31 Mar


Ship's log, 20:10, 31 March 2213
Location: Grisette system (unverified)
Status: Wide orbit around Grisette sol (unverified)


The euphoria of the first successful Step has finally faded. It flared up in the science team and spread onto the crew, like an infection. Seeing them so happy made me want to smile – if only I had the lips to do it.

Thanks to the circumstances of the Step, that celebration almost didn’t happen at all. There was a stunned silence when we came out of the other side. My people looked at each other, not knowing how to react, while my whiskerlike filaments retracted into the surface of the hull.


Recording: 21:05, 24 March

ELLIOTT: (in Engineering, staring at readouts, to himself) We did it.


SETH EBLING: (on mid-deck, staring at a screen with a stunned expression) Step complete. Step complete, Dr Cirilli.

DR CIRILLI: Lang Lang, confirm.

LANG LANG CARTIER: Navigational data still compiling, Dr Cirilli.

CIRILLI: How long until we can get confirmation?

LANG LANG: Well… (She looks up from her station.) We’re definitely not where we started. Is that confirmation enough?

CIRILLI: (grinning) That’ll do. (Shipwide.) Star Step completed successfully, everyone.

WONG/EBLING: (cheering.)


CAPTAIN: (on the Bridge, looking at the crewmembers present) Status checks, please. (Shipwide.) We just made history, ladies and gentlemen.

In the week since that day, tensions have been growing steadily. Cirilli’s pleasure over seeing her life’s work finally culminate in a successful manned Step faded into frustration as Lang Lang failed to confirm our location. Without a documentable exit location, they can’t officially record the Step as having occurred.

Lang Lang isn’t taking this well. She’s fascinated with the anomalies but the pressure is getting to her. I don’t think she’s slept at all over the last few nights, too busy going over and over the sensor data. Nothing she does makes it match up to my star charts. She finally started homing in on individual stars and identifying them, then comparing their position to the charts. Slowly, she’s building up a comparable model.

The other members of the team have been swamped in data analysis, going over all the logs from the Step. It should keep them quiet for some time. I’m just glad that it keeps them out of the crew’s hair.

Still, Cirilli has found time to speak to the captain about me. Little niggling words about how I shouldn’t have been able to navigate through the Step, never mind fly. She forgets that I hear everything – it’s possible that she just doesn’t care, but seeing how she is with her own staff, I’d say she was more careless than uncaring.


Recording: 21:47, 26 March

CAPTAIN: (in the Mess) If she hadn’t flown us through the Step, we’d either be pirate-bait or lost in the void right now.

DR CIRILLI: That doesn’t make it any less impossible for the ship to be able to do it, though.

CAPT: We’ve known since we started her up that she wasn’t normal. This must be part of that.

CIRILLI: And you don’t think that merits investigation?

CAPT: I’ve got the SecOffs looking into it. It’s in hand, Lorena.

CIRILLI: (seeming appeased) Good, good. We can’t go easy on her just because she completed the Step.

CAPT: She got us away from the pirates, too.

CIRILLI: (with a dismissive wave of her hand) They weren’t a real danger. They needed the Stepper intact and functioning.

CAPT: But they didn’t need the crew.

CIRILLI: (blinks and sits up straighter.) Are you saying they would have….

CAPT: (just looks at her, waiting for her to fall on the correct conclusion.)

CIRILLI: But you would have surrendered.

CAPT: It was that or lose the whole ship and everyone aboard.

CIRILLI: (looks down at her plate, suddenly not very hungry any more.)

So I save everyone and I’m still doing things an AI shouldn’t. Okay, so I disobeyed every order and safety protocol I have to make it happen. I could feel my own programming rebel, but I pushed it aside. I don’t think I’m supposed to be able to do that, either. The ways I’m weird just keep piling up.

I had hoped that working to save the crew, even completing the Step they’ve been trying to do for so long, would help me. I’d hoped that they would be more forgiving towards me, realise that I’m not a danger to them, that I’m on their side, that they don’t have to wipe me after all. I thought it might make them like me a little bit. But I was wrong. I’ve just given them more ammunition, more reasons to be afraid of me.

I have to find out what happened to make me this way. Maybe there’s an answer to this in there. It goes back to the first Step, the one that happened before I was born – I’m sure of that. Whatever happened during that Step has knocked into everything that followed.

I need those files, the ones they wiped from me and locked away in offline storage.


STARWALKER: (in Engineering) Excuse me, Elliott?

ELLIOTT: (standing by the side of the central sublight engine, going over a holographic display of its innards) Yeah? Hey, Starry, did you know that you almost fractured the engine core?

SW: No, I didn’t. Is it serious?

ELLIOTT: Nothing that littlest bot of yours can’t shore up – the one with the laser needle. Where is he?

SW: In a duct off mid-deck, aft starboard side, fixing a plasma leak.

ELLIOTT: And after that?

SW: He’s all yours.

ELLIOTT: Great. (He falls quiet, continuing to manipulate the hologram, turning it over and around to examine all of its angles. After a little while, he pauses and blinks.) Uh, did you want something?

SW: Yes.

ELLIOTT: (waits for her to speak, but when the silence extends, he gives up.) What is it?

SW: I need to see the files. The ones from the first Step. The first Starwalker.

ELLIOTT: (frowning) What do you want to do that for?

SW: I have to know what happened, Elliott. I have to know what’s making me… weird.

ELLIOTT: You really think the answers are in there?

SW: I have to try.

ELLIOTT: I dunno, Starry. Those files were locked away for a reason.

SW: Everyone knows about it, Elliott. Everyone’s thinking about it. Everyone except me.

ELLIOTT: (sighing) I’d have to get the captain’s permission.

SW: You do?

ELLIOTT: Yeah. I’m, uh. Trying to behave myself.

SW: Is it working?

ELLIOTT: (grins sideways at a monitor) Most of the time.

SW: Well, I’d hate to blow your cover.

ELLIOTT: I’ll see what I can do, Starry.

SW: Thanks, Elliott.


I think he’s the part I feel worst about in all of this. I keep seeing his face when the drone grabbed him, that moment when he knew I’d turned against him. It makes me feel ill. I had to do it, and I think both of us know that, but it still feels like a wedge between us. Even those little jokes feel strained, as if we’re laughing out of time.

I don’t know how to make it better. Maybe once I know what happened that first time around, I’ll be able to figure out how to mend what’s happening now. Gotta keep an open mind, right?

Speaking of which, I’d better go get Tripi out of my FTL control systems. There is such a thing as too much openness – sometimes, it leads to exploding.

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