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."
"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!"
"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?!"