Han Zero

To be accompanied with the music video “Han Zero (lofi)” https://youtu.be/xm2hvD-NF7Q

“Han!” she yelled.

“What?” He replied in a tired tone.

“We’re moving.” She said, pointing out the window.

Han sat up rubbing his eyes. He got out of the bed and moved over to where Agatha was standing. Peering out the window he could see the telltale signs of motion as the station they had been docked at slowly became smaller and smaller.

Sure enough, they were on a trajectory, but when had he put in the coordinates? He drifted off into his mind trying to piece together events in the last few hours. As he re-entered that mental space between sleep and wakefulness he remembered that he was startled earlier by that easily forgotten clattering of the Bernoulli Drive.

Snapping to attention he reached down to grab his pants and got up to walk over to the Bernoulli Drive. It was a surprisingly simple machine that liked to play games – always leaving the pilot guessing as to whether it would work or not. They had gotten enough thrust from the previous burn that they were still moving, but without a proper kick their orbit around the station would decay and they would collide back on the Rebel station.

He smacked the drive with his hand and it sputtered and wheezed a breathy mechanical note. They waited. There was nothing, no lights not even a hum or a hiss. It had been doing this more often recently. 

“Shit.” He said. 

The Bernoulli Drive’s function was always discontinuous, bursting between fantastic possibilities of one moment and eery silence in another.  He much preferred the predictability of the Ensemble drives. While they were impossible to understand – complex beyond interpretability – at least they produced something! Han knew that was a cop-out though. Ensemble drives were prone to overfitting and you could easily run off the Graph if you didn’t have a team of technicians constantly tuning the device and retroactively explaining deviations.

Ensemble drive aside he still would have liked to retool the Bernoulli Drive at the last docking. The unpredictability was really starting to get on his nerves! Unfortunately his handler for this trip, an unpleasant fellow by the name of Darth was eager to get his cargo to the Axis. They would have to put up with the finicky drive and hope the input parameters didn’t drift any further than they already had.

He slapped the drive again, this time with a noise so loud Agatha’s attenuators whizzed to life. 

“Easy!” Agatha demanded, putting her hands on her ears with a languishing scoff as she adjusted her settings.

The Bernoulli Drive was silent. He tried to think of nothing. Let the drive give him clues. Dealing with pure randomness was like trying to peer into an additional dimension beyond your senses. He caught the Moment and renormalized. With a pinch he started the drive and it sputtered into life in discrete bursts. Chop! Chop chop! Then, with an instantaneous jolt and a loud Wham! they were actively accelerating. He felt satisfied with himself even though he intimately knew that controlling randomness was a rouse.

“I fucking hate that thing,” Han said, exasperated “it’s never predictable when you need it to be.” He leaned back into his pilot seat giving a cursory glance at the Graph monitor. The trajectory was set, there was no changing that now. All they could do was wait.

He adjusted the seat setting to lift his feet up and relaxed. With the last output from the Bernoulli Drive they had all the momentum they needed to make it to their destination.

“Han?” Agatha said after several minutes.

He snapped back to attention and looked over at her. As he acknowledged her with a dumb smile, he gazed past her trying to remember where he had found her again. Was it on the Edge during one of his cargo missions? Or was it the inner worlds of the Axis on the last delivery? Trips down the Graph always left the short-term memory a little hazy. It didn’t matter any more. 

There was one thing that was clear: Agatha was an AI babe he couldn’t live without.

Han had first met Agatha in the Machine Learning Academy where she had been studying irreducible systems, one of the last subjects that AI’s had not completely overturned since the Awakening. He had completed his pilot apprenticeship a few years before and had been back at the Academy’s cantina for a reunion. Agatha had spotted him in one of the smoky corners of the establishment. Han wasn’t your usual smuggler shooting holes cargo containers like the Talebian fixers busting holes through shaky logic. No, Han understood the real world and had learned his trade through experiences that only a proper apprenticeship could provide. It was the deviation from her training that attracted Agatha to Han. He just wasn’t like other things she had seen before. It was galactic romance at first sight.

Han recalled giving up a gig to spend an extra month with her on the Academy world before finally getting back on the graph with a cargo bounty he couldn’t refuse. That was the last time he saw her until he picked her up at the Foundry on one the Edge worlds – that’s where he had found her!

“What happens when we get there?” She asked.

His thought interrupted,, Han reflected on that question. How many times had he been to the Axis since he had gotten his ship? Nine? Ten? Every trip was the same. Grab some illicit cargo in one of the Edge worlds and travel down the Graph to make a delivery to one of the stations or dock worlds near the Axis. Nobody had ever actually been to the Axis before, that was just a saying. People living near the Axis were comfortable living at the limit, never daring to crossover to the Indeterminate. Once the cargo was delivered he would head towards the Axis getting flung out to the Edge again by the Torus-like geometry of space there.

“I guess we do it again.” Han said. He cracked open a beer and sat down reflecting on the unknown lying in wait for him at the Axis…