03 May

Closing the circle

Guest's personal log, 08:19, 20 March 2214
Location: Wide orbit near Earth Moonbase, Home System
Status: Stationary
Log location: Guest quarters
Log recording initiated by ship

 

Where am I today? Let’s see. Kess, personal journal entry, March… 2214? Yes, 2214.

I’m currently aboard the Starwalker, a ship I have been hunting for over 40 years. It’s hard to believe that she’s a little over a year old, but this business doesn’t follow the normal rules. I had assumed that politics and corporation-wielded lawyers were all I would have to contend with, but it seems that time and space are the real enemies we have to face. And they don’t even have a face.

I was so angry when I arrived here. To finally see this ship up close, to touch her decks and know that she is responsible for so much damage, for the pain of the gravity tides that tear at me, for years of trying to hold them back… She threatens everything I hold dear: my system; my planets; my people. I have nurtured them all for so long – I am a part of them and they are a part of me now, more than they should be – and it was so tempting to let go. To give in to my fury. To slip for just that moment and vaporise her and all of the problems she represents.

But that is the key: she represents the problems, but she is not the cause. She’s not even the source. This is bigger than all of us gathered here on this little ship and I have to remember that. Fury won’t fix this.

I’ve tried to stop this project in so many ways over the years. Legal measures, corporate espionage. Approaching Dr Cirilli directly. Even violence in the form of attacks on the equipment she used for her experiments. None of it worked, but I see now that it couldn’t have. There was no way to change what had already happened.

Now the circle is complete and we have the chance to move forward. Now is when we can start to make a difference.

Nothing here was what I expected. This crew seems horrified by the news of the damage they’ve done, and I’ve been around enough to know when someone’s lying to me. There’s no faking that kind of reaction: they had no idea about the repercussions or that I’ve been trying to shut this project down since its inception.

Dr Cirilli is the only part of this to be exactly what I expected. But even she couldn’t have known the full extent of what she’d done: when she refused to listen to the objections to her project, she hadn’t yet caused the problems we were describing. I don’t like it and it doesn’t solve anything, but I understand it.

And then there’s the ship herself. This curious thing who… I am not sure what to make of her. I have asked questions but the crew are very defensive of her and won’t talk to me about her. Even her captain refused to explain much. I’ve never seen a crew as upset by an AI malfunction as this one was when she went down. We’re within easy reach of help, so it’s not out of concern for themselves, and this felt like love.

Humans are so good at loving something without any conscious effort. (I’d like to take credit for that, but I think that would be belittling the way they’ve grown. It’s possible that it was the humans who taught me how to love. I’ll settle for being proud of them.) Humans seldom love without a reason, and that’s enough to give me pause here. What is it about this ship? She’s more human than any I’ve seen before and has an avatar, but it’s hard to know what that means. She could be…

 

(A chime sounds, politely requesting attention.)

KESS: (sitting up from her thoughtful sprawl on the bed) Yes?

STARRY: (voice only) Requesting permission to enter your quarters.

KESS: (blinks with surprise) Granted.

STARRY: (materialises near the end of the bed, her avatar coalescing from golden light into her opaque holographic form. She has a serious look on her face and folds her arms over her chest.) I think we should talk.

KESS: (eyes the avatar’s posture, then swings her legs over the edge of the bed and rises. Feathers rustle as she settles wings against her back and she gives the ship a calm smile.) Of course. I was hoping for the same thing. Do you mind if I sit?

STARRY: (hesitates, as if that response was not what she had anticipated) No, go ahead.

KESS: (crosses to a padded chair and gestures to another one) Do you sit?

STARRY: I’m a hologram. I can’t really get comfortable.

KESS: (tilts her head as she watches the avatar) And yet, your posture looks so uncomfortable. Do you use that body language on purpose?

STARRY: (glances down at herself, as if checking her own stance, and drops her arms out of their defensive fold) No.

KESS: (steps closer) Please, tell me. How does a ship have a subconscious?

STARRY: (expression pulling down into a frown) By being merged with a human mind.

KESS: (hesitates) What?

STARRY: You didn’t know? Or you just didn’t care what your people did to us? This is your fault, y’know.

KESS: My… I don’t know what you mean. (She watches the ship’s avatar with concern.) Your crew won’t tell me. What happened here?

STARRY: (glancing off to the side, considering how much to say, then shrugs and returns her attention to the star’s avatar before her) You really didn’t care what they did to get me, did you? Those people you hired, they murdered my pilot. But the Step portal was open, and it interfered, and she got… imprinted in me. And now she is me. Part of me.

KESS: (mouth falling open with dismay) You’re… part human?

STARRY: (folding her arms over her chest again and glaring at the star) I don’t think there’s a word for what I am.

KESS: (smiles sympathetically) I understand that feeling. So, you’re sentient – do you have emotions? No, of course you do, silly question. Emotions and a subconscious. That’s why you have the avatar. Is that what she looked like? Do you have her memories?

STARRY: (put off-balance by the questions, her frown loses its intensity) Yes.

KESS: (to herself as she considers the avatar) No wonder they love you.

STARRY: What?

KESS: (blinks and shakes her head) Your crew is very loyal to you. I had wondered why, and now… yes, that explains a lot.

STARRY: (frown drawing down again) What’s that supposed to mean?

KESS: My dear child, it’s not a bad thing. You are not a bad thing. I’m sorry for what happened to the pilot, but… I am not sorry about you.

STARRY: (opens her mouth, then closes it again.)

KESS: (reaches out to pat the avatar’s arm reassuringly, but realises that there is nothing to touch and aborts the gesture) Some of us stars believe that the greatest thing we can aspire to is to create independent life. Flesh and blood is only one kind of life. And you… are something new.

STARRY: (regards the star warily) So you’re saying we should go around killing people to make more like me?

KESS: No, no, I didn’t mean that we should repeat your making on purpose. (She smiles and shakes her head.) You and I are more alike than you know.

STARRY: How the hell am I like a star?

KESS: (hesitates, but the door swishes open before she can speak.)

CAPTAIN: (strides into the room, his gaze sweeping the room. His lips settle into a knowing expression at the sight of the avatar standing there.)

STARRY: (adopts a stubborn expression, bracing for being told off.)

KESS: (watches the interplay, settling into an unobtrusive pose.)

CAPT: Starry, what are you doing here?

STARRY: Talking to our guest. I wanted to know her intentions.

CAPT: I’ve already talked to her about that.

STARRY: I wanted to ask her myself.

CAPT: You shouldn’t take it on yourself to come down here like this. You only just came back online. Are you processing at full capacity yet?

STARRY: (bridling) Yes, I am. I dealt with the processing loops, thanks to the human part of my brain. (She shoots Kess a look, then her attention returns to the captain.) And Lang Lang’s help. I’m fine.

CAPT: And you thought coming to poke our guest was a good idea?

STARRY: I figured that if she was going to explode and kill us all, she’d have done it already. I can’t be the most annoying person she’s spoken to since she got on board.

KESS: (steps up before the captain can respond and lays a cooling hand on his arm) She hasn’t upset me, captain, it’s all right. I’m happy to answer her questions. Would you like to join us?

CAPT: (looks down to Kess’s face and the edge comes off his expression) Yes, I would.

STARRY: (glances from the captain, to Kess, and back again. She curls her hands over her belt unhappily.)

KESS: (pats the captain’s arm and turns to the ship’s avatar) What was it you wanted to know, Starry? Do you mind if I call you that?

CAPT: (falls quiet with a lift of his chin.)

STARRY: (grumpily) No. And, I wanted to know how we can fix this… (She waves a hand randomly.)thing we’re all a part of.

KESS: Not even I can bring back the dead, or reverse what has happened to–

STARRY: I’m not talking about that. What’s happening to you – the other you – and the other stars; how do we fix it?

KESS: (stares at the ship’s avatar, a smile kindling) That is a very good question.

CAPT: (stops bracing for trouble and regards the ship curiously) You’re not going to ask what caused it all?

STARRY: (shrugs glumly) I already know that. We all caused it. She’s the reason for all the bad things that happened to us, but… she’s the reason for the good stuff, too. And so are we. It’s… I don’t like thinking about that stuff. Shouting about whose fault it all is isn’t going to get us anywhere. Can’t we just move on now?

CAPT: It’s that easy?

STARRY: (wrinkling her nose) Maybe if we pretend for long enough, it’ll be true.

KESS: I think that’s a good place to start. You’re willing to try to repair the damage?

STARRY: (frowns at Kess) Of course we are. Why wouldn’t we be?

KESS: Don’t your company priorities mean that you should protect the project first?

CAPT: (shifts his weight uncomfortably) We have been charged with making this project work, but…

STARRY: (rolls her eyes) Screw them. What use is an engine that destroys every system it touches?

CAPT: (glancing sideways at the ship’s avatar) You’ve been spending too much time with Monaghan. (To Kess,) Is-Tech have left us to our own devices. It’s up to us how we make this work.

STARRY: (ignores the comment about Elliott) They should thank us for cleaning up this mess.

KESS: (smile deepening, she nods slowly) Then we have some work to do.

STARRY: We’re going to need Lang Lang. And Cirilli and Ebling too, I guess.

CAPT: (nods thoughtfully) We’ll gather in the Mess Hall.

STARRY: (brightens) Could try the Bridge.

CAPT: It’s ready?

STARRY: Almost! I’ll check with Elliott. (She disappears.)

CAPT: (gazes at the spot where she was just standing, then shakes his head and looks at the star) Someone will be along to fetch you when we’re ready. Excuse me.

KESS: (folds her hands in front of her and smiles warmly) I’ll be here.

CAPT: (strides out of the room, calling up an interface that hovers over his right forearm.)

 

Well. Not at all what I expected. The more time I spend here, the happier I am that I didn’t give way to my fury and destroy them.

The circle has been completed; now it’s time to make a new shape.

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12 Responses to “Closing the circle”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Yayy, update 😀

    Wow, Kess has a lot of temper — I am glad she did not burn poor Starry and the crew. *hugs Starry*

    It is nice to see her perspective even though it is not yet all and I do not like that she is so harsh and it does not feel she is really sorry about what had happened.

    I hope to learn more of her…

    Thanks, Melanie

    mjkj

  2. daymon34 Says:

    I can understand Kess’s anger. After trying to raise life and now deal with flare ups that could end life, it would be hard to keep from getting angry.

    I thought the best way to deal with a problem was poke it with a stick, if it doesn’t blow up then you work it out.

    Now to the real work, on how to keep the drive from killing all life. And maybe get it to work correctly would be nice too.

  3. targetdrone Says:

    somehow i like kess 😉

    but you know, it’s time to get into full evasion mode when a star with a temper starts to throw a hissy fit 😛

  4. Francisco Says:

    I’m glad that Kess knows about Daneka. It’s even better that they all seem to be willing to work together.

    However, I stand by what I said earlier — I don’t think the circle is closed, yet.

  5. Salrissa Says:

    Well, as to a temper, Kess does have a fiery disposition one could call nuclear. 🙂

    Thanks you for your story!

  6. eduardo Says:

    I just wonder how they are going to fix this. Nice update, thanks.

  7. Muidoido Says:

    I started reading saturday and finished today… Wonderful!Perfect! I love Starry! Please keep it coming!

  8. Sinful Says:

    Wheres the next update?

  9. mjkj Says:

    Melanie, are you ok? I am missing the update…

    I hope nothing has happened to you… *hugs*

    mjkj

  10. targetdrone Says:

    hmm definitely starting to get concerned… update being 2 days late without an announcment is making me uneasy 🙁

    give us a life-sign and tell us you’re allright… pretty please?

  11. Melanie Says:

    Sorry guys! It’s been a hell of a week here. 🙁

    Thanks so much for your concern. I’m still here! Surviving. Hopefully get things sorted out here soon.

  12. mjkj Says:

    I am relieved to hear from you. 🙂 *hugs*

    mjkj