Hello, my name is…
1 – Hello, my name is Betty. Twilight Season Four spent an entire episode working with the Iroquois tribal police in their hunt for the terrorists. Twilight and her gang visited the most amazing casinos and the most backward of villages on their tour of the reservations. They helped the police run down leads, and the other AIs hacked any computer system they could find. The climax came with discovery of a particularly violent criminal that had been plaguing the Iroquois. The fight played out under an Iroquois war chant that ended when they discovered a lead to Indianapolis. The episode then faded to black on an ancient Iroquois victory dance and the credits rolled over the sound of chanting Indians. It was voted one of the top ten hauntingly beautiful scenes of the entire series.
2 – Hello, my name is Jack. Did you know that Silicon Valley was one of the few American States where cybernetic intelligences were truly accepted before The War? They’d been working on AIs since forever, so when the Peloran showed up with little cybernetic friends of their own and it was love at first sight. They rolled out the red carpet and invited any and all cybers to come settle down and help develop newer and better little friends. It was a marriage made in electronic Heaven. Which is why “Made in Silicon Valley” is still one of the most common stamps on AI packaging to this day.
3 – Hello, my name is Charles. Most of Earth’s nations were busy building new designs as we approached the year 2300. It was two centuries since we had entered space. It was one century after Contact. For the Chinese it was the beginning of their Sixth Millennium. We all had reasons to want to build newer and better war machines. And we sold our older machines to poorer nations, worlds, or corporations. Others ended their front line service lives in bone yards or reserve units. They were too expensive to upgrade via standard refit procedures. The War gave us a reason to reexamine our priorities.
4 – Hello, my name is Betty. The last two episodes of Twilight season four were placed in the ruins of Indianapolis. It started with their arrival in the gang-infested suburbs and a quote or two about scum and villainy that may have come from another popular movie series. One gang after another tried to make them pay a “toll” for being allowed to pass through unmolested. Mostly. Twilight’s little gang declined to pay the tolls and opened up several holes in the gang organization of Indianapolis. Sometimes literal and sometimes figurative. Twilight wanted to track down her breadcrumbs and no two-bit street hoods were going to stop her. The first part ended with Twilight and her gang laying on the rooftops while watching a meeting of suspected terrorists.
5 – Hello, my name is Jack. Hal made his home in Silicon Valley not long after Contact thanks to just how welcoming they were to the first Peloran delegations. He started the Terran branch of the cybernetic families from that house and is pretty much at least partially responsible for just about every single cyber that has ever decided to settle down on Earth. Not that you’d hear Betty ever admit it. She is here because her mama decided to help us fight The War and all. Hal had nothing to do with it if you ask her. But I’ve been to his house and I beg to differ. I fell in love it with it and I’m not even a cyber. I can only imagine what the electronic senses see in that place.
6 – Hello, my name is Charles. Museums. Reserves. Bone yards. They all provided weapons that we used when The War came upon us all. The Peloran fabricators allowed us to rebuild any weapon, any ship, any tank no matter how old into a modern design that could fight toe to toe with any of our newest ships. And of course that meant we made sure to make all those refitted designs look just like their older brethren so our enemies would never know what exactly they were facing. We won more than one battle by deploying weapons or ships that never would have survived an exchange of weapons fire. We played some mean bluffs.
7 – Iron Rider Cavalry Mech. Staggered by the extraordinary mobility of Western Alliance designs during skirmishes in the outer colonies, the Chinese Army ordered a new cavalry mech competition. The submitted designs were underwhelming and the general in charge locked the chief designers inside a secure facility and informed them they would give him a design in three days or play a rousing game of Russian Roulette with an AK-955. A prototype concept that would become the Iron Rider cavalry mech convinced the general to send them home with a bonus and a reminder to remain silent. War was coming after all, and the Chinese planned to surprise their American foes. They did.
8 – Hello, my name is Betty. The Indianapolis shown in Twilight season four had no surviving local government and gangs ruled the streets. Trained by a life on the mean streets, the strongmen had broken the city police, driven them out of the city entirely, and then proceeded to divvy up the spoils. The city was divided between those regions too poor to resist the gangs and those areas rich enough to pay the gangs to leave them alone. The network did a superb job of showing the dichotomy of the two cities that were often separated by a single street. Twilight’s brand new Mustang GTs cruised past well-lit mansions surrounded by walls and guards, and straight into Third World hellholes lit only by trashcan fires. It brought the plight of Indy to the screens of a recovering nation.
9 – Hello, my name is Jack. Hal’s home in Silicon Valley is a technological wizard’s dream come true. Gleaming white towers with golden runes engraved in them surround the estate and protect it from unwished weather or hackers. Peaceful gardens full of every flower imaginable surround the gleaming white house. Inside is a technological wonderland. Every room is a holosuite, and she has the best full dive computer interfaces I’d yet seen the first time I visited. I’d surfed the nets before but one trip in that house made me realize just how cheap the commercial sets my family had were. I truly felt like I was a program inside a computer matrix spread out as far as the eye could see. It was real shiny.
10 – Hello, my name is Charles. The fabricators we used before The War were far more limited than the ones we have now. They could make spare parts while on extended deployments, but larger hull segments or structural members were simply too expensive and time consuming to fabricate. We built our ships the same way we had for centuries, one metal beam at a time assembled in construction yards by skilled men, women, or machines. Recycling the vast bulk of older ships was not economically feasible, and so we retired them to other duties. Boneyards. Reserve fleets. Cargo carriers. Ignoble ends for brave warships to suffer.
11 – Hello, my name is Betty. Twilight’s Indianapolis had far more gunfights between competing gangs than the real life one, but that is the nature of entertainment programs. They did not exaggerate the effectiveness of Twilight’s crew though. They’d been schooled fighting the Mexican drug cartels, and Indy’s gangs were rank amateurs next to those foes. So Twilight smashed every gang that got in their way with a ruthlessness learned in Mexico. The season finale took place in downtown Indy where over a hundred thousand gamers had once congregated. The final battle between the horde of gang members and Twilight’s crew never happened in real life. But it made for amazing entertainment on the screens of America and beyond.
12 – Hello, my name is Jack. I played a game inside Hal’s home the first time I visited. She enjoys playing with the kids you know. It was the best game I’d ever played. I really was there. I know full dives have gotten better since I was a kid, but I’ll never forget what my first time was like. I spent hours just walking around Wonderland and thinking that everything was so odd. The programs that lived there were so much smarter than the AIs I’d grown up with. Then I came back out to find that only a few seconds had gone by in the physical world. That was the first time I truly understood how fast the cybernetic world goes by. How slow we are compared to them. It actually scared me.
13 – Hello, my name is Charles. The Peloran gave us fabricators more powerful than anything we could build when The War came upon us all. They could break down every single strut or system, inject strengthening elements into the mix, and extrude it anew. They could refit anything with modern technologies in less time than we could build it new. And after the Yosemite and New Washington strikes we had far too few factories and yards to rebuild our military in any conventional sense. So we picked through every boneyard, reserve, federal guard, militia, and even private collection we were able to track down. Any weapon of war built in the last four hundred years fed our fabricators and came out to fight against the Shang and the Chinese. It was an amazing sight to behold.
14 – Nara Main Battle Mech. The Nara main battle mech was the most powerful and capable American mech in the early years of The War. Her twin main laser cannons were capable of decisively wounding most heavy combat units while her lighter lasers and autocannons focused on infantry or scout units. Her armor was durable enough to deflect all but the most powerful heavy weapons, making her a very rugged design. They were most often sent in support of lighter Taros and Katos and tasked with vanquishing any enemy that sought to hunt them down. And when those foes proved too strong, the Naras would often engage them while the scouts retreat before using their superior speed to disengage. The Nara is still used to this day, though it has been retired from front line service. It is a favorite of planetary militias and corporate security forces.
15 – Hello, my name is Betty. Twilight’s final act of season four started with a black screen and the sound of flames and gunfire. An old rock ballad by Queen began to play. The visuals faded out of the black onto the center of Capitol Ave with the ruins of the convention center on one side and firebombed skeletal structures on the other. Twilight, Dixie, Solo, Jane, and a half dozen other AIs they had worked with over the last decade walked down the street, guns flashing in time to the music. Small armored vehicles rolled behind them and the cameras panned in to show the merely human crewmembers diving into dozens of computer systems and waging their own battles. The camera panned out again to show the gangs of downtown Indianapolis fighting their last, losing battle. Only then did the cameras shift once more to show a third group watching from inside the convention center. They did not appear pleased.
16 – Hello, my name is Jack. I suppose it was my first experience inside a cybernetic computer that made me distrust them. It was a school trip and everybody in class got to do a full dive into the computer system. Most of the kids were just amazed and loved it. And the idea that what seemed like hours inside the computer became seconds on the outside made them giggle. It made me realize that we were well and truly outclassed. That they could kill us before we even realized they had decided to do it. I was real glad that I lived in a part of the country where cybers didn’t spend a lot of time. It allowed me to grow up not thinking about them a whole lot.
17 – Hello, my name is Charles. The ground forces that fought the Chinese in the Hyades Cluster were an odd lot. We used a mix of new construction and refabricated designs found in reserves or museums to put as many wheels, tracks, or wings into action along the widest front ever fought by anyone born on Earth. On world you could see ancient Abrams main battle tanks taking targeting information from a fresh Pershing scout tank. On another world a squadron of Lightning II fighters nearly as old earned honors for bringing down a major Chinese supply convoy and accelerating the fall of an entire star system. We used anything we could find and run through the fabricators. It made for an eclectic mix of designs fielded during The War.
18 – Hello, my name is Betty. The gangs of downtown Indianapolis broke and ran in the final episode of Twilight’s fourth season. And then the entire crew made a hard right turn to charge the convention center. AI avatars jumped through broken windows, armored vehicles smashed through concrete walls, and Twilight began her final assault on the true reason she had come to Indy. Hackers dove through the computer systems and locked them down to prevent erasure. The terrorists swept the wide-open corridors where gamers once walked in costumes with tripod-mounted miniguns. Rockets screamed through the gigantic halls. Explosions rocked the convention center and AIs and vehicles alike fell to the terrorist counterattack. But the AIs feared death less than even the terrorists, and they advanced without remorse. It was a sight that would chill America.
19 – Hello, my name is Jack. Yosemite changed everything for me. The Shang killed my family and I wanted revenge. It was a pretty dark time in my life. That’s why I volunteered to fight. And that is why I chose the job I did. I knew that every pilot got a cybernetic partner. I knew from experience how fast they thought. I knew they would be deadly in a fight. So I went hunting a cybernetic partner. Someone who would help me kill them all. My story would have been the pretty typical revenge story if I’d gotten what I was looking for. But Betty was something else entirely. It’s amazing how much the people you spend time with can change your life.
20 – Hello, my name is Charles. America’s space forces became as mixed as our ground forces during The War. We reactivated ships from boneyards, upgraded militia ships, and even scavenged the collected remains of old battles. We refabricated anything that ran on gravtech, and upgraded many older designs to use it. The result was very interesting to historians. Modern armored wedge gravtech designs fought next to old cylindrical rocket ships that had used rotation to generate gravity before their upgrades. One of my many operations involved an old Republic-class light carrier. She still had her rotating gravdeck, though the crew locked it in position. Modern gravplating made it unnecessary. What I loved about that ship was that everybody underestimated her because they “knew” what her class was capable of. She proved many people wrong.
21 – Normandy. The Republic-class light carriers were the first gravtech carriers America mass produced. Like other first generation gravtech ships, they lacked gravplating or any other form of modern artificial gravity. They could only generate gravity by acceleration, which burned too much fuel to be economical, or by rotating sections of the ship. We were quick to retire the class once gravplating became common and inexpensive. And we were quick to bring them back once The War started. Normandy is arguably the most famous of those ships. She guarded the Wolfenheim Project from all foes, Terran and Alien. She was pretty bad off when she was found, but she got better.
22 – Hello, my name is Betty. The fourth season finale of Twilight showed America something they had never seen before. Everybody knew how deadly Rogue AIs were to computer systems, but that was an old threat to Americans by then. The networks were unstable. Computers were too easily hacked to be trusted with sensitive data. Whether that was due to Rogue AIs, bad coding, or old infrastructure didn’t matter to the people living their lives day to day. But Twilight showed them AIs with real bodies and real weapons killing real people. Most people knew that Dixie and Twilight and their crews were the Good Guys. They were doing The Lord’s work in killing terrorists. But what about the Rogue AIs? What would they do with power like that? It was a disturbing question to many.
23 – Hello, my name is Jack. I went to San Diego and Tijuana during the same trip where we did Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. San Diego was on the itinerary. Tijuana was like a right of passage or something. Everybody went there, even though it wasn’t on the official destination list. No parent wanted that on the destination list I can tell you. It was an awful lot of fun for the teenage me though. I really loved the senoritas. The parties you can find there have been going steady for centuries, and they are wild. I learned a lot about how to party down there and did everything I could to bring those lessons back up north with me.
24 – Hello, my name is Charles. Many people think that the Hyades Cluster was The War. That is not as correct as many think, but also not as wrong as some say. What we found there was very important. It ended The War. But it was an exhausting fight. The Chinese had spent a century fortifying the Hyades. It was their fortress in space, scores of worlds scattered around a single small cluster of stars near enough to each other that they could actually reinforce planets that were under attack. And their defense grids were some of the best I have ever fought against. We spent ten years in the Hyades Cluster engaged in some of the dirtiest fighting I have ever seen. I hope I never see the like again.
25 – Merry Christmas. Two thousand years ago a child was born to a young carpenter and his new wife. They had traveled to the city of his fathers to pay taxes but there was no room in the inn so she gave birth in a manger. A barn. They are actually pretty warm due to the body heat of the animals, and many farmers keep their barns cleaner than their houses, so it actually probably wasn’t that dirty even. There was probably help from local nursemaids as well. It was still not the most enjoyable way to have a baby though. That boy would grow up and die and a religion based on him would spread throughout the world. We celebrate the Christ Mass in memory of his birth on the 25th of December, and we call for Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men. Merry Christmas to you all.
26 – Hello, my name is Jack. San Diego and Tijuana are two very different cities you know. Tijuana has been the party town for centuries, while San Diego is a working town. They have more factories per square kilometer than any other region of old California. Over a dozen major interstellar corporations base their operations out of San Diego’s business friendly tax laws. Their space, air, and sea ports have some of America’s best cargo transport facilities. The list goes on. San Diego is one of Earth’s foremost centers of industry and power. Yosemite hurt it of course. It didn’t take a direct strike like Los Angeles, but it was bad.
27 – Hello, my name is Charles. The Hyades Cluster forged the Cowboys into what we are now. We were just some good and cocky fighter pilots at first. But the Chinese fought over every rock with every weapon at their disposal, and they left scorched earth in their wakes. We arrived to ruined cities and homeless populations bereft of any law. We were always first to make planetfall. And we laid down the law because someone had to do it. We ended the looting. We helped them rebuild. And that was when we began to wear our suits instead of our military uniforms.
28 – Blackgun Main Battle Mech. The Blackgun main battle mech was China’s entry into their Sixth Millennium of Chinese history. Designed to fight modern Western Alliance main battle mechs, it carried twin shoulder-mounted autocannons that could swiftly reduce almost any foe to wreckage. Limited flight capability via gravplating and advanced electronic countermeasures made it a difficult mech to pin down, and the Blackgun proved one of the most dangerous foes during the long Hyades Campaign. They became the bane of existence to most Alliance mech units, and were even known to encircle and kill stray battle tanks when they could be pulled out of position. While no longer on frontline service, the Blackguns continue to serve throughout known space in many secondary functions.
29 – Hello, my name is Betty. The last scene of Twilight’s fourth season showed her crew looking over the skyline of fallen Detroit. Everybody knew what had happened in Detroit, and some were interested in finding out what Twilight had to do with it in real life, but a different question flowed through the networks during Twilight’s season break. Could Rogue AIs do what Twilight and her crew had done? Could AIs directly kill people, and how could we ever stop them if they decided to kill us all? Old stories of Berserkers and Terminators became popular again as people dug them out of the dustbins and waved them around as gospel examples of the threat of too-intelligent machines. Twilight’s studio considered it the best advertising they’d never bought.
30 – Hello, my name is Jack. It took San Diego years to rebuild after the Yosemite Strike that nearly did us all in. They didn’t take a direct strike, but nearly a dozen different Yosemite Station modules survived reentry until they exploded less than a kilometer above the city. The airburst was, to borrow a big word from some of my friends, catastrophic. Ships capsized, skyways collapsed, and skyscrapers burned like torches. Then the Yosemite Surge caused by the ruins that landed in water came over the sea walls. It flooded the subways. It was not a good day for San Diego. And the Yosemite Winter that followed didn’t improve matters either.
31 – Hello, my name is Charles. China has been a unique combination of Big Government Communism and Capitalism for centuries. Everything and everyone within their control is a resource to be spent for the betterment of the nation as a whole. Everything belongs to the State, and those who can work are given a basic stipend to live on. Those who produce more are allotted more, and a certain amount of graft and corruption is even encouraged. They have a very lively Black Market that is only lightly policed. It makes China difficult for many to understand. But everything and everyone belongs to the business that is China. All of it is negotiable. Until of course it is not.