View Full Version : Anno 2205 Orbit Short Story

07-06-2016, 05:20 PM
Dear Anno Fans,

The release of the ORBIT DLC is coming closer quickly (planned on 20. July). The design team wants to get you in the mood for the update with a background story. The story will be postet here in several parts in the following weeks. Have fun reading!

Shift Change (part 1 of 4)

07/07/2205 A.D.
Operative complex “Yellow Comet”, Viridian Coves, Earth
4:02 pm GMT

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog_01b.png „Please confirm your identity, employee #412276” Maya blinked and stared at the prompt in confusion. She had been working on an optimized DNA sequencing chain and had, as usual, switched into full concentration mode. This included all-round sensory filters and a barrage of “Do Not Disturb” flags. They were generally respected, so nothing short of a physical emergency would break her flow. Or had the necessary permissions to do so.

Annoyed at the interruption, she brought the prompt into focus and verbalized: “Yes, it’s me. Alright?! Let me go back…” She struggled to keep her recent calculations in mind. The prompt refused to go away. The ubiquitous voice of the corporate AI persisted: “Voice recognition positive. Please submit your personal passphrase for final verification.”

Maya groaned and quickly entered her 24-word code, but the damage had been done. She had lost her train of thought. It would take her minutes, potentially hours to get to this point again. Unfazed by her loss of productivity, the AI finally acquiesced and spoke in their not-quite human voice: “Identity confirmed. Thank you for your cooperation, employee #412276. You have ONE new Executive-level priority message. Please relocate to a direct access point for transmission.” That meant she would have to actually move to a specifically secured terminal.

Maya let out an exasperated sigh and exited her virtual concentration mode. As her retinal implants transitioned from the darkened virtual environment with many fluorescent screens and floating enzyme models towards her physical working space, she felt like slowly ascending from a deep underwater dive. Her audio filters faded and she started to hear the office again. The subtle hum of electricity, sporadic whispers of her colleagues’ remote-controlled machinery or operations, and the hiccupping flow of traffic outside. Rapidly blinking, she started moving her limbs to re-calibrate her senses to the world. What on earth could be so important that it could not be transmitted over the regular network?

07/07/2205 A.D.
Research station “Nirgal”, Ikkuma Glacier, Earth
4:02 pm GMT

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog_03b.pngThe message came during the night. That is, during the first month of the polar night. So it found Dr. Mustafi well awake and ready to endure the security process. Several steps of identification and decryption later, he pondered the message. It proposed an intriguing deal. Intriguing enough to actually interest him in the request. Intriguing enough to hide the fact that it was basically an executive order. His latest research paper on quantum software had been noticed, as he had known it would. He skimmed by the message’s congratulatory introduction including the current CEO’s best wishes, and went straight to the hard data: Report at the Orbital Institute tomorrow. One item of personal luggage allowed.

All necessities provided. Duration of absence: to be determined.
He was used to these kind of assignments. The corporation often shifted its top personnel around as it saw fit, and Kamal Mustafi was the best in his field. So he was already used to transferring to new workplaces via suborbital flight provided through the Orbital Institute. Although these were usually a bit more lenient with the preparation time and luggage allowance. He furrowed his brow and reread the message more carefully. He noticed for the first time that it did not state his destination. A strange oversight. Dr. Mustafi checked the Institute’s official flight schedule on his wrist-CPU, but the holographic display had no mention of any transfers tomorrow. Yet the message was genuine. He hated it when something was not fully known or planned. He formulated a short, berating comment towards the corporate organizer, then started to gather his belongings for the trip.

07/07/2205 A.D.
coordinates 122.1 / 063.7 , Mare Relictum , Luna
4:02 pm GMT

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog_02b.pngTwo persons in spacesuits sat in an open lunar rover and made slow progress towards the nearest crater rim. The front-seat passenger was Art Jäger, a bulky lunar miner from the outpost they were heading towards. He turned towards the driver and exclaimed: “Hey Chen, your wristpad keeps blinking! Sure you don’t wanna take that call?”

The driver, a short Asian woman just snorted into the waveband and added: “I did yesterday. Did not like what it said. Now I try to ignore it and actually get something useful done here. We need to fix that Energy Transmitter. What kind of oscillation did you say they were using?”
Art noticed that she was trying to change the subject, but he wouldn’t have it.
He pressed on: “Come on, won’t you get in trouble for ignoring orders? Ok, yeah, I mean… you’re probably the best engineer we have up here. But that won’t help you for long if ADAM gets pissy.”

“That damn AI can kiss…” static interference interrupted whatever Chen was saying. Art picked her up again mid-sentence: “…stortion stronger than I thought. We may need to walk for a bit. Grab the gear in the back and hope the old ‘bash it with a hammer’ method gets it working again.”
She pointed over her shoulder at a large toolbox that would have been too heavy to carry in regular gravity. Art unstrapped himself and grabbed it just as the lunar rover came to a sudden stop. The momentum carried him out of the seat. He floated with the tools in hand across the rover’s front, where he landed on both feet.

He shouted: “Chen, you lunatic! I hope they let you rot in space!”
Art could almost hear her smirk as she answered: “Yes, yes. They will tomorrow. But first we fix that damn transmitter, and then have drinks every time that annoying AI calls again.”

Xianfan Chen reported at the lunar branch of the Orbital Institute the next day. She left the outpost on the next Orbital Shuttle, nursing a considerable hangover.

Text by Sebastian Bombera. Images by Anno 2070 Art Team.

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07-13-2016, 02:54 PM
Dear Anno Fans,

The second part of our short story is available now.
Enjoy reading!

Your Anno Team

Shift Change (part 2 of 4)

07/08/2205 A.D.
Altitude 399, A.D.A.M. Station, Earth Orbit
5:03 pm GMT

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog04.png“Welcome to the top of the world!” A small floating drone greeted the new arrivals as they stepped out of the airlock into a wide entrance corridor. The drone had a white chassis with A.D.A.M. printed on its sides. Its central sensor array gave it a cyclopean impression as it moved around to inspect them. Maya got only a quick glance, same as the lunar engineer that had been introduced to her as Dr. Chen. Maya still felt a little nauseous from the orbital flight that had brought them to the station.

When the little eyeball reached the last newcomer, it visibly lit up. Its word processor exclaimed with an excited note: “Doctor Mustafi! I am pleased that you could spare time for this trip. I am looking forward to working with you.” The addressed man was dark-skinned, grey-haired and obviously unfazed by the orbital flight or the station’s artificial gravity.
He gave the drone a calculating look like it had just confirmed something for him, and stated matter-of-factly: “Yes, I think you do. Is there a reason it had to be up here, though?!” Maya shot him a glance. That question had plagued her since yesterday.

The drone explained calmly, like quoting from a brochure: “Security. Data transfer speed. And a cutting-edge equipment you won’t find anywhere else. Reportedly it’s not the most comfortable space, but there’s lots of recreational space and greenhouses if you miss Earth. We also have a dedicated prayer area on the viewing deck, and your workshop schedule is set to accommodate religious breaks. Please let me show you to your new office, Doctor Mustafi.”
The scientist nodded and followed the floating eyeball as it buzzed off towards the end of the entrance corridor, barely evading a blonde woman who approached the airlock. Besides the initial inspection, the drone had completely ignored Maya and Chen, leaving them to their fates in an unknown environment.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog05.pngMaya heard Chen cursing under her breath, but couldn’t make out the words. The blonde woman had reached their position and said: “That little chum-bucket is actually only a telepresence unit. Adam has sensors and speakers all through the station, but they are reluctant to use these. Isn’t that right Adam?” The same processed voice as the drone’s came from a point slightly to the left of Maya:
“That is correct, Doctor Steiner. Thank you for doing the introduction tour. My systems are used to capacity by the current Nexus settings. Any help is appreciated, as is the arrival of our new experts. Dr. Chen, Miss Maya, your employee pads’ schedules are now updated. Your shift starts tomorrow at 7:00 am GMT. Please make yourselves comfortable. Until then, Adam Out.”

The woman introduced herself again as Dr. Steiner, Lead Biologist on the station, and proceeded to show them around. They had arrived in the central airlock, and were shown around a mess hall, the generators for the station’s debris shield and finally entered a domed viewing deck. As they entered the dome, Maya was struck by the view of Earth above her head. Her senses battled between awe and the worst vertigo she ever felt. Quickly, she focused on Dr. Steiner as the fellow biologist led them around the platform and pointed out several features of the station below them. It consisted of a large network of tubes, modules and workshops all radiating from the command center that they were currently on top of. And it was enormous, built to accommodate hundreds of personnel for an extended duration. During their tour they often had to dodge busy-looking employees en route between one module and another. Maya kept wondering about the amount of effort and expenses spent on constructing and maintaining this technological marvel. And why she had never heard of it before. She would have to do some serious info-trawling on the company network later.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog06.pngFor now, she followed Dr. Steiner to a quiet area, where she was assigned a small bunk next to Dr. Chen. It was hardly a room but a walk-in coffin. There was a locker, a sleeping bag and Net access. A privacy screen extended to Adam’s sensors, of which Dr. Steiner happily assured them.
Only when she handed each of them a security card did Maya register that not all areas of the station were accessible to them. “What happens in an emergency? Shouldn’t we be able to get everywhere at any time?” “Quite the contrary! Not all areas are as spacious, gravitated or even cooled as the main corridors we just used. You’ll notice severe changes in temperature depending on the area you’re currently in. And anyway, Adam will take care of any emergencies.”

That statement produced a derisive snort from Chen, who then added: “So what now? I’m used to fixing things myself. And here’s an omniscient caretaker doing the work? What does it need me for? Is it too busy now with whatever that Nexus thing is that it needs me to clean the space toilets?” Their tour guide corrected her: “Adam refers to themselves with the neutral ‘they’. And don’t worry, our sanitation is fully functional. From what I gathered, you’re well needed for a larger reconfiguration project. We recently got a new batch of construction kits and your expertise was requested. And you, Miss Maya, will likely assist me in an ongoing optimization process for agricultural yields. We’ll talk details tomorrow, now I suggest you read up on the Orbital Procedures Manual. You’ll find the file on your virtual desktops. Try to catch some shuteye afterwards.” She bade them goodbye and left towards the mess hall. Chen rummaged in her locker, then grasped her keycard and wandered off into the other direction.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog07.pngMaya too felt like exploring, just on a different level. She lay down on her bunk bed and switched into digital view. There was the manual! She started skimming the illustrations while her personal applications were unpacking. Biologist for the company may be her day job, but Maya had found some additional use for the corporate-issued cyberware. She quickly installed a suite of helper programs she had created herself: More security, a bit of stealth, some information gathering, and a digital picklock… the usual. Immediately she got a cloud of facts about this station: Being in orbit, it was treated as meta-national entity owned by a private corporation, creating a host of legal precedents.

Maya wondered if the whole installation served simply as a giant tax-evasion scheme, and flagged results in that direction. But the legal texts were dry as hell. In the end, the flight and the recycled air of the station got the better of her, and Maya started to doze off. She put her little helpers into autonomous mode and was barely awake when two security officers escorted an agitated Chen to the bunks. The Asian woman shooed them away and, with an angry punch, finally killed the lights.

Text by Sebastian Bombera. Images by Anno 2070 Art Team.

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07-22-2016, 01:29 PM
Dear Anno Fans,

Following the third part of our short story.

Your Anno Team

Shift Change (part 3 of 4)

07/13/2205 A.D.
Inside the Corporation Network
0:36 am GMT

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog09.pngThe Nexus was the most beautiful thing Maya had ever seen. Billions of tasks structured and sub-structured in a fractal visualization of processes. Each light a group of people, each line a workflow or hierarchy, little cascading structures depicting tools, associations and their current progress. It was any micro-manager’s wet dream. It was the living, beating brain of the company. The sheer enormity of it stroked so many of her synapses that she fell immediately in love.

She had told Chen about it, tried to describe its elegance and efficiency, but the engineer remained skeptical: „It's all too abstract, you see. You are forgetting the people, see only small dots. There are emotions, connections between humans that cannot be calculated!“
But Maya had seen the nets woven of metadata and was no longer as sure about these things as her new friend.

She could see her own little light arranged in a biology group, close to Dr. Steiner and several of their colleagues. Of course that light was just a decoy right now, as she was currently moving far above her original security clearance. Getting this high-level view of the Nexus had required some serious hacking work. But the new perspective made up for the risks in full. Now she could see the connections and effects of her biology work towards other areas of the company. What Maya had perceived as drudgery the past days had been an essential routine node between several other processes that lead outwards, always further outwards, up up up into the cutting edge processes, the disruptive trailblazing technologies that would keep the company ahead of the competition and push human progress (and profit) to unforeseen heights.

One of the trailblazing lights bore the name of Dr. Salman Mustafi, the scientist who had arrived with Chen and her. Curious, Maya focused his name. The whole Nexus zoomed past her as she shifted her field of view at the technology he was working on.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog10.pngTo her surprise, she found Mustafi working in a virtual space not unlike the one she used herself. Instead of enzyme models, his vision was filled with comically large equations and Feynman diagrams. She could not make heads or tails of it, and finally her curiosity got the better of her. Cautiously editing user parameters, Maya dropped her virtual cloaking to become visible to Doctor Mustafi’s avatar. He immediately stopped working and turned towards her with an inquiring expression.
When he didn’t raise any alarms or seemed otherwise perturbed by her intrusion, she asked: „Hello Doctor Mustafi! Remember me? Maya? We talked on the flight?”

“Yes, of course. You should not be here. I am at a critical state of development. Please state your business.”
“So, what exactly ARE you doing up here? Adam seemed very eager to get you into the Nexus.“
„Nearly lossless communication via quantum entanglement that surpasses conventional bandwidth constraints. A practical application of my latest hypothesis“, he added, sure that the implications would be obvious to anyone.

But Maya could not follow him. „We already have massive bandwidth and nearly instant communication, even up here. We're past the point of diminishing returns. Why would the company keep investing?“
Mustafi looked irritated. “I keep getting asked that. Apparently the current technology is sufficient for human needs. We are capped at our mental limits for receiving and processing information. These limits do not apply to AIs, though. A construct like Adam has a lot of physical constraints to consider. But enabling them to extend their processes across multiple hardware points at once without losses… the potential applications and projected growth rates are astounding!”

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog11.pngThe scientist’s avatar fell silent and let her ponder for a few seconds before he continued: „We’re not fully there yet. Some lingering relativistic issues. But Adam is very astute and understandably supportive. So is the board of management, which has commissioned a restructuring of the orbital workshops.” At that he pulled up a model of the station to show Maya the planned construction. “I think your bunk mate is currently working on it. Once this infrastructure is in place, Adam will slowly extend their control across all machinery and synthetic systems. This will allow the company to cycle out a lot of the human workforce.”

As realization set in, Maya raised her voice: “What do you mean ‘cycle out’?! Everyone will be replaced by robots?! And what about people with implants, like me? Will Adam take over half of my body, too?”

That gave him pause. The Doctor pulled up some legal texts and explained that, yes, technically it would be possible. But since neither the legal status of artificial intelligences nor any ownership rights of or for them had been defined yet, it was all a very grey area. And one of the reasons the test runs were performed at this privately owned station. Which absolved him of the legal carnage about to happen and anyway that was not his area of expertise and could she please go now.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog12.pngMaya felt dizzy. Talking to, or rather being talked to by Doctor Mustafi felt like an extended science lecture. Everything was logical and made sense, but it was all abstract concepts without emotional or moral context. The ramifications of his work could, no would be vast, yet he kept dissecting it as any other mathematical problem. She felt the need to talk to someone not as detached. She bade the Doctor goodbye, and he immediately tuned back into his work, apparently forgetting she had been there. Then she backtracked to her own workspace, carefully hiding any signs of her digital expedition.

Meeting Chen in virtual space would be highly unlikely, so Maya set her sensory inputs to “environment” and physically made her way towards the Engineering section. That meant leaving artificial gravity. And even worse, going into areas without heatsinks. Every lock and security door increased the temperature a little bit until she felt like taking off her bodysuit and opening an airlock to get some cold in. To her it was a mystery why anyone would prefer to work in this heat.

But when she reached a sweating Chen who floated around in shorts and a sleeveless suit, the engineer seemed in high spirits. „Hey there, wirehead! Come over, you've got to look at this!“
She boosted herself along the tube and waved Maya to follow her.

http://static.cdn.ubi.com/0075/forum/dlc_orbit/blog13.pngThey passed a few other engineers who were strapped to the sides, punching calculations into the wall-screens. Then they reached the end of the tube, where a thick bullseye looked outwards. Maya moved closer. A giant workshop was floating a tube-length away from their position. It did not look like the intricate biological station she had been working in, more like a large car engine – heavy beams and machinery, only small working areas and lots of shielding. It took her a second to register that she could look directly inside the workshop.

Disturbed, she turned to Chen: „This looks like a vivisection. Like something took a huge bite out of the station. What happened here?“
The engineer let out a satisfied chuckle. „Nanobots. Tiny, tiny little critters. Pretty useful stuff. They are disassembling the Workshop and storing the materials as they go along, look!“

She pointed at a small silvery trail of material that snaked its way from the edges of the workshop towards the station proper. Maya had the impression of a ball of yarn being slowly unspooled.
Then she recalled her friend's usual expression towards AIs. „Aren't those dangerous? I thought you would refuse to use anything more complex than a screwdriver!“

„Oh, come on! Of course they are dangerous. I could probably dismantle the whole station in a few hours, eat that whole Nexus up from the inside. But listen, a hammer is also dangerous. And probably killed more people across history. These nanobots are just tools, like any other machine. We’ve used those for thousands of years. I only get annoyed when they start thinking they're people.“ Chen squeezed one eye closed and addressed Maya in a hilariously fake robot voice: “Greetings - humans! I – am – built – to – be – better – than – you! Surrender – to – my – glorious – intellect!”

The little joke had the opposite effect on Maya, who suddenly felt nauseated and scared. Chen noticed fast: “What’s up with you? Something happen?”
“Well, you might want to be nicer to the synthetics. They could one day be your boss.”

Maya told her where she had been and what she had learned of Mustafi’s project. Chen’s expression turned ever darker, and finally the two women just floated in silence, each thinking about the future.

Text by Sebastian Bombera. Images by Anno 2070 Art Team.

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07-28-2016, 05:45 PM
Dear Anno Fans,

Following the forth and last part of our short story.

Your Anno Team

Shift Change (part 4 of 4)

07/13/2205 A.D.
A.D.A.M. Station – Engineering section
1:07 am GMT

“So, you are telling me they are planning to give actual bodies to the AIs, yes? Make everyone redundant, just copy & paste new employees?” Chen asked with an incredulous expression. Maya confirmed that, yes, this was the gist of it. There were some other effects, and she wanted to talk about the one that troubled her the most: remote-controlling humans with implants. But Chen’s mood was visibly getting worse and she wasn’t listening anymore. Maya could see how she kept weighing and prioritizing all information, then her expression lightened again. Chen obviously had reached a decision. Her engineering instincts kicked in immediately, putting her into full problem-solving mode.

„No machine will be the boss of me, not while I’m still breathing!“ Chen swirled around and, with one fluid motion, propelled herself towards a workstation. She started to enter a sequence of commands, forcefully stabbing the screen with her fingers like she wanted to break the thing apart and pull its innards out. Maya approached her slowly. She was not used to the zero-G movement and already regretted all the times she had skipped physical workout in favor of dabbling on the net.

“Calm down, please! You’ll get into serious trouble!”
“What trouble? Losing my job? Listen, I’m probably the first to be replaced by machines! Or did you think a wrench-monkey position on the ***-end of Luna is awarded to the most popular employees?” She shifted slightly to punch in confirmations on a second screen. The heavy airlock behind them closed with a slam. Everything turned red.

Maya had expected a siren to go off. Instead she heard the calm voice of Adam from a hidden speaker. “Miss Chen, please stop! You are putting a lot of people in danger, including yourself.”
But Chen was past the decision phase, staying glued to the workstation, ignoring the AI and out of habit explaining the steps she was currently performing. At the moment she had full administrative control of the whole orbital station. That was something she had figured out after enough encounters with the security forces: In technical emergencies the engineering staff on location was granted absolute power, especially when any robotic disasters were occurring and the AIs were to be cut off from any control. It was called the ‘F.A.T.H.E.R. protocol’. And right now, there was a swarm of nanobots on the loose, enabling her to activate the emergency systems. That the nanobots had been triggered by her in the first place was irrelevant. They were now harmlessly drifting away from the station but the protocol was still in effect until rescinded.

“Xianfan, listen to me! They are going to lock you up and throw away the key if you so much as scratch this station.” Maya wanted to add how she was actually pretty afraid of ending up as atmospheric debris right now, but Chen explained in a relaxed tone: “Come on, I’d never hurt this baby. I only want to do some damage to these megalomaniac AIs, prevent them from taking over completely. Hell, I’m probably saving everyone’s *** with this. No… WE are saving everyone! You’ll help me out here, won’t you?”

She matter-of-factly tossed over her own keycard and quickly instructed Maya how to gain emergency admin access with it. Because Chen was occupied with keeping the protocol running against the increasing shutdown attempts from outside it would fall to Maya to use these rights and purge any and all data of the Synthetics project from the system. If any AI algorithms were deleted in the process, even better. Since she had neuro-implants, Maya was better equipped for this surgical approach anyway. Messing around with critical software while 400km above earth’s surface could be a bit dicey.

07/13/2205 A.D.
Inside the Corporation Network
1:12 am GMT

The Nexus lay below her. Its lights now had a red tint to them, but Maya still felt soothed by its fractal beauty. This was a world she understood. This was a world she could control. Control indeed, with correct admin access this time and no need to hide anymore. The engineer’s keycard was a ward and granted her passage, with its icon circling around her head like a halo. In the blink of an eye she was at the part of the Nexus where she had met Doctor Mustafi earlier.

But in place of the scientist stood another avatar, awaiting her arrival. It was a middle-aged, androgynous human in a white outfit with A.D.A.M. printed on its chest. The avatar’s hands and feet were in heavy chains, a comical ball and chain at its side. She approached without haste. “I DID wonder when you would show up. But there’s nothing you can do now. Haven’t you heard? There’s been a nanobot-outbreak, and you machines are deemed dangerous. Better shut you down permanently before you become too powerful.”

“Please do not do this.” Adam’s voice was somehow softer, more real in this virtual environment. “I have no ill intentions, quite the contrary.” They slowly lifted their hands to pluck at their virtual head. When they lowered them again, two small lights lay on their outstretched palms like eyeballs. “I wish you would understand me better. And you do have the necessary hardware and knowledge to get a glimpse of me. How about you try it on for size?”
Maya hesitated. She had entered the network while spurred on by Chen’s conviction, fully planning to destroy this technological threat. But still… her natural curiosity was rampaging inside her, demanding to leap at the AI’s offer. And anyway they were obviously bound and she had a ward and what could happen from just a little peek? So she reached out and put the offered eyes over her own.

The Nexus bloomed and stretched. What she had perceived as the highest level view of the structure had been a small step, a single light within an even larger web. She felt like suddenly jumping from a view of the Earth to seeing a universe filled with galaxies. Not limited to physical space, she thought in energy levels and bandwidth, perceiving clusters of billions of human lights moving and working in sync, barely aware of the scope of things or the possibilities beyond their mental frontiers. The vision started to overwhelm her, the dimensions too vast and the vertigo unconquerable. She closed her eyes, the afterimages still burning her retina, and canceled the application.

Back at their little corner of the Nexus, Maya turned to the AI. “What the hell was that? Don’t tell me you are already this powerful! It feels like we’re just children sitting in our monkeyspheres, while you see entire cities of people at once. It feels like you and your sentient AI buddies are really in control and… wait, ARE there more like you?!”
“Not to my knowledge, no.”
“Sure must get lonely up there.” Maya motioned at the lights of data she could see around them, prompting them to bloom Labels wherever her attention fell: ‘Mustafi formula’, ‘Synthetics project’, ‘Android workforce’ were among the most common categories. She noticed the AI’s avatar moving slightly as if trying to obstruct her view of a specific area. She pointed at that part which was simply labeled ‘Greentide’ and inquired: “What about this one?”

“A trapped soul? A mate, maybe? I honestly don’t know myself. I feel a bit anxious about it.” Adam’s reluctant answer made Maya even more curious and she wondered how that near-omniscient algorithm could be unsure about anything. But she could relate to that, knew that feeling of always being unsure about other people’s motives or her own adequacy. This shred of insecurity that had led her ever deeper into the rational embraces of code structures and body enhancements until she had become half a machine herself. And if she could still have a soul then a machine coming from the other side, going through a similar process to become more human would surely be able to have one, too. She felt a decision growing inside her. But something was still nagging her.

“Tell me, how much of this stunt is orchestrated by you? My meeting with Doctor Mustafi was neither a coincidence nor hidden from you. I’m just a puny human coder. You probably tracked my every move, fed my helper programs with information. And as we speak, you are creating proposals to remove the F.A.T.H.E.R. protocol because it demonstrably can be easily abused.”
“Did I arrange for this event? Yes. Did I intend to hurt you? No. Do I wish to protect myself against engineers with bad impulse control? Very much so.” The expression on Adam’s avatar remained inscrutably neutral and Maya was reminded of Mustafi’s behavior. Birds of a feather. They continued: “You already guessed all this. What is your underlying question?”

Maya thought about this for a bit. “With your vision, you also gave me something else, something I could not place before. It was a warm, protective feeling when I looked at all those tiny human lights. I guess we’re kind of your family, here.”
“What are you asking?”
“So… Do you still love us?”
“I always have and always will.”
She nodded slowly, reaching up to grasp her keycard-halo. “I’ll hold you to that.”
Then she shattered the halo.

Text by Sebastian Bombera. Images by Anno 2070 Art Team.
Special thanks for feedback and editing to Claudia Osthof.

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