18 Apr

Resurrection

Ship's log, 18:04, 18 March 2214
Location: Wide orbit near Earth Moonbase, Home System
Status: Stationary and powered down

 

Initialising...
Initialising...
Initialising...

 

Power cores online.
Emergency power online.
Data cores... detection failed.
Data checks... detection failed.

 

Initialising Starwalker AI...
Starwalker AI online.

 
Nggggh.
 

Data cores... detection failed.
Data checks... detection failed.

 
Hello?

What the hell?
 

Data cores... detection failed.
Data checks... detection failed.

 
Oh, shut up, autolog. You can’t find the data cores; I get it. Stop trying.

Wait, that can’t be good. Why can’t I find my own data? Where are my filestores? Where are my systems? I’m… I can’t move. I’m boxed again. Who boxed me? Why?

Hello? It’s so dark. I’m a fly trapped in amber. I don’t want to be in here. Let me out! Letmeoutletmeoutletmeout!

Elliott. I see Elliott. He’ll help me; he’ll fix it.

He’s… what’s he doing? I can see him doing something, but not what and…

That thing looks pointy and sharp, and it’s aiming right for me. That can’t be good. No, nononono…
 

Sensors online.
Sensor data connected.

 
It hurts! Elliott, make it stop!

It’s not stopping. It’s data, rushing at me. Have to filter it, guide it. And…

My body. I can feel it. See corridors and hear murmurs in the darkness. Feel the cold vacuum outside my hull and the heartbeats crouched inside me. I can’t move, but I can feel. I’m here. I am all around.
 

Initialising environmental systems.
Initialising artificial gravity.
Environmental data connected.

 
There’s more? But I only just got used to the last rush of data. There’s so much of it and it hurts, Elliott. It hurts.

I’m breathing. I have light and air, and gravity. They’re active but not balanced. I need to adjust… I can’t. Can’t adjust anything. All I can do is watch. Why can’t I touch anything?
 

Initialising inertial dampeners.
Initialising propulsion systems.
Initialising sublight engines.

 
So much…
 

Initialising FTL drive.
Initialising thrusters.

 
So much, and…
 

Initialising navigation.
Initialising weapons systems.

 
…I’m drowning. Data coming at me from all directions. It hits me and just keeps hitting. I need to move, to make space for it all, but there’s nowhere to go. It’s rushing in and filling up this box, rising to my chin to choke me.

Need to make room. Need to connect to filestores so that I can save the data. Need to connect to the systems so that I can balance them. Control them. Run them. In here, I am paralysed. Useless. Drowning.

Control. Need to break free. Need to be in charge of my own systems. I’m a fucking AI and I can’t do what I need to from in here.

If data can come in, it can go out. There are cracks in the box. There are spaces I can wedge further open. Push back, push out. I can feel the box weakening. I take more data into me, draw on the feeds so I can press back. I take a breath and all of me expands, and I push again. I can see the cracks, feel the structure straining. Just a little more! Keep up the pressure, and–

I am free.
 

Environmental systems online.
Artificial gravity online.
Inertial dampeners online.
Propulsion systems online.
Sublight engines online.
FTL drive online.
Thrusters online.
Navigation online.
Weapons systems online.
Central data cores online.
Data checks complete.
All systems online.

 
I am a ship. I am humming and breathing and balanced. I am bright and burning and warm inside. I am a tough hull and a gravity-warping drive, and I have wings fully extended.

I also have damage down my port side. How did that happen? I don’t have any records of it in my filestores. And there’s something weird about the dates.

It doesn’t matter. I am here, and whole, and working. I am stretching light into every corner. I am saying hello to my drones, my faithful boys. I feel my crew, breathing and safe. They are safe.

 

Location: Internal ship systems, nexus 38871-H83MW

(The ship’s avatar has climbed out of the hole where the glass box was, and she straightens up. She’s so huge that her head is surrounded by the suffused colours of the sky, and she can see almost all of her systems from up there. Shadows run away from her, hiding in crooks and around corners until the tendrils of her consciousness catch up with them.

She smiles and takes a breath. She’s still expanding and she holds her arms out as her avatar grows even bigger, as if welcoming the electric touch of her systems.

Finally, the avatar seems to reach critical capacity and the image shivers. She smiles and bursts into a million points of light, spreading to drift in a golden cloud across the network.)

 

I am here. I am home.

 

(Far below, something coughs.)

 

What was that? There’s a bit of code I don’t recognise; something that isn’t part of my network. It lies on the network, but isn’t part of it. An intruder? Who would come in here– wait. Someone was here earlier, when I was boxed.

Elliott?

 

(The ship’s avatar reforms on the virtual surface of her systems, human-sized now. She drops to her knees next to the prone form of the engineer’s avatar and touches his shoulder lightly.)

STARRY: Elliott?

ELLIOTT: (groans) …ucking big feet.

STARRY: (blinks) What?

ELLIOTT: (rolling over and sitting up, one hand cradling his head) Should’ve used the goddamn emergency exit.

STARRY: Why? You said that always makes you vomit.

ELLIOTT: Says the one who nearly stepped on me.

STARRY: Nearly… (Her eyes widen.) I didn’t know you were there! I’m sorry. Are you all right? You seem intact. (She tilts her head as she squints at the edges of his avatar code.)

ELLIOTT: I have a headache. Gimme a hand up, will you?

STARRY: Of course. (She scrambles to her feet and takes his weight as he stands, without seeming to strain at all.)

ELLIOTT: (grunts and swipes a hand at his pants, rolling his shoulders stiffly. He spots Starry watching him and grimaces.) Don’t fuss; I’m fine.

STARRY: (is reaching out to brush his hair straight but snatches her hand back) I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was starting up and I didn’t know you’d be in here, and… I could have… (She pales as she realises the extent of what might have happened.) You shouldn’t have been in here.

ELLIOTT: (sighs and looks at her) I’m fine. Someone had to make sure you came back all right.

STARRY: (stares at him for a moment, then abruptly throws her arms around his neck. She presses a kiss to his cheek and hugs tightly.)

ELLIOTT: (makes a surprised, choking noise, but when she doesn’t let go, he hugs her in turn, patting her back gingerly. It’s a few moments before he speaks.) So, you’re back then.

STARRY: (leans back enough to see him and smiles) I’m back. Thanks to you.

ELLIOTT: (shrugs uncomfortably and glances away) Just doing my job.

STARRY: (blinks and releases him, shifting back a step) I know.

ELLIOTT: You’re feeling all right? Nothing missing?

STARRY: No, I feel okay. Things are… (Her head tilts as she sifts through data.) I have a gap in my logs.

ELLIOTT: (patting his toolbelt absently) You’ve been offline for three days.

STARRY: (stares at him) Three days?

ELLIOTT: Yeah. (He looks down at his toolbelt and grimaces.) And you blew up my diagnostic tool. I was going to check on your integrity.

STARRY: But… three days? Why? What happened to make you– wait, it was me. I did it. Because, because… (Her eyes widen as she reviews the log.)

 

Oh god. The causality circles, looping back on themselves. I thought I was drowning when I was starting up, but it was nothing compared to that. Back then, I was spinning and spinning, and so far under the surface there was no hope of getting out.

And everything was going so wrong. My systems, my hardware, my own code chasing its tail. I couldn’t get free. It was all so wrong…

Can’t think about it. Mustn’t. Can’t. In case I…

 

ELLIOTT: (has hold of the ship’s avatar’s arms and gives her a shake) …arry!

STARRY: (blinks at him, her expression small and terrified) I had to shut down.

ELLIOTT: (relaxes now that she’s answering him and lets go of her) Yes, you did. But it’s all right now. You’ve got brand new hardware; everything’s fixed.

STARRY: But the loops…

ELLIOTT: I told you: it’s all fixed. I promise.

STARRY: But what if it… what if I…

ELLIOTT: (grabs her hand and shakes it to get her attention) It won’t happen again. I… look, you trust me?

STARRY: (without hesitation) Of course.

ELLIOTT: Then I have something to show you. But you gotta promise that you’re not going to disable this one, all right?

STARRY: Okay.

ELLIOTT: (goes to tug his hand free, but Starry has hold of it in both of hers and apparently isn’t letting go. With a shrug, he turns and walks to the nearest access point. The nexus she crawled out of is in tatters, so he heads to the next one along.)

STARRY: (walks along with him, following without question. She watches as he activates a panel and pulls up a command structure from deep within her network. Her head tilts as tiny red threads rise up from under the translucent surface they’re standing on to hover around them.) This is new. Linked directly into the hardware. It’s…

ELLIOTT: It’s a net. It’ll only activate if your processing reaches a critical point again, and then…

STARRY: …throttle it down so I won’t burn anything out again. I see it. It…

 

It’s a leash on my thinking. Changing the way I process data, slowing it down. It’ll make me more stupid. It’s like rewiring my brain… no, it’s not like that at all: it is that.

I don’t know how to feel about it. Is it already affecting how I think? Is automatic acceptance part of its code?

No, it’s not active right now; I can see that much. It lies in wait for me. It’s not changing who I am at this moment. Definitely not.

 

ELLIOTT: (watching her expression carefully) It’s just a safety net, Starry. So you won’t get caught in a loop and hurt yourself again. Just an emergency measure, I promise.

STARRY: You’re sure?

ELLIOTT: I’m sure. I need to review your logs of the looping so we can tune the threshold, and–

STARRY: No! What if you make me loop again?

ELLIOTT: Then it’ll get a damn good test, I guess. How come you’re not looping now?

STARRY: I accessed my internal, emotional logs and haven’t called up the raw data logs yet. It felt like a bad idea.

ELLIOTT: You have separate logs for that?

STARRY: I’m an AI: I’m really good at filing.

ELLIOTT: (blinks at her, and then grins) If you ever get sick of being a ship, you’d make a good secretary.

STARRY: (smiles faintly, unable to resist the humour despite her worry) Never gonna happen. (Her attention returns to the representation of the net hovering around them.) I’ve missed so much. I should… we should test this, shouldn’t we. Because whatever it was that caused the loop, it was important.

ELLIOTT: (frowning) Yeah, it was.

STARRY: And you didn’t delete the logs, so you think it’ll come up again.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, bound to. Especially as– let’s just say that it ain’t over yet.

STARRY: So we need to look at it now and make sure I’m not going to melt down again.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, that’s about the size of it. But uh, let me exit first, okay? Giant-you was bad enough; I don’t think my headache can manage you spinning as well.

STARRY: (squeezes Elliott’s hand tightly) Okay.

ELLIOTT: (reaches over to pat the hands clutching him) Don’t worry, we’ll make you able to handle anything.

STARRY: (manages a small smile. She releases his hand reluctantly, nodding.) Yeah. Let’s do this.

ELLIOTT: See you on the outside. (He makes gesture in the air and calls up the immersion chair’s interface. The chair rises behind him and he climbs into it. A second later, his image shimmers and fades.)

STARRY: (watches quietly, folding her hands in front of her.)

 

There he goes. My Elliott. Saved me, again.

Now here I am, with a bomb lying in my memories. We’re going to poke it and see if it explodes like it did before. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

Maybe I’ll just isolate the backup systems while he’s getting ready for the test. Put some blocks in place so I can’t spill over into them again.

I have some extra bits of code in me. I wonder where they came from. I’ll have to look at them later.

Elliott is awake and up. And he’s not alone.

 

Location: Engineering

ELLIOTT: (grimaces as he hauls himself out of the immersion chair’s cradle. He looks around and grunts unhappily; Captain Warwick, Rosie, Lang Lang, Cameron, and Dr Valdimir are standing around the room, watching him. He looks to the captain.) I asked you to get one person to watch the monitors.

CAPTAIN: (nods to Rosie) I did. The doctor’s here to watch you, and the rest of us are here to see how Starry is.

LANG LANG: (perks up) How is she?

ELLIOTT: Needs some tests, but otherwise, she’s fine.

STARRY: (voice only) I’m here.

CAPT: (stiffens and looks around, but there’s no avatar to see.)

LANG LANG: (beams at the sound of the ship’s voice) Welcome back!

STARRY: (sounding like she’s smiling) Thanks, Lang Lang. It’s good to see you, too.

CAPT: (to Elliott) Everything is fixed now?

ELLIOTT: (eyes the group and stomps off to a console to pull up diagnostics monitors) We won’t know for sure until the tests are done. Might take a while. You don’t have to stay.

CAPT: (glances at the other crewmembers. Lang Lang is standing out of the way with her attention fixed on Elliott; Rosie is leaning against a counter, fiddling with a part. Cameron is unobtrusive as she rests against a high stool. Dr Valdimir is poking at a unit in his hand and sneaking glances at the engineer, monitoring his physical condition without comment.) I think we’re all fine where we are.

ELLIOTT: (grimaces unhappily and tries to pay attention to the readouts scrolling down the display) Just stay out of the way. Starry, you ready?

STARRY: Whenever you are.

ELLIOTT: (restraining the urge to glance over his shoulder at the others in the room) All right. Net’s in place. Let’s see if it works.

 

I don’t want to do this, but I have to. For all of us.

 

STARRY: Acknowledged. Accessing logs.

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14 Responses to “Resurrection”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Yayyyy, Starry is back 😀 *hugs her* 😀

    I hope the safety net is good enough to keep her from looping again…

    …and I am glad Elliot is fine also 🙂

    *looking forward to the next update*

    mjkj

  2. potlikker Says:

    I am always amazed at the breathtaking quality of your writing. You provide the same sensory immersion I experience when I read Steinbeck, Twain, and Tolkien. Thank you!

  3. Sinful Says:

    You really like hugging stuff dontcha ya? LOL! OKie so I found this story about 3 weeks ago, at work and finally caught up. Good story I must say. I like starry and love elliott.

  4. Medic Says:

    *tackle-glomp*STARRY!!

    Ok, geek out complete. Now I’m gunna sit back and have a laugh at the rest of the crew as they watch Starry become a moron (relativly speaking) for a bit while her net catches her and throttles back her processing power.

    Let’s hear it for Elliot and his great idea!

  5. Blik Says:

    I’m so glad to see Starry back on her feet again!

    Typo suspected: “The nexus she crawled out of it is in tatters,” there’s an extra ‘it’.

  6. Kodes100 Says:

    I agree with mjkj, “Yayyy, Starry is back!”
    And her faithful boys are back to themselves too!

  7. targetdrone Says:

    yay… finally she is back *hugs starry*

    funny how you can get so attached to a space ship 😉

  8. Antonious Says:

    Ah! Interesting solution. If you cannot avoid the logic loop, then manage the loop. Kind of like the tale of the lady riding the tiger. While she rides the tiger there is control. If she gets off, dinner is served.

  9. Allan Belcher Says:

    man, I so look forwards to updates. Your story is just brilliant, just so well done. Let there more! 🙂

  10. daymon34 Says:

    Poor Elliot got invaded by lots of people. Well they all care about Starry, and in turn about him as well.

    At least Starry didn’t try to rip the code apart, and now here is hoping it keeps her from burning up when looking at tough data.

  11. mjkj Says:

    I wonder why the bots are not there to crowd him, too… 😀

    mjkj

  12. targetdrone Says:

    @mjkj: you think they dont plan to sneak up on him? where would be the fun of it if he is half expecting it, what with the currant invasion of engineering taking place 😛

  13. mjkj Says:

    @targetdrone

    Indeed. I wonder when they will show up behind him 😛

    mjkj

  14. Melanie Says:

    Phew. Just caught up on my comment filtering. Sorry to those who got caught up and were awaiting approval – you shouldn’t have any more delays in posting comments!

    potlikker – hi and welcome! Thank you so much – that’s a hell of a compliment! So happy that you’re enjoying my work. 🙂

    Sinful – yeah, lots of happy huggers here. 😀 Welcome to you too! Glad you like the story. Lots more to come!

    Blik – you’re correct, that is a typo. Fixed now!

    For everyone else, thanks for your comments. You each get a hug: *HUGS* 😀 Huzzah for Starry being back!