Monthly Archives: January 2013

Da Xia Feng: Countdown to Zero – Part III


Though merely a battleship mechanic by title, Head Engineer Lucius Serban hand-picked Da Xia Feng over a group of seemingly more qualified candidates, all of them PhDs in spacecraft engineering.

“Do you think diplomas make a man? This girl is a proven innovator,” the head engineer argued.  The selection committee had tried to block Da Xia’s security clearance but Lucius would not have it. “Look here.”

Battleship engine room photos and blueprints flashed on the giant holodeck in the middle of the stale conference room. “She has perfected their engine designs in the obscure shadows of our shipyards. With spare parts, I might add.”

“Do you think they’ve given her any credit? Ha! Oh, but they’ve been quick to adopt her improvements. Those monkeys aren’t worthy of her presence. I don’t care what promotions they deserve or who their daddies are. I won’t work with anyone else.”

And just like that, the matter was settled. Security clearance granted.

Within the hour, two soldiers arrived at Shipyard A-9, New York, and escorted Da Xia to a long-range hovershuttle. Where they were going the soldiers would not say.


“Do not, under any circumstances, interface with the ship. You will be court-martialed, tried for treason, imprisoned, and executed.” Lucius spoke the order with a frankness that convinced Da Xia every word of the commandment was true. The head engineer did not actually say what interfacing was, and Da Xia knew better than to ask for information that was purposely not being volunteered.

Though her poker face did not show it, Da Xia’s imagination was spinning as the two stood inside the ISA’s (Intergalactic Sentient Arkship’s) navigation room. How did the large, empty, spherical room serve as the bridge? There were no monitors. No windows. No anything, really, except for a walkway —suspended by nothing— that ended in the center of the room, at a platform that held two oval tanks, alien in their design.

“That’s where the aviators go, where they commune with the ship,” Lucius said, wonder in his voice, before leading Da Xia out of the room.

Aditi Chaudhury: Countdown to Zero – Part II

PlanetColonyT minus 6 Hours

It’s the end of the world. No one is saying it but Aditi can see it on every face in the war room. Their briefing on what is now begin called the Claudius Crisis goes something like this:

The malicious, previously thought to be benevolent, artificial intelligence Claudius-I has turned into a nanocloud. Whereabouts unknown.

Commonwealth supercomputers have been working around the clock, searching for anomalies in cyberspace that might pinpoint Claudius-I’s location.

Submarines, drones and war satellites stand vigil, ready to launch a nuclear attack on any location around the globe. Every country has been recruited in the effort. Every country is ready to nuke its own to destroy the nanocloud.

What worries the scientists, what the politicians and the military generals do not want to hear, is that an artificial super intelligence composed of nanites cannot only transform its essence but make more of it. “It can clone itself?” yells an old general in the command room.

“If Claudius-I had to, yes,” says Dr. Kosoko, “but our real concern is that the cloud can grow. In other words, Claudius-I can make more of himself. Infinitely. If he wants to.”

Several scientists around the Intergalactic Commonwealth have suggested as much. They suggest the unthinkable to their planetary leaders: Nuke Earth. There are no warships armed with such a payload, not since the Reptile Wars, so they ask Earth Command to self-annihilate.

At this recommendation, the entire room breaks into a heated shouting match. Aditi knows the colonies are right. If this thing spreads, no one’s safe. Not anywhere in the known universe. In a matter of days, if not hours everyone here could be dead. The thought sends a shiver up Aditi’s spine.

The war room lights switch red. A soldier in the surveillance control room appears on the main monitor. “A nano swarm has appeared over Beijing,” he says.

It’s the end of the world. We should have already left.