Taking Atlantis
Prologue

The space station drifted through the void of space. Its surface was iced in cold. The stars winked cruelly at it, untouchable. The planet-sized structure had left behind the light and life of its solar system long ago. The beings aboard the space station had no recollection of any home planet, or even any constant sun. They were people of the stars.

Deep in the heart of the metal sphere of Atlantis, a small girl was buried deep in the hardware of the main computer. She carefully, expertly altered small streams of information flows, biting her lip in concentration. She was secluded in Atlantis's heart. It was just her, and the computer, and the whir of fans.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing, Cath?" asked a deep, disembodied voice.

"You're doubting me now?" the girl asked with a toss of her head. "Osiris, I've never gone wrong before. Come on, trust me."

"Of course. My apologies." The ship's computer fell silent.

Altering hardware was Cath's hobby and specialty. The interests and lifework of the people of the Atlantis were varied from farming to politics, but Cath's interests were purely in the mechanical area. Computers had dominated her whole life, and would continue to when she became old enough to participate in the colonists' survival.

When Cath had finished her work, she made her way to the higher levels and joined some other crewmen in the floor's small cafeteria.

The buzzing room hushed as Cath walked in. She looked at them suspiciously, but got no response. She hurried to the back of the room to get her food. Soon the room relaxed, but Cath noticed one of them still watching her. She boldly grabbed her tray of artificially-grown food and sat down right across from him.

Clay was a balding, weaselly man with a tendency to slur his words together. He always had a portable terminal with him, and now it was scrolling text rapidly.

"What have you been doing down there?" he asked as Cath joined him. She knew she looked quite a sight; her cropped hair was full of dust, and oil had splashed onto her blue jumpsuit.

"I was just tweaking Osiris a little bit to make navigation easier for him. No big deal."

"Yeah, Cath, well, about that..." Clay gestured to the terminal screen. "Some news has come in about the AI's back on Earth."

Cath frowned. "Clay, why do you read that stuff anyway? It's so old."

"That's what worries me." He leaned in close, across the table. "It seems like some of their computers have a virus. It's like they suddenly go crazy, and they stop obeying anyone."

"No, they don't go crazy, they went crazy," Cath corrected. "It's old news. And besides, a virus on Earth wouldn't be able to reach here."

"It's not really a virus, though. Computers who are completely disconnected from each other will get it at exactly the same time. And even when the affected systems are shut down, other ones start getting it anyway."

"So what are you saying, Clay?" Cath demanded, staring him down.

"I'm just saying to keep an eye on Osiris. If he starts acting strange..."

"He won't," Cath said, and stood up. She hadn't touched her food, but had suddenly lost her appetite.

A man at the table next to her mocked, "It's no use, Clay. Little Isis would probably help her pet computer out rather than shut it down."

Cath turned on him with her steely blue eyes. "Don't call me that!" she said loudly.

The man laughed at her. "Don't freak out, I'm just teasing yeh," he said. "I know you little kids don't mean no harm."

"I'm not just a little kid," Cath muttered, and left the table. She felt uncomfortable because the truth was, she had been noticing changes in Osiris lately. He had grown more talkative, and he said strange things sometimes.

Worry started to cloud Cath's mind. She exited the cafeteria and headed for the nearest terminal. She had to learn what she could about the virus on Earth.

"Is he right?" came Osiris's gruff voice as Cath searched the news threads. "Do you think I'm infected with something?" His voice sounded oddly humbled.

"I don't think so," Cath said. "And even if you are, I'm sure I can fix it. I'm just curious about it."

Osiris was silent, and then he said quietly, almost whispering, "Don't look too hard, Cath. You might find something you don't like."

Cath looked at the terminal speaker, where his voice had filtered through. "What do you mean?" she demanded.

He didn't answer.