30 Stories in 30 Days #19 – “Faulty Programming, II”
Faulty Programming, II
Deflating his air sacs, Veop made himself as small as possible before entering the Commander’s chamber. He found the chamber dim with the Commander relaxing in his pool of klexan juice. Veop slowly walked up to the edge of the pool with his datacube and waited for the Commander to notice him. Veop waited so long he began to wonder if the Commander had fallen asleep.
Suddenly, the Commander stood up in the pool on his back legs. Facing Veop he demanded, “What problem have you brought me now?”
Veop tried to shrink even more. “Honorable Commander,” he began, “in its latest status update, it appears one of our infiltration survey probes to Planet 1243-3456-2345 has malfunctioned.”
“How has it malfunctioned?”
“Honorable Commander, it was programmed to absorb a local sentient and live out its life. It was supposed to do this in secret, but it appears it has taken partial control of a section of the planet.”
“What do you mean ‘partial control of a section of the planet?’”
“Your pardon, Honorable Commander. The species in question is most confusing. They do not have a single government. Instead, they are fractured with different governments in different areas of the planet. The area in which our probe landed, is governed by a three-fold representative democracy. The survey probe has been elected as head of one fold of that government.”
The Commander’s gill slits narrowed. “That makes no sense.”
Veop paused, unsure if the Commander was talking about the probe malfunction or the form of government. “I agree, Honorable Commander,” he finally said, “but there is another aspect to the problem.”
“And what is that?”
“Honorable Commander, it appears the probe is … advancing the sentients’ society.”
The Commander dropped down on all fours so his face was nearer Veop’s. “How?”
Veop tried to shrink even more and held the datacube out to the Commander. “Honorable Commander, it appears that the probe is using all its knowledge, excuse me, all the knowledge of the species, to bring about changes to the way the members in the fraction live. My apologies Honorable Commander, but this species – and this situation – is most confusing. I have all the relevant information on this datacube.” Veop held the datacube out even further.
After a few moments, the Commander took the datacube and turned from Veop. “Leave me. I will study the information and inform you of my decision.”
“Yes, Honorable Commander.”
Once Veop was back in the hallway, he reinflated his air sacs. The stretching of his skin felt wonderful, yet it paled in comparison to what he felt about the success of the mission so far. For untold generations, his people had done everything they could to keep primitive sentients primitive. Why make interstellar commerce more complicated by involving even more species? was the main argument. Some felt that was a ridiculous position, but they were usually just ignored. This in turn made it easier for them to infiltrate various areas of operations, such as survey probe programming.
Of course, if someone programs a probe to malfunction, you need someone else to bring that to the attention of the higher ups. If the use of survey probes could be called into question, then tens or maybe hundreds of worlds would have generations more to advance without interference. At least, that was what the group Veop was part of hoped.
As Veop returned to duty, he couldn’t help but feel happy for his involvement in helping other worlds. And if that malfunctioning probe improved the life on that faraway planet, that was even better.