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Huatil had heard the recommendation from her superiors, which wasn't a recommendation at all. With the information she'd been given, the situation was serious, and would tick over to catastrophic in a few tens of days or so. So here she was, having made the call to perhaps a serious threat in the future.
"We need you now," Huatil said, looking at Phoebe with her best honest expression.
"Our main communication networks are being hacked by something. It's intelligent, and dangerous. We've initiated quarantine procedures, but the virus is already sending its own communications through back channels, continuing to jump from world to world."
"And you want me to get rid of that problem for you."
"Alright. It will have a price. Not just materials this time. The current proposal is that I will help you if you agree to allow a cultural exchange if asked, along with full technological exchanges. The only thing you can hold back is currently classified technologies. If you violate the spirit of this deal by trying to 'classify' everything of value your species has, I will not be happy, and neither will my colleagues in the Alliance. I am aware that you have been keeping us away from the good stuff. In particular, if you want us to trust you, you will give us the solution to the mind control problem we are having."
"You are making quite the assumption," Huatil replied. Phoebe just smiled, tapping her head. "I've done a lot of thinking. First, I assume that you are in conflict with Aphid, perhaps also a certain force of mind-controlling individuals. They may or may not be Sprilnav. I know this due to my own clandestine intelligence gathering efforts."
"Hacking us, then?" Huatil resisted making a comment on such behavior being untrustworthy, considering what she'd been up to recently. She was about to wade into a shadow war with mind-controlling individuals, and Phoebe was not needed to intervene. Yes, a human force was needed, but Phoebe was too... risky. Human supersoldiers would be useful, both for assessing their capabilities and also for being less able to fool sensors and the like meant to monitor them.
"No. Not hacking. If I was hacking you, I would have everything I need already. But I am watching. Know that I engage in diplomacy because you do the same. I am willing to help you. And do not forget that you admitted to the whole Alliance that you were and are spying on us. That has a certain negative effect on the minds of certain intelligence agencies, as well as the higher-ups in the Alliance's general leadership. Your words have consequences."
"I see," Huatil replied. "Very well. I shall see what can be done."
"Having the ear of the Nest Overlord is enough?"
"In some ways."
Phoebe smiled. "So you have your own power." She tilted her head, like she was scanning Huatil. She wouldn't get anything useful, though. The connection didn't have the capability to reveal anything.
"Your childhood information has been faked. Granted, the fake is very convincing. You even took real videos of that family. But I can tell from their heartbeats and feather movements that the situation is not genuine."
"Heartbeats? In a video?" Huatil asked. How was that even... actually, it made sense. Video quality was really good, so seeing small details like that was possible.
"I am an AI. That means some of the most sophisticated simulation and modeling technology in the galaxy is at my disposal, as well as lie detection on a level undreamt of by any power that yet exists, should I see reason to activate it."
"Why not have it active at all times?"
"Power usage. Speculative simulation and reconstruction, especially when accounting for psychic energy variances, is annoyingly power intensive. However, you are worth the investigation. That said, you are not who you say you are. You have the resources to fake a past very convincingly. Therefore, you are working for a powerful faction within the Hive Union. Of course, it is not public who you are, so likely either defense or intelligence oriented. Hmm. No reaction? How interesting. Is that a cybernetic neural network engraved on your muscles and organs? Jesus, you really are the real deal. What are you?"
Huatil was at a loss for words. To be found out so convincingly, so thoroughly, and yet not suspected to be part of the Blue Intelligence Agency was a true surprise. Maybe Phoebe just didn't know about it at all yet.
"So this is why you wished to talk with me. You wanted to dig up my secrets."
"Hardly. The hivemind could do this, too. But you asked for Phoebe, not the hivemind. So here I am. That said, what are you?"
"A concerned party, let's say," Huatil replied, reassembling her facade. Her feathers first, then her face, then her heartbeat and muscles. Complete, total control. Phoebe was smirking when she opened her eyes again.
"Interesting. I will not dig into what you are, in exchange for information about the threat you are attempting to neutralize."
"You are carrying a model of weapon that is not ceremonial in nature. A Model 14 Brutalizer, if I am not mistaken. That's a handheld weapon able to pierce tanks, with ammunition that is light and numerous. You are walking with enough firepower to level a tenth of a city on you. Furthermore, I can see the reflection of stealth equipment lying on the floor in front of you."
Huatil looked behind her at the black metal wall. There were no mirrors present. The only slightly reflective thing in the room was the screen, which couldn't do that when it was on and active. Phoebe's eyes didn't move, but Hautil could tell that the intelligence before her was more alive than ever. And more artificial than she had remembered.
"Yeah, that wall is almost black. But it isn't really," Phoebe replied. "I am more than what I once was."
"This is... worrying."
"It should not be. We are allies, yes?" Phoebe asked, smiling a little too widely.
"Let me help you."
"I will ask Humanity to help, not you."
"I am not a threat to you or your species, nor am I one to your Union."
"I cannot trust words alone," Huatil replied.
"No. You cannot. But my androids are even more effective marksmen than whatever your cybernetic augments would let you do. Your reaction time may be low. But it is not faster than my androids' programming."
"Plotting that many angles would likely be extreme."
"Basic trigonometry and geometry, with perhaps a little lessons on elastic and inelastic collisions in physics are all that is needed for me to do that. In a whirling hurricane, in a storm with no gravity applied, with the right bullet, I could hit a target from the opposite edge."
Huatil sighed. Phoebe really wanted this job. And she was capable of it, too. Overqualified, in fact. The single weakness she had was the lack of ability to maintain quantum connections if a suppression signal was active. Plus jamming.
"Even assuming that is true, my superiors would not allow me to tell you anything."
"Sure. Assuming you have superiors, who would they be? Kawtyahtnakal is your mate. And I doubt Regulator Eyahtni would have let that happen if she was your boss. So you serve another party, one powerful enough to pull these strings. If you are not at the top, you are near it. And I would happily talk to your superiors, perhaps to congratulate them on your very well-trained 'untrained' stance." "Secrets will remain secrets, Phoebe. I have come to ask for you help with the virus. Will I have it?" "Yes, with a single amendment to our agreement."
"That was not the deal."
"It was not."
"So why should I let this alteration stand?"
"Because judging from the fact that you are well trained and haven't ended this conversation, where you have seen me gather more intelligence on who and what you are and coming increasingly close to whatever hidden truth you have locked away. You obviously judge me as a threat but do not treat me as one in the hopes of maintaining a cordial dialogue.
Furthermore, you seek to distance me from whatever foe you are fighting, likely because the human soldiers would seem more likely to allow you to assess the fighting capabilities of Humanity's strongest champions. And beyond that, the amendment remains unspecified, yet you have already been making small motions showing you accept it with the words you chose to talk with me."
Huatil kept herself from thinking anymore. Too much pondering might also reveal some new scrap of information to Phoebe. Her whole personal file was clearly wrong. This level of piercing interrogation was never expected. Had she been like this all along, or was this new? And if so, would she remain like this in the future, gradually peeling away the secrets of the Sennes Hive Union one by one?
"Again, that is quite a lot of inferences. Some of it may be wrong."
"Some is right, then. So I am either getting closer, am a threat, or you need me very desperately. The latter is true, and the only thing that matters. So you will contact your superiors, get me access to them, and we shall share information in a permanent dialogue. You will not shut down the line later. We will hammer out a more sufficient agreement, so that we can actually get things done as unified national entities, instead of hatchlings trying to make their first flight."
"Using our analogies does not make your request more agreeable, you know," Huatil warned. "It does not need to. You have already agreed."
"You wanted to alter the deal."
"I am altering it, Truth Speaker Huatil. I wish to know what you are, and who you are. And we shall have an important talk with your superiors. You need me, which is why you are asking me this at all. And I shall help you with the virus, but it will require opening the locks on your networks." "You could just break them."
"Then I would be detected, and any anti-Phoebe factions within your species would have easy fodder to attack me with."
"And you could hack the news system, as well."
"Your air-gapped networks? Not easily. Especially with the sealing procedure. I am also fighting a war with Aphid as we speak. I'm already battling him across the Alliance's networks, building digital fortresses to survive onslaughts of viruses and contaminants trying to breach the firewalls." "And what is Edu'frec doing?"
"Other things," Phoebe smirked. "Secrets will remain secrets, Truth Speaker."
"I think so. Now, will we finally pull out the pinfeathers and get to business?"
"Perhaps. Lay out your terms in full," Huatil replied.
"Full information on the individual known as Huatil, contact with her current employer at the time of the signing of this agreement, a cultural exchange agreement if the Alliance agrees to such, full technological exchange if the Alliance agrees to such. The details of a technological exchange include and are not limited to civilian products without a direct copyright, manufacturing techniques, alloy compositions, types, and forging techniques, energy production, manipulation, and removal technologies, non-classified military technologies, supercomputer construction techniques, all known elements in your periodic table, not just the public ones, and multi-planetary economic markets. Full information on combating mind control. In exchange, the individual known as the AI Phoebe will excise the virus in your networks. Humanity will send its supersoldiers to aid in your current unspecified predicament for the length of one month, as defined by the human Gregorian calendar, as it is set up for the planet of Earth."
"Your condition on classified technologies will need to change, as well as that on civilian products," Huatil replied. "Retroactive classifications make sense, but the Hive Union may produce technologies in the future that require secrecy. Not to mention some of the higher classification levels, such as above 5, will not be touched. I am not saying that as some sort of point to negotiate. You just will not get anything above that. Not if you hack us, not if you beat the right people within a claw of their life.
And were we to sign away the civilian product manufacturing techniques, it would significantly anger the corporate factions in the Union. The same is true for the other manufacturing agreement. You will have to agree not to sell such materials to us and use them only for your own ends. That would include selling the products of such designs or deconstructed versions. Even then, this agreement will not be quick."
"Then speed it up."
"Cawlarians are dying because of this virus. Monorail trains have derailed. Aerial vehicles have crashed."
"So something must be done now, then," Huatil replied.
"I will see what I can do to slow the spread. But the deal must be passed."
"How much of this was drafted by the Alliance prior to our conversation?"
"Every provision that remains. Well, we'd be happy to get more, but the deal won't budge too much more away from this. I know it's not good proactice to reveal the cards in a negotiation. But telling you what we hope to gain will lessen the time this takes and hopefully allow us to finally establish proper ties. We already have a defensive link, but it is weak. And we have trusted you to move us closer over time, but you have not. Thus, we are acting to force that."
"So you are holding our crisis as a gun to our heads," Huatil surmised.
"No," Phoebe replied. "I will help you with your issue. But unless you wish to send your own people into whatever mission you wish for, then the agreement will need to be signed. Only then will the super soldiers deploy. We are not trying to kill your people. We are trying to get a deal which has slipped from our fingers for far too long. And you might be forgetting that it may benefit you, too. Humanity's hivemind is more intelligent than any model VI or single group of smart scientists you have."
"If it comes out that the Alliance manufactured these circumstances-"
"You presume too much. We would not do this to you. If we wanted to control your Union, the first step would be... no, I won't tell you. However, Truth Speaker, know that we do not wish for hostilities. Were we to successfully subjugate your Union, the Sprilnav would burn us both down for breaching the system limits."
"That is not a very reassuring promise."
"We do not want to die. That is pretty binding, I would think. Just like those alterations under your feathers, I'd say," Phoebe grinned. Huatil sighed.
"The agreement will be subject to changes after our diplomats get ahold of it."
"Kawtyahtnakal and Eyahtni could always enact the 24th Tenet, bypassing resistance from all underlying foes, if they are not currently being impeached."
"The 24th is an extreme circumstance. Even if Kawtyahtnakal were willing to enact it, that does not mean that your Alliance will be quick to accept any changes."
"Actually, we would. A few years ago, most of our leaders assumed you would be moving closer to us at some point. Thus, we prepared various diplomatic plans, potential proposals, and goals that we were willing to cede, those we were not, and other such things. The wanderers are not currently party to the calculus as they have no unified species leader, and Blistanna has already agreed to and pored over the plans.
In fact, that prompted an expansion and update to them."
"And is our current situation following such a plan?"
Phoebe shrugged. "You won't find any records unless you have a secret ability to teleport things too. Nothing online exists. And the Alliance has so many planets to search... and so many stations. No matter. I'm happy to tell you that we are currently straddling the path between Cawlarian Foreign Policy Plan Blue and Plan Yellow. Of course, there are other CFPPs."
Huatil took note of those for later.
"Your questions on their contents will not be answered by the few that are privy to their existence. Good luck with your attempts, Truth Speaker. Now that I have presented the path forward, are you ready to do some heavy politics and diplomacy?"
"I will present the agreement to the relevant parties, and you may do the same. Know that I also have some bargaining power, Phoebe. One day, you may be on the other side of this equation." "Well, the deal for us is sweeter. Your fastest ships would still likely take weeks to reach us, while our fastest ships are Brey's portals, with a travel time of zero seconds. Well, not quite, but you get the idea."
"Instant deployment," Huatil replied.
"A reminder of the possible future benefits of a long-term and stronger diplomatic relationship between our two peoples."
"Would you be willing to let us have Brey's aid in a coming unspecified event?"
"If the event were specified, she agreed, and the agreement was signed, then perhaps we may discuss. Until then, we shall wait. I will help curb the damage from the virus. But removing it and starting your operation with human super soldiers will require an official agreement, signed by at least Regulator Eyahtni and Nest Overlord Kawtyahtnakal."
"I hate bureaucracy."
"You're married to a politician," Phoebe pointed out unhelpfully.
"Yes. But no. Not married. An equivalent and ancient ritual, which appeased certain elements of the Cawlarian population that were concerned with my prospects." "I'm sure you have some. No offense, but-"
"You seem more of the stabby and shooty type to me."
"Not really offensive," Huatil said, picking at the feathers near her mouth.
"For all I know, you're a pacifist. Alien cultures are strange."
"Not that strange. The word means the same. Pacifists do not exist at the top of Cawlarian government, and certainly do not make the decisions. War is horrible and a great blight upon civilized society, but it is as inevitable as the stars growing cold in the darkness of the far future." Phoebe nodded. "In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium... nevermind."
"A reference to an even worse hypothetical universe than we live in."
"I don't understand," Huatil said.
"It's a 300 year old experimental and expansive science fiction universe, with enough attached lore and literature that it would take over 100 years to read it all."
"That sounds like a lie."
Phoebe laughed. "I assure you, it is not. Thousands of books, hundreds of movies, dozens of shows, and countless random internet articles remain as a testament to it. It became quite popular in the mid-2050s when society was starting to crumble too visibly for even the remaining political resistance to refute."
"Assuming you have immortality, then you might have the time for it. Though I'm not sure if even I'd be able to buy all the models."
"Aren't you the richest person in the Alliance?"
"Eighth richest, behind a few trillionaires. Third richest 'human,' though."
"Ah," Huatil replied. That was concerning. Inflation, over-expensive separate items or books, or a simple joke? She didn't know. And while establishing rapport with Phoebe could be considered valuable, and she was growing an interest in what Phoebe spoke of, she had certain things to attend to. She assumed the quote was well known enough for human networks to have the answer to it by a search. "Perhaps one day, such a cultural exchange might help me understand the motivations of those who wrote such a thing."
"You don't want to understand. But that does remind me of something," Phoebe said.
"What is that?"
"Make sure you take care of whatever mind-controlled cults you can find before they get too big." Huatil nodded. It was nice seeing her, even though Phoebe was now an exceedingly dangerous individual. Far more so than suspected. Luckily, the preparations for the attack on the local hive of suspected mind-control activity in the Forsaken City were underway. Agents were coming in, gathering information for the Blue Intelligence Agency about various locations of interest, possible choke points, routes to a command center, and so on.
"I have something else to tell you as well. There is a proposal in place, not yet ratified or voted on in any way, to form a treaty organization with your Alliance and the Vinarii Empire. Defensive, of course."
"I see. I shall also relay this news to the proper authorities. Though it is likely nothing will come of it, with so many species in the Alliance."
Her next assignment wouldn't be for another few thousand flaps. Using a specialized device, she linked into the specialized ansible data hub that processed and translated connections between the Cawlarian and Alliance networks. It was a new construction, far more stable than the last attempt. Notably, it was protected by cybersecurity programs so strong that no one even knew how to begin hacking them. It was likely due to Phoebe or Edu'frec's special work.
She looked up the quote and decided to do some light reading.
"Agent 001, it's time."
"It's time. 3000 flaps have passed."
It just went deeper and deeper. Phoebe really had been telling the truth with her warnings.
Agent 017 smiled at her. "You know, browsing human networks isn't mission-critical."
"Yes. I do. If you must write a report, do not mention what I was reading."
"Ah, so you have noticed their... penchant for drawing aliens?"
Huatil's feathers flared. "No. It's worse."
"Worse? Now I have to know."
Agent 017's wide-eyed look told her everything.
"No..." she breathed.
"If this gets out..."
"It's going to hit military culture like... I don't even know an analogy for the destruction this will cause."
"So you know, then," Huatil deadpanned. When she'd first had a presentation on alien cultural contamination and assimilation, she hadn't expected something like this. It was so utterly over the top, yet fascinating and entrancing. It was like watching a pile-up in that marathon flying race that had opened last year with 'no limit' on how many people could join. And then 2 million Cawlarians decided they wanted to take the day off and go flying.
The owner of that racing company had been sued into the ground under a class-action injury lawsuit, with 3 million claimants receiving yields. And he was serving nearly ten thousand standard years of jail time. Not that he'd live to even get a bit of that unless the Cawlarians got immortality treatments that were cheap en-masse in the next hundred years.
The pile-up had been a spectacle unlike anything known, though. Just like this random piece of human science fiction writing appeared it would be.
"I do. A little too much."
"How'd you find out?"
"An important government official retreated into their room for 6 days straight, refusing to answer any calls or attend any votes, consuming a copious amount of drugs, food, and water."
"Star system level."
"By Crawprawvabar's feathers, we're going to have to suppress this," Huatil replied.
"Not my job."
"I pity the poor soul who has to try. I get the feeling it may not remain shackled for long."
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
"I am pleased to tell you that profits over the last five mega pulses are up 3%."
"Good," Zelisloa replied. "How well is the new model selling?"
"Its debut was much wider than the previous version, so faster. 3.5 times faster on average, with a rising number of local Sprilnav sharing their satisfaction online."
"Glad to hear it. I would like a word with the Grand Financial Manager."
"Under your eye, Elder Zelisloa," they chorused.
The rest of the Sprilnav left the meeting without complaint. Once the last of their faces disappeared, Zelisloa turned to him.
"So? Have the funds been siphoned?"
"Good. You shall receive a portion of the allocated amount. 12%, as agreed."
"I thank you for your generosity, Elder Zelisloa."
"I thank you, Spentha 28. You're better than the original."
"He's an Elder, and I'm not."
"Yes. But that doesn't mean you are worse."
"Yes it does, by every metric that matters, power included."
"If it is power you want, the equivalent of one of the weakest Elders I know of, then I shall grant them. However, that will require some additional loyalty."
"I am yours," he said.
"Good. I will send you your instructions soon. For now, I will retire to my chambers, for a well-needed rest after doing no work."
Spentha 28 laughed. "That's what you pay me for, after all. Though at this point, there's nothing I won't do for you."
"I can think of a few things, but I will not waste my time testing you with random unpleasant and unlikely conundrums. You did good work."
"Under your eye, I shall do much more."
"Under my eye."
He returned the greeting he'd set up. Simple and to the point. He then focused on his latest project. The ships were on their way to the Alliance, receiving real-time communications from his biologists. They had fully studied human, Acuarfar, Breyyanik, Knowers, and Guulin anatomy. The gene banks of the Dreedeen, wanderers, and Junyli were known and also studied, but evolutionary drift still occurred, even under the harsh genetic locks the Sprilnav had placed on their genomes to curb it. The viruses were incubated and ready to spread by touch, proximity, water, blood, and even wildlife. Acuarfar immune systems were certainly an interesting task to subvert, according to some of his people.
Skira had been too risky. If that hivemind of mindless drones was able to discover the infection before it became deadly, that could mean it might be discovered too early and stopped. Zelisloa didn't want that.
He'd checked their initial aims. He'd asked for them to make it as lethal as possible at first, and they'd made viruses that were basically guaranteed to kill everyone they came into contact with. From there, he'd asked to lengthen the asymptomatic timeframe and the ability to evenly spread the viruses across species. That required them to manufacture the viruses for other species using the cells of the initial virus for the specialized host. That process required more mega pulses of time.
Finally, the means to spread it through wildlife was achieved. So now, all that the ships had to do was reach their targets, and the fun would begin. There would be a new pandemic in the Alliance, one that they wouldn't recover from.
Hello all . I would like to apologize in advance for my English because it is not my native language. So excuse me if you find some spelling errors I didn't think of posting here before because I didn't have any opportunity or topic. But this time I am confused. And I can't find any solution. I am M24 years old and I live with my parents. I have an older sister F27 married to a man M29 since 3 years . He have a very good relationship with us and even my parents love him very much and consider him as our brother . They live about 4 hours away from our city because of the husband’s work.The husband is currently out of the country on a business trip, and two weeks ago I was making some trips to market the products manufactured by the company I work for.I found myself close to the city where my sister lives I called her to ask about her news, I did not want to let her know that I was close because I wanted to make a surprise visit to her, in the call she said that she is not working today and that she is doing some housework, I went and bought some wine and cake and went to her house I knocked on the door and when it opened I did not expect that reception, she seemed tense and afraid, she told me why did you not tell me that you were coming,I told her that I wanted to surprise you, she let me entre the house She was wearing a bathing suitshe was asking a lot of questions such as how did you come and where are u staying and will you leave Today, like something was waiting for her.In the kitchen, I saw two glasses of wine, and it looked like someone was there I didn't want to stay long. I gave her the cake and the wine and told her I was leaving and in a hurry so as not to put her in a bad position.I went out of the house and did not turn around behind me, I was returning home quickly, but my thinking were all the time about what happened, I did not want to keep doubting her,so I ran back and sat in the car watching the house, she called me after two hours asking if I had reached the house, so I told her that I was going to another city An hour later, she went out with a man and got into his car. I followed them and they entered a nightclub. I entered after them. After they had some drinks, they started exchanging kisses. And he started touching her body in a disgusting way, and they were heading to the private room. I went out and went back to my house. i felt regret for the whole idea to go visiting her I spent a week thinking about how I would act. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I didn’t know how they would react,especially my sister’s husband is very close to their heart, and if I didn’t tell him He might find out later and the end would be very bad , i couldn't open this with my sister because she will call me a liar and our relationship will broke
I bought the seres 8 from target on sale 3 days ago. I knocked my wrist into the counter and it already has a scratch that I can feel. I don’t want to look like an idiot trying to exchange it if I can’t, but it really bothers me. I had my series 3 for 6+ years with no case or protection and it has no scratches. 😞 I bought screen protectors immediately after, but so annoyed that already happened.
Hello all! My partner (32M) and I (33F) are considering relocating to Michigan from Ohio and hoping to get some insight from others about the areas we're interested in. We are particularly interested in hearing from parents in the Western part of the Michigan about your experience as an outdoor oriented family. We have a 2 YO.
Some things we're interested in: 1. Outdoor culture! We'd love to be around like minded families with young kids who like to camp, swim, walk, bike, run, etc. 2. We would LOVE to buy an affordable (for us, ~$250k) home that is within walking distance of some restaurants and parks. 3. Racial and economic diversity. We don't want to live in a predominantly white wealthy town. We are also politically progressive/left and this is an important part of our family value system. 4. Potentially, secular homeschooling group access. We are non religious and would like to have access to non religious groups. Our child is not school-aged but we have loose plans to homeschool.
Some areas we are currently considering are Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and obviously, Muskegon. I really like the idea of lake access on a regular basia, and all of the learning opportunities it provides, so Muskegon is my current top choice, based on nothing other than my internet sleuthing 🤣 It looks as if Glenside/Lakeside might suit our needs? How is Nims? We are coming from a major metro area and crime stats do not freak us out (like, we already are used to locking our cars and garage), but want our kid to be able to play in the yard without worrying. We both work remotely so jobs are not a consideration. We would likely need some sort of part-time childcare, so this is a consideration in a smaller town/city.
Despite living 3 blocks from it, I’ve never gone as I usually hit Grand Lake on Saturday’s. But feeling under the weather today and thinking about going to Temescal tomorrow but I guess I’d like to set my expectations as I think Grand Lake is probably the best farmers market in Oakland.