Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer
“Where am I?”
“A sub. We’re in the middle of the Deneb main belt.”
“Name and designation?”
“This is the Catlike Tread. Ess-ess-you-nine-seven-four.”
Orig got to his feet. The inside of the sub was cramped: the design didn’t allow for more open space than was absolutely necessary for the mental wellbeing of the crew. An outsider might expect the sub to smell disgusting: Orig silently thanked whoever had made artificial bodies mandatory for sub duty.
He’d come in over the wire, and appropriated the body of the sub’s commander. The commander’s psyche was still present, quiescent, behind Orig’s awareness.
The sandy-haired wire-and-weapons technician that had answered his questions turned away and went forward to the cockpit. After the disorientation of the wirejump, his active memories came flooding back.
He spent a moment inspecting the commander’s body. The model was a couple of years old, just one of the glaring signs that this sub had been out on silent running for years now. Crew were rotated every six months standard, but this was the first time the situation had required a troubleshooter of any stature.
He went forward, and found the tech sitting in the cockpit with the only other crewmember, a remote-sensing engineer.
“Can I get a breakdown of what’s happened?”
“We’ve spent the last fortnight running rings around denebian ships. They’re coming from the the third planet’s orbital, sketching every rock and bit of black space with laser. They seem to be sure that we’re here.”
“Any idea how?”
“None at all, sir.”
“What should we do, sir?”
“Well, they think we’re here, but they can’t find us. Next step is to make them think we’re dead. What’s the status on your weapon stocks?”
“We’ve still got two dancers, sixty crows and six proximity mines. We’ve got a clanker, too. One of those remote repair drones.”
“Okay. We need to hack together a couple of comms packets. Just enough to broadcast noise on whatever the hell channel the denebs are using. Use the clanker to strip the engines off the back of thirty ravens, and attach them to three good-sized rocks. And ready a single dancer. Call me when you’re done.”
Orig abdicated control of the commander’s body, and settled into the secondary core. He spent the time running simulations, sipping data from the Tread‘s passive sensors to refine his plan.
He opened the commander’s eyes again, a few hours later. A display popped up, showing the three chosen rocks in a split screen, the dark spikes of the broken missiles sticking out perpendicularly from the surface.
“Pick your favourite, tie the dancer to it, and set the trigger for a hundred kilometres proximity to that orbital.”
Orig waited long enough to see the engines ignite, and every denebian ship sunside of the belt started speeding towards the rocky decoys. He wirejumped away, leaving the Commander to watch the decoys die. Minutes later, the dancer detonated in a smooth wash of x-rays, and the commander grinned as a clean slice of the orbital shimmered, and faded out of existence.