John walked side by side with his second in command, Daniel. Over the last few days the two of them had smoothed out many of their differences. "Sir what are you hoping to prove with this course? Already many crews of men have died with this heading."
"It is simple. Many MEN have died. Yet all the hybrids on the ships have died of starvation or suffocation when the ships were powered down." John sighed, "This is the last try."
He was about to say more when Alexandrea popped out of nowhere wearing the same blue suits the hybrids were wearing. "Sorry to interrupt you but we are at the mouth of the passage."
"Thank you Alex. Take it in, we'll be up in a few minutes." John smiled and the girl nodded before disappearing once more.
Daniel gave a short puff of air. "I don't think I'll ever be used to her showing up on a whim like that." He pressed a button and stepped on the elevator, "But she is cute in that uniform. She is also a lot brighter and friendlier, how did you do it?"
John cracked a sly smile. "A friend once told me women mostly want three things, respect, privacy and fashion. With this crew she gets her own time scheduled off line, so she gets to do what she wants. She has her own room and I had new outfits created for her programming. The least she can do is be civil."
"Treating a computer like it is human. It's a revolutionary idea."
"They say the same about us as well." John nodded to Daniel. "In some places, some ships, we are treated worse than slaves."
Daniel nodded, "I can believe that sir. I can only hope that this mission is a success."
John looked over and waved off Daniel's words. "Now Daniel, no matter what you will never go back under a human command."
John laughed as only a child could, "You will either die on this ship on this mission or die on this ship. Period.”
The doors opened and John strode out onto the control deck. Alexandrea paused paused her conversation with a Sinclair hybrid and came to John. “We passed the last warning gate. From here the passage narrows.” They walked across the top level to the system access and she pulled up a star map. “Soon we will get to a place of essential no return. I am too fat to turn around without severe damage.”
The other Sinclair piped up, “Alexandrea common now, we could make you lose some inches, just gotta exercise more!”
She sighed rolling her eyes. “This is also a slipstreamed black hole that has four or five branches off. If we remain on the main branch we will exit near outpost seven three weeks sooner than if we took the regular routes on fastest speed. However I have rode a few other branches and they are almost out of charted range, others are close to Alliance planets and other outposts. The only thing that we have to remember is that once we enter a slipstream we can’t pull out or we will be thrown who knows where or torn apart.” She pressed a button and the screen flipped showing the branches of the slipstream in a silver glowing line. “these paths are marked I have taken, the other broken paths are ones that my scanners have picked up but they are unverified where they exit but the drones have verified that they exit in safe zones, not stars or black holes. I would like to point out that all the above intersect at the narrows, where we hit the turbulence then the dead zone, in more than one meaning.” She looked saddened for a moment. John put a hand on her shoulder. She nodded and continued. “This is the only time my main thrusters have to be used. My main engines will have too much thrust and tear us apart.”
“Alright then Alexandrea, it sounds like a bumpy ride so I want an all system check and hardware scan for loose wiring, pieces, and etcetera. Daniel I want you to go to the engines and give the engineer on duty a related watered down version of what we heard and I want the repair drones ready in case. Andy I want the schedules skewed slightly and calculations made. I want everyone up and prepared for the worst when we hit the interception point. Also gather data on the other streams that had been found and keep an eye out for others that had formed since the constellation had passed last. I want to know if we can send people through those streams outside the main ship or if it will need a scout licence.”
The three other people nodded and Daniel left on the elevator. Andy was about to leave through the door to the main ship when he paused, “You okay by yourself up here sir?”
“I should be. If not I still have Alex here and Daniel wouldn’t be long. Take a break if you need it.”
“Thank you, sir.” He smiled, “I will send you those reports and schedules as soon as possible.” He disappeared off the bridge.
John turned back to the computer terminal that he was working at and smiled, “I think I chose a good crew.”
“Too bad that they all might perish on this trip.” Alexandrea’s eyes were unfocused on her scan.
John shook his head, “We all die sometime. Even you might.” Alexandrea turned angry at his words and turned her back to him. He was surprised and frowned and continued his work. “Maybe in the end I will be right and you’ll have too much to do to think about such negative things.” He smiled as he worked.
She peeked over her shoulder. “The last few days weren’t,” she paused and sighed, “horrible. And you, were… Are, better than I could ever expect.”
John paused and looked over to the girl. “That is very generous of you to say.” He pressed a few more buttons and continued, “But you are everything I had imagined you to be when I first read about you.”
She laughed. “Yeah you must have a good imagination about rouge computers.”
John stared at her with piercing blue eyes, “No. I knew about you before you even knew yourself. Before you came into creation.”
“Don’t be silly Captain! I’m over fifty years old. I was created before your father was born.”
John smiled once more, in a sad way, “Alexandrea if anything happens to me read the tattoo on my neck. Keep the information to yourself.”
Alexandrea turn to John for a moment. “As it is your wish, Captain.” She then turned back to her work. John watched her for a few more moments before returning to his own work. Why can’t I tell her how I feel about this ship? He slammed his fist into a panel. It’s only a program. Not real! “Is everything okay John?”
“Yes, of course Alexandrea. Just something kinda frustrating.” He looked away from her.
She sighed, “Fine but don’t take it out on the panels. I can’t fix those out here.”
John put his ears back as his ears flushed. “Sorry.”