May 15th, 2347
I’ve been sitting here looking at my monitor field for a half an hour now because I have no idea how to even begin this letter. My mind is an absolute jumble right now. Where should I even start? I guess I’ll just describe it as it happened and not try to sort it out beforehand.
As you can tell from the date, today is Launch Day 5, marking the fifth year we’ve been together on this ship and the beginning of our sixth and final year on board (at least, for the trip there). Robert, who's spent the last two months trying to solve the riddle of Proxima's shift, is still bed-ridden so our party once again had to be held in Medical.
It was just before 20, and Mike, Robert, Jean-Marie and I were all sitting around having bulbs of vodka and passing a rather enormous turnip-leaf cigarette. Sarah had been there earlier, until she excused herself and let Jean-Marie have a turn. I was expecting Jean-Marie to step out any minute to allow Theresa to join us.We were having a discussion about politics and various forms of government (I know, a topic to be avoided under normal circumstances, but after five years it’s hard to avoid any topic).
Mike is a derechisto asshole motherfucker, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. He was actually trying to convince us that monarchy is the only valid form of government.
“Empire,” Mike said between puffs of the joint, “is the only form of government sustainable by humans, and is also the most productive.”
“It’s also the most destructive,” I said.
“Only in the hands of the wrong people,” Mike replied, passing the cigarette to Jean-Marie on his left, “Throughout history, the periods where humans were the most prosperous were also the periods where they were ruled by benevolent empires.”
“They were also the periods where brutality was highest and human rights were lowest,” I said.
“But that was a symptom of the society of the time, not the form of government in place. A modern-day empire would not allow slavery or torture or any of the other things brutal empires were known for, because society would never allow it,” Mike said.
“Empires always crumble,” Robert pointed out before putting the joint to his lips and inhaling.
“That’s because empires have traditionally been passed into the hands of someone, or a group of someones, who did not share the same vision as the previous ruler. These new regimes usually fall into disrepair and decadence as the rulers revel in their own wealth and power. This, however, happens to almost every government humans have ever known; it has nothing to do with how the government is administered,” Mike waved his hand in the air to dismiss that concept, “In any case, my point is that humans invariably want to be ruled by a single person to tell them what to do. Humans as a species want a mommy or daddy to tell them everything’s going to be ok when shit hits the fan, and to tell them unequivocally what is right and what is wrong. Even when we try other forms of government, we still place one person at the top. Whether they’re called Emperor, King, President, Chief or CEO, they’re all essentially the same position. And, I might add, they always fail too, because they’re trying to be something they’re not.”
“What about the USA? They’re still around,” I said.
“Barely,” Jean-Marie said.
“They’re actually the perfect example to make my point,” Mike said, “The United States was founded by a few visionaries who thought they could form a ‘perfect union’. The problem with their vision is that democracy is really just mob rule, and when the mob rules, no one is happy, not even the mob. Fed up with leaders that couldn’t make anyone happy, the American people split down the middle into left and right political factions. The left and the right would switch off being in power so that theoretically at any one time half of the population was happy. Each side wasted all their energy fighting over who was going to be in power instead of actually taking care of the people. Concerned mostly with their lust for power, the government slowly became more and more disconnected from the American people. Now look at them; half the size they used to be after being forced to sell off their land to their former lapdog Mexico.”
“Hey,” I said, “That’s my homeland you’re talking about now.”
“Humans are no more capable of a true Democracy than they are a true Communism,” Mike finished.
“I think he’s just nostalgic for the days of the Russian Czars,” Jean-Marie said.
“How can he be nostalgic for something that happened hundreds of years before he was born?” I asked, more-or-less rhetorically.
“I think he just wants to be Czar himself,” Robert said, smiling.
“No,” Mike said casually, taking the joint from me, “If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I won’t be Czar any time soon. I am a terrible Commander.”
I instantly felt sorry for Mike, which was undoubtedly the motivation behind his statement.
Before I could say anything though, Robert said “You have not been a bad Commander, Misha, we’ve just had an awful run of luck.”
“Yes, lighten up, Misha, you’ve done the best you can with what you’ve been given,” Theresa said from the doorway.
“I agree,” I said, “We—“ and then my brain caught up. Theresa was standing in the doorway. And Jean-Marie was sitting between Mike and Robert. I looked back and forth between them to verify I wasn’t hallucinating. Once confirmed, my brain sent out a signal that was remarkably like does not compute. I swear I was so startled by this that I actually had to fight the urge to run from this incomprehensible thing I was seeing.
The air was suddenly filled with Mike, Robert and I all talking at once.
Theresa smiled the biggest smile I’d ever seen her wear and held up her hands. “I promise we’ll explain everything tomorrow,” she said, “For now, lets just say the Centaur now has two AI crewmembers. Now, I’d like to enjoy my evening, OK?”
“I would like to hear the explanation now,” Mike said.
“I’m sure you would,” Theresa said, “But you know, Misha, if I sit here and spend all night explaining it to you, I won’t be able to give Sarah another turn tonight.” She punctuated this sentence with another huge smile. This seemed to shut Mike up, at least for that moment.
“And you, my love?” Robert asked Jean-Marie, “Are you also going to keep us in the dark here?”
Jean-Marie smiled wickedly and said “Far be it for me to question my progenitor.”
Theresa then deftly steered our conversation away from the two of them and back to politics, which was suddenly far less interesting than it had been a couple minutes prior to her arrival.
I have to admit that when I created Theresa, I really didn’t know much about AIs. I was basically following instructions I found on the net because I thought it would be a cool project. I’m afraid my knowledge of AIs hasn’t grown a whole lot since then, but I am pretty sure this sort of thing has never happened before.
More than ever, I wish you were here. I have to wonder if you knew this was happening, or that this could happen. I have to wonder if you would have told me or if you would have preferred to keep me guessing like Theresa and Jean-Marie have apparently decided.
Tomorrow is bound to be an interesting day…