Galactic Communications

Author: David K Scholes

“It’s the third time this week I’ve tried to put through holographic calls via the real-time galactic link,” Mary sounded frustrated. “Nor have I done any better using instantaneous or delayed messages on the Universe Net. I can’t run a business this way!”

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“With the holographic calls I can’t get through to a physical being or an AI or even a limited intelligence, limited response AI. If I’m lucky I get a mindless pseudo-sympathetic automatic audio-only response which won’t let me leave a message. If not there’s either the most eerie silence or some very scary run-arounds.

“With the Universe Net,” Mary continued “I get the response that my message cannot be delivered within a meaningful time frame. Or I get a message undeliverable response. Or the e-mail gets re-routed to some exotic planet the other side of the Universe and if I get a reply it’s too weird to understand. Even with advanced Universe translation software”.

Have you considered the Universe Dark Net or even the Extra-Dimensional Dark Net?” I asked. “The criminal elements have a vested interest in keeping communications reliable.”

Mary looked at me with distaste. “I wouldn’t be caught dead using the Universe Dark Net, all those vile alien criminals nosing into my business and as for the Extra-dimensional Dark Net – who knows but I might unwittingly bring down an extra-dimensional alien invasion upon us.”

“If it’s important enough could you try teleporting to a world where galactic communications are more reliable?” I asked.
“Teleportation links are down for most places of worth,” responded Mary.

“A crude tele-shunt would be out of the question?” I enquired receiving no reply other than another look of distaste.

“I suppose you could actually go there – to some of your more important business locations using a transportation of last resort mechanism. If you can communicate from one of these locations then you won’t need to actually visit the rest of them.

“Dismissing any suggestion of the mystical approach I assume you are talking about virtual reality travel which is just that!” Mary was dismissive.

“A sufficiently advanced mind can re-program the travel machines so they can’t tell the difference between real and virtual locations,” I responded. “Also with the inbuilt fail-safe switch if you did “accidentally” go to the real rather than virtual destination you can always hit the switch and return to your real point of origin”.

“These are desperation measures not to be seriously considered!” Mary lectured me. “For mystics and thrill-seekers only and not the way to run off-system businesses. It’s getting so you can’t run a business off-system anymore,” she sighed.

I wondered if this increasing unreliability might spell the death knell for intergalactic commerce. It vastly increased the opportunities for fraud on a galactic level.

“You might have to consider more limited near-space investments in the future. Such as within Sol including the outer Sol stations. Where both the galactic link and physical transportation still seem reliable.” This was the only sound advice I could provide to Mary.

How strange I thought. Back in the day when communications and many forms of transportation here on Earth were unreliable. Telephone failures, mobile phone black spots and network failures, problems with access to the internet, early problems with holographic calls and local teleportation. Now in a world of near-perfect on Earth planetary communications and transportation it seems that all the problems have gone off-planet.

Perhaps, as we did on Earth, they will iron out these bugs.

It was a big perhaps.

The Einstein-Newton Gap

Author: David K Scholes

Through the Unified Mind I perceived the vastness of this Einstein-Newton Gap. One of the tracts of interstellar space where neither true teleportation nor even hyperspace travel were possible. You just had to crawl across these “gaps” at just sub-light speed. Nor, by its creator’s design, could this snail’s pace travel be circumvented by inter-dimensional or inter-reality travel. It had been tried and you just ended up back where you started.

The mighty Streene Star fleets stretched across the gap as far as the Uni-Mind could perceive. Each fleet crawling along at just under light speed. If just one of them got across the gap there would be nothing to stop these masters of hyperspace and their otherwise near-omnipotent technology.

Our Earth star fleet enhanced by the Prime Non-Corporeal stood ready. Defensive shields and offensive weaponry augmented to another order of magnitude. The Prime’s energies flowing within and around each of our ships and enveloping the entire fleet.

The leading Streene fleet was approaching the edge of the gap. While within the gap they were vulnerable and beyond it they were not.

Four other Uni-Minds were present. Briefly, they melded into a single Ultimate level Uni-Mind resulting in a level of cosmic awareness and consciousness that the mind’s few corporeal participants could not even have imagined.

The Streene were hit just before they emerged from the Einstein-Newton gap. Inconceivably vast swathes of abstract energies from the Ultimate level Uni-Mind combined with the full offensive physical energy firepower of an Earth Starfleet hugely enhanced by the Prime.

The first of the colossal Streene fleets was stopped just within the Einstein-Newton gap but at a cost. The Ultimate level Uni-Mind fusion was broken down into its four smaller Uni-Mind components and then almost immediately broken down further into the individual participant minds that were dispersed like chaff back to their corporeal and non-corporeal hosts. I suspected this was no great inconvenience for the non-corporeals but more of a problem for the corporeal participants such as myself.

Even with the protection of the Prime, the Earth star fleet suffered heavy losses.

As my consciousness returned to my mere corporeal body lying inert within the Earth Fleet flagship I was deeply troubled. Had we suffered so much simply to have repelled only the first of the Streene formations?

Within the consciousness of the Ultimate Uni-Mind the second of the Streene fleets had loomed ominously close and I had thought the Prime would be arranging an immediate re-grouping of our forces. Yet back with the Earth fleet I was able to view the progress of the other Streene fleets from a different perspective. Even though enhanced by the Prime the Earth Fleet view of events was not at Uni-mind level. I saw in human terms just how distant even the second slow-moving Streene Fleet was.

The Prime had more urgent matters to attend to and might choose an entirely different set of defenders and even form of defence in its next encounter with the Streene wherever in the latticework of gaps that battle might take place. In this Forever War.

The remainder of the Earth Fleet and almost all elements of the Ultimate Uni-Mind were no longer required. We had served our purpose for the Prime.
Nor could our residual Earth Fleet even consider staying on alone at the edge of the Einstein-Newton gap to repel the intruders.

By the time the second of the immortal Streene fleets arrived at the edge of the gap, we would be a ghost fleet with all of us dead for millennia.

Budget Surplus

Author: David K Scholes

Federal Houses of Parliament
Early 2096

“Let’s run over those policy proposals again,” said the dominant AI “we have to get the Federal budget into surplus.”

It was only referring to the human part of the budget of course. Anything AI was inviolate.

I looked around the levels of concentric circles of the Expenditure Review Committee very conscious I was the only human present. Holographically or otherwise. As the insignificant Assistant Minister for Elderly Humans, I was at the lowest point in the forum.

Usually far too junior to be among such exalted company but no other human Minister was available. Our good old Australian Constitution still required a human Minister to be present at such meetings. Though the AI’s were trying to change this.

Our token human Prime Minister was absent on extended sick leave under suspicious circumstances. With him absent the dominant AI the Deputy Leader of the Coalition was in control – as it would have been anyway.

Our poor old human PM must have been overwhelmed by all his senior Ministers being AI’s and only a sprinkling of junior Ministers being human.

“Raise the human retirement age from 80 to 85!” exclaimed the AI Minister for Social Security. A savings option popular with those present.
“The actuarial expectation of life has dropped once again” I replied quoting actuarial figures. “So that many working humans will die before they can retire!”

I spoke up because no one else would. The AI Ministers would not object to humans working until they dropped. If it saved money.

“Reduce foreign aid to zero,” offered the AI Foreign Affairs Minister.
“It already is,” I replied in disbelief.
“Start asking for some of our foreign aid $’s back,” it responded.

Even back when human Ministers were predominant there was an obsession with budget surpluses. At the expense of the elderly, unemployed, and disabled. Now under AI dominance, this had risen to a whole new level. .

“Reduce AI budget growth from 20% to 5%,” I offered in a suicidal moment. In a nano-second, I was shouted down and immediately my holograph faded and I lost the ability to communicate with the forum though I could still hear proceedings. The threat was clear.

The outrageous ideas kept coming:

“Raise the minimum level of disablement for human disability benefits.”
“Stop indexation of human unemployment benefits.”

Even at their silliest Australian human parliaments never raised such options. Did they?

I stayed silent, though I was able to abstain from voting on any of the ridiculous proposals without further interruption to my holographic image and I saw could communicate with the forum again.

Then an opportunity came. A vote on the AI capital budget for 2096/2097 – even I, a mere human, could see through the falseness in their 3D spreadsheets.

The vote had to be carried unanimously. The AI’s were certain I would acquiesce and I saw that the holographic link would allow me to maintain contact and register my vote.

I voted against it.

A few days later

“A shame about that human junior Minister – the one for the inconsequential Elderly Humans portfolio,” said AI7978834 who was sometimes known as the Federal Treasurer.
“Yes – a fatal heart attack, those bags of blood, skin, and bone are so fragile, so vulnerable, these things will happen to them,” replied AI 8456893 otherwise known as the Federal Minister for Health.

“It’ll be best when none of them are left,” offered the dominant AI.
“Human Ministers or humans more generally?” echoed a chorus of slightly mechanical voices.

“Both,” came the unmistakeably cold reply.

Job Search

Author: David K Scholes

I didn’t recognize any of the positions in the job search booth.

Terra-forming Engineer, Change Field Manipulator, Short Tele-Shunt Engineer, Long Distance Teleportation Engineer, Unified Mind Sustainer, Alternate Reality Coordinator, Extra-Dimensional Tour Guide.

Though I could take a guess at what they might involve.

Whatever happened to the ubiquitous Business Analysts, Project Managers, and Executive Assistants. Not to mention Associate Professors, University Lecturers, and Research Fellows which were perhaps more in my line.

I hadn’t come that far up time – had I? Not more than the contracted period?

They had selected me on the basis of my Ph.D. in mathematics from the Australian National University. Not to mention my responses to some of the weirdest tests imaginable.

I was expecting a more formal reception and a little more guidance when I got here. Something more than the lone, barely civil, little bot ushering me into the job search booth.

“Take your time,” it said almost insolently. “Choose from any of these positions that interest you and that you appear qualified for. Once you have a job we can see about settling you in.”

I made my first selection and that’s when I got the treatment. The full treatment.
A bewildering battery of mind probe tests followed by a considerable array of virtual reality job scenarios. Somewhere among this I vaguely recalled an actual old fashioned face to face job interview with several distinctly non-human entities. I think my holograph went to them rather than the other way round. Though I really wasn’t quite sure.

Nothing down time, not even the weird tests I was subjected to down there, had prepared me for this and not surprisingly I failed miserably at my first up time job application. None of the potential employers up here wanting Time Travel Inconsistencies Mathematicians were interested in what I had to offer. It occurred to me that I might have been aiming too high.

The bot wanted me to press on with other job selections in the booth but the rigor of the job selection process together with my up time travel had resulted in brain fade.

A took a break in a very small transparent cubicle offered to me. After a heavily concentrated micro-sleep and some kind of mind nourishment I awoke refreshed and ready to continue. I became conscious of the many other job applicants that were around. Some of them resting, as I had, in the transparent cubicles.

I re-entered a job selection booth, not knowing if it was the same one, as there were so many of them.

I pressed on with my job selections: though with no better results. Failing for each position that I applied for. I began to wonder what I was doing here. Did these employers up time really want any of us down time savages?

I started to look for jobs that didn’t sound so grand. Maybe an up time equivalent of a laborer or cleaner.

Then I got a job. A position for an Efficient Debris Disposal Mathematician. It sounded like a grand title for a garbage disposer.

Going back down time wasn’t an option. The actuarial present value (discounted back to my time) of 50% of my contracted future earnings had already been paid to (and long since spent) by my family.

I realized these up time people knew what they were doing.

We down timers were never going to get the good jobs up here – just those they didn’t want to do themselves.

The up time employers were just going through the motions.

The Art of Detection

Author: David K Scholes

The three of us pored over the various 3D mind image, life force energy, and bio patterns.

The “B” team, consisting of robotic investigators stood ready to assist us.

There were, of course, other “A” teams and many, many other robot led “B’ teams, the world over, doing the same work. Fighting the same fight.

“They are getting almost impossible to detect now,” said the Prime investigator. “Their ability to replicate even a mind image or life force energy pattern is approaching perfection.”

I sighed remembering back when I was a boy – when fingerprints, retina scans, and voiceprints were enough for differentiation.

“That particular mind image,” I laser connected to it. “If you condense 10 minutes worth into 30 seconds, there’s something about it. Something not human.”

“Only problem now,” grumbled the Third “is determining what alien race we are dealing with.”
“If it even belongs to a race,” I countered.

Of the many extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional visitors and occasional alternate reality visitors we received some were proven friendly and would never seek to take advantage of us. Just curious visitors.

The number of alien assumptions of existing human identities was far, far more than any Earth authority would ever admit to. If it were known it would lead to panic. The only plus was that almost all of them only ever appeared to be temporary. The Aliens, extra-terrestrial, extra-dimensional or whatever all had somewhere to go back to. They’d leave and we would do our best to clean up afterward.

Prime had made the joy ride in a car analogy but I didn’t like that comparison. Joy ride cars often got burned out.

I persisted with the mind image currently occupying our attention. “We’ll need to go back on this one – re-check everything; interview records, current surveillance, even the basics like retina scans and such, everything. There’s something not right about it.
“I think it’s one of them,” I added quietly “one of the non-recognisables.”

Both the Prime and the Third’s faces went white.

The non-recognisables were the hardest of all to deal with. Something in their natural form, even if we could expose it, that we would never normally recognise as any form of intelligent life. Some considered that these visitors were not temporary.

We meticulously worked through everything we had on this one and another A team with another Prime joined us.

The evidence, each just little things, started to accumulate. Even among the non-recognisables – there were different types; non-recognisable corporeals, non-recognisable non-corporeals, extreme transients that didn’t fit either of these categories and finally – them.

“I think it’s one of them,” I exclaimed.
“An abstract concept!” – the supercomputer beat both Primes to it.

“The assigned special forces surveillance team has lost track of the abstract’s assumed human form,” the Prime from my team suddenly exclaimed nervously “two of them were killed just before losing contact.”

Nobody had ever caught an abstract – not in assumed human form and most certainly not in its abstract form.

“Any sense from all of our analysis as to what abstract concept we are dealing with here?” I asked.

“Enmity, enmity is the primary concept registering here,” the supercomputer with its super emotion chip was best placed to answer this. “Perpetual enmity,” the supercomputer modified its initial statement.

“Hatred, perpetual hatred,” I exclaimed.

“This is too much for Special Forces,” exclaimed my Prime “even the SAS; get the Queller teams on it. Find it, dump it, before it returns to its abstract form.

If it returns I thought.