Nadezhda Nevsky by Jeff Racho

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NADEZHDA NEVSKY

Jeff Racho

The Cyberian Dreadnought – “Dreads” to his admiring public – stood on the Hill of Heroes in MetroCity’s Arboretum Park. He was back from an epic battle with The Dark Orphans, a gang of criminal sorcerers who sought dominion over MetroCity through their mastery of the dark arts. Dreads hadn’t relished the thought of fighting them, as he preferred to tangle with mutants, mad scientists, and radioactive fiends. He usually let warlocks like the Steel Shaman handle the practitioners of black magic, but when MetroCity called upon its greatest champion, Dreads would vanquish any and all evildoers no matter the source of their powers.

Dreads was the alter ego of millionaire Hank Feignmann, the CEO of a quantum computer start-up. One day a freak lab accident gave Hank the ability to alter the quantum interactions of his body. He could use quantum wave functions to teleport, alter graviton interactions to give him super strength and speed, and manipulate energy fields. His powers and leadership made him MetroCity’s greatest hero. Unfortunately, like all superheroes, he didn’t exist – except as the avatar of Wellington Carver in the massively multiplayer online game Champions of Justice.

Unlike Hank, Wellington Carver didn’t work with quantum computers. Unlike Dreads, he couldn’t hurl quantum energy bolts. But, like Dreads, he had a heart of gold, and, like Hank, he was a rich CEO. Welly founded his company, CyberNetic Implants, Inc. (CNI to its shareholders), during his graduate studies at Cornell University’s Nanobiotechnology Center. His research resulted in an invention called the Synaptic Tunneler, a device used to interface biological organisms with computers. The SynTunneler made it from his lab to the market a few years later, making Welly and CNI’s other founders very rich men.

The SynTunneler performed the delicate task of linking the brain’s neurons to substrate threads that linked to other body implants. SynTunneler devices approved for brain and neural surgery accounted for most of CNI’s revenues. The newest product CNI developed for use with the SynTunneler was the CSB – the Cranial Serial Bus – an I/O port installed on the skull to link outside data feeds to the subject’s brain. Although the FDA had not approved its use in humans, a select few already had them installed – including Welly. CNI’s shareholders had no idea that their CEO responded to their emails by thinking a reply through the CSB cable running from his computer to his head. And his implant allowed a level of interaction with the Champions world far greater than that enjoyed by either the keyboard gimps or those using VR suits.

Basis Software, the publisher of Champions of Justice, loved Welly. He was friends with the company’s founder and had been involved with the game’s alpha and beta tests. Feignmann/Dreads was registered as the game’s first avatar after Champions launched. Welly would have bought Basis Software – but MegaGames, the eight-hundred pound gorilla of the gaming world, had acquired Basis and wouldn’t part with it.

A signal from the Basis servers entered Welly’s brain. It tickled the right neurons, letting Welly – or Dreads, rather – feel the ground tremble beneath his boots. He recognized the heavy running. It was Trigger.

Trigger bounded up the Hill of Heroes. He was huge – eight feet tall and with enough muscle to stop a tank. His crazy blue hair and retro-style Zubaz pants made him an easily recognizable character. He chomped on a cigar as the sun glinted off his reflective glasses.

“Dreadnought! You’ve single-handedly stopped the Orphans!” he bellowed.

Dreads sighed. “Yeah, T.J., they’re gone.”

Trigger pulled the glasses from his eyes. “Welly, you’re supposed to stay in character! What’s wrong with you?”

Trigger was the avatar of T.J. Garrison, a CNI employee. He was originally a software developer and had been with CNI from its start. Currently he was the Chief Operating Officer of the company and on its board of directors. He was far busier than Welly and relished the few precious moments he could spend in the game.

Dreads shrugged. “Dunno . . . bored, I guess.”

“Got a cure for that!” Trigger dropped the shades and puffed on the cigar. “The Sadistic Furies are attempting to disrupt the power grid of MetroCity! We’ve got to stop them at the fusion plant!”

Dreads shook his head. “No, T.J. I don’t feel like playing.”

Trigger frowned. “Fine. Log off and we can vidconference. There’s a surgeon from the Mayo clinic that CNI should talk to—”

“No, see . . . I need another Quantum Kid.”

The Quantum Kid was his deceased sidekick, a character built using the Champions AI programs. He was killed months ago in an epic battle with the Wetware Warriors. Although the denizens of MetroCity offered condolences to Dreads, they didn’t really want the Kid back. He had become extremely cocky because his evolutionary algorithm allowed the personality flaw of hubris to grow unabated. And because your rep in MetroCity was everything, Welly hadn’t bothered to rez him back.

“Why?” Trigger asked. “How many times have we complained to Basis about the sidekick AI? The villains’ AI is great, sure, but nobody past level twenty is happy with the sidekick algorithms. Everybody’s sticking with low-level users for sidekicks.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dreads replied. “But I have a few professors working on some new AI algorithms, and Basis will let me interface them with their data feed.”

“What the—why didn’t you tell me about this? We coulda involved CNI’s developers.” The avatar mirrored its user’s frustration. “Didn’t you think that we could develop something with the eggheads and then license it to Basis?”

“I’m paying for it out of pocket, OK?”

Trigger exhaled a volume of smoke. “Whatever, boss. I’m taking on the Furies.” He sped away without bellowing his motto.

Welly temporarily withdrew from MetroCity. He opened the main menu for Champions and selected the “Create Sidekick” option. The design palettes opened up around him, along with a glowing featureless humanoid.

He chose a female sidekick this time.


SciPhiSeperator

Welly had his sidekick an hour later. She stood over six feet in her boots, about three inches shorter than Dreads. Her apparent age: early twenties. Her thick purple hair was parted in the middle and spilled down past her shoulders. She had a slender yet muscular female superhero body, full lips, tanned skin, blue eyes. Welly had spent a long time designing her face, which looked oddly familiar – he couldn’t determine why. She wasn’t wearing much, just a halter top and pair of shorts made of skin-tight metallic armor. He had chosen a red and black motif for the uniform.

Now for her name and origin.

Welly considered her inchoate background. Her red uniform made him think of the Muscovy Marauders, a Russian hero outfit Dreads sometimes teamed with. He’d like to team with them again – maybe she should be from Russia?

And Welly had been listening to Prokofiev lately, especially the soundtrack for Eisenstein’s film Alexander Nevsky. That was it – she was going to be the daughter of Eisenstein’s protagonist. Although the historical Alexander Nevsky lived in the Middle Ages, she would be a female Methuselah with superpowers generated by genetic mutations.

So the last name was done. Now he needed a first name, a Russian name that began with the letter “N.” She deserved an alliterative name like the classic heroes from the Marvel comic books. He checked an online database of Russian names and found one – “Nadezhda,” the Russian word for “hope.” That was it – Nadezhda Nevsky.

Welly pulled up the online Britannica and checked the entry on Alexander Nevsky. He thought for a moment, then entered her name and origin into the Champions hero registry:

Nadezhda Nevsky was born in 1235, the daughter of Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky. Her mother, a sorceress, was an apprentice of the witch Baba Yaga. Nadezhda’s mutant powers first manifested themselves at the Battle on the Ice in 1242 when her plasma blasts helped her father defeat the Knights of the Teutonic Order in defense of Novgorod . . .

Welly smiled. He had forgotten the fun of creating a character ex nihilo. He continued her myth: how her mother mistook her for a prodigy in the magical arts; how her mutated genotype prevented the shortening of her cells’ telomeres, preventing her from aging; how she battled the armies of Napoleon and Hitler in defense of Mother Russia.

The last step was creating her personality. He chose some basic traits – loyalty, altruism, everything that a hero needed. Those would suffice for now. He’d augment her AI after the professors finished their algorithms, which would be interfaced with the data feed from the Champions servers.

He entered the game after he finished her virtual psyche.

The Cyberian Dreadnought stood upon the Hill of Heroes. A number of MetroCity’s superheroes gathered around him. They gaped in wonder at the beautiful woman clad in the revealing costume next to him. Even Dreads, glittering in his gold cybernetic armor, wasn’t a match for her.

“Ready to hit the streets, Nadezhda?” he asked.

Nadezhda looked at Dreads’ outstretched hand. She took the graviton displacement belt he offered her. “I am ready, Cyberian Dreadnought,” she replied, slipping the narrow belt around her waist.

“The Sadistic Furies are attacking MetroCity’s fusion plant! Shall we stop them?” cried Dreads.

“Yes, we must stop them, Cyberian Dreadnought!”

Dreads manipulated the graviton interactions between his body and the ground beneath him. “For MetroCity!” he yelled, soaring into the air.

Nadezhda touched her belt. A soft glow emanated from it. She leapt into the air after him.

That night, as Welly rolled in bed, he realized that Nadezhda’s face was that of a Brazilian model named Adriana Lima. He had discovered her in the Victoria’s Secret catalog when he was a boy.

Welly smiled as he drifted off to sleep. Nadezhda would be the first Russian superhero from Brazil.

SciPhiSeperator

The vidphone rang. It was T.J.

“Hey boss. How was the talk with Dr. Lange?”

“Pretty good. Spent an hour with him on the vidphone.”

T.J. frowned. “That’s all? Pretty good?”

“He’s sending me the encrypted data tonight. I signed an electronic nondisclosure agreement. I’ll get it to R&D tomorrow and we’ll see what they think.”

T.J. didn’t hide his exasperation. “Welly, do you understand what Lange is doing? A procedure for curing forms of schizophrenia? And curing other mental illnesses? With our SynTunnelers? Can’t you hear the cash register?”

“I want to make sure his work is legit.”

“Welly, he’s at the Mayo Clinic!”

“I know! Would you wait until R&D takes a look at the data? Or do you want point on this thing?”

T.J. was silent. Then his demeanor lightened.

“Alright,” T.J. said. “I’ll talk with the staff tomorrow. I’ll handle it for now, OK?”

Welly looked at the vidphone’s keypad.

“Word has it that Dreads and the new sidekick are really taking names,” T.J. said.

Welly tried not to smile. “It’s going well. She’s leveled up already. And – ” Welly decided not to mention that the AI algorithms were ready. “And unlike the Quantum Kid, everybody in MetroCity likes her.”

T.J. laughed. “Except for the bad guys! Talk to you tomorrow.” He hung up.

Welly looked over Dr. Lange’s materials again. Lange was developing a method whereby the SynTunnelers would isolate certain portions of a schizophrenic’s brain. It was an amazing procedure. It kept certain neural impulses from cluttering up the brain’s organization of neurological information. Akin to a data filter. Or like sending SPAM to the trash bin instead of the inbox. Dr. Lange even used the method to “partition” the brain – like a memory drive – to treat Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Welly contemplated the physiology of the brain as his computer encrypted Lange’s data files. He sent them to R&D after the machine finished.

He took the cable from his Hexaprocessor station and plugged it into his head. He wanted to start installing the AI programs. Then he’d play Champions for a while before going to bed.

SciPhiSeperator

Spasibe, Dreads. SynDrug will never get onto streets of MetroCity.” Dreads and Nadezhda stood outside the busted drug lab as the police led away the Wetware Warrior perps.

Nadezhda had discovered a plot by the Warriors to manufacture and sell a synthetic drug. It was based on an mRNA strand and was virtually undetectable in the overdosed stiffs the police found. Their deaths had been a mystery until Nadezhda pieced together the mRNA theory from several articles she read in MetroCity Biotechnology News. She and Dreads interviewed several informants and concluded that only the Warriors had the expertise to synthesize such a drug. They found the lab later that week.

Dreads watched the police lead away another perp. Her AI is amazing, thought Welly. The AI programs were running on his Hexaprocessor and interfaced with the Champions servers. She was far more advanced on all parameters – simulated personality, evolutionary and recursive algorithms, pattern recognition – than any sidekick Welly had ever seen in the game. Dreads even encountered a few low-level newbies who initially thought that Nadezhda was a user instead of a bot. Welly was pleased that she had passed the “human or computer?” test proposed by Alan Turing decades ago.

“Have you read Professor Woo’s ‘broken window’ article yet, Nadezhda?” he asked.

Da, Dreads. Theory is very interesting. Perhaps we focus on small perps and allow MetroCity police to bust major criminals, nyet? Police would appreciate better PR after recent op-eds in MetroCity Voice.”

Dreads smiled. Nadezhda hadn’t been programmed to have a Russian accent. She had developed it on her own.

The Woo bot was Welly’s recent addition to the University of MetroCity. The bot was a criminologist whose writings were based on those of James Q. Wilson, a twentieth-century political scientist whose “broken window” theory of crime prevention had influenced mayors like Rudy Giuliani. The theory proposed that preventing petty crimes, like vandalism, would create an environment of order that would deter criminals. Dreads laughed at the thought of MetroCity’s greatest champion busting taggers spray-painting walls.

“Nadezhda, shall we visit Professor Woo?” he asked. Welly wanted to see her AI interact with the Woo bot. He was sure that she could stump the bot, which had been programmed with all of Wilson’s theories, but couldn’t reason beyond the data set entered into its program.

Da, I would like to meet Professor Woo. We can discuss recent article from MetroCity Journal on juvenile delinquency.”

It’s too bad she can’t read Wilson’s originals, Welly thought. His only option was to use the Woo bot to incorporate Wilson’s work into the game. Basis didn’t allow its data sets to be augmented, so Nadezhda couldn’t access any of Wilson’s archived work. The Champions world was completely described by the information on the Basis servers and nothing more. Even the AI algorithms on Welly’s Hexaprocessor were simply processing the data from the Basis systems, albeit at an amazing rate. Nadezhda would never know of the world beyond MetroCity, no matter how much her program evolved.

Dreads smiled. “Let’s pay him a visit.”

SciPhiSeperator

“Jimmy, three months? Champions is gonna be gone in three months?” Jimmy McMauly, the CEO of Basis Software, hadn’t expected Welly’s vidcall so soon.

MegaGames had just announced that it was shutting down Champions after a ninety-day period. The company felt that the revenue from the game had reached a plateau and that its capital could be better deployed in its upcoming game SolarRaiders.

“Welly, the decision was over my head. The suits at Mega want to cash in on the interest in the Mars expeditions by focusing on space games. We’re going to switch the whole Champions system over to SolarRaiders after it launches. The thing is gonna be huge. Five million subscribers already signed up.”

“Jimmy, get me a meeting with Mega’s board. I’ll buy Champions from them.”

McMauly frowned. No way would MegaGames ever let the code leave its grasp. “Welly, they’ll never sell.”

“Jimmy, you owe me! You used me in the executive endorsement when it launched! I helped Basis get mezzanine funding!”

McMauly’s brow furrowed. “Welly, I hate this too. What can I do? I raised a ruckus in the back rooms. I used up a lot of my political capital with Mega’s suits. They’re saying I’m not a team player – they are fuming at me. I’m sorry.”

Welly flinched. “Jimmy, what about letting me download the code? Just for my own use.”

“Whoa, Welly, I’ll be toast if I let you have the code. Mega owns it now, not me.”

Welly looked as if he didn’t know whether to scream or cry. Jimmy felt awful. Basis would have failed if Welly hadn’t secured the funding they needed years ago. Without him Basis would have died on the vine. Jimmy’s corporate mentality started to chip.

“Welly, we’ll talk again about this, I promise. I’ll see what I can do. At the least, I’ll see if I can get your character data out, maybe even transfer the avatars to SolarRaiders. Mars can use heroes like The Cyberian Dreadnought, right?”

Welly didn’t push it – yet. “I’ll talk to you in a few days.” He hung up.

Welly didn’t log in that night, even though he wanted to spend as much time as possible in the game before it shut down. He was flying to the Mayo Clinic the next morning to visit Webster Lange, M.D., Ph.D.

SciPhiSeperator

“Here’s to curing mental illness,” T.J. said, holding up his glass.

Dr. Lange had reached an agreement with CNI after a month of negotiations. T.J. and Welly spent a good deal of that month shuttling back and forth to Minnesota. CNI would sponsor the doctor’s research and would get the patent rights to his procedures and his mods to the SynTunneler.

“Gotta hand it to you boss, you closed a great deal.” T.J. finished the screwdriver. He looked at Welly. “You look awful. You need a vacation.”

Welly slouched in his chair. He had been pulling twelve-hour days on the Lange deal and spent most of the other twelve in Champions.

“Saw that Trigger retired last week,” Welly said.

T.J. nodded. “Yeah, closed up his account. Had him join the football coaching staff at MetroCity High. Users can still interact with him, but he’s only got a rote set of responses, ya know? He’ll live the last two months happily ever after. What’s gonna happen with Dreads and Nadezhda?”

“Don’t know,” Welly sighed. “Been trying to get the rights to the game from Mega but McMauly doesn’t have the clout.”

Welly looked at the table. “Ever wonder what’ll happen to the characters when the game is wiped?”

T.J. picked up his next drink. “They get deleted.”

“No, I mean – do you ever think a computer program could be conscious?”

T.J. laughed. “You drunk already? Course not.”

Welly wasn’t joking. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading on it. Ever hear of the theory from John Lucas and Roger Penrose – that computers will always be less capable than the human mind?”

“Huh? Who are they?” T.J. asked.

“One was a philosopher. The other was a mathematician and physicist. From Oxford. They based it on Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem.”

“Who?”

Welly clenched his jaw. “What the heck were you learning from the math department, anyway?”

“How to program your damn SynTunnelers. Look, if I can’t touch something, analyze it, then I really don’t bother with it.”

“So you’re a logical positivist? Seriously, I want to talk about the problems I have with the computational theory of mind.”

T.J. put down the drink. “Welly, we just closed a great deal that’s gonna make the shareholders happy. Lange’s gonna use our stuff to cure terrible mental disorders. Can’t we talk about that?”

Welly looked at his beer. He drained the bottle. There was so much he wanted to discuss about artificial intelligence, the nature of consciousness . . . guess T.J. wasn’t the guy.

Welly laughed. “Lange’s stuff is pretty wild, huh? Especially his work on Dissociative Identity Disorder. Never thought somebody would use the SynTunneler to partition the brain to treat split personalities.” He put down the empty bottle. “So the isolated personality just stays in a part of the brain. Never controls the body anymore.”

T.J. sipped the drink. “Yeah, imagine that – the personality is in there, but has access to the rest of the brain’s data. Guess it’s in a perpetual dream state and lets the other personality worry about reality.”

Welly smiled. “Sounds like the labcoats in R&D.”

T.J. laughed and ordered another round.

SciPhiSeperator

“Muscovy Marauders seem different since they retired, Dreads.”

Nadezhda was noticing the changes in the retired characters. They had become shells of their former personalities without the input of their users. Welly was surprised when she first noticed the discrepancies . . . like she was passing the Turing Test and could tell the difference between a user and a bot.

“That’s OK, Nadezhda. They’ve left the exciting life of fighting crime, so they’re probably bored.”

Nadezhda crossed her arms. “Dreads, you have been spending much time as your alter-ego Hank Feignmann. Are shareholders demanding more profits?”

Dreads straightened up. “Yes, Nadezhda, I am spending too much time at the company. I’m designing a top-secret apparatus in our labs. With all of the retirements, MetroCity is going to depend on us even more, and this new gear will help.”

“Excellent – when will it be ready for tests?”

“Soon, Nadezhda.”

SciPhiSeperator

McMauly looked nervous. He was calling from his home using the highest possible encryption. One had reason to be scared when going against the will of MegaGames.

“Welly, you can get your characters out using a backdoor I reactivated from one of our tests. You still got the original alpha version of the Basis server programs, right? The characters’ll run on that. Your Hexaprocessor can handle it. I’ll get you the server data so—”

“Jimmy, the alpha version of the server software? The characters are going to behave like crap!” If Nadezhda could notice the changes in the characters already, she would certainly fail to properly interact with the bots under the alpha program. And Nadezhda’s program would degrade in the alpha version as well.

“Welly, you can use those AI applications to boost the bots’ behavior.”

“Jimmy, please, I really want the latest version of the code!”

McMauly looked around as if Mega’s goons were about to break into his place. “Welly, this is the best I can do! The game is going down in two weeks. Mega is going to pick the server logs apart. They’ll know if the final version got out.”

Welly thought for a moment.

“Jimmy, I’ll use the alpha program.”

SciPhiSeperator

Welly felt the sting of the needle as it injected the anesthetic. Soon the tiny microbore would enter the base of his skull to deliver the SynTunnelers modified by Dr. Lange.

Welly had access to all of CNI’s facilities, including the R&D labs. He had been treating the labcoats to a lot of perks lately to make them scarce. Tonight he gave them passes to a holographic art show in the city. That would keep them out of the labs for another night.

This would be his third and last procedure. The RoboSurgeon’s master computer, programmed with all of Lange’s data, would install the last batch of the modified SynTunnelers. The tiny machines would then finalize the developing partition of his brain.

The procedure never seems to last very long, Welly thought as the RoboSurgeon withdrew the intravenous. He ignored its warnings about post-op care. He looked at the clock. He’d better get out in case some propeller-head decided to visit the lab after the show.

He stumbled to his car. He had a hard time remembering where he parked it.

Welly paused for a moment. Over the last week his short-term memory had gone to hell as the brain partition increased in size. The people at CNI noticed the memory loss in their interactions with Welly, but his coworkers just assumed the boss was really busy.

Welly couldn’t remember how he got home. The twenty-minute commute had taken him over an hour. The biometric lock recognized his retina so he didn’t have to fiddle with the door.

Welly slumped in the chair next to his personal RoboMedTech. The MedTech slipped another intravenous into his arm. Welly snaked the cable to his CSB and plugged in. He watched as the MedTech attached a feeding tube and urine drain to the valves installed by the RoboSurgeon. It was time for Welly to get the characters out of MetroCity.

SciPhiSeperator

Dreads and Nadezhda stood on the Hill of Heroes at the same spot she had entered the world months ago. The city was calm now. All of its other heroes had retired. They had earned their well-deserved rest as their users abandoned them to prepare for the new worlds of SolarRaiders.

“MetroCity is quiet, Dreads. Few criminals dare challenge us now.”

“Nadezhda, I have something to discuss with you.”

Dreads continued. “There is a city, far away, that I grew up in as a boy. It is called New York. I have many, many memories of it. You will not find it on any of MetroCity’s maps, for few of its citizens have been there. It is a wonderful city, but it has no superheroes. Nadezhda, I would like us to become New York’s first superheroes.”

He took a deep breath. “This will not be easy, Nadezhda, and MetroCity will always need us. But I want you to think about this, and to make a decision. Do not consider what I want; consider what you want, and what MetroCity and New York would want.”

Nadezhda silently stood next to him.

“Dreads, people of New York City need you back. And I would like to see the city that produced MetroCity’s greatest hero. I choose for us to go there and to defend its citizens.”

Dreads smiled. He pulled a keypad from his belt. It was a device from Hank Feignmann’s labs. He punched a series of buttons.

A shimmering blue rectangle raised out of the ground. It swirled with the quantum energies that powered The Cyberian Dreadnought.

“Nadezhda, we must go through this Quantum Gate to reach New York. Do not be afraid.”

Nadezhda took his outstretched hand. They jumped into the eddying energies of the gate.

SciPhiSeperator

T.J. was screaming at the labcoats, he was screaming at the medics, and he was screaming at Malloy, CNI’s general counsel. Malloy shouted back, threatening a tranq from the medics. T.J. tried to calm down.

They were in Welly’s home, in the room where Welly kept the Hexaprocessor. He was lying on a comfortable chair, tubes running out of his body to the MedTech, the CSB cable going from his computer to his head.

“What do you mean, leave him like this! I don’t give a damn what the advanced directive he left says!”

“T.J., Welly authenticated the document and emailed it to his lawyer last night,” Malloy replied. “The medics say he’s stable. The technicians can’t access the applications running on his computer. His lawyer won’t give me the specifics of his directive, but was adamant that we do not try to revive him. So we’re leaving him as is – for now.”

T.J. fumed. “Dammit! Wait until this gets out. What are we going to tell the shareholders?”

T.J. walked over to a medic who had set up the deep brain scanner. T.J. looked at its display. The patterns were familiar, but the second group was much, much larger than those he had seen in Dr. Lange’s data.

“No . . . Malloy, get Webster Lange on the vidphone!”

SciPhiSeperator

The Cyberian Dreadnought and Nadezhda Nevsky stood next to the rebuilt Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. The two heroes would stand there again tomorrow when Mayor Giuliani would officially welcome them to New York. Dreads smiled at the political and geographic anachronisms – but this New York was in his mind, after all, so why not have Rudy as New York’s perpetual mayor?

Lange’s SynTunnelers had succeeded: Nadezhda’s algorithms were now imprinted onto Welly’s partitioned brain. Dreads wished that John Lucas and Roger Penrose were still alive so he could tell them they were right: what the Hexaprocessor couldn’t do, the neurons in Welly’s partitioned brain had done. They made Nadezhda self-aware. She was conscious, and she loved New York.

“MetroCity was wonderful, but this . . . ” She smiled at Dreads as she motioned uptown.

“They call it the greatest city in the world, Nadezhda. We’re going to make sure it stays that way.” There would be villains, of course, and the AI of the Hexaprocessor, coupled with some of Welly’s spare neurons, would make them far more devious and sinister than the scoundrels on the Basis servers.

“I’ll need a new motto,” Dreads said. “It can’t be, ‘For MetroCity!’ anymore.”

Nadezhda laughed.

Dreads smiled. “Race you to the top of the Towers?”

Nadezhda tapped her belt.

Food for Thought

  1. Philosophers have debated whether an artificial computer could accurately represent a human mind since the mid-twentieth century. Do you feel that one could? Or are John Lucas and Roger Penrose correct, and an artificial computer will always be “something less” than a human mind?

  2. “Virtual Reality” will be a reality in the near future. How will it affect the real-world relationships among humans? How will society be affected if people have the ability to retreat from reality and remain in virtual worlds?

  3. There’s a “love story” subtext here. If a person creates an entity according to what he/she wants to see in the entity, and develops a type of love for it, is that love equivalent to the love between two persons who love each other “as-is?” Would your answer change if the entity could evolve and develop its own traits and characteristics, much like a “real” human?

About the Author

Jeff Racho earned degrees in engineering, law, and business from Notre Dame, Villanova, and Cornell. He is a patent attorney and practices in the fields of intellectual property and emerging company law. He can be reached for comments at jeff@racho.com.

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