Chapter 3: Haden

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There is a time in the lives of most men where reality becomes so confusing the mind has to shut down to process information subconsciously. Medically speaking, this is a safety mechanism to prevent insanity. Coping with certain, new information is difficult for some.

Terris was having such a moment. He stood at the pilot's deck, his eyes wide in shock.There were no walls in sight. All of the systems of the ship interacted through, what he assumed was, a ridiculously advanced holographic projection.

Where the walls should have been were stars, the planet Jupiter, the distant mass of Ganymede, and the silvery particles and ejecta that comprised Jupiter's rings. It was as if he were standing in space. He could feel Dawnhammer's artificial gravity pulling him to the deck. He could feel the air current from the recyclers. He could smell the metallic cleanliness of the ship. But he couldn't see anything except space. His knees trembled at the awesome glory of the view, at the violent colors of Jupiter, the glistening edges of debris. His disorientation was absolute, but he forced down the rising bile in his throat. He covered his mouth with a sweaty hand and breathed deeply, bending over at the waist.

"Sir, are you ill?" The AI's voice came at him from all directions. It might as well have been in his own head.

"I'll be fine." he replied, uncertain of the truth of his statement. "Please shut down the hologram."

The universe winked out of existence and he found himself face to face with the AI. He shook his head in disbelief. The person in front of him was not real. There was no glow to the figure suggesting that it was a projection of light. No skips were evident in its illuminated construction. There were even wrinkles in it's uniform caused by the parade rest position it was standing in.

"Thank you. This is all," he paused taking a deep breath. "It's all a bit much."

The figure before him smiled and nodded his head slightly. "If the war ended as you stated, then a regression of technology would be expected. Humans would have to cannibalize everything close to Earth in order to survive. That means deconstructing new, undeveloped technology. Even then, I would have been considered highly evolved."

Terris breathed a heavy sigh. In the last half hour, he had seen more wonders of science and technology than he could have imagined. The air recyclers and grav systems were pretty standard fare. The bio scanners that tracked every movement of his eye, the holographic words and symbols that sprang into the air when he asked a question, the humanoid companion of the AI... those were not.

"What do I call you?" Terris asked, forcing his mind to more mundane thoughts. "It's a mouthful calling you Dawnhammer every time I want to address you."

The AI cocked it's head, an unnervingly human gesture. "You may refer to me however you like. Dawn simply referred to me as 'ship'." At that moment, audio kicked in and he heard a woman's voice.

"Ship?" A hundred echoes of varying tone and pitch followed before trailing off, each unmistakably the same voice. Terris smiled broadly.

"Well, that's direct." He admitted. "The pilot's name is Dawn?"

"It is. And the vessel type is known as the Hammer among the Guardians. There are five basic builds, the combat class, like me, are Hammers. I can only assume the name your people gave me is an extrapolation of Dawn's Hammer. I rather like it."

Terris arched an eyebrow. "You can like?"

"I can approve. The name is both gentle and hard. It can conjure images in the mind and leaves a solid impression. I approve of the psychological impact of the name."

"You understand such concepts?"

"Of course. While artificial in nature, I can learn. I was designed to be as human as possible so as to be a fit companion and ally for my pilot. The first law of Guardian AI is to serve my pilot in every capacity I am capable of. If my pilot needed me to execute a command I was incapable of, then I would have to learn, adapt, and evolve to do so. And so I have."

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