Beckoning. She held the doorway open with her body. “Come on, I know it’s only six rooms but I think you’re going to like what you see. And if you’re really that concerned, I cleaned up after Silus. You’d never know they were here.”
“Thank… You?” Lore looked to her confused. “Were they particularly messy?”
“You should have seen the way they left the configurable quarters.” Destiny shook her head. “You should thank me for locking your room. On that note, we’ll be starting there.” She poked her finger between the two doors, disengaging the lock. The subtle red glow faded to green as the doors parted. There was a satisfying sound, like paper passing paper as they receded into the walls. Behind them, a more spacious room than they had been expecting. Large but spartan. A double bed with a chest at its feet flanked by wardrobes on either side. Lore instinctively gravitated to the left side. “Bed is fully programmable, independent on both sides, tailorable to your personal preferences.”
“Like what?” Char depressed her side of the bed. Her hands were swallowed by its low resistance foam texture.
“One of you may prefer the bed firmer than the other, one of you may enjoy a warmer mattress? These things can be changed from the tablets on either side of the head board. And no need to worry about cleaning the sheets, that can be done from there too.” Destiny smiled as though she was selling the bed rather than showing it. “So… You like it?”
“It’s nice. Bit cosy for the two of us but nice.” Lore went over to their wardrobe. It was filled with one type of outfit. A simple but smart suit; white shirt with a navy jacket and trousers. “It is really nice but is there anywhere we could get something to eat or drink?”
“Next stop on the tour. If you want to get changed, now’s the time?” Destiny shrugged. “You don’t have to.”
“We’re fine thanks.” Char spoke for them.
“Then let’s get a move on.” Destiny opened the door. “Time moves ever onwards.” They left the bedroom and returned to the corridor. “Now I’ve only got four fixed rooms: the cargo bay, the bridge, the engine room and the captains’ quarters.” Destiny highlighted the five remaining, unlabelled rooms. “These rooms are free for you to configure on a needs basis.” At the entrance of each room, a tablet with two options: Open and Configure. “If you need a medical bay, mess hall, bedroom, you name it, I’ve got it. And if I don’t, you can design new prefabs at any point from these tablets or the main computer on the bridge.” Destiny tapped at the tablet. The frame around the door flashed red then pulsed green. The locks clicked open.
Behind the door, another room too large for the space it had available to it. This time, it was more obvious. “Interesting.” Char smiled as she entered the mess hall. It was large enough to fit three of their bedrooms in there but only had seating enough for six.
“How and why is it so large?” Lore dipped their toe into the room before craning their neck around the door to see into the corridor and the geography of the ship.
“You see those devices in the corners?” Char pointed to four camera like objects in the top corners of the square room. “They look like dimensional projectors. The Nomadic tribes created them to reduce the scale of their convoys but they never caught on.”
“War?” Lore glanced over at Char.
“War.” She nodded. “Nice to see their legacy continued.”
“Lore found a group of Nomads a few centuries ago. They offered Lore the technology in exchange for sanctuary. They’ll be appearing again in a few years.”
“I… They, sent them to the future?”
“It was the best way to keep them safe. Can’t be hunted down if your pursuers if they’re ten years behind you.” Destiny moved over to a recessed shelf in the wall. “On a lighter topic… These are the food fabricators. They use stocked ingredients to create any recipe that you program into them.”
“Stocked? Is that something we’re going to have to worry about?” Lore began scrolling through the menu options.
Char joined them. “If it’s just us then no. There’s more than enough.” She paused. “Do you need to eat Destiny?”
She looked almost insulted by the question. “I may be a BioMech but no. That’s just wrong.” Destiny ordered a plate of ration crackers. “Eat up. We’ll cover the bridge in five.”
The dry but surprisingly delicious crackers consumed, Lore and Char began their meander towards the bridge.
“You know you could have had something on those crackers if you had wanted?” Char took the last sip from her cup before depositing it back into the fabricator.
“They were fine as they were. They would be served with something if you were meant to eat them with something.” They smirked. “Can’t wait to see this bridge. Then we can get on with these missions.” Lore waggled the tablet. “You know anything about any of this?”
“I know the names but…” She shook her head. “Never seen any of these places before. No memories either.” Char pushed the button to unlock the bridge. The outline of the door violently flashed red.
“Access denied.” Destiny’s voice played over the speakers. It was more robotic and artificial than it had been. When Char tried again she was met with the same automated response but this time, the ending of denied carried with it a certain joy. “I’m sorry,” she said between chuckles, “come on in.”
Again, the doors slid aside with the same satisfying sound revealing the brains of the ship. Unlike the Quatarrian shuttle they had arrived in, there were two chairs present and waiting for them. A large, high backed throne perched on a rotating trunk at the centre of the room. On its left arm, a series of buttons and a lever; on its right, a pair of loops, positioned perfectly to cradle Lore’s wrist when they sat. The other seat was positioned on the right side of the ship. It faced onto a console with a Quatarrian keypad.
“Your individual seating had been configured for your individual needs and those of the mission.” Destiny appeared from the front viewscreen. “Lore, you’re in the centre chair, Char, you’re up front.”
“Where do you sit?” Lore approached their chair.
Destiny stopped in her tracks. “Me? I was instructed to remain within the ship while in motion and only to use my physical form to complete complex repairs and for tours and tutorials.”
“Make yourself a seat.” Lore gestured to the station opposite Char’s. As they did, a seat rose from the floor.
“Thank you.” She spoke softly and lowered herself into the chair. “You should both take your stations. Our parking’s about to run out.”
Everyone in place, Lore gestured to Destiny to cast off. There was a hiss as the airlock depressurized and then, silence. The rush of air pushed them clear of the station and sent them on their way. Instinctively, Lore slowly throttled forward on the lever built into their chair; confusingly, it didn’t seem to do anything.
“How does this thing work then?” Lore repeatedly raised and lowered the lever. It didn’t seem to do anything.
“That’s the K.A.D.S. controller. Once we’ve got a location programmed in, you use that to charge and discharge the system.” Destiny tapped at her keypad activating the RCS thrusters to push them out into wider space. “Holding steady at five hundred metres from the station. Your orders captain?”
“Captain? Not sure about that. Lore’ll do.” Lore reached over to hand the tablet to Destiny. “Let’s have a look at our options.”
A map of the galaxy appeared on screen. Two circles appeared. “We can forget that one for now.”
“Why? What’s there?” Lore asked.
“That’s the Cartat system. It’s probably for the best we leave Quatarr for last.” Char focussed the screen on the second circle.
The stars and systems flew by as the screen zoomed once again. The circle split into three, now highlighting three planets in three neighbouring solar systems.
“That looks like Illia, Rexel and…” Destiny paused. “No official or colloquial name so Protectorate designation UPC-052.” Radio silence followed. “Unidentified Planetary Cluster-052. We have no recent data regarding this area. Our most up to date star charts are from a pre-Protectorate, pre-Jump craft, Llewellyn. The whole area is contained within a vast, near impenetrable nebula. Even with our Jump drive, it would take years to cut through.”
“Leave that one till last then, got it. I’m sure the Lore who put this together thought of something.” Lore chuckled.
“Very likely.” Char concurred. She removed that ring and their options, once again diminished. “Illia or Rexel then?”
“Give us a run down? What should we be expecting?” Lore looked between the two systems. Both were technically habitable for humans but apart from that, they had no idea what to think.
“Illia, a once unknown planet home to a passive and unremarkable species, now one of The Protectorate’s biggest resource sinks. Until around ten years ago, Illia was at the bleeding edge of technology, culture and society. Anyone who was anyone lived on Illia. External contact was cut and the colony allowed to develop in isolation. Expect a human colony with outdated ideals and beliefs.”
“And Rexel?” Lore gestured to zoom on the system.
“The Rexel system seems to attract the scum and the dregs of society. The lowest of the low live at the feet of the C60 miners who own the colony. Our mission will take us to the fifth planet in the system, the centre of the system and the main hub of the mining operations that span all seven planets. There is a minor human presence but most of those humans are enslaved by the syndicates that control the system. Anti-human sentiments run high.”
“Sounds like we’ve got a choice between a rock and an intolerant place.” Lore nodded. “Hopefully we can ease our way into this. I vote rock.”
“One more thing, before we go anywhere, I think it may be helpful to show you my guns.” Destiny flexed her muscles.
“Thank you… Shall we get on?” Char and Lore shared a look of confusion.
“I meant on the ship.” Destiny forced her hand into her console. The screen flickered and displayed an external view of the ship in her entirety. “We are here in this blue crescent section at the front. These two ports behind us are a part of our enhanced Jump drive. Normally, they aid in our propulsion but they also act as my only means of defence as I am equipped with no other weaponry.”
“Why not? Surely Lore knew this was a dangerous mission.” Char turned in her chair.
“They wanted to make sure the ship was as fast as it could possibly be. Weapons draw energy, even when not in use, energy that could be used by the Jump drive.” Destiny redirected their attention back to the picture of the ship on the viewscreen. “In this configuration, these ports provide extra stability when Jumping at higher speeds.”
“How do we change configuration?” Lore looked at the buttons on their chair’s arm.
“That red button by your elbow will take us from speed to tactical configuration.” Destiny nodded so Lore pressed the button.
The ship on the screen began to move. More specifically, the crescent at the front of the ship began to move. Rotating around the centre, the crescent went from lying horizontally to peacocking in a vertical position. The two ports swivelled towards the front, now unobstructed by the bridge.
“Our jump stabilisers are now a two of a kind weapon called a lightspeed accelerator.”
“I’m guessing they do exactly what they say on the tin?” Lore smiled. No-one else did.
After a significant moment of silence Destiny continued. “They accelerate any mass loaded into them to lightspeed. They have the ability to devastate any ship they’re aimed at.”
Lore didn’t like the sound of that. Of all the ways to go, suffocating in the vacuum of space was far from an option they considered humane or viable. “What if we didn’t load them?”
The question stumped Destiny. She took a moment to think, sinking into the console before returning a minute later. “Firing the accelerators without a projectile would simply create an effect similar to using them to propel ourselves just without the inertial dampeners turned to compensate for the recoil. It would send a Jump field hurtling towards the enemy ship which would repel them at the speed of light. Damage to the enemy craft would be minimal so it isn’t advisable you use the accelerators without first loading ammunition.”
“So it would be a viable, non-lethal option then…” Lore considered the choice they were making. “Good to know. Please return us to our speed configuration and prepare a course for Illia.”
“Of course Cap…Lore.” Destiny tapped at her console. “Would you like to use the K.A.D.S or the Jump drive?”
“How far are we from Illia?”
“We are two minutes via K.A.D.S or fourteen hours by Jump drive.”
“I don’t know about you but I’m knackered. If we jump there, we can enjoy a few hours of not being in Protectorate territory and thus safety. Then once we’ve had a nap, we can K.A.D.S the rest of the way.” Char was already walking towards the Bridge exit.
“We’ll do that then. Activate the Jump drive and let’s get cracking. Illia.”