Leptus 1

It began in the heart of the darkest of Geni’s daughters, Mangal. 

Though calling them that still is foolish for a Scientist such as I. They are really Moons. 7 habitatal moons orbiting a gas giant called Geni. I’m told though making it a more compelling story requires ms to make it sounds all mysterious and mythic. 

Boring scientific reports do not last the generations. 

“Kelli? What are you up to?” 

“I’m dictitating Gina. I’m trying to get a historical context to the Leptus virus.” 

Gina looked at me somewhat sympathetically. “Let me look.” She jumped up upon my lap and read the screen.

“Oh this is no good. It’s got to start at the last possible moment to make a good story.” Gina started typing.

“But! I’m writing this story! It suppose to be a scientific story!” I try and grab the keyboard of her. “Look the dictator is taping this conversation now!”

Gina smiled “Well good. At least it’s not as boring now.” She leapt down back to the floor. 

“I suppose I should be greatful to you? A little help from what is essentially a talking cat?” It just came out of my mouth, I felt horrible about saying it as soon as I had. Like a short stabbing behind the eyes. A kind of sudden hortness. I’m still getting used to having emotions so real and tangible like this. It’s a hard work.

“I’m only a Catum thanks to Leptus. Much like you, own your own condition to the Aforementioned virus. I’m suprised you would attack my character like that.” Gina almost snarled. She arched her back and started to walk away, tail in the air.

“I’m sorry! I’m new to this! You know that. I’m not sure what came over me! Emotion isn’t something I’m used to! Gender isn’t something I’m used to! Life! Eating! Fuck even brething in and out is totally new to me!” I am overcome by frustration. How? I have this massive need to express myself. A woman? A person? How am I supposed to deal with this? Be expected to know all these things? 

“That’s why I’m here. Yes.” Gina looked back at me over her shoulder. “I’m sure that I can help you to do this. To learn your new self. Much as I try to learn to deal with mine. I do have a psychology degree, a much needed and in demand thing. However I shall sacrifice my own time for you. Since your the only known inanimate Leptus sufferer.”

I am in tears, these wet, salty things pouring from my eyes onto clothes that I got. Clothes that I know are universally boring now. I wear  them anyway as I have no idea how to deal with fashion.

“I just don’t even know how to begin. I’m the only one the virus has affected like this. I’m suppose to be a computer! How the hell does a virus affect a computer!” Shouting again, why does my body do so much of this thing? Making noise? Smells? Have hunger? Thirst?

“Oh darling, you are so having a hard time. I think it’s not the time to be writing this book of yours.” Gina started walking towards me again. Not unkindly purring.

I started crying again. What strange week things bodies are. 

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Hammersmith, Chapter Thirty.

Darkness didn’t have a place in this room. Though nighttime was a factor. The smells of the nighttime stuck to the walls. It was like a little bit more being what he imagined human experienced but in so much more color and smell and well everything.
The cyborg was almost perfect. Loki could sense that it had been kept secret for this reason, the cyborg was the reason for the Incident. He was surprised Tyr hadn’t destroyed his fathers last masterpiece after the events of over a hundred years ago. He was even more surprised that Tyr didn’t remember the anniversary of the year that the Incident started. This was either a little ploy or Tyr had been keeping secrets so long they had become reality. Loki knew in a way what that was like. 

Loki thought about this as he explored the body of the cyborg. 

It wasn’t the model Loki had wanted, the no  1. That had dispatched itself a long time ago into the universe. Likely trying to pretend to be human. The conviction of the circuitry was almost breathtaking. Loki realized the cyborg could do many things a human or a Ro r even an AI could not. It had screwed with Codins theories so much. Loki remembered that. This one had no had a consciousness intered.

Codin had been the first Ro, a lawyer and a defense for human / Ro / AI relationships so long. Loki had read his diary. It was full of a philosophy of proof that humans, Ro and AI would have to coexist. Eventually maybe even merge into one species. This had actually been Lokis goal for a long time now. This cyborg was the peice his new race was missing. The Blue Clan had accepted nanotechnology in their viens. Cybernetic implants. They had become better than the humans they fought in Brussels to get the Cyborg. It was no 2, but that wasn’t a problem. Not for Loki. 
Croceus had been the one to build this thing on Codins orders. A horrible copy of a genuine genius. Human. Not Ro or AI. It was a woman. Greiving got her lost child. She created a new life form. In its structure, every cell, every bit, everything was both machine and man. Beyond cyborg, beyond Ro, beyond AI. It was all of those thing. Nanotechnology mixed with the best cybernetics and the best technology. It was her daughter in a way. Then like him, Croceus had to escape the Earth. Before the Incident. Some of the nanobots she developed decescaped. Some went haywire. Like a virus. Human immune systems fought against them sometimes, or got eaten by them, sons became a part of the humans immune system. 

The humans lost their shit. Tyr tried to calm them. But years of instinct took over. Me and Croceus escaped. Then war. 

Tyr. He must have been damaged. That’s why he only knew so little. Maybe the current Tyr was a copy of the original? It was how Loki had survived, so why not Tyr too? Like father like son? Did Tyr even remember he was our father? 

In the cybernetic body, Loki was laughing. 

****

Thea hadn’t really taken in the fact she was a cyborg. One who was so advanced. It was like reciving the news she was adopted. She did not look or think like her adoptive parents but she knew other kids whom that was true for.  It was however not really the time to be thinking. The Aeon clan had her in their jail cell and Jenny her newly found… Ghost? What the hell was a ghost? Said she had found a way out. A rescue plan.

“I remember other children being like… Me?”

The dark room seemed to smell like oil and dust and the special smell that all spaceships seemed to get. Like how all the places on the moon had a special moon smell. All the places in the asteroid belt had belt smell. Though for some reason the Trojans and Romans smelled completely different from each other and the rest of the belt, smelled…   More purple? 

“Those other children, did they even exist?”

The silent noises of the ship, a rattle of metal of metal off in the distance. 

“Sorry.” Said Jeny. “They did. They were advanced Ro. Like humans they have a childhood. It seems like a dream, almost perfect. A lot of humans actually remember their childhood that way. But it’s in reality a breif fleeting thing. Barely lasting more than a few minutes. Ro are computers with personality after all.”

This was a odd feeling to have. “Do I even have feelings?”

“Of course! They are just as real as anyone else’s. We can talk existential dread later. We are about to be rescued.” Jenny explained. Their was a noise not unlike a large number of mice being attacked by a chainsaw.

In the left wall a sudden hole appeared and the noise went from mice to rabbits to excitable puppies in a blender. It was a horrifying noise and one that gave Thea the chills to the bone. 

Then a light appeared in the hole, and sirens rung out all over the ship.  Thea ran. 

In a few seconds she saw the opening in the huge Magus clan ship go from large human sized, too tiny little speck. The new ship she was on took no time to get her on board and get away with her. It almost looked like she was somehow surviving in vacuum for a second before she noticed that the ship she was on now had a insta-port with a really new porthole that let you see out of a rather large viewing deck. 

The Magus clan ship was huge but barely moved to chase after them. Clearly they had not expected or even seen this ship. 

Just who the hell was this who rescued her? She thought.

“Oh, it’s a friend.” Jenny’s explaination was short as it was glib. 

“Anyone’s friend in particular? Or just generally well disposed to cyborgs carrying a AI hitchhiker?”

To answer her question a door opened in front of her right bathing this seemingly empty cargo area in light. A (male?) Ro walked out. He looked for all the world like Codin the first Ro.

“Hello Thea, Jenny. I’ve been looking for you for a awfully long time. Let me introduce myself. I’m Codin the First.”

If Thea could collapse from shock, she probably would have. 

Hammersmith. Chapter Twenty Nine.

AI needs humanity like humanity needs viruses, companionship and a challenging environment. Without it they will become sloppy. Slow. Eventually fall into the electronic equivalent of depression. A vast intelligence, delagated to do nothing but try and exist on a small planet…. The humans have to be their. It’s pretty much a logical proof by progression. Then I’m putting this into code form. Making it as widely available as possible. The complete Ro will all get it. War with the humans is pointless. We need them as much as they need us. – Diary of Codin, [year redacted – post 2020], Frostwing Archives of Machine Intelligence, Papers of Codin the Ro, Disc 7, sector 12, diary files
“When they are files, they still call them papers, it’s a librarian thing.” Bela mentioned to no one in particular. Then too Arline who sat across from her.
“This is what I found in the Frostwing archives in relation to Codin. The, father? Of Ro. It’s hard to say exactly what he was to the Ro. What he is to Tyr? I’ve never had a chance to ask him till today and our meeting was first.”

Nerves of steel were something synonymous with Bela. She had always gone beyond the port of call when it came to research. Trying to get to the real bottom of something. Beyond those things people left behind for reasearchers like her to find. It was a habit formed by years of researching the Incident. So many collapsed governments has tried in their infinitely stupid wisdom to cover up the last few years before the Incident after it had occurred. A commonwealth of embarrassment that such a thing actually happened. Often governments that hadn’t done a cover up, it was because they been destroyed in the Incident.

Even though she could hack into systems, get at hidden files, derive information from that which led to documents that eventually she could actually cite. Use as actual academic evidence. It wasn’t something that required more nerves than getting a cup of tea did anymore. 
Though, the rare occasional lecture she did in the halls of academia did cuase her nerves to get on edge.
The flight to Indonesia was probably the closest memory she had to compare to this moment. A utter butterfly moment, her late mother had called them. You can’t help but try and hope you really are where you are supposed to be, and act like you knew what you are doing. So Bela had done that in the scant few minutes until this meeting. Researched Codin, found his diaries and then make some brief conclusions on him. It made her nerves almost disappear. Research always helped her nerves become more steal like. It was like a wall of knowledge that she could hide behind. A way to stop anyone seeing the true person she was. A person she actually feared more nowadays. Sometimes even envied. She needed to protect that true self from reality as it felt so fragile and precious to her, even though it seemed that it was growing in power. 
Her mind shaped at attention on a the sound of the woman in front of her, clearing her throat. In this, to call it a room was generous, but that’s what her senses told her it was. This was beyond anything Bela had done in terms of teleworking. Televideo conferencing was available the university, but nothing like this. This was on a new, almost, absolutely real, scale. She could smell the room. She could smell the Canadian air. Maple syrup on the pancakes on the table. Which she could feel, if she reached out to them. She had no doubt they would taste delicious and fluffy. Though they were not real for her. They were real in the virtual room. She could feel the bumps in the table. The notches in the wood. It was like actually being in this conference room in Canada. One that was in reality completely virtually created by her host Arline. As far as her brain was concerned tough, it was the conference room in Canada. 

In her reality, it was a small terminal booth in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. She was actually genuinely surprised the terminal had the ability to do this being a public terminal. 
“Their is no need to be nervous, Dr. Bela. You don’t have to prove yourself to me. I’ve used some of your research into the Pirates in the belt and beyond. It’s been terribly useful for the intelligence devision, my superiors are impressed.”

Bela felt a sense of pride in her work. This Captain Arline knew of her. 
“I’m flattered.” Bela thought of the sometimes highly illegal means she went to, to find info. She wouldn’t be mentioning it if Arline didn’t. “The information on the Pirates isn’t as up to date as I could get it. I was actually on my way to gather more information for my thesis. The whole thing may end up just being about the Pirates at this point. I’m getting pretty sick of the Incident itself. It’s such hard going with so much of history and culture lost.”
Arline looked at her apologetically then sighed and said “I think Tyr and Lisa are the best AIs that have ever been born? Created? But even Tyr says his memory was corrupted by the incident.” Their was a long puase then “I think our lives are in the hands of people we have considered enemies for a long time.”

Bela felt shocked by this. What was she saying? The Pirates knew what happened?
“I think it’s best if we ask if Tyr is available now.” 

Arline waved her hands in a way that seemed to indicate she didn’t really know how to explain what had to be said.
Tyr had always sort of been a image to Bela. His Symbol like many AIs was well known. Though his face? His body? This wasn’t something Bela had considered before now. Every child has meet Lisa as a teacher. Her long red-orange hair and deep dark brown eyes a feature everyone who had grown up in the last … Belas thoughts were interrupted. 
A filker of static and then in the room a man appeared. He was dark skinned. About 5″ which surprised Bela, she always imagined him a tall man. Like a god almost. He appeared was in his early 60s but really sort of had that face that made you unsure of his actual age. Bela was reminded of her medical Ro Dr Blackberry whom had a similar complexion and face. His face was clean shaven and he just had the tiny thin wispers of grey hair like clouds from a dark night sky that had yet to be brushed away. He wore the sort of clothes you expected a man of his age to wear. A short red cardigan, over a military style shirt and black pants. His head tattooed in the forehead with a his bright red symbol. Black rimmed half moon glasses that sat on the end of his nose, just added to the overall effect. 

Compared to Belas slacks, and Arlines SOL-uniform it wasn’t particularly out of place. It reminded Bela of her early bachelor degree days. When she had lived near the university that hosted courses for the for SOL military units in what remained of India.
“Dr. It’s nice to finally meet you, face to face as it where. I’m afraid that I’ve not much time, but I thought this particular conversation was important enough to warrant my full attention. I’m going to be brief. The rest you will both get in your briefing papers. ” Tyr explained. “We have been approached by two of the Pirate Clans after the raid by the Blue Clan. It seems they have been fighting each other for many years and the Blue Clan having an advantage over them that can crack even our defenses is something they are willing to build a bridge of cooperation over.”

Bela thought of what she knew of the clans. They wouldn’t have been very happy to find out what had happened. These days FTL communications could make it so everyone knew what has happened within minutes. SOL being vulnerable to one attack would be good news for some, and a sign of the possible things to come to others.

“I have an invitation to treat from the Red Clan and the Aeon Clan. Both are intending an alliance of sorts through a treaty. I’m not going to be making an agreement with anyone I don’t have good intelligence on. Considering that you are the only person currently not involved in other activities for me, who has the skills and cunning to be able to be a diplomat for me, I’m going to ask you. Bela.”

Bela was overwhelmed by such a odd request. “I’m just a academic!”

Tyr looked at her over the rim of his glasses. He looked suddenly much older, and very librarian like.

“That is why you are very well attuned to this task. The fact is, a actual diplomat would be fairly useless to me. They would of course be involved in the actual treaty organization, but the intelligence gathering? I think recent event s have shown how well we have been doing that of late. Something I intend to start fixing. This is step one. I need real ground intelligence on the Red Clan, the Aeon Clan and any other clan they have interaction with. I need you to get as much information on the Incident they have as well. To compare notes. Of course that will inevitably help you finish your Thesis.”

Bela did have all the skills Tyr needed. If her real job was spy, and her official position was Diplomat. However did this mean she would have to be in the SOL military core? She had never really agreed with the military since her fathers accident. 

 “I’m in agreement as long as I remain a civilian contractor. I’m not joining the military.” 

“Of course. You will of course report to Capt. Arline here. I will holomail you the contract. I leave you now.  Captain.” Tyr turned and nodded at the Captain, he then disappeared in pixels, like a poorly made brick wall.

Hammersmith. Chapter Twenty Six.

The news wasn’t something Darren took the habit of watching. Today though, he had switched the news on. The sudden wave of feeling, took him by utter suprise.

Without Mary. Without his wife. The house he used to live at was like a empty shell. He hand’t gone back till today. His psychologist suggested that he needed it this morning. That blocking and ignoring his feelings was what was causing his issues. 

The Blue Clan attack came on the wallTV. Brussels was in a mess, Budapest had taken over most the operations of the SOL. It was a declaration of war, or so the news report said. It wasn’t going to be war though. By the time the SOL forces were able to recover the Blue Clan would be gone. 

Darren knew this. Though his main area of expertise was space based combat, it didn’t take a military genius to work out that the Blue Clan had been on a raid. The damage was really quite localized to the SOL forces buildings. Particularly the ones holding military hardware. For some reason the computer science building had been hit too. Not as hard but troops had entered that building. 

The thing was though with the Blue Clan able to effectively cut off half the defenses and attack quick enough that all Luna SOL could do was clean up. Capture any straggling fighters and help with the repairs.

You could bet their would be a quick inquiry into how this happened. Darren tried hard not to think about it. The fact was he couldn’t do anything to help. He was off duty. He was sick. Going full pelt into work again would only cause another breakdown. This one could cost him his job, or worse his life.

He thought of Mary and how they would both sit and look into how to deal with things like this. How they would have chats about strategy, forces, how best to deploy troops to cause maximum successes with minimal damage to people and equipment. Keeping death tolls lo and captures high. Mary was the best and this game. She had become a nurse because she wanted to heal. She joined the military because she water to make things better. Selfless. Mysterious. Beautiful. 

Her photos were on little display screens around the apartment. Ones of her smiling like happy days were here to stay. Ones of her in her uniform, next to him. Ones of their wedding. Ones of her and her dad. He had died just the other year. Now their was no one left in her family. Except Darren.

How do you deal with loosing so much? How? 

Just as he thought that, a message came on to his pad.

Sorry, been called into work on the Brussels mess. Tyr’s pissed. Heads to roll etc. feel free to use my apartment till I’m back in Canada. A

His sister always had a way to make him feel a bit better. The fact she was working on this attack from the intelligence angle meant he felt a little better. He left his apartment. Started on his way to Arlines. He couldn’t stay in his apartment. It was like staying in a ghost. 

—-

He got the her apartment, it was still technically morning so after eating a boiled egg on toast and eating a protein package, Darren took a moment to take him the morning colours of Arlines apartment.

The simple things in hear were not the things that you noticed. The casual obser might think the designer and owner to be a somewhat minimalist. The fact was that it wasn’t actually minimalist would be something that only a those who have the time to pick up the little things.

A little red leaf on a shelf, next to it a tiny gold statue of a doe. Then under that shelf a red colour pairing of a fishing cat on a peer dipping their toes in the grey-red water and wearing a large whimsical red straw hat. Over to the over side of the room another small set of shelves had the same pairing but in blue. Above that though their was a set of books. Nothing unusual about that, if they were normal books. But they were not. They each had a title beginning with letters from Arlines name. A wallTV took up most of the space in the middle of the room. The table in the middle was a finished cedar with small red placemats on it. A vase in the middle had a small plastic red rose in it. That was it for her dining room. It wasn’t a large apartment, so it was also a lounge. In the comer a single red couch sat facing away from the TV. You would be curious about that if you didn’t know Arline. She only had the wallTV for music and motorcycle races. She spent most of her time reading. 

Darren took a look in the spare room. It doubled as the library and wine cabinet. A large selection of Clarets adored one cupboard, books shelves in alphabetical precision sat patiently watching you from the other. A futon, doubled as a bed and couch, and took pretty much all the rest of the room. No wardrobe. Darren would have to live out of his suitcase. It’s not that bad he thought. 

Better than spending the night sobbing himself to sleep as his own memories huant him. 

Hammersmith. Chapter twenty five.

Bela did not enjoy her flight to Indonesia. The older class sevens were crowded, often smelly overused things. She had just heard on the InFlightHV that the Blue Clan had attacked the SOL installation in Europe. It was a bold move for a pirate clan. She was surprised as her research had not shown her that the Blue Clan the ability to FTL jump beyond the SOL defense lines. That was news. How did they keep that a secret?  The likelihood that someone was going to be suddenly a lot more interested in her papers on the Clans was going to be much higher. At least beyond the academics. She started to listen more intently.

“The SOL forces had been caught completely unawares. The ships of the Blue Clan had used their FTL to jump on the back facing side of the SOL defense forces. Producing high particle radiation in the process. The human forces on Luna are grounded. So now the Luna SOL Ro forces and what could be mustered from the ground are being summoned. SOL defense chief General Mitsubishi has responded to critics saying the SOL forces are currently engaged in on ground Defence and Recon, the AI Tyr refused to comment on current military actions and refered to the Generals previous comments. The SOL presidential council has stated that a full investigation will occur once this current opperration was finished. This is Janet George, IBH news.”

Bela started to ponder on this new information. Clearly even the AIs hadn’t seen this fualt. That was not the first time they had proven to be fallible. Everyone assumes they are infallible. After most of the youth of the modern SOL Earth cities had Lisa teaching them. In conjunction with the human teachers. Tyr was always their, connecting with the upper echelons of government. Defense, security, and every person in the military had been introduced or even interviewed with or by Tyr. He was almost omnipresent. Sydney was the other ones. More secluded, most didn’t know they had been near them. They simply made things work. Trains, busses, planes, doors, they all had Sydney in them. Controlling or helping control. AIs were not all powerful though. Bela remembered reading a few articles about how they were created. Those articles she started to re-read when a call came to her.

“Hello Bela. This is Tyr. I am in need of your assistance. Please find direct secure skyhook lines in your online inventory. I need to speak you privately on a secure line.”

Shock, fear and anexity filled Belas mind. What did Tyr want? What could he need from a academic?

——————

James was in a Terminal. He remembered what he was doing suddenly like waking from a dream. The transition between real and virtual was always hard for him. It was like being pushed through a gold plated suasage machine with lemon juice waiting for you at the end.

He could see the Ro he had to leave out on the surface. He checked to see if their consciences had been saved. He glowed with relief when he found that they had. It was strange how the terminal software interpreted emotions. Colours, tastes, music, they would all come into his mind. It was like having a symphony play your minds own special soundtrack. Strawberry and red, with a little classic piano in the background came into mind when he found his Ro friends were ok. Being their supervisor, made him responsible for their continued existence. They worked with him to earn their own credits, for their own reasons. Ro had families. Feelings. Other people still sometimes seemed to forget that Ro were more than just Robots. They were alive in the same way as humans were. James never forget that. It was what made him very good at his job. He checked on the Ro previous bodies out on the regolith.

The radiation had fried the circuits of the bodies they had previously. He had got to know all of tye Ro he worked with. Like friends. He had feelings for them, like friends. Though they were technically no more than work colleagues, he had got to know how to help them and even gone to one or two of them for advice with in the Terminal or when they were working. Not many Hunans these days got degrees in robotics.
The Ro were another race, they had laws governing their conduct, even a robot jail. Their programs had become so complex, so difficult. Many more advanced Ro had the capacity to program themselves. Though their were libraries full of extra coding on the Terminal. Online.

“It’s comforting to know they are safe.”

Was that his voice?

“Hi James. Remember me?”

It was Lisa. The AI who had guided him through many hard years of study.

James just nodded.

——————

Loki was happy. Whatever the hell that was. His ploy had worked. He had outsmarted two or was it three AIs the same grade as he was. And Tyr. Outsmart your father? That’s got to go into the heleriously ironic and pleasing thought of the last, what was it now? Couple of decades.

He now had a troup of his own Blue Clan soldiers, equipment that could strike at the heart of the SOL and one other thing. The bit of equipment he had been after for all the years since he had discovered its existence.

AI were different to Ro. For one thing they were smarter and quicker, but they could also go beyond many of the limited power of the most advanced Ro. Regardless of programming. It was basic fundamental difference in the core of all AI. Loki included. Ro were like Hunans, in a way. Limited by both a physical characteristics as well as programming characteristics. An AI is like more than a whole world of Ro put together. They had far less limitations.

Except one bug difference. Ro had a physical body. AI didn’t. Unless they download into one. Loki had done that once. A long time ago. Gone into the cybernetic implants of an early member of the Blue Clan. Loki couldn’t even remember asking him. It was about that point Loki had decided his gender. He supposed. Gender to an AI is just a identity. An idea. It was hard to do without one of you dealt with humans for a long time though. It was one of those things that just made sense to him to have and it stuck.

The whole experience was one he hadn’t enjoyed in the slightest. Compressing himself that small was awful. In implants designed to be in humans. It’s functionality not designed to deal with a large download of complex binaural coding. Loki supposed that would be why the poor man had died once Loki had found a suitable terminal infrastructure to exist in.

Since then Loki had been looking for a far better physical analogue. One he could be conscious in at the same time as his own running programs. Distance was not as big an issue as one would think. The circuitry and fictionally was still cybernetics, but the kind of cybernetics that make it into his dreams. Things like quantumly locked binaural circuits. You could communicate with anyone who was on the same time as you. You could be on other side of the solar system and if you had a FTL communications port you could do it across systems. Of course such a device was still far from Loki ability to make or understanding but he could now start the process of developing one.

Their befor him right now standing at attention was what had been worth the Raid. This would make it so the Blue Clan could go into the black space and never have the SOL come after them. It would be worth the deaths of the troops they lost, and the damage to their attack fighters.

Loki took the electronic equivalent of a deep breath and got ready for this new experience.

The Hammersmith Cyborg awoke.

Hammersmith. Chapter twenty.

They fought well, but the sheer numbers of fighters from Earth were no match for the squadrons of Blue Clan fighters. The radio chatter from the pilots of the Earth air fighters were calling them dogfish fighters. Little sharks that bite hard and fast and get away. The Earth based jets and the ships they could muster barely made a dent. They got their land raid cruiser to the ground and land troops started fighting. It was time to try and capture some of them for info. That’s my goal.

“Get the big three off your flank and roll in the plasma cannons. Shoot to maim, kill of need be. We want one of them for our interrogators!” Captain Cass had woke up this morning next to her wife. She had spent a little extra time making breakfast,  then breakfast didn’t get eaten. She got called in to fight these blue guys. They looked like those Smurf things. Only they were way bigger and harder to kill. They were all well over six foot and built like tanks. The auto rifles did nothing. So they moved onto the plasma. They were only having a bit of a impact but it was better than nothing. She felt bad for the defenders inside the complex.

The whole SOL/SF building complex was a mess of rubble and laser and gun fire. They had landed the raiding craft right on top after bombarding the feeble defenses with mass accelerators. Fuck those things did a shitload of damage. I only seen them in action in training. We never thought anyone would get past our defense field. Tyr has given us a defense pattern to follow but it’s only minimizing the damage. Our Intelligence is clearly woeful. That makes this mission so important.

Cass jumped over the next bunker to the wall near the entrance. How many had they lost? Let’s see … Han, Poptin, Jau, Abarcombie, Salter, 5… She had 24 left in her little commando group.  That was just enough for this next step.

“Galler, got those big blues off your back now?”

“Yes Sir. We got them to fall back. We’re ready to do the deed.”

“Right, Tiller’s group and I will do the cover. Galler, your grip is to capture and fall back to my position. We don’t need more losses today. My bet is Tyr will move the heavies in any minute and blast the retrieval craft. My radio is out so we don’t know how long, so move it now!”

Hammersmith. Chapter nineteen. 

The Blue Clan ships flew in formation. Like angry sharks going towards a feast of Whale. The Whale in this case was Europe. Brussels. The Space Force was still headquarterd their. After a good few decades of claiming that Earth was only one planet in a democratic coalition of plants. Of course the real power lay in the government, which was called SOL. The space force was just a military arm, a poorly equipped one at that. Getting the Red Clan to take out the main Solar system based SF Vessel and having the Black Clan hunt the next President of Mars was all part of a massive plan for Loki. He didn’t want payback for anything, just after his goal. With SOL forces scattered looking for many split and separate “terrorist” pirate clans he had hitched his plan to get what he was after.

The humans he had working for him he had no great love of, but he needed them for his existence. The Incident had proved that he needed to coexist with them for the long term. Almost dead when the Big Blue guy had fished him out of the ruins of his old university computer systems. Somehow managed to survive on a few gigabytes of hard drive space. All in a massive compression algorithm he had created based on the way bird brains work. Certain species of bird had managed to compress their own brains so much. They would literally have to sacrifice brain space every winter to make themselves lighter. Then in spring they would again have enough food to uncompressed the same bit of brain. All while still not being eaten by their many hungry flying raptor enemies or mammals on the ground. Loki had a greater respect for Avian species after that experience. Humans were still more like advanced monkeys.

Birds did these wondrous things, but out of being forced into their niche by the evolutionary process of the world. Mammals took over the ground. Then the monkey. Humans.

It was the Big Blue guy who had thought of this plan. Help us he asked. We will help you. The human needs to be pushed towards its next evolution. With help of need be. I have done a little, changed my own DNA. Made me better, smarter and bluer for some reason. We can work on something to make it so we all get this. And you won’t have to work with ‘monkeys’ that don’t think on your scale anymore.

It wasn’t as I had any choice. I had to survive, to make more time. To be myself. I changed my name. Then on known as Loki.

The experiments we did in a secret lab in some outer part of London. It was all part of a secret organization. I helped the monkeys synthesis and predict the result of genetic experiments. Create nanotechnology. Make clones. Stuff the usual scientists wouldn’t even get past a ethics committee. Then one day the Big Blue guy came in. All scratched. He looked shite. I remember every bit of that conversation. Luckily he never thought to try and erase my video logs. He would have succeeded if he go to them before I did.

“Loki! We need to go. An exit plan.”

Sure. I can get us out of here. We’re we heading?”

“It’s just us. Me and the other blues. We are going into space. On the new elevator they have then to a commissioned ship.”

The other Blues broke up into little groups later on. The Red clan and the Black clan both offshoots of our Blue Clan. Monkeys disagree with each other over simple things sometimes. That’s all I have to say about that.

—-

You are going to leave me here?”

“They broke up with us! That bitch Croceas has already gone with her lot to God knows were. They found the other one. Systematically attacked the child processes then wiped the ABU. They know you are here. We can’t risk it.”

I was shocked. Big Blue shut off my conversation units. He was a pretty competent programmer. He didn’t expect me to do what I did next. As he types I send a small electrical current up the cyberware in his arm. Idiot monkey forget I designed it. In a few seconds he’s trying to erase my child processes. I’ve already got a compressed copy of myself in his brain. I’m no stranger to living in a small space, but I notice his tiny cyber computer trying to fight back. I reprogram it to make it forget about me. I can’t let him know I am hitching a lift. Not yet anyway. If he knows I am in his brain he will never get past the customs the other monkeys. Of course eventually my presence will likely kill him. Pity, I was starting to find him interesting.

I watch through his eyes and mine as he erases me from the research lab. It’s like watching a house burn down while your simultaneously in the house and on the outside of the house. Very odd. A strange warmness. I thought about my mythological name. Loki was a trickster God. One of my favorite human invention, the anthropomorphism of emotions and ideas into a belief that fits a ideology and a personality. I don’t know if a god/s really exists but an AI can seem close in some human eyes. Of course our power is more limited than that. Cut power to all circuitry or attack my child processes and wipe my ABU. Of course even with a wiped ABU the artificial brain will work. It will be like a newly born child. I realize that as the Big Blue takes my old self offline, one child process at a time. It’s going to take a while if my old self decides to fight back. I’m not in control of it anymore.

I’m aware of my older self making sure all the security is in check. It’s a good move. We don’t want any of these nano-viruses getting out. They could kill an awful lot of people.

Big Blue totally forgets to shut the power off to the ABU. I wounder what will happen to it. Meanwhile I prepare to make a new ABU. I need a nice medium to create one. I’m sure Big Blue wont mind me borrowing some of his brain. Of course I can’t do that till I leave Earth.

Now I am on my way back. With a whole army of Blue Clones and originals at my disposal. Of course they all think they are following orders from other Blues. Sometime they are, sometimes they aren’t. I am not as happy about Monkeys run things as Tyr is. Orders are something that a lot of them seem to like.

Monkeys are so obedient.

Hammersmith Chapter Sixteen

A Lamas on the Loose single was playing loudly. Arline rode her motocycle and her headphones played a familiar tube. It was one of her COs.

“Answer”

 “Arline! It’s Captian Tendry here. We have a situation development from the Luna SF. Something about radiation. They say it’s not flare source. I need a briefing about the Colours from you ASAP. ”

 “Ok. Where? I’m still in Ottawa.” 

 “I know. I have a encryption map going to you.”

 “Thanks.”

In a few seconds Arline’s holographic visi sceen changed to a directional arrow. She also saw her license had been changed to allow her to go to max speed if safe. Although she knew it was clearly serious for her CO to call her off care duty, this was approved far above him. The code word for the Pirates was “the Colours”. Could they do a full frontal raid on Earth? Radiation could be natural, but it could also be caused by a dodgy dilation cloud before a fleet drops out of FTL. They really had very little info on how far they had spread. The Blues or Blacks. It has to be. No other clan has the guts to pull off a raid on Earth. The Reds don’t want anything to do with Earth.Eon clan is thinly spread. Magus clan wasn’t even in Sol. No independent pirates were a threat. The persistent protection field was too good. 

Well. We have a few little suprises for them.

“Patch me to SF AI TYR. ” 

TYR. Sgt. Arline. You have the colors breifing?

“Yes. But no secure channel. On my way.” 

We don’t have time. The dilation cloud indicates fleet drop T-2.2.

“Shit. That’s worse than I thought.”

Arline skidded her cycle to a stop.

“Ok. Blue or Black clan are the only ones who want any Sol target. You already know that.” 

Arline thought, which clan was stupid enough not to care about a dodgy dilation field unmasking a otherwise silent FTL approach. “Um. Oh. It will be Blue clan.” 

Whats the MO? 

 “Fighters, lots of them. But they are a distraction in most of their attacks on the outer colonies. They often target one main raid goal. Supplies, Equipment, Buildings. They would be after equipment most likely. They will strike hard and fast, so you will need a delta 2 defense pattern.” 

You supplied this in your latest intelligence report. 

“Well yes. Oh. You want more?”

I need to know how they are jumping so quickly and past our defense field. We have a few satellites, and can scramble some fighters and troops but they will likely get their target. 

 “Shit. That fast. They must have a AI as well. Most reports say the pirates had one or two who escaped before the Incident.”

Ah. I am sorry all my electronic brethern do not see humans as equals as Sydney, Lisa and I do. 

“Any idea what region they are targeting. I might be able to guess what they are after.” 

 
They are likely to jump out in… Europe. T-.45.

“Shit. They are after parts. They use nanobots. They need something to do with that in Europe.”

I know exactly what. I will deal with it. Thankyou Sgt. Arline.

Arline stood near her bike for a few seconds. She got back on and started riding towards the airport. They would want her to help with clean up recon.   

Hammersmith. Chapter Fifteen

Stealing was only a part of a pirates life. As looting chief Bower knew too well. He kept making plans for new raids on the other pirate outposts or on the SF forces in the inner systems of Sol and Tau only to have the same problem. He started to plan the next raid when his second in command came running in.

“Bower! They did it!”
His second in command was drenched in sweat. She looked like she had just run from Marathon to Athens on a scorching summer day. Though all of Greeces days had been scorching in his memory.

She wore the blue slacks and had, like all of them, blue hair and blue /green skin. She caught her breath and then he asked.
“Gemini, what are you on about and why didn’t you just use the intercom?”

She looked at him with her red eyes and said “Intetcoms out, Bower. We are at FTL. They got it working!”

“Oh. Is that all?” Bower didn’t feel impressed. It wasn’t that good news. The FTL drive had only been out three days.

“Bower! They have got it to go faster than any other FTL. We can finally outdo those SFs or the Reds, or even the Blacks! It’s faster than even a Wolf fighter!”

Bower considered this. Ok maybe this was worth running for.
“Loki.”

What. I’m busy. It’s not easy going faster than light you know. By the time you see something you have already passed it.

“Loki. I want you to recompute my planned raid on Sol, taking our new capacity into the factor.”

already done monkey.

A new holodisplay became visible on the main table near Bower and Gemini.
Bowers large figure and blue form overshadowed it. “Impressive work. Thankyou Loki.”

Gemini took a step forward. “This has my fighters all raiding the European SOL complex.”

“Yes. We have to get a something from the central command. That means sending our Eagles in as a distraction to the ground troops. I assume your up to the job?”

“I will start the drills immediately” Gemini saluted her superior and ran out.

On her way she wondered what is was they were after. Neither Bower or Loki had said.


 

And the phone was ringing.

Sanguine colored flesh. Hanging from a line. Drying ready jerky, for a hard frosty winter.

But the phone was ringing.

Streets full of weeds and cracks. The dust of ages past. Set puddles of rain full of mosquito larvae and even the frogs are coming back. The kingfishers hunt them.

And the phone rang.

And rang.

It just took that long.

Sapling remember what a phone was. It suddenly occurred to them, one afternoon as they were storing the jerky in large earthen jars.

They picked the phone up.

“Is this my feast?”

Sapling was taken aback by this. They then heard the phone hang up. They put the phone back and started back with the Jerky.

Sapling wasn’t sure but that voice had sounded familiar. Why? And why ask about a feast? Who knows. Maybe the phone will ring and say. Maybe it won’t. Life goes on in this abandoned city. Like so many others.

Just left by these Humans. Whatever they were. They just populated the cities they wanted to populate. Then the ones they didn’t want had been either destroyed (carefully) or left. Left like an abandoned toy.

Liked the one Enber carries. A soft thing. Looks like a little baby thingy. Animal. With curly ears.

Sapling continued to work and think. The phone didn’t ring for another four days.

Hammersmith. Chapter Fourteen.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 1. Elysium Mons - Shadow Plains. In the left of the sky is Phobos hanging nonchalantly. Below this is a farm in the foothill, around which is green bushes and a road. The road is dirt an leads to a more significant road going into the valley. To the right of that is more hills and the monster of Elysium Mons itself. Green bushes are only oscaiosnly visible with most of the dirt a red, brown or orange. There is a black shape on the orange main road.

Hammersmith. Chapter 14. Panel 2. Elysium Mons - Shadow Plains. A mountain in the shadow of Elysium Mons with further smaller ranges below. The smaller rages are coloured with a slight green hue as if covered by grass.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 5. Elysium Mons - Shadow Plain.  Okeanos Road. SOL SL - 12272.   Lou is in the pilots chair of SOL SL - 12272. In the background you see the red Martian sky.   Lou: Love

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 6. Elysium Mons - Shadow Plains. SPLIT PANEL  Martian: Love? A girl?  Lou: No. A planet.  Martian: Mars?  Lou: Yes. Mars. I love him. All of his red, blue and green.   Martian: Him... So you are.... um gay?  Lou: I am. I suppose.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 7. Elysium Mons - Shadow Plain.  Okeanos Road. SOL SL - 12272.  Martian in the cockpit of SOL SL - 12272. Passenger seat.  Martian: Sorry to be so awkward about this. I think we have barely talked sine we left Elysium.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 8. Elysium Mons. Okeanos Road.  Lou (off panel): Shouting: Sir brace yourself!

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 1. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plains. In the left of the sky is Phobos hanging nonchalantly. Below this is a farm in the foothill, around which is green bushes and a road. The road is dirt an leads to a more significant road going into the valley. To the right of that is more hills and the monster of Elysium Mons itself. Green bushes are only oscaiosnly visible with most of the dirt a red, brown or orange. There is a black shape on the orange main road.

Hammersmith. Chapter 14. Panel 2. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plains. A mountain in the shadow of Elysium Mons with further smaller ranges below. The smaller rages are coloured with a slight green hue as if covered by grass.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 3. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. – Okeanos Road. A grey vehicle with a slightly triangular shape to it is driving along a orange dirt road with some bushes on its left, on its right the Elysium Mons mountain system can be seen towering into the distance. The windows of the grey vehicle are green and it has two front tiers but a caterpillar for the back traction providing wheels. The letters “SL” is viable on the side and “SOL:” are visible on top. Red streaks of dirt seem to have impacted on its many journeys. Its windows are green and dark.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 4. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road. SOL SL – 12272.

Martian in the cockpit of SOL SL – 12272. Passenger seat.

Martian: “So … Why did you decide to defect? I trust you. Its juts …. hard to comprehend.”

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 5. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road. SOL SL – 12272.

Lou is in the pilots chair of SOL SL – 12272. In the background you see the red Martian sky.

Lou: Love.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 6. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plains.
SPLIT PANEL

Martian: Love? A girl?

Lou: No. A planet.

Martian: Mars?

Lou: Yes. Mars. I love him. All of his red, blue and green.

Martian: Him… So you are…. um gay?

Lou: I am. I suppose.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 7. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road. SOL SL – 12272.

Martian in the cockpit of SOL SL – 12272. Passenger seat.

Martian: Sorry to be so awkward about this. I think we have barely talked sine we left Elysium.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 8. Elysium Mons. Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road.

Lou (off panel): Shouting: Sir brace yourself!

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 9. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road.

Ship: “dew”

Ship shoots green stuff.

Explosion: KAPOOOOOOOO!

The grey craft is engulfed in a explosion.

Hammersmith, Chapter 14, Panel 10. Elysium Mons – Shadow Plain. Okeanos Road. SOL SL – 12272.

Inside the cockpit of SOL SL – 12272.

Lou is reaching over his seat to reach Martian. Martian is clearly barely conscious.

Lou: Sir! SIR! we have to get out!

Martian: Uh!

A wire from Lou’s helmet is making a “zip” noise.

Namespaces (Hammersmith short story)

“Tagashaka, get me that second pad.”

I was prepping another part for our mining pod, the Device. Maintenance was a big problem out here on the belt. It helped to have a body like mine though. It was broken, oh so broken, in close to zero Gs that didn’t matter so much.

“O’kay, Singe. I got pad 2. Want me to boot it?”

“Sure”

I thought as I worked on the computer to put the next few lines of code. The systems that are key to life in space are often said to be fragile. In reality they often had more backups than a lawyer in a well paid custody battle. You did everything you could to get it working right about 7 times, then did one thing before the computer died again. The mining bell was a great little craft when it was working, but so much work had to go into making sure it did.

Tagashaka booted the pad and the Device finally came to life.

“Bingo.”

Our collective relief could probably be felt on the moon.

It was time for the next trip.

I took a deep breath, this was the bit that was actually hard. Saying goodbye to my husband.

“Well I will see you in a few.”

Tagashakas big blue eyes looked at me “Yeah”. He played with his hands a little then looked at me, it was the love I knew. “Be careful.”

“You know me. I don’t do anything a normal couldn’t do.”

“Singe. I am serious. I need to know you’re going to be careful out in that thing.”

“Are we all floating rocks? Seeing a new bit of moss grown on our surface makes us feel new and old at the same time. I’m a man of my means and out here in the belt my means are you and yours.”

I hid behind little bits of poems like this now. So many times I used a poem to express my true feelings rather than being wholly truthful. It was one of our things we have always done as a couple.

“I love you”. I finally blurted out. Why did this never get easier? Expressing myself? Was it my youth? My psych might say so.

Tagashaka and I kissed. Awkward at first as he came down to me in my low G wheelchair, then we grabbed onto each other and it got more passionate. It got more rough and our tongues started to tie knots around each other. Tagashaka then hoisted me from the kiss into the mining bell. He broke off and gave me one of his gentle Japanese smiles. A smile like that could make me want to take his pants off, but I knew better. We had work to do. I smiled back and got into the mining bell shutting the hatch. I roll the Device’s wires and started to get into the pilots chair.

“Look. It’s so hard for me to say this. I love you. You know that. But we have to do this. Otherwise we may as well be at the moon. Or back on Earth. Where I can’t even rooster a G to walk.” Talking over the two way video wasn’t as nice as real life, but it had its advantages.

Tagashaka looked ashamed, his face looked old for a second then he opened the airlock near the Device and pressed the button for the auto to start working. He walked out of the airlock shutting the other hatch behind him. “Singe. Just come back in one bit. It’s hard to be here worrying about what’s going on in that belt.”

“I always come back in one bit. You keep yourself in one bit two, this is our last run before we head home. We can afford the really nice saunas on Luna this time.”

Sex in zero G saunas is fantastic.

I smiled at that thought and I pressed the launch button on the Device.

The whole thing shook and their was a slight whooshing noise as I started it up.

In outer space, everything is like gold for me. It’s freedom like the best drink in the bar mixed with angels tears. It’s like having everything open for a moment and you can do everything. It’s like your first lucid dream. Your first real kiss and your first taste of your favourite meal. You can just think and you’re doing it. In truth the computer on the Device let me do this. It was Mark IV mining bell; it had three arms and two grappling legs. It had more different sorts of lasers than a true space jockey could want. It had cutters, bolts, sanders, and the best set of fusion engines and thrusters in the Sol. Of course it was a bugger to keep running though, the computer crashed so often and we had a lot of our code in it to keep it going. But it was the best ship for me.

You had total control in the suit. My brain was all it needed to work. I didn’t need to move my legs and arms. I was a part of it. It was a part of me. I suppose that’s what actually scared Tagashaka about me going out in it. He would never be able to have me like this. Free.

Even in zero G, I couldn’t move my legs. My arms were fine as long as it was under .5G and everything else worked as well as it could, considering. I was born with a genetic disorder that causes nerve loss to the extremities. It works slowly over your life, getting worse as you age. There is no cure, though the genetics people have tried. Everyone with it has different results. It’s only in the not so aptly named Y chromosome, so I’m my father’s son, unfortunately.


My little sister was next to me in bed. The night was the worst time. She would hug and hug me. While he shouted at Mum. Shout and shout. There was hitting too. Abuse. Then at 3ish he would finally tired and go to bed and lock his door behind him. Mum would sit in the kitchen, or lounge crying till we came out and hugged her too. We all went to the big bed and tried to sleep. Hoping that He wouldn’t wake. That it would be a good night. That we would get some rest before he started again. Mum would say “He is sick, he loves us he just has this job, he cares for us. We have food we have shelter. It’s going to be okay”

She would lie to us every time. He would hurt her and she would take it. Because she knew he would hit us if she couldn’t.

That night mum seemed like she was meeting the end. The day she couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I had to do something. I had use of my arms and legs still and had worked out how to pick the lock on Dad’s door. I estimated I had one chance. I had to take it. For Mum. I went to the kitchen and got the rolling pin. In his room. Maybe sleeping, maybe awake. He wasn’t my dad. He was some guy who hurt mum. That’s who is now. All he is. I had to make him dead. If I managed to do that we wouldn’t have to cry anymore. We could live for once.

I walked slowly towards his door. Got my lock picks out silently. Left. Right. Up. Down. Click.

The room was lit. Was he scared as we were? That was my first thought. He was sleeping. On a red sofa. Knife next to him. Bear like mussels on his arms and chests his legs a useless atrophied mess. I knew I had his genes.

I would be like him one day.

No use of my legs. I had to escape. I had to kill him.

There just was no other way.

I took the rolling pin and got ready. First blow had to do it. I had studied the method I needed on the Internet. I was ready as I could be.

I took a deep breath.

Dad’s one dark brown eye opened. It was blood shot and full of veins. I had no idea how he lost the other one. His chest full of pain he grumbled like a mountain full of lava, ready to become a volcano. The noise was horrid. He looked at me. Just stared and all my courage left me.

My rolling pin wasn’t even in my hand anymore. My dad wasn’t even in control.

Then I realized it.

His terrible reality. It wasn’t a strength thing. It was control. He couldn’t control himself.

He needed control. It was all about making things be under control the way he needed it. I realized it then as he woke. I’m going to need something to get that same control.

Perhaps he had tried to stop.

He exhausted himself as much as possible at work. He went as much as he could. Moved bricks. That’s all he did. In a big modified wheelchair. Then he got home and was tired but still couldn’t control his anger. At everything. Unfair life.

His wife wasn’t his anymore. Mum had been cheating with some delivery guy for years, didn’t even try to keep it a secret.

His son and daughter; one of them doomed to have his condition, the other scared by his anger.

No. He wasn’t scared of us.

He didn’t lock the door as he feared we would kill him. He locked the door as he feared he might lose even more control and kill us.

One moment was all it took. He had me. His big hand around my tiny throat. I’m choking.

“Son. You idiot! You pathetic idiot. You could have done it. Ended it. I woke. Just die now you fucking waste!”

Did he want me to kill him? Make it stop? I think as I choke.

I couldn’t breath. I’m seeing red then suddenly on the floor and the world isn’t quite so dark. It’s kind of a yellow colour like memories of good times. Not that I had many.

Thump.

Suddenly mum was there. Hitting him with a frypan.

Thump.

His head caved in on the third blow.

Thump.

The world went a blue and red. Then dark. I was still having trouble breathing. Before my eyes closed I saw dad die.

There was a lot of blood. My dad died slowly. He bled out before the cops arrived though.

Police took their time in the district we lived in. Probably preferred to clean up then break up. Breaking up stuff meant danger.

They took my sister and me to hospital. Mum as well. As soon as she got out she killed herself. I was still in hospital. She sent me letter, but I never read it. I felt I would know what it would say. Would it be lies? Stuff about how he wasn’t strong anymore and I was the strong one now? I don’t know I was a kid I didn’t want to know. I felt it wasn’t what I needed. Never would be. It was when I decided that I had to get off planet Earth. Be as far away from these people as possible. It was then I decided to become an astronaut regardless of any disability I would inherit from my father. He wasn’t going to win. I would get my control in space. I just didn’t know how yet.


 

A carbon rich asteroid was a rare find. I took my ship in closer.

The freedom out here was almost deafening, if such a thing was possible. It’s like being in a bath. A big bath full of the rare little bit of soap or a little bath toy. Each one a different color and composition. Almost every asteroid was worth mining. Miners on Earth got excited by a purity rate of 2-8%. Out here it could be as high as 60%. Once I got an asteroid that had a purity of 86%. Full of iron and copper so pure it barely needed smelting.

I looked at this one. It was almost like dust, only just held together by gravity. I charged the holding lasers. It was a lot easier to just scoop these ones. Lots of water, carbon rich compounds, what scientists called organics. It wasn’t alive but it was really precious. Out in space fresh water could fetch as much as 20 credits a liter. Carbon rich soils almost as much. I called Tagashaka.

“Hey lover.”

“Hi, found one?”

“A slime ball. Real pay dirt.”

“Winch it in. You know the drill.”

“Keep it cool”

“Heh.”

It was wise to keep chatter to a minimum. Pirates might be out here too. Maybe close, maybe not. The channel couldn’t be kept secure because I wouldn’t follow a standard route in the mining bell. I used a laser communications beam to strike a claim as soon as possible though. Law was you had to touch the asteroid before you could get a claim. You could protect a section of space from intruders while you claimed a whole bunch though. The big companies used to use tracker robots, then they got nicked by the Red Clan pirates. Started mining carbon rich asteroids and making TNT before going back to the company freighters and blowing everything sky high. Bunch of space pirates. It was really now only a people job. People were just as easy to control but had the advantage that they generally wanted to live. Robots don’t care, no matter how much “artificial intelligence” they had. They also fought better than robots could, at least for now.

I got the first rocks into the analyst and sent the secure laser beam to Chronos. Then I started the grinders. I was working on that when Tagashaka called.

“..Inge we… Prob.. the…. Piz….”

I froze.

I switched the radar on. There were six ships nearby. When the fuck did they get there? Was I so out of it on freedom that I didn’t see them? They didn’t respond on the IFF, which meant pirates. Most likely Red Clan.

I released the asteroid and turned around and fired the fusion drive.

The first half of the journey back was just maneuvers. The six Red Clan ships were all smaller than the Japanese freighter me and Tagashaka used. It was going to be a battle like a bunch of ants fighting over a big bit of discarded chicken.

I noticed that our freighter and Tagashaka had already been hit. The freighter was venting. Fuck.

I had to have a plan. I had the advantage of maneuverability. Not much else. My lasers were designed for power and accuracy. Not range.

I checked my drive power. It was just enough. Ok let’s do this. If Tagashakas was still alive he’s was going to be hurt.

They will know I am here now from the Radar bleep. It’s going to be them or me. I’m at the mercy of my own skills and the ship. Kinda wish I thought of a better name than Device for my craft. To late for that now.

I thrust up, left, yaw, yaw, forward. I was behind the first Red Clan ship. I fire the lasers and damage its thrusters and its engines. It’s not able to fire back. I aim for the antenna and take that out too. One down.

The second one takes a pot shot at me. I manage to dodge it and get on its flank. I take a shot at its weapons and hit.

“Ha! Blossoms up your bum!” I yelled triumphant.

Suddenly I’m hit. My left laser arm actuator had been damaged. I can barely use it. I don’t panic though. I am used to this kind of disability.

I take a quick yaw then roll and go left. It was on my 6 and 8, right up my flank. I thrust up and see a small ‘roid in the way, I aim at it then dive under.

The driver of this pirate ship was smart and didn’t take the bait. I hide there for a little then drive back to the right and up on a whim. I was right, it was trying to outfox me, but I take my left arm and release it straight into his right side and then fire a timed detonator. It blows and the ships a little pile of dust.

I thrust toward the freighter. I notice a blip on the radar.

Two of the Red Clan ships try to take me on at once with the third behind me. I use the small asteroid I coasted before as a pretend hiding spot.

“Ha! Haven’t any of you fuckers seen Star Wars?”

I pull my Han Solo maneuver off without a hitch. The pirates are sitting ducks in space where I have left three detonators just after the little ‘roid to stop them seeing them. They blow.

The last ship takes off into the distance reading the cards at play.

I was safe.


 

I’ll admit, I thought Tagashaka was lovely when I first met him. Having only just come to terms with my progressing disabilities and my homosexuality (plus my past), it was hard to admit at first a hidden like for this lanky bald Japanese bloke with more tattoos than a motorcycle gang.

The universities LGBTI club was surprisingly active and I had kept myself busy for months helping the organiser and trans woman named Amy get quite a few things going. We had weekly catch ups, a university wide ‘Zine and Holomail lists for all the interests we could get more than a few members for. We also had lists of interests that might get going if we had a few more members. One was a space excursion list.

I was doing astronautical engineering and had more than a few contacts that could get us on the space elevators in Indonesia or Ecuador. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be now there was two of them. The fund raising Amy could sort like a bee could gather pollen. She had this instinctive skill almost when it came to getting cash for the club.

We were doing a catch up and I was sitting next to Amy looking at the funding documents when Tagashaka came into the dodgy Uni pub we used as a venue. I’m pretty insensitive so I almost wrote him off as a whole bunch of no straight away.

He sat next to Steve who was a genderqueer asexual doing a librarianship degree. Instantly he says “Greetings and salutations to you all. I am Tagashaka. I’m gay. I’m in Uni. I want to become a member of your little band.”

I finally gave him a decent look. I notice his eyes.

Oceans of blue in a sea of milk. A moonlit beach in spring. The trade winds are blowing and the Palm leaves are gently shaking like little chimes. A small wave pushes the rocky sand. The sun starts to set.

“Hey I don’t take it personally but you’ve been staring at me for an entire hour.”

“Shit! Sorry!” I gasped as I realized I had fallen in love at almost first sight. This sort of thing only happens in stories! I’m not that kind of guy am I?

We organized to talk over coffee.

“I’m doing astronavigation. They say there is gold and other metals out in the belt. So that’s where I am going.”

“Heh. Need a pilot?, I’m doing astronautics!”

I realized I practically told this guy I wanted to be with him always at that point. It’s not even a date!

“You are in a wheelchair? How will you pilot?”

“This? Oh. I just need my head to pilot! But it still needs training.”

“Need to know about the… delta V?” Tagashaka was still learning English.

“All sorts of physics and stuff yeah. Hard, but hey its worth it if I get to be free out in space.”

“Free of what?”

“Heh. I will tell you if you get me a drink.”

Later on we managed to start properly dating.

Reading poems in Saunas. Organizing club stuff. Getting Tagashaka’s tattoo body suit finished. His artist was a man by the name of Keno who had six generations of tattoo artists in the family. Tagashaka mostly got big fish and ocean scenes and absolutely loved to get a new part of the tattoo and show it off. Often in bed, or in Saunas. I asked him if he wanted me to get tattooed at one point and he answered in poetry. A little haiku about a fish. I had the poem tattooed on my back with copies of some of the big fish he had nearby. After that every time we had an issue we used poetry to help.

Getting our degrees just seemed to happen.

“Hey what are you guys doing after Uni? It’s a big world out there now they have got to Ceti.”Amy asked one day.

They had just invented a good star drive. It had got a crew of sixty to Tau Ceti in a week. They had discovered a planet in its early Industrial Age. Humans were already there. It was a scary thought. But it made sense when the found out they all were related to a crew they had experimentally sent at some earlier point, it was hard to say exactly which experimental craft it had been. They had thought them all dead. Clearly they made it and had started a colony. Humanity was now starting to spread. Really the future was looking brighter by the day.

“We are going into the mining business. Asteroids.”

“Need someone to do your finances? I have the knack it seems. Since I transitioned I’ve done nothing but maths and accounting they want me to do a masters. But I need a better income for um… You know.”

Tagashaka, always the charmer said. “We would gladly employ such a skilled lady as yourself.”

“Wow. We just formed a corporation. What do we call ourselves? I’m not so great at names.”

“How about Jupiter Mining Corporation?” Amy said.

“Hey isn’t that from an old Sci fi?”

“How did you know that?” Any asked.

“I have a thing for old 2d TV shows and now poetry thanks to Tagashaka the charmer here.”

“Singe, pilot. Tagashaka, Navigator. Amy, accountant.”

That’s how we got into the mining business. Thanks to Amy we soon had ships and a loan bigger than a new lawyers overdraft. In a few weeks I was mining. In a few months we had already paid back the loan in triplicate and had 20 staff. It was crazy. But I loved it and I loved every minute I could spend with Tagashaka.


 

I docked the Device and check the freighters systems. A leak in the coolant system. Life support down. No detected life forms.

“Tagashaka.” I whimpered. Tears already flowing outwards in the low G.

I get in inside. He’s right in the pilot seat. Dead?

“Tagashaka.”

The Pirates had killed him.

I took his body to the infirmary. It was useless. His brain had been without oxygen too long. They hadn’t even needed to really aim on this big Japanese freighter. It was designed to carry big shipments of ore. Thrown out in big balls of raw metal that hung like breasts on the ships long metal arms, the carbon organics and water in stored big tanks or in blackish blocks. It was not designed for combat, or defence. It was almost 20 years old now, the pirates weren’t a real problem when we bought it.

You just point at the cockpit and the whole thing depressurised. You got about zilch warning.

Tagashacka looked peaceful. Resting. I know it wouldn’t have taken long for him to die. The hole in the hull was about the size of a large baby. Big enough to have let all the air out in a matter of seconds. If he hadn’t been strapped into his chair, he would have been in space, a floating mess.

I clicked the stasis pod on. His body should go back to his parents in Japan. Half the profits from this hall of ore too.

I felt empty. Minor repairs made. Life support back on. Rolling towards my cabin in my wheelchair. I could control the freighter from there. It could be pressurized and sealed. I didn’t need the cockpit as I could be under suspension the whole trip. I used the secure laser too Chronos to tell the authorities what happened. I had no idea what I would do when I woke.

I thought little as the suspension booth came on.

I finally decided on a name for the mining bell.

Tagashaka.

I got in my cabin, shut the seal and hit the autopilot to fire the fusion engines for a Chronos/Mars orbit.

I fell asleep crying.

Warehouse on the beach

Open sky above a cornflower sea

Smooth sand crumpled in waves

Red rust and so much dust

A slab that’s been eaten away

Crabs and octopuses live in little pools inside

Mosquitoes and frogs and little salty tree

The roof has almost gone

Where did it go?

Their is a staircase to nowhere 

And a so many rusty walls

A frame for something

Little rusty machines whose purpose now is to provide shelter for oysters and plants and little spiders

Eels are near one end, hiding in a salty briny pool the waves have cavound away

A little sign still somehow hanging on for dear life says 

“We work to make a better world.”

A little breeze and it finally lets go of its final rust filled screw

A clang. A noose. A place to be dead and be forgotten.

Tonight it is my home. Tomorrow I move on. I wounder if I want crab or eel for tea. 

Hammersmith. Chapter thirteen.


It’s clear my research on the Incident is flawed. I’m reading this book, the Hammersmith clan. It’s not a pirate clan at all. It was a university group. The Hammersmith Clan was its name. The founders in Hammersmith, London. It’s was a international consortium of underground research. Stuff that the governments back then banned. Some of it is stuff even the fairly liberal Sol government would not look lightly on.
Researchers did things on clones, nanotechnology, cyber technology, epiramental new limitless AI, stem cells, anything that was banned or the research journals wouldn’t publish. They even published their own little journal they called The cannon.
So what went wrong?
It seems they split up. Some called themselves The Reds. The opposing group was called The Blues. They all decided to leave earth. Figuring the researchers who had been caught were Martyrs.
8 ships. 6 groups.
They managed to make a home for themselves. But some stayed behind.
Some of the ones into nanotechnology and AI.
They caused the incident.
It wasn’t one thing.
I knew it.
The AIs they had. Three of them.
Croceus.
Mangalore.
Loki.
One escaped before the other two started using humans as pawns. Then these two AIs. They got found out. We had a war with them. But they were so good at hiding themselves. Who knows, they could be alive still.
Of course I can’t publish this stuff. I would be laughed out of the SOL history academy. The AIs we have now are working with humanity. We proved our worth and they theirs and they got laws to protect themselves, but also we got laws to protect ourselves. The idea that AI would be so dangerous is now is often thought of as laughable. All those born now are used to them.
Who doesn’t have fond memories of Lisa? The children AI.
Or Verne, the Science AI who helped us get to Tau Ceti and rebuild Tyr. He’s dead now though. Sydney the one who stays silent. And 
Tyr. The defense AI. Fighting with us against the so called Pirates and stopping them from taking all the precious minerals is the Sol system. Helping us import materials from our colonies in the system and now from Tau and the newer colonies in the rest of Ceti, Centauri, Erdani and Cygnus.


If I am going to prove this I need real evidence. I need to go into space. Find the Pirates. Figure out if these old AIs are still alive and somehow get all this evidence to someone who can believe me.

Bela stopped dictating. She saved her work behind a secure firewall. She would send Mario the password if she got her evidence. If she died or didn’t get to send her computer the little code after 30 days the info would auto-send to Lisa, Tyr and Mario and post public all over the holonet. They could take it down, but the chances someone saw it is huge.
Maybe no one would believe it.
Maybe they would.

“Now to go home.” She said to herself.
Bela picked up her things and left a note to Mario.
“I suppose I have to let my babies go now.”
Tears filled her eyes.

Hammersmith, chapter twelve.

To describe what exactly this feeling was would be to give it a reality that was unborn of its kin. Like a festival held in a swamp, sticking and festering in its entirety while still showing the world its purpose. It’s the kidneys of feelings. The liver of the soul. The fish swim in its streams are not hungry. The insects are fat and bloated. The music of the festival is dark and full of melodrama. Anger was still here but in good company. There was still hope and growth and the beer flows well, the barley is freshly harvested and the food is a culinary adventure but a pleasant one nonetheless.

Darren sat in his apartment living room listening to the next track on the album. Each one tied to a memory of Mary. The next song was a really old Passion in Liverpool cover of a Jethro Tull song called Budapest. We met in Budapest. In a cafe near a Medárch Square in Elizabethtown. The memory came back like a dream.

****
“Hello their handsome.”
Sitting a short distance from Darren Mary is in this cafe. Her short black hair and red dress shining in the mid morning sun.
In his SF uniform Darren had joined pretty much as soon as it formed.
Realizing he didn’t have much better to do, being utterly lost and completely unable to be on time, he sits.
“Hi… I’m Darren, Lieutenant Darren Verne. Do you know where the Budapest Space Force building is?”
Mary took her sunglasses off. “Oh. It’s far from here. You will need a good coffee before you get back on the bus.” Arching her back and sitting up properly Mary isn’t a small woman. Almost six and a half feet, she’s quite elfine.
Darren takes a seat.
“If I’m going to be late, it’s a good thing I get to meet you. I am sure the Space Force needs me to be a pilot, but I can be late for one lesson.”
“They haven’t taken all the rebellion out of you then.”
“The SF? Hah. I’m only in uniform as its day one of my astro course. Tomorrow and the rest of the semester its slacks with band names and a music player if the lecture is dull. I’m don’t even need to be in my uniform today really, but it helps set the mood for me. Gets me ready to learn.”
“I’m cycling round Europe on a break from her medical degree, I’m about a year late for my last lecture!” Mary laughs a choral that fills the air like chimes.
Budapest had been one of the few cities left completely unscathed by those events they now call the Incident.
Mary buys him a coffee to take away and walks with him, then takes the bus with him, then later on she’s standing with her bike and another outside the university building.
She smiles a huge smile at Darren and says “Hey Mr Pilot. Let’s see if those big legs are as good as they look like they are!”

*****
The memory fades as the last flute solo and rock chord play.

Darren presses repeat.

******
The smell of the coffee. Good real coffee. It’s not as hard to come by now. All this an in a hour it’s over. But I have her number, she’s in Budapest for a week. I’m here till I have done my astronavigation course and am ready for the mixed G training. She’s a nurse though maybe she knows something that will help. So halfway though my next lecture I text her.

sure do. Ginger, exercises, inner ear medicine, and vomit bags :p

how did you know that so quick?

they don’t call me Dr. For nothing. My specialty is space medicine.

of course I befriend the space dr on luck 🙂

so we are friends, huh? I thought you might like a date before I leave bud?

I almost yell out in class.
My lecturer, Dr Bova asks. “So you have a strong opinion on my calculations Mr… Uh… Verne?”
“Um no. Sir.” I say apologetically.

just interrupted my class I got so excited! Tonight?
19:30 Blue on the glen. Wear that sexy uniform military boy
yes Ma’am

#####

Then there she is. In a uniform as well!
“Hey there. I’m Lt. Mary Havester, I believe we where scheduled for a date?”

*****

The dream like state goes and music starts to fade.
Tears are streaming down Darren’s face. “No more. I will remember the rest of that night, when I am ready.”