Behind the Curtain

Thad Baker watched the large screen in front of him. He gestured to the screen and it flipped to the power control panel for his encampment. The dashboard showed all green, and he smiled. His company had achieved remarkable success in the last two decades of the 21st century on earth. While he was mostly known as the father of true artificial intelligence and his company had become synonymous with the bots that dominated earth and now inhabited Mars, his PowerFuse technology remained his primary pride and joy. Years of research had led him and his vast team of scientists to finally tap the mysteries of nuclear fusion to develop a long-lasting and seemingly-endless power source.

His technology spread like wildfire before the global economy fractured and fell apart in the face of drastic climate shifts as survival became the main concern of world citizens. His wealth multiplied many times as homes and buildings left the power grid and relied exclusively on his new invention. His modern bots were powered by PowerFuses. Every vehicle on the planet had switched to PowerFuse after oil reserves dwindled and disappeared altogether.

Baker swelled with pride every time he reminded himself that the mission to colonize Mars would not even be possible without his technology. His bots had been the first to arrive and explore the planet in a way that only a human could. His PowerFuse technology drove the space ships that arrived on the planet. The modular buildings that sprung up on the barren surface and hummed with breathable air could only do so because of his technology. The human race owed him its existence. Without him, humans would have long ago perished in the diaspora of war, disease, and environmental implosion.

It was with this inflated sense of self importance that Baker sat in his chair in the control room overlooking the excavation site and watched his spaceship enter Martian airspace. The ship carried supplies and another batch of bots. His launch capabilities were fine. They were still intact because he had a heavily fortified facility deep in the desert of Arizona that had escaped much of the chaos that had brought down Western States. Most importantly, his facility was completely staffed with his bots, not people. He trusted his bots. He had never trusted people, and he was happy to not have to rely on them to keep his enterprise running.

The ship nudged closer to the surface, slowly descending on the landing strip just north of the excavation site. Baker felt remarkably calm. Everything had come together as he had expected, and he felt confident that his plans for the colony were on track despite the trouble they had run into with Sanjay. He had warned Sprockett about the son of the great Raja. Raja had been a fiercely independent Senator who had rebuffed Baker’s offers numerous times. No matter how much sons fought for their own legacies, they were never too far away from their fathers. Nevertheless, Sprockett had insisted that Sanjay was the right choice for their plans. A politician’s son understood the importance of leadership he had said. He had been wrong.

Footsteps clicked behind him. “Mr. Baker, the ship has landed,” a bot said to his back.

Baker shook himself to the present and looked at the screen before him confirming what the bot had told him.

“Get the bots to work on the site after the supplies are unloaded,” he commanded.

“Yes, sir,” the bot replied.

Baker’s mind returned to Sprockett. The Senator had become a liability with his reckless and power-hungry behavior. Baker had cautioned him about his actions with Sanjay and the result was just as he had suspected. Sanjay rebelled because Sprockett had disenfranchised him. Despite being a life-long politician, Sprockett was remarkably tone death to human motivations. Now, Baker worried that others in the colony were disillusioned with Sprockett and his leadership. Baker needed Sprockett to succeed. He needed a front man, someone who could be the face of leadership while he pulled the strings from behind the curtain. He didn’t want to be in the spotlight. It had never been kind to him, and he resented it enough to shy away from it.

Sitting alone in the control room, his worries got the best of him. He hadn’t talked to Sprockett in two sols and the Senator had not come out to visit him or update him on the progress of the colony. He grew antsy and rapped his finger tips on the tabletop before him. He gestured to the screen and pulled up the comm system, another of his company’s great products, and hailed the Senator from across the rocky expanse between them.

The Senator answered after a few seconds. “Mr. Baker, how can I help you?”

“I need you to come here and update me on your progress,” Baker said solemnly. He betrayed none of his nervousness.

“I can update you right now.”

“No. I want you here in person.”

“But…”

“Mr. Sprockett, I’m in no mood to argue. Get here. Now.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in a few…”

Baker flipped off the comm before Sprockett could say anything else. He’d grown tired of the Senator and his loquacious ways. He’d never known anyone who could say so little with so many words.

He sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin. He remained unsure of how to deal with the Senator and the fledgling colony. He didn’t need any of them. He had his bots and all the luxuries he needed in his little encampment. People weren’t reliable like his bots. They weren’t intelligent either as evidenced by his life experience and the way they bickered and fought over trivial things like religion and economic philosophies. It had all been for naught, and they destroyed the planet as a result. He had the power to end it all, to reign supreme.

A wicked smile crept across his face. The potential power wracked his whole body with an eagerness that betrayed his logic. Another thought trickled through his dense mind. The bots could never truly replace humans, and they lacked the emotional connection with him that he craved. He’d never had someone that connected with him in such a way. He’d had friends that had come and gone and potential love interests that never lasted beyond the initial bloom. He’d spent so much of his life focused on his science that he had never looked up for someone with whom to share his passions. The experience had dulled that part of him, but as he now had the power to squelch all that remained of the human race, he hesitated. Not yet.

A voice interrupted his thoughts. “Sir, we’ve uncovered some interesting artifacts. You should see this,” a bot said behind him.

“Not now.”

The bot hesitated in the spot behind him. Baker could tell it was unsure of what to say next.

“I’ll pull it up on the screen.”

The bot wavered in place for a moment before it left the room. Baker flipped through the camera feeds until he came to the one showing the advancing efforts of the excavation. His jaw dropped open and he pushed himself up in his chair to peer more closely at the screen. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He shot up from his chair and beat a hasty path out of the room. He had to see this with his own eyes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s