[[ Facial recognition online ]]
[[ Targeting systems activated ]]
[[ No hostile presence detected ]]
[[ 3 humans present; identifier : Neosansus crew ]]
[[ Facial recognition activated. Programmer Debbie Baker; Analyst Joshua Rayne; Chief of Security Samuel Schmidt ]]
Samuel let out a rolling impressed whistle, nudging the towering young man to his right. “Came a long way from a ‘battle learner', huh?” his grin was full of excitement.
Joshua stumbled to the side, quickly regaining his footing and averting his gaze from the mesmerizingly menacing creation to his commander in practice, having to lower his head. “Yeah,” his smile was a humble one, “that's some transition, from feeding protocols to an A.I to watching it apply-“
“What did I tell you about calling him ‘it’?!” an angry growl interrupted their conversation, accompanied by a punch to Joshua's shoulder by the shorter programmer at his side, a furious little ginger with her piercing blue eyes lodged at his temple.
“I didn't mean him,” he then gestured to the elephant in the room – an android slightly taller than him and broader than Samuel, made of sturdy plated exterior, some visible underneath a set of generic camouflage-patterned military uniform. The android was scanning them, unblinking, through optic receptors made of dark metal, nearly black, bringing out the light green mechanical iris and pupil. This model, unlike the therapist prototype, was made with clear intention of making him look humanoid, but not human. Or humane. “I was referring to A.B.E.L, the autonomous battle-engaged learner program we were working on-“
“That's still Abel!” Debbie stomped her foot, hard. “You can't dismiss such an integral part of his program- even if it was complete before Cain's programming was introduced!” she added in a huff, already seeing the analyst's argument from a mile away.
Joshua gave a sheepish smile, defensively raising his hands. He was wise enough to not argue for what exactly gave Abel his personality...or a semblance of it, at least. There were already several long debates between them on whether a complex command-based A.I can produce personality beyond what humans associatively project on a military figure, or is this a result of the integration of Cain's base programming, that was intended to be adaptive and more flexible nature.
Whichever the case really was, it never deterred Debbie from vehemently protecting the metal soldier's humanity, simulated or otherwise - some would even say in the same passion as Lillian insisting that of her own creation.
"This aggression towards your own team is highly unnecessary," Abel's stern voice broke the rising tension, drawing the attention of everyone back to the very reason of this small gathering, "this type of hostile discourse is potentially harmful to the integrity of any team." His voice was reminiscent of Cain's flat tone upon first activation, although deeper and with a distinct artificial quality to it, further emphasizing the fact that he wasn't meant to mimic a human, not to the degree his counterpart was aimed towards.
While this choice of visual and auditory design had a clear purpose of establishing either fear or authority, Samuel appeared to be unaffected, patting the large android's arm with a knowing smile. "He's right, you know. We didn't get to where we are by being at each other's throats, and we won't go much farther if we start now," he reminded the bickering duo.
Debbie let out a disgruntled murmur, folding her arms to her stomach, while Joshua straightened up and nodded - a reaction that appeared to have been almost instinctive. "Yes, sir," they answered in unison, trading a glance and a flashing smirk at their coincidental timing.
Relieved, Samuel stepped away from Abel, taking a step towards them. "Are all of Abel's protocols tested for deployment, Debbie?" he asked the programmer, who gave a swift confident nod. "And Josh, are the testing grounds at the deployment base ready and equipped with everything needed for efficient data gathering?"
"I've made all the final verifications this morning," Joshua's voice changed to a more confident one as he answered and his posture straightened when facing the officer up close, putting himself even closer in height to Abel than Samuel was. "The commissioner is expected to be there and observe in person, but should something happen to cancel their attendance, the whole testing process would be recorded for later inspection together with recorded operational data."
"Very good." Samuel smiled and pat the young man's shoulder. "At ease, kid," he added, and just like that Joshua's posture slumped with an embarrassed chuckle, looking more like he truly belongs in the Research Department rather than being registered as part of the security team. "So, if all's in place, I'll have Mike and the team to prepare Abel for transport. Come along, big guy," he turned around and Abel soon followed, heavy steps thundering within the small workshop and later outside in the hall as the two headed off, leaving behind the main programmer and the assisting strategist.
Noticing the unusual silence once the echoes of the steps have died out, Joshua looked to his side to see Debbie staring off to where Abel had disappeared once turning a corner, her gaze distant.
"He's going to be just fine," he assured her, having a wild guess as to what's on her mind. The speed in which Debbie's head turned to look up at him suggested he was right. "It's just field testing, still in a controlled environment. They'll have reinforcements both for needed repairs or to back the team up should something happen-"
"That's not the definition of 'just fine'," Debbie huffed, brow furrowed. "Things being 'just fine' means there wouldn't be need for reinforcements."
Joshua shook his head, "there's always room for reinforcements. Better have some extra team on their feet than to come up short on the field."
"Ugh, you and your stupid military logic..." Debbie huffed again and turned to walk out of the room.
"It's common logic, not military exclusive," Joshua followed with a chuckle. "I mean, there are MedBots on call and a resident psychologist should something go wrong with Cain's treatments, even though he was proven to have a near-zero risk-"
He was cut off by a jab to his arm, not a particularly strong one, but not a friendly one either. "Would you stop comparing him to Cain so much?!"
"That's...practically impossible?" laughing, Joshua seemed confused with her demand. "Like it or not, Abel does share his programming. I may not know much- or at all- about coding, much less of the making of something as complex as artificial intelligence, but..." he stopped, voice trailing off. "Well, you get the gist of it," he scratched the back of his neck, "like with real human siblings, if there's basis for comparison, it will be applied one way or another."
Debbie kick-stepped with a grunt, her cheeks puffed. "I guess..." she pouted, face still scrunched to a dissatisfied look. "And... I suppose it'd make sense as to why he chose to diffuse this...argument, rather than physically separating us." She paused and gave Joshua a side glance before looking up at him entirely, her irritated tone slowly replaced with a curious one. "I've heard a word that you know the people who commissioned Abel. Is that true?"
"Oh," not expecting this type of rapid change in subject, Joshua almost stumbled over his own feet as his body and mind couldn't agree on whether to stop or keep walking forward and did somewhat of both. "Yeah, I know them...to some degree..." he admitted, knowing there isn't a veil of secrecy surrounding the matter. Not within the confines of the complex. "They've recommended me as part of this project, both as an adviser as well as their personal contact on the development of it."
"Personal contact?" Debbie squinted, tilting her head ever-so-slightly, "I thought they had Schmidt and the rest of his team for that."
"Hey, I'm part of this team, too."
"The uniform suits you, but you're more in tune with Uriel's nerd squad," she flashed a smirk.
Having walked the fine line between 'nerd' and a 'soldier', Joshua couldn't even take a genuine offense at that jab. He smirked back and ruffled Debbie's hair, making a small static mess of her ginger bangs. "Don't say that like it's a bad thing, they're a good squad of nerds," he mused, moving his hand away after Debbie batted it off with a nasal growl, "back to your question, while it's true that the commissioners are associated with the same regiment Samuel and most of the security team belonged to, they aren't involved much beyond testing, after the 'learning' part was done with, and they have their own independent role in the complex regardless of Abel's status."
"Right," she ran her fingers through her hair, combing it back into place, "it's easy to forget sometimes. I've mostly seen them all practice together since I started working here," she donned a softer smile, yet curiosity has yet to leave her complexion. "Is it also true that you've known Samuel since before you were hired to work here?"
"I did. Why?"
"Do you-" she paused; there was a hint of hesitation laced in her tone. "Do you know what happened to his arm?"
She could see his jaws clench in an instant, looking just as hesitant to tackle that question as she was to bring it up. "It's a... sensitive topic," he sighed, "even what I've heard of it has been spoken in hushed tones, so...well, I've met him after it happened, so I can't really confirm what I've heard. But it looks like even those who know for certain are careful about bringing that up."
" 'Those who know'?" Debbie repeated, "who might those be? Sounds like you've heard it from someone in this complex."
" 'Overheard' would be more accurate," he noted.
Debbie rolled her eyes, twisting her nose. "Alright, then...who did you overhear this from?"
"I'm not sure who he was talking to, but it was from the head of the 'nerd squad'."
Debbie stiffed a chuckle. "You mean Uriel?"
The two yelped and turned on their heels in perfect unison towards the chiming voice, miraculously seeing the Chief Researcher smiling brightly at them, summoned by the mere mention of his name.
"Have you been tailing us, what the hell?!" Debbie cried out, hand clutching at her chest, panting.
Uriel answered with an amused chuckle, "I didn't mean to scare you, just happened to be within an earshot," he hummed, looking over to Joshua and examining the sudden loss of color from his face. His amused expression turned to an embarrassed one, "I'm sorry Josh, didn't expect such a visceral reaction."
"I... I-I'm fine, just...give me a moment..." Joshua exhaled a shaky breath, dragging on hand over his face.
It was only then when Debbie noticed his pale complexion, letting out a quick sigh. "You really do belong better with the nerd squad than with security," she nudged her elbow in his waist, making him jolt, "good thing they didn't give you a gun."
"That's because he asked to not be given one," Uriel pointed out, stepping closer to give the startled Joshua a pat on his shoulder, "a very responsible choice, if I may add."
"Oh, uh...thanks, Uri," Joshua's voice turned to a mumble and he took a few breaths, the color returning to his face little-by-little, thanks in part to Uriel's gentle yet reassuring touch.
Meanwhile Debbie rocked back and forth on her heels, drawing out a long hum. "O-kay, I'll leave you two lovely nerds to sort things out and try to see Abel off before his deployment," she announced, turning to where she was heading in the first place.
"You know, being the brilliant young programmer that you are, you fit right along us 'nerds'," Uriel hummed in her wake, seeing as there was no tone of mockery to be traced in her voice.
"Maybe so," she shrugged, waving as her back was turned. "See ya."
"She has an odd way of showing affection," Uriel grinned, walking with Joshua towards the research department, "I'm guessing Abel's departure has been hard on her?"
"Kinda like sending your child off to camp," Joshua mused, scratching the back of his head, "I'm sure she'll get over it once he'll be back from testing in one piece."
Uriel looked up to the young strategist, tilting his head. "You seem highly confident in the success of this trial run. Know anything we don't?"
Joshua could see the spark in the Chief Researcher's eyes in his anticipation to hear something new. "I know how they planned the trial and what parameters they intend on checking. Should be a harmless trial, as long as they don't make some last minute changes," he explained, and upon seeing Uriel's bewilderment he was quick to add, "you know how it is sometimes, someone gets some last minute 'brilliant' idea...for better or worse."
"Let's hope it's for the better, if at all," Uriel nodded, perking up after a moment. "Oh! Speaking of trial runs, have you heard the news?"
With the researcher's sudden rise in excitement, Joshua would've assumed he'd know if something big has happened in the complex, but he drew a blank, shaking his head.
"A request to give Cain a 'day-off' outside of the complex has been forwarded to upper management," the man was practically beaming, "there's a good chance he'll finally be allowed to explore a small patch of the real world."
While he couldn't quite share the same level of excitement, Joshua still grinned back at the sight of how happy Uriel was. "These are some good news. Guess the brothers are even now."
"Good one," Uriel chimed, adding a skip to his step. "I can't wait to see how it'd turn out."
"Will he just be allowed to roam around, or...?" Joshua hummed. While not having much to do with Cain, being a military strategist, he knew just enough about the android therapist and his confinement to the complex for this news of his planned time outside to pique his interest.
"No, even if it'd get approved this day-off is heavily conditioned," Uriel explained, but his excitement hasn't died down a bit, "he'd have to be under supervision at all time and even then he'd still be allowed in a pre-approved area. Still, it's a world of difference from this sterile environment."
"That it is, yes," Joshua agreed, "it'll be interesting to see how he'd handle being outside for the first time, compared to Abel."
Uriel was looking downright giddy. "Precisely!" he exclaimed, clasping his hands together, "there'd be so much data to sift through. We haven't had such a surge of expected input in quite a while."
"Like a spring-time Christmas, huh?"
"Pretty much!" Uriel laughed, stopping short of his office and turning back at the strategist. "I'm expecting the data logs of Abel's trial run as soon as they're available."
Joshua smiled and nodded, taking this as a reminder he has a schedule of his own to attend to. "You got it, chief," he saluted, turning his way and hearing Uriel's office door close behind him soon after.
Things sure were taking a turn to the exciting lately.
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