What’s the best way to mine an asteroid? Robots? Any serious distance away and the time delay makes the semblance of control laughable. AI is always buggy and imperfect. People? They need so much support, so much sustenance.
What if you could get all the problem solving finesse of a real meat person, without all that pesky meat. A body custom designed for the job. No extra’s, no frills. And why should it even look human? If you’re working in zero gravity, trying to extract precious metals from a floating rock, maybe you could benefit from a few extra limbs. What kind of mannerisms would a person in that situation develop?
Turing was full of shit. The man in front of me is visibly human. Two arms, two legs, one head. You could even talk to him and maybe think he was a fairly well adjusted member of society. Maybe a little over specific, a little fixated on detail. But as soon as he started moving, the illusion is broken. Watching his empty eyes scroll and raster across the incoming terminal makes me shiver, my array of detail manipulators tinkling against one another. I move closer to the not-man and send a notification to customs.
A pitted sphere drifts toward the subject of my examination, its golf ball like surface concealing an array of terahertz antennae. I can tell the exact moment the drone begins scanning. The not-man suddenly freezes, overtaken by some rigor vitae. His rigid form moves head first in my direction. The drone reports one small fire arm, substantial internal enhancement. Suddenly, his head tilts back, eyes locking with mine.
“That second T-ray scan would be considered rude by some.” Every syllable screaming artificial, impossible control.
“Some people might consider an Interpol AI claiming jurisdiction over an investigation that doesn’t even exist rude,” I retort, biting back the bile I know bleeds into my voice. Until I have a grip on this download’s angle, don’t want to give anything away.
Twisting himself at an impossible angle, the newcomer re-orients, facing me dead on. He extends a hand. “Agent Mineo Takehashi,” the artificial clearly expects me to reciprocate. Carefully bundling a group of my manipulators to resemble a cartoon hand, I grip his extended limb. His face betrays nothing as we lock palms. I twist my face into a cartoon smile.
“Constable Gunderson. Maxwell. I received your brief. I have to ask you seriously: do you really believe we have the resources to cope with the level of threat you claim? I have two deputies. Part time. Hell, I’m part time.” It doesn’t seem to phase Mineo in the slightest.
“I’m here now. The investigation can begin.” He is no longer looking at me, eyes moving in an unnatural grid across the terminal’s volume, again. “This facility is much better appointed than your current staff would suggest.” He was now spinning slowly along his longitudinal axis, arms crossed over his chest. “Have you recently had an undocumented reduction in staff?”
I stare at him. Has he really not read any of the station backgrounders? “We sometimes have a rapid turnover here,” I begin, “A few months ago we struck a high density platinum vein. The payout for the workers involved meant a lot of buyouts.” I fidget my manipulators, the chime-like noise washed away by the heavy thrum of the air circulators.
Something like this happens every time we hit a high value vein. Platinum, gold, anything in demand in the moment. This rock is full of it, just in the hardest to reach places.” Mineo finally stops spinning, evidently having mapped the unloading area to his satisfaction.
“I need a workspace and secure network access,” he states plainly. Instead of shaking my head in irritation, I nod curtly. I extend a maneuvering limb in the direction of the nearest transit node. With a series of sharp kicks, I propel my body towards a waiting Sis-Trans Pod. The glass side parts as I approach. Securing myself in the nearest seat, I glance back. Mineo appears to be walking along the ground, despite the micro-gravity. His impossible muscle control allowing him to move in a near perfect horizontal plane failing catastrophically to deliver any sense of humanity. It strides along a wall towards me. As positions himself in his seat, the pod addresses us.
“Welcome to Sisyphus Station, and the Sisyphus Station Transit Authority. We hope you enjoy your stay on the largest near-Earth-orbit object.”