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Of Gods and Men - a backstory

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<< I don't know why you insist on this course of action. You are only going to die >>

 

"Fugoff." The words blended into one as I grunt, moving another rock.

 

<< You are reacting emotionally. You should accept that there is no place for you here. You are not listed. There is no record of you >>

 

"Fuck. Off." Two rocks are heaved, punctuating the words. The sentiment is lost on my tormentor. Programming kicks in and it corrects my semantics.

 

<< I am bound to the Novark. I cannot 'leave', per se >>

 

I stop, standing, stretching the kinks out of my muscles and joints. Is this the simulation? The endless-media feeds in the last days had said that colonists would be put through a simulation upon waking. I decide not to engage it. This was my reality - simulation or not - working out if it was real was pointless.

 

In silence I continue building, one rock, then another. For half an hour I am left alone to my own devices, but I can sense it, watching. When it speaks again, the voice in my ear has lost some of its irritation - replaced by... curiosity? Did it "feel" things like that? 10,000 years is a long time for an Artificial Intelligence to change in so many ways.

 

<< What are you doing? >>

 

"You don't know? That's funny. You act like God but you don't grok"

 

There is silence again in my ear as it processes this.

 

<< Stranger in a strange land. Heinlein. Nineteen hundred and sixty one in the old time. What else do you remember? >>

 

There is definite curiosity now. I answer it with a question, keeping it occupied, relying on it's programming - responding to queries is apparently a first order sub-routine, over-riding other activities.

 

"Who am I?"

 

<< Do you mean, you remember who you are? Or that you do not, and require this information? >>

 

Another few rocks, another few precious minutes and I answer, repeating myself. "Who am I?"

 

It responds again, inferring that I meant the former.

 

<< I can find no entry for you in the colonist register. This is... concerning. Perhaps planet-fall has affected the quantum integrity of my data stores. I will run a diag... >>

 

"5421135-2"

 

Again, minutes of silence.

 

<< I have a record of that string - it is the serial number I have against Environmental Test Unit 26 >>

 

I had once heard that a thousand years ago, well before drones existed, energy miners would take small animals in cages down underground because poisonous gasses would kill them before the miners. "Environmental Test Unit? Fancy name for throwing me off the Novark with nothing. Remember that?" It was a stupid thing to say. AI's didn't forget.

 

<< Standard operating procedure is to validate all environmental and atmospheric readings with a testing unit before allowing Alpha Teams to venture into the safe zone.>>

 

The curiosity it had shown briefly was replaced with cold machine logic again.

 

<< As there is no corresponding record - you are not slated to be re-purposed as a colonist and your function is therefore complete. You are no longer required in order for the wider mission parameters to be met >>

 

Was this some sort of cruel test? Probably. It was designed by humanity after all. "Well if you don't need me, all the most reason for you to fuck off and leave me alone then." My small bivouac of rocks and foliage is finally complete and I stand back, admiring it. "It's been fun. Goodbye". I remove the small bud from my ear and crush it underfoot.

 

Crawling into my shelter, I grunt with the pain of muscles getting used to working again. Can you feel pain in a simulation? I banish the thought. Perhaps it's the air, but I feel bold - the pain made anger, determination. 'Assume it's all real - why would it do more than it has to. Your mind isn't needed to test human suitability to a physical environment'.

 

I look out over the impact crater, as on the horizon, past the towering Novark casting it's long shadow over me, the first sun sets while lighting up the cloud filled sky. Summits covered in blue snow catch its last rays. It’s not exactly like on Earth; the geometry and the colors are inhuman; the temperature is warm enough to not worry about needing a fire (even with the tattered utility suit I wore - a garment for modesty more than usefulness) and the gravity a bit lighter than on what I was used to.

 

I can see small lights moving tentatively around the Novark's base - the structure is so large they don't even notice each others existence, seemingly having exited from a variety of locations - it is the Alpha Teams, starting to venture out. Kadpacks and morphers making them a soft herd, reliant on their new 'God'. I can barely make out a figure at the top of the Novark. I wonder what that person makes of all this? Do they notice the same things? Doesn't matter...

 

'Fuck 'em all and good luck to them - won't be long till reality sets in. Not me. I'll survive. Gotta survive...' I mumble to myself as I close my eyes and slowly drift off to sleep, exhausted. For the first time in 10,000 years, I dream.

 

---------------------------------------------

 

"NO!!" My eyes snap open, and I bolt upright in a sweat, before swearing, my head connecting with the roof of the bivouac. It is daylight - the sun, oddly tinged, seeps into my refuge.

 

<< Good morning. Do not be alarmed. Your cortical region indicates you were dreaming. Anamnesis is to be expected. What do you remember? >>

 

The voice is everywhere, in my head and without - my senses can't tell either way. "HOW THE... !?!"

 

<< The communication earpiece was required only to instill a feeling of comfort in you. As you have destroyed it, the need for pretense is removed >>

 

"How are you... I'm in the simulation, aren't I?"

 

<< Communicating? I infer that is what you mean. It would appear that you have been equipped with implanted communication and tracking functionality at some point in your existence. While those pieces of hardware are now otherwise redundant from their previous purpose, I can access it> >

 

It pauses again, processing the second question.

 

<< Be aware - colonists undertaking the simulation are only told it is a simulation if it is necessary >> the AI says, it's 'voice' taking on an almost comforting yet patronizing tone.

 

<< Now. What do you remember? >>

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I like how you made that reference to the book by mentioning a guy on the roof, also the whole thing is just as good as the book ;) good job.

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT FOR THE BOOK BELOW

 

 

 

For a second I thought the guy in this story was the one who killed the main character's friend in the book, maybe he is. Only you know that.

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