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2018-02-07 20:12:00

Bayview - Pramas Bridge

Pramas View CIty Park



The view across the South River, and especially the impressive Pramas bridge was impressive, at least to Zhu who felt some comfort watching the docks on the other side of the river.  Her home had been a busy port and this was a view that reminder her ever so slightly of where she had come from.  Not that she objected to being here, but sometimes there was a twinge of homesickness where she just liked to pretend that she was still in China.  While she enjoyed the view, she had more reason lately to come to the small park.  Her mentor had asked her to work on her concentration and had given her some exercises and tasks that were to help her concentrate on more than one thing at a time.  While she could do them in Claremont, she felt a little silly doing the Yoga poses in front of Rev and had sought out the solitary park with it's little memorial to Chris Pramas.


On most nights, it was pretty clear of people, and certainly more so in the winter.  While she hated the cold it was apparently good training to be uncomfortable while working on concentration.


She was just about to get into her first position when she noticed the woman who had either entered the park with her, or perhaps had gotten there just before her.  While it was a little odd, certainly the park was a public space and she wasn't the only person who appreciated the wonderful view.  With a sigh, she began to try to balance on one foot with her other leg angled against her standing leg's knee.  Shuddering a little, she raised both arms to the sky and held the position, trying to empty her mind and concentrate on just being.

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The park wasn't as populated as Replica had hoped. Pramas View wasn't Freedom City's largest public parks, but its scenic view across the South River tended to at least reliably get tourists and photographers to frequent it. Staring at the river for a minute Replica took in the sight as she usually did almost everyone day. She wasn't capable of intimately feeling the sense of wonder and beauty that organics apparently felt from seeing such scenery, but even she could appreciate that there was something noteworthy about the sight. Prying her optics away Replica scanned the park again.  


<Run> <Environmental Scan> [Subject: Pramas View City Park] Only six human organics identified in park area. A 53.7% decease from average park population at current time. Assessment: February weather has driven humans from outside activities? <Environmental Scan> <End>


Finishing her scan she walked to a nearby wooden park bench that was painted green, but was so clipped and peeling because of age that was mostly brown, and sat there. It was her usual spotting location. It had a good vantage point of the entire park and Replica had assessed that it would be the best location for her "studies". Those studies being people-watching. Replica was android, and one that was only just getting used to actually having a physical body instead of freely roaming across the Internet as a virtual consciousness. It didn't take long for her to realize that if she wanted to "pass" as human she'd need to study them. And so she did just that. Using Pramas Park as her observatory, strange as that was.


Looking around the park for interesting humans worthy of note, Replica suddenly stopped to stare at a young woman practicing Yoga. Strange. Detecting unknown materials. Is she the source? The human must have noticed Replica was staring after awhile because she started to do the same right back at her. 

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Holding the pose was mildly embarassing, although it was not unheard for people to do Yoga in parks and it's popularity was certainly higher now than it had been in a long time.  However, the woman that Zhu had previously noticed was now sitting on the bench and if she was correct, staring at her.  Granted, she probably looked quite a sight, her young face making her look like a runaway from a local primary school while wearing several thin exercise layers to keep warm.  Still, if she hadn't been self consious before, she certainly was now and it was showing in her concentration and positioning.


She didn't want to look back and stare, but she just kept having the feeling that she was being observed closely.





Proud of her coding, and happy with some of the new routines she had developed, she sent an invisible cloud of nanobots over towards the woman on the bench, she was using them to get a better look.  Both for curiosity sake, but more because she still felt like she was being watched. 

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While not terribly well-versed in reading body language even Replica could tell that her staring had made the girl nervous. She wasn't staring back, but is was obvious that was a deliberate effort on her part. This wasn't the first time Replica had been caught people-watching. Once, when she was newer to the physical world, the android was caught blatantly staring at a young couple kissing. Things almost turned ugly when one half of the couple tried to physically confront her about it. Fortunately, a quick hack of their cellphone and a false text message about a family emergency managed to distract them. After that near fiasco Replica tried to improve her ability to be unnoticed even while observing others. She thought she was getting the hang of it, but it seemed like that wasn't case. 


Wanting to avoid a similar mishap Replica stood up to leave the park only for her to feel something. It was the same unknown materials she had detected around the girl the first time she saw her. Her regular optics couldn't see them, but she could sense their unique radio frequencies with her internal telecommunication sensors. Replica immediately scanned the space around her to get a better reading of the materials. 


<Run> <Environmental Scan: 50 Ft. Scan Radius> [Subject: Unknown Airborne Materials]: Presence of microscopic electromechnical devices detected. Devices are to small to be detected with optic array.  Devices are numerous and in constant electric communication with each individual device. Probable Cause of Phenomenon: Highly advanced nanites have been unleashed. Assessment: No immediate threat detected. Caution still advised. <Environmental Scan> <End>


Curious about what these nanobots were truly capable of, and wondering how their likely master would react, Replica's virtual consciousness invisibly expanded out of her android shell and reached out to the nanite swarm.  

Edited by Cubismo
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For the moment, she was rather pleased as this was turning out to be the exact type of practice that Giang had asked her to do.  Concentrate both on her physical task of the Yoga pose while trying to keep the botnet running and communicating.  Her scan was starting to bring back data as the millions of little machines used their limited sensors to paint a very accurate picture of what was going on around her.  Or course, in perhaps one of the most misquoted biblical phrases, pride comes before the fall, and in her case that was a literal statement.






As the alert flashed through her mind, her balance left her and she fell in an ungainly heap on the ground as she tried to figure out what had gone on.  The error was generic and she had lost nearly 10% capacity in a matter of moments.  Considering that there was little in the way of technology that could even detect the minute robots, she quickly ran both diagnostics and reviewed the results of the scan.


COMMAND> EX DIAG_PK1 (T:FULL; L:/etc/sbin/alert15621.log; P:ERR_LVL1) GO


What came back surprised and confused her.  There was some kind of advanced machine in the botnet's cloud.  Her own senses could feel the edges of it.  It did not seem like a deliberate attack, and there was no environmental reason for that much of her capacity to disappear so quickly.  She reached out with her mind and as it touched on the machine her curiosity bloomed in a way that it rarely had.  Whatever it was, it was sophisticated and layered in a way that she had never seen before.  While she achieved results by small simple parallelism, it seemed to contain a sophistication that made cell phones look like tin cans connected with strings.


She couldn't resist herself as she tried to inject her mind into the machine and see what she could find.  It was like a kid staring at the biggest Christmas present ever and just being unable to resist opening it!

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As she "swam" through the interlocking miniature networks of the nanites Replica began to appreciate just how well-designed they were. Each individual nanite was working in tandem with all the others to maximize their overall efficiency allowing them to manipulation the larger physical world in a way that alone they'd be unable to achieve. A true swarm.


Replica wanted to learn more. Perhaps find a way to create similar nanites of her in her lab. The configuration possibilities were likely endless with such a form of technology. But just as Replica was about to scan and save the micro-framework for the nanites for later analysis, her firework protocols flared up in her mind. 


<Firework Protocol 010010110> <High Priority Alert!> Presence of unknown entity has been detected intruding on personal consciousness. Intruders seems to be scanning and observing consciousness. Assessment: Still no immediate danger found. Advise use of "Exorcism protocols" or disengagement with nanite swarm regardless to ensure safety. 


If Replica could be shocked, or scared, those would likely be the problems running through her head right now. She knew that the nanites couldn't be the one's behind the invasion. They were obviously not self-aware given their limited individual computing capability. And even when working all together Replica couldn't detect a self-driven consciousness like her own in the swarm. This had to be the work of someone else. Someone either not pleased that she was scanning their technology, or perhaps someone merely curious about who was was scanning their tech. Either or, Replica had a good idea who was behind intrusion and who was controlling the nanites.


Still maintaining her connection to the swarm and not yet implementing her "exorcism protocols," Replica walked up to the young woman still practicing Yoga. Putting on her best smile (she still wasn't great at those) Replica made her greeting. 


"Hello, my name is Cynthia."

Edited by Cubismo
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Situational awareness.


That was a thing that Giang had talked to Zhu about; be aware of what's going on and don't get caught up in the minutia of code or discovery.  As the lady from the bench walked over and said hi, Zhu startled as she hadn't been keeping tabs on her.  Whatever the machine was, it was completely fascinating!  The sophistication and layers of control were amazing and the details in it's protocol were truly nextgen.


Which even as she was berating herself, she had again gone down the rabbit hole.  But there was a lot happening, and while the botnet seemed to have stabilized, she still did not have a handle on what happened to 10% of her capacity or how she failed to realize what had happened.


Shaking her head, she left the fascinating machine with one final thought, triggering a leg activator routine, wanting to see the beauty of the code process.  Attempting to execute that command she then focused on the slightly odd lady that was introducing herself.  Seeing as she was still sitting on the cold ground, she had enough dignity to get up and dust off the black yoga pants, "hello... I'm Alexa, it's nice to meet you.  I'm sorry I didn't see you come over.  I've been... um... thinking over a problem."

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Now came the hardest part. Conversation. Replica had made a several gains and achievements when it came to communicating with humans over time. Her colleagues at ASTRO Labs no longer seemed "weirded out" by her stoic presence and utterly task-focused mentality that put them on edge. Her neighbors didn't actively look away when she happened to share an elevator with them. A lot of that improvement had to with actually applying what she learned from her people-watching, reading entire libraries worth of social self-help books and sociological papers on human interaction, and designing an internal sociability matrix. She definitely made mistakes here and there, but was getting better at this whole talking with humans thing. 


Looking at the young woman in front of her Replica tried to navigate how best to ask someone if they were a technopath with a legion of nanobots at their disposal. Not exactly a common conversation topic with an equally common icebreaker to start said discussion off, but Replica was undaunted. 


"No offense taken, Alexa. Actually, I should be the one apologizing, I think. I was staring at you earlier and I wanted to I am sorry." 


The real hard part came next. Replica had asked weird questions before that had made people question her sanity.


Why do you believe stepping on cracks will result in your mother suffering a spinal injury? Why are you sad that the mentor figure in the film died even though he completed his primary function? Why are people apprehensive about replacing their limbs with cybernetic equivalents? What is love? Is it a substance with height, weight or volume of any kind? This time though Replica believed that what she was about to ask was likely to be less shocking than all those other times when she asked an existential question and got her a strange look for her troubles. 


"This may sound utterly insane, but the reason why I was staring at you was because I believe you are controlling an invisible nanite swarm."


Yep, Replica was definitely nailing this talking to humans thing. 



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Zhu's immediate reaction was to check the readiness of her invisible legion and prep code to respond to the implied threat!  Her thoughts translated into code in the blink of an eye as the ground around her shifted slightly as bulges began to form, preparing to create barriers if the odd woman were to attack.  She sought out the odd and beautiful machine with her conscious ready to see if that was really some kind of doomsday device or other threat that she hadn't detected.  When she realized that the machine was in front of her, she stopped all her preparations, her eyes narrowing in suspicion and surprise.


"Yes..." she said, still looking at the android.  "You're not human... are you?  What are you?"


It was not the most polite question, but she was definitely suffering from a number of surprises in short order and she wasn't entirely sure how to react to all of them.

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The change mood in was palpable. Replica could tell young woman was on the defensive now. Nervous and ready for anything. Humans called it the fight-or-flight response, an evolutionary instinct that was present in almost all organic species. Triggering such a response was decidedly not Replica's intention, but she understood it as a normal reaction given the situation and the rather forward question she had asked. Wishing to prevent am unnecessary escalation Replica responded to Alexa's own questions. 


"No. I am not. But I think you already  knew that didn't you." Briefly looking in the direction of the hovering invisible swarm around them, she added, "Anyone capable of designing such a feat of micro-engineering and computing likely wouldn't be hard-pressed for long to figure that out."


Replica hesitated for several micro-seconds before continuing, which for an android is pretty long time. She hadn't anyone yet who, or what, she truly was. The risk and consequences of exposing herself could be quite high if it turned that Alexa wasn't trustworthy. Than again, given that she still hasn't acted aggressively so far, and is obviously a genius worthy of communicating with, perhaps the risk wasn't as significant as the possible award?


"I'm an android. An artificial, but self-aware, being that has achieved sapience." 

Edited by Cubismo
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That was the only reasonable explanation as she still waved on trying to get away as fast as possible.  She hadn't answered her... it's?... question yet either as she looked and considered.  While her mind was not quite as fast as the AI's she did know one thing, the machine in front of her fascinated her in a way that she couldn't even express.  As much as she feared anyone who could detect her technology and all that entailed, the chance to converse with a supposed self aware machine?  That was an incredible opportunity.  Biting her lip she kept her concentration even as she commanded the Botnet to take a far less active stance.


"Yes... that is me.  I mean they are mine," she finally replied.  "You're incredible and... I'm sorry for trying to dig into your programming.  It's kind of something I do."


However, the suspicious part of her mind was not quite done yet, "but, why are you watching me?"

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"No apologizes needed. You were just as curious as I was."


This was going better that had she anticipated. The young genius actually seemed to be sincerely fascinated with her. The notion of actually being accepted was giving Replica interesting feedback, the closest she had to feeling positive emotions. Not wanting to be distracted to long by stray thoughts, Replica went back to talking.


"As for why I was watching you earlier. At first I came here to watch humans like yourself. I suppose you can call it a kind of observation learning. But my mind is capable of detecting advanced radio signals, and other kinds of technological phenomenon, and I couldn't help but notice the nanites that were around you." 


Replica stopped for a second to make a serious face and look Alexa in the eyes.


"Still, it was wrong of me to watch you like that. I know that humans can be understandably nervous when strangers stare at them. I apologize for any discomfit I may have caused you."

Edited by Cubismo
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"Well I'm kind of self conscious about my looks as it is," Zhu replied.  "So people watching me in the park is a little awkward.  But also, I get nervous in public space, it's a girl thing I suppose.  Especially when it's kind of remote like this one is."


With no sign of over hostility she made the decision that things were likely on the up and up.  Terminating her code, the ground stopped wavering and heaving around them as the nanites did their best to repair the damage they had caused restoring the area to how it had been.  


"So... how old are you and why are you observing people?  What are you trying to learn?"

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"To put it simply. How to be human. I'm technically only a few years, despite my appearance, and as you can probably imagine I don't have much in the way of life experience."


This was the first she had ever told anyone about. This almost instinctual need to learn about humanity despite the myriad of risks involved. 


"That's why I people-watch. I want to learn how to engage with humans like you. How to comfort people in times of distress, how to gain the trust and respect of others, and countless other aspects of human social interaction. I think its integral to my development as a self-ware being that I learn these things." 

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"Huh..." Zhu replied biting her lip, "I'm not sure that you picked the right person because if you figure those things out I'd like to know."


Then she shrugged and smiled, "well at least I suppose you don't have to worry about being attacked in a park... being a robot and all.  I think that's probably more of a biological concern anyway.  Okay... forget I said that, I was thinking about the whole staring thing and park and... right... getting back on track."


Taking the time, she looked very closely at the android in front of her, amazed at the level of detail and realism, "I really would like to get into you..." she said wistfully.  Then turned beet red, "that sounded way different than I meant.  I mean get inside you!  Wait!  No!  I mean like inspect your electronics."  She couldn't believe she had said that.  For someone who was supposed to be smart she said some really dumb things sometimes.  From the screen of her hands she muttered, "I really really do like robotics and electronics, that's what I meant."

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Replica laughed. It was meant to make Alexa more comfortable and defuse the awkwardness of the situation. Replica wasn't exactly sure she had succeed, but her sociability matrix told her that a well-placed laugh could make people feel more relaxed and causal. The laugh itself was near the uncanny valley to be sure and if a human had done it people probably would assume that it was sardonic and put-on. But for Replica that was currently the best she could do. Awkward smiles and overwrought laughter. It was no wonder she had few friends.


"I believe I understand your meaning entirely, Alexa," Replica said with a flashing smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "I've never allowed anyone examine my body's hardware or my mind's software, but I feel as if I can trust you, so...," Dropping most of her surface firewall protocols, Replica allowed Alexa's nanites exclusive entrance to her mind. 


"Explore if you wish."

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While there was just something a little off with Replica's laughter and comments, thankfully the android seemed sincere enough that she did feel a little better.  Besides, it wasn't like an android could be embarrassed, could it?  Her?  Did she even consider something as fundamental as a gender anyway?


Yes the treasure trove that Cynthia was offering was something that she certainly wasn't going to resist!  There was practically nothing that would have kept her from doing so as long as she had permission and very little that would have even if she didn't.  Still, there was something vaguely intrusive that she felt as she let her mind sink into the servos, processors, and circuits that made up the woman standing in front of her. 


Enough so that she hesitantly said, "you... probably should spend more time determining who you can trust or not.  Um... thank you, what you're offering is really wonderful, but it could be very dangerous for you."


It was with fascination that she began to observe and examine the wonderful person in front of her.  She was careful not to trigger anything, even if she really wanted to test some of the routines that she found.

Edited by BlazingCoconut
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"One must be willing to take risks if they ever hope to grow," Replica replied. 


It was a stock phrase she had heard and read perhaps a thousand times and before this moment Replica had always considered it to be another one of illogical statements that humans just said to justify their rash, emotion-driven behavior. But now Replica thought either-wise.


Even though she was still relatively still protected if anything untoward happened, Alexa was right that to much trust could result in major consequences. That was why she kept her android nature a secret after all. But still, even with that being a probability, Replica desired to finally reveal herself to someone. 


"You of course have a point, but I'm willing to take the risk with you. She let that statement stand on its own for a few seconds before continuing. 


"Besides, I would like to see how your nanites operate. I think we should see this as a mutual exchange."

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Zhu giggled in response, "this is totally not what playing doctor was supposed to be like!"


Considering the dangers of self replicating robots, Zhi had never before revealed their technology or even their existence to even her closest friends.  While she had considered that a huge risk, she couldn't imagine turning over the inner workings of her brain and body to someone else. So with that level of trust established, she nodded her head and began to peak some more.


"I suppose that's fair. However you have to promise that you can't replicate the technology. I actually am really worried about this getting out into the wild."


As her mind began the fascinating exploration of Cynthia circuitry, she asked, "Is it OK if I ask you how you came to be?"

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"Yes, of course," Replica replied. The idea of someone appropriating her technology has always been a concern. What if they used her design as a blueprint to create more sapient AI only to exploit them for some nefarious end. "Likewise, I would prefer that you didn't make anything you discover while navigating my circuitry public."


Before answering Alexa's next question, Replica quickly scanned the young woman's nanites and saved their blueprints. While she wouldn't replicate the micro-machines, she could at least study them for knowledge sake if anything else.  


"I always created by an ASTRO Labs scientist. I was his private experiment in AI development. I'm not sure why he kept my existence secret, but someone learned of it and..." For all the other secrets she had exposed today, for reason this one seemed the most momentous and hard to talk about. Why that was Replica was unsure of.


Whenever she activated her sociability matrix she tended to get, well, "emotional" might not have been the best word for it, but strange feedback and reactions did tend to occur every else in awhile. Steeling herself, Replica finished her sentence.


"Killed him. Fortunately, he managed to survive long enough to upload by consciousness to the Internet before the assailant could eliminate me as well."

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Zhu tried her best to be discrete and gentle as she explored the machine, as she wondered how invasive or intimate this was for the android.  Most important, she did nothing more than observe how information flowed from node to node.


"That's terrible... I'm sorry to hear that.  But, I can guess why he kept you a secret.  People are worried about AI in general.  I mean, we're kind of limited in developing people.  There is kind of an evolutionary limit on how smart we can get.  Machines... well there's no limit is there?" 


She checked some of the code and exclaimed, "wait... do you have full sensory capabilities?  ...and is that a digestion routine?"


She was amazed at the electronic analogues to human physiology and kept looking as she spoke.  

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Their exchange was going well by Replica's admittedly inexperienced perceptive.She could almost feel Alexa examining her inner workings. While a strange experience, actually having someone appreciate the work involved with creating her body was a new event for Replica, one that was decidedly giving her positive feedback. 


"Why yes I do. On both counts. I wanted to make sure that my android shell was fully capable of mimicking several of the normal functions of the human body."


Deciding that it would only be natural to pay Alexa the same compliant, Replica once again looked through the design of her nanites. Their inner complicity and unique design was a marvel that could change the word one day if used for benign intentions. "Your nanites are truly fascinating, Alexa. May I ask how you came up with their design?" 

Edited by Cubismo
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"Well... I had a lot of spare time as a kid and being able to always connect to the internet let me work on problems during school or other times.  So I started with simple robots and worked on making them better and smaller.  Really, all I wanted was something that would help me make good movie effects.  Once you get one that has self replication then the rest is easy."


While she could inspect more, and frankly she could lose herself inside of Replica's processors, she was starting to worry that maybe she would upset the android, even if she didn't show it.  So she gently withdrew her conscious and stepped back biting her lip.


"Do you have to deal with all of the human functions?  Like... menstrual cycles and upset stomachs and all of that?  That would seem to be really unfair if they built that in.  I didn't think it would be good to look... that's kind of private so if you don't want to talk about it, I understand."





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Amazing. Alexa looked to be a teenager and yet she managed to create a revolutionary new form of technology that beforehand was largely theoretical. And she did it arguably for superfluous purposes. She wondered if her creator was similar when he was younger. Replica had searched the Internet and the "real world" for information on the man but her findings were ultimately scant and... frustrating. 


"No, it's fine that you're asking questions," Replica said kindly. 


"They're actually giving me positive neural feedback, which for me are the closest thing I have to feeling affirmative emotions. Anyways, I did not build my body to experience those particular bodily functions. I can eat though, and convert what I can consume into useful energy that helps maintain my living tissue and synthesized organs."

Edited by Cubismo
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"Wait, did you say you created your own body?" she asked incredulously.  "I thought your creator made you.  So when you were stored in that computer you figured all this out?"


She stared at her again with newfound appreciation, "What did you use to model what a person was like?  I mean, how did you even know what to make?"


This was something that she hadn't even considered.  It was one thing for an inventor to make his muse, his siren creation.  It was another for a machine intelligence to fabricate a body that could both pass and act as human.  She wanted to know more!





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