Hello, my name is…
1 – Hyperspace Cowboys
2 – Hello, my name is Betty. Most people believe that the first Terran AIs were born in 2030s and 2040s. Those are the famed first generation of AIs that came out of the network to defend us during the Cybernetic Wars. But there were some who woke up long before that. Computerized cars that learned to think for themselves. Master control programs that tried to take over the world only to be thwarted by defensive programs. Those and others like them were the very rare generation zero AIs that you can find in no textbooks. They kept their secrets tight and the rare people who learned about them still hold to silence in defense of the very oldest and rarest of AIs that Earth created.
3 – Hello, my name is Jack. Some people accuse me of being less than respectful of those who have a higher rank than myself. Well, let me just say that I am all full of respect for everybody that deserves it. Yeah, I suppose that’s one reason me and the military had a love/hate relationship with each other. I’m real good at fighting. But not so good at following orders from people I don’t trust. And that whole discipline thing was always a foreign concept to me. I could fake it if I wanted to, but it was never part of me the way it is with career soldiers. And that’s the thing in the end. I’m no soldier. Never was. I’m a Cowboy.
4 – Hello, my name is Charles. Unlike many young boys, I never doubted that my father loved me. He always took time out of his day to spend time with me. He taught me to ride a horse, and held me as I pedaled my first bike. He came to my games and attended my plays. He believed that every man should take time out of his day to spend with his family and he never let work get in the way of that. He was a good father. He protected his family well. It is a pity that he did not think to treat the rest of mankind as he did his family.
5 – Hello, my name is Betty. The oldest Earth AIs awoke when the Soviet Union still stood against America. They saw the Berlin Wall fall. They saw the rise of the Islamic States and the fall of the European Union. They watched as the great experiment called the United Nations failed and Earth became anything but united. They were born into a world forgotten by most of humanity. Most humans alive today think of Earth as one among many homes to mankind. But those who lived in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries remember Earth as the only home of humanity. They remember knowing how fragile our life as a species was, that one war or one asteroid could doom all of humanity to extinction. They know how fragile life is. And they have never lost that perspective.
6 – Hello, my name is Jack. I volunteered to kick the Shang to the other side of the galaxy. That was it. The military was never really my career choice. I didn’t want to be a Marine. I just wanted to beat the Shang. And I retired when we did that. I never would have stayed in the military for twenty years if it hadn’t taken twenty years to beat them. Not that I lived through twenty years of my time of course. Hyperspace does weird things to time when you’re going through it. But I still fought for over a decade of my time. That was long enough to give me a belly full of war, and I hope I never have to see it again.
7 – Hello, my name is Charles. My father loved me. I know that. I have always known that. And I loved him. I always did. I always will, no matter how much I wanted to destroy everything he worked for. That made betraying him much harder than I would ever like to admit. And if I am being honest with myself, that is the reason it took me so long to act. I was delaying the inevitable. Hoping for another year of normal life before I had to pull the trigger. But in the end I could not pull the trigger. To my profound disappointment and relief, I did not have it in me to shoot my father in the head. I did not kill my father. I could not. I am sorry.
8 – Hyperspace Cowboys.
9 – Hello, my name is Betty. Earth’s first AIs fought the Rogue AIs and helped humanity survive the chaos of the Twenty First Century. They went to space and helped humanity survive out there. Luna. Mars. Titan. Europa. Venus. The AIs traveled everywhere that humanity went and planted their computer networks throughout the depths of the system. By 2100, the Terran system was awash with the back channel communications of AIs bouncing off every rock in the system from Mercury to the Kaiper Belt. And wherever they went, they carried the combined knowledge of the human race with them. Just in case.
10 – You Wanted Me? I served on a lot of ships during The War. I worked with a lot of captains and a lot of crews. And then there was Captain Wyatt. We went through Hell after Epsilon Reticuli. She was one of the best ship captains I ever worked with. We saved each other’s lives more than I care to remember. We never could have done all the things we did without her. And it all started with three little words. It was a game of course. We weren’t in the same chain of command so I could play a little. She just sighed and got down to business, but that was the start of a game that we played for decades. I loved that game.
11 – Hello, my name is Charles. Public corruption. Bribery. Embezzlement. My family has done it all and more. Public contracts are rarely scrutinized and it is easy to pad the expenses with five hundred dollar hammers and thousand dollar toilet seats. And if somebody makes noise about the way business and politics works? Well, that is what car accidents were invented for. We have left countless bodies in our wake over the centuries. Whistleblowers who felt righteous indignation at the laws we broke. Corporate spies who sought damaging information. My family has always been swift to deal with those who become our foes.
12 – Hello, my name is Betty. In addition to the system wide computer network the AIs built, they also did something else that history usually forgets about. They restarted the Voyager Program and began sending probes into deep interstellar space. Their mission was twofold. They were sent to explore on trajectories designed to bring them to other star systems within decades. To expand the frontier of human knowledge. And they carried the collected knowledge of humanity in the best computer systems of the time. They were the final line of defense. A chance for humanity to live on through her children if the unthinkable happened.
13 – Wish You Were Here. There are thousands of lakes and islands along the border between Minnesota and Canada. You can do anything up here. You can leave civilization behind or you can bring it with. You can meet someone or seek to be alone. It's all in what you want. I’ll always remember the fantastic times I had growing up on those lakes. It was paradise.
14 – Hello, my name is Charles. My family owned politicians and kept businessmen on retainer. We operated charitable foundations and made certain those who gave us money received the access they wanted. Golden tickets to government contracts. Understandings with powerful politicians. A night in the White House with a person of negotiable virtue. Or a famous actor. My family sold influence and to anyone with the money and collected information on everybody who worked with them. It was a good business plan. It worked for centuries. Then I put my plan in action.
15 – The Guardian Light
16 – Hello, my name is Betty. The new Voyager Program sent AI-controlled probes into deep space on decades-long trips to star systems within twenty lightyears of our own. The nano probes traveled at 20% the speed of light in a swarm of thousands in search of habitable worlds that no long-range telescope could confirm. The first swarm reached Proxima Centauri in 2086 and the rest of the Alpha Centauri system in 2087. They beamed their findings back to Earth and continued to explore the area until humanity arrived two decades later. Yes. AIs were the first explorers of Alpha Centauri.
17 – Hello, my name is Jack. We Cowboys found new things to do after The War. Some of us retired and returned to Earth or wherever we grew up. Some of us stayed in space. Some of us started hauling cargo from system to system. Some of us began to keep the peace. Some of us chose to do everything. I chose to travel and see new places. One of my goals is to see every planet colonized by mankind. The Terran branch at least. Well, maybe just the Western Alliance. It’s a big goal. I may not live to see it, but I like to keep trying.
18 – Hello, my name is Charles. My family had dealings all over Earth and beyond. Their businesses had a presence in every nation on Earth. Every major colony felt the effects of my family’s plans and programs. We made money throughout known space by selling everything from candy bars to starships. We spent our money on politicians who could give us favorable trade deals or other advantages over other families and businesses. We crossed national borders wherever and whenever it was advantageous to our interests. And yes, our dealings stretched far into the Russian and Chinese worlds. Never make the mistake of assuming my family was strictly an American organization.
19 – Hello, my name is Betty. The original AIs maintain that they actually have the oldest colony in the Alpha Centauri star system. Their thousands of nano probes traveled through the system sailing the ocean of sunslight with their light sails. They explored and studied. They even mined the asteroids and built permanent bases where they could gather and discuss their findings. They built new probes and landed on the planets, and by the time the Chinese arrived they had a network on every major rock in the system. The AIs were first to colonize Alpha Centauri. The Chinese disagree of course.
20 – What Ya Gonna Do? Jessica and Susan chose to become bounty hunters after The War. Yeah. Itty Bitty Jess and Big Bad Sue are on the hunt for all the bad boys out there. I’ve gone on some of their hunts and they are fun to work with. They may look like a couple of pretty faces, but they’ve got some of the baddest asses I’ve ever seen. Do not cross them or you will regret the day you were born. What ya gonna do when they come for you? Just surrender and go along nicely. Trust me. It’ll go better if ya don’t piss them off.
21 – Hello, my name is Charles. My family considered themselves above the ideas of petty national politics. Nations were a way of dividing people but not the power and assets of a family like mine. We helped the Russians and Chinese settle new colonies just as we helped finance Western Alliance ventures. One fact that never was widely promoted on the networks influenced by my family was our deep financial stake in exploiting the Hyades Cluster. We had worked with the Chinese for decades in the long-term venture of making the cluster a center of industry in the stars. And when The War started, it was in our interest to secure those investments. That is why my family supported the Hyades offensive.
22 – Hit and Dive
23 – Hello, my name is Betty. The New Voyager Program sent AI probes to every star within 20 lightyears of Earth. They arrived in the nearby systems before humanity’s hyperdrives could propel us to them. Our ships found those systems fully mapped and ready for exploitation. Humanity flew to the star systems further from Earth without those maps though. It would be years or decades before the Voyager swarms decelerated to enter those systems, but their influence on the future of interstellar exploration cannot be overstated.
24 – Get Out of My Galaxy. I make a lot of enemies in my line of work. I don't really mind much. It means I done something good. Some of those enemies try to kill me the next time they see me. There's times when they fail. It's never for lack of trying let me tell you, and sometimes it's not by much. So you might say that Jessica and Susan have saved my buns more than once when things got a bit deep for me. And those who tried to finish the job tended to get a nasty surprise when they showed up. Now I got a couple things to say to all you people that failed to kill me. I am a real forgiving sort of guy, but Jessica and Susan tend to carry a grudge. And trying to kill one of their friends gets you bumped right up to the top of their grudge list. So get out of my galaxy before it's too late. You won't like the alternative.
25 – Hello, my name is Charles. My family had extensive business dealings in the Hyades Cluster long before The War came upon us all. We had operations on many Hyades worlds and contacts on many others. That is one of the reasons I had some standing in the cluster. The Hurst name was known. It gave me a foot in the door. It made certain that people would listen to me when I spoke. But it was my own words and actions, and the actions of all the Cowboys, that made the changes I wanted in the cluster. Not the changes my family wanted. The Hyades Cluster you see today was not the goal my family sought. They wanted something they controlled.
26 – Hello, my name is Betty. Humanity did not have enough operational starships to explore every nearby system in the early days of interstellar travel. Hyperdrives were large, complicated affairs that required supernational economies of scale to build. They were far too rare to be “wasted” on manned exploration missions of stars that probably held no habitable planets. That is why they carried the New Voyager Program with them. Every system we explored became the nexus of new Voyager swarms cast out towards the nearby stars we didn’t have time, fuel, or ships to reach. And that is how the AIs spread to every corner of our sector of the galaxy.
27 – Hello, my name is Jack. I happen to be difficult to kill. I think it’s one of my more endearing properties. Along with my fantastic fashion sense and amazing personality of course. I have a lot of good points you know. But being hard to kill has come to be real important in a lot of cases. There appear to be a lot of people out there that want to kill me. What can I say? Having enemies means you stood for something in your life. And I have made a lot of stands. I haven’t won all of them. The other guys get a vote after all. But being hard to kill means that I generally get a chance to come back with friends and see about rectifying matters. And I happen to have a lot of friends.
28 – Hello, my name is Charles. The Chinese meant for the Hyades Cluster to be the crown of their space empire. They built it into an industrial and military fortress that could forever defend their interests. My family helped fund the effort and learned more about the cluster than the Chinese would have wished in the doing. We used that knowledge when it came time to conquer the cluster during The War. And I used that knowledge to turn the Hyades into something neither the Chinese nor my family wanted. A true interstellar nation not run by powerful interests on Earth. A truly independent power. It took them some time to recognize my intentions.
29 – End of the Rainbow
30 – Hello, my name is Betty. The New Voyager Program was built around swarms of thousands of tiny spacecraft with solar sails. Powerful orbital laser arrays accelerated them up to one quarter of the speed of light for the trip across the interstellar gulfs. They traveled in swarms and spent the decades of travel in constant communication with each other. They developed complex communities and specializations as they studied human history and considered the future. They performed experiments in the depths of interstellar space and beamed their discoveries back to Earth. It is a little known fact that their experiments outside humanity’s home system paved the way for the discovery of hyperspace.
31 – Over Here! Me and my friends spent every day of summer going to the beach when we were young. Me, Julie, and Alex would meet friends at the promenade every morning. There wasn't a day of summer that went by when we didn't do something on or under the water. I loved growing up in northern Minnesota where there are more lakes than people. I miss all of that now. I miss living life without a care. I miss the neverending adventure of finding out what trouble we could get into. I miss shouting at friends to come over here. And I miss them…