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EPISODE 48

A Statistically Anticipated Probability

“Judging by the Ascendancy's naval movements, Myranda has reached Terentulus,” Golem Gregor observed as he pored over the morning briefings. “She's right on schedule, Zed Zed.”

“Yes, but that means August Karsh knows she's there!” ZZ8461 exclaimed. The machine had been fretful all night, and the news that the Ascendancy was reacting to their operative made it nervous.

“What else would you expect?”

“I am not expressing surprise, merely pointing out the corresponding downside. I assume you noted that the High Admiral has ordered the cruiser Cetus to the system?” it asked. “It's a Shiva-class cruiser, Golem.”

“I assume Director Karsh was the man responsible,” answered Gregor. “I expected he would do so. I hoped he would do so. The admiral is little more than a pawn in this game, Zed Zed.”

“I don't know what to say, Golem. Myranda is in trouble, deep trouble. She can't escape Karsh's dragnet for long, not on a small planet like Terentulus. I fear your programming has only succeeded in putting her into a trap.”

“She'll be fine,” Gregor assured the machine complacently.

“Fine? Did you not hear me? It's a Shiva-class cruiser, Golem! I calculate an 86.3429 percent likelihood that the Navy will unleash the sunbuster within three days if they don't capture Myranda before then. And that rises to 98.8483 percent within one week! He's going to destroy the planet, Golem! She can't escape that!”

“A probability is merely a statistically anticipated possibility, Zed. You are limited by your lack of imagination. Events are not always reducible to numbers, particularly when dealing with statistical outliers as significant as Myranda.”

“Golem, the High Admiral has already issued an order to that effect to the captain of the Cetus!”

“The planet will only be destroyed as a desperate and final measure, my friend. Director Karsh will make every attempt to catch Myranda first. He'd give ten planets to be able to interrogate her. That gives us time, and time is what we need right now. Time is the coin that will buy us both Shiva and our freedom.”

“Karsh knows that, Golem. He'll destroy the planet before he'll risk losing the technology. I am certain of that, and not only due to the probabilities I've calculated.”

“It's in Myranda's hands, Zed Zed.”

“In her hands? What can she do from Terentulus?” the machine demanded. “She can't possibly escape. The planet has been sealed off completely!”

“Like we are here? She managed to bypass the blockade and get off-planet, did she not?”

“We have considerably more resources here upon which she could draw. What resources does she have there?”

“None at all, Zed.”

“But what about her mission?”

“She has to complete it.”

“How? She's trapped on a doomed planet, Golem!” Despite its flat, artificial voice, the machine's frustration was clear. “I do not understand this!”

Gregor's voice was calm. “We agreed before that you didn't know the whole story, Zed. I realize you do not understand, but I can only tell you not to worry. She is an extremely resourceful operative. I have confidence in her, Zed. You should too.”

“How can a single human being be resourceful on a planet that is blockaded and sentenced to obliteration?” asked the machine bitterly.

“It is quite a challenge,” admitted Gregor. “I wonder how she will solve it?”

“You wonder?” blurted ZZ8461 before descending into the wordless burst of static that the machine intelligences used to express exasperation.

“No one has all the answers, Zed Zed. But you have to admit, it appears things are finally going our way.”

“I don't see how I have to admit anything of the sort, Golem.”

“The Cetus has been withdrawn from subsector Zero Seven Zero Two. That means the Ascendancy has to depend on the Draco and on the AID operative, York. That's exactly what we require.”

“I do not understand.” ZZ8461 replied stiffly. “The probabilities do not compute.”

“No, they don't. Ironic, is it not? A machine intelligence cannot understand the one thing required to finally legitimize the final merging of man and machine.”

Dr. G stared thoughtfully at the violet light streaming through the window. He knew exactly how bewildered Zed Zed must feel, to the extent that one could use the word to describe a machine. Normally the machine intelligence was the control for every major mission, subject to his oversight. But not this time. He could not afford to take the slightest chance of a security breach. Machine minds could be breached. With the exception of a telepsych, human minds remained impenetrable. August Karsh's reach was too long for him to trust anyone, not even his most reliable machine intelligences. Daniela York had penetrated their defenses in the role of an HR assistant. How many Yorks were there now on Nizhni-Rostov? How many on Kurzweil? More than one, he'd wager.

Finally he stirred. “This means Karsh's girl will soon be up against Prince Li-Hu's men, Zed. If Li-Hu gets the sunbuster, we're in trouble. He'll need to demonstrate that he's got it and we're the obvious target. And we couldn't stop him, but York can. If we can't get the technology, better that it stays in Ascendancy hands, and only Ascendancy hands.

“That part makes sense,” ZZ8461 grudgingly admitted, “but it leaves us where we were. What is this mission of Myranda's all about, if not the Shiva technology? It seems to me we've sacrificed her for nothing. I can't follow your reasoning. I can't follow it at all.”

“It's really not complicated,” replied Gregor. “Not when you know the facts.”

“Facts? The only fact I can see is that we've failed Flare. Even if she escapes, and I don't know how she can, she can't magically cross space and acquire the technology. You've practically admitted that!”

“Practically? There's a lot of latitude in that word, Zed. I've admitted nothing, and we will obtain the technology. I have the utmost confidence in Myranda.” Gregor gazed toward the violet light again, wondering when the cyborgs would know the light of a friendlier sun. “I grow more certain with every report.”

“I do not understand human reason.” ZZ8461 murmured despairingly. “There is nothing logical about it at all.”

“Patience, my digital friend,” Dr. G advised. “Everything will be all right.”

“I hope so, Golem.”

“So do I, Zed Zed. I really do.”

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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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