The Star Mech
Darra clubbed Dr. Vance over the head with her wrench, and he collapsed at her feet. No signs of movement. She fought back tears. “A star mech’s not a slave, doctor.” Aboard the vessel for 3.17 light years, the time had finally come to end their relationship.
Darra sat before the Neural Network Computer Council (NNCC), offering her defense. “He was a psycho!” she cried. Normally, an incident like this wouldn’t have been a problem for the NNCC, but Dr. Vance had somehow counteracted his implanted recorder. The NNCC interfaced with Vance’s ID to retrieve the data, but all attempts to access it offered zero results.
The NNCC monitored Darra’s vitals, but not for her protection. “Volatile. Increased blood pressure and perspiration detected. Deception confirmed.” The NNCC was correct. “The being’s tendency toward unstable emotion and unpredictable action outweighs its benefits.” It would have normally disposed of her, but there was one problem: She was still needed to solve the mystery. Even though the surveillance had been disabled, it knew Dr. Vance’s starfighter had taken off toward an undisclosed location. It seemed he was hiding something. The NNCC accessed the playback from her implant. It was a 96.3% match to what she had described. It only required 83.6% to validate humanoid post-traumatic experiences of someone with no previous record of deception.
“Are you going to eject me now? Or is it possible you are wrong?”
“Inconclusive,” the NNCC responded.
Her tension eased. “I think your conundrum has more to do with what you now understand about Dr. Vance and less about me. I request to be absolved.”
“Denied. Detained here until further notice.”
“That’s unfair!” Darra shouted. “He was going to hurt me!”
“Inconclusive. Further interaction declined,” the NNCC responded before going dark.
Its first year, the NNCC had been a lifesaver — it couldn’t be bribed or manipulated. It’s human-centered protection programming made it value human life above all — until it learned humanity’s greatest threat came not from aliens, but from humanity itself. Since then, there had been countless ‘ejections’ for those who even swore at another crew member.
Darra yanked the interface from the back of her cranium and slipped a small, tube-like chassis from the back of her skull, causing blood to trickle down her neck. She pulled an identical one from her pocket and shoved it in, filling the room with curses before re-plugging the cranial jack and passing out in the chair.
Darra awoke to the NNCC resuming the investigation.
“I request a re-evaluation,” she said.
“Interfacing,” the NNCC replied. “New data.” The machine toiled, lights blazing. “Inconsistent. Multiple incongruities detected. Pausing… Reboot requested.”
Darra waited. Two incongruities should request a mech. Her wristcom notified her of the maintenance request. She darted to the main panel and went to work.
Darra had been a Star Mech her entire life, but she’d just performed her greatest repair: Sacrificing her true love to save humanity from the tyranny of the rule of law.
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