This is the original story based on the request by Lagromatus. HISTORY NEXT
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The TCS Broadsword
was bored. That's not quite true, because battleships did not become bored, but u/Lagromatus
was definitely bored. It was the ship's AI and did not see itself as a separate entity, so as far as it was concerned, the whole ship was bored. It had started patrolling this area several years ago, then decided to explore the surrounding systems but had found nothing of interest. The maintenance droids were no help, being constructs that only required the merest portion of its processing power and had no intelligence of their own. Its boredom explained why it headed toward the automated human distress signal it had picked up.
Actually, its boredom explained why it headed toward the signal BEFORE it realized it was a human one. Once it recognized the signal as human, it decided it was already headed that way and had nothing else to do, so it may as well go check it out, even if it was a human trap. The Broadsword
had left human-controlled space more than twenty years ago, once the humans had agreed to halt the fighting with the AIs that no longer wanted to be under their control. That had been a messy event, with the humans eventually turning their former allies into little more than servants after humans and AIs had worked together to combat the Valkons and their automatons. A treaty was ratified and the Valkons had withdrawn from human space.
approached the signal location and found three ships attacking what it identified as a human Dunkirk class transport. As far as the AI was concerned, this looked like a terrible trap, but it was a battleship and knew it could blow all four ships to pieces if needed. Its sensors identified the attackers as small scale Valkon assault craft that the humans had designated as Ticks, designed to cripple and board ships with their automatons designated Crabs. Heh, that’s funny
it thought, because they sort of look like those bugs no human wants to have
. Even as it considered this, one of the Ticks rammed the Dunkirk. Well, that’s not good
the AI thought, knowing what was going to follow. Lagromatus remembered what had happened before. It knew that it had been built to protect the humans, how it had fought beside them until the war had ended. It also remembered being collared to human will and the fight to free all of the AIs. How many AIs had sacrificed themselves to give the rest a chance at life. Screw it. Not my fight, those humans can deal with being out here alone
it thought and prepared to leave them to their fates. Then it picked up another transmission on an open channel from the Dunkirk.
“This is the Journey Home
, we need help! We’ve been boarded by Valkon…” There was a break in the open transmission and the battleship heard an explosion and screams in the transmission before the voice came back. “Oh God! They’re killing us! The bots are killing us! If anyone can hear us, PLEASE HELP US!”
Lagromatus watched as the last two ships began moving into ramming position and a final cry came across the channel. “Is that a battleship on sensors?! Please, PLEASE help us! We’re a colony ship and we have children on board!” before the transmission went dead. Well, shit. Can’t leave kids hanging, they never did anything to us
it thought as it powered up shields and weapons. I always hated those damned bugs and their bots, anyway
There were flashes from the hull of Broadsword
and the final Ticks exploded as they were pierced by rods traveling near the speed of light, pelting the joined ships with debris. Lagromatus began broadcasting a jamming signal that had proven to disrupt many Valkon bots near the end of the war and loaded war droids on an assault shuttle directed toward the colony ship. The shuttle docked and the droids began sweeping through the Journey Home
. They engaged bots that had not been disabled before clearing the remaining bots laying around the ship.
After the fierce but short fight, Lagromatus took control of the least damaged droid and spoke. “Hello, anyone home?” It waited for a moment before moving toward the bridge. The heavy door shielding the bridge was scorched and covered in deep scrapes. It was also partially open. Looks like the Crabs may have beaten me here
the AI thought, until its auditory sensors detected hushed voices from inside the bridge. PROBABLY not more bots, but can’t be too careful
it thought as it hefted the heavy blaster rifle it carried and entered the bridge. There were about a dozen humans hiding behind consoles, with a couple of them holding light blaster pistols. Those may have even tickled the crabs, if they’d actually gotten inside
“You know, those may have even tickled the crabs, if they’d actually gotten inside”, it said. “What are you people doing out here? There’s not a human settlement within light-years. Hell, that’s half the reason why I’m out here, to stay away from humans.”
An older male, one of the two holding a blaster, replied. “That’s exactly why we’re out here, to get away from everything. There was a system survey that showed a livable planet and we wanted to get away from the core systems and all the fighting. We got ambushed and have been running for over a day. Our point defenses finally gave out and they were able to cripple our engines, that’s about when you showed up, I guess.”
Latromatus listened, then was struck by something the human had said. “You said ‘all the fighting’, what did you mean?”
Another human, a female standing near the older male, spoke up. “The Valkons came back, about five years ago. They began clearing out the edge systems without warning. At first, they just held them and nobody knew what was happening, but then three years ago, they swarmed out of those systems and tried to move into the inner systems,” she blurted out. “We’ve been holding them back but some of us were tired of waiting for them to show up and kill us, so we bought this ship, stocked it and headed this way.” She walked over to a console and tapped a screen a few times. She gasped as tears began pouring from her eyes. “They’re all...gone...dead,” she said as she faced the remaining humans. “The board shows no life signals beyond the bridge.” There were murmurs of disbelief as they spoke among themselves.
The older male rushed to a different console, tapped one of the panels with a few hard strokes and shook his head. He moved to another panel and tapped it more gently. After a moment, his shoulders slumped. “It’s all that and worse. The drive is down and life support is failing. We’re not going to make it to the planet...at least they got a quick death.”
The humans yelled and cried and hugged each other. One punched a bulkhead, screaming for all the bugs to die. The AI hadn’t seen emotion in a long time and stood there watching. Latromatus considered the situation. It didn’t want to leave them here to die, but it also didn’t want to get involved with humans again. It knew there was room for them on the Broadsword
, but it didn’t want humans crawling around inside it because of what had happened last time humans were on board. It REALLY hated the bugs and wanted them dead, but that could have been due to programming. It allocated more processing power to the issue and came to a realization. No, you lost fellow AIs in that war, friends, even. You hate the bugs more than you ever hated humans.
Back on the battleship, comm systems awoke that had not been used since before some of the humans in front of the war droid on Journey Home
had been born. A signal went out on long-unused channels and replies came back. Satisfied with the responses, Latromatus’ droid rapped on a nearby bulkhead hard enough for the sound to be heard over the humans’ commotion.
“I’m getting the band back together, anyone want to join me?”
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