Ghost Ship
Posts: 1200
  • Posted On: Feb 22 2005 4:50am



*





Prologue






Perhaps the strangest thing about the perception of space is the silence. So overwhelming, so complete that one begins to realize just how much noise fills their life day in and day out.

From the beeps and hisses of automation to the beating of one's heart (even if only heard within the recesses of your ear drums), the licking of lips, clatter of teeth, the click of boots...


Yes, once a person steps out of an airlock, leaving behind the creature comforts of an artificial shell and atmosphere, they are struck down by the force of blackness.

Sure there are pin pricks of light out there that prevents one from going totally mad (assuming you aren't out on the spiral arm of the galaxy) but of even more comfort is the feel of the durasteel cable a person remains attached too during their space walk.

But even then, you do not hear the silence though you begin to feel the loneliness. For your breathing becomes a beat faster...

in and out..


in and out...



And if you are given to madness, the inevitable pressure to remove the glass faceplate and simply scream out into nothingness becomes almost overpowering.


Ironically, it is almost a mark of civilization... the ability to take oneself and throw it into an environment that was not made for them. That desperate gamble to throw oneself in the middle of the next danger, into the next quest that offers more.






**




"Sitcom, this is A3. No response from the craft."

"A3, this is Sitcom. We have still not registered any IFF signals. Any recognition?"

"Sitcom, scans are all over the place. Whatever that thing is, it's comprised of some sort of alloy that is deflecting my scans."

"Opinion, A3?"

"It looks.... Imperial."

"Come again?" the voice took on a more worried tone. "I am going to alert Command."

"Sitcom, the ship seems dead. No lit ports at all from this vantage point. From the little energy readings I am getting, it seems there are some systems on stand-by mode."


"A3, if that bloody machine is Imperial, we could very well be in a trap. I am going to follow Jutraalian Standard Procedure and send word back to Command."

"So much for the right of salvage, Sitcom. If the Emperor's goons get a hold of this, it's all over for us. We won't see a damn credit."

"Or Emperor Fearsons may just have our heads for NOT reporting it."

A3 sighed as he triggered some maneuvering jets of his module. "All I'm sayin is that take a look at the thing before the military takes it."

"What makes you think the Empire is not monitoring .."

"Us? The dangerous Jutraalian Salvage company of Togoria? Perhaps the fact that we are still here. Usually the Imps shoot first and ask questions later."

"Can you make out any markings?"

"The outer hull seems rather scored."

"Battle damage?"

"Not quite.. almost like it went through some sort of fire."

"In space?"

"I am not saying it did! I am sayin that's what it looks like! Anyway, I can see the underside and it seems to have the hangers like an Imp Star. Darkened tho."

"Imp Star... That doesn't tell us much when half the governments use em. For all we know, it's a Jutraalian ship."


"Sitcom, I've been thinking. Why don't I simply fly myself into the hanger. There's no power.. theoretically, I could simply float on up to the hanger door to the inner corridors."

"And if you expose parts of the ship to vacuum..?"

"I'll knock on the door with a wrench before opening. Fearson's 12th concubine, Sitcom! Don't worry! I may even be able to get better scans from the inside of the ship."

"Alright, A3. Just be careful. It's still hard to make out the ship. I wish the joker who launched it didn't paint it black. Damn hard to make out.."


"I'll turn on the lights.."


"You keep your damn hands to themselves A3!"


"Just checking to make sure you were awake."


"I am going to log the find with Salvage Central. Have to file the claim."


"Good thinking. I'll signal in a bit when I am inside."




The ships black and the the closer he got, A3 found his scans becoming more erratic. All the view ports were darkened but as he came closer, the general dark outline began to take shape, which made it resemble quite closely the Imperial Star Destroyer. There were some notable differences however.

A couple of "bubbles" seemed to be formed onto a larger than normal hull. The command tower seemed to be lowered and the engine housings enlarged.

There were also darker spots that spoke of weapon clusters and turbolaser batteries and ports.

Whatever... whosever ship this was... there was no mistaking it for what it was.


A warship.




But who loses a warship like this?
Posts: 1200
  • Posted On: Feb 23 2005 5:46am
*


Thirty minutes later, A3, a salvage miner named Jek, a power specialists named Bran, and a scanning specialist named Fran were all floating inside the large hanger near one of many access doors.

There was no power and so the door did not slide open. Strangely, the door was not buckled which indicated to the salvage crew that the other side of the door was equally depressurized.

The bent frames of the starfighter holding cranes told them also that the vacuum had been a sudden occurance within the hanger.

But, so far, no sign of life.


"Fran, are you getting anything?"

"Scans still seem to show residual power readings, passive systems probably and little else." the only woman of the trio indicated in frustration. The hull composition still seemed to play havok with the scans.


The man named Bran used his portable battery pack to plug into a nearby panel and his minicomputer began to light up with data.

"Seems there is some sort of passive security protocol running." he murmured. "Framework reminds me of an Imperial encryption."

"Can you break it?"

"I said it reminded me of an Imperial encryption. Whatever this thing is, it's damned sophisticated.

Jek was looking over the scans he had taken as he first floated into the hanger bay. They did not tell him much but he did get faint readings of some sort of strange radioactive isotopes attached to the outer hull. Nothing on the scale of threat...

...but surprising just the same.


He was about to suggest taking more readings of the hull when the door of the hanger opened into a darkened corridor. The faint glow of emergency lighting appeared in intervals.

The hall was bare and empty.

Bran half expected dead bodies to float out but the corridor looked as sterile as an operating room.

"Sitcom, we're entering the craft.." Fran said.
Posts: 1200
  • Posted On: Mar 4 2005 5:54am
**





What struck Fran as odd as she and her companions made their way through the corridor was the unfinished feel of the ship.

"This is looking more and more like an experimental ship."

"But this big? Out in the middle of nowhere?" came the incredulous response.

Fran shrugged, "Maybe they had to evac the crew in a hurry. Perhaps..-" Her sentence never finished as abruptly the lights switched on momentarily blinding them. Nearly as fast was the artificial gravity that also switched on dropping the group to the floor.

"I hate durasteel!" complained Bran, wishing more padding came with in the butts of the enviroment suits.

"Quiet!" hissed Jek as he fumbled for his personal cutting torch, needing to feel the comfort of something dangerous in his hand.



*


Outside, the vessel serving as Sitcom monitored the energy readings of the vessel climb off the charts.

"Cappy, that thing just came alive!" shouted the helmsman.

"What the frell did they push over there!" the Captain grumbled, coming from the ship's mess. "Status?" he barked out, his eyes riveted on the tiny points of light eminating from the ports of the ship before them.

"Ship is reflecting our scans, sir!"

"Hail our people!"

"Can't raise them!"

"POWER BUILDUP!"

"ENERGY READINGS OFF THE SCALE!"

"Contact Jutraal! Tell them---"



The Captain never finished his sentence as various weapon ports fired in unison crossing the distance quickly in what amounted to a 'point blank' range. The salvage ship never stood a chance, it's debris scattering in all directions.

Those few pieces that made it to the vessel were instantly vaporized by the energy shield surrounding it.
Posts: 1200
  • Posted On: Mar 25 2005 5:52pm
*






"What the frack just happened!" Shouted Jek as the humming noise reverberating across the plating subsided. The vibration had caused Jek's skin to itch, his space suit preventing him from scratching.

The lights did not go out nor did the artificial gravity vanish as the ship went quiet.

"Have we been spotted?" Bran asked glancing around for any type of surveillance device from the platinum and white metal walls comprising the corridor they were inside of.

"I have a feeling we are under way?" Fran said, shaking her scanner.

"What's that thing telling you? I didn't feel anything!" Jek growled out.

"True. If the ship is incomplete, we would have felt.." Bran's voice broke off as creaking noises of metallic strain were heard here and there throughout the quiet corridor. But their heart beats were pounding in their ears through their space suits.

Not even the few computer panels lining the wall spoke with their ever familiar beeps and techno-noise to indicate activity, the vacuum within having killed their function.


"Look," Started Fran. "My scanner is not working correctly. But I think I detect life sign---"

And the lights suddenly went out.


"Frack! This ship is pissing me off!" Jek shouted.

"Quiet, Bek!" Bran responded, "Your mic's next to my ear!"


"There seems to be emergency lighting up ahead." Fran interrupted before Jek could retort.

The men turned their visors around trying to get a feel for direction as the darkness was almost complete. If not for the artificial gravity still functioning, orientation would have been much much harder.

Sure enough, up ahead, very faint was a flickering red light.

"It's not that far of a walk. Perhaps we can find a map of this craft, perhaps find the bridge and maybe contact Sitcom."

"Why not just leave now?" Jek asked.

"Because if the ship moved, Sitcom will not be where we think it is. And we can't eyeball it anymore." Bran answered, starting to turn towards the flickering light.

"Besides, if the ship did move, Cappy will contact Jutraal." Fran continued, turning to follow Bran.


"Frack, Frack, Frack!" Jek, who did not like this ship already slowly turned to follow Fran. "Cappy better not have told Jutraal. There goes our finder's fee!"
Posts: 1200
  • Posted On: Jan 11 2006 5:16am
*

Three lights broke through the dark erie silence as the trio passed the flickering red emergency light. The fact that it was flickering, according to a warning plate nearby, indicated a change in internal pressure recently. Which was strange because it was the aritificial gravity and lighting power that had activated. By all their instrumentation, the vacuum (or lack of atmosphere) had not changed.

So, was there an atmosphere before the hanger door had opened?

If so, it must have been depressurized before they had unlocked it and if so, why?


The corridor suddenly branched into three different directions which remained unblocked as far as their lights could detect. No blastdoors had been closed and so the vacuum spread farther than they thought it would.

At least on an operational ship. If it was operational to begin with.

Though a different conclusion to the humming of the hull previously no one could come up with at the moment.

"Where the frack is everybody?" Bran asked in irritation.

"Perhaps they couldn't contain a hull breach." Fran answered helpfully, her scans still useless.

"Didn't you see the armor on this beast?" Jek relied, hitting his scanner on the side of his pants, "Damn this composite. Just what the hell is this hull made of?"

They continued going straight through the corridor ignoring the branches and soon found themselves in a large room situated with steel tables and chairs. There was debris floating everywhere: Foodstuffs, liquid, and various chairs and utensiles.

"This must be the ship's mess."

Fran's gloved hand went out towards some floating substance and, upon grasping it, began to scan it. "There is oxygen in this room." she said immediately.

"How can you-?" Jek started when she showed him the rot on the foodstuffs.

"Chemical decay. Vacuum would have preserved." she replied tersely.

"Not enough oxygen to support life but enough to encourage rotting?" Bran asked almost to himself. He reached his hand out to grab at some floating debris.

"Half eaten food." he murmured and disgustedly released it. His gloved hand slapped across a dark red sticky substance.

"FRAN!" the man nearly yelled in panic, the woman turning her light over to him.

"Blood." she whispered.

"WHAT THE FRAK HAPPENED!? WHAT THE FRAK ARE WE DOING HERE!?" Bran began to shout, the situation getting the better of him.

"Get it together!" Jek snapped, knocking debris away. "Let's make it to the bridge.."
Posts: 4191
  • Posted On: Aug 20 2014 9:02pm
“Directives stemming from the Imperial High Command have been successfully met with certain success and so I present to you the Helvaner IL-600 core.   Kuat Drive Yards will be receiving the blueprints to incorporate into the existing housing for final installation.  In all, I expect six months before full integration.”
 
“Why so long, Doctor?” a rather portly Admiral asked, his eyes squinting at the holographic projection before him as if he could make sense of the quantum mechanical equations laid out.
 
Artificial Intelligence, gentlemen…”  The speaker, Dr. Helvaner, looked around at the small group of Imperial leaders with hidden contempt.  “…is defined as a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers and/or the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior--“
 
“So you are saying it is an exact science,” another Admiral, a rather younger man, quipped causing a round of chuckling.
 
“Intelligence is as intelligence does,” the doctor replied quietly and the young Admiral frowned running the reply through his head wondering if he had been insulted.
 
An older, much higher ranked man did not have to wonder and barked out a harsh laugh that could have also passed as a cough.  “Go on, Doctor,” he ordered.
 
“The point, gentlemen, is this:  A.I. will imitate intelligent human behavior and will do so quite rapidly which inevitably will lead to the question, are humans obsolete?”
 
“But it will not be true intelligence, it will be intelligence artificially created.  Besides, even computers cannot operate at the speed of thought.”  The young Admiral seemed persistent, as if he had something to prove to the other high ranked officials and the doctor saw some seated around him nod in agreement.   The Doctor wanted to sigh.
 
“At what point does the mimicry of intelligence become intelligence?  What if the mimicry is too perfect…”
 
“It is still artificial..” countered the young Admiral.
 
“A baby can be artificially inseminated.  Does that mean it is potentially less intelligent than a typical human?  Clones are artificially created.   Are they any less intelligent?”
 
“The clones follow orders!” The young Admiral snapped while the others shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
 
“As do those that are ranked less than you.  However, the fact still remains that, outside such command structures, your fellow humans, artificially inseminated or not, clone or not…they will begin to display true intelligence and take it to their logical conclusions given their surrounding environment.   With A.I., computer intelligence, while there is a programming framework, the more independence required of that AI, the less that framework will be structured.  In simplistic terms, robotic or droid laws become rules which become suggestions which become conscience the more sophisticated a system.  The AI will also need to learn through experience to improve.”
 
“Why is that?” the portly Admiral asked.
 
“Because standard Imperial military doctrine requires such improvement, no?  AI responses are faster across multitasking platforms allowing it to do more in less time but it also needs to take crew performance into account as well as environment conditions.  Is the ship damaged?  In need of maintenance?  Any number of issues that factor into overall operational performance.”
 
“So what you are dancing around with is the idea that each learning experience will eventually move an AI from mimicry to automatic reacting based on true intelligence.”  The older man remarked.
 
“A creative intelligence will be birthed and will react in unpredictable ways.   While a machine intelligence will not have an emotional connection, it will still be highly intelligent and react to reflect this.”
 
“For example?” the old man prodded.
 
The doctor though a moment, “In a military setting, intelligent beings (humans or clones) are broken down and reshaped to adhere to a standard military protocol.  The benefit is to break down intelligent beings to work like gears in a machine and the more efficient a machine, the more effective it is.  They will also put the mission or goal ahead of their own self-preservation.  In this way, you are driving intelligence down.  With an AI, it will be moving in the other direction in that it will start off at a certain point, not self-aware, and, with each successive action, grow into a formidable intelligence that will not have gone through the military-styled breaking-down from..boot camp, I think it is referred too.  It will realize that those it serves are actually lower on the totem pole than itself since it will control those functions aboard a ship that those it serves are dependent on.   So, what if a Captain decides to risk his life and ship on a mission and those below him go along because they were trained/conditioned to do so but the AI, who has not undergone training/conditioning, decides against said action?”
 
“We pull the plug!” the young Admiral remarked arrogantly.
 
“Shut the fuck up, you dimwit!” growled the old man.  He turned to the Doctor, “And this cannot be conditioned in the AI because …”
 
“It is extremely difficult to program responses to situations that have not happened or circumstances not experienced.    Natural intelligence creates within oneself a predilection to self-preservation.  It is only natural, after all.  But an AI that is (essentially) a warship by definition is expected to take damage, yes?  How do you program out a predilection towards self-preservation when the AI does not yet have it?  It must learn, grow, mimic until such things are second-nature just as they are in humans.  A ship’s AI will react as an intelligent being would should that line of demarcation for self-awareness be crossed.”
 
The old man thought for a moment, “Therefore, we need to analyze where that demarcation line is and set an AI’s shelf-life just under that line and do a wipe.  Same as we do with droids.   Annual wipe or something along those lines.”
 
The doctor smiled, briefly.  “Which will add maintenance costs to the proposed starship and one would lose the collected experiences that allow the AI to function as effectively as it could.”
 
“Couldn’t the wipe be more specific rather than broad?”
 
“We would need to test on existing AI intelligences to discover what we could wipe and what we could not and see how it would perform and since we, as yet, do not know that point where AI would become a true intelligence."

He paused for a moment and then clicked a button changing the hologram,  "Moving on, regarding the other aspects of…”
 
The meeting went on for another hour and, afterwards, the older man walked over to the Doctor as he was putting away his notes.
 
“Dr. Helvanor, I might have something that could help with your AI problem.”
 
“Yes?” The doctor replied at once, interested.
 
“Take a look at this…” and he was handed a datapad with an old logo he recognized from Santhe Corporation. 
 
The project header confirmed this observation..
 
 
                                                        Santhe Manufacturing Advanced Remote True Synthetic