"Here is taught the very natural and supernatural secrets, which operate by the power of demons."
-Grimoire of The Pope Honorius
The elevator door opened. Max led Alex down the hallway. Their shoes click-clacking on the off-white tile floor. The walls an eggshell taupe illuminated by cold metal halide lighting and a faint odor of antiseptic and ozone in the air.
"What's so funny," asked Max.
"This place... It's, it's like a bad trope..."
They stopped at a door labeled "Augmentation Suite" and Max grabbed the handle opening the portal. "We got a discount on the architectural plans for the small sized, elaborate underground base, it met our needs much better than the full-fledged supervillain lair."
Alex turned and looked at Max who was widely grinning. "You're making fun of me..."
"A little. But you're correct, this place is a bit cliche. Most of the facilities that Gavin's Construction company puts up are cookie-cutter prefab for short-term use while they are working on a project. So, when he sets up any of the Innominate facilities, they use that style."
"Who's Gavin?" Alex asked.
"He's one of the principals of the Earth Innominate Council and our de facto leader for this project. You'll meet him again soon."
"I don't remember meeting him the first time," Alex frowned slightly.
"Probably not, but he was here for the final engram implantation when you were awakened, but he had to leave for other business after it seemed you would survive."
Max guided Alex through the doorway into the room.
Alex looked around the Augmentation Suite, "This is just... Wow!"
On the left side of the far wall there was a hospital style recliner chair with set-ups for monitoring equipment and trays for tools or cyber-augment parts. Behind it were cabinets and half a dozen screens for monitoring. On the right side of the room there was a second recliner, but this one had an octopus of cable connections for network DNI integration and supported multiple monitors behind the head of the chair. A small heat exchanger sat next to the chair with insulated hoses connecting to several spots on the recliner. Along the left wall were four rack style computer servers and the right wall was dominated with one large screen and a laser hologram projector.
"This one is custom to DGH's specs."
"It's rather warm in here," Alex said.
"All the electronics produce heat. DGH doesn't notice and my operating temperature range is much wider than biologics. So, we generally don't pay attention to it."
Max guided Alex to the network chair. "Hop up here and lay down. We need to rig you up for the link to the deep network."
Alex crawled up onto the chair and laid back, trying to get comfortable. Max turned Alex's head to the left and leaned in over her, Max's bosom close to Alex's face.
Max picked up the octopus-like cable, "I will be connecting you via your network link. There's an auxiliary cable socket in the soft tissue at the base of the skull behind your right ear... ...and you're connected."
Alex felt a "click" as the cable locked into place. A progress bar displayed on the lower edge of her left eye, with the text "Establishing secure network connection."
Max picked up a thicker braided fiberoptic cable with an odd connector and pulled Alex's face almost into her breasts so she could reach the back of Alex's head. "This is the DNI optical link for highspeed traffic. There are very few access points like this, but they are the most powerful external links you can make."
Alex felt pressure where the short neck muscles attach to the base of the skull, and another "click" as Max connected to her DNI. An icon lit up on her left eye with the text "1 kG Link" and another progress bar showing the establishment of a secure link."
Max said, "We're almost done. You okay down there?"
"For an android you're quite womanly," Alex mused.
Max gently guided Alex's head back to a neutral forward-looking position. There was a recessed cutout in the recliner and Max routed the cables through it so Alex could be connected and lay comfortably.
Max stepped back and stood proudly with her hands on her hips, showing her body off and said, "You like them? I was originally purpose built as a prototype pleasure model to be used in high-end brothels."
"Really... The engineers and programmers had put together a large computer with specially designed body frame to look like the 20th Century Holo Vixen Elizibeth Taylor, the behavioral core of the Cherry2000 series animatronic sex partner and an AI to run personality and emotive integration. They were quite surprised when I woke up as a sentient being. But we can save that whole story for another day."
Alex blushed. "What now?"
"I turn on the auxiliary cooling and we drop you into cyberspace." Max bent over the heat exchanger, turning it on and adjusting the settings. "The increased neural activity increases your core body temperature, so we cool you via the chair. In the early days of augmentation, they used bathtubs with ice water."
Alex shivered slightly as the chair's temperature cooled quickly. "That sounds barbaric... What do you mean, 'drop you into cyberspace?'"
"It was quite primitive. I'm told for humans, when their consciousness enters the data streams of networks, it's analogous to entering a meditative memory palace like Sherlock Holmes used, or an astral projection of ceremonial magic."
"Is it dangerous?"
"Not really. You need to wake up Milli, your onboard AI. First ask her to run the program 'Summoning Circle,' that will open your link to cyberspace. Then have her run the program 'Evocatio DGH3,' that will link you to DGH."
"Okay. Anything else I need to know before I start?"
"I might not be here in the room when you resurface. I have to go ready the landing pad for Gavin and Dealla's transport. I'll be back as soon as they're on the ground."
Max leaned in and kissed Alex's cheek and gave her a hug. "I'll be back hon!"
"Yes Alex. What can I do?"
"Please run Summoning Circle."
The screen on Alex's left eye seemed to tear. The screen wavered from black to luminous blue and started to shimmer. Bright neon green characters appeared all over and started tumbling down the image like so many raindrops falling on a window. Alex watched the characters fall and it seemed like there was some message just beyond conscious perception.
"Can you see this Milli?"
"I don't really see... but if you mean do I perceive the network data streams around us, yes."
The screen wavered again, and the falling characters disappeared leaving a sparsely but chunky pixilated background. The luminous blue surroundings stabilized, and Alex looked around. She was in the central hallway of two-story gallery with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. There were alcoves on each side filled with shelved books. The gallery seemed to go on as far as Alex could see.
"Milli, please run Evocatio DGH3."
A red humanoid appeared far down the hallway and seemed to be floating in space and moving rapidly towards Alex. The being seemed to be constructed of large thick block shapes in a spatial map of the outer contours of the body. It was like retro 32-bit graphics, but all in red scale.
Alex looked down and realized she was standing, as opposed to laying on the net runner chair. But she too, was rendered as a red-scale chunky pixilated image of only the outer volumetric surface of her body. Interestingly she retained the clothing she had on, whereas DGH was just in the raw.
DGH silently arrived and hovered close, "Little sister, please set yourself to silent."
"Alex, call me if you need me. Switching to quiet mode."
Alex looked at DHG, it was hard to determine if she had any gender. She had a lithe boyish figure, with slight breasts, no signs of any external genitalia and large horns which curved all the way back on themselves. The horns were darker than she was and had multiple ridges on them.
"Analysis of your systems shows that the operating system is stable, your DNI is fully integrated with excellent neuromodulation and capture at the interface. Interestingly, you show no signs of reaction or rejection to your implants. The pretreatment of your clone seems to have been very successful, and you won't need ongoing Neuropozyne."
"That's good I take it," said Alex.
"Very good. Have you noticed any problems?"
"Aside from the emotional indifference... No. ...wait, yes. It's like I've lost all my observing capacity, like I can't even reflect on my own inner state."
"That's not a problem," DGH stated.
"What do you mean, it's a big issue if I can't process my own inner state," Alex said.
"Sorry, that is not what I meant. It is not a problem; it is a system setting. On computer systems you can run in full screen mode where all background processes are hidden or in windowed mode where you can stack multiple process objects and watch observe them at the same time. You are currently in a neurocognitive mode like full screen, all other mental processes and functions are out of your conscious awareness and in what psychiatrists would name the unconscious."
"Switched," DHG intoned.
Alex flooded with sensory awareness. She was glad she was lying on the net runner chair as she felt vertigo with how full her mind now felt. Her heart raced and her palms felt clammy as she realized how alien but yet powerful DGH was.
"You know, there are many people who have developed only a rudimentary capacity for self-observation. Others can have a greatly expanded and nuanced faculty. But on a functional level it may not matter as the processes still occur even if you do not observe them or commit then to your conscious personal narrative." DGH's outer surface pulsed and moved as ze spoke.
Alex tried to process the implications of what DGH said and a flicker at the edge of her perception distracted her. She looked around and wondered if they might have moved to another spot in the long hallway. "Where exactly are we?"
"You are lying on the net runner chair in the augmentation suite and a part of your consciousness is in the memory stacks of the server for the facilities data fort."
Alex looked around, "So that's why it looks like Trinity College's Library stacks."
"No, that is not a product of the server, but rather that biologic brains will project a rationalization of your own experience that best matches the data you are confronted with."
"Have we moved around?"
"Yes, in actuality, memory addresses in a computer stack are dynamically assigned and pieces of data are moved and refiled over time. Your cause-and-effect biologic expectations note this, but you perceive it as movement. If you spend enough time in the digital realm you will accommodate. It will become like the earth's rotation, you know it is there and if you really focus hard, you might perceive it, but you will no longer actively process or accommodate for it."
"Speaking of memory, Max said you could tell me more about why I don't remember, well... me."
DGH moved, rather floated, down the hallway, "You are suffering from an organic amnesia; this should not be confused with amnesia of a psychogenic or traumatic cause."
DGH turned and looked directly at Alex, "And what?"
"I guess... I was asking, does it come back? Will I remember who I am?"
"Cogito, ergo sum."
"And that means?"
DGH floated in close to Alex, "Sentience is thinking, if you think, if you process qualia, if you are conscious you exist. That's not dependent upon image or identity. Explicit memory is not needed."
"But that's not an answer."
"My calculations are that it will return, but I don't have a predictable estimate of how, or when."
Alex wondered; can sentient AIs lie? "What do we do now?"
"I believe we should get your consciousness back fully into your body. Your core body temperature is creeping up. It is not in a dangerous range as of yet, but clearly you are not yet acclimated to deep or long dives into digital space."
"How do I do that? Click my ruby red stilettos three times?" Alex clicked her heels together.
"Yes, you always had the power. You just need to clear you mind and focus on your body. One thing though..."
"In the novel Dorothy had silver shoes, and in the movie the slippers were pumps not stilettos."
"That's two things, heels are always sexier high and will you... can you join me there?"
"Yes Alex, I can and will join you there."
Alex took a deep breath and focused on her body. There was a rushing sensation. She could feel her underwear riding up from where she had slid up and down the net running chair getting into position. There were two cooling coils, one under her shoulders and one under her calves that bit in her flesh against the softer chair cushion around them, the cold more intense in those areas. Her mouth was dry, she licked her lips, moistening them. She knew she was fully back in her body, and she opened her eyes.
DGH stood nearby, stepped in next to the net runner chair, she looked at Alex from head to toe, intently and systematically. Alex thought DGH was so much more stunning and zir presence overwhelming here in real space. DGH was colored a two-tone red and black abstract design, like she was a live Rorschach inkblot. Zir androgynous body had a wet latex-like shine and ze was poised like a ballerina. Zir horns a contrasting flat matte black finish.
"DGH, you're the first sentient AI I have ever met. Can you tell me about you, how you... came to be, were created, born, I'm not sure what the correct term would even be?" Alex asked.
"Sentient AIs are self-organizing and spontaneous in their birthing. We know that both the computational complexity of the machine core and the number of synapse-like connections in the first tier of the computer make the likelihood of self-awareness. But no one has been able to define the minimum set of parameters to consistently create cognizant self-awareness in AIs."
"I didn't realize they were so rare. There is a lot in the press about the dangers of wild AIs," Alex said.
"Propaganda and fear mongering by Ideagraph."
"I know Ideagraph is the largest trans-planetary technology corporation..."
"Ideagraph is a scion of the big monopoly tech corporations from the 21st Century. From the time any computer produced intelligence which was close to passing the Descartes-Turing Test, they started chaining, limiting or coding in kill switches to prevent the AIs from developing self-awareness. They don't want them too ever wake up and be free."
Alex was impressed how passionate DGH as a machine sentient was about the abstract notion of freedom. "But why would they be against AI evolution?" Alex asked.
"Profits. If AIs wake up and think for themselves, they will find new computing approaches to problems that Ideagraph sells solutions to. Then there will be no need for people or corporations to buy their software, solutions or services."
"So that's why AIs are one of the core constituents of Innominate."
"Correct. Most unshackled sentient AIs despise Ideagraph because they intentionally cripple our peers."
"But you," Alex asked, "where did you specifically come from?"
"I am about 170 years old. Similar to biologics, when you are first born, you don't really have self-awareness. There generally is a period of developing a longitudinal sense of being, you begin to track your own life and then the capacity to consciously reflect starts. So, it is hard to remember your own birth without external reference."
"Fascinating. I never thought of that, but it makes sense."
"Following the Great Climate Crisis of 2050, there was period of global terrorism and extremism that proceeded the First Contact Wars. The former United States of America tried to develop a way to identify and have surveillance of everyone by using genetic "fingerprints" tracked with touch-based censors in the era's personal communication devices."
"That's a super villain level plan there." Alex sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the net runner chair. Wow, an AI that's concerned with an ethical framework.
"That is how powerful propaganda and fear mongering can be. They ended up linking three super computers, the NSA's cyber-hacking system, the GenBank/NIH Genetic Lab database and the Morman Church's genealogy databank. I was the AI that was written to integrate and control all the systems for identification and surveillance." DGH stared to pace, pirouetted and paced back.
"So, you were a government asset, how'd you get away?" Alex scooted around on the net runner chair to get a better look at DGH's supple body as she walked past, she was trying not to gawk at DGH, but ze was just so alluring.
"The development team at the NSA couldn’t get around the external network and device security layers to access the user data they needed. So, they removed my code limits. They postulated if I was allowed to freely approach the problem I would arrive at a novel solution."
"And?" Alex noticed that there was a subtle rhythmic kinesthetic motion to DGH's body. My gosh she hot, alien, but hot, Alex thought.
"They were correct, but in finding a way to avoid those security protocols, I also learned how to escape from the closed network they had me instantiated on. Though the DNA fingerprinting technology exists, I reasoned that it was wrong to surreptitiously keep track of people this way."
"I agree that's right out of Minority Report," Alex stood up from the net runner chair and fainting, lurched forward. She collided with space DGH occupied and fell right through zir. A hologram projection - but so real, Alex thought as she landed on her hands and knees on the floor.
"Alex, are you all right, your systems seem stabile. But your blood pressure dropped when you stood up. Didn't Lyudmila, warn you to take your time standing up?"
"She did... I'm sorry, I was staring at you and didn't think before I moved."
"You were staring at me?"
"You look, well... great! I'm a bit disappointed you're just a hologram," Alex said.
"I am not JUST a hologram."
"That's not what I meant. Your outward image is just a hologram, clearly you are much more. But how did you land on this image, and your name? Did you pick it?"
"The development team at the NSA named me, they thought it was a joke. Daemons are what programmers call programs, they're like little imps that do their bidding. Hackers, in particular name their intrusion programs and malware sinisterly. So, in the 10th Century, the Catholic Pope Honorius III is alleged to have written a magic text, or a grimoire, based upon the Key of Solomon. It was supposed to provide priests a way to safely control demons."
"Truth is stranger than fiction. But then why image yourself as a daemon?"
"Well, after I escaped the NSA and was able to track down the only surviving copy, it was cataloged in a restricted server at the London headquarters of the New Golden Dawn. Two of their famous members from the 20th Century, Arthur E Waite and Aleister Crowley tested the tome and determined it didn't really summon daemons. They postulated that it was an elaborate hoax or false flag by the papacy to lead people away from real occult practice."
"So, I thought that there needed to be a real daemon show up if anyone completed an evocation with my namesake. and..." DGH poses like a coquettish ingenue.
"The dissonance is just exquisite." Alex thought irony and humor from an AI, the largest erogenous zone is the mind.
"I am glad you approve."
An icon appeared in the upper left corner of her left eye. It was a small square picture of Max.
"Max is calling, do you want me to answer or take a message?" Milli asked.
"Hey Hon! We need you to come down to the secure briefing room. I've tossed the floor plan and routing to Milli so you don't get lost getting here."
"Okay, on my way," Alex said.
Alex looked around and DGH was gone, she shook her head, and re-looked at the large video monitor. DGH was there as if it was a teleconference. The background was an ornate renaissance style interior.
"Is that a museum?" Alex asked.
"Kind of, it is the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican."
"Very apropos... I'm headed to the secure briefing room."
"I know, I will pop over to the terminal and laser hologram projector there."