Advertisement
Remove

USD: ~Three days after arrival to 92 Pegasi

Location: G8 V Yellow Main Sequence, 92 Pegasi, Deep Space, Enroute to Ackman Station


 

She leveled the pulse pistol at Alex’s chest, the look of shocked betrayal followed by sad acceptance sending Elis’s heart to racing, “I didn’t want this.”

Alex reached up and cupped her cheek, “I know.”

The pulse pistol hummed, and then blue light exploded out of the barrel.

Elis shot up out of bed, a cold sweat clinging to her skin as she threw away the sheets that threatened to trip her escape from the bed. The nightmare had haunted her twice in the same number of days, replaying the same course of events.

She liked Alex. As she had scouted the ship and observed her captor, she had not found any of the horrors she might have expected. At first, she thought that was because they were alone or Alex and the NAI was trying to acquire some information from her. But Alex’s treatment of her slowly eroded that view. Movie nights were not a luxury often afforded to prisoners, and Alex reminded her of something of a little sister. If she had had any siblings, that was.

Slowly she had begun to believe that things wouldn’t be so bad, drifting around a nearly empty star, just the two of them until they ran out of some needed supply and perished slowly, like the fate of her friends and navy. Her worst fear was that the Nanite AI would find a way to escape and return to the Federation they had so desperately fought to save.

She had wanted to ask Alex if she would be willing to consider searching for other survivors locked away in cryopods among the wreckage. With her fleet IFF she thought she had a good chance to take a separate craft without springing any hostile drone traps that were inevitably still lurking around the wreckage. If she and her squad mates had survived, then there was a chance others had escaped to cryopods as well.

She had grabbed Alex’s weapon out of impulse when the ship had beat to quarters, the ship shaking and accidental bump giving her a sudden opportunity. A nagging fear propelled her to action. She just couldn’t shake the trepidation that they would end up in combat facing members of the fleet who had survived and set up a base around the lonely, lost star. Her duty to the Federation Navy, her friends and family there, felt like a mountain on her shoulders.

Alex was not like any Nanite Avatar she had ever encountered before; her face was full of expression and life and… emotion. Elis knew for a fact that she was a person, there was no question of that, no matter Alex’s origins. It had made her throat go dry, the possibility of having to kill her, after being granted only kindness and consideration. Elis had held onto the hope that the fleet only held automated drones.

She had felt relief when she recognized the formations the drones were using. The maneuvers and tactics used were a textbook rendition of what the drones had been programmed to do. She watched the interplay between Alex and Nameless as they fought with the asteroid base, and she saw a new side to the girl she had not seen before. A resolute determination, a calm calculating tactical mind that even under pressure had managed to guide the less creative AI into performing even better than could have been believed for such a disparity of forces.

A single heavy corvette, and an admittedly very well armed asteroid fortress against a fleet of almost two hundred ships. The battle should have been one sided, but it had been anything but.

The tactic of holding fire to maximize the effectiveness of the EW drones and first strike had worked beyond what anyone had the right to expect, and for a moment Elis thought that they might have been able to take down enough of the lighter fleet elements to make an escape.

Then the stellarator torpedo had hit, and everything went black. She had thought it was over then, but that was when her nightmare had arrived.

The slipstream wormhole had appeared, and the Nanite AI named ‘Nameless’ was about to be unleashed on the Federation once again.

Elis had played the next part over and over in her mind, until it felt like a recording.

She had given Alex a monologue, something she had never done before, because doing so got you killed. Had she unconsciously wished that Nameless had put her out of the picture?

Alex’s words and expression haunted her, “I understand.” “I understand.” “I understand.”

Laying back down and sliding back into the covers, Elis hugged her pillow, closed her eyes, and tried to go back to sleep.

The images of Alex’s sad eyes warring with memories of her squad mates, Alan, and her friends in the Navy.

She had only known Alex for a few weeks, how could that be placed on a scale with the others? With the people she had lived, cried, and loved with? Elis agonized over it, it felt like a betrayal of some kind.

Hugging the pillow tighter she tried to blank her thoughts until sleep reclaimed her.

 

USD: ~Three days after arrival to 92 Pegasi

Location: G8 V Yellow Main Sequence, 92 Pegasi, Deep Space, Enroute to Ackman Station


 

Elis couldn’t help but feel an invisible barrier had formed between her and Alex. Movie nights had not been canceled per se, but they had been overshadowed by multiple sessions of data sifting and attempts to piece together the situation from anemic long distance relay feeds.

Even when they did sit down to pursue a holovid, Alex’s previous excitement had been muted. That might have been due to the choice of several tragic stories in a row, or maybe the choice of movie had been an unconscious hint at her own feelings.

Elis knew she should have been focusing on how to sabotage the ship, destroy it from the inside out and prevent it from reaching Ackman. So many people had died, had sacrificed everything. She didn’t want to. The idea Alex had of just leaving her on the station, didn’t please her either. Alex, for all her genius, was like a child in some areas and someone needed to look out for her. That the Nanite AI needed close monitoring didn’t need to be said, it was self-evident. Elis still felt that the AI might be manipulating Alex for some unknown purpose and her freedom was just an illusion.

The problem was, Elis felt powerless. The Nanite AI had been very thorough in its security precautions, and she was being monitored constantly. She wasn’t even sure if she had managed to sneak the pistol away from Alex in the hallway, despite how busy the AI must have been dealing with the combat analysis. The idea that it had known and hadn’t done anything, just added to that powerless feeling.

Crossing into the Mess room that had become the de facto common room between them, Elis waved to Alex who was sitting and reading a datapad.

“Hey, Elis. There is some data here that you need to see. Nameless, can you go over it?”

The ear comm in her ear spat a tiny bit of static before coming to life, the dead lifeless voice of the computer never failing to give her a feeling of dread.

[Correlative: Further study of astrogation data and cross-referencing of system data and public notices indicates that the Federation no longer exists as a political entity in any part of the known systems.]

Elis looked to the map that had been plastered on the screen multiple times. The Solarian Federation, The Sol Imperium, The Corporate Systems, The Holy Ertan Republic, plus the smaller areas of The Free Planets Alliance, The Duchy of Drakar, and the Duchy of Meltisar were all painted in saturated colors of their state flags that they had discovered plastered on their faction’s most recent global news heading. The data had been quite out of date considering the long distances packet ships were required to fly to deliver the mail, although the Solarian and Corporate news had been more recent.

All was not well in human space. Elis had thought that the Solarian Federation might have been the spiritual successor to The Federation but reading their news broadcast had turned her stomach with flagrantly undisguised ‘socialist’ propaganda that had harkened back to the days of Sol’s 22nd century. The Sol Imperium had reverted to an Imperial Monarchy, which surprised Elis less. It had not been long since the Federation and humanity had shaken off the yoke of the second coming of the Aristocracy of Earth’s 28th century.

The news from the Corporate States read like a dystopian nightmare where corporations owned everything, and the Holy Ertan republic reported only auspicious and wonderful news that felt hollow, or at worst totally fabricated. It certainly set Elis’s ‘bullshit’ meter to red alert.

“It’s gone,” she whispered.

“Yeah… but at least everyone seems still alive? I mean… you explained how dire things were in the war, people being here might not have been the case.”

Elis took a deep breath, “We achieved our mission.” She glanced over to the robot Alex called ‘Beeper’ who had been staring at her. She stared right back, wondering if it was just the simple robot it pretended to be, or if Nameless was looking through its single optical sensor mounted on the drone’s midsection.

“Alex, have you plotted the ships in the system yet? Most will have been running with transponders on, but military or… undesirables might have shut them off and be flying dark.”

Alex paused for a moment then looked down at her datapad, “Nameless?”

[Informative: Forty-three ship trajectories have been plotted on navigation, of these twenty-seven are mining vessels traveling between asteroids around Planet Ackman, three are super freighters heading to Dedia, the new colony world in Nu Crateris, eight are outbound freighters heading toward Theta Corvi, and five are headed to rendezvous with Ackman station. There are also two dozen ships ranging in size from gunship to freighter class in port at Ackman station that are currently non-mobile. Ship compositions are unknown, but the small sampling of EM and Thermal data suggest the majority of these are other freighters or small mining vessels.]

Elis frowned, “It doesn’t take much to change the signature of a warship into a freighter. It wasn’t uncommon for independent military patrol ships to do just that to lure in careless pirates for a little chat.”

Alex’s eyes lit up, “Nameless, what can we do to change our signature? I know we are running as black as possible right now, but hiding the existence of our weapons and pretending to be a freighter would be a great thing to help us… uhm, not be noticed.”

[Informative: A design process has been initiated. Thin external plates that are designed to be ejected can be configured to conceal weapon mounts from optical sensors. Weapon electronics can be temporarily shielded to change EM signature. Production and refit ETA: 10 days.]

Elis nodded, approvingly, having led Alex to the idea. Smart girl. If they were going to be doing anything other than landing in hot water with some navy or government, they needed to be inconspicuous or useful. This system had the benefit of not being under any official control, yet, but it was likely the Solarian Federation and Corporate Systems were monitoring things closely in a race to take over for themselves. That was just how politics worked. The fact that the station was still independent told Elis that it was probably a powder keg ready to explode, or so unimportant no one had bothered to take notice.

Elis pointed to the large display with the star system map on it, “One thing that I found odd was that there were no packet ships at the star lane entry locations. Normally packet ships will orbit there and transit back and forth on a schedule to transmit messages. Although it might just be that the system is that unimportant. I sort of expected one to Nu Crateris though, since it has a habitable world.”

The super freighters were interesting though, as those types of ships were truly massive in size dwarfing even the largest ships of the line. Often carrying enough firepower to be considered a credible threat themselves, they were kilometers long and could carry vast amounts of cargo and people. Three of them headed to one new world meant someone was rushing development somewhere.

 

USD: ~10 days after arrival to 92 Pegasi

Location: G8 V Yellow Main Sequence, 92 Pegasi, Deep Space, Enroute to Ackman Station


 

Alex leaned back in her seat, slouching far enough that she was able to relax with her feet on Engineering’s center console. For once, she had nothing to do. The repair bots had everything covered, and Nameless had fixed most of everything that he could fix without them gathering more supplies. That wasn’t to say the ship was in great shape, but it wasn’t going to fall apart if they lit off the main drive suddenly. The permanent damage to the ship’s main structural beams wasn’t good, but it hadn’t reached a critical point of failure yet.

[Notice: Repairs to Linear Drive are completed. A drive test of 1.5 seconds is needed to calibrate tuning.]

“Won’t that light us up? We are trying to sneak in, you know.”

[Informative: There is a low chance of detection, however lack of military vessels indicates there is no cause for concern.]

“Uhm. They could just be hiding, like us. We can just wait until we are due for our braking maneuver.”

[Notice: Due to a wave-form harmonic error in Linear Drive system, an error rate of 0.33% in the capacitor relay emits a resonance at 35,000 Hz that is degrading ShipCore efficiency in routine tasks by 2.3%.]

“Why don’t you just filter out the sound.”

[Informative: Processing is currently filtering the sound, which is the cause of the decrease in performance.]

“I don’t think it’s that big a problem, compared to being detected. Let’s just leave it.”

[Notice: The decrease in efficiency could hinder ShipCore efforts.]

[Recommend: Performing Linear Drive calibration.]

“You are… being very pushy… wait, it’s annoying you? Is that it?”

Silence.

Alex laughed, “Oh, you poor AI, forced to suffer to the dreaded power system’s out of tune harmonics, if only you were organic like me and could just ignore it!”

[Informative: This unit is in fact ignoring the signal, however the required--]

Alex interrupted, “Okay Okay. Do your test. I don’t want you to suffer an… AI meltdown or stroke.”

[Notice: This unit’s performance is nominal under the circumstances. Nanite AIs do not have meltdowns or strokes, this is an organic failing.]

Alex waited for a moment, but nothing seemed to happen.

“Uhh, did your test fail?”

[Informative: Test has been completed successfully. The Linear Drive is fully operational.]

Alex’s gaze shifted over to the system map on the holo table. Their position was a blinking white dot, and a curved dotted line showed their course inward towards Ackman Station.

Nameless had confirmed that outside of Ackman’s orbit and the triangle made by the two transit points for the space lanes, there was very little activity. That darkness was the area the Shrike found itself floating through, with the nearest active transponder halfway across the star’s orbit. There simply wasn’t any reason to be anywhere else, Alex thought.

The asteroid belt full of resources was nestled tightly around the planet in dense rings. If the locals had sensors anywhere near as capable as the Shrike’s, they’d pick up any drive flares within minutes unless the operators were asleep or blind. Moving through space on RCS alone would keep them from being seen but would also be incredibly slow. She doubted they would be able to hide mining activities for long, either.

That knowledge had decided her choice on whether they should stay in the belt and try to gather resources and develop and repair the ship on their own or go into the port and try to make contacts, gather information, and maybe purchase what they needed to do a relatively fast repair and rebuild of the ship’s spine. Something Elis had assured her would be expensive.

That had alarmed Alex, considering they had no money. At least until Elis explained that at a station like Ackman there would almost certainly be a large trade of weapons. Which was the one thing she had plenty of, although their missile oversupply had been savaged during their battle with the Federation drones. They only had thirty of the 1066.8mm and two torpedoes left, and that was after Alex had made Nameless reconvert the anti-matter they had siphoned from the extra missiles earlier into new warheads for the empty missile chassis that had originally come with the Shrike. That had been a terrible headache.

“Sleeping on the job?”

Alex cracked an eye open and then sat up as Elis announced herself, two cups of something steaming in her hands.

“Is that for me?”

“Yep.”

Alex took the cup and sniffed it, “What is it?” The drink had a strong, smooth aroma.

“Coffee.”

“But… Nameless said there wasn’t any coffee when I asked.”

“It isn’t real coffee; it is made from packets from the vegetarian MREs.”

“Oh… so they are good for something?”

Elis smiled and let out a small laugh, “Maybe. You might not like it.”

“Are you kidding? I have watched enough Holovids to know that coffee is the most superior drink known to humankind.”

Alex took a sip, and an overwhelming bitter taste invaded her mouth, bad enough that she almost spit it out.

“Is… is this poison? Nameless, did Elis just poison me?”

[Informative: Beverage contains no dangerous elements.]

“This is a conspiracy!” Alex blurted before looking down at her cup with a grimace, “I won’t drink this. I have confirmed that there is nothing redeemable about vegetarian MREs.”

[Informative: This unit has gained access to the local relay’s ship identification and registration system.]

[Notice: A ship IDENT must be created if we wish to broadcast a transponder ID. Default name is: Shrike H3-42812.]

[Interrogative: Would you like to change the registration name entry?]

Alex and Elis looked at each other.

A name instantly came to Alex, “What’s the character limit?”

[Informative: No character limit is designated, however names that are too long could cause issues with formatting.]

Alex took a breath, “Tears of Fire.”

Elis nodded slightly.

[Affirmative: Please review ship IDENT.]

|Name: Tears of Fire|

|Registration: Independent|

|Owner: Alex|GCode: 8Y-384YN83023NB|

“What’s a GCode?”

Elis spoke up, “It’s a specific genetic code that is unique for every person when read by a Federation standard scanner... or whatever standard scanner they use now.”

Alex nodded, “Well, not much else to do now.”

Elis spoke up, “How would you like to go for a spar? Without the murdering each other bit.”

Alex’s eyes lit up, “That sounds good!”

Advertisement
A note from Erios909

Thank you for reading!

I hope you liked getting a POV from Elis!

As always, if you are enjoying the story, why not leave a comment, rating, or review!

I really like engaging with you all, and those things make me happy. 


Support "ShipCore | A Sci-fi Space Opera ShipGirl Action-Adventure "

About the author

Erios909

  • West Virginia, USA
  • Author

Bio: Still alive, yes.

Achievements
Comments(57)
Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In