Canto 1: Exposition
By: Danny H Jorgensen
Length: 233 pages
Release date: Dec 25, 2013
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Feng, a gifted developer, created the world’s first true AI with the help of a mysterious black slate. A few days later, Zhukov, a military figure representing a group called Abraxas, recruits him.
Feng is taken to an island with a group of other developers, where Act 1 takes place. Feng plays a game of Go to test Gerald, the nascent AI. During the game, Gerald exhibits flashes of true awareness to Feng.
That night, Mia, the heuristics developer, worries about the fact their work has been done in secret. Later, Zhukov meets Feng and offers him a promotion. This makes him an Archon, and allows him to join the inner cabal of Abraxas.
As we leave the island, it is destroyed, eliminating all those who did not join Abraxas and all trace of the technology they have developed.
In Act 2, Five years later, Feng and Zhukov present The Zatoichi to the world in two simultaneous meetings. In one, Feng describes a new combat computer, designed to merge and adapt with the user. In the other meeting, with the real decision makers of the world, Zhukov describes a machine that can be used to brainwash men with a hitherto impossible effectiveness.
At the same time, within Amenti, the virtual world that is the master control space of Abraxas, the Ogdoad meet. The Ogdoad are men and women who have sacrificed their humanity for power, becoming the world’s first transhumans.
The meetings go well, and soon the Rhizome is fully born. The Rhizome is the AI that underscores the Ogdoad’s control of the Zatoichi, and is designed to manage the Zatoichi and create a tactical map of the world.
It is Feng’s crowning moment, tainted by Mia leaving him when she discovers that the true cost of the Zatoichi is psychopathy in a significant percentage of users.
Over the next three years, disaster falls. New terrorist groups rise across the world, as cities and nations are destroyed. Faiths that have lasted for millennia broken, and nations overthrown and reborn.
In Act 3, we follow the unveiling disaster as the Ogdoad confer. In their desperation, they give the Rhizome consciousness, so that they can question it to find out why their innovation, designed to enslave the world, has erupted in uncontrollable anarchy. Mia does what she can, but realises that the Rhizome is correct, and leaves Abraxas.
During this time, Zhukov is raised to the role of Alêthia, personification of unforgetting among the Ogdoad. Soon after, Feng decides that the only way to control the monsters he has created is to become their policeman and predator, and puts on a Zatoichi, sacrificing a life of quiet development for one of war.
In Act 4, Feng is settled into his role as butcher of psychopathic Zatoichi users. In this, he is aided by Chanakya, an AI he has created with his Zatoichi. Worrying that he is not more concerned about his unethical actions, he goes to Zhukov, who suggests a plan to take control of Abraxas. Zhukov reveals that Feng has become Sigê, personification of silence and idea.
Zhukov’s plan requires Mia, who has now vanished from public view, to challenge Zoê, the personification of life. Mia agrees, and their battle takes place across virtual millennia as they war as two ecosystems, each representing their form of life.
Mia wins the contest, but sees the destruction that has been wrought in Feng’s soul. Any bond between her and Zhukov is permanently broken.
By 2042, things have calmed down again. Feng is happy, until his old school friend John reveals himself as Logos, a member of Abraxas and the Ogdoad, there to pervert Feng’s findings. John has been responsible for every major trauma of Feng’s life, and Feng is at a loss. Act 5 follows his increasingly desperate search for a solution, culminating in the a plan that no other is capable of enacting. Feng will build a posthuman, a creature who can do what he could not, and who cannot be controlled the way that he has been.