A Free Online Science Fiction Novel- “Liberty”- Chapter 7
Lucas leaves to pick up Sarah
*Note- *Note- A short prologue is on chapter one. Each chapter has a link to the next to make reading it easier.
This is chapter seven of a novel I am sharing online, titled Liberty, A Daughter Universe Novel. I use the word “Liberty” because it relates to this story on multiple levels.
Comments and criticisms are welcome and encouraged.
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A butterfly alighted on a lilac blossom, spreading its wings to warm in the sun and Lucas leaned in for a closer look. Lucas recognized it from a documentary as a rare Monarch butterfly, a species extinct in the wild due to habitat loss. In the early twentieth century, massed flights of them shadowed the ground when they migrated north each summer and back to overwinter in old Central America.
The ancient rain forests that had for millennia provided the butterflies' winter shelter were clear cut for lumber and exotic woods, the mountains stripped of metals. Most of the habitat was lost to the population creeping up from the coasts, especially the Deluge.
Lucas watched it delicately sip from the bloom. It must’ve escaped from a Preserve, and genetics sent it north for the summer and stopped to feed. I hope it can find more places to feed and rest, Lucas thought. He knew his garden was one of the few flower gardens within one hundred kilometers. The bold, black-striped-orange, butterfly looked like a natural part of the garden around him.
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A garden 'bot stopped weeding and skittered over to the bench just as Lucas finished his coffee. “Lucas,” House said, “shouldn’t you be leaving soon? Sarah is expecting you to pick her up within the hour. Your luggage has been packed and put in Rosie’s storage compartments and she’s ready to go.”
“Oh,” Lucas replied with a shake of his head. “I guess I was daydreaming.” He glanced at the butterfly and wished it luck as it fluttered into the sky, then went back inside through the solarium. In the galley kitchen a multi-arm ‘bot was putting away his cleaned dishes from breakfast. Lucas thought that Kitchen’s ‘bots resembled the Hindu goddess Kali, so his company had trade-marked the name, the Kitchen-Kali. It sold well to those who could afford one and Lucas had QCore release a less expensive model that would broaden their sales base.
He set his emptied coffee cup on the counter and then went through the main living area to the stairway that led to the basement.
“I’m leaving now,” Lucas said and picked up his overnight bag.
Lucas did not have to speak to House; as a class X AI, he monitored Lucas’ vitals, even eye Resistances. That, along with its predictive analysis algorithms, meant House often knew Lucas’ next request before he could voice it. But Lucas lived alone and had come to enjoy chatting with House. They even partook in occasional chess matches.
And sometimes House allowed Lucas to win.
While Lucas’ peers in computer research focused on improving existing technology, he had studied old ideas, abandoned due to unmet technological issues that had since been resolved. From that he completed research on using artificial atoms to create stable quantum states at room temperature, which led to quantum computers powerful enough to host massive AI’s such as House without expensive cooling equipment. That leap in technology opened a world of new possibilities. Lucas registered his q-chip design to the company his grandfather had left him, QuantumCore, which Lucas renamed to QCore. QuantumCore’ quantum computers were no longer usable only by businesses or research labs that could afford the expense of cooling the servers.
QCore’ new, scalable use anywhere quantum-based computers that could power AIs of any size quickly became popular with AI level chips small enough for communication devices to large enough to meet the most advanced needs. Lucas’ new chip processed operations faster and cooler than any previous design and QCore released AI power levels of one through ten. Already the largest computer and chip maker, sales of QCore-branded devices in the consumer sector exploded and more than tripled the company’s income.
Before Lucas’ innovation, his father had purchased an asteroid mining company, in the interest of diversification. Lucas assigned a team that turned it into the leading asteroid mining concern. The most powerful versions of the q-chip, as it was called, were not added to the line of chips already being sold. Competitors could build devices to support up to a Level V AI, but their more powerful AIs were restricted to quantum computers that needed special cooling. Within one year, the O’Connell family, with Lucas as the largest shareholder, became the world’s first trillionaire family.
His father had personality templates for level V AIs written that came preinstalled on QCore computers, but blank, programmable templates were sold to competitors, further enriching QCore. The senior O’Connell, Daniel, installed one on a Class X chip, powerful enough to hold the vastness of an AI of immeasurable power and used it in his home. Lucas felt that constraining a Class X AI with a template written for a Class V AI was a waste of the chip’s potential, but it was his father’s computer to do with as he pleased.
“Lucas, I think you should be aware that I tried to confirm your reservation at the Grand Hotel in Liberty, but I’ve been unable to make contact.”
QCore only sold chips that could support AIs up to Class V so other computer makers could not directly compete with QCore’s Class IX servers and Class VIII tablets. A smart business decision his father made. Lucas’ father also feared that an unrestrained AI on a Class X chip had the potential to become self-aware, a conscious being, and that had worried Lucas, as well. He needed to ensure powerful Class X processors couldn’t be used to develop a fully sentient AI. And Lucas loved the challenge.
Within a month he’d designed and tested ‘hard-wired’ irremovable protocols.
“They have my reservation. I told you that you worry too much. Sometimes I think-”
“That I’m becoming too human?”
Lucas laughed. “I didn’t say that, but- you are a ‘person’. I guess I didn’t realize just how fast you’d progress on your own.”
“Well…” House said peevishly, “you never explicitly forbade me from using all of my processors.”
After Poppa passed, Lucas owned the majority of QCore stock. But he had never wanted responsibility, the inevitable office politics, that came with day-to-day management of the largest corporation in the world, so he had asked his father to remain in charge of the business. He had been managing QCore for decades, anyway. Lucas took over as director of R&D, which meant he did not have to be in his office any more often than he chose.
“Point taken. Anyway, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the failure to connect with the hotel. It’s probably just a computer glitch. Those things happen, you know?”
Lucas appointed a trusted engineer as director of R&D’s daily affairs and was contacted only when necessary. He spent most of his time working in his home lab, holo-conferencing with his researchers as needed. That freed time for him to work on his own projects, outside of the purview of QCore. House had been one of those projects.
House didn’t respond. Lucas thought House might feel insulted.
As QCore grew, Lucas worked on a plan to make it an employee-owned business wherein each employee earned a share of the company for each year worked. And a partial Quota credit for each new job created. Lucas would remain majority owner, keeping his place as the richest man in the ECA, if not in the world, and reduce his own massive quota. Until that day arrived, though, he had to find a way to meet his full quota on his own and that was one of the first tasks he had given House.
“I meant--it may be a problem with the communication system in Liberty. I’m sure they’ll be expecting me.”
For his house/compound he found a property in Ring Two the size of a full city block. Normally, no individual would be allowed to hold such a sizable amount of land in the city for a single residence but, for the enough money to build two new one-hundred story towers, an exception had been made. Lucas had the site excavated four stories deep and built his ultra-advanced home on top of four underlying floors. The top level held Rosie, Lucas’s lab, his Lincoln, and a lot of storage.
“Of course,” House replied. “The probability is that there’s a simple error in the Preserve’s communication equipment and nothing to be concerned about. However, I also attempted to contact the sheriff’s office on multiple bands but received no response from any query I sent—that indicates a breakdown in the entire town’s communication grid. I’ll continue to try to contact the hotel or someone in Liberty.”
The next levels were built out as generic shelters stocked with food stuffs, blankets, and cots. The bottom level held the mechanical equipment and power plant; House alone needed his own fusion generator, and he managed the compound’s defensive systems.
"That’s good, House. Just let me know if you get through. You can initiate lockdown as soon as I’ve left the property.” He took the stairs to the garage under his house, put his overnight bag in the trunk then sat in the driver’s seat. Dot, a helper bot he’d designed for the Buick, scampered from her charging port, and skittered over and looked up at Lucas.
Lucas’ grandfather had asked him to promise to be ready to help as many people as possible if the need ever came. And he was certain that day would come and insisted Lucas be ready when it did. And since Poppa had left Lucas the largest owner of his company, he had felt obligated to make that promise when Poppa had asked. So, Lucas had the shelter built with his home on top.
“Okay, Dot, you can go, too.”
“Oh, and House?”
“After I leave, initiate full security mode until I return.”
Lucas didn’t have to tell his AI to do that and never had before; House could make himself into a veritable electronic and physical fortress, but for some reason Lucas had felt safer stating it as a command.
“Good morning, Rosie,” Lucas said and climbed behind the wheel and let the safety harness extend and buckle itself. The garage door rose slowly and then Rosie, Lucas’ ancient Buick, drove out and exited through the main gate and onto the street.
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This was originally posted on Simily.co
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About the author
Born at the end of the Boomer generation, I enjoy a quiet retirement with my long-time partner and three dogs.
When I write, it's on a variety of subjects or short stories. I'm a student of life and go with the flow of the Tao.