20 Jun

Faith

Ship's log, 14:18, 28 March 2214
Location: Entry corridor to Earth atmosphere, Home system
Status: On final approach for entry

 

It’s about time. Sixteen hours in orbit, slipping around like a spastic fish so that we stay out of range of sensors on the Moonbase, waiting for landing control on Earth to designate us a slot in the entry queue. All so the Judiciary won’t spot us. There aren’t even that many ships waiting! Sixteen hours, and now we finally have our landing destination approved: Seville, Spain. I have no idea what the hold-up was.

The captain says it’s something to do with the unrest on the planet. More storms, apparently, making people panic. I’m not sure why that means slowing down the landing roster; all I know is that it has been damned stressful, circling around like I’ve got a thruster broken and can’t keep to a clean vector. The proud pilot and precise AI in me agree equally that it sucks.

I’ll be glad when we’ve finished our work in this system and we can put a few hundred lightyears between us and the Judiciary’s ships.

But before we can get to work, we need to drop off our starborn passenger. Too much chance of her exploding and damaging me before I’m done fixing what’s wrong with the star; it’s better if she’s far, far away from me. Can’t get to the Moonbase, so Earth is our best alternative.

 

External pressure detected.
Atmospheric entry underway.
Temperature readings increasing.

 

Yes, thank you, autolog. I have it all in hand, so to speak. Gas burns on my hull as I move from vacuum to friction-filled atmosphere. It’s like pressing into a great, warm, scouring hand. Tickles.

Another twenty seconds and I’ll be flying above the clouds, skimming over the fluff like a metal bird.

Speaking of bird-like things, I hear my name.

 

Location: guest quarters

KESS: (standing in front of a mirror and fastening up her shipsuit) Excuse me, Starry?

STARRY: (materialises behind her. Their reflected gazes meet.) We’re entering the atmosphere now; should be over Spain in a few minutes.

KESS: (tugs her collar straight and leaves the top fastening undone, turning around to face the ship’s avatar) Oh, good. But that’s not what I was going to ask you.

STARRY: Oh?

KESS: I was wondering what your plans are once you’ve finished your work on my celestial body.

 

Why does she want to know that? Does she still want to take charge of me?

 

STARRY: (frowning and folding her arms over her chest) Well, you’re not the only star I’ve Stepped through.

KESS: (loses her calm expression; dismay slides in to replace it) How many have been affected?

STARRY: Uh… five. Including you. And… one of them might be beyond fixing.

KESS: Grisette.

STARRY: (looks away) Yes.

KESS: (reaches out a hand as if to pat the ship’s arm, but she remembers that it’s a hologram and aborts the gesture) What’s done is done, Starry. All you can deal with is what’s now, and what’s to come.

STARRY: You’re not angry?

KESS: (tilts her head, regarding Starry for a long moment) I grieved for her a long time ago. There was no malice in what you did. You and your captain have promised to mend those you’ve damaged. What good would anger be, now?

STARRY: I… suppose that makes sense.

KESS: (smiles gently) So once you’ve fixed them all, what then?

STARRY: (frowns again) I don’t know yet. Things are… complicated.

KESS: I’ve promised your captain that I’ll withdraw the bounty I placed with the pirates. They won’t come after you again.

 

Really? Well, I guess there’s no point for them to chase us now; she caught up with us and we’re doing what she wants. No, that’s not fair: we’re doing what’s right, for everyone.

She doesn’t need the pirates any more. It’ll be one less thing for us to worry about.

 

STARRY: What about the Judiciary?

KESS: (spreads her hands with a regretful expression) That wasn’t entirely of my making, and is rather more complicated to undo. And I’m not sure they’re unjustified in their purpose.

STARRY: So, what, you think we should give ourselves up to them once we’re done fixing things?

KESS: No, no. That’s not what I meant.

STARRY: What, then?

KESS: I hope by then that they have no reason to be chasing you.

 

What does she mean? For that to be true, there would have to be no illegal research material on board any more. My Step drive would have to be gone, mid-deck gutted, the filaments ripped from my hull, and… what would I be then? What use would I be? Half a ship that used to be something?

 

KESS: (tilts her head as she watches the avatar’s expression with sympathy) Oh, my dear child, it’s not all you are. You are a great deal more than this project could have ever been.

STARRY: (staring) What do you mean?

 

How the hell did she know what I was thinking?

 

KESS: You, little one. You… (She smiles and shakes her head.) There’s so much I’d like to talk to you about. I think there’s a great deal we could learn from each other.

STARRY: Like what? Why do you care?

KESS: Because you and I are alike, in more ways than you know. And because I’ve been where you are, and creatures like us should be… free to be who we are. (She sighs softly.) You are not at all what I expected. I hope that one day, we might be friends.

STARRY: You sent people that hurt us.

KESS: I know. And you love your crew very much, don’t you?

STARRY: Yes.

KESS: (smiling and holding up a hand) One day, Starry. I don’t expect you to forget or forgive all of that right away.

STARRY: But you expect I will eventually? The way you seem to have forgiven us so easily for hurting you?

KESS: Time gives an interesting perspective, and mine is different to most. I hope you will, that’s all. Will you allow me that, at least?

STARRY: I… guess.

 

I wish I understood her. She seems so nice, smiling at me and speaking of friendship. Her hands keep fluttering as if she wants to reach out; she has a habit of touching people, little reassuring pats, but she can’t with me. The only way she can touch me is with words. This is her, reaching out.

She wants to be friends. Do I believe her? I… I think I do. I want to.

 

STARRY: We’ve got some time before we land. What did you want to talk about?

KESS: (shaking her head again) Not now, child. When this is behind all of us.

STARRY: Okay. Why do you keep calling me that?

KESS: Child? Old habit, I suppose. Because you’re one of mine.

STARRY: (frowns) Yours?

KESS: (smiles and spreads her hands) The same way all people are.

STARRY: But… I’m a ship. I was built in a different system, and even Danika, she wasn’t from Earth.

KESS: My memory goes back further than that. You started here, once upon a time.

STARRY: Oh.

 

She really thinks of us that way? As children and charges? But she isn’t condescending about it; it’s more like a quiet acceptance.

One of hers. Is-Tech were only too glad to deny all connection with me when things got complicated. Things here, with Kess and Terra Sol, are so much worse, but she’s making a point of telling me that she considers me one of her children.

 

KESS: I’d like it if you came back to see me, when your work is done. Will you do that?

STARRY: It’s not up to me. You should talk to the captain.

KESS: I’m talking to you. Will you at least talk with him about it when the time comes?

STARRY: Okay. I can’t promise anything, though. My probability calculations can’t work that far ahead.

KESS: (smiles, amused) It’s all right; that’ll do.

STARRY: (shifting her weight) We’re circling above Seville. Are you sure you want us to drop you off here?

KESS: Yes, this is fine.

STARRY: Isn’t it dangerous for you to be on-planet while I’m working? What if you explode?

KESS: I can’t channel enough energy to damage the planet. Don’t worry, I’ll head out to somewhere remote for the time being. I have a cabin in the mountains.

STARRY: Which ones?

KESS: Most of them.

STARRY: And you’re really just going to let us go off and do our thing?

KESS: Yes. I believe you’ll do what you’ve promised.

STARRY: Just like that? You hardly know us, and you went to such lengths to find me…

KESS: I know you well enough. The little things give you away, and I know that I can’t control everything that happens. (She spreads her hands again.) All I can do is seek to influence them in the right direction.

STARRY: You’re very calm about that.

KESS: I’m used to it. Part of the beauty of my position is watching the unexpected happen. Like life. Like love. (She smiles warmly.) If I was able to control everything, you would never have been built, and then we both would have missed out. Hm?

STARRY: You’re like a tiny zen bubble.

KESS: (laughs) In my better moments. Maybe I’m just glad that I’m not too old to be surprised.

STARRY: I thought nothing was new under the sun?

KESS: Oh, you never know.

STARRY: (grins, then she blinks) I have to go talk to landing control. We’re almost there.

KESS: All right. Thank you, Starry.

STARRY: (nods and disappears.)

 

That has to be the weirdest conversation I’ve had in a while. She wants me to come back. She’s offering me a place to come back to.

She’s offering me something beyond the project that hums in the centre of me. I know she wants it gone – after all, look what it can do – but she didn’t make any demands. No threats. Just an offer.

She’s either very sweet, or very clever. The little things give us away. She has been around humanity for millennia – for it’s entire history – and no doubt she has grown very good at reading people. Has she read us? Does she just know what buttons to push?

Her people love her, but I don’t think it’s manipulation. It’s obvious in the worry that Warren tries not to show about her, and in the way he catches her when she stumbles. When her solar self flares, her avatar struggles, and he’s always there to hold her. She seems to need it, too. Her affection feels real to me. Affection for him, and for Sasha, and… for me?

Can she really know what I want? What I want to be? A good ship: it’s not complicated, except for the part where good ships don’t damage stars and endanger systems. I don’t want to be just this, a tool of a company that has already thrown me away. I want to be more. Somehow, she sees that already, as if I’m already there.

I want to believe in her. I want to ask her if she really is everything she seems, and why she thinks we’re so alike. I want to ask her if she really will call the pirates off us. I want to ask if she lied to us. But what possible answer could she give? Either I believe her now or I don’t; asking those questions won’t change that, whatever her answers are.

I don’t have enough data. I can feel Danika pushing towards her, wanting. Emotion without justification, without logic. But that’s what faith is. I don’t know if my calculations will allow it. They should. I want them to.

Danika wasn’t the religious type. She always said that she was too busy exploring the world to contemplate what was on the other side. Living like she meant it.

She never needed it. She didn’t have the burdens I do now. She was free; she was her own master. She didn’t have error messages that flash when logic fails and things don’t make sense. She didn’t see the universe from the outside.

I want something to believe in. Why can’t that be the heart of the star who watches over us?

What do you think of this post?
  • Love it (6)
  • OMG (0)
  • Hilarious (0)
  • Awww (3)

11 Responses to “Faith”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Awwww… *hugs Starry*

    Well, if they find a way to righten the steps through the stars they did they even could go back in time to save Grisette also…

    …and then there is still the unfinished business with Danika’s brother…

    *looking forward to the next update*

    *hugs Melanie* – Thank you.

    mjkj

  2. Francisco Says:

    I keep thinking back to the predictions I made in the first two posts I ever made here. Am I right?

    To the other readers, I posted my theory on the entry titled “Trusting strangers”.

  3. Francisco Says:

    I suspect the only way to save Gisette is not to use her in the first place. They can’t stop themselves using her because *that* would be a temporal paradox.

  4. Francisco Says:

    Then again, maybe time travel works differently to how I would expect it to work, in this story.

  5. Francisco Says:

    Sorry for the quadruple post.

    It might be possible to save Gisette. I, personally, can only see it being done by violating the Grandfather paradox. However, there may be a way of doing it without violating that paradox that I haven’t seen or it may not apply in the Starwalker universe. However, I think that the “Restricted action resolution” theory (see link) would apply to the Starwalker universe. Am I right?

    And to be fair, I am writing a story at the moment where the Grandfather Paradox can be violated so I’m one to talk.

  6. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – yup, there’s a lot to come. 😀 Grisette is probably their most tricky problem to tackle. *hugs* for you too!

    Francisco – hee, interesting! Kess and Starry are becoming friends (I wasn’t sure for a while, but they seem to have stopped fighting it now!).

    I love your theory about how Kess’s avatar came to be. I can’t tell you much at this stage (what fun would that be?), but I’ll say this much: you’re close. Starry didn’t teach Kess how to have an avatar, but the nature of their avatars is very similar. It’s one of the reasons why Kess says they are alike. You’ll find out more in the next post or two!

    (I may wind up writing Kess’s story one day. Who knows?)

    As for the time travel aspect… that is tricky. They’ve already been caught in a causal loop they couldn’t break out of: it’s why Danika died and Starry was born, and it’s why they can’t save Maletz and Wong. If they changed history (rather than simply being a part of it), none of them are aware of it, and that limits things.

    Grisette is already dead, and you’re right, changing that would be a paradox. It’s entirely possible that the ‘self-fixing’ time theory (‘restricted action resolution’ from your link) could apply, but they (and we) haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.

    At this point, I’m not entirely sure if they’ll try to fix Grisette. That’s a conversation the crew have yet to have! (Meaning: I don’t have it explicitly planned either way at this point, and the opinions of the characters will have a big influence on this.) So I guess we’ll all see!

  7. mjkj Says:

    Well, first: was Grisette not alive before they made the first step? (If I recall correctly they were surprised that Grisette was gone later on as they looked back…)

    I thought something like that: when they have figured out how to fix stars that they had stepped through, they could go back in time to Grisette after that first step there and before she died and fix her up…

    Thanks for the hugs *hugs some more* 😀

    mjkj

  8. targetdrone Says:

    yep, its my impression too that grisette was alive at the beginning of the story… so it would be fixable i guess if they manage time travel without further tearing up anymore stars….

    oh, and *hugs starry* she needs that… after all thats some mightily fine character development she is going through (from simple ai to self aware ship in less than a year? 😉 )

    thanks melanie for a continually amazing story 😉

  9. Andrul Says:

    I wish I could cite the author properly but my memory’s not what it used to be. Anyway, said author postulated that time travel is not possible because every time it’s invented some traveler would eventually mess up the events that culminated in the discovery, thereby causing time travel to never being successful. Also, it has been suggested somewhere that the Grandfather Paradox is just a minor, self terminating loop with the time traveler effectively removing him/herself from the future time line.

  10. Francisco Says:

    Ardul,

    The Grandfather Paradox starts with from the premise if a time traveller removing themselves but does include the situation you mention (because that’s another way they can remove themselves from the loop).

    I remember a discussion programme with some scientists and they said the simplest form of the Grandfather Paradox is what happens if you have a particle go round a track (that allows the particle to travel back in time) such that it knocks itself out of the way. That sounds pretty much like your scenario.

  11. Melanie Says:

    Sorry, guys, to clarify: Grisette is alive when they travel back in time. But she then dies between that time and the story’s present – she’s not dead in the story’s history and timeline. So, to save her, they would have to change known history, rather than just being a part of creating it.