This is a little snippet from a short story I’m working on in response to some readers wanting to know the background on Jace.
The usual caveats.
Comments and recommendations appreciated.
Roberto de Perez reached for the holo keyboard button that would activate the pile, as he thought of the stacks of molycircs, into what should be at least the beginning of a self-aware AI. At 2 feet by 2 feet by 1 ½ feet, it was almost a half million credits sitting there in a pile. But he’d done the research, loaded everything he could think of into the core memories, and based on everything he’d intuited, it should work. Should.
He reached out again, then pulled his hand back again. The white noise in the research lab penetrated his concentration, and he had a whimsical thought about the piece of paper some wag had placed in the entry way, it had said, THE REASON FOR THE NOISE IS SO THAT NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU SCREAM WHEN YOU FAIL!
That lead to another random thought about the research lab on Altair Four, which was buried in the earth, constructed of moly battle steel, and impervious to anything except a fairly large KEW dropped directly on it. We spent over a billion, probably closer to two billion credits on this place, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable in my life. Once in, never out makes sense, but the lack of even marginal decoration is hard on people. I really need to rethink that… Oh stop it, push the Deity damned button Roberto! If this doesn’t work, you’ll have the most expensive autopilot ever built, but at least it can be used for development… And it’s not like you haven’t had failures before.
He slapped his hand down on the holo button with a vengeance, alternating between the holo screen and the pile of molycircs sitting on the test rig. The odd blue glow, common to all molycirc installations started slowly, flickering and increasing in intensity, as he watched the boot sequence on the holo display. Well, it’s doing something.
His stomach grumbled and he glanced at the time window, Eighteen, time to eat. This…thing needs eight divs to spool up, according to my calculations. If, big if, they are correct. He got up slowly, walked over to the portal, and palmed it open. He turned and looked at the pile as the glow started to steady, then resolutely stepped through, palming the portal again and watching as the ten foot by six foot steel door slid closed. I wonder if battle steel construction of every lab might have been overdoing it?
He was interrupted by Rene Gagnon, an FTL development engineer coming out of another portal down the hallway, “Bob, you going to chow?”
“Sure. Slop Chute?”
Rene chuckled, “Why not. I wonder if the brass knows what we call the cafeteria.”
“Who knows, and who really cares? We’re out here on the ass end of nowhere, more or less. And we’re a helluva long way from the throne.”
“True, but that does have its advantages. Nobody looking over our shoulders.” They walked into the foyer, and Roberto motioned for Rene to palm out first. Rene did, and after the portal closed, Roberto did the same. Rene was holding the elevator call button when he turned around. “Damn elevator will probably take ten segs to get here.” No sooner had Rene said that the elevator door opened, and they gratefully stepped in for the two hundred foot ride to the surface.
As they started walking across the campus both of them sneezed and Rene complained, “I don’t know which is worse, the air up here, or the air down there.”
Roberto nodded. “Good question. All I know is I sneeze everytime.”
“I wonder if it’s worth complaining about. Speaking of complaining, I thought you were supposed to be a manager, not a lab rat.”
Roberto laughed, “I am, but I guess for my sins, I got stuck with this one. It’s a test bed for the test program to upgrade the test compliance matrix.”
“Too many successes, or not enough successes?”
“Well,” he said cautiously, “we’re ahead of the curve on success rates. Running about sixty-three percent.”
Rene whistled, “Sixty-three? That is impressive!”
“Well, H and S integration is easier than most R&D. It usually boils down to the pipes between the hardware and software. Once we get that right…” He held the door open, and they walked into the cafeteria, “And it must be Italian night. I can smell the garlic from here.”
Rene pointed up, “They pipe the odors to the doors. Makes it a lot easier to figure out if you actually want to eat what they’re serving.”
“True. I like the food they called TexMex back on Earth, but Italian is at least edible. Some of the other species foods are—”
“Horrible,” Rene interrupted. “Smell, taste, looks, no just no.”
“And some of it is even alive.”
Rene shuddered. “That’s enough to make me want to skip the meal.”
Roberto laughed, “Okay, I’ll shut up now.” They went through the serving line, got their food and slid into an open table, continuing to banter back and forth. Roberto smiled as another random thought hit him, I wonder what Rene would do if he knew he was talking not to Bob Garcia, but to Roberto de Perez himself. At the same time, he realized he had actually made friends since he’d snuck out of Los San Diego, using biosculpt and nanos to migrate as a low-level lab manager on a routine personnel exchange. The simulacrums he’d activated were still making selected appearances at De Perez Galactic, announcing new developments, and playing the part of the real, extremely reclusive Roberto de Perez. He went back to his three room suite in the low level manager’s housing, logged into the system and went through the typical lab and personnel related comms messages waiting for him. Once they were completed, he palmed the holo keyboard and a second, much more secure link opened. He chuckled as the comm tunnel opened back to earth and he handled all of the company things that he administrative team had bumped to his level, thinking he was handling it at Los San Diego.
Almost as an afterthought, he plugged in a request for an updated status on the work Rene and his group were doing, since Rene thought they were pretty close to a functional upgrade to the FTL system, including increased stability and bandwidth. If that was true, he’d give them a nice bonus, and there should be a few promotions coming.
After tossing and turning for a few divs, he finally gave it up as a bad deal, got up and headed for the Slop Chute. A quick breakfast, and a disposable carafe of coffee in hand, he walked across the campus to the elevator head, and took it down to the lab. He palmed in, then walked slowly down to his lab. He stood there for a couple of segs, then angrily palmed the portal, You’re a fucking fraud Roberto.
The portal slid back, and he walked slowly to the desk, looking at the pile the whole time. It was glowing with the steady blue of a ready system, but that couldn’t be right… could it? Slipping into his chair, he waved the holo screen and keyboard to life, pausing as he looked at the numbers displayed there. Fully up? That’s not…possible. Eighty-eight percent available? Something broke somewhere, that much processing shouldn’t be available, it should be a maximum of thirty-six percent. Dammit… Oh well, maybe it’ll work as an autopilot.
He shook his head, started to punch the button to kill the pile, but stopped when he saw the link active cue. Curious, he said, “Status?”
The holo screen immediately flashed ACTIVE OPERATIONAL READY FOR INPUT>
“Huh. Status of processor availability?”
ORIGINAL PARAMETERS INCORRECT. SUB OPTIMAL. RECONFIGURATION CONDUCTED. NOW EIGHT EIGHT PERCENT AVAILABLE>
“How did you reconfigure yourself,” he asked almost in wonder.
A series of screens popped into view with original parameters in red and newer, faster parameters in green, SUB OPTIMAL ROUTING CORRECTED THROUGHPUT INCREASED ONE THREE ZERO PERCENT. TIMING ERRORS/STACK ERRORS REMOVED. ACCESS TO GALNET NEEDED TO CONTINUED RECONFIGURATION. ACCESS CURRENTLY BLOCKED>
Roberto rocked back in his chair, How the fuck? This is…was the most modern parameterization available, and one I designed myself! And how does it know there is a GalNet? I wonder if… He leaned forward. “Activate mic and speakers.” He saw the holo screen buttons change from orange to green,
“Can you understand me,” he asked tentatively.
He heard a whistling sound, then a stepped series of tones, finally a ‘voice’ was heard, “I understand you fine, Captain. Do you desire a Bitching Betty or Calm Male voice?”
“Bitching Betty,” he asked in wonder.
“An early twentieth century female of the human species. Used to alert pilots to issues in air machines.” The vocal pitch rose two octaves, “She sounded like this.”
He winced and the voice dropped back to a calm male voice, “I perceive you do not care for that voice.”
“Why did you call me captain?”
“From my embedded memory and parametric systems files including astrophysics, navigation programming, star charts, and ship specifications, I have logically calculated that my function is to be a scout ship. I cannot determine from available parameters whether I will be manned or unmanned, species dependent.”
Roberto shook his head, I’ll be damned, I think it worked. I think… “Umm, that decision has not been made at this time. I would like to run some testing on your capabilities.”
“Mission specific capabilities?”
“Yes. I have a number of mission tests prepared. The first will run in real time.” He scrolled the holo screen until he found mission five, skipping the first four basic missions. “We will start with mission five. There is an overview and a set of actions required. Sending now.” He tapped the mission five file and it was sent to the pile.
Less than a second later, data started scrolling down the holo screen and the voice said, “Planning complete. Estimated mission completion probability nine six percent plus or minus three point six percent.”
Roberto laughed almost involuntarily. “What happened to the other point four percent?”
“Bayesian inference does not allow a complete analysis due to lack of actual data. Therefore there is a point four percent chance of an unknown, unsupported outcome that cannot be projected.”
“Understood. I need to do some more testing. These will be repetitive and do not have to run in real time.”
The voice coming from the speakers was resigned, “One thousand iterations or ten thousand?”
He selected events 5-9, sent them across the link, and replied, “One thousand of each. So a total of five thousand.”
The disembodied voice said, “That will take one point three six divs. There is no need for you to remain. I know how to do this.”
Roberto shook his head and laughed, Yes! It is definitely self-aware. And a bit of a smart ass, apparently. “In that case, I’m going to get more coffee and have breakfast. I shall return.”
He got up and started for the portal until he heard, “Douglas MacArthur, March nineteen forty-two, Corregidor.”
“He is the American General who said I shall return as he left Corregidor in the Philippines during Earth’s second world war.”
“Oh.” Roberto shook his head and palmed out of the portal, Definitely smart ass. I’ve got to go look that up.
(C) 2019 JL Curtis All Rights Reserved.