The three of them reunited in the hallway a short time later. While Veronica was the last to enter the changing room, she was the first to emerge. Now wearing a black blazer with a pair of matching suit pants and a light green blouse underneath. Her long, straight black hair now down from the pony tail it was held in while in the envirosuit. Dr. Manelski emerged in something a little less formal. He now wore a pair of faded jeans and a old polo shirt. His glasses and mop like hair now more defining.
"After you." Sophia insisted to the pair. Veronica nodded and began to walk down the hallway, her heels clicking on the tile in the silent hallway with each step. They turned left into a much wider hallway, now populated with more people, mostly in dirty coveralls. They ignored the trio as they walked towards the elevators in this hallway. Veronica touched her finger to the up button and it lit up with a dull green glow.
"The machine shop is on the eleventh floor where the canals are situated." she mentioned. "That way we can get whatever we need fixed there quickly. You know the old pharse: Time is money." she continued as the elevator opened its doors to the cramped little room inside.
Once on the eleventh floor, Veronica led Sophia and the doctor to the entrance to the machine shop. Outside, in the hallway, the high pitched whirring of machines spinning could be heard. It must be great to work on the floor below this, Sophia joked to herself as they stepped into the machine shop.
The machine shop was massive. It took up nearly the entire space on the eleventh floor, and stretched up probably another two. On either end of the shop there were two massive tubes which levicars used to move between buildings throughout the entire complex. Scattered throughout the room were large pieces of industrial machinery. Some used to create the jump drives that JADE Propulsion manufactured here, and some to fix those machines. Many people in dirty coveralls were working on many of those machines.
Expertly Veronica led the other two towards the back corner of the shop. There a large seven axis control robot was set with no cables running to it. It's levilift sat on the floor, probably unused for many days now.
"That's it." Dr. Manelski said excitedly. "That's the bot that we isolated that has whatever is causing us our problems."
Veronica took a step back. "Well, I won't be much use here anymore." She turned towards Sophia, "If you need me let the doctor know. He can call me on the interlink." She turned and began to walk away, "I'll be back in eight hours if I don't hear anything from you."
Well I hope this is easy, Sophia though. I really don't want to be stuck here with Manelski here if he's as bad as Veronica said he is. "Great. I should be done by then." she lied.
As Veronica walked away Sophia turned back towards the still bot. Any tool that was in its manipulator had been removed by the previous tech, probably after something bad had happened. She stood there in silence for a few seconds looking it over. But the silent could not last.
"So, what do you think is wrong with it?" Dr. Manelski slowly inquired.
Sophia stood in silence still, not responding to the question. Then, she quickly flung her tool pack off her shoulder and began digging through it. She pulled out a series of cables. Thankfully they were color coded because they were all tangled together. She walked over to the bot and began looking all around it before finding a set of four screws that concealed the controller terminal. The screws were all finger tight, probably because the techs have been it a lot recently, she thought. She thumbed through her cables before selecting the blue one and plugged one end of it into the bot, and the other into her phone.
All the while, Dr. Manelski was behind her, rattling away about a theory of what might have caused the machine to break. Sophia wasn't listening though, as she started up her phone and began to flip through the holographic display of GUTS diagnostic programs she had. She selected one meant to be run on bots created by Luna Dynamics and the phone went to work gathering as much information on the disabled bot as it could. This was going to take about thirty minutes, which got Sophia thinking.
I've got thirty minutes. How do I get this guy to stop bugging me until it's done? Then she had an idea.
"Huh? Oh, uh, what can I do for you Ms. Rose?"
"Is there any good grub around here?"
"Well, not really. The nearest mess hall is a twenty minute walk from here." he said as he scrat-ched teh back of his head.
"Here. Here's six creds." she said as she pulled out some money from her bag. "Can you go run and pick me up a bite to eat? I haven't eaten anything all day and I've got to stay here to keep an eye on this" she lied. She forced the money into his hands.
"Uh, ok." he said, feeling now obligated to do so because the money was now in his hands. "Well, I guess I'll be back shortly." He sounded unsure as he made his way towards the entrance of the machine shop.
If I could only spend six creds to get guys away from me all the time, Sophia joked with herself. Now time to sit back while this does its job.
Sophia sat on the ground with her back against the bot and pulled out an old radio controlled car from her pack along with a couple of tools. For the next twenty minutes she fiddled with the toy car, soldering wires, rebuilding the engine, and repairing the sky blue and orange plastic body.
As she worked on it, she glanced around the room. It must be late in the day for these guys, commenting on the men and women who were still running around the machine shop. Maybe in the next few hours I'll have the shop all to myself, she silently wished. Traveling around space by herself for six years now has forced her to enjoy the solitude of space travel. She would travel from one part of the solar system to another for many days. Sometimes it took a week or two to get where you to were you were going if the belt was in bad condition. She wished she had the money to afford to travel via jump gates. The jump way through the asteroid belt was always clear. Companies paid a lot of money to ensure it was. Via a jump gate, she could have traveled from the Mercury VII space station to this moon of Jupiter in under thirteen hours, as opposed to the six days it took her through the normal routes.
But that was all going to change in the next few weeks. KyotoTech announced months back that it would be unveiling its subspace jump technology. The subspace technology was supposed to allow ships to travel in folded space, allowing them to bypass all the physical objects in between point A and B. Because of this, there would be no need for maintenance or clearing of jump ways, therefore reducing the price of jump travel and making it more affordable to the general spacefaring public. And it was going to put a lot of large corporations like Jasper, Alladine, Dunsmith, and Ecclestone Propul-sion Industries in jeopardy of going under.
This is why it is so imperative to JADE that this bot problem be resolved as soon as possible. In the next few weeks KyotoTech will be opening its first subspace gate and JADE will be left with old technology. Sophia looked around at all the people still in the workshop. A lot of you won't have a job next year.
She turned her head to look at the diagnostic still running. It had a large "98%" rotating in the holofield projected by the phone. Sophia packed her car away and slid herself over to the phone to watch the test finish it's interrogation of the crippled machine. The "100%" faded away and Sophia waited for the report to appear. But after a minute of waiting, she realized it would never appear.
Sophia gave a look of confusion at the hol-ogram which returned to displaying her Hello Kitty. But it wasn't right. The speech bubble that usually displayed helpful information about messages, news, or alerts now had an unfamiliar phrase in it."My name is Dori."
Curious, She pushed her finger through the bubble which popped, revealing the list of debug-ging logs which generate when a diagnostic program is run. There she found a log with the today's date. That's weird, I wonder why it didn't open when it finished, she thought as she selected it.
As it opened, her confusion grew. The log had no information or data on the bot. None of the usual data populated the file. Just a single line that read "My name is Dori."
"This has got to be some kind of virus." she said quietly to herself.
"What has to be some kind of virus?" the voice called out from behind, startling her. Dr. Manelski had returned with a pair of containers filled with whatever food he could get from the nearest mess hall.
She turned around to greet him as she thumbed the hologram off. "Huh? Oh, nothing really. My diagnostic tests came back a weird. I think the bot might have a virus of some kind." Sophia held the phone in her hand, still connected to the machine.
"That's what the techs thought as well. Though none of their equipment was able to detect anything." He paused for a second, then outstretched the Styrofoam food container towards her. "I brought you this. It's Ganymede rice and fish."
Sophia popped the lid of the container. Steam rolled off the blueish white rice and deep pink fish. It looked much better than it smelled, it's scent being a cross between fish and hot plastics. She accepted it with a smile though, because it was a lot better than what she was used to eating.
"By the way, you can call me James." he said bashfully.
Sophia broke apart the set of synthwood chopsticks. "Thanks for grabbing me this James." Sophia said through a mouthful of rice.
James lowered himself to the floor and sat cross legged. "So, what are you going to do after this?" He cracked his lid open and developed a slight frown as he looked at his imminent meal. The quality of food on this tiny moon could not compare to that from his home planet of Mars.
"I don't know. Like I said, my diagnostic test returned some weird results. I might start digging through the firmware to see if there are some screwy lines of code that don't match. I'll need to connected to the net so I can get the latest code from Luna Dynamics. Do you have the access information to the network here?" She inquired between bites of food.
"Yeah, I can give you the pass string. Normally we're not supposed to give it out, but I you passed the security check, right?" She nodded in agreement. "Then I don't see the problem." He smiled and then slowly dug back into his food.
Through the rest of the meal they exchanged chit chat, mostly Sophia asking James a question about his schooling. This allowed him to go on a long talk about this or that, letting her to continue eating. James, it turned out, graduated from Mars Institute of Technology with his doctoral degree in physics only a few months ago. Without a real plan, he got a job with JADE as an assistant to the engineers that worked here. With his long winded rhetoric and distaste for the local cuisine, Sophia finished her meal before the doctor finished half of his. She tossed her used chopsticks into the empty Styrofoam container, closed the lid, and tos-sed the box off to the side.
She continued to entertain James as he slowly came to terms with the fact that he was not going to be able to finish his meal. When he finally flew the white flag, he closed the lid of the container and leaned back. "So, now what?"
"The access information to the network, if you could."
Sophia lit up her phone again in preparation to enter the key when she saw that her Japanese cat was not there to greet her. Instead, just a speech bubble, connected to nothing, hung there. "Hello, Sophia. My name is Dori." it read. Sophia let out a puzzled sigh.
"Oh, nothing." Brushing over the anomaly, She brought up the access consol. "What's that key?" She entered the alpha numeric key that he recounted from memory, then selected the pulsing holographic "CONNECT" icon.
Immediately there was a problem. The normal hologram of the net navigator did not start. Instead, it was replaced by a slew of binary numbers, flashing by at such a pace that Sophia was only barely recognize what it was. James noticed it too.
"What, what's going on?" he exclaimed.
Sophia tried frantically to turn the phone off with no success. Angrily she replied, "I have no clue." She tore the cables out of the bot they were connected too and swiped hand through the hologram many times trying to get it to stop.
Fifteen seconds later, it stopped almost as abruptly as it started. The hologram returned back to the home screen of just the new, lonely speech bubble.
The next seconds of silence were broken by James slowly saying, "Well, that was weird."
Sophia didn't reply. Instead she stared at the phone screen then flicked it off. I'll worry about that later. She turned back towards the reason she came here. "Yeah, I know. Well, I guess we should continue with this thing."
She dug into her back and grabbed more tools and began disassembling various pieces of the bot. She knew she wasn't going to find anything physically wrong with it, but she needed something to do while she thought about what happened on her phone.
By now, it was obviously past the working hours of machine shops usual inhabitants. Only ones left in the shop were Sophia and James now. Sophia working silently taking apart things that didn't need to be taken apart, and James mostly talking to an invisible audience.
Sophia was in the process of returning the bot's fourth axis to its original state when her phone on the concrete floor vibrated, making an audible buzzing sound. Confused, she moved to her phone, the home screen now displaying that there was an unread message. The message appear, it was addressed from "DORI".
"Hello, My name is Dori. What's your name?"
Sophia thought for a moment. Who the hell is this Dori and what do they want from me. She toyed with the idea of replying, but her gut reaction told her to keep ignoring it. With a pinch of curiosity, she opened the addressee's contact info. She was shocked to find that everything listed was her own information. Is my phone sending itself messages?
This new evidence pushed her curiosity over the edge. "My name is Sophia." she typed out on the holographic letters. She pushed the send icon and immediately received a reply.
"Hi Sophia. I'm Dori. Are you going to go to space?" it read.
"Yes." she typed.
"Can you take me? I've always wanted to go to space."
James, noticing her typing away on her phone, interrupted their silent conversation. "What are you doing? Did you find something?"
"I think so, but I'm not sure." She beckoned him over to her and pointed at the hologram of transcripts. "Notice anything peculiar?"
He gave it a thorough look before slightly turning his head sideways. "The messages are coming from your phone?"
"Yes. I think we might be dealing with more than just a virus here."
"Do you think it's an AI?"
"I have no clue. But whatever it is, I think it likes to jump around."
"Are there anymore of it?"
"I've no idea. I don't want to plug my phone back into the bot. I don't want what we have here getting away." Sophia dug through her bags. "I don't think I have another data device on me to hook up to check."
James had a small smile crawl on his face. "What if you ask it if there are more like it?"
Unsure it would work, she began to type in the question. "Are there more-"
The response came before she finished her message.
"Nope. Just me."
Sophia's demeanor turned from one of curiosity and confusion to one of concern and amazement. On the other hand, Dr. Manelski's face with bright with excitement.
"It is an AI!"
"Well that explains why none of the virus software found it." Sophia leaned back until her back was on the cool concrete. After four hours in her envirosuit, she was beginning to get uncom-fortably warm. "My new question, though, is why didn't it jump to any of the techs data devices? Why did it just jump into mine?"
"I don't know. But maybe you can ask it?" He smiled. "It worked before, maybe it'll work again."
Sophia sat back up and reached towards the phone. But the answer had already been received. "Because I want to go to space!"
"I think it's learned to access the microph-one." she sighed. "I've never seen an capable of fitting into such a low powered device."
"I know, that's what makes this so exciting. It must be able to use some sort of sophisticated algorithm to be able to function on such a low powered device." James seemed really excited. Artificial Intelligence and computer science weren't his specialty, but the physical transmission of that much data was a marvelous achievement in physics. "It's a computer learning right before our eyes."
While Sophia was not nearly impressed by this as her current company, she was amazed by its abilities. "So sophisticated, but it still just wants to go to space. Kind of reminds me of a kid." She joked.
"Sophia, will you please take me to space?" a synthetic female voice sounded from the phone.
The pair stared silently at each other. Their eyes exchanged the conversation on what to say next. Sophia broke the silence just as James began to move.
"I'll take you to space if you can promise me that there isn't another one like you here." She spoke in a tone that one would use to speak to a child. "This company makes a lot of very dangerous pieces of equipment, and they can't have any else playing with them. People could get seriously hurt." Her mind immediately went to the missing implant on the end of the bot.
The computerized voice let out an excited cheer.
James interrupted the celebration, "Whoa, Sophia. You can't take it. It's should go to JADE. It was their bot, they should be able to keep it."
"Why not? They didn't even know they had it. If it was the virus we expected, do you think they would want it back?" She stood up from the ground, the phone in her hand. "Besides, who knows what harm it could do if it remained here."
"But whatever it is, it's a feat of science. JADE could possibly figure out how it works and maybe event implement it commercially." He was now standing as well. He held a finger out towards Sophia, "It could save this company."
Sophia slid her phone into her bag. "Well, maybe so, but I made a promise to this Dori. At least let me take it out of atmo before turning it over. Or do you want an disgruntled AI on your hands?" She began to move towards the exit of the machine shop.
James, quickly stepped in front of Sophia as she started to leave. "I can't let that leave here. Besides, you don't know what it could do to your ship. You saw what it did to these bots." His voice became elevated and aggressive. "Plug it into your ship and it'll have access to all your information. You have no idea what it'll do with that. Companies would pay a fortune to get their hands on our data!" His last words developing slowly as he connected his last thoughts to the previous actions of the past few hours.
Sophia immediately knew what he was thinking. Her tone became calming, "Whoa, whoa. I'm not working for anyone. I'm GUTS, I'm certified." She pointed to the crest on the envirosuit.
But the idea was already planted in his head. He quickly turned and grabbed a large mass reactor hammer. He held it with one hand in a threatening position, his finger on the button which made the hammer head instantaneously weigh fifty kilograms heavier that it was currently.
"I'm sorry Sophia, but I can't let you leave here with that AI."