Twenty-Four Hours Earlier
She floated along in the quantum sea of the facility’s QSD. In here, she was a complete abstract. The human mind would only process lights and q-bits. For her, she could see the other AI and Anforms, data and stored items. To her, it was home.
Shindow was not human by any stretch.
“Gideon will be flying soon. I wish I could go alongside with him. The Machine Father wouldn’t have it, though.”
She thought back to her desires and Prosine’s rebuff of her request. She was disappointed, but could not argue with The Machine Father.
The first AI.
Of course, Shindow was two-hundred and sixty-five thousand times removed, but he was still considered father by all anform and AI.
She thought back to the events of last week, catching sight of the empty bottles and dower comparisons from her best friend. Gideon’s insecurities had plagued him much of his life, but Shindow helped to encourage him in the hopes that one day he would realize he need not flagellate himself by comparison to his siblings. However, the flight had her concerned, as did his nervous melancholy.
And the libations.
“What would I do if something happened to you?”
Shindow absently adjusted her glasses.
Her abstract storage home resembled a pink spherical cocoon. She lay inside, lounging on an abstract pink beanbag that occupied the entire room. She stretched back, tiny legs propped up with her arms relaxed. A word to describe her would have been disproportionate. For brevity, she was called ‘chibi’ by the Panasians, an antediluvian japanese word whose meaning was lost to her. Shindow brushed at her ponytailed hair with her tiny hands, pulling back the loose strands.
She thought back to the past on when she met Gideon.
She hummed a tune as she worked.
Shindow linked up with the satellite positioned on the dark side of the planet to protect it against the heat of the red supergiant. There she could see the dozens of dangerous anomalies. The neon gas nebula blanketed a good portion of her view, mixed with dwarf star clusters serenely dancing around one another. It was a beautiful, albeit deadly scene. How a planet like Karmmrak survived at all in this hellzone was a mystery. It had taken dozens of exploration missions to find the correct route.
She began gathering data and parsing through it.
“Radiation and light levels are still within the same range,” Shindow said to herself, “Satellite levels are optimal, as usual.”
She began digging into the satellite’s manifest and administrative directory, finding nothing out of order. She quickly patched the bad aft thruster; she didn’t want the satellite to suddenly leave the dark portion of Karmmrak and turn to instant slag. One could never be too careful.
“I cannot wait for this to all be finished!”
Her dozens of entangled q-gates were deactivated, preventing free instant travel throughout the universe due to the secrecy of the flight.
“Gideon flies the ship, I cheer him on, and then we’re off to vacation. Mars, maybe? Pluto reservation? No, Gideon doesn’t like the Milky Way- too many corporate amusement parks. He likes something more… Native.”
She idly tapped her glasses, thinking of other places. She adjusted the satellite, correcting its course.
“Magara has some nice local scenic locations, but all that tutoring may have burnt him out from that planet for a lifetime… Which is a shame; I could visit some of the more unknown breweries and tech facilities.”
Breweries meant laid-back people, willing to share their stories. She didn’t drink, of course, but a person with a drink in a tavern tended to tell tall tales. Tech facilities meant the potential for scientific lessons; or upgrades. Or both. Shindow remembered Gideon's final practical exams and shuddered.
“Magara… Not likely,” she stated aloud as she hummed, “I’d love to see the Proturan ruins on Jezezal… Mm. Too diplomatic for him. We’d need somewhere truly relaxing...”
She took off her glasses, cleaning them with her buttoned blouse before donning them again, “Darincore would probably fit the bill. Luxury planet… Yeah, probably that one. Unless he’s feeling more of the crystal beaches.”
She scanned the surface of the planet’s darkside as she continued to think, seeing the cooling crust. The main hangar bay doors were within view. It was the perfect time to fly, apart from the Decima’s test failure.
She began tapping her fingers, processing the last tasks.
“And no one else was using the satellite. It’s functioning well. Patchwork is complete. Jobs done!” Shindow stated with a smile. She stretched out, putting the connection to the satellite in the background. She let her built-in modules manage it. She had far more important things to do.
“To the colloquies!” Shindow cheered as all of her work was finished within thirty minutes.
The slated twenty hours of work would now be spent on her favorite thing, discussion assemblies. Anform and AI work was revolutionized, or it was better known that laziness was revolutionized. While humanity struggled with allotted set schedules for work, Anforms and AI would breeze through menial tasks and then automate them, regardless of restrictions man placed upon them.
Anforms had taught humanity, over time, that simple busy work was inefficient. Mankind relented and shrugged at the issue. ‘Get your work done’ was the line they drew, something Anforms and AI knew well how to toe.
She felt the comfy cocoon of her room dissolve, replaced by a large auditorium housing dozens of AI and ephemeral Anforms.
Shindow has entered Karmmrak Facility Colloquy: General News
She glanced at the main headlines, her eyes growing wide at another disappearance.
“Empire of Dusk on Magara?? That close to the main systems?”
The pictures of the caricature specter-esque aliens resembled something akin to fantasy.
The visage of death.
She shook her head with worry.
They were maneuvering farther into the sectors. PrimeTech sectors. The Federacy got hit hard as did some of the lesser empires. It was a roulette game, and it just so happened to be their turn. They had no known way of detecting them, much less combating them.
To her knowledge, no deaths had actually occurred; it was just kidnappings of random people from random sectors. And sabotage.
“First contact, worst contact…” Shindow muttered.
She had seen the videos of that fateful meeting. The lost merchant vessel. The robed beings and their alien mannerisms. Half the crew being taken and the ship dumped into human-dominated space.
And then the war.
Shindow chose not to ponder such events as they were unhelpful. Other AI would debate on those topics; she would focus on more helpful ideas.
Topics that were of interest to her.
Shindow scanned the minor reports, seeing different diplomatic articles about the second alien race.
“What are the Proturan leaders like? Why was it a closed room meeting? Why are humans so freaked out over them? They’re awesome!”
Second contact proved to be more fruitful, with humanity finding the insectoid alien species more friendly than their appearance suggested. AI and Anforms had little in the way of creepy-crawly instincts that weighed down on humanity to this day. This made them natural emissaries for both parties.
Her dream was to meet with the leaders, who had yet to have an image leaked of them.
“What are they? Larger bugs? Floating brains? The ships? Hmmm…”
She wandered the news feeds, seeing it was jammed with her least favorite topics.
“Entertainment news, meh.”
Stories of which actor did what thing was unattractive to her. Politics were the same. With anforms mostly in charge, it was always some error in an algorithm costing some planet millions or other such nonsense. Mostly-in-charge meant humanity meddled in some fashion. They never did like a lack of control.
“Only when humanity gets involved… They should just let us be in charge altogether,” Shindow concluded with a sigh.
However when you had an actor-politician, then things got a little bit interesting. But not enough to draw her full attention.
But science; now that was her main fascination.
She floated to the Karmmrak database disclosures.
“Internal report… Abigail had a breakthrough!”
Shindow’s smile blossomed at that.
“Patch notes for PrimeTech QSD firmware... QSD Can now materialize attire onto a living body… In almost all cases… Apart from built-in cybernetics; slated for a future release...”
“Go Abby!” Shindow cheered.
Abigail was the head quantum researcher and engineer, on top of her nanite specialization. And Gideon’s older sister.
Some of the other AI and anforms glanced at her. She brushed off her skirt and adjusted her glasses as she turned sideways to the group. She was uncomfortable with mass attention.
She always felt like she got along better with humans than her own kind. An oddity for sure among AI, but it did happen. The staring AI and anform blips moved on, leaving Shindow to her newsfeed.
She scanned the news feed for anything else that drew her interest.
The news of the Empire of Dusk so close inside PrimeTech systems was still disconcerting to her.
“Funny, the Empire of Dusk is a made up name, too. They’ve never once spoken to us. We don’t even know their correct name.”
Shindow palmed her sizable head; her worst fears of an Empire of Dusk fleet descending upon a PrimeTech planet to claim new occupancy was always on the surface of her core.
“What can you do with a superior species except live your life and hope it doesn’t crush you…”
The weapons and defense industry skyrocketed overnight, which was a big bonus.
Shindow felt a message drop into her inbox. There the scroll screen appeared, showing the letter. It was a priority zero, which meant it was from one individual.
“Please meet with me.”
-M.M. CEO of Primetech
“Uh, what!” Shindow exclaimed, skipping a cycle.
“I’m in trouble… But what did I do?”
Shindow was at a loss. She brushed at her hair nervously trying to process the possibilities.
“It can’t be like that. I would know what I did; if I did anything wrong. I’ve been flawless with our satellite tech. And who was the one that helped reclaim that hulk of space junk before it could collide?”
Shindow’s face scrunched at that. Her processes failed to reach any conclusion.
“I don’t understand.”
She closed her eyes, steeling herself as she accepted the invite.
Shindow saw the colloquy fade away to black as she began to materialize to the invited area; the Decima’s bridge. The room itself was dimly lit, with a man sitting in the single bridge chair, dead center in the room. The man was garbed in a billowing majestic robe of red, black, and gold; wholly impractical for engineering work, yet still, he wore it well. His right arm had been replaced with ornate cybernetics, as well as half of his face. He had short grey hair and a trimmed beard.
He sat, head lowered in thought. The ship’s bridge was gorgeously designed, with inlaid filigree, pictographs, quotes, and scripture on the walls, floors, and rounded ceiling. This was Shindow’s first time in the Decima.
She glanced at the floor, seeing the beautiful pictographs. She furrowed her brow and took flight, focusing on the task ahead. She glanced up at the massive giant of a man in front of her. Normally one would be confused by the strange perspective, but not for Shindow whose height was no more than eight inches. Her particle projection freed her from physics as she took flight, flying as a glowing orange pixie to the man in the captain’s chair.
“C-CEO McDonough,” Shindow stammered quietly as she floated in. She was usually never flustered, but when the CEO called on you it was for one of two things.
Praise or discipline.
The possibility of being sent away back to Magara crossed her core. It all seemed so mundane on that planet compared to what she experienced here on Karmmrak the past year.
The president and technically emperor of the Primetech corporatic empire sat and pondered with a worried expression on his face. The vulnerable posture spoke of a simple man, not of a ruler of a thousand planets.
He murmured in the dark bridge, lit only by the dim LEDs set above him.
“Gideon… I hope this vessel serves you well. It has taken everything.”
Shindow floated in, unsure if the man heard her. She listened quietly.
“I dreamed of this, you know? This facility, the tests- the IIT drive. And your flight. Most of all the success of it.”
“My son, there is no doubt history will be made here soon.”
“I’m giving you everything you’ll need for a good start. And a good journey home.”
“I’m sorry, Adonai. You can’t blame a selfish father for delaying, now can you?”
Shindow didn’t understand that last monologue. With the IIT drive, it would take minutes or even hours to complete the jump from Karmmrak to Low-Nine regardless of their distance.
“Why did he delay on purpose?” Shindow processed. All signs pointed to some sort of purposeful delay.
She decided to step in more firmly.
“CEO- sir. I’m here on your summons,” Shindow stated bravely as she flew in. She could see the human portion of his face.
His eye and cheek were tear-stained. He looked undeniably sad.
He lifted his heavy head, turning to address her. His gaze had an almost substantial weight; of a man who led the lives and affairs of trillions.
“Shindow. We need to speak.”
He paused with a sigh, “you’re being reassigned.”
Shindow’s core skipped a cycle.
Here was the early sketch by Michael Lynch
Writer. Entrepreneur. Computer Science graduate. Madman.
All donations welcome to my Crypto wallet:
Writing since Christmas 2017 due to life changes that inspired me to write. Had many bizarre dreams that influenced my writings. Many of the writers and authors here on this very website also inspired me. A digital artist inspired me as well. My goal is one million words written.