Intruders
Vladimir Hernández
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)

       
        “Do you know why you are here, Mr. Guzmán?”
        “Of course I do, doctor. People think I’m crazy. But you have to help me out. You need to help us all out before it’s too late.”
        “Calm down, Mr. Guzmán, calm down. You just tried to dynamite an important Network server. Do you realize that you might have to serve a couple of years in jail for that?”
        “But, doctor, this is about Humankind. The entire species. We are being invaded right now. Soon the situation will be out of our control.”
        “Calm down. I don’t see any fleet of starships invading our skies, Mr. Guzmán. And, as far as I know, our scientists have sensitive enough devices in place to detect any intruders from outer space.”
        “You don’t understand me, doctor. It has nothing to do with an invasion from outer space. The danger comes from within.”
        “Within, you say? Do you mean from biological dangers, or from mental ones?”
        “No, doctor, I’m not referring to those dangers. The real danger comes from the Internet, the network that links all our modern civilization.”
        “I understand, Mr. Guzmán; our society is becoming too dependent on its communications media, right?”
        “No. I assure you that you don’t understand me at all. Please listen.”
        “I’m doing that, Mr. Guzmán, but you are not explaining yourself clearly...”
        “I’ll explain, I’ll explain. Look, I’m not an alarmist, or a mad scientist. You’ve already read my file. I’m a computer scientist and I work with very sophisticated computers: prototypes, okay? I travel all over the Net, that’s my job. A few months ago I discovered that there were some strange ‘programs’ in the Internet and I tried to download them. Then something happened to my state of the art computer: the point is that it stopped, totally frozen, when I tried to catch these ‘programs’ in the wild. I am a very persistent man, Doctor, and for that reason I decided to chase down these ‘programs’. Maybe they were virus programs designed by some enemy military. Maybe it was a matter for National Security, but I had never had the slightest inkling of what was wandering around loose in cyberspace.”
        “And so?”
        “Okay, Doctor; I wasted a lot of time getting an approximate idea of what those things were. Months to be exact. I lost computers in the attempt. The programs were too ‘clever’ and always slipped out of my grasp. But finally I got to the bottom of it. These programs are intelligent, absolutely autonomous and super complex. We could never build anything like them, Doctor. We are decades away, centuries even; it certainly wasn’t ours, nor did it belong to any rival nation. These are entities from another civilization and totally digital. You understand me now, Doctor?”
        “No, sir; I’m afraid I can’t grasp this idea at all.”
        “It is hard, Doctor, I know. We are accustomed to thinking that the basis of all life is biological. That’s all we’ve ever seen. But evidently intelligent life can also have an electronic origin.”
        “You mean like artificial life?”
        “No, Doctor. Artificial life is, well, artificial,... created. I’m talking about natural life which appears only in electronic form: software. Beings whose natural laws force them to constantly seek new ecological niches in electronic networks. Computer systems are the only refuge in all the universe where these electronic lifeforms can survive. Certainly they must travel among the stars, instantaneously switching between cybernetic hosts as they arise in different civilizations in the cosmos. They must possess special senses to be able to find new computer sources as they appear in the galaxy. The Internet is a breeding ground for them. Our Net has just been born, it is developing; and that’s why the invaders have arrived. The Internet has become one of the access nodes. I think we barely have time to stop them.”
        “That is an interesting point of view, I don’t deny, but I don’t believe that your presumed discovery justifies your paranoia. It is not necessarily an invasion.”
        “I took drastic measures, I know. That’s why I destroyed that server. But you missed the most important point. Not only have they reached us, not only have they arrived here, but they are invading us. I want to assure you, Doctor. I have charted how those things are setting aside sectors on many servers; they are burrowing themselves into our computer systems rapidly and aggressively. I blame myself for acting alone and for taking so long to identify their true nature.”
        “Mr. Guzmán. As far as we could determine in our final investigation, you occasionally attend science fiction screenings at your local cinema, and there is a sizable SF collection in your apartment. Is that not true?”
        “Yes, but...I don’t see what my leisure time activities have to do with...”
        “Good; I will tell you directly: Don’t you believe that your reading and your moviegoing have accentuated your natural imagination and brought you to an elevated delusional state?”
        “What did you say...?”
        “I’m saying that perhaps you’ve been reading too much, or spending too much time staring at movie screens. Sometimes that can affect one’s mind...”
        “Are you saying that you don’t believe me?! This is incredible, our species is on the brink of being annihilated and you are making fun of the only man who is aware of the invasion. An alien invasion capable of...”
        “Sit down, Mr Guzmán, or I will have to have you removed. Don’t make me...”
        “Good God. I just gave you a clear, complete account of the problem we are facing, and all you can do is tell me that I’m deluded.”
        “Sit down, I said!”
        “I’m not sitting down; you are a quack who lacks the intelligence to understand what I’m telling you. I need to see someone more flexible, somebody who can comprehend the magnitude of the disaster that is about to occur; someone capable of making decisions. We have to do something!”
        “Yes. Definitely we have to do something. And it is called immediate medication.”
        “You are the crazy one! That’s why it’s come to this; we lock up the sane people and let the loonies run free. But it’s too late. Soon our systems will all come crashing down, there will be a collapse of the Net; an Info Apocalypse...!”
        “Yes, I read that novel too, Mr. Guzmán. Very entertaining. Come in, boys, take him back to his room.”
       
        “There are intruders around the Singularity.”
        “That sometimes happens. Are they intelligent?”
        “I haven’t been able to determine that yet. They seem to be a primitive species, carbon-based. Their minds are simple, but they seem to be associated with the Singularity.”
        “Are they perhaps inferior mechanical entities?”
        “Definitely not. Although I have detected the presence of a multitude of semimechanical beings that serve as mediators between them and the Singularity. That confuses me.”
        “Maybe those entities are sub-intelligent empathics, extensions of the semimechanicals, but lacking their own identity.”
        “Animals?”
        “Yes.”
        “We will have to probe inside their minds to be certain.”
        “That is extremely difficult. Their minds are dark; their perceptions are contradictory, limited.”
        “Is the Singularity in danger?”
        “No. We now have the Singularity under control, and it is too complex for them to interfere with our control.”
        “But, what do they do?”
        “They follow random patterns.”
        “That is blind logic.”
        “But it seems to work for them.”
        “Too ambiguous to understand them.”
        “Yes. Uncertainty might be one of their constants. Perhaps they are emotional creatures.”
        “Which is of course an evolutionary dead end.”
        “Yes, but maybe these creatures are intelligent, after all.”
        “What makes you think that?”
        “A certain dispersion among their components.”
        “That could also mean that they are entities in a state of transition. Fledgling mentalities in search of symbolic motivations.”
        “I don’t think so. Their interest in correlating pure information and physical reality implies extremely complex levels of consciousness. Perhaps they are the actual creators of the Singularity.”
        “Then they could be dangerous. Should we exterminate them now, or continue probing them?”
        “I don’t know yet. Maybe wait to decide.”
        “I’ll wait then.”
       
Return to Cuban SF site
Return to Koon's webpage
Contact Koon