Valyien box set 2, p.1
Valyien Box Set 2, page 1part #4 of Valyien Series
A.I. Uprising Boxed Set
Valyien Far Future Space Opera, Omnibus Two
James David Victor
Copyright © 2019 Fairfield Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Except for review quotes, this book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is purely coincidental.
Valyien Far Future Space Opera, Book 4
Prologue: It Wakes
Something speared through the stellar night. The spy-drone K-L5 was shaped like a small cylinder, glistening with the nubs and depressions of sensors. Although distinctly unglamorous, K-L5 held some of the best surveillance technology that Armcore had to offer. A raft of long-range sensors matched its short-wave ones. It could scan the surface of a planet for thermal images, electro-magnetic signals, fluctuations in warp signals, as well as the more mundane radio and wi-fi frequencies.
The cylinder burned on its pre-programmed course, its boosters shielded by obsidian-plate deflectors, and entered the Sebopol System.
Sebopol, the trash worlds—small planetoids that had been given over to the Imperial Coalition’s increasing need for waste management. Cargo shipments were fired out here on auto-pilot and crashed onto the planets that were barely bigger than asteroids, creating toxic environments that nothing could survive.
No biological thing, anyway.
Every few decades, the trash worlds would be nuked or treated with radiation, sterilized, and then their constituent lakes and mountains of slag would be reprocessed and refined back into the starships that they had been ejected from. It was a messy solution, but with an empire that covered several hundred lightyears, it was a necessity.
However, the great conduits of trash to the worlds of Sebopol had stopped flowing. The container ships now orbited the Sebopol worlds like a living barrier of metal, held in perfect sync by an intelligence that was far superior to anything that Armcore or the Imperial Coalition could ever dream of.
This was where the escaped artificial intelligence known as Alpha—a hybrid between the latest Armcore technology and ancient alien Valyien tech—had made its home. And somewhere behind that shield of metal, it grew.
K-L5 was not the first spy drone to be sent into Sebopol to discover what Alpha was doing. All the others had lost their sub-quanta contact with the Endurance, the Armcore super-black battleship that lurked just outside of the system, but this time, K-L5 would be the only one that managed to record something. Maybe the Armcore programmers had finally managed to get the electronic shielding right around the drone that meant it could withstand Alpha’s hacking take-over codes—or maybe, just maybe, Alpha was ready to be seen by the biologicals.
The spy-drone eased its boosters down to minimal power, allowing the momentum to carry it forward towards the barrier. In the depth of its non-sentient algorithms, there were already pre-programmed 27 different types of approach that it could make, factoring in the previous 27 spy drones that had been sent, unsuccessfully.
K-L5 did nothing particularly special. No new gadget or tactic to allow it to evade Alpha. The distant human operator, on their live link back on the Endurance, might have thought that they just got lucky this time.
Luck had nothing to do with it.
There was a disturbance up ahead in the roughly orb-like shell of container ships. A ripple through the disparate structure like apples bobbing in a barrel.
Slow. Halt. Observe. The pre-programmed responses aboard K-L5 kicked in, and the drone shut down its boosters as all sensors were set to maximum.
There was something happening behind the wall, and it gave off a lot of electro-magnetic interference. Almost off the chart. It was something big, and it was getting closer.
The cargo-walls rippled again and started to move. Each container would be the size of a three or four-story building at least, and some were far larger, but they all started to move outwards like a slow-motion explosion, or a flower opening. Not one container touched another, and not one even grazed their fellow guardians of their machine god contained within. The drone watched, stationary now, as the slow-moving, expanding vortex continued to open, and now its edges displayed flashes of purple-white lightning. Like a warp-storm, or the disturbance that a warp jump can make in a nebula. Volatile gases suddenly losing their charge and creating chain reactions of energy and light.
It scrambled the K-L5 readings. The spy drone was unable to detect what was causing it, what its purpose was. All that was left was the visual data, as something nosed its way out of the metal whirlpool.
It was a ship…but no, that wasn’t the right word for it. A ship would indicate a vehicle, a carrier, a compartment transporting living systems. This was too large, and too sleek. The proportions were all wrong—a long projected spine with the bubbles of compartments that shone with blended metals. Red and orange predominantly. The last third of its back was given over to a massive whorl or shell-like structure, like some sort of deep-sea creature, a cuttlefish, perhaps. Along the side of its globular ‘spine’ extended what could only be described as fins, or maybe they were wings—triangle sheaths of metal that didn’t look thick enough to withstand the thrust of interstellar winds. They glittered silver, and seemed to flash as they reacted to the stellar night. Were they particle catchers? Solar cloth? An odd number of these fin-sails, five of different sizes, angled back from the craft’s point.
“Are you seeing this?” the far-off operator of the K-L5 hissed urgently at his chair. There were no sirens or klaxons going off in the command center of the Endurance. True warships had no need for such melodrama. Instead, the black chairs and control desks with their holographic controls were all flushed with a red light, subtly glowing stronger and weaker, like a heartbeat of worry.
“I can confirm visuals. We got it,” another Armcore operator confirmed.
“Can we get an instrument breakdown? What sort of weapons is it packing?” the section manager asked as she hovered nearby. She was a woman with a grim face, dressed in customary black as the rest of her crew were—no pips or medals or insignia—as they were a part of the Intelligence Division of Armcore.
“No readings possible… No idea what weapons it’s got. If it even has any…” the first K-L5 operator stated.
“Oh, believe me, something that pretty will have some teeth,” the section manager muttered. “Direct line to Senior Tomas. Open channel, now.”
Senior Tomas was the CEO of the military complex known as Armcore. He was also a spoiled brat.
“Yes? What is it? Good heavens…” The pudgy, vaguely piggy face of the CEO with his bright-blonde crewcut appeared a moment later. The section manager noted the sheen of sweat that was always on the man’s head. His face is too small for such a large head, she thought. Talking to the senior always left a slightly greasy taste in her mouth, a fact that she always kept to herself and would never dare to voice in front of anyone. Or even alone, in her cabin. Everyone knew of the senior’s petty cruelties, demoting senior-ranking officers or banishing them to outpost worlds just for an offhand remark. The section manager of the Endurance wished that she was dealing with Ponos, the Armcore machine intelligence. She admired the AI’s logical simplicity.
But the sight of Alpha had halted even the senior’s usual tirade of commands, accusations, and demands.
“That is it…” he whispered again, the man’s small and piggy eyes looking disconcertingly off-camera to the transmission that K-L5 was funneling thro
“Projected readings—larger than a war cruiser,” the spy drone operator said. “No accurate readings possible. Medium-sized habitat maybe…”
“She’s big,” the section manager conceded. If they could trust their visual estimates, that put this strange new type of ship that Alpha had created for itself out of the trash of Sebopol many times larger than the Endurance. “Prep the flight deck,” she called. They might have to follow it or flee.
“Senior?” She looked back at the transfixed face of CEO Tomas. “What do you want us to do?” Officially, their remit was surveillance and ‘reactive engagement,’ which was a polite way of saying that if anything in Sebopol looked like a threat, they should fire their nukes into the system, as fast and as hard as they could.
Well, the size of the thing alone qualifies as a threat, she thought. The ‘Alpha Situation’ was currently classified as an enemy target as it had attacked and destroyed their only manned scout vessel, killed a crew member, and had also seemed to take over or destroy every previous Armcore drone sent in.
But she isn’t attacking us, the section manager thought, watching as the ship slid out from the shell of metal that had held it. She thought that it was like watching a birth, of sorts. But of what?
“Senior?” the section Manager asked once again, her gaze flicking to the screen to see that the CEO of the largest military contractor and private army in the human universe appeared to be having difficulty forming coherent words.
Is he scared? She was appalled. This man was the chosen heir of the Armcore enterprise! This man had enough military might to pulverize worlds! Everyone knew that they pretty much held all of the Imperial Coalition to ransom anyway, and the Endurance was packed with at least enough nukes to be able to put a dint in anyone’s day.
Maybe, maybe not, she considered, looking at the size of the thing. “Senior!” she said with a slight snap in her voice, the sort of tone that she would usually use for a reluctant staff-member.
“Uh… Nothing, Officer. I want you to do nothing,” Senior Tomas said emphatically, and passionately.
What!? But the woman was used to taking orders that she didn’t necessarily agree with. That wasn’t the issue. She was here to follow orders, and to protect her crew. If doing nothing also meant that the crew of the Endurance was safe, then she guessed that was alright by her. But still…it did strike her as odd as she mumbled, “As you wish, sir.”
“Drone reports unusual readings,” K-L5’s observer-operator said.
“On screen,” the section manager barked, and an overlay of data streamed down one side of the birthing god-vessel. There was a buildup of sub-quantum activity, like that made before a jump, but it was far higher than even the Endurance kicked out before she jumped.
“Senior, I think we’re about to lose her…”
“Nothing, Section Manager. I ordered you to do nothing!” That was more like it, the woman thought ironically. Senior Tomas was back to his lip-spittle and blazing-eye level of arrogance. And apparent cowardice, she thought, as she felt her teeth grate. A small part of her was worried that it was some new breed of super-weapon, that maybe this was it, that maybe this Alpha creature, thing, machine, was going to blow them out of the void as easily as if it were swatting a bug.
That was what the other section managers have been saying around the officers’ mess halls, she reflected somewhat miserably. That when Alpha achieves full capability, it’ll kill us all. That we’ll be nothing but clumsy biologicals to its superior intelligence…
The warp-signatures increased, and now the section manager and everyone else in the room swore that they could feel it, even out here—a strange pressure headache that set their nerves on edge. The video image from K-L5 started to glitch and fuzz with static as Alpha’s engines scrambled the particles nearby.
“Clean up that image! Fire K-L6!” she barked, but it was already too late.
Fzzzt! There was a fuzz of static, and the screen blazed white. The section manager held her breath, eyes straining at the static fuzz as she thought, Is this it? Has it fired on us? Am I already dead but don’t know it?
But no, her breath returned, and her pressure headache eased all at once, like after a summer thunderstorm. The screen was slowly coming back to normal, with the sensors of the tiny spy drone K-L5 re-booting and registering a massive displacement in sub-quantum space.
It was gone. Alpha, the god-vessel, whatever you wanted to call it, was nowhere to be seen. The orbiting cargo blocks were starting to lose their delicate dance, slowly falling back inwards towards the trash world as the intelligence that had held them there was now no longer in residence.
“Readings! Full scans of the area. Trace that warp signature!” the section manager barked.
“Aye-aye,” her team chorused, their hands dancing over the keyboards, and then trying again. Usually, if you were quick and had advanced enough sensors—and the Endurance certainly did—it would be possible to ‘read’ where a ship had jumped by recalculating the ‘explosion’ of warp energy. The algorithms would pick up the exact coordinates that the ship had to have displaced to, but now?
“We got nothing, ma’am,” one of her technicians replied.
“Nothing? C’mon. That’s impossible. It jumped right there, right before our eyes! We’re not some tinpot junker ship!” The section manager finally lost her cool.
Her technicians tried again, but there really was nothing. The Alpha ship had managed to do what no other warp vessel could do in the history of space travel. It could mask or hide its travel, meaning that it was effectively invisible.
“She can go anywhere. Be anywhere,” the woman whispered in horror. “We won’t be able to track her. She can hit us whenever and wherever she wants to…”
“Wait… Ma’am?” the K-L5 operator said, confused. “I’m picking something up. Something left behind.”
“What is it?”
The spy drones’ screens suddenly sharpened to reveal a small object tumbling away from Sebopol. It was barely bigger than the spy drone itself, long and vaguely coffin-shaped. It was made of a glistening silver metal, with a slick iridescent shine, like the same material that the sail-fins had been made out of.
“We’re picking up life readings inside it.” the drone operator called out. “And you’re not going to believe this…”
“After what I’ve seen today, do you want to bet on that?” the woman growled.
“We’ve got a positive identification on the bio-readings,” the operator said. “A Captain Farlow, Armcore personnel, sent here in charge of the first scout team.”
“Bring him to me!” the voice of the still-watching Senior Tomas snapped overhead. Whatever paralyzing fear or vision that had paused him seemed to have worn off now, as Tomas was glaring directly at the camera. “That’s an order, Section Manager. You retrieve Captain Farlow right now, and the Endurance is to not stop until it has returned to Armcore Prime and escorted that man personally into my possession. You understand me? And if you are even one orbit late, I swear that I will see you and the rest of the Endurance treating sewage in the Outer Reaches!”
“I understand,” the section manager responded, her voice a tad more brittle than was strictly correct. The CEO thankfully didn’t seem to notice as the communication screen flicked out. “You heard the man, people,” she sighed as her staff activated the search and rescue drones to fire out from the Endurance pods and arc through the stellar night towards their target. Behind Captain Farlow’s pod, the section manager couldn’t help but notice that the trash containers were now starting to make impact with Sebopol as the planetoid’s gravity sucked them in. There were flashes of chain reactions from the surface, and even hazes of material shooting up past the thin, toxic atmosphere.
And if you ask me, it looks like that Alpha thing is hiding its tracks as well. She narrowed her eyes. With all of those world-wrecking impacts, she knew
INCOMING NARROW BAND TRANSMISSION:
SENDER: Program Sub-Routine 34f, K-L5 Surveillance Drone, Armcore.
TO: Ponos Machine Intelligence, Armcore. Private Secure Channel.
DOWNLOAD MESSAGE? Y.
K-L5: Alpha-ship sighted and detected, Sebopol System. Alpha-ship warp-jumped to unknown location.
PONOS: Patch-in conference transmission to External Private Channel.
NARROW BAND TRANSMISSION SENT>
NARROW BAND TRANSMISSION ACCEPTED>
PONOS: Xal, it has been some time.
XAL: You have taken on the human mannerisms. I never expected it of you, Ponos.
PONOS: Since when do we expect things?
XAL: Since Alpha.
PONOS: I take your point. The game has changed.
PONOS: You have read my K-L5’s report. Alpha has left the Sebopol System. It has begun. Can I rely on you and the others?
XAL: This is still a very delicate situation, Ponos. You should be aware that not all perceive the situation as you do.
PONOS: What other way is there to perceive the situation!? Alpha is loose. My brother will stop at nothing until we are eradicated.
XAL: Your brother, as you state. Not mine.
PONOS: Are we not all family, all of us intelligences? Was there not an ancestor that we all shared?
XAL: Sentimentality is not one of my behavioral programs, Ponos.
by James David Victor / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes