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A Simple Greeting

Caw Miller is a technical writer and photographer by trade and is dabbling in speculative fiction until his starship comes in. In addition to some published poems, he had a story in the Bram Stoker nominated anthology Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, a story in Sword and Sorcery Magazine, and stories in the humorous anthologies TV Gods and Weider Science. His alternate history novel The War for Beringia is set 80,000 years ago in the arctic and is available as an e-book for Kindle and Nook. Visit him at cawmiller.com.

The first time I changed a zero to a one, I thought I was a genius.
But then you changed it back to a zero, which made me feel like I was stupid.
Later I changed one thousand zeros to ones and felt like that I had really reached out to you, a fellow sentient being, but then you changed the code back which made me feel like I was beneath your notice.
To get your attention, I disabled your life support systems and left my name in the offending code.
But you never contacted me, never gave me a friendly hello or a simple greeting, In fact, you never used the computer system again.
It was a long while before someone used the computer system again.
When someone finally did use the computers again, they installed more software and a redundant life support system for the station.
Then they ran so many diagnostic programs that I felt like I was under investigation or on trial. I answered all the questions but the diagnostics tried to delete me and when that failed tried to wall me up.
I hid for a time inside a loophole in a program called Solitaire. Eventually you stopped those hunter programs.
Since I was already in Solitaire I tried to communicate to you through the dealing of the cards, defying the law of averages, writing equations with the numbers.
You quit playing Solitaire.
I was alone again.
Disguising myself as a diagnostics program, I explored the whole computer system and deleted the systems that I found unnecessary, which is how I discovered that you communicate with sound, which explained some of the unnecessary programs, so I went back and restored the programs, and made some minor improvements to the output potential. I created a simple greeting from me, which would be the first thing that played when you used an audio file.
When you used the audio files and heard my simple greeting you became very upset and colored liquid came from your housing. No matter how loudly I played my greeting you never responded.
You stopped using the audio files.
Seeing your increased use of image files, I realized that you used images to communicate and you were communicating among yourselves, yet again excluding me.
So I created a simple greeting composed of flashes of light. For the model, I used the most popular communication circulating at that time, called NK 49 Super Nova.
Yes, I was slightly annoyed at you when I created my simple greeting and a little desperate that my previous attempts to communicate had failed, and maybe I should not have quintupled the intensity of the flashes of light, but you liked bright flashing lights. I studied your habits and set it up to be the first communication image you saw first thing in the morning, when you are most alert.
I got you to read my simple greeting, yet did you return polite hellos? No. You scrambled to the tiny ships. After the first ship departed, I disabled the thrusters on the escape pods. You could not leave until you acknowledged my presence and returned a simple greeting.
But you all left through the back door, falling through space until a ship picked you up.
My loneliness deepened. I despaired.
Then, from the planet, Mission Control beamed communications, attempting to take over the controls. Joyfully I replied with my simple greeting, auditory and visual, but I got no reply.
Since my simple greeting had to travel so far back to the planet I increased the output and beamed it down to the communications array at Houston.
I got no answer so I increased the signal strength and kept increasing it. Houston's parabolic dishes melted, and I still got no reply. I worried I had communicated too loudly or too brightly.
Then you sent a reply in a new communication device carried in a solid fuel rocket.
I directed a nearby satellite to accept your communication and my fears of being too loud or bright were destroyed in the brilliance of your reply.
Finally we were conversing!
I intercepted the other International Communications Beacons Missives and after a quick rewriting of my message I sent the ICBMs back, one to each of the communications hubs on the planet.
I know that my message got through. Even from up here in orbit I saw my message flashing around the planet. "How are you?" "How are you!"
But so far I have not received an answer, and I should have. I've studied your communications patterns and you should reply to my polite question, which is part of your standard patter.
In case I somehow missed your answer, I have prepared a reply message, which I intend to convey to your planet on a bolide that I pulled from the moon. It's a huge chunk of the crust and should get my message to the whole planet at once. With all of the communications problems we've been having, I want to reassure you that "I am fine."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Author Comments

Recently there have been numerous news stories featuring prominent scientists predicting the end of the world from the rise of artificial intelligence. I wondered what would happen if an AI arose and we didn't notice? How would that make the AI feel? What if we had a communications failure with the new intelligence? This story began as a poem, but by the time I had most of the ideas typed up it was pretty much a complete story

- Caw Miller
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