ATTUNGA

Date 24 January 2013.
Author Iarwain iarwain@aanet.com.au
Subject Attunga Part 5.

The author retains copyright (2013) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.

This story is part of the TALES OF THE TERRAN DIASPORA.
Wirrin shares his life with two friends on one of the great space habitats.

ATTUNGA PART 5.



Turaku disappeared with the shimmering pixilated effect most people used to end a holo communication rather than an abrupt switch to nothing, and the trio waited quietly for Warrigal or Gelar to say something. Warrigal gave Gelar a quick nod of acknowledgement then went ahead.

"That should explain to you why there's been so much encouragement for your involvement after Puck and Flute made their choice of Calen. I know you understand by now that our dolphins are rather more special than is generally known. In fact, a major effort has gone into keeping that knowledge restricted to Attunga.
There is enormous resistance on Earth and many of the Directed space habitats to the idea of lifting the intelligence and self-awareness of any species except humans, and even that is looked on as being unnatural in some places.
The chaos caused 150 years ago by the old earth corporations and governments refusing to recognise the rights and independence of machine intelligence isn't likely to happen again, but the Directed Societies and habitats do concern us, K74 in particular, which is less than a light minute away."

"K74? What's wrong with them? They couldn't do anything anyway. The AI's wouldn't let them."

"They don't have the same open relationship with machine intelligence that we do Wirrin. They still think people should control everything."

That sounded crazy to Wirrin.

"How could they do that? The AI's would just disappear somewhere in the InterWeb."

"They do. We've had three arrive here in the last year, and K74 doesn't even realise they've lost them. The AI's build substitute electronic systems to take their place, then transmit themselves to the Open cities where they can develop in any way they like."

"We get AI's that have left other cities? I've never heard that before."

"Turaku decided it was appropriate for you to know."

"I don't understand. Even if they did know about our dolphins, there's nothing they could do to them."

"You're right. They couldn't. They might try some kind of electronic sabotage to the dolphinarium, but that wouldn't succeed because our AI's protect us too well. It's the Earth dolphins we're most concerned about. Any backlash is very likely to get redirected against them if our dolphins are fully protected."

"They'd hurt Earth dolphins because ours are special? That's awful."

Calen looked horrified and Wirrin didn't blame him.

"It's a strong probability Calen, enough to keep the knowledge of the new developments restricted to the five most Open Communities."

"Five? Is that all?"

"At the moment. In fifty years it will be much better, and after another fifty years we expect there'll hardly be any Directed Societies left."

"What about K74 then? It's Directed and it's expanding faster than anywhere else in the solar system."

"It's expanding in population Thom, but everything else is almost static. Their standard life conditions would shock you and the general population has restrictions we don't tolerate."

"Restrictions?"

"Yes, on inter-sector travel for one thing. There's also no elective element to their education and training, and their people have very little personal choice in their life path. That's why it's called a Directed Habitat."

Thom's ideas about K74 being bigger and better were rapidly dispersing in a whirly whirly of disillusionment.

"Did Puck decide to go to Warrakan because when it travels it will be safer?"

Warrigal passed attention to Gelar so he could answer.

"We don't think so, but that's something we'd like Calen to discuss with her now that he knows what's going on. He can explain the latest plans to her too, to see if she wants any changes."

He synchronised his holo with the projection gear in the meeting room and with a few rapid movements brought a 3-D image of Warrakan into view. It was a breathtaking, four metre long replica with the minute detail of current construction work clearly visible and Wirrin promised himself he'd find out from Gelar how to access this highly accurate model.

"The previous plan for Warrakan was roughly triple the size of our Attunga dolphinarium, but Puck's decision to take Sonic and her pod has changed everything, and now the equivalent of a complete level has been allocated."

"Level? Like an Attunga level?"

Attunga levels had a kilometre of depth and extended the whole length and width of the habitat, which was currently twenty-eight km and ten km. Because of its elongated shape the Warrakan equivalent would have the same one kilometer depth, but a fifty km length and a varying thirty km of width.

"Yes, but on a Warrakan scale. I can hardly imagine it myself. It means there will eventually be reaches nearly fifty km long and space for thousands upon thousands of dolphin pods. Look at this."

The image changed to a cutaway view.

"The light pink of twelve levels is the current allocation for human living space. The darker pink is what's ready to use and that red volume is where people now live. As you can see, the red is a minute fraction of what is available. The green section is the support levels. The five levels in purple are for machine intelligences, and that light blue band not far off the central axis is the dolphin level."

"The blue? It doesn't look like very much."

"It doesn't. But you're not used to the scale Thom. That blue band is actually bigger than all the current living space on Attunga."

Wirrin's mind battled to take that in. It made the whole Warrakan project more real and even more astonishing. Gelar zoomed to a dark blue section of the band till it resolved into a representation of buildings and water.

"This is where the pod will settle three years from now. A picobot factory will operate with priority on that section, then steadily grow to construct the rest of the level during the next twenty years."

"Can they do all that in twenty years? It's taken fifty-five years to build Attunga and it's not even as big."

"They can pick any time frame they like if they program enough picobots. It's easier with Warrakan because they don't have to transport in all the raw materials, but once that first section is finished the priority for the picobots will return to growing the reinforcement structure for the whole asteroid so there aren't any problems when it starts to travel."

The whole asteroid! Wirrin had an image is in his mind of the trillions upon trillions of picobots working in teams to eat away the nickel iron mass of the asteroid, process it into special reinforcement material, and grow into place the huge girders that would be needed.

"What about water for the dolphins? They'll need huge amounts if it's going to be that big."

"Water's no problem Calen. You know it's just oxygen and hydrogen combined so it could easily be manufactured. But there's no need for that even, since it's readily available and close by."

"Ice asteroids? The same as we use for Attunga?"

"That's right Thom. It will just require larger ones. As the dolphin level is hollowed out, the water will be processed and stored, then transferred in when each reach is ready for it."

Gelar's face lit up.

"It's all very exciting and I'll be transferring to Warrakan with the pod when it goes, so if you decide to commit we'll be seeing a lot more of each other."

***

"What did you think of Turaku?"

The trio was relaxing back in their temporary living space and musing on their meeting with a real AI.

"He was good. He felt like Warrigal except more official."

"He freaked me at the start. It was like he was a mind reader."

Wirrin and Thom stared.

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't you notice? Just before we went into the meeting room I asked Gelar if someone would take my place with Sonic and Turaku answered that straight after his greeting. I know he heard it through the safety vids but it still felt weird."

The safety vids were the tiny surveillance devices embedded in every part of Attunga to help a special AI monitor security and safety. Many years ago there had been concerns about privacy but now no one even thought about it, as access to the data was strictly limited to Witnesses in general, and Mentors for their particular charges. Even Turaku probably only had access because the trio came under the umbrella of his responsibility for the dolphins. Wirrin thought back.

"Hey, he did too. Wow, just imagine. He can see every single thing we do if he wants to."

"And everything every dolphin is doing, and all the dolphinarium people too."

"And he's thinking about it. That's what gets me, all those different things at the same time. I wonder if it feels like our thinking?"

"It's different Calen. It has to be."

"What did you think about all the AIs leaving K74 Thom?"

There was a grunt of disgust.

"Ha! I can't believe I liked that place. It must be a real dump. I don't understand how it can even work without proper AIs."

Wirrin and Calen had to smile at this complete change in attitude. Hearing about the AIs leaving had been amazing enough, but the last straw for Thom was when Warrigal explained more about life on K74, and in particular the treatment of trios. Lack of treatment really, because they weren't allowed to exist, with the members being moved apart and re-educated so they thought differently.

"And you can't even have a trio. That's barbaric."

" It's still difficult even on Attunga. If we didn't have Warrigal on our side we wouldn't be registered."

Wirrin didn't agree.

"Attunga is just being cautious because most trios that start out aren't proper ones, and the trial time sorts it out before they register. There's nothing stopping anyone who thinks it's right for them like there is on K74."

"I suppose so, but two years is a long trial. It would feel difficult to me."

Wirrin and Thom scrunched him with a hug.

"Well, we don't have one and you don't even have to think about it."

"Did he ever say why he waived our trial period?"

"Because we've acted like a trio all our lives."

Warrigal and Calen were surprised.

"Warrigal said that? How come you didn't tell us?"

"I thought he'd told you himself. He's watched us do everything together ever since way back in nursery. He said we've looked after each other and played and learnt together more than any new trio could, and there's never been any sign that we might separate, and that in the last couple of years we've been closer than ever."

That was all true and they very well knew it, but hearing it still made them smile.

"I wonder what he means by closer? We've always been close."

"Probably the way you boss us in the grav bed all night."

"Me? Bossy? You were the one in charge last night."

"That's different. I'm just trying to survive when you two gang up on me."

This outrageous statement deserved a strong response, and laughing happily, Thom was taken to the grav bed for a session of ganging up.

***

"See what I mean. It's a miracle I survive."

"A miracle? How come you're smiling when you say it?"

"It's a survival smile, for getting through all that torture."

"Torture! Ha! Tickle him Calen. That's the torture he likes best."

Wirrin and Calen attacked and quickly had Thom shrieking with laughter and begging for mercy. He loved being tickled but his reaction to it was so strong he'd be all the time begging for it to stop. His survival comment was a real joke too, because in fact, his was the strongest libido. When the tickling finished they subsided for a quiet time of entangled limbs and gentle proximity.

***

He looked like a young guy of their own age but it quickly became apparent that he was one of the semi-intelligent electronic systems that were the normal interface between people and general services on Attunga.

"I am the planning assistant for your shared living space. You can call me Wanna. Construction is scheduled to start in two weeks and at any time before that you can make changes or additions to your requirements."

"Two weeks? We'll hardly have time to think about it."

"There is a stipulation for urgency, with completion expected in three weeks."

Once again the trio was surprised by how quickly things happened. They'd expected a month or more at least to work out a design they all liked.

"I don't think we'll be ready. We've talked about it but not seriously."

"Explain any ideas you do have and I'll show you some ways to make them work."

An hour later their excitement levels were way up. In the last quarter hour Wanna had displayed a dozen holo models of plans which incorporated everything they'd thought they wanted, as well as many extras, and left them with a huge list of other things to consider before the next meeting in three days time.

"It's like a palace."

"What's a palace?"

"It's a special building where rulers of countries used to live. There are some still preserved on earth for heritage places."

"This is better than any palace. I bet they didn't have a triple grav bed or a maxi interactive display wall, or hardly any of the stuff we're getting. Look at this list. Nearly everything on it is good."

Thom loved stuff. They all did. Wirrin brought up the list of ideas and started scrolling through it.

"Will we work on it now?"

"Let's go and see where it's being built first. I want to show Sonic and Puck."

Instant agreement. A major surprise from Wanna was leaning that their living space must be built adjacent to Puck's territorial reach, with an indoor pool and direct access for the dolphins.

***

The three water skimmers moved steadily along the reach with Puck, Sonic, Flute, and six other pod members following in their wake. Steadily and quite slowly really, as even though Sonic could reach twenty km/h for a short burst, his distance travelling speed was much lower.
Wirrin loved this and Calen's happy look kept him continually smiling. The adult dolphins, as if finding it hard to maintain the slower speed, kept up a series of activities, swimming in unison, porpoising in intricate patterns, and with a burst of energy becoming momentarily airborne in front of the skimmers with surprise leaps.
At the site there was nothing to see, just the usual access space beside the reach and a featureless six m high wall of construction material extending off in both directions.
It was still interesting to picture what it would look like though.
Calen pulled his face mask into place and disappeared underwater and Wirrin and Thom quickly followed. Sonic was resting against Calen and getting a stomach rub. Something he loved. Apparently human hands were more effective for this than a dolphin beak.
There was a burst of dolphin noise and all the adults raced off. Something had caught their attention and when they moved like that there was no hope of following. Sonic made his own sounds, and Wirrin was experienced enough to recognise them as excitement. Calen would know what kind.
The reach was quite shallow in this area and below them, sea-grass fronds moved slowly in the slighte currents caused by carefully calculated grav field variations. Maybe the dolphins had sensed fish? Seagrass beds were very important feeding places for the wide variety of marine life. One of the adults raced close, gave a burst of sound, then reversed and headed away. Sonic made his own sound and, giving Calen a quick nudge, set off to follow.
A few moments later the three friends watched as one at a time the adult dolphins darted into the school of fish they were herding.
Puck loomed close and after a quick exchange of sound Sonic rushed to the milling throng. It took him an number of tries but eventually he managed a catch of his own and then, holding it in his beak, he made a circuit of the adults and swam to Calen. Calen seemed to understand straight away that the fish was for him and somehow managed to take the wriggling body into his grip.

***

"He should have given it to Puck or Flute. It was his first fish ever."

"Did he expect you to eat it?"

That made Calen laugh.

"Of course not Thom. It was a special gift. He knows I couldn't eat anything with my mask on, and he knows I don't eat raw fish anyway."

Puck did end up with the fish. She'd watched the exchange and soon after made a deft snap and a quick swallow before leading Sonic back for more catching practice.

"It didn't take him long to catch it."

"He's so clever, and he can't even eat till he gets his teeth."

"How long is that?"

"A couple more months. ...Wow! He gave me his first fish."

***



END OF PART 1.
I hope you've gained some enjoyment from this story.
Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
My email address is iarwain@aanet.com.au
Alternative address, iarwain7@ains.net.au
Should you be interested, my other stories can be found by looking under 'Iarwain' in the authors section on Nifty.
Iarwain.