Calamari & Lies
Keep you in the dark,
You know they all pretend.
Keep you in the dark,
And so it all began.
-Foo Fighters “The Pretender”
Right now, Ayla is…
Wondering whether a manufactured past is worth as much as a “real” one. If not, what of the person who owns that past?
One of Dr. Scylla Ran’s more understated works, Ayla Holt’s morph has delicate, slightly elongated facial features giving her a fey, vaguely alien yet welcoming appearance. Her hair is silver shot through with subtle streaks of pale blues, purples, and teals along with iridescent strands scattered throughout to catch the light. Her light skin sports a faint shimmer, and her eyes are a pale, piercing blue.
Her overall build follows the elegant theme: Tall and slender with a pianist’s fingers designed for delicate detail work. She is not given to extreme high-end fashion, but prefers comfortable clothing that is closely fit so as not to interfere in her work. Most of her wardrobe is brightly colored, and embellishments such as embroidery and jewelry are starting to creep in around the edges now that she’s free from her former hypercorp’s dress code. She’s never without Emo and at least one creepy bot. Her current model appears as a small, shining golden dragon which, while it is not biomemetic itself (it is obviously a robot, not an animal) it exhibits biomemetic programming: It preens, sunbathes, and displays affection and protectiveness towards its owner. It is also capable of breathing a tiny flicker of flame, just enough to light a cigarette.
Ayla is a very private person, moreso now than ever. She maintains what she feels is a healthy suspicion of all and sundry, though the uncharitable might describe her as paranoid. (’You’re only paranoid if you’re wrong’ is one of her favorite retorts). She spends most of her time aboard Augustino Riviera’s ship, I Want You Inside Me. There, she works to maintain the various bots and programs that keep the ship clean, secure and maintained. However, she is slowly upgrading the robots to be more appealing in appearance and behavior without interfering with their tasks. These replacements draw inspiration from natural forms, but expand upon their source material in elegant, strange ways, such as the swarm of flying cleaner-bots she has released which resemble large moths or butterflies (a little smaller than a human hand) with multihued patterns of shimmering circuitry dancing across their wings. These gather at sun-facing viewports at a set time each day to recharge themselves before disembarking on their duties all at once, which is quite a sight to see.
On the rare occasion she’s feeling social, Ayla will take a shuttle (preferably one piloted by Dejah Xiao, who she knows is an excellent pilot) to wander the streets of one of the barge-ships accompanied by a group of her newly-created creepy and servitor bots which she offers for sale or trade. Yes, they do the same thing as the plain ones everyone already has, but who wouldn’t want a household cleaner-bot who resembles a stodgy old tortoise whose scutes are decorated in carvings evocative of Inuit scrimshaw, and who doesn’t need feeding or cleaning up after but will still put his head in your lap to ask for scritchin’s? Or the creepy-bot, which again requires neither food, grooming, cleanup or anything else really, but looks and acts exactly like a well-mannered Yorkshire terrier?
Ayla is never without her personal servitor-bot Emo, a curiously emotive and socially adroit (albeit shy) robot who seems just a little too clever for a robot of his ostensible purpose. While he’s capable of pronouncing her name correctly at this point, years of habit have led the wee fellow to continue calling his creator and keeper “La-la.”
His chassis has been designed to vaguely resemble a teddy bear- bipedal, but with short, sturdy limbs ending in four stumpy digits arranged somewhat like paws, a pear-shaped central mass housing his main processors and motility actuators. Upon this sits a proporitonally large head with big eyes, a short “muzzle” complete with mouth to simulate speaking movements (and a convenient port to intake raw ingredients for his nanorepair functions) as well as large, rounded visual sensors arranged for binocular vision, a triangular scent receptor (or ‘sniffer’ as Ayla calls it) just above his mouth, and two mobile, rounded auditory receptors atop his head. He is also equipped with a tail-nub which he uses to help express himself. His current chassis is silver and black, designed to evoke panda bears, and his eyes, ‘sniffer’ are violet when in a pleasantly neutral mood but can change color to further express the robot’s emotional state.
Ayla’s muse, Amba, is a little unusual- but only a little. Most people’s imaginary best buddies growing up are other people. Ayla’s was a tiger, and given the chance to make him ‘real’ (on being first presented with her muse) she didn’t hesitate. Having evolved from a pudgy, cartoonish tiger cub to the imposing, sleek feline he is today, Amba is a patient, affable soul, slow to anger and quick to laugh. He speaks with a deep, rumbling voice and sports the traditional orange-and-black pelt, though his stripes are highly stylized, and he changes them often just for fun.
Ayla grew up in a rural community in the American Midwest. Though the former superpower was collapsing under its own weight of beureucracy and corruption, her family managed to flourish in their own small way. Her mother and father were happily married, she had several siblings and a dog. Her parents worked at a local factory and barely made enough money to feed and clothe the whole brood, but managed to create a happy home despite the hardship. Ayla admired them very much and lives by the priciples under which she was raised: Honesty, compassion, and hard work.
She got lucky. Thanks to her off-the-charts aptitudes and tenacity, she managed to pursue her lifelong dream of attending MIT on a robotics scholarship. She graduated at the top of her class and went on to help make important advancements in the field of robotics. She found love, and was to be married in a few months when the TITANS began their hard takeoff towards singularity.
Ayla, in no small part due to her usefulness and knowledge, managed to secure a farcast off-world, leaving her original body and all her family, friends, and loved ones behind. She’s looked in the days since, but it truly seems as if none survived. She spent the next seven years on a server blade doing rote data collation and going slowly mad with the boredom before the hypercorp that owned her went bankrupt and she was bought by Noaria, a small cognitive-research hypercorp on Mars. Fortunately, they opted to actually do an inventory of their purchased egos to see if there might be a diamond in all that rough, and Ayla was one of the stars they found.
Grateful for the rescue, Ayla threw herself into working for Noaria, being a good little drone and never causing anyone a lick of trouble. As a roboticist working for a cognition-based hypercorp, she wound up working on a lot of programming for mental augmentations, artificial intelligence, and biomemetic companion creatures (have to make that research money somehow, no?) This last became something of a hobby for her, one of the few ways to express her creative side. Because she was so productive even as an infomorph and showed such promise from a creative design standpoint, her manager pulled some strings to get her instantiated. The new morph was a splicer, very plain, but Ayla couldn’t have been happier.
Unfortunately, this idyllic little fortress of safety she seemed to have found was not to last. Gradually, Ayla began to notice small, strange things. Coworkers would reference innocent incidents, jokes and minor, unimportant details which Ayla had never experienced. Those coworkers would suddenly and without warning be reassigned. Once she built and began to train Emo, he would exhibit knowledge of concepts which she’d never taught him (and as the little robot was rather shy, she knew he hadn’t picked it up from anyone else!). She ignored these strange events, thinking she was perhaps overworked and overtired.
But things only got worse. Emo began expressing distress after she’d wake up from a nap, claiming that “La-la go bye-bye,” when in fact she hadn’t been out of the robot’s sight in days. As Emo grew in cognitive sophistication, he was able to express that not only had Ayla been removed from her lab by “bad men,” the “bad men” would “scrub” the lab’s records, erasing hours or days of time, only to return with an unconscious Ayla who remembered nothing of what she’d endured. Eventually, Emo was even able to tell her that she had made several attempts to quit her job at Noaria or escape by other means, each having been foiled and erased from her memory.
Finally, she’d had enough. Using her skills as a programmer and a few dirty tricks she’d picked up both in college and as an infomorph, she took to the darknet and found a small anarchist sub-clade with which she managed to gain some traction, helping them with programming quandries and robotics snafus until they decided that maybe she was an alright person after all, despite being a hypercorp lackey. Which is when she laid it on them: She wanted out. It was a big ask, but finally, EvaBlu7 came through with an out. A series of strangely coded messages disguised as program bugs later, and she was on her way out- accompanied by vast gouts of flame and a trio of very excited smart raccoons. It was a fitting beginning.