USD: A few Days later
Location: 92 Pegasi, A3123Y Central Module
The Tears had been rendered uninhabitable for the duration of its refit, so Alex and Elis, with the help of a lot of drones, had to move all their belongings to the station.
If the Tears had been comfortable with just the two of them, the station felt enormous. Even with the addition of Amy and Logan, there were hundreds of empty rooms in the habitation section. Just finding each other had been a task that had tested Alex as she had to compare plain room numbers with the number she had been given.
Her solution was to use a bucket of red paint on Elis’s door and blue paint for her own.
That had gotten her punished, because she forgot to ask first.
Alex stretched, arching her back while lying on one of the station’s main mess room sofas. There were thirty of them. A dozen game tables, holotv booths, and other entertainment devices sat unused throughout the room. A bar set across one wall had enough space for a dozen patrons to be drinking or talking or whatever.
There was no one. And no bartender. She had tried to get a drink, but then realized that everything behind the counter was either some sort of concentrated flavor or that terrible tasting thing called alcohol.
She had ended up drinking water.
If it wasn’t for the comfy sofa she had found to nap on, she’d have questioned the fact that the space was designated ‘recreation.’ She would have considered ‘wasted space’ a better description instead.
Maybe it was just that everything was built for so many more people. With only the four of them, there was no avoiding the feeling of emptiness… loneliness?
“Hey, A3123Y, were you lonely? Is that why you built your module with space for so many people?”
Alex wasn’t sure what prompted the question. Maybe it was because she knew how lonely she had felt when she had been when she woke up.
|Multitudes of faces|
|Cheerful with delight|
|Kebabs and Cake! |
Staring up at the ceiling, Alex frowned. It was sometimes difficult for her to communicate with the subcore.
“Would you like an Avatar, A3123Y? We could use the next NAI computronics module for you to have one.”
[Notice: Upgrading A3123Y with an Avatar will mean that it will no longer be considered a subcore. It will be granted a measure of independence from our control.]
“Well, I wasn’t trying to control it, anyway. But… if we did that, would the Avatar be A3123Y or something new? Would it have its own, uhh… form of you, Nameless? Which one would be in charge?”
[Informative: This distinction is imprecise. A ShipCore consists of its Avatar and MainComputer, they are not separate. It is possible for you to designate A3123Y Avatar specifications or allow it to create its own. Our generation suite places Avatar authority above MainComputer authority.]
[Recommendation: Discover the cause for this error and correct it, so future ShipCores have the proper hierarchy of MainComputer>Avatar.]
“No, I think having the Avatar in charge is for the best, even if we are a bit divergent and others would be in more harmony, or whatever.”
Alex sat up from the sofa, sliding her feet onto the floor and standing up.
“What do you think, A3123Y?”
|A body built|
|To explore with|
|Great fun awaits|
“Well, I guess that settles that. We can allocate the next module to A3123Y.”
[Affirmative: Next module will be delivered to A3123Y within the next few days.]
Alex smiled, “Great, I can’t wait to meet you in person, A3123Y!”
|Jumping in preparation|
|Soon to taste, Kebab and Cake|
USD: A few days later
Location: 92 Pegasi, A3123Y Central Module, Armory
Elis grunted as a drop of oil dripped down from the MK4B suit onto her face. She was slid underneath the suit lying on her back while it was suspended by a mechanical lift. There had been extensive damage to the suit during its use on the Dedia IV, and she was doing her best to refurbish it.
All the tools she needed to do so were present, and A3123Y had set up a smart fabricator for her to use to machine and perfect any replacement parts she needed from a seemingly endless amount of available feedstock.
Combat suit engineering wasn’t something she had done extensively before. She’d been trained to provide on-the-spot maintenance, but nothing like refurbishing a suit from the ground up.
She’d been getting a lot of practice doing so since she gained access to the armory on the Tears. Nameless had also provided her with datapad manuals on information she just didn’t know. All of that still didn’t make her an expert.
She sighed as the servo she was working on protested the draining of its hydraulics, suddenly snapping shut and almost taking a finger. She reached over to grab a drill so she could remove the joint, but it wasn’t where she thought it was.
“Need a hand?” Amy asked.
Not having realized anyone was in the armory with her, Elis scooted out from under the machine. She sat up and looked at the other girl.
“I need the 2B-33 drill.”
Amy walked over and knelt near an open toolbox that Elis had been using. After a few seconds of searching, she pulled out the drill and handed it to Elis.
“This is some serious hardware you’re working on.”
Elis chuckled. “It’s top of the line for sure. Fully custom made too, a bit of a novelty like the Shrike, even. A whole mark above what I was using before going on ice. Not sure who fucking had it stashed away on the Shrike when we needed it.”
Sliding back under the suit, Elis began drilling out the screws. They weren’t intended to ever be removed outside an armory as a security precaution, so each one had to be effectively destroyed to be removed. She’d already had an entire set of new ones made by the fabricator, so that wasn’t a problem.
An idle question came to Elis, “You do engineering on suits like these before?”
“No. Never. I’ve never even seen a power armor suit like this before. It’s more like something you’d see in the Commissar’s personal guard unit or something. I doubt anyone in the sector has one, even. The FedTech AIs are like magic. No one can make half the alloys or components that A3123Y can.”
Elis grunted as the servo finally gave and spewed a line of liquid at her. It mostly missed, but she found herself coming back out from under the machine. Amy already had a rag ready and offered it to her.
Taking it, Elis smiled. “Thanks.”
“No problem. What was the Federation like? Living in it, I mean.”
Elis frowned and stopped what she was doing.
“Not sure I’m the best person to ask. After joining the military and doing my training, I spent ten years frozen for one year of remedial training and to update on the latest events.”
Amy was about to ask another question, but stopped, changing it. “What was that like?”
Elis thought for a moment before answering. “It was like living in your own little bubble. But they kept us together, so you always had each other to fall back on.”
“Us? You and Alex?”
“Ah. No. My fireteam. We were a special operations unit. There was an incident and… they didn’t make it.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Nah. It’s alright. I don’t mind talking about them.”
Something in Elis’s voice told Amy the subject was still painful, and she changed the subject anyway.
“Would you mind showing me what you’re doing? I never worked on these before, but I’ve a lot of experience keeping our badger running. Pretty much a requirement for living as a rock rat.”
“Sure. Grab a something to cover your clothes though, about to replace the hydraulics and they aren’t meant to be replaced, so it’s going to bleed like you can’t believe.”
USD: A week later
Location: 92 Pegasi, A3123Y Central Module
Logan did his best to stay absolutely still while cursing his own stupidity. A drop of sweat trailed down the side of his face. He prayed to Ertan, assuring him that this was not what he intended, and that he was innocent.
Alex was standing much too close to him, reaching up to key in commands the AI was telling her to fix the badger’s jumbled launch sequence that had the ship’s computer throwing a loop.
The issue was that she had no sense of body space, and her breasts were right in his face if he just barely turned his head. She was wearing her skinsuit, too. This was not what he had in mind when he offered to fly her over the short distance to view the construction progress of the AM collider!
Her melodic voice expressed exasperation.
“Ugh! Why is this in such an awkward place? Did Amy make it so hard to reach on purpose?”
Swallowing, he answered her. “I… I think it’s standard. Do you want me to get up and let you stand on the seat?”
“No. No, I think I can reach it!”
She stretched and Logan nearly panicked as she pressed up against him slightly.
Why was his boss a hot chick only a few years older than him? Was she doing this on purpose?
Seconds felt like eternity until he was finally granted relief by the cockpit’s systems suddenly lighting up and her moving away. The ship’s main screen began to warm up and the HUD slowly fuzzed into existence.
Alex frowned as she pulled back to stand beside the seat, leaning forward to examine the old monitor’s picture in detail.
“This thing seems broken. Why don’t you replace it?”
“Uhh. Seems fine? Working how it always does.”
Alex’s eyes narrowed. “Seems like an antique to me.”
“Screens like this cost a lot to make, so usually they aren’t ever replaced unless they are damaged.”
Alex shook her head. “Eh, surely it’s not that hard to make them? Nameless, how long would it take to make one for Logan and Amy’s ship?”
[Informative: A batch of 24 standardized 170cm x 100 cm starship grade monitor devices can be produced in 12 minutes. Delivery time would require 4.4 hours and installation by drone service would require approximately 12.3 hours based on the current scan of Badger MKII cockpit.]
“See, why not do that?”
“Yeah, we get a big salary now, but how much would those cost?”
“Eh. Why would they cost anything?”
Logan blinked at her. “Because… things cost money?”
“If you want one, just have one made. We can sell the other 23 to people outside of SR if we need cash.”
[Notice: Order placed in production queue.]
Alex smiled cheerfully. “See, even Nameless agrees. You need an updated monitor!”
The ship’s comm buzzed and Amy’s voice came through. “Hey, are you two on the way? I need a ride back from the AM collider. It’s ready to be deployed to the sun after you examine it, and I don’t want you to leave me behind.”
Logan picked up the radio, which was attached to the comm system by a coiled wire.
“Sis, we had some launch trouble. Fixed now and we are on the way.”
“Don’t kill the boss, Logan.”
He shook his head. The boss was doing more damage to him; he was sure!
USD: An hour later
Location: 92 Pegasi, Nearby A3123Y Orbital, AM Collider Unit #1
Alex flipped her flight suit into a spin as she turned around, keeping her trajectory moving away from the AM Collider.
She smiled as she took in the sight of the massive construction. It was already as long as A3123Y on its longest axis, stretching several kilometers. One side was covered in solar thermal voltaic collectors that would soak in the yellow sun of 92 Pegasi in a low orbit.
The entire hull was made of extreme heat-resistant ceramic to survive the abuse of the sun. A dedicated D-field modified by Nameless had been designed to help protect the construct from micro-impacts and provide additional protection from harmful radiation.
Kilometers more of radiators would hide in the construct's shadow. Multiple power generation apparatuses filled the hull, designed to convert and direct the excess heat into power. Nothing was perfectly efficient though, and the unused excess heat would be radiated away. There would be a lot of it, considering how close to the sun it would be.
Alex curved her course back toward the collider, this time aiming for the already extended radiators. They were pitch black panels she could only see because of the missing stars they cloaked.
Braking hard before she collided with one, she curved her course to flash down the length of it, laughing the entire time.
Reaching the end, she flipped and repeated the stunt, this time upside down with her EVA helmet only a few meters away from the panel. As she reached the end, she had to strafe to the side to avoid an antenna that stuck out of the main hull.
Alex’s helmet chimed and the frightened voice of Amy reached her. “Alex! Please don’t kill yourself!”
Alex let herself drift away from the construct a bit, using her HUD to triangulate Amy’s position on the station. A rectangle shrank repeatedly in a blinking motion until it highlighted a faraway section in green.
“No worries! This is nothing compared to surfing a debris field.”
She keyed her flight suit to maximum power and shot off toward the indicated location. It was the mooring arm for ships, which also had a glass annex that could retract into the hull when it wasn’t needed.
“Why would you fly around a debris field in a suit!?”
Alex just laughed, and as she came closer to the section Amy was watching from, the other girl’s voice became more shrill.
“You’re going to crash! Pull away!”
Alex almost agreed. She was cutting it very close, but her HUD had morphed to a flight display that was showing her trajectory and prograde vector. A number on the side had a small countdown for a blinking collision alert.
At the last second, she began to brake, with a little added thrust upward to raise and curve her vector. As she came to a stop, her boots touched the glass and she skidded for several meters.
Thankfully, the glass was tough stuff and didn’t even scratch, so she definitely wasn’t getting yelled at by Nameless this time.
“Hey Amy! I made it back! Are you good?”
Alex waved down underneath her where she could see Logan and Amy standing looking up at her. Logan started to wave back, but Amy smacked him.
“That was dangerous!” came the complaint from the black-haired girl.
Alex shook her head and headed for the airlock. “It was great! Let’s head back, though. I’m hungry and you promised to show us how you cook space kebabs.”
[Notice: Tears of Fire has completed retrofit. Structural integrity and ship habitability has been completely restored.]
Alex felt like she was on top of the world. “Yes!”