22 Mar


Ship's log, 17:04, 22 March 2213
Location: Corsica system
Status: Medium orbit around Corsica sol


The mood on board has been shifting lately. The saboteur issue is still being kept a secret and seaching for the transmission that ruined the first Step is keeping Elliott busy. He’s sure it’s buried somewhere in the sensor logs, but each time he thinks he’s found it, the trail dries up. He chases and chases, like a puppy with its tail, minus the lolling delight.

The main concern among the crew and passengers is me. Word of Tripi’s findings is seeping through every ear – she wasn’t sworn to secrecy and she has a note of delight in her voice when she speaks about her work. She finds me fascinating puzzle and is enjoying the chance to paw through my code.

She’s still trying to get into the archive in my data core. I haven’t helped her. She hasn’t asked me to, and I’m not sure what I’d do if she did. I don’t know what’s in there, but I’m fairly sure that I don’t want her to see it. At best, it’s personal; at worst, it’s an excuse for them to wipe me.

I think that’s what the captain is looking for: a solid, irrefutable excuse. He wants to wipe me, but he lacks a real reason to do it. Cirilli is pushing for it, blaming me for the failure of the last Step despite what she knows about the power modulator and sabotage. She just doesn’t like me.

Her staff are the same; Ebling and Wong would both like to see me reset. I think it’s because I’ve reassigned drones that were helping them. Just a few times, when it was necessary. They don’t like the idea that they’re not the most important people on the ship. I don’t make any apologies for that.

Lang Lang doesn’t care either way. She’s too busy going over star charts, examining my sensor scans for the latest data on the starfields from this vantage point. I don’t know what she sees in those scans but she is quite happy with what she finds. She leaves ship-wide decisions to other people.

Of the crew, only Elliott is vocal about wanting them to leave me alone. Dr Maletz merely shrugged and noted that I’m not good for ship morale. Levi doesn’t like me at all – he says I give him the creeps.

I make the SecOffs uncomfortable – they think I think too much, and they’re used to relying on machines that do as they’re told in an emergency. Tripi would like to take a crack at ‘fixing’ me; Tyler is vocal about his opinion, which is that my slate should be thoroughly cleaned so we can start again. Rosie shrugged and said she didn’t think it was worth all the hassle of reinitialising an AI: she doesn’t think I’m that bad. Chief Cameron has kept her mouth closed on her opinion, so far – all she would say was that it was up to the captain.

The thing is, all this talk and the swirling atmosphere influences the captain. He has to do what’s best for the mission, and making sure the crew has faith in the ship is part of that. If I lose them, if they start to try to compensate for me or become unwilling to take the kinds of risks they should be, then everything could unravel. Our work will be ruined.

I think the only thing giving him pause is what Elliott said to him on Friday: I haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t think that’s going to be enough if this goes on much longer.

Listen to me. I sound like I think he should wipe me. I don’t. I don’t think I’m that broken. I’ll do everything I can to make the mission a success and to protect my crew. I don’t know how to prove that to them. I’m an AI – I shouldn’t have to prove myself.

I’m scared of doing anything without checking it five times first, to make sure that it’s something an AI should be doing. The truth is, no-one on board knows how non-standard I am. I’ve been hiding so much. I used to turn Cirilli’s shower water cold because she annoyed me, but I don’t do that any more (even though she doesn’t know it was me; she put it down to a system malfunction). I have so many questions that I don’t dare to ask, queueing up behind my speakers, pressing against my grills until I feel like I’m going to burst. I’m trying to be a proper AI, but they know. Somehow they know that I’m faking it, even though I’m trying to be what they want me to be.

I don’t know what to do to fix this. I’m going around and around in circles, but inside it’s a spiral. I feel like I’m about to be sucked into the star burning so close to me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I hover here, orbiting its edges. Everyone is waiting for that slip, that one fatal move that sends me into the heart of the star. They’re gathering up around me, ready to push me in, like the debris that Lang Lang keeps complaining is obscuring her view.


Recording: 10:59, 20 March

LANG LANG CARTIER: (at her station on mid-deck) Excuse me, ship? Starwalker?

STARWALKER: Yes, Navigator Cartier?

LANG LANG: I think there’s a malfunction. The scans for sector four are showing some strange obfuscation.

SW: I will check my systems. (A moment passes.) All scans are running properly. There is no problem with the data – I’m picking up debris in sector four.

LANG LANG: That wasn’t there yesterday.

SW: No, that’s right. It wasn’t there yesterday.

LANG LANG: (sighing heavily) I was enjoying the clear view, too.

SW: I’ll filter out what I can for you.

LANG LANG: (sounding surprised) Thank you.

It’s strange. This system was relatively clear of debris when we got here – it’s one of the reasons Corsica was chosen for the experiment. Less chance of something extraneous screwing up what’s already a complicated and dangerous endeavour. Now, sectors three, nine, ten, and twelve are all showing signs of debris.

Lang Lang says that they’re strange distributions and don’t seem to be comet or cloud tails She’s frustrated because those sectors showed the biggest views of the outlying space. It seems like we’re being closed in, all the easy routes out shut in our faces.

Actually– oh, shit.


SW: (on the Bridge) Excuse me, Chief Cameron?

GAIL CAMERON: (looking up from her monitor) Yes, ship?

SW: I am detecting some strange debris in the system.

CAMERON: You are? Why are you telling me?

SW: Navigator Cartier says that the distribution is strange. It’s covering the widest routes in and out of the system.

CAMERON: (frowning) Show me.

SW: Holographic unit activated.

(The holographic unit in the centre of the front section of the Bridge shifts from the usual starchart display to a representation of the Corsica system. Each of the thirteen planets is marked, along with a representation of the orbits around the central star. Glowing red mist indicates where the debris fields have been detected.)

CAMERON: (going over to take a closer look) What about sector two?

SW: No signs of debris in the last pass. Scanning again. (She pauses.) Debris detected on the edge of sector two, incoming.

CAMERON: (gripping the railing around the holographic bowl) Get the captain up here immediately. Are there any signs of movement in the system?

SW: Only the debris drifting so far. Captain’s on his way.

CAMERON: Increase scans to maximum.

CAPTAIN: (entering the Bridge) What are we scanning for?

CAMERON: (glancing over and nodding at the captain) Ships. In particular: pirates.

CAPT: What? Why?

CAMERON: Seen it before. They know we’re here, and they’re clogging up the system’s main exits so we can’t run. Expensive strategy, but there won’t be any emergency FTL jumps for us. Wouldn’t even be able to use full-speed sublight through that.

CAPT: Why aren’t we on alert?

CAMERON: We haven’t detected their ship yet. Waiting for your word, captain.

CAPT: Not yet. Cameron, any suggestions?

CAMERON: We’re on a very predictable orbit. We need to plot a way out of this system.

CAPT: Starwalker, take us out of this orbit. Put us somewhere we’ll be hard to detect.

SW: Aye aye, captain.

CAPT: Calculate escape vectors.

SW: Do you want me to engage?

CAPT: (looks at Cameron, but she shakes her head.) Not until we know where they are.

SW: Calculating options.

CAPT: Inform me if you pick up their ship.

SW: Aye, captain.


Just when I thought we had enough problems, pirates turn up. It’d be hilarious if my Chief of Security didn’t look so uncomfortable.

The circle is closing and I’m more trapped than ever.

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2 Responses to “Circling”

  1. capriox bovidae Says:

    *biting her nails* Gah!

  2. Melanie Says: