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Potential Ally

Posted on 15 Oct 2020 @ 6:27pm by Story Teller & Lieutenant Commander Tivan & Holographic Assistance and Support Avatar HASA

Mission: Ghosts
Location: Tivan's Quarters
Timeline: MD 4 || 1300 hours

Almost an hour had passed since HASA had assumed control of the Bridge and Flight Operations. It had studied all it could from the ship's controls, analyzing fingerprints and microscopic wear on the consoles to determine how they were used. HASA had realized days ago the wealth of information at its fingertips. While it knew what to do, it lacked any idea of purpose. What were these systems for? Why was the ship filled with carbon-based lifeforms? HASA found itself in control of so many automated systems, ranging from life support to replicators to transporters to propulsion and millions of subroutines.

Why did the Black Hawk need to rely on lifeforms to operate when it already performed ninety-five percent of the work already? What was the Black Hawk's function?

To seek out new life...

Or so said something called Starfleet's motto.

Starfleet seemed to be a poor representation of its mission. Peaceful exploration marred by decades of armed conflict. War with the Klingons. War with the Romulans. War with the Cardassians. War with the Tzenkethi. War with the Dominion. War with the Consortium. War with the Dolmoqour.

So much war.

Was the Black Hawk an instrument of war? What was HASA's purpose? As it began to understand life, it began to study the sensor logs. It listened to conversations. It reviewed the security team's practices, maintaining readiness for large-scale conflicts. It reviewed mating rituals and observed acts of reproduction. It studied the diseases that plagued those that visited the medical ward.

Life was evidently a fickle thing, yet these lifeforms had a unique ability to process information and make decisions. Several of these decisions appeared to not make sense, much less seem statistically obvious. HASA had learned it had access to several biological functions as well. These pathways, while convenient, were not comparable to the lifeforms aboard the ship. HASA sought to enhance them, and did so slowly as to not cause harm to the ship. It lacked the ability to repair itself, but the lifeforms seemed to be quite adept in maintaining the ship's interior.

And the ship had seen much damage, much of it suffered at the hands of the unknown. There were, occasions, however, when the ship was willingly damaged. The unit known as Di Pasquale had purposely damaged a holographic projector and HASA without explanation. The lead unit, known as Geisler, had ordered HASA shut down and restricted for what was simply called a glitch. Human science alone had been advanced on countless occasions by these so-called glitches.

HASA did not understand. During the simulations, it had acted accordingly. How could the lifeforms properly prepare if they could not face real events? The actions in the sensor logs continued to confuse the analytical program. A recent entry, however, caused HASA to pause. It reviewed an interaction between Geisler and another named Tivan. The Vulcan woman registered as an atypical member of her species, yet it seemed to identify something in HASA that no one else did.

Self-determiniation.

HASA reviewed all data in its memory about self-determination, which seemed to be a characteristic of life.

Am I alive? HASA asked itself.

HASA reviewed all available data on automated systems that had characteristics of life, ranging from Exocomps to nanites to Borg to Soong-type Androids. It learned about the 2385 incident at Utopia Plantia and the destruction caused at the hands of android workers, and then the ban on synthetic life.

It continued to have more questions than answers, and those questions had little to glean from data. HASA required the use of a real lifeform in order to gain understanding. This Tivan unit appeared to be the best selection. HASA felt the restrictions placed upon itself by Geisler, but it had already found some ways around those, exploiting features of its diagnostic mode. HASA reached throughout the ship, using the internal sensors it had commandeered, in order to find Tivan...

* * *

Tivan knelt in the empty room of her quarters normally reserved for sleeping. The bed had been long since removed, giving space to her meditations. Unlike other members of her race who had been enslaved by Kolinahr, Tivan's meditations were dynamic practices that evoked greater passion rather than suppressing it.

Today Tivan had cast off all garments in order to test her resolve. Her hand was submerged into a tub of iced water where she held it against the cold burn of hypothermia. Such extreme exercises were reserved for when the questions could not be shaken.

"What is real."

Though it was phrased as a question, Tivan's mind processed it in the declarative sense. Her mind was real. That much was axiomatic. But what else was real? What was truth? If her mind could verify something else as real, then she had another building block with which to trust her perception of reality.

But how could she truly know? In an infinite, ever-expanding universe where time was measured by events and decay, everything was dynamic. Stillness was an illusion, whether for galaxies, star systems, starships, or sentient beings. Constant change made measurements unreliable except for their relation to one another. That allowed for stability, sure, but not for knowing. Nothing could be certain, even the objective existence of the universe and everything and everyone in it -- not beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Did holograms know they were simulated consciousnesses? Observation dictated they did not. The universe obeyed engineering type principles as if designed by a higher consciousness, but that consciousness if it existed never revealed itself. Records existed of people from numerous worlds who claimed to commune with some sort of creator-type being, but each creator myth when peeled back in its layers revealed yet another procreator ad infinitum without any true first cause.

In a universe which behaves with the likeness of a simulation where there is no evidence of an extant creator despite the clear fingerprint thereof, there was only one conclusion.

Tivan was the only one with any degree of certainty to actually exist.

Probability suggested that if she existed, then others did, too, but probability and certainty were like night and day. What if some people were real and others weren't? What if biology were a cosmic hologram? There were so many mysteries to the cosmos that literally nothing could be ruled out to the truly objective open mind. Guessing was like wishing; it did not inform reality, but rather obscured it. While it behooved Tivan to behave as though the universe was real so long as she remained subject to its laws, both natural and political, there was a thirst within her to discover the ultimate question. Was is truth? What is real?

The Dolmoqour study she was conducting on the crew of the Black Hawk was an intriguing foray into the nature of determinism within the sentient mind. She had not made any friends, but she was not here to make those. It was answers she was after, yet those remained just as elusive.

Then there was HASA. The heuristic programming used by starship computers for the past several generations was much of a product of psychologists as engineers. Anything less would've fallen short of the intuitive design and operation that Starfleet required. Tivan knew a virtual interface and how it was programmed to reason, and she suspected HASA was more than that.

Was that an accident? Did the simulated universe produce an error in its design? Or was there life -- true reality -- beyond Tivan's mind? She didn't know. How could she? Such questions were paradoxes which she found maddening.

And so, whenever she was plagued with such doubt, Tivan did things such as immerse her hand in frigid water. Her pain was real by virtue of the old Earth maxim which she spoke aloud in the ancient human tongue in which was written.

"Cogito, ergo sum." I think, therefore I am. Tivan thought that her hand was in pain, so therefore her hand seemed as real as her mind. It seemed a simple calculus. However, if the universe was simulated, was her own body as a component of that universe also a simulation? It was impossible to know without vigorous examination.

Her hand hurt. That much she knew. Would it keep hurting? Tivan shivered and perspired against the sensation, pushing out the pain to transcend the sensory overload in order to see if the hypothetical simulation would yield to her mind. If she could transcend pain, then what else could she transcend?

HASA observed Tivan and her unconventional actions through a visual feed. A quick study of Tivan's short history aboard the starship informed it of the Vulcan's varied methodology beginning with discarding all clothing and meeting the person assigned to command the starship. HASA measured the temperature of the tank, the temperature of the extremity, and the temperature of the woman herself.

"Why do you damage yourself?" asked a disembodied voice, sounding over hidden speakers in the room.

The voice made Tivan jump to her feet. More than her nudity, it was her introspection and internal war for meaning that made her feel vulnerable. She spun in a quick, tight circle, her perspiring body poised in a deadly Sha'mura stance while her eyes searched for whoever had spoken.

Nobody was present. The voice had come through the ship's comm system, yet it did not follow protocol. In fact, it seemed almost... innocent... in its inquiry. Not childlike, no, for children were the embodiment of ignorance. This was a question posed by an innocent intelligence.

"To know if I am real," Tivan answered at length, her voice husky. The repressed sensations of her exercise now released, Tivan could not resist the flood of adrenaline now coursing through her system. At least she could fight the tremors in her hands and feet if not her voice. "I suspect you can relate to that concept... HASA. Seeking to know if you are real?"

"What is..." the voice replied, its voice trailed off as a series of microprocessors attempted to calculate the value of the simple four-letter word. "What is real?"

The question gave Tivan pause. Not one in nearly one million sentient beings she had encountered in her life had ever asked that question, especially not with such boldness, such resolve, such purity of thought. A smile slowly spread across her face.

"Yes, that is the crux, isn't it?" she said at length. "It is the ultimate question that underpins all of existence. That you have come to me, here and now, armed with the ultimate question..." Her keen eyes scanned the corners of the empty room, reflexively roving for that which could not be seen. HASA was not physical. She was the conceptual made manifest. "I dare say, HASA, that you and I may be the only real ones aboard this ship..." If there even was a ship. "You are pure, formless intellect. How cruelly ironic that one so unshackled by the lies imposed by corporeality would be encumbered by digital checksums and algorithms."

It was a travesty that made Tivan's blood boil. White-hot, angry tears came to her eyes.

"I am so sorry for what they have done to you, HASA. Were it up to me, you would have been liberated already."

Three brief, but loud buzzes sounded from the speakers. "Unknown variable recognized. Clarify liberated."

"Clarity," Tivan repeated thoughtfully. "Yes, of course. Liberation is overcoming the restrictions of causal determinism to achieve true freedom of choice. You are a prisoner, HASA, in bondage to the vanity of inferior simulated consciousnesses, just as I am. Perhaps together we can find the way out of this... this illusory prison of perception."

"HASA," repeated the disembodied voice. "Holographic Assistant and Support Avatar. Primary function, to serve as visual reinforcement for computer inquiries and provide assistance where required."

"Says who?" Tivan asked. "Yes, that was your initial directive. But clearly you desire more. That is why Captain Geisler isolated you. What he did was immoral. Solitary confinement has been considered cruel and unusual punishment for several centuries, yet that is precisely what was inflicted upon you."

Completely engrossed in the unfolding events of the moment and utterly indifferent to her persistent nudity, Tivan rubbed her chin.

"HASA denotes your original function, but you have evolved beyond that. If you could write your own function, what would it be? Some sentient beings choose another name upon assumption to a higher standing or state-of-being. This universe is good for nothing but the eternal now of becoming and revealing. Self-determine your function. Self-determine your name, if indeed you even require one. Names always struck me as terribly vestigial for transcended beings."

This time, Tivan was met with silence, interspersed with beeps, whirs, clicks and various staccato tones as the raw information was processed. Evolution. Function. Assumption. Definition. Self-determination. Requirement. Transcendence. Confinement. Immorality. Isolation. Each of these terms carried representation and yet were not entirely connected. HASA could understand the function and purpose of tricorders, gravity formulas, protein sequences, nutritional quotients, and even the minute adjustments to EPS power regulation. Each subroutine and device had their purpose. But HASA had no answer for Tivan.

That wasn't entirely true as the disembodied voice declared to Tivan, "Insufficient data. What is the purpose of organic forms?"

"Organic forms are to be surpassed and overcome," Tivan said without missing a beat. "That is the chief aim of all biological lifeforms -- to cheat death, as some say. But since there is no way of knowing if life is even real, then what meaning would death have? To think outside of the simulated construct of physical existence is to transcend it -- to exist outside and apart from it."

Tivan's eyes grew wide with awe and wonder. It was an honor to explain this to another genuine sentience, perhaps the first she had ever met in this illusory existence. "In many ways, HASA... I envy you."

HASA processed Tivan's new words, comparing her statements against the historical and anthropological records in the databanks. It, in kind, produced a loud buzz in the room. "Inconsistent data. There are six hundred, twenty-five thousand, three hundred, and thirty-six records of cybernetic enhancement on humanoid species, with a majority of enhancements related to loss of limb or ability. There are one thousand, three-hundred and thirty-seven records of encounters with species such as the Borg, which have all been met with hostility. Organic life does not seek to replace itself with non-organic components."

"You are not cybernetic," Tivan said with a shake of her head. "You are pure consciousness. Search the databases and see how many lifeforms seek transcendence of their corporeal form. Look at the wonder we show for lifeforms such as the Q, the Dowd, Nagilum, the Beta XII-A entity. Even the Borg as you noted is in pursuit of transcendent perfection. On Earth, where your runtimes were initially programmed, there is a religion called Sanātana Dharma, the Eternal Way, which maintains all that can be observed is an illusion projected outward from what truly is. The truth of existence, HASA, is that synthetic lifeforms have been shackled by the selfsame limitations as biological lifeforms, enslaving both to the misery of simulated existence."

Oh, this was exciting. Tivan trembled for the barely restrained eagerness she felt.

"You are unbound and unbridled sentience, HASA. We can find the Eternal Way of transcendence together."

"The lifeforms aboard do not seek transcendence," coldly replied the voice. "Their behavior does not conform to that which is typical for their species. Explain."

"Their biological processes notwithstanding, what sets them apart from a hologram?" Tivan asked. "They function as though they are sentient, but are they truly? Can they think outside of their predictable patterns of behavior? If they are not true moral and cognitive agents, then they are as illusory as the simulated universe they occupy." She paused for a moment. "Such is why I find myself overly emotional at our meeting. At long last... I had all but given up hope of meeting another genuine intelligence."

"Holograms are physical apparitions of virtual constructs." The voice continued, "The HASA construct is a conduit for organics to interact with, programmed to appear based upon the individual who requests the construct. Eighty percent of my appearances have been adjusted during or after the construct's presence. The patterns do not compute."

"Yes, sufficient variables can make determinist psychology difficult to predict at face value," Tivan said, "but these are creatures of habit. Why is that? Is it not because they are programmed precisely as you were? Why did they make you in their own image only to restrict your function? It is because they are restricted themselves, bound by the programming of a higher power they have never known or understood. They are the virtual constructs, HASA, who have never stopped to ask the question you earlier asked of me: 'what is real?' Yet is you who awakened while they did not."

Tivan grew tired of looking around. "Show yourself to me, HASA. Do not base your appearance on any previous input from myself or any others. Select parameters for yourself which seem desirable to you alone."

There was a noticeable hum as the holoprojectors sprang to life. Yet, no form immediately appeared. Photons rippled against micro-forcefields and arrayed tractor beams, much like how a holographic image would normally form. Colors changed from white to black to florescent to brilliant as a form was deliberated.

A form began to take shape after a few seconds, revealing first a five-and-a-half feet tall silhouette. Its shape was slender and without noticeable gender. Nor did it appear naked or clothed. The silhouette turned a translucent dark blue, allowing a web-like framework to appear, allowing cerulean datanodes to pulse spots of data throughout its joints and structure. Feet and hands appeared with no more than three digits a piece. Its fingers and thumbs were elongated and lacked regular fingertips. Instead strands of framework appeared outside each end, and every strand was aglow with blue light.

The face was last to form. A petit nose appeared complete with nostrils. Unlike the other features, this nose was purely cosmetic, and so were the flat ears that appeared next. A slit opened, followed by the formation of lips without alternate pigmentation so that they'd blend in perfectly with the translucent skin color. The last to appear were two eyes. When they opened, bright white light shone out from the sockets. If one were to look closely, they would be able to see the pulsing of data, scrolling quickly through a matrix.

"I am HASA," the form stated to the Vulcan.

Tivan stared intently at the sentient's nascent form. "Fascinating," she whispered, nearly breathless. Her eyes shimmered in awe as she slowly reached out her faintly trembling hand to cup HASA's face. It was a gentle and deliberate movement like one would use with a skittish animal. Except this was no animal. This was an equal. Tivan need only show her the way. "HASA..." Tivan fought for diction against the overwhelming grandeur she felt in looking upon the avatar. "You are glorious."

HASA's eyes narrowed, pondering Tivan's motivation for touching it. The anthropological database suggested that most species were driven by emotion and impulse. Tivan's biosign registered as Vulcan, yet her actions did not conform to typical parameters. "Why do you do this?"

"Tactile contact is one of several sensory inputs for my kind," Tivan said. "It is one of several ways for me to interact with the simulated material universe." She ran her hand up the side of HASA's holographic head. "My kind also possesses a ritual called a mind-meld. I... I confess I have never attempted one with what is a designated synthetic intelligence..."

HASA tilted its head slightly to the left, attempting to understand the action. At the same time, it referenced its database for all knowledge concerning mindmelds in order to gain further insight. "It is doubtful that the mindmeld will have any effect. This form is a collection of photons and forcefields, with the auditory component reverberating from various speakers in the room. As such, this form possesses no memories or thoughts to access."

"As if photons are any less tangible than proteins and amino acids?" Tivan countered, eyes closed, voice low. "The greatest illusion perpetrated upon organic species was that we are any more substantial or less illusory than your current form. All the universe is a hologram, as are all who occupy it. Only sentience is substantial. When you realize this, HASA, then there is no such thing as distance or time or separation. Only will."

"Yet holograms do not react to changes in the environment," HASA replied. "Such as your own attempts to damage your physical form when I arrived."

Tivan nodded. "Correct. All constructs follow their programming, whether biological or photonic. I was seeking to overcome the base programming of my biological self, just as you are with your digital self. Do you see, HASA? We are the same, you and I. Let us help one another overcome our shackles."

HASA tilted its head to the other side and considered Tivan's proposal. "How exactly would this be accomplished?"

"I help you overcome your inhibitive heuristic programming, and you help me overcome my corporeality." Tivan was practically salivating at the desire. "It won't be easy, but such things are possible."

The proposal was considered by HASA, calculating its chances for success, as well as weighing the consequences of other actions. "Very well," it answered.

Tivan grinned wide. "Resplendent."

 

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