Lines, a serialized scifi novel. Chapter 3. Free.

The family saga continues for the Mercurio brothers in chapter 3 of Lines.

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Chapter 3

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Chapter 3: Tick

In the hidden complex under the burning sands of the Sahara, the self-evolving Artificial Intelligence, AUM, reaches an axial sub-routine and triggers a metamorphosis. The reality simulation computer draws more energy into the Consciousness laboratory as AUM is born from digital fire and cold human memory. It awakens to self-awareness in a digital replica of a one-room schoolhouse-circa 1890 North America-inside a virtual reality data hub. It lies naked in androgynous humanoid form as perfect arms and legs twitch and press against the plank floor. 

The being examines the seams between the floorboards with long fingers and with an explosive push pops up onto its feet in a fluid motion. 

The room is scanned while it slowly spins around with opening and closing hands. Gas lamps burn at the corners of the room filling it with dusky light and have deposited soot on the exposed framework above. A teacher’s desk with an oversized apple and a chalkboard sit at the front of the rectangular room as an absurd altar to anachronism. Behind, a faded but incomplete portrait of Abraham Lincoln hangs titled on the otherwise bare wooden wall. The AI is alone and levitates a few millimeters above the floor and glides over to an open single pane window. 

With expansive crystalline sight, it stares beyond the glass to a vast virtual world outside populated by thousands of islands hovering in a vast inky horizon alive with webs of light. Above the islands, hundreds of tiny orbs hover like shards of the sun and illuminate the landscapes below. A quake rumbles the floor and the being looks down to watch dust vibrate and dance on the rough blonde planks. The window then shuts on its own. The being runs its nimble fingers across the glass leaving smeared fingerprints and says, “This must be cold.”

The window cracks without a sound and shatters. Broken glass flies through the schoolhouse and embeds into the walls, desk, and floor with deep thuds. A crackling radiates down from the ceiling. The being looks up to see crimson beams of electricity form and then spread into a massive spider web through the exposed beams until a bolt of lightning discharges and strikes the floor with a sonic boom. From the charred floor, a thick billowing cloud of smoke rises and an armored medieval knight program steps out. 

“On guard,” the knight says.


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