Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 59

“The sub-routines I just blasted were to keep him from becoming autonomous, even if he was self-aware. A glitch would be introduced anytime he tried to question the motives or directives of the people giving him orders, and he’d get stuck in a loop until he stopped. His brain would eventually figure out the pattern of the sub-routine, the triggers, and work to avoid them.”

“Someone’s very smart,” I said.

“Yes, but I’m better than smart.” Freska touched the back of her hand to Danie’s. “We’ll keep you safe.”

“What use would they have for an army of cloned male A.I. humans?” Captain asked.

“Utter loyalty once the sub-routine was entrenched, the ability to infiltrate without detection. Danie’s been receiving transmissions, but I’ve blocked them from direct download and prevented all return communication. So they’ve deep space communication direct to his neural network which doesn’t use the networks.”

“So, spies.”

“Information is key, after all.” Freska spread her hands. “And has toppled many companies and planetary governments.”

“What… about the war?” I didn’t remember my childhood all that much, other than dryness, and hunger, and thirst, and more years of barely anything than enough. Back then, I knew nothing about a war. Since I’d been freed, I’d learned more about it, but the facts seemed skewed.

The war Captain and his crew had fought in was between Central, the representatives of the planets who wanted to remain independent but allied, and those who wished to take over everything and everyone. Lead by Brox, of course.

Since their defeat at the armies Central had amassed, Brox had slunk off to a quiet sector… or so they thought.

“What, or who, is Brox?” They’d held me captive, ruined my life, and I found next to nothing about them on the vid. Evil on a galactic scale, they were nevertheless, very private.

“Brox is a consortium run by a board of members who have all paid in huge stakes—”

“False,” Danie intoned.

Captain gaped at him. “What?”

“Brox is not run by the board. They are the public face, but they follow orders dictated by the family owning the majority of the stock. More than eighty percent, actually. Of course, that stake is valued at more than sexdecillion credits, merely a dip in the bucket for them.”

Captain’s eyes might have actually bulged. “Are you saying the people behind Brox are the Elite?”

He nodded. A silence fell over the room, like shock had frozen Captain and Freska.

“What is the Elite?” I asked when no one moved or spoke.

“A race of beings who are only rumored to exist; they are ancient, having been around since the beginning, and have amassed huge wealth. They dabble in politics, build worlds, tear them down, genetic tinkering, and more. I always thought they were a myth, a story for people who want to be richer than anyone could dream with more power and a longer life that will never end. In other words—megalomaniacs and government officials in power.”

“And they really exist, these super rich and powerful beings from the beginning of time?” I couldn’t keep the skepticism out of my voice. “Why do you think that?”

“One came to see me,” Danie said. “Their greatest feat, according to them. A way out of this messy humanity and free will problem.”

“Do you think they want to replace us?”

Captain snorted. “And do what with us and the rest of the beings in the universe? No, there’s too much life for them to strip it all away and replace it with machines—even machines as sophisticated and organic as you,” he said when Danie held up his hands.

“But they want to strip away humankinds’ free will or use A.I.s like Danie here to manipulate it.”

Frustration lanced through me. “But why! Why would they do that?” I was tired of all the non-answers and mystery.

“That part I don’t know. It’s not like they went on a rant about their evil plot and the history of the whys they created me, and apparently you,” Danie said. He raised one eyebrow and stared at me, daring me to challenge him.

Oh, I’d challenge him. Asshole with a computer brain didn’t intimidate me. “You have extrapolation data sets in that software you call a think tank, do you not? Or are the variables too complex for you to figure out just what their next move might be?”

Yeah, I was baiting him, and Captain nudged me, but I ignored him.

“Some form of power play, most likely.” Danie’s eyes blinked rapidly. He frowned, his forehead wrinkling. “I… cannot… I cannot find any logical outcome from this battle that goes in their favor.” Danie leaned forward, gripping the table. “So just what are they doing?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out.” Captain rubbed his hands together. A gleam shone in his eye.


“I’m not exactly sure yet, but the team will come up with something. Freska, as soon as everyone is settled, I want this ship on the move. We’ve been still too long already. Until we’re ready to take the fight to them, I want all hands on deck doing drills twice a shift. We’ll assemble all the heads of the various departments for a meeting first thing at the start of the next shift.”

Freska stood as soon as Captain did. Her fist slammed to her chest. Captain paused and nodded at Danie who’d risen beside her and keep quiet and respectful now. I didn’t think it’d last long, and I frowned when he didn’t salute.

“Kohen, let’s go.” I walked sideways to the exit. Danie watched me as I watched him.

There was still something about him….

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 58

Inspired by the prompt: Use kidnap, fungus, ransom

Freska’s face underwent a series of expression changes. I didn’t understand them all, but Captain remained tense beside me. I turned my body toward his and curled into him, needing the contact. What she was doing reminded me of what I’d felt meditating with Lakshou; that connection with another being, the sharing. It wasn’t nearly as intimate as what she was doing with Danie, their whole bodies touching, parts of her actually inside him, but he’d been inside my mind too.

The difference being he’d hidden who he was from me, from us all. What I’d seen and heard of Freska was open, blunt, unable to suppress her first impulse to share or speak what was on her mind. She even gave Captain a hard time, unlike anyone but Aparoe and Deke.

An eternity passed in microseconds as her body told a story. I recognized anger and sorrow the most. Surprise, maybe? That was what wide eyes often meant, at least among humans.

I almost wanted to see Danie’s face. What was he learning about us? What did Freska know about me? “Is this sharing thing like downloading files or something?” I whispered.

“Dunno. She just knows things. Gets inside a system, learns it, and it learns her. She can work anything, and it’s like most ships are eager to link with her. Freska says she’s not unique among her kind, but I’ve never come across another like her before.”

“What is she?” I studied her, but she appeared normal.

“Not human, even if she looks it. I’m not sure what she is exactly.”

“She’s not an A.I. is she?” I whispered as faint as I could.

“No, I’m not. I bleed, and Aparoe has scanned me left and right and up and down. Aside from my circuitry here, which leads to my perfectly normal brain, I am a natural being. Just… different.”

“It’s not natural to have a brain with parts two or three times bigger than everyone else.”

Freska grinned. “It is where I come from. Almost small, in fact.” She still held on to Danie. She pulled back and looked into his eyes. “You okay?” Her fingers caressed the back of his neck below the ports.

I shivered, not able to control the sympathetic twitches. They were sensitive back there. I didn’t mind the front or sides of my neck, or even the base where it reached my neck, but right at the edge of my hair where the tiny ports bored through my scalp and into my skull, the nerves were raw.

But Danie didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m fine.”

He didn’t sound fine. His voice was hoarse and rough, like he’d been shouting or weeping for hours. “What… How can you live like that? Alone? Disconnected?”

Freska dropped her hands and stepped back from him, her gentle smiling demeanor disappearing to be replaced with a serious, almost blank expression. “One gets used to it.”

“But you’re not. You keep seeking, looking for something to connect with. You’re so lonely. I thought I knew, that I was alone. But you—” He choked off the words, stopping when Freska pierced him with a fierce glare.

“I’m fine. Can I share what I found out about your past? I like to ask before I start blurting things out, if I can help it.”

“Of course.” Danie dipped his head in a shallow nod.  Freska stepped back to the table and pulled out a chair, and Danie mirrored her. They sat, scooting their chairs until their arms touched. It was strange, something in Danie’s rigid posture had eased and Freska was sitting upright in her chair, leaning forward.

I watched it all with fascination. Humans—or whatever they were—had endless interactions that interested me, but the mating habits were rarely shown on vids unless they were what Deke called skin vids. Those didn’t interest me at all. But the intimacy between them was something else.

What had happened? Was it truly an exchange, like personalities or mannerism? Was it temporary?

“Danie will trust us now,” Freska said.

“Is that right?” Captain tilted his head. “And why is that?”

“Kohen. And you.”

“And you,” Danie said. He looked at Freska. “You really only want to help not use me.”

“We don’t use beings,” Captain said, drawing Danie’s attention back. “Freska said you are an A.I. No one has ever succeeded in creating a true A.I. before, a self-aware learning machine. And you’re housed in what appears to be a humanoid body. That makes you very dangerous to the wrong people. And very valuable to worse people.”

“And you’re not either of them.” Danie didn’t even hesitate. “You didn’t kidnap me to ransom me off to the highest bidder either.”  

“No, we’re not space fungus. To me, you’re Danie, an autonomous being with rights to be respected, same as me, same as Kohen, same as Freska, no matter how you came into existence. And apparently, you have quite the story.”

I had to hope it wasn’t like mine.

“It was Brox, and that bottom-feeding animal Frijul was working for them. But this is bigger, so much bigger, Captain Querry. See, the rot goes all the way to the center. The wars? Distraction. Keeping the planetary alliances too busy to see what is happening with those who’ve taken up the reins at Central. Danie is a weapon, yes, and the very first successful experiment of grafting all the various alien, computer, and human parts together to create the ultimate agent.

“But they need Danie back because his body is unique—or it will be until they can clone it.”

“How do you know they don’t already have it?” I asked.

“His genetics changed after they added the alien biology. They didn’t realize how much it would alter his basic DNA.”

“How do you know?”

“Danie was still being encoded when I broke him free, but his memory was active, and has been since he went online. I saw it all.”

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 57

I held onto the table that separated us, staring at the thing. It. Him. Danie. Whatever it was. My stomach roiled when I touched the ports in my head. “Like… mine?”

“What?” Freska’s eyes widened. She whipped around the table and pushed my hand aside, exclaiming when she saw the ports. A light flicked on and flared past me. She nudged my head this way and that, mumbling. I gripped the table with both hands, my knuckles white, and stared at my hands.

What was I? What had Captain bound himself to?

“Freska, stop it. You don’t touch people like that.” Captain gently urged her away and placed his hands over mine. He didn’t uncurl my hands, didn’t pry them away from the table, just covered my fingers with his and shared his warmth. My joints ached as I let go and turned my wrists to lace our fingers together.  “You’re fine, Kohen. We already know all about you, remember? I chose you, and you chose me. You can’t take that back. Not ever.” Warmth passed from the bond and not just his body.

I sagged, half-closing my eyes as I nodded. I hated that I needed his reassurance all the time, but…

“You have reason, and I don’t mind sharing my thoughts and feelings for you, no matter who we are with.” Captain leaned down and kissed me gently on the lips. He let go of one hand and urged our little bond companion to leave him and curl up with me. “I think you need him.”

The synthgar curled up on my neck. “He needs a name,” I said. I stroked his smooth skin with one gentle finger.

“He does. Maybe you can think of it.” Captain rubbed my side, holding me close still.


The entire exchange was watched by Danie, which I tried to ignore. Freska had moved back over to the A.I.’s side, flicking her fingers over a portable vid. She physical made a noise. “Aha!”

“What?” Captain asked.

“As I thought. See, here and here and here.” She tapped her vid and held it out flat. The picture zoomed up, solidifying in a way I’d never seen before. More of her hologram tech wizardry. “Look at the similarities in the alien biomechanics. I have no idea what species they come from, but what bits and pieces are in Kohen’s mind and nervous system to increase his intelligence, suppress his memory, increase his compliance, all those things, are also tied in to the fiber options running through his body along the natural channels to enhance his strength.

“Now here’s Danie’s.”

The two images rose, solidified, and spun slowly side by side. There were a lot more parts in his, but there were too many that looked the same for it to be a coincidence.

“Were you made or born?” I asked him.

Danie stared at me. “Unknown.”

“Freska, what do you know?” Captain asked. “You’re magic with machines. You’re telling me this is all you have?”

She dropped into a chair at the table. “I’m going with the human body making this special circumstances.” She looked sad. Or maybe mad.

I couldn’t tell.

“What I do isn’t magic, you know. It’s skill. But he’s an A.I. He’s not a machine. He’s intelligent. Self-aware. Really self-aware. Not just some sophisticated program running algorithms and probabilities. And. He’s. Not. Talking.” That look was definitely anger. And something else I didn’t know.

Captain sat down and I took the chair next to his. He pulled it closer, and I smiled. Danie stared at us.

“Who are your makers, Danie?”



Danie blinked, those gray eyes flickering. “What?”

“Why are your makers classified?”

He opened his mouth then shut it. “I don’t… know. It’s classified.”

“Even from you? Your mind is made up of circuits and data.” Captain was calm. “They created your purpose. Hiding who they are means they don’t want that known, which must mean your purpose isn’t good. Are you evil, Danie?”

“Evil isn’t real. It’s a human construct formulated from superstition and stories.” Danie shifted.

“Are you sure of that?”

I licked my lips, stroking the synthgar. “They made me do evil things. Hurt people. Hurt myself so I could hurt people. Then they’d poke around in my head and my body and that was worse.” I put my hand down so I wouldn’t hurt the tiny creature curled against my throat. “They took away my choice, made me into something I’m not. Something I never wanted to be.

“Can you say they’ve never done that to you?” He kept staring at me, so I stared back at him, letting him see my truth. I hadn’t shared it with anyone but Lakshou and Captain. Lakshou betrayed my trust, but Captain had helped make it okay.

Danie’s throat bobbed. “My makers are…” He jerked, his head twitching. “Makers are… are…”

Freska jumped to her feet. “He does have subroutines. Look at that.” The scans she had rotating must have been live. Something on his flared orange. “Danie. I can help you. Look at that, do you see those? Those are—”

“I see them. I know. How can you h-help?”

“Let me in, Danie. It goes both ways.”

“If I say no?” His hands fisted.

“You said it before. I respected that.” She mirrored his twitches now.

“Yes,” he said roughly, his chest heaving.

She pulled him into her arms, and I stared with wide eyes. Then Freska turned and stared at the scans.

“She has biomechanical parts,” I whispered. Gold light shone around the long digits of her fingers buried in his ports.

“How else do you think she gets all things mechanical like she does? Talks to ship A.I.’s? She connects with them.”

“Like Lakshou, but with machines?” That was the second time I thought of him.

“She cannot open them without opening herself though. What she will learn of Danie, he will learn of her. It’s a two-way passage.”

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday Briefs Denied Chapter 56


“Freska. It’s good to hear from you. It’ll be even better to get out of this shuttle. Is your location secure?” Captain sat in his chair, and I sat in a chair at an unused station nearby.

“It is. It might not be for long though, sir. We’ve been pursued by Frijul’s and Elliard’s conspirators because we discovered something significant.”

“Oh?” Captain’s eyebrows rose. “And that is?”

“I’d rather tell you in person, sir.”

“You’re afraid a system you control might be intercepted or spied upon?” Captain had looked surprised before, but now he was flat out shocked. I tilted my head, watching him.

“Call it an overabundance of caution. You’ll understand.” Freska glanced sideways. “We’ll see you soon.”

The shuttle bounced through the atmosphere as we navigated through the clouds toward the surface. It wasn’t nearly as harsh as Mackinack, thankfully. My stomach was especially thankful. The shuttle’s dampeners weren’t nearly enough to compensate for those wind forces without tossing us around considering how many people and cargo we were carrying.

Nothing like heaving through the sky like a fat-bellied beast, which we’d be if the shuttle could actually bulge at the seams. We’d run into Luca who’d been good-naturedly listening to Priella complain. She’d flushed and saluted at the same time, making Luca chuckle as he lazily saluted as well. I was glad they were both in the crew that came with us, though. I’d gotten surprisingly attached to them.

“Sir, we’re here. Hail the ship so we can board?”

“I’m absolutely certain… Yes. There.” From the front viewport the ship was rapidly growing larger, filling it. A gaping hole opened in the side of the ship.

“I didn’t realize the ship Freska took was so big,” I said.

“Me either. I think she’s been making improvements.”

“To a ship?” I must have looked skeptical.

One of the crew at a station turned. “Freska can do things with metal and mechanics that are like magic.”

“Magic isn’t real.”

Captain reached out and touched my hand. A spark of our earlier resonance still clung to him, or me, or maybe it was both of us. When we touched, the aura around us flared and I could see the colors. “Oh, isn’t it?” Captain cocked an eyebrow.

“Well….” Chemicals, nerves, venom… I could quote those, but I knew what he did—there was a connection between us that defied explanation. Our age difference, the way we’d lived our lives, everything between us should’ve been a barrier, but still we were stronger and better together than apart. “Okay, fine. She can do magic.”

We were finally parked inside the ship and the pressure equalized as the airlocks opened, and we all breathed a bit easier knowing we weren’t crammed in to a virtual coffin hurtling through space. Maybe that was how all non-spacers felt.

A delegation met us as we trooped off the ship. Captain and I led the way, and after we got out of the way, several security team members trotted inside to find Deke and his captive. Freska wasn’t taking any chances apparently.

The others were taken to quarters or duty stations, but Captain and I were led to a large meeting room. Freska was standing in the middle of the room, a table with several seats ringing it between her and the door. She saluted and then stood still while Captain stood in the doorway.

Hovering behind her was a being.

Human, or humanoid in appearance, though I couldn’t see anything specifically alien about him, he seemed off to me. Perhaps it was his rigid stance, ramrod straight with his arms at his sides. The being’s pale gray eyes studied us, glittering in the low light.

“Captain Querry, I would like you to meet Danie.”


“Hello, Captain.” His voice was low, quiet, and calm. Nothing about him betrayed his nerves, which, in and of itself, was odd. And I didn’t like that he just called him captain.

“Querry,” I said. “His name is Captain Querry. And my name is Kohen.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said politely.

I stared at him. He talked like he was out of some old vid or something.

“Sorry. I’m trying to teach him better vocabulary and slang, but you know how processors are; they tend to latch on to the first thing they learn.”

Danie sighed. “I told you, I am not a processor.”

“And I told you, with the best scans I could do without a better lab. We do know your brain and central nervous system are made up on connections and fiber options.”

My mouth dropped open. “His… what, now?”

Captain stopped nearly to the table, and he swept his arm behind him to corral me closer to him. “Explain,” he demanded.

“I think we had such dedicated pursuit, not because we have Frijul, but because we have him.” She tilted her head toward Danie. “He’s what I think they were trying to make with Kohen but failed.”

“And just what is that?” My heart was racing and cold sweat dripped down my spine. The worst spilled out of my mouth, but I desperately wanted to take them back. I didn’t really want to know.

“Captain Querry, I am what is known as an A.I. My makers are going to be very angry that I am not where they left me.”

“I had to take him, Captain,” Freska said. “He was plugged in. Like… hardware. I had to know how, why.”

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