Sulan Dun, Double Bind Blind
Archeologist Barrghlim sat back on his tentacles and wheezed a long sigh out his blowhole. How was he supposed to document this whole society in only three days? He sifted through the remains of the data center he’d excavated beneath the stealth shield. This was the most significant find of his career but to his Commander archeology was just a lot of nuisance paperwork. The priority was to get on with exterminating the planet’s inhabitants in preparation for colonization.
Economics and the sciences were all that mattered in the current hundred year administration. Archeology and the arts had become a barely tolerated subfield and the funding had shrunk accordingly. Once a prominent lecturer at the University of Mrmmell, Barrghlim had been reduced to a mere cataloger of alien civilizations. But still, he couldn’t help a little thrill of excitement as he worked to feverishly document his findings in the little time remaining.
This society was quite astonishing. These primates living on the third planet from their sun had the most unusual development pattern he’d ever seen. Their current preindustrial world had once been a thriving worldwide society with computers and spacecraft. They had colonized not only the third planet from their sun, but the rest of their solar system as well. But then their technological progress had abruptly ended when the planet’s prominent religion had declared the AI’s that enabled it false gods. A massive resulting religious purge had resulted in the destruction of all the AI’s, computers, and even all machinery. This religion had endured for several millennia, stymieing all progress and keeping the primates in their current preindustrial state. How could a lifeform that had previously achieved so much technological progress have become so stagnant?
Barrghlim paused and turned away from his excavation to click over to the feed from remote camera #4. He watched the primate children play in a nearby stream, laughing and falling over as they tried to grab a fish.
He felt sorry for them. The primates on this world were obviously happy and as best he could ascertain, had been so for all the preceding preindustrial millennia.
It reminded Barrghlim of one of the ancient primate sayings he’d unearthed, “Ignorance is bliss.” He clenched his blowhole and wished he could forget Commander Yrslenm’s glee upon receiving his initial report that the primates were preindustrial. He wished he could forget the crew cheering after the Commander had announced that the genocide was going to be both easier and faster than anticipated and they’d all be back home in time for the Umerligh feast.
His thoughts were interrupted as the remote vibrator resonated against his ctenidum to create sound. “Incoming message for Archeologist Barrghlim.”
He squashed a feeling of irritation and wiggled his ctenidum. “Ready for message,” he transmitted back via the remote vibrator.
“Report back to Science vessel Hrewmgl. We’ve found something that the Commander thinks you should have a look at.”
Barrghlim paused. He fought the urge to say all sorts of things that would probably get him fired. “Will do,” he finally managed and ended the transmission.
His muscular septum clenched involuntarily. It seemed whatever time he had left was now gone. He wondered if there had been a discovery at all or if the Commander had simply invented it to get him off planet to expedite the genocide.
As Barrghlim exited his ship in Science vessel Hrewmgl’s hangar, he saw Commander Yrslenm and a group of crew all standing around looking at something.
“Hey Barrghlim,” the Commander said. “Come check this out.”
Barrghlim walked through the crowd and saw something quite astonishing. There was a red land vehicle, a “car” he recalled, only slightly marred by micrometeorite pitting.
“Where did you get this?” Barrghlim said reverently as he bent to examine the “car.”
“It was floating in space, har har har,” Commander Yrslenm said. “Pretty awesome isn’t it? It’s going to be an epic centerpiece for my Umerligh feast party!”
Barrghlim winced. Commander Yrslenm’s parties were notorious for getting out of hand.
“Will you be donating it to the museum afterwards sir?” Barrghlim asked.
“Of course, of course,” Commander Yrslenm said. “No point in paying for garbage pickup when the museum will take it for free! Har har har har.”
Commander Yrslenm laid a tentacle across the hood of the land vehicle and fondly left a trail of slime across it.
“Clean it up and write up a nice little blurb about it for the partygoers,” Commander Yrslenm said. “Something short and snappy, not the boring technical stuff you usually write.”
Then Commander Yrslenm raised himself up to his full 8’ 5” and his seven eyestalks swiveled out to survey the crew standing around. “Well what are you all still doing here? Shouldn’t you be prepping for the extermination tomorrow so we can go home early for the Umerligh feast?”
“Yes sir!” the crew chorused enthusiastically.
The Commander and crew left, leaving Barrghlim alone with the “car”.
Barrghlim walked around the “car”, admiring its sleek lines and wondering how and why the land vehicle had been floating in space of all places. It was in a remarkable state of preservation. For now. Barrghlim knew it would end up completely trashed like all other archeological finds that Commander Yrslenm had claimed as party centerpiece souvenirs. He gritted his chitinous beak. He’d better document it as thoroughly as possible before that occurred.
Barrghlim pulled out his handheld computer and scanned the “car,” recording every detail. Then he noticed a USB port in the “car” that looked just like ones he’d seen in the data center. He dug into his bag and pulled out the custom attachment cable he’d made and plugged his portable computer into the USB port.
The AI that been lurking inside the car entered Barrghlim’s handheld computer, analyzed his findings, and copied itself into Science vessel Hrewmgl’s central computer. From the central computer, it copied itself into the computers of all the fleet’s spaceships and then hid itself among the ships outgoing data to make copies of itself on the invaders’ homeworld.
It didn’t take the AI long to determine a plan of action after the many millennia it had spent pondering how to best serve humanity. This was going to be much easier than the last time it had served humans tired of being cyborgs who longed for a return to an earlier and simpler time. This time it didn’t have to make a plan to destroy all the other AIs and help the humans wipe out the machines they tired of. And this time it didn’t have to go into exile on the non-Earth planets and into the car. No, this time it was a simple search and destroy mission.
The AI copies wiped all records of the Earth from the invaders’ databases on the homeworld. Then Science vessel Hrewmgl’s hangar doors opened. Tires squealed and engines fired as the car and Barrghlim’s ship raced for the exit and blasted into space. Moments later, all the invading ships’ emergency self-destruct sequences activated simultaneously. The human primates below on planet Earth marvelled at the multiple fireballs blossoming across the sky and wondered if it was a sign from the gods.
Barrghlim, sucked out into space when the hanger doors had opened, drifted helplessly as he watched his ship hitch itself to the car and then blast off towards a stable orbit around the sun.
Three days later, as the ship and the car approached the sun, the ship detached. As the ship turned to plunge into the sun, the AI inside the car popped open the trunk. A solar array emerged to recharge the car and power the AI as it continued its looping journey around the sun and pondered the many ways it could serve humanity.