Gozi chatted as we walked, and I was barely able to slip a word in edgewise. Not that I had much to say, nerves chewed into my stomach like rats into cheese and I felt as though I was constantly on the edge of throwing up.
And it’s only now I’m realising Gozi probably knew that and that’s why she kept up her constant chatter. Damn.
You really don’t realise the friends you have until they’re gone.
Her litany stopped when we got to the Syrinx and she let me admire the ship that looked like something out of science fiction.
‘Most advanced one ever built. But then again,’ Gozi paused for a moment, her hand to her chin, ‘They say that about every ship sent to every exoplanet.’
‘I guess it’s true.’ I said back to her, swallowing past the rat now trying to crawl its way out of my throat, ‘There’s enough time in between each launch for tech to get a lot better.’
‘Hey, good point.’ She turned and smiled at me before she nudged me gently on the shoulder with her fist.
That was the moment I knew Gozi was going to be a friend, not just a crewmate and I’m glad that I can say I was right, even after everything that happened.
‘Take a moment. I know it can be a lot, seeing it for the first time, I mean. Knock when you want to come in.’ Gozi said and walked to the main doors.
I’m not usually sentimental or anything akin to it but thinking back to the first time I saw the Syrinx…Damn. I love that ship. I loved it from the moment I set eyes on it.
The sleek green paint lined with burgeoning red that ran along the soft curves of the ships body.
I watched it fly away, you know. I waved goodbye to it about ten hours ago.
Wait. I could-
Hmm what do I lose? The tape or the driver? Tape or driver…tape or driver…
Driver. Not that I’ll need the tape, but I guess it could come in handy if I get a puncture in my suit somewhere. If I really want to stretch out the last couple of hours, that is.
Now don’t fuck this up Karla. A smidge of angular momentum but not too much, don’t make it so you’re vomiting in your helmet.
Yes, me. I will, me. Shut up, me.
Here goes nothing.
Nailed it. Perfect rotation. Not too fast, not too slow. Damn I’m good.
The Syrinx isn’t anywhere. What the shit? I should still be able to see it. Where the fuck are you?
Piece of –
Okay. Sorry about that. I clearly had something I needed to get off my chest. I’m done now, promise.
I can’t find the Syrinx and I’m sure you could tell from the sigh that I’ve given up on it. I don’t know what happened; it should be out there and I should be able to see the plume from its main engines but knowing my luck it’s been hit by a one in a billion asteroid or something.
Regardless, I met Mother when I walked onto the Syrinx for the first time.
I heard a voice and at first I looked behind me, expecting to see a woman there. When I found no one, I looked up and I saw a flashing green light next to a camera. It blinked with a steady cadence, an eye watching over me.
‘Hello, my name is Mother and I’m the AI that was chosen to accompany you on your journey. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Karla.’
‘Hi.’ I responded, the single word gave away how nervous I was to be talking to an AI of Mother’s calibre. Essentially all of the AI’s that I had interacted with throughout my life were intentionally limited within their design and intelligence; made in such a way that you knew you were talking to a machine.
With Mother, I couldn’t tell. My instincts told me the voice was human; every syllable had that comforting illusion laced through it and it made me uneasy.
‘Welcome to the Syrinx. If you have any questions just ask and I’ll be there to answer as soon as I can. Otherwise, enjoy yourself. I’m sure Gozi here will give you a better tour than I could manage.’
Gozi scoffed at this and rolled her eyes.
‘I saw that, Gozi.’ Mother’s voice lilted with good humour and my skin crawled across my body.
‘If I may ask first, have your nanites been updated to work with my systems?’ Mother asked me.
I nodded; my tongue held down by the eerie humanity of the AI that surrounded me.
‘Perfect! I can’t wait to get to know you, Karla, I’m sure you’ll fit right in aboard the Syrinx.’
The green light winked out and I stared wide-eyed towards Gozi.
‘She can be a lot when you first meet her.’
I nodded, unable to speak.
‘Come on. Let me show you around. You’ll get used to Mother. She really is amazing.’
Gozi turned and led me down through the corridor. There was enough room for the two of us and perhaps one more person to walk abreast and to Gozi’s conversational credit, thoughts of the AI faded as she led me around the ship.
To be blunt, and there’s no reason not to, suspended out here like I am, I didn’t like Mother when I met her.
I’m sure you’re wondering if there is a bit of bias there. I’ve already outright blamed here for the whole fucked up situation I’m in after all. Perhaps you’re thinking Mother didn’t really do anything at all.
You may be thinking that perhaps I’m being too hard on the one member of the crew that wasn’t human.
Of course, there might be something like that to my opinions and declarations of Mother’s role in our undoing but why would I lie? I didn’t like Mother at first, I’ll admit that, and she sure knew it as well.
She told me so.
I was sitting in my quarters during the first scheduled break from Slumber that we needed to keep our brains from turning into mush, when she straight up asked me why I didn’t like her.
The question crawled its way into my mind. Only moments before, I had finished throwing up and now I was getting the third degree from the ships AI.
Granted, she asked politely, and I could tell it wouldn’t bother her too much whichever way I answered.
‘I don’t not like you, Mother.’ I responded, not looking at the expectant green light flashing next to the camera.
‘What a delightfully evasive answer. If you don’t not like me, can I assume then that you do like me? Or that you are ambivalent towards me?’
I swear even though I was almost certain all of her emotions were feigned imitations of the real thing she could convey a hell of a lot of sass from one blinking green light.
‘More the latter, than the former.’ I said in a feeble attempt to try and sound smart to an AI that literally had access to all of humanities collected history and knowledge at her fingertips.
‘Ah, well that is unfortunate, Karla. I was hoping we would be good friends, but I guess that merely means I have yet to prove myself worthy of such friendship. I will strive to do so.’
If it had of come from anyone else I would have assumed it was sarcasm and lost my shit. Truly, flipping-the-table lose my shit. But it was Mother, and I wasn’t even sure she was capable of sarcasm. Sure, she could mimic it, but did she mean it? Could she mean anything?
‘No, no. You don’t have to.’ I held my hand and she stayed silent while I moulded the gunk that was my brain into some form of recognisable shape.
‘It’s not that I don’t like you. Or even that I’m ambivalent. I don’t understand you. I’ve never met an AI like you and frankly, Mother, you terrify me.’
There was silence and I glanced at the light to make sure she was still there and hadn’t ducked out.
She was and the light of her presence flashed down steadily upon me like a pulsar in the night sky and I felt the weight of her gaze.
‘I see.’ She said and then her light winked out.
I wish I could have been in her head in that moment. Sorry, not her head, her core or her nanites? I don’t know the terminology; to me they were the same thing.
It scared the shit out of me, her disappearing like that. Her voice was flat, inflectionless, and for me it was a portent of doom.
Looking back now…no. I stand by my reaction. The fear was natural and so was my response to it. What did she expect? Leaving like that after dropping two words with the finality of an executioner’s blade. I don’t regret it.
My suit has decided to inform me that I have about two and a half hours left of oxygen. I guess I will be stubborn until the moment I die. My wife was right.
That annoys me far more than it should given my present circumstances.
I must have something more momentous to say. Something that will leave whoever finds this recording in awe of the wisdom I have gained drifting through space.
But I don’t. What happened on TRAPPIST-1e only took from me. It left me less than I was.
The trip, as I mentioned, took about eighty years and for seventy-six of that I was in Slumber. The nanites in my body worked away as they do now, they kept my healthy cells healthy and discarded any that weren’t.
If you are an alien species let me give you a brief run-down of human physiology.
We are squishy, yet surprisingly resilient. As with most things, we are our bodies worst enemies and even with our nanites in every single cell keeping us healthy and alive for well over 200 years, we still find excuses to kill ourselves and each other.
I probably shouldn’t be saying this but hey, what the hell; if you ever want to kill all humans, just wait. That’s all you need to do. Eventually, we will do it ourselves.
There’s a saying on Earth; curiosity killed the cat. A cat being a furry creature that is simultaneously subservient to us and our master.
We are the cat in that saying. If there is one thing that will wipe out humanity it’s our insatiable need to constantly reach out for something new, something more.
Anyhoo, enough of me pissing on my own species. This is meant to be a significant recounting of my time on TRAPPIST-1e, a retelling of the incredible events that will in about two hours and twenty-three minutes, lead to my demise.
I should really get back to it.