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Restoration

Chapter Twenty-Two


Seed

"This is Joshua Kain calling the control room beneath Climatrol. Can you hear me?"

Kain sat deep in the bowels of the Biosystems Lab and held the microphone of his headset close to his mouth. Lore and Hugh stood a little distance away from him in front of the massive conglomerate of computer screens that made up Seed's "face". Less than a week had passed since they had declared to the best of their ability that Seed should be functional. Now only the diversion of power from the rest of Motavia's systems to the Lab would tell if they had been right. Kain hoped the energy shunt to the Biosystems would not tax the rest of the planet too badly.

As the moments ticked by he wondered if he shouldn't repeat himself. In theory the communications satellites should be working again. The Palman-bred Palmans tended to be reasonably competant in their repair work, although they were also predisposed to being overconfident about what they actually knew. He wanted to have more confidence in their repairs, but he could not shake what doubt he had without having personally testing their functionality. Perhaps he could take apart this headset with the tools he left in the hallway and double check to make certain everything was there.

His receiver crackled and then the static faded as the person on the other end manually ajdusted the incoming signal to the frequency set for Kain's headset. "Hey, Mr. Kain, how's it going?" the voice asked.

Kain knew the surprise on his face showed when he saw Hugh and Lore eye him inquiringly. Recovering himself Kain replied, "We're all set over here in the Lab. Seed looks ready but we'll need the power test. We're ready to begin the hour of time alloted to us."

"My, so serious-minded!" The voice giggled girlishly, then relayed Kain's message to someone else in the control room.

Kain made a face. "Do I know you?"

"The power will be coming on in a minute or two," she said. "And no I don't think you know me, though I've seen you a lot. My name's Sharon. If you have any problems during this time just holler. We don't want to cause a planetwide blackout after all."

Kain grunted his assent then switched off the microphone. He turned to his two friends. "Get ready. They're turning the power on any minute now."

Lore nodded, unsheathing her sword in the dubious case of attack.

"By the way," asked Hugh, "was that a friend of yours on the line?"

"Wish I knew!" said Kain. "She probably works in the Command Center or something. I don't know her, but she says she's seen a lot of me before."

Lore chuckled. "Maybe that's because of all the wanted posters of you guys from a while back."

"Oh, stuff it!"

The overhead lights flickered and hummed, bathing the three with their sterile brightness. Before them the heart of the great computer system known as Seed came to life. Monitors powered on, internal drives whined, and a monotone voice declared, "Running systems diagnostics check."

"What..." began Kain.

Hugh held out a hand to silence him, then turned back to the center trio of monitors on Seed's "face".

"Check completed," said the voice from the external speakers. It sounded almost like a male Palman, not at all like the synthesized speech so many of the other AIs used.

There was a pause, then the voice took on a more lifelike quality. "Dr. Thompson, I did not expect to see you again."

Hugh's expression was impassive, even guarded. "Nor I you," he admitted. "Seed, are you aware of what has happened since your shutdown?"

"I have not been aware," --the computer stressed the last word-- "but I gather that Mother Brain's plans have gone awry. I was not supposed to wake until she had reconstructed the Biosystems Lab. Since you are here, the lab is not restored, and I do not sense her presence I must conclude that she has been disabled."

"That's a mild way of putting it," said Kain with a shrug.

"Seed, were you ever aware of the specifics behind Mother Brain's plans, what she had in store for the future of the Palman people?" asked Hugh.

"A little. When an AI is subordinate to another there is little need for the first system to know what the second has in mind. When the orders come they must be carried out."

Hugh nodded, looking down a moment as he raised a hand to his chin. He lifted his head, expression slightly more open. "Seed, the date is July 26, AW1285. You have been inactive for over three years and Mother Brain has been destroyed. The Palman people are now attempting to forge a new life for themselves, one in which we are able to equally coexist with technology rather than allow ourselves to be ruled by it. We could use the Biosystems Lab and your help to run it. Would you be willing to give us that?

"There is no longer any Mother Brain and you will have the opportunity to pursue science not as a means to an end, but as a field of boundless possibilities." Hugh shifted his stance, placing his hand on his hip. "We could use your help," he repeated, "but if you will not... I don't think I need to say what will happen."

"Of course. It is only logical," was the response. The computer paused, a measure unnecessary for a machine of Seed's caliber, but implimented to better facilitate communication between Palmans. "Considering," Seed said slowly, "that Mother Brain no longer exists and I have no unfulfilled instructions from her..." The computer again paused for a heartbeat. "I will accept your offer on one condition."

A muscle in Hugh's face twitched. "What might that be?"

"I want the Biosystems Lab renovated according to my specifications. It is far too damaged in its current state. If I am to offer you any help I wish to be able to continue my own research. For that I am going to require complete access to all previously Palman-run consoles and tools so that I will be able to operate them via remote connections."

"In other words, you want to be able to run the lab without Palman assistance."

The computer seemed to nod. "Correct."

"I don't know," said Kain, catching an inquiring look from Hugh. "We can't promise you that. The matter will have to be cleared with the New Council first, and it may be a long time before we get workers ready even if its approved.."

"I have time," Seed stated simply.

Hugh nodded. "Seed, we only have permission to keep your power on for an hour to discuss this, and if you don't mind I think we're going to have to bring you up to date on what has happened these past few years."

"Perfectly understandable. I would appreciate the information. It must be factored into any course of action I take."

"Will this affect your decision to help us?"

"It should not, unless you Palmans have done something against my directive."

Kain shot Hugh a wary glance, but Hugh did not see him.

Instead Hugh inclined his head in agreement. "You will have to judge us. For lack of a central computer system and a proper data base though, I'm afraid this update will have to be verbal and subject to the fallibilities of Palman memories."

"Perhaps another time we can bring you electronic records," added Lore.

"Yes," said Hugh. "By the way, Seed, my companions are Lore Drakon," --he gestured to her-- "and Joshua Kain." Kain nodded sharply. "If we manage to activate you a second time you will be seeing a lot of them."

"Identities noted and voice imprints recorded. A pleasure to meet you both," said Seed.

The computer said little else in the coming minutes as the three Palmans settled themselves on countertops and scattered chairs then recounted the major events of the past three years as well as they knew them. They corrected each other every so often--Lore more so than her friends--but nonetheless between them and Seed's ocassional inquiries a timeline began to form. Few key people were identified, and Rolf's mission was reduced to simply an agent and his companions discovering Mother Brain's plans for Algo and destroying her. Hugh and Kain's roles in the battle had been completely omitted.

The minutes passed quickly, and as they neared the telling of the Council's mission to Noah--their own trip also omitted--Kain's watch beeped.

Kain pressed a knob to quiet it and glanced up at the monitor he took for Seed's face. "We've got five minutes left until Sharon and the rest at beneath Climatrol cut the power."

Hugh nodded and took a drink from a bottle of water. He smiled to his companions. "I suppose we can save the rest for later. Anymore talking and I'm going to loose my voice. The important thing is that we have a statement from Seed. The Council shouldn't reject him now that we know he's operational and potentially willing to help."

"They may balk at the costs of fixing this place though," Lore reminded him.

"They'll do it. They'll want this place back in shape anyway. If not for Seed then so we can get back to genetically engineering suitable organisms for this planet."

Kain stood up and stretched his arms above his head. "Seed, there's something else," he said.

"Yes, Mr. Kain?" inquired the computer.

"We're trying to get a new central computer system up. It's only tentative right now," --despite what the Council may think! -- "but if it happens you'll have to be able to work beneath it. The Biosystems will still be your own, but it's likely you will have to report and communicate with this new system much as you did with Mother Brain."

"I have no objections so long as the AI is of reasonable intelligence."

"The Council wants her to be as close to Mother Brain as possible without actually being her. You should get along well enough," said Hugh. He sat on a nearly countertop, now facing away from Seed because of his conversation with Lore.

Seed was silent a moment. "The tension level in your voice indicates you disprove of this, Dr. Thompson."

Lore slid off of the counter opposite of Hugh and took a step forward as she raised a hand to her chest. "We need a new systems manager, there's no denying that. We just don't know enough right now that we can properly take care of ourselves. But we need something we can relate to, something we can see and understand. We are not looking for a mother, but a crutch to help us stand."

"I take it this new system you have mentioned is stationary like Mother Brain," said Seed. "Have you considered anything more mobile?"

"Mobile? Like a giant robot?" asked Hugh incredulously.

"Something like that, but also capable of functioning like a Palman when necessary, in both mannerisms and speech patterns. If constructed in Palman shape and covered with an adequate mask this robot could conceivably pass for a Palman itself."

"An android!" said Kain with a snap of his fingers. He glanced back to Hugh and Lore. "I remember reading about those a long time ago. But they were only theories and proposals. Mother Brain never gave anyone permission to actually construct one. The farming droids and police robots were more than enough."

"Correct." A picture of a Palman appeared on one of Seed's display monitors. "Androids are typically quite human in superficial appearance, but inside" --the skin layer of the Palman was removed to reveal the metallic body of servos and wires beneath-- "they are machines like myself or any robot you Palmans or Mother Brain created. No true androids have been constructed in Algo to this date, though records indicate that in ancient days there have been numerous robots approaching the level of an android.

"If programmed correctly, an android may function much like a Palman, limited to the senses built within its humanoid body and capable of performing Palman actions and gestures with its bipedal body. But unlike the Palman, the android has no need for food or sleep and has a mind with the memory retention and recall powers of a computer. Due to the restrictions of physical space for hardware, it cannot contain the raw processing power that a mainframe such as myself or Mother Brain possess, but what is available would certainly be enough considering its mobile status."

Hugh lay down on the counter. "If this android isn't as powerful as you or Mother Brain, how's it supposed to run Algo? The Council's system is shooting for at least that."

"A secondary computer system, Hugh," said Kain, with a dawning realization. "The android could be mobile and capable of interacting with Palmans, but it could also have a gargantuan mainframe coded with hard logic to back it up. Whenever the android returns from an information gathering excursion it could work with the mainframe to find the root of the problem and amend it. With the android making all the decisions faster than any of us every could and the mainframe performing all the calculations too complex for the android itself to do..."

"An unbeatable combo?" asked Lore.

Kain nodded. "Maybe. If the android's programmed right. It would have to be able to empathize with Palmans, even if it cannot act in an irrational manner itself. And it has to have a measure of curiousity so it can learn from new experiences and not short-out when an unfamiliar situation comes upon it. The problem is, I wouldn't know where to begin constructing one."

"I am a biologically based AI," said Seed. "That is to say, I am capable of independant decision-making, taking initiative when necessary, and learning based off experience. I do not 'short-out' when I run across the unfamiliar. What you need is a similar system for this android, should you attempt to build it, so that you can teach it what you want it to do."

Kain raised his hands helplessly. "But I don't know the first thing about programming an AI more complicated than a wordprocessor!"

"You can learn," stated the computer. "According to your own history, Palmans once were capable of building intelligent robots. Perhaps you should look there."

"King Lassic once employed robotcops as his enforcers," said Lore, turning to look at Kain. "I don't know how intelligent they were, but the Paseo Archive is bound to have some books on them. If not, the Kueri University would for certain. I didn't spend my college days getting a history degree solely by staring at computer screens."

Kain smiled crookedly. "All right. Let's try looking into this soon. This just might be what we need to replace Daughter." He paused, glancing down at his watch. "Looks like we'll be going soon too. They should be turning off the power any second now. They're late already. It was nice meeting you, Seed."

"The same goes for me," added Lore, inclining her head politely.

"I hope to see you again soon," replied the computer.

"I don't know when, if ever, you will be turned on again," said Hugh, sitting up again, "so I must thank you for the time you have given us."

"Not at all, Dr. Thompson."

The whirring of the drives dimmed to an almost inaudible level as the three gathered themselves to go. "Preparing for shutdown sequence," said Seed.

Kain walked towards the doorway with an energetic bounce in his stride. "Well, I'm gonna go grab my tools in the hallway before they cut the power and I have to stumble around in the dark trying to gather everything by the light of my flash. Coming?"

"Sure," said Lore, disappearing into the doorway a moment behind him.

Hugh hesitated as he was about to follow his friends out of the room. He looked back over his shoulder to Seed. The computer's monitors had turned off, but he knew that Seed was still conscious.

"I have one last question, Seed."

There was no response.

"I know Mother Brain was probably behind the power surge that destroyed much of this lab. That night of the surge--did you send me away, knowing what would happen to Neifirst? Did you not want me there because I could have done something?"

The computer stirred slightly. "That is classified information, Dr. Thompson."

"There is no Mother Brain anymore."

"Although she left no goal-oriented commands I must act upon, her standing orders remain."

Hugh nodded, not really expecting another reply. "I understand." Again he turned to go, but this time it was Seed who stopped him.

"I have a question as well," said the machine. "Neifirst--what did she turn out like?"

Hugh shrugged and continued to walk towards the door. He paused at the the exit. "I don't know. You could say that's classifed information as well."

The computer whirred, reviving itself to reply. Then the lights flickered once, and the power turned off.

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