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Beware of AIs Bearing Gifts

Posted on 20 Jan 2024 @ 2:35pm by Captain Easton Lawe & Ensign Kat Walker

942 words; about a 5 minute read

Mission: Miranda

If Kat could feel relieved at the fact that she was approaching her destination and her multi-day mission was done, she would. Accomplished, too - though what did it even mean to feel accomplished? Pride in her achievements, said the dictionary definition, but she was still unsure she could feel pride. Maybe that was something to explore, perhaps in a conversation with the ship's counselor, or any of the people she'd come to consider friends.

For now though, the AI dropped out of warp just outside the system the Odin was parked in, the shuttle Artigo dropping out simultaneously. Now at sublight speeds, she could tow the shuttle with her tractor beam, as such she shut down the Luxus Traveler's drive and locked on, pushing forward, slowly increasing speed but remaining sub one half Impulse, as per protocol. At the same time she opened a channel to the ship. "Deadeye to Odin, I've returned from my mission."

As it had been programmed to do prior to the crew's departure, all communications directly to the ship were automatically diverted to the captain's comm badge down on the planet. It made for an extra few moments of delay, but it wasn't unreasonable and soon Kat's voice came to Easton Lawe's hearing.

He stepped away from the crew he'd been speaking with and tapped his badge. "Lawe here," he said. "Welcome back, Ensign. What do you have for me?"

"Thank you Captain," Her voice was as pleasant as always. It took quite some computing power to put the right inflection into her words in realtime. "I have found and recovered shuttle Artigo, along with its pilot. Unfortunately he was dead when I found him Sir," she explained, adjusting her course somewhat. It was interesting towing a shuttle with her tractor beam. New calculations to maintain velocity, added mass altering her inertia and center of balance. "I am currently in the system, heading to Odin at half impulse, shuttle Artigo in tow."

"Good work, Ensign Walker," Easton said with some surprise that she'd managed to bring back the whole shuttle, even though part of his was crestfallen that the pilot was dead. Maybe not...surprised, but he had hoped they would be able to get some information from the man. "Were you able to find out anything?"

"No Sir. I have limited access to the shuttle's systems, mostly navigation and propulsion related, which is how I was able to bring it along with me," the AI replied. "Visual scans of the pilot's remains are consistent with symptoms from the disease, though I am not medically trained. I do recommend caution when accessing the shuttle. Where should I park it?"

Easton considered this. "By whatever the best means are, keep it alongside the Odin but still on the outside. In orbit, if you can direct it, with us but I do not want that craft on my ship nor down here. Too much more examination will have to wait until the ship is safe for our return and we can examine it better ourselves. Whatever information you were able to gather, however, please transmit to our remote terminal here on the planet and we can start taking a look."

"Yes Sir," Kat replied, though after a brief moment's silence she continued. "Doing so would necessitate my presence alongside to provide micro-adjustments to the shuttle's orbit, preventing me from landing on the surface and joining the crew."

"I'm open to other recommendations that would meet my requirements, if you have them," Easton said with a sigh. He didn't want to require she remain isolated but at the same time, they needed that ship but he wasn't going to risk it being on the Odin during this cleansing phase nor on the planet anywhere near the crews.

"I am calculating, Sir. One moment please," she replied. The shuttle Artigo and her fighter slowed down in space, with Kat dropping the tractor beam and re-opening the link to the shuttle's own propulsion system. "I am testing whether I can maintain sufficient control over the shuttle's propulsion systems from a sufficient distance away to land on the planet and keep Artigo in orbit alongside Odin, Captain. Please stand by."

With that, Artigo's own thrusters kicked in, slowing the shuttle down to a crawl, while Kat's fighter accelerated, moving away. The shuttle kept making small course adjustments, with the AI calculating lag and signal effectiveness. A standard orbit was around roughly thirty five thousand kilometers, or about 9% of the distance from Earth to the Moon. She had to account for signal degradation and sensor effectiveness through the planet's atmosphere as well. After some time she slowed down again, as the shuttle accelerated at one three-quarters Impulse to catch up.

"I believe I should be able to keep shuttle Artigo in geo-stationary orbit, at least enough to satisfy requirements by constantly monitoring and applying micro-adjustments from the planet, Sir. I would have to park Artigo directly overhead in close orbit, but that would allow me to physically land and interact with the crew by way of holographic avatar." she offered.

"Then proceed, Ensign," Easton replied with a nod that she couldn't see. "You can join us on the planet as soon as you're ready. Just keep an eye on the shuttle while you're here."

"Thank you, Captain. Deadeye out," Kat closed the channel. It would still take a few moments to reach the planet's orbit and some maneuvering to get shuttle Artigo in a geo-stationary orbit around the campsite, but the AI was already looking forward to landing planetside and exploring the campsite and the area immediately around it.


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