“Bucket of bolts,” Holiver howled as he smacked the side of the ship’s coffee maker. “I spent three weeks on an Charon-class scow to get this direct from the home world, only for you to break at the last minute. That ship was hauling base lipids. BASE LIPIDS! Do you realize how bad that smells?!” In a typical fit of anger he threw his tin mug against the flexibloc ribs of his pride and joy, the U. C. S. Chinchweed. With the hollow report of the drinking vessel came a cheery voice.
“You must learn to control your temper, Mattie.” The Sound Actuated Artificial Research Assistant, or SAARA, or that nagging, overbearing, smug AI program installed on the ship’s hardware was never late in pointing out his faults. After 6 years of use, he started to think she was enjoying it, if you could consider artificial intelligence to have gender. It has to be a she. Who else was going to argue with him? He hadn’t a crew since he left the Starlight Riding Corporation.
“Kiss my ass, and don’t me call me ‘Mattie’!” He spat back with blood performing Conga lines on the white of his eyes. “I spent…”
“I heard you the first time, Sweetiekins.” SAARA cut him off, “you were too wrapped up in the essence of an Earth plant to realize it. You really need to acknowledge the environment around you. Maybe that’s why you haven’t had a date in… years? Decades?” The brightness of her tones glistened with cloying sweetness. That’s what he gets for buying from the bargain bin at the Gently Used Cosmos Cruisers of Theh’i’kar. It’s not like he had the flips to go elsewhere though.
“Now listen here, my love life is none of your concern! Plot a course for Tychofort 7 in the Qualuride system.” Had he been told he would be arguing with a computer as the young, up-and-coming, fleet cadet of his twenties, he’d be arrogantly dismiss the idea. Reality always has a way of being a practical joke.
“Suit yourself, honey bunch. I’m just concerned clutching to that pillow while you sleep isn’t good for your mental health. Humans have had a long history of needing a partner for well being.” There is it, the insincere logic to justify being an ass.
“Stop monitoring me while I sleep; you’re not my mommy!” A short huff punctuated the command, and could also have lit a match if it were close enough.
“I can’t help it that humans look so adorable when they’re sleeping. It’s so fascinating to observe without them… acting out.”
“I’M NOT ACTING OUT!”
“Aye, aye, Captain. Course set for Tychofort 7. Please be warned there is a asteroid field shortly before entry, and I cannot guarantee a smooth landing.” It was rumored programmers dabbled with adding human emotions to their programming years ago, but scrapped it after orders were taken with irregular results. Holiver was convinced that’s why she was marked down so quickly at the store. The instant sterility of her voice could convincingly mean she was hurt. Of course, she would never come out and confirm that. Plausible deniability is essential for passive aggression.
A short bump marked the start of another long run, and the Alfredo-class (aka “noodle boats”) hauler lurched toward its destination.
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