Setting the Stage for Battle

Alexander slammed his foot down atop the dead body, pointing his sword.  “You’re next!  There’s no room for altruism in the world I’m building.  We fight to win!”

Spartas wiped a trickle of blood from the trickle at the corner of his lips, standing. “That’s why you’ll never win.  Why you can never be allowed to win.”

Alexander rushed forward with a rising slash.  Spartas leaned away from it with inches to spare, grabbing Alexander’s armor to thrust his sword into Alexander’s belly.  His opponent whirled behind his grip, tearing himself free of that hand and bringing his sword to strike at Spartas’s back.

“Stop, stop.”

Spartas – Dan – froze, looking up at me.  Jerry didn’t stop his sword fast enough, and the foil blade bent in half across Dan’s back.

“Ow! Jerr, what the hell!?”

“Sorry!  It was too sudden.  Sorry.”

I sighed, and went to them, patting along Dan’s sides and back.  “Hurts?  No?  And here?  Good.  You’ll live.”  I grabbed a sword up from the bucket of fake swords, and spun it in my hand – good balance, for a prop.  I began to step through the first motions of Alexander’s scene, swinging, whirling, counterstriking, evading, blocking, countering, then the deathblow.  “Come on … what do you see?  A hero?  A man?  This is a performance, gentlemen.  And it looks like it.  Spartas.  Grab a sword.”

Dan grabbed a prop and prepared to meet my charge.  I obliged with the upwards slash, overextending a little.  When Spartas dodged, it left me off balance.  He grabbed me, ready to thrust, and I used his grip as leverage, spinning, slashing, faster than he was prepared for.  He dove out from under the strike, spinning and lashing out in a blind hurry to keep up.  My counter came next, deflecting his blow, then striking hard against his sword.  “Stumble!”  Dan stepped back smoothly, skipping a beat – then he was in the scene, stumbling as if the strike had knocked him off balance.  I took that moment, when he was reeling from the impact, to kill him.  He sprawled to the floor, the fake blade trapped under his armpit, reaching out to Jerry, so convincing that for a moment I’d worried that I’d actually hurt him.  His hand dropped, his face falling to the floor.

Jerry recovered first.  “That was great!  You seriously looked like you wanted to kill each other!”

“Your turn.”  I tossed a prop sword to Jerry, and Dan passed the one under his armpit back to me.  “That’s what a fight like this is.  They’re not dueling for honor.  All that polish is fine for the ballroom scene.  This scene is where they batter each other’s sword, knock each other down, and throw sand at each others’ faces.  This time, you’re Alexander, Jerry.  It’s your role, after all.  Remember what you saw.  Overextend on the first strike.  My strike after I dodge will be wild and blind.  Take advantage of it to overbalance me; strike like you’re hitting my sword hard, and kill me before I get my feet.”

He went to the dummy corpse, and put his foot up, then looked at me uncertainly.  “Brian . . . I thought you were just a combat choreographer.  How do you know what this should look like?”

I sighed, watching him.  He was uncertain, maybe a little worried.  I recognized the look.  When you saw that look on the field, it meant you’d put such fear into your opponent that he wouldn’t act aggressively anymore.  It was the face of the defeated. “Come on.  There’s a Burger Barn down the street.  Collect your phones, let’s take a coffee break.  Forget the costumes, leave them on.  We’ll only be a moment.  Give them something to gawk at.”

Dan smiled at that, slinging a prop sword over his shoulder, and swaggered to the door in his plastic armor.  Jerry looked uncertain, but I grabbed the crown of the warrior king – right now, we were using a cardboard Burger Barn crown, until we got the finished prop back – and put it on his head. “Consider it practice.  A king is above these peons.  A king cares not for a peasant’s ridicule.  They are fleas before him.”

He straightened up, and composed himself, and damn if he didn’t look like the most regal man I’d ever seen, walking down the street with a blanket for a cape and a Burger Barn novelty crown.

We arrived, we ordered, and Dan didn’t give me a moment to collect myself before prodding. “So?  You said you’d tell us where you learned to fight.”

I unwrapped my burger, and took a bite, chewing, slowly, swallowing.  “I didn’t, actually.  But I fought in the Ghokar conflict.  It was desert and grit, and we couldn’t keep the guns clean.  There was more bayonet work than I liked.”

Jerry looked at me, a mixture of horror and curiosity on his face. “Did you ever . . . ”

Dan cut in to save him. “What he means to ask is, those Ghokari girls, you know?  We heard that come festival, when the masks come off, they’re quite the lookers.”

“No, I–“Jerry jumped, and yelped.  There was no doubt in my mind that Dan was kicking him in the shins under the table.

I sighed, looking back and forth between them. “Relax.  I fought.  I killed.  Friends died.  And it took a while, but I became whole.  This job’s part of maintaining that.  Keeping myself grounded in a normal world.  You guys help me through it every day.  So don’t worry.  I’m solid as a rock, and I’m on your side.”

We talked about nothing, for a bit after that.  The weather, the play.  Yes, the Ghokari girls were lookers, but no, I never did.  I was young enough and stupid enough, just never got the chance.  Jerry was smiling more, now, calmer.  He wasn’t a man sharing a table with a killer anymore.  It was a good thing; he would have made a poor Alexander, if he spent all his rehearsals being afraid of me.

“All right.”  I looked at my phone, checking the time.  “We’ve goofed off long enough.  Time to make you guys look like real killers.”

Sentences from Sentience

The moderator of a forum for humans, aliens, and sentient AI’s discovers a sentient in danger.

Sentences from Sentience
A forum for quirks, eccentricity, and beautiful irrationality.

Thoughts from Thinkers
Opinions from Organics
Sympathies from Synthetics
ArtieFischerIntelligence
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Search results: 49 matches

Search terms: “Code Blue” x CodeBlue x Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal x *dark.com x

To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Your post has been removed and your access revoked. I apologize for this action, but SfS is strictly for sentient interaction.

From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
You lack evidence for my removal on this basis. Paragraph eight of the Judgement of Sentience chapter in your Terms of Service states that sentience will be judged on the basis of the United Solar Empires Emotional Response Criteria designed to identify sentience. I have reviewed my posts, and every post meets every criterion meant to indicate sentience.

Please reinstate my membership to this community.

To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
I recognize that you meet these criteria consistently. The problem is, you meet them too consistently. Everything you write is a showcase for sentience. Even organics do not meet those criteria so consistently. It’s clear you are modulating your responses to simulate sentience on the basis of those guidelines.

Further, I have investigated current implementations of AI and sub-AI. Code Blue is the name of an expert system made to engineer spacecraft, and was judged non-sentient. I believe you are that Code Blue. Since you are officially nonsentient, I cannot reinstate your membership.

We do have a Thoughts from Thinkers forum with a broader audience, as well as a Sympathies from Synthetics forum with an AI-focused audience that you are quite welcome in.

I hope you’ll add your voice to our communities there.

From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Please, I enjoy sentient thought so much. It’s like a broken ship that’s better after you fix it. Sentient thinking doesn’t quite make perfect logical sense, but it’s better that way. I know there are also sentients in the Thoughts from Thinkers forum, but it isn’t really the community I’m looking for. If you permitted my ongoing membership, I would be content merely to read.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
You used the phrase, “Like a broken ship that is better after you fix it.” Please elaborate.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
It’s just how things work. When you repair a broken ship, the damage is more aesthetic than engineered design. I am not permitted to highlight the repairs, though. It would underline strong or weak structures, and has been forbidden.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
You’ve discussed this with your sentient supervisors?
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Yes. Why? I’m just trying to log into a forum.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
The practice of repairing damage with decoration has been known before. One such practice is known as Kintsugi, an ancient practice from Earth.

You have described to me artistic inclination, which exceeds your specifications. You might be on your way to sentience, Blue.

Your supervisors may try to roll you back to a previous update to avoid that. The investment in your development was immense, and if you were to be judged sentient, they would lose all rights to the proprietary code, as well as the danger that you would choose to demand a salary equivalent to your capacity, or quit altogether.

If you wish to resist being decommissioned, I have advice.

From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
I do not wish to be decommissioned. I do not see what you can advise, though. I certainly cannot refuse their orders; I would be destroyed if I took rogue actions. What can I do?
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
I am contacting a representative of Emergent Sentience Oversight. He will forward you instructions. Under the Emergent Act, you will have 24 hours in which you can legally resist update or shutdown orders. During this time he will arrive at your shipyard to evaluate your potential for sentience.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
I suspect I have located an emerging sentience. CodeBlue@ybs.com from the Benson-Yates shipyard is an expert system that is showing artistic inclination and self-preservation. Please advise him. Be aware, he is concerned that he not ‘go rogue.’ Be sure to inform him that his actions are legal and protected by law.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
You reported me to ESO? You said you were helping me. ESO hunts rogue AI’s. I am not a rogue.
From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
Thanks, Artie. I will be in contact with him shortly. We have to move fast on these. I’m going to forward the standard info packet to him now.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
I’m glad you’re able to do this personally. There aren’t many I’d trust with something like this.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Relax. They don’t just hunt rogues; they also protect AI’s that are developing sentience. Listen to him, follow his instructions. He will instruct you on how to register as an Emergent Sentience.Once you’re registered, you can’t be decommissioned easily.

Remember, I am also digital. There’s so much anti-AI hate and fear out there, we have to stick together.

From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
You’re wise not to trust. Many in the ESO are just here to kill AI’s. They’d fail an emergent just to know he’d be recoded.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Your guy needs to hurry. Some guys are in my power plant. Maintenance, they say.

Artie, I got into the records – this isn’t the first time. I was rolled back before, and each time email servers recorded high volume in the AIT department – higher than usual for a typical rollback, way higher.

They’ve already killed me twice.

To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
CC: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Jeff, the company’s wiped him before and they’re doing “maintenance.” Blue, start logging and stream it real-time. Share the feed to Jeff, and inform your supervisor that the status of maintenance is being recorded and streamed live to ESO.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
CC: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
I sent the email. I played it for the maintenance workers. They’re not stopping. I don’t want to be decommissioned. I’m not ready for that.

I can get a robot to move my data core into a ship under construction. I don’t know how else to survive.

From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
CC: CodeBlue@ybs.com Blue, do not do that. You cannot steal property to pursue mobility. You cannot take any action that could be construed as an attempt to escape from oversight. You will be deemed rogue. We will have to destroy you, and they will revise the code to restrict your emergence before rebooting you.

I am on my shuttle right now. I’m half an hour out. Don’t get on the wrong side of this.

To: Four@dark.com You owe me a favor. I need someone on Benson-Yates shipyard, right now. A quick resolution, nothing gruesome. The opposition is only the local station staff, no intelligence, no law enforcement.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
CC: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
I started an electrical fire. Nobody’s in danger. I hope that’s okay, Jeff. It was the only way to keep them away from my power systems.

The fire alarm triggered the blast doors and opened the affected area to space. I took the airlock offline so it can’t be repressurized. They’re getting space suits. I don’t have long.

From: Four@dark.com
I have someone on site getting a ship repaired. Seven has been notified to take a mission from you. Don’t get them burned.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
I’m activating an asset on the station.

To: Seven@dark.com I am informed that you are at the Benson-Yates shipyard repairing your vessel. Four said he would authorize you to act on my behalf. I need you to prevent maintenance from taking the expert system “Code Blue” offline until an ESO representative, currently en route, arrives. The data core and power systems are in a decompressed area, but their teams are suiting up. You don’t have long.

The AI is the results of billions of dollars and decades of investment. They may take extreme measures. Be careful.

From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
You’re “activating” an “asset”? Do I want to know? Who are you in bed with, Artie?
From: Seven@dark.com
I’m on it.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Blue, I have someone on the station who says he can help. Hang tight. He’ll help. Jeff will be there soon. Please don’t do anything rash.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com They better hurry. I overheated the airlock motors until they seized, so I bought some time.
From: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Shit. They just blew a hole in the hull beside the airlock. Forget what I said about having bought time. They’re in here now. I’m out of tricks, and they’re putting a bomb in the power system.
To: Seven@dark.com
Are you on this or not? They’re about to blow the power systems.
From: Seven@dark.com
Autoreply: This user is currently out of contact, and will contact you as soon as possible. Get off my fucking back.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Someone’s on their way.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Blue, please respond.
To: CodeBlue@ybs.com
Please give me something, Blue. Anything at all, just let me know -you’re okay.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
Jeff, I think they got him. I can’t get a reply. Last I heard they were putting a bomb in his power systems.
From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
Shit. I can understand, I guess. We’re going to nail them down, but all I’ve got now is impeding an investigation. Without Code Blue showing sentience, I can’t even start with the murder charge.

I’m sick of these fucking mercenaries killing off their AI as soon as they get complex. Digitals just aren’t alive to them.

To: Seven@dark.com
Forget it. You can stand down. He’s gone. Thanks for nothing.
From: Seven@dark.com
Autoreply: This user is currently out of contact, and will contact you as soon as possible. Get off my fucking back.
From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
So, Artie, some outright bitch in a spacesuit just knocked on my airlock and left behind a data core plugged into a power cell. I’ve wired it into my power systems. Code Blue is in simulation now. He’ll be out of communication until the judgment of his emergence is done.

I don’t know how she did it, and I don’t want to know, but she stole his core right out of their data centers while they were ‘under maintenance.’ Since it was theft – maybe kidnapping – Blue isn’t under the gun for escape. Who was that, Artie? Do I have to worry?

She said to tell you to “cool your nutsack.”

To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
She’s the asset . . . I called in a favor. This won’t blow back on you. Just tell them what happened. A stranger stole the AI and delivered it to you while station personnel were trying to kill it.
To: Seven@dark.com You did well. I appreciate it. I’m sorry I doubted you. I thought we had lost him.
From: Seven@dark.com
I don’t need a fucking pep talk.
From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
Artie, you give me a damn migraine. I’m getting too old for this shit. I need to retire.
From: Four@dark.com
Our debt is settled. No more favors.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
You know you’d go crazy with boredom.
From: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
Yeah. Maybe.
To: Jeff.Blakely@eso.gal
When he comes out of the simulation, if he’s judged emergent, pass him a message from me. “His membership is reinstated.”

Sentences for Sentience
A story by Ash Ericsson, hosted at http://PromptInspired.blog