“Oh!” Pixton gasped, eyes going wide as saucers as she followed streams of data through the system. “I found it! At least I’m pretty sure I did! Guys, there was a malfunction. Some of the pods weren’t installed right!” Her voice was excited, but she looked vaguely sick.
“Sounds like most of the pods were installed wrong,” Dann said. “You’re sure that’s it?”
“What? No, most of the pods were perfect. We were in the faulty pods.”
Jackson raised an eyebrow. “No, that doesn’t make sense.”
Pixton shook her head. “The data’s very clear.” She blew up a table of diagrams that Dann could half read, but Jackson just looked lost. “The cryo-pods with survivors in them all malfunctioned. It’d take me a lot longer to find the specific reasons for each one, but they don’t respond to commands from the central core. It’s easy to verify from here, they won’t even accept diagnostic tasks. They send data back to the core no problem, that’s why they register as being in the green; their contents are okay, so they broadcast verification. But commands from outside don’t reach them. They’re locked in to the original programming they launched with.”
Dann felt a little dizzy as he understood the implications. “But … that means—”
“Whatever’s hijacking the computer broadcast an incomplete shutdown command to all the cryo-pods on the ship. We’re alive because our pods didn’t respond to that command.”
Dann shivered at the thought of how close they’d come to dying, and sent a silent thought of thanks to whatever technicians had saved their lives hundreds of years ago through no fault of their own. The shiver was followed by a wave of tiredness; he suppressed a yawn.
“Guys, I hate to bring up mundane problems at a time like this,” Dann started, “but we haven’t slept in a long time, and I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need some rest pretty soon.”
“Yeah, me too,” Pixton said. She punctuated that with a yawn, shaking the others out of the stunned silence they’d fallen into.
“Rose, where were the crew supposed to be quartered after awakening?” Jackson asked. She was the most alert-looking of the group.
“Well, there are cabins throughout the ship in various places, including each biome.”
“Do we really want to go there again?” Pixton asked, hesitantly.
“I would recommend it,” Rose said. “Specifically the island chain biome. The islands surrounded by water will be the safest place to be if Pixton is right and the AI is starting to assert itself over the maintenance robots. Most types won’t be able to cross to the islands without a boat, and they would have to manually search us out even with a boat. It’s an ideal location as long as we avoid entering any of the facilities that Eden Rose manifests in. That does, I’m afraid, include the crew quarters, but the climate in that biome is particularly nice. You’ll be okay higher up on the beach.”
“You make it sound like you’re not coming with us, Rose,” Dann said archly.
“It would be a bad idea for me to accompany you for this. I represent a security risk at best, and a direct threat at worst.”
Pixton shook her head. “You’re also the strongest of all of us. If they find us, we’ll need you to help defeat them!”
Jackson nodded in agreement. “You showed us how good you were with that bear in the woods. I can keep watch part of the night, but I’ll have to sleep eventually. These two aren’t combat trained.”
Rose paused and frowned. “I don’t think you realize how serious the threat is.”
“We’re well aware of the threat, Rose, but you haven’t succumbed yet, have you? The worst it’s done to you so far is deny you access to data you’d normally be able to get from Rose Dawn.”
“That … is true,” she allowed, slowly.
“So allowing for the possibility that what you say is true,” Pixton said, “I still think it’s riskier to leave you behind than for you to come with us. If you come, you might be compromised and might be a threat, but without you, everything else is a threat.”
Rose mimicked a sigh. “Fine, alright. We’ll go together.” She quirked a smile. “I haven’t had a real vacation in … well, ever.”