In the previous installment, we see our main character, Azibo, observe the Church of Machina. This is where people are gathering to worship Portia, the super-AI. We also find out about how Portia came to be and the great good she’s done for mankind. Not everyone is happy about people worshipping Portia, though. Religious fundamentalists start an underground movement known as The Collective with the intent to destroy her.
Let’s jump into Part 2!
“You’ve never connected to the feed?” Unity looked shocked, sitting there slurping down her milkshake in the compound.
“No,” Azibo replied. “I have no need to.”
“Look, I understand. We’re Collective – we hate Portia. That’s the whole point. But you have to try it, at least once.”
Unity placed her milkshake on the table. “Because. We have to know what we’re fighting against. You have to experience it. You have to see what the others, the faithful, are seeing.”
Night descended upon the city outside, the sky gray and basking everything in dull light. The compound was a tiny two-bedroom apartment downtown amid the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia. Several Machina churches were nearby, and the city had quickly developed a devoted cult of Portia.
However, there was still a strong Christian community of people who resisted. Some of these Christians eventually became Collective members, but not all of them. Collective members were usually rather fundamentalist, and not everyone was so bothered by Portia that they wanted to blow up a building.
“I don’t need to experience being hooked up to the feed to know Portia’s evil,” Azibo replied. “Besides, I commune with God every night. It’s abhorrent to connect with something that’s not God and pretend like it is.”
“I guess.” Unity turned and logged onto the computer. “But you should at least try it once. As much as I hate her, it’s an amazing experience.”
The current mission: Gathering intelligence on a local Machina church in the city that was rumored to be poaching Catholics from St. Mary’s. According to their intel, the Machina members were going to mass and preaching the word of Portia, the new tech gospel, and they were succeeding.
The Collective wanted Azibo and Unity to attend mass and report back with information. They never knew what the Collective brass did with the information; they were too low on the totem pole to know that. Their job was to just observe and write up the reports.
Like any terrorist organization, the Collective’s job was to spread fear and intimidation. If more people thought twice about joining the Machina Church, if they thought a church would be fire-bombed, more would not attend.
The Collective apparently had grand plans and a vision of eliminating Portia altogether, but this seemed unlikely. They were more like a militia group in the American Revolutionary War – they fired away in minor skirmishes, hoping to win enough small battles to eventually win the war.
“You look tired,” Azibo said.
“I am, a little.” There were dark circles under Unity’s eyes. She typed away at the keyboard, pulling up directions to the church. “I stayed up too late reading last night.”
“That new book by what’s-his-name, the one about climate change.”
“About how Portia solved it?”
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
Azibo stared at her suspiciously. “Why read that garbage? It’s all praise and nonsense for Machina.”
“Ugh!” Unity frowned. “You have to know the enemy, Az. How many times have I been through this with you? Read what the enemy reads; think like the enemy thinks. That’s the only way.”
He looked outside; it was completely dark now—time to go.
“Are we leaving?” he asked.
“Let’s do it.”
He felt his hands twitching. He was tired of gathering intel and writing reports and he wanted some real action. Maybe something would happen at the mass tonight. He hoped it would.
To be continued
Check the following links to see previous installments of Mother Portia: