ACE BAILEY and the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Adapted for the interactive Visual Novel by Giuseppe Villella.

Submitted: August 06, 2017

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Submitted: August 06, 2017

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PART ONE:

 

Ace Bailey, second in command, jolted upright in her bunk, blinking

wide-eyed at the darkness. The alarm was pulsating throughout the Space

Station, its harsh, nerve-jarring sine-wave echoing and re-echoing down the

metal corridors, penetrating every nook and crevice and cubicle of the

distant outpost, reverberating annoyingly through the dark sleeping period.

Ace shook the sleep from her eyes, and then a panic of fear burst into

her mind. The alarm! Tumbling out of her bunk into the darkness, she

crashed into the far bulkhead, staggering giddily in the impossible

gravity as she pawed about for her gravity-boots, her heart pounding

fiercely in her ears. The alarm! Impossible, after so long, after

these long months of bitter waiting.  In the corridor she collided with

Kincaid, technician third class male service android, looking like a nightclub

bouncer with an attitude, and he growled profanity as he raced down the

corridor to get to the Main Operations deck two floors up. Ace follows him into the

elevator along with a skeleton crew of vital personnel.

 

Frightened eyes turned to her as she blinked at the bright ceiling lights of the

elevator. The doors slid open to a room filled with the air of a mass confusion

The voices rose in a crescendo of anxious babble, and she shook her

head and swore, and ploughed through them toward the Station’s main screen.

"Kill that damned alarm!" she roared, blinking as she counted faces. "Somebody get

the Skipper out of his sack, pronto, and stop running around like a bunch of

headless chickens! What the fuck’s going on here?”

 

The astro navigation technician Sparks, waved feebly at the main view screen, while a

graphical overlay of the immediate vicinity flashed intermittently on the great

expanse of space before them. "We just picked it up…”

 

It was a ship, moving in from beyond Saturn's rings, a huge, luminous

blob on the silvery screen, moving in toward the Station with ponderous,

clumsy grace, growing larger by the second as it sped toward them. Ace

felt the fear spill over in her mind, driving out all thought, and she

sank into the control chair like a well-trained automaton. Her blue-green eyes

were wide, trained for long military years to miss nothing; her fingers

moved over the comm’ panel with deft skill. "Get the men to stations," she

hollered, "and will somebody kindly get the Skipper down here, if he can

manage to take a minute. "I'm right here." The little man was at her elbow, staring at

the screen with angry red eyes. "Who told you to shut off the alarm?"

 

"Nobody told me. Everyone was here, and it was getting on my nerves."

"What a shame." Captain Loomis' voice was icy. "I give orders on this

Station," he said smoothly, "and you'll remember it." He scowled at the

great illuminated ship, looming closer and closer. "What's its course?"

"Going to miss us by several thousand clicks at least. Look at that

thing! It's going like a bat out of hell.” "Contact it! This is what we've been waiting for."

The captain's voice was hoarse.

 

Ace ran a number of gestures over the flashing control panels, and cursed.

"No luck. Can't get through. It's passing us…”

 

"Then just grab it with the anti gravity pulses, you noob!

You want me to wipe your nose, too?"

 

Ace’s face reddened angrily. With slow precision she set the anti gravity pulses

on the huge illuminated hulk looming up on the main view-screen, and then gestured the

control commands sharply. Two small utility docking ships shoved their blunt noses from the

landing port of the Station, and made their way towards the unidentified spaceship.

Then, like a pair of trained dogs, they switched on their gravity beams straight out

from their sides toward the approaching ship. The intruder was now clearly visible to the naked eye,

moving at tremendous velocity past the Station, as though unaware of its

existence. The docking ships lined themselves up, and suddenly diverged and reversed,

twisting in long arcs to come alongside the strange ship, finally moving

in at the same velocity on either side. There was a sharp flash of

contact power; then, like a mammoth slow-motion monster, the ship jerked

in mid-space and turned a graceful end-for-end arc as the gravity locks

gripped it like leeches and whined, glowing red with the jolting power

flowing through them. Ace watched, hardly breathing, until the great

ship spun and slowed and stopped. Then it reversed direction, and the

docking ships led it triumphantly back toward the landing port of the Station.

Ace glanced at the Astro Navigations Officer, a frown creasing her forehead. "Still

nothing?"

"Not a peep."

She stared out at the great ship, feeling a chill of wonder and fear

crawl up her spine. "So this is something you don’t see every day,” she

muttered. "This is what we've all been waiting for."

There was a curious eager light in Captain Loomis' eyes as he looked up.

"Oh, no. Not this."

"What?"

"Not this. The ships we've seen before were tiny, flat." His little eyes

turned toward the ship, and back to Ace’s questioning look. "This is

something else, something quite different." A smile curved his lips, and

he rubbed his hands together. "We go out for trout and come back with a

whale. This ship's from space, deep space. Not from around here. This one's

from the stars."

 

 

PART TWO

 

The strange ship hung at the side of the Saturnian Space Outpost, silent as a

tomb, still gently rotating as the Station slowly spun in its orbit

around Saturn.

In the captain's cabin the officers shifted restlessly, uneasily facing the

eager eyes of their captain. The old man paced the floor of the cabin,

his white hair mussed, his face red with excitement. Even his carefully

calm face couldn't conceal the eagerness burning in his eyes as he faced

the crew. "Still no contact?" he asked Sparks.

The nave-comm officer shook his head anxiously. "Not a sign. I've tried every

thing I know at every wave frequency that could possibly reach them.

I've even tried a dozen frequencies that couldn't possibly reach them,

and I haven't stirred them up a bit. They just aren't answering."

Captain Loomis swung on the group of men. "All right, now, I want you to

get this straight. This is our catch. We don't know what's aboard it,

and we don't know where it came from, but it's our prize. That means not

a word goes back home about it until we've learned all there is to

know. We're going to get the honours on this one, not some eager Admiral

back home…”

The officers stirred uneasily, worried eyes seeking Ace’s face in alarm.

"What about the law?" growled Ace. "The law says everything must be

reported within two hours."

"Then we'll break the law," the captain snapped. "I'm captain of this

Station, and those are your orders. You don't need to worry about the

law, I’ll see that you're protected, but this is too big to fumble. This

ship is from the stars. That means it must have some kind of Interstellar

propulsion system. You know what that means. The Government will fall all

over itself to reward us.”

Ace scowled, and the worry deepened in the men's faces. It was hard to

imagine the Government falling all over itself for anybody. They knew

too well how the Government worked. They had heard of the swift trials,

the harsh imprisonments that awaited even the petty infringers. The

Military Government had no time to waste on those who stepped out of

line, they had no mercy to spare. And the men knew that their captain

was not in favour in top Government circles. Crack patrol commanders were

not shunted into remote, lifeless Satellite Stations if their stand in

the Government was high. And deep in their minds, somehow, the men knew

they couldn't trust this conniving whore of a captain. The

credit for such a discovery as this might go to him, yes, but there

would be little left for them. "The law..” Ace repeated stubbornly.

"Damn the law! We're stationed out here in this limbo to watch Saturn’s

weather patterns and seismic activity and report any unusual activity we see coming from there.

There's nothing in our orders about anything else. There have been ships from Jupiter’s moons, they

think, but not this far out. The Government has spent billions trying to

create an Interstellar propulsion system, and never gotten to first base." The captain

paused, his eyes narrowing. "We'll go aboard this ship," he said softly.

"We'll find out what's aboard it, and where it's from, and we'll take

its drive. There's been no resistance yet, but it could be dangerous. We

can't assume anything. The boarding party will report everything they

find to me. One of them will have to be a propulsion specialist. That's you,

Kincaid.”

The android with the sharp blue eyes looked up devoid of any emotions. "I don't

know if I can identify anything to do with interstellar travel.”

"You can tell more than anyone else here. Nobody else knows about any of that quantum shit.

I'll count on you. If you bring back a good report, perhaps we can

cancel out certain, unfortunate incidents on your record. But you’ll

need some kind of backup.“  His eyes turned toward Ace Bailey.

"Not me. This is your bullshit.” The Commander’s eyes were sullen. "This is gross negligence and

breach of contract, and you know it. They'll have you up on charges when we get back. I

don't want anything to do with it."

"You're under my orders, Ace. You keep forgetting."

"They're illegal orders, sir!"

"I'll take responsibility for that."

Ace looked the old man straight in the eye. "You mean you'd sell us

down a rat hole just to save your own skin. That's what you mean."

Captain Loomis' eyes widened incredulously. Then his face darkened, and

he stepped very close to the girl with the big mouth. "You'll watch your tongue, I

think," he gritted. "Be careful what you say to me, Ace. Be very

careful. Because if you don't, you'll be in irons, and we'll see just

how long you last when we get back home. Now you've got your orders.

You'll board the ship with Kincaid.”

The big man's fists were clenched until the knuckles were white. "You

don't know what's over there!" Ace burst out. "We could be slaughtered."

The captain's smile was unpleasant. "That would be such a pity," he

murmured. "I'd really hate to see that happen.”

 

PART THREE

 

The ship from nowhere hung dark and silent, like a shadowy ghost. No flicker of light

could be seen aboard it; no sound nor faintest sign of life came from

the tall, dark hull plates. It hung there, huge and imponderable, and

swung around with the Station in its silent orbit.

 

The men huddled about Ace and Kincaid, helping them into their space

suits, checking their equipment. They had watched the little scanning

spider-bots crawl over the surface of the great ship, examining, probing

every nook and crevice, reporting crystals, and metals, and unknowns, while

the boarding party prepared. And still the comm officer, Sparks, waited alertly for a

flicker of life from the solemn, undiscovered giant.

 

Frightened as they were of their part in this illegal campaign, the

arrival of the alien ship had brought a change in the crew, lighting fires of

excitement in their eyes. They moved faster, their voices were lighter,

more cheerful. Long months on the Station had worn on their nerves, out

of contact with their families and friends, on a mission that was secretly scoffed as

utter Governmental folly and inappropriate spending. Ships had been documented on long range scanners, years before,

disappearing behind the sullen bright atmospheric crust of Saturn, but

there had been no sign of anything since. And out there, on the lonely

desolate Station, nerves had run ragged, always waiting, always watching,

wearing away even the staunch discipline of their military backgrounds. They

grew bitterly weary of the same faces, the same routine, the constant

repetition of inactivity. And through the months they had watched with

increasing anxiety the conflict growing between the captain and his

bitter, sullen-eyed second-in-command, Ace Bailey.

And then this ship had come, incredibly, from the depths of space, and

the tensions of loneliness were forgotten in the flurry of activity. The

locks whined and opened as the Ace and Kincaid moved out from the Station inside one of the

shuttle crafts, which were linked to the Station via telescoping hallway conduits.

Ace settled herself into the shuttle’s cockpit, cursing herself for falling so

foolishly into the captain's scheme, cursing her tongue for wandering loosely.

And deep within herself she felt a new sensation, a vague uneasiness and

insecurity that she had not felt in all her years of military life. The

strange ship out there, was a variant, an imponderable factor thrown suddenly into

her small world of hatred and bitterness, forcing her into unknown

territory, throwing her mind into a welter of doubts and fears. She

glanced uneasily across at Kincaid, vaguely wishing that someone or something else

were with her. Kincaid was a total bad-ass and troublemaker. He talked too much

about what was wrong with the establishment, and he philosophized in a world that

ridiculed philosophy, especially from a smart-ass android. She'd known bots like Kincaid

before, and she knew that they couldn't be trusted to do the right thing,

or at least do things the human way at the right time.

 

The illuminated hull gleamed at them as they moved toward it, a monstrous wall

of polished translucent metal, or something that resembled metal. There were no dents,

no surface scars from its journey through space.They found the entrance lock without difficulty,

near the top of the ship's great hull, and Kincaid  probed the rim of the

lock with a dozen instruments, his dark eyes burning eagerly. And then,

with a squeal that grated in Ace’s ears, the oval port of the ship

quivered, and slowly opened.

 

Silently, the two mismatched figures moved into the opening. They were in a giant vault,

quite dark, and their gravity boots settled slowly onto the steal grates of a metal deck. Ace eased

herself from the hatch opening towards a corridor, adjusting her detection instruments to their highest

sensitivity. She still couldn’t get a signal, so she moved over to Kincaid. Momentarily they touched helmets,

and Kincaid’s excited voice came to her, muted, but seemingly breathless. "No

trouble getting it open. It worked on the same principle as telepathic actuation circuits.”

 

Ace was curious, “So what’s the deal with communications?”

Kincaid looked puzzled, “Don’t know, doesn’t matter does it? we’d

better get to work on the inner locks and map this shit out.”

“Whoa there cowboy”, Ace retorted, “Either we’re alone or we’re not”.

Kincaid shot her a sharp glance. “well what about, life signs? I mean, let’s

see if there’s anyone here first then we’ll figure out what’s next”

"Why not? We've tried to contact them right.”

 

Reluctantly, the colossal android began probing the inner passageways with

a perimeter drone. Minutes later they were easing themselves through partially open doors,

 and light debris, moving slowly down the dark corridor, waiting with pounding hearts for

a sound, a sign. The corridor joined another, and then still another,

until they reached a great oval door. And then they were inside, in the

heart of the ship, and their eyes widened as they stared at the thing in

the centre of the great vaulted chamber.

 

"My God!" Kincaid’s voice was a hoarse whisper in the stillness. "Look

at them, Commander!”

 

Ace moved slowly across the room toward the frail, crushed form lying

against the great, gleaming panel. Thin, almost boneless arms were

pasted against the hard metal; an oval, humanoid skull was crushed like

an eggshell into the knobs and levers of the control panel. Sudden

horror shot through the young Commander’s as she looked around. At the far side of

the room was another of the things, and still another, mashed, like

lifeless jelly, into the floors and panels. Gently she peeled a bit of

jelly away from the metal, then turned with a mixture of wonder and

disgust. "All dead," she muttered.

 

Ace looked up at Kincaid, her hands trembling. "No wonder there was no

sign." She looked about helplessly. "It's a derelict, Kincaid. A wanderer.

How could it have happened? How long ago?"

 

Ace shook her head, bewildered. "Then it was just chance that it came

to us, that we saw it.”

 

"No pilot, no charts. It might have wandered for centuries." Kincaid

stared about the room, a curious look on his face. And then he was

leaning over the control panel, probing at the array of levers, his automated

fingers working eagerly at the wiring. Ace nodded approvingly. "We'll

have to go over it with a comb," she said. "I'll see what I can find in

the rest of the ship. You go ahead on the controls and drive." Without

waiting for an answer she moved swiftly from the round chamber, out into

the corridor again, her stomach almost queasy from the unnatural sights

she had just witnessed.

 

It took them many hours. They moved silently, as if even a slight sound

might disturb the sleeping alien forms, smashed against the dark metal

panels. In another room were the holographic charts, great, beautiful charts,

totally unfamiliar, studded with star formations she had never seen,

noted with curious, meaningless symbols. As Ace worked she heard Kincaid

moving down into the depths of the ship, toward the giant engine rooms.

And then, some silent alarm clicked into place in Ace’s mind,

tightening her stomach, screaming to be heard. Heart pounding, she dashed

down the corridor like a cat, seeing again in her mind the bright, eager

eyes of the Android. Suddenly the meaning of that eagerness dawned on

her. She scampered down a ladder, along a corridor, and down another

ladder, down to the engine room, almost colliding with Kincaid as he

crossed from one of the engines to a battery of plasma generators on the far

side of the room.

 

“Kincaid!”

 

"What's the trouble?"

 

Ace trembled, then turned away. "Nothing," she muttered. "Just a

thought." But she watched as the nimble android snaked into the labyrinth of

conduits and control panels and wires, peering eagerly, probing, searching, making

notes in the digital pad strapped to his wrist.

 

 

Finally, hours later, they moved again toward the landing bay where they had

left their shuttle craft. Not a word passed between them. The uneasiness was

strong in Ace’s mind now, growing deeper, mingling with fear and a

premonition of impending evil. A dead ship, a derelict, come to them by

merest chance from some unthinkably remote place in the universe, or even

from another dimension, or even still another time altogether. She cursed, without

knowing why, and suddenly she felt she hated Kincaid as much as he hated

the captain waiting for them at the Saturnian Station.

 

But as she stepped onto the Station's docking bay, a new thought crossed her

mind, almost dazzling her with its unexpectedness. She looked at the

Android’s emotionless face, and his hands were trembling as he opened the

pressure suit.

 

PART FOUR:

 

Ace deliberately took longer than was necessary to give her report to the

captain, dwelling on unimportant details, watching with malicious

amusement the captain's growing annoyance. Captain Loomis' eyes kept

sliding to Kincaid, as though trying to read the information he wanted

from the Androids’s emotionless features. Ace transferred the data to the station’s

main computer and onto the main screen. "That's the picture, sir. Perhaps a qualified

propulsions expert could make something of it; I haven't the knowledge or the

instruments. The ship came from outside the system, beyond doubt.

Probably from a planet with lighter gravity than our own, judging from

the frailty of the aliens occupying it. Definitely oxygen breathers,

from the looks of their environment needs. If you ask me, I'd say..”

"All right, all right," the captain breathed impatiently. "You can write

it up and hand it to me. It isn't really important where they came from,

or whether they breathe oxygen or methane.” He turned his eyes to the

Kincaid, and lit a cigar with trembling fingers. "The important thing

is how they got here. The drive, Kincaid. You went over the engines

carefully? What did you find?"

 

Kincaid twitched uneasily, and looked at the floor. "Oh, yes, I examined

them carefully. Wasn't too hard. I examined every aspect of their propulsion

system and the fuel sources on the ship, from stem to stern."

 

Ace nodded, slowly, incredulously, watching the cautious Android with a carefully blank

face. "That's right. You gave it a good going over, didn’t you?.”

 

Kincaid looked into the Captain’s eyes. "It's a derelict Sir, like Ace told you. They

were dead. All of them. Probably had been dead for a long time. I

couldn't tell, of course. Probably nobody could tell. But they must have

been dead for centuries..”

 

The captain's eyes blinked as the implication sank in. "Wait a minute,"

he said. "What do you mean, centuries?"

 

Kincaid kept checking his wrist monitor. "The power sources were almost dead," he

muttered in an apologetic whine. "The ship wasn't going any place,

captain. It was just wandering. Maybe it's wandered for thousands of

years." He took what seemed like a deep breath, and his eyes met the captain's for a

brief agonized moment. "They don't have Interstellar, sir. Just a plain,

simple, slow plasma ion combo. Nothing different. They've been traveling for

centuries, and it probably would have taken them just as long to get back,

from wherever it was they came from in the first place..”

 

The captain's voice was thin, choked. "Are you trying to tell me that

their drive is no different from our own? That a ship has actually

wandered into our space without an actual interstellar space drive?"

 

Kincaid shrugged his shoulders helplessly. "Something must have gone wrong.

They must have started off for another planet in their own system, and

something went wrong. They broke into space, and they all died. And the

ship just went on moving. They never intended an Interstellar journey. They

couldn't have. They didn't have the right propulsion drive for it."

 

The captain sat back numbly, his face pasty and withdrawn. The light had faded in

his eyes now; he sat as though he'd been struck. "You, you couldn't be

wrong? Could you? You couldn't have missed anything?"

 

Kincaid’s eyes shifted uneasily, and his voice was very faint. "No,

sir."

 

The captain stared at them for a long moment, like a stricken child.

Slowly he picked up one of the digital pads, his mouth working. Then, with a

bitter roar, he threw it in Ace’s face. "Get out of here! Take this

garbage and get out! And get the men to their stations. We're here to

watch Saturn, and by god, we'll watch Saturn!" He turned away, a hand

over his eyes, and they heard his choking breath as they left the

main operations deck.

 

Slowly, Kincaid walked out into the corridor, started down toward his

cabin, with Ace silent at his heels. She looked up once at the Android’s

expressionless face, a look of pleading in his dark blue eyes, and then opened

the door to his quarters. Like a cat, Ace was in the room before him,

dragging him in, locking the door mechanism. She pressed against the heavy

plated armour of his chest cavity, and shoved him unceremoniously against the door,

her voice toned down to a vicious whisper. "All right, you little cock-sucker

I want the truth and don’t give me this bullshit about Androids being

incapable of lying so talk! Let's have it now!"

 

Brownie choked, his eyes bulging, his face turning away in the dim light

of the cabin. “Ace! don’t push so hard! What's the matter? You're just going to

break a fingernail or something, I’m practically indestructible remember..

Besides, you need to look at the big picture and not have your head jammed so

far up your pretty little ass that you can’t see the light of day.”

 

 

The Android’s eyes were now red, with what seemed like heavy lines of

disgust and bitterness from his overall features, the inner light of contempt

running from his eyes and the corners of his mouth.

Ace exploded in a fit of rage ”You stinking little, big-dicked mechanoid, you

know what this makes you, you’re no better that that poor excuse of a Captain shit upstairs”.

 

“I see so this is what you humans would call a Liar! liar, pants on fire

kind of moment!”

 

Ace hissed, easing off on his chest, leaning back to take a good look at Kincaid

“You're not messing with the captain now, you're messing with me, and I'll have

the truth if I have to take you apart piece by piece until I find the whole truth”

 

"I told you the truth! I don't know what you mean..”

 

Ace’s clenched fist smashed into his chest, which only let out a dull thud

in response.  Kincaid looked almost amused by her indifference.

”Now that's no way to solve anything is it?,” he grated. Ace tried to cover the pain in her hand,

but gasped ”I warned you, don't lie to me, I’m not your enemy here..

The captain is an ambitious ass, he couldn't think his way through

a multiplication table. He's a little child. But I'm not quite so stupid.”

She threw her rank insignia and side-arm in a heap onto the bunk, her eyes blazing.

"You dumb ass, your story is so full of holes you could drive a tank through it.

These aliens. They just up and died, did they? I'm supposed to believe that? Smashed

up against the panels the way they were? Only one thing could crush them

like that. Any fool could see it. Acceleration. And I don't mean sub-light

acceleration. Something else." She glared up at the colossal  Android towering

above her. "They had Interstellar drive, didn't they, Kincaid?”

 

Kincaid nodded his head, weakly, almost apologetic, trying to pull himself

away from her stare. "Don't tell the captain," he begged. "Oh, Ace, for god's sake,

listen to me, don't let him know I lied. I was going to tell you anyway,

Ace, really I was. I've got a plan, a good plan, can't you see it?"

The gleam of excitement came back into the sharp little eyes. "They had

it, all right. Their trip probably took just a few months. They had a

drive I've never seen before, beyond sub-light. I didn’t have time to figure out the workings,

with the brief look I had, but I think I could make it work." He sat down next to Ace, and activated his wrist monitor.

"Don't give me away, Ace, listen a minute.”

 

Ace sat back against the back bunk wall, staring at the powerfully built Android. "You're out of your mind," she said softly.

"You don't know what you're doing. What are you going to do when the experts go over for a better look? 

As for the Captain, he's stupid, but not that stupid, What were you thinking?”

Kincaid’s voice stammered, his words tumbling over each other in his

eagerness. "He won't get a chance to see it, Ace. He's got to takeour word until he sees it, and we can stall him.”

 

Ace blinked. "A day or so, maybe. But then what? Oh, how could you be

so stupid? His career’s been on the on the skids for quite some time, he's out of favour with the upstairs brass

and fighting for his privileged life. That Faster than light drive is the break that could put him back in the good books with the admiralty.

Can't you see its Kincaid, we humans are vain and he's a selfish asshole? He has to be, in this world we built,

you have to lie cheat and steal to get anything. And anything or anyone who gets in his way, he'll destroy, if he can.

Can't you see that? When he spots this, he’ll take you apart piece by piece just to see what makes you tick, your life won't be worth a pile of junk."

 

Kincaid stood up and paced about the room looking for an angle. His voice sounded

harsh in the little cubicle of a room, heavy with pain and hopelessness. "That's

right," he said. "My life isn't worth a pile of shit to you humans. Neither is yours.

Neither is anybody's, here or back home. Nobody's life is worth anything.

Ace in this world, this universe. I've seen it creeping and growing up around

us all my life. People, androids, or aliens don't matter any more, it's the Government, that dictates what is important

and what gets classified as non-essential.

The Government thinks about only what matters to them. It's a web of conspiracy, a cancer that grows exponentially in a petrie dish

that’s way to small for their overblown plans, it’s gone so far now it can't be stopped. Men like

Loomis could see the pattern of their own destruction, and adapt to it, throw away all the good things,

the love and beauty and peace that we once had in ourlives. Those men can get somewhere in this system,

they can turn this life into a climbing game, waiting their chance to get a little farther toward the

top, a little closer to some semblance of security, but what is the point?“

 

"Everybody adapts to it eventually,” Ace snapped. "They have to. You don't see me

taking stick for anyone else, do you? I'm all for me, and believe me I know it.

I don't give a shit about you, or Loomis, or anyone else, just me. For some reason I

want to stay alive, that's all I know. As for you you're just an anarchist, Kincaid. And,

until you’re able to see the difference between living and just existing..”

 

"No, no, you're wrong, you are so horribly wrong, Ace. Some of us

can't adapt to the human way of life, we haven't got what it takes,

or else we have something else in us that won't let us go along. And right there we're beat before

we start. There's no place for us now, and there never will be." He

looked down at the Ace’s pensive and withdrawn face. "We're in a life where we don't

belong, impounded into a senseless, never-ending series of fights and

skirmishes and long, lonely waits, feeding this insane urge of the

Government to expand, out to the planets, to the stars, farther and

farther, bigger and bigger. We've got to go, seeking newer and greater

worlds to conquer, with nothing to conquer them with, and nothing to

conquer them for. There's life somewhere else in our solar system, so it

must be sought out and conquered, no matter what or where it is. We live

in a world of smoke and mirrors, and there is no place for me, and others

like me, until this ship came along”

 

Ace looked at him strangely. "So I was right. I read it in your eyes

when we were searching the ship. I knew what you were thinking...." Her

face darkened angrily. "You couldn't get away with it, Kincaid. Where

could you go, what could you expect to find? You're talking about death,

Kincaid. Nothing else.  They’ll terminate you with about as much care, or carelessness as switching off a light bulb”

 

"No, no. Listen, Ace.” Kincaid leaned closer, his eyes bright and

intent on the girl’s burdened face. "The captain has to take our word for

it, at least for now, until he sees the ship. Even then he couldn't tell for sure, I’m

the only propulsion engineer on this Station. We have the information logged, we could

work with it, try to find out where the ship came from; I already have a

rudimentary idea of how the drive is operated. With more time, I could make it

work. Think of it, Ace! What difference does it make where we went,

or what we found? You're a misfit, too, you know that, this coarseness of existence

and bitterness for life is a shell, if you could only see it, for the sham it really is. I know you don't really believe in this world we're in,

so who cares where we go, we just need to go somewhere, anywhere, just to get away? Oh, I know it's a leap of faith,

the wildest, freakiest fat chance ever, but we could take it together.”

 

"If only to get away from him and those like him,” said Ace in a muted voice.

"Lord, how I hate him. I've seen smallness and ambition before, pettiness and

treachery, plenty of it. But that man is our whole world of hurt knotted up in

one little migraine. I don't think I'd get too far here without killing him, just to

stop that voice from talking, just to see fear cross his face one time.

But if we took the ship, it would break him for good." A new light

appeared in the Ace’s eyes. "He'd be through, Kincaid. Washed up."

"And we'd be free.”

Ace’s eyes were sharp. "What about the acceleration? It killed those

that came in the ship."

"But they were so frail, so weak. Light brittle bones and soft jelly.

Our bodies are stronger, we could stand it, I know we could.”

Ace thought to herself.  Of course the G-forces would be no problem for an android,

but there was no guarantee this wouldn’t be a one way ticket for her.

 

Ace sat for a long time, staring at Kincaid. Her mind was suddenly

confused by the scope of the idea, racing in a myriad twirling fantasies and repercussions,

parading before her eyes the long, bitter, frustrating years, the

hopelessness of her own life, the dull aching feeling she felt deep in

her stomach and bones each time she would visit Earth, to join the

teeming billions of hungry people. He thought of the rows of drab

apartments, the thin faces, the hollow, hunted eyes of the people she had

seen back home. She knew that this was why she became a soldier, because soldiers ate

well, they had time to sleep, they were never allowed long hours to

think, and wonder, and grow dull and empty. But she knew her life had

been barren. The life of a mindless automaton, moving from place to

place, never thinking, never daring to think or speak, hoping only to

work without pain each day, and sleep without nightmares.

 

And then, she thought of the nights in her childhood, when she had lain

awake, sweating with fear, as the spaceships screamed across the dark starry sky

above, bound he never knew where; and then, hearing in the far distance

the booming explosions, she had played that horrible little game with

herself, seeing how high she could count before she heard the weary,

plodding footsteps of the people on the road, moving on to another

place. She had known, even as a little girl, that the only safe place was

in those spaceships, that the place for survival was in the striking of other

armies, and her life had followed the hard-learned pattern, twisting her

into the cynical mold of the mercenary soldier, dulling the quick and

clever mind, drilling into her the ways and responses of order and servitude,

stripping her of her heritage of love and humanity. Others less

thoughtful had been happier; they had succeeded in forgetting the life

they had known before, they had been able to learn easily and well the

lessons of the repudiation of the rights of all people which had crept like a

blight throughout the world. But Ace, too, was a misfit, wrenched into a

mold she could not fit. She had sensed it vaguely, never really knowing

when or how she had built the shell of toughness and cynicism, but also

sensing vaguely that it was built, and that in it she could hide,

somehow, and laugh at herself, and her leaders, and the whole world

through which she played a bit part in a third rate drama. She had laughed,

but there had been long nights, in the narrow darkness of spaceship bunks, when her mind pounded at the plasma bursts,

screaming out in nightmares, and she had wondered if she had really lost her mind.

 

Kincaid's blue-green eyes narrowed as she looked at him, and she felt her heart

pounding in her chest, pounding with a fury that she could no longer

deny. "It would have to be fast," she said softly. "Like lightning,

tonight, tomorrow, I don’t know, but very soon."

"Oh, yes, I know that. But we can do it.”

"Yes," said Ace, with a hard, bitter glint in her eyes. "Maybe we can."

 

PART FIVE:

 

The preparation was tense. For the first time in her life, Ace knew the

meaning of real fear, she felt the clinging aura of sudden death in every

glance, every word of the crew around her. It seemed incredible that the

captain didn't notice the brief exchanges with the Kincaid, or

his own sudden appearances and disappearances about the Space Station. But the

captain sat in his cabin with angry eyes, snapping answers without even

looking up. Still, Ace knew that the seeds of suspicion lay planted in

his mind, ready to burst forth with awful violence at any slight

provocation. As she worked tirelessly, the escape assumed greater and greater

importance in Ace’s mind; she knew with increasing urgency and daring

that nothing must stop her. The ship was there, the only bridge away

from a life she could no longer endure, and her determination was steadfast and resolute. 

It also blinded her to caution, but at this point it was also too late to turn back.

 

Primarily, she pondered over the navigation charts, while Kincaid, kept working on a solution to the G-force problem,

The Android poured his heart into a study of his notes and sketches. A second look at the derelict ship’s engines was essential;

the excuse he concocted for returning to the ship was recklessly slender, and Ace spent a gruelling

five minutes dissuading the captain from accompanying them. But the

captain's eyes were dull, and he walked his cabin, sunk in a gloomy,

remorseful trance.

 

The hours passed, and the two desperadoes saw, in despair, that more precious,

dangerous hours would be necessary before the flight could be attempted.

And then, abruptly, Ace got the call to the captain's cabin. She found

the old man at his desk, regarding her with cold eyes, and his heart

sank. The captain motioned him to a seat, and then sat back, lighting a

cigar with painful slowness. "I want you to tell me," he said in a

lifeless voice, "exactly what Kincaid thinks he's doing."

Ace went cold. Carefully she kept her eyes on the captain's face. "I

guess he's nervous," she said. "He doesn't belong on a Satellite Station.

He belongs at home with his other Android friends. This place gets on his nerves."

 

"I didn't like his report."

 

"I know," said Ace.

 

The captain's eyes narrowed. "It was hard to believe. Ships don't just

appear out of deep space. They don't wander out of the interstellar regions by accident, either.

" An unpleasant smile curled his lips. "I'm not telling you anything new. I wouldn't want to accuse Kincaid of lying,

of course, or you either. But we'll know soon enough. A patrol craft will be here from the

Triton supply base in an hour. I signalled as soon as I had your

reports." The smile broadened maliciously. "The patrol craft will have

experts onboard. Space propulsion experts. They'll review your report."

 

"An hour.” Ace repeated out loud, then over and over in her mind.

 

The captain smiled. "That's what I said. In that hour, you could tell me

the truth. I'm not a technical kind of man, I'm an administrator, an organizer and

director. You're the technicians. The truth now could save you much

unhappiness, in the future."

 

Ace stood up abruptly. "You've got your information," she said with a

bitter laugh. "The patrol craft will confirm it, and you will have wasted more valuable resources

at the Government’s expense, they won’t be too pleased about that.”

The captain's face went a shade deeper. "All right," he said. "Go ahead,

make your report, just remember I warned you, anyway."

Ace didn't realize how her hands were trembling until she reached the

end of the corridor. In despair she saw the plan crumbling beneath her

feet, and with the despair came the cold undercurrent of fear. The

patrol would soon discover them and disclose the hoax. There was no choice

left, ready or not, they'd have to leave sooner than planned.

 

Quickly she turned in to the central control room where Kincaid was

working. She sat down, repeating the captain's news in a soft voice.

 

"An hour_! But how can we.”

 

"We've got to. We can't quit now, we're dead if we do."

 

Kincaid’s eyes were wide with frustration. "But can't we stall them, somehow?

Maybe if we mutinied as a diversion”

 

"The crew would back him. They wouldn't dare go along with us. We've got

to run, nothing else left to do.” She took a deep breath. "Can you control the

propulsion system by yourself?”

 

Kincaid stared at his hands. “I, I think so. I can only try, but what about you,

and what about our plan, I don’t know if I can do this alone.”

"You've got to. It's now or never. And you’re not alone Get down to the lock, and I'll get the bay doors open.

Now go get the shuttle craft ready."

 

Kincaid scooped the digital pads from his bunk, downloaded them carefully into his memory them swiftly crushed them in his hand.

Then he ran silently down the corridor to the landing port bay followed closely by Ace . Within fifteen

minutes Kincaid was already in the cockpit. In the darkness, Ace was closing the last clamps on her space suit.

Kincaid handed her the laser weapon to fry the door circuits to the hangar bay, then Ace began the laborious task of

opening the bay doors then shooting the hanger bay control panels, panting in the darkness as she underwent each task.

 

And then the alarm was whining in her ear, and the lock was flooded a vacuum of empty

space followed by a brilliant light. Ace stopped short, a cry on her lips, staring at the sealed control room above.

 

The captain was grinning, a nasty, evil grin, his eyes hard and

humourless as he stood there flanked by three heavily armed guards. His hand gripped

a plasma rifle tightly. He just stood there, grinning, and his voice

was like fire in Ace’s ears. "Too bad," he said softly. "You almost

got away with it, too. Trouble is, we had you constantly monitored. Shame, Ace, a

smart girl like you. I might have expected as much from that fucked up piece of scrap metal, but as a human I thought you had more sense.”

Something snapped in Ace’s mind, then. With a sudden jump, she lunged towards her

plasma rifle and shot a blast through the control room’s window, The Captain screaming his bitterness of rage and frustration quickly evacuated the room and closed the door,

Ace took up a position between herself and the shuttlecraft, cutting off any direct fire to the small ship.

“Ace get your pretty little ass over here, I’m not leaving without you.”

Ace responded to Kincaid’s request by shouting into her communicator, "Run for it! Go, Kincaid, make it go! And get the hell out of here”

The bay doors were fully open, and she saw Kincaid’s shuttle start it’s engines.

The captain choked incredulously on seeing this, his face purple. "Get him! Don't let that tin can get away!"

 

 

 

Ace could see the tiny fragile shuttlecraft slowly steer out

from the side of the Station, the small huddled figure of Kincaid inside it,

heading straight for the open doors of the hangar bay. "Stop him!” The Captain barked on the ship-wide intercom, “The guns, you fools, the guns!"

 

The alarm still serenade away, while the control room was a flurry of activity.

Three men snapped down behind the tracer guns, firing without aiming, in

a frenzied attempt to catch the fleeing shuttle. The small craft began

zig-zagging, twisting wildly as the shells popped on either side of it. but there

was no room to manoeuvre in the confines of the hangar bay. It took a direct hit in the midship, but managed to clear the lip of the bay exits.  Still moving, the small craft

slowly ebbed it’s way towards the alien derelict only a few hundred meters away.

The captain, now sealed in his spacesuit, turned his attention away from Ace’s position and with a roar,

he threw one of the security detail to the deck, wrenching the gun controls from his hands. "Get the big bastard on that ship! Blast it! If it gets away you'll all pay."

All the guns came to bear on the tiny craft.  The shuttle bore the brunt of a hundred bursts of plasma fire and it started to disintegrate. 

First large pieces started to disengage from each other, then the smaller ones would recalled with each other,

it’s whole mass turned into a cloud of dense thick gas.  It had been vaporized.

“Oh Kincaid, you poor bucket of bolts,” Ace lamented, “It’s all my fault.”

Then as the gaseous should of death began to dissipate, a small chunk of scrap metal could be seen in the distance. 

It was moving of it’s own accord.  It had a jet pack and was making it’s way towards the alien derelict.

“Kincaid!” Ace yelled, “Keep going, Don’t stop.”

 

Ace could see that The Captain and his crew were now training their firepower on the tiny mechanical figure in the distance.

She trained her plasma rifle sights in front of the firing crew and caused a brief cloud of fog in front of them. 

They were unable to see through the smoke and were thus unable to acquire their intended target. 

 

Suddenly the floating figure popped into the alien ship's port, and the hatch slowly

closed behind it. Raving, the captain turned the station’s guns on the sleek,

polished hull plates of the alien ship, pressed the firing levels on the war-head servos and released half of his nuclear arsenal.

Twelve of them shot out from the space station, like deadly bugs, careening

through the intervening space, until one of them struck the side of the

alien ship, and exploded in purple fury against the impervious hull. And

the others nosed into the flame, and also hit their target, but nothing happened to the ship.

It simply absorbed all the energy from the blasts and started to glow with a life and vitality that seemed to nurture it more than harm it in any way.

Then, like the blinking of a light switch, the alien ship pulsated momentarily, and ,

and in the blink of an eye was suddenly gone.

 

With a roar the captain brought his fist down on the hard plastic and

metal of the view screen, kicked at the array of blinking control panels with

a heavy foot, his face purple with rage. His whole body shook as he

turned on Ace, his eyes wild. "You let him get away! It was your fault,

yours! But you won't get away! I've got you, and you'll pay, do you

hear that?"

 

Ace stood up from behind her cover and surrendered her weapon.  She was immediately jumped by several crewmen and wrestled to the floor,

even though she offered no resistance. She was electronically cuffed with her arms behind her back.

 

She pulled herself up until her face was bare inches from the Captains boots,

and looking up she could see his teeth bared in a frenzy of hatred. "Now we'll see who'll

laugh, my friend. You'll laugh in the death chamber, if you can still

laugh by then!" He turned to the men around him. "Take her,” he snarled.

"Lock her in her quarters, and guard her well. And while you're doing

it, take a good look at her. See how he’s laughing now."

 

They marched her down to her cabin, stunned, still wondering what had

happened. Something had gone right in her mind in that second, something that

told her that the choice had to be made, instantly. Because she knew,

with dull wonder, that in that instant when the lights went on she could

have stopped Kincaid, could have saved herself. She could have taken for

herself a piece of the glory and promotion due to the discovery of an

interstellar propulsion drive. But she had also known, somehow, in that short

instant, that the only hope in the world lay in that one glorious hunk of a,

metallic man, and the ship which could take him away.

 

 

While she sat on her bunk looking out from the porthole in her room, it only just now had dawned on her that the ship was gone.

That meant that the captain was done. He'd had his chance, the ship's coming had given him his chance, and he had muffed

it. Now he, too, would pay the ultimate price. The Government would not be pleased that

such a ship had leaked through his fingers. Captain Loomis was finished.

 

And as for herself? Somehow, it didn't seem to matter any more. She had made a stab

at it, she had tried to do the right thing. She just hadn't had the luck. But she knew there was more to that.

Something in her mind was singing, some deep feeling of

happiness and hope had crept into her mind, and she couldn't worry about

herself any more. There was nothing more for her; they had her cold. But

deep in her mind she felt a curious satisfaction, transcending any fear

and bitterness. Deep in her heart, she knew that the one man, albeit android, who had escaped would be back for her,

and she also had information in her head that was going to be of paramount value to the Government.

 

Ace then sat back and laughed until she almost puked.

 

 

THE END


© Copyright 2017 GiuseppeSerious. All rights reserved.

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