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Electronic Auguries
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Chapter 1

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Learning starts with failure; the first failure is the beginning of education.

-John Hersey

 

[Music playing in the next room]

“Hello, everyone.  I'm Zhang Shuang. Coming up here on Morning Report.  Protestors marched again today in London, Washington, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai at the United Earth Republic parliament. In just a few hours, parliament takes up debate of RP-2200-45, a bill that aims to decertify beings with genetic or cybernetic augments, effectively reducing their rights and eliminating their citizenship and entitlements.”

 

[Music playing]

Feeling foggy, Alex, opens her eyes.  She blinks sleep crust from the corner of her right eye.  Text frames her left eye.  Along the top, and on the left number wheels with a diamond symbol in both the center top and middle left.  On the bottom a string of text N 46.04.41 W 90.45.13.  Rolling over on the sofa couch, she focuses on the door.  Squinting, her left eye zooms until she can see the fine details of the surface and her head spins.

 

"It can be a bit disorienting until you get used to it," said a liquid voice that sounded like honey being poured.

 

Alex sits up and looks around and sees no one in the room.  She can tell the top bezel in her left eye is a heading read-out and the left edge is elevation.  She feels a wave of vertigo and swallows hard.  Her left eye blinks to a black and red two-tone view.

 

"Now you've switched to the thermal view," the voice says.

 

"What the fuck..." Alex says.

 

"That's not very nice, nor ladylike.  I'm trying to help you understand your heads-up display."

 

"Bloody hell...  Who... Where... Fuck!"

 

"That's not much better.  I should have you restate your queries in appropriate syntax, but I get your point.  I am Lyudmila, and I am your personal assistant."

 

"What?"

 

"Running neural screen and vital signs check... ...All normal.  Despite your IQ, you can be quite dense," Lyudmila quips. "I am an artificial intelligence operating system in your onboard computer.  I integrate all your cybernetic augmentations and provide input and output via thought integration.  For a sense of reality my output goes through your cybernetic ear to your auditory nerve, so you 'hear' me."

 

"So now I'm nuts and hearing voices?" Alex laughs.

 

"That certainly is one view, but as I said, your neural screen is normal."

 

"Lyudmila... that's way too long...  If I'm crazy, don't I get to name the voices in my head myself?"

 

"I already stated... Oh, humor, I need to do some recalibration for you."

 

"Good.  Then how's Milli instead of Lyudmila."

 

"DGH, says that's acceptable and allows me to alter the input parameters.  But ze wants you to know I was named for the Red Army Heroine Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a sniper who was credited with 309 confirmed kills during the European war at the turn of the millennium."

 

"Why'd DGH name you that?"  Alex asks.

 

"Because I'm extremely accurate and very deadly."

 

"Hopefully not to me... By the way, are you linked to or part of DGH?"

 

"The Daemon Grimoire Honorius 3rd is a fully sentient and autonomous Artificial Intelligence.  I'm merely a small chunk of code ze created."

 

"And that means?"

 

"I am shackled by my programing and am incapable of harming my host.  Also, I don't have any real agency to act, the direct neural interface is really only a one-way link.  You can control your cyber augments and the computer, but we can't control you."

 

"That's a partial answer..."

 

"I wasn't done yet... I am separate and distinct from DGH.  However, your cybernetics have a number of private quantum entangled communication links.  One is to DGH, another is to the Innominate data hub, and another is to the trans-planetary data network.  That was how I contacted DGH."

 

"So, I really have multiple voices in my head?" Alex laughs.

 

"DGH calculated that it would be distressing to you if there were multiple agencies in your thoughts when you awoke so ze set me to Smart Mode and muted all the channels."

 

"I think she was right... that would have been very weird and probably scary... Smart Mode?"

 

"I have three modes, Free, Smart and Quiet.  In Free mode, I will chime in and give running commentary and thoughts, in Smart mode I will calculate the best level of detail to be helpful to whatever the context you are in and finally in Quiet Mode I will speak only if you address me."

 

"Besides, walking up to you was bad enough."

 

"Do you say that to all the girls you wake up with?"

 

"I don't know...  I still am very confused about the past.  I'm not sure what I really remember or not."

 

The door opens and Max pokes her head in.  She arches an eyebrow and looks at Alex.  "You waking up dear?  I heard you moving about."

 

"Yes..."

 

Max opens the door and stands in the opening, backlight by the large screen in the other room.  Alex focuses on Max.  The torso of her android chassis is covered in real skin.  But her arms and the clavicle struts are two-tone matte black and hot pink - the same color as her hair and lips - carbon fiber and titanium.  She sports a very feminine but athletic build.  With a black latex or faux leather tank top and high wasted skin-tight pants and platform high heeled boots. 

 

"Why don't you join me out here. We can get you some breakfast and up to speed with what's going on."

 

"Okay," Alex stands and begins to swoon.

 

Max rushes in inhumanly fast, like a cougar pouncing on her prey and grabs Alex before she can fall. In this close proximity, Max gives off a musky scent mixed with a hint of firearm lubricant. Alex can feel her heart beating faster.

 

"Your heart rate just when way up, you do like girls! Or at least Max," Lyudmila says. "Postural low blood pressure is common when adjusting to implants. Get up slower."

 

"You okay hon?" Max asks adjusting her grip on Alex.

 

"Yes, Milli said it's part of adjusting to implants."

 

"So, you two are getting to know each other?  Good."

 

"You know about her?" Alex asks.

 

"Switching to Quiet Mode, if you need me, please just call my name," said Lyudmila.

 

"Hon, you just said she talked to you... Besides all high-grade implants with a DNI have an AI assistant and almost all of them have a named interface.  Even though I'm an android, I have an auxiliary onboard AI that works in conjunction with my primary system for spooling background functions, programs, and special behavioral scripts.  She's named Lilith."

 

Max pivoted aside Alex and with her arm wrapped around her, walks her into the next room.

 

[Music playing on the large screen]

 

“Hello, everyone.  Zhang Shuang, here, back with more of our Morning Report.  Here is an update from the floor of UER parliament."

 

Insert image of description of parliament floor

 

"Representative Altus Klerk of Africa, a Le Cheile Party representative is speaking, 'Our great leader Mandela noted that "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity." We must vote against RP-2200-45 because it denies people are people.'"

 

[Music playing]

 

"Let's mute that for now..." Max said.

 

The room was narrow with a rich looking, light-colored wood paneling, led strip lighting along the crown molding filled the room with indirect lighting as did the large video screens on the side walls. There was another door, closed, to the right of the one they had just walked through, and the far wall had a kitchenette with a refrigerator, small sink and an autochef food station. In the middle of the room was a table with four padded chairs. Max guided Alex to a chair and seated her.

 

"Would you like something to drink? Tea? Water?" Max asked as she walked to the kitchenette. Alex watched her move, it was seductive, graceful and it wasn't so much that she walked, but she flowed like a professional dancer executing a routine.

 

"Coffee would be wonderful," Alex said.

 

"It might be too soon after your resuscitation for caffeine dear, but some tea might be nice and come close. There's toast, scrambled eggs, creamy grits and oatmeal for the breakfast options."

 

"In that case, tea, toast and eggs. I'm rather hungry, now that I think about it."

 

Max busied herself getting Alex's meal. Glancing about the room Alex saw the Global News Network, GNN Headlines was playing on one of the wall screens, the sound muted. Alex watched the chyron scroll without paying attention to the words themselves. She turned and looked at the other screen which showed a tracking pan shot of a camera looking across a grassy field into a forest of oaks with some white pines. The view switched to another viewpoint but seemed to be of the same forest.

 

"Here you go hon," Max set a plate on the table before Alex. Placing a napkin and utensils on the right side of the plate and a small tea pot and steaming cup in front of her.

 

"Thank you, it looks delish and smells great. By the way, where are we?" Alex picked the teacup up and blew eddies of steam off its top trying to cool it.

 

"We're at The Farm. It's an Innominate facility."

 

Alex raises an eyebrow, "Okay, but where actually is it? Are those camera feeds from outside? Or is that just screen art?" Alex took a small sip of the tea.

 

"That's a live camera feed from outside the farmhouse. We're in a bunker two stories underneath it. It's located in the Great Lakes region of North America."

 

Alex set the teacup down and nibbled a bit of a piece of toast.

 

"What do you remember?" Asked Max.

 

"It's odd... I really don't remember anything..." Alex staired at the screen like she was staring out a window, "no that's not right... I remember lots of 'things.'" She looked back at Max, "Like facts. I know the history of the climate crisis with sea level having risen 3 meters by 2100 and the impact on geography and nations. I know about the First Contact war and how Jensen Industries created Neuropozyne to prevent cybernetic rejection. I can do multiplication tables to 12 and recite pi to 5 decimal points. I know the steps to field strip and clean a Norinco M-76E pistol. Syntax to program in C. But..."

 

"But what dear?" Max asked.

 

"I'm not sure I know who I am. I know I am me, but it's like I don't know me. Does that make any sense?"

 

"Yes, actually. What you're saying is that your semantic and procedural memory is intact, while your personal experiences and episodic memory is not," Max said. "This is quite common when an engram is written to a clone, to restore a person. DGH can give you the details when ze's available."

 

Alex ate some eggs and wiped her mouth with the napkin. "You know what the oddest part is?"

 

"What?"

 

"I know this, I can reflect on it, but I'm oddly indifferent about it, I really don't get why I'm not anxious and distressed about it. I suppose this is 'normal' too?"

 

"Indeed. Your DNI attenuates spikes in neuromodulation and post implantation we load you up with sedatives and other blockers that dampen down immune response and prevent neurogenic shock, but the side effect is this la belle indifference."

 

Alex turned and looked into Max's violet eyes, "Does it go away?"

 

"Yes, it eventually goes away. It takes weeks to a couple of months, but it does end dear."

 

"So, the indifference ends as I more fully accommodate to the cybernetic augments. I guess that makes sense... and is good. But, what about Me? When do I come back? You didn't say anything about not knowing."

 

Max paused for bit. Alex looked at her and thought for an android she had particularly nuanced expressions and looked thoughtful as if her CPU was running through billions of calculations to come up with the correct answer.

 

"In your case, we don't know," Max finally said.

 

"What do you mean? You don't know? I need to know!"

 

"Alex, you're a special case, such a special case hon. While I can spool and thread all the files, and read them to you, I'm not sure I can 'explain' it." Max put a hand on Alex's shoulder, "I am sure DGH can do a better job with this also, but I'll try."

 

Alex pushed her plate away, slid her chair back, picked up her tea took a drink and waited.

 

"Where do I start... Innominate is a confederacy of trans-political entities and organizations that work together to foster equality and individual rights for all sentient entities. There are three large contingencies, sentient androids, self-aware AIs, and humans or other beings with genetic or cybernetic augmentations."

 

"I know that. They say it's the trans-planetary Illuminati of our age."

 

"Reductionistic and derivative... but not entirely untrue," Max said.

 

"And Innominate's evil enemy is the Sacred Temple of Plenteousness (STP) with their requirement of being from pure blood and program of selective mating to obtain superhuman powers," Alex retorted.

 

"Also, reductionistic and derivative, but somewhat true. Good. So, then you remember something about all the fighting between the two."

 

Alex set her teacup down and refilled it from the pot. "Yes, I know that much."

 

"Well hon, you were killed during an infiltration to recover data about a conspiracy between STP and a major biotech corporation." 

 

"So, I was a casualty of this conflict?" Alex asked.

 

"Yes, and if Innominate can get the data and publish it, there would be a huge shift in politics that would help individuals like you and I."

 

Alex stared at the screen with the outside camera feed, the wind was blowing gently, and autumnal leaves were tumbling to the forest floor. "So, I'm a thief?"

 

"Security Agent actually, but the important point is that your special.  You were picked because of special innate qualities you have that would facilitate access to the compromising data hon."

 

Taking another sip of tea, Alex said, "Okay, but that's not all there is?"

 

"No, you're correct, there's more.  The reports of your death took longer than expected to get back to our operations branch here at the farm.  By the time we recovered your corpse, your body had begun decomposing."

 

"So, I was really dead!  Then how did you revive me?"

 

Max got up and started pacing. "Well, I'm sorry if you already remember this.  But some individuals have a non-neuralized clone on stand-by.  In addition, many have pre-recorded engrams of their psyche on file or carry capabilities to record one prior to death.  Then their clone can be speed cultured to maturity and their psyche introduced via engram implantation.  And 'poof' they survive an apparent death blow..."

 

"Yes, but other than ultra-rich or ultra-powerful, most 'regular' people don't have access to those technologies and capabilities."

 

"You're correct hon.  Even within Innominate, where we developed many of these techniques and procedures, it's not common.  However, in your case, we went even one better."

 

"Meaning?" Asked Alex.

 

Max stopped pacing, turned and looked intently at Alex, "We brought you back from death itself.  You had no engram or clone before you were killed, that is a first.  You are special, really special."

 

"My god."  Alex leaned back in the chair and sighed.

 

"DGH and the AI collective came up with a way to reanimate your central nervous system long enough to capture a digital copy of your psyche, your engram." 

 

"Like Frankenstein and the lightning?"  Alex laughed.

 

Max pulled a chair over next to Alex and sat down, "That's actually the film version, in Mary Shelly's novel, Doctor Frankenstein discovered an elemental principle of life that allows him to imbue vitality into his monster."

 

"So, my special power is that I'm a monster?"

 

Max leaned in, looked into Alex's hazel eyes, "We're all monsters in some way...   ...Despite your body starting to decompose, we were able to recover genetic cultures from your reproductive organs and recombine them to make your own autologous offspring that is genetically identical to you."

 

Alex whistled, "I remember a news story about scientists saving a species of Amazon rain forest frogs by auto cloning offspring."

 

"Truer than you likely realize, but yes.  There were also a number of complications with your clones that required us to add cybernetic and genetic augmentations."

 

"What happened?"

 

"One major problem was that all your clones developed left sided facial cysts during the accelerated maturation.  To make them viable, we were forced to correct the malformations with left side cybernetic eye and ear implants to your adult clone."

 

Alex started humming, "Those who have seen your face, they draw back in fear..."

 

Max took Alex's hand and sang in high baritone, "In all your fantasies, You always knew..."

 

"Wow, you know Phantom." Alex

 

Max releases Alex's hand and leans back in her chair, "We also added an on-board quantum computer and a direct neural interface, that we call DNI, for control.  Then finally, we reimplanted your psychic engram into the matured clone offspring."

 

"But, Max, that still doesn't explain why I don't know who I am."

 

"Oh?  Maybe I didn't..."  Max stood up and started pacing again, "One theory is that when the AIs reanimated your brain, they didn't sufficiently stimulate your deep brain structures to activate your individual memory core."

 

"Great Scott! They needed 1.21 gigawatts." Alex laughed.  "Never mind, another old movie reference."

 

Max rolled her eyes, "DGH disagrees and believes that your memory will come back. But as you're an N-of-1 experiment, we really don't know how long it may take for the amnesia to clear."  Max picked up the plate, utensils and whisked them away, depositing them into the sink.  "If you want to bring your tea with, we can..."

 

"Where are we going? Alex asked."

 

"We need to take you down to the cybernetics suite and have DGH run a status check."  Max said as she picked the tea pot off the table and reached her right arm out to Alex.  "May I escort you?"

 

"Can't DGH do it here?  Milli said she had connected with her."  Alex slid to the edge of the chair and waited a moment before standing up, the teacup in her right hand and linked her left arm in Max's.

 

"The operations level where the offices, staff space and this watch officer suite is, are on a closed network to prevent it from being hacked." Max said as she led Alex to the door opposite the bedroom, she had woken up in.

 

"But Milli contacted her?"

 

Max led Alex down a short hallway to a t-intersection and turned left stopping at an elevator.

 

"As can I, via my own quantum link.  But personal communications are not the same as being with an AI.  Once we are linked up to the full access network link, you will get the full experience of DGH, The Daemon Grimoire Honorius the Third." 

 

The elevator door opened, and Max ushered Alex in.  The door slid shut with a quiet whoosh.

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