Hello My Imaginary Friends,
Since I missed the update for April, here’s a bonus chapter.
Chapter 4.5: All About Stars and Shapes
“I wanted to be a soldier not a repair-person,” Jan said, giving Mr. Plentyn a tool.
“Consider yourself part of the volunteer engineering corps,” her replied dryly.
Jan laughed and said, “I should be out there with the pilots.”
They stood in one of eight shield generating rooms. In theory, if one failed the others covered the difference. They should have been able to have minimal shields with only two functioning generators. None of them were working.
“Aern. We’ve lost control of the engines.” The commander’s voice was calm but barely controlled.
“If you just yell out everything that breaks, it distracts me from actually fixing anything.” There was no response from the commander.
After a few minutes of poking things with tools, he swore and said, “I can’t tell what’s going on.”
“What do you mean? You could re-build these systems from scratch.” Seren knew her father was an one of the best engineers in the fleet. He’d turned down multiple job offers in the station design corps for engineers. He said it was because he loved the challenge but she was fairly certain it was because he missed her mother and this reminded him of the time they used to do it together.
“Everything is working at peak performance, some of the systems are working better than they should. But those that are down aren’t broken. It’s like they just don’t understand what to do.”
Groaning, Jan said, “So it’s a code problem.”
“In that the hardware is fine, yes. I just don’t know how to get the station to do what I tell it.”
“Too bad you can’t bribe it. My little sister wouldn’t come out of her room in the morning if it wasn’t for her favourite cereal.”
“I suppose I could offer it some computer chips,” Mr. Plentyn said with a chuckle.
The three of them laughed and then he turned back to the computer with a sigh. He started tapping at the controls in a vain attempt to coax the station to function the way it was supposed to.
Seren couldn’t understand what was wrong. The AI seemed fine on the surface but what about the message they found? The message that was being transmitted through subspace modulations of the shields repeated, “fear, pain, death,” over and over.
“Dad. Can an AI feel pain?”
Looking weary and a little confused he said, “Not that I know of. You could have it programed to simulate pain but that would be cruel.”
“Is there any system that’s alive?”
“Not that I know of, except the bacteria that makes the memory banks.”
“Are there any old systems that were recycled?”
He stopped looked at her and his eyes went wide. “The micro-star. I haven’t been able to figure out how it was made or why it’s so efficient. Oh Black-of-Void.”
Jan looked between the two and asked, “Sorry for those of us that don’t speak techy?”
Feeling sick to her stomach, Seren said, “If an intelligent creature were used as a powersource they could create all of these issues. The Sun’s alive.”
It was another few hours before anything else happened. They stayed in position protecting the station from the mysterious star-shaped ships that weren’t moving. All Annie wanted was to go find out more about that planet. It looked lush and green from her viewport. The other side of the station from the planet was a small white dwarf star. It was as close to the planet as a typical moon.
Despite it draining her fuel, Annie activated her scanners. The planet was a typical class M with slightly higher gravity. The sun revolved around the planet. On the surface, there were signs of a long gone civilization.
The universe was an impossibly large place but the Children of the Stars had been travelling since they left their little planet. They’d catalogued hundreds of millions of planets and the preponderance of life was staggering. It seemed that despite being fragile and impossible to believe, life was incredibly common. Intelligent life sprung up everywhere.
Civilizations unfortunately had a habit of burning out before they’d taken to the stars. The Children were some of the handful of space-based lifeforms. It made that the Children had a fantastic amount of archaeologists, anthropologists, and diplomats. Beyond that, it meant that each citizen had a gluttonous curiosity about other civilizations.
The readings showed a civilization that had either died out or left a long time ago. The plant life from the planet had reclaimed every possible surface. It was under a massive mound of ancient trees that Annie’s scanners picked up a massive structure. It was the size of the station, made of an alloy that had resisted the elements and survived for millions of years.
When the computer showed her an image of the building she gasped. It was an eight point star, just like the ships outside. Why weren’t they moving to the planet, it must be their home world, or at least a world where their people had once been?
“Echo Leader. This is Echo 2. I’ve been scanning the planet. I know I shouldn’t waste the fuel. There’s a structure down there showing a minimal amount of power that’s shaped just like these ships.”
“Echo 2, conserve fuel and standby. Let the techs and archaeologists take care of the planet.”
To herself and off the coms she muttered, “Seren would have a field day down there.”
Settling down for a long wait, she concentrated on her thoughts and the data in front of her. She didn’t see Alpha 4 lose control until she heard his screams. “I’ve lost all power. My batteries are not responding. I’m going down.”
All the ships were equipped with grappling hooks and matter tracktor beams but she was too far to react. She watched helplessly as the ship fell towards the station. Just as it looked like he was going to destroy a large part of the rings, a Star-Ship (they obviously weren’t pirates) swooped passed the defendars and caught Alpha 4 in a beam of light.
While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial story: