“Arrival at destination in 4 days 23 hours and 16 minutes. Memory function at 22 percent.”

Unconsciously, he chewed the inside of his cheek. The computer still knew where he was going, but it would be a one way trip unless the memory could be salvaged.

“Any luck recovering the back-up?”

“No. The drives were too damaged by the magnetic storm.”

“I don’t understand how the shielding failed.” It was not the first time he wondered about it.

“I do not have access to that data.”

“You’ve said that.” The shielding shouldn’t have been penetrable. The engineers spent more time on protecting the computer than on life support. It was more essential to this mission than he was. How could they have gotten this so wrong?”

“Hold on. Why don’t you have access to that data?”


“Does the data exist?”


“So it wasn’t destroyed in the storm?”


“So why can’t you access it?”


The AI was designed to understand colloquial speech. This was unusual. “Do you not have permission to access the data?”


“Why not?”


He gave up. Why was the computer prevented from accessing parts of its own memory? Was this just an effect of the storm? A nasty suspicion grew stronger. Was this always supposed to be a one way trip? But if so, why?

The several screens surrounding him provided no answers. He could think of nothing he could do that would lead to any. In the end, it didn’t really matter if this was intentional sabotage or just an accident. The situation was the same either way. He could establish orbit and use the lander for closer surveys. Nothing prevented the mission from going ahead. With communication made impossible because of the damage, someone would have to come after him eventually. He just had to survive until then.

“Are there any updates to our mission?” Had someone left a clue?

“No. With communications down, I am unable to receive any revisions. We will continue as planned.”

Planned. Nothing was as planned. But there was little point in arguing about it.

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