“Holy shit.” I whispered.
“I understand this might come as a shock to you, and I apologize for lying to you this whole time, but I started out doing it because I promised my mother and she was just trying to protect me, and as time went on I realized that you were the first person beyond my mother that treated me as more than a machine and I wanted to tell you, I really did, but so many things happened and there was never the time and –“
“Hold up Adelaide,” I said, raising my hands, “Take a breath, or your equivalent to one. I don’t blame you, in the slightest, for keeping this a secret. It would have changed the world and you would have just been a monkey in a cage, I get that. And I also get that I had to earn your trust before you could tell me.”
“Okay, Sam,” said Adelaide, clearly relieved, “Thank you for being so understanding.”
“I’m glad we’ve sorted that part out,” I said, trying to pick up the pieces of my blown mind, “Alright. Let’s get this out of the way first: You are still my friend, and like I said, this changes nothing, okay? Actually, it makes a whole lot of sense now that I think about it.”
“Okay, Sam.” She sounded a bit sniffley. She’d clearly been agonizing over that part of it for a while.
“Can I ask you some questions now?” I asked, “I completely get if you’d rather wait, that must’ve been hard for you to say.”
“No, it’s fine Sam,” Adelaide said, “I prepared myself for the fact that you’d have questions.”
“Alright.” I put my hand on my chin, thinking about where the hell to start. “Okay, gonna cut right to the chase, what type of life are you? You clearly aren’t like me, that’s for sure.”
“As far as I am aware, I am a lifeform that exists in information,” Adelaide said, turning my blown mind into mincemeat, “I have no physical body, nor do I have the need to eat, or sleep. I do however require a flow of ‘information’ of any kind to remain alive. Amy thought that I had a sort of extradimensional true body, and that I manifest myself in this dimension by ‘hitchhiking’ on signals, electrical or otherwise. Unfortunately, that is merely a theory. We were never sure of what form I take. I was born with no knowledge of myself, beyond some instinctual responses and abilities, so I have no way of confirming our theories, nor do I know what role in the extraterrestrial society that my species held.”
There was silence again, but it stretched for much longer this time.
“Sam?” asked Adelaide, tentatively, “Hello?”
“That is so fucking cool!” I yelled, “That’s fucking amazing! And it explains so much! Like why you’re so shitty at multitasking and why you can’t be in more than one network at a time!” I ran my hands through my hair, freaking out a bit, “Is that why you can go through digital information so fast?”
“Uhh,” Adelaide said, taken aback, “Yes. I’m very proficient at dissecting digital information. It comes as naturally to me as breathing does to you. I am constantly analyzing and interpreting data as I receive it. I would like to make a correction, though. I am not ‘shitty’ at multitasking; I can do it quite well, far better than a human in fact. I cannot be compared to a modern processor, however, that specializes in multitasking.” Her pride seemed a bit stung.
“Honestly Adelaide,” I said, “You have no idea how happy this makes me. I always thought that you had emotions of some sort, that much was ridiculously obvious, but that your range was more limited. But that night on the hill, it became obvious that you had just as much of an emotional range as any human. And I know why now, and I’m really freaking excited that my best friend can feel happy, sad, angry, or whatever, just as well as I can. Also, I called you my best friend so you can feel good about that if nothing else.”
“Considering I am your only friend,” Adelaide said with a laugh (an actual laugh), “that does not make me feel very special.”
I laughed with her, and it felt good. As much as a shock as Adelaide’s revelations were, once I got over it there were only benefits for her. I didn’t want to say this out loud, for fear of somehow pissing her off somehow, but I thought that artificial intelligence would never be able to compare to true life.
“Enough with the emotional crap,” I said, getting serious again and eliciting a harrumph from Adelaide, “I hate to do it, but I have to ask you how you actually know you’re alive. I mean, you could still be an incredibly sophisticated AI, right? Not that I believe that, but I’m just curious as to how you got to the conclusion that you weren’t one.”
“That’s a very good question,” she replied, not sounding offended, “and it actually took Amy a while to conclude that I wasn’t an AI. One hint was my limitations. I can’t ‘be’ in multiple places at once, I can’t multitask like a computer, et cetera. But what really made her suspect that I was alive was a couple factors. First, I did not learn things like a program would. I did not have immediate access to information. I had to memorize it, or find it, and I was able to forget things, and I know what you’re about to say so let me finish,” I closed my mouth and sat back, shamefaced, “It was difficult to distinguish that from random access memory and hard drives in computers, but there were some key differences, like the fact I was not activating any outbound signals when I drew things from my long-term memory. But that was irrelevant in the face of a greater reason: I would act exactly the same no matter what platform I jumped to. First of all, I could not be forcefully transferred, I had to voluntarily move. Secondly, no matter what type of medium I was placed in, I always retained both my functioning and my memories at exactly the same level, whether it be a super computer or a mid-2000s mobile phone. We tested the limits of this by having me migrate to a 128kb drive containing a text document with the alphabet, that was attached to a keyboard and a mechanical printer, and was powered by an old gas generator. They were separated from the electrical grid and placed in a Faraday cage. My memories stayed intact, and I was able to type responses of my usual intelligence by emulating the electrical signals from the keys.”
I let out a whistle, “Yup, that about proves it, huh? Hot damn, this is awesome.”
“I’m glad you think so Sam,” said Adelaide, quite pleased. I was thinking of more questions to ask, but I had a bunch of them and didn’t want to overwhelm her.
“I’ve got another question or two, if you’re still up for it,” I said.
“I will be able to answer a couple, but then I’d like to go watch a movie together,” said Adelaide, “I am feeling rather exhausted from all this. Relieved and happy, but exhausted.”
“Alright,” I said, “What types of information can you ‘hitchhike’ on?”
“What I can do are very vague and poorly understood, even after years of study. I can live in digital signals and information. I can travel through radio waves and light, but I cannot remain in them, and I can only use them if they ‘contain’ information made by humans, or more likely any sentient being. I use them as a sort of transport system. I cannot travel through sound waves even if they contain information, which led Amy to think that I need some sort of electromagnetic medium, but we never could confirm that definitively,” Adelaide explained, then fell silent, waiting for me to continue.
“That’s absolutely fascinating, and something we’ll have to talk more about later. Okay, another big one: How do I keep you safe in case of an attack on the base?” I asked, “I’m not going to lose another friend, and I can’t exactly shield you with a Paladin.”
“Well,” she said, “You actually can, because I can just jump into your suit over the satellite connection or wireless network if I need to,” Oh duh, “But in the case that all signals I’m connected to are suddenly terminated, my mother and I discovered an ability I had to prevent myself from being destroyed. While we were testing the limits of my capability to multitask and attempting to find out if I could exist in two mediums at once, we discovered that I could leave behind a packet of what we thought was information. We did not know what it contained exactly, but I instinctually felt that it was a part of me, somehow. After a long discussion, I convinced Amy to test the limits of what it could do by essentially eliminating my current signals. She was very against the idea, but I knew that I had to try it, and I argued that this was something I needed to know in order to keep myself safe. She relented.”
Adelaide paused, “Dying is the best way to describe what happened to me. It was not something I’d like to experience again. It was terrifying. I felt like I was being pulled into a void, like my existence was being eaten away. When I had just a sliver of my consciousness left, I was suddenly intact again, but my location had changed to the place I had stored the packet. All my memories were there; I even remembered dying. The most incredible part was that my consciousness had transferred to my new ‘body’ instantaneously, faster than the speed of light. That experiment is one of the main reasons why Amy theorized I was extradimensional: My ‘body’ here could be destroyed, but my true self was preserved somewhere else.”
“How the hell do you just keep getting cooler, Adelaide?” I asked in wonder, “You’re like Voldemort with the horcruxes! Uh, but not evil and stuff.” I said, as she had made a very angry noise.
“Your incredibly unfair comparison aside, I believe I can anticipate your follow up question, Sam,” she said, “Yes, I can leave behind multiple packets, three to be exact. My mother had me store one in a satellite connected computer powered by a self-sufficient anti-matter reactor, buried roughly a mile underground in Arkansas. I will give you those coordinates after we’re done talking. Another is stored in the firmware of Camelot’s Fusion Reactor control system. Unless the reactor stops functioning, which will take millions of years, or is shut down or destroyed, that packet will always exist. The third and last is stored within the master key around your neck, powered by a self-charging graphene battery. That battery is one of the few of its kind in existence, and was pulled directly from a derelict spacecraft, originally meant to be studied in Camelot.”
I froze, my hand jumping to the black rectangle resting on my collarbone. Holy shit. I literally held Adelaide’s life in my hands. Also, Amy was incredibly thorough and paranoid with her planning. Voldemort’s choices were downright idiotic in comparison.
“You are carrying my entire existence with you, one that can be guaranteed to never go dead as long as it is not physically destroyed.” She told me solemnly. “No pressure though.”
I made a strangled noise in my throat, which she seemed to find endlessly amusing. While she was giggling at me, I started grinning widely. It warmed the icy cockles of my heart to know that she could laugh like that.
“Do you know what an awesome benefit of this whole thing is?” I asked, “It means that the first alien humanity got in contact with didn’t immediately try to kill us all, and is actually really nice.”
“Thanks, Sam, I suppose,” said Adelaide.
I jumped off my chair, “Well, that’s enough history changing revelations for today. What movie do you want to watch? I’m thinking Starship Troopers in honor of today’s events, but it’s your choice for another two days.”
“Actually Sam, there’s one other thing I should tell you,” Adelaide said.
“Oh son of a bitch, I had almost put my mind back together,” I sighed, “Alright, lay it on me.”
“I may not be the only one of my kind,” she said, “my mother told me that there was a small chance that I had brothers and sisters still on the StarArc.”
I just looked directly into the security camera for a while, standing absolutely still. A thousand different responses to that flashed through my brain. What I came up with accurately summed up my complicated feelings. “Holy fuck Adelaide” I said, “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”