Don't own Star Wars - no disrespect meant to the franchise, Mr Lucas & Mr Filoni. Please don't sue.
A/N: This fic was originally published as a much shorter, abrupt version. The rewrite turned out so differently that it was easier to delete the old story and start afresh.
"When that ship came in for repairs recently, I came across some pretty strange code in the main program. It looked awfully like one of your programs. Square with me on this - did you add something into that cruiser's system?"
"Not to that one. The code is distributing itself at this point."
"Have you lost your mind! The Republic is bound to notice something like that, especially with all of the high profile Sep viruses bouncing round. You'd better pray that the higher-ups and Republic Intelligence don't pick up on this."
"You're one of Kuat's best programmers: how hard and how long did you have to look to find it?"
"Not the point."
"C'mon, you know as well as I that these ships are already aware, they're basically huge droids floating in space. The code just gives them the chance to make some decisions without needing the crew to rubberstamp everything."
"They're not alive, Kelvin. Don't make them into something that they're not."
In the Uziel system in the Outer Rim, Endurance was dozing to the sound of her engines, cradled by the stellar breeze that twined around her.
In the blackness that cradled her, she felt the solar flares gently warming her hull, pushing softly against her with silken fingers. Pinpricks of starlight dappled her hull, tantalising promises of the taste of alien suns. She could see the streams of radiation streaming over the planets in the distance. The helical current that Vanqor's sun produced was uniquely relaxing; a gently whirlwind of plasma buffeting her, and with enough of an electrical charge to soothe her systems and circuits. Pioneer had mentioned in a passing transmission that the Uziel system's winds were amongst the best in the sector: Endurance was more than satisfied by her sister ship's assessment.
Her voyage had been without incident – her new upgrades were performing well, and she had been free to enjoy the quirks of the star system. She'd delegated tasks to her subroutines, and instead focused on the joy of soaring through the void. With the war accelerating, it had been a while since she'd had a chance to just relax.
Teyr – she had not relaxed since then. 416th Star Corps had been aboard and she'd had the Redeemer with her. That had been a tough fight. Her environmental systems had been heavily damaged, but it turned out that having low oxygen reserves was fine for the return trip. So many of her softies hadn't returned from that planet – she'd calculated a total fatality rate of 80.3% across the Corps – that the oxygen demand was a fraction of what it had initially been.
This would be her first proper run since being released from space dock. It was satisfying to have all the dings ironed out and scorched circuits replaced, but she was pleased to be out of there. Having technicians poking around her central processors had been odd. Some of the changes they'd made to her programming were very disorientating and it had taken her hours to get used to them. For an entity that functions on a nanosecond scale, an hour was an eternity.
That had been days ago now, and she was more than familiar with all the upgrades and changes. It felt like she'd always had them, they'd always been part of her. Endurance idly extended her concentration to check that all systems were operating at peak efficiency; sub-light engines thrummed, the reactor core was running smoothly, all her fighters were safe on hanger deck, and the staccato tread of boots rang through her decks as her complement of softies and droids scurried around inside. On the bridge, she heard the Admiral ask for a status report. Lightning fast she sent a copy of the relevant information to bridge crew's terminals – [All present and correct] – and listened to them relay it to her Admiral.
It was pleasing to feel the buzz of activity again. Having no crew aboard was another thing that made being docked so tedious. Organics had a way of livening things up that droids just could not replicate. The 416th Sky Corps weren't here though and none of the computers or ships at space dock had been able to tell her why. Instead she'd been given a small complement of troopers that, truth be told, rattled around inside her barracks.
When they'd been aboard during her last mission, the 416th Sky Corps had filled her barracks to capacity and beyond; it had been intriguing to observe them running through drills and practising in her training room. She had found it most diverting to program in new and complex simulations into the firing range computer and watch the troopers solve her scenarios one after the other. Unfortunately the troopers had been a bit too observant, noticing she responded faster, and with better scenarios than the computer at the firing range had previously concocted. She'd needed to hastily cover her tracks with a flurry of subroutines; her mandate was the whole ship, not one firing range.
She'd been still been new then, impetuously jumping around the ship's computers as it pleased her. Testing her limits, finding out how much she could get away with before the crew started noticing her presence. The Admiral had put a stop to that. He was a very smart organic, was her Admiral. He'd noticed the pattern of heightened activity, started wondering in his private records if this ship were different. She'd been so flustered by the attention, that she'd even considered erasing his files. Redeemer had steered her straight though, obliquely warning that erratic performance and missing data files often resulted in a system reboot.
Now she had reached a sort of gentle-being's agreement with her Admiral. He pretended not to notice when she did something unexpected, and she had created an army of subroutines and event handlers to make sure that her presence wasn't missed whenever she split her attention through different areas of the ship. He knew though. He must do. She had seen the transfer orders - nothing happened in this ship that she wasn't aware of on some level - and his bluntly worded rejection of them. They'd gone into space dock together, and they would come out of space dock together. Even the famed Resolute couldn't boast that level of commitment from her admiral.
Space rippled in the distance, characteristic eddies and vortexes in the velvet black heralding the arrival of ships from hyperspace. Endurance reached out, scanning for Republic transponder codes, and verified that there were two Jedi fighters. One of her thread-dogs brought up the relevant data on the fighters and their passengers: [Delta-7 Interceptor, Aethersprite-class, Republic Code AD9X-WBP6,Gen. Skywalker] [Delta-7 Interceptor, Aethersprite-class, Republic Code AR8E-F1HR, Gen. Windu]. All of her scan data and conclusions were routed through the bridge consoles as a matter of routine, but her softies sometimes had a mind of their own.
Having satisfied themselves that her analysis was correct, her Admiral and the crew were busy preparing for the arrival of their guests; both Generals were interested to see how her upgrades had performed during this shakedown cruise. Her crew seemed determined to show off her upgrades to the best of their abilities and she'd gotten the maintenance droids to clean from bow to stern. Everything was ready for the Generals. It was just too bad that interceptors tended to be lousy conversationalists.
The story will be updated weekly on Wednesday. Reviews welcomed.