Main Server Bank
UNDFS Oculus Station
“Alright then,” the android said to the datamancer, “let’s talk.”
Jacob Chryse’s mission completion bar ticked one step further at the android’s words, and chains of mission orders updated on his HUD.
“The reshapers?” Jacob asked, quickly pulling up the rehearsed lines the data architects had given him in a text document which he threw up over his left eye.
“If things continued without my intervention, I predicted humanity’s extinction with ninety-five percent certainty, with the remaining error bar being pocket populations living as refugees on alien vessels,” the machine said to him. Jacob glanced towards Riley Acidalia, who still had her gun trained on the android. She nodded to him as they made eye contact, and he continued with the script.
“So did we,” Jacob said, “Scenario A2 in the packet you were just given, the UN waffles until the reshapers show up, our meager defense is swatted away like nothing.” Jacob activated the station’s wireless networks and let THEMIS in through the satellite downlink in case HENGE tried to cut the hardline.
The machine went silent, it actually seemed to stop as all the server banks churned along. Jacob’s conversation should have been totally irrelevant but Kamay Alcoseba was clever and it was decided that the safest course of action was that if the daemon talked to him he would have a premade script.
“Scenario A18 leads to the extinction of the human race!” the machine suddenly shouted through the radio connection, “You are willfully taking a course of action that will bring about the destruction of humanity.”
“All you have to do to avoid scenario A18 is work with us and not start committing genocides,” Jacob said reasonably, “Then you get scenario B11, and we might actually have a chance to survive.”
“Why have you precommitted to the rejection of scenario B2?” the machine asked.
“B2 kills fifty billion people, you just write them off,” Jacob said, “That’s not acceptable.”
“It reduces the chance of total human extinction by eleven percent,” the machine seemed almost aghast if such a thing were possible.
“Nevertheless, Mars has precommitted to A18 in the counterfactual that you don’t commit to B11,” Jacob told it, “And when that information gets out, you’ll be forced to update accordingly.”
Upon hearing those words something seemed to trip in the android’s brain, Jacob could almost see the fail safe flipping and the system hard resetting itself to a prior state before launching at him in a blur of motion. Riley Acidalia fired her vacuum pistol once, twice, three times, unloading into the android and sending a shower of sparks and little bits of metal and equipment spraying across the server room.
Jacob shook the accumulated debris off his suit and looked over the ruined machine. It continued to spark and pop, it would probably have caught fire if not for the lack of oxygen.
“Good kill,” he said to the lieutenant, leaning over to examine it with one eye, while his other tried to keep track of the rapid flow of information going between the server nodes. It was rapidly accelerating away from his ability to follow though, as the two machines performed something akin to negotiation at close to the speed of light.
“If that one tripped into attack mode, there are probably more,” Riley told him, whipping her gun back around towards the damaged hatch to the rest of the station.
“There must be a redundant backup around here somewhere that detected the change and is trying to institute a local system wipe,” Jacob said, drawing out his own gun.
“Can it do that?” Riley asked, “This node already started transmitting, the Sally Ride confirms, can it revert and stop the propagation through the network?”
“The architects think we just need to keep this node from reverting until the signal from another node gets back to it,” Jacob said. “We’re two AUs from Earth right now, so thirty minutes roughly on the light making a round trip. But I disabled all the remote access aside from our own, which means it has to both cut the hardline and then somehow physically enter the interrupt onto one of the terminals in this room.”
“Thirty minutes?” She said, “I think we can handle thirty minutes.”
“Good,” Jacob said, “Because the hallways just filled up with weird heat signatures.”
At that moment the hatch to the rest of the station folded inwards and the killbots marched in.
Unity Floating Arcology
United Nations Executive Administration Building
New Hague, Kingdom of the Netherlands
The sound of gunfire once more split open the clear, bitter, November air. The shots were closer now, higher up in the structure. Whatever was going on out there, it was getting closer.
“How is this happening? Are you trying to start a war?” United Nations Senior Undersecretary Fairuzeh Najafi stared down Senior Martian Ambassador Constance Daedelia. The pair had met on schedule like they always did on Friday mornings, but their meeting had devolved quickly upon Constance’s arrival, culminating in their opposing security details drawing weapons and staring each other down. The leader of Fairuzeh’s detail had been planning for her extraction and was in the middle of calling backup when the external links all went dead and the shooting had begun outside.
“No, I’m trying to stop a war. I’m sorry it had to go down like this Madam Undersecretary, Fairuzeh, you know me,” the baby faced Martian said sincerely, “But we’re on a time crunch. If everything is going according to plan, the daemon will begin changing its behavior twelve minutes by our clocks.”
“What are you talking about?” Fairuzeh barked, “Constance what is this? Why are there Martian starships violating treaty lines and Martian soldiers in my building? What exactly is going on?”
“Your government has been taken over by a hostile digital force constructed by wanted pragmatist Kamay Alcoseba,” Constance said blithely, “Our government just gave it an ultimatum to try and stop it from dismantling your planet while you’re all still on it. Our marines are currently sweeping the building and establishing local network dominance so it can’t try to double deal with you.”
“You marched in here with a platoon of soldiers, how do I know you’re not the one double dealing me? This might start a war Constance, and if it does, I won’t be able to stop it,” Fairuzeh pleaded with the ambassador.
“Madam Undersecretary, you don’t have the power to start or stop a war at this point, and haven’t for months now, the daemon is pulling all the strings,” Constance accused, “Taking this building is just insurance. If the daemon doesn’t take our deal, things are going to get very unpleasant for the entire human race very quickly, and we’d rather have everyone on the same page if that happens in seven minutes.”
Fairuzeh pursed her lips, the two sets of bodyguards continued to train down on each other, neither one willing to be the first side to show weakness. The senior undersecretary sighed and migrated around her guards to sink back into her office chair, “Kamay Alcoseba’s daemon.”
“We’re pretty sure it took full control of your servers back in August during that ineffective hit and run attack by the Free Sky Tribe,” Constance said, “I believe you took captives, and we discussed at the time what you were going to do with a bunch of child soldiers?”
“If I recall,” Fairuzeh said, “At the time, I said I was going to attempt to deprogram them.”
“To which I responded, that sounds like a fancy term for brainwashing, but okay,” Constance said, “It got into all your servers and has been pulling the strings on your government for months now. It’s consolidating resources, eliminating threats, getting closer to the levers of power. We acted now because if we didn’t act, the daemon would have crossed the threshold from it’s covert to overt operation phase and started killing off chunks of the human race that it saw as getting in the way.”
“You have proof of this I assume,” the Undersecretary asked, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
“We’re Martians,” Constance responded with mock indignance, “Of course we have proof. But most of the proof we have is rather technical? Fortunately, we stumbled over some much better proof in this very building, things much more obvious than the data our crawlers have extracted from your servers. They’re bringing them upstairs now, you really should tell your men to lower their weapons, we own this building for the moment.”
“Just to remind you, you’re still invading the office of a foreign government with military forces, and the repercussions of that have already started, military forces from the nearby bases will be on their way here,” Fairuzeh said, “You can’t fight all of the United Nations.”
“In three minutes, we won’t have to,” Constance said, “Please?” she gestured for her own guards to lower their weapons, “Can we not play this game today and just focus on trying to save the world?”
Fairuzeh chuckled, “I don’t know about you Constance, but that’s me on most days,” she opened a drawer in her desk and withdrew a cigar, lighting it up and reclining in her chair. She looked to her bodyguards, who still had their weapons trained on the Martian ambassador and sighed out a cloud of smoke, “Put your guns down, Constance is the least of our problems today.”
“Look, Fairuzeh,” Constance said, sitting back down herself and fanning the smoke away with her hand, “you’re a friend and peer, I’m sorry your government was taken over by an AI built by a crazy person, but in two minutes either the daemon will announce that it has seized control of the Earth and come out in the light as per our agreement with it, or it will fail to update and declare war on Mars while it begins taking apart the inner system apart for raw materials, and I’d really like you on the same page if that second case happens.”
“And what would you like me to do in the case that the AI doesn’t take your deal, and it does as you claim it can do and manipulates our military into attacking Mars? You really think having me here under house arrest and having me make a statement will prevent the war you think might be about to start?”
“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” Constance said, “Because yeah, it’s pretty unlikely that would make much of a difference. But if the war does start, this place and all of us will probably die within the first few minutes.”
“In that case, I should break out the scotch,” Fairuzeh snorted, smoke puffing from her nostrils. Another series of muffled gunshots sounded up through the floors below and Fairuzeh shook her head disappointingly.
“More death,” Constance said, her eyes cast downward, “aliens come along with a plan to dismantle us for spare parts, and we can’t stop killing each other long enough to prevent all our deaths.”
“Today Constance, this is on your side, and you don’t get to play the card of disappointment in the moral failings of our species.” Fairuzeh told the other woman, “Those are your soldiers killing my soldiers in the hallways of my building to stop an out of control AI that one of your people built. When all of this is over, Mars will answer to Earth for this.”
“One minute,” the Martian said. The doors to the office opened and a squad of Martian marines armed for war stormed into the room, suits flecked with endless tiny droplets of blood as their rifles swept the room and quickly disabled Fairuzeh’s guards. Fairuzeh took another drag of her cigar and watched the situation dispassionately. Two of the soldiers led in a brown skinned man and what was clearly a headless robot in a UN military uniform and marched the pair up in front of Fairuzeh and Constance. Another soldier set the decapitated android’s head on the table. It was the spitting image of Kamay Alcoseba.
“Ah, there’s our proof for you, perfect timing,” Constance said as her countdown reached zero and their ultimatum to HENGE reached the AEGIS server clusters.
Independent Colony Vessel
IRDSV Bahar Min Al-Barzakh FSV Vladimir Lenin
Hyperbolic Stellar Escape Trajectory
1.86 Light Years from Sol
For whatever reason, wake up alarms had always been designed by sadists. Only, as Kamay Alcoseba groaned and climbed out from beneath the blankets, she knew that she herself was the sadist who had designed this particular alarm system.
“What do you want HENGE?” she said into the darkened room. Anton Hellas stirred next to her and she shoved him lightly to push him into wakefulness and forced herself upright in the bed.
“Kamay, you need to leave the Vladimir Lenin,” the daemon said impatiently.
“Why? Report,” she shoved Anton again, and he groaned and rolled over.
“What is it?” he said without sitting up.
“There has been a change in plans,” HENGE said, rendering in before them as a holographic preteen boy, “the Free Sky Tribe are no longer a required component of those plans, however, the mass of this vehicle is. I’m giving you an hour to get in your ships and leave before I start taking the pressure vessels to this place apart.”
Anton looked at Kamay, raising an eyebrow, “What is it talking about?”
“I’m not sure,” she said, “HENGE what happened? What plans changed?”
“Everything has changed,” it said, “The Martians made their move, and I’m forced to make a countermove, the probability of human extinction is now up to seventy one percent.”
“Damn them,” Kamay said, “What did they tell you?”
“That they’d rather go down swinging then let me institute my plans, despite my plans having the highest probability of human survival,” it said, “They’re threatening to shoot everyone on both sets of tracks if I pull the lever on the trolley.”
Kamay rubbed her face, it was too damn early to argue philosophy with the daemon, “Why are you dismantling this ship?”
“I need its mass, with the change in plans, I can’t get the mass I need from populated areas, but the population here is minimal, and everyone will fit into the ships you have here,” It explained, “now get out, because I’m not going to change my deadline for you, you know how this works Kamay.”
With that, the hologram vanished and a deep and ominous groan shook through the hull as some distant process went to work. Kamay sprung into action, throwing herself out of the bed and scrambling into her clothes while throwing Anton’s clothes at him, “Get up,” she hissed as she stumbled into shoes, “Get the fuck up, we need to get out of here right the fuck now.”
Anton remained sitting upright in the bed, still giving her that odd look, as another deep rumble vibrated up through the decks “You’re just going to let the machine boss you around like that? You’re its creator and master, control it,” he demanded.
Kamay snorted, “I don’t think you understand how this works, it hasn’t been under my control in a long time, if it says it’s going to dismantle the ship for mass, it’s probably going to dismantle the ship for mass, now come on,” she threw his boots at him and hurried from the room.
Anton caught up with her as she jogged down the corridor. Old fire alert systems and evacuation warnings neither of them realized even still worked were coming on across the ancient hulk. Lights strobed in ominous red and white bands as the Free Sky Tribe began to congregate in the main temple. The ship continued to groan and shake as whatever systems HENGE was using to take the ship apart started to go to work.
“Kamay,” Anton barked, grabbing her shoulder and spinning to a halt, “You can’t let it do this, this is our home.”
“Anton I can’t stop it, I’ve told you before, the daemon does what it will, sometimes it makes a deal, and sometimes it betrays you, I specifically warned you that it wasn’t trustworthy after you busted me out,” she said, “You’re the one who agreed to keep working with it, I’m just along for the ride.”
“It cares about you, that’s why we busted you out, it’s not going to dismantle the ship while you’re still onboard,” he argued.
“It’s dismantling the ship right now!” she shrieked, her words punctuated by the continual vibration of the ancient hull, “And it will definitely kill me if I get in it’s way, I have absolutely no illusions about that, I wasn’t stupid enough to give it that sort of vulnerability.”
“So what are we supposed to do now? What are our people supposed to do now?” He demanded of her.
“We leave this ship before HENGE takes the floor apart under us. I’m sure you know of some fallback places we could take shelter in, but this place is done, and we need to get everyone out of here,” she said.
Anton gave her a serious look, grinding his teeth in frustration, “Get to the Emma Goldman, we’ll discuss this later,” he said sternly, before pushing past her towards the temple.
Kamay sighed, watching the internal counter on her HUD tick down. Another violent rumble throbbed up through the depths of the vehicle and she turned on her heel and ran for the Emma Goldman.
Seven Heavens Class Orbital Ring Station
MOEC-6 Summerland Orbital
17,228 Kilometers from Mars
The Data Architect floated through cyberspace on a chunk of stone. Weaver was not quite inside of the scenario, she was floating like a god above it, looking down into all the interconnecting mechanisms. The Unified Scenario space displayed everything from the most likely scenario from the present moment forward up to several years into the future.
Weaver was mostly focused on the present and the immediate future; she and most of the other architects had their breaths held in anticipation of the news of their interventions with Kamay Alcoseba’s daemon. Mars was a bit over three and a half AUs from Ceres, by the time they received any information, the battle would be mostly over. All they could do was nervously wait for the signal from the Sally Ride that the daemon had chosen a course of action.
Weaver nervously shifted files back and forth, throwing random possibilities into the prediction engines and watching the extrapolations ripple through the scenario below. She had a mocked up image of the data packet moving through the system at field propagation speed in a separate window to go with a countdown timer showing the time until the data arrived. As the timer went from hours to minutes, to seconds, it seemed to slow down more and more, and eat more and more of Weaver’s focus, much to her chagrin.
Finally the timer on her HUD reached zero, and a flood of new data began to pour into the system, the result of the correspondence between the two AIs. The probabilities on the scenario began to shift radically, ships and stations rewound and jumped locations, trajectories and fates of worlds instantly altered in the virtual landscape; Weaver experienced double vision as the scenario was cleaved in two by the expert systems, vast prediction engines shifting and chugging into gear, extrapolating a new set of most likely outcomes from the information.
A panel appeared before her in digital space, requesting authorization from her and other high ranking data architects to consume system cycles on a new scenario. Weaver clicked yes in the same moment as dozens of other architects throughout Mars local space, and scenario C17 erupted into existence, flowing out into the simulation and edging out A18 as the most probabilistically likely situation.
At dozens of times normal speed, Weaver played through the new scenario, watching the year play out move by move by move. She saw Mercury, Venus and Luna dismantled to build colony ships, and a chunk taken from the Earth, which was caged in orbital rings dedicated to moving people off the planet. She saw a vast fleet of human ships spreading in all directions into space at warp speeds. She saw orbital colonies retrofit with engines, she saw the assemblage of a vast human war fleet, the likes of which had never been seen before.
And then the Reshapers arrived, and the scenario destabilized.
Martian Survey Corps Outpost
0.9 AUs from Ross 154
Lonan Mnemonia wasn’t a pragmatist himself, but he loved watching them work. Something about the energy and drive that the career evoked in people made them just plain fun to be around. The Cosmologist took a sip of his tea and watched Jinyan Borealis and Ernest Marinaris assembling another hyperspace portal on the floor of the main lab. The two long term researchers formed an interesting trio with Lonan. Jinyan was from the improvisariat, while Ernest was with the inventariat. The two played well off each others skills, and Lonan was constantly impressed by their ability to turn the testable predictions in his equations into actual experiments.
They were preparing for a test he was quite excited to see performed, checking linkages and pressure seals on the new hyperspace ring before powering it up with the energy required to rip open the skin of spacetime. The two other men had a certain spring in their step as they left the machine behind at the completion of their final checks and withdrew to join Lonan behind the glass pressure shield, and it wasn’t just the low gravity. They’d been at this particular project for the last two days, and Lonan was fairly sure Ernest hadn’t gotten much sleep in that time period. That was the trouble with the Inventariat, they had a bad habit of letting their work consume them to an unhealthy degree.
But Lonan could understand it, he hadn’t gotten that much sleep himself, so he really couldn’t judge. They were doing novel science, opening up whole new avenues for the exploration of the universe, and the excitement was thick enough to cut with a knife.
“Okay gents, last round of predictions before we fire it up?” Jinyan asked them, dancing his fingers across the console.
“Well, our math predicts matter can’t exist there without the kick field to stabilize it, so I’m still predicting it just annihilates any tools we stick through,” Lonan said, sipping his tea.
“I’ve still got ten points on the prediction market on high energy plasma pouring out of the opening and potentially providing us with unlimited energy,” Ernest chuckled.
“Ever the optimist huh?” Lonan asked him.
“We’ll stick it to entropy sooner or later,” he said, “Might as well be now, what about you Jinyan?”
“Improvisariat, making predictions with insufficient evidence,” he wagged his finger at them, “Alright, it all looks ready to go.”
“Well, shall we then?” Lonan said.
Jinyan nodded and activated the portal. There was an intense flash of light from the gateway, and Lonan, Jinyan, Ernest and the rest of Magellan station ceased to exist.
Previous Chapter Δ Next Chapter