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Sipping on his water Richard sat under a tree. An apple tree if he wasn’t mistaken. There were no fruit yet for him to be sure. Reflecting on what he had learned from Marie he watched a Bee hover from one blossom in the field to the next.

The bees aboard the sisterships were a rare desert breed that was unaffected by the parasites that caused trouble for bee hives all over earth.

Parasites? Richard searched his memory. Other than parasitic infestations something else was attributed to colony collapses. Cellphone signals! From his pocket he quickly took his glasses. Scanning through the archives of what used to be the Internet he confirmed his memory.

He took a deep breath of the fresh air in the garden. There had been simulated rainfall the night before. The ground was still damp, and cool. Droplets of water hung on blades of grass, and other plants, glistening in the simulated daylight like little strewn out diamonds. “Access reports from Horizon, search for alien signals.” Directing his glasses he had remembered that the implants were reverse engineered from Harpy technology.

Irritated he sat up straight. “Classified? Authorisation Richard Phlock, Destiny 210882 gamma phi.” Still he saw only an “access denied” message.

“Clarification, is all material on harpy activity classified? If so, on who’s order?”

》Security chief commander François Lapierre《 was the next up message after his suspicions were confirmed that all Harpy related material was classified.

Whistling in astonishment Richard took off his glasses. That was unexpected.

Paranoia began to creep up on him. As he got up he looked around. Only a few other people were roaming the garden. Mostly couples taking a walk on the designated paths. A few gardeners. Did they expect to be working in these conditions as gardeners when they left university? Mundane thoughts calmed his spirit.

I must find the Admiral, confront her with what I found. Reluctantly Richard left the open space with the chance to see people all around him, potential surprises waiting behind a corner in form of link members.

Walking down to the tube access, he was still fascinated by the tall hallway, the green walkway with only stepping stones leading to the much more sterile parts of the ship. Although the green strips in the larger hallways were anything but sterile, compared to the lush gardens they seemed restricted and trimmed.

“Good day.” Torn from his soothing mundane thinking Richard felt his pulse increase immediately. An elderly man with a greying mustache had stepped out of the tube, greeting him. “G’day.” He replied hastily, not without noticing the name tag of the man. Doctor Jim Edwards. Now, where had I read that name before?

The doors to the cab closed, in the hallway was doctor Edwards, looking back at Richard. “Holy crap!” Richard inhaled, it was the doctor that had cleared Irina and Darius Konrads.

Immediately following his sudden realisation suspicion and paranoia crept back into his mind set.

“Are you all right, lad?” An elderly man with a full grey beard looked at him from one of the seats. “I’m hoping so, sir.” Was Richard’s reply to the man in the uniform of an engineer, of a higher rank than Richard.

“Maybe you should take a seat, you look quite distressed and pale?”

“Getting off in a moment. But thanks.” He shook his head declining the seat. Moaning out the aches his joints gave him, the man got up. “Chief engineer Bill Wallis.”

“Lieutenant Richard Phlock.” Feeling as if his paranoia was taking over Richard stared at the door before him, while the cab rushed silently through the vacuum tube. Was chief engineer Wallis part of the link? “I’m heading to see the Admiral. Took me ages to get the appointment.”

“Well,” I should perhaps postpone my plans to see the Admiral, “she has a busy schedule.”

“Sometimes she ought to free her schedule. There are some weird readings in our power grids on Gamma, parts of Alpha and our subs.”

Squinting his eyes Richard’s eyebrows pushed together. “Authorisation Richard Phlock, Destiny 210882 gamma phi, stop cab, reroute traffic.”

Still with squinted eyes he looked at the engineer. Who in turn looked at him with an inquisitive expression, he quickly looked down to Richard’s hand on the gun. “Is this were you’re going to kill me, lad? Unless you want to chip me.”

“I’m not one of those Digitally Enhanced Humans. Are you?” Richard felt a great deal safer with the gun under his palm. “No. I’m close to shitting meself.”

Richard removed his hand from the hilt of his gun. Both men began laughing in a relieved and yet nervous manner. They walked to opposite ends of the cab and sat down. “I suspect that the energy abnormalities are from the linkers. Plus I have one of these idiots in engineering, tries to recruit more people.”

Burying his face in his hands Richard had to admit to himself that he too was close soiling his pants. “And nobody took him into custody?”

Bill shook his head. “No one wanted to hear about it.”

“Fitting,” yearning for a sip of that scotch that Lucy had given him Richard took a few deep breaths, “it seems that many of my colleagues in security have given in to the link.” The two men exchanged a long intense gaze. In their expressions and loooks the two pieced together at least part of the puzzle. “Infiltrate security to have no opposition,” Bill said what Richard didn’t dare to think, “take over enginering to have full control over the ship.” Richard replied with the unthinkable for Bill.

Devastated the two kept staring at each other. “Unlock cab, Authorisation Richard Phlock, Destiny 210882 gamma phi, continue to previously set destination.” A few moments later the doors opened with a hiss and the two left the tube network.

In silence they marched to the Admiral. Outside the Admiral’s office Richard recognised that François was also going to the see her.

“Sir, what brings you here?” Richard saluted. “Attending a meeting with the chief engineer, on a possibly dangerous topic. Or so I was told, not that it is any of your business lieutenant.”

Noticing an inquiring look from Bill, Richard shrugged his shoulders. “The lad will be attending too, I request his presence.”

An expression of bewilderment appeared on François’ face, but he had to accept it. Together the three entered the room, finding the Admiral sitting behind her desk, her hair tied to a strict knot on the back of her head. “I thought we’d be less people?”

“I request his presence, Ma’am.” Bill stated dryly, from the corners of his eyes he spied to François for any reaction, but caught none.

Urging her guests to sit the Admiral herself got up. “You requested this meeting on grounds of ship wide security?” Coming right to the point she skipped pleasantries that others might have expected of her, but Richard knew she wasn’t one to beat around the bushes. “Aye, I noticed energy consumption irregularities in the power grids for rings Gamma, parts of Alpha and our subs.” The Admiral raised her eyebrow and looked to François with an odd expression on her face. “I have reported this to security, as well as a complaint about one of my people, but I neve got anything in return.”

The expression on Admiral Kanjeet’s face grew darker. “What complaint?”

“He’s a linker, or Digitally Enhanced Human.”

“We have him under surveillance.” Was the prompt reply from François. What Richard suspected was a lie.

“However,” Richard took out his tablet, “chief engineer Wallis and I need access to the files on the Harpy technology the Links were derived from.” At first the Admiral seemed confused but then looked at the tablet. “I never gave authorisation to classify this information?” She looked at François. “We decided it was necessary.”

“Who is we?” Pryia raised her voice, something Richard had never witnessed with her.

“We. You should join us.” The chief of security produced an injection device, shocked the Admiral jumped back. Calmly Richard grabbed the device. “You know that involuntary implantation is useless.” Calmly François smiled. “Of course we do. We told you. This was an offer. Naught more.” The expression of his superior officer went blank. Knwing that expression from Lucy, Richard immediately knew that he had linked out. “He is gone.”

As he spoke the Admiral had regained her composure. “Stanley? Security detail in my office, now.” She lean over the tablet punching in her own security code, while listening to Stanley Johnson, her first officer. Additional codes later, the files concerning the Harpy technology and everything related was not classified anymore, at least to anyone within the command structure.

“Gentlemen, this is serious. I want you to present me with options on how to deal with this.” With a tired expression she sat down behind her desk again. “We have to take this organisation down. They may be a technological, evolutionary step for mankind, but they have undermined our authority. If this was an obscure cult we’d be calling them terrorists. Only in this case there is no leader to pin down in order to shut down the whole thing. We need to take down all of them.” Her stern expression added non verbally that it didn’t matter in which manner that happened.

Richard and Bill exchanged a short glance, rose and saluted. Security personnel poured through the door. “Not her.” Richard grabbed one of the guards by her arm. Pryia was surprised, but not shocked.

Quickly the guard broke free of his grasp. “We can not be subdued!” A moment later she collapsed with a blank expression. In few words did Richard explain to the Admiral what had happened in the cell block.

 

Feeling  tired and weighed down Bill sat in one of the dining halls on the subgamma ring, he had studied the reports and analysis of the harpy implants. And what the crew of the Horizon had done to omit the signal.

Hissing the doors to the hallway slid open. “Good evening, chief.” Richard entered, although feeling the weight of the situation too, a certain proud glow surrounded him. Taking notice of it Bill squinted his eyes. “Good evening, lieutenant commander! Congratulations on the promotion! Chief of security now?”

“Acting chief, but yes.” He sat down next to Bill. “Any idea how to end this?”

Bill put the tablet on the desk. He disliked the glasses, like most people who had grown up without them, learned their craft without them, really only got introduced to them aboard the Destiny or her sisterships.

“A dampening signal, all over the ship. That’d be the best solution to keep it shut down. But there are difficulties to it. The currently linked could gather and hardwire themselves to find a counter technology.” Frowning he leaned back covering his face with his palms for a moment.

“What if we disrupt them in a way that would allow us to go around and pick them up, in essence shut them down, before we place each and everyone in a contained area where we can maintain the dampening signal?”

For a moment or two Bill stared at Richard. Having someone outside the field of engineering look at a problem sometimes provided fresh insight. “Actually, good idea.” Again he grabbed the tablet, worked on it while Richard wentn to get some food. As the acting chief of security sat down Bill punched a button and looked around. “Either there are no linkers here, or it doesn’t work.” He muttered. Balancig a bite of algae mush on his fork Richard smirked drily. “Come with me.”

 

“It is tested, and proved to work.” Richard presented a video clip of Marie becoming unresponsive as Bill turned on his program in the cell block. “We already tested it on the security personnel, only five more Digitally Enhanced were to be found, I’ve sent out the rest to investigate the leeches on our power grids.” Another image appeared on the viewscreen. “That’s a node.” Bill explained. We’ve reprogrammed it to emitt a shortrange signal that would put a linker into a comatose state, and on wide range the same signal as the program I created.”

The room was filled with dead silence, all three governors were present, with their vice governors, their assistants and the Admiral with the first officer Stanley Johnson. “Ain’t this a bit radical?”

“Aren’t they a bit radical? Undermining the security and safety of this ship?” Replied the Admiral without glancing over her shoulder. “Turn it on.”

A few gasps rose in the room, a moment later the governor of the gamma ring collapsed. Two more people around him, and an assistant from alpha ring’s vice governor.

“Ship wide disruption of the link has been activated, the unconscious Digitally Enhanced are being collected and will be detained until we can,” pausing Pryia rose before the gathered, turned on her heel, “unlink them. After all Digitally Enhanced have been rounded up, the nodes will be destroyed.”

 

Darius sat over his breakfast, Irina waddled in, her back hurt, after all the baby was due in only two weeks time. “Good Morning, Mister Bond.”

“Good morning, Moneypenny. The link has been severed, the nodes are a danger now.”

“Indeed, but soon, that won’t matter anymore.” She caresed her belly, kissing Darius on the cheek.

 

 

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