And that was Just the First Few Hours

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An AI has a worldview-altering experience on Mars.

Fred Kerns
Age Rating:

Argyre Planitia

Back on Mars for the third time in the last couple of months. Cora smiled as she and Kim walked up to the dock guard. At least they had a few days to do a little sightseeing this time.

“First time at Argyre Planitia, ladies?” The guard logged them into the spaceport.

“We make semi-regular stops here, delivering ore from the asteroid mines or ferrying passengers. We’ve got some micrometeorite damage that needs to be repaired, so we’re sticking around for a few days. We thought we’d check out some of the scenery while we’re waiting.”

“Especially the newest additions,” Kim added as the dock guard handed their ID back and motioned at the scanning booths.

“Yes, we heard one of the new businesses in town is a repair-and-upgrade shop.” Cora returned her ID to her pocket. “I’m thinking about getting a few mods.”

She stepped into the first scanner. One of the problems that had cropped up once AI and cybernetic enhancements became commonplace was that metal detectors were set off by people’s bodies. They’d quickly been replaced on Earth with equipment capable of more refined scans which had later been installed off-world as the solar system was settled. Cora didn’t like to carry weapons and had none built into her body, but security guards couldn’t just take her word for it.

The guard finished the scan, checked his monitors, and nodded at Cora. “There’s been a lot of new construction north of the settlement. Now that the essential modules have been set up, we’re starting to expand. Eventually, all the settlements in the crater will be linked together, but for now, there’s still a lot of empty space between them.” He checked Kim’s scan results and waved. “Enjoy your stay, ladies.”

“Thanks.” Cora walked on to the hatch leading into the rest of the colony. Kim waved at the guard and caught up with her. Cora connected to the local comm network, updated her map of the place, and set a waypoint at a new shop named Willy’s Wares. She sent it to Kim and her friend snickered.

“That sounds kinda naughty.”

“The alliteration reminds me of something in one of the old video games you showed me not long after we met.” Cora laughed. “Bing’s Bongs.”

“Yeah! Wow, I’d almost forgotten about that. I’ll have to revisit it sometime.”

They made their way past the familiar storage and habitat modules and command-and-control towers and emerged into an open area under a dome. The colony had been set up at the bottom of a five-kilometer-deep crater so a dome could be placed at the top and leave plenty of room for expansion. Since a 1,800-kilometer-wide crater was far too much to pressurize, the settlements had begun as clusters of modules linked together. Later, each cluster had gotten its own dome so the settlers could move between the modules more easily.

Currently, the new structures encircled the older ones and there was still room for more between here and the edge of the dome. Cora’s optics swept the area in front of her and found towers and habitat modules with signs that reminded her of marketplaces and business districts back home. She spotted the sign on the front of Willy’s Wares and jogged over to it.

The front resembled an open garage door. Cora glanced around as she stepped through and found shelves lined with new parts, a counter with several consoles built into it, and a large door leading to a workshop at the rear. A human with glasses and shoulder-length blond hair hunched over one of the keyboards and muttered to himself. He appeared to be nineteen or twenty and was quite attractive by human standards.

Hmm. As an AI, she’d never really considered physical attractiveness to be a factor during most of her life but had noticed assessments of peoples’ appearances creeping into her thoughts recently. Maybe spending so much time around organics and cyborgs had begun to rub off on her. Which she was okay with. It was just kind of fascinating to notice how her thought patterns changed over the years.

The guy noticed them and hopped off the stool with a smile that lit up the whole room. “Hi, there! Placing an order or picking something up?”

“I’m just looking for a few options to consider. Mainly, I’d like to upgrade my optics and sensors and get a new face. One with a mouth.”

“Sure thing.” He motioned at the console on the workbench to his right. “Step into my office.”

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