I looked down into the wide, deep pit. The sunlight reflected off the grey rocks of the Moon. I tapped internal suit sensors, searching for the entity that might be below. Nothing came up. No heat signatures. No energy discharges. SCAR may as well be dead. I sighed. I knew better. This task would only end when the Synchronous Chain Adapting Receiver, that butcher of billions, sent the signal.
“Wang,” I said into my suit radio. “You got anything?”
“Negative, commander.” On the other side of the pit, a figure walked into my field of vision. He held a scanner, a large stick covered with sensor instruments.
“What about you, RHETT?” I asked the passenger in my suit.
“Although we are not reading anything, this is SCAR’s most likely location considering its exit trajectory. I suggest we investigate,” replied the deep voice of the Rapid Heuristic Evolving Task Thinker.
I nodded, even though I knew Rhett could not ‘see’ me. “Got enough sleep before the mission, RHETT?” I joked.
“Systems are nominal. My next recharge cycle is in 368 hours. If I may add, I would recommend against the use of humor as it may negatively impact crew morale.”
If I could have slapped myself on the head, I would have. For a Rapid Thinker, RHETT could by remarkably dense. I switched suit comms.
“Shields, I’m going to need the descent equipment. I’ll mark the location for drop.”
“Acknowledged, sending the payload now,” a female voice replied. “Be advised, we will lose comms once you get below a kilometer.”
“Got that. We’ll be careful.”
“Good luck, commander. We’re counting on you.” We closed communications.
I craned my head up, looking for the descending payload. A bright light fell towards the landing zone, a shooting star in the featureless void. I bounded towards it as it landed.
“Heading towards your position, commander,” came in Wang.
“Roger that,” I replied.
“You know,” he said. “This is completely insane. We’re two guys and an AI going against the greatest mass murderer since Hitler.”
“It can’t be helped. Getting a small crew to the Moon was a Herculean task in itself. Say, RHETT, what are our chances of dying?”
“Commander, I am unable to calculate survival odds, as we have insufficient intelligence on SCAR’s capabilities,” replied the AI.
“Good to know, man.” I picked up a laser rifle, inspecting it.
“That is incorrect. As an AI, I do not have a gender.”
I didn’t reply. Slinging the rifle onto my back, I then picked up a large disc-shaped device. This tool would help us descend into the pit. Wang eventually bounded up beside me, taking his own equipment.
We took the descent discs, walked to the pit, and activated them. Small blue jets ignited under them as we placed them over the dark hole. They were aloft, but had low enough thrust to not rise into the Moon’s atmosphere. Wang and I stepped out onto our respective floating discs, careful to not fall into the pit. I transmitted instructions from my suit to further decrease the thrust. Our makeshift elevators slowly descended.
Our trip down continued in silence. Five hundred meters down. Nothing of note. One kilometer down. We lost the communication link with the shuttle. My breath drew in a sharp intake. The gloom overwhelmed us, the din illuminated by our suit headlamps.
After what seemed like hours, we reached the floor of the pit. I stepped off my disc and hit the ground, scattering moon dust into the air.
“Weapons ready,” I ordered. Wang and I took our laser rifles out. My fingers strayed near the trigger.
“RHETT, deploy the map scanner.”
A drone emerged from my suit. It unfurled itself, resembling a metallic butterfly. RHETT flew it ahead into the darkness. My helmet screen displayed the vast subterranean tunnel network the drone recorded. My heart fell, it could take days to explore it all.
“Commander, I am picking up a signal in a nearby chamber. This is likely the location of SCAR’s mainframe,” RHETT said.
“Wow, we’re actually going to finish this. Too bad we can’t slag the bitch.” The radio slightly garbled Wang’s voice.
“SCAR is an AI, Corporal Wang. It does not have a gender. It is also inadvisable to destroy it as it would be of immense scientific value.”
“RHETT, you know what I meant. Although it seems to me that you’re trying to protect her, seeing that you’re both AIs,” Wang replied.
“My core coding prohibits me from jeopardizing the mission. The oversight that corrupted SCAR’s neural network has been completely corrected in my generation.”
“Yeah, but it’s an oversight that made her detonate a thousand nuclear missiles on Earth.” Wang paused. “You know what I think? I think we need to trash everything and start-”
“Quiet,” I interrupted. “Save the philosophical arguments for later.” I raised my arm and signaled for us to move forward. “Keep your eyes open,” I added.
We walked into the darkness, weapons at the ready. All we saw were featureless cave walls. I felt a bead of sweat roll down the side of my face. We continued towards the chamber. Into SCAR’s lair.
An alert appeared on my suit display. Before I could react, I heard Wang scream over the radio. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him fall forward with a glowing hole in the back of his suit. I whirled around.
Concluded in AI Dreams Part 2 of 2