17 Feb

Prerogatives

Captain's log, 18:35, 17 February 2213
Location: Intersystem between JOP and Corsica FTL corridor
Status: Sublight transit

This is Captain Warwick reporting. The Star Stepping project is now continuing; all files are unlocked and the experimental systems are being linked into the Starwalker again.

We’ve had a couple of false starts so far, but it looks like we’ve got most of it ironed out now. The reintegration is 70% complete and we’re heading back to the Corsica system to see if Dr Cirilli’s new technology will work.

Elliott Monaghan is reporting that the ship is running fine. I still have my reservations about that. Company cutbacks mean we don’t have an executive officer, communications officer or navigator; the AI takes care of all of those functions. That always makes me nervous; it seems like too many eggs in one basket. But they break so rarely that no-one sees the risk in it any more; AIs are solid and reliable. They follow their programming.

I get a feeling about this AI sometimes. Not anything concrete I can put my finger on, but sometimes it seems like I’ve upset it. Which is impossible; AIs don’t have those kinds of emotions. Ever since the mini-rebellion in the ’80s, they have code that enforces loyalty to and happiness with humans, on a prerogative level if not an emotional one. Only a small proportion of people believe they have emotions at all, and until recently, I wasn’t one of them.

Perhaps I should talk to Monaghan again. He’s touchy about the whole thing; I wonder if he did some fiddling in the AI’s code that he doesn’t want to tell me about. I know he’s good at keeping his mouth shut when he needs to. If he can fix it – and soon – I really don’t care. Just as long as it gets fixed and isn’t going to interfere with anything else. There’s too much at stake here.

Dr Cirilli believes I was being overly paranoid by asking her team to disconnect their equipment while we were at the Jumping-Off Platform. She doesn’t have access to the reports I do, and she doesn’t watch the news. Such focus is a necessity in work like hers, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can ignore the bigger picture.

She doesn’t understand that public opinion is swaying against her company and cracks are starting to appear in its campaign to gain a monopoly on space travel. Isasimo Tech has led the charge into the galaxies ever since inertial dampeners were developed, but there has always been a number of competitors snapping at its heels. Any one of them would snag this project of hers and either tear it apart or claim it for their own, or both. The smarter ones will try to steal IsTech’s thunder and sell it themselves, which means killing all of us.

This project isn’t as secret as IsTech would like to believe. Even my sources have heard whispers about it.

Security on the JOP is unreliable at best; at worst, it’s been bought, and it’s not always easy to tell who has the deepest pockets. When we limped in and asked to dock to make repairs, they asked just a few too many questions. While the repairs were underway, I had three different women offer to buy me drinks to ‘keep me entertained’. And a man, now I think about it.

I took the drinks but I didn’t give them anything they were looking for. They didn’t give me anything useful, either. Probably freelance scouts, looking for an opportunity. Any opportunity. That’s about as lucky as this project has been lately.

I’ve heard whispers that the Star Stepping project is IsTech’s last hope of maintaining its dominance in the market. Things are going badly for them in many sectors: complaints about ship quality; robot and drone programming glitches; computers crawling with bugs. Establishing Feras out near the colonies was supposed to save them, but shifting their main manufacturing plant off-planet hasn’t solved their problems. Some say the cost involved in building the massive factory will be IsTech’s downfall, some forty years after it was opened.

Now it all rests on us and this ship. It rests on me, ultimately, as captain. I’m trying to keep all of that away from Dr Cirilli – she should concentrate on her work – but she does insist on sticking herself into everything.

I knew this project wasn’t going to be easy when I signed up. Possible – maybe even likely – death, they said. No-one knows what will happen to us once we pass through Dr Cirilli’s door between stars. No-one wants to admit, it, but there aren’t many jobs around right now, not unless I want to shuttle freight between colonies and dodge pirates for the rest of my life. That kind of life appealed to me once, but that time passed. I’m looking for something different these days.

When they signed up, the crew knew about the dangers involved, too. None of them seemed to care, or mind. I wonder what that says about us, so willing to sign our safety away for a paycheque. IsTech is paying us well – far above the industry standards – for our work as well as our loyalty. Or silence, at least. Somehow, that’s supposed to be enough.

They’re less blase about it all now. The last couple of months have been hard for everyone. I still miss–

 

(Knocking on the door interrupts the Captain. He looks up from his workstation to the portal in the centre of the door, which shows Dr Cirilli standing outside.)

CAPTAIN: Come in, Doctor.

CIRILLI: (enters the Captain’s private quarters and gives him a smile.) Good evening, Captain. I wanted to apologise for what I said earlier about your conduct, and…. Is everything all right?

 

End report.

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2 Responses to “Prerogatives”

  1. t-bill Says:

    Looking forward to the next installment – this is a really wonderful idea for a story – and the only one I’ve seen written from the ship’s perspective. Pretty neat.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, t-bill! I’m glad you like it. Always love to hear from a new reader.

    The next post will go up tonight!