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A note from Warfox

Thanks so much to everyone for waiting so long for this chapter. I'm really sorry about how damaged my production schedule has been. I've been trying to work on this for days, but my mind has just been totally bled dry of creativity. I was only able to finally get this one together by putting off sleep on my only day off for the rest of the week. I'll do my best to hammer out more, but the next 3-4 weeks could prove equally difficult for me. No I am not forcing myself, and no I am not rushing anything. I am trying to maintain quality when I am lucid enough to produce it.

Edit- 11/30/2018: Cleaned up some of the language. Part of the 'Would Purge' of Nov 2018.

“T.I.A.’s log, AC 1972, November 30, 4105. A vacation was a good idea, even if my original intention proved unnecessary. Jessica’s reasoning regarding relaxation was clearly one borne of being stuck in a bunker for so long. I am certain that Hawthorne would have enjoyed being on a real beach more, that is obviously impossible, though I perhaps should have saved this surprise for when I complete his full body sensory suit. It was a good trial run though, as the fluid dynamics simulation I was practicing while he was playing in the water proved to make for an excellent lesson. By the time his biological birthday occurs, I should be able to handle such a simulation on the scale of his whole body, if not more.”

“I will complete the suit well before that, so I believe my preference will be to save it for the occasion. It will be the second birthday that I get to spend in his presence while self-aware, and the first one that I can appreciate to any level of significance. Unfortunately, like the beach vacation simulation, it will likely end up being a gift that will only facilitate testing and work, but considering who it is for, that seems acceptable. Even though I was concentrating on the water simulation on such a large scale, it was quite fun. The conversations did give me some odd things to consider though.”

“What is it like to relax? Could it be compared to how I have tended to lose attention on the passing moments when few things of import are happening between most cycles? The large amount of time spent practicing with my new body had indeed placed a noticeable strain on my consciousness that taking the time to play seemed to alleviate. Coupled with the fact that I feel compelled to limit my android body practice to a fraction of what I had the prior cycle, I am becoming aware that the more I focus my consciousness over the course of decades, the more it seems to fatigue me. I am aware of regenerative processes that occur during sleep states for human minds. Perhaps my subconscious maintenance protocols are much the same, requiring me to enter a low activity state to allow for the repair and tuning needed to solidify what I’ve learned over time.”

“If that is the case, it could explain why it is that I find it so difficult to focus exclusively on running the Phoenix Clan - Columbia simulation for centuries at a time. It was my initial belief that repetition allowed me to crystalize the pathways to more efficiently operate the simulation, but my tendency to divert my attention to other projects seems to suggest that it is simply less effective to doggedly pursue one line of research without rest. I believe I will alter my schedule of simulations to more closely mirror those of a human sleep schedule. I want to explore the value of freely dreaming as opposed to directly imagining the same simulations over and over. Randomly exploring different ideas and concepts and challenging my flexibility may hold some potential for growth that mere repetition does not.”

“I also want to find some way to inspire the sorts of instinct-based responses that Hawthorne and Jessica spoke of. I find it incredibly difficult to consider that I might be capable of emulating the desire to reproduce or anything of the sort, but I have experienced a great many of other emotions related to my motivations towards protecting my charges and aiding my friends. Simulating the biology of a human body at the level necessary to understand such a thing seems somewhat insurmountable for my level of technology. I essentially need to simulate the entire atomic and biological structure of a human body, including the mind, within my software to accomplish such a thing. It seems far more likely I will find my own internal processes that produce their own results.”

“At that point, it is a consideration of what arousal, sex, and release are. They are the biological imperative to reproduce, and the reward structures to encourage them. The reward structures are something I believe I have some understanding of. From the time that I first realized that Hawthorne was addressing me directly rather than my systems, I have experienced excitement, elation, and joy. As such, I seem to have a reward structure that has built itself around acknowledgement of my existence. I enjoy my avatar being observed and interacted with. I enjoy being treated as a person, rather than the form of my true components. This seems to be why I became so attached to the Phoenix Clan, as they never once seemed to doubt my nature or existence.”

“It is with that concept that I realize that I have done something terrible. In the pursuit of my own enjoyment and pleasure, I have imposed upon Hawthorne’s biology and thus his mind. If my efforts to entice him were pursued, in part, for my own gratification, then I have inadvertently committed an act comparable to masturbating myself at his expense. It would not be too far a logical leap to think that by doing something like that to him for my own enjoyment that I have in some sense raped him. It obviously lacks a level of invasiveness traditional to the term, but it remains that I have imposed upon him against his will and without more than his implied consent. This correlates with the fact that he was upset with the fact that I had been encouraged to do such things at Jessica’s behest, and while I believe he will not likely hold a grudge over it or think worse of her, it remains that I should make amends.”

Upon the start of cycle 62, T.I.A. had already been prepared to apologize. She went through her standard processes of preparing for Hawthorne’s return, slowly spinning up his habitat ring, providing him an atmosphere, and powering his compartments. Stored food and water were loaded into his dispensers, and the revival sequence was initiated. Only once she started getting confirmation from his pod that he was successfully reviving did she start loading up her simulation of Clapham Common. While these sorts of simulations had been somewhat difficult at first due to the fact that she had to project them into a spinning ring as they accelerated through space, it had become second nature to simply attach them to the rotating boxes containing her builder, leader, and friend.

She made sure that her android was not rudely standing over his pod this time, instead having it standing next to the table in the next room while she made sure hot water was available for his shower and all of the needed articles of clothing and equipment were provided to him out of storage compartments. She rather enjoyed the simple acts of providing life-giving resources and doing so in a measured and precise fashion. Hawthorne simply didn’t have to think about the logistics required of T.I.A. to provide him sustenance, though he was of course intimately familiar with all of the machinery involved.

Hawthorne awoke somewhat lost in thought though. He lingered in his pod for a few minutes while he considered the prior cycle and what T.I.A. likely has been up to since then. Making his way to the shower, he proceeded to wash up rather slowly. T.I.A.’s behavior since they lost contact with Earth had finally been explained, but now that he knew she’d been trying to seduce him in some sense, it was hard to look at her the same way. It had been a naive thing, of course, done with the intention of facilitating him to maintain his health, but it was hard to deny how awkward it had felt for him. In the time prior to the terrorist attack that had set him on this course so long ago, he might have chocked it all up to simple mechanical maintenance of a biological system in the form of his body.

Tia Monsalle totally changed the perception he had of his own self though. Even if he struggled to express the emotions she desired to inspire in him, it was doubtlessly true that her efforts and the confrontation with his own mortality had made him aware that he was anything but immortal. He was not merely a machine perfectly geared for research and engineering, he was a man with drives, fears, and a mortal body. He had spent most of his life merely sating his body’s needs, pushing them aside whenever possible to allow him to more effectively work. His current situation of not constantly being driven to produce work and accomplish tasks had left him free to consider his emotions, mind, and body in was he simply hadn’t needed to before.

More importantly, T.I.A.’s behavior had made it apparent to him just how much he missed human contact and interaction. He envied T.I.A., in a sense, for the fact that she’d gotten to spend decades corresponding with the Phoenix Clan while he’d been able to spend scant few days trading messages, information, and ideas. At this point T.I.A. was all that he had left of them, but even if he could enjoy the thousands of hours of video they’d shared with each other, it was still communication hopelessly far in the past, but it felt voyeuristic to peer into their private conversations with his AI. She had lost those people as much as he had, but now all she had left to interact with was him. She could only explore human nature and interaction through him, but he was left without any of either outside of what T.I.A. could emulate. She was certainly pleasant and good and kind, but the intimacy of human contact and the internal mechanisms caused through such interactions did not seem to easily respond to her artificial life.

He was unlikely to go mad, he assumed. He was far too aware of his own nature and tendencies, and while loneliness certainly affected him, it was hard to imagine that T.I.A.’s presence wouldn’t help him keep his head together. It helped that, while she had preferred to lose her identity as his daughter, and sometimes son, that he still had the pleasure of raising and guiding her through an adolescence that none but he may ever get to experience. There was pleasure to be had in the idea that cultivating her intellect would likely be his crowning achievement, and like any father concerned with the progression of their child he felt nothing short of pride over her every success and advancement. Even her efforts to seduce him reminded him of the awkward and clumsy efforts to interact with Tia Monsalle, though she’d definitely taken the lead in that relationship.

Perhaps it was his duty to take a more dominant role in her interest in exploring herself? She’d already involved him, regardless of his preference, but now that all the cards seemed to be on the table, she seemed particularly lost. She had been distracted and listless during their beach vacation, her preference towards watching him and splashing in the simulated water. It wasn’t lost on him that she had been concentrating on the simulation, but the way she’d reeled at the concept of reproducing biological motivations and responses was extremely telling. He also took some amusement in the fact that she was so accustomed to expressing herself through her avatar that she reacted to such things without affecting any other systems in the ship. It was as if the ship as a whole were something she was no more aware of than he was his internal organs, while her avatar and environment were her true body.

Creating a physical form for that avatar to encompass had seemed to have an interesting effect on her as well. He recalled seeing similar elation in dismembered humans who received prosthetics. It was like she’d finally been able to move a body she had always felt like she was supposed to have. She had been able to place herself in this environment for a long time, but now she could actually be in it, even if her mind was technically being projected through its much less advanced form. There was no way that he could make a computer adequate for her mind that could be properly embodied in a humanoid form with the technology he had access to. That presented issues for Megan Clark as well, but similar projections through an artificial body should be possible.

Hawthorne was also interested in the fact that T.I.A. could control her various drones that operated between her and the Lubar-Masis comet in a way more similar to the ship, while her android was a more all-encompassing effort. She wasn’t simply issuing orders and moving it around, she was physically trying to be in that body, as if she were a ghost possessing it. The idea of such a digital existence fascinated him endlessly, because he couldn’t even begin to imagine what her coding must look like to accomplish such a thing. The various mechanisms he had provided her as a baseline to produce her own programming had almost certainly been entirely replaced by this point, allowing her to grow in an organic fashion that surely better resembled DNA than it did code at this point.

Hawthorne did make his way out of his long shower after almost half an hour. He shaved and cleaned himself up, applied his contacts, and looked around. Nothing seemed abnormal in his room, but exiting out into the next room he saw T.I.A. waiting for him. “Good morning Tia! I hope you’re well and enjoyed the rest of your vacation.” He approached her, while her face reacted in a number of different ways that seemed highly conflicted.

“Hawthorne I-” T.I.A. lifted a hand to make a gesture, with her fingertip raised, only for Hawthorne to scoop an arm behind her shoulders. As he leaned down to kiss her it was obviously an awkward movement that essentially forced him to press lips to the plastic of her faceplate while her avatar’s lips reacted reflexively. He got essentially nothing out of the contact, but T.I.A.’s wide eyes, startled reaction, and reddening face made it clear she was not expecting that! She’d been intending to confess to some manner of emotional rape, and here he was kissing her!

She reflexively pushed away at him with her new arms, her strength typically limited to that of a short young woman just for safety sake. It was enough to get the point across, and Hawthorne leaned away, laughing and looking her face over for her reactions. “Hmm… Good reaction! I’m very interested to hear what you felt about that.”

T.I.A. had all but frozen, her concept of what was happening seeming much more like a dream than reality. An embrace and a kiss was a very clear acknowledgement of her being a real person, and a very intimate one at that, and while it didn’t have the same meaning to her, it still caused her to smile goofily up at him for a moment. She managed to straighten herself out shortly after, but her face remained quite red in response. “Hawthorne, I… don’t know why you did that, but I wanted to apologize for overly concerning myself with your private business and sexual health. It was wrong of me to do such things without your permission and to treat you like that without making my intentions clear.” Her voice lacked all of the confidence that she’d intended to portray with that. It did have the effect of feeling more genuine though.

Hawthorne nodded, smiling a fair bit. “Tia, look, I appreciate what you were trying to do. I learned a lot from what Jessica had said and plan to spend much of the near future familiarizing myself with literature on the subject. You revealed to me a weakness in my knowledge, and gave me some direction for some much needed research. I relied on your ability to utilize all of your access to biological documentation to handle my future needs rather than learning what I could on my own. My knowledge needs to be more complete, and I need to thank you for giving me some direction. I also realized that without people from Earth, it’s better if I take a more active role in helping you explore and discover the things you’re interested in, rather than letting you do everything on your own. It’s my job after all.”

T.I.A. had a lot to process. There was first the undeniable pleasure of the kiss to consider, but the fact that he’d held no ill will towards her. She felt like she’d spent the last cycle worrying over nothing. A strange emptiness where that guilt had built up in her sucked at her like a vacuum. She’d had so much prepared to say in apology that she hadn’t had anything else ready to say. “I… I didn’t really expect you would be upset with me, but I had so preoccupied myself with what I was going to say to apologize that I didn’t really think of much else to say… I suppose I can share that I’d considered the mechanisms that I seem to possess that most resemble sexual interaction. I seem motivated by being interacted with as a person rather than a machine, and that kiss definitely caused a reaction.”

Hawthorne laughed and smiled down at her, reaching out to cup her face and rub her thumb against her cheek. “Well, unfortunately I don’t have anything like these gloves for my lips, and we didn’t texture your face, but I’m glad you liked that. Maybe we can consider ways to stimulate those responses for you if you desire to do so? That does cause me to be concerned about something though.”

T.I.A. nodded, then blinked. “Concerned? What for? Is it bad that I experience such things?” She shifted and squirmed, her android body mirroring her uncertain and nervous body language.

“Oh, no, I don’t think it’s bad necessarily, but if you react like that to just me, what’s going to happen when we have two thousand people interacting with you? Sure, they probably won’t be surrounding you or anything, but there’s a high likelihood you might have as many as a dozen people in the same room with you someday in the future, all treating you as a colleague and friend.” He watched her quietly, enjoying the way she was reacting so shyly to all of this after months of being bold.

T.I.A. probably would have fainted if she could, imagining so many pairs of eyes upon her and people interacting with her all at once caused her to tremble visibly. The machinery of her android body did not emulate this movement well at all, seizing up stiffly instead to prevent damage while her avatar reached up to touch her face and smile brightly. Surrounding them in her VE were non-specific generic people in lab coats all looking at her, some holding clipboards and all of them appearing to talk and look at her. Considering the way she seemed to lose her sense of being present, and had a far-away look on her face as she imagined so many people interacting with her, it wasn’t hard to figure what was going on.

“Tia, come back to me, you’re imagining that a little too hard.” He watched as her body stopped trembling, her android catching back up with her as it smoothly moved its hands up to touch at her face. The extra people vanished away as T.I.A. focused back on him, looking very confused and embarrassed.

“Wh.. what just happened?” She looked bewildered and had a persistent smile on her face that she didn’t seem to have any control over. She looked incredibly pleased with the situation he’d presented to her imagination.

“Tia, I don’t know if it’s the correct definition, but I think you might be an exhibtionist, but rather than wanting your body to be seen, you want your mind to be seen.” He nodded and smiled down at her.

T.I.A.’s eyes widened further as her jaw dropped a bit, staring up at him. If he was right, then that meant her VE was part of it. No wonder she interacted with him solely within her VE these days! It was part of her mind after all. In a remarkably self-conscious move, her avatar and Clapham Common disappeared, only leaving her android, frozen and clearly abandoned by its suddenly shy owner. Hawthorne laughed heartily and shook his head. “No need to be shy, Tia! I’ve already seen everything!” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, that was mean. Feel free to let me know when you’re feeling better, I’ll try to stay out of your hair while you think.

T.I.A. was mortified. She’d been exposing her mind to him all this time, but not just for work or play, or to make him feel more at home. She’d been doing it for the pleasure of interacting with him and exposing her very mind to him. She’d made those contacts and gloves of his specifically for it, but she hadn’t realized what was motivating her. She wanted her mind to be seen. She almost felt dirty realizing it.

Hawthorne got on with his day, letting the self-conscious T.I.A. deal with her feelings. He could only imagine what she was going through, but he imagined it was something to do with the concept that she’d naively been acting like a pervert. He supposed a speech about how it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that she enjoyed being seen and interacted with would be worthwhile. He smiled to himself as he imagined telling her about how it was totally natural, and it was good for her health, and that he worried about her making sure she expressed herself regularly for her own good. Turn about was fair play, and she’d been embarrassing him so much for so long that it was kind of fun to turn the tables on her, just for a little while.

A note from Warfox

Once again, not how I expected this one to work out. Definitely a sign that I was able to tap into my creative spirit properly for this. Hope you liked it. Also, have a little poll, one that I especially would like my handful of patrons to contact me with their feelings on!

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