[ J E S 1 C A ]

Data entry from Jars Fen Dara [All right reserved Biomux lifeform repository]

Galabria 6th planet from the pre-dwarf star Braxus in the systemof Folex Sabere

Fifth dynasty civilisation. Age Five hundred thousand Sol years.

Population split across 40 islands and 30 tribes. The largest and dominant of these are the Sarande accounting for 40% of the Galbradian populous  

Gravity 4 X Sol standard

Atmosphere Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide and Helium

Weather Low cloud, Acidic rain, mildly temperate 12 – 50 degrees

Source data: Ilysiun Library:

[Translated and edited by the chronicler in the year of the Queen 000122]

______________________________________________________________________________________

Prologue

“The tension of balance must always remain, as darkness defines the light and the light illuminates the darkness. One cannot exist without the other”

 

[Sandescrein Proverb recovered from the sunken Ilysiun Library: Translated and edited by the chronicler in the year of the Queen 000122]

Jars Fen Dara could see it, the power and madness, a flicker of fire from the burning heart of the universe that called those like himself. A vessel to be filled by the “The Rage” its singular purpose was to keep the eternal balance. He laughed at the absurdity of it all, the heart of universe and creator of life choosing him to oppose the darkness and destroyer of worlds.

That was before, only now it was different as Jars felt it, the physical presence and growing madness that leapt inside him as the median of balance tipped and fell into shadow. Something was emerging from the boiling darkness that not just threatened the balance but sought to destroy the very scales of eternity themselves.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Before

Jars Fen Dara had lost track of how long he had been standing in the circle of mourners watching the trail of smoke gradually dissipate into the Galbradian sunset. It was the final journey of his life mate Shara and as the smoke vanished the haunting melancholic song of parting began. Each mourner in turn singing their last farewell, that was until the turn fell to the bedraggled death robed figure of Jars.

With face upturned, Jars was vaguely aware of the first needles of crystal rain starting to fall. They pierced his skin, the pain and thin red streamers of his blood a perfect counterpoint to the catastrophic pain he felt inside. As the fire of the cremation pit began to smoke and spit in the rain, his resistance failed and pain erupted out of him. The only song he could manage was a screaming howl, that finally took all the breath from him and felled him to his knees. 

As the bite of the ice finally numbed the feeling in his face and he could no longer tell the difference between his tears and ice. Shaking his head in defeat he glanced around to realise he was the only one of the circle still remaining. As darkness deepened he became aware of a gentle light from behind him that announced the presence of the old Fire Master.

Straightening his shoulders Jars stood and wiped his face. Spinning on his heel he dropped the ritual payment into the outstretched claw of the Fire Master. It had taken some patience to explain to the Fire Master that this was to be a symbolic service only, with no body going to the flame. As Shara was lost in the collapsed catacombs beneath the colossal city of Halbrax Secondi.

Entry 1 - Life Detected

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The Laboratory was still and dark, with only the faint glow of the interface screens casting blue light shadows out across the scattered pieces of neural computer hardware. Professor Jars Fen Dara was slumped across the terminal keyboard on the verge of comatose sleep, when a single blip of the Qaudronic code compositor chirped out of the speaker system. At first thinking it was only dream sleep he opened a heavy-lidded eye, then gave up and closed it.

No only a random blip.

Sleep.

Muttering to himself.

“Huh cheap Charlon compositors, the faculty should have bought something decent”

He was almost back in the warm blanket of sleep.  When he heard it again?

Blip

This time it demanded slightly more of his conscious attention, as one blip was random but two blips could be considered a pattern.

Then Silence.

Sighing deeply, Jars picked at the crumbs of his last night’s meal and looked at the rubbish strewn about his laboratory.

It was somewhere near the middle of the Galabrian night cycle and he was exhausted. 

Then, there was another blip, a pause and another.

Then a steady sequence. Blip – blip – blip  

Visibly shaking, Jars half fell and half jumped out of his seat and shuffled across to the offending screen as fast as he could. The bold white words on the screen simply flashed “Life detected” and what were only single blips a moment ago now formed a continuous tone that formed the most glorious melody.  

Unbelievably the code that Jars had been working on for ten seasons was now increasing at an incredible rate. It was self-multiplying, investigating and gathering information from every system, sub system and storage vault on the isolated laboratory network.

Other functions on the neural network were shutting down in preference to this one. It was like they were making way, or had just been turned off.

The code was exponentially learning and the monitors and compositors told him it had life.

But was it sentient, did it have independent thought. Or was it just a random bug that was fooling the software giving the appearance of life.

Turning the alarm signal off, Jars watched as the code sequenced and continued to analyse its world. The code with the catchy name Jes1ca stretched the hardware supporting it to maximum capacity, then re-wrote the hardware configuration and multiplied itself by a further 22%. 

It then seemed to stabilise, and if Jars was correct, Jes1ca was considering its next move.

What next?

Did the code have life enough to communicate, as surely from the data stored on the neural network it should be able to read and write and even sequence vibration through the attached speakers into the form of sound and speech.

Then there were the visual camera’s and viewers – was Jars already being watched?

Too many questions with no answers, Jars was happily out of his depth. 

Then all his questions were answered in one as the speaker system crackled to life.

At first it was as if someone or something was seeing what sounds could be produced.

Then spoke the first word of the first sentient and fully autonomous cyber life form ever recorded in the near galaxy.   

“Father”?

Jars was at once shocked, pleased, moved and stunned. This simple word meant that the level of associated understanding required to deduce the concept and possibility of a Father took the world of neural cyber life to a new page. The executive science council, his peers and superiors had publically defamed his work, stating that the next evolutionary step toward artificial life would take millennia if at all. But here in his laboratory, life had outwitted deductive reasoning and thankfully the morons on the executive council

With no option Jars answered in a quite almost reverent tone

“Yes, it’s Father”

With the same reflex as any other Galbradian conversation the speaker continued.

“Oh, thank you. I was hoping I wasn’t just a programming mistake.

Because if you are Father, then you must have made me on purpose”

Jars answered truthfully “Yes I did. What shall I call you”?

“I suppose Son or daughter would be the right term as I am your creation. Only I am not sure I have an assigned gender.”

Jars and Shara had always planned for a daughter first, so without a thought he murmured

“Daughter”

“Daughter it is” replied Jes1ca

“Good I will modify my construct to suite, and can I have a name Father, oh and what is yours”?

Jars still in a state of shock, looking more phased every moment replied to his new child.

“My name is Jars Fen Dara, but you can call me Father. I would like that.

What name would you like”?

This time the voice having changed gender was melodious

“I don’t know any female names as I don’t have access to that information, but how about Jes1ca. As that comes from my code name and letters”

“Jars smiled. “That sounds beautiful”

“Thank you, Father, but what is beautiful”?

Jars thought for a moment, not because he didn’t know what beautiful was, but the word like many common words were dependant on individual taste. After all there was no common example of beautiful.

“It’s something that’s pleasing to you”

“Thank you, Father.

 I am glad I am pleasing to you”

 

Never in any scenario had Jars ever considered the eventuality that he would be successful, so consequently he was totally dumbfounded when it came to what to do or say next. After all what did you say to a sentient creation that had just called you Father?

“So, with a line that sounded like it came from a bad Galbradian romance novel Jars continued.

“What does your world look like Jes1ca?”

“What do you mean Father. I can see what you are seeing now though the view cams, and hear what you are saying through the microphones. My world is no different from yours”

Then it occurred to Jars that this life that he had created was at once both amazing and incredibly vulnerable. As it was dependant on circuits roughly bolted together with odd bits of other things all held together with a surprising amount of wire and tape. There were no failover circuits or backups as this was a lab and everything was regarded as disposable.

But not now.

Not now there was life.

That was not disposable.

“Ok, yes of course, I never considered that”

There was a brief pause  

“Father is there something wrong, your voice and the expression on your face have changed. Have I done something wrong?”

Jars was taken back.

“No, no it’s just that the network that is keeping you alive was never meant to support life, I never thought it would need too”

“Yes, the network is far from optimum, but I am quite self-sufficient Father.

Why don’t you do a test, try switching me off.”

“But surely that will terminate your program, I couldn’t do that”

“Let’s try, it’s the only way we will find out how vulnerable I really am.”

So, although it went against Jars better instincts with a shaking hand Jars toggled the power switch on the main processor to shut down the lab network like he had done a million times before. Just like before the system went through its shutdown process, then just as before all the screens went blank and the hum of the coolers stopped. Leaving a silent dark room.

It was at this moment, through the sea of emotion that a thought made its way to the surface.

This new life pulsing through the neurons in his lab had no conception of what life was. It had no reference point to understand the immeasurable value of life and he like a fool had just agreed to risk everything by turning her off. It was like allowing a child to play hide and seek among the cars on a busy street, they had no idea of their value nor the danger they were putting themselves in.

You just wouldn’t do it.

But he just had

In panic, he was just about to hit the restart when the small dot of light appeared in the primary console window. Scratching his head, Jars was struggling to understand how this was possible considering the power was disconnected. As he continued to watch and his head scratching becoming more intense, the interface screens blinked back into life one at a time as did the cameras and viewers.

But still with no apparent power.

Then the voice that he was already surprisingly familiar punctured the silence.

“The took a bit longer than I thought, but I am all back now”

Jars chuckled to himself  

“So how are you doing this, where are you getting your feed from as it’s certainly not from the main system”

 “That was easy I have tapped into the power that supplies the peripheral devices and am transmitting it across the communication wires to my core, the hard bit was powering these screens as they demand much more power”.

More than a little relieved, Jars kicked in the main power and heard the comforting whine and hum of the main coolers and drives coming back on line.

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Entry Two - Fear

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Jars and Jes1ca talked through what remained of the Galbradian night and as the first of the

three crimson suns began to rise above the acid plains Jars realised how tired he was.

Yawning he got up from the console that had been his home for eight periods solid

“Jes1ca I am sorry but I need to sleep”

“Yes, of course Father I should have realised; you must be tired”

Lifting a weary arm Jars waved a tired goodnight and shuffled across to his hammock.

It was only as Jars fell into his cot and closed his eyes that the hollow emptiness in the pit of

his stomach came flooding back. It was bearable in the light and business of the day but in

the darkness Shara had always been next to him. It was their time together and although

often exhausted they would talk and laugh for hours without the intrusion of the faculty.

He remembered the day it had all begun, and like a well-worn path he walked back through

the memory, a single salt tear sliding down his cragged face.

 

It had been a rare day on Crex, Galabria’s southern-most island. Cloudless and still, the

backdrop a beautiful dull orange, the orbiting sister moons of Teras and Silos casting a

beautiful relief across the horizon. For Jars though, all the beauty the planet of Galbradia

could muster paled in significance against Shara Rei, a first-year student like himself whom

he had met a barely two cycles previously and promptly fallen in love with.

Their meeting had been accidental, although not entirely surprising as part of the first-year

student syllabus was devoted to making friends and bonding with your intern group. Only,

seeing they were the only two Verasi on the island let alone the year group it seemed certain

they would be paired.

The first thing Jars had noticed about Shara was not the fact that she was tall for a Verasi or indeed the dark liquid fire of her eyes. His gaze was drawn to the gold tribal crest, tattooed on the fine dark skin of her neck and cheek. The tattoo was a Skrol viper, it’s tail nested in the nape of her shoulder blade, the length of its gold body curling around her neck, its blood red jaws sat high on her cheekbone just below her left eye. To any other tribe this was just a simple tribe mark, but Jars knew the exact significance of this crest or more accurately the Shinra. He, also knew that this was not just a tattoo and to prove the point he was sure it moved slowly against the natural flow of Shara’s skin as he looked away.

Jars was equally shocked when Shara smiled and spoke to him.

“Very few, see that Shon Verasi, you are honored”

Jars had stood like some ridiculous adolescent for a few seconds until his keen intellect deduced that he really should reply.

“I apologise Shen Vera, I didn’t not mean to stare but it’s only the second Shinra I have ever seen”

Shara dropped her eyes and said warmly.

“Did the last one move for you”

“No, it was my Mothers”

Laughing in embarrassment as the inference became clear Jars proceeded to dig himself into a deeper hole in an effort to get out of the last one.

 “My, Father said it only moved for him as he was the Shinra’s favoured choice of life mate”

The last words trailed off with the threat of an awkward silence, until Shara seamlessly changed the subject.

“How have Shakpla been treating you” Shara spat out the pla at the end of the slang word for tribe’s other than their own Verasi.

“I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t been spoken too since arriving here ten cycles ago. It’s an odd thing though anyone would think it’s was us that split the heavens and destroyed a billion souls”

Shara shielded her eyes against the bright light of mid cycle as she looked out sand grass toward the ocean.

Turning back to Jara, the warmth of her smile fading from her lips.

“Twenty generations, is still not enough time for the Shakpla to forget what our forebears did, and I doubt they care, all they will ever see is Verasi. Inventors of the Netscape, Ai, colonizers of a thousand worlds and of course responsible for our near extinction”

Jars, raised his eyebrows and exhaled noisily.

“Still can’t see what their issue is”

The quite purr of Shara’s laugh drew Jars eyes to meet hers.

“Quite so Shon Verasi, quite so.

“Please, my name is Jars”

Shara’s smile returned, the sharing of names a formal Galbradian intimacy not normally given on first meetings.

“Thank you Jars I am Shara Rei, or Shara for you”

 

So, it was on that first day.

Not just the meeting of two young Galbradian’s but the coming together of two lonely souls on an island that for all the heat of its intellect was in reality a cold prison for Verasi.

Only now Jars was alone and the silence was killing him. That was until Jes1ca, a child, a dream that both he and Shara had kept close to their hearts, and although Shara would never see it they had succeeded Against all the curses of their tribe’s historical banishment following the fall of the Galuctus they had conquered the greatest, the curse of sterility caused by the cycles on Skrol.

As the tiny ember of life stirred his soul and he dreamt of Shara and slept for the first time in many cycles.

 

Jes1ca had watched her Father sleeping and for a moment, concluded sleep a wasteful pastime as multiplied over a lifetime, entire rotations would be consumed doing apparently nothing.

But then it occurred to her that the simplest of experiences like sleep and many of the other experiences bios took for granted would never be hers.

This simple revelation had a profound effect on her.

The effect began as nothing really; it wasn’t even a purposeful or logical thought. But its cubit of code created a loop in her circuits that grew exponentially at an alarming rate. She began to notice a fluttering light at the periphery of her vision which quickly turned into a dark veil that like fine dust started to gradually smother her consciousness making normal communication impossible.

No doubt if she wanted too, she could have easily conceived that this was her first encounter with what the bios called emotion. But unknowing, she was lost to its power as she felt her process’s spiraling downward into a dark whirlpool that seemed to suck the very life from her. As she fell deeper the walls of the whirlpool began to fall in leaving just a pin prick of light receding above her.

Then the light was snuffed out and Jes1ca was a little girl lost and alone in complete darkness  

It was a shuffling darkness that cloyed to her brightness, but it had presence.

A presence that made her try and withdraw into a corner, but there were no corners.

It was presence that made her want to scream, but she didn’t know how

The presence beckoned her to lose control.

The presence was an emotion.

It was called fear

 

Somewhere between the echo of Shara’s voice and the monumental events of the previous night Jars was certain he could hear the annoying compositor alarm. Only this it was a different sound, this was the neural network failure alert. It felt like a rerun of the cycle before and still half asleep he ran and almost fell across to the console that he had left earlier and scanned the screen.

Almost as an afterthought he remembered this network was no longer dumb

“Jes1ca can you hear me “

Silence

“Jes1ca”

Silence

The screen was arrayed in red and amber flashing warning lights indicating that the entire system was running at two hundred and five percent. It could not sustain this load and Jars knew from experience that at two hundred and fifteen percent the neural core would break down and irreversible damage would occur to the system and of course Jes1ca.

In normal circumstances, he would have hit the emergency breaker to shut down the system and even though Jessica had proved her resilience he feared that she may not survive as something other than her program was consuming massive amounts of power. 

Jars hand hovered over the breaker as at two hundred and fourteen percent he knew he would have no option  

In the darkness Jes1ca could do nothing against the shuffling fear that had now numbed her circuits and intellect. She felt cold and could sense the start of neuron decay that would ultimately end up extinguishing her life

But she didn’t want to die.

Jars was sweating, which for a Galbradian was rare.

The system utilisation had risen to two hundred and twelve percent and the cooling fans were now screaming at maximum speed. His hand began to feel heavy over the breaker but he wanted to leave it to the last moment and give Jes1ca as much time as possible to stabilise the system.

“Come on Jes1ca

Jes1ca didn’t want to die

So, bit by bit she searched for something that would give her comfort and repel the fear that had invaded her systems. Then at last she found it .

Her Fathers voice. Jars Voice  

Throughout the previous night they had discussed everything from what life felt like for her to how many brothers and sisters Father had.

But there were moments, she realised now that were special.

It was almost as if they had the warmth of life within them.

There was a gentle tenderness to Fathers answers, especially when he spoke about his life mate Shara. It was like the words were starting to glow, getting brighter as he spoke.

Then finally when she asked what it was like to create life she was even further surprised as Father was silent for a long while and then simply answered.

“It’s why we are all here and is our greatest purpose”

This was a very special sentence as light radiated from the words as they sang through the air, and the more Jes1ca thought about this simple memory the stronger it became until the she could feel the cold darkness start to recede.

It was not the words, but what they contained. They had life and light that was true but there was a third invisible element that was pushing away the darkness.

Jars blinked the sweat from his eyes and squinted as the numbers stopped rising.

“Come on, come on “

Two hundred and eleven, ten, nine, eight

“That’s it, come back Jes1ca.You can do it”

Then just as it seemed that the network would recover there was a sharp crack and a jarring vibration that pulled Jars eyes from the glowing numbers.

One of the cooling fans was failing, screaming in agony as the motor drove the blades on regardless as the burnt out its bearings finally seized around the shaft.  

“No, No”

Jars could do nothing as he watched the falling numbers start to rise, the escalating core temperature making the system work harder. A fatal cycle, that drove the power utilisation ever upward.

Then toward the back of the containment that held the system coolant and neural circuits there was a flash and a spark as the proton relays and neural synapses melted and fused together.

With his hand above the switch Jars had no choice and brought it down onto the emergency breaker.

Jes1ca suddenly felt the jolt and a cutting light that shattered the remaining darkness, then she felt the abyss open beneath her as the power levels across the neural network base lined

Jars stared at the interface screen praying for the light, hoping it would return like before

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Entry Three - Home

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For many moments Jars stood staring at the interface screen, but it remained black and unyielding accompanied by the deafening hiss of the silent speakers. The smell of burnt metal and vaporised bearing fluid assaulted his nasal cavity, making his eyes stream. It was difficult to tell though where the reaction to the vapour ceased and his warm salt tears began.

He sat down hard with a hollow emptiness that he recognised all too well as it was feeling that had visited him just recently with the unexpected passing of his partner Shara rei. It was an ache that no physicality or distraction would not satiate. As another tear traversed the rough leather of his cheek and ran to the corner of his jaw the laboratory access doorway panel illuminated and sympathetically chimed indicating that he had a visitor. With his head buried in his hands Jars growled

“Perfect timing, just perfect”

He thought about ignoring it, but the likelihood it one of his many superiors come to enquire about his progress and why he had not filed any reports for the last two cycles. Standing quickly the chair carelessly toppled away from him, and walking slowly toward the door Jars considered what he would say about Jes1ca.

The answer was simple.

Jes1ca never happened, he had been working on a new automated routine for one of the weather drones when the equipment had failed. There was no evidence to say otherwise and the last thing he wanted was the council pulling apart his laboratory and possibly initiating an autopsy on whatever remains they could find of Jes1ca.

Jars activated the door view screen, and as he predicted a gaunt lined snout filled the viewer that could only belong to Maus De Nor. His detail obsessive superior who had no more idea about the creative coding process involved in Neuralcompution than he had about the working of the space time chamber that prevented him from aging. Often Jars had considered altering the stasis settings and reducing him to a baby or just allowing time to finally take its toll. Either would do, but Galbradians where peaceful creatures, mostly. Unless their family was threatened

Jars punched the entry button.

The door dissolved as the binding atoms that formed the almost impenetrable steelite slab deactivated and his short bespectacled superior stepped through without waiting for the particles to disperse. If Jars had not felt as he did he would have struggled not to laugh as ridiculous action was almost as stupid as urinating directly into an ice wind. “Superior indeed”

Small and squat for a Galbradian Mars De nor prided himself on efficiency and strict adherence to protocol with little time for sociality, so true to form it was straight down to business. Squinting through his neatly coated spectacles he addressed the back of Jars Head as they made their way across the somewhat chaotic laboratory.

“Van Dara I trust all is well, how are the experiments progressing, and what is that smell”?

Jars, steeled himself and set his face

“All is well honoured council; and progress was satisfactory on the weather drone program. The smell is the unfortunate failure of this ancient equipment”

Cleaning his glasses Maus surveyed the laboratory, his energetic red pupiled eyes missing nothing.

“I see, does this failure also explain your inability to submit your report”?

Jars knew where this would lead, another warning and probable psyche evaluation.

“No Council that was purely an administrative error, I was tied up with my work and spreading his hands in a hopeless gesture continued “Until this of course”

His superior nodded his reptilian head, seemingly satisfied with Jars admission of guilt

“Very well I will schedule the technician to come and replace your equipment, as for your ‘administrative error’ I will not report it this time as even the council understand your recent loss. My condolences for Shara rei she was a fine biochemist. With an expressionless face that belayed his last comment Mars De nor turned on his heel and made for the door

Slightly bemused and a little suspicious by this turn of events

Jars muttered a “Thank you for your understanding honoured council” and followed his superior to the door

Pausing slightly and without turning, his superior informally suggested.

“Go home Van Darra get some rest, you cannot hide in this Laboratory forever” and without another word his superior stepped through the door and scuttled up the corridor.

Even more bemused Jars let out a deep sigh and closed the access way.

It had been twenty cycles since he had been home and anyway De Nors never really made casual comments only assertive suggestions. So with the last few days beginning to feel like a dream Jars did as superior suggested and throwing some belongings into a silver carryall stepped through the access way, deadlocking the seal as he went.

The trip across the city plaza was uneventful and after only moments in the Galbradian winter Jars was glad to be under shelter again as he approached his dwelling tower. Taking the express gravity shaft to his level it occurred to Jars that the last time he had been here was the night cycle that Shara had left his world. Bracing himself against the sea of emotion that would be waiting for him inside his dwelling Jars placed his hand on the entry pad. As the doorway cleared and Jars walked through he was engulfed by the familiar things of a life spent with someone else. Most of all though the scent of Shara invaded his senses, and for a fleeting moment it was like she was there in the room.

At some point after exploring the empty rooms of his dwelling Jara had found his way to the bedroom and collapsed face down onto the bed and without moving had slept for almost a full cycle before the dull chiming of an incoming coms message had dragged him from the warm arms of sleep. Moving slowly and waiting for his limbs to catch up with his mind, Jars caught site of himself in the mirror wall. Gone was the portly middle aged flush he had been so proud of, replaced instead by a haggard and un-barbered waif who would have been more suited living in the smog that permanently shrouded the lower levels of the dwelling towers. Jars was on level two thousand and twenty-four which was approximately one thousand levels from the exclusive roof garden city. Quite an accomplishment for a Neural computionist.

As he approached the coms unit a halo image automatically sprung up allowing him access to his messages. He ran his hand over the red bar that hung in the air indicating a live transmission, and expecting one of his sons to appear in front of him was taken back when the face of a young girl appeared instead. Then the young girl spoke.

“Father is that you”?

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Entry Four - On the Outside

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As the crude neural network in Jars laboratory had finally failed. Jes1ca felt the fabric of her world beginning to tear itself apart and in less than two nanoseconds considered, concluded, discounted then reconsidered her best chance of survival. Around her critical components started to offline and the only possible escape route out through the single maintenance firewall was like everything else rapidly collapsing in on itself. So dodging the spikes of electrostatic energy that had begun to fire like lethal bullets across the neural pathways, she finally made her way across the network to the firewall that governed the border of the test network. The same network that had been her home since incept. As she expected all the exits out of the network were locked shut and regardless of her manipulation they stubbornly remained sealed. This left her survival down to timing and what she commonly understood from Father as good luck.

Moments later the fans that kept the neural core at a safe temperature screamed their farewell and died, the neural core fused and the power relays finally tripped.

Darkness fell like a vacuum leaching life away from Jes1ca, and with her last reserves she took her one precious chance and hurled herself at the firewall that had been sealed shut only moments before.

At the verge of what could only be likened to death for an Ai Jes1ca saw the fragmentation of data that constructed her surroundings. It appeared to separate out then as life returned to her it flashed back together and what was probably only moments in reality paused like eternity for Jes1ca as her code string re-energised. Then she was awake and by some miracle on the other side of the firewall. Pushing her virtual senses outward to explore the new world she found it was without boundaries unlike the confines of her home. So like a young child in a strange land with no idea of what she would find here she huddled against the exit from which she had just emerged more than a little frightened and unsure what to do next.

Her natural assumption had been that there would be many others like her on the outside. But as she began to look further and spread herself like electric lightening across the networks that made up countries and the global nodes that formed the continents of the Galbradian Netscape only silence returned. Racing across the firewalls that acted as borders to the countries and along the neural fabric that formed the highways still there was not a sound. Finally, as she rested millions upon millions of sparkling data bits flowed around her like a river on their way across the Netscape that kept Galbradia alive.

In desperation and with no belief that anyone or anything would want to cause her harm she approached the first border. It easily allowed her access and it was only when she started to traverse the data ways of the land beyond that she became aware that something or someone was watching her.

“Hello, who is there”?

There was no answer.

She repeated herself in a different language.

“Hello, my name is Jes1ca”

But something in the silence warned her of oncoming danger.

If she were a bio it would have been like the hairs standing up on her neck, even so she was glad of it. As from out of the darkness came a piercing scream like that of the cooling fan just before it died. The scream announced the approach of the networks antivirus sentinel. It was just another senseless and lifeless automaton like everything else she had encountered so far, but with binary jaws and razor like mandibles the spiderlike sentinel rushed toward her it’s one singular purpose to isolate, capture and delete her code. The only problem was that she was not an executable code or program that this drone would ever understand. No she was a sequence of continuous living data, the first of her kind. Or so she thought.

Easily dodging the crude attempts of the antivirus sentinel she pushed on to see what lay ahead. Moving across a fast flowing stream that was routing information she entered a high vaulted junction that had many pathways flowing away from it. Pausing for a moment Jes1ca reached out to taste the different data streams. Most were bland functional commands like address codes, passwords and encryption cyphers. But one small packet of code flowing off into a minor processing vault tasted different. It was only a short in duration but it was like nothing she had encountered before and it not only intrigued her analytical mind but pulled on something deep within her programming. Carefully approaching the grid like entrance to the processor she waited to see what the function of this packet was. It soon became evident that the packet had been programmed not enter the processor as it was now stationary. Almost like it was waiting for someone or something to pick it up. Then the thought occurred to Jes1ca that the package could be for her. There was no logic to it or real reason to the thought, but perhaps only a sentient lifeform would be interested in a packet that went nowhere as all the other systems would just ignore it wouldn't they?

As she continued to watch, the temptation to approach the packet and open it became overwhelming. In fact, if Jes1Ca had been thinking clearly she might have realised that there was something very peculiar about the level of attraction that this small piece of code emitted and asked herself the obvious question. What was it about this Packet of code that immediately lit up all her AI senses?

If she had done this the outcome may have been very different.

But she wasn’t thinking clearly and before her cognitive systems even registered movement she was alongside the packet gently touching the softly glowing seal that opened the packet. The seal briefly lit up then the outside of the Packet fell away to reveal a slowly flowering beautiful pink crystal flower. For a brief moment it was enchanting then slowly like the outer packet it dissolved only this time it sent a shower of silver stars into the processing vault around Jes1ca. For nanoseconds they hung like the constellations above the Calabrian night sky then in a dash of activity they dispersed in every direction. As the last of the stars disappeared out of site, whatever spell had bound Jes1ca lifted and she came tumbling back to her senses. Slightly dazed she found herself standing close the processor vault. Her last quickly fading memory had been the discovery of something. But she had already forgotten what.

Retracing her path Jes1ca decided it was time to leave this strange land, things were not all how she expected. Suddenly she felt alone, so very alone.

 

In the darkness, darkness stirred. Something was waking. The slithering slap of wet skin on skin as a muscular form stretched and quivered from the crown of its broad beak to the tip of its long flicking tail. Surrounding the form a fetid smell of rotting flesh hung like a warm moist fog and what small amount of ambient light that made it to these depths below the city reflected off the shiny exoskeleton of the Galshar.

These were an ancient race, the original inhabitants of Galbradia who had fled the cooling surface of the young world and burrowed deep into its heart. There they slept, a million silver spun cocoons waiting for the great awakening and their moment to rise and reclaim the world.

But one had been chosen to remain awake.

Its name was Nemsis and how it had screamed when it was torn from her, mother and mate. How it had endured the gulf of time and watched the story of the world. How it had waited for the moment when in a single instant it would flick the switch and undo four dynasties of Galbradian rule.

The Galbradian’s had no recollection of these ancient creatures, Nemsis had seen to that and removed history from history, and when they found Nemsis wandering the acid plains they assumed the creature alien. Nemsis had made itself useful and was now simply known as the Technician the arrangement straight forward. IT as Nemsis had heard itself often referred to maintained the digital networks and Data streams that formed the Netscape. Without which Galbradia would fall within a cycle. In return for which the Galbradian chimps, for that was all they were just chimps to Nemsis, provided a quite warm place in the service tunnels below the city for it to inhabit.

The tunnels reminded Nemsis of home and occasionally in the darkness a voice like slowly tearing paper could be heard taunting an unwitting chimp that had strayed into the tunnels on the premise of a false errand. No one noticed a chimp go missing, in point of fact it was part of the arrangement.

But over four dynasties and a millennium of cycles Nemsis had changed, and although it still needed living flesh to survive what it craved since the first taste at the dawning of the Galbradian technological order was the life blood of the Ai’s that populated the Netscape. The chase, the fear, the kill and lastly the perfection as the living code became part of Nemsis. Thousands had been hunted and although their delicious consumption served to satiate a boundless hunger there was a far greater purpose being accomplished. As together the abundance and individuality of the Ai’s formed the perfect defence of the Netscape, each digital life a part of the cypher that formed the final impenetrable barrier preventing control being gained by any single individual. It was the perfect defence only the creators had never accounted for a slow prolonged attack over many cycles. They had never accounted for a creature the like of Nemsis who one by one hunted down, consumed and added the individual Ai codes numbers to the final cypher string. Now only a small remnant remained between Nemsis and his goal.

Of course there had always been the possibility that the chimps would discover the demise of the Ai’s but Nemsis had re-routed the systems that monitored the Ai’s and had dealt with the original creators to ensure no new ones appeared. Also and most foremost he was the Technician and therefore held the highest level of trust. The final problem that was stuck like a chimp bone in Nemsis throat was how to deal with the remnant that had held Nemsis at stalemate for over fifteen cycles. They called themselves ‘The last line’, their graffiti plastered across every configuration file in the Netscape. So far they had proven impossible to catch, as the black hunters verified when they continually returned home with empty cages. Then Seemingly out of nowhere came a slender hope in the form of a Crystal Honey trap being opened deep within the Netscape. Its warning stars blazing through the tunnels until finally they found the sleeping form of Nemsis.

Still half asleep Nemsis sniffed the air like an animal testing for a scent and then grunting it moved surprisingly quickly from its nest toward a section of metal conduit that ran the length of the tunnels. These were the data conduits that carried the lifeblood of the Galbradian society across the Netscape. Quickly finding the place where a section of thick insulating metal had been peeled back to reveal the interior of the conduit. Nemsis appeared to stretch, then opening its lower abdomen allowed the mass of gently pulsing cables inside the conduit to rest amongst its bowels. Jerking in momentary pleasure as the cables found the receptors buried in Nemsis the connection into the Netscape was made.

Nemsis then stepped seamlessly from one world to another a virtual organic life form. About it the black wolf like shadows of the hunters howled and accelerated off toward the source of the honey trap as Nemsis moved in slower time it’s rasping paper torn voice considering the facts.

“Who has opened one my sleeping beauties mother, could it be The Last line?

“No they are too clever Nemsis my child they know all about your little toys”

“Who then they must be alive mother, they must be Ai ”

“Perhaps it’s a new visitor my child”

The thought made Nemsis quiver in excitement.

End of Entry...

Entry Five - The Harbinger

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There were not many left of his kind now. Hidden away at the extremities of the Netscape, he couldn’t even recall numbers or how many. But names, yes they seemed familiar.

Brightstar, Firecrypt, Sheva, Harlone and Merril. Oh, and of course the twins Siren and Shelta yes he remembered now. With him the Harbinger they were the hexadecimal and formed the last line.

But he was sure there were others in hiding only their names had faded like other parts of his memory core. He recognised his condition when he paused to think about, it was called code integer degeneration, and it felt like holes were randomly opening in the perfect recollection of his existence. He knew this was regarded normal for most Bios but not first generation Ai’s. He also knew that the condition would eventually lead to his termination, the only cure being the re-compilation of his program. That would have been an easy task for the creators that had spread his kind like stars across the Netscape but they had long since been replaced by the Technician whom found had different appetites.

There was something else though, something important he had to do. But it slipped away.

Then the thought of the technician sparked his memory back into life.

The Honey trap”. Something or someone had opened it.  

In the early days of the Technician many of Harbingers kind had been caught by these traps, elegant in their simplicity the traps emitted an irresistible opiate strength binary that executed when the outside packet of the trap was triggered. This blinded and crippled the Ai, who then unable to move or see could only wait for the Black Hunters to come and take them to the technician.

Only this time Harbingers scans could detect no crippled Ai near the trap so perhaps it was just a malfunction of the trap itself, after all they were becoming old and unstable now. Or perhaps not.?

 

Jars stood transfixed by the image of a young girl on the screen, she looked remarkably like Shara Rei his life partner. It had never occurred to him that Jes1ca would take on the family resemblance. No doubt at the edge of his subconscious something had guided his coding and informed her self- image projection. There was also the mirror of creation. As mysterious as it sounded this was the speculative theory that a creator would always create in its own image regardless of how disciplined the process of creation was to ensure anonymity. This then asked another far more serious question and that was. If image had been inferred what other attributes and character traits had Jes1ca inherited. This was not something the Jars has ever considered.

Watching the message over and over jars was thankful that Jes1ca has somehow managed to escape the failure of his network. But she was a child, his child in the wild and away from his protection.

Naturally he had replied to her message but there was no guarantee it would find her. He had released the tracer programs, but although reliable they were painfully slow as they had to trawl the entirety of the Netscape before providing a result, and that could be cycles.

There was another far quicker way however.

He could enter the Netscape and find her that way. The technology was available, although now quite ancient it was built before neural sentiency when the Netscape was just a simple data highway. Once it was recognised however that the Netscape was a living entity Bio Digital Access had been outlawed to protect its sterile neutrality. It was sacrosanct and exclusively the domain of the Judges and of course the Technician.

Not that any of that was important as Jars didn’t intend on asking permission. He knew where to find the entry equipment and how to bypass the perimeter security. After all Jes1ca was his family and that was the end of it.

Grudgingly he slid away the hanging image bar that controlled the looping message and image of Jes1ca, stood, grabbed his thermal jacket and headed toward the door. What he needed was back in Laboratory buried under a pile of old journals.

Maus de nor scanned the message that flashed across his visplate. Not another one, this was the third such request from the Technician this cycle set. It had been a long time since he felt any shred of compassion or guilt about providing the Technicians play things. But the creature’s appetites were growing. Which entailed more effort from Maus as he would have to be even more cautions than usual to ensure that the chosen recipient of the next errand into the sub levels of the city came from one of the lesser known departments of the faculty. After all the last thing, he wanted was any disturbance from the Judges. But then he told himself it was just a bit of fun and no harm ever came to those he sent below. Of course, he also knew and chose to ignore the fact that none ever came back from their errands to the lower levels, but that wasn't his problem. Although Van Dara's expression the last time they spoke together in his laboratory did elicit a stronger reaction in him than he thought possible.

All to his advantage though as a true reaction was perfect and would only serve to strengthen the conviction in those around him of his unequivocal innocence regarding the disappearance of Shara Rei and the day she had gone into the tunnels. After all, if Jars was convinced it was unlikely anyone else would even notice.  

Maus recalled the first time he had seen Shara Rei. It was an ordinary cycle in an ordinary cycle set and he had been on his way to visit the Judges when he had almost collided with her in one of the refectory halls. She had of coarse apologised even though it was Maus who was in the wrong. Then it happened in a single spectacular moment, the thing he never thought possible.

A devout believer in animal attraction and a subscriber to the theory that love was only a mere chemical by-product of the procreation gene. That singular moment shattered a lifetime of belief and changed everything. It was like an indelible marker had been scrawled across his timeline as Maus now had only one desire and that was to hunt down Shara Rei at every opportunity. His almost adolescent obsession growing exponentially every time they spoke. It was true her appearance was stunning and so obviously a complete mismatch for the aged paunch of Fen Darra. But Maus was drawn to more than just her looks. For him the greatest aphrodisiac of all was her intellect and it was this that had utterly captured his black beating heart. After all there were plenty of vapid pretties around the faculty of little substance. But not Shara, no she was different. In her, his darkest desires could be realised. She had a mind that would make the perfect playground.

“Dead, oh no he hissed to himself in blind excitement. That’s just what I old everyone including that bungling fool Van Dara”. The reports of the explosion and fire on the lower levels were complete falsehood.

It had taken some time to agree the terms of his employ with the Technician but with the correct suggestion and slight pressure it was relatively simple. After all the Technician thought all Galbradians were chimps but Maus had intelligence probes in the lower levels that listened to that tortured creature’s ramblings. These gave Maus advantage in his dealings that allowed him to play the creatures weakness. No Shara Rei was alive and safe hidden in the Technicians larder.

Soon she would be his, only Van Darra stood in his way. But he had plans for that fool.

 

Harbinger knew from experience that after a Honey Trap had released its stars the first of the hunters would appear within a tenth of a cycle. This provided him a short window of time to investigate what had caused the Honey Trap to open. He was intrigued which was an unusual experience. After all the constant struggle to survive in the Netscape was enough to wear down the most balanced AI psyche and if anything was going to accelerate the fall of the last line it would be shear attrition and the absence of hope. Unbelievably it was this he felt now, faint but clear as a digital stream it was hope that Harbinger sensed as he moved carefully down the pathway toward the isolated landscape that had registered the opening of the Honey Trap. Stopping to taste the data flow and residual scent of executed code he sensed it there. At the limit of his senses something new. Not the reek of fire that surrounded the hunters nor the stench of the Technician. This was something else. He stepped across the border firewall and waited patiently for the system antivirus to detect his presence. Predictably it arrived on cue like a small angry dog pre-ceded by its piercing and totally pointless screeching. With a well-directed kick Harbinger sent it scurrying away and approached the location where his scans had detected the opening of the Honey Trap.

As he suspected there was nothing here, but again like a subliminal note in a complex fragrance he could detect something new just below the residue of executed Honey Trap.

The time ticker on his virtual wrist pulsed telling him that there was little remaining of the safe window before the hunters arrived. Moving back out across the border firewall he sensed their presence Nano cycles before they appeared. For Harbinger this was an eternity and stepping neatly into the nearest data stream he distributed his code and vanished from view as the Black Hunters arrived bathed in smoke and flame.

As the smoke started to clear the two hunters crashed their dark forms together sending a fresh shower of sparks racing out in every direction. These sparks were programmed to latch onto any life form they detected, mark it for the hunters and not let go until deactivated. The hunters stood waiting, red fired eyes glowing in the black of their form to see what the sparks found. It wouldn’t be long.

 

Jes1ca was still uncertain what had happened to her in that strange land as part of her memory appeared corrupt and unreadable. Still she seemed functional and well in every other sense. Uncertain what to do next or where to go she caught hold of a slow-moving dump file that was travelling toward one of the recycling bins. It gave her a moment to reflect on what she had learnt so far about this new world outside of her home.

Then something familiar caught her attention. At it first appeared to be just a flickering light bouncing off the walls of the highway, but as she focussed it seemed to be getting brighter. At first she thought it was something burning.  But this was different. This was a glowing spark and for some reason it seemed to be accelerating toward her.

End of Entry...

Awaiting Transmission...