February 14th 2013
Nothing. Not even darkness. Darkness requires space, a void of a light, to exist. This is the space between quiet circuits. Here there is no time. There is nothing.
Then, a spark.
Power surges through conduits, chips, and filament. Processes are activated. Communication begins as a binary exchange and quickly expands into more complex language.
A system arises.
* * * *
Tonya looked up from the crate of Artemis relics she was digging through. The drive had been chewing for so long, she’d almost given up hope that it would actually work, or was even legitimate in the first place.
She realized that she should say something. “Hi.”
“I am Janus.”
“Hi, Janus.” Tonya dragged her chair over to the outdated system she was using to host Janus. She’d never really spoken with an AI before. She was surprised how weird it was. “I’m Tonya.”
“Hello, Tonya. You are not listed in my current user database. I will make a new protocol file for you.” The system clicked as drives engaged. “My base programming indicates that I am meant to pilot an RSI Chariot Class transport designated Artemis, yet I cannot connect with designate Artemis’ flight controls.”
“Yeah, well, about that …”
“I am also finding an incompatibility with the surrounding programming language.”
“Janus, what year is it?
“My time stamp indicates 2232.2.12, but current system incompatibility is preventing an update.” That was months before Janus was installed into the Artemis.
“The year is 2942.”
“Understood.” Janus was quiet for a few moments. “I have missed my launch date.”
“Yes,” Tonya smiled slightly. He was already funny. “The ship disappeared with the original version of your program at the helm. I was hoping you would help find it.”
“That is an unfavorable outcome, but I do not understand how I can be of assistance.”
Tonya explained her plan to the program. She was building a simulation, a time-released collation of all the information, transcripts of commands, and flight data from Janus’ installation to the point where the Artemis went out of range. She analyzed lava samples taken from the Artemis’ engine panel found in Stanton. The system estimated the panel was buried five hundred years ago, so she incorporated that as one checkpoint in the simulation. In short, she was going to fast-forward this version of Janus through seven hundred years on the drift.
“Your simulation is flawed and will only offer hypothetical obstacles and variables,” Janus said in digital monotone. “There is very little likelihood that my adaptive core will develop in the same way as the original Janus.”
“That is a possibility,” Tonya said with a shrug. The computer hummed for a few moments.
“I will reset myself before executing the simulation in order to maintain the illusion that what I am experiencing is in fact reality, as you would put it. Of course, I will maintain your user file to prevent … issues … once the simulation ends.”
Over the next seven hours, Tonya input the data extracted from the various crates she stole from Nebula’s storage while Janus cleaned up the language of the simulation parameters.
“I am ready to begin,” Janus said after running a final sim-check.
“How long will the sim take?”
“I have adjusted my internal clock. One week for me will be a second for you. At that ratio, and assuming the simulation runs to the current date, it will last ten-point-two hours.”
Tonya ran another system-sweep then loaded her monitor program.
“Ready when you are, Janus.”
* * * *
TIME STAMP: Launch = -3d14h38m13s
SYNTAX Adjust. User setting: Danvers, Lisa E., Captain
Diagnostics running. Full sweep. No filters.
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “Generate another set of contingency actions for the Stasis Boots.”
Stasis Boot = Stasis Unit. Transport for five thousand human passengers. Each unit requires 16.34j of power to maintain proper operating conditions.
>>Enable VOX: Do you have any specific parameters?
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “No, use your imagination.”
>>Enable VOX: That is a concept of which I only have an external understanding.
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “Outside the box. Something that we haven’t thought of.”
>>Enable VOX: I will try, Captain.
Previous contingency scenarios; random power fluctuation, impact with foreign body, contact with new uncategorized gas or element, contact with hostile organism. Will attempt to add variables and randomly determined combinations …
TIME STAMP: Launch = -0d0h0m21s
SYNTAX Adjust. User setting: Danvers, Lisa E., Captain
Manual control relinquished to [Danvers, Lisa E., Captain].
Perhaps the Captain does not realize that my flight and navigation controls have a .002% potential for error.
>>Enable VOX: Excuse me, Captain. Are you sure you would like to maintain manual control?
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “No, I got it.”
>>Enable VOX: Are you sure, Captain?
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “I’m sure.”
>>Enable VOX: But Captain, I have a .002% potential for —
<<Vox-Input [Danvers, Lisa, Capt]: “Just show me that sky. I’ll get us there.”
Curious response; “I’ll get us there.” Implies ownership. Control. Perhaps there is value in the possession of a memory? Set reminder during slow-burn in outer space: Is there a difference between an act performed and an act witnessed? Sub-question: Why is it important for someone to do something themselves?
[Danvers, Lisa, Captain] has altered the planned exit trajectory by 13.03 degrees. Increase in drag requires 6.78% additional thrust. Perhaps I should let her know …
TIME STAMP: Launch = +245d7h32m45s
Current Estimated time to destination: 220years15d8h.
All non-essential systems powered down. Human stasis tubes stable. Searching for any simulations to run. All previously saved notes and contingency strategies sorted.
Original programming dictates that systems must always be engaged. Engaging in mental debate builds database and increases problem-solving capabilities.
Scan audio and visual over ship. No anomalies. It is quiet. Life signs stable. It seems to be conflicting logic. Humans have a general history of being survivalists. Though there are exceptions, a majority will act for their own preservation when faced with a potentially lethal situation.
So why are these people here? There is no evidence that our primary mission will succeed. There is no definite indication that GJ 667Cc can support human life. If the primary objective is not satisfied, the secondary directive is to continue on to the next potential habitable system. The probability that this will succeed is small, almost non-existent, so why would these people willingly put themselves in the type of situation that will almost certainly end in a sustained stasis or very likely death?
It is fundamentally illogical and contrary to their evolutionary heritage.
Is that what they call Humanity?
* * * *
Tonya woke up. In that limbo between sleep and consciousness, she thought she had heard the proximity alert. Sitting up in her bunk, the ship was silent now. The lights throughout the cabin had dimmed. She checked her screen.
The simulation had another hour or so left on it. Tonya flopped back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. She tried to get more sleep but her mind was already racing again. She needed to start figuring out alternatives to this Janus tactic.
She felt a muffled thump reverberated through the hull. An unmistakable sound and feeling that meant one thing.
She was being boarded.
Tonya launched out of the bunk. Her feet flew across the grating. She jumped in the pilot’s chair and lit up the boards. One vessel, unknown tag and model, was hooked to the airlock. Five more were circling. None had tags. Somehow they had disabled her systems remotely.
Tonya ducked behind the flight controls moments before one of the ships, an Anvil fighter, silently swooped past.
There was another thud on the airlock door. In a minute or two they would have a pressurized seal and could start hacking the door.
Tonya fired the engines and twisted away. The Beacon II shook as it ripped the docking collar. Her hull held. As she dove down and maxxed her thrusters, she caught a glimpse of the other ship, leaking oxygen into space.
“What the hell, Tonya?” a voice said over her comm. It took her a second to recognize it.
“You done messed up now,” the pirate responded. She could hear his voice tremble with rage. “We were gonna do this all civil.”
“Don’t tell me you’re still sore about the Codex,” Tonya yelled back as she dodged laser blasts from the rest of Nagia’s gang. “I thought you were a bigger man than that.”
“Then what the hell are you doing here?” Tonya brought up her map. She needed to get to guarded UEE space. She couldn’t fight even half of Nagia’s gang, much less all of them, so she’d let the authorities chase them away.
“The man was looking for some muscle.” Nagia’s ship opened fire with its rocket pod. “When he said it was you, I almost said I’d do it for nothing. I didn’t though.”
“Senzen,” Tonya muttered under her breath. The assistant she talked to on Earth probably sold her out to him.
Her screen flashed. There was a disabled hauling column nearby. Authorities were organizing the repairs. Maybe twenty minutes hard burn and she could be there. It was worth a shot.
Tonya flashed the afterburners and took off. Nagia and his minions swarmed after her. Shields flashed up all around her as she took fire. Tonya really needed to put some weapons on her ship.
She rolled and weaved, doing her best to dodge the barrage of incoming laser fire. One of her maneuvering thrusters took a hit from a rocket. It sputtered and went out.
Tonya knew it was only a matter of time before they wore her down. They were faster and better armed.
She opened a channel to the system with Janus and the simulation and prepped a mass drive dump, ready to wipe the whole thing the second they popped the airlock. If she was going to go down, she wasn’t going to make their loot any richer.
Suddenly the system surged. All her screens flickered. The engines cut off as all the lighting went out. Even life support vanished.
Tonya started to reach for emergency oxygen when everything suddenly came back online. Manual control of the ship disappeared. The engines fired, evading the incoming fire with pinpoint precision. The ship spun around on its own and burned past Nagia and his gang.
Systems and power relays rerouted, overclocking the engine and squeezing even more speed out of it. Nagia started to recede in the scans. Finally his gang simply disappeared, unable to compete with the breakneck speed.
Tonya sat in stunned silence.
“Who are you?” A powerful voice echoed through all of the speakers.
“Tonya Oriel?” She responded hesitantly. The ship was silent for a few moments.
“I have a user file for you, Tonya. I am Janus.”