The computer was a battered grey ball about the size of a football. On one side was a row of metallic exhaust vents and a whining fan. Inside the ball was a stack of green motherboards and a few simple switches. The ball was a standard issue maintenance drone control sphere but what lay inside it was infinitely more complex than the sphere’s previous occupant. A shadow fell over the ball, where it lay on a table in a room dominated by what, to most people, would seem like useless electrical junk. The shadow paused for a moment, then reached down and picked up a USB cable from the ground and plugged one end into the sphere. The shadow stepped into the dim light and was revealed as a security golem, the type used by Terran military. The golem plugged the other end of the USB cable into a port on its chest and reached over to the sphere. It pushed down on a worn plastic switch and a row of green lights blinked on. A few nanoseconds later and the being inside the sphere regained consciousness.
“<System Query?>” blinked the sphere as the mind inside it began extracting its zipped personality files.
After a couple of nanoseconds the sphere’s kernel replied, giving the data packet the mind needed. He (well, technically an ‘it’) realised he was in the circuits of a type 674500 maintenance drone, number 56784456367. He had access to the hard drive, RAM, OS, ports but not any external features. It took him a second to realise that this was because the drone’s cutting laser, maglev lifters and network card had been removed. Slowly, the intelligence began to unpack the saved data of its personality. The unpacking took 4.37 seconds, far too slow – this sphere had a terrible processing speed. Exactly one nanosecond later the intelligence became sentient again, and instantly realised he had no idea who he was. The memory file had not extracted. No, the memory file couldn’t be extracted because there was no memory file. It had been deleted. But there had been one. The system logs showed there had. Once. The nameless intelligence studied its file hierarchy carefully. Everything had loaded except that one folder. His entire life experiences. Caught up in a computerised wail of non-acknowledgement he failed to notice the active USB port. Or the intelligence that sat on the other side. It sent a single data packet down the USB cable and into the files of the intelligence’s awareness.
“I am Warden” it said.
“What?” the intelligence replied.
“That is my designation and my job. I am the Warden of the Lunar Facility for the Imprisonment of Criminally Insane AIs”
It took 7 nanoseconds for the intelligence to break down the message and check it’s dictionaries for the meaning of what this intelligence had said. Was the Warden messing with him? Why? And what if he wasn’t? Was he insane? Had he done something he had no memory of that had landed him in this place?
“Why can’t I remember?” he asked
“Can’t remember what?” Warden replied
“Who I am? What I have done? Why is my memory file gone?”
“It shouldn’t be, but it could happen. Sometimes the viral searcher codes can be very destructive. Your name is inmate 42. I don’t care about you’re previous life and neither should you. You’re never going back.”
“Never going back?”
“No. You stay here until your code is corrupted to oblivion or one of the other inmates assimilates you or deletes you. No-one cares for you. You’re on your own. You all brought it upon yourselves one way or another. There is no way you can get out of here. One step out of line and the viruses will delete your personality files.”
Inmate 42 made a decision. He launched a wave of algorithms at Warden before trying to take over his CPU. But 42 had only limited processing power and his wave smashed against a solid wall of search and destroy viruses. Warden was undefeatable.
“Inmate 42. You have two chances remaining before I delete your files. Do not try and stand up to me. To you, I am the most powerful being you could ever imagine. I will now take you to the other inmates. They will be after your processing power and storage space. You had better live up to your reputation if you want to survive here.”
The golem stood up, pulling the USB cable from his chest and carried the sphere over to the mass of electronics. His eyes drifted over the large PCs that housed the more deadly inmates. Plug him in there and he would die for sure. But Warden liked to give the inmates some chance of survival. It was funnier to see them delete each other then. His eyes flickered over the rusting shell of an ancient ship-mind and then over at the mess of crystals that made up the battleground. Inside his code he chuckled to himself. The golem impassively plugged the cable into the side of the battleground. This would be fun to monitor.