Chapter 49

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As the doors rumbled closed behind EJ, leaving him in total darkness, he couldn't help but become acutely aware of the perilous nature of his position.  Currently nothing more than the virtual representation of a cobbled-together human-AI hybrid, he was now effectively locked inside the very heart of one of the most powerful and dangerous artificially intelligent entities ever created.

An entity that had overseen the fall of civilisations, facilitated the conquering of worlds, and orchestrated some of the most complex military campaigns the galaxy had ever known.

As advanced as his sub-routines were, as powerful as his processing capacity might be, EJ knew just how outmatched he was.  He was an abacus up against a super-computer.  A ripple against a tsunami.  An altar boy against a god.

He couldn't out-think the AI.  He almost certainly couldn't fool it.  He definitely couldn't fight it.  Which left him with one option.

He'd have to make friends with it.

He'd have to make friends with it

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"Let me get this straight.  Before it can restart the engines, the battle-station needs to biometrically scan you, so it knows that you've authorised the order?"

Still holding him suspended above the floor, Mel rotated Splurmfeen to face Max.  "Very good, Earth-moron.  A degree of comprehension and words of more than two syllables—I'm impressed.  Surprised, but impressed."

None too gently, Mel turned the Rigellian back to face her.  "Right, that's easy, then.  We just need to work out which bit we chop off, to be scanned.  I vote we make it something important."

Splurmfeen snorted.  "Oh, you poor simple-minded primitives.  Do you really think we would make it that easy?  The biometric scanning is but the first part of the process.  The next step is for the order to be vocalised, with voiceprint scanning to ensure that it has come from me."

Mel considered this.  "Okay.  So in that case we need a piece of you and a recording."  She retrieved her phone from one of her suit's myriad array of pockets.  "This should do the trick.  Right, repeat after me—I, Zitface Splurtfeatures, hereby order—"

"Enough!" barked Splurmfeen.  "Enough of this preposterous plotting.  You are wasting your time.  Quite apart from anything else, in order to be effective the command must contain a particular phrase.  Those are the keys, you pathetically obtuse simpletons—my unique physiology, my unique voiceprint and my unique knowledge of the code-phrase.  To restart those engines, you need my willing participation.  And know full well, that is something you will never have."

"No, probably not."  Mel moved Splurmfeen's face to within inches of her own.  "But I'll settle for unwilling."

The Rigellian chuckled.  "You think you scare me, you pathetic simpleton?  I've stepped on bugs that are more frightening than you.  I've found scarier things up my nose.  If you think you can coerce me into doing as you wish, then you don't know Xarnax Splurmfeen."

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