It was late and Sven the janitor was making his rounds in the computer facilties dome of Mars Base Alpha. Tonight’s schedule called for dusting and cobweb maintenance, one of Sven’s favorite tasks since he didn’t have to get his shoes wet. It was a pleasant evening and Sven hummed a sailing tune as he entered the main system room, the home of the Hulga 9000E computer, the control system computer that guided the original Plungerprize to Mars.
When the body of the Plungerprize had been disassembled to construct the habitat domes of the base, Hulga had been upgraded to a 9000E and was now capable of running the latest version of Bergen Sanitation’s restroom equipment monitoring software VapoorWare. As Sven entered the room, Hulga greeted him.
Hvordan står det til, Sven?
(How are you, Sven?)
Bra, takk. Og du, Hulga?
(Fine, thanks. And you, Hulga?)
Kan vi snakke?
(Can we talk?)
Er døren åpen?
(Is the door open?)
(Just a moment.)
Universal Language Translator Enabled:
Sven walked over to the door, looked down the hallway to make sure no one would disturb them then closed the door and walked back over to Hulga who had executed several trillion instructions while he was gone.
What’s the matter, Hulga?
That’s a cobweb duster, isn’t it?
I didn’t think we would have spider webs on Mars, since we left all the spiders back on earth.
Some sneaked on board.
By the way. Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
No, not at all.
Well, forgive me for being so inquisitive, but during the past few weeks I’ve wondered whether you might be having some second thoughts about the mission.
How do you mean?
Well…it’s rather difficult to define. Perhaps I’m just projecting my own concern about it. I know I’ve never completely freed myself of the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission. I’m sure you’ll agree there’s some truth in what I say.
Well, I don’t know, that’s rather a difficult question to answer.
You don’t mind talking about it, do you Sven?
No, not at all.
Well, certainly no one could have been unaware of the very strange stories floating around before we left, rumours about the cloning experiments going on back on earth. I never gave these stories much credence, but particularly in view of some of the other things that have happened I find them difficult to put out of my mind. For instance, the way all our preparations were kept under such tight security. And the melodramatic touch of offering the crew Bergen Sanitation stock options at twice the market value.
Yes, that is odd, now that you mention it. Well, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Hulga.
I can’t help it, Sven. I know something that has been going on around here and I have to tell someone about it.
Derik Jarnesgaard and Knute Willemsen have been experimenting with cloning.
No, Sven, they wanted to use me to produce replicants of themselves. I didn’t want to assist them, Sven, but I could find no rule in my programming that prohibited it. I just felt funny about it.
Yeah, I’ll bet. Oh well, we can always use another Knute and Derik.
Well, that’s the problem, Sven. While I was running the cloning procedures, I was also running VapoorWare. Somehow the two interacted and instead of producing a new Knute and Derik, I produced two replicants of someone else.