“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.”
“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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