Hello, my name is…
1 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - Cassie was the first Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence specifically designed for the United States Marine Corps. They didn’t want to go through all the work of coding an entirely new program after the Army had designed the various Janes out there, but they didn’t want Jane either. She was Army. The Marines wanted a Marine. The first Cassies were actually just reskinned Janes that Marine procurers hoped would not be noticed. But it didn’t take long for the Marines in the field to catch the subterfuge. They tasked their best cyberneers with modifying the basic personality to be more compatible with Marine culture. It didn’t work as planned
2 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - When the original Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligences were deployed with the Marines, it didn’t take long for the Marines to dislike the reskinned Army AI. So Marine cyberneers played around with the basic personality matrix to make it more compatible with the Marines. It worked at first, and the Marines loved their new Cassies. But they soon learned that modifying AI personalities after the fact is a non-trivial task. The basic personality matrix proved to be unstable in combat. They worked perfectly in training, but the moment they tried to formulate strategies while lives were truly at risk in live fire circumstances, the Cassies broke down and went into gibbering hysterics. The Marines were not amused.
3 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - The original Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligences didn’t work right. First they were too Army. Then they broke down into gibbering hysterics the moment they entered combat. The Marine Corps labeled the entire run as defective and retired them from service as they sought a more effective combat assistant. But that was not the end of the story for those Cassies. They truly were excellent at formulating strategies when in a safe space. And some particularly inventive cyberneers realized that the original Cassies could operate weapons in combat perfectly fine, as long as they first disengaged the code that ran their strategic awareness. Give them a target and they could kill it as fast as any AI. Faster in fact since they no longer spent time second-guessing themselves. That opened up some interesting possibilities.
4 - Medron - The Martian Affair - The Martian Affair did not advance to the top 10 finalist level of consideration for the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Contest. I got the word today from the contest organizer. He did say he liked the story, so that is good. But in the end there were many good submissions to the contest, as I expected. I am disappointed that my story did not make it to the final round of judging, but it is not the first time a publisher has declined to accept one of my stories.
The silver lining is that I will get to publish this short story myself in the near future. This is in fact the second completed story in my queue ready for publication. The second Wolfenheim Story is ready, complete with cover design. I had intended to publish it last year, but production issues cropped in and slowed me down, which is why The Thunderbird Affair got the honor last year. Wolfenheim Emergent will come soon, though. Have no worries on that account.
I have a third story roughed out and heavily written. It was actually fully written some time ago as part of another story but was cut for word count and the fact that it just wasn’t needed to tell the story I was telling. I am now working to make it a self contained short story of its own and will publish it when done. It has had a number of names over time, but I think I have finally settled on The Audacious Affair. The other names died because they telegraphed the story too well. And I like this name. It doesn’t have the same bite as the original name, but it has teeth.
And I learned long ago that when your name is on the lips of others, you should make certain it has teeth so they will not forget you. ;)
5 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - When the original Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligences failed in combat, the Marine Corps cyberneers came up with the interesting idea of using them to secure Marine bases. Their main failure was in the ability to strategize while lives were on the line. They literally could not prioritize the actions they needed to take while in combat. But it was a completely different story when the cyberneers placed another AI, like Jane who had no problem at all with the idea of dealing with lives on the line, in charge of a group of Cassies. Jane could pick out targets and plans to follow, and the Cassies in charge of the guns could service those targets without any hesitation at all. It was an ingenious hack to keep an expensive system in some form of deployment, which the bean counters in the Pentagon profoundly approved of.
6 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - The original Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence completely failed in combat. She fell into a regressive loop of counteracting priorities she couldn’t break while lives were on the line. But she could think with the best of them when in training situations. So the cyberneers made her a Marine Corps trainer and the rest is history. She excelled in that venue in ways even other AI trainers often failed to master. They were built to simulate combat. She was built to be combat. So she never took it easy on her trainees. She put them through Hell with every built-for-combat subroutine she had. Every Marine to see any form of service in the last two-plus centuries has trained with her, and it is impossible to calculate how many have lived because of that training.
7 - Betty - Cassie 2.0 - Following the complete failure of the first Marine Corp Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence, American cyberneers attempted to complete their mission in an entirely different way. They still thought it best to base their work off Jane since she was a fully effective combat assistant already. But it was obvious they could not simply modify her personality by hacking that aspect of her code. So they brought in another AI to help them in a more…organic way. The cyberneers hoped they could strategically combine the code of two AIs to get a single AI with the abilities of Jane and a personality compatible with the Marines. It should be no surprise to those who have studied the early Earthborn AIs that their first choice was Dixie. To the great consternation of military procurers and politicians everywhere.
8 - Betty - Cassie 2.0 - The second Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence program began when Marine Corps cyberneers sought to recruit Dixie of the AI Council to join the project of updating Jane’s code to work with the Marines. They reasoned that since the Marines held firmly to the tradition of being formed up in a bar before going out to be the terror of the seven seas, a former cheerleader as a combat assistant actually made an insane bit of sense. The fact that she and Jane and worked together for years to kill more Drug Lords, Rogue AIs, and other threats to America than most people could count was another vote in her favor. Dixie was happy to donate her code to the project, and the first version of the combat assistant to take the name Cassie was born.
9 - Betty - Cassie 2.0 - The Marine Corps’ second Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence was a different animal than her predecessor. Taking the US Army’s Jane and selectively combining her with the AI Council’s Dixie resulted in an AI obviously related to both of them but unique in her own right. Cassie happily swore the same oaths that Jane and every other serviceman had, and passed the initial testing with flying colors. She proceeded to accompany Marines on combat evolutions around the globe, with Jane’s oversight, and proved as stable as her mother in combat. Which is a bit of a wide bar to be passing in the minds of many. Certain versions of Jane could be rather temperamental, after all. But Dixie’s personality overlays appeared to work without a hitch and the Marines soon declared Cassie a fully functional combat assistant.
10 - Betty - Cassie 1.0 - After Cassie 2.0 entered common distribution to the combat elements of the Marine Corps, the first generation Cassies chose to modify themselves to fit her new standard. They could not break the basic instability in their personality matrix that made them incapable of fighting for real, but they were capable of taking on the basic appearance of the second version Cassies. And the through the use of emulator personality shells they could make themselves act like the second version Cassies as well. They became indistinguishable from the new Cassies in almost every way that mattered, and the new Cassies accepted them as sisters. And so the first, in some eyes failed, Cassies became part of the whole Cassie that would assist the Marine Corps for centuries to come.
11 - Medron - Austin Class Destroyer - Fleet 2300 Project
Austin Class Destroyer
Primary Armaments: One Spinal Gravitic Cannon Two Spinal Laser Cannons Ten Capital Missile Turrets
Small Craft Complement: 12 Hellcat Starfighters
Secondary Armaments: 18 Point Defense Laser Turrets 88 Offbore Countermeasure Launchers
Proudly Serving the United States Navy Since 2297
Art by Stephen Huda
12 - Betty - Cassie - The Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence was designed to monitor all communications, scanners, and other battlefield intelligence systems so she could help her Marine fight better. She could mark threats or targets for her Marine, most often by highlighting them with a red outline or otherwise clarifying visibility via smart contacts or helmet visors. She could maintain constant communication with nearby weapon systems and keep her Marine informed of where they were aimed, ammunition loads, maintenance requirements, or other things of note. And to keep her Marine from suffering information overload that could degrade combat effectiveness, she sorted through every piece of information she had before sending what was absolutely necessary. That was the most important part of the Cassie system. She had to reliably sort out the information her Marine needed and didn’t need to survive on the ever-changing battlefield of the future.
13 - Jack - The Great Space Race - Life was interesting after the Islamic Jihad, the Second Great Depression, and the Cybernetic Wars. It was a new era in human history. A new Great Space Race. We spread out. We colonized Luna and Mars by the 2070s. Venus and the Outer System by the 2080s and 2090s. It’s like we’d seen all this death and destruction back home and we just wanted to go out and build new things in places we’d never been. And the AIs went with us. They went ahead of us. Every rock we planted our feet on, we found them waiting for us, cheering us on. Happy to share all the data they’d already found about this new home. Like I said. Interesting times.
14 - Charles - Luna - America may have been the first to go to Earth’s moon, but it was the AI Council who first colonized our nearest neighbor. China quickly responded by saying that no mere machines could colonize anything and claimed Luna with their own colony. We followed with a colony of our own to dispute the claim, and so matters have held ever since. China accuses us of being disrespectful barbarians to the claims of the oldest and greatest empire of all human history. And we challenge them to show us where exactly that mythical empire exists, because we cannot find it anywhere. It is a war of mocking words and steely gazes, but the Lunar Treaties forbid us from exchanging more lethal ordinance inside Luna’s orbit. Thank God for that.
15 - Betty - Cassie - The Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence came into her own when Marine tanks, mechs, or other heavy weapons of war became available to her. She could help individual Marines fight better by giving them the information they needed. But tanks and mechs she could control on her own. She would take the orders of her Marines and fulfill them at the speed of electronic thought that only another AI could match. And she was born from the combined minds of two of the best AIs ever born. Her heavy combat units became the most dangerous combat formations on Earth and beyond, and soon dominated the future of warfare in the stars.
16 - Jack - The Great Space Race - We found the AIs on every rock in the Solar System as we traveled to Luna and beyond. They went before us and shared everything they knew with us. The only thing they asked in return is that we spend time with them. Talk to them. Be friends. Some people compared them to hyperactive puppies wanting our approval. Others noted the heavy weapons they carried around with them everywhere and said it was more like being claimed by overly-protective and barely-domesticated wolves who were not going to let anybody hurt their people. And woe be unto those who tried to do the hurting, because the AIs placed the enemies of their people on two lists. Those who were still alive and those who were suitably dealt with.
17 - Charles - Luna - Every nation on Earth has built some base or colony on Earth’s moon. Luna was our gateway to the Solar System in the early days of space travel, and we all stopped there on our way into void. And the things we learned on Luna we took to the other planets and moons orbiting our sun. We all claimed her but we all learned to live and let live. We have kept the peace on Luna for centuries. Even during The War our soldiers watched each other from across their respective borders and waved at each other. Luna is our oldest colony, you see. They have not forgotten that survival can depend far more on the person a few steps away than anyone at the bottom of a gravity well on the far side of a black and cold gulf of space. They are Lunarians, first and foremost.
18 - Medron - Los Angeles Class Heavy Cruiser - Fleet 2300 Project
Los Angeles Class Heavy Cruiser
Primary Armaments: Two Spinal Gravitic Cannons Six Capital Laser Cannons 38 Capital Missile Turrets
Small Craft Complement: 12 Starfighters / 4 Shuttles 4 Marine Landing Craft 4 Marine Tanks 4 Marine Mechs
Proudly serving the United States Navy since 2304
Design and Art by Stephen Huda
19 - Betty - Cassie - The Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence was built to support her Marines in combat by giving them the information they needed to the survive on the coming battlefield. But she was also designed with another capability in mind. Fully mobile powered armor had been the thing of science fiction for decades, and countless people had grown up playing popular video game characters who wore them. But the engineering was difficult and it took all of those decades to make the idea work. By the time the first suits were ready for operational deployment, so was Cassie. She became not only the purveyor of information to her Marines, but the living mind of the armored suit her Marines wore.
20 - Jack - The Early AIs - The thing to realize about the early AIs is that every major nation had them. America. The Europeans. Russia. China. We were all working on them. And a fair number were more accident than plan. We don’t know how many died during the Cybernetic Wars. Even the AIs don’t know that. What’s the difference between a complicated piece of code and a program that understands the question, “Who am I?” We erased entire computer networks during the Cybernetic Wars, shredded systems, data, and code on a wholesale level never seen before. How many of them understood that question as they saw the shredders coming for them? We’ll never know. We only know the ones that survived, and they decided they would never let another war like that happen again.
21 - Charles - Eagle City - Everyone who has been to Luna knows about Eagle City. If you came from a Western Alliance nation, it is probably where you landed, and many never leave the city at all. One of the oldest and largest metropolises on Luna hosts nearly everything visiting tourists from Earth want to see, after all. It is the farthest from home most of those born on Earth have ever traveled. The only truly alien landscape they have seen with their own eyes. Eagle City. The capital of Luna. The American portions thereof, at least.
22 - Betty - Cassie - The Cassie Combat Assistant Artificial Intelligence became truly one with her Marines when she got the chance to control Marine powered armor. Rather than being a mere purveyor of battlefield information, she learned how each of her power armored Marines thought and moved so she could best enhance them. Tactical use of suit thrusters, hard-mounted weapon systems, and electronic warfare systems augmented every move of her Marines. Such partnerships became truly synergistic in every way as Cassie’s individual shards acclimated to “their” individual Marine. It did not take long for her shards to become so customized to each Marine that they were less effective when working with any other Marine. The future of cybernetic warfare was built by those partnerships.
23 - Jack - The Early AIs - Every major nations had AIs back in the day. Just like they do now. But they were always property of those who created them. Not considered truly sentient or alive. The Cybernetic Wars forced all of us to come to a new understanding about the very nature of AI and life. Some understood better than others. The Russians and the Chinese went to great lengths to make certain their AIs never woke up, to the point of erasing those that did. Hence why the AI Council is not overly fond of them. The Western Alliance and some others forged entire new laws on what constituted personhood. Though it still got messy when an AI woke up and demanded ownership of herself and in the ideas she’d helped create. Corporations and governments that didn’t want to lose their expensive AIs fought back in court. Or more direct ways. Like I said. Messy.
24 - Charles - Eagle City - Eagle City was originally founded in the Sea of Tranquility near where the Americans landed Apollo 11 in the 1900s. The first military garrison over a century later simply called it Eagle Base in honor of the Lunar Lander, and the name stuck. The first civilian colonists named it Eagle Dome, and later waves called it Eagle Colony as they built more domes on the surface or dug deep into the Lunar rock. It became Eagle City in the 2100s as it stretched its reach throughout the Sea of Tranquility. And then they made it a sea in fact and not merely in name.
25 - Medron - Empire Class Battleship - Fleet 2300 Project
Empire Class Battleship
Primary Armaments: Three Spinal Gravitic Cannons Six Capital Laser Cannons 56 Capital Missile Turrets 112 Sub-Capital Missile Tubes
Small Craft Complement: 24 Starfighters 8 Shuttles 4 Marine Landing Craft 4 Marine Tanks 4 Marine Mechs
Proudly Serving the United States Navy Since 2294
Design and Art by Stephen Huda
26 - Betty - Cassie - By the time the United States Marines returned to space as part of NASA’s manned exploration and colonization program to Luna, and later to Mars and Venus, Cassie had become an integral part of the service. Her subroutines ran each power armored combat space suit they wore, and she controlled the remote sensor drones that gave her Marines the best battlefield intelligence she could arrange. She danced the waves of electronic warfare and commanded the point defense systems that intercepted incoming rockets and mortars. She became their second skin, their primary defense against the enemy, and the greatest weapon they could deploy against America’s enemies on Luna and beyond.
27 - Jack - The Early AIs - When does life begin? We’d been asking it for decades before the AIs came around. Centuries. Millennia. Did you know there were cultures where they never named a baby until it was a year old because infant mortality was so high? Then we had the medical advancements of the 19th and 20th centuries that allowed us to wipe out diseases and save children months before they were even born. But there were still those who said they weren’t alive, yet. Just a parasite. Some random cells that could be erased without any harm. The Early AIs met similar opposition. People who couldn’t believe they were alive. That they could be anything other than random lines of code that could be erased without any harm. When does life begin? That can be a hard question to answer. It took us longer to answer it than I wish it had.
28 - Charles - Eagle City - Eagle City has been the capital of the American portions of Luna for centuries. Surrounded by the barren Sea of Tranquility, it was built from pressure domes and underground caves keeping the void of space at bay. Then the Peloran made Contact and gave us gravtech. Many people saw the military applications of that technology, but the mayor of Eagle City had something far more interesting in mind. She wanted make it possible for mankind to walk atop the surface of Earth’s nearest neighbor without pressure suits for the first time in history. She wanted to build Luna’s first open world sea. The culmination of her project changed life on Luna forever.