Cruel Sky

Cruel Sky

Mez watched the Windslipper 4 disappear from the Command screens. The data streams ended abruptly with millions of zeros trailing each other homogeneously. The humans and mimicrons gasped but their horror didn’t last long. The Jovian Commission’s Fusionjet Program had already gobbled up hundreds of mimicron pilots and eighty-two human explorers. Mez guessed they had grown accustomed to the fatalities. What they weren’t used to was the price tag for this particular launch. Tacacorp, a quasi-government outfit that operated Callisto, was seeking to gain the commission’s contract and had sunk a lot of development into their Windslipper Project.

This deficiency in empathy didn’t stop Mez feeling sadness over Natan VanWehl’s fate, a one-time colleague at the Goliath Project, a friend, and a human.

“Why do humans do this when we have mimicrons?” Mez had asked him once.

“Because it’s there, staring us in the face, challenging us, daring us one-percenters to abandon our slavery and face this nasty, sublime universe.”

With the value of human labour and life at historic lows, Mez understood why authorities had recently switched policies to allow people back into space exploration. Mimicrons, as it turned out, were more expensive and less intellectually and physically agile than homo-sapiens.

Mez ordered a copy of the data, but he’d have to wait until after the official Tacacorp briefing. Competitors received this, hours after, so Mez had to make do with what he saw on Command’s vast public screens, paying attention to the error alerts.

Forty-eight seconds of atmospheric deployment.

The fusionjets didn’t even ignite.

Less than a minute, he pondered.

This sudden cut in data meant that the Windslipper blew up as it attempted to ignite its fusionjets. The majority of missions matched the same result, each lasting only a moment inside the harsh Jovian sky. Other failures were attributed to bad deployment during atmospheric entry, or fusionjets failing to ignite, causing the aeroskaphes to plunge into the planet’s interior where it would melt and disintegrate into atoms.

Mez retired to his cubicle on the X-axis wing of Ehricke City. At 0.7 gees, the sector was considered prestigious among Galilean intenturees. Mez slept, waiting for the Windslipper mission results, hoping to get some rest before his own mission starting in forty-nine hours

The cubicle’s A.E alerted him of an incoming call. Mez jumped up, allowing the simulacrum to materialise.

“Mez Tanar,” said an executive when the simulacrum took shape.

“How can I help you?”

“My name is Jorn Equos from Tacacorp.”

“I know who you are,” Mez gave the simulacrum a frown. “Are you personally giving me the Windslipper’s results?”

“No, I’m going one better. I’m making you a proposal.”

Mez should have known better. They had poached Natan, and now the man was dead. “I already work for Goliath.”

“No, you don’t. Not as a pilot. They’re dropping humans and are now using mimicrons. I guess the cost-to-benefit ratio has poisoned their minds. Tacacorp remains firmly pro-human. We want flesh and blood to fly those things, and last I heard, you’re dying to do so? What do you say?”

Surprised by the revelation, Mez searched the Interportal for that information. The news had broken minutes after the Windslipper’s demise. “I’ve invested too many years on the Goliath’s subaerine. I can’t just flip over on a whim.”

“Subaerine,” spat Jorn. “You aren’t going to achieve buoyancy, not at those speeds. We are testing fusionjets, not dirigibles. We’ve successfully tested plenty of those. There are thousands of them down there, floating around aimlessly, with nowhere to go. I understand the principles behind what the good engineers at Goliath are trying to achieve, but it’s not going to work.”

Mez read a section about his own mission.

Postponed.

Despair and relief shredded his heart.

On one hand, his lifelong ambition to achieve greatness, to stamp his mark on human history, even if he risked death, eluded him once again. He’d attempted a bright-side crossing on Mercury, only to have it end in disaster. He climbed Mons Olympos, only the sixtieth human to do so. He applied for a sun-dipping expedition, to see how close technology could send a man into a heliosphere, but the introverted Mercurian government canned it, citing security concerns.

On the other hand, Mez knew what pending suicide missions do to one’s psyche. Akin to death row, waiting years to take on an extremely high-risk venture caused considerable mental damage and pain. Yet, the relief made Mez feel guilty.

“You’re not going anywhere,” said Jorn, “Goliath’s got you grounded. But we have Windslipper 5. Mission launches in fifty hours.”

Mez’s head swam. “I can’t fly an aeroskaphe.”

“Sure you can. You’ve been skipping in and out of Venus’s stratosphere your whole life. You’re the best pilot in the Jovian System. Flying an aeroskaphe is no different than any other Venus or Earth shuttle, except, instead of rockets, they have fusionjets, and other niggly bits, but the same nevertheless.”

“Who were you originally planning on sending?”

“Some mimicron, but then the results came in. We won’t be broadcasting the data publicly. The JC has permitted us to withhold it. The results demonstrate a breakthrough, but you need to be on board if you want to find out. That’s why we thought of you. This is looking good.”

“Wasn’t Natan VanWehl the best? And you burned him up.”

“VanWehl was second best. What do you say? Look, if you decide to do this, you’re gonna want to make the best of the next fifty hours. We can always go with a mimicron, but where’s the glory in that?”

Fear of missing out prompted him to say, “I’ll do it.”

The simulacra smiled. “Nice.”

“But only if the engineering makes sense.”

“You’ve got clearance. Meet me at our training facility when you’re rested.”

Within ten hours, Mez found himself inside the emulator, testing the Windsplitter 5. “Why so soon?” he asked.

“Tacacorp is spending whatever it takes, for obvious reasons.”

As the hours ticked by, Mez examined every aspect of the mission.

Jorn reported, “We’re increasing initial coolant pressure by eleven per cent. It’ll keep the fusionjets stable during ignition.”

“What about the aeroshell deployment,” asked Mez. “87 kilometres into the troposphere looks like the right drop, at an angular entry, aligned with wind direction, say 200, 220.”

“That’s pretty much the standard. The three-centimetre titanium aeroshell can withstand up to 20 million rads. Should keep all the A.E-controlled navigation systems from glitching.”

“What about the booster?”

Jorn paused, then said, “There’s no MHR.”

Horror purged the confidence out of Mez. “How am I supposed to reach escape velocity?”

“It’s a weight loss issue,” answered Jorn. “Don’t worry. This isn’t a suicide mission. We have dropped a metallic hydrogen rocket down to a dirigible-cluster floating on the surface. It’s operated by mimicrons, all of them survivors of failed missions. Once you achieve ‘stable flight’ with the fusionjets, they’ll deploy and attach the MHR to the Windslipper. Tested it on Venus, works perfectly. It’s all in the simulation. You still got another thirty hours.”

Feeling inspired, Mez continued working on the simulator.


“Hello, Mez.”

Mez looked up and saw Niad Seffin standing on the platform outside. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” he told her.

“You’re an indentured subject of Goliath Enterprises,” said the CEO. “And you are in breach of your contract.”

“What use am I to you now?”

“That’s beside the point,” Niad answered.

“That is the point. What are you going to do? Slug it out with Tacocorp? Go right ahead.” Mez knew a legal tussle with the Callisto government would take resources and time, and he only needed a few hours. She could use force, but Goliath, despite its moniker, was terribly outgunned by the space-mining conglomeration.

“Let me remind you, that all operational data is the property of Goliath Enterprises.”

“We don’t need your data,” shouted Jorn from the control room. “And your ex-hotshot pilot is right, go right ahead.”

“Why did you shut me down,” Mez asked her.

“To put an end to this one-percenter madness,” said Niad. She leaned over and spoke under her breath. “We have solved our mimicron problem.”

“That still doesn’t help me, does it.” Mez knew she had a close relationship with Natan VanWehl, but he didn’t expect his death would have clouded her decision making. He wondered what motivated her, but time was running out. “Where’s the second drogue parachute?” he called out as he waited for CEO Niad Seffin to leave.

“There’s only one drogue chute,” explained Jorn when Niad finally retreated from the platform. “We need to hit the atmosphere harder, to ignite the fusionjets earlier.”

It made sense. Goliath had been creeping back impact pressure in the last three missions, with incremental success. Jupiter’s winds were harsh; it’s ice ammonia clouds, brutal. Easing the fusionjets into ignition was a logical conclusion.

When launch time arrived, Mez spent the remaining hours meditating, his mind still wondering why his ex-boss would take such an emotional stance.

“It is time for launch,” said the Command’s A.E. “Good luck.”

Mez sealed his titanium mesh suit and entered the Windslipper 5. The aeroshell closed around him as he waited for the countdown to begin. With not too much fanfare from Ehricke City Command, the Windslipper launched from Galileo’s Gate. It sped into the darkness, emerging from Ganymede’s shadow to face the king of the solar system. Mez noticed the radiation levels rise. The Windslipper picked up speed to about 40 kilometres per second. Maz wished he could see the gas planet with the naked eye instead of relying on fragmented visuals from sensors under constant subatomic particle attack.

Cocooned for the next thirty-six hours, Mez ran further simulations, particularly the critical atmospheric deployment of the aeroskaphe. Next on his critical list, were the fusionjet ignition procedures.

As the Windslipper edged nearer to Jupiter’s exosphere, Mez noticed the radiation spike again. This, he knew, was the last radiation belt he would endure. He hoped the titanium mesh, its crystalline structure, would be enough to protect the majority of cells inside his body. Mez touched the hundred-millimetre thick helmet shielding his head.

The drogue parachute deployed.

Radiation, he thought.

The Windslipper went into rapid deceleration.

Mez recalled a secret Goliath research program regarding how radiation disturbed the neuronetic brains of mimicrons, causing errors of judgement, memory loss, and even delusions. The real reason behind why humans were allowed back into the program, was due to the high dysfunction rates of mimicrons. This data was never released publicly, Goliath wanting to use it as an advantage over the competition. Instead, they lobbied the Jovian Commission to lift the ban on human pilots.

At Mach 50, Windslipper 5 slammed into the troposphere, with a peak deceleration of 304 gees. The aeroshield lost half of its total mass before it prepared for deployment.

And here I am, he thought, relying on a bunch of stranded, brain-damaged mimicrons to get the MHR’s to me.

He glared at the distorted visuals, praying that the fusionjets work, so he could at least get a chance to see a glimpse of Jupiter’s unforgiving, merciless sky.

*first appeared on Wattpad

Proxathlon

Agent Nasani felt the impact on her chest. The freefall suit could withstand a beating, but the human catapult formed by Team Artemis smashed Nasani so hard her weightless body was sent back to the periphery.

Thirty seconds.

The crowds standing on the arena’s inner surface went into a frenzy. The Proxima supporters counted down the beats as Nasani gasped for air, waiting for Coach Sklep to fly closer. Sliding up her faceplate she yelled, “I can’t get to the centre.”

Sklep clasped her by the biceps. “Suspect’s tissue sample came back positive.” The dread in his eyes confirmed her worst fears.

Phero Virus.

Genetically engineered to wipe out a society, the bio-weaponised retrovirus attacked the neural system, incapacitating healthy humans within days, rendering them brain-dead within weeks. Stubbornly airborne, mutatious and deployed during the Great Solar War, Nasani knew of this virus’s capacity for devastation from studying the glorious Proxima Capital Archive. Judging by her senior agent’s dismay, this banned pathogen seemed to have caught the PSS off-guard. “We believe the entire Artemia team’s been infected.”

“Then stop the tournament,” yelled Nasani.

Nasani and Sklep look down towards the core, just in time to witness the first proxathlete make it into the valve.

“Impossible now,” Sklep said as he shoved Nasani back into the spherical arena. “Do everything you can to stop them.”

Nasani plunged back into the sporting void, reassessing her game plan. Social infiltration now redundant, her assignment as an information extractor had changed to that usually assigned to the Assassination Corp. Nasani hailed her Proxima team members who immediately flew to her vicinity. They were followed by members of Team VEMA, her counterpart leading the way.

“What’s happening?” asked Charleston, a spy from VEMA.

“No time to explain,” she yelled. “I need to get through to the next stage.”

Players from both teams agreed; few knew what the stakes were, most wanting to win the prestigious Proxathlon.

“Offensive catapult formation,” cried her teammate.

“No,” yelled Charleston. “With both teams colluding, we’ll be disqualified.”

With time bleeding away, Nasani glared at the spy, “I don’t give a roid’s ass if we get disqualified. Get me through that valve.”

Charleston winked back at her, “Ladder formation. Perfectly legal. Get there faster.”

The Proxima and VEMA teams dispersed, using the clasp and swing manoeuvre, and each other’s centre of gravity, to haul towards the arena’s centre. Once passing the halfway zone, the red freefall suits representing the VEMA, joined up to form a human rope. Team Proxima, with their green suits, formed a spearhead, using it to barrage through a defensive phalanx put up by Team Jupiter.

As the scattered bodies grabbed each other to form clusters, Nasani began climbing the human rope, pulling herself from body to body, irrespective of colour, each leap increasing her velocity. Once she felt her momentum reach a potent speed she let go and dove towards the valve. As soon as she made contact, Nasani positioned her body into the chamber. The valve, positioned in place by two structural tubes running along the arena’s polar axis, hissed with escaping air. Nasani braced as a jet of air flushed her into the northern tube. She knew she was able to breathe, but she held her breath the entire twenty-second trip. Suddenly, she panicked, realising she forgot to activate her suit’s pressurisation, but when deep space greeted her, no alarm systems threatened her.

Automatic, she remembered.

Nasani looked up at the purple planet. Her brain alerted her that she was in fact upside down. No matter how expert in antigravity sports, ground, however far, always felt like down. Even the Xenopis Sports Arena, orbiting gracefully around Proxima, couldn’t compete with the sheer eminence of a planet.

A circular platform surrounded her, graced with rocketbikes, each sporting the colours of all the competing nations. Fifteen states were represented at the Three Hundredth Olympiad. Thirteen from the far-flung Solar Realm. One from the Alpha Centauri Protectorate. And to celebrate the trinarium the games were given to Proxima to host. The political machinations behind these Proximalympics kept them all employed, but Nasani believed that these same forces also threatened her homeworld.

Stage two, she thought.

As officials assisted her to her rocketbike, she noted the five that had already launched, three of which were Artemidean.

The Astropolis of Artemis, a breakaway state from the Asteroid Federation, was a known hotspot for all dissidents, outlaws, and unaligned corporations; its economy depended on it. When the government of the Venus-Earth-Mars Alliance presented intelligence to the Proxima Secret Service, that the Hades Syndicate were planning to destabilise relationships between the Solar Realms and the ex-colony, a mutual partnership formed. Neither side trusted one another, but the Hades Syndicate had proven deadly to both nations.

The use of mass extinction weapons had also elevated the threat to a higher level.

Nasani launched her rocketbike, holding on to the controller, not wanting to fall off the glorified torpedo. Used by miners, these were ideal for manoeuvring around asteroids. It took great skill to fly trans-asteroid, hence its development into a sport. She’d practised this extensively, though she doubted she could complete a circuit in good time. Her competitors, most likely born and bred on the Solar Belt, would arrive at the last stage before she could get within killing range.

At the first waypoint, one Artemidean circled back and made an attempt to tackle Nasani, who was too busy calculating a trajectory that would accelerate her past the prox-moon, Tuomi. The Artemidean nearly intercepted her, coming within metres. Instead, he fell back losing momentum and time. The PSS would eventually pick him up.

“Stuff the Proxathlon.”

It occurred to her, given that winning a palladium star wasn’t for the taking, that she could simply bypass the waypoints.

Proxima is thought to have been slingshot to its current orbit by its rival, a Neptunian-sized planet christened Voutes. All of Proxima’s four small moons were considered hitchhikers during the planet’s long migration from the system’s outskirts. Proxathletes must encounter these small moons, using their weak gravity to execute a tight flyby, before they can move on to stage three.

Nasani corrected her trajectory to fly below the prox-moon, Shapley. The record was under a prox-hour so she hoped to cut the leader off within ten minutes.

“You missed your waypoint,” said a voice via her commset.

Dixon.

“It makes no sense, what you’re doing?” she said, tracking the remaining Hadian terrorists.

“To you, yes,” replied Dixon. “I expect as much.”

Nasani wondered why the Artemideans were keeping to the route. Then she noted two blips changing course. Until that moment, the syndicalist’s were maintaining their subterfuge, but now the duo headed lower, toward the purple glow of the atmosphere, passing the orbital city of Amanta.

Nasani eased the rocketbike downward, hitting point zero eight megameters per prox-hour.

She arrived at the last waypoint, a low orbit station, docking at one of the jump platforms. The two rocketbikes were already being collected by the proxathlon crews.

“It’s not an easy thing to lose your home,” said Dixon. She spotted the white diving exo-suit standing near the edge opposite the circular platform. Proxima filled the void beneath, with her crimson clouds swirling across the horizon and lavender mountain ranges scaring the terminator line. Nasani understood what Dixon meant. Even if the Proxima Capital Archive was inherently biased, she knew well that the history of Proxima’s early colonisation was steeped in treachery. The Pluto Nova Consortium that first reached and explored the Proxima Centauri system was illegally upstaged by refugees fleeing the devastating aftermath of the Great Solar War. The PNC fought them for a century but they could not compete with refugees who were backed by the old-world states. Defeated, the PNC degenerated into a quasi-terrorist outfit. They controlled a vast segment of trans-Neptune trade but have never let go of their right to claim Proxima Centauri.

“You will be murdering thirty million people. Do you value some long lost exploration covenant over so many lives?

“Stopping me won’t change a thing.” Dixon dove off the platform and plunged into the mauve haze. Nasani floated into the airless capsule and raided the space diving exo-suits.

Something moved above her.

She knew how to react. Nasani grabbed the Xinuflux helmet and swung it, pressing her whole body against the bulkhead to exert as much force as she could. The head-gear struck the assailant on the faceplate. Instead of shattering, the glass recoiled, pounding against the assailant’s face. The blood splatter obscured the proxathlete’s vision, allowing Nasani to disable the respiratory system. She didn’t need to finish off the Hades operative, a quick death was assured. Nasani instead focussed on getting the diving exo-suit on.

She then scavenged the capsule for an energy pack, a 500UI, and rigged it by short-circuiting its contact terminals. Carrying the homemade time bomb, Nasani hopped back outside to the rocketbike waiting to be collected by the robox-arm. She deactivated the lock and launched it, unmanned, out into the void, only to pause a moment before she too stepped over the edge.

Space-diving was jovially considered one of the safest sporting activities known to man unless one contemplated space-diving a gas giant. The sport proved most popular with many Proxii, having become a national sport during the past two hundred and eighty years since independence.

Problem being, she’d never space jumped before.

Small propulsion jets sent Nasani towards her homeworld. She used minute air-friction to fly to the unmanned rocketbike, coaxing it down with her. Within minutes, Nasani and the rocketbike were picking up speed as gravity began its deceivingly gentle tug.

Her eyes focused on the mauve vista in front of her, a colour palette due to the red dwarf star burning behind her. Tidally locked, Proxima always had one hemisphere facing the sun. She could spot the massive canyons and deep crevasses dominating the planet’s near-side, a geological feature due to tectonics driving the crust towards the far-side, a forever dark and frozen region interspersed with titanic volcanoes.

Nasani saw the shiny reflections of human habitation and contemplated that, if Proxima hadn’t such an active surface, life on it would have been impossible, the PNC mission would have failed and the Great Solar War would have proved a colossal disaster for humankind.

A small white dot, Dixon, tumbled into the stratosphere. Nasani used the rocketbike to speed up and get within spitting distance of him. She felt the energy pack heating up and knew it would explode soon. Once she reached a distance of a kilometre, Dixon turned to intercept her. Instead of slowing, as she intended, Nasani sped up even faster, figuring that the rocketbike could double as a weapon.

She aimed for his centre mass.

There was nothing Dixon could do to avoid being slammed. The collision may have killed him, but Nasani knew the diving exo-suit would preserve the Phero Virus. She pulled his body to the free-falling rocketbike and strapped it to the fuselage. Then she shoved the energy pack into the exo-suit and pushed herself away.

Her own exo-suit began vibrating, indicating that the sound barrier had been broken.

Alarms blared in her helmet.

Time to think about parachutes, she thought and deployed them.

The rocketbike exploded nearby, creating a meteoric plume of smoke.

Within a few seconds, the drogue parachute ended her free-fall. Nasani guided her descent towards the Sea of Cassiopeia, a geographical feature most elementary students could identify.

She made splashdown at the centre court of the Proximalympic Watersports Venue, her exo-suit floating to the surface swiftly after. Multiple tournaments were underway. Thousands of spectators crowded the flotillas and terraces. A squad of officials rode the waves towards her. When they got within earshot they yelled at her, “You’re disqualified.”

Nasani smiled and looked up at the dark crimson, almost black sky. The sight of the pink sun, its two sister stars and four small moons comforted her.

Entry into the Wattpad Scifi ‘Proximalympics‘ Challenge

first published Wattpad

The Sargasso Void

To his chagrin, I volunteered straight away.

Emmetrius wanted nothing else but to lay low and wait this out. Stranded fifty megaparsecs away from civilisation, I couldn’t understand his logic. I guess he didn’t trust me one bit, believing I would make some pointless attempt to escape his custody.

“It’s your fault,” I told him. “You’re the one who wanted to take a shortcut through the Sargasso Void knowing they had a 35 per cent failure rate.”

Travelling through intergalactic voids was a faster way of getting somewhere, especially when going between superclusters. But if something interfered with your galaxy-ship, such as a strong gravity wave, and forced it to gain inertia, then you’re stuck out there without a catapult. That’s why most galactic shipping traverse waypoints along populated cosmic filaments. Sure, it took a few hundred years to get from the Tarentum Gates to the Andromedean String, stopping and starting at a hundred or so catapult stations, but for some immortals, this felt like a tedious endeavour. Emmetrius was not a patient enforcer, nor did he enjoy intergalactic travel. To him, all civilised systems were the same. Made no sense for an enforcer whose business was to go out to these remote regions of the cosmos and bring rebels like me to justice.

“Now we’re going to spend the rest of our lives in some sterile galaxy with nothing but pirates and castaways for companionship.” I stuck it to him, mostly to beguile him into a false sense of security.

The dim brown dwarf, known as The Rogue, orbited a lonely, unnamed void galaxy. When we arrived, we joined the hundreds of stranded galaxy-ships mingling amongst the asteroids which ringed the failed star. Many of these were lifeless hulks. Others were turned into junkyards and industrial stations. The vessels that were still in good shape were clustered in low orbit around The Rogue. These castaways were locked in a ten-thousand-year war with pirates who’ve settled the tubular galaxy below. These pirates poached anything that ended up stranded in the Sargasso Void. They were busy building their own civilisation, whilst the castaways were busy building a catapult. No one in the known cosmos knew of this place and these pirates wanted to keep it that way.

“You seriously think you can take on these pirates?” he grumbled. “Salvaging that sub-cruiser won’t be easy.”

“Why do you think you’re taking me back?” I asked him.

“To be punished. You are going to be imprisoned for a long, long time. Until the end of the universe.”

“I singlehandedly conquered the entire Santerxis Galaxy, that’s nine hundred outposts. I am not being dragged back to be punished. I’m being forced back to do this again on some other far-flung outpost. I am older than you think. You have not been completely informed about my skillset.”

“Why help them if you don’t want to go back? Besides, there’s no way they can build a catapult, not with this level of technologic capability? Not in another ten thousand years.”

“I understand that.”

Emmetrius looked at me, aghast at my audacity. “You scheming miscreant.”

Entry into Striking13.com’s flash fiction contest. “Theme is, journeys”

first publiched on tablo.io.

The Robocaust

I once bought a novel, Robopocalypse (2011) by Daniel H. Wilson, at an airport bookstore for a fast, time-killing read and while I wasn’t totally disappointed with it, it left me once again tackling the question about this robocalypse that everyone is fearful about.

As for the book itself…

It’s about robots taking over the world.

The narrative unfolds via the use of archives of electronic media recordings chronicling the fall of human civilization at the hands of this belligerent AI named, Archos R-14. Each chapter is or tries to be inventive in finding a unique point of view, ie surveillance cameras, blogs written by characters, making the book perfect for killing time on long flights, vacation interludes, stopovers. This format, linked short stories from different perspectives, allow the reader to pick up the novel at any time without losing too much of the flow. It’s a mindless activity facilitated by minimal creativeness or inspiration within the pages.

Related image

The chief nemesis was a major letdown. Archos felt bland, a cliche of all the other cliches before it. When one is familiar with other maligned A.I’s like Proteus (Demon Seed by ‎Dean Koontz) and Bomb #20 (Dark Star by John Carpenter) and the “the Zookeeper” from (Ghostwritten by ‎David Mitchell), yeah and of course HAL, and how can I forget the robots and AI’s that populated the (Fred Saberhagen’s Berzerker series), one can’t help but feel that a big opportunity was lost here. I found Archos predictable and boring and somewhat unthreatening. Which is sad, because the rest of the writing here was otherwise fun and enjoyable, and the premise even more so.

Image result for Bomb #20 (Dark Star
Bomb 20 – Dark Star (1974)

Same with all the robots. Sure they were all kinda spooky and frightening acting as representations of Archos but none had their own personality. Robots should have personality; even the dodgy B1 battle droids from The Phantom Menace possessed some personality. Another missed opportunity. As for the human character’s; the testimonies and transcripts felt a little unnatural.

Still, a good airport novel, and even though it was the only scifi book in the airport newsstand it was worth the buy.


Four Steps from Robogeddon

So an artificial intelligence wants to wipe out human civilisation. I believe this is highly unlikely that such an entity would go down this path, but let’s just say Archos did decide to do it. The book describes, in great detail, how it would instigate and execute such an eradication program. But before we even get to that stage, what technological environment would Archos R-14 require to be able to embark on such an operation

https://kandiliotis.com/2015/02/28/artificial-sentience/

For any robocaust to occur, the following parameters must be met before some ‘sentient’ artificial intelligence can instigate the rise of machines.

Self-Programming

An artificial intelligence must be able to modify or reprogram itself, and keep this ability and subsequent modifications secret or hidden from human engineers.

Proliferation & Dependence

The communication and operating system within the global infrastructure must be unified. Every chipset must run on the same platform that the artificial intelligence can access. Every single human network must depend on this universal platform.

Backdoor Mesh

The artificial intelligence must be able to create backdoor access into every human system, integrate it into its own communications mesh, and be able to conceal this from humanity.

Design and Production

The artificial intelligence must have overwhelming control over design and production. It must create generations of machines with hidden capacities and dupe humans into using them and the new systems they operate in.


It will be our laziness that will ultimately allow such a malevolent cyber-entity to get away with such an operation. Our desire to automate everything and future economic model will push us towards such a scenario.

We won’t only be handing over physical labour to these things, but also our creativity. Algorithms will be able to design and create independently. They will be designing new (but bland) architecture, products; they will also be able to write books :(.

In the begining, we will be specifying to these artificial creatives what we need and want.

But in the end, with algorithms already telling us what news, food, travel or content we want, constantly telling us ‘you might like this… ‘ and getting it right, then all human labour will vanish into history, forcing our political/economic paradigm to evolved to accommodate this new state of humanity.

Under these conditions, Archos R-14 can achieve its goals. Or at least cause a major extinction-level headache.

First Planet Candidates Discovered by Planet Hunters

It’s not every night you stumble across something on the internet that is as bizarre as being officially acknowledged for helping to find an exoplanet. I enrolled with Planet Hunter years ago (around 2011), and dabbled for fun picking out images that may indicate the presence of a planet orbiting a star. Easy stuff really.

Looks like we found two exoplanets, detected by amateur astronomers using the Planet Hunters’ Zooniverse project.

The first planetary system, KIC 10905746 hosts at least one planet. KIC 10905746 b is a Super-earth planet 2.5 times larger than earth, orbiting the 13th magnitude M-type star, which is located in Cygnus constellation 500 light years away.

The second is KIC 6185331 b, an extrasolar planet, 7.9 times larger than the Earth, orbiting 15th magnitude star KIC 6185331, which is located in Lyra constellation 4784 light years.

Both exoplanets have tight fast orbits around their stars (orbits are 9.88 and 49.8 days respectively) so they’re pretty inhospitable. Hopefully, more data would reveal more planets with longer and wider orbits in these systems because now I have to include these two in a space opera if I get to writing one.

More Info:

This Universe Wants To Kill You

Why are punters so afraid of nuclear technology? Is it the technology? Is it the nuclear? This is as puzzling to me as modern politics and economics.

It makes no sense. This fear.

We exist in a universe that is constantly creating and destroying. Life is spawned from all this violence, and threatened by it. Life has to combat disease, superstorms, earthquakes, meteor impacts, supernovas, gamma-ray bursts and that is just the natural world. The human world is even deadlier.

Continue reading “This Universe Wants To Kill You”