They were so frustrated with the situation aboard ship that they didn’t even bother to introduce themselves. Instead they said: “Right then, you useless bastard,” to Gout, as he sat in his favourite chair with his back to the sole tiny window that looked out upon interstellar vacuüm, “that dick-headed A.I doesn’t give a shit about the safety of us passengers. We’re sick and tired of its terrible risk taking.”
The A.I was an extension of Professor Hydious Gout’s personal super computer. Any attack upon his ‘baby’ was considered an attack upon himself. He fought to remain calm:
“Arse holes.” He roared. “Present me an example of this recklessness, and I’ll consider your complaint.”
Both ‘guests‘ agreed immediately upon an example. It occurred only a day previously, when the ship…
…encountered a gossamer-thin membrane that barely separated space/time from an alternate quantum reality.
“The only reason we didn’t pierce it and disappear for all eternity,” the taller ‘guest’ growled, “was because someone chose that moment to flush the toilet, and the sudden violent expulsion of yukkiness altered the ship’s trajectory just enough to save us from certain doom!”
Much to the expedition leader’s disgust, the example quoted was entirely accurate. He too had considered the A.I’s flight to within microns of contact had played with the lives of the entire ship’s compliment.
“Yes, alright, I’ll give you that. But what would you have me do about it?”
“Build a bridge.” They replied in well-rehearsed unison. “A ship’s bridge. A bridge upon which earplugs can stand proudly, and have a degree of control of their destiny. We want to decide where the ship goes, and what it does when they get there.”
For a moment Gout imagined a doorway that led from his quarters directly on to a traditional starship bridge. A starship bridge upon which a crew lived and worked…
Then he imagined the Chi Z Helmut hurling itself across the galaxy on the merest whim of its commanding officer…
Then he visualised Gerald the G’neerbot – working alone in the engine room…
“Who would captain the ship?” He asked his fellow (if belligerent) passengers.
“Ugh, you’re the expedition leader,” the shorter of the two mumbled. “Ah, that would make you the captain, I guess.”
These were the words that Gout most wanted to hear. Pressing an intercom button, he said:
“Gerald, I want you to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of a fully functional working bridge aboard this vessel. It would be manned by earplugs, and have full control of this ship – particularly navigation, propulsion, weaponry, and lavatory roll replacement.”
“I’ll get right on it.” Gerald replied chirpily. “Thank flip for that: I thought I was going to go mad down here on my own, with bugger all to do for months on end. Thank you, Professor: I love you.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan