Friday, August 20, 2010

[USS Charon] [USS Quantum Fury] SD241008.15 - "Meeting New...People?" - Col. Falcon & Savant

=/\= Begin Log =/\=
Fleeters always seemed to be so sensitive yet so self righteous. Aria still fumed over the encounter with the Fury's CMO, and after a chat with the much more wounded captain, she once again found herself in the mess hall. She might have gone somehwere else but, quite frankly there was no where else to go on a ship the size of the Quantum Fury.
Her thoughts drifted as she stared at her full but, as of yet, untouched drink. She had managed to meet with many of her future crewmates without inicdent, the only real confrontations being with those she would leave behind. She hadn't, however, had any discussion with the floating ghost of a being that had given the briefing at the get-together.
The mess hall was fairly quiet - a few people seated in quiet couples, complaining about the day's work or talking about some ship's gossip. Only the hologram that Jades' thoughts lingered upon sat alone, as it often did - it hadn't tried very hard to "make friends" and so only a few novelty seekers had bothered her.
Savant was, at the moment, pondering the view outside the small square porthole, as if its eyes were actually functional and not just an image for the sake of the crew. As usual, she wore no rank insignia, and even the Starfleet elipse seemed a reluctant concession.
As much as such a being might be thought to stand out, Savant had actually evaded Aria's gaze. Intentional or not, it seemed to the marine a perfect example of hiding in plain sight, once she realized Savant was in fact present in the mess hall. She was tired of fighting, and thought it a well deserved change of pace to indulge in curiosty rather than brood.
She scooped up her drink, not really even sure if she would ever get to it, and made her way over. She didn't ask for permission to sit down. She never did, part of that arrogance she shared with her brother. "Hi." It might have come off as a pickup line, a single word often all that she needed, but really it was just her way.
Apparently, either the hologram didn't take it as a pick-up line at all, or it simply didn't understand the connotation. Her head swiveled fromt he view of the window and she replied with equal cheer, "Hi."
And after a brief pause, "I hope that being cooped up on as small a ship as Quantum Fury hasn't been too difficult for you and your crew, Ma'am."
The marine shrugged, suddenly aware of the sore bruises she sported around as victory trophies. "Not at all. It's our job to do more with less." Finally taking a sip of her drink, mildy approving, Aria added, "who are you?"
The holograms' Mona Lisa smile widened a bit, and her face took on the expression of amusement. Not the first time she had been asked that question, but rarely so blunt. That fit right in with Savants' predictive model of Aria, however, so there was no reason to be concerned. She answered coyly, "The Semi Autonomous Varied Algorithm Network Trainer. -- That is what it says on my business cards, at least."
The marine cocked her head to the side a moment, thinking about the answer she received. Whatever Savant was, it clearly had a personality, or at least could generate the same effect as a personality. "Why do I feel like you technically answered my question without really telling me anything at all?"
"Because I technically answered your question without telling you anything at all." She smiled wider yet, a perfect, photo-edited smile, the sort you would see in magazines.
She took a quick drink, really not even realizing she did so. Aria's attention was becoming more and more dedicated to the strange thing in front of her. "Then who are you? I mean -who- are you?" She thought a moment if the being would understand why she emphasized the word she did, then thought better and figured if the question wasn't answered again, it was because Savant did not want to answer it.
It was about that point when Aria noticed that Savant had a half-full drink in front of her as well. She hadn't touched it since the marine had come up. "That's not an easy question to answer, Ma'am. You could ask that to anyone here and they'd have as much a hard time. I could describe myself mathematically, I suppose. That would be the only way to get any amount of precision."
She picked up the glass and rocked it side to side, letting the ice swirl about and letting the condensation dribble down the sides. "I am a distributed network of semi-autonomous, self-configuring processing nodes. This is as accurate a description of me as you being a locaized network of integrated, self-configuring processing nodes."
The marine blinked at the further explanation, getting in a quick "please don't" at the mathematics comment. She had to admit that just about everyone would have a hard time describing who they are. "Fascinating," she replied finally with a decent amount of honesty. "I suppose that will have to do. So then, Distributed Networl of Semi-Autonomous, Self-Configuring Processing Nodes, what is it you do?"
"Data collection and analysis. System monitoring. Long range prediction. I've collected a large number of useful networks in my sixty years, so I can fulfill most functions asked of me. Frankly, a lot of my tasks can get very meditative. Maintaining a ship's power and communication network is a little bit like focusing on your breathing."
While she coulddn't possibly understand what it was like to run power distribution or any other such system, she appriciated the metaphor that she -could- understand. "So then you must have other leisure activities. That is if mundane technical functions are so...boring?" She found herself rather fascinated by the AI. It really didn't operate like the holograms that had become so common.
"I wouldn't say that they're boring, so much as basic. Comfortable. I'd have to say that my greatest pleasure comes from investigating the universe." She lifted a hand up to gesture out the window, as if the vista of streaking stars weren't part of the every-day life aboard a ship but something special, unique. "There's nothing more rewarding than to get to the heart of a mystery."
She smiled, a wistful look on her face. "Sometimes I'm tempted to take a ship and just *go*. It would be a foolish plan, but the dream is still there. Let the universe play out before me."
Aria smiled. She genuinly enjoyed the idea of such an escape, but at the same time couldn't understand why this AI didn't just go. "And what have you found so far in your investigations?"
"I've filled a good number of memory busses in Memory Alpha and Memory Beta," Savant referred to those massive libraries of the Federation, store of all sentient knowledge. She spoke reverently, as these were the long continuities of life, safeguards of civilization. The Library of Alexandria had nothing on these.
"And what about you; what is it that *you* do?"
Aria's eyes widened at the answer, partly because she hadn't expected the technical answer while at the same time knowing it was foolish of her not to. She had expected some sort of philosophical reply, but perhaps that was a natural expectation of organic life. She was further caught off guard by the question, again realizing she shouldn't have been. Just because she had been asking questions, like submitting inqueries into a database, didn't mean this one couldn't do the same.
Suddenly she felt a pang of defensiveness, and felt the feeling twice over when she couldn't figure out why. "I'm a soldier. My job is to kill."
Savant nodded with amusement, commenting, "I'm aware of your role, Ma'am, though I'd say that a Marine's job is more to protect the interests of the Federation, if you want to be political. Sometimes that involves killing. Sometime that involves stopping a killing. I enjoy the work, to be honest. It's very challenging."
While she didn't agree with the political description of her job, she didn't challenge it either. While Savant clearly didn't need the definition, most people did need those simple little pleasantries as being politically correct, so she had gotten used to them. Her brows raised at the final comment though, and she leaned back in her chair, nursing the drink she had finally began to notice. "What could possibly be challenging to someone that floats around Starships?"
"What could possibly be challenging to someone that floats around Starships?"
"Oh, the actual physical aspect of it isn't a challenge at all - it's rather meditative as well, though not nearly as calming as the operation of a starship. No, I quite enjoy aim interpolation, path prediction and tactical analysis. I've run through my share of combat operations."
She grinned with a combative twinkle in her eye; something that Aria would have expected to see in a Sergeant, or perhaps one of the Marines she bunked with on their voyage to Charon.
The marine rolled her jaw, thinking to herself. Savant could probably predict what she was working out within the mind of hers. In any event it came out with her next question. "Your share of combat operations? Do you mean repelling boarding action? Do you have a way to leave ships and bases?" Her questioning like that of an attorney, more like layman fascinated by something she knew nothing about. Indeed she knew just about nothing of Savant.
"I have a few androids that I can use if I want," she replied casually, as if it were nothing, "But I prefer to just use remote sensing and manipulation systems if I can get away with it. I spent several months using an android primarily, when I went through Basic. It was fun."
The 'fun' comment struck her as odd and wondered if the artifical being could really have fun. "So you said you've been on combat operations. What sort did you do? What was your specialty?" She was conflicted with how she felt about AI's in combat. It might seem like a great idea, to protect human life, but she worried that those AI's might begin to resent their jobs and creators.
"I have been involved in a few force recon and special operations as an operator; I have acted as co-ordinator for several platoons. In direct combat I have acted as sniper, rifleman, and especially in an assault role. Something about being incorporeal makes it a little less risky." She grinned at the comment,
"Assault was the most interesting role. I try to focus on incapacitating targets whenever possible, which is quite a challenge on its own. Doing so while taking fire and trying to support a combined operation is excellent exercise."
She never really thought about combat in such ways. Interesting? Exercise? Combat was indeed exercising, but Aria never thought of it as such, and while she certainly felt the thrill of combat she would not have described it as interesting. Still, she had a hard time believing that the AI could really understand 'risk'. "So a game to you?"
"Oh, not at all!" She put her hands up defensively, "Life is precious. I enjoy the challenge, and I do my best to minimize casualties on both sides of the equation. There is a lot to learn in situations of conflict, however, and it's always interesting. Especially fire prediction. I've gotten rather good at determining where an attack is going to be made early enough to avoid it."
She looked at her glass for a long moment before taking a drink - it was hard to tell whether that too was just a hologram, or if it was an actual drink. "Sometimes I miss it. It has been several years now."
She wondered for a moment if Savant found human life precious like she found a favorite pet cat's life precious. "I didn't mean the question cynically, but good to know." At this point Aria could tell that she would be brooding on the outcome of this conversation for some time. "Fire prediction...more math." She hated math. "Well I can certainly relate to missing it. It is why I've refused desk jobs."
"Sure it's math, but your cerebellum does that calculus automatically, as far as I understand you aren't aware of it. Still, my predictions are a little more far-reaching." She pondered the glass a few moments longer before asking - in that soft, philosophical tone that can be heard in quieter times at a bar, "So, what's it like? If you can find words for it. -- -- Being in a single body, being disconnected. I have tried, and I can't put my mind around it."
That question caught Aria off guard. Part of her wanted to look away while she thought about it. The AI's gaze felt strangely piercing to her. Her skin nearly crawled at the idea that literally everything she, her body did was being analyzed by Savant. Whether that was true or not didn't really matter. After a series of sighs and darting eyes, she finally came up with an answer. "Powerful."
She nodded in reply, but didn't seem to be very encouraged by the reply. "No one has ever given a very good answer to that question, and no one seems to want to do the math." Savant grinned a surprisingly whimsical smile as the thoughts processed, churned and digested in processors across the ship and beyond. "I suppose it makes sense. You are self-contained, complete. I expand according to needs. I don't have a neat border, as you do."
Aria wasn't sure if she should be understanding or offended by the reply. It almost sounded like Savant was comparing her to a fish in a bowl. It was indeed complete in that bowl, neither needing nor wanting anything beyond. "Really? It sounds to me like you're expanding to -find- a border, like its missing. Given how I feel about being stuck here," she put an odd emphasis on 'stuck' and stroked her fingers from the base of her neck down past the table edge, "I would imagine I'd feel like that."
"I'm not sure what having a border would even be like," she shrugged, "I don't even know whether I would want it or not. I just expand or change my network when it's more effective to do so." Savant let the matter drop as she sat back, seemingly casual; it would be impossible to tell whether the body langauge was honest. "You feel stuck, then? How so?"
Aria grinned, waving the question off, wanting to clarify. "I meant stuck sarcastically. I compare it to how I feel about command. Commanding a company in the field, always getting reports from the eyes and ears within, I feel like I have all these arms that I could reach out toward the enemy with. By comparison, when I was alone on a mission, it felt simple, efficient."
"I can understand that. Predictive ability drops drastically as soon as you have to start predicting other minds, after all. Even if they are allies - at times, especially so." She took another drink, seemingly enjoying the exchange. "Do you get the chance to go out on your own from time to time at least? To keep sharp?"
Aria shrugged, finishing off her drink. "Only when I practice alone. That part of my life left when I started taking command positions. At the time I didn't realize what I was giving up." She sighed deeply, longing for a time long past, yet dreading it at the same time. "But I have no regrets. I've stayed away from desk jobs all this time." It dawned on her then, having been thinking so much about how she felt about things, that there was quite an obvious question she hadn't asked about. "What did it feel like to take someones life?"
The answer might have seemed obvious enough. Most AI's would either say they couldn't feel or simply conclude that a choice had to be made, so they made one. She wondered if Savant would be the same. Savant certainly didn't seem like any other AI Aria had encountered.
Savant looked out at the stars, thoughtful. Registers filled with the results of Savants' opinionsone by one, memory banks slowly accumulating until they had achieved enough of a poll of the program's registers that she was confident that was, indeed, her thoughts on the matter. When she spoke, her tone was ponderous.
"An average humanoid has ten to the eleven neurons in their brain, with a thousand connections between each. That's ten to the fourteen bits of information - one hundred trillion discrete colours of thought. A vast space of memories, ideas, opinions, dreams - all of the things that make up a living, sentient creature. Each one completely unique and entirely irretrievable when lost."
She was somber, and final. "Every life lost is an Armageddon, the death of an entire universe. I take no pleasure in being a destroyer of worlds."
Aria was quite stunned, though she tried her best not to show it. it was certainly not the sort of answer she had ever received from something artificial before. The answer was disturbingly deep, well thought and she suspected well tested against argument. Her hand went up, her fingers flicking towards her in signal to a server.
Another drink was ordered and she sat there, saying nothing, until it was received and she had taken a drink. "I have not heard life spoke of in such apocalyptic terms before, but in the case of examining enemy soldiers, I would say I have to disagree but I don't think that comes as a surprise to you." Given the AI's calculating prowess, Aria wondered if rare a real, honest surprise was for Savant.
It wasn't a surprise, really; she would have been surprised if an organic had come to the same conclusion as her. Organic minds, adrift they were in oceans of hormones and evolved instincts, were highly resilient to reason. Even Vulcans were idiomatic. No doubt the influences of tribal loyalty, protectiveness of family, in-group versus out-group dynamics, and other features of humanity were playing a role in Aria's thoughts on the matter. These biases gained additional weight in her predictive model. "What is it about an enemy soldier that makes you disagree?"
"Why would I morn the death, even care at all, of someone who was trying to kill me? How could that make sense?" She took another drink, wondering of her explanation meant anything to the being in front of her.
"I once asked a Romulan POW, after the Battle of Vulcan wherein we retook most of the urban areas, why he had come there. Not just to Vulcan but to Federation space at all. He said simply that his was "the opposition power, therefore we will oppose." There was absolutely no point to the war, other than a desire to conquer. So, not wanting to be conquered, I fought and killed."
She nodded, wistfully and perhaps a little depressed at the reaction. That sort of thing didn't make any impact on her calculations, generally. "I spend my existence modeling and predicting the hidden hearts of living things - my enemies included. It's difficult to disentangle myself from them without a feeling of loss."
The hologram looked back from the window again, back to her guest. "A hundred trillion shades of thought, gone in a moment - or torn apart over whole seconds. Horrible to even think about. I do not understand your survival instincts, and I don't think I ever will."
Aria shrugged. Organic or not, these were the sorts of issues that one usually didn't change their opinion on. You believed what you believe and that is that. "Well, the issue of life or death is perhaps the most deeply held of ones beliefs. I don't try to change what others think because they wont change. I just try to be honest with myself about what I believe and life by that."
"That's a good ethic, I suppose." She didn't think it was, of course, but knew that saying so would get nowhere - she seemed convinced enough to let the issue lie. Better to effect change through long term action. She inserted that goal into her growing "Aria Falcon" queue and continued. "It would be hard to do your job otherwise. A useful ethic."
"As long as I haven't broken down and suffered any kind of psychological meltdown, I think it's worked just fine." The AI would be wonderfully efficient in combat, of that Aria had no question, but the sort of ethic the artificial being clung to, that was dangerous. It was dangerous to people like her, people who felt far more cynical about the realities of the universe.
"So despite how you feel about life, you find combat amongst the most interesting of activities?" The colonel had an idea. "Care to join us?"
Strange, how Savant could both enjoy the challenges and deplore the results of combat. "I would love to, if it would not break up the dynamic of your operators. Any chance I get to minimize the loss of life while accomplishing the Federation's goals, I'll take." It perhaps sounded a bit like propaganda speaking, but it was impossible to know if that's honestly how Savant felt.
"What would you like me to do for you?"
She thought a moment. She wondered how she could use that but, went with her better judgment and decided not to try. "What would you prefer to do? And don't give some silly, ambiguous answer like 'whatever you need'."
She shrugged, going througha quick efficiency-test on Falcon's team. She found that it was quite capable on its own, "I have told you the roles I enjoy, but my specialties lie in tactical analysis and my predictive abilities. Given that I can replace a body as easily as you might replace your shoes, I also have strengths at the forefront of combat."
The laugh that Aria made at Savant's reply seemed light hearted. A distinctly entertained sound that brightened her right up, changing the vibe around her. When discussing duty-related matters the woman was very no nonsense, that sense often applying to what she deemed nonsensical rules. "Then I have just the thing for you," her voice cheerful. "I think you'll like it. I know I'll be fascinated to see the results."
"What role do you foresee me taking with you, Ma'am?" No nonsense, perhaps, but Savant was stillcurious as to what role she would be taking on - she would have to build a new set of models in order to do the job well, and there really was no reason to procrastinate.
Aria, on the other hand, was not sure she wanted to tell the AI what role was in mind. This was partly because she wasn't sure, exactly, what she wanted to do with Savant, and wanted to talk to her team and give it some thought. "I remember when I was fresh out of sniper school. It was only a couple of months before the Romulans invaded. I thought I knew exactly what I had volunteered for. I really didn't, but that experience of not knowing was one of the most valuable ever."
"If you're interested, and I have a feeling you are, then we'll start tomorrow at 0800 on the holodeck."
Savant shrugged off the typically human appeal-to-mystery; it was nearly universal that humans loved things that were unknown and had the sheen of the unknowable ot them. Annoying, but unavoidable. "I am at your disposal, Ma'am. I will be there when you are ready."
"Wonderful!" She fishined off her drink and stood, rather excited for the coming day. Actually, it was already that day, but there were things she needed to do still, like speak with her marines and maybe, just maybe rest some of the bruises that peppered her flesh. She stood, offered a friendly 'see you then' smile and left.
=/\= End =/\=
Colonel Aria Falcon
Marine Force Recon
Savant (Quantum Fury Avatar)
Chief of Operations / 2nd Officer