6 of 6 | Chapter 9

 

Steersman had initiated only one person into his confidence, the one person that he somehow considered to be the soul of the organization and whose trust he did not wish to compromise by keeping secrets; and that person was Karen. He wanted her to understand why it was all happening.

For the first time, he decided to take her with him and show her everything that they had already discussed. Karen accepted his reasoning, but still managed to gently weave her doubts into her questions.

“This cannot stay hidden for ever,” she remarked.

“It doesn't need to, really, but the time hasn't yet come for it to be made public knowledge, though. A sensitive piece of information released at the wrong time can do huge damage, but if released at precisely the right time, it's harmless or could even be beneficial.”

“This could all cause a whole lot of misunderstandings. Until we decide its time to let this out into the open, we have to be incredibly careful,” Karen warned.

“I have always said that the only safety is invisibility, as that means it simply doesn't exist in people's minds.”

“But then why do I need to know about it?”

“Because I want you to understand what is going on. You're my ‘right-hand man’, so to say,” said Steersman. “And because everybody looks to you as my deputy.”

Karen was sure that she would never get a straight answer from him, but she was not insulted. She knew that Steersman needed her and that he did not want to stab her in the back by keeping secrets. He did not want to risk either her trust or her loyalty.

“I understand that there's a point from which there's no turning back, and it's not possible to go ahead at half speed either, which doesn't leave us too much choice,” observed Karen.

“There are dangers that we simply have to prepare for … that's what this is all about, and you're right, we can't solve problems at half speed.”

The usually dark western corridor was lit by standby lights. Hardly anything was visible around them and the isolated second sector spread out in front of them like a black canvas. After a quick identification procedure, the door opened and a blinding light poured out over them.

As soon as they stepped inside, the door locked behind them.

Inside, there was the most bizarre noise combined with an even more bizarre sight. Frighteningly fast machines were working as far as the eye could see. They were constructing unrecognizable parts, not with a conveyer belt or production line, but in a completely convoluted system.

“This is ….” Karen stopped. “I don't really know how to put it.”

She was forced to admit that, at this very moment, it was doubtful that others would understand preparation of such size. All she could think was that this was Pandora's box.

“Come! I'll show you around,” said Steersman, seeing the confusion on Karen's face.

“On foot?” she managed to force out, seeing the size of the area.

A floating machine appeared above them in answer and, in front of them, a circle made of green light suddenly appeared on the ground.

“Step onto it,” said Steersman, gesturing towards the circle.

Karen obeyed. Suddenly they started to rise with the green circle, as if gravitation had ceased to exist.

“It's called gravitation radius,” explained Steersman, floating in the air. “The DCG spheres can produce a form of focused ray that can lift any solid material.”

“I didn't know that such a concept even existed,” said Karen, panicking a little.

“Well, it didn't till yesterday. We came across this DCG feature by accident. It can be rather easily adapted to many uses. All that's needed is to create a focused anti-gravitational field under our feet, which effectively means we are standing on air.”

“Oh, this is rather weird!” she lifted her feet experimentally.

“I know, but you'll get used to it.”

They stepped into the floating machine. Inside, there was a spacious bare room paved in ivory white. The floor was made of a soft transparent material that gave the feel of walking on a rubber carpet. From the machine, they had a panoramic view of the area below.

They went into the inner area of the factory. Robots were assembling parts everywhere.

“What are they making?” she asked, pointing a little further on to where bigger units were being put together.

“Aircrafts, without wings. Hopefully, Gibbs and his team will soon find a way to control them at higher altitudes as well.”

“What, you mean in space?”

“No. We can't use the DCG spheres in space, the anti-gravitational force is less effective in space than near planets.”

“How can you make these machines work this way?” Karen had million of questions racing around her mind.

“I ask them.”

“Ask them? What …? How?” She asked uncertainly.

“As a matter of fact, they're able to do anything with what they have available to them. Information, tools or resources.”

“Do they have artificial intelligence then?”

“Yes and no. They are capable of solving problems and are able to make quick decisions to find the best possible and most responsible solution, but they don't have memory as we know it, and they can't see the bigger picture. That means they have no real power of free will. They just complete every task that is given to them independently and without fail.”

“So, it's not possible that they might turn against us?” asked Karen, but as soon as she did she felt that it was a silly question.

Steersman smiled. Karen has seen too many films about robots going mad.

“No, they won't,” he answered.

Through the panorama floor, newer and newer monster machines came into view. It was possible to see that they were mainly working on vehicles that were to be designated for flying.

“I have another question, Sean.”

“What is it?”

“Is it all really that bad?” Karen stared into his face.

He sighed. He had been waiting for that question, and he had long since decided to answer it by clearly describing a picture of the exact situation.

“It could certainly be said that there's an emerging crisis in the cause of which we haven't been entirely innocent. We've created technical advances and released them into the global markets at a speed that national economies are becoming unable to keep pace with. It may be a slight exaggeration, but it's like we have gone into the Middle Ages and introduced a tractor to compete with a horse and plow, which would've caused a crop surplus beating all competition. Now, we have a free market where those who rapidly adapt or have more sophisticated technology win, but the price of this is always paid by the loser. In this case, the losers are too strong and have too much power.”

“But the people will win.”

“Yes, but it's not them that rule the world.”

Karen went quiet. She couldn't image what Steersman was so afraid of. Crises had always existed and governments had always handled them.

“All we have to do is make sure that we're not defenseless and, if it comes to a fight, we're able to stand up and protect ourselves.”

“And for that, do we only need this … what's it called? Gravitation radius?” Karen asked.

“No, I don't think so, however, we don't need to produce a weapon so lethal that it acts as a deterrent to anyone who might wish to incapacitate us, if that's what you mean.”

“That's what I was thinking.”

“I think the situation can be solved in more sophisticated ways.”

Suddenly, Karen realized that she did not want to ask any more questions. She just looked at the cold dance of the machinery making more and more devices, aircraft, vehicles … and who knows what else.

 

***

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH