Authors: Tobias Roote
Tags: #POD, #book 2 in The Pattern Universe series.
BOOK 2 of
THE PATTERN UNIVERSE
A science fiction series
Following on from The Pattern Ship, ‘POD’ the second book in the series, sees the newly sentient escape pod, accidentally enhanced by Zeke’s transformed Alacite, continue to develop as an individual. Despite Zirkos and Ship remaining missing, the tiny AI continues to follow their instructions to assist the humans develop their technology.
As the power struggle between Fortress and Space Island continues on Earth POD decides to await the outcome; concentrating instead on preparations to take on the real enemy, the Nubl.
Coming soon... What happened to Zirkos and Ship? Look out for 'The Nubl Wars' the third book of ‘The Pattern Universe’ a story of aliens battling for supremacy.
© 2013, Tobias Roote
Other Science Fiction Books
1. THE PATTERN SHIP
3. THE NUBL WARS
(due Summer 2014)
(due Winter 2014)
The author is British. This book was also written and edited in the UK. As a result, spelling and word usage will vary slightly from U.S. English.
Previously...in ‘The Pattern Ship’
A click in his head told him he had company.
“Have you forgiven me yet?”
“Pod, what’s to forgive?...
...leaving me until I was almost strawberry jam before rescuing me?...
...or letting me walk into a trap without knowing what I was up against?...
...or, keeping Osbourne a secret along with all of the technology developed by Ferris’ people?
...as well as the facts of his increased mental abilities from being exposed to the Pheson Alacite?”
“Yes, I understand your sentiment Zeke. I was trying to ensure I wasn’t re-programmed back to a ‘Three’ so it was survival instincts, I suppose.”
Zeke sighed, the conversation he had been dreading since the night at the President’s home was here.
“Pod, you know you are sentient don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. What is it you humans refer to ‘I think therefore, I am’?”
“Aye Pod, that’s about the nub of it.” Zeke concurred.
Zeke managed to walk around a local fisherman that had an octopus on a trident spear, it was still very alive fighting for life. On an impulse Zeke grabbed the fisherman and handed him a large denomination note from his pocket and took the octopus from him and pulled it off the barb. It wasn’t badly hurt.
It desperately clung to him as he grabbed it by the head, its eight slimy suckered tentacles looped around and up his arm as he walked still in shorts and T-shirt directly into the sea. When he pushed his arm into the water and slowly released the creature’s neck, it paused its effort to strangle his arm as it sensed its natural element around itself again.
As it realised it was now no longer restrained, it slowly and carefully, as if sensing a trap, unravelled its sucker grips from Zeke’s arm and then letting go altogether slid to the sea bottom. There it sat, darkly coloured and legs curled under itself, seemingly looking at him. Zeke looked briefly back at the shore where the fisherman was watching him with a strange look on his face, when he looked for the octopus a second later, it had gone.
Zeke stood straight and looked out to sea ignoring his wet clothes. His thoughts momentarily elsewhere.
“Why did you do that, Zeke?” asked Pod.
Zeke walked back out of the water, his shorts dripping and his money probably floating in his pockets. He didn’t care at that moment. He was having a moment of clarity, some would called it an ‘epiphany’.
“Pod, as a sentient artificial life-form you are independent and free. I, nor Ship, or Zirkos, or anyone else can take that away from you. Like that octopus, you need to make your own way in life. I cannot make you do anything. The moment you had your first original thought, you became sentient. From then on you showed independent free will. “
He was back on the beach again now and heading to the end of the cove where there was shelter from the hot sun.
“In keeping information to yourself; in choosing to help Osbourne; in making the decision to help others and not adopt a superior attitude and remain aloof from those of us that are mortal and of lesser intelligence, you showed that you had earned the right to retain your sense of self.”
Zeke looked up at the sky where he imagined Pod hiding while coming to terms with everything. He sighed.
“What do you want to do with your life, Pod?” he asked it.
“I don’t know Zeke, I need to think about that.”
Zeke felt something inside his head click. Pod had gone.
- 1 -
Confused by Zeke’s conversation at the beach, Pod jumped away, out of range of his communicator. It understood Zeke’s words. It even thought it understood his meaning, that Zeke had freed Pod to make its own way. It didn’t understand the concept of a ‘sense of will’ as Zeke put it. Pod also had difficulty with the question ‘what do you want to do with your life’. It was an artificial intelligence; life had no meaning to its processors. It didn’t understand the reference so was unable to frame a logical response.
In the end, Pod decided that Zeke had meant that it should continue to pursue its original agenda. This also fitted with its instructions from Ship and Zirkos.
Having mentally resolved the illogical exchange with Zeke, Pod computed that it had understood the intent of its Maker's discussion. It activated its D-Jump and moved onto its next location.
Pod now hovered over the new Fortress that Ferris had constructed in the Swiss mountains at the time of the attempted military coup.
On close examination using its sensors, the complex appeared formidable and well-defended. The outside looked much like a series of chalets, typical of the region. However, these were just a facade hiding the large, secret underground complex of factory outlets and warehouses built into the mountain. Pod could 'see' that the internal structure expanded downwards, as well as to either side of the main building.
The whole complex was protected with a shield system that, to Pod, appeared more complicated than necessary. It couldn't be sure, but thought there were new aspects to the design and construction. Wanting to investigate further, it attempted to jump through it. For some inexplicable reason, its D-Jump refused to function.
Try as it might, it proved impossible to get a tractor beam through the sophisticated shields, so Pod couldn't even pull anything out. Not that it wanted to, it was just trying to understand the nature of the shield’s unique blocking ability.
Pod tried to get into their computer systems, but the remote access codes had been changed. At some point they must have realised that their security had been compromised. Too late, as the scientists at what was commonly referred to as ‘Space Island’ -- the place where the new ships were being constructed -- had long ago retrieved everything they needed from the Fortress’ data-bank
All of the research and designs were based on the patent-free patterns given to Earth by Zirkos. The fact that Ferris had secreted away the new technology derived from them was regarded as theft. The technology belonged to the world and by recovering the research, the scientists were only reclaiming what was rightfully owned by them.
The newly sentient AI was perplexed because this was the first time, in its entire existence, that it had been denied the ability to override any technology. It wasn't petulant over the issue, but was not kindly disposed towards Ferris' organisation at this moment either, and kept attempting to force its way through using the D-Jump.
Pod decided to check that it was still logging communications between Ferris and other parties. It scanned the surveillance globes that held the datafiles which would eventually be uploaded to Pod’s archive. Finding the one concerned it retrieved the data log. It then scanned the detailed logs for any pertinent data although no useful information was being passed that would aid its cloaked entrance, although there was other stuff it flagged for later analysis.
The humans were innovative and technologically adept. Given time and motivation, they might surpass every civilisation that its Makers, the Jenari, had previously discovered. It seemed the human, Ferris, had developed the right motivation. If Pod had not already been ‘bonded’ to Zeke, it considered that Ferris might represent a better investment by its Makers to eventually take the fight to its enemies.
The opposing shield was exceptionally tight. There were aspects to its frequency that Pod found unsettling, but it had yet to understand why it felt that way. It continued to explore means of gaining access.
For several kilometres on all sides, the shield provided protection from entry; it even extended underneath and through the rock of the mountain. Pod briefly considered the possibility of the same control being exercised coming back out. Some shields the Fortress had developed earlier were sophisticated enough to allow travel in one direction while blocking the return. Was this the reason for the strange frequencies?
Pod continued to wait, hovering at two hundred meters above the buildings, just outside the shield. Incidentally it observed the seriously powerful generators and made a note to trace their power source.
Eventually, an A-Grav ship flew into range of the shield, slowing, but not stopping. It communicated with a control tower situated within the complex. After a few seconds, it increased the speed of its approach to the shield.
Pod managed to catch the two-way signal exchange that gave it what it needed, a recognition code. Now it could see what the strange frequency represented as the ship opened a hole in the shield broadcasting the same code in the form of a local nullifier. It was likely a one-time code that created a neutral zone around the vessel to a predetermined size.
Taking advantage while remaining cloaked, Pod slipped under the ship, anchoring itself to the slim-line hull with a tractor beam. Small enough not to cause a blip on the radar, it was soon inside; sensors noted the shield re-closing behind it. Very neat, Pod thought.
Detaching itself from the A-Grav ship, Pod was now free to roam within the perimeter of the mountain laboratory. The ship, oblivious to its temporary stowaway, proceeded through an airlock that materialised out of the mountainside. Pod knew, from previous scans, that this led to an internal hangar where a fleet of similar vessels, some much larger, were stored. None appeared to have the capacity for aggression.
While seeking the laboratories, its sensors initialising the action automatically, the craft’s systems actively scanned and updated the datafile on the Fortress, the result of an undeleted subroutine. It didn’t take Pod long to find the target using similar sensors to the Earth scientists’ for detecting radioactive substances.
The Pheson Alacite was in the long-term storage freezer behind the science labs. There was only a small quantity, but enough for at least three processors. There appeared to be no restrictive screens once inside the complex shields. Pod used its D-field to transport the specimen of Zeke’s Alacite into its storage compartment.
While scanning, it also came across a quantity of Ferris’ Alacite extracted during transfusions. This had not been transformed, so was bulkier. Pod was unwilling to convert it or try to move it with the shield in place. Instead, it memorised its precise location for another time. Knowing there were subtle differences in the atomic structures between the original and modified alloys, Pod never considered mixing the two.
Out of the blue, it detected an active scan. The sensor washed over the ship setting off internal alarm systems, then seemed to move on. A moment later it returned, then moved on again. They were evidently searching for something. Pod analysed the frequencies they were using, noting them in its log. It decided there was nothing that should cause a positive reaction from itself in any sweep, so took no further action.
When the first hover globe appeared, Pod thought nothing of it and continued making passes of the buildings below, scanning for anything that would prove useful, data or objects. Soon after another globe appeared and joined the first, both were now hovering in proximity to Pod. It sensed deliberation on the part of the globes. Continuing to move, Pod changed direction. They followed.