Big Dumb Objects

“Everyone here? Good, let’s get started. Projections are showing that this may be a very narrow window of opportunity, so the sooner we’re in the field the better. Now, if someone can turn the lights off… good. An external trawler noticed this and sent it through to us about eight hours ago, realtime.”

“Ah, sorry I’m late! Hi, Captain! Did I miss anything?”

“Just the deadline, Connor. Now, I’ll ask Dr Pearson to explain-”


“Sorry, Angela! It’s a bit dark, couldn’t find my way-”

“Yes, thank you, Connor. Dr Pearson, could you please run us through this?”

“Of course, sir. We think we’ve picked up another mayfly phenomenon. The trawler’s viewers haven’t been configured for local conditions, so it took us a while to notice that there was anything unusual going on here. We’ve touched it up a bit with false colour here. As you can see, the expected view of the local star is obscured by an object that our records confirm wasn’t there – or anywhere else nearby – twenty minutes prior, the closest time we have reliable visuals of the area.

“Subsequent pictures taken with better-adapted hardware… so, and… so, make it fairly obvious that we’re not just dealing with a stray asteroid or piece of human space junk. By our best estimation, the object is an upside-down cube, following a fairly standard orbit around the star, but near enough to the second planet that it ought to be a satellite. The surface is featureless, as far as we can tell, and none of our examinations to date have shown any indication of recent activity. Its temperature is well within the expected range of orbital debris, there have not been any disturbances-”

“Um, Dr Pearson?”

“-any disturbances in the local-”

“Excuse me, Dr Pearson!”

“-planetary yes¬†Angela, what is it?”


“Tipped a hundred and eighty degrees from its customary orientation.”

“But it’s a featureless cube. How do we know which way it’s supposed to be facing?”

“Angela, if you’re having me on-”

“I mean unless you’re about to show us some images of the interior that clearly demonstrate the proper orientation-”

“Look, Angela, I think we really need to move on.”

“-but barring that there’s no way to say that it’s upside-down. There’s, like, a one-in-six chance.”

“Angela! If this is your idea of a-”

“Thank you very much, Dr Pearson. Howes, that’s enough backtalk.”


“And even then, orientation is purely a matter of convention. It’s not as if the way the thing being tilted relative to the plane of the ecliptic actually means anything-”

Will you shut up, Howes-”

“-and at any rate, we can just reorient on approach and have it at whatever configuration we want-”


“I’m not sure that she’s actually plugged in, sir.”

“-though if it’s just another piece of funnily-shaped rock then reorienting will be as much of a waste of time as approaching in the first place-”

“What, you mean she just sent a persona?”

“-still not sure what we’re meant to be looking for, anyway-”

“A pretty hastily made one, too. Much less convincing than Stephanie’s.”

“Connor! How dare you!”

“See? At least hers has enough awareness to react to direct challenges.”

“-all this need-to-know nonsense really isn’t helping-”

“Dr Pearson? Really?”

“I’m sorry, sir…”

“You mean the upside-down cube thing didn’t tip you off? It’s not the first time she’s gotten a heuristic to string together bits of jargon for a report.”

“Connor, that’s really mean!”

“Except that you’re just software, and chances are that Stephanie didn’t consider this meeting important enough to request a digest, so odds are she’ll never know I even said this.”


“Um, hello? Dr Pearson? Captain Schultz? I am talking to you, you know.”

“Dear lord. Are you really here, at least?”

“Yeah. I was feeling bored when you called.”

“You too, Connor? You know, it’s really rude to talk over someone when she’s trying to make a point.”

“Well, that’s a relief. Look, the window’s probably expired already – mind dropping down to meatspace and having a real talk, face to face? We need to be sure this wasn’t just another false alarm.”

“Sure. Twenty minutes real?”


“Hey, don’t ignore me! I’ve got things to say as well!”

“For the love of God, will you shut up, Angela! You always have to ruin everything!”

“Oh, well at least you’re paying attention to me, Dr Pearson.”

Stop it! Will you just stop talking!”

“Jesus Christ. I’m breaking, Connor. See you in twenty.”

“Just snapping out like that? Some officer. At least Connor had the courtesy to disengage by going out the door.”

“Oh my god you stupid pile of subroutines, will you quit it?”

SP_PHYS:   Does it go on much longer?

BC_ENG:    maybe another two minutes subjective
           she ends up going back to talking about geometry until
           you end up punching her in the face

SP_PHYS:   And you're being completely level here?
           You didn't just sim this up in your own time?

BC_ENG:    really happened, I swear
           you think I have the imagination to come up with upside
           -down cubes?

SP_PHYS:   Let's not rub it in, okay? At least my personae know
           when the jig is up.

BC_ENG:    it was still pretty mean for you and angela to bail
           like that
           thought old man schultz was going to cry for a minute

SP_PHYS:   Okay, okay. I see where this is going.
           How much to keep quiet?

BC_ENG:    what, to angela? let's call it three shifts

SP_PHYS:   You're a bastard, Connor.

BC_ENG:    well, I didn't punch her

SP_PHYS:   Neither did I! It wasn't even Angela who got punched!

BC_ENG:    if it means that little to you...

AH_COMS:   Hey guys!

BC_ENG:    hi

SP_PHYS:   No, no, you win. Shoot me your schedule and I'll take
           whatever I can fit into my own.
           Oh. Hi, Angela.

BC_ENG:    done.

AH_COMS:   Haha, you two been wagering again?
           I keep telling you not to bet on news, Pearson.

SP_PHYS:   Yeah. I guess some day I'll learn to keep a closer eye
           on current events.

I have no idea what I have just written.

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3 Responses to Big Dumb Objects

  1. James says:

    I laughed out loud at the upside-down cube

  2. john says:

    Before or after it became a subject of debate? :P

  3. Alecat says:

    Did you leave Alicebot and Eliza in a room together again?

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