Zebra Synthetics was founded 80 years ago, in 2032, by pioneer artificial intelligence programmer Nabinala Mabte, who received the Turing Medal for Excellence in the Field of Robotics in 2030 for developing an AI that could run an entire large freight company, from its infrastructure and logistics to its finances, after having observed the previous human management for only 3 weeks.
The funding that came with this award allowed her to carry out the research needed to install similar AIs onto robotic bodies and frames. More current and updated versions of this technology are common nowadays, and serve humankind in many aspects and industries. Some say a modern iteration of the freight company’s AI is currently running ZS’s HQ, but the company has never confirmed it.
Zebra Synthetics’ main facility is called Monolith, a pyramid-shaped arcology that stands over the city, supported by huge pillars covered in thick cables as wide as trucks that sink deep into the ground.
ZS headquarters are located over the city of Mwandez, in the Sahara Desert. This part of the continent received new life when the flooding and rising sea levels allowed life to thrive where it used to be impossible.
The factories in which the automatons and robots are built are located at the base of the pyramid. Higher up are the labs where research and development are carried out, the living quarters for ZS’s employees and their families, and an area devoted exclusively to employee’s relaxation. The top of the pyramid is dedicated to the CEO’s apartments and office. Rumors say that there is another area, a top-secret enclosure called The Sarcophagus: a huge server room where the arcology’s physical mainframe is.
Monolith has a formidable defense system, with only one entrance reachable by land. This access point serves as an entry for trucks loaded with prime materials. All movement in this area is heavily monitored by automated turrets and security personnel. Higher levels of the pyramid have docking bays for flying vehicles to land and for freight airships to load finished automatons before distributing them to their final destinations, which is why the surrounding air space is under ZS’s total control.
The pyramid is covered in massive solar panels which power the whole complex. The surplus of energy produced provides electricity to the rest of Mwandez. Given that the city was formed around the arcology, it’s safe to assume that the sharing of resources is not intentional on the part of ZS.
Mwandez has a complex relation with Monolith. Its main economic activity is being one of the world’s most important markets for rarities and special technological items.
The products here range from antique vintage items to cutting-edge machinery made in Monolith, most likely brought to the market illegally.
Aside from suffering the noise pollution caused by the airships that constantly fly over the city, the people of Mwandez are subject to breathing in the fumes spewed by the immense exhausts of Monolith’s factories, which are not only harmful in themselves, but can also cause sandstorms. Mwandezians also feel envious of the luxury those who live in Monolith seem to enjoy, while they are dependent on scavenging the arcology’s wastes in order to make a living.
Monolith employees have the best legal salaries known on the planet, due to the company’s intention to only hire the best of the best. This has led many parents who live in Mwandez to try and force their children into becoming ZS employees so that all the family can move into Monolith and have a better life.
Another important aspect of how Monolith and Mwandez interact is the area situated the closest to the arcology. This part of the city is called Zone 9, and is a somewhat liberated zone. Local authorities don’t dare to attempt to control an area so close to Monolith, so the streets of Zone 9 are crowded with mercenaries, scavengers and corporate thugs, all often heavily armed. The tension between ZS’s armed personnel and those who live or visit this zone is high, but it supports what has been until now a delicate peace.
Also in Zone 9, and located under the base of the pyramid, is The Underlith. Hidden behind the jungle of thick cables that go into the ground, away from the city and in what seems a blind spot or a neglected zone by Monolith’s surveillance, some squatters have taken residence here. Given that the base was the first part to be built, is not strange that security here is weaker than in other places. It is a wild place, ripe for scavenging and shady dealing. Most citizens stay clear of it, but some think it’s only fitting that people of Mwandez live off whatever they can take from ZS.
Apart from Monolith, ZS has another important facility: Mandala Horizons, in Delhi. Mandala Horizons is a huge arcology decorated with mandalas and flowers, where both the most powerful intrusion programs and defensive ICE are developed. It’s well known that some of the world’s most complex, effective, and beautiful Grids are designed here.
Having Monolith and Mandala Horizons under its control, ZS develops both the best AIs used in cyberspace and the state-of-the-art automated androids that assist humans in the real world.
The company’s automatons, often called simply Zebras, are classified into several groups and types depending on the complexity of the tasks they are able to perform. The most common and massively produced model is the type Z, which was the first one to be built and it is currently on series 7. These Z-7 models are the most common android assistant and can be found in stores, front desks, and other customer service settings all over the world.
The company has also made enormous advances regarding high-tech cyber-implants that enhance the user’s physical and perceptive capabilities. However, there are rumors that seem to indicate that the Monolith facility is employing unorthodox research methods, including human experimenting, in their development of new and improved AIs and robots.