13 Jul

Internal conflicts

Ship's log, 15:32, 8 February 2214
Location: Gienah system, 40 years ago
Status: Maintaining orbit around Gienah Sol


I’ve been free for two days now. There should have been celebrations. A feeling of lightness on my decks. A tangible shift of power and control. Singing and laughter. Something should feel different, in a good way.

Instead, I have a dark Bridge closed off in the heart of me and a Med Bay overfull with injured. Hardly anyone speaks except to make terse reports or argue about something. I can’t bring myself to interfere, afraid that I’ll get caught up in their spirals and despair.

I should do a proper status report, as if tallying the damage up can make it all make sense. As if cold facts and figures make it easier to deal with. The AI in me says that will be true. The human parts of my processing don’t want it to be easier. I am made of contradictions.

I’m in full working order but too rudderless to go anywhere. I have no captain to tell me what I should do; he’s still unconscious. He’s supposed to be my guide, my yardstick, my decision-maker in all things. Should I be my own master now? Should I take my helm and choose my own course?

I’ve done it before but not like this. I’ve always had John there to tell me that I’m being crazy or reckless (or both). To pull me back. To fix things if I screw up. Now there’s nothing for me to fall back on, no way to know if I’m making the right choices. No last word to settle things into tangible order. Just me, with my non-standard processing and disabled failsafes.

No part of me wants to be in this place. Danika had no wish to ever be captain; she was a pilot and happy in that role. Other people worried about the important stuff and she was free. Now I’m free and have to worry about everything. How did that happen?

Ships have captains for a reason. A regular AI wouldn’t be able to make any kind of real decision. I can make decisions, but I’m also capable of killing my crew without meaning to.

Like two days ago when we took my ship-self back. No-one was supposed to die, but they did. And that was with John at the proverbial helm. How am I supposed to do better without him?

Status report. Let’s start there. If in doubt, put human nail-chewing aside and fall back on protocol.

I have 5.2 bodies in storage. The 0.2 is John’s arm; we can’t reattach it on board, so it’s preserved in case someone else can.

Three pirates are irrevocably dead and locked in cold storage containers in a cargo bay. Maletz and Wong are in stasis pods. We got Maletz into stasis quick enough that he might be revived, but we don’t have the equipment on board to fix him, even if we had a medic capable of doing it.

Wong… I don’t think we can save him. I scanned his brain, and it was fried so badly by the pirate collar that there’s little chance of fixing it all. If he was resurrected, he wouldn’t be him, and he has the standard contract clauses that prevent resuscitation in the case of a complete brain-wipe. Those clauses were brought in when medicine made it possible to heal the body and its functions easier than cerebral faculties and storage could be recovered. He doesn’t want his body up and walking around if it doesn’t belong to him any more. I don’t blame him.

I located the sensor logs that show us how he died. It started just before the daisycutter exploded, while Elliott was entering mid-deck.


Recording: 12:06, 6 February 2011

ROSIE: (securing the hands of the unconscious pirate.)

WAKING PIRATE: (groans and blinks blearily. His wrists are lashed to his thighs by twists of wire and his elbows are pinned to his sides.)

EBLING and WONG: (watch from the other end of the room.)

WAKING PIRATE: (twists on the floor to take stock of the situation. His eyes narrow.)

ROSIE: (glancing over) Just stay where you are. It’s over.

WAKING PIRATE: Hunt’s gonna be so pissed.

ROSIE: Shockingly enough, we’re willing to risk it.

WAKING PIRATE: (glaring at her) I’m not. Supercalifragilistic–

ROSIE: (leaping over at him) No!

WAKING PIRATE: –explodalidocious.

ROSIE: (grabs him by the throat and punches him in the mouth to stop him speaking.)

ELLIOTT: (enters the room at a jog.)

EBLING and WONG: (scream, their bodies going rigid. Their collars are alight with red flashes.)

ELLIOTT: (stops) What the hell…?

ROSIE: Verbal trigger! Get them off now!

ELLIOTT: Fuck! (He runs to the scientists and crams his device against Ebling’s collar.)

WAKING PIRATE: (grins at Rosie, showing bloody teeth.)

ROSIE: (looks down, lets out an angry howl, and punches him again.)

ELLIOTT: (fights against Ebling’s convulsions and punches buttons on the device. It eventually bleeps and the collar unclicks; he tears it off and throws it away. Turning to Wong, he shoves the man’s flailing arm aside to repeat the process.)

EBLING: (lies still, his body relaxing and breathing settling into an even rhythm. His eyes are closed, consciousness stolen by the pain pumped through his body.)

WONG: (writhes in stiff motions, blood frothing from between his lips. His breathing chokes off.)

ELLIOTT: (swears viciously until the collar finally accepts the hack and disengages. He yanks the thing off Wong’s neck and flicks it away as if it’s barbed.)

WONG: (falls limply, mouth slack, eyes half-open, bloody froth dribbling from the corners of his mouth.)

ELLIOTT: (pulls a different scanner off his belt and holds it over Wong. He presses the same button three times, and every time he gets the same response: no life signs. No pulse, no cerebral activity. Nothing. His voice strangles.) Fuck. (He stumbles back a few steps until a console bumps him from behind. He leans on it, staring, pale-faced.)

ROSIE: (whispers) Oh, god no. (She looks down at the pirate below her. She has him half-lifted by his throat and there’s blood spilling down his face from a broken nose and split lips. She starts shouting insults at him, driving her fist into his face over and over.)

(The whole room trembles. Rosie is the only one who appears to notice, breaking out of her frenzy: she lets go of the pirate abruptly and stumbles back a few paces. Breathing hard from the exertion of punching a guy, she grips a bulkhead with one hand and looks around.)

ROSIE: Starry! What the hell was that?

They both feel responsible: Rosie for not stopping the pirate giving the verbal trigger for the collars; and Elliott for not getting to Ebling and Wong fast enough to stop them getting hurt.

There’s no way Rosie could have known that one of the pirates would have a keyword set up; it’s a dangerous thing to do, in case it’s used accidentally or the audio processors pick it up due to some kind of error. It’s not standard practice. But then, neither is hiding a daisycutter in a belt buckle, and not even the Lieutenant knew about that one. I wonder if he knew about that pirate’s keyword.

Elliott is angry with everything. He fixed up the heavy drones with a vengeance, going to great efforts to beat out the dents caused by the explosion. I think my big boys left that damage for him to fix because they knew he’d need it. He won’t tell me why he’s upset, but I think he feels that he should have got to the scientists in time. Or his hack should have been better, faster.

It’s not his fault Wong died. I checked the log four times and can’t find anything that he should have done differently. I tried to tell him that but he wouldn’t let me; he just started up the metal saw and went back to cutting a sheet down to size to replace one of Big Ass’s panels.

Things are even messier with the injured. Ebling got away from that encounter with minor burns around his neck and some neurological symptoms. The shock from the collar gave his brain chemistry a shake-up and there’s mild cerebral damage in a couple of places. He’s been snapping at everyone since he woke up, and it’s hard to know if it’s a result of the shock, a side-effect of the pain or the meds, or post-traumatic stress combined with guilt.

I’ve caught him glaring at Wong’s stasis drawer; I think he knows that it was luck that took Elliott to him first, luck that he was the one freed before major damage was sustained. It could easily have been him lying there. I’m keeping him in Med Bay for a couple more days, until his burns have healed and he’s a bit more stable. He doesn’t like it but I don’t want him to disappear behind the privacy locks in his quarters.

It’s extra tricky because the pirate that set off the collars is still in Med Bay, too. He has head injuries and an ugly face from the battering Rosie gave him, and hasn’t regained consciousness yet. I don’t think anyone wants to see the man who killed Wong wake up. No-one else has tried to hurt him yet, though. I’ve got the pirate patients curtained off from the crew, in the hopes that will stop anything violent breaking out in there. It’s a fragile barrier.

Cameron is helping to keep an eye on things there too. I can’t keep her in one place for long – she insists on overseeing the captives in the cargo bay, monitoring crew dispersal, and checking on my diagnostic reports – but she is sleeping in Med Bay where I can monitor her condition. She has a few broken ribs and a lot of bruising; nothing too serious if she would only stay still long enough to heal.

She was great when the injured were brought into Med Bay, helping my boys to treat them. She’s not a full medic but her field training makes her a very able hand in that kind of situation. Without her, I would have more bodies in storage by now. She refused treatment until the rest of the casualties were dealt with, and eventually I had to have Casper sneak up on her with a sedative. By then, she was pale and her response times were getting longer and longer. She was in pain, though she’d never admit it, and she deserved to rest.

While all that was going on, Rosie and Elliott were in charge of putting the less injured pirates into cells down in one of my cargo bays. They had no leeway left to give; each pirate was stripped of equipment and clothing, and kicked unceremoniously into the cell. No chance of any more hidden surprises, unless they’ve built them in under the skin. At least inside the cell’s charged walls they can only hurt each other.

Let’s see, who else have we got. The two remaining science team members are both up and around. Lang Lang had a clean break on her left arm. The bones have been knitted back together and meds are keeping the swelling and bruising down. Her forearm is still in a rigid brace, but she can probably take that off in a day or two. She doesn’t know whether to help or stay out of the way, so I have her plotting Step courses to our potential destinations.

Cirilli got off the lightest: bruises and cuts that barely needed sealing up. Yesterday, she visited Med Bay to see how Ebling was and he promptly told her to fuck off. Since then, she has been spending all her time in mid-deck going over Step data. Every now and then, she asks me how John is. It’s hard to know what to tell her.

We’ve bound his severed arm up as best we can; it’s not pretty but it’s not bleeding any more. We won’t be able to treat the nerve damage until he wakes up. We haven’t tried to reattach his arm; it’s at the edge of what my medical programming covers, my equipment isn’t designed for limb recovery, and I don’t think his body will take any additional trauma right now.

By the time we got him to Med Bay, he was almost dead from shock and internal bleeding – it took over an hour to stabilise him. We re-knitted several broken bones, and on the inside, a patchwork of plastiskin is holding most of his major organs together. He’s hooked up my best diagnostic equipment so that I can keep him stable. It lets me break his condition down into stats and little glowing lines, like a proper computer, and I can pretend that I don’t care so much.

Sometimes, his pulse wavers as if he’s fighting for a way out from under the sedatives. Stay still, John. Sleep. Heal. Don’t fight me because I’m already doing everything I can; my medical files aren’t enough for real doctoring. They can’t cover the multitude of possibilities and contingencies involved with dealing with organic flesh. Cold facts and metal drone hands are no replacement for a trained medic’s experience and skill. I never thought I’d miss Maletz this much.

Rosie asked if we should put John into stasis. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted; if he was suspended, I wouldn’t have to watch his vital signs compulsively for signs of trouble. I wouldn’t have this sick feeling prickling where my Bridge sensors used to be. Both Cameron and I said no at the same time, though – stasis is too dangerous to use on a living person. It’s not putting them in that’s the problem: it’s getting them out again. Unfreezing organic tissue is a tricky business. The body can be repaired but the brain is different: destroy the wrong cells and he might not come back as him. If he came back at all.

No, stasis is a last resort, only employed when the patient is otherwise dead. Emergency measure. John doesn’t need that yet.

I mean, he won’t need it.

He’s stable right now. I can keep him that way until we get to somewhere with proper medical staff. Of course, where we should go for that is one of the things my crew has been arguing about. The JOP is out until we can be sure that the Judiciary isn’t looking for us. Go to Is-Tech and make them fix their employees? To Dyne, where the best prosthetic and limb attachment surgeons are? To Omni, where they do cutting-edge medical research and have the most advanced treatments? To the leisure colony at Corusc, where money speaks louder than law and they’ll do anything to keep paying customers alive?

And what about our pirate passengers? What do we do with them? Three are currently lashed to beds in Med Bay, including the Lieutenant. He can barely move between a leg broken in four places and deep lacerations in both shoulders. The rest are in the cargo bay cell. My people keep arguing about opening the cargo bay doors and flushing out the problem. I’m keeping them triple-locked for now; I don’t even trust myself right now.

So many questions and so many voices answering. I have no-one to quiet them. How did I get here?

I can tear holes in reality but I still have no idea how to get out of this place.

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23 Responses to “Internal conflicts”

  1. Targetdrone Says:

    hmmm.. it seems they need outside help if they want to recover maletz and reintegrating the captains arm πŸ˜‰

    the question is, where to get it? or when?
    depending on history, i’d seek out a time where there are a lot of privateers, as they most likely will assist for money without asking too many questions πŸ˜‰

    as for opening the cargo bay doors… only in the vincinity of a star, after all we dont want to pollute space unnecessarily *evil grin*

  2. mjkj Says:

    Wow, quite heavy…

    *hopes they will be all right*


    (meaning the non-pirates…)

  3. Belial666 Says:

    Couldn’t they, theoretically speaking, travel back in time to take a full brain scan detailed enough to reconstruct a dead person’s brain?

    If the technology to read/transfer human minds actually exists and getting a sample from a dead person can be done by traveling to the past, does this mean the new time-travel tech can make anyone ressurectable even if they’ve been blown apart?

  4. Melanie Says:

    Targetdrone – feed the pirates to a star? I’m sensing some hate here. πŸ˜‰ It does seem fitting!

    mjkj – pirates need hugs too! …wait, I’m not sure that’s right.

    Belial666 – the copy of Danika’s brain into the ship’s computers was a fluke, never happened before. So, while there’s tech to interact with a human brain, actual copying and reimplanting hasn’t been done successfully yet (in this universe). Doesn’t mean they can’t try!

    If they went back to scan Wong, they’d have to go back to before the mission, to avoid crossing their own timeline and creating a paradox. Which means you’d end up with retro-Wong, not current-Wong. Still better than dead-Wong!

    So, it’s possible, but very hard. πŸ™‚

  5. mjkj Says:

    I wonder what will be next in their actions

    *gives Starry a hug*

    Space-ships need hugs more than the pirates do…

    *hugs* Thank you for the story, Melanie πŸ˜€


  6. Targetdrone Says:

    tbh, i’d avoid contacting themselves like the plague… thats a recipe for disaster and a paradox in the making …

    @Melanie – they wanted to step through a star now, didn’t they? just aiming to please …. *insert another evil grin*

  7. Retsof Says:

    I think this would be a good time to paraphrase something form a forum I frequent.

    On universe ending paradoxes: “If a paradox happens, it, by definition, ceases to be a paradox, and the universe would likely just get over it.”

    About the Pirates, I vote they just find a remote planet to dump them on (problem here being the lack of habitabal planets). Or maybe an abandoned space station somewhere. OOOH! pit them all in a life pod and shoot them (at as high of a speed as can be managed) toward the nearest law enforcement, with a record of their crimes. We have to be the “good guys”, but that doesn’t mean we have to be nice about it.

  8. Targetdrone Says:

    actually, even the good guys can be pretty harsh with captured pirates (well… if we don’t account for our present day practice of setting them fre…. er handing them over to authorities where they mysteriously get free again to continue pirating…)
    but until some 100 years ago, a pirate captured was summarily executed… and for good reason πŸ˜›

    and tbh, i dont think a paradox will result in the universe to end… yes, the universe will get over it, however theres no good raeason why some usless bump in the road (aka the reason for the paradox) will get over the paradox with the same ease … πŸ˜‰

  9. Retsof Says:

    Well, the thing here is, had the pirates been executed in the first place, it would have been fine, but now that they have been imprisoned, the crew has committed itself to not killing them.
    Also, is anyone here a Troper? This needs a page on TVTtropes but I am not registered and know nothing about creating said page.

  10. Targetdrone Says:

    who said anything about killing? i just want to set them free…… tough luck for them that this might prove to be unhealthy on a spaceship, but what they do with their newfound freedom is not of my concern. everything past the airlock is of their own choosing πŸ˜›

  11. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – you’re welcome! Thank you for reading. πŸ™‚

    Retsof – very true about the pirates. Easy to kill them in battle, harder to justify it once they’re prisoners.

    I’ve been tempted to create a page on TV Tropes before, but like you, I’m not hooked up on there. I’ll have to look into it again!

    Targetdrone – your attachment to freedom is touching!

  12. Belial666 Says:

    Minor nitpick: there is no such thing as a physical paradox. For it to exist, the universe must strictly adhere to cause-and-effect. Fortunately (or unfortunately) natural laws simulate (an approximation of) cause-and-effect; they don’t actually adhere to the real deal.

    As for pirates, inject them with nanites that deconstruct voluntary motor centers in their brains, then set them down in early 20th-century earth. Preferably in a hospital for coma patients. Effectively solitary imprisonment without any hope of parole.

  13. Retsof Says:

    …Wow… And I thought spacing them would be cruel.

  14. Targetdrone Says:

    hmm… i like your thinking belial… however, that would impose unnecessary expenses for their life support on the taxpayers of the 20th century, and therefore i still prefer setting them free…… heck, feeling generous , they can even select the time they want to be spaced in πŸ˜‰

  15. Melanie Says:

    Wow, sometimes you guys scare me. πŸ˜‰

    There are lots of theories about whether or not paradoxes are possible, and what would happen if they do (or if someone tried to create one). Luckily for everyone, we’re not in a position to test them.

    What would do you if you could test paradox theory?

  16. Targetdrone Says:

    FOR SCIIIIENCEE!! and test it out of course… at max i could eradicate the universe, so no real harm done πŸ˜‰

  17. Retsof Says:

    I’d probably poke it with a stick and see what happens… Start small, you know.

  18. Melanie Says:


    So, Targetdrone would go for broke, on the premise that if you really screw up, there’d be no evidence and no-one left to say boo about it.

    Whereas Retsof can’t resist the big red button, but would only push it in a little way. Until something happened.

    Excellent! πŸ˜€

  19. Belial666 Says:

    Of the infinite numbers of intelligent civilizations that will eventually develop over a near-infinite amount of time in the 200 billion galaxies of the so far known universe (containing an average of 150 billion stars each), nobody will ever cause a universe-ending temporal paradox.
    That’s based on the fact that the universe exists. If in the far-off future someone time-traveled and caused a paradox that would end the timeline, the universe would not be existing now.

    Essentially, probability theory says that if an event is possible, in the entirety of the universe it will happen at least once. The universe exists ergo a universe-destroying temporal paradox is impossible.

  20. Targetdrone Says:

    well. and hereas is the problem… is the probability THEORY that says this… how many other theories should i list that say its entirely possible?

    thats the thing about theories… for all we know , they work up to now, but they cannot tell what will happen for certain… they are just likely to know what probably will happen… but i learned a long time ago as soon as chance is involved, all bets are off πŸ˜›

    oh, and yay for the site being back, now for that update πŸ˜‰

  21. mjkj Says:

    Yayy Starry is back πŸ˜€ *happy*

    *hugs Starry and Melanie*

    Starry please take care not to be hacked again, please *puppydogeyes*


  22. Retsof Says:

    *Random thought* I posit that butterflies are immune to temporal paradoxes, what with their fondness for mucking about with timelines.

  23. mjkj Says:

    Hmm, you mean a butterfly flaps its wings in China and in America (or vice versa) the timeline gets changed?

    Well, that could be possible… πŸ˜€