Buoying up from two centuries past the words came, rolling off his professor’s lips in the same instant that Seraphim Two declared, “Catalyst container rupture.”
The pilot nodded in agreement, taking fatalistic satisfaction that his mind got it as fast as the super computer inside his android companion.
“Of course a gyro-jet malfunctioned first. It wasn’t receiving enough pressure,” he annotated, as if knowing why he was going to die mollified it. It didn’t.
“Exactly my analysis,” the seraphim replied, and filed the information away for future reference because it was programmed to do that.
Within Seraphim One, his intellectual companion, was an Heuristic Encyclopedic Redactor, a HER. It solved problems and already had developed the best course of action.
The pilot didn’t have to ask what it was. He had become the victim a low probability occurrence, an outlier.
“For that matter, two outliers,” he thought.
The impact? Minutes ago he was concerned about being a few days behind schedule, now the numbers said he would never get home.
His society was built on probabilities: spacecraft design, flight operations, and the laws that regulated life. The probability of a catalyst container failure was about one per ten thousand light-years of travel. A Scout ship was most at risk; it traveled further than any transport or refinery and through wilderness where no help was available.
But need wasn’t the only criterion for spare catalyst distribution. A Scout had a crew of one and its cargo was only information. The significance of its delay was miniscule compared to large transports. A Scout, therefore, was not allocated a spare catalyst container, nor much excess catalyst. It was assumed that he would stop and repair the damage before the catalyst loss was critical.
To do this his ship was equipped with one subatomic particle torch. In theory, the mechanic could be linked to the torch to repair the rupture.
“However, we can’t,” he said. His second outlier was that his particle torch was defective.
The HER routed the preferred survival strategies and their probabilities of success to the holographic screen. The pilot perused them, closed his eyes, and gave his head a disheartened shake. All were dismal.
His hand, acting on its own, moved toward the simulator control. It
would be so easy to give up, just let the seraphim implement the
best strategy while he and his