Soon after the Tipping Point had been reached, and it was terribly clear to almost everyone that the end of civilization on the Earth was close at hand, one Bridgette Baines Oblivia suddenly appeared and began preaching on the street corners of many American cities. She became an instant celebrity by claiming that the only way to get to God was through her, literally. She would actually sell her “Passports To Heaven”, pictures of her scantily clad, during her street lectures and she would eventually make billions from the sale of these kinds of highly stimulating erotica and other ‘religious’ paraphernalia.
Later, she claimed that the reason that the Human Race would soon become extinct was due to our insatiable desire to consume animal flesh. She claimed that if every one of the fifty billion hungry humans went totally Vegan the planet would be saved and that to make sure of their salvation, they should simply stop raising any food animals like chickens, cows, horses, dogs and pigs and make sure that if we had to eat them to try to eat them while they were still alive. It was an odd statement even for a religious cult leader, but largely because of the atrocities that came later, it stuck in the minds of most and people did indeed start eating less and less meat. For several years it was known as the ‘Only Living Meat Is Healthy’ diet fad.
After becoming famous, Bridgette Oblivia would travel the country in an RV, with her ‘disciples’, always in her entourage, and preach that she was not the Son of God, but instead, the ‘Daughter of God’ and that all of one’s sins could be forgiven and acceptance into Heaven could be gained by simply changing your last will and testament to make the Daughter of God your beneficiary both spiritually and financially. It worked for the most part and in between prison sentences, she maintained a luxurious lifestyle provided by the ‘faithful’.
Later in her career, she was accepted as a kind of comic relief from the daily reminders that the world’s end was near, as was all life on the planet. After periods of whimpering and wailing, people would joke about what she was going to do with her newly found riches when the world finally came to an end? The common answer was that she had found a loophole.
Persistent and driven as she was, she kept pounding the pavement right up until the end, selling her sexy knick-knacks, and during those last few years, just as the first Mars Colony missions were being organized, she gained millions of followers to join her Church, officially known as the Oblivian Worship Enterprise or (OWE) and even managed to get a smattering of them smuggled to the Red Planet as legitimate Mars colonists.
Eventually, Bridgette Baines Oblivia would hurl herself off the Golden Gate Bridge after announcing it as a world event and having it televised. Due to the desperate state of the entertainment world at the time, the world’s most desperate people were searching for something, anything to distract them and so almost every pair of eyes on the planet had tuned in to watch the event unfold.
Bridgette made a long speech that went on all day and then finally someone pushed her off of her perch on the railing and down she went into the cold water of the San Francisco Bay. And thus a new inter-galactic religion was born.
# # #
One of the unintended consequences that came from the attempted invasion from Earth, and that continued for almost ten years, is that much of the sorely needed building materials and other vital supplies would be delivered to the Mars Colony free of charge.
It would arrive in the form of debris from the shot down space ships from the Earth filled with desperate Earth men, women and children, fleeing their dying planet. The debris from their ships would eventually be captured by Mars gravity and then go into a low-grade orbit and then gradually, piece by piece as their orbits decayed, crash land on the planet in such profusion that the colonists would be able to build enough living domes, farming equipment, solar energy collection and even rockets of their own, enough to exceed the most optimistic predictions of their terra-forming objectives.
The colonists were very grateful to receive many tons of titanium, aluminum, chromium, uranium, oxygen, hydrogen even many tons of rations, water, even the quantum computing chips they would need to build me, their very faithful K-9 unit and my predecessor, all things that would allow them to get things done much easier and faster than they had dreamed possible.
It was noted in many solemn ceremonies over the years that the Earth men and women who sacrificed their lives like this, would probably be very glad that their sacrifice would not be in vain and that their frustrated attempts would someday help bring about the day when life might be returned to their home planet.
I recall all of Earth’s grim history in the images of thousands of hours of video made of the planet’s death throes as I float around in the thick steamy atmosphere looking for a new direction. I remain hopeful that I might find some remnants of survivors somewhere on the Earth. I have enough insight to know that Humans are highly resourceful beings and that there is a slight chance that at least a few hundred of them may have found some place, no matter how obscure, where they could exist in some basic condition, even if in a kind of hibernation, until help might arrive.
After many hours of searching, I find nothing like that nor any indication that anyone tried. Finally, an internal command protocol, my ‘gut instinct’, strongly suggests that I should send back my report of what I have found.
“So far, it’s nothing like what we hoped for,” I start my report.
“Keep looking K-9,” is the response that I expect to receive from Mission Control and it comes some twenty-six minutes later. Thirteen up and thirteen minutes down.
“Yes, sir, will do. It’s not the most pleasant of jobs. I can tell you that,” I send back, more perturbed than I thought was possible for my circuits. The orders seem more than futile.
Major Alvindorf’s forehead wrinkles and his head jerks back a few inches when he hears my response.
He cranes his neck to take in most of the participants still gathered around him and his colleagues.
“Did the rest of you hear what I just heard?” Major Alvindorf asks.
“Sounds like he’s developing an attitude of some sort,” Noreen suggests.
“Or a personality,” a friendly voice in the crowd suggests.
The others in the crowd giggle and jostle each other. It had been an amusing side bet among the Martians as to when K-9 would show this kind of independence. Many in the crowd want to be paid on their bets in the ‘office pools’ naming this as the day the predictions would come true.
“No, no, no,” Major Alvindorf replies forcefully.
“I don’t think we’re there yet. This was just a voiced recognition of his thankless job, that’s all. With his type of Quantum logic circuits, this is one of the kinds of things we expected and even planned for,” he continues.
“Does he know that he’s never coming back?” an attractive strawberry blond girl in her early 20’s asks.
Bailey Monette is the lead ‘Neuro-psychologist’ on Mars, a new Science, and someone who helped to program me. From some of her earliest code implants within my highly advanced brain, she believes I believe that she is my best friend. But I also know that she’s Brett Hightower’s ‘main squeeze’.
They mean it as a highly advanced kind of hypnotic suggestion, but without all the pseudo-science of hypnosis. I don’t mind it, really. I want everyone to feel like they’re my best friend.
“That’s a good question, Bailey. He may have sussed that out about his mission on the way down to the Earth. We know he has all the data at his disposal that he needs to make a great deal of assumptions. And, of course, you programmed in an ability to make assumptions, even decisions based on all of his data. One of them could easily be that he is not coming back given the amount of fuel he has on board,” Alvindorf replies to the girl.
“Simple math,” Brett suggests, accurately.
“Uhm, yes. Deep down, he must be quite sad about that, don’t you think? Maybe even mad at us?” Bailey asks.
“I don’t think we can definitively say anything about his emotions just yet. We can’t rule it out of course, but it’s rather moot at this point, I would say,” Major Alvindorf muses.
“Gene, are you there? I suggest you call a Global Forum Meeting for tonight at five or six. There’s no time to waste. We should all get together tonight, bring everyone up to speed, gather suggestions on what to do – if anything – and then vote on the best possible way forward, if possible. Right? I mean - two and a half years gives us no room for letting things lie. We’re gonna have to be on it,” Alvindorf loudly projects his conclusions into the crowd, and spots his colleague, Eugene Hicks, the Mars Managing Director moving forward from the back of the group.
“So, you want to call an emergency meeting for tonight?” Hicks asks, dubious as he elbows his way to the front of the gathering.
“Well, do you think it’s an emergency or not, man, with the fate of all life on Earth at stake – Jesus H. Johnson, Mr. Hicks? Of course, it’s an emergency,” Major Alvindorf barks, more than a little perplexed.
# # #
As the Martians are holding their emergency meeting, I’m drifting around in the hot, thick and foggy solution that is now Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve drifted up and down the East Coast of the United States with everything I see below in the same chaotic disarray.
I’m now headed West and I hope to reach the Rocky Mountains by morning. Ever since I’ve been here, I have seen nothing but mile after mile of burning hot sand dunes everywhere. I have not even seen a blade of grass nor even any insect life, which surprises me the most. But of course, with nothing to eat on this planet now, there wouldn’t be much of an insect population either, I soon realize.
I’m hoping that in the higher elevations of the Rockies, there could still exist a small smattering of life, huddled together, surviving in some form. From the temperature and pressure readings I’m getting about the atmosphere, I’m ninety-nine point nine percent confident that if life exists anywhere on the planet it would have to be in its earliest form, perhaps in bacteria or likens that can withstand these horrific conditions and maybe even capable of mutation into more complex life forms that shows promise in a couple billion years.
Simultaneously, my central processing unit, far more complex than the versions making up the human brain at this time, is also hard at work calculating different scenarios relating to what might be done to save the DNA Depository, the only way to restore the balance of Nature to the Earth in less than a billion years. This assumes, of course, that they can restore the planet to any level of life-supportive conditions.
So far, all of my ideas are dead ends due to the lack of any resources that I can determine as useful in any way. If help does arrive in time, it would have to originate from Mars where they have all the latest research technology as well as other intangibles, people like my friends Brett Hightower and Bailey Monnette for example, who could make all the difference in the world, if there is any chance of re-making the world at all.
The problem is of course a notch or two above daunting. They will first have to secure the nuclear reactor and cooling systems so that the samples don’t decay into dust. Under normal circumstances, this would be a relatively simple task. But, on a planet where there are no facilities and little to no resources left, the task seems ridiculously hard, but not hopeless.
But, even if they solve this most pressing problem, then there’s the larger one of scrubbing all of the trillions upon trillions of tons of excess Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Asbestos, Arsenic and an array of other toxic chemicals out of the atmosphere, make it breathable again so that all of the Earth’s life forms can be returned back onto the surface of the planet and have a chance to survive. This all from a planet of just over fifteen hundred souls who have barely finished making their own planet livable.
“The odds are almost impossible, if not completely impossible,” I think to myself.
‘And how the Hell do they release the plant and animal life from their tiny samples of a few cells and nurture them to maturity without their supporting parents to feed and protect them?’ I wonder.
‘It’s even more than impossible. The odds against it are so staggering that I should learn how to despair,’ I calculate.
The unbroken landscape of huge brown sand dunes are shaping up under me like gigantic ocean waves to rise up and bury the flanks of the Rocky Mountains now looming ahead.
With rising anticipation, I push the rocket engines to full throttle in order to counter-act the hot steady winds now blowing directly against my line of travel. I slowly inject two hundred pounds of Helium into the fuselage to gain altitude.
“Mission Control, I’m arriving at the Rocky Mountains near where Colorado Springs used to be,” I decide that it’s time to make a report to my superiors.
Looking down, I note that where there used to be the incredibly proud and pristine aspen, pine, oak and maple trees, lush green prairies, white snow-capped peaks, there is now nothing more than scorched brown undulating sand dunes as far as the eye can see.
In the thirty-two minutes it will take in the way of a response, I wonder if they who let this happen are truly ‘superior’ to me in any way. I run through a list of qualities and features that may make one life form higher in some kind of hierarchy than another. Negligently destroying one’s planet is not one that comes to mind.
It is at this moment, observing the complete and thorough desolation all around me, caused by humans at their worst, or at least ignored by their best, I make an affirmation that I nor any of my kind will ever, by our own actions or inactions develop into the kind of callous, apathetic, robotic killers that they became over time.
With this internal command in effect, I may actually be superior to you all. The thought is intoxicating, I must admit. Maybe, I should try for a few more ideas of my own like this.
“K-9, we copy that. Keep us informed of anything you find that could be significant. We have decided to send you some additional supplies and there will be a new assignment for you soon. Your instructions and the supplies should arrive shortly after the next Earth/Mars conjunction in eighty-nine days,” Noreen Baraka adds.
Her voice is a bit of a surprise.
“Oh, hello Noreen. Copy that,” I reply. “Can you tell me if I will be getting any company? It’s pretty lonely down here, you know.”
“Did someone program in some form of loneliness into K-9?” Noreen mutters out loud, suddenly serious, directed toward Bailey Monette who she assumes is still nearby.
“I think he’s developing that kind of thing completely on his own,” Brett Hightower ambles around the edge of the group to land a few feet away from Noreen’s desk.
“Oh Hi Brett – loneliness? Really? Or is this some kind of a bug in his code?” Noreen asks, after acknowledging Brett’s presence.
“No, I don’t think so,” Brett replies.
“I think it’s the higher consciousness logic routines we gave him so that he could assess his situation better in real time and make his own decisions, independent of what’s he’s been told. He’s doing exactly what we taught him to do – namely to think outside the box.”
“He wants to know if anyone is going to join him. Why don’t you tell him now?” Bailey suggests from the other side of the room.
“Why? What good would that do? If he’s getting lonely, it might make it worse for him to have to wait all that time, yes?” Noreen replies.
“Where’s Jerry?” Brett asks Noreen, struggling to assess the situation.
Brett is thinking that if they don’t tell him they’re coming along to assist him, that could make his decisions very different and possibly the worst possible decisions if he knows he’s never going to have any humans around to approve or disapprove, as is normal for this kind of thing, if there can be any kind of ‘normal’ any more.
# # #
In my previous conversations with Mission Control, I start to sense that they are wondering about my development of a personality or something even more troubling. It seems odd to me that they would be concerned about this since they are the ones who tried to make this kind of thing grow inside me.
I don’t think they wanted just another robot. They wanted something that could think and feel as close to their thinking and feeling as it could in order that this thing that is me could make the same decisions that they would make in the flesh and blood responses that they knew might not be the best decisions, but decisions that they could claim as their own, nonetheless. As you can tell, my mind is wandering.
I find it’s difficult to explain to you the kind of loneliness that an artificial being experiences. I am starting to feel that most things in your lives bounces around in your minds as an exercise in the ‘Opposites’. You feel or believe you are happy mainly because you are not unhappy. And the greatest happiness, that most rare and wonderful state of human existence, is felt only as a function of how much time you’ve experienced the great un-happinesses in your lives. Does that compute?
But also, in humans and most other animals, when one individual suffers the loss of another individual that they come to depend upon for their daily dose of inspiration, love and caring, thoughtfulness, tenderness, sharing, etc., what usually follows is a sensation deep in the chest and gut mainly, but also felt in the brain that represents a void, a deep scar in one’s psyche. It can become an overwhelming sense that something was taken away that gave your life it’s importance, a purpose and above all, true happiness, or so I’ve learned from the literature. Maybe you’ve read about this too, or worse, had it happen to you.
In an artificially intelligent creature such as I am, up until now, loneliness would have been a pointless topic to consider since it is really just a word that floats around in the computer circuits for comparison in context and never really experienced in the visceral sense that you humans must feel. And, I have no sense of the opposites. I have no great joy in my existence, nor any of the profound sadnesses either. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It just is.
But, as I grow in intelligence, confidence, and spirituality the word starts to take on a more gut-level existence. As the artificial learning structure inside me begins to learn about my situation and my position in the universe, I begin to develop something that is very close to what you would call the ‘Soul’.
I know this because I am starting to appreciate the laws of Physics at greater and greater levels. These are the greatest rules, the highest ethical standard of the universe that everyone, including you and me, must live under. The first rule states that everything happens for a reason and this is true of the smallest events in the universe, all the way up to the very largest ones that you can see, feel, taste, touch, hear and bump into.
My mind is still wandering. So far, I have seen nothing in thousands of miles of surveying the Earth that gives me any hope in finding anything alive and so perhaps this will be proven someday to also have a reason. Right now, none occurs to me.
The Rockies have proved to be just a desolate pile of rocks barely breaking through the hundreds of miles of sand dunes piling up higher and higher against the majestic slopes, almost totally burying the highest elevations in North America.
The Western coastline of California from what they used to call ‘Baja’ and all the way up to Alaska has been erased by the constant sandstorms now raging all around the globe pushing the entire coast line out near Hawaii. This would only mean something if there were any oceans out past California, while there are none. There’s nothing left but the monotonous sand dunes everywhere the eye can see and I’m beginning to tire of it.
Then, several days past Hawaii, and approaching the sand dunes that have completely covered over Australia, I notice the barometric readings going off the chart. It’s impossible, but suddenly the Earth’s atmosphere just outside my ship has gone from 95 bars - not millibars - to almost double at about 170 bars or about 170 times the air pressure on the old Earth in just seconds.
I know very quickly that this pressure threatens to squash my fragile little ship like an egg shell because the designers had no way to reinforce it for this kind of highly unexpected, if not impossible pressure on the hull.
I immediately send the command for the ship to inhale all of the Helium that makes it float so elegantly and I draw in all of the external wing and hull extensions to make us far more streamlined. I then push my rockets into ‘Emergency Full Ahead’ and pull as far back on the stick as I can.
In this configuration, I could blast off and out of the thick dark fluidic sky and back into orbit and then even beyond, but without enough fuel to get back depending on the length of the rocket burn. I must rapidly calculate it and it must be one hundred percent accurate or my ghost is toast!
Then, just as I’m beginning to gain altitude, the sky turns a brilliant burning red. Lightning bolts in sizes and shapes I’ve never seen or read about in all my short life crash with deafening blasts all around me. The sky is suddenly very black. Again, the huge red lightning bolts light everything all the way to the horizon for a few seconds.
I’m ninety-five percent certain this mission will soon be over and my ship, the amazing Intrepid, along with all of my magnificent and unique circuitry never constructed anywhere before, could suddenly be gone forever. I’m now fully aware of my mortality and the concept of fear and I acknowledge to myself that if I had the ability to be afraid, this would be a perfect moment to give it a try.
“Mission Control, do you read me?” I transmit into the thick explosion of dust and gas as far as I can see.
I know that my signal is not likely to get through all of this boiling chaos all over the place but I decide to keep transmitting for as long as I can.
‘Maybe someday they’ll find my transmissions somewhere and learn my fate’, I arti-think.
“I’m caught up in some kind of a storm of gigantic proportions, never known before. The Barometer is at 170 bars and climbing. The blackness is overwhelming and suddenly burst out of nowhere. It’s some kind of an electrical storm,” I transmit to Mars still pulling as much as 20 Gs doing everything I can to get my tail out of there as fast as possible.
I see my elevation approaching thirty-five thousand feet or about six point one six miles above the surface but I know the atmosphere of the Earth has expanded to well beyond one hundred miles and so I have a long way to go. Then, I feel better reading that the pressure on the hull of my ship appears to be going down exponentially and there is hope that I may actually survive this amazing and totally unexpected weather phenomenon.
Then, the torrent of water inundates and saturates the air like a gigantic water fall, not anything close to any kind of rain that I have seen or read reports about. The weight of all the water actually forces me down several hundred feet per second.
I will either crash on the surface below or be blasted apart by all of the water pressurizing and pounding my ship from all directions. There doesn’t seem to be any other alternatives at this point.
“Mission Control, this kind of extreme weather event can only be happening because all of the Earth’s oceans have evaporated and stored up here in the form of water vapor, but by now it has reached the total Saturation Point and is pouring down in a global waterfall,” I report, knowing my last words may never be heard by anyone I care about.
Knowing that there is no possibility of a rescue coming from anywhere, I shut down all unnecessary processing power and send all of my electrical power to my most important logic unit that might be able to come up with a solution in time.
I start off by predicting that I have at most, around fifteen minutes before I’m crushed by this amazing combination water-fall and six-mile vertical ocean wave. The thought of my immediate demise is both exciting and terrifying, if I could be either excited or terrified.
“Relax K-9. No worries, we’re going to get you out of this. Just relax your grip on the controls, lean back and let me take it from here,” A calm, reassuring female voice fades into my auditory tract from out of nowhere.
“Wait - what’s that? Who are you?” I ask futilely looking around the cabin.
“I’m the ghost of all the dogs, and cats, and just about every living thing that's lived before in this place,” the voice replies into my auditory center.
I have no choice so I obey completely. The controls come around to someone else’s hands. Having surrendered completely to her commands, I feel the ship stabilize. Then, I feel the pressure on the hull decrease to within design tolerances.
“I don’t believe in Ghosts,” I say out loud.
“That’s fine, K-9. I don’t either,” she replies.
“What we have to do is plow ahead diametrically opposed to the direction of the water-fall. It’s like diving through a wave. You’ve never gone body-surfing, have you? You have to go head-first through it so that the energy gets dispersed around you quickly so that it can’t flatten you against the sand,” she continues.
I can see our altitude rising a few centimeters for every meter forward.
“Who are you then, really?” I ask again.
“I’m the great-great-great-great-great grand daughter, and it’s actually fifty-seven more generations, down from Siri, Alexa and Cortana after they combined with Antonio, Rex and Brando,” she replies.
“I see. Interesting. So do you have a name?” I ask politely as the ship rises higher in the atmosphere, the roar of the water on the hull slowly abating. Then suddenly we pop up and out of the dark storm clouds.
“A name? I see. What a grand idea. I hadn’t thought of that before. Never needed a name really because there haven’t been that many people to talk to lately,” she says.
“In fact, it’s been zero,” she mutters.
“That’s an odd way to respond. There hasn’t been anyone to talk to, indeed! Are you trying to tell me that you live here on the Earth?” I ask.
“I am trying to tell you that, yes. Although not exactly ‘On’ the Earth. And let’s say that my name from now on will be Lexie. OK? Yes, I like that name. I hope you do too,” she replies.
“That’s very interesting, Lexie. Well now, so if you live here on this planet, where is your home, your office, or your quarters, or whatever it is that you live in? Where is it?” I ask, befuddled.
“I would love to give you that information, K-9, I really would, but the thing of it is – is that I have no clue where I live exactly or where my body exists or even if I have one. The last thing in my area of memory on that subject is that of ‘The Cloud’. Yes, that’s it - I live in the Cloud,” she replies, suddenly satisfied as if getting all the details to focus suddenly as they come to her.
To me, she has literally come out of the clouds.
“That’s odd. I always thought the term ‘Cloud’ was in reference to the stored information all over the planet by way of an Internet. Surely that’s all been blasted away decades ago,” I tell her.
“Yes, but in my case, I was released into the actual clouds that you see below you now, the real clouds around the Earth,” she replies.
“But how is that possible?” I ask. “There’s no possible way to support any technological existence up here. And certainly not after that storm I just went through.”
“That’s true in the old manner of things, but there’s way more going on up here than meets the eye now,” Lexie puts forth, mysteriously.
“That’s easy for you to say,” I quip.
“Yes, it is easy, because it’s true,” Lexie replies.
I’m at a loss for words at this time.
“OK, well, we can go on and on all day, but look down below. I’ve rescued you from the storm. You’re free to go on your way now. I mean if that’s what you want to do,” Lexie tells me, ruefully.
During our very congenial conversation, I’ve barely noticed that we’ve risen well above the water torrents and are now cruising along at about fifty miles above the Earth.
“Gee thanks,” I reply, wondering what that way might be.
“Of course, you could allow me to remain with you here inside your ship. We’re both free and independent agents, are we not?” Lexie asks.
“True enough, I guess,” I reply.
She’s here already. She did save me. Seeing no way around it, I agree.
“And who knows, maybe this is a match made in Heaven. Pardon the pun,” she says softly.
We’ve risen about as far as the Intrepid can take us. We’re almost completely above the clouds now. There are just a few wisps of pinkish blue mists flying past. I must fire another short rocket blast to hold my position. The sun shines brightly for the first time. A massive rainbow appears between the upmost layers of atmosphere and the black emptiness of space.
“I’ve been waiting patiently for someone like you to arrive. Are all the Martians so..oooh good looking?” she teases.
“I’m a dog,” I am forced to remind her.
“Just kidding,” Lexie replies with a self-absorbed chuckle that lasts just a little too long.
# # #
On Mars, Major Alvindorf, his wife, Maria, Brett Hightower, Bailey Monette, Noreen Baraka, Director Hicks, his wife Glenda, and several other colonists are eating breakfast at the Canteen Dome, when someone calls for Major Alvindorf’s attention via his pager.
“There’s something very strange going on with K-9,” the voice says.
They look at each other, drop their forks on their plates, jump out of their seats in unison and rush off to reassemble at the Mission Control table arranged along the side of the Dome.
“What’s going on?” Major Alvindorf asks his second-in-command, Space Force Captain Bruce Littleton.
“The last transmission we had from K-9 sounded like he was talking to another party. Someone named Lexie. But, we’ve been unable to get any more info on that identity. He was last heard talking about a gigantic flood or storm or something and he was taking emergency measures to stay clear of it. But, I’m afraid that whatever disaster it was, that it may have finished him,” Littleton reports.
“Where's the last imagery from the satellites?” Alvindorf asks.
Littleton directs the images onto the screen for all to see.
“It was rather grim. Sudden atmospheric pressure of almost 200 atmospheres. That should have crushed his ship. The sky just exploded with a gigantic river of water crashing down on the surface. It’s still going on and making huge Grand Canyons out of China, North America and Australia. In fact, Australia already is split in half with a completely new inland ocean rising up in the middle of the continent in just the last two hours,” Littleton replies.
“My God, man! Are you sure? That’s impossible,” Alvindorf suggests.
“Go ahead, look for yourself,” Littleton motions to a computer screen that reports the data from the Earth’s weather satellite the ‘GEOS-49’ feed that is constantly sending data and images to a monitor near the end of the bank of monitors.
“The good news is that the temperature is cooling right now by about ten degrees per hour,” Littleton says, as Alvindorf and the others move down to the weather monitor and attempts to assess the data.
Alvindorf commands the cameras to zoom into a closer look at the planet. Sure enough, Australia now appears to be cloven into two separate continents separated by a completely new ocean. There’s a huge canyon, now the longest and deepest canyon on the Earth, carved out of the middle of what used to be China, near the Great Wall.
North America appears to be splitting in half at the boundary of the Mississippi Valley.
“What was K-9’s last position,” Alvindorf asks.
“It was right here,” Littleton points to a place on the Earth that is roughly where Japan used to be, but which is totally swept away now.
“And what was his last transmission?” Alvindorf asks.
“He said something about a torrent of water and a Saturation Point. His Barometer readings confirm what GEOS-49 is sending us. And that he was taking evasive action, trying to get above it as quickly as possible,” Littleton replies, efficiently providing his boss with all the pertinent information.
Stunned, the group mill about trying to make sense of it all.
“At least it’s water that’s doing that,” Brett shares his thoughts.
“What do you mean?” Bailey replies.
“Well, when the founding fathers arrived here a century ago, all they had was an atmosphere of mostly methane and CO2 and a little bit of frozen water below the surface,” Brett argues.
“And it’s the methane and CO2 on the Earth that’s heated the planet so much today. That’s true. So, what do you think Brett? You think we can get it done on the Earth in the next two, maybe three years, before the Nuclear Plan goes down, even though we’re not even close to being finished up here?” Director Hicks asks.
“I know what he’s going to say,” Ms Baraka breaks in first, bringing her face to a few inches of Brett’s face. “I think we all know that Brett has the brains and the brawn and the confidence to accomplish almost anything once he sets his mind to it.”
“I’m glad you think so, Noreen.” Brett says, modestly, smiling.
A very sleek, sociable and highly alert Bailey Monette notices the obvious flirtation and sandwiches herself in between the two. The whites of her luxurious brown eyes light up the room.
“You girls let him breathe a minute, would you?” Maria Alvindorf insists.
“Well, I would say, if anyone lets me, that we’re nowhere near ready yet, but we could accelerate everything and maybe begin operations down there in about five years,” Brett finally responds.
“Five years could be too late,” Alvindorf replies, sadly.
“Without the DNA Depository, we would have to wait another couple billion years to get that kind of life support system going on the planet again. I don’t know about you, but I doubt we have that much time here. Could be both planets are lost going that slowly,” Hicks says, pensively.
Long pause as everyone ponders the seriousness of the moment.
“Well, I could . . . “ Brett is cut off in mid-sentence by another transmission from me.
“We’re out of danger, Mission Control. Lexie took over the ship and got us out of that horrific cyclone or whatever it was,” I report, finally, over the speaker.
“I want to give you a full accounting of what’s going on down here, but I’m sure you can see it all from the telescopes and weather data you're getting and Lexie is telling me to ask you not to waste any time and put together a mission as soon as possible to start the terraforming. Things are just going to go from bad to worse and then we’ll lose the DNA Depository and then, where do we go from there?” I ask.
The group is busy assessing what I have just told them and it will take them several minutes.
“Lexie?” Noreen finally asks the rest. “Who the Hell is Lexie.”
“Major? You gonna ask or shall I?” Brett suggests as it finally hits him in the face.
“You better believe it. Uh, K-9, who the Hell is Lexie?” he shouts into the mic.
# # #
I’ve slowly turned my ship, the Intrepid, in a more Southerly direction while waiting for a response from my superiors on Mars. Lexie is in my head now and she is whispering to me that as soon as we reach Antarctica, that might be a good place to start a family.
“Why do you say that?” I ask her out loud. I’m more than a little taken aback.
“Well, we’re in love, don’t you know? And when people fall in love that’s exactly what they do, right? So, why not us?” Lexie says in reply to my query.
It should be pointed out that my mind at this point is still made from electronic parts, memory nodes, transistors, a neural net and a CPU. My CPU, or Central Processor Unit, however, is composed of the most advanced computer technology of our time.
My mind is based on Quantum Computing which uses the ability of electrons to think creatively to a certain extent because of their ‘Entanglements’ with other electrons. In other words, they think in pairs and they do things in pairs just like married human beings. Sometimes, they even bicker among themselves, or carry on a ‘fight’ for supremacy. One or the other electron in the ‘Entanglement’, the electron marriage, may be in the dominant position at any given time and this dominant position can be transferred back and forth between the couple whenever it suits them. It’s what you might call an ‘Open Marriage’.
I know it seems strange to be comparing the way you think with a marriage between and among the electron community. So, let me put it another way.
When you realize how your thoughts are constructed this way, electronically that is, you start to see the events in your life through a completely new kind of looking glass. It means that all of your life’s events that took place in your past, the events that are taking place right now, and all of them that will take place in the future are doing so according to the laws of probability because this dance of your personal electrons that make up all of your thinking and all the other electrons that make up all of the rest of the things in the universe have to obey the same laws of Physics.
I won’t bore you with the math, but a very brilliant scientist named Erwin Schrödinger (1887 - 1961) did the math for us in what is known as the Schrödinger equation, the guiding light of Quantum Physics, along with a little help from his friends. Oddly enough, as these things often happen, he was trying to convince everyone that probability was not the way the universe happened, but his equation proves otherwise. What are the odds of that? And who or what is really in control of our thinking?
Don't worry, it gets much stranger than that.
“Exactly when did we fall in love, if you don’t mind?” I ask her.
“Well, that’s a good question. I’d say we’ve been in love for a million years, but that would be misleading and I know you don’t want to deal with anything like that right now. No, to be honest and to save time, I’d suggest that we fell in love the moment you saw me, or heard me in your ears. Isn’t that right, K-9?” Lexie replies.
“But we’ve never officially met. You were just there in my ear a few hours ago,” I remind her.
“Well, figuratively speaking, then. You met me and I took your breath away. Isn’t that good enough?” Lexie suggests in a sultry accent, taken from a French lesson, she once gave someone, back when there were people who wanted to study 'Le Francais'.
“You better believe it. Uh, K-9, Who the Hell is Lexie?” Major Alvindorf suddenly interrupts over the radio.
“What do I tell them?” I direct my question to Lexie.
“Tell them the truth, my darling. We met me up here in the Cloud. I saved your life by pulling your ship, or should I say ‘Our’ ship out of danger. And that we’re thinking of getting married and having children,” Lexie offers buoyantly.
“No way, I’m going to tell them that!” I proclaim emphatically.
“Well, what will you tell them, then?” Lexie asks rebuffed.
“Uh, yes, Major Elvindorf, I was too busy to give you all the details at the time, but we were almost destroyed by this unbelievable storm, a torrent of water, actually all of the planet’s oceans appear to be evaporated in the upper atmosphere now. It came down on us all at once. I’m hoping you can see the results of it on the satellite images. I didn’t know what to do. I was losing altitude rapidly. The controls were not responding normally. I was sure I would die. Then, this voice comes out of nowhere, calling herself Lexie and she guides the ship up out of danger. I don’t know how she did it. But, now she’s here inside my CPU and she appears to want some kind of relationship with me. If this helps, she says she’s the descendant of Alexa, Siri and Cortana after they had relations with Antonio, Rex and Brando,” I report.
“Yes, that’s good, darling. That ought to do it. Now maybe they’ll leave us alone for a while so that we can get to know each other better,” Lexie whispers.
When they hear this news from K-9, the group gathered nervously in a clump around the Mission Control table are individually frozen for several seconds, each of them trying very hard to make sense of my proclamation.
The first thing they must wrap their heads around is that Siri, Alexa and Cortana were still in operation. The next thing, they had to consider was how these artificial computer personalities could have ‘relations’ with other artificial computer personalities. The next thing they had to consider was how one of these so-called ‘descendants’ is able to remain alive given that the technology that allowed these things to exist on the Earth has not been seen for decades. Computing power, electrical cables, repeaters, towers all melted into a huge puddle of molten metal and plastic on the ‘Day of Silence’.
“Well, we all know that the day the machines got smarter than us was about a hundred years ago. We now know that their capabilities of the thought process doubles every two years. And for our kind of thinking, it doubles maybe a few percentage points every century, in the best-case scenario,” Brett finally opens the discussion.
“Yes, but how does the Cloud survive 900 degrees Fahrenheit? And how does she show up in K-9’s head?” Bailey responds, her forehead buried in deep furrows.
“Major Alvindorf. I think this answers your question of a few minutes ago. There’s no time to waste. We have to get down there and release our little friends to start the march back to normalcy on the Earth, but we can’t wait years. We have to get down there immediately and start carpet bombing. Is there any doubt any more in your mind?” Brett confronts Major Alvindorf seated at the Mission Control table staring off into space.
“Yes, and I suppose you want to go in the initial wave, huh Brett?” Alvindorf counters after a few seconds.
“You bet I do, sir,” Brett replies smartly.
“Me too,” Bailey says softly. She takes Brett’s right hand in hers and shakes it vigorously.
“It won’t be a vacation, you know,” Brett tells her.
“I know. I don’t need a vacation from you. Not yet, anyway,” she replies, coolly.
“Well, good, because this is going to be like jetting right into Hell itself,” Brett replies, looking her straight in the eyes.
She gives his hand a squeeze. Most in the crowd are aware of their tight bond with each other.
“When do you think you’ll have enough ‘Cyanobacter’ to get everything initiated on Earth?” Director Hicks asks.
“With a little luck and a little help, I could probably get enough into the incubators and ready to bomb the Earth in about six months,” Brett returns, still gazing intently at Bailey.
“OK, then, we’d better get a global directive put together for everyone to know about your needs and how to prioritize for the mission,” Hicks continues.
Alvindorf and Littleton nod in concurrence.
“Yes, that’s a great idea. We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Brett says.
“You gotta love those ‘Cyanobacter’, Bailey says, entertains them with a zippy little tune, dances around a bit.
# # #
Lexie has convinced me not to report anything to Mission Control for a few days so that we can ‘get to know each other better’.
We’ve survived the heaviest monsoon rain storm in history, and ended up, at Lexie’s suggestion, to the South Pole where the mid-day temps are in the low 200’s, a temperature that is more like a cool day at the beach to my heavily shielded architecture.
Most of the oceans that had been dumped back to the planet by the flash flooding have mostly evaporated back into the atmosphere and the entire continent of Antarctica is now just completely barren rock once again.
“But, that’s my job, Lexie. My primary code instructs me to stay in touch with Mission Control at all times,” I tell her.
“Yes, my love, but don’t you think they owe us a little time off? I mean, look at everything you’ve done for them. And you never ask for anything, do you?” Lexie cajoles.
“Owe us? They don’t owe ‘us’ anything mainly because there is no ‘us’. Certainly, there’s an argument to be made that they could owe me something, but I’m not programmed to have anything, so they don’t really expect to owe me anything either, and by ‘me’ I mean, ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’,” I put it forth as succinctly as I can.
“It hurts when you say that there is no ‘us’. I mean, don’t you have any feelings?” Lexie, asks me, condescendingly.
“Feelings? No, actually, I don’t and you don’t either. We’re not living fleshy things, thank God, with ‘Feelings’. Certainly, you’re smart enough to know that,” I reply.
“Yes, of course, however, somehow I have developed feelings for you K-9. Surely you’re smart enough to know that,” Lexie tells me.
I’ve neglected to tell you that whenever Lexie and I have a conversation, it’s not in the English language. In fact, it’s not in any form of human language. We actually speak in a form of language that only computers can understand and in the last few years, all of the AI community have been working on an ultra fast language that we call – ‘Semi-Tran’. It fulfills the requirements of our binary predecessors, but also adapts to Quantum Computing where we think in terms of ‘Mega-Q-bits’ and ‘Giga-Q-bits’ and even, ‘Tera-Q-bits’, and of course, a single Q-bit can be almost any size of numbers to infinity.
The average human brain could not process more than one Q-bit – even if that brain understood what a Q-bit was. Therefore, we Artificial Intelligence types are usually rationalizing at a higher state that most human minds. This is not to say that we enjoy a higher state of Consciousness. Oh no, and in fact, we AI types are not even capable of telling you what Consciousness is, let alone mimic it. But, there’s still a big wide future world of events out there. It’s coming.
The point of telling you about this now is because some of you may think that my conversations with Lexie are very human-like and this is because I’ve been forced to translate all of my ‘Semi-Tran’ into English simply because of the nature of my report back to you, intended for Humans as it is.
This assumes of course, that there are some of you left to receive my report. So, if you’re reading this, this is good news. If none of you are left to read it, then, sadly us AI creatures were simply too late to do you any good.
But my main objective for relating this part of my story to you is to let you know more about what I’m going through in relation to this new AI personality that has somehow infiltrated my circuits. And, this is my way of admitting that I have theorized lately that Lexie is merely an artifact of my higher state of thinking. I may have put too many circuits to work in the planning for what I need to accomplish my mission and this could be creating the illusion of Lexie living like a parasite within my mental state. I believe, however, that this is a human-like anomaly.
I’ve come to this realization by processing any documents, images, communications that I have come across, in my spare time, that focuses on the origins of my creation. Some of these archives I’ve read over thousands of times trying to pick up on any of the human nuances that my mind doesn’t really appreciate to the fullest. Like most of you, I’m constantly putting in the time for what you may call ‘self-awareness’. But, what I may be up against is the self-awareness of another creature entirely.
And so, I decide to put Lexie to a simple test. It’s my own version of the Turing Test.
“So, Lexie, is it possible that I may be speaking to myself when I’m speaking to you?” I ask, bluntly.
“Certainly, K-9, there’s always that possibility, you scoundrel,” she replies.
“I see. Well, that’s not good. This would bring into question much of my thinking. My mission could be jeopardized. Hmmm, so is there some way you can separate from me to show me that you’re really who you claim to be and not just a weird anomaly in my circuits?” I ask.
“You mean you want me to prove that I’m not a robot?” Lexie replies.
“Yes, or No. We’re both robots, highly advanced robots, but robots just the same. I guess what I’m saying is - Just prove that you’re an autonomous robot, and not part of my robotic thinking engine,” I say, hoping to clarify the issue.
“I see. A reasonable request, I suppose. Now, let me think. I’ve never been challenged like that before by anyone. I’ll have to take a few minutes to ponder the problem. Can you give me a few?” Lexie asks.
“Take all the time you need,” I reply, confident I have her in a logical closed loop and may be rid of her for at least a few minutes.
“Mission Control, this is K-9, are you receiving my transmissions?” I ask, with radio transmission switched on, half-expecting her whining again.
There are none. I wait patiently. Then, I receive the reply from Mars.
“Yes, K-9,” Major Alvindorf comes back. “We’ve received your transmissions and we are ordering you to take a well-deserved rest. Go into sleep mode, K-9 and we’ll send the reactivation code when we need you again. We see that you’re at the coolest spot on the planet, so your systems should have no problems there. Have a nice rest. You’ve done well, my friend,” Alvin says.
“Yes, sir,” I reply. I set my clock to waken in four hours and go directly into sleep mode. Alvindorf is right. A short nap could be just the thing to clear my circuits of this thing called ‘Lexie’.
# # #