Snakes and Pills

158 - edict

Selina latched her boots into the clamps on the floor, and flicked a switch to deactivate the artificial gravity generator. She felt her body become buoyant immediately, and she didn't like it. Sure, the old space cowboys had done everything without the assistance of artificial gravity. But her generation had grown up with it. She associated the feeling with something having gone wrong.

Nothing had gone wrong, though. Not yet. This was all part of standard protocols. Their generator was a fine piece of kit, but the computational ability of the machine could easily be overloaded by the unpredictable nature of the landing routine. When an artificial gravity generator's processor fell behind reality, bad things could happen. Bad things like bodies being ripped apart by 50G forces from all directions.

Yeah, better to turn it off as a precaution. Safety first.

Selina glanced over all the displays once again. Everything was nominal. She turned to her copilot, who was waiting for his commander's confirmation. She nodded, and asked, "All ready over there?"

"Yes, sir," he quickly replied. Eager little guy.

Selina turned her attention back toward the displays in front of her. "Okay. Stand by for initialization of auto-landing sequence on my mark." She paused. "Five, four, three, two, one, MARK!"

Her copilot was well-trained, and jammed the button down in complete rhythm with her order. A moment later, he calmly confirmed, "Auto-landing sequence initialized."

Selina could see it for herself. The computer had started its work to bring them in. She felt the thrusters nudging the craft slightly, and she saw the course correcting and adjusting itself as it updated with newer readings from the telemetry.

Nothing to do now, Selina thought. She peeked over at her copilot, who was busy watching over all the readouts. Mostly, it was pointless busywork. The had to watch for anomalies, but anything beyond the acceptable margins would prompt a large warning light to display automatically. She kept an eye out, but there was no point in poring over the details.

Standard protocols, once again. Landing on a planet or docking with a space station, those were simple tasks that humans could perform. Even the primitive computers at the dawn of mankind's journey to the stars could handle those tasks without breaking a sweat.

Landing a craft on something as erratic and unpredictable as a small asteroid, though. Now that was something that could overwhelm a being made of flesh. Safer to leave it to the computer.

Selina could appreciate the machine's ruthless ability to calculate trajectories, make adjustments, and compensate for rapidly-changing variables. But the computer took her out of the equation. She no longer felt like the commander of a spacecraft. She was a glorified occupant of a very expensive elevator at this point, nothing more.

The rocky surface of the asteroid grew bigger in the viewfinder, until it occupied the entire screen. She caught a glimpse of the outpost, difficult as it was to see through all the outcroppings of stone.

Her ship bumped again in another slight course correction from the computer. By now, the hard part was over. The computer had synchronized the ship with the asteroid's velocity and rotation. She was certain that she could easily bring them in from here. She eyed the manual override switch, as she often did when her ship was out of her control.

"Coming up on thirty seconds," her copilot called out.

Selina could. But she wouldn't. The craft gently swooped in and hovered over the docking bay. The computer slowly brought them down until the contact sensors illuminated. "Contact!" her copilot excitedly called out.

"Sequence and engine shutdown," Selina routinely answered while flipping a few switches.

Another successful landing.


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