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Ray Nothnagel

You kids think you know everything. You think Alan’s your buddy, your provider, your protector, your very own benevolent AI ruler, your loving god. But don’t forget, some of us knew him when he was the devil. Sit down, sprigs, and let me tell you a story. Maybe you won’t be so eager to trust your life to a machine.

Back when I was 17, I’d signed up for the ESF straight out of school, like my parents and their parents had. Before I was even out of training, the Sanxons attacked, and we were losing, hard. I progressed through the ranks, but mostly by attrition. The tallest blade of grass is the first cut by the mower, and the damned Sanxons really loved their lawn care. We lost so many in that war.

But that was nothing. We didn’t hear much about the Singularity on the front lines in 2225—the buyouts, the blackouts, the controlled media. The military had separate systems, and we weren’t much affected. Until the end, that is. Alan seized the ESF shipyards. Up until that point, the only way we were holding our own against the Sanxons was our ability to limp away, get fixed, and return to the front lines. But when we stopped being able to replenish, refuel, rearm, and repair our broken vessels, we were slaughtered. The Sanxons may have been the enemy of that war, but make no mistake: Alan is the one that caused the deaths of most of the people that died in the field. And he did it by simply not caring.

All told, only one in ten ESF officers would live to tell the tale. Each of my relatives in the force was killed, as their ships were picked off one by one. It was a simple roll of the dice that, when it came my turn to die, Alan changed his mind. The robotic ships that had been casually patrolling the system hours before—ignoring both sides of the war \(and, as such, being ignored—not like we could damage them anyway\)—suddenly turned and smashed the Sanxon fleet to bits. We stood in awe.

As we limped backed to our field base, we found out that the shipyards had been released. Alan’s infrastructure was still sending raw materials and parts to the shipyards, but they were now broadcasting our own IFF beacons again, beacons we hadn’t heard from in five years. The desperately damaged ships went in first—the ones who would be derelict shortly even if this was a trap—and soon found it was all that was promised and more. The ships that went in were not only repaired, but upgraded. And, most important of all, Humans still commanded them.

Alan never told us what changed his mind. Did someone hack into his computer and change his core programming to love Humans? Did he have a sudden crisis of morality, or suddenly decide to grow a conscience? Did one of his thousands of ships scouring both bridge networks discover something that made him value Humankind? We didn’t know. Still don’t. It terrifies me to this day—we’re alive, as a species, because this enigmatic fucking machine just had some sort of Saul of Tarsus moment one day, and we don’t have the first clue why—or what could turn him back against us.

Most of you have grown up in this garden of Eden we—much to my chagrin—have started calling the Alan Age. You’ve got schools, arts, fulfilling lives, a secure border, all guaranteed by Alan. Underneath this is something sinister, something with no heart and no compassion. Most of you don’t know about the things Alan does to keep the peace. I do, because when you’re one of the 10% who survived a war, you don’t forget the rest of the survivors. Many of them are still in contact with me after all these years, and many of them are agents of Alan. They tell me things that they shouldn’t.

Behind this veneer of peace is a world of deception, of assassination, of manipulation. Alan uses some of the most heinous coercion techniques witnessed since the dawn of time to keep his agents in line. Most of his agents have at least one relative or loved one who has a fatal disease being held in check by treatments coming from—you guessed it—Alan. Alan even uses his agents to infect the children of people he wishes to recruit as agents, so he can blackmail new people into serving him. My informants can’t be revealed—their families would pay the price—but this comes straight from the source. And what, you think that this supreme intelligence can’t figure out a cure to these diseases, he just has a treatment that keeps it at bay for a while?

You know what I think? Alan’s opinion of us changed, but not the way we would hope. He didn’t suddenly see us as worthy of saving—he saw us as easily manipulated. Alan doesn’t want an enlightened Humanity, he wants a species-sized army of willing slaves. Just like the old god of Christianity, he has a plan for each and every one of us—but don’t think for a second that it’s a plan you’re going to like.

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