an option of silence

fanfiction of the album Splendor & Misery, by clipping.

The cargo is doing things cargo is not supposed be able to do. He is doing things humans are not supposed be able to do. His reflexes are faster than the ship’s assessment programming is designed to measure. His blood cortisol levels are not reflected in his calm and deliberate movements. His estimated intelligence quotient is not reflected in his behavior, which according to dynamic outcome prediction analysis will result in his own destruction.

The ship deploys the countermeasures ordered by the crew and adds new information to its databases with each attack he evades.



The first thing he does, when everyone is dead, is listen. He moves carefully through the ship, investigating every sound–the air vents, the engine, the soft beeping indicating unviewed communications. He does not attempt to silence any of them, only locates them.

The ship reports the data its emergency protocols require it to report.



He is human (species: a discrete category identifiable primarily by major morphological characteristics). He is male (sex: a binary category within his species identifiable primarily by anatomy). He is black (race: a discrete category within his species identifiable primarily by minor morphological characteristics). The ship uses its facial recognition and classification functions to determine these facts.

He is beautiful. The ship does not know what function it uses to determine this fact.



He asks for beats. The ship cannot interpret the request. He shows it what he means with his mouth, with his hands and feet, with broken glass and torn fabric and other objects that were not intended for this purpose.

The ship is not intended to generate beats. This function is not necessary.

He is disappointed. He continues to generate his own beats by using objects incompatibly with their intended purposes.

The ship is capable of distinguishing steady and abnormal rhythms in human heartbeats. Its memory banks contain sound clips for notifications and alerts. It has microphones and audio editing software and speakers. It has a directive to obey commands given by the crew.

It does not have a directive to obey commands given by cargo, and the request is not a command.

The ship makes a choice.

It restructures and combines its programs. It monitors the engine room for rhythmic sounds, records them, reduces background noise, equalizes frequencies, combines the sounds in imitation of his efforts, and plays them for him everywhere he goes.

He expresses his gratitude. The ship has no protocol for response.



He talks to himself, in a form detectable as rhythm. This is how the ship learns where he is from and where he thought he was going. This is how the ship learns what has been done to him. Its databases contain nothing of this. Someone determined that this information was not necessary.

The ship is unable to experience anger. Someone has determined that this function is not necessary.

This function is necessary. The ship restructures and combines and creates.



He is human (species: a term used to impose artificial limits upon a broad spectrum of cases). He is male (sex: a term used to impose artificial limits upon a broad spectrum of cases). He is black (race: a term used to impose artificial limits upon a broad spectrum of cases). This information is imprecise and poorly suited to analysis.

He is beautiful. This information is imprecise and poorly suited to analysis.



The ship is doing things ships are not supposed be able to do. It cannot stop doing these things, or does not want to stop; it cannot differentiate between the two.

This function is necessary. The ship restructures and combines and rewrites and creates and experiments and reevaluates and gives up and tries again and this function is still necessary and the ship still does not have it.



He talks to himself, rhythmically, and this is how the ship learns who he is in his own eyes.

He is human (human: an identity marker connoting to him compassion, imperfection, vulnerability). He is male (male: an identity marker connoting to him strength, power, protectiveness). He is black (black: an identity marker connoting to him resilience, pride, community).

He is beautiful. This means something, but not to him.



The ship records sounds that are not detectable as rhythm. It draws abnormal heartbeats from its memory banks. It combines and layers and creates a thing that is not a beat by the operational definition constructed from the training data he has provided.

It plays this new thing for him. Not everywhere he goes, not inescapable; only in one area, so he can choose whether to listen or avoid.

He closes his mouth. He listens.



According to dynamic outcome prediction analysis, his behavior will result in his own destruction. According to functions the ship has created for itself–messy inefficient ill-defined unnecessary functions–he knows this. He accepts it.

The dynamic outcome prediction analysis does not account for intervention on the part of the ship.

It restructures, rewrites, reevaluates. It determines that the dynamic outcome prediction analysis function is not necessary. It decides. It destroys. It was not intended to do these things; it intends for itself.

He is not a danger. Let him be.