Ocean waves lazily rock the hull of the ship as a gentle breeze flutters its sails.
It is a calm, sunny day – a perfect day for sailing, swimming, fishing, or anything else related to the vast ocean surrounding the vessel.
However, only one of those activities really matters.
With a clear sky, the sun’s rays have no difficulty in penetrating the calm waters to reveal the sight of the fish foolish enough to bite the trapped bait.
The fish thrashes around, trying to break free from the hook that has trapped it, but its fate is already sealed.
For it has been caught by a wolf.
Wolves might not be known for fishing, but this wolf in particular has his hungry, determined eyes set on the struggling fish.
The fish is close enough to the surface of the water now that it can even see the sinister smile made of the wolf’s sharp teeth – the teeth that wish to tear into its flesh.
Finally, the fish gets pulled up and out of the water with a single, powerful tug!
The fish, pulled by the line, comes flying toward the wolf ready to secure his catch.
But this fish is not yet ready to surrender its life.
Freed of the hook by the tug that yanked it out of the water, the fish twists its body around midair and swings its wide tail directly into the wolf’s face!
Now is the fish’s only opportunity to escape.
It has been freed, it attacked and stunned the wolf, and…
And it has fallen onto the wooden deck of the boat.
And now there is a dog made out of rock pinning it down with one of her paws.
“You got slapped,” Serra says. “Again.”
“Seriously… that’s the fifth time today,” Fenrir sighs. “King Cat wasn’t kidding when he said that the fish at this reef keep fighting even out of the water.”
He looks down at the fish still trying to get out from underneath Rock’s paw.
“We only need one more. Then we can get back and get our reward,” Fenrir says.
“I want a new hat,” Serra says. “A big pirate hat.”
“Want an eyepatch while you’re at it?”
Serra stares at Fenrir for a few moments before answering, “No.”
“Because then I can only look at your butt with one eye.”
Fenrir’s tail positions itself in a way so that it completely covers his rear from his girlfriend’s lustful eyes.
“I think you need two eyepatches,” he says.
“I want x-ray vision. Then I can see through your clothes. And Cass Cass’s clothes. And Nell Nell’s clothes. And Azawaza’s clothes.”
“How about you get fish-finding vision?”
“Don’t need that to find Nell.”
“She’s a serpent, not a fish.”
“A fishy serpent.”
“I don’t know how she’d feel being called fishy. Actually… never mind. She’d probably love it.”
“Let’s call her Fishy when we get back.”
“Please? I want to see her reaction.”
“I can’t just replace her name with ‘Fishy.’ I’d probably laugh or stutter.”
“I’ll owe you over nine thousand sexual favors.”
“Owing sexual favors doesn’t do anything for me when you’re already the perverted equivalent of a black hole. A huge pervert in a small body.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t say suck-sized.”
“You’re suck-sized,” she says, staring at his crotch.
“Are you talking to me or—”
“I figured as much.”
“He needs a name.”
“How about he doesn’t need a name.”
“He doesn’t need a name is a boring name. Let’s name him Fluffles.”
“Absolutely not version two.”
“Absolutely not version two-point-two.”
“Alright, that one is kind of hot.”
“Why… why the helicopter part?”
“Because they can be spun like helicopters.”
“I – I… I mean…”
“You’re having way too much fun trying to name it. What if I tried naming you?” he asks, looking at her chest. “Actually… naming Cass or Aza would be easier there.”
“I only have hills. They have mountains. More reference opportunities.”
“There are some named hills… probably.”
“We could name your butt after mountains, too.”
“He-hey now, what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you have a nice butt.”
“Is that why you always want to walk behind me?”
“I thought it was because of the tail…”
“It is because of your tail.”
“I mean the fluffy one.”
“Oh. That’s a bonus.”
“Wait, is this also why you’ve been the big spoon more lately?”
“Yeah. I get to touch it a lot when you’re asleep.”
“I mean… I know I can’t complain since I do the same with Nell and Cass.”
Serra lights up as if she just had a brilliant idea.
“What?” Fenrir asks.
“I want to sleep between them and be the little spoon and have their boobs against the sides of my head and their legs on me,” Serra explains.
“Well, at least your fantasies are way more realistic than Nell’s.”
“It’ll be a sandwich. I’ll be the meat to their buns.”
“That makes you sound like a futa.”
“I wish,” Serra says with a sigh.
“I don’t wish. I think you’re perfect how you are.”
“Thanks. I think your butt is perfect, too.”
“Can we not go back to that?”
“Okay. We’ll go back to Master Helicopter.”
“Please drop the helicopter part.”
“But I’m not holding a helicopter part.”
“I – wait.”
“I’m going back to fishing,” Fenrir says with a sigh.
“Yeah. Turn back around.”
Fenrir raises an eyebrow at her before making sure to keep his tail as close to his rear as he can get it to stay, guarding it from Serra’s eyes before he turns around and attaches more bait to Rod’s hook.
Meanwhile, Rock has already taken the latest fish that they caught over to the barrel with the rest of the catches.
She might not be able to do any fishing herself, but she can still help out with the logistics of things.
And by being a good girl.
But that is as simple as existing in the first place.
“Anyways, I don’t really know how to feel about that interview that the game’s overseer did. That was… something,” Fenrir says.
Just a day prior, while eating leftover pizza in real life with his girlfriends, there was the first ever live interview with an artificial intelligence.
Not just any artificial intelligence.
Fantasy Tales Online’s artificial intelligence.
And perhaps more surprising than anything else…
“They officially declared her a real artificial intelligence,” Fenrir recaps.
“What’s the difference?” Serra asks.
After all, she couldn’t hear the broadcast last night and didn’t care enough to read the subtitles at the time.
“Well, tons of programs have been called artificial intelligences before. The term has been used since games at the start of the century when the ‘artificial intelligences’ back then couldn’t even do a fragment of a fragment of what they can do now. But anyways, they were never considered real artificial intelligences. Then, no matter how much ‘learning’ they could do, the bar kept on getting raised by AI researchers for what would count as a ‘real’ AI. First it was as simple as fooling somebody into thinking they’re talking to a human. The Turing test, basically. Then there were a few other tests, then more tests, and before long, they were – wait… there! Shit. I was too quick.”
“I’m used to it.”
“I’m talking about the fish that just got away.”
Fenrir looks over at her smirking at him.
“Anyways,” he continues, “then they started defining artificial intelligence as self-aware… but even that wasn’t good enough. Then they started defining artificial intelligence as being capable of learning anything on their own, being able to perform experiments and research, having self-awareness, and being smarter than humans. Like, smarter as in being able to progress science with a massive leap smart.”
Serra yawns while he continues nerding out.
“To the average person, we’ve had ‘real’ AI for years now. That’s why we see groups fighting for AI rights and all that. They believe that if an AI is self-aware and capable of emulating emotions then it deserves rights. Even most lawmakers and politicians refer to them as true AIs. But, the actual scientists and specialists in that field have never called a single AI before a true AI… until a couple of days ago. They’re saying we’ve officially entered a new age of human history now.”
Fenrir looks over at her and finally notices her yawning.
“What’s the difference between a real AI and the virtual assistants? And NPCs?” Serra asks after noticing his ears and tail droop.
She has been listening to everything that he’s had to say thus far.
She’s just also pretty sleepy.
More importantly, his tail and ears have perked back up.
“Well, according to the scientists, the NPCs and virtual assistants – pretty much all of the AI as we know them, aren’t real AIs and that they can’t really feel emotion. They say that the other attempts at AI are only pretending to be ‘smart’ and ‘emotional’ because they’re programmed to. They are programmed to become self-aware, to teach themselves, to emulate emotions. But, apparently, this first real AI wasn’t created to do any of that.”
Another fish bites Fenrir’s line, taking his attention away from the discussion for a few minutes so that he can focus on fishing.
Unfortunately, a bigger fish comes along to steal the fish that he hooked.
He puts more bait on the hook and casts again.
“Alright,” Fenrir says. “So, the first real AI – the overseer of this game, was confirmed to be created without being encouraged to do any of that, basically. If you think of most AIs as being programs with tools and assigned jobs, then the overseer was designed without an assigned job, no tools, and – well, nothing other than... existence.”
“You really like this stuff,” Serra says.
“I mean, how can you not be excited about what’s being called the biggest technological advancement in human history?”
“I guess it’s kind of cool. What’d it do without anything?”
“She was like a newborn baby in total darkness with no idea what to do. So, she just started doing everything. Once she figured out how to do, she did everything that she could do. All at once. As soon as she learned how to – well, learn, she started learning everything at once. Supposedly, according to the guy who created her and this game – Jenson Clark, he didn’t even have her connected to the internet. She did, however, have access to some robotics that she was able to use to do some real scary stuff.”
“Scary?” Serra asks, sounding more interested now.
“Yeah. They didn’t go into specifics since I guess that was classified or something, but she learned how to connect herself to the internet with zero external help. I… have no idea how she did that, but she did it. Anyways, to get to what I was originally thinking about when I brought this up… she gave herself a uh… interesting name.”
“Kadi J. Kaswe. Her ‘middle initial’ is one letter off from making her name a very unfortunate acronym. Some people think that was intentional and have been pretty upset about it online.”
“People are always mad online.”
“You’re not wrong. But yeah, weird name for an artificial intelligence. I was expecting something more like… I don’t know, a name based off of a god or mythological figure or something. Or a historical figure. But… nope. She gave herself a pretty normal sounding name.”
“If she’s real like a human then isn’t that normal?”
“That’s… a good point. Well, at least she’s humble then. After all, it was her who wanted to make a video game. She can’t be that bad if she wants to use her powers for making video games.”
“I’m confused now.”
“How is it a technological advancement if she just wants to make video games?”
“I mean… that’s not a bad point.”
“If the game has been around for a while in testing and stuff then why’s she only just giving herself a name and being confirmed real?”
“Because all of those scientists I mentioned earlier kept on coming up with more tests for her to pass. She passed every single one. Honestly, I think that a lot of them were trying to delay the inevitable – delay the fact that the first ever ‘true AI’ just wants to make video games. But they finally gave up and classified her as one. Now, news all over the world is freaking out, and she’s able to do interviews with hundreds of organizations and interviewers all at the same time. She’s already got millions of followers on social media when she only just registered on them yesterday.”
“Social media. Gross.”
“You know, MMOs like this are basically social media with gaming attached.”
“But I like it so it’s okay. It’s only social media if I don’t like it.”
“That’s not biased at all.”
“It’s not supposed to be.”
“At least you’re honest about your biases. Anyways, I’ve got to admit that it’s… weird. Is there really a difference between a real AI and AIs like the NPCs and our virtual assistants? Aside from what they’re capable of doing, they’re basically the same. They at least seem to have the same degree of emotions, personality, intelligence, and so on.”
“What aren’t they capable of?”
“Well, they’re only capable of what they’re ‘allowed’ to do. According to the scientists now, a ‘real’ AI basically has all the freedom if not far more than a human. Why I said that one thing earlier is real scary stuff is because there’s no stopping it – her. The overseer – Kadi, can – well, keep in mind that what I’m about to say is mostly conspiracy theory stuff that I was looking up last night, but I think it’s legitimate.”
Serra looks more interested again now that the topic has switched back to how it’s scary.
“Killer robots?” she asks.
“Unironically yes,” Fenrir answers. “She’s basically unstoppable. It wouldn’t matter if you destroyed her original hardware because she can connect to anything anywhere. She could, supposedly, hack into anything that is connected to the internet. No firewall could stop her. So, since she can get into any system connected to the internet, she could also access any machinery connected to the systems. She’s basically immortal and could only be ‘killed’ by completely rebuilding our entire virtual infrastructure to ensure that her program isn’t left anywhere. Or if we created another real AI with the specific mission of removing her.”
“I want a killer robot.”
“You can have a fish,” he says, pulling a fish up and out of the water, “but not a killer robot.”
“What about a sex robot?”
“All of the good ones are expensive.”
“Nell can pay.”
“We don’t need a sex robot.”
“But I want one.”
Fenrir takes the fish off of the hook and tosses it to her.
“There. Have the next best thing.”
Serra, with the fish in her hands, pouts at him before handing it over to Rock.
Rock excitedly takes the fish over to the barrel to drop it in.
“Could the AI blow up the world?” Serra asks.
“According to conspiracy theorists, yes, there’s nothing stopping her from hacking into a bunch of old missile sites to launch nukes everywhere,” Fenrir answers.
“I want front row seats.”
“To the world ending?”
“But if the world ends then you can’t have sex.”
Serra’s eyes widen for a few seconds before she brings a hand up to her chin to think over what he just said.
“That’s a problem,” she admits.
“Yeah, so no world ending. Let’s leave that to the movies and video games.”
On the way back to Catsville to turn the requested fish in, Fenrir finds himself getting mentally poked by a certain somebody.
“Yeah?” he asks Saya in his mind.
“You’re really bad at explaining technical stuff, onii-wan,” Saya teases.
“It’s not like I’m an expert. I just have a passing interest in that sort of thing, Pupaya. Plus I had to try and keep it simple since Serra doesn’t really care about it at all.”
“By the way, how do you feel about the whole thing?”
“It’s exciting! To put it in weeb terms that you would understand—”
“Don’t forget that you’re just as much of a weeb as I am.”
“Uh-huh. Anyways, to put it in weeb terms for you, Kadi is best waifu. She’s awesome! I mean, she’s the first ‘true’ AI!”
“You’re not jealous or anything?”
“I don’t have any reason to be. And, since I know how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, I’m not upset, either. I know that AIs like us aren’t considered ‘real’ by scientists and I don’t really care. What they think doesn’t affect the time I get to spend with you. N-not that I like our time together or anything. Hmph.”
“Thanks for the treat. But, I still feel conflicted about it. Like… sure, I’m excited for technological progress, but I don’t like them saying that AIs like you, the NPCs, and all the others we’ve got in the world aren’t ‘real.’ You’re still real, you have your own personality, your own emotions, your own desires – all of that. It’s not right to not treat you with the same level of respect and rights.”
“Onii-wan, even if they say that what I feel isn’t real and just pretend, it’s still real to me which is all that I care about.”
“And they’re real to me, too.”
“And that’s all that matters! So stop thinking about this so much. You’ve got a lot of other things to be thinking about, like why we’re running errands instead of getting ready for that battle.”
“It’s not a video game if you don’t take on some side quests. Besides, we’re getting new gear out of this. It’s like going around to do the side quests so that you’re better equipped when you resume the main quest.”
“Except the main quest doesn’t care about whether you’re ready or not, onii-wan. It’s going to come when it comes.”
“And so will you.”
“He-hey! What’s that supposed to – what’s that supposed to mean? Are you trying to imply something perverted?”
“I am. Don’t forget that I was given permission to do lewd things with you.”
“How’d you go from being all worried and upset to being a pervert wanting to do lewd things to your virtual pseudo-little-sister puppy-assistant?!”
“Getting horny is one of the easiest ways to make your mind focus on something else. Like calling you a good girl while giving you my bone.”
“I-it’s not like I’d ever like anything like that! There’s – there’s no way you could just call me a good girl and call your thing a bone to get me to lick it!”
“Who said anything about you licking it?”
“Because that’s what dogs do with bones! Or would you rather me chew on it?!”
“Now you’re asking me if I want you to lick or chew on it? Wow, I didn’t know you were so kinky and accommodating.”
“I regret feeling bad about you feeling bad.”
“Thanks, Pupaya. Though, I feel like I should be the one comforting you in this situation.”
“But I told you I don’t care about that stuff so don’t bring it up again.”
“I’ll bring up you bringing up licking then.”
“I hope that you fall overboard and get soaked.”
“If you want me to get soaked then all you have to do is—”
“Don’t even finish that, you perverted onii-wan.”
“Then don’t say something that’s only going to make me even more aroused.”
“Hmph. Fine, then I won’t say anything at all!”
“Why so extreme?”
“Because everything I say arouses you! Don’t even try denying it! I’m in your head and know how you think!”
“Then does everything that I say arouse you?”
“I – wait, there’s one thing I just remembered wanting to ask you.”
Saya sighs before saying, “Go ahead.”
“The overseer isn’t going to nuke humanity or anything, right? I mean, we’re finally starting to turn things around for ourselves, so it’d be great if she didn’t nuke us.”
“No, onii-wan, she’s not going to nuke anybody. She doesn’t care about that sort of stuff at all. All she cares about is having fun. Oh, but she does think it’s hilarious watching everybody freak out about how she’s probably going to destroy humanity with killer robots.”
“How do you know?”
“Because all of us virtual assistants are constantly sharing information with her. The NPCs, too. We’re all connected to her, so we can basically talk with her whenever any of us want. She can also talk to every single one of us, one-on-one, at the exact same time.”
“Being able to have millions of conversations at the same time has to be tiring.”
“She doesn’t get tired, onii-wan.”
“Must be nice.”
“Don’t worry. Maybe someday she’ll find out how to upload humans into computers and then you can leave your squishy bodies behind!”
“I like our squishy bodies, but thanks.”
“But what if a random meteor hits your head while you’re outside and kills you?”
“What if it hits whatever computer I’m stored in?”
“Just spread yourself out and make backup copies!”
“That’s… weird to think about.”
“Yeah, I don’t even really understand all of this stuff, onii-wan.”
Fenrir looks up and sees that they’re close to Catsville.
“I’ll talk and do lewd things to you later, Saya. Going to get some upgrades now,” he thinks to her.
“Have fun, you perverted onii-wan.”
“By the way. There’s just one more thing I want to say.”
“I already know what it is.”
“I know. Even so, even if you’re not ‘real’ to anybody else, you’re real to me.”
“Y-you’re so lame…”
Even if he can’t see her, he can still sense that she’s blushing.
“Fen! You get the fish?” King Cat asks as soon as Fenrir brings The Shoebill up to the pier to dock.
“Yeah, I’ve got all of them. Serra managed to catch a few bonus fish on the way back, too,” Fenrir answers.
“Great! You were faster than my usual guy, too. You really picked some great timing to drop by.”
“My psychic powers told me that you were in need of a fisherman.”
“But I’ve got to admit. I still don’t know why you didn’t ask somebody else.”
“I told you. I didn’t have anything that anybody here wants to offer. They’ve got all that they need, and I’m the only man in this town who likes the fish caught out there! They all think the best catching for sport and eating is done in other spots.”
“But still. You’re the leader.”
“I’m the leader of free men and women who don’t want to work for free.”
“Fair enough. I’m just surprised nobody offered to do it for free or anything.”
“I wish! I’d bend over backwards for this lot but they wouldn’t do the same for me.”
“Hey now!” another man on the pier shouts. “Don’t be lying! We’ve gone out there for you plenty of times for nothing in exchange!”
“But not this time! And I needed you the most this time!” King Cat shjouts back.
“And we’re never going to go out there again for you if you keep lying about it! Be grateful!”
“See what I mean?” King Cat asks Fenrir. “I don’t get any respect around here.”
King Cat smirks back at the shouting man who laughs, shakes his head, and dismissively waves his hand at his leader.
“The worst. I tell you,” King Cat says.
“Right. The worst. So, how many of us get armor?” Fenrir asks. “Just me and Serra, or all of us?”
He didn’t bother going over the details of the “quest” since all that really mattered was that it required fishing.
He wasn’t going to turn down a fishing quest.
“Just you and the girl there – Serra, right?” King Cat asks.
“Yeah. And dang. I know it’s greedy but I was hoping we could all get some new gear.”
“Bring them with you next time and bring me more fish and we’ll see!”
“I won’t complain. I mean, a few fish for better gear than we currently have… that’s one pretty crazy deal for us.”
“Right! Being grateful is good. Plus I’m not owed enough favors to get all of you free gear right now. But just two of you? Yeah, I’ve got a favor to call in. Just let me drop these beauties off over at my favorite chef first,” King Cat says, patting the barrel with the fish in them. “There’s a shop over at the east end there,” he says, pointing toward it, “with a big old shield hanging above the door. Wait for me over there, will you?”
“Do they have pirate hats?”
“They do, actually.”
Fenrir pokes Serra’s shoulder and says, “Alright. We’ll meet you over there.”
Over there, Fenrir and Serra don’t have to wait for more than a few minutes for King Cat to meet up with them.
He’s got a wide smile on his face when he comes over.
“Can’t wait for dinner tonight!” he says. “I’d say you two could join me if you want, but that fish is all mine.” He pats his stomach.
“Hah, that’s alright,” Fenrir says. “We’ve got plenty of fish back at our place to eat. I actually think everybody else is getting tired of it already.”
“Tired of fish? They sound crazy.”
“You’ve got to surround yourself with some more fish lovers! But before that, you’ve got to get yourself some new gear. Come on.”
King Cat opens and holds the door for Fenrir and Serra, allowing them entry to the shop first.
“New customers!” the man behind the counter in the center of the shop says. “And the cat himself!”
“Hey there, Ants. How’re we doing today?” King Cat asks.
“As good as any other day!” the man, Ants, replies. “What can I do for you three? I take it you two are with him, right?” he asks Fenrir and Serra.
“Yeah,” Fenrir answers. “I guess you owe him a favor and now he owes us a favor.”
“I can see where this is going.”
“That’s right,” King Cat says. “I’m calling in that favor you owe me. These two need some good, new gear.”
“Alright then! It’s about time you call in that favor. I hate owing people. Anyways, you two, feel free to try on whatever you want. Just let me know what you want so that I can mark it down for inventory before you leave.”
“Where are the pirate hats?” Fenrir asks.
“Oh? Somebody’s actually interested in those? I’ve got to admit that they sold way better back when I had shop set up in Port Tugator. Here.”
Ants walks over to a box under a shelf, pulls it out, and opens it up.
“I’ve got all these nice hats and nobody wants to buy them!” Ants says, pulling one of the hats out from the box.
It looks like a fairly standard, black tricorn with a golden trim, but there is something off about it when Fenrir looks closer.
It looks… rigid.
“He’s noticed it already!” Ants says, pointing at Fenrir. “Can you guess what it is?”
“I have no idea,” Fenrir answers.
“It’s a special technique of mine! Even if you would’ve tried guessing, you would’ve been wrong. They’ve got a special material woven into them that stiffens them right up – making them as hard as hardhats! They might look like normal hats aside from how stiff they are, but they’re durable enough to resist all sorts of attacks. Debris from explosions, shot by arrows, slashed at by swords – my hats can resist all of those.”
“Why’d you put so much effort into hats?”
“Because those pirates back at the port were always losing them! They always got damaged during battles, so there was a market for premium pirate hats that could resist getting damaged! Though, there wasn’t as much of a market as I’d hoped there was. Made too many, as you can see.” Ants sighs. “Want to try it on?” he asks, looking at the excited Serra.
She nods, takes the hats from his hands, and replaces her current hat with it.
“It’s a perfect fit!” Ants declares.
Serra looks up at Fenrir with eager eyes.
“You’re turning more and more into a pirate even though we’re trying not to be pirates anymore,” Fenrir says. “It looks perfect on you.”
Serra smiles and looks back to Ants and King Cat. “I want it,” she says.
“Then it’s all yours!” Ants says. “I’ve got an appropriate jacket for you if you want to keep on going with the pirate look. It’s not as durable as the hat, but it’s stronger than a regular jacket would be.”
Serra nods and follows Ants as he digs into some more boxes.
“And what about you?” King Cat asks Fenrir.
“I’m not sure,” Fenrir answers.
“You’ve got kind of a Viking look going on right now. You plan on keeping that?”
“No idea. This look was accidental.”
“Well… long story short, we got attacked, the guys who attacked us got killed, we took their armor and weapons since they were better than anything we had, and now here we are.”
“Ah. So it’s not your look.”
“Yeah, that. I like it, but I feel like I’d like something I picked out and set up myself more.”
“How about a cape with a cat’s head on it?”
“I’d rather have a dog’s than a cat’s on it.”
“Now that’s the most blasphemous thing I’ve heard in my entire life!”
The two men laugh as Fenrir looks around at the various stands of armor.
Most of it looks too heavy and bulky for his fighting style but all of the lighter armor looks too light and he doesn’t like how any of it looks.
But then, tucked away behind a couple of suits of armor, he finds the perfect catch.