Read Episode VI: Beta Test Online

Authors: Ben Winston

Tags: #Science Fiction

Episode VI: Beta Test (4 page)

"This is a beverage from Earth. It contains a mild stimulant called caffeine that helps some of us to get going in the morning. It does smell really good, but the base liquid itself is very bitter. So I drink mine with a little chocolate and sugar mixed in. Would you like to try it?" I asked.

"Sure!" she said and before I could order one for her, she picked up my cup and took a big drink.

"Whoa! Slow down, Freyair. We have no idea how that much of the stimulant I mentioned is going to affect you. The faster you drink this, the harder and faster the caffeine will hit you," I said.

She smiled at me. "That is pretty good, even though it’s warm, it tastes like a good morning drink." She suddenly sat down on the floor since none of the chairs in my office were small enough for Shallans. I knelt next to her.

"Are you alright?" I asked, concerned that she might be having a bad reaction to the drink.

"Super dizzy there for a moment. Wow, you weren't kidding about that stimulant!" The girl said.

"Forgive me, Freyair," I said and picked the small woman up and carried her to the couch. She helped by putting her arms around my neck. As I sat her down, she kissed me on the cheek. "Thank you."

She was a very pretty young woman, looking exactly like a normal, well-developed human woman in miniature but with a tail. However, the fact that she was the same size as a ten-year-old human child kept that observation as 'cute' instead of 'attractive'.

"You're welcome. I should have warned you to drink it slowly. I'm sorry," I replied. "I just hope it hasn't harmed you."

"I'll go see your mate when we're done, just to make sure," she said. She was still sitting on my lap with her arms still around my neck. She laid her head against my chest and sighed. Her tail was wrapped around my waist. Without moving she said. "Shar was right about you; you are a good person."

"I think you might be a little drunk," I replied gently. "I don't think it'll last very long though, you didn't drink that much, after all."

She nodded. "I think you're right. The euphoric feeling is already fading, but I can still feel the buzzing in my head. You don't experience this when you drink that?"

"Not to that degree no. I suppose there is a slight euphoric feeling, but mostly it just helps clear our minds and focus on the task at hand. Then again, I've been drinking it for a few years so I'm probably used to its effects," I replied. "There is a myth about young people drinking coffee, that it'll stunt their growth."

She chuckled. "I'm fully grown, so I don't think that's going to happen!" She sighed and let go of me. I gently lifted her out of my lap and sat her beside me on the couch. She chuckled. "The elders would be so irate about this. However, while we know most of your foods and beverages are palatable to us, we really haven’t had the time to check everything. I doubt very much this coffee will harm me, but I think I will offer a report on the effects I am experiencing."

"You're not going to get in trouble for this are you?" I asked, concerned I had gotten her in trouble with the elders.

She shook her head. "No, like I said, no knowledge of this has been recorded. So, as long as I record all of my experiences for the archives, I doubt anyone would say anything to me. Uh, may I use your restroom?" That was when I noticed that she was blushing and looked very warm.

"Are you all right? You look like you might be having a reaction of some kind. Do you want me to call for a medic?" I asked, but pointed to the small room at the rear of my office.

She seemed to blush a little darker. "Uh, no... I, uh... just need to use the restroom," she said as she closed the door behind her, leaving me alone to wonder if she really was alright.

"Sarah? Have you been monitoring this?" I asked.

"Yes Eric, I have." Sarah said as she took form beside me. "She will be fine in a few minutes. I started monitoring her vital signs when she sat down so abruptly."

"I really didn’t think she would slam that down like that. I know it isn’t poisonous to Shallans, but I never expected this kind of reaction.

“She seems like a really nice person; one I could call a friend. I didn't even think before I offered her that coffee," I admitted.

"When she began to react, I made contact with Christy and told her of the event. She is in agreement that Mistress Freyair is simply intoxicated. Her current condition became considerably worse when you held her. It would appear that she is attracted to you," Sarah explained.

One of my monitors lit up with an image of Christy. "Eric, Freyair is currently highly aroused. It would appear that caffeine is a type of aphrodisiac for her race. Coupled with the fact that she is apparently attracted to you, made it very difficult for her to maintain her composure. She’s fine, I'll continue to monitor her vitals from here, but you need to act like this discussion didn't take place. It would be very embarrassing to her if she knew that you are aware of this. The only reason I told you was because you were getting worried about her."

Okay, I was stunned. "Well, being intoxicated can do that to people, so I guess I can understand it; don't worry, I won't embarrass her. She did ask me to ask you if we could have dinner together. She said she would like to meet you as well."

"I think I'd like that. But be sure to find out if she would like to meet the whole family, or if it should be just us. Now I've got to get back to work, we've almost got the control module for the armor worked out. I'll be sending you the specs on it as soon as we get it finished; you'll need to incorporate a medical data link in the main operating system, but other than that, this should take care of itself," Christy replied.

"Didn't you get a copy of my notes on the main operating system? I included a dedicated block of ten channels just for the medical unit. I'll be sending out an update to all AI that will carry that through for the local medical subsystems. In fact, Sarah already has it. Although I haven't released the update to the ships since we hadn't been able to test it yet," I replied.

"Damn! I knew I was overlooking something!" Christy replied. "You gave us ten data channels?"

"Well, yes and no. I made provisions for ten data channels, but if any channel needs more bandwidth, it can 'merge' into another channel doubling the bandwidth. I included all the specs for it. Really, if your control unit has a transmitter, it shouldn't be hard at all to alter it for this set up. Just check out what I did, and if you have any questions, give me a call," I explained.

She nodded. "Will do, thanks Sweetheart. Once again you anticipated something I didn't even think of. Damn you're smart!"

"I think I've still got a way to go before I catch up to you, Babe. Take care, and let me know if you need me to give you a hand," I replied and she blew me a kiss before closing the channel.


Freyair took much longer than I thought she would, but as it turned out, she took a shower while she was in there. It really seemed to help her a great deal. She blushed in embarrassment, but I told her that a shower had been a really good idea.

"Well, I came here to help you and all I've done so far is waste your time," she said by way of apology.

"Don't worry about it; after all, I'm more to blame than you are. I gave you the drink!" I said trying to make her feel better. "Besides, we're getting to be friends, so the time wasn't wasted at all."

Smiling, she gave me a quick hug. "You really are a nice person. Come on, let's go see what we can see with this naughty AI of yours!"

I led her back out to the main lab area and waved over my two assistants, Carla and Alicyn. Alicyn was still working to teach hacking to Alliance programmers, but had also wanted to learn AI coding, so I accepted her as an assistant. She was proving to have an innate understanding of how the code worked and was learning very rapidly. Which would have really pissed off Carla if Alicyn wasn't also working hard with the girl so she could learn as well.

"Ladies, Lore-Keeper Freyair has joined us today to try to help us solve the mystery of Athena. She understands the language we are using, but isn't a programmer. So please, if you show her any code segments, be sure to translate them into Shallan for her," I said.

"I mean no disrespect, but if she isn't a programmer, how can she help?" Alicyn asked, but smiled at the smaller woman.

"The AI code you are using translates almost directly into ancient Loenarian, which is the language of my ancestors. Although it defies logic, many believe that there is power in the ancient words and it is for this reason AI Sarah has gained awareness. Lord Cowan asked me to come so I could see if perhaps some of that language might be not fully understood by the AI, or that a word or phrase may have a different meaning from that which you believe it has. I am honored by his request and will assist in whatever way I can," Freyair replied.

"You know, that actually does make sense," Carla said nodding.

Alicyn looked confused. "I thought Eric created the language we're using?"

Freyair nodded. "That is true. It is also one of the facts that contributes to the belief of the ancient words having power. Eric created this AI before he even knew that Shallans existed. Many of my elders do not believe in a coincidence of this magnitude and believe it was preordained. However, that is a debate that is still ongoing and one I doubt will find resolution any time soon."

I nodded. "Trust me here, I had no idea the AI code I was writing had anything to do with anything. Hell, I didn't even think of it as AI code until well after Sarah was brought online. Anyway, we're burning daylight here. Alicyn, could you bring Athena up in test mode please. Freyair would like to see the effects we are experiencing."

"Certainly," she replied and stepped up to the closest terminal. "Sarah? Do you have a moment? We'd like to awaken Athena again."

"Of course, Alicyn. I am ready when you are," Sarah replied.

"Okay, prepping the crystal and moving the core program," Alicyn replied.

Freyair was frowning, but I was busy watching Alicyn and didn't see it.

"Core system initiated, bringing up the functionality modules," Alicyn said. I nodded as she worked through each of the steps.

"Modules initiated, waking the AI," Alicyn said as Athena's form took shape in the display area.

"Wait!" Freyair called. She had a hand to her head, and was in obvious pain. "Turn it off!"

"Alicyn, emergency shut down!" I yelled, and bent down to put my arm supportively around Freyair. "Are you alright? What's wrong?"

In the display area, Athena didn't even get a chance to start screaming at everyone before her image faded out.

"Medical team is in route, Eric," Sarah replied. "May I suggest carrying her to the couch in your office?"

I nodded once and picked up the small woman once again and quickly headed for my office. Carla followed me, and Alicyn made sure Athena was completely offline before she joined us.

"I'm fine Eric, I just got a massive headache when you powered her up. There is something very wrong there, but I don't think it's actually the AI," Freyair replied. "This started before she was active."

"The problem isn't in the AI?" I asked.

Freyair slowly shook her head. "It has to be the environment."

Christy arrived first since the lab she was working on was closer than the medical section was. I quickly filled her in on what happened as well as what Freyair had told me. She nodded and knelt next to her patient. After looking her over, she opened her small kit and took out a diagnostic tool.

After few minutes of checking the girl over, Christy smiled at her. "No permanent damage. You experienced a very minor stroke resulting in the migraine headache you now have. I've repaired the blood vessel, but the pain is going to hang around for a while. I'm going to have you taken to main medical overnight just for observation, but before you go, I'm going to give you an analgesic to help with the pain and counter the remaining effects of the caffeine you ingested earlier. If you can sleep please do so, it'll help the healing process."

"Do you have any idea what might have caused this Christy?" I asked.

"She was affected by the crystal you are using to test the AI. Our young friend here is a Talent," Christy replied.

"Please! You can't tell anyone else!" Freyair asked urgently. Tears formed in her eyes but it was unclear if they were caused by the pain she was in or the emotions she was now showing.

Both Alicyn and Carla looked completely confused, but still concerned for Freyair. "Ladies, nothing you just heard in this office can leave here, do you understand?"

"Uh, not really. I don't know what you’re talking about." Alicyn replied. Beside her, Carla nodded her agreement with the comment.

"Actually, that's a good thing then. Just consider anything you think you might have heard as private medical information. Don't mention any of this to anyone," I said. "Freyair will be fine. Alicyn, please make sure no one tries to use the crystal again. Carla, please contact Ced and the crystal team and ask them to come down here as soon as they can. There is a problem with the crystal we've been using. I want it completely shut down until we get it figured out. Okay?"

Both women nodded and left to do as I asked. I turned back to Christy and Freyair. "No one will say anything, Freyair. But may I ask why you’re afraid?"

"It’s a stupid curse!" the woman said. "The 'Talent', as you call it, gave me the eidetic memory but nothing else. However, if it became known I actually had Talent instead of just a really good memory, the Clan would force me to try to develop it and isolate me at the same time. The only being I'll ever see again is the person they choose for me to breed with! It's horrible! They even take the babies away and torture them to see if the powers got passed on, then they will force another mate on me to try again.

"Please, I'm begging you. I don't want to live like that! Please don't let them know!" Freyair begged.

"Hey now, relax. No one is going to say anything to anyone," I told her. "We're friends remember?"

"I honestly can't tell anyone, Sweetheart. Unless you give me permission to share it with others, your medical information is kept private," Christy replied. "Besides, I'm officially recording today's event as a result of the over stimulation due to the caffeine; which actually is the truth, since you would not have had such a pronounced reaction had the caffeine not been present. You would have still felt it, but it would have felt more like a normal headache."

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