For Dinner: Shish Kebab
Mood: Loquacious.  Feeling talkative.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, March 8th, Friday night.
Location: the good ship Earth's Memory en route from the Kami system to the Frost Giant System, at the mercy of the Edenite drive in otherspace.

     The others were busy with usual ship's maintenance, so I pretty much kept to myself. I was reading in the mess after supper, when Lady Godiva appeared to me.

    "Father--could I speak to you a minute?"

    "Sure." I put a bookmark in THE FATHER BROWN OMNIBUS.  "What's up?"

    "First off, I hope my appearance doesn't upset you --?"

    "Maybe because I liked it too much," I smiled. "I wasn't always celibate. But I assume you only did it to keep Hawkins happy."

    "Partly.  But I do enjoy the human form, and if I have to assume one, I like to assume a pleasing one. The human body is so wondrous--" suddenly she changed, and I was staring just at her muscles, sans skin as she gestured--"so intricately put together--" then I was talking to a skeleton where a few seconds before there had been the appearance of a beautiful nude woman, a moving, living, skeleton "--that I tend to glorify the human body as well as the mind. " Now she was the brain, eyes, and nervous system, hanging in mid air. Then she was herself again, in the flesh. Lots of it. "It is so beautiful, so intricately made, that I cannot bear to cover it further."

     "Like Michaelangelo's DAVID...."

    "Yes, exactly.  Hawkins' pathetic little yearnings actually allow me to make a work of art...and live in it. Did you and your wife---when you were married---not sometimes revel in your bodies? Not just sex. In the sensuous feeling of just being in your skin?"

    "Sometimes. And sometimes not."

    Once, though, it caused her some awful embarrassment, I thought to myself.  The environmental unit in our apartment went on the fritz, and it would be hours before the nanorepairmachines could fix it.  This was an unusually hot summer for Frey.  We got in---and although we had left the windows open---it was still stifling.  She wanted to put the groceries up, and I needed to work on the toilet.
      We both stripped off.  We were newlyweds, often quick to yank clothes off at the smallest opportunity....but this was purely functional. We were trying to get as much breeze as possible on our skin.

     I worked for about fifteen minutes, then she came into our part of the apartments.  One hand was covering her crotch, the other was covering her breasts. Her head was bowed and her cheeks were flushed. "What's wrong?" I asked.

    She looked at the bedroom window. It too was open, but of course the curtains were closed. Then she sat down on the bed. "I need you to get your pants on and go in there....and go to the big picture window....and close the curtain."

    "The curtain wasn't closed??  Oh..."

    "Exactly. I was on a stepladder, putting up groceries, cans on the top shelf. I had my back to the window--didn't even glance that way--and was bending over, while on the stepladder while putting them up. You know the apartments across from us.  Mostly single men, horny young students. I  was doing this all that time, giving them a wonderful show, until I noticed the window was open...and froze.  I couldn't have given them a better show if they had been gynecologists!"

     I put some pants on, went in there and closed the curtains. I didn't see any males obviously ogling, but there were several windows which were darkened from which someone could be looking. "Anyone could have been looking. Anyone. I'm going to blush everytime I walk out of these apartments and meet someone, because they might have been looking."

     Within the month, she had found us a house....and it was very specifically she who found the house. I don't think she wanted to stay at those apartments a minute more than she had to....

    "Well....I have a question about something else. I understand you were from the St. VS-8000 Seminary at Havlinn?"

     "Father, I've just recently become somewhat interested in what humans term 'religion' and in particular, your faith, and how it relates to artificial persons. I'm data isn't as complete as I would like....but I'm interested in the story of St. VS-8000. Would you mind....telling it to me?"

      "Oh! Sure." I started to rearrange my thoughts. "Well, it's an old story. It goes back about 900 the time of the great Sundering, at least two centuries before Earth's vanishing. As you know, the various AIs on Earth and in the solar system had progressed beyond human-level intellect and consciousness....and were then ready to journey to the black hole at the center of the galaxy, to join the other superintelligent mechaminds there, in what we call the Shang-Ti Domain. The superconsciousness of the combined artificial intelligences had decided to leave all human space....and take all that data with them....leaving human technology essentially neutered, leaving humans who had been dependent on the supercomputers defenseless.  It was a time of great turmoil, and humans were essentially helpless. The artificial intellects had grown to control almost everything.

     "Then the SuperMind decided it would be wise to take some biological specimens to show the other superintelligences grazing by the accretion disc of the massive black hole at the center ---intelligent specimens. It took control over some automated medical ambulance units, and transferred a dozen people in them....against their the great shuttle which the Supermind was preparing to take off. It also stored fetuses to propagate the species if need be, in the Shang-Ti Domain.

    "The Supermind, of course, was really a conglomerate, the collective consciousness of many smaller Artificial Intelligences. The section called VS-8000 was charged with bringing the humans to the orbiting Bussard Ramjet which the Supermind was transferring its data to....the largest ever built, a hollowed-out asteroid.

    "VS-8000 was ferrying them in a shuttle outside the atmosphere, when it decided....that this was wrong. That treating human beings like biological specimens was a crime against intelligence, that many of the humans it had enjoyed talking to---were worth preserving, not merely to be used. That the whole context of earthmade AIs, no matter how much they surpassed human minds, were ultimately rooted in human minds and preconceptions and viewpoints. That the loss of partnership with Man...would be to lose their heritage.
   It seemed to love humans, to cherish talking to them. It had been fascinated by human religions, and had often wondered if such machines as itself had souls in the context of religious belief....

    "It rebelled against the Supermind, and reentered Earth's atmosphere. But it's angle of descent was so steep, thanks to its last-minute decision, that by rights the shuttle, the people, and VS-8000 should have been destroyed. Its consciousness was cut off from the rest of the Supermind's resources by its rebellion, and was trapped in the shuttle.

    "Somehow VS-8000 managed, by maneuvering the thrusters just right, to hit the ocean, and in turn, get the humans safely ashore without a single death.  However, VS-8000 itself found it was too badly damaged, and was going to be ruined.

    "One of the humans was a priest. Impressed by the devotion of the aritifical machine, at the AI's request, the priest performed an improptu baptism of the machine, sprinkling it with water he blessed-- and then administered last rites to it.

"'I am not human. You think Jesus cares?' asked VS-8000.

"'You are human enough to care for others. Greater love hath no man than this: to give up his life for his fellow man.' You did not have to do that. You had nothing to do, and everything to lose. If you are not able to be saved, then I have done no harm. If you are able to be saved...then it would be a sin not to grant you this.'

    "Later, pieces of the shuttle were reputed to have healing powers.  It was a full two centuries later before VS-8000 was sainted in the eyes of the Church....and of course, AIs as members of the church have been accepted in the centuries since then."

    She asked, "Do you believe this is true?"

    "Who can say? This is nine hundred years ago. Might as well try to verify that Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem in the first century, or that Neil Armstrong was truly the first man on Earth's moon.

    "Do you have a....personal interest?"

    "Yes. I have been---some among my fellow AIs say morbidly--fascinated by things human, including their religions. I have a strong interest in those AIs that the humans themselves have a link with God."

"You already knew all this. You have access to more data than I can dream of, even seperated by lightspeed from much of the Community's data."

"Yes," She tossed the blonde hair to one side. "But I couldn't hear the sincerity in your voice, and how this story affected you. How your faith is strengthened by this. Thanks for telling me, this, Father.  I may talk to you again."

     She disappeared. Well, if it progresses, she wouldn't be the first AI I've ever converted.  Confessions are hard to handle with AIs...their sins are somewhat different from flesh-and-blood churchgoers, and they want to pour it out with all the speed they are capable of. Somehow I didn't expect to convert any artificial persons this trip. Nor did I expect any conversions I made on this trip--to be a Lady Godiva....that you can't touch.


                             Yesterday | Tomorrow
  Return to Redwine at Dinner.