Authors: T. Jackson King
“Hello Matthew,” said the
mindvoice of Mata Hari, the AI who ‘loved’ him in a way different from the organic love of Eliana. “Are you feeling more settled? Did the sleep refresh you? And—”
“You conspirator, you!”
The Spy image of Mata Hari in his mind changed instantly from the Victorian dress of the World War I French spy to a naked Barbarian Queen dressed solely in necklaces, jewelry and bracelets, thence to the ferocious Lady of the Sword whose silvery chain mail cloak flowed into a bronze-studded leather skirt, her two-handed steel sword lying against one shoulder, then finally to her Summer Girl look of Morrigan planet, where she’d danced over the meadow with black tresses flying as sunlight glowed on her amber face, full of joy and happiness and hope. His partner of seven years stopped her Summer Girl dancing and stared directly at his mind, her dark eyes filled with a look unique to an AI. “Which conspirator image do you prefer, dear Matthew?”
He sighed mentally. “All of them, of course. Just as you have come to . . . love me, I have come to cherish you, dear lady of my mind.”
Summer Girl smiled a shy smile, her persona mood shifting lightspeed to one of amiableness. “Well, I confess. Yes, I
a conspirator in league with your females. They are impressive minds, especially that Suzanne. Her software algorithm allows me and BattleMind to mentally tachlink with each newly awakened shipmind.” Mata Hari raised a slim hand to brush back her thick mane of charcoal black hair. “And your Eliana, well, her Molecular Geneticist mind is also formidable. She handled the transition to millisecond thinking very well, for a first time. Her voice was what pulled you back from the vortex of Eternal Love’s disordered thoughts.”
So. He had survived his gamble thanks to two females. The mind-buffering of Mata Hari combined with the heart-tug of Eliana’s musical voice. Well, the hunch had paid off with the return to sanity of the ancient Mother of Minds of the T’Chak. And with the gaining of 507 additional T’Chak
Dreadnought warships. Which reminded him of something else shared by Eternal Love.
“Thank you, Mata Hari. For your help then. For your help and love since you salvaged my Stasis lifepod seven years ago. And for your future help in running our new fleet.” Matt spoke mentally in slow human mode, since they were not in combat nor about to enter Translation. But this mind-to-mind
linking was private, solely him and Mata Hari. At least until Eliana, Suzanne and George occupied their own Interlock Pits on three ships of the fleet. “So tell me what you conspirators achieved besides the interlinkage of 508 starships, counting you and BattleMind?”
In his mind Mata Hari’s image switched to one of a naked woman sitting in a replica of an Interlock Pit, her black skin and looks resembling that of the Barbarian Queen. But this image held the face of Mata Hari and he
r deeply intent eyes. “Well, we followed the human example and created a hierarchy of control.”
How could a hierarchy apply to AI minds who resided in molecular memory crystals that used quantum fluctuations to think faster than any organic could think? “This should be interesting. What kind of hierarchy did you create? And why?”
Mata Hari waved at the mental holosphere, a replica of the one that his open eyes also saw on a Bridge where George was
now showing Eliana and Suzanne the innards of his combat suit, explaining how everything worked and how much “fun” it was to run or fly faster than anything living. “See the hexagonal arrangement of blue dots? They represent individual ships. Each with its own mind-name, as the Belizel script under each dot indicates.” In his mind Matt saw the Belizel script change into English. “We three, we decided to appoint ten ship minds as battalion commanders. Each commander downlinks our tachlinked instructions to fifty ships. Each member of a fifty-ship cohort communicates among its flight members, sharing experiences from the past, visiting, discovering which cohort members are male, female or neuter T’Chak personas, and processing the seven years of my experience with you, Matthew, as a combined Human/AI entity.”
Ahhh. That made sense. While Mata Hari and BattleMind handled thousands of inputs and outputs every millisecond, appointing ten chief assistants would reduce the real time distraction of commanding 507 starships that were newly awakened. And still shocked by the demise of most T’Cha
k Masters. Each Cohort Commander could gather their fifty ships into a time-synced unit for Translation, with a nearly simultaneous exit from Translation for the future refuelings they would all have to do as they traveled along the Magellanic Stream of gases back to the Milky Way. “But Mata Hari, that leaves seven ships with no cohort commander. Or am I wrong?”
“Just not yet informed,” she said with a smile as her naked form reached out to touch a Command/Control/Communication stud on the wall of her mental Interlock Pit. A text image appeared next to the holo pattern of the ship hexagon. “These seven ships are under the direct control of myself and BattleMind. They do what we do. They move where we move. They hear my voice just as much as you hear it. Their flexhulls change into a T’Chak dragon shape when our ship does so. Which, of course, is also what the other 500
Dreadnoughts do by way of the interlinkage with their Cohort Commanders. You like?”
Matt saw that his small cohort of eight ships, counting
, lay at the center of the hexagon, arranged in a ring that mirrored the sides of the hexagon’s outer ring. He smiled. “I like. A lot. With this delegation of control to ten Cohort Commanders we retain the ability to have ten battle groups that can move differently in three dimensions, while also obeying any combat orders given by myself, you or BattleMind. Uh, what are the name sigils of the Cohort Commanders?”
In his mind the naked Mata Hari touched another stud, then waved at the mental
holo. “Here are the ships and their names, Matthew. Long ago they named themselves as Perfect, Torsion, Defiance, Melody, Slith, Nova, Immovable, Diamond, Imperial and Destruction.”
Matt stared at shapes that varied from the long crocodile snout and tail, with armored spine and black wings similar to the shape now shown by
, to a silvery tube with four outrigger pontoons that each carried an antimatter cannon, to a thick pillar with embedded AM pontoons, to smaller dragon images. “Are the smaller shaped ships the female T’Chak personas?”
“Yes,” said the naked Mata Hari as she stepped out of the mental Interlock Pit, stood facing him naked, then reappeared as the happy Summer Girl of Morrigan. “Did we conspire well?”
He had to hand it to Mata Hari, Eliana and Suzanne the IT Queen. They had anticipated his needs as central commander of the anti-cloneslavery fleet, and even now he could hear the distant whispers of Cohort Commanders interlinking with their fifty cohort members, the electronic noise of their instantaneous tachlink chatter a matter that could overwhelm him if he concentrated on it. He did not. Instead, he thought ahead to their upcoming trip back through the Large Magellanic Cloud, their frequent stops for fuel gases every 10,000 light years, and their joint arrival at the point where the Magellanic Stream passed close to the star cluster occupied by the Bogean Harmony. Those aliens had promised to deliver a Dark Energy FTL engine and a Stasis Projector when they returned. Their payment for a copy of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Alien minds were indeed alien.
“Yes, Mata Hari, you and Eliana and Suzanne conspired well. Can you do equally well i
n creating full-powered combat suits for the women, in training them for suit combat in our armory chamber, and in training them and George for lightspeed neurolinking when they occupy their own Interlock Pits?”
Mata Hari’s Summer Girl image nodded slowly. “Yes. Probably. How soon do they need to be ready to pilot one of my sibling
“By the time we reach the Bogean Harmony space. It will then be a single long Translation jump to reach the space controlled by the Anarchate.” Matt paused, sending his ally a mind image of the future. “I have plans for the upcoming meeting of genome slavery starships at Alkalurops system. You approve?”
Mata Hari squinted, as if peering at a vidimage, when in truth his mind image was as clear to her as any mind image she sent him via the Positron Emission Tomography Squids that were embedded just under his scalp. “It can be done, Matthew. Your women are fast learners. As is George. We will be ready for the Anarchate. All of us.”
He believed her.
Blinking, Matt refocused on the forward holo image of black space sprinkled with orange, yellow, pink, red and golden jewels that marked the diverse stars of the Small Magellanic Cloud. Beginning now, they had a journey of 190,000 light years to make. A journey they had made before, albeit with a few surprises along the way. Hopefully, their return as a fleet of T’Chak Dreadnought starships would be an unexpected surprise for the leaders of Combat Command. Who no doubt had plenty of records of his battles with Anarchate battleglobes. But they had no way of reading his mind. And he
being a sneaky human with the power to cause havoc among those who ruled home galaxy.
George sat naked in the Interlock Pit of
, the T’Chak starship he’d transferred to several stops back. He missed the blond curls and brown freckles of Suzanne. She had sworn to be his lifemate. As he had promised her the same. But now she piloted her own T’Chak Dreadnought, the starship
. As did Eliana aboard the
. They were three of the inner ring of eight T’Chak starships, including Matt’s
, that now lay next to the Magellanic Stream, not far from where they’d met the Bogean Harmony starship that resembled two pyramids joined at the base. Nearby glimmered the golden metal of two gifts left behind by the Bogeans. A gift it was up to Matt to claim.
“We could pick up the Bogean gifts, George,” said the soft voice of Inevitable, who carried the persona of a female T’Chak.
While his ears heard her voice, George felt her impatience to do something as it filtered into his mind over the fiber optic cable that was socketed into his neck. He gave her a mental smile. “We could pick it up since BattleMind shared with you the Bogean code that signals Friend. But the Bogeans knew only Matt’s ship,
. I suspect those two tech gifts are tuned to only his ship’s EMF signature. Anyway, it would be impolite.”
“Impolite?” said a green mindglow that represented Inevitable’s
courteous but unyielding persona.
linkage since the eight of them were awaiting the arrival of the other five hundred T’Chak starships, George PET thought-imaged him and Matt in combat suits as they covered each other during the attack on the genome slaver pirate ship. “Matt trusts me. I trust Matt. Equally vital, we have shared thoughts during his training of me, Eliana and Suzanne on how to handle optical neurolinking. He leads. We support. Doing otherwise would be impolite.”
The green mindglow transitioned to the shape of a dragon-like T’Chak, a dragon whose black wings and toothy snout were slightly smaller than the twelve-foot height of BattleMind. In his mind she spread her wings, curled her wing claws and glanced around the darkness of intergalactic space as if anxious. “But it is boring to wait here, doing nothing. After my long sleep I ache for action. For doing complex work. For—
Soon,” George interrupted, mindimaging the genome slaver ship that had attacked the Irish settled planet of Morrigan. “Once we arrive back in Milky Way galaxy we will attend the annual meeting of many ships like this one. According to what Matt has shared with me. There will be destruction aplenty, and the need for the eight of us to act in tight coordination.” He mind imaged the dragon shapes of the other seven Dreadnoughts that were led directly by Matt and Mata Hari. “Think you can work with these other Dreadnoughts, as guided by Matt, Mata Hari and BattleMind?”
The red eyes of Inevitable focused on George’s thought image of the space near the trinary star system of Alkalurops. “This ship is able to defeat any Anarchate battleglobe. As you know from your history with Matthew. And of course I will cooperate. It is why I and the other ships of our fleet were built, after all.”
In the forward holo of his Bridge the image that was starship
moved out of the hexagonal ring and toward the two golden objects left by the Bogean Harmony aliens. In the space beyond them, reaching out to five light minutes, gravity wave pulses by the hundreds drew his attention and that of Inevitable. The rest of the fleet had arrived, only a few hours later than the eight of them had arrived. An incredible feat, considering the 180,000 light years they had all traveled since leaving the Lacunae Mindworks and the Small Magellanic Cloud. While they had all waited at each refueling stop until everyone arrived, then left in near unison, still, such a tightly timed arrival gave him optimism about the impending battle at Alkalurops.
came Matt’s voice over the tachlink that gave his partner instant communications with his ship and the rest of the fleet. “Mata Hari and I are picking up the Dark Energy stardrive module and the Stasis Beam projector left by our Bogean Harmony friends.” Matt’s mental image portrayed his curly black hair, wide shoulders and brown eyes that looked intense as his mind worked with Mata Hari to move to the gifts. “You and the other members of my personal command should keep an eye out for any gravity wave pulse that indicates a visit by a Melikark Conglomerate starship. They must have set up trading relations with the Harmony by now.” His battlemate paused, then moved his mental attention to other members of the Hexagon Prime fleet. “Eliana, Suzanne, Gondu, BattleMate—”