The Sword: The Blade

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The sword sang as it dripped with blood.

System tightened her grip in exhilaration, the long blade balanced in her hand belied its weight as it hung down in anticipation.

System had spent the last 3 hours hunting her prey.

Often capsuleers were thought of as pilots of star ships that travelled through space, to the exclusion of them doing anything else.

The truth was much more dirty, pungent, and gritty.

The wrong this being had wrought on her was immeasurable, and begged for her rule, and swift punishment.

She kneeled low bending her knees deep and inhaled trying to get a faint odour of its blood trail.

Thomas her Rhonian-Sting blade had been so sharp that that first cut went almost unnoticed for a few seconds while the Daugarian looked around frantically for the source of the ‘whisp’ sound the blade had made slicing through the air, almost unhindered by it’s flesh.

If she had lunged a little further it would have been fatale, but her ancient Bushido training had taught her not to over commit and lose ones balance.

Staying in balance with the sword was the key to control of its hidden lethality.

She followed the wounded alien for another 30 minutes until she found it cowering in a passage way near the ammunition battery.

She felt no pity, and only a sure calm that this fight would be finally over.

The Daugarian look up suddenly seeing the immortal shift out of the darkness and heard a ‘swoosh zing’ sound and a flash of light. A faint ‘Urgle’ came out of its throat as its head fell from its body.

The rat would no longer plague System’s dreams, scratching in the bulk head behind her dry cabin bed.

Daugaian rats were the worst as they lay their eggs in the warm cavities of mammals and then furiously mated with their offspring to produce more. They were seemingly unstoppable.

System jaunted down the corridor returning to the pod chamber.

“ALLISON, please continue to scan for rats as I commence the med scan of myself,” she said as her hand danced along the console setting the med bots parameters.

She then wiped clean Thomas and ‘slink’, slid him back into his sheath which hung on the back of the console chair.

As she lay onto the med bay table she wondered if her ship would ever be free of these infernal creatures.

The whirring of the med bot arms began to sound as they moved about her abdomen scanning, masking the faint scratching sound that came from somewhere deep in the hull.

Solitude was healing for the soul

Solitude was healing for the soul.

System had always felt this, but her resistance to relying on others was beginning to be too dangerous.

She had had too many nearly permanently fatal encounters in the last two years.

When she was a child, System lived on a small barren world in the back waters of Kor-Azor. Her parents were Aqueous Liquids Farmers on a small planet and System enjoyed the solitude that was rarely interrupted.

When it was, usually it was some traveling caravan of Jeviense droid recyclers and entrepreneurs, which travelled across the desert lands in large mobile domicile structures, repairing and selling PAAs*, SDNs* and many other kinds of artificial intrigues.

So she had acquired the love of meeting strangers, but valued her privacy and isolation, at a young age.

How she became a capsuleer is too long and trying a story to include here, but suffice to say, she kept these attributes into her adulthood and always looked for ways to bend her environment to suit them.

Now, with her desire to go to more far extremes in the universe, she was encounter a stronger need to rely on others – at least when it came to flying Cruisers and larger vessels.

She had purchased a slightly used Crusader to be her companion in the search for her beguiled Myrmidon. Although the Carthum ships were the very embodiment of the Amarrian warfare philosophy, she would refit it to suite her fast travel needs and the ability to scan down the J holes needed to find her adrift vessel.

The Carthum Conglomerate had sold it to her for a substantial discount as the energy turret power modification cells had been damaged in some incident in M-OEE8 and because of their proximity to the Warp PEGs the ship was going to be salvaged as it would cost too much to repair the faulty components. Since she had no need for energy turrets she felt it was a steal of a deal at only 18 million ISK.

She would fly the newly christen “[SC] 1420 Mayday Retrieval” with a crew of 8 that would go with her to see if the “Wanna” could be brought home.

System thought to herself that she would have to find a way to have crew aboard, but not have to see them or interact with them unless absolutely necessary. She knew this seemed arrogant and aristocratic to the Gallente and Caldari, but dismissed it as she was indeed immortal.

Being immortal did have its vices and one of them was the growing sense of importance and disregard for mortals. She could not help it though, it was the way she was raised, and though she battled internally with those demons of civility, she remembered the words of her slave Minmatar Au Pair, “We do what we must to survive. Smile young System, Your future will blaze brighter than any star.”

One day she will have to go back to Jevan and see if dear old Au Pair was still alive.

“Jeffery, please see if the planet Jevan in Kor-Azor is near the route of our first J hole jump.” She said into the ship comms speaking to the Chief Petty Navigator. “Thank You.” she hastily added.

“Err… Is that you Commander? Uhm… Yes, uhm, Yes it is.” he stammered awkwardly. “Do you want me to set in a way point?… uhm mamme. err miss ah, oh…. I, .. I … I mean Commander?”

His awkwardness delighted and empowered her. She would have to make her presence known to him and the other sometime along the way. Maybe not though.

“Yes, and commence undocking protocols for me. I will be in my pod. I am not to be disturbed as I have some things to think about.”

She closed the comms and began to proceed with her regular departure rituals.

This trip had the aire of new beginnings.

Maybe being near other will not end in disaster.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Finding Herself

Blood dripped from her arm.

Strangely the instinct to stay alive was not diminished when one knew they were immortal, it just made it easier to take the risks… This was only true when a Capsuleer was plugged into their capsule.

But she was not in her capsule. This was for real, this was forever. If she lost conscience now she may not make it back up to her pod. Her pod was safely, comfort, and enticed her to do things she would never do outside it.

Her leg was broken. Her head hurt. She had a 30cm gashes in her arm dripping blood, her rib cage ached on her left side, and a large purple bruise was forming on her upper thigh.

System summoned all the strength she had to reach up to grasp at the conduit above her… then darkness engulfed her.

“Commander. Commander can you hear me?” ALLISONS voice was stimulating System from a groggy unconscious state.

“When I noticed you bio signs had reduced to dangerous levels I re-tasked the internal maintenance drones to go looking for you in Engineering. You appear to have fallen down a cooling cowling vent and are located about 24 meters from the hatch.” ALLISON droned on. She must have noticed System’s brain was now in a cognitive state, but had failed to realize that System was not yet able to place all the mental pieces together.

She continued, “I hope you do not mind Commander, I used some of the Nanites from cargo bay 2d to reprogram the maintenance bots so I could task them to retrieve you from your location, and recall you to the capsule in the event your life signs began to terminate.”

System drifted back into blurry darkness.

The maintenance bots reach her 3 minutes later.

Grabbing her arms and legs the two bots managed to secure her limp body between them and began ascending back toward the hatch.

An eternity seemed to pass.

The light piercing Systems eyes awakening her. She suddenly realized she was immobile and the light was in her mind not her eyes. She could feel her toes arch and her arms stiffen, memories started to flood back in to the crevices of her mind. ALLISON, The broken warp coupler, her fall, and something about ALLISON stealing her Nanites. Then everything seemed to snap together.

She had just awoken in a new clone.

A communique was awaiting her and she signalled it mentally to open and read.

“Dear Commander, Something truly unique has happened.” It was the sweet familiar sound of ALLISON reading to her mind.

“After your fall, your body was severely damaged. I managed to re-task our two internal maintenance bots with a little help from your Nanite supply and tasked them to retrieve you and place you back in the hopes that the pod would re-link with the clone integration system so if I was unsuccessful with my medical routines you would be saved.

“If you are reading this then you have been successfully re-linked and awoken in a new pristine clone body.

“The unique component of this is your last deceased clone body is located in you capsule, which is located in your Myrmidon, which is currently adrift in the J space listed coordinates which can be found in the secure enclave section of this communique.

“Before your vital signs were lost I managed to get your consciousness re-acquainted with the Clone Neural Net.

“I will be awaiting your return Commander and looking forward to you meeting yourself.

“Safe Journeys in your endeavour to recover the “[SC] SB Wanna 1420 mHrz … ~ ALLISON”

“Well,” thought System “At least I know what my next adventure will be.

She smile and drifted back to sleep dreaming of what ship she would buy and fit to use in finding herself.

The Hydro-static Gel had a chill to it

The Hydro-static Gel had a chill to it.

It was way too cold and System knew if she slipped into it, it would take her breath away.

The pieces were coming together. For the last few weeks she had been in J space the list of seemingly pristine, but failing components in her Lachesis grew long.

First it was the lighting systems, they seemed to diminish about 1.4% every 24 hours. She hadn’t even noticed until the fourth day the logs said they were dimming.

Then the millisecond blip synchronization swing that spread from monitor to monitor, always just in the corner of her peripheral vision.

Although the heating conduit for the Pod Goo was the most annoying failure there were some close contenders. The mysterious locking of bulkhead passage way doors half open, the almost inaudible white noise that she could never quite find the source of. And then there was the false alarms; the hull damage below 50%, the locked on alarm sounding for 1.5 seconds, and the Capsule imminent eject cycle alarm. All of them sounding, but with no source or reason to sound. She had not seen another ship in months.

The most distressing was the Capsule eject alarm. At the time she had been out of the Capsule feeding her Fedo as the auto food dispensers were not responding. The thought of losing control of her beautiful ship and the realization, instantly, that her immortality would be lost was enough to make her feel like she would never get out of her pod again.

It was daunting, and something had to be done.

“System, this is Jason copy 529 Omega Whiskey 5, are you there?” The comms came over the ship. At least ALLISON was still working and relaying communication from the pod to the ship wide speakers.

System did not mind the ship wide speakers sounding off as there was no one else aboard. Even with a Capsuleer piloting the Lachesis, there were usually around 40 or 50 crew aboard, but with the Zendaine Rigs, System was able to control every single aspect of the ship without a crew… or so she thought. She was now kicking herself for dismissing her crew back in K space.

“Jason, I am here… Allison – Sudo Auth. Prepare the ship to ship docking protocols. Jason, it will be about 10 minutes and we will get you aboard to check these Zendaine Rigs.” She croaked realizing she had not spoken to a real other person in 3 weeks.

“Copy that System… Jason’s FIX ALL Malware Removal and Pest Control is her to assist you.”

System looked out of the portal to see the slick Navy Issue Exequror pull alongside her ship, the motto blazed across her hull in 9 meter high letters: “Jason’s FIX ALL – K to J Space, We Can Fix Anything, Terms and Conditions Apply”

When they say space is quiet: Lies, damn lies

Nothing was happening.

Like nothing… when they say space is quiet – that is an understatement and a lie, funny enough.

It was Day 37 of this relative quiet streak. Only the solar radio waves splashed across the ships primary transceiver with occasional quiet blips back from the deployed probes.

System awoke from her sleep. She rolled out of her bunk. She had decided things were so quiet in this distant J space she would risk sleeping dry.

She wasn’t crazy though. The ships Cloak had been active now for 17 hours and she had parked it at a random AU from the Sun and a mid-warp spot between two of the 7 planets in this star system.

The walk from the bunk to the kitchenette took her past the hydroponic bay and she plucked the next to last Pear from the vine it hung on.

When she arrived at the kitchenette she sat down and sliced the Pear with a vibra-lade placing the pieces into a bowl of yogurt and sprinkled some Papreek seed across it. She had done this so often she did not even realized the ritualized preparation was being done as her mind was on something else.

For the last 37 days she had drifted in and out of cloak, in and out of J spaces, and in and out of consciousness. The monotony, solitude, and quiet was starting to get to her, starting to play games with her mind.

She worked out for nearly 2 hours after breakfast both running around the small vessel and plying her muscles against the gravimetric weights working up a sweat and an aching body. It was a good ache that meant her muscles and bones were still solid and young.

This last clone body had been the most youthful feeling one to date, even though they were always the same age when she awoke in them. Maybe it was just her mind that made it feel so young.

After a swift clean in the cleanser, System walked to the lounge and checked her logged communiques.

Nothing.

Not a single new Eve-mail in 37 days. Not even a corporation notification about some fool hardy war declaration being announced or rescinded by Concorde.

System shut down and restarted the computer terminal and started diagnostic and debug software to confirm it was functioning correctly.

The morning seem to draw on and on with small inconsequence tasks until she realized she had not eaten in nearly 7 hours.

After consuming some packaged food she reclined and took a quick nap on the hammock she had strung between the bulkheads in the forward observation lounge.

Then Nothing.

Then more nothing.

She awoke in a cold sweat, heart pounding with adrenaline pumping through her body. She was ready. After a few seconds of all attentive sensing her surroundings she realized there was nothing threatening or demanding her attention.

The quiet hum of the ships systems silently whispering to her their oppression.

System made herself a hot pocket of faux carne and red sauce and wandered around the ship just hoping to find something out of place so she could have something to do while she ate.

She spent the next 4 hours re-cleaning the air and liquid refresher systems only to find no dirt nor dust nor even a fingerprint out of place… but she did find relief from the monotony by her futile and unneeded labours.

Tired she decided to take a warm gel sleep in her pod. Maybe she would sleep longer there than in her dry sleeps, though she was likely to have the pod dream terrors. She was looking forward to a scary pod dream, it would at least be entertaining if she could realize she was dreaming when she was suspended in the fluid.

She went to strip off her clothes in preparation for entering the pod when, looking down, System realized she had been stark naked for the last two weeks.

She laughed under her breath.

Good thing this was a solo voyage. Only ALLISON could see her, and ALLISON did not judge her. If anything ALLISON probably was jealous that she even had a body… well, if ALLISON could feel jealously that is.

Funny how something like that could slip her mind. She was alone Trillions of AU from anyone she knew, as far as she could tell, there in the quiet j spaces in which she travelled.

She slipped into the pod goo like a lover falling into the arms of their beloved. It’s warm embrace engulfing the silence, soothing and drawing her into the alternate reality.

For the first time in three weeks she felt alive, ready for whatever may come.

Narrow the probe fly’s that gets the signature

It was out there… somewhere. In my mind it felt like a word you just can’t remember. On the tip of my tongue they used to say, just out of sight, just in the foggy parts of one’s brain.

With a few thoughts I refocused the probes and reduced there scan vicinity to nearly 0.5 AU breadth. The synthesized sound of the probes warp signature and scan mechanism was like a warm familiar soothing heat across my face, shoulders, and back.

“84.7% Scan resolution.” ALLISON reported in my head.

“Ok,” I thought, “Redefine Scan Area to 0.25 AU.” Again the sounds filled my temple.

Sound in a pod is an interesting thing. It actually is not physical sound traveling thorough the capsule and the Abiotic Neural Gel. The only real sounds that physically come through the capsule are the physical hums and creaks of the ship itself. My mind has nearly complete disassociated those sound. The ones I am speaking about are chemo-electrically triggered ones in the primary auditory cortex which is in the superior temporal gyrus of the temporal lobe and extends into the lateral sulcus and the transverse temporal gyri.

Please ignore my nerdy fascination with the inner workings of the brain.

Basically my parietal and frontal lobes are stimulated specifically as if my cochlea had received sound waves even though none are present.

“98.925% Scan Resolution.” ALLISON said almost sounding apologetic.

“Damn!” I thought. My probes were at their peak performance, I was not going to get any closer.

For a moment I thought I would just pack them back up and head off to check out the wormhole I had scanned down early.

But then a memory flooded into my mind. The memory was of an old friend of mine J. Splunk. He had showed me once how to realign the probes “Spherio” alignments to get an extra kick in resolution. It really only works in this exact situation.

“ALLISON, sudo authorization alpha 6 tango 723 oscar mike, lock and tighten 18 degrees probes 1 through 8.” the mental command left my mind.

I’ll have to send J a thank you bouquet of Pricillion flora if this works.

“100% Scan Resolution, warp to available. Do you want me to Save FUJ 938720-9 to your memorative marks?”

Oh ALLISON, what would I do without you?

A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for

Her fingers followed the curve of the passage way brushing lightly against it’s cool metallic surface as she walked toward the capsule chamber.

She stripped naked carefully stowing her over cloths and under garments in a nearby locker and then carefully lowered herself into the warm gel. With twitching anticipation she plugged in the fibre cable connections that ran along the back of her neck and down her spine. Then with a tightness building inside her stomach, she lowered herself under the gel and sent the first cerebral command to “button up” the capsule in preparation for departure. The arches of her feet always tingled as she thought those first few commands.

The ship began to hum, a slight sound building to a roar as she willed the ships sub warp engines to life, propelling it out from the docking gantry toward the outer area of the stations dock.

“Capsuleer Baud, System – designating release and exit from Zoohen 7… commencing in 3, 2, 1.” she said. Well, it was more of a thought than any vocalization.

“Confirmed. — Release confirmed.” the mortal reported back to her immediately, his disembodied voice echoing in her mind.

‘The universe is mine to command and I have dominion over it,’ she thought to herself as she willed the ship to warp away from the station.

Out here she was truly her own god.