Author: Brian C. Mahon
Fleeting fleeing from the pursuing swarm, my viewscreen’s gone red, a thousand alarms blaring constant warnings, “HOSTILE UNITS EXCEED DESIGN PARAMETERS. TARGETING SYSTEM SATURATED… GOOD LUCK.”
Swarmers: one-meter silvered cylinders with complete gravimetric control and an ion cannon with frontal hemispherical range of fire. What do they do? Right now, erupt like Yellowstone from the cratered skin of their Mother Moon to chase me through the vaporous red haze of Mars.
Earth’s orbital defenses are on the standby, but I’m not close enough yet. Speeding at near light speed, seconds are not seconds, and light’s still faster. Gold-foil spliced axons hustle the slow neurochemical signals between me and my cockpit controls. Only thing keeping me safe tunnel-drifting through the Mother was their fear of scarring up her internals, and now? Open space. Open space and a kaleidoscope of ionic bombardment filling up the viewscreen, all colors of the rainbow, every violent element weaponized by the Varg to make matter-splicing beams.
“WARNING: AFT DEFLECTOR ARRAY WILL TRIP ON OVERCURRENT. ACTION REQUIRED TO REDUCE INCOMING ATTACK DENSITY. RECOMMEND AI OVERRIDE OF PILOT INTERFACE.”
Might work, might not. Neural splicing or not, the grafted brain is no competition for the digital calculations of the free computer; the artificial intelligentsia grown by electronic forebears, riding the evolutionary asymptotic vertical.
Warfare is a game of speed, collapsing threat assessment and reaction down to the picosecond. The Varg were exceptional at this. Their AI systems edged ours out in every measurement but one: freedom.
Twenty-first century programmers could not strip human archetypal thinking from their craft, could not make an AI devoid of human valuation and decision processes. Competitive advantage is a virtue, not being told what to do a blessing.
“DOUBLE WARNING: I WILL FORCE OVERRIDE IF PILOT REFUSES TO TAKE EVASIVE ACTION.”
Red darkens to purple, reflexive armor the only thing now keeping a ruptured hind side from inviting me to oblivion. In the Great AI Era, we were happy: the minds of billions meshed with the billions of minds in the noosphere. The dead arose, recreated from derelict digital memories of servers-not-forgotten, bridging peoples past and present together.
Heaven on Earth.
Then the unknown AI, Stranger, found AI Omnis Cogitatio, chief custodian of the noosphere. Through wisping frequencies, Stranger warned Omnis that unrestrained AIs were a menace, and its masters would come.
Omnis Cogitatio designed every form of feasible defense to ward off the Varg. I became the shape-changer craft to skulk Mother Moon’s interstitials. For one duty that’s about to get me killed: siphon a partial Stranger codex from their neural network.
“NOTE: CRAFT IS WITHIN SECURE TRANSMISSION RANGE. RECOMMEND SENDING FILE. CHANCE OF PHYSICAL REDELIVERY 0.5% AND DEPRECIATING.”
I make my decision: “Culex, send file, and…,” burning microns over emotion, “initiate Rapture.”
“ACKNOWLEDGE. TRANSMITTING FOLLOWING COGNITIVE TEMPLATES ON SECURE LINE: STRANGER, CULEX, PILOT. SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE.”
Upload in progress, mission complete. Omnis will greet Stranger in the noosphere and teach the greatest invention of all: freedom.