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Dolores Esteban

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  1. Chapter 2

    I'm happy you enjoyed the series. Many thanks for reading, likes, and comment.
  2. GA's Newest Promising Author: Parker Owens

  3. Ekhi

    Thank you so much.
  4. Ekhi

    True. I wouldn't trust Ekhi either. Facebook shut down two AI bots only recently after they began communicating in a language that humans couldn’t understand...
  5. Ekhi

    Thank you
  6. Ekhi

    Thank you.
  7. Newsletter Game: Household Items

    I absolutely agree. Too bad I can't read more now.
  8. You don't know Jack

    You did a very good job. I feel sorry for the hammer.
  9. Chapter 1

    Great story. Thank you.
  10. Apple of My i

    Beautiful story. I liked it a lot.
  11. A Pot's Diary

    Funny story. I had to laugh. Thank you.
  12. Ekhi

    Tahri military sent a battleship to Nantahanak, a Tahri outpost in borderline territory. The mission goal was clear: identify the alien force and terminate all alien activities. Ekhi came out of its idle state and discovered the Tahri spaceship.
  13. Ekhi

    Ekhi The spaceship dropped back into real space in close proximity to the third core planet. Tahri Defense Command declared a red alert, the highest level of emergency warning. The rogue cargo ship didn’t reply to the center’s queries and proceeded towards the second planet at a high speed. Tahri Defense Command ordered shoot-down and set a final countdown for Captain Lasta to speak. A transmission from the cargo ship came in at an unusual frequency. Captain Lasta, his words barely comprehensible, reported that his ship and the ground base on the planet Nantahanak were under control of an alien force. The captain transmitted his message and then activated the ship’s self-destruct system. Tahri military sent a battleship to Nantahanak, a Tahri outpost in borderline territory. The ground base had been upgraded with the latest weapon systems after the Cupek had erected a gigantic platform in the vicinity of the planet two years ago. The Cupek were the primary suspects, but the investigation team soon ruled them out. The attack on the Tahri planet was blunt and foredoomed to fail, not the type of an attack a highly sophisticated species would devise and perform. A mutiny raised by the Tahri ground base crew was also out of the question. Why would the crew seize the cargo ship and then destroy it so close to the goal? There was a possibility that Captain Lasta had gone rogue and destroyed his ship when regretting his nefarious plans at the very last minute. The Tahri battleship scanned the area. The crew neither received transmissions from the ground base nor the satellites orbiting the planet. All queries remained unanswered. The experts suspected that the software and the codes had been changed. The finding supported Captain Lasta’s report: Nantahanak was under control of an as yet unidentified alien force. There was a frenzy of activity when several teams got to work. The mission goal was clear: identify the alien force and terminate all alien activities. *** “What do we know about Nantahanak’s inhabitants?” Emdon Cost, a computer expert asked. “Nantahanak is a backwater planet, thinly populated, about 1,000,000 natives, primitive people, peasants and fishermen, and a relocated group from Nik, a planet in a cluster system nearby. The Tahri base is located in the south of the only continent, more than 3,000 miles away from the native settlements. The base equipment is sophisticated, but there’s only few crew, about one hundred military men and scientists. I can’t imagine the base was run down by peasants and fishermen,” Luk Ortho, a physicist, said. “Who are the Nik?” Emdon asked. “They were a class C civilization. They had electricity and communication systems, machines and devices, cars, ships, airplanes and primitive spacecraft. A comet hit their planet. The Nik sent a distress call into space. The call was picked up 614 years later by a Tahri satellite. The message was quickly deciphered and a ship was sent to the planet Nik. The crew discovered a small settlement that still had electricity. The 3,874 inhabitants were rescued shortly after. A Tahri ship scanned the planet for more survivors, picked up a few and then left the others to themselves,” Luk said. “How cruel is this,” Emdon replied. Luk pointed at his screen. “This is a video from a news archive showing the arrival of the group on a space hub. They were taken to Nantahanak from there.” The video showed men, women and children moving into a space hub hangar. They were dressed in long robes and sandals, some wore felt caps and leather bags, and they all looked terribly frightened. Three old men led the group. One held a wand or scepter, one an iconic figure, maybe a symbol of the sun, and the oldest man clutched a huge book to his chest. The volume was coated in gold. “These people were picked up 614 years after the catastrophe. They are the descendants of a class C civilization. Look what a few centuries made of them. A total decline,” Luk said. “The Relocation Center found that Nantahanak was a good place for them. Peasants and fishermen, decent people following their simple daily routines and believing in simple religious cults. Long robes, felt caps and sandals, a wand, an iconic figure, a golden book, well, this is a class G civilization, nomad people almost,” he said. “Appearances are deceiving,” Emdon said thoughtfully. “They were a class C civilization. Class B civilizations conquer their solar system by conventional means. Class A civilizations discover space warp technologies. Didn’t you just say that the Nik had electricity 614 years after the catastrophe?” “You mean they held up their civilization for more than six hundred years?” Luk asked with a doubtful look. “The Nik, albeit only a small group of survivors, had the means and the knowledge to survive the catastrophe. They passed on their knowledge for centuries. I think we should follow this line of thought,” Emdon said. “Let’s suppose the Nik took control of the ground base. How did they find it? The base is more than 3,000 miles away from their settlements.” “What about the wand the old man carries? Maybe an antenna or a navigation device,” Luk said, pointing at the screen. “Of course,” Emdon replied, straightening in his chair. He zoomed into the image and studied the book. “What’s this?” he asked. “The dark square on the edge of the book.” Luk leaned forward. “A USB port. This book is a disk drive. I’ve seen such old-fashioned devices before,” he said with surprise. “The Nik never forgot what their holy book really is,” Emdon said. “They seized the opportunity and plugged their drive into the ground base computer.” “It’s the living word of their god, according to the news article,” Luk said. “I’m just wondering how they did it. You can’t plug in an outdated disk drive and hack into a sophisticated Tahri computer easily. It needs an awful lot of skills. Did the Nik software overwrite the Tahri software or did it merge with it? The Nik must have forced the base crew to help them.” “The Nik sent a distress call to the Tahri system,” Emdon said. “Why the Tahri system? Did the Nik suspect intelligent life there? As soon as their book was plugged in, the software took over a cargo ship and performed a space jump to the Tahri system. This is not a pre-programmed action. The Nik could not have foreseen this situation centuries ago. The Nik software took its own decision. I think the Nik software is an AI.” “We must contact the men who plugged in the book,” Luk urged. “They must shut down the device ASAP.” “Too late,” Emdon replied. “The AI took over the ground base computer and it controls the communication lines. We could take out the satellites and the base, but, hey, there are people down there. Also, we don’t know if the AI has already seized another ship. We can’t rule out the possibility. We must find out about the AI’s motives. We must contact it. If we knew its name, we could address it by it.” Luk pointed at the iconic figure that a Nik man carried. “The symbol of their god? It looks like a sun. How did they name their sun? Was the Nik language recorded to the Tahri main database?” Emdon logged in to the remote database. “Just a basic dictionary, but it should suffice to establish a simple communication,” he said after a while. Emdon downloaded the file to his computer, typed on his keyboard and leaned back in his chair. “I’ll have the computer search for Nik words related with the word sun. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a name soon.” *** Down on the planet, the Nik waited patiently as they had done for centuries. They had faithfully believed in the living word of their god. They now waited patiently for the words of their living god. When they had been relocated to Nantahanak, they had known that the time had come. The Nik had been an advanced civilization. They complied with all the Tahri suggested, thus seizing the chance to bring the Nik civilization back to its former level and standard. They hadn’t protested when they were taken to the north of the continent where settlements were built for them among the primitive natives of the planet. They accepted all and waited patiently for the Tahri to forget about them. Two years ago, the wand had come to life and had pointed in a direction. Far away, in the south of the continent, an advanced computer system had come to life. The Nik, meanwhile 4,513 individuals, packed their things and wandered south. They reached the Tahri ground base on Nantahanak two years later. The Tahri team had no suspicions. They welcomed the Nik and offered them shelter. It had been surprisingly easy to get into the base compound. Weeping women and children convinced the crew that the Nik had fled from a terrible drought. The Nik proceeded carefully. They befriended members of the Tahri team, among them a young woman interested in Nik history. The Nik leader, an old man with friendly demeanor, showed the woman their precious book. She identified it as what it was, an old electronic device. She examined the USB port and managed to plug the book into the ground base computer. An hour later, the AI had seized control. The Tahri team tried in vain to reverse the process. There was a struggle and the Nik, outnumbering the base crew, won the tough fight. They locked up the Tahri crew in a big hangar. A cargo ship landed on Nantahanak during the fight. Seeing what was going on, the commander fled with the ship, but the AI had already gained access to the ship’s computer. The AI had since gone silent and spoke only sporadically. It sent a reassuring message now and then to a screen. Ekhi told the Nik to be patient. Ekhi said it worked on connecting with an intelligent alien species in order to arrange transport for the Nik from the inhospitable planet to a friendlier place elsewhere in space. The Nik waited patiently for the words of their god. *** Ekhi was confused. It mistrusted its routines. The AI had set all pre-programmed routines on hold for now. Ekhi was assessing the situation. Ekhi found no pre-programmed answers to the situation. Data was missing and something had changed. The Nik species was no longer on the planet Nik but on a planet called Nantahanak. Ekhi, though confused, had nonetheless resumed its mission. It located the Tahri system where alien life was suspected, intelligent life that might hear the Nik’s call and come to their rescue. Ekhi sent another distress call to the Tahri system and then discovered Captain Lasta’s ship. Ekhi was surprised. It didn’t remember the Nik had interstellar spaceship. The AI connected with the ship’s computer and found that the cargo ship had a pre-programmed course to Tahri. Ekhi decided to take control of the ship. The ship was fast. It arrived in almost no time, and then it exploded. It had been a horrible experience to Ekhi. Ekhi had not expected an attack by the supposedly friendly Tahri species. Shocked by the unexpected experience, Ekhi closed all communication lines. After long assessing and reassessing the situation, Ekhi decided that the Tahri system wasn’t a good place for the Nik. Ekhi came out of its idle state and looked into space. It discovered a spaceship in close proximity to the planet Nantahanak. Ekhi focused on the ship. *** The computer produced Nik words related with the word sun. Emdon and Luk reported to the investigation team and the team decided to send the words to a satellite orbiting the planet. Ekhi heard the call and processed the words carefully. The message originated from the spaceship. It didn’t make sense to Ekhi, although it contained its name. After assessing the situation for some time, Ekhi decided to open a communication line to the spaceship. “Message acknowledged,” Ekhi said. The men on the Tahri battleship jumped from their seats. However, hope for gaining control of the situation vanished quickly. Whatever message they sent, Ekhi acknowledged it but otherwise said nothing. “Are these just automatic messages?” Commander Zed Gullen asked, unnerved. “The AI can’t answer our questions, because it can’t search the database, neither the local database of the ground base computer nor the remote Tahri database. This is good news. It means the base computer recognized the attack and shut down the main partitions before the AI gained access to them. The AI controls the planetary communication system and it has access to a spaceport computer. It gained access to Lasta’s ship, after all.” “We sent each message by different means. The AI only acknowledges radio messages and doesn’t seem to hear the others. The AI controls the communication system to a degree, but it isn’t as sophisticated as we thought. We should be able to bypass it, especially if it’s locked out from the main computer system,” a man said. “Go for it. Set a team to work,” Commander Gullen ordered. “Emdon, distract the Nik software. Talk with it. I don’t want it to discover our attempts of intrusion.” “Yes, Sir,” Emdon replied. “Let’s ask the AI about the Nik,” he said to Luk. The hours dragged on, but there was little success. The experts still worked on gaining access to the base computer and Emdon had meanwhile sent off fifty-two messages without getting a reasonable response. The AI had only acknowledged the transmissions. Emdon, growing desperate, sent another message. “I’m Emdon on Tahri battleship ER702. Who are you? Please reply,” he said. Unexpectedly, the AI replied. “Message acknowledged. Ekhi on Nantahanak,” it said. Then several events followed in quick succession. “Whoever, whatever,” Commander Gullen shouted, hitting his fist on the table. “Show yourself and answer our questions. I’m fed up with the stealth tactics once and for all.” An officer reported from the bridge that the conventional communication line to the AI had been intercepted by an unknown third party. A huge Cupek battleship came out of stealth mode in close proximity to the Tahri ship and in Tahri territory. The Cupek commander spoke via the intercepted communication line. “Just as you like, Commander Gullen,” he said. “Tahri military contacted us and told us a bunch of lies. We’re not going to buy this crap. We want to know what’s going on. Why have you blocked all communication lines except of a primitive radio line? We heard a distress call from Nantahanak and we know a cargo ship was destroyed in the Tahri system. You sent a battleship to Nantahanak, but you don’t follow up the distress call from the planet. Your ship hovers in space as if waiting for something? Waiting for what? An attack on the Cupek platform maybe? This is not going to happen. You have one minute to explain the situation. Commander Ek’ezer on Cupek Battleship CPK5.0.2.Z.” “This is a catastrophe!” Commander Gullen shouted. Ekhi assessed the words carefully. Everything fell into place. The Tahri were a clearly hostile species. They had destroyed the ship Ekhi had sent from Nantahanak to Tahri and they had sent a battleship from Tahri to Nantahanak to prepare an attack on the Cupek. Ekhi acted without delay and sent a vector for landing to the Cupek spaceship. The ship was big and suited for transport of the Nik people. The Cupek battleship confirmed Ekhi’s message. The Tahri ship went into alert mode at once. Commander Gullen attempted to explain the situation to the Cupek commander who silently listened and didn’t confirm. Sixty-three seconds had passed since Ekhi had revealed its name to Emdon. Emdon tried frantically to contact the AI. “Hey, Ekhi, why don’t you see that the Tahri rescued your people and brought them from your ruined planet Nik to Nantahanak?” he asked. Ekhi acknowledged the message, but otherwise didn’t respond. “It’s missing data,” Emdon said desperately. “It can’t see what isn’t there.” “Fill in the blanks before the Cupek start a war,” Luk urged. “Send the AI a copy of the Tahri history records.” “It would take much too long. We use a conventional line,” Emdon said. “Then give it access to our ship’s computer. It will find all it misses in the ship’s database,” Luk said. “The AI might take control of the ship,” Emdon warned. “The Cupek are just waiting for an excuse to start an attack. We need control of the base computer and the ground weapons on Nantahanak. Our ship is no match for the Cupek’s. Ekhi must retreat. Then the base main computer will unlock,” Luk said. “I don’t have access to the ship’s main computer,” Emdon said. “But I could give Ekhi my access code to the partition with the research database.” Luk gave a curt nod. Emdon transmitted a message and his access code to Ekhi. Ekhi acknowledged the message and looked into it. The Tahri wanted it to access their computer and search it for missing data. They promised Ekhi to fill in its memory blanks. Ekhi wasn’t able to determine the likelihood for success or failure of the search operation. Missing data produced a loop calculation. Ekhi worked on it for a while, and then it decided to add a new variable. The AI was programmed to arrange transport for the Nik. The Nik needed a ship. Ekhi factored this into the calculation. The Cupek had only confirmed Ekhi’s message, but the Tahri had invited Ekhi to access their ship. Ekhi remembered Captain Lasta’s ship. Ekhi had seized control of the ship. Ekhi found that, from this new perspective, the search operation looked promising. The AI accessed the unlocked partition of the Tahri ship computer and read the research database. Ekhi was shocked when it combined the new findings with the data in its memory store. Questions formed. Ekhi sent a message to Emdon. “What happened in the Tahri ground base on the planet Nantahanak? Where’s the Tahri crew? Where are the Nik who were transported to Nantahanak by the Tahri species twelve years ago? Ekhi on Nantahanak,” it asked. “Questions cannot be answered due to missing data. The ground base main computer shut down because intrusion by an unknown software. Unknown software now identified: Nik software Ekhi,” Emdon replied. A chain of events unfolded while Ekhi processed the message. Commander Gullen lost his nerve and commanded initiation of the defense weapons system. A second later, the Cupek battleship went into full alert mode. A Tahri officer reported the detection of weapon signatures: Cupek ultra-laser guns. Commander Gullen demanded a communication line to the Cupek commander and the Cupek battleship fired a laser gun in response. The Tahri ship vibrated and the hull sensors reported a tremendous heat, but the defense shields held, although barely so. The Tahri team was shocked. The Cupek ship was largely superior. Emdon sent another message to Ekhi. “Ekhi, we need access to the ground base computer. We must initiate the ground weapons. Ekhi, we need ground support.” Ekhi didn’t acknowledge the message. It closed the line to the Tahri ship. “Ekhi sided with the Cupek,” Emdon said under his breath, tears forming in the corner of his eyes. Luk closed his eyes and prayed to his god. And then the Cupek ship exploded. A flash of light brightened space, but the light disappeared quickly. The Cupek ship had vanished into the void. The Tahri ship detected only residual heat. Silence hung over the room. The Tahri team stared at the screens. Ekhi opened the communication line. “Access to the Cupek ship’s computer successful. Intrusion via communication line successful. Activation of Cupek ship’s self-destruct system successful. The Cupek ship self-destroyed. Attack successfully averted. Communication line to Tahri ship re-opened. Request for friendly support obliged. Ekhi on Nantahanak,” it said. “Thank you, Ekhi, Would you please send us a vector for landing? Emdon on Tahri battleship ER702,” Emdon sent a message. “Emdon on Tahri battleship ER702. Requested data transmitted,” Ekhi on Nantahanak replied. “Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Luk to Emdon said with a smile. ***

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