Bobby Birondeau kicked his Hayabusa into overdrive. The micro gravitic engines that laced the hull of his bike flared into action to propel him towards the city center of Lo- To-Dor through the air. The satellites that covered the planet were all tied into sophisticated radars and fed into the AIs of all vehicles in order to minimize accidents. They still happened, but rarely because of machines; mostly when humans tried to overrule the AIs. Their bad luck, the dumb shits, thought Bobby whilst he clocked a few Gs zigzagging through air traffic.
As he flew towards HocDoc Square, a busy city center intersection, he felt the speed and concentration of piloting the bike manually evaporate the anger that had swelled up on him before. He still planned on doing some slicing and dicing with Jessica, however he would be more careful. He hadn’t survived this long without learning to be extra careful when government officials or fleet personnel were involved. Jessica was already computing optimum strikes and cuts with her scans of Fleet Admiral Joonsk. He would have a rude surprise with their meeting.
He landed abruptly, near the middle of the sidewalk, jumped off. The bike seemed like it was propelled back towards the sky by an invisible elastic. As he glanced upwards toward it, he saw it disappear from view, its stealth fields having been activated. He had programmed a firing support routine for the bike, if things got too hairy during the meet.
“The Right Honorable Fleet Admiral Hadim Joonsk requests your presence at an informal meeting at the Ziangshack club, near HocDoc Square.” touted the robotic voice when he heard the message fifteen minutes ago.
Ziangshack club, one of the upper class bars in Lo-To-Dor. There are quite a few of them to cater to the large government and fleet presence on Rigell 7, but none of them with the reputation of Ziangshack. Top notch security, music and women/men, whichever met your fancy at the time. All the VT and Allweb celebs went there, not the most discreet of meeting places, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers.
As he walked briskly towards the entrance that led towards the elevators, Bobby’s instincts, real time and ‘net time, didn’t register any problems. He waited for the gravitic lift to bring him to his destination. Without warning, the lift accelerated so suddenly, that he did not have any chance of keeping his balance. He was pinned on the floor, the gees steadily climbing in intensity. He felt a prick on his neck and that was it for him, he faded out of consciousness.
He awoke with a pasty taste in his mouth, a tell-tale sign that necrozine was the culprit of his slumber, however short it was. He tried to check with his web senses, however he felt them blocked by some kind of firewall. This had never happened to him before, except in very high security fleet bases. He opened his eyes to a luxurious office. He felt ringtide restraints at his wrists; they would bite deeper and deeper into his skin, the more he tried to force his way out of them. He relaxed his arms and felt the restraints give him some slack. He glanced down at his body and noticed that
A) He was naked
B) He had been probed and prodded by a medical technician of some sort
C) He had had surgery of some kind
D) He couldn’t scratch his nuts, because of his restraints
Not the best of awakenings, but he had had worse. He gathered his senses quickly when he heard and smelt the familiar odor of Fleet Admiral Joonsk. For some reason, he could not detect any aides or humaniforms in the vicinity. The Admiral turned his luxurious gravitic chair and looked at him.
“Before you try to kill me, I want you to access you personal bank account, Major.”
My bank account, thought Bobby, why the hell…
He felt a node opening up to his ‘net probes and promptly accessed his bank account. His curiosity got the better of him. To his knowledge his last balance, as of this morning, was 1,000 credits, enough to get by for a few more days, a week at the most if he was on a job. He almost gasped mentally. He was quite sure that his mouth opened, being preternaturally aware of all his senses came hand in hand with his mods. As was the compartmentalization and storage of all these impressions, he had acquired eidetic memory thanks to the fleet. The current balance was a little more than a billion credits. Exactly a thousand credits more than a billion credits. His head started swimming with the implications. He could by his own planetoid, retire and take life easy, become as rich and opulent as the worst Corp sultan.
“Now that you have seen that, will you defer your violent behavior to a later date? I assume that my gift makes up for any humiliation of loss of revenue that I have caused you.” said Admiral Joonsk.
The Admiral noted Bobby’s acquiescence to this by releasing him from his bonds. Bobby took a look at his erstwhile commander. He had changed somewhat. The nanomask still hid most of his distinguishing features and his expressions so no face readers could get anything out of him. His voice seemed weirdly modulated to the trained ear, its inflections changed and harmonized as not to reveal anything that the Admiral wanted kept secret. He was probably covered and protected by firewalls to make sure nobody tried to ghosthack him. Bobby could feel the technology pulsating in the Admiral, as a song from long ago. He still looked human, though internally he was different; mechanisms had been implanted decades ago to insure his longevity.
“Major, put on your uniform.” Commanded the Admiral. The Admiral’s voice seemed modulated in the most peculiar way. Before he could realize anything was happening, Bobby had blindly followed this order. He found it quite surprising that the hilt of his plasma sword was attached to his service belt. A matte black cylinder, about twenty centimeters in length, feeling smooth to the touch, but when gripped, became almost one with his hand due to the nanomimetic material it was made of. With a quick check, he saw that Jessica was there for all intents and purposes, functioning at peak efficiency. He didn’t ask her to power up or to target the Admiral. Yet.
The Admiral’s order was given with standard verve and intensity that every fleet officer could recognize. It was almost as if some sort of aural cues had been implanted in him when he was in training in order to make these orders very hard to resist. Or maybe they interacted sub aurally with his implants, commanding him to do as ordered. He compartmentalized this train of though and focused back on the Admiral. This whole process had taken seconds, so nobody was the wiser. He could examine this in full detail later on.
“Major? But I was dishonorably discharged Admiral.” said Bobby.
In response, the Admiral threw over some nanopaper. Bobby glanced at it. He was flabbergasted to notice a full reinstatement with honors, promotion to Fleet Major with full benefits and pension restored, including a one time payment of a billion credits. The nanodocument covered also the surgeries that were performed on him. They included upgrades to all his functions as well as tweaks and the removal of all restrictors that were placed upon him when he was discharged; most of his more exotic functions were limited by restrictors to make sure he didn’t get into too much trouble. He had managed to remove some, but most were still in place.
“For political reasons, you had to be punished publicly. As you remember without a doubt, a deputy-minister’s daughter was involved in you failed extraction. Since some time has passed, the fleet can now take you back into its fold. Did you really think that the fleet would let a valuable officer such as yourself just leave?”
“Well no, but I guess your programmers compartmentalized and restricted that part of my reasoning. Why take off all restrictors and why give me a billion credits?” asked Bobby.
“Major, you are quite unique among fleet officers; the upgrades that you have received were mostly experimental in nature when you first got them. We want to make sure that you understand the fleet’s depth of commitment towards yourself. You are invaluable for us and you will work for the fleet for the rest of your life, unless you decide to leave now. This is a one time offer.”
Seeing agreement in Bobby’s eyes, the Admiral proceeded to launch a hologlobe.
“Major, have you ever seen these images before?”
The Admiral had materialized a false IR three dimensional rendering of a sphere, a perfectly smooth sphere that looked to be the size of a small planetoid, if he could believe the scale included in the projection.
* * * * *
Next: The Robots
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