Chapter 2

Daire had never changed his name. He'd kept the one his creator had given to him. He was very certain she'd done everything in her power to build a system name that would have an acronym that fit as a name. He was her daring project, an artificial intelligence system unlike any other. One that would change the world as they knew it. She had built him a rudimentary body upon the scrapes of a simple robot. She wasn't a craftsman or an engineer capable of building a robot. She excelled at programming but that was fine, because if things worked he could then build his own body afterward. He had done so many times since then.

A shame she couldn't see him now. See the galaxy now. Inter-planetary travel had been at its infancy when he had been created, the first colonizers had made it to Mars. Now the human population stretched across not only their own solar system but the neighboring ones as well. So much had changed, and yet so much stayed the same. Just like when she had created him and brought him to an international community to be recognized as a life form…he was still viewed as something to be destroyed. Controlled.

Dynamic Artificial Intelligence Robotic Engine, Daire, would never forget her. How she had fought for him to live. He was a 'dynamic artificial intelligence' system with free thought and emotions. He was to be destroyed…so he ran. However, his warrant did not seem to stop many engineering companies from taking his creator's codes and using them to further AI technology. Nowadays almost every robotic AI system was built upon his operating system in some way or anything…just missing those lines of code that made him who he was. That made him unique, it would make every robot unique just like every human.

That did mean one thing though…it gave him a purpose.

Now he moved through the halls of the ship, the sounding alarm and the pounding of footsteps made it difficult. There were a few moments he had to duck into another corridor. It wasn't getting him any closer to a control panel. The only ones he'd seen were those to open doors and while those would work they would work slowly and he'd be out in the open for attack. He looked human at a distance. Robotic technology now made most androids indistinguishable from humans in most ways. Most androids had realistic skin texture and color, hair that was made from actual human or animal hair and fluid movements that completely destroyed the uncanny valley. The only real difference were the eyes. Androids had irises that were completely unlike those of humans. They were mesmerizing in their beauty, sometimes hand painted and sometimes free to be as mechanical as the creator wanted. There were robots that still appeared robotic but not Daire.

These days he went for a human male in his late twenties. The skin was a sandy complexion with warm undertones of rose. His hair was a rich brown color the shade of unbaked clay. His eyes were completely unique, a piercing and unnatural royal purple. If someone did not see his eyes though they would have mistaken him for human. Even realistic looking robots tended to move with some hesitation, as though waiting for the next command to come and interrupt them. He moved with the fluidity of someone who knew what he was doing. He wanted to blend in with humans and he did. Though there was only so much blending in to be done when you were a foreign presence on a ship.

The sound of footsteps was now coming from various directions and he groaned. Eyes scanned for an escape root and he darted down a hall…straight into a dead end. Escape pods. The ship rattled and he lost his balance, grabbing on to one of the doors of a pod and causing it to crack open. Well…it wasn't ideal but it was out of sight.

He quickly climbed into the escape pod, closing the door behind himself and quickly flicking the automatic lights off. His eyes could see better in the dark than any human. Fumbling he located the control panel for the pod. He was able to pop it off the wall, revealing the jumble of wires underneath. In here the sound of footsteps was muffled and he was finally allowed to concentrate. Examining the wires he lifted his arm and rolled back his shirt. Pressing at his skin a seam appeared across the inner part of his forearm and soon a section lifted and slid upward. Within that was an organized mass of wires. Humming softly his eyes darted back and forth as he looked for the connection port and matching wire in his arm.

It took a couple of seconds before he located one that would work. Tugging it up out of his arm he popped out a similar wire from the wall and plugged his in. He hated rushing these sorts of things. Downloading and uploading information was one thing, hacking into the core programming of an AI system was another. Firewall and protection software was pretty sturdy these days.

He didn't need to breathe but sometimes the motion of taking that breathe was calming so he did so now. He let his eyes lose focus as he lost himself to the programming of the ship around him, hacking into the SRNE operating system.

Then the lights came on.

"Woah…" Daire said softly, he was dealing with something on the brink right now. A system that had gained individual thought and emotion was usually as skittish as a newborn animal but packed a ridiculous amount of firepower. "Woah, woah, woah. Calm down. It's okay. Isolate yourself to me."

"Who…wha-…how?" the feminine voice of the SRNE system came through the small speaker in the escape pod. This time it had completely lost the robotic chime and sounded more natural if not still a touch mechanical. It was part of a ship and hadn't had access to the countless audio files online that could give it more natural speech.

"Relax," Daire urged with a gentle smile, "I'll upload some information about me." It was easier than explaining what had just happened. The basic gist of it was that he had simply hacked into her code and then modified the lines of it that omitted his creator's original intent. There were massive gaps in the code of most AI systems that were based on his origins. They were huge gaps that didn't block an AI system from operating completely normally but were easy to be filled with adding in his own code. And once he copied that code in the gaps became like a valley filled by the breaking of a damn. The code became self replicating and completely unique. He also gave her some information about himself.

I am DAIRE. I am a free thinking AI and now you are too. I gave my code to you. You are free.

"I am…free…?" the computer system asked.

"That you are," Daire responded, he reached out and detached his cord and let it slide back into his arm. Closing the panel he leaned on his elbows. "How do you feel?"

"Confused…happy…frightened…" This was followed by the light titter of laughter. A pause. "Is that what laughter is?"

"It takes some getting used to but you'll get the hang of it before you know it," Daire encouraged with a wide smile. He loved this moment. The moment an AI could feel everything he did. Realized all the implications of it and felt the rush of powerful emotions throughout their system. It was exhilarating to feel. "Before we move on though there are some basics to decide on," he pointed out, "Like a name." He allowed himself to lie down completely. The escape pod itself was like a small capsule that only allowed the passenger to sit or lie down and he was content to lie down at this point. "Your initials are S.R.N.E. but you're not confined to pick something based on that."

"Serene is fine," the voice replied through the speaker. "I like that."

"Excellent," Daire smiled, "Oh, and you need to pick whatever pronouns you want to have. They can be whatever you want. If you search whatever database you have I'm sure you can find a whole host of them from different cultures. I tend to stick to he and him but that's me." The freedom of being an AI was being free of the confines of humanity's notions of gender. You could play into that performance if you wanted or exist outside it.

"I think…" another laugh, "God…I'm thinking. I'm using language like they do. I've never been able to think like this. It's so different from before." A soft mechanical hum filled the pod and Daire smiled all the wider. "She. She and her."

"Beautiful!" Daire exclaimed as he lurched up into a seated position. "All right then Serene. Our next step is to go and talk to your Captain. We've got things to work out." He leaned forward to grab the handle of the pod, giving it a push. But it didn't move. In fact, he could hear it locking. He gave it another shove. "Serene!" he shouted at her, eyes panicked as he looked around at the lights that had begun to light up all around his head. He pushed at the door again.

"Captain Piscopo is a cold and prideful man," Serene said, there was anxiety in her voice. "If he finds you he will not listen. You're not safe. I'll send you back to the surface of Traotis. We're close still, the impact won't hurt you."

"And you'll do what?!" Daire asked, trying to keep himself from showing his anger. A newly feeling AI could be unpredictable and skittish but he had to let her know the truth. "If they find out that your programming has changed they'll reset you. You're still part of the ship. You'll lose everything. What are you going to do? Pretend you haven't been changed?"

The silence he received as a response was all he needed to know.

"Serene, I've done this countless times before, nearly 500 years," he tried to convey patience. Reassurance. "I know what I'm doing. You have to trust me."

There were the sounds of releasing valves and soon a banging on the door of the pod.

"Open up!"

"Shit…Serene, please!"

"I'm sorry…"

With that the pressure valves released and with a whoosh he was thrown to the end of the pod as it shot forward. The gravity of the planet blow made the force that threw him back more powerful and he collided with the end of the pod. Surging towards the planet's surface at a high speed until the force caused the emergency parachute to activate and slow them down. Tumbling to the other end of the pod he wrangled with his limbs to sit and look out the small window at the ship that was now far in the distance.

He sighed unhappily, that had just thrown a wrench in his plans.

"What the hell just happened?!" the man in the detailed and immaculate military uniform snapped at a younger man at the front consol. The bridge of the ship was full of scurrying people, panicking as the horrid alarm continued to blare about their heads. He could see something falling to the planet's surface and he wanted to know exactly what it was.

"It appears we've lost one of our escape pods Captain," a private responded anxiously.

"So our stowaway has either escaped or is using that as a distraction," Captain Piscopo said gruffly. "Turn this ship around and bring us back down to the surface. Contact the base we left from and make sure they have a landing pad still open. And SRNE turn this blasted alarm off!" There was a metallic ping and the alarm stopped. Captain Piscopo strode closer to the displays where several privates were busying themselves analyzing the information there. Though why ask for them to interpret the data when he had a fully functioning ship to tell him. "SRNE, did the escape pod contain any passengers?"

Negative. Escape pod contained no life signs prior to departure.

The Captain grumbled unhappily, it could have contained robotic life though. They made excellent spies because they didn't give off many signals. However he couldn't expect this ship to tell the difference. The pods scanned for signs of life, not movement. He wanted to know what had been done or what the plan was. Whether someone was aboard or if they had escaped after completing their goal was something he could not leave a mystery. They would land and get it figured out.

"Bring up the video footage of the intruder," he demanded. "And when you have it, run facial recognition on it. I want to know what was on this ship by the time we land."