Wayward Guardian

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Passage

‘Thank you, Samuel, this has been a lovely evening,’ Sarah said with a smile, ‘I’m glad you talked me into letting you treat me to a movie.’

Samuel returned the smile standing outside of the door to her quarters, having walked her back after dinner. ‘The pleasure was all mine, Sarah. I’ll see you again sometime, you have a good night.’

‘You too Advocate,’ she said, still smiling as she walked through the door.

As it shut behind her, Sam started to walk way, a smile on his lips.

‘Advocate?’

‘Yes, Exo?’ Sam answered, over the uplink.

‘You did not cement the relationship.’

Sam chuckled out loud

‘Pardon?’ Sam asked.

‘My study of human culture shows a number of rituals taken in cementing a relationship with a potential mate. Most of the files were quite confusing, but my analysis shows that you did remarkably little.’ Exo observed.

‘A mate? Exo, you have a bit to learn my friend.’

‘Was she not an acceptable mate? My analysis showed her to be acceptable by most human standards.’

‘I’m not one to trifle with a relationship. One doesn’t simply do things like this for the sake of ritual. ’ Sam replied.

‘Human mating rituals are not in full agreement with you. There is much literature on the subject in the archives. And I have observed at least sixteen possible encounters among the ship’s inhabitants while you were busy. Many videos and cultural records show people often trifling with relationships often.’

‘What do your files say about marriage? ’

‘There is much disagreement about that too. Many claim it old fashioned and unessential, a throwback to earlier times. Some consider it restricting. ’

‘Yet there are those who still believe it to be a good thing are there not?’

‘Yes, Advocate.’

‘For now, let’s just say that I am one of those ones who believes it’s still a good thing. We’ll talk about it later, maybe once we reach the colony. ’

‘Yes, Advocate. What should I attempt to learn next? ’

‘How about observing human interaction on the ship. Analyse the interactions. Compare them to your files. Make estimates for outcomes, and then see how they unfold. ’

‘Yes, Advocate.’

‘It’s necessary you learn how to understand people and why they do things. It’ll help you serve their needs better because you’ll be able to anticipate them. ’ Sam said.

‘Yes, Advocate.’

‘I’m going to go to my room and do some reading. When I’m done that I’ll probably go to bed. I don’t really need the sleep, but I’d much rather sleep through the next jump than to be awake for it. ’

‘I will wake you if there is an emergency. ’

‘Good, good night Exo.’

‘Good night Advocate.’

***

Bridge

The second jump had gone off without a hitch. The ship was now eight days into the twelve-day recharge. Captain Howard had been continuing his tour of the ship, he’d stopped at most of the school rooms on the ship, and had introduced himself to most of the civilian directors.

He remembered his promise to Mrs Lann’s class. He’d have to find Sam and bring him down. He had told Sam about this, and Sam was looking forward to the experience.

Looking at his watch, he didn’t think the class would be started yet if anything the children wouldn’t be arriving for another hour, but Mrs Lann would certainly be there getting ready for her lessons.

Howard walked to a communication station and keyed her ID code. After waiting for a moment, the screen turned on and Mrs Lann was on the other side.

‘Captain Fredrick,’ she said with a smile, ‘How can I help you?’

‘I’ve been thinking about the promise I made to your class about bringing our Advocate down to meet them, would today be a good day for that?’

‘I didn’t have anything particularly special planned today, I think today would be just fine. When can we expect you?’ She asked.

‘When would you like us?’

‘Oh well... Let’s give the children a chance to settle in, how about a half hour after classes start?’

‘Classes start in an hour right?’ Howard said, glancing at his watch again.

‘Yes.’

‘Alright then Mrs Lann, we will see you then.’

‘The children will be pleased.’

‘Goodbye then.’

‘Goodbye’

The communication screen shut off. Howard keyed in Sam’s code this time.

Sam answered almost instantly. Sam was standing in one of the hydroponics bays. Howard could see the plants behind him.

‘Hello, Howard. How are you today?’ Sam said with a smile.

‘I’m doing quite well. The ship and crew are working well, so there’s not much for me to do. That said, you remember that visit to a school room I mentioned to you?’

‘Ah yes, the class that wants to meet me.’

‘That would be the one. Would you be willing to join me for that in about an hour and a half.’

Sam looked offscreen at an unseen person, and with an apologetic smile, shrugged his shoulders. Something was said offscreen and he smiled broadly, ‘That should be just fine Captain.’

‘Oh, I don’t mean to interrupt anything. You needn’t change your plans.’

‘Don’t worry about it, Howard. The children are looking forward to meeting me, and I’m looking forward to meeting them.’

‘Alright then, I’ll see you there.’

The communication screen shut off and went black. Howard put his hands behind his back and faced the rest of the bridge again. The second watch would be coming on duty in an hour, then he’d have a half hour to make it down to the classroom.

‘Mr. Jona,’

‘Yes, Captain?’ replied his first officer.

‘Is that delay still present in the main drive systems?’

‘Yes, Captain.’

‘And we’ve talked to Exo about it?’

‘I had Sam run a full diagnostic with Exo on the drive command systems. We’ve checked everything three times. I’ve got a crew looking over the connection physically right now. We’ve even tried the backup systems.’

‘This could make getting in orbit over the planet a bit of a trick.’

‘I’ve given some thought to that, Captain.’

Howard walked over to Mark’s station. ‘What have you got for me Mr Jona?’

‘Well, the delay isn’t insurmountable. If we plan all of our flight plans out ahead, taking into account the delay between us sending a command and the systems carrying them out, then we could fly the ship with minimal trouble. It’d be a bit like the delay involved in piloting a deep space probe via remote. You’d just have to be very careful with your flight path.’

‘We’d be careful.’

‘Yes, sir. But that’s not all. If the delay gets any worse, we have another option.’

‘Has there been any sign of the delay getting worse?’

‘Only a little. I would never have noticed if not for Exo, but it’s gotten a few milliseconds worse since we first discovered it.’

‘Hmm...’ Howard was troubled by this. They could still turn around, but it wasn’t a mission ending problem yet. If it got worse, though, then they could have a problem, ‘So what’s your other idea?’

‘Honestly, I think we could make a new drive control system.’

‘Really?’ Howard asked.

‘Well we’d leave the existing drive system in place because it’s being used for the jump drive, but we haven’t seen any problem with the jump drive. Then we could take some of the colonial electronic supplies and wire a new connection in the command conduits in the ship’s spine.’

‘String our own cabling?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘That would do it,’ Howard agreed, ’If we bypass the faulty system altogether, then we’d be free of its problems.

‘That’s the plan, sir.’

‘Hmmm...’ Howard thought about the options. The engines were about five kilometres away from the bridge. The ship was quite a bit longer than any of its other dimensions. That would be a large amount of wiring they’d need to cobble together from the supplies, ‘I’ve got an idea.’

‘And what would that be sir?’

‘Keep it in mind and give it a thought. If we just set up this new drive control system closer to the engines, and use the command systems in the engineering section, we could drastically reduce the amount of cable we need.’

‘So we’d just have our helmsmen fly the ship from engineering?’

‘That’s my thought.’

‘That could work. I’ll look into it and have a full report for you on your next shift.’

‘Very well Mr Jona. Keep on it.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Howard walked to his seat in the centre of the bridge and sat down.

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