Author : Bob Newbell

Lieutenant Jvora shuffled down the corridor considerably slower than his four legs normally carried him. He was not looking forward to his meeting with Commander Skal. Jvora entered the commander’s office and raised a pincer in salute. Skal returned the gesture.

“Lieutenant, any word on the Lindell simulacrum?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Jvora. “We’ve gotten several reports back from the probes we sent to the Lindell system. And I believe we’ve pieced together what happened.”

Skal gestured to Jvora to continue.

“The simulacrum,” said Jvora, “successfully landed on Lindell III. It reconfigured itself into the likeness of the native intelligent species and established a base of operations in the planet’s north polar region. It then deployed billions of nanoprobes.”

“So,” interrupted Skal, “the simulacrum got at least as far as the initial reconnaissance and threat assessment protocol.”

“Yes, sir. It could have told you whether any given sentient on the planet was asleep or awake, if asked. But immediately thereafter the simulacrum appears to have sustained damage to its primary neuroprocessor. We suspect a virus native to Lindell III was the culprit.”

“So, the simulacrum became inoperable at that point?”

Jvora replied nervously, “No, sir. It began…rendering moral judgements against the natives.”

“What?! Moral judgements?”

“Yes, sir. Somehow its threat assessment wetware became corrupted. Instead of determining which natives might pose a threat to our colonization of the planet, it instead began categorizing them into good and bad subpopulations.”

“You mean to tell me that an advanced scout simulacrum has been just sitting in an arctic wasteland on Lindell III making abstract and meaningless moral assessments of that world’s population?”

Jvora had to fight the urge to withdraw completely into his exoskeleton and seal it shut. “Not exactly, Commander. The simulacrum has also been…making toys.”

Skal stared at his subordinate for what seemed like an eternity. “Making…toys?”

“Sir, the wetware mutation set off a metacognitive cascade failure. The matter compiler that was sent along with the simulacrum that would have been used to replicate weapons, vehicles, and other supplies the colonization force might have needed on arrival was instead repurposed to manufacture and distribute toys to those whom the simulacrum deemed morally worthy. These latter appear to be predominantly the young of the planet’s dominant species.”

Skal cradled his head in his pincers. “You’re telling me the simulacrum has spent all this time on Lindell III not preparing the–” Skal looked at the datapad for the demonym of the planet’s inhabitants “–the humans for their world to be colonized, but has instead been giving presents to children it judges to be good?”

“I’m afraid so, sir,” said Jvora. “It’s been doing this for so long that an entire mythology has arisen around the simulacrum’s persona. It has become part of the planet’s culture.”

Skal clambered down from his platform and paced the room. “Lieutenant, we have no choice but to abort any attempt at colonizing Lindell III. Moreover, we have to make sure no other simulacra have been similarly compromised. Perhaps it was a microbial pathogen unique to that world, but we can’t afford to take any chances. We’ll need to dispatch recon probes to check on all simulacra that were assigned to that part of the galaxy. See to it, Jvora.”

“Yes, sir,” said the Lieutenant. “I’ll make a list of all the simulacra we need to investigate.”

“Do so. And Jvora?”


“Check that list twice!”

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