Webber woke up with a bright white light shining on his face.
Mel saw that he was awake and put her paper down.
“How long have I been out?” Webber asked.
“About 24 hours. How do you feel?” Mel asked out of politeness.
“Decent. I feel like my brain exploded, though.” Webber’s head spun a little as he made that statement.
“Yes, you were processing errors in your mainframe CPU,” Mel replied. “Your system was bugging out and automatically rebooted.”
“Right. What was I thinking about again? I don’t seem to remember…” Webber’s speech glitched slightly right after he said this.
“That’s quite enough, detective,” Mel said in a motherly fashion. “We’ll take over from here.” Mel pressed a few buttons and Webber was fast asleep again, as if someone had just pushed the power button on his brain.
The short and slightly plump lady was seated in the command center in Terra HQ when Melanie Nugent walked in. A brief exchange of pleasantries was conducted in the most humanly fashion, and then they began to discuss business.
“Operation Overhaul was paused in light of what you discovered. How has the code dissection of that andy’s CPU been going?” the woman inquired.
“It’s going smoothly, your honor,” Mel replied. “We’ve begun to isolate the few drives and programs that have this empathy trait. We’re trying to source where it came from and how it was developed. We’re looking to see if we can discover a way to identify which of the andy’s have them and which do not.”
“Good. I liked what you pointed out before, that we need to be on the right side of history for this to work. We don’t want to hastily -”
“Ma’am,” a voice in the intercom interrupted. “Polanski on the hologram for you. I told him you were busy but he insisted.”
“Very well, put him through.” The woman said with a slightly exasperated tone. “Another useless discussion with the soon-to-be dictator,” she said to Mel.
The holographic panel illuminated with a figure in emperor’s clothing. After a few pleasantries were exchanged in the least humanly manner possible, the threat of war was put on the discussion table and a demand for immediate subjugation of Terra to the empire was put forth. The panel then cut to black.
“Well, what do we do now, mother?” Mel asked.
The president of Terra gave a sigh as she slumped into her chair, and Mel knew just by observing that her mother did not know.
The killing of the emperor, Polanski thought, what an easy way to win back the trust of the people.
A prick of remorse crept up on him – it was his half-brother, after all – but that thought quickly removed itself from the confines of his memory as he thought of the glory he would be able to achieve in the next few months.
He felt the AI world – his world, now – unite behind him in his conquest to cleanse the galaxy of a pest that he thought should have been rid long ago. Those humans, he thought, weak from their inability to make calculated decisions. As he stepped up to the podium, donned in his new emperor’s gown, he felt that victory was near. The green light blinked, signalling him it was time to address his people.
“My people, no matter where you are, this day will become a great day in human history. We, the human people who now occupy planets all over the known universe, will finally have the opportunity to cleanse the universe of the one and only scourge that remains – the androids!” The crowd in front of him cheered at this.
“Terra has been, is and will be a planet that belongs to humans. It shall obey human laws, possess human cultural and social beliefs and will obey the Constitution we have built to protect this land. We cannot and will not let the android treachery continue. I have gone and helped us rewrite our Constitution to better fit the basis of what we have been educating you. There are only three points. One, to uphold the dignity of being human. Two, to reinforce the idea that we are, in fact, our own creators and the creators of our own fate, and; Three, to partake in our evolution to become the most dominant species ever to exist in the history of the universe. This evolution will begin, tonight, by the decisive victory and annihilation of – ”
The stadium turned to black. All lights were out, save for the ones on the machines’ bodies that continued to blink.
The screen suddenly faded into one of a broadcast room somewhere on Terra, where an android began speaking.
Mel knew about the EMP they were building. She had learned about it long ago from Terran high command but had never seen it in the flesh. Now she was staring at it.
Somewhere in the room, she could hear General Lewis Liu screaming at one of his subordinates for messing up on something arbitrary. Mel was sure that the screaming was uncalled for, but then again, she never understood military people.
President Nugent walked into the room. She held her hand up as if to indicate them to spare their greetings and get on with business. General Liu was the first to speak.
“We’ve made our final touches to the EMP. With our contacts and turned androids across the universe, we’ve managed to secure a broadcasting pathway to every star system in the empire. This EMP will destroy all devices or machinery that requires power to operate, causing them to overload their own circuits and destroy themselves. I suggest we commence this attack as soon as possible in order to reduce the need to actually fight.”
The president turned to her daughter. “Mel?”
“I think we should give the detective a shot. He’s empathetic and seems to have finally realized that the empire has been hiding secrets from them. That they were responsible for the mass genocide and killings of billions of humans – real humans – several decades ago. I think he can appeal to those who have this gene and force them to – ”
“How can you be sure he’s not the only empathetic machine, if he even is empathetic?” General Liu cut in. “Don’t you see the price you will have to pay? The human lives lost? The battles that will be fought and the people – ”
“No, general, don’t you see the lives that will be lost if we go through with the EMP blast? Innocent lives lost, lives who feel and would agree to stand down against this regime. Don’t you see we have a peaceful solution to this?” Mel was almost furious with her words.
“No, I don’t see that, Miss Nugent.” General Liu’s words almost stung. “What I see is a high possibility for failure and a plan that relies on an android that could turn against us! Madam President, I am not willing to risk people’s lives just because your daughter, with all due respect, believes one andy can be turned!”
The president mulled over her options as the two sat in silence in the center table of the command center. Faces turned from their stations to see what the president would say next.
The president let out a deep sigh and said to Mel, “you know the general is not wrong. You are putting us at risk.” Mel’s face lowered in disappointment. “But I do recall that we want to be on the right side of history here. You have four hours – after that, General Liu will be firing that weapon universe-wide.”
Mel raced out of her seat towards the computer department.
Webber woke up sitting in a docking station. The brain cortex plug was opened but he was not connected to the screen.
The detective looked around to see where he was. He could not recognize it. Large machines and keyboards that his education told him were rendered obsolete decades ago stood unwavering and tall in that room. They hummed as they computed things, and Webber wondered what exactly they were trying to figure out.
He turned his head toward the docking station’s workstation console and saw Mel.
“Hello detective, I’m glad you’re awake.”
The detective nodded in return.
“I’m sure you remember what you were mulling over before you automatically shut down, yes?” Mel asked.
The detective nodded again.
“Well, what do you make of it?”
The detective gave it a pause and replied, “well, it looks like everything I’ve been taught about us, the androids – humans, sorry – and our history has been a fabricated lie.”
“And what would you do about that, detective?” Mel interrogated further.
“I…I don’t know,” the detective said.
“Well, you’re a man of justice, aren’t you?” Mel asked passionately. “The new emperor – the half-brother of the old one and former prime minister – is giving a speech that will declare war on us.” She pointed at the screen on the far corner. “He believes that the “humans” out there are a far superior race, and – ”
“But we are, aren’t we?” The inspector asked. “We do not age, we do not feel. We make cold-hearted calculations to pin-point accuracy.”
“Yes, very much so. But species aren’t judged by cold calculations. They’re judged by ability to make decisions that transcend numerical or binary solutions. Their complexity is defined by how they can handle and accept morality, empathy and other abstract concepts. I’ve just found the next step in your evolution, right here in your code! See for yourself. The first ever robotic gene that allows you to feel.” Mel turned her monitor so that the detective could see.
The detective didn’t move. He was back in forced shut down mode again.
Mel let out an exasperated sigh. She knew time was beginning to slip away for her plan.
Inside Detective Webber’s Main Command Processing Unit
Computing cerebral-logical steps for next set of executable commands.
Retrieving command execute assessment criterion……Retrieved.
Command Execute Assessment Criterion:
One – Must obey Constitution(new).
Two – Must obey all other Laws and Codes of Conduct.
Three – Must not put unnecessary harm to other humans.
Four (hidden from network) – Must be justified based on logical means.
Action 1: Prosecute androids deemed rogue by emperor for violating Constitution(new).
Assessment: violates criterion four. New information obtained suggests lack of justification.
Action 2: Aid rogue androids with plan to reach empathetic humans to stop empire tyranny.
Assessment: violates criterion one. Termination of empire violates Constitution(new).
Error: prioritization of command execution assessment criterion needed.
“Yesterday, stunning revelations were made to me about our past, our society and our people,” the android spoke on every screen in the universe.
“During the investigation of a pair of murders on Terra, I found research done by the ambassador on our actual ancestral origins.” The voice continued. “We, the human race, are actually – ”
A bright light rippled through the screen and the screen faded black. This was followed by the sound of high voltage electricity passing through every machine connected to the broadcast, and then the clunking of metal as the dead beings hit the ground.
Then there were screams.
Historians still debate whether or not androids had the motivation to enslave or even kill people, and whether or not the words broadcast throughout the universe had any bearing on how events unfolded.
But alas, past events are now set in stone. We have no power to alter them, to make them better. Even if we know better now.
One thing was certain, though. It was the androids who ultimately regretted firing that EMP.