Phase 3 Memories

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When the AI Melissa, of the UNSC Apocalypso, was fragmented by the activation of the Deep-Space Artifact, some of her parts were send back in time to the year 2004, where she transmitted herself onto the server of a beekeeper's website.

One fragment, called The Operator, was part of Melissa that ran the ship. However, the fragmentation heavily damaged the Operator and she became violent and confused. While chasing the SPDR and Seeker through the Phase 3 Computer Code, the Operator revealed six flashbacks from her time on the ship:


I ran another diagnostic. Came back fine, again. Nothing wrong, just a stutter of lag once in a while.

Didn't feel right to me. //

That feeling that everything is still in the room, nothing's been stolen, but things aren't exactly where you left them.

Captain Greene, I said. Things aren't quite right.

She waited for me to explain.

I have the sense that things are being... moved around.

Like a virus? she asked. //

I shook my head no, I didn't feel sick. //

Then nodded, yes. An intruder, something inhabiting the system.

What do you think, Melissa?

I might be compromised, I said to her.

I still want to know what you think. When could it have been introduced? //

The Covenant Transmission? //

Maybe they suspect we're monitoring them.

A virus piggybacking, she said. Could they do that? Their systems are so much different than ours.

We've reversed engineered their systems, I said. And they have clearly reverse engineered some of ours.

Have you done anything out of character, she asked.

Not yet, I said. I hoped it was true.

It was adrift in space: a squat cylinder of dull gray metal, // about the size of a suitcase. Not pure osmium all the way through - it was too dense for that - but osmium was the only firm echo the sensors returned. We cast a net and reeled it in.

It sat in the airlock, inert and cold. Three kelvin interstellar background, no electrical or chemical activity. Very faint magnetic fields in complex tracery. Not an object, then. A device.

OK, cameras deployed and scanning every square centimeter, damn it. The thing was covered in geometric shapes, not embossed but expressed somehow in the grain of the metal. //

Bars and triangles, dots, ordered but non-repeating patterns. A message, yes, // running around the rim like the tread on a tire. I thought: whatever that's telling us, it's something we want to know. Extremely hazardous. Safety glasses required. If found, please return to sender.

Set in the center of the top face was a square, a suggestion of seam no bigger than the palm of a hand. I imagined it sinking back and sliding to one side, a Japanese door offering access to whatever was in there. Or not. Or blowing up if you tried it.

Is it Covenant? 1st Lt. Sorenson said. He was the one inside with it; suited, curious but cautious.

Capt. Greene looked thoughtful. It isn't us. Melissa?

I said, I don't know. // If it is, it's new.

Rolf leaned over to touch it. //

Capt Greene said, Don't. Let's not try anything yet.

Bars and triangle, dots and squares. A little like Braille, a little like cuneiform. Felt the old familiar hunger: new language like a new cuisine - delicacies of thought and nuance for me to dig into.

Sorenson said, its got to go in the hold, Captain. It can't stay here. Bring in a dolly bot if you like, but something's going to have to touch it. We have to warm it up, too.

Greene didn't like that, but what could we do?