Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 3


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Chapter 3: Mysterious Sludge and Searching Code

“Blood!” Jan exclaimed.

“Blood isn’t dark brown and drippy at the same time,” Seren sighed. Her suit for her job of walking the outside of Hokulua station to find leaks, had been filed with some strange liquid. Everyone had panicked and the supervisor called security and given them the day off.

“What do you think it is then, smarty?”

“I have no idea.” Seren smiled mischievously.

“You didn’t?”

“I snuck a sample while everyone was panicking.”

Jan laughed and shook their head before asking, “You’re going to investigate aren’t you?” Then added, “I suddenly have a free day so I’m coming with.”

As they headed to the pods, Seren sent her father a message. Work cancelled. Need a hand?

They were half way to his lab before he replied, Sure.

They were almost at his lab when the lighting darkened and the screens in the corridor showed a red alert.

“Attention Hokulua station. We have been attacked by and repelled pirates. The station is in lockdown until further notice. Please stay in your homes or work areas while we assess the situation.”

“Hey Dad. Whoa… what’s going on?” Seren was shocked at the massive pile of spare electronics and junk in the center of her father’s lab.

“Hey kids. This was the original pod and stasis for Hoku. I’m trying to compare the code to what we have now to see what happened. There’s no way we can hand over the everyday functions of this station to a faulty AI.”

“Okay… can we use some equipment for a special project?”

“You stole a sample from the mystery suit?” Her father didn’t miss much. “Go ahead and don’t look surprised. I have spies everywhere.”

Seren giggled. He meant it literally. He had created a series of linked micro-robots that would crawl the air ducts, sewage, and water to make sure everything was clean and, in theory, find any leaks or issues. Unfortunately the station seemed to randomly fry them. He probably knew about the suit because he was dating the structural engineer who was in charge of the space walks.

Getting a chemical breakdown of the substance would take about an hour and then it would take time for the computer to give a list of possible results. When she’d gotten it started, she asked, “Anything we can do?”

“I could use a second pair of eyes with this code,” he replied. When he saw Jan’s eyes widen with horror he added, “And someone to try and put this stuff back together.” He gestured to the pile of computer parts that housed the original AI. “I took it apart to see if anything had been tampered with. It hadn’t.” He sounded dejected.

Sitting down with a tablet, Seren put the two codes next to each other. After a few minutes of staring at code and trying to tell the difference between natural evolutions, faulty, junk, and malicious code; her eyes started to swim. “Dad. Why didn’t you just write an AI to find any faulty code?”

“I did. It came back corrupted and asking me if I knew the difference between a fish and frigate.”

Eyes glazing over, she let her mind wander. This was too much code to look at; it was like trying to find a planet in a dark solar system from a quadrant away. She needed to narrow it down.

“What were you working on, this morning, when it gave you that weird phrase?” she asked her Dad.

“I was trying to tweak the power consumption on the docking bays. They’re taking as much energy as the ships engines and I don’t get why.” He didn’t say anything more, just went back to his work.

The docking bay doors were a very simple system with only two components, an air shield and a door opening. She pulled up both sets of code and isolated them.

“Analysis complete,” Hoku station said and made everyone jump.

“Thank you Hoku. Can you tell me what it is?”

“The compound has cocoa, sugar, milk, and flour. Best answer is that it’s a form of space based Cetacean.”

“Hoku… you just gave us the recipe of chocolate pudding and then said it was a space whale.”

“That is correct. It’s all about the cetaceans.” The statement was completely ridiculous. All three of them couldn’t help but laugh.

When they’d stopped giggling, Mr. Plentyn said, “I’ll tell Martin to let me know what his investigation shows. Could be pudding, could be whale, could be bearing grease for all this thing knows.” He tapped the computer console.

It was more code staring and sighs of frustration. Jan had almost finished re-assembling when Seren saw something.

“It’s the shields that are taking the energy. They’re modulating at a subspace frequency.”

“Does it repeat?” He took her tablet and worked on it quickly. The shields were transmitting their position but the exact message was odd.

“It keeps repeating, ‘fear, pain, death,’ over and over again.”

“What could that mean?” said Jan.

No one had the chance to answer because the intercom blared. “Violet alert. We have incoming hostiles. Everyone prepare for combat.”

Mr. Plentyn gave them each a repair kit and said, “You’ve been recruited to help with damage.”

“Aern, why in the Mother-of-Stars are all our defences down? I need weapons and shields, NOW!”

Read Chapter 4 in April


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Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 2


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Chapter 2: Asteroids and Pirates

Stars filled her view screen and Annie sighed. Space was beautiful. Reluctantly she manoeuvred the little fighter back towards the debris field and her next target.

Hokulua Station had shields that would deflect most debris but with a micro-star at its core, it generated enough gravity to pull stray asteroids and rubble with it. Small fighter ships were used to defend the station against big impacts. There were also occasional pirates or planet-hopping wildlife.

“Hokulua tower, I’m on vector to my next target.”

“Roger that Echo 2. Make it snappy, you have your other job to get to.”

The next target was an asteroid the size of a living quarter. Her scans showed that the asteroid was mostly water which would require a wide beam plasma blast. But it wasn’t moving right.

“Tower. Target is moving slower than expected. Can I get a proper scan from Astrometrics?” Annie wished that her older brother James was at the coms. He’d have listened.

“Echo 2, a second scan isn’t necessary. Blow that thing and come home.” Just as she expected, the old man just wanted to get the job done.

“Negative tower. Scans are indicating water but-”

Tower cut her off with, “No Buts, child. Just do your damn job.”

“I’m sorry tower. Without a second scan I’m going to do a scoop-and-shoot.” That old man would rather risk the station than be a few minutes late. Annie was convinced there was something off with the asteroid.

“Stop showboating and destroy that asteroid or I swear to the Eater-Of-Stars you’ll never fly again.”

A scoop-and-shoot maneuver was exactly what it sounded like. She’d fly by the asteroid and then extend the little ships shields. It would scoop the asteroid and she could move it away from the station. Once it was at a safe distance she’d shoot it.

It was a tricky thing to accomplish. Annie swung back around and started to follow the asteroid, matching its speed and direction. She needed to be right on top of the thing to catch it in her shield. The darned thing was moving really slow and she almost bumped it.

It was made harder by the swearing and insults from the tower.

“Tower, this is hard enough without you berating me. I request radio silence.”

“Echo 3, here. I second Echo 2. Shut up tower.”

“Echo 4 agrees with the other Echos.” The rest of the Echos agreed.

She’d forgotten that she wasn’t alone out here. There were a half dozen other ships. She appreciated their backup.

The asteroid took much less force than it should have to move. She overdid the throttle and went twice as far as she should have.

“Tower. I have completed scoop and I’m moving to a safe distance to shoot.”

The normal safe distance is fifty times the size of the object but in this case she doubled it. She shot a short direct plasma blast at the edge of the asteroid. If it was water filled, like the scanners said, it would chip off a corner and nothing else. If it was what she suspected, it was going to explode.

A piece chipped off and Annie sighed. “Tower. I have-” she was cut off by the shockwave from the exploding asteroid. It tossed her ship towards the station with such power that her vision blurred and she thought she was going to lose consciousness.

Everything was ringing and it took a while before she could hear the station Tower. When she could hear clearly she heard her brother James, “Echo 2, do you copy?” He sounded worried.

“Echo 2 here. Tower I copy.”

“Echo 2 get control of your ship. We have bogies incoming.” The ship was spinning like a grounder in zero-g for the first time. She gently took control and directed it away from a crash course with the station.

“Tower. Did you say bogies?”

“Yes. Echo 2. Form up with the rest of Echo wing and get out there.”

The attacks from pirates were rare and Annie had the seconds it took her to meet up with her squad to wonder at the coincidence of the timing. If she’d been at the regular safe distance for a scoop-and-shoot, there would be a hole in the station. That’s not to mention if she’d listened to tower.

Echos were the only squad out there. They didn’t have a regular patrol or military presence. They were so far out from colonised space that no one expected an attack. If they’d showed up just ten minutes later there would have been no one around.

“Echo squad. This is Echo leader. We don’t have to win this one, we just have to make sure no one dies. We hold them back until Alpha squad can come clean up.”

The battle was a blur of ships, asteroids, blasters, and commands. After it was done, Annie barely remembered any of it. They’d been lucky that the Pirates had only sent a scouting party. A few clean shots to their ships and they turned tail and ran.

If they’d come in a destroyer sized ship, the station wouldn’t have been able to defend itself.

As she peeled off her flight suit, James came up to her his brow furrowed in anger. “What the black-hole were you thinking?” His reddish-purple eyes, exact copies of hers, glowed with frustration.

“Something was off and I asked for a second scan. I followed procedure until that mouthy space-monkey tried to cut corners. I was right, too. If I’d followed orders we’d have lost a ring or worse.”

He pulled her into a hug and said, “You scared me, sis.” After a pause, he added, “I’ll check the logs and talk to the bosses. But until a full review, you’re grounded. Except for space walks.”

She’d forgotten about her second job. She hoped repelling space pirates was a good enough excuse.

Read Chapter 3


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