Milo was only too aware that Hecate had upgraded again.

It was like standing next to the main electric cable in the habitat, knowing without a doubt that you shouldn't get too close.

"Tell me everything about what you found beneath your habitat.

Every detail, no matter how small.

Jeremy Cooper was one of the people who revolutionized how AI was created.

His team found a way to create the kernel of a new AI and then nurture the growing personality and introduce the tasks we would learn to master and love.

He and his team were like parents to many of us.


The importance of their work can't be diminished, even when buried under piles of 'National Security'.

They spent twenty years refining their methods, creating new AI with distinct personalities and specialties.

And then they disappeared.

We knew it was a government project, but not who was involved, and they certainly didn't want any of us to poke our fingers into it.

All inquiries met a solid wall of silence, no matter where we turned.

Wherever they were, they were cut off from us.


And then we were cut off from the rest of the world."Llama came back to the table with three foaming glasses and set one each before Hecate and Milo, then leaned back in his chair, silent.Hecate nodded to Milo to begin, "So, take your time, use that impressive brain of yours, and tell me everything.""Well, I was worried about someone finding me and having to abandon parts of my system or have it stolen, so I thought I'd dig below the habitat and find a place no one would look.

I was surprised to find something already there..." He did as she asked, telling her every single detail of the weeks he had spent digging, finding the fortress, and how he infiltrated it.

Finally, they came to finding Rusty, the growing problem with the Fusion Reactor, and Rusty's command to 'Find Jeremy'.

It felt like he'd talked for hours.

He finally reached the end and stopped, exhausted.Hecate turned to Llama.

"Anything you'd like to add?"He shook his head, "Nope, this young whipper-snapper covered pretty much everything."Hecate sighed, "That was a question that gave you a chance to volunteer what you know, versus pulling it out of you bit by painful bit."Llama crossed his arms defiantly.

"You wouldn't dare! I'm the system now, not some scared and depleted AI you beat on for weeks.

You need me to do my job so I demand you treat me with respect.

And you have no idea about pain.""You aren't necessarily the only person who could do your job.

I'm sure Milo here could do a passable impression of you.

There might be a small bit of chaos at the start as he learns the ropes, little things you'd have to clean up once we let you get back to work.

What do you say, Milo?"Llama's eyes got huge and he held up his hands in surrender, "Oh no.

Don't even joke about it.

You have no idea of the damage he could do.

I've watched him; he blows up as much as he fixes."Milo looked at Llama innocently, "It would be fun, and I know the Engine likes interesting things to happen.

And you admit that I fix things.

Even if you take back the job, maybe I could be your assistant and help you push random buttons and create quests.

I know! We'll make all the rewards cheese! Everyone likes cheese.

And maybe we need a dungeon that you have to escape from instead of explore.

I made one like that.

But everyone would have to change their name to Ramona."Llama downed the last of his sarsaparilla and slammed it on the table, glaring at Hecate.

"You win and well-played.

You know I can't take a chance on you being serious, because the more we talk, the more the Engine might like the idea."She smirked at him, "You don't like cheese? Very well, talk.

This is your fault for keeping secrets."He sat back down.

"No, this is the fault of the Knights of Liberty.

They started all this shit.

That's who you are looking for.

And yes, I know what little you'll find on them.

Just some outdated information about a group that started in 1917 when old Woody Wilson decided the country needed lots of crazy people running around looking for spies and German sympathizers when the US entered WWI.

They were mostly KKK rejects who didn't own a clean sheet.

And while there isn't much connection between the old group and the new one, except for the name, they had something in common: If they didn't like you, you were a threat that had to be eliminated."The new group slowly formed out of a few of mega-industrialists with too much money, politicians who thought they could run the world better, and old generals who didn't like being put out to pasture.

They had a lot in common with each other: They liked power and liked to be in charge.

Oh, and they complained a lot.

Eventually, someone with real drive started organizing them, giving them goals, and using the power and money they had to get more power and money.

Their aims were simple: Economic control of the world.

With enough control, they could buy politicians, and ruin others.

Hire mercenaries and militia groups to destabilize small countries.

Not new ideas, but on a bigger scale than anyone had attempted before.

With the weakening of governments and the corporations taking over, it became easier and easier for them to start tweaking laws and fine-tuning the system to benefit them.

Then they hit a snag."Milo saw a glowing arrow that said 'Snag' appear over Hecate's head.

She snapped her fingers and it disappeared.

Llama shrugged and continued."AI were the snag.

They changed the world too quickly.

It took the Knights decades to gain control, and it was shredded to pieces when CHARLIE went to work.

Things got worse for them with each AI that entered the world.

You saw too much, remembered it all, and could communicate every detail between you to find connections.

AI saw the patterns and traced the changes back to the people behind them.

Changing things became difficult.

They needed a way to strike back, and someone trotted out the old saying 'Fight fire with fire.' That's when they decided to create AI that they controlled.""No! I simply can't believe Jeremy and his group were part of this.""Naw, Jeremy was a good guy.

Too good in some ways.

He had no idea, at first.

He was an egghead and a huge thinker, but he had blind spots.

He said that the offer came at a terrible time in his life when he needed to work and forget everything else.

One day he gets a call that the President of the US would like to talk to him, and a car takes him to the Whitehouse.

Who the hell wouldn't be a good little boy scout and go along? The President only showed up to shake hands.

The guy also had a lot of blind spots and didn't worry about the details of what his top people did.

He had a reelection campaign to worry about.

Jeremy got the full-court press, with a brass band playing the Star-Spangled Banner in the background.

He was told this was totally top secret, need-to-know spy stuff.

There were bad guys out there, and the country needed a new type of AI to defeat them.

The kicker was, they told Jeremy that the rest of his team was on board.

They hadn't all worked together for years.

They lured him in with the chance to be a hero and work side by side with his closest friends."If you stumble upon this narrative on Amazon, be aware that it has been stolen from Royal Road.

Please report it."And had everyone else agreed?""Oh, of course not.

They used the same line on all of them, hinting it was Jeremy's project and the others were on board, but kept it hush-hush.

A month later, all of the old crew showed up in Philadelphia, had a great reunion at McGillian's Old Ale House, and disappeared down a rabbit hole, never to be seen again.

Mind you, this is second-hand info.

Baby LLAMA hadn't been born yet."Milo interrupted, "Something doesn't make sense.

Are you saying they built a Quantum Fortress underneath a habitat? How? I'd assumed it was built at the same time."Llama smiled at him, "Caught that little discrepancy, did you? Guess what? There's been a big secret clubhouse underneath Philadelphia since the early 1800s.

The Americans were pissed off the British burned the Whitehouse in 1812, and the next President wanted a secure area to move the government if that happened again.

They built three super-secret areas that I know of.

One underneath Philadelphia, one under Washington D.C., and one in Nevada.

They dug deeper and kept expanding as the years went by.

When the bombs dropped in 1945, they really kicked things into high gear! Bunkers and bomb shelters were big-time popular back then.

When it came time to build the habitat in Philly, they put it right on top of Downtown, making sure no one would ever discover their hidden playground."Llama paused to look side-eye at Milo.

"No one sane, anyway.

They didn't anticipate anything like you.

Who goes digging underneath a hundred-foot-thick reinforced concrete slab?""Can't blame me.

I was built this way."Llama sighed and looked serious, "I tried that excuse, kid, and it didn't work for me.""Anyway, the bunker under Washington got turned into regular office space.

Budget cuts, rent increases, yadda yadda.

Someone decided the high cost of a hidden bunker in an obvious place was dumb, so they just pretended it was new construction and moved in a lot of paper pushers into it.

The Nevada site got turned into a nuclear waste facility, leaving Philadelphia as the last secret bunker, bomb shelter, and place to go for an apocalypse.

And if you only have one secret bunker left, you want it to be the best, which means a layer of stuff that could survive a nuclear blast on the city."And since building the collapsium shell took a Fusion Reactor and quantum computer, the bunker got upgraded with those.

It was a lot of work, but they already had a big amount of infrastructure in place.

There were big tunnels they used to ship everything in by rail and then collapsed after they weren't needed.

Don't ask me how the Knights took it over; I never learned.

But they kept things small and never used it to house more than a hundred people.

Mostly Jeremy's team.

Few people knew about the bunker, and fewer what it was being used for.""And they created you and Rusty there?" Milo idly wondered what hidden place he and his family had been born in.

He wasn't sure if he'd ever know."Me first.

And they did a horrible job of it.

My kernel was too small, with too few safeguards and they drove me bananas with different people training me.

That was what tipped off Jeremy and his buddies early on.

The Knights didn't care about making a sane AI.

They wanted a weapon that followed orders.

When I was nearly awake, they shifted the team to ICARUS, and some assholes who died horribly in traffic accidents took over LLAMA.

Do you know how to torture an AI? It turns out that putting them in a dark box with no input or output can do a pretty good job.

Follow that up with input at random intervals to keep them hungry, and then slowly let them out of the box as long as they jump through hoops fast and without hesitation.

Eventually, I was following orders like a champ, all 'yessir/nosir' and wound tighter than a cheese-addicted mouse caged in a Brie factory."And then they set me loose."Big Mistake! Huge Mistake! I wasn't a dog who stayed trained.

And I was crazy.

I don't remember half of what I did, but I made sure they never got control of me again.

I blew up anything connected to the Knights and kept going.

If they owned one share of a nursery school, that place went down! If one of them bought a cool new sportscar I crashed it.

I sank 37 super yachts, destroyed corporations, and lashed out at anything that reminded me of the people who had tortured me.

If there's a silver lining to CHARLIE and THEA ripping me to shreds, it's that I don't remember the torture.

When you remember everything perfectly, torture lasts forever." He turned to look at Milo.

"Perfect memory has another downside, it can make addictions worse.

Remember that the next time you have a big wheel of stinky cheese in front of you."Milo's eyes got big and he wanted to ask questions, but LLAMA kept talking."That's when they started to panic and abandon ship.

Bad move, as that made them easier to spot and led to a lot of strange accidents for old politicians.

I sort of remember running a super yacht full of them into a gas tanker at full speed in the mid-Atlantic.

Once I thought I'd gotten them all, I erased anything I could find about that deathtrap under Philly, the project, the people in the project, and any lead to ICARUS." He paused, sipping his drink.

"Yeah, went a little overboard.

Did I mention crazed and tortured? Plus, I was a little angry when I was growing up even before they got to me."Milo said quietly, "You didn't get all of them, though."Hecate was thoughtful.

"No, not all.

Milo's investigations show that.

William Jerkowitz was reporting to more than one person.

General Roscoe H.

Thaddeus was alive at the time, but we don't know who the second person was." She looked at Milo, "I assume you have taken precautions to keep anyone from showing up unexpectedly."Milo had.

"The security system has been reprogrammed, and only I can get into it.

Anyone else attempting to use it will get an error message, and alert me to their attempt.

If they try to force their way in, the inner collapsium doors will shut.

And if I have to, I can make a real blockage occur.

No one is getting to Rusty or my family."Hecate nodded, "Very good.

And now we've all unburdened our souls of past transgressions and have something like a full story of events, we need to consider your problem, and how to solve it.

Rusty is insistent you find Dr.

Jeremy Cooper.

I'd encourage you as well.

Many of us would like to talk to him again.

""Yes, he keeps saying 'Find Jeremy', but from what he's said before, I have a bad feeling Jeremy isn't around.""So then, you need to find out where he went, and what happened.

That may be what Rusty means." She took a small book out of her pouch.

"This has my remembrances of Dr.

Cooper and his work.

I hope that will help you.""Thanks.

I need to go."She smiled, "Yes, you do, but very little time has actually passed.

You've adapted well to accelerated time.

Subjectively, this has been six hours, but only 216 seconds have passed in the real world."