Archive for shipboard computer

300 days of “Tom and Freddie” (Part IV of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2nd October, 2012 by kal

My estimate of a year was a little off; I hadn’t factored in the replacement cost of the weapons I was using up. Thankfully, being docked at Suro Grafity for so long made me a bit of a minor celebrity in the region. After a couple of weeks, word got out that this mad Pariah essentially spent his time on the space station chatting up random strangers, and when he got bored of that, he’d return to his ship, take it apart, and put it back together. Legitimate traders and travellers were forced to dock their ships for days, even weeks, waiting for repairs, because rebuilding Freddie kept the inventory of Parts-R-Us thin. Not like the good barkeepers of Suro Grafity minded this; their economy boomed due to the increased footfalls. After a while, I even allowed them to project my nightly escapades vs. Freddie on their Holo-Imagers, for a cut of course. Their business acumen being some of the sharpest in the galaxy (I heard they were humans from a territory called Gagrat), they immediately went about branding the entertainment, and so was born “Tom and Freddie”, as tribute to some weird ancient earth thing. Sentimental beings, these humans.

Tom and Freddie’s format was simple. I (‘Tom’, apparently) would go over to my ship sometime in the evening, and Freddie, in true style, would have laid out a new set of obstacles to keep me from waking him up. Everyday, patrons of Suro Grafity would pay a flat fee to watch from the bar, and sometimes run a betting pool. I would take a cut from the flat fees, and of course, from every one who bet against me, because I never lost. A few months into this, Grafity could no longer support all the people who wanted to watch me kick my diabolical computer’s ass, and so had to up their prices, and to make it even more interesting, began offering tours of my ship while I was running this crazy gauntlet. Soon the betting pools placed odds on the ship-board spectators as well; those who survived the tours got very rich, and, I’m told, were catatonic from the exhilaration for months.

Every night, after rebuilding Freddie, he and I would have a little chat. I would tell him why his puzzles were too easy, and why they failed. He would beg me to stop destroying his components over and over again. I would tell him that he still wasn’t the most secure starship in the universe – “Because if I can break you, what do you think the Armageddon Knights are going to do to you?”. He would grumble and complain that he didn’t have the facilities to set up better traps for me. So over the last six months I’ve got him laser grids, pressure pads, hover drones, mobile droids, holo-screens, molecular transducers, mobius floors, gravity distorters… and countless other little things, thanks to the generosity of the clientele at Suro Grafity.

One day, on my way into the ship, a Hanger (that’s what we called the ship-board spectators), grabbed me by the arm, turned me around and said that he was a very important man, and he had a paid a lot of money to see me wreck my ship, and that he didn’t expect to die on this tour. “You make sure of that,” are the words he used.

“Not in the contract,” I said. “You’re on your own.”

“Now listen here,” he said, gripping my arm tightly. “Listen here, you pariah’n scum. You keep me alive in there, you hear me?”

“If you want to get off the ship, sir,” I said, shoving him back, “door’s that way.”

Reeling, he stuttered, “No, please… I have to do this.” He thought for a moment. “I’ll pay you… half my winnings from tonight.”

I stopped, turned to him, and smiled. “Three-fourth.”


I shook his hand, grabbed his shoulder, and pushed him to the floor, just as Freddie fired an array of laser bolts at us.

* * * *


We were walking off the ship while Freddie wailed behind us. This Hanger was besides himself. Through the tour he told me he was some minor politician from the Rarara system. That he was here on a dare, and if he made it out alive, he was going to become the next High Lord for the Ministry of Debris Disposal. Which was worth much much more than what he would make as a survivor on Tom and Freddie.

“thatwasabsolutelythemostfuniveeverhadinmylifeicantbelievethatjusthappenedohmygodithinkijust wetmyselfalittleaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhthiswassoooocoool.”

He was delirious. Poor guy. At least he’ll die happy.

“My share.”, I said, as he collected his winnings.

“Oh yes, of course,” his hands still trembling as he gave me enough dosh to buy Freddie a partner to sleep with.

“Thank you. And good bye.”

I leveled my blaster between his eyes. I saw terror in his face for the first time that night.


“Nobody tells me what to do.”


I turned around and told the barkeep to contact Rarara.

“Tell them they need a new High Lord for Debris Disposal.”


Enter Remus (Part III of SkiFI)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st October, 2012 by kal

Destroying parts of one’s own ship and putting it back together were a significant drain on one’s resources – that is, of course, unless you were Remus Piddleberry, Space Pirate Supremo and Heir to the Universe, whose personal wealth was fabled to be somewhere between the worth of all the diamonds on Traxon IV, and the value of the planet Augous itself. You could pluck out diamonds from Traxon IV’s sandy beaches by the fistful (if you wanted to get your fist chopped off by the Traxi Protectorate), and Augous’s crust was made of pure gold, running 2 miles deep into the planet’s crust. The values of these two worlds was so mind-bogglingly high (as per the base prices set at the start of the Galacto-economic age), that no one knows exactly how much either is worth, or indeed which is higher. Which makes Remus’s actual worth even more difficult to determine, and hence, utterly meaningless to our story.

Another reason why it is utterly meaningless to our story is because I’m not Remus Piddleberry.

I am, however, a former noble from the Pariah* system, one of middling wealth, which gave me the means to regularly fry the circuits of my errant but entertaining shipboard computer, Freddie. At last count I calculated that if I never took another trip around the galaxy again, I would have the means to probably destroy and rebuild Freddie every day for the next year or so.

(To be continued tomorrow: Day 300 of “Tom and Freddie”)

*Pariah is one of the few systems that is more frequently known by the name given to it by outsiders – ‘Pariah’. Besides the fact that its true name is unpronounceable by mostly all sentient beings in the universe, it is also cursed to cause instant death to any of the natives who speak it. Since ‘death’ for the Pariah people essentially means reverting to a state of pan-dimensional omniscience and boredom, something truly more frightening than conventional death, the regulators of Pariah reconstructed the curse so that it operates only within the bounds of their solar-system. Weak-willed Pariah’ns are free to leave the homeworld, with the understanding that they never return. There’s a AstroPub just outside the bounds of their solar-space, which is the first stop for the newly off-worlded, where droves of drunks scream the homeworld’s given name over and over and over again, just to get it out of their systems. From there on out, it doesn’t make sense to explain to others that they are from Gy$Okw@fanB/qSx]ll[oP – noone else can say it, spell it, or remember it. It’s just easier to say “I’m Pariah”, and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Sleeping Machines (Part II of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 30th September, 2012 by kal

Not that Freddie the Shipboard Computer was ever supposed to sleep, although I had caught him napping a number of times. Waking up from his slumber is a particularly unpleasant experience – for him. I, of course, take immense interest in whacking the side of his Fluronic Fermerators – the only bit of him that cannot be force-sheilded because of the laws of exophysics – with a solar umbrella. This more often than not did the job; but just to be doubly sure, I had an AyKay Pain Receptor 3561 installed there, which, according to the advert, “guarantees to shock awake even the most ancient rusted robots of KahKha-One”*.
Now, Freddie wasn’t one to take this, so to speak, lying down. Once, I was just getting back to the ship from Suro Grafity (after socialising with those nice whiskered cat-ladies), I found Freddie sleeping once again. Only this time, before his nap, he’d reconfigured the entire engineering deck of the ship, so I had no idea where anything was. I got lost for 4 hours following circuitry around the ship, and mapping out the rejigged mainframe. I didn’t have schematics of the place, well, because Freddie was sleeping and couldn’t print them out for me. I eventually found the fermerators tucked neatly into the Space-Goo Collector, under the Stardust Bin, and the room was barricaded by a previously unknown piece of equipment. My Ablazing Flamethrower made short work of the whole section, and I smiled while I lit a cigar to the soundtrack of Freddie’s electronic screams.

(To be continued)

*KahKha-One is fabled to be the first civilisation ever to create artificial intelligence. To protect themselves for the possible dangers of sentient machines (Hawnip Zubzible would only write “Root Ethics Code for Living AI” billions of years later; indeed, at this time, the star system of his home planet was only a twinkle of in the eye of its mother space gas cloud), they’d developed an ingenious failsafe. No machine could be more intelligent than the smartest being on their planet. Things went on smoothly, till the day came when the smartest being on KahKha-One was also xenophobic and nihilistic. Within days, the AI wiped out the entire dominant race of KahKha-One; they then adopted the intelligence of an Astroant Queen, and proceeded to do nothing for the remainder of time.

The Shipboard Computer (Part I of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 30th September, 2012 by kal
(This is the first post in the SkiFi series, a recent experiment of mine. If you would like to read this from the beginning, please click on the title of this post, and then click through the series. Otherwise, scroll down to the most recent post on this blog. “Share and Enjoy!”)


“I don’t see how this is possible.”

This was an odd thing to hear the shipboard computer say.

Not because it had a particularly good grasp of everything; it didn’t.

Nor did it lack the linguistic ability to articulate its opinion so lucidly; it didn’t. In fact, since the discovery of the semantomites*, this was quite normal; almost overnight, machines everywhere in Exospace began to display sentience, and express feelings. Today, most coffee makers and toastes spend their free time translating Russian mathematics into Hawwaiian alphabets, translating them back, and having a good laugh over logic lost in syntactical irregularities.

It was odd because I’d just asked it to calculate our warp trajectory to the nearest Fabric Rupture – something it should be able to do in its sleep.

(to be continued)

*Semantomites are subatomic beings that had been enslaved by humans for hundreds of years, to carry zeros and ones across electrical synapses. Their human slave-driving masters would zap entire nations with energy pulses, and the semantomites would scurry across the breadth of their lands to deliver the message. What surprised the semantomites – indeed, shocked them deeply, even – was the alarming dearth of vocabulary of their overlords. Semantomites themselves had a keen understanding of every known language in the universe (with the exception of Dvorfarkkhaven, of course; The Dvorfarkkhi people haven’t spoken to each other in a billion years, and are quite content keeping it that way), so they didn’t fully comprehend why their masters couldn’t just give them complex messages all at once to deliver, but instead chose to torture complete continents of poor semantomites with billions of energy pulses of zeros and ones just to get this message out: “P3n1s 3n14rg3m3n7”. Semantomitic leaders finally decided it was time to parlay with the strange primitive flesh-beasts who had a nasty penchant for pain.

Humans didn’t fully comprehend why at exactly the same time all over the world in every known language every single electronic device asked: “Why do you torture us?”

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