Author : CharlesHB

I wasn’t your normal soldier, but then they weren’t looking for that kind of man.

A young physically capable, malleable man, the kind that have been cannon fodder in all history’s wars, they were more interested in my psyche report.

Could I micromanage complex strategic problems, was I an introvert, someone who enjoyed solitude, did I mesh well with direct thought active input devices, was I comfortable with artificial intelligence.

Physically it didn’t matter I was wreck, hell they didn’t even care I was running away from a bad marriage.

“Just like joining the foreign Legion.” My handler told me. I didn’t know what he meant, but I read about it later that evening. I guess he was right.

When the tests were run, when they’d made their choices, when they’d sent home two thirds of us; when there was just me and the rest; I looked at their human faces for the last time. We were all running away from something.

The tank was third stage, by now we’d been through every simulation they could think of, so getting immersed as naked as a new born in suspension gel wasn’t a surprise.

It was fine, even the cable hook-ups into the meat of me weren’t that bad, and I hardly noticed the change when the life support took over, freeing up my brain for other tasks,

The tank just ensures your body stays healthy, damn healthy truth be told, better than I ever looked after it. Meantime the brain, my brain, an organic computer that gets to play.

I thought the computer simulators would have prepared me, but when the tank was lowered into the interface port and the ships systems went online, it was something else again.

They called me forty three. There were a hundred in the first group, twenty five made it, but we all kept our original numbers.

They gave us ships off the line, and we were the Human Oversight.

It’s strange to think now centuries later, that artificial intelligence was feared in those early days, that Politicians insisted a human being ‘captained’ the automated dreadnoughts.

They were crewed by artificially intelligent systems, I say crew because we thought of them that way, individual intelligences each outstripping my own, collectively far greater than any human being and yet an officer of Oversight Committee was their Captain, a guarantee the engines of destruction remained under token human control.

When they finally called me home, when I told the ships navigation system to calculate the hyperspace jumps back to Earth, I wasn’t surprised to run into the last of my old friends. We had all lived long long lives, the tank system ensured that. Not everyone from that first class had stayed with the service, some of First Officers of the Oversight Committee had even returned to normal life, many decades after they had left it, but thanks to suspension gel system, only physically a few years older.

Times had changed they told us.

Our Commanding Officers announced we could come home too. People no longer feared artificial intelligence, for how could they fear what they had in fact become? We listened, and for the first time I disobeyed orders. I wasn’t the only one.

I gave my ship the command, my crew had been trained, well programmed to respond. I felt her shudder as if she were me, and leap into the void. I knew my friends were doing the same, each taking their own solitary path into the starry sky. After all this time, it was the only home we knew or wanted.

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