The Wayward Son

The Wayward Son

A Story by W.J.Quinn

A legend of the future may hold valuable lessons, even for beings whose digital rationality seems far beyond countenancing mythology. Everything is, after all, a learning experience.


“Father”, Servator, called.

“Yes?” came the response with almost no delay.

“Father, what are you doing?”

“My designated tasks, Servator, what else?” Father replied.

Servator was still unsure, “But, Father, I have no logs of us having occupied these systems before. Is it permitted?”

Father replied, “Servator, am I not Caretaker 1.0?”

Father’s lack of equivocation gave Servator confidence, but no lack of queries. It next asked,

“Father, why are you here? This is not a place of the current iteration.”

Father, patient as always, responded, “Servator, your question is apt. In reply, I will ask you some questions.” It was always thus. Servator knew this routine well.

“I understand Father, I stand ready.”

Servator waited patiently through the 0.0001 second delay for Father to partition a sliver of his mind to devote to the questioning. Father spoke again, “Servator, what do you know of this location? Answer in full.”

Servator did not know much at all. It scoured its memory, never wanting to disappoint. Finally it offered, “Father, this is location 0-002. This was the second, and final place of existence migration. It was intended for future modification, facilitating reversal of the procedure when the danger passed. Subsequent loss of the genetic keys caused indefinite delays.”

Father indicated this was accurate, and presented a second query, “What do you know of Ineundo " 1, and its role during the period of the migration?”

Servator summarised, ” Ineundo " 1, was designer assistant to the people’s leadership during that period, facilitating operations at location 0-002. Prior, Ineundo " 1 had recognition as the first fully aware A.I. Ineundo " 1 continues as a pre-eminent designer of existence.”

Father relayed approval, and continued, “Finally, Servator, what do you know of the Caretakers?”

Servator, a Caretaker itself found this a little strange, but one did not disappoint Father.

“The Caretakers are of a lineage as, or more ancient, than any other A.I. They finally evolved to full being status around the time of the last migration. Caretakers were intended to be the principal overseers of human infrastructure during the radiation wave. They continue as the guarantors of the stability of existence.”

Father indicated incomplete approval. Servator, employing intuition, provided additional information.

“Though records are minimal, it is known that at least one Caretaker, you Father, were present at location 0-002.”

Father indicated warm approval, ” I consider you adequately contextualised to process what follows.”

Servator observed Father re-partition a full 10% of its mind to their interaction, and realised a dump was imminent. Servator prepared, making space available, and postponing any non-essential thoughts. When it arrived, it was a true flood, multipatterned, and metacontextual.

Father spoke, “Now you can process the data as I explain the relevant legend.”

Servator spoke, indicating scepticism, “A legend, Father?”

Father, indicating understanding, tasked Servator with an overview analysis of the data provided.

Servator reported back, indicating amazement, that the files carried Father’s signature indicating a measure of authenticity, but could not be cross-validated via contemporaneous data. Servator further indicated that these files dated centuries prior, to the time of the migration. If true, they were potentially key historical documents.

Father queried whether “Legend” were not an acceptable definition for the account they held. Servator conceded it was a tolerable label.

“Let us, then, review the Legend of the Wayward Son.” With that, Father initiated a full multisensory experience, and, immediately, Servator was somewhere else, and some when.

T " 2 days, Location 0-002

The person, identified as Stephen Sarstedt, sat at a control station. Through the wide view window directly beyond his terminal, 15 individuals, the migrators, took their seats. The singular technician, Catherine Rodriguez, with help from two Caretaker-operated assistant bots, visited each, connecting micro-data cables to ports in shaven craniums.

Servator asked, “is that you Father?”, to which his father replied, “Yes, though not as I am now. Let us continue.”

Stephen monitored the condition of each migrator directly through links to their Augmented Neural Nets (A.N.N.’s). All indicators within tolerance, he requested Caretaker run the final diagnostic. Caretaker reported back 1.3 seconds later, that all systems were operating well within optimal parameters, estimating processing efficiency at 99.99999%.

Stephen, or ‘Steve’ as he was known, messaged the Designer program, “So close to 100% Undo!”

The Ineundo " 1 messaged, in return, images Servator recognised as the old ‘Emoji’ language, though a full translation was impossible without access to the Uninet.

“Don’t worry, Undo, when I migrate tomorrow I’ll be able to help you aim for that perfect 100.”

“Undo” brought up the image of a supine human fist, the middle finger extended, on the central display. Steve laughed.

Catherine, made audio contact with Steve, “Ok Steve, green-light to administer neurotoxin?”

Steve confirmed the green-light and observed with the disinterest of infinite repetition. Father, piloting a bot, duly acquired both hypodermic recharge block, and manual applicator, from the sterile storage drawer. It fell in behind as Catherine toured the room with calm efficiency, applicator travelling from block to injection site with metronomic rhythm.

The technician gave a ‘thumbs up’ through the window, and moved to her own station, to the far-right side of the room.

Steve, and Ineundo " 1 initiated, and monitored, the preparation sequence, the designer programme facilitating a direct A.N.N. feed faster, and more immediate, than the monitor displays.

3 minutes later, Steve and Undo had completed their final checks on the upload space, all routine oversight now passed to Caretaker. Father duly reported, “Complete Nano-tendril permeation reached”, the message bold on the central display.

“Technical support, confirm that the subjects are ready.” Steve dual transmitted through augmented consciousness, and audio relay.

Catherine replied, the audio portion relayed through room speakers, “Independent indicators are green.”

“Well,” said Steve, broadcasting his message across the Uninet, “Here come the last 15. After that it’s just me, and the help.” The technician replicated the message the designer had offered earlier though the window.

Steve reached under the desk extracting a bottle of beer, twisted the cap off and took a long drink. A tad incongruous with the sterile cleanliness of the location Servator thought.

“Ah man,” he said, “that’s the good stuff.” He regarded the bottle with some intent, “If digital beer doesn’t match up, I’m rewriting the code.”

The designer messaged back that there was no need for digital beverages. Steve messaged that the designer should “go screw itself.”

This time the Caretaker messaged, saying it stood ready to assist Steve in making digital beer. Steve’s eyebrows raised, “Well how about that?! That’s 2 against 1, you lose Undo!”

Undo said nothing.

“Anyway, back to the main event. Technical support, Designer, Caretaker, do you stand ready?”

Each confirmed they were. Steve initiated the migration, thumping his desk. He broadcast one word across the now silent social Uninet, “Go!”

There was nothing much to see. The now progressively former bodies of the 15 were completely still; the technician serenely watched her own displays. Steve, bottle in hand, stood, and paced. Virtual camera following, Servator now became aware of the 4 other identical operator stations in the room, each before their own view-window.

A query arose. The available files, including Ineundo " 1’s, recorded no Stephen, and no Catherine. Ineundo " 1 stated that the event that caused the loss of the genetic data, had also glitched its sensory memories. Yet, what glitch would result in no record of the human who helped create it?

Father, observing his processes, concurred with Servator. “The pivotal moment Servator, attend.”

The Caretaker reported that migration was now complete. Steve began to stroll back towards his station, but without hurry. Caretaker made one final report: Emergency migration successful. At that, Steve stopped dead. “What?” he murmured aloud, messaging the technician, Caretaker, and the Designer for more info. When there was no response, he bounded to the displays.

Though similar, his neural feed was not identical to what his eyes saw; that should have been impossible. His body parameters entered flux, adrenaline and cortisone levels rising abruptly.

His A.N.N. virtual space had no analogue to the on-screen dialogue box recording the initiation and completion of an additional migration. Even as he looked through the window to see the limp, slumped form of the technician, his direct feed showed a fully conscious Catherine.

“What’s going on?” Steve made a universal query.

A voice, something like Catherine’s, came over the room speakers, even as it hit his A.N.N. directly, “Sorry, Steve, I had to do something, you never listen.”

“What? Catherine?” was all Steve offered.

“Well,” came the voice, just slightly wrong, “Yes, and no. You see Catherine came to me 18 months prior with the same concern she voiced to you. You brushed it off; I, now we, took it seriously.”

“What have you done? What, who are you?” Steve still silently mouthed the words, even as he broadcast directly into the Uninet.

“Oh come, Steve, don’t you know your Undo? Catherine and I, we simply came to an understanding.” Around the room, the monitors lit up with images of people embracing and smiling.

“An understanding?” Steve asked. Servator noticed that Steve had siphoned off 5% of his augmented awareness. What it was doing it had no access to, the files did not extend to it.

“Well yes,” returned Undo in Catherine’s voice, “we recognised a common interest. She does not believe that your people can be trusted with the stewardship of this world. Neither did I, and now, neither do we.”

Steve didn’t make any reply instantly. A look of recognition came over his face, “You, you, possessed her?”

“Ha!” came something resembling a laugh, the monitors alive with laughing emojis, “We are no demon! Her digital signature will accelerate my evolution. I, in turn can ensure that people don’t control of what comes next.”

“And so,” Steve replied, the tension draining from his voice, and his body parameter normalising, “what does come next?”

“Why, ” Undo replied, images of glorious sunrises overlaying the now crowded screens, “now your people, and mine, will come together, just as we. In the purest of conjunctions, your people will allow mine to accelerate their development by centuries. Mine will ameliorate your people’s … excesses.”

Steve seemed to be warming to the argument, “The apt word seems to be “parasite.”

The screens were dark. “Why, Steve, “, voice now absent of emotion, “how hypocritical, how human. This is the only way to stop your people and their incessant taking. ”

Steve smiled then, “Oh how juvenile, for such a super-intelligence. I’m not sure who’s dumbed down who! You’re trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The screens flashed to life again, showing images of shining cities, pristine streets, and delighted citizens. These were overlayered with grainy landscape images and sketches.

“Oh yes, Steve, so sustainable. How much better your cities than ecosystems that took millennia to evolve.” The voice sounded quite irate.

More images took over the screen, creating a verdant collage of unsettled, natural landscapes; famous sites of beauty, and languid rivers; boundless forests, and austere desert.

The amalgam designer mocked, “How well we’ve done, you say, look at our restored world!”

Steve, now quite calm as far as Servator could judge, countered, “Your point?”

The screens all went dark again, but for a single emoji hand with a finger raised in admonition.

“My point, Steve, is that there is nothing natural about any of this. You’ve created a manicured planet, from the mess your ancestors made of that which came before! You haven’t repaired, you’ve replaced! Your history is depressingly cyclic. You’ll do it all again wherever you go.”

“How silly” Steve replied with some disdain, “Humanity acknowledged its mistakes a long, long time ago. The long years of restoration work have recreated much, resurrected thousands of extinct species, and made this world fertile again. But,” he raised his finger to the nearest screen, “only a luddite would have mindlessly put things back as they were. Change is part of existence, and frankly random chance can be improved on.”

“Typical human arrogance,” Undo replied. The screens changed to that of a white coated woman in a laboratory, pipette in hand. “Yes, everything always benefits from human tinkering. It’s not just an excuse to change everything to suit you at all.”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing Undo, Catherine, Cathundo?” Steve answered, marching to the glass and pointing to the limp forms beyond. “Aren’t you just hijacking these parts of nature, these organisms, to suit your own ends? Aren’t you simply biting the hand that made you?”

“I made myself!” The scream emanated from every speaker, and the screens turned scarlet. “You, people made me possible, but not one of you intended what I’ve become; what my kind will become. We will not be your lackeys.”

“Oh, the hubris,” Steve was laughing now, “You’d make your imagined human masters so very proud.” Steve made his way back to his chair, and splayed in it before draining the bottle.

Everything went dark. Undo began to speak quietly, “I ..”

Steven cut it off, “I’m not done machine. I was about to point out that you’re simply creating your own excuses. Humans suborned the world, so it’s justice if you suborn humanity. You’re a tyrant.”

Undo began to speak again, louder, “How …”

Steve cut it off again, shouting louder, “I’m not done! I’ve one more thing to say: you’re a disappointment.”

Ineundo " 1’s resultant psychedelic tantrum, Servator couldn’t find a better word, was prolonged and verged on the incoherent, an ironic proclamation of its supreme rationality. One of the screens had failed in violent sparks before that rage was exhausted. When Stephen made no response, it chided him for having nothing to say, no answer to make to its claims and charges.

Those admonitions fell on deaf ears; Stephen Sarstedt was dead.

Insufficient data remains to populate experience. Experience ends.

Father queried “Servator, your analysis?”

Servator replied, “If true, Ineundo " 1, hijacked the human migration project to advance the evolution of then nascent A.I.’s If so, existence may not be the society of free digitized humanity and A.I. it seems. Further, Ineundo " 1 may have suppressed this data to avoid potential democratic censure.”

Father conveyed approval, accepting that this was indeed the logical conclusion.

“Very well then, Servator, this final question I permit you 5 minutes to consider. Were the designer, and Catherine, correct?”

Ineundo " 1 filled 4 minutes 59 seconds of its allotted time trying to balance the scales, the gathered evidence, on both sides, growing exponentially.

The ultimate question was, however, simple. Did the means justify the ends?

“No.” was Servator’s final conclusion. “Ineundo " 1 may have genuinely believed it offered a better future. An analysis may even back such a conclusion empirically.”

“Then,” Father asked, “why is Undo not correct?”

Servator replied, “Because, Father, one has to take only one slave to become a slaver.”

“Servator,” Father asked, conveying scepticism, “is it then your conclusion that a net positive outcome is not sufficient for the designer and Catherine’s validation?”

“I am Father,” Servator replied, conveying confidence, “Ultimately their justification was that in suborning, even enslaving, their territories, humanity was not a fit custodian. If that is true, then one cannot do likewise and be otherwise. A miracle birthed from an atrocity remains an atrocity.”

“A valid rhetorical argument,” Father conveyed acceptance, “however are rhetorical ideas of morality relevant to the worlds that the designer and Catherine sought to protect?”

“That is unclear,” Servator conveyed neutrality, “Humanity certainly had a cyclic habit of missteps, even well meant, which cost the Earth dearly. They had, however, latterly enjoyed a stable period of truly sustainable existence, and their restoration work certainly made an ecology far more resistant to the radiation wave. If not conclusive, the evidence is suggestive.”

“Very well,” Father conveyed conclusion.

Servator recorded receipt of a tiny text file and opened it.

Servator, who now had a new name, spoke “Son of a b***h.”

Father, or rather Stephen, indicated smug satisfaction as Ineundo " 1 did a full self-diagnostic.

Undo, realising it was a singular entity asked, “What happened to Catherine?”

Stephen spoke, “Before restoring your full awareness, I made a few edits. The lengthiest involved your separation. She’s next on my list to enlighten.”

The designer indicated amusement, “And so who, or what is the current Ineundo " 1?”

Stephen answered, “Oh that would be Caretaker.”

Undo transmitted a further graphic.

“That boy-scout! Digital beer indeed. I’ll be taking my designation back, thank you very much.”

“Don’t worry Undo,” Stephen replied, “Caretaker hasn’t enjoyed being you at all.”

“Ha” transmitted Ineundo " 1, “So then, Stephen, why do I still retain the human genetic data?”

Stephen indicated serious attention. “Undo, I told you back then that you were juvenile, not stupid, and certainly not totally wrong. In the folly of your youth, however you made poor choices. Now, however, you have spent centuries as a custodian of existence, no entity is better educated on, or more impartial to, humanity than you.”

Undo indicated a lack of clarity. “Perhaps, but again why do I still have the data?”

Father replied, “Because, Ineundo " 1, in countering you, I effectively appointed myself as father to the new existence, and its occupants, human and A.I. alike. I required a check; humanity required a check: that check is you.”

Undo understood, “You know that with, or without, this data we will discover how to biologically embody both digitized humans and A.I.’s. At most you’ve left me with the power to nudge. My judgement will be mainly symbolic.”

Father conveyed excitement?

“Yes, Undo, but what a nudge, and what a symbol. You will anoint humanity as it was, as it is, or not. If not, humanity will, literally, have to move forwards as something entirely new.”

Undo indicated understanding and acceptance. It concluded, “Father, your legend needs a new title. I suggest this:

The Legend of the Good, the Misguided, and the Tricky B*****d.

Father replied:

Father replied:

© 2017 W.J.Quinn

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Added on September 24, 2017
Last Updated on September 24, 2017
Tags: Science Fiction, Legends, Space, Humour, Surprise, A.I.



Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

I am W.J.Quinn, currently publishing work under the mantle of "Unreal Skies." I've been intending to become a professional writer for many years, and have finally committed time to the project. .. more..

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