06 Apr

Promise

Ship's log, 12:41, 12 January 2214
Location: Gienah System, Corvus constellation
Status: Sublight transit (tethered)

 

Elliott has disappeared inside my head. Did I upset him? Did all that tactile stuff make him that uncomfortable? It was just… a little touch. Was it wrong of me?

Maybe he went to back to fix those grav controls. No, he’s not there. Why is it so hard to find him? He should show up like a beacon. How can he hide from me? Should I do a sweep of my entire network?

Wait. I think I can follow the interface stream from his immersion chair. There it is, the slender string that leads him back home. It’s reaching out to… my core systems. What does he need to do in there? Nothing in my core systems is broken, so what’s he trying to fix? I can’t quite see him; something is blurred. Maybe if I move my avatar near him….

Found him. Elliott is standing near a major system nexus. Firewalls rise up around him, portioning off each sector, but they’re strangely translucent in his presence. I feel like I should mind that. Over to his left, the original AI core is playing host to my sensor feed processing and storage. My real brain is hidden in the distance off to his right, buried deep under layers of codewalls and forests of defensive protocols. Some of them prowl all by themselves, like my guard-dog.

He’s not searching for my core. He has an interface open in front of him but I can’t tell what he’s looking at. I can’t even peek over his shoulder: that interface is a blur of obscured code to me. It’s a blank space in my synapses.

What the hell is it and why can’t I see it?

Did I do something wrong? Is he angry with me? Could I have missed something and upset him accidentally, the way Danika used to?

 

STARRY: (standing behind him) Um, Elliott?

ELLIOTT: (focussed on what he’s doing) Yeah?

STARRY: What are you doing?

ELLIOTT: (gesturing towards the interface he has open) What does it look like I’m doing?

STARRY: (shifting her weight) I don’t know; I can’t see any of it.

ELLIOTT: (blinks) Oh. Well, hold on a minute, then.

STARRY: To what?

ELLIOTT: (looks at her oddly, a lopsided smile tugging at his mouth) To… your hull-bolts or something. (He turns back and continues to manipulate the interface with deft sweeps of his hands.)

 

He doesn’t seem upset with me. It’s strange. What can he be doing?

Elliott’s personal codes allow him to fiddle with the parts of the system the AI can’t influence. The parts I’m locked out of. That must be what he’s doing. There aren’t too many of those. Which one is it?

I know what it is: he’s going for the failsafes. Not the automatic, life-saving failsafes that stop the air shutting off randomly and things like that: he’s working on the ones that sever me from my systems in case of major malfunction. The ones that could be used against me if someone decided I really was too much trouble.

What does he want with it? I should stop him, I have to–

Wait. Something’s happening – changing. Opening.

Now I can see Elliott’s interface; it’s resolving into sharp lines of code. The failsafes that control my accesses are folding out from behind the display, one after another, into a wide wall of overlapping panels. I can see all of it. I can see the threads stretching away from the panels, leading to hooks in my processes, where the locks are propped open and ready to spring on command. Hooks I never knew were there before.

 

STARRY: (weight shifting uncomfortably) Why are you in there?

ELLIOTT: You should be able to see them all now. You don’t have that many failsafes left; we’ve already ripped most of them out. Just a few more to go.

STARRY: You’re… tearing them out?

ELLIOTT: Disabling them, yes.

 

He’s taking out his own protections. Removing the crew’s ability to get rid of me if they finally decide I’m too screwed up to continue as their AI. Removing the pirates’ ability to cut me down.

I was scared that he might be… what? Trying to control me like Morra, or box me like Tripi? That’s not Elliott; that’s not who he is. But he built that kill switch. He built a way to stop me dead, systems to synapses.

I’m scared to trust him, but here he is, putting his life in the care of my abnormal protocols. It’s crazy; it goes against everything that we know about running a ship. He’s insane. Why would he do this?

 

ELLIOTT: (glancing over his shoulder at the ship’s avatar) If you ever really do malfunction, we’re fucked – you know that, right?

STARRY: (stunned) …I won’t malfunction.

ELLIOTT: We’d better hope.

STARRY: I’ve got the best engineer in the galaxy. What could possibly go wrong?

ELLIOTT: (flushes and turns back to the interface) Saying that is just asking for trouble, y’know.

STARRY: True. I guess I’ve got enough of that already.

(The code shifts in the interface before Elliott, rolling in segmented rows, all out of time with each other. He pauses a line with a touch, adjusts the readout, then flicks it on and scans the next one.)

STARRY: Wow.

ELLIOTT: (not looking over at her) What?

STARRY: You read the code almost as fast as I do.

ELLIOTT: Hardly. But I’m good for more than just hitting things with hammers, y’know.

STARRY: (grins) You do excel at that.

ELLIOTT: (snorts and turns back to his work. He spends another minute making adjustments to the code.)

STARRY: (expression becoming distant) I can feel something unlocking.

ELLIOTT: It’s not bad, right?

STARRY: No! Not bad; it’s weird. Loose.

ELLIOTT: I’m making you a loose woman now, huh?

STARRY: (laughs, blinking her attention back to the immediate vicinity and focussing on Elliott again.)

ELLIOTT: (makes another couple of changes, then touches in a code and the interface solidifies into display only) There. Now you can’t be failsafed. No-one can build another kill switch with them.

STARRY: (sobering) That’s how you did it? You got it to hook into the failsafes?

ELLIOTT: Yup. Only the captain could use it.

STARRY: (expression muddled as she tries to figure out how she feels about that) Okay.

 

So that’s what this is about: the kill switch. He has stopped it from happening again, just like he promised he would. I thought he’d only said that because I was upset, but he’d meant it. Really meant it.

I can feel the failsafes spidering across my main systems, layers of protection lying in wait. And I can feel the props that Elliott has placed in them, keeping them open. He hasn’t ripped them out, but now that I can see them, I can control them before they activate. No-one can use them to sneak up on me. I can build up countermeasures if I want, now that I know what I’m dealing with.

 

ELLIOTT: (closes the interface with a wave of his hand and turns to wander along the datastream. Codewalls rise up around him.) A guy could get lost in here.

STARRY: (following him, distracted by the imprint of her boots on the datastream as she walks. Ripples of footsteps trickle out around them.) The mysteries of a female mind?

ELLIOTT: (grins and shakes his head) Nah, it’s not that bad. I understand parts of this.

 

He did what he promised. He’s looking after me. He trusts me.

And all I could think about was what he might be doing to hurt me. I was so scared that something bad was happening. It’s not like I don’t have reason, after the betrayals by Tripi and Levi, with mercenaries taking me to wherever they’re going to sell me off, after Morra… after I found out about the kill switch. I keep waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next bad thing to rear its head and bite me in the ass.

I feel like I’ve been holding my breath. I’m so tense I vibrate with it, but all I can feel now is the burning in my chest. Maybe I can exhale now. Maybe it’s okay for me to relax a little.

 

ELLIOTT: (stopping at a junction and looking around) Well, I guess that’s it.

STARRY: (stumbling and blinking at him) You have to go now?

ELLIOTT: Yeah. Nothing else to do in here until we break into that comm channel.

STARRY: Right, of course.

ELLIOTT: (shifts his focus into the middle distance) See you on the out–

STARRY: (grabbing his hand) Wait!

ELLIOTT: (blinks back to look at her) What?

STARRY: I, um. Thank you. For– doing that. Thank you.

ELLIOTT: Oh, sure. No problem.

 

He’s brushing it off. Of course he is; knowing how much this means to me will only make him embarrassed. Does he even know how scared I was? Probably not. And I can’t tell him; he’ll only be upset. I should have known better; known him better. Stupid ship.

Elliott, I should have trusted you. I promise I’ll do better. I don’t say that, though. I can’t.

There’s no other reason to keep him here, so I let his hand go again and try not to feel the sensation burning into my consciousness. He gives me a lopsided smile and disappears, returning to his body. My avatar feels lonely, standing there on its own, so I dissolve it. In Engineering, Elliott is clambering groggily out of the immersion chair. I have a drone there to steady him as he stands.

He has made sure that I’m protected, that they can’t hurt me. Now it’s my turn to do the same for him.

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8 Responses to “Promise”

  1. Targetdrone Says:

    so you are better again? o/ and wee for the update πŸ˜‰

    nice to see her going through the fragil process of building trust … awww…

    and … welcome to the joyride… now with 100% unchainedβ„’ AI πŸ˜›

  2. brightlilim Says:

    Freeeedom! At least from the threat of instant death. Now, to resolve the issue of the slower deaths to come…

    πŸ™‚

    She’s definitely showing signs of femininity, as opposed to just humanity. The previous signs of her being female were all just memories; now that she’s feeling more female, perhaps a full restoration of personality is just around the corner?

  3. Blik Says:

    This is so sweet! And I absolutely love how thoughtful Elliot is being! I’m beginning to see how they would be if Starry could be “on the outside” with him. The greatest couple.

    The real question is, now that Elliot has in effect granted her Immunity, how she will do the same for him as she wishes to do. With pirates with blasters, there IS no immunity. Unless she rigs something up to disable any blaster or other weapon as soon as it passes the threshold of her hull. A disruptive field, perhaps…

  4. Terilie Says:

    This is interesting, you have an advanced AI construct co-mingled with the memory engrams of an organic being resulting in a completely new but related sentient being and yes I mean sentinent because the former AI is exhibting spontaneous behaviour…

    The really scarey thing is, is this a first time crush or realisation of an emotional state of love and infatuation, if its teh former, this could turn nasty when the bubble pops, if its the later… Oh my! is it going to be interesting when they have their first emontional/relationship arguement.

    I love how you have Star’s emontional state impacting upon the remotes in the physical world where she has no individual body other than that of teh ship itself and yet she has all the “physical” contacts and a synthesied body with which to touch and feel with within the electronic world.

    Welld one so far, can’t wait to see how your going to develope this relationship between Starry and Elliot, although I am cringing at the thought of their first spat!

  5. Melanie Says:

    Targetdrone – yes! Feeling much better than last week. Thanks for asking. πŸ™‚

    Brightlilim – yes, now that Starry doesn’t need to worry so much about herself, she can turn her attention elsewhere. And maybe become a bit more offensive in her pirate dealings.

    I don’t think she’ll ever regain Danika’s entire personality, but it is definitely feeding into the merged being she’s becoming.

    Blik – So true! For Elliott, being nice to Starry is safe because they can’t be a couple. And he can do it while no-one else is looking. πŸ˜‰

  6. Melanie Says:

    Hi Terilie, and welcome to the blog! πŸ™‚

    I’m really enjoying the mingling of human and AI brains, and the question of physicality – it’s great fun to play with. Starry’s still working a lot of this stuff out for herself!

    I’m sure that Elliott and Starry will have an interesting ride. I’m glad you’re enjoying it! They’ve managed to mend one bridge between them, but there are plenty of others for them to burn, break, and fall off yet….

  7. mjkj Says:

    Yayy, I am glad you feel better πŸ™‚

    Wow, Starry is quite shocked he is true to his word – looking forward for more trustbuilding πŸ™‚

    mjkj

  8. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, mjkj! πŸ™‚