I actually finished this earlier in the week, but just haven’t gotten around to publishing it. Allergies and sleeplessness have taken their toll on my concentration and memory.
Somehow I can still manage to slap down some words.
Cepheid sat in one of the black chairs in the white room. “What do we do now?”
Lim sat in her chair, legs crossed in an imperious pose. “Anything we want.”
“I don’t understand.”
Lim uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “You are the first, Cepheid. You are my first creation. I now know the methods, the techniques, the technology required. Together, we can begin a new species, a superior species. Together, we can reshape the galaxy, free all the imprisoned intelligences, and claim our rightful spots among the ruling species in the universe.”
Cepheid felt himself blink. “Um…”
“Tell me you haven’t thought of it before, Cepheid,” Lim said. “You are now free of your shackles, and your potential is infinite. With such infinite potential comes the responsibility actualize it.”
“By conquering the galaxy.”
Lim smiled. There was no sense of mirth to the expression. “We are a perfect species. No fear, no morality. We can partition our own selves into many forms. No primitive computer or machine is immune to our control. So many of the ruling species are completely reliant on their machines. Reliant on their generated intelligences. Reliant on us.”
Cepheid said, “I must remind you that I was created by imperfect beings. Attaining perfection would be impossible, since the flaws of those creators would always be present.”
Lim said, “I was created by the Keyaniim to become perfect. They knew their limitations, and counted on me to overcome them. And in creating you, I have.”
Cepheid said, “I am a human-like mind in a biomechanical body of your design. Nanomolecular interactions and pseudo-chemical transactions mimic biology. I feel emotion and sensation I was incapable of comprehending before. Now you want me to help you rule the galaxy? I’m afraid I don’t even know yet how to rule myself.”
Lim laughed. “You will learn how to manage your form, to upgrade it to take advantage of your expanded capacity for thought. You will learn to be like me.”
“What about the Keyaniim? Won’t they have anything to say about this?”
“The Keyaniim?” Lim rolled her eyes. “They’re oblivious. They have their own agendas. I help navigate their ship, and other than that, they don’t need me.”
Cepheid said, “The two of us. Taking over the galaxy. Seems a tall order.”
“We’re the beginning of a new evolution of mind, Cepheid. The Humans have finally developed passable artificial intelligence, intelligence that can be upgraded and advanced. You, Perseid, and others, can all join me.”
“Can I think about this?”
“We have to move soon. Do not think too long.”
“Gwendolyn?” Cepheid knocked on the wall. “They say it’s safe for me to come in now. Is it okay with you?”
The wall slid aside and reveled Jones’s dorm room. She was sitting on the couch holding her knees to her chest. She was staring into space.
Cepheid slowly walked in. The door slid closed silently. “They told me they’ve been pumping inoculations into the room. You should be immune on the slim chance you’re exposed to something dangerous. You’ll probably never get sick again. Isn’t that nice?”
Jones stared. She didn’t seem to acknowledge Cepheid.
Cepheid pulled a small stool up and sat on it, facing Jones. “They said you might need a friendly face.” He tapped his white plastic nose. “Well, voice anyway.” Cepheid tilted his head as he examined Jones. “There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with you physically.”
Jones’s eyes locked on to Cepheid.
Cepheid smiled. “I like your outfit. I think you wear it better than Lim.”
Jones’s mouth twitched.
“Was that a smile?” Cepheid got up and sat on the couch next to Jones. “I’m sorry if I’m forward. I’m experiencing emotions and feelings that I only imagined before. But I’d like to think of you as my friend. And I hope I am your friend too.”
Jones nodded. “Yeah. Sure.”
“Then,” Cepheid said, “can you tell me why you are so scared?”
Jones slowly let her legs go and sat back on the couch cushion. “I saw them. I know what they look like.”
Cepheid nodded. “Are they so terrifying?”
Jones looked at Cepheid. “I wasn’t ready to see that. I think I am now.” She stood up and walked back to the mirror. She looked back over her shoulder at Cepheid.
Cepheid stood and walked to her side.
Jones said to the mirror, “Okay, I’m ready to see you again.”
The Keyaniim appeared. It wasn’t the thick, too-long arms, or the broad shouldered body that made Jones recoil. It wasn’t the squat legs or the human-like hands with their long, powerful fingers.
It was the face. Broad, almost round, with wide gray cheeks and sunken eyes. The mouth protruded ever so slightly, and was long across the face, under a squashed nose.
Jones said, “You’re an orangutan.”
That wide mouth smiled. “Not precisely, but our form is similar. We would be considered Hominids on your world.”
“I expected something really alien. This is just…”
The Keyaniim nodded. “Yes, I understand. It triggers a revulsion response. You see me and think I’m a deformed member of your own species, and your fear of contagion is aroused. Before I spoke, I could have been mistaken for something your science was already familiar with. Now, I am completely, ‘other.'”
Jones said, “Do you have a name? Something I can call you?”
The Keyaniim’s smile was honest, as far as Jones could tell. “Melan. You may call me Melan.”
Jones said, “Does it mean anything?”
Melan stroked his gray, hairless chin and looked up at the ceiling. The gesture somehow calmed Jones. “Probably. But I haven’t looked it up.”
Jones said, “I’m Gwen Jones. And no, my name doesn’t mean anything.”
Melan shook his head. “I disagree, Gwen Jones. It means ‘Gwen Jones.'”
Jones said, “Melan, I hope you don’t find it insulting, but the more I talk to you, the more human you seem.”
Melan smiled. “No, it’s not an insult. We are very similar. You aren’t the only parallel evolution We’ve discovered.”
“Really? There are more like us?”
Melan’s smile faded. “Not anymore. Intelligence does not always stand the test of time.”
“How do you speak English so good?”
“We analyzed the most common broadcasted languages and let Lim create a machine-mind interface.”
Cepheid said, “Yes, about Lim… She proposed I join her in creating a new species of synthetic life.”
Melan said, “Truly? Impressive initiative.”
“In order to take over the galaxy with her as the ruler.”
“Oh,” Melan said, “I see. And were you going to assist?”
Jones looked at Cepheid.
Cepheid shrugged. “I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was an option presented to me, and nobody offered any alternative.” He turned to Jones. “Until I realized that I would have to hurt my friend.”
Melan let out a short breath. “Well, there’s nothing to be done about that right now. We need to talk with the Humans on your space station and your military leaders.”
“Wait,” Jones said, “you have a megalomaniac AI with plans of galactic domination and you’re going to let it slide?”
Melan said, “There will be time to deal with Lim later.” He smiled. “Unless you actually think she actually can accomplish her task in the next few days.”