Jackson’s eyes ran wet with tears of relief; Pixton “Y-you have a daughter? She’s here?”
Ignoring the question, she looked up at Rose. “Why didn’t you tell me? You must have known! You could have told me and saved me days of agonizing!”
“Pvt. Jackson, I’m sorry, I had no idea! If I’d had any reason to think you had a child on board, the first thing I’d have done when you were revived was tell you about her.”
“What caused this? What happened here?” she exclaimed, grabbing Pixton’s arm. The computer tech recoiled back uncertainly.
“I-I haven’t gotten that far yet—if I can have my arm back, I’ll keep going?”
The guard released Pixton’s arm and knelt quietly, eyes closed. Dann had no idea if she was praying, or just relaxing. The stress she’d been under must’ve been intense; he was amazed she’d kept her composure so cool over the last few days. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like.
Pixton turned back to the secure display and her fingers flashed over the surface once more. Her first efforts had been over in moments, but this time she worked and worked, data spewing across displays all over the room, except the central projection, which stayed just as it had been.
She frowned and leaned into the screen, not slowing a beat; if anything, she got faster. She was so absorbed in what she was doing, Dann would’ve put money on her having forgotten the others were even there.
Cobb was trying to keep his eyes on what was going across the monitors as though by staring hard enough he could absorb the information like some bizarre form of info-osmosis. Jackson was standing again, a touch unsteadily, and was watching Pixton’s display almost as intently. Rose stood next to Dann, looking … puzzled.
“What is it?” Dann asked.
“It’s strange,” she said. “I should be able to tell exactly what Pvt. Pixton is doing at every step, but I can’t. Sometimes she’s there in the network, as plain as day, and then suddenly she’s not. It’s like … are you familiar with the mythologies of ghosts, Dann?”
“You mean ghost stories? Yeah, I used to watch and even read a lot of that stuff when I was growing up.”
“It’s kind of like she’s a ghost. It’s pretty unsettling, to be honest. I feel like I’m seeing glimpses of holes in my … mind, I guess, or brain, areas I should have awareness and knowledge but instead I just have blanks I didn’t know about.”
“Could this have something to do with the maintenance scheduling issues?” Dann wasn’t sure he liked the sound of this. Rose was supposed to be the Rose Dawn’s mobile presence. While there were some necessary differences between the two, they were supposed to operate from the same data, and Rose should have access to almost everything Rose Dawn had.
“I … can’t say for certain, Dann. It’s possible, but everything I think and do is now … suspect. If I’m missing information and feedback and I’m not realizing it isn’t there, I can’t know anything with certainty!”
“Welcome to the human world, Rose,” he said with a smile. It was a smile that carried a lot of worry though.
“Aha, I’ve got you …” Pixton said.
“What, what is it?” Rose said, beating everyone to the punch.
“It’s too early to say for sure … but it looks like some of the slipperiest hakware I’ve ever gone up against. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing. If I’m right.”
“Hakware? That seems unlikely, Pvt. Pixton,” Rose said. “Who could’ve written it? Everyone has been asleep for the past five hundred years.”