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Chance Encounter

Posted on 04 Dec 2022 @ 12:02pm by Crewman Apprentice Unknown 'Weirdo' & Ensign Kat Walker

2,184 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: Lounge

Since there had been no sign of the strange visitor falling sick during the night, he was officially discharged from sickbay the following morning by an assistant doctor (Amelia being in deep sleep by then). Another Ops officer assigned him to guests quarters, showed him how the replicator worked and left him to his own devices. The stranger spent about one minute exploring his room, then left. New places were interesting. New faces were far more interesting. And apparently, the lounge was one of the places where faces tended to gather, so that was his first stop.

She was observing the goings-on in the lounge, as she tended to do. And, as so often, she did so in her flight form - the small, four-winged avian dinosaurian, with black iridescent plumage. The long tail hung limp from the horizontal support beam she'd perched upon, just happy to crew-watch.

The newest inhabitant of the ship arrived in the lounge, a man with wild curls and sea-coloured eyes which roved around, taking everything in, and an open, curious expression on his face. When he saw her sitting on the support beam his eyes began to gleam. "Awesome," he said softly. "No idea that this was an option!" A short, calculating look up again, then he walked to where the support beam met the wall. A jump and he had taken hold of the beam, and he pushed against the wall, using the momentum of the jump to gain leverage. Moments later he pulled his leg over the beam and settled on it, looking as much at ease as if he sat on a chair.

He looked over at Kat. "Hi there!" he said cheerfully. "Mind if I join you or would you rather have some privacy?" He looked around. "Seems there's plenty of beams around."

Kat's gaze followed the stranger as he approached and she sat up from her perched position as he monkey-climbed up onto the beam she was occupying. A feathered head tilt and a little flap of her four wings as she scooted over to give him space. "Certainly, be my guest," the creature spoke in a soft, pleasant female voice. "Hello, I've not seen you on the ship before."

"Thanks!" The stranger pulled his other leg up and shifted so that he sat cross-legged on the beam. "And that's not very surprising, they brought me on board just… yesterday, I think." He looked around again, at Kat, then at the people below. A few had seen him climb up and were staring, but most others just continued with what they had been doing, either unaware or not caring what was going on above them. "Great view from up here!" he said enthousiastically.

"It really is," the creature replied. With a holographic shimmer she shifted, changing to a young female crewmember, with slightly too perfect skin and short, blond hair, sitting on the beam. "Hello, I am Ensign Kat Walker, fighterpilot and AI. It's nice to meet you."

The man smiled at her. "Lovely to meet you too! And that's a neat trick. Though, pardon me for saying so… the neater trick is that you appear to be in two locations at once. Is that related to you being an AI?" He narrowed his eyes and looked almost through her, rather than at her… or rather, at her and at her, as if he was trying to trace the link between the creature who sat beside him and the location of her craft.

She tilted her head for a moment, as if contemplating, before explaining. "This avatar is just a remotely controled HID. My logic is running on an AI core, in a fighter, on the fighter deck. I am not actually here," she elaborated. "Might I ask, what is your name?"

"Well, that explains! That's awesome." Then the man shrugged. "I have no idea. I woke up when they opened, well, I think they called it an escape pod. And I have no idea what happened before that, or if I even have a name." He shifted on the beam, propped one fist under his chin. "What name do you think would fit?"

A smile from the AI. "That's very close to how I came aboard, too. They found me adrift and inactive in space, among debris, and pulled me inside. Once my systems detected I was onboard a ship, I reactivated, but with complete memory loss other than some very basic information about my systems. 'Kat' is an abbreviated, for Kinetic Ambulatory Trooper, the type of chassis I was originally installed in." She motioned to the side, where miniature holographic projector of a two-legged robotic walker armed with cannons appeared, alongside a tree and a shuttle for scale.

"As for a name, that is a big thing to ask. Are you sure you want me to try and think of a name that might fit you?" She asked, motioning with her hand again, the little walker hologram vanishing. "Perhaps Tom. Or Peter? Or a combination of the two."

The man frowns. "Tomper? Petom? That's an interesting suggestion… Anyway." He shrugs and gives an airy wave with one hand. "I don't really see the importance of names, other than not having to call everyone 'Hey you!'. I like the fighter ship better than the walker, by the way. I mean, I would love it if I could fly…" He looks down from the beam on which they're perched with a musing expression, as if he's contemplating to flap his arms and try flying. Then he looks back at Kat, very focused now. "Are you bothered, not knowing your past?"

"I meant something like Tom Peter, or Peter Tom. Names are very important to me, but I recognize that's because I am an AI. Routines and algorithms. Everything has to have a name. Every file, every database entry. You are person_ref_odin_859 in my files," she explained, lazily kicking her feet. "I am curious to my past, but that's because I am curious about everything. It's part of my core programming to be. But I would not say I am bothered. I know who I am and what I was built for, and I have achieved that purpose onboard this ship and with this crew."

"Ah yes, that makes sense." He nodded. "On the other hand, I think I'm not a very routine-y person." He shifted position, lying full-length on the beam now, chin resting on his fists. "But since you have already assigned a reference to me for your database, you could use that? Though… I suppose that could become a bit unwieldy if there's some kind of emergency. I mean, 'Person_ref_odin_859, run!!' takes a lot longer to say than 'Kat, run!'…"

She looked at him, an expression of amusement on her features. Something she'd been working very hard on making look as natural as she could. Everything she did had a purpose and a reason, had thought and CPU cycles behind it, and making it appear seamless and natural was something she was putting a lot of effort in to. As long as people didn't specifically notice those little gestures, she figured she was doing alright. All part of being a part of this crew. "I could call you Ref, or 859. Or 'numbers'. But I don't think those are very natural sounding names, to be honest."

"Do you have a particular preference for how you appear?" he asked casually, swinging his feet up and down. "I've seen several different shapes you can take in the time we've talked." He smiled. "I guess I have that with names. I can be Ref to you if you like." He pushed himself up into a sitting position again, clearly too restless to stay in the same place or same pose for long. "Is everyone on this ship as interesting as you?" he asked, looking down at the people in the lounge. "You do seem to be the only holographic projection in here though."

"I am the only AI onboard, Ref. The rest of the crew are biological beings. I believe I am the only AI serving in Starfleet, though I am less certain about that," Kat mused. "I have no specific preference for this HID avatar. Or voice. I chose this avatar as a means to facilitate crew interaction, but I can choose to project any shape, race or gender called for in a given situation," As if to illustrate she shifted to a big, burly male klingon, grinning a toothy grin and speaking in a gruff male voice. "Like this, for example."

The man's face lit up. "Awesome!" he said, regarding the Klingon-appearance with interest. "I've been doing some reading last night." There hadn't been much else to do and the information about the various member races and notable others had been an interesting read. "Let's see… This is a Klingon, right? Fascinating people. Are there any Klingons on board?" He looked down again, searching. "Probably not," he added with a shrug. "Do you usually present as a light-only hologram or do you go more for the solid state aesthetic?"

"A Klingon, yes. And, no, there aren't any onboard," The Klingon spoke, in his deep, rough voice. Though with a shimmer he vanished, revealing a small, 15 cm across, black box hovering where the Klingon's torso had been. "This is my HID, Humanoid Interaction Device," sounded Kat's female human voice, the one Ref had been hearing before the Klingon. "It's a small, low-powered transceiver in constant contact with my main AI core. It has miniaturized cameras and sensors, repulsors to hover and fly, miniaturized holographic projectors and low level forcefield emitters which allow me to interact with physical objects directly," As if to demonstrate, a holographic hand with a finger pointing appeared and nudged Ref's shoulder.

The man touched the finger, extended more pressure, testing the forcefield and its limits. Then he shifted his attention to the black box. His sea-coloured eyes seemed to change colour from blue-green to a slightly darker blue-purple hue, though that could be the effect of the grin being replaced by a look of concentration. "Now this is a nifty little device," he said admiringly. "Also your own original tech, came with the package, I assume? Do you know what the reach is between this device and your main core? Assuming there is a limit, which, given the size of the universe, is quite likely but not necessarily a given…"

"The HID is federation technology," She manifested her human avatar again, in a pose oppisng Ref's own pushing. By now several people were pretending not to look at the antics of the two on the support beam. "There is three hundred and seventy meters of range between the HID and my AI core before lag starts becoming an issue. I can operate at a greater distance, but lose resolution, functionality and response time."

"Very nifty indeed," the man mused. "So you can manifest all over the ship without any problems, then." One of the other things he'd read last night were the ship's schematics, at least, the parts he could access on a guest account. "And you base your main appearance on whether or not you're interacting with the crew? Wings when you're not, taking on this form when you are? Or do you adapt your external appearance to the race you're interacting with?"

"I find biological beings are more comfortable interacting with someone unthreatening, of somewhat smaller size, female and familiar. In those cases I will manifest this avatar. The microraptor is for when I'm not interacting with anyone, or when I need to move around the ship. It's a smaller and faster form, allowing for my HIDs full mobility potential," Kat explained.

The man nodded. "And of course, being a fighter, you enjoy flying. I actually like your flying form better, it's so unique." He shifted position again, dangling his legs instead of sitting cross-legged on the beam, and gave a cheerful wave to the onlookers below. "I really ought to try flying myself one day," he added, more to himself. "Maybe not here, though, people could get hurt if I miscalculate and discover I can't fly after all. And the poor doctor looked stressed enough as it was."

"There is freedom in flying," Kat replied, shifting back to her four-winged paravian form, perching on the support beam.

"That I'll believe. Hey, if I do manage to get the hang of flying, maybe we can really hang out someday." He grinned. "Anyway… I think I'll go and do some more exploring. It was lovely talking to you, thanks!" He stood up, balancing easily on the beam, and gave her a courteous bow. Then he stepped down, as casually as if he'd been standing on a stool or a chair, landed without any problems and gave her a last wave before leaving the lounge.

"It was very nice to meet you, Ref. If you have the permissions, feel free to drop by in the fighterbay some time," Kat waved with a wing.


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