"Thank-you, Mel," said Captain Adder, slowing his stride slightly. The floor felt somehow bouncy underneath his feet, as though it were pushing him back up when he landed on it, and he knew that this was the illusion caused by the reduction in gravity. A thought crossed his mind.
"Most forms of copulation?" he wondered, forgetting himself and speaking aloud.
"Not that thing you do–" began the AI, and he hastily cut it off before it could elaborate.
"Mel, why is the gravity abnormally low?"
"Zygomatic, the ship's AI responsible for the cleaners, has determined that this is the optimal level of gravity for keeping the ship spotlessly clean," said Mel. The AI's voice synthesis routine had been destroyed during an interaction with an enemy Wellensittich two months earlier, and although his Geordie engineer had done his best to cobble something back together, the AI now sounded mid-pubescent, with its voice breaking and changing unexpectedly as it spoke. When it reached Wellensittich it trilled the word a lot like the alien species did when talking.
"I see," said Adder, approaching a door. The door slid aside with a soft click, and as he walked through he abruptly fell over, landing heavily on his chin. It didn't break, but it hurt significantly.
"Lopodopterous, the ship's medical AI, has determined that three times normal gravity is more effective for maintaining bone density and health," said Mel without waiting to be asked.
"Are any other AIs weighing in with an opinion?" asked Adder, pulling himself to his feet. He felt like he was being glued to the floor, and each new step was now a real effort. In moments he was out of breath.
"Fourteen more," said Mel.
"And is the gravity around the ship now erratic, depending on which AI got to set it?"
"Not exactly," said Mel. "The AIs are warring over it at the moment, and gravity may change arbitrarily from one step to the next. I would advise caution."
"I think that goes without saying," said Adder gloomily. "Mel, please turn off gravity for any corridor I am in."
"You are presently only in one corridor," said Mel.
"Don't make it sound like you wish I were in more than one," said Adder. "Just make sure that there is no gravity in any corridor I'm in, and that I don't leave a zero-gravity corridor for a plus-gravity corridor without ample warning."
"Very good, Captain Adder," said Mel. The captain felt relief as his weight suddenly vanished, and he pushed off the floor to hang just below the ceiling. Now, to get to the bridge.
"Officer Shlong," said Captain Adder, trying not to snigger. The poor man hadn't chosen his name, after all. "What is going on with the AIs?"
"Internecine war," said Officer Schlong, who was sat at his station looking badly hungover. "I think we've actually lost the Ironing and Washing AI for good; one of the others appears to have successfully flooded its chamber with soap suds."
"Why, though? Aren't the AIs supposed to be cleverer than us?"
"Only by our standards," said Schlong, looking depressed and hungover at the same time. "They were built in our image though, and we've managed to copy over all kinds of odd little emotional and psychotic traits into their programming."
"So how do we stop them fighting?"
"Stop them fighting," said Adder, deciding that delegation was the best form of command. Schlong looked miserable, but then he usually did anyway. He simply couldn't hold his drink, and the bread dispenser was currently soaking all bread in alcohol before dispensing it.
"Right," said Adder. "Ignoring the AIs then, can we get to the Truto star system before the end of the week?"