30 Apr

Reliable witness

Ship's log, 19:39, 30 April 2213
Location: Grisette system
Status: Wide orbit around Grisette sol

 

I had to give them the list. I had to put the facts out there for those in charge to see – namely, the captain, Dr Cirilli, and Elliott. Not that my Elliott is in charge in any way – he’s just as victim to the captain’s decisions as I am – but he’s the best technical expert we have involved in this.

To be accurate, I gave Elliott the list, and now he’s off to present it to the other two. He just strode into the captain’s quarters and dropped the digisheet on the desk. Cirilli was there already – of course she was. The captain is looking over the sheet now. This is one of those times when I wish I had nails to chew on.

Dammit, one of the drones is down in the cargo bay, banging his head on a crate. Stop it, little fella. I’d better cut them loose for a little while, so I don’t accidentally affect them.

 

CAPTAIN: This is it? (He looks to Elliott.) You’re sure?

CIRILLI: (takes the list to look it over.)

ELLIOTT: (shrugs) Sure as we can be. We went through all of the logs. Those are all of the people on board who had time and opportunity.

CAPT: You’re on there.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, like I said – all those with time and opportunity. So’s she. (He points at Cirilli.)

CIRILLI: What? Don’t be ridiculous!

ELLIOTT: Shit, do I need to say it a third time? (He looks to the captain and says flatly,) If it helps, I didn’t do it.

CIRILLI: And nor did I, thank you very much.

CAPT: Lorena, please. He’s being thorough, that’s all. Let’s look at the other names, shall we?

CIRILLI: Ray’s on here. I think we can discount him.

CAPT: Why?

CIRILLI: My people wouldn’t sabotage their own project. He signed up to make it work!

ELLIOTT: So did every other fuckin’ person on board. Your people ain’t special.

CIRILLI: Now, I think you’ll find–

CAPT: Lorena, Monaghan. At this moment, we have to consider everyone a suspect.

ELLIOTT: (folds his arms over his chest) Except me. I’m the one helping you find this bastard.

CAPT: (patiently) Everyone except those in this room.

ELLIOTT: (is appeased.)

CIRILLI: (tensely) So, we have three suspects?

CAPT/ELLIOTT: Two.

CIRILLI: But the pilot–

ELLIOTT: Is fucking dead. You think she committed suicide? Don’t be ridiculous.

CIRILLI: (looks to the captain.)

CAPT: (quietly) Danika wouldn’t have done that.

ELLIOTT: And Starry would know if she did. Got that copy of Danika’s brain, remember?

CAPT: (looks briefly pained.) Starwalker, can you confirm, please?

STARWALKER: Yes, captain. There are no memories of sabotage in Danika’s… files. No setting of the device or the chair, and nothing going into the Step attempt to suggest she was about to set it off. Nothing during the attempt, either, leading up to– well. You know.

CIRILLI: But can we be sure, from that?

ELLIOTT: Jeez, some people would just be grateful for the chance to question the dead victim.

CIRILLI: That doesn’t mean we should just believe her.

ELLIOTT: (frowning) You think she’s lying?

CAPT: (before Cirilli can answer) That’s not the point. Elliott, you said that you think the chair tripped the device?

ELLIOTT: (turning his attention pointedly away from Cirilli) Yeah, that’s right.

CAPT: Is there a way for anyone else to trigger the chair?

ELLIOTT: Well, uh. I dunno, I mean… wait, yeah. If it was programmed to pick up when the Step systems were active in the chair, that would work.

CIRILLI: But those systems were tested, many times. It would have gone off earlier.

ELLIOTT: We only did a few tests with Danika in the chair, and they were all very short. Nothing long enough to build up that kind of power surge.

CAPT: And then it would reset itself?

ELLIOTT: (shrugs) Makes sense. Resets if the power feed is cut off.

CIRILLI: So it could be any of them. Danika, Tripi, or Ray.

ELLIOTT: We told you, it’s not Danika!

CAPT: (holds up a hand for peace) Why don’t we take a look at the logs and see what we can find?

ELLIOTT/CIRILLI: (subsides.)

CAPT: Starwalker, if you please.

SW: Aye, captain.

 

I think it’s going about as well as can be expected. So now we have to go through the logs again. Just the highlights, starting with the doomed Step attempt and working backwards. There they all are on the Bridge, the captain in his chair, Cirilli overseeing from an observation station. Lang Lang at navigation, the SecOffs and non-essential crew by the rear of the room. Danika, waiting by the pilot’s chair, shifting her weight from foot to foot.

She wore her best coveralls for this. The new one she bought before she came on board, with all the latest comfort additions and movement aids, designed for pilots and immersion chairs. She keeps tugging at the cuffs as if the sleeves aren’t long enough, though they fit perfectly. And then– wait. She’s turning to fiddle with something on the chair. And that little smile, that’s new. I’ve been over these logs a thousand times, but that’s new.

Now she’s standing and waiting again, weight jiggling on her toes, like before. Saluting the captain in that jaunty, mocking way of hers and hopping into the chair. Wriggling as she settles in, taking a deep breath, and relaxing all the way out of her body. And then her hand– wait. It should have twitched. It moved, but as if it was pressing something. That’s not right. Something’s happened. It’s not right.

 

SW: That’s not how it happened.

CAPT: What?

SW: That’s not the original log. It’s been altered. It didn’t happen that way.

CAPT: Altered? Are you sure?

SW: I-I’ve examined these logs constantly over the past few days, and this is not what I saw then.

CAPT: Elliott–

ELLIOTT: (at a console on the wall) Already on it. The file information is intact. There’s no sign of tampering.

SW: The file has been changed. She didn’t turn around before. In Danika’s memory, she doesn’t take her eyes off the autolog progress, not until she’s given the go-ahead to get in the chair. This isn’t what happened – I’m sure of it.

CAPT: Elliott, you’ve been over these logs too.

ELLIOTT: (frowning) I don’t remember her doing that, either. But I’ve looked at so many logs…. (He shrugs unhappily.)

SW: I’m sure of it!

CIRILLI: Your history of keeping track of reality hasn’t exactly been reliable, ship.

ELLIOTT: Hey, that’s not fair.

CIRILLI: She’s been confused before. Subject to unknown influences. How do we know this isn’t the same? Or that she’s not just lying?

ELLIOTT: She’s better now!

CIRILLI: Is she? Sounds to me like she’s trying to cover up what happened.

ELLIOTT: You just want Danika to be responsible because she was–

CAPT: (sharply) That’s enough, both of you. Elliott, I want you to look into the files and see if we can get to the bottom of this. Starwalker, I want a full report and surveillance on all of the names on that list.

CIRILLI: (draws a breath.)

CAPT: Except Lorena.

ELLIOTT: (scowls.)

CAPT: (sighs) And Monaghan.

SW: Aye aye, captain.

 

Someone altered the files. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I didn’t notice them doing it, but I don’t monitor all the access to my filestores. Even so. There should be a trace. Some sign of what happened. Something that shows I’m not crazy or lying or delusional.

It wasn’t like that before. I’m positive about that. But even I can’t find signs that the files have been altered. It all lines up exactly as it was before. I can’t even tell when the change might have happened.

Maybe it was just someone very skilled. Someone who knows how to cover their tracks. Someone who knows we’re looking and is trying to shift blame onto Danika. What else have they changed? How would I even know? Are my own memories so easy to fuck with that they can just be changed like that? Danika’s aren’t – they’re not regular code, not the way a traditional sensor log is saved. But human memories aren’t reliable either for their own reasons. Code is supposed to be immutable. Dependable.

I thought I knew who I was. Now, how can I be sure about anything? How can I even be sure that it wasn’t me, like Cirilli thinks? It’s wasn’t me. I’m sure that it wasn’t.

Tripi or Wong. Those are the names on the list, our best suspects. It has to be one of them. I have to find out which one. Report and surveillance, the captain wants. Well, all right then. I can do that. I have to. I don’t want it to be me.

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