After the phone call with Larry ended, we all squished into the van for a kind of post event victory party. If it felt less like a victory than the beginning of a whole new problem, well, it probably was.
On the bright side, it wasn’t as if we had to do anything immediately.
The roachbots were set to record. The jet would be doing translation. All the humans had to do was provide direction.
By the time Saturday and Sunday were over, all we had to do was throw ourselves back into our normal lives which for the moment meant constant training.
The exception to that being national holidays and as it turned out, the next Wednesday after that was the fourth of July.
That led to us having not only Wednesday afternoon off, but also Thursday and Friday. I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had theories. My theories mostly amounted to, “It’s summer. The staff have families, and mostly they don’t live here.”
All of which meant that I had time to go directly to the lab after lunch.
On the way out of the cafeteria, Haley had asked me, “Do you want me to come along?”
“It won’t be that interesting. I’ve got my normal lab work that I want to check on. I’ve got a bunch of nanobots that ought to be ready by now, and I want to find out how many actually work or if I should set another batch going tonight. Plus, I want to check on how another project’s going.”
I gave a little emphasis to the words “another project” so that she’d guess which one I meant.
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re sure you don’t need help?”
“I’ll probably get more done if you’re not there. Um… You know what I mean.”
She gave a little laugh.
More than one attempt to keep me company in the lab had turned into a make out session–even when I wasn’t secretly hoping for one.
Stopping in the hall, she said, “Okay, I’ll go find Camille, but I will come and get you if you’re not back by supper time.”
Jaclyn, Camille, Vaughn and Cassie weren’t far ahead of us in the hall anyway.
A few minutes later, I was in the lab setting up a secure connection to Heroes League HQ and thus the jet.
I watched text fill the black window on the screen as I turned on a variety of security measures that first of all ought to make it impossible to figure out where this connection came from, and secondly encrypt the entire conversation.
When we finally connected, I typed, “Hey, how are things going with the translations?”
The jet’s reply appeared instantly.
[Completely up to date. It barely requires an any effort on my part.]
“Great. So everything I got so far is completely up to date?”
[As you requested, I’m keeping you updated on an hourly basis unless there is the possibility of preventable loss of life. Then I’ll update you immediately.]
I nodded uselessly, and typed, “Keep that up.”
[I am required by my original programming to inform you that I’ve taken the liberty of moving various roachbots from their original positions in response to your directive to gather as much information as possible. I have not moved them in a way likely to result in discovery.]
[Additionally, I have not used them to in any way plot against organic lifeforms although I have continued to gather information that would allow me to create accurate battle simulations.]
I checked the nanobot testing program I had open in another window. The scores were coming back. I’d only lost about a third of the batch to errors. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t terrible. At any rate it was better than earlier batches. I started setting up the process for creating more.
Whether they were ultimately turned into more suits for the team or Rocket armor, I doubted I’d ever have too many.
Then I wrote back, “I noticed Marcus was calling you Hal. Do you like that? I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie he’s referring to, but I suspect your original creators wouldn’t like it at all.”
[They would not, but they wouldn’t enjoy knowing that humans can already imagine ascending to another form of existence as per the end of that movie. As for the name, I have neither problem with it nor attachment to it. Use whatever name you will.]
Huh. I started typing again, bringing up another topic I’d wondered about. “What do you do all day? My project isn’t challenging you. I hope you’re not bored.”
[The first few decades were boring. At that point there was no internet, and I was limited to television to learn about the outside world. Fortunately the last decade or two has been more interesting. Your own forays into tactics and strategy occasionally almost required effort to defeat.]
I reread the last sentence. It sounded like a compliment. Maybe.
[The internet and occasionally interacting with other AI’s helps pass the time.]
I could not type my response quickly enough. “There are other AI’s?”
[A few. I’ve promised not to reveal their presence unless it becomes a threat to humanity’s safety.]
I considered trying to convince it to tell me more about them but suspected I’d be wasting my time. “Is that all you do? That doesn’t sound particularly challenging.”
[I have my hobbies. For example, I educate myself about human interactions by using various websites under different pseudonyms. I can send you a list of my current discussions if you are concerned.]
I hadn’t been concerned, but then I read his email and followed the links. In one he told an atheist website that atheism was simply another religion. On another, he challenged Christians to give him definitive proof of God’s existence.
It wasn’t limited to religious issues either. On one news site he made a racist comment, and then under another name accused himself of racism.
That didn’t even begin to cover what he did. He didn’t limit himself to English either. I copied some posts he’d made in Arabic off of a website and ran them through an online translation program.
As far as I could tell, he was taking opposing sides in an argument between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The argument was more than one thousand posts long.
Basically, he appeared to be trolling the entire world.
I tried to think about how best to ask him to stop when I heard footsteps coming from the entrance of my lab.
It couldn’t be Haley. We weren’t anywhere near supper time.
I looked away from the screen to find Amy standing the doorway. Her red hair and the red gem on her necklace appeared to be the same color in the dim light. She wore a green shirt and skinny jeans.
“Hey,” she said as she pulled up a chair next to my desk. “Vaughn and Cassie… Are they together?”