Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II (7 page)

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
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The primary goal had been to raise an army of intelligent beings slaved to their will. The Auron Intellis had been their first attempt. However, the artificial intelligence had been too unpredictable when linked with others. It had failed in its task to enslave the Quintarrans and compel them to become warriors. In addition to the failure a remnant of Quintarrans never took nanites into their system thus preventing the AI from controlling them. The Vald wished something more from their creations.

When the AI was trapped on Quintar V it was cut off from the Vald and the would-be dominators turned their sights elsewhere. They hid among the Remnant, manipulating politics as they could. Progress was slow and Aurora grew bored with hiding. When the humans arrived the Vald seized upon an opportunity. They manipulated the Quintarrans causing scans to reveal the humans to the Remnant.

Much of the prejudice from the humans towards the Quintarrans did not need to be fueled. Aurora recalled the elation the Vald felt at this. It was so easy to manipulate a species already bred for war. When the human, Abel, freed the Auron Intellis the Vald exploited the event. The result was the war between the humans and the AI controlled Quintarrans.

Aurora stepped to the mirror in her room. It was full size and she could see every curve of herself. She admired the reflection. She had taken the form of a human this time. The ability to blend in was her primary asset, the Vald had seen to that. How could one infiltrate if your form as a spindly six limbed creature was immediately recognizable? The Vald answered that question by creating the artificial constructs capable of matching their appearance to that of a species. The Aurora Intellis was particularly designed with blending in mind.

She finished her makeup and testing batting her eyes. She knew she was attractive and she suspected this would give her an advantage when she sought out Abel. He had left the EFNF, but he had not left Quintar IV. She suspected that it had to do with his vessel being destroyed. The Vald had recovered it under the guise of assisting the EFNF. Of course no one knew it was the Vald. The framework of the ship sat in a hangar not too far away.

The Vald desired that she give it back to Abel and allow him to rebuild it, no matter the cost. She didn’t understand why, but it was not hers to question. Aurora descended the stairs. Abel had been frequenting many of the pubs in the spaceport. She had taken a room at this inn to see if she could catch him entering one of the nearby pubs.

Aurora had gotten used to the stares from the spacers. Many ogled her openly, while others tried to make a show of modesty. In either case she enjoyed the game, none could match her and none would want to once they knew what she was. She stepped into the lobby and exited through the front door. After crossing the street Aurora leaned against a wall trying to blend into the surroundings. She waited for a large part of the day, without any sign of Abel.

She did this for several days until she caught sight of him. The man was tall and lithe, although still well-muscled. His hair remained cut short and he had a five o’clock shadow. His piercing blue-green eyes scanned the crowd. As his eyes swung toward her, she turned her head. She did not want to be caught staring at him. Aurora had a plan to approach him, but it did not involve Abel’’s prior knowledge.

A Quintarran passed her by and she reached out to grab his arm. The man turned and started, “Tahw era uoy gniod?” He spoke.
What are you doing?

“E deen ruoy pleh,” Aurora said in perfect Quintarran. “E eveileb taht saw Cain Abel.” She said pointing at Abel.
I need your help. I believe that was Abel Cain.

The Quintarran looked and his eyes widened. He nodded vigorously and started in the human’s direction. In his hero worship the Quintarran seemed to have forgotten that Aurora had asked for help. It was no matter to her. She had the effect she had wanted. The Quintarran was now seeking out Abel. She would be able to approach without Abel seeing her first.

She followed the Quintarran into the same pub as Abel. She moved in the shadows offered by the dim lighting and watched as the awkward human exchanged words with the Quintarran. She almost laughed at the incredulous look on his face when the man raised Abel’s arm into the air chanting Cain Abel. Aurora watched and waited for the proper moment to approach him.

 

6:
ICARUS

 

 

Deep Space - EFNF Allied Mining Freighter - Icarus

2973 ESD - Friday, May 14th 03:00 hours

 

The large vessel floated through the dark system a few parsecs towards the center of the Quintar Prime galactic ring. The inner systems were still mostly uncharted, but ambitious captains still took their ships out looking for anything that could help humanity and the Quintarran people survive. There was always the threat of EXO attacks or pirates, but the rewards were great too. The human captain of the mining freighter
Icarus
stood on the bridge of his ship and watched the Transteel viewer. He listened to the voice of his second in command.

“How did you find this place Ivan?” A lithe woman with greasy black hair and too-high cheekbones sat down unceremoniously. “It is as dark as the devil’’s teeth, do you think--”

“Ima, please,” Captain Ivan Straught cut her off. “I’m thinking.””

“Not much else to do I guess,” Ima Straught pouted.

The duo had joined the Exodus Union years ago when they were new starship captains. The EU had needed mining vessels and they were offering a new beginning. Ivan and Ima were adventurers and still rookie miners, but they had been selected. Ima thought back to when they’d joined and wished she had declined the offer. She knew that if she declined Ivan would have too.

“No,” Ivan began. “There is not much else to do.”

“We could…” Ima let it hang.

“The crew,” Ivan said.

He didn’t need to turn around to see the disappointed frown on his wife’s face. She had always been forward and he had always been shy. He understood her needs, but sometimes he didn’t feel in the mood. It was a frustrating thing for him and for Ima. He shook his head trying to get his mind back on what he had been focusing on before. Each kilometer they covered mapped the systems in this galaxy. Each mapped system created a better understanding of what resources and worlds were available.

The particular mission of the
Icarus
was to scout unknown systems and build new routes. Ivan saw opportunity in charting new systems. Doing this he would have the first opportunity to mine untapped resources. The
Icarus
was equipped to handle solid metals as hard as magnesium. The primary function of his vessel was to mine the tough metal so important in creating alloys. He didn’t understand what the scientists did with the metals he mined. He didn’t much care what they did with it as long as he got paid.

Ima, bless her soul,
he thought.

Ivan thought of the hardships he had put his wife through and the long stretches of lonely space he dragged her through. He was amazed every cycle that she stayed with him. He was an angry and belligerent idiot at the best of times. Ivan knew he was a jerk most of the time and more often than not his wife was the recipient for his harsh tongue. He had never hit her, but he sometimes hated how he acted. Ima, of course, was the very soul of patience. She had shown him enough grace that he loved her all the more for it.

“What are you thinking?” Ima leaned back and put her feet up on the console.

“I’m a jerk,” Ivan chuckled.

“No argument here,” Ima said glibly. “But you’re my jerk.””

Ivan chuckled again then turned back to the Transteel viewer. A small blip beckoned from the screen. Ivan looked up and saw the indicator that a small asteroid field had been located less than a few light-seconds away.

“Egad! We’ve got something Ima,” Ivan twisted on his heel and ran to his captain’s chair. “Go and get the crew for me love”

Ima grinned, “I love seeing you like this,” she stood and moved to the comms station. “Attention crew, prepare for asteroid docking. Prime the mining lasers.””

Ima looked back to her husband and smiled. Ivan didn’t notice as he was focused on restarting the primary engines for a burn towards the asteroid belt. The boyish excitement on his face brought another smile to Ima.

I love that idiot,
she thought.

 

* * * *

 

Inner System Asteroid Belt - Icarus

2973 ESD -- Friday, May 14th 07:21 hours

 

The
Icarus
’ engines were powered down and the vessel was anchored to a large asteroid. The mining laser extended from the belly of the square-like freighter and bored into the rock. The cargo hold sat open with the doors folded under. Large electromagnets drew up the lasered minerals.

Ivan sat in his captain’s chair on the command deck with his hands behind his head and watched the statistics. Power output from the laser and electromagnets and the amount of mineral weight collected. They would have to review the molecular structure of the minerals once they were collected. Ima would work to get the system to sort through the mineral content as they made their way back to the Quintar Prime system.

For several more hours the crew maintained and reviewed the laser output. Ivan and Ima took time for themselves while the crew worked. The starless system had taken a toll on everyone and none more than Ivan and Ima. As they both dressed, the klaxons began to blare across the ship.

Ivan pulled on his shirt and rushed to the command deck. He rushed into see the entire Transteel screen flashing red.

CRITICAL SYSTEM MALFUNCTION

CRITICAL SYSTEM MALFUNCTION

HEAT SHIELDING AT 15%

“Flak!” Ivan ran to the captain’s chair and punched in commands into the console. “What the flak is going on down there!?”

The comms crackled, but no one responded. Ivan changed the settings and switched to the emergency shutoff. He input his credentials and hit the shut off. The Transteel viewer reverted to its normal view and displayed a confirmation that the lasers had been shut down. Ivan tried the comms again.

“Crew, anyone there? This is Captain Straught, do you read?”

The comms continued to crackle and the only response he received was static. He switched comms to Ima’s Writcom, “Love, I need you up here now!”

“I’m on my way, cool it,” Ima barked.

“I’ll flakking cool it when I know what the flak is going on! Where the flak are you?” Ivan snapped.

“Right flakking behind you,” Ima said aloud.

“I need a navi-scan of the surrounding area. I need to know what the flak happened out there!”

“Calm your shit and don’t get all glitched,” Ima sat down at the scanning station.

Ivan might have been able to figure out the scanners, but in truth he wasn’t great with anything but having hunches and barking orders. It was Ima who did the real directing and navigation. Ivan had the mining crew to do the work and his wife to get them to the right place. He was the taskmaster.

The Transteel viewer changed again to display the Laser-Radar (LIDAR) scanning. A moment later they read a second signature near the bow of the
Icarus.
As far as he could tell it looked to be a gunship. The
Icarus
wasn’t much smaller than a full-fledged destroyer. However, that was because it was all cargo and mining lasers. The nature of a mining ship meant that it really had no defensive capability save for a rear kinetic turret and the mining lasers. The crew all had access to arms for protection against boarding, but not while they were outside mining. There was a two-fold reason for that. First, it kept the ability to mutiny relatively low. Second, most pirates waited until a ship finished mining before attacking.

Ivan thought about the ship on the asteroid beneath them,
if they’re pirates they’re an odd sort of pirate.

“Ima,” Ivan said breathlessly. “Open comms with that gunship.”

“You sure about that babe? EXO virus spreads through comms,” Ima warned.

“If they were EXO we’d be dead and that’d be a Vulture back out there,” Ivan said.

Ima considered it for a moment then nodded, “I am hailing them now love,” she paused. “You have a channel.”

“This is Captain Ivan Straught of the EFNF Mining Vessel
Icarus
. Identify yourself.”

“I am Abel Cain,” the voice came back over the comms. “And I am commandeering your fuel and power reserves.”

“The hell you are!” Ivan spat. He had heard the rumors of the
Kodiak
and Abel Cain, most freighters had. However, they were pretty far out for the trade routes and dark space where he was rumored to be.

“Are you going to stop me?” the voice said.

How could we?
Ivan thought.

“I didn’t think so,” the voice said when Ivan didn’t respond.

Ima looked at her husband. There was real fear on her face and Ivan couldn’t reassure her.

“If you do not resist I will leave you with backup power,” the voice said. “It won’t last long, but maybe it will be long enough for another ship to find you … maybe.”

BOOK: Atlas: Infinity Verge Trilogy: Book II
7.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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