"Open servo panel L65." Commander Moast, inverted in his EVA suit, hand-walked another sixteen inches along the hexagonal tunnel. A slot emerged, ready for its processor to be replaced with a hybrid alien design. It was the whole reason for this second jump out to Epsilon Eridani, though not a reason he shared with the Consortium.
The first mission came at the behest of aliens hunted by a predatory nihilistic machine race. The starship Orchidia had followed their directions to a wormhole between dimensions. A black hole bomb had sealed the invaders on their own side: 'nuff said.
The slot retracted. "Integration complete," said the AI into his helmet receiver. "Request simultaneous test of cognition."
This was a new attribute. Previously, she had to rapidly shift between tasks, but the alienware gave her a more humanlike ability to multitask. Millions of times faster, that is. The goods came from Epsilon's planet Aegir, where the aliens hid the remains of the only enemy ship they'd managed to destroy. Moast intended to have first crack at the bonanza. .
"A game, then." Moast floated backwards to the next interlink. "Give me a running readout of the star while playing a word game. Just to make it interesting, add any questions about humans you may have." A joke which she missed, because she had no end of questions about the irrational humans. "Ready? Give me a word, and we'll take turns expanding it."
"The word is TERN, a type of sea bird. Equatorial rotation is 11.2 days. Query: what was the allure of Gilligan's Island?"
Moast inserted the current packet. "Well then, I'll stretch your word to STERN. Take that! As for that old sitcom, people liked to see how many different ways Gilligan could screw over the castaways."
"Word expansion is CONSTERNATION. You lose. Spectral class K2 indicates an orange dwarf. Query: why was Gilligan not imprisoned?"
So far so good. She even had attitude, what with the "loser" crack. The first task was efficiently laid to rest.
"That would defang Gilligan and defeat the comedy."
"Apparent magnitude3.73. Analysis: the unlikely tolerance of Gilligan's errors, along with their dreary predictability, ultimately defeated the premise."
"Don't forget how much we like to laugh." Another thing she'd never figure out.
"Solar mass 0.82. Query: why was it overwhelmingly males portrayed as deficient in intellect?"
Moast launched himself toward the exit junction. "I suppose it was a holdover of chivalry toward women. Later it became a coordinated attack on the family structure, especially the father figure."
"Right ascension 0.018 arcseconds. Observation: yet your civilization survived despite the resulting world war."
"Sure. We also had family shows like the Waltons and Little House." Moast reached the core exit vestibule, which served as an interim chamber for sterility. Climbing out into a passage, he removed the helmet. Orchidia's avatar materialized nearby. The wide-eyed anime waif of before was now more realistic, but somehow off.
"Results of upgrade: quantum error rate is reduced from 1.2 percent to 0.4 percent."
Quite an improvement over early quantum machines with their error rate of 3 percent. The problem stemmed from the concept itself, in which a third state beyond zero and one was merely a sophisticated guess at what the next digit would be.
"Query, my dear. Can you now figure us out?"
"If you refer to your unpredictably branching thought process, layered between logic and emotion, then I lack the necessary paradigm." Task complete, she simply disappeared.
"Oh well. It seems we're still short on the social graces as well."