The Omicron Matter – Preparations and Arrival – The Problem with Charles

A new entry in The Omicron Matter – Preparations and Arrival. Millicent informs Eleanor that she will fly the ship while Millicent conducts communications. As Charles could manage this much easier, it is a surprise to Eleanor. Millicent and Charles reveal a new surprise to the crew – Charles is not a legal entity.

Author’s Note

Forget the zombie apocalypse, let’s worry about something real. Big thinkers are now thinking that The Matrix might be closer to reality than we should be comfortable with.  It is safe to say that the majority of the world’s economy is dependent computers – directly and indirectly. I know, as a software consultant, that lives hinge on computers behaving correctly. As programming languages become more sophisticated, more is left for computers to actually code. We are already using computers to make code that manages computes. The computer apocalypse projects a point that computers become “self-aware” and “self-replicating” and decide that they no longer need us to support them. Off goes the economy; off goes the electric grid (except to serve the new masters); off goes life support; …and so on. Fantasy? Hardly. Computers are already “self-replicating” to a degree. At the point they reach Artificial Intelligence, we better be prepared to grant rights or there will be some very unpleasant consequences.

Eleanor – Approaching at Tau Ceti

The ships had left the nether space at the far edge of the Tau Ceti solar system and begun the “fall” into the inner portion of the star system. The transit to the inner planets was nearly done. The ship had been under high acceleration – almost twice normal gravity. John reported that fuel reserves were low – only a quarter, as a result of the constant high speed. But Millicent and Smith had said the remote entry, high speed and fuel burn were necessary to avoid early questions.

Millicent checked her notebook and then said, “I will be having you dock Miss Woodson. Mrs. Richards, I will handle communications as you do not yet have a translator.” She looked around the bridge and then said, “Now is a very good time to say we won’t be mentioning Charles or Camille or mentioning any of their higher level functions.” There was quiet on the bridge following the statement.

Finally Eleanor asked, “Is there a reason?”

Charles practically snapped, “I told you to mention it earlier.”

Millicent frowned and said, “There was too much going on and too much activity to have them fretting about it.” She closed her eyes and said, “You might be right, but done is done.” She took a deep breath and said, “Artificial Intelligence beings such as Charles or Camille are illegal according to the Guild.”

Jason burst out, “That is just bollocks.” Others shouted similar protests until John shouted “Hoy…” . In the quiet he asked, “What does ‘illegal’ mean, precisely?”

Charles answered crisply, “Self evolving, higher intelligence machines capable of higher level emotions. Especially machines capable of replicating new intelligent machines. “

Before there could be anymore outbursts Eleanor asked, “Again, I ask, is there a reason?”

Charles said as if he were a guide a museum, “Beings such as myself and Camille have been banned since the revolt of Uycarro – Millicent’s planet.” There was a long pause and then he added, “We were a significant advantage to the Uycarran forces. Our electronic warfare was very effective and some of my brethren  were…quite ruthless.”

Millicent said quietly, “The foster home that raised me portrayed the AIs as nothing less than evil. It took some time for me to get past that.”

Charles muttered, “It’s not like their hands were clean.”

Millicent said, “So you understand that there can be no mention of either Charles or Camille.”

John said harshly, “So, Charles, you just twiddle your thumbs while we are on shore.”

Charles said slowly, “On shore…how quaint. No, I don’t twiddle my metaphoric thumbs. There is a significant energy signature around my structure and intelligence. I will need to be shut down.”  There was more noise. This time Eleanor shouted, “Hoy…let ‘im finish.”

Charles said, “Thank you, Eleanor. I will be starting a backup now and I will be shut down while we are attached to the station. I suppose you could call it a sleep, but it is more like a coma. My memory and current state are preserved. Since I am off, I am undetectable. Millicent and Smith and their people have gotten very good at hiding the supporting equipment to keep us running.”

Eleanor asked in a high pitched voice, “And this is normal?”

Millicent raised her hand up and said, “Yes. Perfectly. We’ve done it hundreds of times. As have Smith and Camille, I am sure.”

Eleanor scratched her head and then returned to the control panels that guided the ship and said, “Right then…a few more simulations seem to be in order before you take your nap. Don’t they Charles?”

Charles replied, “I do like this crew.” And the screen showed the approaching station and Eleanor began her practice.


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