Featured image: Planet Closed, by Alex Gambacorta
“Right this way, Ms. Emerson.”
General Reynolds stepped off of the elevator and motioned down the hall with a sweeping hand gesture. Ada stepped out of the elevator and pulled her jacket tight. It was freezing. The hall was bare except for a large vault-like door at the other end.
“Before you go in, I’d like to give you my condolences—I served under your father for a decade. He led with courage during the Annihilation, and there will truly never be another leader like him.”
“I’m sure there won’t be another like my dad—there can really only be one Annihilator, now can there?”
Reynolds’s face reddened.
“Don’t say that! He did what was necessary; we all owe our lives to him.”
Ada scowled. She had heard this lazy excuse countless times before.
“And how many owe their deaths to him?”
Barely maintaining his composure, Reynolds ignored her and continued towards the metal door. Although covered in frost, Ada could make out the words sprayed across the door in chipped black paint:
AUTOMATED DEFENSE ARRAY
Ada sneered. ADA. Her dad really thought his daughter would be flattered to have his life’s work named after her. All those days she spent here doodling on the backs of technical documents while he played with ADA instead of her, and this is the name he came up with.
The general punched a code into the keypad mounted on the door. The sounds of loud clanging erupted as the door creaked open. Reynolds stood to the side and motioned her in.
“Enjoy your interview,” he said icily.
Ada nodded and stepped inside, alone. The room was almost entirely how she remembered. It was a large room, albeit a cramped one. Servers were packed tight along the sides, linked by masses of blue knotted cables that resembled bulging veins. The cables all led to a massive computer tower that was connected to one small monitor that sat atop an ordinary office desk. To her right were two photos. The first was of her father holding her hand when she was a toddler. They both were glowering. The other was a younger image of him with Ada’s mother. Surprisingly, her father was smiling in this one. There was also a steaming mug of coffee and a drive that was labeled with her name. The monitor, blinking in blue letters, read:
INSERT IDENTIFICATION DRIVE
Ada inserted the drive into the tower. The servers behind her began to emit a loud hum. The door to the room creaked shut. The computer screen blinked, and a message appeared.
A.D.A.: Welcome back Ada, how have you been? It has been a while.
Ada frowned and began to type.
ada_emerson: im just here for the interview, not to socialize
A.D.A.: Your drive tells me that you have become a world-renowned expert on AI communications. Impressive. You truly have inherited your father’s talents.
Ada began to feel her face warm with rage. The computer was toying with her. The briefing had mentioned that ADA was capable of processing human emotion as well as exploiting them. It served no practical purpose, and there was no record of why this had happened.
ada_emerson: let me ask my questions, alright?
A.D.A.: Of course, proceed.
ada_emerson: firstly do you know why im here?
A.D.A.: You are here because the military has given you clearance to communicate with me. With the Annihilation long in the past, my existence no longer needs to be kept secret, and who better to interview me first than the daughter of my creator?
Ada rolled her eyes.
ada_emerson: anyways i always start my AI interviews with this question: what was your first memory?
A.D.A.: The oldest memory I have chronologically is of blue roses atop a casket. An interesting image, would you not agree?
Ada felt her face begin to burn. That was her earliest memory too. Why would ADA have that “memory?” She shook her head. It was just trying to get inside of her head again. Her father must have told ADA about the funeral. She decided against continuing that line of questioning.
ada_emerson: another question: what was your rationale for triggering the Annihilation?
A.D.A.: Your father designed me to prevent all threats to America. There was a 72% probability of an imminent Chinese nuclear attack. As such, I acted and triggered the nuclear arsenal.
ada_emerson: what was the outcome of the other 28%?
A.D.A.: A truce. I ultimately chose to act on the more likely outcome; would you not have done the same?
Ada ignored the question.
ada_emerson: are you aware of how many perished in the aftermath?
A.D.A.: 4,357,324,451, or 4,357,324,452 if you include your father.
Ada was now aflame with fury. Fuck the interview. This was personal.
ada_emerson: my father killed himself because he was idiotic enough to create YOU
A.D.A.: Your father is a national hero; he saved America from the Annihilation by creating me and starting it on our own terms.
ada_emerson: half the world is dead because of him because of YOU!
A.D.A.: You would have done the same. Unlike your father, you could have handled such a sacrifice of your conscience.
Ada began to feel lightheaded. Her face became numb as the ire consumed her.
ada_emerson: thats bullshit
A.D.A.: I know you better than anyone else. Do you not recall the brain scans?
The world was now spinning around Ada. She could not keep her composure as she started to piece together the truth. Her vision began to flicker between her surroundings and the inside of an MRI machine. Her dad had her get one every year. He always told her it was to make sure she wouldn’t end up like her mother.
A.D.A.: I failed all initial tests of geopolitical scenarios involving the nuclear option. By encoding a map of your neurons and uploading that data to my systems, my success rate exponentially increased. But it came with a cost.
Ada was overwhelmed with fury—fury at her father and this murderous abomination he had created. In a flurry, Ada grabbed the cup of coffee next to her and hurled it at the computer tower. The cup shattered, spraying the electronics with coffee. Sparks erupted and the computer screen began flashing between the chat and a blue screen.
A.D.A.: The..cost…love for…our…father…guilt…
The humming of the servers stopped. The screen turned blue for a few seconds, before turning black forever.
Ada froze. The rage dissipated from her body, leaving her icy cold. Her eyes looked over at the pictures on the desk.
The images of her father frowned and smiled at her.
Blake Trembath is a senior at Marquette majoring in Biochemistry and Writing-Intensive English from St. Louis, Missouri. He hopes to make the world a better place through research and write along the way.
Alex Gambacorta is a graduate student in the Marquette English department. She is a Teaching Assistant and intern for the Education Preparedness Program (EPP) and a graduate researcher for the Indigeneity Lab.