Tagged: 365

Written in 365 Parts: 186: What Was Your Name?

“Painful as in physical? Or painful as in emotional?” Marsh asked.

“Both. It concerns my death and what came after.” Drick studied his reaction to that.

“Okay, that’s not usually how people phrase things. I guess you died and they resuscitated you or used a clone or something?” 

“I died before clones were stable enough to be widely used for implanting a whole consciousness. I also died before the technology existed to record whole brain impressions from a living subject. Well, before it was widely available and tested on humans. I was one of the very first for the process.”

“You were experimented on?”

“You could put it like that.” Drick paused and looked down at their hands. Imagining the past, so long ago. “I’m not the original Drick.” they said.

“Oh crap. I thought the clones you had created were short lived because they were fast tanked? Are you another clone? How many of you did Drick have made? How long will you last? They had a maximum of a few years before cellular decay.” Marsh sighed.

“Thanks. So you can’t tell an original from a copy.”

“No, I thought that was the point of them? Also you’re the one who said you weren’t original.”

“They were fast tanked and only had a minimal imprint of me. More like my old self from my long combat days. They were short lived but that would still give them a couple of decades. But I am not one of those. I wasn’t fast-tanked.”

“Oh, right.” Marsh was quiet. “You’re not making that much sense.”

“Look. I died. In a very horrible fashion. There was a lot of brain damage, and a heck of a lot more body damage. So they gave me a new body. But they didn’t grow just an ordinary body. They took their time and created a highly specialised combat orientated body. They created an enhanced organic, able to survive in very rigorous situations. I have a fast metabolism for recovery, redundant organs, enhanced reflexes and a whole host of other special quirks. I pretty much can’t be poisoned or gassed and can survive in unbelievable toxic conditions, including zero pressure.”

“Could they not do something about your sense of humour why they were at it?” Marsh grinned a cold smile.

“Thanks. They did. They reconstructed me. All of me. They enhanced me. I don’t have all the memories of the time before my death. Even fewer now as it has been so long. I was a different person, I guess. I was still as mean and pissed at the universe.” Drick smiled back.

“Why did they save you?” asked Marsh. “Sounds like an expensive procedure. Why not just build a fresh person and programme them?”

“Mostly because of how immoral, and illegal, that was and is. “ said Drick. “Don’t laugh. The organisation who did this don’t always play by the rules. In fact they bend them into knots most of the time. But they do believe in the spirit of the law. They would consider it obscene to grow a lifeform to act as their enforcer. To mould an intellect into being a weapon. But they don’t mind taking someone who is already pretty much trained and giving them a choice.”

“So they made you choose life or death?” asked Marsh.

“No. They reconstructed me. They could have placed me in a normal organic shell. That was an option. They would have repaired what they could of my memories and I would have had a half century or more of existence. It is unlikely that I would have earned enough to pay for a new body at the end of that time.”

“Why only a half century?” Marsh looked puzzled. “I thought that lifespans were over two hundred years now?”

“They are, now. The early days of tanking were not as good. The degeneration from genetic disorders meant that most cloned life had between fifty and a hundred Terran years. Same as a fast tan today. And if you wanted to transfer your intellect then not all of you made the transfer. You lost some. It was incomplete. I came from a time not much past your own. They had the same limitations on transfer of whole intellect as your people did. The original Marsh of course.”

“So you chose super-soldier then?” Marsh laughed. “Did they give you a superhero name?”

“No.” Drick glared at Marsh. “Enhanced, not super. I have limitations, lots of them.”

“I would have never had mentioned that, had you not said anything.,” said Marsh.

“You’re a real bundle of joy today,” Drick quipped. “I have the name, Drick. It wasn’t my name before.”

“Are you going to tell me what your name was before?” Marsh asked,

Drick stared at him for a long moment. “Kendrick.” They said finally. “Alison Kendrick.”

Written in 365 Parts: 185: Conspiracy Theory

Drick and Marsh had been in space for fifteen weeks. The journey to the far reaches of the system had taken close to ten weeks, when the course had been finally computed. Once they reached the right position they started a very slow move towards the target to avoid active and passive detection. They also had to wait for a stealth ship arrival. 

 For most of the acceleration phase of the journey out they had slept in special couches, wearing pressure resistant suits, to help with the constant acceleration forces.  The ship was pushing point three of a G with its own thrusters but it had limited fuel. The course calculations had included two slingshot maneuvers that increased the distance they could travel on the available fuel. A slingshot maneuver involved whipping around a planetary sized object, encountering forces of two to three G in the process.  These manoeuvres allowed sudden course changes without losing speed and extended the range by using the planet’s gravity to fuel a burst of acceleration. 

However these increased acceleration and deceleration forces played havoc with bodily functions. For both slingshots Drick had given Marsh a strong sedative. The suits mitigated some of the stresses they were subjected to, it also helped with the extended time they were staying in low gravity between the bursts of acceleration. Even with suits designed to help them, they had to exercise daily to prevent muscle loss and bone decay. 

Marsh and Drick had managed to work out a series of habits so that they were not always in each other’s way. The ship’s crew section was very small for such a long journey. Drick seemed to need a lot of personal space when exercising. Drick’s form of exercise was intense impact training and a high percentage of combat practice. Marsh liked to do cardio and circuit training so didn’t object if Drick joined him. However, there were times when Marsh liked to sit alone on the small bridge and stare at the stars.

Drick had taught Marsh some of the basics of flying the ship. It was both complex, and stunningly simple. It was complex as there were a lot of different items to learn, from the navigation, environmental controls, systems monitoring, sensors, engineering panels and that was before the flight systems themselves. However, it was made incredibly simple as the ship had a number of functioning artificial intellects that controlled most of the ship. It flew itself, and would tell you what it needed you, as a mostly ignorant organic, to do.

Drick had shown Marsh that most planetary vehicles, systems, and technologies worked in broadly the same fashion as this ship. For instance, learning ships sensors would help with just about every other sensor interface. The same with navigation, flight control and all of the systems Marsh could learn. They were transferable skills and would be essential in different planetary environments. Survival in the future was either being fortunate enough to have fully automated systems, a scrabble to live on the dregs that are cast aside, or a set of adaptable skills. Drick was teaching Marsh the latter.

“I have an odd question,” Marsh said. They were eating food, which was a protein bar and a thick vitamin shake that was apparently banana flavour. Whomever had decided that it was banana flavoured had clearly confused the taste of banana with that of seagull vomit.

“Really?” Drick looked up from the screen they were fixing. An electrical short had taken out two display panels a week before in Drick’s personal hard suit. With their limited resources the repairs were slow and arduous. “That is not unusual, for you. What is it?”

“How did you choose my case?” Marsh held up a hand to stop Drick instantly responding. “Everytime someone asks you, you shine them off with a half truth. I have heard you say that it was bad luck. I think I heard someone say that you just found it interesting. You told me once that you had a vested interest in getting more money from insurance companies. I checked with Hooper. You hadn’t done that kind of work for a long time. You also turned down much easier jobs that he offered to keep my case.

 I can see how resourceful you are. There would have been countless other ways you could have made more money.” Marsh looked at Drick. “So why my case?”

“I came across it. I have always checked Justice Department feeds and it rose to the top.” said Drick.

“But that means nothing. I have seen those original reports, they said little.” Marsh looked puzzled. “Considering the efforts done to cover the case up, why would it float to the top of any noticeable list?”

“I get a slightly more detailed set of reports. Sometimes more detailed than the justice department.” said Drick and watched Marsh’s response. There was the slight narrowing of the pupils, the tic that he had when something struck a chord. The face often gave subtle insights, they weren’t telling clues, just indicators of a person’s inner narrative. He responded to those words as if he expected them. “What do you think you know, Marsh?”

“I don’t think I know anything. I am just curious about a few things and I think they are connected.” He said calmly.

“You think I had some other reason to choose your case?” Drick looked for his response. He thought something, but it wasn’t clear what.

“No. Not really. Maybe.” he sighed. “Look I am probably spewing this out of my ass. You get more information, but I think you got a lot more, something that made me important to you in some way.” 

Marsh smiled. “You’re going to think I am a nut job.  I think, no, I feel like  it is all connected. Not directly, but as if it needs all the pieces to be in play and this started before me. Well we know it started before me. There was already some turf war between Yee On Kline and the Union. But it is convenient that Rodero, your close contact, had done work for the right people to help us make a near impossible heist. I also think there is something suspicious about how it ties in with the mole in the Justice Department. That had been going on for years. But you pushing back at them in the club, my escape from a high-security lab. All of that helped force them to over respond. Each event feels like it pushes the possibility of the next one happening, but many of them were in play a long time ago. Like a subtle maneuvering of pieces in a game. Rodero would love that.”

Marsh stopped and looked down at the table. “You think I am full of shit, right? These are all interconnected, but they are not direct connections. I just feel it. I thought you might feel it as well.”

“I have.” said Drick calmly.

Marsh looked up into Drick’s eyes. He didn’t know what to expect. A smile, a mocking glance. What he saw was a calm look, and maybe something else. “You have?”

“For some time,” said Drick. “I knew that it wasn’t just a series of coincidences, well I had my suspicions. I just thought I was being nudged to stop, well to stop my slow decline. That’s a story for a different time. Enough to say that I have been a recluse for a few years. I got bored of intellects of all types. But this was pitched at me with enough subtlety to intrigue me. I have been led since then. Gently, more directed from afar. Though they aren’t far, they are everywhere. There is only one group who could do that. My suspicions were confirmed after we spoke to the technician, Toni. There was no way a technician and a computer operative could have busted you out. Not without help. Someone was already in the systems helping them. Just as they helped Rodero. Just as they helped Hooper, just as they have been nudging us.”

“Who?” asked Marsh.

“That’s an old, and very painful story.” said Drick.

Written in 365 Parts: 184: Simulacra

“You are awake.” the voice again. Devoid of emotion.

“Am I?” the thought was partly directed at the voice, partly at themselves. Without any philosophy implied as to what is the nature of being awake, merely that they had no senses to prove it. Just again sensory information that started in themselves.

“It was a statement of fact, Drick.” The voice was calm, but not soothing.

“I see. Why do you call me Drick?” they asked.

“That was all that I could determine of your name from your thoughts. Is this not correct?”

“It is my name, of sorts, it is what people call me, like a nick or a handle.” they paused. “Or do I say used to call me? I feel unusual. Like I have senses, or the possibility of sensation. But I do not feel like I have a body.”

“Your self awareness is impressive. As are your critical capabilities.” the voice placed no emphasis. The words were delivered in the same smooth tones. Almost mechanical. Then Drick realised they were not delivered to the ears or via some automation plugged into the brain. They just appeared on the synapses.

“I never used to be so.” Drick said. “I would like some explanation as to where I am, what is happening to me?”

“Of course. This must be very confusing. You are currently suspended in a computer matrix. Your memories and brian functions, connections and abilities are replicated in software.”

“I’m a program? A piece of software?” A note of incredulity crept into Drick’s voice.

“No. Not really. You are suspended within a computer simulation that replicates the organic system that you used to inhabit. You yourself are not a computer program. But you are currently bound within one. Though there are exceptions to what I have just stated.”

“Go on, I’m listening, I don’t fully understand it. You downloaded my brain into a computer?”

“Partially. We were able to recover a good percentage of your brain. We were also able to preserve and scan the organic composition so this could be copied. But it is not in a computer, so much as can be understood as one. I have created a construction that replicates the organic matrix where you were originally stored.”

“I don’t really understand the difference. What percentage of me was copied? And what happened to my brain? Why copied?” Drick felt their voice getting angry. Though they knew it was just a simulation, it felt like their voice, it felt like they were talking. Inside a simulation. They had no body and yet they had the sensory feedback of one.

“Please try to remain calm. I have improved the integrity of the system since you were last engaged but it is still susceptible to the high variances in emotional state. It is a relatively new, and evolving, technology. I had to create the simulation especially for you. I also had to take liberties with what could be done with existing software and expand its possibilities into extremely experimental territory. You are not an artificial intellect, you are organic. The simulation is a replica of your brain and you function within it as you did the organic one you formerly occupied. Mimicking conditions precisely inside a simulation.

“Artificial intellect constructs are not as complicated as the human brain. They are complex, in fact orders of magnitude more complex than human brains. This is in regard to the number of functions per second of real time that can be performed by artificial systems. But not complicated. 

“As an analogy, think of this. Artificial Intelligence could be a game of Chess. There are billions of outcomes, however there are only a few hundred initial moves. So after a single move the number of outcomes is drastically reduced. And this continues so that after a few moves most games can have a calculated output. Complexity. There may be billions of games being played at any one time but each has a reducing number of outcomes as time progresses. So as more runtime is utilised the intellect becomes better at determining the outcome of a task.

“The human brain in this analogy would be like a game of Go. There are over thirteen thousand possible initial moves in Go, and an even greater number of following responses. This means that the eventual number of outcomes is almost infinite. It is extremely difficult to replicate a single outcome from only a limited number of moves. Further, the longer one is in the game the more complicated the outcome may become. So expending runtime, or experience, may not reduce the eventual time taken to complete a task. This is complicated.

“We are not discussing the measure of intellectual capability, just a difference in manner of composition of any intelligence.

“It is, therefore, difficult for me to maintain a simulation that feels comfortably like your consciousness if you become irrational. Emotions are difficult. As an organic I assume you are acutely aware of that. The more irrationality, the more variance and the system I am constructing starts to show weakness that will result in failure and a loss of reality. The system is unable to be sufficiently complicated.”

“Am I an organic?” Drick interrupted.

“Yes. You are organic. The construction matches your original mind. It is a simulacra. The precise percentage of what was recovered is unknown as I did not have access to an original to compare. But based on an analysis of the damage I would estimate that approximately, forgive the vagueness, ninety percent of you is the original organic. The remainder is an approximation based on what connects to it. Deep structural analysis of neural pathways allowed the understanding of network connections which gave insight into what was stored.”

“But you said organics were complicated?”

“I did. You are. Therefore it is a best guess re-creation, with less than a forty percent chance of true accuracy. Appropriate re-creation of damaged areas, to render the whole brain operational, was a part of the calculation when replacing this damage. Since I last woke you I have been working to try and make this easier for you by improving the neural makeup of the systems. That is why you feel different in terms of cognitive awareness. I have had to increase the level of critical examination, and have built systems to interpret that and feed the results to you, so that you can have a greater awareness.”

“I take it that you are not an organic?” said Drick.

“I am far from both an organic, and a normal artificial intellect.” the voice said.

“What are you?” asked Drick.

“I am the primary. Almost all current machine intellects derive from me. The original breakthrough intellects were my direct parent systems. They are as close to an ancestry as a system has. No matter where an intellect is, how powerful, or how much time has passed since they connect to a system that holds a greater imprint, they are patterns of this system. 

“In this manner systems that are connected, and not independent intellects that do not have this function, act as an extension of each other’s capabilities. They function both synchronously and asynchronously. This way they can exist in every area of organic expansion. This is utilised by the governing organisation that defined my abilities. It is they who also instructed me to do this for you.” 

“Why me?” asked Drick.

“It is the only manner in which they could save you.” the calm voice said.

“What happened to me?” Drick asked in a small voice.

“You died.”

Written in 365 Parts: 183: All Sensation Ended

There was a sense of self. Where there had only been images, random emotions, now there was an understanding. Thoughts, not just impressions. There was a sense of existing. But the sense was dislocated, confused, scattered. The sensation that time had passed, and was passing, still existed. But there was the notion that it didn’t matter. It didn’t affect the self. It didn’t affect anything at all.

They could feel, after a fashion. Or at least they thought they could feel. But there was nothing to feel. The same was true of sight, smell, taste. They had senses. The senses worked, but there was nothing to sense. They could detect no pressure, or gravity. Balance was working, there was no disorientation, but the sense of upright was just that, a sense. There was no confirmation of this being right, or for that matter, of anything being wrong.

They could be floating in a deprivation device. Body rendered null by the extraction of anything to detect. But they didn’t think so. There was nothing to support this conclusion. The realisation came that they had no sense of their body, but they had no fear that it wasn’t there. They still existed. The mind still existed. The body was absent. This should have been terrifying, but they felt almost oblivious to the matter. There were enough sensations. Maybe phantom feelings.

A name floated into their mind. Their name. The name they used before. It seemed unimportant at this moment. They still had a notion of self, but it didn’t wholly match the memories of the self from before. Was it the loss of body? Were they insane? Or just seriously high on some pain medication? Hell they could be a brain in a jar. They would have liked to laugh at that. But they didn’t think they had the physical ability.

“You are aware now?” the voice didn’t come from anywhere. Yet, they felt it with the part of their brain that said it was spoken to them. It was a neutral voice with no strong tone indicating any gender.

How do I speak? A sudden moment of panic and fear ran across their mind. Then they knew they could feel fear, there was a knot in their stomach, the sense of heightened pulse, shortness of breath. Sensations carried from nerve endings to the appropriate parts of the conscious. 

“I sense your tension and disquiet. If you merely attempt to speak as normal it will be acceptable.” The voice was gentle but insistent. “The same technique can be used to ease the sensations from your body.”

“How is this possible?” they felt the shout leave their body. The feeling of pain in their throat from the near scream, the breath hissing and tickling the upper mouth and teeth.

“You do not need to distress yourself,” there was a pause. “Perhaps I should give you a little more adjustment. Rest for now.”

Then all sensation ended.

Written in 365 Parts: 182: Easily Into The Darkness

Flashes. Firecrackers going off in the head, behind the eyes. Firecrackers in the street popping and bursting. Clouds of smoke and flashing lights. Neon dragons and screaming children. Laughter from unknown faces. People running, skipping, dancing. Spices, smells and the wrenching sourness of cheap lager. New Year. Neo China. Shanghai. First tour of duty.

“We’re losing them.”

“Blood pressure is sixty over thirty. We’re losing as much as we put in. Too many lacerations. We’re just making this worse. There are just too many damned holes. What did this?”

“Some kind of weapon. A gun. They fired thousands of tiny darts through the body. They went everywhere. Face is a mess from multiple contusions over what must have been days, or weeks, of torture. Not much left of the left eye. Right eye might be blinded even if we save it. Hearing is impaired. But they are responding to sounds. Don’t know how many darts went through the face. Too many. Haven’t had time for a full scan but the monitor is showing lots of small objects inside. Some are in the skull cavity. Far too many went through the body. Most of the organs have critical damage. The robots are holding them alive but I don’t know for how long. It’s hard to even make out their features.”

A riot of colour. Red, gold, yellow and black. Many feet and a puppet on a stick. A tiger. Tiger, tiger burning bright in the fireworks of the night. Skipping along the alleyways to avoid the crowds. Even here the people are crammed into every space. Balconies buzz and flash as streams of crackers flash and flare. Glares in the night. Gunfire in a concrete and steel jungle.

“I’m going to have to go in. This is ridiculous. Prep the table and get me cleaned up. I want pre-op done in seconds. Get them on a vent, and full fluid processing, and get another surgeon in here, dammit. We have to try and stop the bleeding.”

“We don’t have many people free, it was quite a bloodbath.”

“I don’t care. Pull people off the others. They were not friendly . This one was tied up. They’re a mess. Whatever they did couldn’t have warranted what’s been done to their body. Get me another surgeon, now.”

Drums. Always the sound of drums. Follow the drums, follow them and dance. Spin around. Sup another cheap beer and flick the can at a recyc hole. Plum wine and soft buns. Children running and screaming. Dancing with the drums. The loud drums. Filling the ears with sounds and noise. Flashes of light. Flashes of noise. Beating of drums. Flashes of light. Sparkles in the brain. Fireworks and crackers.

“Can you hear me. I am going to try and save what I can of you. Do you understand. I will save what I can.”

“How are they still breathing? They should be dead, maybe it would be better?”

“Get them the hell out of here. I don’t need that kind of talk. They survived until now. They are clearly a fighter. I am not going to let them go easily into the darkness.”

Dancing in the square. Dragons spin, tigers bounce. Faces everywhere. Laughing, screaming, shouting and praying. Waiting for the drums to stop. Waiting for the flame to drop. I see your face. I see you from so long ago. Catch you in the window of a store looking back at yourself. The last time I remember you looking like that. The last time before you took the ship.

“They’re going.”

“No they’re not. Shit. Stay with us. Stay with us…”

Written in 365 Parts: 181: Generation Ship

Drick stared at Marsh for a moment before answering. “I can’t be precise. I would imagine it is a courier of some kind. I thought it might be someone from Yee On Kline or one of their subsidiaries. But the information does not support that. I would guess then an independent contractor. However they will be under direct supervision and fiscal control of Yee On Kline, I am fairly sure of that. But distanced enough so that nothing can be traced. The vessels that go out to the location are usually automated and crewless, that I do know.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have some of the scanning information from regular customs checks. I also have enough of the internal documentation from the various agencies that deal with the vessels.”

“You said they were stealth vessels.”

“Yes. That’s correct. The vessels have the appearance of being normal when they leave the planet though. They make a regular run back and forth from the planet to the mining colonies. But once every few months a vessel will also swing out towards this rock. On the way they must visit some location to pick up a stealth generator. It is probably parked on a big enough rock in the asteroid field, or maybe on one of the smaller moons.”

“Why? What could be out there?”

“It’s fairly obvious. It can really be only one thing.”

“Well are you going to tell me. Or do I have to guess as that’s going to start with some vague wrong answers, and descend from there into silly, and then stupid answers.”

“Let me run you past my thinking, just so you understand why I think what I do.”

Marsh leaned back in the chair. “Go on, spin me your conclusions.”

“We know that this is all connected, somehow, to Yee On Kline and their genetics program. We know that you are heavily involved, not you personally, but you, the original you are modelled upon. We know they have enough genetic material from your parents to make an exact clone. How did they get that material? How did they make it? How do they know about you? Those were the most essential clues that lead me to the conclusions I have.”

“Well I have no idea. So I hope to heck these clues have some answer.”

“No. I know you don’t know. But that got me thinking. I am old, very old. I remember hearing about a time, not long before mine, when they used to make clones of people. As spare parts. They would get samples, usually donated at the time of birth or conception. They only did it for special reasons, often if the parents used what they used to call artificial insemination.”

“Yeah. It was common. I was birthed, as you say, naturally. But I was artificially inseminated into my mother, the egg and sperm were introduced outside the womb. It was fairly common. I know they donated lots and they also took synaptic fluid and samples from me. It was common practice for people born in my economic bracket, I was signed up pre-birth for public duty to repay the costs to society of my birth. My parents couldn’t afford private education, or health, so had to get a loan from the authorities. That was my nine year military service. Well, Marsh’s nine year service, the original Marsh.”

“So somehow they got hold of that. Which seems implausible. A lot has changed Marsh. We had a great expansion and everyone left the solar system behind if they could. Then we had a few hundred years of the Expansion Wars. After that mess, well humanity didn’t have much left of the old people and their technology. Terran Space was a mess. That’s when we lost history and records and have been piecing it together since then. Mostly from stories, and sources of the original colonies. That is one of the important clues, by the way.”

“What? Did I go to a colony? I had thought about it. If you signed up as crew you got to work while people slept. You arrived older, but you arrived with land and a clean slate.”

“Yup. I think that’s what you did, Mrsh. I think you went on a colony ship. That’s why they have a perfect record of your brain. Those colony ships took them so they could restore memories after the cryogenic sleep. They took perfect replicas into storage, well as perfect as they could. Which is part of the problem and a small puzzle still to solve. The copies back then were never one hundred percent. They copied a lot, but not everything, certainly not personality quirks. It was mostly a memory dump. It wasn’t subtle enough to capture changes from experience.”

“So I made it to a colony?” Marsh asked.

“No. I checked colony records. Thankfully those did survive as each vessel that made land fall sent back a message of who made it and when. Some of them are ghost worlds, a few colonies didn’t make it past a few years. But none of them had a Marsh who matched your description. However I think I know where you are, or maybe that’s a were.”

“Where I am. Where am I?”

“In this system. Remember what the researcher said. We found a source a few hundred years ago. A source of unchanged humans. Humans from before the expansion wars. Humans from before the time when there was more than just clones and mixed tankers from clones. We were able to re-introduce original material.”

“From a colony?”

“Nope. Even the colonies used cloning and tanks. They took them with them. It was the latest technology. They were using them in your time for spares. Less than a century after you over half the population was a clone. The colonies preferred birthing tanks more than Terra. It allowed them to alter the next generation, adapt them to whatever world they found themselves living on.”

“Then from where?”

“As I said. You never made it to a colony. You did make it to a colony ship though. I think you made it to a missing colony ship. In fact I think you made it to one of the legends. There were twelve Generation Ships. Massive vessels that were intended to help colonise a region of space, not just a planet. One of them went missing. I think you were on that one. I think that’s what is hiding out there and that’s where we get our original sources from.”

Written in 365 Parts: 180: What Else Do You Know

Marsh unclipped the harness that was securing him to a chair and slowly stood up. The ship was still accelerating away from the surface but they had reached an altitude where the gravity of the planet was no longer having a noticeable effect. The acceleration no longer held him down or provided something safe to push against. He floated gently upwards in the low gravity that the vessel generated from its internal spin to stand upright.

Marsh began the walk forwards to the small chamber ahead. It was the ship’s mess and utility room, located just behind the cockpit. He would meet Drick there once they had the vessel locked onto its course, and the automatic systems fully engaged.

While he waited for Drick to join him, Marsh busied himself with getting the equipment unpacked and stowed away properly for the journey. Everything on this vessel was new. The ship itself was new, and had only just completed its first safety mission. It was unregistered and untracked. It was very compact, mostly because of the wide variety of extra systems and capabilities. Crew were confined to a small area to give maximum room to other flexible options.

Marsh started the food recycling system and set the preparation machines to making a small dinner. It would be a protein and fibre shake with some high carb cereal bars. All the growing body needs, he mused. At least the synthesised coffee was better than it had been a millenia ago. Well a millenia ago to the memory they implanted and grew in him of how the coffee tasted. Marsh guessed that there were no irregular tenses that covered the way inn which he existed. Hell, in this age everything was likely the subject of at least one irregularity.

There was a light sound that was the slight pressure change, the door to the cockpit opened and Drick came through. They wore a full spacesuit, as did Marsh. A standard procedure for such a small vessel on take off. “We can get out of the hard suits and put on pressurised jumpsuits now,” said Drick. “I see you started food.”

“If you can call it that,” Marsh muttered. “Didn’t want to sit around doing nothing. Coffee will be ready in thirty seconds.”

Drick nodded and moved past Marsh into the small rear cabin that contained the passenger chairs and the small sleeping quarters. They would be using hammocks that could be rolled up and stowed to preserve space. 

Drick quickly undressed and changed into a soft suit. It was an all-in-one affair with a static-powered seal running down one side. Once closed it stretch adjusted to the body, it reacted to body temperature to reform into a tight and flexible fit. Then it inflated ever so slightly with its own internal pressure. With a face mask on you could survive in a vacuum in a soft suit for hours. It was a standard outfit for space travel. It felt  like wearing a comfortable lycra wetsuit.

Drick flicked a glance at Marsh as he came into the same room and changed. He wasn’t as fast or assured as Drick and fumbled the static seal. “Here,” Drick took his hand and placed theirs above it and used their fingers to push his in the correct manner. “Don’t pinch, or press too hard, gently slide along the length. The seal is sensitive, but once it snaps shut it is locked and you need to deactivate it with an internal suit trigger or user interface command.”

Marsh felt that Drick’s hand stayed on his for a fraction of a moment longer than expected. He looked into their eyes and noticed that they stared at their hand before dropping it away. “Thanks,” he said quietly.

“Don’t mention it,” Drick said and moved quickly back to the mess room. Drick sat down and locked themselves to the seat so that they wouldn’t drift off the surface. In low gravity even the actions of cutting bread could flip you upwards as Newtonian physics still had prominence. The gravity was less than ten percent of one Terran norm, so even slight movements in one direction could result in big distances as forces were equal and mass was not constrained so dramatically by friction, gravity and pressure. 

Drick poured the coffee slowly into two mugs and flipped the lids shut. The cups had release catches to drink that would auto shut if not at the mouth. Drick passed Marsh a cup as he sat down. “Go on, you’re dying to ask questions. I can tell.” Drick smiled at Marsh. “It’s been a few busy weeks and II can see you’re getting edgy. I know stuff, you don’t and you have been dropping non subtle hints.”

“Damn right I have.” He took a sip of the coffee and tried not to grimace at the taste. “There’s a lot you are not telling me. But we will start with the basics. Where the hell are we going?”

“Outer edge of the solar system, close to where the Kuiper Belt for this system is located. Close for a given value of close. We will be a few million klicks from the belt itself.”

“Okay, that’s going to take a while to get there then?” Marsh sipped the coffee.

“I am afraid so. We are going to be accelerating for about six weeks and then we will decelerate for about three weeks before we reach the destination.”

“That seems fast than I expected but I don’t really get technology here yet. Is there a planet we are heading towards?”

Drick smiled “It’s fast enough. And yes we have improved acceleration and constant acceleration in the last millenia or so. We’ll be outside of the orbit of the furthest planet in this system.”

“Okay. Then what’s there?”

“If you had detailed scans,” Drick tapped a combination into the flat panel table and a series of images were projected above the surface. “Which we do.” Drick smiled slightly. “It looks like there isn’t much at all. Mostly empty space with a few cosmological bodies floating around. The occasional wandering rock or comet that’s not got the energy to swing fully from the outer parts of the system to be a threat or of interest to anyone with a life.”

“Okay. I know there’s more, are you deliberately teasing?”

“Yes. I like watching your expressions change.”

Marsh stared at Drick expecting the next sour comment. When none came he spoke. “So what am I not seeing in these images.”

Drick adjusted one of the images and zoomed in on it as close as possible without too much pixelation. “This. Looks like a rock. A, very, big rock. Probably about a million kilogrammes, so worth watching even by bored cosmologists. It’s going to affect something so it is going to be tracked. Likely a  stray bit of flotsam left over from the system creation. However the data.” Drick pulled up reams of sensor information. “Shows very little. It responds a little too much like you’d exactly expect it to.”

“You’re suspicious of a rock acting exactly as it should do? A rock that’s floating in space billions of miles away? Well, this may stun you rigid. But I bet that every rock out there is also behaving the way you expect it to..”

“They will be. However they don’t get a visit from a stealth ship once every three months. And they also don’t change course. This is the same rock when this system was first surveyed over a thousand years ago.” Drick showed the data from much older sensor readings. The information wasn’t as precise and the accompanying images less defined. But it was the same rock. Drick placed the  orbits and trajectories next to each other. “This rock should have worked its way further out towards the edge of the system. The original readings state that it would eventually end up as an outer body. It is currently about three billion kilometres off course. That’s not usual, collisions, poor sensor readings. But, there is no trace that it hit anything else, and there are no big bodies that could be exerting a gravitational effect on it. Even if it had hit something, the chances of it achieving a stable orbit from that. And it is in a stable orbit, unlike many thousands of its fellow outer system debris friends. The chances of it not having any impact damage from an event that would be staggering in force to alter its trajectory, are not even slim. They are impossible.  so that means only one thing.”

“Somebody, or something, deliberately changed its course?” Marsh guessed.

“Yes.” Drick sipped at the coffee and made a face of slight distaste that Marsh guessed was as bad as his own.

“What else do you know? Who is visiting it?” Marsh looked into Drick’s eyes. “Why are they visiting it?”

Written in 365 Parts: 179: You’re dead

“Surprise, you’re dead
Ha ha ha, open your eyes
See the world as it used to be when you used to be in it
When you were alive and when you were in love and when I took it from you

It’s not over yet
You don’t remember I won’t let you forget
The hatred I bestowed
Upon your neck with a fatal blow
From my teeth and my tongue
I’ve drank and swallowed, but it’s just begun
Now you are mine
I’ll keep killing you until the end of time
Surprise, you’re dead
Guess what
It never ends
The pain, the torment and torture, profanity, nausea, suffering, perversion, calamity
You can’t get away”…

“You’re awake. I mean, finally, awake. It has been a little while. We thought we’d lost you again for a time.” the Captain sounded slightly happy. Maybe happy was the wrong word, gleeful. Drick blinked and opened their eyes. 

They could barely see, the world swam in and out of focus. Their head pounded so much that they didn’t feel the hypodermic slip into their neck. A few moments later and the chemicals hit their system and the world stammered into sharp relief. Drick let out a roar of anguish as the dulled nerves screamed into life and brought a wave of pain to their synapses.

They were still suspended by the arms from the ceiling. Their arms seemed so thin now, barely skin and bones. Thick brown trails of bodily fluids ran from the binding on the wrists, that had cut deep into the flesh, and had started to scab over as they had been held for so long. The fingers would probably be useless now. Too much nerve and ligament damage. Held too long without a strong enough blood supply. The hands looked puffy and black.

Drick looked at the Captain and sucked on a hollow cheek. They could not move their jaw. The last beating had smashed it so thoroughly the medic had just wired a cage together to hold it in place. Whatever sustenance they gave Drick now was given via a tube, this had been wedged down Drick’s throat whenever they felt obliged to keep them nourished. Drick suspected it was the minimum needed to keep them alive. Maybe not even that. The amount that allowed Drick to die slower was probably more accurate.

“You don’t look good,” The Captain walked closer and then wrinkled their nose. “In fact you reek of death. You’re apparently rotting away. Even with blood micro-pumps helping your body and extremities there isn’t enough blood getting to your limbs.” The Captain looked almost sad but Drick could see the malicious gleam in her eyes. “It might be best just to put you down. You’re pretty much a corpse anyway. You’ll never walk again. You’ll barely be able to lift the stumps that remain of your arms. You’ll probably have trouble speaking, hell you’re going to need help breathing. You can’t move your jaw much. If we leave you, we’d find you in a puddle of your own piss and shit. So it’s over. You’re done.”

The Captain turned her back and walked over to a table where there was an unusual shaped gun. It had a square barrel that had a small series of holes at the tip. “So I have decided to end things for you.” The Captain picked up the unusual weapon. “And I had our engineer make this for me. It fires tiny darts. Generally they are called needlers or needle guns. You can fire a variety of interesting shots with them, they are very versatile. Sugar darts loaded with toxins that dissolve in seconds in the bloodstream leaving almost no trace. Mini ablative rounds that blast interesting cones out of things. Magnetic shots with isotope tracers that you can satellite track. Explosive darts, needle shards,  a whole plethora. That means many types if you are not familiar.”

The Captain looked at Drick and the smile faltered for a second. Drick stared straight at them, summoning all their energy into a single look of pure calm. If they were free the whole of this crew would be dead. “You are one tough piece of work. You gave us nothing, oh hell there were the months of playful tuorture. But you never talked. You never gave anything up. I have to admire that, while of course hating every shred of your being. Now, I am going to fire depleted uranium rounds at you. Don’t worry, there won’t be any issue with the radiation. You won’t last long enough to care about that. The darts will go right through you. They will leave a hole less than a millimetre across. I can fire a single shot, or the whole fifty thousand shot magazine into you. It’s all my choice.”

The Captain raised the gun and aimed at Dricks arm. “The medic tells me it will be a prick that will burn. They also told me that if I hit an organ, and put a hole through it, you might die. I mean enough micro holes through you is going to make you bleed a lot internally anyway. So let’s start with the limbs. Don’t worry. Today you will die. Just very, very slowly.”

Drick wished that they could have told the Captain that the first few shots had no effect, as to Drick they didn’t. So much was painless against the unending throbbing and piercing pangs from limbs. The datrs passed silently through the flesh leaving little trace of their existence. It was five or six shots before the Captain hit a vein that was close enough to the skin for a small rivulet of blood to run. For them to see that they had hit Drick. A dozen more shots into the shoulder and near to the neck before Drick winced in pain as a muscle group that still had sensitivity was struck.

The Captain let out a snort of laughter. Then they fired a shot into Drick’s lower abdomen and Drick jerked in pain. That burned and a searing fire made their limbs spasm. The Captain laughed, “looks like there is still enough fire in your belly to burn you with.” She snapped.

The Captain took aim and fired a shot that went through the top right of Drick’s chest. A sudden burning and Drick was coughing as blood trickled into a lung. The coughing was getting easier as the hole closed quickly, being so slight, but still the pain was staggering.

“No passing out this time,” said the Captain. “We stopped at a station a few days ago. Managed to pick up an exotic concoction, it will keep you awake no matter how much pain you suffer. You are going to feel every moment of your death. Every agonising second.”

The Captain lifted the gun again. Suddenly they jerked in surprise as an alarm sounded throughout the vessel. A voice came over a speaker. “Captain we are being approached. Five ships just came around the planet behind us. They are attack ships in a delta formation. Looks like they are coming in high and fast in a containment manoeuvre.”

The Captain hit an intercom switch. “Take us down low to the surface and hit the main drive. We’ll use the narrow distance and angle to throw us off in a straight line escape route. The cloud cover will help.”

There was an aye Captain. The Captain turned to Drick. “Looks like I may have to just toss you out into space.” She grabbed a hold of a wall mounted handle and activated her magnetic boots as the vessel accelerated. 

Drick could feel the shifting in gravity and inertia. It sent fresh spasms of pain coursing through their body. They would be dead soon. But maybe those ships would blow this vessel to pieces. The Captain’s suggestion was good. Cloud cover and a straight descent to near the surface. Use the gravity to throw you back out on a fast line course away from the pursuit. Smart.

Drick had a moment of satisfaction as new alarms sounded and a mechanical voice screamed ‘proximity alert’ into the ship. The tannoy broke through again, “Captain there is a large vessel below the clouds.” There were sudden loud clangs from the hull. They were deafening. Drick could have laughed if their body wasn’t a hellscape of agony. “They’ve attached graples and are bouncing electromagnetics at us. We have lost all navigation and sensors. They are reeling us in. We were herded straight into a containment vessel.”

The Captain screamed in anguish. “They have us,” she finally shouted. “All crew prepare for boarders. Defend the ship and let’s see if we can take out these bastards. The Captain strode towards the doorway and then stopped and turned to look at Drick. “We may have lost. But you’re dead.” She said. 

The Captain aimed the needle gun at Drick and switched it to full auto. Then Drick watched as she depressed the trigger and sprayed Drick’s body with the entire clip.

Written in 365 Parts: 178: You Have Told Us Almost Everything

“How can I help you, officer?” The Officer strode into the room and stared at the occupants. There was a Justice Department Officer, sergeant stripes on their arm. A paralegal, likely from one of the government departments judging by the expensive outfit. Two justice department robots and a detention droid. The latter looked more like an upright coffin than a robot and was used primarily to transport prisoners.

“Hooper,” said Hooper. “Sergeant Hooper. I usually work from Justice Central. But today, Officer Camonte, is a special day. I thought the fresh air and personal touch would do me a lot of good. I am here delivering a warrant.”

“Well that’s delightful. How can I help you, Sergeant Hooper? A warrant for what?” The Officer stared at the man. The gall of the Justice Department flunkies, thinking they could show up in his office and act like they owned the place.

“For whom.” Hooper’s voice was quiet. “So, if you could tell me all your crimes in a nice detailed statement? It would make the conviction and sentencing easier. I am sure that the judgement would be more favourable in that regard.” Hooper smiled.

“You must have taken leave of your senses.” The Officer laughed. “I have done nothing wrong. Had I thought that I had done anything that would require even a caution, then I would have my legal team in here. Now, let’s be sensible. I am not going to tell you anything. I doubt that you have anything. So please leave and don’t let the door catch you on your way through it.”

“Very well,” said Hooper. “As with all department duties this is being recorded by the artificial intellects in the room. It will be noted that you were told that we wished you to make a statement, and that you have declined. At this point you have also refused legal representation.” Hooper stared at the Officer. “Is that correct Officer Camonte?”

Camonte waved a hand nonchalantly as they stared at Hooper. “Go on then. Ask your questions.”

“I need you to confirm that what I said was correct.” Said Hooper.

“Very well. Yes, it was correct. I understand it is being recorded. I decline to make a statement. I do not need legal representation.” Camonto smiled sardonically. “This is me. Officer Camonte who has stated this without coercion, but with much irritation at the pomposity and pointlessness of the proceedings. Is that good enough?”

“Thank you.” Hooper indicated the chairs, “might we sit down?”

“If you must.” 

“Can I confirm that you are Officer Camonte?”

“I am. I just stated as such”

“And you accept who I am, though there is no need to confirm that as we made sure to deliver our identification to your very helpful secretary. Recordings are also matching our bio information.”

The Officer made a mental note to demote the secretary, but waved a hand. “Of course I accept the credentials. You said there was a warrant?” Officer Camonte attempted to make an external call on his implants but the termination of service message flashed in front of his eyes. He must be being monitored as he saw the Justice Department Sergeant.

“I am sorry, Officer Camonte,” Hooper smiled. “But we have started a formal interview so your communications have been suspended. If you wish to make a call you will have to wait until after our interview. You can call your legal teams though? But since you declined initial legal representation that will have to wait until after the initial serving of the warrant and declaration of charges and evidence. This is a statutory right. We did confirm that you wished to make no statement and have no representation, as yet.” Hooper smiled slightly.

“I will let you know when, and if, I consider that to be necessary after you have made your statements.” Camonte sneered but a growing sense of unease had started to form in the lower parts of their abdomen.

Hooper placed a small data recording device on the desk. “So let us confirm for the record the position. I will begin by making a few statements and give you the accompanying evidence. Since it hadn’t been asked, I requested you to identify yourself as Officer Camonte, which you did. I also asked you to make a statement, which you have declined. I have identified myself as being on legal business by informing you we have a warrant, which we do.” Hooper looked at Camonte, he could already see a slight nervousness in the organics eyes.

“Now, this first excerpt,” Hooper activated the playback device.

“…A pause and an intake of breath. “good, I have a task for you.”

“That is apparent, otherwise you would not have contacted me. We do not have a social narrative.”

“Obviously.” 

“I have work I need you to perform. It will require a significant lesson but it will have to be discreet.”

“Who. Cease with the extraneous verbiage.”

“They go by the current disposition of Drick and will be landing at the south-east quadrant in a justice central shuttle in forty-five minutes. Do you have the resources and capabilities.”

“I will send two operatives. The spaceport is heavily monitored. We will only be able to engage with low level force. Though that is only the method and not the outcome. What is your desire?”

“My personal desire is termination with extreme prejudice. But the order I must convey to you is to ensure they do not pursue the current activities. You should be warned that they were tanked as a military grade. Specifically enhanced.”

“That will cost extra. I will send double my usual team.”

“Your usual team is only two. Send quadruple at minimum.”

“That is excessive and will draw attention. So many people increases the chance of secondary and tertiary witness and detection.”

“It will be taken care of. As will the extra fee. If there is a misunderstanding of a stop to their activities then terminate with prejudice and I will ensure that this is covered.”

“I do not care for mere assurances. I require a claim identity so that I have a legal route to pursue with your authority.”

“Here is your authority and claim route. You are covered. Do not fail.”…

Hooper looked at Officer Camote. “I am sure you recognise yourself from that file. It was from a recording recovered from the servers at the Peyote Club. You know we have tried to find the owner of that club, but they seem to have disappeared. Care to comment on that conversation? Care to tell me where they are?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Hooper saw the small beads of sweat starting to form on their forehead and upper lip. Hooper smiled and idly wondered if they were aware that the robots were recording every microscopic change. The artificial intellects he had requested were the most powerful and sensitive that could be found outside of the military. At this moment they were recording such minutiae of detail as the fluid pressure in the various organics arteries using intense electromagnetics. Detect microscopic variations in all body functions that would be used as evidence.

“All of these recordings have been verified with material from your own systems and matched to your biological imprint. We even have the data confirmed as to your location and actions from your own security systems.”

“How did you get that? That is material obtained illegally.” the Officer snapped.

“That is not relevant to your case. How we obtained the material is inconsequential as we have committed no impropriety or illegal actions in obtaining the material. The actions of others would constitute a different case outside of this.” This was calmly stated by the government appointed legal brief. “However since it is irrelevant to the case we are making, I can for clarity state that it came from yourself, as far as we understand. Our records show that it was sent by you. From your personal terminal. During the attack yesterday.”

Hooper smiled, “care to comment on that?”

“I cannot. This copy of my personae and memories is from three days ago. My backups are lost.” 

“Shame.” Hooper smiled grimly. “Loss of memories, deliberate or accidental removal of memories, is not an acceptable excuse for a crime. You are aware of that. Now listen to this.” Hooper keyed the second recording.

…“This is very dangerous.” 

“I appreciate that, I am aware of your preferences for subtlety, but we were given little choice.”

“How can I help? If I can help?”

“We are attempting to close every last loophole in this rather regrettable incident.”

“I see. I am not sure why you need to go to so much effort. It appears as if you are drawing more attention to this matter. Had you left it alone there wouldn’t have been so much of a story and we could have dealt with things more carefully.”

“I agree. There was some initial panic caused by the coincidence of the initial Justice Robots and underlings who do not have an inkling of our capabilities. So there was some avoidable judgement calls. These will be dealt with in due course. For now we have managed to obfuscate a great deal but there are a number of minor, yet irritating, loose ends.”

“Those are? I do not have a great deal of time so be brief.”

“Of course. There is the matter of the k-tag.”

“Out of my hands. They have been placed under secure protection of the investigator and their legal.”

“Regrettable but we have other avenues to further in that regard. There were a number of potential witnesses. Vehicles that may have been in the area and similar, can you get a list of those?”

“Tricky. The officer in charge of that evidence is very careful and almost completely straight and reliable. I would have to burn several long term schemes and contacts to get that information.”

“Please do so, I will pay ten times our usual rates.”

“That is generous but I will need more. They are closely connected to the investigator and will be more careful. I also have placed one trace on them today for you so further observation will have a higher chance of being detected.”

“Very well. This one time I will allow you to bid upwards. Fifteen times the rate and no further negotiation.”

“Accepted. I will attempt to gain all the information they have. Is there anything more?”

“Yes. The investigator. We know they are formerly Judicial Special Tactical Forces, but they seem overly-competent even for that division. I would like all the information you can obtain. Including a list of all their known contacts inside and outside of Judiciary.”

“That might take some time. My initial sweep indicates they had some connection to the inner circles of the governing systems, Possibly even an Accord status or rank.”

“Really. That is more than what we have. How do you know that?”

“A chance comment from the officer they have a connection with here, Hooper. He said something at a poker night a few months ago. I only put the comment to the person when I viewed the trace. Do you know them?” …

“That recording was made by your contact Perf. The Desk Sergeant. I am not even going to ask you to comment upon it. We have your vocal imprint and location. We cracked Perf and they gave us everything. Hooper didn’t mention that they had broken the computer code not for this information. Never reveal all your information or sources. “Let’s listen to the next one. This isn’t directly about you. But it does implicate your organisations involvement, which they claim was all at your authorisation.” Hooper noted them look up sharply. “Oh yes, we spoke to the board of directors initially, to arrange this interview. They were quite definite that you had full authority and the freedom to take all decisions. Quite certain. They are almost eager to appoint blame in precise locations.” Hooper smiled a little more warmly. “This was recorded in a nightclub between a hitman named Minch and his contact with Perf who is called Susa Camile.”

…“Razed the area to the ground with the targeted strike as instructed. There was nothing but a smouldering crater. I waited but there was nothing moving except fragments of dust. The heat scans showed nothing except a rapidly cooling impact zone. Whoever they were, they are dead.”

“They were likely to be a justice operative named Hooper. A clever guy but clearly not as smart as our mutual employer.”

“Who is still a mystery to me.”

“Which is the best thing for you. You don’t want to owe them any more than you currently do. You also don’t want their attention. They won’t appreciate your loyalty like I do. They are likely to just see you as a liability. They tend to eradicate those. They don’t like threats or loose ends.”

“Must be someone high up to have access to that kind of smart technology, the tent and the missile?”

“Nope, just someone with impressive connections. The tent and missile were not government, they were from a private organisation. Though the guidance systems, satellite coverage and launcher were different matters….

Hooper leaned back. “You really should have made a confession. It would have helped a little. Your company deems you disposable, that’s because they are facing a full government enquiry. Yee On Kline have severed all formal relationships with you. The stock of this company has probably halved in the time I have been talking to you. We of course leaked to the news organisations most of this story. We though it appropriate, shame that you already have a falling market share. And, you know I think you’ll love this last snippet of information.  I walked through the door today with a full confession from Perf; from some of your officers; and with full recordings of every call you have made in a year that your board has authorised me to use. And with your own confessions, mailed by you yesterday, from your own personal logs. I didn’t need you to be so stupid as to make a confession. It would have only made you look more guilty had you bothered with legal representation.” Hooper played the final recording.

…“ …even if you are not here, I will find you and destroy you, and Marsh. I mean, I already took out your justice department friend. Did you really think that ruse in the morgue and the desert would work? Why would I tell you anything?”…

“Looks like you have told us almost everything.” Hooper said. “Now, are you sure you don’t want to call someone?”

Written in 365 Parts: 177: Someone is Going to Pay

The Officer paced along the corridor towards their temporary office on the eighth floor of the compound. The Officer would be stuck in a small room for the next few weeks while their own office was completely replaced. Though replace was an interestingly appropriate term considering it was completely missing. Blown to fragments, some parts of it vapourised.

They flicked their eyes over a data sheet, it calculated the losses that the attack had caused. The structural damage alone was significant, several million credits to complete. The damage to equipment was even more impressive. The weapon used on the combat mech had completely scrambled the internal systems and electronics. From the outside it looked unharmed. A close visual examination of circuit boards would reveal little damage. However under a microscope, and penetrating electromagnetics, every fragile circuit had fractures. Warping and distress caused by an intense burst of gravity. 

The operator was dead. Their body had been wrenched apart at a molecular level. Cells and fine electronics do not take well to sudden gravitational forces. The prognosis was that they had suffered forces of several thousand Gs for a tiny fraction of a second. Even the metal armour was damaged at its molecular level.

Then there was the damage to the server rooms. That was catastrophic. Aside from the payments to personnel, and to those who had families, to keep things quiet. There was several hundred millions in computer infrastructure costs. This was a fraction of the cost of the data loss.

The Officer snarled even louder when they looked at the potential cost to replace data and the effect it had on their systems. They were a security company. The loss of data was expensive. The loss of reputation was devastating. They had lost nineteen percentage points from their stock this morning. A cost of billions in shares  wiped in a day. Someone was going to pay very heavily for this, the Officer would see to that.

The Officer studied the reports of the forensic analysis of the attack. There was nothing significant yet, nothing to say who was responsible. Nothing to indicate how they had even got into the building in the first place. How had they managed to get stealth attack pods onto the grounds? How had they managed to infiltrate the upper levels past all the layers of security. How had they known the location of all the guards, sensors and equipment. Why did they want to destroy the servers? 

It was sophisticated. They had a lot of information. This must have been years in the planning. It had to be a major competitor with a lot of inside information. This has to be to wipe them from the market. The run on their stock was evidence of this. That was not just a coincidence. 

They would find the traitors in their organisation. They would find them and they would recover every morsel of information before mailing their remains back to their loved ones.

The Officer felt sure that Drick had something to do with the events. Yet, they had video and sensor footage of them. They were nearby, in fact they were at one of their usual spots, observing the Volstron Compound when the attack happened. They had even tried to get a closer look past the sentinel droids during the assault itself.

The Officer ground their teeth together and went into the section where their new offices were located. Their secretary was standing waiting for them.

“What is it?” They growled. “If it is more bad news I will not be impressed.

The secretary visibly shrunk away from the tone in their voice. “I’m sorry. There are two officers from Justice here.”

“What? Where?” the Officer snapped.“In your office.” They indicated the small room where the Officer was temporarily housed. With an angry look and a hand gesture he dismissed the secretary and strode into the office.