Space to Breathe. Part 1.2

‘You are a marvel, a certified genius, how did you ever locate that?’

‘Now sugar, you know better than to ask that, a girl needs her secrets!’

I just sat there in stunned silence for a while following the arrow out into the grass, she never ceases to amaze me, we may occasionally argue like an old married couple, and when I’m foolish enough to leave her active in monitoring mode she is forever correcting my dietary and more often than not general life choices, but once again I’d got my backside into a very hot place and she had pulled me out and dusted me off.

But one thing she was unable to help me with was this damn mess of a lifter.

No sooner was I thinking we were home free, then some piece of rotten and over strained chunk of vital control system finally gave out with a loud and ominous bang.

The lifter jerked hard to the right, straightened up as fly-by-wire controls kicked in to correct things, then dived aggressively to the left. I was slammed around in my seat hard against the restraints and lost contact with the controls, I struggled against the mounting G forces and desperately tried to gain some vague semblance of control, the one danger of flying nap of the land is no time to correct problems, but then again the advantage in the event of a major catastrophe, you don’t have far to fall either.

In moments, with alarms blaring and debris spinning round the cockpit the lifter hit the ground with a sickening grinding noise, I was battered and thrown around, possibly briefly losing consciousness before the little craft, like a drunk being put down to sleep, finally made up its mind which way up it was going to rest.

And like that self-same drunk when it was all over, I found myself dangling awkwardly, aching all over, covered in debris, wanting to vomit and with a pounding head.

The ship had ended up at about 30 degrees to the left of horizontal, upside down with its nose slightly tipped into the ground. At least the sirens had stopped blaring, and with the sudden silence all I could hear was material raining down on the hull, the slight hiss of something leaking and the plink of cooling metal.

I just hung there for a moment and tried to keep my last meal down, it may have been prison slop, but it was my prison slop and I was holding onto it. My vision cleared a little and Sharon floated into view stood in mid-air off to my right. It took my addled brain a moment to work out what was wrong, when my balance finally told me she was standing on the floor of the ship, which was now a canted over roof.

‘Now what you go and do that for, now your gonna have to hoof on your own two feet, so you better get yourself out of those restraints and onto the road sugar, up and at em, no lally gagging around.’

Muttering curses under my breath I worked myself around so I could hold onto the flight chair when I released the harness, I had no intention to drop headfirst out of the chair without some way of attempting to restrain my fall. I slapped the release and slid out of the seat swinging my legs around so my feet hit the new floor. I quickly looked around the cockpit to see what I could salvage, at this point I have no idea exactly how far I’m having to ‘hoof’ it to quote my erstwhile colleague, and I’m not prepared to die for the lack of a Band-Aid.

Green markers suddenly popped up in front of my eyes hovering over panels on the walls. Sharon and I had worked this little trick out a few times in the past, while she had been digging around in the ships systems, she would have been categorising the ships supplies, and blueprints, using which ever passive sensors or records she had available to her to identify the location of critical supplies. In this sort of situation digging around takes time, which I may not have, and with these markers highlighting what I need it was a job of moments to pop open panels, bag up the supplies and crawl my way out of the access hatch into the rear cargo bay.

Daylight filtered in through the blown rear hatch, at last some fortune was shining on me with the shocking state of repair, the impact had blown out the rear hatch cleanly as the hinges and locks had sheared, had they stayed in place, getting them open would have been a challenge I was not sure I was up to at this time. Slipping and sliding on the uneven footing I made my ungainly way out into the daylight, stumbling over the broken ground ripped up by the messy crash.

Pieces of hull plating and the occasional more significant component littered the area, thankfully there was no flaming debris, the failsafe nature of even old clunkers like the lifter having been built up over many decades of mass fatalities had made crashing a mostly controlled and safe affair, lucky me. Now all I had to do was work out where the hell I was, where I was heading, how I could get there, and, oh, just about a million other details.

First thing first, I needed to get well away from the crash site, preferably towards rather than away from safety.

‘Sharon, bring up that HUD again, I need to get moving sharpish, this mess is going to attract attention, and not the kind of attention I’m looking for.’

The bright blue marker re-appeared floating before my eyes beckoning me forwards in roughly the direction the ship had ploughed into the ground, so I took her advice and started hoofing it.

It’s probably at this point I should be a little clearer about the integration between Sharon’s hardware and my own, shall we call it wetware? Well, biologicals just sounds too messy. I had opted for a high level integration early on, pretty much as soon as I could afford it actually. Some form of cyber augmentation is pretty much standard across the various colonies, it just makes things easier, from indent verification to full body modification, but the really pricy stuff is the subtle stuff, and I wanted all the advantages with as few of the disadvantages as possible for the money I had. Sharon does represent state of the art, and I’ve tried to keep pace with the cutting edge whenever possible, and unlike the kids, not as some fashion accessory, in fact the very opposite, she is all business.

Let me see, let’s start with the core shall we, multiple micronode processor/storage with several layers of redundancy, integrated power back up as a secondary to bio-electric power supply, yes, that’s right, her power drain is so low grade my bodies bioelectrical field is enough to provide main power. Of course external comms take a higher amperage, that’s why the integrated power, gives her the necessary boost when needed. Inputs direct from source wired to Sight and Sound, additional sensory systems in the nasopharynx giving her some chemical analysis ability to a limited range off anything I breathe in through my nose or mouth. The main inputs are two way, so she can directly overlay my sight and hearing, that’s how I can hear and see her and technically anything she wants me to see. We did have a play at one point with being able to watch movies directly on the inside of my eyelids, but that was just plain weird so now we use a much more easily processed fake screen at a fixed point in space. Ever tried following a floater in your eye? It moves with your eye movement and trying to follow it drives you mad, that’s why no movies inside my eyelids anymore.

Primary external interface is via CommNet frequencies, but secondary is via localised frequency patches in the hands and a micro jack hidden up in my hairline behind my left ear if I need really high speed transfer. That one is about the only external which could give her away, so it’s well concealed with synskin, I actually have to open the skin up to access it, so it’s not something done often.

Processing capacity in the teraflop range, and storage, well, let’s just say far in excess of my own brain, which is why I also had a data dump of my audio and visual feed on a permanent basis wired into my brain. I have functional eidetic memory, with the catch being it’s not actually my memory, so to access it I need to know what or when I’m looking for, Sharon is way better suited to searching that dump more than I am without an interface, so I kind of use it as a dump store for when she is off line. In terms of interface I can either utilise an external 3D interface, or at a push haptic feedback from my hands and fingers using the audio visual outputs, so if you ever see me stood still with my eyes shut looking like I’m conducting a mouse orchestra with my fingers it’s quite possible I’m searching my memory, probably badly.

In terms of software, that’s where the real money went. A fully functioning artificial intelligence with data handling and processing systems some backwater security outfits would be jealous of. She is effectively a fully realised independent entity, in fact some of the more enlightened colonies out there would have me up on charges of abuse for ever switching her off and for keeping her in my head, but I paid for her, and she is less slave and more partner then anything else anyway. Yes of course she is 3-Laws valid, what do you think I am, crazy? That old guy Azimov had it right, you really don’t want robots taking over the world, particularly when they are inside your head and can make you see and hear whatever they want!

So for all that expense, right now she was a glorified satnav, but at least we were making headway and the little trip monitor she had added to the arrow made it clear I only had another 5432m to go. I suppose I could get some exercise music running as well, something upbeat you can jog to, but let’s be honest, that would just be tacky.


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