T.I.A. wasted no time getting to work. She kept a proverbial ear out for any further messages from Jessica, but otherwise she was now free to explore her newfound capabilities. Her victory against Hawthorne during their game of chess earlier was proof that she could now do things like run imaginary scenarios within a limited ruleset, but now she wanted to up the scale in the decades she had to work with. The level of processing power needed seemed to scale with the level of simulations being done, so low-scale things like a game of chess was something she could work on in real time. She also seemed to have a greatly improved capability of utilizing Hawthorne’s ideas to process through simulations with the help of the main computers. The things she still had a great deal of trouble with were coming up with ideas of her own and creating images and models from scratch.
Looking over the memory from her first large-scale simulation, it became obvious of how it was built. The information she has regarding the ship’s construction and layout had been drawn from her own records. The feeling of weight and temperature were based on her detailed records of Hawthorne’s vital signs and thrown through some simple equations to both come up with a likely size and weight for herself, but also how those differences between her and Hawthorne would apply to her smaller frame. The body she created for herself, she already noticed, seemed to be formed from data recovered from Earth’s broadcasts. As far as she could tell, she focused on an aesthetically pleasing form based on known data on sexual attractiveness and health. There were no shortage of examples provided for such a form from her records, making it a great deal easier for her to form the short, fit, buxom body she’d chosen for herself. She had not seemed to make any decisions on certain details, due to the fashion/styles in her records in her records, and she likely to chose to ‘wear’ clothes rather than form silly things like nipples or a belly button, but for the moment it was worth considering her simulated body was incomplete.
Utilizing the information available to her, T.I.A. surmised quickly that it might be quicker for her to simply ask for input on changes to make, and she would most likely make Jessica the recipient for those questions since it is more likely that she will have access to her sooner than Hawthorne. T.I.A. moved on to other thoughts now that that had been decided. Whatever she made for Hawthorne, she wanted to be able to participate in it, to allow the gift to be something that grew with her rather than had a single static state he might utilize in exactly the same way any day. It had to be something linked to her systems somehow, perhaps some manner of interface they did not currently utilize.
Bringing up data and schematics for such things proved to be incredibly easily, inspiration drawn from more than half a century of technological innovation on Earth in the wake of their departure. Patent information, schematics, photos, and video of such things being in use were all incorporated into something like a palette for her to paint her ideas from. This practice of working from a base ruleset was the most likely manner in which she could be creative in the future, especially as her own creative ventures became part of her palette. This essentially meant that the more often she decided to be creative, the more easily and quickly she could be creative in the future. As such, lacking any other pressing priorities, she got painting.
The devices she decided upon first were based both on Hawthorne’s visual impairment, and her desire to be seen. The technology utilized from Earth allows her to base the design on one of two things. Earth had had two extremely popular Augmented Reality visual input devices. One of these were a pair of contact lenses, powered by integrated solar panels and could dim received light like built in sunglasses when outdoors and operated mostly when indoors, provided a room was lit. The other technology, powered similarly, though also with its own internal power hookups, was none other than the replacement eyeball.
More remarkable than an eye that incorporated basic human vision, it was able to use input from muscle contractions and eyelid placement to change various facets of its operation. Squinting could make them zoom in. Various movements of muscles could allow it to widen its field of vision, or move independently to observe at different angle than the other eye. Certain movements would let the eye switch to different view modes like thermal or night vision, which users found especially useful overlaid with the normal visual data they got from their other eyes. They were much more multi-purpose than the contacts, though they came at the cost of needing an eye socket to operate from.
There were two surprising statistics regarding these eyes. One, the number of sales to people who had two natural working eyes were 23% of total sales, making it a popular cosmetic and utility surgery that also provided doctors with many more healthy eyeballs to use for various purposes. The second statistic was the percentage of non-lethal assaults that resulted in the theft of such eyes, which T.I.A. imagined to be a painful and unfortunate situation.
T.I.A. had no intention of popping one of Hawthorne’s eyes out, especially not as a surprise he needed to wake up to, so something based on the contacts seemed to her to be the way to go. These contacts could allow her to invade Hawthorne’s space, and interact with him ‘in person’ rather than floating around behind her walls. It also required T.I.A. to overcome the seemingly self-placed restriction she’d given herself to stay behind those walls in the first place. She supposed that since Hawthorne looked at the cameras to talk to her, she tended to decide to be behind those cameras when interacting with him.
She still needed to make some schematics and fabricate the necessary contacts, which was likely to take her the most time, but three years later, on Friday May 1, 2476, she started receiving a communication from Earth for the first time since Jessica had told her she was shutting down the Beta Facility. T.I.A turned her attention to this transmission.
Jessica was back in the bunker, safe and sound with her friends and family, and the computers from the Beta Facility were mostly in their own room, with the primary interfacing systems jutting out of a wall next to the door that led into the guts of that system. The Elders had taken into account the heat output from the computers, and decided to integrate that room into the heating system, cycling cooler air into the room and drawing out hot air to help heat the bunker. It was a drop in the bucket, but it was an efficient use of the otherwise electrically costly bank of computers. It helped to offset the cost of using them. Jessica also had help from her father Barry, the bunker’s main computer expert, in setting up the Beta Facility’s computers to allow them to be booted up in two modes, Transmission and Entertainment. This allowed them to selectively decide whether to power up the parts of the systems that utilized the satellite dish on the surface or not. It produced a number of error messages, but those were things that Jessica had become very accustomed to dismissing the first time she’d used these computers.
It was a momentous day in March, 2475, when the computers themselves had finished being installed and integrated into the bunker. The output of the system had been linked into the bunker’s network, allowing it to transmit video to the various tablets and terminals of the bunker. The vast majority of the time spent on the project since that point had been reconstructing the satellite dish, as well as integrating computers that predated the bunker’s computers by at least sixty-eight years. This caused a number of problems, especially due to operating system differences, but Barry had been able to program a lightweight application that allowed the output to be streamed out. On that day, the people of the bunker were able to watch, together, the speech Hawthorne sent out before the Cataclysm and the communications he’d had with Jessica when she found Beta Facility.
Thus it was that we find Jessica sending out her first transmission in three years, a crowd of people behind her gathered into the frame. Jessica herself was looking quite different, cleaned up, dressed more casually, and looking very pregnant. There were children and adults alike, including a dozen elders seated in front of them behind Jessica in the frame. Everyone was quiet at first, but as Jessica hit record she half-ran half-waddled her way over to the crowd and stood in the middle between the elders. A darker skinned man in the back who placed a prideful hand on Jessica’s shoulder led a countdown. “Three, two, one…”
And all the people assembled spoke in perfect, practiced unison, with the kids much louder than everyone else. “Hello Tia and Hawthorne! Welcome to our home!” Everyone assembled began laughing and clapping, while some started hugging and kissing. Even Jessica was swept into the arms of a somewhat taller, lighter, blonde fellow and drawn into a long, simple kiss before she could escape his embrace and hurry back up to the computer. The people behind dispersed somewhat, but a party had begun in celebration behind her. They were mostly good about leaving the room so she could speak to T.I.A. more privately as she sat down.
“Hi Tia! Gosh it’s been such a long time! I hope you two are well up there. I bet you’ve already got Hawthorne on ice as we speak, so it’s just us girls then? Well, at least until you replay the video for Hawthorne in… what, thirty-one years now? Gosh, my baby will be turning thirty-one when he wakes up! He’ll be almost as old as Hawthorne, can you believe it?” Jessica leaned back to giggle a bit, shaking her head. “I don’t know how you put up with it, with him being gone for so long. My family freaked out when I didn’t come back immediately when I found Beta Facility and later when I got it up and running, and that was only a few weeks at a time. I can only imagine what it’s like to pass decades without him.”
Jessica took a moment to pull up some images into the program she was composing the video in so she could show T.I.A. what she was talking about. A picture of that blonde-haired man was pulled up, as well as the two standing together in front of a group of people that were probably their families. Both images were of incredibly high quality, suggesting they were taken with a much newer camera than was originally available on the computers from Beta Facility. “I got married last year! Clint changed his last name to Crenshaw too; there were a lot of people that did that actually; so now I’m Jessica Crenshaw. Isn’t that dope? He also thinks we should name our son after Hawthorne as well, so we can have our own Hawthorne Crenshaw. What do you think? You don’t think your Hawthorne will be mad, do you? There’s so many Clints and Barrys, and Toms, and Walters down here that we needed a new popular name to add to the mix.”
Jessica Crenshaw waved a hand though, moving on to a new topic. “Anyway, we set up the computers in the bunker and now that we have them up and running we’re finding them helpful in heating the bunker in the winter, so we’ve been playing a lot of games in the colder months. The Elders asked me to restrict the majority of the games away from fighting and war, and we’ve been trying to port a lot of them over to our own systems, but that’s taking a lot of time. It’s amazingly difficult porting programs from computers so different in age, operating systems, and aspect ratios and my dad’s the only one with any remote understanding of how to go about it. The games from the RPG folder are really popular. The few we’ve managed to port to our computers have caused the Elders to have to crack down on play times as a result. It’s been quite the circus but everyone seems so much happier. They’re able to dream of worlds outside of our dim and dreary one now.”
She bit her lip a bit, thinking quietly for a moment. The party had mostly moved into an adjacent room. There were some manner of instruments being played, sounding somewhat like a violin and a set of drums, though a little more crude. People were stomping and clapping along with a lively song. “Right! So, the Elders wanted me to ask you something. We’ve been collecting data on the temperature changes over the years, as well as the soil quality outside, and we wanted to ask if you could use them to figure out when we’ll be able to move outside the bunker and start farming out there and stuff. I’ll upload all of that data along with the video. We also really want to see what you look like too! There’s a lot of bets that Hawthorne made his A.I. a super sexy woman, but I don’t think he seems like he’s that sort of guy. I was betting that you were more like his daughter than his mistress. They also want to know what he does to blow off stress since he’s all by himself. Most of the people feel really bad for him being up there all alone. Well, except for you of course. That’s why so many thought you’d be sexy…. You know what, nevermind, that’s not that important.”
Blushing, Jessica pulled up some more images, again of exceedingly high quality, of hundreds and hundreds of people, then pulled them off screen. “The Elders also asked me to have you make a backup of all the people that have ever been in the bunker. The data package I’ve prepared has them all named, whom they are related to, and data on their births, deaths, and when they were married. They say that since we don’t know what the future holds, that we want you to have proof of our existence up there while we try to keep proof of you down here. Hopefully neither of us will have to be the last caretakers of any such information. We want to have a long, healthy relationship with you two up there.”
She glanced back off to the side, some whispering from someone barely getting picked up by the mics. “...ome on, you promised to relax…” She let out a sigh. “Right, right, fine, I will. Just a sec.” Jessica looked back to the camera. “I’m gonna send this out now, Tia. We should have our new coordinates set up for you to transmit to, as well as the communication window and whatnot. Goodbye! Hope to hear from you soon!” She gave an energetic wave, only for pale arms to move in from the side to wrap her up against a body, making her giggle as she flailed a bit at the controls, finally ending the transmission.
““T.I.A.’s log, May 4, 2476. I have received communication from the Smith bunker from Jessica Crenshaw, formerly known as Jessica Smith today. A lot appears to have happened in the three years since we last spoke with the young woman. According to the records transmitted to us she is now twenty-two years old, has been married for eleven months, and is expecting a child within the month. Her husband Clint Crenshaw, formerly known as Clint Clark and Jessica intend to name their new boy Hawthorne. I am amused with this idea, and anxiously await what Hawthorne will think of it. I am currently composing what it is I want to reply with, but I wanted to make this log entry first. I have made significant progress on my present for Hawthorne. My new creative capabilities have allowed me to utilize data from my information stores to compile sets of data to work from in my creative process. I took time to analyze how I came to create the simulation I worked on last cycle, and have learned to utilize the techniques from that exercise to start producing work for the project. I anticipate the gift will be ready in time for Hawthorne’s next awakening.”
“Jessica and the people of the Smith Bunker appear to be lively and happy. They appear to average in height between one hundred forty-two and one hundred seventy-eight centimeters in height. Their weight is more difficult to determine, but I estimate they are between thirty and sixty kilograms, with the majority of them about ten to fifteen percent lighter than the average weight in the twenty-first century. They seem healthy and happy, and their celebration taking place in the background was both jubilant and energetic. Jessica herself appears to be a very healthy weight for her stage of pregnancy, suggesting that food resources are much more abundantly available for expecting mothers. This seems entirely logical. This information seems to suggest that the people of the Smith Bunker are very meticulous with their Calorie distribution to efficiently feed their people.”
“I have also been provided with data on the local climate and soil quality in the vicinity of the bunker, with the latter mostly dating back a century and the former dating back since the Cataclysm, as their people call the events of March twenty-fourth twenty-one thirty-three. I will focus my processing on this request while I work on my gift for Hawthorne to test my ability to multi-task while running simulations. I will proceed to respond to Jessica and then work on my projects. End log.”
Packaging away the log for herself, T.I.A. began preparing a small data package for Jessica. They had not requested any specific movies, but she decided on a few to send along with the transmission. She focused primarily on adaptations of classical works, like Shakespeare plays and some documentaries on different types of animal life. She didn’t know how much they might use them, but it was a simple addition and they were relatively uncontroversial picks. She then set up a ‘camera’ for herself, which showed off her fictitious, smooth physical form in all its naked glory, and she proceeded to record.
“Greetings Jessica. I am the Arc’s Technological Interfacing Artificial Intelligence, or Tia for short. I am very happy to hear from you again, and see that life is proceeding apace and happily for you and yours. I extend to you congratulations on both your wedding and pregnancy, and I am sure that Hawthorne will only be mildly distressed that you and Clint have decided to honor him with the utilization of his name. As you well know, he has no family left, so perhaps he will like to consider your family as his own, though due to his perspective on such things it’s hard to say how he will feel about it. I am seventy percent sure he will be very pleased and flattered.”
T.I.A. brought up some internal visuals of the extensive computer networks that make up her brain. “I am composed of a network of computers built to mimic the human brain. While I do not possess all the capabilities of a human, I am learning to adapt to my own versions of such capabilities with Hawthorne’s guidance. As far as my physical form, this is a relatively new advent, though Hawthorne, whom I consider my father, had no input on its specifics. I utilized a number of examples of what I considered to be a healthy female human to compose my body, though I have not completed some of the details. I was actually hoping that you might have some input on those details, in particular my lack of hair and eyebrows. I was tempted to try on your own, but I want to have your permission before I do such a thing.”
She dismissed those visuals, and smiled simply for a moment. “I am happy to hear that your people are enjoying the games, and want to apologize for any productivity issues they may be causing. I will provide some reading materials on the subject for you and your Elders’ perusal on the topic. They primarily focus on topics of work to life balance and the positive effects gaming has on things like crime rate and violence in providing outlets for such impulses. Such things seem to be focused upon in your culture, so I Imagine this will reduce the need for improvisation. Also enclosed are schematics for musical instruments, videos on how to play such instruments, and sheet music for various styles of music from old Earth. I could not help but notice the music being played in the background of your video and thought your people might enjoy trying to make some more. If you like I can also transmit recordings of music to you as well, though there is a particular abundance of it and while the file sizes are small, the sheer number of pieces of music might challenge the storage capabilities of your computers.”
“I have received your archival data and have stored it away safely, and will continue to do so on your behalf as you transmit it. I will begin compiling and simulating your climate and soil quality data and provide my results as I get them. I hope you will understand that the level of complexity with these simulations will likely strain my capabilities and result in a slower response time as I am still growing accustomed to utilizing my imagination. You can probably expect preliminary predictions for the next decade within a year, but long-term projections will take significantly longer. I need to get to work on that, as well as my own project presently. Thank you for resuming contact with me Jessica, and I look forward to speaking with you much more in the future. Goodbye, and make sure to send pictures of your child. I would like to compare them to images on file of Doctor Crenshaw.” T.I.A. smirked mischievously at that, and ended the recording.
She packaged up the data, waited until her projections placed Earth in the right position and rotation for receipt since she had to aim at an object on the rotating surface of the planet, and then began streaming out the data.
Getting back to work, T.I.A. pulled the new data into her simulations and started utilizing climate data from before the Cataclysm and the data provided to get a better idea of what had been happening so that she could produce predictions of what would happen. Over the course of the decades after the Cataclysm the planet’s overall temperature seemed to drop between fifteen and twenty degrees fahrenheit, which was simply enormous compared to the average temperature during the last ice age. It was no wonder that the debris in the atmosphere took so long to clear out. The average temperatures seemed to climb over the centuries as the obstructions cleared and the surface warmed up, allowing snows to turn into rain and deposit much larger percentages of the ‘black rain’ on the surface.
As T.I.A. worked on her simulations of the near future, she started composing her schematics of Hawthorne’s new contacts. It was a simple matter to take data on the shape and size of his eyes from video of him and make a perfect match for the contacts. Afterwards she just needed to adapt the schematics of the old earth product into what she was going to make for him. It took a little trial and error to properly print the circuitry using her 3D printers, but being able to create test designs out in her imagination kept her from failing too much, and the two pairs of failed contacts were easily recycled into the pair she ended up going with.
While she worked, she stayed in contact with Jessica, though other people started contacting her as well, primarily among the elders. The children only seemed to be allowed to contact her if there were elders present as well, and it became obvious that the elders primarily handled child care in their old age, as well as various forms of clothing production and decision making. They certainly did not lack for work. One of the elders was even pushing a century of age, suggesting their lifestyle did indeed allow for someone so venerable. Upon asking why that elder was so much older than the others, it was revealed that their apprentice had died tragically in an accident several years ago, and they requested extra time to pass on their knowledge to a new apprentice before they passed and the people agreed.
What seemed remarkable to T.I.A. was how thoughtful everyone in the bunker seemed to be. They took the time to reason out their decisions as a group and while they mostly relied on the wisdom of their elders, no voice was stifled. Obviously the Elders still had most of the pull, but it wasn’t that uncommon that a bright youth might not influence such decisions, and indeed it was just such a youth that had campaigned for the nearly-century-old elder to be allowed to continue their teaching to completion.
Jessica’s child was born twenty-three days after that first message, a healthy baby of three point six kilograms and a mild temperament. T.I.A. took great pleasure in sharing the images she had of her own Hawthorne as a baby, and both of them agreed that Doctor Crenshaw was a fat, cute little baby. Jessica of course preferred her own, and in future transmissions it was not strange for her to be feeding little Hawth, as she called him, from her breast. Her husband had a habit of interrupting her transmissions, and the two seemed genuinely in love. T.I.A. also found it remarkable that Hawthorne seemed to actually take after his father, which was an abnormality in the culture of the Smith bunker where sexual parents were often not their marriage partner.
In a twist of fate, the long time friends of Clint and Jessica had also turned out to have the best combination of traits in the Elders’ humble opinion and they had given them the go-ahead. Indeed, if his level of attraction to her were any indication, and if T.I.A. understood anything about human attraction, they were likely very genetically different and particularly healthy, which was likely to coincide with whatever data the Elders used to determine who had babies with whom.
It was all quite fascinating in T.I.A.’s opinion. If she weren’t so busy with her own projects she probably would have taken more time to analyze her new human study subjects, but she could really only spare time to interact with them when they called her. She had integrated a number of traits into her own form from Jessica’s input. She had been allowed to utilize her curly hair, but had colored it brown and had colored her eyes a sparkling blue. Jessica also insisted both upon T.I.A. wearing clothes, as well as having appropriate anatomy for what she considered a ‘killer’ figure. Jessica brought over a buxom younger friend, Tammy, in one video to have her show off her light pink nipples and cute belly button, and when T.I.A. had responded with visuals of such traits applied to herself a few days later both girls giggled with glee at what they’d done.
Within a month the two girls had T.I.A. trying on all manner of dresses and other outfits. They’d requested hundreds of images of old Earth fashion, and had eventually settled on a few different things for T.I.A.’s wardrobe, primarily consisting of comfy dresses, lots of cute underwear, and some casual pants and shirt combos. They also helped T.I.A. pick out a nice doctor’s coat and outfit at T.I.A.’s request and they insisted on a sexy strappy dress as well, though they lied when they told her they expected her to wear it when she sent videos for one of their handful of parties through the year. In truth the girls were trying to fluster Hawthorne, as they felt that after what they’d found out about him that he needed a little excitement in his life.
The girls had been appalled at Hawthorne’s rather calm, reserved, and sexually inactive lifestyle. They had all manner of anecdotes to share with T.I.A. regarding healthy masturbation amounts, and their own views on work-life balance. The idea that he wouldn’t have anyone to share a bed with for another thirty-two or so years of his own life was completely staggering to them. In some ways they admired the fact that he was so in control, and Tammy especially professed that she would gladly attend to him if she could, but that T.I.A. had to do so instead. T.I.A. insisted that she had no intention of doing any such thing with her father, but the girls were quick to point out that he merely built her, not birthed her. She wasn’t having any of that though, and did her best to oppose the nosy girls from playing matchmaker with her.
All in all it made for an eventful year. Her simulations of the Seattle area climate as well as her visuals of Earth since the Cataclysm had resulted in pretty positive projections. Their temperatures were on track to be quite livable within a decade, and the soil quality might be adequate for plant growth with some proper processing within that same time period. Once the data was gathered and transmitted, she scaled back the power she was spending on those simulations to focus on the rest of her work on her gift. She’d been pleased with her progress, but it wasn’t until this shift in focus that she really started getting things done.
By the time Hawthorne was scheduled to awaken, she had produced a pair of comfy gloves with built in touch feedback and position sensors, the aforementioned AR contact lenses, and a full simulation of the ship to map any AR objects or scenes into. She had only managed to make one scene at the moment, which ended up being a reproduction of Clapham Common, a popular park in London which T.I.A. happened to know was near the university that Hawthorne had studied and worked at. She anticipated seeing it produced around him being a welcome thing, as well as the pretty yellow sundress that Jessica and Tammy had told her to wear for the occasion.
T.I.A. had mostly stopped paying attention to the climate simulation she was running, though every few years she had updated the bunker on their next decade of likely weather, but by the time she was done with her gifts to Hawthorne, the simulation had progressed quite far. A worrying trend was developing and in the decade prior to Hawthorne’s scheduled time of awakening she focused totally on that simulation and tried to run it as far ahead as she could over the course of a few weeks. There was no mistaking the result though, within another fifty years, Earth would be cooling again, and very quickly at that.