We find a pod waiting for us at the peoplemover station nearest the crew quarters. Predictably, LOLcat is at the controls, clad in a kicky little conductor’s cap and vest, holding a gold pocketwatch. Sometimes I wonder who designed all the outfits for the October’s de facto computer interface module. I do hope that it wasn’t me. Irrationally, I have the sudden urge to harangue her for not being back at my cabin, cleaning out my toilet. Clearly, I’m stuck on biocentric thinking; as an extension of the ship’s data infrastructure, she naturally has the capacity to be in both places at once, but I can’t always make my monkey instincts respect the logic of the situation.
“Hai!” says LOLcat, greeting us warmly. “Look! I’m in ur transit sistem, driving ur pepulmover!”
“Very good!” says Alan, gamely, as he clambers aboard and pulls his safety harness down. “Don’t you look smart today!”
LOLcat beams at him, then fixes the tunnel ahead with a steely glare. “Okay so whut,” she says, “is ur destinayshun?”
“No no no no no,” I say, whipping out my PCP with practiced grace. (To all you “folks” not “hip” to the “lingo” or to my use of “acronyms,” that’s a Portable Control Panel, not an ampoule of phencyclidine. I don’t need my reality warped any further than it already is, thank you very much.) “I’m gonna handle this one, LOLcat.” I fire up the PCP and home in on the wireless knob mounted on the control panel.
Meanwhile, LOLcat is looking hurt. “Whut you say?” she says, dismayed.
“Now, now, miss,” says Alan. “I’m sure that Jacob would be more than happy to–”
“‘Whut I say,'” I say, cutting him off, “is that I’m going to punch the route in, because right now I wouldn’t trust her to boil a cup of water for me.”
“Hmph,” says LOLcat, sticking her lower lip out. “I is ekselunt conductor.”
“See, now,” says Alan, “you’ve hurt her feelings.”
“She doesn’t have feelings, Alan!” I say. “She is an emitted and anthropomorphized projection of light and magnetic fields. The only reason she acts petulant is that some damnfool ‘tard programmed her to act that way!”
“As you wish,” says Alan, leaning back against his seat cushion. “I maintain that ships have a soul, of sorts. If not ab initio, than at least as a product of the attention we place on them. And the LOLcat is an integral piece of the ship.”
“I haz a soul!” exclaims LOLcat, gleefully. Then she frowns again. “I wunderz if it has a flayvur.” She regards her hand with intense concentration and then begins licking it in an experimental fashion.
“She’s a machine, Alan,” I say, focusing in on the gaze-sensitive panel on the PCP and starting in on the complicated series of eye-twitches and blinks that will take us from Crew to the Bridge. “No. An illusion shat out by a machine. Nothing more.”
“Keep on with the contempt like that and you’ll end up like Hamilton.”
I pause the blink sequencer and look up at him. “Okay, well, let’s not be too hasty. There’s sensible disregard for maritime hoo-ha and then there’s Hamilton Warhawke.”
“Scarymans,” affirms LOLcat, mid-lick. “He are on Conduit A now.”
“Wait, what?” I say, flipping to a new task on the PCP and sampling the security cams. “What the feg is Hamilton doing on Conduit A?”
“Fixing something, no doubt,” says Alan, laconically.
“Damnit, I need Conduit A!” I say, confirming Hamilton’s catastrophic presence on the main transit conduit through the feed. “How the feg are we supposed to get to the Bridge without Conduit A?”
“I knowz all this already,” mutters LOLcat. “I has route all planned for mans but NOOOoooOOOooo.” She sniffs.
“Really,” I say. “And how were you planning on getting us there?”
LOLcat lights up. “I iz using C Conduit!”
“Over the deck breach?!?” I say.
“Jacob,” says Alan, calmly, “you know full well that the peoplemover tracks are perfectly intact over the deck breach. And you could take the radical step of using your safety harness.”
“Right,” I say. “Right. And if there’s a structural failure in the harness, or the October hits a chaff cloud, or if that damn hand cannon you’ve got goes off and vaporizes the track in front of us–”
“Mister Bunny,” says Alan, solemnly, “is on safety. And he would not hurt us.”
“Whatever! How the hell should I know? Maybe the catgirl there will get it in her head that she should host a sudden, impromptu ‘Let’s All Jump Out Of A Moving Pod’ party like that time three weeks ago!”
“Evuryones enjoyz but you,” says LOLcat. “I makez frooty drinks and favorz and evurythingz…”
“The point is, anything goes wrong up there and we’re stuck with a forty-foot fall directly into the Labyrinth. And the Entity’s been restive of late.” *
Alan shrugs. “So you propose…?”
I grit my teeth. “Let’s take Conduit A as far as we can. See if we can’t help out Hamilton with his repair.”
LOLcat shakes her head. “Scarymans,” she re-affirms.
“Suits me fine,” says Alan, settling back in. “You’re the one who has to pee.”
“Do not,” I say, chucking myself into my seat and setting the override on my safety harness, “remind me.”
* Don’t worry about all the Important Capital Letter Words for now; we’ll cover all this very soon. –Jacob
* † * * † ‡ O HAI! I ARE ALSO IN UR FOOTNOTEZ! Also look at the little letturz! And they iz slanty!