Part Six of the Project Chain Reaction story is brought to us by Eric. It was released last week and somehow I managed to miss reblogging. I hope everyone has been enjoying the story so far. The next instalment will be released at 12:00GMT written by yours truly.
The proximity alarms reverberated through my skull as I followed Niall and Mia through the corridors back to the bridge. I found myself having to jog to keep up with their hectic pace on more than one occasion. Niall’s right hand stroked the grip of the gun strapped to his hip. The bridge hatch whooshed open and I followed them onto a bridge in the throes of battle. The ship shuddered and the lights dimmed, replaced by a red glow.
“Sit-Rep,” Niall snapped, taking his seat.
“Caspian has opened fire, Captain,” a woman’s voice called back, “only the one ship. IFF reads as Dark Tower.”
I attempted to recall the meaning of the jargon from my reading of science fiction but fear kept me from concentrating. The ship shuddered again, this time sending me tumbling to the floor. “We’ve lost an engine!”
I pushed myself from the deck and managed to fall into a chair as another blast shook the ship. “Kaley! Tell me something good,” Niall called out. A female voice came over the bridge’s loud-speaker: “Not much good to tell, captain. Both engines are down. Poor girl’s adrift and there ain’t nothin’ I can do from here.”
“Captain,” someone called, “forward cannons are disabled.”
“Prepare to be boarded people!” Niall stood and was followed closely by Mia. He motioned for me as he passed my chair. I followed them on shaky legs back through the bridge hatch and through the labyrinth of corridors to a thick bulkhead. Niall pressed his hand against the wall scanner and the hatch opened. Inside were weapons of various types, most of which vaguely resembled Earth fire-arms.
“Can you shoot, son?”
“Shoot, son,” Niall grinned, “can you shoot, to defend yourself and this ship?”
“I’ve not fired a weapon in a decade! Not since I was a teenager. And then only at targets! I can’t shoot people!”
“Caspian isn’t what you would necessarily call a person,” he reached up and slipped a short barreled affair from the wall display, “here, just point and pull the trigger. No ammo required, just don’t shoot too often or she’ll overheat.”
I took the pistol, staring at it blankly. “Now come.” Niall and Mia both took down long barreled weapons from the wall displays and marched out the door. I followed them deeper into the ship to the cargo bay. Here there were crates of various shapes and sizes. Niall, Mia and several crew crouched behind the scattered cargo and leveled their weapons in the direction of a large round door.
“That’s the airlock,” Mia whispered into my ear, “the only way the pirates can enter the ship is through that port.” I nodded and attempted to determine if my heart was racing from fear or from her proximity. “Ready your weapons,” Niall called out and I could hear the metallic snaps of weapons being readied for firing.
A loud explosion echoed through the cargo bay and I watched over the rim of a container as an amorphous creature slithered through the airlock followed by creatures of various shapes and sizes. “That brazen, slimy slug Caspian!” Niall cursed. To the crew he yelled, “Open fire!” And as one the crew popped from cover and the whump of weapons’ fire filled the bay.
I hunkered down and watched the red and blue blasts from the pirates’ weapons dissipate against the bulkhead. I had almost worked up enough courage to fire back when a solid weight slumped across my shoulders, pushing my chin against my chest. I shifted, letting the object slide over top of my head. I stood staring, mouth agape, at the body of Mia. The chest of her red dress was burnt away. Sparks and wires spilled out of her chest cavity. Half of her face had been blown away, revealing more sparking wires and circuits.
“Mia?” I whispered, leaning back against the container trying to catch my breath. “Rene,” Mia’s voice was quiet and electronic, “Protect him.” Her eyes fluttered closed and thick black smoke billowed from her mouth. Niall swung down beside me, a scorch mark on his right sleeve. “Son, we’ve almost pushed them back. Help me and I will return you to earth if you wish.”
I looked at him, then at Mia-whatever-it-was, and nodded. I held the pistol in shaky hands and popped out of cover. I aimed at a humanoid creature with spines all over his arms and head and squeezed the trigger. The weapon barely jumped in my hand and I squeezed off another shot. The spiny-man collapsed on the deck. I ducked back behind cover in the nick of time to avoid a blast of blue energy that fizzled where I had been.
“We’ve got’em on the run now!” Nial called out, leaping over a container and firing as he and his crew charged the few remaining pirates. The giant amorphous creature slithered back through the air lock, and one of the crew slapped the panel beside the hatch. It swooshed closed and moments later the ship shook. “Dark Tower’s engines are powering up,” one of the bridge crew called over the ship’s comm, “they have gone into hyperspace. We’re safe.” A collective cheer went up from the defenders but I slumped down beside the smoking corpse of Mia.
“What is she?” I asked as my father crouched beside me. He brushed her dark hair away from her face, “Mia is a top-of-the-line Motor-Intuitive Android. She was designed to be look and behave as human as possible.” I stared incredulously at him, “you said she was a model!” Niall smiled, “She is, technically. MIA-2X1 is her correct designation. I took to calling her Mia when she was assigned to me by the council.” He gathered the lifeless android into his arms. I followed him out of the cargo hold. “Can she be…fixed?” Niall looked at me, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. “No, son. I don’t think we can do anything for her.”