The AI War

The AI War by Stephen Ames Berry Read Free Book Online

Book: The AI War by Stephen Ames Berry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Ames Berry
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Science fiction; American
to meet a navigation beacon. Instead, we get a mindslaver." He looked at R'Gal. "Fleet Intelligence prepared our mission specs." He turned to the bridge crew. "Gentlemen, this is Colonel R'Gal, of our illustrious Fleet Intelligence.
    "You slime set us up, didn't you, R'Gal?"
    The colonel nodded, nonplussed. "Would you have gone if we'd told you what Pocsym actually said? That you'd have to face a slaver?"
    "We go where we're sent, R'Gal," said L'Wrona, turning from the damage control reports. "We do what we're told."
    "What is that?" D'Trelna jerked a thumb toward the mindslaver.
    "Let's let the computer tell you," said R'Gal, touching a complink. "Computer. Tactical-Imperative. Authentica-tor Prime One Four Nine. R'Actolian biofabs, history."
    The computer's pleasant contralto spoke for a time.
    "Alpha Prime," said K'Tran, almost to himself. "Of course." He swiveled the command chair. "A'Tir, Blue Nine's the R'Actol Quadrant."
    "The what?" she said, busy trying to drift them closer to Implacable and the mindslaver, now almost back to their original positions.
    "The Empire suppressed the information. So did the Confederation." He shook his head. "Had I known this assignment was in the R'Actol Quadrant, A'Tir, we'd have done something safer—like raiding FleetOps."
    She turned from her work. "You going to tell me what a R'Actolian is?" she asked, pushing a strand of hair away from her eyes. "And what it has to do with that monstrosity?" She nodded at the screen.
    "What do you know about mindslavers?"
    "Built and abolished by the Empire. Run by brains ripped from living bodies. Twenty miles of magical death, capable of engaging and destroying a modern sector fleet. Weapons, navigation and computation systems far in advance of anything we have now."
    "And all made possible by those living human brains," said K'Tran. "Brains preserved in variable stasis and bathed by a constant nutrient flow."
    "And the R'Actolians?"
    "You won't read it in Archives, but the R'Actolians built the first mindslavers. And a woman, Number One, made the R'Actolians."
    "S'Helia R'Actol," said Implacable' 's computer, "was the sector governor of Quadrant Blue Nine under the Emperor H'Tan. She was also one of the finest of the High Imperial geneticists. A woman with Imperial ambition, R'Actol took advantage of her position and the relative isolation of her post to conduct illegal genetic experiments on a grand scale. She wanted a superior, self-propagating warrior race, obedient to her. She was able to achieve all but the last goal. Never more than a thousand, the R'Actolian biofabs quickly dispatched R'Actol and her forces, then went on to invent the symbiotechnic dreadnought—''
    "Mindslaver," said K'Raoda.
    "Mindslaver," agreed the computer. "A fleet of mindslavers that almost toppled the Empire, striking without warning from Blue Nine. Only when the Empire built their own mindslavers in overwhelming numbers were the R'Actolians believed exterminated."
    "And this quadrant, Blue Nine?" asked D'Trelna.
    "Abandoned," said the computer. "Some one hundred and forty-three inhabited planets had been stripped of their people by the R'Actolians, the people then stripped of their brains for use in the mindslavers.
    "By the time the last R'Actolians sought the braincased immortality of their last mindslaver, the struggle had all but bankrupted the Empire. The R'Actolian War marked the end of the High Imperial epoch and the beginning of the Late, with its decay and decadence."
    "We are waiting," whispered the mindslaver.
    "What is manning that ship, R'Gal?" demanded D'Trelna, turning from the screen to the colonel.
    "The disembodied brains of psychotic geniuses sixty centuries dead," said the colonel.
    "And we have to send someone over there," said L'Wrona.
    "I'd go, but I've a S'Cotar to catch," said R'Gal.
    "Go catch it then," said D'Trelna. R'Gal headed for the door.
    "Sometime between this crisis and the next, Colonel, you and I are going to have a long

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