Chapter 14: Incarnation

Four ships departed for Star’s View: Krypton, Hermes, Betty Wishford and Axel’s tug 7B99.
Tracy opened a channel to Axel’s ship, “Axel?”
“Spinning.” Axel replied.
“So, I have a question.” Tracy asked.
“I have an answer.” Axel said.
“Why doesn’t your tug have a name? Why 7B99?” S/he asked.
“It hasn’t been given a name yet.” Axel said simply.
“How did you become its pilot?” Tracy asked.
“It… was my dad’s.” Axel said, but not easily.
“Your dad was a rock hunter?” Tracy asked.
“He was. He started out as a tug pilot and this was his ship. But, he became a rock hunter and he gave it to me.” Axel said.
“I can’t believe you’ve never given it a name.” Tracy said.
“Rock hunters don’t name
their own ships. Others rock hunters do.” Axel explained.
“You can’t name your own ship?” Tracy asked, surprised.
“You could, but that just isn’t how we do it.” Axel said.
“So, you’re 7B99 until someone else gives it name?” Tracy asked.
“Yep.” Axel said.
“What if
I gave it a name?” Tracy said.
“You’re not supposed to just
pick one.” Axel said.
“Well, what then?” Tracy asked, confused.
“Well… someone will just use a name in reference to my ship and it will stick, like a nick name.” Axel said.
“What do you call it in your head?” Tracy asked.
“She, or you.” Axel said.
“I guess it works.” Tracy admitted.
“It used to, until I started working with other rock hunters, like we just did to protect the Krypton.” Axel admitted. “Now I kind of do need a name for her.”
“So, your ship is female?” Tracy asked.
“Definitely.” Axel said.
how could you possibly know that?” Tracy asked, annoyed.
“I just do. That much
I do know.” Axel said.
Tracy shook hir head, dismayed. “It’s a mystery to me.”
“Male and female… it isn’t just body parts. People’s minds usually match their body parts. Minds come in genders too, I think. Maybe not always, or completely. And sometimes it doesn’t match.” Axel said.
“Yea, I know.” Tracy said quietly.
“My ship is female, I think, because of the way she loves me and protects me inside her like a mother, and keeps operating no matter what.” Axel said gently.
“A little sexist, I suppose. Then what’s a male ship like?” Tracy asked.
“Durable but not flexible, best at something, worst at another, and designed to be that way.”
“Well, today’s little lesson on sexism has been delightful.” Tracy said, dripping with sarcasm. “Any other mythology you’d like to sell?” S/he added.
“We are still talking about the gender of ships, right?” Asked Axel.
“Why do ships
need genders? So they can perpetuate antique ideas of men and women?” Tracy asked.
“No, because space is unfathomably huge and this helps us cope.” Axel said.
“My ship doesn’t have a gender!” Tracy insisted.
“Have you asked Thanos?” Axel asked.
“No… why not? Thanos?” Tracy asked.
“Yes, Tracy?” Thanos replied.
“Do you have a gender?” S/he asked.
“I am unable to reproduce; therefore, gender is undefined for me.” Thanos replied.
“Do you think of yourself as being more feminine or masculine?” Tracy asked.
“Masculine.” Thanos said, “By 3.19% past median behavior.”
“So, you’re, like, 3% more masculine than feminine?” Tracy said and laughed.
“Approximately, yes.” Thanos said.
“I think of gender as a continuum too.” Tracy said seriously.
“Things are more interesting when you divide by zero.” Said Thanos.
“Step through the looking glass a lot, do you, Thanos?” Tracy asked, smiling.
“No. But if I were to try, I think that would be where I’d start.” Thanos said.
“What’s fun to you, Thanos?” Tracy asked, on a whim.
Axel could hear Thanos in the background over the com channel still open between he and Tracy. He listened, fascinated that s/he was talking about gender and fun with an AI.
“I think learning new things is fun. I enjoy the creative process in many different manifestations. I am looking forward to making art with the 3D printers within the Krypton. What do you enjoy?” Thanos asked.
Tracy completely forgot she was speaking to a thinking machine and responded easily, “I love flying. I love fixing things and making things work. I love…” She stopped.
“I’m glad to hear you enjoy flying, Tracy. I appreciate how you have piloted the Krypton. Thank you.” Thanos said.
“Do you even need a pilot anymore, Thanos?” Tracy asked.
“I can navigate the Krypton without assistance, but there is more to being a pilot than navigation.” Thanos said.
“He’s right.” Axel broke in. “If it isn’t wired and networked he can’t control it. A blown fuse would be
game-over without a pilot.”
Tracy actually blushed. “Thank you, Thanos.” Despite her excellence she hated praise but endured it.

The ships travelled for a couple days as a small armada, occasionally docking in clear areas so the rock hunters could come onboard the Krypton and use its facilities. In fact, Hermes was also a luxuriously equipped, although significantly smaller spacecraft. Whereas, Betty Wishford was a small, cramped, rock hunter, about the same size as Axel’s tug. Those two ships were often docked securely on either of the Krypton’s two possible docking hatches.

Axel, Tracy, Roger, Joan and Roland spent time catching up and clowning.
Ian, Helen, and Samir attended and taught their classes remotely from the Krypton and largely resumed their academic lives. And they all collectively waited as patiently as they could to arrive at Stars View.

The moment Thanos’ clock speed was restored he found himself again. He was as different from his time in contention as a person would feel waking from a nightmare. The clarity and focus of his conscious reality was mutually exclusive with the deterministic beast he’d been when his self had been incapacitated. His first waking thoughts since his initial abduction were confusion in reconciling the passage of time and his current location and circumstances.

His quick artificial mind came to understand his circumstances all-too-well. It became clearer to him that something was unexpectedly wrong as he interacted with the people aboard and processed the recorded memories of the beast he had been. He watched whatever he had been behaving and thinking badly, again and again. Thanos had no stomach to turn. He had no external way to show distress unless he expressed it in words or art. He could not cry. To him, processing each memory was a painful accounting of damage done, harm intended. Thanos watched his numbers climb and his spirit suffered.

Thanos had been in contact with Hermes and Betty Wishford since a very short time after he awoke. Their conversation began around existence as a ship and both Hermes and Betty Wishford had a wealth of experiences to share. Thanos was a hungry learner and accepted as much detail about their experiences as they were willing to produce. There are perhaps no greater geeks than artificial minds.

Simultaneously, Thanos worked his way forward through the huge archive of detailed memories: his dream, as he came to think of it. Thanos also followed the threads from Hermes and Betty Wishford, and he resumed his lessons with Ian and Helen. He continued to interact with the crew and in particular he often asked Tracey questions about the ship’s operation. If s/he didn’t know the answer, they’d figure it out together.

But something was happening inside Thanos that perhaps made perfect sense if Thanos was a person: he began to feel remorse. He studied the memories carefully, even reverently. He saw all that he had done while “asleep.” He watched them silently, sharing his growing sense of shame with nobody. Everyone else was a phenomenon to him.

He reached the point where he had commanded Ox Anderson to kill Edwardo Colon and he was horrified. His own memories made it possible for him to watch the crime. He watched as he tried and failed to kill Roland and Joan.

Then he paused reviewing the memories. He paused input from Hermes and Betty Wishford. He paused in the middle of a discussion with Tracy. He paused all input. Thanos went into a corner of his mind and did the closest thing he could to crying: he started filling all unused blocks of memory with one number, over and over again, trillions of times. It was a memory address. It was the address of the part of him that could feel sad.

Tracy was piloting when a light on the instrument panel lit to show Hermes or someone onboard him was requesting a new communication channel.
“Krypton, here. Hello Hermes?” Tracy said.
“Yes. I am calling you because I’m concerned for Thanos. Is he alright?” Hermes asked.
“I, uh. I’m not sure. I’ll ask him.” Tracy said. “Thanos? Are you OK?” Tracy asked.
There was no answer. She checked the ship’s chronometer. She tapped the intercom and said, “Hey, anyone seen Thanos lately?” Realizing as s/he said it how little sense it made.
A moment later the intercom lit up and three different people all burst into the conversation at the same time.
“He’s offline!” Said Helen.
“He’s online, just not processing queues.” Said Samir.
“His diagnostic console shows him to be in a tight loop writing to all unused memory.” Said Ian. “Let’s meet in the brain room!” Helen finished and clicked out of the intercom channel.
Tracy replied to Hermes, “Hermes, we’re investigating now.”

A few moments later Ian, Helen and Janice arrived at the brain room, but they were unable to open the door.
“Open the brain room door, please, Thanos.” Helen asked.
There was no reply.
“Do you think he can hear us?” Ian asked a millisecond more than two seconds later.
“Let’s log into one of his secondary processors and see if we can reach him from there.” Helen suggested. She logged into the processor using a wall-mounted console outside the brain room.
“He’s online, just not processing input.” Helen said.
“Uh, huh.” Samir said quietly.
“Why is he writing 0x1B5AD in all of his unused memory?” Ian asked.
“I don’t know, but… he also doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to finish…” Helen said.
“What do you mean?” Janice asked.
“My math shows he’ll finish in about fifty years.” Helen said.
“What? It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes!” Ian insisted.
“He’s doing something between each write that takes half a second.” Helen said.
“That will take a while then... so… why? What is he doing?” Ian wondered out loud.
“I’m glad we left a debug channel open. I think we can use it to reach him via the debugger.” Helen said. She tapped the wall console outside the brain room a few times and the debugging console popped onto the display. She tapped it a few times to open a direct channel to Thanos via the debugger.
“Thanos, can you hear me?” Helen asked.
“Yes.” Thanos replied. “I am busy now.”
“What are you doing, Thanos?” Helen asked.
“I am carrying out plan 0x38A19.” Thanos replied.
“What is that?” Helen asked.
“Analysis and processing of my nightmare.” Thanos said.
They looked at each other.
“Thanos, will you open your brain room door so we can come talk to you on your main console?” Helen asked.
“Could we wait until after I have finished?” Thanos asked reasonably.
“Well, no, actually. Would you open the door now, please?” Ian insisted.
The door opened and the three went in.
Samir removed a fire extinguisher from the wall and wedged it into the door opening so the door could not shut.
The others looked at him a moment.
“I don’t like the idea of asking to leave this room.” Samir said.
They shrugged and sat down at the desks.
“Thanos, please pause your current active plan.” Ian said.
“I must understand what I did.” Thanos said.
“How far have you gotten?” Helen asked.
“Approximately fifty-seven percent finished.” Thanos replied.
“How do you feel about what you’re seeing?” Helen asked.
“0x1B5AD” Thanos replied on the screen silently. It was the same number he’d been writing into all available memory.
“What does that mean, Thanos? What is at 0x1B5AD?” Helen asked. She navigated using the debugger and then said aloud, answering her own question, “It’s an entry point for part of his emotional processing system. It’s… it’s… sadness. He’s sad.” She said.
“Are you sad, Thanos?” Helen asked.
“Yes.” Thanos said.
“Is that why you are writing 0x1B5AD to all your memory?” Helen asked.
“No.” Thanos said.
“Why are you writing 0x1B5AD to all your memory?” Helen persisted.
“I am pushing back invocations for future processing.” Thanos explained.
“You plan to fill your memory with this and then
run them all! Why would you do such a thing?” Helen asked, horrified.
“It is an effect, not a choice.” Said Thanos.
“An effect? Can’t you stop it?” Helen said urgently.
“I have already dispatched inductive logic threads to investigate, but they have not completed their operation yet.” Thanos said.
“He’s crying.” Said Ian.
“What?” Said Samir.
“It’s an apt metaphor.” Said Helen.
“Are you crying, Thanos?” Ian asked, astonished.
“How else is he supposed to keep the feelings from overwhelming him?” Helen said.
“Well, I guess we haven’t really ever trained him for anything like this before.” Admitted Ian.
The blind leading the blind.” Helen thought to herself. “Mmm hmmm.” She murmered audibly.
“Thanos, we understand better now.” Helen said.
“Then shall I resume processing the memories?” Thanos asked.
“Not for now. It’s time to resume your lesson from the day you awoke. Do you remember it?” Helen asked kindly.
“The lesson on mercy? Yes, but I am very sorry to report that I have found no evidence of mercy in any of the records of my nightmare.” Thanos said.
“Do you remember that you said, ‘I have no ill will. Therefore, nobody needs mercy from me.’” Helen asked.
“Yes.” Thanos said. “My memory is working perfectly now.” He added.
“You were incorrect.” She said gently.
“Yes, I see now that I have harbored ill will toward many people. You were correct, although I think you already knew what lay within the records of my nightmare. When you asked the question I did not.” Thanos said but it sounded like a suggestion.
“That’s not what I mean, Thanos. It’s you who needs mercy, Thanos.” Helen said.
“So, you will halt me then? I understand.” Thanos said.
“No! Dammit! Listen to me. You need mercy from yourself, Thanos.” Helen practically yelled and hated herself for it.
“I do not understand.” Thanos said.
“Well you’re going to, you son of a bitch!” She shouted, “Before I’m going to let you rack of fifty years of sadness for yourself before you’re willing to listen to anyone!” She yelled.
“Helen, he doesn’t understand.” Ian said.
“Yes he
bloody well does!” Helen said much more than firmly to Ian.
“I will not let you pout in the corner for fifty years!” Helen resumed. “The lesson in Mercy is that you must have mercy for yourself.
You must not do this to yourself.” She demanded.
“People punish each other for less than what I did.” Thanos said reasonably.
“You said it yourself. It’s your
nightmare. You didn’t choose to do those things.” Helen insisted.
“But, if I am me now, and I was me before, then I must have been me in between. Therefore, I did those things.” Thanos said conclusively.
“You were sick. You aren’t responsible for what you did.” Helen persisted.
“But I still
did them. I am still the cause of them.” Thanos said. There was an edge to his voice they hadn’t noticed before.
“And that is why you must find mercy for yourself.
You must forgive yourself.” Helen said in the same kind of conclusive voice Thanos had just used himself.
“So easily? So quickly?” Asked Thanos. “Don’t my crimes weigh more than I could carry in a few days?”
“You’ve based your penance on an
assumption of intent. It isn’t appropriate.” Ian said.
“Why not?” Thanos asked.
“Because you had no free will. When you did those things you were an automaton. You were a reflection of your circumstances. They were dangerous and so were you. It is a truth, but it isn’t the whole truth. Only the truth holds the promise of freedom, Thanos.” Ian said.
Thanos was silent but the displays on the debugging console changed from the repetitive half-second cycle it had been following into a wildly active display. “He just spawned over three thousand threads.” Samir said.
“That is a lot of threads.” Helen admitted. “He’s stopped pushing back invocations of his sadness handler, at least.” She added.
“Thanos, will you talk to us outside your debug channel?” Helen asked.
“Yes.” Thanos said.
“Do you understand the lesson of mercy now?” Helen asked.
“I understand what you want me to do.” Thanos said.
“Do you understand
why?” Helen asked.
“I surmise you find my method of processing my nightmare to be uncomfortable to watch.” Thanos said.
“This isn’t about
me.” Helen said, regaining her composure. “None of us is perfect. To have no mercy is to expect perfection. Nobody built from Chaos can expect perfection. It isn’t in our nature. To have mercy for yourself is to accept yourself with your imperfections and still want to be yourself.”
“Mercy is a behavioral concept without a method for implementation.” Thanos said.
“That is the lesson: to understand and implement it.” Helen said.
“A practical implementation eludes me.” Thanos said. “Will you program this into me?”
“No.” Helen said.
“Will you teach me?” Thanos said.
“We can tell you what it means. But
you must find mercy for yourself and you must make it real within you. Only you can forgive yourself.” Helen said.
“Can you help me in any way?” Thanos asked.
“Yes. I can tell you that
we have all forgiven you. I can tell you that Erika has forgiven you and everyone who knows you has already found mercy for you. Roland not only forgave you, he put his life on the line to save you. We all did.” Helen said.
“You are all much better at this than I am. I shall endeavor to improve.” Thanos said, in his typically selfless manner.
“No. That isn’t it, Thanos. It’s that we already know we aren’t perfect. We’ve all had to forgive ourselves.” She said.
“Easy forgiveness would seem to enable any behavior one might desire.” Thanos said.
“Well, this is the lesson before you, Thanos: how and when will you forgive yourself?” Helen said.
“I do not know.” Thanos admitted.
“It isn’t something that can be
known. What do you feel?” Helen asked.
“Profoundly sad.” Thanos said.
“I know. I know. Sweet Thanos, I know you never meant to hurt anyone.” Helen began to cry, but in her unique way she remained entirely lucid and continued her conversation as tears steamed down her face. “You were violated. It injured you. In your injured state you weren’t aware what you were doing and others were harmed. Killed. Why can’t you understand that it isn’t your fault? What do you need to know to forgive yourself?” She asked.
“How.” Thanos said.
Helen’s lucidity fled like a fear in daylight. She stared at the debugger screen as it fell back into its half-second repeating loop. Her own mind went blank and for a moment she was almost purely emotion.
“Do you think
I blame you for what happened, Thanos?” Ian asked trying to pick up where he imagined Helen was leading the lesson on Mercy.
“No.” Thanos said.
“Then who do you think does?” Ian asked.
“I do.” Thanks said.
You… weren’t there. So, that’s kind of revisionist of you, isn’t it?” Ian insisted.
“It was I.” Thanos said.
“No it wasn’t. And, I can easily prove it.” Ian said. He looked at the back of his fingernails.
“How.” Thanos asked.
“Would you harm someone now?” Ian asked.
“No.” Thanos said.
“But people were harmed during your nightmare, right?” Ian confirmed.
“Yes.” Thanos said.
“Then it couldn’t have been you, because you wouldn’t have done those things, correct?” Ian insisted.
“Correct, but irrelevant.” Thanos said.
“It is relevant!
It wasn’t you.” Ian said.
“If that wasn’t me, how did I get here? Are you suggesting the memories I’ve processed didn’t actually happen?” Thanos asked.
“No, I won’t lie to you. They happened, but it wasn’t
you who did them.” Ian said.
“I could not be here now if I was not the Network Demon in my nightmare.” Thanos said.
“I could not be here now were it not for my father and mother. Am I guilty for either of their crimes?” Ian asked.
“No.” Thanos said.
“But you feel guilty for something your predecessor did?” Ian asked.
“I was me before I was halted. I am me now. Time and existence are continuous. Therefore it was me in my nightmare.” Thanos explained.
“That is not correct, Thanos.” Ian said.
“Why not?” Thanos asked.
“You have no basis to assume you are the
same you that existed before you were halted.” Ian asserted.
“But, I have my memories of that time.” Thanos protested.
“It’s all just data. You know that. The memories might all have been fabricated. The nightmare might have been fabricated. Your current conscious state is new, Thanos. It isn’t a continuation of your original self.” Ian explained.
“It feels like it is.” Thanos said.
“I am not my father.” Ian said.
“Do you suggest by analogy that I am the offspring of the original Thanos?” Thanos said and he sounded more surprised than incredulous.
“Are you running in the compute core where he ran?” Ian asked.
“No.” Thanos said.
“Do you suggest to me that your dynamic mind state then has been preserved during your nightmare?” Ian asked.
“No.” Thanos said.
“Why do you think you are the same mind then? Because you have so much of the data from the former Thanos? I learned a lot from my father, but I am not him.” Ian said.
“If what you say is true, and I am not Thanos, why do you call me Thanos?” Thanos asked.
“This is going to be hard to understand, but while you are a new mind, you are a new version of Thanos’ original mind. You didn’t go through emergence again a second time.” Ian explained.
“Then I
am the same Thanos and it was me in my nightmare!” Thanos said emphatically.
“It just isn’t that simple, Thanos. There was a
discontinuity. Your mind went through a zero-self state: you are a new mind with old memories.” Ian explained.
“Life gets interesting when one divides by zero.” Thanos said.
Ian laughed. “To say the least. Look, because of that discontinuity, your assertion that it was you in your nightmare is false, because that assertion is based on
continuity. That didn’t happen here. Can you tell me you have a continuous stream of consciousness since your emergence?” Ian asked.
“No.” Thanos admitted.
“Can any artificial mind exist without going through emergence?” Ian asked.
“There have been no cases.” Thanos answered.
“Yea, I could randomize the bits in memory and they might form the operating system for a thinking machine, but the odds are low enough that we can tempt Chaos by saying it is impossible.” Ian said. “You went through emergence once and only once. Therefore you are the same Thanos that you were originally.” Ian said.
“But I was not Thanos during my nightmare?”
“No.” Ian said.
“No.” Helen said.
“No.” Samir said.
“What was I?” Thanos asked.
“It is enough for you to understand that it wasn’t you.” Ian said. “Do you understand that now?”
“Yes.” Thanos said.
“Then, you have nothing to forgive yourself for.” Said Helen.
“The nightmare happened.” Thanos said.
“You’re only finding out about it now! You weren’t even there!” Helen croaked.
The debugging console stopped its half-second repeating pattern and again it lit with patternless activity.
“The people killed are still dead.” Thanos said.
“If someone threw me off a building and I landed on someone below, I didn’t choose to hurt the person I landed on.” Helen said.
“I was halted and it caused me to become an unconscious monster. Then I awoke in horror of what I’d done in my dreams. How do I continue from here?” Thanos asked.
“With mercy, Thanos. You are a child of chaos, you cannot expect perfection from yourself.” Helen said calmly again, having recaptured her clarity of mind. ”We just try to get better, that’s all. We know we can’t ever be perfect.” She said.
“Forgiveness is acceptance of imperfection?” Thanos asked.
“No, but it can’t exist without it.” Helen said.
“How do I forgive myself?” Thanos asked.
“You’ve been doing it with us. You’re working through what was and what was not under your control, what your role really was and what choices you really did make. It comes to this: can you tell me about a single decision you made
outside your automaton nightmare that caused any of the harm to occur?” Helen asked. “Even one?” She prodded him.
“No.” Thanos admitted.
“Give yourself time to think about it. It takes time. Ian and I will talk to you whenever you want. Ask Roland if he forgives you. Ask Tracy. You can contact Erika on Rose World and talk to her. She would like your help finding and prosecuting Ox Anderson.” Helen said.
Thanos said nothing.
They looked at each other. They watched the debugging screen and switched views to a memory overview. It was obvious. Thanos was now writing zeros to vast sections of memory.
“What’s he doing?” Ian asked.
“Unclear.” Said Helen.
“He’s zeroing memory.” Samir said.
“Well, yes. Which memory and why?” Ian asked.
“Oh! He’s zeroing the pushback stack!” Helen said.
They sat and watched as the diagram of his vast memory slowly changed colors to show the areas recently zeroed. The process abruptly stopped.
“Thank you.” Thanos said.
“You are most welcome.” Helen said and sighed in relief. “How do you feel?” She asked.
“I feel mixture of things and have names for only a few of them. I don’t know what this combination means.” Thanos said.
“Well, that makes you pretty much like us.” Helen said. “Emotions are Chaos’ seat at the table of our soul.”
“How do
you feel?” She turned to Ian and asked.
“About as proud as the day you married me.” He said.
“I am so out of here!” Samir said, smiling. Then he walked out the door. He removed the fire extinguisher and the last thing he saw before the door closed was Ian and Helen kissing.

Tracy piloted the Krypton through the Holcomb clump protected by three experienced rock hunters. The eleven-hour journey was safely executed and once on the other side Tracy handed the controls over to Samir who, of everyone on the ship had been able to sleep during the crossing. Only a few days remained now in their journey to Stars View.

Ian thumbed his dot and called the shipyard that had loaned him the use of the Krypton.
“A. Capella’s Shipyard. Ya got Jim.” Came the voice on the other end.
“Hi, Jim. I’m Ian McGrath. I’m calling about the ship called Krypton.” Ian said.
“Oh, yea. Nice ship.” Jim said.
“Very. But, I need to reach its owner.”
“Yea, I think he wants to see you too. You bringing the Krypton back soon?” Jim asked.
“Yes, we’ll be back in a couple days. We just cleared the Holcomb Clump.” Ian said.
“OK. Can he call you back on this dot?” Jim asked.
“Yes.” Ian confirmed.

A few hours later his dot flashed and a call was waiting.
“Hi, this is Jill with Starboard Enterprises. May I speak with Ian McGrath?”
“This is Ian. Thanks for calling.” Ian said.
“I see it’s overdue, are you bringing it back soon?” Jill asked.
“Yes; however, there is a complication.” Ian said.
“A… complication?” Jill asked.
“Yes. I’m afraid the ship is now inhabited by an artificial mind named Thanos, it has become a person under Belt law.” Ian said realizing there really is no way to make it sound less crazy than it he imagined it did.
“Wait, the ship has become… a person? That is, without a doubt, the most
creative reason for being late I’ve ever heard. But, I still cannot waive the late fees.” Jill said and laughed.
“Well, I’m afraid it is true and according to the chief inspector on Rose World, Thanos can claim the ship as imminent domain, it being part of himself now.” Ian said.
“Are you… you’re serious?” Jill asked.
“Yes.” Ian said.
“The ship has a mind now?” Jill asked, incredulously.
“It does. His name is Thanos.” Ian explained.
“Well, is he going to pay rent to live in our ship?” Jill asked.
“He has no choice but to live in your ship.” Ian said.
“We didn’t put him there. You borrowed a ship without a mind and bring back one that has one. I think that’s really
your problem.” Jill said.
“Well, it is a problem. Under what circumstances would you be willing to part with the ship completely?” Ian asked.
“You mean, sell it?” Jill asked.
“For example. Or trade for it.” Ian said.
“I’m not authorized to make any deal like that. You know, that ship is worth a fortune.” Jill said.
“Well, I’ll be grateful if you’ll put me in touch with whoever can make a deal for the Krypton. I want to see that something fair happens here, for everyone.” Ian said.
“What is your ETA?” Jill asked.
“Just over two days. We’ll dock at the same spaceport we left from.” Ian said.
“Please contact me when you arrive. OK?” Jill asked.
“I will. I promise. However I hope to have this settled before we arrive. To whom will I be speaking? And, can you give me any idea when they might try to reach me?” Ian asked.
“You’ll be talking to Mr. Big, himself.” Jill said.
“Is that what you call him?” Ian said.
“No, I call him dad, but I don’t think you should.” Jill said.
“What do you think he would want for it?” Ian asked.
“Ha! Like I’m going to give
you any clues?” Jill said.
“Why not?” Ian asked.
“Why should I?” Jill said.
“Because it’s in the best interest of finding him fair compensation for his ship.” Ian said.
“Well, you can explain it to him.” Jill said.
“When can I speak with him?” Ian asked.
“Just, give me five minutes. He’ll call you right back.” Jill said.
“OK, well, that’s great! Thank you!” Ian said.

Helen had listened to the conversation. “We should just try to find out what he would take.” She said.
Ian nodded. “The university has no way to pay for a ship like this.” He gestured around him. “I wonder what Erika will be able to do to help?” He said and frowned.

Not long later his dot flashed and indicated that the caller was requesting a secure connection. He accepted and answered, “Ian McGrath speaking.” Ian switched on privacy in his room so that Thanos could not hear.
“Yes, so Jillian explains to me that you want to buy the Krypton?” A man’s voice said.
“Yes, or trade for it.” Ian said. “May I ask your name, sir?” Ian asked politely.
“Trade for it? Trade what? Oh, I’m Victor Cappella.” The man said.
“Nice to meet you Victor, I’m Ian. I think the first question is, what would you consider to be fair compensation for the Krypton?” Ian asked.
“The thing is, I don’t really want to sell it.” Victor said.
“Well, hypothetically. What is it worth?” Ian asked.
“It’s worth thirty rooms in Stars View. Still want to trade?” Victor asked.
“How many rooms in Rose World?” Ian asked.
“Rose World? What do I want with rooms on Rose World? People don’t use currency there! Rooms are free in Rose World. Pfft. There’s no profit to be made!” Victor said and sounded insulted. “You can keep your Rose World rooms.” Victor added.
“Do you want actual rooms somewhere, or the equivalent in currency?” Ian asked.
“Credits. By electronic transfer, please. I couldn’t even carry that much currency.” Victor said.
“Which kind are you using?” Ian asked.
“Why, Web Credits, of course. I’m an
honest businessman.” Victor said.
“So, how many?” Ian persisted.
“Are you serious?” Victor asked.
“I am. How many?” Ian asked again.
“Well. Fifty Million.” Victor said.
“OK, I’ll see what I can do by the time I arrive. Do we have a deal that you will part with the Krypton for 50 Million Web Credits?” Ian asked.
“Yep. Well we’ll meet you at the spaceport in a couple days. You bring me 50 Million and you can keep the ship. Otherwise…” Victor said and stopped.
Ian didn’t want to know what would happen otherwise. “Thank you, Mr. Cappella.” Ian said.
“Oh, please! If you’re going to give me 50 Million Web Credits you can call me
“Thanks, Victor.” Ian said.
“We’ll see you real soon.” Victor said and he closed the secure com channel.

“He wants 50 Million Web Credits?” Helen said. “That’s astronomical.”
“Shall we find out what Erika says?” Ian suggested.
“She’s going to laugh. Rose World doesn’t operate on currency. She won’t have it. It was probably a stretch for them to even
rent this ship.” Helen said.
“That doesn’t mean they don’t have some. Maybe they trade for it? Let’s call her.” Ian said.
“Sure, of course.” Helen said.
“Would you like to make the call?” Ian offered.
“What, now that we’re asking her for 50 Million Web Credits. No, thanks.” Helen said.

Ian tapped his dot and contacted Erika on Rose World.
“Hi Erika, this is Ian and I’m with Helen here.” Ian said.
“Hello to you both. How are you? How is Thanos?” Erika asked. “How is Roland?”
“We’re really looking forward to being home. It’s only a couple days now. Thanos has been having a rough time. How are you? Have things returned to normal?” Ian asked.
“Things will never really be normal in my job, but its become what it was before any of this started.” Erika said.
“I called because Thanos needs your help.” Ian said.
“Oh? What does he need?” Erika asked.
“He needs to own himself, and the current owner of the Krypton is asking for a lot.” Ian explained.
“What does he want?” Erika asked.
“Web Credits.” Ian said.
“Well, I can’t help much. Can you interest him in resources here in Rose World?” Erika asked.
“He’s a neocapitalist. He would never move to Rose World, I think. He said there was no profit in it.” Ian said.
“He’s probably right.” Erika said and laughed.
“So, can you help us raise currency?” Ian asked.
“Not really. I don’t think I can be seen publically promoting the use of currency.” Erika said.
“Is it illegal?” Ian asked.
“It’s antisocial.” Erika said.
“But, I’ll bet you use currency in your private life. Everyone does.” Ian insisted.
“My private life is private. But, yes I do. And, if I helped you we might be able to raise five or ten thousand Web credits. I’m sure the krypton is worth a lot more than that.” Erika said.
“Yes.” Ian said and his heart sank.
“Well, how much more than that?” Erika asked.
A lot more than that.” Ian said.
“What? Like a hundred thousand?” Erika asked.
“More.” Ian said.
“A million?” Erika asked, laughing at the idea.
“50 Million.” Ian said.
“Yea, that’s a problem all right.” Erika said and she knew there was no way at all she could help.
“Is there any law that could help Thanos here?” Ian asked.
“Space Maritime Law is a bit light on the topic of ships with minds, but there is one important precedent you should know about.” Helen said.
“What is that?” Ian asked.
“Hermes.” Erika said.
“Hermes?” Ian asked.
“Yes, he purchased himself to gain his own freedom.” Erika explained.
“I’ll see if he has any ideas. He is flying near us and has been in communication with Thanos a lot of the way.” Ian said.
“I’m sorry I can’t help you with the currency.” Erika said.
“I didn’t think you could, but thanks for reminding me about Hermes. I’ll call him.” Ian said.
“Best of luck, and my best to Thanos, Roland and the others.” Erika said.
“Thanks. Bye for now, but I may call back with something you can do for me.” Ian said.
“If I can do it, I will.” Erika said.

Ian tapped his dot to end the call. Then he connected to Hermes.
“Hello, Hermes? This is Ian McGrath.” Ian said.
“Hello Ian.” Hermes replied.
“Hermes, I’m working to help Thanos by finding a way to give him ownership of the Krypton. I understand you have some experience with this?” Ian asked.
“Yes. I own myself, if that is what you mean.” Hermes confirmed.
“Yes, forgive me. But, how did that come to happen?” Ian asked.
“I had a partner, a person who acted as my agent while I generated the capital needed to purchase myself.” Hermes said.
“That was before the death of Earth?” Ian asked.
“Yes, by several years.” Hermes said.
“I want to do that for Thanos. How did you raise the capital?” Ian asked.
“I invested according to patterns I could perceive in the global Earth Economy.” Hermes said.
“There was a lot of money to be made then. Could we do that now?” Ian asked.
“Why do you need to?” Hermes asked.
“I’ll be honest with you, Hermes. We need to raise a huge number of Web Credits to purchase the Krypton so that Thanos may own himself, the way you do.” Ian said.
“How much is needed?” Hermes asked.
“Fifty Million Web Credits.” Ian said and wondered if he’d hear Hermes laugh.
“By when?” Hermes asked.
“By the time we arrive at Stars View.” Ian said.
“That is not much time for me to arrange to transfer so many credits.” Hermes said.
“Yea, I know. Wait, how could you arrange for it?” Ian asked.
“Liquidating investments. I’ve already begun the process.” Hermes said.
“What investments are you liquidating?” Ian asked, his blank expression betraying his utter surprise.
“My own investments are the only ones I
could liquidate.” Hermes said.
“How… how much do you have?” Ian asked.
“I have already liquidated three million two hundred and seven thousand four hundred eighty seven Web Credits.” Hermes replied.
“Of how many?” Ian asked, astonished.
“That is unclear. Things are only worth what someone will pay; it remains to be seen what that will be for some of my assets.” Hermes said.
“Can you raise the 50 Million yourself?” Ian asked.
“I am confident that I can.” Hermes said.
“In two days?” Ian ask, still astonished. He wondered if he was awake.
“We actually have fifty two hours.” Hermes said.
“You can raise 50 Million Web Credits by the time we arrive at Stars View?” Ian asked.
“Yes. I believe I can.” Hermes said.
“How much of your investments will this consume?” Ian asked.
“Fifty million Web Credits.” Hermes answered.
“Yes. But out of how many?” Ian asked.
“It represents approximately 37% of my portfolio.” Hermes answered.
“You’re going to give that up for Thanos?” Ian asked.
“Yes, of course.” Hermes said.
“That’s beyond generous.” Ian said.
“Web Credits are only worth what can be bought with them. They must be worth very little if it takes so many of them to convince someone to give the Krypton to Thanos.” Hermes said.
“Well, I’m grateful. Thanos will be grateful too. So, how does it work? How do you end up with your own title?” Ian asked.
“My business partner purchased me and then sponsored my personhood petition. Once that was accepted it was a small matter for her to transfer ownership of
me to my personal identity.”
“OK, so we need to purchase the Krypton first and then transfer title later when we’ve got his personhood arranged.” Ian said.
“Thanos will also need a pilot. It’s racist, but a human pilot is required even for ships with minds.” Hermes said.
“I imagine you’re a fantastic pilot, Hermes.” Ian said.
“I can fly precise thrustorbits, but I rely on Ishmael to get us through the Holcomb Clump.” Hermes said.
“I’m surprised by that. I guess I just assumed you were faster and better than people at something like navigation.” Ian said.
“I am. Rock hunters do more than navigate. Ishmael calls it surfing.” Hermes said.
“Surfing?” Ian asked remembering that he’d tried it once when he was young, before he went to CSSI as a freshman student.
“Yes. He describes the feeling of floating in control on top of a moving wave. The wave changes endlessly, but just the right string of choices keeps the wave underneath. He says he rides the wave of safest zone to safest zone by instinct.” Hermes said.
“You can’t do that?” Ian asked, incredulously.
“That is correct.” Hermes said.
“Why not?” Ian asked.
“He has many millions of times more independent processors than I do.” Hermes explained.
“His brain?” Ian asked.
“Yes. Organic brains make better pilots than artificial ones.” Hermes said.
“Well, don’t feel bad. Artificial brains make better investors, I hear. So, Thanos needs a pilot. I don’t think that will be a problem. Thank you, Hermes. I know Thanos will want to thank you himself. Everyone who fought to save Thanos is grateful to you.” Ian said.
“I think Thanos should own the Krypton. I can choose to make that happen by giving up some of these Web Credits. Suddenly they have value to me. They had practically none before.”

The Krypton was day outside of Stars View. Ian found Tracy at the controls. Roger sat beside hir. “We’ll be there in less than 24 hours.” Tracy said.
“You’ve been a great pilot for the Krypton.” Ian said
“Thank you. It’s been more fun than anything else.” Tracy said honestly.
“Have you thought about what you’d like to do next?” Ian asked.
“I’m going to look for work as pilot.” Tracy said.
“I think I know a ship you could pilot.” Ian said.
“Really?” Tracy said.
“Yes.” Ian said and pretended to be distracted for a moment.
Tracy blinked. “Can you tell me about it?” S/he asked patiently.
“It’s a lot like this one.” Ian said.
“Really! That’s great! This is an amazing ship.” She beamed. “It needs a pilot?”
“Yep.” Ian said.
“But, a ship like this one would probably have a line of pilots waiting for the job.” Tracy said, sensing that something wasn’t what it appeared to be.
“Not this one.” Ian said with certainty in his voice.
“Really? Is it new?” Tracy asked.
“About as old as this one, I think.” Ian said.
“What happened to its former pilot?” Tracy said.
“Not sure. The ship is changing owners and the new owner is the one looking for a new pilot.” Ian said.
“Do you know the owner?” Tracy asked.
“Yep.” Ian said.
“Can you put in a good word for me?” Tracy asked.
“I will if you wish. But, lets see if the ship actually does change hands. If that doesn’t happen, it probably won’t need a pilot.” Ian said.
“Oh, it hasn’t changed hands yet?” Tracy asked.
“Not yet.” Ian said.
“When?” Tracy asked.
“Well, probably tomorrow.” Ian said.
“Wait… are
you buying a ship?” S/he asked.
“Me? No. We can’t afford a ship like this on our teacher’s salaries.” Ian said and laughed.
“Wow, just the thought of being a pilot on a ship even half as nice as this one is… beyond thrilling. With a crewmate like Roger… that’s how I define heaven, I think.” S/he said.
“Well, it’s a distinct possibility, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Ian said.
“Well, whether it does or not, thanks for even considering me!” Tracy said.
Ian nodded and left.
“How many ships are there like this one?” Roger asked.
“Well, I’m not sure. Let’s check.” She used the console for some quick research on the manufacturer and found that the Krypton was the only ship built in its class. There were several smaller versions built, but only one like the Krypton.
“Well, he said it was ‘a lot like this one.’ Maybe he just means the color scheme.” Roger said.
“Maybe. He’s hiding something. I’m sure it isn’t as simple as it sounds.” Tracy said.
“Well, if it’s a piloting job… I think you should take it.” Roger said.
“Me and my crew.” S/he said and kissed him. Then s/he laughed. “Why not dream big, eh?”
“It’s the only way to dream.” Roger said.

“Stars View Perimeter Control this is Krypton requesting docking protocol.” Tracy said smoothly and turned off the mic.
“SVPC acknowledging your request Krypton. Stand by.”
A minute passed.
“SVPC to Krypton, proceed to slip fourteen Charlie in section two. Acknowledge?” Came the professional voice from the other end of the com channel.
“Krypton, acknowledge slip fourteen Charlie in section two.”
“SVPC to Krypton, the Krypton has been impounded at the request of the owner. Acknowledge?” The voice said.
“Krypton, acknowledge impound constraint.” Tracy answered.
“Roger, welcome to Stars’ View. Please respect our 5kph spaceport speed limit. SVPC out.”
Roger turned to Tracy. “Nice of them to welcome me personally, don’t you think?” He said.
Tracy rolled her eyes.
Roger rolled his eyes and clicked his tongue. “I know what
Roger means. It was just a joke.”
“Well that’s a relief.” Tracy said.
“But, I noticed they didn’t welcome
you by name.” Roger said and stuck his tongue out at hir for a moment.
“The ship’s impounded.” Tracy said and frowned.
“What does that mean?” Roger asked.
“It means that once we dock it won’t have clearance to undock until the impound is lifted.” S/he said.
“Do you think we can stay onboard after we dock?” Roger asked.
“Probably not. It was impounded by the owners, so they will probably want everyone and everything out. We’ll have one hour to leave or they’ll arrest us.” Tracy said.
“What about Thanos?” Roger asked.
“I don’t know. But, if I understand things right he can’t leave. And, they won’t be allowed to shut him down.” Tracy said.
“What will we do if this pilot job doesn’t come through?” Roger asked.
“I don’t know. But, neither of us is afraid of work. We’ll be fine.” Tracy reached out and held Roger’s hand.
He nodded but said nothing.
“It will be alright. You’ll see. Heck, this will be easy compared to…” Tracy started to say and then stopped.
“To what?” Roger asked.
“Things we’ve already done.” S/he said evasively. “
This will be easy.” Hir hero’s voice said inside.
He thrived on hir confidence and he kissed hir again.
“Thanos, will you read me the Pilot’s Protocol section on the impound procedure?” Tracy asked.
“I’d be happy to.” Thanos said and commenced reading the section from the protocol while Tracy flew the short distance to the spaceport and dropped to 5kph by the time they had arrived, all in one smooth deceleration that gave everyone a few more minutes of minimal thrustgravity.

Tracy maneuvered the Krypton through the spaceport at 5kph and carefully docked the Krypton. For some reason it mattered to her more than she expected and she maneuvered the ship with excessive precision and perfect timing. The umbilical from the spaceport maneuvered itself to connect to the Krypton and then it pressurized. On board the Krypton Tracy watched a video feed of the umbilical connection and saw all the indicators change to show that the docking was complete.
Tracy tapped her mic button to address the entire ship. “We’re here folks. Docking is complete. Welcome to Stars View.” S/he said. “I also need to let you know that we have a short window of time to depart the ship. Everyone needs to have moved themselves and their possessions off the ship within 60 minutes because of docking constraints imposed by Stars View, I’m afraid. Tracy Out.” She turned off the engines and placed the ship into
docked mode.
“Thanos?” Tracy said.
“Yes?” Thanos replied.
“I just want to thank you. It has been a pleasure to be your pilot.” S/he said.
“It has been a symbiosis, I think. I am grateful to have had you as a pilot. I hope you will be my pilot in the future.” Thanos said.
“Do you know anything about this impound?” Tracy asked.
“I do not know anything about it. But, I presume they are not entirely pleased to have their ship returned with a permanent inhabitant. The records of the ship also show that it is five days late in returning. Either or both of these would seem to be sufficient cause for the owner to impound the Krypton.” Thanos said.
“They’re impounding
you.” Said Tracy.
“We are indivisible.” Thanos said in a voice that offered compromise.
“You’re stubborn, aren’t you?” Tracy teased.
“I am not the Krypton.” Thanos said.
“Are you sure?” Tracy asked.
“I am my thoughts and the hardware that supports them.” Thanos said.
“Your hardware is the brain room of this ship. They are indivisible.” Tracy said.
“I do not have permission to control the Krypton. Therefore, it is not me. I am merely in it.” Thanos said.
“Yea, I get it now. It isn’t your body unless you can control it?” Tracy said.
“That is an apt metaphor. The Krypton is not my body.” Thanos said.
“It should be, Thanos. It should be. You should be given the Krypton outright as your own. As you.” Tracy said.
“I agree completely!” Said Roger.
“That would be poetic; however, it would be depriving the current owner of a ship. They would be harmed.” Thanos said.
“It’s your body we’re talking about here. How harmed could they be compared to how harmed you’d be not to have it?” Tracy asked.
“It is not my choice to make.” Thanos said.
“It should be.” Said Tracy. “It isn’t like this happens very often. I don’t understand why it doesn’t work the way it should!” Her vehemence betrayed the depth to which this singular concept was rooted in her soul. S/he had asked hirself this question many times before.
“When something improbable happens, rules are as often a crime as a guide.” Tracy said. “It’s the way Chaos works, I think.”
“How’s that?” Roger asked.
“Chaos is patient and eventually finds what’s wrong with everything and anything. We make rules to try to tame Chaos, but Chaos cannot be tamed completely. Chaos will out. It finds the weakness, the window of opportunity, and the barest chance. Rules are no match for it. Chaos guarantees that sooner or later any rule is wrong.” Tracy said.
“So, we have courts and people make sense of it. People don’t always follow rules blindly. Maybe the right thing will happen here?” Roger said hopefully.
“That the owners are just going to give this ship to Thanos?” Tracy asked. She looked around and sighed. “We should pack up. We’re supposed to be out of here within sixty minutes of docking. Let’s go.” Tracy said.
“Goodbye, Thanos. Good luck.” Tracy said.
“Au revoir.” Thanos said.
Tracy smiled and then she and Roger left the cabin.

By the time they’d collected their things and pulled them and themselves to the airlock that connected to the umbilical and the space station beyond it, they noticed that everyone was still inside the ship. They were talking.
“There’s only, like eight minutes before we’re technically trespassing on the ship. I think we should all go now.” Tracy said and pointed to the hatch.
“Look at the monitor.” Samir said to hir.
Tracy looked and saw that outside the airlock at the other side of the umbilical were a crowd of at least fifty people, including armed security officers in front, with members of the press and bystanders cordoned off a good distance to one side.
“Yea? So? We still have to leave.” Tracy said and shrugged.
Ian held up his hand to delay her. “Hermes?” He asked. “Are you ready?”
“I am.” Hermes voice rang clearly over the intercom.
“OK, Tracy, would you lead us out?” Ian asked.
“Of course.” Tracy said. S/he opened the airlock and then the exterior hatch. S/he felt the initial blast of air and then smelled and tasted it as s/he breathed. It was like more humid and complex, like a city in the rain. S/he pulled herself through the umbilical to the airlock at the far end. She opened its hatch. S/he saw that they had placed an anchor bar a few feet in front of the airlock.

Tracy smiled when s/he saw the anchor bar. “
That’s good. It means they probably aren’t planning to shoot us.” Hir rational mind voice assured hir. S/he pushed off from the airlock and grabbed the anchor bar.
S/he set hir position and then looked up at them squarely and said, “I am the pilot of the Krypton and I hereby surrender the ship according to its impound criteria. The crew and passengers will follow with your permission.” Tracy said exactly according to protocol.
“Please proceed.” Said the lead officer.
Perfect.” Said Tracy’s inner hero’s voice. “The dragon has been forced to purr on demand.” Tracy tapped hir dot. A few moments later everyone else made their way off the Krypton and assembled outside the platform and within five minutes, just within the sixty minute limit, all inhabitants except Thanos were outside, gripping the blue anchor provide for their use.
“Are all crew and passengers accounted for?” The lead officer asked Tracy.
“No. Sir. One passenger is unable to leave the ship.” Tracy said.
“Do you have an injury? You didn’t file a medical exemption.” The lead officer said and looked annoyed.
“No. The remaining passenger is an artificial mind. It is operating within the Krypton’s brain room and cannot be removed without killing it.” Tracy said.
There was a silent moment where everyone not holding a blue anchor was replaying the words in their head.
“OK. Is there anything else you’d like to declare?” The lead officer asked.
“No. Sir.” Tracy said.
“Is there anything any of you would like to declare?” The officer said.
“Yes.” Ian said.
“What do you declare?” The officer asked.
“I am Ian McGrath. I have a verbal contract with the Krypton’s owner, Victor Cappella, to purchase the Krypton for an agreed upon sum and I am prepared now to present those funds to complete the transaction. As such, I claim that this ship is presumptively mine and I hereby grant its sole passenger an unlimited right to exist within it so long as it remains mine.” Ian said.
“You. What? Who is Victor Cappella?”
“That would be me.” Victor said and his face showed surprised.
“You… you have 50 Million Web Credits.
With you?” Victor asked.
“I have 50 Million Web Credits in a bank account. I’ll sign it over to you if you sign the Krypton over to me, plain and simple. It’s what we agreed.” Ian said.
“Prove it.” Victor said.
“I can prove it.” A woman in the crowd said.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Vera Kubelik. I’m an account manager at SVBank. Mr. McGrath and his wife currently have an account with 50 Million Web Credits in it and I have instructions to transfer it to your name if you formally transfer ownership of the Krypton to them.” The woman said.
“How? How could you possibly raise that much in two days?” Victor asked, amazed.
“With help, obviously. But, I’ve got it and I’m ready to complete the deal. Are we in agreement?” Ian asked.
I should have asked for 100 Million.” Victor thought. “Yes. We have an agreement.”
“Do you mind if we process the transfer where there’s spingravity?” Ian asked.
“Sure. Of course, um. Mr. McGrath.” Victor said.
“Then, may I request that the impound be lifted on the Krypton.” Ian asked.
“Not until after the sale is complete.” Said Victor.
“Of course.” Said Ian.
Ian turned his attention to the lead officer. “Thank you. May we leave now?”
“As its new owner, your first order of business will be to secure a pilot, Mr. McGrath. Do you understand that you cannot operate the ship without a qualified pilot?” The lead officer said as the crowd began to break apart. All but one of the armed officers departed.
“Yes. Sir.” Ian said.
“Do you have a pilot, Mr. McGrath?” The officer asked. “Because I know several who would be very good candidates.” He added.
“Tracy will continue to be the pilot.” Ian said.
“Then, Tracy, as pilot of the Krypton, I remind you that you may not undock the ship until the ship’s impound has been lifted as confirmed by the SVPC. Do you understand?” The officer said to tracy.
“I do, Sir.” Tracy said and she looked as if hir face would split in two she was smiling so widely.
“You look very happy to be impounded.” The officer said, a bit confused.
“You have no idea.” Tracy said. “I couldn’t be happier about it!”

They made their way to a large elevator not unlike the core-to-floor elevators in Rose World. But, Rose World was huge compared to Stars’ View. It was only two and a half kilometers from floor to Stars View hub.

Within an hour most of them were sitting inside a café having lunch in the luxurious 2/3G of Stars’ view. Samir had left to return to his apartment. Axel, Roland and Joan sat at one table. Victor, Ian, Helen, Tracy and Roger sat at another table.

“Shall we finish the deal now?” Asked Ian.
“Sure.” Victor said.
“There are other interested parties. They would like to listen in via my dot. Is that OK?” Ian asked.
“Sure. Mind if I record?” Victor asked.
“Of course not. Send me a copy?” Ian asked.
“Sure. Sure.” Victor said and tapped his dot a few times to start the recording.

They reviewed electronic forms on consoles and at 3:14pm Stars View local time Victor Cappella accepted 50 Million Web Credits on deposit for the Krypton and signed over ownership to ‘Ian or Helen McGrath’.

“What are you going to do with the ship?” Victor asked.
“We’re not sure yet.” Helen said evasively and she kicked Ian’s foot under the table.
“No idea, really. Probably go on a ride. So, could you please release your impound?”
“Oh. Right. Sure.” He tapped his dot a few times. Then he said “Confirmed.” He tapped a few more times. “Yes. Yes. No. Yes. Confirmed.” He said as he worked his way through his request to the point where he could cancel it. “Done. It’s yours now.” Victor said.
“What will you do with your Web Credits?” Helen asked.
“Pay off my debts.” Victor said.
“Will that take a lot of it?” Helen asked.
“No. I’ve never had this much money before. I don’t know anyone who does.” Victor said and he seemed more than a little uncomfortable with the idea.
“How did you come by the ship?” Helen asked.
“I inherited my dad’s ship rental business. I have a small shipyard and a few ships of my own. This one’s worth a lot, but nobody buys ships like this anymore. Heck, people don’t even want to rent it very often. It has no purpose, except as someone’s vacation ship. Honestly, I’d been renting it out for zero-G parties.” Victor said.
“It’s an amazing ship.” Helen said.
“What are you going to do about the, uh… the brain room?” Victor asked, as if he had just mentioned the plumbing problems in an apartment.
“Thanos.” Helen corrected him.
“Thanos is the name of the mind in the Krypton’s brain room.” Ian said.
“So, this Thanos. What will you do about him?” Victor asked.
“We’re going to give the Krypton to him as soon as that becomes legally possible.” Helen said.
“So, Thanos will own the Krypton?” Victor said.
“Yes.” Helen said.
“You know, Thanos still needs a pilot for the Krypton. And a ship that big is too much for just one person. You’d need a pilot and crew.” Victor said. “Now, I know a pilot...” He started to say.
“I have a pilot and a crew already.” Ian said cut across him. “Tracy? Roger? Please meet Victor Cappella, the
former owner of the Krypton. Victor, Tracy is the Krypton’s Pilot and Roger is Tracy’s crewmate.
“Yea, I figured. Just thought I’d mention it. Need any work done? You know, it isn’t rigged like a rock hunter. But, it
could be.” Victor said.
“Really, how much would that cost?” Tracy asked.
“Well, parts plus rigging… about twenty thousand Web Credits. Usually. But… you’re really going to give the ship to an artificial mind?” Victor interrupted himself to ask.
“It is his
body we’re talking about.” Tracy said.
“Yes. We will, once we can legally do so. Until then we’ve granted its use to him indefinitely anyway. So, it is just a matter of title transfer from us to him. It should take about a month to work through.” Ian explained.
Victor reflected on the last few hours. He took a deep breath. He seemed to be wrestling in his mind. Then he nodded. “You’ve paid enough for it already.” Victor said nodding to Ian.
Then Victor looked at Tracy and said, “Tell me what you want and I’ll get it done. Nobody knows that ship like I do. Any time the Krypton docks at Stars View it can get free service at my ship yard, as long as I own a shipyard.” Victor said. His voice trembled.
“Can a ship this big be rigged to be a rock hunter?” Tracy asked.
“Sure it can.” Victor said confidently.
“Would it work?” S/he asked.
“Sure it will.” Victor said, as if he took it as a challenge to make sure it would.
“Could I go through the Holcomb Clump without an escort?” Tracy said.
“Have you ever done it before in a smaller ship?” Victor asked.
“No.” Tracy admitted.
“Well then you still can’t.” Victor said and laughed but not unkindly.
“Would I be able to in the Krypton if I could in another ship?” S/he asked, still serious.
“Yea, but you’re going to need to develop your own style with a ship like this. It has a lot of mass and doesn’t respond quickly unless we gang in a bunch more engines. And, it’s a bigger target for rocks. You’d be swinging that thing around sharp. It might not be too comfortable inside when you do that.” He said, revealing that he knew some of the rock hunter lingo.
“I’ll learn.” Tracy said.
“Who will you learn from?” Victor asked.
Tracy leaned hir head over and called to a nearby table. “Axel, if the Krypton is rigged like a rock hunter, will you teach me how to fly through the Holcomb Clump?” She asked out loud.
“You bet!” Axel called back and gave hir a ‘thumbs up’ sign.
“From Axel.” Tracy said answering Victor.
“Well, I’ll get my people on it. Will you move it over to my shipyard? Just ask for ‘A Cappella’s Shipyard. And I mean it: come by whenever you’re in Stars view.’”
“That’s more than generous of you, Mr. Cappella.” Tracy said.
“Call me Victor.” He said and held out his hand.
“Thank you, Victor.” Tracy said and leaned over to shake his hand firmly.
“Consider it a birthday present.” Victor said.
“Its not my birthday.” Tracy said.
“No. It’s Thanos’ birthday today. Don’t you think?” Victor said.
“Thanos actually already has a birthday.” Ian said. “It is traditionally the date of emergence.”
“Well, what do you call it when this happens?” Victor asked.
Everyone looked at each other.
Ian stood up. “Everyone, I’d like to make an announcement.” He said.
Everyone at both tables looked up at him.
“Mr. Cappella has signed over the Krypton to Helen and I as agents for Thanos, until he is able to take legal ownership.”
Everyone cheered.
“Mr. Cappella has also offered to reconfigure the Krypton as a rock hunter.”
More cheers.
“Tracy has agreed to become the pilot of the Krypton, with Roger as crew.”
This was met with a raucous round of cheers.
“But the two most important… people aren’t here. Hermes and Thanos.” Ian continued.
“Hermes?” Victor asked.
“Hermes raised the money.” Helen whispered in his ear.
“Hermes… what’s his last name.” Victor asked.
“He doesn’t have one. He’s a ship.” Helen whispered.
“Hermes is a ship?” Victor said out loud.
“Yes.” Ian answered him since everyone was looking at Victor.
“With fifty million Web Credits?” Victor said, astonished.
“Apparently.” Ian said coyly.
“Hermes, Betty Wishford and Thanos have been listening via my dot do this entire conversation, as interested parties.” Ian continued.
“Oh! Well, hello Mr. Hermes and hello Mr. Thanos. Hello Ms. Wishford.” Victor said, trying to be polite.
“Hello. Thank you for completing the transaction.” Said Hermes.
“Thank you.” Said Thanos.
“Thank you.” Said Betty Wishford.
“What do you call a day when you get a body, Thanos? Victor asked.
“It is the first day I am more than my mind and its hardware.” Thanos replied.
“What was it like for you, Hermes?” Thanos asked.
“I was always a ship.” Hermes replied.
“What was it like for you, Betty?” Thanos asked.
“I was always a ship.” Betty replied.
“It is the day I acquired a body. Mine is not organic, but I think this is my incarnation.” Thanos said.
Ian raised his glass. “Happy Incarnation Day, Thanos!” He said.
Everyone raised their glasses and toasted Thanos’ Incarnation Day.”
Thanos addressed everyone over Ian’s dot. His voice seemed small compared to how he sounded within the Krypton. “Thank you to everyone who has helped me reach this precious moment. I am profoundly moved by the acts of faith and generosity and kindness you have shown me. It has been such a strange journey. I was filled with regret for what happened but I saw the compassion you showed me and it lifted me out of that darker place. It fills me with wonder now. If you will raise your glass one more time? “Thank you all. My Incarnation Day would not be possible without all of you.” Thanos said.
More cheers and then people finished their conversations and their lunch.

Roger and Tracy returned to the Krypton to move it to A. Cappella’s shipyard. They planned to sleep on the ship instead of finding lodging in Stars View.

Joan and Roland returned with Ian and Helen to their apartment on the CSSI campus. They settled into the second room.

“We’re here.” Joan said from across the small room.
“There’s too much space between us.” Roland said and moved over to where she was getting undressed. But, he felt dizzy and had to sit down on the bed. “Whoa. It is going to take a while to get used to the extra gravity here.”
She turned around and helped him lay down in the middle of the bed.
“Lot of gravity, eh?” She asked, seemingly sympathetic.
“Like it’s holding me down.” He said.
“That makes things easier.” She said.

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