Read Episode VI: Beta Test Online

Authors: Ben Winston

Tags: #Science Fiction

Episode VI: Beta Test (6 page)

Ced nodded his agreement. "That's a good plan. At least we know hyperspace doesn't affect the crystals, at least over short jumps. We'll need to test it over a long jump soon, just to make sure the AI and the crystal can take the stress of extended hyperspace exposure. You know we should have tested all of this before we started using them."

I shrugged. "Why would we need to? The physical conditions inside the ship do not change at all while in hyperspace. I can see that argument being valid if we prove there is a meta-physical component to the crystals, but up to this point, we’ve had no reason to think there was one. Now that we know there might be, we need to investigate it as fully and as ruthlessly as possible. There is also the slight possibility that the crystal flaw actually had no effect on the AI we were testing. Which we won't know for certain until we power up Athena in a known good system."

"You don't honestly believe that do you?" Ced asked.

"No, but the possibility can't be dismissed yet. Too many lives depend on this to make any more assumptions," I replied. "I'll request that one of our crystal equipped ships make the jump to High Command and back as a test. We'll need to make sure that they have the equipment to make repairs if it fails, as well as having a non-equipped chaser ship to assist them if they can't. I'll work up the test parameters and protocols and send it to you, you can change or add to it before we ask the crews to risk their lives on this."

"Well, until the 43rd gets here, the only non-equipped ships we have are those three the Shallans stole from Galtar. I don't know how eager Vance will be to part with one of them," Ced replied.

"They'll be here later today, along with the crews for those big ships and our new Marines." At the look on his face, I smiled. "Sorry, Vance told me yesterday."

Ced chuckled. "It just goes to show how much he trusts you. Okay, let me get on this; the faster we can get you back in business, the faster we can get the rest of this dealt with. I'll let you know when I have that incident report ready for Vance and we can go together."

I nodded agreement. "I'll get working on my part of this. With the section shut down, I should have plenty of time to get this written up. Talk to you soon, Ced. "

"Take care, Eric," he said and walked away.

In the display area, the floor had been removed, and Ced's team was removing the flawed crystal. I watched them for a moment before I sighed and went back to the upper level to call my teams together. Well, at least they would be able to take a day off, the goddess knows they deserve it.

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O
ffice of the Base Commander

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth’s moon

Sol System

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T
he 43rd Task Group arrived right on schedule and took up patrol positions around the system. The heavy battleship, Amrylis, after dropping off her passengers at Apollo base, took up a parking orbit around the planet Mars. The other ships of the fleet also dropped off their passengers and extra equipment and supplies before beginning their patrols.

Lord Admiral Vance set up a duty rotation for them so they could get some down time on the moon base; the task group had seen constant service for the last standard year without any breaks. They were long overdue for some rest, and Vance was determined to let them get it.

The Marine unit that had accompanied them was briefed and immediately sent down to the planet to clean out the last Arac infestation. As it turned out the hive was less of a problem than the Libyan military.

Shortly before the newly arrived Marines arrived on planet, the Libyan military surged across the border into Algeria, heading straight for the cordoned off area containing the hive. Of course, all of the Alliance equipment was protected by force fields, as was a good portion of the area surrounding the location of the hive. The Libyan forces were warned repeatedly not to approach the area, but they continued straight on, ignoring all the warnings. When they crested the nearby hills, they opened fire on the Alliance forces as well we the Algerian and Nigerian military camps protecting the hive area. After one final attempt to get them to back off, the Alliance force commander on the ground ordered his troops to defend themselves and their Terran counterparts, but also ordered to let any retreating forces go.

It was not a long drawn out fight; in fact, it really wasn't much of a fight. The fighter group assigned to the area as air cover made quick work of all the tanks and missile launchers. Libyan fighter planes in the area were ignored until one of them tried to make a bombing run on the Alliance camp.

During the small battle, the new Marines arrived from Apollo base and the remaining Libyan ground force was quickly rounded up. At the request of the U.N. the Libyan forces were individually identified and it was found that several of the 'troops' were known and wanted terrorists. It was also discovered that almost half the identified forces were not even Libyan. The force had been comprised of soldiers and terrorists, some of them quite young, from four other middle-eastern countries that were not on very good terms with the rest of the world. Since the event actually took place in Algeria, Alliance forces surrendered their 'guests' to Algerian officials at the request of the United Nations Security Council.

Once that bit of fun was dealt with, the extermination and removal of the Arac infestation proceeded very smoothly; in most cases, the Aracs didn't even fight back. Data recovered from the hive proved that the hive itself had been doomed anyway. The Aracs had been starving to death. That fact really confused a lot of the biologists since they did have a replicator capable of feeding them.

Forensic analysis of the equipment recovered from the hive showed that the replicator had very limited memory and had not had the capacity for anything other than emergency rations intended to maintain the hive until another food source could be located and used.

The weapons stored in the replicator’s memory were for mature Aracs, so the few stunted soldier drones in the hive had no weapons they could use. It only took two days to finish removing the hive from the desert location. Six hours to track down and kill the Aracs, four more hours to recover their equipment and advanced tech. The rest of the time was used filling in or collapsing the tunnels they had built.

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T
he weekly meeting of the advisory council came around just as Ced and I had finished our reports and set up the guideline for the hyperspace experiment we wanted to run. However, now the task group had arrived as well as our new Marines, in addition to a few other folks that thought they could be of help to us. Vance got a whole cadre of officers to choose from to fill military positions that would be formed as we grew into a major Alliance base. We also had the people to staff the new training facilities.

Construction Master Foreten Kree, who was very much booked solid with new tasks and jobs to undertake, was given even more as Lord Admiral Vance outlined what Alliance Command had decided to do with the Sol system. Luckily, Master Kree was also given many new workers in addition to the influx of people we were still receiving from Earth. Given our location and distance from Veranor, we were going to become a major Alliance base. The High Council had given approval to deal with Earth as we saw fit. Since Earth was now considered a Core World of the Alliance, they were leaving it up to us and the Councilors how best to bring the planet and its people into the Alliance.

After discussing it with the other Earth Councilor, Councilor Allan Ralston sent one of his aides, Miss Diane Gomez, to be the Alliance Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Gomez was a Brazilian beauty and was far more than her appearance. From listening to her give a briefing on the council plans for Earth, it was clear this girl had her shit together.

"As a Core World in the Alliance, Earth does deserve to have at least some of the benefits. However, keeping in mind the irresponsible way the current, separate governments of the world would handle any release of advanced technology, I plan on discussing security arrangements with Lord Admiral Vance before I make any propositions to the U.N.

"The first issue I would like to work on would be a way to bring our advanced medical care to the people. Ideally, this would be accomplished by training the medical professionals as well as teaching them how to build the advanced equipment. However, it is believed that doing so at this point would endanger more lives than it would help.

"Additional benefits we would like to see brought to Earth are clean and safe energy. The largest problem there is going to be breaking the global dependence of fossil fuels and nuclear fission reactors that produce very hazardous waste. As it stands currently, the major energy and oil companies have tremendous political power down there, and they will move to block or defeat any new technologies that will basically put them out of business.

"Even if we managed to remove the fossil fuel issue, the result would put millions of people out of work. We would have to have a plan in place to counter that, but I would like to see them take a more active role in the alliance by offering the displaced workforce opportunities on other worlds.

"However, the largest obstacle we are going to face down there will be the existing governmental structures. Nationalism is very much a way of life to a good portion of the planet. None of them will willingly step aside to allow a global governmental structure that was not controlled by their own country.

"Anything we do down there will be met with suspicion and resistance. They will try to steal the technology at every turn, while at the same time trying to block us from doing what we set out to accomplish. This is going to be very difficult and will most likely take some time, but I do believe it can be done. I will gladly welcome any and all ideas any of you can give me and my team that will help us in accomplishing our tasks. Thank you."

––––––––

Standing again before the now larger group, Vance smiled and nodded. "Bringing Earth into the Alliance will no doubt be as challenging as defeating the Aracs. Let us hope the task will have far less casualties." He paused to check his notes since we had a lot to discuss today.

"Lord Doctor Eric Cowan has an urgent report he wished to share with us before we get into the main discussions. Lord Cowan?" Vance finished and took his seat as I stood.

"I have temporarily suspended the installation of the new crystal based AI systems in all craft, including the new Armor. We have discovered a potentially critical issue with the use of the new computer crystal processing units. We would like to investigate this issue further before we proceed with further installations.

"As most of you know, I've been having issues with the new AI for High Command. We believed the issue was with her programming. Two days ago we discovered that the crystal processor unit we were using as a test bed had developed a flaw which we believe caused the observed malfunction of the AI.

"Since that time, a new crystal has been installed, and the new AI seems to be operating within projected guidelines. The crystal we were using in the lab differed from all other installations in that ours wasn't shielded in anyway. All other current installations are shielded and kept in a strictly controlled environment.

"Doctor Ced Sparks and his teams are currently doing a survey of installations to determine if they are at risk of a similar failure. Before you ask, the base system was the first one checked, and she is fine, but is very concerned about this issue. We are working to correct these issues as quickly and as completely as we can.

"To that end, there are a couple of experiments we would like military assistance with to ensure no future issues such as this develop. For example, we would like the use two smaller ships to test the effects of extended stays in hyperspace on the processor crystals. I will admit, it seems like we made a mistake by allowing these to be installed before they were ready.

"Truth be told, maybe we did make a mistake. However, at the time we brought them out, we thought we knew everything about them there was to know; however, recent events have shown us that not to be the case. We are working to correct this as quickly as we can to ensure the fewest problems in the future," I said. "Does anyone have any questions for me or Doctor Sparks?"

"What is the worst case of a crystal that develops a flaw?" Vance asked.

"A completely insane and unstable AI. For a warship, that would be like the Goddess deciding she didn't like you anymore. Honestly, the reaction of the AI would be completely unforeseeable. She could simply go comatose and refuse to respond to anyone, or she could kill the crew and the ship in any number of ways. No matter how she would react, it would be a nightmare," I replied.

"Why did you proceed with installation if this was a possibility?" Admiral H'sten of the 43rd Task Group asked.

Ced answered this time, "None of us saw this as even possible then. We did test the system in multiple ways to ensure function, and the AI units are shielded and shock resistant. I dare say, the crystal unit vaults are one of the most heavily armored parts of a ship. Now that we know more, we are bringing it to your attention so we can get the problem corrected as quickly as possible. We need these AI units. The last battle here showed how valuable these units will be to our ships and crews."

"What affect will this have on the medical version of the biocytes?" Matriarch Andress asked. Andress was Alyessa's daughter who had been elected to take her mother's place as Clan Therinate Matriarch.

"None, actually. Mostly because the biocytes don't use an AI. They can still develop a flaw, but in their case it only means they become non-functional and are simply purged. Only the crystals that will be, or currently are, using AI code are effected," I replied.

"This could be potentially disastrous to a warship. What precautions should we take until you get this issue corrected?" Vance asked. I could tell he wasn't happy, but he seemed to understand the situation.

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