Prologue - Otherspace
In truth, that was not her name; married to a long-time friend, her name was properly Glenda Adams Soleil. She was a stubborn woman, not afraid to bash her way through a problem should the need arise. At the moment, however, the direct approach was of no use; she had to be slow and methodical, and it was driving her insane.
She worked at a makeshift workbench made from old test cubes, a tech kit, and a few wooden planks, not far from the tree in the center of what could loosely be called a room. It was a strange tree; looking at first glance like a normal oak tree with its branches spread across the room and intertwined with each other, forming not only the ceiling but a sort of outer wall of branches that grew all the way back into the dirt as secondary roots. The outer wall was unbroken save for where they formed the frame for a wooden door bearing the sign, “Please use Other Door”. A small stream burbled around the tree, not far from where Glenda worked, the water constantly flowing in an endless circle.
“Grrgh!” She threw down the wrench and pushed away from the table, her chair floating back over the dirt and grass as she rubbed her eyes. Behind her, the leaves of the tree in the center of the room rustled ever so slightly.
“I’m not giving up.” She said, as though the tree had spoken. “I’m just … frustrated, that’s all.”
The tree, unsurprisingly, didn’t respond. Glenda stopped over and splashed some water on her face. The cool liquid felt good on her sweat-soaked brow, and helped clear her thoughts.
“All right, Glen, focus.” Taking a deep breath, she moved back to the workbench, where a beat up KEI-9 unit lay motionless.
Glen was no stranger to technology; as the head of Gineracorp, one of the largest technology firms on Vinta, she herself had designed quite a few useful devices. Not the least of these tools were the Universal Builder’s Tools. The twin arm-mounted machines were easily customizable with a variety of construction tools, and essentially made the wearer a one-person construction team. Her own pair, nicknamed ‘Headache’, lay under the makeshift workbench.
Brute force, however, did not help her pick out the errant bits of programming still stored in the KEI-9′s hardware. It didn’t help her create a stable AI matrix even with her friend’s instructions, and it certainly didn’t bring her friend Jake back to life after he gave himself to restore said friend.
The sad fact of the matter was that while Glen had no small amount of experience with artificial intelligence, she didn’t know much about putting one together herself. Her inventions were tools, capable tools yet still needing the guidance of the carrier’s mind to accomplish anything. She was sure the ghost still existed in this machine; she just didn’t know where.
Still, that didn’t stop her from trying. If she’d learned anything from being separated from her friends and family, it was that she wasn’t willing to take even one for granted. She checked every internal component of the KEI-9 unit for scraps of the personality that was Jake, and her search was not in vain; small snippets of coding still remained, which she eagerly integrated into the makeshift construct EDI assembled for her.
While every small success brought with it a feeling of triumph, she knew that there was still a long way to go; the bits she’d assembled were hardly enough to restore the vibrant and cheery personality she’d come to think of as a little brother of sorts. Still, it was a necessary step. Besides, she might as well do something while they were still in transit.
The leaves rustled again, prompting a sigh from Glen.
“I’m going as fast as I can.” She said. “This isn’t easy work, you know. Jake was operational for centuries; even if I can somehow piece him back together-”
There was another rustle, this one louder. Several roots rose creaking from the ground, twisting and bending into several rectangular shapes. Their purpose was clear soon enough as holographic interfaces sprang to life within the rectangles.
Frowning, Glen kicked off the workbench, her chair floating toward the console. Steadying herself on the roots, she glanced over the console and smiled. “Ah, good. We’re almost there. I’ll go ahead and close him up for now.”
Kicking off the roots, she rolled back to the workbench. She caught the edge of the table, only to find the cartoon face of a dog looking back at her.
Glen’s breath caught in her throat. “Jake?” She whispered, her hand touching the side of the robot dog’s monitor.
The monitor rotated forty-five degrees, the cartoon dog face assuming a puzzled look.
“Jake.” Glen repeated. “Can you speak?”
“Is that a yes?”
Jake let out a confused whine, rotating his display again.
Frowning, Glen reached for her wrench. “All right; I’m guessing the AI matrix is up and running. Impeccable timing. I’ll just take a quick look to make sure …”
Jake leapt off the table and hit the ground running. He ran across the grassy clearing, leaping over the stream encircling the tree before turning around and facing Glen.
Glen rose uncertainly, raising her hands. “Easy there, Jake. It’s me, Glen. You remember me, yeah?”
Jake barked at Glen before crouching down on his front legs. Glen continued to approach, but just as she stepped over the stream, Jake jumped forward barking loudly. It was only a feint, but it fooled Glen enough for her to stumble backwards and land in the stream with a splash.
“Son of a … “ She said, looking down at her wet clothes. She looked up at Jake, only for the robot dog to lean forward, a grin on his cartoon face. As she stood up, he ran behind the tree and crouched down on his front paws again, letting out a gentle ‘woof’.
“All right.” Glen said as she stepped out of the stream. “Very funny. Now hold still so I can-”
She stopped; as she walked around the tree, Jake hopped away, always facing her in that same crouched down position. Glen tried going around the other way, only for Jake to move in the opposite direction.
“All right.” Glen said, “I’m all about play, but I really need to check yourgetoverhere!”
Glen made a leap at Jake, only for the nimble canine-bot to easily avoid her. As she pushed herself up from the ground, she found herself again looking into the silly cartoon face of a dog.
“I get it.” She said, smiling. “You want to play.”Jake barked again, tail end wagging.
Glen couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, it looks like we’ve got the basics running. Still a far cry from Jake, but hey; progress is progress, right?”
Jake’s monitor turned again, his dog face again looking puzzled.
“Don’t you worry about it, boy.” Glen said rising to her feet just as the console beeped. She glanced at it, her smile widening. Crouching down and resting her elbows on her knees, Glen looked Jake in the monitor and said, “Say; you wanna go for walkies?”
Jake barked, his legs impatiently tramping the nearby grass flat.
“All right then.” Glen said, rubbing the top of his monitor. “Ebott awaits.”