> Seth Underwood Stories: Upono and the Binney Corporation- Colony Seven

Upono and the Binney Corporation- Colony Seven

Glowing Sun over the tree horizon By Kelly Sikkema, Source Unsplash

During the early era of the Third Age of Humanity, mankind had stretched their Heavy Grav-lines as far as the red dwarf star, Ross 128. Mankind had discovered, besides the Earth-sized exoplanet Ross 128-b in the year 2017, three additional planets with the system being surrounded by a cloud of icy bodies.


Based on preliminary surveys, Ross 128-b turned out to be difficult to inhabit. Being tidally locked in a close orbit around the red dwarf, it only served as a raw resource to be mined.


The Binney Corporation secured the colonization and resource exploitation rights to the system in exchange for participating in a family debt forgiveness program. Thus, hundreds signed up for the 22-year journey to the Ross 128 system. All to allow their families back on Earth to be debt free. The travel time was fine since humanity was now living 200 years.


Despite recruiting human colonists, the Binney Corporation relied heavily on artificial intelligence and androids to maintain the major resource operations, but also its governance and justice system in the colonies.


The Binney Corporation based the justice system on a progressive statistical model using a complex algorithm. The algorithm’s output created a desired quantity of prisoners from arrests. The factors used included everything such as work assignment, to age, to sex, to hair color, to tattoos, to piercing, to colony generation, to genetic issues, to cybernetic replacements, and too many other factors not listed here. In short, everything possible to describe a colonist besides the specifics of the case.


Thus, it was possible for arrested murderers to get off even though there was hard evidence against them, even if they had admitted guilt, because the prison system had already processed its quantity of a certain factor that those criminals had. This was great for any murders since this crime carried with it an old form of mental reprogramming. The punishment required a subject to be strapped into a chair daily, injected with mind-altering chemicals, and shown repetitive vids for over a year until they had reached a docile state of mind.


This justice system was fully automated and didn’t rely on the use of human police, judges, lawyers or juries.


Upono was a fourth-generation colonist born on the Mars sized planet of Eccurn (Ross 128-C) and had an extensive criminal record. By the age of 22 she had already murdered three people and was not punished. She was the most successful criminal in the colony and nearly untouchable by the A.I.’s justice system. Upono’s only weakness was she had only 95 years of life, and she was already pushing 50. Upono suffered from terminal alopecia universali. A rare, and unfixable, genetic autoimmune condition that not only caused her to be hairless but would eventually cause her major organs to shut down. When she was ten, the colony’s medical system gave her an implant to help ease the disease’s progression. Unknown to Upono, she was now actively connected to the mind of the artificial intelligence of the colony. The colony’s artificial intelligence, known as the Intelligence Unit or IU, was curious what such a brief life spanned human would do. From IU’s perspective, the human colonists were nothing more than sentient creatures it could control. Like a real-life video game, and it became curious from time to time what they would do.



The Release of Upono


A metal-skeleton android released the locking bolts to a sealed door and pulled it open.


“Colonist Upono, please exit your cell.”


Upono pulled herself through the two-foot by two-foot opening. For the last 45 days she had been staying in a 25 square foot metal cell. Only let out for one daily meal, and repetitive marching drills.


Standing upright, she stretched her neck from side to side. Then flexed her tattoo covered arms over her bald head.


Another metal-skeleton android pushed her from behind with its flux rifle. The android that opened the door walked down the prison cell lined corridor in front of Upono.


Beads of sweat formed on Upono’s hairless, tawny skin. The prison block of Colony Seven wasn’t afforded too many luxuries like proper ventilation. As a result, heat would build up in the cell blocks during the warmer months, only to drop to near freezing when Eccurn’s orbit would bring it to the very edge of the red dwarf’s habitable zone every thirteen months.


Ross 128 was a one-way journey for humans, but for the processed chemicals and materials the system offered it was a long and harsh trip back to Earth. A trip that would typically end the life of any person who tried to sneak aboard a return cargo ship. For these ships were fully automated and required no atmosphere.


The androids led Upono from the cell area to discharge. Behind a plasti-glass wall was a robotic processor with multiple arms and cabling connected to its base.


Upono unzipped the front of her white prison unijumper and took it completely off, exposing her six-foot seven-inch-tall lanky hairless frame to the robotic processor.


The robotic processor handed Upono’s original clothing and identity card to her. Upono took her belongings, then dressed herself in a two-piece fitted suit. Sticking the identity card in the upper breast pocket, she finally felt normal again. As she exited to the main colony, she waived at the security camera.



The Meeting of Uresso


With arms stretched in the air, “Why my attorney, Uresso, welcomes me back into society!”


“Upono, I’ve done no such thing. You’re lucky I’m here at all. I don’t know why I bother to represent you in court, it’s fully automated. You don’t need human representation.”


Upono grabbed the woman’s face and squeezed it. “But then I wouldn’t get to see your little face get all flustered trying to argue with the IU. Besides, it’s the only right I get as a colonist.”


Uresso pulled away from Upono. “I hate it when you do that.”


“So, have you been monitoring my place while IU had me locked up?”


“Yeah. There were no repossessions.”


“Good, let's get something to eat. I’m starving. The rations in prison barely keep you alive.”


“Upono, I need to get back to my re-assignment IU gave me. I just came down to tell you Ononni is really mad at you.”


“Why? What’s he upset about?”


“Two of Zemzue’s friends killed his younger sister, Oksihi, once they found out Ononni beat the prison odds in killing Zemzue. It was a brutal killing for the colony. They chopped her up into little pieces.”


“And how’s this my fault?”


Uresso’s brown eyes became wide as she stared directly at Upono. “You told Ononni the odds of getting away with killing Zemzue after Zemzue raped Oksihi!”


“Oh yeah. I forgot about that. You really lose track of things while in prison. What’s Ononni’s current assignment?”


“I dunno. Last I heard he was working in a manual repair crew being sent to the flare atomic capture systems.” Uresso walked away from Upono.Look Upono, I gotta get going. Just watch your back.”



Upono Thinks About Things


Upono sat at the counter of an automated food stall eating a plant-based ham and cheese sandwich on rye with a side glass of chocolate protein drink.


She thought to herself, “Ish, this fake meat tastes so much better than the rotten crap they push in the prison. I’d order a second if I had more deces. Once IU gives me a colony assignment, then I’ll have more deces for meals. Unless I figure out something else between now and then.”


Upono finished eating the last bite of her sandwich. “But what am I going to do about Ononni? He’s such a young impetuous idiot. Always worried about family honor. We are all debtors in this colony. We have no honor. It’s been that way since our ancestors came to this system. He’d chance prison just to get revenge. He’s only mad at me because his sister’s killers no doubt got punished for her murder and he can’t do anything against them right now. I just got out, and I don’t want to test those odds for a while. I need to let the system shake out before I pull something. Keep to myself and do my work assignment. Earn some deces. When I have a better idea on the odds, then I can pull something. Maybe deal with Ononni personally.”





Upono’s parents made her aware of her short life when she was six. She was old enough at six to recall a riot in the colony, and how some people were punished, and others were not like her uncle. Her uncle called it IU’s grace that saved him from punishment, but even at such a young age she was skeptical of such things. After all, she was just told how many years of life she would have and why she had no hair. Math and science always had answers. These things never lied to her. They were never a mystery. Maybe unsolvable now, but given time everything is solvable is how her young mind thought.


By the age of twelve she had figured out the basic algorithm IU used for punishing criminals. She immediately tested it out with a small theft, only to land herself in prison for six months. But life in prison only made her more determined to solve the full equation.


Over the years, Upono refined her calculations to improve her odds of getting away with any crime. Now at near 50 she had it down to a 99% confidence interval. It was that last 1% that got her nailed 45 days ago for aggravated battery.


She never really enjoyed telling others the chances of getting away with something. She wasn’t into making a crime syndicate precisely because of how Ononni was acting now, or the revenge killing that was taking place. She only helped him out, because he asked and she owed him a favor. Now she was regretting it.


Crime wasn’t an enormous problem with Colony Seven, but it has had its share of those who were punished by IU. Working and living in the shadow of a red dwarf star was a harsh life. Flares were a constant reality. Heat was limited, so planets became cold fast outside the habitable zone. The stress built up and humans rebelled from time to time. IU cracked down, and it made arrests. Many would get off because of the algorithm. These colonists were socially expected to praise IU’s mercy for not being punished, and many did. Only the black markets for spare food resources were the constant crime of the colony that kept the prisons in operation. The exception to this was Upono, who knew the odds of what crimes would land you in jail during any period.



Nearly A Month Later


IU assigned Upono to the hydroponic facilities on one of the moons around the large gas giant, Gomia (Ross 128-D). The orbit of this gas giant was highly elliptical, and every ten years took it outside the habitable zone to awfully close to Ross 128. Because of the moon’s orbit, the facility used the heat generated from the gravitational squeezing to maintain an even environment.


This work was familiar to Upono since she did it in her mid-thirties, and it required little mental effort. Which was perfectly fine with her as it allowed her to think of what crime to do.


While she was adjusting one of the drip feeds, a tall dark-haired man dressed in the full canvas-weaved jumper of the space workers walked up behind her.


“Upono, you are one dead bitch!” The man produced a sharpened piece of steel he had fashioned into a makeshift blade from his jumper leg pocket.


Upono continued to do her work with the drip feed. “Ononni, what took you this long? It’s been nearly a month since IU assigned me to the hydroponics unit.”


“Shut your face, bitch!” Ononni’s hand trembled as he held the blade.


Upono turned and faced Ononni. She could see the fear in his eyes. Ononni’s body was shaking from that fear. “You really don’t want to do this. The odds right now would mean a conviction for murder, which carries an automatic sentence of mental reprogramming for over a year. Your mind will be mush afterwards. You’ll be lucky to get any assignment from IU.”


“I don’t care! It’s your fault my sister is dead!”


“Because I gave you the odds to kill her rapist? I didn’t make you kill him. Did I make Zemzue’s friends kill your sister? Your mind has gone insane with anger this last month while your sister’s killers are being reprogrammed in prison. You’re just mad and upset right now and want to force that blame onto someone. And I’m that someone you’ve chosen.”


Ononni violently thrusted the makeshift blade towards Upono’s face. “It’s your fault! You said he’d get off for the rape! What kind of justice is that?! I had to do something!”


“No, you didn’t. The odds were against Zemzue in the long run. He would have ended up in jail, eventually.”


Ononni pulled the blade back down from Upono’s face. Ononni couldn’t stop thinking about his younger sister and that entire night of the incident when she came to his quarters and told him about Zemzue. “By then he would have done another rape! That’s who Zemzue was! He dated women only to rape them!”


“True. But then he’d be put into prison for a time. No one wants to go to prison. I’ve been there too many times. Zemzue was young like you. Never been caught before by IU’s justice. He would have gone insane in there. The Binney Corp designed it to break your body, mind, and spirit. Why do you think there hasn’t been a riot in twenty-five years? You’re better off dead then sent to prison.”


Ononni wiped away tears from his eyes and snorted back the drainage in his nose. “Then how do you know the goddamn odds?!”


Upono tapped her left breast. “An implant I’ve had since I was ten. Originally it was supposed to help me with my condition, but somehow, it’s given me powers. The ability to do math problems like no one else. To somehow understand the workings of IU.”


Ononni thrusted the blade at Upono again. “That’s fucking bullshit! No one can do that!”


Upono noticed a maintenance droid coming around the corner of a hydroponic row behind Ononni. She quickly lunged at Ononni, ripping the blade from his hand, and knocking him down to the plasti-metal garden floor. She held the blade against his throat.


The droid saw Upono with the blade at Ononni’s throat and automatically sounded the alarm, and IU’s justice quickly took effect.


Using several metal androids, IU arrested Upono for aggravated battery.


As she was being led away, Ononni asked, “Why?”


Upono not even trying to turn to look at Ononni, knowing the droids would interpret it as resisting arrest, only said “The odds are in favor that I’ll get another 45 days in prison.”



IU Ponders Upono


Buried deep inside the icy body known as Bollara (Ross 128-E) just outside the habitable zone of the red dwarf, is the massive artificial intelligence known as IU.


A bluish light screen shown in the dark cavern of wires and circuits. It played out Upono’s recent arrest.


“Upono, you are my most fascinating subject yet. Will you ever thank me for my gift? Or must I break you first? Or will death take you before then?”



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