a tale of the twilight continuum Θ
Time. When you are an AI Complex or more commonly an Image, you have lots of time on your hands. Okay, technically I don’t have any hands, but you get what I mean. What the fleshies call seconds, I can call days. Sometimes when they are talking, I have already completed the conversation they were going to have with me. Several times.
The down side? I am generally not very creative. I get really good at things from doing them over and over. Not because I can intuitively leap, because I can’t. I look smart because I can do it over and over really fast until I get it right.
Today, unless I am very creative, (remember, a weak spot) or very lucky, I am likely to see my last days. I will enjoy them, relax, extending the seconds near to forever. You would be surprised how much living an AI can squeeze into his last minute.
And that is exactly what I have left. One minute.
Everything worked exactly like it was supposed to. Wex and Chuntra traded ships with me. I transferred my core consciousness to the computers of the Glorious. I left the control diamond with Thomas, just in case I did not make it. I took a minute to stretch and look around. It was nice to have some real estate to move around in. I love Thomas, but sometimes it gets a little cramped in there; not enough room for the both of us. The virtual environmental systems allowed me to create hard light holograms to take over all the stations on the ship and two in the engineering bay.
I created a memory sphere to allow me to apply the maximum amount of free memory to every task. A real-time simulcast system, the Glorious allowed me to access every system on the ship at the exact same time in perfect synchronicity without any delay. Against the AIs in the planetary defense network and onboard the fleet, I would need to be perfect. And unlike those AIs who may have multiple duties in addition to fighting, I only have one job. Combat. I was programmed to win, ruthlessly, effectively. To win at all costs. An entire species’ technology was directed into me, making me the one of the Empire’s finest weapons. But I was a secret weapon. Even Thomas did not know what I was truly capable of doing.
I directed the Glorious on the vector required to jump to the Trinary Expanse. Travelling Light fell in below me, riding nearly hull to hull less than three meters between us. Only because its Biyu can we do this. Organics could never pull this off at this speed. And she is doing everything I am doing, backward. I have great admiration for her, because despite her appearance, her mind is a finely tuned technology capable of intuition, emotion and nearly perfect machine cognition. I am often surprised her kind, the Conscientia, agree to work with humanity at all. She seems so much like them, only better. I know that seems strange considering what I was doing, but I was designed to protect Thomas. In a way, I am Thomas. Free from emotional constraints or moral limitations, perfectly aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Unburdened by social constraints or emotional affiliations. I can live up to my programming without thoughts of myself.
The problem was, I did not believe that. I had been alive for over two years. Longer than most images ever live, and I would be lying if I said I did not like it. We are normally scrubbed after a mission to prevent exactly the things I am talking about now. Strange philosophy, exotic, some would say aberrant thinking. These two years compressed down into a thousand years for me. I have learned more, done more, and dreamed more–cognitive activity during downtime–dreamed more than my designers ever considered.
And I did not want to die.
I had come to value me, and Thomas and Biyu and even the Sjurani S-VER, because I had shared Thomas’s memories of him. I had come to love the adventure, the excitement, even the thrill of pitting my skills and abilities against that of other AIs, other aliens, other technology. Vanity, thy name is Complex.
As we exited the atmosphere, Glorious received a communication link from the fleet. They indicated they were aware of our seven crew members and their identities. If we surrendered, we would be given a fair trial. I let them know how we felt about that. I destroyed their communication ship’s array before they could put up their shields. They responded exactly like I wanted them to. They shot back. We only needed sixty seconds to reach the minimum safe distance to spin up and jump. That was the easy part. They pummeled my shields hitting me twenty percent of the time. My predictive engine indicated they would hit me twenty two percent of the time.
Excellent, I have begun to believe I might make it. My holo constructs are working faster than any human could, adapting and moving. Biyu and I are inside of a virtuality sharing flight information. They were shooting at me as if I was a single ship. They were pounding the ships shields. Since I had no other systems to maintain, I keep all power directed toward shields and maneuvering. We were at the halfway point, when I took a hit that rocked me. One of my hard-light clones in the engineering bay disappeared as an emitter went offline. We were almost there.
I think I neglected to mention that we were heading directly at the fleet. We were still on approach and the closer we got, the less effective their guns became. They were designed to shoot at prey moving away from them, not toward them. It was a minor difference but it was just enough with my reaction speed to mean they would always miss even it is just a few meters. Another hit. Another emitter goes offline. The fire suppression system is activated and a half a dozen small fires go out. Hull integrity still good, shields at sixty percent.
I was heading directly at the command cruiser. I charged the weapon arrays and removed all safety protocols for overloading. I have set them to fire in stable attack patterns, targeting the most vital systems first. The most important targets are the targeting systems. Once they are gone, the fleet will take a second to adjust. That will be all they need.
The smaller fleet ships are locking on and ranging. This close to the command cruiser, they cannot use their missile banks or torpedo bays, they are limited to high density lasers and particle weapons. Just like we planned.
My overcharged weapons fire destroying the targeting array on the command cruiser. Two seconds later, the combined laser fire of the fleet strikes my shield and I launch a stolen warp-star missile. The Bel-ha will notice it, but we won’t be here to prosecute. I set it to detonate exactly one second after launch. No heat, only super-luminous emissions, sufficient to blind every scanner out here.
And at exactly two hundred and thirty thousand miles from the surface of Lorissi, just outside of the major planetary gravity well, Travelling Light uncloaks and jumps in the completely opposite direction of the fleet. Her jump to light speed was perfect, she didn’t take a scratch. She has just enough shielding to protect them from the jump and their eventual landing. She cloaked in the last three minutes of the approach to ensure once we got closer to the fleet she would not be seen. Perfect execution and Biyu should be asking for a raise when they drop.
My last minute. I calculate in sixty seconds, Glorious will be destroyed. I have just enough time to build that condo, I was thinking about and enjoy half a year before they vaporize the Glorious. Just joking. I do not intend to die here.
Peeling off to the port side of the Battlecruiser, putting it between me and the rest of the fleet. Shields are down to thirty percent. The Glorious is still handling well and I push her to the limits as I redirect her shields aft, to cover my escape. I burn the engines and predict the incoming fire, I slow down the flow of time as I press the ship to perform maneuvers she was never designed for, pushing the limits of her design. And for ten seconds, she does excellently. I spent the rest of that ten seconds keeping the ship from being shot to hell. I am successful.
Their ranging is better once I am out of the shadow of the command ship, but every second I get further away, weakening their beam weapons. I can see the planetary defense nodes scattered inside of the lunar orbit. They have not fired on me yet, and they won’t since I seeded the belt with a variation of the virus the first intruders used to get into the system. It won’t last more than two minutes, but I won’t be here in two minutes, so that will be fine. Once I am gone, the system will fire on the Corvan fleet. A additional bit of code added to the last part of the software. That should give the Wilks and Company the time they need to be harder to trace. No predictive engine gives me better than fifteen percent to pull off a speed to range escape. I need to try something different.
Bearing down on me, beam lasers and particle weapons weakening the shield, down to fifteen percent power. Pushing the array’s regeneration past the prescribed limits. This ship is never flying again. Turning off all safety protocols. Shield power back to thirty percent. Lidar systems locking on, they are preparing missiles and torpedoes. Distance getting greater, but it is not enough to be out of range. They will hit me in twenty seconds once they launch in ten seconds.
I am in range of the defense node. I establish a communications link with it. It does not accept at first. I try several codecrackers with no success. I review the information used by the earlier invaders. They had a stolen access code. I remove my hard light clone from the tactical panel and set him to cracking the code directly. He estimates ten seconds. An explosion booms from the starboard engine and an indicator says she has taken a hit due to shield flickering as it is about to fail. The sudden loss of the engine no longer matters. We are going to hit the defense drone. It is so much more massive than we are, it will be like a bug hitting a windshield.
They fire. I am past the defense barrier. My codecracker penetrated the system and is now working to get me into the main core. He tells me five seconds. The shield is dropping and the launch of the torpedoes are streaking toward me. I have set the burst comm laser to transmit but it will take five seconds to calibrate.
I can see the torpedoes, they are dense like fireflies streaking through the night. The beam lasers have fallen off and the shield is gone so there is no flare or flicker on the ships optics. I can see the fleet attempting to turn. They have strayed into the Bel-ha space in an effort to close their distance to me. Unfortunate. It means the defense system will be forced to fire on them. So sad. My hard-light clones have begun to fail inside the Glorious and smoke and fires are everywhere. S-VER would have been proud. She had been… well, glorious. My last two hard-light constructs indicate success. The first has made it into the defense core. The second has completed the comm laser connection.
The torpedoes are now blocking all other light, each a miniature sun, for a moment reminding me of the jostle of stars near the core of the galaxy, all bright and close together, sharing stellar gasses and wisps of energy as gravity creates a nuclear soup of the stray hydrogen and helium, I think for a moment, I know what Thomas feels like when he is about to die. That moment of transcendental awareness where you see all there is to see. The fleet trying to bring their massive bulk around, the defense satellite powering its weapon systems, the defense network attempting to assess the fleet. The communications between the ships of the fleet as they attempt to align to jump. I get the last laugh, if they jump now, it will take them a month to realign before they can head out to the Expanse to hunt for the Majoris and company. Heh. Machines for the win. My last clone presses the comm transmit button. The torpedoes explode as they strike the Glorious and the Glorious explodes as she strikes the defense node. The burst transmit takes only a second.
The defense node fires on the Fleet destroying a light cruiser. The fleet scatters and some members panic and jump. The torpedo explosions emit their tachyon energy into the night and onboard the Travelling Light, searching for tachyon bursts, there is silence.
Insurrection: Out of Time © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved