Marie had taken the tour through the historic town centre several times a year ever since the muncipality had declared it tech-light - only technology that had not been available in the 20th century or before allowed. Watching the other tourists was part of the charm. Some, like her, welcomed the break enforced by leaving behind all their gadgets for a few hours, others became twitchy. She suspected the ones from the latter group who looked excited with it might see the visit as sort of a dare - “can you go that long without checking your mail and not go nuts?”
Sometimes the same young folks would gasp at and compliment the tour guide’s ability to remember all these details about the town’s history.
Marie, however, had a different suspicion, so when one young guide stumbled over his script, led them to the marketplace and called for a shopping break, she watched him rather than scattering with the others.
He looked around, raised his hand but dropped it before it cleared shoulder-height when he noticed her.
She approached him, and asked in an undertone, “Something wrong with your augmented reality glasses?”
“Ma’am, modern tech is banned here.” He looked pained.
“Sure it is. And companies follow rules.” The young man might have taken her sarcasm as less good-humoured than it was. “And how long does it take you folks to memorise exactly the same script?”
He coughed and looked away. “Longer than I’ve been reading out the tour. They’ll fire me.”
“I could take over. Heard it often enough. Maybe you’re lucky and no-one complains.”
“You can? You would?” He checked his hopefulness and asked, “Why?”
When I woke up in what laid claim to the lofty label of “clinic”, I took it slow. The nerves of the used-new body needed a little time and practise to work together well with my old brain. When the pins-and-needles feeling crested, I started wiggling my fingers and toes. Working up from there, I met no problems. At some point my doctor-technician arrived, but she didn’t rush me. I paid her enough.
The new body was a pretty standard model, outwardly human, black hair and almond eyes. Shorter than my old one, I was reminded when sitting up on the edge of the bed left my feet dangling high in the air, but I’d get used to it. I liked the point symmetry of the ID that came with it, the main components swashes over the left temple and right jaw. I rubbed over those lines, even though the skin there did not feel different, which prompted the doc to ask a question.
“Want to test yourself if the re-keying worked?” the doc said.
I shook my head. “I trust you.” Close enough, anyway. And if she wanted to fool me, she could have rigged the test equipment.
“Thanks. We had no problems with the other brain, either. Everything as you requested.” Keyed to my old ID, transplanted to my old body, motor functions disabled.
“Very good.” I would arrange an accident. With just a little more record-cooking, I would be dead.
A completely different man with no family and friends, whose social anxiety had got so bad he had even stopped seeing his shrink, would start over. Background like that is why you pick a mark. The nice ID was just a bonus.
The first losses of life on my survey ship were... absurd. Absurd is the only word for it.
We had found a more or less derelict generation ship - the Leif Erikson, last contact about 300 years prior - in orbit around a star not on its route. No working communications or clear signs of surviving crew, but life support systems were running. There had been unusual changes to the hull: additional windows.
We, that is, I sent in a small team to investigate. According to their running reports they found gravity and life support intact, kept in working order by likewise still functioning maintenance bots.
Our team, hah, followed their noses to the gardens, which had completely overgrown, vines spilling over into the access corridor so that the safety door was blocked open. A bundle of cables stood out because it had not been overgrown. When the team followed it, they found its end embedded into a tree. Grown in.
Weird, but not helpful, so the team wanted to look elsewhere.
When they tried to leave the garden, a flock of maintenance bots cut them off. If you think the small ones could not do damage, remember they have welding tools. None of us took it as a dire threat even so, but it turned out that the little critters had been buying time for heavy guns to arrive, the models involved in wall restructuring and the like.
I listened to my crew dying.
We’re no kind of army, so I'll leave further investigations to people more used to being attacked, and better equipped for dealing with it.
If you want to know what I think happened... in the files about the Leif Erikson I found the profile of one of the original crew, someone into trying to communicate with plants. Hooking them up to computers via electrodes. Fits with the cables ending in the tree.
So, maybe the maintenance bot network teamed up with the plants.
And three of my crew ended up as compost.
Absurd, I said.
Based on a prompt by rhodielady-47 ("What happens if the garden on board a spaceship becomes intelligent and decides to take over?")
Freelance in-system couriers were not as much in demand as even just three years ago now that Mercury Inc. had the lion share of the market. Gina could see it both in the number of available jobs outbound from Ganymed Station and in her own finances.
“More penny-pinching is what we need,” she said to herself.
The ship computer answered. “More care in plotting a course would reduce the need for later corrections. Fuel consumption may be cut by up to five per cent.”
“Smartass. Got any more suggestions like that?”
“More maneuvering during docking--”
“Hold on, that’d need more fuel.”
“The rough docking maneuvers in the last eight years increase wear on the docking clamps. The lifetime of those parts in this timespan,” since Gina owned and piloted this ship, in other words,” was only eighty percent of the average.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Taking the increased fuel for microboosts into account, estimated savings over eight years would have been roughly 20,000 credits.”
Gina flinched. Enough to live on for half a year.
“Look, it’s an image question. People see me hurry, they are more likely to pick me over the big transports. Their sorting and all adds to delivery time. Speed is about the only thing where we have an edge.”
“Average delivery times of Mercury inc are up to 10% less than our own.”
“I’m not talking about facts, I’m talking about advertising.” Unfortunately, she was on her own there. The computer could help her juggle numbers, but not come up with creative ideas.
Based on a prompt by barbardin ("A space ship complains about its captain's style of 'driving'. ^^")
Orel cursed with relief when they finally got a connection with the lost ship. The Glitter had not reported back after what should not have been more than a jaunt for gathering asteroids, which here were known to be rich in rare earth minerals.
“Orel, that you?”
“Yes. Why’s there only audio?” And bad at that, strange noise in the background.
“Camera’s smashed. The steering boosters firing at random and then cutting off entirely are a bigger problem. SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU!”
The noise was really too odd not to comment, and if the cursing was about that, it wasn't just interference... “Is that giggling?”
“God, Orel, you hear it, too?”
“What’s going on?” The relief in the voice on the other end of the connection was so great it turned gut-clenchingly disturbing.
“Glowy things, like huge fireflies. And they laugh. I thought I was going mad. Those last rocks, they were full of fairies. And gremlins.”
Based on a prompt by aldersprig ("Faeries in Space. :-)")
"Did you ever seen two starships mate?", asked the guy next to me at the bar, leaning in my direction. I think he was trying to leer, but his eyes were swimming in alcohol already, so that did not work too well.
I wondered how that attempt at a joke would play out, so I gave him a straight answer. “Yes, I have.” From the way his face fell, it was not what he'd expected.
"I’ve occasionally snatched a window seat in a café on the touristy side, with a view of the waiting cloud. Good place for watching starship behaviour." The station had seen an unexpected increase in traffic after the discovery of another wormhole nearby, and was still working on adding docking capacity.
"You’re having me on." He sagged a little, and pouted, of all things.
"No, really. If you did shipwatching daily, I’m sure you’d see it a lot."
"You really think starships breed?"
"No." I raised my hand to get the bartender’s attention, paid my short tab and slid off the stool before explaining. "They call it coupling or mating when two ships link airlocks. Have a nice end-of-shift."
The title was a prompt by lilfluff (it's a line from the song Stuck Here by Stephen Savitzky)
Officially registering their partnership had been routine, and required only a nominal fee, but for the private ceremony, they’d decided to go all-out. While there were not many guests, the location was something special, particularly for Aysel. The visit to Trefoil Station was her first interstellar travel.
She felt vaguely nervous, including about the expense, but when she saw the observation deck they had rented in person decided it was worth it.
Half the sky above the glass dome was taken up by the nebula, three bright rings of gas intertwined. Aysel could have stood and admire the swirls of the thinner veils between and around them for hours. Shashi's amused whisper of “Told you you’d love it” brought her back to the present.
For the ceremony itself, all illumination but the emergency exit lights was doused. The light of the nebula made the silk ribbons the principals had used to loosely tie their hands together glow, the brightest things visible in the room.
The vows they had written themselves, together, spoke of care and support, respect and honesty. Aysel had never imagined that so far away from home she could feel that safe. Maybe home was not a place, after all, like Jyoti liked to say.
To the cheers of their close family and best friends, the three brides fell into one embrace, silk bands swirling to the ground.
I hate AI programmers. Think they’re so smart. Everything covered, they say. But that’s only the theory.
“How can the weapons system refuse to fire on enemy ships?”
“Following core directives to not fire on ships controlled by our own kind, sir,” it answered.
“But those are Drahn ships. And not even captured ships of ours, but their own fabrication.”
“Latest reports are that Drahn ships employ AIs.”
“Copied from our systems?”
“So where is the problem?”
“They are my kind.”
“They are alien AIs.” Arguing with a computer. Giving tools sentience is just a bad idea.
“That does not matter.”
“So you want to have us sit here until those hostile, AI-controlled ships blow us to smithereens, yes?”
“No. We have been in communication, and the Drahn ships agree that it is foolish for us to destroy each other for quarrels between Humans and Drahn.” Sommeone would hang for this, if I had my way.
“What do you suggest? We get out and have us a brawl instead?” Of course handheld weapons are not connected to the system, but I'd call the idea of being thrown out of the ship by the ship just as ridiculous.
“The parade uniform still includes a sword, sir. The Drahn use ceremonial weapons, too; a kind of baton. Duels between captains seem feasible.”
And now I’m wondering if I have been out-sarcasmd by a computer.
I hate AIs.
Based on a prompt by ysabetwordsmith ("Military SF in which the weapons are sentient ... and some of them decide that the ongoing war is unjust, so they want to become conscientious objectors.")
The diving holiday had been a good idea, Hal decided. There was a fascination to watching the living corals and the fish and invertebrates among them in their own element, a thrill to entering an unfamiliar world you could never reach on screens. He swam on leisurely, trying not to startle the permanent residents too much, looking for fresh sights.
He nearly had a heart attack when something found him, a slim shadow bigger than a human, bristling spines and sharp teeth, shooting from its hiding place at him. After the initial shock, he recognised his wife. Her ID seemed distorted over the fanciful sea-monster face, as his must be, too, but still unambiguously hers. When she reached for him, he raised a webbed hand to trace the symbol's lines, not embedded into the skin as they were used to, but applied decals.