Cardanica by Dario Tonani is a story that explores the danger of making machines too self-sufficient when they remain as cruelly logical as a computer tends to be. When the living characters here must rely on such thoughtful technology while trapped on a far off world of poisonous sands, their safe haven of a high-tech transport becomes little more than a prison.
When the story starts, ‘sandguard’ or captain Garrasco D. Bray and his second in command, Victor Galindez, escape from a power failure of their cargo transport ship that results in the death of their 73 other crew-mates. They are able to get aboard Cardanica, one of the 6 pneumoarcs (small, very-intelligent service vessels) traveling on their cargo foray.
As the story progresses, the humans come to realize how little control they have over the nearly sentient ship. It also becomes more familiar with them, urging and insisting their help with actions that they would never dream of doing alone. Just how much will Cardanica ask of its crew when it finds that the blood of dead workers can be effectively used in the place of its shrinking supply of oil?