New Guard

A flickering candle amidst the gale

Cybersoul spends a quiet evening with their friends

Cybersoul was adrift in nothingness. They couldn’t feel their chassis around them- couldn’t sense anything around them at all. Even time, which they had always known, seemed hazy and… wrong, or not, or some other word Cybersoul couldn’t find. Moments seemed to flash by out of order. They were showing Max their new formalwear – playing hyperchess with Otakubot as they waited to find out of Schism’s family would be let go – washing their face after Noah’s prank at orientation. They saw Wutherfield alone at a computer and knew, somehow, that he was talking to them. Or what they used to be. It was that day, they realized, the day everything changed. They felt the fire inside them flare, the chains tighten, a sudden clarity.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report 01 Jul. 2013
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division is pleased to announce the successful launch of Project OTTO on 13 May, 2013. With Departmental clearance, the Division hired Dr. James Wutherfield as a consultant to finalize remote sensing integration. The consultant has signed a non-disclosure agreement (enclosed below). OTTO has been running for 11 days and has presented no problems so far.
Full Text: OTTO was launched 11 days ago. Thus far, he has… [Read More]

~~

The student lounge at Claremont was suspiciously empty for a Friday night. When Cybersoul, Noah, Max, Nina, and Otakubot walked inside, they were surprised to find the tv turned off and the foosball table unattended. In fact, there was nobody here at all – and hadn’t been for some time, if Cybersoul’s analysis of the room’s dust patterns was correct.
“Huh,” Noah said, teleporting up to a rafter to get a better look around, then back onto the floor in front of the tv. “This is weird. This place is usually packed. MC’s not throwing some kind of party without us, is she?”
“I am not aware of any party,” Cybersoul said, scanning back through their chatlogs with MC. No, nothing scheduled tonight. They switched over to the Next Gen Plus chat, noting a flurry of activity earlier that evening. All of it was vague, but from what Cybersoul could gather, most of the group had been sent on missions recently. Part of Cybersoul wondered why they hadn’t been selected to go along – and part of them thought they might know why – but mostly, they were glad not to have to back out on the evening their friends had planned.
“Finals are coming up,” Nina said, putting away her phone and looking sideways at Cybersoul. “Maybe everyone’s studying.”
“That is possible,” Cybersoul agreed. They didn’t have a stomach, but they still managed to feel vaguely nauseated as they said it. It wasn’t lying, but it wasn’t honest either, and Cybersoul hated keeping Next Gen Plus a secret from their friends.
“Well,” Noah said, interrupting Cybersoul’s thoughts, “no studying for us. We die like heroes: fighting valiantly against an enemy for which we are in no way prepared. C’mon, let’s get this movie set up.” Cybersoul and Max led Otakubot to the couch as Noah pulled up the documentary they had been watching for the past week.
“This is the one with the turtles, correct?” Cybersoul asked, as Noah turned on Episode 8: Coasts.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report 09 Oct. 2014
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division is pleased to announce that OTTO is a self-aware being as of 18:06:24, 20 Aug, 2014. OTTO’s regular functions have been temporarily suspended while software developers aid him through the transition to sentience. Suspension is expected to last for three weeks. The Division again recommends the addition of one full-time software engineer and one full-time machine learning expert to be employed for no less than three months, in order to monitor OTTO’s functioning as a sentient being.
Full Text: At 18:06:24, 7 December, 2014, OTTO expressed the opinion that… [Read More]

~~

“Yup. Got the hatching grounds and everything,” Noah said, teleporting onto the arm of the couch. It was too tight for all five of them to sit together, so Noah usually found some odd perch. Cybersoul was tucked between Max and Otakubot, the pressure of them pleasant and familiar against their chassis. Touch had been the hardest thing to make sense of, at first. They had never been able to feel the world right up against them like that, hadn’t known it was possible, hadn’t wanted any part of it. It was still with a combination of awe and wariness that they approached the world of texture – but right now, they wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“It’s so beautiful,” Max said, as the film opened on a wide shot of crashing waves. “I’d love to do something like this. Going to amazing places and everything. And this kind of stuff is so important for people to learn about.”
The soaring aerial shots that the series used so often had been difficult to watch at first, but Cybersoul was used to them by now. Max was right: this was used to educate, to help the world. They were glad that tech like this could be used for such a purpose. Cybersoul smiled as Max rested her head against their shoulder. Otakubot tipped unsteadily over the arm of the couch, and Cybersoul guided him to lean on their other side. Then Noah toppled over onto Nina, who crashed into Max, and suddenly Cybersoul was the keystone in a small pile of friends. Happy codes flickered through their systems, making their chassis feel tingly and warm.

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Special Report 13 May 2015
Author: Marian dufresne
Abastract: The Division regrets to write this special report due to complications with Project OTTO. On 12 May 2015, OTTO refused to complete a mission on moral grounds.The Division knew of this possible complication, and response measures are taking place. OTTO has been placed on reserve power. After one week, he will be slowly reintegrated into normal Division functioning, beginning with a probationary period wherein he will be unable to disobey orders. The Division requests the addition of one AI expert to work with OTTO on a personal level and alleviate his moral anxieties.
Full Text: On 12 May, OTTO refused a mission with Drone 187…

~~

They stayed that way for some time, watching the tribulations of coast-dwelling animals, until suddenly Noah sat up in excitement. “Oh! This is it,” he said, turning the volume up a few notches.
”Another beach, another continent, and a very special night…”
Cybersoul leaned forward on the couch, entranced, as on screen thousands of Ridley turtles arrived to lay eggs on the Costa Rican beach where almost the entire species had hatched. Cybersoul knew, based on when the documentary was filmed, that none of the hatchlings crawling over each other on the beach was The Riddler. But any one of them could have been his ancestor. “Can you pause it?” they asked. Noah obliged, stopping on a shot full of baby turtles.
Max pointed at a hatchling towards the bottom of the screen. “I think that one looks like him,” she said.
Noah raised an eyebrow at her. “They’re turtles,” he said. “How can you tell the difference?”
But Max shook her head. “No, it looks just like him! I bet it’s his grandma.”
“You’re crazy.”
Otakubot piped up for the first time that evening. “Th-that one has… a s-s-similar skeletal ir-irregularity to The Ridder. It could be r-related.”
Max grinned at Otakubot and leaned over Cybersoul for a high five, which he returned after a few tries.”Totally his grandma,” she said.
“I’m on team grandma, too,” Nina agreed, giving Noah a teasing grin.
Noah huffed in mock disapproval. “I see I’m outvoted,” he said. “Grandma Riddles it is.”

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Quarterly Report Oct. 2015
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: OTTO has experienced no complications since the “hiccup” last may. However, he has resumed his full functionality only after threats that disobedience would lead to the project’s discontinuation. The effect of such threats on his psychology is unclear, as OTTO has ceased communication with Division members outside of necessary reports. The Division strongly suggests the addition of an AI expert to act as a “counselor.”
Full Text: OTTO has completed 14 missions this quarter, a record high…

~~

Cybersoul found themself smiling involuntarily, looking around at their friends. A year ago, they hadn’t known moments like this existed. “I think we should go to winter formal together,” they said.
“Huh?” Max sat back to look at Cybersoul.
“I would like for us to go to winter formal together. All five of us, if this is amenable to each of you.” Cybersoul had been thinking about this for a while, and internally they pulled up the sources they had been consulting. “I understand it is customary to bring a ‘date’ to a winter formal event. The term ‘date’ implies a relationship classified as #romantic, a term which… still eludes my comprehension. However,” they went on, “I believe a ‘group date’ can be carried out between friends. As a group, we regularly engage in date activities, such as attending meals together, or watching movies.” They gestured towards Grandma Riddles.”I would enjoy going to the formal as a group, as well.”
“Huh. That’s-” Noah started, but he was cut off by the sound of an explosion. His eyes went wide. “What the-”
The five of them rushed outside, Cybersoul and Max leading Otakubot again. Cybersoul was relieved to see the other members of Next Gen Plus were congregating as well. More concerning, though, was the fire burning in the distance. Cybersoul needed to find out what was going on, but before they could move, a voice rang out over the chaos.
“What did you DO?!

~~

Offsite Targeted Tactical Operations (Project OTTO)
Project Archives: Final Report 8 November 2016
Author: Marian Dufresne
Abstract: The Division regrets to report the end of Project OTTO after the AI’s disappearance from MI-6 Facilities. Searches through OTTO’s remaining logs indicate encrypted correspondence with consultant James Wutherfield, of which the Division was unaware. The Division recommends that Wutherfield be found as quickly as possible, as his plans for OTTO are unknown. Further, the Division regretfully recommends that OTTO be shut down permanently once he is found.
Full Text: At 04:30:11 AM on 7 November 2016, OTTO’s chassis was…

~~

“-Kind of a cool idea,” Noah was saying. He was lounged on the arm of the couch, and Cybersoul was seated between Otakubot and Max. What had they been doing?
Oh. Right. Asking their friends out. This was fine. Everything was fine.
Whether everything would continue to be fine was in question.
“Yeah,” Max was saying. She took Cybersoul’s hand. “I would like that. Are you in?” She asked Otakubot, who nodded.
“We’re decided, then,” Nina said, reaching over Max to ruffle Cybersoul’s hair. “Team Wasn’t Us does winter formal.”
“Oh, heck yeah.” Noah had teleported back into the rafters in excitement. “This is gonna be awesome. But in the meantime-” he jumped back to the couch and scooped up the remote- “turtles.”
Cybersoul sat back as Noah started the documentary again. They were with their friends, and soon they would all go to winter formal together. They were happy, and safe, for the moment.

Everything was fine.

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