Authors: T. Jackson King
Book Three of the Vigilante series
By T. Jackson King
Vigilante (forthcoming), Galactic Vigilante (2013), Nebula Vigilante (2013), Speaker To Aliens (2013), Galactic Avatar (2013), Stellar Assassin (2013), Retread Shop (2012, 1988), Star Vigilante (2012), The Gaean Enchantment (2012), Little Brother’s World (2010), Judgment Day And Other Dreams (2009), Ancestor’s World (1996).
To my son, Keith Eric King, Special Agent, Office of Special Investigations, USAF (ret.), who put his life on the line daily during three combat tours in the Middle East and in many other countries around the world which cannot be named due to security considerations.
First thanks go to my two beta readers, Alicia Solomon and Mia McLeod, for their work on this and other novels. Also, the military SF stories of David Drake, a true veteran of a major war, have been the inspiration for this and other Vigilante novels.
T. Jackson King
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except for brief quotations for review purposes only.
Cover design by T. Jackson King; cover image by Luca Oleastri via Dreamstime license; back image of Carina Nebula, courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope
Published by T. Jackson King, Los Alamos, NM 87544
ISBN 10: 978-1-61720-660-3
ISBN 13: 1-61720-660-1
Printed in the USA
Fighting an insane AI is not easy. The one thing you don’t do is share thoughts with the AI. Especially if it is an
alien T’Chak artificial intelligence. Matt knew that. He’d promised his lifepartner Eliana, and his AI ally Mata Hari he would not do such a crazy thing. But being human involves playing hunches. And Matt’s battle against the Anarchate rulers of the Milky Way required that he play every hunch he could think of.
With a PET image-
thought he told his combat Suit to emit multiple pressor beams to sweep away the unthinking Mechs. They swarmed like ants in their effort to defend the giant dome of the Lacunae Mindworks, wherein lay Mama AI. She was the source mind for Mata Hari, BattleMind and the sleeping minds of 507 T’Chak Dreadnought-class starships that orbited this Mars-like world that held only desert, hazy brown skies, ravines, dry lakes, and saline patches. But inside the geodesic dome Mama AI raged against Matt, Eliana, George and Suzanne as alien organics who were not her T’Chak masters. Her rage had blocked Matt’s efforts to awaken the Dreadnoughts for service as his combat fleet.
The Mechs tumbled away from Matt’s approach to the dome like windblown thistles. But once they landed someplace they immediately headed
back for him and George, who was pressor repelling Mechs that approached from their rear.
“Matt, they have sharp teeth,” George said over the comlink shared between the two combat Suits.
“I know,” he said, eyeing the left quadrant of Suit’s faceplate as it depicted a cross-section of a four-legged Mech that resembled a bulldog crossed with a scorpion. “Suit has tried blocking Mama AI’s control emissions to the Mechs but her microwaves are too powerful for our white noise efforts. Either we kill them all, they kill us or we hide inside the dome so they can’t reach us.”
George’s black-bearded face smiled at him from a vidlink that glowed on faceplate’s right quadrant. “Well,
our fingertip lasers can knock them out. But there are hundreds of them. How do we enter the dome?”
Matt enjoyed the feeling of being super-strong and super-a
ware inside Suit, the combat exoskeleton device that Mata Hari had upgraded for him. The feminine AI had added an optical fiber socket for lightspeed thinking whenever his AI allies wished to speak with him, or he wished to ask for help from his orbiting starship
. Eliana and Suzanne were both on the Bridge, ready to help him and George in their effort to reach Mama AI. But destroying the Lacunae Mindworks dome with an antimatter beam would not allow them to awaken the slumbering AI minds of the T’Chak Dreadnoughts. It might even motivate some of the Dreadnoughts to attack Matt and his friends despite their possession of the Activation Code given them by the last living T’Chak. So it had become a matter of in-person contact with Mama AI.
“Like this,” he said as he PET-imaged a fire command to his shoulder laser cannons.
Two green laser beams of a hundred megawatts power each impacted on the silvery metal of the Lacunae Mindworks dome. The impact site lay two meters above ground level. The spot glowed red but did show a hole.
“George, add your shoulder lasers to my attack.”
“Complying,” said the former Repairs coordinator for the defunct Omega Casino that had been one of Matt’s first targets in his self-declared war against the Anarchate.
hundred megawatts of continuous laser beam power now impacted the resistant metal. The impact site color rose to yellow, then white. A puff of gases escaping from the interior signaled punch through.
“Now! We enter on Repulsor power,” Matt said
as his shoulder lasers shut down.
Suit lifted Matt up, tilted him horizontal, then sped him headlong toward the large hole that had appeared in the dome’s sk
in. The edges glowed red-yellow. The Tactical CPU of Suit would guarantee his white ceramic armor skin did not touch the hole’s rim. Behind him George followed, his pressor beams tossing pursuing Mechs every which way. In seconds they were inside a dark space.
Blinking, Matt activated the UV and infrared lenses embedded in his eyes, thanks to Mata Hari’s cyborg upgrade work. Ahead lay a wall. To either side
were walls against which lay metal boxes with RFID tags on them for automated retrieval by unthinking Mech units. But Search and Deliver Mechs posed no danger to him and George. Especially not when the two of them entered in suits that carried nerve gas dispensers, ultrasonic disruptors, bicep rocket gun shells, fingertip diode lasers now tuned to Metal Punch and a backpack loaded with four rockets carrying warheads from nuke level down to anti-personnel. To Matt’s eyes, power sources glowed UV purple, while red-glowing IR indicated floor guide wires for the Mechs to follow from the entry slidedoor. The door occupied the wall ahead. With a thought to Suit’s Tactical CPU his chest pack spat out miniature Spy Eyes, software virus floaters, and sensorBead gyrocopters. Suit emitted an “Open” microwave pulse to the slidedoor, using its own AutoDefense initiative. Suit’s onboard CPU could both follow Matt’s lead and take defensive/offensive action on its own. After all, to the CPU, Matt and Suit were one organism.
slidedoor swished open. Air rushed inward to replace the air that had rushed out to the lifeless plains where the Lacunae Mindworks had been built long, long ago. The planet had air, of a sort. Behind Matt, George used a tractor beam to lift several supply boxes and then stuffed them into the laser-cut hole, thereby blocking both air loss and preventing entry by the outside Mechs. Thinking “On” to his helmet light, Matt floated through the doorway and into a curving corridor that seemed to be a circumferential access-way for both organics and Mechs.
With a low hum hi
s Spy Eyes, virus floaters and sensorBeads dispersed on their Search and Inform tasks. Their jobs were simple. Map out the access-ways, doors, power sources and unthinking control nodes that governed the dome’s eco-web, its operational infrastructure, the resting perches for the winged T’Chak dragons who had once occupied labs and home quarters in the dome, and the fusion power plants that had kept the Mama AI powered up and “aware” during the 207,000 years since the last T’Chak alien had visited this facility. A place that had given birth to baby AI minds that would later become the controlling minds for T’Chak starships.
Matt had no doubt that being alone
, yet aware, for 207,000 years had brought on the insanity of Mama AI. Their arrival in orbit had been greeted with half-intelligible statements, threats, queries and a repeated warning to stay away from the orbiting T’Chak Dreadnoughts.
“Matt,” called Mata Hari from orbit, her
friendly presence appearing in his mind as a soft red cloud. “We perceive that you have entered the dome. Should we dispatch a Defense Sled for protection from the Mechs when you have finished meeting with Mama AI?”
“No,” he replied via FTL tachlink. “Either we prevail with Mama AI and she shuts the Mechs down herself, or we fail. In which case we may need the ship itself to extract us from the dome.”
On the right side of his faceplate George’s beard spread wide in his trademark smile. “ Hey, boss, think positive! We’ve got three AIs on our side versus an ancient T’Chak AI. Bet we convince Mama to join our crusade!”
Matt smiled at George’s image, then focused on their
Repulsor powered flight down the curving access-way, his attention on his helmet’s Eyes-Up Display that showed downlinks from his Spy Eyes and sensorBeads. They detailed the dome’s lab blocks and access-ways that spiraled inward to the center of the dome. The Spy Eyes showed a central place of airy openness that Matt suspected had once been a park where the T’Chak winged dragons had jumped from their roost pillars, soaring under a yellow-white ceiling radiator as the three genders of the species played games of romance, dominance and eventual mating. Or so said one of the histories left by the T’Chak before they all died in an interstellar pandemic. Blinking his eyes to activate the pulse-Doppler radar of his chest pack, Matt examined the space beneath the stone floor over which they floated. Absently he gave thanks for George’s rearward watch, thankful that he did not have to split his organic mind into a 360 degree awareness.
called Eliana, she of the albino white skin, ebony black hair and giant heart who had taught him that he could care again, could love again, could hope again.
“Yes my love.”
“Be careful.” On the left side of faceplate’s virtual reality display she smiled her encouragement smile.
“Will do, dear one.” The radar beeped an alert. “Gotta go. Keep the fusion fires burning!”
Smiling at how his antique comment would confuse the T’Chak AI BattleMind, and maybe even Gatekeeper, the AI companion of Mata Hari, Matt focused on the subsurface data revealed by his Doppler pulses.
“Matt,” called George as his partner eyed the
same radar data, “that image shows an underground tubeway that heads toward the northern sector of the dome. Entry or exit?”
“Maybe both,” Matt said, his
helmet’s virtual reality display shifting as data from the Spy Eyes and sensorBeads rapidly built a picture of the dome’s interior. The location of probable labs, residential quarters, eco-field stations and recycling vats all glowed with tentative IDs. In the north lay a hexagonal room that occupied one-third of the dome’s floor space. Entry had not been achieved by any of his remotes. But the numerous power sources that adorned the outer walls gave evidence of broadcast power stations that far exceeded the needs of a standard lab or residence. Could this be the AI nursery he’d read about in the T’Chak history? “We take this spiral corridor. It will take us to that hexagonal room. If it is the nursery I bet Mama AI will show up there. Or talk to us. Or something.”
“Or something,” muttered George as his battle partner
floated behind him, his combat suit exactly following Matt thanks to a microwave linkage between both suits.
implied concern for AI surprises, Matt moved deeper into synchrony with Suit, his mind perceiving the outside air pressure, its oxy-nitro composition, the lack of dust particles of any size, the complete absence of any lifeform of any type within the giant dome, the infrared heat given off by circulation tubes that moved slightly warm air about the chambers of the dome, the passive sensors that twinkled with minute electrical charges as he and George entered their acoustic, microwave, heat, UV and neutrino sensor zones, and the tight feel of the inner skin of Suit as it amplified every movement of his. Nanoware subsystems monitored his biochemical energy use, the CO2 in his system, lactic acid fatigue poisons, and the beat of his upgraded heart. In his visual cortex tiny databyte nanocubes pinged his neurons with Contrast-and-Compare data that analyzed every element of the T’Chak installation, from its architecture to its ambient temperature to—