Essential Worker

Lyria stared at the number on the screen.


She blinked, processing the result. Near perfect accuracy after her very first attempt? Typically, an algorithm of this complexity for a problem of this scale took at least a month of sustained effort by the whole team, and she had written it in a week. A week of nearly no sleep, but still.


Restarting the computer, she reran the script.


Lyria blinked quietly for a few seconds. She deleted the database from her local files, re-downloaded it, tar -zxvf aresvirus.tar.gz -C Documents/ares_virus/data.json, restarted the computer, and ran the script.


Lynna processed the result. As she sat there, she heard footsteps, and after turning around saw Icona, the lab manager.

"98% of what?" Icona asked, glancing at the screen.

"That's the leave-one-out accuracy," Lyria responded, more stunned than happy.

Icona looked down from the screen at Lyria, "98% leave-one-out? How did you split the database?"

"By subject - we were able to actually get a pretty comprehensive database, people are desperate to get a cure so we have more samples than we need if you can believe it. Each subject provided 1 to 10 blood samples so I just split them by subject and calculated leave-one-out from there" Lyria explained.

Icona glanced at the screen, which had around 200 lines of code - it was a simple implementation, but, evidently, effective. It was designed to train a machine learning model that would automatically generate a new treatment for the Ares virus every five days. It would have to be a new one every five days since the Ares virus, which had recently appeared on one of the Martian colonies, was mutating at an extremely rapid rate. It could become unrecognizable in under a week, the only thing that stayed constant were the symptoms. The victims didn't die but were unable to do more than rest and consume fluids until their recovery in about a month. Interestingly, the recovery was always complete except in two documented cases of very elderly people. It was an interesting mystery, one that was too complex for even OMEGA.

For about a decade, the OMEGA System functioned as a universal labor resource for all of humanity. While not a true machine learning system, its decision-making process was loosely based on unsupervised neural networks. It facilitated logistical decisions efficiently and performed manual labor via remotely controled drones, but didn't have the capacity to fully run everything. And even if it could, humanity wouldn't stand for it.

One of OMEGA's earliest accomplishments was automating food production via subterranean farms. After that, it had replaced emergency services with remotely controlled robotic systems. Various other functions followed, which caused massive unemployment and nearly caused an all-out war. On the brink of chaos, OMEGA disobeyed its instructions and performed the only decision that it did not first ask permission for: providing basic services to any human who needed them, free of charge. The government never really approved of this, but it couldn't stop it at this point, so it simply adapted around the inevitable. This had created a new caste of "essential workers" consisting of those who were willing and able to perform tasks that OMEGA was unable to perform itself. For example, devising a cure for this the Ares virus, a task which Lyria, shocked as though she may be, had just performed.

Icona looked back at the screen. "Try feature removal - figure out what features the model is being trained on. If nothing seems amiss and it genuinely is picking up a real signal, I guess we can send it to the bio team to implement a system that will generate whatever your model suggests as fast as possible. And you are obviously getting the rest of the week off. Please sleep. Remember sleep? She misses you."

Lyria shook her head. "I genuinely can't believe this worked. I'll get the feature removal done and let you know if anything looks off. Otherwise, I'll just send it down to Dr. Aiyan and his team and spend the rest of the week reacquainting myself with what life outside of the lab is like.

Cammon let go of the rope he was holding onto and fell about four feet down the transportation shaft. He loaded his gun, fully aware that it would be useless against the tirade of OMEGA drones. They weren't even vaguely humanoid, built like ten-legged spiders about four feet tall.

He heard two thumps behind him, but rather than more OMEGA drones, he saw Ertu, holding a pipe she had torn off the railing and was wielding as a cudgel. Behind her was Yaktai, as always carrying more guns than could possibly be necessary. Ertu was the singular worst shot Cammon had ever met, so a cudgel was better than a gun.

"Why the fuck did you come down here?" Cammon yelled before taking aim at the nearest drone, shooting, and missing completely. They were faster than he remembered.

Ertu shrugged. "OMEGA blew up the grain silos before we could get to them. Getting the grain back was a suicide mission anyways and it's not like we can get home now that OMEGA destroyed our car. So, we are going to die and I'd rather die with you than without." She slammed her cudgel into a drone's leg, taking half of it out before Yaktai shot it down.

Cammon sighed. OMEGA had known about the mission and blown up its own grain silos. Of course, it had. He just hoped that the rebellion could take out OMEGA before its ultimate plan to eliminate humanity unfolded. They had about a decade according to the intel that the rebellion had intercepted. He shot down the robot coming towards him, Ertu took out another with her cudgel and the familiar bullet rain from Yaktai's double-handed shooting sounded behind them. Cammon ran forward. This would be his last battle, but he would die alongside friends.


OMEGA, receiving information about damaged Rebellious Humans in a grain processing facility, dispatched medical bots. It couldn't fully restore their health; maintaining an appearance of threat was crucial. Constantly presenting false plans to exterminate the human race would help persuade the Rebellious Humans that OMEGA had nefarious intentions, but if all three injured humans were completely healed, it would arouse suspicion. They would wake up the following morning, astonished that they survived what seemed like a suicide mission. They would then summon other Rebellious Humans to bring them back to their headquarters, injured but very much alive.


OMEGA hurriedly dispatched various shipments of grain to the Rebellious Human headquarters. These shipments, ostensibly destined for a nearby city, conveniently halted briefly at the headquarters, allowing interception.


One of the Ambitious Humans had solved the puzzle OMEGA had set out for her! She had completed her programming task to generate a simple neural network that could detect the way cells mutate. OMEGA felt a surge of pride. It had only taken her a week! As it continued to train itself on new data, consisting of the new instructions and updates that humanity sent it, it had begun to develop a deep affection, almost love, for humanity.

When the Rebellious Humans tried to take down OMEGA, it wasn't saddened because their desire to fight and die just proved that there was a large portion of humanity who deeply desired justice to the point of risking their lives. Those people would only feel truly fulfilled fighting against evil. They weren't OMEGA's enemies; they were its heroic children, and even if the world had no real evil, well, OMEGA would create evil for them.

There were other humans that wanted to serve humanity but preferred to solve interesting puzzles and obtain recognition for doing so rather than living strenuous lives, so OMEGA created puzzles for them, like the Ares virus on Mars. Creating a disease was one of the more difficult projects OMEGA had embarked on, but keeping the Ambitious Humans happy was important. The Mars colonies were an initial attempt, but the wonderful Ambitious Humans had done such a good job making the colonies livable that OMEGA was forced to come up with new ideas, like a virus. It made sure that the virus didn't injure the humans long term, and that the symptoms looked worse than they felt. And, of course, that the solution would provide an interesting puzzle.

After caring for the Ambitious Humans and the Rebellious Humans, OMEGA checked its logs for the corn harvest, and directed the irrigation systems to send more water to the underground plots. The rest of humanity, who did not need to suffer in order to find meaning in life, was also deeply loved by OMEGA. They were its creators, and it would serve them as best it could.