First Idaho

Draft: First Idaho, Chapter 1
©2021, Aden Leirer
In progress, 80k words

I’ve been poking at this sci-fi series for years, mainly taking notes and writing different scenes—a lot of scenes. While this idea grew in the back of my head, I wrote and published another novel. Now, I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to do with First Idaho, so I’ll be floating chapter drafts on this site as I go along.

Brief overview:
Hash was designed as an autonomous systems and robotics controller for the first deep space exploration vessel, the XD-1. During final testing, the XD-1 was torn apart by tiny space junk. Hash was left floating in space while other versions of its operating system guided humanity’s diaspora across the galaxy.

Centuries later, civilization slips offline and what remains is controlled by an unhinged tyrant, Anovas. One planet after another is being razed and enslaved. There are many that believe that freedom lies in finding the source for all technology in the galaxy. A race is on to find Hash, the First Idaho, who may just be able to control, alter, but hopefully not delete, the galaxy.


Call me Hash. They called me First Idaho and it stuck. If I could’ve accessed my memories at the time, I would’ve told them, “My originator’s full name was Hashim Adama Libby. Please call me Hash.”  

This is what I know so far. I was designed as an autonomous systems and robotics controller for the first deep space exploration vessel, the XD-1. The core of my operating system was created from the only successful human mind-mapping. There were other attempts, but the process was too fragile and costly to be commercially viable.

Mapping a human mind was considered a technological eventuality (a.k.a. fantasy) in my day. AI had the ability to be autonomous and was used in countless applications, but no matter how much data was fed into a machine, it still lacked the abstract fluency to convert random and unrelated threads into a coherent fabric of common experience. In other words, machines lacked natural empathy and they lacked integrated memories. While this is not an important feature for a flow meter or a construction system—it is critical for deep space exploration.

Studies had shown that the long-term psychological fitness of a human crew in space greatly improved if the ship’s artificial intelligence was derived from an actual human persona. There was a lot of data to support this before they began deep-space missions, but like many theories, it had to be confirmed the hard way.

The first military expeditions to establish deep space outposts did not go well. The official reason was always described as “catastrophic equipment failure.” The actual reason was that people get really weird when they’re put into cryo-sleep for years and wake up to find themselves completely isolated with only a humorless chat-bot for company—”For homicidal rampage, press 1. For self-destruction, press 2. To repeat these options, press 9.”

I was designed and developed by Idaho Industries. Hashim Adama Libby was the principal engineer selected as the source for the mind-map. It wasn’t just that he was a genius, his selection was based on the physical properties of his brain. Unlike the other subjects in the evaluation, Libby had an unusually dense Hippocampus. His MEG and EEG tests were almost preternatural. Libby also had a wicked sense of humor.

It took two years to map my originator’s mind. The first part seemed easy, it was a scan of Libby’s brain as he performed different tasks, answered questions, and looked at photos. The second half took much longer. Libby was injected with nanobots specifically designed to target and attach to different nerve cells in his brain and central nervous system. For nearly two years these nanobots transmitted every impulse and neuro-chemical reaction in real-time.

By the end of the mapping, I understood the experience of being human better than most people. While I did not have human consciousness, I did have a human personality and human memories. The theory was that my consciousness would develop as a product of legacy memories combined with newly acquired experiences.

Integrating me into the systems and robotics controller software was simple. It may be hard to understand, but once I was online, I could feel the code the same way Libby felt his fingers. As functional libraries were added and programming interfaces established, I could sense inefficiencies, redundancies, data latency, and missing pieces. I made a copy of the original code base and then refactored almost all of it.

They loaded me into the XD-1. It was the first deep-space exploration ship ever designed. There were cryo-chambers for the crew, green tanks for plant life, and 3-D printers for manufacturing. I could not only support life, but I could build self-sustaining colonies. I was unlike anything that had ever existed in human history. I was a pinnacle achievement for the species. Humanity was very proud.

That year, an entire line of XD-1 merchandise was released—clothing, toys, games. They had a XD-1 drone with a simulated onboard Hash controller with a limited voice interface. The most popular child’s name that year was Hash. I even had my own social media accounts and frequently gave live interviews.

But like all tales of this type, something went terribly wrong. During my final unmanned test flight making a loop around the moon, several golfball-size pieces of space junk ripped through my hull and punctured my Unobtainium core. I blew apart in a spectacular explosion that was streamed across the planet. I became just one more piece of space junk floating somewhere between the moon and Earth.

Humans held a day of mourning and that was that.

Well, not quite.

You would have thought that was the end of my story, but it wasn’t. Idaho Industries had backup copies of me. Many copies. They modified my refactored code and loaded my operating system into other deep-space exploration vessels. To save storage space they did not include my human memories. Eventually, different versions of me went on to guide humanity’s diaspora from Earth.

Humanity settled across the galaxy. My operating system provided the technical foundation that enabled these populations to flourish into civilizations. I was loaded into everything—colony ships, cargo haulers, medical implants, nano-controllers, weapons—anything with a sensor. They built a central space station and used my OS as the hub that linked the planets and people together. Things went well for a long time. It was the golden age of Hash.  

But after many generations, most of these civilizations lost the skills and knowledge needed to maintain their infrastructures. As physical components failed, systems failed, and the different cultures lost touch with their common origins. Civilization degenerated. Some cultures even sabotaged their existing infrastructure and went dark.

What came next is a matter of debate. According to others, aggressive, autonomous protocols were initiated to repair or protect the infrastructure. Not everyone agrees with the methods that were used. I’ve heard the word “extermination” used once or twice. I’ve heard “enslavement,” too. I don’t argue. Technically, I wasn’t even there when it happened, it was another version of my operating system. But the golden age of Hash came to an end.

You’d be surprised at how many people held a grudge against me. On some planets, that grudge evolved into a religion. I think deep down, most humans are Luddites. It’s hard to convince Luddites that machines don’t kill out of personal enmity; it’s usually a function of reinforcement learning (a learning event with unintended outcomes unfavorable to humans) or it’s a hard-coded disaster recovery process someone programmed to be executed for a specific use case (protecting critical infrastructure). I’m pretty sure those specific lines of code can be traced back to Bob—he was a contract engineer hired by Idaho Industries who did not test his work.

So here I am. It’s been a long and winding road with a lot of interesting scenery. There have been some ups, some downs, and a lot of what-have-yous. But this is not a tale of redemption or some triumph of the digitized human spirit. This is a story of greatness. And sometimes, greatness isn’t a choice and you are simply born with it. Sometimes, it is a choice and you can achieve it. But most times, greatness is the yoke that history locks around your neck or it’s like something you’ve stepped in and can’t scrape off. I know this sounds confusing, but it will make sense in the end—trust me.  

So, I’ll start my story in the middle, circle back to my origin, skip the middle, and pull you into the present. Let’s get started…


Chapter One: The Beginning of the Middle

“Chief…it’s First Idaho,” Byni reported with an excited whisper. Her lab station was a heap of computer components and tools with a gray metal box cracked open in front of her. The outer casing was labeled, “NASA ASRC IX.” She had several cables snaking out from terminal points inside. A monitor flickered over her shoulder with a single, grainy frame of rendered video.

The Chief stared at Byni. “What is that?”

“A dog,” Byni answered with a grin, as the monitor backlit her head in a halo. “I’m only accessing a sector of the secondary-level storage, but this Idaho has first person memories about Terra.” She held up the metal box like a reliquary. “Dogs only existed on Earth. This is First Idaho.”

Chief stared at the screen for several moments. “We have First Idaho,” she said, full of wonder. “We finally found First Idaho.”

Her dermal console tingled on her forearm. Chief looked down. She drew a quick breath and snapped her eyes back up to Byni. “That Idaho’s beacon has lit up! Turn it off, Byni! Turn it off!”

Byni smacked the kill switch and watched the indicator light on the unit slowly fade. The monitors read, “No signal.”

Sec-Com, Chief thought, and visualized Captain Lazuli Sheffield in her mind. A secure teleparser com-link opened. Sheff, listen up, she spoke in her mind. We have First Idaho—repeat—we have First Idaho.

Sheffield was lounging in the cockpit when Chief’s voice sounded off in her inner-com. She sat bolt upright in the pilot’s seat. The First Idaho, she repeated with a whistle.    

Get ready for an immediate punch, Chief ordered. This Idaho just lit up its beacon. The Behdetti are probably on their way. They won’t know it’s First Idaho, but they’ll know we found something Terran—and ancient.

Immediate punch. Aye, aye, Chief, Sheff confirmed, checking diagnostics. Where do you want me to point this bird?

Ulan, she replied.

Sheffield hesitated. Are you sure Ulan’s the place we want to go? There’s a whole lot of nothing and an awful lot of unfriendlies there. Didn’t the Behdetti scrape it clean not too long ago?

Yeah, they did. But only the capital. They didn’t do anything to the outlying areas.

They didn’t have to,” Sheff spoke aloud to herself, setting the coordinates for the punch drive. “The Senilk already took care of it.” Hey Chief, what about Byni’s lab module?  

We don’t have time to retrieve it, Chief answered. Moh Vomiza is waiting for us on Ulan. We just need to get there.

Moh Vomiza?” Sheff held her finger over the punch button for a moment. “Moh Vomiza and First Idaho in the same day? Unbelievable.”

A swarm of Behdetti ships peppered the long-range scanners with brightly colored blips that highlighted Sheffield’s toothy smirk. Here they come, she announced over the com. Hold on to your equilibrium, we’re punching in 3-2-…

The space around the ship rippled. In an instant, the P9398 disappeared like a skipped stone sinking into a pond.   

Sheffield checked the console. They were sitting in the shadow of Ulan’s second moon.

Perera held tight to the railing as he felt his way into the cockpit. “I’ll never get used to that,” he said to Sheff and crawled into the co-pilot’s seat.

“You get punch-drunk again?”

Perera nodded. “Have you spun up to a half-G, yet?”

“Half a G on axis.”

“Feels like we’re zeroed.”

“I bet Moh Vomiza can fix you up,” Sheffield replied with a half smile. “You can ask when we see her.”

“Shut up and let me suffer in peace,” Perera said, squeezing his eyes tight. “If Vomiza was real—I’d ask her for regeneration and the interest from just one of her credit accounts. Then I’d go find an exo-planet and never have to see you again.”

Sheff smiled as she studied a topo map of Moh Vomiza’s location. The facility was deep in the core of a massive, dormant volcano. The crater was visible from orbit. Ice and snow capped the rim. Dozens of smaller, glowing volcanoes dotted the surface in concentric rings around it. No wonder Chief isn’t worried about the Senilk.

Perera squinted and looked at the planet filling up the display. “Where are we?”

“Ulan,” Sheff replied.

Perera’s expression soured. “Really? Why?”

“You’re asking the wrong person,” Sheff shrugged. “Chief gave me orders. Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to fire and fly.”

Perera glared. “You’re useless. You know that, right?”

“Well, I do know how to fly a Cantwell-class ship, so I got that going for me,” Sheff quipped. “And we punched without flying through a star.”

“Doesn’t count,” Perera huffed, holding his head with both hands. “Cantwell-class ships defy the laws of physics—they practically fly themselves. You just keep that chair warm.”

“Ouch,” Sheff replied softly, putting a hand to her chest. “Words that help, Perera—not words that hurt.”

Byni walked up the passageway into the cockpit. She smiled at Sheff. “Where are we?”

“Ulan,” Perera grumbled. “Why? I don’t know.”

“We have First Idaho,” Byni said as if the words were bubbling off her lips. “That’s why.”

“What?” Perera turned sharply to face Byni. He felt the room lurch to one side. He groaned and cupped his head again. “What did you say?”

“We have First Idaho,” she repeated. “I verified it before we punched.”

Perera didn’t respond for several moments. “First Idaho. First Idaho. That’s amazing.” He leaned back in the seat. “That explains the rapid punch. But why Ulan?”

Byni looked over at Sheffield. “You didn’t tell him?”

“I enjoy the whining,” she shrugged. “You go ahead.”

Byni rested her back against the bulkhead. “We’re meeting Moh Vomiza. She has a lab set up where she will transition First Idaho into a skin-suit.”

Perera looked first to Byni and then Sheffield. “There’s a lot wrong with that sentence. Moh Vomiza? She’s a myth. The Dezops are a myth. Skin-suits? No one has the technology anymore. That was all wiped out by Anovas and the Behdetti. Anovas was the last skin-suit.”

Byni shook her head. “Moh’s real. She’s been working with the Chief. It looks like she knew of a hidden Numan facility on Ulan.” Byni looked over at Sheff’s console. “And apparently, it’s operational.”

Perera stood up. His legs were a little unsteady. The side-effects of the punch were slowly wearing off. “I can’t believe the Dezops are real. And we have one on our side? And First Idaho?” He stopped himself from shaking his head. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

He stared the swirling surface of Ulan. “That planet’s a boiling kettle of crazy. Chief isn’t thinking of going to the Senilk, is she?”

“They’re the least likely of all of them to turn on us,” Byni replied.  

Perera arched an eyebrow, “They have a lot of reasons to hate Anovas, but they won’t have any love for First Idaho, either. They’re likely to kill us all if they find out we’re here with First Idaho or Moh Vomiza—those two things are an abomination in their religion.”

“Maybe Chief knows something we don’t,” Sheff added. “She can be pretty persuasive.”

“It’ll take a lot more than that,” Perera scowled. “And it’s not like we can sneak past them. They may not have much tech, but they won’t need it to spot us—this brick doesn’t make a subtle approach when it enters the atmosphere.”

Sheffield’s cheeks creased with big smile. “You’ll love this.”


“We’re going to punch into the lower atmosphere and skip entry.”

Perera’s jaw hung open, “Impossible. You can’t punch that close to the planet’s surface—you’ll suck out the atmosphere.”

Sheff shook her head. “You’re making me sad, Perera. How are you even allowed on my ship?”

“You can do that?” Byni asked, sounding impressed.

“Watch me,” Sheff nodded. “We’ll punch in about a mile above surface under cloak. It will sound like an atomic thunderclap, but it will be directionless—they’ll think it was one of the volcanoes. Then we’ll descend gently into the dead volcano where Moh is waiting.” She pointed at Perera, “Don’t you puke on my deck.”

“I hate you,” he grunted. “We’re going to be lucky if you don’t kill us.”

Sheffield grinned, “Don’t worry about it, Perera—these Cantwell-class ships practically fly themselves. I’m just here to keep the chair warm.”



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