“Dawn” broke with no further sightings of searching maintenance robots, so their sleep was blissfully uninterrupted. They all rose quickly; Dann felt like his body had slept already for 500 years, so every morning since, he’d gotten up as quickly as he could.
They breakfasted and drank their fill of water; they were still all drinking a lot, and it was showing in their constantly improving physiques. “So what do we do now?” Dann asked once the food was consumed and the water drunk. “As nice as this is, we can’t hide forever.”
“No, we can’t,” Rose said. “I’ve been thinking about that all night.” She never had awakened Jackson for her watch shift. Jackson didn’t seem to be complaining about it. “We need to know everything we can about this AI, what it intends to do with the ship, and what, if anything, it had to do with the deaths of the crew.”
“It was definitely the AI that sent the signal through the command pathways to the pods and stopped them from functioning,” Pixton said firmly.
“If Pixton’s right, we need to get rid of the thing permanently,” Dann said.
“Just call me Jenny,” Pixton said. “There are no officers present.”
“And speaking of that, as much as I think he’s a jerk and I wish we could leave him to fend for himself, we probably should try to find out what happened to the lieutenant,” Jackson opined. “And yeah, Lydia is fine for me. At least until we find his sorry ass,” she smirked.
Dann smiled. “Okay, Jenny and Lydia. And Dann, for me. And yes, we need to find Lt. Cobb.”
“It should be safe to use your phones now,” Rose said. “You can access most of what you need that way, Jenny.”
“But won’t she t-triangulate and find us?” Jenny asked.
Dann caught on quick. “Yes, but she doesn’t have any maintenance bots right here with us, so they’ll take time to get to us. And it doesn’t matter anyway. We had to stay in one place to sleep last night, but now we’re free to go anywhere we want.”
“Exactly right,” Rose said. “I’d just recommend turning the phone off again when we start moving. And when we do move, we’ll probably need to go back to the computer center to take advantage of the complete access it provides.” She paused. “I can guarantee that Eden Rose and the AI will anticipate that, and be ready for our return. That’s probably why the search wasn’t heavier last night.”
Jenny busied herself with the phone then, diving back into the virtual sea of information it contained. Very quickly she picked up on some interesting information. “Oooh,” she said, never lifting her eyes from the display, which projected slightly out of the plane of the glass and into the air above. “I … am impressed,” she said, sounding very surprised, too. “I’ve never seen an AI that is both criminally primitive and seriously advanced.” She was quiet a minute then, mesmerized by what she was looking at. “It is a real piece of work. It’s like … it’s … it’s a primitive brain that has inserted itself into the higher-functioning lobes of a more advanced brain and taken on the role of governing them, but only partially. Eden Rose is unaffected, and probably largely unaware of what’s going on,” she said. Dann couldn’t tell if she was more impressed or frightened.
Rose was fascinated. “She … doesn’t know?”
“She may know,” Jenny corrected, “but I don’t think there are many ways that she can tell. It’s kind of like your lapses of unawareness; the same thing happens to her when this AI takes control. And she would have to find out the same way, by deducing it from inconsistencies in her experience and the data she’s getting elsewhere. Frankly, the AI has been dormant for most of these 20 years from what I can see; all it has done is read course data. The last significant actions I can get any data on are … activity in the cryo-pods … that would be the signal that disabled them, or most of them … and the maintenance schedules, which weren’t all canceled, I don’t think.” She poured over the display, then nodded. “Maintenance was cut to all non-essential areas of the ship, and it looks like non-essential means anything that people would have needed but that the ship itself or the maintenance robots wouldn’t require.”
“Kill the people, don’t bother to take care of their stuff,” Lydia summed up. “Got it. So what is it after, aside from genocide?”
“That I don’t know. That’s what I meant about it being so advanced and yet so primitive. It doesn’t seem to have any true initiative in the way that Rose or Rose Dawn do. It’s following a checklist, directives that it has to accomplish, and it doesn’t deviate from that, in spite of the sophistication of the techniques it’s using to carry out those directives.”
“So,” Dann said slowly, following the unfamiliar train of thought, “you’re saying it didn’t initiate this course of action itself, that it was set on this mission by someone or something else with a clear agenda.”
“Yes.” Jenny said with finality. “So not only did it come from outside, but it came from someone outside. I think New Eden is already inhabited.”