Ship in the Void – Pt. 7

Welcome back to my sci-fi short! If this is your first time visiting, I recommend starting with part 1. You can find all of these posts collected on the Dream Journal page. 

The story continues…

I spent hours in front of the terminal sifting through data pulled on both the light and door glitch and the gravity shift. The initial conclusions Flash relayed held up under deeper scrutiny: all systems reported normal operations. Everything came back clean when reviewing the programming, and it was the same story with the interfaces. All systems appeared fine and responsive. 

“I’ve run through the life-support logs for this section for the last month,” Magic said, breaking our companionable silence. “There are no recorded anomalies.” 

“That’s encouraging.” 

“I would find it more encouraging if we knew what caused the other issues,” he said, tilting his head for emphasis before stretching his arms out and back. 

I was feeling the strain of too long at a comp screen myself, but the sling prevented me from executing a similar move.

I huffed out a laugh, “You and me both.” 

“What about you? You got anything?” 

“Maybe,” I said, twitching my nose in consideration. “Come take a look at this. It might help me to talk through it out loud.” 

As Magic settled in behind me to look over my shoulder, I tried to organize my thoughts. Some things were not lining up, and I wasn’t sure which version of events to believe. 

“This is the log from the automated lighting,” I said, pointing to a few lines of the data records. “You can see here how the light receives a signal to turn on from the motion detection system, here.” I flipped through to another wall of data. “Same here for the door. Aaaand here for the gravity shift from the docking bay terminal.”

“But no one was in those locations to initiate the signals from our team,” he said. “Do we have a stow-away intruder?”

“See,” I said, pointing a stylus in his direction, “I had the same thought along with wondering about aliens.”

Magic snorted as I continued.

“Until…” I pulled up yet another dataset. “I looked at the records for the systems where the signals originated and cross-referenced the timestamps.”

“And?” he asked as I paused dramatically. 

“No input received, “I said with a smug grin. “No signal sent.” 

He shook his head and peered at me sideways. “What do you mean? You just said those were the sources of the signals.”

“Yes, The signals were received and recorded with all relevant data, including source, but there is no record of the signals being sent. We have incoming calls with no corresponding outgoing calls.”

“Huh,” he said, leaning back in thought.

“Exactly,” I agreed with the sentiment. This was basic operating stuff. Send, receive. On, off. We both frowned at the comp screen, thinking. 

“So, what are you looking for now?” Magic finally asked.

I sighed and bit my lip before swiveling around to face him. 

“I have two current theories,” I began, holding up a finger. “One, an unknown entity or entities is aboard and has messed with the systems or data to cover their tracks. I need Flash to look into that one. The skill needed for a hack so nuanced is beyond me.”

Adding a second finger, I continued, “Second theory, there is something like an electrical short connecting in ‘TBD’ ways triggering signals. Somehow, those ‘TBD’ ways are mimicking what would be sent by the alleged source systems.”

Magic gave me a teasing grin. “It sounds like you’ve narrowed it down to either aliens or robots.”

I blinked, momentarily distracted by the smile, and felt a blush blooming on my cheeks.

He is so yummy.

Pushing that unnecessary thought aside, I cleared my throat and responded as though I was not imitating a cooked lobster. “Har-har. while aliens remain a possibility, I’m putting it far down the list. I also think an intruder is a less likely alternative. There is little reason for someone to hide their presence in the area where I found the light on.”

“That leaves you with ‘TBD’ option,” he said, making the air quotes.

“Yes,” I said with concern. “And the ‘TBD’ is unlikely to be easily determined because of how the signals are recorded. We need to manually track down the source, which fits the definition of needle-in-a-haystack. It means we need to find an electrical short in a robot the size of a small moon.”

“So, what’s your plan?” 

I took and released a deep breath. “First, I’m turning Flash onto theory one. He can figure out who is checking the programming for manipulation. I will hunt for the short, beginning with a thrilling search through timestamps!”

“You have fun with that,” Magic slapped the back of my chair. “I have plenty of life-support system records of my own to review.”

I smiled and shook my head as I called Flash to report my findings. Then, I started a run on all system activity with the same timestamp of that first anomaly.

To be continued…

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