The title and the story give a nod to classic SF short story ‘The Cold Equations’. In that story, Tom Godwin postulated a stowaway on a small spaceship throwing the delicate weight/power equation into deadly balance, and with only one way to rebalance the equation.
Here Yoon Ha Lee brings the conceit up to date, on a spaceship populated only with digital representations of humanity. Sentinel Anzhmir is the one ‘crewmember’ who is awake, and her digital self has the duty : “..to monitor the jewel-flicker of her freight of quantum blossoms in their dreaming, as well as the more mundane systems that regulated navigation, temperature, the minutiae of maintenance’. That’s an elegant sentence, and there are more of them throughout a classy story that unfolds once Anzhmir spots data corruption that can mean only on thing – a stowaway.
Being as how it is so clever, and well written, I’m putting it on the shortlist for the Best SF Short Story Award 2016
More from ‘Meeting Infinity’ here