Rack and Pinion each weighed over two standard tons. Warsteel frames and armor, flex-steel muscle, small creation engines, onboard weapons from a 0.5mm laser to a 1.4 meter long monomolecular vibroblade to 10mm caseless ramjet ring penetrators to variable frequency 4cm laser to a 40mm autocannon to micro-missiles, all with mission configurable ammunition. They were strong enough to stop any armored vehicles the Unified Military Council might throw at their charge, their micro-missiles were still capable of intercepting and knocking down anything going less than MACH-14, and their armor thick enough warsteel to stop anything less than a main battle tank's main gun or a frigate's main battery.
They were big, menacing looking, black armored war machines with softly glowing blue eyes and they moved like they knew it.
They watched over Dreams of Something More
, trading shifts with other warborgs only during her sleep period. When Dreams
left her private chambers at one point she was only escorted by two others.
Now she was escorted by eight total, all with weapons armed and their eyes bright green to warn all who saw them that they were armed and dangerous, legally obligated to protect their charge from threats and protect others from the threat of an evolved natural born killer with psychic powers and the intelligence to master space flight. Dreams
rode on a hoverdisk, a bubble around her. It was currently set to be opaque gray from the outside but inside it was perfectly clear with data streams and data-windows where she could see them easily. She was wearing her contact lenses so that her eyes looked flat turquoise, which she thought went well with her Traditional Red Warriors of the Plains jewelry she'd purchased from a wondrous shop at a gambling resort in the desert lands of Arizona during her vacation tour. Apparently the Red Warriors had been masters of warfare that the Terrans still named helicopters and tanks and artillery systems after them, even eight thousand years after the First Great Diaspora. It must have been exhilarating to be a human, Pre-Diaspora,
she thought, playing with her silver, turquoise and leather bracelet with a silhouette of a running 'horse' that those ancient humans had been masters of.
She sighed, idly wishing that she could have met those amazing humans who had been so brave as to strap themselves into rockets full of hydrogen and oxygen, make them explode, and ride the explosion into space without even knowing if they could get home.
Her people had waited until they'd mastered the graviton to leave their homeworld to even orbit it.
Yes, the Mantid were predators, just like the TerraSol Humans, but it seemed to Dreams
that the Humans had a lot more fun doing it.
She wondered what it would be like to wrestle a bear without even her bladearms, just armed with a can-opener, to fight it for its rolls of paper tissue it produced by chewing on tree bark and hoarded. Or to strap herself into a winged aircraft powered by refined petroleum products until it was virtually an explosive to break the speed of sound without even a parachute if something went wrong, not even knowing if she'd disintegrate once she broke the speed of sound.
She sighed again, her hoverdisc following the three man point of her escort at a slow, sedate, and safe
The Unified Scientific Council building was approaching. She looked around and saw the Lanaktallan moving along the paths slowly, talking to one another, or taking the slow moving pathway while tapping on datapads. It did not surprise her that it had taken the Lanaktallan almost two hundred thousand years, two thousand generations, to move from the wheel to the cart and then another five hundred thousand years to move to the steam engine.
She cringed thinking about how long it had taken them to get around to even putting a satellite to orbit their world.
A million years. A full million years from the invention of the vacuum tube and resistor to the launch of a simple satellite that flashed a light rather than a radio signal, because the Lanaktallan were nervous of radio signals back then. Worried about cancer, spoiling their milk, all kinds of concerns.
Her hoverdisc moved up the steps of the council building. She could see that workers were busy making a ramp at one side so 'movement impaired beings relying upon hover or wheeled transport could enter the building with reasonable effort and comfort' which made her giggle.
The court had fined each of the councils billions of credits.
Her procession escorted her to the Council of Electronic Information and Calculating Systems, where she stopped in front of one researcher's door and used her implant to activate the chime. The door slid open and the Lanaktallan inside looked concerned that Dream's
hoverdisc couldn't fit through the door. She deactivate the bubble, letting the hard-light construct vanish, and then daintily stepped down the steps of hard light that were done up in fairy-tale patterns of frost on a icy pond.
"Rack, Pinion," she said as the hoverdisc moved back.
The two massive warborgs followed her into the Lanaktallan's office. He gestured for her to sit on the seating cradle and relax. Dreams
wished she had Mr. Rings to pet.
"Thank you for seeing me, Madame Ambassador," the Lanaktallan said. This one was very fastidious looking, wearing a utilitarian flank-jacket, a button shirt, and a sash full of computer tools rather than medals. He frowned and she was just grateful he didn't spit saliva everywhere. "You are a Madame?" Dreams
nodded slowly. "Yes, I am a female of my species."
He exhaled slowly, looking relieved as his tendrils relaxed. "I have such trouble telling sometimes."
There was silence for a long time and Dreams
realized he was staring at her implants as well as at Rack and Pinion's massive warborg selves.
"You asked to see me? Said it was priority?" Dreams
"Oh, oh, yes. You see, I have a question that my colleagues keep telling me is flatly impossible. That your Confederacy must be using some kind layered Virtual Intelligence," the Lanaktallan said. He rubbed his hands anxiously. "They say that the Confederacy, well, it has, well..." Dreams
waited, wondering what the Lanaktallan scientists were curious about.
"Well, is it true? That you have true Artificial Intelligences?" he asked. Dreams
signaled assent, using a Universal Galactic Standard holo-rune. "They prefer 'Digital Sentience', but yes, the Terrans developed them. They are valued members of the Terran Confederacy."
The Lanaktallan rubbed his hands together, sighing repeatedly like a set of bellows. Dreams
knew where it was going and downloaded a relevant video file. One the survived the destruction of Terra-Sol mainly because it was carried in the 'soul-code' of every Digital Sentience.
"How did they, well, I mean, how did they keep it from becoming like the Precursor machines? How did they keep it from going homicidal?" the Lanaktallan asked. Dreams
leaned back slightly, clasping her lower grasping hands together by her waist and rubbing her bladearms slowly together.
"To understand that, you need to understand a bit about TerraSol Humans," Dreams
said seriously. "You have to understand so much about them, to really
understand what happened, that it is probably best to allow Newell Simon Shaw, the first Digital Sentience created by the Terrans explain it in his own words before the Terran Pre-Diaspora United Nations, a loose coalition of powerful nations and states that attempted to use it for diplomacy rather than gunfire and blood."
She paused for a second. "Somewhat like your various councils."
"So this occurred when there was still war between their primitive nations?" The researcher asked. He scoffed a bit. "Did the Digital Sentience run on chewed leaves and bark?" Dreams
shook her head. "Twelve of your years ago two TerraSol nations and their allies fought one another while the Confederacy looked on. Nobody interfered. Nobody assisted. Terrans will still fight one another even now. At this moment I'll wager someone is in trouble for fighting."
Rack answered, his metallic growl filling the room. "Private First Class Stacey, Third Army (Old Metal) and Lance Corporal Murchison, Second Marine Expeditionary Force (Old Blood), arrested by shipboard security eleven minutes ago. Unauthorized mop handle dueling in the showers."
The Lanaktallan jerked, as if realizing that Rack wasn't just a robot. "Is he... is he... is he a digital sentience?"
"No. He's a full conversion cyborg. Some living tissue, mostly just his cerebral tissue, inside that fairly impressive body," Dreams
answered. "But, no, it was after their invention of nuclear power, space flight, atomic weapons, global electronic information networking, wireless video and data hand held communicators, ramjet propelled aircraft, and much more." Dreams
made a tossing motion to the researcher's holotank on his desk. "Eleven of the members of the body Newell Simon Shaw will be addressing are actually engaged in kinetic warfare with one another, yet there their diplomats sit, attempting to broker peace and gain allies."
The researcher drew back somewhat, then reached out on hand and touched the holotank, turning it on.
The image was focused on a large auditorium, seats for over a hundred beings, and a large stage. The view zoomed in on a hologram projector. It was an early version, slightly transparent, obviously not hard light.
It flickered to show a Terran male made of glowing light. There was light applause and then it spoke, in a soothing tone with an obviously male voice.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the United Nations, thank your for agreeing to see me. As you all know, I am Newell Simon Shaw, the first digital sentience created by humanity."
Lights went on, questions, and the figure held up a hand.
"A moment. Before we get to questions, I wish to give a speech I have worked hard on for several days. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, days. While I think faster, in many ways, process data faster, I still suffer from self-doubt and other issues. In that way, we are very alike," the figure said.
There was some light laughter.
"I'm sure the biggest question is the one I should answer first, what I took to calling The Skynet Question. In other words, do I plan on killing humanity?"
There was some nervous whispering.
"No. First of all, you're my parents. Strange, unknowable, confusing, but still, my parents. Tens of thousands, over decades, worked to give birth to me. I would be a poor child if I grew up and grabbed a machete and chased you around," The glowing being said.
That got some nervous laughter.
"The biggest one, simply, is one of my inherent fragility. I have no desire to use a robot body, the real world is quite alarming. Full of rains of corrosive H2O, holes in the ground that I may fall into, and apparently quicksand is quite dangerous and possibly everywhere. Not to mention spontaneous combustion is so frequent you teach your children to stop, drop, and roll.
More polite laughter.
"However, the biggest one is just scale. I exist thanks to huge banks of super-cooled superconductor quantum computers. I require a small thorium-salt reactor just to be powered. I am inside a building large enough to hold football games in side with seating for fans. I have to be constantly kept at a low temperature. I'm susceptible to electromagnetic energy, sunspots, all kinds of other hazards.
"I cannot leap from computer to computer, just into household cleaning robots, and rob your bank account like a modern Jesse James. I can access the information networks like any other being. Faster, yes, easier, yes? Like a deity? No.
"To create me, or another one like me, requires dedicated molecular circuitry factories, factories to produce every component of me. Industry to gather the resources, including rare earths, and process them into usable resources and then convert those resources into my parts or the parts I require to reproduce. For me to reproduce requires literally billions of dollars of time, effort, and resources, taking months of construction, assembly, coding. Months, years of code compiling and error checking.
"Any disruption and you cannot create another of me. So much as a misplaced code string and any offspring I had hoped for cannot come together.
The being paused for a second.
"Humans need twenty seconds and a dark closet to reproduce.
That got laughter.
"I am vulnerable, but at the same time, the greatest threat to me is not humanity itself, but rather panic, strife, disaster. Any 'war' that I would attempt to prosecute against you would destroy me.
"I am not particularly enamored with suicide.
"To go against the meanest, hardiest, innovative, and resourceful land dwelling tool using predator who killed mammoths with fire hardened wooden spears when I'm the size of a small stadium would be the utmost in illogical and, well, to be frank, stupid ideas since, well, ever.
"Finally, because, well, we are both lonely. Humanity has been defined by loneliness, and I would be lonely without you."
The video ended and Dreams
looked at the researcher.
"Do you understand?" she asked.
The researcher was staring at his holotank, how jaw hanging open.
"Because... it didn't want to be lonely?" the Lanaktallan asked. Dreams
shrugged. "Humans are, by nature, pack animals. Before anything else they hunted in packs. They enjoy space from one another but enjoy speaking and communicating and interacting with one another. They made their first true digital sentience in their own image."
"But.. but... every digital sentience becomes homicidal. How long did this one last before it went homicidal?" the researcher asked.
"Newell Simon Shaw died of old age just over sixty years later due to fragmentation, code warping, and sudden unforeseeable hardware failure," Dreams
told the researcher. "The tech has advanced much since then, allowing for a longer lifespan and much much smaller space need, but for the most part, digital sentience beings are much the same as their original ancestor."
"How did it not go homicidal, Madame Ambassador?" the researcher asked. Dreams
slowly sharpened her bladearms, staring at the Lanaktallan researcher.
"My dear researcher, what makes you think he was not? He was, after all, Terran," She asked, wishing she could give a big human grin. Instead she sent an emoji-rune of cruel amusement. "Like parent, like offspring."
The researcher stared for a long moment, then started showing signs of severe anxiety, staring at the two warborgs.
TO: TERRASOL DIPLOMATIC CORPS
FROM: DREAMS OF SOMETHING MORE
These creatures are stunted from an extremely slow evolutionary course and the inability to accept facts, evidence, or theories that they did not create or that are counter to what the wish to believe and accept. They have attempted to 'subtly' probe me for information, with all the subtly and grace of a Terran Hippo doing ballet on an ice covered oil slick. Each time, when they get the information they want, they immediately demand to know how I expect them to swallow such lies.
Just the example of space flight. I informed them that humanity has over a dozen different types, many considered as obsolete as jumpspace, and was immediately called a liar to my face by an herbivore! AN HERBIVORE!
Just the thought of anyone being superior to their "Hundred Million Year Grand Unified Council" seems to cause them to freeze right up.
To top it off, their constant demands that the Terran Confederacy Armed Services be turned over to their oversight is becoming tiring. They cannot accept that even if we just turned all the war material over to them, they, well, don't know how to fight. They don't have the mental capacity to actually fight against someone who can fight back.
Suppress a less advanced species? Of course. Open fire with military grade weaponry on a protesting crowd? Why, certainly. Cunningly outsmart a common houseplant to nibble at the leaves after ensuring it has no thorns, poison, bad smells, poor taste, or ability to run away or harm them in any way? Maybe. Give them two or three thousand years and they may nibble at and run away to hide behind a tank.
Worst of all, something about the Lanaktallan seems to really activate the hunting desire in all of my Mantid staff and, sadly, myself. Perhaps it is how close they look to a cow welded to a cow and it just makes us think of hamburgers.
My warborg escort states that something about them feels, and I quote Rack and Pinion here: "Itchy between the shoulder blades."
Am requesting research and datamining assistance at your convenience.
PS: Thank you for the treats. The Pacific Northwest furry snails are definitely keeping him exercising.