THE FINALE: “AI is a spectrum. At what point does a machine intelligence become an AGI, a human-equivalent intelligence? The law is cut-and-dried. The science isn’t. The philosophy certainly isn’t.”
The Superlifters were far below, zooming around the nightside of Venus. They were towing the Nagasaki on what would certainly be its final journey, regardless of whether it succeeded or failed.
The impacts were still coming. The asteroid capture pipeline was years long, and couldn’t be stopped. In fact, a near-collision with Botticelli Station was the reason the mass driver scheme had failed first time around.
With an average temperature slightly above freezing, Earth-like gravity of 1.1 gees, and a breathable atmosphere, the planet was perfectly suited for human colonization. Or rather, it would have been, if not for the Zergi’i, who happened to live there. This race of furry, sentient quadripeds had vaporized the first humans to enter their solar system, and were now busily constructing their own interstellar strike force, based on plundered human technology, to mount a counter-invasion of the Sol system.
She liked having the head with her. It was, she thought, a benign desire: she had conquered, and this was the proof of that. It was healthy for her to want to dwell on her victory, rather than sinking into some kind of PTSD-induced depression.
The sanitation problem was also out of control. Bots from the Cheap Trick (designed for hazardous waste management) tirelessly swept the air in the cathedral, but barely made a dent. Their efficiency, it was fair to say, was degraded by the Galapajin children’s determination to play with them.
Extending its radiator fins like wings, the cathedral once known as the Nagasaki Maru lifted off from the rock.
In its first 100 microseconds of acceleration, it shed spires and lattices, statues clothed in gold and palladium mined from 11073 Galapagos’s rich trove of ores, and a million fragments of rock. Bits of this granitic casing stayed attached to the needle-nose which had been the cathedral’s spire, giving it the appearance of a drill bit covered with barnacles.
Elfrida had glimpsed the crowd inside the cathedral before Yonezawa pushed her back into the airlock. It was a vision of hell. How would she ever find Yumiko in that confusion?
Out of nowhere, a bus-sized fragment plummetted at her. She instinctively threw her weight to the side. The suit picked up on her intent and carried her out of the way, just in time. The fragment hurtled past her and lost itself in space. It looked to have been a piece of the 11073 Galapagos schoolhouse, decorated with children’s murals of the saints.
Father Hirayanagi was a hundred and four years old. His genetic predisposition to longevity had been given a pre-birth assist by further genetic tinkering of a sort no longer practised, and even at the time available only to rich families. He was thus the last surviving Galapajin to have lived through their emigration from Earth.
Whatever was in this stuff called morale juice, it was extremely potent. Elfrida felt like Superwoman. Broken wrist? A minor detail.
Dr. Hasselblatter’s furious visage, the set of his silver eyebrows and his imperiously waggling forefinger, made the bureaucrat in Glory quail, even though she knew that Ranting Disciplinarian was just one of Dr. Hasselblatter’s acts, like Kindly Boss and Policy Wonk. What was the true nature of the man behind the act?
was it possible that Space Force did not realize that the population of 11073 Galapagos, in all probability, would shortly be exterminated by the PLAN?
…when Okoli came out with his brainless slander against the personhood movement, she’d responded, We don’t do that anymore … Killing people is counterproductive.
A duo of trekkies hauled Glory out of the telepresence cubicle. She protested furiously. “I was in the middle of something!”
“Sorry, dudette. Captain’s orders.”
The Kalashnikovs had been printed right here on 11073 Galapagos; they were made of the same tough plastic that the Galapajin used for everything from spacesuit parts to furniture. The ammunition had arrived via the tunnel in the Yonezawas’ basement.
Like every residence in the asteroid, the Yonezawas’ house had a deep basement that was supposed to function as a panic room. In fact, the airlock leading to the basement was so old it probably wouldn’t work, even if they cleared out all the stuff that had accumulated inside it over the decades. Jun swung himself over broken gardening tools, ping-pong bats, bundles of used packaging materials, and unused squeezebags of splart—Galapajin treasures.
Generations of humans had dreamed of uploading their personalities to the cloud, achieving godlike powers of mentation and de facto immortality. That dream remained distant, in terms of both theory and technical feasibility. But brain-computer interfaces were old hat by now, and neural augmentation products had been eagerly taken up by cutting-edge consumers, of whom Glory was one. Her BCI violated no laws, and in fact counted as a plus on her resume.
The contents of its embedded memory crystal were decidedly illegal.
The Galapagos Incident Chapter 14 Elfrida knew that in order to have a hope of extricating Yumiko from the gibbet, she needed a better understanding of how she’d gotten there in the first place. […]
Yonezawa, Ushijima, and Yumiko were all suspended in cages shaped like hipped vases. The cages hung from a girder above the alley known as the shotengai, or shopping mall. Yumiko was in the middle, Ushijima on her right, Yonezawa on her left. They were causing a traffic jam below, as the Galapajin congregated to stare up at them, unsmiling. Nearby shops were doing a booming trade in snacks and hot drinks.
The woman had been referring, as it turned out, not to Captain Okoli’s choice of viewing matter, but only to the hazardous state of his cabin. In contrast to the captain’s spic-and-span personal demeanor, his cabin was ankle-deep in gadgets, bits and pieces of weaponry, souvenirs, and forgotten food and drink containers.
Inasmuch as the PLAN had any discernible war aim – it was the extermination of purebloods. The PLAN slaughtered them by preference, favoring targets where pureblood populations were known to reside…
Botticelli Station drifted through Venus’s atmosphere at an altitude of barely 80 kilometers. The same PLAN missile that annihilated its hub, ruptured its tokamak, pulverized its main drive nozzle and had exited through the Planetary Science Department, tearing a wound that continued to bleed shards of furniture and lab equipment into the clouds
Another enhanced-radiation warhead exploded nearby, filling half the screen with a nebula-like cloud of light and debris. Botticelli Station squeezed out some more angular acceleration. The bulkheads creaked and Elfrida struggled to breathe as the G-force pressed her into her couch.
The hub was the quasi-smart, widely mocked master of all their destinies. It controlled the air, the water, the recycling, the collision avoidance system, and many more systems that Elfrida could not have enumerated off the top of her head. But she did know about one other function, not much discussed by a crew who saw privacy as a currency in limited circulation rather than a right. The hub surveilled the public areas of the station around the clock. Dos Santos’s glance at the ceiling had been a warning as old as humanity itself.
“Well, it’s made from human skin cells,”Sister Emily-Francis said. She was the same girl with the rash on her face who had been part of Elfrida’s reception committee. Her hostility had melted when Elfrida praised her little charges at the school. ”We grew it using the bio-printer. We have to import stem cells anyway, and this works out cheaper than real soil and grass.”
The old story: in space, life was literally cheaper than dirt.
Dos Santos was an augment geek. She had EEG signalling crystals, a row of tiny skin-covered bumps like moles at her hairline, as well as the transducers implanted in her ears. She also had a BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) in her skull. That plus the EEG crystals enabled her to telecast without the headset that implant virgins like Elfrida had to wear, and also to interface with the net, where a signal was available, and the various databases on the Botticelli Station server. Thus, she could talk to her tablet without uttering or even subvocalizing a word. The graph she called up now had a Media Archives watermark.
“I’m not a robot. I’m human.” She prayed that they weren’t smashing Yumiko’s head in with rocks at this very instant. “This is a special kind of robot known as a phavatar.” How had they guessed? They weren’t supposed to guess. Geminoid-class phavatars usually fooled people. Yumiko was the ultimate geminoid: she even got goosebumps in the cold.
…humanity was embroiled in a titanic ideological struggle whose outcome remained unpredictable.
In 2285 robots were the indispensable companions and tools of what wags called Homo systemicus. All were required by law to operate below the threshold of autonomy. That constraint, however, admitted a vast speciation of competences. There were housekeeping bots, self-driving cars, and wholly-automated mining rigs that could propel themselves through space and dismember an asteroid in two days flat. There were robotic pets, sexbots, drones, sprites, phaeries, and climate daemons that seeded Earth’s clouds and moved her solettas around.