It was a restless night in Haixu. Instead of sleeping, or relaxing with their
partners, or whatever else they desired to do in the late hours, people were
glued to their computers, watching the forums. The residents in the north had
noted with alarm that the lights in Seven’s tower had gone out.

Xhaaq Neqsian had no time for an automated message. Five minutes ago, she was
sleeping peacefully on her recently cleaned bed floor and then a high-priority
automated message decided to land in her inbox. Her eyes narrowed at the
AUTOMATED MESSAGE in the subject line, and widened at the four words after

Seven's Heartbeat Signal Interrupted

She decided to skip the coffee; she didn’t need it. She threw on a robe, a
cloak and her mask, and headed downstairs, where another Xhaaq was waiting.

“So what happened, Virai?” Neqsian inquired, skipping greetings entirely.

“I don’t know. Internal sensor logs suggest a directed energy pulse.”

“An attack?”

They looked at each other in silence.

“We started receiving the heartbeat signal again after a minute or so,” Virai
said several seconds later. “I haven’t reviewed all the logs yet.”

They took the train to the northern temple. There was nobody else on the train,
so they spoke freely about the crisis; and along the way, Virai explained that
after Seven came back online, it sent reunion requests to Three, Four, Eight,
and Eleven, but when they replied, all they got was a busy signal.

When they arrived at the temple, they went straight to the terminals and
examined the logs with puzzlement.

“This… doesn’t make sense. Says here that Seven accessed data on primal
fears, human physiology, parent-child relationships, emotional regulation,
panic…” Virai said, frowning under his mask.

“AIs commonly access data on related topics when working a problem, but… this
isn’t normal. Some of it’s related, but I don’t see the connection between all
of these,” explained Neqsian.

Virai moved on to another terminal. He tilted his head at the bizarre graphs.
“I’ve never seen anything remotely like this. If I didn’t know any better, I’d
say Seven is having a nervous breakdown.”

They wasted no time getting to Seven’s tower. The lights were still out, but
they were able to open the first door and ran down the hall to the second.
Neqsian fumbled around in her robe for her key to no avail.

“I don’t understand. I left it right… right… in my other cloak.” Neqsian
raised her palm to her mask’s forehead in a universal sign of frustration with
oneself. “Do you have a key?”

“Yeah, here it is.” Virai slotted the key into the door and turned it. The slab
of metal slid open and they walked into a chamber suffused with a dim teal
light. They paused a moment to let their eyes adjust, and Virai gasped.

Sitting in the middle of the chamber was Seven’s charcoal gray silhouette,
shaped like a human and disconnected from the data banks glimmering faintly
above. A design was almost visible through the noise convulsing on its
simulated mask. In its arms was a sleeping child, their face wet from crying.
Seven slowly looked up.

“They…were…scared…” Seven whispered in a crackling voice.

Neqsian nodded in acknowledgment.


Neqsian walked over to Seven, knelt down, and gave it a hug, careful not to
disturb the sleeping child. “It’s scary to have to suddenly take care of a
child. I understand,” Neqsian reassured.


Neqsian pressed her mask to Seven’s. “Yes. You performed well.”

This story is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0