October 13, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Chapter 5

Here’s our ‘Free Fiction Friday’ offering straight out of our Solar Winds universe. Be sure to start back with chapter 1, or Read the first two tales Scorpius Cell and The Cloaked Promise on our author page.

 

Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell

by

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 5

 

When she arrived at the space port, she found an automated one-way passage to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, awaiting her. Pretty unassuming, she thought, since Titan boasted the largest University at Cronus City. Still, Andrea never dreamed of attending, having never before left Mars Provincial. Who exactly was footing the bill, she wondered?

While shipboard, she had heard further talk of rebellion amongst her liberal university-bound shipmates. Suddenly, for the first time in her life, she had felt like making a stand. It’s what Marc did, she thought. Besides, they will most likely be waiting for me at Cronus City. Jumping a supply ship as they performed a slingshot maneuver around Jupiter, she acted on a tip and ended up on its largest moon, Ganymede. Penniless, she had found herself at the door of a non-descript spacer bar named The Delirious Nomad. It was here that she then contacted a short, mustachioed man she came to know as “The Shrink” and had her life change forever.

Full consciousness regaled her now. A delicious sort of anger percolated through her veins as she remembered the promises that followed. She had desperately wanted to strike back at the thugs that took Marc away, and the Zodiac Cartel had filled that need. The Professor and Karl had assured her of their connections to a vast network aimed at toppling the Steel Triangle that had meshed its grip on the Solar System.

For months they had trained, occasionally raiding a robot freighter headed towards the outer solar wastes, until an opportunity had presented itself – a long voyage luxury liner headed to the outer solar system. Distances were vast, and the Terran Legion was spread thin beyond the orbit of Saturn. Rumor had also trickled in that a large shipment of solar-mined radium had been cross-loaded before the liner departed Earth space. Such a prize was simply too good to pass up. A daring assault on a passenger liner had never been tried before.

Andrea braced herself against the ceiling as sounds echoed through the outside corridor. As desperately thirsty as she now felt, she was hungrier still for answers.

The portal hatchway slid silently aside. A tall lanky outline could be made out by the stark white light of the accessway.  It was a human form, but judging by the square stubby fingers and the nodes where ears should have been, Andrea instantly knew what she was dealing with.

“Identify yourself, robot,” she demanded tersely.

The robot turned his head to face her. A quick glint of green eyes could be seen.

“Ah, the respirators said you might be awake. Let me help you down from there,” he said.

Andrea swung down and propelled herself into the accessway. “Before I permanently deactivate you, who are you and where am I?”

“Ah of course, the vagaries of life,” the robot continued, catching her in a spin. “You primates seem to have an innate inquisitiveness about such things. I am V.I.C.A.R., Voice Instructed Chaplain’s Assistant Robot model 3A-1. I can simulate over 20,000 belief systems for your spiritual convenience. You are currently on the asteroid 301499 Kumari, discovered in the Earth year 2015 and altered for mining in 2152, and later abandoned in…”

Andrea cut him short. A chaplain’s assistant? Now she had heard of everything. Was this a military outpost? An interrogation center, perhaps? The last thing she remembered was boarding the Armageddon on Tap. “Where is the rest of Scorpius Cell?”

V.I.C.A.R. pulled a transparent sheet from a small satchel.  Instantly, it danced with fluorescent blue symbols and diagrams.  “Ah, good. Loading bay four, along with the ship. You can still meet up with them.”

At once, Andrea snatched the sheet from V.I.C.A.R’s hand and sprang ahead. She tapped “loading bay four” on the sheet and followed the weaving arrows it produced as she propelled herself in the almost non-existent gravity of the asteroid through the maze of corridors. From the appearance of disrepair, it occurred to her that the mining operations here had been abandoned for some time.

She pulled up short as she approached the bay. She was now far ahead of V.I.C.A.R., as planned. She peered through the plexiglass door into the vast cavern ahead. The bay had been hewn out of the bare rock, except for its seamless flooring. She spotted the bulk of the Armageddon on Tap along with several scattered supply pallets. The silver disk of the Sun shone through the transparent magnetic barrier beyond. It’s larger now than Uranian orbit, she noted. She judged they had to be at about the approximate distance of Saturn, give or take an Astronomical Unit or two.

She crouched slightly as two figures in bulky radiation suits became visible in the bay. They appeared weaponless and vulnerable. They moved into position around the largest pallet. In this near zero G, it only required manual lift extensions to motivate the pallet’s massive inertia. The radium, she gasped.  They had peeled back most of the heavy shielding to make it easier to reload and transport. To her Infra-Ocular, it glowed brightly. There’s a lethal bath of gamma rays and heavy nuclei dancing around in there, she thought. She would only have a few minutes at best before she would succumb to the radiation.

A metallic voice sounded behind her. “Ma’am, have you given serious consideration to the afterlife?”

Time to go, she grimaced, hitting the latch to the bay door. She couldn’t have the V.I.C.A.R. spoil her surprise party. At this point, she felt used and desperate enough to go out in a blaze of glory.

Pushing off against the far wall, she vaulted arms first into the bay. She aimed her trajectory at what she judged was the larger of the two forms. That has to be Karl, she reasoned. Between the two, he was easily the greater physical threat.

To be continued…

Next week: the conclusion of Scorpius Cell is here! Don’t miss more original sci-fi by yours truly!

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