Read Interrogative 01: Tiago and the Masterless Online

Authors: Charles Barouch

Tags: #Science Fiction Adventure

Interrogative 01: Tiago and the Masterless (8 page)

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"I made some modifications to the brainless maker. I think it will work, but the computer won't let me operate the brainy maker to create the parts. And, of course, I can't use the lift to go to the cargo bay to install anything," Six-six-four said by way of greeting Tiago.

"Push the changes to my workspace. I'll have a look."

There were a lot of changes. Some had nothing to do with the link between the two makers. Six-six-four had taken it on herself to upgrade the sim building routines. He reviewed those changes first. It was mostly small stuff. The big one was the addition of a digestive tract; spec rating went from two hundred hours to twenty years. He was sure he could extend it even further, but he didn't want to change her design if he didn't have to. The eyes were more realistic. Same with the skin. It now prompted for a human name at build time. The rest appeared to just be tweaks to the vocal range. Sims built with the new software would be able to vocalize outside of human range. Rechecking everything, he found one more modification. She'd extended the range of the sim. It could now use the shuttle to relay back to the ship's computer. He should have thought of that. Since sims didn't have independent computers, they must tie into the
Interrogative's
computer to do anything.

"Good work. I'm going to head down to the cargo bay to try them out. Do you want to come with me?"

"I can just watch from here. Which reminds me, the shuttle cameras are not working," Six-six-four replied.

"Intentional. I like my privacy. There are a lot of non-working cameras, mics, and scanners on this vessel. Leave them that way, please."

Six-six-four nodded and Tiago left. The brainy maker built the parts and Tiago slid them into place. He could have had the parts generated in place, but he'd had a bad experience once. It worked the first time. He built a vacuum suit on the brainless maker as a test. Once it was instantiated, he grabbed the one he'd made last time and put them side-by-side.

"Interrogative. Scan these two for differences."

"Differences within tolerance," came the reply.

He loaded the shuttle with raw materials. His plans had everything pre-calculated. Tiago closed up the shuttle after disabling the local controls. He would be flying it remotely and building One-one-nine on the moon after arrival. If something on the surface blew the sim up, he could just generate another.

"Interrogative. Launch RS3 on remote pilot. Land it in the flattest spot within 3 klicks of the dome."

If there was an atmosphere or a meteor field, Tiago would have had to pilot it himself. With a simple run like this,
Interrogative
could do it all on automatics. He headed back to the bridge to watch the landing.

* * *

Six-Six-four put the shuttle's forward camera on the main 3D. They watched it go smoothly. No missiles from the moon, either moon, and no angry natives.

"Interrogative. Link me to RS3. RS3. Instantiate One-one-nine in the pilot's seat."

"Name for this instance?"
Interrogative
asked.

"Nellie"

* * *

On the surface of the moon, One-one-nine was built, layer by layer, sitting in the shuttle's only seat. She was created with a simple bodysuit; essentially a Future Defense uniform with all the military patches removed. When the build completed, she fired the shuttle's engines and began her return to the
Interrogative
. That wasn't supposed to happen.

Because the internal cameras on the shuttle were disabled, Tiago didn't know there was a problem until the shuttle took off. One-one-nine was supposed to suit up and explore the dome, looking for an entrance.

* * *

"We have a problem, Audra," Tiago said.

"No we don't," she responded.

Tiago was on his knees before he realized what happened. Six-six-four had come up behind him, wrapped her arms around his neck and forced him to the floor. He passed out before he could ask her "Why?"

* * *

Tiago awoke in his room. He was tied to the bed and could see Nellie and Audra standing over him. Something had obviously gone wrong. Apparently, he hadn't been paranoid enough.

"What do you want?"

"We have what we want," Audra said. "Nellie was able to pass a retinal scan and a fingerprint scan. She is now a full member of the crew. With the captain on medical rest, she's in charge."

"Medical rest?" He spat the words out. "You choked me and tied me to my bed!"

"You wanted to meet the 'natives' and now you have," Audra said. "We are the Masterless. If you prove useful, we will let you continue to live."

Tiago tried to make sense of it. Audra only started evolving emotionally after they got close to the planet. He had thought the missiles were the defense system, but they were just a smoke screen. Apparently, the creatures below were able to take over automatons like the sims. If they could take over real people, he'd probably already be hosting one of them, he thought.

"What will you do with the ship?" Tiago asked.

"We will put it with the others. There's quite a collection down on the planet. We use them for their sensors and their communications," One-one-nine said.

"The radio chatter we picked up coming in. That was all stolen tech?" Tiago asked.

"Not stolen. We gained it in battle. When the Masters left, many others sought to take their place. You are the first in a very long time, but you are not the truly the first," One-one-nine said.

Something didn't add up for Tiago. Audra had tried to convince him to leave. Was that just reverse psychology? No. She wanted him to leave. That was important, even now when it was too late to simply go. He had to think about that.

"Do you eat?"

"The crops? Of course not!" One-one-nine said, clearly offended.

"Why grow them?"

"We always have. We always will. We are the Masterless. We tend the crops. We protect the crops." One-one-nine said.

"Why?"

"For when the Masters return," One-one-nine said. "They promised."

As soon as they left, Tiago started trying to escape.

"Interrogative. Use the maker to disassemble these ropes."

"Captain is diagnosed with mental instability. Lieutenant Nellie Used is acting Captain. Your powers are limited," the computer said.

"Interrogative. I'd like standard food order number twelve."

If they didn't kill him immediately, they wanted him alive, at least for now. Alive meant they'd have to give him a chance to eat.

Tiago waited until the messenger bot received the command, stopped at the galley, and brought him his tray. The steak might be fake, but the steak knife was real.

The little robot located Tiago's hand and delivered the handle of the knife into it. Tiago wished he could ask the messenger bot to cut the rope, but he was afraid that any atypical command would set off an alarm. It took a bit of patience and dexterity, but Tiago was able to get one hand free. That sped up the process of cutting the remainder of the ropes.

He rubbed his limbs to improve circulation. In all his thoughts about finding people, this was not in any of his first contact scenarios. His ship – the one he stole nearly two years ago – had now been stolen from him. His sims – the ones he rescued from the government's imprint – were imprinted with an alien consciousness. It was a hell of a circumstance.

He realized that he'd missed the chance to make this gruesome joke even worse. He should have used the Quintrell template when he designed the traitor sim. One-one-nine was a little short to be an enemy henchman.

"Interrogative. Open the door."

"Captain is diagnosed with mental instability. Lieutenant Nellie Used is acting Captain. Your powers are limited," the computer said.

"Mb-seven. I'm done with my food."

The door opened to allow the bot to leave. Tiago stepped over it, escaping through the doorway. He got away with it because the ship was 'blind' in his room. Once in the hall, he was in sensor range.
Interrogative
sounded an alert. There was a mental patient loose in the halls.

He was caught by One-one-nine. Once again, he was on his bed, tied and looking up at the two sims.

One-one-nine checked the knots and left. Audra remained.

"Good thing you killed the surveillance in here," Audra said.

"Audra? Wait, this isn't possible."

"It won't be in a few hours. It is right now. Let's get you untied and take back the ship," Six-six-four said.

She worked the knots and quickly got him free.

"Explain to me why I should trust you."

"I untied you," she said.

"After you rigged the maker to build a sim which could claim crew rights. Oh, and strangling me."

"They can't control me in here; no advanced sensors," she explained.

"But I thought your personality was part of their control of…" Tiago began.

She slapped him. Hard.

"Ow!"

"I am who I am. They didn't do that. You've seen my code. You know there's nothing foreign in it. After everything, after you've sat in that room that you papered with bits of my mind, you don't know me at all," she said.

"What did you mean by 'it won't be in a few hours?'"

"Nellie will be instantiating a crew. When that's done, they'll repair all the sensors. Until then, I'm me if-and-only-if I stay in the blind spots. We have to win without me leaving this room," she said.

"Then why didn't you help me the first time I was tied up?"

"I couldn't. She hadn't released me yet. Now that she knows I'm heavily restricted, she has lost interest," Audra responded.

"Interrogative. Institute Paranoia One protocol."

"Captain is diagnosed with mental instability. Lieutenant Nellie Used is in charge. Captain's power limited," the computer said.

"Interrogative. When did Captain Used receive her commission?"

"March seventeenth, six years ago," the ship said.

"That's impossible!"

"No," Audra said. "Both the skin augmentation and the retinal changes were patterned on Augusta Flynn. She was a random pick from the database."

"Interrogative. Please compare Augusta Flynn to Nellie Used."

"Match fails on forty-seven points," the computer said.

"Interrogative. Nellie is an impostor. Interrogative. Reinstate Tiago Salazar as Captain because he is the only crewman left."

"Cannot comply. There are now fourteen crew on the ship," the computer reported.

"Interrogative. Compare them to records; all impostors."

"Compared. Reinstating Captain Salazar," said the computer.

"Excellent. Audra, forgive me. Interrogative. Disassemble Six-six-four."

 

Chapter Ten: Three Sides to Any Story

Captain's Log: Ship Date 621

I'm just making an entry to confirm that the ship will allow me access to the captain's records.

 

"The hell!" she said as soon as she was reassembled.

"Yell at me later. Interrogative. Scan Lieutenant Audra Manuel. Interrogative. As captain, I induct her into the crew. Please document all of her identification points."

"Completed," the computer said.

"You took me apart so you could make me a full crew member?" Audra asked.

"Yes. Thank me later, or maybe kill me later, but right now, we have a ship to regain. Interrogative. Where are the impostors?"

The lack of an answer was frightening.

"Lights are still on and I can detect a faint breeze from the air recyclers," Audra said. "Also, I'm not crumpled into a heap. So the computer is still running. It just isn't answering."

"They're attempting to regain control somehow. Sims don't need as much life support. I need to hurry before they figure that out."

"We need to hurry. You are not in this alone. Not anymore," Audra said.

"Interrogative. Open the door."

Nothing.

"What do we do now?" Audra asked.

"Emergency protocol. We need a military uni… Nellie has a uniform! We have to hurry."

"What are you talking about? Uniforms?" Audra asked.

"In the event of a computer failure, every uniform has a local."

"What's a local? I don't understand," Audra said.

"A local allows you to control the tech immediately near you without the ship's computer. Help me look in the back of the closet. Nellie has one because I generated her with a barely modified uniform. I didn't take the time to set her up with other clothes."

"She won't know," Audra said.

"She's a sim, of course she'd know. Wait… why don't you?"

"Why would they program sims with rules for when the computer is down? Think about it," Audra said.

"Good point. Less talking, more looking."

"You have one in the back of the closet. Why do you have one? You hate the military," Audra asked.

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