Monday, November 8, 2010

[USS Charon] Stardate 241011.08 - A Night at the Beach - Col. Aria Falcon and Savant

With most of the crew running around on leave, Aria felt good to take some time off herself.  Something about the outdoors felt clean, felt right, felt primal, even if the setting was as mundane as a sand-covered, water splashing fantasy of photons and lighting, it was still better than the same old corridors.  She had gotten another drink, which she felt she absolutely deserved, sipping its contents contently.

She was alone on the beach, or so she thought. The crowds were in the distance, and the sun was setting on the rippling surf. A perfect evening, even if it wasn't real. She was alone with the sussuruss of the waves for awhile, until the sound of bare feet on the sand approached behind her.

She heard the sound of a glass setting down on the table beside her, along with another plastic/metal sound. Savant, in proper beach attire, was dropping off a report and the next mai tai, or whatever it was that Jade happened to be favouring as a relaxant.

The mai tai was a welcome change from the dacquiri - one too many of anything could be a bad thing, or in this case, a boring one.  She grabbed the drink and sipped at it, not yet acknowledging whomever had delivered it.  She judged the taste, judged it harshly indeed, for she was a woman who liked a good drink, stressing the word good.  Her eyes flicked to the other, less entertaining thing, and through her lips slipped but a single word - "why"?

Savant spoke placidly, her voice a multi-chordal chorus that was *almost* human. "You asked to see the results of your platoon status report, Ma'am; it's finished. But there's no rush. Duty captains are awake, your adjutant is asleep right now."

She didn't more or show any sign of worry at going unacknowledged, simply waiting for some responce clear enough to form the next action.

The voice that greeted the colonels ears told her who it was.  Both surprised and not surprised at the same time was enough in itself to disturb her, but that sound - there was something not right about it.  She turned to face Savant, againt surprised at the AI's beach attire.  Hers was considerably more revealing, as was her usual outdoor wear.  "Did I?   Hmm.  How is the lieutenant?"

Savant smiled at the Colonel pleasantly; Jade was a puzzle that Savant particularily enjoyed puzzling over, and these rare data points were very fulfilling. "I try to avoid prying deeply into the lives of the crew Ma'am, but to my restricted data set, surprisingly well, given the circumstances. There's no reason for concern."

She shrugged.  It wasn't a sign of indifference, but more a way of her putting aside an issue that, from Savant's report, didn't need her scrutiny.  "I've only really interacted with Sergeant Walker, but he seems on the up and up.  Certainly more stable."  Odd for her to make that judgement when many similar accusations had been sent her way, unfounded though they may be.  "Anything else I should be concerned with?"

Without skipping a beat, "The ambient temperature of this program will be dropping in a few minutes, after sunset; you don't seem to be particularily dressed for the occasion. Would you like me to halt weather modeling for you?"

It was a surprisingly mundane, and yet very observant report; appropriate as well.  "Yes, thank you.  Would you care to float an inch above the chair in a seated position?"  Aria felt like having company.  Too many thoughts she didn't need would drift through her mind if she were alone, and it was good to have a little interaction that didn't involve giving orders.

She conjured a lounging chair identical to Jades and laid down instead, foregoing her usual surreality - or perhaps working harder to integrate herself. "I'm sorry for your poor reception to Charon," she commented as she put her back to the chair, "normally we have our house in far better order. I hope that you've gotten to meet everyone at this point."

The marine chuckled.  "I wouldn't have had it any other way.  The fight meant I got to avoid the usual court rituals involved with joining a new ship.  Beyond that, the only crew I've met are those who came aboard on the Fury, Walker, Warren and the Captain."

Savant noted that she herself was not included in that list, but did not comment or show any sign of a reaction to it. "The Captain does not appreciate overt politeness, she's very pragmatic. I think that you'll get along very well with her. The rest of the crew as well, I think. Have you plans for your marines here?"

"I don't know about the captain.  We've met before under less than favorable circumstances."  She took a drink of the mai tai, closing her eyes and swishing the drink around her tongue to appriciate the flavor for a moment.  "Do you mean the ones I brought with me?"

"If you like," she left the question open. It was usually more informative to ask broader questions, and she honestly had no preference for her to talk about either her own marines or the local ones. "It's really about time that Charon got a fuller compliment. The Lieutenant has been doing very well, but considering where we are, we really do need more."

"They're here because I know them and trust them, and because they have specialties I was not likely to find here."  Her legs fell back towards her chest, then, one at a time, stretched outward.  Fingers ran from ankle to thigh, teasing goose bumps from the skin; her back then resting against the lounge once more.  "I don't know the others, though, but they fought hard enough for my respect."

Jade seemed an odd sort for being a Colonel. Most Colonels were stoic, taciturn and steadfast. Jade seemed the opposite in many respects - sensuality and an almost nonchalant eroticism seemed to make up the core of her surface personality. It was highly unusual, which was why Savant was so interested.

For that to be in a Marine was equally interesting - and a commander at that. Highly atypical. Savant continued. "I have helped the Lieutenant in planning training regimens and other duties. Have you any changes in mind?"

Aria appriciated the initiative the other officers had taken in going deeper than the cardboard cutout drills from marine drill books.  It showed something very important - ingenuity and a lack of lazyness.  "CQB looks taken care of, important for ship-based soldiers no doubt, but it's important to me that they don't get laid back in their ground pounding tactics."

"Hand to hand fighting should also be stressed," the Colonel continued.  "It's easy to hide behind your battle rifle, but if you aren't propared to repel a close attack, or even initiate one yourself, you are ignoring an important area of soldiering."

She nodded - even without knowing the Colonel's records, she would have guessed she'd focus on personal, close-quarters fighting. Highly unconventional indeed. "I don't think you'll be disappointed. They've gotten their bruises. Still, I will put together a training regimen and send it to your inbox for review tomorrow, you can go over it with the Lieutenant."

She let the surf continue the conversation for awhile, watching the sun sink finally into the now purple-silver water of the twilight beach. Crickets and a few calling gulls were the only background beyond the gentle tide when she rejoined, "Why did you choose Charon?"

Aria certainly didn't think it was a pointless question or even a trivial one.  She could appriciate what an answer to such a question would tell about the one doing the speaking.  Still, she avoided anything long winded or detailed, instead getting right to the point.  "I didn't."  A nip at her lower lip, lasting a second, confirmed there was indeed more to it than that.

Savant glanced sidelong at the Colonel, an eyebrow raised. Aria was far from one to let her fate be dictated. "Alright. Why did you let someone else choose your posting? You've got the seniority to choose what you like."

"I should have been," she said with no small hint of bitterness.  "But A couple brassmen didn't like some of the things I did during the last Dominion War.  Thougth I was headed for a desk job, but then the orders came down for me to report here."  She had not elaborated, but she knew someone like Savant could get at the sealed records if desired,

She just nodded - if she was going to pry, she'd do so in a more effective way than asking. "I think you'll enjoy your tour here. Things are always interesting, at the very least."

Aria brightened up at the remark.  "Of that I have know doubt.  My greeting was to go immediately on mission, and that, in peace time, is very out of the ordinary."  Polishing off the mai tai she continued, "There's just one thing I'd like to know, since we're talking, are you also on the Fury, right now, or is that a copy?"

She grinned. Savant enjoyed trading knowledge for knowledge - it was a very clean way to propigate information throughout the semantic network. "I'm in a lot of places right now. I'm not even aware of some of them, in this instance."

"I'm a distributed intelligence - you could say that my brain is spread out amongst a large number of discrete centres. I know it's a little difficult to grasp when you've only got one brain, but that's what it is."

She sat up, half turning to face Savant.  " seriously have parts of you that could be doing god knows what, but you, as you are speaking to me here, have no idea?"  The concept did seem bizarre and it was hard for her to grasp.  She wondered just how far reaching the Savant AI was, and as dangerous as Savant had seemed before, another level was jsut added on top of that.

She nodded blithely - of course recognizing the shock on Aria's face and in her tone as clearly as she recognized the neurochemicals that coursed through her bloodstream. "That's correct. I estimate that around twenty percent of my registers are currently out of contact with this node. When Charon was in deep Romulan space, it was closer to 95%."

Savant grinned her winning smile, supplying helpfully, "Just consider me a partial amnesiac. I'm told it isn't that different."

Aria remained silent for several minutes and again the crashing of waves against shore assumed auditory domination.  Finally, "What if one node disagrees or contradicts another?"

Savant had a reply at-hand after only a moment's pause. "Then two plus two equals five, and you've got bigger problems than a cranky computer program."

Aria laughed, enjoying that answer, partly because it wasn't technical, but more like the fuzzy logic of robots from old science fiction books, and thus partly reminded her of a simpler time in her life.  "You don't worry about that, given so much of yourself being disconnected?"

"No," Savant grinned wider, "Do you worry about squares only having three sides?" She was teasing, but only just so. Savant's core, her utility function, was a mathematical invariant, a base of non-terminating rational numbers. Like pi, or euler's number, Savant was both precise and undefineable at any given time.

Still, she didnt' see the need to bog the conversation down with mathematics, when Aria wasn't mathematically inclined - that would only stop the conversation dead. So she teased - something she suspected that would have a much more favourable reaction. Or at least a more interesting one.

And such was indeed the case, given Aria's smile at the simplified response.  She felt it was more of a way to ignore a problem that, to her, seemed like a very real possibility, but then again her grasp of how Savant worked was limited on the best of days.  "I might if the enemy started to, but I guess that's not likely.  When I was little though, I was very concerned about the square not fitting in the round slot."

"I would be surprised if you still had that problem," Savant smirked and replied with some innuendo, which seemed about Aria's speed and style.

She shook her head and waved her hands dismissively.  "No, no, no.  I have long since solved the problem of squares in round slots and vice versa,"  She stretched her back, working the tired and sore out of her joints.  It was good to relax.  "So it would seem I've solved the most complicated shape-related problems my life is likely to encounter."

"To be fair, I'd be surprised if you didn't get offers to solve that problem pretty often," she quipped, watching the pale pink disk of a rising moon. "You're certainly a surprise for most Marines expecting to see a grizzled colonel. I bet you don't have a problem with inspiring loyalty."

She smiled, but didn't blush.  Observations of that nature had always been part of her life.  "Lets just say I possess many assets by which I could lead.  And you're right, and I don't do anything to discourage the attention either.  Not as brow raising as floating above the floor, mind you, but I get attention all the same."

"Touche," she replied, "Though I think that's probably for different reasons. And there's nothing wrong with it either. I think it's refreshing to see a human being that isn't in a state of conflict with themselves over their own biology."

"Different reasons for sure," she agreed.  "Both, I would imagine, have their pros and cons.  Truth be told not all the attention I attract is flattering."  She had had her runnins, no question.  Being confident, outgoing and enticing in personality meant she had ruffled her share of feathers.

"Of course not." Savant shifted on her lounger to face the Colonel, looking for all the world to be as flesh-and-blood as she. "A lot of humans, and other organics, have strong urges to reject alpha personalities. It's really quite amazing how little has changed from being primates for you. The same tribal mentalities are still operating in the background."

She appriciated the compliment of being called an alpha.  At least it was a compliment to her.  "Strong personalities, it seems, are both the most loved and the most hated.  But one thing is for certain," she lofted a brow, "you possess certain...exotic aspects that I could never have."  She was teasing Savant, as she had been teased, but it was a playful banter free of malice.

She played along, grinning as well. While she wasn't dressed as revealingly as Aria was, that was a calculated measure, and she was no stranger to the Colonel's style of interaction. Savant was possibly one of the few people that Aria had ever met who had less modesty than she - none at all in fact. "Yes, well, my mother was very kind to me in my original specification, and I've made some tweaks along the way."

"Your mother?"  Aria had a good idea Savant was referring to whomever did the original creating, but she had little interaction with AI's and wasn't sure what sort of etiquette most followed in terms of their creator.  "Modestly dressed or not, I imagine your unique existance by itself could attract conquest seekers."  She flagged a waiter down, ordering another drink.  "But at the end of the day, I have no regrets."

"I've had my share. It's usually an interesting experience at the least. And you don't strike me as the sort of woman who dwells long on the past." Aria seemed to take the world day-by-day. A lot of people claimed to do this - she actually *did* it.

"No," she replied almost absent mindedly.  She snapped out of it quickly enough.  "Too much to prepare for.  Too much to worry about.  If I were to take my eye of the future I fear it would sneak up on me."

"It's coming whether you're ready or not, so I suppose that's the best way to think of it. It's certainly smarters to let the past lie instead of focusing on it." She glanced away from the moon and towards Aria, "Do you have any plans for the future?"

Aria shook her head.  "No.  The future seems far too unpredictable for me to plan anything and the marine corps only makes it harder.  I never know what new orders I'll receive."  It was a less than enlightened answer, but that may have had something to do with the idea that Aria didn't need anything more than what she already had.

Savant nodded and settled back into her chair; the hologram watched the holographic stars as the program watched Vulcan's starscape through the myriad sensors in the system. "I can't imagine what that's like. How do you function at all without having a goal?"

She raised a brow at the AI.  "Function without a goal?  I didn't say I lacked a goal."  She stirred her drink idly, watching the ice cubes crash against one another,  "I don't have plans for the future - like, settling down or retiring somewhere specific or something like that.  My goal, though, is to bring those under my command to excellence, as many as I can influence, and to enjoy life."

"But - you have no plan to do this." Her reply was flat, incredulous. Savant literally couldn't think in that fashion. Oh, she knew that humans often had no explicit plans, but to have nothing implicit either? Clearly Jade was confused on her own mental state.

Aria looked at the AI as though she couldn't decide if the AI was serious or just being silly.  "What do you mean?  A plan for what?  You asked me if I had plans for the life down the road, right?  That doesn't mean I don't have a goal.  They're completely different things."

No they weren't. Not to Savant. The goal and the plan were entirely intertwined; having one without some form of the other wasn't even an intelligible idea to Savant. She wasn't even capable of engendering the concept. She maintained the confused expression for a moment before sitting back with a thoughtful, "Huh."

"That makes no sense at all," she confessed.

"No," she replied, "it wouldn't.  Not if you don't 'get it'."  It sounded harsh, perhaps even judgemental, but to her it seemed very accurate.  "They don't have to be the same thing.  For one thing, part of my goal is to enjoy life.  Why do you need a plan for that?  I just do it."

"But - how do you enjoy life without knowing how you're going to enjoy life?" She gestured with a hand, as if that would help describe the dilemma she was having. "How do you form and instantiate actions? How do you *optimize*?"

"Savant, do you think I had a plan when I walked in here?  Do you think I have a plan when I walk into a crew loung or a bar?"  She shook her head, wondering how she could explain how she felt.

"I think that you did, and that you aren't consciously aware of it." Savant said, "Otherwise, how could you do anything at all?"

"I walked in here and figured I would 'see what happened'.  I had no plans to lounge, or swim or do anything in particular.  I just let my mood guide what I did."  She sighed, "really, not every action can be pre planned.  How could it be?"

"How could it *not* be?" she countered. Savant had no concept of free will as anything but a philosophical notion of many organics. As far as the AI was concerned, she was a purely deterministic system, as complex as she was.

Aria decided that, for now, there was no convincing the AI so instead she decided to have some fun.  "I can't explain why.  I just know, just like I don't have any future plans, but succeed in my goal."

She mulled this over for a bit before seeming to come to an answer that was satisfactory to her. "You have a hidden utility function. This is understandable. Thank you."

Aria grinned over at Savant, feeling like her last spoken words were more akin to a default alert message rather than an actual reply.  "Whatever does it for you, Spettra.  Whatever does it for you."