Project Hail Mary

Page 54

“Led by me,” said Stratt. “I move to dismiss.”

“You can’t make motions yet, Ms. Stratt,” said Spencer. “Just tell me if you’re ready to proceed.”

“I’m ready,”

“All right. Plaintiff, you may begin your opening statement.”

The man stood. “May it please the court and ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is Theodore Canton, counsel for the Intellectual Property Alliance in this action.

“During this trial, we will show that Project Hail Mary has overstepped its authority in the matter of digital data acquisition and licensing. They have, in their possession, a gigantic solid-state-drive array upon which they have copied literally every single piece of software that has ever been copyrighted, as well as every single book and literary work that has ever been available in any digital format. All of this was done without payment or licensing to the proper copyright holders or intellectual property owners. Furthermore, many of their technological designs violate patents held by—”

“Your Honor,” Stratt interrupted. “Can I make motions now?”

“Technically,” said the justice, “but it’s irregul—”

“I move to dismiss.”

“Your Honor!” Canton protested.

“On what grounds, Ms. Stratt?” said the justice.

“Because I don’t have time for this bullshit,” she said. “We are building a ship to literally save our species. And we have very little time to get it done. It will have three astronauts—just three—to do experiments we can’t even conceive of now. We need them to be prepared for any possible line of study they deem necessary. So we are giving them everything. The collected knowledge of humankind, along with all software. Some of it is stupid. They probably won’t need Minesweeper for Windows 3.1, and they probably don’t need an unabridged Sanskrit-to-English dictionary, but they’re going to have them.”

Canton shook his head. “Your Honor, my clients don’t dispute the noble nature of the Hail Mary Project. The complaint is in the illegal use of copyrighted material and patented mechanisms.”

Stratt shook her head. “It would take a ridiculous amount of time and energy to work out licensing agreements with every company. So we’re not doing it.”

“I assure you, Ms. Stratt, you will comply with the law,” said the justice.

“Only when I want to.” Stratt held up a sheet of paper. “According to this international treaty, I am personally immune from prosecution for any crime anywhere on Earth. The United States Senate ratified that treaty two months ago.”

She held up a second piece of paper. “And to streamline situations like this, I also have a preemptive pardon from the president of the United States for any and all crimes I am accused of within U.S. jurisdictions.”

The bailiff took the papers and handed them to the justice.

“This…” said the justice, “this is exactly what you say it is.”

“I’m only here as a courtesy,” said Stratt. “I didn’t have to come at all. But since the software industry, patent trolls, and everyone else related to intellectual property banded together in one lawsuit, I figured it would be fastest to nip this in the bud all at once.”

She grabbed her satchel and put the tablet inside. “I’ll be on my way.”

“Hold on, Ms. Stratt,” said Justice Spencer. “This is still a court of law, and you will remain for the duration of these proceedings!”

“No, I won’t,” said Stratt.

The bailiff walked forward. “Ma’am. I’ll have to restrain you if you don’t comply.”

“You and what army?” Stratt asked.

Five armed men in military fatigues entered the courtroom and took up station around her. “Because I have the U.S. Army,” she said. “And that’s a damn fine army.”


* * *


I browse through my available software while munching on a peanut-butter tortilla. I know that doesn’t sound tasty, but it is.

I’ve learned how to grip the lab chair with my legs so I don’t float off as I use the laptop. Turns out I have a bunch of laptops. At least six that I’ve found in the storage area so far. And they’re all connected to a shipwide Wi-Fi network. Handy.

If memory serves, I should have pretty much all the software lurking around somewhere on the ship. The trick is finding the one I need. I wouldn’t even know what it’s called. Fortunately, one of the books in the digital library is a list of software applications. So that helped.

Ultimately I find something that will work: “Tympanum Labs Waveform Analyzer.” There are all sorts of waveform-analysis software packages in my library. This one just has the highest reviews according to a 2017 computer magazine that reviewed waveform analyzers.

I install the software on one of the laptops. It’s pretty simple to use and has a plethora of features. But the one I’m most interested in is the Fourier transform. It’s the most basic tool in sound-wave analysis and arguably the most important. There’s a lot of complicated math on how to make it happen, but the end result is this: if you run a sound wave through a Fourier transform, it will give you a list of the individual notes being played at the same time. So if I played a C-major chord and let this app listen to it, the app would tell me there’s a C, an E, and a G. It’s incredibly useful.

No more pantomime. It’s time to learn Eridianese. Yes, I just made up that word. No, I don’t feel bad about it. I’m doing a lot of things for the first time in human history out here and there’s a lot of stuff that needs naming. Just be glad I don’t name stuff after myself.

I launch Microsoft Excel on another laptop and tape the two laptops together back to back. Yes, I could just run both applications on one laptop, but I don’t want to switch back and forth.

I fly up through the ship and back into the tunnel. Rocky isn’t there.


Rocky can’t just spend all day waiting around for me, but why don’t they have someone in the tunnel at all times? If my crewmates were still around, we would definitely rotate a watch or something. Heck, Ilyukhina would probably be camped out here nonstop and only leave when she had to sleep.

What if they are having different people in the tunnel? How do I know Rocky is just one person? I don’t know how to tell Eridians apart. Maybe I’ve been talking to six different people. That’s an unsettling thought.

No…that’s not it. I’m pretty sure Rocky is just Rocky. The ridges on his carapace and rocky protrusions on his hands are unique. I remember there’s an irregular craggy bit sticking up out of one of his fingers…yeah. It’s the same guy.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.