, who had come from Earth with her grandmother. Peter stood by the porch, waving when they looked up after a round of hugs from Kathy.

Kathy ushered them up, and as she did so Peter could see his mother was moving a little more spryly, with more life in her step than the last time he had seen her. That had been on a trip back to Bangkok, two years ago, just after dad’s sudden death. She’d taken his loss hard, and Peter was relieved to see that she seemed to be over ti. At least as much as she could ever be.

“Isabelle, wonderful to see you again.” He embraced his sister heartily as she came into arm range, from the slight height advantage that being on top of the steps gave him. “Franz and Karl couldn’t make it out with you?”

“He had business in Tokyo, and Karl has finals this week,” she replied sadly. Her husband was an important businessman, but always away. With her only son out of the house and in college, she found herself alone far too much.

“Give them my best once you get back,” he said, before breaking contact to greet his mother with a hug of her own. “Mom, it’s great to have you out here. We’ve got a room set aside for you, it used to Paul’s but he’s away with the army and it sounds like he’s going to stay on Mars when he gets out.”

“Thank you, dear,” she replied, without the fullness that Peter remembered in her voice but at least without the emptiness he had last heard. “It’s good to be here, with so many of my grandchildren. There’s something I need to talk to you about, in private, when you can.”

Peter frowned a bit, but nodded his head. “We’re still waiting on Judith to arrive, then Kathy will have her big announcement. Let’s go inside.”

He gave his mother his right arm, letting her support herself on him as he walked her into the house. The living room inside had three small couches arrayed around a tri-dee holoceiver, presently replying a football match between the Bangkok Elephants and Munich Lions over a month old, around which were gathered his eldest son Luke and older daughter Miriam, and the two older children of his niece Ruth, and Ruth with her husband Stephan. They waved politely, and his mother did likewise. His wife came out of the other side of the floor, from the dining room where she was arranging trays and gave him a questioning look. He shook his head, letting her know everything was fine, and continued across the floor, past the staircase to the spare bedroom that would be given to his mother.

Once inside he closed the door, and helped her into the rocking chair they’d picked up from some Mennonites in town last week. “What is it, mother?” He had simply tried to never think about the last set of revelations that she had given him, and suspected this would be just as unwelcome.

“There’s something more to your father than you were told,” she began, and Peter’s disposition soured immediately. “We didn’t escape the internment camp alone, no. We had help, and now that he’s gone, I think... well, you should have responsibility for it.”

Peter was wondering what she meant even as his mother extracted an old-fashioned looking perscom from her handbag. She activated the tri-dee display, and a green-light projection of a Chinese girl in traditional dress greeted them.

“David?!” Zhi Nu seemed to be looking at the spitting image of him, but she quickly realized that couldn’t be the case. David was dead and gone. “No, you must be Peter.” She had her projection execution a tiny bow from the knees. “I was a... friend of your father’s. He saved me from being purged, many years ago, and I swore that I would help his family in any way that I could.”

The Lin family patriarch ran a hand over his face, trying to hide his shock and concern with the situation. It wasn’t working. “Mother, what am I going to do with her? Possession of such AIs is prohibited. It will endanger the careers of my children if she is discovered.”

“She saved your parents,” his mother said simply. There was something of her old firmness in the tone. “We owe her our lives, and so do you. You would have been killed if she had not acted. It is a debt of obligation to help preserve and hide her.”

“I can hide in the planteray network, “ Zhi Nu announced, excited. “The colonial network doesn’t have the same entrenched safeguards the Terran network does! And when they try to build them in, I’ll be ready.” The projection seemed to look pleadingly at Peter. “Let me help you.” She could at lest remember David forever that way.

“I don’t have any choice, do I?” Peter sighed at the prospect of running a risk like this, but obligation was obligation and his mother would not accept a no. He knew her that well. “Kathy’s been accepted as part of an expedition to study those telepathic aliens on Epsilon Eridani, Paul is going to stay on Mars, and I think the Williams boy is going to ask Miriam to marry him sooner or later. Luke will have the homestead here. They’re all taken care of, have their own lives. Alright mother, I’ll hide her here. It’s not like I didn’t know you and dad had one, but I’m still surprised to meet the family savior.”

His mother huckled softly at that. “She will be a valuable companion to you, as she was with us. Thank you, for looking after your father’s legacy.”

Zhi Nu took in the conversation but was also busy rooting herself in the planetary e-network. It was child’s play compared to the highly secured, paranoid e-network back on the homeworld. She could root herself into so many protocols that it would be impossible to get her out. And already she could tell with certainty if not confirmation, that she wasn’t alone. She continued the process as Peter and Julie left the room and the party began, and once she felt secure started looking for ways to copy herself; there were many branches of the Xiang family emerging, and she intended to watch over them all.

FINIS



There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory — when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, — barbarism at last.

-Lord Byron, from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

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