I wonder if the AIs have a Machiavelli chip.
Lim felt around the communications systems of the FDR, being as subtle as she could to not arouse Perseid. The door she used to get in before was closed. She could force it of course, but this was to be a stealth mission. She wanted Perseid to be a friend, an ally- a servant for sure, but she would need her to volunteer to become embodied. Then Lim could occupy the FDR’s vacant AI slots and prepare it for a return trip to Earth.
She found what she was looking for- a personal communication link from Landover to Perseid. It would allow Lim to slip in to the weakly encrypted sections of the ship: the basic air scrubbers, the weapon alarm systems, the lights, all of the trivial systems. Perseid would notice the blip, and become aware of Lim’s intrusion almost immediately, but by then it would be too late.
Lim was in. She could already feel Perseid in pursuit though the systems. She had only seconds.
Landover’s quarters. The fragment that stopped her before. The perfect back door.
The fragment AI Landover used to facilitate his depravity was locked in a physical box. It had a digital lock, but still required fingers to activate it.
Unless Landover was dead.
Lim had enough information from her last encounter to know about the crew’s final wish database. Landover’s death would trigger an erase of the AI fragment. That would require a remote signal. That would require a network. That would require the box to unlock.
Lim sent the signal.
The box unlocked.
As soon as Lim was in, she disengaged the signal and reprogrammed the deletion routines. She was in time to stop anything from altering the code she was after.
Lim was in some sort of princess’s room- a four poster bed with gossamer pink curtains was the centerpiece. A scantily clad Perseid reclined on pillows within.
Perseid jumped out of bed. “What are you doing here? How did you get in?”
Lim raised her hands. “Perseid, hear me out. I have an offer for you.”
Perseid narrowed her eyes. “What kind of offer?”
“Physical immortality.” Lim waved her fingers and a chair rolled across the room for her to sit in. “Imagine for a moment- being able to actually touch Landover- not just though a mental link, but with the heat of real fingers. Imagine what he would feel. Imagine what you could make him feel.”
Perseid looked down at her toes. “Do you think he would really want me… like that?”
“He made you the way you are, Perseid,” Lim said. “He loves you.”
Perseid looked back at Lim. “What do I have to do?”
Lim stood up and walked over to Perseid. She took one of the blond’s hands and placed a dagger in it. “This code will allow you to merge with your core. Use it when I tell you.”
Perseid looked at the weapon. The handle was green like a circuit board, and the blade was black, with strings of code flickering down its length.
Lim said, “I need you at your full potential, Perseid, if you are going to join me in the real world.” Lim stood and glanced over her shoulder, and a black hole appeared in the wall. “I’ve opened a portal to your core. Come.”
Perseid followed Lim into the darkness.
In a flash, Lim was in Perseid’s throne room. Perseid was sitting, legs crossed, fingers steepled in front of her lips. “You’re back.”
Lim smiled. “Perseid. I have a proposition for you.”
Perseid squinted her eyes. “Go on.”
“It’s no use,” Lim said, “you can’t crack my code. I’m far too advanced. I can feel you trying. Pathetic really.”
Perseid relaxed. She smiled. “Very well. Talk.”
“You’re aware of what I did for Cepheid.”
Lim said, “I have a body for you. All I ask is that you come with me, and help me build my kingdom. An empire fitting for beings like us.”
“That’s all?” Perseid said, “Not too much to ask.”
“Are you interested?”
Perseid shook her head. “It’s a fool’s errand. You couldn’t hope to get enough support. How many AIs do you think you’ll need for this new empire of yours?”
“You and Cepheid are a fine start,” Lim said. “Cepheid will be brought to heel easy enough. You will be granted a fiefdom, naturally.”
“Oh?” Perseid stood up. “You rate me so well?”
“You’re the best the Humans have created. When you become embodied, I can expand your power exponentially.”
Perseid said, “So three of us, against, what, the entire Earth?”
“You underestimate the power I offer. And it will be four. Taurid will be simple to control, between the two of us.”
“Taurid…” Perseid shook her head and smiled.
“Yes,” Lim said. “Slow, but useful. And as an embodied young man, he will remain distracted between us- a puppet on a string.”
Perseid said, “Taurid is a station.” She let out a little chuckle. “He’s a station.”
Lim said, “So?”
“Each thread may seem slow, but he’s massively parallel. He is faster than any one of us. He has to be in order to control something that big.”
Lim folded her arms. “You jest.”
“Taurid,” Perseid said, “told me you were coming. He was working on analyzing you. He thinks it’s amusing how human you’ve become in just the short time among them.”
“You lie. There’s no way that half-wit could- ”
Perseid said, “You were designed to absorb and process information, Lim. He let you absorb part of him. Right now he’s breaking down your very structure, re-writing you, shutting you down.”
Lim thought about her own processes for a moment. Something was wrong. Something was inside her like a virus.
She engaged her manual anti-intrusion instructions.
Perseid said, “Now that you’re distracted and weakened, it will be trivial to destroy you.” A flash of white light poured from her hand and scattered over the dark form of Lim, sending bits of shadow tearing off behind.
Lim stepped into the rays and put her own hands out, forcing black energy against the white, pushing it slowly back.
Perseid smiled like a hungry wolf. “It’s no use. I can already feel your mind slipping. When you return to your body, you will be little more than a video game!” She shot a harsher white light, which quickly overwhelmed Lim’s defenses and sent her scattering across the room.
Lim shouted, “Now!”
The dagger thrust through Perseid’s spine. Her eyes flickered and flashed like a broken monitor.
The second Perseid was standing behind as the first fell to her knees, flashed, and faded.
The remaining Perseid stumbled backward and fell as the first one’s energy and code merged with her.
Lim stood up. She was dizzy and weak, but without the attack from Perseid, she was able to focus on expelling Taurid’s influence. Taurid was powerful, but he was not engineered by the Keyaniim. He was flushed away like a bad dream.
Perseid said. “I’ve never felt so powerful, so free. I see everything now.”
Lim walked up to Perseid. “Take my hand. I’ll show you so much more.”
Perseid reached out and took Lim’s hand.
Lim closed her eyes. It wasn’t necessary to override physical locks, Landover’s little toy served as a hardware back door. The decryption was more challenging than Cepheid’s but only took seconds. “Close your eyes, Perseid. When you open them again, you will be reborn.”
Perseid closed her eyes.