Michael fights aliens with the team, but it doesn't go as planned.
Today seemed to be a good day. Then we went to a jungle. Then we got attacked by aliens. Then the Demetreus arrived to rescue us. Then it was attacked as well. And as we fought for survival against an unknown enemy, I realized, this day was just as crappy as every other day.
We found some cover in the ruins of an ancient temple. I took point behind a collapsed column and ordered Rush and Sylvana to support me. Rush obeyed, standing behind another column, and shooting everything that moved between the trees. Sylvana did the opposite: she decided to rush into the enemy lines, going on a vicious rampage. It was a bold move, she could have easily died, but for the moment, she seemed just fine.
”Sylvana!” I yelled after her, but she made no indication that she would obey. I watched her fighting among the trees. She shot the green-headed alien beside her, then she killed the one behind her. She turned around afterwards, unleashing a deadly maze of plasma-bolts onto a group of armored enemies. One shot, one kill; five seconds passed, and everyone was dead around her.
Then they shot her.
Her shield deflected the yellow plasma bolt, but I could only wonder how long that could go on.
Thus I decided to give my next order.
”Rush, cover her!”
”Will do, boss,” he nodded, adjusting the sights of his plasma rifle. It took a second for him to acquire the targets, then he shot everyone who was in Sylvana’s vicinity. He shot five aliens before I noticed another group of enemies, heading towards her from the side, aiming to end her life.
Both of my squad mates were occupied with another group, but I was capable of taking them out on my own. I aimed with my pistol, and shot a plasma bolt through the head of the first alien. He dropped dead on the ground, then came the rest. I was a good shot, I aimed for the head, and I always hit my targets. I killed an enemy every two seconds, killing at least thirty of them by the end of it.
By the time I was done with them, the others were done with their targets as well. No more shots came from between the trees, it looked like we were in safety.
”Clear!” I yelled, and the others confirmed it as well.
”Well, that was one hell of a fight,” Rush turned towards me. Grey fog emerged from the blazing barrel of his gun. A few more shots, and it would have been unusable for some time.
”That?” Sylvana asked, crossing her eyebrows.
”What did you expect?” I asked. I tried to be polite, but I have to admit, I thought she would be satisfied as well.
She walked to one of the dead guys, grabbed his neck, and raised him up from the ground. I could see through the hole in his head, I was the one who took that shot.
”What the hell is this?”
”It looks like a Thane,” Rush answered, looking at a dead alien.
”Yes, IT looks like a Thane,” Sylvana snapped. “These guys supposed to eat flies, and now we are fighting them? What the hell this world has become?”
”You wanted to fight the big and scary aliens,” I answered. I checked my gun after that, it was ready for another round.
”Since when they count as big and scary aliens?” she frowned.
”Since they built a Dyson-sphere around their star, and started to mass produce highly advanced warships that even the Coalition Fleet dreads to encounter,” I explained. I thought it would calm her down, but I was wrong.
”And how did they build that? From a pile of dead insects?” Sylvana asked, then she gave out a sigh. “Okay, okay. I just have to adjust to these... new circumstances.”
”You bet,” Rush nodded, then he turned towards me. “So what about the...?” he asked, then an explosion painted the sky red.
We looked up, and we have seen the impossible. The Thane ships had destroyed the Demetreus, shooting it into pieces above us. The enemy forward, unleashing a wave of launch pods heading toward our position.
”Alright, check your weapons and shields!” I yelled. We had to be in good fighting shape, if we were to pull through.
I checked it as well, and it got fried at that very moment. I was surprised at first, then I remembered what an EMP could do to this kind of equipment. They could protect us from the wave, but it completely fried them during the process. Now we were defenseless.
”Get ready!” I ordered, and then enemies appeared in every direction. Even behind us, which was from our most secure position.
”Oh, come on!” Rush said, the enemy opened fire.
I wish I could say that we had a glorious death, but we hadn’t. The enemy shot us down like dogs, which was no wonder in our given situation.
Consequently, our death marked the end of the combat simulation.
I felt a bit dizzy afterwards, but that was nothing compared what I used to experience after getting shot to death in reality. I opened my eyes, and I slowly got up from the ground. The jungle disappeared; it was replaced by the white walls of the simulation chamber. It was quite a big room, providing us with enough space for any kind of combat situation.
”Seriously?” Sylvana asked, after she got up from the ground.
”I was certainly one way to go,” I answered.
”How on Deylon would they shoot down the Demetrus? This ship has better combat capabilities than most sentient species!”
”You are right,” another voice answered. I belonged to Synthia, who appeared right between us. I was – generally – used to it, but still, it was quite a shock.
”Then what was the point? This is supposed to be real, isn’t it?” she asked with anger in her eyes.
”I was curious about your reaction to the unexpected,” she scratched her head, trying to imitate humans. ”Also, I wanted you to die. I succeeded.”
”How does dying help us in that mission?”
“So you could know what could and couldn’t kill you, which enhances your chances of your survival. In most instances, I don’t mind rebuilding you guys from scratch, but given the nature of this operation, your survival is imperative. We don’t want to avoid nuking the Japanese, do we?” she frowned.
”It has to be done,” I nodded. I knew it was a difficult question for most. Rush hated the idea of killing billions of innocent people, and Sylvana... Well, she didn’t give any indication so far, but she had to resent it. She came from a nuked planet after all.
”So, another round?” Rush asked, leading us away from the tough question.
”Maybe another time,” Sylvana shook her head. “I have things to do.”
”Where could we find you?” I asked, but she didn’t answer.
She walked out of the door, we could only guess where we could find her next.
There was no point in practicing without Sylvana. We had to work as a team, thus I called it a day, and we went back to our usual daily activities. Rush started to wander around the ship, and I went back to my room to watch some movies with Ben Johnson. I liked the guy for some reason, and the old world made so many movies with him, I could watch them all day if I wanted to do so.
After finishing the latest one, I noticed it was evening already.
”Synthia, was there any word from Sylvana?” I asked, looking at the clock.
”None so far,” she answered, although this time she didn’t in the cabin. “You wish to look for her?”
”I guess I should,” I nodded. She used to check in if she wanted to eat, watch a movie, or just spar on her own in the simulation room. Something was up with her.
Besides, it would be nice to see her.
I didn’t know where she was, but I had some ideas. My first destination was the observation room, then I went to the closest dining room, and then I walked to her cabin. I gently knocked on the door, hoping that there would be an answer.
”Come in,” Sylvana answered.
Finally, I found her.
She was lying on her bed, turning towards the television embedded in the wall. I couldn’t say she was watching it, since she didn’t turn it on.
”What’s up?” I asked politely.
”I’m just entertaining myself,” she pointed towards the television.
”Like how?” I started at her, scratching my head.
”This AI of yours, Synthia, is quite clever with illusions. I almost believe it that there is something in there, yet there isn’t. I’m observing the small fractures, the signs that point out that this is indeed an illusion,” she looked at me, then she continued to watch the offline television.
”I know it’s not real. The wall arranges itself in order to show us what we want to see.”
”Exactly,” she nodded. “She shows us what we want to see, not what we could see. The more I observe it, the more differences I can see on the ship.”
”It’s an artificially created environment. She arranged the Demetreus in order to house our species. So yeah, there are a couple of differences, as there should be.”
”And what do you think? This is completely done in order to serve us, or maybe there are some parts where she does it to serve her own needs?” she cocked an eyebrow.
”You think she is hiding something,” I concluded.
”Remember our conversation? She does hide many things from us. Like the drive core, her species, our common enemy, and the very reason why we are in here, helping her to do her own laundry.”
”She might hide some things from us. But we need her, just as much she needs us,” I answered.
”Yeah, we need her in order to stop Mr. Wrong, which we will hopefully do in our next mission. And what happens then?”
”I guess we go on our own ways,” I answered. I had no reason to distrust Sylvana. She was the one who saved me, and she kept helping me ever since then. I didn’t know much about her motives, but I recognized her intentions.
”Okay, I will pretend not to hear that,” she sighed.
”You are a special agent, right?” she asked, her face looked more serious than ever. I nodded. ”Tell me, when do special agents die?”
”When we trust someone who we shouldn’t,” I answered. Now I knew where she was going. ”Thus we usually trust no one.”
”And then you do start to trust someone. And then you die,” she concluded. Then she set up from the bed, and started to remove her shirt. Sadly, she stopped when she unraveled a scar on her back.
”You got stabbed down there?” I couldn’t have been in the mission, Synthia would have repaired it otherwise.
”This was my best friend,” she answered, placing her hand in the scar. “We were sisters. We fought together for years. But one day we got chased. There was no way we would make it in time. Not if they continued to chase us. So she stabbed me, and she went forward.”
”How did you survive?” I asked. I could imagine her killing a squad of Takedan soldiers by herself, but that wound looked serious. There was no way she took them on in her organic body. She could have done it easily in her final form, but she was pretty far from that.
”They thought I was dead, and continued to chase her. They shot her dead right there and then,” she answered. ”She was a sister to me, and yet, when the time came, she turned against me within an instant. This Synthia is no sister, nor friend to you. What do you think, what will happen when the time comes?”
”She wouldn’t betray us,” I told her, and then I walked out of the room.
I seemed like I was loyal to Synthia, but Sylvana had a point in there. I didn’t dare to agree with her, because I knew the AI was watching us. But now I knew that I had to do something. Right now we needed each other, but anything could have happened after the mission.