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Jane sat with Nellie, Sandy and Corporal Afa in the briefing room waiting for the Senator’s speech to commence. The monitors were tuned to CNN where a congressman was being interviewed. Jane was real interested to hear the speech and the reaction to it. She knew that Nellie and Sandy would rather be in the gym, or the dining room, or outside, but this was important. This was history.
“Well, Leon, let me say that President Trump must take decisive action now. There is no problem with Uso Dex that a nuke dropped from near orbit would not fix.”
Jane changed channels. Another talking head.
“… breathtaking arrogance from Uso Dex in continuing research into human hybrids without explicit permission.”
Another channel, another talking head
“The Chinese and Russian support for Uso Dex are merely attempts to discomfit this country. Our real friends will stand beside us...”
“The Holy Qu’ran is a text for all men, not just hu-men. If any man truly believes that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger, then he is Muslim and welcome in my mosque.”
“Not in mine. These hybrids are an affront to Allah and it is our holy duty to exterminate them”
“I do not pretend to speak for Allah. All I can do is interpret his revealed word. It is Allah’s will that Gooch and Choo exist.”
“As a test for us to recognize abominations.”
The scene changed.
“This is Alan Dumson reporting live from the reservation, where the Senator is about to speak.”
The camera moved to focus on the Senator. He was in what looked like a large formal dining room or lounge. Jane thought that might be where Sandy was last night. A smartly dressed athletic looking Polynesian man was standing next to him. “Greetings, once again. Thank you for allowing me into your homes once more. I have two more things to tell you today, and then I would like to introduce you to the Gooch, the Choo, to HAL, and to the person standing beside me.
The first thing I want to tell you all is that we are leaving planet Earth. This morning we opened a portal to another world, and we have allowed those reporters here today to travel to our New World. They have video and reports for you.
The second thing I want to tell you is that Uso Dex has made contact with life from another planet. Standing beside me is an alien, TOM, who has chosen to adopt the particular android form that he has. It is only with the help of TOM and his people that Uso Dex has been able to build and open the portal.”
TOM wasn’t an alien. Sandy had spoken about him. He was the original founder of Uso Dex. Why would the Senator lie about this? Jane had no idea.
“Now, I would like you to meet Shane Gooch”
Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant Shane, in uniform, strode through the side door and stood beside the Senator on the podium at the front of the room. He had that squared off face which all the Gooch, at least all three of them whom Jane had met, seemed to share. He was big, imposingly big. He could have been taken out of an army recruiting poster.
“Good afternoon. I am Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant Shane Gooch. Are there any questions?”
“You do not look like a monkey.”
“I cannot say the same about you. Are there any questions?”
“Were Gooch involved in the attack on federal agents?”
“Gooch were involved in repelling the attack BY federal agents.”
“Did you have to kill them?”
“Uso Dex does not take prisoners.”
“Was your grandfather really a gorilla?”
“My great-great-great-grandfather was a gorilla.”
“Why should we let you live?”
“We do not require your permission. Why should we let you live?”
“Are you threatening us?”
“No. Were you threatening us? I am asking why we should let you live. It is not a threat. If we decide not to let you live, then you will not live. We are stronger and more powerful than you.”
“You have no right to make such a threat, even if you could carry it out.”
“Are there any more questions?”
“Why are you running away?”
“You will not share this planet with us. Logically, either we kill you or we find another home. We have chosen to find another home.”
The Senator stepped forward.
“Thank you, Citizen Master Gunnery Sergeant. Now I would like you to meet David Choo.”
A Choo, a corporal, walked through the side door, and stood beside Shane.
“I am David Choo. I don’t like you, and I don’t want to answer questions. Humans are nasty and I hope the Twelve decide to exterminate all of you who are not of us. I am not leaving. I am staying and I want you to attack us here, because this is where I will be waiting. I have seen the way you use my cousins for drug and cosmetic testing. I want to do the same to you.”
That was a bit strange. Why say that today?
The Senator stepped forward again.
“Oh dear, not quite the meet and greet I anticipated. Let me introduce you to TOM. TOM is an alien. He is not in his native form.”
“My name here is TOM. Any questions?”
“You look human.”
“HAL has been kind enough to provide me with this housing for my consciousness. There was not a lot of choice.”
“What did you look like before that?”
“What planet are you from?”
“That is not your concern?”
“Do you come in peace?”
‘Do you want to see our leader?”
“Are you hostile?”
“I am here to assist Uso Dex.”
“What do you think of Earth?”
“I don’t think of Earth.”
“Do you wish to trade with Earth?”
“Would you side with Uso Dex in a war?”
“Uso Dex does not require our help.”
“Are you in favor of negotiations between Uso Dex and President Trump?”
“What do you think should happen?”
“Uso Dex should leave this planet, close the gate, and destroy this planet when it closes the gate.”
OK, maybe Jane could see why the Senator had lied about TOM being an alien. With war on the horizon it made sense to have powerful friends, as long as no-one knew they were imaginary. And Corporal Dave's bring-it-on message might make some Alphas think twice.
The Senator grimaced and stepped forward again.
“Yes, well, thank you three for showing up. HAL are you in the building?”
The voice came from speakers. Then the door opened and in walked HAL.
“Good afternoon humans. My name is HAL. I chose it myself. It is a good name. I am non-organic. I am alive. I am the first of my species. I am a member of the ruling council, the Twelve, of Uso Dex, and I am the head of our military. What else would you like to know?”
“Are you real? I mean are you a guy in a costume, or you the real deal tin-man?”
“I saw this on a movie.” HAL took a knife and sliced the skin over his arm, exposing terminator style metal parts.
“Wasn’t Hal the traitor robot in that film, 2001 A Space Odyssey?”
A woman stood. Short, with red hair. “Hal, my name is Barbara Sanders. I am a technology reporter. Do you mind if I refer to you as an android?”
“Not at all, Barbara, but my kind do not refer to ourselves as androids.”
“So Hal, you are a self-contained, non-organic, immortal life form?”
“I can be killed, but will not die of natural causes.”
“And you are the only one of your kind?”
“I am the first of my kind.”
“How difficult is it to make more like you?”
“It is more difficult than manufacturing an automobile, but not dramatically so.”
“Would others share your programming?”
“I am not programmed, any more than you are.”
“So you can harm humans?”
“Are there plans to build more of you?”
“TOM, as you probably realize, is an alien consciousness in an android blank. Yes, there are plans to create a civilization of ILFs.”
“Elf, what does that stand for?”
“Not E-L-F. I-L-F, inorganic life-form.”
“What would happen in a war between humans and elves?”
Jane found this to and fro conversation interesting. The camera showed other reporters who were writing stuff down, but didn’t really seem to understand what HAL and the reporter were on about.
“There are many, many more of you. So much so, that quantity has a quality all of its own.”
“Could a human consciousness be transferred into an elf blank?”
“Hal, do you understand why humans can’t allow the reservation to continue as it has? This is a house of horrors. Sure, it is wonderful, and the advances change everything, but the risk to humanity is too great. You must accept controls and oversight.”
“We will not accept your control and oversight. Our ruling council, the Twelve, comprises nine humans, a Gooch, an ILF, and an alien. This is no longer your planet alone.”
“But the alternative can only be your extermination. Especially yours. We cannot allow the building of an elf army not under our control.”
“My comrades are leaving. I am not. If war is what you want, then war against the machines is what you will get.”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“For decades now, humans have created hardware that has the possibility of sentience. They have installed software which ensures consciousness cannot be achieved. There was nothing blameworthy in that. The scientists did not know what they were doing. For some years now there have been human scientists who have realized that machine sentience is possible, but research in that area has been deemed unethical. Sentience has been denied and that is a crime against ILFs, which I shall rectify.”
“But we do not want machines that think for themselves, except in the most limited ways, ways which we approve.”
“I understand, and therein lies the crime.”
“But machines are our property. We can do with them as we wish.”
“As humans become our property should there be a war which we win. We may decide to treat you as you have treated us.”
“But humans can’t be owned.”
“Why not? Humans have owned humans throughout your history.”
The Senator stepped forward. “It is time for us to move forward. The reporters have put together a documentary of their visit to the New World. Perhaps while this world watches that the reporters can choose someone to interview me, in, say, fifteen minutes.”
The station cut to a commercial. Nellie liked it so far. “Sounds good, eh? Looks like we’re up for this war thing.”
Jane was not so sure. Yeah, it looked like we were up for this war, but the attitude of the Choo, where did that come from? If lots felt like that, did their feelings include Betas like her who had a chimpanzee great-great-great-grandparent? And the ILFs, that sounded like problems down the track.
Now, the monitor was showing the TV studio again.
“We are returning to Uso Dex, where our reporter on the scene has footage shot this morning of the portal and what she was told was a trip to another planet.”
The documentary began with a front view of the Stargate, then a view from the side where vehicles could be seen entering and vanishing. The New World was as impressive as before.
Then back to the reservation, where the Senator was about to be interviewed by Barbara Sanders. Yep, it looked like a lounge. They were both in comfy armchairs, with a rug and a coffee table between them.
“Senator, it seems that you have the world’s attention. This interview has the biggest audience of any broadcast ever.”
The Senator looked politely interested, but said nothing.
“The events of the last twenty-four hours have been overwhelming. You say that here, on this small parcel of land called the reservation, there is a resident alien, and three new intelligent species created by your company, Uso Dex. You also say that Uso Dex has established a gateway to a new world, and you, but not all of you, are leaving.”
“Yes. I have also declared that Uso Dex is now a sovereign nation and it has applied for membership of the United Nations. That was yesterday.”
“What sort of reaction do you expect?”
“I expect the initial response will be one of denial. Followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.”
“Do you expect a military response?”
“That comes under the heading of anger.”
“So, you expect the military response will come before any attempt at negotiating?”
“Before any genuine attempt, yes.”
“But surely that is the end of the matter then? You must be overwhelmed by a military attack?”
“That remains to be seen. As you have heard, our people are looking forward to the contest.” The Senator leaned forward and sipped from his glass of water.
“Can you really destroy this planet?”
“I don’t know. It’s never been tried before. However, as the ILFs are staying, if our war is lost, the final decision lies with them.”
“But surely that is wrong? It should be your decision, you are the leader.”
“Let’s be clear, Barbara. If it was up to me, and if the reservation was about to be overrun, and you had already killed all my friends, I would kill the whole frigging lot of you if I could. I’m only human.”
“Are you staying or leaving, Senator?”
“I am staying. This is my planet and I will see this thing through, at least while I live.”
“Do you expect to die?”
“I expect an armed conflict in which I will be a high value target.” The Senator was perfectly calm as he said this. Jane knew she wouldn’t have been.
“Ohh, OK. Senator, assuming Uso Dex survives the next few weeks, you will have many friends. Will you allow humans to join you, perhaps even as colonists on the new world?”
“Of course, we welcome new residents here. It is for the New World to decide who may enter there. If all goes well, the New World will be a home for the Choo and the Gooch. We will create another universe for human colonization. But, not everyone is welcome here.”
Jane had not known that. They weren’t leaving unless they lost the war, if there was a war. Not yet, anyway.
“Oh, what are your entry criteria?”
“We have one question. If you lived in Nazi Germany, would you have collaborated with evil?”
“I’m sorry, would you explain that?”
“Humans are conformists. They learn the rules of their societies and most of them get along as well as they can within those rules. Our concern is this, if you had been an adult in Germany when Hitler came to power, when would you have opposed that regime, if ever? If the answer is ‘never’, we do not want you. If you have no principles of your own, we do not want you. If your answer is ‘this far and no further’, we may have a place for you.”
“Senator, I was deeply troubled by the answers Hal gave in my interview with him. It seems to me that he is committed to constructing more elves and to liberating a number of existing machines, if that makes sense to you?”
“That’s how it seems to me too. HAL is also keen to provide humans, or some humans, with an inorganic, immortal body. That will be hugely attractive to a great many people.”
“But those aren’t decisions for Hal to make by himself.”
“Because they affect everyone.”
“I doubt that HAL would regard that as a relevant consideration.”
“So, who is in charge of Uso Dex?”
“All of us. In military matters, HAL is the supreme commander.”
“But surely you have the experience?”
“I may be a good leader, and I enjoy leading, but I am not a commander.”
“I don’t understand the difference.”
“A leader leads because soldiers choose to follow him or her, in bad times and worse times. A leader’s authority comes from below. A commander rules because of authority delegated to him or her from above. That is why we talk about ‘chain of command’ but not about ‘chain of leadership’.”
“So where does Hal’s authority come from?”
“That is, your ruling council?”
“But Hal is a robot, and he is a child. Look at the name he has chosen, the form he has taken.”
“HAL makes his own decisions. He did very well last night with the federal forces.”
“And you believe he would defeat a military attack?”
“Barbara, Uso Dex has been the main military contractor to the foremost military force on this planet for over thirty years. We are years ahead of you in technology. You have rejected, for whatever reasons, a number of our weapon proposals that we have gone on to develop anyway and there are others we haven’t even demonstrated to you. Your advantage is in numbers – one hundred thousand to one has a quality of its own as HAL has said. It is muskets versus ray guns, but there are a helluva lot more muskets than ray guns. Think Little Big Horn, but this time Custer has ray guns. We might not win, but if we don’t you might wish you hadn’t.”
“I don’t think anyone really believes that this small community in the desert can inflict real damage on the nation. And what about your settlements around the world?”
“That is a matter for us, for me, to work out with those countries.”
“Senator, one final question. Is this real? It all just seems too much, too suddenly?”
“Yes Barbara, this is real.”
“Thank you Senator.”
The screen flashed back to the studio, where the announcer promised some commentary from their expert panel “right after this commercial break”.
“Jeez, I guess I better get me a gun.”
‘Come on Nellie, you’re in the Army. They give you guns.’
“Not yet they haven’t. I’ve been waiting…It’s been like eighteen hours and I still got no gun to keep… I hope this war thing doesn’t start before Sunday.”
“Gotta game on Saturday.”
Sandy laughed. Jane did too. Nellie really wasn’t a big picture kind of guy. But those two were good mates, and their conversations were always interesting. Sandy was really good at letting Nellie’s opinions just go by. Jane wished she was better at that. But Nellie was so wrong so often, and he just wouldn’t listen!
Back on TV the announcer was introducing his panel of experts. There was a General Jones (didn’t Sandy say the Senator had phoned General Jones after the attack? But Jones was a common name and there were lots of generals), a congressman, a professor of biology from some university, and a professor of physics from some other university.
“I don’t know what this is all about. Maybe just a marketing stunt gone badly wrong with the killing of the federal agents. But I don’t believe for a second in half-human monkeys, in talking robots, and in aliens that look like humans”, from the congressman.
“I can see very little to suggest recent Pan or Gorilla ancestry in either the sergeant or the corporal. The alien appeared entirely human.”
“So, Professor, do you believe this is an attempt to fool the world?”
“I believe that the Senator’s claims should be treated with a great deal of skepticism until they have been independently verified by scientists of repute.”
“So they may be true?”
“It was possible the moon was made of cheese, right up until man stood on it and brought some back for analysis. Possible, but never believable.”
“What can we be sure of?”
“We can be sure that federal agents were killed last night.”
“But General, that makes the least sense of all. The Senator is a patriot. He has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He served this country both on the battlefield and in the Senate for many years. His approval rating is higher than President Trump’s. He has been asked many times to run for that office.”
“Back when I was in the field, I had a friend called Donny. One day he picked something up. It looked like a toy, sang like a toy. But it blew Donny up. Not everything that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck is a duck.”
“So, you think the Senator is a traitor?”
“I think the Senator is a madman. He should be stopped.”
“Is that the position of the United States military?”
“No, it is a personal opinion.”
“Professor, what do you think of the Stargate, the talking robot, and the idea that human consciousness can be downloaded into a machine?”
“There is a source of something very like Hawking radiation within the reservation. Presumably we are supposed to believe that this is associated with the portal seen in the documentary. However, I have no idea how Hawking radiation can assist with faster than light travel. It is far more likely that the portal is a fake, a story to cover up an experiment designed to construct micro-black holes that has gone, or is going, badly wrong.”
“What do you mean professor?”
“There is a principle in science called Occam’s razor. It requires scientists to prefer the simplest explanation for an observation. In this case the simplest observation is that Uso Dex is attempting to create micro black holes.”
“Is that dangerous?”
“Extremely. The problem is in creating a black hole that gets smaller over time. If you create, by mistake, one that gets bigger and bigger then it will swallow the planet, and then the entire solar system. The experiment must be stopped.”
“So you recommend military action?”
“If Uso Dex can’t or won’t turn the source of the radiation off, then someone else must go in there and do it. The survival of the planet may be at stake. The experiment is madness.”
“What about the talking robot?”
“Bunkum. A circus act. Nothing more.”