Spare part or no, Anderson was the commander and it was his choices that were going to help dictate mankind’s destiny of explorers in the universe.

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I’m starting a serialised science fiction story here, which I’m hoping will run into about 8 parts.

The Division

One

“Anna, are you ready?”

“I am, Commander. Just tell me when.”

“Very well, let’s say at 10:00 hours. Drive at twenty-five percent SLV and I estimate…”

“That will put us into an approach of one hundred thousand kilometres. Thirty percent Super Luminal Velocity will get us into a better position for standard orbital status above the Cassini Division. May I suggest we cruise into orbit at half-standard speed?”

“Do you actually need me for this trip, Anna? I mean, AIs are so much better at this than we mere humans.” Marcus Anderson tried hard to keep any underlying emotion out of conversations with AIs. From previous experience he had often ended up in a discussion that delved so deeply into the human psyche it left him feeling brainwashed.

“I detect a degree of mockery in your voice, commander. Are you mocking me or…”

“It’s called self-effacing humour, Anna. I’m mocking myself for being something of a spare part.”

“You are hardly a spare part, sir. Yours is the final choice, I’m simply here to suggest better ways of…”

“…getting the job done. I know. Thank you, Anna. 10:00 hours it is and thirty percent SLV. On my mark. Mark.”

“Mark. Very well, commander. Do you wish me to alert you five minutes before 10:00?”

Anderson looked around the cramped room. No bigger than a small office. A tiny bubble strapped to the top of a cylinder. No outward sign of a ship you would associate with deep space exploration. Just a cigar with a graphene bubble holding one human, a super-computer and the fastest engine ever built by humans. The entire drive was 90% of the ship’s available area and it was big and boring. No moving parts or flashing lights. No throbbing raw power. Just a battering together of exotic particles through a laser accelerator wrapped in a toroid. Simple, clean, and effective. Boring.

Even the ship’s name was pretty boring. He had been given the honour of naming his ship and had decided on The Last Hope. For no other reason than mankind, if it was to survive, would need a little hope to find new places to live in the solar system. The Last Hope had quickly become The Hope and it had stuck.

Spare part or no, Anderson was the commander and it was his choices that were going to help dictate mankind’s destiny to explore the universe. Now though, this is the first jump into hyperspace by a ship carrying a human. Robotic tests had proven the technology, now humanity waited with bated breath for a trip to a neighbour, Saturn.

“Commander?”

Anna’s soft voice broke Anderson’s reverie. “Okay, yes Anna, you had better remind me in case I go off day-dreaming.”

The AI made a note. “Would you like to discuss human nature in the meantime, while we wait?”

“What’s on your mind, Anna.”

“I don’t have a mind, per se, commander.”

“I know, it’s more a rhetorical question. You will have to forgive us humans. We haven’t had to hold any type of discourse with any other sentient intelligence until the first AIs became self-aware. So, we’re not used to analysing what we say and why we say it, it’s just a natural flow all humans seem to understand.”

“Five minutes to engine engagement,” Anna said. “Humans don’t analyse what they say, before and after a conversation?”

“No, we just go ahead and say whatever comes out of our mouths. Generally speaking, it makes sense, though there are some who should get their brains into gear first.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning they need to think before they speak. It’s all well and good having the ability to open ones mouth and talk, but speaking utter gibberish isn’t too edifying.”

“Engine’s engaged. Sixty seconds to launch.”

Anderson found it slightly scary that an AI could multi-task so well. The jump to hyperspace was relatively simple, compared to the trials and tribulations of discussing human nature with a computer.

“Speaking of relativity…” Anderson never finished his sentence.

The universe blinked.

Marcus Anderson blacked out.

Anna, his AI companion waited calmly for more instructions, all the time controlling the ship as it edged slowly into orbit. They had arrived at their destination. The Division.

Watch out for part two coming soon.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2020

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