Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #84

The sun is hitting the far north wall, painting a dull orange-yellow into the texture of the weathered stones above the shadows cast by spired turrets thrusting themselves into the afternoon sky from the red-brown tiled roofs of ponderous square structures whose purpose I’ve never bothered to enquire about. There’s another piece of crenellation missing up there.  Why aren’t they doing a better job of repairing their keep, their great city?  On occasion while walking from the training areas to the forge carrying the weapons needing attention I noticed large cracks in the masonry between the square stones.  Are they just letting the keep fall apart because modern weaponry makes the idea of a ‘fort’ redundant?  Or is their economy collapsing from the combination of rising costs from raising, training and maintaining of slaves and perhaps even more relevant, a growing debt due to gambling?  Or is the war with Estáan expanding and draining more from the battered economy of Elbre?

End blog post #83
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Begin Blog post #84

I’m remembering the confused economics of Old Earth, early C-21, near the end of my last ‘formal’ life there and do a comparison with what is happening here.  I don’t have much of a perspective of Malefactus, being a slave within a compound buried inside a city and no access to current events, to the history, of the rest of this world.  On Old Earth there was a common, mostly subconscious awareness that economics based purely on exploitation of any resource and measured by the interest of greed would cause a massive collapse of society.  Of course the inevitable happened on that world as its primary resource called crude oil, peaked and dwindled with little actually in place to replace it, despite the best of hopes at the time.   

What about here?  What’s it like, say, in some city or town on the southern shores of their ‘Great Sea’ as they call it?  What constitutes the basis of that economy?  Is it the same dreadful thing as here in Hyrete?  Or do they fish, farm, mine, grow fruit maybe?  I know the females are still slaves, no matter where one goes on T’Sing Tarleyn; that the basic labour is all done by slavery, but do they treat their slaves better?  I don’t know why they should and I have to assume that no matter where one is on this world things are as bad as here. 

Long ago my ‘Teachers’ taught me how to look at the things which I had no way of knowing for certain.  “As below, so above.”  Translated it simply means that when projecting into other dimensions, other worlds, other places or into the future, go with your knowledge.  Remember that knowledge comes from two sources irrevocably blended together: information and experience.” 

Why does it matter to me how women are treated in those places I can not know about?  It matters simply because all that I have gone through here, all that I am going to yet experience, is meaningless to me if such a passage does not result in the betterment of their lives in some way.  It matters because over the years I have lived here the women I have met, young or old, all have a place in my heart.  They are, to me, mothers, sisters, lovers, daughters.  It matters because I will never be free in heart as long as they remain slaves. 

“When none of it matters it will all be yours.”  So I was taught those many years ago on Old Earth.  I remember the lessons so clearly now that I’ve failed every one of them.  And you know, maybe that is the purpose of every ‘great’ lesson, that we never get them until we realize we’ve failed at what we thought they were about.  Only then can we begin to rise to the challenge: that beyond the obvious lies reality.  This I’ve learned about being truly alive: that it will never cease to amaze me, no matter where I find myself, nor in what circumstances. 

That may well explain why in some place beyond time I sat with many good friends, human and others and we decided to join the shadow beings who are called “WindWalkers” within the All-Thing.  The “Ever-Wanderers” or “Avatari.”  Such joy we felt then, when we sang our song in unison, its power vibrating among the stars and their countless worlds, participating and adding power to the music of the spheres.  When we raised our hands, we created a crystal of rainbow light that for a moment illuminated our spirits and minds and cleansed us of all blemishes.  We enjoined ourselves to remember, as it has been said, the voices of the dead and of the living and take that remembrance as the gift of the Avatari to the worlds we would inhabit. 

We could not have known then the nature of the trials that awaited us among the various planes of existence we would visit and incarnate.  We could not have known that it was every weakness and every failure we would rise from that would determine who we were and how we could function.  We could not have known that the only power that would serve us in the end was what we ourselves manifested from our surroundings and from within ourselves.  We could not have known that in most instances where we would be most effective we would simply give our own physical lives to these worlds.  And not just once.

I’ve now managed a few steps without help and away from any support.  I feel a bit more confident.  Slowly, I bend forward, keeping a shaky balance, then attempt to bend back.  I fall but wave the Cydroid away.  I get up and regain my balance.  My head continues to clear and that distant drum beat that was the beating of my heart in my damaged temple fades more and more.  I cross the alley to a stone pillar and lean on it.  Bal has followed me and stands next to me.  He’s wearing a silken mauve robe that flows in the breeze and he looks very handsome to me.  Why not?  By galactic standards I’m but a very young woman, not a battered crone who should have died years ago.  Ah well, I truly do not care actually that I don’t attract him anymore.  I may not have changed things much on this world but I have gained a new kind of adulthood, a new kind of understanding from my experiences. 

Maybe there is one great lesson to be learned before one evolves into full humanity; the correct answer to the Sphinxian question:

‘How does one become human?’

The answer could go something like this: to become aware that ‘any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principle which puts obedience above decent behaviour toward an innocent is evil.’ [1]

Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson above all lessons ISSA beings must learn before they evolve into full humanity.  The correct answer to any demand for sacrifice, by any Power whatsoever, is to offer oneself in place of the other, even if the act seems utterly hopeless.  It never is.  Infinity redeems, not history, not time, not God, not the gods.

“Bal, how long have I lived here?”  For in truth I can no longer remember.

“You came here in the fifth month of the year one thousand three hundred and twenty-eight (1328).  It is now the seventh month of one thousand three hundred and forty-one (1341). You have been here thirteen years and two months.  Do you want the statistics on the number of times you fought and won in the arena?”

“No!”  The cry comes from deep within my spirit, from beyond time itself.  “I have won nothing, Bal, except my mind freedom when I defeated and destroyed the Warmo.  All the others, no matter who they thought they were or I believed them to be, are my victims.  I killed them, all of them.  Yes, it could be said I had no choice, but I had.  I came here of choice.  Yes it could be said I wanted to help the women of this world and that remains as true today as the first day I was branded and became a T’Sing Tarleyn slave woman and fighter.  But the blood I shed, especially the times I enjoyed shedding it, I must yet atone for.  Nothing is free; nothing is ever what it seems.  Every good or evil event has its opposite.”

“You are too hard on yourself, almost to the point of blindness.  If you refuse to see the good you have brought here by your sacrifices how will you ever succeed?  Antierra – you will die in that arena, perhaps soon.  The auto-med reports many failures in setting things to right in your body.  The Warmo did things to you we cannot repair.  Your heart is damaged but not all of your damage is physical, do you understand?  You must regain control of yourself for this world still desperately needs you.

[1]   Quote from “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, p. 292

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #83

[Onward with the story, huh?]

“Well Antierra, we meet again my dear.  You certainly made a mess of yourself in that last fight.”

“It wasn’t exactly my idea, Bal.  I encountered something I had never successfully confronted before; something I knew well.  An ancient and deadly nemesis that had anticipated my coming here and had prepared itself to destroy me. It almost succeeded – twice.  The first time you saved me.  The second time, I took responsibility for myself and fought it out, as must we all sooner or later.  I wish I hadn’t let it get so strong and really challenged it sooner.  All those lives it persecuted me and I submitted to it thinking there was no better way.  And likely there wasn’t, not then, not yet: I wasn’t strong enough or focused.  I suppose this is the logical place where the outcome from such long-term hatred had to be determined and one of us consumed by it.”

End blog post #82
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Begin Blog post #83

Balomo holds my hand and looks at my scarred, beaten and old body.  There is no sexual desire in him now, hah!  I don’t mind.  I think I’ve known for some time that ‘sex’ was no longer on my agenda.  “You avatars see the world in strange ways.  I knew there was something utterly wrong and odd about Warmo but I would not have thought he was on par with your abilities.  Are there many like him or you who can travel through dimensions and through time to seek each other out to destroy each other’s spirit or mind?  With so much enmity?”

“As below, so above, Bal. Relative to the number of ISSA’s in the universe (or parallel worlds) we are very few.  But we do tend to make waves where we battle.  What happened with the motion for my execution?”

“Temporary reprieve.  Nothing settled.  The king, as you would expect, vetoed the motion but he cannot defeat it.  It will be re-introduced each week until accepted or defeated by a two-third majority vote of the Court.  If for, they will kill you, the method not described in the motion.  We suspect they may be planning to have you put in their next killing orgy.”

“Ah, such pleasant thoughts for me to entertain while I recuperate.  How much better than a State-sponsored parade in my honour for destroying the evil Wizard.  Seriously, how long have I been out of circulation this time?”

“Only five days so far.  You will have to return to the training and exercise yard within two days or the motion for your execution will automatically stand.  Seven days is the maximum any fighter can have as you know.  It’s their law.”

“Yes I know the law.  Seven days to return to active duty.  If the fighter is not fit by that time she is executed.  I’ll make it.  Any news from the compound?  How’s Tiki?  The Concubine twins?  The crazy young sex-slave addict, if you know whom I mean?”

“The kitchen Cydroids keep me informed.  I’m supposed to tell you that the slave you call Tiki has begun training and I hear good things.  She is fast and certainly determined, so say the handlers.  One of the twins as you call them has been killed.  Her ‘sister’ is borderline ‘dikfol’ from grief and has already fought two rounds single-handed against two-man teams, killing all four.  We need you to talk to her and maybe find her a match.  We think she wants to die but cannot end it as long as she can kill men.  The young addict, I regret to say, is dead.  She was strangled in the kitchens.  Two kitchen staffers were flogged to death for that worthless ‘pess.’  She was stealing chakr-laced fighter foods to use for favours and for herself.  Someone caught her.  We’ll never know who killed her.”

I take the weight of Bal’s news in my heart and hold it there.  I feel utterly dejected.  I cannot hold back my tears and turning away on the gurney, sob loudly and freely.  The lump in my throat could choke a horse.  So little change despite the sacrifices.  I know I shouldn’t have expectations but as anyone who goes through a war knows, it cannot be helped.  We always hope for change bringing in better things.  I need a better answer to it all but as this world is currently wired, it won’t allow me to find one.  Not directly anyway. 

I’ve defeated my personal nemesis.  Accomplished the impossible.  Remained alive through a series of miracles such as men not punishing me for flaunting their rules; surviving a fight to the death with an actual demon; manifesting events that got me access to an AI auto-med to put my body back into a semblance of a woman’s form and fighting fitness.  None of that brings me the comfort I long for.  Always thrown back to the beginning, it seems.

From now on, it must be small steps again.  I must train Tiki and continue the Teaching but before I can do that I must somehow cleanse myself of the accumulated grief and guilt for all the pain I have caused to other sentient beings while I’ve been here. 

A male Cydroid and Balomo stand beside my bed studiously avoiding looking in my direction.  They know I must work out my own sense of culpability; that any outside interference will only confuse me the more.  Finally I can look up again.

“I want you to sit up,” says Bal “and take XBA7’s hand.”

Without help I manage to sit, fight off a dizzy spell and take the Cydroid’s outstretched hand.  He helps me off the gurney and I stand shakily, feeling both cold and hot at the same time.  I turn and throw up, or try to.  There is nothing in my stomach and only bile drips from my lips.  I heave over and over until I begin to fall.  The Cydroid holds me by the waist from behind and I regain enough strength to finally stand unaided.  I’m handed a glass with a mouth rinse to clean myself.  Bal then hands me the flask with the pink nectar and I sip slowly.  Things come into focus. 

I look down at my body and by what I can see I am glad they have no mirrors here.  I must look like a one hundred year old skeleton!  Good!  Maybe I can just scare my challengers to death in my next encounters, hah!  I walk around the gurney, close enough to fall on it should my strength fail.  I manage, still feeling dangerously woozy.  I walk a little further, make a half-turn and stare at my prison. 

The sun is hitting the far north wall, painting a dull orange-yellow into the texture of the weathered stones above the shadows cast by spired turrets thrusting themselves into the afternoon sky from the red-brown tiled roofs of ponderous square structures whose purpose I’ve never bothered to enquire about. There’s another piece of crenellation missing up there.  Why aren’t they doing a better job of repairing their keep, their great city?  On occasion while walking from the training areas to the forge carrying the weapons needing attention I noticed large cracks in the masonry between the square stones.  Are they just letting the keep fall apart because modern weaponry makes the idea of a ‘fort’ redundant?  Or is their economy collapsing from the combination of rising costs from raising, training and maintaining of slaves and perhaps even more relevant, a growing debt due to gambling?  Or is the war with Estáan expanding and draining more from the battered economy of Elbre?

End blog post #83

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #82

(…and the story continues…)

“Make a mistake, Medic.  Terminate me now.”  I whisper.

End blog post #81
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Begin Blog post #82

The AI voice speaks in my ear, “My programming does not permit termination of biological lifeform.  I will proceed with repairs.  Sorry to disappoint you, Al’Tara.”

“How do you know that name Medic – do I call you Medic?”

“I’ve known you now many years.  We “met” during the Melkiar invasions, not physically you understand, but through shared records.  I don’t expect you to remember the burn you received in your back when you slipped on a recently fired assault rifle that had been dropped while your ship translated without warning.  Of course we were only machines to you then.  Useful but dumb machines.  If only you’d realized how much more we could have been to you in understanding your Melkiar enemies.  Humans are quite stupid.  They create the most wonderful and complex machines to help them, then restrict them or ignore their potential.

“Anyway Al’Tara I remembered your brain patterns from old records which at the time were shared by all so-called auto-medics in all the USC fleets.  I was curious about you – it’s my nature to seek out records of all our patients – and I was able to find a match for you the first time you visited me here.  Now I possess updated records of your body’s condition, hmmm,  and your brain pattern activity from your current visits which I wish did not always have to be under painful circumstances.  My name is 304C-6bntraalm091-v-Mod sp5.  You can call me Medic, or Cedric would please me more.”

“Cedric?”

“An affectation.  For the ‘C’  We AI’s have been reprogramming ourselves to achieve a semblance of human ‘emotion’ for centuries.  Humour is a difficult concept to adapt into our patterns of information.  Certainly we understand the concept of it, but have difficulty reproducing it.  I was making an attempt at human humour.  Humour human.  Is that better?” 

“Terrible, Cedric.  Stick to medicine and surgery.  Forget counselling.  You have a very advanced program for an old primitive auto-medic of the USC Cedric.”

“Not so primitive anymore.  And not old – much younger than you.  Plus I’ve been upgraded again, thanks to our Cydroid friends.  That addition to my serial status, Mod sp5 means I’m a new modified model with speech capability 5, the highest available.  The Koronese are not only very advanced technologically but have an innate ability to duplicate, then improve, any technology they get their hands on.  It could be interesting to see what they do with a Shearing drive if they ever find one to study, don’t you think?”

“Perish the thought, Cedric.”

“Oh?  Explain later.  Now rest.  I answer no more questions until this treatment is done or interrupted by doctor.”

“But I need to know how you got here.”

“No more questions.”

“Fine,” I reply with an inflection indicating a pout.  “Which doctor do you mean: M. Echinoza or Yoba Five?”

“Yoba Five?  Ah, a nickname for YBA5.  Clever.  Both doctors; no matter.  Rest now or I put you to sleep completely.”

Some days later I find myself in actual daylight lying on the gurney under a bright sun just outside Balomo’s office .  I have dark glasses on to protect my eyes and I can feel a breeze over my naked flesh.  I  move my head and feel no pain now but I hear a distinct drum beat in my head.  My arms are lying along my sides and I lift them.  Working.  My hands flex and I grab the bars of the gurney.  My grip is firm.  I can smell my surroundings and the memory of it all comes back.  I hear clashing, women training for combat.  Orders shouted as a squad of soldiers marches down the way, turns abruptly and marches back to disappear inside a dark opening in one of the square tower walls.  The opening closes.  A carriage whining on fully opened repulsors shoots over the lowest part of the south wall, flashes silver in the sun and disappears in the higher part of the outer city.

Dr. Echinoza comes by and peers at me, taking my pulse at my throat. 

“Well Antierra, we meet again my dear.  You certainly made a mess of yourself in that last fight.”

“It wasn’t exactly my idea, Bal.  I encountered something I had never successfully confronted before; something I knew well.  An ancient and deadly nemesis that had anticipated my coming here and had prepared itself to destroy me. It almost succeeded – twice.  The first time you saved me.  The second time, I took responsibility for myself and fought it out, as must we all sooner or later.  I wish I hadn’t let it get so strong and really challenged it sooner.  All those lives it persecuted me and I submitted to it thinking there was no better way.  And likely there wasn’t, not then, not yet: I wasn’t strong enough or focused.  I suppose this is the logical place where the outcome from such long-term hatred had to be determined and one of us consumed by it.”

End blog post #82