After Hellflower’s very public display, the Base’s leadership finally noticed their presence. Soon the two visitors were brought to the city center, where they were greeted by president Tang Zhonghua.
“Leader Cloudhawk. It has been a long time, ba. Your new look is mu unique.”
The sixty or seventy year old man, healthy and in good shape, presented himself before Cloudhawk in a well-tailored black suit. Nary a hair was misplaced, very presidential, and hardly changed at all since their last meeting except for deeper lines between his eyebrows.
“Forgive us for our unannounced visit.”
The two shook hands, an informal greeting.
“Please, come in. Speak.”
Tang Zhonghua led his guests to a meeting room and ordered his bodyguards to give them space. There was no need for caution around the new humans. Anyway, Cloudhawk had any number of ways to eliminate the president if he really wanted to.
It was quite a room they were in. Spotless, well-organized, with information panels from floor to ceiling. As the three entered, a central meeting table arranged itself into a triangular shape and three comfortable white seats rose from the ground. From within the table panels opened and a trio of steaming tea cups were extended.
“I think I know why you’ve come la.” Tang Zhonghua took his seat and got right to the point. “We held a leadership summit. Some talk about helping new humans with your war. The general assembly held a vote.”
“What was the result?” Cloudhawk asked.
“It passed,” he replied, “with two thirds support. Our democratic process has spoken and it should have been enacted, however…” Tang Zhonghua paused, a glower on his face. “Father ultimately denied the action.”
Cloudhawk figured that would be the case.
Tang Zhonghua continued. “Father is the Base’s highest protector and authority, a level above even the president. According to our constitution, Father has overriding veto power in all matters.”
“There’s no way around this?” Hellflower asked.
“It would be… mu difficult.” Tang Zhonghua sighed. “Father’s analysis finds the new human actions tai dangerous. Potential for backlash. Leaning on its protection directive, Father rejected the motion. It is a machine, making decisions based on logic and data ba. Convincing it to change any decision is almost unheard of.”
Where there were people there were resources. Where there were resources, there was conflict. The world might have two identical leaves or stones, but no two humans would ever be exactly the same. Because humans were not machines. Complete unity was impossible when everyone had different ideas.
Tang Zhonghua supported the Green Alliance. Supported the new humans. However, there were a number of ancient humans who opposed – were even repulsed by – their descendants. It came down to two primary reasons:
First, they feared their ill-fated rebellion would bring war to Ark Base. Second, there was a great deal of difference between their two peoples. New humans were far stronger, and if in the future they deepened relations it would give them an opening. Perhaps ancient humans would be squeezed out of their home turf or find their resources cut off. It was an unacceptable risk.
Security and survival were always humanity’s first concerns. If they didn’t feel safe, nothing else mattered. Whether it was the gods or highly evolved new humans, neither made the citizens of Ark Base feel safe.
On the other hand Tang Zhonghua had his reasons. Certainly one of them was the desire to return to their home planet. However, a close relationship with the Green Alliance meant shared resources, energy, relics, and knowledge.
Without question, throughout human history war was synonymous with disaster. But it was also a catalyst for progression. Every time mankind was enveloped in conflict, science and society exploded.
Tang Zhonghua knew that original humans were weak and short lived. As they were they would be forced to live in this distant colony for thousands of years, doomed to never escape or resist. If they wanted to flourish, his people had to grow stronger. That was how they survived.
These two opposing ideas clashed. It was impossible to know who was right. But Father stood on the side of cautious defense. The AI’s purpose was to ensure humanity’s survival for as long as possible. Development, growth, or whatever state that survival was in – didn’t matter. Its nature was to avoid risk.
“This won’t be easy.” Hellflower sounded hopeless. Couldn’t they just… turn Father off?
She didn’t ask. Father was responsible for keeping Ark Base running, of which Earth City was but a small part. The consequence of losing Father would be too terrible to bear.
“We cannot violate our constitution. Without Father’s support any motion will fail ba. The government has no authority to order other institutions to comply. But we will do what we can. I have ordered an inventory of our surplus and we will donate everything possible to your war effort.”
It was the best result they could hope for.
Father had allowed only a small number of new humans to set up camp on Stony Plains. A small, manageable number that was no threat to Ark Base. They were also a good opportunity for Father to observe and learn about the descendants of its charges. However, the more contact original humans had with their successors, the more dangerous it was for them. It was a risk the AI couldn’t afford.
Hellflower shot a glance toward Cloudhawk. “What do you think?”
“I need to speak with Father.” Cloudhawk rose from his seat and looked toward the ceiling. I know you’ve been listening to everything we’re saying.”
Tang Zhonghua made no effort to stop him, not that he could. How could Cloudhawk’s arrival escape Father’s notice?
Father was a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence from a thousand years ago. As time stretched on the program never stopped learning. It was ubiquitous, always watching. That’s why crime was unheard of. Father knew everything that was occurring and stopped it before it progressed too far.
The conference room door slid open and a team of robots marched through. A growling, mechanical voice crackled toward him. “Come with us.”
Cloudhawk shot Hellflower a look. She understood; he wanted her to remain here with Tang Zhonghua and continue their discussion. She could help determine how much cooperation and materials they could expect.
He was led to another conference room. It was an empty cube of tall white walls. Upon entering, a voice filled the space from some unknown location. “The Guide has no right to ask Ark Base to join his war. Please, return to your people.”
Father was an algorithm. It had a sort of individual intelligence, but it was nothing like the sort humans exercised. Their self-determination was done with emotional and instinctual input. Instinct was nothing but the drive to survive and reproduce. From these roots many primitive impulses arose. Possession of goods, hoarding resources, searching for viable mates, war – all derivatives of what comes from the most primal parts of the human brain.
No such physiological instincts existed in a computerized mind. For them, their ‘instinct’ was programmed at the time of their creation. For Father it was a fundamental part of its existence to protect humans. That’s what it worked tirelessly to maintain for the last thousand years.
Father was a mature intelligence. It had both logic and wisdom. If humans could, in certain circumstances, overcome their own instinct then why couldn’t an artificial intelligence? Its directive was written into its code, but that wasn’t the same as the gods’ mental seal. Opposing thought wasn’t totally negated.
“The reason I’m here today has nothing to do with the war. I’m here for business.” Cloudhawk explained. “What we need from Ark Base isn’t help in the war but access to its market. Provide us with materials and weapons. In return we will give the base anything it needs, so long as we can provide it. An exchange.”
Father remained intractable. “Guide, regardless of what logic you employ you will not alter this situation. I cannot put the lives of earth’s original inhabitants in danger. Acquiescing to your requests is impossible.”
“Yeah?” Cloudhawk grinned to himself. “It’s naïve of you to think that ancient humans will be completely separate from this war. The peace you knew disappeared the moment I found you. Remember that the key to this world is in my hands, not yours.”
Father’s response was even and unhurried. “Ark Base is prepared if the Green Alliance should choose violence.”
“The Green Alliance is busy with its own problems. It would be foolish to pick a fight with Ark Base. No – if I wanted to cause trouble that wouldn’t make any sense.” Cloudhawk shook his head. But the former Demon King marked this planet. What do you think would happen if the gods were to learn about it? How would this base’s omnipotent Father react?”
No getting around it. Cloudhawk’s words were an open threat. An artificial intelligence like Father was unlikely to become angry or react emotionally, so the aim wasn’t to instigate it. Cloudhawk was introducing new data – a possibility Father might not have considered.
He was saying that if Father didn’t want to cooperate then so be it. Humanity – new and old – would perish together. The gods were plenty powerful enough to obliterate this planet and every living thing on it. Ark Base was in the shit and there was no backing out now.
Father went on, its voice cold and unfeeling. “According to what I know of your character, there is no greater than a two percent chance of you following through with this threat.”
“Even a bunny bites. Back someone against the wall and they’re willing to do anything. You’ve watched humans for centuries, and if there’s one thing I’m sure you’ve learned it’s that we’re complex creatures.” Cloudhawk spoke matter-of-factly. “If the Green Alliance falls - if my friends, loved ones, students and compatriots face annihilation – do you think I’m going to give a shit about your secret? Or do you think I’ll throw you to the wolves?”
Father’s voice did not answer.
As a super-intelligent machine such a possibility had crossed its ‘mind’, only Cloudhawk seemed unlikely to make such a decision. Electing to join his war presented a higher risk to the safety of earth’s original inhabitants.
“You’ve kept these humans locked up in this base for generations. Let me ask you, how is that any different from the gods? Your population will grow while your resources will dwindle, and then what? A civilization that doesn’t advance with time will perish. Humans aren’t pets. We don’t do well in captivity.” Cloudhawk’s voice took on a harder edge. “Join my alliance. Greenland’s resources and technology can provide for all your people. The humans of the old world can save themselves from being a chapter in history. It may be dangerous, but it will not mean extinction.
Cloudhawk raised his hand, causing reality to ripple. A mass of bodies piled high appeared from the ether. Father examined the grim display and discovered that they were not human bodies. They were different, more evolved, stronger.
“These are divine soldiers. Gods. Their bodies are worth a lot to something as intelligent as you.” These bodies in particular were the aborted gods, taken from the liquid metal tree beneath earth’s desert. “A fraction of what I can offer, so long as Ark Base promises to provide us with weapons. You can leave the dying to us.”
Father ceaselessly scanned the bodies, noting the magnificent changes in their DNA.
This was priceless data in the improvement of original humans. It wasn’t too much to say that the bodies were a treasure trove of information. Perhaps it could help the humans in evolving to new heights.
Cloudhawk didn’t get into the finer details. Such things weren’t important for a thing like Father. Complex arguments were useless. However artful his negotiations, it wouldn’t break through Father’s impervious logic. It was easier to take the simple path.
All it needed was the proper motivation. If Ark Base chose not to cooperate then everyone would perish. The fate of these people were tied to his Alliance one way or another.
Help didn’t have to mean danger, though. It wasn’t likely the gods would learn about them, and Ark Base could make money by selling equipment. Meanwhile they could hoard enough resources to keep them going for another few thousand years.
And with any luck, Father could lead its flock to a new era of human evolution.Previous Chapter Next Chapter