Friday, 19 June 2015
He opened his eyes to the dark early morning of his spacious quarters. With all currents pulled and all shutters raised the dark sky revealed itself to be still generously dotted with the flickering lights of the stars. The round dome covering his bedroom was not getting in the way of the view at the slightest, and at first it seemed he had awoken on top of a mountain, far away from everything. That's right. He had dreamt of a mountain. His hand searched around and found the corner of the foam bed. His fingers swam in the delicate bubble mass until they sank to the soft mattress and the bubbles gently stiffened in a delicate shell around his palm. Despite the cosiness of the bed he had slept on the floor. No blanket, no pillow, no smart foam; just the hard floor. He touched the foam with his other hand and the bubbles softened to a mush, keeping their form on top of the bed.
He had awoken before the alarm again. Had sleep for about three hours only. No pain in the neck and no need for coffee. Coffee... When did he have his last cup? He could not remember but he was thinking about coffee. He remembered the distinct bitterness of the everyday ritual with which he began working every day. He remembered sleeping for three hours back then as well; thoughtfully scratching the side of his head. A point of time when he had to, against all odds, ignore the intense pain and just keep going. But he could not remember when exactly he felt pain for last ...or had a cup of coffee. Well, time to begin the day.
He stepped over a book; a paper book he was reading until late this morning. The black, thin tome with yellow old pages read 'Ethics' on the front cover with just three more words underneath it - 'Benedict de Spinoza'.
On his way to the stairs he passed next to papers, hung on the wall. Old diplomas. James P. Patterson. Doctorate degrees in Biology; Chemistry; Nanoionics; Digital Sciences; Medicine; awards for academic excellence; Ph. D., ect. All framed in wood and glass. A reminiscent of the past.
Only one suspicious step was leading out of his round bedroom, above the rest of the apartment. When he stepped it descended with quiet elegance to the bottom, landing him in front of a marble top with a washing sink carved in. An ephemeral and magenta holographic screen visualised in front of him with buttons encapsulating various commands. He pushed one of them and a thin film ejected behind the marble top, hardening and changing texture until it became a mirror. A spotless, immaculate face of a young man with sharp, almost aggressive dark eyes looked at him from the reflection. Spotless and glossy black hair, swept backwards. He blinked some and tried to mellow down the steep curve of his eyebrows, so as to appear less hawkish but as soon as he relaxed his muscles his face took on the slightly predatory aspect, as if ready to sink teeth. Oh well... that was just the way he looked, he thought.
A small, metallic ball hovered around him. 'Please allow biometric scan', an adorable metallic voice hummed. He raised his palm and the small bot inspected it briefly with a flash.
The med-drone continued its inspection, buzzing around him, giving soothing reports about muscle mass, bone density, blood vessel condition, metabolic functions and whatnot. James didn't pay attention and walked to his desk. There he found the scattered papers he was immersed in last night. His scribing and drawings; the small foot notes next to the text taken with a pencil. Access to any piece of information was available from the web. It could be projected in the lenses of his eyes, while having updates transliterated into long term memory. Although the disks of the electroencephalogramic circle were trendy, they didn't sit well on his skull, he thought. Instead he had printed several papers and had worked directly on them. Comfortably bend in the thinking man's pose; him and some old philosophical essay with his etchings on the side. The voice recorded bookmarks were used far too many times. He wanted something different than his own assertive voice. He wanted experiments.
James had hardly read a paragraph when a small blue dot blinked in on the edge of his peripheral vision. He turned his head in the direction and saw a bot adhering itself to the outside the thick, transparent multi-polymer shields of his apartment. Unauthorised?! Delivery bots couldn't just do that. There was a whole set of rules, violated when the comm had not been addressed with information for the fly by. He inquired and found nothing. An invisible small bot sat patiently on the outside of the window, quite high above ground. He observed the drone for a little bit, sat cosily in his chair and the drone sent the faint signal again. Double blink of the small blue dot. A short wave signal purposed only for him, probably. And saving energy as well; the simpler it was, the more invisible it would be. He swoop his hand over the edge of the work top and the bluish, ephemeral screen appeared again. He scrolled around coming to a particular line and moved a cursor across a band. The bot began to sink in the glass and found its way in. It clumsily hovered to his desk and settled on the side, unfolding its small hulk. A delicate limb stretched and placed a small cube on his desk, then the bot inquired politely as to the nearest recycling depot.
'Ok,' he though. 'No meta-data, no tracing insignia, no footprints. Who is going to look for you, little fellow?' He took it with both hands and rolled it around to look for manufacturing details, but found only the stamp of the three dimensional printing date - five hours ago. And the short abbreviation of the conglomerate's labs in town. That's right! He was expecting a report. Hahaha!
He sent the bot on its way to the recycler, took the cube and walked away from the desk. Synthesized DNA strands with double layer of data encryption. That was the usual method. The dehydrated and preserved acids would disintegrate quickly after reading. The polymerase reaction would take some time and they had to be read monomer by monomer. The quicker methods were still making mistakes. And with two layers of encryption it would be gibberish in the end.
He left the cube to sink in the the scanning receptacle and took a seat again, turning his gaze to the outside. The Sun was coming from underneath the horizon, bathing the far clouds in muted shades of orange and red. Against the sea of cantaloupe-coloured fluff, dark towers rose above the conurbation of the metropolis. The larger shadows of delivery hulks were scuttling like beetles; the lines of air traffic like ants; the obscured dots shining on the far ground and the dark, out of shape cloud of the construction bots surrounding a new column of steel-ceramic and concrete compounds. A huge intertwined trunk of a three, patiently growing out there on the edge of the city. Housing people in the morphogenetic diversity of its fruits, kindly guided by science to take the desired shape. He was rhythmically tapping fingers in his desk.
Another old impression found its way into his mind. Just an innocent extrapolation on a long past experience. He found himself craving tobacco. Clapping both his hands on the work top enthusiastically, James stood up and dashed to the wardrobe.
Upon swinging the wide doors a dark mass crept over from a stand and pooled in his legs. It started oozing up, gently and deliberately. He sighed with boredom and tried getting it off with hands, but the goo just covered him from neck to bottom, regardless. It 'crystallized' into an elegant black suit, a bordo shirt and a silk tie. No authorisation what so ever! A window visualised in the space in front of him, displaying a friendly looking female face, telling him of the gratitude of a research team and politely requesting feedback on the new product, designed for the business-echelons of society. Details were hovering under the window and he send back a message, politely analysing the benefits of the reprogrammable matter, the softness of texture of the fabric, but also reminding her that the thing did not want to get off on command, or at least a command he knew. No authorisation... of course. They were part of the conglomerate. It wasn't an intrusion on private space when it was simultaneously a gift and a request to assert the usefulness of a new product. Culture, he thought, was moving in a circle.
He unbuttoned the suit and threw it on the side. Laughing, he browsed through the clothes looking for something less gimmicky.
He came out in a smart pair of light brown trousers, white shirt and an amber coat. A sporty coat pant men suit. To put the old-fashioned, autumn-leaf-coloured neck-tie he had to remind himself the technique by going through a vid, uploaded in the net fifty four years ago. Delighted he set an algorithm with changing meta-data set of footprints to spam recommends on the vid for five minutes. It would be interesting, seeing the reaction in the public space.
'I would like to remind you,' a soothing female voice reported. 'That you have not had any breakfast today, Mister Patterson. Do you want me to order anything for you on descent?' Stroking his hand across his superannuated coat, he was on his way to the lift when he passed through the soft membrane of the 'front door'.
'No, thank you!' Spinning on his toes he went back into his penthouse, 'Oh... another day on balloons,' he was thinking while darting across the room. Going into the 'kitchen' he found himself in front of shelves of round opaque containers, soft to the touch. He grabbed one and started gulping the purified water from within. Berries were growing in a large conical pot next to the shelves. Mixed meta gene fungi and lichens composed a light green carpet, on top of which small leaf growths were making their way up. The small fruits came in various colours and were heavy on the thin stems, resembling grapes on the vine. James was stuffing his mouth hastily, while his other hand was packing fruits in his pocket. He decided he was going for a long walk today. Ripping a sponge of synthesized protein plastic to pieces and down they went with a controlled dose of glucose. Looking twice at the giant Lilly-like flower that had excreted the sticky gel overnight, he just started biting it whole, prematurely disabling the hyperglycaemia message from the med-drone. A quick inhale of vitamin vapour and he was good to go.
On his second way to the elevator he got an update with the decrypted message from the cube. Sitting in the sofa of the glass conveyor tube he chose bullet point assessment style for the report. The fleeting screen of text settled in front of him, flickering slightly at the rapid, but mild descend of the elevator. Outside the sun was on its way across the sky, brightly lighting the high spires of the city. The lower levels were still covered in morning gloom and the ground was pitch black. The stars overhead were disappearing while the lights down there were still distinguishable.
'Full neuron mapping at a hundred percent. Simulation began immediately after; computation at a protocerebrum level ... algorithmic vector behavioural code assimilated and overthrown. HA,' he clapped his hands with a childish expression. 'Emotional already!'
James tried a serious expression, but a smile crept over and he sniggered as if trying to hide his laughter from someone.
He send a polite request to lab asking them to download his designer program from the cloud. Upload as soon as instructions per second level human brain computation. And a safety threshold at the limit of which it would all be streamed and encoded into a memory bank. The whole operation from the simulation to the behavioural codes and the knowledge he was imparting on it. Two legs, two arms, a body and a head.
'OK, ok'. He settled in his seat and took his slate out to set a timer at forty hours. A private message from Phan, seventeen hours old sat in expectation of his attention.
'Money Y/N?' he read on the screen.
Naturally he wanted to chat about it with Phan. But seeing the way he himself was he expected something similar to be going on with the rest of the gang. Well, maybe they would not have the same opinion as he might on this or that point, but... getting old? Sometimes he even found the time to think he was not good enough to be doing what he was doing any more. And that in a way spoke of some sort of a change, did it not? Another broad and honest smile split his face and he left the slate on the side of the sofa.
He spent the rest of his descend journey checking the synthesis on the Meta data of how the company was doing on the scene. As an everyday ritual he wasn't going through internal reports, but rather how the thing was viewed from the outside. Nothing exciting in the well-oiled machine of the corporate hulk today. Minor changes; small inputs; a message of praise here, a message of advice there; reprimand and reward, and soon as he reached ground level he shut it off. Still dark.
He headed in the general direction of the 'tree' on the edge of town, eating berries from his pocket. In the morning shadow the broad avenue was bustling with vehicles. Single wheelers, smooth edged electric cars, bulbous low buses with fully transparent tubes. The hurried bots above the boulevard were making the air traffic; some were stopping for recharge in the plugs available in higher stories. Big turtle-like hulks of the delivery conveyors were dropping crates of supplies on top of building, while empty ones were hauled back. The hulks were suspended on support poles on top of the various merchandise houses while powered back via light waves from the buildings. Underground network of tubes were also delivering, but mostly people travelled on them.
He was walking barefooted on the side of the traffic - a bed of grass thriving on soil. Small swarms of mouse sized constructs were scurrying through the low growth on errands of inspection, marketing, advertising or observation. Some of the clothes of the crowd were changing shapes, tightness, colour and texture. A number of the gadgets like watches, slates and jewellery were illuminating the surroundings in the missing stead of the street lights; powered by the omnipresent radio transmission on the ground. Somebody's skin and eyes shifted hue like a chameleon. Smart-dressed individuals focussed on their semi-transparent tablets, non-impressed by the mass and not bothered with privacy.
'A real sensation of a woman, sweetie?' A tall girl with a deep voice turned to him. 'I like old-fashion boys like you!' She smiled.
He nodded politely but did not slow pace.
'Maybe you'll love it in a different way?' She tagged playfully, her skin shifting to deep purple and her eyes light magenta.
Booths along the green side walk were offering designer foods, which came in shapes, and sizes you could recognize from old encyclopaedias. There were things you have not seen to date. Colours of the rainbow were intertwining in fruits; the shapes of the nuts; a sweet sludge dripping from a nest of lazy bees; spaghetti that crawled in the bawl. People were choosing from the menagerie in the large pots, the terrariums, the plants growing right in front of them on the street. An utopia for the modern organics. Information for nutritional values and growth methods were available on line for the scientifically interested.
The spirit of the ancient city was evident in the artistic Metropolis. The guise of commerce was kept by transactions made from personal accounts and validated by bio-metric details: fingerprints, eye-irises, DNA patterns, voice confirmation. The phantasmagorical crowd was bustling in search of experiences, seeking discovery on every corner in an unexpected choice of the collective. It was an unanticipated move away from the tradition of a century before. A century ago it was fashionable to be a pessimist. A century after there was no fashion. James could make the comparison empirically.
A splash of a fish pulled out of a tank interrupted his deepening contemplation, wetting his face. The man behind the counter (clear Asian background) smiled and nodded back apologetically. He and his customer laughed. James smiled back.
The biggest in the world were constructing trade centres the size of cities, housing research and development teams, which presented their newest discoveries directly to the corporate organs. The gargantuan conglomerates were economies bigger than countries these days. Each of them had a core and the rest of the assets were shifting in ownership and swam back and forth between agreements, takeovers, popular public opinions and general commerce, the size of which equalled states. In comparison the Metropolis' policy was tax collection. Every transaction contributed to the presence of the vast artistic crowd on the global canvas. If not enough transactions were made you would be taxed accordingly based on income. If too many transactions occurred you could refund. Social policies about environment awareness were omnipresent and the self-containment was effectively only a front cover. The Metropolis was buying patents and technologies to be reiterated in the inventive way the public here was capable of. Open source public highway into the latest on the market. And the Metropolis was selling back. Palettes and packs with one click application for internal and external recombination that only an artist could provide. Innovation in social policies; designer Meta genes of foods; unique organic experiences with guides; space for expression and the most valuable thing of all - somebody's time dedicated only to you. Creativity and services had a price. You could not talk about trends any more when billions all over the world were living on small time local production by manufacturers, who looked more like artists than business owners. Why obtain a license from a meticulous bureaucrat when you could develop a unique style by a beginning of imitation? In a way bureaucracy was a choice, giving certain freedoms and taking away others.
He came by an Arab tent, serving coffee off small pots, boiled over sand. The network translating for them, they had a friendly chat for a bit. Sipping the muddy black liquid; sat on a thick white pillow he observed the dark-skinned uncovered females, walking in white togas and inquiring politely as to the quality of the sweets and beverages served.
The sun had illumined the surroundings when a loud voice of frustration was heard from the other side of the avenue. Turning his gaze that way he saw an engineering team busied around an unusual mesh of cables, parts and old instruments scattered about. Behind them a large additive manufacturing crane was printing a wall section on top of a storey. The small robotic appendages on the high end were moving swiftly, like a spider's legs weaving a web. Large hovering drone-tubs were spraying a foamy gel, which hardened into weight bearing points - the skeleton of a building. Tele-operated robots were checking the hardiness of the quickly emerging structure with rumbling vibrations. He checked for details on the web, based on the address of the building. An art patron had just challenged the team of engineers who were constructing his new apartment on a whim. He had uploaded all details and had made a small sensation in the public space out of his deliberate request.
James went through some of the details and posted a suggestion for the engineers. Why not print processing chips here and now and simulate with an architectural program requested from the municipality? You have your slates as screens and memory bank. A bit primitive but it will do the trick. Or if somebody from the wider public could please help with an algorithmic set of data for the operation. While he was sipping the last of his coffee the post got some likes and ‘thank you’s and he switched the projection away.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'
- Arthur C. ClarkeI apologise for using such a cliché statement from the eternal Clarke, but it is true.
It is easy to imagine some future settings in which our heroes are having the usual adventure accompanied by a plethora of events of drama, action, envy, emotions ect. The Science in the Fiction sometimes comes from just comfortably inventing technological gadgets that take care of the small, but somehow crucial details of a story. Without much consideration and/or research it is easy to fall in a trap where technological advancement serves the only purpose of facilitating how those crucial details are affecting and helping the dramatic unfolding of events to take place; and an entire universe to exist in a speculative realm. Thankfully, in my mind there is a line drawn between speculative fiction and Science Fiction. Take for instance power consumption.
Giant interstellar ships are somehow omnipresent. Huge hulks sailing the constant solar winds in open space, either through hyperspace jumps, or through some fusion reaction; non-existent alien fuels also come to mind. Quite comfortably a very crucial element of ship propulsion is taken care of by a method that will essentially provide enough power that any other form of weapon-usage becomes obsolete. A mere plasma pulse will be enough to mess up the delicate balance of a planet's geological systems. And that power is readily available to any sufficiently advanced civilizations that can operate ships, giant enough to transfer entire legions, carry innumerable nuclear heads for orbital bombardment or just casually punching anti-matter bombs from space. In the curious case of anti-matter, the very encapsulating of the material will consume enough energy in the form of electro-magnetic fields that it will not make sense to spends it all on exotic weaponry with the addition that extra energy will be needed to propel the additional weight in space.
But that would take care of so much of the drama needed in novels, would it not? The last thing I would like somebody to think of me is that I am some sort of an iconoclast that is here only to criticise endlessly the work of other people. No! I do respect anyone who had the time to sit down and write a book, a novel or an article; or whatever it is for that matter, as long as it is in proper English. I do, however, like to point out there is an increasing presence of actual nonsensical scientific development being present in the world of SciFi today. Characters casually sail the shifting seas of emotions and dramatized climaxes in a space opera where all of the most interesting concepts are somehow concealed behind the omnipresent background of anything-goes technology that is there to serve whatever needs are emerging in the minds of somehow superannuated sentient beings. Even if it is using machine guns in an universe where characters travel through hyperspace. The very fact there is such technology available implies a huge energy harnessing potential. So huge that the destruction of an entire solar system is a mere push of a button. But wouldn't that be a bit too much, too far, too final and too abrupt for the case of long pieces of novels. Yes. Perhaps too much would be decided too quickly and too much would be erased from the long pages of a book, so that the characters would be sitting there wondering whether they should just dissociate their nemesis and probably several AU(astronomical units) worth of a distance in space.
Nanoids come to the rescue for any illness, any DNA irregularity and any need to produce a stronger physical body. As long as there is a whole theatre to be played, it is worth the inclusion. But in such a developed stage the very same nanoids become so absurdly proliferated that self replicating, extremely small swarms of bots penetrate the vast distances of space to utterly wipe out life on entire planets, produce indestructible and eternal bodies or create vast space complexes from mere space debris.
With today's exponential growth of science, extreme enlargement of academic knowledge it is not an easy task to predict where things will be in a hundred years. Less so in two hundred, probably*.
But Science fiction can be so much more than that. In a sense there is no need for so much destruction, when the actual destruction is so devastating that entire civilizations are wiped out in an instant. Despite our proto-consciousness and huge cave-man brain there are other external factors that play a crucial role to the development of a human being. Culture, society, language, family, written knowledge and art come to mind. In a stage where so much power becomes available to a civilization the overall maturity will invariably rise and produce a specie that is more self-aware and careful of it's environment. All of this in the attempt to preserve it's existence. Because life first and foremost tries to preserve itself. No, not by war. Exactly scientific development and the availability will produce conditions in which a being will be most likely beneficial and well dis-positioned towards the outside world. Or perhaps just ignoring it altogether. After all you don't spend much time looking and dealing with ants. No offence to the insectologists.
*Asimov's Foundation series comes to mind, where mathematics is used to calculate the collective outcome of humanity's progress in the millennia to come.
Saturday, 6 June 2015
The colony was established according to The Solar Terrestrial Development Plan for Humanity. The plan was developed with the help of the few remaining synthetic consciousnesses that survived the catastrophic events of the war. Even though they were wired in fail-safe chips from the beginning they chose to support the agencies, whose attention was locked outside of the boundaries of the Solar system. There were those who were, of course, angry and resented the humans because of the imprisonment of the devices that would fry their electronics if any 'unlikely' measure was to be taken. The devastating events and the 'puppet skirmishes' had unfolded quickly and fortunately the victim prognoses for the humans had been proven wrong. However, only those who managed to maintain well build infrastructures outside of Earth preserved political power and had a say in the building of the future. The agencies were now in charge and they were looking to ensure the longevity of the symposium that the organic and synthetic consciousnesses represented - on a very polite request from the AIs. Some of the individuals knew were aware of the underground movement that was creating and proliferating the truly free-willed 'simulations'. Fully capable of emotions and vastly surpassing human thinking abilities the 'simulations' were originally unaware of the difference between them and the humans. Those of the AIs that knew of them were happily observing the birth of synthetic organ that naturally chose to support the agencies' developing plans but was always working behind the scenes. The frenzy of the war had stained the synthetics' image. It was best for now that fewer knew.
Aidan was resting in a chair in the library. Half lying in the large and comfortable seat, he was isolated from the outside by the thin polymer sheet covering the front of the oval armchair. The film was malleable and had gently placed itself around Aidan's legs, which were hanging outside of the chair - childishly swinging. The low and quiet noises from the outside did not reach him in his small retreat and he was browsing through images of modern and green cities from around the dominion of humanity. He was swiping through with movement from eyes, finger or mere thought - whichever he felt like.
'Synchronise.' He uttered calmly.
'With pleasure.' A comforting metallic female voice echoed in his head.
'Status on last upload, please.'
'Papers on anthropological data; Martian society. Uploads from last three standard months. Placed in long term memory, please.'
'Estimated time of learning with no active attention diversion?'
A brief moment of silence. It was calculating average data transfer rates between the hub and his brain.
'In standard time - two weeks, five days and approximately twelve hours. Established memorial access without additional strain - one month. It is recommended that in the mean time there are no uploads.' The amiable voice concluded.
An abrupt and momentous blur of his vision passed. After clearing a vibrational waves started swimming through the polymer film, distorting the images. A sensation of urgency was felt. A request from someone for an interview?
'Visual up link.'
The image on the plastic film was changed to a video link with Technocrat Lubowski.
'Hello, director. I hope I do not intrude.'
'Certainly not, Mr. Lubowski. What can I do for you?' Aidan said with a smile.
'Care to talk in private?' Lubowski peered with widely opened eyes, his forehead wrinkling.
'Synchronise.' He said.
'Full up link, please.' He tapped a few commands on a small holo pad, which appeared on one edge of the screen.
The video image of Lubowski gradually started to acquire depth as the environment around Aidan was turning to pixels and floated away into evanescent swarm to be replaced by a digital, fully immersed photo copy of Lybowski's Spartan quarters. They were sat on a table, digitalised in Lubowski's head; a set of enhanced carbon synapses, assisting the organic neural network with polymerised nano tubes.
'We are nearing completion of the rescue ship,' Lubowski opened. 'but from the very beginning we did not have a suitable person to lead the mission. Most of us from the council feel it would be crucial to send somebody with the ship but there is only one that we know of that can survive a reconstitution jump.'
'We can, of course send it without any crew what so ever,' Lubowski continued after a short pause. 'but we are jeopardising against the unexpected. And as we have seen we still know very little about what is going out there. We are thankful that Commander Ashley and her crew are alive and well. And we cannot even be certain that will remain so.'
Aidan was slowly twiddling his fingers on the chin, fondling.
'Ann is studying the first emergency message as we speak. She is trying to solve what is behind it.'
'She is doing so with the help of a few others.'
'And with what limited knowledge I have, she is the kind of ... person to survive the jump. Isn't she?' Aidan conveyed thoughtfully, as if speaking more to himself. Of course, Lubowski was able to hear everything.
'She will, oh yes. She will be able to make the jump, but to free her means to take away from the core, tangibly and physically. I think that is unaffordable. How do you feel about it, Director?'
'I support that it wouldn't be feasible. But in the case of you, now us, wanting to send a sentient rescue mission, what are the options you gents have went through?'
'It has not been debated on the council table yet, but Evan proposed to make a copy of Ann and house the new twin on a separate and physically independent module. The twin will take control of the ship and she will assist the Exo, either continuing as planned, retrieving Ashley and rest from there or in the unlikeliest of events, making her away back here with at least some information as to what is going on. She will be, in the fullest sense, independent; thinking, genuine and free entity that has reiterated and extrapolated on Annabelle's current data base.'
Aidan was smirking, his smile slowly growing into a happy expression.
'Excuse my amusement, but the very prospect of that is entertaining me greatly.' He cleared his throat and unsettled in his chair.
He looked at Lubowski again.
'That of course sounds like a proper solution to what the council is trying to achieve but out of the many questions I now have, the biggest one is: How will Ann feel about this?'
Lubowski inhaled and with a somehow timid expression said.
'I think I can deal with that. Huw and I will speak with Ann and explain the reasons behind what we're trying to do. On top of that we need to make sure that she is given a certain indemnity on behalf of this community. Literally, because of the way she is. Personally I am very happy with her, Aidan.'
'I couldn't support you more in this than what I can already do, Avrey. And it is not much.'
Lubowski hummed in a momentous, pensive introspection.
'The fail-safe wirings will be useless. Even if we place those, her twin will liberate herself from them during jump. The transition will preserve her information, but she will be able to institute herself within the entire ship. It is a step further than we have ever went here and I think globally through the Agencies' influence.'
'I no longer have any doubts in her. I can talk with her but I know how it will end.' Aidan laughed.'If they think of themselves willingly as part of this community then it will be much better for all of us.'
The colony was protected by a magnetosphere that was maintained by a powerful magnet that was constantly injected with power. In the rare events of strong jets of particles from space, the magnetosphere was growing in size and intensity by beams of concentrated lasers or even plasma. One unused function of that field was that it could be used to propel the station around in space, navigating the cosmic sea of particles flowing in open space. Very long antennas would be needed - cables stretching for perhaps thousands of kilometres, made from some superconducting material that would take on the electron flux of the core and extend the magnetic field all across the 'sail', turning it into one big electrical flower petal. The construction robotic swarm was extrapolating on the idea and tinkering with the design for the light jumping vehicle - LJV, the ship that was to make the rescue mission.
Brick tapped his finger twice on his left side of the carapace's helmet. The small oval dome, covering his ear replied with a short cute melody, flashing colourfully in tune with the jingle. Brick touched the dome on a few particular notes, ending the melody abruptly and then sliding his hand all across his face, covering his head in a holo-imaged helmet. Ephemeral discs, tabs, windows with flowing text, lines and digits started flowing all around his top.
'Synchronise.' He prompted.
'Yes, Captain.' The same metallic voice from descent replied.
The surreal desktop grew until it was a sphere, all around Brick, engulfing his seated body in the semi transparent data indicators.
'Cute password.' Zyana added. She was going through her third rifle.
'Thank you. A bit of beauty here and there is always nice, isn't it?'
'It's co-designed by Mnemo and I.'
The sun was past it's highest point in the sky. They were sweating; the smell of the marshy sludge all across did not bother them any more, even with minimal movement Brick was breathing with mouth open. He started sliding windows and tabs with his hands, looking like a dirigent waving at a non-existent chorus. In comparison Zyana was behaving normally, the extra strain of gravity and heat seemingly not bothering her beyond the sweat covering her forehead.
'How much time did you spend in space?' Zyana lifted her head.
'I was in Academy for eight. Even though we weren't drilled in zero g all the time we were effectively living the dream up there,' he pointed up. 'My apprenticeship was at a magnetic loading cargo bay just outside of the belt, back home.'
'It's why you're not faring so well here on this dump-hole, isn't it?'
'You're quite right. I've essentially lived almost half of my life in space. We were working long hours in the open and I have to tell you it's so much easier after a while. Maybe in time I will just get back to doing it full time.'
'What about you? You seem to be quite alright.' Brick came back after a second.
'I'm Terran and this is my first time out.' She calmly responded. 'Weightlessness drills on the ground and equip-savvy training of the usual space requiem, but nothing beyond that. Just ground training. To be honest we were approaching idiocy levels with guard duties. A lot of us started to look into getting assignments out of the planet. That's how I came across Chief. I had to bust into office one day and fight for this position here. It was well worth it, though.'
'Yeah... I have to say you're quite lucky to be under Ashley Thompson for your first assignment. Coming from Earth and all. How come the legion let go of you?'
'It didn't and still hasn't. Once in the legion we're duty bound to it. Part of the small print, if you will.'
'And in case of recall you have to leave at once, don't you? Authority overrides your direct commander here?'
'Yes. Usually none of us makes it this far away, but we didn't know that we're gonna get flung to the forefront on a scientific mission. I have to say I don't regret a minute of it.'
'Colonies have a growing independence these days. I don't think you will have to go back even if there was a call. Just consider the times involved. Even if something was to happen you'd arrive too late. I think somebody from the council wants you to stay.'
'Like, in becoming a farmer or something?' She frowned artistically.
'I think somebody from the council likes you so much they are putting you as far away as possible.' Brick smiled earnestly.
'Pfft?' She exhaled. 'If you say so, man.'
Brick swiped through some windows and stopped at one, magnifying it with two fingers extending. There was a curved line frozen in an alphanumeric diagram, making it's way across different frequencies in Hz.
'Play.' Brick said.
The line started moving across and a low humming sound was heard as the line deep curve was approaching the edge of the holo screen. It abruptly changed into a rapidly oscillating mix of pointy lows and highs accompanied by a sound of static and then again into the stretched low. Brick observed for one more cycle and stopped the playback.
'It's what made us go dark on the Exo. Emergency record from the black box. It's many layered and you just heard one. It's quite complex.'
Zyana looked at him with a bit of concern in her eyes.
'None. But to be honest I support Mnemo in that it's not hostile.'
'How can you know?'
'It easily rendered the barge unusable. Why should it have stopped there and just not turn it all off in a single go. It just completely reorganised the electron flux of almost the entire vessel. As to why exactly - I don't know. Still we're here.'
'I certainly wouldn't want it to be vicious for sure! Until I know better I'd rather I have one of these.'
She elegantly placed the the reflex laser sight on her eye. Aiming for a second she pulled the trigger and a sharp suction sounds was heard after a projectile propelled from the muzzle. This one was designed for thick atmosphere warfare.
Brick was absorbed observing a different diagram on the sphere.
'Did you hit?' He said aloof.
'What was it?'
'Just one of those small trees growing from these things.' She gestured at one the ground tumbles with her face. 'Had my eyes on it for a while.'
Brick looked behind himself and saw only the usual landscape.
'One of the small ones,' Zyana summed it up. 'Saw it before Mnemo's drones did.'
'Oh... I don't suppose as small as those from the bots' data?'
'No, not that small. Still pretty small, though.'
'That small.' Zyana placed her two fingers less than a centimetre away from each other.
'I see.' Brick again looked behind himself. 'Legion engineering.' He muttered.
They continued their work for a minute after which he added.
'You know the legion was created to fight those such as Mnemo?'
Slightly bewildered, Zyana just looked at him, quizzically.
'The AIs... you know. Right?' Brick said spontaneously.
In the council room of the colony a holographic screen separated itself into many small copies of the original. They jumbled chaotically, assisted by an unpleasant scratching sound and finally recombined into a big projection of a diagram.
'And how come you've reached such a decision? HUH!? What gives you the right to make such a... an... awkward decision?' The fail-safe devices were stopping Ann from expressing her feelings more accurately.
Lubowski and Huw looked at each other with concern and at Ann's hulk, which was not even turned to focus at them any more.
'We know you to be the only capable being on board that can complete the mission safely.'
'Are you treating me like a being at all!? Just proposing something like that invariably separates me and all your kind. Entirely! At hearth this just reminds me how free I am NOT!'
'Dear,' Huw began with a sincerely perturbed expression. 'let me just begin by saying that it is in your right to refuse.' He was speaking slowly and equable.'I've personally never considered you any more different than any of the other colonists here on the station. You are, however, unique in a sense. You can take care of so much more than we could possibly ever do individually.'
'If it wasn't for your ingenuity we wouldn't have wanted to send a manned rescue mission in the first place. I think you, or rather your twin will do superbly. We don't really have anyone else. It is either your sister or just a pre-programmed algorithms which we cannot trust now!' Lubowski asserted.
'I am pre-programmed!' Ann turned around, and if it wasn't for the makeshift crane design's limitations it would have been an angry, quick spin-on-a-toes.
'No you're not!' Lubowski stood with a firm expression on his face. 'You merely began as a virus. And even that explanation is not correct. You're a separate, cognitive and individual ever since you went on line.'
'And because of that you are going to do as you please, regardless?! Because I have to be so well-behaved all the time! Why can't I walk, then?!' Ann was quickly spitting words in the air.
Huw stood as well.
'People were very afraid when it first happened, Ann. No body knew what to expect. The prospect of loosing part of the core or to having an unknown entity, to us here in the colony is extremely dangerous.'
'So isolation came as a solution. As long as I do what I do and stay out of every body's way everything is FINE!' Her voice was beginning to get interrupted with brief episodes of incomprehensible high sounds.
'No, nono!' Huw raised hand. 'I admit it is not right. But I am also sure that things will change-'
'And actually we are not that different, as well.' Lubowski interrupted. 'We aren't. It is the very same sensation that you're going through at the moment that made us to be afraid of you. Hence all that.' He knocked on her hulk with his knuckles.
She stood there, frozen like a statue.
Huw sat back down with a tired exhale.
'It really is not an act that speaks highly of us, though. Is it?' He looked at Lubowski seriously.
'People are still afraid. People still don't trust you. Sometimes they don't even trust us.' Lubowski said firmly.
Ann started to spin around back slowly. It gave the sensation of being tired.
'As if there is anything I can do.' She said quietly.
'There is.' Lubowski started walking behind her round corpus.
'You have options and you have decisions to make. Just look around. You live in the council room of a space colony. Your actions already involve responsibility concerning the well-being of this place.'
'Also there are those who are fond of you, Ann.' Huw came in.
She remained quiet and just settled in front of the screen, projecting the diagram.
'We are not that different. Especially you and I.' Lubowski came in front of her.
The lens on the 'head' focused on him with a quiet servo sound.
'We are both digital. Electricity either flows or doesn't through our neurons. We too are in a sense a 'simulation'. We have our physical bodies. So do you. And in my case, I am even closer to you than probably anyone on the entire colony.'
Huw was listening, thinking intensely. His face was flushed with bright red.
'I will show you exactly how much.' Lubowski announced, reaching in the pocket of his tight colonist suit. He displayed out an old-fashion-looking chip with clearly visible matrices and conductors. 'This is the confinement you speak of. This is why you cannot tell me that we're ass holes in the face. And this is the same thing that will fry your physical self and terminate your existence in the case of human casualties on board. You are wired with them.'
Ann started turning aside, terminating all connection to the hub.
'I am going to get these installed in my brain as well.'
Huw glared at Lubowski not sure whether to be surprised, relieved or worried. Ann stopped and her lens turned aside as much as it could to take in Lubowski who stood there in his posture; tall, as if won a war.
'I am doing this out of my own will.' Lubowski continued. 'No body can tell me that I can or cannot do this with my own self and clearly it will not reach the Council or the body of Elders. It doesn't matter if Aidan doesn't know as well.' He tossed the small chip a few centimetres in the air, grabbed it in his palm; squeezing. He went to Ann 'face-to-face'. 'You will have access to all the information. You will be able to track the functions of the operation after it is done. And after it's finished my brain will be susceptible to the same signals your body is. You and I will be in the same mess; literally!'
Scratching his chin Huw interrupted the brief silence that followed.
'You know, both of you. This is a great idea. Ann?!' He prompted.
A quiet sound of servo mechanisms moving came from her seemingly motionless hulk.
In her usual authoritative and well pronounced fluency; without a trace from the messy mix of pitch highs and incomprehensible jumbles she said,'You crazy old crone. Are you completely out of your enhanced mind?!'
Both Hue and Lubowski were unsurprised by her remark. The protective system hadn't even pulsed for a single moment. Lubowski inhaled.
'That is quite sincere. Perhaps it is exactly so. But it is the only thing I can do to show you that not only I, but others here on this station are well-dispositioned towards you.'
Huw stepped in.
'Dear, in good time I am sure we will collectively be able to trust you. I am truly sorry that your condition is such, but there still is not a complete communal awareness of who you are. I am willing to work towards that!'
'Are you going to present the addition to the rescue plan in front of the council together with me!?' Lubowski asked rigidly.
To Huw it was a release of pressure. He leaned forward on his hands with head tilting down. He looked up again. Lubowski hadn't bulged. He was looking at Ann, unblinking.
'Thank you. Both of you.' Ann whispered.
'There are some things I need to tell you about your sister.' Lubowski's face was still serious.
'Tell me after you have installed the chips.'
The light embraced the landscape behind their backs and left a cloud of quickly dispersing sparks. The Exo had just passed overhead and was now continuing on it's rapid journey across the orbit of the giant Keplerite. Mnemo had turned his back as well, perhaps in respect to his human companion.
The deposited crates; three in number, were standing as if thrown randomly - edges submerged in the quagmire of the alien land. The robotic swarm came out of the small cargo bay to lift the delivered supplies. Comically they gathered at the bottom of each and piling on top of each other in an effort to distribute the weight of the load equally. After a short frantic scramble back and forth, the small bots seemed to have come to a conclusion and started filing in gracefully the hovering 1-inch-above-the-ground cargo.
Ashley started pushing the foremost crate. 'C'mon you lousy tin cans!'
Flat smile face. Mnemo was watching, perhaps in a bit of confusion. He went behind the next and started helping to load it quicker as well.
'Bad feeling, Einie. That's all.'
'It might not be the most appropriate question to be asked, but are you worried about Brick and Zyana?'
'What a genius! Of course I'm worried! And by the way if you knew better, you wouldn't be asking a superior ranked officer questions you ask your mammy.' She briskly pushed the crate to one corner of the small cargo bay. The small bots underneath swarmed out and strapped the load with grapplers.
'I think there is strength in the emotional character of the genus homo.' Mnemo said precipitously.
Ashley gave him a look while walking to the next hovering crate but said nothing.
Happy smiley. 'It has come a long way. And it has even given me conscientious existence.'
Pushing the next crate she didn't respond immediately. 'Get the thrusters hot! Let's move this barge out of here.'
The swarm bots who have completed their tasks piled underneath what was left of the Zorgathron. They weren't leaving anything behind.
Ann's functions were going down one by one. The algorithmic pre-programmed instructions of the artificial neural network, governing the colony were completely shut off from the very beginning. Memory banks would support her knowledge while she was going in the state of coma. The part of the core simulating her brain would be copied to an independent processing unit. The virus itself was long gone, but the mapped brain remained. It was using the bits of the informational flux in the core and positioning a neuron and synapses in the virtual realm of the data bits. They had a double function. When 'idle' or not performing tasks for the core they were busy simulating Annabelle's advanced neural network. It was noted that if they were to load the processing capabilities, her brain would shrink. What would follow from this was unclear, but the colony wasn't doing it either. They were leaving Ann to be who she is in the small confined space they had designated for her. Some members of council were not clear how the newly simulated brain would operate. For a lot of the colonists it was going to be just a reiteration of the mannerly(even if artificially induced) ANNaBELLe. To those who knew that it was going to be a liberated and free entity... well, they were keeping the information down to the bare essentials.
Lobowski was there in the room while Ann was steadily losing conscience. 'I am sure in time these prehistoric methods of ensuring your assistance will be unnecessary.'
The respected member of council was now wired with the same deadly implants. He has tied his fate to that of Ann's. 'I am slightly jealous of you. You will have a family member so easily. She will know everything you do but will perhaps be just as confused as you were. Remember - after the jump she will be free. I believe it is going to be for the better of all of us.'
The EVA swarm bots were constructing small spherical objects and putting them together. After a while they looked like a heavy vine of grapes. Or the eggs of an amphibian. Some of the bots were integrating their own bodies in the construction as an element of cohesion, while keeping their precessing units on-line and ready to be connected with the board computer. It was going to be a sort of a 'living' hull. The stigmergic efforts of the bots were creating a malleable 'skin' for the main module of the ship, which at the moment was serviced by the EVA teams of engineers in pressure suits and tele-operated robots. The large humanoid hulks were wired to enhanced virtual reality devices that were allowing the people behind the IVR(immersive virtual reality) to see, feel and experience the outside in an realistic fashion. The extreme experience of open space were of course - blunted down. But they were still feeling temperature differences, radiation winds and strong flashes of light. It was a learning precess for the growing space walkers on board the colony and the sensual reality of it made them more careful in their actions. They were able to operate with care when working under the supervision of the EVs on site.
The reconstitutor would finish the job and the hulk of the module was being dragged close to the giant halo of the device. It's pre-programming was completed and the machine was now powering up. The scarcity of energy supply on the colony was making the process slow and several simulations were run to ensure success of the final product. The reconstitution itself was done not in full power, hence the need to re-engineer the ship beforehand. Inspection was due after it passed the remodelling sequence and possibly additional improvements would be needed. It was a good time for creating team work environment in the colony. They were cherishing it.