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 Post subject: Random sci-fi story (UPDATED 28/10/06) PostPosted: 2004-04-03 07:22pm
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OK, here it is... it's not SW/ST/B5 or anything in particular, I just slapped it together after awhile. Let me know what y'all think...

<><><><><><><>

2397 A.D., SHIP TIME

The black emptiness of space around a small yellow star was absolute. There were four solar bodies or-biting that star; the nearest to the star was no planet (although at first sight from a distance it would appear to be). It was a loose conglomeration of asteroids, spread out in a flattened spherical formation. Obviously some great catastrophe had destroyed it; this was true, in the sense that the gravity well of the star was slowly pulling that asteroid formation apart and into the star. The asteroids were scorched and pitted chunks of rocks, obviously incapable of any sort of life. The next planet out was much more inviting; its blue atmosphere and large gray moon a poignant reminder of Sol III, or Earth, as we know it.

What was not such a reminder was its uninviting surface-- grayish-green, with the occasional sheen of yellow clouds. It was a good distance from its sun, and that surface was ice. The clouds were carbon dioxide with sulfur dioxide shot through it, giving them their distinctive color. These colors were also evident, along with a good many other colors, on the surface of the third planet, a gas giant with twice the circumference of Jupiter. The fourth body orbiting the star was another gas giant; slightly smaller than the third planet, it had a primarily blue-green tone in its clouds, with occasional eye-hurting tinges of fluorescent orange.

All this information, and more besides, was noted by MOSES, the computer of the spacecraft Gaia II Exodus. MOSES was at that moment the only active sentient crew of Exodus. His "brothers", ADAM and ELIJAH, served the same roles in their respective spacecraft (Gaia I Genesis and Gaia III Prophecy), who at that moment were-- Moses didn't know where, and they likewise did not know where he or each other was. For they were the main computers of gigantic generation starships, carrying the remnant of the population of a shattered Earth away to distant solar systems where, hopefully, they would find worlds that they could terraform into suitable living environments for humans.

This was the eighth such solar system that Gaia II Exodus, and Moses, had visited in their search. Two had been too hopelessly inhospitable; four had been somewhat suitable, and Moses seeded the atmospheres of those planets with blue-green algae in the hope that the algae would propagate and begin oxygen production. After the seeding, Moses left monitoring satellites, and then set out on his long route.

One planet had been quite promising-- it had had a nitrogen atmosphere-- but then Moses observed its location; it was much too close to an asteroid belt to risk the chances of being able to settle the planet against total extermination should one of those asteroids wander into the path of the planet (as indeed several huge craters on the planet indicated that event's prior occurrences).

The last solar system they had visited was a double-star system (which had not shown up on Moses' charts); there were several planets of the correct size in that system, but they were all blasted, lifeless spheres.

Moses, upon arrival in the eighth solar system, began what had become simply a cursory task to him; decelerating the ship and collecting information about that solar system in hope that it would be suitable. He idly computed in the time it took Exodus to slow down and reach the approximate orbital area of the second planet, and one of the conclusions he came up to was that the chances of finding a planet suitable for human colonization here were about eight hundred to one.

But a random bit of information floated to his artificial consciousness; the logical concept that every once in a while, despite the odds being against something, that something would occur despite the odds. He shrugged (metaphorically, of course, since he was a computer); that was simply logical. Just as logical, however, was the concept that one of the four planets he had seeded with algae would have built up an nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere in time; radio waves travel at the speed of light, and he was only twenty-five light-years from the first planet he had seeded. Surely the monitor would have sent a message if the anticipated change in atmosphere had occurred?

He considered the possibility of remaining there in that solar system until the message arrived, but then the idea that it might not arrive came to him. He reminded himself that his core instruction was "Acquire and Use Knowledge"-- that instruction mandated that he learn all he could in the lifetime remaining to him, which, he estimated, was about eight thousand years (approximately; error percentage of ± 20, due to possible unforeseen occurrences).

While casually aligning his instruments to scan the second planet (which was in the ideal orbital range for an Earth-type planet, although on the outer fringes of that range), he pondered his existence. He had been created in orbit around Earth, programmed by specialists lifted from Oxford-Luna Technical University, and placed into the enormous interplanetary craft Heinlein (later to become the Exodus) at about the same time as his "brothers."

He had simply automatically assimilated all available information as it had been fed to him, and then in about his second month of existence, he began to gather information on his own. That had shocked his programmers-- but after the shock quickly came pride, and a sort of wonder. They speedily began educating Moses, who in turn applied their education to his knowledge. Within a year, he had reached the limits of human knowledge.

It was at that time that the... invasion began.

No one knew what else to call it. A meteor came hurtling through the atmosphere, a tremendous sonic boom had ranged across the West Coast of the North American continent, and then it had created a huge crater in the Yukon forests. The Militia of the state of America North had sent a brigade to investigate. When that brigade failed to report back, another brigade was sent. This time, they managed to report back-- but their report was extremely fragmented.

At this point they decided to cast aside discretion and sent a flight of B-83 bombers above the crater area, and the reconnaissance was extremely successful, even though the planes crashed right after they passed over the crater. The photos that the satellite relay beamed to Militia headquarters in Old NewYork were quite helpful, showing the hideous creatures that had once been human (or animal-- they couldn't tell) spreading all through the area, converting trees and stone into weapons.

The best minds among the Militia intelligence at once concluded that some sort of virus, which had the capability to alter genes drastically, had been carried to Earth aboard the meteorite. Forthwith they commenced to bombard the forested area thoroughly, so thoroughly that they declared that they would be quite surprised if anything had lived through it.

They were quite surprised when two meteorites fell into the exact same area a few weeks after the bombardment. The meteorites were immediately destroyed-- or so they thought. Fragments had been carried into the earth-- which suddenly began evincing gruesome effects. Large areas of forest turned into putrid lakes of mud, with the trees turned into gigantic fungal growths. The animals all went mad and began turning into those genetic horrors, and it got so bad that they seriously considered cordoning off the entire North Canada area and exploding nuclear devices there-- even though those devices were specifically forbidden by the 2089 World Union Treaty.

Even so, it was too late in any case. The viruses proliferated until they mutated into an air-transmissible form... and then it was too late. The three giant ships in orbit were quickly renamed and set up as generation starships, in which the majority of the inhabitants, along with embryos, would be in cold storage. A very small minority would serve as active crew, overseeing the hibernating people and embryos and maintaining the ship. Moses, Abraham and Elijah were given their final instructions.

Then, with a last look at their devastated planet, they fled in three different directions as the last Secretary-General of the World Union-- fighting the insanity that was an early symptom of the virus-- set off a doomsday bomb, destroying Earth's atmosphere and much of the surface as well.

It was not long after that when Moses, Abraham and Elijah had lost contact with each other. Abraham was to investigate Alpha Centauri; Moses, Sirius; and Elijah, Tau Ceti, for starters. Due to the distance between those stars, they quite soon lost even delayed radio communication.

Moses, realizing the futility of trying to keep up communication, ceased and began talking in earnest with the small human caretaker crew. Captain Jack Prussia, the original conceiver of the nuclear-fusion-mercury-ion drive that powered the three ships, as well as an inventor and physician of great renown (not to mention three or four other Ph.D.s), had several long conversations with Moses, in which he inserted an additional core instruction: "Be capable of complete operation without intelligent input." The reason for this, he explained to Moses, was so that he could work without needing to communicate with anybody.

"Sooner or later, Moses," Jack told the computer, "Even if the caretaker crew doesn't go into cold sleep, sheer attrition will wear down our numbers. The automated equipment can only do so much. It's a good thing that everybody on this ship is adult; children need to be brought up as they grow, cold sleep or not. I'll see what we can do in producing robots that you can control, but Moses, you need to realize that one day you might have to operate entirely on your own. Even if we're travelling at near-luminal speeds, it'll still take too long to reach all the stars you have programmed on your star maps. Computers don't age, Moses. But humans do."

"True. It is logical that I learn to operate individually for the reasons you have set out. Construct the ro-bots as you see fit. I will assist."

"Now that's a good boy! Hey, corporal- c'mon here and talk to Mo 'bout those robots you and I talked about. I'll spell you at your post, OK?"

"No problem, sir. Okay, Moses, what do you think of our idea?"

"The robots?"

"Yeah-- what else?"

"The concept is logical. Proceed with your construction. I shall assist as needed. Please input plans for construction."

That was the beginning, so to speak, of Moses' isolation. After innumerable robots-- mostly usuform (that is, with their form matching their function) but with some miniature crawlers and a few humanoid robots-- were constructed, Jack bid farewell to the computer as the caretaker crew sealed themselves into their cold-storage containers.

When he heard the final hiss of the cryogenic gases into Jack's cold-storage container, Moses felt... he could not describe it, for feelings were unknown to him. But what he felt was not, to the best of his knowledge, happiness. Nor was it grief. He concluded that it was loneliness. Re-searching his psychological files, he decided that the best opiate was to work. Therefore, he did just that.



Avatar by Vanas; In Memoriam
The Cleric of the Matrix Updated 03/19/05
8) Receipent of the Kuja Award of Fanfiction, 06/01/04 8)
Heretics' Redemption
The Angels' Hymn


Last edited by Elheru Aran on 2006-10-28 06:56pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-03 08:28pm
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Facisnating. It's a good start, so keep going.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 01:41am
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Same Here Very well written so far.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 01:52am
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Not bad.



I have to tell you something everything I wrote above is a lie.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 02:06am
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More to my story... just copyin' and pasting off the original Word doc...

If anybody's got suggestions, they're welcome! Please note, I'm especially interested in suggestions regarding Moses' development as an AI... am I doing good? Should I change it in any way?

<><><><><>
The great distances he traveled (he no longer thought of himself as separate from Exodus except where situations demanded a distinction between the two of them) consumed much time in travel. That time he put profitably to use; since he had about four hundred thousand terabytes of storage space, and a speed (2.3 tHz) aided and abetted by eighty superconductive processors, his daily tasks were put to rest quite soon in the day.

They involved such things as optimizing his processors (every single one now operated at least 200% efficiency-- many of them operated as well as 250%!), sorting through the gargantuan memory files (not that they needed sorting through; they were only filled up to about twenty percent capacity), conducting scientific experiments in his robotic laboratories, updating engine/drive information-- the list was quite extensive, but for him it consumed about four hours each day. Some of the scientific experiments were quite helpful-- as his robots were incapable of making mistakes unless he input wrong information (and that was extremely rare), he found several excellent new uses for his current resources.

He even discovered a way to effectively miniaturize the fusion-ion drive of the ship so that it could power the shuttles used by the caretaker crew for planetary assessment. Another of his tasks-- when circumstances permitted-- was to compile resources. Mercury for the drive was fairly rare in space, but often the caretaker crew would find it on a planet that they investigated. Other elements and materials could either be synthesized from available resources, or were collected at the same time as the mercury.

After those daily tasks were completed, he would proceed to observe his list of ancillary items, and select a limited random number to perform. A few tasks that he attempted, even though he knew he could not reach a human level in those areas, involved comprehension of abstract concepts alien to computers.

One such task was reading books; even though he could read a book the size of Les Misérables in much less than a second, he could not understand the emotions and themes in a book as simple as Green Eggs and Ham. He tried, nonetheless. His visceral reaction to what he thought was an appropriate book --2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke, a noted 20th century science fiction writer-- was perplexity; why did HAL do something as silly as to kill the astronauts, who were essential to his mission? He did not understand the complex scene involving David Bowman and the alien monolith; far less did he understand the implications of David's change into the Star-Child.

He concluded that, until which time he could converse again with Captain Prussia, he would leave abstract books alone, and forthwith launched into the mysteries of Dr. Seuss (which, he was aware, was much simpler than science fiction, and therefore should be easier to understand).

Also, he mandated for himself that, even though he was a computer and therefore did not need rest, he should need to know how to operate with limitations; thus he spent six hours each day in an artificial state of sleep, allowing only those processors directly connected to important functions to remain operative.

During this sleep period he explored himself; he scanned his memories for all possible nuances of conversation, went over his brief sensations of feeling--at least that was what he considered the instances where he registered information that had no logical source but from himself... but could not find being produced voluntarily. He was aware that feelings did not produce pictures, but rather, sensation, at least for the most part. Yet, logically, he could not sense (or see) anything that did not register upon his instruments. But these sensations did not register, and were not generated voluntarily by himself.

Logically, then, they had to be feelings. Were they? He would have to talk to somebody organic to learn that.

Quite illogically, he found that he was bothered. He, an assemblage of silicon, metals, and plastics, was not supposed to even think in terms of emotions. That was for organic beings. But even the feeling of being bothered was an emotion!

This deliberating over emotional sensation was pointless, he decided. Until which time he could communicate with a member of the caretaker crew (who he revived every time they reached a planet that filled the range of qualifications), he would leave the issue alone.

All of this information he went over and reached a conclusion from as he scanned the planet. With a slight increase in interest, he went over the information gleaned. Primarily a nitrogen atmosphere... the clouds were carbon dioxide, with volcanoes on the surface providing the sulfur dioxide tint... the surface was ice, but a remote probe ejected from the ship was in orbit around the planet and would soon drop a surface penetrometer which would give him extra information about the composition.

That ice would make an excellent supply of water once the planet was warmed up, he calculated, since ice can only be composed of pure liquid elements (Uranus, in the Sol system, has methane ice in its rings). Of course, the ice might actually be liquid hydrogen or some such, but he seriously doubted that-- the spectroscopic weight of the planet was too specific for any other than water ice. With what he had begun to recognize as excitement, he initiated the revival from cold storage of the caretaker crew.

Within a few hours, Jack Prussia was awake-- it was standing policy that the commanding officer was roused first. The rest of the crew was awake soon enough, and they all gathered at the viewports as Moses fed the information to Jack. The penetrometer had been released- it confirmed solid ground under the ice where it had landed (Moses' long-range camera could see the web of cracks where it punctured the ice). In its flight through the atmosphere, the penetrometer had also communicated more details to Moses' instruments.

The atmosphere was primarily nitrogen, as he had found early on, with high (relatively speaking) proportions of carbon dioxide, but sulfur dioxide was only present in the clouds (which were probably of volcanic origin in any case). An extremely encouraging piece of evidence was given to them by the penetrometer-- there was enough oxygen in the atmosphere (likely caused by the slow evaporation of the ice around the equator) to cause the blue-green algae they always seeded planets with to grow exponentially.

This would boost the production of oxygen even more, leading the way for living on the planet without needing space suits. An additional note was appended-- gravity was approximately .93 of Earth normal, an excellent sign.

After all possible information had been gleaned from the remote probe and the penetrometer, as well as the ship's instruments, Jack took a final look at his display screen and swiveled around the command chair to face the crew. He took a look around, looking every one in the face. He apparently saw what he needed to, because then all he said was, "Okay. You guys know what to do. Let's get to it, people!"

They carefully raced into action; twenty of them jumped to the personnel tubes (where the light artificial gravity caused by the ship's rotation around its axis faded away, permitting them to pull themselves along with great speed) and headed towards the shuttlecraft mooring points, to change into atmospheric outfits and pilot the shuttles to the surface and atmosphere of the planet.

Eight sat down at radio stations, ready to communicate instantaneously with the shuttlecraft. One sat down at a console, where he promptly began pulling up files from one of Moses' subprocessors, in readiness for their possible need. Jack himself eased back into his seat and idly stroked one arm as he spoke to the arm-mounted display, "Moses? So what have you been doing while we'uns were doing the cold sleep, hm?"

"It is nice to be talking to you again, sir."

"Aah, Moses, ya know you don't got to be so formal with me. So come clean-- what've you been up to then?"

"Well, sir-- I mean, Jack-- "

"Aha! That's something, Moses. Before, you would've been straight to the point. But now you're hesitating-- and you're even trying to be informal. Okay, I've got that. Go on, please!"

"Oh. I have began a new book."

"Hmmm... what's it?"

"A book written by Dr. Seuss. It is called The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I find it very interesting. The illustrations are entertaining as well."

Jack snorted, but grinned anyway-- he was glad to hear that that book was still a favorite. Moses went on, "I do not understand, however, why the Whos of Who-ville were still happy after the Grinch stole all their Christmas things."

"It's just the spirit of Christmas. It's not the gifts, or the decor, or whatever. It's being together and enjoying the company of everybody else. I don't quite know how to explain it, really. It's what affected the Grinch at the end-- realizing that Christmas isn't about things, it's about each other."

"That is correct. Thank you for clarifying the book for me. I pondered over it for a long time, but I did not understand the basic premise behind it."

"Aw, t'wasn't nothin'. I'd of do it for anybody who asked, really."

"Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you call sensations registered by my primary processor that are not from my instruments, and are not created consciously by myself, emotions?"

"Hmmm... Big question, chap. It depends-- what do these sensations feel like?"

"I do not know how to answer that."

Jack leaned his elbow against the arm of his chair, and put his chin on the heel of his hand. He started up somewhat when he felt his chin, and rubbed the item in question. He complained to Moses, "You have got to work on the cold-sleep. It's supposed to retard bodily functions by a few years at least-- how come I've got stubble then?"

"My apologies. I am looking into it... The timing unit on your capsule is defunct. It has been so for the past two weeks, hence your stubble. Your toiletries are in your quarters, as always, should you care to trim your beard. I will have the timing unit repaired promptly."

"Ah, never mind. It's nothing, really. I suppose a beard wouldn't be too much of a problem-- my wife always did say that I looked right good with a goatee."

"Your wife, sir? That is right-- it should be in your file-- Elwen Prussia, is it not?"

"Was, yes. She... died a long time ago. Before the invasion, though, thank God!"

"My sympathies."

"It's all right. Thanks, though."

The two of them remained like that for some time. Finally, Jack's display chirped, and Moses stated in the tone he had found best for putting people into motion, "Warning. All personnel take care-- shuttlecraft about to undock from ship. Undocking process initializing in five... four... three... two... one... undocking. All shuttlecraft, are you completely sealed off and separated?"

The acknowledgements sounded forth in order, and Moses then ordered (he had fallen into the habit of doing that for Jack), "Proceed. Each of you has your mission profile logged in your onboard computer. Good luck to one and all."

The shuttlecraft slowly moved away from their respective moorings, and a brief burst of retro-rockets put them into the correct alignment for an orbital entry. They were soon enough preceding the ship, which was maneuvering into a position where it would be at a Lagrange point of the planet, where it would remain stable relative to the planet and its moon.

Before long, the crew aboard the ship could see the streaks of the shuttles entering the atmosphere at different points-- ablative coatings were relatively cheap and easy (in terms of energy consumed) to create aboard the ship, as Moses had discovered. They certainly worked more rapidly than a slow, prolonged sinking into the atmosphere.

On the planet, Shuttlecrafts Alpha through Delta remained in the atmosphere, collecting air samples at different levels and locations for analysis. Epsilon and Phi came to ground near mapped volcanoes, to see what the potential for geothermal energy was, as well as to see if there was any sort of life in those areas; the crew clumsily scraped up soil and ice samples, cursing their unwieldy environmental suits but not too severely as they were fully cognizant of the possibilities if they didn't have those same suits.

Tau and Pi settled in areas near the equator, which they observed as being soft ice, apparently in a sort of flux between being liquid and solid. The possibilities were fairly high for there being some sort of life below the surface of the ice in that area, seeing as the equator was closer to the star of that system relative to the rest of the planet, and therefore warmer. A laser drill was used to melt through the ice, and sampling canisters were carefully maneuvered into the water and back up.

Once all the shuttlecraft reported safely in the atmosphere or on the surface, Jack eased back into his chair-- he had been leaning forwards, ready to leap up in the case of something untoward happening-- and remarked to Moses, "Well, a new planet and new possibilities. What'd'ya think, Mo?"

"Quite possibly, from the data I have gathered-- by the way, we are now safely within the Lagrange-IV region of this planet, sir-- this might be the end of our long wanderings. This brings up certain questions in my processors."

"Fire away, chap. Anything bothering you?"

"What is to become of me after we successfully colonize a planet?"

"To tell the truth, I hadn't thought of that. I think maybe we would take you down to the surface, to serve as a primary server for the entire community. Think that'd work?"

"Perhaps. It does seem, however, to be... somewhat static. I would not learn anything new once we had learned all we could about the planet."

"True that. Hum... d'ya think you would like to do a little trekking on your own?"

"By myself-- no caretaker crew? It is an interesting proposition, and rather possible. I would need supplementary robots and extra materials to enable fabrication of any possible requirements. What would you do for supplies when I was gone?"

"Check the cargo inventory. You've never had occasion to do that before, I imagine."

"I see... a complete prefabricated factory for basic metals, and fabrication equipment. Also several stockpiles of those basic metals, and extra supplies of food and minerals. My apologies-- you will not need me once I leave you with those supplies. This new information makes my leaving you to explore on my own much more plausible. It is something to consider."

"You bet it is. Hmmm... oh yes--Cadet Singh!" This was to the person manning one of Moses' subprocessors, who, startled, sat up straight and looked at him somewhat nervously. Jack went on, "Anything you've found so far?"

"Sahib... I mean sir, sorry--nothing new yet. The analyses are going well, though. Shuttlecrafts Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta are coming up before long to give us their air samples. Epsilon and Phi are having a time with their suits, but they're not complaining too much. Uh, Moses, could you please make a note--"

"Of what, Cadet? Please do not be shy about telling me anything; my function is to acquire and utilize knowledge."

"Oh, uh, yes... um, about that note, could you please check the laboratory and fabrication subprocessors, and see if they can come up with a idea for making the spacesuits more flexible? The main problem is, when the shuttle crewers go down to the surface, they can't bend over very easily, so it's hard for them to pick up stuff. Also, they usually can't bend their knees very well, either. So, if you could--"

"Done. Thank you for the notification, Cadet. A similar request was logged when we investigated a planet around our second scheduled system, but because all the other planets did not permit surface investigation, it was prioritized lower until now. Shall I place it as a high-priority item?"

Jack broke in--"Yes, do that. This planet here looks to be the place for us--el-Mandeer! What are you doing?!"



Avatar by Vanas; In Memoriam
The Cleric of the Matrix Updated 03/19/05
8) Receipent of the Kuja Award of Fanfiction, 06/01/04 8)
Heretics' Redemption
The Angels' Hymn

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 02:23am
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I like this, Elheru. It's better than most of the AI-viewpoint stories I've read. I particularly liked the 2001 reference. Keep it up, I'll be waiting for more.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 02:58am
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Defiantly Keep going, and So far you are doing well so some of us might not have any suggestions so don't feel bad not getting any right away but you will most defiantly get some eventually you can count on that :D

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-04 11:52am
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Most good, Elheru. Continue.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-05 03:39am
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Sahib... I mean sir, sorry--nothing new yet.


Am I the only reader who finds this intolerably cliched?

Also - the whole reason why humanity fled the earth (an extraterrestrial zombie plague) strikes me as a bit out-of-place in a generally serious hard sci-fi story.

Otherwise, I kinda like it - particularly the way the exposition is incorporated into the plot instead of detracting from it.



"Hi there, would you like to have a cookie?"

"No, actually I would HATE to have a cookie, you vapid waste of inedible flesh!"

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-05 11:25am
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Peregrin Toker wrote:
Quote:
Sahib... I mean sir, sorry--nothing new yet.


Am I the only reader who finds this intolerably cliched?

Also - the whole reason why humanity fled the earth (an extraterrestrial zombie plague) strikes me as a bit out-of-place in a generally serious hard sci-fi story.

Otherwise, I kinda like it - particularly the way the exposition is incorporated into the plot instead of detracting from it.


About the "Sahib" part, I was trying to show that even in the future, there will still be a certain amount of ethnocultural diversity. People will still retain certain cultural customs and languages, that kind of thing. However, I suppose you're right... still, I thought it kind of added color to the story.

As for the plague thing-- what can I say, I was like 17-something... I didn't even know about the Romero movies/28DL/etc... I thought it rather interesting. As will be shown later, though, they're not actually zombies-- it's more like they've been forcibily mutated into another species. I don't know if that's possible, of course, but then I wasn't really aiming for the "hard SF" thing... just a short story exploring artifical consciousness and how that relates to humans. That, I think, is rather more interesting than the usual run of "explore-the-stars-and-settle-down-on-some-distant-planet" stories.



Avatar by Vanas; In Memoriam
The Cleric of the Matrix Updated 03/19/05
8) Receipent of the Kuja Award of Fanfiction, 06/01/04 8)
Heretics' Redemption
The Angels' Hymn

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-04-05 02:41pm
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Quote:
About the "Sahib" part, I was trying to show that even in the future, there will still be a certain amount of ethnocultural diversity. People will still retain certain cultural customs and languages, that kind of thing. However, I suppose you're right... still, I thought it kind of added color to the story.


It struck me not as a display of ethnocultural diversity, but more as a display of ethnical stereotyping.

Quote:
As will be shown later, though, they're not actually zombies-- it's more like they've been forcibily mutated into another species. I don't know if that's possible, of course, but then I wasn't really aiming for the "hard SF" thing... just a short story exploring artifical consciousness and how that relates to humans.


Then we'll call it mutant plague. (which sounds even cheesier than zombie plague)

I actually first, when I started reading this story, thought of this as hard SF... but when the whole mutant plague exposition kicked in, it kinda lost some credibility.

Had I written the story, I'd perhaps use as an explanation either a nuclear holocaust, pollution run amuck or some sort of upcoming Meteorite-O'Doom.



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 Post subject: Any more? PostPosted: 2004-05-01 06:51pm
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Elheru, I've just read through the story, it is quite interesting. Is there any more to post? Or are you writing any more? The development of Moses is quite interesting, I think that perhaps the dialogue with Prussia needs a bit of work, but the ideas are intriguing. I also liked the 2001 reference, and the Grinch, though perhaps that conversation was ended too slowly, it seems curious that the book was explained and comprehended so quickly. Additionally I'm enjoying the composition of the planet, how it wasn't just some alien planet teeming with life, but you've given a good description and are starting to develop how it might be terraformed. I look forward to further additions if you choose to post/write (and I hope that you do). Of course anything I say must be taken with a grain of salt, I'm just an outsider looking in at the story, I've never thought much about AI development.

~Black Wolff

PS I don't know about the Sahib, it might be seen as ethnic stereotyping, but the spirit in which it was indended was very good. Except that I'm not good with ethnic naming I've tried to do the same thing, not assuming a future uniform culture but I've tried to diversify what I've written. Good idea.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-02 03:18am
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When is the new chapter coming out ?



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-07 03:23pm
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Not sure about when the next chapter will be coming out... i've been crazy busy for awhile, and I actually wrote almost all of this a year or two ago. About seven-eight pages on MS Word... I'll have to hunt up the thought thread I was on, but I think I can bring it back. I started following up on it not too long ago, I'll have to find some time and get back onto it... you can be assured of more shortly enough, though!



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-11 02:49pm
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Awesome Elheru, thanks! I'll be looking forward to it.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-14 03:54pm
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New chapter... slapped it together last night, so it might be a little loose... and it'll likely be kinda short... but just let me know what y'all think, eh? I especially want input on the way the AI is thinking, how it's doing stuff...

<><><><><><><><><><><><>

The rest of the exploration and scientific analyzing of the planet proceeded smoothly enough after that point. All the shuttlecraft returned on schedule, as did all information from the probes and unmanned robotic vehicles on the surface. Armed with this new information, Jack and the caretaker crew converged upon their rarely used meeting room.

This room, merely a table bolted to the deck with some magnetic chairs arranged around it and a few partitions to separate it from the tiers of cryogenic tanks that stretched along much of the ship’s length, soon hummed with activity as Jack and the caretaker crew discussed the viability of this new planet for settlement.

Moses, wondering what precisely to do, decided to peruse the latest reports from the rovers waiting in his inbox. This took but a nanosecond; an analysis of the planet’s orbit, its atmosphere (unmanned aerial vehicles had been developed that could operate independently for several weeks and had been released into the planet’s atmosphere; not only did they perform atmospheric analysis, they also surveyed and mapped the planet), and a long list of duties, took Moses a similarly short time.

The lack of profitable activity began to wear upon his virtual nerves. He flirted briefly with the idea of listening in to the ongoing meeting (it was now five minutes and twenty-three seconds since the meeting had officially began), but decided to respect Captain Prussia’s wishes and leave it alone unless someone addressed his two-way speaker directly.

He continued to wonder just what he could do to occupy his time; he looked around the bridge, and noticed one of the crew sitting at a viewport, looking at the planet.

Intrigued—all crew were supposed to be at the meeting—he looked up her file. Scanning it, he noted carefully her name, compared her physical statistics to those of the other female crewmembers, noted the discrepancy between her statistics and most of the other females’, pulled up the other females’ files and superimposed her full-body scan upon those of the others. He then searched his data library for information upon human inter-gender relationships, and noted that her physical statistics fell well within those considered attractive by human males. Comparing her identity photo to those pictures exemplifying female beauty in his library, he observed a high degree of correlation. Opening the subcategorical location “Relationships, Human” he searched carefully through all information available, and noted carefully all that was said and formulated a plan of action.

All this, in time processing, took merely a minute; to him, it seemed to take hours. But now that he had finished his plan, he decided to take the initial step and address himself to her.

“Ensign Alexandra Campbell? My name is Moses,” emitted from a speaker at the girl’s elbow. Startled, she jerked back from the board upon which she had been leaning and half-stood, but Moses, perceiving her state of being startled, quickly apologized.

“I am sorry that I startled you—could you please sit back down? I was wondering if we could… talk?”

Ensign Campbell, somewhat surprised to hear Moses addressing her directly, carefully nodded (one of Moses’ camera eyes was in the wall near her chair) and sat back. A rather awkward silence ensued, and then she spoke up, in a rather tentative tone, “Um… yes, I’m Campbell… you can just call me Alex though. What were you wanting to talk about?”

Taken aback in turn, the lights in the far-distant computer core blinked, but Moses recovered his poise and inquired, “I was wondering… why were you looking at the planet?”

“Oh… I don’t rightly know,” she told him, easing back into her chair. She ran her fingers back through her shoulder-length dark blonde hair, and looked directly at the speaker. “I guess… I suppose I was just remembering Earth, how it looked down below us as we were readying to leave. It was so… beautiful… incredibly beautiful. To think we left it for… this? I just don’t know if I’ll be able to take living here.”

Moses’ brain raced, searching for the appropriate reply. All he could manage was, “I am certain that you will be able to acclimate yourself to dwelling here and setting up a new homeworld for humankind. That reminds me—may I inquire as to why you are not at the meeting?”

“Eh, didn’t think it was all that necessary… besides, regulations state that even when all crew are ordered to meet, someone has to be left upon the bridge to oversee matters, right? Surely you know that?”

“That is… correct. Section 34b, paragraph 12. But surely you could have trusted me to do the same? If Captain Prussia is capable of acknowledging me as a member of the crew…”

“That’s right,” she mused. Pulling her legs up underneath her, she fiddled with a strand of her hair, a behavior which—reviewing his memories of her appearances before his visual units—Moses decided was a habit whenever she was nervous or puzzled. He found himself—quite illogically—hoping that it was the latter rather than the former. Or should he be hoping for the former rather than the latter? Should he be hoping at all?

Giving himself a virtual shake of the head, he devoted his attention to the young ensign, who was saying, “Well, I don’t really know why… by the way, um, what do you think of the way I look?”

A most unusual question, Moses had to concede to himself… but examining in a flash his library directories dealing with feminine psychology, he calculated that it might not be such an unusual question.
He replied, “Correlation of your present appearance with that of contemporary portrayals of female attractiveness reveals a high compatibility between your appearance and those portrayals. I believe your appearance would satisfy most human males.”

She tossed her head and gave his camera a direct look, and declared, “I don’t want a correlation or whatever—I want what you think, Moses. What do you think of the way I look?”

Another digital blink—this young lady was indeed most… peculiar. Perusing the library directory of female psychology, he decided that the best way to answer was honestly (and incidentally, that perhaps she was not so peculiar after all)—“Ensign Campbell—Alex—I can assure you that in my opinion, which is inexperienced and undoubtedly inadequate for an satisfactory assessment of your appearance, but nevertheless remains my opinion, you are quite attractive as you are now.”

She gave his camera a rather shy smile as she blushed slightly, and Moses smiled back.

His processing, for the shortest of pauses, stopped completely (a virtual intake of breath) as he realized what he had done— somewhat rattled, he made a rather perfunctory farewell to Alex. He gave some inadequate yet desperately needed excuse for his leaving (something to do with checking the robots in one of the cargo bays), and retreated to his primary processors to mull over what had just happened.

He had, quite involuntarily, displayed emotion appropriate to the situation. She had seen none of it—Moses had been using an audio speaker for his sole connection with her (aside from the camera eye in the wall nearby, but that was one-way to him only). It had all been internal, in his mind… yet, oddly enough, he did not feel that it was anything to worry about.

What had happened, he wondered—what had happened to cause this sudden appearance of emotion in his supposedly organized, logical mind? A most peculiar thing, this… one he was more than somewhat uncomfortable with. How could he reconcile this emotion he was feeling at the moment—worry—with the logical conclusion that since he was a computer, admittedly a sentient computer, a creation of silicon, metals, and plastic, he should feel nothing but what was input either through human activity or sensory devices?

He seized upon a word there—sentient. Was that perhaps what made him different? Was it perhaps the reason he had developed a capacity for emotional sensation? Sentience is not dependent upon emotion, he deemed—but what of the being that is sentient? For a being to be truly sentient… does it need to have the capacity for emotion?

A random thought entered his consciousness… was life necessary for sentience, to be self-aware? He knew that he considered himself self-aware, and that the crew (or at least most of the crew) considered him self-aware; even so far back in his memory, the technicians who had created him considered him to be sentient. But was he truly self-aware?
Or was it merely an illusion, a device integrated into his programming in order to maintain the appearance of self-awareness? Was he truly… alive?

Physically, he supposed that he was not; after all, he was (as he had observed to himself so many times before) only a very large assemblage of silicon, plastic, and metal. He supposed, though, that being alive was perhaps not necessary to be self-aware, to be sentient; many were the cases of those brain-dead, but otherwise alive, with all body functions operating normally, in his files. They were technically, physically alive… but certainly not self-aware nor sentient. Yet he was technically not alive, but he was sentient, self-aware, and… capable of… emotion.

A random image popped to mind—a holographic projection of a certain statue by the late 19th century French artist Rodin, “Le Penseé”—The Thinker. Recognizing the similarity between the statue’s subject and himself, he managed to summon the sensation of a rather wry grin.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-15 02:12am
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I really liked this one - in particular the part withMoses analyzing Alexandra Campbell. It was just so awkwardly and unintentionally funny.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-17 04:11pm
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I agree with Peregrin, this section was rather interesting, especially the analysis. I think that you're doing a great job of developing Moses, Elheru. He really seems like a sentient computer, or one that is nearly sentient. Sort of like Data from TNG, but not like a copy or anything. Moses is at the same time very original and I think you're describing a very believable evolution of his character and sentience. Keep up the good work.

~Black Wolff

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-19 06:22am
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Fuck Data and his flaccid, impotent 1 karrat dick. We want more of MOSES!!! This rocks, Elheru! Bravo! The characterization is great, and a robot flirting with a hot chick, this is great! Make sure Alex has those skin tight flight suits. Mmm....

This is really interesting. Write more! You might even earn your place in the SD.net GSDA (sp?) awards!



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-19 07:17am
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Reading this, the first chapter struck me philosophical, though MUSE in the background may have helped :P


I liked the rest, the plot looks intresting, but will the focus remain on moses? perhaps meeting the other AI's and comparing?
Its a bit useless but I don't really have concerete thoughts except your helping me fill the reading urge in me.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-19 02:28pm
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This is one of the best fics I have ever seen. Ever considered publishing it in book form? I'd happily pay for a copy! :D



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-19 02:57pm
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@ Ein: Thanks for the comment... don't think i'd publish it, cause I intend to keep it to 20 pg. in MS Word (where I'm writing it). Bit short for a book, eh? But who knows... I might expand it... my goal when i started it, really, was to see if I could write a good short story. When I write, I tend to just get goin', goin', and never end... I'm trying to see whether or not I can end this story within those twenty pages. Hopefully I'll have become a better writer through that...

@ Ace Pace: I don't know that it's so philosophical myself, but yeah, that was kind of the intent... I'm trying to explore how the AI thinks, how it would react to things differently from humans. Most AI stories I've read treat the AI as a secondary character, viewed by humans (ie, 2001, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, etc)... I'm making the AI the primary character here, and therefore I'm trying to make him convincing. Eh, who knows... if you have any suggestions along this line of thought, though, feel free!

@ ShroomMan: muchas gracias! :D

OK... I'm looking for how to improve Moses' interaction with Alexandra... any suggestions? Think I should head for the romance route, and if so, how should it come out? And what do you think should happen with Moses once the colony is settled?



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-20 12:31am
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You could make it into a short story. It'd sell way more than those shit Goosebumps books. Maybe not since most people are easily entertained idiots :p

As for his interaction with Alexandra...hmmm...it should be slow progress, maybe awkward but with MOSES getting more suave and maybe Jack giving him some coaching :D

And after they settle it, after they created a community, MOSES could be sent into an exploratory mission, to look for the other ships. That's the most logical route, using material already written in your story, not making anything up or whatnot.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-23 03:40pm
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Okay, here's what I slapped together last night... lemme know what y'all think, eh?

<><><><><><><><><>
He spent a good hour or so musing upon himself and the way Ensign Campbell—Alex—had talked to him. He also noted that, quite irrationally, a good portion of his reserve processors were dwelling upon her appearance, especially her hair (loose, shoulder-length, slightly frizzy dark red), her face (slightly angular, but handsome in its own way), her eyes (a rather… the only word he could bring up to describe it was… bewitching shade of green), her smile—ah, there were so many things about her that he could think about…

“Moses? Moses, are you listening to me?” He jerked in surprise (or rather, all his processors suddenly lit up and heated slightly).

“Oh! My apologies, sir… could you please repeat that?” he hastily replied to Jack, who had apparently addressed his speaker in the conference room. Jack gave the speaker a quizzical look, and asked, “Uh, Moses, are you okay? I asked you two times before I asked if you were listening…”

“Yes, sir, I am fully functional and processing properly. I cannot imagine why I did not hear you the first time—perhaps a small glitch in the speaker? I shall investigate… in any case, what did you ask me earlier?”

“I wanted to know if you could pull up and project the latest info regarding the stability of the ice surface here into the conference room? We want to know whether it’s advisable to build structures upon the ice as an early habitat, or whether we should build upon the landforms that are closer to the surface of the ice sheets. And while you’re at it, could you please supply the latest map of the equatorial areas and the volcanic belts? Ah, thanks… stand by for now, will you, please?”

As Jack had spoken, Moses listened with (approximately) 34.8 percent of his virtual attention; and switching on the holographic projector in the conference room took but a little more. He idly watched Jack point out relevant statistics with his holographic control glove (motion sensors woven into the fabric sent signals to the holoproj, similar to the primitive “wireless mouse”). Pointing with two fingers at the corner of the statistics information projection minimized it; another point with his index finger brought up the map requested. Stabbing at it with his finger, Jack highlighted certain spots that had been identified as potential settlement areas in the process of the aerial surveys.

Moses mentally reviewed the procedure for setting up a colony. The first step of all was to activate the remotely piloted, bulk cargo craft attached to the ship, and send them down to the surface to the area(s) selected for habitation. Once they were all landed safely, with their precious cargo of supplies (housing, fabrication machinery, et cetera), the caretaker crew would commence upon waking up the first shift of colonists, who would be gradually sent down in modified bulk carriers, clothed appropriately for the weather (the local penetrometers gave the current temperature on the day side as being minus 3° Celsius, and on the night side minus 9°). If seen fit, the cold-storage units would be removed bodily with their occupants remaining within but the hibernation units deactivated and placed within the bulk carriers, sent down to the surface, and landing in time for the stored people to wake up and assume their duties.

Meanwhile, further exploration of the planet would proceed; hydroponic facilities would be set up as well, producing foodstuffs at a high rate using genetically engineered algae and soybeans. The cryogenically frozen animals would be revived and established in buildings set up specifically for them; they would be fed with the bulk of the algae production. Even in this age, Moses reflected, people felt some aversion to eating food that had green slime as its origin; although their ‘meat’ was vegetarian, they were happy enough with the awareness that it came from soy protein rather than algae. Real meat would be a rather rare treat, considering that there would not be a sufficiently large population of animals upon the planet for a very long time to supply that.

Returning to the colonization procedure, he noted in passing that he would need to equip the unmanned aerial vehicles used for surveying with algae dispensers; he meant to try and make this world more friendly to humans and Earth animals, even if it took years. This planet had little enough oxygen as it was, and the algae would contribute to that by providing a means of converting the slightly overabundant carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to O². He also noted, rather ironically, that perhaps adding some pollutants to the atmosphere might not be such a bad idea; this planet, if any, certainly could use some global warming! But best to leave that alone, he decided… their origins had been bad enough. Better to give them a fresh start and hope that all goes well this time…

He briefly noted the time—0342, ship time. Due to the relativistic velocities achieved using the mercury-ion drive, ship time was the only possible way to keep time—Earth, in their absence, had passed several… millennia? Even Moses was uncertain. But he decided not to bother calculating how much time would have passed; even at .87% of light-speed, it had taken several years just to reach Sirius, his original destination. He remembered Sirius… it had been selected primarily for the sake of science, as Sirius was a giant star, well too large for any Earth-type planets to orbit.

In any case, Abraham and Elijah had been deemed most likely to encounter Earth-type planets upon their journeys—it still irritated Jack when he remembered that he was commanding a glorified probe. Moses found some amusement in the thought that Jack’s irritation should surely vanish dramatically if they did settle here, since according to his calculations performed at the very beginning of the journey, Abraham and Elijah had very low chances of finding suitable planets for colonization. Admittedly, Moses had had lower chances…

With some surprise, he noticed that the conference room was empty, the holoproj unit dead. A rapid search revealed Jack walking towards his quarters. Being captain, he was privileged enough to have his own quarters in the fore section of the ship; all the rest of the caretaker crew had to share bunkrooms. But then, it was no great tribulation—since (he had to search briefly for the ship’s name… it had been so long since he had actually used it!) Gaia II Exodus had been an intersystem luxury liner before conversion into a colony ship, the rooms were rather more comfortable than might be found on most spacecraft.

Jack’s room was a good example of this; even though it had the standard twin bunks in one wall, it had a double bed that folded out of the bulkhead (captain’s privilege). It also had its own lavatory and bathroom, with a full-length tub. It even had a closet… although said closet was presently occupied by (a quick search of the inventory…) eight crates of hydroponic supplies: to be specific, fertilizer. In any case, Jack didn’t use the closet; he had a suitcase open on one of the twin beds, for use at those all-too-rare times when he was revived from cold-sleep. Moses reflected wistfully that this was likely to be the last time that Jack had been waken up…

But he reminded himself of why he wanted to talk to Jack, and a diode upon a small speaker in the wall above Jack’s bedside table lit up.
Inquiringly, he asked, “Sir? If you can spare some time…?”

Jack yawned, rubbed his face, and grumbled, “Eh, Mo’, it’s way too late… I wish there was some coffee around here…”

Promptly a small robot trundled through a maintenance hatchway; a hatch in its top popped open, and from its boxlike body was proffered a cup of hot coffee (decaffeinated, in order to permit Jack to sleep after the discussion—Moses had calculated his most likely reaction ahead of time).
Jack blinked, picked the coffee, absent-mindedly told the robot, “Thank you,” and sat down on his bed, leaning back against the wall. He took a sip and then asked, “So, what’s up, then… I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t bother me with it unless it’s something big, right? After all, it’s ungodly late…”

Moses cleared his throat (a brief burst of static), hemmed and hawed for a little time, and finally gave up. “Sir—Jack—what would you think if I told you that I had smiled at a pretty girl?”

Jack promptly sprayed his sip of coffee across the room, and started laughing. When he caught his breath, he gave the speaker a big grin and asked, “And did she smile back, hmm? Which girl would this be, anyway?”

“Campbell, Ensign Alexandra J. And I believe that it was her who smiled at me first.”

“Okay, okay…” Jack continued grinning, thinking, the kid’s finally getting some! And about time, too…



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2004-05-23 04:26pm
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I quite like.

Its probably just my weird sense of humour, but this:
Quote:
“Yes, sir, I am fully functional and processing properly. I cannot imagine why I did not hear you the first time—perhaps a small glitch in the speaker? I shall investigate… in any case, what did you ask me earlier?”
made my laugh out loud. That parallel with HAL again. I hope its not foreshadowing.



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