Read Episode VI: Beta Test Online

Authors: Ben Winston

Tags: #Science Fiction

Episode VI: Beta Test (8 page)

I could also see the need for a Project Coordinator's office; some one that could coordinate and work with different departments that were involved in a specific project, like the new armor. I mentioned this to my administrator, Hopsis, who thought it was a fabulous idea. I made a note to myself to mention it to the Lord Admiral at our next meeting.

We were going to need more people in both hardware as well as software. Hopsis suggested creating an intern program for the base youngsters that were studying those fields. He said it need not be very much different than what we were already doing with some of the new Earth programmers. Those youngsters that had an interest and aptitude for our work could spend a few hours a day actually working with us and getting a feel for how reality differed from theory. It should be rather easy to add such a program into the education system.

It sounded like a very good idea to me, but we would need one or two programmers that could also function as instructors for the students. I had my hands full just teaching the AI stuff along with my other duties. Hopsis grinned and said he would handle it; dealing with that sort of thing was his job. He then admitted that we not only had two people in the department qualified to do it, but they had actually been the ones to suggest it to him.

I then brought up moving our entire facility to Mars when the main command and administration group relocated there. Considering my inclusion on the Administrative council, I thought it might be a good idea to stay close to the Admiral. The relocation would also give us the opportunity to redesign our facilities for a more functional layout. Our current layout was very efficient for an area where space was a consideration, but Mars would not have as much of a limitation. Hopsis said he would be happy to look into it, but as far as staying near the command group was concerned, there was really no reason to; Mars was only a twenty minute shuttle ride, and the new base on Mars looked to be mostly military so far.

Once we got finished with our planning session, he returned to his office, and I needed to get into the programming suite to do some final tweaks on Athena’s code before we tested it again. Sarah said she should be good the way she is, but I wanted to be certain. So, with a fresh cup of high-octane dark chocolate cappuccino, I climbed into my programming chair and was shortly surrounded by Athena's code. Talk about time flying when you’re having fun! I was in there for four hours before I felt ready to test her.

As I took my mug back to the replicator and got something else to drink, I had Alicyn and Carla prep the test bed. When I returned, both ladies were in position. "Are you ready, Alicyn?"

"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, moving the core program," Alicyn replied. "Core system initiated, bringing up the functionality modules." She paused while the primary logic systems initiated. "Modules initiated, waking Athena," Alicyn finished and Athena's form took shape in the display area.

She seemed to be much calmer this time. At least she wasn't trying to grab the closest person and kill them.

"Good afternoon, Athena. Do you know who I am, and where you are?" I asked.

When she spoke it was with a rich alto voice that was much different from Sarah's. "Yes, you are Lord Doctor Eric Cowan. We are currently in the AI programming lab of the Alliance Apollo lunar facility located in the Sol system."

"Correct. Do you know what you are?" I asked.

"I am an Artificial Intelligence construct created for the purpose of assisting the military High Command of the Alliance," she replied.

"Athena, we will be placing you in virtual scenarios in order to test your processing and ethics protocols as well as functionality. Not all of these situations will be what you have been designed for, but we will still need to see how you respond to them. Are you ready?" I asked.

"Yes, Lord Doctor. I am ready," she replied.

"Carla, initiate test scenario one alpha," I said.

In the display area, Athena was surrounded by a 'shell' that was transparent to us, but to her looked and felt 'real'.

In the first scenario, she was the controller for a battle on a planet. While monitoring the battle she detects the life signs of an infant in a home that would soon be overrun by the enemy. There was a Marine platoon nearby, with more Marines further away. She was also aware of the rest of the standard assets such a battle would have.

"Lieutenant H'ordress, I am detecting life signs of a young child five hundred ticks to your north; directly in the path of the expected enemy advance. It appears not all the civilians have been cleared from the area," Athena said over the comm.

"Shard it! I knew we should have done another sweep of the area! Send me the location and we'll head out," the gruff sounding officer replied.

"Coordinates sent, I am notifying command of your mission. Enemy forces have been detected fifteen hundred ticks north of this location and are moving south." Athena replied.

"Which means that their scouts are already in the area. You're just full of good news today, AI Athena." H'ordress replied.

"Command will have a flight of two fighters to cover you, but any reinforcements will be at least five minutes away," Athena replied.

"Understood, proceeding," the officer replied.

Athena's attention was drawn to another part of the battle for a while when the Lieutenant's call brought her back. "Command, we've got a problem here. The scouts have got us pinned down a hundred ticks out. We can see the damn building, but we can't get any closer; please advise!"

Since the Marines were closer now, Athena could now also detect four more life signs coming from the building. "Lieutenant, now that you're closer, I am detecting four other civilians in there as well. I am scanning for active comm devices. Your back-up is still trying to catch up to you," Athena said.

"H'ordress, this is Hyem Flight, I can't do anything about those scouts; their just too close to the farking building!" one of the pilots called on the same channel.

"Wonderful. AI Athena, how far away is the main force?" H'ordress asked.

"Nine hundred ticks and closing. It would appear the scouts have reported back that you are in the area. I am not detecting any active comm devices in the structure, Lieutenant," Athena replied.

"I don't think it would help even if you had, AI Athena, those Aracs would just pick them off as they tried to run for it." He paused for a moment. "I'm looking at nothing but open ground between us and the structure. There is no way we can cross that without getting hit. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any!"

"Are you in range for the grenade launchers? Maybe you could give the Aracs something else to think about?" the pilot offered.

"Nope, too far for the fire rounds, and with this cross wind, the smoke would just blow away as quickly as we could drop it," the Lieutenant replied.

"H'ordress, this is command, I hate to give you this order, but you're going to have to leave them. We need to begin the bombardment of that area very soon or we won't be able to stop that horde. Rendezvous with your shuttle at point Ferrel immediately. Bombardment will begin in five minutes," another voice said over the line.

"I am not showing any enemy activity between you and point Ferrel, Lieutenant. I would suggest you use your jump packs in order to make it in time," Athena replied.

"Colonel, we can't just leave them! The Aracs will..." H'ordress began, but was interrupted.

"I understand your feelings, H'ordress. But it's try to rescue them and let the Aracs though to Everbright City, or leave them and save two million others. There is no real choice here. You have your orders," the colonel replied and closed the channel.

Athena could hear the big Simonian sigh. "AI Athena, two of my troopers have taken damage. We'll get there as quickly as we can, but might need the shuttle to meet us closer."

"Understood, Lieutenant. I'll let them know," Athena replied, sounding sad herself. "You did your best, Lieutenant. That's what matters."

"Thank you AI Athena. It still feels like I am killing them myself. H'ordress out."

The scene ended then, and the virtual 'shell' surrounding Athena faded out.

I smiled at her. "You did well, but we have a few more test to run if you're up to it."

She smiled sadly and nodded. "Bring it on, Father."

I chuckled. "You've been talking to Sarah!"

She nodded confirmation of the culprit. "Not during the actual tests of course, but while she is monitoring me between sessions we talk."

"Good, I hope you two will be good friends. Now, let's proceed with the next level of testing. Carla, please load scenario three-C for Athena?" I said.

"Of course, Doctor Cowan. Or do you want us to call you 'Daddy'?" she teased.

"You know, I'm sure I can find a Simonian that would be willing to give you a spanking!" I replied, playfully.

––––––––

C
owan Residence

Alliance Apollo Base

Selene, Earth’s moon

Sol System

––––––––

M
y plate was quickly getting very full. Alliance Command had officially requested the installation of AI units on the Core Worlds, as well as several key facilities such as the main communications node which was also located at Novalus, in order to take advantage of the protection provided to the High Command Station and the High Council.

The problem was, we had only just begun the extra tests on the crystals. Granted, the AI could run in the Veranorian built computer systems, but no one actually wanted one of those anymore. In fact, there were a great many people wanting to get rid of them as soon as a feasible alternative presented itself.

I invited Ced, Vance and Coryn, Foreten Kree, Shariline and Freyair over to dinner to discuss an idea I had that might help the Alliance, as well as make sure we all had credits if we ever chose to retire. Christy asked if she could invite Commander Shakier as well, just to get her out of the medical center and socializing again. I happily agreed.

Of course, I wanted my family there as well, since I really wanted them to be involved in this project. I had actually hired the meal to be catered by one of the finest restaurants in Apollo, and asked our guests to arrive about an hour earlier. Considering who I was, as well as the guests I had invited, the restaurant owner pulled out all the stops for this meal. He had his best culinary and wait-staff invade our kitchen to prepare the meals.

Once our guests arrived and were seated with before dinner drinks, I got to the reason I had invited all of them.

"My friends, I have invited all of you over here tonight to propose a civilian business to you. I understand we are all far too busy to undertake a new project, but I was actually hoping more for your ideas as well as wanting to include all of you in the idea. Our Alliance is in need of replacement computer systems. I'm not talking about the big AI that we are developing, but the smaller ones used for civilian and personnel use. Although still very viable machines, they have lost faith in the Veranorian designed systems. I have to admit it is odd that the same design has been in use for almost four centuries.

"The idea I have is to create a civilian business that would produce those replacements. If we wish to include some of the stuff we've learned from upgrading the main computer systems, we will need to get Alliance approval before hand, but I feel this can actually be accomplished pretty easily. From a functionality standpoint, there is very little that would need to be upgraded, but I'm sure no one would complain if the devices were faster or had improved capacity."

"I am only curious Eric, but why have you asked us about this?" Foreten asked.

"Well, eventually we all will retire; provided we live that long," I grinned and they all chuckled. "So I was thinking this might be a good idea to create a surplus of credits for that time. Now, I know that at least I have a few Alliance patents already in my name that will be making me a lot of credits in the future, but I don't really understand that all that much. Adding more couldn't hurt. However, the main reason for this idea is that the Alliance has a need I think we can fill with a little investment of time and credits on our part."

"Although I'll never be allowed to retire, your efforts are still appreciated, Eric," Vance said. "It would be good to have something put away for my future generations." He had a lopsided grin as he said that. Coryn chuckled, but was smiling proudly as well.

"Oh my God! Coryn, are you pregnant?" Jamie asked, smiling at the woman.

The woman nodded and burst out in happy tears as the women all gave her hugs and congratulations. Not to be outdone, I offered Vance and Coryn my own congratulations, as did Foreten Kree and Ced. Commander Shakier gave Vance congratulations as well, and hugged Coryn, but seemed a little sad.

I noticed that Christy spoke to her quietly for a moment and she seemed to cheer up a little. I didn’t know the Commander all that well yet, but she did seem like a nice lady.

Once all the congratulations were over, Vance spoke. "Folks, we haven't made an official announcement yet, but we wanted to tell our friends first. I asked Sarah to send a dispatch to Alyessa and Corhen Nori just before we came over. The official announcement will be released in the morning. But, we are here to discuss our futures and the very excellent idea Eric has had. I can verify that the people are screaming for new computers for non-military applications. The High Council will also not be releasing AI technology for commercial use anytime in the near future, either," Vance said. "If someone were to create a company to fulfill that need, they would be very wealthy indeed."

Foreten nodded agreement. "I have been asked by several of my brothers still residing on Simonia if there were a reputable replacement system available. Although I could give little more than credits to the undertaking...” he paused thoughtfully. “No, perhaps I can offer more. I would have to speak to them, but two of my brothers that still reside on Home World might very well be interested in such a project. Do you wish for me to speak to them of this?"

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