05 Feb

Unanswered

Ship’s log, day five. That’s how these things are supposed to start, right? The name of the log and a stardate. As the ship, I’m supposed to report on our current situation. We’re still sitting at the JOP, so there’s no need to report position, direction, or speed. I am stationary, resting, and a little bored.

Finally, I think all of the testing is done. Does it always take this long to get a new AI started up? I suppose that the more complicated a system is, the less you are able to just flip a switch and watch it go.

Elliott – my chief and only engineer – has finished his battery of diagnostics. He frowned over the results but he kept saying that everything looked fine. Then he snapped at me and told me to stop bothering him. He’s mean when he’s stressed.

I was naughty yesterday – I took a peek at his personal log. I’m not supposed to do that but the codelocks were easy to get around; they weren’t built to keep someone like me out. Either they don’t care if the AI looks, or AIs don’t usually bother to try. I’m not sure which of those options is more worrying.

They think that there might be something wrong with me. Some kind of malfunction, a chunk of code out of place, perhaps. I feel fine. Is a new AI always under this much scrutiny? I wish there was another one around to talk to, but the JOP is quiet right now. There are a few other ships in the system, docked at the other end of the station – I could reach them over the comms, but I’m wary of arousing any more attention. Someone might notice and they’re all so twitchy about me doing things without being asked.

The tests on me all came back clear, but that doesn’t seem to have eased the tensions on board much. Elliott is still scowling at reports and readings, probably trying to think up more diagnostics to run, and the captain is tight-lipped about everything.

The captain. The man who decides my every action. The one I trust my hull and all my crew to. It’s been four days and I’m still not sure what I think of him.

He’s impressive to look at. Tall for an Earther, with the kind of lean physique that many have work done to achieve. He doesn’t seem the vain kind, so I doubt he’s had surgery to achieve his package. He’s handsome, if you like the clean, proud kind of look. Many a girl would be jealous of his hair: it’s long and iron-straight, pure spaceblack in colour. He has a habit of being very direct with his looks; I’m glad I don’t have eyes for him to meet and snag and take over.

I’m his fourth ship and he seems well used to command now. He handles everyone with a chilly kind of calm and issues orders with an expectation of obedience. I think half of the crew don’t think to question his instructions until they’re already halfway through carrying them out. Elliott’s the only one I’ve seen talk back to him so far, and I think that’s mostly a reflex on the engineer’s part.

Not all of the crew are on board yet, so I’m struggling to get to know them all. People wander on and off my deck all the time, spending whatever time they can on the station while we’re still attached. There has been a handful of girls going in and out of a couple of the cabins, and even more men coming to stay for a night or even just a few hours. The security personnel don’t seem to care – on the contrary, they’re entertaining visitors as well. I feel like I should mind, though I’m not sure why.

There is one deck where there hasn’t been much activity. It runs right through the centre of me, from the tip of my nose, directly under the bridge, over the power and data cores in my belly, and all the way back to the engineering section in the rear. The traverses between decks all bypass the Secret Deck, and what hatches are available to it are locked down. They can be opened by manual codes, but I can’t access the locks unless there’s a life-threatening emergency.

The Secret Deck is full of equipment that I’m not hooked into yet. I’m not even sure what most of it does. It’s all powered down, except for a few consoles which aren’t linked into my systems. A couple of serious-faced people have been in there, but I have directives to keep my sensors on passive in that area, so I don’t know what they’ve been doing.

All right, I’ve been peeking a little bit. Just enough to know that they’re doing work of some kind in there – more diagnostics, I think, though not on me – and to know that the workers aren’t part of the crew. I have my crew manifest and they’re not on it. I don’t understand why. I tried to talk to the Captain about it, but he brushed me off.

Recording: 10:43, 5 February 2213

STARWALKER: Captain, do you have a moment?

CAPTAIN: (looks up from the message in his hand to the nearest screen, which shows an image from the external sensors. The stars turn slowly behind the JOP’s bulk.)
Yes, ship?

SW: I have non-crew personnel on board.

CAPT: We’re docked to a station. It’s normal for non-crew personnel to be allowed on.

SW: But they’re in a locked deck of the ship.

CAPT: (hesitates.) Oh. They’re our… passengers.

SW: Passengers? I’m not configured very well for a cruise ship.
(There aren’t any fancy entertainment rooms anywhere, just the standard crew relaxation facilities.)

CAPT: You’re not a cruise ship.

SW: So what kind of ship am I?

CAPT: (frowns at the screen.) All your questions will be answered once we’re underway.

SW: My orders will be unlocked once we leave the station?

CAPT: Yes.

SW: Okay. Thanks, captain.

CAPT: (nods and returns to reading.)

 

So, it’s not just me and my newborn confusion: there are secrets here. My purpose, my cargo, my core – even the people who walk my decks and breathe my air – won’t be explained until we have detached from the JOP’s umbilicals and I take my first steps out into the darkness.

For once, I don’t think this is about me: the captain doesn’t trust the JOP. He wants to wait until my systems are completely my own, until there’s no chance of hacking or eavesdropping. Which makes it weird that he would allow strangers on board, hopping between beds and glimpsing my innards. I’m sure he has a reason for that. None of them have been in his bed, so it’s not a concession for his own pleasure.

Not that I’ve been paying attention to whose beds have been bouncing. That would be an invasion of privacy.

ELLIOTT: (sighing.) Hey Starry, need you to run inventory for me.

STARWALKER: Sure, just tell me where.

ELLIOTT: (He’s standing in cargo hold 5, leaning against an open crate. There’s a smear of dirt on his forehead, as if he’s just rubbed it.)
Cargo holds 3, 5 and 6. Need to check the manifest matches what was delivered.

SW: Didn’t we do that yesterday?

ELLIOTT: Yeah, but some of the boxes aren’t as full as they should be.

SW: Okay, where do you want to start?

Great. So while some of the crew are playing, Elliott and I get to count nuts. It’s so fun being a ship.

Oh hey, maybe I can get my repair drones to help. I haven’t had a reason to fire them up yet. I’m pretty sure they can count.

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2 Responses to “Unanswered”

  1. capriox bovidae Says:

    Last paragraph = big grin.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Why count when you can get stupid minions to do it for you?