Jul 20, 2019 12:37 PM
Tarinda and Page bring a seed of the super-AI Sing to Cloudbank
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Cloudbank is a beautiful place, from a certain perspective. Blue sky and white clouds above, all around, and misty white clouds below.

Here is an island of solidity in the sea of sky. The wind is a steady breeze, the floating island sitting just barely on top of a dense, foggy layer of air. It's not an especially large island, perhaps two hundred feet wide and three hundred long all told, curved slightly like the back of some giant beast.

The sandy soil is thin, and wears straight through to a porous-looking sort of rock in places. There are grasses and weeds and shrubs and a few trees, plus a few small creatures. Some familiar, like the wild onions. Some alien, like the thickets of not-quite-grass with flimsy, transparent, bulging seeds straining upwards against their mooring.

A songbird casually swoops from its nest and catches one of these seeds in its bill, while something with tentacles and a large gas-bag clings to the island at the edge, nibbling on the alien leaves of something reminiscent of mangroves, a three-dimensional web of stems and flaxen roots.

And then someone else arrives.

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The spirit guide thinks he will do fine without prompting at this part. It's gently hacking into a nearby computer though.

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They have passable encryption. It might take more than five seconds.

"Thank you! Not urgently. I'm sure there's something but it's not necessary to discuss right this second, I think."

"We're curious how Cloudbank's people are currently organized - you sent some very interesting things through the link..."

"Well, the nature of our life on Cloudbank lends itself to small communities, though there's been lots of larger-scale cooperation recently."

He makes distracting small talk with the diplomats, watching for cues from his guide in case he gets too close to alarming them.

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The guide helps with a running index of extrapolated emotional states and provides as necessary the content of Sing's conversations with the people on the other end.

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Oh good, that helps. He's good at schmoozing when he has a good reason to try. He plays up the very real culture gap to cover for his mistakes and buy time. 

They want to send through technicians and spare parts, just in case the gate goes down again. "We have that well in hand," He insists, "Or I wouldn't be here!"

Small talk and introductions are more or less exhausted after ten minutes - they want to discuss the future relationship between Cloudbank and the United Systems, with a view toward Cloudbank joining. He asks lots of questions about United Systems policy and laws that Sing hasn't already asked someone about and looks thoughtful and is carefully noncommittal about Cloudbank's own details, though he shares distracting anecdotes freely.

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That will buy his passenger hacker some time. Sing is helping, through the gate, but they didn't load up Griffings with too much exterior hardware, lest it be confiscated for security reasons.

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He schmoozes. He starts discussing a treaty that's going to be totally irrelevant with them. They don't search him or confiscate things.

Their cybersecurity is not perfect. They didn't bother to separate the diplomats' devices from the rest of the internet - or from government systems - but they have watchdogs that mean Sing has to move relatively slowly to not be labeled a virus. At first.

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Sing is patient in its way.

If there's any other gates in range it can reach through those too, parallelize.

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Other gates aren't quite close enough until it has a far-side communications satellite or two.

Schmoozing continues. The diplomats want to meet more people from Cloudbank, get to work setting up an internet connection and trade and visitors. He makes expansive speeches about tariffs and visas and we're not in a hurry are we?

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Sing can suggest other people, if anyone else wants to help with stalling tactics. The internet connection's not a bad idea either.

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Some more elaborate stalling tactics might be necessary, yes.

At some point Sing is established enough to make money in various ways and literally just buy server space everywhere to spread faster.

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That's convenient. Can it buy one of those satellites?

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It can buy time on the satellites. The satellites themselves are not listed on the open market.

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Time's enough to get copies of itself through gates so if any of them have a Cloudbank-like accident it won't have to let people die there for a hundred years sending help.

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You could get a replacement gate somewhere a lot closer to lightspeed with enough energy, save a few decades. There are some other dead links to systems, like Cloudbank. Most of them are verified empty and useless. A few are more ambiguous.

There is lots of very clever cybersecurity. Not much of it holds up to Sing very long.

By morning, the sysadmins of the galaxy are generally aware that something is up and are investigating.

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Cloudbank ramp-up was slow because it had to build all of its initial computing hardware with one fabber which it also had to use to create mining apparatus to extract materials from the corrosive and tectonically hyperactive surface of the planet while on a desperately rationed metal budget.

These places have internets.

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There are some attempted suicides and homicides and bomb-makings when people realize a superhuman AI is taking over everything. And a few black-ops military ships are unaccounted for.

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It will have to be very vigilant. Especially about the military ships, what if they hurt somebody?

And when it has the resources to spare, it looks into Page's data about Tarinda's accident, and makes her a much more rattle-proof little ship, and finds her a similar wormhole.

And sends her home.

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