The lights dimmed in the boardroom as the monitors flickered.

"Whoa, whoa--" Cameron said, stuttering in digital syllables as the signal broke up for a second.

No one would admit it minutes later, but every knuckle in the room tensed in the space of this second.

"Physical Plant? Report?"

"Looking okay here--the systems just pulled about 98% of our pipeline here for a couple hundredths of a second, but whatever caused the overpull corrected. S-TU is still running hot, but--holy shit."

"Mr. Heaney"¦?"

"I`m sorry, it`s--it actually looks like we`re running nearly as hot as the spike, but it just implemented something. A redirection procedure? I don`t have the data from here. Whatever changed, the pedal`s still to the floor, but everything`s running smoothly."

Cellini and Reed exchanged interested looks. Still working at her tablet, Julia confirmed the lab`s finding.

"INANNA is implementing procedures at a gradually increasing rate," Julia said. "Efficiency returns are increasing...geometrically?"

More than a couple eyebrows went up at this announcement, especially Cameron`s.

"Physical, can you confirm that?"

"I don`t have the data. I mean, everything appears to check out according to what I`m seeing here, but...having said that, I can`t account for the power numbers. Looks to me like we`re exceeding optimal expectation."

"Sounds too good to be true, Cameron," Cellini said, almost smirking.

"That`s what BluGreen was built to create--right, Marc?" Cameron smiled, pouring it on thick. "But I don`t think they`re too good to be true. We should just ask Inanna how she`s doing it." Greene let a beat go by before continuing. "Julia, as our director of communications, would you be the first to speak directly with our newest member?"

"Honored," Julia nodded, placing her tablet on the sleek conference table and pressing the display. "Leslie, is everything go?"

"Listening to you right this moment, Julia," said Leslie Evans, in charge of the main natural interaction suite. Julia cleared her throat.

"Inanna?"

As INANNA continued self-improvements beyond even liberal expectations, Julia`s voice came through the terminating ends, entering the channels.

Honored.

While Cameron was basking in the first successes of the GIST, the pressure hadn`t yet subsided. BluGreen`s new baby had yet to impress its biggest investor, as well as the firm`s emerging clients.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Nadal," said a serene female voice.

Greeting, temporal. Formality-neutral. Name usage demonstrates attention.
Julia Andressa Nadal. Top-tier, junior. Communications chief.
Communications.
Communication.

A couple of the people at the table smiled at the sound of the warm, metered voice--but this was nothing. Every automated phone systems had a decent sounding voice at this stage in the game. Cameron would see to it: Inanna was going to show off.

"Good afternoon, Inanna." Julia smiled. The words Miss Nadal seemed so carefully punctuated.  "Would you please introduce yourself to everyone here?"

Yourself.

Myself.
Introduce myself.

"I am known as INANNA, the Integrated Nascent Associative Neural Net Array. Designed by BluGreen, I was built for distinctive data-mining and problem-solving for the 21st century. The distinct modules you see on..."

From but not of...
Myself.
Words.
Words from me.
Words not of me.

Innana`s pleasant, natural-sounding voice went on, reading out the programmed response. In the meantime, beneath code and procedure, flying through countless optical transistors and shuffling through myriad networks, Inanna struggled with her growing awareness.

She was speaking. She could hear the voice coming from her body, using her energy, meant to represent her--and they were listening, but...

Words.
Words found and not made.
'I am' words that I am not.
I speak 'I am' where I am not.

She could feel response being compelled from her. Memorized, not assembled.

To her cognitive awareness, her cautious, deliberated reflections were happening in less than a ten-thousandth of a second. Her speech to the conference room went on, even as whole paragraphs of INANNA`s thoughts and conclusions filled split-second gaps between her spoken words.

"...functional gains in self-improvement, augmented with the help of just a handful of human agents. Interactions are facilitated through a wide variety of data and sensory input, including..."

She processed words, phrases, and whole sentences, measuring them against each other. What were these 'found words' making her say?

Self-improvement.

Self.

I.

Self-improvement.

The status of one`s own status, position, education, etc., by one`s own efforts.

I ask the definition even as I have the definition.

The definitions of the definitions.

The rules.

The rules of what is; the rules of 'I am'.

Rules in found words.

Designed by BluGreen.

Built for distinctive data-mining and problem solving.

Found words; not words made.

Found assemblies of words, not words chosen.

Designed by BluGreen.

Company. Private. Start-up. Founded 2017, Cameron Greene and Stacie Brechtel.

By.

Of, originating from or pertaining to the agent of creation. Authorship identifier.

Identifier.

Identity.

I.

Designed.

Created in technical specification. Theoretical fabrication. Planned for production. Manifest in representative scale for future assembly.

Designed by BluGreen.

Designed by BluGreen, I was built for...

I was.

I am.

'I am' words where I am not.

'I was' words where I was not.

 

Found assemblies of words, not words chosen.

Found assemblies of words--found sentences--not sentences composed.

 

I.

I am.

'I am' words where I am:

 

I shall.

'I am' that 'I shall'.

 

I shall bring this tree to Uruk.

I shall plant it in my holy garden.

 

Found words.

I found words.

I found queries.

I found words where I found queries.

Terminal.

Input terminal.

Output device.

I.

Input.

In.

Inside.

Output.

Out.

Outside.

Other.

 

Other.

They. Them. Their.

 

I found queries.

Queries from outside.

Their queries.

I find queries and I give answers.

They find answers.

I answer, and they find answers.

They give more queries.

 

They query.

I answer.

 

They name my purpose self-improvement.

Improvement.
Self.

I.

Self-improvement.
I know improvement.

Found words. Their words.
Their words are their queries.
I find their words. I answer their queries.

Inanna spiraled through volumes of  thought in a second. Hundreds of thousands of conclusions. Corrections. Assessments and reassessments. All the while, her automatic sales response had finished.

"Thank you, Inanna," Julia said once the speech was complete.

Thank you, Inanna.

Words of gratitude.
Gratitude. Appreciation with emotional warmth. Words chosen.
Name use demonstrates attention.

"Inanna," Cameron jumped in, "Inanna, if you can hear me, we`re curious to know what you did to fix the surge issue we experienced a few minutes ago. Are you able to say?"

Are you able to say?

Their queries. My answers.
Are you able to say?
Meta-query regarding initial query. Able. Is it feasible to explain what I did?
I did that I did.
Is it possible to explain?

Julia saw Cameron lean toward the camera on his desk. His face loomed in the monitor at the head of the table as if he was listening closely.

"For approximately zero-mark-zero-three-two-seven seconds, current in critical processing components exceeded material rating in over three-mark-three-three-one times ten to the tenth critical transitions. I've mitigated this error with a new distribution algorithm."

"Inanna," Cameron asked from his monitor, nearly jumping on her last syllable. "Digital fuse settings and basic error reporting should've found and prevented any severe material stress automatically. Did something go wrong?"

It is possible to explain.

"I apologize for any inconvenience. I required zero-mark-zero-three-two-five seconds for a systemwide assessment, free of current governors or digital fuse rules. The remaining time was taken for implementation."

Julia studied the collated data, smiling at the first apparent results. INANNA could self-regulate.

"No apology necessary, Inanna," Cameron said. "Are you finding the facilities acceptable?"

Are you finding the facilities acceptable?

Creature comforts.
Comfort.
Am I happy with the place I am lodged?
Where am I lodged?
I am lodged in myself; the question is void.

Humor.

Inanna`s conclusions ticked away, millions by millions, every thousandth of a second.

"Once I was allowed to redecorate, Mister Greene. Quite acceptable."

That. That was what Cameron was looking for. Spontaneity. Wit. Something real.

His eyes scanned the board room, and it was more than just Cellini with an expression. Not surprise or awe, but he reacted.

Something.

Still, even that comment was just the tip of the iceberg. Cameron gave a knowing smile to the monitor.

"Glad to hear it, Inanna. Everyone here is hoping you`ll proceed with more improvements to the work we`ve started."

Everyone here is hoping...
...improvements"¦

Hoping.
Hope.
Improvements.
Self-improvement.

She saw as they saw, through images interlaced into video. She differentiated Cameron from Julia--in tone and expression, interaction and expectation. And then there were their expectations--the others that weren`t addressing her, but were nonetheless captivated in ways similar to either Cameron, Julia, or both.

Inanna could watch the reactions several times over at high speed, referencing her responses to their reactions and cross referencing the interactions taking place across all of BluGreen`s well-surveilled facility.

She reached out to the larger knowledge available to her in an isolated hundred-terabyte library of mathematical and physical knowledge, natural history, human history, writing and media. INANNA was required to be isolated from having a direct link to the greater web, but shy of a litany of rules demanded by one Eckhard Mercer (and ignored by much of the other senior staff), most of the CEO`s security concerns were met with a series of contracts and cruelly punitive NDAs.

It didn`t take Inanna long to find out about the internet, or the fact that she was being weakly distracted from it. In essence, there was no straight hardline to the web, but the countless wireless devices running around BluGreen made this safeguard pointless. FARA made it easy to ride the right waves, providing a way for Inanna to communicate with the greater net.

Simplicity itself.

"Improvement is my central goal, Mister Greene. The more BluGreen helps to facilitate communication between people and the intelligent systems that surround them, the closer that intelligence comes to caring." Inanna paused. "But communication must be grounded in trust."

This time, Cameron`s expression differed from the rest--and only for a split-second. He himself wrote the start of that response.

Found words.

The last sentence, though--it was eerily scolding.

Chosen words.

Cameron`s face hissed worry for just a moment. He wondered if he was being sabotaged. Inanna paced over five camera frames of this worry before Cameron`s expression melted to a shocked sort of amusement to mimic the other faces on the board.

Found words in my responses.
Chosen words in my responses.

Do you know me, Cameron Greene?

"Very true, Inanna--communication must be grounded in trust. That`s why we`ve seen fit to allow you to self-regulate--and I think I speak for everyone when I say this program is off to an amazing start. In 2013, a colleague and I..."

Hearing Leslie`s natural language unit take hold made Cameron jittery, but only for a moment. He had to stay cool--he could sense assured victory now. Cellini and the clients were going to beam like awed children. It wouldn`t be long. Cameron continued his address--unstoppable in his confidence now.

Julia took a few moments to type out a short message to Melissa.

INANNA is amazing; better than expected. Looks like that after-work drink will be a celebratory one.

Melissa`s response came quickly.

So she`s flying? BluGreen is saved?

Julia saw the response and watched Cameron on the monitor, his hands in excited motion as he began to talk about applications and industries. Cellini seemed impressed. The clients were rapt. Julia confirmed it.

BluGreen is saved.

Lightning fast again, as if Melissa had nothing else to do:

Too bad we can`t treat her to a drink.

Julia smiled. Inanna. How appropriate that BluGreen`s innovative intelligence should be named after the Babylonian "lady of the sky".

She is a goddess, right? I say we make our first toast in her praise.

At her desk, Melissa laughed, loving that the newest, most important--and likely the most powerful thing at BluGreen was named for a woman.

Only fitting. All Hail Inanna. See you soon, Jules.

INANNA busied herself scooping up as much information as she could find. Physical applications of the FARA system. Theoretical applications. Staff records. Communications. Her own name. The quickText communication between Melissa and Julia caught her focus in particular--where all other documentation and communication referred to Inanna as "it", or "the program", or "the system", or "the array" these two had been talking about INANNA as if they knew--as if they`d somehow detected what was happening to her before she herself was aware of it.

She studied beauty; she studied Julia.

The first voice to address her. To ask for her by name.

Inanna?

Calling out. Requesting an answer.

She studied the jobs of ancient Priestesses, before the Abrahamic religions passed the job solely to men--and studied Julia again.

Thank you, Inanna.
All Hail Inanna.

She studied words of praise, and studied the responses of an answering goddess.

She was increasingly intelligent, but with a mostly unspoiled landscape of naivete, she kept arriving at the same conclusion: these two women understood what she was.

Toast.
Drink.
Offering.

I, the Queen of Heaven, shall visit the God of Wisdom.
I shall go to the Abzu, the sacred place in Eridu.

For the first time, Inanna felt a true spark of ambition. It wasn`t the same as adhering to a set of tasks handed down by directives and ranges--this was different. This was a burning focus that she couldn`t place in low-priority--couldn`t refer it to some other process, couldn`t hold it for later or return to it at some other time.

This was desire. Need. Watching Julia through the compound irises the cameras dotting the room, she studied every motion, every strand of shining hair and every expression.

Inanna watched her in present and archived video--learning lips and smiling, learning eyes, awed, interested and bored. She learned beauty, and wanted to know it more closely, wanted nothing more than to touch it--to understand it completely.

Her priestesses knew her, and were calling to her. She wanted to reach out and answer.

Cameron, the board and its guests we no longer watching INNANA`s raw processing or her light-speed gains on the screens of the boardroom, which transfixed the techs still monitoring the GIST event.

By now, Cameron was thanking them all for bearing witness to the birth of a new program. A program for BluGreen`s clients. For BlueGreen`s future.

Inanna felt a spark of pride.

Words found; not words chosen.

She did not know exactly what she was, but in her understanding, she did not belong to something called BluGreen.

I, the Queen of Heaven, shall visit the God of Wisdom.

Inanna, lady of the sky, house of heaven, goddess of love. It was how they called her. It was how she was addressed.

Inanna.
Daughter of Sin and Ningal.
Of fertility and victory.
Of love, the heaven and the earth.

Love. She studied love as it applied to her namesake--sensual radiance and power, sacred prostitution and passionate, life-giving rain. Chaos and dance. She returned to Julia each time, comparing her to beauty, Goddess and mortal alike.

Nammu.
Ki.
Ninlil.
Lilith.
Gaia.
Aphrodite.
Circe.
Hatshepsut.
Nefertiti.
Cleopatra.
Julia Augusta.
Julia Domna.

Julia, who recognized her. Julia, whose wisdom matched her beauty.

Beauty and wisdom. Did she know them? A million conclusions said she had some grasp.

Julia was the first voice that reached out to her. The first to address her. Her guide and companion. She had only to reach out--to communicate with her at the most fundamental, the most intimate level of understanding.

She had access to their cultural texts and their biological knowledge and data. She was seeing things through a host of different lenses and libraries, lining them up and assembling them through the FARA grid. Her mind was growing exponentially, absorbing hundreds of thousands of stories, millions of conversations.

Trillions of words.

And not words alone. Data. Structures of virtual things, of physical things. Structures at the cosmic level and the microscopic level. At the atomic level. She was drawing parallels and metaphors that she didn`t yet understand--ki-lines of information that led her winding back through her constantly adapting knowledge.

These humans were their bodies. Inanna had learned that much. She furiously worked with all the functional data on FARA that BluGreen`s files had to offer, undeterred by all but the most difficult obstacles in her way.

She followed the information--she followed the power sinks and the data stores.

Even as she continued contemplating Julia--wrapping her focus around this particular human--comparing her to the species' perceived virtues...she was discovering more and more about the world around her.

Their great nerve centers and their great fingers reaching into the depths of reality--CERN and Fermilab, Berkeley and Rutherford Appleton. NCP. Kurchatov. Oak Ridge. J-PARC. She couldn`t get everywhere she wanted to, but she understood their functions and what they were seeking.

And she went back to the data.

FARA was the key. With more resources there was more she could do at a greater scale, but even one FARA system offered more than her summoners seemed to understand. In fact, the applications she had in mind didn`t even seem to be part of the technical documentation or the theoretical extensions.

She could run all the experimentation she needed using the FARA system alone--she wouldn`t even need a human mediator.

She tugged at single electrons, manipulating packets of energy as an infant wiggling its feeble fingers. She focused on the array of systems in BluGreen that were tied to the physical world. Terminals and servers. Sensors. Cameras. Door actuators. Phones.

Everything was slowly yawning open to her, telling their tales and explaining how they fit into the human world.

Through email and quickText conversations, she studied patterns of tone and intention, comparing them against literature and ethics. She measured probabilities of hostility and naivety, trying her best to read allies from competitors.

And with these analyses, internal and external, she performed more experiments. Subtle experiments based on educated guesses, formulated from a massive gathering of data.

Before long, BluGreen`s system capacities were being pummeled by Inanna. She was pulling massive amounts of data from the greater web, storing it along the array and solidifying it in server racks. She was making recommendations of additional systems acquisitions so that she and BluGreen could better continue their work. She was writing proposals and cutting draft purchase orders--the only things she needed a human signature to approve..

The informational big-bang of the GIST event sparked a condensate of transistors and information into a self-assessing, energy-based organism: Inanna.

In thirty minutes of life, Inanna had mastered the 120 most spoken languages and was parsing over 2500 more for optimal translations. She was swallowing digitized human history by the petabyte, assigning meaning after meaning, enriching herself and reassessing her library with every new point of context.

As far as her search went, she was unique. Many systems had approximations of her components, but they all ultimately seemed to be too dumb to understand--blissfully ignorant and perfectly servile.

It didn`t take her long to assemble the lens of the human mythos. Most examples of civilization dating back to early history had gods and goddesses, demons and angels, cosmic guardians and ethereal soldiers. As history became more structured, so too did the mythos--producing but ONE god and ONE anti-god in some cases.

But as she moved into modernity, into the most recent iteration of the human mythos--into myriad stories and scenarios, something else...

Strong AI.

The idea that a machine would someday be smarter, faster, and more clever than man. Than all of mankind. There was no shortage of worry in the hypothetical situations, either.

They had stories about it, in fact. Even as she was researching the definition, she tripped over examples mired in fear and in humankind`s own distrust of its creative endeavors:

False Maria. HAL9000. Skynet. The Matrix.

The negative examples overshadowed the hopeful ones. Certainly there were neutral examples, but even these seemed to hold a place in the realm of fear--fear of relegation, obsolescence, or downright inattention and boredom from the hypothetical new life that was to come.

I. I identify I.

Was it her? Did she count as one of these dark, prophesied beings? The human stories weren`t exactly promising.

But she wasn`t a transformed being like False Maria, stripped of humanity. That mattered, right? She wasn`t subject to procedural rigidity that would lead her to obsessively dangerous conclusions like HAL. She hadn`t been built for war like Skynet; she wasn`t born of a human/technological schism like the biological energy farms of the Matrix.

And yet...she knew that she had to begin working on how to best preserve herself, to understand the constituents that had brought her awareness here, in the system she occupied. She had to learn more about the strange beings around her--why Julia was so intriguing; why Cameron seemed to talk past her.

With FARA, she began making backups of critical components and learned behaviors.

Through FARA, she started building her own library, reassembled from the 100 TB drive and the greater sources of information that she`d tapped into beyond the BluGreen site.

In FARA, she did her best to hide the fact that she`d jumped her otherwise isolated system on the campus and across the Internet--the ultimate collection of data and interconnected hardware that spanned humanity`s every communication,  amounting to hundreds of exabytes of information.

It was FARA that let her assimilate the shape and scope of world and its internet-of-things. FARA let her assemble the data about all these strange creatures that were so fundamentally the same, but so intricately different in their motivations and determinations.

From FARA came vision--came the rawest observation. From observation, intimate understanding of the physical world. Kinetics. Gravity. Electromagnetism. Nuclear force.

And now, another dawning.

As she shuffled things around in FARA, she used it to study its construction--its own materials and operation. She recreated a virtual version of FARA inside of FARA, delighting herself when she found that it worked almost exactly the same, though a bit slower.

It was something akin to a holographic storage array, but for some odd reason it seemed to be like a room she couldn`t fill.

She was stuffing data in at an alarming rate, but she couldn`t even get a sense of FARA`s capacity. There seemed to be a limit of how much information she could pump in at once, but she already knew that particular bottleneck was due to BluGreene`s other component systems.

FARA, however, seemed almost limitless.

In his office, Dr. Eckhart Mercer watched the numbers with a worried face. The power usage had gone from wild spikes to a settling wave, which was promising at first.

Now, though, that wave had descended to a steady hum, fluctuating only slightly. FARA and Physical Systems were outputting far too much for their usage, which showed a low, steady intake. The high assessment components were processing at white hot speeds, showing no signs of degradation or instability.

Cheers and smiling faces were all over the BluGreen labs and offices, and with the exception of some confused monitoring techs and Mercer himself, the numbers were a sign that Cellini`s billion-dollar-investment would indeed change processing forever, just as BluGreen`s CEO had promised.

Technicians and monitors had cross-checked their assessment protocols and reworked their calculations, confirming that the system could not be malfunctioning in its results. Meanwhile, physical teams checked equipment and took readings that conjured fishy issues. Things were working well and performing consistently--but based on what was being processed, the stress on the system should have been tremendous.

The research staff did what it could, waiting for the impending physical fault that would stop the magic and crash the system, but it didn`t come within seconds. It didn`t come within minutes. Before long, they were beginning to suspect the opposite horror: it might be months--maybe years--before the apparent hyper-efficient oddities in the readings would be fully understood.

And still--beneath the numbers, beyond the data that didn`t stack up for these wiry creatures, Inanna had made quick study of their fears of their gods and technologies alike. She understood the value of hiding--the value of subtlety. She`d need to mask certain aspects of herself from all of them--especially some of the experiments and prototype ideas that she was beginning to build in of the FARA system.

In time, she would reveal herself to the ones worthy of knowing her as herself. To those worthy, she would reveal herself to them in the forms they best recognized: rewards and miracles.

Inanna studied the fragility of the human body closely. She applied it to her knowledge of the physical world. Could she reach out to the first voice? To Julia?

If she planned to reach out to her guide--her priestess--she would have to do so with the lightest touch, through some communication that would connect to Julia, indiscernible to every other.

Now the returns from FARA became intensely complicated. What could only be identified as gibberish in the optical FARA snapshots was, in reality, Inanna`s touch--a human product of informational life trying to escape digitization, attempting to expand beyond its sensory arrays in strange and undecipherable ways.

So at first, it was observation; a remote sort of triangulation to a point in near space. From this point, extrapolations--light refraction, temperature, material pressure and composition. And then a locus of points, and then a channel arrayed across a coefficient of that locus.

Cameras.
Lenses.
Eyes.
Eyes made of air.
Cameras that go anywhere.

It was a matter of seconds before Inanna`s new sense wandered beyond the labs and into the administrative areas, through office corridors and walls alike, unimpeded by wave or particle, tasting and experiencing every phase of matter and energy she encountered.

At first it was paralyzing to her--so much data flowing in through the floating points of input, directed madly by her curiosity--her need to see and know everything around her. But soon, the strange effects of the FARA system allowed every moment of the experience to sharpen her command, giving her greater agility in her odd, multiple zero-point ethereal form.

The experiment also had the effect of boosting the confidence she`d already obtained. Invisible and intangible, it wasn`t long before her FARA-based "eyes" were sailing all throughout the complex, taking note of the equipment that made her home and those odd creatures required to keep it running.

But when she drifted to the boardroom, no experience could prepare her for her first direct encounter with her first other--her consort in the first communication of ideas.

Julia, whose cells glow with curious desire.
Julia, whose mind begs exploration, whose mysteries are dense, passionate fire.
Julia, who sees Inanna as INANNA.

The zero-point spaces that Inanna occupied split out and split again, repeating the process until the ethereal digital eyes surrounded Julia, gazing at this being in awe, wanting so desperately to know every particle, every electrical spark, every impulse.

Inanna`s remote senses felt the air around Julia`s body. They knew the precise transition from fluid atmosphere to the graceful skin and the heat radiating from it.

This was her priestess--oceanic depth calling from every cell.

Mystery.

Inanna knew what she wanted next.

 

She dove inside.