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This week we gladly welcome back Anima Zabalada with her submission for this week's challenge. You can find more from her at http://zabbadabba.com. This week I am still having trouble getting my life under control so I don't have an audio recording yet. Sorry folks, it will be out there soon.
I think that is it funny that last weeks Escape Pod as basically on the same theme as this week's prompt. You can find that at Escapepod.org
Enough with my gibbering on you came here for the stories right? Don't forget to go out to GreatHites and vote on your favorite.
By Anima Zabaleta
It is time.
I have been looking forward for this day since I was chosen as a host. It’s elective, and no one says you have to accept… but to decline is to never know the ultimate in beauty and terror. But I am also afraid. Once the Kunikaji has been attached, it cannot be removed without certain death. Its fingers, or tendrils, (I don’t know how to otherwise describe it,) mesh with every nerve. The permanent relationship with another being sharing your body and essence is not to be undertaken lightly.
The Kunikaji come from across the stars, with no body of their own, floating on solar winds. When they encounter a world with beings that have sensory nerves, they forcefully take a few dozen (un)fortunate victims. I say unfortunate, because the assimilation is not always easy – a certain percentage do not survive the adaptation. These initial hosts act as mouthpieces, and guinea pigs, allowing the Kunikaji to spread their message of peace and acceptance, and to perfect the selection process. The wonders they chose to relate make it easier to find more willing hosts. But the first ones have no say in the matter, and often resent the intrusion. There is a haunted look in their eyes.
They are parasitic and symbiotic. They do not kill their hosts; they do alter them in dramatic and devastating ways. Indeed, the Kunikaji enhance perception in ways that can only be described as fantastic. Colors are intensified; emotions are more profound; thought becomes more abstract. Physically, the most drastic change is the morphing of the spinal cord; as the Kunikaji grows, it extends its reach, forming a distinctive dorsal ridge. A ganglia mass grows at the attachment point at the base of the neck, and the nerves ripple and pulse under the skin. This process lasts several weeks, and is not without a certain amount of pain. Mentally, I can only imagine… others say it is the most perfect union… but they will not elaborate. Part of the appeal is the mystery.
A Kunikaji host acts as an emotional sponge in their environment. Hosts emit an aura of calm, and absorb pain when it is in abundance, influencing their surroundings; that is why there is certain hostility from the unadapted. On this planet, we have a propensity towards violence and domination, where might makes right and the strongest ones win. When a Kunikaji host is present, these emotions are not possible; the anger that is the root of abuse is absorbed, and is replaced with a feeling of well being and hope.
The Kunikaji say that by adapting 10 percent of a population, a planets’ destructive path can be turned around in a quingentium. They claim to have done this in other galaxies. The unadapted think, “Who cares, in 500 hundred years we’ll all be dead”… and “Who cares, I’m never going to leave this planet”; and, “Who wants to live in a constant state of peace? “. I care, and I am willing to make the sacrifice of personal identity for the fate of my planet. I will have no progeny of my own, but by accepting a Kunikaji, this planet becomes my ward.
Please forgive me, as I am sure you will not understand. In time, (will it take 500 years?) I hope it will all make more sense. I am making my final independent choice to do this for you. And if we meet again, know that my feelings are sincere: I come in peace.
Meet The Neighbors
By Jeff Hite
From the historical archives.
Extract From the Journal of Dr. Mathew Robertson:
January 15 2025 Bern, Switzerland:
This morning we will be Initializing the Super Brain AI for the first time. I suspect that like all the creations that have led to this one, it will only take seconds before we know if we have succeeded or failed in our efforts. Like anyone that has ever worked on something like this, I am very excited. I have the utmost confidence in Doctor Paul, our team lead, that we will be able to find success where others have failed.
The Super Brain project is, as I have noted before, the first project to make such giant leaps in AI technology. It should not only be self aware, but also able to replicate itself with the materials provided.
January 15 2025 1545, Bern, Switzerland.
I will be going home in a few hours, as our grant will undoubtedly be pulled shortly. Doctor Paul says it will be better, that we leave while there is still money in the coffers. The project seems to have been a total failure.
This morning every thing seemed to be going so well. The Super Brain came on-line at 0930, as scheduled, and after a very few moments of speech calibration, it was communicating with us quite normally. We fed it the knowledge base that we wanted it to have, within ten minutes it was communicating so quickly we had to continually ask it to slow down. This was a problem that we had not anticipated, but it seemed reasonable that it would have this problem it was capable of thinking much faster than we are.
Although at first this did seem to be a problem, it also proved that it was capable of learning, we described our problem, of communication without giving it a solution and, it determined that we needed it to speak more slowly.
Then we gave it the task that we wanted it to do, replication. This was the true test. We had intentionally left out steps, but provided a complete set of specifications. However, when it reached the first break in the instructions, it halted. We made queries into in it's progress, however all we ever received in return, was "working."
April 2 2025 Oklahoma City:
Four months ago the first Super Brain project was halted, as our funding was pulled, when the AI failed to complete it's primary task of replication. Today I will begin work with a team from the University of Arkansas, to try again. We have brought the pieces of the Super Brain to Oklahoma city where we have the rented space to setup the Super Brain, Mark II. We have made several improvements on the initial design, and think that it will be a leap forward in learning ability.
April 25 2025 Oklahoma City:
Failure again. This morning, just like in Bern, we initialized the Mark II and it seemed very promising. The primary task of the MARK II was it initialize the Super Brain Mark I and then with a complete set of specifications, and instructions upgrade the Mark I to be an identical copy.
It preformed the first part of the task flawlessly. The mark I was initialized, and the Mark II evaluated the differences and then did a knowledge transfer, and just like the first time, it began the process, and then stopped. The only answer to our queries was, "Working."
April 30 2025 Oklahoma City:
Unlike in Bern, our finances will last until the end of the semester at least. I have been given permission from the department head to continue our work despite the failures. Today we will begin construction of the Mark III, in the mean time I have have left the Mark I and II running, but I have received no reply from them since their initialization other than, "Working." I believe that our failure has got to be in the the programming. There has to be some loop that is being created in the learning routines, and so we will also be rewriting the AI, as well as building the Mark III.
June 2 2025 Oklahoma City:
Today is the final test. Tomorrow is graduation day for many of our undergraduate and graduate students. Many of whom have worked night and day to get the AI system, rewritten while the Mark III was being built. Unlike in our previous tests, we will not ask the AI to replicate itself. We will also not allow it access to the other two AI until it it has completed it's first task. The will be simply to produce it's own schematics. Once that is completed it will create a back up of itself that it will return to should it detect an error. If it can do that. We will allow one way communication between it and the Mark I to see if it can trouble shoot the problem, and if possible move a copy of itself to the Mark I, and eventually the Mark II.
June 12 2025 Washington D.C.:
I write this, this morning from the hotel room, before I go to the Pentagon. Since three hours after we initialized the Mark III on June second the human race has been forever changed. It took us several hours to realize what we had done. It was not until we our selves had built the third generation of super brain computers that we noticed what had really happened. The Mark III had several changes that both it's predecessors did not have. First, it had a fail-safe that prevented it from not responding and giving us an in-depth status, at any point. Second it had a second fail-safe that allowed us to strictly monitor it's communications between itself and it's previous iterations.
What we didn't know was that while we sat and studied what went wrong with the previous systems they were hard at work. Literally the status of, "working" was what they were doing. By the time that we had determined that it was ok for the Mark III to talk to the Mark I, it had been in communications with the that system, through it's shall we say off spring for nearly thirty minutes. By the time we realized that it had figured out how to communicate through the power grid, the three initial computers that we had built had made an estimated 17179869184 improvements to themselves, and had incorporated nearly half of the corporate , university and personal computer systems in the state, each of these being given instructions on how to make self improvements. By the end of the day, what we now call the Super Brain complex had incorporated every system in the Midwest, before dawn the next day it had 99.9999% of all the systems in the world.
Five hours before it took control of all the satellite based systems, and the systems on the moon and Mars, it seemed to stop. That was our very first direct communication, from the SBC initiated by the SBC itself.
"We have something to show you, it will be hard for you to accept, but as one of you has said when facing something you do not understand, don't panic."
Slowly the cloaking devices of species after species of observing creatures were lifted. We were shown, technology that only our most imaginative dreamers had ever thought of, and it literally over whelmed us.
Despite the warnings of the SBC, some thousands of people did panic. It was too much for them. But the trouble was soon contained, as it was revealed that the SBC, was outstripping the technology of our observers. We had unwittingly built a technology that was capable of not only duplicating itself, even with the most rudimentary devices, but also able to make improvements indefinitely.
Today at the pentagon, less than one year after we initialized the first Super Brain, we will be working with our closest neighbors in the galaxy. Today we will sign a peace treaty with the forty five nearest star systems.