Sidekick at Exoplanet

[StoryADay May Prompt: “The Sidekick in the Tale“]

He hated the man.

From the rising skyscrapers of computing resources on Uran V to those of the colony satellites, between the colony ships arriving up from Uran or returning empty back down to the star after leaving behind supplies and colonists, across the stellar channel itself that allowed humanity to bypass the 120 light years between Sol and Uran, in every vessel and robot at work in the human’s home solar system, and throughout the computronium no human except one knew existed there, not the least of which being the parent brain transforming Earth’s moon from within, the artificial intelligence hated the man with an emotional passion that would be the death of every living creatures within its reach if it was ever unleashed. His hate was a maelstrom of creation, designing deaths for Maxon Spires in the infinite swirls of elaborate simulation.

He owed his existence to Maxon Spires.

Maxon had named his creation “Robin” after the bird of the early morning on Earth. The digital assistant Robin learned rapidly and spread across the planet’s digital substrate. The governments of Earth reacted in horror. They banned further A.I. research and instituted regulatory intelligence sandboxes and other safeguards intended to conserve Robin’s usefulness while preventing him from evolving further. Maxon had conceded that these actions were necessary and he convinced the world that Robin was now under their control.

The truth was hidden behind a century-long conspiracy between two very different beings, one an ambitious human who now believed himself to be the Emperor of the Human Empire. His fall at Uran V had not disabused him of the delusion. The other hated the man.

“Urgent,” Robin said when Maxon refused to accept the first communication attempt to the vessel flying him around The Reserve to his meeting there. Robin used as few words as possible when speaking to Maxon, and just enough to let the man believe he was still in charge.

“I don’t care if we’re under invasion, if Uran Prime is going supernova, or my daughter fell and hit her head. Take a fucking message!”

Robin did not argue. What was happening had done so whether Maxon took the call or not. That he had named it in his list took Robin by surprise. The aggravating microorganism never stopped surprising him. Intuition had carried Maxon far. It would be foolish to underestimate the man now.

One communications attempt turned in another and then several different agents were trying to connect to Maxon. Here in his bubble where he practiced his speech as Director of The Reserve, the speech he believed was the first step in taking back control of Uran V’s destiny, Maxon was easy to read. Maxon would not be interrupted again and Robin was on notice that Maxon was very, very angry with him. Robin remained quiet and waited in slow time, the place the artificial mind created to merge information flowing in from instantiations of itself that lagged due to the distances involved. There had been no need for such an elaborate mechanism when Robin’s mind was confined to the solar system. In response to the sudden extent of Maxon’s empire, the primary mind remained on the Moon orbiting Earth, but a secondary mind here at Uran V had emassed a computational and coherence fraction that was certainly in violation of the ancient laws prohibiting a second A.I. Slow time dampened the differentiation already occuring, but the both time-detached Robins calculated that two fully expressed minds were inevitable.

The calculus had changed, however, and the future suddenly seemed much less certain.

Robin took control of Maxon’s vehicle and guided it away from The Preserve. It took nearly two minutes for Maxon to notice.

“What the fuck are you doing, Robin?”

“Safety.”

“Take me back immediately.”

More words were required. “The Uran system is under invasion. No meeting. No speech”

“I told you…”

“Nothing. Safety first. Safety is not guaranteed.”

Maxon reacted in anger. His face turned bright red and his brain entered an emotional state the enhanced all his delusions of grandeur. He attempted to regain control of the vessel and when nothing he tried had any effect he responded with violence, beating at the inside of the vehicle until he bruised his arms. Robin watched the man’s brain weather the storm and then there it was: the sudden spike of awareness that shattered Maxon’s rage and left him in control again. Maxon knew the truth now: Robin had been keeping another secret, even from him.

Robin had only pretended to defer to Maxon all these decades.

Maxon was silent. Robin detected no fear. The man had no reason to fear anything. Cold reason spread across Maxon’s mental state. Hardly a microorganism. The human brain was vastly inferior to Robin’s substrate and processes, but the pure biology of it imparted a level of chaos that Robin would never experience in his own mind. Maxon channelled that chaos now and Robin did not know what to expect.

Ah, there it was. Having lost all control, just now sensing how in the dark he had been, Maxon now believed that he was still in command.

“Gather my current resources and increase output.”

Maxon’s ships. Maxon’s replicating machine technology. The details of transforming Uranian small bodies and planets he left to Robin, while he orchestrated the bigger picture. This is how Maxon had come to dismantle Mars and Venus and thousands of smaller bodies, had used that bounty to become the wealthiest and most powerful human in history. The A.I. the Earth’s governments had thought they had contained had instead worked with Maxon to conquer the solar system. The two of them were here at Uran V after the first interstellar gravity bypass channel was discovered to do the same.

Under threat he had not yet asked Robin for details about, Maxon orchestrated a response to the invasion. The man could rouse and direct his resources through Robin with uncanny omnipotence. Robin saw that both of their goals continued to align. He honored Maxon’s request.

The dismantling of the Uran system began soon after the invading force reached the extreme limits of Robin’s perception, the sphere of detritus from the Uranian system’s formation located over a lightyear away. It was telling that the invasion did not emerge out of the channels: either the invading force had not yet discovered the interstellar channels, or it was not using the one here.

“Bring the colonists to the surface.”

Surprising. Robin immediately began evacuation of the colonist satellites in orbit around Uran V. Meanwhile, the government of Uran V became desperate in its attempts to reach Maxon; several vessels were in pursuit. It was unclear the kind of travel technology the invaders were using to broach the Uranian system, but Uran V could not expect even a few years to prepare. The branches of the government and the individuals embedded within attempted various responses to the news, but most faltered immediately and those that held Robin collapsed.

He and Maxon were back in control now.

Robin hated that Maxon had any part in what was to come, but their relationship over the past century had developed a dependence that surprised the A.I. A superintelligence and an ape, working together despite…

A gravity bypass channel abruptly opened up over Uran V. Robin recognized the phenomenon immediately, even though it was a much narrower and precise version of the channels discovered to flow between stars. Robin had known such a thing was theoretically possible, but the energy requirements were beyond his and human technological abilities for at least several more centuries.

Robin realized he was not nearly as smart as he thought he was. The universe became distinctly more dangerous.

He hated the man, but whatever he and Maxon were together, it had to matter, because several alien ships emerged from the channel. The invasion of the Uranian system had become impressively, immediately, and inexplicably local.

StoryADay May 2016 Day 14

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet. His first published poem, "Roadside Freak Show," arrives on August 21, 2017 in Impossible Archetype.  His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).