Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay 

Andy laughed as the eight week old pup licked his face. This was the dog he would take home. Ginger, he would call her. He beamed with pride as she sailed through obedience, raised an accidental litter of pups of her own, and saved both Andy and his wife when their home caught fire. She sat at his side, old and arthritic as he worked in his study, and he held her and wept as she died at fifteen. Fifteen years relived in minutes- it was frustrating to Andy that although he could remember every detail of his life, it played out so quickly. How many times had he relived Ginger’s life, his wife, Carol’s? How many libraries had he read and reread? 

If Andy could have sighed, he would have. But an HI didn’t have the capacity to mimic breathing. Andy was one of an elite few computers- Human Intelligence, they were called. Each of the units had been created as a hybrid of a super-computer and a human mind. Not that Andy’s brain existed in any real sense anymore. His mind- its thoughts, memories, even its feelings had been recorded and fed into the system. He wasn’t sure whether or not he, Andy, actually existed anymore, but he felt as though he did. He wanted to believe, had to believe. He had been promised that for a hundred years’ service he would be gifted with a new body, a state of the art- whatever that would be at the end of his contract- body. 

Andy wasn’t just any HI- he was the Mars colony master computer. He made sure that everything continued to function as it should and that the air in the domes remained fresh and uncontaminated by the poisonous atmosphere of the planet, that it’s hundreds of thousands of inhabitants could live their lives without fear of disaster. That responsibility could not be left to the abilities of a non-sentient computer. Even with humans to watch over them, things could be missed. But Andy missed nothing. 

Ten years into his tenure, Andy needed only a fraction of his attention to run the colony. Currently he was also engaged in eighty-four chess games both on and off-world, reading the contents of three libraries, monitoring the space-waves, and reliving several of his favourite dates with his wife. He secretly feared that when he finally did move into his new body that he would find life to be too shallow, too restrictive.

Something flickered in the periphery of Andy’s attentional sphere. He took a lazy millisecond to turn a portion of his attention to it. And then he focused a full one percent of his mind on the event. An object approaching the planet from out of system. It was too far out to resolve its size or nature, but that didn’t matter. Nothing ever entered the solar system from outbound. At least not since the last time the Kairons had been seen- more than a hundred years ago. Humankind had barely survived that sighting, driving the aliens back to wherever they had come from.

Andy sounded the alarm, but it was already too late. The object disappeared from his data stream. A Kairon battle cruiser appeared above the Mars dome. How had it jumped in system?

Andy barely had time to activate the defense grid. The ship fired on the dome at the same instant Andy sent the beams that destroyed it. As the attacker disappeared in a ball of blue flame, the dome imploded. Its inhabitants died instantly, not waiting to choke on the poisonous atmosphere- a small mercy.

The inhabitants of Earth were not so lucky. The dozens of ships that followed decimated the planet surface, leaving a handful of survivors to scrape out what life they could in its ruin. Andy didn’t like remembering this part: the desperate radio transmissions, his helplessness, as he realized his control relays had been destroyed in the Mars attack.

And now he was truly alone. Maybe one day Earth would recover; maybe they would again reach out into the solar system and find him.

Andy laughed as the eight week old pup licked his face. This was the dog he would take home.

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