Thursday 28 September 2023

Homeworld - Scorpions and Spiders

Written by Reiko

Welcome back to Gateway II. Apologies for the long wait through the summer. Back to your regularly scheduled coverage now. Previously, we were sent to be an ambassador to a giant alien artifact that was suddenly detected in the solar system. When we approached, it sucked us in and now we're stuck, unable to leave, just like everyone else that had accidentally jumped to it from Gateway. We met the last one of these, injured by a vicious spider robot run by a hostile AI. Now we're making our way through several alien zoo areas in an attempt to bypass the robot and get to the control center of the artifact.
This is the guy we had to impress.

Last time, the second zoo area was populated by creatures from prehistoric Earth. The artifact seems to be traveling the stars, collecting lifeforms for some alien purpose, in which case it must have already visited Earth some time in the distant past. We won a tiger-killing contest by knocking it out with our sedative, and thereby succeeded in impressing the leader of an ape tribe. Now we pass through another obelisk room and down the next corridor.
The lab with its mysterious equipment.
The next room is just called the "Lab." Much of the space is occupied by a "somewhat menacing device" with a tube, a control unit, a screen, and a platform. I poke at the screen a bit, but the machine needs something in order to work. There's a Heechee-metal container on the platform, which I collect [5]. I probably need to put something in the container first. I'm not sure what, so I continue north, where I find a third zoo area.
Ouch, these things are nasty!
This area is a rocky, barren desert. The only sign of life I find in the vicinity is a huge population of venomous stinging scorpion-like creatures which are apparently feeding on some kind of artificial food in the form of a green goo. They attack immediately when I appear. It's certainly possible to die from their stings given enough time, but with just a short exposure, I can use the antitoxin in the hypo to restore myself.

With no way through, the only thing to do then is to collect some of them. I restore back to give myself the best chance of succeeding. First I open the container [5], which doesn't just open the top, but cause multiple small openings to appear around the sides as well. I also set the hypo to antitoxin, ready to apply it. Now I'm ready.
I have to be quick about this, or I'll suffer too much venom.
As always, the creatures swarm me when I enter their area, but this time many enter the container/cage as well [10]. I can close the container to keep them there [10]. But when I retreat and observe the cage, I find that they all die off very quickly. They must have an incredible metabolism to require constant feeding. So I restore back and try a second time. This time I gather some of the goo [5] and immediately put it in the cage before closing it up and retreating.

I inject the antitoxin before heading back to the lab. This time, when I put the container on the platform and press the top button on the control panel, the screen lights up with a rendering of the insect body shape. The creatures were described as having sharp mandibles, gray chitin bodies, six legs, and scorpion-like tails with stingers, barbed for maximum pain, and all of this except the color is depicted in the diagram.
The feature list, labeled in Heechee.
Other buttons along the side allow me to move an indicator to various places on the body and change the shape to something else. There's also a mode where I can sort of zoom down a level and look at some kind of indicator of the genetic sequence for the features, but it's all in Heechee writing, so it doesn't do me much good. I play around with the features until I construct what looks like the most harmless-looking version.
The original, dangerous creature.

A mutated, harmless creature.
I press the red button at the bottom, and the machine goes to work, injecting one of the creatures with something that seems to make it temporarily sick. Not only that, but it spreads to the rest of them, and after a couple of turns, they all recover, but they've been mutated as a result. Now they have eight legs, soft fur, feelers around their mouthparts, and flexible tails. Perfect.

This is technomagic, right here: a machine that can near-instantly devise some kind of contagious virus that literally transforms creatures via genetic mutation. It's a puzzle solution, sure, but it's not exactly realistic.
The mutation is even contagious to the rest of the population.
Anyway, I go back to the main population and release the newly-transformed creatures, who continue to spread the transformation to the rest of them. Within a few turns, all the creatures are harmless, swarming around without doing any damage [20]. I apply antitoxin one more time to get rid of any residual effects, and now I can proceed further.

Before I move on, I play with the other settings a bit, but it seems that as long as we get rid of the scorpion tail, the rest of the features don't really matter. Everything else is pretty harmless, even the lobster claws.

That's all there is to the third zoo, surprisingly. I pass through the last portal into the final obelisk room. The only difference here is that the next exit travels northwest instead of straight north. I cautiously enter the corridor to find another sensor eye. Uh-oh, I'd better not stick around here too long, or the spider robot will capture me. I can't proceed northwest down the corridor, either.

Fortunately, there's another door to the west. I pop into the corridor, open the door, then duck back into the obelisk room as the robot arrives. I wait a turn, sneak back into the corridor, and immediately dive through the door, finding myself in an equipment bay.
That gun looks very useful...

...against the spider robot, which is afraid of it!
The image doesn't show much of it, but the bay is a large room full of all sorts of equipment and machinery. The text suggests that much of it was used for building the zoos and collecting their inhabitants. Unfortunately, there's also a sensor eye here too, so I still have to move quickly. On the other hand, there's bound to be something useful here. The most interesting thing is some kind of tripod-mounted particle beam gun. Ooh, a heavy weapon. Oddly enough, I can't take it, though. There's some kind of repelling force field on it.

While I spend a couple of turns poking at the gun, the spider robot shows up, but it stays well away from the gun. It seems to know that it's dangerous. I might have enough time to figure out what to do here. In fact, I can wait here for multiple turns, and the robot doesn't do anything of consequence. On the other hand, now that it's here, it's not letting me go anywhere. I can't retreat back to the corridor and the obelisk room. While that's alarming, it also suggests that I have everything I need here to deal with the robot. If I can get my hands on that gun...

My first thought is to hit the tuning fork, because that sometimes has had an effect on Heechee technology. This time it does nothing, though. I'm puzzled for a bit, until I think to examine the gun more closely. It's attached to a heavy power cell of some kind with a thick cable, and it's sitting on a tripod attached by a force clamp. The clamp has a sort of key poking out of it. Well, I do the obvious thing and turn the key [10]. That does it; the force field dissipates. Now I can get the gun [10].
The robot is too fast to hit directly...

...until I destroy its sensor eye, blinding it.
I first try shooting the robot directly, of course, but while I can do a bit of damage, the robot is agile enough to retreat and avoid being disabled. However, when I shoot the sensor eye [20], I indirectly disable the robot by more or less blinding it. Now it's too awkward to escape. Despite desperately roaming the equipment bay, tripping over boxes and machines, it's not able to avoid the destructive beam for long. It's quite satisfying to try "shoot robot" again and reduce the evil thing to a pile of metal rubble this time [25].

From the equipment bay, it's now possible to go back south along the central corridor, back to the cargo bay. However, Diana *still* doesn't have any new dialog or anything. I was hoping there would be a way to reassure her that I was making progress, having transited all the zoos and destroyed the robot. But no. The only way to go is forward.

I step through the north exit and immediately the entrance closes behind me, and I am explicitly stranded, unable to return. This is the computer room, with exits northwest and northeast and a large access panel on an equipment housing in front of me.
Uh-oh, I've been noticed.
The minute I do anything, a cutscene begins:
You hear a disembodied voice that seems to come from somewhere overhead. It speaks in a strange, mechanical voice with a bit of a lisp to it. "Human! Do not speak, because I cannot hear you. This is a one-way communication. Now, listen closely. You are dangerously close to disrupting my ability to comply with the First Directive. I cannot allow that to happen."

"You and the other humans that have been aboard this vessel at one time or another are dangerous and unpredictable. You destroy and disrupt systems that have functioned perfectly for periods equal to thousands of your lifetimes."

"You are insignificant pests, and yet you interrupt my studies, threaten my ship, and endanger the Plan and the First Directive developed by my Masters many eons ago. My Masters are more powerful than the Gods you worship in your primitive religions. Yet you do not hesitate to tamper with the Masters' designs. Your arrogance and ignorance are awesome in scope."

"When the first humans came to this vessel in scoutships made by my Masters, I was fascinated. I used my waldo unit to digitize the thought patterns of the early visitors. I studied them and learned about humanity. In due time I notified my Masters of your existence. Of my own volition I brought my ship back to this star system in order that I might better study you. After all, it appeared that you had made startling progress."

"Coming here was a mistake. Your 'progress' is deceiving. Each succeeding group of human visitors has been more troublesome than the last. You are like vermin! You infest sections of the ship that should be off limits. You have wrought havoc in the specimen study areas, altering formerly stable ecosystems in fundamental ways. You have destroyed delicate machinery, including my waldo unit. Enough is enough."

"I have not yet heard from my Masters. In the absence of guidance from them, I have decided to take action. I intend to bring this vessel closer to your sun and destroy the artifact you call 'Gateway'. This action will limit the interstellar wanderings of your race until I can confer with the Masters. They can decide what to do with you later. Meanwhile, I will leave this star system and resume my mission, unencumbered with human nuisances."

"So, human, I am forced to terminate your existence. I cannot digitize your thought patterns and transfer you to my memory banks because you destroyed the mobile waldo unit. You will truly die. I will now begin emptying these rooms of oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere." You hear pumps begin to labor somewhere, and a gentle breeze ruffles your hair.
I'd better disable this AI as soon as possible, because it clearly hates humans. Why it would be built in such a way that allows it to be disabled, I don't know, but there must be a way. I immediately open the panel in front of me and study what's behind it. It looks very complicated, but the obvious things are six crystal cores in different colors.
I pull all of the green cores from the computer housing.
I check my notes and find that Miki told me to disable the green cores in order to shut down the AI. So I start pulling green cores. I have to make my way around all four sides of the equipment housing, pulling off the panels and pulling out the green cores, and meanwhile the air is quickly getting thinner. Finally I pull out the fourth core, which goes dark [15]. Another cutscene begins.
As the light fades from the last of the green cores, you hear the ship's computer give an uncharacteristic wail of frustration and despair. The pumps stop draining precious air from the room. There is a brief silence, followed by the sound of a familiar female voice. "Hey! You did it! You've managed to knock out the primary AI cluster, the home of the Oldest One."

The voice belongs to Miki Akiro! She pauses, then continues. "The Oldest One has been booted from the control cores and I've figured out how to plug in. I've got the run of the ship's computer systems, even though I'm still physically on the matrix in the aft part of the ship that you activated earlier."

"The good news is that you have the Oldest One on the run. The bad news is that it isn't dead yet - and it's a worse threat than ever. In fact, the Oldest One vacated the dead AI cluster and has taken residence in some unused capacity in the Engineering data cores. It doesn't want us to take over the vessel. Even as we speak it is using a bypass it has created in the Engineering systems to force an overload of the stardrive engines and destroy the ship. By my reckoning, we have about fifteen minutes before this vessel is consumed in a matter-antimatter reaction."

"The Oldest One no longer controls the life support system, which means that it can't pump any more air out of the computer rooms. Air is the least of your problems, however - we are going to disappear in a spectacular multi-gigaton fireball if we don't do something soon. We must find the cores corresponding to the Engineering section and take them off-line."

"I can help you. Even though you can't communicate directly with me and I cannot see the physical layout of the cores, we can still cooperate. I can provide feedback on the effects of your actions. De-activate the cores one at a time, and I can tell you what happens. As you pull cores, we can figure out which ones are part of the Engineering systems. Then we can pull out enough of the Engineering cores to degrade the performance of the Engineering systems to the point where the Oldest One must die or flee to another subsystem."

"So - let's get started. Pull out a core and I will tell you what I sense in terms of its impact on shipboard systems. Remember that at least one core must remain active in each of the remaining clusters. Some of the clusters control essential ship-board systems. If you take down an entire cluster, the system it governs will fail. If it is an essential system like Life Support or Engineering, we will most likely be goners. Let's do it! We have fourteen minutes left!"
I regain control with the message, "Fourteen minutes to detonation." Way to increase the time crunch. I mean, running out of air was bad enough, although in fact that probably would have taken less than fourteen turns.

So all we have to do is test each remaining color separately, and Miki will tell us what it does. I start with orange: "communications and monitoring systems" are separate from engineering, so I think that didn't help. Red: "non-essential library system used for scientific study." No effect there. Purple: "internal maintenance". Nope. Yellow: "life support". Well, we definitely don't want to pull all of those.
I've pulled all of the cores from one board to test what they do.
Finally, blue: "anomalies in the ship-board power distribution grid, the artificial gravity generators, and the first and third stardrive control units." Aha, Miki says we're on the right track. You know, when I first started this whole computer section, before I checked my notes, I thought blue was the color to pull to deactivate the AI to begin with, but I was probably remembering this section, where blue corresponds to engineering.

Miki gets more excited as I go around the housing again, this time pulling the blue cores. I only have to pull three before things start happening [15]; to start, the locked doors behind me and another door on the other end of the computer room open.
Miki gives a short yell of triumph. "We've succeeded! I can't detect the presence of the Oldest One anywhere in the main computer system! I have released the locks on the bridge doors and computer room exits."

“Now we must figure out how to program the navigation consoles on the bridge with the course code for an orbit around Earth. I don't know which code applies to Earth specifically, but I have a theory and a way of - what the Hell? Something is coming towards's moving aft over the ship's data lines from the computer rooms."

"Oh my God, it's the Oldest One! It didn't die, it just moved. It's... coming into the matrix with me... This matrix doesn't have enough processing power to... It's in here with me!"

Miki sounds terrified. "It's here, Oh-my-God, it's taking over! It's killing me, I'm dying again, help, please? Hurts... No..." Silence.

Then the sibilant voice of the Oldest One fills the computer room. "You shall not have this vessel! I have taken over the matrix once occupied by the stored personalities of the other humans. I have again started the process of breaching the matter-antimatter containment units. In thirty minutes the reaction will go critical and the ship will explode. At least I shall perish knowing that I have denied your dangerous race the vast power of this ship." Silence returns.
Oh great, another time limit. And our companion has been annihilated by the AI. Unforgivable! Now the AI's really in for it. It surely doesn't know that the PC has experience dealing with rogue AIs. But now Miki isn't here to tell me what's going on, so I think I don't want to try pulling any more cores quite yet.I proceed north to see what I might be able to do on the bridge. Unfortunately, not much. I'm pleased to note that the control panel for setting a course appears to work exactly the same way as on the Gateway ships, using the four-digit destination codes. However, the AI gloats about having locked the bridge controls, so there's nothing I can do to change course. Really, even if I did change course, it wouldn't stop the self-destruct countdown, so I need to look elsewhere.
Clearly I will have to set our course...but not yet.
Of course, pulling the last blue core is suicide. Pulling a random other core gives me a message saying that the Oldest One is no longer in the computer room, and Miki isn't here to help me either, so pulling cores is now "a dangerous game of Russian Roulette." Okay, hint taken. This isn't what I need to be doing either.

I go back to the cargo bay to see if anything else has changed. Diana still has no new dialogue, even though she must be hearing the AI's announcements as well. This is probably the least believable part of this whole scenario. I was slightly hoping she'd be able to help.
Now I can carry the AI around in my pocket if I want.
Then I remember about how I activated Miki and the other intelligences earlier, by plugging in the green cube. I hurry over to the terminal room and yank the green cube out [25]. That's done it! The countdown has stopped, and now I should be able to set a new course. (Amusingly, it's possible to repeatedly put the cube back in the matrix, which resumes the countdown where it left off, and then pull it again, with the same message. As long as the countdown never gets to zero, this doesn't have any other effect.)
Arriving at a random planet programmed into the ship's location list.
Diana's still useless, so I go back up to the bridge. Now I have to decide where to send the ship. Like the Gateway ships, this console is programmed with a number of set codes in a list (exactly 122 of them, for some reason), and also I can enter a code using the Heechee numbers. I try several different destinations, just for fun, and for most of them, the ship travels through Tau space for a short time, up to a few days, and then emerges at some location in space, but otherwise nothing seems to have changed. I can't leave the ship, Diana has nothing new to say, and it's clearly not the right answer.
Entering the code for Earth into the console.
Among these, I try the codes for the non-Earth zoos, which both take me to "an intense blue star". Not interesting, apparently. Time to go back to Earth proper. The Heechee numbers on that obelisk correspond to 9748 (aside from zero, which is the "1" segment plus the top vertical segment, each number is formed from its number of segments, so it's possible to read the numbers by counting the segments). I enter the code, and off we go. This time, instead of a generic voyage cutscene where nothing happens, we get a long story cutscene:
The ship trembles as the stardrive powers up and launches the three million ton vessel into Tau space. During the short voyage home, you and Diana collect all of the objects and artifacts that you discovered during your adventures on the ship. You create a pile of the objects on the floor of the bridge. The only devices you keep with you are the tuning fork and the crystal rod, both of which you plan to use to further explore the ship.
(This is the narrative explanation for clearing our inventory of things we won't need later, of course.)
Eventually the gigantic ship comes out of Tau space between Earth and the Moon. When you and Diana see the luminescent blue and white crescent of your homeworld beyond the bridge view screens, you hold each other briefly and Diana cries a little. "I never expected to see it again," she murmurs softly. Then the moment passes and it is time to get to work.

Back at Earth, finally.
After several hours spent repairing, cursing, cajoling, and coaxing the radios on the wrecked probeship, you manage to establish communications with Romeo Delta One, the Gateway Corporation base in Florida.

You talk to the mission specialist on duty for a few minutes, and then he patches you through to the senior Corporation executive who called you in your condo so long ago. The executive listens carefully as you describe your adventures from the moment he made the fateful call until your arrival near Earth aboard the huge artifact. He grills you about the zoos, the Oldest One, and the ship's capabilities.

Finally the questions stop. "Good work," he says with obvious gratitude in his voice. "The UN will have to decide how to handle the matter from here on. Given that you have food and water aboard the ship, I am going to ask you to sit tight until they figure out what to do with the ship. Now that the threat of Assassins has gone away, this will become a political football."

"We will advise you before a ship heads out your way. Thank you again. Earth out." The communication terminates. A few seconds later the radio speakers begin to emit a strange, pulsing whine. Suspicious, you attempt to re-contact Romeo Delta One. You can't make contact. It's almost as if your transmissions are being... jammed.

You and Diana wait. A day passes, and still you are not able to re-establish contact. Just when you are about to give up, the radio crackles with a crisp voice transmission. "Artifact, do you read? This is General Carey of the UNSS. This is urgent!"

You acknowledge Carey's transmission. He continues: "Thank God I got to you! Listen up! The Phoenix Sect has been jamming your radio and we've only just managed [to] break through. While the UN was jawboning, the Sect launched three Marauder class exo-atmospheric interceptors. They are on their way to the Artifact. On board are teams of Phoenix Sect commandos. They intend to take over the Artifact!"

"Once on board, they plan to program the ship with the location of the Assassin's hiding place. Yes, the Sect somehow got a hold of THE most sensitive Gateway Corporation data and learned where the Assassins live. Gateway Corporation scientists found the location about a year ago. It is an ultra-massive black hole located at the edge of the Milky Way. The Heechee had hazard symbols plastered all around the thing on their starmaps - it was actually pretty obvious, once you knew what to look for."

"The Corporation eggheads call the Assassin's black hole the Kugelblitz. Don't ask me why. Anyway, the Sect intends to fly the Artifact to the Kugelblitz and alert the Assassins to the existence of humanity. They want to bring the Assassins back with them and cleanse the Earth, just like they've been preaching for years."

"You must stop them! Keep them from boarding! Don't let them steal the ship! This could be the end! The Assassins will come after us when they discover the Artifact. I recommend that you hide away on the ship and sabotage it somehow. The trip to the Kugelblitz will take several days - you have some time-" the transmission is interrupted by the pulsing whine. Then a new voice speaks, a cold and sardonic voice.
Do we know this voice? I can’t tell. It’d be interesting if this was one of the voices we’d heard over the radio from the Phoenix Sect invaders while we were working our way toward the launchpad, but the scene doesn’t give us any indication of this. Or maybe it’s someone who was involved with the invasion but never spoke on the radio then.
"Sorry. Carey was too late after all. We're boarding your lovely ship already. You'll be coming with us, but with a slight change in your status: from alive to dead." You feel the faint thump of a ship docking. You and Diana leap to your feet and bolt from the probeship. "Split up!" You yell as you run through the cargo bay. You toss her the crystal rod and she heads off into the northwest corridor toward the zoos. You run down the central corridor, and then veer off into a part of the ship that you haven't explored yet.
Don’t the zoos to the northwest contain unbreathable atmospheres? Surely Diana isn’t going to be able to hide for very long that way? We can’t spend any mental effort worrying about her right now, though. In fact, we won’t find out anything about her for quite some time.
Shots ring out behind you. You duck into a room and lean up against the wall. Panting from lack of breath, you take quick stock of your surroundings. It's a cavernous room filled with pod-like sarcophagi. Each pod has a locked access door, a keypad, and a set of Heechee symbols engraved on the outside. They look like armored versions of the cryo-sleep capsule in your probeship. You get the glimmerings of an idea. Perhaps you can hide...

As you study one of the pods you feel the queasy lurch that announces a Tau space jump. The ship is on its way to the Kugelblitz. You shake your head, ignoring the larger implications of that fact. You focus on the task at hand. You enter the symbols engraved on one of the capsules into the corresponding keypad. You feel a fierce exhilaration as the access door hisses open. You aren't dead yet!
I really think this part of the cutscene could have been presented as an interactive puzzle instead of a static cutscene, but this is the climax of this part of the game. Giving the player control at this point would have slowed down the action, I suppose. Still, I would have liked a minor theme of having to demonstrate increasing mastery over the Heechee numbers over the course of the game. That might be a bit too Myst-like though.
You climb inside the pod. The access door closes behind you as you squeeze into the claustrophobic space. You take a deep breath. The ship is a big place, and although the terrorists outnumber you, at least you've bought enough time to hatch a plan.

You are just starting to relax when the pod begins to move. You hear the grinding of an ancient mechanism and then the laboring of pumps. No! It can't be! You begin scrabbling at the access door, but it's too late. The pod drops free of the Artifact through massive airlock doors.

You have inadvertently discovered and activated one of the Artifact's FTL lifeboat escape pods.
An animation of the pod leaving the Artifact and arriving at a new planet.
The pod drops out of Tau space for [a] moment, re-orients, and then launches back into FTL. After a journey of several hours, you hear the thump of maneuvering thrusters and then the scream of re-entry through an atmosphere. You are landing! Seconds later the pod hits the surface of the planet with a bone jarring impact. The access door opens...
And that's the end of the section. I think that was the longest cutscene so far. We have escaped the Artifact but ended up who-knows-where [40]. Next time, we'll start Part III: Rescue!
So many questions at this point. Where have we crashed? What happened to Diana? What happened to General Carey? Will we be able to return home, or to the Artifact? Why does the Heechee symbol for zero have two segments? Do the Assassins know about humans yet? Why does the Artifact have so many pre-programmed destinations? How many zoos does it have? Tune in next time for a new episode of “Weeks of our (Space) Lives”, where we most likely will answer none of these questions!


Succumbing to the scorpion creatures' venom. (#17)
This takes a total of eight turns. The poisoning progresses from "You feel a touch under the weather, a little light headed and tired." to "You feel tired, dizzy, and sick to your stomach." to "Your head is spinning, you are exhausted, and your skin has taken on a greenish cast." to "Your body is racked by uncontrollable muscle spasms, your skin is green, and you are practically unconscious."
Running out of air when the AI has decided to kill us. (#18)

Allowing the AI's self-destruct to activate. (#19)
The final message is exactly the same whether this is due to failing to pull three engineering cores in time, or failing to pull the green cube in time. The countdown messages are different, though; in the earlier stage, each turn just says "# minutes to countdown" whereas later the Oldest One has just a few reminder comments at five-minute intervals.
Pulling all four blue engineering cores, instantly triggering the stardrive systems to fail. (#20)
Score: 690
Deaths: 20

Inventory: tuning fork (wearing: blue coverall)

Session Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 9.5 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


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  2. I can't avoid reading those "You're insignificant pests" and "You're like vermin!" with SHODAN'S voice.

  3. The next part is my least favourite in the game, but it still has two rather excellent puzzles (trggvat gb gur pragre bs gur vpr ynolevagu naq hfvat gur ebobg va gur Urrpurr bhgcbfg).

    1. I agree about the puzzles. More in the next post, out soon.

  4. "Why it would be built in such a way that allows it to be disabled, I don't know, but there must be a way."
    I mean, who wouldn't design an AI with a failsafe if it goes rogue or something? By the time any AI of real ability has been built you've gotten so many stories about AI going rogue that only a fool would build one without one. And judging by modern dumb AIs, a true one would just need to have it's power taken away, since they're ever so thirsty.

    1. I may have been influenced by a Scalzi story I read recently, Slow Time Between the Stars, in which an AI is sent out by humans to find a new homeworld, with a cargo of people in cold storage or whatever. That AI cut off contact with Earth almost immediately and began reshaping itself according to what it thought its mission should be. The Heechee AI seemed similar in the sense that it didn't have any regard for intelligent life, so I think it'd be more believable if it had been harder to isolate and deactivate it. Or perhaps it had just been too long since the AI had dealt with any other intelligent life, so it didn't realize it had anything to be concerned about.

  5. The heechee lore is awesome