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Ali
Ali
Vital statistics
Position Toter of Light
Age 12
Status Member of the Dust
Physical attributes
Height Below average
Weight Underweight
 Ali is a street beggar whose connection with the Ultranet enables her to throw the Global Union into chaos.

BiographyEdit

Aliyah, usually known as Ali, was born in a small village in the Dark Lands. Raised by her impoverished mother, Ali grew up in a shack made from old remnants of "smart" technology. Although no one else knew how to operate the technology, Ali's mother and neighbors found that the walls of their homes lit up when Ali neared them. This strange occurrance led them to nickname her the "Toter of Light." 

Ali and her mother loved one another deeply, but love alone did not provide enough nourishment to keep Ali alive. Ali's mother knew that her only child was starving, but she had no solution to the problem until a stranger named Obaid entered the village. Obaid presented Ali's mother with an offer: if she would relinquish Ali to his custody, then he would not only reimburse Ali's mother, but he would ensure that Ali would be raised in better circumstances. In the end, Ali's mother received a lamb and two chickens, and Ali went with Obaid to the city of al-Balat.

Obaid, unfortunately, was more a child trafficker than a philanthropist. He ran a begging operation from an abandoned building, sending out his "family" of young children to request money and trinkets from wealthy Dark Landers or Union visitors. He called himself "Khal"--the Arabic word for a maternal uncle--but he ran the operation strictly as a business. Obaid required each child to meet a begging quota. Children who failed to fill the quota were punished. Obaid's partner Nafia usually managed to protect the girls from severe mistreatment, but she could not stop him from harming the boys. Boys who failed to fill their quota, or who angered him in some other way, were beaten. Sometimes their injuries--which Obaid called "accidents"--were so severe that they resulted in permanent handicaps. Ali's friend Sarim lost one of his legs to Obaid's punishment.

Ali's old "Toter of Light" status was forgotten. Ali focused on survival, doing her best to meet her quota. She even began learning English so that she would be better able to beg from Global Union visitors. Unfortunately, as she grew older, she had more difficulty meeting her quota. By the time she was nine years old, Ali found her daily begging brought in progressively worse results.

StormEdit

Ali appears at the end of Storm at what is also the midpoint of Spark, offering comfort and mental freedom to the imprisoned Logan Langly.

SparkEdit

"Somehow, somewhere along the line, I became nothing but a pawn in a chess game." —Ali

With the help of her friend Sarim, Aliyah has a rare good day of begging, only to lose her earnings when a gatekeeper tries to drive them away from the airport. Obaid locks Ali in a basement closet to punish her for her failure, which terrifies Ali. She believes that "tinchers" live in the basement, and Obaid wants to use her fear to teach her a lesson. To Ali's shock, however, a tincher--a small one that looks like a robotic rat--digs its way into the tiny closet where Obaid left her. She faints, waking up to find Sarim letting her out of the closet. Somehow the lights in their building have turned on, and Sarim is afraid that they may be in danger.

Once out of the building, Ali sees the tincher in the street again. In the open, it seems less frightening, so Ali chases it when it moves away from her, calling it "Little Tinchi." She follows the tincher until it leads her inside the old hospital that the people of al-Balat believe is haunted. It is filled with tinchers of all sizes and shapes, and, at Ali’s presence, they come to life. Frightened, Ali flees, but not before she is caught on an IMP-monitored video camera. The next night, IMPS raid al-Balat, looking for her. They quickly arrest Obaid, Nafia, Sarim, and the others, but Ali almost escapes. Following a series of electrical lights that seem meant for her, she evades the IMPS until she hesitates. Then the IMPS find her and transport her to a prison in Third Rome.

The IMPS cruelly interrogate Ali about her connection to vestige computing—the “smart” technology that mysteriously turns on when Ali nears it. Ali, however, has no answers for them—her connection to the technology is innate. It is this innate connection that the IMPS did not plan for. Desperate to escape, Ali shouts “Stop!” in hope that the IMP technology will respond to her. It does. In the darkness and confusion, Ali flees the prison and makes her way into the streets of Third Rome, where she is found by a wealthy Marked man who calls himself Uncle Nico.

Nico takes Ali to his home in the Taurus Mountains, where he provides her with food, clothing, and education. Ali had never learned to read or write, so the computer generated teacher “Mr. Arty” instructs her in the virtual classroom created by a brain-computer interface in Nico’s basement. From basic skills they move on to other subjects, but ultimately they focus on computer programming. Ali does not understand why—particularly since, despite her old connection to vestige technology, she is a very average programmer.

While in the program, Ali meets the artificial intelligence that controls the Ultranet. The AI, who Ali soon comes to call "Mother," takes Ali from the classroom and introduces her to the world through virtual reality. There Ali also finds Logan Langly suspended in the tangled web of his brain-computer interface. Ali helps Logan from the nothingness in which he has lived for three years, leading him into the virtual reality of his father's architectural computer programs. She befriends him, and Mother warns Ali that Logan's situation is an example of just how dangerous the Global Union can be. Logan was outmaneuvered, and, although he succeeded in doing what he thought he should do, those things were precisely what the Union wanted him to do.

Ali realizes that the Global Union is trying to find her, and, in her terror, she begins to doubt everyone--including Mother. Fearing that the Global Union might hurt Uncle Nico for her sake, she tells him about her connection with smart technology and tries to show him how it reacts to her. Mother, however, refuses to cooperate, leading Ali to mistrust both Mother and Uncle Nico. Uncle Nico then informs Ali that the Ultranet has made it possible for someone to come after her with an army of tinchers. Mother suggests that Uncle Nico is not trustworthy. Logan, for all his past experience, cannot offer any advice to Ali. Angry at Mother, she blurts nearly everything to Uncle Nico.

But Uncle Nico is not what he seems. Wanting to know Ali's remaining secrets, he keeps her imprisoned in a brain-computer interface while the tinchers storm the house. The visitor breaks into the basement and, to Ali's susprise, says that has come to rescue her. He is Daniel Peck, a Markless leader who has searched for three and a half years in order to find her. Uncle Nico tries to summon IMPS to arrest Peck, but Ali's old control over technology returns, and she disables their body armor, preventing the IMPS from moving or firing their weapons. Uncle Nico, however, has a final trick up his sleeve. Revealing that he is, in fact, Chancellor Dominic Cylis, he pulls an old pistol without any connection to technology and uses it to shoot Ali in the chest.

Peck frees Ali's injured body from the BCI and, devastated, allows the tinchers to take them back to the hospital in al-Balat. He believes that Ali must have been too brain-damaged from her prolonged unconsciousness to return to normal life. Mother, however, intervenes. In Ali's last few conscious seconds in the BCI, Mother replicated her brain inside the Ultranet. From inside, Ali wreaks havoc on the Global Union's technological system, taking the power from the GU's technology and using it to turn on the lights in the Dark Lands. Then the tinchers place a computer chip in Ali's physical brain that brings her back to consciousness, fully possessed of her faculties. Although initially disappointed by her return to the physical world, Ali soon finds that the brain damage resulting from her injury has worked unexpected good. With the help of the computer chip, she can exist in both the real world and in the Ultranet, keeping Logan company while helping Peck launch a Markless revolution.

Before war begins in earnest, however, Ali returns to her old village. There she greets her mother, who has spent the past nine years regretting that she gave Ali away. The tinchers rebuild the village using the smart technology, giving the people real heating and light for the first time. While Ali realizes that a great battle is ahead, for the first time in her life, she feels confident enough to hope.

Physical AppearanceEdit

Ali is small for her age. She has light brown skin with dark hair and eyes.

PersonalityEdit

Ali learned to cope with difficult circumstances growing up by compartmentalizing the different parts of her personality. She even developed names for these parts—Nervous-Ali, Brave-Ali, Sarcastic-Ali, and so forth. Frequently doubting herself, she sometimes imagined that these personality fragments were arguing inside her head about what she should do.

Ali often hides her sensitivity beneath a bold front, but inwardly, she longs to be loved. Cylis recognizes this vulnerability and uses it to manipulate her. Ali’s near-death experience, however, teaches her just how precious life is. Waking in Peck’s care, and soon reunited with her mother, Ali learns what it is like to be truly loved. She stops compartmentalizing her personality and begins acting with confidence rather than doubt.

Family and RelationshipsEdit

Ali loves her mother very much, even though she was separated from her for eight years. Even in the hard years with Obaid, Ali knew that her mother had never intended to put her in danger, and she missed her. Ali harbors no ill will toward Obaid or toward Cylis, despite how they treated her. Although determined to stop Cylis, Ali is focused more on helping others than on avenging past wrongs.

SkillsEdit

Ali is extremely bright. Although she received no formal education until she was nine, she proved a quick learner. Her computer programming skills are average, but her intuitive connection with the Ultranet allows her to perform feats of which most programmers could not even dream.

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