The expedition of Gordon's Lamp has reached 61 Cygni and Alan, the only child on the expedition, is doing remarkably well in his courses. With some off-the-record help from their Systems Administrator, he finds he can make his way into secured data areas. When he does he finds secrets about his parents and crew that shock him, almost as much as the secrets he finds out about himself.
This rather long short story also introduces the important members of the crew of Gordon's Lamp.
A thin and pale teenage boy fidgeted nervously at his terminal, alone in his cramped room of metal walls loaded with devices and screens. In his sixteen years of life he had never taken a greater risk, his heart beat faster and his palms were sweaty with the excitement. Alan was in some of the most secure areas he had ever probed, his other breaches of privacy were nothing like this. Until now he had done nothing more serious than gain access to restricted data from the study planet below. Now he was in the crew’s personnel data, all the crew of the whole expedition of Gordon’s Lamp, both human and Angel.
Getting here wasn’t really the hard part, it was making sure that he didn’t leave tracks. Doing so meant getting to the very lowest levels, bypassing all the system resource accounting. None of that could have been done if Ava hadn’t tapped into the hardware data layer long ago and laid down passageways that could get under that accounting. He knew about nano-amp cross-checking also and had to plan carefully for his edits to those values to cover where he had been. He had spent months writing monitors to do those calculations.
Alan worked at the hardware level and just above. Above that was a labyrinth of complexity he would never even try to master. All he needed of those levels were the display functions to show him the data, and he knew how to access those right down at the driver object tables. All he had to do was follow it up to the display method of the data object and invoke it directly over the bus from the hardware right in his screen. He’d already compiled hardware for his own use that would render an Angel vision stream on his screens.
His best Angel friend was Ava Bancour. She was the systems expert who had started his education in the secrets of the virtual universes where the Angels lived. Hers was the first file he looked up. She had been mortal from 2136 to 2148. She had been the first Angel resurrected in the Americas, even before the original 144,000 were brought thru from cryofreeze. Her records seemed complete, but Alan had a sense there were parts of her records he could not penetrate. There should have been more to record the career of so brilliant a technologist. He could find no record of her ACTUALLY joining the Christial Church for instance, though she worked for it most of her career. He could not find links to the actual programing she had done, but she had already shown him how to set up his own file system, so there was little doubt that she had private storage somewhere else.
Her whole career had been spent as an Angel, working with the science that had allowed her soul to continue functioning after she died in the parking garage where she spent her childhood. She knew the nuts and bolts of the science that allowed a human soul to be simulated in logic to a level of detail so complete that none can determine that it is not the dead relative brought back to life.