Archive for December, 2018

Long live the king!

This is the tale of how evil was vanquished by darkness…

There once was a King who ruled with a fist of ice.

The ice king.

Until one day the black knight triumphed over the foul sorcerer, and slay him.

The king is dead, long live the king. There can be only one true king!

And so, the black knight saved the land.

Take care…

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Rings of Fate S3xE4 – Horizon – Confrontations

It was a quiet day on Horizon’s command centre. Admiral Jane Mulgrew liked those days. But didn’t trust them.

On a normal day there would be something. One of the two governors being a pain in the neck, jurisdictional disputes that needed settling, Harpy ambassadors complaining about something, or informing her of something else.

Ever since Hylia had passed away, with the express wish to be cremated on Horizon, and treated like a human, as she was part of the ecosystem on board, as she had put it, there was a permanent ambassador from the Harpies.

Jane had soon seen the pro’s of that.

Now Horizon had access to Harpy transponder signals, like the human IFF signals, in order to weed out any potential patriarchist ships approaching.

There was a ship docked at what remained of beta, functioning like a sensor beacon, boosting long range scan capability of Horizon.

According to the treaty she had helped draft, there was to be no exchange of technologies, especially from the Harpies to the humans, but using the harpy ship to function as an extension to Horizon’s sensors was within the treaty regulations, and even suggested by the matriarchy.

“Ma’am?” Jane felt a glimmer of hope that the quietness would find an end as her first officer approached her. “Next week’s duty roster.” Derek Harvey handed her a tablet. Hope faded away.

“Thank you.” She sighed, looked over the tables and nodded in approval. “And the ambassador asked for a confirmation on dinner plans.” Hope found a nice little corner to hide and disappeared completely. “Tell her that I will be joining as suggested by her office.” A group of twenty five Harpies resided on the beta ring.

Part of the garden was redesigned to their needs, their offices and quarters adjacent to them. Guards of both species stood at the entrance to their section, to ensure that nothing went awry.

Including methods to ensure the absence of any cloaked suicide patriarchists.

“Hey, anybody up for a little problem solving?” Jane sat in the mess hall munching on her lunch when the chief engineer sat down at her table, ending her lnch hour of solitude. “Any time Jake.” Shoving her lunch aside Jane was glad that her hopes had found a way out of their hiding spot, in form of the chief engineer, Jake Khaku. “We soon will enter the solar system, I’ve been doing a few calculations.” He tapped his glasses, sending her some data on her glasses. “When we will start slamming those breaks, we might encounter a wobble, due to the missing mass mid ship.” The displayed ship on her glasses started to wiggle.

“Up to a critical point.” The displayed Horizon broke apart, alpha and subalpha flying on in an odd angle to the previous heading, gamma and subgamma in another.

Although her hopes for variety had fulfilled, what broke the monotony made her long for monotony again.

Staring through the virtual devastation of Horizon at Jake, Jane knew where this was headed. And she knew she would have a hard time selling the yet unproposed idea to the governors. “You said we might encounter this problem?”

“If we redistribute mass we definitely won’t.”

“I’ve been Admiral some time now, why hasn’t anybody ever come to me, or my predecessors with this?” Jane turned the display off. Knowing Jake, Jane could imagine what the answer would be before he even opened his mouth.

“Because it is a possibility. It might not happen at all, but I have reviewed our course, and it takes us damn close to the Jovian monstrosity we call ES-p296. The gravitational tug we can get from that might set in motion the wobble, since we’re slowing down, we’ll be in that gravitational sphere longer, and there’s the moons!” He paused, lowering his voice. “We shouldn’t risk it. Before we enter the heliosphere of the system, we should redistribute the mass.”

“You know, Jake, that’s easy in simulations, but the governors would want to roast me on an open fire and feed me to the harpies if I suggested it?” Tucking a strain of hair behind her ear she looked to her plate, somehow she found she wasn’t hungry anymore. “You can deal with those people? These pencil pushers want to live, and they want to arrive in one piece, don’t they? If we do not redistribute, there is the chance we might not arrive. Alive, in pieces or otherwise.”

Telling him she’d need more data, especially to present the governors with some evidence, Jane got up from her seat, left.

At least it wasn’t a dull mundane day any more. The display showed again the possible outcome of the gravitational tugs from ES-p296 and its moons.

She would have Derek draft a small memo to the governors about the subject. Convincing them to either give up parts of their rings to form a new beta ring, or share jurisdiction, even if it was for just the two years they’d need to complete their journey once inside the solar system, would not be easy.

Especially if there was a chance it might not come to the catastrophe at all.

As usual the Harpy quarters were damp, and not lit as brightly as Jane was used to. Ambassador Hylia sat at the small table they set up for receiving guests. At first there had been some confusion, regarding the name of the ambassador, but apparently Hylia was a popular name, and after the humans began referring to her “Ambassador Hylia” and called the other one “Horizon Hylia”, confusion quieted down.

“Thank you joining me this evening.” Computerised words reached Jane’s ears. “It is my pleasue, Ambassador. To what do I owe the honor of this meeting?”

There never was just a casual dinner with ambassador Hylia, it always had a purpose. Flashing her teeth in a harpy smile Hylia took up a piece of fish. “There is reason to assume that Horizon is in danger.” I knew there was a catch. “From what source?” If you say structural imperfections, I just have all leverage I need to get the governors to agree to redistribution of pods.

“Patriarchists.” Stopping for a moment while chewing on a piece of sushi, Jane looked the ambassador dead in the eye.

For decades there had been no mention of them. Not once had a spy or saboteur been apprehended, or detected. “Why’s that all of a sudden?” Jane finally found words again.

“They are losing everywhere else they engage us. Your ship is the only thing they know we protect, and that is vulnerable. With your permission however, we would like to bring in a warship.”

Squinting at the harpy at the other end of the table Jane knew that one was already in range. It shadowed Horizon, somewhere barely outside sensor range. Although that is boosted by the harpy ship docked on beta, the ship following them probably had better sensors than the small ambassadorial ship. “If I refuse that might spell disaster for my ship, let alone the diplomatic consequences in case we make it through this alive. Correct?”

Again Hylia displayed her smile. “Why would we punish you? We would proteft ourselves, meaning we all would leave, but if you survive any potential encounter with the patriarchists, we wouldn’t be cross with you.”

Lie. “In any case, ambassador, your warship would be more than welcome to follow this ship around and protect us from those who wish to harm us.” She toasted the ambassador with a glass of water.

With Horizon’s Hylia, she had once discussed alcohol amongst harpies, discovering that they liked to drink fermented beverages, but only in moderation, and with close friends. If it hadn’t been fermented, juices of any sort were only a drink for the juvenile, the senile and celebrations.

Or to survive, if clean water was unavailable, but plenty of fruit.

Only minutes after leaving the ambassadorial quarters did the call reach her that a harpy ship appeared alongside the ship, so her assumption that it had been shadowing Horizon waiting for it to be called in was confirmed.

Quickly she left beta, heading for her quarters. Sushi, or raw fish dishes served by the harpies, didn’t quite agree with her, but still she didn’t want to risk a diplomatic faux pas by denying it.

Why Ambassador Hylia couldn’t find taste in prepared food, even the stemcell grown lab meat, like Horizon’s Hylia had, was an issue that puzzled Jane.

Perhaps the ambassador sensed her dislike for raw fish, and it was only served at these dinners? “Honey I’m home!” She tweeted as she entered her quarters. Immediately her perpetual boyfriend Wolfgang greeted her back, their teenage children were no where to be seen.

For once she felt glad over that fact. “The kids are staying with my parents, in case you’ve been wondering.” A benign smile on his lips Wolfgang explained leaning in the door to the toilet.

“Thank you.”

“What’s new?” He nodded understanding her current condition, as she always came home like this from a dinner with the ambassador.

“Harpy warship to starboard, patriarchist threat, potential structural failure following a wobble. You know, business as usual.” Laughing through her pain she cringed.

“Oh, that old hat again.” Wolfgang was uneased by these news, but since Jane wasn’t, he played it off as cool too. “Explain that wobble to me though.” His curiosity got the best of him.

There was a menacing trait to the harpy ships, Jane had to admit, as she looked at the sensor data gathered of their protector.

Although built for space, and battle in space, they were sleak, aerodynamic vessels, odd angles to refract sensors, unless they were moving slow, or in relation to the scanning source, not at all.

Unlike the Horizon, and her sister ships, the harpy warships had intricate paint jobs on their exterior, increasing their menacing look. Each one was different, individual.

Reflecting the biological neuro circuits controlling them, each ship was an individual, both in exterior design and in regard to their mind.

“With that thing here, there isn’t a thing daring to attack us.” Derek commented seeing her study the ship. “You might be a bit too young to remember, but the li kers made short progress with these ships. The patriarchists use the same technology, the same design. They surely would dare to attack. Although, I must say, they surely would go for her first, giving us plenty of opportunity to shoot at them.”

The smug expression in her first officer’s face vanished. “Way to kill the mood, Ma’am.” Winking he retreated to his post.

She watched him leave for hia console. It was ages that she had spent at that station. It also seemed like ages since she last had worked there.

Shaking off the nostalgic feelings, she looked at the ship to their starboard. Her name was Farkahl, and according to the information that Ambassador Hylianhad released to her, the Farkahl had seen plenty of battles, and always was victorious.

Since the brain operating the ship was capable of learning, and possessed a strong will to survive, onky the first few battles were won by her crew, soon the brain took over. She wanted to live, wanted to win, wanted to conquer.

A true warrior.

Once Jane had spoken with Horizon’s Hylia about the brains on the harpy ships. She wanted to know how they were made, how they first came to be.

The latter was beyong the old Hapry’s knowledge. Brains in ships had been in use for so long, no one could remember who first implemented them, where the brains first came from. Since Harpy specific medication worked on the brain matter as well, it stood to reason that it had been a harpy donating her brain, or parts of it.

“When a ship is ready to procreate it will form a series of ovuli, and sacks of seed. Another ship, ready for procreation must be found, and the two will exchange their seeds and ovuli. The then fertilised ovuli are taken to special facilities in our shipyards. Where they will, sooner or later, be implemented into a ship. That can either be a new one without a brain, or one wherein the brain had died.”

Recalling those words made Jane shudder. Just the thought of being an incorporeal brain implanted into the husk of one that had died before gave her the creeps.

Her eyes kept studying the Farkahl. This magnificent warrior surely was a prime specimen for cultivating new ship brains.

Other than the ship to starboard, it was another quiet day. Followed by another.

After a week of quiet days Jane began to suspect that the ambassador was more interested in showing presence than actual concerns from patriarchists, after all the DEHumans had long range sensor capacity beyond what Horizon could ever hope to achieve, especially with their shipyard ahead of them. It was possibly even greater than what the Harpies had at their disposal.

As suspected, the governors were not keen on the idea of transferring pods to beta. They each engaged a corps of scientists and engineers to investigate Jake’s scenario. Again Jane believed it was due to the Harpy presence on beta, even her proposal of shared jurisdiction was dismissed.

Their xenophobic distrust of Harpies was hard to overcome, all Jane was left with was to hope their scientists came up with the same conclusions as Jake, if that didn’t happen she could force them, by temporarily overruling them. A step she was prepared to take if it meant bringing the ship safely to its destination, even though she didn’t like that option.

Sitting strapped into the chair of the cab Jane travelled to subgamma, shenwanted to speak to Jake again, when she noticed a bump in the weightless ride.

“Computer! Halt.” She turned her glasses on. “Location.”

“Beta ring, section 22.” That was shortly after a siphon section. “Analyse cab log for anomalies in the magnetic field guiding the cab.”

A field anomaly was displayed on her glasses. When she asked the computer to analyse the cause for the field variation she got an error.

Saving the findings to her glasses she continued on her way, and had the tube locked, as there were two additional tubes tu be used.

Exiting the tube network Jane found herself in a chaotic mess of engineering staff running around. “Admiral!” Jake’s voice cut through the jumbled noise of dozens of people talking and arguing.

“I didn’t expect to see you here at times like these.”

Confused Jane looked around. “Times like these?” Barely having spoken these words her glasses started buzzing, it was Derek calling her from the command centre.

Another Harpy ship had joined them, on the backboard side, but it was a matriarchy ship, so the alarm had been cancelled, still the engineering crews were abuzz. “They believe a patriarchist attack is imminent. Better get back up here.” He closed the line to instuct cews, as battlestations needed manning if that attack was to take place.

“Jake, I need to get back up there. Before I leave, there was an anomaly in the magnetic field in tube 2, between sections 22 and 21.” Promising her to investigate the matter Jake saw her off, before returning to his duties.

Again there was a bump in the ride, although she had the faulty tube closed off, looking into the matter whilenwaitingnto arrive at subalpha she found a few reports had been filed concerning that section in the last half hour.

Before she even left the tube network her glasses began buzzing again. It was the ambassador, probably to inform her of the latest developments concerning the patriarchists.

“Admiral, there is no reason for concern, the Valhak is here to assist in the possibility of a patriarchist attack on your vessel.”

“I know.” Although the alarm had been cancelled, still the hallways were filled with people, heading to, or from, battlestations. A few men and women in pressure suits rushed by, heading to the combat vessels. “We are merely preparing for the same eventuality, besides, I would’ve liked to be noted before hand.”

As she entered the command centre Jane was greeted with a rare sight, a sight she had hoped to never see. Simultaneously alarm sirens began to blare, the hectic in the hallway outside the command centre increased.

Not only where the Valhak and the Farkahl on the screen, but also another Harpy ship. The latter was on an intercept course.

Before anyone could give orders the two harpy ships flanking the Horizon opened fire on the new arrival.

“Ready the fighters. Gun control, lock target, wait for my command!” Jane sat down, since the assumed patriarchist ship hadn’t been shooting at them, she didn’t want to draw fire on the Horizon by also firing on the Harpy ship.

“That is the Dhrakal accoring to its transponder.” Derek yelled over the noise of several people talking and stating readings of their sensors.

Access to a database of Harpy ships, both friendly and hostile ones, also disclosed that the Dhrakal was very successful warship, matching the Farkahl.

“The only very successful ship the patriarchists have I presume, since they loose on all fronts with the matriarchy.” Jesting Derek looked back at the main viewscreen.

To his horror did he find the Valhak was damaged beyond fighting capabilities. Shields and armor virtually gone, weaponsystems inoperable. Now the patriarchists concentrated their fire on the Farkahl. Both ships dodged enemy fire, or were only grazed by it, returned fire. “Lock on their weaponsystems, and open fire when lock is confirmed.” Stern faced Jane gave the order she had hoped never to give, but with the two warships engaged in a deadly dance of fire and return fire, it was onky a matter of time until the Horizon was going to be hit.

“Dhrakal deployed fighters, Valhak and Farkahl are as well!” Most of Valhak’s fighters were unmanned and functioned as shield around the ship, only small percentage of them were manned and engaged on the enemy fighters.

“Keep ours ready for launch.” Since the DEHumans came and took almost all of the beta ring with them these fighters hadn’t been launched in ernest. Testruns from time to time, to ensure the engines were still working, the pilots had been properly trained.

But not in full ernest.

Lasers were discharged from Horizon, the Dhrakal and its crew were taken by surprise, as they cut through their defenses and directionally enforced shields strikingnright at the weaponsystems of the Harpy ship.

“Reading little damage, they redirected their shields to block further hits from us.” Derek barked the results as if he had truly believed their technology was a match for the Harpies.

Sarisfied with their results Jane watched as the shots fired from Farkahl penetrated the shields hitting the weapons of the patriarchists. “Perfect.” She allowed herself a victorious smirk, but the battle was far from over, as the advancing fighters concentrated on both the Harpy vessel to starboard andthe Horizon herself.

“Launch.”

Like a swarm of flies rising after being disturbed, two dozen, small one-man vessels flew out of the sides of Horizon’s subalpha and subgamma rings. Changing heading to face the oncoming enemies. “Remember to track your IFFs, I want no friendly fire!” Reminding the pilots of their responsibilities Derek switched their com lines over to flight control in an office two corridors away, as neither he, nor the command centre were equipped or capable of handling all the small ships at once.

“They’re dodging our fighters!”

It was the navigation officer yelling on top of her lungs, she was panicking.

Jane rushed over to her console and stared at the displays.

She was right.

The patriarchists fighters cunningly outmanoeuvred the fighters from Horizon and her protectors, heading straight for the human ship.

“They’re too fast for a proper attack, even with their fancy technology.” Derek stated, he knew what that meant, but didn’t want to believe what his instruments and common sense told him.

“They’re on a suicide run.” Jane stood up straight, the fighters were moving too fast for a weapons lock from the lasers, but still the gunners kept firing at the swarm of incoming fighters, taking out most of them.

Glad that the laser canons had been converted to manual firing instead of the tedious automatic firing, Jane returned to her station. “All hands, brace for impacts.” She barked into her station, screaming out of every communication device on the ship.

Only moments later there were the reverberating sounds and shakesnof impacts. Anfew had hit the forwad facing dish, designed to with stand a nuclear explosion an asteroid impacts, but some made ot to subalpha and alpha.

“Casualties, damage, asap!” Jane clenched the armrests of her chair, the sudden shaking of the entire room, half the ship in fact, unsettled her more than she had thought.

Another wave of the suicide fighters was on their way, both friendly Harpies and Horizon fighters had cleared the area around and beyond them, to avoid being hit by Horizon’s lasers.

Again the gunners fired in the general direction of the incoming enemies, taking out a lot of them. Memories of being stuck inside a cab that had been propelled into space came to her mind. As the fighters struck and the ship shook again around her, those memories faded away, making way for reality.

“First wave killed twenty people, thirteen missing, sixty four injured. Eight pods on subalpha, seventeen on alpha shot to pieces. Waiting on reports from scond wave.”

Digging her nails deep into the armrests Jane regretted her next decision already. “Ready the dish.”

Derek looked at her with an empty expression. The dish had at its center an opening through which the nuclear bombs were to be released in case they needed to use the front as as the new propulsion dish.

These bombs were too slow to be used as a weapon, but during her years ascending the ranks and being Admiral, Jane had helped developing an attack against targets in front of the ship.

“Are you serious?”

“They have a clear path now, they can ascend to ballistic velocities now. Unopposed. But so can we.” She growled those last words.

Deep in the bowles of the ship the tubes of the central spine were cleared of traffic. An extension of the tube, reaching all the way to the dish and the now opened lid, was opened to that tube.

From the alpha ring a spare cab was released into the central tube, and brought to incredible speeds by the magnetic fields.

The sphere shot out of the front dish of the Horizon, through the vast emptiness between her and the Dhrakal. Quickly a group of fighters descended on it, just as the others regrouped for another attack. “Just as planned.” Jane had a smug expression as the fighters dove into the path of the spherical cab. A bright flash filled the screen, as it subsided the fighters and the cab were obliterated. Already the next cab was shot out of the dish. “We may be considerably low tech, when compared with our enemies here, but sometimes the primitives can be as deadly a foe as the highly developed.” The second cab crashed into the Dhrakal, again it lit up the entire screen.

A giant hole was torn into the side of the Dhrakal, leaking atmosphere and other matter from inside.

From the far side of the ship a series of pods were hastily shot into space. Right away the harpy fighters from Farkahl and two of Horizon’s fighters went to intercept, and retrieve.

Secondary explosions began to rock the Dhrakal, it would not be long until the ship disintegrated.

“Was it really necessary Admiral?” Ambassador Hylia sat at the table in her quarters, a video link to the command centre displayed Jane sitting in her chair.

“To put nuclear bombs on the cabs before ejecting with ballistic velocity? No. But it won us the battle, and you have one survivalist enemy warship off your hands.” There were Harpies and human fighter pilots being treated for radiation burns, as they had been too close to the detonations.

Before the ambassador had called, Jane had received communiques from the commanders of the two Harpy ships, commending her on the outcome and the technique of the battle. “Another question, ambassador. Surely you know what your people retrived from the escape pods, do you?”

“Of course, why do you ask?” Blinking, and twisting her mouth Jane pressed at the display on her station.

The image at Hylia’s end changed from the Admiral to a hangar. The hangar on subgamma where the fighters landed, the hangars on subalpha where unusable after the attack, what fighter couldn’t land at subgamma, had, had to dock on the skeletal remains of the beta ring.

Two escape pods were in the hangar. From one a kicking and screaming harpy man was dragged out, the other just sat there.

Open and waiting to be looked inside.

Jane’s voice came on over the image. “That was four hours ago, after they landed. Look what we found in the other escapepod.” The image enhanced. According to the treaty between Horizon on human behalf and the Harpies, spoils of war belonged to who ever could claim it. That was valid for patriarchists and DEHumans equally.

Barely able to contain her satisfaction, Jane watched the expression on Ambassador Hylia’s face freeze. “I suppose you know what that thing is. Just know, that I know as well.”

Hylia’s mouth snapped shut, she ground her teeth. “What do you want for it?”

Two victories for the price of one battle, Jane couldn’t help but smile. “Nothing. We will give this thing to you freely. Just remember our act of goodwill.” We can’t use ovuli, she know, butbshe also knows we dould let it spoil there in the hangar. Hylia squinted her eyes at the Admiral. “Fine. Anymore,” Hylia stopped talking, looked around in an uneased manner. “Admiral, there is something wrong, are we still under attack?”

Checking with Derek who shook his head Jane glanced away for a moment. “No, ambassador, debris is still not impacting on the ship, although I suspect that, that will happen soon.” Jane wanted to add that she would be glad for any help in clearing a path for Horizon, but then she saw what Hylia had felt before.

A noticeable shudder went through the beta ring.

“Ma’am, pilots still on beta, and beta personnel report report vibrations.”

Jane closed her eyes. “Ambassador, I recommend you vacate beta ring immediately.” Suggesting the Harpies stayed on board, Jane also felt comfortable if they left entirely.

She got up and went to the bunk room next door, upon the door sliding close behind her she locked it, tapped her glasses, calling Jake.

“It is as I feared, your magnetic field anomaly was just the first sign of trouble.” Jake’s face was filled with worry, the screen didn’t flatter his looks either.

“What do we do now?” In the same video conference were the governors from alpha and gamma. Ambassador Hylia stood next to Jane in the conference room.

“Nothing Admiral. We can only try damage control. Shut down beta’s rotation, the uneven weight distribution is taking its toll on the suspension. We can try and fix that, but that’s it, we can’t replace it.” He went on to elaborate that the mass of the harpy ship Farkahl had added to the problem. His idea of redistribution of mass would not have worked with a broken suspension, he admitted begrudgingly.

“See what you can do. Save this ship.”

Why hadn’t anyone ever raised the issue of uneven mass distribution on beta? If it would solve anything Jane would’ve put everyone involved in that disaster under house arrest. “To th defence of my predecessors, and my own, in theory it should pose no problem.” Jake was distraught. “It doesn’t matter now. See that you can save what can be saved. Work out a possible worse case scenario and how we can still bring this ship, this crew, to the destination of this journey.” With a push of a button Jake was cut off from the conference call. “Governor Xiao, in case of a critical failure, I hereby give you the order to take command of the aft section of Horizon, see that you get all of your people to RV-p296.” The tone of her voice was stern, so much so that the aasianman just nodded without any words. In critical situations she had, afte all, the power to overrule the governors, and give them orders.

“Alright. With that out of the way, let us hope and work together, so that we may never have to arrive in parts.” The governors agreed with a nod and dropped outnof the conference, leaving Hylia and Jane alone in the room.

In silence the two watched the life feed showing the beta ring slowing down and stopping entirely. “We should’ve calculated our mass in relation to the beta ring.” The Harpy said finally. “It would’ve happened eventually. Now we must see that we fix this problem.” Jane turned around and looked at Hylia. “Care for some fish?”

“I must admit, Admiral. I hate fish. I pnly ate it with you because you don’t like it either.”

“Thought so.” Jane smiled. “Roasted meat then?”

“Gladly.”

Dystopia, again.

Star Trek is, on some level, deeply disturbing.

Sure it is a utopian dream, mankind stands united, there’s equality for everyone, and peace.

But there are dark undertones, that shouldn’t be dismissed.

Transporters for one are murder machines. You’re scanned, atom per atom, subatomic particle per subatomic particle, all thought patterns included. Then a copy of you is materialised someplace else, and the original you is destroyed.

The fact that this also opens the door of manipulating your very thought patterns also exists here.

But we aren’t there yet.

Gladly.

The computer on the Enterprise (1701 and onward), Voyager, Defiant, DS9, etc. IS ALWAYS LISTENING.

You just start an inquiry at the computer with “Computer,” followed by what ever you need or want.

That in itself seems benign, until you consider, that the computer is listening to everything you say.

All day, every day, eaves dropping on every conversation, judging whether you are addressing it, or just mention the word “Computer”. (As in, for example “The computer erased all my mewe porn.” “Again?” “Yeah, have to tell the computer to stay out of my holodeck library.”)

It would be rather easy to write a program into that computer, designed to report anything that opposes certain dogmas. (As in, for example “We have to eliminate every last trace of the borg, these oppressive totalitarian techno freaks need to die!” “Dude, they’re a species, you can’t genocide them!” “Well, if you’re so for equality, get assimilated then!” “But that would mean losing my individuality!” “Did anyone ask the already assimilated drones whether they wanted to become borg? No? Then let the Borg die!” – one of them is getting auto reported for genocidal thought, or the other one for having a too lax attitude against the enemy)

Doctor Patient confidentiality is virtually nonexistent here. Sure, the doctor isn’t going to tell the captain about the rash of space herpes coming from lieutenant Dickins, but the computer is ALWAYS EAVES DROPPING!

We are here.

People put Alexas and other such devices in their homes, and essentially bugged their homes.

It doesn’t need to go as far as being reported for wrong think (and it doesn’t matter whether you’re left or right in that scenario). But there is a corporation listening in on everything that goes on, collecting data, selling it. So you can be better advertised to, so pharmaceutical companies can target your everyday ailments, so authorities can better keep track of you, so you become a thoroughly transparent being.

A revenue source.

A pawn.

If I lived in Star Trek, I’d hack into the computer and disable all listening hardware in my quarters by frying them with a nice jolt from the EPS conduits. Oh and, the communicator would stay in a soundproof box at the door.

Take care, and throw that Alexa shit out the window,

A.

Rings of Fate S3xE3 – Explorer – Settlement

Dry cold air ventilated through the seemingly endless corridors, creating small drafts, dead leaves that hadn’t been collected on time, were caught in the drafts, slowly moving across the floor with a sxratchy noise, until dropped in a dead end of the currents.

Gingerly Anna O’Neill followed the leaves. Her eyes widened in jpyous anticipation as she saw the heap of leaves in a corner. Gathering up speed she hopped right in, displacing all of them.

Life was fun.

Dean watched her with joy, he had taken two days off of his duties as Admiral. Ever since Diana’s death almost two years ago, he spent as much time as possible with her. During the ever so slowl decrease in velocity as they approached RV-p296, he had much time to think about his cabin.

Preliminary scouts of the land had revealed the south of equatoria to be not only uninhabited, but also a lush land of rivers, lakes, forests and steppes.

Perfect for settlement.

Main colony would set up on a triangle of land at the coast, that was separated from the rest of the continent by two large rivers to two sides. He pined for living on the tip of said triangle, where the two rivers split.

Construction of the settlement had begun, carried out by the drones that had been sent ahead. Once in orbit, the Explorer would disassemble.

The rings alpha, beta and gamma, were comprised mostly of detachable units, mthat would be piloted down to the surface, to be used as housing in the colony. “Daddy!” Anna ran up to him, grabbing his hand, she pulled him along to another pile of leaves further down the hallway.

Never had there been so many leaves in the hallways. But the bioengineering departments concentrated their efforts on the preparations for the landing, and the separation of the lunar colony.

Although the ship, and the other ships, would stay in orbit, a lunar colony was going to be established. Mining on the moon was not damaging the environment of RV-p296, so once it had been established that there was a moon, plans for a moon colony followed.

It needed to be autonomous, which was the reason for the neglect of old foliage in the hallways.

RV-p296’s moon was a potato shaped rock, the planet snatched up as a moon some when during its primordial years.

To acclimate Explorer’s crew to the current temperatures on their future home, the cooler air was blown through the air vents.

Not being used to that sort of weather, or any real weather at all, Dean took solace in the fact that it was soring on southern Equatoria, and after their landing, summer was going to follow.

“Admiral.” A man greeted him with a slight salute, he was casually dressed, but also to be adapt to military greeting. Probably reading Dean’s confused expression the man stopped. “Sorry, that I didn’t introduce myself properly. I’m Admiral Theobald Kingston.” He stretched out his hand.

It dawned on Dean.

That man was one of the people who had been put into cryogenic suspension on earth, and were currently being revived for the impending colonisation of RV-p296. “Ah. Amiral.” Dean shook the thick black hand offered to him. “Three generations, and you hadn’t come up with a better name for our new name than the scientific catalogue number?” The other Admiral jested.

“It hadn’t come up.” Dean raised his eyebrows, he nodded towarss his daughter. “If you’ll excuse me, I have urgent leaf trampling business to attend to.”

Smiling benignly Admiral Kingston nodded. He was a military adviser only, no real jurisdiction, chosen solely for his expertise in military questions.

Since the crew had successfully managed to get by without his advice in the past, especially the situations with the DEHumans, he was not needed, therfore he was out of uniform. But he wanted to be needed. Wanted to lead, not necessarily in military operations.

He had made a decision in the last few hours. After almost a week out of the cryo sleep, he had learned so much, and made a decision, he never thought possible back on earth.

Docking clamps released, the metallic noise reverberated throughout half of the ring. Twenty seven colonisation vehicles dislodged, five of the pods from subalpha followed. Using the momentum from the rings rotation the vessels aligned like a string of pearls against the blackness of space, as they headed out towards the potato shaped moon.

One of the ships carried a small thermonuclear reactor to power essential systems once the colony was set up, and solar panels should fail.

From the Ericsson logs they had gathered enough knowledge to keep the essential systems and food supplies up and running.

“Good luck on that moon, Admiral.” Dean mumbled watching the ships move off. “Thank you, and the same for that planet.” Came the reply over the radio from Admiral Theobald Kingston.

Soon, Dean thought himself, the colony will be dug in, to escape the radiation, they’ll be set up and running. And he will be their governor. What of me? I’ll be at the riverside fishing. When I look up in the sky, I will see that moon, know of the problems of a leader, chuckle and turn my gaze on the water again.

“Deep in thought, sir?” Lucy approached, a tablet in hand. Wordless she handed it to him.

Colonisation would commence in less than two weeks, but until that there were still issues to be dealt with.

At least new problems he never have had to deal with. Seed distribution was amongst them.

Blinking for a long moment Dean shook his head. “Denied. All of it.”

“Sir?” Lucy shifted her weight to the other foot.

“The drones have identified and planted food crops on Equatoria. Food we bring with us can, and will, only be grown in the gardens of this ship, or the sister ships, and in controlled, closed environments on the surface. We will not introduce foreign species to the ecosystem down there. At least for now. Regulation for colonisation, article 41, ammendment alpha 33, from half a year ago. Look it up. The ruling bodies of all three ships agreed upon this. In fifty years, there is to be a reevaluation.”

Stunned Lucy staggered back to her station, checked the mentioned regulations.

“Greetings, Admiral.” Frail, like her thin voice, Nye Charles greeted Dean.

She was working!

She was approaching the age of 108, and still, she was working. When asked why she wouldn’t enjoy her retirement, she’d answer that retirement was for old people, and she didn’t feel old.

Of course there was a time when she felt old, and felt as frail as she looked and sounded. After discovering that her son, a linker, was on a habitable moon in the system, and had braught one of his daughters there too, for example.

Or when the Explorer flew by their colony.

Every day Nye would stand at the door to the command centre, until Dean let her in. Then she was found inside every day.

Relentlessly Explorer sent calls tomthe moon, registered activity, even the graviton beam was running. The ships in the bay were built.

But no one answered their hails. Much to Nye’s disappointment.

But she soon caught herself, concentrated on her daughter, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren. There simply wasn’t enough room in Nye Charles’ life to feel depressed for a long period of time.

In some way, Dean was glad to see her working again at that age. It meant she was doing fine. “Doctor Charles.” His eyes were smiling as much as his mouth.

“I just came here to see how we are doing, and how you are.” He looked the old lady in the eyes.

“I am as fine as can be, and we are doing perfect.” She directed his attention to a screen, it was an aerial view of the prepared settlement. All that was missing, were the landing crafts, space was left out in between paths. “All necessary things have been laid out. Wiring, plumbing, walkways.” She enhanced a portion of the view at the river fork. “Your track o’ land is ready as well.” She handed him a tablet, a file was ready to be transferred to his devices. “Hit send, and you’ll be a happy man.” The old woman smiled playfully through her wrinkles. “What is it?”

“A list of all edible aquatic life in those rivers.”

Laughing he hit send.

His eyes fell back on the screen. There it was. His future home. A long track of walkway led up to it.

Underneath that road were cables, wires and pipes, he knew. Although the landing craft and the smaller pods were capable of functioning autonomously, cleansing water, recycling waste water and other waste, generating electricity through solarpanels, it still was hooked up to a centralised system, so there was a redundancy system in case the central system ever broke down.

“When will you settle?” Nye leaned down on the table in front of them. “Oh, I don’t know. Once the whole of alpha, beta and gamma have sat down on Equatoria, my successor is sworn in, governments of the rings have been disbanded, and a new government on the colony is established. It’ll be a while. But until then I will just have to either phone it in, or go back and forth.” Anna would be sitting at that river with him in less than two weeks. Moira was also eager to live near the rivers, in a quiet corner.

Their marriage nearly broke apart after Diana’s death, but they got through it, somehow.

Upon return to the command centre Dean noticed a few dozen messages. From the look at the titles he gathred that all of them were regarding to the seeds. “Lucy, find me someone to explain these people that there will be no seeds, if they don’t read the protocols from the settlement meetings, it ain’t my damn fault.”

“Sir, before you were Admiral, did you read the protocols?” She flashed a smile, which he reflected, knowing she was right.

“Butni knew that when a order, or deny of request was issued, it had a reason.” He winked, as she started drafting a reply to all of the messages.

A silent dance of gravity. Nye watched the main screen as the Explorer reached its final position for the landing procedure. It was almost all she had dreamed off those last few years. “I believe it should be your honor, Doctor Charles.” Dean made an inviting gesture towards his chair.

Thanking him Nye shuffled to it, sat down. “All hands, prepare for first landing wave, on my mark.” She glanced over to Lucy, who nodded.

“Mark.” The camera changed, it was a whisker camera viewing the ship from the side. An even more gracious dance began, as one by one, landing crafts disengaged from the rings. Lined up like pearls on a string they moved away from the mother ship, heading towards the planet. Probe control had mapped out the best approach vector, where they ought not to be seen by the natives on the other continents.

Gazing upon the world below Explorer from this close she felt as nervous as she had when she boarded the ship and saw Earth for the last time from Orbit.

Clear blue oceans, scattered clouds, the colors of vegetation varying from green hues to bright brown tones where the steppes and deserts were.

“I can’t wait to set foot on it.” She sighed with a smile. If only Jacob was there with her. Or at least Jason.

What sights had his eyes beheld since his departure with the linkers? A world as welcoming as this? An entirely different view must’ve greeted him.

She remembered what the moon looked like with it’s red hue, only having clouds where subterranean heat evaporated water.

Obviously the Orion’s home planet was different than that moon, but still she imagined it similarly.

As she stared at the crafts entering the atmosphere the face of her granddaughter popped to mind. The young woman hadn’t had a name. Or did she? At least she knew of none.

“Sir?” Lucy looked up from her console, she was the only one who hadn’t been watching the main screen. “We have company.”

Immediately everyone stared back on their own panels, screens and instruments. Following their example Nye looked at the Display in Deans station. “It is of unknown design, but based on what we know about the linkers, it’s them.” Chief of security Ben Toryama stated. Not hearing Dean say that they probably just were seeing them off, Nye touched the display. She liked to thinknthat Jason was on that ship. And her granddaughter. “I’m here.” She whispered, unheard by the others in the command centre. “Open a channel.” She lifted her head. Confirming her order by looking at Dean, the communication officer did so after the Admiral nodded in approval.

“I do not know if you are on this ship my son, or you my granddaughter, but I do know that what makes you, you, is somewhere in that collective consciousness.” Biting back a choking sob Nye wiped away the tears from her eyes. “I soon will be landing on the planet. Probably I soon will be dying. All that I wish for now that we have arrived at our destination, is to see my family again. At least on a screen.”

The face of a redhaired young man appeared on the screen. “We regret to inform you that the biological,” he paused, cleared his throat, “that the people you are referring to, are not aboard this vessel. Your request is taken under consideration regardless.” The transmission ended.

Barely daring to take a look at the old woman’s face Dean turned, found a broad smile. “I believe I at least will refeive a picture.” She mused, heaving herself out of the chair.

On that occasion she told the Admiral it was too comfortable, he, or his successor should replace it with one you stayed alert in.

Nye was sunken in thought as she left the command centre, not hearing the chatter amongst the crew.

Walking more like a remote controlled robot Nye wandered through the hallways, sat down in a cab after reaching the tube entry. She exited at the entrance to the gardens where Jacob had taken her on their first date.

Following their path back then, she wandered the garden. I wish you were here, my love. Since that first day she had been granted access to the garden, much had changed. In that year there was only enough fruit for a raffle. Two years later there had been enough for everyone.

They had children. Later those were allowd to play in the garden.

A cat rushed over the path, it was pressed down low.

Presumably it was hunting. Nye followed the cat with her eyes. After a few meters she lost track of it.

Longing for closure to Jason and his family, Nye continued her walk, sunken in memories of her family when her children were young.

“They just sit there and watch. Are they studying us like we studied the natives, or are they evaluating our threat, or prospecting conquest?” Ben Toryama mumbled, staring at the small image of the linker ship. It still kept its distance. Didn’t move away, didn’t send any messages that Explorer could tell.

Nothing.

“It’s just like the harpies. If they wanted us dead, we’d be dead. If they wanted to force their link upon us, we’d all be part of that collective. Nothing we could do about it.” Dean replied, his face rested on his left hand.

“First wave has successfully touched down.” Communication officer stated. Dean turned away from his chief of security. “Put ’em through.”

“Admiral! It was a bumpy ride, but we’ve made it all in one piece, guiding trajectories worked perfectly. We have successfully touched down in our allotted spots.” Came the voice of a man from the speakers. Dean knew him only briefly, he once had been a pilot who was trained on earth for reentry.

During the last two years he had trained others in simulators, but Dean hadn’t been part of those classes. “Glad to hear Colonel. We’ll send the second wave soon. How’s the air?”

“Nice and fresh, nothing compared to what we’ve been breathing on that ship of yours. There are scents I can’t even begin to describe, and there is wind!” There was almost a boyish ring to the Colonel’s voice as he mentioned the wind.

“Keep the doors open, second wave will be down soon.” He neglected to tell him about the ship that was shadowing the Explorer. If their sensors hadn’t detected it, there was no reason to concern the people on the surface. With a jod Dean gave Lucy the order to let the second wave move on out.

Like an onion, the Explorer’s rings were comprised of several layers of ships, peeling off one by one those ships koved on out towards Equatoria.

The pilots had not much to do, all systeks worked automatically, but in case something went awry, each vessel had a pilot assigned to it.

Dean wandered through the hallways, only a few more landing waves were due until settlement was complete. Only the most basic crew remained on Explorer, they would rotate with crews on the surface in three month schedules.

Already the hallways were empty and a certain tranquillity filled the ship. “Doctor Charles?” He rang at Nye’s door. After a few moments the door slid open, revealing Franziska Hardwick. She was going to accompany Nye to the surface, together with Jeannine.

“Admiral!” Joyous like a young girl Nye approached him from the back of her quarters. “What brings you to my humble quarters?”

Slowly Dean handed her a tablet he had been clutching to his chest before. “A parting gift.” Intrigued Nye looked at the screen. Almost immediately tears shot to her eyes. “We received it twenty minutes ago. It seems that even in their collective mind, there is still the need for closure.” Dean winked.

Trembling Nye looked up from the picture to the Admiral. Thanking him silently as she was at a loss for words. Her attention went back to the picture.

In the center was Jason, to hisnleft and his right were two women, in one she recognised Daria, his girlfriend, and the one that got him into becoming a linker. In front of thw three were four younger people. Two men, two women.

One of which she recognised as the granddaughter of hers working on the Jovian moon. She was holding two infants. There were two oldr children in front of the other granddaughter, and eachnof the men had two children as well. All were dressed in grey colors, functional, without any decorative elements. “My family.” She whsipered, gently placing a kiss on the picture. Now she could settle on RV-p296 with her daughter’s families, knowing that Jason and his children, and grandchildren were thriving and safe.

Heavy ruttling walls and ground were surrounding Nye as the ship descended through the atmosphere down from Explorer.

After the ruttling stopped she turned to her side, a window opened up to high altitude view over the ocean and costal region of equatoria. Previously closed, but after the dangerous bit of the reentry the blocking lid was retracted into the wall.

A beautiful glistening ocean greeted her from below, while the ship was in a calm approach towards the settlement site. Lush green forests spanned the area aroundnthe delta.

Another rumble went through the ship as it touched down on its designated spot.

“Come on mum.” He daughter, an elderly woman herself now stretched forth her hand to help Nye get up from the seat. All she saw was the tiny girl holding out a hand to get her help walking her first steps. “On my way sweetie.” She gently squeezed Joan’s hand.

A gentle cool breeze rolled over the settlement from in land, carrying with it scents that Nye couldn’t identify, all blooming fragrances, ever so gentle in their nuances. Jacob would’ve loved it.

Around Nye were her daughter, her grandchildren, and Jeannine’s little children. Carefully as she once handled her infant children, she took out the tablet with Jason’s family picture on it.

All she had dreamed off, finally falling into place. “I believe it’s time for a family picture?” Former Admiral Franziska smiled at Nye, holding the picture into the camera Nye stood surrounded by her family in front of the ship that just had brought them to their new home.

“Sir?” Lucy slowly approached Dean. It was onenof his off days with Anna. They sat fishing in subalpha’s garden. “It’s my day off!” Not quite angry, more annoyed he didn’t even look, earning a passionate “Shh!” from his daughter.

“I believe this can’t wait, sir.” She handed him a tablet over his shoulder which he took. His expression got sad as he read the message. There was the image of Nye, surrounded by her family, hokding the picture that Dean had brought her.

》Admiral Dean O’Neill. After this image had been taken, Nye Charles sat down and watched her great grandchildren play in front of the house until she fell asleep. A sleep she didn’t wake up from. Please forward the image along with our condolences to the linkers. Sincerely Franziska Hardwick, Admiral.《

“What is it, daddy?”

“A message i have to relay to some friends.” Regaining his form he smiled.

“Nye Charles, PhD. The first human born and raised on earth, to live through our long exodus, witness every moment of it, until its end at our new home. Beloved Mother, Grandmother, Greatgrandmother. She contributed more to our journey, our understanding of the universe and our new home than anyone else. She was also the first human to die on our new home world. We have gathered here, on this beautiful day, to bid farewell to an outstanding woman who had an impact on all our lives, for three generations aboard the Explorer, and the fourth, growing up here and now.” A hastily constructed podium stood in front of Dean, who had the doubtful honor to hold the speech. According to the rules of settlement her body was to be incinerated, as to not contaminate the planet with any pathogens or bacteria from the body.

“It is not to be taken as a bad sign that Nye Charles has lft us so soon after setting foot on this planet. But a sign that we are home. Nye Charles had two goals left in her life. Closure to her entire family, which she achieved the day before she left, and landing in our new home. She achieved that as well. We are home. She knew, and peacefully fell asleep.” Dean took a step to the side, and unveiled a shoulder high stone, it had Nye’s name and profile engraved on it. “Let this remind us all that we are home, here.” The gathered people, family and friends, coworkers and people who have had dealings with her, began applauding.

A ship flew by overhead, it was smaller than the colonisation pods, it was a pod from subalpha. Behind the stone was the river, on thenother side a thick forest, there the ship opened one of the doors, released ashes.

Nye’s ashes.

“Touching, yet uplifting, words, Admiral.” Joan Charles thanked him, after the ceremony. “Just like she would’ve liked it.”

Charles nodded, but soon left them.

He wandered up to the end of the road. It took him quarter of an hour to navigate the corners, alleys and major streets. The majority of alloted spaces were still vacant, as Horizon and Destiny, together with Kismet, were still due to arrive.

Most of the time it took him to his destination was consumed walking up the narrow, straight road to his alotted spot.

Standing over the empty lot where his small military pod should land was Jeannine. She stared out into the distance of the river.

“What brings you to my corner of the woods?” Dean stopped next to her.

A sad smile appeared on her face. “I helped my gran to prospect the land, she made it look like she helped me, but it was her work. She was head of the whole operation from the beginning.” Knowing Dean nodded, his hands in his pockets.

“I’m glad she’s dead. Not because finally I can shine, if it was just that, she could live for another hundred years.” Dean’s expression darkened, there was something on the metaphoric horizon he didn’t like. “Why’s it then you’re glad?”

“The planet can’t properly feed us.” Jeannine turned to him, tears ran down her face. “The probes had not detected this, they scanned for nutrients in general, not analysing thoroughly enough to tell us this, but nothing on this planet produces, or uses Lysine.” She paused for a second seeing the Admiral’s confused expression.

“It’s an amino acid. We need it to survive, to live. If she had known, her heart would have been broken.”

Slowly Dean felt the relief that Jeannine had mentioned take hold of him too. “Food supplements?” He asked looking out over the waters too.

“Aye. We’ll issue the report tomorrow.” Wioing away the tears Jeannine turned away to walk back to the settlement center. “Doc? Draft something else for your report.” Puzzled she glanced over her shoulder. “An agricultural exclave.” He needed not elaborate in detail. The volcanic islands on the far side of the planet, isolated from the natives and larger ecosystems, were the only possible spot on the planet for such an endeavour.

“Aye, might take an additional day or two.” Acknowledging this Dean just nodded, without looking at her.

Surely the governors would want to put the blame on him, and the provisional government of the colony would do the same.

Since he intended to end his career sooner or later anyway, he didn’t dread their blame. It only meant he could land sooner. Settle down sooner.

He looke at the blue sky, the bright yellow sun.

No. There would be absolutely no problem in being accused of something career ending in the lysine case.

Islanders in the stars

Voyager II left the solar system.

Onboard instruments detected the change in environment, which gave me pause.

If there were aliens out there, and they stumbled upon the probes we sent out, what would they do?

If they’re anything like us – we’re fucked.

Like our governments, theirs might be imposing a quarantine on us. To protect the primitive people from the outside world. If history has taught US anything, and maybe them too, then contact of a highly developed society to a less developed society usually ends bad for the less developed society.

Not always because the natives got butchered, but because the culture shock drove them into an unhealthy lifestyle (many polynesian populations are combating obesity because of the abundance of the ‘modern’ world, whilst their ancestors evolved to endure scarcity), or because the higher developed society brought on diseases the natives had no immunity to (need I say ANYTHING?).

So a quarantine might be imposed to protect US. Like on north sentinel island.

Yeah, I was going to go there eventually.

So some nutjob christian missionary had the grand fucking idea of going there, and got killed.

Good riddance!

So far, no one hedged any plans of retrieving the body, no one swore revenge.

But what if he had (or HAS?) brought some pathogen to the island he was unaware of carrying? What if some asshole had the great idea of retrieving his body?

In either case the sentinelese would be fucked.

As would we be if some fundamental religitard from space thought to himself that they need to convert the primitives of the third planet to their one true religion.

Just some food for thought. Take care,

A.

Rings of Fate S3xE2 – Explorer – Virus

Doctor Francesco Mitrioni sat at his desk innthe infirmay of the subalpha ring on Explorer. He was devastated, and read through the report from his colleague in the gamma ring hospital again.

“What’s up Frank?” Friends since birth, Admiral Dean O’Neill stood in the frame of the door. He hadn’t heard it opening. “Is it Thursday again?” Francesco looked up, onky realising then howndark his office was, compared to the hallway outside.

“Yup. 1930, as usual.” As the door slid close behind Dean, Francesco could finally see his face, read the concern in his expression. “You seem like you saw a ghost, so what’s going on?”

Again turning towards the screen Francesco shook his head. “The first death of a man from meningitis. Normally the implant should detect, and counteract the virus that caused it. In this case, it didn’t, although it was working. Dr. Khan is on the case, but he sent me his records.”

“Does this mean we’re not going bowling?” There was no real bowling alley, onky virtual bowling, but still someone had thought itnwould be nice to live the spirit of old, and had built a whole bowling rink for virtual bowling in a disused storage compartment.

Complete with seats and all, with several bowling lanes.

“I’m probably reading to much into this, the mans implant surely was faulty.” Francesco winked, turning off the screen. “Let’s go bowling.”

There was absolute silence in the morgue. The lights worked with out a flicker, nurses andnother staff had turned in for the night, the nightshift staff were tending to the needs of the living. If someone should happen to die, they’d bring the body in, and store it.

Doctor Rajesh Khan was grateful for the silence. It let him think as he examined the body of the meningitis victim.

In three generations of using the implant to combat viruses and other infections, along with birth control and health status, they still hadn’t eradicated the virus that caused this. Standing over the body that was lying on the autopsy table, he mused over that fact for a moment, shrugged it off and began. “Autopsy report on patient Alexander Xaver Fritzens.” He ran the scanner over the torso. “Internal organs show no abnormalities, except the to be expected signs of stress from running a high fever. Coagulation of blood is normal for the time, bodily fluids show no signs of abnormality either. Moving on to the head.”

A beeping noise made him stop. “This is odd. The implant is still active.”

Recording on hia glasses not only his words but also a video of his findings, directly streamed to his workstation, he commented on all he did or found.

The brain looked as to be expected in such a case, at least on the scan. Although he had worked on dead bodies during his education, opened them, held organs in his hands, he was genuinely glad that he had a scanner at his disposal.

An autopsy was not something he enjoyed. Putting the scanner back where it belonged he wandered over to a desk, sat down. Already there was a transcript on the screen. All that needed to be done was editing.

“Alright, let’s do this before I call it a day.” He mumbled to himself.

A soft thud behind him startled the doctor. As he looked around the well lit room, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

With a racing heart he went to his deceased patient, ran the scanner over him again, still found nothing outnof the ordinary, other than the still active implant.

Hoping that no one was pranking him he returned to the desk.

After he had corrected a few words there again was that thud. Unable to suppress a terrified shriek Doctor Khan shot o his legs again, looking around the room.

He saw something that terrified him even more than the thud. Alexander Xaver Fritzens’ arm moved, or at least twitched.

It bolted up, fell back on the table, creating the thud that he had heard before. “Resuming recording of autopsy in the meningitis victim. I had just witnessed the subjects arm jolt upwards and fall to the table. Three times this had happened so far, I suspect neuro-electric discharges in the brainstem.” Again the arm jolted upwards, but the other one followed, both arms stayed up.

Breathing rapidly Rajesh stared at the body, glad to be recording, otherwise he would be called delusional. Thudding the arms slammed against the table. “I,” he stammered, reaching for the scanner, not daring to look away from the body so his recording wouldn’t miss a thing. He couldn’t reach it, so he turned to look.

“Your turn Frank.” Dean sat down on the bench, drinking a sip of water. Francesco just got up when his glasses started beeping and vibrating.

“I thought we had the evening to ourselves?” Dean picked them up and held them in Francesco’s direction. “Dr. Khan?” The doctor raised his eyebrows, accepted the call.

“Calm down! What happened?” Dean watched and listened with the interest of someone whose game just got interrupted. “He bit you? What do you me…” Now the interest in the Admiral got earnest.

“The body, gotnoff the table, and bit you? Yes, please send the recording to me asap. Get the implant to identify any pathogens right away.”

As his friend put down the remote to bowl, Dean got up too. Not saying a word the two men left, gesturing the man who ran the place to cancel their game.

After the call ended Francesco watched the footage that he had received. Wordless he handed the glasses to Dean, who also watched.

For a few minutes theybstood outside the infirmary. “So, quarantine?”

“Not yet.” Francesco replied with a concerned face, walking inside. “Just see what you can do.” Replied Dean turning to head for the command centre.

Although a quarantine would not be orderd as of that moment, he still felt he would be needed there.

“Lucy! What joy to find you still here.” Heading for her station in the comand centre Dean smiled genuinely glad. “There is a situation developing on gamma, do me favor and see that you know everything about a possible quarantine. Restrict travel from and to gamma already, we can’t be too careful.” He kept his voice low as to not unease any of the other officers, some of which had friends and family on gamma.

Wide eyed she stared at him. “What kind of situation?” She gathered her composure, her family had lived on gamma, but her sister moved to beta and her parents to alpha, still it bothered her somewhere deep inside.

“A man who had died from meningitis and was clearly dead, rose from the dead and attacked the doctor. Now, we both have seen plenty of the old movies and TV shows, see that we can quarantine gamma at the push of a button, or two.” He mumbled, still in a hushed voice.

Quietly complying with the order given Lucy still felt uneasy with the situation.

Menacing beeps rose from the com console, the nightshift com officer turned to the Admiral. “It is a priority call sir, for your eyes only.”

Surprised Dean rushd to the small ready room and answered the call there. Over the years the purpose of that room had been changed several times. From a small meeting room, to a bunk room, to storage, to a meeting room again, then it was left empty, repurposed as a bunk room. Ideas had been tossed around to grow some food in there, but in the end, it was left empty again until Dean made it into a recreational area. During breaks staff from the command centre could relax, listen to music and play games.

He was well aware that some used it to play with one another and no game involved, but as long as they didn’t make a mess of it, he didn’t bother.

“Doctor Khan, I presume?” Dean looked a distressed man with dark skin and sweat beads on his forehead. “Yes, Admiral. I have dire news. It seems that I have contracted the disease. It is yet uncertain whether it was the attack, or during the treatment of the patient. I recommend you implement a quarantine regardless, I have transferred all my findings to Doctor Mitrioni, somehow the implant is not fending this one off. Several more cases have appeared.”

“Get well Doctor, we will do our part to contain this.” Dean jumped from his seat, rushed next door and gave Lucy a nod.

Only a few seconds later the alarm sirens all aboard the Explorer started ringing. “All hands, attention. Gamma ring has been quarantined, all personnel redently having been on gamma, please report to your quarters, or the nearest infirmary. I repeat, gamma ring has been quarantined.”

It was an eerie feeling wandering the hallway from the command centre, but Dean needed to see Francesco, it had been an hour since they last saw each other, and already events had developed beyond their last conversation.

Normally on a Thursday night at that time the hallways were a buzz with people, but since the announcement, it had quieted down.

Outside the infirmary however he found a que of people. Most were wearing makeshift face masks. They all seemed either terrified or aggravated.

“Are any of you truly sick?” Dean stopped at the que prompting them to turn around and immediately after recognising him assume composure. “If you haven’t been to gamma, haven’t been in contact with anone who was on gamma in the last two days, get the hell outta here! This is no time for hypochondriacs!” Half of the que saluted and shuffled off at various speeds. It had been the aggravated crowd mostly that was just standing there hoping to get a clean bill of health.

Once inside the infirmary the que continued, again Dean told them to leave if they had no real reason for concern, and eased the nurses and doctors work.

“Frank, these people are nuts.” Dean entered his friends office, finding Francesco going through some data.

“Rightly so. The implant isn’t working against that virus. On the contrary.” Looking over his shoulder to the door Dean wished he had stayed in the command centre. “Don’t tell me the implant is getting infected too.”

“Not per se. But sort of. At least in this one incident it was. I don’t know what had happened exactly, but the implant completely ignored the virus, and later tried to bring the brain dead body back to life by jolting the nervous system.”

“Why did he bite Doctor Khan?” Francesco shrugged shoulders. Both had seen the footage recorded.

The corpse jolted from the table and bit clearly in the hand of Dr. Khan with which he held the scanner over the body. Afterwards he fell back on the table.

“Accidental reflexes?”

“In any case,” Dean agaij looked over his shoulder at the door. “If anybody else dies of this, we should remove the implant. Can’t have infectious zombies running around on this ship.”

Francesco laughed at his friend’s words. “They’re not running. Jolting maybe, but not running.”

Dean smirked, “Don’t want any Jolters either.”

From Deans quarters, which he shared with his wife and two daughters, none of which had left the rooms since the announcement, it was onky a short walk to the command centre. On that short walk Dean had encountered not a single person.

Where normally dozens of people walked by, exercised, brought or retrieved reports, there was not a single sould to be found.

Training grounds in the gardens, deserted. Recreational facilities, including Dean’s favored bowling place, abandoned.

“What the?” He looked around the empty command centre. Only Lucy was at her post, the others, all but missing. “They routed access to their stations to their quarters, all stations at ready, sir.”

“This is ridiculous!” He punched a few buttons on his console after walkimg over to it. “Listen here you hypochondriacs! Everyone not showing up for duty in fifteen minutes faces court martial! Now, you don’t have to fear execution like in the old days, but permanent house arrest. That includes landing on 296! None of you will set foot on that planet, if you won’t have the guts to set foot on your posts! Got that?” He turned to Lucy.

“At least you are here!”

“Bob is having a cold, sir. I kinda thought I’m safer here.” She winked, indicating a joke.

Waving her off he asked for a Sit rep from gamma. “Three people have died from meningitis last night, and they all showed signs of activity after their demise.”

Lounging in his chair, his head redting on his left Dean listened carefully, concerned, but still somewhat disengaged he raised his eyebrows. “Didn’t I recommend them to remove the implants after death?”

“That’s the thing, sir. They did. Although sick himself Doctor Khan continued his work, and found that the implants have taken on a concerning attribute of the virus.” She handed him the tablet. Dr. Khan had taken fever dampening medication, since the implant wasn’t working properly.

“They are making copies?”

“Just like they would if a woman gets pregnant, they form one implant in the fetus, only here they form in various locations in the body. In patient zero they were right next to each other, in another there were five, in another there was one in the leg. All faulty concerning the virus, but otherwise working copies of the original, oddly enough they copied the unique ID number, something that normally shouldn’t happen.”

Looking at the data himself Dean found himself searching for his implant, on the back of his right hand.

Slowly he became suspicious. Was that meningitis a late revenge from the linkers? Something they hid in the ship, or that they slipped in during the brief indirect contact after their base on ES-p296-2 was discovered?

“Do me favor, see how Nye Charles is doing, and check on her family as well, and former Admiral Franziska Hardwick.” As he finished his sentence thendoor opened letting in Jesus Montoya, his com officer, and the elderly frame of Admiral Franziska Hardwick also appeared in the door. “She looks fine, sir.” Lucy’s statement was accompanied by a wide smile.

“Admiral. What brings you here?” ignoring hisnfirst officer Dean greeted his predecessor. “I thought you might need a hand up here.” The old woman grinned playfully, she had missed the command centre every day since her retirement.

Inviting her in with just a gesture Dean had no objections. “Sir, your requested checks show that all are in perfect health.”

Gaining also Franziska’s attention Lucy lowered her head again. Quickly Dean explained his concerns, which Franziska completely understood, but could’ve dismissed right away, as she too had heard of the odd behaviour of the virus, and checked on Nye first hand.

“Still it might be the linkers, they could’ve hid the virus on gamma before they left.” Dean had left the former Admiral tonsit in his chair, as he manned navigation. Apparently the officer who normally had that post didn’t value setting foot on RV-p296. “That’s right ma’am.” He felt taken back a few years when he was first working navigation, then under the former Admiral. There was one Admiral in between the two, she had retired and he was promoted. Sadly Admiral Sheila Dunston didn’t seem like she was working in her retirement, as she was not seennor heard of much since her retirement.

“It might also be a natural mutation. Evolution at work right before our eyes.” He said having cut of the remote controlling station at the quarters of the officer. “It might, perhaps, Admiral, you should talk with your chief medical doctor?” Franziska winked, reminding him that he was the Admiral in charge, not her.

“I’m a doctor, not a programmer!” Francesco threw the tablet on the table. He was tired, hadn’t slept at all since the outbreak. “How the hell am I supposed to fight this thing?”

“Perhaps you should become a programmer?” Trying to lift the spirits with his jokes Dean leaned back, to avoid being hit with something, as hisnold friend tended to become quite passionate and physical when stressed or enraged.

“Not funny, Dean.” Francesco pointed at a display in the wall.

Displayed was the que outside the gamma hospital. It was going halfway through the the ring. Francesco put in another feed.

“This was the third victim of last night.” A man in the que broke down, hastily people ran away from him, once he jolted upwards, spewing a spray of mucus out. A few times he twitched, until one man ran towards him.

Forbidden by regulations the man drew his gun, switched the laser on and fired at the dead man’s head, severing it in two, then again disconnecring the limbs.

Horrified Dean fell silent. “Get me a programmer, before they starthey start shooting at anyone with a running nose or so much as a headache!”

After the incident at the gamma ring hospital Dean had all communication lines with gamma restricted. Surely plenty of people had filmed the incident, and surely more than enough of them tried to get that video out of gamma.

It had been too late, as Dean discovered. The same footage that Francesco had shown him soon was all over the news, and soon people all over Explorer were spooked and close to panic. As a precaution he ordered the retrieval of all guns, the laser units were disabled and handed back out.

A curfew was posted, for all civilians, and non essential personnel.

“It is our duty to uphold the functionality of this ship.” Dean stood in front of his nav officer Oleksander Filipow. “Your misconduct, your cowardice, can not be tolerated. However,” he smiled, “I can not blame you. You did come forward and showed up today. Therefore your punishment will be for a tribunal to decide, once this situation is over, in the mean time you will be demoted a rank. Report to your post.”

Dakuting the man turned on his heel and hurried off. “Harsh.” Lucy commented, low enough for only him to hear.

“Yeah. I think that demotion will be enough. Unless he does something else stupid.” Waving her to follow Dean marched off the command centre, after a few turns they reached the barracks.

Suited in full body armor and combat helmets was a small portion of the security force. After the first encounter with the Harpies on Horizon the fighting forces on all the ships was increased. Even after the two species had reached a peaceful solution, there were still the patriarchists.

“Alright, you know why younhave been assembled. Riot control. You have to ensure that nothing on board this ship happens, that shouldn’t be happening!” A few eyebrows were raised, was the Admiral trying to be funny again?

“See that the curfew is obeyed, people can, and will, go to the infirmary, but other than that, well, you know.” His words were also transmitted to other security teams all over the ship, restrictions in travel inside the ship meant that now the rings were isolated from on another, except in true emergencies.

With a salute he dismissed them and turned with Lucy to head back to the command centre, when a nerdy looking man in his late forties, flanked by two strapping guards approached him. “Franz Hardwick reporting as ordered.” He was obviously a civilian, but at least he knew how to stand in front of the Admiral, surely his mother had something to do with that. “You’re going to head to the infirmary.”

“I’m healthy. And not a medical doctor.” He quickly reacted, seeming almost panicking. “I know. But your expertise is needed there, you see the virus interacts with the programming of the implant, and that’s where you come in.” Dean had his arm on Franz’ back, patting him kindly, like he would a friend. “You can be a hero!” He added, clearly striking a cord with the man. From Franziska and Franz’ documents he knew that he was single, and a loner. A walking cliché almost.

“A hero? Me?”

“Yes, now get to it.” Dean shoved him in the direction of the infirmary.

As the man, still flanked by the guards, walked off, Dean mused for a short moment why he knew so many people whose first name began with an F, but dismissed it.

“We have a problem, Sir. The Virus seems to have jumped rings, the quarantine was too late.” Rotating around to face Lucy, Dean moaned. “Where?”

The face that she made, made him cringe. “It’s everywhere, isn’t it?”

“Except subgamma. I took the liberty of locking it down. Nothing can reach subgamma physically now.”

Devastated by the ill news Dean rubbed his face. “I need to make a statement. What do the governors say?”

“Nothing really, they’re turning to us for information.”

Typical! Stern faced Dean marched on to the command centre. About everything these pin headed mouth breathers fight me, and now they want information and help!

Lit only by a display the room was drenched in cold blueish light, Francesco leaned in his seat. Over the couree of the day he had left the confines of his office to help treat people who either felt sick, or truly were sick.

Then he talked with doctors from various rings, they managed to develop a vaccine, but until it was ready for use there was a long way ahead of them.

The programmer, Franz, had made little progress. Apparently the implants analysed the virus, deemed it as a normal strain, released normal antibodies, and then went haywire. Franz hadn’t gotten behind that part yet. He assumed it was the a software glitch, that made the implant reproduce, and later try to resuscitate a brain dead individual by jolting the nervous system.

One suggestion of his was to deactivate the reproductive algorithms in the implants, which would mean that children would need to be implanted at birth. Somehow Francesco wasn’t too fond of that idea, but he wouldn’t dismiss it right away.

About twenty minutes before he had sat down to draft his report of the day, he had received a shocking video call from his colleague on alpha ring.

There had been this twleve year old girl with severe epilepsy in his clinic. When she had a spastic attack, some other patients thought she was jolting.

They had beat her to death.

Still the page for his daily report was empty.

Glad that there was no footage of the actual incident, he still couldn’t get the mental image out of his head.

A snoring woke him from thought. On the other desk was Franz, haunched over the table, fast asleep.

Perhaps they should tackle the algorithms for resuscitation in case of brain death or heart failure?

Again Franz snored, but sat up one heartbeat later. “I’ve got it! We need the make up of the new strain, and feed it into a new subroutine. That should keep new infections from happening!”

“And the already infected?”

“Uhm.” Snipoing his fingers he paused, rubbed his eyes, looked from the ghostly image of Francesco back to his screen. “A temporary fix would be deactivating the algorithms for reproduction, and resuscitation. But that won’t heal them.”

Francesco yawned, sat up straight and stretched. “Your idea might work, actually. Fever dampeners, and the update might gove the implant the time it needs to fend off the virus. Combined with the deactivated algorithms, this might work.”

Other than energy and data, each ring was functioning on its own. Dean took comfort in knowing that they could do that. Theoretically each pod was a life spending habitat on its own. He took comfort in knowing that, too. Sub alpha was now segmented, pods that were not afflicted by the virus had been sealed off, their inhabitants hopefully secure. Pods with afflicted people. That included the command centre.

In the ready room he had just laid down a member of the nightshift crew, who had broken down with a high fever at the end of his shift.

Lieutenant Lynch.

“When will your solution be ready?” Francesco administered a fever dampening drug to the man. “Soon, I hope. Franz is confident he can roll out the updates by tomorrow evening.” Grumbling Dean acknowledged that information, checking his gun. Like all others on Explorer it had no functioning laser at the moment, but he theorised that enough charged darts might overload the implant if Lynch should die and turn.

Through the open door he heard the alarming ring on the console at his station. Someone answered the call. “Oh, Admiral?” It had been Franziska. “You should come down to the infirmary!”

“Crap!” Francesco sprang to his feet, hurrying outnwith the Admiral. After a few moments the two arrived at the infirmary. A group of off duty personnel stood outside, they had their guns drawn, threatening the guards posted outside the infirmary, who in turn had their guns drawn. A few twitching people around told the two that the situation had already escalated.

The darts fired at the guards bounced off or stuck in the armor without harming the wearer, while most of the attackers were without auch protection. “Hey!” Dean yelled, not wanting to believe what he saw. A dart whizzed by him, the shooter was hit by a blow from the guards.

“Admiral O’Neill!” A distraught dictor from the infirmary squeezed through the guards protecting him from the mob. “It’s okay Doctor, return to your work.” turning from the man to the others, who for some reason had stopped fighting. “What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you think they can develop a cure faster if you start rioting?” He glanced behind the guards. “They have sick people here, for crying out loud! If you are down with a heavy fever, asking yourselves whether you’ll see the light of day again, would you want a noisy violent mob at your bedside? That aside, do you think you’ll stay healthy much longer if you go to where the sick people are?”

Not eaiting for anyone to reply Dean turned to the guards. “Disarm these people and throw them into the brig!” Voices grew loud that they needed a weapon in case they needed to defend themselves, but still they surrendered their weapons, after the Admiral asked them what they needed was a lawyer, not a gun, to defend them, and that medical attention in the brig was excellent.

Securing his gun in his pocket Dean left the scene, in his stomach he felt a load of anger he couldn’t possibly hope to overcome.

The vibrating glasses in hismpocket didn’t help him, especially after he saw it was his wife Moira.

In critical situations she tended to be really easy to panic. “What is it hun?”

He pause in between paces. “Diana’s sick?” He felt his blood rush faster, a cold sweat formed all over his body. Every fiber of his being tensed up.

“I’ll be there asap.” He grabbed Francesco by the elbow, a glance into Dean’s eyes told the doctor everything he needed to know. “Of course.” He smiled calmly.

Clearly struck by the concern on the doctor’s face Dean felt the urge to punch a wall. “How long has she been like this?”

“She dame down with the fever two days ago, and”

“Two days? And you’re phoning me today? My work and stress still allow me to be a man, and father!” Moira replied with a gaze that could freeze the raging fires of a star. Dean didn’t even get to ask why she hadn’t contacted the doctors.

Meanwhile Francesco administered a shot of the fever dampener, and continued his scan. “The implant has already multiplied, I’m reading four of them.” Still his expression grew darker. Amongst his dark prognosis for Diana O’Neill, he was also astonished how quickly the implants made a copy of themselves.

“I gave her a cocktail of fever dampening drugs, vitamins, antiviral agents and hope.” He tried smiling convincingly, failed miserably at that. “That bad?” Moira clutched her hands in front of her face, glad that she had left her other daughter with her sister. Francesco bowed his head.

Dean shoved him aside, went to the bed of his daughter. Gently he caressed her head. “Daddy’s here my little angel.” He kissed her forehead, tears welded up in his eyes. “I will always be here when you need me.” He hated himself for not having been home those last two days. When that crisis was over he would resign, spend more time with his family. “Frank?”

“Dean?”

“Get to work.”

Unable to walk at a normal pace to the infirmary, Francesco found himself running as fast as his legs would carry him. He almost ran over a bunch of people in front of the infirmary. Quickly regaining his posture he hurried inside. “Please tell me you are done!” He pleaded as he almost hit the door which was sliding away too slowly for his liking. “Thanks to the sequencer, I have the complete viral strain in the system, and I’m ready to beta test it. What’s the hurry?”

Catching his breath Francesco told him of Diana.

Only moments later Francesco was running again, to his disliking he had to inject Diana with a new implant, as the old implants wouldn’t accept the new programming once they were corrupt.

Again, he found the door was opening too slow as he stormed in Dean’s quarters. Moira sat at the door to the kids room, Dean at the side of the bed.

Both were crying. An almost tangible sense of sadness filled the rooms, overwhelming Francesco. Dean wasn’t facing his daughter anymore. He still held her hand but he was crying silently, facing the door. “She stopped breathing. I tried giving her mouth to mouth, but she wouldn’t come back.” Whimpering he told his old friend what had happened in those fifteen to twenty minutes he had been gone.

Now Francesco too felt tears welding up in his eyes. “We better,” he gestured with his hand, the injector in it. “Yeah.” Dean sobbed.

With shaking hands he took the device that Francesco pulled out from his pocket. It deactivated the implants in Diana’s body, so Dan wouldn’t have to see his daughter jolt up, spew mucus, or scratch him with the hand he held.

Silently gliding the device over her, Dean also turned his implant off following a silent nod from Francesco.

The doctor then gave a new implant to the Admiral.

Later Moira would receive one as well. Production would begin by the next day, to provide everyone on Explorer with a new implant.

But Francesco couldn’t feel glad for that.

He had failed rescuing his best friend’s daughter. He knew that Dean felt as if he had failed Diana, as did Moira for not bringing her to the infirmary.

Solace came to him in the fact that others wouldn’t have to go through that experience. That Dean’s other daughter, Anna, was safe, and safer after she had received an updated implant.

Contrary to what Dean had intended, he remained Admiral, as the outskirts of the target solar system were reached. Not two years down the road, the Admiral would become more or less obsolete. Dean hungered to settle down, near a lake, or river, and teach Anna, all about fishing.

Uhm…. two questions…

1. What are you people searching for?

2. Why did that less you to my blog?

Have a great weekend!