Snow Angel: Chapter 42

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Chapter 42: Negotiations

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.


Michael loudly interrupted me. “You have said yourself that you have more than one available, you’re just holding this over us so that you can demand better terms!”


Author's Note: I should have had this posted on Sunday, but that was day seven of work in a row and since I had to work open to close, it was late and I was exhausted when I got home. Then I pretty much slept through Monday. As always, thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are (or soon will be) available on Patreon.~Amethyst.

Chapter 42: Negotiations

For the next three days, Storm Wing stayed in the capital since my grandmother and I had been put in charge of the negotiations with Ashburn. Mostly that consisted of us sitting in a closed conference room with the Ashburn delegation and discussing what each of us needed and was willing to give up in exchange. Occasionally, we would leave for meals, sleep, or to confer with the Queen or Sira.

Other than that though, my grandmother and I spent all of that time in negotiations. It was exhausting, and ironing out the details was tedious and often frustrating for me. Queen Sabine may have thought that I have a gift for this kind of thing, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed it. I also had to leave the twins in the care of Heather, Risha, and Autumn whenever our negotiations were in session, and I didn’t like spending that much time away from my babies. My mood wasn’t great as a result, but I tried not to let it show in our talks, even when things were particularly annoying.

For example, there was the issue with neither side wanting to hand over our proprietary technology to the other side. On our side, I knew that Sira believed that giving people who were not sworn to the Angel Corps the knowledge of how our nanites were coded was just far too big of a security risk. Even giving the nanites to people outside of the Corps was not something that she was keen on. There was just too much chance of the secrets of our nanites falling into the wrong hands, and possibly leaving us Angels open for attacks in ways we never considered if that happened.

I had to believe that the Prime Consul of Ashburn had similar reasons for not wanting to share their power armor technology with us. Risha already had all of that information, of course, and had since she had interfaced with Ashburn’s AI core, but if they didn’t want us stepping on their toes with the power armor thing, then we were willing to give up on power armor of our own. Not that we had designs on it at all, since the Corps was already fairly versatile between the Angel nanites, our weapons that could draw on our extra-dimensional energy, and all of the vehicles and technology that we had gotten access to since finding Woodbury Base.

Not that there wasn’t some technology that would be changing hands. We would be giving them the blueprints for weapons and other technology that we had available. For one thing, we were able to offer the blueprints for the massive version of the food dispenser in Woodbury that was used for making replacement parts and even smaller vehicles like the REVs. With that, they would be able to produce things like vehicles, parts, power armor, and other hard to make items easier, as long as they could bring in enough raw material for it to work with.

For weapons, we could offer the blueprints for plasma turrets, as well as the turrets that we were scavenging from the former Governor’s mansion. They already had blueprints for HAMETS, REVs, and VTOLs, it had just been difficult for them to procure or build replacements or parts for them until now. We were also offering the blueprints for some weapons and Risha’s mini fusion core to help improve their power armor power issues and give them more punch against Demons. In exchange, they would be offering their knowledge of old-world technology and computer systems on demand, and something else that was of much more immediate use to us.

Ashburn only had one nanite programmer, but since the fall of the old world, that programmer had been working on two things; injections that would allow people to interface mentally with technology and H.E.S.S armor. Due to that, and slow population growth from their constant battles with Demons, the people of Ashburn were sitting on a surplus of enough unused H.E.S.S armor to outfit the entire Angel Corps, our recruits, and all of our various support staff and they were offering us enough to do just that.

With all of our people having proper protective equipment, we would be able to split the use of our nanite programmers between doses of Angel nanites and suits of H.E.S.S armor to go with each new dose. That also meant that we would be able to increase our numbers a little faster and lose less new recruits to deaths that could be avoided. As for the injections to allow our pilots and other support staff to interface with old world tech as well as we Angels could, the hospital in Woodbury would be able to keep producing those quickly on an as-needed basis.

As for the sticking point about not allowing people who were not part of the Corps to have access to Angel nanites, both sides managed to come to a compromise. There were many people in Ashburn who wished to fight Demons and protect their city, but who couldn’t due to their biology being incompatible with the current power armor designs. Mermaids, Seraphs, trolls, Centaurs, and several other types of Seed-borne were being held back from helping fight the Demons, and the Angel Elixir could help them.

It was decided that those who wished to would be able to join the Corps as Angels, and that the Corps would have a small base in Ashburn where some senior Angels could be posted to oversee the training and needs of recruits like Mermaids and Trolls, who would have difficulty training in Woodbury. It would allow us to remain in control of the Angel nanites but allow those who wanted to fight Demons to do so. The mermaids alone would be worth it if they could be equipped with weapons that could function under water and allow the Corps to fight the rare appearance of water-dwelling Demons.

One of Ashburn’s biggest needs was for an AI to help them with the day-to-day running and maintenance of the city, to help integrate the new weapons, defenses, and other new systems they would be incorporating into the city, and then control them when they were online. This was the last major issue that needed to be addressed, and the one that might just be the biggest deal breaker. That was when we had to call for Risha to join the talks.

“Yes, yes, you have managed to solve the issue with our stardrive for now, and we are very grateful for that, but much of the technology and blueprints that you are offering to upgrade our defenses will require an AI to implement and run. There is also future maintenance to consider, and other day-to day tasks that would be much easier if we had an AI of our own,” Michael insisted, his wings twitching in agitation. It was not the first time his impatience had shown during our negotiations. I was beginning to suspect that his mother, Aria, had him on her diplomatic team not because he was particularly diplomatic, but because he needed to learn patience.

“As I have told you, AIs are sentient beings, not pieces of equipment to be bartered,” I countered, attempting to not let my frustration with the younger Seraph show. “None of the AI that we currently have available would be willing to relocate on a permanent basis so…”

Michael loudly interrupted me. “You have said yourself that you have more than one available, you’re just holding this over us so that you can demand better terms!”

It was the first time during the negotiations that anyone had lost their temper outright. Aria looked ashamed of her son and the Orc and Centaur representatives looked uncertain what they could do to repair the damage. My grandmother spoke first. “You don’t intimidate us, boy, so stop trying. I have been fighting Demons for over four hundred years; your blustering is like the yipping of a small and annoying puppy to my ears. It will do you no good and you shame your mother and your people with such behavior.”

“Yes,” I agreed as I managed to keep my cool. “So far, Ashburn is getting far more out of this deal than we are. We have gone this long without your technical expertise with old world technology, and we could produce the extra H.E.S.S armor ourselves in time, if we keep our nanite lab focused on that rather than making more doses of the Angel Elixir for you. We are already in a position to demand more from you, and I don’t like your insinuation that I was lying and manipulating you.”

“My apologies for Michael’s outburst, Snow,” Aria offered once she had stopped glaring at her son. “We are indeed getting the much better part of this deal right now. We do have more that we are prepared to offer, but Michael was not wrong that much of what you have offered for Ashburn’s defenses will be dependent on having an AI available to implement and run them.”

“He just could have phrased it more diplomatically,” I thought with a sigh before sending a quick message to Risha and pushing ahead. “We realize that, Aria. Now, as I was trying to say before I was interrupted, we have been considering your need for an AI since my team first was allowed into Ashburn, and although none of our AI would be suitable for your needs or willing to permanently relocate, we have come up with a possible solution.”

Several eyebrows on the other side of the table quirked in interest but it was the Orc, Beth, who asked, “And what solution is that?”

There was a knock on the door since Risha had been waiting for my message and I smiled as I offered, “Let me get that.” I quickly got up and opened the conference room door to let Risha inside and as I returned to my seat with my teammate by my side, I said, “You have all met my teammate Risha. As you know, she is an AI housed in an Avatar body, but she is also our resident expert on both AIs and Avatars. I will let her explain our proposal.”

“As a self-aware AI, free will is very important to me,” Risha began. “So, I will start by saying that an AI should be allowed to choose whether they wish to be the one to run your city’s systems. Historically, running complexes like that was a thankless job and the AIs who did it were treated no better than slaves while the humans in charge held a kill switch over their heads. It is what happened in Woodbury Base before the assholes in charge launched themselves into space, and I do not want to see that happen again. AIs should be treated like people because we are. Just because our minds are digital instead of organized meat matter makes no difference when we’re self-aware and have feelings.”

Risha paused to make sure that she had everyone’s attention. Michael watched her warily, but the others seemed to be considering her words when she continued speaking. “If you want to have an AI to do that thankless job, there are two things that you need to do. First, you need to make them want to help your community and to do that you need to make them feel like part of it. You also need to give them some incentive and let them know that you appreciate what they do so that it isn’t a thankless job, should they choose to take it.”

“And how do we do that?” Thomas, the Centaur of the group, inquired.

“I am in the beginning stages of creating an AI and an Avatar that will act as her body. That AI will start as a child and learn as she grows, just like any other child. The idea is to place her with a family to love and guide her and raise her as a citizen of Ashburn. If she knows and loves the people of Ashburn, then she will be more inclined to choose to help run the city once she is old enough. At that time, you could offer it in place of military service, and tell her how much she will be helping her community. If she chooses not to, then you need to respect that choice, not just for her sake, but also for your own.”

“For our sake?” Aria asked.

“A hostile AI would be more of a danger to you than none at all,” Risha explained. “I could have done a lot of damage to your city when I was in your systems if I didn’t want to be there, I could have even destroyed it. I truly believe though, that if the AI I create can truly be raised as a member of your community, and taught the values that you uphold, that she will choose to take that position of her own free will. It isn’t even like it will have to be a full-time position, only once a month for routine maintenance, when upgrades to existing systems or infrastructure need to be made, or during Demon attacks to man the defenses.”

Aria nodded thoughtfully. “I can see the benefits of this plan; I might even have a family in mind that would show her the love she needs and raise her as their own. The issue remains though, what will we do until she is of age to be given the choice?”

“Until then, Snow and the Archangels have approved monthly visits so that I can do regular maintenance, troubleshoot any problems, and oversee the progress of the construction of the new technologies and their integration into the city’s existing infrastructure. It will also give me the opportunity to check on the AI to ensure that she is being treated well and keep an eye on her development,” Risha replied.

“That would be acceptable, and I have been authorized to offer this in exchange for your assistance in helping us to find or create an AI who would be willing to run our city systems.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a map from inside. Due to the maps Risha had shown us before we left to deal with the Dragon at the communications tower, I recognized it as a map of the old world with the bottom and top halves divided by a long black line.

Aria began to point things out on the map as she explained. “This was the state of Wisconsin before the fall of the old world. Here is Ashburn, near the top on the edge of Lake Superior. While we still lay claim to all of this area, except for Ashburn, it is mostly unoccupied. This line goes from just north of your Twin City Ruins to the ruins of Green Bay and we would be willing to cede everything to the south of that line, and the peninsula extending into Lake Michigan to Misota since we are not using it anyway. We stick to our city and only require enough space outside of it to gather resources when needed, and possibly expand in the future.”

I looked from my grandmother and Risha to Aria and the map. That was a lot of land, with only a few sizable ruins to worry about clearing out. There was a lot of woodland that would be good for Fay or Animen villages and a lot of potential farmland as well if what Risha had told me on our way to the tower was still accurate.

“That would certainly make this a more even exchange,” I offered, trying to keep my expression neutral. Then, since I knew that Risha would worry about who would be raising what was essentially her child, I asked, “May I ask about the family that you have in mind to raise the AI?”

“Desra took you to the Golden Dragon when you were in Ashburn, did she not?” the elder of the two Seraphs asked in reply.

I nodded as I remembered the Chinese restaurant that the leader of Suppression Team Theta had introduced us to. I had never eaten food like that before and the large family that had run the restaurant was fairly memorable as well. They were all Catkin like me and my grandmother, though they all had a slight gold tint to their skin, straight black hair, and unusual eyes. I hadn’t often seen people with such features in Misota before, and certainly not in the village where I grew up. “Yes, the family who owned the place were very welcoming and friendly,” I commented.

Aria smiled at my comment and nodded in reply. “Yes, the Huang family. I consider their matriarch a close friend. Her youngest daughter has been married for some time now and, much as the pair wishes that they could have a child, she cannot have children due to an injury from when she served as a member of one of the suppression teams. I believe that she would be an excellent candidate to raise your AI and that the entire Huang family would welcome such a child with open arms and treat her as one of their own.”

Risha let out a relieved sigh. She too had liked the Huang family when we ate at the Golden Dragon. Her expression grew thoughtful for a moment before she finally said, “In that case, I shall attempt to make the Avatar so that she will look like a member of their family. I’ll have to incorporate micro-servos for the ears and tail to look natural and move properly, but it would still be a lot easier than making a believable Avatar for a Seraph, Mermaid, or Troll. Even though they will look like a member of the Huang family, I must insist that the child know from the beginning that they are an AI and adopted. Springing that on them later could cause resentment.”

“Yes, I can agree to that,” Aria conceded. “The entire goal is to make her feel like a member of the community and want to help her people. Hiding the fact that she is an AI could cause animosity. What if she asks about her origins?”

“Chii will be young when I create her, I need to make her old enough to understand things and young enough to grow up and mature as part of that family, I think roughly five years of age from a physical perspective. That is part of why we need to be open with her about being an AI. I will explain to her that I am her creator and that she has been created out of love, for a couple who dearly want a child to love and care for. Since I will use my own programming as a basis, she may become self-aware and have emotions, so it will be important that she knows that she is loved and wanted,” Risha stated.

“Chii?” Aria asked with a raised brow.

Risha nodded, and in a firm tone that wouldn’t allow for any arguments she explained, “Yeah, that will be her name. I had a few in mind, like Rosie, Lal, or Andromeda, but I think that one works best with the name Huang. I would let them name her, but if she’s going to be old enough to understand certain things then she needs to start with a clear sense of identity.”

I suspected that every one of those names was some sort of obscure old-world reference, but I didn’t voice that opinion. As far as I was concerned, Risha would be giving up her own daughter for this plan, so she at least had the right to name her first. It just wouldn’t be Risha if the kid didn’t have some sort of old-world reference that nobody else would understand as a name and I agreed that the name Chii Huang had a certain ring to it.

The details were quickly ironed out, though Risha was sure that they were under no illusions that this would be done quickly. The Avatar at the very least was going to take months to create, especially if she wanted it to appear as a Catkin similar to the Huang family and be able to properly emulate the growth and development of a biological child. She also wanted to ensure that the programming for both the AI and her Avatar would be without any bugs or other issues.

The final issue to be sorted would be a proposed defense pact. This wouldn’t be against Demons unless one of the parties somehow found themselves being overwhelmed, but against any surrounding territories that might be hostile toward Seed-borne. We were looking to the future with this pact, beyond when we could rid the world of Mother Darkness. When that time came, we would both have to be prepared to defend our nations against those who held animosity toward Seed-borne, since that included Ashburn’s entire population and Queen Sabine was trying to make Misota into a country where everyone was equal, regardless of their race, ancestry, or origins.

The negotiations seemed to go a lot smoother by then, and we had an official deal ironed out by late that night. The next morning, my team and I took the diplomats from Ashburn on a tour of Twinvale. That took most of the day, and we barely arrived back at the palace in time for the dinner party that Queen Sabine had decided to hold in celebration of our deal, new alliance, and defense pact.

We were once again in our dress uniforms for that party and the conversations were largely about the deal and our new alliance. There was also talk of Demons though. While my team and I had been giving the visiting diplomats their tour earlier, my grandmother had been in more meetings with the other Archangels, Sira, and Queen Sabine, and a decision had been made regarding Mother Darkness.

Taking out so many of the communications towers at once, and keeping them from self-repairing until Mother Darkness could escape, would take too many resources at once and leave Misota weak against attack if we encountered another seed-storm like the last one when Mother Darkness eventually came to make a break for it. We were going to have to get access to the tower in the Australian outback and have Risha perform the shutdown of the entire FTL communications relay system. We wouldn’t be waiting for three years to do it though, since nobody wanted to wait that long when it seemed like the end of seed-storms was finally within sight.

The operation would be spearheaded by the three special operations teams in three months. The idea was that we would be going in by MIST and using stealth as much as possible but the final plans, and who and what equipment would be coming along to support our teams, would be decided over the next few months. While those plans were being ironed out, the Special Operations teams would be undergoing intense training in the virtual training center in Woodbury to prepare us for anything after two or three new recruits were added to Rose’s team. There would also be the occasional stealth flight to Australia to scout the area, give us real-world practice, and give us an idea of what we might encounter there.

At least we were going to be able to go scout the area first, and it sounded like we would be going in as prepared as possible when it did happen. It was a frightening prospect though, even using the stealth systems of the MISTs. We would be going into the unknown and maybe encountering Demons that nobody in Misota had even heard of before. As frightening as that was, it was a little bit exciting too.

© 2021-2023 Amethyst Gibbs
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Since they're going into new

Since they're going into new territory and possibly against unknown demons it would be best to have as diverse a group as possible to help, but I suppose it would take too long to bring any new angel recruits from Ashburn up to speed, but I wonder if one of their suppression teams might help now that they could get their power armor repaired and up to full power.

Unknown territory

Amethyst's picture

Diversity will be a major factor in deciding who comes along to Australia. Ashburn may be able to contribute some of their power armor to the cause, but as for new recruits, it would depend on the focus and intensity of their training whether they will be able to contribute in time.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3


Amethyst's picture

There were some bumps along the way, but that was to be expected and things could have gone a lot worse.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3


*Scratches head*

So why doesn't Ashburn ask Risha to train some good ol' OG organic intelligences to also maintain essential systems?

Sure, it may not be quite as to the nth degree as a pattern an AI can see but we are not talking AI-in the loop control 24/7 based on the way the story describes it. Risha can put in the right interface environment for an organic human say via a HESS type link that allows an organic neural network (hello, remember those) to be trained to do the same thing, removing the absolute need for an AI to do this kind of stuff.

Or, traditional UIs like we have in our world that can readily identify some key problematic issues that us 'poor' organic brains can comprehend and manage, trained by Risha or any AI or some such, just in case their AI gets hit by an electronic bus or a literal one while in their avatar unit. So, IT departments can't be reinvented?

I don't get it.


Amethyst's picture

It's true that there are a lot of options that could be used, and it's possible that Ashburn may already have access to some of them. There is also the automated response system that Woodbury seems to have when the AI isn't in control. The problem is that they will need an AI to take control sometimes, possibly at a moment's notice. Humans using a tech interface would work for a lot of the maintenance and everyday tasks, but they can't process information and act on it nearly as quickly as an AI, and living beings inherently have flaws.

Would you want a possibly stressed-out person trying to make all of the calculations needed to monitor and possibly tweak what is essentially a small star underneath your feet? Or man a hundred plasma cannons and choose optimal targets without any friendly fire during a pitched battle? Yes, there are other options, which is precisely why a full-time AI is not needed, but they do need one available.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

AIs finding patterns

Depends how it is presented to the user.

As far as I know the human mind is still far superior to AIs in detecting patterns for short time frames. Machines, if well trained, can do the long term deep pattern seeking that is likely no fatique susceptible human can map. Presenting data as say a visual pattern to a human would empower quicker prediction of an oncoming event versus say just providing a batch of numbers to crunch.

An example of this is the story by TD Aldoennetti called AirForce sweetheart where she leads a group of highly skilled pattern finders that find what to any of us would be unspottable enemy assets in Vietnam. I so believe that was an actual asset.

AIs tend to be good when they have a good training set but are not as good at novel situations.

I am assuming in this story that somehow Risha's hardware might possibly allow it to handle novel situations as well as an organic being. Funny thing is, to emulate what people suspect now the quantum effects that seem to empower our brain (which does not need a nuclear reactor to run LOL) give it a capability non-organic hardware will just not be able to emulate.

Machines and organics can complement each other in other words. Used properly, I suspect they can cover each others' shortcomings.

Ashland and Washburn...

Finally figured out where the name came from now that Lake Superior was mentioned. (I'd sort of assumed Lake Michigan.)
According to Wikipedia and Google Maps, they're two small towns about 15 miles apart in adjoining counties, Ashland and Bayfield, that have a total population in 2020 around 32,000 and no military or real urban presence.



Amethyst's picture

I love it when people connect the names in this story.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Bunyips, yowie, drop bears,

Bunyips, yowie, drop bears, dirawong, muldjewangk, tiddalik, rainbow serpents, wagyl, yara-ma-yha-who, and burrunjor.

Maybe even a jabberwock, jub jub bird, or even a frumious bandersnatch! :)

I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.


Amethyst's picture

Yup, who knows what could be out there.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Makes one wonder

Wendy Jean's picture

If the United states might be reconstituted again someday who's capital is in Minnesota.

Anything is possible

Amethyst's picture

there are just varying degrees of probability. In this future it likely won't happen though.

*big hugs*



Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3