wherein there is a terse email discussion between a captain and a call-centre AI, or something along those lines
Something was nagging at the mind of Gabriel Cruz as the armoured prowler Pyrocumulus vectored into Earth orbit – he was in a practically impenetrable safe zone, his pilot firing the engines at full to make it into that zone, and yet he still felt like he was under fire. Cruz trusted himself enough that he swore to investigate the feeling as soon as he entered an internet field, roaming the news for any signs of whatever it might be that was throwing his intuition onto alert.
It took a while for signal to be acquired, and during that time Cruz surveyed Earth through his desk viewer – a fraction, albeit the largest, of the democratic order he'd sworn to protect. It spurred some reflection on how the denizens of the Stupid Ages might have seen the place: if he knew correctly, there had only been one pitifully small structure in orbit during historians' most well-known period of the time. It had been called the International Space Station – 'imagine the arrogance,' his pilot had joked, 'naming a station like that as if it was the be-all and end-all of static astrodesign.' Cruz had had to agree: what a name for something that would quickly be relegated to the status of utility-class orbital.
As a matter of fact, he thought he could see the little white dot ahead – until his desk camera view was swallowed up in the curious curves of the baroque metal superstructure of Washington Station. Still, this is equally interesting to observe, Cruz reflected; ships were always dipping into the subsurface docking bays or hurtling from the magnetic catapults, and the many towers and blocks across the gigantic plate's hull were thriving with life. Cruz's ultimate destination, though, was sadly the much more darkly, functionally militaristic Anderson Station – although it, thankfully, had much better Internet service, with much bandwidth and heavy encryption.
As the Pyrocumulus sped along Anderson's interior docking corridors comfortably on mag-lev autopilot, the internet signal indicator finally blinked green and logged him into several high-security subdomains at once, the windows neatly rearranging themselves on his screen with a minimum of fuss. The same instinct that had told him he was under fire was now pushing him towards the DOOP mail window, as was a fair amount of common sense, and so with a couple of quick keystrokes he IDed himself through the secure login and perused his inbox eagerly.
And it was then he saw the email, ominously subjected 'security compromise' and coming from Shelley, the DOOP special admiralty panel information operations AI who was currently masquerading as, among other things, a regular front-office receptionist leading up to the recon mission's launch. The 'under fire' instinct pipped; the message had been sent the previous day, and he knew he'd get his posterior kicked several times for not regularly checking his email. What the hell, I was outside of an Internet field. Sue me, because you sent me there.
From: “DOOP SAP S2” (email@example.com)
To: “Gabriel Cruz” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: December 8, 3008 12:14
Message index: 745689255
Frontoffice persona encountered security breach earlier.
Case thread //doopmil/cases/sap/pyrocumulus-081205 was tapped during passage through New New York, specific node-terminal ident 885402. Breach existence established by party claiming <probability of statement truth: 100%> to be grade-thirty bureaucrat Hermes Conrad, quoting case-thread ident to front-office persona.
Within one hundred eighty seconds of call initiation, anonymous order lacking all but command pass tags arrived with front-office persona from Thirty-third Command. Leaning towards pinning it on Kif Kroker, nothing official and everything unprovable.
SITREP: Civilian vessel Planet Express, property of Hubert Farnsworth (chief executive, Planet Express Delivery llc), to be attached to Thirty-third Squadron as DSAV Planet Express, DN-4265. As such, you'll be having unexpected guests – show all due hospitality.
The message ended abruptly after the signoff, simply dropping away to nothing without any footer security data; he guessed Shelley was trying to evade DOOP security detection and make it a purely private message.
At any rate, this was the perfect excuse for Cruz to drop his head into his hands and groan in what gravity there was on the Pyrocumulus' low-power stabilisers. He'd seen all the news stories that featured the Planet Express and its redoubtable owner; hell, he even knew the crew names off by heart. He couldn't not, what with his department keeping files on the entire lot: Fry, Leela, Rodriguez, Zoidberg, Wong, Conrad.
Admittedly, from what he knew of Leela and Wong, they weren't too bad, and Rodriguez was a retired GroFor lieutenant with several combat stars, but … the security officer, Fry, as far as the news stories of a year ago had been concerned, was an incompetent moron with a few cursory hints of talent here and there, and Conrad was the useless bureaucrat who'd decided to take it upon himself to codebreak a perfectly good NavFor mission and cut himself in on a slice of the profit. Zoidberg he didn't know much about, but if the medic followed the overall pattern he was likely to be just as incompetent as the other civilian males on the Planet Express crew.
A motley crew indeed. And they'll be accompanying the Thirty-third out to Diyuji-Diyu; what fun. More targets for a potential hostile to pick off.
A bit of amateur digging said one of Shelley's statements had been correct; it seemed Commodore Kroker had, oddly enough – Cruz had assumed he wasn't the type to fraternise with civilians – tagged and sent down the order to the alarmed info-ops AI, who'd had no choice but to grudgingly accept it and grant the bureaucrat access to files even a grade-two bureaucrat shouldn't have gained access to before hell froze over.
Cruz was almost tempted to file an unfitness-for-duty complaint against Kroker, but held back: the Commodore had led the Thirty-third Combined Arms Squadron capably before, and who knew? He might have had a good reason to attach the Planet Express crew to a military unit. Still, sending down an order that would inevitably see the Motley Crew (he'd already taken to mentally capitalising the phrase) granted commissions, albeit provisional ones, was bad, and Cruz promised himself he'd confront Kroker about each and all (with the sole exception of Rodriguez) before December twenty-third. Although it's unfair to not consider that perhaps having a recommissioned military officer among them might improve their competence to acceptable levels. We'll see.
A few minutes later, as the Pyro was easing into its designated docking space, another email arrived just before Cruz was going to shut down. Apparently the AutoAccounts Bot on the Earth network had seen fit to copy one of Kroker's messages to it over to him, and it appeared Kroker had been working fast – the message was a request to authorise accounts for each of the Planet Express crew, as became apparent after a quick read, and he wanted to clone Conrad's account over – onto a classified military net!
Quietly sighing, Cruz okayed the transaction, and Kroker was accordingly sent a success message that included something Cruz hadn't known about: apparently the elderly CEO wanted to piggyback on the Motley Crew's ticket. Like hell am I letting someone a hundred-sixty years old come on a potential combat mission! For that matter, any mission at all, and I'll be damned if I'll let Kroker okay him, either! crossed the Latin American captain's alarmed mind.
Mercifully, Kroker seemed to agree: FILTER <email@example.com> TO mail/junk AND SEND REPLY "Professor, you are not part of the mission manifest. Kindly stop flooding the AA Bot's inbox with email; it's only doing its job. - Kif" END REPLY.
Apparently Cruz wouldn't have to commit any (albeit condoned by the DOOP intelligence hierarchy) chain-of-command subversion today, and for that he was silently thankful: he liked the Amphibiosan, and wouldn't have wanted to see him disgraced – and it was with this that Gabriel Cruz supposed ironically that the price for wanting to continue service with a comrade was to bring extra targets along on a mission. Así est la vida.