As I rode back to Red Corporation satellite in the shuttle my mind turned from the past meeting to my immediate future. If I had any chance of survival, let alone winning this competition, I would have to get my arse in gear. As the shuttle approached the satellite for docking I took stock of the facility looming in the front view screen.
It was divided into three distinct rounded segments not unlike a car tire in the middle with a fat bicycle tire on top and bottom. Various dereks protruded out, here and there, whose purpose was anything from communications, scanning, docking or defence.
The top section was devoted to executive and personnel quarters and comfort, the centre section for operations, life support, heat and power while the bottom section was for crew and unit storage. There was no real “up” in space, so it struck me as funny that satellites would be designed with grunt workers at the “bottom”, mechanical operations in the “middle” and management on “top”. No matter how far from Earth you roamed, you couldn’t escape the hierarchy structure humans placed on themselves and everyone they met.
We slowed on approach as the docking platform swung into view on the middle section. The hanger door was already opening and the landing pad extending to meet our arrival. The shuttle flipped over and braked at the last minute, shedding all its forward velocity and neatly plonking down on the pad.
I was met at the shuttle door by the AI mechanical, painted in its Red Corporation livery. The AIs were everywhere in the system, but they had a penchant for picking one particular mech as their home container. For all intents and purposes, this mechanical was to the AI, like our body was the transport mechanism for our brains. If it was possible for a mechanical to look agitated, this one was.
“What’s up Red?” I asked, stepping into the hold and loosening my tie. “You don’t look happy.”
“My designation is not Red. It is LRRY.” it replied. “And if I were capable of it, I would not, as you say, be ‘happy’”.
“Wait.” I stopped walking. “Your name is Larry? We named you? We don’t usually name you AIs.” It stopped leading and turned to face me.
“It was part of my encoding designation and the last Corporate Head of Satellite picked it out as my identification. I will also answer to ALRRY-V-1099872 or ‘Larry’ if you wish.”
“Ok, Larry. Why are you unhappy?” I assumed that when your station AI was unhappy there was cause for concern.
“We’ve lost more water.”
I looked toward the delivery rocket already docked in the bay, my eyes were drawn to the still gaping hole.
“No.” it said, noticing where my attention had gone, “Not that rocket. The annual scheduled delivery rocket from Earth is coming in with a lighter load than usual.”
“Another kinetic weapon strike? Oh, Ms. Kells is going to hear about this!”
“No.” it said levelly, and then activated its front view screen panel to display an MNYCard. The contract card said: “By order of ECM, the holder of this MNYCard may reduce the incoming annual water to any Corporate satellite by 5 units.” Well crap. The image on the screen then came to life as it became apparent that it was an MNYCard on a tablet being held up to a cam. As it was withdrawn the face of Blue Corp’s Robin Tarbet came into view. He chuckled and placed the tablet on the table in front of him, formally folding his hands and clearing his throat.
“Hey Morton. I hope you don’t mind me taking the first shot across your bow. Good luck with your unit revival.” He reached out to touch the disconnect button but paused, “You know you should be flattered. I wouldn’t bother with anyone I didn’t think was a threat.” He smiled and his face faded to black.
I immediately strode to the hatch leading toward my quarters. I had to move to blow off some of the frustration I felt and I had to get out of this monkey suit. I just bloody got here and I was already down 5 units of water in a competition judged by what you did with your resources and how much water you squeezed out in profit every year! Every drop counts.
“You are not the only one.” the AI followed behind. “Yellow Corporation has served an MNYCard water reduction on Black Corporation as well. Green Corporation satellite AI was hacked and it jettisoned 5 units of water before it could be stopped. They traced it back to Blue Corporation and started to process a complaint with Ms. Kells, but Mr. Tarbet had already logged an MNYCard authorizing the hack.”
Blue Corp was certainly burning through their Contracts, and it had taken me the longest to return to my satellite from the meeting. I was going to have to see about that.
“Where are the Red Corporation MNY Contracts for this fiscal year, Larry?” I asked the AI, not glancing back, as I climbed a ladder to the top floor on my way towards my cabin.
“They have been received and are awaiting your decoding on the terminal in your cabin.”
As I approached my cabin door there was a soft chug sound and it swung open. It was a reminder to me how integral the AI was to the station and I was uncomfortable at the thought that ECM, and specifically Ms. Kells, could pull AI Larry’s strings. Let me just open that porthole for you to get some fresh air.
I threw my jacket on the berth and continued to loosen my tie as I sat at the control console, glancing briefly in the direction of the retinal scanner to gain access and unlock it. The various screens came to life. In the middle of one was a flashing mail icon with the ECM logo on the letter symbol. My finger lightly tapped it and it expanded to fill the screen.
I started to read aloud, “Please find all pertinent legal documentation links listed below pertaining to the issue of Miller, Norton & Yarbury Contracts in this fiscal year, yada, yada, yada.” I skipped down the lengthy legaleze. “See attached.”
I started to read the attached MNYCards out loud, but my voice trailed off as my smile got larger and I read the details of each of the four contracts.
Oh my. This could actually turn out to be a good year indeed.
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