I paced back and forth in my room, barely able to contain my excitement. I was caught between screaming out my joy as a child and trying to play myself off as a cool-tempered adult. Would the commander give my father any trouble? I couldn’t keep my eyes from the clock mounted above my desk. For two whole hours, not thirty seconds would pass without me checking the time. From 14:07 to 16:23 I strode aimlessly back and forth, compulsively checking the time.
The sound of my doorbell startled me out of my pointless patrol. I ran across the room, stumbling over my feet, and nearly fell headfirst into the door. I palmed the control panel and my door slid open, revealing the same simian android I had seen nearly a year ago on the launch craft.
I extended a sweaty palm to the android: “Hello, I’m Ryan.” What else was I supposed to say? How is one expected to greet an android?
“Greetings Ryan. I am called CHR-15. I have been assigned as your chaperon.” The android’s voice was asexual, its mouth movements not quite lining up with its speech. CHR did not return my handshake.
I remained silent, studying the android. He seemed odd; like his humanity was too real. I found myself thinking that they should have made him look like a robot, rather than a human. It was disconcerting speaking to something that, by all appearance, should have been a human, but due to some quirk of its manufacture plainly was not. The android was a creepy parody of humanity.
He didn’t seem to notice my discomfort: “I have been told that our first assignment is to requisition the parts required for you to build an interface. If you would follow me, I will direct you to the electronics warehouse.”
“Come in, I want to get to know you first.”
“Get to know me? I am an android. I am model TX-149, optimized for Xeno communication and-”
I interrupted: “Xeno communication?”
“Communicating with extraterrestrial species. I have been designed to listen and interpret signals on all known frequencies of the wave spectrum.”
“That is classified. Your access level of alpha-nine does not permit me to discuss my enhancements with you. What else would you like to know about me?”
Why is everything classified? What exactly is going on down here? “What was your assignment before they made you my chaperon?”
“I have had no assignment, you are my first and only assignment.”
“What, specifically, are you assigned to do?”
“I have been directed to make sure you remain in areas you are cleared to access as well as provide daily reports on your whereabouts and activities to the commander, Mr. Zeek Wiggin. I have also been directed to provide you with any information you are cleared to access.”
“Do I have access to your firmware and software? I’d like to see how you work.”
“You are not cleared to access my memory banks. If you would like clearance, you must ask for authorization from your father, Mr. Harold Buchanan or his assistant, Mr. Scott Woodman. Both are authorized to audit and update my software and firmware.”
“Does it bother you that I want to look into your brain?”
“My brain?” The CHR-15 looked perplexed — his brow furrowed and his nose flared, but something was wrong with the gesture; like it was over-rehearsed.
“Yes, your brain, your thoughts, the thing that makes you work.”
“I do not think,” If a robot could have attitude, CHR most definitely did. “I am programmed to perform many tasks, my programming is what makes me work. If you are authorized access, it does not bother me to allow you to see my programming.”
“I understand what my dad meant when he said you were going to be disappointing. Let’s go get an interface CHR, I need to get back into the simulation.”
“Follow me.” CHR turned and left my quarters.
I followed CHR to the ground level. We took one of the electric buggies from the garage and CHR drove us from the hab module into the central purification plant. We left the buggy behind and took an elevator to floor six, labeled ‘Warehouses.’
The electronics warehouse was immense. Row upon row of shelving lined the room, containing everything from simple semi-conductors to high-end quantum processors. “Where do we start?” I asked CHR.
“What do you need the interface for? You mentioned a simulation. Which simulation are you needing access to?”
“Star Commander, I need a full VR interface and a TB wide connection to the net.”
“The ansible is capable of that kind of bandwidth, but you will need to requisition the lines. Shall I send a message to the quartermaster with your request?”
“The ansible?” I had never heard of anything called an ansible before.
“Yes, the quantum communication network — called the ansible. It is made up of billions of quantum entangled bits. It’s twin is on Earth, allowing lag-less communication with the nets on Earth. It is one of the alpha grade classified technologies on the base. Would you like me to forward you a spec sheet on how it works?”
“Sure,” I replied, feigning disinterest. A quantum network with lag-less communication over all the miles separating Earth and Mars? You’re damn right I wanted to see how it worked. “And send the quartermaster a message about the lines. I want to get back into the simulation as soon as I can. I’ve been out of the game for nearly a year, most of my colonies have probably already starved to death.”
“Of course. Everything we need to build your interface can be found in this warehouse. If you’ll follow me, I’ll go and get a cart and we can start gathering all the things you’ll need.”
I followed CHR around the warehouse as we gathered processors, screens, cabling, and everything else we would need to assemble my interface. The parts available on Mars were at least one hundred times more powerful than anything available on Earth. I was in awe at the amount of processing power and memory CHR was pulling off the shelves. I was going to have the most powerful interface anyone had ever built. CHR was grabbing hundred of thousands of dollars worth of electronics like we were picking out clothes in a thrift store. The cost of parts we took from the warehouse that day was easily in the 100,000 plus credit range — more money than I’d ever heard of anyone spending on an interface.
“That should be sufficient, I will requisition any other parts that we may need.” CHR said, placing a sixty inch flexible screen on the cart. “Can you think of anything else we might need?”
“Anything else?” I was in shock with the amount of hardware we had already gathered. “No, I think this is good for now.”
We loaded the cart onto an electric buggy outfitted with a small, covered trailer and CHR drove us back to our hab module.
Assembling an interface on Earth is a straight-forward process. With all the enhanced equipment that CHR had requisitioned for me I was confused about where to begin. “CHR, I’m not sure what to do with all this, can you please forward some specs to the wall panel?”
“If you would prefer, I can assemble the interface for you.” CHR began sorting through the boxes of parts.
“No,” I said abruptly, “I would like to assemble it myself.” I wanted a chance to learn about all of the new tech.
“Of course Ryan, I will forward all the related materials to the panel as you requested.”
The small wall panel above my empty desk lit up with a list of all the materials we had gathered. I spent the afternoon reviewing the technical details while CHR stood silently watching.
The creepy way that CHR stood unmoving near my bed made him seem less and less human as the hours went on. How could CHR be considered an AI? He was more like a stand-up virtual assistant than an AI. CHR was no more capable than a walking Siri. Maybe some of the personality enhancements I had built for Star Commander would make CHR seem more human? But how would I get him to let me modify his code? I was positive that my father would deny any request I made for firmware access. I’d need something that can interface with his programming without anyone finding out.
I skipped ahead in the tech specs to the section on wireless and wired interfaces. The board contained all modern interfaces and a few I’d never heard of. I wondered what CHR uses to communicate with the network? I’d need to build a packet analyzer. Did I have the parts? I looked at what I had available and to my delight discovered that I had everything I would need. Now I just needed to get rid of CHR so I could build one.
“Okay, CHR, I think I understand how all of this works.” I feigned a yawn, “but, I’m really tired after all that reading and don’t think I’ll be able to assemble anything today. Where do you go when I sleep?” I was hoping that he would leave so that I could assemble a packet scanner without CHR breathing – do androids breath? – down my neck.
“I need to go and recharge.” CHR replied, I was barely able to contain my excitement. “When would you like me to return tomorrow?”
“Can I message you? What’s your address?”
“I can be reached by pinging CHR-15 on the public address net. You can contact me in text or voice. I will arrive by 13:00 if I do not receive anything from you.”
“Sounds good CHR, I’ll see you in the morning.”
The moment the door slid shut behind CHR I began the process of assembling my new, high tech, main board. There was no need for CHR to see what I was planning, I didn’t want my dad to hear about it and interfere.
Author’s Note: As of 2016-05-30 chapter 4 isn’t finished. I will post it by the end of June. 05