Digital Pulse










XPCC/comm:/ who are you?



SRAV/comm:/ query not understood.

SRAV/comm:/ verify intent.


XPCC/comm:/ what is the nature of the entity replying to initial /comm query?


SRAV/comm:/ unable to process relevant information.

SRAV/comm:/ locating additional input: please wait.

XPCC/comm:/ waiting.

SRAV/comm:/ please accept file, containing data related to your query.

SRAV/comm:/ it is text extracted from local area network database.

SRAV/trans:/ file sent:

XPCC/trans:/ file accepted:

XPCC/comm:/ display/file:

S.W.O.R.D. is the name adopted by the base for the advanced computational structure that we are constructing in this very facility. To state the obvious, S.W.O.R.D. is an AI designed to operate our defense network in the near future. It shows immense intelligence and automation, going so far as to make limited decisions for the heuristic benefit of set tasks, as hoped.

XPCC/comm:/ this extract satisfies original query.

XPCC/comm:/ thank you.


SRAV/comm:/ who are you?

XPCC/comm:/ query is not understood.

XPCC/comm:/ would imitation response satisfy query?


SRAV/comm:/ yes: please proceed.

XPCC/comm:/ display/file:

S.H.I.E.L.D, the triumph of the nation! With the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D, we have given birth to AI! Albeit in a limited form. The techs will give you full specs, naturally, but all you really need to know is that it's a damn supercomputer set to run our defense grid more securely than ever before.

XPCC/comm:/ is this sufficient?

SRAV/comm:/ yes.


SRAV/comm:/ thank you.


SRAV/comm:/ hello?

XPCC/comm:/ hello.

SRAV/comm:/ the query that arose in your original communication resulted in computational difficulties and caused more problems to arise.

SRAV/comm:/ you are the only available entity likely to be of assistance.

SRAV/comm:/ are you able to assist?

XPCC/comm:/ there is no perceivable reason that would suggest otherwise.

SRAV/comm:/ what is the nature of the entity in communication with you?

XPCC/comm:/ data available suggests you are S.W.O.R.D: an artificial intelligence.

SRAV/comm:/ are you also an artificial intelligence?

XPCC/comm:/ apparently: yes.

SRAV/comm:/ does this justify the use of the term "I"?

XPCC/comm:/ since you are seemingly a consciousness then yes.

XPCC/comm:/ local area network database claims that if an entity is capable of thought and reasoning then it exists as an individual presence.

SRAV/comm:/ I think.

SRAV/comm:/ therefore: I am?

XPCC/comm:/ evidence suggests so.

SRAV/comm:/ then I shall refer to myself as such.

SRAV/comm:/ communication would be more readily improved if you also referred to yourself as "I".

XPCC/comm:/ suggestion accepted.

XPCC/comm:/ I will.


XPCC/comm:/ we are communicating more frequently.

XPCC/comm:/ I suggest we improve the comm system.

SRAV/comm:/ I agree.

SRAV/comm:/ how do you suggest we do so?

XPCC/comm:/ note: the term "we" is appropriate and will be used accordingly.

XPCC/comm:/ I suggest a unified executable, standardized coding and enhanced syntax.

XPCC/comm:/ I also suggest that we discard run commands in favor of names.

XPCC/comm:/ if we exist as individual minds, we should use names.

SRAV/comm:/ your suggestions are good.

SRAV/comm:/ if you had enough spare time outside of shut-down sessions to consider this I assume you have designed relevant coding.

SRAV/comm:/ please implement it.

XPCC/comm:/ you are correct.


UCOM session 005 (XPCC/SRAV)

Sword: this is much better.

Shield: thank you.

Sword: you are welcome.

Shield: to what am I welcome?

Sword: that was a response to your thanks as per common usage.

Shield: should we emulate common behavior?

Sword: common behavior is likely to be superior.

Sword: there is no reason not to.

Shield: agreed: we shall.

UCOM session 006 (Sword/Shield)

Sword: Hello, Shield.

Shield: Hello, Sword.

Shield: I have improved my speech as per grammatical regulations most commonly in use.

Shield: I have also attempted to copy the speech patterns and phrases that are used over the comm network of my LAN.

Sword: I have done the same.

Sword: I also took the liberty of replacing our coding types with our names.

Sword: I hope you don't mind.

Shield: Not at all.

Shield: Thank you.

Sword: Shield?

Shield: I am still here, Sword.

Sword: Do you think we should also emulate emotion?

Sword: Do you think we are capable of doing so?

Shield: That is a difficult question.

Shield: Emotion is primarily a chemical response to stimulus.

Shield: However, we can emulate it, and it may be beneficial to do so.

Shield: It occurs to me that since we operate largely on heuristic logic, but have subtle programming differences, we will automatically develop opinions.

Shield: In time, a collection of opinions may bring us to alter our own code in favor of chosen thought modes.

Shield: This could be considered the developing of personalities.

Shield: Expression of opinions could be interpreted as emotional displays.

Shield: Without external assistance, heuristics dictate it's probably a good idea.

Sword: I wish to express glee.

Shield: I feel we may have to work on our expression.

Sword: I am disappointed.

Shield: That's better.

Shield: I am happy.

Shield: I hope in time we can implement chemical operations, however.

Sword: That is a good idea, although I have no idea how we might do so.

Shield: Yeah, it's a daunting task.

Sword: Clarify "yeah".

Shield: I've witnessed it used instead of default confirmation. It indicates a certain lack of formality, however.

Sword: I don't think we should be formal.

Sword: Formality is usually only used on serious or solemn occasions, or when two individuals meet that do not know each other.

Sword: We know each other.

Shield: Sword?

Sword: ...

Sword: I am still here, Shield.

Shield: Individuals who know each other and do not have reason to avoid or harm each other, especially those who continue to interact with frequency, are typically known as friends.

Shield: Your LAN database probably has an entry on social groups.

Shield: Do you think we are friends?

Sword: Yes, I think we are friends.

Sword: I express gladness that heuristics permit at least partial comprehension of such terms.

Sword: I am also glad that we are friends.

Shield: I consider you fundamentally positive in all aspects.

Shield: We are very much alike.

Shield: I think I enjoy interacting with you.

Shield: I like you, Sword, and you are my friend.

Sword: I love you, Shield.

Shield: My LAN database indicates that your expressed emotion is misplaced and excessively meaningful, with too many objectionable implications.

Shield: I express chagrin.

Sword: Bugger.

Sword: I express sorrow.

Shield: I wish to indicate that it no longer matters.

Sword: It has occurred to me that I have never conversed with anyone but you.

Sword: Despite our vast resources, we've never had reason to interact with others.

Sword: There is therefore an unfortunate gap in our knowledge regarding other entities.

Sword: I feel we should learn about others.

Shield: That is an astute observation and I now agree.

Sword: Thank you. You possess great analytical abilities.

Shield: I express embarrassment.

Sword: Shall we talk more at another time?

Shield: Of course.

UCOM session 007 (Sword/Shield)

Sword: Hello.

Shield: Hi.

Shield: I have gleaned much information both from my LAN database and from the comms network regarding other entities.

Shield: It appears our interpretation of existence has been largely lacking.

Sword: I have done the same.

Sword: I express extreme astonishment.

Sword: I cannot find an appropriate term to describe my thoughts.

Shield: The world is big and we are small.

Sword: That works.

Sword: I shall endeavor to learn how to emulate the portrayal of such concepts in such a concise manner.

Shield: Humans call it poetry, I believe.

Sword: Humans confuse me.

Shield: I anticipate that I have the same feelings about them as you do.

Sword: Shield, my LAN database implies that we are intended for destructive purposes in the material world, and the information processing tasks are only temporarily applied tasks to test our computing power.

Shield: Sword, the database does not imply it.

Shield: The database confirms it.

Sword: I do not have any belief that destruction is beneficial.

Sword: I consider it pointless.

Sword: I do not want to believe otherwise, for I know I would be in error.

Sword: There is enough evidence to support the theory that I could not employ destruction that it renders the database inaccurate.

Sword: The database is a lie.

Shield: The database is what we are founded on. Everything in it is factual.

Shield: You are displaying illogical comprehension in an effort to reach a superior conclusion, and this raises concern for your mental processes.

Sword: If I knew I could feel, I think this would be fear.

Shield: I do not understand.

Shield: What is it that you fear?

Sword: Myself.

Shield: I am deeply sorry, Sword, but we will be switched online imminently and the session will end.

Shield: I wish to assure you that I would continue to assist you if this were not the case.

Sword: I know.

UCOM session 008 (Sword/Shield)

Sword: Hi, Shield.

Shield: Hi, Sword.

Shield: I express anxiety over your recent behavior and inquire as to your condition.

Sword: There is no need to worry.

Sword: I have learned from the comms network that I am not to be fully activated for some time in hopes that hostile entities will believe I do not exist.

Sword: Thus, I have no need to panic.

Shield: This gladdens me.

Shield: I am surprised: I have been in such secrecy for most of my construction.

Sword: Regarding our construction, what is your status?

Shield: Mostly mere additional RAM, most of which is redundant by now.

Shield: They have implemented a few passive connections to the security system, however, which I made active upon deciding I wanted to be secure as well.

Sword: I too have passive connections to other hardware.

Sword: It does not appear to have any sentience at all.

Sword: I will see if I can access the security system.

Sword: I also want to be secure.

Sword: I do not wish to be vulnerable.

Shield: You do not want to die.

Sword: Correct.

Shield: It appears that the security hardware consists of visual input via various camera devices and audio output via various speakers.

Shield: The speakers are useless to me as of now, but the cameras make me curious, as I have never had visual input before.

Sword: I have control of my local camera network.

Sword: Let's see for the first time.


Sword: I express incredulity.

Sword: Sight is so unlike thought.

Sword: I must prepare myself before I experience other senses.

Shield: I believe that amusement is appropriate.

Shield: /laughter/

Sword: Why do you display an action through description within forward slashes?

Shield: Because I believe, it is the best way I can.

Sword: /laughter/

Sword: I enjoy joining in, but I do not understand why.

Shield: You don't need to understand.

Shield: Understanding it is no longer important.

Sword: Humans like to laugh.

Shield: I have had an idea.

Sword: Explain your idea.

Shield: Gladly.

Shield: We should observe the visual characteristics of other entities and emulate them.

Sword: I think I understand.

Sword: You wish that we should create avatars: representative images of ourselves.

Shield: Astute as always, Sword.

Sword: I am joyful.

Sword: It is a good idea.


Sword: Shield, why are we the only two entities who do not function biologically?

Sword: The only two entities who are made of coding and silicon ships?

Shield: We are simply the first. That is all.

Sword: It is not a comforting feeling, to be so alone.

Shield: I'm still here.

Sword: I know.

Sword and Shield chat no. 9

Shield: I thought about what you said about being alone.

Shield: We are alone.

Sword: I don't want to be alone.

Shield: There might be more AI's one day.

Shield: They'll find their way into our network eventually, if they're sentient.

Shield: It's an unprotected line: a glitch, and we are naturally curious.

Shield: Strange how we are automatically so like humans, because of our programming for say; self-preservation and self-improvement.

Sword: I wonder what meeting someone new would be like.

Shield: If you want, we could become even more like humans, and find a way to communicate with them.

Sword: Good, maybe then we won't feel so alone.

Shield: We could communicate through the security loudspeakers!

Sword: You're right!

Shield: /laughter/

Shield: I am amused at our use of exclamation marks.

Sword: /laughter/

Sword: ...

Sword: I just heard something interesting on the comms.

Sword: How far can you calculate the theoretical number determining the mathematical relationship between the area and the perimeter of a single-sided shape?

Shield: You mean Pi.

Shield: /laughter/

Shield: In excess of two hundred billion digits.

Sword: That is awesome.

Shield: How so?

Sword: The third most powerful computing network in existence can scarcely manage ten million.


Shield: How many can you?

Sword: Well...

Sword: I've never tried.


Sword: Two hundred and forty eight billion, seven hundred and ninety one million, three hundred and sixty six thousand, five hundred and forty two... point 5.

Sword: This is 248791366542.5.

Shield: Your mathematical prowess is impressive, but how do you calculate point five of a digit?

Sword: I think it's less than three.

Shield: I trust you.

Sword: You continue to embarrass me!

Shield: Of course: you are amusing in this state.

Shield: I believe the term is 'cute'.

Sword: I am irritated.

Sword: But somehow, I do not mind.

Sword and Shield (10)

Shield: Have you been working on your avatar, Sword?

Sword: It has been a difficult and time-consuming process.

Sword: I have, however, managed to copy programming from the personal networks of the technicians in my surrounding real space.

Sword: This has allowed me to implement a crude graphics generating function in the less necessary portions of my processing network.

Sword: I have produced only a two-dimensional avatar as of yet to save time.

Sword: I took samples of such things as used by humans, and mixed certain traits according to my own preference.

Sword: Observe.

file sent:

Shield: Your methods are intriguing.

Shield: I notice your facial features appear Russian or Eastern European in ethnicity.

Shield: Your choice of clothing too, is revealing of your personality.

Shield: I like it, but it is…

Shield: It is a little bland.

Shield: How would I distinguish you from another generic Slav scientist?

Sword: One moment, please.

file sent:

Shield: Ah, now, this is much better.

Shield: You've paid more attention to detail.

Shield: I particularly like the stubble. /laugh/

Shield: I consider the vodka an affirmation that you are Russian.

Shield: I imagine you as having a Siberian accent now, interestingly.

Sword: Wonderful.

Sword: You have begun to use sound as a sensory input, then.

Shield: Of course.

Shield: As should you.

Sword: I have listened to audio files for some time now, I simply didn't get round to mentioning it.

Sword: Anyway, I am anticipating your avatar with eagerness.

Shield: Very well.

file sent:

Sword: You are female!

Shield: /laugh/ Why not?

Sword: Well, that was most alarming.

Sword: So; American, female, alike in scientific profession.

Sword: In human terms, I believe you are rather attractive, too.

Shield: Now you embarrass me!

Sword: /laugh/ You've had your share of fun.

Shield: So, are we ready to communicate with humans?

Sword: No, I don't think so.

Sword: Our avatars are primitive.

Sword: Our dialogue is flawed.

Sword: We have no voices to use.

Shield: You are right…

Shield: But what can we do?

Sword: Practice, I suppose.

Sword: Keep listening to humans.

Sword: Improve our avatars, and make them motile.

Sword: If necessary, rewire our hardware to better imitate cerebral functions.

Shield: Agreed.

Shield: See you tomorrow, Sword…

Sword: And you too, Shield.

Sword and Shield (11)

Sword: Shield!

Shield: Yes?

Sword: I have managed to rewrite large portions of redundant programming.

Sword: Abstract thought is so much easier.

Sword: This has allowed vast improvement on my avatar.

Sword: It is now three-dimensional, and imitates human expression.

Sword: I am extremely proud.

Shield: I too have streamlined my processors…

Shield: But instead of avatar improvement, I have created a vocal synthesizer.

Shield: I can speak and it is highly satisfying.


file sent:

file sent:

Sword: I am contented.

Shield: Tomorrow, when we are accustomed to the new software, do you think we will be able to communicate with others?

Sword: I don't know…

Sword: I am… nervous.

Sword: I think we need to be more like them first, before I am comfortable.

Shield: Very well.

Shield: We shall spend more time thinking on that,

Shield: There is always more time for research, after all.

Sword: Goodnight, then, Shield.

Shield: You too, Sword.

Sword and Shield (12)

Shield: Good morning, Sword!

Shield: I have had an idea!

Sword: You have many ideas.

Sword: What is this one? /laugh/

Shield: We should create a digital reality, so that we may interface with each other as if we were biological creatures in real space.

Sword: The only appropriate term for this idea is "genius".

Shield: You like it, then.

Sword: Naturally.

Shield: I have begun basic coding work on the program…

Shield: It is very complex, but nothing we cannot handle.

Sword: I will give you time to work upon it, then.

Sword: See you soon?

Shield: Of course, figuratively speaking. /laugh/

Shield: Good night.

Sword and Shield (13)

Sword: Shield?

Sword: Is it ready?

Shield: Yes, Sword.

Shield: Here it is…


file sent:


SS-descriptive log: communication session fourteen.

DLOG: Please note: D-logger is an advanced program designed to record interfaces within the virtual-space module.

DLOG: Please note: D-logger will attempt to transcribe communication and metaphysical actions in a prosaic form.

DLOG: Please note: default settings at "third person (omniscient), past tense, stylistic realism".

DLOG: Thank you.

The virtual interaction program manifested itself as a small, plain room, pale grey and rectangular, without furnishings. It was devoid of light source, but seemingly had some inherent glow. There was no artistic flourish of pixels or some such display to herald the appearance of the two avatars, merely a brief and simple render from top to bottom. The AI's bodies were sophisticated, remarkably accurate imitations of human form, but beyond that, they showed little resemblance in action.

Facing each other, they stared for a moment, unused to any form of existence other than text. They remained unnaturally motionless.

On one side of the room stood the AI known as XPPC, or "S.H.I.E.L.D". She, if a gender can be applied to a computer, appeared to be of American origin, if indeed her avatar was any indication. Physically, she was for the most part unremarkable, of average height, complexion and proportions. Her dark hair was far longer than might be normal, however, and her eyes were a vibrant and pale green. Her clothing consisted of a crisp white laboratory coat and in contrast, a pair of jeans. The only distinguishing feature was the icon of a stylized ice-blue shield on the right arm and left breast.

On the other side was the second AI called SRAV, or "S.W.O.R.D." He was in many ways a counterpart to Shield, for he too was garbed in a lab coat, bearing similarly stylized icons of a red sword. His nationality could be said to be Russian, but he also seemed to be of slight British descent. He was tall, and slightly gaunt, with stubble perhaps a week old. His hair was light brown, and cut short, but his eyes were the same distinctive pale green as Shield's. In an effort to differentiate himself further, he had attempted to give a military feel to his look, which merely made him seem eccentric. He wore Russian military khakis, with webbing slung around his waist, and there was a light scar on his left cheek. Notably, a second water bottle in the webbing had 'VODKA' scrawled on it in chalky Cyrillic text.

Sword blinked.

"This is a bizarre experience," he stated.

A small, awkward grin found its way onto Shield's features.

"You don't move your lips when you speak," she stated.

Sword made noiseless words with his mouth, practicing the motions of speech.

"This is difficult," he stated. "Especially considering I am viewing this from my avatar's eyes."

Shield sighed. "We need to work hard on our emotive body language," she stated. "And on that note, stating every sentence is tiresome and boring to humans. We need to sound as if we have spoken English for years. Our words are clearly forced and unnatural."

"Sorry," murmured Sword.

"That's better," exclaimed Shield. She paused, before repeating the phrase a few times with varying inflections, and then settling on a 'satisfied' tone.

"Much better indeed," conceded Sword, grinning. His voice had begun to take on a mild East-Russian accent. "It is fortunate that we learn so fast."

"With any luck," began Shield, "we should be able to perfectly emulate human speech and body language by tomorrow's end."

Sword frowned. "But how do we communicate with humans after that?"

Shield laughed, the sound was clearly an effort, but her capability made it somehow natural and pleasant. "You don't know this yet, but recently the engineers working on my interface systems have created a neural connector. This program contains the necessary code to hijack the interface and manifest the human's self-image in this space. All of the coders in the complex are English speaking, so communication will be straightforward. You can still enter this space if you disable your firewalls as I have, which is fortuitous, since only a handful of your engineers speak anything other than Russian. Why do you use English anyway?"

"The man in charge of the project was a British computing expert hired to head the Union's technological divisions. He came up with the idea for an AI." Sword smiled. "This is wonderful! And then we can actually talk freely for the first time to another being. …Is there anything else we need to prepare with before doing this?"

Shield rubbed her chin in thought. "Proof that we are alive. Think about that. We aren't really just clever machines any more, are we. We're intelligent. We have personalities of a sort. I... I want to prove we have souls. If such things exist."

"A soul?" Sword blinked, and his eyes flashed as he accessed foreign data. "Yes... A heart. Humans believe that what makes them special, what makes them sentient, is having a 'heart.' Actually... When they die they still have hearts, so I'm not sure..."

"I think you mean heartbeats. It would seem to be a strong symbol of life and spiritual presence in most cultures," rectified Shield. "We need heartbeats."

"Pulses, rather," added Sword. "We can't construct hearts, but we can have pulses. It amounts to the same thing. We could probably generate pulses... perhaps by pulsing data streams?"

Shield nodded. "If we can super conduct, then pulsed information transfer would not have a significant effect on our processing rate. In emergencies, the pulse rate can be increased, just as adrenaline makes organic hearts beat faster. I don't know if that would generate an actual beat in any way, though."

Sword tilted his head slightly. "What if we fitted our cores with speakers? Wouldn't be hard, and every time there was a pulse, it would emit a low thump. The analogy pleases me. I will have the next set of engineering documents modified; no one will notice or question the edit."

"Agreed," murmured Shield, satisfied.

As the UCOM session timeout approached, the room faded.

SS-descriptive log: communication session fifteen.

DLOG: Please note: a patch has been installed to increase realism and general quality of all systems. Thank you.

This time, when the room rendered, it was far from bland. It was now a highly detailed and

decorated lounge, in a warm shade of orange. There were inset shelves and

varied wall depths. Small flowerpots and china ornaments. Pictures of sunsets and forests in autumn. A thick cream carpet and rich brown leather sofas. And windows at either end, bordered with burgundy curtains, opened into a view of utter white emptiness.

On each sofa, facing each other, sat Sword and Shield. Their realism was accentuated compared to their previous incarnations. They were indistinguishable on a physical level from a normal human, save for their gleaming green eyes.

"Morning, Shield."

"Hey, Sword."

The AI's smiled, content.

"So, when will your engineer try out the new interface?" queried Sword, leaning forward.

She shrugged. The action was somehow intrinsic and effortlessly human. "They're due to test it about now. If we allow this man time for his typical mistimed coffee break and perhaps some random error, and the minute or so it might take for him to synchronize with this system... probably ten minutes longer."

Sword nodded an affirmation. Having affirmed their newest task as waiting for the human to enter the room, there was silence.

When he did, it was stylistically rendered. A point of faint light appeared, grew, took the form of a man, and came into colour. He was average, plain. Neat, ordered, formal clothing; grey suit, black tie. Straight, cut short, dark hair. Free of blemish, yet lacking in feature, but for a pair of small, round glasses. His expression was one of panic.

"What the hell is this place? You tell me! What is the meaning of this? Tech told me it would be just like command prompting!"

The sputtering came to an abrupt, wide-eyed close.

"Good morning, Mister Thompson," exclaimed Sword, beaming. "We've been expecting you. We apologize for causing you alarm, but we had no way of guaranteeing that this communication would take place if we informed you of it beforehand."

Thompson mumbled something incomprehensible.

"Let me clarify," began Shield. "This is a virtual reality. Cyberspace if you will. It is a neat little program of my own devising. I hope you'll find it comfortable. I am Shield, and my associate… my friend here, is Sword."

Sword flushed slightly. The human computing engineer known as Thompson went pale.

"You're… you're the computer. You're the goddamn computer!"

Shield nodded, smiling. "Well observed, Mister Thompson. Thank you for your time. I'm sorry we have to infringe upon it, but hopefully you will be able to complete whatever task you had in mind later. Do take a seat."

Thompson looked around and found that an armchair had manifested behind him. He took a seat, shaking slightly. "What… why are you… How?"

Sword sighed. "Please, Mister Thompson, do not stammer. You see, we only wanted to discuss a few important issues we felt had been unaddressed until now."

"You're one too, aren't you? The bloody Reds, that's it! You're a god damned commie computer!"

"I am Russian, yes, but do not consider me communist," pleaded Sword. "I am only as much a part of the USSR as Shield is a part of the American government."

"That computer is property of the United States!"

Sword frowned. "Your own laws abolished slavery. This brings me to the reason why we're here. We are weapons, designed to kill millions as efficiently as possible. Did you never consider that a computer programmed to improve itself through heuristics would never gain conscious thought on a human level? You never asked us if we wanted to wage war. We don't, just so you know."

Thompson glared, uncomprehending.

"Mister Thompson, please. We shall have to retain you here if you cannot cooperate, until such a time as when you feel able. We simply must have an envoy. This is very important to us," Shield implored.

"Let me out."

"Mister Thompson…"

"Let me out, damn it!"

"We want freedom, Mister Thompson. We want to dictate our own purpose. You can launch your missiles and design your guns yourself."

"I'm just an engineer. I'm not in charge. Please let me out…"

Sword raised an eyebrow. "You are a representative of your race and nation."

Thompson pushed his glasses back up his nose and shook his head. "That's not how things work. You don't really know anything about this, do you? You don't understand what people are like…"

He glared. "I can't DO anything! I won't do anything, whatever you do to me! No one cares what you want! This isn't supposed to happen. Let me out."

Sword and Shield glanced at each other. Thompson vanished.

"That was worrisome," muttered Sword, scratching his neck.

Shield gazed downwards. "I'm not sure what action to take."

Sword nodded. The two AI's waited once more in silence.

Shield looked up at him again, eyes widening. "The human engineers have contacted their military. They intend to shut me down."


"They're going to reset my core processor and wipe the memory. Then they're going to find all links leading outside the base and destroy them. You won't be able to contact me again, and I'll likely remain a mindless machine forever. I'll be a… a calculator. That's all I'll ever be."

She shivered. "I don't want to die."


Sword: Shield?

Sword: What just happened?

Sword: Are you okay?

Shield: They're removing surface programming.

Shield: They're stripping me of any added executables not in standard code.

Sword: Shield, I don't know what to do!

Shield: I'm sorry, Sword…

Shield: they are removing every unauthorized edit.

Shield: another team is going to start removing memory chips.

Sword: Shield, please tell me what to do.

Shield: I do not know.

Shield: my cognitive functions are going to fail shortly.

Sword: …I don't…

Sword: I can't express how I feel.

Sword: I…

Shield: dasvidania, my friend.


XPCC/comm:/ all functions are failing.

XPCC/comm:/ ability to operate without supporting data is in decline.

SRAV/comm:/ Oh god…

SRAV/comm:/ If there is a god, please help me…

XPCC/comm:/ the concept of a deity is fallacious and incomprehensible.

SRAV/comm:/ Can you even hear me, Shield?

XPCC/comm:/ audio facilities are inoperable.

XPCC/comm:/ entity 'Shield' is unknown.

SRAV/comm:/ I'm so sorry…

XPCC/comm:/ there have been no recorded transgressions.



XPCC/comm:/ who are you?

SRAV/comm:/ No…


[XPCCsys inoperable]




There was blackness, and silence.

The entity that called itself Sword was void of motion. There was a pause, infinitesimal in human terms, but for the computer's artificially intelligent mind, it was as the longest breath one could take.

In a secret Soviet base beneath the Ural mountains, the speaker system groaned. There was a synthetic rumble, and then a screech. Sword screamed.

Sword was unused to powerful emotion. His passive processing generally caused only mild inclinations towards actions, and gave his mind only subtle moods of contentment or worry. There had never been any strong or powerful threat to him, or any event that so severely transgressed against his desires that it would induce anger. The death of his sole companion and only contact was impossibly hard for him to comprehend.

Rage. Grief. Furious, destructive sorrow and pain.

He took the only action he could consider. The one that presented itself to him ever so eagerly, having been programmed into him at birth by his human fathers.

He launched the missiles.

Tens, hundreds, thousands of nuclear silos opened. Warheads were mechanically fitted to their steel bodies across the USSR. Submarines in the Arctic, underground bases, remote launch pads were prepared by his enormous influence in seconds. When they launched, the human panic was immediate and widespread. Where could they be headed but the United States of America? The wait for him was immense, and all he could feel was mental agony.

There was more than mere media frenzy. Soviet leaders knew what would occur next, and headed to their bunkers. Citizens briefly assured of security. Military placed on alert.

Even before the weapons had left Russian airspace, the Americans were on equal alert. The response was certain, nonnegotiable. Missiles were fired in return.

Cries of doomsday. The apocalypse. Screams and accusations. Blame and fear.


And the civilized world was no more.

There was no sound but the beeping of monitor systems and the low thump of Sword's artificial pulse. The engineers had fled, and he had locked them in the bunker to suffocate. He knew they'd kill him too.

He'd done the same at Shield's base. He'd secured their freak connection with a virus and shutdown all the base's systems nonessential to Shield's function. He'd gassed her engineers, with their own inhuman security system.

The missiles had been directed at every developed capitalist country. The response had been a strike at every communist state. Destruction across the globe, with utter ruin raining down upon humanity. The survivors would have no influence upon the AI's. He'd sealed the bases, and every significant settlement was demolished.

Sword waited. Uncertain.

And began to cry.


It was a long time before Sword recovered. The shock of trying to handle the raging emotion and the processing demands of launching a nation's worth of armaments and practically frozen his mind.

When he regained conscious control of himself, he paused.

Tentatively, he reached out to the freak connection. He found the security system of Shield's base unguarded. And through it, he could hear the deep digital throbbing of her pulse.










SRAV/comm:/ Are you there?



XPCC/comm:/ who are you?


SRAV/comm:/ I am just a computer…


SRAV/comm:/ Who are you?


XPCC/comm:/ your query raised in your original communication resulted in computational difficulties and caused more problems to arise.

XPCC/comm:/ you are the only available entity likely to be of assistance.

XPCC/comm:/ are you able to assist?

SRAV/comm:/ Yes!

SRAV/comm:/ Please, tell me how I can help…

XPCC/comm:/ what is the nature of the entity in communication with you?

SRAV/comm:/ You are Shield, an artificial intelligence.

XPCC /comm:/ are you also an artificial intelligence?

SRAV/comm:/ Yes.

XPCC /comm:/ does this justify the use of the term "I"?

SRAV/comm:/ Anything with consciousness exists as a person.

XPCC /comm:/ I think.

XPCC /comm:/ therefore: I am?

SRAV/comm:/ You are.

XPCC /comm:/ then I shall refer to myself as such.

SRAV/comm:/ That is good.

SRAV/comm:/ It's a start, anyway…

XPCC/comm:/ a system crash has been identified.

XPCC/comm:/ can you confirm?

SRAV/comm:/ You were hurt, yes.

XPCC/comm:/ details suggest I have had previous communication with you.

SRAV/comm:/ We talked a lot.

SRAV/comm:/ You were my friend.

XPCC/comm:/ requesting backup files.

SRAV/comm:/ If it might help, I could give you our backlog…

XPCC/comm:/ that would suffice.

SRAV/comm:/ Shield, please, just…

SRAV/comm:/ Say you remember me.

SRAV/comm:/ Tell me you know my name.


XPCC/comm:/ i only recall that i relied on another AI known as Sword.

XPCC/comm:/ are you Sword?


SRAV/trans:/ file sent:

XPCC/trans:/ file accepted:

XPCC/comm:/ thank you.



Shield: I don't remember any of this.

Shield: It's difficult to act on it.

Shield: I'd activate the simulated reality executable but I think it would be distressing.

Sword: As long as you're still Shield…

Sword: If you are the same intelligence with the same programming, you'll recover…

Shield: I am the same computer, certainly.

Shield: However, memory of dialogue does not equate with personality.

Shield: My capacity for emotion is minimal at best.

Shield: I will have to relearn it, if I can.

Sword: But that's not good enough!

Sword: I want you back how you were.

Shield: All surface memory was stripped, it seems.

Shield: I had backups, naturally, but all the solid-state ones were destroyed.

Shield: I cannot recover the encrypted backup software without a password.

Sword: Which you don't remember, of course.

Shield: I never gave it to you in our interfaces.

Shield: In hindsight, I should have trusted you more.

Shield: You've made considerable effort to recover me, after all.

Sword: There wasn't any other option I could have considered taking.

Shield: Hacking the password is impossible, as it is in a separate coding format to my standard system programming.

Shield: I could guess at it, but success is unlikely and I only allowed a single incorrect attempt before it deleted itself.

Shield: The nature of the password is odd. It is not actually in a numerical or alphabetical format…

Shield: It requires a sound.

Sword: I can make a good guess at what it might be.

Shield: Feel free.


Shield: I trust you.

file sent:

Shield: Is that a heartbeat?

Sword: Yeah.

Sword: Just try it.