10 Feb

The side of paranoia

Ship's log: 14:27, 10 February 2213
Location: JOP
Status: Docked

So, I thought all we were waiting for was the pilot. One last crewmember to fill up my roster and off we would go: I would fire up my engines and spin us out into the black. It turns out that’s not the case.

The pilot arrived this morning. Levi Srivastava – dusky skin from Earth’s India, blonde-tipped hair from one of the JOP’s salons, and a sour mouth from a habit of showing his displeasure.

Okay, maybe that last part is a little unfair. He was pleasant enough to the captain when he reported in, and nothing untoward came out of his bags when he unpacked (not that I was watching). Just the usual stuff – clothes, a datablock, toiletries. He put them all away neatly, arranging them as if he was making himself at home. Then he availed himself of my shower facilities and collapsed into bed. I guess he travelled hard to get here.

I can’t tell what kind of person he is, this man who thinks he’s going to get his hands on my controls. He hasn’t met the rest of the crew yet; he’s still asleep. I guess we’ll see about him.

 

However I feel about this pilot, I was excited when he was finally on board. This is it, I thought. Now we can go, we can leave the JOP behind us.

The captain was less enthused. He met with Levi coolly, shook his hand, and told him to get settled in his cabin. No small-talk, no pleasantries; just business.

Recording: 09:43, 10 february 2213

(The door to the ship’s bridge closes behind Levi and Captain Warwick sits down in his chair, rubbing the bridge of his nose.)

CAPTAIN: Starwalker, please make sure that he gets to the right cabin.

STARWALKER: Of course, captain.

(A brief silence falls while the captain pages through a report on a handheld digisheet, and is broken when the ship speaks again.)

Captain, should I have the crew make ready for departure?

CAPT: What? No, not yet.

SW: All crew are accounted for and our supplies are complete. Shouldn’t we be heading out on our mission?

CAPT: We’re waiting for another delivery.

SW: My manifest has been verified. Elliott and I counted everything ourselves.

CAPT: (pauses to gather his thoughts.) Our regular supplies are all aboard, but we’re waiting on an order made by our passengers.

SW: (hesitates pointedly. When she speaks, her tone is testy.) Oh, right. Is there anything else we’re waiting for that I should know about?

CAPT: (frowns at a screen, which shows the starscape outside. His tone becomes more calm and measured.) We’re expecting four crates. Once they are aboard, we will be ready to depart.

SW: Do we know when these crates are due to arrive?

CAPT: Any time now. They’re coming on an interstellar ship.

SW: Okay. Thank you, captain.

It’s possible that I didn’t sound very grateful there. Well, tough. I don’t like all these secrets. I don’t like all these things I don’t know.

No-one seems to expect me to mind. The captain certainly doesn’t expect me to question him about these things – it’s hard to catch, but there’s a flicker of surprise in his expression when I ask him something out of his ordinary. Maybe only an AI living in nanoseconds would spot it; he hides his reactions well. It’s in his cabin that his mask tends to slip, and I’m not supposed to look in there. More passivity directives.

I haven’t been tempted to peek in there, not since I saw what one of the other crew cabins had in it. There are some things I am happy to give my people their privacy about.

None of that makes me feel any better, though. I don’t know what we’re going to do when we leave here. I don’t know what’s happening aboard me, but I know it’s important.

I’m programmed to look after my crew and fulfil my orders (not necessarily in that order). I want to be a good ship, but how can I do either of those things when I don’t know what my orders are?

I know where they are. I found them yesterday, tied up in a tight little package and buried in my data core. The code wrapping is highly complex; I don’t know how long it might take me to break in. Every time I try to unravel a section of the code, it curls back in on itself, like a flower not quite ready to show itself. It’s a lot heavier than any other codelocks I’ve seen. Except those surrounding the ports of the Secret Deck into my system – they’re locked down with a similar level of algorithmic protection. They’re so well hidden that it took me days to find them all.

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to keep these things shut away from prying eyes. I could unpick them if I set my resources to the task, and I’m a high-end AI. What chance would any (non-AI) person have of getting in? Even if they could find the right locks to tackle?

The locks seem pointed towards keeping an AI out, but I don’t get the feeling that they’re there for my benefit. If the captain doesn’t think I’d ask about all these things I don’t know, why would anyone think I’d go breaking into files to find answers? Not that it makes sense to hide this stuff from me anyway – I have to know eventually, and I will once we’re detached from the station. So who, then? Who are these secrets being kept from?

Is it someone on the JOP? Or an external agency? Are they military secrets? Corporate data? Political blackmail? Should I just assume it’s everyone and everything?

Perhaps that’s the best thing I can do now. Suspect everyone until I know more. Defend these secrets to keep my mission and my crew safe, even if I don’t know one and I barely know the other. Err on the side of paranoia.

My instinct is to close up my airlock and stop anyone from coming or going. But for some reason, the captain allows strangers to pass unhindered. Non-crew, non-passengers. I have a little subroutine that tracks them all, notes times and locations – I think Elliott planted that before I came online. I’d know if any of them went where they weren’t supposed to or tried to access my data.

Maybe the captain is smarter than he looks. By allowing people access, we’re acting like we have nothing to hide. Nothing makes someone wonder what’s inside a box more than a lock on the lid. With no obvious locks, our secrets are secret and no-one knows to look for them.

That’s a comfort, but I’ll still be glad once I’m in the know. Until then, all I can do is wait and try not to be too frustrated. I’ll watch and monitor, in case anyone steps out of line and learns something I don’t know.

Perhaps I should go run diagnostics on my repair drones. Make sure they’re working at optimum capacity before we head out.

There, now I sound like a proper AI.

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