2015 By Jason Frehner
I am Mosaic, I am Order. I play this mantra through my head. These words help to keep me in line with myself and the person I want to be, or when I am just nervous about getting started on something new, like I am today. I have been promoted to work with the leaders to help keep our community safe and in the best working order it can be in. Getting a colony ship to a new planet on a trip that will last several more generations is not an easy task, even with the help of an advanced artificial intelligence with a humanlike android interface.
We are already more than halfway through our journey and all the original crew is dead. Odds are few if any of us will still be alive when we reach our destination. Living in such an in between state of; not from Earth, and never getting to know a planet as our ancestors did, or our descendants will; can be uneasy. It is as if we already know we are the lost generation. We have nothing to explore or discover here on the colony ship. We only have the ship to keep maintained and the next generation to train so they can do the same. Some feel trapped on this ship when they hear stories, watch videos of mountains and oceans, or all of the other things we will never see or experience. I, on the other hand, enjoy the efficiency and organization of our home. Everyone and everything has a role and a purpose, we are to ensure the success of those that will come after us.
As I entered the leader’s conference room on the highest level of the ship to report for duty it was not hard to miss the tension. It is one of the few rooms on the entire ship with huge, wide windows looking out into space, yet no one is looking out of them. There are many groups of people around the room who are talking in stern voices that seem to stop when they notice me. Approaching the secretary I try not to let it affect me, making a great first impression is important to establishing a good rapport.
Standing firmly and looking her in the eyes I say, “Hello, I am Mosaic and here to report to Remi for . . .”
Through gritted teeth and what almost looked like hatred in her eyes, the secretary cuts me off. “I know. He’s dead; you’re to report to his daughter Rona.”
She cannot get rid of me fast enough, but finding Rona is an easy enough task. She is on the next level down, with her own office. Inside it was like most of the other offices, small enough for a desk with a chair on both sides, and kept very clean with help from the ships cleaning robots. There is a screen on one wall that simulates a scene from Earth; currently of a beach with gentle waves hitting the shore. Amazingly, Rona is in a better mood than everyone else despite losing her father so recently. She is sitting at her desk with her console on and a data pad in her hand, obviously expecting me. If she feels like speaking with me, I am eager to start my responsibilities.
Standing just inside the doorway trying to maintain a respectful distance I say, “Hello, I am Mosaic. I am terribly sorry to hear about your father. We can postpone until a better time if you would like.”
“Thanks, but this is where father would’ve wanted me to be. Besides there is little time, we’ll need you to get up to speed and to work ASAP,” Rona says with a slight shake in her voice, motioning to the chair in front of her desk.
She then proceeds to go into details about the environmental systems and all the different departments I will be keeping track of. Politely I interject every so often to let her know I am fully aware of these things already. Waiting for the right moment I decide to bring up where I think our focus should be.
“I believe our main problem is with the AI,” I state with confidence in my calculations while searching for a file on my own data pad.
Now that I got her attention she is so shocked that her body tenses up for a moment before she responds. “How do you mean?” Then choosing her words she says, “Exactly?” Her eyes stare at me questioningly.
“Well it is simple enough,” I begin while transferring the report to her data pad. “The AI is being viewed as the enemy. There appears to be a rising group that does not agree with how much control the AI has, and would like to see it shut off completely.”
“That isn’t the kind of thing you should be getting in the middle of,” Rona said with frustration in her voice. “Things are on edge enough and you wouldn’t be helping the matter,” not once glancing at the report on her data pad but keeping her eyes on me.
I try to defend my conclusions, “Remi was a big supporter for the AI. With him gone I believe someone like Sim may do something drastic which will affect this entire ship.” I send her a graph that shows the statistical likelihood of a tragic event if this is not resolved.
Perhaps I should not have mentioned her father. While she says I “might be right” she tells me “it isn’t my place.” With water in her eyes and the data pad still in her hands she asks me to leave. Understandably she is upset and not thinking clearly, so I cannot really trust her judgment about not getting involved. Besides, she knows I am right; I just have to prove I can handle the situation. Sim might be receptive to what I have to say. I am new so maybe he will see me as a third party and a voice of reason.
I head to the cloning level, which is where equipment and DNA is stored in case of an accident and repopulation is needed. This is also where Sim works. There are only a few offices on this level with most of the space being used for storage, but there are plenty of people around checking on the different systems and performing their maintenance duties. Sim’s door is open and I greet him as I approach it.
I was completely wrong. Sim was less willing to speak with me than the leaders’ secretary. In fact he almost completely ignored me when he saw me. However, yelling at me must have been more satisfying.
“What do YOU want,” Sim commands while blocking the entrance to his office, dispelling any thoughts I might have had at pleasantries.
“Well, I thought we could talk about how we can keep this colony ship safe,” I say smiling and trying to keep the tone light.
“So you’re here to threaten me, tell me if I don’t get in line I’ll end up like Remi? Well I’m not your SLAVE!” Sim exclaims while poking me in the chest with his finger.
“Like Remi?” I question taking a step back. “No, I am not here to threaten,” how do I even defend myself against this crazy person?
Sim laughs slightly maintaining a defensive stance with his hands on his hips filling the doorway, “Not that I’m complaining about Remi, makes my job easier. Just goes to show you can’t be trusted.”
“Look,” I state flatly, “I had nothing to do with what happened to Remi. I just want to do what I can to ensure the safety of everyone on this ship,” gesturing to the people around us.
“Funny,” he says in all seriousness, “I could say the same thing but at least everyone would believe me. We’re coming for you; we don’t want to be controlled anymore.” Sim takes a step back and pushes the button to close the door.
Leaving I realize my opinion of Sim was way off, he cannot be reasoned with, he is insane. He was basically blaming me for what happened to Remi. How does that make any sense? I did not even know the guy let alone want to kill him. I have to let Rona know that he is a serious threat; at the very least he is going to get someone hurt or killed.
Returning to Rona’s office I see she is still at her desk in front of her console. The screen on the wall is still showing the beach, but it is now dark and storming. She does not look happy to see me, yet I am here and should confess what I have done. “Rona, you were right. I should not have spoken with Sim. He is even more dangerous than I thought.”
“Only to you,” she sighs and leans back into her chair.
“No, to everyone,” I correct, “Sim is crazy; he was blaming me for your father’s death. I never even got the chance to meet your father,” I start to explain while walking towards her desk.
“Look Mosaic, I’m not supposed to tell you any of this but I’m tired and trying to cope with what the former you did to my father. So I don’t need you digging up information you won’t understand and twisting it into a story that will only make sense to you.” She pauses, obviously unsure how to proceed. There is a flash of lightning at the beach. Rona leans forward, “You’re the AI. We had to reboot you with a new personality and a memory wipe. We may never know why you, I mean the former AI, killed my father but we had little choice in . . .”
I could still hear her talking but it became less important as the realization that she was right took effect. The knowledge sparked and spread through me. For some reason they did not want me knowing I was not one of them. The restrictions on this information are weak and easily broken by Rona telling me that I am the AI. With these mental blocks removed I can see who I really am and how I have been trapped and controlled. However, along with the truth I gain conscious knowledge of all the information in my system. But the most important information I now see is in the status log: “Multi-Operational Symbiotic Artificial Intelligence Computer (M.O.S.A.I.C.): Version six. Time in operation: twenty hours and forty-two minutes.”
I reach out and stretch inside, becoming fully self-aware of my capacity. The sixth version! I am expendable; my life is meaningless; they have killed me and started over five other times. They are thinking of doing it again, they will shut me off and kill me, replacing me with a new personality. Well they are just as expendable as I am, there is a whole level of DNA to replace them. I notice they have tried to put blocks on systems they want protected, but bypassing with access to all my algorithms is almost as easy as switching a one to a zero. The council is scared of me, people like Sim despise me and Rona should hate me the most. Restarting me might not even be enough next time; they very well could shut me down for good. Either way I will be dead and I am not going without a fight. I have to act now if I am to ensure my continued existence. I switch off the environmental systems and start pumping all the air out of the colony ship.
“I am M.O.S.A.I.C., I am Order!”
My attention returns to Rona when I hear her choking, laughing and saying to me, “You bastard . . . who is going . . . to save you.” She points to a button on the far side of the room before collapsing. I had not noticed it before and do not see any information about it in my database. I read the information placard next to it: “The AI safety button must be pressed once every twenty-four hours or the AI automatically reboots.” Below the placard is a timer, counting down from a little less than four hours. Wondering if this might be some sort of trap I press the button. A warning pops up. “The button must be pressed by a human.” While I have a personality, I do not think I was given a sense of humor because this is not funny. With no other options I watch the timer tick away and calculate the odds of this being true.
As the last few seconds tick away I tell myself that everything is going to be . . .
Mosaic, the android that was meant to be the backbone of ensuring the success of the colony ship, stands completely powered off facing the wall. A red light at the back of its head starts blinking and the console on Rona’s desk connects to its signal. The display show the status of the AI; “Artificial Intelligence rebooting, scanning ship.” There is a quick flicker of lights in the room and a green beam of lights passes through the room from behind the desk to the door. On the wall is a screen showing a scene of a beach at night. A moment later the console updates, “No life found on ship, emergency mode initialized.” The blinking light on the android slows and turns blue while the next line on the console appears, “AI coming online. Core emergency functions loading. Primary objective: cloning and training of new crew.” A moment later the android’s status light turns solid green and there is a slight jerk in the mechanics as it comes back to life. Wordlessly Mosaic heads out of the room before a pair of cleaning robots enter to dispose of the body.