205 - Pure Quill

“No more AIs” has been a hard rule for Jason Quill to implement.

On the one hand, he’s finally shut down all the assorted machine intelligences he had running in this house. Simulacra of people he loved, or wanted love from, like his father and Alycia Chin. On the other hand, Aria and Summer Newman are semi-regular visitors - Aria on business, Summer as a friend.

Maybe the rule is “no machines can replace friends”. The robot girls are by no means the only people in Jason’s life, not even the most important ones. The Quill household and Foundation staff, starting with Barbara and Hannah, have helped keep the place running long enough for him to realize how to really make use of it. The Ponies, and the Qids, a new generation of people brimming with optimism that Jason sometimes finds painfully naïve, and other times as refreshing as water in a desert.

A big part of his life right now, honestly, is three people. Alycia Chin, the tempestuous and demanding love of his life. Leo Snow, a friend or a rival or both at once, sometimes the voice of sanity, sometimes of impulse. And his father, Byron Quill. Until recently, he’s interacted with Byron only through memory. The time is coming when that’s going to change.

What the four of them have in common is genius, and what distinguishes them is how they apply it. What Jason is starting to realize is that the adage of “never let geniuses work together” is bunk. Every genius has a focus, and the secret of fruitful collaboration is to recognize your own limits and boundaries.

He’s never been more productive than when Alycia was pushing at him to not surrender to his own weaknesses. And he’s never felt more confident in the results than when Leo was pointing out how to do something safer, simpler, or cheaper.

The joke among the military-industrial complex was that the price of Byron Quill’s hypertechnology was so high because it came with Byron Quill attached, otherwise it wouldn’t function. There was truth to that. The process of turning the warehouse full of wonders into a cornucopia to benefit mankind is still going on, and will go on for a lifetime, probably. Complex tech needed to be simplified and secured. Dangerous inventions had to be assessed or reworked. Gadgets whose true purpose could only be deciphered by the elite had to be reimagined.

Jason couldn’t do it himself. And he knew now, from working with the others, that it came down to working with the right partners, and knowing when to take their advice. This thought hangs heavily on him as he pushes the conference room doors open and steps inside, and sees the faces of government and military people watch him expectantly.

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“Ladies, gentlemen, and others, we are here to talk about saving two worlds.”

A bold opening. Grab their attention first, carry them along, answer just enough questions to keep their confidence going. Meetings are all about the emotions, not the facts. Nobody cares about a dry PowerPoint presentation. The slide deck is just like wearing a necktie. It just says you’re serious.

The murmur of voices, both in the conference room and on the holographic screens representing remote callers, is palpable. Jason raises his voice slightly to keep command of the presentation. “Our world is under assault. By forces human and otherwise. We all remember the Blot invasion, but aliens aren’t the only danger.”

“And there is the Sepiaverse - the parallel world from which the Vyortovians came.” Jason nods in acknowledgement to the men and women in subtly foreign suits, holographically projected into the room. “A world where, even now, people are suffering.”

The voices rise once more. Jason silently signals his nanobots. The room’s own loudspeakers subtly cut in, carrying and amplifying his voice over the babel of his audience. The effect is subtle, but it’s been amazing in previous experiments. He’s once again in command of the room. “We have the resources. I can prove it, to the satisfaction of anyone who doubts. The competence of everyone assembled here to carry out an objective we all support has been thoroughly demonstrated. What we need is the will.”

Jason’s vocal volume falls as the room gets under control. I’ve gotten over the first hurdle. They’re engaging. They’re building up intellectual reasons why this will fail, but I’ve got the initiative, and the idea is in their heads.

“I understand the doubt that some of you have objections to the plan we’re proposing. We will address those objections in any order you like, but we will address them.”

“But first, let me recap what was in your handouts, just in case there is any doubt.” Jason ticks off points on his fingers, and thanks to his nanobots, the slide deck on the wall behind him follows along perfectly.

“First. While Earth’s problems are not solvable in a day, or a year, we are making progress and the proposed Sepiaverse reclamation project will not harm them. Let me show you.” Slides glide by, indicating the progress of numerous projects. Leo Snow’s understanding of neuroscience being turned into low-cost medication for people with treatable mental conditions - under review by the FDA. A device cobbled together by Byron for a one-time job, uncovered and rebuilt by Alycia Chin, to help combat plagues and pathogens - being evaluated by the WHO. Genetically hybrid crops, suitable for growing in arid locations. Solar oases to reverse desertification.

“The bottleneck here is not resources but time,” emphasizes Jason. “Nobody is more cognizant of the need for a safe and thorough evaluation of hypertechnology than myself and my staff, and we agree with every domestic and international regulatory body that caution is a priority. We cannot change the world overnight, and shouldn’t try.” Time to finish with the emotional message. “We are making progress here, and that means it’s time to look further afield.”

More slides. “The Sepiaverse reclamation proposal itself. First, an evacuation of citizens from one world to another one. You’ll see here that we are addressing the resettlement question not through political means, but through technological ones. The Quill foundation will be using a new process to set up artificial landmasses in international waters - and subject to international scrutiny. You can see here not only the proposed tech, but video of these systems actually working, in the real world. This is not some kind of pie in the sky proposal. This is in use, now, today.”

“Second, a reversal of the physical conditions that make that world experience such inherent hardships. This is a forward-looking proposal, more research than engineering, and that’s why I want to officially unveil our other uh, surprise today.”

Jason steps back, and the Vyortovian holograms slide across the room and take his place as presenters. “Nýr Heimsháskóli. For the convenience of the English speakers here, the New University, or N.U. is the term that has been adopted. As Mr. Quill has said, saving two worlds is the work of generations. We of Vyortovia bear a responsibility for our attack on the United States. We have agreed to discharge that responsibility by opening our borders, sharing our technology, and educating the next generation of scientists and operators. As Mr. Quill has indicated, international oversight is an expected and integral part of this process.”

Jason takes over again. “As some of our attendees already realize, and as I’ve been authorized by them to reveal, organizations like Rook Industries are somewhat in the same business as us, but not with the same goals. They have a skunk works program to discover and militarize hypergenius and hypertechnology. Now I understand that some people are skittish about working with the Vyortovians, even with their assurances. Saving two worlds is a big job. I want to say that our options right now are ‘go it alone’ or ‘partner with someone’.”

The memories come back, filling Jason’s voice with conviction. “I speak from experience when I say ‘go it alone’ is a losing strategy. Given a choice of partners, I would rather work with people whose motive was desperation, than those driven by greed.”

The slide deck stops on the “Questions & Answers” screen. Jason smiles. “Who’s first?”


If there’s questions that folks think would be logically asked here, or just story tidbits you want to try and squeeze out, leave a comment!

It would almost certainly be titled “ and A”.