Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2018 Day 8: the Intelligence Test

By Robin de Voh on 2018-10-08

"We may have one," Sorba said, pointing at monitor 37. A handwritten note had been taped to it, showing that it was monitoring "Planet 89B9x".

The monitor showed a lifeform walking towards a camera. At the bottom of the monitor an odd machine with colored buttons could be seen. The camera seemed to be attached to it. As the lifeform approached, its purple snout sniffing around it, all 4 buttons blinked at the same time, in an attempt to grab any nearby lifeforms' attention.

The lifeform noticed and waddled over, its head cocked to the side slightly.

"It doesn't seem all that intelligent, Sorba," Lim said, standing behind Sorba's chair.
"Well, Lim, you said the same about the Kalozians, and guess who just received an embassy here."
"I maintain that they're not that intelligent," Lim said dryly.

Sorba chuckled. "Oh, here it goes!"

The lifeform lifted its snout and pushed one of the buttons. It lit up. Then another button on the machine lit up. The intention was for the lifeform to understand what was expected of them. They were expected to push the button that just lit up. It was a test of basic intelligence, and it had already brought tens of species into the galactic fold. But it had been imperfect.

One of the species deemed to be intelligent by the test had not been intelligent at all, just very fast and very angry. Every time a button lit up, it would smash it instantly, before any other lights had the chance to light up. It hit every single button correctly, but after reviewing the footage the council had decided not to make contact at this point.

The purple thing -- 'thing' is a scientific term for species not yet contacted or named -- hit the button as expected. A new pattern lit up, now using 2 buttons. The snout hit the buttons in order.

One species that had not completed the test but had been decided to be intelligent -- though also unwelcome according to some -- had been humans.

They were bipedal and seemed to have a coordinated society. A group of them had shown up near the machine they had dropped on Earth. They had presented evidence of advanced speech patterns, a willingness to work together and an understanding of how machines like these work.

The purple thing finished the test, after which the lights stopped blinking. It looked into the camera with eyes that showed understanding. It had done something important, and it knew it. It turned around and walked away, singing a song of high notes and whistles.

Sorba filled in the form needed for contact and then handed it to Lim. "Take this to the council. We've got another one."
"Sure, at least this one left the machine intact," Lim said as he turned around.

Sorba remembered. The humans had shown up, looked the machine over and had noticed the blinking lights. They opened their mouths and let out a 'ha ha' sound Sorba hadn't understood. The universal translator had worked really hard to translate it, and came back with '[laughter]', which didn't help Sorba much. Laughter? At the test? He didn't get it.

Then the universal translator managed to translate some other words that they had said, which Sorba hadn't understood either.

"Saymom Ses", the machine had printed on the screen. "Saymom? Ses?" Sorba had said out loud. He smacked the translator and called it a word he normally wouldn't use in polite company.

Then the humans had gone away. They hadn't completed the test, and so Sorba had focused on other monitors instead. If they weren't ready, maybe they would be sometime soon.

But a short while later, the humans returned, in a vehicle of some sort. They got out and walked up to the machine holding metal tools he didn't recognize. They went towards and around the machine and he could see it being jostled.

Then the machine got lifted into the air and slowly moved towards the vehicle. It was put in the back of it and everything turned dark. Sorba had then activated the built-in lights, and had seen that some of the men were in the vehicle with it. As soon as the light turned on, their heads turned towards it violently and they started using their metal tools on the machine. He could hear metal on metal and clanking, as they worked on it.

Then the camera went out. Communications with the machine were disabled.

It took a while for the council to make a decision. After reviewing the footage, the discussion basically came down to two major arguments. Yes, they stole the machine without completing the test, but they did show intelligence by disabling it. Do we want that kind of behavior on the Citadel, someone had asked. No, of course not, someone else had answered. But we have a mandate to invite any intelligent species to join us. We'll need some kind of protection against these thieving humans, someone added.

And that's when the Citadel police was formed.

Because we had encountered the first species that would steal something before understanding it.

The humans have been here for some time now, and while usually there's nothing going on, items do keep disappearing.

We can't be sure it's them, since most species here do not understand the concept of personal property and won't report anything going missing. So even if something happens to disappear into a human's pockets, they needed hard evidence to do anything about it. And Sorba really wanted to prove they were the thieves.

If only they'd stop stealing the cameras too.