I mean, trapped in a small mountain resort for several days… Of course someone was going to die. To this day I’m not sure if the whole thing was an elaborate set-up – because there were just too damn many coincidences. But then again…given our luck…
The Memoirs of “Gentleman” Jack Cartwright
22-23 June, WY602 – Demeter, Whistler
WDF Dauntless registered its arrival with Feldman Orbital Traffic Control and is scheduled to arrive in orbit around Demeter in roughly thirty hours after a .75g burn. There’s no indication that this is anything other than normal maneuvers, as the WDF keeps several destroyers in the orbital picket at any given time.
Florence Abinde comes into the bar and introduces herself to Aiden. She is the Sagan-prize-winning inventor of the self-aware AGIs and CTO of AAI. After some brief pleasantries she takes her leave.
The crew adjourned to the ballroom where Tomoe goes through the motions of her sound check. Becca is there in case she needs anything, and a number of the hotel staff peek their heads in to watch. At one point Basil Chen arrives and he and Tomoe exchange winks. He has a hugely charismatic presence, even silent in the back of the room, and everyone takes note. It’s also obvious that Basil and Becca have a sexual relationship going on. They depart the ballroom together.
Near the end of the sound check, a man arrives that Angelica identifies as Benjamin (Benny) Gatsby. He’s the Minister of the Interior for the Republic of Jericho – essentially the chief spymaster – and he knows Angelica from her mission to thwart the assassination of Prime Wheeler several years back. He says he’s “in the neighborhood for business” and didn’t want to miss the chance to meet the crew. He mentions he’s chaperoning Andrea Cargill on a trip to discuss AI with AAI. A brief search reveals that Cargill is the head of Special Projects for Jericho and was the former Chief Engineer of the Cheyenne Drive Yards – which were destroyed by Indomitable over Grove. Dirk and Julian recall her from Jack’s trial.
After freshening up and getting their formalwear on, the crew returns to the ballroom for the reception. They’re introduced, either directly or through observation, to the key players in the evening:
- Basil Chen – CEO of AAI. Appears to be a legitimate Tomoe Gozen super-fan.
- Becca Sanders – Basil’s assistant.
- Nadine Chen – Basil’s wife and CFO of AAI.
- Florence Abinde – AAI CTO and head of product, a Sagan-prize winning AI researcher.
- Skylar Albertson – AAI CMO and Head of Sales.
- Benjamin “Benny” Gatsby – Director of Internal Affairs, Republic of Jericho.
- Princeton Feldman – Descendent of the CO of the Leif Eriksson, board member of Inspired Systems, a civilian luxury shipbuilder that primarily does business in Jericho but has offices on Whistler.
- Andrea Cargill – former chief engineer of Cheyenne Drive Yards and now head of special projects for the Republic of Jericho.
- Felix Hoffman – Chief Scientist at Garner Applied Genetics
- Jean-Pierre Dubois – CIO of Demeter Mass Transit Authority
Over the course of the reception, the crew learns the following:
- There seems to be a stark difference between people who refer to Calliope and “she” and those who refer to her as “it”. Basil, Nadine, Skylar, Benny, Andrea, and Jean-Pierre are in the “it” camp while Florence, Princeton, and Felix consistently refer to Calliope “and her sisters” as a “she”.
- Nadine is polite but quietly hostile towards Din and Angelica. She covers it up well but it’s distinctly noticeable and only applies to those two.
- Basil has slept with most of the women in the room. Nadine is obviously in the know and tolerates it.
- Florence, Felix, and Aiden hit it off and plunge into deep scientific discussions about cybernetics, cellular genetics, and artificial intelligence for the evening.
- Andrea Cargill is polite but quiet and reserved. Angelica feels as if she is someone who has to harbor a great secret but isn’t used to doing such things. She’s incredibly cold to any of Jack’s long-term acquaintances, especially Dirk and Julian.
The party settles down across two tables for a formal dinner, which is a masterwork of the head chef. The following are revealed in the conversations:
- Skylar is very focused selling to jean-Pierre who feels one of AAI’s products would aid in the efficiency of the Demeter mass-transit system.
- The entire dinner, Basil only has eyes for Tomoe the entire dinner. His attentions are so intense that she’d likely distance herself in a more traditional performer/fan setting.
- Nadine resists any attempts by Angelica to start a conversation.
- Dirk gets Princeton drunk and spun up.
- The AI discussion gets very deep, and Aiden detects that there’s something intrinsic to the story of the invention that specifically isn’t being discussed. The story of the breakthrough simply doesn’t add up technically. Aiden mentally explores whether the gap could be related to his experiences on Solace or the gravities anomalies around Myrr but doesn’t come up with much at the table.
- When Aiden inquires about the safety of the AGIs, Skylar jumps in to the conversation with a practiced speech about how they’re designed “chained and safe”. There’s a hardware module that prevents the AI from acting against the interests of its administrators and hard-coding that prevents the AIs from even being aware of it. There’s some discussion about the ethics of it, during which neither Florence nor Felix seem particularly pleased.
- During dinner, Skylar receives a call and then pulls Basil aside. They both shoot glances as Benny during the call and both come back to their tables somewhat disgruntled and disturbed.
After dinner, it’s concert time over coffee and desserts. At the beginning of the concert the AAI officers huddle in the back of the ballroom in close discussion, at least until Tomoe plays the custom song she wrote specifically for Basil. The song has a profound impact on Basil who comes to the front and listens raptly.
After the set Basil comes on stage and thanks Tomoe, then announces with some embarrassment that the Jericho Senate just passed an ordinance ordering AAI to hand over Calliope to Andrea Cargill for a special project for the security of the Republic. After an initial burst of outrage, the party starts breaking up while Skylar and the crew discuss contractual options to avoid this happening with Euterpe. The AAI team promises the crew their next AI and they come to an agreement before heading off to bed. Before he leaves, Basil mentions there’s still a chance they’ll go back on their decision, but time will tell.
In the dead of night, Angelica answers a pounding knock on her door to find a very disheveled Benny waiting for her.
“Get dressed and come with me. Someone’s killed Basil.”