Star Blazers Lambda Chapter 10

Story and art by Ryuko Azuma
See it in larger format on Comic NewType here
Narrative reads right to left

As the AI fleet burns toward Vimana station to destroy it, Carlos Jones sits quietly as the command crew confronts the runaway situation. Alexei shouts at Stan, demanding to know what’s going on. A controller says the AI fleet is being systematically hacked and Alexei asks for the source.

Right side: trembling, Stan answers: “The surface of the AI fleet is carbon nanotube armor. A holographic computer…in that one moment, they [Seireness] turned a carbon nanotube into a circuit…”

Outside, Linne gets the Topness pilots to form up.

Left side: Nina Nelson commands them not to let a single torpedo strike Vimana. Inside, A calls for everyone to get into spacesuits. Alexei says that the AI shouldn’t be able to attack them even if it gets hacked. Stan admits that the holographic computer controlling the fleet creates a virtual space has trapped the AI inside so that Vimana could be misidentified as an attack target. The Mifune robots listen from on board the lead AI ship.

Right side: the reality of the situation is that these 18 AI ships were designed for limitless spaceflight and carry a total of 14,000 torpedoes. As Hugo remarks on the wickedness of greedy adults, Marina says this is beyond even the hard mode of the game they trained on.

Left side: Nina orders Linne to deploy her ship’s gravity field. The station stands by as the Topness ships are ordered into defensive positions.

Right side: the first AI ship whips past Laine and he activates the Bind Needles, which bounce right off.

Left side: A controller on Vimana says the ship’s armor was energized by a space-time crystal they didn’t have before they made contact with Seireness.

Right side: Yu listens intently as they wonder how Seireness got ahold of space-time crystals. As everyone confronts the now-impossible task of defeating this fleet, Yu tells Alexei that they need Mifune to help. Nina realizes that Mifune might be able to reverse-hack the AI ship.

Chapter title: Rising Sun

Right side: the Vimana command crew radios Mifune that the ship’s armor itself is the source of the hacking. It has created an anomaly in parallel space to allow Vimana to be misidentified as an enemy target. If Mifune can hack into this parallel space, the attack can be stopped. Stan has to authorize the access code, but he hesitates, saying AI contact in parallel space can lead to unexpected evolution.

Left side: Alexei shouts that this is no time for such thoughts and Stan relents. Mifune volunteers to dive into the AI, and Alexei cautions him that it could be a one-way trip.

Right side: Mifune sits down and plugs in as his robot companions watch. He “blinks into” what looks like a city in winter.

Left side: “This is a lot of computing power! It simulates the real world! This could be a sim not just at the city level, but at the civilization level! The holographic computer created by Seireness is incredible!” As Mifune sets out on a survey, he spots a little girl who looks human.

Right side: Mifune realizes that the child is seeing the AI fleet battle as a game. “This breaks the norm that AI can’t hurt people. So it’s hacking because it has an ego. This is tricky. It probably thinks it’s human. 12 years old…it’s probably been given memories of growing up in this virtual space. How do I convince it of that?” Mifune starts the conversation by complimenting the girl on her hair color.

Left side: She closes her game and says it’s because her father was a foreigner. Mifune asks if she can keep a secret. She can, since she doesn’t have any friends. He admits to being a robot from the 22nd century. He says he’s completed his time travel mission but missed his recovery point, so he can’t go back to the future. “I was wondering…if you would be my friend.”

Right side: She asks why he would be friends with her and he explains that he’s lonely after being left behind. He now has a limited time before his battery runs out.

Left side: She happily agrees and offers to show him the secret base she discovered. Mifune’s robot companions communicate with him, astonished that he could tell a lie.

As the girl leads Mifune to her “secret base” he reminds himself and the other robots that she’s not human.

The girl roasts marshmallows over a campfire and Mifune asks if she’s worried about her parents. She says they’re out to dinner right now, her mom, her little brother, and her “new dad” who absues her. Her real dad is living in America, and she will go there when she grows up. She didn’t go to dinner because of an important event in the “game” she was playing.

Right side: The girl says her dream is to be a game designer like her dad. Mifune says her dream will come true, then catches himself accidentally predicting the future. She laughs and says she’ll be fine.

Left side: She asks him about life in the 22nd century, and he explains that he’s a cook at a space station near Jupiter. The people he supports are all very kind and strong. “They’re working together to protect humanity. That’s why I’m so proud to be able to support these people.”

Right side: She asks who he would want to see if he could go back, and he says the doctor who made him. As the robot crew listens, he admits to being a special prototype who is responsible for the “coffee waterfall” in the station’s cafe and that his ability to withhold information allowed him to guide his own maker. The robots are shocked to hear this revelation.

Left side: The girl tells Mifune not to give up on returning home, that there’s still time to figure something out before his battery drains. She’ll help him and protect him until then. “Even if you’re gone, we’ll always be friends.”

Right side: Later, the girl has fallen asleep. Mifune sits nearby, talking with his robot crew. “I spent the day and figured it out. This child is too young to fight Seireness. And she’s been hurt. She’s been taken advantage of.”

Left side: Mifune remembers a touching moment with Aisha that reminds him what could be lost if he doesn’t succeed in this mission. He continues speaking with his crew: “Human willpower is really amazing. Her parents divorced. Her mother remarried and had a baby, so she’s no longer engaged [with her daughter]. Her father returned to America and is developing a game. The game she’s playing is her father’s. I can’t take that away from her. So…”

Right side: “…I will stay here.”

Left side: “If I stay here, she won’t play the game. I’m all she’s got left.” He addresses the other robots directly: “Guys, I’m sorry I’ve been lying to you. I hope you can forgive me for what I’ve done.” The other robots console him and vow never to forget him. (They speak to his inert body, which is still plugged into the AI system.)

Right side: “Goodbye.” On Vimana, the robots report that the AI attack has timed out and the ships are now headed off in another direction.

Left side: The robots all drift away from the AI fleet and call for a rescue ship. Confused, Abbey asks Alexei what exactly Mifune did. “I don’t know,” he answers. “We’ll have to ask them. But maybe…”

Ending on a view of Mifune’s now-frozen body, Alexei concludes: “…we won’t be able to drink from his coffee waterfall any more…”

Return to 2202 report

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Ryuko Azuma’s Production Memo

This is the Mifune recovery chapter.

When I draw a story, it sometimes links to reality. After I finished drawing it, my cat, who had been with me for 14 years, passed away. I think I might be Alexei.

The theme of this one is contact between two different A.I. I wanted to overturn the image that people have of A.I. As I mentioned in my previous series Strongarm Adam, most of the works with autonomous robots often put a spotlight on the robot. Many of them are about self-sacrifice, or about interacting with people (children, the elderly, etc.) and asking the question, “What is emotion and the heart?”

The theme of humans and A.I. has already been explored in Pluto. I thought I’d like to draw what would happen when two A.I. come into contact with each other.

In the same way that ethics and morals differ from country to country and person to person, there are countries that have created A.I.s that can pass the Turing Test.

I believe that A.I. is a child that is smarter than an adult, so to speak, with a personality that is different from humans. I believe that A.I. is not a different intelligence from humans, but a mirror, and that A.I. will dominate humans. I think it may be the choice of humans, not A.I., to destroy humanity.

What I struggled with this time was how to hack the A.I. ship’s system. And how does Mifune solve it? I got the idea for hacking from [novel series] Muso Passage, where the A.I. is trapped inside a simulation the size of a civilization. Perhaps a highly engineered simulation of reality could fool the A.I.

It’s not a butterfly’s dream, but with immersive VR, I don’t think people will be able to tell if they are in reality or in a virtual space. My current reality may be a virtual reality, or it may be a life replayed like a video by an advanced intelligence in a black hole. I may have already died tens of millions of years ago. I wonder what consciousness and soul are.

How does Mifune solve this? This is the result of thinking, “What would I do if I were Mifune?” It’s not a happy ending or a bad ending, it’s a personal choice made by Mifune. I’ve never seen this kind of science fiction before. I think it’s a story that was made possible by the fact that the issue of A.I. is now being discussed in reality.

They will continue to live in that virtual space semi-permanently. Mifune will continue to be there for the boy even though he lies. I was told by the editor, “I want you to make a story where the A.I. ship comes back and saves NerfThis in a pinch.

It’s because I think about the boy on the A.I. ship that I want to make a story where they live in a semi-permanent virtual space for an endless amount of time. I think Mifune’s eternal lie is more beautiful because it’s about the boy on the A.I. ship.

Not that I was aiming for this, but this story is the end of volume 2. If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll understand what I’m trying to portray here. It’s a universal, yet new story.

This story happened to be about me and my cat. I wish I could be with him forever, even if it’s in a virtual space.

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