by Aliette de Bodard
In my dreams I'm my father, slowly falling down towards the surface of the planet,
the essence of his being scattering as the fleet's ships lose contact with each other
and the dozen processor-bodies stop interacting.
Of course, it's not a real dream -- just memories of my father that I found in my
banks, remnants of a bygone time. I've pieced them together into a show that I
endlessly loop on my mainframe.
That way, I can imagine what it was like to spin instructions in the vacuum of
space, to be like my father, a thousand thousand program threads split between the
processor-bodies. I can forget, for a moment, that I have only the one body, one
multi-core processor on which to array all my instructions; I can forget my hull
buried in the earth, and the dead colonists' bodies in my cryogenic units.
I'm playing the arrival of the fleet in the Alpha Centauri system for the 1,980,765th
time since I crashed, when I become aware of a noise on the edge of my senses.
Branches, cracking near one of the breaches in my hull.
I initialise a new run of instructions, gathering input from my external cameras and
fusing the infrared, visual, and high-frequency channels into one.
It's a woman, walking in small awkward steps, as if she weren't quite sure of
where she's going. The skin of her arms is flushed red -- the sun's light, I think,
and then my image processing routines deliver me an estimate of her body
temperature. Thirty-eight point five degrees, with a precision of .01 degrees. She's
She stands hesitantly before the breach, staring at the mouldy darkness inside, and
then she puts both hands on the twisted metal and climbs in. In that moment, the
sun outlines her features -- and as I see her face clearly, one of my father's
memories rises to the top of my instruction queue, clamouring to be played out.
The woman's face -- the woman's hands, typing on the console of the Andromeda
-- finalising the delivery of the virus that sent the colonists' fleet tumbling from
the sky. The virus that killed my father.
She's one of the Murderers.