Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II (10 page)

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
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If she was honest with herself, and she wanted to be. Echo wanted her team to face chaos here and now, before it was a real world situation. She kept her thoughts to herself for the moment. She was going to have to work with the Fleet Admiral to get approval for other simulations. What she wanted and what she thought she could get were two different things.

Fleet Admiral Clark had been running the crew of the TP-D
Justice
ragged. Twice a day simulations with barely a day’s rest in the whole week left them all exhausted. Echo was not certain she would be able to convince the Fleet Admiral to randomize the encounters. At this point Echo knew if they were in the exact situation requiring them to do so she and her crew could escape to Quintar IV with the
Infinity
nipping at their heels.

It was the other situations that concerned her. Echo needed to test her crew under random conditions - Conditions that they were unprepared for, like the escape from the
Infinity
had been the first time. It was times like these that she missed Abel’s direct approach. He could be the hammer to a nail, where Echo was more subtle and calculating, like a socket to a bolt.

It always comes back to Abel,
she thought.

Echo decided she was going to consult the Fleet Admiral and express her concerns. Despite her reservations about how the conversation would go, Echo was feeling optimistic.

“All right team, let’s take a break. Get some food and some actual rest. We’re meeting back here at oh-eight-hundred hours.”” Echo switched off the Transteel projector and made her way past the crew.

She made a bee-line directly to the crew changing room and dressed into her military blacks.

No sense in being offensive
, she thought to herself.
Offensive or vulnerable?
The question came unbidden.

She dismissed the thoughts as she allowed the metallic clasp to align vertically with her torso. Once clothed, she checked her appearance. Her hair was a mess, by her own standards anyway. Despite having a mirror, Echo was not supposed to look at it.

The Quintarran state of mind was that of a collective, no one was an individual and all were equal. She had argued with her mother vehemently about that when she had left on the mission to locate her father’s home system and Abel Cain. It was the last thing she had discussed with her mother and it was still something that pained her greatly.

Echo understood that her mother wished a different life for her, but Echo was determined to be a part of something greater and sometimes that meant you had to stand out. She considered herself in the mirror again, almost as an act of defiance.

It is an act of karma
, she thought, as she realized the imperfections in her complexion and the first signs of stress marking her brow.

Sighing heavily she stepped away from the mirror and exited the opposite side from where she had entered. Exodus Fleet had designed the crew change room this way intentionally. The separation served as a reminder. The clothes you had to wear while in the simulator were not the most appropriate away from them.

Echo stepped into the hall. Shining steel walls greeted the starship Captain. The rivets were evenly spaced and allowed a small distraction from the idea they were in a tin can. Echo did not take too much comfort in the rivets as it all amounted to the same thing; she was in a metal box.

Echo enjoyed spaceflight and a mission destination. However, being on the ground in a bunker, like the one that housed the simulators, she felt like a sardine.

I wonder if that is how Abel felt,
she thought.

As she entered the hall the floor lights powered on and lit the way. She looked down at her Writcom, the small navigation and communications device all officers wore. The Writcom was not so different from the device Abel had tricked her into wearing above Eden.

Echo had been so suspicious when she was first assigned the device. She let everyone else put theirs on first, especially the other Quintarrans. Echo was only half-Quintarran, but she was not taking any chances.

“Captain Echo Shade, TP-D
Justice
, location on Fleet Admiral Clark,” she spoke into the Writcom.

A moment later the small computer chirped and said “Compliance,” as it lit up with an indicator marking the Fleet Admiral’s position.

At least she is not far
, Echo thought.

She increased her pace, but still walked towards the courtyard. It was called the Courtyard of the Stars, because one could see both the primary star, Quintar Prime and the belt of asteroids surrounding the planet. From the courtyard, Echo could remember seeing the curve of the planet’s disks lit by the bright bluish light of Quintar Prime.

She could bask in that sun’s light all day and be no worse for the wear, one of the benefits of her Quintarran lineage. Should a human do so, they often burned and became sick. Some said it was the radiation, others just commented that it was the color or temperature difference from the yellow sun of the Sol System. Echo did not know either way, she had never seen a yellow sun; orange, blue, white, and even red, but never yellow.

Lost in her thoughts she had not realized how quickly she approached the courtyard. Echo exited the door leading outside and noted that Fleet Admiral Clark was seated on a park bench. She wore her dress blacks and basked in the light of the star. Of all the humans on Quintar IV, only Andromeda Clark seemed to love the star of Echo’s home system.

She must take extra precautions not to get burned,
Echo thought.

Fleet Admiral Clark stood and looked Echo’s direction, “Are you planning to stare? Or will you just come over and say what it is you wish to discuss?”

Echo knew she had to maintain respect due an officer, but she honestly disliked the way the Fleet Admiral spoke to her subordinates. Fleet Admiral Clark was, after all, only the commanding officer of a group of rebels. However, they were only rebels because they disagreed with Echo’s father, and because they had defected.

At the time, Echo felt it was the right course of action and knew that the True EFNF wanted only to find a way back home. After all she had been through, Echo was not certain she had made the right choice or where home really was. She was neither human nor Quintarran and she did not belong to the EFNF or the Remnant. However, her loyalty to the EFNF had cost her. She was certain she had gained as well, but it had cost her the one person with whom she belonged, Abel.

“Fleet Admiral,” Echo saluted. “I have come to discuss the training simulations.”

Andromeda Clark stared hard, Echo was not certain if the Fleet Admiral was scrutinizing or merely trying to stare a hole through her.

Echo almost jumped when Andromeda spoke, “Yes, in regards to that. Well done on your latest victory. Although, it took far too long to reach that place.”

Echo swallowed her pride, “That is why I have come to speak with you, actually. I feel that our lack of progress is because we have not been anticipating, but memorizing. In anticipation we are unsure what to expect, but we are alert. However, on the contrary--”

“I understand the difference Captain.” Fleet Admiral Clark interrupted. “How do you propose to rectify it?”

The question was loaded; Echo could see it in her eyes. It was the same type of loaded question the Fleet Admiral had aimed at Abel. She was not only challenging Echo, she was assessing her.

“I think we need more of the unexpected. We’ve gotten to a point where we know what the EXOs in the SIM will do,” she emphasized the word.

“I highly doubt a real life situation would be as telegraphed. What I want to do …” she paused for a long moment; a moment of great impatience for the Fleet Admiral.

“What I want to do is implement an artificial EXO virus and an AI to mimic the EXOs behavior. I think it would grant us an opportunity to employ tactics--”

“Absolutely,” Fleet Admiral Clark interrupted again. “Perhaps we should just hook up an EXO to the SIM.”

Her tone was mocking and cruel.

“Are you an idiot girl!? You have seen firsthand what the EXO virus has done to this fleet! You were on a burning wreckage that miraculously did not kill you, because of the EXO virus!” The Fleet Admiral huffed.

“Now you want to plug that abomination into your SIM!?” She also emphasized the word.

“Out of the question. Think before you bring me these kind of glitched schemes hatched from that cavernous hole you call a brain!” The Fleet Admiral’s face was red and not from the light of the star.

This was a part of Echo’s plan. She had never intended to put the EXO virus into the simulations - no matter how useful it might be. It was the AI that she wanted. Presently, the computer acted on a model of the
Kodiak
’s re-entry, the same burning wreckage that the Fleet Admiral mentioned.

She needed an opponent whose movements she could not predict. For all of her training and all of her crew’s training, there was nothing that compared to a simulation against an advanced AI, except perhaps a real life encounter with the EXOs.

“Understood Fleet Admiral,” Echo said. Her voice indicated acceptance of reprimand. “Perhaps, if it is okay with the Fleet Admiral, we can still get an AI?”” she said.

Fleet Admiral Clark’s face lost some of its redness and her scowl was replaced with a wry grin, “Clever girl. Alright, you can have your AI, but …” she paused.

“Do not even think about putting the EXO virus into it. I will shut you and your entire crew down. Is that understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Echo said.

 

10:
AI

 

 

Quintar IV - EFNF Alpha Base: Training Simulator

2973 ESD - Thursday, May 27th 07:55 hours

 

Echo decided not to mention the modifications she had made to the simulation. Primarily, she withheld the introduction of the AI she had adapted from the EFNF DINA model. A nervous pit had grown in her gut. Echo knew that her team was coming off of a win and she was likely throwing them a nasty curve. She worried that it would be too much at once, but steeled herself.

This has to happen,
she thought.
Either we find a way through it, or we die … again.

Echo entered the crew locker room. As she undressed, she could not help but feel she was being watched. She attributed it to the cameras monitoring every movement across the compound.

Something is off
, she thought.

Echo finished clothing herself in the flimsy simulation clothing and entered the sim room. As she entered Echo considered giving her team a small indication of the changes. She sat down in the sim pod and adjusted the view-screen to access commander notes.

Echo entered a short message for the crew as she sealed herself in the pod. She continued transcribing the information as she lay motionless. The pod interpreted her thoughts and allowed a brief message to display to her team members’ stations. Although they would not likely see it until they engaged their own training sim pods, she felt it was necessary.

‘Team,’ the note began. ‘There are some significant changes made to the simulations. I have adjusted the input and output settings. Additionally, we will be experiencing some variations in the simulation itself. I want each of you to be prepared for a vastly different simulation.’ Echo paused to collect her thoughts.

‘Please bear in mind this is an exercise in testing your adaptability. Out there in space, there is nothing we can be wholly prepared for. As such I am not giving you further explanation and I shall allow the simulation to reveal what challenges it will.’

She signed the note as Captain Echo Shade and closed the pod receiver. If that was not enough to engage their minds in the proper direction she did not know if they were going to survive within the confines of an actual space encounter.

 

* * * *

 

Six Remington did not care for the simulation pods, nor the clothing that went with them. He considered this as he dressed in the crew locker room. He always felt a bit too confined within the pod.

The military had been his entire life, and the pods felt out of place, lacking the realism of training he was used to. Master Chief Petty Officer Remington felt the computer had become predictable and it nettled him. He had made his observations known to the Fleet Admiral, but she dismissed him. She went a step further and directed him to his CO, Echo Shade.

Flakking hell
, he thought. A
t this rate the EXOs will eat us alive.

He considered his complaints and he considered voicing them to Echo as he had been instructed. However, Six was still unsure of Echo. He was sure she was capable, but she was not the war hero that he signed on for.

Abel had known his father and had flown with him in what was Ares Remington’s last flight. He admired Captain Cain and it had been an honor to serve with him. However, he felt that Echo was untested. He was sure she had been sleeping with Abel, which unnerved him further. Six was not sure if that was jealously though.

Six figured he could tolerate Echo’s leadership, but only if she started to show some. Up until now, she had been more of a figurehead than a leader. At best, Six considered Captain Shade XO material - at best. An XO without a commanding officer was rarely up to snuff and if they were, they were usually the CO instead.

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
12.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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