Chapter 3: Mysterious Sludge and Searching Code
“Blood!” Jan exclaimed.
“Blood isn’t dark brown and drippy at the same time,” Seren sighed. Her suit for her job of walking the outside of Hokulua station to find leaks, had been filed with some strange liquid. Everyone had panicked and the supervisor called security and given them the day off.
“What do you think it is then, smarty?”
“I have no idea.” Seren smiled mischievously.
“I snuck a sample while everyone was panicking.”
Jan laughed and shook their head before asking, “You’re going to investigate aren’t you?” Then added, “I suddenly have a free day so I’m coming with.”
As they headed to the pods, Seren sent her father a message. Work cancelled. Need a hand?
They were half way to his lab before he replied, Sure.
They were almost at his lab when the lighting darkened and the screens in the corridor showed a red alert.
“Attention Hokulua station. We have been attacked by and repelled pirates. The station is in lockdown until further notice. Please stay in your homes or work areas while we assess the situation.”
“Hey Dad. Whoa… what’s going on?” Seren was shocked at the massive pile of spare electronics and junk in the center of her father’s lab.
“Hey kids. This was the original pod and stasis for Hoku. I’m trying to compare the code to what we have now to see what happened. There’s no way we can hand over the everyday functions of this station to a faulty AI.”
“Okay… can we use some equipment for a special project?”
“You stole a sample from the mystery suit?” Her father didn’t miss much. “Go ahead and don’t look surprised. I have spies everywhere.”
Seren giggled. He meant it literally. He had created a series of linked micro-robots that would crawl the air ducts, sewage, and water to make sure everything was clean and, in theory, find any leaks or issues. Unfortunately the station seemed to randomly fry them. He probably knew about the suit because he was dating the structural engineer who was in charge of the space walks.
Getting a chemical breakdown of the substance would take about an hour and then it would take time for the computer to give a list of possible results. When she’d gotten it started, she asked, “Anything we can do?”
“I could use a second pair of eyes with this code,” he replied. When he saw Jan’s eyes widen with horror he added, “And someone to try and put this stuff back together.” He gestured to the pile of computer parts that housed the original AI. “I took it apart to see if anything had been tampered with. It hadn’t.” He sounded dejected.
Sitting down with a tablet, Seren put the two codes next to each other. After a few minutes of staring at code and trying to tell the difference between natural evolutions, faulty, junk, and malicious code; her eyes started to swim. “Dad. Why didn’t you just write an AI to find any faulty code?”
“I did. It came back corrupted and asking me if I knew the difference between a fish and frigate.”
Eyes glazing over, she let her mind wander. This was too much code to look at; it was like trying to find a planet in a dark solar system from a quadrant away. She needed to narrow it down.
“What were you working on, this morning, when it gave you that weird phrase?” she asked her Dad.
“I was trying to tweak the power consumption on the docking bays. They’re taking as much energy as the ships engines and I don’t get why.” He didn’t say anything more, just went back to his work.
The docking bay doors were a very simple system with only two components, an air shield and a door opening. She pulled up both sets of code and isolated them.
“Analysis complete,” Hoku station said and made everyone jump.
“Thank you Hoku. Can you tell me what it is?”
“The compound has cocoa, sugar, milk, and flour. Best answer is that it’s a form of space based Cetacean.”
“Hoku… you just gave us the recipe of chocolate pudding and then said it was a space whale.”
“That is correct. It’s all about the cetaceans.” The statement was completely ridiculous. All three of them couldn’t help but laugh.
When they’d stopped giggling, Mr. Plentyn said, “I’ll tell Martin to let me know what his investigation shows. Could be pudding, could be whale, could be bearing grease for all this thing knows.” He tapped the computer console.
It was more code staring and sighs of frustration. Jan had almost finished re-assembling when Seren saw something.
“It’s the shields that are taking the energy. They’re modulating at a subspace frequency.”
“Does it repeat?” He took her tablet and worked on it quickly. The shields were transmitting their position but the exact message was odd.
“It keeps repeating, ‘fear, pain, death,’ over and over again.”
“What could that mean?” said Jan.
No one had the chance to answer because the intercom blared. “Violet alert. We have incoming hostiles. Everyone prepare for combat.”
Mr. Plentyn gave them each a repair kit and said, “You’ve been recruited to help with damage.”
“Aern, why in the Mother-of-Stars are all our defences down? I need weapons and shields, NOW!”
While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial story: