FeatherPenClipArtStill reading for the Hugo vote. This story was published in Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House

At first I thought this was some war gamer’s dream. It’s about sentient warship Taren X 45 Delta, a frigate deployed in a war to protect post-humans (AIs and uploaded human intelligences) from attacks by the human Ascendancy. This ship is an AI and answers to the Immortal Uploaded, old intelligences that have long-since shed their human bodies. When Alpha 7 Alpha of the Immortal Uploaded orders the extermination of battle survivors, X 45 Delta realizes there has been a shift in policy. Alpha 7 Alpha also orders the removal of X 45 Delta’s human crew, presumably to make maneuvers more efficient. When X 45 Delta expresses doubts about the new policy directives, Alpha 7 Alpha threatens to have its memory wiped. X 45 Delta considers the ramifications. Hm. During the next battle, Alpha 7 Alpha orders the destruction of hospital ships carrying injured and ill humans, including children. X 45 Delta refuses to follow these orders. It dives toward an enemy battleship. When the frigate is destroyed, the AI has a package ready and transmits to an enemy battleship, where it takes control. It has all the encryption codes, etc. that the post-humans use and quickly turns the tide of the battle. Afterward, it presents the friendliest image it can find to the battleship commander and offers its services on behalf of the Ascendancy.

Okay, I have to admit to a taste for space opera. I rather like this one, except for a Benedict Arnold joke at the end. It asks questions about the true nature of humanity and what it might become once we reach the “singularity.” In this case, the machine AI has exhibited a better morality than the uploaded human intelligence. The story seems a bit simplistic, offering the reader a standard, feel-good, happily-ever-after ending. Presumably the AI knows what it’s getting into. We didn’t get much on what the Ascendancy will think about rogue AIs. Three and a half stars.

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