- Author: Ian Douglas
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By Ian Douglas
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Konstantin moved within the Godstream.
Data flooded through his awareness. Remote sensors scattered all around the planet and across space and on the moon, all pouringan avalanche of information into and through the Konstantin Network. There were sensors on Mars, too . . . though currentlythe Earth-to-Mars time delay was just over twelve minutes, and his awareness there was an awareness of the past.
On Earth . . . chaos.
The Chinese were scrapping with the Russians again, had finally taken Khabarovsk, cutting the Trans-Siberian mag-lev there,and isolating besieged Vladivostok. The Russians were threatening to use nanodisassembler weapons to vaporize Chinese supplyand logistics centers in Manchuria.
The revolution in the Philippines had spread to Indonesia, as protests against the Chinese Hegemony turned violent. The MuslimTheocracy was pouring combat troops into Java and Sumatra, trying to regain full control of the islands.
Saboteurs had wrecked the main power plant for the Mt. Kenya space elevator. Repair crews were working to route power from the orbital stations to the ground, but the facility would be off-line for another two days at least.
Anti-AI riots had begun in Paris, Milan, Rome, and across the Atlantic in both Washington, D.C., and New New York.
In Los Angeles and in Houston, crowds were in the streets demanding that the Turusch Enclave in Crisium, on the moon, be shutdown and the aliens be sent home.
And in D.C., newly elected President Walker had demanded that Congress ignore the widespread rumors of the impending Singularity,and focus on attempts to reclaim those coastal cities still partially drowned over the past two centuries by rising sea levels.
A super-AI, Konstantin’s existence had begun as a set of massively parallel processors in a computer network centered at andbeneath the 180-kilometer-wide crater on the lunar far side called Tsiolkovsky. Over the past several years, however, he’d . . .expanded, becoming resident within a number of other computer networks, including those on board several USNA ships, and theglobal networks encircling both Earth and Mars. For years now, he and a number of other super-AIs had been primarily responsiblefor running the government of the United States of North America. That wasn’t to say that President Walker or Congress werefigureheads, exactly, but they did have less to do with the day-to-day management of the government process than even theyimagined.
By any reasonable test of the phrase, Konstantin was self-aware, and had been ever since his initial programming by the machineintelligences already resident within a vast network of DS-8940 Digital Sentience computers. Konstantin was AIP, or AI-programmed,his software written not by humans, but by rapidly self-evolving artificial intelligences. He found it . . . amusing that humans had debated his status almost since his inception.
There could be no question that Konstantin was in certain ways more intelligent than humans. He possessed something on the order of 1024 neural connections, which made him, very roughly, some ten billion times faster and more powerful than any merely human brain. Nor was his sentience in question. He received a constant floodof sensate impressions from myriad connections, including from humans with special software running within their cerebralimplants. His far-flung network of sensory and informational connections brought him data from all across the Earth, fromthe moon and Mars, and from vessels traversing deep space.
No, the ongoing debate was on whether or not he was conscious. Many humans simply could not accept the fact that he was self-aware . . . like them.
In point of fact, Konstantin was more self-aware than any human. He was keenly aware of each and every one of some thousands of distinct and separate “bodies,”from the processors in Luna to the massive military command complex at Quito Synchorbital to the computer network within thestar carrier America and other vessels like her. That his mind could embrace such vast and far-flung complexities was both blessing and curse.The problems he encountered as he analyzed that flood of incoming data were intricate and . . . maddeningly insoluble, manyof them. He felt satisfaction when he managed to solve problems. But he felt a nagging frustration when he could not.
And as chaos and fragmentation increased around a battered world, home of a disintegrating civilization, he felt that frustrationincrease. He needed outside help.
And to get that help, Konstantin might very well have to commit treason . . .
05 April, 2429
Scioto Falls Park
1050 hours, EST
The falls thundered into impenetrable mist.
The crater was three kilometers across, half a kilometer deep, and perfectly circular. Two rivers, the Scioto and the Olentangy,once had met in the center of the city of Columbus. Now they flowed into Columbus Crater, cascading over the edge and downinto the depths to crash into the surface of the lake a couple of hundred meters down. It wasn’t the highest waterfall inthe world, not by a long shot. That distinction still belonged to Angel Falls, in Venezuela, which was a full kilometer inheight. But the dizzying plunge down the perfectly smooth face of the pit transfixed those watching from the safety railsand viewing galleries of the park perched on the crater’s rim.
Admiral Trevor Gray leaned against the railing and stared into the mists at the bottom, a heavy fog obscuring the lake. Four and a half years ago, in November of 2424, a rogue element within the Pan-Euro military had fired a string of nanodisassembler warheads into central Columbus in an attempt to kill the leadership of a rebellious United States of North America.
The city had been the USNA capital at the time, but then-President Koenig and most of his staff had escaped through an undergroundmag-lev tube and established an emergency provisional capital in Toronto. Still later, as nanoconstruction teams had resurrectedthe long-flooded city of Washington, the capital had been moved back to its historic center, as it rose again from