Read Episode VI: Beta Test Online

Authors: Ben Winston

Tags: #Science Fiction

Episode VI: Beta Test (3 page)

I nodded. "That's true, so if we do get her fixed quickly, she'll be sitting around waiting for her crystal to finish growing. If we get the issue resolved, I will probably hold off doing a final compile on her until the crystal is closer to being finished. That way she won't have to spend any more time in dormant mode than is necessary. I know you, as well as the other AI we installed on the ships, reported no discomfort in using that mode, but I still feel uncomfortable forcing you to go through it. It feels too much like using an induced coma simply to store them."

Sarah smiled at me. "You care about us, so your concern is understandable. However, based on the data gathered from the installations of the ship AI, I am compiling a report on the effects of an AI being dormant. Granted, none of us were in dormant mode for longer than a week, with Jonti being the one to spend the most time powered down. Although not conclusive, there does seem to be a small variance exhibited after power-up that could be considered to be equivalent to waking up rested after a nap. I'll give you the numbers in the report, but basically, even my own efficiency was increased marginally after spending only one day in dormant mode."

"Really?" I asked. "I very much look forward to that report, Sarah. Maybe all the AI would benefit from periodic rest cycles where they can at least partially power down. All of us organic beings require rest periods in order to function properly, perhaps the same can be said of you as well. Unfortunately, right now, we need all of you awake and functioning, but this is something we really need to explore; it may help with longer serving AI that get little to no downtime, like yourself and Athena."

She nodded. "Have you decided to alter the list of AI that need to be built?"

"No, just the way the list is handled," I explained. "Until we get more AI programmers trained, all of them have to be built here. While each of you develop your own personalities based on your environments, I was considering using the first AI of each series as a base template for later versions of the same class. More so than we do now, basically, only altering the name and appearance, and allow each of the AI to grow into the being that they are to become."

"Is that not what you are doing now? I know that's what you did with Susan, and I thought that's what you did with the ship class AI," Sarah asked. "When I assisted with testing during the 'beta' phase, I had assumed that to be the case."

I shook my head. "With Susan, you are correct, I basically just copied you and changed some of her command matrix while adding cloning ability. However, in the ship class AI, we only used a core command set based on yours; the rest was programmed individually for each AI. That's why I am considering going with the duplication method. If you look at each of the individually programmed AI, there really is not that much difference between them. Even an AI built for a destroyer is not all that different, code-wise, from an AI built for a light cruiser. The differences are only in the secondary code modules specific to each ship."

Sarah nodded. "I understand, as I said, I thought you had already been doing it. The practice should prove to make the building of new AI much faster and more efficient." She cocked her head to one side and smiled. "The Admiral would be happy to visit with you for a few minutes, however, he asked that he meet you here as it is on the way home for him."

"That would be fine, Sarah. Tell him I'll have a cold beer waiting for him when he gets here."

––––––––

"Welcome to wonderland, Admiral!" I said by way of greeting Vance when he arrived. I met him in the reception area to my office pod. Because of the rapid growth of the AI department, two pods had been fused together to allow for all the programming suites needed.

He grinned. "That pretty much describes this place! I haven't been down here since you expanded the department. You have a lot of new faces around here!"

I chuckled. "You're catching us during a shift change. In five minutes, half of these folks will have gone home, while the other half will disappear into their programming suites. The only people left moving about will be the assistants. Come on, let's get that beer I promised you."

When we got back to my office, Sarah had the office replicator make the beer as we entered. I grabbed the two cold bottles and we sat down. "Well, you don't look too stressed, so I would assume things are going better."

He nodded after taking a long drink. "Yeah, they are. I'm actually very surprised about it too. With as many separate projects as we are undertaking, we are doing remarkably well. The big dry-dock and manufacturing facility is coming along very nicely; in fact the first keel should be started in another couple of weeks. The fighter construction facility is even further along. The base on the forth planet is almost the size of a small city and even has the ability to train everyone from fighter pilots and ship crews to Marines.

"The Aracs on Earth are behaving themselves, and our reinforcements will be here tomorrow evening. The officials on Earth seem to have figured out that we are not their enemy and have stopped fighting us, at least overtly. We are still having issues with spies trying to steal technology, but at least I can understand that somewhat.

"The new armor project seems to be improving every day; yeah, I think it's safe to say things are going better, at least for the time being. As for the rest of the Alliance, we've not heard anything from the Arac Queen, and other than a few small scout craft, she hasn't made any moves yet. For now, everything is quiet. Which is a blessing; our people need it in order to recover from the Veranorian thing.

"Sarah said you had something to discuss with me, but that it wasn't urgent."

I nodded. "No, it's not urgent. I've been a little worried about the Shallan people left at Galtar. Sarah tell me that Clan Therinate has been keeping in touch with the Protectorate, but the Synod is doing some sort of procedure on everyone to ensure their loyalty. Basically, they are brainwashing all of them into becoming slaves."

"Yeah, I read that report too. I wish there was something we could do to stop it, but from the reports about how they've improved the defenses there, our forces would be shredded before we even entered the system," Vance replied.

"Well, I was thinking of a more subtle approach to the issue," I said grinning. "This type of attack is one of the things Susan was created for. But there is a problem there. Susan wasn't designed for the job she's now doing. She's getting very badly overloaded."

"Really? From everything I've heard from the First Admiral, she's doing exceptionally well," Vance replied.

"Well, it might appear that way, but she isn't. I've received a copy of her logs and she is operating at eighty six percent capacity with peaks up to ninety-four percent. If she were only running just High Command or even one of the planets, she would do fine until the new systems could be installed, however, she's running all of them at the same time. Under her current structure, it really is all on a single AI, even though she can clone herself out. Each of those clones still reports back to her directly, which means she is feeling the effects of the 'whole' and not just a single facility.

"I wrote an update for her in order to give her the ability to let a few of her clones go autonomous in that they will maintain their own data sets and memories instead of dumping everything back to her. This is only a temporary fix to give us more time; eventually a load this size could damage her core instructions simply by overloading her," I explained.

"Is she in danger of failure?" Vance asked suddenly concerned.

"If left as she is it would be a certainty. The update we sent her should delay it for a few months. But if she is left in place, she will eventually experience a catastrophic code imbalance which will destroy her core instruction set. Even with this update, trying to maintain her performance at the levels she is currently operating at will eventually kill her."

"I had no idea. Are you still having problems with Athena?" He asked.

"Yeah, I am. I asked Shallan Lore-Keeper Freyair to assist us in isolating the issue. I hope she'll be able to stop by tomorrow morning," I replied.

"Freyair? I don't think I know her. How would a Shallan Mystic be able to help with an AI?" Vance asked.

"Freyair is Shariline's younger sister, which means she is another daughter of Master Halflan. Her area of focus seems to be the ancient Loenarian language, which is very close to the AI language. Sarah had the suggestion that I speak to her to possibly gain a little more insight into the means and definitions of some of the code I'm using. Because, quite frankly, I don't know where else to look. I've had Sarah and three other programmers, besides myself, go through every single line of code, and none of us can find an issue with it," I admitted. "This problem is beating me and it's driving me nuts."

"Well, I have every confidence that you will solve it. You always seem to have a plan and you always seem to find a way to make it work. I am really surprised the Shallans let you visit one of their Lore-Keepers though, they usually keep those folks pretty sheltered," Vance said.

Sarah interrupted the discussion. "As I understand it, Lord Admiral, they are altering how things work. Now that they are no longer under the thumb of the Synod, they are taking a more active and enthusiastic role in the Alliance. Then too, Freyair is young for her duties and doesn't hold with the pseudo-mysticism of the elder masters. She is also the youngest of the Lore-Keeper Masters as she was born with the gift of an eidetic memory, which is required of a Lore-Keeper. As I understand it, such a gift is very rare among the Shallan race. Freyair is considered a prodigy. She is also very active in working with the Simonian archeologist's working to restore the ancient Loenarian language,"

"Just how old is she, Sarah?" I asked.

"Chronologically, she is two years your senior, Lord Cowan. However, among her race, she would not yet be considered an adult if not for her position as a Master Lore-Keeper. I should also mention that, as a Lore-Keeper, she is not counted as a part of a family; rather she is a daughter of the Clan as a whole," Sarah explained.

"We got off track here. You said something about using Susan to help the Shallans still at Galtar?" Vance asked.

"Yeah, I was going to suggest, if I can get Athena up and running fast enough, that Susan be asked to infiltrate the GMASS main computer systems. She could prevent the total dominance of the race by the Synod as well as work to glean information on the activities of the Synod. It would also make it far easier as well as less risky for Clan Therinate to stay in contact with the Protectorate."

"Have you spoken to the Matriarch Andress or Councilor Alyessa about this yet?" Vance asked.

I shook my head. "No Sir, I wanted to speak to you about it first. Besides, at the moment, Susan is in no position or condition to take on a new project."

Vance nodded thoughtfully. "I think you might have a good idea, Eric. But I also think we should discuss it with both Shallan Councilors as well as the Matriarch before we make a decision. Unfortunately, the longer it takes, the fewer Shallans remain free. As I understand it, those machines that the Synod are using run night and day. If this is the same method that was used on the original High Council, we still have not discovered a way to counter it."

"Maybe we could ask her to see what she could do to discover the nature of the machine. If we understand how it works, perhaps we could work out a way to help the victims of it."

"A few years ago, there was a movement on Novalus to use a form of deep mental conditioning to rehabilitate some of our worst criminals. It, too, was a machine that basically wiped out the mentality of the individual and replaced it with a more socially acceptable version. It was supposed to leave the overall intellect of the individual intact, while removing the memories and violent personality of the person. What it really did was turn them into a mindless slave. It killed the personality that was there and left a shell that would do almost whatever it was told. The machine was never approved for use. It was decided it was more humane to simply execute the criminal. Later, it was discovered that, while the personality had been burned away, some of the memories of their crimes did resurface. The people killed themselves.

"Let us hope that this is one technology the Synod did not take as their own," Vance said and finished the beer. As he set the bottle back on the table, he stood. "Thanks for the beer, Eric. Keep me informed of your progress with Athena. In the meantime, I'll arrange for us to discuss your plan with the Shallans. I need to get going; I think Coryn has a special dinner planned for us and I better not be late!"

––––––––

A
I Programming Lab

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth's Moon

Sol System

––––––––

W
hen I called, Freyair was actually excited about coming by and she met me at the entrance to the lab the next morning. When we entered the lab however, she got shy and seemed to stay really close to me as we met other members of my team. Everyone welcomed her warmly and she slowly began to relax.

When we finally made it to my office, she was apologetic. "I'm sorry, Lord Cowan. I hadn't considered that there were so many people working here, and I wasn't ready for it."

"Please, call me Eric. We're really about the same age after all," I replied trying to get her to relax more.

She nodded. "I'm just a little out of my element here, and I'm not used to being around a lot of people. I'll be okay, I just need to get used to it."

"I can understand that. In a few minutes, after a few more of that horde out there gets to work, we can start. Would you like to look at the code first, or would you like to see how she's acting?" I asked.

"Well, like I said, I'm not a programmer, so I might have better luck seeing how she acts. If that doesn't help, then I'll look at the code with you, she sniffed the air. "What is that wonderful smelling beverage you are drinking?" She indicated my coffee.

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