Saturday, July 31, 2021

Space Trucker pt 2

Part 2 of Space Trucker for part one see the previous post

    Well now I know not to fear the maintenance bots and I have a better means of navigating this ship.  I turn back toward the route I had been heading in and watch as the map reorients its self first back to where I am and second back to the direction I am heading, a very useful gift especially since it is obvious that the tablets transponders are deactivated.  I slip the tablet into my back pocket and grabbing my bag head further into the ship.
    An hours crawl through the conduit brings me to a long vertical riser that according to the map runs from the very bottom of the ship to the top.  Each end of the riser terminates in an airlock but I only make note of it to avoid entering them, visiting an airlock without proper gear is nothing but suicide.  I sit up at this junction allowing my legs to dangle into the riser and give my aching knees a rest.  I drag my bag over to me and dig out a Hershey's bar to munch on while I contemplate my location relevant to the Master Control Brain.  Judging by what I see I am approximately seven levels below as well as another good hours crawl through more conduits, I double check the surrounding area to ensure I am alone and stretch out on my back for a few minutes to rest my sore spine.
    I must have drifted off to sleep because it was twenty minutes later when I was awakened by a loud crash many floors below me.  I quickly pulled my legs up into the conduit with the rest of me only to find my knees even more aching than they were due to their hanging over the edge for so long.  I pulled myself further back and took out the map again, much to my dislike the dot was purple.  The dot had an operating number that if A2q was any indication meant it was a modified maintenance bot so, A89r some five floors below was going to be a problem.  I quickly scan the map once more before tripping it off and shoving it back into my shirt pocket.  I stuck my head over the precipice and looked down to see what was afoot and the bot was definitely searching for something as its visual sensor array was swinging back and forth as well as up and down as indicated by the shifting shadows caused by the bots lighting system.  I had only two possible things to do, one sit quietly and hope it passed by beneath me, or two use the peacemaker and announce my location once again.  I decided to use option one and only rely on option two if it came closer.  Wouldn't you know it chose to come closer.  I could see its lights shifting as it checked other conduits on its way up so as it advanced I drew the peacemaker once again and studied its pattern.  I only had a brief moment of opportunity as it got closer in which to pull the shot while it was at the conduit below me with its sensor array facing the other side.  As its array began to swivel I inched forward so both my arms where free over the edge and I took a firm grip, the bot was so close I could almost touch it with the barrel when it suddenly entered the opposite tube and disappeared.  I waited for several minutes afraid it would suddenly reappear before I hauled myself back into my original position and pulled out the map once again.  Sure enough there was A89r some fifty meters along the conduit it had entered and steadily moving further away.
    A quick scan of the map showed the next several conduits in line and up a level to be clear where as this level dead ends at a bulk head.  I have a choice to come out one floor below or one floor above the Master Brain though, as their are no conduits available to me on it's level.  I study the map for some time before I opt for one level above as their is another maintenance shaft running vertical between the floors as well as a stairwell.  Another quick scan of my local area while I grab a drink from my bag confirms all is clear and soon I'm throwing my bag's strap over my shoulder as I enter the vertical conduit.
    I begin my arduous climb being as silent as possible knowing full well that A89r could turn up again at any moment.  Conduit by conduit I count the levels off until twenty-seven meters higher finds me entering my destination conduit.  The conduit is much smaller than the previous lateral conduit had been and I know this will force me to crawl along on my belly.  I swing my bag around and with a little rooting around find a short length of rope and tie one end to the back of my belt and the other to the strap of my bag then pull out the Peacemaker as I enter the tube.  I knew the going would be slow when I entered the conduit but judging by the map I'd traveled half way to my destination and already spent an hour on my belly.  I'm near exhaustion, my arms ache, and my shoulders and hips burn like fire when I heard a loud clang behind me.  I glance at the map again and as I feared A89r is coming along the tube behind me, while making considerable time and catching up quick.  I roll over and spread my legs so my feet are as far apart as possible then raise my back so I can see back the way I came.  I point the Peacemaker in the direction of A89r and just as soon as I make out its shape in the conduit I squeeze the trigger.  The muzzle flash is both brilliant and blinding in the near darkness of the conduit but it is the strength of the old guns report that hurts.  The Peacemaker is always loud but in such a confined space I am suddenly deafened by its report and all I hear is a loud whistle in my ears while they fill with searing pain.  I drop the gun onto my chest, its weight feeling more than normal, as I hopelessly grab at my ears.  I lay there in agonizing torment for quite sometime before everything goes utterly silent.  As I lay in my silent and pain-filled world my brain begins to swim and wander leaving me oblivious to the maintenance bot that has come in from above my head.  All of a sudden I feel myself being dragged through the tube by my shirt collar.  There is no way for me to see what is dragging me and at this point I'm not so sure I really care.  I must have been drug several hundred meters though before I'm swinging in a wide arc of a turn as I suddenly appear in a corridor and find myself now being rapidly dragged through the ship its ceiling lights becoming a dizzying blur as they pass over head.  With a little effort I can just see the well worn little maintenance bot that is rapidly dragging me to who knows where and with the painful ringing that is now filling my ears I can not cypher it out nor do I care to.  We duck into another conduit slowing up only enough I assume to ensure I actually clear the opening and as I peer past my feet I can see another maintenance bot closing the access panel.  I can't make out anything in this tube other than streaks of multi-colored light being emitted from random diode status indicators scattered throughout the tube.  Suddenly we come to a stop and I find my back and head now resting upon the long back of the bot that has been dragging me along as a different bot now slips a mechanical hand beneath and around each of my shoulders and the trip starts anew only this time we are apparently traveling with all diligent speed up this new conduit.  I loose track of how many levels we ascend very quickly as our rate of travel is just too fast.  When we stop I am again transfered to a different bot and I am again traveling horizontally although not at anywhere near the same velocity as before.  It couldn't be more than a few minutes though when we appear in an old slightly dusty medical bay and I find myself being examined by a medic bot as the maintenance bot scuttles back into its service hatch.  Before long I'm being given a trans-dermal injection just behind each ear and almost instantly my hearing returns.
    "Do you feel better now?"
    "You should be more careful.  Fortunately you weren't far away so your hearing should not suffer any permanent damage.  You should keep a couple of these with you in case you do that again but I still recommend ear protection."
    The medical bot holds out his mechanical hand and hands me two trans-dermal injectors in a steel case.
    "I understand you are trying to liberate us from the Master Brain.  You can not enter its chamber directly, it is too heavily guarded.  There is a hidden conduit that does lead directly into its chamber but you can only reach the access door from the outside of the ship."
    The medical bot rolls over to a view screen and pulls up a map of the ship.  It indicates our current position then walks me through entering a service hatch within the next room that returns me to a conduit that leads back to the vertical conduit.   From there I head to the uppermost airlock and exit the ship.  Three hundred meters across the outer skin and there should be another door beside a large solar array.  Apparently the solar array feeds directly into the master Brain.
    “This information is all well and good but how am I supposed to cross over the outside of the ship without a space suit?”
    “You will find several in the airlock, left from this ships previous occupants.”
    I work on the assumption that if the maintenance bots would risk themselves to bring me to the medical bot that it was safe to trust it.  I soon found myself climbing back up the vertical conduit and in half an hour I am entering the dressing area of the airlock.  The suits are very old but still seem serviceable and I begin trying them on until I find one that fits.
    With suit in place I sling my bag over my shoulder, enter the airlock and exit the ship.  It is absolutely dark outside of the ship and it takes me several minutes to find the right switch for the helmet lamps.  The outside of the ship is a dark rust color and the space dust floats up around my feet with each step I take.  The trip is both slow and laborious with having to pull my magnetically clad feet off of the hull with every step.  Reflectors on the solar array shine back in the faint light of the helmet lamps allowing me to navigate in the darkness.  Step by step I get closer to my goal until in time I am circling the solar array looking for the access hatch.  At first the hatch is nowhere to be seen but by scraping the hull with my feet I am just able to discern its outline through the dust.  I retrieve a number thirty torx head screwdriver from my bag and begin backing out the bolts that hold the lid to the conduit in place.  Half a dozen screws later and I am swinging the plate back out of the way.  I look down into the hollow darkness and the narrowness of the conduit and begin climbing in as I see a light in the direction of the airlock.  I know I have very little time to spare so I step into the conduit and shut off the magnetic boots.  I slide down the dust covered ladder and can feel the magnetic containment field that holds the air in this section as I pass through it.  The resistance of the air slows me slightly and then I hit bottom.
    I turn off the helmet lights then seeing a light source I slowly work my way toward it.  It's nothing more than a loose plate but it allows me a chance to peer into the next room where I see a large positronic brain.  I slip the barrel of the peacemaker up to the crack and just as I am about to pull the trigger I am hit hard from behind slamming me through the plating.  I skid across the floor one way the peacemaker goes the other and just as I slam into the opposite bulkhead my possibles bag slams into me between my splayed legs.  I'm in agony when the security bot picks me up and tosses me across the room again.  I'm dazed for a moment before I spot the peacemaker lying one point five meters away from me.  I force hard against the wall with my legs but only manage to push with my left and scream with my right, I just manage to grab the peacemaker though as the security bot grabs me by my right leg.  I scream through the pain and on instinct fire the peacemaker toward the bot.  Its grip releases and I can feel its hydraulic fluid spraying across me.  I can't look at the bot for the spraying fluid covering my helmet visor but I can see the positronic brain.  Shot after shot I level into its matrix until the third and final shot shatters the matrix.  I can hear the security bot collapse to the floor and I know it is from loss of fluid not from the demise of the brain.
    I slide across the now slick floor away from the derelict security bot and begin slithering out of my space suit.  My leg twists around in an odd direction causing my foot to stick straight out the side and unbelievable pain to wrack my entire body.  I reach down and twist my lower leg back to a somewhat normal position and it relieves the pain to an extent.  I open the revolver and dump the empty shell casings into my hand, then pour them into my shirt pocket.  One by one I load the next six shells into their chambers then close the revolver.
    I avoid the pools of hydraulic fluid and make my way toward the main door of the room while dragging my bag along behind me.  I arrive within sight of the main door just as two security bots emerge but this time I place two very accurate shots directly into their torsos and as such right through their processors.  I change out the spent shells and continue on through the door.  I drag out my map once again.  With the security bots beginning to fall off-line I slowly begin my long trek back to the medical bay and hopefully relief from the pain in my leg.
    I crawl along for half an hour before I see anything and the first thing I see is a dark skinned humanoid.  He approached slowly and as he did I couldn't help but notice his ebony complexion.  He was a big man, every bit of two point two five meters and muscular, I think even his muscles have muscles.  He was definitely from Earth because Earth is the only place I had ever seen such a build and complexion.  He scooped me up from the floor and holding me in his arms he began walking away.  I noticed the color difference between the two of our arms my own caramel showing starkly against him and as I wondered about this mountain of a man I just caught the words he was saying.
    "I am taking you to the medical bay, the medical bot will know how to fix you up.  Thank you for breaking my imprisonment.  I was held captive by a security bot who just wanted me as a pet.  For two years I've been here lost with my own thoughts and no one to talk to."
    "Well I'm glad to meet you, my name is Caroline what's yours?"
    We chatted as he carried me to the medical bot and he stayed near while I was repaired.  Once I was healed we returned to my truck where I called Federation Cargo Enforcement.  It took them several hours to arrive and six more to debrief Laron and myself in the end Laron had nowhere to go after being gone for so long so he hitched a ride with me.

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