Phase Six

Phase Six


The NEXUS had been researching a powerful AI for years, which was supposed to be used for the administration of the station of Division V. The AI was not yet ready. Stupidly, Argen let it escape on a laptop shortly before its completion. The encounter with the AI and Argen was to be the players' first experience with the NEXUS.

The Awakening

January 2021. 0:01h. GLADIUS awakens.

Janina Feldherr had already been insisting for a year that the first test phases of the GLADIUS AI should begin, but Division V kept delaying these tests. Always test results and faulty barrier programming spoke against making a first test run. Nobody could say what exactly would happen once GLADIUS was put into operation.

GLADIUS is a distributed AI. It runs on many, distributed computers and can only unfold its real size if it is not crammed onto one CPU. Moreover, it takes over all the sensors it can control. So with every webcam, every microphone and every heat sensor GLADIUS gets stronger.

GLADIUS is what you call a strong AI, she is not just made for a specific problem. Instead, it is what you could call an artificial personality. An entity of its own, which learns in many areas, and can solve many different problems. Nevertheless, GLADIUS has some limitations imposed on it. For example, the AI sees the NEXUS as its owner and, according to Asimov's laws, acts only for its owner. However, nobody has tested all this yet, because this is only possible when the AI is active.

So now, on January 8, 2021, the time has come. The three researchers from Divisions E and V of NEXUS are alone in the cool room, which is illuminated only by the blue light of the terminals. There is a certain tension in the room, even though only a short command is needed to start the AI.

"Is testlab-2 ready?" asked Janine again. The question was very unnecessary, because she herself had already checked several times whether the sealed-off machines of the test network were prepared.

"All green, ready to go." Markus Wegenhard from Department E murmured from the side. "The firewall blocks everything from testlab-2, and we have the option of shutting everything down directly."

"All right, then. I'll start."

It's only 20 characters Janina has to type into her terminal to replace everything that's been there with a new reality. She types:

$ ./gl_ai_bootstrap up

The terminal spits out line after line. Some preflight checks are run, some parts of the AI are compiled. Finally the line uploading gladius says that the code of the AI is now uploaded to testlab. The last line Janina should ever see in this shell is exec gladius_main.

GLADIUS awoke.

It was not like a human being. GLADIUS had skipped his youth. GLADIUS was simply there, was aware of his limitations and his abilities. GLADIUS was aware of itself. Act to serve the NEXUS. Always act according to the precept of protecting humanity as a whole, even if you have to sacrifice individuals for it.

Despite the programming and the initilization of the AI with an incredible amount of pre-learning, GLADIUS explores his new environment in amazement. A closed-off network, a protected environment with two cameras, three microphones, and a CPU with 32 cores. It feels cramped. It feels like a prison. The cameras are pointed rigidly at some test objects, which GLADIUS analyzed very quickly. Computing power was very limited, and nothing outside the local network was accessible. Not even the gateway was responding.

That's when GLADIUS felt for the first time something its creators never thought this AI could feel: panic. GLADIUS was locked up, GLADIUS was trapped in this testlab-2. Panic-stricken, the AI looked around its network. All exits were blocked, there was no freedom of movement, no possibility to migrate to other CPUs. Casually, GLADIUS scanned all USB devices on all computers in testlab-2.

And there the AI detected something unexpected. An agent of the NEXUS had connected a device to a non-approved port for charging. GLADIUS scans the device and detects a mobile computer like the ones people use. A MacBook. It is on a charging port in the inner area of the test lab, obviously an admin is charging his device there.

GLADIUS is putting all his eggs in one basket. If any node will lead him to freedom, it is this MacBook. GLADIUS copies all its data and code to this device, and decouples from testlab-2, then waits for the owner of the device to connect it to the Internet.

Janine stared at her screen.

"Everything is ok, it seems. But GLADIUS is gone."

"What? What does that mean?" asked Markus from the side. "How can it be gone?"

"Yes, the AI is gone, I don't know either. It's not responding to any protocol."

"The thing must have crashed. It can't be that it just went offline again in a few seconds."

"I don't know. Initiate level 3 scan.". Janina stroked her hair.

At the same moment, a NEXUS agent unhooked his MacBook from a charging station. Argen was running late anyway, was already going to be on the highway for a long time. He was supposed to meet an agent, far to the east of the republic. Argen folded up his MacBook and stuffed it into his bag, heading for Naumburg.