Chapter 9 Learning things

Celeste now wearing her orange ship's jumpsuit walked into the salon and plunked down into the chair next to Ben and swiveled towards him. “Ben, I know you must have a million questions, and now is a good time to ask them,” she said somberly. “I'm not at all sure about how this is all going to work Celeste, can you tell me what is likely to happen?” Ben asked in a low tone. “Sure Ben, there are some elements that are common to all of these expeditions. We are going to slowly approach Pastoral and during this, I'm going to be listening for any wireless communications and looking for operational satellites. There were some planets that had space based weapon systems. If I find any they will be disabled from a distance by hacking their computers, and if that fails, I will use some brute force to make them safe. Once that's done we will go into orbit and spend some time using my sensors and analyzing the surface conditions. I'm looking for habitations, weapon systems, infrastructures such as factories and agricultural land use, electrical power grids and operational computer networks. Anything that has a wireless interface, I can get into and download what is there.” 

“What do I do while all this is happening Celeste?” asked Ben. “You can help me a lot here Ben. We have to pick a couple of locations to make contact with both groups. Far enough away that they will have to hopefully come to us, and not so close that we can't see who is coming. This can be anything from a single vehicle with a few people, to a militia armed to the teeth. At that point Ben we'll have to work together and play it by ear as the archaic expression goes,” stated Celeste with some finality. “This is why it's always an adventure, and we both need to be very cautious. Most go well and are enjoyable, or at least tolerable, but some places can be bleak, tragic and very dangerous.”

Ben sat quietly for a couple of minutes and asked Celeste, “Can you tell me what happened to your last partner? Celeste gazed at one of the vid display screens for a moment, and then abruptly looked right at Ben and slowly said, “Yes. It's hard for me to select a partner to work with. For starters, I need to personally like my partner, and the flip side is they need to have the capabilities to do what I can't. This is a difficult thing to quantify since every situation is very different. So they need to be smart, honest, adaptable and not be impulsive, at least as far as the expedition is concerned. But most importantly he has to accept me as I am.”

“My last partner, in the beginning, was good, but slowly over time, he started to order me around. It was about little things at first, and then it got worse. He started to disregard my advice and was starting to take full control of the ground side contacts. One day he arranged a meeting with the local military officials at a nearby large base. These were not good, and I thought potentially very brutal people. I suggested he do this near the ship where I could protect him. When a small group showed up in a vehicle, he just climbed in and said that he was going to their base. I insisted that this was a bad idea, and then he called me ..... a machine and told me to shut up.”

On the way to the base, they asked him how many people were on the ship, and he stupidly said there was no one on the ship but a computer. When they reached the base, they went to a small room. One of the officers asked him how to get into the ship. He said the computer has to grant him access, only he could get in, and it was now time to talk business. The senior officer said we know a lot about computers, and we want your ship. Then he pulled out a sidearm, and I watched him pull the trigger. Over the next minutes, I felt him die through his sensors.” Celeste stopped talking, grimaced and looked away. Ben  hesitantly asked in almost a whisper, “What did you do?” Celeste looked back straight at Ben and slowly said, “That entire base doesn't exist anymore.”

Ben sat stunned for a few seconds and clumsily stuttered. “Celeste, I'm very sorry, I don't know what to say other than to promise you I would never treat you that way.” “Thanks, Ben,” she said with a small smile. “I trust you.” “How about we watch a vidflick, you choose which one. I have an almost endless supply of them, and I have only watched a few.”

That night Ben was sleeping when he sensed something. He rolled over in a sleepy haze and noticed Celeste lying in bed on her side next to him wearing pajamas with her eyes closed. He instinctively drew himself a little closer to her and drifted back off to sleep.