Read Episode VI: Beta Test Online

Authors: Ben Winston

Tags: #Science Fiction

Episode VI: Beta Test (2 page)

AI Programming Lab

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth's Moon

Sol System


had used the need for additional programming of Christy's base biocytes for the Armor project to teach the rest of the programmers in the computer section how to program the medical system. It was not as difficult as I had thought it would be; as most of the concepts and methods used were already well known to most of the group.

Sarah had recorded the training sessions for use in the creation of a teaching module, as well as for a refresher vid for later use by future programmers. She was doing the same with the programming of the AI Athena, but in that instance she was only using parts of my programming session in order to teach the basic concepts of the 'new' language and how it worked. Later, more modules would be created for the instruction of mid-level as well as advanced AI programming concepts.

I was taking a break in my office after finishing the biocyte programming when I remembered I had wanted to ask Sarah something. "Sarah, do you have a free moment?"

She materialized in my office. "Of course, My Lord."

I smiled. "Please relax, this is unofficial."

She returned my smile and nodded. "Okay Eric, what do you need?"

"Did you ever need to hack into GMASS to discover how the Shallans are doing?"

"No, I did not. Before I could contact Susan to see if she already had, I discovered that three Shallan communication techs are in clandestine contact with members of the Protectorate still in residence at Galtar. They are acting on orders from Councilor Alyessa. After conferring with her, I decided to leave it in her hands. She did ask that if the need arose, would I be willing to hack into the GMASS main computer systems. After receiving approval from Commodore Vance, I agreed to her request. So far, she has not made the request," Sarah explained. "Since the Synod arrived, it's getting really bad there, Eric."

"How bad?" I asked concerned. I didn't know that many Shallans, but of those I did know, I’ve liked.

"The Synod is forcing everyone to go through these chambers they've set up. They're programming chambers that remove any free will from a person and implants absolute devotion to the Synod. It's large scale brainwashing to make absolutely sure they don't lose control of the Shallans. It's horrible! It’s like they are murdering the souls of the people!" Sarah said sadly. "All the clan leadership that have gone through the process are like zombies now."

"Do you know if those chambers are connected to the main computers?" I asked.

Sarah shook her head. "No I don't, but you would think they would almost have to be; otherwise, how would they know who had been programmed and who hadn't?"

I was thoughtful for a moment. "I know you said you didn't get the chance to hack in, but is there a way in? Can you tag them without opening a new channel that could be noticed?"

"Although it's no longer used, GMASS maintained a connection to the Alliance comm systems via the Elartis IV communications node. It’s the same path the Shallans are using to communicate with the Protectorate. Unfortunately, it’s also the only open connection into GMASS," Sarah explained.

I nodded. "The next time you speak to Susan, please ask her if she would be willing to send a clone on a very special mission for us. I'll need to discuss it with the advisory council, but it would be good to know if Susan would be willing to do it first."

"You want her to invade the GMASS computer system?" Sarah asked.

I nodded. "Yes, close to, but not in the same way she did for the Veranorian system. Obviously, they did not install the new AI at GMASS before the Synod arrived or we would have heard already. So we're going to give them an upgrade."

Sarah nodded. "I'll ask her, we're in almost constant contact now. She didn't want me to tell you, but I think she might be nearing her maximum processing capacity. She's had to clone herself quite a bit in order to handle all the tasks being asked of her in addition to her primary duties. The need for more AI is becoming acute. She has clones running each of the core worlds and they in turn have had to clone themselves multiple times. All of that data is feeding back on her."

"That's not good. That kind of load could damage her, I'll try to create a patch to limit the data feedback, in essence she'll be able to cut a few of the clones loose to handle their own duties until we can get the crystals and programs finished," I replied. "In the meantime, I want a copy of her full usage logs sent to me so I know what areas she needs the most help in. She was never designed for this. In addition to the planetary class and command class crystals, I'll also need a list of the most needed units so we can get them growing. I'll get my team working on getting at least the base framework of the new AI going so we can get those built faster. I'll want to talk to Vance about adding another command class crystal to the list for Galtar Main. That way, when the time comes, we'll be ready for it."

"Erik, I have a suggestion regarding sister Athena, but I don't know if it will be that much help," Sarah offered.

That got my attention. "Oh, do you think you might know what's causing her instability?"

"No, that still confuses me as much as it does you." She paused. "Alicyn once suggested speaking to a mental health professional about the aberration Athena has developed. However, no one is really qualified to understand how our minds work except for you. But there might be someone else that could at least understand the nature of the issue. Clan Therinate also brought their Lore-Keepers. Considering the information First Daughter Shairline brought to us, I thought it might be helpful to speak to one of their Lore-Keepers."

You know, that actually made a lot of sense. AI code mostly resembled the ancient Shallan computer code, so it was worth a shot at least. It certainly couldn't hurt. "That might be a very good idea, Sarah. At this point, I'll take all the help and advice I can get. Would you please inquire on my behalf if it would be possible for me to speak to one of them on this matter?"

Sarah smiled. "I thought you would think the idea was nuts! After all you would be asking what amounts to a mystic about how to fix a programming glitch!"

"Sarah, if it would help, I'd consider sacrificing small furry animals to the Gods of Woodoo at this point!" I admitted, grinning.


esidence of Freyair

Shallan Sector

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth's Moon

Sol System


rue to her word, Sarah arranged a meeting with Lore-Keeper Freyair of the Shallan Clan Therinate. I actually thought it might be more difficult, but the new Matriarch had no problem at all with it, apparently, neither did the Lore-Keeper.

For myself, I had no idea what to expect. I'd had in my mind that this being was like a Shaman or a Mystic. When I got there, the appearance of the residence did nothing to change that image.

"Enter with peace Lord Eric Cowan and be welcome here." The robed figure that met me at the door said. "Matriarch Andress and AI Sarah have told me of your request to speak with me. How can our ancestors assist you?"

"Mistress Freyair, I'm having some difficulty with an AI I am working on. Her personality is unstable, yet I cannot find what is causing this. AI Sarah suggested I speak to you about this matter as the AI programming language and the ancient language of your people are so closely related," I explained.

"I understand. How has she become unstable? What behavior is she exhibiting that troubles you?" the small woman asked. I still hadn't seen her face as she had kept the robe on.

"When we activate her in the test area, she is psychotic and exhibits a type of homicidal rage directed at anyone that comes close to her. I have gone over every line of code, triple checked module interaction, and I am still unable to discover the reason for this behavior," I replied.

"Are you certain she isn't simply at her menses?" the small woman asked reasonably.

Her reply took me a minute to process; was this woman seriously asking if I was sure Athena wasn't having her period?

The small being suddenly cracked up laughing hysterically. "I'm sorry," more laughing. "Lord Cowan,” giggle fit. "But the look!" More laughing and she waved me further into her apartment.

To say I was confused was a major understatement. What was going on here? Was this really the Lore-Keeper Freyair? I took the seat I was offered as my hostess finally took off her robe and dropped it on the chair before sitting on it.

Seeing my face, she finally relented. "My Lord, I am truly sorry, but I was playing a small joke on you. You see, Shariline is my sister and she told me about you and your family. When I got the request to meet with you from the Matriarch, I just couldn't help myself."

"Well, I will admit I had no idea what to expect meeting you, but humor was probably the furthest from my mind," I said. "It was a pretty good joke."

"Well, all joking aside, it sounds like a very serious problem. You are worried about it not only affecting the AI currently under development, but all future AI as well?" Freyair asked.

I nodded. "Yeah, I really don't understand where this is coming from. Sarah has an almost identical base structure and she's not unstable at all. I simply do not understand how this is happening."

She looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Much of the ancient language is shrouded in mystery even to us. Some of it may be lost completely to us. Our Simonian brothers have aided us greatly in refining and clarifying much of the knowledge found on our old planets, but there is still much to be relearned.

"I have been honored with the knowledge of your AI language and how closely it follows that of our forebears. It was troubling to me that not all the words and commands translated and I had actually made a note to myself to seek you out on this issue to better understand the discrepancies involved. Perhaps the issue you are having has something to do with that," she finished.

"Perhaps, the thought I had might be one of context; a word or command I'm using doesn't have the definition I think it does when the AI reads it. But then again, Sarah has examined the code as well and did not see anything wrong with it, but then again, her frame of reference may be different than that of the new AI," I explained.

Freyair shrugged. "Maybe she really is on her menses. The ancient language holds many mysteries we still don’t fully understand. That was the reason sister approached you to give you that warning. The ancient words have a power we do not fully understand and must be used with care. So much of their meaning and function has been lost to us that many believe it too dangerous to use in any form."

I had an idea. "You said you understand the programming language, right? Why don't you come to my lab and take a look? It certainly couldn't hurt anything!"

"I would be happy to of course, but I should tell you that although I am familiar with your programming language, I am not a programmer. I may not understand what it is I'm looking at," Freyair replied. "Perhaps if I see her when she is active it will help."

"I feel I should warn you; when she is active, she is very violent. She's limited to holographic display only and isolated in a special programming crystal. So if she tried to attack you, there is nothing she can actually do. In essence, it would be like watching a holovid of someone trying to attack you," I explained.

"I will do this, but you must take me to lunch with your mate after. I would very much like to meet her as well," Freyair replied.

"I can do that, I will be working late this evening as it is, so taking Christy to lunch would be a good way to break the news to her," I said. "I need to finish an urgently needed software update for another AI."

"Oh? If that is the case, then why do we not delay this while you complete the work on that? While I understand that this project has a high priority, it sounds like that update is needed now," she replied. "You can simply give me a call later and we can work out the details of my visit at that time."

She was far younger than I had expected her to be, but I had to admit; she was pretty smart.


ffice of Lord Doctor Cowan

AI Programming Lab

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth's Moon

Sol System


aving just finished the software update for Susan, I returned to my office for a break. I'd completely missed lunch, and now it was almost the end of the day. The evening crew was about to arrive.

Sarah had tested the rather large update for Susan in one of the old, Veranorian-built, main computers we had removed from one of the ships. We corrected two small issues on the fly, and the update was ready. Sarah had already made it available for Susan to download when she had the time - which in itself was an indication on just how over-loaded Susan was becoming.

"Eric did you still want to speak to the Admiral about Susan invading GMASS?" Sarah asked me. She was still monitoring my activity so she knew I wasn't busy at the moment. I had never told her she didn't need to anymore.

I smiled at her as she took form in my office. "I suppose I should, but I was hoping to have gotten Athena closer to being ready before I suggested a new task for Susan."

"Well, this is more of a reminder than anything else. I can ask if he has a moment for you, right now he's actually back in his office and is only reviewing reports," Sarah replied.

Coming to a decision, I nodded. "Yes, please see if he can see me before the end of the day, but be sure to let him know it's not an emergency like most of our meetings are. Also, please remind me to call Freyair about coming to the lab tomorrow. With any luck at all, we'll find the issue quickly and be able to get it fixed."

"I will remind you, Eric. There isn't really that much left to do on Athena's coding; once this issue is resolved, you should be able to get her completed relatively quickly, based on your past programming benchmarks," Sarah said. "She is basically complete, although none of the modules are installed."

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