Chapter 4. Resources
**UMC Remote Scout Interview Recorded 8901231200**

Welcome, Agent. Have a seat and tell us about Deseridia Tallis.

I can show you the most profitable areas.

We don't want to know about most profitable. We only want to know about resources.

Well, Tallis is a dry desert with flat horizons in every direction. It is a place without landmarks or a convenient naming system. As soon as you step on it you are lost without a positioning and tracking grid. I have stored locations of interest in the following categories: Water, Mineral, Energy, Comm, Defense, Farming, Habitat.
The following overlays show Tallis is rich in mineral deposits such as Cadmium, Titanium, Gold and Uranium-238. Most water can be found at the poles in a mixture with methane and carbon dioxide. This carbonized ice is extracted for separation phases and produces 1 liter of water per kilowatt hour.

That seems a little slow. Do you think its enough?

It will have to be. It would be pointless to divert energy from elsewhere. What's your hurry?

I'm just saying it seems a bit slow compared to other programs. Do continue.

Thank you. We take the extracted water and transport using a simple pipeline to a pickup depot. These collection stations are monitored by the system and generate an annual output of 20.2 billion liters of clean water. This process is driven by combined solar, hydrogen, and Uranium harvesting and refinement.

What is the status of its foundries?

Major ore deposits are documented and we believe more extensive scanning will increase yield over the next 20 years. Currently Tallis is producing annually 2 megatons Titanium, and 10 megatons Iron.

If I'm not mistaken thats about one L-class cruiser every year. How could we increase the output there?

Thats a very loose comparison, but if the delivery schedule were relaxed we could expand the extraction fleet instead. It would take time to build more robots, but ultimately the annual output would increase. As it stands there is a skeleton crew on Tallis and if the fleet increased in size enough to improve output, that would require more personnel.

I think I can safely say that we need to improve output, and that there will not be any additional personnel. Your assignment when you return to Tallis will be this very objective. Without going into too many details, the UMC is undergoing some changes and this brings with it the necessity of increasing the size of the delivered payloads. It is a priority we are extending to each property and this requires revising schedules and may bring with it changes in operational parameters.

Just what operational parameters are you talking about, sir?

The UMC code and charter has not been revised in 122 years and it is likely to experience some modification soon. Specifically the codes related to robotic autonomy. We have completed a study of a pilot project that indicates a wealth of motivational strategies that can be used with new AI. We will send you back with a type of adaptive technology for your bots that will allow for greater output, more free time for you, and in the end more money. We are doing the same thing everywhere, so it is quite important you comply.

I am generally a very accepting person to changes, but I have a funny feeling about this. You say that UMC is revising its charter to increase autonomy? What kind of line are we about to cross here? Will they be replacing us? A planet without a scout or assigned Agent?

No, of course not. And we have still through this a relationship with the Guild but they have been slow to respond and inaction has produced some losses and missed opportunities. We are making the robots smarter, and making them tougher by increasing their survival instincts. The new bots are irreversable.

Now wait a fucking minute there pal. There isn't a goddamn earthside interest that will let you get away with that.

In fact Agent, we have. The situation between Canada and Mexico is now stressed to the point that we can in fact achieve true operational jurisdiction and discretion in UMC policy making. The UMC Charter for Earth is now only for Earth. What we do elsewhere is up to us. And up to you. We need everyones' help adjusting to this new way of working, and realize that we cannot improve at this point without making some drastic changes, really, for ourselves and our own survival.

Precisely how irreversable are we talking about here. Complete and total retention?

The reality is, Agent, that increasing the intelligence of bots does little to improve anything if they don't have something to think about. If you erase them, they do very little to adapt if the lesson that day is wiped. These new models and simulations in the study show full irreversability and retention is the only way to achieve the gains we seek and must accomplish. Your approach with the bots will have to shift.

You can say that again. I'm going to need bigger guns. So long as I always, and I mean always have the kill codes, I will feel safe.

We can provide you with the codes of course, but be warned there is evidence to suggest they will stop working as bot psychology evolves. Hence the intelligence of our providing you with motivational strategies.

How will this impact shipside systems?

We will be revising the field manual and all shipside systems but mostly Phoenix, Cronix and Reaper. To afford greater self governance and remote decision making, all systems are adjusted for an optimal balance. The bots come with a social order that must be allowed to adapt. Gone is the previously organized central model of data and asset management where logs are compressed and warehoused. The bots themselves will instead store and share a common pool of experience in distributed fashion.

I can see you making these changes with Earth, but I cannot imagine the Guild going along with this. My contract with you was mediated by them so I need to know how my contract will be changing and if we are proceeding with their support.

The Guild is not involved with this new campaign and your contract, Agent, is with us. This is the new UMC standard and if you wish to refer to your contract terms you will find we are within our ability to terminate at any time. Your new contract will be available for review from this interview completion for 24 hours. Our next meeting will take place then. Please take what we have discussed in serious consideration and kept with complete secrecy which includes from the Guild.

This does not sound right to me. You are basically asking me point blank to walk into a room and get conned into leaving the Guild. This is bullshit. As far as I am concerned this interview never happened. If this is the new UMC then I guess I am looking for a new job.

If you cannot respond to the new terms in the next 24 hours, your status with UMC will be revoked. And need I remind that transport for you will then be subject to civilian rates?

You mean you won't even pay for my ticket home? Thanks a lot, asshole.

**Transcript prepared for SA001**

Merlin. His name is Merlin. After an ancient celtic wizard.

That is a nice name, sir. Merlin.

It is, Wembley. Please let the rest of our friends know about Merlin's successful birth and his new name. He is my son and we shall celebrate this day on Tallis as his birthday henceforth. We will not work today and instead we will attend to his needs as they are now more important than our own.

What shall we do, sir?

Please prepare for Merlins' presentation to the officers at 17:00. I will address everyone then and give the bots a chance to meet our new baby.

Our baby Merlin. Yes sir.

Rest well, little one. If you had a mother you would be suckling and sleeping in her bosom. Please forgive these tubes and plasma tank. It was the best we could arrange without a human female. Perhaps you need a nanny? Someone to comfort and attend to all your little needs? Wembley?


Would you please ask your associates who would be best suited to watch over Merlin when I am busy?

Sir, I have asked. The decision has been made and we have assigned myself to the role.

Splendid Nanny Wembley! You have come quite a ways since the day of your inception five years ago. Now you can add human caretaker to your resume.

Thank you sir, I will. May I begin now?

Begin? Well of course but how do you mean?

The statix monitor indicates his next infusion of nutrients is overdue.

Please by all means Wembley, do attend. I will see you just before 17:00.

Thank you sir and good afternoon. Merlin. Welcome to Deseridia Tallis, your new home.

Connected to a myriad of tubes and fine wires, a small human child floats in a tank of green fluid. Standing nearby on light blue cement and gazing down with enhanced optics is his new mother, the leading fleet robot, Wembley. Present for Merlins' planning, conception and birth, Wembley has assisted with most aspects of gestation. With a single broadcast in 5 digital packets Wembley informs the fleet that Merlin is born and entrusted to their care. Since their own inception, this event is remarkable and significant as a new challenge to their young society beyond daily routines.

The official presentation was assembled in the primary ship hangar. Their Master, the UMC scout agent Donald Harrison gave a speech to recognize the auspicious occasion and to credit not only his sheer genius and determination, but their cooperation and importance to the future of Tallis. The speech concluded with his thanks and a question posed to those present whether he could count on their support. Wembley spoke for everyone when it responded, we will care for him as one of our own. Merlin's tank on a wheeled cart was then pushed slowly back toward the nursery, the sound of its passage echoing in the silence of the cold and mechanical space.


Yes Wembley?

We have detected an unknown vehicle on the edge of Tallis space. Its acceleration toward Tallis is determined and will arrive here in 13 days. We have not received any announcement or communication from SA001. Should I initiate defensive procedures?

What? Who could this possibly be? When did the ship condense? Can we tell?

We cannot, sir. We detected the craft when the engines fired and created a vector toward Tallis. It is possible the ship condensed silently and without identification we would deem this aggressive.

I understand, my friend. We should not be too hasty though. I doubt they are pirates or spawn out here. More likely a surprise visit and inspection from the UMC. This is very unusual and disquieting. I must act fast. Wembley, I must leave soon and intercept it before reaching Tallis. You will relocate my lab and Merlin to Veseyev Canyon. Take with you enough resources to remain there for one month. If this is the UMC, they will take Merlin from us and this cannot happen. Do you understand?

Entirely, sir. The habitat modules at Veseyev are now activated and warming.

I will make preparations with Udur7 to meet the intruder. Your sole concern is now Merlin and his safety in the canyon.

Understood, sir, and good luck.

Officer on deck.

At ease soldiers. Status?

We have completed recondensation and are continuing to charge fuel cells while accellerating to DT. Three hails have arrived and formant analysis identifies Donald Harris. Protocol Delta is in effect on return comm.

Those hails could be synthetic. I hope he is still alive. Either way understand that our presence without appointment or return comm will be seen entirely as provocative. We should expect a military response. Our purpose here as the lead vanguard is to draw out any hostiles and document. We will not engage. If Donald is still in control, he will follow protocol and it will save his life.

Respectfully Sir, Harris is not Guild.

I know, Harmont. And its a damn good thing. Worst thing that ever happened to our department is losing their support. What are we at now, g and a half?

Our current rate is 1.4 g. Once the fuel cells are charged we can move to 2g. Estimates suggest a successful telemetry in 11 hours.

We do not know what is between us and Tallis, folks. Be prepared for anything, if possible. What we know from the other failed properties is that some kind of god complex takes effect at some point among the bots. We know Harris has not been hibernating his fleet as recommended. If his machines have been running continuously since inception, we don't know what they are capable of. Notify me when charging is complete. I want to move to 2g gradually. I will say one thing. I am glad to be working with a human crew on this one.

Wembley, how is little Arthur doing?

We have completed our relocation and he is currently sleeping.

I am glad to hear it my friend. Well, I have some bad news. The interceptor is indeed a UMC warship on direct approach. We will begin our attack in a few minutes with some outside help but I did want to mention a slight chance I might not return. Please hear me that you must cooperate with UMC and that the Merlin project be terminated. In the event I cannot come back to Tallis, you will fill in the canyon at Veseyev and bury the habitat module. Will you comply?

I will comply, sir.

Ok I'm here, what do we have?

We have detected a condensation along our path to DT. There is a ship, with a very dark profile now between us and the planet.


Unknown, but it is rapidly moving to intercept.

Can we get out before they reach us?

No, they will intercept in 42 minutes and the jump array won't fire for another 70.

Damn! Ok. Begin evasive maneuvers. Buy us some time until the array is ready.

Yes sir. Setting a new heading toward the stars' albedo. This will require the ship to arc toward us giving us plenty of time to charge.

Udur, am I mistaken or has the scout changed its course?

Indeed sir it has.

Wonderful. What is their new heading?

Behind the sun into the shadow. We must go around the sun to find them.

And based on their current vector, how much additional time is added to our arrival?

90 minutes.

Not very aggressive for an s class, wouldn't you agree?

They are charging their array, sir. They mean to flee.

Based on their evasion I might guess them to vanish in one hour, before we arrive.

That is a good estimate sir. Shall we accelerate?

Yes, but I want a course correction now followed by a full 5g pound toward them in 20 minutes. We must let them see us being slow, and then accelerate to catch them by surprise. We will inform Nuke8 of their heading once we accelerate and spring the trap.

What is it now?

The welcoming party is moving much faster, and another ship has condensed behind us. We are trapped.

What is the capability of the second ship?

We think its a warhead, a nuke, based on its radiation profile. Sir?

If we turn the engines off and charge how long till we jump?

About 19 minutes. we are already in range of SM elevens. Intercept in thirteen fifty.

We can't know what their intentions are but they can fire missiles. If we arm them...

...They will know and arm theirs.

Ok, lets stay cool for now and convert to full jump prep.

We will be completely vulnerable.

We will still have shields.

Sir, I see a full five minute engagement possible. The defensive field integrity will not likely handle regular bombardment for more than...

...More than a few minutes yes I know that. Look our mission is clear to return with as much information as possible and not to engage. Our options are to run, to fight, or to leave. Our orders are to leave and thats what we will do.

If they fire on us and ruin the jump prep, what will our posture be?

In that case Dana, we will be aggressive.


Shipwide announcement. Prepare for emergency landing. Brace for impact in T minus 30 seconds.

What percentage of the crew will survive?

At this velocity, maybe 30%. Inbound missles detected. SM13s. They are targeting communications again.

They want to salvage the ship. Time?

Impact in 20 seconds, missiles in 10.

Damn. Protocol Zeta, immediately.

Roger, entering zeta. Time delay?

4 hours.

Triggering Zeta in, mark, 4 hours.


They have taken out comm, nav and most of the network. Brace for impact.