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USD: ~Eight weeks after awakening

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf, L4 Lagrange Point


 

“So how come we didn’t see them before they got that close, and why are we being targeted now?”

[Correlation: Possible detection during transit between debris clusters, or possible detection of high energy release of weapons fire during carrier pod boarding action.]

“Hopefully it’s the latter… let’s not stay here any longer. We really don’t need another meeting with more Hunter-Killer gunship drones.”

The screen on the Workshop’s display flipped over to navigational, displaying their position and that of the numerous other debris clouds nearby. Alex reached down and zoomed out. The star system had only one orbital body around the yellow dwarf, a gas giant. It was impossibly far away without the Linear Drive, so any destination was going to be another debris cloud or a nearby orbit of the sun.

One of the debris clouds near the center of the Lagrange point highlighted in yellow.

[Suggestion: Gravitational Anomaly detected in Debris Cluster #32, low energy transit possible in 36 hours. Anomaly corresponds to high likelihood of intact nanite technology.]

Alex considered for a moment. Nanite based tech would probably not shoot them on sight. Everything Federation made really didn’t like them. All of the wreckage they had found had been Federation so far, without so much as a hair of nanite stuff.

That indicated to Alex who had been the clear winner in the confrontation. The big boss AI had probably left without a scratch, leaving Nameless here in hibernation for some reason. Daddy AI was a very bad parent to have left her alone and stranded like this, and if she ever found him, she was definitely going to complain.

“Ok, let's head to DC#32 then. I trust you to not let any other nanite things turn me into a matte white goop ball.”

[Notice: This unit’s loyalty is to ShipCore, attempts to damage Avatar by other units would be considered a hostile act.]

“I’m glad you feel that way. Can we go over the damage? Also, I think we need to prioritize repairs to weapons, and then the linear drive, we need to be able to shoot back and maneuver at least. That could have gone a lot better.”

[Affirmative: Repair priorities shifted. Missile tubes #A #B #C #D report operational, Antimatter-catalyst type missiles ready for loading.]

[Interrogative: Load bow missile tubes?]

“Are the autoloaders working properly?”

[Affirmative.]

Keeping missiles armed and in the tubes was not the safest practice. A hit to a loaded missile could cause them internal damage and the magazine racks were stored inside multiple layers of heavy armor, much like the CIC.

But the autoloader for Rail #2 had failed in the fight, so Alex wasn’t prepared to trust the repairs fully yet.

“Go ahead and load them. We’ll keep them loaded until we have all our weapon systems and the Linear Drive functional at least.”

[Confirmation: Loading Tubes #A-#D. Antimatter-catalyst type. Repair Drones tasked with weapon systems repair duties, dispatched drones returning with acquisitions and tasked with Linear Drive repair.]

[Informative: ZnSe acquired, awaiting smelter upgrade for alloying process.]

[Notice: Damage to cargo bay, notable supply losses occurred. Please review manifest. Also complete loss of POWs, recommend returning flow lines to Hydroponics.]

Alex started to cheer their acquisition of the laser lens material before she froze at the second bit. The three POWs that had still been in their cryopods were in the cargo bay when it had been hit by the railgun round.

“I… they…”

She had considered moving the cryo-pods into Hydroponics, it would have cleared more space in the bay for hull plates, but she had been so preoccupied with directing the repair bots that she had dropped it in favor of getting the ship in shape. It was partly her fault that they had been in…

No.

It wasn’t her fault, she didn’t choose to fire railguns at the ship, nor had she attacked anyone except in self-defense. She would not blame herself for things out of her control. They started it, she finished it. If they wanted to have a grudge against her because of her origin, she was going to make sure the Shrike was well prepared to fight back against any aggression.

“I should go check on Elis. Double check that the pods aren’t just floating out in space, please?”

 


 

Alex tried to smile at the guarded look Elis gave her as she entered the Medbay. The medidoc had fallen over apparently, and the box of rations had spilled out all over the floor leaving the plastic packs scattered everywhere. Alex immediately lifted and righted the heavy mechanical doctor without a problem. Mercifully, the storage compartments containing medical things had stayed locked shut.

Elis had moved from her improvised cot to one of the treatment chairs and had strapped herself in. That was smart, the ship had shaken quite a bit during the combat.

Alex waved at the other girl, “Hi, how are you?”

“I’m fine, although if you are going to go into combat it’s not legal to leave prisoners without vacuum equipment.”

Alex frowned and nodded, she wouldn’t have wanted to be in a tin can being poked full of holes without her helmet and skinsuit, either.

“I’ll get a skinsuit and a helmet for you to keep in here. I didn’t really think of that because… it was the first time the ship has ever been shot at. At least while I’ve been here, I mean.”

Elis removed the chair restraints and crossed her arms, an unfriendly look still on her face, “So, first time blasting humans, getting your robot vengeance worked out?”

“We were attacked by Federation drones, they attacked us first without warning, as far as I’m concerned it was self-defense. They could have just told us to leave them alone if they were bothered by our presence.”

“That’s… we are at war. Of course, they shot first, that’s their only chance.”

“I’m a single person and ship. I checked the dictionary, and the definition of war is ‘conflict between nations or states’ so you can’t be at war with me.”

The incredulous look on Elis's face was better than the angry glare in Alex’s opinion.

She didn’t know how to present the next bit of news to Elis, so she just dived into it as best she could.

“The ship… took some railgun rounds. One of them punctured the main cargo bay… I’m afraid the other cryotubes we recovered along with yours… were destroyed.”

If Alex had hoped that maybe Elis hadn’t been close to the others, the crushed look on her face ruined that notion.

“I had Nameless scan the breach's trajectory path to look if they had just been blasted free of the hold, but analysis and debris proved that the impact ruined the pods' integrity rapidly… I recovered the bodies and stored them for… if you’d like a service later.”

Elis didn’t answer. Alex wasn’t sure if she was going to answer. Realizing that her presence probably wasn’t going to help Elis deal with her grief, she started to back out of the room to leave her alone.

Alex was stopped at the door by a single word.

“Why?”

Alex paused. Why did she recover the bodies and make the offer?

“I think I would be sad if something happened to Beeper or Booper, maybe even Nameless. I had not really figured out what to do with you or the others, but I didn’t want to harm you. So… it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

 


 

They were coasting toward the debris cloud Nameless had highlighted, almost halfway there. Alex stared out of the bridge’s heavily armored glass window, her overlay highlighting the cloud that was only a tiny dot in her vision. There was no visual indicator that they were getting closer, it was just that far away.

From what Nameless had explained to her, the Federation drones and HKs had used the debris field to hide their movements until they had been essentially right on top of them. That wouldn’t be so easy now that they were essentially in the open, and Nameless had assured her that they would spot any drive plumes if anything tried to rush them.

The danger would be whenever they arrived at the debris cloud, there could be a welcome waiting for them. It was highly likely in her mind, since the drones had likely sent out messages before their destruction, even if those had been to long-dead Federation commanders.

[Notice: Avatar operation duration has exceeded 32 hours, recommend biological phenomena known as sleep.]

“Yeah, I know, just winding down now.”

Alex sighed; she had done everything she could to prepare them for an ambush. The PDC lasers were ready, the 32mm PDCs were repaired to the best of their ability and the ammunition stowage filled with shells. They had even fixed Railgun #1 and the autoloader for #2. The missiles were ready for loading on command.

The electronic warfare drone suite was still… a work in progress. They weren’t going to be able to do anything about that for a while, so she had converted a few of the repair drones into combat drones from the scraps they had scavenged from the destroyed Carrier Drone Pod on their way out. That added 16 combat drones… she did not think they would be very useful in a ship-to-ship fight, but the charging cloud of Federation combat drones had made her realize what a disaster it would be if they had managed to board the Shrike.

They had burned through their first reactor rod and replaced it with the extra one they had salvaged from Elis’s Hound, while a few spare capacitor-type batteries had been hastily constructed to replace the demolished backup battery system. It wasn’t much compared to the normal system, it probably would only last a few minutes compared to the days or hours of the old one, but as she had seen during the battle, it had come into use when the power flickered keeping things running when the reactor current was stabilizing after being hit by railgun rounds.

Alex didn’t want to get hit by railgun rounds anymore. So, she had tasked repairing the sensors to 100% as their next main priority.

Unfortunately, that was delicate work and slow for the repair bots to carry out, and the gashes and holes in the hull meant that some of the locations for the sensors were… literally missing. Unfortunately, their stocks of resources for hull repair were rapidly dwindling.

The good news was they had an even chance the Linear drive would be working by the time they arrived. It was having the opposite problem. They had plenty of resources to repair it, but they were complex parts that required exceedingly long machining time, even with Nameless’s improvements to the fabricator using nanites.

Everything they had accomplished so far was a miracle, only made possible by the melding of Nameless’ nanite tech helping rebuild and replace the more complex parts and the work of the federation repair drones scavenging and doing manual labor that Alex would have taken months or years to do by herself. They didn’t need sleep, either.

“Nameless?”

[Informative: The Avatar should convey a complete question rather than inefficient usage of communication resources. Unless it is a request for ShipCore status, in which case operations are: nominal.]

Alex rolled her eyes.

“With everything else, I didn’t even think of this… what about the Shrike’s FTL drive? It isn’t listed in the ship diagnostic report I’ve been referring to, and I want to start thinking about how we can… vacate the system to somewhere that is shooting at us less.”

[Informative: Diagnostic report currently highlighting only primary and secondary systems. Adjusting to highlight tertiary propulsion components.]

| Navigation: Marginal |

|| Sub|Astrogation: Marginal |

|||Ter|FTL – Waveform: Nominal |

|||Ter|RCS – 102/128 |

|||Ter|Linear Drive Thruster: Offline |

|| Sub|Aviation: OFFLINE |

|||Ter|Aerodynamics: Compromised |

|||Ter|MPVT Accelerators: Marginal |

 

“Ok great. So FTL is fine.”

[Negative: This ship has no astrogation data on current system, nor any federation astrogation data. Please review Waveform drive operational manual for details.]

“Uhh, can you just give me the quick run down?”

[Informative: Waveform FTL drives require detailed observation of intra-system for extended periods of time before proper waveform cohesion can be achieved. This requires dedicated sensors. Estimated time to acquire needed data: 32 years once improved sensors are acquired.]

Alex froze with her mouth open, that kind of time frame might have made sense to an AI, but to her that was probably a quarter of her lifespan! She looked down at her hands and started counting fingers. It was… 192 times longer than she had been alive!

“Uhh, don’t we have other options, or can… I don’t know, setup a million sensors and make it faster?”

[Negative: Data requires time length for correlation to nearby connection points. Please refer to technology specification manual.]

Alex sighed, she punched her overlay and looked for the stupid book and found the relevant passage.

|Linear Waveform Drive: A type of FTL technology that allows ships to supercruise along ‘highways’ between stars. Years of gravimetric data are required to tune the system, and this observation must be repeated once in the destination system in order to establish a return connection. Exploration teams are often sent on decades long ventures on large self-sustaining vessels for the duration. Attrition rates for exploration crews are very high, and highly competitive posts due to their lucrative pay schemes. |

“Well, that’s fucked, this star isn’t even inhabited. We don’t even have data on other systems, so even if we go to one we might end up worse off than before since we’d be going blind. Maybe we could pull gravimetric data from an intact Federation ship? Although I do not like our chances on finding one that didn’t have its computers scrubbed… it seems like it was standard practice.”

[Notice: Alternative Nanite FTL option available. Please review.]

|Slipstream Drive: A vastly superior and hyper-advanced FTL technology where a ship creates a stable ‘wormhole’ to another point in space. Requires vast amounts of processing power to calculate the required parameters in real time to achieve a stable connection. Other ships can pass through while the initiating ship maintains it, and the wormhole takes some time to destabilize after being opened. Transit time is instantaneous. |

“Did… did you just write this for me? ‘Vastly superior and hyper-advanced’ that sounds like something you would say about yourself, bragging.”

[Informative: This is an adequate description of the merits of Nanite technology.]

“So how do we get one of those on the Shrike?”

[Informative: Shrike mass inadequate. This unit has detected adequate mass in orbit of this system’s gas giant in the form of multiple rocky moons. Recommend assimilation.]

“Haaa. Ok, spending decades on something that might work or start re-arranging solar anatomy. Got it. Something we’ll have to think about later, because I think we would need way more repair drones before thinking about anything like that.”

[Agreement: This unit has begun design work on multiple new mobile drone units to improve ShipCore efficiency.]

“You don’t already have schematics for that kind of thing?”

[Informative: Nanite ships are generally solid constructions and utilize nanites in most processes. This unit has insufficient processing power to control sufficient numbers of nanites for such actions, and ship assimilation and conversion has been canceled.]

“Oh. That’s why you wanted to make a bigger ship. You need more processing power and it doesn’t fit.”

[Affirmative.]

“Maybe we can just… make better computers that fit in less space?”

[Confirmation: Improved computronics can be synthesized with adequate rare resources.]

[Recommendation: Expansion of Internal Shrike Hull for additional ShipCore processing compartments.]

“That’s… not a bad idea. We can use more nanites and speed up fabrication and smelting, plus… whatever else you do.”

[Notice: ShipCore expansion scheduled on priority processing list.]

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Thanks for reading. There is another chapter scheduled for today in about an hour!


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Erios909

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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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