Zhong Yan was stunned.
It was such a simple question, but he could not find the answer. Was Adrian doing well? He wished he could ask about it from someone in the past as well, but there was nobody he could ask; he could only look up all the news he could of the Navi System behind his back, and try to find out everything about him from all those news and images he collected. Then, when Adrian’s position rose higher and higher, and could no longer avoid being tied to all the news related to Navi, the news that emerged from the Navi System became less and less.
By the time they finally met, he was so caught up with dealing with Adrian’s fury, so caught up with their argument about the refusal fines—that he forgot to ask that question.
“I don’t know,” Zhong Yan heard himself say. “Sorry.”
Vahl appeared to be a little disappointed but he still said, “It’s fine, my question was too abrupt.”
An awkward silence surrounded the two for a moment.
Vahl had been paying close attention to this young man since his graduation, not only because he was fresh blood in the Supreme Council, but also because of the relationship he shared with Adrian. Unfortunately, he quickly discovered with everyone else that this young man who was always so sleek with work could only respond the same, single way when faced with any questions concerning Adrian: with his silence.
Vahl had seen Zhong Yan several times in private, but he had no idea why Zhong Yan was so much more amiable to him compared to the rest of the public. However, he would still never bring up what happened after his graduation.
Later, when Zhong Yan got tangled up with the Yate family, Vahl no longer sought him out. But from what he could see today, Zhong Yan had no respect to speak of in regards to the Yate family.
This helped Vahl regain some confidence in him, and he could not help adding on, “Indeed, refusing ‘Butterfly’s’ proposals during your upswing in work will affect the stability of your career.”
Zhong Yan looked at him.
“But your case is special. After all, Adrian is…It would be understandable for you to refuse, you won’t end up like I did.”
Zhong Yan knew very well that Vahl had not told him this just for his sake; it was mostly for Adrian’s. He had no descendants, so he had always taken Adrian as his own child.
“Thank you.” Zhong Yan spoke in a soft murmur, “I’ll consider it.”
Vahl nodded. “Time is almost up. We should head back.”
Zhong Yan returned to the outer circle of the eighth floor and saw Bayer waiting for him with an unkindly expression.
The round table meeting in which Zhong Yan would be proposing his bill was about to begin. Bayer had no time to nag him about his self-assertive behavior, and could only stand by with a sour look on his face.
Zhong Yan had no care for whether he was happy or not. He reopened his terminal’s settings and his finger stopped on the cancel button.
He could set it again after turning it off, but…then it would not be set by Adrian himself anymore.
Zhong Yan took the terminal off his wrist and handed it to Bayer. “Hold onto this for me, I won’t be bringing it in.”
It was true that there were some council members who did not have the habit of bringing their terminals into major meetings, excluding themselves from the influence of all external factors. Zhong Yan did not have this habit, but this was also his first time attending a discussion as the proposer. He could have just been nervous, so Bayer did not think too much about it and held it for him. “Come on, it’s time to head in.”
Within the center of the eighth floor was a rotunda with an open center round table placed right at the center. Twelve high-back velvet chairs were placed evenly on the outer ring.
The table was very large and the distance between each person was also very large, so it was not convenient for one-to-one communication. Even though half of the people had already arrived, it was still very quiet in the conference room.
Zhong Yan sat down in his seat. Even though there were no regulations to it, everyone had agreed upon a certain seating position. For example, Vahl sat to Zhong Yan’s right, and diagonally opposite to him was Bard Pearson. A few years back, they had the power of the now-retired council member Yate to rival his within the twelve member circle; but now that Stalvern has retired, he was the true ‘man’ among men in the entire Federation.
It was quite ironic to speak about it, but this round table had been passed down from ancient times. The core spiritual values of the round table meeting originally reflected that all attendees were equal, and should not be separated into different speaking positions and so on; but what ended up happening was that a large hole had opened up at the center of this “round table” for the sake of…
“Everyone’s here.” Bard started to speak, “Everyone, please stand up.”
Everyone stood up. Within the vast Federation, the twelve who stood at the very peak of human power was now standing respectfully towards the same direction.
A translucent cylinder was illuminated through the center of the ring that went up to the circle on the ceiling, and gorgeous colors flowed through the cylinder slowly, creating a sacred image.
This was the image projected down from the ninth floor, and they were the feelers that came from ‘Butterfly’.
According to the records, when the development of the first generation of artificial intelligence was already near its completion more than two hundred years ago, the scientists considered giving it a specific image, but they eventually gave up on that idea. That was because the first generation’s artificial intelligence was not yet mature, and its personality was not perfect. Thus, when the codename of “Cocoon” was put into use, it had only received technology, data, objective facts, and so on.
More than a hundred years of development later, with the help of the constant efforts of the AI’s own self-updating system itself, they made a breakthrough in AI research, and the second generation AI’s personality was completed and perfected.
It was always tolerant, mournful, fair, pure, and incapable of hate; it was both mighty and wise.
Instead of calling it artificial intelligence, it would be better to say that the humans, for their own sakes, had created…a god.
Only, were humans really capable of creating gods?
After a brief greeting, everyone took their seats, but Zhong Yan remained standing.
“My fellow colleagues, everyone’s time is precious so I will skip the opening remarks.” He continued, “We have been in a deadlock on the Navi Star System issue for two years, and I believe everyone has seen my proposal. Before we start to discuss the possibilities of the project, let me just add one thing—I believe that the one most suited to be sent to Navi is I, myself.”
Intron was somewhat absent-minded. But fortunately, he was not the only one, so he did not stand out.
A meeting was held within the rarely used eighth floor of the building, and the personnel working around Zhong Yan’s office were worrying over whether it would be successful or not; that was because this was the first time their superior had proposed a bill since being elected as a representative member.
Compared to the thought of whether their superior could give an awe-inspiring speech, thus maintaining his stable position to bring up his and his subordinates’ reputations, Intron cared more about the results of their discussion.
Therefore, when Zhong Yan and Bayer had returned to the office, everyone was nervous. However, Bayer maintained a straight deadpan expression the whole day, while Zhong Yan was a conservative man when it came to his emotions; nothing could be picked out from the two.
“Everyone, leave your work aside for a moment.” Zhong Yan started to speak.
There was actually no need for such words, as everyone had already stopped doing their work the second he came in.
“The bill has been passed. In a week, I will be departing to the NaviSystem as a special commissioner.”
Intron was cheering with his colleagues, celebrating the passing of Zhong Yan’s second bill since joining the Supreme Council—the first one being the giant space rabbit hunting ban—however, his heart was sinking.
Zhong Yan continued, “Everyone, I’ve made you wait for a long time. It’s not early anymore, so you should all return home.”
Those in the office happily tidied up their stuff, while Bayer had also said his goodbyes to Zhong Yan. Intron was reluctantly cheering with his colleagues when he heard Zhong Yan say, “I believe my coffee cup from this morning has yet to be washed, one of you…Intron, help me wash it before you leave, I still need it tomorrow.”
His colleagues looked at him sympathetically, but they still sped up their tidying and left.
Did he really come from civilian origins? Does he really need to ask someone to wash his cup?
Giving in to his fate, Intron left his half-tidied table aside and left begrudgingly for the coffee room; but he was stunned after seeing the cup rack in the room.
With the time it took him to go to and fro from the office, everyone had already cleared out by the time he returned. At the other end, the door to Zhong Yan’s private office opened, and his boss walked out.
When he saw Intron he asked, “Done so soon?”
“Sir Zhong, your cup was already cleaned…”
“Really?” He responded in a nonchalant tone. “I must have forgotten.”
Isn’t this bullying? Intron rolled his eyes in his mind.
Zhong Yan looked towards the empty table of his first-in-command and frowned. “Has Bayer already left?”
“Yes, he must have left with everyone just now.”
Zhong Yan continued on, “I’ve just finished writing the report, and I thought I’d have him organize them before he left. I guess it’ll have to wait.”
Intron’s heart sped up. After steadying himself, he said, “Sir, it’s better to file the records today…I can help you with them.”
Intron had never felt so impatient at a bottleneck before.
To be honest, he could not care about the consequences of going against the bottleneck, but he was worried that Zhong Yan would realize something off about him. As soon as he filed the records, he rushed home in his car.
Even if he had superior memory, it was still a bit difficult to memorize the records of such a long meeting in such a short time. Fortunately, the contents were logical and easy to absorb, so he won’t be forgetting it too soon.
When he reached his home, he quickly grabbed a pen and paper before locking himself in the bathroom without even taking off his shoes.
After dinner, somebody rung Intron’s doorbell.
“Hello, sir! May I have two minutes of your time?” Two girls with sweet smiles were standing outside the door. One of them had a few books in her hand made of real paper, while the other was holding a box filled with a stack of colorfully printed brochures.
“We are volunteers in the promotion of paper-based books,” The brochure girl handed one of the brochures to him. It was actually made of real paper as well. “The purpose of our organization is to promote the beauty of physical reading, and to let everyone…”
Intron grumbled impatiently. “What’s this? What kind of organization is this? Is it registered? Are you done yet? What era do you think we’re in? Who does door-to-door sales anymore?! One of your rabble came last week. Now shoo, don’t interrupt my gaming time.”
Then, he was about to close the door when the girl quickly blocked him. “Come on, sir, you don’t have to be in such a hurry. We’re a nonprofit organization! Did you accept the book we offered last week? Do you want to take a look at our brochure…”
“Damn your brochure, they stuffed one on me last time!” Intron cut her off before grabbing the thin booklet at his shoe rack. The cover was exactly the same as the one the girl was holding. “Just take it and keep it for yourself!”
He threw the brochure into the girl’s box and closed the door.
The girl shook her head and turned to her companion. “Such a bad temper. Come on, let’s go to the next house.”
They visited a lot of homes this evening, and most of them were uninterested, but it was not unproductive. One of the boys from the specimen shop had left them a brochure, and hinted for them to read it.
The contents of what Intron had written down on those pages had become data encrypted layers upon layers and was then decrypted and copied before being sent off through physical transmission. Later, it was electronically re-encrypted and went through a few more hoops before finally, three days later, it appeared in the distant Navi System without a single letter missing, atop the table of the highest-ranking commander of the military.