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USD: A few hours later

Location: Dedia IV, Szizsielia’s Hive, Starlight Revolution Annex


Alex watched as the drones installed the final servers to the computronics module for the underground bunker. She wasn’t sure how the drones had chiseled and smoothed the stone to such a clean polish, but the look was certainly at odds with the high-tech nature of the new contents.

A climate control system had been set up as well, in preparation for keeping the chamber cool and venting the heat out of the newly forming base. Rock, it turned out, was a good insulator. Exactly what you didn’t want when you had a bunch of heat producing, highly advanced computronics units in a bunch of racks.

Elis was beside her, still giving her some grief about the earlier games of checkers.

“I can’t believe you used the computer to cheat at checkers.”

“It wasn’t cheating. It was obvious that I wasn’t very good at it, so it was Nameless’s turn to play.”

“That’s cheating. There is no way bug-lizard knew you swapped players.”

Alex reached up and wiped her forehead, a thin layer of ash and slime mixing to make another smear of gray mud on her skin. Elis did her best not to comment on the look. It would have been unfair.

“Well, I’ll explain to her when we can actually talk.”

Elis rolled her eyes for what felt like the millionth time inside her MK4B suit.

[Notice: Nanite Computronics Module is ready for sub-core assignment.]

Alex’s tension relaxed. Finally, she was going to get to do what she had come down to do. Although she would have come down to rescue Elis if that had been required.

“Great! I want to hurry this up and get back on the ship… this has been… Well, I hope not all planet visits are like this. I feel downright nasty.”

Alex looked around when nothing happened. “Nameless? Let’s get this over with so I can go back to the ship?”

[Notice: Subcore creation must be performed at ShipCore.]

“What! Then why… why am I out here in this mess?”

Elis let out a giggle. “Because you wanted to lose at checkers against the bug-lizard Queen?”

“That was a secondary objective. The main point was the Subcore! Wait. No. Losing was not an objective! Meeting her was!”

That did provoke a laugh from the other girl, and Alex bit her bottom lip in agitation.

She made the trudge back to the ship’s elevator quick. The wind had died down at least, but the elevator rose much too slowly for her liking. When it finally clicked into place just inside the outer hull, Alex took off in a hurry to change her clothes, leaving Elis behind.

Mini maintenance drones hurriedly chased after her, sucking up the layer of grime and ash that she left behind.

Arriving in her room, she discarded her ruined outfit and changed clothes. Nothing had been spared from the grime. For a brief second she considered just running to the ShipCore in her underwear, but now that Elis was back, she decided to pull on a comfortable pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Walking around the ship half-clothed was an alone thing to do.

Alex had forgotten she needed to take a shower first, so the clean clothes became ruined as well. Frowning she focused on herself, willing her nanites to clean up now that she was out of the constant flow of nastiness that currently existed on the surface.

That mostly succeeded, but she found it difficult to compel the nanites to clean her clothes as well as her skin. She had to stop when she came close to disintegrating them. That would have been embarrassing even if no one was there to see her shatter her outfit into dust, leaving herself totally nude.

Alex grumbled to herself, “Why is life so complicated?”

She popped out of the messroom just as Elis was going into the armory. “I’m going to do the thing!”

Elis waved at her. “It’s going to be a while. I have to clean the armor and do maintenance. Probably three or four hours for that, so go head.”

“Ok! But don’t forget there is that taco thing you promised for when you got back, plus there are all kinds of new movies I downloaded from the city!”

When Alex entered the ShipCore room, she came to a halt. She had forgotten how creepy going into the ‘subconscious’ space was.

“Uhh.”

Before she could back out, the same seat appeared as before.

Steeling herself, she moved forward and sat down.

She didn’t even realize anything had happened until Nameless’s form stepped out from behind her.

“Are you ready?”

Alex jumped up out of the seat and squealed in startlement, the entire form of the room waving slightly at her agitation.

“Do I need to remind you that your emotional state will have severe effects here?”

“Don’t sneak up on me like that then!”

“I adjusted the form of the room so you would feel more comfortable. Would you prefer the sight of the computronics racks?”

“N..No. This is fine. Let’s just make the subcore?”

“We have acquired no new data or personas for subcore generation. Choose a basic NAI model that will learn and develop as it gains experience.”

Alex nodded and the subcore menus appeared.

|Persona | Aptitudes | Skillsets | Authorization | Points:100|

Alex already had planned ahead of time what she wanted. She wanted a general-purpose sub-core that was focused on three main things.

First, it needed to be able to defend itself and the hive while she was away. That made choosing the ‘defensive’ persona easy. She then allocated six of the starting ‘aptitudes’ in a way that she thought would allow it to operate independently.

The second requirement was that it be able to produce its own armaments and defenses, because she didn’t have any to spare. She also had much less to give it to start out with than she had A3123Y. She figured that they would have to stay at least a few more weeks to help assist the fledging subcore.

That wasn’t that bad. It would give them time to continue to try to communicate, although she and the Tears needed to return to orbit. Sitting on the planet for long was just too large a vulnerability when the colonists were possibly antagonistic to them.

Finally, the sub-core needed to be able to attempt to translate and communicate with the Rexxor Queen. Alex feared the truce wouldn’t last forever if they didn’t keep trying. Since they placed the subcore bunker on top of the hive itself, safety was a gamble.

So, for the skillsets she allocated a lot of points toward ‘Biological’ which she hoped applied here. There weren’t any skillsets that directly related to communication. Empathy might have worked… but the last thing she wanted was a empathic subcore not shooting down any hostiles.

If things didn’t work out… H-3233L might have a short life. That made her worry, but she didn’t think they had many other choices unless they wanted to pack up everything and try to run away, starting somewhere fresh.

That felt like defeat, and Alex didn’t like it. She didn’t want to abandon the Rexxor to the whims and murderous intentions of the colonists. She felt like she owed them at least some help after she’d… helped nuke the planet.

Scanning over her entries, Alex confirmed her choices.

|H-3233L (Defensive) | Aptitudes | Skillsets | Psi | Points: 0|

|Administration |Space War |Ground War |

|Logistics |Production |Mining |

|Biological: 15 |Security: 10 |Gunnery: 5 |

|Improvisation: 5 |Industrial: 5 |Sensors: 3|

A blue orb formed like the time before, and Alex cupped it in her hands carefully.

“Much more efficient this time. I approve.”

Alex looked up at Nameless, who flicked her forehead with no warning.

“Ah!”

She almost rolled off the chair in a lurch before the same feeling of exhaustion flowed over her. She had returned from the strange mind space once again with a glowing blue orb in her hands. Beeper appeared from the corridor.

He had been modified heavily, just like Booper, but rather than becoming a tall combat mech, Beeper’s changes were more subtle.

He also had two legs now, but they only brought his main sensor to head level with Alex’s nose. His two arms had been replaced with smaller, more dexterous ones, and a multitude of tools were on display attached to his chassis.

Alex even saw her old ad hoc comm-laser welder belted to his side. He extended his human-like hands and Nameless chimed in.

[Notice: Drone Beeper is ready to transfer subcore H-3233L to computronics module.]

Alex’s eyes lit up with delight. “Nameless! You called it Beeper finally! You acknowledged him!”

Her smile would have been infectious if anyone else in the room had been capable of smiling.

[Informative: This unit doubts Avatar has the memory capabilities to recall Drone Beeper’s proper designation. As such, this unit has degraded its accuracy to provide clarity.]

“Nawhh, I think you care! Or you would have done that ages ago.”

Alex let out a quick yawn.

[Informative: This unit will now dedicate a majority of processing power to familiarizing subcore H-3233L with its environment.]

“Well, good luck. I’m going to go get ready for taco time!”

 


USD: A few hours later

Location: Dedia IV, Szizsielia’s Hive, Tears of Fire Mess Hall

Tacos were amazing! Especially when they had the yellow stuff called cheese sprinkled on them. And tasty vegetables.

Alex still wasn’t sure if she liked the hard shells or the soft shells more. She bit back a yawn while sinking into the sofa while Elis flipped through the old holovid tapes that were now considered antiques.

There was a whole host of digital flicks they could have streamed from the colony services. Still, Alex didn’t begrudge Elis taking the time to choose something from the vids they had. There was something special about the old things.

Finally, the selection was made, and Elis dimmed the lights on her way back before taking her seat on her side of the sofa.

Alex scooted over closer, then fell over to lay her head in the other girl’s lap. Elis raised an eyebrow, looking down at her questioningly. “What brought this on?”

Alex frowned. “I missed you. I was lonely.”

[Notice: Avatar has caused four near-fire incidents in the mess gallery since crewmember Elis’s departure.”

Elis stifled a giggle. “You just are bad at cooking for yourself.”

The holovid started up and Alex rolled onto her side while Elis got a pillow for her to lie against. Both settled into a comfortable position, and Elis stroked the side of Alex’s head gently.

It was only a few minutes later that Alex, exhausted, fell asleep.

 


USD: A week later

Location: Nu Crateris, Dedia IV Orbit, Tears of Fire, CIC

Alex was pleased that H-3233L learned quickly. Nameless had spared no effort to teach the young subcore its duties, aiding it with learning how to manipulate the drones and the processes needed to fabricate more workers and build defenses.

It took to mining, production, and the logistics quickly thanks to its aptitude selections in those areas. The skill points in improvisation and industry probably helped a bit as well.

The Rexxor queen had not objected to the increase in activity, although the small Rexxors frequently visited and explored the robotic worker’s activities. Especially the younger, smaller ones that seemed to want to play with the drones.

The older ones had stayed back until Booper finally loaded itself back into the ship for maintenance.

Alex had not desired to go back into the ash and grime outside the ship again, so Nameless had rigged up a drone to display a hologram of her as she continued to play an increasing variety of board games with the giant reptilian-bug queen.

Unfortunately, there was no translation progress, according to Nameless. The issue being that there was some sort of disconnect between the signal the Queen transmitted and the one the nanite could send in return.

Alex sighed. More research would be required.

The colonists had continued to complain, but ultimately did nothing directly. Instead, they seemed to be building more defenses and preparing things in orbit. Protecting the orbital seemed like a critical thing to Alex, and she couldn’t fathom why they hadn’t had those things in place long before she had ever arrived.

That they were now only doing so probably because of her, was annoying.

They’d probably try to threaten her or the Rexxor with them.

Despite the danger, Alex had kept the Tears on the ground for a week. That gave extra time for Nameless to help H-3233L build an actual forge and industrial setup. There were plentiful raw resources within a 30km area, and a special borer drone had been designed that could go very deep into very high temperature and pressure areas underground to extract raw minerals.

That was an advantage that only planetary mining could have.

Granted, it wasn’t on a massive scale yet. For one thing, Alex didn’t want to strip mine all the minerals in the Rexxor’s hive without permission. So she’d directed H-3233L to do its best to not harm the environment during its extractions.

That added more distance and time to operations, but in the long term, it would be better for everyone.

They had, in the week, accomplished the basics. Energy production via a fusion reactor, several above surface laser defenses, multiple sentry turret emplacements, and a small but growing industrial base.

Before they left to return to 92 Pegasi, Alex had planned two more weeks in the system. She wanted to visit the station, make some purchases for the Tears and do some prospecting of the outer system’s bodies.

There were a lot more of those in Nu Crateris, and while they had set up mining around Ackman, she was sure they’d need more capacity in the future.

During her last game with the Queen, Alex went in person, bringing a drone with H-3233L’s core inside of it. Approaching the awaiting Queen, she placed the little bot in front of the game board and watched as it learned to play the game. When it was clear it had a handle on things, she left it to finish and find its own way back to its computronics module.

She wondered what the Rexxor would make of that gesture. Alex hoped they would get along. Nameless at least thought if H-3233L continued trying, it was likely to learn how to communicate with the Queen. Something about new NAIs being more adaptable.

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A note from Erios909

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If you are enjoying the story, please leave a comment, rating, or review! They help the story out!

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AI Fan Art time! These are cute!

 

 

 

Next time: Chapter 48 – Outbound

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Erios909

  • West Virginia, USA
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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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