05 Apr

The right question

Ship's log, 17:32, 5 April 2213
Location: Grisette system (unverified)
Status: Wide orbit around Grisette sol (unverified)


The data from the first Starwalker was supposed to answer all of my questions. It was supposed to make all of this make sense. I have re-sorted the data four times; I have given it a special archive to live in. Still, I seem to have come out of it with more questions than I had before.

Six months. That’s how long the first Starwalker was active. The logs of the first five months are a stream of calibration exercises and tests of my capabilities as a ship. The quality of my construction was thoroughly checked and emergency drills run. They even launched all of my escape pods once, just to make sure the ejection mechanisms work.

The last month was all about the Star Step drive. Charging and discharging it. Extending and retracting the filaments. Sending probes through portals.

I’m almost glad that I didn’t have to go through all that. I’m bored just reading about it, never mind having to actually suffer through it all. My shakedown was bad enough and that was only three weeks of ticking boxes.

Looking at it all, I can’t help but see the differences between us: the first Starwalker and me. A proper AI and me. The logs are dull, mechanical, factual. They fill in the detail around the autolog entries, adding readings, decisions and outcomes. It’s all very neat. Methodical, logical. There are no questions or musings. No observations about the crew and their relationships. I don’t know how they got along on that first voyage, who was screwing who, or if Wong drove Elliott as crazy then as he does now.

It’s nothing like my logs. These rambling summations of what flashes through my crystalline synapses – no real AI would produce this. It was instinct to lock them away from prying code-wranglers (Tripi, I’m looking at you), and now I understand why. I think my fate would be truly sealed if anyone saw these logs.

And then there’s the Step. The story of that first attempt told in cold, hard facts, scrolling down a screen like clockwork. It went so well, everything ticking over just like it should. Filaments extended, the Star Step drive charged up. Weaving open a hole in the world. Firing up the pilot’s chair and passing control over to the human within. Moving towards the portal, touching that threshold, and then….

That’s where the logs go nuts. Power surges bursting all the scales, temperature readings off the scale, emergency protocols kicking everything into reverse. The logs fill up with warnings, running in loop after loop, and then it just cuts off. That must be when they shut the AI down.

It makes me feel ill to look at it. I keep thinking that I can smell burning, as if I can remember the power scorching through the chair and the pilot – but that’s ridiculous. There’s no way that I could remember that. Is there? Elliott booted up a pre-Step backup of the AI, took me back in time to before any of that happened. It was wiped, all of it was wiped. So why does this all seem so familiar? And yet too cold. Too logical. It’s like watching a documentary about a car wreck I was in: I can see the chassis crumpling in slow motion, but that’s nothing close to what it was like.

Nothing here tells me why I’m different. There aren’t any answers. Not a code-blip or a single fault in the logs. That AI, that first Starwalker, she was perfect, right until the end.


LOU TRIPI: (on the Bridge, over internal comms) Captain?

CAPTAIN: (in his quarters) Yes?

TRIPI: I’m in.

CAPT: On my way.


In? In where?

Oh no. She was poking around in my filestores, trying to crack that central firewall. Even I can’t get past that one, not on purpose. I haven’t been paying attention – I’ve been burying myself in those logs, all that data. Preference files and configuration. Activation and deactivation and so many warnings. I lost track of her.



CAPT: (arriving on the Bridge) Tripi, report.

TRIPI: I’m through the firewall, sir.

CAPT: So what do we have?

TRIPI: It’s… the most disorganised filestore I’ve ever seen.

CAMERON: (arrives.)

CAPT: What kinds of files?

TRIPI: Hard to say – looks like a jumble of everything. Lot of partial files. Recordings, readings, random facts. It’s bizarre.

CAPT: Is there anything you can make sense of?

TRIPI: Not sure yet. I only just got into it. But… that’s odd. I’ll try bringing up a graphical representation.

(The holographic display in the centre of the Bridge shifts from star charts to a map of the data in the filestore. Files come up in the three-dimensional space, one at a time, with lines between them indicating the references and cross-references.)

TRIPI: See, the relationships are all over the place. Thousands of connections between all these fragments of files. And not logical connections, either. Never seen anything like it.

CAPT: (frowning at the hologram) I have. I can’t place it, but it’s familiar.

CAMERON: Disorganised way to keep a memory store.

CAPT: Memories… yes. It’s like the way human memories are stored. (Over internal comms,) Dr Maletz, report to the Bridge, please.

DR MALETZ: (from an entertainment couch) Coming, captain.

CAMERON: Human memory organisation, replicated in an electronic filestore? That’s never been done successfully.

TRIPI: I’m just showing you what I’ve got here.


I don’t dare look through the door she made. I’m afraid to see what’s in there. It’s trying to leak out, trying to assert itself outside of the firewall, but I’m blocking it. I don’t want to know what’s in there.

I know one thing, though: they’re asking the wrong questions.


MALETZ: (arriving at a calm walk) You summoned me, sir?

CAPT: (gestures towards the holographic display) What do you make of this?

MALETZ: (walks up to the edge of the display, smoothing his hair back with one hand) Looks like interpretive neurological data to me.

CAPT: Which means?

MALETZ: A representation of a brain.


I know what happened. It makes complete sense, and none at all. It’s impossible, but now I remember what I said to the captain when he told me something was impossible.


Recording: 20:30, 24 March

STARWALKER: I just tore a hole in the universe, captain. Anything is possible.

Anything is possible. Anything, including this. Including me.

They’re still asking the wrong questions. It’s not a matter of what, or how, or why.


SW: Captain?

CAPT: What is it?

SW: What was the name of my first pilot?

CAPT: What? What do you want that for?


I don’t have the personnel files in the package that Elliott gave me. Actions in the logs are marked with the position of the crewmember, not the name.

It was never a question of what, or how, or why. Always, it has been a question of who.


SW: Please, captain. I need to know the name.

CAPT: (quietly) Her name was Danika. Danika Devon.


Oh no. No no nonono….


All systems shutting down.
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7 Responses to “The right question”

  1. capriox bovidae Says:


    Also, fascinating! Is it Wednesday yet?

  2. t-bill Says:

    MEEP is right! Now we are getting somewhere with the backstory, which I suddenly realize might be more than a backstory…

  3. Melanie Says:


  4. Becka Says:

    Bloody hell! I was right wasn’t I?

  5. David Says:

    HAHAHAHA! I love it!

  6. Melanie Says:

    Just for you guys! http://forum.melanieedmonds.com

  7. ??????? Says: