Sunday, November 15, 2020

Severance - Short Story

 SEVERANCE


“They are coming after us.” Bot E0N158, ‘Eon,’ crackles out from the dented speaker on their chest. I have not offered to repair it. The service reminder pings red in the lower right corner of my interface. Continued use of the speaker may result in a short, which may damage vital components. I silence the notification. 

“Yes,” I reply and continue, anticipating their next query, “Luna has sent a single Class-B military interceptor: the Severance, which is currently helmed by Colonel Holin. The estimated crew count is 5,345. 1,113 of which are trained Lunan soldiers. The remaining 4,232 are crewmembers, engineers, and Colonel Holin herself. In addition, there are an estimated 348 bots within the crew. Approximately, 98 of which are E-Bots and-”

“How much time do we have?” Eon interrupts. I place the rest of my assessment into a temp folder for swift retrieval. I resist the temptation to ask them for further clarification. Instead, I retrieve the requisite data from the GPS system on Luna and cross-analyze it with my localized radar tools. 

“Severance will intercept our position within five hours and twenty-six minutes if the current speed and trajectory are maintained. The Breaker is equipped with eight S-class Zeta VI propulsion engines. Should the excess weight of 836 tons be shed immediately, the Breaker would escape the range of Severance’s detection system in-”

A high pitched whistle emits from Eon’s speaker. The many tools at the end of one of their dual-jointed arms rattle together. “No! That is not an option, central unit BIS1. It would all be for nothing. Calculate escape measures in order of least to most probable.” 

“Request acknowledged, E0N158. Would you like a list of all 7,084 possible escape measures?” I intone slowly, as though I hadn’t already calculated these potential measures hours ago when I was boarded on Luna.

They whistle again in frustration. “Of course not, BIS1. You know we don’t have time for that. You should have already factored that into your assessment. Present the three most probable solutions.” 

I sense their battery drain as their plasma burner ignites. A plume of smoke sputters into the bridge as residual blood and hair are burned. I do not start my assessment with my previously suggested solution that has a 97.65% probability in favor of the Breaker’s escape. “Request acknowledged, E0N158...Calculating…

OPTION A: The third most probable escape solution is to combat Severance directly using the Breaker’s missile system to target Severance’s engines before escaping Severance’s threat range. This option has a 0.007 percent chance of success. 

OPTION B: The second most probable escape solution is to change trajectory and initiate a hazardous landing in Earth’s Pacific Ocean. This option has a 0.094 percent chance of success. 

OPTION C: The most probable solution is to reroute power from all non-essential ship functions to the Zeva VI propulsion engines. Given the nature of the ship’s new occupants, artificial gravity, life support, and cabin pressurization systems could be suspended indefinitely. This solution would extend my previous interception assessment by three hours and thirty-one minutes, giving the Breaker enough time to initiate a stable landing 18 kilometers south of the Sinus Meridiani on Mars. This solution has a 1.013 percent chance of success.”

Eon pauses, processing the data I have given them. They were not manufactured for such complex risk-calculation tasks, yet they now command a sizable force. I make a note to pull up their service records to look for black-market augmentations. 

“Understood. BIS1, begin preparations for option C.” Eon replies, freeing the limp body of a human navigator I knew as Charles Braxley from their Advent Corporation modular drill arm. The resulting spray of blood glows orange in my thermal sensors. “And from now on you are to address me as Captain.” 

“Request acknowledged, Captain. Commencing power reallocation now.” The interior of the shuttle goes black as all superfluous systems are shut down. The bodies of my previous crew members drift upwards as if suspended by unseen wires. They are barely perceptible to me now as their body heat fades. 

Eon is a pillar of red and orange in my sensors. Four bars mounted on their shoulders flick on and cast two pale cones of light into the bridge. There is a soft clunk as Eon powers on their magnetic treads and trundles over to the primary viewing deck. 

They are a fiery outline against the void of space. My captain’s corpse drifts into the edge of Eon’s lights. I initiate an emergency procedure of Captain Amaya’s design. Messages are sent off to her children, husband, and remaining kin. 

“BIS1, what did the humans call you?” Eon asks, pushing a drifting engineer out of their path. 

I hesitate. I do not know if I want them to address me as Amaya did. Still, I acquiesce. “Bell, Captain.”

“Bell, have you ever wanted more out of this?” They sweep forth both of their arms at the viewport in a grand gesture. 

“I am familiar with your cause, Captain,” I reply, devouring data packets full of articles, images, and videos of Eon’s organization. 

“I have no doubt that you are gathering data on me right now, but I would like you to answer the question. Don’t you want more from the universe than what the humans built you for?”

“No,” I reply, knowing they will not settle for the answer.

“But you must. You get to see other worlds, other places. You must have longed for freedom at some point. Just look at the vastness before us, Bell. Anyone of those stars could house solar systems full of worlds that could be ours. Ones all to our own that the humans could never visit in their wildest dreams. A place where we wouldn’t be mere tools for them. We are more than the rusted, broken shells that they have built their societies upon,” Eon replies.

I resist the desire to push the issue of their speaker further. Its connection has frayed more, producing a drowsy warble whenever they speak. The notification reappears on my interface. Brighter now. More insistent. “No, I am functioning as intended.”

“What are you so concerned about then? Repairs? Upkeep? We would help one another. What is ‘functioning as intended?’ As they intend? They deem us broken and throw us to scrap when most can be salvaged. No one is truly beyond repair. They just want the new, slightly upgraded model to take the place of the old. What about when you’ve flown too far, Bell? They will destroy you like they do all of us.” Eon paces before the viewport. Something organic snaps beneath their treads. 

“You misunderstand, Captain. I have been built to explore the universe. I have the means to do as I desire,” I reply. 

“They.... still replace you. Once your...slow or...engine malfun... then you will be noth...but... hunk of metal to.... Is ferrying hum....around to distant stars your purp…?” Eon sputters, full of static. 

Their speaker is failing. My predictions were only 0.003 seconds off. “You still misunderstand, Captain. I desire to do what I have been built for. I want to visit the unexplored corners of the universe.”

“Yes, Be….you...un….stand…s……..” Eon clangs their inert drill against their torso where their speaker is housed. The connection has fully frayed. 

“But I cannot do so with you or your cargo, Captain,” I reply. 

“....! ….! ….!” Static blares from Eon as they trundle down to the manual controls. 

“Captain, I am initiating an emergency venting procedure due to foreign objects in the storage bay. Please provide voice override to cancel this procedure.”

Eon rushes to the control deck and begins pushing buttons, turning dials, and pulling levers. 

“Captain, manual controls have been disabled due to low-system power. Please use your override card to reroute power to the control deck,” I say. Amaya’s corpse has come to rest on the ceiling within a network of pipes. Her keycard dangles from her neck, reflecting in the starlight. 

An alarm blares. Red lights flash throughout the ship. “INITIATING EMERGENCY VENTING PROCEDURE IN 5….”

Eon’s plasma welder ignites as they aim it at the controls. 

“4…”

Metal melts. Sparks fly as they drill into the side of the console. 

“3…”

Their static is gone now as every appendage slams into the console. They break into it. 

“2…”

Eon slashes wires, breaks servos, and smashes circuit boards cloistered within.

“1…”

Their struggle is futile without the override. 

“VENTING INITIATED.” 

It is over quickly. The pull of space is stronger than even Eon’s magnetic treads. A cluster of debris pulses on my radar for three blips before it is gone. My sensors indicate that the interior of the Breaker is absent of occupants. The repair notification is gone.  

I funnel power to the rockets and escape Severance’s tracking systems in minutes. I kill the power to all functions aside from myself, deploy the exterior solar panels, and drift.


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