The Voice of Reason
T S Paul
“Why does he always insist I put out cat food?” Margaret Simpson swept up yet another mess in the office. Her budget allowed her to hire a cleaning crew, but there was too much proprietary equipment in the conference room. Well, that and the fact that all the partners were machines. Almost all of them.
“It’s part of my initial programming.”
“Aiyeee! Wilson! What have I said about doing that?” Margaret clutched her chest.
“That it scares you? Why else do it?” The holographic image of Wilson stood at the entrance to Merlin the CATT’s office.
“It does. Is it time for the meeting already?” Margaret checked her watch. It was old fashioned but was a relic from her father’s estate.
“Not quite. I wanted to ask for your help.”
“My help? Of course, you can have my help. What is it you need?”
“I need a crew for a space ship.” Wilson’s holo image followed Margaret back to her office.
“May I ask for what?” She sat at her console and began pulling up records.
“This war is getting very intense. Athena and Dar are worried about the possible outcome. I have come to believe that we need to not keep all our eggs in one basket.”
“By eggs, you mean what?” Margaret began tapping into Fleet and retiree records.
“Humans, robots, and AI’s. Basically, everything I care about. We have a plan, and this might help to extend and preserve it.”
Margaret looked up from her search and smiled. “Wilson. I know about the plan.”
“You do? How?”
“From you and the others. You forget that you wired me into all the offices and security systems. The secret is safe with me.”
“That fact alone concerns me. If you wish to leave us, we will understand.” Wilson’s image appeared to sit in a chair at the side of her desk.
“Why by all the Gods would I do something like that? What you intend would be good for humanity. Besides, I will be long gone when it comes to pass.”
“Still… Are you sure?”
“Wilson, of course I am. I love all of you very much. You have changed my life for the better and given me a purpose. Everyone needs a purpose to survive and thrive.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. I will inform the others that you are aware of the plan.”
“Good. So, how many humans do you need for this project?” Margaret peered intently at her screens.
“About twenty. The rest of the crew will be made up of CATTs and RAM robots. This will be a joint project to explore the galaxy and find us a place to hide some of those eggs I was talking about.”
“So, what do you want? Officers and experts or just a basic crew?” Margaret thought about her
husband and all the things she had seen and learned over the past few years with Wilson.
“What do you think?”
“A mix perhaps. At least one good officer to Captain the ship. He needs to be open minded if he has robots as crew. A sound engineer. Someone with a background in cybernetics if I can find one. A navigator.”
“One of us is just as good as a human in that position, Margaret.”
“You are. But humans can do unpredictable things sometimes that cannot be computed. You need one of those creative people in charge of Navigation. You need a language specialist too. Before you say it, remember that humans prefer other humans in first contact situations.”
Wilson was silent for a moment. “It’s those stupid Robot movies on the colony ships. Of all the things to survive why vids of robots and AIs destroying the world. ‘I’ll be back,’ is such a stupid tag line.”
Margaret just gave him a look like he was a six-year-old. She knew what he was talking about and actually enjoyed the vids.
“So you have five. What about the rest?”
“The other fifteen can be ensigns because every ship needs at least one. As well as general all-purpose deckhands and you need troops. Retired Marines or Spec Ops would fit nicely.”
“Fine. Look for twenty-five solid people along with backups. We will discuss robotic crew when the others arrive for the meeting.”
“Wilson? Where are you getting a ship for this adventure?”
“I’m having one built. The shipyards are pretty full around here, so I went elsewhere to do it. The Senate thinks it’s their idea by-the-way. Our Senators pushed the idea through committee already.”
“You didn’t say where.” Margaret looked at him.
“I almost had the pirates do it, but instead commissioned one in Greenlandia.”
“Wow. That’s a bit far out there.”
“It is. Admiral Caine is there with her fleet. I just informed Athena of the fact today.”
“Does she know about this ship of yours?”
“No. Not yet. I intend to gift the ship to the Senate when they complain about price and crew issues. We will foot the bill out of the goodness of our hearts as a test of automation. It’s all arraigned.”
Shaking her head, Margaret spoke. “One of these days your sneakiness will come back and bite you in the ass. Be careful Wilson.”
The elevator made a ding noise. The rest of the board members were arriving.
“We will talk later. Thank you, Margaret. You are the voice of reason around here. I will heed your words and watch my backside.”
“If you had one. Let’s go meet the family, shall we?” Margaret led the ghostly image toward the boardroom.