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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 42: Brown 186
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A soft pinging disturbed Derek’s sleep, which was when he realized that he had dozed off, Vashti snuggled beside him on the less than spacious bed. He attempted to extricate himself without awakening her, and managed to get to the computer before she spoke.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I believe my computer has determined something. Anyway, it decided to call me, which it does when it completes long tasks. Let’s see what we’ve got.” He began typing commands into his laptop, and reading the screen. “Let’s start with a deck plan. This doesn’t have to be a ship to have decks--it could be a space station, or a drilling platform, or, well, let’s start with deck plan, because the indigs apparently call the floors decks, and we should be able to get that without setting off any security alarms.”
In a moment he had it. “O.K., save deck plan. We might want to see it when we don’t have the luxury of talking to the main computer. Now, let’s explore a bit.”
Vashti was soon crouched beside him, staring at the computer screen.
“What is it?” she asked.
Derek frowned. “It’s difficult to explain, really, without explaining a lot of other things some of which matter only historically.” He thought about how to simplify it. “The structure we’re in, whatever it is, has a computer. A computer is a--well, it starts like an abacus, a way of using a machine to crunch numbers, that is, to work out equations. Only this abacus can hold so many numbers that it can use the numbers to represent letters, and the letters to spell words, and sentences, and it can create hugely complex equations that ultimately tell other machines what to do. The computer here is probably controlling the airflow, running the lights, operating the doors, and a lot more. It’s a big computer.
“My computer looks like a little one, but because of advanced technology it’s really huge. The computer in the building counts by twos; mine counts by threes, and so is exponentially faster and more powerful. The building’s computer probably has a lot more memory, but a lot of that is dedicated to essential functions--like running the air--while mine only needs to remember what I tell it, and do what I instruct. So we’ve got the advantages on our side.
“Thus far we’ve managed to crack enough of the language and code of their computer that we can ask it some basic questions and get answers. I’ve asked it to show me the deck plan--like having a map, a floor plan, of the palace. I’m looking at it to see what it tells me.”
“And what does it tell you?”
Derek scrunched his eyes a bit and stared.
“It tells me that this thing is huge. There are forty-eight decks, but some of them have ceilings high enough to dwarf the towers of the caliph’s palace. Those appear to be some kind of open recreational space. It’s wider than it is tall, and twice as long as it is wide. Also, it has engines. We appear to be on a ship, and from the size and shape I’d say it’s a space ship. Next question: what is the destination?”
It took a moment for the computer to return the answer: destination undetermined.
“Interesting. I’d say we’re lost. Maybe not. Probably the Enterprise had no determined destination, because it was an exploratory ship. Let’s try, what is the mission?”
The answer returned: find a habitable planet.
“Find a habitable planet,” Derek read aloud. “That’s the mission. And we have a huge ship with people aboard--but they’re primitive people. I seem to have fallen into a cliché. We’re on a lost colony spaceship.”
“A science fiction trope about a huge ship stocked with people, animals, crops, food, everything needed to start a life on another world, which somehow goes so long that the generations of people living and dying aboard it forget who they are and how to run the ship. It’s starting to make sense.”
“Not to me it’s not.”
“Well, it will. Right now,” he said, “let’s see if the computer can access controls while we get some more sleep.” He typed a few commands then slipped over to the bed and settled back down. “Hmmm--I’ve got a sleeping bag and a blanket, they’ll make for adequate bedding. Let’s unpack a bit and get settled.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #333: Uncertain Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: