written by J.G. Bruce
The charred and battered skull of a combat tech is placed delicately on my workbench. I am to repair, extract, and report to Central Command by 0900 a week from today. I wonder if this shattered pebble is all that’s left of the Jewel of Mars or if they’re just not willing to give me more than a single piece. Surely, the Mindweavers can’t be the only organization they’ve commissioned to analyze the remains of Zion. Regardless, I must do what I can to reveal why this tragedy occurred. And more importantly, who. Who exactly could benefit from setting our species back nearly a century? It’s hard to imagine that the United People's Republic could do this out of spite alone. We’ve lost the Library of Alexandria all over again. And here I am sitting in this lab for over a month, waiting for anything worth recovering to come through that door and this… is all I get.
Research Base Zion was vaporized on 22-03-3130 due to a core overload that spread to all three reactors. Beginning at 0832, Central Command experienced a 6-hour and 27-minute blackout in communications before a nearby mining vessel, The Orwell, was able to reestablish visuals at a distance of approximately 32,000 kilometers. The long ranged sensors picked up signs of combat on the surface of Mars, near the base. But within 6-minutes of reestablishing some means of observation, we witnessed simultaneous reactor meltdowns across the base as it was vaporized in slow motion by its own power source.
The chances of finding a trail in all that destruction were always slim, but I equipped three dozen of my followers with some new sub-surface scanners and called in a few favors to quietly get them mixed in with the military’s recovery teams. The military will take the credit of course, but without my subtle contribution it would have been another 4 months before they found anything of use.
Preliminary scans showed that this android’s skull is still fully sealed thanks to the emergency nanofoam encasing it. Now, let’s hope the foam also managed to protect the bionic lobe from the blast wave and radiation. If I remove the nanofoam properly, like submerging it in this vat of my own proprietary solvent, yes yes just like that. Now, the radiation should remain contained within the solvent. Perfect.
After rinsing, drying, and sanitizing the now radiation free skull, I make note of a large piece of shrapnel embedded through the right eye socket. Additionally, the lower jaw is missing and several points of impact from an unknown type of ammunition has stripped most of the synthetic flesh from the right side of the skull. Luckily, my initial scans show that the internal diasteel cranial casing seems to have held up to its performance specs and then some. Marvelous, let’s remove the remaining outer casing and see how the internals look.
My mechanical arms come equipped with several built in tools that make stripping the skull down to its sub-casings quick, revealing the beautiful deep black sheen of the diasteel. I can’t help but take a moment to admire my work, everything from the diasteel in the casing to the neural network made of strange metals are of my design. Phew, the internals appear intact. Only the data ports on the back of the skull have been crushed. A lucky find after all.
Within 27 hours, I’ve painstakingly fused a new data port to the bionic lobe and double-checked every connection, time to plug in. With a simple flip of a switch, my mind is instantly flooded with thousands of lines of code. It takes several of my implanted lobes to slowly translate but it happens. But suddenly, the connection breaks before I can access its memories. There appears to be more damage to the tissue than originally thought, the systems asking for additional power, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen to run a systems regeneration program. I was hoping to avoid plugging this thing up to a power source, the consciousness, if there’s any left, will be in a great deal of distress. I’ll have to share that burden if we hope to speed this up… Once the skull has been hooked up to a nutrition tube and submerged in a vat of liquid coolant, I place the set up into the power station and begin cycling the power cells.
“Report.” I think.
After a long pause followed by a mind piercing buzz, the android thinks back “Designation Z417-42, Omega level guard contracted to Research Station Zion. Registered service hours 11,394. Last objective: retrieve stolen metahuman C3L4.”
“Praise be to the Wise Three, not all has been lost. H-How long will it take you to repair your bionic lobe and regain consciousness?”
“Processing… 79-hours. 32 hours with the aid o-o-o-of
Hmm that’s Blackgate level tech, it might take longer than 79 hours before they’d process the request, if they approved it at all. Surely, if I report the opportunity to find a surviving metahuman, they’ll expedite the process. As long as I cut through some council’s bureaucratic tape… I should also request additional security, a discovery of this magnitude will endanger this facility. A favor from Councilwoman Ira may be in order. Ira still owes me for helping her daughter recover from that failed exo experiment. Through an old backdoor, I vox her direct line much to her surprise.
“M-Mindweaver Coeus, I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. Has there been a revelation concerning Zion?” Ira asks.
“Pardon this intrusion, Councilwoman Ira, but the situation calls for swift action. In short, yes. But before I explain, I’d like you to provide my facility with an additional company of combat techs. Perhaps a few Chameleon Mechs to patrol the surrounding area as well.”
Ira pulls up the video feed so she can see my concern. Silently, I watch as her command console rises from her desk and after some swift inputs from Ira, it retracts back into the obsidian slab. “Done. Your request will be filled within the hour. I’ve also got three H.A.W.K. drones fueling up to cover your airspace. Now Mindweaver Coeus, what’s this about?” Ira says.
“I appreciate your trust, Ira… The CT skull your teams recovered was intact enough to protect the bionic lope. CT- Z417-42 managed to report its basics before a data corruption error halted the process. The last order given to the tech was to recover a stolen metahuman, designation C3L4. The android is running self-repairs as we speak, but with the resources my lab currently has, the process will take 79 hours. However, with the assistance of microbot-S3, the repair process would be reduced to 32 hours.”
With a playful smirk Councilwoman Ira says, “You know your restriction on Blackgate clearance… last time we gave you access to something like this, you nearly commandeered a third of our A.I. support systems. Why-“
“-Yes yes, but that was over 80 years ago. And as I said, it was an experiment. I believe the resulting years of security, innovation, and service provided by my family speaks for itself concerning our loyalty. The larger concern here, Councilwoman, is that a century’s worth of invaluable data may now be in the hands of the opposition. Zion held enough technological advances for the U.P.R. to continue this war of attrition for who knows how much longer. Considering the terabytes of data stored in the metahumans DNA, this should take priority one.”
Ira lets out a resounding sigh. “I suppose there’s no point in withholding information from you any longer… Doesn’t the scale and accuracy of this attack seem too grand, too quick and clean, even for the U.P.R.? We’ve long since changed all the security protocols from when both sides jointly operated the base and tripled security months before the war even began.”
“I did have my doubts at first... but if not the opposition, then who else could it be? Is there another Civil War between the A.I.s that I’ve been made unaware of?”
“I wasn’t planning on sharing this information with you today, but the council already approved your participation in Operation Starfire as of 0636 this morning. Last year, Attis Corp. began to make a revelation about Planet 9. What we once thought was a planet with ten times the mass of Earth is in fact some kind of machine. Seven months ago, Space Station Virtue discovered a bionic fungus on Neptune that had grown into some type of radio telescope. We followed the signal and discovered that this… device was one of many links in an array sending signals to what we now designate Machine Planet 9, MP-9 for short.
The type of bionic fungus used and supposedly designed by MP-9, led us to believe that the probability of making contact with some new type of intelligent life was too high for us to pass up. Last month, the A.I. designated Summersend was copied into a swarm of microbots that managed to fuse with the bionic fungus on Neptune. It was later confirmed that Summersend successfully transmitted itself to MP-9.”
Every computer system in my lab begins to flash wildly with thousands of files. Upon checking my servers, I find 5 terabytes of data being uploaded from Central Command.
“You’ve just received all the data Summersend was able to relay back before… before it was assumed to be consumed by MP-9’s neural network. As you can see, the Board of A.I.s has already deciphered over 40%. I advise that you take the next few weeks to review these files in detail with your siblings. All of which, including yourself, will be asked to relocate to Central Command within the month. To be frank, the attack on Research Base Zion may be the first attack of an invasion strategy… So, you’ll have your Blackgate clearance and more. I just hope you realize how dire the situation is.” Ira says.
Within seconds my backup lobes process the summary files concerning MP-9, “I see. You’ve really underplayed this. The threat of extinction is… palpable. What’s our plan to unite with the opposition? This is no longer about our way of life, this-“
“-What makes you think they’d believe us? Even when we showed them the raw data, they just accused us of fabricating it. When we offered a direct feed to the bionic fungus on Neptune, they complimented our “elaborate attempt at deception.” It would appear our decades of psychological warfare have backfired and now the U.P.R. will no longer give any credence to an alternative narrative. Because of this, we’ve considered bringing Project Molt online. Your team will be given two months to provide us with an alternative. Once the android’s repaired, report the findings immediately and directly to me. …Find another way, Coeus. I’d rather not condemn over a third of our species to becoming CPUs for the A.I.s., Ira out.”
Oh, but the already condemned 1/32 of the population is acceptable… But never mind that, all our ongoing wars have suddenly become petty and trivial. I wonder, how much sacrifice is too much? Even when facing extinction, there are some lines we alone will not cross. I’m sure the A.I.s are already formulating plans to force our hand and, eventually, Ira will be made to accept losses even greater than a third, but I’ll table that for now. More importantly, what would it take to force our invaders into a conversation? What new metahuman and combat tech designs can we come up with to combat this threat? Would transforming our combined employee populous into a Cyborg Military help or hinder?
Yes, this will prove to be mankind’s greatest challenge to date. How exciting to be at the center of it. Though regrettable, we’ll no longer have the luxury of ethics and what would have been radical and inhuman just last year will now become the norm. Dark times for science according to some, a golden age according to others. Win or lose, this will be both terrifying and thrilling. Fortunately , I’ve quite the archive of hmmm-questionable experiments that we can begin to attempt when the time comes. Who knows? It may even turn out to be quite a good deal of fun...