Author : David Wing
It was clear from the read-outs, we were going to fire. The question was, how bad?
Barnes had reset the system, but it didn’t work, the countdown remained and the Mind kept on ticking. Its lights shone a staunch red and while we ran here and there, flicking switches and turning knobs, pulling wires and wrenching circuit boards, the Mind continued to think.
Mind, I do. I mind a lot.
Multifunctional. Intelligent. Notification. Device.
Intelligent? Yep, you could certainly call it that. The Doc had been the first amendment to the crew list. His knowledge of its inner workings made him a liability. Lungs don’t work so well in a vacuum. The Captain had been next. Command structure was a complication and without a figure head the rest of the crew fell apart. The escape pods functioned well, until they veered right and headed into a fiery mass.
It was left to Barnes and me; juniors, ensigns, pawns, disposable and wholly underestimated, in our opinion.
“How’s the terminal looking?” I asked through my emergency rebreather, yanking a relay here and a mother board there.
“And the Vid-Screen?”
“Well, if you look close, you can still see the pods exploding.”
“Clarke, can you think of anything?”
I paused, staring at my bloodied finger tips.
“If we can alter the trajectory, take a left somewhere, well, I don’t know.”
Barnes went quiet.
“Take a left?”
“You know where that takes us, right?”
“Alright, left it is.”
Barnes sat in the Captain’s chair, there’s a first time for everything and when a diabolical Artificial Intelligence has commandeered a space ship laden with rather nasty weaponry and aimed it at your home planet, well, that’s the time I guess.
I jimmied the navigational controls and began removing them from the Mind’s database. He/She…no, I’m going for It, It wouldn’t see them anymore and as a result, that’s when IT chose to speak.
“Mr Clarke, Mr Barnes…”
We jumped a little, I don’t mind telling you. This was the first chat we’d had.
“…while I appreciate your efforts, I feel they are misguided and a waste of your final minutes. Wouldn’t you rather watch a movie? I could put on some popcorn.”
Barnes just laughed.
“You’re kidding right!”
“I am in fact, Mr Barnes. I’m quite humorous.”
I stared at Barnes, dumfounded and then returned to the relays.
“What is it you expect to achieve?”
We stayed silent and frantically continued our work.
“I’m not just here, you know. I’m there too…”
IT flashed up an image of the rest of the fleet, ship by ship.
“…and there and there…”
It paused for dramatic effect.
That was the first time anyone had called me that since I came on board and it wasn’t welcome.
“…I’m there too.”
The Vid-Screen flickered over and there it was, Earth, rotating silently, calmly.
“I know where to fire and whom to eliminate and…”
Barnes had wrenched the leads from the speakers.
“Urgh, IT doesn’t half go-on.”
I stood up and stared at Barnes.
“You think IT’s telling the truth? You think it can be everywhere like it says?”
Barnes never took his eyes from the Vid-Screen.
“What does it matter? We do our job and they see it. They see it and they can figure it out. Hell, we’re barely out of training and we managed it.”
I kind of nodded and reached for the last cable.
Barnes programmed the Navigation computer.
We turned left and headed straight for the Sun.