A logical, though not precise statement – when floating over an world-sized ocean of fresh water, a human need not go thirsty. I sent the monkey-robot to the surface every few days to collect water, despite the sixty-five percent chance of it being shot down by sky-pirates. Probability was on our side so far, but water was still strictly rationed. I needed fluid to keep my hard drives cool, Sara needed it to drink.
I materialized in holographic form. In a three-piece suit and top-hat, Sara’s favorite image for me – she claimed I looked dashing this way, whatever that means. The result was predictable: Sara’s eyes lit up and smiled slightly despite her cracked and dry lips. “Systems are ninety percent, nanotech is rebuilding damage to the engine coils, and memory files are restored and properly backed up.”
“Good,” she slouched in the driver’s chair, careful to keep her greasy, unwashed braids from touching the slick leather upholstery. The glow in her face receded, the angles of her jaw harsh with concentration, her chin jutted out, she licked her lips. “Next phase ready? Escape trajectory prepared?”
“Negative on both counts.” I illuminated the nearest screen with all possible routes displayed, the most dangerous highlighted in red. “Next phase is your decision. You must choose the route, per the rules you programmed in my interface. Escape trajectories are calculated, but cannot be prepared until you decide which route to pursue.”
Sara placed her forehead in her palm, sighing and swiveling the chair back and forth slightly. Nearly a month trapped behind the pirate blockade, she was clearly frustrated by the damage done to the ship and by not having a way out. I also suspected her mammalian system was stretched thin with limited water intake. I supposed it was no different than having an over-heated component, or an unwanted virus infecting essential data. I was always amazed at the frailty of human cognition, but equally awed – and admittedly jealous – of the speed and flexibility of humans’ survival instinct.
“Holland,” Sara sat up straight, “you did not plot a course through the wormhole.”
“The wormhole route exceeds my criteria for risk, therefore I did not consider it an option.” The pirates had directly warned us to not go through the wormhole, and I could not find any internet based information about it.
“All of these routes have less than fifty percent success chance. What’s the probability for the wormhole?”
“Calculating,” I said. I sifted through all available information, funneled the numbers through the mainframe, and composited the results into small data sets that could be understood by a human. “Not enough data. No reliable or valid probability can be calculated.”
She bit her knuckles and squinted, entirely focused on the screen that displayed my results. The lights of the dim cabin played shadows across her, the creases in her brow smoothing out, she swiveled back to me.
“Plot a course to the wormhole and immediately fly to that location.”
For a machine who thinks in nanoseconds, three-and-a-half seconds is a near eternity of contemplation.
“That is my final decision.”
I did not need to tell her I was calculating. Once the algorithms were complete, I informed her and prompted her to initiate launch. I steered the craft away from pirate fire, narrowly missed the chasm, and flew into the wormhole. The actual decent is remarkably forgettable, even for machine intelligence. Mostly black lights and temporal auditory signals. I knew we were on the other side because of the encrypted beacon message I received – “Sanctuary.”
Sara grinned, her muscles slack, heartbeat regular, and breathing normalized. “No risk, nothing to toast for, wouldn’t you say, old friend?” A precise, though not necessarily logical proposition.
Word Count: 630
Today’s story was inspired by a prompt from the Speculative Fiction Muse:
The story’s protagonist is female and a driver. A taste plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on an island in the future. The story is about thirst.