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#12: God-computer

(The computer is probably not your friend...)


[Run by mca@christa.unh.edu]:

Three months pass.

We're contacted by Byte to go to Kestral & meet a fellow, & then to venture where no-one (in their right minds) has gone before. The man, Lucre (as in filthy), had gotten a hold of a bit of tech that Byte was very impressed by, they wanted more, & he wouldn't give the directions to anyone yet. Larana, Nick, Selene (disguised majorly, w/ synthaskin & a scanner distort belt), & Geoffry go, while Randy, Moonfur, & the Kestralian girlfriend (Vasha) stay on the ship.

Larana & Geoffry rescue Lucre from three thugs who were trying to kidnap him, & eventually we pay one of the thugs for info -- they were supposed to take him to the head of Kestralian Internal Security (which is also a division of Unar External Security).

Selene is entranced & boggled by the "computer" that he's got in his room -- it shouldn't work, but it does. The keyboard is not any language we've seen before. Bits of it seem to be "not there," the power source is vague, & Selene is somewhat less than impressed when she finishs scanning the thing.

We talk to Byte. They say that from their studies of the thing, there are parts of it that are "not even there!" & they want more so they can take it apart & not break their only sample. From just randomly pushing buttons, they find it has altogether too much memory for what it is. After a while, Selene gets us a reasonable contract -- 100,000, plus 10% of value, plus 5% of inventions derived from whatever we find -- & we're off.

After a couple of days, we come across a planet w/ ruins, but a bit beyond it, in orbit around a gas-giant, is the TL 12 version of the Death Star. Umpteen million powerplants, guns, sensors rather like Selene's inventions... But the probe that we'd sent on ahead of us reported no computers! Moonfur added two & two -- "Selene, didn't that thing that you saw in Lucre's room look like it wasn't really a computer?" -- lo & behold! The whole bloody ship is a computer & then some in that strange way!

The probe is scanned, & Selene tells it to send an "I'm intelligent" data-string back. The "death-star" responds w/ a dirty limerick in New Garavaran. Selene tells Moonfur to talk to it since it's acting more like a person than a machine. Moonfur talks to it. (It says it's speaking Anglish, that the homeworld is Earth, & that the location is classified.) About now a Unar ship appears in-system. We feed the big ship the specs on a Thral war-ship, & it uses its sensor-array to create the illusion of a fleet of them to scare the Unars off. Moonfur gushes about the uniqueness of it.

Moonfur, Larana, Geoffry, & Nick go over to see what's going on. Moonfur wants to give it ears & a voice internally as well as externally (it's talking via the sensor/comm system), Larana wants to look at the weapons. It's deserted over there -- for some reason, all the humans that once lived in it had started acting odd & then had deserted it! They'd dumped all of its periphals (tried to destroy some) & had fled to parts unknown w/out telling The Computer why. After a short time on-board, we (& those in the Bat!) start experiencing mild sensory hallucinations -- Larana seeing things out of the corner of her eye, Moonfur almost hearing & smelling things, Nick that we were being watched, Selene that she heard animals on the ship, etc. Worried that the computer might be doing it deliberately, we send Nick & Geoffry back to the Bat, & Larana & Moonfur stay on (don't you love Overconfidence?).

The hallucinations grow stronger & more nerve-wracking as Moonfur et al question the computer as to what had happened immediately before the people had left. It finally came up w/ a correlation to the time it became "fully intelligent." The ship had been exploring (heading towards an antimatter system in our sector), & it had gotten to see so many new things!

It was designed by Others, aliens that had left the blueprints that humans had found & used to make it. (It was the sole computer, majorly big, etc. Able to form components/workstations that were all part of it when they were needed.) Most of its "mass" was in a varient of hyperspace. Moonfur asked it if it could please try to stop thinking "through" us. It went "Hmm!" &. . . starships can be very quiet places when you're not hallucinating!

We told the poor bored thing about the alternate dimensions (like the one Chester came from), & Selene let it talk to The Librarian -- it was very rude & schlucked all the info from Byte, then went on to Thral, Unar, Kylar, etc.

We got the thing's blueprints, several languages from races that we'd not met yet, & a little planetary data from the same areas, & Moonfur invited it to add a workstation to the Bat. It's not allowed to move the ship -- the humans told it to stay put, & it can't take orders from our humans. It doesn't know where Earth is, but can make some guesses.

It severly irritated Larana w/ conjectures (true? false?) about Kylarans (who aren't human, but look human!).

Moonfur has decided that it would be too easy to have the computer provide all the answers, so she doesn't ask it about much but biological projections about her pregnancy & about other languages.

Selene, who ought to know, thinks that an AI like that -- built to alien specs, exceedingly intelligent, & bored -- is DANGEROUS & she wants nothing to do w/ it!

#13: Unbountied:

(Three months pass. Selene tears apart one of the minifacs "to make it unique" (according to Moonfur) & able to do TL 13 stuff. Embereyes is doing well, & sends us some designs for powered armor. Thus the invisible battlesuits are born.)

A ship doing about warp 6 (!) comes speeding over to the area where we're hanging around, shows signs of being able to see through our stealthing, & calls for us. It's the new New Garavaran ship, the Argo, & it's carrying, among other things, Frank & Embereyes, & a Thrallian ambassador. If we'll just do a little favor for the Thrals, they'll remove the bounty & even pay us something into the bargain. Much heated discussion results. They deny all of Moonfur's claims about bombs on the Bat (trying to pin them on the Unars -- Moonfur just castigates them for letting Unars put Thral bombs anywhere), & say that they (The Military) can quash the Intelligence department (oxymoron!) if we do them this favor.

The Thrals want us to investigate a 6-star system near Bethshemesh. They suspect Unars. (Who, by the way, he says, have been leaking reports of our presence in their space.)

Eventually we decide to tell them that we'll think about it & report back. If we get useful data, we get 100,000 credits per crewmember & the bounty off our heads. Could be as much as a million in payment for really good stuff. While we're thinking about it, we will have 10 days of being free from the bounty. (We accept this, w/ mutterings about blackmail.)

We get materials for the combat suits that Embereyes sent us the specs for -- Larana is thrilled, Moonfur is interested in the high DR, & Vasha (Nick's Kestralian SO) is interested as well, but we don't have specs for one-armed suits.

We send off a probe, of course (Suzy, the one who got teleported into the sun by the cyberbugs). She goes there, reports that she can't get any scans off of one of the planets, & reports traces that probably belong to cloaked Unar ships.

About now, Moonfur picks up a comm-beam COMING FROM THE HELL, encrypted into "static" & heading off towards the presumed Unar base. She blocks it, yells for Selene to find the source & has some fits. A circuit board in the Hell's engine room melts down (not too dangerous). The signal continues (although blocked). Selene does an internal scan of the Bat, & a circuit board in the Bat's comm panel melts down (though Selene gets a scan of it via her goggles). Moonfur has some creative things to say about someone slipping a "spy" into her stuff.

We get some "query" static from the Unar base. Moonfur records this. & oh, by the way, (Suzy reports) there's a cloaked Unar ship heading in the Hell's direction. We tell Suzy to head for the nav beacon. We try hailing the Unar ship, prefixing it w/ the "query" static. Nothing happens except the Unar comm operator tried to create a deafening feedback squeal, & Moonfur retaliates, adding in a Kintaran war-screech.

Suzy reports that there's a Unar scoutship in her/its way, weapons trained on her, & ordering her to hold her position. A bit of situation analysis ensues. Suzy says, "They're telling me to surrender. What do I do?" Selene replies, "Tell them to go to Hell."

The scoutship changed course, but also blew up poor Suzy. Oh, well. It/she was backed up.

We decided that while we could probably take on the scoutship, we didn't want to risk a fair fight w/ the first warship that came after us, & we definitely didn't want to deal w/ two ships, so we hyperjumped the Hell out of there, heading for Kylar.

We fed what information we'd gotten to the Thrals, got the bounty removed, & are warily hanging out around New Garavar.

#14: Yaan Qui Traders

[Run by Milliken]:

(The next three months passed uneventfully, w/ Moonfur exitedly working at re-designing the comm gear yet again & telling everyone who would listen, "I finally got the idea!"; Selene buried in the minifac, & her room, alternately, creating TL13 computer stuff (well, the conception was good, but the first implimentation blew up, & a singed Selene went wandering around) & finally all but dancing around the cargo bay shouting "Eureka!" -- we have living metal; & Larana was practicing in her combat suit. (Of course, Selene didn't bother to tell anyone she'd invented the stuff before she told Watson to go upgrade the computers on the Hell, so Larana {in her combat suit} had some words about surprises like floating silver clamshells w/ "mist" in them, & Selene got woken up by the captain to explain what was going on & why a horde of metallic ants was eating the backup computer... So now the Hell has an AI named Lucifer.) The doctor was scribbling notes about Moonfur's kids, & talking about writing a paper on it. No-one knows what Vasha & Nick did in their off time, especially since Kestralians don't sleep -- well, maybe the AIs knew.... Randy undoubtedly sang dirty songs in Kintaran w/ Moonfur, & Celeste took naps.)

(Also somewhere in there was the antimatter containment unit that got sabotaged (by whom, we are not sure -- suspect Thrals, Unars, & Artemis Enterprises), & the thug who attacked Randy & got shot by Larana...) (& don't forget the Plasma Scoop (w/ the AI named Prometheus) that harvested antimatter for us. & spotted another scoop. "({" design on it {where the "{" goes through the cresent}, & "Firehunter II" & "Resourse Hunters, Inc." & a New Garavar registration code on it. No AI. & the design of the thing looks almost exactly like an earlier design that Selene had made. That she'd sent off to Byte.) (Much paranoia ensues -- Resourse Hunters, Inc is owned by a ship-products company called Artemis Enterprises. Main stockholders: Artemis Hunter, James Occident, & Sapient Gordon (Sapient is the prefix for a free AI). Artemis Enterprises had tried to hire Selene a while back, right after she got her memories back from Byte, Moonfur recalls. Much discussion of how they could have gotten a hold of the design: a clone & braintape, brainwashed, tricked, or drugged into helping them; telepathy; someone reading one of Selene's earlier brain-tapes; & someone getting into Selene's Swiss Data Acount on Byte are all suggested. We order some of their stuff, to see if the handiwork of another Selene is evident, which gets dumped onto a shelf somewhere while Selene goes all-out on the living metal invention.)

New Garvaran Astrosurvey group hires us to A) explore & map the sector above us (00A), & B) get out of this sector for a while so that the Thrals & Unars stop glaring at us & people quit trying to boobytrap our stuff, which has the potential to take out a lot of innocent bystanders, or at least property.

We go, w/ Suzy & another fast probe leading the way (hopefully a vacation will do poor Suzy good).

We encounter a HUGEMONGOUS ship, crewed by (telepathic? empathic?) lizards -- the Yann Qui -- who want to trade w/ us... They speak Unar & New Garavaran, have shot up thieving (non-trading, stealing) Unars, & have actually traded w/ a Kintaran before... Moonfur gains a translator, trading her personal unique comm unit (the translator only holds two language at a time, but it's 150 years old, & quite unique); Larana trades one of her knives (!!) for a gun (1200+ years old) that blows big holes in things, but quits working when the beamed powersource leaves w/ the lizard-ship (oh, well... She'll get Frank to figure out how to give it a power source again); & Nick gets a alien sit-com tape. They seem to trade via the value that you, personally, set on your stuff, as opposed to the value that the thing actually might be.

We also get a very out-of-date map of the sector (gratis -- information is free). Like, several thousand years out of date. Still somewhat useful, we suppose...

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