=ACE Battlesuit AIs
At the heart of the Armored Combat Exosuit (ACE) series of battlesuits is the plate holding the suit’s artificial intelligence. Indeed, the AI is literally at the suit’s heart, spending most of its existence submerged beneath a heavily armored band around the wearer’s chest. The AI’s plate can surface through the armor for removal, either for storage, evacuation from a damaged suit, or to be inserted into another device.
The AI’s role is to marshal the constant stream of sensor data and control the suit’s myriad functions while advising and assisting its human wearer. Some liken the relationship to the AI taking on the role of an army of veteran NCOs, while the human inside plays the role of junior officer: in command, but not so much in control. Ceaseless training between the human, the AI, and the suit they are paired into pays off when the AI starts to anticipate the commands of its wearer, and to emphasize the most critical threats and opportunities in the wearer’s helmet visor.
The anticipation can become so effective that many people have questioned the need for the human wearer at all, but there is an unshakable psychological need in the AI to play a supporting role to its human commander. To the AI, making decisions independent of its human’s orders is unthinkable, although the AI will take temporary control if its human is psychologically or physically unfit.
Some believe the suit AIs are grown from the souls of fallen comrades – or implanted with the mind and personality recordings of dead Marines. It is difficult to verify the truth of this as the means of construction are a carefully guarded secret.
Marines often use the word ‘telepathy’ to describe the way they communicate with their AIs. This is also difficult to prove one way or the other, but what is certain is that AIs communicate with their humans through multiple channels and with a great deal of redundancy to weather extreme conditions and the constant threat of cyber-attack. The link is deepened by wetware implants in the Marine that are designed specifically to interface with the AI. The result is a deep symbiotic link that is so intimate that the human often cannot be sure whether they are communicating by sub-vocalizing, or thinking words, or indeed whether an idea originated in the human or the AI mind.
When first introduced to each other, the AI will quickly adapt its personality to complement its wearer, shifting its temperament to match the human’s. For example, with a Marine who has just suffered a devastating loss, the AI may appear empathetic and caring, even maternal. If a danger appeared unexpectedly, the same AI might instantly switch to yelling at its wearer in the cruelest of manners in order to get them to move out of danger.
Over time, though, the AI will settle into its own personality, and will struggle to switch tone so rapidly. The final personality is a reflection of its wearer’s, an alter-ego. For some humans, this means an AI who acts like an identical twin, because their psychological need is for an ally who thinks like they do. For others, the AI acts like an ever-critical drill instructor, because their need is to be told what they already know they must do. These are just two simple examples. In practice the relationship with their suit AI is more complex and intimate than most humans ever experience with the men and women of their own kind.
Through cyber-attack or physical damage, it is possible for an AI to be rendered inactive. The wearer of a battlesuit will have trained to operate the powered armor without AI assistance, but even the best can do so at a fraction of the efficiency of the AI. Some facilities are completely impossible to replicate. For example, a Marine aiming and firing their SA-71 carbine will be used to their AI adjusting the precise position of the weapon and activating the motive power in the suit to compensate for recoil not dampened by the carbine itself.
The reverse can also be true. If its wearer dies, some AIs can control the battlesuit with a dead or unconscious human inside. Even these AIs must fight a constant battle against insanity that they will lose as soon as any immediate crisis has passed. Two pieces of evidence suggest this slip into insanity has been designed in. Firstly, an AI who believes their partner to be fit and well can be stored indefinitely in a dormant state separately from its human (even Marines don’t wear powered armor all the time). Secondly, a few rare examples of centuries-old AIs have been uncovered that are sane enough to be successfully paired up with multiple new human operators.
The design and function of the battlesuit AI still holds many mysteries. Nonetheless it is certain that the Marines would not exist in their modern form if not for the intimate link to their suit AIs. In this, the sometimes cantankerous AI is the ultimate best friend of the Marine, even more so than the SA-71 carbine.