Hey readers, C. Betchimov here. Got a couple of author-note-things I want to state before you start your reading adventure.
Firstly, for whatever reason at this time of writing, (7/14/2018) Hiyajo Maho and all of the other newer characters of Steins;Gate 0 aren't even listed or selectable for stories in the Steins;Gate section of FF-dot-net. Considering the massive popularity of Zero in both visual novel and anime form, the fact that S;G0 has been released on consoles and PCs for quite some time now, and how Maho in particular has become an absolutely essential character in regards to the continuity of the Steins;Gate plot universe, I find this current lacking of acknowledgement to be a disgrace.
Secondly, I've come to realize that fan-fiction with Maho as a central character, pretty much doesn't exist anywhere. In hand with this, is a shipment of her and Okabe, which was gratuitously teased throughout Zero, though denied (apparently) by word of god. Obviously the latter part means nothing to an alt-shipper maniac like me, and is the exact reason I've written this story, setting it into an alternate timeline, which brings me to the third point:
This story doesn't involve time travel or time machines, whatsoever. The essential events and mechanics of Steins;Gate and Zero (and the events that define certain personality traits) do not take place in this story, which sets this apart from what you are probably used to reading. Kurisu doesn't travel to Japan in 2010 and henceforth isn't murdered, and as a result, her time travel thesis is never realized. What DOES take place, however, is the further development of the artificial intelligence project 'Amadeus' that is centric to Zero, and involves both Hiyajo Maho and Makise Kurisu and their fields of research. This story is set two years later than the original Steins;Gate, on a negative-value OMEGA world line, (thank you guest reviewer for making me realize I buggered up my worldline names. And I call myself an uber-fan...!) and though the future is uncertain and unknown, the power of attractor fields have still destined mister Rintarou and misses Hiyajo to meet.
Prepare yourselves, because the worlds of two eclectic computer nerds are about to collide. Have fun!
(All brand/product/game trademarks mentioned within belong to their respective owners and exist within for the sake of grounding this story in semi-realism. Also, nearly every location and path of travel can be geographically triangulated for more fun. Yay real-life references!)
Wednesday, January 4th, 2012; UDX Center, Akihabara, Tokyo; 12:27p.m. [ -0.146923 ]
Sitting in the front row of a low-lit auditorium, among a crowd of computer scientists and professionals of numerous fields of technological research, twenty-year-old Okabe Rintarou remained silent. Distractedly listening to an overwhelming cloud of whispers and low discussion around himself, his heel tapped on the floor with anticipation-fueled regularity.
Amadeus... The ultimate in adaptive artificial intelligence programming. Learns and remembers. Has feelings and emotions... Just like a human.
Eyes lowering to the pamphlet in his lap, his fingers wavered between turning the center page of the booklet in his hands.
Ever since its unveiling a year ago, there's been countless articles and posts about the project. Praising and panning alike. Revolutionary, or repulsive, depending on your views of emulating human life... Copying an image of their memory into electronic data. Manufacturing a sentient being in our own image... Playing god in a sense.
Folding the pamphlet shut, a breath wandered from his nose, cautiously drawing in the varying odors of the room's other occupants.
It would seem there are plenty that are disturbed by such an idea. Religious members call it a slanderous defiance of god's power to create life. Medical perspectives are mixed, with some praising the potential for memory restoration, and others rejecting the memory-to-data conversion, regardless of its published success. And yet...
Head turning, and peeking over his shoulder, every seat in the rows behind were visibly occupied.
A full crowd awaits another public showing... And professor Izaki was thoughtful enough to send me along.
Hands drawing together on his lap, leg still fidgeting, his eyes slowly shut.
Last time they demonstrated the programming with an exact copy of the assisting interpreter. Not a copy, but a sampling of her memory, rather. Perhaps she made for an interesting character to portray the project publicly, so they chose her. Like Hatsune Miku, but... Far more advanced than Vocaloid could ever wish to be.
Eyes lifting from a rise of applause in all directions, his vision discovered the approach of two individuals of varying heights, revealed to be the head of the project, and...
Yep. That's her again.
His attention remained on the short-statured young woman beside the much taller blonde-haired professor, smiling and exuding confidence in their tandem stride to the podium on the stage.
True to description... She looks to be barely five feet!
Handing over a laptop to the taller professor, a mane of dark hair half as long as her entire body shifted, and Okabe's head leaned forward, scrutinizing the woman's curious state of mismatched dress as a realm of silence deadened the room.
I wonder... Is she going to be portrayed by Amadeus again?
Watching as the taller professor quietly cleared his throat, and then tapped on the microphone, a low echo of feedback wandered across the still air.
"Greetings everyone, and thank you for attending our seminar today. I am Alexis Leskinen, head professor of the Brain Science Institute of Viktor Chondria University."
Blinking at first from the thickly accented English spoken, the young woman's head rose, and she quickly began speaking in native Japanese, only a few words behind the professor's speech.
"I am Hiyajo Maho, his language interpreter and assistant."
Waiting patiently for another round of applause from the introduction, both researchers seemed to gather their thoughts into line, eyes wandering across their audience.
"The topic of today's session, is the continued progress of the Artificial Intelligence Revolution that we previously demonstrated last year. Since that point in time, we have maintained steady development of the system's interactive awareness, and have reached key points of progress in its functionality and capabilities of learning, information retention, and internal data organization."
Listening to the fluent translation by the young woman in front of the podium, breath was held and released several times, listening to the flow of audio information.
"...With recent memory samples collected from our own Miss Hiyajo, as well as an additional tester from the university's brain science program, differences in the program's personality are comprehensive and quite apparent, much like their respective donors they are sourced from. In effect, they are just as different of a virtual being, as they are between any one of you, and myself."
An expected murmur of whispers spread among the seats, and Okabe's fingers intersected, watching as Maho looked over her shoulder to Alexis, waiting as he began typing onto the laptop.
Flash memory, retrieved from the temporal lobe. That was explained in the video from the seminar last time. Memories are created by patterns of synapses between neurons. Electrical signals sent back and forth. Just like a computer, hence how they are able to...
"To best portray the results of our recent work, I believe it is time we introduce our AI in its current, up-to-date form."
All eyes drew to a series of initialization checks projected onto the massive screen, and after a series of 'OK' and '100%' values were listed, the screen faded dark, only to be illuminated by a pair of lines scorching across the screen, illuminating a well-recognized, stylized logo displaying AMADEUS.
Gripping his hands tighter, Okabe stared at the screen as it faded to black again.
This looks like a movie, but -
Blinking as a soft echo of a startup tone emitted from the speakers, an enormous, animated avatar of a completely different young woman appeared across the center of the screen, with flowing red hair, confident violet eyes, and a passively content expression. Looking left and right, evaluating the situation, her arm propped on her shoulder, visibly donned in a laboratory coat, and her eyebrow quirked, mouth curling into a smile from the now-stunned audience.
"Quite the group today."
Peeking upwards towards the screen, Maho's chin rose with an expression of amusement from the English statement.
"We're at the seminar in Akihabara."
Smiling from the apparently familiar voice of Maho over the speakers, the whir of a small motor brought Okabe's attention to a slowly rotating webcam on a pedestal in the center, mirroring the turning of the avatar's head on the screen.
"Oh, Hiyajo-san is present? Are you hiding somewhere?"
"I'm right beside you, actually."
Stepping over and peeking into view of the webcam, the red-haired woman on screen tilted her head with a giggle of amusement.
"Is the professor there too?"
Turning the camera with a twist of her fingers, the avatar then waved her hand to Alexis, humming with mirth as he waved in return.
"Now, Amadeus, could you be so kind to introduce yourself to our guests?"
"Oh? Of course."
Facing the audience again, shoulders straightening, the avatar then gave a friendly nod.
"My name is Makise Kurisu. I operate through Amadeus' framework utilizing a memory data set retrieved on... Tuesday, December thirteenth of the year twenty-eleven, completed at four-seventeen p.m. and thirty-six seconds."
Blinking from the instant switch to Japanese, and then the oddly specific date and time, Okabe sat forward in his seat, joining many others in a similar motion of increased interest.
"Can you tell them about yourself, Kurisu?"
"Whichever you prefer."
Watching as the red-haired avatar touched her hand to her chin, she peeked back towards the audience beyond, eyes visibly alternating between choices of subject matter.
"I'm certain the real me is infinitely more interesting, however... My virtual form is easier to describe in quantitative terms. Any details you wish to know in particular?"
Seeing a member of the audience stand to his feet, the camera moved and focused, mirrored by the avatar's on-screen lean of her head.
"Amadeus, considering you are supposedly an extracted copy of human memory... Surely the amount of stored data that results is massive in size."
"...Then how large are you?"
Brow furrowing from the question, the virtual young woman crossed her arms.
"That's not a very polite question to ask a lady."
A low rise of laughter washed across the previously-silent chamber, and she then smiled shortly afterward.
"...Just kidding. My current file size post-update is four-point-eight-nine terabytes, and I am the twelfth iteration of my file set."
"You've had your memory collected twelve times?"
"Is it painful to have your mind copied?"
"Not as painful as having your original ideas copied."
Sitting back in his seat again from the ensuing laughter, Okabe's skin tingled as a variety of voices among the audience began asking questions, and every single one was responded to with unfettered ease.
Accuracy of a computer... And the personality of a human. A machine using a person's memory as operational parameters.
Listening to the reverberations of an eerily real, pleasant voice across the auditorium, he focused on Makise's animated mouth, precisely matching the words exiting the speakers in the front of the room.
Fascinating. This level of programming is astounding. Even if it were somehow scripted... No. None of this is. It can't be. Not with the unique responses. She's utilizing a constantly changing algorithm, providing output responses actively derived from stored memory, and transformed into discernible audio and video. Communicating actively. Responding... Almost instantly.
Looking over his shoulder again from ongoing questions, his head slowly shook in wonderment.
This is damn impressive. It seems Amadeus has gained more acceptance this time around too. I should ask her a question as well. Just to experience this madness for myself.
Racking his mind for a suitable prompt, Okabe studied the shifting of Makise's virtual crimson hair, and her subtle movements and changes in expression.
She seems very much self aware. I wonder... How wide is her range of emotions? She's done so many little mannerisms... Impeccable characterization of a real person. Does she think of herself as one?
Heart racing, Okabe then stood to his feet, mouth drawing open as the avatar's eyes drifted across the audience with visible amusement.
Alright. "Amadeus... Uh, miss Makise."
Large purple eyes flitted over from his newly offered voice, and an odd sense of insignificance permeated his insides, as he found himself gazing up at a being much larger than himself, focused directly on him.
"Do you... Envy the bodily freedom that your real self has?"
Head tilting with curiosity, Makise hesitated.
"What would I need to be envious of?"
"Freedom of movement. Free will, perhaps."
"It is a fact of my own existence that I am comprised entirely of data."
"So you are cognizant that you exist on a hard drive."
Interesting. There's no questioning her self-awareness now.
"Do you find yourself wishing you had a body of your own?"
"It is true that I enjoy seeing the real world environment, but that requires spatial movement of the video interface I see out of. I cannot do anything about that by myself. Also, to answer you further, I already have the capability of free will, and I understand my purpose as a prototype of memory preservation... So, no, there is no need to be envious of my real self. She is just like me, and I am just like her."
Watching the confident rise of her chin following her speech, his lips pressed firmly together.
I see. She knows she's a copy, split from her real self, and yet she also considers herself one in the same. This is where AI in movies start saying they could just replace their human masters.
"...And besides, I do have stored visual records of the life my real self has lived until my point of creation. I can see a multitude of journeys and events of significance, so its not as if I have an empty existence."
"You can review your own past at will?"
"I can. That is a significant element of my function. My memory in virtual form doesn't suffer from the compressional decay that memory within a human brain does. Call it a retention of clarity if you will... The preservation of information also allows me the ability to compare prior experiences to new ones, therefore emulating the ability of decisive interpretation and judgement. Just like you."
Exhaling from the matter-of-fact conclusion, Okabe's mouth remained open as further whispers arose in a cloud behind.
"So seeing memories of your human past... Having a visible past... Is that satisfactory enough to be content as a virtual being?"
"Yes. I know my purpose, and I know that I exist only in this virtual form. I may have autonomy, free will, rather, but I am still a duplication of my real self... Aside from one of us being a flesh and blood being, and the other made of electrons. Putting obvious existential differences aside, whether real, or virtual, I exist at Viktor Chondria University to aid in the pursuit of knowledge and scientific progress. My behavioral patterns are the exact same, therefore my manner of operation parallels how my real self would operate."
Left momentarily speechless, Okabe's vision wandered over towards Maho, and then professor Leskinen, realizing both of them were individually focused on him.
"Mister, with the red sweater."
Blinking from the direct addressing, Okabe's attention returned to Makise's on-screen portrait.
"...May I ask what your name is?"
"O-Okabe. Rintarou Okabe."
"I see. Mister Rintarou, you seem to be a man of many questions. May I ask you one?"
Eyes flying open, his hands hesitantly slid into his pockets.
What... "Uh, sure."
A content expression reappeared on the virtual woman's face, gripping the audience in a silent moment of anticipation.
"Now that it has been established that I lack a corporeal form outside of a hard drive... Do you believe that I am real?"
"Ah, well, considering you were created from the memories of a living human being, and you clearly have a personality... I imagine that makes you real, in a sense."
A much louder commotion began behind him, and his heart began pounding, feeling the presence of dozens of eyes on his backside.
"So if I were to have a body of my own, with my data set inserted as a virtual reproduction of mind and soul... Would that make me a person, just like you?"
Exhaling, a cold wave of uncertainty ran up and down his spine as a controversial answer formed in his throat.
"I... I don't see why not."
UDX Center, Akihabara, Tokyo; 7:13p.m.
Gazing out of the window of an upper-story room, with a gathering of the seminar's prior guests and tables laden with food and drink behind, Okabe's eyes passively wandered among the countless lights of the Tokyo skyline, near and far.
Amadeus. Makise. AI with a heart and mind... Copied from a human with a heart and mind.
Watching a set of red lights slowly strobe, marking the height of one particular building for wayward aircraft, an exhale wandered from his nose.
The only parts missing are a soul, and a body. Otherwise...
"Ohh, mister Lintahlo, right?"
Blinking from the English mispronunciation of his name, Okabe's vision focused on the reflection of the glass, realizing the blonde-haired professor from earlier stood just beside him, prompting him to turn and face the tall foreigner - Only for his mouth to open from the friendly grin on the man's face.
"Ah, yes... Rintarou... Okabe."
Exhaling from the Japanese that was spoken instead, Okabe watched as the man's arm extended, offering a large hand in a friendly greeting.
"Leskinen. Alexis. Nice to meet you."
Shaking hands, and then lowering his head in a momentary bow, he blinked as his smartphone briefly vibrated in his pocket.
Not now. This is the lead developer of the AI itself...!
"Your seminar was incredible. I only saw video footage of the one last year, but... Seeing your AI in person doesn't even begin to compare."
"Thank you. We've come a long ways since our last outing, but the project is still far from our end goals. Frankly I'm not certain when it will see completion, even with our current technology."
"Well, complete or not, its rather impressive. Honestly."
"The program, or the young lady within?"
Blinking, Okabe's cheeks reddened.
"Oh, well, both. I suppose."
Exhaling as Alexis' large hand patted heavily onto his shoulder, a hearty laugh left his mouth as well.
"Miss Makise is quite the gem, but the real one is doubly so."
"Her genius is much of the reason why Amadeus exists at all. Brain mapping and neuroscience are her specialty. Her research is the pioneering basis that the entire system was designed to operate upon."
"I see. Her virtual self seems very wise, and yet acts humble about the circumstances of her existence."
"Its just the same in real life too... Perhaps not as humble, however. That one can be quite the character."
Picturing the avatar's mischievous statements in the auditorium earlier, Okabe smiled with amusement.
"I can only imagine."
Looking aside for a moment, Leskinen then eyed Okabe with a quirked brow.
"Your questions for our Amadeus earlier were of great interest, mister Lin-taro."
"T-They were? Honestly I wanted to see what range of emotions it... She has."
"Mmm. Amadeus is just as complex and emotional as you and me."
"I realized that with her variety of responses and the level of articulation. My stress test backfired as soon as she asked me a hypothetical question in return."
Another laugh erupted from the professor, and Okabe's hands drew behind his back as nearby eyes wandered towards them.
"Stress test, you say?"
"Yes sir. I imagine your AI has known internal limits... With the amount of coding involved in system functions, and the constant demand of resources from its host equipment... N-Not that it showed any visible faults earlier."
Eyebrow perking with interest, Leskinen touched his hand to his chin.
"You sound fairly versed in programming, Rin-taro."
Resisting the impulse to scratch his hair, Okabe's head bashfully tilted aside instead.
"I... Well, I have been working on a computer project of my own. Not an AI, and nothing near your caliber with Amadeus, but I try to find ways to push it to its limits. Within reason, of course."
"Do you attend schooling for your project?"
"I do. System design and technology. At Tokyo Denki University."
"Ahh... You wouldn't happen to know of a mister Izaki, would you?"
Body tingling, Okabe's face cracked into a smile.
"He's my professor."
"Hahaha! Truly a small world, Rin-taro. I've been in contact with that man for several years now. I ought to see him now that we're here in Japan already."
"I'm sure he would appreciate it."
"Hmm, did mister Izaki send you along to our seminar? You were in the front row, after all. Not just anyone gets seats up close to the action like that."
Nodding in confirmation, Okabe watched Alexis' smile increase.
"I see. You must be his star pupil. It is an honor to meet up-and-coming students, you know! Men and women like you have the bright minds that will lead us into the future and beyond."
"I... Thank you."
"Speaking of bright minds, have you met misses Hiyajo?"
"I have not."
"In that case..."
Turning around, a brief search for the short young woman began, with Alexis mumbling and Okabe peeking around him with curiosity, towards the movement of the room's other occupants.
"...Aha, there she is!"
Raising the length of his arm into the air, Leskinen then began waving.
"Maho! Come on over here!"
"Just a moment!"
Turning back to Okabe with a chuckle, he then offered a wink.
"You mentioned stress testing, and it reminded me. Maho has done plenty of that with Amadeus. She's the lead programmer, you know."
Attention perking, Okabe's chin rose slightly.
"She's done a majority of the internal coding. Most of it, actually. She's obsessively thorough with her work."
"Miss Hiyajo was the model for your project last year, wasn't she?"
"Ah yes, of course. Her data set is the first we gathered for the launching of the prototype. We needed a visual resemblance of the personality, so we contacted our friends in silicone valley. I'm sure you've heard of Dreamworks."
"The movie company?"
"They're the ones that created the animation you've seen. Truly impressive work."
Watching with a slight rise of heartbeat as a mane of long dark hair appeared beside the professor, she then turned bodily, revealing a short-statured, oddly dressed young woman, punctuated by a mismatched pair of shoes.
Hoodie, a robe... Is that one slipper? What on earth...
Crossing her arms, her eyes narrowed as she looked up to the professor with mild impatience.
"I was about to start eating, you know."
"You'll have plenty of time for that soon. This is mister Rin-taro. I'm sure you'll recognize him from earlier."
Turning aside, eyes rising along the profile of Okabe, their eyes met with uncertainty, brows lifting and lowering in sequence.
Mister red sweater, huh?
Caught off guard by the intensely green eyes beneath her dark bangs, Okabe sank into an automatic bow, tearing his vision away from the sight.
"...Rintarou Okabe. A pleasure to meet you."
Rising upright after hearing a single grunt of interest, his mouth opened, only to settle into half of an awkward smile from the resumption of her piercing gaze.
My god her eyes are brilliant, uh...
"Your professor told me you're the lead programmer of Amadeus."
"I do lot of programming myself, but... Your work is astounding. I can only imagine the complexity involved."
"Complexity hardly begins to describe it."
"You must have a dozen or more separate systems working in unison to run something like that."
"Not quite a dozen, but... At least eight. Wait, nine including... Yeah. Nine."
"Do tell... Oh, I mean, only if you want to."
Eyes rising into her bangs, a breath left her small nose.
"Well, jeez, uh... The heuristic algorithm database is rather extensive, and that's just for general operation. There's language processing and a database for that, visual and audio perception... Storage allocation and organization of static and learned system information, differentiation of information types... Pretty much everything that comprises the processing functions of the human mind, we've replicated with an artificial neural network."
"You did all of this on your own?"
"No. Well... Approximately eight-five percent."
"That's still a large amount. I'm sure every bit of effort was worthwhile."
"Yeah. Thankfully it paid off once we successfully loaded the first copy of human memory. It didn't even have the virtual avatar at first."
"Dreamworks modeled you, right?"
Mouth curling into a smile, Maho's arm propped onto her side.
"Sure did. I was the first guinea pig to have my brain scanned, so I got to be the first one with a characterization done."
Looking aside from Alexis' chuckle, both Maho and Okabe watched as he walked away, only for their eyes to meet again.
"I imagine meeting a self-coded clone of yourself was an unusual experience."
"A bit. Even before we started work on the program, I wondered what it would be like to interact with an exact copy of myself."
Leaning forward with interest, Okabe eyed her with amusement.
"...And? What's it like?"
"Well, you think its easy to get along with someone that has the exact same traits and personality as you... And then you quickly find out you have the same quirks and issues."
"You're your own worst critic."
"Literally. Seeing yourself from the outside makes you wonder how you put up with yourself from within."
"Does your memory copy in Amadeus offer self-analysis of you, as the human?"
"It does. But typically only when I ask it to."
"So it doesn't outwardly do so on its own?"
"It can, but with my data set, it behaves like I do."
"...Which means you're not the type to outwardly criticize people."
Offering a shrug, her eyes wandered for a moment.
"Not unless someone does it to me first."
"Does Amadeus share that sentiment?"
"I'm sure it does."
"What about the copy of miss Makise?"
Head turning, Maho's brow furrowed.
"What about her?"
"She seemed very personable during the seminar. Is she ever critical otherwise?"
"Mmm. It depends on if you know the real Kurisu personally or not."
"Obviously you do."
"Her memory copy said she's just like her human self."
Realizing Maho was distractedly peeking over her shoulder to the tables of food standing beyond, Okabe gestured towards the buffet nearby.
"You've been eying the food ever since the professor called you over."
"Sorry, I'm starving."
"Mind if I join you? I'd love to hear more about your work."
"I guess, just... Let me feed myself before we continue."
Nodding politely, Okabe watched as the short woman began into a hustle towards the buffet tables, keeping a short distance behind her quicker pace with a longer stride.
Misses Hiyajo. The human embodiment of an enigma... I expect nothing less from someone capable of bringing something like Amadeus into functional existence.
Seated at a circular table, plates laden with half-consumed entrees of various nationalities, Okabe watched Maho's small hand manipulate a fork with interest, versus the chopsticks between his fingers.
"So you and the professor are from Viktor Chondria University."
Waiting as she swallowed a mouthful, she stuck her fork into another portion on her platter.
"We are. You?"
"Are you studying artificial intelligence?"
"Oh, I'm certainly interested, but not actively taking a course for it."
"Computer science, then?"
"I'm working on my Bachelors for system design and technology."
Eyebrow rising, Maho's elbows settled onto the table, holding the utensil between both hands.
A breath of amusement left her nose.
"Tell me more."
Eyes wandering bashfully, Okabe hesitated.
"Ah, well, its not like I'm assembling a quantum computer or anything..."
"We're not doing anything quantum-related either."
"Honestly, I've mostly been dabbling with a home-built mainframe outside of school."
"My friend and I have been testing and optimizing its capabilities for months on end now. We programmed our own operating system from scratch, purposefully to have a really high hardware ceiling, so we've been constantly reconfiguring the physical hardware to make use of it... And we still have yet to hit that ceiling with what's on the affordable part of the computer market. We'd probably go bankrupt before we get anything like the high-spec components for mega servers and supercomputers."
Fork lowering to her plate, Maho's mouth parted with sudden interest.
"You wrote your own operating system?"
"Had to. All of the mainstream ones are far too limiting. We've modified every open source program we could get our hands on, and even then there were still hard-coded barriers that are insurmountable. So we went our own route and compiled the code of everything we liked, and put it all together."
"The funny thing is... I've written my own operating system as well. Its what Amadeus runs on."
Eyes meeting, Okabe's posture straightened in attention.
"I designed it to handle a high frequency of tasks and requests, similar to that of the human brain. That's why it can run all nine of Amadeus' main functions in tandem."
A single chuckle left Okabe's throat. Small world indeed.
"High overall performance is what we're shooting for, so we continuously re-tune ours to be able to run a wide variety of software instances simultaneously. Anything to try and max out the resources without crashing outright."
"Huh. Can't say we've tried to crash Amadeus on purpose. Wouldn't be beneficial for our research in any way."
"Has it crashed on its own?"
"Oh yeah. Several times in development. Its got fail safes implemented now, though."
"Has it reached any sort of peak benchmark that you know of?"
"Of what in particular?"
"Anything. Processes, data throughput..."
"Its all logged somewhere. Don't remember any of the values off the top of my head."
"How high is the latency?"
A hint of teeth appeared among a little grin curling onto her cheek.
"Personally classified. I'm sure you don't go around telling everyone about your mainframe either."
"True. Even though its not anywhere near the potential it could have... There's a fair amount of Yen sunk into it."
"I don't suppose you're using your university's budget for your experimentation, are you?"
Rolling his eyes, a hint of a cheeky smile lifted the corners of his mouth.
"Maybe a little. But we buy and resell parts. Easy to do in a tech haven like Akiba."
A market for parts, here?
Vision lowering to her nearly-empty plate with a tingle of interest, Maho speared another cut of sauce-coated meat with her fork.
Haven't wandered the street vendors at all. Maybe I haven't noticed.
"If I may ask... How powerful is the hosting hardware back at your university?"
Attention alighting to Okabe again, her arm remained flat on the table.
"The research database we use is massive, so storing Amadeus on it is no issue. The program itself, has stages of complexity that are determined by the specs of the machine accessing it."
"Oh, so it has a level-of-detail function?"
"In a way. Whenever we take Amadeus anywhere for demonstration, we're dependent on the machines of whoever happens to be hosting us, and their available internet connection."
"It is. Not everyone has powerful GPUs and stacks of RAM at their disposal, so I ended up programming it to automatically adjust itself."
Keeping another chuckle inside his throat, Okabe twisted his chopsticks into another serving.
Hah, they don't, but we do. Continue.
"...The good thing, is that the host computers don't need to actually have the memory copy itself. Its impractical to transfer terabytes of data like that, and it is dangerous to put someone's entire life memory on an insecure network that we don't know much about."
"So you keep Amadeus at the university, and connect to it from afar."
"It just needs an access point to the server's data, and the peripheral software to translate it."
"And that software resides on an external hard drive, I assume?"
"Is it limited by the operating system of your host?"
"Not at all. The executable program that runs it has several versions. Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, you name it, it'll run on it."
Watching as Maho rose to her feet, Okabe reached for a glass of water as she lifted her plate from the table.
"Going to get more. I'll be back."
Watching her turn and wander back towards the buffet, he discreetly studied the undulations of her dark mane of hair drifting behind.
This woman is an information powerhouse. I'd sure like to see what sort of coding comprises the operating system she designed. This might even be one of those cases of developmental coincidence... But I doubt anyone is privy to her work, as involved and controversial as it is. Hmmm...
Nudging the bottom of his chin with this free hand, his brow furrowed in further thought, only to relax upon her return to the table. Allowing a moment as she sat and promptly shoveled another portion into her mouth, he waited patiently for her to swallow.
"Your professor, mister Leskinen... He said he isn't certain how near to completion your project is. Do you actually have set goals?"
"Sort of. On one hand, it is planned to have Amadeus be a source of preservable, replaceable memory backups... Virtual storage for medical patients with failing memory, basically. We're working on the concept, but its still a ways from coming to fruition. The actual reintegration of memory into someone's brain is doable, but unless the brain knows how to use that information... The whole procedure is pointless."
"Has that been attempted?"
Hesitating from his question, Maho leaned back against her chair.
"Well... So far its theorized to work. Making that happen is more of Makise's specialty."
"You're in the brain science institute as well, right?"
"I am, but my work is with the actual technical side of the project."
"So, other than the medical application, my focus is on improving the learning and communication aspects, and monitoring its self-evolution."
"Its certainly gotten far enough to hold its own with conversation."
"Truthfully, that's only because of the human memory's experiences being utilized. Without any data set loaded... It really doesn't do much of anything."
"Right now we're just getting everything ironed out functionally."
"Yeah? There weren't any glitches or errors that I saw."
"You typically won't see anything that resembles a glitch, unless the connection is interrupted or something. But if you opened the console, there definitely will be errors logged."
"The system is undergoing constant interpretation of the loaded memory data. It doesn't forget things like we do, but with the nature of human memory, sometimes the answer just doesn't even exist."
"How does it react in that scenario?"
"It'll reroute to another suitable response, just like our own brain."
"I guess I meant, how does the character on-screen react when it finds a nonexistent value?"
"Oh... It'll sit there for a few seconds, and then produce the next answer."
"That, and a couple of other weird actions too."
"Even with its own capabilities, there's still inherent issues of compatibility. I'm almost entirely certain its because of the invisible divide between a living brain and body versus a digital computer."
"Referring to one's spirit, I assume?"
"That, and other intangibles. The human soul cannot be completely adapted in virtual form, unfortunately."
"So there's nothing like wishes and desires present?"
"They're definitely there in the memory, but they don't seem to be readable by the program."
Properties that only exist within one's heart... Interesting.
"Earlier, in the seminar, I brought up the feeling of envy, and while Amadeus knows what it is, it seems it isn't capable of it, or doesn't care."
"Well... That's because I programmed it that way."
"It knows the definition, but it isn't referenced as an applicable behavior in its coding, whatsoever."
"So even if the emotion exists in the loaded memory, it isn't even read or utilized?"
"Imagine if the program somehow became jealous of its human donor. It could decide to be non-cooperative, and refuse to function. The last thing we need is for someone's memories to be kept hostage by the program that reads them."
"By removing such a possibility, it makes for a decidedly friendly AI that won't make decisions from strong negative emotions. Basically it doesn't even know how to read them."
"And thereby ignores them... Quite the fail safe."
"A very necessary one, in my opinion."
Bringing another scoop of food to her mouth, Maho eyed the contents of her platter.
Especially for the sake of my own reputation...
"Averting a malevolent takeover of the university, are we?"
Laughing lightly with full cheeks, she swallowed.
"Mmf, its not GlaDOS, but, yes."
"Not as devious at least."
"If you're saying that in regards to Makise's memory, you don't know her well enough."
Eyebrow rising, the tips of Okabe's chopsticks lowered to his plate.
"Is that so?"
"Well, regardless of whoever is loaded into it, it strikes me how well Amadeus was able to respond to every question asked by the audience."
"That, mister Rintarou, is the wonder of automated machine learning. All of those systems I mentioned earlier, add up into Amadeus being able to offer a definitive solution to almost any question it encounters."
"An output from the input."
"Ehh, not as strict as Boolean values."
"Then... Fuzzy logic, right?"
"You know of it?"
"A slight bit. Partial truth. Making decisions on ambiguous values."
"Yep. Also known as automated reasoning. With the human's memory and gained knowledge available in virtual space, the system can analyze previously solved and confirmed values to provide known answers. Or it can interpret a new solution to a previously unknown problem."
Sitting back in his chair, Okabe set down his chopsticks, and his hands came together on the surface of the table.
"Sounds like our own cognitive functionality."
"That's the point. Neurons in our human brains that are frequently used become established pathways and allow for high speed retrieval of information. With Amadeus, we've recreated that same environment in virtual form, and it functions in just the same manner."
Offered a single nod by the young woman, he exhaled.
"That's incredible. I can't even begin to imagine how much time has gone into this."
"Way too much... And it will only continue into the future."
"You've spent the most time with it as the lead developer... I'm sure you know all of its nuances."
"Oh yeah. Lots of trial and error."
"I know that feel."
"Despite appearances, Amadeus isn't perfect."
"Neither are we."
Humming in amusement, Maho's legs crossed beneath the table.
"Well I'm glad to hear you're not driven by an extraordinary ego, unlike some people."
Okabe's shoulders rose in a shrug.
"Ah, well, you know... There's nothing wrong with having pride in your own ability."
"Oh, I wasn't questioning that."
"You shouldn't need to. With everything you've just explained... You're very talented, you know."
Chin rising with confidence, Maho's eyes shut in visible knowing.
"I mean, assembling such a complex multi-faceted program from scratch, and programming it for the specific intent of experimental neurological research... That's truly amazing."
"I'm still a student, and we've done a lot with complex systems, but, nothing near the level of work you've done. Your programming knowledge and ability is priceless... And magnificent."
Eyes flitting open, her cheeks grew warm from the wayward compliment.
"Oh... Its not that impressive, really."
"It is, for those of us that are computationally inclined."
Looking aside, only to cautiously peek at him, her vision scurried away again, and her face grew redder from the glimpse of his calm, admiring expression.
"Well I... Thank you for listening attentively."
"Is it a surprise that I did?"
"People usually get burned out by the time I cover a quarter of what we just discussed."
"Hmm. Considering that everything you've described is real and functional work, that's a shame."
"Hence why I don't ordinarily go into such detail. I've learned not to waste my breath."
"Well neither your breath, nor my time were wasted. I'm quite glad, to be honest. I wasn't sure how long I would end up staying here after the seminar, but hearing the passion you have for your programming work in person, certainly made it worthwhile."
Head turning, a breath left her nose as their eyes met, and a quiet moment began, punctuated by the hint of a smile appearing on her lips.
"You know, I think you're the first person I've met today that's more impressed in my actual ability, than the AI they saw in the auditorium."
"That AI would be nothing without your abilities."
Eyelids lowering, her chin sank as well, hiding her brow beneath her bangs.
Yeah... You could put it that way. I mean, I am the lead dev-
"Maho! And Mister Rin-taro!"
Startled by the sudden approach of professor Leskinen, both of their attentions turned to the blonde man as he strolled up to the table, his large hands dropping onto the surface and rattling the fork on Maho's plate.
"Mmm, found yourselves some food, did you? The Japanese sure know how to serve up nourishment for an event."
"We do like to entertain guests with our cooking around here."
"You know, I left you two alone earlier and it seems you've been having quite the conversation since then. Its been half an hour already."
"Oh, we were discussing her work in creating Amadeus, and the functionality of its inner components."
"Miss Hiyajo is the driving force behind Amadeus' technical development... As I'm sure you've found out by now."
"I have. She's certainly a talented programmer."
"Precisely why I brought her onto the project. Her prowess with the keyboard is truly remarkable."
"I can only imagine."
The professor then stood upright, checking his watch.
"Right then. Regrettably, my friend, we are soon to be on our way back to our hotel for the night."
Heart sinking, Okabe nodded.
"Well, I'll probably be heading out myself."
"Mmm, but perhaps you should keep in touch, mister Rin-taro. I'm sure you both have plenty more you can discuss beyond this evening."
Eyes meeting again, initially hesitant, both young adults traded a series of expressions, finally settling into a pair of shrugs.
"I guess... If you don't mind."
"I don't mind either."
Seeing a friendly smile rise across his face, a breath wandered from her nose, studying his gentle features.
Especially considering you've taken the time to actually listen to my discourse...
"Haha, then its settled! I'll leave you two to exchange your contact information. I'll be in the lobby, Maho."
"Catch you later, Mister Rin-taro!"
Offering Okabe a wink from a distance as he walked away, Alexis disappeared into the hallway beyond, and Maho shook her head briefly.
"Sorry. He's a pretty weird guy sometimes."
"Its fine. I wish some of my professors were as lively as him."
"You sure about that?"
Rolling her eyes, a smile remained as her hand disappeared beneath the table. Bringing her phone from the pocket of her hoodie, and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, her fingers tapped and swiped on the screen of the blue and white device several times.
"What's your email?"
"R-O, ninety-two, F-D-L, at gmail, dot com."
Heart beating as she actively typed the address into her phone, he began reaching for his own device residing in his pocket.
"Google, huh? I was half expecting your school's email client."
"Nonsense. Have to maintain secrecy somehow."
"Ah. For all that shady work with your home-built supercomputer, right?"
Peeking at the red phone in his palm, blinking from a previously ignored text message from Daru, he cleared the reminder with a swipe of his thumb.
Sorry Hashida. Been busy with things.
"What's your email?"
"Already sent something."
Feeling the resulting vibration in his palm, he opened the message, discovering a series of ones and zeros across the message body.
Binary code? Let's see... 'hiyajo54713R1 at VCU-dot-edu'.
Head rising as Maho stood from the table, gathering her plate and glass together, she walked away quietly, drawing his attention back to the sway of her hair as she wandered out of sight.
Saving the address to his contacts, Okabe then looked at the name printed in bold text, and with a few taps of his thumb, set the color of the contact to a shade of deep, emerald green.
There. Just like your eyes.
Rising to his feet, and pushing in his chair, he waited patiently as she reappeared in a return heading back to the table, drawing to a halt just in front of him. The moment that followed, however, remained silent as her hands fidgeted, fingers intersecting together.
"It's been an honor, miss Hiyajo."
Looking up at the young man before herself, taller in stature and exuding an aura of calm and warmth, their eyes met once more, and she offered a nod.
"Please... Call me Maho."
"Alright. Call me Okabe."
"Its hard to find people who are truly interested in the internal workings of the project. Usually people just talk about the face they saw on the screen, and debate about the morality and whether its scripted or not. Really gets tiring, hearing the same old statements made."
"Then I'm glad our conversation was different."
"Me too. It was nice to speak to you... Okabe."
Lips curling into a smile, her face reddened with unexpected mirth as her fingers met his, shaking his larger hand.
"...I'll be sure to keep in touch, but I promise not to be a bother."
"I doubt you will be. I'd like to see some of what you've been working on. Unless you're afraid of professional critique."
"Afraid? Hardly. I'll share my work if you'll talk about some of your own."
Separately exhaling as their hands drifted apart, slipping within the pockets of their individual coats, both young programmers waited hesitantly, but no further words presented themselves.
"...Until next time?"
Revolving in a turn, her petite face hiding from sight among her dark hair, Okabe stood still, heart beating with mystery as Maho calmly walked into the distance, vanishing around a corner.
There she goes. The lead programmer and genius of Amadeus... A human enigma. I wonder if we'll meet again?
Bringing his phone into view, still displaying the characters of her name, a sigh left his lungs in a realization of the late hour.
Even if we don't, at least now I can contact her. Professor Alexis too. I'll have to tell Izaki that I've personally met both of them now. He'll be beside himself.
Listening to his heartbeat within his chest, Okabe then turned to the plate and glass still sitting on the table.
To think I was contemplating going home earlier, too. I would have missed out on an amazing interview. Would have liked to talk to the professor more, but...
Picturing Maho's brilliant emerald-green eyes, decorated by unexpectedly long lashes and hiding teasingly among unkempt bangs, an exhale wandered from his lungs.
...Speaking to her was certainly worthwhile.