Archive for February 26th, 2009


Cleansed by Fire, Part 42

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 7, Out of the Ashes (continued)

dramatic-handOnce she had finished with Paulo, Lyseena focused herself, prayed briefly, and made a point of seeking out Ather sup-Juris. No sense putting off the inevitable. He was at the far edge of the Pit, discussing something with a tech, and she motioned him over. He finished up, and approached her, his large frame moving with a grace that belied his weight.

“Walk with me Ather. I would like to lunch below. I would like company.”

“Certainly, commander; did you wish to discuss your candidate to replace Maree? She is an excep…”

As they left the immediate vicinity of the Pit, Lyseena cut him off with a quiet, steely, “No.”

Her tone was clear to Ather, and he said nothing, simply nodding slowly in her direction and waiting for her cue as they strolled slowly to the hoverlifts. It came when she continued with, “You might not actually wish to lunch with me when we are done Ather.”

“Do tell,” he answered, with what sounded like genuine, if seemingly modest, concern.

“The survival of the Black Pope was a true miracle to discover this afternoon,” she said. Her affect was flat on the surface, but Ather sensed something darker underneath it.

“Miracles are indeed alive and well, Lyseena. I had been notified shortly before the newsfeeds started releasing the news.”

“How ‘shortly’ before, Ather? Or are you perhaps a miracle worker yourself?”

They had reached the lifts by this point, and the person in the one that opened promptly left it when he saw them. As they replaced him in the lift, Ather noticed that the person had intended to leave on another floor much farther down; his presence often had that effect on people.

As the doors to the lift closed, Ather said, “Lift: Hold position; no alarm.” He turned to Lyseena, and she could see the telltale, if microscopically brief, shift in his facial features that preceded him accessing his hindbrain. “I found out precisely 10.7 minutes before the first newsbriefers transmitted the story. Are you angry that I didn’t tell you? I assumed you had already been told and, if not, that a few-minutes head-start would scarcely aid your investigations.”

“You had no fortuitous knowledge about his survival, then? Or foreknowledge?”

“Lyseena, I serve the Black; you serve the Red. At times, our positions are at odds. Clearly, you are privy this time to something that I am not—a truly rare state of affairs that makes me feel as though I am remiss in my cloak-and-blade skills. I presume that you feel, or know, that no true miracle was involved, which is something I assumed from the start. But if there were machinations behind the Black Pope’s survival, or his ‘predicament,’ I was not made known of them and still have not been.”

Lyseena searched his eyes for a long time, then said, “Lift: Resume descent. Ather. Trinity help me, I believe you. And I don’t know if that gives me comfort or more unease.”

“Lyseena, I am part of the Black Orders and precious little that happens within them gives me ease of mind,” Ather remarked. “By the by, I still wish to lunch with you.”


It might be days yet before he knew whether Bechan had escaped Israel, or even if he was still alive, Rabbi Brifel Mann reminded himself. But it would take days for the remaining preparations to come together as well, and it was time to bring Kotel into the picture fully.

prometheus-inverted1Israel’s flagship AI was very sophisticated, but at his core, he was a dressed-up secondary AI, and that was a shame, as it might be the one factor that could prevent him from carrying out his part in the Synod’s plans.

The original Kotel, now there was a masterpiece of AI design. A custom-built primary AI with a template that combined tactical, religious, legal, economic and espionage elements beautifully. A template  so complex that it likely would have made siring offspring with any other AI impossible. He had cost a fortune, and was worth every debit.

Then rendered worthless by the twin missile barrages shortly after the Final Crusade that wiped out Kotel’s main complex and his remote backup databases. The Vatican had tracked the attacks back to some Arab militia and brought them to justice, but most of the Synod had been certain, from the start, that the Vatican had really done the deed. The Vatican that was “protecting” them and helping them rebuild by sealing them off from the rest of the world. Whether they wanted to be or not.

So helpful they had been in providing a new primary AI, though, and so quickly. Kotel II.

And it took us less than a week to find the deeply hidden subroutines that made Kotel II appear loyal to us, but actually linked to the Godhead and furnishing data without ever realizing it.

Instead of confronting the popes and the Godhead directly, the Synod set a plethora of explosives around the core processors of the AI, and turned his databases into so much rubble. And, after informing the Vatican of the disturbing terrorist attack that caught them off-guard and relieved them of their new AI, the members of the Synod asked, very politely, if they could spare the Vatican the expense of another primary AI and simply design their own this time.

Now that everyone on both sides knew privately what they wouldn’t publicly ackowledge, the Vatican struck a compromise: Israel could order up its own AI, but would have to make do with a secondary AI. A primary AI might, they suggested, suffer a similar fate as Kotel I.

Kotel III had served well, until reaching the end of her life five years ago.

And now this Kotel, eager but young—powerful but largely untested—was going to have to try to interface with several sympathetic AIs in the outside world and give them information the Vatican didn’t want released. All while a dozen Vatican Orbital Navy vessels had Jerusalem under constant surveillance, while troops and wingscouts watched Israel’s physical borders, and while guardian AIs kept watch on the nation’s virtual borders.

Brifel sighed.

I strongly suspect we are going to need a new AI very soon, right after the Vatican punishes this one to death. And probably a whole new Synod as well.

(To read the next installment of this story, click here.)


Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


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February 2009

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