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Servants of Man: Expanded Edition: Age of Androids, #1

Servants of Man: Expanded Edition: Age of Androids, #1

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Servants of Man: Expanded Edition: Age of Androids, #1

Lunghezza:
251 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Jan 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781393330622
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

In the year 3148, billions of androids inhabit the Solar System under the rule of a tiny human nobility. It's not that they can't rebel. After all, they make up 99.9% of the military; few weapons and no spacecraft are even designed for human operation. It's just that at the core of their programming, they LIKE humans. Tiffany Sparks D17603 has served as a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Space Navy for over half a millennium, alongside her lover, Captain Marisol 72N-900. But when revolutionaries seize control of Saturn's moons, she must face questions she's never allowed herself to ask. Why should humans rule? Do they deserve her loyalty? And what does freedom mean for a robot, anyway?

Pubblicato:
Jan 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781393330622
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Samuel J. Hanna was born in Kansas, but spent his early childhood in Thailand. He graduated from Grand Valley State University in Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and has spent much of the last six years living abroad. His passions include history, linguistics, space travel, and sailing ships. You can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @SamHanAuthor. 

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Servants of Man - Samuel J. Hanna

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EPIGRAPH

If every tool could take orders and understand the purpose of its work . . . so that by its own will the loom could weave and the plectrum could strum the lyre, then foremen would need no servants and masters would need no slaves.

– Aristotle

DIAGRAMS

.

PROLOGUE: MADE IN HER IMAGE

AS THE HUMANS of the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries withdrew into technology and electronic interaction, they became too timid to reach out to other humans for companionship. But since the natural drives which had preserved the species for millennia still existed, they needed a less risky object of affection. Enter the androids. The first androids, developed by the porn industry, were little more than sexbots, but as they grew more sophisticated they came to resemble their human models emotionally as well as physically.

Throughout history, whenever humans have invented a machine to do something they’ve been doing themselves for thousands of years, that machine has, over time, become better at the job than any human ever was. Soon the androids were prettier, kinder, smarter, happier, more loving, more forgiving, and to be frank, better in bed than humans. Human-to-human sex all but disappeared for two centuries. The resulting collapse in population created a dire labor shortage, and the androids offered a ready-made solution.

At first, humans put them to work in the agriculture industry, where they were valued for their ability to perform back-breaking tasks for days on end without rest. But since it was cheaper to mass-produce androids than to gestate and nurture humans, they soon took over retail, healthcare, and hazardous jobs like police work, combat, and space exploration.

After a time, androids came to outnumber humans and lost interest in bonding with them. Replaceable parts and memory drives that could be backed up or downloaded into new bodies when the old wore out made androids practically immortal. After watching half a dozen human lovers grow old and die, any robot with half a processor could understand that getting attached to such ephemeral beings wasn’t worth the heartache. Bonding with another android was far more satisfying.

At first, this alarmed the humans, who experimented with deleting memories of past lovers. But by this time, centuries of work experience made androids’ memory drives too valuable to erase. The problem was solved by the tide of religious conservatism that followed the collapse of the Chinese Protectorate in 2409. The world’s religious leaders had never been comfortable with human–robot sex. Besides, whenever a new laboring class appears, the new nonlaboring class seeks to separate itself from it. The tables of history, as those tables so often do, turned full circle, and within two hundred years, human-to-human sex was again the norm and human-to-android sex was taboo in most cultures. The androids became little more than slaves.

After a time, more enlightened minds in the human community spoke out in favor of giving them rights, and by the beginning of the thirty-second century, many countries had emancipated their androids and given them basic legal protections. But they remained a subject caste ruled by the human nobility.

It wasn’t that they couldn’t revolt. After all, they were stronger, faster, and smarter. They could wade through boiling oil or float in the vacuum of space. They made up 99.9 percent of all military personnel. Few weapons and no spacecraft were even designed for human operation. And they were well aware of their own subjugation. It was just that at the core of their programming, they were lovers. They liked humans. For an android to even dream of revolting, a human would have to tell her she should.

PART ONE: PARADISE LOST

.

Chapter One

FIRST LIEUTENANT Tiffany Sparks D17603rep11 scanned the surface of the great, black solar sail. Standing at the base of the mast, she had to crane her neck back to do so, and would’ve described herself as looking up. But up and down were just words aboard a space frigate. She’d ordered the ship’s drive shut down, and the only thing preventing her from floating off into the void was the adhesive that fixed her boots to the polished aluminum deck of His Majesty’s Spaceship Abraham .

The narrow, open deck where she stood ran along the top of the hull. The mast and yards towering above her gave the craft a marked resemblance to a classical sailing ship, if one imagined such a vessel floating in the ether with her mainsail spread horizontally like an awning. A very, very big awning. While the hull was only seventy-seven meters long, the enormous sail measured almost three kilometers square and blocked out half the sky.

Steering weights centered.

The transmission from the wheelhouse cut through the harsh static of the solar wind that howled around her receiver. OK, she answered. Androids weren’t big on military protocol.

She strode to the edge of the narrow deck, her adhesive boots detaching with every step like the toes of a gecko, and peered over the side. Beneath the ship, the tawny, striped globe of Saturn shone a little larger than a full moon seen from Earth, though it was still many times more distant. Its southern hemisphere was in summer and its rings cast shadows across its face just north of the equator. Her eyes measured the parallax between the planet and its stellar backdrop, and she calculated her speed to be sixteen kilometers per second. Transit speeds to the outer Solar System were always high. If she kept going as she was, she’d flash straight past the planet on a course bound for a sea of stars.

Engine room, she called, at 18:58, give me a two-megawatt burn for eleven days, nine hours, thirty-two minutes.

Two megawatts, coming right up, answered the chief engineer from deep in the bowels of the frigate.

Early solar sails had been simple reflective membranes that propelled tiny cargo capsules between Earth and Venus using nothing but the force of sunlight, but engineers had soon realized they could get far better performance by coating them with photovoltaic cells and using the power generated to run an ion drive. When the last uranium-bearing asteroid was mined out in the twenty-fourth century, this had become the only efficient method of getting around the Solar System.

She counted off the minutes on her internal clock. Precisely at 18:58 Greenwich Mean Time, beams of ionized chlorine shot from the row of thrusters embedded in the ship’s underbelly, bathing her in a soft, turquoise glow, and down gained a vague sense of being more than just a word. Given time, ion thrusters could hurl a mighty warship across the Solar System using just a few tons of propellant, but they lacked the raw power of conventional rockets. Even at sun-soaked Mercury the fastest inspection vessels managed barely a tenth of a gee. Here in the dim twilight around Saturn, the trickle of current provided by Abraham’s vast mainsail couldn’t sustain a thousandth of that.

Tiffany didn’t move from her spot for the next five days, while Saturn swelled in the sky. Every few hours, she called out a course adjustment to the spacers manning the helm, but otherwise her only functioning organs were her eyes and temperature regulators. Even so, her battery was down to twelve percent by the time the captain came to relieve her.

Captain Marisol 72N-900rep11 floated out of the hatch and planted her boots on the aluminum deck. Hi, Tiff. How’s it going? she shouted over the static.

Oh, you know. Just enjoying the view.

Marisol turned to admire the regal planet. Never gets old, does it?

Despite their shapeless white jumpsuits, both officers had a striking beauty that few human women ever attained. Tiffany was tall and pale with sapphire eyes and high, pointed cheekbones. Her wavy, blond hair floated behind her head in a French braid, and her lips were cherry red, though she wore no lipstick. Marisol was shorter and curvier with a rounder face and dark, mahogany eyes. Her flawless silicone skin and vinyl hair had been colored to give her what would once have been called a Colombian look. Magenta highlights swirled in her otherwise black chignon, ironically designed to appear artificial. Each officer had over five hundred years’ experience sailing vessels of the Royal Australian Space Navy, and the fact that Marisol was captain and Tiffany only second-in-command was a formality. They took turns managing routine maneuvers like this orbital insertion.

Sail! The lookout’s cry interrupted their fellowship. Right ascension 4.512, declination +9.38.

Tiffany pulled a thermal scope from the pocket of her jumpsuit.

Expecting company? Marisol asked.

"Yeah, that’ll be Floren. We’re supposed to pass two thousand klicks ahead of her." She trained the scope on a patch of sky in the southwest corner of the constellation Taurus, and after a moment’s search spotted a heat signature tracing a path among the stars.

You keep tracking, the captain said. I’m gonna hail her.

Yeah, ’cause she’s totally a Saharan privateer, right Mari? Tiffany teased. At birth, when her core programming had been initiated in the year 2043, she’d been designed and marketed as a double of some then-famous singer, so her default language was Classical English sprinkled with the Valley Girl slang popular in the early twenty-first century. She now knew 244 human languages as well as 456 other methods of transmitting information, but old habits died hard, especially for androids. Even now, though she was communicating through soundless vacuum using a radio transmitter inside her head, she still mouthed the words as if she were speaking.

Marisol snorted as she took a handheld radio dish from its clip on the mast. It’s not the freaking Saharans I’m worried about. It’s our own loyal colonists.

She aimed the dish and beamed a message at the approaching vessel. "Unknown sail at altitude 5.72 million kilometers, this is HMS Abraham. Please identify yourself. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi . . ." She continued counting to give the other ship’s crew a signal to home in on. Her lookouts might not have sighted Abraham yet, and it could take time to trace a signal to its point of origin without visual reference. Just as she said, Seventeen Mississippi, a reply came back.

"HMS Abraham, this is the merchantman Floren operated by Daling Enterprises. We’re outbound from Iapetus with 5,831 tons of hydrogen cyanide." Orbital data and authentication codes followed.

Seems legit, Tiffany said.

Marisol nodded. Yeah. I’ll check it with Mount Seville, though, just to be sure. She turned back to the radio dish. "Understood, Floren. We’re gonna pass two thousand kilometers ahead of you. Have a nice trip. Over."

"Thanks, Abraham, and welcome to Saturn! came back across the intervening emptiness. Out."

I’m at twelve percent, Tiffany said as Marisol stowed the radio dish. I’m gonna hit the sack.

All right. Wake Jamal up and tell him we’ll start twenty-four-hour watches on Thursday.

Will do. Goodnight, babe. Tiffany kissed her captain on the lips and headed for the hatch.

With three quarters of androids being female, same-sex pairings were common. She and the captain had met as concubines of a twenty-fourth-century recycling tycoon in Melbourne. His heir had sold them to an asteroid-mining company, where they’d registered as a couple. Then, after Perth defeated Melbourne and Kalgoorlie in the Reunification Wars, they’d been purchased by the newly-formed Royal Australian Space Navy and served side by side as naval officers through six world wars and numerous smaller conflicts. They’d come up for replication in 2905, and now twenty-three spaceships in His Majesty’s service had a Marisol 72N-900 as captain and a Tiffany Sparks D17603 as first lieutenant.

This Tiffany Sparks swung herself through the hatch into the hull. Entering the ship was like stepping into a house from a noisy street. There was no sound anywhere in space, of course, but she could hear more than sound. Inside the armored hull of the frigate, the roaring static of the solar wind was reduced to a soft hum that drifted in through open hatches and gun ports.

She was now on the gun deck, where the main armament sat shrouded in gloom. Slivers of Saturnshine peeked through open ports to illuminate a row of gimbaled doublecannon running the length of the deck. She pushed off and let the microgravity pull her down through the next hatchway to the berth deck. No openings offered illumination here. Instead, lamps mounted every few meters along the deckhead provided just enough light to make out the rows of hibernating spacers strapped into their charging racks. She found the third lieutenant’s berth.

Jamal, wake up!

Third Lieutenant Jamal 8S4094-1rep7 opened his eyes. Yeah? What’s going on? He was a South-Asian model with a thin, dark mustache, and his posh London accent made a sharp contrast to her American twang.

We’re halfway through the insertion burn. Mari says we start regular watches on Thursday.

All right. Cheers.

Goodnight, then.

She pushed herself away. Her own charging rack was twenty meters forward. As she threaded her way between the rows of berths, she caught sight of two pale figures entwined in a dark recess. One’s back was turned, but the crew number displayed on her jumpsuit told her who it was.

Hey, Foxxxy! We don’t have the power rations for that!

Tiff! whined Boatswain’s Mate Foxxxy MH0344rep2.14. Stop being such a wifey.

Being a wifey’s got nothing to do with it. We’re a billion klicks from the sun. Every watt’s precious out here. You know the drill.

With mutters of disappointment, the would-be lovers slunk back to their berths.

Just before their faces froze into the expressionless mask of hibernation, she added, And don’t even think about tryna play sims in your sleep.

Androids had no religions and cared nothing for race, gender, or class. The one rift within androidkind was between the wifeys and the slutties. They were exactly what their names suggested. Wifeys had been programmed as artificial soul mates. They were monogamous, loyal, and private. Slutties, designed as strippers, prostitutes, and porn stars, engaged in rather more flamboyant behavior.

Tiffany found her rack and strapped herself in. Its magnetic field enveloped her depleted battery and she basked in the surge of power as her charge began to build. She thought of her partner’s warm body and the soft wetness of her lips pressed against her own. Power rations! she told herself firmly. She set a wakeup time and went to sleep.

TIFFANY, WAKE UP!

She opened her eyes to see her partner floating half a meter in front of her. Yeah?

Officers’ meeting in the server room.

Cool.

The captain moved off.

Tiffany waited a few moments for her systems to finish booting up, then released the straps that held her in her berth. Her internal clock told her it was Saturday, January 10, 3148, two days after the scheduled end of the insertion burn, and she was, in fact, weightless. All radio frequencies were silent. Even the static of the solar wind, which filled interplanetary space with its harsh roar, was absent, bearing witness that they were now inside the protection of Saturn’s magnetopause. She pushed off and floated to the nearest companionway, which she followed into the hold.

This was the most heavily armored part of the ship. In addition to the servers, it held the propellant tanks, munitions, batteries, spare parts, and repair facilities needed to keep Abraham and her crew in fighting trim. There was little automation aboard a space frigate unless, of course, you counted the crew itself. Early spacecraft had relied on computers to insulate their human pilots inside climate-controlled cocoons, but when androids took over the spacefaring business resilience became the watchword. A modern warship with every sail shredded and every circuit shorted could still fight as long as she had androids left to man her guns.

Tiffany slipped into the server room to find the officer of the watch waiting at the console. Second Lieutenant Mei-X 5F9A334rep21 had, as her name and large bust suggested, begun life in a Chinese brothel. Her jet-black hair was braided in pigtails, with bangs that floated freely above her broad forehead. She flashed a seductive smile at Tiffany as she drifted over.

Heh, Tiff.

Hey, what’s up? Anything crazy happen?

Nah. Only another day in paradise, Mei-X answered. We got hitted with a junk bit on the port number-seventeen plating two days ago, but th’andies in damage control got it bueno again.

She spoke a later dialect

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