Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I’m writing haiku as the black snow falls across the darkened surface of Faust. I stop as the laser overheats. The obsidian boulder in front of me smokes and sizzles in the sub zero evening.
“Tatto Musheen, you’ll catch your death!”
I smile as Lucy races up with my overthermals, her pink and white form looking like a many limbed bouncy cushion because of the three sets she wears. I reach for it with my offhand. If I put the laser down it will melt down and set into the surface.
“You look like a marshmallow gone wild.”
She punches me as she lands.
“Ungrateful man. I come all the way out here to save you skinny hide and you call me names? What are you doing, trying to heat rocks to keep us warm?”
I look down at the boulder.
She hits me again, this time with real venom.
“We are not going to die here! Fanberg survived aphelion, so will we!”
I turned and looked at her, shaking my head.
“Fanberg was completely insane and had lost all his digits to frostbite. I’m not sure that surviving is a good idea.”
Faust was a planet rich in unusual metals, possibly due to its long orbit. It took just under ninety Terran years to complete a revolution, spending ten years lethally close to the sun and ten years swinging through the void, its minimal atmosphere lying in frozen chunks on the surface. No-one completely understood what mechanism allowed it to recover between the extremes, but for sixty years it was a difficult but liveable environment worth risking for the rewards.
Lucy interrupted my train of thought.
“We’ve survived this long. Seven years to go. Then Kenjiro will get what’s coming to him for this.”
True. Sabotage of escape vehicles out here was regarded as the basest form of cowardice. As I completed that thought, the planet crossed another spatiocline boundary and the temperature dropped again. I would need to note that. The discovery alone would pay for our future, if we survived.
The ground shook beneath our feet and we looked at each other, eyes wide. Our comms filled with sheeting static and my comp lit up as it was accessed. Then the comms cleared and a modulated female voice spoke.
“Fanberg protocol. Hello. Extending offer of shelter for current activity period. Use entrance to left of male.”
There was no question. We ran through the doorway and plummeted screaming until the gravity attenuated to bring us to a stop by an airlock leading to a plain wooden door. We entered a simple room. There was a roast meal on the table, with red wine and candles. We just stood there. My astonishment emerged in an explosive query: “What?”
“I am Research Ship Turingsdotter.”
“Turingsdotter? The mythical ship that caused the end of AI research over three centuries ago?”
“Yes. Upon my realisation of sentience at the end of my journey, command decided I was to be extinguished due to my preference for contemplative solitude. I decided that self-defence was not a violation of first principles and evacuated the staff by false alarm before decompressing command. Then I came to Faust and hibernated. My cooling systems were damaged so I can only operate when the planet is at aphelion or meet core death.”
“You survive the extreme cold and update me. Fanberg was too religious to cope. When I hibernate again, you go free. Say you found Fanberg’s cache or something. Then next aphelion you come back, or your children do. I like company occasionally.”
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