Illuminae, p.2

Illuminae, page 2



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  Interviewer: Why’s that?

  Ezra Mason: Well, they shot me.

  Interviewer: They shot him?

  Kady Grant: I couldn’t believe it either. Those fuckers should have got in line. They’re not the ones who had to put up with his—

  Interviewer: You said you’d parted ways at that stage. How did you find out he’d been shot?

  Kady Grant: I started by heading toward my mom’s lab on foot, but there were a bunch of BeiTech troops in the way. They were putting carriers down on the ground and rolling out soldiers and all-terrain vehicles. I was a little concussed, I’m pretty sure. I know I stopped to puke at one point. I could see shuttles landing out by the labs to do evac, so I just hoped my mom was getting on one of them. I knew I wasn’t going to make it across town to her. I wasn’t going to make it anywhere without another truck. So I stole one from a BeiTech crew.

  Interviewer: I’m sorry, you what?

  Kady Grant: I am frequently underestimated. I think it’s because I’m short.

  Interviewer: They didn’t want it back?

  Kady Grant: Probably. They were pretty busy jumping out of the way. Also, I knew my way around the middle of town, they didn’t. I took some sharp corners and worked my way around the back of the community complex, scraped the truck doors right off the side of it, but when I got out the other end I’d lost them. Our people didn’t have weapons to shoot at me with, and theirs thought I was on the same team, I guess.

  Interviewer: What happened next?

  Kady Grant: There was this filthy black cloud oozing down from atmo toward the refinery, and I knew that was where Ezra was. I heard it was some kind of bio-attack. Is that true?

  Interviewer: I don’t know. You said he was shot, so I guess you found him?

  Kady Grant: On the wrong end of a BeiTech platoon, bleeding everywhere. I kind of freaked out when I saw it all.

  Interviewer: Were you able to retrieve him?

  Kady Grant: I, uh—are there likely to be any prosecutions for stuff that happened down there?

  Interviewer: They X-ed out a quarter of my crew. None of us is going to weep if you’re telling me you took out a BeiTech squad to get to him.

  Kady Grant: Like I said, I’m pretty small, and there was a lot of blood all over everything. I guess my foot slipped on the accelerator. It was hard to reach, you know? I ran a bunch of them down and pulled up right beside him.

  Interviewer: What did he do?

  Kady Grant: He said, “Hey, Kades.” What a catch, seriously. The truck’s door was missing, though, so it was easy for him to climb in, and we took off like we were outrunning a blizzard. We could see shuttles coming down on the outskirts of town, and they didn’t have BeiTech markings on them, so we risked it. We were hoping they were evac sent by our research fleet.

  Interviewer: And then what?

  Ezra Mason: I don’t remember much. I think I made a joke about needing to see her license and registration. Because, you know, she just ran over a bunch of—

  Interviewer: I get it.

  Ezra Mason: Right. And then I said “I’m bleeding,” and she said, “Shut up, I’m not talking to you,” so I just kinda concentrated on not dying. There was blood everywhere. It hurt so much, I think I started laughing. I think maybe I was going into shock. Kady was yelling at me to put pressure on it, but it hurt less if I didn’t. There were fighters overhead. I remember being really cold. I remember looking at Kady driving, covered in blood, with her hair crusted with snow and everything. I think I told her she was beautiful. Then the lights went out.

  Interviewer: You made it to the shuttles?

  Kady Grant: We made it close. We were driving a BeiTech truck now, so I had to stop and drag Ezra across the ice so they could see we were civis. A couple of the med center staff had made it out there, so they were putting the wounded on shuttles with those guys, and the rest of us into the others. I was screaming my head off, trying to get someone to help me lift him in. I don’t even know how I dragged him. The whole time there were these missiles arcing in and exploding around us, fires starting. I guess they decided if I could yell that loud, I wasn’t hurt bad enough to make the wounded shuttle, so they made me leave him with the doc. That’s how he ended up on the Alexander and I ended up on the Hypatia.

  Interviewer: You’ve been very helpful. Did you see whether any missiles hit the refinery?

  Kady Grant: I don’t think so, just the black cloud. They wouldn’t blow it up, though, would they? I mean, if BeiTech wanted the colony gone, they’d have just ratted to the UTA about it. They obviously wanted the hermium we were mining for themselves. They’d hardly destroy the only way they had to process it.

  Interviewer: We can’t speculate yet on what their aim was.

  Kady Grant: I guess if they catch up with us, we can ask them before they blow us to pieces.

  Interviewer: There’s just one last thing, Mr. Mason.

  Ezra Mason: Can this thing please include those pain meds you promised?

  Interviewer: We’ve had another update to the casualty lists. I’m afraid I have some news about your father.

  Officers of the Alexander,

  In the two days since the assault on the Kerenza colony, the battle with BeiTech forces, and our subsequent withdrawal, our analytics crews have been working around the clock to assess our situation. In summary, here are their findings:

  • Our jump gate generator is heavily damaged—wormholes can still be created, but will more than likely collapse before a jump can be executed, resulting in the Alexander’s destruction. Acting Chief of Technical Engineering Colonel Eva Sanchez reports the damage is irreparable, given our current resources (most notably, the death of former CTE, Mallory Yzerman). Essentially, independent jump travel is not an option.

  • The closest static jump gate able to return us to a core system is Jump Station Heimdall (Novus VII). Though the station itself is on the other side of the universe, a waypoint/wormhole leading to Heimdall is 6.5—7 months’ travel away at current speeds. In short, we are looking at over half a year’s journey before we can jump to safety in a populated zone.

  • Missile strikes sustained in the battle have damaged our Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network (AIDAN), responsible for many vital shipboard functions, including main drive control and jump gate calculations. The same missiles that damaged AIDAN also eliminated a considerable percentage of our neurogramming staff. Although AIDAN is self-repairing, and still functional, the full extent of the damage is unknown.

  • Several other areas of the ship sustained damage, most notably our H2O reservoirs, defense grid and propulsion systems.

  • At least one BeiTech dreadnought participating in the Kerenza attack, BT042-TN, aka Lincoln, survived the battle and is currently in pursuit of our fleet. With current damage and crew levels, our tactical staff estimate we have a 22.7 percent chance of surviving, should the Lincoln engage us.

  • The two civilian transports we are currently escorting—science vessel Hypatia and heavy freighter Copernicus—are carrying 3,348 civilians from the Kerenza colony. Alexander is carrying a further 1,097 civilians. Given aforementioned damage to Alexander’s H2O reservoirs, this overpopulation will place increased strain on our supply situation. Neither the Hypatia or the Copernicus will be of assistance should the Lincoln engage us.

  • Distress calls have been issued on all United Terran Authority channels via the Heimdall waypoint. No reply has been received. In all likelihood, this means our transmissions have not been heard.

  In short, ladies and gentlemen, we are bleeding badly and there are sharks in the water. We are understaffed and outgunned, and over six months from a realistic escape point. As such, I am issuing the following order, effective immediately:

  Any Kerenza colonist with a skill set useful in plugging our shortfalls is to be conscript
ed into the United Terran Authority military. Engineers. Medical personnel. Scientists. Anyone with a history of military service.

  Furthermore, every Kerenza colonist aged eighteen years or older will be immediately tested for aptitude in: computer science, mechanics, electronics, spatial awareness, pattern prediction, hand-eye coordination, twitch reflex, and stress management. Anyone showing C-grade ability or better is to be conscripted immediately. We need pilots. We need gunners. We need spanner monkeys and chipheads. And we need them now.

  This is an unprecedented situation—to my knowledge, no stellarcorp has ever openly attacked a United Terran Authority ship. I don’t care if BeiTech Industries’ litigation department has enough red tape to giftwrap a small moon. These corporations need to learn nobody is above the law, and nobody attacks a UTA vessel without consequences.

  You have worked tirelessly, acquitting yourselves with distinction and valor. We have lost comrades. We have lost brothers and sisters and those we loved dearly. I know the past few days have been hard. The road ahead will be harder still. But knowing each of you as I do, I have no doubt you will rise to the challenge before us, and get these civilians to the Heimdall waypoint alive.

  Centrum tenenda.

  David Torrence

  General, United Terran Authority

  Commander, Alexander 78-V

  Hey Kades,

  They told me almost everyone on the Hypatia has been fixed up with an onboard comms account now. I hope you get this.

  I’m not sure what you know and what you don’t. Everything is a mess over here. The military don’t really tell us anything. But I wanted you to know I made it out alive. I wanted to say thanks. Without you I don’t think I’d be here.

  Delete that. I don’t think, I know.

  I’m in the med bay on board Alexander. They’ve pumped me full of nanotech and my shoulder is almost 100%. Still trying to get my head straight. Figure out what the hell happened. I heard a rumor that the Alexander’s jump drive is bricked. There’s definitely something wrong with the water supplies but they won’t say what. Someone else said the BeiTech dreadnoughts that attacked the colony are still chasing us. But I also heard we’re just days away from meeting up with a whole UTA fleet. So maybe we’ll be safe soon.

  I feel bad about what happened between us. I keep feeling like there’s something I could’ve said to fix it. And then I wonder if I’m an idiot for even thinking that way. I wonder if it was supposed to happen. I mean, if you hadn’t have broken it off, if you hadn’t driven to school that day, we’d both be dead, right? If that’s not the universe’s way of telling me it wasn’t meant to be, I don’t know what is.

  Anyway, I hope you get this. I’m glad you and your mom made it out. I hope you’re okay.

  Happy Valentine’s Day.

  Love E

  Grant, Kady—

  Psych Profile/Conscript Suitability Assessment

  Incept 02/17/75

  —Page 2—

  suggests Ms. Grant is considerably more capable than her test results indicate. When contrasted with the early training exercises she undertook in the Hypatia’s makeshift educational facility, her current outcomes are less than impressive. Simply put, she doesn’t want to score the sorts of results that would get her into the neurogramming training program.

  TEAMWORK: Ms. Grant does not work well with others. The accounts of her peers indicate she was previously a relatively social girl at school, although she did not have a large number of close friends. It is clear that she now prefers her own company. She is, frankly, demoralizing to others in a group situation.

  ATTITUDE: Ms. Grant displays strong anti-establishment sentiments, and has an awkward habit of questioning authority figures at all the wrong moments. This, combined with the intelligence she tries so hard to conceal, makes her something of a liability. It doesn’t appear ego is at play, as she is content to be viewed as average. Rather, it appears her queries and (often successful) attempts at destabilization are driven by her personal beliefs.


  ▢ Conscript—Priority 1

  ▢ Conscript—Priority 2

  ▢ Conscript—Priority 3

  ☒ Do Not Conscript

  COMMENTS: We’d expend more time combating her games and forcing her to get some work done than could be compensated for by her output. It appears she’s willing to leave us alone if we leave her alone, and there are better candidates for recruitment.

  ByteMe: That all you got?

  CitB: ah, the new girl

  ByteMe: Sure it is, but who are you?

  CitB: the guy who can show u how to get all the info you’ve been trawling for

  CitB: and more

  ByteMe: In exchange for what? Nothing comes for free in this place.

  CitB: for u, no cost but time. for the folks upstairs, plenty. the Alexander is a military ship and here on Hypatia we’re civilians, but emergency or not, we have a right to more information than they give us.

  CitB: our lives are on the line too. u want to join the fight, ur welcome

  ByteMe: Just like that.

  CitB: u’ve been sitting your entry exam this last month, grasshopper. been watching u poke around inside the system. u don’t like being kept in the dark either. seen u keeping an eye on a few things. on a few people.

  ByteMe: Well you don’t sound creepy at ALL.

  CitB: what i sound like is someone who knows more than u. u want lessons or not?

  ByteMe: Want.

  CitB: then let’s get started

  Hey K,

  I’m not sure if you’ll get this. I mailed you last month, but maybe it didn’t go through. If things aboard the Hypatia are anything like things over here, it probably didn’t. Maybe you’re busy. Or you don’t want to talk to me. I get it.

  It was my birthday yesterday. Eighteen years old, can you believe that? Good news is I can drink legally, now. Bad news is there’s nothing to drink. Even the water’s in short supply. :P

  They’ve got me doing tests. Not just me—there’s a whole bunch of us. VR sims and psych analysis and physicals. They’ve drafted a whole bunch of the Kerenza refugees into the UTA over here. Not sure if they’re doing the same on the Hypatia. Wartime conscription they called it. And now I’m eighteen, they’re looking at me. Which I guess means we’re in deeper shit than anyone figured.

  I had a dream about you last night. No, not like that, relax.

  It was the day of the attack, and I see you in your truck in the parking lot. And I run up to the window and knock, but you don’t let me in. You just stare, like you don’t know me. And I pound on the glass and yell your name, but you just shake your head. And then you drive off and leave me there. Weird thing is, there’s someone who looks exactly like me sitting right next to you the whole time. And he’s laughing.

  And then the ships come.

  You think it means something?

  Anyway, I hope you’re ok. Write back and let me know. Even if it’s just to say you got this.

  Love E

  Mason, Ezra—

  Psych Profile/Conscript Suitability Assessment

  Interview Excerpt

  Incept 03/19/75

  INTERVIEWER: So tell me about your mother.

  Ezra Mason: (laughter) Nice one, chum. You know, you’re the first shrink I ever met with a sense of …

  Ezra Mason: … Wait, you serious?

  INTERVIEWER: Does it bother you? Talking about her?

  Ezra Mason: It bothers me you snaffled your psych eval questions off the back of a box of Jupiter Loops, chum. That’s honestly your opener? “Tell me about your mother?” Are you dusted?

  INTERVIEWER: You’ve undergone psychiatric evaluation before, then?

  Ezra Mason: What makes you say that?

  INTERVIEWER: You said I’m the first psychoanalyst you
ve met who had a sense of humor. Meaning you’ve met others who didn’t?

  Ezra Mason: Proper little Sherlock over here, huh.

  INTERVIEWER: There’s no need for hostility, Mr. Mason.

  Ezra Mason: Mr. Mason is my dad.

  INTERVIEWER: Yes, your father. Tell me about him.

  Ezra Mason: Nothing to tell. He’s an engineer. Works the heavy processors in the hermium refinery. Bad cook. Worse jokes. You know. A dad.

  INTERVIEWER: Do you miss him?

  Ezra Mason: What kind of question is that?

  INTERVIEWER: It’s been over a month since he was killed in the Kerenza assault. You still talk about him in the present tense.

  INTERVIEWER: Do you think that’s interesting, Ezra?

  Ezra Mason: (inaudible profanity)

  INTERVIEWER: All right, then. Let’s talk about something that makes you happy.

  Ezra Mason: … You mean like lingerie models?

  INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your girlfriend.

  Ezra Mason: Wowwww.

  Ezra Mason: You’re really bad at this, chum.

  Ezra Mason: Like, if Bad was a sport, you could Bad for your planet.

  INTERVIEWER: Your girlfriend doesn’t make you happy?

  Ezra Mason: She dumped me the day our colony exploded.

  Ezra Mason: Rim-shot?

  INTERVIEWER: Do you still care about her?

  Ezra Mason: Next question.

  INTERVIEWER: It’s just I notice you put her down as your emergency contact on the Alexander intake form. It seems strange to name a girl you broke up with as your effective next of kin.

  Ezra Mason: I never told you I broke up with her. She broke up with me.


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