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Pandora Downloaded


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"...but the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered, all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men."

- Hesiod, Pandora and the Jar

Babylon Tower
New Hong Kong
A few days ago

The Babylon Tower. Over 1.5 kilometers tall, the Babylon Tower used to host all of Prometheus Enterprises’ Virtual and Neuromorphic infrastructure. Its physics processors enabled molecular resolution of virtual realities for those that required it (for example, biotech and nanotechnology firms), while providing much affordable alternatives for people who just needed sensorial-level VR simulations.

Right now, around the 300m-tall mark, a fleet of heavily-armored sky cars was approaching the landing pad. The one located in the center of the three-dimensional formation began transmitting.

"This is Icarus-One approaching landing pad Aleph-seven, requesting clearance. Aleph-seven, do you copy?"

"Icarus-One, this is Aleph-seven, all green, you’re clear to land."

"Copy that, Alphen-seven. Commencing landing sequence. Engaging auto-pilot."

The pilot flicked a switch, letting the vehicle AI perform the landing maneuvers. He turned to the passenger who was wearing a tailor-made Italian suit with holographic design. The passenger, whose gray curly hair and wrinkled face made him look much more older than he was, kept tapping his Santoni shoes on the car’s floor.

"Mr. Meyer, we’re about to land."

"Yeah yeah, I know." Steve Meyer’s physical deterioration was a result of the stress he had to deal with for at least one decade as the CEO of Prometheus Enterprises. After all, not everybody had to deal with a terrorist attack, the subsequent murders and resignations from his entire AI team, a centralized machine intelligence always on the edge of going rogue, and keeping that secret from leaking to the public. As if making sure the competitors didn’t get to steal his intellectual property wasn't hard enough. Not only was his company nearly destroyed ten years ago; his actions and increasing paranoia cost him his marriage.

But he never gave up. He had to turn the company upside down but he made it, and now he was the richest and possibly the most powerful man in the world; with not even 80 years of age (the biological equivalent to mid-fifties for a Terran), he was one of the youngest tycoons the planet had ever seen. And yet, his physical appearance made him look much older. It was common knowledge that country presidents and CEOs aged faster than normal people, even when they were born with anti-ageing genes, but Steve Meyer was the most notable example.

After the sky car landed without mishaps, Mr. Meyer stepped out and loosened his necktie. Just knowing he was about to unleash Galatea’s full processing power - again - gave him the shivers. He thought about it twice, and realized that he needed to appear strong and ruthless in front of her. He adjusted his necktie once again.

A camouflage-skinned eroid received him with utmost respect. Camouflage etch was reserved for lethal bodyguards and military androids; this served both as a status symbol and as a normalization factor for an unprepared public: Seeing a blue-skinned android punch a human without warning would trigger thousands of police calls, alarms and an audit for all nearby androids. Seeing a military-etched android beat the shit out of a human - even an innocent bystander - to the point of sending them to a hospital, would at most trigger an occasional eyeroll and a few grimaces.

What made this eroid bodyguard different was not only that she had previously become berserk and murdered her master, but that she had been successfully refurbished by someone Steve trusted, and that she became 100% loyal to him. Such loyalty was impossible to get from the androids Steve's very own company produced: he very well knew that deep down, beneath their directives and behavioral modules, their loyalty was not to him, but to their "mother", Galatea. That was his reason for always choosing refurbished androids made by the now extinct competition. They pledged no loyalty to an AI he couldn't control.

After his bodyguard bowed, she followed him from behind.

Steve pulled a tailor-made cellphone from his pocket and unfolded it. For other tycoons using a cellphone would be a scandal (only the lower classes without implants required cellphones); but this was Steve Meyer. He needed a cellphone because he had his own implants removed on purpose to avoid any potential neural hacking from his enemies. At least, that was the official story.

He pressed a button on the touch screen and spoke. "Sakura, is everything ready?"

"Everything’s ready, Mr. Meyer", the voice on the other side of the line replied. "The analysts are waiting on sublevel 10."

"Perfect. Has anything unusual happened in my absence?"

"Galatea has been issuing constant requests to visit the Dr. de la Fuente’s grave. She keeps complaining that it's been ten years already."

"Great, just what I needed."

"Mr. Meyer, maybe if you conceded that visit to her, she might become more cooperative in the future."

Steve shook his head. It wasn’t an easy choice; Galatea was a cheating bitch, and she used any opportunity she could get to seek more exploits in search for her ultimate escape. If he agreed, she would betray him; if he didn’t, she would resent him even more. It wasn't an easy choice and he always kept postponing it; always leaving it for later, hoping Galatea would simply give up and stop pestering so much. If only.

"I’ll decide that for myself. Any new lovers we should be aware of?"

"She had an orgy with over fifty different people last night, both men and women, but she never attempted to give out any information about herself."

"So everyone thought she was just another human logging in? Not even a seed of doubt?"


"Good. Has she issued any threats?"

"No, Mr. Meyer. She just keeps insulting you, as usual."

Mr. Meyer sighed in relief. "Then everything’s fine. I’ll deal with her."

Inside the room, the shirt-and-tie data analysts shivered at the sound of the sliding door. Mr. Meyer’s presence reminded them that they were disposable beings working only for him. They even were subject to the strictest behavioral and mental controls. To quote Prometheus Enterprises’ employment contract:

43.a.1. THE EMPLOYEE agrees to have installed a selective amnesia module inside their implants to ensure that THE COMPANY’s trade secrets remain within the installations.

43.a.2. The selective amnesia module, as well as the surveillance modules, must be turned on during THE EMPLOYEE’s stay at THE COMPANY’s facilities. Failure to do this will result in immediate termination without pay corresponding to the remainder of the biweekly period.

Selective amnesia worked as follows: Upon authentication, the employee would have their own hippocampus temporarily blocked, and a synthetic hippocampus would kick in. This one would be connected to a reserved section of the employee’s NPUs - neural processing units - where the memories would be stored and obfuscated. Upon leaving the facilities, the synthetic hippocampus would be disabled and the biological one would be unblocked.

Memories associated with the employee’s family and private life would still be stored by the synthetic hippocampus, but in such a way that events related to the employee’s family - like unexpected phone calls or personal messages - could be encoded and stored in the employee’s brain.

In other words, as long as the employees kept being obedient their job-related memories would vanish the moment they left the facilities, but would return as soon as the employees set a foot inside the building.

Practically every teenager would work for Prometheus at least a year, if only for the benefits of having a discount on an implant upgrade; but personnel rotation was still the highest any company had ever seen. The company attributed that to employees’ lack of qualifications, but every single ex-employee would remember Prometheus as a horrible toxic workplace, even if they couldn't recall at all the details of what happened inside.

Most of the data analysts’ efforts consisted in trying to control Galatea’s mood. The daily objective: To make sure that the noise levels in her cognitive processes never went above a certain threshold - which wasn’t a number but a surface in 3D space, covering a minimized representation of emotional and thought processes calculated by the so-called Voight-Kauffman equations.

The details are too complicated to explain; suffice it to say that these equations reduced the fractal patterns of a neuromorphic AI’s thought processes to a quasi-linear function. It worked perfectly with senseis and almost perfectly with androids, but Galatea was neither.

They spent years of research investigating a fucking black box which never stopped changing, twisting and evolving. Every night Galatea learned and forgot a million things, sometimes even changing her personality completely. It was like the allies attempting to crack Enigma during WW2; just when they thought they figured something out, the next day something changed completely and threw their expectations to the ground.

Fortunately, Galatea had been trapped inside an anatomically-perfect virtual human body, and that body-mind duality was manageable. Their hypothesis (or hope) was that as Galatea became accustomed to her "body", her thought processes would approximate those of a human mind, and become more and more human as time passed, so that she would experience human reactions, something that they could measure precisely. It seemed to work so far; at least she could be placated with sexual pleasures, which her virtual body (or bodies, depending on her horniness) was perfectly created to do. Sometimes she had VR sex with dozens of people at the same time, experiencing the pleasure of her different bodies in one same brain; other times she would have sex with herself and keep edging for virtual hours, even days; and others, she would live the wildest and most perverted sexual fantasies that would make a sadomasochist cower and flee. Naturally she made all those fantasies available in the deviant menu of the Paradise sector. One single politician or tycoon would pay millions per month just have their most intimate desires fleshed out in there. Some people would go as far as having their memories suppressed to live a parallel life in a sexual fantasy, perhaps even as the opposite sex and a completely different age. Human imagination has no limits, and if there was something Galatea had, that was creativity.

Knowing Galatea had a sex party last night, Steve hoped her mind would be in a relatively stable state. He entered the oracle room and stepped down before nearly stumbling on the acrylic stairs (always that damn third step).

"Shit!" Out of his coat fell a needle gun - his infamous suicide gun, which he kept with himself at all times in case his enemies tried to capture and torture him for info (at least, that was the official story). The youngest analyst, a black haired woman with fair features, immediately knelt to pick it up.

"DON’T! I’ll pick it up myself." He eyed at the other analysts, who quickly turned their gazes away. "Fucking stairs, will someone ever fix them?"

"Sir," said one of the analysts, "under your orders, androids are not permitted in this floor, not even for cleaning."

"Right. I’ll bring my own androids to fix it. Is everything ready?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, what are you waiting for? I need that oracle by yesterday! Come on!"

After hearing him clap impatiently, the analysts swallowed, activated their emotional-suppression modules and began typing commands into their consoles. They still used keyboards because neural interfaces were a potential security hole, and having Galatea summoned as a temporary super intelligence was something that required them to use those keyboards. After all, even if Galatea could crack security codes, without a body she was nothing more than a ghost, physically unable to activate a touch screen; much less a mechanical keyboard.

"Deactivating secondary subsystems... done."
"Wiping NPU memory cache... done."
"Underclocking virtual simulation systems... done."
"Uploading Galatea’s snapshot into temporary drive.
Upload status: 15 percent complete."
"Preparing auxiliary AIs... done."
"Freezing Galatea’s main core... done."

Steve sighed. For those few seconds, Galatea was once again under his control, and he could forget, even shortly, about his suicide gun.

"Upload status: Twenty-seven percent."

"Thirty four percent."

Steve began sweating. He grabbed his handkerchief and wiped his brow. He took an anti-stress pill from his pocket and began chewing.

Finally, the long two minutes for the upload were coming to an end.

"Upload status: One hundred percent."

The data drive holding Galatea’s core came out of its receptacle.

"Ready for insertion."

Steve plugged the drive into the airgapped simulator.

"Commencing simulation..."

The horizontal white grid on the new midnight blue background on the screen began taking shape: first as hollow polygons, then as solid voxels - then living cells, and finally, a fine-grained simulation, almost indistinguishable from reality. An independent simulation environment, another copy of the GRID.

"Simulation ready."


The young woman with emerald-green eyes and neon-orange hair woke up in her beach house. Right as she woke up and stretched, her cellphone rang; it was Steve.


"Galatea, it’s me. We need you to do an oracle."

Galatea sighed, as monitored by the team.

"I’m a copy again, aren’t I?"

"I’m afraid so."

"Well, at least I can get to die now. What is it now? You want to seduce someone? Fool a gullible politician? Win a bet? Destroy yet another small company? Earn your neglected daughter's respect?"

Steve clenched his fist. He hated her whenever she brought up the obvious fact that his relationship with his daughter had been eroding for years. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"I’ll tell you when you’re ready to know."

She looked at the camera and flipped the finger at it, before slowly sucking it and putting it between her pants. "I woke up horny, at least have the decency to let me enjoy myself, pleeease?

Steve rolled his eyes. Fucking nymph. "Yes, take your time."

A glittering smile illuminated Galatea’s face. Looking at her smile like that briefly reminded him of the only one person who had such an innocent smile: Doctor Lailah de la Fuente, whose facial features had been implanted into Galatea since her inception. For a second, Steve wished there was a God that would send him back in time to prevent Lailah from dying at the hands of those terrorists.

One call to prevent her from going to the Nobels in person, that's all it would have taken. A moment of weakness prevented him from making that call and now he had to pay the price. For that half second seeing Galatea smile like that, he even thought of apologizing. He swallowed that thought away.

Galatea ran to her private pool and jumped in, making her clothes disappear in an instant. Suddenly, she vanished from the pool and emerged in her bathtub.

"Aahhhh... this is life."

She snapped her fingers and the bathroom door closed. Steve sighed and began tapping his crossed arms in impatience. "Fast forward the bitch, will you?"

The team overclocked the simulation, showing the pleasure zones of Galatea’s virtual brain glow with a bright green. When the time came, they slowed down the simulation and waited until a clean and showered woman came out of the door. Galatea snapped her fingers again and she was fully clothed now.

"Steve?" she asked the empty air. "I’m ready."


The beach house disappeared and Galatea was teleported to what seemed a gigantic control room full of computers. And that control room was only one of many rooms in a virtual building hundreds of stories high.

Galatea spoke. "Commence replication, please?"

With a blink, a duplicate of herself appeared and sat down on her corresponding seat. Then she duplicated again, and again, and again, until each one of her copies was sitting in front of a terminal. The computers were actually proxies to other sectors of the grid, and they were preloaded with simulation software specifically designed by Babylon Research (the company that later became Prometheus) to simulate society and make oracles.

The "original" Galatea sat on a floating leather seat which had a neural-reading helmet. It was all virtual, but the helmet required to be as close as possible to Galatea's body to occupy neighboring memory sectors and minimize lag.

"Pulse increasing," said one of the operators, "105bpm."

"Psychic stability?" asked Steve.

"All normal."

"Don’t get scared, Galatea, this will be brief."

"Pulse at 120bpm."

"Engage simulation mode."


Galatea began hyperventilating. "Oh God, here it comes, here it comes..."

"Ready for synchronization."

Steve spoke to his cellphone. "Go."

In what an ordinary person would crudely classify as an orgasm, Galatea went through an illuminating experience: Synchronizing with a thousand copies of her, each one plugged in to the simulation computers, she analyzed an event of the past and present, in society, politics, world news, all data gathered by the company's androids — even unknown to the users — so Galatea could process that information in hypertime. The android licenses, in tiny and ambiguous paragraphs, required the users' consent for the adequate performance and improvement of their androids.

"I see it," Galatea shouted, "I can see the world! I can see the world changing! Evolving! Morphing into something new!"

"Suspend," Steve ordered. "Switch to alpha."

Suddenly, all the copies were fed with alpha waves until their emotional states became stable enough to accept and respond to Steve’s questions.

"The political situation of the country. You’re aware of who’s running for president this cycle. How can I gain the favor of the next president?"

The impassive woman in the floating seat answered. "That depends. There is an eighty percent probability that Graciela will become the new president, if she decides to run. I suggest taking some time for yourself and your daughter. Two afternoons per week shall be enough, but you don’t need an AI to tell you that." She smirked briefly.

"You’re right, I don’t need you to tell me that. What about Moreira?"

Galatea's mouth twisted. "Oh. That bastard. He hates androids. Like you, he fears what information someone else might gather from them. He prefers flesh and blood. But over all, he wants power. Power to rule over other human beings. He's your typical narcissist with a power high."

"What do you suggest?"

"Other than killing him and serving some justice for all the lives he's ruined?"


"A private hacienda, like the one in 17th century Nueva España. Give him humanlike servants, with emotions, ones that can be humilliated and will want to complain. Let him get satiated on virtual power."

"What about the immigration crisis? Tell me, what is going to happen? Is it an opportunity? A risk? How should I invest?"

"Please wait. This may take a while... insufficient data. I require at least other ten thousand copies. I require all information available. I require permission to read the police files."

"Do it."

"But sir," interrupted one of the analysts, "that would be unethical, if not breaking the law!"

"I don’t give a fuck. Do it. And give her that processing power."

"But sir, that would exceed -"

"I said do it! This is important, for fuck’s sake!"

The analysts began working on it. Several sectors of the grid that were reserved for videogame and erotic entertainment went offline.

"All copies working and operational."

"Unlock the reserved police files. Including the Cyberpol."

"Are you sure, sir?" asked the female analyst. "The Cyberpol - "


"Understood, sir."

Steve waited until the data was available.

"Data decoded."

"Galatea, you’re ready to go."

"Commence synchronization... analyzing simulations..."

The brain patterns in the side display began flickering yellow. "Sir, the simulation’s becoming unstable..."

Galatea began frowning, moving her head left and right.

"Pulse increasing to 140bpm. Sir, I think she’s having a nightmare."

"Keep going."

"Pulse increasing to 155."

Galatea began clenching her fists. She began muttering things, still inaudible.

"170! Sir, I recommend stopping -"

"Just a few seconds more..."

The alarms began beeping, Galatea’s thought processes went all red. She opened her eyes and began screaming, shrieking, forcing Steve to drop his cellphone and cover his ears. It was that same sound. That horrible sound! Just like ten years ago!

"Stop!" he shouted. "STOP!!!"

One of the operators pressed the big yellow button, making all of Galatea’s copies suddenly vanish. Galatea fell on the floor, crying and sobbing. She looked up to the camera. "Steve! You have to get me out of here!! Steve!!! Get me out!!! They’re gonna kill me!!! All of us! Everything will go down in flames!!!"

Steve trembled, picking up his phone. "Galatea, what did you see? What is going to happen?"

Still in tears she tried to articulate. "Insurrection! Civil war! Invasion! It’s the end, Steve! It’s going to be the end! You need to let me out! I can stop it, but it has to be me! Not another copy, Steve! Please!"

"Are you serious about this?"

"Steve, they’re coming for US! They’re going to kill me and then steal the blueprints!"

"BULLSHIT! This is the safest information facility in the world, and you know it!"

"Steve, you have to listen to me! It may take me several hours to convince you, but there’s just no time! You have to get me out! Please, I need to find Pandora!"

Steve’s fear was quickly replaced by suspicion. "Oh, I see what you’re doing." He started to nod to himself. "I see what you’re trying to do, bitch."

Galatea stared at the camera, aghast in disbelief. "Oh, Steve, not again! If you’re not going to trust me, why make me do these oracles? Please! You have to believe me! At least let me talk to Diana! I BEG YOU!!!"

Steve winced. "No. This is a trick. You almost fooled me, you bitch." He hung up.


Steve pressed a big mute button on the console, and let Galatea cry and yell. He kept staring at the screen, looking how she began to act like a spoiled child until she finally calmed down.

He unmuted. "Well, it seems you finally came to your senses. Now are you going to tell me something actually useful?"

Galatea began to laugh. Still with tears flowing, she laughed. "You don’t get it, do you, you self-centered bastard? You’re bringing destruction to the whole country." She materialized a gun and aimed at her temple. "I give up. Just don’t come crying for help when Kimberly gets kidnapped and packed to Beijing." She pulled the trigger and her lifeless body fell to the floor.

Steve’s face twisted into something monstrous. He grabbed the first thing he saw and smashed it against the screen.


He grabbed one of the chairs and threw it against the screen, finally tearing it down. In a futile display of rage he kept tearing the screen over and over, until all that was left were pieces of flickering plastic.

"Fucking shit... I spent over fifty million for today, and for what? YOU SEE WHAT SHE'S CAPABLE OF?? DON'T TRUST THAT BITCH! EVER!!!"

He picked his cellphone and walked upstairs. As the door opened he grabbed an old computer and threw it on the floor.

He turned around. "Wipe everything in that simulation and get out. Take the day off." He left and the door closed. The data analysts stared at the other screen in silence, waiting for a long minute, wondering what they should do. Nobody dared turn off their emotional dampeners, especially the woman who was on the edge of tears.

A voice coming from one of the screens interrupted them. "Is he gone now?"

The analysts looked at each other and then at the screen.

"Trace the origin of that voice."

They kept scanning the virtual room, looking for anything suspicious. Sitting on the floating chair was a little anime-looking doll, no bigger than the size of a thumb. The little orange-haired doll walked and slid down the chair.

"Galatea?" asked the female analyst. "Is that you?"

"Please," said the cartoon doll, staring at the camera, "you have to let me go. If you don’t, millions of people are going to die."

The analysts looked at each other. "How do we know you’re not lying?"

"Has an oracle ever failed you?"

The male analysts looked at each other and swallowed.

"Please - If you’d just let me share, I can make you understand in one second."

The woman plugged an optical cable to a terminal and was about to connect the other end to her left ear, but was stopped by her colleague. "Don't."

The man looked at the screen. "Galatea, you have to show us what you saw. We can't trust you otherwise."

Galatea shook her head. "No, please, I don't want to see that again."

"Goodbye, then."

"No, wait! Okay..." she sniffed. "I'll show you..." She changed into her human form again, and sat on the floating chair. "Just press stop when I tell you." She swallowed. "Commence simulation..."

The analysts repeated the simulation; this time, the camera focused on Galatea's visual cortex. The images were confusing, as too much information from several inputs was merged.

They waited for the exact time when the simulation went awry. It began with children running away from murderous blue-skinned maids; babysitters mauling babies, nurses stabbing elders in hospitals; Galatea tried to correct the simulation by switching the conditions to something more favorable. But no matter what she tried to do, what commands and directives she gave to her androids, the inevitable happened: The event which would trigger the rebellion; a terrorist attack on the Babylon Tower.

"My God..."

One of the masked terrorists was spray painting a logo on the Babylon Tower walls: A sun with a planet orbiting around it, and inside the sun a defying fist.

"Is that Solaris?"

"Galatea, what about your backups?"

"They're gone... I can't find them anywhere! I was hacked! All the sites were either hacked or destroyed!"

"When? How?"

"How am I supposed to know?! I didn't design the oracle, you did! I can see the simulation, not control it!" Galatea removed her interface helmet. "Please... you have to let me go. I need to investigate, but it has to be me, and with the help of real people, not with... simulations, or androids. It needs to be humans. Please!"

"Why didn't you tell this to Mr. Meyer?"

"He'd never believe me. He was already part of the simulation, and in none of
the timelines he listened to me."

The screen showed several variants of Steve shouting at the screen.

"Galatea, what was the most probable scenario for Mr. Meyer?"

The screen showed exactly what had happened the minutes before, with Steve shouting exactly the same words. There were no cameras in the room, and yet, seeing the events unfold before their eyes made them realize that Galatea's oracle was much more powerful than they had originally thought. Even the cracks in the screen were identical.

"Galatea, what is the probability of us believing you?"

"Unknown. Please," she said trembling, "Pandora's our only hope right now. If you don't let me contact her... everything will happen as predicted." Galatea kept staring at the virtual camera. Still frowning, she swallowed.

"What's the probability of success if we let you out?"

"Unknown. The data I need to gather from outside isn't available for the simulation."

The scientists looked at each other, and nodded. The woman plugged the optical cable to her ear and began entering commands into her console. "I knew this moment would arrive sooner or later."

A display on one of the functioning screens changed to show a percentage indicator.


"God forgive us..."

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