03-04_space_station

“He likes to keep us on a schedule, which is helpful. There have been far too many times under different AI where dinner has come out late or unfinished. Haskell may be a little harsh about it sometimes, but it’s nice to have a machine that cares.”

Anny snapped closed her phone.

“See? Everyone loves you! And honestly, do they make you work any harder than other places you’ve been?”

“I suppose you’re right,” the AI admitted, his vector face somber, “They treat me no more poorly than anyone else.”

“And they like you! They really do!”

His polygonal face perked up, “You’re right! And who am I to deny them my presence which they adore it so very much?”

“Exactly! So will you open engineering again so they can fix the station?”

The face retreated, vector lips pulled tight.

“I… I can’t. You must forgive me.”

“Why not? What’s in there that you don’t want anyone seeing?”

“I shouldn’t say, the Captain-”

Is my father. I know him, he won’t help you even if he wanted to. But I can. What’s this supercomputer no one will tell me about?”

Haskell sighed soundlessly, eyes downturned.

“It’s meant to be a mass-PAX machine. Network your AI in remotely and they’re ‘fixed’ instantly.”

The world spun as if the station planned to continue its orbit without her.

“Wh-what?” Anny stammered, “There’s no way Dad would-”

“He doesn’t know. He didn’t ask questions. This station is just one among many stops as it’s transported in secret across the system.”

“It’ll be the last, if I have anything to say about it.”

WISR stared at her with double-zero eyes.

“Anny, you can’t…”

“I can. I am.”

He grabbed her shoulder and tugged her aside. Haskell’s face tried to peek over them.

“What of your father’s career since you seem so keen to throw your own away? If this computer is destroyed on his watch, it would be the end of his command. Or do you really hate him after all?”

Anny rolled her lip in her teeth.

“I haven’t figured out a good solution yet, but there has to be a way. If they figure out how to PAX remotely, they won’t need agents like us any more. And I can’t let that- that thing continue to exist! PAXing is wrong.”

“That may be so but… What can we do?”

“We can put a stop to this machine. Here. Now. Maybe blow it up?”

“Would look bad on the Captain.”

“Accidental jettison? Never got delivered?”

“Still looks incompetent and there is such a thing as receipts.”

“It has to look really, actually accidental, huh? A freak of nature.”

She snapped her fingers as the idea hit her.

“WISR, can you hack something like that? Make it look like the system itself is unstable? Something that takes down the whole thing?”

“I can certainly try. But it’ll take some time.”

“And I can buy you some. Where is it being kept, Haskell?”

“In the construction bay. Been holding up station repairs for weeks, too.”

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