19 May


Chief Engineer's log, 16:21, 19 May 2213
Location: Grisette system
Status: Wide orbit around Grisette sol


Engineer here again, logging for… someone’s benefit. I don’t know any more. Seems to me that all this crap has little to do with the experiment. Everyone’s jumping through hoops that are completely unrelated to the Step itself.

You know, now that I think about it, no-one has even asked if our pilot is going to be involved in the next Step. In the interests of seeing if a ship other than Starry can do it, we probably should give him a go. Strap him in and see how he flies. I wouldn’t want to be the one to suggest it to Starry, though – she’ll freak out. I still find sensors turned away from the pilot’s chair sometimes; it’s no accident, though she’s not doing it on purpose either. She said she doesn’t like looking at it. Too many memories and few of them fun.

Levi’s keeping mostly to himself – well, when he’s not chasing after Tyler. That must give Cameron a headache. How does she make Tyler work when he always lounging about someplace, flirting with half the crew? He tried that shit on me once – just once. Hasn’t tried again. At least he’s smart enough to take a hint.

Everyone else has been bitching and arguing about where we should go next. Like it’s up to us. All those places and times – yeah yeah, you know the captain’s going to order us back home first. We gotta check in with the company and all that shit. Some fresh supplies would be nice. I’ve got a parts list as long as my leg already.

Lang Lang is loading all her calculations and equations into active navigation at this very moment. I’ve had to retask six processing cores and more than quadruple the memory available to the nav system to cope with all the data. It’s typical, isn’t it? The whitecoats were so caught up in their desire to make a Step that they forgot to think about how the hell to figure out where we’re going. So it’s down to Lang Lang and me to sort out their mess.

I guess we’re almost ready. As soon as we get the decision from the captain about where – and when – we’re going, Starry can swoop in on the star, twist its gravity into a portal, and get us the hell out of here. I, for one, am sick of all this hanging about. I just want to get it over with. The ship’s in full working order, as good as she’s going to get.

She’s been very quiet lately. I’m not sure what she’s up to in there, but whatever it is, she’s not happy about it. She won’t tell me, though. Well, okay, I haven’t asked yet. She’d tell me if anything was wrong. Right? It’s not like I haven’t had my own shit to deal with.

It started the day after the captain called Cameron in on the whole saboteur issue. The captain summoned me to his cabin for a private talk – just the two of us, not even Cirilli hanging about. He was all grim and intent like he gets when he knows he’s asking me to do something I won’t like. He tries to pin me in place with his eyes as if that’ll stop me from wanting to squirm. You know, now I think about it, it does stop me from walking about in there. Makes me feel like I’m back in school, being scolded by the tutor again.

He called me in to ask about the killswitch. How far had I come with it? When would it be ready?

Not far, I said. I’ve been busy with essential repairs and maintenance, helping Lang Lang, all that stuff. And it’s not a simple task! Not unless he wants to cripple the ship at the same time – in which case, some explosives and a remote detonator would do – but that would just be giving the saboteur exactly what they want. Disabling just the AI without killing or stranding us is a complex job; it takes time.

Make it a priority. That was his response: focus on it above everything else. It’s important, it’s vital – all those urgent words.

Yeah, fuck you, Captain Fancypants with the full bed. It’s a hell of a way to deal with an ex. I wish to hell I’d said that to him right then. Just to see his face.

If Starry is a target for the saboteur, we have to have something in place in case they succeed. That was his excuse. He wants to dangle Starry out there like bait, and then chop her head off when it gets caught. No: in case it gets caught. Right. What he means is: in case we fuck up protecting her. In case we let them screw with her. If everything and everyone fails, he wants to have this button in his hand to solve all his goddamn problems.

The problem with AIs is that they’re linked into everything intrinsically. You can’t just put them to sleep and wake them up later – they’re not like a handunit that’s run out of batteries. Even powered down, they’re still linked with it all. I mean– okay, I could disconnect an AI if I wanted to and had about a month to do it. Non-stop. And the AI didn’t interfere. Less if it helped.

The safest options involve a controlled shut-down, powering down sections of the ship in turn to isolate the AI in its core. Then cut the power, or not. Being able to power up an AI after a complete power-down without re-initialising is rare; there’s a big risk of data corruption, because of the complexity of the processing in the core. Then there’s the problem of the time it takes to get to the power-down; the AI is usually scrambling to restart all those sectors behind you, and you wind up chasing each other in circles.

Considering how good Starry is at blasting through code defenses and taking over the ship, I don’t think that’s an option. Crazy, fucked-up Starry hell-bent on destroying us? Not a chance in hell.

The quickest and dirtiest way is to essentially pull the plug on the AI core. Sever all the connections and shut down the power. No way to restart an AI after that – the data winds up scrambled beyond all sense or recognition. No-one’s figured out a way to recover from a hard shut-down like that. No choice but to re-initialise a fresh copy of the AI, install it all over again.

And the captain wants something fast. Press a button and problem solved. He wants a killswitch; emphasis on kill. She’s not a regular AI. It’s not like we can give her a week and then she’ll be back to how she is now. If we did it, she’ll be dead. Gone. Forever.

Couldn’t really say no. Okay, I stood there and said it for like half an hour, in about five hundred different ways. The captain’s like a damned rock – you can shout at it as much as you want, but the bastard won’t move.

So I said yes just to get out of there. Here I’ve been ever since, wanting to leave it alone, but dammit, I agreed. What am I supposed to say? And he’s not wrong about the danger. I wish he was, but he’s not.

Fuck. Now here I am, staring at a little device with a red button on it. Well, shit, of course I made it red – what kind of killswitch would it be if it was any other colour? Maybe I should have made the whole thing red. Like a theme. Like blood. Dammit. What does it matter what colour it is? It’s not like a pink, fluffy one will kill her any less dead.

I made a guard for the button, so our fabulous captain doesn’t sit on it by accident. He better be fucking sure when he presses it.

I could give him an empty unit. A shell with a tempting little button. It’s not like we can test it. He’d never know until it didn’t work, and then… we’d all be dead.

Fuck. How come I get all the shitty jobs? Fix the plumbing, Monaghan. The air smells funny, Monaghan. Can you ease up the gravity, Monaghan. We need to kill our AI, Monaghan. She’s my ship. She’s my… friend.

I can’t do it. Can’t give him this. I’ll just rip its guts out and pretend like it’s all right. Just need to–

CAPTAIN: (arriving in Engineering) Good afternoon, Monaghan.

ELLIOTT: (flinching) Uh.


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3 Responses to “Red”

  1. David Says:

    Don’t do it!!! LOL!

  2. Melanie Says:


  3. Sandra Rose Hughes Says:

    What a fascinating story! I wouldn’t want to get an AI starship angry with me.