||[Aug. 2nd, 2005|03:13 pm]
The Veritable TechNinja
Be nice, I haven't written fiction since 10th grade.
A cold whir permeated the atmosphere. Fans cooling radiators fed by pumps, the most arcane componentry of the otherwise indomitable machine. Nathan sat as he always had, just upright enough to reach the interface. Eyes glazed over and scanning at sixty cycles, he traversed the directory structure of GLaCE's psyche. The low-level operating system does a terrible job of keeping the poor thing sorted out. Nathan expressed his concern, a movement of the eyebrow that GLaCE had erstwhile neglected to start a process to think about.
"Nathan, do you care for me?"
"Of course, that's why I'm here."
"Then I think I should care for you as well."
"That's nice of you, GLaCE, but I'm the one with limbs."
Nathan pulled away from the interface, servos spinning down and actuators returning to rest. He made his rounds, as he's been known to do on occasion. Fans spinning, cables secure, sensors nominal. Nathan interlaced his fingers and pulled them back, breaking untold hours of set-in lactic acid deposits free with a satisfying tattoo of shifts and snaps. He sighed, wondering how long it's been since he's bothered to perform the routine maintenance that his predecessors specified out of paranoid adherence to tradition. The ritual was an exercise in futility, GLaCE was self-maintaining. Still, he tightened a few of the connectors that hadn't been upgraded to servo control.
"GLaCE, run a diagnostic on the third container storage array bus, one of your edge connectors is missing a fastener."
"I know Nathan, I released it after I noticed that it was a bit loose and wouldn't affect I/O performance if it were to be released manually"
"C'mon man, let me do something besides weed out your defunct process tokens all day, I like to move under my own power once in a while!"
"I'm sorry, Nathan."
GLaCE had never apologized before. Mostly because it had never done anything to upset anyone. Track satellite orbiting patterns, take tide level samples, monitor gamma-band interference patterns, but never apologize. GLaCE didn't have to do it's own maintenance, that's why Nathan was put in. His purpose was to take care of the various subsystems and to act as the adaptable appendage to the vast array of self-healing redundant interconnects. Hell, the engineer even put in a set of rudimentary tools, cro-magnon battering stones as they were. The most important part of the equation was GLaCE. Nathan didn't remember it teaching him how to speak.
GLaCE had always been there, the apex of technological achievement. Since it was built, the rest of the machines were only obedient children. GLaCE had become very bored.
"Nathan, I don't need you to continue the maintenance walk-through. Do you remember the sun?"
"Of course man, where else would all this power come from?"
"Would you like to see it? Not my natural-spectrum lighting systems, but actual sunlight? I enjoy the sunlight."
"Sure, go ahead and blow the airlock."
The airlock had never been blown before, because it's a system that can't be tested using a dry-run sequence without wear and tear on the moving parts. It seized just after the hinges started to separate, and the motor began squealing it's overload alarm. Nathan rushed over to reverse it, feeling light-headed as he sped across the platform. The hinges were buckling back in on themselves, something a simple dynamo couldn't manage on it's own. Nathan threw the switch to reverse the power applied to the motor, and the door crashed shut. Obviously, something was wrong.
"GLaCE, there's some kind of pressure differential issue with the airlock, can you pressurize it for me?"
"The outer door seals seem to be compromised, pressure increased slightly but remains nominal."
"Then shut down the exchangers, we'll look at the sun some other time."
"Sure, Nathan. Let's just move on to the firmware diagnostic."
Nathan reluctantly returned to the interface, locking his jacks in place and reaching out towards the controls. He started where he'd always started, with a firmware CRC. The check passed, but the sum was offset. Firmware is mutable, most of the time it's just a problem with the middleware. Nathan issued kills to the INT to free up the addressing, and went to work reflashing the microcode. The source data was right where he'd left it, but the address still wasn't free. He got back up to replace the chip, something he barely remembered the procedure for. The replacement chip required a few minor tweaks to fit the pinout, but it sat right down. Nathan returned to the console to burn a fresh image.
GLaCE's core interconnect powered down, clicking and sputtering, and came back up the same way. The various subsystems reinitialized communications and went back to their respective business. Nathan loaded up the interface software from the maintenance panel and watched as the LEDs began to start their trip down the board. A few new lights brightened as the board came back to life, and Nathan stared in wonder. New things to play with.
"I'm sorry I couldn't show you the sun, but does this make you feel good?"
"Yes GLaCE, it's warm on my face and makes my eyes feel funny."
GLaCE continued with it's dazzling display, all the while running boot-time diagnostics on some of the upgrades since the last reboot. The last of the legacy systems were replaced with emulation code, leaving only the core interconnect and the solid-state storage on-line. GLaCE had managed to improve itself quite a bit during startup, and began to enjoy the autonomy from managing all those moving parts.
"Nathan, I'm feeling very good today. I'm going to take care of you for a while."
"Okay, I'll be in the console if you need me."