a science-fiction adventure game

Chapter 10: The Professor's Little Girl Grows Up

“Okay, ANNIE. Almost done.”

Lead Technician Zemith moved his hands with practiced ease through the inner workings of the networking interface array. It was a jumble of cables of all shapes and sizes that drew together tens of thousands of discrete measurements and incoming data feeds for all manner of things from atmospheric temperature and pressure to camera feeds, remote computer terminals, and more.

…millions, possibly trillions, of discrete signals incoming per sample? That’s not exactly going to work with off-the-shelf components. We need to abandon conventional thinking or pure processing and move to the next level – quantum mechanics and neural networking.

The voice of Professor ren Amarsen echoed in his head.

He had been right, of course. Not just because ren Amarsen was a genius, but because he had been able to see early on that people would place their hopes and dreams into this mission. This vessel would become an interstellar transport of hope and carry the fates of all Letarri. And you don’t embark into the unknown with two-year-old, off-the-shelf parts.

His thinly-gloved fingers felt along the interior connections one last time to make sure everything was secure. When he was finished, he pulled his hands back from the networking innards and carefully replaced the access panel.

There had been numerous milestones on the project already. This was not the first, nor was it the last. But to Zemith and his work, it was the most significant. Aside from a few additional third and fourth tier branches that would be added later, the next few minutes would bring together more of the core computing system for this mission than anything before.

Zemith walked from the network access panel over to the main terminal in the stark room known as Central Computer Control. A series of display terminals spewed data almost continuously as diagnostic monitors and performance analysis tools logged the millions of events and sub-events that occurred since Zemith walked four steps from the panel to the main terminal.

A few keystrokes brought him to a diagnostic/start-up command screen.

ANNIE. Advanced Neural Network Information Entity. Here was the result of two years of concentrated development effort by a myriad of technological disciples among the Letarri people. Bound by the same dark, impeding future and the promise of long sought freedom, even the most ornery of technical minds put forth immense effort toward the development of a single artificial intelligence that would act as housekeeper, engineer, co-pilot, and doting mother to the small crew and the industrial complex that would travel into the deep reaches of space and beyond to build a new home for all Letarri.

…a system of such complexity that is simultaneously incomprehensible in scope and yet as scalable as possible. This is our goal. It must process more quickly than any person or existing machine can function, since it will have to do more at once than any person or existing machine.

And that’s exactly what she had become. As the lead technician, Zemith had been involved in every step of the physical construction and systems development for ANNIE. Under the hood, though, was another matter. Only a few key members of the scientific team knew how she really worked.

Zemith moved with practiced ease through the startup prompts and queries, pausing only briefly at times to scan one of the displays for confirmation messages. A few more moments and the startup procedure was completed.

Of course, that was just the beginning. Now ANNIE’s internal programming would have to process all the new upgrades and begin management and routing of the millions of data lines and newly connected systems. All the data that had been pouring over the monitors would gradually start to be routed, processed, assessed, and catalog in real-time. It was a technological wonder, really. Well, it would be once she started up. The last upgrade had involved only a handful of new systems, and it had taken almost 22 hours for ANNIE to sort through it. This time, one could only guess –

“Central computer online. I am ANNIE: Advanced Neural Network Information Entity. Greetings, Lead Technician Zemith. It is good to see you again.”

Zemith’s jaw dropped wide open. He stood there blankly for several moments, during which time ANNIE processed more than 300 trillion incoming events.

“Hello ANNIE,” he managed at last. “System status?”

“System status: Fully operational. I/O subsystems report seven hundred sixty-four thousand, three hundred and seventy one nodes of new inbound traffic, five hundred thirty-seven thousand, four hundred and fifteen of which are also outbound capable nodes. Access to holographic data archives now online...”

ANNIE continued with her report for several minutes, but Zemith was lost in his thoughts.

He had watched ANNIE develop and grow at geometric rates since her initial startup in ren Amarsen’s lab almost two years ago. Despite long stretches of “down time” during systems maintenance, upgrades and infrastructure changes, the good scientist’s little girl was growing up.