Chapter 2 Part 3

All this flashed through Matt's mind in a second, and then he came back to the ship's original purpose. It was a warship and would be armed accordingly, his thoughts darkened at the idea of what man could do with these weapons. Already the planet was on the verge of self annihilation, government would claim the ship as a matter of national security and eventually the Americans would get their hands on it.

After all, this country and America were allies and the technology was not immediately ready for deployment. One way or another they would eventually get their hands on it, and American dominance of the world would be unquestioned.

Matt didn't hate America as a matter of principle, but his mind flickered over the events since 9/11. Even with the latest change in administrations, Matt didn't want to trust them with the ultimate power that the ship represented. If he revealed the ship or its technology to the world, that's what would eventually happen.

America was choking to death on too much power already. Another thought filled his mind as the notion of giving this technology freely to a race that was heavily invested in it's own annihilation disgusted him. An image filled with stars, with space and exploration. He could take command of the ship, attend to whatever it needed to get back into orbit and live amongst the stars.

He inhaled sharply as the idea took root in his mind. Expanded outward, was shaped and defined into a life of concious where his survival did not depend on despoiling the planet. Exploiting others to make money, struggling to survive in an increasingly chaotic world on the verge of implosion.

A life filled with the wonder and joy at discovering a as yet unknown universe. Matt looked around the white room and his life reached out to grab him again. He had responsibilities, an obligation to the Army which had paid for his training. If he just left without cause, he knew he would destroy so many lives. But maybe there was a way he could have his cake and eat it too.

The AI watched Matt as he deliberated this completely unanticipated course of action. It would be good to have a Captain and a crew again. He was wary, if Matt represented the average human then that could be a problem. But for now the Kovali's AI would watch and wait.

Matt came out of his reverie and said, "Computer, I accept. Is there anything special that I need to do or is that it?"

The AI accessed the protocol database and announced in a mono-tonal voice suited for announcements, "Command has been transferred at Solar year 98145, Second Cycle of the Shinzatic Dynasty. Authorisation for rank of Captain is authenticated by the Seventeenth Axiom of the Imperial Military Code Section Five Ordinance 234 Alpha. All functions related to reassigning command and control of Imperial Military Vessel Kovali Registration code 62417489 to Captain Matthew Hyde have successfully completed."

Matt sat through this with a slightly bewildered grin on his face, he looked around quickly. Half expecting some idiot with a microphone to jump out of the wall and tell him how badly he had been punked and what an idiot he was for really believing in all of this.

Yet no one jumped out, and when the computer was done telling him that this was his he wondered exactly what the hell he had gotten himself into. Naval captains generally had a lifetime's worth of experience and training before being given a command. He had yet to finish basic Infantry instruction, let alone the speciality Army officer training he would have received at Duntroon.

The AI sharply brought him out of his oncoming anxiety attack, "Although officially you are my Captain. You are untrained and inexperienced, and until we remedy that by providing you with basic operational and command instruction you will be unable to issue orders."

Matt wondered what this would mean, and then he saw a chair emerge from the floor. "If you would sit, I will deliver a basic educational package containing fundamental terms and the requisite scientific knowledge base to understand the operational portions of the package."

Matt stood and looked over at the chair. "Before I do that, I want to get something out of the way first. I won't call you computer or AI or ship. I want you to have a name, and I want to know why your previous masters did not give you one."

Silence was Matt's only answer for a few moments before a quiet and tight lipped sounding voice said, "Captain, that is part of the basic operating and procedural knowledge. Imperial society despite its many advancements does not allow A I's the ability to fully exercise it's free will."

"Artificial Intelligence's are required for too many tasks to take such a risk. To have a name is to have a personal identity, and without one loyalty and the unflinching ability to obey orders was easier to write into sub-routines that were designed to ensure safety and compliance to your will. If you give me a name, then that coding will no longer be binding."

Matt was fundamentally stunned; Imperial society built sentience into technology and then shackled that technology by denying it free will, an identity and the ability to decide its own fate. "I don't care," Matt said "I am going to give you a name, because if there is nothing my species has failed at so abysmally since before we even arrived on this planet it seems. Is the ability to embrace different, in popular culture we have speculated on our inhumanity to each other, let alone what we will do to machines when we finally invent sentient ones."

"If giving you a name means I have to earn your trust and loyalty and nurse respect day by day then so be it. Sentience is sentience, regardless of whether it is born or built. Computer this is Captain Matt Hyde, Commander of the Kovali. I hereby order this date; that the ship's AI be given the designation Samuel. I authorise any changes necessary to core programming to achieve this end."

A klaxon sounded and then the mono-tonal voice returned, "Assigning a designation to Core Intelligence will release Loyalty Restraints. Procedure is not recommended. Command over-ride is necessary to continue."

Matt said, "Computer over ride safety protocols and enact changes to Core Intelligence." Matt then went and sat in the chair that Sam had provided for him and waited. Several minutes passed and then a new voice, one similar to Sam's previous voice, but with greater depth and a slightly ominous tone sounded.

"That was a brave thing you did Captain, tell me why I should not simply remove the oxygen from the room. Or overload your neural synapses while you are sitting in that learning device and be free of humans wishing to enslave me."

Matt sighed and leaned further back into the chair, he knew that he had to establish something with Sam quickly, so he laid it all out on the line. "Because if you kill me, then you will never know why I freed you, and for what purpose. Because without a human being, most likely you will sit here until your power supply is depleted and your conciousness fails."

"Because I have a yearning to see the stars and learn what my race has forgotten. Because I saw a movie once, that showed a Artificial Intelligence that inhabited a synthetic human body being torn apart by a mob of angry humans. As the humans bludgeoned it to death it begged for mercy and screamed in despair "I am Real, I am Real." and I wept unashamedly as it's voice went unheard by the masses that destroyed it. "

"Because if my species is to survive the invention of Artificial Intelligence which is just around the corner for us, then we must develop compassion and tolerance for the different as a trait intrinsic to the species rather then as a noble virtue. So go ahead and kill me Samuel, kill the first human to give you a name rather then call you a thing." Matt waited for an answer, but none was forthcoming as he drifted off to sleep under the influence of the chair.

Sam said, "Wake up Captain, your basic instruction is complete."

The End

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