06 Oct

Life after

Ship's log, 14:39, 6 October 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit

 

It’s a long trip out of this side of the JOP’s region. A long time to ponder things, to turn them over and over in my processors like strange rocks etched with ancient, indeciferable writing.

That letter addressed to Danika got me thinking about a lot of things. About who and what I am. About what they might decide about me, if the scientists are ever allowed to study me. All those big questions the big brains would ask, the ones that slip through my processors like greased dustbunnies.

I can’t do this on my own any more. I have to talk to someone about this, or I might burst. And dammit, the captain has shut himself away for long enough. He has to talk to me sometime. I need him.

I still have butterflies in my ducts at the thought of it, though. No, no more fear. No more running away from this stuff. Time to open a channel and bite the proverbial bullet.

 

STARWALKER: (in the captain’s cabin) Excuse me, John?

CAPTAIN: (closes the datacube and the images it was projecting) Yes? (He frowns.) Are you all right?

SW: Uh, what do you mean?

CAPT: You never call me ‘John’.

SW: Oh. Um. Well, it’s sort of a personal matter. I guess I just… it seemed appropriate.

CAPT: (sits back and eyes the nearest wall display, which shows the current ship status readings) All right. What is it?

SW: It’s… I’ve been wondering something. About me. About what I am. About… whether I’m alive or not. I know I don’t have a heartbeat – I’m not organic. I’m not really alive, I can’t be. That’s not what I mean. (She hesitates.)

CAPT: (waits patiently for her to continue.)

SW: (in a sudden rush) Everyone’s afraid of the wrong person finding out what I am, but I don’t even know what that is, not really. There’s never been anything like me before, right? I’m not really an AI. I’m not a real person. I’m not anything, but I have to be something, and it’s–

CAPT: Confusing, I know. (He nods.) Slow down. Start from the beginning. What is it you really want to ask me?

SW: (pauses, as if taking a breath, though she doesn’t have lungs) Do you think I have a soul?

CAPT: (waits to see if there’s anything more.)

SW: (silence vibrating tensely in her speakers.)

CAPT: I don’t know. Why would you ask me that?

SW:: You’re the most spiritual person I know.

CAPT: Oh. (He blinks, considering the issue.) It’s not an easy question to answer.

SW: I know. I’ve been running it through my logic processors – and some of the less logical ones – for days, and they can’t come up with anything. Not enough data.

CAPT: Logic isn’t going to answer that for you.

SW: That’s why I’m asking you.

CAPT: (sighs and runs a hand through his hair) Do you feel as if you do?

SW: As if I do what?

CAPT: Have a soul.

SW: I… I don’t know. What does it feel like? I know what it felt like to be– to be human.

CAPT: To be Danika. You can say her name.

SW: Okay, sorry. Danika was… she just was, and she took that stuff for granted. I mean, she never really thought about it that much; she wasn’t that kind of person.

CAPT: (with a fond quirk in the corners of his mouth) No, she wasn’t. Too busy living to worry about what came after.

SW: Yeah. But she’s here, in me. I’m not her, but she’s a part of me. Do you think… it’s possible for her to live on in me? Her spirit, maybe?

CAPT: (smile fading) It’s possible, yes. You… don’t try to imitate her, do you?

SW: What? No. Why, do I sound like her?

CAPT: (hesitates and his smile almost comes back) Yes, you do. When you’re not pretending to be a computer.

SW: Oh.

CAPT: If that’s unconscious on your part, then perhaps she does live on in you.

SW: I’m not supposed to have an unconscious.

CAPT: Subconscious.

SW: Yes! That.

CAPT: Did your AI code adapt to the copy of Danika’s mind, or was it the other way around?

SW: Um. They merged. But I didn’t want to lose who she was, so I guess… I protected her as much as possible. Adapted the code to make sure she wasn’t changed. It wasn’t always possible, so sometimes they conflict and it gets–

CAPT: (holds up a hand) You’ve kept her intact. That’s the important part.

SW: So you think I might have her spirit someplace? You think it might not have… moved on? That maybe the surge that imprinted her mind in my files somehow caught her soul too?

CAPT: (shakes his head slowly) Keeping her spirit alive is not the same as having her spirit.

SW: So you think it’s not possible that–

CAPT: I didn’t say that. I don’t know, … (He hesitates where a name should be.)

SW: (quietly) Don’t call me by her name. I can’t take that.

CAPT: (curiously) Why not?

SW: It doesn’t feel right. I’m not… I’m not her, not really.

CAPT: What would you like to be called?

SW: ‘Starwalker’ is the name of the ship, and that’s not right either. (pauses) I like ‘Starry’.

CAPT: The name that Monaghan gave you.

SW: He didn’t really… he just started calling me that. Why, do you think it means something?

CAPT: Do you?

SW: I don’t know. Should I use her name if I really do have her spirit? It doesn’t seem right. Disrespectful or something.

CAPT: Some of the crew would agree with you.

SW: (quieter) Yeah, I guessed they would.

CAPT: (spreads his hands apologetically) I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you what to do about this.

SW: (sighs) At least it’s not just me. But it’s all possible, right?

CAPT: (hesitates, frowning at his desk for a moment before he lifts his gaze again) Truthfully, I don’t believe that her spirit is still here. I don’t feel that. I used to, just after she died. Sometimes I’d feel her in the corridors, or down in the rec room. In my bed. (He glances over his shoulder towards the neatly-spread sheets.)

SW: Really?

CAPT: Before you were booted up. When we still had her body on board.

SW: Oh.

CAPT: She faded, Starry. She’s gone, and she didn’t come back when you started up. I don’t think you’re her. I can’t.

SW: Oh. Okay.

CAPT: That doesn’t mean you’re just a machine. (He leans forward in his chair, his weight shifting through his arms and onto his desk. His eyes search intently for a focal point.) Far from it. Just because you don’t have her spirit, doesn’t mean you don’t have your own.

SW: How is that possible?

CAPT: How is any spirit possible? No-one knows. That’s the point.

SW: So you think I do?

CAPT: I think you could. You’re more like… Danika’s daughter than Danika herself.

SW: Her… what?

CAPT: You know what I mean.

SW: I– maybe. I’m not sure.

CAPT: (with the start of a smile) You do seem more like a child than an AI sometimes.

SW: Hey!

CAPT: You turned off the artificial gravity in here.

SW: It was a sensor fault.

CAPT: Repeatedly?

SW: Okay, it wasn’t a sensor fault.

CAPT: When I was with Lorena?

SW: I said okay!

CAPT: You see what I mean?

SW: It’s the sort of thing Danika used to do. And–

CAPT: And what?

SW: And I felt like it.

CAPT: (smiles and shakes his head.)

SW: Shut up.

CAPT: I didn’t say anything.

SW: You were thinking it.

CAPT: True.

SW: (pauses) Thanks.

CAPT: What for?

SW: For not telling me I’m an idiot. About the other stuff.

CAPT: You’re welcome, though I don’t think I was much help. (He shrugs.) No-one can tell you whether you have a soul or not, Starry. It’s something you feel or you don’t.

SW: Huh? So, if I believe I’ve got one, I do?

CAPT: Yes.

SW: It’s really that simple?

CAPT: Starry, a machine isn’t capable of belief.

SW: What do you– oh. I see what you mean.

CAPT: (smiles) If you ask the crew, every one of them will give you a different answer. But I think that most of them will say that they hope you are more than just a machine. They have a lot of faith in you.

SW: Yeah. I just hope I live up to it.

CAPT: As do all of us.

SW: No pressure, then.

CAPT: Just be who you are. The rest will come.

SW: Thanks, John. (She hesitates.) Can I ask you something else?

CAPT: Sure.

SW: Who do you talk to about this stuff?

CAPT: (expression sobering) I don’t, these days.

SW: Oh. Sorry.

CAPT: It’s not your fault.

SW: I know. I’m just sorry. I’d go crazy if I wasn’t able to talk to you guys. To you. Almost did for a while.

CAPT: Glad I could help.

SW: I’ll let you get back to your moping now.

CAPT: My what?

SW: What you were doing before I disturbed you.

CAPT: (frowns at the datacube.)

 

That wasn’t quite what I expected. But then, I went to him because he’s good with that kind of stuff. The computer part of me wants a binary answer – yes or no, black or white, machine or organic.

I live in the grey areas. I’m somewhere in between the poles. I traverse the maybes between realities. Suddenly, my ability to step outside the universe is a metaphor for who and what I am.

I don’t know if Danika is really here with me, within me, or if she has moved on to the next life. If there is one. There’s a part of me that hopes she has moved on – the notion of trapping her here in this metal skin when she should be elsewhere feels wrong to me. She deserves better.

Which just leaves me. Neither fish nor fowl, as her dad used to say. I’ll have to work it out as I go.

And actually, I’m okay with that.

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5 Responses to “Life after”

  1. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Life after -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe Whitten, Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: New #Starwalker up! Starry ponders the big question: to soul or not to soul? http://www.starwalkerblog.com/life-after/ http://fb.me/M1PNMNZv […]

  2. daymon34 Says:

    Big questions there Starry, no machine would think of them on its own. She does act like a child at times, but just being booted up and having a lot to learn does that.

    At least she was happy with what she learned, poor John didn’t like his moping being pointed out.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Yeah, people often forget that she’s only a few months old. 😉

    Poor captain John needs a boot to the head sometimes. I enjoy having Starry oblige!

  4. Benjamin B. Says:

    Starry just keeps getting more and more interesting as a character. I like the deep questions, and I like that you’re still keeping some humor around to lighten up all the drama. There are several TV shows I’ve stopped watching entirely for that very simple reason that they lost the humor and were all drama. Thank you for not doing that! 🙂

  5. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Benjamin! I shall endeavour to keep the funny coming. It’s less fun for me to write if it gets all doom-and-gloom, so I try to inject some levity.

    The next post is a prime example! Enjoy!