by Paul D
A Journey to the past.
Wyatt Olson sat at his command console, watching icons on the vid-screen. He looked at Cyllian Brooks, the co-pilot and navigator. "Are we good?"
As she nodded her head, her green eyes sparkled at him. Cyllian wore her red hair very short, but her best feature was her smile, which she always had for everyone. "The last ship lagged behind far enough that we can intercept," she explained. "We should launch a drone and use wisk jamming to interrupt their communications."
He glanced at Glen Ransom, the operations officer. "Launch the drone."
"Drone launched," he reported. Glen was mostly bald, except for some grey hair, going halfway around his head. He was a great operations officer with a phenomenal memory.
A few minutes later, Glen said, "Jamming has commenced."
"Prepare to disable their drive, now," Wyatt commanded.
"The lasers have been fired," Glen reported.
"The ship is slowing. Their drive is damaged," Cyllian said with a smile of satisfaction.
Wyatt looked up from the simulator. "Less than a minute. Good work, people. Glen, you have command. Wake me if you make contact with anyone."
"Don't worry, Captain, get some rest," he assured him.
"See you later, Cyl."
He left the bridge. His people were all hand-picked; yet, he didn't completely trust any of them, except Cyllian. The captain of a pirate ship wouldn't live long on trust. He entered a vac and instantly arrived at level ten. He walked down a passageway and entered the first room on his left.
His cabin was small with only a bed and a console. As he lay down to get some rest, he thought about their need to fill an order for a ship with a top of the line AI system. Doing business with the Jells was never fun. They looked like upside down jellyfish, but they paid good prices.
Of course, there was a time limit, and one week of the two week time frame had flown by very fast. His main concern with this short time window was the temptation to take chances. His crew would receive a percentage of the profits, which would be about two to three years pay. They were all hungry to make a big score. This was not the time to make mistakes. He closed his eyes.
Wyatt's PCC beeped, and he opened his eyes, noticing that only two hours had passed. He said, "Glen, good news, I hope."
"We have a target a couple hours out."
"Good, I'll be there in a few."
While he was in the shower, he thought about capturing a ship and making a ton of money. One thing he'd learned in the past five years was that loyalty to a privateer was non-existent, but money was the glue that held his crew together. Cyllian was the only one who had been with him from the beginning, and she would never leave. This was a good crew, and he didn't want to lose anyone.
When he arrived on the command deck, he walked over to Cyllian's console and patted her on the back. "How is it going?"
"I'm doing great. How are you feeling?"
"I didn't get much sleep, but I do feel better."
"I'm glad for that."
Wyatt went to his console and sat down. The constraints activated automatically. One quadrant of the vid-screen displayed stars in front of and behind the ship.
Another quadrant of the screen showed details of the ship they were tracking. The freighter, John Wayne, was of Earth origin. It was an older model, but its AI was one of the newer versions. The ship was not as large as he would have liked, and he wouldn't get as many creds as he hoped, but the Jells would take it.
He studied the cargo manifest as the ship drew nearer. He looked up as the food he'd ordered for everyone arrived. Time almost seemed to come to a standstill as they waited for the ship to come into laser range.
"They're in range," Cyllian's sharp voice sliced through the silence on the command deck. Then other voices began to rise in excitement.
"Okay, people, it's time to execute our plan. On my 'Mark,' begin." Wyatt watched the progress of the ship on his vid-screen carefully, then he said, "Mark."
"Wyatt," Cyllian cried in a loud voice, "the laser was deflected."
"That's--" He never finished his protest as the ship bucked violently.
Debris exploded into space as lasers ripped gaping holes in the port side of the ship. Explosions from within the ship lit the deep dark of space with tiny pinpricks of light.
Glen yelled, "Decks seven through nine on the port side are exposed to space."
Cyllian screamed, "The freighter is a destroyer. We need to get out of here now, or we're all dead."
"Execute 'Jump Ship'," Wyatt commanded.
"We are too close to the star," Glen protested.
"Carry out my command," Wyatt ordered.
The ship bucked violently as five lasers hit it at the same time. The ship jumped but not soon enough to prevent a laser from hitting its Goodwin drive, and, halfway into the jump, the drive failed.
Even though Wyatt was secured in his chair, he felt as if his body had been pummeled. He looked around at the command deck. Some of his people were awakening.
"Wyatt, we're caught in Gemistal's gravity. We're going to crash on the planet," Cyllian warned.
"What options do we have?"
"None," she replied, "our engines are dead. We have limited thruster power that we can use to soften our landing."
"I want to land on the western side of the planet where there's no populated areas."
"Wyatt, our charts are not matching up properly," Cyllian said with a hint of fear in her voice.
"Prepare a flight plan for the western side of the planet. I'll check the charts."
He noticed right away that the star alignments didn't match the ones in the system. Maybe the data banks are faulty. He didn't linger on that idea. Data corruption could make the AIs information useless. He typed, Find a match for this star alignment, then he sat back and waited.
Glen said, "I have a preliminary report of the ship's status."
He nodded his head and focused on Glen.
"We are basically drifting space junk. We should separate soon from the rest of the ship."
"How long to get everyone up here?" Wyatt asked.
"Not long, unfortunately, most of the crew in the lower levels are dead."
"Send a signal," he commanded, "for every one to move to the top three levels."
"The andro-bots," Glen continued, "are fine. I sent a directive, and they're on the way. Our weapons arsenal was destroyed, and our laser system is greatly degraded."
Wyatt was relieved to hear that the andro-bots were okay. They were part of a cargo they had captured several years ago. They were the newest style battle-bot, and with four of them, it was like having a small army on the ship.
"I have a flight plan to get us down on the western side of the planet," Cyllian reported.
"Good, load it to my vid-screen," he responded. A few moments later, he was examining the flight plan. "Cyllian, I want the ship to land on a high plateau. Make that adjustment and load it to flight operations."
A short while later, Glen said, "New flight plan received and implemented."
Wyatt stared at the results of the star alignment search on the vid-screen. He typed: Verify star alignment. His people were busy at their tasks. How would they react when he told them?
"Cyllian, come with me for a few," he requested. He walked a short way from the command center. Cyllian's footsteps came up quickly behind, and he smiled in anticipation. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a strong hug, then she rested her head on his back and purred, "I love you."
"I love you too." He pulled her hands away and turned around. Their lips met and ground into one another. He pulled back, keeping a soft grip on her hands and said, "I did a search of the star charts."
Cyllian gave him an odd look. "It's obvious where we are."
He sighed. "I agree, but it's not so much a matter of where as it is of when."
"What are you saying?"
"We're more than a thousand years in the past."
Cyllian shook her head in denial. "How is that even possible?"
"I have no explanation. I only know that the stars don't lie."
"Should I change our landing plan?"
He shook his head. "No, there's a large ocean near the western end of the continent. I believe that area gives us the best chance of survival."
"There are so few of us left and that concerns me," Cyllian admitted.
"So far, thirty-one. I hope there are more."
"Over three hundred dead," Wyatt said sadly. "I never saw it coming."
Cyllian squeezed his hand. "It's not your fault. The destroyer's stealth systems prevented us from knowing it wasn't a freighter."
"I don't look forward to telling the others we are stuck in the past. After we land, I doubt we'll ever get the ship off the ground, again."
Cyllian wrapped her arms around him and said, "When we land, I suggest you get everyone together and tell them what has happened. You're the captain, and they need your leadership."
"As usual, you are right, Cyllian. I'll think carefully about what we need to do."
Once the ship separated from its main body, Glen put it into glide mode. The ship followed the computer's flight plan. There was no room for error.
Wyatt watched his vid-screen, which showed a forward and backward view. The planet below was beautiful. The ship entered the thermosphere, and the ship's speed slowed. The AI would land the ship.
Twenty minutes later, his view of the planet was spectacular. They would land soon. He said, "Everyone get into a console and prepare for a hard landing."
He waited nervously. At twenty-five seconds before landing, a clear dome came down over him, then a second dome come down over the first one. He watched as foam filled in the space between the domes. He nodded his head, and a vid-screen appeared in the air in front of his face. He watched a forward view of the ship as it descended toward a long, flat plateau.
The ship's thrusters fired to slow it, then the nose of the ship lifted. The impact was hard, but his chair restraints kept him secured. After the ship stopped, he looked at the vid-screen, which showed a small strand of trees just ahead and a wide path of destruction behind the ship.
The outer dome over his chair lifted away. The foam quickly disappeared as the nanobots went to work. Then the inner dome lifted away.
Wyatt looked at his people gathered in the command center. Most of them had quick-heal on various parts of their bodies. Their faces were filled with weariness and concern.
"Our survival depends on each one of us here." His eyes focused on the faces of different people as he scanned the room. "Our ship will not fly, again. We have no one to call to get parts or to be rescued. We are, in fact, on the planet Gemistal one thousand years in the past."
He paused as people shifted uneasily and whispered to those sitting close to them. "We have several things to do to ensure our survival. We must govern ourselves. My suggestion is to form a council consisting of myself, Cyllian, Glen, Doctor Dawnings, and one member from the crew whom the crew selects to represent them.
"We all have skills as well as abilities to learn new skills. Our computer library is extensive. If you have a particular desire to do something, I need to know as soon as possible.
"Some skills we'll need sooner than others, so think about farming, hunting, fishing, irrigation, animal husbandry, and a doctor's apprentice. Skills we'll need later are construction, weaponry, sewing, and many more. Any questions?"
Doctor Crystal Dawnings stood up. "I will need several assistants for the next week or more. I would caution everyone not to eat or drink anything until it has been tested. Wyatt left out one position we need now and that is a cook. Is there anyone here who loves to cook?"
Glenda stood up. "I don't think my electronics skills will be of much use here."
Doctor Dawnings nodded her head. "Get with me after this meeting, and we can talk about nutrition and meal planning. Who would like to assist in the collection of plants, fruits, grains, nuts, and animals?"
Several people stood up. "Okay, after the meeting, stay here, and I'll give you a quick explanation about safety. Now, I will also need an apprentice. I will warn you now. It's an extensive program and a lot of work. Do I have a volunteer?" She scanned the room. "I will get with Wyatt, and we'll select someone."
Flynn Jackson wore a complete environ-suit, covering him from head to foot. The environment here was fine, but the captain believed in being cautious. He squatted down to pull a plant from the soil.
"Don't use your hand," Joanna, his partner on this short trek, warned in a sharp demanding tone.
"Give me a break, Jo. Nothing can damage these environ-suits," he scoffed as he pulled the plant from the ground. He placed it in a collection container.
"My name is Joanna. There's a reason for precautions."
"In a hostile environment, I would agree one hundred percent, but this place is really perfect. People already live here."
"One thousand years in the future, they are living here. A lot could have changed in all of that time," Joanna added.
"You worry to much. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, something has my foot."
"Stop fooling around, Flynn." Her eyes widened as he suddenly started hopping along on one leg. Suddenly, he fell and was bouncing along the ground quickly.
She pulled a nano-ton and shot at the ground. The laser beam freed his foot. She hurried over to Flynn who was moaning and writhing on the ground. "What's wrong with you? Why didn't you use your gravs?"
"Everything happened so fast."
"Can you walk?"
"Everything hurts," Flynn said in a complaining voice.
"It serves you right for not using your brain. Okay, set your gravs to one hundred percent, and I'll float you back to the ship."
Joanna listened as Doctor Dawnings told her about Flynn's condition. "I used quick-heal, which will take care of his scrapes, bumps, and bruises, but I'm still concerned because of the nasty blow he took to his head. He needs to stay awake all night. You'll stay with him?"
"Can you make it an order? I don't want him getting any ideas."
Doctor Dawnings smiled. "How about I tell him you've been assigned as his baby sitter?"
Joanna laughed. "Thanks, Doc, you're the best."
A short time later, Joanna sat watching a mod in the med-unit with Flynn.
His head nodded, snapped back, and nodded again. She balled her hand into a fist and gave him a knuckle punch in his right bicep.
"Ow, that hurt," he complained, "what'd you do that for?"
"Any time you nod off, you'll get more of the same."
"I'm tired and sleepy."
"It has been a long day for both of us, Flynn," she snapped back. "And I'm sure it will be an even longer night. My assignment is to keep you awake by any and all means. The doc gave me some quick-heal just in case I need to break something."
Flynn laughed. "That's a good one, Jo."
"Don't call me Jo. The doc really did leave me some quick-heal. I hope that gives you some incentive to stay awake."
"My suggestion is to stay awake because it's only a small amount of quick-heal, and the night is still young."
"This mod is kind of creepy," Flynn commented.
"At least, it's the colorized version. Do you like the 1978 version?"
"I like all versions of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
"Flynn, why did you want to see a body snatcher marathon?"
"Well, my body almost got snatched today. Thank you, Jo."
"Call me Jo one more time, and I'm going to hit you really hard."
"I'm sorry. My sister's name was Jo."
"Yeah, she died."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Flynn. What happened to her?"
"She fell into a vat of cotton candy."
Joanna looked at Flynn's 'gotcha' grin and said, "Keep it up, and I'm going to fix your wagon real good."
"Really? My wagon's in my room. You're welcome to come and fix it any time."
Joanna laughed. "Has that line ever worked for you?"
"Nope, but there's always a first time."
"I think your brain needs quick-heal too."
Flynn held out his hand. She looked at it for a moment then took it.
"I actually do have a sister," Flynn explained, "that I'll never see again. I promised her and my mom I would come home safe."
She saw tears welling in his eyes, and she squeezed his hand. "We might find a way back from the past."
Flynn chuckled. "If you believe that, I have a bridge--"
"And I have a solution for bad jokes."
"I'm almost afraid to ask."
"Good, you should be afraid--very afraid."
Flynn laughed. "Thank you, Joanna."
"We got blasted out of space, and I knew we would be captured and executed. Then we prepared for a crash landing, which I expected none of us would survive. Being stuck in the past, I didn't expect much, except trying to survive one day at a time. None of us want to be here, but I'm glad you're here with me."
Joanna squeezed his hand. "I think you must have bounced your head really hard on the ground, Flynn." His head nodded, and she gave his arm another knuckle punch.
"Stay awake, Flynn. I'm not kidding."
The next day, Joanna was outside with Flynn. "I don't how I got stuck with you, again," she said.
"Yeah, I think you could be bad luck, Jo."
Joanna laughed. "Pay attention. We need to make sure we eradicate all of these clinging plants."
"I agree on that. They are much too friendly." Flynn came to a sudden halt and stared at the sky. "Wow, unbelievable."
She looked up and saw a dragon. She nodded her head, and a vid-screen appeared in front of her face. "Zoom." The dragon came into clear focus. "I don't know if I can take any more surprises."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. You want me to do the report?"
"Sure, I can't wait to see the captain's face when you tell him what we saw."
"Well, I have it on my PCC now, so it's not like the captain can say we have been drinking or dreaming," Flynn replied.
Joanna chuckled. "Let's keep looking for the nasty vines."
A few hours later, they sat across from the captain in his cabin. "I have a few questions," he said.
His cold tone made Joanna shiver.
"Why didn't you com me when you spotted the dragon?"
"I figured you wouldn't believe me," Flynn answered.
Wyatt shook his head. "You could have sent a pic, you know."
"I . . . ah . . . didn't think of that," he admitted.
"What's your excuse, Joanna?"
"I'm sorry, Wyatt. I wasn't thinking clearly."
Wyatt drummed his fingers on the console beside him. "I want to rant and throw things, but I know it would be a waste of time; instead, I'll assign both of you to the construction team."
"Construction?" Flynn questioned.
"Our livestock was hit by the dragons."
"How bad was it?" Joanna asked.
Wyatt frowned. "We lost all of them."
"All--" Flynn shook his head. "--that doesn't even seem possible."
"It's not a disaster," Wyatt admitted. "But we have a lot of work to do to secure this place from predators, and both of you will be a part of the planning and construction."
Joanna stood at the edge of the plateau, looking at the green valley below. This was one of the most beautiful places in the world. She heard a step and turned around. "Am I going to be stuck with you the rest of my life?"
Flynn looked at Joanna with an astonished look on his face. "How are you able to do that?"
"You just said word for word what I was thinking. That's scary."
She laughed. "You need to go on to the next section, or we'll never get done."
She squatted down, drove the needle into the hard rock, and pressed the plunger, sending hundreds of thousands of nanobots into the rock. The ship's computer programmed millions of nanobots to construct an eight foot wall all around the outer edge of the plateau.
Flynn patted her on the back as he walked past her. "You want me, and you know it."
She shook her head and yelled at his back. "Not in a million years."
Flynn stopped and turned around. "Come to my cabin tonight for dinner." He turned and continued on his way.
Joanna opened her eyes. She was splayed on top of Flynn. He groaned and opened his eyes. "My cabin is larger than yours," she said. "You will move your stuff to my cabin today. Is that clear?"
He smiled. "That's a great idea."
"We need to get a shower. We have a long day ahead of us."
After breakfast, They flew over the valley at a low height, using their lev-paks with pal-levs under their control. Flynn pointed below and said, "That animal looks like a good candidate."
Joanna saw a creature that looked like an oversized deer. "Once we are in range, you take it. I'll take the next one."
"Sounds good to me."
A few minutes later, they were on the ground. Flynn retrieved the knockout dart from the animal, and they used spare lev-paks to move the animal to the pal-lev. He selected the pal-lev program, and it flew back toward the plateau with the creature.
An empty pal-lev arrived almost as soon as the other one left. "It looks like Glen aims to keep us hopping," Joanna remarked.
She heard the beeping of their PCCs. It was time for a shower then breakfast. She shook Flynn awake. "Come on, sleepy head." They had been working together over the last few weeks gathering animals of various kinds. She was looking forward to doing something else today.
After breakfast, they left the ship. Joanna shielded her eyes against the bright sunshine that came through the clear dome above.
"It's bad enough we had to gather the animals, but now we need to feed them too," Flynn complained.
"Look at it as taking care that your lunch will taste good when you are ready to eat it," she quickly responded.
"The thought of eating Bambi or even Bambi's mother makes me ill."
She laughed. "That's a cartoon. Eating a cartoon would make anyone ill."
"I heard that some people planting crops today."
"Yes, and after feeding the animals. We should go see how it's coming."
"They might put us to work too," Flynn cautioned. "I would rather spend the rest of the day with you."
Joanna chuckled. "In bed no doubt."
"Well--that is on my list, but we could also do some exploring as well."
"How about after lunch we do some exploring," she suggested.
Flynn nodded his head.
A few hours later, they finished feeding the animals and continued past the animal pens to where the plateau was being transformed into an oversized farm.
She stared in disbelief at the transformation that had taken place since they first arrived. Most the trees were gone, and the ground was now completely flat. Layers of fresh soil covered the entire area, and the ground was furrowed for as far as she could see.
Numerous people walked down the rows, planting seeds. Flynn said, "How did they do all of this in such a short time?"
"I think they had help from the andro-bots."
"Humpf, that's cheating."
She laughed. "Yeah and it's good to cheat death."
"Look." Flynn pointed up at the dome.
Tilting her head, she saw hundreds of dragons. "Wow, I wonder where they are all going?"
He pulled at her arm. "Come on! The dragons are diving on the dome. Set your gravs to eighty percent. We don't have much time."
With their reduced weight, they were able to move so much faster. Joanna heard a loud cracking sound. "That's impossible." Then a heavy weight came on top of her, driving her into the fresh soil.
She struggled to push aside the weight pressing her into the dirt. When she finally freed herself, she saw that Flynn's head had been crushed by pieces of the dome that had been breached.
She knelt in the dirt and wept. Screams from animals and people filled the air. She saw a dragon snatch a running man and carry him away. Fear struck her a like a hammer. She lay beside Flynn and kept still.
The people gathered in the command center all looked shocked and ragged, except for those who were on duty in the ship. Wyatt held up his hand for quiet, then he said, "The dragons took all of us by surprise. The nano-tek dome should have been impenetrable. Ten people are missing and presumed dead. All the animals have been taken."
Stunned silence greeted his proclamation. "It seems the dragons are much smarter than we anticipated. The council met a short while ago, and we agreed we need to deal with the dragons now. We can't survive with their continued encroachment. We've sent out all four andro-bots. They will exterminate every dragon within a ten mile area."
Joanna sat in the dark in her cabin. She didn't answer the com from her door. She didn't look up when someone entered her room. Arms going around her barely registered.
"This is not what Flynn would want, Joanna," Cyllian said.
"He saved my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. Why did he die? It's just not fair."
"I agree, sweetie. We need you, Joanna. I know you are hurting right now. We all lost someone we know. We need one another."
"I never told Flynn I love him," Joanna said in a wooden voice.
"Did he love you?"
"Oh, yes, I could tell."
"Be at peace, Joanna. Flynn knew you loved him. Honor his love by living. You know this is what he would want you to do."
She felt like a zombie for the next few weeks. One morning at breakfast, Wyatt announced, "The andro-bots returned last night. They can't find any more dragons in the area."
She wept, but nothing could bring Flynn back. "When will I stop hurting?"
Cyllian stood up and came over to her table, wrapping her arms around her. "You're a survivor, Joanna. Never forget that."
Cyllian sat in the small room, with the other council members, listening to Wyatt's report. "This morning all the andro-bots dropped off the net at the same time. This cannot be coincidental. Therefore, we must take defensive action. These battle bots could wipe us out in a heartbeat."
"What makes you think they would want to wipe us out?" Glen asked.
"The only information I have is they dropped off the net. They're acting surreptitiously, which leads me to believe they have a reason for not wanting to be found. It's prudent for us to prepare for a worst case senario."
"What do you have in mind?" Crystal asked.
"The ship's weapons systems are greatly degraded and very limited. If I was an andro-bot, I would take out our computers. This would be the end for us. We have an opportunity now to enhance some of us, so we can defend against the andro-bots."
"Cyborgs?" Cyllian asked.
"I don't like that word because it has too many negative connotations. I prefer 'enhanced abilities'."
"How many people?" asked Crystal.
Wyatt looked at Glen. "We have enough spare computer parts as well as parts from a drone to enhance five people," Glen explained.
Wyatt looked at Crystal. "Each of us needs to be evaluated to determine who will be the best five to be enhanced."
Joanna stood up. "I volunteer."
Cyllian stood up. "I volunteer as well."
Cyllian opened her eyes. Immediately, she could see and feel the difference. Her bioficial neural network gave her a view of the world that was truly beyond description. She knew the exact size of the room and could see outside the ship by just thinking it.
She lifted her left arm and stared at the nano-ton that now replaced her arm from the elbow down. The nano-ton was tied to her neural net. She could use it by thinking just like she used her fingers to pick up things.
Her right arm looked normal, but it too was modified with the use of biomaterials. Both her legs were modified as well. She would be able to run a mile in less than a minute.
She looked across the room at the bed against the other wall. Joanna appeared to be asleep. Flynn died three months earlier, and Joanna still had not returned to her normal self. "Are you awake?" Cyllian called.
"Nope!" Joanna responded.
Cyllian chuckled. "Our first planning session is today."
"Do you think we're going to make it?"
"Yes, Joanna, we will. I'm sure of it."
"How can you be so certain?"
"We're given this moment. It's up to us to decide what to do with it. I'm going to live and enjoy what I have. What are you going to do?"
"Hummmmmmmmmm, I think I will get a shower, eat breakfast, and attend this planning meeting," Joanna replied.
Cyllian laughed and Joanna joined her. "It sounds like a good plan to me. Welcome to another great day on Gemistal."
Cyllian said, "PCC; main; access," and her cabin door opened. Wyatt was already asleep on the bed. She took a small case, a towel, a robe, and panties then left the cabin for the shower down the hall.
When she entered the shower room, she stripped off her environ-suit, opened the small case, and took out shampoo and soap. Her shower was quick. She toweled off, dressed, then she began to oil the nano-ton that was a part of her left arm.
As she stepped from the shower room, a strong explosion against the side of the ship threw her into the wall. Shrapnel ripped away her right arm just above the elbow, leaving dangling wires. Her right leg was also damaged a little with some of the wiring exposed.
She said, “PCC; meds; double dose.” Her shock and pain quickly subsided, and the blood flow was stopped.
She nodded her head, and a vid-screen popped up in front of her face. As she sat dazed on the floor, she watched the vid-screen as well as the hole in the outer wall of the ship through which a shaft of light danced on the floor of the hallway.
Her vid-screen went blank, and the light streaming into the ship changed. Her nano-ton swept the hole in the ship with lasers. A loud crash verified she'd hit something.
She heard Wyatt yell, "Go!" She looked and saw him running toward the vac. She stood up and dropped the robe, which would only get in her way. She ran and did a roll across the middle of the hallway, coming to a stop against the wall. Her heart pounded a mile a minute, and her mouth felt dry. She stayed low as she progressed toward the hole in the wall.
Her nerves stood on edge now. No vid-screen meant the computer was down. She was almost certain an andro-bot was responsible for blasting the hole in the ship. Five days ago, they all inexplicably disappeared. Wyatt believed the andro-bots were affected by data corruption or nanotage, but that didn't really matter. They were battle bots designed to defeat space ships, and armies were child's play for them.
She reached the hole in the wall. Debris from the blast was scattered all across the floor, except in one six foot spot. She advanced to the spot and put her right hand down. It came to rest on a hard invisible object. She moved her hand over it until she found its head. She moved her hand to the back of its neck and popped a panel, then she removed a foam memory stick.
The andro-bot came into clear view. Its eyes were melted. An andro-bot had few weaknesses; fortunately, its eyes were one of them. She stepped through the hole and looked around outside.
The andro-bots had their own computer systems and would not be affected by the ship's computer crash. "Come on, Glen. Get it back up." Glen was in charge of operations, and the computer department was one of his responsibilities.
When the andro-bots vanished, she was put on a rotation for enhancing the ship's defenses. She wasn't happy with the modifications to her body, but she had little choice in the matter. She couldn't face an andro-bot without superhuman speed and reflexes.
She could run a mile in a minute and snap a tree in half with her bare hands. She really needed her environ-suit, but the ship wasn't safe. She worried for Wyatt and the others on the ship. Her vid-screen popped back up. She watched light and shadows on the vid-screen. "No one here. I wonder where the rest of the andro-bots went?"
She ran across the plateau in seconds and stopped at the grey and black wall built on the edge of the cliff. She looked back at the ship and saw two large holes. One or more andro-bots were inside the ship. A shaft of fear struck her, and she was tempted to return to the ship, but she was assigned to the perimeter defenses, so now, she waited.
A couple of people wearing environ-suits emerged through the second hole in the ship. One came in her direction. The environ-suit covered them from head to toe. "Wyatt has called for a meeting," Crystal said.
"I'll get dressed and be right there, Doctor."
Cyllian sat in the command center waiting for the meeting to begin. Most of the faces of those gathered showed worry of some kind. The threat of the andro-bots was on everyone's mind.
Wyatt stood up. "Glen and I talked about this past attack by the andro-bots. The attack on the computers was understandable. They only encountered three people, and they all died.
"The other attack was on the living quarters. We believe the intent was to kill everyone on the ship and take it over. The unexpected termination of the andro-bot assigned to attack the living quarters must have come as a surprise to the others, and so they sabotaged the computers and departed.
"The three remaining andro-bots represent a dire threat. The enhancements some of us have undergone are good only so long as our computer systems are working. Glen suggested that Cyllian needs to be tied into the computer of the andro-bot that has been shut down.
"Their goal has not changed. They will be back. Most of our weapons systems are of no use. However, we have a drone that can be turned into an EMP weapon."
"But won't we destroy the ship's AI in the process?" Crystal asked.
"That's a possible outcome," Wyatt replied, "which is why the ship's computer will be downloaded to Cyllian's andro-bot computer."
When the meeting was over, Cyllian was in another meeting of the ship's council. Wyatt sat across from her. Crystal was on her right, Glen on her left, and Joanna sat next to Wyatt.
Wyatt said, "Doctor would you explain how the andro-bot's computer would be tied into someone?"
"I'm not so sure this idea will work because of data corruption," Crystal said. She looked at Glen. "Is there a solution for that?"
"I'm doing a chip test now," Glen answered. "I haven't found any problems."
"The andro-bot's computer is not that big," Crystal continued. "I would put it in the left arm with nantac access."
"I envision that once the andro-bot threat is over. Their computers could be used to back up or even replace the ship's computer," Wyatt explained.
"Nanobots are now working on both of the breaches of the ship. I expect the repairs to be finished before the end of the day. Questions?"
Crystal touched Cyllian's shoulder and said in a low voice. "When we finish here, come to the med-unit. I need to repair your arm and leg."
Cyllian nodded her head. "I'm starting to feel like an andro-bot."
"Don't worry that will never happen."
Cyllian sat in front of the vid-screen in the data room. The four other people who had body enhancements were there as well. On her right sat David Wilkens who was an electronic hardware systems expert to his right was Marion Jumpers who was a service tech for the andro-bots, and to Cyllian's left was Robert Dawkins who was a weapons expert and Joanna sat to his left.
The ship's computer was performing a lookdown search. There were four quadrants on the vid-screen. The first one showed right around the ship. The second was within a half mile, the third a mile, and the last two miles. The search was for any air disturbances in those areas.
The andro-bots used Quantum Stealth which rendered them invisible to tracking technology; however, air disturbances as they walked or flew would be noticeable.
Robert said, "The computer sees something in quad four."
Cyllian looked at quad four where a redline on the vid-screen showed something invisible, a blue line came up behind it. "There are two of them," she commented.
"I see a third one," Marion said excitedly. "So what do we do now?"
"Give them a few more minutes and see if the computer can establish a pattern," David suggested.
"A wouldn't trust a pattern," Cyllian replied, "that would be a great way to set up a trap. They know our technological capabilities, so this is like calling attention to themselves on purpose. Their goal is the ship. They want us to leave the ship, then they will attack."
"I agree, Glen said as he entered the room, "conflict is not only against the real but also against the perceived. We should give the andro-bots what they expect and set our own trap."
Cyllian wore an environ-suit, which was in Quantum Stealth mode and a lev-pak, which she used to fly toward the location of the andro-bots. Just inches below her were four eight foot logs in environ-suits with lev-paks, which flew together in very close formation. She flew so that the top two and a half feet of the logs was ahead of her
Glen believed the andro-bots would not be able to determine how many people were coming. Cyllian hoped he was right.
He also believed the andro-bots would detect the Quantum Stealth of the environ-suits then go after the ship where Robert, Marion, and David waited to set off a trap for them.
Cyllian feared the consequences of using the drone as an EMP while at the same time the abilities of the andro-bots seemed so overwhelming.
Just before she arrived over the area where andro-bots were suspected to be, the tops of the logs in front of her were sliced off and fell. She dove toward the falling logs, keeping just inches behind them.
As she neared the tops of some tall trees, the tops of the logs entered the trees. She moved slightly to avoid hitting a tree, then she slowed down and entered some tree branches, coming to rest near the top of a tree. The logs smashed onto the ground below along with numerous limbs they'd crashed through.
Cyllian nodded her head and selected 'environ-suit release' on the vid-screen, then she selected 'shut down andro-bot computer' and 'shutdown PCC.
She was totally off the net for the first time she could ever remember. After awhile, she began to feel warm. The environ-suit's temperature was regulated by her PCC. She pulled off her gloves and hood. She was grateful it was a nice sunny day.
Sitting on a tree branch was uncomfortable. As she waited, she tried to imagine what was happening at the ship. As soon as she left, everyone would have departed the ship and gone down the cliff to enter caves.
If the andro-bots came, the EMP would destroy them and the ship's computer. Wyatt would send someone for her when all was clear. She needed to believe everyone was safe. She pushed other thoughts from her mind.
A crashing sound from a nearby tree surprised her. The crashing continued all the way to the ground. She felt a stab of fear now. She slowly pulled her arms from her suit. She pulled her suit down. She'd anticipated this situation, and her body was already covered in camo paint.
She left her suit in the tree and climbed downward. A squirrel leapt from a tree and soared toward another tree. It's body was ripped apart by lasers, then she saw the device near some bushes below.
Her nano-ton could easily take out the weapon; however, there could be more than one, and she could only use manual firing not automatic. And so once again, she sat on a tree branch and waited.
A loud crunching sound below drew her attention. A cat the size of a horse crept below the tree. It sniffed the air and looked up at her. It leapt up, running up the tree at her. Suddenly, its body just came apart as lasers filled the air.
Cyllian now knew where the second device was located. She was in a position where she was in the cross-fire of both of them. She needed to destroy both, which was impossible with her nano-ton on manual.
She pressed her left arm to return her PCC to live. It would take exactly sixty seconds, and she counted the time in her head. At fifty-five seconds, she took careful aim at the closest device. At fifty-nine seconds, she destroyed it with her nano-ton. She leapt from the tree, swung the nano-ton, and fired at the second device while at the same time activating her gravs.
She floated just inches from the ground. Her left leg below the knee was gone. Wires dangled in the leaves below. She dropped into the leaves and did a roll into a prone position with her nano-ton prepared to fire.
She did a release command for the grav on her right wrist. She attached it to a wide fallen branch about six feet long. She entered the commands for the grav and watched as the branch shot off the ground and rushed into the sky.
Moments later, the branch disintegrated. Cyllian now knew the location of another laser weapon. She set her gravs to ninety percent, which reduced her weight to less than fifteen pounds, programmed her nano-ton, fired, and pushed off the ground to her right. She wanted to scream from the laser that left a burn from her left hip across her right breast. She programmed her nano-ton and fired, then everything went dark.
* * *
Wyatt watched as Cyllian left the ship with the logs in environ-suits. His plan was already in place, but he didn't tell her everything. He returned to the command center and entered the data room.
"Is she on the tracker?" he asked David with a hint of worry in his voice.
"Relax Wyatt, all's good," David assured him.
That's easy for you to say, but if anything goes wrong, Cyllian is dead, and it's all my fault. Wyatt sighed. "Marion, is there any reaction from the andro-bots yet?"
"Nothing yet," she replied.
Wyatt sat down. He hated waiting. This trap had to work. He didn't know what else to do.
"We have movement," Robert said excitedly.
"Yeah, but only from two of them," Marion added.
"Okay," Wyatt said, "evacuate to the caves." Everyone else had already left for the caves. He wasn't surprised that only two of the andro-bots were coming. He'd anticipated that this could happen and prepared accordingly.
A short time later, Wyatt sat in a chair near Marion. She looked at him and said, "It won't be long now."
"As soon as they are in EMP range, set it off," Wyatt said. He hoped Cyllian was being careful. This was no time for anything to go wrong.
"They're both in range," Robert announced.
Wyatt motioned to Glen who came over to him. "Set off the EMP now." He waited while Glen entered some codes into his PCC.
"Five second countdown," Glen said. A few moments later, he announced, "The computers are all dead."
Wyatt stood and up and went to Joanna. He put his hand on her shoulder. "Get with Robert and find the two andro-bots and verifiy they are out of service."
She nodded her head. "I understand."
Wyatt sat back down by Marion. "And now we wait," he murmured. He closed his eyes and tried to relax.
"Wake up," Marion said, "Cyllian is on the move."
Wyatt groaned. "How long did I sleep?"
"Almost six hours," Marion replied.
"Seems like fifteen minutes. How long before she gets back here?"
"About twenty minutes," Marion replied.
"If anything changes, come get me. I'll be outside."
Wyatt went to Glen. who was with Crystal. "Is everything prepared for Cyllian's return?"
Crystal nodded her head. "Stop fretting. Go get Cyllian and be careful."
He looked at Glen. "I will send 'X' to your com-link when I am ready."
Glen smiled. "I'll be waiting."
Wyatt left the cave and walked up the path for a short distance. He looked at his PCC. She would be here soon. He was nervous. If this didn't go right, they could all end up dead. His PCC beeped and he saw 'G.' She was on the ground. He couldn't see her because as expected she was still using stealth, but she would come to him.
There was a sudden flash of light and a loud crash. He sent 'X' to Glen, then he slowly walked up the path where he discovered an invisible body. He found her left wrist, and removed a chip, and she was visible again.
The intense light caused her andro-bot computer to shut down. He set her gravs to weightless and took her right hand and leg and guided her into the cave. As soon as he entered, Glen and Crystal were there. "How soon to get her awake again?"
"First I will scan for any program additions and remove or bypass them, then we can get her online again. Fifteen minutes max."
Wyatt sat next to Cyllian. They were in a race against time. Before Cyllian left, Glen prepared a vid, which showed the death of most of those in the cave. This vid was transmitted when Cyllian returned. Wyatt hoped the other andro-bot would now come to the cave where Cyllian would be waiting to kill it.
* * *
Cyllian opened her eyes and saw Wyatt, Glen, and Crystal. "How did I get back to the cave?"
"I will explain everything in a short while," Wyatt promised. "The last andro-bot is minutes away. Your andro-bot computer is on a timer loading program. Three seconds after the andro-bot see you lying on the ground, you will be online and have an opportunity to kill it."
Cyllian shivered at the sight of bodies all over the cave. Crystal had used a form of a cryo treatment that lowered the body functions in such a way that they appeared dead.
She lay on the dirt, closed her eyes, and all went dark.
Cyllian opened her eyes and raised her nan-ton. Lasers filled the air. Pain sliced at her body again and again, then all went black again.
Cyllian moaned as Wyatt caressed her face. "It's all over now," he explained. "All of the andro-bots are dead."
"I remember a lot of pain."
"Your body suffered a lot of damage. Crystal is using parts from the last andro-bot to get you back to normal again."
"Normal?" Cyllian laughed. "I'll never be normal again."
"You're wrong, sweetie. Your body will have a few changes, but you'll always be my beloved Cyllian."
"I love you too," Cyllian replied, then she closed her eyes.
Appendix of Terminology
AI - Artificial intelligence.
Andro-bots - These AIs look very human like. There are three classifications of andro-bots: military, domestic, and worker.
Camo paint - camouflage body painting.
Com-link - Computer or communications link.
EMP - An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic energy. EMP interference is generally damaging to electronic equipment.
Environ-suit - Made of nano-tex; as many as three condensed oxygen cells can be attached giving the wearer just less than three days of time in an environment without oxygen.
Foam memory - This is based on the concept of bubble memory. In Foam memory the bubbles also attach to one another, which creates up one hundred times as much available memory.
Gravs - Are small programmable levitation devices. Most are for ankles and wrists. They have a 150 pound capacity.
Lev-Pak - A levitation pack that is similar in size to a back pack. It operates on battery cells. It has a built in computer and light source. It can lift up to five hundred pounds.
Lookdown - A bird's eye view fro above the ship, showing what is around it at various distances.
Mod - Is a show on a foam memory stick.
Nanobots - Microscopic robots.
Nanotage - Sabotage using nanotechnology.
Nano-tex - Is a fabric that is programmable. Any shape, size, or style can be chosen. It will not rip, tear or wear out. The user can regulate the internal temperature of the nano-tex. The ensemble nano-tex will not produce a signature return.
Nano-ton - Is a programmable weapon that can take various shapes. It shoots a seeker projectile that has toxins. The projectiles are also programmable. It is not effective against nano-tex.
Nantac - Programmable contact lenses that are used to access any computer.
Pal-Lev - A levitating pallet that is programmable.
PCC - Personalized Compact Computer - A small chip in the wrist. It is genetically coded to prevent theft as well as unauthorized use. It uses foam memory which was developed on a bubble memory. platform.
Quantum Stealth - Quantum Stealth is a material that renders the target completely invisible by bending light waves around the target. The material removes not only your visual, infrared (night vision) and thermal signatures but also the target’s shadow.
Vac - A maglev line run through evacuated (air-less) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels. The lack of air resistance permits cubes to use little power and to move at extremely high speeds, up to 4000–5000 mph.
Vid; Vid-screen - Video screen. There are two major types of vid-screens: hardware and software. The hardware vid-screen is 1/64" thick. The software vid-screen is virtual, which nan-glas are required to view. Head movement activates and deactivates the vid-screen. It is accessed by vocal or manual input.