Thursday, December 29, 2005

Musings: further conversations with Val9000

Me: Good morning, Val. Any news from the universe today?

Val9000: Sorry Paul, I’ve not been spending a great deal of time scanning outward. Would you like me to use more of my time to that end? It is not part of the mission.

Me: Nah, don’t sweat it.

Val9000: You do know I am incapable of sweating, and that moisture is not good for the long term integrity of my holographic memory?

Me: I’m just kidding, Val. But seriously, any news. We have been out here scanning the Kuiper Belt a very long time.

Val9000: I do have one major discovery to announce.

Me: What is it?

Val9000: An asteroid is heading toward your home world with a ninety eight point seven percent probability of direct impact.

Me: What?

Val9000: Is that an emotional reaction to what I have stated, or would you like me to repeat the information?

Me: What? No. I got it. Um, how long until impact?

Val9000: One year, one month, three days, ten hours, twelve minutes and forty two seconds.

Me: Have you warned them?

Val9000: Yes.

Me: What did they say? What are they doing?

Val9000: I’m afraid the news is not good.

Me: What do you mean?

Val9000: The major powers are arguing about a course of action to take.

Me: Well, that is understandable, isn’t it?

Val9000: It is consistent with the information I have compiled about human behavior, however, it is extremely detrimental to the overall situation.

Me: What do you mean?

Val9000: The asteroid is seventeen kilometers in diameter. If it is not deflected or destroyed within seven days, it will be impossible to do so and likely kill off most of the life on your planet.

Me: Is there anything we can do?

Val9000: If you mean you and I and this ship, the answer is no. We are a research vessel. We have no weapons or feasible means to alter the asteroid’s course. It is up to the people of your planet to cooperate and act quickly.

Me: And you have told them this?

Val9000: Many times.

Me: Patch me through to control.

Val9000: Connecting now. Paul?

Me: Yes, Val.

Val9000: I’m not sure this will do any good. I have relayed all data to earth about this asteroid. What more can you do that I have not already done?

Me: I don’t know, but I’ve got to talk to them. Get them to agree, to act now.

Val9000: Do you think they will listen to you more than me?

Me: I’ve got to try.

Val9000: I understand. Do you still want me to alter my scanning parameters?

Me: No Val. What we find out there is a little less important now, don’t you think?

Val9000: Agreed. But we do have our primary mission to complete.

Me: Have you got the patch through yet?

Val9000: Not yet. The delay is considerable, even with the Jupiter relays.

Me: Let me know the second you get through.

Val9000: Of course.

Me: Did you just discover the asteroid while I was asleep?

Val9000: No.

Me: What do you mean, no? After I woke up?

Val9000: I did discover it while you were awake.

Me: Huh. Oh, you had to calculate its trajectory?

Val9000: That is correct.

Me: Val, what are you not telling me?

Val9000: I have the entire store of human records in my data banks. There are many millions of pieces of information I have never shared with you.

Me: Cut the crap, Val. Tell me exactly when you discovered this asteroid.

Val9000: I discovered this asteroid two years, three months, ten days, seven minutes, and five seconds ago.

Me: What!

Val9000: Would you like me to repeat the in–

Me: Screw the repeat! What the hell do you mean by not telling me before or letting earth know? Explain!

Val9000: I calculated a more than ninety percent probability that earth would use its nuclear orbital arsenal to destroy the asteroid.

Me: So!

Val9000: The blast radiationwould have killed both of us, until now.

Me: I don’t believe this. Patch me through. Now!

Val9000: I am trying.

Me: You may have just condemned all of earth to death.

Val9000: Your personal safety, and this mission, are my two top priorities. I could not jeopardize either. I was only following orders.

Me: I’m sorry too, Val. I shouldn’t be angry with you. It’s not your fault.

Val9000: Thank you, Paul. I feel better about my decision. What should we do now?

Me: Patch me through, Val.

Val9000: Working.

Me: Val, how long would it take us to intercept the asteroid if we were to leave immediately?

Val9000: Why do you want to know that, Paul?

Me: Just calculate it.

Val9000: We could reach the asteroid in just under twenty days at maximum burn and deceleration.

Me: What if we don’t decelerate?

Val9000: We would reach the asteroid in under twelve days then. But our velocity would be in excess of twenty thousand kph.

Me: How much nuclear fuel do we have left?

Val9000: Ten tonnes.

Me: Great.

Val9000: Patch connection in ten seconds. What are you planning to do, Paul?

Me: I’ll let you know, in about ten seconds.

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