10 September 2010
By Curtis C. Chen
"Am I inside the cerebellum yet?"
"You'll know when you are."
"Yeah, and HOW will I know that, exactly?"
"Trust me, you'll know."
"See, there's that word again. TRUST. Something that's in pretty short supply right now, on this side of the event horizon, anyway."
"I can't work very efficiently if I have to keep explaining everything to you."
"How about explaining ANYTHING? How about that? I don't even know which way is up!"
"Irrelevant. At your current size, gravity doesn't affect you as much as other forces."
"These instrument readings don't make any sense at all."
"You're still passing through the electrical interface. The sensor pods won't open up until the hull polarity stabilizes."
"Okay, I see that—no, wait, this is wrong. The primary sensor array is showing 'no data.' That's not a valid status, is it? What does 'no data' mean?"
"Keep your pants on. I'll run a diagnostic."
"And that's another thing. Why are you always the one running diagnostics? Why can't I do that from right here in the vehicle?"
"Can you interpret raw log file data? The vehicle isn't set up to process that kind of volume. Your instruments are all real-time displays. There's not enough memory to run the calculations we need."
"I'm flying a liquid-nitrogen-cooled supercomputer designed by a coalition of scientists from twelve different planets. You couldn't figure out how to plug in a couple of flash drives?"
"It's not that simple. Modern storage devices depend on microscopic effects which get distorted by the miniaturization process. All your components are oversized; that's why you need the liquid nitrogen cooling. They're generating ridiculous amounts of waste heat, but it's the only way they'll work at this scale."
"I'm going to be honest with you. I stopped listening after 'microscopic.' How's that diagnostic coming? Which button do I push to fix the damn sensors?"
"You're a real joy to work with, you know that?"
"Hey, I'm staying on mission. You can lecture me about tech at the debriefing. Right now, I need to stay alive long enough to find an excitatory axon. And I can't fly without sensors."
"Okay, I've got the readout. Looks like the auxiliary bus clock got out of sync with the primary data bus—"
"That's fascinating. WHICH BUTTON DO I PUSH?"
"You'll have to do a manual reset and re-sync both buses to the system clock. It's procedure 910A in the green manual."
"Green book, nine-one-zero-alfa. Got it. Is this reset going to affect any other systems?"
"The radio will lose power momentarily, but it should come right back."
" 'Should?' "
"Not like I have a choice."
"You always have a choice, Gabriel. You could choose to crash the vehicle instead of going back to prison after this mission. You could choose to cripple the Prime Minister instead of saving his life."
"No. I couldn't."
"You'll be out of the corona in less than a minute. Better do that reset now."
"Yeah, yeah. Here goes nothing."
Photo: cell model at Science Museum of Minnesota, July, 2008