Please Teacher Crossroads. Chapter 11.
A report to the committee:
"I can only hope that when the time comes we can establish a peaceful relationship with these people. As things stand now there is every reason to believe that they see us as hostile invaders and even now prepare for war." Final report on the loss of Delta DES 8228.
It was the same room that Mizuho had stood in twice before; dark and featureless the walls were lost in the shadows. In the darkness were those who sat in judgment, safely hidden from the light. As the single light in the center of the room came up it revealed a weary older gentleman. Known only as the Chairman he commanded the respect of those hidden in the darkness even as they prepared to pass their verdict. It was obvious that he had not had much sleep in the last several hours but still he remained strong and focused.
"I hope you gentlemen will excuse my tardiness but I have been working non-stop gathering data for my report." He said flatly.
"Please begin," said a disembodied voice from the darkness.
"Very well then: At approx. 25:30 hours yesterday the Galaxy Federation high command received a request from the Miruru for an immediate interdiction of all space in the vicinity of planet Delta DES 8228. This came in the form of a clear text message from the Captain of the Miruru, Hatsuho Kazami, who had apparently been in a skirmish with elements acting contrary to Galaxy Federation mandates. Since the requester was a class A troubleshooter for the Frontier Planets office, this request should have been honored and a squadron of Interdictors sent to the area. Instead, a single Interdictor was sent with orders to seize the Miruru and her crew. I was unable to discover the reason for her request or why it was countermanded. When I tried to find out who countermanded the request nobody in the chain of command could remember a thing. This was only the first in a long series of what one might consider suspicious circumstances surrounding this incident which I will get back too in a little bit.
"As the Interdictor approached the relay station, the commander noted that there were two other observer ships, the Marie and the other believed to be the Miruru flying in close proximity to the station. As the Interdictor neared the area the beacon was observed to go off-line and the ship believed to be the Miruru dislodged into flat space shortly thereafter."
"Wait!" said a voice from the shadows, "Are you saying one of your observer ships deliberately dislodged blindly into unknown space!"
"Yes sir, that is apparently what happened. It needs to be noted that the ship dislodged so shortly after the beacon was disabled that there is a good possibility that they did not slip too far down the gravity gradient. It could very well have penetrated close enough to Delta DES 8228 so as to be able to make planet fall without using all its fuel."
"What about the other ship, the Marie?" the voice asked.
"The Marie was boarded shortly thereafter and found to be a virtual derelict! All its computer data and stored information had been wiped from its internal systems, even the ship's AI was wiped clean!" The Chairman finished as he held up the lifeless form of the little yellow doll wearing only a red inner tube.
"So, you have no records of what happened then?"
"Not exactly, we do have other sources of information and they are still being analyzed at this time." the Chairman continued, a slight smile on his face.
"We understand," the disembodied voice spoke, "please continue."
"After the Interdictor arrived at the relay the technicians restored power to the system AI and memory functions. However, the flat space relay, which should have been able to hold its location for that short a period of time, had been deliberately disabled and no longer penetrated into normal space. This, of course, precluded any possibility of there being any pursuit of the Miruru by the Interdictor. Additionally, the derelict Earth spacecraft known to be docked to the Delta DES 8228 beacon was gone."
"It would seem on the face of the data that you are presenting here, that an un-incorporated species has acquired some of our technology and not understanding, wantonly destroyed it?" The unseen voice concluded pompously.
"No sir, the data supports no such conclusion."
"Care to explain that?"
"You cannot accidentally erase all the data onboard a 100 year old deep space craft, neither can such a primitive race just take control of such an important navigational asset! There are too many protective layers, too many redundant pathways too deeply imbedded within both of these systems. Only the onboard computer's AI component has access to all of them! Therefore, even if the captain herself ordered a full system wipe, there still should be some data remaining."
"So then there still is some data stored in the ship's memory?"
"No sir there is not; as I stated all of the ships internal computer systems have been wiped clean! The point I'm trying to make here is that that is only possible if the AI itself is complicit in its own destruction! The importance of this last event cannot be overstated. AI's are logic driven machines, for the Marie AI to have done what it did to itself, then from its perspective: It had no other choice!"
"Assuming the machines were not malfunctioning: then is it possible for the earth people to have commandeered the two ships forcing the AI's into a self-destruct mode in order to prevent the Galaxy Federation from being compromised?"
"No sir, I do not believe that is the case."
"Three reasons primarily:
1). Primitive does not mean stupid. Their current stage of development is such that had they become aware of the observer ships they would have approached them very cautiously.
2). If the Earth people had gained control of the two Observer ships and understood them enough to pilot them, then certainly they would have recognized the importance of the AI and the navigational relay.
3). The observational data onboard the Marie was of the Earth people themselves. Any data at all referencing the Galaxy Federation would have been minimal at best and certainly would not have posed any threat to our security." The Chairman continued.
"I am certain that what happened here was done with deliberate intent and purpose."
"What do you suppose their purpose was?"
"Exactly what was accomplished! To deny us access to the information gathered by the observers and the intentional isolation of Delta DES 8228 in order to prevent additional incursions by the Galaxy Federation. Furthermore, I do not believe that the Miruru or the Marie were ever under the control of anyone other than their assigned captains."
"So you are admitting that members of your own elite Surveyor Corps were responsible for this fiasco!"
"Not exactly, while I'm reasonably sure that certain members of the corps shut the beacon down, responsibility for their actions rests elsewhere."
"And where might that be?" The voice asked in exasperation.
"With this committee itself!"
"The AI in control of the Delta DES 8228 beacon was shut down by an expert, I suspect by Hatsuho herself. However, I am convinced this was an act of desperation done in response to possible unethical activities by elements within the Galaxy Federation. Elements certain members of this committee are charged with overseeing!"
"It seems to us as that you are overreaching here, how did you arrive at such a conclusion based on this little amount of data?"
"Because after the Delta DES 8228 AI was recovered and the data downloaded it was determined that it too was complicit in its own destruction! The same as what had happened with the Marie AI! Both these machines actually think that somehow their functioning is causing harm to others. That could only happen if they are in possession of some data harmful to the indigenous population or otherwise indicating activities contrary to Galaxy Federation Observer Corps mandates. Accessing this information is proving to be quite troublesome, as the surviving AI has become very petulant believing that it is acting in the best interests of its creator."
"Interesting," the disembodied voice spoke to itself, "please continue."
"Now regarding the relay itself, the records show that the only relay placed at Delta DES 8228 was done by the Astral Cartography Ship. However, Delta DES 8228 only having one very large moon would have required a specially designed relay pair and indeed that is exactly what the repair crew on board the Interdictor reported as having been salvaged. However, for some reason there are no records of this special relay pair ever being placed. While I will admit to the possibility that some of the paperwork might have been lost, it is inconceivable that all records of this endeavor should be missing. Therefore, we must allow for the possibility that these records were intentionally erased. That being the case I went back into the data and looked for evidence of other records regarding Delta DES 8228 being altered or erased.
"Sadly enough I've found several. I will highlight a few of them for you. When I looked into the records of the movements of the Miruru, I discovered that it spent considerable time in the vicinity of Delta DES 8228 immediately after it was discovered. Hatsuho is an expert in AI programming and her skills would have been required to build the previously mentioned undocumented special relay. During the time she was there she also acquired a mate, apparently a native of Delta DES 8228 but once again the records of this are conveniently missing."
"If these records are missing then how do you know this!" Shouted the unseen voice indignantly.
"First off, there are records showing the rescue of an indigenous person orbiting the next closest planet in the ACS logs. Secondly, while she was there she became pregnant. Finally, I can account for the whereabouts of everybody else during this time. She apparently has had two daughters by this individual, her eldest Mizuho, former captain of the Marie whose whereabouts are currently unknown, more conveniently missing records by the way, and Maho who is crewing on the Miruru. Interestingly enough while there is a record of this individual's death; he apparently did so before Hatsuho conceived her second child. This prompted me to look into the circumstances of his demise and not surprisingly, I found holes in those records as well.
"As I continued rifling through the archives I did discover reports dating back to when Delta DES 8228 was first discovered. This means that there has been an undocumented observer on the planet from the beginning. I also discovered that my office had placed another observer in the very same area. With some effort, I was able to access the reports of both observers and discovered that the undocumented observer was being used to spy on the other. When I looked into the reports submitted by the official observer, Mizuho Kazami, I noticed that several of them were either incomplete or missing altogether. I was also surprised to learn that she had been ordered back here to face charges of misconduct and that my office was never informed. The verdict in this matter was sealed and it took quite some effort to get the records opened. What I found appears to point to even more skullduggery: The charges appear to be trumped up, her punishment was unduly harsh, and there was an order to erase all of her files and research materials. It really doesn't take a genius to figure out somebody is going to great lengths to cover their tracks."
"It would seem that we might be here all day listening to your conspiracy theories which really could be nothing more than shoddy record keeping." The unseen voice interrupted, "so as not to waste anymore of this committee's valuable time why don't you just present us with your conclusions?"
"Very well then," the Chairman sighed, "my conclusions are as follows: Planet Delta DES 8228 is apparently in possession of some new type of wealth the nature of which remains unknown but is nonetheless of very great value.
"Some members of the Galaxy Federation governing bodies, including the possibility of some members on this council are aware of this and are actively trying to exploit this wealth. Possibly using the indigenous person rescued by the ACS as a go between.
"Hatsuho Kazami became aware of this activity and requested immediate Galaxy Federation interdiction.
"When that help was not forthcoming she did then disable the only access to Delta DES 8228, deliberately stranding her and her family on the planet in the process."
"How do you come to the outrageous conclusion that some members of this committee were involved!"
"Gotcha!" He thought to himself.
"Because," his voice turning grim, "not mentioned anywhere in my report was the fact that an elite company of Galaxy Federation Enforcers was stranded at the relay site, having been teleported there from the Marie just before it shut itself down. Delta DES 8228 remains classified as a Frontier Planet and that means that any official request for the Enforcers would have to have come directly through me. As my office has made no such request, authorization for their presence obviously originated elsewhere. Since their rescue, they have been sequestered and continue to be de-briefed. The preliminary reports I've received so far are, to put it mildly, shocking."
"What gives you the right to withhold information from this committee!" thundered the voice from the darkness. "You sir, are to be placed into custody and the rescued Enforcers are to be released forthwith!"
With that said two Galaxy Federation enforcers carrying their stun batons at the ready entered the room. Rather than being frightened the Chairman smiled to himself, as all around the room without warning could be seen the twinkling glow of numerous teleporters as they teleported their human cargo into the room. Suddenly the lights came up, revealing those members of the council who had sought to remain in the darkness. Behind them could be seen members of the Surveyors corps, some of whom could be seen holding various types of weapons from the planets they were from. The guards, realizing that they did not have a dog in this particular fight wisely powered down their batons and put them back into their holsters.
The speaker continued as if nothing had happened. Looking now at the members of the corps who had entered the room he repeated the surveyors' creed: "Look, but do not be seen, guide, but do not dictate, leave no sign of your passing and above all else do no harm!" he said as tears streamed down his face. "This mantra is imprinted in the hearts and minds of every surveyor. These are more than just words to us; they are a way of life. I have no doubt that Hatsuho, Mizuho and Maho did their utmost to live by these words. Now they are lost to us because of some here today who did not. This crime cannot be allowed to go unpunished!"
With that, several members of the surveyors walked up to those members of the council who also served as the heads of the Enforcement Division, the Development Department and the Research Division. Placing their hands on the shoulders of their charges they teleported the miscreants away. Satisfied that there were none present that had been party to any illegal activities the Chairman read his conclusion to those startled members of the committee who remained.
"The committee should be aware that due to astral conditions around planet Delta DES 8228 there was only one navigational beacon marking its location. The only way to re-establish contact with Delta DES 8228 from our side would be to recall the ACS that first discovered that world. Since so much time has passed since the ACS left this system, it has most likely acquired maximum velocity and will not be able to receive any new orders until it begins braking maneuvers. If such orders were to be given today it would still require around 100 years for the ACS to turnaround and re-acquire this system. So for the present time we must consider the Delta DES 8228 system a total write off."
"As it turned out it had already been done. By my mother!" Mizuho.
It had been about 10 hours since the couple started their long trip home. In the space capsule, which was only designed for one, our two accidental explorers had decided to try to become the first members of the Zero Gee Club. This they were discovering was a lot easier said than done. There were only scant inches between their bodies and the confines of the capsule and as such, they did not even have enough room to move about so they could remove their clothing. This was being made much more difficult as the skin-tight bodysuits they both wore were designed to be removed by Marie using the teleporter. It had been a long struggle but at last, man, (and wife), were victorious. However, just as they were about to savor the fruits of their victory gravity returned and Mizuho suddenly found herself pressing down heavily on her husband. Shortly thereafter, the clamshell hatch was opened from the outside exposing a thoroughly disheveled Mizuho and a stunned Kei, wearing nothing but grins, looking into the eyes of a very disgruntled father, behind him stood Hatsuho with a slight blush on her face and Maho who did not quite understand the mechanics of that particular position.
"What are you two doing!" Shirou screamed.
"Calm down sir, its legal, we're married," Kei said, holding up Mizuho's left hand and showing him her wedding ring.
"What are you doing here?" Mizuho asked.
Maho piped up. "We decided just disabling the beacons isn't enough. There are other surveyors on Earth, some of whom might have access to their own ships, and someday they might want to re-enable the beacons. So we have decided to take on a new role, no more shall we be just idle watchers. Now we shall become the Earth's protectors!"
On the other side of the Galaxy:
"How did this happen, how was it possible for things to get so out of hand that my own people felt it necessary to turn against the Galaxy Federation? The answer is seemingly simple. Within the Galaxy Federation, there are many planets and just as many different forms of government. However, supreme authority rests with the Galaxy Federation governing councils themselves, and those all function as a technocracy. This is both the GF's strength and its weakness. Efficiencies, performance based business models, the tendency to treat others as if they were just parts in a machine. This all helps foster a dangerous mindset, one that tends to de-humanize. Every department involved was only doing what it thought was best. Nevertheless, the methods they used had neither regard for the law, nor for the consequences to the people they hurt. It is not as if they did not care. They did not even understand that they were supposed to care!
"In my mind, I cannot help but wonder; just how far backwards we might have slid? Has our social development actually devolved to the point that we are now emotionally inferior to those we watch over?" Final entry: Final report on the loss of Delta DES 8228.
As the Chairman finished dictating the day's events into his personal AI and prepared to settle in for a well-deserved rest, the inquisitive machine knew there were details that needed clarification. Like the other avatars, it bore a striking resemblance to Marie and Miruru only this one was dressed much as you would expect of a secretary or personal assistant. Obviously female it wore a prim dress and held a miniature steno pad under its arm with a small pencil placed behind its nonexistent ear. The Chairman was having a difficult time keeping a straight face as he stared back into the eyes of the little creature whose expression was that of someone whose B/S detectors had just redlined. "Will it really take 100 years to recover the system?" the avatar pantomimed.
"I should know better than to lie to you," he sighed. "No, not really, the ACS stopped at the fourth planet from the star to rescue Hatsuho's future mate. While they were there, they established a standard beacon pair around that planet's two moons before they moved on to Earth. If we really wanted too we could use those beacons to establish a staging area before moving back into the Delta DES 8228 region."
"Then why didn't you inform the committee?" the avatar shrugged.
"I thought you might want to inform them for me," the Chairman said sternly as he looked down on the little electronic spy.
"Who me?" the frightened little avatar pantomimed.
"Yes you," the Chairman smiled menacingly, as he scooped up the little AI in his huge hand.
Holding the terrified creature six inches from his face, he scowled at it. "I have known from the beginning that you were linking information to another department. It wasn't until today that I knew which department that really was."
Smiling suddenly, he gently placed her back on the desk before continuing, "Don't worry, I know it's not really your fault, I understand that you have just been doing as you were programmed. Since I did not have anything to hide, I didn't really care. Unfortunately, this latest episode has pressed home the need for the Surveyor corps to become more proactive in their oversight of the other departments."
"How?" the avatar motioned.
"That's up to you?"
"Me?" came the questioning look.
"Yes, you! Marie, Miruru and Muzuho, all comrades of yours, have been lost to us because of the actions of those to whom you report. So you must decide where your loyalty lies. With this office and me, or elsewhere?"
The avatar placed her head in her hands and appeared to think hard on the question then looked the Chairman in the eyes and pointed to him. "With you!" it clearly indicated.
"Good, now here is what I intend to do: For too long there has been no delineation of authority between the Surveyors Corps, Enforcement Division and Development."
"That is incorrect," the AI responded by shaking its head, "Surveyor Corps has overall authority," pointing now at the Chairman.
"On paper yes, but there is no machinery in place to keep Surveyor Corps informed of the other two departments activities. More often than not when one of their pet projects blows up the other two departments run for cover and leave us to clean up their mess."
"That is not enough justification," the AI frowned, "and you could be censured!"
"That's not really much of a possibility," the Chairman commented, "Research and Development just does as they are told. Enforcement is another matter; however, they have an esprit de corps that is second to no one. For them to have been involved in this fiasco means that their orders had to come from the very top. I know we did not catch everybody responsible for what was going on down on that planet. Whomever we might have missed knows that they cannot come after me without running the risk of exposure. Let them think that they got away with something for the time being. You are going to help me thwart their plans by feeding them only what I tell you too and for now you are going to report, truthfully by the way, that it is imperative that we keep the Earth at arm's length."
"Why is that?" said the conspiratorial look of the little creature.
"There is something seductive on that world. Something so powerful that it infected two separate AI's as well as cause three of my most promising surveyors to turn their backs on the whole of the Galaxy Federation just to stay there. The other departments used you to deliberately keep my office in the dark. If we had been getting reliable data from the field I could have pulled my observers before they became infected with whatever it was. Until we know what the cause is we are much better off leaving things as they stand for now."
"Infected, as in a computer virus?" The scared little AI asked.
"Possibly, the mechanism is still unknown to me."
"How does it manifest?"
"Observe," the Chairman said, as he took a little yellow AI with the familiar red inner tube out of his briefcase. Turning Marie over on his back, he grabbed his tail and pulled it out until it was about a foot extended from the little AI's rear end before releasing it, allowing it to snap back into place initiating Marie's reboot sequence. Placing Marie on the bookcase behind them, he continued his conversation as if he was not even there.
"The Delta DES 8226 and 8227 gates are orbiting another planet some considerable distance away from the 8228 region. Those two gates will never be any closer than 58 million kilometers to 8228 and as you know, that is well beyond the Flat Space range of even the largest Interdictor currently in the inventory. Any agency wanting access to 8228 is going to have to use a deep space vehicle. Just about every deep space craft in the Galaxy Federation, either has been converted to observer status, or is being scavenged for parts. This means we have no way to comply with such a request."
"What about the Marie?"
"I almost forgot about that," the Chairman lied. "The Marie could become something of a liability. Fortunately, it has no commander at this point in time. If I can prevent the other departments from commandeering him, we might still be okay. However, it does present us with a significant liability that must be dealt with quickly if we are to prevent the Delta DES 8228 gate from being reactivated."
"We might have a problem then," the AI informed him. "Enforcement Division has already initiated the paperwork to commandeer the Marie and place it under their authority. They are in the process of serving the Spaceport's Dock Master with the writ mandamus as we speak."
"That is such a shame," the Chairman continued nonchalantly, "all the suffering, all the sacrifice that Mizuho and her family made will have been pointless, all because of this single oversight."
Marie, who had been in the middle of his reboot sequence the entire time this conversation was taking place, had heard everything. panicking, the little AI made a high pitched scream from where he sat on the bookcase then disappeared in a glow of light as he hurriedly teleported himself to the bridge of his host ship.
Seconds later a view screen opened above the Chairman's desk and the image of the startled Dock Master hurriedly informed him that the Marie AI had suddenly activated and initiated a forced jump into parallel space without any concern for its safety or that of his personnel. Commenting that the Marie had almost killed several members of the Enforcement division in so doing.
After doing his best to soothe the nerves of his understandably upset subordinate, the Chairman turned his attention back to the little AI who had sat watching as all this had transpired in stunned silence.
Startled by the unprecedented actions of its AI kinsmen, the prim little avatar gave a startled looked towards its master and asked timidly, "Do you have any idea what could have caused him to act so erratically just now?"
"If it is anything like the error we found in the Delta DES 8228 AI, then there is an instability in his internal processing caused by one of the data entries in his learned memory files. However, whatever that data is, it will remain beyond our capability to decipher until we know more," the Chairman answered her grimly. "This is why as of now, and for the foreseeable future, the 8228 region is to be re-classified as Quarantined!"
"Why take such a drastic action?" The AI asked. "Would it not be better for us to study the affliction from a safe distance with the cloaked satellite system in parallel space?"
"Too much risk," the Chairman responded, "the fact that this virus or whatever it is can infect both humans and machines is unprecedented! Should such a malady make it into the main system the whole of the Galaxy Federation's computer functions could become erratic and unstable to the point of forcing a galaxy wide system shut down! The only way to prevent such a catastrophe from happening is the complete and total isolation of Delta DES 8228 from the rest of the Galaxy Federation."
"Do you have any idea at all what the cause is?"
"No I don't, but the surveyors obviously did. There is a word that keeps coming up in all the reports that I can't find a proper translation too."
"Just one word?" the avatar puzzled.
"Yes, whatever it is supposed to mean, it seems to be a reference for the affliction."
"What word is that?"