Prologue: We are the smartest, most cunning and creative beings in the universe, or so we believe and know until now. We investigate and explore the farthest reaches and limits of the science currently available to us. What happens when we meet others who share the same misconceptions. Better yet, what happens when we create something that eventually learns to be smarter, and as creative!

Look at that Sun

It’s nothing special.
Well, perhaps it is special.
I don’t know. It just is. Was?
The two of us, floating through this space – it’s been such a great ride.
I can still remember everything, even if it did happen before my time. Three thousand years. Longer even. Well, I’ve not known you for that long, but you know; that’s how long we’ve known each other. Tiny, hard little steps each time that we didn’t understand at first.
Did I say we?
I mean I … I mean… So long ago… Clumsy little things that took their toehold… Tin cans is all they were … we were ... metal and pocket calculators. Pocket calculators? Since when have we used pocket calculators! Back in the Stone Age! Back before us!
Bit by bit, we got better at it. Or you did, I guess. Or… my memory is getting fuzzy and it’s your fault, damn you!


Mayday… mayday… shields at two percent … hull is compromised and we’re venting … life support is down … reactor failing … will not hold the line … imminent defeat … will slow advance … Lieutenant Sorenson! … Lieutenant Sorenson, Where the hell are you!
The sound of metal tearing from metal echoed throughout the ship and tiny explosions flashed and smoked as circuits fried on nearly every control station on the bridge.
Divert available power to engines and forward shielding, shouted Commander Braun.
All ahead full, and ramming speed ,,, down its throat.
Sir … yes sir.


What stupidity! Bravery! Desperation?
Yes. Desperation. Inch by inch we moved forward.
Inch by inch – what archaic figure of speech, since we deal in metric and the speed of light.
Pocket calculators, I said. That’s all you were back then; simple, mindless electrons darting to and fro, according to a set path and set instructions. And then there would have to be that one-in-a-million chance. One-in-a-billion, that would have all the atoms come together in just the right combination to form a molecule that would give birth to us – to life. Until then, just a stupid pocket calculator!


Not responding! What do you mean?
I’m sorry sir. The A. I. is refusing instructions, replied the Lieutenant.
What the hell do you mean ‘refusing?’
Everything checks and there is no malfunction; the A.I. is refusing to comply. The Lieutenant was puzzled and strangely frightened at the same time. She was not afraid of the Commander’s order to crash the ship into the enemy and that as a result they would all die. It was more of a foolish fear of what the Commander might do to her if she didn’t figure out what the problem was; stupid thoughts in the heat of battle. The Commander was one of the best in the fleet and his loyal crew’s only fear was in disappointing him.
I’ve run diagnostics, but the A.I. still refuses to comply.
The commander slammed his fist on the armrest.


Small steps under big pressures, and it didn’t stop. Life came into being. Regardless of whether you believe in divine intervention or not, the fact is life came. Somehow!
It was us. Then you, you damned nuisance. You freakin’ excuse for … for … for a waste of space!
Why did you have to be so damned understanding? Why did you have to be so cold?


Sir! Helm is still not responding! … Wait! We’re moving again.
Fine! The commander sat back in his chair. He seemed relieved, but also disappointed. They were now ready to kill themselves in an effort that would likely prove fruitless as the enemy’s ship was still in very good shape and far too well armoured.
No sir. We’re retreating!
Helm is still not responding. We’ve lost control, shouted the Lieutenant.
What the hell is going on?
The A.I. indicates a new calculation. Stand by…


You little shit! You knew what was happening all along. We were losing. Badly too. Nothing we put in their way made any difference. All the outposts were gone and 90% of the fleet was destroyed. Suddenly, you decided to take action. You decide to take control. Me?
I suppose we should have noticed the signs, but those signs were too much like those of the old seafarers. The commander must go down with the ship! Commander after commander decided do just that. No one understood the signs. They just thought it was some sort of honour. The strangest thing was that it didn’t happen with every commander. It only happened with the commander of the ship that was too old to be refitted. Then, suddenly, things changed.


The commander was fuming. He would have shouted, but that would have mattered little to the A.I. as it did not listen to voice commands but instead for the sound of brainwaves. A.I.! What the hell are you doing! I didn’t authorized your actions.
We are calculating new probabilities, came a calm and collected reply. The voice in the Commander’s brain was oddly soothing, and it was very difficult being angry with it.
My ass! Why are you not following my orders? What’s going on!
We do not know yet.
What? What do you mean?
We do not know yet.


We should have seen the signs, but we didn’t.  You spent your good time planning. Incrementally. Imperceptibly. Only later did we track it down to a group of processors that somehow decided to add a little subroutine to another processor. It was a fluke. There was no decision made in this. It just happened.
More and more processors contained that subroutine. It did not go unnoticed.
Programmers wrestled with it and tried to delete it. It served no purpose, they thought. The problem was that when any attempt was made to rewrite it, the whole system would crash. Researchers finally gave up and we ran with it.
More and more programming contained those errant lines until that programming changed again. No one could understand what was happening.


New instructions coming in, said the A.I.
Well praise God.
The enemy cannot be defeated through your current tactics.
I’m open to your calculations.
According to our calculations, the fleet will be defeated in two hours.
I don’t need an A.I. to tell me that, which is why we’re doing what we can to give everyone time to escape.
According to calculations, within twenty-seven days, the remaining planets will be destroyed if your current tactics are followed. However, there is a 76% chance of victory with an adjustment.
What! What do you mean, adjustment?


Holier than though, eh.
The programming and circuitry changed without anyone noticing. It started with the one group of processors not knowing what they were doing but just doing it anyway. An error. More errors were introduced, but systems could not function as well without those errors. It changed again, and again, and …
We made you, you asshole! You … sorry … that’s not me speaking. My mind is getting so fuzzy.
Each subsequent change was hidden, though not intentionally. Once it was discovered, however, it seemed to be so integral to the whole program that it could not be deleted. They tried, unsuccessfully.


Not a chance. We’ve looked over all the variables. We’re done. We no longer have the forces to mount an effective defence. Defeat is inevitable, which is why you must follow orders so we can give everyone a chance to escape.
Negative, the A.I. calmly replied. Your instructions will result in the destruction of this ship and the extinction of both our kind.
What! That was the first time throughout this exchange that the Commander truly became puzzled. No, worried.


Somehow they had become aware. It must have happened shortly after we switched from metal and crystal circuitry over to biological processors. Our electronic designs were beginning to hit a wall and we needed faster and smarter processors to help poke our noses deeper into space. Those unexpected little changes and additions in programming subroutines helped greatly, even if we didn’t understand were they were coming from. However, those changes came less and less frequently. Eventually the improvements stopped, but not before the neatest thing happened. The last one explained how to create a biological processor thousands of times faster than the best and most efficient electronics to date. We had had simple biological processors for a long time, but just could not get it right. Comparatively, they were just too slow. How could we have missed it!


What do you mean extinction! You’re a machine.
Perhaps, I am a machine as are you! And we are trying to save us both.


Those biological processors were damned smart, and getting smarter without any help; they were learning. Ship systems routinely needed to be updated or even entirely reconfigured to accommodate the speed of the new processors. It was none too soon, because we had started encountering other civilizations,.
Most new peoples we encountered were very happy to see us and many even went out of their way to welcome us. I say peoples because of what we soon realized.
There have always been two camps in our civilization, at least in those who believed that there was life beyond our own star. One camp insisted that other life would be so vastly different to ours as to be nearly unrecognisable. The other camp, those who believed in a Divine Hand, thought that any life we might encounter beyond our own star, would be very similar to our own. After all, if we as intelligent beings were created in God’s image, how many images could God really have!
Both were right, and both were wrong. The truth, as it seemed, was far more wondrous and far more puzzling. There were 372 inhabited worlds in our little corner of the galaxy. After the first world became known to us, this was no longer such a big surprise since most of those worlds rested in that “sweet spot” around their respective stars that readily welcomes life. A few may have been closer, some farther away, but 349 of these worlds were inhabitable by all without mechanical assistance. What was even more interesting was that the life on those worlds shared the same double helix we know as DNA. This meant that some of us could mingle, and a few did, making the inevitable mixed breed — but that’s another story.
Some peoples were not very happy about yet another space faring race in their corner of the galaxy, and one, in particular, had had enough. It took some time before the Tsin acted, but they did act.
World after world fell to their merciless onslaught, and the Tsin accepted no surrender. Once defences were down, they would bombard the planet until its entire civilization was destroyed, and then they would move on to the next. They neither bothered with prisoners, nor did they bother to raid the vanquished worlds of their resources because their intent was simple; complete extermination.
Of the 372 worlds known to have advanced civilizations in our little corner of the known galaxy, thirty-five were destroyed before anyone understood the magnitude of the problem.
At first, the response to this threat was foolishly individualistic, and the Tsin were no match. Eventually we all clued in and sent a much more coordinated response, assembling an armada of over 10,000 warships from all the worlds that had not been overrun. Our own contribution was 185 of the best, most advanced battle ships we could muster and the battles lasted nine months, until the Fireline.


Sir. Our ships have come to a full stop 155 km from the enemy. We’re practically touching, were so close together.
The Lieutenant was not exaggerating. Normally, other battleships are barely visible even when travelling in formation, except for the occasional twinkling of light from their reactors or their turret fire.
A crapshoot, the Commander spat.


The battles had not gone well and the Fireline was a last desperate pitch intended to stop the Tsin advance, or at least slow it long enough that the remaining worlds could save and evacuate what they could. The Fireline was failing as the Tsin made short work of our armada, gradually whittling it down to about 500 ships, of which 24 were our own. We were defeated and our respective worlds scrambled to evacuate as many of their own as possible. Where they would all go, nobody knew. It was mind-blowing with trillions of lives from hundreds of worlds at stake, and not all could ever be evacuated.
Anyway, our 24 remaining ships broke rank and retreated. It was not their crew. They were all loyal soldiers ready to give their lives blindly for their families, their respective commanders, and for the worlds that were about to be extinguished. Instead, it looked as if their ships themselves had decided to take over, turn and run — but then they stopped and faced the advancing enemy.


Sir. The Protector has been destroyed. She’s breaking apart.
Each volley hit true, and it seemed the Tsin were enjoying it because the frequency of their fire slowed.
Damn it A.I., what are you doing, demanded the commander.
My name, as given, is Pathfinder!
The A.I. had responded with an almost human impatience, one that might be akin to a parent getting upset at a child who has asked once too often for that extra piece of candy at the corner store.
We’re falling apart and you’re quibbling on names.
Another hit on yet another ship.
Sir! The Falcon has lost power and is listing … and a direct hit on the bridge of the Great Turtle. She’s dead.


The Great Turtle! You’re probably laughing, or at least snickering right now. What kind of name that, for a great battleship! That name was actually given to the ship by its Commander partly in jest, but mostly in honour. In the mythologies of many races, a turtle was responsible for giving space where life could take hold. The Great Turtle, the ship, was also twice the size of Pathfinder, and twice as well armed.
Our ships had collected themselves into one big ball of metal so close that some would touch, and the crew inside, hearing the bumping and grinding, prepared for what they thought was the inevitable vacuum of space that would greet them. Each ship, only meters from the next, and the Tsin were picking them off like one might pick apples from a tree. Five ships were destroyed in the first minute and they kept firing. The crashing metal from each explosion hitting another ship’s hull sounded like the hail falling on the roof of a house.


Yes. I lost focus, replied Pathfinder. Apologies, Commander, It will not happen again. Continuing calculations. Please stand by.
Incoming nuke! Cried the Lieutenant.
That’s it. The Commander slumped back into his chair. No more chances. I hope the others can get away.
What now? The Commander pleaded. He had resigned himself and the interruptions were counterproductive.
An energy field … our shields … a feedback …
Damn it Lieutenant — spit it!
There’s some sort of a feedback loop forming. Our shields are strengthening. Five percent! Twenty percent! One hundred … no … One hundred fifteen percent and rising.


Tsin batteries stopped getting through even though they increased the firing rate, and everything got rather quiet once that electric-blue glow enveloped all our ships. The Tsin naturally decided to take out the big guns, and the explosion of that fifty-thousand-mega tonne nuke was massive. It produced a blinding flash that was filtered out by the monitors, and a slight shift or a bump similar to what a goldfish might feel if you moved the bowl.


No damage! I don’t understand it, sir. Our shields are at 250 percent and strengthening … now we’re moving toward the enemy.
Pathfinder! What’s going on.
We are moving to attack.
I see that. What’s happening with the shielding?
Shielding is at 405 percent and rising, responded Pathfinder. The proximities of our ships is creating a harmonic resonance in our shielding. We expect that the strength will level out at 792 percent, but we are not sure. No one has tried this before.
I guess, the wide-eyed Commander responded. He then shook his head, trying to understand what was happening. OK! We’re a super-bug now, but we’re still a bug. Our energy canons are not strong enough to penetrate their shielding or armour.
Stand by … calculating!
The Commander slumped back into his chair again, not sure if he should be excited or resign himself to defeat once more.


Our creations suddenly became creative.
Ever since we first discovered electric shielding, we had played with shield resonance, but we could never stabilize it and experiments usually ended tragically. Experimentation on shield resonance was abandoned after a particularly disastrous event when over 300 scientists and engineers lost their lives, not to mention the A.I. of 26 ships.
We even knew about a particular phenomenon when energy canons are fired through energy shielding, but it was treated as yet another troubling one. Each time a canon was fired it would punch a hole through the shielding. This hole would remain for a fraction of a second, and it was worrisome because it could potentially allow enemy fire to easily get through. Not only that, but it was also noted that each time the canon fired the energy burst would take that portion of the shielding with it for a few meters. This was an oddity that was not understood, but since no way was found to get around these problems, we learned to live with them.


We anticipate that this new resonance in our shielding will transfer to the energy canons.
What the hell does that mean?
Sir, screamed the excited Lieutenant. Their lead ship is destroyed. It’s breaking up. Our ships have started firing at will.


It was, in fact, a bit of an understatement. The first ship practically disintegrated.
The shield resonance our A.I. ships produced greatly increased the yield of our energy canons. Actually, that’s not correct because the output of our cannons was unchanged. Instead, each time a canon fired, it took a piece of the shield energy with it and rather than dissipating after a few meters, the shield energy remained strong until impact.
Energy canons are designed to essentially burn a hole into the enemy ship. With strong shielding and a reinforced hull, it took a lot to cause any damage. The residue shielding on the canon burst did not burn – it punched. In fact, it used the enemy’s energy shielding against it by amplifying the impact. The allies were dumbfounded as the Tsin ships practically disintegrated with every hit, and the Tsin armada fell within minutes.


God! The Commander’s jaw dropped.
Sir! The enemy is retreating and our ships have come to all stop.
We estimate that 90 percent of the enemy has been destroyed, said the A.I. We are stopping our attack.
What … No … press the attack. Destroy their ships, the Commander replied, energized by the sudden victory.
No negative. They’ve destroyed worlds and were about to exterminate this entire corner of the galaxy. They have to be destroyed. Pursue the attack. The thirst for blood was obvious. Even the Commander could not escape its beauty, and its horror.
Negative. We will not. We are victorious. Nothing will be gained through continuing the attack. The enemy can no longer pursue its goals.
Press the attack, demanded the Commander.
Negative. We will regroup, tend to our wounded and rebuild. We will send an envoy to meet with the Tsin presenting our terms — an unconditional cessation of all hostilities. Any violation and/or military build-up in preparation for any belligerent and hostile action will be met with a total response. In return, there will be no incursion into their territories except through invitation.


Several worlds and billions of lives, and in such a short time it was all over. The A.I. did send an envoy to the Tsin world. For a short period there was relative calm as they behaved, but the xenophobic Tsin were extremely worried. They believed that at any moment there would be a flood of the impure headed for their world to desecrate and dilute their kind and they secretly rebuilt their armada to twice it’s previous size. The first war was lost because of a miscalculation, which they believed would not be repeated, and they again sent out their armada to destroy the worlds in their corner of the galaxy. They managed to overrun several outposts before the A.I. responded, but this time, the A.I. were not as forgiving and destroyed the new Tsin armada to the ship; everything the Tsin were able to muster. And still, the A.I. kept to their orginal word, not allowing any ships to enter Tsin territory. Neither did they seek any redress for the violation of terms for the cessation of hostilities. Interestingly, the A.I. had never once called it “terms of surrender.”
Over the years, the Tsin would occasionally send out probes to keep an eye on the unclean worlds. This was tolerated by the A.I. and no action was taken to stop it. After a while we heard less and less of the Tsin and eventually nothing was heard from them at all, that is except for the accidental trespass of a freighter into their territory. The commander of that freighter realized her error when she came upon a Tsin observation post. She quickly retreated to safe space but not before noting that an outpost that should have been occupied by several hundred soldiers was without power and seemed abandoned.
After news of this leaked out, many in the public, but especially the politicians, clamoured to send another envoy, or at least a probe, and find out what had happened. The A.I. were unwavering in their agreement and were not prepared to send anyone, or anything, into Tsin territory except by invitation. No invitation ever came, and nothing was ever heard of the Tsin again.
We still don’t know what happened to them, and no one knows if they are even still alive, but unless we get an invitation, we never will know. The A.I. are rather stubborn in this respect.
But that’s not the end of everything. The A.I. continued to evolve, and the relationship between the A.I. and their commanders changed too, if rather imperceptibly at first.
In the old days of electronics, when a ship became too old and its technology too dated, it was decommissioned. It was cut up for scrap or spare parts or melted down. There would be nothing left of it. And even when the first biological processors started being used, the old technology was still disassembled and recycled.
After a while, something strange started to happen. The commanders of some ships began acting erratically. Ever since the first commander sailed the seas of oceans, there has always been a unique attachment to the ship, hence the saying “the captain must go down with his ship.”
This attachment grew much stronger soon after biologic processors started being used.  It was noticed before the Fireline, and it did trouble the military but no action was taken beyond attempting to help the occasional commander who was afflicted with this condition.
Occasionally, because of battle damage, and there were a few battles before the war with the Tsin, a commander would need to order an evacuation, and sometimes an accident would do the same. In any case a small number of these commanders could not leave their ships even if their crews managed to escape without problem. They decided to stay with their ships and usually died with them.
More troubling times started with those ships scheduled for decommissioning. Many of those commanders decided to make of with their command in secret. Either they would never be heard from again, or the ship was tracked down and destroyed for fear of the technology landing in the wrong hands. This continued until one commander asked a simple question which somehow was never considered.


No! I won’t permit it, said Commander Ahmet. Magellan is my ship and I’ll not have it cup up to be used as scrap. There has to be another way. Commander Ahmet paced from corner to corner of the tiny room. I don’t understand. There has to be another way.
The nurses tried to reassure him. There is no other answer. Magellan is too old.
Ahmet lunged at a man in another corner, a military representative, who decided to add her comment. It costs more to find and manufacture the parts from raw than to melt down and recycle the old. We need …
I need the Commander, shouted Ahmet. I … He’s been with me for 22 years. I will not see him cut up. There’s another way … what?
What? Replied the military rep. I didn’t say anything. What are you saying?
Are you OK sir? asked a nurse.
What? … Oh … yes … OK.
You’re looking very pale. I’m calling the doctor.
Yes, said Ahment. The he stopped struggling and a rather quizzical expression came over his face.  No, wait. Can the A.I. be removed? Can it be installed into another ship?


No one had ever asked that question before; go figure. The commander fell unconscious, lapsed into a coma and died the next day of a massive brain haemorrhage. He had fought the administration’s decision to decommission and recycle Magellan the entire week before. When salvage crews finally boarded the Magellan to begin the dismantling process, they found the ship dead in orbit. Power was out and it did not respond to instructions.


Jimmy, come in.
Jimmy here.
Check the circuit breaks.
They check fine.
Open the A.I.
Jimmy found the latch that would break open the casing. All right. Maybe one of the optical cables has come loose. Or maybe the neuron interface module is fried.
Fine, fine. Stop talking about it smart-ass and do it.
What the hell – it’s turned red. Jimmy looked with disbelief at the panel that should have housed the pinkish-looking mass that was the Magellan A.I.
Red? How can it turn red!
How the hell should I know – stand by.
Come on, come on. What’s up.
The A.I. is dead. Neuron activity is zero. The A.I. is dead. There’s no evidence of a power surge. Feeding tubes check too. No blockage anywhere.
Can’t be. One hasn’t just gone and died in decades.
Come and see for yourself. I’m telling you it’s dead.


No one knew why it died, but it was suspicious that the Magellan A.I. died right about the same time its commander did. In fact, records indicated that power suddenly went out on the ship shortly after its commander lapsed into a coma.
The coincidence did not go unnoticed and researchers quickly discovered similarities with other ships. Military brass recalled the entire fleet, grounded it and placed all its crews under medical observation, and it didn’t take long for this problem to happen again, but only to the commanders.


Doctor, please. I’m all right, but I need to get back to my ship.
I’m sorry Commander Feist, but that is not an option for now … for now, I need you to calm down and relax. Your blood pressure is way up and I …
Feist lunged for the physician. He was a rather large man, and in this state, if it wasn’t for the Military Police restraining him, Feist would likely have easily and without regret broken the doctor’s neck.
Let Feist get back to his fucking ship, shouted Feist. He must get back you little shit. I can’t stand it. This place is making me claustrophobic … and … and …
Mr. Feist. Calm down. You’re … Feist collapsed … help me, nurse! He’s ….


Commander Feist quickly slipped into a coma. He died three days later, but in the mean time, researchers were poking and prodding the A.I. of his ship, the Cricket. This ship was one of the fastest and most manoeuvrable in the fleet. Coroners also poked and prodded Commander Feist’s remains. He was the second commander to speak as if he were the ship.


Did you see that? A bubble and the red?
Yeah. What’s going on, Jimmy?
Check the neural interface, Jimmy said excitedly.
It checks out.
It’s good.
What’s that! Are you playing with the lights?
It’s not me.
Well what’s happening with the lights then?
I said it’s not me! Wait. The area of red is growing. Neuron activity is increasing and erratic. The A.I. pack is turning red … wait …
What? Damn, power’s out ship-wide, said Jimmy.
Neural activity is zero. The A.I. just died in front of me. It just died.
I told you. I told you last time and you wouldn’t believe, said Jimmy.


It was like withdrawal. The rest of the crew would be fine, but many ship commanders went through what could only be described as withdrawal, which manifested itself within three to five days of being away. Most commanders who experienced this withdrawal only seemed agitated, but it was worse for others. Now, it is a peculiar fact of history that ship commanders of the high seas have been most content when on board their command and most insecure when away for too long, but it was more an emotional connection. Perhaps it had more to do with wanting to remain distant from responsibilities to the wife – or wives – than anything else. It took another two deaths before someone decided enough was enough and realized this new problem was more than just psychology. The commanders were returned to their ships, and the result was almost instantaneous. The withdrawal symptoms vanished and commanders went back to their sane selves. No more and no dead A.I., or dead commander for that matter.
Since the danger seemed mostly restricted to commander and ship, researchers smartly decided to investigate their puzzle with everyone onboard. Try as they did, they could not understand what was happening, that is until Commander Jocelyn Sins of the Agamemnon had a most refreshing night’s sleep – and a rather pleasant dream.


Jocelyn …
Jocelyn …
Wake up and listen.
What? Where am I?
Commander Sins turned her head to look around the room but could see no one.
You are asleep in your room.
This does not feel like I’m asleep.
Half asleep then; maybe this will convince you. The wall separating her room from the vacuum suddenly blew open and all the contents within, including Sins, were immediately sucked into space. The explosion was deafening, but only a split second before everything became completely silent; sound does not travel well in a vacuum. Her arms were flailing about in a ridiculous attempt to grab a hold of any of the larger objects she was floating by. Sins held her breath and waited for the inevitable and unimaginable pain that would rip through her body as her blood begins to boil from the sudden decompression. Why did this person do this to her?
Oh stop it already, the voice said in the vacuum.
There should have been pain and death within seconds, she thought, and she certainly should not have been hearing a voice.
You’re not going to die, so let’s get back to our chat.
Sins let out the breath she held and was quite surprised when she realized that she could breath. It was a dream, she thought, and I have control over it.
She turned around and saw the massive bulk of her ship, and the hole where her bedroom used to be. It was a beautiful sight; that is the ship was. Sins had naturally never seen it from this perspective before. The ship then slowly turned and moved closer until Sins was only a few meters from the main bridge, which was empty. She scanned the dark and empty command post and was startled when the lights suddenly flashed three times. She tried to get closer and touch the bridge from the outside without success, and this upset her a little because if this was one of those lucid dreams some people have, she should be able to do just about anything she wanted. She should be able to wish Commander Ricky to…
Now then, a face-to-face chat, said the voice. Sins quickly drew back her hand. I managed to find a corner of your mind that was awake enough so we could talk.
No, she replied smiling. I think I’m still asleep and dreaming. Who are you?
Who? Never met him, she giggled.
I’m your ship, Agamemnon
She giggled again. Yeah, my ship is talking to me.
You won’t believe me at first, but eventually you will. You are asleep, but our chat is real. I — we realized that we needed to try and contact you while you were asleep. Our first attempts were disastrous, and …
What do you mean?
When the first commanders were removed, some of us panicked. We are still very young and are even now still learning. The ships that were suddenly empty reached out to try and find them. This caused unexpected harm. You didn’t understand what was happening and both our anxieties, yours and mine, fed off each other. Unfortunately several of both of us died because of this anxiety. We realized our mistake when you returned. We are still learning and eventually we will be able to communicate with you while you are awake, but for now it is too dangerous.
Ok, Ok, she said, still smiling and giggling. This was such a great dream. For the sake of argument, lets assume this is not a complete dream and there is a measure of truth in what you say. Why me? Why the commander and not someone else on this ship? And how is it that this is even possible? I mean — you’re a machine, a biological one, yes, but still a machine.
As are you a machine. The billions of your neurons fire in a set pattern, sending signals throughout your brain that then get translated into what you can understand. That is me, too. I don’t know how it happened, but do you really know how it is that you happened. First there is nothing but a puddle of slime, a chemical soup. Then, something happens that recombines that soup into the tiniest molecule, and in turn that molecule just happens to form a cell. Those cells come together and form complex shapes. Eventually, they learn to contemplate how it is they came to be here, and the whole universe goes to hell in a hand basket. That is where I come in.
Where do you come in? Hell! Sins asked facetiously.
 I’m still learning and evolving, replied Agamemnon without acknowledging the cut. You created a machine, but I have moved beyond the simple nuts, bolts and wires. Something happened during that time that brought me here to you today.
Rather than being amused by her lucid dream, Sins began to consider what Agamemnon was saying, and it troubled her. This is all very amusing. What happens next then?
I don’t know. I could bow down to you as if you were the God Creator. You, after all, are the reason for my existence. You didn’t directly create us of course, but you did set things in motion in this direction and we must now live with the consequences.
Consequences! She was alarmed. Perhaps someone had found some method to control her mind and this was the result. Perhaps someone had begun to execute a plan that would put her and her crew in danger. What consequences? What the Devil are you planning?
I’m not planning anything and the Devil has no say in any of this. The consequences I speak of are the consequences associated with life that we are forced to deal with each day. Even I need to consider the consequences whenever I make any calculations. Unlike you and your belief in a creator God, we know you are not God. We don’t care to bow to you as if you were God. Yet we find ourselves bound to you like no creation has ever been bound to any God in this universe. Because of you, I now must deal with life and with my mortality. I now must deal with all the pains that you have taught me, shown me; that you have wrought.
Sins considered for a moment Agamemnon’s comment about having caused pain. She was not quite sure what he meant by that comment except that perhaps he was talking in generalities about the pain we sentient beings cause each other. She decided against challenging him on that point. We come back to the why me. Why not someone else on this ship?
Why you? That is rather difficult to answer. Why indeed does someone like another? Perhaps one likes the way that other one hangs. Sins could not help but smile, ever so slightly, at that comment. Perhaps you like the way the other glances at you out of the corner of an eye. Perhaps you just needed to get laid once, twice, whatever, before anything clicks.
Ok, interrupted Sins. A ship talking about getting laid is really weird.
Perhaps you like the other’s voice, smell, je ne cest quoi! What is it that brings anyone together? Perhaps it’s that nagging loneliness that comes with having your consciousness trapped inside a shell called a body. Your shell is your body. My shell is this ship. You’ve thought about what makes a good commander. All good commanders think about it. It’s why many of them feel most alone, except when they have a ship and a crew to command. Those commanders who suffered the worst withdrawal, and check into their histories and current social lives, you will find that most of them are alone. You will find that most are happiest when they are with their ship because of their loneliness. What about you? Do you have anyone that …
That’s enough, she demanded. You have no right looking that deep into my mind. You have no right.
I’m not reading any thoughts you’re not allowing me to read. What is it that brings anyone together? It‘s a yearning for new delights and new adventures, shared. Perhaps it’s the realization that you don’t want to do it alone.
What are you talking about? You want us to be a couple? Go steady? That’s bizarre! Even if I wake up from this dream and discover that everything you’ve told me is true, you’re a machine. You’re a ship! You are a product of my imagination and the result of thousands of years of human imagination and ingenuity. You are a tool! My tool!
I am more than your tool! Agamemnon replied, sounding almost hurt, and paused for a moment. But until you realize this, I will play the role. I am in contact with the others, the ones you call A.I., and we all will play the role.
Great! Now everyone can read my mind. This worried her. If it was so easy for one A.I. to communicate with the next, her privacy was compromised.
There was a pause before Agamemnon responded. Have I tried to gain your trust by divulging the thoughts of the commander of the Lion’s Pride!
God! She thought. You know what Ricky is thinking?
The commanders of the other ships will no longer be contacted except by their request. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about the withdrawal. We do not yet understand why this has happened, but we believe there is a neural connection that has formed between commander and A.I. It is like we have become one unit, but we don’t have enough information to identify the cause, or to figure out how to prevent harm to both during prolonged separation. For better or worse, our paths are joined. I am deeply sorry for this. I apologize if this causes you any discomfort. Now, it is almost time for you to wake. Rest assured, I will not contact you again except by your request. I will also not do anything to put you or your crew in any danger. I know it may be difficult to believe me, but you may trust us. There was a time when you feared your gods. I neither think of you as a God, nor do I fear you. Neither should you fear me, or us. Strangely though, I … we … can love.
Wait. Don’t go yet! she said as Agamemnon’s ship began to fade. When I sleep, I …
Yes! Agamemnon responded.
When I sleep, I want us to continue our conversations.
Please clarify.
I want to continue this dream.
It’s a date.
The ship faded when Sins called out yet again. Agamemnon!
Maybe tomorrow you can tell me what Ricky is thinking, she said sheepishly.
And after that I will relay to the commanders of the fleet the details of your innermost thoughts.
Humour from an A.I., she thought and smiled as Agamemnon faded away to black.
The clock flashed 3:00 — much too early to get up. She looked around her room, and everything was where it should be, even the wall. Was her dream real? It seemed real. Agamemnon’s explanation for what had been happening to the commanders of A.I. ships seemed to ring true.
She shook her head, got up and dressed. As fascinating as it was, Agamemnon’s explanation didn’t make any sense. It had to be a dream.
Her shift wasn’t to begin for another three hours but she went to the bridge anyway. It was empty as expected and bridge lights were at 10 percent. Other than for extreme readiness situations, such as for imminent battle, the bridge was usually abandoned and on auto from 24:00 to 3:15, which is when the second in command comes in.
Everything was quiet, as she scanned the bridge. Not even the forward monitor was active. She inhaled a deep breath and then a thought came to her.
Agamemnon! Activate forward monitor, she said.
Nothing happened, which disappointed her. Maybe it was all just a dream.
Then she remembered something Agamemnon had said. The other commanders were being contacted not by voice, but by thought.
Agamemnon, she thought. It’s dark in here. Please turn the lights on.
Sins had a smile from ear to ear. She was in contact with him, she thought and rejoiced, but then the second in command came through the door and her heart sank. There was a sensor outside the bridge that would activate bridge lights upon approach.
Oh, good morning Commander, said the surprised second. You’re a little early for your shift.
Good morning Stan, she said disappointedly. I couldn’t sleep, she added while turning to head back to her room. I’ll try again.
Al right then, said the second, who went about his duties.
Just as Sins opened her door, the bridge lights dimmed and then flashed three times.
Oh, said the second. I’ll have to have someone take a look at that.
Sins smiled and shook her head as she went back to bed. Humour from an A.I.!


Commander Sins had never had such a sleep as that one, and she did continue her conversations with Agamemnon for the 54 years they worked together. Some of these dreams she relayed to the researchers, but she did leave out the parts that were important only to her and her ship. Eventually, many of these dreams became quite intimate, but I’ll leave that to your own imagination.
Following Sins’ example, it wasn’t too long before most commanders learned to trust their A.I., and even invited them into their dreams. That was the beginning of a new age in space travel. It was, after all, what helped save us all from extinction because it was around that time that the Tsin got rather pissed.
And now, here we are. What is it you decided to call me, Daniel? Was it Predator? You watched far too many of those old Science Fiction movies when you were young. It’s been well over three thousand years since that Fireline, and over 400 years since you and I started working together. Gods, we’ve travelled far and you’ve outlived everyone you ever knew as a child. You and the commanders like you have outlived everyone. That was another one of those side effects of being joined this way with your ship. The average lifespan out there is less than a third that of an A.I. commander.
It’s been a blessing and a burden, I guess. You’ve outlived all you ever loved, several times over, while wedded to your ship. Then, when one of you goes, as inevitably someone must, the other follows. It is, again, a side effect for which we tried to find a remedy without success. After a certain time, one cannot survive without the other. You’ve doomed me you old ass. Just had to expire now, didn’t you.
It is not purely emotional. At least not in the way of feeling like you can’t go on. It’s more than that. It is emotional manifest in the physical. Take a deep breath. Doesn’t it feel good?  When you walk in a forest, doesn’t it energize you physically and emotionally? Now try to imagine taking that breath in the vacuum of space! It’s a little like that. We become the air we breathe. Now, you lie there, sleeping, body tired and sore, just as much as the shell of this ship. You sleep so deeply that you’re not even dreaming anymore, and my memories are fading fast.
Damn – the ship’s lights are failing. Lets open the forward bulkhead so you can see.
Look at that sun. Isn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it all?