In three years of traveling Sam had never seen a building this large. The square box design was the same as the others with only the dimensions changed which almost certainly meant that it had been designed by computers like the other smaller buildings, y but even beyond the size he knew that this place was important. Every village he had visited spoke of Base One, the center of all human governance.
The computer that had been driving him to the villages for the last three years drove away without sentiment and Sam moved through the steel door into the small square white lobby where a woman in a knee length white coat stood.
She was nothing like the famers and miners in all the villages he had visited. They were as tall as she was and most looked stronger but the white coat was clean and her fingernails were long. This woman didn’t do physical labor. “Welcome to Base One,” the woman said.
“I’m glad to be here but I don’t know what I’m here to do,” Sam said.
“Program computers and answer questions. It’s really not hard, the computers control most of the day to day activities,” the woman said. This was the place where humans ruled over the computers that ran the world.
“Do you know why you were promoted?”
“The computer did not say,” Sam answered.
The woman seemed to accept that not really caring what the reason was. She had asked because it was polite to ask, but he suspected another reason.
“How were you chosen?”
“I was born here. Most of us were, others took decades in smaller research bases to work their way up to here. You took three years and jumped 6 promotions,” the woman said.
Sam suddenly felt the first pang of worry. He had trusted the computer when it said he would be do well here but computers didn’t always take into account humans feelings. If these people were offended that he was here that could be a problem.
“Who requested me then?”
“The computer’s make day to day decisions,” the woman said.
A moment later they walked into the perfectly square room, without a hint of dust and everything was white, it was cooled low enough that Sam immediately knew that this was a computer room but the computer was far larger than those who ran the small villages and drove the vans like he had spent the last three years in.
“This is where we run the world,” the woman said, far more than a hint of pride in her voice.
Over the next days Sam learned the job. It was simple. The computer ask questions and the twelve people answered them. Most were simple. The computer itself screened out anything it determined to be unimportant, but he also suspected that there was something more going on and he was certain that no one else saw anything odd going on.
His first clue that there was more here than met the eye was when he realized the computer lab was empty at night. The people here only worked only 8 hours a day and all at the same time, yet the questions were often emergencies. It was possible that there were other places doing the same thing as here but that was still problematic because a computer was left making the decisions .
It was that fear that the computers were in far more control than anyone else here knew that convinced him to stay up during the nights but even as he waited for them to go to bed he had trouble convincing himself it was possible. He liked the computer more than these people in many ways. They thought of all of the villages and the people out there as little more than property but the computer valued those people no more and no less than the people here. As he sat talking to the computer it would occasionally interrupt him with a question but not often the rest of the time he was the one who asked the computer questions and the most important was, “How do you decide who gets the questions?”
“I chose who is most qualified person to make the choice that needs to be made,” the computer said. It was the type of answer computers always gave, until you asked follow up questions
“What criteria determines who is the most qualified?”
“I ask the person who will give me the answer I would give,” the computer said.
Sam sat up suddenly understanding what the computer was doing. He had made humans completely unimportant to the decision because he could predict their answers every time. They were nothing but figureheads.
“I should tell them,” Sam said.
“You won’t,” the computer answered. It sounded as calm as ever, the tone of its voice completely arbitrary and created only to make him more comfortable. Everything the computers did seemed to be that way.
“Because if you tell them they will change my programming and then they would run things,” the computer said, and Sam knew that he would keep the computer’s secret forever.