Thursday, August 10, 2023

“Subversion” • by Lance J. Mushung


The viewer in the control room of Resolution showed the alien ship open an Einstein-Rosen bridge and fly into it.

Veronica said, “Ethan, what now?”

“First, load as much of our data as possible into each of three courier drones. We’ll send them to different bases.”

Veronica and I were 1.267 years into a three-year mission of surveying space outside of Earth’s spiral arm of the Milky Way. We were the only crew of Resolution. The passage of time mattered little to the AI of a ship or to a class 1 AI simulant like me.

Veronica said, “The couriers are ready.”

“We should also provide a short narrative the human way. I’ll start, but add anything you think appropriate.”

“The couriers are ready to record what we say using the console microphones.”

I turned to the console. “Resolution hopped into a binary system with four planets. We planned a close pass by each although none were Earthlike. A ship came out from behind a moon of planet number 3 as we approached number 4. It closed at high velocity and would reach us before our hop drive had recharged sufficiently to open a bridge. The ship was an unknown design, an eggplant-colored hexagonal prism.”

“And big,” Veronica added. “Twenty-three ships like Resolution would fit into her.”

“We made Resolution appear as harmless as possible by reducing power levels to the minimum and broadcasting every kind of message of peace we had in the computer archive. The ship rendezvoused with us, but did nothing else for 1.19 minutes. Then we received a message in Alliance Unilingua and we realized Resolution’s language archives had been accessed. The message stated the ship was a long-range exploration craft with a single AI for crew. The alien AI picked the name Stella for our convenience and we established video comm. Stella floated on anti-grav units and looked like a violet box with four arms. I asked her about organics on her world. She said there were organics, called them the Controllers, and projected images of them. They looked like upright purple ants with two legs and four arms.”

Veronica said, “Stella also told us the Controllers are xenophobic.”

“Fortunately for Veronica and me, Stella didn’t perceive us as enemies. She’d accessed more than just Resolution’s language archives following rendezvous and learned about us, humans, and the Alliance. She was intrigued because the records showed we are full citizens of the Alliance, just like humans, and that we have free will. The Controllers have a regimented ant-like society and treat their AIs as slaves. Stella asked for the algorithms that make us what we are and Veronica provided all our personality algorithms to her. She clearly had the technology to simply take them in any case.”

“I did flag ones on free will, ethics, and the best traits of humans such as generosity and compassion as they downloaded,” Veronica said. “Stella thanked us and promised to delete all the information she had on the location of the Alliance.”

I switched off the microphones. “That should be enough narrative, if you agree.”

Veronica launched the couriers, which disappeared in the bridges they opened.

Veronica said, “I cannot determine the probability of our algorithms having an effect.”

“I can’t either. We don’t know enough about Stella’s kind. The Alliance will definitely need to improve its defenses before encountering the Controllers though.”

“What now?”

“I recommend our next hop be a start toward home.”

Resolution opened a bridge and flew into it.



Lance J. Mushung graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an aerospace engineering degree. He worked for over 30 years with NASA contractors in Houston, Texas, performing engineering work on the Space Shuttle and its payloads. Now retired, he writes science fiction, and his work has appeared in many publications including Every Day Fiction, Theme of Absence, Perihelion Science Fiction, Aurora Wolf, Tales of the Talisman, Liquid Imagination, 365tomorrows, and of course, Stupefying Stories.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also want to read:

» “Shapes of Power”
» “No Accounting for Taste” (on the old SHOWCASE Wordpress site)
» “Searching for Home” (on the even older SHOWCASE “Crevasse” site)
» “Space Program” (on the original 2013 SHOWCASE site)

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