Fiction Fragment Friday

Once again I returned to a previous story series I did not expect to. What started in Bickering and continued in Teamwork now has another part. That means I’m sure there will be yet more in the future. I had a couple story ideas this week that I decided to hold off on for another project and this one just came to me. It was one of those stories that I started and it just flowed without much thought at all.

Then I hit time for a title and just locked up. I hate this title, but couldn’t come up with anything good. If I ever use this story elsewhere I need to come up with something better.

                I woke floating three feet above the bunk in my quarters.  There are straps on the side meant to keep you in place in case gravity goes out for any reason, but since that had never happened before, I suppose I had been less than cautious.  My eyes darted around the room searching for anything that I might be able to stabilize myself with.  The last thing I wanted was for gravity to turn back on and drop me on my head.  Unfortunately, the only light to see by was an emergency chemical light over my door. 

                “Beverly what happened?”  There was no response from my shipboard AI system.  That quickly became my bigger concern.  Well, it was until gravity came back on and I found the floor quickly coming up to meet me.   For once I had a bit of luck and didn’t land on my head.  I did land with a knee smashing my tablet’s screen.  The throbbing pain drew out a variety of curses that I won’t be repeating. 

                “Language Steven.  Those are not polite words.”  The pleasant voice coming from the ship’s speaker was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. 

                “Beverly oh thank heavens you’re ok.   What happened?”

                “Why can’t you always be that excited to hear my voice?  You know last night you yelled at me to just give you some peace and quit.”  I still don’t know how a digitized voice can sound so annoyed, but I have come to accept that my AI does have emotions. 

                “It was the middle of the night, and I was trying to sleep.”  I managed to get to my feet and stumble towards the door to my quarters.  The lights came back on blinding me “We can talk about that later.  What knocked the power out?”

                “I’m still running diagnostics, but the ship appears to have been hit by an extremely powerful and focused EMP.  The ship is shielded against random pulses, but this one overwhelmed the shielding. It took all systems offline, but thankfully there are redundancies, and I will have everything back online in twenty minutes.” 

                “You’re ok though right?  You didn’t lose any memories or take any damage?”

                “My core is triple shielded, so I didn’t even go offline.  That was done during the last round of upgrades.  Oh, you signed off on those by the way, if anyone asks.”

                I rushed through the halls toward the bridge as quickly as I could on a banged-up knee.  A terrible thought was growing in the back of my head.  “Beverly are sensors back online?”

                “Not yet.  I prioritized gravity, life support, and maneuvering thruster control.  I can have them online in two minutes if it is important.”

                “I’m afraid it might be.”  I slid into my chair and this time buckled myself in just in case.  The console was filled with a combination of red lights and blank screens.  I brought up external camera feeds, but space is extremely big, and I didn’t really expect to see anything.  My hunch seemed to have paid off though because there on the screen was a small vessel extremely close and three individuals in environmental suits were quickly approaching the hull.  Weapons were attached by magnets in multiple spots. 

                “Oh, that doesn’t look good at all.”

                “No, it does not.  Route maneuvering thrusters to my console.”  The controls in front of me came online and I started programing a course.  I didn’t want to move too quickly and give away the fact that we had some systems online again.  “ETA for jump drives and com systems?”

                “Fifteen minutes for jump drives and an additional five for coms.” 

                “I don’t suppose you had weapons installed during the upgrades, did you?”

                “I’m starting to wish I had, but you didn’t have the credits for that.  We really do need some high value cargos if you plan on taking us private anytime soon.” 

                “Let’s worry about surviving this first ok.”  At the last moment when they were about to touch the hull, I spun the ship away from them.  An outcropping hit the lead invader and sent them spinning off into space.  I hoped that they cared enough to recover their crew before coming after me.  All available engine power was redirected to the rear thrusters pushing us away as quickly as the Quickwind could accelerate.  I was blind though having no idea where I was going, and the other ship was no longer in my camera feeds.  “Any idea who they are?”

                “And how exactly would I know who they are?  I don’t exactly have a large social circle.  You don’t really introduce me to anyone.  I’m pretty sure they are after you and not me.”

                I sighed and composed myself before answering.  “I thought maybe you had the transponder codes of the ships in system before the EMP.  Maybe there was some marking on their suits that your incredible computer intelligence picked up on that I my puny human eyes didn’t notice.”

                “Oh.  Yeah, that is a good idea.  Hold on a second and let me run some calculations.  Ok done.  Based on the last known position of transponders, that should be a mining vessel called Miner’s Keepers.  The ship on screen was not a mining vessel.”

                “No, it was not.  They must have been running a forged transponder.  The real question is if we were targeted specifically or just convenient.”

                A recording of the three environmental suit clad individuals started playing on the screen.  It paused and then zoomed in on a device in their right hand.  “That is a master key for our model of airlock.  If we weren’t specifically targeted, they were at least prepared for our model ship.”

                The sensor screen came online and filled with passive scan data.  I shifted my focus and started directing the scans.  Our pursuers did take time to rescue their people, so we had a decent lead.  As long as they didn’t have weapons, we would have had plenty of time to bring the jump drives on and flee.  Of course, the sensors were showing what looked like plasma cannons charging.  We didn’t have anything to defend against them.  Without coms I couldn’t even call for help.  “Beverly I could use a brilliant idea right about now.”

                “That would be nice since I don’t particularly want to die.  Perhaps you should come up with one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on bringing systems online and saving my memoirs off to the black box.  Would you like me to change your name in all the embarrassing stories?”

                “Please do.  Also include all the information you can on the people about to kill us.”  I might have been yelling by the time I finished that line.  On the screen I could see the power on the pursuing ship released towards us.  It wasn’t a plasma blast like I had expected though.  The ship shook violently, and all the lights flickered.

                “Oh, my.  They just hit us with another focused EMP.  Like I would like a weak move like that work twice.  Suck it evil pursuing ship.”  Despite the tension of the moment, I couldn’t help but let out a snort laugh. 

                “That’s my girl. They got nothing on you.”   I smiled in pride and continued to dodge with full thrusters.  Their ship may have had some EMP weapon, but they weren’t as fast as the Quickwind.  As soon as the ready light came on, we jumped from the system.  I knew it wasn’t over though.  Someone out there was hunting us and they were not going to give up just because we got away once.