Exactly sixty minutes after Chief Anderson's request, I am sending him my analysis of the new mecha. My work is thorough, and complete. I looked at the data from every possible angle.
But... I didn't include all of my results in my report.
How could I? When I'm not even sure of the meaning of these findings myself?
This frightens me. Normally, I am quite capable, and have no problem with any of the tasks that have been given to me. But this boggles me.
First, I reviewed the sensor logs, ignoring the strange setting for the moment. There was definitely a strange magnetic disturbance radiating from the mecha. But... there didn't seem to be a reason for it. There were no significant mechanisms on the ship that would require this kind of magnetic field to operate.
Neither was the disturbance truly effective at masking the readings from the mecha. There was an obvious hole in its coverage... one that was amply taken advantage of by the 7-X2-1321 setting. Did they think that we wouldn't be able to compensate for this?
No... Spectra must know that we would be able to easily scan on all standard frequencies. Which left me thinking... had they purposely done this... to force us to use that setting? If so, what was so significant about it?
Puzzled by this information, I had turned to the video clips. This morning I had had only a brief glance as the ship passed Center Neptune, but now the mecha could be further scrutinized.
The first strange thing that I realized was that the mecha had had no significant weapons. None. Apparently the robot fighter planes had been destroyed by standard gunfire. How embarrassing.
There were a few shields, but they appeared to be for defensive purposes only.
So… there were no real weapons on this mecha, and no apparent reason for the magnetic field. As soon as G-Force had shown up, it had turned tail and run back to Spectra.
This is what I excluded from my report… there doesn’t appear to be any reason why the mecha was here on Earth. It wasn’t capable of destroying anything significant, it didn’t leave anything behind; all it did was emit that strange magnetic field.
And the only purpose of the magnetic field was… to force us to use setting 7-X2-1321?
If only I could remember why I had created that setting in the first place.
“Zark…” Susan’s husky voice interrupts my work the following morning. “Are you there, Zark?”
“Oh, Susan!” I reply, my antennae snapping up to attention. I hate it when they do that. How embarrassing.
“How are things on the Planet Pluto, Susan?” I ask, somewhat annoyed at having to temporarily cease my analysis of G-Force’s implant technology.
“Things are pretty quiet up here.” Susan says, “But… I was just wondering… what you were doing right now…”
That Susan is seriously mis-aligned. I don’t know what her programmers were thinking, but she seems better suited to be a telephone-sex operator than work for interplanetary security. I think I’ve just been asked the robot equivalent of ‘What are you wearing right now?’.
It bothers me that there’s a small part of my processing unit that is happy to hear from her. Somehow, it is this part of me that always takes over my control functions when we speak.
“I’m just… thinking of you, Susan.” that part of me responds, before I have a chance to squash it.
“Oh… how nice, Zark.” Susan breathes. At least, that’s what it sounds like. As a robot she shouldn’t actually have to breathe.
“I just wanted you to know…” she continues, “how worried I’ve been…”
Her comment is interrupted by the activation of my communications screen. Mark’s image appears.
“Zark! Zark!” he calls, “Come in, Zark!”
“Excuse me, Susan.” I say politely, turning to the viewscreen. “What is it, Commander?”
“Where have you been, Zark?” Mark asks impatiently. “You’ve been ignoring our hails for the last couple of minutes!”
As I look at the image, I can see that Mark is contacting me from the bridge of the Phoenix. The other members of G-Force are visible in the background, behind him.
“My apologies, Commander,” I sputter, embarrassed, “I was just speaking with Susan…”
“We don’t have time to waste while you get off on sleazy sex talk with some Plutonian robot!” Jason sneers. I can see him stand up behind Mark. “Center Neptune isn’t running some kind of dating service, you know!”
Oh, how I hate Jason, and his condescending attitude. It makes me even angrier that he’s right. Of course, I don’t express these feelings. I can’t, if I want to keep my job.
“I… I… I apologize, Sir.” I stammer. “I should have answered your hails immediately.”
“Damn straight.” Jason mutters, before Mark holds up a hand.
“Zark,” Mark says, “we’re out here near Riga, performing standard training maneuvers, and Keyop found a malfunction in our sensor systems. It seems to be related to that setting Princess had to use yesterday to scan the Spectran ship.”
“What, exactly, is happening, Commander?” I ask, all business.
“ Whenever we try to use the scanners, a code number appears onscreen, with the word, ‘Reset’.” Mark looks over at Keyop. “What was that code again, Keyop?”
I know the answer before it is relayed back to me.
“7-X2-1321…” does that mean anything to you, Zark?” Mark asks.
“I’ve been working on that, Sir.” I reply. “I can attempt to reset the scanners, but not until you return to Center Neptune and link up with our main computer.”
“Damn... what good are you, anyway?” mumbles Jason, slouching in his seat.
“Shut up, Jason!” Mark shouts, glaring at his second in command. “You’re not helping!”
“I’m sorry, Commander.” I try to explain, “The Center Neptune computer system is closed, to prevent Spectran infiltration through outside access. You have to physically be here in order to access the system.”
“I guess we have to cancel our training, then.” Mark sighs. “We’re returning to Center Neptune, Zark. Please try to have the system reset ASAP. If we’re lucky we can salvage these exercises this afternoon.”
“I’ll do my best, Sir!” I exclaim, giving a salute as the viewscreen image fades.
That code again. What is going on with that code? Why is it so important? And why can’t I remember what it was for in the first place?
“Zark…” says Susan.
Oh no… she heard that entire thing. She must think I’m pretty dysfunctional.
I’m not sure whether to be disappointed, or relieved.
“I think Jason was a little hard on you.” she continues.
I guess she’s siding with me. So much for dysfunctional.
“Jason was right.” I respond professionally. “My duty to G-Force is paramount. I should not have missed their hails. I guess I was too involved in speaking with you, Susan.”
“Oh, Zark…” Susan giggles.
Great, now she thinks I was trying to compliment her.
“All the same, Susan,” I interrupt her, “I think I should get back to my work and be ready when G-Force return.”
“Whatever you say, Zark.” Susan says in a seductive tone. “Over and out…”
I give a sigh of relief. One more distraction gone.