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876030 No. 876030 ID: d052fd

It's all gone. The plants are all dead. The bacteria in the soil are all dead, so I can't grow more. The heads at NASA are going to "get back to me," whatever that means. I just don't have enough food. I've been trying to keep a positive attitude about this since being stranded here almost half an Earth year ago, but this is it, isn't it? I'm going to die here, alone on Mars.

I've had nobody to talk to for so long but text on a screen, and the guys at mission control aren't great conversationalists even without the delay. It's not crazy if I imagine different personalities in my head to talk with now, is it?

I've been out of the game for a while. Skills have atrophied. Apologies for the roughness while I reacquire them.
Expand all images
No. 876036 ID: 33cbe7

Acquire Bruce Lee tulpa. Acquire Jackie Chan tulpa. Have them duke it out.
No. 876050 ID: d052fd
File 152243253371.png - (182.16KB , 800x1078 , 002.png )

Yep. Actual voices in my head. Just what I wanted. Yeah, this is sane. Huh, my imagination is more interested in kung fu movies than I thought, I guess. Oh well, I'll take it. The only ladders around here are stowed away in wall compartments, so I guess imaginary Jackie Chan is at a disadvantage here. Of course, he's still just imaginary, so this whole line of-


-Is...someone knocking on the airlock?

There it is again. Someone is knocking on the airlock.
No. 876051 ID: 3583d1

Well that’s creepy.... does the airlock door have a window you can look through?
No. 876052 ID: 600f38

Did you leave it open to the outside, or open to the inside?
There should be an intercom in there you can use to talk to them. Is there a camera or a window you can use to see them?

Holy shit, how've you been, Sketchy?
No. 876053 ID: 31a0a4

Put on space suit. Greet your new alien neighbors.
No. 876055 ID: cb585b

On a scale of One to Insanity, how likely do you think it's an Alien/newly escaped Demon from a secret military base on Mars that opened a portal to hell/an Astronaut?
No. 876061 ID: d052fd
File 152243618022.png - (1.51MB , 4344x4040 , 003.png )

Yeah, it...hang on. I'll try to peek through the glass.



There's a girl outside. I...don't think she noticed me yet? I'm going to duck back out of sight.

Both doors are closed most of the time, until you press the button on either side to put atmosphere in from outside, or take it out from--Why am I explaining this to a voice in my own head? I know this. There's just a button.

There's just a button. She could just walk in.

The door doesn't lock, because nobody else is supposed to be here.

There's no intercom, because everybody uses environment suits with radios in them.

There are several things wrong with this scenario.
No. 876064 ID: 6780f5

Well, are you going to answer the door? Didn't know your mother raised you to be rude. Let the girl in before she freezes.
No. 876070 ID: b1b4f3

Get your suit on and open the airlock for her. I mean you're probably hallucinating but it's not like you have any reason not to.
No. 876073 ID: 69d4b9

You got a camera in your gear, you should snap a picture of her and make sure it's not just you going crazy.
No. 876109 ID: d7ace6

You can depressurise the airlock and open the exterior door from here right? If not get on your spacesuit
No. 876111 ID: 600f38

Well, what are you waiting for? Let her in!

Lets be honest here: You're pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked.

So lets think about this logically:
Either you are hallucinating and there is nothing out there, or there is something out there.
If you are hallucinating, then the cost of letting her in is that you have to cycle the airlock. It'll at least take your mind off your situation.

If you are not hallucinating? The air pressure out there is 0.06 atmospheres. Whatever is out there is CLEARLY not human, but is making the effort to appear human. It's also considerate enough to not enter your shelter by creating a structurally superfluous means of entry.
It also appears to be carrying what appears to be an insulated food delivery container.

Conversely, if it IS some kind of flesh-eating monster? You die so much faster and less painfully than starvation.

In short? Things aren't going to get worse if you help her out.

Besides, do you see that scarf? That could be The Doctor. That slim chance itself should throw all other risk/reward points out the window.
No. 876117 ID: d052fd
File 152244726146.png - (203.79KB , 800x1035 , 004.png )

Right, right, suit on, gear ready. She could open the door if she wanted to, she's obviously not in a hurry. No reason to be unprepared and just wave her in. Jeez, this suit has a lot of parts.

>Knock, Knock, Knock

If I just keep working on putting the suit on I don't have to think about how absurd this is. Layer of padding, gloves, boots-

>Knock, Knock, Knock

Okay. Suit legs, Suit top, fasten the seals, aaaand helmet. Don't think about how absurd this is, open the inner airlock, and-HOFUCK SHE'S INSIDE!

"Oh! Uh, hey, Mike! Awkward... I kinda figured you must be busy or something, so I was just gonna write you a note and leave you a little, uh, care package?"

I don't know what to say. I can barely understand her words through the helmet. She definitely knows my name, though.

"Yeah, I heard about the whole potato airlock fiasco, so I thought I'd bring you some lentil soup. I hope it's okay that it's vegetarian, but I kinda figured your system might not be ready for meat yet."

Why is SHE acting like this is normal? This is obviously not normal.

"But hey, here you are. Note not required. I hope that this isn't too...I dunno, weird? Too forward? I won't be offended or anything if you don't want to eat the soup. Maybe you want this to be like, a triumph of the human spirit over unforgiving circumstances? In which case, feel free to dump it out. You can keep the pot if you want. Oh, and the thermal bag. It's radiation-shielded."

Right, the camera. Take a picture. Prove I'm not crazy.

"Mike? Not the talkative type, huh? Or maybe you're just malnourished? Or...uh, are you in shock or something? Maybe this was a bad idea. I should go. Sorry to disturb you."
No. 876120 ID: 600f38

"No, no, please stay. It's really lonely here and I could use some conversation.
I'm just extremely surprised to see somebody outside. Let alone outside without a suit.

This isn't a 'triumph of the human spirit' thing. I'd rather be doing the job I came here to do, and I'm pretty sure this situation is just going to overshadow everything else I do here.

So, you know my name, but I don't believe we've ever met. What's your name? And how did you even get here?"
No. 876122 ID: 90f3c0

She's either a hallucination or a shape-shifting alien. Either way, it's someone to talk to. Invite her in.
No. 876126 ID: 69d4b9

Maybe she's from the future!
No. 876128 ID: d7ace6

You came all this way just to bring me some soup? I'm touched, but why? How?
No. 876130 ID: 3abd97

>"Mike? Not the talkative type, huh? Or maybe you're just malnourished? Or...uh, are you in shock or something? Maybe this was a bad idea. I should go. Sorry to disturb you."
Hold up one finger in the universal "hold on a minute" gesture. Then work on getting your helmet open or off. Then you can talk to her.

"Thank you very much, I really appreciate the supplies, although I have concerns I may be hallucinating, or how this is possible if I'm not."

"You have me at a disadvantage. What's your name?"
No. 876137 ID: d052fd
File 152245271618.png - (85.21KB , 800x593 , 005.png )

I hold up my finger and check to make sure the chamber is pressurized properly before removing my helmet.

"Hang on! Hang on, I was just...uh...surprised."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense."

"I wasn't expecting to see someone outside the airlock," I continue, "let alone without a suit."

"Haha," she smiles, "Fair enough. I'm glad you're 'all there' enough not to try to come greet me without yours." She offers no further explanation.

"You, uh...you have me at a disadvantage here. You know my name, but I don't know yours."

"Oh, yeah, sorry. Introductions aren't my forte. I'm Ira. Nice to meet you, space-neighbor."

She holds out her hand to shake. I take it, feeling very little through the several layers of insulated gloves. There is a hand there, though, pressing back. At least, I THINK I feel something pressing back. Could hallucinations have a tactile component? I don't know. "Um, likewise. Do you want to come in?" I ask.

"Oh, sure. Just for a bit, though," Ira replies, "I have some errands to run soon."

"Okay. Errands. Okay." I turn around and unlatch the airlock to return to the HAB, and Ira picks up the bag. "So, uh, sorry to keep bringing this up, but, uh, about the whole, 'no suit' thing..." I trail off, expecting she will understand where I'm going with this.

"Right, about that. Doesn't make much sense, does it?"

"I...no," is all I can sputter. The door opens and I walk in, gesturing for her to come in as well.

"Yeah, I'm probably just a hallucination or something," she replies, nonchalantly. "That would make the most sense. You're in an understandably stressful situation, after all."


"Yeah. Girl outside on Mars? Totally unreasonable. You might as well imagine that I could fly or something."
No. 876138 ID: d052fd
File 152245274345.png - (99.98KB , 800x572 , 006.png )

"Anyway, where do you want this?"
No. 876141 ID: 3abd97

"You're just messing with me now, aren't you."
No. 876144 ID: 600f38

"Ok, now you can't be a hallucination. My brain isn't clever enough to fuck with me like that.
Just set it down on the table.

So, what kind of errands do you have that carry you to mars?"
No. 876148 ID: b53bd0

put it next to the taters. and uhh, can you tell me what you are? i mean, as long as you are helpful i don't really mind you not telling me but it would be nice to know.
No. 876151 ID: 074011

You finally have the "mental deterioration" excuse you alwys wanted. Time to print an "L" after all of the NASA logos.
No. 876153 ID: b1b4f3

Put it on the table next to the last of my potatoes.
No. 876162 ID: 69d4b9

Just faint. No need to do anything else. You can just pass out and when you wake up it'll all be better.
No. 876184 ID: dddf40

"Sounds reasonable, is this the part where I imagine you with fewer clothes on?"
No. 876188 ID: 555f33

That's not how hallucinations work. If she wanted to fake being a hallucination she fucked up. Especially since she literally came here to give you soup. Either way it's not funny to try to play with someone's sanity.
No. 876583 ID: d052fd
File 152264658780.png - (97.05KB , 800x549 , 007.png )

"My auditory hallucinations are telling me not to believe that you're a visual hallucination. I don't know if that makes you more or less likely to be real, but either way, I think you're messing with me."

"Your auditory hallucinations? Like, voices in your head?"

"Yeah. I guess."

"Oh! Hm." Ira sets her feet down on the ground, and places the bag with the soup on the table next to my potatoes. I can feel the vibrations from the heavy impact through the floor. There is a pause before she continues. "Sorry, Mike. You're right, I was just messing with you. I'm not a hallucination. You're a rare case, you know? Psychologically speaking. There's a lot of variables changed between your situation and... I dunno, the typical human condition? I was just trying to have some fun with you, but maybe that wasn't a good idea. So, I apologize."

I'm not sure what to say to that. The mood just took a pretty somber turn, and I'm not entirely glad for it. Things are continuing to make as little sense as ever. "Yeah, I mean, no big deal, I guess," Is the best reply I can muster.

"What are these voices saying?" she asks.

"Um, they're mostly giving me advice? Talking about what I should do. That, and some random stuff. Hypothetical kung-fu fights, telling me to put an L after NASA on my suit, saying I should try hallucinating you naked..."

"Hm. Sounds entertaining, at least."

"What, the voices, or you naked?" I ask, trying to maintain my deadpan expression. I suppose flippancy is my response to situations that are too absurd to process.

She chuckles. "Mike, you've been living on poo-tatoes for weeks now. I'm flattered, but I'm also pretty sure you're trying to write a check your body can't cash with that avenue of inquiry." I try to think of a response, but she continues before I can think of anything. "Anyway, I'm not a psychologist, but I do ALMOST have a PhD in neuroscience. Would you mind if I come back in, say, 3 days and scan your brain? Just as an academic exercise."

"Scan my brain? Like a CAT scan?"

"Something like that. Just as, I dunno, a personal favor? There's a bit of a dearth of academic research on the subject of the effect of prolonged isolation on a foreign planet. I'll tell you what, I'd trade that favor for another favor. Like, some fertilizer and seed packets? Or maybe, like, a ride to...wherever? Non-interstellar flights only."
No. 876590 ID: b1b4f3

Yes that sounds like a good deal. Ask if there are any places on mars worth visiting that you don't already know about. Does she live on mars somewhere?
No. 876598 ID: 600f38

"A ride home would be great. I'd show up at Houston and tell 'em Lyft will send them the bill, it'd be great.

I get the feeling this is one of those things where you won't tell me what's actually going on, even if I guess. Right now it's a toss-up between you being a Time Lord - Time Lady? - and some kind of magic."
No. 876603 ID: 074011

She seems friendly enough, but sometimes the friendliest cosmic horrors accidentally melt someone's brain because they didn't realise that your consciousness was important to them. Enquire more about this scan.

In order for this scan to be useful it needs a frame of reference, thus other scans to compare to. Thus, at the least, there should exist recordings of such scans taking place.

Also ask if she has any views on what you should tell Nasa about all of this.
No. 876626 ID: 5c3123

As a precondition of your consent to participation in a medical study, however small the sample size, you're going to need some more information about what her whole deal is.
No. 876663 ID: a339ac
File 152269032254.png - (134.95KB , 800x899 , 008.png )

"Uh, I think I need more assurance that this scan won't...I dunno, melt my brain, or make me crazy- or, crazier, or..."

"Oh! No, you should be totally unaffected. I'm just reading the atomic state of all the particles in your head. I'm dealing less with a 'principle' and more 'Heisenberg's Uncertainty Guideline,' if you catch my meaning. There are some fundamental particles involved that I don't think anyone else has even theorized the existence of, much less harnessed for practical applications. If anything, it should affect you even less than an actual CAT scan would. I just want a map of how your brain works. Hear those same voices you're hearing, in a sense."

"You...uh, your medical study is to make yourself hallucinate, too?"

"Not exactly. And, I don't know if I would necessarily call it a medical study. I'm more in the 'applied' and less 'theoretical' part of my science career, at this point. To put it in computer terms, I'd basically be emulating your hardware and running my software on it, temporarily. Might have some interesting results, might not. At the very least, it will give me some more perspective, which can only be good."

"Huh. And, in exchange, you'd just...drop me off at Houston?"

"If you want, sure. If I'm keeping the rate of acceleration comfortable for you, I'd say it would be somewhere in the ballpark of an 80-hour flight? You'd beat your friends home. Or, I could drop you off at their ship, and you could catch the rest of the ride with them."

"Your ship is that fast?"

"I mean, hypothetically. I have ships faster than that, but to be honest, I don't really have a ship suitable for transporting guests at the moment. When I build them for me, I don't tend to include all that 'space to move around' and 'life support' stuff you'd probably be pretty insistent on. I don't have a scanner to scan your brain just lying around, either. Well, I do have one, but it has too much sentimental value to see field use. Anyway, that's why I said I'd need 3 days: I need some time to build all that stuff."

"And I don't suppose you're inclined to tell me how you're planning to build a spacecraft in 3 days? Or, any of the other magic, impossible things you do?"

"Magic's not real, Mike. 'Sufficiently advanced technology,' please. And, no."

"'Sufficiently advanced technology,' huh? So, what, are you telling me you're a robot?"

Ira's expression seems to be a blend of mildly annoyed and amused. "Do I look like a robot to you, Mike?"

I inspect her face closely. Now that I do, maybe things do look just a little...off. "Actually, kind of? Your skin is pretty uniformly colored, and the patterns in your eyes are sort of...flat?"

Ira chuckles. "Are you sure you're not just trying to flatter me for my youthful complexion?" Before I can respond, Ira sighs and shrugs. "Well, fat lot of good my almost-PhD in Material Science does for me, huh? Can't even fool a guy who hasn't seen another human face in months. Guess I need to finesse my work a little more. Fine, you caught me. I'm piloting this body remotely. That doesn't mean I'm not human, though."

"Piloting it remotely? So where are you really?"

Ira frowns. "Sorry, Mike. That's the top item on the list of questions I'm not going to answer."

I sigh. "How am I going to explain this to mission control?"

Ira smiles. "I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. The fact that you'll necessarily have to make that kind of report may or may not have to do with my caginess in answering questions about myself. Hypothetically." She pauses, and her smile takes a sadder appearance. "And, Mike? Don't take this the wrong way. I have to say, on the whole, you're EXCEEDINGLY levelheaded. Maybe to a fault. But, as a concerned third party, can I request that, when you're talking to them, you ask them to set up some professional help for you when you get back? Hearing voices is sort of a big deal, I think."
No. 876664 ID: 5f3f48

I think I'd have to be crazy to turn down the offer of company. You wanna scan me, go ahead. Gives me something to look forward to.
No. 876676 ID: 555f33

I mean, she's not human, not by any relatable metric. "Interstellar"-style 5D human maybe. And letting some extraterrestrial probe your mind is not usually a great idea. Maybe those UFO stories were true. At the very least, preying on a desperate situation for her thesis is super unethical and she should definitely fail her course.

Getting a ride home, or even to your crew is a hell of a temptation though. If she's telling the truth and not just tricking you into consenting for alien legal reasons.
No. 876684 ID: b23eb8

Tell her unless she drops the act, she can get out. Its obvious she wants you for something, but isn't really specifying what. Plus she obviously is not human, and is making your survival conditional on you consenting to something she isn't explaining.

She isn't a good "space neighbor", and she obviously isn't here for a friendly First Contact.
No. 876699 ID: 600f38

"Ah, so you're doing the avatar bit. Sort of.
From how you've spoken you seem more like an anthropologist than somebody who lives with human norms, and your talk of running yourself on emulated hardware rather narrows down the possibilities.
I think you're either a human from the future - which I strongly doubt - or a non-terrestrial sentient. I'm fine with either, but if you can't tell by my profession I really, really prefer the second one.
I can exclude anything from my reports that you don't want to have on the record. I'm curious, and they don't find out either way.

Yeah, I'll get therapy after this, but humans are social animals. Hallucinations and delusions are pretty normal during long periods of isolation. I think it has something to do with the social centers of the brain turning on to prevent atrophy, but I'm not a psychiatrist.

How about I offer an expanded version of your experiment?
When you scan my brain so you can emulate it and run your software on it, why not make a copy that runs my software and take him with you? I am a wellspring of information about humanity, and I've always dreamed of traveling the stars. Even if it wouldn't actually be me because, you know, the discontinuity dilemma and ontological effects."
No. 876708 ID: 074011

Aaaah, she's out to get us! All this talk of getting him help when he gets home is just trying to lull us into thinking there will be a "home" for us poor innocent voices. Mark my words, that "scan" is set to kill! I know I'll never convince the rest of you, so I'm going down to the motor-functions to build a bunker. When I return to find your shattered remains, expect severe mocking!
No. 876716 ID: a339ac
File 152270785819.png - (102.48KB , 800x734 , 009.png )

"I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of undergoing some medical procedure when you're not explaining what it actually does."

"I thought I did explain it? I'd be scanning the atomic state of all the particles in your head so I could build a map of your brain and emulate the way you think."

"So, what, you can poke around in my mind? Forgive me if I distrust the idea of some...some extraterrestrial doing that."

Ira's face scrunches up inscrutably. "I was born and raised in Nevada, Mike."

"Oh, drop the act already. Despite whatever you say, you're NOT human, unless maybe there's some time travel-"

Ira stands up. "ExCUSE me? Who do you think you are?" She stops, purses her lips, and takes a deep breath. Her posture relaxes. "You know, I thought after 25 years, I'd be ready to have this discussion again. But, no, it still pisses me off. I want to like you, Mike. Can we just say that at least I have a right to exist, and agree to disagree from there?"

"I don't know, Ira," I shoot back, "I have absolutely no frame of reference for what rights you should or should not have. You obviously want something from me, and you're not explaining what it is, or what you are, or why you want it, or what it will do to me. And, you're making my survival contingent on it. That doesn't exactly make it an even exchange, does it?"

"You- I have been-" Ira takes another agitated breath and closes her eyes. When she opens them, her expression is emotionless. "Look, Mike. All I really wanted when I came here was to say 'Hi' and drop off some soup. I heard about your situation and thought, 'Wow, it would sure be shitty if this guy starved to death.' So, 'Hi.'" She lifts the bag an inch off the table and drops it back down with a heavy thud. "Here's some soup. Eat it, or don't. I don't care."

I sigh. "Ira, the soup doesn't-"

"Mike, stop. Let me finish. I didn't want to be a crutch that just came in and solved all your problems for you at first. It would be much more compelling if you overcame this on your own, and Earth has already made it clear they don't want my help. But, you just suffered a serious, unforseeable, frankly unfair setback. You just don't have enough food to last as long as it would take for one of Earth's ships to putter its way back over here. I thought a little help would be okay, so I brought you some extra calories to help bridge the gap. And hey, you're a scientist too, so maybe you'd be fun to chat with. Then you told me about the whole, 'hearing voices' thing, and I thought, 'This guy's in a bad way mentally, maybe I can learn something about this and give him some more direct help.' I'm not making your survival contingent on anything. With the soup, you're going to survive, unless someone really botches the rescue mission back on Earth. You're welcome. If you don't want help beyond that, fine. Business as usual for me. If I came here with the whole brain scan thing in mind, I would have brought the scanner with me, and probably a ship to take you with, and some cocaine and gold bars and a cure for cancer while I was at it. Or hell, I'd probably be able to just engineer a scanner that can scan you from outside your habitat and you'd never be the wiser. Believe it, or don't. Again, I don't care. Anyway, you've made it abundantly clear you're not interested. And frankly, at this point I'm not sure I'd want to spend 80 hours in a ship with you. I don't really even feel like spending any more time with you here and now, so I'm leaving. Enjoy the soup, good luck, bye."
No. 876721 ID: 563dc1

Based on the technology base your visitor is demonstrating, it's unlikely that your cooperation is crucial for their plans. Them fundamentally being what they appear to be - someone who's trying to help you out as a fellow sapient - is a better explanation than anything else here.

Time travel is overly complicated. The behavior of this one is roughly in line with a human-like mild superintelligent entity - the most likely options are a human child genetically modified for superior intelligence, a modified upload, or a neuromorphic AI. Give us some background about the tech level of your world - which of those seem most likely to you?
Regardless, any of those could easily have lead to them having a modified-human mind architecture, growing up on earth, attending your educational system, suffering discrimination and eventually vacating the planet to get away from humanity and now being in hiding.

Building a positive and cooperative relationship with them could get you access to resources and knowledge beyond those of your *civilization*. Apologize. Explain that you're trying to *understand*, because that's who you are as a scientist and you can't turn it off, but also explain you've realized that their claims are in fact consistent with them being human.
Don't question their right to exist without knowing more, that's just a dick move in any circumstance.
No. 876722 ID: 94e30a

Dude, stop being so harsh on her.
She's a sentient being, she's just as much of a person as you are, and deserves all the same rights and considerations.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that.
Yes, you're a person, I'm just having trouble reconciling what I've seen you so with what humans are supposed to be able to do, and it doesn't help that I've got my paranoid reptilian hindbrain shouting paranoia at me.
That doesn't make my poor treatment of you ok, but the context might help explain that I truly am sorry."

Guys, seriously. We're dead without the help she provided, and you're being jerks. The paranoia here doesn't even make sense, unless you're intentionally hitting one of the sign posts on the heroes journey for kicks.
No. 876723 ID: 69d4b9

Bye Ira.

I'm not saying you're better off without her Mike, but if she could make a copy of your brain to that degree of precision then you'd have had a copy of, well, you floating around with her. Forever.

You'll probably starve to death out here, but you'll have remained a unique person instead of the original for however many copies she might make in the end.
No. 876725 ID: 3abd97

>I'd be scanning the atomic state of all the particles in your head so I could build a map of your brain and emulate the way you think.
I'm fine with a brain scan but if I'm not so keen on creating a digital clone of me to experiment on, if that's what that implies. Clone-me would deserve better than that.

>I don't really even feel like spending any more time with you here and now, so I'm leaving. Enjoy the soup, good luck, bye.
*Sigh* Sorry. I guess months alone have lead to the complete atrophy of my social skills and entirely too much in the way of paranoia.

I apologize for insulting you. If you've got secrets that are personal and you don't want to discuss, fine. I'm curious, but if it doesn't impact my survival, it's technically not my business.

Thank you for the soup, and the concern.
No. 876728 ID: 94e30a

And how, exactly, is dying alone on a rock better than having a mind-clone exploring the universe?
There's nothing inherently good about being unique.
No. 876774 ID: 555f33

No! If she's not willing to understand how we're feeling, we don't need to understand how she is. If she's actually willing to just talk with us, brain scan not required, it's one thing, but dangling survival over him on a whim is insulting. What did she honestly expect would happen when she just suddenly shows up outside an airlock? She shouldn't be there, literally, and if she wanted to be there she should have been prepared for confusion and paranoia or should have remained unseen.

As for the brain clone, I've played Some, it is an existential hell for the clone. And he's just going to be owned by her?
No. 876776 ID: 555f33

Soma*, it autocorrected
No. 876787 ID: 600f38

She HASN'T dangled survival over him.
She gave him the soup with no strings attached, and that should be enough to get him through until he's rescued.
She offered a favor in exchange for the brain scan, and WE decided to consider using it to go home. She didn't make that offer. WE did.

Soma is an existential hell primarily because it happens inside a literal hell. She is fully capable of creating bodies that can pass for human, which is very different from the gooey-corpse-robot in Soma.

So to start, you are being unreasonable.

Since I doubt that is convincing, let me provide an alternative argument: Being a jerk denies us options while providing us zero benefit. We don't have to take her offer, but we definitely need to be polite.

If she wants to brain-scan us from orbit, she can do that. If she wants us dead, she can do that. We can't do anything to stop her, so the best strategy is to be a fucking human being instead of an ambulatory skid mark.
No. 876789 ID: 074011

*kssht* intercom test 007, echo. From what I caught, the only thing you did wrong was insist that she wasn't human. And what is in front of you isn't, and what is controlling it seems to be in a situation that is alien to every human you have encountered. Given your extreme circumstances, emotional instability is to be expected, she should be braced for incredulity. Thus, this appears to be an emotional ploy to get you to go after her. That said, if you don't get more information on this, then you might regret it forever, although you could seek out someone matching her description who grew up in Nevada?

On my own front, the bunker is working out nicely, and all it cost you was motor-function in one of your toes! I think? Second from the outside on the left-foot if my readings are accurate...
No. 876821 ID: f97b68

You don't know who she is or why she's acting like this. it's almost like she expects you to have even a slight idea of what or who she is. and she even mentioned that "the government doesn't want her help." what does that mean?

you have no idea who she is, why she's here, or even if she's real. i mean, you're hearing actual voices in your head. she could still be a part of a story that your stale-air-addled mind has cooked up in a desperate attempt at putting yourself at ease before you go to bed and just shut down and die.

perhaps she's a secret that your government has kept and forgotten? or maybe they just expected her to be dead by now? there's too much information being thrust at you at the moment.

she's being very sledgehammer about this. if you can convince her that what she is doing right now is essentially making you believe that you have gone off the deep end, maybe she'll feel inclined to tell you more about herself. even if she is probably an elaborate hallucination.

or maybe if she's actually an alien device created to lure you into a sense of false security, you can make the "pilot" panic or lose control of the situation. at least you'll have the relief of knowing that you outsmarted an advanced alien being before you're abducted.
No. 876822 ID: 5c3123

Mike, take a deep breath, calm down, say you're sorry. You've been under a lot of stress, and weren't expecting visitors, as she's well aware. Ask for her not to run off - leaving the room or whatever is fine, just not beyond shouting distance - until you've had a chance to eat some soup and properly think the situation over.
No. 876824 ID: 600f38

OR we can treat this like a normal, sane interaction with another person.
She's being cagey, sure, but she just showed up on the surface of Mars to deliver soup. She's been pretty clear that she doesn't want to let too much information slip because it'll wind up in our report, and her behavior is consistent with that.

Also, lull us into a false sense of security for what, exactly?
We're starving on a barren mostly-airless rock 225,000,000km from home. What would the end-game be? What COULD her end-game be?
What, infiltrating human society? You know, a GREAT way to do that would be walking up to literally ANY OTHER LIVING PERSON and saying hi.
Killing us? She could poke a hole in the wall and we'd be dead in minutes. Or just, you know, let us starve to death.
Infiltrating NASA? Again, this is literally the most convoluted and counterproductive way she could possibly go about doing that. And why? What would the point even be?

Lets look at who Mike is: An astronaut on a research expedition to Mars.
Nothing he has learned about Mars is going to be of any interest to somebody who can play interplanetary grubhub, nor would anything he learned as an astronaut.

So again, if you think there's a nefarious agenda here, I need you to give even the barest hint of what it could possibly be.
No. 876825 ID: 555f33

Basically this.

Though I will relent enough to admit that if she thinks he has some reason to know who she is, that's something to explore.
No. 876833 ID: d052fd
File 152273649311.png - (246.20KB , 800x2259 , 010.png )

Ira rises a couple inches off the ground and starts to hover over towards the airlock. I raise my arm after her and try to protest. "Ira, I'm sorry. I guess, with the hunger, and the shock, and just-" I shake my head and sigh, "You're a person. I'm just having trouble reconciling the things you do and what humans are supposed to be able to do, and it doesn't help that my paranoid reptilian hindbrain is shouting paranoia at me. That doesn't make it okay for me to tell you what you are, or what rights you should have. I mean, of course you have the right to exist. I'm sorry that someone evidently told you that you didn't."

Ira stops in front of the airlock. "Thank you," she mutters.

"But, not to blame you here, but you have to understand. From the very first second you showed up here, looking like a human standing out in the atmosphere on Mars, nothing about you has made sense. You flipped my perception of what should be possible, and then you did it again, and again. I'm a scientist. I want to understand. But I couldn't understand, and it scared me. I'm not saying that reaction was justified, because it wasn't, but...can you at least see where it came from?"

Ira sighs. I hear a couple of soft thuds of her head against the airlock door. It takes her a moment to reply. "Yeah. Yeah, I can. It's been a long time since I could...sort of 'be myself' in front of someone else. I've accomplished SO MUCH, but nobody knows about it. I was kinda showing off. I wanted the shock value. I was messing with you, a little, because I thought it would be fun. That's not the main reason I came. I mean, I really did just want to bring you soup. But, I went about it in a dumb way, and that wasn't fair to you, and that's why all this happened." She turns around and looks up at me. "I'm sorry. But, just, if you tell someone they're not human, it just..." she trails off.

"I didn't mean that. I mean, it sounds to me like your experience would be pretty alien to most other humans. Maybe it's not so important that you be human? Maybe what matters is that you are a person. But, I'm arguing semantics at this point. The important part is, at the very least, I'm glad you're here. Thank you for the soup. Sorry about what I said."

Ira smiles. "Alright. I'm sorry too." She holds her arms out, and takes a step towards me. "Thanks, space-neighbor."

I close the distance and return her embrace as best I can in my clunky suit. After a few seconds, we break apart, and she steps back. "Listen," I begin, taking a deep breath, "Let's back up here. I'm okay with a brain scan, I just don't want a digital clone of me out there, getting experimented on."

Ira looks incredulous. "Wait, what? No no, I'm nowhere NEAR the point where I could make an actual digital clone of you. I tried to explain, it's about thinking my thoughts with someone else's neural pathways. It's not an independent entity, it's just sort of a blueprint. I don't even get concrete memories or anything out of it. For someone like me, trying to make scientific progress in an ideological vacuum, being able to turn different perspectives on and off is really valuable. Not to mention the psychological element of actually understanding the way other people think the way that they do." She pauses for a moment and smiles. "And anyway, wow, if you're telling me that artificially-created consciousnesses deserve to be treated ethically, then rest assured, message fucking received."

I nod. "Okay. Fine. Sign me up, then."

Ira's eyebrows raise. "Really?"

"Sure. I can't wait to tell mission control that I've got a ride already."

Ira smirks. "See? Showing off is fun." I chuckle. "Okay. I really ought to run. I've got some building to do. I'll see you in about three days. Have fun with that call."

"I will. Thanks. See you soon."

We wave, and she steps through the door. There's an awkwardly long amount of time where we're both on opposite sides of the airlock door while the atmosphere cycles, and I'm not sure if I should just be standing there waiting to see her out or going about my business. Eventually, however, the far door opens, and Ira ascends out of view from my small window.

I strip myself out of my environment suit and unzip the thermal bag Ira brought. The top panel flops over solidly as I open it, apparently made of a thick polyester outer cover concealing small, heavier, layered metallic plates. Inside the bag is a large lidded metal pot with latches holding it closed. As soon as I disengage them, the top lifts off and warm steam emerges, with the smell of cumin. I see a hearty mixture of small, brown beans, large chunks of vivid orange carrots, and various flecks of assorted spices in a thick broth. Hands shaking, I scoop a spoonful of the concoction out of the pot and shovel it greedily into my mouth.

I don't know how to describe it besides "delicious." Perhaps "heavenly." To be fair, anything other than fragments of a nutrient block and chunks of potato would be, at this point. More vividly, I feel the warmth of a hearty meal spreading through my limbs. I am invigorated. Gleefully, I scoop several more spoonfuls into a makeshift bowl and sit down to eat in front of my laptop. It's time to write an extremely weird message to Earth, and I wonder exactly how to phrase it.

>>876721 Based on technology I know of, all of those are equally unlikely. Self-driving cars are still being intermittently outlawed and re-established because we have a hard time keeping them from driving off bridges or into pedestrians. AI mostly means "programs that optimize based on reward functions." Designer babies are still against the law, not that anyone has tried to make any to begin with. Whatever Ira is, it's news to me.
No. 876834 ID: 67d5dc

Didn't we say we were going to take pictures?
May as well poke the soup with whatever equipment we have lying around.

Also careful not to eat too much, it would suck to start puking and then starving again.
No. 876835 ID: 555f33

I totally forgot that being called "not human" is definitely an insult. I was thinking the same way that was used as an example of semantics, that it's more important to be a person than a human. But that, at least, should've been handled more delicately. Sorry.

Uh. She didn't say to keep her a secret, right? I guess be factual but nonchalant so you don't seem crazier than you would sound anyway.
No. 876836 ID: b53bd0

take that food slow, you don't want to undergo some kind of shock and overwhelm your poor starving body.

i suggest you don't use her name, make it sound like it was some random alien and not someone they may know, to make it spookier.
No. 876877 ID: 5c3123

'Hey mission control, I've just had - and believe me I know how much everyone at NASA dreads this kind of thing - a very unexpectedly exciting few minutes! Some good news, some bad news. Bad first: the potatoes are dead, and I might be experiencing some mental health problems. Good news is, a nice lady stopped by to give me a pot of delicious lentil soup, and offer me a quick ride home in exchange for probing my brain. Will explain further after I figure out whether that even actually happened.'
No. 876889 ID: 600f38

Instagram your food to them.
"Grubhub finally delivered. I put it on my expense acount. I didn't look at the bill; what's the charge for a 255 million kilometer delivery?"
If they don't want to keep you in the loop on what's going on and leave you hanging, you can do the same.
No. 876973 ID: cb585b

This. Also thank our greatest overlord Cthulhu for the magical head voices of madness and impossible space girls.
No. 877039 ID: d052fd
File 152281320566.png - (246.28KB , 800x1938 , 011.png )

Good call about taking it slow. As tempting as it is to just shovel as much of this as I can into my mouth, I need to build up my system's ability to handle nutrients again. I eat a few more spoonfuls and dump the rest back in the pot. I'm hesitant to put any significant quantity of the stuff through a chemical analysis, because that would mean I had that much less food to eat later. It'd be a little too late now anyway, since I already ate some of it. If it was poison, I might as well not spend these last moments worrying about it. As a baseline precautionary measure, I at least verify that it's not radioactive.

I pull a glass of water from the reclaimer and return to the as-yet-blank message to mission control. Even with the little I ate, I feel much clearer and more energetic. Obviously, this wasn't a hallucination, unless I'm just eating dirt and still hallucinating. I remember the picture I took in the airlock when Ira first arrived. There's a camera on the environment suit's helmet, and it's controlled through the arm panel. I did manage to snap one shot in my sort of panicked haze. I pull the memory card from the helmet and hook it up to my laptop.

I scroll quickly past the images of the crew and I on the ship and the HAB, trying to shut out the way they make my heart hurt. I keep scrolling, past all the images of my potato crop field; the ones that the pencil-pushers back at mission control insisted that I send them so that they could make sure that I, their botanist, was doing my botany right. Finally, at the bottom of the folder, there's one new image. There's Ira, kneeling and writing me a note. If I zoom in, I can sort of read what she had written so far: "Hey Mike, I was in the neighborhood and thought you could use". Sounds like it was going to be just as cryptic about everything as she was in person.

I start to think maybe the picture of her might not be the best thing to send? At least, not with the first message. Ira didn't seem to want to be identified, and I'm not sure she knew I even took a picture of her in the first place. Plus, I have these containers they didn't send me with, containing food they didn't provide me. Those also seem like pretty solid evidence for my case, and it's easier to get their consent for a photo op. I open up the pot of soup and take a picture of that, pot and thermal bag and all. Immediately after returning to my desk, I rethink that, go back, and take another picture of the same thing, but this time I include myself making my best duckface.

My hallucinatory head-voices are on fire with the messages. Fuck it, might as well lean into it. I start typing the message. "Hey mission control, I've just had - and believe me I know how much everyone at NASA dreads this kind of thing - a very unexpectedly exciting few minutes! Some good news, some bad news. Bad first: I might be experiencing some mental health problems." They already know the potatoes are dead, better to get to the point. "Good news: Grubhub was nice enough to expand their delivery range for me. The delivery person who showed up brought me some lentil soup and even offered me a quick ride home in exchange for probing my brain. I'll explain further after I figure out whether that even actually happened.

"PS - I charged the delivery to my expense account. I didn't look at the bill; what's the charge for a 255 million kilometer delivery?

"PPS - The internet sucks up here, can you put the attached image on my Instagram for me? #impossiblespacegirldelivery"

Now to wait for the over fourteen minute delay while my message gets there, plus however long it takes them to type back, plus another 14+ minutes for that reply to reach me. About 30 minutes later, my seventh concurrent game of solitaire is interrupted by their response.

"Try to stay positive, Mike. I know that's not much consolation in these trying times, but just know that everyone here is rooting for you. We're evaluating all of our options, and we'll get back to you when we have something concrete. One day at a time, Mike. Don't lose hope."

General well-wishes and delays. I don't think they actually got the gravity of the message I was trying to send, probably as a negative side-effect of my typical sass. Just like Ira, I guess I needed to slowly ease them into the madness. I stare at the screen to think of another reply, but less than a minute later, another notice pops up.

"Wait, what are we looking at? Please don't tell me you mashed all of your rations together in a pot."

Just to verify against my own failing sanity, I make sure that I have not, in fact, mashed all of my rations together in a pot. I make a satisfactory check of the food storage, lay the remaining rations out on the table next to the soup and potatoes, and take a picture. I send it, along with a message that simply says, "Negative. Any likes on my picture yet?"

The next message catches me spacing out while making little origami rockets and begrudgingly listening my way through my commander's abandoned data card of terrible twenty-teens pop music. 39 minutes.

"Nice, Mike. We're not seeing any carrots on the manifest. Orange rocks and mud?"

Ah-ha! They still think it's a prank, but someone at the comms station is at least invested enough to wait half an hour to learn more. I extract a single carrot from the broth and set it on the table, then cut it in half so the inside is visible. I compose an artful closeup on the carrot, featuring an origami rocket. I send that with the message, "All I want to know is how well I'm doing on the 'gram, but all you're telling me is that you don't believe in carrots. Is it so hard to believe that someone showed up outside my airlock and brought me soup?"

I've just about finished tidying up the HAB when I get another reply. It's been over an hour. Before I sit down, I can see that this message is a long one.

"Mike, this is Todd Sanders." Director of NASA. My boss, kind of. "None of us are sure what to make of your last three messages. If this is some sort of practical joke, we'd like to move on and discuss the plan with you.

"We're trying to fast-track a probe with supplies for launch, but it won't be easy. Our best estimates, including the time it will take to assemble and launch, put the probe on Martian soil in 513 days. I know that's 14 days past predictions for how long your food supply will last with minimal intake, but we're already too far below safety standards with this timetable to move any faster. We have no choice but to recommend you go below minimal intake. You're a resilient man, Mike. If you start spreading out that rationing now, you probably won't notice the difference. We'd recommend keeping your exertions low. Save your energy. There's two attachments with this message. The first is a spreadsheet our nutritionist whipped up for you. It has a schedule for your current food supply which gives you the best chance of making it through. It's going to be tough, and I'm sorry to have to give you this news, but we believe in you.

"I didn't come bearing all bad news. The IT guys just pushed through a software update to the Minerva that should let it interface with the comms channel you've hacked together. The second attachment is a set of instructions for how to link up with that. You'll be able to talk to your old crew directly. I know they're eager to hear from you, so I won't say much more. Good luck, Mike. Make us proud."

Okay, easing them into the madness isn't working. But, wow, that last part IS good news.
No. 877040 ID: b53bd0

well sending a pic of ira now wont work, they will just assume you are being a smartass with photoshop.

well, eat the soup first so it wont go bad... can it go bad? probably.
No. 877046 ID: 600f38

Take pictures of the delivery bag
"This is a very elaborate prank. I obviously devised a very clever textile mill out of sand and shoelaces, and invented new and mysterious methods for forming plastic on a tight energy budget. Also, I reinvented metalworking and started making lead plates.
Looks like this was made in China. Did China annex Mars while we weren't looking? Should I order authentic Chinese take-out next?"
No. 877047 ID: b1b4f3

Might as well follow their directions. That's a good amount of soup but you'll still need to ration it along with the potatoes if your mysterious benefactor doesn't deliver the goods. In this situation you have to prepare for the worst. Hmm, can you preserve the soup though?

Speaking of the soup, why don't you inspect the sack it came in more thoroughly?

When Ira comes back you'll need to go over the homecoming plan in more detail. Mission Control is likely to think you're an impostor. It would be far easier to arrive on the rescue ship early instead. The only suspicion then would be that you're some kind of alien clone. Unfortunately if you do that you'll need to make sure the flight plan can accommodate an early extra passenger, supplies and extra mass and all.
No. 877072 ID: 5c3123

Have you got a gas chromatograph or something, that hasn't already been cannibalized for some mission-critical task? If they're talking about pushing the envelope on food plans then these added supplies are extremely relevant and must be properly taken into account. You look pretty gaunt and hollow-cheeked already.

Also, you've received a competing bid on the return trip. Leaves in three days, arrival at earth inside three months. What's all that starvation going to do to your g-tolerance? Might be too much of an odd corner case for NASA to have hard data on file, but that's not really out of the question. At the very least they'd know who to call for well-founded speculation.
No. 877089 ID: 7e9b42

>>877047 She said he'll make it home before his friends do. That's not a rescue ship, it's the ship that left him stranded on Mars in the first place and they haven't finished their return trip to Earth yet. Assuming this is the same situation as the book/movie we don't need to worry about adding his weight to the flight because it was supposed to be carrying him already.
>>877072 If we're going by what she said then it's not three months, we have arrival at Earth inside of seven days and that includes the three days to build the ship. That is ludicrous but then so is a remotely piloted almost-passes-for-human flying gynoid delivering soup to Mars. Her saying the flight will be comfortable from him especially makes no sense. The human body can sustain high Gs in very short bursts but doing that repeatedly or for sustained periods would be kind of torturous or fatal, but then Mike has been trained by Nasa so he can probably take it. The options are that versus a year and a half of starvation before resupply. Note that Nasa's only talking about sending him more food, a trip to rescue him isn't even part of their plan yet. If he's going crazy already then 500 days of malnourishment with isolation for possibly several years will suck bigtime. Even if he passes out and breaks some bones on liftoff I'd take that short trip over that one any day.
If he kept up "minimum intake" of his rations without the soup he would totally run out of food two weeks before the probe gets there. The girl said she was trying to just give him a little help so he didn't starve to death unless Earth botched the rescue. If she knew what Nasa was capable of when she made the soup I'm guessing it has enough calories in it to keep him going at or above minimum intake for two weeks. Our visitor probably means well but is not infallible, after all mike was able to tell that that her body wasn't human despite her best efforts. We should plan for the worst in case she isn't able to follow through for some reason or flakes on us. I agree that we should follow the nutrition plan from mission control, but only after we convince them that they need to update the spreadsheet to include a pot of soup with two weeks of minimum intake worth of calories in it.

Drop the jokes and insist that they take you seriously when you say you have an additional two weeks of food not on their manifest even if they don't believe where you got it. Then say hi to the old crew, that will probably restore some of your lost SAN points.
No. 877121 ID: 555f33

Start making it clear that this is real lentil soup and you're really going to be eating it for the next couple of weeks. Maybe take pics of you eating it or closer shots of the carrots in particular. Following directions can wait until they either know you're telling the truth or crazy.
No. 877182 ID: d052fd
File 152289595049.png - (108.99KB , 800x825 , 012.png )

I realize that I have to stop having fun with this if I want to get them to believe me. I'm still reluctant to show off the picture of her, so I take more pictures of the soup, pot, and container. I get close-ups of each item, several camera angles, and several different positions with recognizable features of the HAB in the background. I attach 15 images to a message and start typing, trying to adopt a more professional tone.

"Dr. Sanders, first of all, thank you for informing me that the IT team has managed to establish a direct link from my base to the Minerva. That means a lot to me, and they're doing an amazing job, assuming that the link works. The fact that I'm typing this to you right now instead of immediately figuring out whether it works should tell you how serious I am. My previous tone may have suggested otherwise; for that, I would like to apologize and restate in no uncertain terms the veracity of what I'm telling you.

"I have, right here, a pot of soup. This is not part of the rations left behind after the rest of the Minerva crew abandoned base, nor is it some sort of elaborately-staged practical joke. I know you have the manifest of items in my possession. I urge you to check it again: even disregarding the soup itself, this pot and bag are not supposed to be here. The bag may even be custom-made by tools that I clearly do not possess and could not even dream of being able to fabricate with the available materials. It seems to be lined internally with what I'm guessing are lead plates, and bears no manufacturer's marks.

"These items were delivered to me, on Mars, by a person who has since agreed to give me a ride home. If I take her at her word, we would launch at some point in the next 3 days, and arrive sometime in the next 6-7 days. Since preparing for the worst scenario has gotten me this far, I will accede to your request that I spread out my rations long enough to meet the probe, in anticipation of the possibility that she will not return to take me to Earth as agreed. That being said, the nutritional timetable will need to be adjusted to account for this soup. The person who brought the soup indicated that it was originally intended to supplement my existing rations long enough to sustain me through what she predicted the duration of your rescue mission would be. The volume of food here seems consistent with minimal intake for your stated overage of two weeks, or possibly a little more.

"I know how crazy this sounds. As a scientist, I had to doubt my sanity before taking this at face value as well. In fact, I'm still uncertain. If the pictures I send don't seem to match with what I'm saying, please tell me. I'll accept the less-outlandish claim that I'm hallucinating over the claim that someone visited me on Mars to deliver soup. However, in the event that you're having as hard a time as I am reconciling what you're seeing with what you think should be possible, then maybe send me that updated timetable, and don't be too surprised if I show up back at home next week."

I hit "Send" and wait for the considerably-larger message to fully transmit from my hodgepodge antenna. After that, I begin to clean up my photo stage. I separate the soup out into several smaller containers, vacuum-seal them, put them into storage, and practically lick the pot clean. I note that the pot also seems to be without any manufacturer's marks, inside or out.

I put on my environment suit and finally finish cleaning up the other half of the HAB; the airlock blowout yesterday really made a mess of things. I keep peeking through the airlock window separating the halves, but there are no new messages on my screen. With that complete, I begin reading through the instructions for configuring my comms. Unfortunately, it involves going outside and manually keying in several pages of hex codes. I don't have access to a printer, so I'm forced to commit the list to paper with a pencil to avoid taking my laptop out into the dangerous Martian atmosphere. I may have to do this tomorrow, as it is getting dark soon. About 5 pages in, I get a new message. It's been two hours since my last one.


"As you said, scientists have to approach the least outlandish possibilities first. With that in mind, and with no ill-will towards you, I feel obligated to lead with this:

"If you are still joking, it's time to stop. You got us good, but shame on you. This joke cannot progress any further.

"With that out of the way, we would like to address what you identified as YOUR least-outlandish possibility. We are unable to identify the items in the pictures, beyond the fact that they appear to serve the purposes you described, and appear to exist in the habitat with you. Multiple imaging experts agree that these images are unlikely to have been altered, but they cannot guarantee that with 100% certainty. As far as we can tell, you have a metal pot full of lentil and carrot stew with an unbranded cooler. We have no reasonable explanation for how you obtained them. If that is what you see, you are not likely to be hallucinating.

"That brings us down to the bottom of the flowchart for dealing with extraordinary claims. That is to say, if your inquiry did not end in either of the two preceding paragraphs, then you appear to have had contact with an extraterrestrial entity. It demonstrates a baseline understanding of human culture, biology, and even manufacturing processes. It also sounds like you established some form of communication complex enough to allow you to make future plans, and for it to describe its motivations in a way that you understood. If true, this news is both fantastic and worldview-shattering. It also represents an understandably delicate situation. You are, in this instance, the ambassador for our entire species. We have teams ready to advise you, but we simply cannot do so without more information. And, as much as we all appreciate your sense of humor, some of what you said is making it difficult to properly assess the situation. Of particular concern: we're assuming you didn't actually enter into an exchange that involves your brain being probed? Can you please elaborate on your entire encounter, in as much detail as you can recall?"

Hrm, now I have to decide how much to tell them about Ira.
No. 877184 ID: 074011

Just rest back and think of the paperwork. If you tell the truth, there will be a mountain so large as to blot out the sun. If you lie, it will eventually be worse...
No. 877185 ID: 600f38

"The visitor expressed that she wished for her identity to remain confidential. In lieu of her actions preventing myself from undergoing a slow and agonizing death, I am choosing to honor her request.
If and when she returns she may tell me more, but I won't be sharing any information against her wishes - I've got this job because my curiosity exceeds even my self-preservation, and given a choice between having the answers to a mystery and being sworn to secrecy, and the mystery going forever unsolved, I think we all know what I'm going to pick.
I make no apologies; you'd all make the same call.

I can tell you that she was irritated when I concluded she must be an extraterrestrial, and deeply offended when I accused her of not be human. I believe this to be genuine.

She expressed a desire to scan my brain, similar to a CAT scan, and use that to create virtual copy via emulation for purposes of research.
I do not believe my cooperation or opposition would pose any sort of barrier to this, and so her asking permission is an indication that she is acting in good faith and values consent.
I have decided to agree to the procedure."
No. 877228 ID: 5c3123

First of all, affirm the accuracy of their photoanalysis and ask what you could do to help max out the "certainty it's not faked" numbers.

Second, explain that's there's stuff Ira deliberately concealed and/or obfuscated, with the explicit goal of limiting how much you'd be able to reveal in this report. So, anything she did say is by implication okay to share, but none of it should be accepted uncritically at face value.

She claimed to be a human, born and raised in Nevada, with multiple PhDs, and strongly implied (but never outright stated) that she'd scanned and uploaded her mind to a computer at least 25 years ago, or some equivalently drastic transhuman procedure. Got offended when I said she wasn't human. Claimed not to need life support during her own interplanetary travel.

She did not claim to have interstellar travel capability, or at least, is unwilling to make casual use of it. She does claim to have more advanced knowledge of physics, including deeper fundamental particles than the larger scientific community is aware of, and has some way to work around Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle for low-energy, high-resolution imaging. The artificial body she was remotely piloting seemed to have some reactionless flight capability, but the main constraint on bringing me back to earth was how much acceleration I could tolerate, so she probably doesn't have full gravity control.

She 'heard about the airlock fiasco,' and knew various other details of your food situation, therefore she's been monitoring your comms.

She seems to be operating alone, or at least well outside any sort of strict bureaucratic procedure framework. The visit was spontaneous and poorly planned. Her stated motive for the brain scan was making a partial mind emulation, for use in broadening her own perspective.

She logically must have some really good all-purpose fabricators. Main factor in the three day delay before departure is how long it'll take her to construct a vehicle. She mentioned the possibility of providing me with fertilizer, seed packets, cocaine, gold ingots, or a cure for cancer as if they were all equally trivial.
No. 877230 ID: 69d4b9

>She expressed a desire to scan my brain, similar to a CAT scan, and use that to create virtual copy via emulation for purposes of research.

Not quite right.
Try saying instead: "She expressed a desire to scan my brain in a process she described as being similar to a CAT scan, and to use that data to help her by effectively allowing her to "run her software on a copy of my hardware" for slightly different perspectives on problems she may encounter in the future.

Also add that she said something about "they didn't want her help" back on Earth. Possibly she encountered resistance from some group or another before she left Earth to its own devices. The food she gave me was essentially out of pity because I ended up in an untenable situation through sheer bad luck.
No. 877233 ID: 600f38

She's likely monitoring our communications. If for that reason alone we need to provide the bare minimum amount of information.
She appeared as a female human and was extremely vocal about being human. Those are details that are ok to share.
Her offer is mission critical information. That would be need-to-know for NASA.
Anything she said while flustered isn't likely to be something she intended to share.

We're going need-to-know here, and at the moment there's a lot NASA does not need to know.
No. 877248 ID: 69d4b9

She indicated she understood Mike would be debriefed when he gets home. Telling them a consistent story is better in the long term. No need to hide anything.
No. 877249 ID: bbbaf9

Hi Sketchy I missed you.

"Acknowledging that I am absolutely in a fragile mental state, and experiencing auditory hallucinations independent of this encounter, this was my experience: this entity spoke perfect American English, and presented as a Caucasian girl of about 20 in casual clothing, matching any other delivery driver on Earth. She wore no protective gear, but on close inspection, her complexion appeared artificially smooth, and when questions on the subject, she evasively confirmed that the body was in some way manufactured. She claimed terrestrial origin, but avoided all other questions on the subject. In any event, this indicated a far greater familiarity with our culture than a first contact scenario. She presented as human. I think I hurt her feelings at one point. We hugged. She presented as human. I think I heard her feelings at one point. We hugged.
"The brain scan she requested was described as a passive scan similar to but more advanced than a cat-scan. It was brought up as a specific response to my admission of experiencing auditory hallucinations from prolonged isolation and suspicion that she was likely another. She indicated an interest in the study of Neuroscience and it's practical applications. She also indicated access to extremely rapid manufacturing techniques. The lentil soup was offered as a charitable gift to someone in need, but further aid is predicated upon assistance with her research. Everything about this sounds too good to be true, but here I am with a bowl of soup, so my scale for the impossible clearly needs to be recalibrated."
No. 877266 ID: 7e9b42

I agree that she is monitoring the comms and withholding information about her might make her trust us more in the short term, but she seems aware that we will eventually be fully debriefed and we also need Nasa to trust us. With all the tech she can casually throw around she could have just jammed our comms entirely if she wanted a complete information blackout about herself, she hasn't done that so she considers some information ok to share. Also based on her reactions I think she would approve if we prioritized defending her humanity over withholding information. I think given her apparent intelligence level she probably didn't let any info slip that she didn't want to but to be better safe than sorry we should at least not reveal any of the stuff she said while agitated.
I don't know why we don't send the picture of her. The fact that she at least wants to look like a human woman is definitely not something she was hiding, it was the first piece of information he had about her when he looked out the airlock window. She might be a little offended that he took it without her express consent but I think she would understand that's his job as a scientist and it would really help our case with Nasa. She might also be a little offended because from the little we can see of the image >>877039 it looks like he was standing over her when he took the picture and got a cleavage shot. However she brushed off his joke about imagining her naked without getting offended so she's probably not sensitive about that, and with the artificial body we can at least confirm that she intended to have cleavage even if she didn't necessarily intend for him to have a picture of it.
Other people have done a better job than I could of expressing the important info without revealing too much. That's my vote too but I just want to make sure we do mention she does not want to answer questions about herself and is monitoring our comms. That should stop them asking too many more questions until we get back.
No. 877361 ID: 33cbe7

Tell them only what you know for sure and don't get into conjecture or the photo (which they could probably find if they knew where to look). She hasn't told you anything herself she doesn't want mission control knowing, yet.
It might be too late for the ambassador schtick. She acts and talks like you're not the first human she's ever seen, and her behavior has you convinced that's true. Diplomatic lessons would still be appreciated, though. What? No, you didn't commit two huge faux pas already, everything's fine. Uh oh mission control, you're breaking up, gotta go.
No. 877384 ID: b1b4f3

I agree with telling them only that which won't compromise her identity.
No. 877421 ID: 0e2ebe


With this modification
No. 877438 ID: d052fd
File 152298573956.png - (60.76KB , 800x654 , 013.png )

Thinking back, I ultimately have to conclude that Ira was prepared for the fact that I would be debriefed on everything she said. Though she was reluctant to share information, she never asked me to lie or hide anything that she revealed to me. I decide to be frank and honest with my report, but to play it safe and omit any information I gleaned while she was upset. I also decide not to include any of my own personal conjecture about her origins, and allow them to draw their own conclusions from the data.

"Acknowledging that I am absolutely in a fragile mental state, and experiencing auditory hallucinations independent of this encounter, this was my experience:

"I became aware of the entity when she knocked on my outer airlock door approximately 2.5 hours after I received your last communication about my destroyed potato crop. She presented as a caucasian girl in her twenties wearing informal clothing, which notably did not include any protective gear. We initially met in the airlock chamber, which she entered on her own, but our conversation moved into the habitat. She spoke fluent American English, and her tone was casual. She addressed me by my name without introduction and stated that she decided to bring me soup after she heard about my misfortune, but did not disclose the source of this information. She identified herself as 'Ira'.

"She also demonstrated self-powered reactionless flight capability. On closer inspection, her complexion appeared artificially smooth. When asked about this, she evasively confirmed that what appeared to be her body was in some way manufactured and was being operated remotely. She avoided all other questions on her origins or location. She admitted to deliberately concealing and/or obfuscating some information with the explicit goal of limiting how much I would be able to reveal in this report. I can tell you that she was irritated when I concluded that she must be an extraterrestrial, and deeply offended when I accused her of not being human. I believe this to be genuine. Subsequent to my apology, we hugged.

"The brain scan she requested came as a specific response to my admission of experiencing auditory hallucinations from prolonged isolation. She described it as a passive scan similar to a CAT scan, but with atomic-scale resolution and lesser physical impact. She did not provide technical details beyond insinuating that the scan could violate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in some way, and that it involves particles currently unknown to the terrestrial scientific community at large. She stated that this scan would assist her neuroscience research, perhaps due to my heightened psychological duress and auditory hallucinations in particular. She also attempted to describe another use for the data that I did not fully understand, wherein she somehow uses a map of my brain functions to induce an altered state of mind in herself. This was described as a problem-solving aid. She further elaborated that she would not have access to my memories, nor would she be able to create a digital copy of my consciousness from the scan. She agreed to my suggestion that she give me a ride to Earth in exchange for my consent, with the caveat that it will take her approximately 3 days to manufacture a suitable spacecraft and scanner. She approximates that the trip will take 80 hours. She also mentioned that this spacecraft will need to be constructed now because she does not usually need to build spacecraft with room for occupants and life support.

"I have no reason to believe that my cooperation would be required for her to carry out this scan, so I took her asking for permission as an indication that she is acting in good faith and values consent. I have agreed to the procedure. We parted amicably and reaffirmed that we would meet again in 3 days."

My cursor flicks back and forth between "SEND" and "ATTACH" as I try to decide whether to include the picture or not. Ultimately, I decide that this is the one piece of evidence that I definitely do not have Ira's implicit permission to share. It's not worth potentially messing up the relationship and costing me my ride home. I hit "SEND".

Looking at the clock, I realize that I spent longer agonizing over my word choice than I thought. It is already dark outside, and the temperature has dropped too far to reasonably configure my antenna today. I finish copying the memory values I will need to paper, double-check my work, and prepare for bed. Just before turning in, I get a new message.

"Thank you for the account, Mike. The stress you are under must be immense. The hallucinations that you are experiencing are, considering your circumstances, not entirely unexpected. The mental health team is writing you a document to help you and should be getting it to you by tomorrow.

"Concerning the state of your visitor, we have plans of action for how to establish beneficial communication with an extraterrestrial entity. Nobody seems to know what to do with an unknown sapient being that can already do a passable job of convincing you that it is human. It does not help that it is currently 4 AM here in Houston and we're having trouble getting in touch with some of the experts we would like to speak with. We're also trying to contact other governmental agencies to try and determine if any of them know what 'Ira' might be, with similar luck. In lieu of any better options, I'm sending you the document for dealing with extraterrestrial beings. Maybe some of it will be of use to you.

"I see that it's past nightfall for you, as well. Get some rest, Mike. You should be getting more in the coming hours. Good luck."

Ah, I get the "sleep-addled" flavor of comms operator tonight. My favorite. I lay in bed with my laptop and pull up the massive document attached to the message. "Action Procedure Plan for First Contact with Extraterrestrial Beings: Establishing Beneficial Communication". I almost fall asleep just making it through that title. As interesting as the subject material ought to be, I drift off somewhere near the suggestions for how to convince something that I understand prime numbers without using sound or light.
No. 877439 ID: d052fd
File 152298575822.png - (84.85KB , 800x1035 , 014.png )

I wake up, eager to get to configuring the comms array. My screen shows 5 new messages. Ugh. I start to skim them. Documents from therapists. Describe how I'm feeling. Well, I'm feeling hungry, so I get some soup. More messages. Director Sanders: blah blah moving ahead, blah blah risk, blah blah insinuations that the probe will be expensive to rush. A selection of well-wishes from the public, screened and sent to me through mission control. As heartwarming as those sometimes are, they don't hold my attention as much as my desire to reconnect with my crew. Another status update, which I scan: no leads yet on how I got the soup. Finally, nutrition timetable. It elects to frontload the soup, noting that it might lose flavor and become stale over the course of two weeks. I read a hint of incredulity in the notes: "[...]If we assume martian girls' soup kitchens are sterile[...]" and "Bacterial mold and door-to-door delivery are equally unlikely on Mars" give me a laugh, at least. I send back a message: "Got it. Going to reconfigure comms. More detailed response later." I reseal the soup container I was eating from and return it to storage. Then, I throw on my environment suit, grab the paper with the hex codes, and head outside.

My energy and excitement for the end result carries me through the exceedingly dull task of typing over 500 lines of hexadecimal, eight characters at a time. Just barely. With a task to keep my attention and no time to think about my problems, the voices I had been hearing seem to have faded away, temporarily. As I finish double-checking my work, my thoughts turn to what lies ahead. These are my last two days on Mars. As nightmarish as some of the times have been, I have two more days of being the king of an entire planet. I'm planning to devote a decent chunk of them exchanging exceedingly slow IMs with my friends on the ship, but I wonder if there's anything else I should also do with my time.
No. 877440 ID: b1b4f3

Make a mars-sand castle!
Drive around in the buggy.
mine for Desh-- wait this isn't minecraft

You could draw, using some excess water to create mars-sand based pigment. Or heck, use potato leaves for pigment.
No. 877442 ID: cb585b

Take that sweet sweet rover for a joy ride, jump the dunes, draw things on the surface with the wheels and stuff, go crazy.
No. 877443 ID: 33cbe7

You thought you could get rid of us that easily? Think again!
See what other probes and/or toasters you can find on Mars. Collect souvenirs of your trip. Maybe get Spirit's wheels unstuck.
No. 877447 ID: b1b4f3

Oh, and you should salvage that torn-off piece of the airlock. The materials could come in handy?
No. 877450 ID: 600f38

I can't think of much to do.
You can't repair the hab for growing more potatoes, all your projects are mothballed, and you need to conserve resources like oxygen, water, electricity, and calories.

Sooo... use your new connection to stream Netflix? Catch up on your favorite series while you wait. Your ping times are awful, but that just means it'll buffer for a long time at the start.
No. 877476 ID: 5c3123

> Maybe get Spirit's wheels unstuck.
Vehicle repair and maintenance seems like a pretty reasonable use of time and energy at this point, actually. If orbital photography manages to spot Ira's construction site, and it's nearby, you could drive over there to say hello and see how your ride home is coming along.

Once you're done for the day with all that heavy mechanical work in a bulky environment suit, try again on that extraterrestrial-contact guide, but this time maybe start at the end and work backward? Basic concepts are already well established, what you need is the more advanced "please don't land on the white house lawn and threaten to destroy us all" kind of stuff.
No. 877501 ID: 7e9b42

I do think it would have been better to tell them that she is monitoring our comms but maybe the fact that we didn't do that gives us opportunities. She doesn't know that we know about it so we could use that to earn brownie points with her as long as it isn't going to mess up our working relationship with Nasa. For instance they're still treating her like an extraterrestrial but that offends her, so in some message that we send them soon we can include something like "Based on my experience with Ira I am taking her at her word that she is human and any proposed interactions with her would benefit from treating her with the respect that you would offer another member of our species" or something. Even though they probably won't take our advice they wouldn't hold that sort of observation against us and Ira will think we tried to help her out. Of course that all goes out the window if they come back with "Oh yeah some government agency called "SCP" told us what Ira is, don't trust it and definitely don't ingest anything it has touched."
As for how to spend your time maybe try to contain your excitement, you don't know for sure that these are your last 2 days on Mars because she gave us no way to contact her and we don't know if she's actually going to show up. She has all of the power here and you met her for 5 minutes 2 of which you spent arguing. As much as her human act was convincing there's still a lot of unknowns up in the air. This is kind of metagaming but superintelligent alien robot solves all problems isn't a likely conclusion to a story especially when you have chekhov's Nasa contingency plan waiting in 500 days.
As for how to spend the rest of your time, do what Nasa says, save your energy, ration your food, talk to your friends on the ship. Talk to the therapists at Nasa as long as they don't make you too sane to hear us anymore. We love you Mike, we're the only ones you can really trust, don't hurt us Mike, etc.
No. 877552 ID: dbf422

Agreed, it's better than doing nothing.
No. 877653 ID: 4ceb21

I have to question whether going home in two days is actually a good idea. Ira is, for all intents and purposes, a fucking space wizard. This situation is much, much bigger than a single astronaut. You came up here, fully aware of the risks involved, in order to benefit humanity. Convincing Ira to come back to Earth and solve world hunger, or revolutionize physics, or cause the singularity, or whatever the hell else she might want to do, is potentially the most beneficial thing anyone has ever, or will ever do.

It's too late to ask for more information about her rather than a ride home, but when Ira comes back in a few days, you should consider asking her to let you keep in contact for at least a while longer.
No. 877682 ID: b53bd0

the issue is ira is most likely doing this because she likes us personally. doing something "for all of humanity" is not outside of scope.

could also have a code of non-interference and only helping us because this situation is a freak accident.
No. 877697 ID: d052fd
File 152314096145.png - (73.78KB , 800x322 , 015.png )

I know logically that I should be tamping down my expectations. It's just not something that I can consciously force myself to do. If I didn't have that little (less literal than you guys) voice in the back of my head telling me that there's some way to make things be okay, I wouldn't have made it this far. The part of my brain telling me that all of this Ira stuff is nonsense is fighting the part of my brain telling me that I need to accept that I now live in a world of nonsense. Can you blame me for rooting for the side that gets me off this rock sooner?

Connection to the Minerva established. This first message is important. I haven't seen the crew in almost five months. They probably feel terrible about abandoning me. I need to maintain professionalism, reestablish my relationship with them delicately so I don't-

Wait no that's stupid, they know me.

"Hey jerks. Sorry it took so long to message you, I guess. I was enjoying the peace and quiet around here for once. I forgive you for ditching me at the party, but I can't forgive Larson's Katy Perry collection. Cruel and unusual. Unfriended.

"How's the trip back to Earth going?"

I send a picture of myself, holding up Commander Larson's data card distastefully. Then, referring back to the instructions from yesterday, I reroute the connection back to Earth and start replying to all of my messages from this morning.

Eventually I get a new reply from the ship. "Hey Mike. This is Larson. The trip's going great. We're all gaining lots of weight. Especially Montoya.

"We heard you picked up some martian chick. Is she cute? I wouldn't have ditched you if I realized you had game. Can you be my wingman at the next planet we stop on?

"Sorry about leaving you behind, but not as sorry as I am about leaving that card. Katy Perry is a national treasure. You should bring it back to me when we see each other again.

"We're all looking forward to when that happens."

There is an image attached. The whole crew together, with their shirts stuffed and their cheeks puffed out to look fatter. I stare at it through misty eyes with a stupid grin for a few minutes before I collect myself enough to continue the repartee.
No. 877698 ID: d052fd
File 152314099990.png - (100.59KB , 800x930 , 016.png )

I wind up having more to occupy my time over the next two days than I thought. For one thing, I have to babysit the comms channel. With both the crew and NASA talking to me, I have twice as much to respond to. NASA has a never-ending stream of questions about Ira. I continue my policy of being honest and forthright about everything, but leaving out what she said when she was upset. I also don't send the picture, or mention that I have one. I do, however, include a personal opinion that she is human, or at least ought to be treated with the respect due to a human. In truth, I'm a little on the fence about the former point, but decide to send that in a message anyway in case Ira is reading.

For all the questions that they seem to have, NASA doesn't have a lot of answers. That said, I did include the "she did not disclose the source of this information" bit in my earlier message to clue them in that the comms might be monitored, without stating it outright. It may be they just don't have any answers that they want her to know about. What they DO seem to have is a lot of long, dry documents. The ones about dealing with my situation are alright. They have plans to deal with isolated astronauts, because that's the kind of problem they have to think about. However, the ones about dealing with Ira are not great. It seems like all of the plans they sent revolve around how to be able to talk to an extraterrestrial. They don't go into what to actually talk about once communication is established, or what to do if you're not sure whether you're talking to an extraterrestrial in the first place. On those points, it seems like everyone is equally clueless.

I start collecting together the items I want to take with me back to Earth. A martian potato, for science. The pot and cooler my soup came in. The personal effects that the rest of the crew left behind, including Larson's music. The data card with my pictures. The half-finished samples and experiments. Then, with what little free time I have left, I mostly keep the base maintained and clean up more of my mess. That includes the rover. Of course, the best way to make sure that the rover works is to take it out for a joyride. NASA gives me some token admonishments for this, but I'm a little past caring and they've got bigger problems to worry about.

For two days, I don't really hear a lot from the voices, though I guess I do narrate my thoughts to them sometimes. I don't know if it's because I'm in constant contact with other people via the comms, or because I have so much else to do, or because I have more reason to be optimistic about my situation. Maybe some combination of the three.
No. 877699 ID: d052fd
File 152314102872.png - (104.35KB , 800x940 , 017.png )

I wake up a little after the martian sunrise on the third day. Eagerly, I throw on the environment suit and head outside, scanning the skies for any sign of Ira or her ship.


Well, it's still early. She said she needed three days, right? She didn't say she'd be here immediately at dawn on the third day. She didn't specify a time.

I go about my normal morning routine, just to keep my mind occupied. Clean off the solar panels. Respond to messages. Make sure the oxygenator and water reclaimer are still working. Eat a little soup. Go to the bathroom.

Now that I think of it, Ira didn't even specify the time in hours. Does 3 days mean Earth days, Mars days, or days on some other planet? A day on Venus is almost 4 months. I mean, surely she doesn't actually come from Venus. She'd melt. Unless she, I dunno, had some sort of robot body and an advanced knowledge of material science.


I head outside and scan the skies again, fruitlessly. Walk back in. Helmet off. Sit down. Look at the clock.

Did I do something wrong? Maybe I told NASA too much. I mean, what am I to her? She casually dropped by to bring me soup on another planet, like it was nothing. She could have just done it because she was bored. Did our agreement mean anything to her at all? Could she have decided to call it off if I failed some test she never told me the rules to? Why did I entrust my well-being to the whims of a capricious living goddess? She has no reason to care if I live or die.

I'm still looking at the clock. My last message from NASA is still up, telling me to be sure to give them more concrete arrival plans if I reconvene with my visitor. "If". I can feel my heartbeat in my temples.

My mental health is their job. They have to humor me even if they know how unlikely it would be for her to follow through. They don't have to tell me what they know. They don't have to tell me the truth. They have to tell me whatever is most likely to keep me alive long enough to get back to Earth. Whatever is least likely to make a PR disaster out of this.

I doubt my crew knows anything. I can't trust anything I hear from NASA. And, I definitely can't trust-
No. 877700 ID: d052fd
File 152314104713.png - (121.32KB , 800x790 , 018.png )

There's a knock at my airlock. I rush and peek through the window.
No. 877701 ID: b53bd0

i see ira got her battle body today.

and yes, it is her, something that obviously powerful could have just demolished your hab instead of knocking if it was hostile.
No. 877718 ID: cb585b

"Nice mech suit thing, does it have guns?" is the only fitting response.
No. 877722 ID: 600f38

Suit up, meet her in the airlock.
You've got all your effects packed, right?

"Ira, I presume? Not gonna lie, you look amazing."
No. 877729 ID: 10f30a

Well, you know what they say, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Quite literally in your case.
"Now I feel like the underdressed one."
No. 877731 ID: dbf422

I could be paranoid about how It's isn't necessarily the only person that might live off Earth... But the knocking is familiar. It's probably her.
No. 877733 ID: dbf422

Ira* dammit
No. 877739 ID: b1b4f3

Hold on a minute, you can't be totally sure that's Ira. Get your suit on, go meet them, say "Uh, hello, who are you?"
No. 877807 ID: d052fd
File 152316985844.png - (149.60KB , 800x790 , 019.png )

I-Is that Ira? It has to be, right? It knocked. It looks like it could rip the door off if it wanted to. It doesn't need an invitation, unless I'm dealing with a space vampire or something. Whatever it is, it sees me through the window straight away and waves.

I find that gesture slightly reassuring, at least. I wave back, my brain on some sort of shocked autopilot. I'm already wearing all of my environment suit except for the helmet, which I start to put on, but the thing outside presses the button to open the airlock on its side instead. It steps into the chamber, and I wait for the airlock to cycle. I guess this makes more sense? If I put on my suit and went outside, we'd have no way to communicate.

I'm still frozen on the spot as the chamber pressurizes. Finally, the door slides open.

I breathe a sigh of relief as the head of the machine separates and folds back neatly, exposing a familiar face. "Hey Mike," Ira says, as nonchalant as ever. "How're you holding up?" Her heavy metal boots clank on the HAB floor as she steps inside.

I shrug. "Same old, same old. I'm feeling underdressed, though. Nice mech suit, and haircut."

Ira smiles. "Thanks! I thought, if I was going to-" She recoils suddenly and steps away from me, "Oh holy shit dude, haha"

"What?" I ask.

"Just...Wooh. Just regretting that I have a working nose now," she replies. "You have a formidable stank."

"I uh, haven't really had a chance to shower in a while," I reply.

"Yeah, yeah, I get that. Not holding it against you. Just, I'll save the hugs for later, if you don't mind." She shakes her head and laughs. "Other than that, good to see you."

I notice something different about her. "Good to see you too, Ira. You're looking more...natural?"

"Oh, yeah. Actually, I haven't had a chance to work on the body you met last time. But I figured, if I want to make sure the ship's safe for you, it's only fair if I get the same experience from it" She smiles and holds her arms out. "So here I am, 100% natural. Er-" She drops her arms and looks up in thought. "Well, I guess technically...94, 95% natural, by mass? I'm not totally unaugmented. But yeah, that's why I'm wearing the power armor this time, because I need to breathe and stuff."

My jaw nearly drops. "So...you are human," I say, without thinking. "Wait, I mean, you are 'human', in that you should be treated like a human, obviously that was never in question, but also that, like biologically, you were born into a body that-"

Ira holds up her hands. "Mike, Mike. Stop. It's cool. I've actually been doing a lot of thinking about that since we talked last." She takes a deep breath. "You were right. It's not important that I be a human. If I try too hard to cling to that, it's going to hold me back. What matters is that I never lose sight of what makes me a person. It used to be a touchy subject for me, and I really am sorry that I made it a big deal last time." She smiles again. "We don't have to rehash that whole thing. Are you ready to- Oh yeah! I almost forgot. I have some bad news."

"Uh oh," I respond.

"Yeah, I made what I thought were some pretty conservative assumptions about what would be a safe amount of sustained acceleration when I made that '80-hour-flight-time' estimate. Then I did some more research, and I think I wasn't conservative enough, especially for someone in your health. I'm going to have to slow it down, but that means the trip is going to take a little longer."

My heart sinks. I knew it was too good to be true. "H-how much longer?" I ask.

"I should probably add another 10-12 hours," she replies. "Is that okay?"

"Oh, that's all? Yeah. That should be fine. Right, I should tell mission control you're here and give them the schedule."

"Awesome. But, uh, Mike? No, uh, press conferences when we get there, alright? I mean from me, obviously, you can do what you want. I'm probably just going to drop you off and bounce. It's really weird that nobody seems to know-" she stops and thinks before continuing, "Nevermind, just...I'm not going to stick around and do a whole song and dance number. Let's keep it casual. Cool?"

Her question catches me a little off-guard, mostly because I'm trying to think a million things at once. Most pressingly, how am I going to respond to that, what am I going to say to mission control, and is there anything else I should do before I go, besides grab all the stuff I packed?
No. 877808 ID: 0eda7a

Tell her that when you get back, they'd assume you're completely crazy, if not for the fact that you're getting back from Mars in a few days. You're probably going to get a million questions. So, is there anything specific she doesn't want said or mentioned?

Tell her about the pictures you have, and that you didn't share them. Ask her if she wants them deleted.

Apart from that...ask her, if she's willing, if you can ever see her again.
No. 877809 ID: b53bd0

damn, i think people on earth do know she exists but at a "need to know" level that is above anyone at nasa.

as for mission control just tell them your ride is here and you will have to break off contact they will probably get a call from you when you touch down.
No. 877810 ID: 33cbe7

If there's some sort of coverup keeping humans unaware of a higher power, then it's way above your paygrade and there's nothing much I can do about it. Although, maybe the Men in Black would hire you after this experience. That'd be rad.
Question: So if she's in a body that's vulnerable to (almost) the same stuff he is, and hypothetically, her calculations about a safe velocity are off again, how is she going to be able to respond to the situation? That's not a dig at her calculation abilities, just allowing a margin for safety.
As for being all camera shy, that's not surprising after all. Still, she's leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Ask if she knows anybody who would be willing to answer those questions.
No. 877813 ID: dbf422

Let her know that you've been careful about how much publicity she's already been getting and that you don't plan to make it harder on her. As other people have mentioned, her existence might be above the heads of your bosses, so there's not much you can do. For what you're going to write mission control right now, however, maybe you can have her work with you about what you should say. That way you can be sure you give every relevant detail that doesn't conflict with what she wants.
No. 877818 ID: 5c3123

"Sure thing, yeah, no press conferences. I can absolutely understand why someone wouldn't want to be part of the whole shake-the-president's-hand-in-front-of-a-million-flashbulbs scene, and if you want to run off again once I'm home safe that's fine, all this has been a huge favor you're doing for me anyway. I've got no right to demand you stick around.

"But! Since we're going to be stuck together in a can on a four-day brachistochrone trajectory anyway, would you mind keeping a radio link open and chatting with some of my co-workers during that time? No pressure to answer any hard questions. It's just, I told them about the soup, and they sent me this field-manual-for-interplanetary-diplomacy stuff that starts with prime numbers and hydrogen atoms and goes absolutely nowhere. As a scientist, I want to experimentally confirm whether or not they're actually that bad at talking to women. Just the look on their faces would be worth more than any plausible amount of material wealth."
No. 877835 ID: 600f38

"I kinda figured the plan was to have the drop-off point be somewhere neutral. Even if your ship isn't stealthy, showing up away from a major city would mean it'd be maybe half an hour before anybody showed up. Keep it low-key, you know?
I had to tell NASA about you, by the way. I kept light on the details, but I'm pretty sure nobody has a clue who you are. You clearly had a bad experience, but whoever was involved is keeping it on lockdown - NASA has been scrambling for info, and none of the other agencies have jack to tell them.
How tight-lipped did you want me to be, by the by?"
No. 877837 ID: 69d4b9

Off the cuff, if she accelerated at 1G she could make the Mars-Earth trip in 2 days. She'd estimated more like 3 days, originally, so she expected to be able to do a fair bit more than Martian gravity but still less than Earth gravity for the return. Since she's changed the schedule to more like four days it's just a little more gentle. It also means Mike's in bad enough shape that just being on the planet will leave him in need of medical support when they land, so it's pretty important that Houston be ready for him.

You ought to ask if she's got a shower or something on the ship she built, since it is totally rude to force her to smell you for the next four days. You might be a tired castaway that hears voices, but you're not completely lacking social graces!
No. 877839 ID: f86d64

If we assume the distance between Earth and Mars is average (255 million km), 80 hours means it's a little over 1.2Gs for the trip.

I'm curious about this ship. If Ira was on Earth, then she must have left for Mars immediately to make it here so quickly, meaning she must have already had a ship. But what she's said implied she didn't, or at least didn't have one working and tested. Since she tested the ship on the way here, she couldn't be based on Mars.
Did she pull 2Gs on her way here or something?

Counterpoint: He is mostly suffering from starvation, and he can start on increasing his intake over the next 4days since rationing is no longer a critical issue.
No. 877856 ID: b1b4f3

Tell her it sounds like there's some kind of government coverup involving her and all her advanced technology. A bit out of your league really.

Ask her if she'd like to talk to Houston while she's here? Or your friends?
No. 877857 ID: 600f38

Why not just ask her if her ship has an radio on-board you can use?

Oh, we should ask if her powered armor can transceive on the same band as our suit.
No. 877858 ID: 69d4b9

If you want to do the math yourself, assume it's five months past the ideal window, since that's the likely situation.
No. 877859 ID: 600f38

The transmission delay is about 14 minutes.
14 light minutes is 251,825,665 kilometers.
That tells us how far Mars is from Earth.
No. 877887 ID: 69d4b9

Oh good thinking!
No. 877971 ID: d052fd
File 152324442598.png - (75.35KB , 800x411 , 020.png )

"Yeah, cool," I respond. "No press conferences. I can absolutely understand that. I kinda figured the plan was to have the drop-off point be somewhere neutral, away from major cities."

"Hm. That sounds inconvenient for you, though. If they don't know where to pick you up, what are you going to do, hitchhike? No offense dude, but you're not really in the best shape, and I'm not betting that you brought your wallet or cell phone with you to Mars. If they do know where to pick you up, there's going to be a whole team there whether it's a big city or not. In that case, I might as well drop you off at the front door to NASA or a hospital or whatever. I'm not saying we need to avoid attention, I'm just saying my priority when we get there is going to be to get you into safe hands and then leave. If I was trying to avoid all attention, I fucked that up the moment I knocked on your airlock door."

"Oh. Well, for what it's worth, I've been trying to be careful about how much publicity you've already been getting, if I can. A lot of it is out of my league, though."

"What do you mean?" Ira asks.

"Just, I...well, I know I kind of upset you last time, and I haven't told them anything you said then, because I wasn't sure you planned to tell me any of that. Like, that you were born in Nevada, or that you had the impression that the people of Earth didn't want your help."

"Oh! Um, I-" Ira smiles faintly. "Thank you. That's cool of you. But...you can tell them that stuff. I definitely don't want to try to force you into a position where you have to lie to anyone else. If I really don't want people to know something, I'll just try not to say it. If I do let something slip, that's on me, not on you, okay?"

I take a deep breath and decide to just go for it. "I also took a picture of you last time." Ira's eyebrows raise in genuine surprise. "I didn't send it to them!" I blurt out. "I, uh, thought I should ask you first. There's a camera in my helmet, I was just kind of shocked when you showed up, and I took one, and didn't think to tell you until you'd already left."

"You-" Ira takes a moment, her expression hard to read, "Wow, you...you had that evidence, and you didn't...because you wanted to ask me first? I-" her voice cracks, she clears her throat, and smiles genuinely. "I really appreciate that, Mike. You were being considerate to me, even though it made things harder for you. You didn't have to do that. I mean really, it would have been fine if they knew what I looked like. But you didn't know that and, I, um...now I feel bad." She laughs nervously. "I should probably tell you, I was reading your conversations with NASA and the ship, the Minerva, and I didn't ask you first. And I'm sorry."

"Yeah," I nod, "I kinda figured that."

"You did?" She asks. More nervous laughter.

"Sure. That's probably how you found out about me in the first place, right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess it was." She looks off into the distance.

"Right, so that worked out."

She nods, then seems to snap back to reality. "It did. And, you having that picture didn't hurt anything either. I guess privacy is overrated." She grins. "Do you...want to take a new picture with both of us to send with your departure message? Really blow the lids off anyone who doubted you?"

I grin back. "Fuck yeah I do." I unlatch the mount holding the camera to the helmet.

"Awesome. Let's do it." Ira crouches down a little. Her suit makes a clicking sound, then peels itself open. She lifts herself out of it casually. All on its own, the empty suit closes itself up and steps back into the corner, as if waiting patiently and trying to stay out of the way. Ira notices my double-take and taps her temple with her finger. "Neural link," she says, "I can control it directly, or let it obey my commands autonomously. Same as the ship." She takes a deep breath, walks up to me, and throws her arm over the shoulder of my bulky environment suit.

"Right, uh.." I awkwardly fumble with the camera, while trying to also figure out where to put my other arm.

"Don't hover-hand me, Mike," she says, taking my be-suited arm and slapping it to her waist. "It'd be easier for them to say that it was Photoshopped if you did."

"Okay," I reply, finally getting the camera oriented properly in my gloved grip. "3, 2, 1-"
No. 877972 ID: d052fd
File 152324445149.png - (91.10KB , 800x620 , 021.png )

Alright guys, my ride's here. We've had to make a slight alteration to the flight plan due to some bad traffic in interplanetary space. I should be arriving about 92 hours after you get this. I'm told our high velocity will necessitate some serious radiation shielding, which is going to make communication through this channel impossible. Ira says she would have called and offered you better long-distance telephone service, but she thinks you probably would have hung up on her.

Drop-off is planned for the field behind Johnson Space Center. Upon arrival, comms will go back online, in case we need to coordinate the landing more precisely. My pilot has made it clear that she is not interested in sticking around afterwards to sign t-shirts, submit a press release, or solve any advanced physics equations. She's a nice lady, but shy. Please plan the landing party accordingly.

Also, she is very insistent right now that I tell you that I will need some medical care. So, "I will need some medical care."

I guess that's it. Thank you guys for getting me through this far. I wish I had something more profound to say, but the longer I stand here typing this, the longer I delay getting off this rock. See you soon.

No. 877973 ID: d052fd
File 152324447960.png - (153.75KB , 800x1219 , 022.png )

"You wanna see something cool?" Ira's voice comes in through the headset she gave me.

"You have your own personal spaceship," I reply. "Anything you think is cool will probably make me shit myself."

"Ha!" Ira exclaims. "Well, that's fine, I've got a shower on the ship. Check this out."

The ship lifts off of the ground. By which I mean, it just goes up. No loud rocket exhaust, no crazy glowing sci-fi lights, nothing. It just smoothly moves its massive bulk up and stops in the air. The part of my brain that makes sense of what I'm seeing just fucks right off. "Wow," I say.

"Hang on, that wasn't even the cool part," Ira says. I can hear the grin in her voice.

Suddenly, the air around the ship erupts into a whitish-blue glow, like a power line struck by lightning. Even through the thin martian atmosphere and my heavy suit, I can feel the pulse of a shockwave hit me. It's not hard enough to push me, but it's enough to carry a sound through my suit.


The flash quickly subsides, but smaller sputtering arcs of bright blue still shimmer across the surface of an invisible bubble surrounding the ship.

Ira looks over to me, then back to the ship. She scoops a baseball-sized rock off the ground at her feet and hurls it ship-ward with astounding speed.

Blue energy arcs across the surface of the bubble from the rock's point of impact. A shower of dust and smaller pebbles drop down.

My jaw drops. By the time I collect myself, all I can bring myself to say is, "You have a force field?"

"I have a motherfucking force field," Ira responds, giddily. "Don't touch it, though. Your atoms wouldn't like vibrating that way."

"Right. Um. Duly noted," I respond.

With that, the blue glow dissipates, and the ship drops smoothly back to the ground directly in front of us. "Sorry, sorry, I know you're in a hurry, and probably tired of me showing off," Ira says. "I'm just really proud of that one. That's straight sci-fi shit right there."

I want to remind her that she's on Mars wearing power armor and controlling a spaceship with her mind, but for some reason my mouth just says, "Yeah, it is."

A hatch on the front of the ship opens to a small, warmly-lit room. As we step inside, the door closes behind us, and I feel the familiar pressure change of a cycling airlock. The inner door opens to a much larger, more elegantly-decorated area. I think I'm going to have to fish my jaw out of my boot at this point.

Ira's power armor slides open and she hops out energetically. "Alright, quick tour," she says. I step in and remove my helmet to hear her better, now that she's away from the mic in her suit.She scampers over to one of the two doors on the far wall and holds it open. I can see a bed, chair, table and some transparent storage bins affixed to the wall. "Your room. Make sure to stow your stuff until we get out of the atmosphere, just to be safe. There's padding sheets under the bed if you need to wrap up delicate things."Ira points over to the other door on the opposite end of the same wall. "My room," she says. Her armor steps through that door and closes it behind itself, briefly revealing a similar setup. "Sorry mine's bigger, but I also needed room for the maintenance hatches and 'spare body storage'."She points to the chamber taking up the left side of the entrance. "Bathroom. Towels and spare TP are under the sink. Toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, all that stuff behind the mirror. Again, keep that stuff stowed while we're flying in the atmosphere. Dispensers for soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, all that in the shower wall. You'll figure it out."Next, Ira swings her arm to indicate the main area. "Here's the lounge. Living room? Main room? Whatever you want to call it. No TV signal, but I've got a decent library of games and movies. Books in these bins."She points to the other side of the entryway. "Here's the 'kitchen'. As in, the place where the fabricator's going to put the food when it's ready. I'm thinking enchilada casserole tonight, with some vitamin supplement appetizers for you? Dishes in the cabinet. They're magnetized to the shelves so they don't slide around while they're stowed. They'll also magnetize to the tables. Silverware here, knives- definitely don't leave those lying around, in or out of the atmosphere. Drop the dirties in this slot; they'll get washed and put back. If you need any medical supplies, there's a basic first aid kit under the counter here. If you need anything more advanced, I can fabricate that too, and it'll come out in the kitchen." She pauses and thinks. "Oh, and the chairs in the rooms, and these here," she points to two chairs in the lounge, "have harnesses in them in case the flying gets rough for some reason. Which probably won't happen, but just so you know." She pauses again. "I...think that's it? What do you think?"
No. 877974 ID: 0d41d2

"you got halo reach on there?"
No. 877976 ID: 600f38

"Ira, I am trying very hard not to squee like somebody in my Japanese anime, and that's only because I'm not sure if I'd break a rib or your eardrums first.
This is the kind of thing I have literally dreamed of my entire life, and it makes almost dying half a dozen times completely worth it.

I would hug you, but I need a shower first. Sorry, but can I do both those things before we take off? I've been at 0.38Gs for so long that I can't trust my legs in 1G for a couple of days, and I want to avoid spreading Mars Funk to a second enclosed environment."
No. 877979 ID: 9c2d0c

I think you make space travel look like an ACTUAL vacation and pretty much are amazing. You and I both know this is so far and away beyond anything I could imagine NASA building that saying it doesn't even do it justice. So gravity is what, steady acceleration the whole way, flipping the ship at the mid point, and then decelerating the second half? Or did you invent artificial gravity while you were at it? I don't know which would be more impressive. The energy consumption for a three day burn would be incredible.
No. 877981 ID: b1b4f3

Ira how is this possible? Are you from the future?!

Okay okay you're an astronaut. Go over safety procedures. Where are the fire extinguishers, for one? Any spare suits? Duct tape, other repair supplies?
No. 877983 ID: b53bd0

ask if anything can clean your suit, it's kinda got a lot of stank built up in it.
No. 877984 ID: 600f38

Ask if you can get a new suit and leave this one on the planet
Yeah, it's $12 million dollars you're abandoning, but sometimes you just need to cut your losses.
No. 877985 ID: 5c3123

Wow. This is like a luxury cruise ship compared to the kind of stuff astronauts normally put up with.

So... the reactionless flight. Is that something like an equivalent to Maxwell's equations but for gravity instead of EM, or are you shooting a beam of something invisible like neutrinos, or do some of the same loopholes from quantum-level uncertainty apply to macroscopic conservation of momentum, or what?

Also, back when you were being born and raised in Nevada, what year was it? If you've spent two and a half decades alone on Mars doing wacky superscience, accidentally traveling back in time, or to a parallel universe or something, without even realizing you'd done so seems kinda plausible. It's not like there are many local newspapers to tip you off about historical minutia changing suddenly, and any sidereal timekeeping anomalies could have been written off as an error, if you noticed at all.

>safety procedures
What kinds of redundancy/onboard repair capabilities do you have for that fabricator? I mean, if you've only got the one, and it somehow breaks down, we'd be in trouble.
No. 877986 ID: 4ceb21

"Every time you do something you make less sense, I love it."

Take a shower and then check out her taste in movies, there might be conversation topics hidden in there.
No. 877993 ID: 69d4b9

The resources of the entire solar system are basically hers for the taking. If she weren't a nice person, we'd be wondering who was building a Dyson swarm around the sun.

She's very impressive, and very thoughtful. I wish whatever happened to make her shy away from Earth hadn't happened. But that's her past, not Mike's. She's probably got good reasons. She's too thoughtful and empathetic to not have good reasons.
No. 877995 ID: 33cbe7

Aww yeah, space Winnebago. Ask how the engines work.
Oh, and check out the movies and games. What year are they current to, which ones have been watched recently, and how did they get here? That should tell you a lot about your host.
No. 877997 ID: 830fb7

say: "Just one question, After we report in to NASA can I live here with you. This ship went from a 10/10 when we where outside now its off the charts. Seriously the stuff you have here just blows my mind so hard that I am unable to speak."
No. 878001 ID: dbf422

Yeah, okay Han Solo, you have the coolest ship in the galaxy. Getting trapped on Mars still wasn't worth it, but being here is a definite upside. Questions, uh, what kinda movies and games are your favorites? You play Smash?
No. 878023 ID: cb585b

"I want one."
No. 878031 ID: 7e9b42

She says 5-6% of her isn't natural but none of her implants seem visible on the surface and it doesn't look like any of that went to a boob job. A lot of it is probably in her brain. That might explain the "neural link" thing that she controls her Iron Man suit and spaceship with, and more brain implants might explain her intelligence. The brain is on average only 2% of a person's weight so either she has a really heavy head or she has more implants elsewhere in her body that we haven't seen. Try checking the back of her head to see if she has a plug.
If angry-eyes spider mech and her Iron Man suit can act autonomously do they have an ai? What happens to their ai when she controls them directly, do they just turn off? Is their ai smart enough to make good decisions when she is asleep? Are they self-aware? Do they know not to interpret her dreams as actionable commands so Mike won't get strangled by unpiloted power armor if Ira has a nightmare? How does she basically have AI slaves when she claims artificial consciousness deserves ethical treatment?
Ira arrived in her human body which can't take more than 1 G sustained acceleration just like Mike, but she didn't already know that sustained acceleration was bad for humans so she doesn't usually fly her human body around and has a stationary or orbital base. She doesn't usually build ships with life support or space for human occupants so she's usually just controlling robot agents from the safety of her base. The first time she visited she was remotely piloting a body, but that body had to be controlled by some sort of signal and Mike didn't mention any noticeable delay in her reactions. Unless she has FTL communications that means her real body was nearby which means her normal base of operations is on or around Mars, but then how did she get to her base in the first place? She was either born there which implies she lied about Nevada, or she wasn't damaged by the g force strain when she flew there which implies she lied about being biologically human. If the latter, the body we see now must also be a remote-piloted robot that does a better job at passing for human, and her real body must be on the ship so there's no delay while she controls it which means it's probably in one of the places on the ship only accessible from her room.
I'm still paranoid but I'm not saying Mike should ask all these questions at once and risk a confrontation. She has full control of the situation here especially since the force field blocks our comms. More answers sooner would be better but I think our best bet is to just stay on our guard and play along. Maybe plan a covert recon mission to her room after she goes to sleep?
No. 878051 ID: 600f38

I can field some of these.
Conventional AI isn't sentient or sapient. The most common forms of it are sets of response rules that follow a script, and have no ability to compensate for when something goes off-script. This is the kind of AI you typically see in video games, because it's very fast, very cheap, and more or less does what you need it to do. Flying a spaceship is less difficult for a conventional AI than driving a car, because the only rules of the road are physics, and the only times you'll hit something are if you screw up on take-off and landing because the trip there is through a vast expanse of literally nothing. You still want object detection and avoidance because of the one-in-a-billion chance of something being in your way, but you don't need object recognition or any response more advanced than 'apply thrust to prevent intercept'.
There is no ethics quandary here any more than there would be about the ethics of using clockwork in a clock.

The suit is more interesting, depending on what it can do autonomously. It's still probably a conventional AI, but there's a lot more variation.

Humans CAN take more than 1G for an extended period of time, but it's not healthy as it puts more stress on your cardiovascular system. The longest test of sustained increased gravity was 7 days at 1.5G; no adverse health effects were observed, but the data from the experiment suggested that they may have developed after a longer period. Ira would be fine with a shorter trip with a higher G force, but Mike isn't in good shape and needs to avoid the stresses.

Ira could have FTL communication technology, but it's more likely she has the ability to emulate her own brain. If her brain is largely (Or entirely) synthetic then she could upload her brain into a shell, put her body in storage, do whatever she likes, and then transfer herself back over. That would avoid transmission delays.
That doesn't mean she could emulate Mike's brain the same way, mind you, as the key requirement here is that her brain be not entirely organic.
No. 878117 ID: d052fd
File 152333742562.png - (28.26KB , 358x379 , 023.png )

I try to push the paranoid voices out of my head again, at least for now. There's too much to do at the moment to consider the logistics of how impossible this has been. Anyway, I'm too busy being completely fucking astounded to think about much else at the moment. "Ira, I am trying very hard not to squeal loud enough to break a rib or an eardrum. This is the kind of thing I have literally dreamed about for my entire life. I would hug you, but I need a shower first, and probably something clean to wear. Is there any way I can sort those out before takeoff? I've been in Mars gravity for so long, I'm not sure I can trust my legs not to drop out from under me and spread Mars funk to another enclosed environment once we start flying."

Ira's face goes pale. "Crap, I knew I forgot something! Laundry! I specced this whole ship out and didn't account for laundry." She looks down at the floor in thought. "Augh. I should have put in some kind of chute in the rooms and the bathroom, leverage the same water piping from the dish-cleaning system...would that take up too much space on the underside? I could just add another step up. No need for a dryer, I can just expose it to the vacuum-" She shakes her head and looks back up at me. "Too late for that now. Yes, you need fresh clothes and it would be super irresponsible of me to take off while you were in the shower. I guess...yeah. Go shower. Kick me your clothes out the door, and... wait, are you wearing clothes under that thing? I haven't seen you out of it."

I laugh. "Yeah, I am. There's also this inner padding layer that I put on before the suit. You probably won't like the state of any of them, though."

She chuckles. "It's fine. When I deal with them, I'll wear my armor and best non-judgmental attitude. I can take some quick measurements and fab you some new clothes, that should only take 15, 20 minutes tops. You gave mission control the conservative estimate for time, we wouldn't even have to readjust for that. The padding, I'd probably have to scan, and-" She starts looking distressed and drawing inward. "Actually, surely you don't need me to print you a whole new suit? There's electronics and stuff in there. I'd have to pattern-process for a few hours to make sure I copied the software right, and...uh, shit, the little printer in the ship can't even do state-maintenance stuff, but the electronics turn off, right? There's not some kind of battery that keeps some data cycling even when it's not in use, because then I couldn't even...I guess I could fab it off-site and deliver it here, but that would delay for even longer-"

"Woah, hang on, Ira. It's fine. You don't need to reinvent my space suit. Just print a couple trash bags and some air freshener. I'll go grab one of the other suits from the HAB so we have a spare. There's three more good ones in there."

Ira blinks. "Oh! Right. Good idea." She relaxes and laughs. "But, how about you start getting cleaned up, and I'll grab one of your spare suits? Save us some time."

"Cool. Thanks!"
No. 878118 ID: d052fd
File 152333745335.png - (99.79KB , 768x883 , 024.png )

I didn't fully realize how filthy I was until after I cleaned myself off. I feel like a completely new person. Ira yelled through the door when my clothes were ready, and handed them through the opening with her head turned away. Finally dressed, I emerge from the bathroom, excited for launch.

Ira is leaned back on the couch and looking out the large, hexagonally-paned dome window at the barren martian landscape. The rusty environment reflects a flush glow across the ceiling. There is some music playing softly through the speakers by the TV, but I don't recognize it.


Ira turns to face me and nods. "You cleaned up nice."

"Thanks," is all I can think to say.

"Hope you don't mind, I stowed your stuff for you. Oh, and I got one of the suits without a bloody hole, cracked helmet, or missing arm."

"Good call. Thank you again."

She pats the couch next to her. "Wanna sit on a couch and watch Mars disappear?"

I slump down beside her. The couch is pillowy and comfortable. "Ready when you are."

"Should I do a countdown?" she asks.

NASA has an entire book for countdown procedure. Ira is leaving it up to me whether she even does one at all. For some reason, that hits me harder than the fact that she's about to fly her force-fielded mind-controlled personal spacecraft on a 4-day interplanetary flight. "Nah. Fuck it. Let's just go."

She smiles subtly and turns back to the window, nodding slowly. "Fuck it," she repeats.

I feel myself start sinking deeper into the couch cushion.
No. 878119 ID: d052fd
File 152333746662.png - (248.70KB , 683x2023 , 025.png )

No. 878120 ID: 600f38

Touch her hand.
No. 878121 ID: 33cbe7

You what you haven't had in a long, long time? Something you've been desperately missing, something a man needs to have in his life?

A good belch!
No. 878122 ID: b1b4f3

Don't you do it!

Ask her how much she's willing to talk about her past. Is it too much to ask how she got this tech? She didn't develop it all herself, did she?
Or would she rather you talked about yourself?
No. 878123 ID: 600f38

"So, if you don't mind me asking, how did you do all this?
This is all Sufficiently Advanced Technology to me, and even the stuff I have some idea how it would work should reasonably take several lifetimes.
It's something of an Outside Context Problem."
No. 878124 ID: b53bd0

don't grab, just poke.
No. 878125 ID: 600f38

Less "poke", more "set your hand down next to her so your pinkies touch".
No. 878127 ID: 9cab6f

maintain your spaghetti my friend, there will ve time for wooing on the first date when we get her number for hanging out
No. 878128 ID: dbf422

No! Don't! That'd just make the next few days really awkward or worse. Maybe she'd laugh it off as being starved for contact but don't risk your ride or this new friendship. Just talk. Ask her about herself. You don't really know anything about her, and not just in a sci-fi secrets sort of way.
No. 878135 ID: 5c3123

So, what's the dinner plan? More lentil soup?
No. 878156 ID: 2fe26a

Easy there, go for the long game! You'll have plenty of time to form a lasting relationship over a three day trip.
Oh god what are you doing, don't listen to the space madness! Take her hand.
No. 878159 ID: 7e9b42

Mike what would be worse, an awkward 90 hour trip or spending the rest of your life wondering if you could have scored with an alien/robot/science mutant/time traveler/combination of any number of the above. You are emotional at finally leaving Mars and starved for human(???) contact so you have an excuse, as long as you don't make it weird you could probably hold her hand and she should understand if she's not into it. If she is into it then be a good friend and wingman for your crew buddy later.
Oh my god this is going to be like watching a train wreck.
I will cede the point about the g forces on the grounds that maybe she meant she didn't think Mike in particular could take them instead of a regular human. Her human body is still likely to be usually near Mars because she had to fly it here with the ship and that would take time even at 1.5 g. If she copied her brain into the robot body we met last time then she was lying about piloting it remotely but if she's nearby anyway then there's no reason to lie about that. I think FTL comms would imply time travel capability because of relativity but that seems unlikely since she didn't just arrive instantly with the ship after leaving last time. I think it's more likely she normally lives near Mars which narrows down the big "where are you really" question she dodged last time.
No. 878162 ID: cb585b

Realize the possibly-from-the-future girl is female, and that you havent seen one for nearly a year. Also realize you have finally given in to your base desire to write the L after NASA.
No. 878166 ID: 7e9b42

Ok I looked up the lyrics to that song because I heard "lost in space" and now I wonder if Ira caused Mike to be stranded and sabotaged his potatoes to engineer this chain of events, it sounds like she promises everything is as it should be and she knew this would happen all along. Does he need to "come to" her or just his brain scan?
You've come so far, weary child
We can feel the ache in your bones
You've been dragging so long
They never spoke your tongue

We will shelter you
There will be no more ridicule
We will love you always
It can be this way if you come to me

You were in a spin, front to back
You would wonder if you were wrong
You felt lost in space
But everything is as it should

We knew this all along
We promise you

We will shelter you
There will be no more ridicule
We will love you always
It can be this way if you come to me

I take it back don't hold her hand.
No. 878190 ID: 9c2d0c

Say words like "You know, when we shook hands and hugged before, I was wearing my space suit. I still haven't actually had any human contact in months." and THEN make a move for her hand.
No. 878192 ID: 69d4b9

Don't hold her hand.
Do ask her what Groom Lake was like.
No. 878196 ID: 600f38

That's pretty paranoid, there. Engineering this situation would be an extraordinary feat of social planning where countless things could go wrong, and there's no discernible benefit to doing it that way.
No. 878202 ID: dbf422

I want to point out that there hasn't been a good reason why this would go well, if only so you can have that floating around the back of your head if you decide to be a creep.
No. 878209 ID: d052fd
File 152340967369.png - (107.83KB , 851x700 , 026.png )

For some reason, it occurs to me that the only times I've touched Ira were through my suit. As nice as it would be to touch another human body, even in a platonic way, I don't want to make things weird.

Ira gives me a heads-up to avert my eyes before the flash of the force field activating. When I look back, the view is distorted by the shimmering blue particles streaking down across the surface of the field.

I sit back and listen to the song play, but can't really make out the lyrics. Apparently my hallucinations can? I feel like reading into it too much would probably be a waste of time, though. It's not like she's going to concoct some elaborate plan to ruin my life and then play a song that describes it to me.

The first few minutes tick by in relative silence. The sky outside gradually shifts from the filthy browns of the martian atmosphere to a deeper blue, then the twinkling blackness of space. The force field also becomes less and less noticeable. Ira explains that it was only so visible before because it was interacting with the dust and the atmosphere. "Right now, there's not much to interact with, but as we accelerate more, it's going to light up again as it deflects the ambient Hydrogen in space. There's not much of it, but at those speeds, we'll be plowing through enough of it to potentially be radioactive, if not for the shields." Her gaze drops in thought. "That's what the first bright flash is," she elaborates. "The air particles near the field vibrate out, but can't move back in. Other particles nearby are drawn in to fill the empty space and get forced out too. In a fraction of a second, it sucks out most of the air inside, except for the air that's sealed into the ship, obviously. Before I first got it working, I had modeled the behavior using a simplified fluid dynamics system, which predicted that it would take longer to form a vacuum. When I tested it the first time in an atmosphere, it really surprised me!"

"So that's the shockwave I felt," I say, nodding.

"Exactly!" she says. "It was even more surprising at the time, because I was testing in simulated Earth atmosphere. It's much thicker, so..." she mimes an expanding bubble with her hands.

"More air forced through at once, and denser medium to propagate the wave," I say.

She looks over to me and nods. "Right. Broke some of my equipment."

I sit and think about that for a moment. "Wait, so what happens with solid objects?"

Ira winces. "It's not pretty. Mostly, things get dusted, but all the force that the field exerts uses energy. If the object is too large and I try running the field too long, it just chews the object up as much as it can until the field throws a fuse."

My paranoia starts kicking me in the skull again. "Okay, are we operating on battery power here? Is there any chance we could, say, run into a particularly-thick dust cloud that drains all of our juice?"

Ira shakes her head in the negative. "No, I...Hm. I should probably keep the details private. Just trust me when I say we have enough power, okay?"

I look disappointed. "Aw, c'mon, you got me geeking out over here. This is incredible!"

Ira frowns. "I'm sorry, Mike. I'm just worried that, if I tell you how it works, someone will figure out a way to detect it, and then I have problems. I really don't know what to expect, and it's making me paranoid."

"Really? You don't know what to expect and it's making you paranoid? I think I may possibly maybe have a tiny inkling of what that's like." I respond, again maintaining my deadpan expression.

Ira turns to me and searches my gaze. The corners of her mouth inch their way up and she laughs through her nose. "Alright, Mike, I get it. But I'm still not explaining it to you. You're sitting next to a lady with a lot of secrets."

I roll my eyes sarcastically. "Yes, you're very mysterious. Is how you developed all of this stuff one of those secrets?"

"Hmmmm...it is, but I'll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone else," she responds, playfully.

I cross my arms, not buying it. "Uh huh."

"My deep, dark secret about how I developed all of this stuff is..." Ira stands up and adopts a snooty expression, "I am very smart."

"Time travel. Got it," I reply.

Ira giggles. "Oh man, I wish. But only the cool, 'change the future without changing yourself' kind, none of that paradoxical temporal feedback crap, and definitely not one of those 'fixed timeline' things, those are lame." She sees my incredulous look and blurts out, "Hey, I got opinions, man!"

I smile. "Fine, what are your opinions on human-like AI?"

Ira puts her hands on her hips and gives me a teasing scowl. "I'm of the opinion that if I told you 'no' to every wrong guess, you'd get it eventually by process of elimination."

"Is that a problem?" I ask, genuinely curious.

Ira's expression goes blank for a second. "I...don't know, Mike." Just as quickly, she snaps out of it and flashes a smile. "I don't even know if you can stand yet. In case I forgot to mention it, we have officially cleared the atmosphere. You are free to move about the cabin. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you owe me a brain scan."

Oh, right. I almost forgot all about that.
No. 878230 ID: 600f38

Try to stand up and walk with her. Ask for assistance if you need it.

"Sure. Lets do that before human contact causes me to be afflicted with increasing sanity.

So, in the interest of being honest on my part, this ship is, what, about as much as a 747? 200 metric tons or so? So a 1G burn is 9.6megawatts, plus systemic losses. Even writing off the shield, that's more than a fission reactor could kick out. Best I can figure is aneutronic fusion with direct capture, or you're using antimatter as a storage medium. Either way, you're throwing off a lot of waste heat that'll have you glowing on IR.
There's also neutron and gamma radiation, but we can't really detect those at all. We can barely detect the neutrinos at all, and those would be drowned out by the sun.
Of course people could, you know, just look for the glow of your shield. We can detect visible light pretty well.

You're a lot smarter than I, but I'm still pretty smart. At least as far as mortals go.

So, do you spend your time on Mars? Earth? I'd want to set up my mad scientist lab on Ceres, but that's almost a full AU further out than Mars."
No. 878233 ID: b1b4f3

Alright. Ask her to direct you to the brain-sucking demon machine.
No. 878236 ID: dbf422

I had assumed that would be taking place tomorrow or something. You know, give you a normal-for-being-in-science-fiction day and then get the scan out of the way. I don't think there's any reason to delay it, except that you weren't prepared.
No. 878238 ID: dbf422

Oh yeah, and maybe ease up on the guessing game. It might be a sorer spot than it seemed.
No. 878264 ID: b53bd0

yeah, should get that done now before having fun melts us back into your subconscious.
No. 878265 ID: 5c3123

Yeah, sure. Bring on the brain probes.

Say, Ira, have you ever considered becoming a benevolent dictator? You could probably rig up 'child-safe' versions of this stuff, black boxes with mind-reading biometric locks that shut any given miracle device down if it's wielded with disloyal intent and slag it before anyone could usefully analyze the non-user-serviceable parts.
No. 878267 ID: bd2200

be sure to crack a joke about shooting your grey goo in there
No. 878360 ID: d052fd
File 152349283888.png - (59.05KB , 567x475 , 027.png )

"Sure," I reply, "Let's do that before human contact causes me to be afflicted with increasing sanity."

Ira nods sympathetically. "I know you're doing your 'snarky cynicism' thing there, but that's honestly pretty accurate. Isolation is probably a major contributing factor to your current mental state." She holds up her hands and smiles warmly. "Understandably so! You've been through some rough times. You're not crazy. In fact, you're coping astoundingly well. I would be thrilled if you started feeling more yourself on this trip. But..." she shrugs, "...that would also make you a less-interesting research subject, so let's get the research out of the way now. Are you...still hearing voices?"

I shift in my seat uncomfortably. "Y-yeah."

"I have to ask, are they telling you to do anything to hurt yourself or, uh..." she laughs and gestures her hands around the room, "...y'know, anyone else around here?" We both laugh awkwardly, and she starts to elaborate, "It's important to tell me the truth here. I promise I won't hold it-"

"No," I reply quickly, cutting her off. "No, definitely not. Honestly, most of them are just curious about you and want to make friends. Some of them are paranoid, but they're not actually advising anything, uh, violent or dangerous. They're...as weird as this sounds, they're actually giving me pretty solid advice and insight, usually? With some, uh, outliers. It's really not that bad, if not for the fact that I'm used to a smaller population in my brain."

Ira looks down and loses herself in thought for a moment. "Huh. That sounds like...atypical." She looks up at me. "Not as in 'you should be worried about this' atypical, just-"

"-Not the usual way people hear voices," I conclude.

"Right. I mean, I don't know that there is a usual way that people hear voices. And your situation was already unusual for a lot of different reasons." She cuts herself off, sighs, and points to her face with both hands. "Not a psychologist," she says.

"Just a neuroscientist, material scientist, astronaut, astrophysicist, regular physicist, engineer, uh...chef..."

"I only seem like a chef to someone who has been living on nothing but astronaut food and potatoes. I should count myself lucky that I have you as a captive food critic. Also, you haven't stood up yet."

"I've been building up to it," I reply.

She holds out her hands to help me up. "Build faster!"

I take her offered hands without hesitation. A split second after our fingers touch, I realize that this is the human contact I was so indecisive about a minute ago. Her grip is strong as she starts to pull me upright, but I'm distracted and stumble forward.

Ira catches me. "Whoops!" she exclaims. "You good?"

I collect myself and stand upright. Ira moves to my side and supports me. The room is spinning. I don't answer.

Ira looks concerned. "How ya feelin', bud?"

I start to go over everything I learned in training. "My heart's figuring out that it needs to work harder to get blood up to my brain again. My sense of balance had...calibrated itself to lower gravity so I-"

"Mike, Mike. Focus here. I know what's happening to you physiologically, but I want to know how you're feeling."

"Lightheaded. Nauseous." I take a deep breath and steady myself.

"It'll pass, bud. You're doing great. Think you can stay on your feet?"

More deep breaths. My scalp tingles and I feel a rush. I squeeze my eyes shut and focus. "Yeah. I think so."

"Good. If your legs start giving out, just flop down on the couch. It's right behind you." Ira slowly lets go, keeping her arms close.

I focus on my breathing, keeping my footing stable, and maintaining my sense of direction. The logical part of my brain fully expects that at any moment I'm going to just eat my words and pass out or vomit. But I just...don't. I'm already starting to feel more grounded. The tingling in my scalp subsides. I can feel my heart beating faster, but I keep calm, nod, and stand up straight. I shuffle my feet a little. "Okay," I say.

Ira raises her eyebrows at me. "Goddamn, look at you! You're a badass."

"Mm," I grunt. Thinking, I gesture to her. "You were okay right away."

Ira shrugs. "It's not a contest. I'm in better shape and have more experience. I'm still impressed. Think you can walk over here?" She gestures to the corner of the room by the table.

I nod in the affirmative. I weigh more than two and a half times as much as I have for the last five months. My legs feel like jelly, and my path wobbles a little at first as if I'm drunk. After the first few steps, I get a better sense of my footing. I'm still grateful when I get the chance to lean over and rest my weight on the tabletop. "Bring on the brain-sucking demon machine," I say.

Ira laughs and nods. "Alright. It might be tough, but I want you to stay on your feet for a while, alright? If you keep at it, you should hopefully clear the disorientation phase by tomorrow." Seeing that I'm in no danger of toppling over, she moves around the table as a panel retracts from the wall. Behind it, all I can see is a reflective pane. I hear quiet mechanical whirrs as it seems to orient itself to face me. Unidentifiable machinery glints from the edges of the shadowy recess. "Let's get that brain of yours lit up, Mike. Tell me some stuff the voices are saying. No judgments, I promise."

"Uh...Okay. Have you ever considered becoming a benevolent dictator?" I hear a high-pitched sound coming from behind the wall, but keep going. "You could probably rig up child-safe versions of this stuff, black boxes with mind-reading biometric locks that shut any given miracle device down if it's wielded with disloyal intent and slag it before anyone could usefully analyze the non-user-serviceable parts." The sound stops.

Ira's face registers some small amount of shock, but she gives me a sad smile. She clears her throat. "All done."

"That's it?" I ask. This is what I had been dreading for so long? I don't know why, but I thought it would be more invasive. Plus, I kinda half-expected I'd be putting on some kind of mind-reader helmet and waking up as a brain-clone in some horrible post-apocalyptic future.

"That's it. You can sit back down now, if you need to."

I nod. "Yeah. Just for a minute."

I take a seat at the table. Ira does the same. "I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't occurred to me before," she says. "The benevolent dictator thing. I used to have this fantasy when I was younger-have you heard of North Sentinel Island?"

"The name sounds familiar, but I'm not sure."

"It's this tiny inhabited island in the Indian Ocean. It's interesting because the people there avoid all contact with the outside world. When anyone shows up around their island, even anthropologists who want to study their culture, the Sentinelese attack them relentlessly. Their weapons are primitive, but they still try their best to kill anyone who shows up in range of their bows and arrows, and are unfortunately often successful. Nobody knows what their culture is like, or why they act this way, because they kill anyone who tries to find out.

"It's hard to imagine their perspective. They don't know anything about the world they live on outside of this one small island. They don't know how much they could have, because they know that all they have now is enough for them to survive. They just know that there is more and they don't want anything to do with it.

"But me--they pose no threat to me. I had this fantasy that one day, I would just show up there and just...exist. Maybe I'd build them houses and bring them food and water and medical supplies. They probably wouldn't accept them at first. They would probably distrust me. They could try to shoot me with arrows until their arms gave out, but eventually they would have to come to accept that nothing they can do could possibly stop me from being there. They would have to go about their lives, and I could study them, learn their language, and tell them, 'Hey, guys? There's so much more than this. There is a world out there, and it isn't as bad as you think it is. I could show you how to be a part of it if you would just stop being so fucking hostile.'" Ira's voice cracks. She laughs, but her eyes look a little glassy. "But hey, that was just a fantasy I had back when I was younger. That wouldn't actually be a good idea." She fidgets a little and averts her eyes. "R-right?"
No. 878362 ID: 6780f5

It would stop anthropologists from getting shot with arrows, and it would start integrating the people into stressful modern life. We're mostly past the exploitative colonial era, so they may even be able to keep their island as their own, with whatever resources it may end up having, especially if you end up teaching them what the modern-day value of it is and that less scrupulous people may try getting it for less. It's neither a good idea nor a bad idea. It's what you'd make of it.
No. 878363 ID: 8256fd

Well, I can't think of why it wouldn't work. Other than the fact that "let's bring civilization to the filthy savages" makes her sound like the villains from Avatar. Or every person they were based off of. Which I guess are, historically, reasons why they would definitely work before inevitably destorying their culture, and possibly half the population with space smallpox.

I mean, wanting to improve people's way of life isn't a bad things. But there's other ways to go about it, obviously. Though, I suppose the crux of this issue is that the question you asked was entirely hypothetical and there's a worry about how seriously she took it. Be delicate?
No. 878364 ID: b1b4f3

Well it wouldn't cause any physical harm to them, but it might cause some significant culture shock. What would be better is to send in some kind of stealth drone they can't see and eavesdrop on them to find out more about them. Maybe find out why they keep killing anyone that comes near.
Like, maybe they don't think there's anything out there? They think anyone else that shows up that looks different from them must be demons from hell or something similarly evil and inhuman. Showing up and demonstrating an immunity to arrows would just make them think that the end times have arrived. They could commit suicide en masse or otherwise harm themselves due to encountering an unbeatable enemy.
I'm just glad most civilized areas on earth aren't like that anymore. Heck, there's some communities that would embrace aliens with open arms. Then try to fuck them.
No. 878367 ID: b53bd0

i agree more study is needed, they could have something legit crazy down there that makes them like they are.
No. 878375 ID: b1b4f3

Oh shit what if it's CONTAGIOUS
No. 878395 ID: 600f38

"No, because THEY are, collectively, happy to have you not do that. You've seen that picture of a plane with hundreds of arrows in it from a flyby, right?
That's a small island. It can't support a large population, and we can be pretty sure they don't have machine-bows. The only way to put that many arrows into something that quickly is if everybody on the island is involved in it. It's not an army or police force doing it, it's everybody.

You can't talk to them to find out what they, collectively, want, so the best you can do is let their actions speak for them. They've done that. They, collectively, want to be left alone.

The rest of the world, though? Not even close.
I don't know the details of how things went down, but I think I can hit the high notes.
The people who burned you were people in power. If they weren't in power then they wouldn't have any authority to tell you to fuck off, QED they must have been. The details don't matters.
Lets start by making the most charitable assumption we can make, and assume they're acting completely selflessly and only in the best interests of their people.
You're an Outside Context Problem. Civilizations typically encounter an Outside Context Problem the same way a sentence encounters a full stop. Everything you have, everything you do, would serve to disrupt and upend society. Things would change so dramatically that nobody could predict the consequences, and so rapidly that most people would have difficulty adjusting - we STILL somehow have people saying "I don't understand these computer things".
The people in control, knowing that, would have a strong case for telling you to leave simply because it makes it completely impossible to know what would happen otherwise. They can't plan, they can't prepare, and to an extent they have a duty to prevent massive social disruption - even when it's needed or a positive change - simply to keep things running smoothly. I mean, just consider how many companies would go out of business if even one of your super-science pieces hit the market. Your fabber? Manufacturing, agriculture, food service, construction, almost every repair service, and if my assumptions for how it works are true then mining as well. Then those all have knock-on effects on things like realtors, dealerships, and etc. Overnight half of all jobs would be gone, without the accommodations and social changes required for that to not end horribly.
Next, there's the Superman problem - the fear that if you were to solve every problem, then people would give up on trying to solve things on their own. That would lead to stagnation, and the eventual death of society. You can do anything, but you can't do everything. It doesn't actually work that way, since people love doing things and feel awful when they can't work towards a goal, but the idea has a strong grip on the human psyche and people in positions of authority tend to believe in it.
Then there's the Evil Superman problem - if you did turn out to be malicious, then they would have handed everything to you on a silver platter. In the words of Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.". People in authority know this, which leads into the more realistic set of reasons.

Instead of assuming people with power are pinnacles of virtue, we assume they're self interested.
If you get involved, everything gets disrupted. You upend the massive game of politics and business. Everything they know about playing the game is suddenly useless, and they're useless with it. They lose power, you come out on top, and nothing they can do can change that.

That's just the rational arguments. I'm not even going to bother with the emotional ones, because policy based on emotions is bad policy.

So, are they wrong to tell you to fuck off? No.
Does that mean you should fuck off? Also no.

It's not about the people in power. It's about the people who aren't. The people who pray for a savior. The people who go to bed hoping they'll still be alive to wake up in the morning, or wishing they wouldn't. The people dying of hunger or disease, the slave labor, the victims of persecution, trafficked people, people under oppressive regimes, the people who fell through the cracks, and all the other detritus of the machine we call civilization.
There are people who need help. You have the ability to help. It doesn't take a professor of moral philosophy to tell you that you are not obligated to listen to somebody telling you not to help them.

So if you want to help, and you have my full support if you want to do so although I understand if you do not, then you need to go about doing things the right way. You would have to go slowly, and gradually change things so society can adapt. The best way to do that? Well, they can't stop you from forming your own nation.
You could probably build a pretty sweet floating continent, or conquer Antarctica and build a nation under the ice. Starting on Earth would give you a lot of options for helping generally without being too disruptive. For example, you could suck CO2 out of the air, convert it into hydrocarbons, and sell it to whoever would buy it. You'd effectively be replacing fossil fuels with whatever your power source is, just with a lot more line losses. You could control the market so the coal and oil industries would gradually atrophy away, and people would hardly even notice when they collapsed. Then you could start switching people over to better options. Bam, carbon problem solved with minimal disruption.
Or you could colonize another planet. I don't know if you can restart the planetary core of Mars to get a magnetic field going so the solar wind will stop blasting the atmosphere away, but with what I've seen you could definitely terraform Venus. You could build a new society, figure out how to work things in a post-scarcity world, and take anybody willing and able to adapt.

I am 100% on board with any of these, and am available if you have an opening for an adviser."
No. 878399 ID: 4b6c97

well uh

this I guess lol
No. 878404 ID: b53bd0

i would argue that the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely." has never been used in reference to someone with absolute power. even if a supreme dictator of the world appeared he would not have absolute power since he could still die like any other man.
No. 878405 ID: dbf422

I don't know why he would offer his support. Or philosophize. Or quote that many tropes. Not that I'm immune to those, I just think this might be "excessive".
No. 878406 ID: 600f38

How about:
"Yeah, my voices seem to giving pretty damn good advice."?

Ira could do a lot of good. If it's in Mike's power to convince her to use her abilities for good, then it can be reasonably argued he has a moral obligation to do so.

Also, if you talk to a benevolent goddess, and they're contemplating starting a new world, you want to:
1: Encourage them
2: Make sure they don't stumble into any avoidable pitfalls.

1 is necessary to ensure you are there for 2.

Also, if she takes him on as an adviser then he can totally get a sweet-ass spaceship he can use as his apartment and official vehicle. You know, reasonable and legitimate perks.

That's kinda not the point.
Also, a reasonable person would assume Ira has made or will make herself immune to death. You can expect world leaders will make the same assumption, reasonableness be damned.
Also, she could definitely destroy the planet if she wanted to. I don't just mean "end all life"; that's trivial. I mean she could destroy the 10e24 kilogram rock named Earth.
We know she is a good person because the Earth is convenient and full of resources, and she has been respecting people enough to not turn it into a dyson swarm.
No. 878407 ID: dbf422

Like, I totally get that, but she already knows what she could do. Maybe all she needs is a push, maybe he'd just piss her off for being a know-it-all, or maybe she shouldn't do anything because it's more likely to end badly. Either way, it should probably be handled with a softer touch. That's all I've got to say, I won't be pushy about it.
No. 878409 ID: 600f38

I can see where you're coming from.
However, in the past she tried to help and was shut down. Hard. She thought Mike may have not wanted her help at first, because she assumed nobody wanted her help. She seemed to assume people knew about her, and didn't want her around.
For her own mental health, she needs somebody to tell her why she was shot down like that. She's more starved for human contact than Mike - he could talk to NASA, but who did she have?
How long has she avoided human contact because she thought she was an outcast? She seems to understand how harmful isolation can be to people, and she has been expressing genuine concern for Mike's mental health. Even when she forgets his physical infirmity, she hasn't forgotten he's showing signs of mental infirmity.
I think part of her research is in the effects of isolation on humans, and how to curtail the problems. She needed the scan so she could have a disease model for treating herself.

That's part of why I'm pushing for Mike to offer his assistance. She saved his life, is it really too much to return the favor?
Also, I don't think any plans Mike had would stay valid in the event of a Mad God scenario.
No. 878411 ID: 33cbe7

Nobody's going in range of North Sentinel Island without acknowledging the fact that they'll be attacked. I think the... direct approach, could have unintended side effects on the culture you'd be trying to study. Like becoming their new god.

You're right, it isn't normal for the voices in your head not to be telling you to hurt yourself. I command you to bang your shins on every leg of furniture.
No. 878412 ID: 33cbe7

>plane with hundreds of arrows in it
That was an art installation you git, the natives didn't actually turn an airplane into a pincushion.
No. 878424 ID: 7e9b42

Tell her that just showing up would be a bad idea because they wouldn't know her intentions. Maybe instead she should just watch and wait until one of them gets pulled out to sea by the tides and are at risk of drowning alone far from home, and then she can show up to that one person and throw them a flotation device and offer them a ride back to the island on her decked-out yacht. Then she can drop the person off and come back later after they have time to tell the other islanders that she's pretty nice and has a cool boat, they might be a little less afraid of her. That might be asking a lot of the person though, so she should send them back with some gold bars and a cure for cancer to sweeten the deal.
No. 878428 ID: 43bcb8

I feel like the offering and asking for consent thing has worked out pretty well so far, and the whole Star Trek policy of non-interference with primitive cultures came from a reasoned place. Non-disruptive observation would probably be the kindest bet here, until a more informed decision could be made.
No. 878516 ID: 5c3123

North Sentinel Island is famous because it's unusual. "Man bites dog." Have you tried any other islands? Manhattan, maybe? Just go to one of those Cash 4 Gold places, hand them as many bricks of high-purity gold as they'll accept, use the money to rent a storefront, and start making outlandish political promises - nothing you wouldn't be able to do by yourself with a few days of setup. Lower taxes, dectuple the budgets of any government programs people actually like, while simultaneously paying off the national debt out of your own pocket, yet rebuking every form of corruption and graft. You really think people wouldn't vote for that?

That's the democracies taken care of. Corporate interests are dictated by the stockholders, and with effectively infinite money you could buy controlling interests in every publicly-traded corporation. Nobody would complain about any of that, since you'd be operating well within the letter and spirit of the law, and you wouldn't even be sharing any disruptive tech, just using your cornucopia to mess with commodity prices.

Wouldn't need to be any coercion at any step. Anybody doesn't want to be involved with you, they're free to complain, or vote for the opposition. Most of the world hasn't had that choice, though. How many people were actually personally involved last time you tried?
No. 878548 ID: dbf422

You've given me an idea. She should just eat the rich. It's finally time.
No. 878625 ID: 5b93d3

Hmmm... Ira specifically wanted to 'emulate' Mark's brain, at least to some degree, and to run a ported version of herself on that.

So.. uh... Hi Ira. I guess we're a fellow Outside Context Problem.
No. 878692 ID: dbf422

I don't think she's done that part yet. She was probably focusing on talking to him first. Unless she's multi-tasking, in which case hi. Or sorry, Mark, for guessing in your head.
No. 879013 ID: d052fd
File 152385729602.png - (72.30KB , 579x1085 , 028.png )

Now that Ira's explained more about it, I do think I remember hearing something about that island on the news, or maybe it was a documentary. But that all gets pushed to the wayside as my head-voices explode into a wave of dialogue. "U-uhm, well, it would stop anthropologists from getting shot with arrows, and wouldn't cause any physical harm to them, but it might cause some pretty significant culture shock. You don't know how they'd react. They might think you're their new god, or the bringer of the end times. They might commit suicide en masse when they encounter an unbeatable enemy. It might be better to send some kind of stealth drone or something to spy on them-" Ira's eyes meet mine and I pause. The pieces start falling into place. "-you know, monitor their communications. Then, maybe you wait until one of them swims out too far from their island and is at risk of drowning, and you could show up to that person and throw them a floatation device, and offer them a ride back to their island in your decked-out yacht-"

Ira laughs the choked laugh of someone trying to hold back their emotions. "Mike..." she begins.

"-You could take that person back and give them time to tell the other islanders that you're pretty nice and have a cool boat, and-"

She smiles sadly. "Mike, stop. I-it was just a hypothetical..."

"Was it? Ira, I don't know the details of how things went down when you were last on Earth, but I think I can hit the high notes. The people who burned you were people in power. I mean, look at this-" I gesture around the ship. "The people in power wouldn't know what to do with this. I'm a scientist and I barely know what to do with this. If even one of your super-science pieces hit the market, do you know how many companies would go out of business? If you get involved, things would change so suddenly and dramatically that the people in power, whose job it is to keep things running smoothly, wouldn't know how how to predict what would happen next. Of course they told you to fuck off. Was that wrong of them? No. But, does that mean you should listen to them? No. It's not about the people in power, it's about humanity as a whole. There are people that need help. You have the ability to help them. Of course you're not obligated to listen to the people who tell you not to. You could do so much, you just have to be smart about it. I mean, why disrupt an existing society at all? You could build your own nation; a floating continent or an Antarctic base or...or...I mean, where's your limit? Could you restart Mars's magnetosphere? Could you terraform Venus?"

"No, I can't-" Ira looks down. "Well, maybe..." She shakes her head. "But then what, Mike? Put out ads for people to come live with me on Venus? Most people would have a hard time getting to Antarctica or a floating island, especially if these people in power don't want them to. There just isn't a place for me on Earth right now. Maybe some time in the future, but not now."

"Then when? Ira, humanity has-"

"No, Mike, stop. Please. You're sweet, but stop. You're getting so far ahead of yourself here. That was just a fantasy. I grew out of it. Anyway, I need to work on myself before I even consider being in charge of anyone else."

"Really? I mean, you're kind of in charge of me right now. At least, I'd say you're the captain of this ship."

Ira rolls her eyes at me. "Fine. If it will make you feel better, you can consider yourself my test case for being in charge. As captain, I'm ordering you to drop it."

I sigh in exasperation. "Aye aye, captain." I respond. Ira smiles, and I smile back. The silence starts to grow more and more looming between us. I try my best to break it before it gets uncomfortable. "So, how'd the brain scan work out, anyway? The voices want to know if they can talk to you."

She laughs. "Your voices sound very interesting, but I honestly doubt I would literally be able to hear them from your scan. When I said that, I meant it figuratively. Anyway, it will take me a while to process all of that data, and I'm still transmitting it to storage. You've got other health concerns before that. You should probably get back on your feet."

"Fine," I respond, standing up. It's not nearly as disorienting as the first time.

"Good. Did you eat anything today, yet?" she asks.

"Oh, yeah. I had some soup. Just a couple of spoonfuls, though. I'm pretty hungry now."

"Okay. Dinner's about ready. I'm not a medical doctor or a nutritionist or anything, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to eat too fast after you've been starving for a long time. But then, you're also using a lot more energy than you were to keep your blood flowing and your body moving in higher gravity, so you need to eat more than you were eating on Mars. It's kind of a tightrope walk, and I'm honestly not qualified to figure out an optimal solution myself. I'm just going to do my best and try to keep you stable long enough for you to get into more capable hands. I printed a multivitamin, which is basically the same as whatever you can find over the counter at the store on Earth. Or, could find last time I was around. There's enchilada casserole and some avocado coming up, but I'll try to keep your portions appropriate."

"Hm. You're not sure about health stuff, but you have a cure for cancer?" I ask.

"I do?" she asks. "Oh right. Sorry, I was kinda being facetious when I said that." She looks away in thought, a little embarrassed. "I guess that's one area where I'm glad you didn't repeat what I said when I was, uh, worked up? I...suppose I have a 'cure for cancer' in the sense that with enough successive scans of someone's body I could probably figure out what cancer is and start repeatedly removing it and re-scanning them until it was all gone. Maybe. It might be more complicated than that. I honestly have no idea, I'm kinda talking out of my ass a little here."

I nod. "That's disappointing, but I guess it makes sense."

She stands and stretches. "I'm not printing you any cocaine, either. That's definitely not going to be good for the current state of your health."

"Noted. So what you're saying is, I still have a chance of walking out of here with some gold bars?"

She wordlessly rolls her eyes at me over her shoulder as she walks to the kitchen. A ceiling panel on telescoping bars starts descending, bearing a small bowl. Ira brings its contents and a cup of water over to me. She hands me a chunky, mottled-brown pill with the cup. "Here, take this. I'll get the food ready."

I inspect the pill, which looks like any number of regular multivitamins I'd see on Earth. I swallow it with the water and wander over by the window. The infinite reaches of space spread out before me, in much more detail than I'd grown accustomed to on Mars. I'm reminded of the trip that brought me to the red planet in the first place, though I'm feeling much weightier now than I was then.

Ira busies herself setting up dishes, as a steaming platter of something delicious-smelling arrives by the same ceiling panel as the vitamin. I've been cooped up by myself for a long time. Everyone I've been talking to lately has given me a good half hour between responses. Now that I'm alone in a ship with someone else right in front of me, I'm finding that I'm having a hard time making conversation that doesn't revolve around world-changing topics. I can only hold those subjects in conversation for so long before the atmosphere starts to get uncomfortable. With the whole "benevolent dictator" matter off the table, I'm not sure what I should say or do, both over dinner and for the remainder of the trip.
No. 879016 ID: 600f38

"Say, could you fab up a banana bag?
I've gotta keep my solids intake down so my body doesn't panic and start purging, but IV nutrients are fine."

Ask her what series she likes to watch, and if she wants to Smash.
Hang out together and socialize like normal people.
No. 879017 ID: b1b4f3

Talk about movies? Books? Philosophy? You could talk about space but she probably knows so much more than you it'd be like you were picking her brain for new science.
No. 879020 ID: 830fb7

Ask What would she would do if you where to stay with her instead of returning to stay on earth, would she accept and have you as a traveling companion/friend/test subject/Earth diplomat, or would she say no and just drop you off as you agreed.
No. 879021 ID: dbf422

I'm still pushing for Smash, so this. Phrasing, though.
No. 879024 ID: 33cbe7

We'll bang, ok?
No. 879045 ID: 7e9b42

Ira doesn't have any special insight into nutrition so that stuff the NASA nutritionists sent you might be useful to her, if there was more to it than just the food schedule which it sounds like there was because they were making snarky comments. As for making conversation you can start off by talking about yourself, like your childhood and how you became an astronaut and stuff. Usually conversations involve a little of one person talking about themselves and then the other person relating that to their own experiences, she might open up some and talk about HER childhood and how SHE became an astronaut. There's really two kinds of secrets shes keeping here, how all her stuff works and what her deal is. She doesn't want to talk about how her stuff works because it might make her more detectable and she probably doesn't want to share her fantastic technology but I don't see any real reason for her to hide what her deal is. Ask if she's single?
No. 879049 ID: 9c2d0c

seems reasonable and safe. She clearly has access to media and isn't likely to get upset talking about her familiarity with Shakespeare or her favorite Doctor or Bond.
No. 879062 ID: 600f38

We don't want to push too hard, and that's more of a day-3 question anyway.
Also, Mike DOES need to check in with NASA. If he wants to be a Companion to Doctor Ira, he should check in with NASA, get cleared and then meet up with later.
No. 879063 ID: b1b4f3

Oh you could talk about plants too. You big botanist you.
No. 879065 ID: dbf422

I don't think he can. They mentioned something about the speed of the craft interfering with communications during the journey or something.
No. 879133 ID: 600f38

I meant on Earth. Let them do their full checkup and debriefing, then meet-up with Ira later.
Also, make arrangements for her to pick him up if somebody decides he shouldn't be allowed to contact her.
No. 879141 ID: 33cbe7

Hmm. Hey Ira, we're going to be landing on an Earth I recognize, right? No relativity shenanigans catapulting me into the year 3000?
No. 879148 ID: 600f38

Yes, and it doesn't work like that.
Given the distance, acceleration, and duration of the trip, there will be no meaningful distortion of time.
To put things in perspective, if we traveled at our trip's top speed for the entire time we were traveling, then the time difference would be such that less than one additional second would have passed on earth.
No. 879149 ID: 33cbe7

Even a second's desynchronization is enough for the Langoliers to get ya.
No. 879150 ID: 600f38

Yeah, but in THIS case you wind up in a time AHEAD of where you should have been, so the carnivorous meatballs can't get to you. Did you miss the ending?
No. 879158 ID: 0eda7a

Next time the opportunity comes up, talk to Ira a bit about what happens after. You'll get debriefed, interrogated out the wazoo, and eventually they'll have to let you go. (At least, you hope they do, and if they don't then you'd appreciate a lift to Venus if she's up for it.) But after that, even if they decided to put some kind of tracing or monitoring on you to see if Ira gets in contact with you again, Ira could almost certainly detect and neutralize it. Given that...you don't know about the rest of the world or when or if they might be ready, but...is there any chance you might be able to talk to her again, or perhaps even see her again?

Not because you're looking for advanced technology, not because you want to play twenty questions or process of elimination...just because she's by far the most interesting person you've ever had the pleasure of knowing and you don't want that to end in a few days.
No. 879159 ID: b53bd0

some gaming would be fun, minimal real motion but the excitement should give low-grade cardio.
No. 879162 ID: 33cbe7

But time will have moved on without us and we'll be relics of the past, ergo we're meatball chow the second we get off Ira's wild ride. Maybe we should stay aboard as the Doctor's companion after all.
No. 879187 ID: d887c0

You could discuss the inherent dangers of a space-faring society. Especially one with ships like hers.
First and foremost: SPACE PIRATES. For real. Criminal groups using spaceships to pillage and burn anything that crosses their path. Whole flotillas of the bastards hiding in the darkest corners of the cosmos.
Then you have asteroid rustlers. Asteroid miners would have huge issues with crooks snatching their asteroids.
Then you have the usual crazed AI, killer robots, hideous mutants, and other fun things.
It's a long list. Space be deadly, yo.
No. 879189 ID: dbf422

First and foremost is probably the same problems most societies have but in space. And pirates are pretty low on most societies' lists.
No. 879515 ID: 2fe26a

>A ceiling panel on telescoping bars starts descending, bearing a small bowl.
Oh hell yes, we're living out Smart House. In spaaace!
Ask if the gravity in here is being maintained by forward acceleration towards Earth. Is the enemy's gate down?
No. 879694 ID: d052fd
File 152426972557.png - (81.87KB , 667x338 , 029.png )

My hallucinations seem really intent on trying to stay with Ira beyond this trip. I've known this woman for maybe two and a half hours, and it doesn't sound like she has a place on Earth. To leave Earth behind forever and run off with someone I barely know for the rest of my life is asking a lot of me, and that's even assuming she'd be interested in taking me with her in the first place.

"Dinner is served," Ira says, placing two plates, two cups of water, and some silverware on the table.

I wander over to the table and sit across from her. Before me is a layered concoction of what looks like tortillas, beans, cheese, and some sort of sauce, topped with avocado and sour cream. My mouth starts watering immediately. "Thank you," I say, "I'm not guessing we need to say grace or anything?"

"Say grace?" Ira asks. "Like, pray? No, I don't think so, unless you want to. Are you...religious?"

I shake my head in the negative and start scooping up a bite of the food. "No, not anymore. My family raised me Presbyterian, but I stopped believing in that stuff in high school." I take a bite of the food, which is every bit as warm and delicious as the soup was. The sauce has a slight spiciness to it, which is more than offset by the sour cream and avocado. It's the first thing I've eaten with any spice in over a year, which I didn't realize I had missed until now. "This is really good!" I exclaim.

"Thanks," Ira replies, deep in thought. She takes her own bite before continuing. "My mother had a pretty serious...I guess you would say 'disdain' for religion. I don't think I've adopted that necessarily, but it's just not a thing I really think about. I don't even think I could make myself believe in that stuff now if I wanted to."

I'm surprised to hear her mention a family. "Yeah, I guess I'm the same way. I have two siblings, too. A younger brother and an older sister. I haven't really asked them directly about religion in a long time, but they seem to have dropped it. Do you have any siblings?"

Ira shakes her head in the negative. "No," she replies, quickly. "I'm an only child. What do your siblings do? Whole family of astronauts?"

"Hah, no. One is...I guess you would call him human resources. He works for Felicidad, the tech company?" Ira shrugs. "They do contract work for Microsoft, mostly. He lives up in California now with his husband. The other has four kids, stay-at-home mom. She stayed back in Texas, with the rest of my family. I guess I'm the only one who hasn't 'settled down.'"

"Why's that?" she asks.

The question sort of takes me by surprise. "Why haven't I settled down? Never found the right person, I guess. I...uh...I was in this long-term thing with a girl I met at a convention a few years ago. Got pretty serious, moved in together, but it got too hard to balance that with work and we split up. Nothing serious since then." Why am I spilling all of this to her? I pause. "I thought you said you weren't a psychologist?" I say. She just laughs, so I decide to press further. "How about you? Settled down with anyone else out in the cosmos?"

Ira rolls her eyes. "No, it's just me. I guess we're spilling the beans on our romantic histories? My last entry in that book was a long time ago, with a TA in college. But he was quite a bit older than I was, so there was this whole layer of secrecy, and I think he always felt a little guilty about it. It just sort of fell apart."

"How much older are we talking here?"

Ira winces, as if she knows I'm not going to like the answer. "When it started, I was 16, and he was 23."

I raise my eyebrows. "Yeah, that'll do it."

Ira waves her hands. "Don't blame the guy, I started it." She looks suddenly shocked with herself and blushes. "Anyway, enough about me. So, you're from Texas? I'm dropping you off close to your family."

I laugh. Her embarrassment is somehow adorable, but I decide not to push it and just answer her question. "Yeah. My parents even live in Houston. Maybe they'll be there to see me land." Ira smiles. "How about you? Was your family originally from Nevada, too?"

Ira shrugs. "My mother didn't like talking about her past."

"Hm. What about your father?"

Ira smirks knowingly at me. "You're trying to guess again."

I hold up my hands and lean back. "Hey, I don't know where the line is. You weren't mentioning him; it seemed like a reasonable question to ask. Obviously your whole past isn't off-limits. I know why you don't talk about your tech, but I don't know why you're not talking about your history. I'm not asking you to explain it; I'm sure you have your reasons. Just, don't be surprised if I bump up against sensitive topics when I don't know what they are."

Ira frowns and sighs. "Fair enough. I bet you can figure out why I don't want to tell you too much about my past, if you think about it-" she shakes her head and holds up her hand in a "stop" motion. "Actually, ignore that. If you haven't figured that out yet, no need to stress you out. As for my tech, I guess...I don't mind telling you what it's doing, as long as I don't have to tell you how it does it. Like, what I told you about my force field was fine, because all you'd be able to tell someone is that it keeps particles out and you shouldn't touch it."

"Oh!" I say, thinking. "So, what's with this gravity? Is it artificial, or are we just accelerating that fast?"

She looks a little surprised. "Oh, I didn't go over the flight plan? Yes, we're just accelerating that fast. About halfway through the trip, there'll be a quick break in the gravity while I flip the ship around, then we'll start accelerating the other way so we're not going too fast when we get to Earth. I'll let you know well before that happens so you'll have time to stow stuff and get ready."

That's what I thought was happening, but I'm still dumbfounded by the amount of energy it would take to do a 4-day continuous burn. "Wait, could I ask what your reactionless propulsion is doing, but not how it's doing it?"

Ira pauses and thinks for several seconds, slowly and deliberately chewing a bite of food. She swallows and looks me directly in the eye, expressionless. "It works by dribbling a bunch of bowling balls tied to the chain of a spinning chainsaw on a trampoline. Figuratively."

I stare back, matching her deadpan demeanor. At the same time, we both crack into a smile. "You made that sound fucking awesome and I still know nothing about how it works. I'll call you next time I need help writing a request for a research grant."

She shakes her head. "No way. You should consider the benefits of being a post-scarcity spacefarer. It really cuts down on the paperwork." Was that an offer? Before I get a chance to respond, she gestures to my bowl. "All done?"

I look down and am a little surprised to see I've scarfed it all down already. "Yeah, I guess so. Do you think you could fab me up a banana bag? I know I might purge if I get too many solids, but I assume IV nutrients would be okay."

Ira shrugs and starts dropping dishes into the slot by the sink. "Banana bag? I'm guessing that's either some kind of IV drip, or a tiny yellow thong."

I laugh, but that's not an encouraging answer. "Yeah, it's the first one."

"Hm. I know what goes in the second one, but not the first. I think the main concern isn't you losing your lunch all over my nice clean ship, it's something about your body not being able to handle insulin as well anymore? This is half-remembered stuff from literally decades ago. I'm not confident enough one way or the other to start injecting chemicals into you. Though...well, I suppose I have all the raw data about what's going on in your bloodstream, at least from the shoulders up...I guess I could compare it to a full scan of myself..."

"The NASA nutrition guys kept sending me stuff. Maybe that would help?" I offer. I get up and wander over to inspect the games while we talk.

"I already read it. Remember? I'm a creepy stalker. I even reverse-engineered the new Excel format to read the spreadsheets. It didn't really explain much." Looking suddenly determined, she walks back by the table, and the scanner panel pops back out of the wall. "Excel can't be too much harder to reverse-engineer than the entirety of medical science, right?" The panel directs itself towards her body and the high-pitched whirring kicks off again.

"I have no idea if you're joking," I say.

The whirring ends and the panel closes up again. Ira smirks. "Good. Something for me to pass the time, in case you're really boring."

A game in the drawer catches my eye. "I don't want to bore you. Wanna Smash?"

"Yeah, I'm down oh you meant the video game," Ira replies in one breath, still completely deadpan.

"I...still have no idea if you're joking."

She snickers. "Get used to that. Let me see, where's my Wii U...?" The TV turns itself on and seems to flicker between different screens completely unprompted.

I take a closer look at the case. "Wii U version? This is ancient. I mean, I remember playing Smash with my brother when I was younger, and I played it with my sister's kid a couple years ago, but those were newer versions than this."

Ira shrugs. "I haven't exactly dropped by a GameStop in a while," she replies. "I've been busy."

"GameStop's been out of business for like 20 years," I respond.

Ira pauses. "Well then it's a good thing I didn't try dropping by one, huh?"

"Touche," I reply.
No. 879695 ID: d052fd
File 152426975315.png - (113.30KB , 789x800 , 030.png )

Ira hands me a controller and loads up the game, which is nestled in a tidy little rotating shelf under the TV. We decide to play it standing up, to keep active and help my inner ear readjust. As the character roster pops up, I scan it, smile, and immediately pick my character.

"Samus!" exclaims the in-game voice.

I gesture to the screen. "Okay. I'll be the lady with power armor, cybernetic augmentations, and her own spaceship."

Ira laughs, looks at me, back to the screen, and laughs again.

"Olimar!" the game shouts.

"Fine, I'll be the stranded astronaut dude who solves his problems with botany," she replies.

We both chuckle at our character selections and play a few rounds. It turns out that neither of us really know what we're doing; she tells me that she's had these games just sitting around for a while but can barely remember the last time she played one. I get in a few wins in the beginning because Ira plays too defensively, but she picks it up quickly and starts to win more than she loses. A few rounds in, she picks a random character every round and continues to do well, but can't seem to figure out what to do with slower characters like Ganon or Bowser.

After that winds down, I start looking through the other media she has. I'm honestly not much of a gamer, but I do recognize some movies and TV shows. Twilight Zone, Mean Girls, Forbidden Planet, Doctor Who, Ex Machina, Star Trek, 13 Going on 30, Black Mirror, Gilmore Girls...it's an odd assortment. They're also all on optical discs, which indicates their age. Before long I find myself paying more attention to the copyright dates on them than the actual titles. The most recent one I find is from 2017, 25 years ago. I think of suggesting a movie, but I'm already feeling pretty worn out. "What time is it?" I ask.

"Houston time? About 2:15 AM," she replies. "I guess you ought to start getting synced back up. You don't need jet lag on top of all of the rest of it when you get back." She yawns. "It's getting about that time for me, too."

We take turns in the bathroom getting ready for bed. Ira showers while the ship prints me some pajamas and clothes for tomorrow, and I look through her bookshelves. These look less engaging than her movie collection. I spot The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, but the rest look like textbooks on philosophy or math. Being and Nothingness, Utilitarianism, The Ethics of Ambiguity, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Flow...I extract The Windup Bird Chronicle and start reading the blurb on the back when Ira comes out of the shower and collects my clothes from the fabricator delivery. We both start for our respective rooms, but stop in front of the doors. "If you need anything, just yell," she tells me. She smiles sleepily and holds her arms out for a hug. "G'night, bud," she says.

"Goodnight," I respond. I go in to hug her back, unsure of how much to lean in for politeness, but she unabashedly closes the gap before I can put any angle on my approach. I try not to make it weird. "Thanks again for all of this."

She breaks apart from me and ruffles my hair. "No worries, dude. Sleep tight."

I retire to my room and fall into bed. The mattress is one of the memory foam ones, and the feeling of sinking into it under my own weight is very comfortable. I'm sure I'll drift off to sleep any second now.
No. 879696 ID: d052fd
File 152426977510.png - (234.62KB , 625x447 , 031.png )

Right. Aaany second now. Just as soon as I stop replaying every word I exchanged with Ira in my head, speculating, and dealing with the omnipresent enormity of the situation that I've been suppressing.

I had worked hard to keep my brain distracted, to shut out the paranoid voices, to stay positive. Now, I'm alone in the dark, and reconsidering the plan to sneak into her room to see what's on the other side of those maintenance hatches.
No. 879698 ID: b53bd0

the worst possibility is still not that terrible, a brainless clone of herself. which is a sort of spare you would want laying around in an emergency. huh, maybe that is something she could do for you later, take a DNA sample and start growing a you in a pod that is braindead as well and instead of dying of old age she moves you into it.

point is, nothing you can find would give any answers, and just result in ruining her trust in you.
No. 879699 ID: 3abd97

Immediately going out of your way to snoop and demonstrate you don't trust her doesn't seem the best idea.
No. 879700 ID: 600f38

Don't open the maintenance hatches.
First, that's super rude. Don't pry into things she wants to keep hidden.
Second, that's super creepy. Don't sneak into a girl's bedroom while she's asleep.
Third, please remember that she has powered armor at the ready and needs reminders that other people require sensible gravity and clothes washing; she is unlikely to consider hazards inside of maintenance hatches to be a problem. Honestly, the presence of maintenance hatches suggests that there's something there that definitely shouldn't be open to the environment.

Ira is pretty cool, she has good taste in media, and you're safer now than you've been in ages. Everything is fine, you can sleep.
No. 879701 ID: 0d1514

ɪᴀ ɪᴀ ᴄᴛʜᴜʟʜᴜ ғʜᴛᴀɢɴ
No. 879705 ID: 0e2ebe

I mean, you could think about how Nevada+Secret Past =? Area 51. Or you could think about how arrested that TA should have been. Or about how much you miss your family. Or how everything is fine and as intense and overwhelming the situation is, it isn't threatening and you're safe. Or about how come so many voices want you to do the illogical but exciting thing of trying to stick with Ira.

Your body will knock you out eventually, just don't get up and try to invade anybody's privacy.
No. 879706 ID: 4a5c30

For context, I am very much a voice that wants you to go home. Like arguing head voices are better, somehow.
No. 879712 ID: b1b4f3

>learned biology literally decades ago, thought GameStop was still in business
...she's older than she looks. I'm guessing she gave herself cosmetic surgery, or age reversal treatments. OR, she's got issues with time dilation due to doing a bunch of interstellar travel at relativistic speeds.
Also duh, she doesn't want to talk about her past because then you'd be able to eventually figure out who she is. Possibly with the help of wikipedia.
Also reflect on what the current year is. 2045, maybe?

Don't go snooping around. Read a book, that should get you to sleep.
No. 879720 ID: 176036

Obviously, Ira is a victim of Commander-SItis. She’s a human, circa 2017 or thereabouts, ripped from her home time and shoved into the body of a Commander or other sufficiently-advanced brutally-efficient self-replicating mechanism of war from an old real time strategy video game series.

Hence why she casually fabricates whatever she feels like, uses technology far beyond Earth’s current development, and is touchy about her human status. She’d still be human, just a digitized human mind which has probably seen some shit.

Just assume the outlandish, consider it could be pretty cool (if perhaps lonely,) and try to turn the old brain off for a sleep cycle.
No. 879733 ID: 33cbe7

Two and a half hours is more than some Companions got.
Hm, hadn't considered the uploaded human angle. It could explain the disconnect between her tech and her humanity.
Someone's still got to be flying this ship, though. Whether it's her or a subordinate AI, don't you think they'd know about you sneaking around? If your plan works, it's because they want it to work.
No. 879742 ID: 600f38

Nobody needs to fly the ship. The only time you need somebody at the controls of a spaceship is when something might start happening, like a takeoff, landing, transition, or emergency.

At the moment? Their course has been set. There's another 38 or so hours of constant acceleration, followed by a transition, followed by about 44 hours of constant acceleration, followed by landing. Out of the ~90 hours of flight, you only need somebody at the controls for about 30 minutes of it.

This isn't even making any assumptions about what Ira can or can't do. Space is just THAT empty.
No. 879747 ID: 2007b6

>Nevada+Secret Past =? Area 51
>father's an unexpected sore spot

Ira's dad was a Roswell alien. That's where she got all this amazing tech from, and the idea that humans would reject her, same reason classic alien abductions are always out on the periphery of civilization with no witnesses.
No. 879750 ID: 600f38

1: That seems genetically implausible.
2: Even if it were so, Ira has requested we treat her as human. No point in assuming otherwise.
No. 879755 ID: 33cbe7

Not literally flying, of course, but keeping a night watch. Something's still running on this ship, and it could well be programmed to alert Ira if there's an unexpected breach of her quarters.
No. 879770 ID: 0d41d2

have a wank to take the edge off then pass out
No. 879776 ID: dbf422

Sufficiently advanced etc. etc.

And a person's birth conditions don't apply to how they should be treated. He can treat her as a human and idly consider half-alien head voice suggestions. It's not like any of us are telling him to voice this stuff.
No. 879836 ID: d052fd
File 152435331888.png - (784.95KB , 524x4990 , 032.png )

No. 879838 ID: d052fd
File 152435334851.png - (148.56KB , 724x765 , 033.png )

I wake up feeling a little more energetic, but it's still dark in my room. In the absence of a clock, I boot up my laptop to see what time it is. Houston time, it would be almost noon. I peer out of my room, but the lights are off in the lounge area. As soon as I step out, Ira pokes her head out from her room, spilling a strange blue light from her open door.

"G'morning, Mike!" She greets me.

"Morning," I say back.

"Wanna come t'my room and play doctor?" she asks. I can barely make out her subtle smirk in the dim light.

I'm only half-awake, but not too groggy to recognize when she's joking. Probably best to play along. "Thought you'd never ask," I respond, shuffling over to her door. She chuckles.

As she holds the door open, I see massive holographic projection hovering in the center of her room. I can make out several models of molecules that I don't recognize, graphs, connections, notes, and lists. I rub the sleep from my eyes. "Okay. My room doesn't have one of those."

"S'why we're in my room," Ira says, with a slight drawl. "Have a seat and check this out."

She hurries me to the edge of her bed and sits down next to me, both of us facing the hologram. I can see dark circles under her eyes. "You feeling okay?" I ask.

"Yeah yeah 'mfine. But you're not. I mean, I was looking at your scan and I think I figured out how the whole digestive process is supposed to go and I gotta say, wow, you look really healthy for how unhealthy you are. Uh...no offense. Or was that a compliment? Whatever, look at this," she gestures up to one of the molecular models, which moves in front of us and grows larger. "This doohicker is what your cells wanna make when you eat, and this-" another model moves into place, going through an animation where it bonds with the first one and then splits apart, changing both. "-is how they do it. I'm guessing that's insulin? But to do that, this needs these lil' nuggos, which you're supposed to have already-" more complex interactions start happening. All the models shrink to fit more in the space, as Ira keeps gesturing and explaining. "-but you don't have enough of 'em. Thassa problem 'cause these big doodles use them here, and you don't get more back until this thing happens here, and that's already not happening in the first place 'cause it ALSO needs the same little flippy guys from that step, and to even get those into or out of cells it needs to go through this. I didn't get your heart in the scan, but based on my models, it really doesn't like this part right here. See? This is what it's supposed to be doing, but this is what happens instead." She sweeps her arms across the display and looks at me expectantly.

The entirety of her room is filled with dozens of tiny models going through a series of very complex interactions. I can't make heads or tails of it. "Did you sleep last night?" I ask.

"Phhhbt," Ira breathes out, dejectedly. "Okay maybe not but look," another model takes center stage and grows larger. This one is much more complicated. "I made this guy. Look what it does!" It moves into the jumbled mess and kicks off another set of extremely intricate actions. "See? It goes through and acts like the lil' nuggos and flippy guys, but does it a whole bunch, and doesn't mess up anything else, and see, look!" She gestures to one part in particular, "It doesn't stop you from making your own nuggos and flippies, and once it runs into enough of them, it breaks down like this, boom, split, boop, split, bop, split, bond, split again, and you're left with these parts and the the thing you started with and those connect here, which goes to your kidneys and you pee 'em out. S'basically like a molecular-scale nanobot and it's programmed with chemistry instead of electricity and the chemicals in your body tell it what to do and when to stop doin' it. It's perfect!"

"I'm gonna be honest, I understood literally none of that. Maybe you should get some sleep?"

"I wanneda show you before I made breakfast," Ira pouts. "I can make you a lil' IV of these and then in a couple hours you should be able to eat all you want today, and maybe one more IV tomorrow, and by then your body'll probably've made enough stuff on its own to keep you going. But, um, it's more of the 'sufficiently advanced technology' thing. So I guess if you wanna, uh, just chill out and leave it to the doctors on Earth, that's cool."
No. 879840 ID: b53bd0

sounds like it's like a steroid without any of the side effects. just for that particular system. gives it a jump start. i say inject some of that shit into you then tell her to take a nap at least.
No. 879842 ID: 600f38

"Ira, I trust you. If you've done enough modeling to say it's safe, then it's safe.
If you think you should get a more complete scan first, that's fine too."
No. 879853 ID: 0e2ebe

Basically, she's made magic artificial insulin that breaks down when you have enough of your own real insulin. Or artificial enzymes, or both. But the point is, that she put a lot of work into it and it sounds fine, and it'll get you healthy probably weeks faster, if not months. Ask if she has a way to terminate them quickly if something goes wonky, but I like the idea.
No. 879855 ID: 0d1514

Tell her you'll try it- AFTER she gets some sleep and looks at it again. Write drunk, edit sober. She's obviously brilliant enough to figure it out, but she's the only one who can double check her work and tiredness makes for mistakes.
No. 879873 ID: b1b4f3

Uh ask her if she should really be doing mad science with zero hours of sleep.
No. 879880 ID: 600f38

A fair point.
Tell her to get some sleep, and check her work it in the morning.
Also, apologize for giving her an idea for research just before bed.
No. 879882 ID: 33cbe7

Those bags under your eyes... you sure you're not running this body ragged? Maybe you should give this one a rest.
Sounds like a great idea by the way, I just hope some of it's still working when I get groundside because the doctors will want it even more than I do. You don't mind if I pocket that one for medical science, do you?
No. 879959 ID: 2007b6

How much extra work are my kidneys going to be doing in the course of disposing of the nanotech debris? If this stuff fubars one of my kidneys the week after I get back, I can't just go down to the corner drugstore and pick up a spare. Could we pulse the shield and send out a little comm relay drone or something, to run this proposal past some actual doctors in Houston?
No. 879965 ID: ebc8e2

Yeah, this is the best course of action.
No. 880007 ID: 0eda7a

First of all, props for figuring out substantial parts of biology from what sounds like general principles, overnight.

That said, seconding the idea of getting some sleep and reviewing in the morning, because it doesn't sound like we're in incredibly dire need of this treatment in the next 12-24 hours.
No. 880015 ID: 69d4b9

It sounds like her work could be used to cure diabetes too.
No. 880054 ID: dbf422

Unfortunately I don't think she could really make it large scale, especially not when she's supposed to be a secret.
No. 880132 ID: 2007b6

It's the 2040s or something, there's probably some sort of nanofabrication capability back on earth. Tends to be a lot easier to reverse-engineer an existing functional prototype than develop functional molecules from scratch. Even if the active ingredient can't be replicated exactly, underlying metabolic data included in those design notes could be very valuable to medical science.
No. 880147 ID: dbf422

I mean, maybe in the universe where we're actually trying to advance space travel, but I doubt we'll have widespread medical nanobots in twenty years.

So basically my posts are hypothetical and meaningless, whoops.
No. 880157 ID: d052fd
File 152446876393.png - (151.93KB , 688x1197 , 034.png )

"Look, Ira...okay, first of all, props for figuring out substantial parts of biology from what sounds like general principles overnight. But, are you sure you should be doing-" the term mad science comes to mind, but I decide against it and gesture to the hologram instead, "this with zero hours of sleep? I mean, am I in dire need of this treatment in the next twelve hours?"

Ira's excited expression slowly drops. "W-well no, I just..." she trails off.

"I'd uh...honestly be a little more comfortable trying it after you get some sleep and look at it again. Have you heard the phrase, 'write drunk, edit sober?' I know you're tired and not drunk, but I think the same principle applies here. I know you're brilliant enough to figure it out, and you mean well, and I trust you, but...I mean, you're not infallible. Earlier, you even gave a specific example of a time when your models weren't robust enough and it caused problems you didn't expect. And I know I make a lot more mistakes when I'm tired."

"But, I..." Ira slumps over. "I just wanted to help and you actually want me to help and it's the first time in a while that that's happened and..." She takes a deep breath and flops onto her back on the bed. "I got excited. Oh my god I was basically gonna make you be a guinea pig for an untested drug! Why did I do this? How'd I get through all of the engineering without thinking about that? I do need to sleep. Augh, now our sleep schedules are gonna be out of sync. And I have a headache." She closes her eyes. "Get your life together, Ira."

"Hey, I do appreciate it! I'm sorry for giving you an idea for research just before bed. I just...y'know, don't wanna have to replace a kidney or something when I get back." She doesn't respond. "Uh, can I get you anything?"

Her eyes pop open and she looks at me. Her expression almost reads as shock. "Huh?"

I'm not sure if she just didn't understand, or something surprised her about the question. "Can I...get you anything? You said you have a headache. Do you want some water? Or, I assume there's painkillers in the first aid kit?"

She hits me with another searching stare, her eyes darting back and forth between mine. "Dude, I...I've got robots that I control by thought. And I can walk on my own anyway. Y'don't have to waste energy on fetching me whatever."

"Woah, woah, I was just asking. I...what? Ira, you stayed up all night trying to help me out. I'm asking if I can walk 10 meters to help you out, because you're in pain. It's no big deal, seriously."

She keeps up her intense look for a second, then averts her eyes. "Water and acetaminophen would be nice," she says, almost too quietly for me to hear.

I nod and head for the kitchen. I dig through the first aid kit, finding that all of the bottles look custom, with large black letters naming what's inside them on a white background and not much else. I extract the one labeled "Acetaminophen", noting the presence of other bottles labeled "Codeine", "Nitroglycerin", and "Vicodin", among others. I bring her a couple of the pills with a cup of water.

When I open her door, Ira has reoriented herself the right way on the bed and bundled up into a blanket cocoon. A hand pops out of the covers and takes the offered pills, which she pops into her mouth, then the water, which she takes a drink from and then places on the table. She looks me in the eye again, and smiles. "Thank you," she says, then averts her gaze again. The hand disappears back into the blankets. "Sorry about this. Just gimme like 4 hours, I'll bounce back. Got a lil' breakfast coming up for you from the fab. Hopefully there's enough to keep you entertained...d'you want anything else?"
No. 880158 ID: 33cbe7

Shake the nitroglycerin bottle to determine what's inside it.
No. 880160 ID: dbf422

I want to save them for if we need to fight a bunch of banditos in a Mexican cave.

Um, as for her question, all you really seem to want is to stop worrying and thinking for a little while. Maybe you can just turn on some music and zone out for awhile? I dunno how you like to escape reality, so maybe someone else has something. Tell her to take care of herself before you leave to do whatever.
No. 880165 ID: b1b4f3

Ask her why she has explosives in the medicine cabinet.
No. 880170 ID: dbf422

It's for heart problems.
No. 880176 ID: 69d4b9

Reiterate that you know she fully meant well. You still trust her. You still like her. You'll just be in the other room taking a post-breakfast nap too. Since being able to just relax is nice.
No. 880177 ID: 69d4b9

And also you're implying with the nap comment that you're going to try to keep your sleep schedule in line with hers, since she was worried about it.
No. 880179 ID: 2007b6

>d'you want anything else?
A laser comm link to Mission Control in Houston, and permission to explain this drug idea to them. Force field isn't opaque to visible light so that first part should be workable somehow.
No. 880182 ID: dbf422

Give the passive aggressive condescension a rest. Not only is it insulting for no good reason, why would NASA know better about something she just invented with future technology?
No. 880184 ID: 600f38

Give the sleep burrito a hug.
"Ira, when I asked you for help I wasn't expecting FDA approved. You've done all your human testing on yourself so far so of course you aren't going to be shy about it, and you've never been in my situation. You're feeling bad for the wrong reasons.
You need to take care of yourself. Ignoring your own needs like this doesn't help anyone.
When you wake up we can get a more complete scan for your models, and you can check your work.
Sound good?"
No. 880185 ID: dbf422

I'll support this.
No. 880196 ID: 7e9b42

Skimming previous updates I don't see any time Mike has offered her anything that she didn't ask for first. She asks for things and offers an exchange or she gives things without expecting to receive anything. She's been alone and self-sufficient for 25 years harboring fantasies of helping people out, I don't think she knows what to do with someone offering to help her. Maybe the best response to "do you need anything else" is "no do you?"
No. 880223 ID: f4f341

She's also not used to having to think about other people and their needs.
She's not insensitive, because she's really, REALLY trying, but 'other people' are an abstract concept that's she's trying to make concrete.

I'll say it again: She is a profoundly lonely person, and more desperate for human contact than Mike. Her concerns for Mike's mental health in spite of her difficulties considering his well being otherwise stem from her understanding of her own vulnerability to mental health problems. Mike is saving her about as much as she is saving him.
Heck, she said she wasn't planning on talking to Mike when she dropped off the soup - she knew that if she had a little social contact then she wouldn't have the willpower to go back into isolation.
No. 880229 ID: 0d1514

Logic+Empathy solves many problems
No. 880230 ID: 0d1514

Ask if you can visit the moon and take a selfie next to the flag.
No. 880257 ID: 69d4b9

Mike's kind of malnourished and sick. He sort of needs to go home for medical treatment. Joyriding would be irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
No. 880263 ID: c3ef5e

fail to resist sudden urge to pat head of cute demigoddess
No. 880343 ID: 0eda7a

No. 880352 ID: 0eda7a

"Yes, two very important things."

"First of all, make it a full night's sleep, not just a 4-hour nap. You haven't slept, and sleep deficits aren't fun to catch up from. I'm on a weird sleep schedule anyway, I can take a nap and be roughly in sync with you."

"And second, please, don't go to sleep worrying about what just happened, or what you can do for me. I appreciate it, really, and honestly seeing you like that was kind of adorable. But please, look at me, and don't go guilt-tripping yourself. I care about you too."
No. 880418 ID: d052fd
File 152455227848.png - (44.97KB , 596x427 , 035.png )

I fail to resist the urge to pat Ira on the head. "No, I don't want anything else, except for you to feel better and not ignore your own needs to take care of mine. Don't go to sleep worrying about what just happened or what you can do for me. If you still want to work on this when you get up, you can do another scan of me if you want. You've done all of your human testing on yourself so far, haven't you? Of course you're not going to be shy about it. I know you meant well, and I still trust you, okay?"

She nods, still avoiding eye contact. "Thank you," she mumbles.

"Anyway, it looks like there's plenty to keep me busy, but honestly, I'll probably just take a nap in the other room. Being able to just relax is nice, and I can stay roughly in sync with you."

"Oh. That's nice of you," she says, burying her head into the blankets a little more.

"What about you? Do you want anything else?" I ask.
No. 880419 ID: d052fd
File 152455229547.png - (357.27KB , 1453x1561 , 036.png )

No. 880420 ID: b53bd0

now that is a sign. snuggle time.
No. 880425 ID: 0eda7a

With complete honesty and sincerity: "And here I thought it was just me that wanted to do that."
No. 880426 ID: dbf422

You said it yourself, you just met her.. buuuut snuggling up with her is different than going on insane adventures. A day is plenty of time to get cosy. And you were going to nap anyway.
No. 880430 ID: e7a028

No. 880433 ID: 7d8168

1) She recently created that bed.
2) She made it for this trip in particular.
3) She specifically made it wide enough for two pillows.

You've both been alone in space for a long time. She, at least, was almost certainly hoping for something.

How about you? You in the mood to get swept off your feet by this knight in shining power armor, at least a little bit? If so maybe give her a snuggle. She could probably use one if she's been away from civilization for 25 years.
No. 880442 ID: 600f38

Snuggle up with her.
No. 880445 ID: 9c2d0c

Hey man, that's a full size bed. Just because you CAN get two people in it does not mean it's not DESIGNED for one. It's luxury, not planned snuggles.
No. 880454 ID: b4d323

Get your nerdy ass in there, boy!
No. 880459 ID: 7e9b42

Well it looks like the answer to "do you want anything else" was "you". That looks like a very deliberate delicate touch and an invitation not a horny DTF bed pull. As tempting as it is to pull a Shepard and bang the space lady I do not think that is what either of them needs right now, they are both lonely and starved for human contact and she is tired and emotionally vulnerable, and Mike is still hearing voices (Hi Mike) and her joke about him being too malnourished to get a boner probably has not stopped being a thing after 3 more days of minimal calories and 1 solid meal. I am not saying turn her down, just to take it slow and don't make any moves or push things further but do reciprocate if she makes a move. She might just want to sleep with Mike in the literal way not the intercourse way. This seems like a quiet moment so do not say anything. My advice is just lie down in the bed with her, but give her space and don't immediately snuggle up to her unless that seems like what she wants, let her make the next move and don't be disappointed or push it if she doesn't. She is the captain now remember? Mike is not driving.
>>880433 I don't know about that I have never owned a bed that couldn't fit 2 pillows. That looks like a full or maybe a queen. She is carting a 2 bedroom luxury suite with attached anything-you-want-factory through space like it's no big deal so I do not think she was concerned about the weight of bringing along regular beds, she evidently has delta-v to spare. I also did not read this as her trying to sweep him off of his feet but more like "hey let's just not be lonely together."
No. 880464 ID: 2fe26a

All right, but this meaningful human contact had better not cause a cessation of the voices or anything. They'd hate that.
No. 880467 ID: 7f870a

She wants human contact and reassurance.
It's appropriate for Mike to put his arms around her, but neither of them are in any condition to do anything more significant. Even if they were, they're definitely not in any condition to enjoy it.

So yes, get in bed and hug the sad burrito.
No. 880502 ID: 7d8168

I mean, she specifically said in the past that she normally doesn't design her own spaceships with things like "space to move around." Yes, admittedly that may just be because she doesn't normally do space travel in person, but I'm intentionally choosing to make assumptions based on the other case because it's more entertaining.

Seriously though, you're definitely both a bit lonely and crazy, so exercise caution on the human relations front. And "exercise caution" doesn't mean "don't snuggle," it just means "think about what it means if you do."

And maybe "wonder if you'd be as attracted to this person if she wasn't currently literally saving your life and/or you didn't currently have voices in your head tell you to jump in bed with her." Also possibly "wonder if she'd be attracted to you if you weren't the first person she'd directly interacted with in 25 years." Every interpersonal interaction deserves at least a little bit of emotional second-guessing, right?
No. 880506 ID: dbf422

People like each other because they spend too much time together, because they live nearby, because one rescues the other, because they share interests, because they're lonely, because they're physically compatible. As long as there is no inherent deception and neither of them feels trapped, there's no problem.
No. 880521 ID: 600f38

They both have specific reasons for finding the other attractive.

Ira has a history of people treating her poorly specifically because they are closed minded. Mike has not only been accepting, but has been encouraging and supportive. She has been stumbling over her own faults, and he has been helping her understand and overcome them.

On Mike's side? Ira is a fellow scientist who he can talk shop with, and they get along pretty well.
No. 880679 ID: d052fd
File 152469388147.png - (468.84KB , 816x3000 , 037.png )

No. 880681 ID: d052fd
File 152469389878.png - (5.09KB , 800x1035 , 038.png )

No. 880682 ID: d052fd
File 152469391199.png - (247.95KB , 800x1000 , 039.png )

No. 880683 ID: d052fd
File 152469393461.png - (5.09KB , 800x1035 , 040.png )

"So the entity offered you some 'miracle cure' for Refeeding Syndrome, and you turned it down. Then what happened?"
No. 880685 ID: b53bd0

huh what, what did we miss?

uhhh, lie. nothing happened.
No. 880686 ID: ebc8e2

You took a nap and had weird dreams again.
No. 880694 ID: 8f3617

What about "I'll take a nap" didn't you follow?
No. 880698 ID: 98d602

"I didn't turn it down. I reminded her that the saying goes 'Write drunk, edit sober', and asked her to get some sleep before checking her work.
After that, I went back to sleep to keep our schedules in sync."
No. 880703 ID: 98d602

See, lying isn't a good policy. You can get caught in a lie.
Instead, you want to describe things in such a way that everything you say is perfectly accurate, but unnecessary details are not included.
No. 880726 ID: d052fd
File 152470692496.png - (129.65KB , 1200x822 , 041.png )

"I didn't turn it down, I told her to check her work after she slept."

"So you're telling me that you allowed the entity to perform another medical procedure on you?"

"Ah...did I? I don't-"

"Forget it, Mike, then what happened?"

"I took a nap."

"Is that all?"


"Was this before or after you told her about North Sentinel Island?"

"A-after I...no, she told me about the island."

"Did she? Hm. Tell me, Mike, during this nap, were you wearing pants? Because right now, it doesn't look like you are."
No. 880727 ID: d052fd
File 152470695953.png - (102.92KB , 909x563 , 042.png )

I wake up with a start in Ira's darkened room. She's not in bed with me anymore. I see light through the crack under the door, and I hear faint music coming through the door.

I step out and see Ira sitting at the table, eating a bowl of something. She turns to look at me as I emerge.

"Good morning, bud. Er, evening. Hope the music didn't wake you. How are you feeling?" she asks.

I recognize the music as Florence and the Machine. Oldies. "Uh, I'm fine. Hungry. What time is it?"

"Almost 6 PM," she answers. "You were out like a light, which I guess is not too surprising. Food's on its way."

"Mm. How are you feeling?" I ask.

"Much better!" she answers, enthusiastically. "Oh, and check this out." She turns all the way around, revealing some sort of plastic sack strapped to her right shoulder, with a tube leading into the neck of her shirt. "So when I got up, I did what you said and checked my work. Oh man, I'm glad I did."

"Really?" I ask, because I can't think of how to ask the other fifty questions I suddenly have all at once.

"Yeah, I made a HUGE mistake. If I had given you the compound I made first, it would have been awful! You would definitely have turned into a frog." Her face is completely serious.

"A...frog?" I ask.

She nods. "Yep. Well, a toad. Colorado River Toad, if I'm being specific. Darnedest thing. Don't know how I missed that in my models."
No. 880728 ID: 33cbe7

Did you account for the compound's effects on amphibian sexuality? They never think to check that.
No. 880729 ID: 600f38

"I understand that you want to maintain a clinical detachment, but I can't think of any legitimate reason to say 'The Entity' instead of 'Ira'. It's twice the syllables and three times the letters. And doesn't the first contact guide say to use the method of address provided if one IS provided?
You can throw quote marks on that if you want, but I'm caging my bets on how history will remember me."
No. 880730 ID: 600f38

Deadpan it.
"Well, it's a good thing you checked! I wouldn't settle for anything outside of the order mammalia. Except maybe a bird; flight would be pretty cool."
No. 880731 ID: 3abd97

>She nods. "Yep. Well, a toad. Colorado River Toad, if I'm being specific. Darnedest thing. Don't know how I missed that in my models."
Hmmm. That would be a problem. We're rather short on princes. I don't suppose there's any chance I would eventually become a dinosaur?
No. 880732 ID: b53bd0

oh so it was just a dream that the the bureau.

well, now that it's fixed ask for some while you eat so it can get to fixing your insides.

also, we kinda need a countermeasure to being held in a dark cell for the next forever for being contacted by something. i guess just ask her to keep an eye on us and if we go into a secure facility and don't come out for more then a day then to come bust us out.
No. 880733 ID: 600f38

That's part of my plan for Day 3 - determine if she would like to open friendly contact with NASA, and what she would prefer Mike hold back, then arrange for her to pick Mike up at a specific time from wherever he is and bring him to orbit in case the powers-that-be who oppose her would rather cover this up, or giving him a way to signal for a rescue.
No. 880735 ID: b1b4f3

Dang. Would she be able to turn you back? Maybe by finding a princess for you to kiss?
No. 880736 ID: 7ffa9a

"Are you a wizard?"
No. 880737 ID: 600f38

That's another good line.
"I'm sure you could kiss it all better. After all, you're the de-facto queen of Mars."
No. 880741 ID: 0d1514

Would you at least be a TALKING frog?
No. 880752 ID: 0eda7a

Well, that would have been toadally awful, but I guess life finds a way.
No. 880775 ID: dbf422

I mean, that's one step closer to DINASAWR DNA so, honestly, that's a shame.
No. 880815 ID: 7e9b42

Okay most likely scenario is she's joking, we already established she is a deadpan snarker, let's do the queen of mars/princess and frog banter and move on to the things she is not talking about namely:
-Didn't we just tell her not to ignore her own needs for Mike's? She appears to be testing her experimental drug on herself. I guess that speaks to her confidence in it but it's still potentially life-threatening. If Mike dies it will be sad, but if Ira dies then Mike doesn't telepathically control the ship so he probably dies too and we lose whatever future a benevolent supergenius might usher humanity into. It is worrying that she somehow got a full night's sleep and checked the drug again and fabricated it and intubated herself in 6 hours with enough time to spare to change clothes and make food and listen to music.
-Agree we need a gameplan here that allows for Ira to rescue Mike if he is immediately shipped off to Gitmo. I have no problem with consenting to Ira planting a tracking device in Mike's body, one that doesn't show up with a normal human body scan if possible.
-The cuddle thing? Are we just moving past that? No feelings talk? Let's not make it weird by bringing it up but let's also be aware of the weirdness of not bringing it up. If we don't bring it up by the next time Mike has to pick a bedroom to spend the night in it will be an elephant in the room. Optimize for smallest elephant.
No. 880831 ID: 0f7bdf

do tell her about the weird dreams. for all we know the men in black have some way to invade your dreams we're not aware of.
No. 880833 ID: 2007b6

Ah, so you came up with a version that'd turn me into a newt instead, and tested it on the bloodstream supplying the brain that's flying the ship. Clever.
No. 880843 ID: dbf422

I mean, not like that. That sounds crazy. He already hears voices, acting worried about MiB is batshit.
No. 880875 ID: 0eda7a

> -The cuddle thing? Are we just moving past that? No feelings talk? Let's not make it weird by bringing it up but let's also be aware of the weirdness of not bringing it up. If we don't bring it up by the next time Mike has to pick a bedroom to spend the night in it will be an elephant in the room. Optimize for smallest elephant.

It's also something that, if we don't bring it up, she might think we don't care about it or that it didn't mean anything to us. So, don't assume that not bringing it up is the safe option.

I'd suggest bringing it up. After making frog jokes, and after discussing that she's testing something on herself.
No. 880886 ID: dbf422

No way, that's so insecure and clingy over a single intimate moment. Especially considering they think they're going their separate ways in a few days.
No. 880916 ID: ab0e76

a simple "hey, that was nice last night" will do
No. 880991 ID: d052fd
File 152480893775.png - (55.82KB , 604x438 , 043.png )

I match Ira's serious demeanor. "Well, it's a good thing you checked, because that would be a problem. That is, unless you have any spare princesses lying around?"

Ira sighs and shakes her head sadly. "I'm afraid I'm fresh out, Mike. Haven't figured out how to fab one of those, either."

"Shame," I reply. "Though I suppose a queen would work? Aren't you the de facto queen of Mars?"

Her deadpan act breaks and she giggles. "Am I, now? How do you figure?"

I smile and shrug. "You got there first, and who could argue with you?"

She looks up and into the distance, still smirking slightly. "Hm. By that logic, I'm queen of the whole solar system." She meets my eye again. Her smile remains, but it shifts a shade more melancholy. "With one exception, towards which we are currently hurtling at around seven hundred ninety kilometers a second."

I recognized abstractly what it meant to accelerate like we are, but I hadn't actually stopped to take in the ramifications yet. My eyes nearly pop out of my head as I try considering that number. "Holy shit," I mutter.

Ira grins. "Oh yeah, forgot to mention, you were the fastest human less than half an hour into the trip, and we haven't stopped accelerating since then."

"Shit. What about you? Haven't you gone faster before?" I ask.

Ira shrugs noncommittally. "Eh. I said fastest human." She points a thumb to herself. "Person, not human, remember that whole epiphany? I don't mind being disqualified. If I wasn't, Guinness would be a lot more boring to read."

I sit down and try my best so segue into my most pressing immediate concern. "So, uh, speaking of being the first to do things..." I gesture to the mostly-empty bag on Ira's shoulder, "...is that your Refeeding Syndrome cure?"

Ira snaps her fingers and points at me excitedly. "Refeeding Syndrome! That's what it's called. It's been on the tip of my tongue for days!"

"Ah...right. So, that's what was in the bag?" I ask.

"Yep. I realized it was stupid to try to package the four different things I needed to do into one compound, so I made four different ones instead. Less chance of errors, more specialization, less waste, and waaaaay faster. Now they're kind of like...little clinically-depressed job-addicted waiters with a tray of hors d'oeuvres. They want to do a good job running the insulin dinner party, but if they get turned down too many times in a row or they empty their tray, they'll kill themselves." She beams with pride.

I can't help but laugh, which sort of undermines the look of concern I try to project. "Alright, that got dark. So why are you testing them on yourself?" I ask.

"Well, I'd like to get a scan that includes your heart and kidneys before I clear it for you, just to make absolutely sure I'm not overlooking anything. But for testing, my body's sort of a worst-case scenario where safety is concerned, since I'm already pretty healthy. I made a little doodad that serves as an IV port and constantly checks my blood for problems, plus I'm scanning myself every fifteen minutes or so to make sure nothing's going wrong. So far so good."

I sigh. "Ira, isn't that dangerous? If something does go wrong, I won't be able to fix it. If you tested it on me instead, you'd have a better chance of fixing it, or at the very least you could turn the ship around and go somewhere else if I didn't make it."

"Shit, dude, talk about things getting dark." Ira purses her lips. "Ah, if something were going wrong, it wouldn't go wrong too quickly to notice beforehand, and I...uh...if I see that things are going really wrong in my body, I have options that you don't for dealing with...if...that, uh, sort of thing...hm..." She frowns and looks me in the eye, a little red-faced. "That was obvious, wasn't it? Fuck it. If I saw that this body were dying, I'd move to another one. No big deal. And, before you ask: no, that's not something I am able to do for you; no, this isn't my first body; yes, this is what my first body looked like; and no, I don't want to explain it any more than that. Honestly, I should have done this before I even mentioned the drug to you, but I guess I wasn't thinking straight. Now my punishment is I gotta weird you out right after you wake up. Anyway, your portabello panini is about ready." She stands up quickly, looking embarrassed, and rushes past me to collect dishes in the kitchen.
No. 880995 ID: 0d1514

"If I can't get used to weird this relationship isn't going to last very long!"
No. 880996 ID: 600f38

Shrug, even if she can't see it.
"Ira, I moved past weird and onto acceptance around the time I got over you taking a casual stroll in zero-point-zero-one-three atmospheres. Platos cave says a sufficiently advanced remote control is indistinguishable from being inside the craft; it doesn't even matter to me if you're a braintape running in a box somewhere.

At this point you could say you're a plurality and it wouldn't phase me. Actually, that would be pretty damn cool."
No. 881015 ID: b1b4f3

Well if her original body looked like that then she was born fully human and somehow managed to transfer her consciousness (or at least copy it) into a cloned/artificial body, and has been doing so repeatedly. The crudest method would have been a brain transplant.
So she's a transhuman, but not a true AI.

Ask her if she's ever tried out a male body.
No. 881016 ID: 600f38

I do kinda want to say "So, you've had a lot of bodies in your life. Ever taken a male body out for a spin?~"
No. 881021 ID: 51bcfa

Male body? What about octopus, bird and racecar?
No. 881026 ID: 2e22fa

"Ira, if you wanna weird me out, then you're gonna have to try a Hell of a lot harder than that. Come at me in the body of a bright pink, cybernetic, hermaphroditic bonobo, then we'll be in business."
No. 881030 ID: dbf422

"You're in a real situation, huh. I won't say I'm handling it perfectly but I'll live. Really, I'm just glad to hear you'll live too. Now, panini me! Please."
No. 881041 ID: 33cbe7

Huh? We already knew this guys, she talked about spare body storage in her room, and she was already in a different, spaceproof body the first time we met.
I wonder what her max remote range is, or if the tech even has one.
No. 881043 ID: 3abd97

>If I saw that this body were dying, I'd move to another one. No big deal. And, before you ask: no, that's not something I am able to do for you; no, this isn't my first body; yes, this is what my first body looked like; and no, I don't want to explain it any more than that.
Time Lord! Well, up until the alternate bodies looking like each other bit.
No. 881077 ID: 7e6d55

No? She was remote controlling a robot on Mars. This is her actual meat body. Or rather, one of them. I think we already knew about the mind transfer though.
No. 881082 ID: 7e9b42

-She said she doesn't want to explain it any more than that, so don't ask any more questions about it.
-She's afraid she weirded Mike out and the best reaction to that is just don't be weirded out and don't even make an issue of the possibility of being weirded out, like "oh yeah that explains it, glad you're not risking your life on my behalf, panini sounds great thanks, wanna watch a movie or something?"
-She says this isn't something she is ABLE to do for Mike. Not she doesn't want to, not she objects to doing it on someone else, but she is not ABLE to. There are 2 implications, 1 she is still different than a normal human in a way that makes this possible for her but impossible for other humans and/or 2 someone or something gave her this ability using technology so advanced that even she doesn't understand how to replicate it yet. 2 is scary.
-I hope her whole reason for avoiding explanation about herself isn't that she's afraid of weirding Mike out. She said Mike could figure out why she didn't explain her past but that he shouldn't try to figure it out because it would stress him out too much. That was kind of mysterious at the time but now I think it could definitely be a roundabout way of saying she is afraid Mike would be scared of her for the rest of the trip. We really need to hammer home to her how accepting we are and whatever she is we're still ok with her.
-Please still bring up a possible rescue mission in case the government wants Mike to disappear for knowing too much.
-Please still bring up the cuddle thing. I agree with >>880886 that we don't want to come off clingy and insecure or make it a bigger deal than it was. I do think it should be mentioned in some capacity, even just a joke about it, so it becomes open as a topic of conversation and doesn't become some big awkward thing neither of them will acknowledge. It was not necessarily romantic, having someone to be close to is probably good for both of them, trying to start a long-term relationship with someone on a 4-day trip sounds like a bad idea, and any speculation about them developing a relationship after the trip is getting ahead of ourselves. All the talk about why they should or should not be attracted to one another doesn't matter since attraction doesn't even have to be part of it. We can keep it casual and just be snuggle buddies. Again it is going to come up implicitly when Mike has to pick a bedroom to sleep in tonight and it will already be awkward by then. It could even be part of the problem right now, she might be thinking that Mike is going to be grossed out by the realization that he cuddled a meat puppet.
>>881041 We knew she could remote-pilot robot bodies but not that she can hop into new organic bodies permanently, the implication was always that she was out there somewhere being a meatbag and controlling the robot separate from herself and I at least assumed spare body storage meant she had some robot bodies to control in case she needed to make repairs outside the ship or something. I think we're meant to assume she can only permanently reside in a copy of her old organic human body, but she isn't actually saying that. Can she live in an organic body that doesn't match her birth one? Could she be an organic brain in an entirely-mechanical body? If that last one is true, she could have actually been occupying the body we met the first time which would nullify everything I said about her needing to be nearby to avoid transmission delays. These are questions we still don't have answers to but I think it's more important to honor her request to not explain any more about it than to start asking them.
No. 881083 ID: 33cbe7

Again: Why are we acting surprised that someone this advanced can sleeve into and out of bodies like a change of clothes? Metal robots, flesh robots, they're just remote interfaces in the end. Did you really think she'd be bringing out the primary unit on the second date?
No. 881098 ID: 7e9b42

>>881083 I'm not saying it's a surprise, quite the opposite really, it doesn't give us any information that we didn't suspect already and still leaves a lot of possibilities open. The important part here is that she thinks it should come as a surprise and is expecting some kind of backlash and we should be sure that our response makes it clear that everything is still ok, actually more of a relief since we now know she is not risking her life for Mike's. It sounds like there is only one "real" her and we're looking at her. Actually now that you mention it she's not explicitly saying that she isn't remote-piloting THIS body too, even if it is mostly organic. Then we're back to the question of where she's controlling it from and how she avoids transmission delays, either she has FTL comms or is hiding somewhere inside the ship or possibly in another ship that is nearby and keeping pace with this one. She did say her original body looked like this, so we'd be looking for a human body in a stasis pod or something if that were the case. I think some kind of mind transfer seems more likely but we do not know for sure. Anyhow be polite and don't ask.
No. 881103 ID: 0e2ebe

No one is acting surprised. And the word for flesh robot is "clone". It's consciousness transfer not remote control.
No. 881116 ID: 0f7bdf

well that explains the immortality.
that was one of the more likely options tbh.

can you please ask her how old she is? sure, 'don't ask a lady her age' and all that, but i'm dying here and how secret would that really be
No. 881128 ID: 69d4b9

Friendships can survive some weirdness now and then.
No. 881148 ID: 2007b6

Could be a little of both. Remember the reason she wanted to do that brain scan in the first place? Maybe her only full-upload tech requires a destructive scan, so her main mind is still on durable hardware elsewhere in the ship, keeping the machinery running on a subconscious/reflex/homeostasis sort of level, but she spun up a bio brain to her original body's specs and has that continuously interfaced with the ship on a very deep level. Thoughts could be bouncing back and forth between the ship hardware and her organic brain quickly and freely enough that it's effectively all the same mind, same way two adjacent units on a server rack can effectively be parts of the same Turing machine. She'd subjectively describe her consciousness as centered in her organic body at the moment because that's where all the interesting stuff is happening; piloting a brachistochrone trajectory would probably be about as much fun as Desert Bus, at least 'til turnaround.
No. 881149 ID: 8454dc

Sure it's possible. I was really trying to make the argument that her current body should be treated like her, as a person, and not just a temporary shell, at least for now.
No. 881250 ID: 7d8168

I mean, I for one was thinking she looked a little young for somebody who was 16 more than 25 years ago, and the whole hopping from body to body thing would be an explanation for that.

I dunno if I'd want backup lives... I mean I dunno if I'm gonna even want all of this one... but if you're the serial immortality sort, then more power to you.
No. 881877 ID: d052fd
File 152515394720.png - (92.74KB , 845x511 , 044.png )

Honestly, this doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. If anything, I'm more concerned that she seems to think that I will be weirded out by it in the first place, considering what I've already accepted that she is capable of. "Ira, I moved past weird and into acceptance around the time I got over you standing around outside my airlock. I'm actually relieved; it's good to hear that you're not risking your life on my behalf. Also, thanks for making me a panini! That sounds great."

Ira freezes and looks over her shoulder at me. The soft music fills what would otherwise be a moment of silence. She turns back to the silverware drawer. "Is everyone on Earth so accepting these days, or is it just you?" she asks, still looking away.

"Honestly, I don't know," I reply. "I'm sure some people will be. I'm also sure some people won't be. I'm sure you'd have an easier time winning people over individually than as a group, but who knows?"

She turns around and leans against the counter, looking off into the distance. "Mm," she grunts.

"I uh...actually had a dream just now where I had to explain all this to the director of NASA and a bunch of, I dunno, men in black or something," I say. "That's actually how I remembered it was called Refeeding Syndrome. I guess I learned it at some point, but couldn't remember it consciously, then my unconscious mind dredged it up out of my memories somewhere?"

Ira snaps out of her reverie. "Oh yeah, that definitely happens. Your brain develops specific ways to think and sometimes stuff just winds up locked away. If something puts you in a different state of mind, like dreaming, sometimes it comes back. That's actually one of the benefits of this brain scan thing I'm doing: when I use a different set of neural pathways with my thoughts and memories, all kinds of new stuff pops up to the surface. I've only used procedurally-generated brains based on my own so far, though, so I'm excited to see what will happen when I try someone else's." She gestures to me. "So, how'd that talk go in the dream?"

"Oh, you know, it was a dream, so it went badly." I feeling my face start to grow a little warm. "They were staying all serious and clinically detached, while I was trying to explain...uh..." I start to trail off as I have a hard time choosing my words. I finally settle on, "...how I spent the night last night."

Ira snorts. "Uh, yeah, sounds awkward," she smiles subtly and starts turning red as well. "I wouldn't make a big deal out of it. I just-I mean, I think we both just needed some company, yeah?"

"Of course, yeah. No big deal. Er, wait, uh, was that what you think I should say to them, or..."

"Oh! Well, I guess...don't ask me what should go in your report, bud. That's- I mean, shouldn't that be up to you? Or...uh...I guess I did, uh, initiate, so maybe..."

"So if it was up to you, I'd say, 'no big deal'. Which...cool, sounds like we're on the same page there. So...no big deal, nothing to worry about. I'm just saying that, in the dream, it was awkward, with my boss acting like, you know, 'describe your interactions with The Entity,' and me trying to find a way to say, 'Uh, well, sir-'"

"'-You cuddled with The Entity!?'" she barks, trying to copy the same gruff voice I used for my boss. We both laugh, red-faced. "Whoooops. Yeah, I guess I did kind of make your report difficult, there."

I smile and shrug. "Don't worry about that. Here in the waking world, I doubt they want a minute-by-minute account. Even if they do, it's fine if I just say 'and then I took a nap.'"

"Ah, right. Cool," she responds, no longer blushing quite as furiously. She collects my food as it descends from the fabricator delivery panel and brings it to me at the table, sitting across from me. "You should take the vitamin first," she says, pointing to another horse pill like the one from yesterday.

"Thanks," I respond. "Hey, not to pry, but I hope you're not hiding, y'know, why you are the way you are just because you're worried about freaking me out...?"

Ira shoots me half of a smile. "Nah," she replies, simply. She doesn't elaborate.

I swallow the vitamin as I think of how to proceed. "Okay, good. Because, you said I'd be able to figure out why, but it would stress me out if I did. I'm still not sure what you meant there?"

She looks down, the half-smile now fixed. "Yeah. I guess it was less clear than I thought? I still don't want to stress you out, but I guess it'll have to come up at some point."

I swallow my first bite of panini. My train of thought is suddenly derailed. "Holy shit, Ira, this is delicious!"

The other half of her smile surfaces. "Thanks, dude. Hm. Why don't you finish that up and then we'll talk? Oh! Actually, are you still okay with me scanning the rest of your body to help error-check my drug?"

"Sure," I reply. I start to stand up.

Ira waves her hand at me. "You can stay seated. I might as well get us both here at the table; it's about time to check myself again, too." She nods her head to the now-empty bag on her shoulder. "I just finished the full dose."

I nod and continue ravenously scarfing down the food. The scanner panel re-emerges from the wall and kicks off more high-pitched whining, which lasts a little longer than usual this time. When it finishes, Ira disappears into the bathroom.
No. 881878 ID: d052fd
File 152515396450.png - (94.91KB , 841x542 , 045.png )

I finish the panini and drop the dishes into the sink slot. Without anything else to do, I wander to the window and stare out at the stars, listen to the music, and try to bury the unidentifiable anxiety at my impending conversation with Ira.


A couple of minutes later, Ira steps out of the bathroom and drops the IV bag, shoulder strap and all, into the sink slot. I meet her eye, we smile, and she nods her head towards the couch. "C'mon, Mike, let's sit," she says.

She seats herself cross-legged at one end of the couch, facing the other side where I plop myself down. "This is serious, huh?" I say, trying to ablate the tension somewhat.

Ira shrugs. "Maybe," she replies, cryptically. "I might just be paranoid. I'm probably just paranoid. And, I guess I haven't been sticking to this too well anyway, and I'm sorry for that..." she starts to trail off.

"Paranoid? About what, me telling people something?" I ask, trying to predict the direction of this conversation.

"No! No, not about you. For you. It just worries me that...well, you noticed your superiors at NASA didn't seem to know anything about me, right?"

"Yeah. I mean, I figured there's some sort of cover-up going on..." I falter as I start to get the bigger picture.

"But you know I'm from Earth, right? Somebody on Earth could have told them what I am, what they were dealing with. But they didn't. Nobody wanted them to know. Nobody but you, and all you could tell them is that they should treat me like a human. I assume they're fine. But, I don't know what would cause them not to be fine. I don't know what would cause you not to be fine. I don't know how much knowledge about me would cause problems for anyone. But, based on the fact that nobody at NASA was debriefed, I have to assume it's some amount less than all of it. And I'm paranoid. So..."

I start to piece it together. My heart begins to race. "...So you're afraid that I could be part of the coverup if I know too much?" I fall back against the couch. "But...I'm a major news story! People send me letters! They know about me around the world! They can't just make me disappear!"

Ira's eyes meet mine with an intense expression. She puts her hand on my shoulder. "Breathe, bud. Look, I'm not dropping you off very publicly in the middle of Houston just so you don't have to hitchhike. You're right, if they wanted to cover you up, it would be very hard for them. I mean it, I'm probably just being paranoid!" She pinches the bridge of her nose. "Ugh. You don't need this stress right now. I'm really sorry, Mike."

My mind races. "But you could stop them, right? You could give me some way to call you, or...or you could put a tracking device on me, and come pick me up after a certain amount of time, wherever I am?"

Ira looks shocked. "That's...asking a lot of me, Mike." She looks off into the distance. "I...think...? What exactly are you asking?"
No. 881880 ID: 69d4b9

I think you need to calm down, Mike. Think about what you're actually asking. Whatever a nebulous they could do to you, your fame and prominence as a public figure would indeed make it very hard for them to hurt you.

Ira's chosen approach is probably the correct one. The other option is to ask her to basically keep a ship hidden somewhere near or on Earth just for picking you up if things get dicey. And then what? You live with Ira for the rest of your life? She's a really nice person, but that's a huge ask.
No. 881881 ID: dbf422

I mean, nothing if she's bothered by it, but all you'd really need is a quick pick up and then she can just drop you off in another country or something. Unless it doesn't work like that. Unless you're seriously considering sticking with her?

Until then, just be very vocal about how weird it is that the people who know about her aren't saying anything, maybe hide with NASA, since you are pretty sure they're clean.
No. 881882 ID: 33cbe7

New plan: Lend me a remote body and I'll do the walk of shame in that. Then, in the dead of night, we swap out my body double for my real deal.
No. 881883 ID: 830fb7

With the whole tracker idea she could set it so it activates after a week, becouse if you are going to disappear wouldn’t you rather be with her. She could hide on the dark side of the moon or somewhere else in space waiting for the signal then when it activates locate you, pick you up and leave.
Plus if they want you to disappear all they have to do is say they lost contact with you on the mars station and hide you/kill you. Then make it look like they are doubling their efforts to rescue you but have the mission be unsuccessful. Hiding/covering things up is some of what they do best.
No. 881887 ID: 69d4b9

I think all her bodies are girls.
No. 881890 ID: 600f38

"I think I'm asking if The Doctor wants a Companion.
I've spent my entire life dreaming of a life in space, advancing science, bettering peoples lives, and seeing things beyond our damp rock.
At this point, the best way to do all those things is by helping you.

Please, let me get all this out at once so I don't get sidetracked. When I mentioned I was hearing voices, you immediately recognized it as a sign of a deteriorated mental state brought on by isolation. No hesitation or contemplation, you knew what it was and what it required right then and there.
You haven't shown that level off viligance or attention anywhere else. Your initial travel time estimate was based on an accelration too strong for my condition, and you realized that on reflection. The ship you built for this trip didn't include a washing machine in its design. You got distracted by science and forgot to sleep. You initially were going to skip the testing phase on this new treatment. Now, I want you to know I'm fine with all that and it's all good in my book, but it tells me you're used to jumping out of planes and building your parachute on the way down and prone to getting distracted. You know how you work, and you've got to adapt to somebody else being around.
But when I said I was hearing voices? Full attention, careful consideration, and focus.
But you're not a psychologist, Ira, are you. You don't have years of training and experience shouting 'this is a red flag'.
You've been trying to play it down, but you're terrified about your own mental state. You've been in isolation for years, and your coping method is to learn and apply.

With that said, the best place for me to be in order to best achieve my goals is with you. At this point it's pretty clear that abandoning you to isolation would be cruel. I can't have a friend suffering like that when I could help.
Also, I can start reintroducing you into society. Start a vlog or something - 'Mike and the Queen of Mars'. If ordinary folk get used to the idea of you then there's nothing some sack in a suit can really do about it. Eventually, people will be ready.
Also, I think I can help keep you grounded, and make sure you take care of yourself. I understand I'm a halfway decent rubber duck debugger, too.

If that's ok with you, anyway.

As far as actual plans go?
Well, for all intents and purposes you're unstoppable. Gimme a quick calculation, and I don't need the answer - what could anybody on Earth do if you decided to forego retroacceleration and just do a constant burn for Earth?
Whoever is against you doesn't want you as an enemy, they just want you as far away as possible. They don't know what you are capable of physically, and they don't understand what you're emotionally incapable of doing.
If you say publicly that you'll pick me up in a week, I don't think they would try to get rid of me. Then you drop by and pick me up on the 6th day to hamstring their planning.

Or, you could drop off a spare body with me and act like it's a servatoris - a robot there to observe and act as friendly contact. People tend to believe an AI when it says it doesn't know the answer to a question.

Ugh, these ideas are focusing on me. That's no good.
Ira, what would you like out of this?"
No. 881911 ID: 7bf5b9

say absolutely none of this because of the absolute insane number of assumptions and bizarre logical leaps here

she can be a bit reckless and might find value in a counterweight, but also, holy shit you're a botanist not a shrink

anyhow, let's settle on "sorry head's racing right now but a game plan if any sort would be fantastic right now.

how likely exactly IS this a coverup? how long ago did you last have contact with earth even, is it even probable people Know you exist?"
No. 881914 ID: dbf422

First two paragraphs are very important, very little of that speech makes sense to say.

As for how long she's been off Earth, she's said 25 years, so she's definitely known about. Whether or not it's full X-Files conspiracy is undetermined, but it has been covered up at least.
No. 881929 ID: 2007b6

Instead of Houston, how about the United Nations building in New York? Just walk up to some receptionist or security guard or whatever, "Hi, I'm Ira, queen of Mars, I'd like to join your organization as a member nation and have my sovereign territory formally recognized. Is there an application form I could fill out or something? I'm in a bit of a rush, left my spaceship double-parked."

I think she's got a really good fabricator, and high-res scans to work from. Android body doubles sufficient for a press conference seem plausible.
No. 881943 ID: cb585b

Well, insurance incase somebody tries to assassinate you, especially after the excitement and celebration starts to die down after your drop-off. I mean even before Ira came by your life has changed a hell of a lot, so what if some shadowy organization is going to hunt you to the ends of the Earth and possibly beyond for knowing a huge secret they would kill to keep?
No. 881950 ID: b53bd0

a quick and dirty robot body doubly would be great, if anyone asks why your double looks really inhuman you can just say you look like ass because malnutrition.
No. 881975 ID: 600f38

That would also work.
Doubly so if she hovered into the room so people don't think she's yet another crazy person claiming to be queen of Mars.

Mike can't use a robot duplicate.
The process for a returning astronaut involves being held for decon and receiving a medical evaluation, and even if Ira's robots can pass a medical evaluation it won't give them good data on Mike, and won't get him the medical evaluation he needs.
No. 882141 ID: 69d4b9

Anyone who counts is going to be able to figure out she is who she says she is by proof of her delivering a stranded astronaut from Mars.

Why's everyone going paranoid-stupidphrenic today?
No. 882142 ID: 600f38

Cosplay and trolls exist.
I'm sure they would eventually get things sorted out, but showing of saves a lot of time.
No. 882278 ID: d052fd
File 152533020683.png - (136.04KB , 1038x842 , 046.png )

I try to take a deep breath and focus. I really don't know what I'm asking, but I get the impression that asking her to come pick me up and charter me around might be pressing my luck. I just decide to start spitballing ideas. "Could I use a robot body double, at least for the first few days?"

Ira shakes her head. "What? No. Hard no. If I wanted to root around in your skull to install the stuff you'd need to drive one, and if you were some kind of natural who picked it up immediately, and if I were okay with leaving my technology undefended in your body, they would still notice with even a cursory medical exam, and they'd never trust that it was the real you after that. No."

"Okay, okay. Maybe you could drop me off at the U.N. building in New York instead, and then just sort of hover in and ask to have your sovereign territory on Mars officially recognized?"

Ira raises an eyebrow. "Are we still talking about helping you avoid a coverup? I don't see how that helps you, and it causes a lot more problems for me. Plus, we already told them to expect you..." Ira trails off, looking pensive, "...in...Houston." Her eyes widen suddenly. "Oh, goddammit, I'm an idiot!" she exclaims. She hops up from the couch and a hologram projector in the ceiling turns on with a whine.

"What?" I ask, not sure if this should be cause for further alarm.

Ira keeps her eyes fixed on the empty air in the center of the room, which begins to fill up with 3D blueprints of many unidentifiable machines. "Your comms don't go through the shield, but mine do. So, uh, put 'comms relay' on the List of Things I Should Have Thought About Sooner, right next to 'laundry.'" Her eyes dart around her schematics furiously. Wherever she looks, things start to move and connect.

"Wait, I'd be able to talk to NASA again?" I ask.

Ira is too engrossed in the aerial monochrome information ballet before her to look at me when she responds. "Yeah! I don't even need to put it in orbit. I can just park it a few dozen kilometers up from our LZ. It'll get us a visual on the site, plus radio noise, which probably means media coverage, assuming I can decode it...unmanned, obviously, so I don't have to limit the speed, as long as I build it sturdy..."

"Will we have to turn the shields off to get it away from the ship?" I ask, looking out the window for signs of the blue shimmer.

"Oh hell no. Even discounting the radiation, the dinky little fabricator on the ship takes half an hour to make a plate of food. I'll just beam the blueprints to another fab and launch from there. I have much faster ones...elsewhere."

"Ah. So would the relay be to tell NASA to pick me up somewhere else?"

"Potentially. Hang on, just a sec..." Ira focuses in on one specific part, which seems to undergo some sort of high-speed simulation, shift slightly, and repeat, with each iteration adding another tick to a plot on a graph. After about 20 seconds of this, she audibly inhales, looks up at the plot, nods knowingly, and continues. "Sorry, what were you asking?"

"How does this thing help?" I reply.

"Well, for starters, you'll have open comms again, though I might recommend not using them until we take at least a cursory examination of the situation. It will let us watch the landing zone before we arrive, and let me watch you after I leave. Unlike most of the stuff I'm used to dealing with, people are going to change their behavior because they know I'm coming. If we know what they're changing, it gives us a better idea of what to expect when we get there. If they're evacuating Houston and digging trenches, that tells us one thing. If the media still thinks you're on Mars, that tells us another thing. If they're setting up giant lists of prime numbers and dioramas of the solar system in the field, that tells us something else. Information is always helpful."

"Oh, okay. Are you going to put weapons on it?" I ask.

"Not intentionally," Ira replies, quickly.

Something about that response tells me not to press the issue. "Ah, alright." I gesture to the expanding hologram. "Can we play games on this thing?"

Ira chuckles. "Maybe if I designed them? All my games come on systems that are pretty much hardwired to put out a 2-D image. Plus I'm limited to shades of blue, here."

"Oh? We have multi-color holograms on Earth," I reply.

Ira stops what she's doing and looks at me. "Wait, really? They need smoke or something to project onto, right?"

I shake my head. "Nope."

"Curved piece of glass?"

"Nah. Just these two pole things with lasers and prisms, and a little hockey-puck projector in the middle."

Ira's brow furrows. "This one I have uses a prohibitively large amount of power for household terrestrial tech. Are those even based on quantum interference?"

I shrug. "I don't think so? I honestly don't really know how it works, but I had one at home and it just plugged into a normal wall outlet."

"Huh," she replies, thinking. After a moment, she shakes her head and turns back to the blueprints. They spring into motion once more. "Well, I guess if any field of technology was going to surpass me, it would be entertainment. Something to look into if I'm in the neighborhood again."

"You don't feel like dropping by from time to time? See what you missed?" I ask.

All at once, several areas of the hologram collapse into discrete components, which then duplicate and merge into a single model of what I can only presume is Ira's satellite. "Alright, Mike; how about I'll consider it, if this trip goes well. To that end, voila. Comms relay, broad-spectrum monitor, high-def telescopic video feed, and enough propulsion to pull a sporty 13.3 g in vacuum, all in a one hundred forty six point two six kilogram package. I can get it built and in place innnnnnn...about eleven and a half hours. Er, plus about a 10 minute delay before we get the first signal. Will that make you feel better about the situation?"
No. 882279 ID: 824ac6

"Yeah, for sure. I also, however, recognize that I may be a bit paranoid about this situation maybe perhaps a little bit. I just need to take a moment here."
No. 882283 ID: 2d8f5b

won't they shoot it down? i didn't hear you mention shields.
also, it'll be out of any airplane/space probe/space ship or whatever's way, right?
No. 882295 ID: b53bd0

the fact it's designed for vacuum means in space, and unless you look RIGHT at a thing in space it's very easy to miss it.

yeah, a eye in the sky goes along way.

but what if they are sneaky? like everything looks normal but when i pass by a car someone pops out and puts a burlap sack on my had, shoves me in the back and drives off?

yes i know, paranoid, but kinda sorta literally insane at the moment with the head voices.
No. 882308 ID: dbf422

I say lay off on the paranoia for now. Bring it up in short bursts from time to time but she's already doing something to deal with this bout. We'll see how things go from here, and maybe we should start taking things as they come instead of worrying about every potential problem. At least for now, to give Ira a break from the crazy.

So saying all that, I think what she's doing is really awesome and helpful. She's continually gone above and beyond, and we don't even know if the coverup is that serious. Could be They didn't feel like causing a potential panic for what was then an isolated incident. Or They convinced themselves it never happened. Or Their contingency plan is to capitalize on it by handling the situation publicly and diplomatically.
No. 882311 ID: 600f38

"Sorry, still panicking.
My biggest concern is whoever wants you off-planet deciding to shove me in a hole in the ground and cover me up. Figuratively or literally.
The only ways to keep that from hanging over my head is to make it irrelevant or impossible for them to do anything about me.
Sorry about bringing up the Queen thing again - I was thinking if you went very, very public and opened a lot of channels at once then I'd be irrelevant, but that's selfish.

The eye in the sky helps a lot. Thank you, Ira."
No. 882314 ID: 2007b6

>"Not intentionally," Ira replies, quickly.
A hundred-kilo brick that can be accelerated at ten-plus Gs for... days at a time? Weeks, years? ...complete with a diverse sensor package and onboard brains to interpret what it's seeing, is already a fairly scary weapon. Throw in her shield tech, to kick Newton's Impact Depth Approximation in the teeth, and it bears the same resemblance to a cold-war nuclear missile that a modern tank has to a matchlock musket.

If she were to include purpose-built weapons, it would be with the goal of increasing the quality of prospective violence - precision, avoidance of collateral damage - not the quantity.

Say, once she's got the comm relay built, maybe send another one to check in with your abandoned farm back on Mars, see if they sent any more messages after you left?

Also, make a note of the exact time, then again when the comm relay is in place. Between that and the mass and acceleration specs (so many decimal places!), some intelligence analyst with a background in orbital mechanics would probably be able to deduce quite a lot about what her main fabbers can do and where they might be.
No. 882334 ID: 39c221

let's please not ask the living demigid to give us weaponry of any sort let alone wmds

come on guys
No. 882336 ID: b1b4f3

Heh, if we're avoiding a coverup she or you or both of you could get an interview, and have the footage distributed in secret over the internet. Once it spreads enough it's near-impossible to contain.
No. 882345 ID: 0e2ebe

??? Secrecy is far less reputable than the plan they have already, which is "be seen very publicly, and on national TV"
No. 882365 ID: 2fe26a

Yes and if you could make sure it lands on my ex-girlfriend's place afterwards, that'd be great.
No. 882379 ID: 600f38

Its most likely on Mars.
It took 3 days to create this ship, while the fabricator on this ship produces matter at about 2kg/h. We know this ship was produced for this trip, and we know production couldn't have started before we met Ira or after it arrived.
Since the ship fabricator can produce about 144kg in that time, and the ship is significantly heavier (It looks to be in the 150,000Kg range), that tells us she has a fabricator on Mars that is at least 1000x faster.
To make a conservative estimate, I'm going to assume that it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to make anything. That leaves 11 hours for travel time. I'm just doing back-of-the-hand calculations, but at 13.3G that's about right.

Honestly, with a bit more time I could calculate out the exact time needed to manufacture it depending on where it's being made.

I'm a bit surprised Ira doesn't have a fab on the moon. Maybe she was just worried somebody would visit it?
No. 882428 ID: 600f38

Nope! Math error.
Constant acceleration is d=(1/2)at^2
BUT you want to solve for doing HALF the time, then double that result. So it's (1/2)d=(1/2)a(t/2)^2
Distributing things out and simplifying, that's d=(at^2)/4
We know a is 13.3g, which is 130.4m/s/s.
We know t is 11 hours, which is 39600 seconds.
So if it was instantly built and started on its journey, then the maximum travel distance would be 51,122,016km. That's well short of the current distance to Mars.
The asteroid belt is even further away.

That leaves the Moon, and Venus.
If Venus is its average distance away of 40 million km then the travel time would be 9.73 hours, and the probe would take 4070 seconds to produce - just over 68 minutes. Meaning the assembler on Venus would be a modest 50x faster.

If it's on the moon then the travel time would be 1 hour, the assembler would take 10 hours, and it would be a mere 5x faster than the one on the ship.

Ask Ira how Venus is this time of year. Is it t-shirt weather for her?
No. 882439 ID: d052fd
File 152540626506.png - (147.06KB , 1205x674 , 047.png )

"Uh, yeah, I guess so..." I say. "But, won't they shoot it down? I didn't hear you mention shields."

Ira frowns. "Shields are the reason I can't send or receive any communication signals that NASA would know how to pick up in the first place. Giving it shields would defeat the purpose. If they're trying to shoot it down, we have big problems that would require a drastic change of plans anyway, so let's only worry about that if it happens."

My pulse doesn't seem to have slowed down. "I'm sorry, the eye in the sky is great, but I'm still kind of panicking. My biggest concern is whoever wants you off-planet deciding to shove me in a hole in the ground and cover me up, figuratively or literally-"

"Oh my god, Mike," Ira sighs, covering her face with both hands. "What do you want from me here? Dude...I like you, but I can't just descend from the sky and say 'This one human is my chosen one, be nice to him or I'll de-orbit the moon.' I'm taking you back to Earth, I'm showing up in a spaceship in public, and...and I can take reasonable precautions to make sure you're not going to get blown up or assassinated or...whatever immediately, but I can't play bodyguard for you long-term. I just can't. If Earth's response to my existence is to cover up all possible links to me, then...I'm sorry, Mike, but you're just not worth fighting the whole world for. There's a certain point where I have to say, 'This isn't my fault anymore.'" She collapses into the chair behind her. "I know that's selfish, and I hope you will forgive me, but..." she trails off and shrugs exasperatedly.

Silence lingers around us. I take a deep breath and a moment to process what she said before I start again, calmly and quietly. "You're right. You're not being selfish. I am. But...it doesn't have to just be about me. You said you wanted to help people, and I'm not the only one who needs protection." Ira visibly winces, but I continue. "I'm sorry to keep bringing up the queen thing, but if you went very public and opened a lot of channels at once, you could do a lot of good, and...well, bonus, I'd be irrelevant to the coverup."

Ira draws her legs up into the chair and rests her forehead on her fingertips, staring blankly off into space. She doesn't reply.

Starting to feel uncomfortable, I try to cut through the silence. "Just...just explaining my thought process. Sorry for bringing it up again. You've done a lot for me already, and the satellite's great. Thank you. I recognize that I may be paranoid about this situation, and maybe kinda sorta literally insane with the head voices. I'll...uh, take a moment to calm down and give you a break from the crazy."

Ira's eyes snap to me and her face shifts from exasperation to sympathy. She exhales heavily and stands. The hologram winks off. As she walks behind the couch past where I'm sitting, she ruffles my hair and says, quietly, "You're not crazy, bud." I watch her move over by the scanner panel. "Why don't you watch a movie, play a game or something? Get your mind off things." The scanner whines briefly. "I need to catch up on some work. I'm overdue for this scan and haven't even looked at either of ours from before lunch yet. I'll be in my room. Let me know if you need anything."
No. 882440 ID: b53bd0

yea, let's chill a little.
No. 882441 ID: 600f38

Sure, lets practice Smash for awhile.
Interrupt her in 4 hours for a lunch break.
No. 882443 ID: e80ece

Hey if you can just not listen to the voices for awhile, I bet you'd feel better. Helpful or not, all that paranoia has got to suck.
No. 882444 ID: 600f38

"A weather report on Venus?"
No. 882445 ID: 33cbe7

yeah, could you maybe stop acting on every paranoid voice's new conspiracy theory? I think we're reaching past Uranus at this point.
I recommend The Day the Earth Stood Still. Or maybe My Favorite Martian. Ooh! How about marathoning ALF? You'll never guess how it ends.
No. 882447 ID: 68b795

honestly my biggest worry is not seeing her again after she drops us off. it's too early to worry about assassinations yet, gotta wait for the drone's report.
No. 882449 ID: 600f38

ALF Spoiler: Getting cancelled immediately after part one of a two-part episode.
No. 884183 ID: e3e99e

Actually, are there any books or anything you could read? Something relaxing would help.
No. 884918 ID: 6fa8e1

I’d assign a high probability to there being a completely innocuous reason.Maybe the NASA people decided to keep everything on the down low to avoid upsetting the friendly alien, or decided to wait on telling anyone before having seen her themselves. That means knowledge of the current sighting has not yet reached those who knew about her beforehand and no information exchange could happen.

Maybe whoever knew her in the past decided to keep it secret for some reason. Like others not thinking they are crazy. Or for personal reasons.

Or someone higher up decided to conceal any evidence that they turned away someone willing to uplift humanity. That cannot be good for popular opinion.

Or, or or... there are many possible reasons.


I’m still for some rudimentary precautions. At least some sort of signal to let her know if you are being silenced. A sort of distress beacon. If worst comes to worst, at least she would know people are violently concealing her existence.
No. 885285 ID: af0a57

I don't think NASA knew anything about Ira before three days ago.

We'll know more about the state on the ground when the probe gets there.
A distress beacon does sound like a good idea, but let's bring that up later.
No. 885294 ID: 33cbe7

Do we have to phrase it like 'distress beacon'? Just ask for her number. A cell phone could easily conceal some space-age tech in it to get intergalactic service.
No. 885319 ID: dbf422

We've already brought stuff like this up to her and she's said she can't just drop everything for us. This begging needs to end.
No. 886145 ID: e3e99e

Yeah, lets drop this for now.
We can get her phone number on day 3.
No. 887788 ID: e3e99e

We can also ask her out for drinks on Day 3.
No. 1008826 ID: d052fd
File 163004245267.png - (255.29KB , 1085x2691 , 048.png )

>>882443 I don't know how to feel about my voices advising me not to listen to them. I guess I should take that as a sign that my head is in a pretty weird state.

I decide not to slow her down with questions about Venus, instead replying, "Okay, thanks."

She nods and disappears through the door of her room, leaving me sitting alone on the couch.

I close my eyes. I can't just distract myself immediately, first I have to clear my head. Deep breaths, in and out. I focus my thoughts on my toes, clear my mind of everything else, until I can almost feel them tingle under the gaze of my inner eye, all tendons in them loosening. Then my feet, my ankles, my shins, my calves, my thighs, my waist-

-I could ask her for a cell phone, or at least something that looks like one? It would be easy to conceal some high-tech communicator inside something that was already designed for communication, and-

-No. Start over. Deep breaths. Toes. Feet. Ankles. Shins. Calves. Thighs. Waist. Up my torso. Down my arms. Then starting at the base of my neck, and up-

-Maybe someone high up decided to conceal evidence that they turned away someone willing to uplift humanity? But why, and what lengths would they go to in order to keep that evidence concealed? The sheer-

-No. I force my brain to derail. Start again. Up my legs, up my torso, down my arms...my inner gaze moves up the back of my neck, and I am vaguely aware of my head drifting slowly back against the couch cushion. Muscles slack in my face that I did not even realize were tensed. My breathing stays tranquil as my mind completes its journey across my body. As the last tingling subsides in my scalp, there is nothing left. My mind is silent. And for a very, very long time, the chatter of the voices fades into emptiness.
No. 1008827 ID: d052fd
File 163004248073.png - (778.18KB , 1050x6000 , 049.png )

...The unhindered stars, and the dim blue glow of the shield...

...I'll never have to ration my toothpaste again...

...She's still laughing at my dumb jokes. I wonder if she's as lonely as...

...Does she have to build every grain of rice in the paella from base elements, or...

"...Klaatu barada nikto..."

"...Good news! I'm clean. Now take your shirt off..."

"...The probe's final approach. Wanna watch?"
No. 1008828 ID: d052fd
File 163004250156.png - (395.45KB , 1050x2588 , 050.png )

No. 1008829 ID: d052fd
File 163004252062.png - (168.31KB , 1176x937 , 051.png )

Something cuts through the silence I had forced on my mind. A growing sense of unease swells inside me, with a source I can't easily identify. In that beautiful image of the slowly-growing blue dot, a small white swirl...

Ira turns to me with an expectant smile, but her face drops when she sees my expression. "Everything alright, bud?"

I didn't mean to bitter the sweetness of this moment, but I suppose my face wasn't hiding it very well. "O-oh, uh, yeah. Sorry, just noticed the hurricane there."

Ira glances back at the screen. "Oh, yeah, look at that. Doesn't look like it's made landfall, though."

"Yeah," I nod.

She shoots me a sympathetic half-smile. "I think most of them don't. Might not even be a hurricane, anyway. Lots of tropical storms look swirly but don't actually touch down. I think it's kinda pretty, even. I mean, doesn't compare to the storms on Jupiter, but-"

I chuckle, and her face lights up again. She seems pleased to be keeping my thoughts positive. We share a smile, and I keep it on as I turn back to the screen. But still, I feel like I should be remembering...something.

"About time for another scan, I think," Ira says after a moment. "Still feeling alright?"

I take a look at the bag on my shoulder, slowly feeding a grayish liquid into the port under my collarbone. About a third gone. "Actually, yeah. Maybe it's just placebo, but I think I feel more energetic. Should it be working that fast?"

Ira nods. "It might. C'mon, by the time we finish your checkup we'll probably be about ready to get the first view of our LZ."
No. 1008830 ID: d052fd
File 163004255987.png - (122.94KB , 1056x852 , 052.png )

I am alone with my thoughts for a while as Ira returns to her room to inspect my scan. The dreams I was having, the image of the hurricane, all of our previous conversations, they roll around in my brain fruitlessly. It seems like ages before my benefactor returns.

"You're looking good, bud," Ira says, emerging from her room. "I said it before, but you're a badass."

"Or maybe your medicine's just that good," I reply.

"Oh yeah, definitely that too," she says. "I am very smart, after all." She gestures to herself with sarcastic cockiness. "Oh, yeah, how's the whole 'hearing voices' situation going? Any developments?"

I barely hear her last sentence as something clicks into place in my mind. Of course! The hurricane, the dreams, the conversation. Snippets of a half-remembered news story flood to the front of my brain.

North Sentinel Island, the unknown society in the Indian Ocean, was wiped out in a hurricane a few years ago. There were no survivors, no trace of their culture. It would forever remain a mystery. I got the impression Ira may not have been talking about that particular island literally before, but whatever her point was, it seemed important to her. I'm not sure if I should tell her or not, at least not without a clearer idea of what she was getting at.

Ira cocks her head to the side slightly. "Mike? Bud? You're getting that look again."
No. 1008832 ID: d052fd

Apologies for the precipitous drop in art quality, it's been a while since I arted.
No. 1008835 ID: 96c896

Well ask for her to explain it to you again. Then if you feel you understand her better, you can decide whether or not to tell her what happened to the Sentinelese.

If we frame it as if she was talking about them explicitly, then the question is, is it moral to force information/technology on an insular culture if the alternative is that they get wiped out by natural disaster?
Well, in that case there's a third choice. Shield them from the natural disaster, but don't give them the technology that would replicate the feat. In the case of the Sentinelese, well, the only thing that could be done by modern technology would be to invade and non-lethally capture the entire population, hold them somewhere secure until the hurricane passes, then put them back on the island.
No. 1008839 ID: f7f340

You may want to confirm that information before actually relayng it to her.
No. 1008869 ID: c92a02

Well, it's something to talk about at least. Oh yeah, North Sentinel island was washed away a couple years ago. But hey, there's plenty of other isolated tribes out there you could flex on, right? Maybe you can even spot a few nobody else has found.
As for the Sentinelese in a figurative sense, at least she got to talk to one. It's more than your anthropologists got. Were there even ruins left to study?
No. 1008870 ID: d052fd
File 163010003247.png - (77.72KB , 763x466 , 053.png )

I'm not sure how I could possibly verify it without relaying the information to her inadvertently. I am fairly certain in my memory, though; I specifically remember now that the news report about the hurricane was how I learned about the island in the first place.

Yeah, I guess I could just get her to explain herself. She's expecting a response from me anyway.

"Uh, sorry. Yeah, I'm still hearing the, uh, voices. They were quiet for a while there, but they came back."

Ira looks concerned. "Huh, I wonder why that happened. Something stressing you out?"

"W-well, I was just thinking about what you said about that island. Uh, North Sentinel Island."

Ira nods her head towards the couch and takes a seat. "Yeah?" She doesn't provide anything else, and her expression is unreadable.

I take the seat on the other side. "How, uh, literal were you being about that? Were you actually talking about that island, or..."

I trail off, but Ira picks it up. "You're asking if I meant it as a metaphor from the beginning, or if it turned into one halfway?"

"I guess that...so, it was a metaphor."

Ira seems surprised. "Yeah, didn't you-" she cuts herself off and takes a deep breath, as if reconsidering her words. "Sorry. It's hard to tell, when I haven't talked to anybody in a while, how into my own head I'm getting. How well-understood I am. Maybe you can relate." She shoots me a sad smile, which I return with a shrug. "If I were talking about the island literally, well...it is an interesting case, isn't it? There's a lot out there on Earth that could make their lives objectively better. But if someone from, say, America said they wanted to quote-unquote civilize those people, it's a problem, yeah? It's disrespectful, taking away their agency to make those decisions for themselves, implying there's some threshold of civilization that they're failing to meet, destroying their culture, all that stuff."

I think for a moment and nod noncommittally. "And if you're not talking about the island literally, if you're talking about...about the entire Earth, all of humanity..."

She looks me in the eye pointedly. "I don't think it should be my call whether you're civilized enough."

I try to replay what I recall of our prior conversation in my head. "...And you just want to show up and exist to defy the people who you think already made that call. The people who already said they don't want to be shown how big the world is."

Ira sighs. "No, Mike. I don't. You said so yourself: I don't know how people would react. It could hurt a lot of people. Just because I may now be able to live out my-" she flails her hands through the air as if searching for the term, "immature escapist power fantasies doesn't mean it would be right. The less I have to do with Earth, the better. Current errand notwithstanding."

I find myself uncomfortable and turn to face the screen. I can barely make out Trinity Bay on the rapidly-enlarging image; the probe is almost in range. Or, will have been almost in range, 10 minutes ago when it sent this signal. I'm not sure whether her explanation makes the information about the island more or less worthy of sharing, but if I'm going to bring it up I should probably do it before the deluge of distracting data arrives.
No. 1008871 ID: c92a02

Mention it. It goes to show: Don't just wait for Earth to call back, you never know what you'll miss in the meantime.
No. 1008872 ID: f8fa51

Do say it. Also say that's why you got stressed out thinking about the island. But don't press her on it.
No. 1008904 ID: 6519cb

Also, this kind of thing is best done one step at a time. Bringing Mike back will be enough to make people think for a while. She should come check back later, and see whether our leaders have doubled down on trying to contact outer life, or instead chosen to bury their heads in the sand.
No. 1008931 ID: d052fd
File 163019477481.png - (199.22KB , 609x1294 , 054.png )

Right, might as well go for it.

"Ira, I just...something else that came back to me when I was asleep, something I didn't put together in my head immediately. North Sentinel Island was wiped out by a hurricane six, maybe seven years ago."

Ira's eyes widen. "What?"

"T-there was nothing left. I remember seeing it on the news. That's what was bothering me about the hurricane, I-"

"-Stop it, Mike. That's cruel." Ira's eyes narrow again and her brow furrows. She shakes her head, disbelieving. "This isn't a metaphor anymore, we're talking about real people."

"It's not a metaphor, no, you're right, i-it is cruel, and I'm sorry, but it happened. I thought you should know."

I feel like I should say more, but nothing comes out. Ira stares off into the distance, lost in thought. I see pain, anger, and confusion on her face. When she finally speaks, it begins with a croak, as if she has something in her throat. "History is full of...dictators, murderers, monsters, who got away with what they did for too long because they convinced people they just wanted to help. Maybe they even believed it themselves. How could I...how do I know I'm not-" she chokes on the end of her sentence and buries her head in her hands.

I put my hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry" comes out of my mouth, but I don't even really know why.

"I could have helped those people," she replies, not moving. "I...I could have helped a lot of people." She sniffles and peers up over the top of her hands at the screen in front of us. Her eyes are red and wet. I glance up as well, noting that the probe is zipping around getting different views of the scene. A fence, some police, a lot of civilians, handmade signs, tents. Ira keeps staring. "Why's everyone wearing masks?"
No. 1008932 ID: d052fd
File 163019479914.png - (87.55KB , 776x954 , 055.png )

The question comes out of left field for me. "Oh, uh, yeah, I guess that was after your time. Uh-"

Ira drops her hands and turns to look at me. "I'm guessing disease?" I can't really read her expression. Maybe resolve?

"That's the long and short of it, yeah." I reply.

"And those levees around the bay, those are new. Rising sea levels?"

I nod. "Yeah. Rising temperatures, melting ice caps..."

She looks back and forth from the screen to me. "Still on the petroleum kick, I see. Hit peak oil yet?"

"Uh, there's a global shortage, last I heard, so..."

"And how about the nuclear weapons? People start dismantling those?"

"N-no. No, there's more of those around than ever."

Ira takes a deep breath, wipes her eyes, and nods purposefully. "Sounds like I have my work cut out for me, then."
No. 1008938 ID: c92a02

So does everyone else down there trying to deal with those things. Maybe you could work through them.
No. 1008946 ID: 094652

If you really want to know the tipping point between "power fantasy interfering" and "needs help now", use your powers to get a mental vote:
Do people believe they can change anything?
And if most of them say no then it's a sign that they're not that free to decide their culture after all.
No. 1008951 ID: b1476c

Ask her what the island was to her. Tell her that, even if she doesn't want to tell you, you'll be there for her because someone should be.
No. 1008968 ID: f8fa51

Tell her you're not sure there is such a thing as a right answer here. Her concerns are completely valid. As are the consequences of not acting. Ultimately, she's the only one who can make that decision. You're not going to resent her for deciding it's not her problem.
No. 1008980 ID: 64ac8e

She'll have to come up with a way to stay grounded. Power corrupts inherently.
No. 1008989 ID: 9512c4

Offering people the chance to be better has historically caused fewer problems than trying to force people to be better.

The technology difference is great enough here that she's not really contemplating being a benevolent dictator, she's contemplating being a god. Any type of leadership role is going to come with responsibility, and "a god" is almost the biggest possible responsibility you can ask for besides "the God" - I'm assuming she can't be everywhere at once. Pretty sure no human (sorry, person) has the maturity level for that.

If she wants to involve herself, it would probably be better if she just offers again to help, rather than dictating the type of help she'll be offering. How can she help people help themselves, and not just some people but ALL people?
No. 1009108 ID: 6c227a

Look, the islanders put up a unified front of saying they didn't want help or contact, so that's... leaving them alone was respecting their wishes. The people on earth.. I mean, I'm here. I'm accepting help offered. And I appreciate that you brought me the soup I absolutely needed as an opener, instead of offering to solve all my problems at once. This whole thing is a LOT, and I wouldn't have known what to do with it all at once anyway.

Maybe if somebody had shown up on the beach when the wind was already knocking down trees with storm shelters, North Sentinel Island would still have people on it. Maybe they would have even started talking to us. But I doubt they would want to move to New York, you know? A helping hand doesn't have to mean domination and assimilation like that. We still do international food aid and disaster relief with no strings attached. Though lines are getting stretched thin, and it's getting harder every year. We definitely couldn't brave a hurricane with work crews to fabricate a bunker. Could you?
No. 1009111 ID: d052fd
File 163035718913.png - (99.33KB , 486x683 , 056.png )

I am a bit taken aback by Ira's change of heart. I had tried to convince her to get more involved in humanity already on this trip, but now that she seems to be showing an interest, it's suddenly hitting me how Earth-shattering that will be. I may have just had the most important conversation of my life, and the enormity of it washes over me like a cold wave. I start babbling.

"Y-yeah, so does everyone else down there trying to deal with those things? If you're going to offer to help, then...well, given the technology base you've demonstrated here, that would be amazing. But, your concerns are valid, power does corrupt, and, uh," I am very aware of Ira staring piercingly at me but my mouth doesn't seem to be stopping now, "You'll need some way to stay grounded. I mean, I can be there for you, because somebody should be-"

Ira laughs awkwardly and holds up a hand in a stop motion, mercifully cutting me off. "Mike! Mike. Bud. You're sweet. You're just-I can't. Believe me, I know what this means, and you and I both know it's bigger than you. Sorry. Making you some kind of...confidant makes you the weakest link in my whole situation, and that's not a position I want to put you in." She sniffles and wipes her nose again, then looks at her hands. "Augh. Yes, thank you meat body, making my face all juicy right now is definitely helping. Just...give me a second."

Ira hops up and runs to the bathroom. I hear her blow her nose, clear her throat, run the faucet. I take a moment to take some deep breaths and let the redness in my face subside.
No. 1009112 ID: d052fd
File 163035721539.png - (155.91KB , 485x1294 , 057.png )

After a minute or so, Ira steps out of the bathroom door and claps her hands together. "Okay! We got off-topic for a second there. I'm going to need to ramp some stuff up before any of that is even relevant. One problem at a time, and our current problem is getting you home safely."

I can tell she's trying to change the subject. "Ira, I'm serious, if you want to talk about what you're planning, I'm here for you."

She shakes her head. "Nope. I will not, cannot discuss any future plans with you, short of those having to do with our current mission. Captain's orders, final answer, moving on." She points to the screen and continues, "Sitrep on the ground: I see a lot of civilians in the area, and a small peacekeeping force who seem mostly concerned with keeping them off the grounds. There's some construction going on, but it doesn't look military in nature. On the feed, we're looking at about six twenty on the morning of June thirtieth, twenty-forty-two. It's early, but it looks like plenty of people are up. I've heard us mentioned on the radio, but I don't know if I can gauge public opinion from that. Currently working on hacking some internet access, and I queued up a soft pattern of search terms to crawl for and dump on me whenever that's available. But, even without that, we can rule out a public blackout of information regarding your travel situation here, and it seems like overt military action against us when we land isn't a major concern." She stops for a breath for what seems like the first time in all of that infodump, but quickly picks up again. "I think we're probably safe to continue with our current landing plan, and you can probably resume comms with NASA if you'd like. We're currently moving about twelve hundred forty kilometers a second, about a hundred eighty million kilometers out from our destination, so our current lightspeed comms delay is just shy of ten minutes. I can send text, audio, video, whatever you want. Unless you have any other ideas?"
No. 1009117 ID: c92a02

Let's record a video to say we'll see them soon, and compliment our benefactor gracious and very understanding host.
No. 1009118 ID: 094652

"Attention, America. [Insert professional speech about the sacrifices made] to find meaning behind the stars.
I have succeeded.

As of this moment, I hereby declare an act of war by invasively scanning your homes for concrete evidence of sex trafficking, which will then be distributed across the internet for local authorities to investigate. To anyone who attempts to dispose of the evidence before the police arrive: this battleship will surgically assassinate you upon entry."
And then list the names of those who have people chained to the walls, followed by a succinct The-Reason-You-Suck speech.
No. 1009141 ID: 84f28b

Maybe we check in with audio, rather than video? That way they don’t see the banana bag until they need to (if at all), or don’t feel the need to pick apart your background/surroundings.
No. 1009192 ID: 9512c4

Continue with previously-established landing plan. If you feel a need to send any message at all, a simple audio or text message stating that you're on schedule should suffice.

"Ira, is there some way I can at least stay in communication with you after I get dropped off? Even if being your confidant is too risky, I think the rewards of being your friend outweigh the risks... *chuckle* and not just because you might be planning to take over the world. You probably saved my life, and I'm not the type to forget that."
No. 1009263 ID: d052fd
File 163054299096.png - (102.90KB , 778x602 , 058.png )

"Attention, America. I left-"

"Hang on, you shouldn't just address America. People are following your story all over the Earth."

"Attention, people of Earth. I left this beautiful land behind what seems like eons ago on a quest. A quest to find meaning behind the stars, to shed light on humanity's future, to provide another stepping stone on our ascent to glory.

"I have succeeded.

"As of this moment, I hereby declare an act of war by invasively scanning your homes for concrete evidence of sex trafficking, which will then be distributed across the internet for local authorities to investigate. To anyone who attempts to dispose of the evidence before the police arrive: this battleship will surgically assassinate you upon entry."

"We can't do that, Mike, this isn't a battleship."

"Oh, true."

"That's obviously the only problem with everything you just said."

"This space Winnebago will surgically assassinate you upon entry."

"I guess we could throw some rocks at them."

"That doesn't seem very threatening, Ira."

"We could throw some rocks at them...from orbit."

"Now we're talking."

"But could I take such a power into my own hands? Am I, atop my spacely throne, truly fit to be the ultimate judge, to rain death and destruction down upon the world's evildoers? To be jury and executioner for every man, woman, and child of Earth?"


"You would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Tempestuous as the sea, and stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!"

"Wow, nevermind. I don't wanna be ruled by some nerd that memorizes Tolkien."

"Shit. I don't guess it would help if I said I didn't have it memorized, I just searched for 'terrible as the dawn' with my mentally-linked computer?"

"If anything, that makes it worse."

"Well, damn. Guess it's back to space isolation for me, then."
No. 1009264 ID: d052fd
File 163054303165.png - (65.94KB , 561x487 , 059.png )

Ira grins. "Alright, got that out of your system, Mike?"

"Yep. You good?"

"Ready when you are."

"Oh, is it a problem that they'll be able to see my..." I point to the nearly-empty bag of grayish liquid strapped to my shoulder. "...My shoulder buddy?"

"Nah. Might be worth a mention, though. I can send them a schematic of the molecules if you think they'll be worried."

"You'd just give away the details of your superscience miracle drug?"

"...Yyyyyyes? It's a medicine; I don't think it's weaponizable."

"Okay, but you could, I dunno, sell it or something."

"Wow, Mike, your American is really showing there."

"Hm. Maybe. Still, I don't think you need to share it unless they ask."

"If you say so. Ready to record again?"

"Yeah, may as well. You wanna be in the shot from the start this time?"
No. 1009265 ID: d052fd
File 163054305605.png - (68.78KB , 561x352 , 060.png )

"Hey, mission control. Just checking in to let you know that my gracious host has found a workaround for the previous comms blackout."

Ira waves to the camera. "Sorry about that, bit of an oversight on my part."

"In case there was any question, yes, the big glowing blue ball hurtling towards Earth at astounding speeds is my ride. Smooth sailing so far, and we're on schedule. We're expecting touchdown on July second, around two to three in the afternoon your time."

Ira nods. "Oh, and I see you guys started building some sort of landing platform out there. No need to mess up your nice field, I can just park on the grass." She smiles, but with a slight hint of smugness.

I hold up one of the potatoes I brought back with me. "I'm bringing you guys a souvenir. Hope you don't mind if I never want to look at a potato again, though."

Ira chuckles. "Speaking of the potatoes, I'm doing what I can here to help sort out Mike's whole...nutritional health situation, but I do want to reiterate that an actual doctor should be ready to take a look at him."

"That's all I have for you right now. You should be able to communicate back through the same channels we were using on Mars, but Ira made a document detailing easier broadcasting methods she'll be able to pick up, too. Looking forward to seeing you all in a couple of days."
No. 1009266 ID: d052fd
File 163054309475.png - (116.66KB , 593x793 , 061.png )

A few minutes later, Ira gets back the first infodump from the probe's internet searches. She reviews the data in a process that mostly seems to involve her sitting down and staring blankly into the distance, occasionally reciting information. "All your messages and images were shared freely with the public," she says. "Still no statements from anyone who should know about me. Lots of speculation. Some of it...comes close. But, given the sheer volume, that's not unexpected." A moment passes before she speaks up again. "What the shit? U.S. president Elon fucking Musk?"

"Yeah, that's-"

"Then who's the Russian- Ramzan Kadyrov? Fucking hell."


"Liang Hung- At least that's not a name I recognize. But still, jesus fucking christ, humanity, get your shit together." Ira blinks quickly, and her eyes come back into focus. She looks at me and plasters the least-genuine-looking smile I have ever seen on her face. "Right! Mike. Yes. I'm sure they're very reasonable men. Commendable rulers, all. Looking forward to speaking with them. Sometimes I just yell for no reason and I'd appreciate it if you didn't bring that up in your report, thanks."

I can't help but laugh a little. "Right, sounds fine to me."

She shakes her head and exhales with a quiet "hooo!" before her eyes glaze over again. Before long, she makes another pained expression. "Palestine, Libya, North Korea..." she mutters, trailing off without elaborating.

I walk over to Ira and put a hand on her shoulder. "Ira. Hey. Maybe you should stop doomscrolling. I know you've been out for a while, but it's not healthy."

Her eyes focus on my hand, then up to meet my gaze. She nods weakly in the affirmative. "Yeah. Yeah, you're probably right. Okay." She hugs me around the waist from her seated position. "Thanks, Mike. Whatcha wanna do instead?"

My mind wanders to other activities. What do I want to do instead, not just in the immediate sense, but for the remaining duration of the trip?
No. 1009268 ID: d052fd

Author's note: I'm about to start another voiceless fast-forward. If there's any other activities you guys wanted to get to, either immediately after this conversation or at any point before the ship arrives on Earth, now's the time to get them in. If any of them are important enough to warrant coming out of timeskip, I will. Otherwise it will probably be folded into the travel montage.
No. 1009282 ID: f8fa51

Get to know Ira better, as a person. We've established by now that asking questions about her technology is mostly a no-go zone, but hanging out, sharing opinions and developing your friendship is something that both might help you in the future and you won't likely have an opportunity to do once you land for quite some time.
No. 1009348 ID: 9bf2ef

Come on Mike, let her share the drug. She wants to help. If you're too capitalist for that, suggest that she trade it for hologram schematics. That was Earth tech she doesn't have.
No. 1009407 ID: f57349

Call the United Nations, offer to trade public release of non-weaponizable biomedical knowledge - presumably they've got a list of priority research subjects and major unsolved problems sitting around somewhere - for recent videogames and other entertainment tech. Boredom's mission-relevant, right?

Experiment with some spicier food.

Check in with friends and family.

Look yourself up on Wikipedia.
No. 1009930 ID: d052fd
File 163115934927.png - (48.72KB , 477x292 , 062.png )

I shrug and smile. "No real game plan here. I'm getting pretty hungry, though. I kinda want to try something spicier..."

"Cool, that's doable. I was thinking we'd celebrate the end of your first round of the medication with a steak or something, too. I'll print out a couple of antacids, and maybe a capsule of gut flora for you to take beforehand."

"Woah, a steak? I thought you were a vegetarian."

"Technically, all food I make with the fabricator is vegan."

"Oh, right. Fair point. Oh, about the meds, it's probably fine if you share them. But, have you considered offering them in trade for hologram schematics?"

"I, uh, actually already got those from Wikipedia. At least, I got the operating principles and I'm pretty sure I can make something work from there."

"Nice. Do I have a Wikipedia page?"

"You do! I'll send it to your laptop."
No. 1009931 ID: d052fd
File 163115938449.png - (141.08KB , 835x759 , 063.png )

The rest of the day is a flurry of activity. Between my friendly conversations with Ira, the constant stream of information she is able to deliver from Earth, my conversations with NASA and my friends and family, and my rapidly-improving health, I find that the voices begin to fade away into the back of my mind.

Ira and I grow closer during the trip, but she almost seems more reserved after our conversation about her Earthly interventions. She's still very physical and cracks jokes frequently, but closes out conversations about herself even more quickly than before. When it comes time to go to sleep, she gives me a hug and a gentle shove towards my own room, before retiring to hers and shutting the door behind her.

Ira has some solo conversations with mission control as well. After seeing her on video with me, they seem to open up somewhat. At least, they address her as a person instead of an unknown extraterrestrial entity. She answers all the questions they have about my current well-being and dodges all of the rest. While they are grateful when she shares the compound that she injected me with, all they say is that they have experts looking it over to figure out how it works and how to synthesize it.

By the time I wake up on the final day of the trip, the voices seem like a distant memory.
No. 1009932 ID: d052fd
File 163115941170.png - (155.47KB , 1000x1150 , 064.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 3:55 AM CT
>2 hours, 41 minutes before the relay probe reaches Houston
>58 hours, 36 minutes before touchdown


"My holograms got you in the mood for monochrome, huh?"

"Something like that. I'm at the point where Star Trek and Doctor Who are starting to feel like slice-of-life affairs. Thought I'd go for something oldschool."
No. 1009934 ID: d052fd
File 163115943603.png - (130.21KB , 1000x1030 , 065.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:29 PM CT
>2 minutes before touchdown

"As the-the craft descends, we can make out some more details. Four legs, or what seem to be legs-"
No. 1009935 ID: d052fd
File 163115946599.png - (75.44KB , 700x600 , 066.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:02 AM CT
>58 hours, 29 minutes before touchdown

"Troops have been rushed across the Potomac River from Fort Meyer, and have thrown a cordon around the ship. They are supported by tanks, artillery, and machine guns..."

"Tanks? This seems like overkill."


"Wait, do you think they'll be tanks aiming at us when you drop me off?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. There will be guns, at the very least. Even in the best-case scenario, people want to have some sort of precautions."

"Are you...okay with that?"

"Try not to worry about it, Mike. I doubt any of these hypothetical guns would be pointed at you, and I'll wear my armor just in case. In any case, we'll know more when the probe gets there; no use worrying about it now."
No. 1009936 ID: d052fd
File 163115949756.png - (777.22KB , 1951x2400 , 067.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:31 PM CT

"...Some kind of metal man standing next to our astronaut, unclear at this time if this is the 'Ira' being we saw in the videos earlier..."

"...Confusion at the front of the crowd, as some people seem to be running away, and others seem to be pushing forward past the barriers. The military is trying to divide its attention between keeping the crowd back, and the spacecraft..."
No. 1009937 ID: d052fd
File 163115951908.png - (141.11KB , 1400x1200 , 068.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown
No. 1009938 ID: d052fd
File 163115956302.png - (222.24KB , 1102x1117 , 069.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT

"...The medical team seems to be having difficulty removing the astronaut, it seems he is trying to say something to the robotic creature. It-it appears that the being is having a conversation with a NASA scientist, we are unable to make it out at this distance..."

"...Holding up a hand, as if to say 'wait a moment,' unclear at this time what-"
No. 1009939 ID: d052fd
File 163115958495.png - (161.03KB , 1400x1200 , 070.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown

No. 1009941 ID: d052fd
File 163115964711.png - (432.38KB , 1324x1713 , 071.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT

No. 1009942 ID: d052fd
File 163115966986.png - (176.96KB , 1400x1200 , 072.png )

>June 30th, 2042, 4:04 AM CT
>58 hours, 27 minutes before touchdown

No. 1009943 ID: d052fd
File 163115970412.png - (305.41KB , 1877x1082 , 073.png )

>July 2nd, 2042, 2:32 PM CT
No. 1009944 ID: d052fd
File 163115972640.png - (249.96KB , 1451x1229 , 074.png )

No. 1009945 ID: d052fd
File 163115973959.png - (171.09KB , 1579x1291 , 075.png )

No. 1009946 ID: d052fd
File 163115976725.png - (272.09KB , 956x1221 , 076.png )

"O-oh god. Ira, are you...you're okay, right? I was worried y-you needed time to, uh, swap bodies, but you're fine, right? T-that wasn't, uh, too fast for you to-"
No. 1009947 ID: d052fd
File 163115978846.png - (495.19KB , 1500x1941 , 077.png )

"Ira? This is you, right? You're okay. Please say something-"
No. 1009948 ID: d052fd
File 163115981616.png - (206.16KB , 1063x799 , 078.png )

No. 1009949 ID: d052fd
File 163115986240.png - (459.08KB , 1027x3578 , 079.png )

"Oh god, uh...Klaatu barada nicto! Klaatu barada nicto!"
No. 1009950 ID: d052fd
File 163115987656.png - (767.95KB , 1053x5000 , 080.png )

No. 1009954 ID: 094652

... Well, that just happened.
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