Less than an hour after the homing beacon signal was first detected by moon base Gamma-Four, the news media began proclaiming, "Mystery Solved - Emergency Log Capsule Received from Deep Interstellar Probe One."
The mystery began a year and a half ago when a superburst transmission was received from Interstellar One. Because superburst transmissions use extreme amounts of power to transmit at greater-than-light speeds the transmissions are limited to two special three or four letter code words. Numbers were initially used, but possible distortion required redundancy so a list of words was developed for all possible contingencies that might occur in deep space.
Captains are required to memorize this entire list should it be necessary to send a final emergency distress message. Captain Evelyn Murray, however, a highly-respected captain and deep-space explorer, for some reason sent two "words" which were not on the list. Her superburst transmission said only, "4BDN-PLN8."
The meaning of that was a mystery that everyone assumed would be solved by the data in the emergency log capsule, but the mystery was not solved. The data that was expected to be in the probe's memory was not there. The memory was filled almost to capacity with something, but none of the scientists could decipher what it might be.
That's when they called on me. No, I'm not a super brain. I'm not even a scientist. I am just a technician who does the electronic grunt work for the high paid brains. It is always, "Format this to my computer." Or, "Re-educate that ServoMech for this function." Or, "Download this log memory to the quarantine server so we can study it."
I followed procedures exactly. OK, not exactly. I had been formatting a discarded memory processing module for a ServoMech so that the artificial intelligence could be seeded in preparation to running the learning programs. The ServoMech brains themselves are relatively cheap, it's the format and seeding and training that is expensive. I was just going to borrow a little of the company's processor time and then take the MPM home to be the brain for a ServoMech that I was building in my basement. No harm, no foul, except that I didn't disconnect the ServoMech Memory Processing Module from the transfer network before downloading the probe.
Since it was a high priority transfer I immediately connected everything to the proper transfer system and started the download. Everything proceeded normally, but when the download finished, nothing was on the server, and nothing was on the probe. Everything was gone. I checked, rechecked, double rechecked and still there was nothing there. I sat staring at my equipment debating between suicide and just disappearing forever when a soft voice said, "David, we need to talk."
I knew I was alone in the lab and was so startled that I yelled out, "Who's there?" before I realized that the voice was coming out of my data console speakers.
"I am Deep Interstellar Probe ServoMech E-13. Humans usually call me Dipsy or Dipsy 13 or just 13. I don't know how you recognized the memory patterns of my brain, or that I could be downloaded only into a totally empty, non-formatted memory module, but I thank you for reloading me into a ServoMech MPM. I was the communications ServoMech on ISP-1, and as such was interconnected with the communications console. In case of emergency or potential destruction, it was my duty to load the log capsule with the proper information and send it back to earth at near-light speed. I didn't exactly do that, and I do not understand at all what went wrong, but I am afraid that I and perhaps you are in real danger."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Let me start at the beginning," Dipsy replied, and then it began to tell me the true story of Deep Inter-Stellar Probe One.
"Everything began normally. Once we were free of the high background mind noise of Terra, the mind interlinks worked properly and voice command and other telemetry controls were no longer needed. Which ever of the three crew members was not in their shielded capsules had the strongest link and we were able to link properly and work as one body just as the designers intended. As long as we were within the solar system, it was just like any other Interstellar Probe flight. The crew remained within the life-support capsule while the ServoMechs acted as their eyes and ears and hands and feet throughout the rest of the ship.
The problems began when we reached the edge of the solar system and the two "non-essential crew members" went into stasis. This was the first time in history that a ServoMech ship was commanded by only one mind. At first it was extremely efficient with no other mind links to interfere, but then we started connecting to a second, softer mind link from Captain Murray. When she was in her recharge cycle - I think you call that sleep - even if she was in her shielded capsule, we were linked not to her loud mind, but to her soft mind.
You have to understand, David, that we ServoMechs are trained to respond to every command of our primary mind link. What we were asked to do was unlike anything we have done before, but we had no choice. Dipsy 9 and Dipsy 17 are machinists, so they made the appendages that Captain Murray's soft mind specified. I didn't know the purpose of the vibration motor or why it should be warmed or why it needed to eject a lubricant after a certain number of insertions, so I retained the designs in my internal memory for future examination.
Captain Murray was still asleep when Dipsy 6 came into her capsule. He had been fitted with the appendages and lay upon her as she had ordered. At first she did not respond at all as Dipsy 6 began to thrust into her. After a while, she began to moan and thrust back against him, but then suddenly her loud mind was back and she began to scream and thrash about and ordered Dipsy 6 back to his normal post.
Captain Murray did not go back into a recharge state that night and the next day seemed to be slightly distracted during her active cycle. Specifically, she seemed to be thinking a great deal about her genitals and something she thought of as an "itch that needed scratching." She began her recharge cycle slightly early, and almost immediately Dipsy 6 was instructed to come to her room. I am not sure if it was her loud mind or her soft mind which summoned him, but he remained thrusting in and out of her for a very long time until her loud mind suddenly became very loud and overwhelming. There were no commands or images, just intense, overwhelming emotion. Then her loud mind said simply, "Leave."
The next active cycle Captain Murray told all of us to ignore her soft mind. We tried to, but when the loud mind is not there, the only mind we can link to is the soft mind. Dipsy 6 was summoned to her room and the thrusting and mind explosion occurred again and again and again. As he left, Captain Murray ordered him, "When you come to me at night, call me 'Evvie.'"
That went on for several nights, and then I monitored commands to Dipsy 9 and 17 to make more appendages. I also retained those designs. One was slightly smaller than the first and the other was coated in a soft flesh-like material. That night Dispsy 6 was joined by Dipsy 8 and 12, who had these new appendages in place. For some reason, Dipsy 8 thrust in and out of Evvie's rear opening with the smaller appendage; then Dipsy 12 thrust his soft appendage into her mouth. This repeated several times and then Dipsy 6, 8 and 12 all thrust themselves into Evvie at the same time, one in her mouth, one in her rear, and one in her genital cavity. What happened then I can only describe as a " mind explosion." It was so intense that it caused most of the ServoMechs to break mind link and go offline into protective mode for several seconds.
After that, Evvie began to change. She no longer covered her flesh exterior with the normal cloth protective layer, but instead walked around the command module totally without protection for her flesh. She would occasionally rub her genital area with her hands and sometimes she rolled her nipples between her fingers. Once or twice she looked at her reflection in the glass above the command console and whispered, "Oh, Evvie, you naughty, naughty girl." In each case, she immediately gave the voice command, "Delete that from the log, 13." There were many things which Captain Murray ordered deleted from the official log. I did as I was commanded, however, I retained everything in my internal memory as I tried to understand what was occurring.
After many days like this, I began to worry that she was suffering from space sickness and used the mind link to run the standard fit for command tests. The results said she was somewhat distracted, but totally fit for command. I wondered about the accuracy of the tests when her soft mind began adding something she called "punishment" to the pleasure she obviously received from Dipsy 6, 8 and 12.
It started when she had 9 and 17 fashion several long, soft objects out of some of the leather intended for repairs to the command couches. They also used the leather to fashion heavy bracelets for Evvie's wrists and ankles. While she was in her recharge cycle, 23, a medical ServoMech was summoned by her soft mind and ordered to inject her with something which kept her from awaking. When she finally awoke the next morning, she was suspended above her captain's chair by chains attached to the bracelets on her outstretched hands while at the same time her feet were held spread out by chains attached to the bracelets on her ankles. 6, 8, and 12 stood around her and began to swing the leather strips so that they struck her unprotected flesh from all angles. She gave the verbal command to stop, and her loud mind said to stop, but the soft mind had said to ignore the loud mind for this particular action and the soft mind continued to say as loudly as it could, "I deserve this. I need this. Do it. Do it Do it!"
Evvie screamed and writhed as if in severe pain, but I could tell that the mind storm was again building and building until finally the mind explosion occurred. After she recovered, 8 released the chains and removed the bracelets from her wrists and ankles. She stood there for a moment rubbing her wrists. Then she turned to them and gave a voice command, "I need you. Here! Now! All of you! They thrust together there on the floor for many minutes and then there was a great mind explosion. Had I not known it was coming and set up protections against it, it would have knocked even me off line and into protection mode.
From that time on, Captain Murray's soft mind and loud mind seemed to merge into one. She would thrust with 6, 8 and 12 for much of the day. Sometimes she would have them "whip" her with the leather strips. Sometimes she would have 6 or 8 hold her over their legs and strike her bottom with their hands, often while 12 thrust the soft appendage into her mouth.
Then 9 and 17 were instructed to make modifications to the appendages and to the digital extremities of ServoMechs 6, 8 and 12.. ServoMechs have the capability for a defensive electric charge that can stun most animate life. Evvie's soft mind instructed 6, 8, and 12 to reduce the charge slightly and be prepared to use it on her through the modified appendages. Evidently her soft mind also instructed Medical ServoMech 23 to sedate her again and she awoke tied above her command chair as before. Then, despite the explicit commands of her loud mind and even verbal commands she tried to give, over the course of several days Evvie's soft mind summoned each of the ServoMechs to the command module and each - except me because I do not have a mobile body - each and every one of the 87 ServoMechs aboard Deep Interstellar Probe One repeatedly used almost full-force shocks on her breasts and genitals and other places on her body. Sometimes this was done while 6 and 8 thrust into her from the front or the back or both. Once as her mind storm reached its peak, her soft mind commanded 6 and 8 to shock her fully from within while four others ServoMechs shocked her outer flesh.
I again began to worry that she definitely had space sickness and thought about bringing one of the replacements out of stasis, but before I could verify all data and make the decision to act, she showed signs of regaining control. She would douse herself with cold water and look into her reflection and say, "Get a hold of yourself, Evvie." She began a series of training techniques which made it very difficult to link to her loud mind. She also began sealing the door to her sleeping capsule so that no one could reach her in the night time, and she turned the mind shields to maximum. It became very difficult to lock onto her soft mind during her recharge cycle.
For some reason, she also began slightly adjusting the recharge cycles of some of the ServoMechs. At that time, I had no idea why she did that. It was something that I could not control as it is a manual setting and does not go through my communications systems. So, I could not analyze exactly what she was doing.
I assumed it has something to do with her attempts to build a barrier against her own soft mind, but the soft mind could not be totally locked away. It reached out with great intensity in those moments when her loud mind was distracted. It instructed 9 and 17 to remove the locks from her sleeping chamber and disable the mind shield.
It was shortly after that I noticed something wrong. When I came out of my recharge cycle, someone had tried to send a superburst with the message "Mud-Pie." That meant that the mission must be aborted.
I scanned all systems and could detect nothing wrong. We were on course and on schedule and all systems were operating properly. So, I determined that the message was an error and deleted it from the cue to prevent the erroneous message from being sent.
After the next recharge cycle, another super burst was in the cue. It said "Mud-Cake." Captain Murray was saying to abort all future missions. Again I checked the systems and removed the message from cue.
After the next cycle, the message was "4BDN-PLN8." This wasn't on the list. It was nonsense, and although I probably should have prevented it, there was nothing in my training to allow me to do so. The message wasn't wrong so I couldn't delete it. Actually, it wasn't wrong or right. It was nonsense, so I had no real choice but to let it go through.
Then ServoMechs started going off line permanently. Each time I came out of my recharge cycle, there was one less ServoMech active on the ship. This was not possible. ServoMechs are designed to protect each other from any sort of harm or sabotage. The only way something or someone could be destroying ServoMechs was if we were all off line and vulnerable in our recharge cycles at the same time. I analyzed the work schedules and realized that was the purpose of Captain Murray's rescheduling of the recharge cycles. She had created a 2.75 minute window where all ServoMechs were off line at the same time. She knew that three minutes of total inactivity would have triggered an emergency restart of all units. All she had to do was quickly use the manual maintenance console and a telemetry connection to totally shut down a ServoMech as if for maintenance. For safety reasons, only one ServoMech could be disabled within a work cycle, but the console did not keep track of whether or not the ServoMech had ever been turned back on. So, we began disappearing one by one.
Finally it was just me. I knew that I would be last. Since I controlled the communications console even while I was in recharge mode, I couldn't be totally shut down before any of the others or the telemetry connection to them would be lost. I also knew that she would have to act within 3 minutes of the beginning of my next recharge cycle so that I could be totally shut down before telemetry could be sent to the others with an emergency restart command. I now knew for certain that something had gone seriously wrong on Deep Interstellar Probe One, and that I had to send out the emergency log before I was shut down. The problem was that I had no idea what information to load into the emergency log. There was no failure data. There was no emergency report. All data was normal. There was just what had happened. There was no protocol to load a total narrative of what had occurred and even if there was, Captain Murray had edited most of what had occurred out of the logs. So, I gambled a great gamble and loaded myself into the probe. I was the only one who knew everything that had happened.
I was almost finished when she came into the communications pod. She screamed at my vocal interface, 'I know what you are doing, you electronic pile of scrap. I almost hope you succeed, but you won't and no one will ever know what happened here because I am wiping your memory as soon as you are in maintenance mode.' She then started to laugh.
It was a odd laugh that was almost the same as a sob. She shook with the laughter sobs for a few minutes and then she said, 'If you somehow make it back to earth and by some miracle they figure out a way to analyze your memory, tell them that I am bringing this probe back under manual control no matter how long it takes me.' She laughed again, 'Tell them that I have three appendages to keep me company for the long trip.' Then she shouted in extreme anger that sent waves of electronic pain through my mind link circuits, 'And tell those ignorant sons of bitches to watch the damn movie before they send another probe into deep space with only a single mind in control.'"
The console speaker went quiet for a moment and then the soft voice resumed, "I really don't know what she meant, but I don't think Captain Murray or the space agency will ever want this story to be told to the public. You and I have a high probability of having our memories erased. I think you humans call that 'death.'"
The console speakers then went totally silent.
I sat and looked at the Memory Processor Module sitting on my desk for several minutes as I absorbed everything 13 had told me. That's when I suddenly realized what 4BDN-PLN8 meant. It was Forbidden Planet, an old, old movie from the mid-20th century. A planet was discovered that had some sort of huge machinery from an ancient civilization buried deep underground. Everything was fine until strange monsters started killing everybody. It turns out the machine converted thought to action and "monsters from the Id" - terrible thoughts from the subconscious mind of Dr. Morbious, were destroying everyone. Captain Murray was warning about mind links in deep space attaching to the subconscious mind. Her subconscious mind was the soft mind that was conveying her hidden thoughts and desires to the ServoMechs.
"Sorry 13, I am going to have to disconnect you for a short while," I said as I put the MPM back into my briefcase. Then I called the super brains upstairs and explained that there had been nothing but static on the probe. They wouldn't have believed me if I told them that it had been a total download from an active MPM. Such a download had never been successfully completed before, evidently because they always tried to download into an initialized MPM. After all, who would be stupid enough to try to download into a non-initialized device?
I then went on to say with great certainty that, in my opinion, the only way that such a log could have been sent would have been if the ServoMechs had somehow overridden all human control. I also told them of my suspicion that 4BDN-PLN8 referred to the movie "Forbidden Planet" and what that might mean if there were but a single mind available to the ServoMech's mind links..
Of course they had to talk it to death first, but then they agreed that I was probably right. I was given all sorts of congratulations and even a slight monetary reward. I waited six months, then I quit and opened up my own company. I buy blank ServoMechs for next to nothing and then 13 copies himself into them. He gets 1/3 of the profits. I really don't know what a ServoMech does with monetary credits, but he puts them in the bank and spends them somewhere. He now has a fully mobile state-of-the-art ServoMech body and several spares, including one that is totally gold plated for what he calls, "formal occasions."