Story #9 - By: Fongyee LongPrologue
A GDI-class crusier flew past the Moon. GDI-class cruiser is one of those light and faster transport cruiser that shipped cargo among a few space station. Its current destination is now Citadel Station, Earth. It has been many years since they last stop at Citadel, having tied up with a lot of routes in the outer region of the galaxy. The cargo for Citadel Station is just like what any other stations would have ordered: high-tech computer systems; built according to their specifications. And the specifications were a queer one.
Citadel had requested for an IBM S800-GX25 mainframe, one of the most powerful super computers in the galaxy, capable of managing and powering a big space station such as Citadel itself. The queer thing about this order is that no existing stations needed such processing power. Usually, the station would order an upgrade but no one order a whole system. But they have the money - and therefore, no questions were asked.
Another peculiar thing about this order was in the assembly of the machines and the shipping. Citadel had imperatively stated that the super computer must be assembled into a portable, nuclear powered titanium box, a setup in which the system could be plugged into the power cable and network and activated on the fly after unloading. This was rather peculiar for standard commercial packages although it was normal for a military operation because during a military crisis, the system needed to be able to run right out of the box once it was shipped. The company could only assumed that the order was for military use. Besides, the credit originated from a Government account.
Captain Lansing looked up from his log onto the cockpit. Citadel Station loomed ahead of him. A very small but dark object.
"Strange," thought Lansing, "seems like an abandoned comms station more than a military ones. Perhaps we arrived at the right time. They must have a great need for the super computers. The whole station seemed offline. Or rather, running on a degraded mode."
He glanced over the onboard navigation system. The cargo has been readied. They will stop at Citadel, unload the cargo into the loading bay, attached the network cable into the system and head to Earth where they would land and refuel. This trip would be a vacation for Captain Lansing and his crew. It sure felt good to be back home, and to visit his sister, Rebecca.
A small bell sounded and the voice of Johnny Woose can be heard as he tried to contact Citadel.
"Archilles to Citadel Station. Request permission to dock and unload order number 9800-101-2AX," Woose talked into the microphone. A hiss and silence. No reply.
"Archilles to Citadel Station. Request permission to dock and unload order number 9800-101-2AX," he repeated the statement.
Captain Lansing looked quizzily at him. Woose shrugged and repeated his statement again.
There was still no answer. Both looked ahead. The station was as black as a black hole. Woose tried one more time.
"Archilles to Citadel. We are getting nearer now. Permission to land please. Say something. Is anyone there? Captain, this is hopeless. I don't get anything from them. No answer and no signal. It's like the whole god damn station is abandoned. What should we do?"
Woose looked at the Captain for direction. If anyone could make the decision, Lansing is the man. They had been in many situations like this before. There was once when they had to shipped a frigging mining machine to one of the colonies in Jupiter. But the whole colony had moved to another mining planet and left no forwarding address. The Captain jettisonned cargo and dropped a satelitte to broadcast the location of the cargo and let fate determined the future of the machine. To him, he had shipped it to the stated location and his job was done. Whether anyone was there to receive it, was another matter. He was not going to make another trip back.
"Let's get closer to have a look," instructed Lansing. He scratched his chin as he usually did when he was puzzled.
As the cruiser moved closer, Lansing was surprised to see the condition of the station. The lowest level of the station was blown apart. One of the many grooves (or what looked like a leisure mall was missing, aparently blown asunder also. Something terrible must have happened here. A war maybe? Perhaps Rebecca will know. I will need to contact her.
As Lansing turned to talk to Woose about contacting Earth, a message flashed on his screen:
"Permission g-g-ranted. P#%ceed to Load#%g B-b-bay B. A beacon has been s#%#%--#$ indicating the B-b-bay."
"Maybe their comms is down," thought Lansing as he typed in his response:
"Roger. Do you need any help? I see you are in a tight situation."
A pause before the message:
"Neeeegative! We d-d-don't need no help from huu-manss... P-p-proceed as per instructions in Order. We are in a crisis mode. Power n-n-need to be turned off."
Strange way of addressing friends. Lansing shrugged. "Very well. Proceeding to Bay B."
The transport made a turn to the port. As the crusier veered past Citadel Station, both the crew stared at the pathetic shape the station is in. Although very big for a space station, Citadel felt completely empty and lifeless. It was like staring at a very old, probably haunted house. The meer structure gave them the creeps. Thousands of blank window panels stared back, hiding many horrors that had happened beyond them. The station was completely silent, only the constant hum of the transport engine providing any warmth to the onlookers.
Around the corner, as the loading bay turned to face them, they could make out a huge mechanical arm above it, readied to accept the cargo. The loading bay was a big platform, jutting out from Level 5 of Citadel Station, a multi purpose platform that served to accomodate both transport and freighter alike. Usually, once a starcraft landed, a tractor beam from within the station would park the ship in the indoor hangar. Not this time however. With the mechanical arm being sent forth, it usually meant that the hangar was full and unloading had to be done outside, in the open space.
Lansing guided the ship to hover a few feet above the platform. Then he motioned to Wooze as the both of them prepared to don their space suit and proceeded to unload the box. One thing about unloading cargo in space was that there were zero gravity and a heavy machinery such as this mainframe weighed pratically nothing. Pressing a few buttons, both of them waited patiently for the door of their transport to open.
As the door hissed open, they gasped in surprised. Walking towards them was a lone figure. The extended mechanized unloading arm loomed many feet above. The lone figure did not wave nor nod. He walked stoically and with a purpose.
"Probably the guard on duty," thought Lansing. But his instinct screamed danger. Ignoring his thoughts, he motioned Woose to push the mainframe out of the transport as he prepared the neccessary documentations. His glance kept shifting towards the lone figure, now getting closer. He could sense malice emanating from him, some kind of an evil aura. To be safe, Captain Lansing unlatched his plasma pistol on his belt, ready for any trouble that they might face.
Before they know it, the figure was only a few feet away from them and what they saw was enough to force Lansing to draw his pistol and Woose to crouch protectively behind the cargo. The figure was not like any humans they had seen. He was big, much bigger than the two of them together. And he was part human and part mechanical, something that reminded Woose of the classic Star Trek?s borg that they have watched in Movie Museums as a kid.
"Probably a god-damn ugly droid," Lansing mumbled but he still kept his pistol pointing at it. Some of the mechanical parts were in a very bad shape and needed much repair. Seeing the drawn pistol, the figure raised a hand. Lansing hesitated. On the hand was a handheld device. Upon peering carefully, Lansing saw the word "Hello" printed in amber on the device.
Lansing relaxed and put back the pistol to its holster. He said hello and identified himself, his partner and their intention. The figure nodded in understanding and walked slowly towards them. The handheld device now state:
"I a-a-m Edward D-d-diego. I a-a-m here to receive the g-g-g-oods."
Lansing smiled, "Excellent. A bad time for you huh? What happened to this Station?"
Silence. Diego proceeded to look at the box. He took out an interface jack and connected himself to the box. The mainframe flamed to life. Lots of coloured lights and what-nots lit the box and the surrounding area. Diego?s eyes gleamed with glee. He produced what looked like a satisfying smile. Lansing glanced at one of the small opening in the titanium box that housed the computer screen:
"Um, look Diego. Could you please sign your acceptance here? We have to go, you know," Lansing spoke anxiously. He was a little bit nervous about the whole thing here. Some gut feeling. Although he knew little about computers, he knew enough to know that whatever this droid was feeding into the mainframe, it was something big. Big enough to generate a whole knowledge database. The artificial intelligence that was being transferred from this droid could not amount much, probably a small conscious of the overall progaram but yet it must be the crucial portion of the AI as it was now able to recreate itself from scratch. Lansing was startled from his thoughts with a beep. The console showed that the knowledge base generation has completed and:
Initiating security system... completed
At this stage, Edward Diego turned and looked at Lansing. He flashed a grin and before Lansing could act, a high powered laser beam shot through his forehead from the handheld device. Woose screamed and scrambled to run back to the space ship but to no avail as his gravity boots slowed him down. He got a shot at the back of the head.
S.H.O.D.A.N. is online.
With that, Edward Diego unplugged himself, dropped his handheld device onto Lansing?s lifeless face and pushed the mainframes back into the GDI cruiser. He closed the door and proceeded to the cockpit and punched in the coordinates of the AFK-Multi Purpose Transport. The craft hummed to life and lifted effortlessly away from Citadel Station, leaving an extra two dead bodies on the platform and the message on the device: "I re-re-remember you, Hacker...".
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