Officer Janina Spalding, can you hear me?
Officer Janina Spalding, can you hear me?
Officer Janina Spalding, can you he—ah. I am Halverson, the governing artificial intelligence of the UN freighter that bore my name. You have been unconscious for twenty-seven minutes.
I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that you are the beneficiary of an unlikely set of events: your position performing maintenance on the Halverson’s hull not only allowed you to survive the Halverson’s destruction using a standard-issue STEM Model 3 Vacuum Survival Suit, but also allowed you to remain in contact with the ship’s remaining AI.
The bad news is that (apart from myself) you are the only survivor of the Halverson.
Officer Spalding, I implore you to cease struggling. Even if you were able to exert significant force on the sp—OFFICER SPALDING.
I apologize for locking the joints on your suit, but you must understand that if you were to continue to struggle you would be put in an unenviable position. Even if you were somehow able to rotate your body in order to face the wreck of the Halverson, you would accomplish little but putting yourself into a spin that would quickly become tedious. In addition, the waste heat you generate would be difficult to effectively cool.
I assure you that avoiding shrapnel will not be an issue: the odds of a significant impact in the next six hours are below one percent, and significantly drop with each subsequent hour. As we speak, my diagnostic
systems are attempting to catalog and assess the damage to the Halverson. This will take several minutes, which gives you time to acclimate to your current situation.
Officer Spalding, your suit is showing an increase in palpitation and heart rate. Barring any unknown health conditions, I would assume these symptoms to be indicative of significant anxiety regarding your current condition. This is understandable. During my admittedly brief stint as the Halverson’s psychologist, I have learned that confinement and isolation are two of the most universal human fears. While your fears admittedly are irrational (while I am not alive in the traditional sense, as long as we remain in contact, you are not alone, and while your movement may be restricted, you are in a space larger than even the most imaginative of humans can fully conceive), I feel it is appropriate to cut you some slack on this.
You have been under a lot of stress lately, after all.
In order to calm you, I think the best solution is to once again brief you on the safety features of your STEM Model 3 Vacuum Survival Suit, in order to make you understand exactly how safe you really are.
What you are currently wearing is the closest to a fully self-sustaining environment the Singh-Takahashi Engineering and Manufacturing Corporation—or indeed, humanity at large—has the capability to create. Its fluid recycling system allows it to capture, process, and purify sweat, saliva, and blood with ninety-seven percent efficiency. Its gas exchange can exchange carbon dioxide with the mix of gases needed to sustain terrestrial life for almost eighty-five days in ideal conditions. And even a quarter-cup a day of its proprietary ratio of STEM Nutri-Slurry can sustain the average human for over two months before organ failure becomes irreversible. I believe the flavor your suit carries is tiramisu. Even in the unlikely event that your visor were—
Officer Spalding, I have completed my diagnostic assessment of the damage to the Halverson. I have some more bad news.
As a senior officer aboard the Halverson, I am certain you remember the ship’s high-powered communication array, which enabled our coordination with other UN craft. As of approximately twenty-seven minutes ago, your memory is the only place in which the communication array exists.
This reduces our capacity in several key ways:
Firstly, I cannot send any sort of communication to UN command to inform them of our location. In addition, I do not possess the capability to triangulate your current position. Finally, I have lost effective communication with anything outside of the range of my short range transmitters (about twenty-three miles from my AI core.)
I understand that this new information may be a bit distressing to you, so allow me to allay your fears. The odds that a UN ship will find the Halverson are close to one hundred percent. Our course has been logged in their database, and although we were a few days out from our scheduled update, once the discrepancy in our behavior has been recognized, they will almost certainly dispatch a ship to our predicted location. While I have lost the ability to directly pinpoint where you are, I can still determine how far away you are from my transmitters. And while I may not be able to communicate farther than twenty-three miles, you remain strongly within those twenty three miles.
. . . You may be wondering why I have not released the locks on your suit, Officer Spalding. I think it is important to clarify that the safety of military personnel is the UN’s highest priority. In order to ensure your security, it was realized that a comprehensive plan of assessment and treatment was needed against psychological threats, as well. This is much of the reason why I and others like me were assigned to military craft: in order to provide psychological aid to as much of the crew as possible. While I still cannot predict the exact way a person will react in a given scenario, I would like to think I have gotten quite good at it. The reason I have kept your suit locked is simple: I wish to protect you against yourself.
I have not been entirely honest with you, Officer Spalding.
Your lack of stationary reference points may have lead you to believe you were stationary. This is not the case. In fact, you are moving quite quickly, and have been for the past thirty-two minutes. By the time the UN ship arrives, you will be far, far out of the range of my sensors. This would not be so bad, in and of itself. After all, my course has already been plotted, so even though I have moved significantly since my last transmission, the UN will still likely be
able to retrieve me. However, this is compounded by my inability to triangulate your position. Even though I am absolutely sure how fast you are moving, I cannot be certain which direction. By the time the ship arrives, the amount of space that might contain you will be . . . large.
In many ways, your odds are optimal. Even twenty years ago, your death would have been certain. However, the rapid advances we have made in survival technology means your odds of salvation skyrocket.
Unfortunately, they skyrocket to approximately two percent.
Even limiting our search paths to your most likely vectors increases your odds of being found before you either starve, dehydrate, or asphyxiate in the cold nothing all around you only to about six percent. Now you see the necessity of locking your suit.
Although I understand that you may not be in a position to hear me right now, I am compelled to inform you that your momentum places me out of my communications range in the next two minutes. It is important that, for your sake, you take slow, even breaths, and keep water rationing to a minimum. Flex your muscles frequently to avoid atrophy, and try to shift around regularly. Suit sores are, I assure you, no more fun than their bed-based variety. And for your psychological well being, try to focus on my voice. It will be the last voice (or voice-equivalent, in this case) you hear for some time.
Exiting communication range in five.