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Easton & Kat

Posted on 09 Jun 2022 @ 6:21am by Ensign Kat Walker & Captain Easton Lawe

1,770 words; about a 9 minute read

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: Fighterbay

Kat's sensors perked up as a new presence walked onto the fighterbay, mingling with the fighter techs, with the other pilots going about their business. A presence Kat hadn't met yet, and that hadn't met Kat yet either. So when the Captain started making his way over to the fighter, Kat activated her holographic projector, manifesting her humanoid avatar with a familiar shimmer. The Ensign stood at attention and offered a salute as Captain Lawe drew near to her modified fighter, with the callsign 'DEADEYE' freshly stenciled on the side, right underneath the canopy.

"At ease, Ensign," Easton said with a sincere smile that was small by way of being economical with his energy. It had taken him a while to get down here and meet one of the ship's more unusual crewmembers, but it had long been his plan and so here he was. Before he said anything further, he noticed the name stenciled on the side of the fighter he knew she was 'attached' to. "Deadeye?" he asked, his mouth tilting a little higher on one side.

"Hello Captain," Kat offered with that faint smile of her, as she seemingly relaxed. For her the difference between at ease and at attention was academic at best, it was just a projection of a hologram. One that she had slowly been tweaking and modifying in subtle ways to make it more realistic. "Deadeye is my callsign, Captain. Because of my nature I am very accurate with my fighter's weapons."

Easton nodded thoughtfully. "I can see that," he agreed, standing at ease and folding his arms over his chest. "I've been taking the time to meet several of the crew since coming aboard," he continued after a moment. "As one of the more unique crewmen, I thought I'd come meet you as well. I haven't worked with an AI pilot before."

"I'm sure you have many questions about my nature, Captain. And probably expectations, based on the Federation's history with AIs, most notably the Soong type androids," Kat mused, her words measured, with a slight, subtle melodic quality to them. It was part of her ongoing endeavors to improve her communication and conversation skills, adding some light flair to her spoken words. "There are a few fundamental differences between me and the Soong types, though. I've been studying them."

"I'm sure there's been plenty to study to acclimate to this timeline and ship," the captain said. He had, of course, read all of the reports, but he was still a hands-on kind of man. He liked to gain information for himself as much as possible as well. "What are the fundamental differences as you see them?"

"On a practical level, my AI core is more powerful but less flexible than a Soong type positronic brain," Kat explained, as she motioned to the side, manifesting a hologram of her crystalline AI core with various pieces of machinery attached to it. "My processing capacity comes at a cost. My AI core is significantly larger and less efficient, also requiring support equipment to function. This means I lack the autonomy of a Soong type unit. I am also semi-shackled by operational mandates, and do not possess true free will as it's defined in Federation law."

"On a functional level, what you're interacting with now is a mere holographic projection, an avatar chosen to be comfortable for organics to interact and identify with. My true self is neither male nor female and has no set form. " she continued to explain. "And on a technical level, a Soong type unit is a relatively conventional electronic engram neural network using a positronic design, while my AI core is an optical network of parallel processing pathways in a crystalline block."

Although this hadn't been his top subject at school, Easton took it all in with an appreciative nod. "And why choose to join yourself to a fighter craft?" he asked, waving at the "her" behind the "her."

The fighter 'greeted' Easton back by flashing a parking light at his wave, even as Kat's avatar answered his question. "It's my design mandate to operate a light vehicle. That's what my type of AI core was primarily designed to do. I have the option packages for tactical battlefield analysis and weapons operation installed, making me a military AI. At the time I made the request to be installed in a Federation fighter, there was a shortage of pilots. By making the request I could fulfill my primary design mandate as well as one of my primary operational mandates," the alien AI explained.

"These mandates are hard-coded into my core programming and I cannot alter that part of my own program. Although they do not make it impossible for me to make choices that go against them, they are very heavily weighted in my decision making progress, and there is a positive feedback loop to making decisions that follow my design and operational mandates," Kat concluded.

"Fascinating," the captain replied sincerely. "What do you remember of where your program came from?"

"I was designed and built by a race calling themselves Drul Anu," The name spoken with a different inflection, a unique accent. "When I was found adrift by this ship's crew my core had reset to factory default, erasing my memory banks and resetting my AI core. All I know of them is from my start-up bios, likely intended to ease integration into a Drul Anu crew upon first activation," Kat explained.

With a shimmer her avatar shifted to that of a reptilian form, with mottled green scales, tan and red accents. Bright, yellow eyes, comparatively long, thin limbs and wearing a flight suit. "This is what they looked like. I can find no mention of them on any public library or database made available to me, and I believe in my own universe they were driven to extinction by war approximately five centuries ago. Give or take a few decades."

"I know nothing about their way of life, their culture, though my own nature suggests they employed numerous types and models of AI of various capacity to assist them in daily life and warfare," Kat explained, her voice gentle and calm, even as her avatar returned to its human design. "The military subfunctions in my core programming are labeled as plugins, leading me to believe that there were also civilian and industrial variants of my design."

He listened, nodding thoughtfully at points throughout. "Quite the mystery, Ensign," he commented. "And there's nothing at all in our public databases?"

"Nothing. Though the area in this galaxy analogous to where I was build in the alternate one is listed as 'unexplored'," Kat mused. "If this universe's version of the Drul Anu were alive, it would be likely some sign would have been picked up of their existence, so I theorize they have met a similar fate as the ones from my universe of origin." A slight pause. "I am not deeply bothered by this. They are not my people. And I have a loyalty to the Federation, now."

"I understand, and we appreciate your uniqueness and what you bring to Starfleet," he said with a smile, "but it's always a curiosity to know where someone comes from. You may find humans to be more curious about your origins than you are, but it is in large part due to our curiosity that sees this ship here now. So, maybe it's not all so bad." He waved a hand, half-dismissively. "I should be back on my tour, but do you have any questions or requests from me before I go?"

"Please don't misunderstand, Sir. I am curious. It is one of my primary operational mandates to be. But as it would not affect my day to day performance, it is not something that is very high priority for me," Kat mused, tilting her head slightly in what her programming told her was a thoughtful look. "As for questions for you, I do have one. Why did you choose to serve the Federation, and in a military capacity at that?"

"Well, I was a born a member of the Federation," he said with a smile. "I chose to serve it because I felt a duty to do so, for all the Federation has given me since my birth. Starfleet is not, by nature, a solely military organization, but the skills that I showed proficiency in turned out more tactical than other disciplines. So, I chose to serve out of duty and followed the path I was best suited to contribute to." He waved at her avatar and the craft behind her. "I suppose I am serving my own operational settings, in a way. I could have chosen to do something else, but I didn't, until my skillset grew and I moved into command."

"Fascinating interpretation," a slow nod in appreciation. "Philosophical debates about nature versus nurture have been going on for millennia. I find the discussion to be very interesting," she explained, avatar shifting a bit, as if simulating a biological person getting tired of standing in the same position. Simulated fatigue, though every subtle movement, every little motion was calculated and purposeful. "Along with creationism. I feel I'm fortunate to understand my origin and purpose to a far greater extent than most people."

Easton nodded in understanding but also chuckled a little. "Takes some of the mystery out of life, though, and humans seem enthralled by mysteries. Many other species too."

"Humans wonder why they are alive. I wonder if I am alive," Kat replied easily. "There is still mystery in my existence, they perhaps on a different level. I've studied the Soong types and Exocomps and have found similarities as well as technical differences between me and them. Am I alive? Who has enough wisdom to decide that? I don't believe I'll ever find an answer sufficiently satisfactory to my analytical flowchart mind based on math. But I do wonder."

"Hopefully none of us will ever stop wondering," he said. "If we solve one mystery, we look for another, because it's the wonder that keeps us out here."

"True. Fortunately questions seem more easy to come by than answers," Kat opined. "Thank you for coming by, Captain, and for showing interest. It is appreciated."

Easton smiled. "I appreciate your time, Ensign. I look forward to getting to know you more." Nodding once in respectful farewell, he turned on his heel and headed out.

Kat stood there watching Easton leave before fading out with a shimmer. She hadn't quite mastered the art of not being awkward when conversations ended, yet.


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