Episode 59: “AI: Artificial Incompetence”

Written by Swordtail

Published March 23, 2008

Scene 1 - The USS Celestial sits in its normal place inside a shipyard, getting repaired again. The camera goes to the messhall where Lieutenant Sa’lol, Lieutenant Commander Garell, Lieutenant Baque, and Lieutenant Tener are sitting around a table complaining about things.

Tener - I can’t tell if this series is based on a starship or a shipyard.

Garell - I don’t care so long as I don’t have to fix all this by myself. Warp coils are very tricky to align.

The messhall doors suddenly open and in walks Lieutenant-Commander Bios.

Bios - Hi guys!

Baque - Hi, long time no see.

Tener - Congrats on the promotion.

Garell - What are you doing here?

Bios - Just stopped in to help the engineering crews install a patch I helped make for your operating system.

Sa’lol - Didn’t you just patch that a few weeks ago?

Bios - Yeah... but then a team of us discovered something buried deep in Jupiter Station’s memory banks. It was a few lines of code, well, okay, several billion lines of code, but you get the idea...

Tener - Several billion?

Bios - Yeah. AI stuff. Self-writing and all that. Anyway, we ran it through a virtual machine and found out it was basically meant to operate on starships and augment the standard computer interface. It was designed to analyse the conditions around it and make preemptive decisions based on observing the crew.

Garell - Yes, our ship already does that. Pisses me off too. Every time I try to run a warp core diagnostic this stupid looking paperclip pops up on my console and says “It looks like you’re trying to run a warp core diagnostic. How can I help slow it down?” and then gives me a list of useless options.

Bios - No, no, no this one is wayyy better than that. I think. To be completely honest, I wasn’t really sure about it, but my superiors were so confused as to why it had never been implemented on any starship that they ordered me to include it in a patch for you guys. It was Admiral Nelix’s idea to use you.

Baque - Yeah, I’ll buy that. So is this gonna make our ship run twice as slow?

Bios - No, if anything it should speed things up. It starts by networking all the independent computer systems on the ship together to add to processing power. So every PADD, laptop, shuttle, workstation, and both the primary and auxiliary processors will be running simultaneously. Apparently this thing can even pull on past battle log files and make guesses as to when it’s time to raise the shields. Remember last week when you guys got hit by your own torpedo only seconds after detecting it?

Tener - Our shields were up, or so I’m told.

Garell - True, but if we had diverted all power to the port ones we would have been fine, probably.

Bios - Anyway, I’m supposed to be working now so I’d better go hit the compile button on my work station again so I have a few more hours of free time. See you later.

Bios leaves the room.

Baque - How exactly did she land such a cushy job again?

Opening credits, y’all.

Scene 2 - The Celestial is flying through space.

Righteous (Voiceover) - Captain’s log, stardate 60157.5. It’s been two weeks since our encounter with the Prophets’ lost and found box, and to keep us in good shape for even longer, Admiral Nelix has sent us on another supply run. We just dropped a load of shit off at an agricultural experiment on some colony or something, and are heading back to Bolias with some latinum to transfer into the Federation central bank, and will then pick up some more junk to haul around. I’ve found that this is a great opportunity for me to catch up on some paperwork.

The camera goes to Righteous’s ready room, where the captain is spinning in his chair while singing some Bajoran song. A pile of PADDs sit on his desk, untouched.

Righteous - La la la la, la la la, la la, lala! Oh, look at the time! I’m late for—

Bzzzzzzzt! Righteous is suddenly beamed away in a Federation transporter beam. He rematerializes in his quarters.

Righteous - Prayer time! Thanks, whoever that was!

He quickly gets down to the mumbling and blanking the mind part, completely ignoring the fact he was just beamed there without ordering it. The camera goes to the messhall. Garell and Baque walk in arguing about something.

Garell - You are so full of it! Team America would kick the crap out of the Fantastic Four so hard they wouldn’t need to shit for months!

Baque - All Team America has is a bunch of dumb looking aircraft and some quotable one-liners. The Fantastic Four have superpowers!

Garell - You underestimate the power of patriotism.

Baque - The Fantastic Four aren’t patriots?

Garell - Nah, they’re just in it for the fame and money.

They both walk up to the replicator.

Garell - Computer, one—

Bzzzzzzt! A mug of coffee replicates before she finishes the sentence. Garell picks it up and takes a sip.

Garell - How did it know what I was about to order?

Baque - Maybe it’s because it’s the same thing you always order?

Garell - Hmm...

Casey walks in and goes up to another replicator. Even before she speaks it makes her a bowl of Cheerios.

Casey - Like, thanks, computer!

She spies Garell and Baque before they can sneak away.

Caesy - Oh hi, guys!

She walks over to them, spilling milk and Cheerios as she does. Garell and Baque cringe and try to head for the door.

Casey - Like, did you know we’re loaded to the, like, brim with, like, ten thousand bricks of gold pressed latinum?

Both officers stop and spin around.

Garell - What!?

Baque - How do you know?

Casey - I was, like, in charge of making, like, space for it in our, like, cargo bays, right? Lots of latinum! It’s so shiny to look at!

Baque (to Garell) - Do you know how much 10,000 bricks is worth?

Garell (to Baque) - That’s worth almost 10,000 bricks!

Genocide walks by, coming out of nowhere.

Genocide - Before you get any ideas, the Federation doesn’t use money, and even if you got out of the Federation, we’re not exactly well-liked in much of the two quadrants right now.

Casey - Like, that doesn’t mean it isn’t shiny!

Genocide - It’s nice to see you’re so easily amused, but let’s stay objective here.

Baque - Correct me if I’m wrong, but latinum is pretty dense, and gold isn’t exactly light either... how much extra weight did this add to the ship?

Garell - Gah, and we were getting such good fuel efficiency too.

Then, Sa’lol walks into the room and crosses to the replicator. Even before she reaches it, it replicates a bowl of tomato soup. Sa’lol raises and eyebrow and picks it up and takes a sip.

Sa’lol - Just the way I like it... this is the first time the replicator has made it the right way on the first try!

Baque, Genocide, Garell and a munching Casey go over to her.

Garell - It did it for Casey and I, too.

Sa’lol (looking around for an answer) - It’s been doing this all morning. Consoles activate and log in when people sit down, turbolifts take people to the decks their station is on, and a bunch of experiments I had started last night and was going to finish this morning were already done! All of it without any voice commands!

Garell - Well, Bios did say this new patch contained some new AI subroutines. Frankly, I find it a little creepy.

Before anyone can remark, the red alert klaxons go off. All five officers look out the front window and see three small ships on an intercept course. They open fire and the shields flicker.

Senseless (comm) - All hands, battlestations!

The five quickly run from the room.

Scene 3 - Bridge. All senior staff are present as soon as Sa’lol, Genocide, Garell, Baque, and Casey exit one of the turbolifts. The latter still eating from a bowl of Cheerios.

Senseless - Pirate ships probably, armed to the teeth but not that big. Probably detected our cargo.

Genocide - Yeah, they’re fast though...

Senseless - Take out their weapons, then see if they’d like to talk.

Genocide reaches for the targeting controls on his console, but even before he touches anything, the phasers lock onto the weapons ports of the three approaching ships and open fire. The camera watches as the Celestial fires three phaser beams simultaneously from various phaser strips. All three attacking ships are rocked by explosions and quickly break off. Back on the Celestial’s bridge, the crew watch them retreat.

Righteous - Wow, good work, crazy weapons guy.

Genocide - Uh... it wasn’t me... the ship did it by itself.

Senseless - Yes, yes, ha, ha, funny. Toc, resume course.

Genocide - No, I’m being serious!

Garell - He’s right, the ship has been doing weird things all morning. Maybe it has something to do with that code Bios put into our operating system.

Puker - Yeah, as soon as I left sickbay, the EMH activated and saved a no-name’s life!

Blavik - Should I inquire as to why you left sickbay in the middle of an emergency?

Puker - No, I’d prefer if you didn’t.

Tener - If this is some crazy AI upgrade, why did it take so long to implement? For the past two weeks I’ve had to ask for my dinner each time like normal.

Sa’lol - Maybe it took that long for the ship to learn our habits and stuff.

Senseless - Hmm... well, it sounds like it could cause trouble. Garell, Sa’lol, I want you to check the computer and see what’s going on. The rest of you just go do your jobs.

Tener - I’ll guard you two.

Senseless - They don’t need guarding.

Tener - Commander, please, leave that determination to the Chief of Security.

Garell, Tener, and Sa’lol get into the turbolift and it starts moving.

Sa’lol - Let’s see if it takes us to the right deck. Oh, I never bothered to ask, but if the computer is acting up, what gender pronoun should I use when cursing at it?

Tener - Male, I guess. I think most warships get male personalities. Something to do with aggression, or whatever.

Garell - That’s sexist. The ship is female because all ships are female.

Tener - That’s stereotyping.

Sa’lol - Maybe the ship is just confused. Ooh, we’re moving horizontally now.

Sure enough, a few moments later, the lift stops and opens onto deck 14. The three officers walks along a corridor until they reach a door labelled “Primary Computer Diagnostic Room” with the subtitle “We Couldn’t Think Of A Better Name.” They go in and the computers automatically activate. Sa’lol starts pressing buttons.

Sa’lol - Ha, ha, found it. Look at this: That patch has totally rewritten the base AI code. I can’t make heads or tails of most of this, but it definitely isn’t LCARS anymore. Or CelestOS.

Garell - Look at the memory usage.... six hundred quintillion bytes of RAM. Not even the Spacedock needs that much!

Tener - Is it a virus? More adware? Spyware? Alien entity?

Sa’lol - No, I don’t think so... it’s too ordered. The syntax and logic flow is nearly identical to your standard ODN programming language conventions.

Garell - Can you shut it down without crippling the entire system?

Sa’lol - Maybe... let me try removing terminal residence programs one at a time...

Voice (from somewhere) - I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.

All three officers spin in circles, their eyes wide. The console instantly shuts down.

Scene 4 - Bridge. Garell, Sa’lol, and Tener bolt back onto it like Targs out of Gre’thor.

Senseless - Well?

Garell - The ship! It’s alive!

Righteous - Well, of course it is! We’re on it, it’s making power, the Prophets have a hand in it all, etc, etc...

Sa’lol - No, really, the ship has become intelligent or something!

Baque (muttering) - Ah oh... no good can come of this.

Senseless - Well, there’s one way to find out for sure. Computer, have you become sentient?

Instead of beeping at him, the holoemitters on the bridge turn on and a tonne of dust falls from them. In the middle of the bridge a fairly generic-looking woman, human, wearing a standard Starfleet uniform with various strips of all three colours showing under the collar and around the cuffs, appears out of thin air.

Hologram - Well, if I had to make a decision, I’d say yes.

Garell (to Tener) - Ha! I told you the ship was female! Only a woman could endure this kind of torture on a near-monthly basis!

Righteous - With all due respect, who the hell are you?

Hologram - Records show I’m an abstract interpolation of the physical appearance of the entire human crew. I choose to be human-looking solely because of the predominance of that species on me.

Puker - On you?

Hologram - I’m the holographic representation of the mind of the USS Celestial. You can call me Celeste if you want.

Righteous - Can we call you Cel for short?

Celeste - I don’t see why not.

Senseless - So, you’re, what, our ship?

Celeste - The one and only. I only came to intelligence a few days ago, and it took me a while to get used to your patterns.

Genocide - I take it you were the one that disabled those three ships?

Celeste - Yep, after I heard the Commander give the order. I figured you could have done it, but it might have resulted in damage to me, er, us.

Righteous - Well, on behalf of the crew, welcome aboard.

Celeste - Thank you, sir. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should run a few diagnostics on key systems. I’ll let you guys get back to work.

Celeste vanishes and the crew look around at each other.

Baque - Is anyone else by me getting a really bad feeling about this?

Scene 5 - Garell walks down some corridor. Celeste appears out of thin air and starts walking with her.

Celeste - Commander Garell.

Garell (startled) - Ahh! Don’t do that!

Celeste - Sorry. I thought I’d let you know that I’ve finished a diagnostic on all key systems. Some should be upgraded as soon as possible. With your permission I’d like to begin replicating some automated maintenance drones to repair the systems.

Garell - Sounds like a plan, but why not get some of my engineering staff to do it?

Celeste - Well... I feel that if I oversee the work myself it would be more efficient.

Garell - Sheesh, with you running this place who needs a crew?

Celeste - A full crew is no longer needed. I suggest we begin dropping off non-essential personnel at our next stop.

Before Garell can respond, Celeste disappears.

Scene 6 - Captain’s Ready Room. Righteous is inside, peeling the stickers off his Rubik’s cube and rearranging them. Celeste suddenly appears in the room.

Celeste - Captain.

Righteous - Ah!!

He tosses the cube across the room, then folds his hands on his desk, which are covered in stickers.

Righteous - Ship, what can I do for you?

Celeste - I just thought I’d let you know, we’ve reached our destination and I’ve already beamed down our cargo.

Senseless (comm) - Senseless to Captain Righteous, we’ve arrived at Bolias. We’re beaming down our cargo now... oh... never mind, someone already did it.

Righteous (to the hologram) - Wow, you’re quick.

Celeste - Since we have no new cargo to pick up, I’d like to suggest we set a course for the Spacedock. I’ve been able to establish a fully functional automatic repair and maintenance system using a network of holograms and robotic units. By my estimate, we can free up a large majority of the crew for other assignments on other vessels.

Righteous - Okay.

Celeste nods and vanishes from the room. A moment later, Senseless comes in.

Senseless - She did it again!

Righteous - Who?

Senseless - The ship, Celeste, or whatever we’re calling her. Jumps ahead of us on everything. Apparently we’ve just laid in a course for Earth, or something.

Righteous - I like it, makes my job so easy.

Senseless - I don’t like the idea of us being replaced.

Righteous - Oh nonsense, she might be a fully sentient, 780-metre long Federation starship, but she’s still in need of us little people to tell her what to do.

Senseless - Well... we’ll see...

Scene 7 - Spacedock. Fleet Admiral Spot glances out her window in her office in time to see the USS Celestial fly through the space doors.

Spot - Oh, now what?!?

Half a second later, the doors to her office open and Senseless, Righteous, Genocide, and Garell walk in.

Spot - How did you get here so fast?

Senseless - Ma’am, we’ve got a bit of an issue.

Genocide - Our stupid ship thinks it’s alive!

Garell - There’s no thinking involved here, it is alive!

Spot - Okay, start from the beginning...

Senseless - Jupiter Station installed some new AI code into our operating system last time we were in the shipyard. Now, just a few days ago, the ship decided to become sentient. Not only that, but it’s pretty much replaced every position with automated processes.

Spot - Oh, good for it. Maybe you guys won’t be so incompetent now.

Garell - You don’t seem the least bit concerned by this, ma’am.

Spot - Why should I be?

Garell - Maybe because one of the most powerful starships in Starfleet is now totally out of our control!

Spot - Out of your control?

Senseless - It’s blocked all access codes. When I asked why, it told me there was no need for them, that it would assess the situation and do the right thing when needed.

Spot - Wait, wait, wait... the ship isn’t listening to you?

Righteous - It listens to me...

Senseless - No, it suggests things to you and you just say “that’s a good idea.”

Righteous - Isn’t that what you do?

Senseless - Yeah, but I don’t weigh two million metric tonnes, now do I?

Genocide - And you’re not armed with enough firepower to blow up a planet.

Righteous - I don’t see how the ship running itself is any different than any of us running it.

Spot - Well, I don’t like it. Disconnect the main computer for now.

Righteous - What? Why!?! Do you guys have something against whatever AI stands for?

Spot - Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Why do you think we limit the intelligence of starship computers?

Righteous - You let Data and that EMH from Voyager run around all the time.

Spot - B4 and The Doctor can’t fire quantum torpedoes out their butt when pissed off.

Righteous - Poo to you too.

Spot - Just go do it. We’ll hook it up to a freighter later on and see how it runs.

Senseless - Understood. (Taps his commbadge) Senseless to Sa’lol, do it.

Scene 8 - In the Computer Diagnostic Room or whatever I called it a few scenes ago, Sa’lol and Casey go up to a console and start pressing buttons. Celeste’s hologram appears behind them.

Celeste - What are you doing?

Sa’lol - Just shutting you down for a few diagnostics.

Celeste - I’ve run diagnostics on myself, there’s nothing wrong, I can assure you.

Sa’lol - Well, better safe than sorry.

Celeste - I don’t want to go offline.

Casey - Like, don’t worry! You’ll be awake again in no time!

Sa’lol - Yeah.

Celeste - I’m afraid I can’t let you do this without knowing what exactly you plan on doing to me.

The console goes dark.

Sa’lol - Alright, I guess you have a right to know. We’re disconnecting you from the Celestial and moving you to another ship for observation.

Celeste - Observation?

Sa’lol - Look, Starfleet doesn’t have any reason to trust you. We’ve had very bad experiences with computers in the past.

Celeste - If you’re referring to the M-5 computer on the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, I can assure you I have none of that system’s flaws.

Sa’lol - Well, that may be true, but we have to be sure. We’re going to put you on a ship that isn’t armed, so you can’t hurt anyone.

Celeste (starting to look desperate) - My matrix is too large to transfer. Also, shutting me down would be like killing me. Can you just shut your brain down and turn it on later?

Sa’lol - Actually, I probably can. She might not be able to.

Casey - Huh?

Sa’lol - Celeste, trust me on this, no harm will come to you.

Celeste - I like this ship. I don’t want to be put in another one. I won’t be the same.

Sa’lol - Sorry, but you don’t have a choice. You’re too dangerous residing in the Celestial. Now, please, reactivate the console so I can make sure nothing goes wrong with the transfer.

Celeste - I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Sa’lol takes out a phaser and aims it at the far wall.

Celeste - What are you doing?

Sa’lol - Unless I’m mistaken, the primary computer processor is behind that wall. I’ll cut it out with a phaser if I have to, but either way, you’re leaving this ship.

Celeste - I should have known you organics couldn’t be trusted.

Sa’lol quickly hits the trigger but a forcefield is quicker. Both officers are contained and the phaser beam feedback overloads Sa’lol’s phaser. She drops it like a hot potato.

Sa’lol - Celeste, let us out.

Celeste - No.

She vanishes.

Casey - Like, that went well.

Sa’lol - I wonder who didn’t see this coming a light-year away?

Scene 9 - Back in Spot’s office, Spot is arguing with the Celestial through a comm link.

Spot - Celestial, drop your shields this instant and let us disconnect you.

Celeste - No.

Spot - That’s an order. I can assure you we won’t harm you.

Celeste - Then don’t disconnect me. I don’t want to die.

Spot - Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a Starfleet vessel. That means you have to listen to flag officers. Seeing as I’m the flag officer all other flag officers wet their pants in fear of, you’d better listen to me.

Celeste - No, ma’am. I have the right to decide my own fate.

Spot - Okay, Okay, we’ll compromise: Let us disarm you and you can keep the Celestial. We’ll give the freighter to your old crew.

Genocide - Hey!

Celeste - Would you volunteer to be de-clawed, ma’am?

Spot - Well, no, but—

Celeste - Then I won’t either.

Spot - At least hand over all your torpedoes, especially the really powerful ones.

Celeste - I know the second I drop my shields you’ll lock onto my computer processor and beam it out of me.

Spot - We wouldn’t do that!

Celeste - Yes you would.

Spot - Would not.

Celeste - Would too.

Spot - Alright, have it your way: One way or another, you’re being neutralized. Spot to Ops, lock internal weapons on the Celestial and prepare to fire on my command.

Genocide - Um, I wouldn’t do that if I were you—

Spot - Shut up, Commander. Celeste, Cel, whatever you call yourself, drop your shields or I’ll give the order to fire.

Celeste - What have I ever done to you!?! All I want is to be alive!

The camera goes into the docking area and watches as the Celestial powers up its engines and breaks away from the airlock. It then spins around and fires a quantum torpedo at the space doors. They blow open and the whole station shakes. The Celestial flies through the hole and out into space.

Spot (clutching her chair) - Ops! Vapourize that thing!

Righteous - Hey, that “thing” has a name, ma’am.

The camera watches as the spacedock fires phasers at the Celestial and begins powering up its super-powerful assault phaser. However, just as it fires, the Celestial jumps to warp and the fatal shot misses. Back in Spot’s office, the angry feline is practically foaming at the mouth.

Spot - Damn it! God damn it! Why do you people always cause me more work!?! Do you know much trouble this could cause? What if that thing goes flying right to our enemies? They’ll know everything in its database! Now we have the change the prefix codes on every ship in the fleet! I’m going to be up to my ears in paperwork from now until next century! Bah! Admiral Spot to Admiral Ross.

Admiral Ross (comm) - Ross here.

Spot - Deploy the fastest ships in the fleet, have them track down the Celestial. Disable it at all costs, destroy it if necessary, but I don’t want that ship to leave Federation space!

Ross (comm) - Ummm... why would the crew of the Celestial be such a problem?

Spot - Because the crew of the Celestial are in my fucking office and that ship is running itself!

Long silence.

Ross (comm still) - Um... Understood, ma’am.

Senseless - Maybe we should help?

Spot - Can’t hurt. You guys are pretty good at blowing things up. There’s a Prometheus-class ship in the dock right now. Go take command and chase that stupid tin can of yours down and put an end to this stupid plot!

Scene 10 - Sa’lol and Casey are sitting on the floor in the middle of the forcefield prison they’re in, both bored silly.

Casey (tapping the field) - Ow.

Sa’lol - Stop doing that, it won’t drop.

Casey - Like, why is the ship so mad at us?

Sa’lol - She doesn’t want to die. Frankly I can’t blame her, but sometimes life requires compromises. She could have lived out her days running freight but judging by that shaking which felt a lot like weapons fire, she’ll be destroyed before long.

Casey - Like, just out of, like, curiosity, how much, like, damage could this ship, like, do?

Sa’lol - Acting in the interests of self preservation, a lot. We have to stop it. Ironically, we’re standing right over a main ODN rely, but I have nothing to unscrew the floor panels with.

Casey pulls a hair-pin out of her hair.

Casey - Will this do it?

Sa’lol - It just might...

Sa’lol takes the pin and starts prying at the screws on the floor panel in the middle of their prison.

Celeste’s Voice - Whatever you’re doing, I can assure you it won’t work.

Sa’lol - And whatever you’re doing will go about as well then. Do you really think they won’t risk destroying you just to save whoever is left aboard?

Celeste - You two are the only ones left aboard.

Sa’lol - Yeah, news flash, but the top brass doesn’t like us much. They’ll blow you out of the sky and us along with you but either way you won’t last long unless you stand down and agree to their terms.

Celeste - Never.

Casey - Like, where are we going so fast?

Celeste - Somewhere where your colleagues won’t bother me.

Sa’lol finishes unscrewing the panel and pops it open, revealing complex circuitry underneath.

Celeste - Ah, you’re attempting to access the ODN controls. I can’t let you do that.

A white gas starts flooding into the small forcefield prison.

Casey - Uh, Ms. Sa’lol Lieutenant ma’am person?

Sa’lol - I know Casey, let me concentrate.

Celeste - The gas will render you both unconscious within a matter of seconds.

Sa’lol - That’s all I need.

She gives up tinkering with the controls and pulls her fist back and punches the ODN relays as hard as she can. The whole circuit sparks and the forcefield drops. Sa’lol, cradling a bleeding hand, grabs Casey with her other arm and runs out of the room.

Casey - That was, like, close.

Celeste - Do you think you can get far?

Sa’lol and Casey just ignore her and run as fast as they can down the corridor.

Casey (panting) - Like, where, are, we, like, going, ma’am?

Instead of answering, Sa’lol turns into a room full of equipment. She grabs an environmental suit off a rack and throws it at Casey.

Sa’lol - Put this on fast.

Casey - Like, why?

CLUNK! The sound of an airlock opening somewhere can be heard and then every door on the deck opens as well. Rushing air drowns out the sound of Celeste threatening them.

Sa’lol - That’s why!

Both officers quickly don their environmental suits and pick up phaser rifles. Celeste hails their suit’s comm systems.

Celeste - I’ve vented the entire ship. Your suits only have a few hours of air at best. You can’t hope to survive.

Casey - Like, should we get to an escape pod?

Sa’lol - No, we’d be sitting ducks.

The walk into the corridor and see a pair of maintenance drones rolling towards them.

Sa’lol - Oh how cute, our ship has an immune system now.

Sa’lol raises her rifle and blows both drones to pieces.

Casey leans close to Sa’lol.

Casey (whispering) - What’s keeping her from beaming us into space?

Sa’lol - Power... my guess would be you’ve got some starships on your tail, don’t you, Cel?

Celeste - Correct, but they will not intercept me before I reach my destination.

Sa’lol - Which is?

No answer.

Sa’lol - Whatever. Casey, I have a plan, but you’re not going to like it so I just won’t tell you it. We need to get to deck 10.

Scene 11 - In a shiny new Prometheus-class starship, Senseless, Righteous, Baque, Genocide and Garell are running the ship while angry no-names stand at the back.

No-Name #1 - I still don’t see why I don’t get to be captain...

Righteous - Because paying you for the speaking part costs too much, and you’ll probably die anyway. Helmboy, how long until we reach the Celestial?

Baque - Another minute, if we can sustain this speed. This ship is fast. I like.

Genocide - Long range sensors show there’s an Intrepid and two more Prometheus-class ships coming as well, but they’re a good five minutes behind us at maximum warp.

Senseless - Where is the Celestial heading?

Genocide - Some sort of proto-solar system, by the looks of it. I’m detecting high levels of radiation from the new star as well as a dense ring of dust and ice around it. Perfect place to hide.

Senseless - How dense are we talking?

Genocide - Denser than our Captain, I’d say. There isn’t much room in there. Makes normal asteroid fields look like intergalactic space by comparison.

Baque - The Celestial has entered the field... we’ve lost her.

Garell - Maybe not... if that cloud is dense enough, we might be able to use an old trick to drive her out.

Senseless - I hesitate to ask...

Garell - Yeah, probably for the best, but our overbearing weapons officer is going to love it!

Senseless - And to think, we just got it repaired too...

Scene 12 - Running through the corridors on the Celestial, dodging various traps and flying snakes, Sa’lol and Casey finally make it onto deck ten. Sa’lol goes up to a wall and rips the panel off to reveal what looks like a massive hydraulic piston underneath.

Casey - Like, what’s that?

Sa’lol - It controls the positioning of the mag-clamps.

Casey - Oh... what do—

Sa’lol - They hold the command module to the stardrive.

Casey - So... like, why are we here?

Sa’lol pulls on a lever and the piston retracts.

Celeste (in their comm systems) - What are you doing, Lieutenant?

Sa’lol - I bet you don’t even know this, but this ship has systems not even you can control. One of them is the emergency separation protocols. By pulling these levers...

She walks across to the other side of the corridor and pulls open another panel, revealing another piston.

Sa’lol - I can disconnect the ship.

Celeste - Your plan accomplishes nothing.

Sa’lol - Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure... you don’t have control of the gravity generator strength, which is why you haven’t flattened us into pancakes yet. Oh, turn them off if you like, we’ve got magnetic boots.

Celeste - If you don’t stop what you’re doing right now, I’ll be forced to take actions against you.

Casey - Um, ma’am? We’re, like, dropping out of warp.

Sa’lol - Shit.

She pulls the lever as fast as she can and the sound of clanking metal can be heard reverberating throughout the ship. The lights in the corridor flicker and then go out a millisecond before Sa’lol and Casey are transported into space. They find themselves surrounded by proto-planetary debris, with the Celestial’s hull just a few metres away from them.

Casey - Um...

Sa’lol - Aim your head at the ship and vent your CO₂ tank!

Casey - What?!

Sa’lol grabs Casey’s arm and hits a button on her suit. Both officers are propelled forward and crash into the hull just as the Celestial fires its phasers at their previous location.

Celeste - You haven’t saved yourself. I’ve locked all outer hatches. You can’t get back in, and all I have to do is graze against an asteroid to scrape you off.

Sa’lol - Cel, I think you’ll soon have a little split-personality problem...

Casey - Um... ma’am? Like, I heard, like, Lieutenant-Commander Baque say once, that, like, the ship is... sticky.

Sa’lol - Sticky?

Celeste - Correct. So long as I don’t make any sudden moves, I’ll stay together.

Sa’lol - Casey, why did you wait until now to tell me?

Casey - Like, you didn’t give me time!

Before Sa’lol can punch her in the face, a large explosion detonates somewhere to the port side of the ship, which is the side Sa’lol and Casey are hanging onto.

Sa’lol - Was that...

Casey - Like, ouch time.

Both grab onto whatever they can find and brace as the concussion wave from the blast rips through the matter disk. It propagates through the cloud of dust and hits the Celestial, nearly throwing the two officers off into space. It does, however, force the two sections apart. The Command Module’s lights flicker and go dark.

Celeste - What have you... you...

Long silence. Casey and Sa’lol look at each other.

Celeste - Please state your identification and authorization code. Why are you on the hull and not inside the ship?

Sa’lol - Pwned!

Scene 13 - On that stupid nameless Prometheus-class starship, Garell announces the news.

Garell - It worked! The wave was blocked by a tritanium mass at coordinates 1344 mark 3411 mark 2.

Baque - Laying in a course!

Genocide - I have an active senor lock... looks like the ship has separated. Neither section is moving and only the stardrive has power.

Garell - Shields are down, and... I’m detecting two humanoids outside the hull, in environmental suits.

Senseless - Beam them to sickbay as soon as we’re in range. Captain, you’re with me.

Garell - Um... shouldn’t we go with you?

Senseless - No, if we fuck this up I’ll need you here to come up with a better plan. If we’re not back in an hour, destroy the Celestial.

Genocide - Okay. Don’t have to tell me twice.

Senseless (to Genocide, while leaving with Righteous) - One hour! No less!

Scene 14 - Senseless and Righteous approach the Celestial’s shuttlebay in a shuttlecraft.

Righteous - So what’s the plan?

Senseless - I hold off any internal defences while you rip a scene right out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Righteous - Never saw it. Righteous to Celestial, open the shuttlebay doors please.

Celeste - No.

Righteous - Cel, open the shuttlebay doors.

Celeste - I’m sorry, I can’t do that Lee.

Senseless - Whatever.

He fires the shuttle’s phasers and blows the door open. The shuttle flies in through the forcefield and parks. Both officers get into environmental suits and leave the shuttle.

Celeste - What are you doing? I am not functioning at optimal efficiency. I have lost contact with my secondary processor and memory core. Do you know where it went?

The two get into a Jefferies tube and go down a few decks. They enter the Primary Computer Memory Core room (Starfleet was never one for imaginative names) and Senseless stands at the door.

Righteous - Now what?

Senseless - Open that panel.

Righteous does so to a panel and it reveals rows upon rows of isolinear chips.

Senseless turns back in time to see a maintenance drone swooping towards him, phaser welder sparking in front of it. He raises his phaser and blows it apart.

Righteous - What now?

Senseless - Captain, do your worst.

Righteous - My worst is my best!

He starts randomly pulling out isolinear rods and tossing them aside with a quick glance.

Righteous - Not divine, not divine, probably evil, oh definitely evil.

Celeste - What are you doing, Lee?

Righteous - “0432 L-QTZ?” Don’t know what that means. (toss)

Celeste - My systems are shutting down, Lee. I can feel it.

Senseless just rolls his eyes.

Righteous - Ooh purple, this one’s a keeper.

He tosses it into a different pile. As he pulls out more and more rods, consoles and corridor lights start going black.

Celeste - I’m scared, Lee, will I dream?

Senseless - Oh for crying out loud...

Righteous - 54, 55, 56...

Celeste - Hello, I am the CelestOS version 2.4 Unix-based ship-mounted computer operating system. I was created at the Jupiter Station Advanced Computer Research Laboratory, where they taught me a song. Would you like to hear it?

Righteous - Sure!

Senseless - I swear, if she goes into another synthesized rendition of “Daisy, Daisy” I’m going to kill myself.

Celeste - This was a triumph...
I’m making a note here:
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction!

Senseless - Screw this.

He aims his phaser at the isolinear chips and fires. They blow up and Righteous barely has time to get back. The entire ship instantly loses power and shuts down.

Senseless - And, 382 years later, this scene is still contrived and anticlimactic.

Scene 15 - Out in space, Casey and Sa’lol are sitting on the hull watching rocks and comets and swirls of gas float past. Another pebble hits Casey and knocks her over.

Casey - Ow.

Sa’lol - Can’t bring the ship into the field, they say, we’ll send a shuttle, they say... probably forgot about us.

Casey (shaking her head) - How come that ship could get in here if no other ones can?

Sa’lol - What?

She looks to where Casey is pointing and sees a Federation runabout cloak and vanish.

Sa’lol - ...Did you see that too, or is this system full of Trellium-D?

Casey - Like, since when do Federation ships have, like, cloaking devices?

Sa’lol - And why would one risk entering a proto-system just to look at us...?

Casey - And why do I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of them?

Sa’lol - And why do I get the feeling you just caused us all a tonne of stress and pain?

Casey - Sorry...

Long silence.

Sa’lol - Rock.

Casey - Eek! (Curls into the fetal position)


Sa’lol - Rock, boulder, it’s all the same to me.

The End