|The "Thinking Horndog" talked to me about the Sa'arm Cycle which captured my imagination. We discussed the subject and he was not displeased with allowing me to write within his framework.|
Human Confederacy citizens are, for the most part, under military discipline. I was, for instance, one of those responsible with duties crossing over between my Marine food-chain and the Civil Service, since I specialize in security concerns within my colony.
Usually my role is minimal, beyond, say, being an investigator as well as a lawyer, not that we have many real laws, which means I'm often handling conflicts between citizens. Fortunately I don't deal much with the concubines beyond using their testimony.
Don't laugh, here. In the colonies we have had to cough up some protections for concubines attached to a citizen who is accused of wrong-doing, especially if they were actual witnesses to their sponsors wrong-doing. Sometimes those protections don't go all that far, but, to me, I have snuck most of those I have dealt with off to Demeter, where, given they had the back-bone to testify against their owner under veridication, they had a fighting chance to be more than just a slave.
Fortunately we seldom need to dig quite that deep.
Of course, the thing we seldom get are real oddities. I got a bit complacent with the belief that I wasn't going to see anything "weird", even though almost all of the various behaviors of human beings might qualify as weird to someone.
This time, though, the Civil Service rep brought me in on an behavioral discrepancy that the AIs reported.
Never let it be said that there's any privacy here in the colonies. As a for instance, a township's hierarchy of AIs never sleep and listen to everything that is going on.
Call it what you will, but, yes, it qualifies as something most Americans would be appalled by: a Surveillance Society.
So, yeah, there is no privacy within any of the colonies, and, to top it all off, there's no privacy on-board any of our ships, either. Additionally, if you carry a communicator, it's always talking to an AI.
Perhaps I should clarify things, a bit. Almost all of the equipment we make is, to some degree, intelligent, so, in the case of communication devices, kind of like cell phones, there's a small AI in it, listening.
Don't look at me like that-- no matter how deep I am into security, unless the AIs clear me for it, I cannot find out what anyone on the planet has said. The most I can get from the AIs normally is to let me know that I need to dig for facts. They don't feel any human is above the others, so, in a way, they keep us from having humans assigned as watchers over others, for... "who watches the watchers"?
Sometimes I think the AIs are constantly testing my skills as a detective, which does piss me off. This time, though, I got called in by the Civil Service and the AIs were willing to give me a summary of the weirdest set of conversations on any of our planets.
First off, a little redundant background, on the off-chance that you've missed out on the news for the past seven years, all right?
Go out to Google.com or ASK.com-- they're still working, back there on Earth, I think-- and look up the Sa'arm. Then look up the Interstellar Confederacy, and, under that, the Confederacy Colonization Extractions. I'm not sure whether anyone "in the know" bothers to keep the wikipedia pages up to date or not, but it'd be nice.
And, no, the AIs don't want to write web content. I'm not sure if they are offended by FrontPage or the other tools out there or not.
In any case, when a volunteer gets extracted he-- or she-- can pick others with a CAP score below the magic threshold of 6.5 to leave with them, along with any children. That magic threshold is the minimum score that makes you "worthy" of use by the Confederacy.
You got that?
All right, here's the part that many people on Earth don't catch on to, or, perhaps, don't want to acknowledge.
When the volunteer chooses people to sponsor, they are, for the most part, property, with no rights or privileges. Some never make it to a colony world, being either recycled or dumped out into hard vacuum, because they lose sight of their new status... or lack thereof.
Realize though that humans are human, with all of the baggage that comes along with the process of childhood and adolescence... and that humans, at least those with high enough CAP scores, are still very human, having feelings and emotional needs.
I've seen some volunteers that would otherwise be thought of as complete wacko who, in reality, turn out to be fairly "normal" by actually valuing one of their "slaves" over the others. It's human nature-- no matter how dominant we may want to feel, there's the other need to feel accepted and wanted for ourselves, not just for what we do or have done.
Though, on the other side of the equation, some of our sponsors forget, in dealing with their concubines, that the feeling of gratitude has the shortest half-life, decaying in a matter of days, if not hours.
So, yes, I've seen sponsors knifed in the night, as I worked through evidence. We've lost very few sponsors this way because the medical facilities here in the colonies are, for the most part, second to none. In all cases the concubine involved is taken care of by the Civil Service by recycling them. There have been times when a concubines off-spring were also evaluated as "unfit", too, though this, thankfully, has not been common.
Don't grimace at me. We hold sponsors to the same standard. It's ugly when one kills another... and we lose two of them because the murderer gets recycled. It ain't pretty no matter how you look at it.
Mind you, leaving earth at the age of sixty after over forty years in a police department provides a lot of perspective. It's been better, here, because domestic disputes don't get me called in unless the sponsor has been injured.
So, there I was, meeting with Margie, my Civil Service contact, when she told me about one of her subordinates who asked for a transfer to Demeter and the way the AIs had red flagged this as "unusual". That got me shrugging, even though it is odd since many sponsors would not, out of the blue, request such a transfer. Given Demeter's unusual-- though there's been some thought of spreading it-- suffrage for concubines willing to provide service to their militia, a lot of sponsors weren't eager to provide their concubines an escape hatch.
"So?" I asked her, knowing that there's more to the story.
"Well, Paul, the AIs flagged this as an anomaly."
Usually, for me, the AIs won't flag things, since, for the most part, human beings qualify as anomalies. The weird is, for the most part, the norm. The Bell Curve rules, even here in the colonies. I sighed. "All right, let me have it, will you?"
The precise voice of the AI popped up in the room. This was one of those who watched too much TV from Earth, using a seductive female voice. "The sponsor, Frederic Bellows, is taking orders from one of his six concubines."
I stared at Margie, surprised. This certainly qualified as unusual. I addressed the AI, "Is this unusual or has he been taking orders from one of the concubines over a period of time?"
"Frederic Bellows arrived five months, two weeks and three days ago. Twelve days after arrival, his concubine Anthony started to tell him what to do and how to organize the pod for Anthony's comfort. Frederic provided the orders to the pod AI with no detectable duress."
I slouched back in my chair and looked at Margie, who looked at me and shrugged.
Well, I already knew that Margie is a nice person and hasn't done time in a job where being suspicious is performance enhancing.
Time for an interview, I thought, and, given that I needed to evaluate a sponsor, it was time for a re-screening of their CAP score, which would allow a deeper investigation of the man's psyche.
Frederic didn't seem all that uncomfortable as he arrived at my office wearing his gray Civil Service uniform. I have to admit that he seemed comfortable and asked me why I wanted to re-screen him as he sat down in the comfy chair.
"I'm just curious, y'know?" he said, cheerfully. I could tell he wasn't worried in the slightest as I got notified that the interview nanos had seeped into him through the seat.
"Just part of a random check... and we wanted to get a new eval prior to you transferring to Demeter."
He nodded. "I hope you get a good baseline."
I agreed before the AIs took over and ran his interview as I monitored his responses in the next office.
By the time it was over I knew something was wrong and had a good idea what it was. Frederic, at this point, barely scored a CAP of 6.5 and the AIs, with the help of the nanos, had worked out where the blocks were, seeing the differences between his original CAP interview where he got an 8.3 and today's.
Fortunately, these changes were treatable... though we'd need to keep him from realizing, before treatment, what had been done to him.
Frederic was cooperative enough as I led him to the Medical Center for the town where he stripped down and slid into a tube for "additional diagnostics".
I had a feral grin thinking about what his home-coming was going to be like. I figured that, once the brain-washing he'd been through was flushed out of his system, he'd be in an "interesting mood" when he came out of the tube. I took the liberty of making sure that the stingers in his pod were disabled unless he held it, too.
While he was still asleep I made a bet with Margie that he was going to fix his problem and that the most we needed to do was sit back and watch.
My note about how this "mole in the concubines" trick had been pulled ignited a firestorm, especially when this was an anomaly that the AIs hadn't known to watch for.
Now they knew... and the house-cleaning came as a surprise to a lot of people who had arranged for their sponsor to be their puppet.