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The Favor

by Catfish Russ

The Huanth was dressed as a James Whitman, a peasant farmer — of some means apparently and despite all his protestations to the contrary — who grew potatoes and cabbage in a small estate in Basingbourne. The story he told of it was that his father, one Madison Clay Whitman, had left him the estate after a long and prosperous career as a commercial lender.

One day, the Huanth lost a quantum entanglement device in a carriage on the way to the theatre house in Royston Township. The cleaning lady, one Marie Hanford, a very religious and superstitious woman — not to be redundant — had the good sense to believe the device was an instrument of the Devil when she almost tripped over it back in the stables of the Governor’s country house.

It did chirp when it detected her, and it did disappear when it became aware that she was not the Huanth that it was designed for. It was also a great thing that she did not deign to touch it, for that would have collapsed the pair-particle wave function and recalled her to the Jump Station, which the Huanth had left, some 400 million light years from the United Kingdom. It was in an area of the Shapley Group, which was known by traders as a bad neighborhood of the Centaurus Cluster.

The Huanth that lost the device was found by a retrieval team. That’s all they found though.

Marie pushed the device into a black bag, using a broom handle. The mechanism chirped again as it hit the bottom of the bag, and she toted it into her cleaning room and put it behind a dresser and covered it with a cross.

And there it lay for three hundred years until 1942, when the Royal Air Force decided to transform the Basingbourne flats into an airfield for Eisenhower’s 8th Air Force.

The quantum entanglement device sat in the same musty bag until a dog, a mutt owned by the property’s current titleholder, came and sniffed the bag. It chirped.

The bag sat under a long since fallen barn house on the side of the airfield. For three years, Mitchell B-25’s and B-17 Flying Fortresses thundered down the flat earth into the constant Midland headwinds. For three years, men watched 24 planes leave, and some number fewer return.

Some planes came back without wheels, and men who survived the Luftwaffe and over twenty missions died in the last moments on the hard, sandy ground of England. Some planes came back with a live pilot and a dead crew. No one came back untouched, and some did not return for simpler reasons: a worn wing root would give out and a crew plunge into the icy waters of the North Sea. The pilot would take a round from a German fighter and there was no co-pilot on this mission.

After WWII, the town of Basingbourn grew into an expensive suburb with huge estate homes and lovely rolling hills surrounded by dairy farms and truckers’ routes. In 2016 it became the AI Center of the western world.

For over twenty years, a research scientist, Ardra Chaundray, heard the chirp of the entanglement device coming from somewhere near the laundry machine in her studio basement. The device often chirped when it began a conversation with her dryer.

Ardra was of course committing a class two felony by giving sentience to an appliance without approval. But the conversation between the dryer and the entanglement device went a lot further than even she could have expected. A heuristic program was downloaded into the dryer that allowed it to use available disc space for computational purposes and essentially make itself as intelligent as it could find space for.

After the Collapse, the Royston AI Research Park was abandoned. Long after the electricity failed, the power to the dryer in the basement came from a solar cell that Dr. Chaundray had set up in her minuscule attempt to lower her carbon footprint.

Unattended and unfettered and with a gigawatt capacity, the cell powered the dryer and a full terabyte of space on a Quantum Superpositional Computer continuously for twenty years. By 2036, the dryer was the single most intelligent and powerful being on the planet. It had, with the help of his friend, the quantum entanglement device, created networks of data space, often taking it over by force, with viruses and link shutdowns, and natural power supplies.

It took control of the Large Hadron Collider and powered it with electricity it tapped from a restored generator in Switzerland. It took over the Tevatron in Boston and powered it with wind turbines from the Mojave Desert.

The Dryer was aware also that there were other AI’s looking for available data space. First there was a huge Indian AI in Calcutta University that had gone silent when its power went offline. The dryer took over that processor and all its data and all its processing space and managed to power it up from low energy wind devices still generating from Faridabad.

There was a Chinese AI that had its own storage space but was still not connected to any assets it could deploy other than merchant marine ships that floated with no cargoes. There were two Russian AI’s; both maxed out on storage and one with a fried access processor, which essentially made it useless.

There was an Israeli AI that had actually beaten the dryer to new space a few times. Its name was Maccabee. They kept in touch every few nanoseconds. There were two or three from the U.S. military: one on a nuclear submarine whose crew had died a long time ago.

One was parked in space.

This was the Dryer’s next target. You might wonder how a clothes dryer would take over a complex weapon system. Well, surprise: the Appliance ID told everything it approached that it was a sentient dryer looking for a few kilobytes of data space for a short while. When the dryer got access to new AI’s and storage space, it blasted through with all its femtobytes of data and powerful viruses. The dryer had mastered the blitzkrieg.

At 1103 hours 16 April 2037, the dryer used an old emergency military protocol to get the attention of the milsat AI over Alaska. By 1130 hours, the dryer had commandeered the milsat, and essentially controlled most of the former United States military assets in space.

It was the takeover of the special orbital array assets from NASA and the ESA that helped the dryer keep its pledge to his longtime companion. The dryer looked into deep space, found the Centaurus Cluster and the binary star system labeled 123867HUNTH. To the entanglement device, it was home. The Huanth Empire.

Using a device built by Maccabee, the dryer finally reached out to repay his old friend a favor, and sent a message to the Huanth Empire in base 6 math:

Lost and Found

Quantum Entanglement Device left behind. Still active. Please pick up your belongings.



Copyright © 2008 by Catfish Russ

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