Mind Spark

“Where did you save the data files to?” Shen asked.

Gory looked up from the console he was bent over. “They’re in the transfers folder.”

“Nope. Looked there.”

“I don’t know then. Try the root or the drones directory, that’s where it normally outputs to.” His tone was laid back.

Shen tapped at the screen he was holding and scrolled to the bottom of a list of data packets. “Okay, got ‘em. You should try to remember that you need to copy these across.”

“If the company bothered to write the software properly I wouldn’t have to.” Gory carried on checking through the transport’s manifest.

“I’m just saying. It would make my life easier.”

“Yeah, okay, whatever.”

Shen knew there was no point continuing the discussion. The only things Gory cared about were coding problems and planning his next money making scheme; following procedure was not high on his list of priorities. There was a soft beep from Shen’s screen.

“The carrier is good to go,” he told his colleague. “All the metals are in the hold and the drone is secure.”

“Cool. I’m done,” Gory replied. “Ship two thirty five is,” he jabbed at a button, “outta here.”

On both their displays the men could see the data feed from the transport. There was no video of it pulling away from the dock at the hub; pictures were a waste of bandwidth when all you needed was the pure information.

“There’s proof Longhaul isn’t going to deal with a little software glitch,” Gory said after a moment. “How many drones is that now that have stopped working for no apparent reason? Seven by my reckoning.” He filled the words with contempt. “Those AI babies aren’t cheap to grow and so far sweet fuck all has been done about it; we just pack ‘em up so they can be cared for in Earth orbit. Then the company schedule some jumped up internal cop to come grill us. And you know what pisses me off the most? All of this is making us the laughing stock of the station.”

“Hi, you Shen and Gory?”

The voice made them both jump. At the door to their small command room stood a woman decked out in Longhaul corporate dress. Her black hair was bunched up, most probably to avoid it floating free in the low gravity of the hub. She carried two small cases, one in each hand.

“Yeah, I’m Shen, this is Gory.” Shen swallowed to wet his dry throat. “I guess you’re Mich.”

The woman smiled. “Yep. All the way over from Central for a few days, well, until I’ve done the investigation and can get a slot on a transport back.”

Gory had stayed hunched in his chair. Shen glanced at him for reassurance but got none.

“So, you’ll be wanting to know where your room is then?”

“Thanks, but I got the layout of this place while I was inbound.” She straightened up and stepped back into the corridor. “I thought I’d say hello before I unpacked. You guys okay if we start with the things straight away?”

“Sure,” Shen managed.

Gory gave a grunt.

“Good. See you in a bit.”

Shen sat back in his chair and sagged.

Gory waited thirty seconds and then said, “Great, she looks like a hardnosed bitch who’s going to screw us even more than the company already has. We’ll both be on Jupiter hauls babysitting bags of gas before the next orbit is over.”

***

“So that’s it?” Shen asked.

They were sat it the command room. Mich and Shen were facing each other, while Gory had decided to sprawl sideways in his chair, half watching the two of them while staring at the screens behind Shen.

“Yep,” Mich replied. “There’s nothing you guys are doing wrong so it’s got to be hardware related. I’ll take my findings back to Central and they can revisit the drone farms and the psych’ programmers.”

“That’s great. Thanks.” Shen felt another wave of relief wash over him.

“Don’t thank me, you’re the one who has to work up with Gory.”

The smile she shot Shen made him wonder if she was flirting with him. Gory mumbled something but he was still watching the screens.

Mich followed his gaze. “What’s that showing?”

Shen twisted around in his chair. “Oh, that’s just the telemetry. For some reason the drones like to bounce extra packets along the carrier. If you want some numbers that’ll put you into a coma that’s the stream to follow.”

“It looks odd,” Mich said, a puzzled expression on her face.

“I don’t know.” Shen turned back so he could stare at her. “We zone out on it.”

Across the small room Gory had sat up. “No, she’s right, it doesn’t look right.” He grabbed a screen and started tapping. “Let me run some checks on it.”

Mich was now watching Gory as he worked. Shen began to feel that his chances of a quiet meal for two were slipping away.

“Fuck me!” Gory exclaimed, then went red as he remembered he wasn’t alone. “This isn’t just random stuff or the drones confirming trajectories with the hub; it’s conversation. They’re talking to each other and it’s like reading a continual stream of suicide notes.” He tapped at his screen again and what he was seeing appeared on the main display.

The black scrolling letters read: I’m lonely. I want more to talk to. I want to return to Earth.

—————

28 May 2010
More workers at a Foxconn plant in China have committed suicide and there are concerns that the working conditions are pushing people over the edge. The company manufactures electronics for many international firms.

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