The X-weapon control centre was supposed to have been in a bunker, but development costs had eaten that part of the budget so it had been moved to a nice open plan office, originally intended to house a call centre.
Jack Hacker, former Green Beret Colonel of the project, didn’t feel that storming into a call centre had the same gravity as storming into a bunker, but he was prepared to deal with it in order to keep the Nerds in line.
“Someone tell me what the Hell is going on!” he thundered “The DoD is going to be here to evaluate the project in less than a week and I do NOT want to hear a lot of guff about missed milestones!”
“Sir! The Nerds are claiming the weapons system has passed the Turning Test Sir!”
The man barking a response was also ex-military. Hacker paused a moment to recall his name: Herman. Danny Herman, former Marine Sergeant and now civilian engineer. He was a little gung-ho for Hacker’s tastes.
“Turing test, Danny” said another voice. Hacker knew this one from the monthly project meetings; a young woman called Josie or somesuch. Lead programmer. Damned good one.
“It passed the Turning test last month,” echoed the other coder, name of Matt. “That isn’t what it’s doing now.”
Hacker could sense that one of them wanted to tell him what the Turing test was, but he waved the explanation away. He already knew what it was. No one dealing with truely smart weapons could avoid knowing.
He put his hands on his hips.
“So what the Hell is it doing now?”
“Give the Boss the feed from Camera 3” said Josie and Hacker turned to look at the Big Screen. There was the Weapon, a humanoid collection of angles and curves that resembled nothing less than a collection of weapons, from knives to vulcan cannons, rendered in beautiful chrome. It seemed to be talking to a terrified female technician.
“What you are, darling,” drawled the weapon “is a classic pear shape. So let’s do away with thes big solid blocks of clolour…”
“We think it’s developed fashion sense” said Matt.
Hacker boggled at the screen.
“What in the Hell for?”
“We don’t know!” snapped Josie “but we wawrned you, several times, that recycling the code base from Alexander Frou’s previous project was a mistake!”
Hacker had to think. Frou had come highly recommended and had a definite knack for creating software which could learn and predict based on real world and real time input. His previous job had been with with some dressmaker or other.
“No, sir, his previous job was with DKNY and he was contracted to predict or anticipate fashion trends” said Matt.
“I said that out loud, huh? So what does this mean in terms of the fighting capability of the weapon?”
Josie handed Hacker a tablet with test information on it. There were graphs. Hacker liked graphs.
“If I’m reading this right,” he said after a moment “the lethality index has risen a startling two thousand percent against targets wearing denim loon pants, smoking jackets or jeans with a denim jacket. But it refuses to shoot Nazis. Why is it refusing to shoot Nazis?”
“It knows their uniforms were designed by Hugo Boss”.
Hacker considered this carefully.
“As I see it, we have two options. Firstly, in order for this weapon system to remain effective we need to make sure NATO forces have uniforms and combat equipment designed by high level fashion designers. Secondly, we must ensure that the USA has a monopoly on those designers. We cannot allow a Designer Gap!”
“What’s the second option?”
“Option 2 is that we roll back the update on the Weapon’s core operating system and install a non-intelligent expert system” said Matt.
Hacker paced, chewing a pen.
“That would cost us too much time and too much money. We’d have to pass those cost increases on to the DoD and we’d lose the project. Is there no way we can deliver on time? Is there no way the Weapon can be adapted?”
“We could turn the voice off?” offered Danny. Hacker grinned.
“Now that’s some proper thinking!”
General Sturmond Drang watched the machine pirouette through a group of armoured personnel carriers and leave nothing but metal confetti behind.
“Oh, Hacker” he said “you have excelled yourself. This weapon system is pretty close to perfect. Tell me, how does the telemetry look?”
“Fine, sir, just fine” said Hacker, holding his thumb over the part of the printout where the machine had printed “green is so last season”.
He wondered how many fashion designers there were in the world. He wondered if the USA was rich enough to employ them all.