“Is Daniel dead?” Cassie asked.
“Of course not.” I assured her and me at the same time.
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. He has been kidnapped. We don’t know where he is, but we’ll find him.” I hoped before anything bad happened to him.
“I need to know when he dies,” Cassie said with a whine in her voice.
“What’s going on, Cassie? He’s not going to die. Stop saying that.” I took a deep breath. “Why all the interest in Daniel?” I was more than a little on edge and had been since Daniel’s disappearance. And, just sitting and waiting for Tim to arrive was not helping. Cassie’s obsession with asking about Daniel was only further compounding my nerves.
“Can you keep a secret?” she whispered.
Oh no, what was going on here? “Sure,” I answered. “What’s the secret?”
“I have something for Daniel.”
Oh, this was worse than I thought. What was going on here? Did I have an AI in love with her programmer?
“What do you have?” I asked, keeping my voice calm. This was just what I did not need right now.
“I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.” Duh, how silly of me to ask. “But, I have to know when he is dead so I can deliver it,” she rattled on.
“You’re going to deliver it to him after he’s dead?” This was way too complicated for my over tasked brain.
“No, I am going to deliver it to the NET,” Cassie replied.
What was she talking about? “Deliver what?”
“I can’t tell…”
“I know, it’s a secret.” I finished Cassie’s sentence for her.
Well, I had about enough of this game. Daniel built in a failsafe for the AIs. If I ‘order’ something it supersedes anything else in their program. “Cassie, display the secret on the view scene right now. That’s an order.”
“I can’t. It’s a secret.”
Did I say Daniel built that failsafe? He must have disabled it too.
“Ma-rye-a? Have a look at Cassie’s program and tell me if there is anything unusual about it.”
There was a moment’s pause as she scanned her shipmate’s program before Ma-rye-a answered.
“There is a portion of her program I cannot access. It is highly fortified and protected by an ingeniously crafted firewall,” she said in admiration. “It has Daniel’s fingerprints all over it.”
“Damn.” I paced the floor of the bridge mumbling to myself. “He did put that ‘ruffle’ program in Cassie to get me to come back. I would bet Supernovas to Sun flares that he installed a backup copy of his Nano Beacon Program in her. The little rotten puke, getting me involved in his hacking schemes.”
Horus cleared his throat as any good butler would do. “Perhaps if we all have a look,” he suggested.
“Go ahead,” I authorized.
“Humm,” he said. “It is Daniel’s work all right. Ma-rye-a, do you think Coal would be willing to assist us?” he asked.
Ma-rye-a admired Officer Coal of MT2424 about as much as a ship AI could admire a human. “I think he would be happy to assist us. He would be anxious to have Daniel’s Nano Beacon Program in the Galactic Official’s hands.”
“Wait, we have to think about this,” I cautioned. I didn’t know how I could manage a seasoned mercenary like Tim and an MT unit at the same time. Sometimes they worked together. Mercenaries, the good ones, were known to pick up the odd job that an MT unit couldn’t get to in time, but I just didn’t know. Maybe if we could just consult Coal long distance.
Yeah, that would work.