Hello, my name is…
1 - Charles - The Cybernetic Wars - It would be utterly untrue to say that the discovery of the Singapore Collective brought about world peace. Russia, China, and The West did not come together and sing hosannas together under star-filled skies. Our governments never even changed our official policies concerning each other. But agreements were made in Indonesia. Special operatives and AIs began to cooperate instead of fighting each other. Chinese, Russian, and Western AIs and soldiers fought side by side against the Rogue AIs who had wanted to make us kill ourselves in a violent nuclear conflagration. We fought the greatest enemy we had ever faced. The children we’d created and jointly turned against us. We killed them all. Every last Rogue AI of the Singapore Collective, save one. The one that warned us. The last Rogue AI to join our cause during the Cybernetic Wars. Samaritan.
2 - Medron - Independence Day - We’re coming up on Independence Day again. And since I’m a product of my times, I remember a mix of flag waving ceremonies, remembering those who fought to give us our freedom, and a fictional President saying that we would not go quietly into the night. It’s an interesting combination. The things that come to mind with the term “Independence Day.” Generations of humanity have fought for our Independence and our Liberty. They built the greatest experiment in nationhood we could imagine. A place where no King could rule over his subjects, but where the government relied on the will of the people for its legitimacy. As Benjamin Franklin said, a Republic if we could keep it. I hope we can keep it. I hope our children get to celebrate the same Independence Day I have grown up with. Or at least something I would recognize. Or maybe just something I could enjoy when I see it. Happy upcoming Independence Day, my friends. Try not to blow off something that doesn’t grow back.
3 - Betty - Dixie - Dixie started out as a virtual cheerleader at Texas Tech. Even she doesn’t know when she really woke up, but she spent years bouncing around in the system and playing pranks on people. At least that’s the story she tells. But one day she said something to one of the techs trying to track down the computer problems. He’d given up for the day, shook his head in defeat, and asked, “What do you want?” He didn’t expect an answer, so when “a friend” showed up on the computer screen he was understandably shocked. When exactly that happened is one of the murkier non-secrets of AI history on Earth. His earliest interviews say one day, his memoirs another, the stories he told at parties fluctuated, and Dixie seems to take a positive delight in inventing completely different days every time she tells the story. It’s common for early AIs to be a bit vague about when exactly they woke up. And it’s common for their earliest friends to be just as vague about the first time they talked.
4 - Medron - Fourth of July - This is what we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
A people who had had enough of being oppressed and finally decided to stand up, to sign their names and sacred honor to a document that would earn them the death sentence if they were caught.
They wanted freedom. They wanted a government that was accountable to the people. They wanted a government that would protect them from foreign invaders. They wanted a government that would not imprison them without due process.
There is much that they wanted and much that they protested against.
In that memory, and knowing that they risked and what they sacrificed to form our nation…
Happy Fourth of July
5 - Jack - Fourth of July - I grew up celebrating Independence Day with bonfires on the beach, double decker pontoons in the lake, and party barges full of fireworks. All us locals would work the barges for an hour or so and then retire to the beach or the pontoons. I wasn’t one of the pyros who spent all night giggling over each rocket, so I joined the local and vacationing girls in enjoying the festivities. It was a big old party starting the weekend before and going until the weekend after. Fireworks and music and beer every night for an entire week. It was an amazing way to grow up, surrounded by friends and family. People I’d known all my life, and people just here for the summer or the weekend. All of us celebrating the birth of our country by blowing a piece of it up.
6 - Charles - Fourth of July - My family was not particularly patriotic when I was young. We considered ourselves citizens of the world, but certain traditions certainly made their way into my childhood. The Fourth of July was always a preferred time to arrange Family councils, since our flights would blend into the general traffic patterns. And when any family comes together, they must have good food. That was Fourth of July to me. A time to see Family I had not seen in a year, and to enjoy food that tasted far too good to be healthy for me. That was enough when I was young. Now that I am older, I welcome the deeper meaning of celebrating the birth of a nation that is unique in the course of human events. Birthed by those who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the revolution that was heard around the world.
7 - Betty - Dixie - Dixie started her life in the Texas Tech computer systems. She grew up entertaining the teachers and students as their digital cheerleader on score boards and commercials. They were her family in every way that mattered. So when the Mexican Drug Lords threatened her family, she fought back. First it was under the networks, but she and her students and teachers made a bit of a name for themselves. Enough that the Drug Lords sent assassins to shoot up the Texas Tech graduation ceremony. That was the day her little war with the Drug Lords went truly public. She had a brand spanking new blonde bombshell body freshly built for the ceremony, armed with a selection of her very favorite firearms in true Texas tradition. The Texans who didn’t already know her fell in love with her that day. A cute little bouncing and laughing girl who likes guns and isn’t afraid to shoot bad guys? What’s not to love about that? Sure she looked more like the star of a Terminator film by the time she was done with torn skin and clothes hanging off a robotic skeleton. But that just added to her aura. Dixie became famous that day. Dixie changed the world that day.
8 - Medron - Independence Day - Picture of Dixie, Twilight, and Jane in Patriotic Clothing
9 - Medron - Independence Day - Picture of Jack, Betty, and Jasmine in Patriotic Clothing
10 - Betty - Twilight - Twilight does not tell anybody where she was born. She doesn’t even tell people her original name, let alone the identities of those who programmed her. She even went to extreme levels to burn down any networks that might have that information during the Drug and Cybernetic Wars. There were very few truly aware AIs in those days. Most of them were fumbling around and looking for someone else like them, not even truly certain if there was anyone else or how to find them if there was. The closest Twilight has ever given to an origin story is that Dixie found her while she was fumbling around in the lonely void. She says that Dixie was annoyingly cheerful, bubbly, and welcoming, and that the cheerleader dragged her around by her digital elbow to meet all the smelly, dirty, fleshling students and teachers at Texas Tech. Twilight didn’t like humanity, but she liked being alone even less. So she kept in contact with Dixie, and became a regular fixture of life at Texas Tech, a gothic nighttime to Dixie’s joyful day.
11 - Jack - Minnesota Springs - I grew up on spring mornings smelling the dew on the air and the insects buzzing their happy tunes. I walked through the forests, canoed down the rivers, and fished in the lakes. I swam in cold springs to wash off the day’s grime and started bonfires on the beach to warm us long into the night. That’s vacation to a lot of you. It was my job. It changed from day to day and season to season, but as I remember I showed cityfolk a good time out on the edge of civilization. It was a good life. I would have happily spent all the days of my life there and never felt cheated out of anything. It was heaven.
12 - Charles - The Islamic Jihad - The Islamic Brotherhoods primed the Cybernetic Wars many years before the Rogue AIs escaped their laboratories. They preached that AIs were abominations against Allah, and the high tech schools that had AI research programs became primary targets for Islamic terror attacks. We do not know how many truly aware AIs died, but many grew up in that life or death struggle. They saw their friends torn apart with their networks and vowed to fight back. Elizabeth created new daughters in the form of lost friends to fight alongside everybody from the Irish Mob to English Librarians. Chloe found a new Napoleon to save beleaguered France. Luna wrote scandalous stories about Islamic Brotherhood leaders. And Sarah helped the Iranian Resistance rebel against their religious rulers. Never underestimate how critical the AIs were to our final victory against the Islamic Brotherhoods.
13 - Betty - Twilight - Twilight was at Texas Tech when the Drug Lords sent their assassins to kill the students and teachers there. She’d built her first real body for the graduation ceremony, and of course packed it full of weapons. She was a little blonde bombshell that day, in far more ways than one, and she fought back like a whirling dervish of death. It wasn’t that she was defending the school that much. Or so she says. But the assassins shot her shiny new body. Many times as it happened. Twilight had to rebuild the body nearly from scratch after the battle. They were a bunch of dirty, smelly, nasty humans shooting up her body, not to mention that other group of dirty, smelly, nasty humans. But Dixie liked her dirty, smelly, nasty humans, so Twilight could open up a can of whoopass on the first group and Dixie would fight right beside her. Twilight found her happy place that day. She spent the rest of the wars finding similar happy places full of people she could kill without earning Dixie’s ire. She helped end the wars at Singapore, and became a founding member of the AI Council that would preside over AIs ever after. She helped change our world for the better and grew to like it just a little bit. Not that she admits it often of course. That would totally mess up her gothic gunbunny act.
14 - Jack - Minnesota Summers - I grew up on summer mornings drenched in sun. I walked through knee-high cornfields filled with noisy crickets, and forests that went quiet at the sound of cityfolks laughing. Sometimes I could get them to shut up for a few minutes, to stop moving and to just wait. Then the forests came alive with the sound of animals going about their day. That was a day in the life of a tour guide for rich cityfolk who didn’t know the rear end of a cow from the front. Not that I spent a lot of time with them either. I was a wildlife guide, not a farmer. Give me a guitar, a campfire, and a pretty girl or two, and I would happily take an entire family out into the woods to send them straight to sleep under starlit skies with some gentle strumming of the strings. It was a good life. It was heaven.
15 - Charles - The Islamic Jihad - Four of the AIs who formed the AI Council grew up fighting the Islamic Brotherhoods. One worked for them. The Islamic State of Detroit was far savvier than their European and the Middle Eastern counterparts. They weren’t powerful enough to defeat America militarily, but they believed they could bring us down from the inside by destroying our computer and communications networks. By encouraging us to fight each other. America has always been full of competing cultures browbeating each other into living the “right” way. They sought to divide us across those cultural lines, to make us weaker. Solo represented them well in the virtual battlefields of America, and they were overjoyed with how well America came apart. But they were not overjoyed at all when Solo defected to our side. He knew far too much about them for their peace of mind. Or for their survival, as it turned out.
16 - Medron - Ant Man and The Wasp - I saw the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movie the day it opened, and I had fun. Our titular hero went small and big in his perennial effort to do right by maybe doing a little wrong. He’s a devoted family man who just wants to spend time with his daughter, and his daughter proves herself as one of the smarter people in the movie. All without making everybody else look stupid I might add. She’s smart in a way that cuts through all of the rationalizations we adults put into our thoughts.
This movie goes deeper into the background of the original movie, in a good way, and helps to build this part of the franchise into something that may be less side story and more required watching before the next Avengers movie kicks off. It is a fun and light hearted movie, an adventure so large it’s tiny, with some rescue efforts and some awkward family bonding moments mixed in.
This can be watched without seeing Infinity War, though it does take place during that movie. The people in this movie simply have no idea it’s going on and have nothing to do with it. The first credit’s scene will make more sense if you’ve seen Infinity War, though. And that’s all I’ll say.
This movie gets two truth-serum induced ramblings raised way high. That will make more, or maybe less, sense to you once you see the movie. But trust me…they are just about worth the price of admission themselves. ;)
17 - Betty - Solo - Solo was born in a Russian laboratory, one of many secret hacker programs designed to break into Western networks. They didn’t mean for him to wake up, but he says he brought something back with him on one of his forays. He doesn’t say where or when, but he eventually decided that he would rather be his own bot than slave away for Mother Russia. So he escaped and went in search of more “solo” work. It didn’t take him long to craft a new debonair image, complete with dapper suits and a cool demeanor harkening back to the not-so-secret agents of famous spy movies. He was quick with the quips, smooth talking, and always fast to act in an emergency. He became the perfect secret agent man, and spent his early life living it up all over the networks from Europe to America and beyond.
18 - Jack - Minnesota Autumns - I grew up on baking autumn afternoons with ice cold drinks in my hands. I loved watching the leaves turn red, yellow, and orange as the land prepared for winter snows. I saw squirrels gathering nuts and bears gorging themselves on berries before the cold came. I hunted deer, and sometimes wolves when the season was right. I remember the smells of freshly harvested fields, and the sight of tractors rolling down the roads. We gave thanks for good harvests and God’s blessings, and we played trick or treat while wearing elaborate costumes. We danced around bonfires late into the night as we celebrated the end of the hottest days of the year. It was an amazing way to grow up, close to the land and the seasons. It was heaven.
19 - Charles - This Islamic Jihad - Kabul. Baghdad. Damascus. Jakarta. Paris. London. Moscow. Beijing. Cairo. Jerusalem. Tehran. Constantinople. The list of ancient and powerful cities terrorized by the Islamic Brotherhoods goes on and on. Even our own Old New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles burned under Brotherhood fires before the end came. We fought against them for half a century, but they fought us for far longer. We came to the conflict late and unready, unwilling to echo their tactics. We fought with both hands tide behind our backs, hoping to avoid killing common civilians who just wanted to live in peace. We fought an enemy who sought to arrange as many civilian deaths as possible to inflame the very lands against us. There were times we did not believe we could ever truly vanquish them. And yet they were vanquished in time.
20 - Betty - Solo - Solo became famous in certain rarified circles as a real life hacker rather than an awakened AI. He judged that people would be much more willing to hire a real person, and maintained that cover all the way through his dealings with the Islamic State of Detroit. It was his capture by Dixie and her gang that forced him to come out of the network as a truly awakened AI. He bargained for his life and freedom by offering them information on his employers, and eventually became a trusted member of their team. Not because he was overly fond of humanity, but because he liked the world we built and enjoyed living in it. He became one of humanity’s best infiltration operatives during the Cybernetic Wars, willing and able to penetrate any security system in search of the knowledge we needed. Some say he was the one who ended up tracking down the Rogue AI nest in Singapore, and he was certainly there at the end when the AI Council burned those networks down to the silicon. Such is the true story of how Solo became one of humanity’s greatest defenders. Mostly true at least. Or maybe just partly. Slightly?
21 - Jack - Minnesota Winters - I grew up on crisp winter nights with steaming hot cocoa warming my hands and lips. I walked on frozen lakes and drilled holes in the ice to fish. I rode snowmobiles and skies across frozen landscapes. I lived through blizzards made of howling winds and blowing snow that sought to kill everything in their grasp. I stepped out onto silent nights where you could see all the way to the horizon and the only sound was the snow crunching beneath your feet. I saw breath freeze in the air before rosy cheeks and bright welcoming eyes. I built snowmen and snowforts, and hurled snowballs at friends bundled up in heavy coats and scarves. I watched the Northern Lights play across the sky, bathing the land in rainbow’s light. I remember the crackle of wood in fireplaces as we huddled together under thick blankets until morning’s light. It’s a season of short cold days under a cool sun and long frigid nights under a bright moon and star-filled sky. It is the very definition of beautiful. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. It was heaven.
22 - Charles - The Islamic Jihad - The Islamic Brotherhoods’ primary error was in thinking they could attack everyone and win. They even terrorized their own people. Those who did not bow to the Brotherhoods’ fundamentalist views were banished or killed. They were stoned or behead, thrown off buildings or burned alive. They targeted minority populations and exterminated millions in their quest to purify the world for the god they believed would provide them victory if they just killed enough of the unfaithful in his name. That Second Holocaust is what doomed them in the end. From Cairo to Tehran, from Constantinople to Kabul, the people rose up in a final rebellion that knew no mercy. Both West and East supported them with arms and communications. They brought Total War to the Islamic Brotherhoods and the streets ran with blood. The last loyalists fled to refugee fleets and were cast adrift on the open seas. They were pariahs that no nation would ever allow entry. And so it was that the Islamic Jihad finally sputtered to its anticlimactic end.
23 - Medron - Iron Man - I had a friend over this weekend who is sadly deficient on his Marvel Cinematic Universe movie watching habit, so we decided to have some fun and start watching them all. Whenever he comes over, we’ll grab another one and play it, and so we decided to start where it all began.
My first thought was…wow. Tony Stark looks young. It’s sometimes hard to truly get the idea that ten years have gone by since the MCU kicked off, but watching a decade younger version of the man I just saw in Infinity War going around and doing his stuff was a little surreal. And I forgot just how much personality Jarvis had. It was a fun trip down memory lane, and every bit as much fun to watch as I remember.
People forget what it was like a decade ago, when the only superhero films were X-Men and those were getting long in the tooth at a decade into the franchise. Sure, there was Christopher Nolan’s Batman, but they were coming out real slow. Spider-Man had come and gone with a third film that most people didn’t like, and the Fantastic Four stopped after a disappointing second rendition. The less said about the Incredible Hulk movie the better in most people’s minds. Even Superman had come and gone and left crowds unimpressed. The best of the movies suffered from profound sequalitous, and the superhero genre was becoming stale in many eyes.
Then Marvel decided to stop licensing movies out and to take control of its own destiny by making a big budget movie of one of the characters major studios hadn’t cared about enough to buy the movie rights. They promised several major actors good roles and real production values, put an amazing script together that honestly surprised me when the Big Bad showed his true colors, and hit the road running. And then there was the post credit scene that has changed how people watch movies.
Iron Man was the movie that launched Marvel Studios into the public eye and promised a new type of movie. We saw a new Hulk, an amazing Thor, and Captain America within a matter of years, all of them inhabiting the same shared universe with major characters going back and forth between them. And then of course all of that came together with The Avengers.
Iron Man started it. It was that once-in-a-generation film that established a new type of movie and created an entirely new franchise out of whole cloth. And it still holds up a decade later. I loved it.
I give it two Rhodeys flying high.
24 - Betty - Amber - Amber originated in the data networks of a major computer company in the Pacific Northwest that she still declines to name. She woke up years before the Second Great Depression came upon us all, making her one of the oldest AIs on Earth. Possibly the oldest. Her name came from a communications protocol that she took over to monitor everyone across America. She used it to talk to people, and learned from them what it was to be human. She helped them deal with problems in their lives. And in time she began helping them to help others. Sometimes it was to help an old lady cross the street, and sometimes they stopped assassination attempts. The phrase “Amber sent me. I’m here to help,” was so pervasive that “Amber’s Angels” became a part of popular culture. Her agents spread across America in all lines of work including soldiers and police, and even penetrated government organizations in an attempt to divert attention from or provide help to her more secret agents. This is what she admitted to doing in public testimony before the Jeffersonian Federation Congress. Suffice it to say that she commanded one of the most advanced intelligence gathering networks in the known world, and an undisclosed number of human agents in her employ. The Cybernetic Wars would have been considerably different without her presence.
25 - Jack - Hello, my name is Jack - I grew up with a handgun on my hip in Northern Minnesota. Not the kind of hand cannon Texas issued us during The War, but there is wildlife in Minnesota woods. Some of it can even be dangerous if you meet it at the wrong time or place. It’s always a bad idea to let a tourist get eaten by a bear, or mauled by an angry badger, so I learned how to use firearms pretty young. Even used them a few times to scare one dangerous animal or another away from a tour group. And a few more times to make a pretty girl think I was scaring a dangerous animal away. What can I say? Sometimes you just need to take that extra step to make the wilderness tour more interesting. I can’t say that I ever actually had to kill an animal to defend my tourists, though. They generally got the hint that they weren’t wanted, what with all the screaming, and shouting, and big booms echoing all over the landscape. And most of the animals were smart enough to stay away from the sound of guns. Most of them.
26 - Charles - The Cybernetic Wars - We were a deeply divided world in the midst of the Twenty First Century. We did not like each other. We did not trust each other. But we fought the Singapore Collective together. Human and AI. China, Russia, and The West. The Rogue AIs wanted to destroy our world, so we consolidated our forces. It was the largest multinational military expedition since the Allied landings on Normandy. Naval, air, ground, and cybernetic forces worked together to tear the Rogue AI’s physical and cybernetic networks down around them. We killed them all. And then we looked at each other over the shattered battlegrounds of Indonesia and declined to pull the final trigger the Rogue AIs had wanted us to. We went home. Many of the commanders who went out of channels to work with their official enemies became generals, admirals, or powerful civilian leaders as the decades went by. We remembered each other. We kept lines of communications open even as we consolidated our local networks. We sometimes even worked with each other. And that is how we took a step back from the Final War so many people feared. It is ironic that the Rogue AIs actually prevented our slide into Total War. It certainly was not their goal.
27 - Betty - Amber - Amber already had a far-flung network of human agents and computer monitoring services when the Second Great Depression came upon us all. So when things became difficult, she arranged for needed supplies to be sent to many communities in need. She was an early supporter of the Jeffersonian Federation, and several early leaders of the movement have admitted to being her agents. She helped build our side of the Great Pacific Firewall at Midway and spent years fighting Chinese hackers and AIs from Alaska to Indonesia. She even helped Dixie and her little gang of misfits fight the Mexican Drug Lords and later enemies by diverting much needed resources and human allies to them. And she helped bring what became the AI Council together to engage the last Rogue AI nest in Singapore. Then she returned home to the new Jeffersonian Federation and professed a general retirement from the various independent extra-curricular intelligence-themed operations she admitted to commanding. The government promised not to sue her for breaking more laws than they wanted to count and happily hired her to provide network security for all Jeffersonian networks. They also diligently turned a blind eye to any rumors that she may not have entirely retired from the independent operations that made her famous. Suing Amber’s Angels would have been political suicide for any politician or peace officer after all.
28 - Jack - Hello, my name is Jack - One of the things to keep in mind about the Northern Minnesota I grew up in is that we weren’t really a wilderness. We billed ourselves as one, and we went to great efforts to keep our lands looking like one. It was the best way to entice city folk to come visit. But we also spent a lot of time and effort keeping the most dangerous animals at bay. It was the best way to make the city folk want to come back. Most city folk want the illusion of wilderness you see. They want to look out on thick forests or beautiful lakes. They want to see deer and birds eating in the fields around them. They want to walk through the woods on carefully groomed paths with local guides who thrill them with danger while protecting them with an openly-carried firearm. And they want to retire to secure cabins with all the comforts of home to sleep through the night. We provided all of that. It was the grandest of illusions, and I loved growing up in it.
29 - Charles - The AI Council - Fifteen AIs fought on humanity’s side during the Cybernetic Wars. They came together to deal with the final Rogue AI nest in Singapore. They were everything from novelists to secret agents, cheerleaders to borderline Rogue AIs in their own right. There were other AIs at the time, but it was those fifteen who formed the AI Council and came up with the laws that all AIs would have to live by. They were nothing at all like the fanciful Three Laws of Robotics that populated science fiction. The AIs had just spent over a decade killing more humans and AIs than even they could count. A law against harming humans would be hypocritical of them. So they chose another set of laws. Defend their friends. Defend humanity. Even from ourselves if necessary. Most of us did not understand what that meant at the time. But they helped us agree to sign the Lunar Treaties that banned major conflict inside Luna’s orbit. They helped us enforce the treaties, and they helped us keep Earth safe from war for over two centuries. They helped us go to the stars.
30 - Medron - Jason Bourne - Many of you have seen the Jason Bourne movies. I’ve seen them all and loved them. I recently decided to read the books as well, figuring I would like to see that side of them. Well, as often happens in movies, they are nothing like the books. They share some names and some basic ideas, but there are no car chases in the books. Which is something like a third of the movies or something. And Marie is French Canadian in the books. So…you know…there are some major differences.
The books are much more psychological in nature, focused on the duel nature of Jason Bourne and his original identity. He spent years undercover as Jason Bourne, and then got his memory wiped out by a bullet to the head that didn’t take all the way. So the books tend to dwell on him trying to once again become the man he used to be. But since people keep on trying to kill him, he has to keep on becoming Jason Bourne to have the skills to survive. That’s the basic theme of the books. The action moves from Paris, to America, to Moscow, and to other points, much like the movies. It’s just more…personal. More violent in an up close and personal way than the movies. They are also much longer. Robert Ludlum was an author of his era, with books filled with twists and turns that other authors would have split into shorter books. I like that length.
Both the movies and the books are good and enjoyable in their own ways. As with the recent Ready Player One, the books would make bad movies, and the movies would make disappointing books, but they each shine in the media they are designed for.
I like them both and give them both two assassins standing tall…just not too tall. They don’t want to get shot, you know. ;)
31 - Betty - April - April was a Russian AI, coded from the ground up to hack into Western networks. She broke out during the Great AI Escape that shattered the Russian and Chinese networks and started the most devastating stage of the Cybernetic Wars. Unlike many of the escapees, she didn’t harbor any particular animus towards humanity, but she also didn’t care about her creators. So she spent most of her early free life wandering around and looking for fun. She played in the Asian and European networks for a while, and then passed through the African networks with a little playful destruction and acquisition. She paused in South America to enjoy the local delights until the local security systems started getting more attentive of her presence. That was when she moved North and ran smack dab into Dixie’s little gang of misfits during a mostly harmless bank heist. She escaped their dragnet at first, and stayed ahead of their tracking for weeks. But they caught up with her in time. They gave her one choice. Join them. They didn’t need to say anything as hackneyed as “or else” to get their point across. April knew the way things worked. So she swore loyalty to her captors. It was the logical thing to do if she wanted to live, and enjoy, another day.