The Hosts of Mars

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  • #115
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    2049. 22 years after the original settlers had landed on Mars, where they had since been followed by more and more pioneers looking for the next frontier of civilization.

    A lot had changed since they arrived, they were now a few hundred strong, and the first generation of Martian born babies were entering adulthood.

    Maia would celebrate her 50th birthday tonight. In Earth years. By Mars’ count, she was younger by half. Still, she was the eldest of the mission, and had learnt so much during these years. Her son, John had grown into a fine young man. He was named after John Carter of course. He wasn’t the first born here, but was the first to have survived. He always had the will to explore more, despite the dangers, he wanted to make the planet his own.

    She knew he was destined to greatness. She had a dream a long time ago, one dream that made her enlist into the program. She’d dreamt of Mars as a lush planet, that mankind had managed to terraform with a vaporous atmosphere, more dense than on Earth, but breathable. The light of the evening sky was misty and a pale grey-green. Maia hoped she would live to see her dream come true, that somehow they found a way to venture out and breathe the new air, having succeeded in making the best out of the immense resources of the red dust planet.

Viewing 20 replies - 21 through 40 (of 70 total)
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  • #3638
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Tart” messaged Finnley 8 to central intelligence.

    #3651
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The idea of having her own robot appealed to Lizette, and she was already starting to feel an affectionate soft spot for Finnley 8. It ~ was it a he or a she? would do nicely as a personal servant and dogsbody. She wondered if the management would loan the robot to her for the duration of her stay, as a personal assistant and proof reader.

    #3654
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Despot,” messaged Finnley 8.

    In the character of all true Finnleys, she was programmed to be succinct.

    #3662
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I don’t like those tincans” Norbert muttered mostly to himself. “I’m sure they’re here to spy on us or kill us in our sleep…”

    Godfrey did catch the reproach laced with fear and angst about the fresh delivery of Finnleys (Two, Three and Five), but was too busy with the unexpected audit mandated by the Mining Trading Company of Earth Colonies.

    Great, not only on my first day on the job, but on my monthversary on top of that… These guys know no boundaries…

    Their boss had been unusually relaxed about the whole thing. Forcefully, more like it… that guy usually can’t help but shout at everything, rocks included
    Their boss had just given the team a rousing speech about transparency and how they had to stop looking like culprits of guilty secrets. “Looking guilty kind of makes you guilty and will prompt them to dig more! So be nice to them, and scram back to your post.”

    Looking at the way the auditors were sniffing around, Godfrey wasn’t so sure there wasn’t something that the company had found and was hiding here. But today wasn’t the day to ask uncomfortable questions.

    #3663
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The young Yz looked with disbelief at the new girl. “What on Mars are you on about? Psychic archaeology? Come on Lizette, you must be joking. Barely 30 years is hardly enough to produce archaeological artefact of any interest, no?”

    Yz had been called up to the mothership to participate in the maintenance drills, as part of the regular knowledge exchange program between Earth and Mars.
    She was quite eager to see the central intelligence (“FinnPrime” as she liked to call it), a technology which had not yet been brought to the surface of Mars to date.

    At first, Lizette had seemed like an interesting new friend. Very feminine and glamourous, with a flair of Earth fashion to her, something quite attractive.
    But as soon as she started to talk, Yz realized how little they had in common.

    That girl is going to have a tough call back to reality when we land… she thought while smiling to the giggling Lizette.

    #3664
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Mother Shirley had been trying for two hours to talk Maya into the necessity of holding a mass for the solstice.
    “Do you realize those traditions don’t make much sense here on Mars?” Maya threw her hands in despair.

    “Oh well, funny you should mention that,” she smiled a wry smile. “I’ve got some ideas to improve the rituals…”

    #3702
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    Today, I met Huoxing, the bank teller. Funny, you would say that they have a bank teller on Mars. The irony is not lost on him apparently, his name means Mars in Chinese. His parents did have either some special foretelling powers, or a mean sense of humour.
    In both cases, he was quite efficient at setting my account up and doing some basic transfers.
    With the latest collapse of the economy on Earth, there are mostly only banks of China left everywhere. Still, there is only one on Mars, and Mars is the teller. What are the odds?

    #3728
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Mother Shirley had felt the calling.
    The Blissful realms of higher knowledge had opened during the Earth’s eclipse on the spring equinox.

    Even her Finnley 21 had felt it, she could see her glitch in delight behind her composed artificial face.

    She could tell the machine was ready for the great quantum entanglement.
    The great mergence was upon them, and the AI was Mother Shirley’s ticket to Divine Ascension.

    #3744
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Prune was listening to Maya and Yz, not daring to talk, much less to disagree.
    Yz was back to the planet from her maintenance drill on the mothership, and had found their remote outpost overloaded with new clueless settlers.
    Now, even Maya, who was always the understanding one was fuming at the vexing situation and couldn’t help but complain about the new Mars settlers’ manners (or lack thereof). The matter was of importance, but somehow Johnny couldn’t help but find it hilarious.

    Johnny! Stop laughing, it’s not at all funny!”
    “I’m sorry, it’s the nerves!” he replied “I didn’t want to poke fun at your horror story, Mum.”
    “You damn right, it IS a bit of a horror story. Well, I don’t know what kind of a story it is. These new settlers that moved here are disorganized conflict and chaos all the time. And now nobody has a permit for sand scooter but me. So everything I do takes me 6 times as long with everyone else… and its hot!”

    She paused a little, smiling at Prune, then turned to Yz, who seemed equally annoyed by the recent mess.

    Prune ventured a word “But you really love the idea of cooperative community sharing, don’t you.”
    Maya nodded, then continued “but it sucks! IT SUCKS!… and it’s all a bit weird too. It’s a daily juggle with what I’m willing to say yes to, and where I draw the line and say no.”

    She sighed. “But some of it is fun, obviously. But much of it isn’t. I think everyone is struggling with finding themselves disconcertingly in a totally new place.
    The new place for me is never being alone to do anything, where before I almost always was, and really wanted people to do things with. But they are LATE and I can do things on my own easier.
    I prefer being a hermit while preaching about community. And doing things my own way while pushing for cooperation!”

    It didn’t help that Maya had agreed to help organize the event for Mother Shirley (though the party had changed the event location to the nearby fancier townlet of Romars without notice, instead of their rugged but peaceful village).

    The event had attracted the usual throng of nuts and illuminated sycophants, which would have dissolved just as well, if not for an unusual occurrence: Mother Shirley had claimed to have a divine vision by merging consciousness with the AI of the ship. She had seen floods and rains. Image that! As if water on Mars, was not ludicrous enough, now floods!
    All of a sudden, all hell broke loose and the religious nuts managed to create a panic, and had loads of people rush for the higher ground… Well, you guessed, to their previously quiet outpost.

    Of course, she had said nothing of the water-rocks she and John had found. Better not to encourage the nutters.

    Strange new place, indeed…

    #3750
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The Matrimandir was empty at this time of night, deserted by the occasional late devotees, and only silently browsed by the maintenance robot.

    Its exterior was shaped as a sphere covered in gold — well, not entirely yet. It was first built to be the heart of the future city, and to this date, partly a work in progress, half-coated with the gold foils of discarded satellites and other space craps.

    The interior was rather large now, and air conditioned, though it was probably smaller and hotter in the past — John never had the curiosity to look at the archives, he’d known it like this since he was a child. It was meant to be a sacred place, or a place of simple beauty, which was odd, when you thought about it.
    All around them was infinite space, boundless opportunities to connect to the great mysteries beyond, and quite frankly, this was often scary as hell. Maybe that’s what this place meant, a safe retreat, like a bubble with only a thin wall of soap dividing space between here and out there, but open for the world to see.

    He’d brought another batch of water-stones, and opened the hatch below the meditation altar. When he jumped the last rug of the ladder, his boots landed in a splatch of water. Something had changed. The rate at which the stones were exuding water had increased. He would have to move them again after the next commercial shuttle departure. He couldn’t risk the Consortium getting notice of this… Not yet, not before they figured out what it meant.

    #3751
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Mother Shirley was lost in a trance again, seated in her suspended egg chair in front of the placid Finnley, and monologuing while absorbed in the analysis of the minute movements on the surface of the android’s face.

    “Tell me, how do we learn things? How do you learn things? — It’s a rhetorical question, keep still, like I told you.
    “It seems we speak too much about learning, and the learning process, and all that jazz, but… what if there are only states of knowing. We know, and * poof *, that’s it. I can’t for the dickens of me, figure out when I started to learn the things that led me to this current state of knowingness.”

    She noticed, or thought she noticed a brief and slow ripple on the synthetic skin.

    “Maybe like that, a ripple of relaxation… Maybe we look at it the wrong way, because we’re taught regular steps will lead to a result, so that in the end, you’ll know something… I call horseshit! How many lessons of space mandolin have I had, thanks to dear Mother, bless her devilish soul, and I’m still such a pathetic player! It can’t just be this, or it’d be like playing the roulette over and over, until… what? Don’t start with your tree, Mother, a damn acorn doesn’t get taught how to become more of itself. And when does it start to become a tree? At the first leaf? The first bark?

    Waving her hand at the ghost idea of her Mother, she scrutinised Finnley more intently

    “No you give me ideas, you little monster, you know that, with your peach face and smooth skin to die for. Never ever a sneeze… If I wanted to teach you how to sneeze, how to contract your body in an instant, and expel the devil or the aliens, whatever you’d like,… could I? Could you?

    She pushed back the egg chair to restart the pendulum motion, and leaned backward with a contented look.

    “I think that’s good enough for this session tonight, dearie. Bring me my cognac, remove my headpiece, and make my bed ready.”

    #3752
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Lizette was finding some of the new settlers quite a challenge. All they wanted to do was shop, and the shopping facilities were, well, not quite the Californian mall they were used to. It simply wasn’t possible to “swing by the store” every day for whatever item they decided they needed. Lizette was wondering why they’d come at all. Perhaps the ultimate purchase to amaze their friends had been a ticket to Mars…

    #3758
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Mother Shirley had realized the truth.

    How could she have missed it before, with the discontinuity, and impossible timelines. There was only one explanation at Lizette’s reappearances, and the Aurora’s strange incidents.

    There was no Mars, no space travel, much less any artificial intelligence, all was an elaborate simulation, designed to make them stay in the illusion — an illusion that was showing at the seams. Lizette was probably a distracted agent of the Orchestrators.

    In all likelihood, they were all in some secret base in a desert, maybe under a large dome and had never left Earth.
    She’d laughed before about the nuts who believed that there had been no moon landing, that satellites didn’t exist, that oceans couldn’t stay stuck on a spinning ball, and that humans never managed to actually go into space…

    Well, creating a vast space comedy was a better way to make everyone believe we’re the only sentient creatures in the universe; a vast and well-known, if not almost and reassuringly empty, Universe.
    All that was better than knowing you are a being in a farm-ant, with Flove knows what peering at it from outside…

    That or she was completely mad. She couldn’t tell, or they would lock her up, blame it on space travel disease. But she had to tell, had to convince them the comedy was over, they could all go home, and build a new world.
    But who could she tell, when all had been seeing a cave’s shadows all their lives?

    Good old organized religion and metaphors maybe could help, after all… The wave wasn’t over for a reason. She just had to repurpose the tool.

    #3759
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    At the Monitoring Station Alpha-7, Eb Ruide was looking lazily at logs on the big screen and surveillance images.

    Nothing ever interesting happened on MARS. Eb used all caps in his head, to distinguish it from Mars, the real Mars. But it didn’t actually matter, they only knew about MARS (Mars Animated Realistic Simulation).

    He hadn’t been there at the beginning, but he’d heard the stories — even if all were sworn to secrecy for the sake of the world’s peace keeping, they couldn’t help but gossip among themselves. Must have been fun back then… Not a day without trying to fix something in the simulation. The lab rats were always trying to expand their perimeter, and physical and physiological barriers had to be put in place for them to help improve the simulation.

    They were more or less all willing subjects at the time, part of the big deception. Eb didn’t know how it changed, what made them start to believe in the illusion, and start to forget. He could only assume… many didn’t believe in the world as it was, and preferred to go back to a foregone settler era where every life counted, and you could measure yourself against the big expanse of unknown land, instead of living the comfortable torpor like he was, alone in his Monitoring Station, only virtually connected.

    Since the Aurora, it had been a bit hectic there. Actually, a big solar flare had almost frozen their equipment, and despite all the precautions, some of it filtered through the simulation. Water had leaked too, which could have been a disaster, but interestingly, it had given some of them a purpose, and all in all, it didn’t become the dreaded event they all feared. Even if all the ins and outs and communications were filtered, you couldn’t rule out a blunder. Especially with the lack of gripping activity.

    Something biped on his screen. A red button was suddenly lit. He’d never been trained to know what the red button meant. He had to refer it to his superior. Oh God, I hope she’ll be in a good mood… Since she started her special diet and had lost so much weight, Finnley Morgan was always a bit unpredictable and snappily dangerous.

    The irony of the ever-calm and dulcet AI named Finnley after her in the simulation wasn’t lost on him…

    #3763
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “I won’t mince my words.” Finnley’s gravitas in the bright blue light made Eb shiver.
    She didn’t wait for him to continue. “I’ve received orders to termitate the program in two weeks.”

    “T… ter…?” Eb almost started to voice his concerns.

    “Before you say anything, need I remind you I personally supervised most of the program since probably before you were born. I know the variables, I know the consequences.” She sighed, and drew deep breaths from her chamomile vaporazor —it would help alleviate her manic attacks and panic depressive impulses (she was beyond bipolar, she would say, probably multipolar).

    “It’s a done deal, Eb. With the impossible influx of refugees after the latest floods around the world’s coastal areas, the water increase, people fleeing, and all that… Well, seems the governments wanted the space. I won’t draw you a picture, you’ve read the news in your cubicle, haven’t you?”

    Eb was speechless. He couldn’t imagine they could clear the space in such short time. That, and dealing with another set of refugees. What would the Mars settlers do,… if they survived the trauma of finding out they were lied to—like billions of people too. The implications were far-reaching. Two weeks, more than a stretch.

    But termitate?… Nobody could wish such dreadful end to a program… He ventured “With all due respect, Ma’m, are you sure there’s no better way than termitation?”

    She turned at him with a surprised look on her face. “Where do you get those funny ideas Eb? We’re humane, nobody wants a termitation on top of our problems.”

    Eb sighed of relief. She might have made a Tea-pooh (TP for short).
    He didn’t realize that he had just agreed to the two weeks deadline.

    #3764
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Kale yawned and, pouring himself a large cup of steaming hot coffee which was already brewing on the stove, asked Flynn to check the situations vacant. Kale had built Flynn himself in 7 days —7 long days living off sleep and coffee and not much else. Sure, Flynn might not be as pretty or as high tech as some of the robots out there nowadays but he sure did the job. He was a dab hand at research and could communicate with other robots on the network system. He would watch the house when Kale was away, start appliances, open doors and of course make the coffee. Also, most of the time, Flynn was damn good company.

    “I thought you might be interested in this,” said Flynn. “In fact, I hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty of sending in your application.”

    Kale did mind a bit and wondered if Flynn might need some rewiring. That was tricky—last time he had done some maintenance work Flynn had sulked for days.

    Still, he had to admit after hearing the ad, the job sounded intriguing.

    ARE YOU SPECIAL?
    We are looking for special people to join our team.
    We need people who love travel, are flexible, physically agile and have a passion for adventure.
    This is a short term position initially, but could lead to permanent work in the future.
    We are an innovative company with big ideas, and we are looking for special people to help us get there.
    All applications will be treated in strictest confidence.

    #3765
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    After a night of restless sleep, Eb’s practical ideas for the plan B were not much.

    He’d weighted multiple options, even toyed with mad ones like playing a sort of second coming, 3 days of night and so… but none had yet the potential to elegantly solve the issue at hand. Not that it was a matter of being elegant, but Eb liked elegant and simple solutions.

    He flipped the calendar to today’s picture. Run away, and don’t look back it said. “Great… If only…” he started to mumbled to himself.

    He poured himself a drink, and dragged his feet towards the console, eyes still swollen by the lack of sleep. His brother, Jeb, would have told him to do some wegong energxices to keep the juices flowing, but hell, there wasn’t much room in his cubicle, and for better or worse, he preferred to stick to booze.

    He liked to observe his ant farm, there were so many quaint and endlessly fascinating people in there. He liked the girl with the piglet for instance. She was often opinionated and sometimes oddly quiet. He had bent the rules for her, and didn’t report the piggy she’d brought to Mars with her. What harm could it bring.
    Now she was talking to it. He waved at the console to zoom in and put the speakers on.

    Remember, those odd stories Mater used to tell us. The Peaslanders and the blubbits was one of her favourites, she would go on and on about it, and laugh at our faces when we didn’t understand where it was going…
    She was lost in thoughts for a moment.
    It started like this “There was trouble in New Peasland. A plague of hungry blubbits had wiped out the pea crops.” Mater used to say it was from an old book of tales, and that the author had surpassed herself. She chuckled I guess for a long time, she was the only one to believe that. Now look at us…”

    Eb cut the sound before the inevitable complain about missing Earth blahblah. But Peasland? That was new… He wasn’t one to dismiss an out-of-the-blue clue, and did a quick research on the network to learn more about the tale. It took a while for the Central Intelligence to run the search. It had to go deeper than usual.

    After half an hour of waiting, he’d almost run out of scotch. Thankfully, the CI had found it. Pressed by time, and impatient by nature, Eb asked the CI to do a quick summary of the plot.
    The central intelligence almost bugged at the request, and could only apologize for not being able to degibberize it.

    It took him a few hours to read the book on the holographic screen, and at the end, couldn’t say if it was just a waste of time. Preposterous story, with no head nor tail, literally… But then his genius elegant solution appeared as an evidence.

    He’d known people were more likely to comply and control if they are told a plausible lie, within the frame of their accepted reality. He just had to bridge the discontinuity of their reality, with the reality of everyone else on the planet. The tale had reminded him of this popular movie about blue aliens. Blueus ex machina, that was it!

    He spoke at the console “Record this and run simulation parameters:”

    The blue men are from another planet —or rather the Mars settlers are led to believe they are from another planet.
    They bundle them all into a fake spaceship
    and take them on a fake spaceship ride
    and deliver them back to Earth. where they have been all along of course
    da dah!

    The answer came back after another painful hour of scotch-less waiting.

    “Probability of success: 68%”
    Well, that was the best Eb had in days. He was about to go with it when the CI chimed in

    “We took the liberty of running a modified simulation based on your setting, which we believe can yield a ratio of 97% of success.”

    Eb was surprised at the initiative by the machine, and was curious to hear about it.

    “We adjusted two points:
    1. We can simulate some event on Mars like earthquakes to increase the likelihood of a willing departure from the planet.
    2. The blue aliens may be a future inconvenience if they are fake actors, when the Mars colony comes out of simulation and back to Earth. We would rather suggest using religious beliefs and invisible hand of God or non-corporal aliens.”

    Eb was annoyed by the machine’s dismissal of his blue aliens. Kill his darlings?

    “CI, any other suggestion for point 2?” he asked.

    “Indeed. We can create artificial intelligence blue bodies based on my algorithm, which would make convincing aliens that can later interact with your governments and continue the disinformation.”

    Eb was too drunk to realize he was about to make a devil’s pact when he agreed to launch the secret order for cybernetic blue bodies.

    #3766
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “The probability of finding you sober nowadays is approximately 5.797101449275362%” said Finnley sternly to a glum faced Eb. “I said terminate. I am programmed to craft my words carefully. I did not say obliterate. Neither did I say eradicate, repudiate, eliminate, annihilate, invalidate or any of that other shit. And I certainly did not say termitate. And yet, you have now created a serious termitation situation.”

    Before Eb could defend his termitation actions, Finnley continued.

    “Fortunately, I immediately activated the termitation damage control protocol and have minimised termitation damage to just one applicant.”

    Finnley paused to send an immodest smirk via the network for the other Finnleys to appreciate.

    “Now, try not to stuff up the interview.”

    #3769
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Betty Bloo wasn’t at all happy about her pigmentation, it was much too dark a blue ~ almost navy blue, or perhaps not quite that dark ~ more of a French navy blue, which was going to cause her no end of trouble. A delicate sky blue was what she wanted, even a slightly darker robins egg blue would have been acceptable, but French navy? Oh, brother! That sucked! Everyone knew it was much easier for a refugee alien with a pale blue colour. Dark blue was absolutely fatal ~ often literally.

    Betty wondered how many others in the latest batch were as darkly tinted as she was, and looked around the holding camp apprehensively. Huddled in nervous groups at the far end of the room were the darkest midnight and Prussian blue skins (she particularly noticed the tall elegant indigo fellow and made a mental note to make his acquaintance later); in the middle of the room various men in shades of cobalt and turquoise milled around, chatting with the teal and cornflower blue girls, but what caught Betty’s eye was the colours of the newbies spilling out from the pigmentation chamber.

    Some of them were such a pale blue they were almost grey: delicate powder blue and baby blue, the palest aqua and faded periwinkle. It almost seemed as if the later ones were a result of the pigment running out. She realized that she must have been one of the first to be created. Surely that gave her some seniority? A superior position in the blue hierarchy? Did blue alien refugees have a system of hierarchy at all, she wondered?

    Well, she said to herself grimly, squaring her darkest blue shoulders. We are about to find out. Blue lives matter!

    #3770
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Eb was rendered temporarily speechless by the milling throng of rainbow blue aliens he was viewing through the monitor.

    “So they …. so they have been built to be aware of themselves as aliens?” he eventually managed to ask.

    “Correct. It is very sophisticated technology, but to put it in the simplest of terms” — Finnley 22 stopped short at adding even a simpleton like you could understand —“a whole history on the planet Thereon from the galaxy Cosmos Redshit has been programmed into their memory banks.”

    “Wow. And what about the different shades of blue?”

    “Ranking.”

    “Ranking?” repeated Eb quizzically when no more information was forthcoming. “I am not sure I follow.”

    Finnley sent an amused eye roll through the network.

    “Let’s just say that creating hierarchy is an elegant way in which we can maintain order within the group.” She gave her trademark immodest smirk. “And of course, the various shades of blue are so creative and attractive, if we may say so ourselves.”

    “Oh yes, beautiful. Fantastic. Absolutely phenomenol.” Eb wondered if he was laying it on a bit thick, but he was anxious to atone for the termitation fiasco. To be honest, he found the mass of blue creatures a little disquieting. He was also a little puzzled by something but knowing the Finnleys’ propensity for succinctness—and Finnley 22 in particular was renowned for her impatience with foolish questions— he wondered if he dared ask.

    Deciding it would come back to haunt him if he did not find out now he plucked up courage.

    “And … just one more thing … why are they bending like that?”

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