Infinispace Preception Abstractor

Images & Words: Void the Light – Prologue

Preception Abstractor

Neal Ulen

When : Where
259 DE (2569 CE) : Terra / Techspire / Underspire

This is approximately 1/3rd preivew of a first draft novella entitled Void the Light (tentative title) which takes place in the Infinispace Universe.

The novella is set about 30 years before the events of Infinispace: Deception and is ~50,000 words in length. It will be posted in serialized format.

0 - Prologue
1 - Martos
2 - Integrators
3 - The Rat...
4 - ...In The Cage
5 - Benize
6 - Taria
7 - Meetings
8 - Direction
9 - Lost
10 - Challe
11 - Fixer
End of Preview
Given enough momentum, the foundations of power can be eroded quicker by a trillion grains of sand than a slow-moving boulder.
—Traze / ‘Axioms of Infocraft’ / 2564

Only a handful of Colossus machines were known of across the Triocracy. They existed as a statement of the power and progress of the Spires. Several were known to all who held station high enough to be privy to such knowledge, including the Warspire’s Materia Forges, the Techspire’s Infinispace, and the Lorespire’s Humanity Matrix. The others were ensconced away, often only referenced as mythical fables whispered between conspiratorial Citizens. The majority were outright fictions that were meant to obfuscate and misdirect from reality.

The Preception Abstractor squatted deep in the bowel of the Underspire, in a vaulted dome that could house several squares of Tangle hovels, in both height and breadth. It was one such Colossus hidden from prying eyes, coldly and quietly ingesting the ebb and flow of the Continuum; every quanta of accessible data touched by its predictive matrix. The Preception Abstractor’s hundred-meter-tall cyclonic eye swirled silently with the blue glow of collated data, spurious noise being annihilated into nothingness in its central nullfield. Preception saw all, analyzed all, and extrapolated the passthrough residuum to the most logical inference it could reach without violating AI Sentience Edicts. Each extrapolation was re-scoured, re-simulated, and re-checked against acceptable confidence interval metrics before being categorized as either a benign or critical future possibility. Critical future possibilities were a rarity, but when detected, the Spire was quick to act to minimize the impact of any possible variation from the norm. Preception’s existence was largely a closely guarded secret, known only to the most trusted of the elite, and maintained and monitored by only the most gifted of engineers and Infocrats.

Risk aversion was the primary mission of Techspire’s Infocrats. Scito omnes, vide omnes was its mantra, and omniscience was its goal. But the AI Sentience Edicts of 2310 CE made it exceedingly difficult to meet that lofty and theoretically unattainable goal. Rules were not meant to be broken, but as every Triarch knew … rules were malleable, meant to be bent into submission, circumvented, or molded to suit the needs of the Techspire and its security. Rules without rigid definitions amounted to no more than unenforceable guidelines. Preception was a means to that end, tiptoeing up to the demarcation of the AI Edict, but never stepping over that relatively unquantifiable line. Blatantly violating the edict would bring down the ire and physical might of the Warspire, the enforcers of the Triocracy. Ensuring the rest of the Triocracy wasn’t aware of Preception was part of another Techspire mantra: vires per imperium, strength through control.

The vast data crypt hummed with the power that fed Preception’s insatiable appetite and echoed faintly with the footsteps of a handful of attendant Infocrats as their hard shoes clacked across the impeccably clean and polished floor surrounding the Colossus machine.

A tall, brown-haired man stood stoically before Preception, his hands clasped behind his back, mesmerized by the swirling eye, its blue light casting long, shifting shadows behind him. The formality of his body language and his flawless regalia suggested someone in a position of authority within this hallowed sanctum. The doldrums of his interval were catching up with him, and even though he often fell under the spell of the eye, he was always cognizant of Preception’s operating state through direct connection with his bio.node.

“Is everything alright Dorian?” A voice at his shoulder asked.

He turned and looked Aryne in the face, her gold eyes framed by equally gold, chaotically cascading hair that clashed discordantly with her immaculate black long-coat. Aryne had been part of Dorian’s intervals for close to a year, and he’d never grown accustomed to her uncanny ability to sneak up on him in such a vast, open space. The thought entered his mind to talk to her about it, but he quickly dismissed it. Over the months he’d found that her refreshing idiosyncrasy broke up the monotony.

“Yes, all quiet per usual,” he said, turning his attention back to the eye. “I’m just trying to get through another interval with my sanity intact. Aryne, let me ask you, how many variants have occurred while we’ve shared intervals?”

There was a slight pause as she accessed her bio.node. “Fifteen critical, over a period of forty-seven weeks. That is approximately one variant every three point one thre …”

“My point being,” he interrupted, “very few.”

A tall, brown-haired man stood stoically before Preception, his hands clasped behind his back, mesmerized by the swirling eye, its blue light casting long, shifting shadows behind him. The formality of his body language and his flawless regalia suggested someone in a position of authority within this hallowed sanctum.

“Yes, but no less important,” she said.

“Hmmmmm … “, Dorian grumbled. “It’s not our place to assign importance to a variant, that’s for someone else to decide. We have no idea how those fifteen variants impacted the Techspire or the Triocracy.”

“And we’ll never know, nor do I want to know,” Aryne replied emotionlessly. “The less we know, the less will have to be flushed from our bio.nodes when our interval tour is complete.”

“Indeed,” he sighed.

This assignment held both prestige and misery in equal measure. Misery now, prestige behind closed doors would come later. They’d not left the Underspire, visited the gardens of Pinnacle City, or accessed Infinispace for forty-seven weeks. The bodies and minds of everyone in their interval tour had been isolated in this vast chamber a mile below ground for almost a year. Bio.nodes automatically adjusted brain chemistry to keep their anxieties and isolation phobias in check, but those measures would wear thin when used daily. Even though modified, the brain was still a mysterious organ that found its own unfathomable path to acclimate to trauma. Both of them would surely ascend higher in the Spire if they endured their tour with their minds and long-term memories intact. He looked again at Aryne and wondered what she would do after her tour. He’d grown fond of her after all these months but wasn’t confident the feeling was reciprocal. Perhaps he’d pursue the prospect once they had their routine lives returned to them.

Aryne turned her head to him and smiled. “What?”

“Oh, nothing. I was just contemplating what life might be after this is over.” He waved his hand at the monstrous machinery before them. “I’ve almost forgotten my previous life.”

Her smile grew. Perhaps the feeling was reciprocal.

“Well, to start I’d really … ” was as far as she got before stopping cold.

“I see it too,” Dorian said with trepidation.

A telltale yellow warning indicator was flashing in the upper right of his vision. It was a status flag from Preception transmitted to his bio.node.

“Bio.node, sync with Infocrat Aryne, RY938Q1M-O,” he said.

“Authorize,” Aryne voiced needlessly, more out of courtesy to Dorian than necessity, when the request flashed instantly in her mind’s eye.

“Preception, display current variant,” he commanded.

Infinispace Preception VariantThe Colossus obediently pushed the requested data to both their bio.nodes. A synchronized display of data and shifting statistical charts materialized in their vision. In the background, the familiar globe of Terra rotated slowly. Convergence indicators methodically marched to the right, and increase in height displaying alarming shades of red, like a range of mountains built from a wall of menacing, bloody thunderclouds. They watched silently as convergence was achieved until finally the charts and data ceased their chaotic fluctuations, but Terra continued rotating. An awkward silence built between the two as they stared at the images projected into their minds.

“Oh shit,” Aryne hissed. She’d never seen a future extrapolation with such alarming results. “A variant on Terra. Critical … and that’s an understatement at best.”

“Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’s Preception’s job,” Dorian said calmly. “Preception, quarantine and scrub dataset, and re-run extrapolation. Report final confidence assessment and variant intercept probability.”

“Preception, also display the highest probability origin point,” Aryne added.

“Good call,” Dorian nodded.

The displays in their vision cleared and were replaced again with the rotating image of Terra. Data and charts began their familiar march, repeating exactly as they’d seen before, shifting right and upwards, reaching toward a visual crescendo they were already expecting. Behind the data hovering in his vision, Dorian could see engineers moving around the base of Preception with alacrity, ensuring all systems were operating nominally. No words passed between them as they waited, and after a few tense minutes, the graphs and charts stopped their motion. “CONVERGENCE REACHED” flashed at the bottom of the infographic.

“Any bets?” Dorian asked.

“I’ve learned to never bet against Preception,” Aryne said.

“Superimpose variants,” he commanded the Colossus.

Two infographics swirled and melded in their vision until they reached focus. “100% MATCH” flashed.

“Display requested results metrics,” Aryne said.

The displays melted downward like a fall of digital rain, dissolving into nothing, and were replaced with “Variant: 99% confidence, 15% probability of intercept if initiated within twenty-four hours. Each passing day will degrade the probability of intercept by 1%. Origin: Terra / Tangle”

The Tangle!?” Aryne exclaimed. “How could anything originating in the Tangle result in a critical future extrapolation, especially one so high? Critical enough to impact the Techspire or the Triocracy?”

“Good question, but as you said earlier, the less we know, the better,” Dorian replied with a confused look on his face.

His gaze turned back to the machine, which had resumed normal operation, its eye once again swirling with the data of billions of Triocracy citizens, the scrambling engineers returning to more mundane ministrations. Aryne made a valid point. None of the previous criticals during their tour had originated from the Tangle. Data gathered from Citizens in positions of power and influence, or located on certain planets in the Triocracy, carried many orders of magnitude more weight in the simulations than data scraped from the Tangle. Serendipitous interactions can cause blips, and isolationists can sometimes complicate predictions, but Dorian had never witnessed an occurrence like this. The next closest confidence during his tour had been 62%, with an 80% intercept chance, and that had originated from deep in the Warspire. As far as he knew there’d been no discernable impact from that event. There’s no telling what impact a 99/15 critical might have. This result was disconcerting and unnerving. Inconsequential Citizens should be no more than noise in the system! How was this possible? It must be an error.

“What now?” Aryne asked.

“There’s a chance this is a system aberration or an error because it doesn’t make any sense. But I’m not risking being stuck down here for another year if we’re wrong. We follow procedure and escalate … wash our hands of it.”

“Agreed,” she said. “Let the Spire deal with it. Pack it, nuke it, ship it.”

“Preception, encrypt and bundle this extrapolation. Expunge all original data from your matrices.”

While he waited, he understood he needed to contact the only person who would know what to do with these findings. With a thought, he bid his bio.node to make a direct connection with the next Infocrat in the chain of escalation, a person he’d not communicated with in several months, not since the last variant. After a short wait, a bald and robed figure not much older than himself stood before him.

“What is it?” the man asked, irritated and distracted by something out of vision on his end.

“Forgive the intrusion, honored … Preception has discovered a 99/15 critical variant. I’m preparing to send the prediction to you now,” Dorian replied.
Continued in Void the Light – Part 1.

Images & Words © 2023, Neal Ulen.
Other images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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