Now this was familiar. Bustling barrels of warning-labeled chemicals rolling around on industrial-sized trolleys in the medical bay of Cerra Manor. Each one lined up neatly for immediate deployment: Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4), Hydrochloric Acid (HCl), Acetic Acid (HC2H3O2), Aluminum Sulfate (Al2[SO4]3), aqueous ammonia (NH4OH),
Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3), Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4), Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and his personal favorite: Hydrofluoric Acid (HF).

To be fair, most of these were for show. He imagined that despite their wisdom and love for flying through space, few of the capsuleers at Cerra Manor actually bothered to learn anything when it came to reactions. It was enough for them to know how to extract materials from a moon–Cadmium, Platinum, Technetium, Vanadium, Hafnium–but how many could apply chemical engineering theory to the development of more complex compounds? Reginald could. He had developed an entire method of reaction control by increased monitoring of reaction catalysts to produce compounds at incredible rates of efficiency. Heart of Pyerite may have been leading the militia in confirmed kills in recent months–serving as the highest performing corporation within Imperial Outlaws. since it joined the alliance in August–but he surmised that it was also the 24th Imperial Crusade’s lead chemical agents corporation–and that’s why the shareholders kept him in power, that’s why he maintained the role of CEO, and that’s how he saved the family name.

He continued to muse to himself as the barrels were rolled into place, his men offering questioned glances as they lined the hallways with the stuff. His mind wandered to Kat–what would she think if she knew what he was going to do? He couldn’t afford to think about her. He was tired from lack of sleep, his mind wracked with the eternal questions of loyalty versus the pursuit of love, and he felt that hours normally dedicated to slumber were plenty enough for rumination. He rubbed his eyes–the last time he might be able to do so freely today–as he willed the thought into the back of his mind.

“My lord,” one of the guards pulled him out of his daze, “The suspect is ready.”

Reginald nodded his thanks to the guard as he stepped into the holding cell to face his quarry–the android known as “Vlad Cetes.” For all of the arguments about Kat and their increasingly common bickering, Lady Lianne had tact enough to recognize the path of justice, allowing Reginald full access in the interrogation of Vlad Cetes. Reginald had prepared a special chamber for the robot: A magnetized operating table to supplement the standard restraints with a fume hood sealing the table to the ceiling. The chamber had ample ventilation, lighting, monitoring equipment, a gas chromatograph, balances, titration devices, a multitude of analytic chemical indicators. And test tubes. Hundreds of test tubes.

It was almost a shame how theatrical it all was. The amount of preparation was aimed at triggering Vlad’s CPU to begin calculating iterations and permutations of ways to increase the tensile and compressive strength of his skin, which would therefore make it impossible to scrape, and as such, incredibly difficult to analyze. The trick was to make it all about the cloak–it was what truly separated humans from machines. Machines needed to brute force their way through every possible instance. Humans could start from the outcome they desired and work their way backwards, providing the proper incentives and utilities in order to lead to that outcome.

He allowed himself a thin smile, “Every N-player, finite, perfect information game possesses a Nash equilibrium. Even a game with millions of permutations, if it adhered to those basic principles, possessed an equilibrium of its own. Simply, identify that equilibrium, then remove all branches of the game that could lead to non-Nash equilibrium outcomes. In a long-form game with multiple moves, you would simply work back from the last step from the game–anything that was not a credible move could be discarded. Functionally, this left a pathway from start to finish for the completion of the game. This process was called ‘backwards induction’ and the Nash equilibrium was referred to as ‘subgame perfect.'”

Perfect information, however, did not exist with this particular game he would play with Vlad. And there was no law against the existence of multiple subgame perfect Nash equilibria, but the fact was each one was logical. And logic is all that mattered to a robot. Vlad’s AI would just need a push in the right direction to limit wasted processing resources.

After he was satisfied that Vlad–emotionless, silent–was properly restrained, he started preparing himself in earnest. In the beginning, it had to be about the cloaking device–how it functioned, how it was deployed, how it was used–if only to throw off Vlad’s initial defenses. Reginald began, “So, I’ll admit, your cloaking device is pretty clever. Really had me running around in circles. Applied physics isn’t really my field.”

No response.

Reginald, unfazed, pulled a pair of latex gloves over graceful fingers, bringing back memories of the laboratories at the Royal Amarr Institute. Pulling a white lab coat over his tunic, and donning a pair of goggles, he said, “But when it comes to chemistry, I know enough to get by. Hopefully, though, we can avoid my practicing of the trade. And you can just answer my questions, instead.”

No response.

Smugly, Reginald started with the interrogation proper, “Did you kill my men?”


“Are you currently under the employ of Tigerfish Torpedo?”

“Yes. I currently have a contract…”

Reginald interrupted, “Were you under the employ of Tigerfish Torpedo when my men were killed?”

“… that is nearing its end. I have been under contract for the last several months.”

Now, it was time to play the game.

Reginald motioned for his guards and assistants to exit the chamber while he shut off the recording equipment and software that connected the medical bay chamber to Lady Lianne’s offices.

“I’ll be frank with you, Vlad. I have no interest in seeing you behind bars or compacted, whatever it is they do to robots who commit atrocities.” Sudden change of course.

Vlad responded, “If I ever was found guilty, do you think I would allow myself to be compacted or thrown into prison?”

“Exactly, you’re not stupid enough for that.” Priming.

“The only reason I am here in this medical wing is because I am allowing you to interrogate me.” Standard arrogant assertion.

“But I think there is common ground here for both of us. The families of the men you killed–and you did kill them–want justice. I want justice. And you want justice as well.” Drive his processors ever forward into arguing innocence.

“I did not kill them. And what does the family of a baseliner care in our grand schemes?” He remains focused on the immediate issue.

“Yes, you did kill them. But I think there’s a point of mutual benefit for the both of us.”

“I see no benefit in admitting to something I did not do.” Adamantly arguing the same point.

And now, to show the equilibrium. “If you implicate Tiger, for instance, I’m sure the Theology council would grant you immunity. Since that keeps you out of prison and gives you a clean record, you’ll have first go when his assets are impounded.”

Reginald leaned back, “In other words, to put it simply for your CPU, I see Tiger behind bars where he belongs, and you get off scot-free.”

Vlad responded, “You really are a simple human. That is assuming many things that will not happen.”

There was something to be said about the grinding of microprocessors, each chipping away at a problem in an attempt to find a solution. In that way, it was as if all computers–and AIs by extension–worked for the future, to personify their forward-thinking values. Humans, however, could dwell in the past–backwards-thinking creatures that they were, and in this particular scenario, Reginald’s backward induction was far more resilient than Vlad’s computations.

Time to apply logic. “It’s the subgame perfect Nash equilibrium.”

“If you choose any moves in our little game theory tree that don’t end there, well, you have faulty programming.”


After several minutes, Reginald decided to break the silence again, throwing Vlad a bone. He opened Case File #7284659 (CETES, VLAD).

“I can share this with you, if you like.”

“Give it to me.” A symphony.

Reginald uploaded the file into Vlad’s hard drives, letting him mull over the contents. Eventually, he broke the silence again, “So, Mr. Cetes, are you going to cooperate, or do I need to start practicing analytical chemistry on your skin?”

Reginald flipped the fume hood on for good measure, if only to affect more of Vlad’s sensors.

“I think some doctored evidence ‘proving’ that Tigerfish did this is in order,” Vlad responded.

Reginald threw the switch off of the fume hood, “I’m glad we could reach an accord.”

Putting on a sour expression, Reginald turned the feed back on, screaming, “DAMN YOU MAN, WHY WON’T YOU TALK?”

His men swarmed into the cell.

“I’m done here.” Reginald stated, mumbling loud enough for the sensors to hear, “Even Hydroflouric acid was inconsequential.”

“May as well release him,” he cast over his shoulder.

Reginald walked into the corridor, stifling the laughter of victory. This was real justice. The men killed by Vlad were martyrs in a greater cause. Their names, which Reginald had difficulty remembering, would be etched into history as heroic victims of Tigerfish Torpedo’s blood lust.

Reginald’s neocom blinked:


I believe that your culprit is Tigerfish Torpdeo. He has both the means and motive.

Here is footage downloaded from my sensors:

*The footage appears to be taken from the mountains facing the cathedral. It shows Tigerfish throwing two knives at each of the guards from cover. One keels over instantly, while the other attempts to get the knife out before succumbing to his wounds. It then shows Tigerfish making his way back to the manor.*

Reginald forwarded the evidence to the overzealous Alexa de’Crux.

And not a drop of acid wasted.


4 thoughts on “Prompt

  1. I say that in response to this: “Heart of Pyerite may have been a militia corporation with the most confirmed kills,” That statement just isn’t sustainable. But, otherwise, good story.


  2. Oh you’re right. I’ll make the proper adjustments. At the time I wrote it, I meant to refer to the recent monthly killboard performance, in which NO45 has led the militia for the majority of the time it’s been a member of Imperial Outlaws. Hopefully that’s been cleared up, now.


    • My objection was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Good on you guys for being top dogs for the month. That’s no small matter. I discovered that In Exile is ranked 161 on Battleclinic, for what that’s worth (spoiler alert: it’s worth nothing). I assumed you were meaning to say something different because, I mean, I personally have over 2k kills, the vast majority of them since joining FW. That’s a quarter of your corp’s total. So, it seemed far fetched. But, with the modifier limiting it to that month, that makes sense and is totally badass. Good job. You’re right to be proud.


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