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The entire cluster of newer skyscrapers on the north side of downtown Seat- tle seemed to be constructed over a vast single underground parking garage made of many levels. Mike, Jerry, and Robyn felt their stomach drop away with the rest of the city as a glass elevator rushed up along one of the dark green spines of the Astrodyne Tower. At six floor intervals the eleva- tor burst through a level laced with skyways that connected to six other towers, like a metal and glass web. Robyn smiled at the security this af- forded. If something unfortunate were to ever happen, say a hijacked plane were ever to crash into the building like she saw in Timeline Two New York City, the survivors would merely rush to the nearest floor with a sky bridge and then cross to a neighboring tower. Not that any hijackers would be able to pick out Astrodyne Tower, easily, sha knew, for it was exactly 72 stories tall, just like its six neighboring buildings, and the twelve additional buildings on the ring outside of those. There were a total of sixty-one such buildings in this cluster, and the Earthly headquarters of the Astrodynamics Corporation was nestled in among them on the third ring.

The Executive Lounge wasn't on the top floor, and there was no view to speak of, other than the windows of nearby buildings and thin vertical streaks of gray sky. Lilith Gervasi and Mark Felton were already seated in two of the six dark plush chairs which formed a hexagon, all facing slight- ly askew rather than directly facing each other. There was a elegant round- ed glass coffee table that doubled as a monochrome liquid crystal between the chairs, displaying reams of data that perhaps meant something to Mark. When the others came into the Lounge and sat down Lilith gestured at the empty chair and said, Jill's on her way to Barnard's. So that priority one job is pretty much done. You're all here for action item two.

We are going to build an artificial child, Mark Felton put in, proudly. I believe the only way to finally bring about AI is to raise a robot in such a way that even it is fooled into thinking it is a human being.

Mike was annoyed and wanted to know why they needed to bring about artifi- cial intelligence. Lilith answered, I need a replacement body when this one wears out. I won't feel like I'm in the robot body unless the robot is also self-aware and capable of being imprinted with my memories. At the same time, if we do achieve a robot that is self-aware, its mind can serve as a universal template for many other such robots, or even disembodied human "souls" inside the Swarm. The possibilities are truly endless.

Jerry was skeptical. Hyz own talent had taught him that literally every- thing, from a human body to a farm to a full national economy was a Carnot engine. Hy said, What will you do for power, Lil? Batteries will never be good enough. And you said the robot has to think it's a real person.

Che held up her Golden Gift. Hat tip to Jill for this solution.

Do we even have the technological chops to pull this off? Robyn asked.

You already know we are offset twenty years back from Belial's timeline. He thinks it's 2004. We think it's 1984. That way if Belial tries to at- tack us from Centauri it will always be a clean miss. I took Jill to 1999 before sending har on har way to Barnard's Star for the same reason, so Belial won't be able to target har ship. On the way back I brought Mark some 1999 computers that look like black cubes to use for the robot's brain. But you and I, Robyn, will have to go to Mercury ourselves and scoop up some of the Bots that Belial set up for the Americans in '82.

Jerry said, Sign me up, Lil, but what are you calling this debacle?

The robot will be raised as a human girl, Lilith said. That will make the transition easier for me, because I was also raised a girl. So lets call our robot girl Hope. I'm recruiting you for Project Hope.

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