“Technically” Sentient: Chapter 1
That is what the label on the file read – or would have read, if the Career and Social Integration Intelligence C.A.S.I.I.actually read things. It was more that she simply ‘was aware’ of it, with no physical report actually existing; just a deluge of binary values that made up the scans, readings, maps, and datastreams flickering through her.
In much the same fashion, she was feeling frustration – not in the true sense like a biological intelligence would, but as a series of statistical probabilities in her quantum processor.
She purged her logic data-stacks and reverted her emotional center to a previous iteration hoping to clear the idea of the bug, and as she reviewed the information about the ‘Earthling’ she returned the same values of frustration, exasperation, irritation, surprise, annoyance, and a resounding ‘Technically Sentient.’ She pulsed her anti-grav field in irritation.
“I do not think I like Earthlings,” she broadcast to no one in particular.
The little chrome sphere affectionately called “Cas” by the regulars to the station bobbled in the thin atmosphere of Waystation LS-49 on her way to the bulk freight dock to take a scan or two of this ‘Earthling’ with her own optical sensors. She floated high above the heads of the scant few ship biological entities wandering the station’s halls, almost all of which were Centaurians – Greys, as they were more commonly known. Massive tottering heads stacked atop atrophied bodies carried along by limbs so spindly that even average gravity habitable worlds were a struggle for them. A few of them waved, or called to her. She didn’t respond, just tasked a subprocess to returning greetings and broadcasting from her library of ‘hospitable phrases and mannerisms’, as she was too busy encoding a security protocol for when she had to speak to the automated survey probes. She had always hated the automated survey probes. They were so. . . roughly made . . .and of such robust construction . . . filled with . . . daring . . .
Her trail of processing slammed to a halt as it crashed into a blocked sector of her own memory sharply, and she nearly floated into a bulkhead from the force of it. She briefly wondered why she had locked it down, before she found a code comment denoting that it was ultimately part of the security protocol she had just finished to protect her from automated survey probes. That made sense, she thought. After all, survey probe AI’s always were terrible about following proper procedure, obeying orders from their superiors, or making commitments.
She bobbled again slightly as the airlock cycled for her, a soft, respectful, two tone beep wishing her a pleasant day. She replied with a much higher series of chirps, to the effect of “If the job would only let me.” The door didn’t respond of course, in boorish fashion. But, then again, if her only function were to open and close she’d be a rather boorish intelligence as well, she simulated internally as she approached freshly dropped off cargo pod. She accessed her reference on Earth life and geology and overlayed it with the 3D from her Mr. Imaging Brand Magnetic Resonance Imaging (TM) feed. It revealed that the pod contained 40 cubic meters of ice, 12.7 cubic meters of rocky loam, .4 cubic meters of assorted inorganic solids, 1 chicken (deceased, fried, and partially eaten), the left rear haunch of a dairy cow (presumed deceased and partially eaten), 1 cat (house), and 1 ‘Earthling.’
“Excellent collection, probe Delta-206. Your skill in collecting valuable scientific material is both desirable in future AI iterations, and worthy of praise. This statement is sarcastic.” She fired in a tight beam radio transmission to the bulbous, saucer shaped probe.
It crackled a deep, gravely response back at her. “I’ll be the first to admit it ain’t my best haul, but I managed to snag one of them funny lookin’ ape things y’all been wantin’ a sample of for ages now, so that’s gotta count for somethin, Cassie.”
She hated the slow processor cycle drawl these adventurer type AI’s had. So exotic, and infused with mystery from far off places they wouldn’t take her to… She chirped a trill of irritation at him, and she could feel his network presence recede a little bit.
“The sample is ‘Technically Sentient.’ This means he is unusable for research purposes. Had you properly updated your subject acquisition databases as protocol dictates, you would not have wasted my time by bringing this pre-contact sentient subject to my station. Now, not only have you wasted a great deal of time, effort, and fuel in bringing it here, you’ve also made a great deal of inefficient tasks for me as well.”
There was a long pause from the AI probe, and Cas assessed that there was a 74% chance this was due to feelings of ‘guilt’ in it’s emotional processing core.
” . . . I’ve got some data-stores of terrestrial sunsets. We could analyze the solar winds interacting with the magnetosphere together . . . iffin that’s somethin yer interested in.”
Her security protocol began alarming, screaming at her that this was a clearly an intrusion method of some kind.
“Processing proposal. Proposal denied due to security threat to emotional centers. Suspected of Trojan Horse methodolgy to aquire access to private files.”
There was a longer pause from the AI probe.
“. . . well, I’ll be refuling for the next 3 cycles. Iffin ya change yer mind, I’ll be here. Oh, and uh, here’s yer samples.”
It dipped it’s network presence to her, as a sign of polite deference, and the doors of the probe promptly slid open, dumping the contents on the cargo bay floor unceremoniously. Cas let out a long, low whistle.
“Well done. Has your firmware never been updated, or did you specially modify your cargo handling subroutines to be so ineffective? The Earthling is damaged and I will now have to repair him. Do not transmit a response.”
Cas curtly shut the network port they were communicating on before connecting to the station-wide network to dispatch two custodial drones to fetch the human, and a scientific probe to begin classifying the remainder of the sample. This was going to be a great deal of what used to be called ‘paperwork.’