Author Archives: askinsfiction

About askinsfiction

I've always read voraciously, my earliest memories are of reading. I've also written lots of stories and plots, but never had the self confidence to publish. This is my work, it's not highbrow, it's about entertainment, for me, and I hope for you. Enjoy.

Space to Breathe. Part 1.5

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After a few minutes of hoofing it again Sharon piped up out of the blue,

‘I’m pretty sure nothing got transmitted from that drone other than a location, I’m not picking up any other transmissions or scans, and boy did you fry that thing good, no one is getting anything out of it without a massive amount of rebuilding work, if at all.’

‘That was kind of the plan’

‘How’s your urges to smash now? Feeling better?’

‘Much thank you, any clue what I’m coming up on with this facility, surely I should be able to see something by now, but there is nothing on the horizon, just this flat grassland’

‘You trust me, right? It’s there, but if just anyone could see it, what would be the point.’

Fair point I suppose, but I was feeling very exposed right now, and that drone just underlined the situation. Speed was my only friend so I unsuccessfully tried to push the pace a little.

I got the range down to 500m according to my handy little (lack of fitness) tracker, so I pulled up short and tried to get some more air in my aching chest.

‘What am I looking for, pretty sure there should be something in sight by now’

‘I’ll overlay the beacon I’ve been picking up, very weak signal, I think it’s designed only to guide you in the last leg, probably on foot as well, but I’m getting a strong ping from it now, so that should give you a clue’

A nice little inverted cone floated into my view, hovering ahead of me fading out at the top but pointing down to a rock surrounded by an unassuming patch of grass. I jogged forward keeping my eyes open around me for anything which could indicate I was now on top of a major survival facility. I made it all the way to the cone without seeing anything and looked down where it was pointing, at a rather unassuming flat slab of irregular rock not much different to several other rocks I’d seen sticking out of the grass. I knelt down to get a closer look, and scrapped around it with my hands, the earth seamed no different from the dirt I was eating earlier, except it was a little dryer, which made me think, so I stood back up and took a careful look around.

‘Sharon, can you give me a false colour overlay? I’m looking around at the grass, I can’t see much of a colour difference, but something tells me there is a difference in the water table’

‘Good idea, can do, give it a moment or two.’

I waited, continuing to look slowly around me, and gradually the colours of the grass began to diverge, to my back and away to the crash site the grass got a much darker artificial green, and as I turned me head I could make out odd patches not quite as lush, nothing odd there. As I continued around there was a marked difference right around me and for a good distance ahead, the grass was definitely underfed or under watered and not as lush, for quite an area. It was impossible from the ground to make out the shape, but it stretched for quite a distance. If I moved around a bit I could probably get Sharon to give me a 3D render, but as entertaining as that would be, my focus was to get inside, particularly as I now know for certain there was something big, right here, and completely out of sight.

So back to the stone.

I walked around it checking it from all sides, it was weathered roughly square, about 2m to a side give or take stuck out of the ground about 30cm, mostly flat on the top with the colour and texture of sandstone, and pretty much like every other stone I’d seen. I gave it an experimental kick, felt solid enough. I jumped on top, no hollow tell-tale sounds, just a chunk of stone on solid ground. I dropped down one side and scrapped in the dirt some more, again, pretty solid. I was at a loss, with a maddening cone floating just before my eyes like an arrow pointing to a salvation I could not see.

‘You tried asking nicely to get in?’

‘What, like Open Sesame or something?’

‘Well you could give that a try or maybe something more enlightened such as Entry Code Authorisation Alpha Three Nine Tango Hotel Victor One Five, for example’

‘Are you joking me, you had the entry code, and you just let me wander around like some sort of moron for a good five minutes, exposed and in danger instead of telling me?’

‘And now you know the entry code you’re still wandering around and giving the lady who gave you the code a hard time about it too, now who looks silly?’

Muttering to myself about correcting some bugs in the system with a mallet one day, I gave the verbal code nice and loud to an inanimate rock. Then just stood there. The cone representing the signal disappeared from view, and the false colour overlay with it. What was I expecting, a fan fair or something?

 

Space to Breathe. Part 1.4

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My head starting to clear, my breathing a little less ragged and my heart is back in my rib cage and out of my ears, I’m about to climb to my feet, when my vision flashes red, and I hit the deck.

‘I’ve picked up an active scan at extreme range, but the downed lifter is lit up like a bonfire, you’re in a depression, and out of immediate sight, but stay down, low and quiet.’

I tapped my finger to my left ear twice, a little nonverbal acknowledgement we have used before when silence is key. I fought the urge to pop my head up and just focused on staying still and pretending to be invisible. Slowly I glanced around to ensure the bag was packed in case I needed to move, but then again, on this open grass, where was I going? Anyone doing an active scan, is not likely to be on foot, and I’m not sure how fast I can cover 2200m but I’m pretty sure it’s not as fast as any skimmer, drone or flyer is going to be. So simply put I ate dirt and tried to be a mouse in the bushes.

I strained my ears, and I could just make out the tell-tale sound of rotors spinning at high speed, not under strain, so something small. I was a little over 3000 meters away as the drone flies, and there was plenty at the crash site to keep a drone busy, but I was exposed.

‘Suggestions?’ I whispered under my breath

‘Sit tight, I’m picking up scans on various frequency bands and ultrasonics, probably mapping the wreckage, the only burst I got from it so far was limited to confirming location with no further data, so it looks like it’s a drone.

I’m not picking up any other signals nearby, so it may not have support in the area, heck at this point it could just be a kid snooping around with a toy’

Some toy I thought, location data means someone knows where it is, and will soon know what it’s looking at, the one saving grace is that unless it sends out a data packet whoever is on the receiving end will physically need to retrieve the drone to get an eyeball on what it’s looking at, and that gives me time.

‘Can you hack it?’

Not without giving our location away’

‘Can you block any transmissions from it?’

Up close maybe, but not at this range, no.’

‘Is it moving at all, I can’t tell?’

‘Sounds like it’s scanning around the wreck, there is a slight Doppler shift as it goes around’

Come on brain, think, I need a way out of this, and fast, all this technology and I’m resorted to eating dirt and hiding like a caveman.

‘Sharon, send out a low power distress ping, very short range, I want to get the drones attention out this way’

‘You crazy or something, why would you want to go and do that?’

‘I’ve got a cave man solution to the problem, just get that thing over here and block any transmissions when it’s right on top of us’

I reached into the pack, searching around for the tool kit and the first-aid kit, I pulled out the knife blade and the suture material, handily on a nice spool, just how much stitching were they ever expecting someone to do? Really! I tied one end solidly to the knife and ran out some line off the spool. Then I ran out some more line, no idea exactly how much I’m going to need, but don’t want to skimp when your fishing. Rolling onto my back I tucked the end of the spool through my belt so it could not just fly away and held the knife down the side of my leg, being careful not to tangle the spool, I could hear the drone buzzing my way but not see it just yet.

A counter and red arrow popped up on the edge of the depression above me quickly counting down, I guess Sharon wanted me to have some warning, when it hit 10m the drone came into sight heading straight over me.

‘Not yet….not yet……’ I muttered under my breath.

As the drone swooped in to ID the weak signal it had picked up I launched the knife up towards its centre of mass, I missed anything vital, but the blade passed up through the twin ducted fans and was clipped by the upper fan blades. Then all hell broke loose. The knife spun off a fan blade, but the two fans spinning in opposite directions immediately caught up on the suture thread, with a bang they locked up, only helped by the blade being dragged into the mess as well.

The drone dropped like a stone, all lift gone. I scrambled up towards it grabbing a rock and went all cave man on the thing. I kept hammering away at the drone’s case, I smashed the fans, I gouged out it lenses, and dug into the casing for anything which looked vaguely sensitive. I spotted the main battery and just ripped it out bodily, then brought my makeshift hammer down repeatedly on the motherboards I could see.

After a few minutes of wild abandon I was panting hard again, but I had burned off much of my pent up frustration.

‘Monkey see, monkey smash, right?’

‘Just tell me if this damn thing is transmitting any more’

‘Transmitting? This thing is scrap, but you could burn out the relevant memory stores just to be on the safe side if you really like?

A little dancing “No Smoking” sign began to float over a couple of the components, so I grabbed the Utility torch, fired up the mini plasma cutter and really went to work. After a few moments the drone was an unrecognisable wreck and the air smelt of burned plastic and ozone. I’d really done a number on this thing, reducing it to so much charred scrap. I was breathing hard again, but I needed to get moving, I had no way of knowing if the drone had a local handler, or even where it came from, and I could not take the risk of someone coming looking.

I grabbed the remains of the suture thread, using the knife I had also recovered to cut it free, waste not want not. Sliding the knife back into the utility tool I threw everything back in the pack and headed off towards the dubious shelter of the facility I’d been heading for.

Space to Breathe. Part 1.3

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I’m really out of shape, and more than a little beaten up, bits of me are starting to ache in ways I really don’t like. For the hundredth time I resolve to exercise more, all the time knowing it’s never going to happen, so instead I have a quick dig in the hastily stuffed bag for some painkillers and the bottle of water I know I threw in there, downing a couple quickly without coming to a stop.

‘You know you’re supposed to eat with those, you’ll get an ulcer’

‘Oh come on, seriously? That’s what you’re worried about? How about instead you tell me there is no other ground traffic or air traffic around instead and give me the peace of mind so I can stop and grab something vaguely edible to take with the pills?’

‘Sorry sugar, no can do, now if we looked at some active scanning upgrades, maybe I could give you a little something extra’

‘Never going to happen and you know it, that sort of upgrade leads to a whole bunch of other necessary shielding unless you want to cook my insides, additional power drainage leading to more upgrades and before you know it I’m a walking tin can, stick to passive receive and be done with it will you’ I huffed as I route marched.

‘Your funeral sugar, I’m sure you could really do with a few physical upgrades right now as well, a little fibre bundle support maybe, endorphin sub dermal injectors, a little endocrine support maybe….’

I know she was only messing around, but I was just not in the mood.

‘Ok, so let’s say I get those upgrades, and the next time I get thrown in a slammer for something I didn’t do, they decide to implant a limiter, or worse fry my system, how would you like that?’

‘No need to be snippy, I’m just saying is all, I suppose you could get by with a little more exercise instead, but then again my momma always told me not to swear in public’

‘Your momma was a half baked mainframe and you know it, now unless you have something constructive to add, I need all my breath for the not passing out thing if you don’t mind’

Yes, I know, unfair, she had just pulled my ass out of the fire, 4462 meters however felt like a really long way still to go.

The grassland was generally flat, but uneven, soft spots and depressions made the going tough and I was soon sweating, puffing, and struggling, but I needed to get to ground, and I needed it to be soon. The false breadcrumb trail was a stroke of genius and luck, which should make all the difference, but I am not one to take un-necessary chances if I don’t need to and staying out in the open near a downed stolen vehicle certainly falls into the category of ‘Risky’.

‘Hon, you need to take a rest, your heart rate and blood pressure are not looking good, I know I mock your fitness, but the passing out thing you mentioned, well, it’s not going to be far off if you don’t take it easy’

‘I….. know….. I….. just…… need…… Oh, who am I kidding’ I huffed and panted out in between breaths.

I found a nice and comfy depression without too many apparent rocks and dropped down on my backside, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears and the world swam alarmingly before my eyes. The distance counter showed a solid 2200m plus change still to go so I was over halfway, but my legs felt like jelly. I’m not in the best shape, I spend a chunk of my time in reduced gravity off world, I’m no youngster anymore, being a little north of 40, and while I’m not exactly overweight, I’m not exactly in peak condition either. I always hated physical training, I’m not a gym fan, no, I don’t lift, and about the only exercise I ever enjoyed was sword work, but I’ve not picked up a blade for a while, so I’m old, unfit, and now I’m feeling it to.

I grabbed the water bottle and took a mouthful, I didn’t want to burn through my stores, but I know all about staying hydrated to, I took the opportunity to look at my stash. Not the most impressive list of survival equipment.

An old first aid kit in faded green canvas, a quick skim through showed it to be intact, probably never even opened, so there are the usual plasters, antisptics, clean wipes, needles, analgesic sprays, etc, not bad, but no autodoc either. I’ve already raided the painkillers, but there are plenty left.

A nice little condensing water bottle, mostly full. Assuming I’m in an atmosphere with some free water, I’m not going to go thirsty at least. Battery flags up full as well so that should keep it going for months, but I’m not going to be showering anytime soon.

Meals Ready to Eat MRE emergency pack, all the good stuff already gone out of it, down to the emergency bars, someone must have forgotten their lunch more than once while out in the lifter and never replaced it, shoddy, but not exactly a shock. Gives me a good few days at least, probably a week or more to find some better stores.

Utility torch. Nice little find, inbuilt heater, torch, emergency micro plasma cutter, with pull out blade, wire saw and small tools, all about the size of my hand. Looks like the charge is good, and it has foldout recharge cells, in theory I can make just about anything I need using the tools in this little kit, in reality I’d rather have a full tool kit or fabricator, but this will be useful in a pinch.

Emergency pop shelter, now this is nice, still sealed. About the size of a pair of shoes, a bit bulky, but if I’m really screwed it self erects into a mobile habitat shelter with good insulation, air filtration, O2 and CO2 balancing. Worst case it will keep you alive even in hard vacuum, add the little heater in the torch and I have a genuine emergency survivable kit. Luxury! Hope I don’t need it.

Everything is nice and light, weight is always the bane of any form of flight, so lightweight composites all the way, which also means the pack is manageable. The pack itself has a few tricks up its sleeve as well, with inbuilt power storage and flexible recharge panels over the outside, reflective strips and built in emergency lights, none of which adds to the bulk or weight of the pack.

So in short I got food, water, and a few supplies for emergencies, I have a destination I’m heading for and a direction to get there, been a lot worse off than this more times then I like to think about.

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.

Space to breath. Part 1.1

‘Right, helpful, real helpful.

So if that options off the table, how about instead of busting my rump with old arguments I settled a while ago, my face, my choice, you find us another option’

‘Can I at least access this ships on board net to update my knowledge base a little?’

‘Go right ahead, and no berating me for the state of the ship, it was like this when I found it’

‘Found it? Stole it more like, ok, I’ll leave your bruised ego mostly intact

Her form sank gently into the console ostensibly appearing to look around and muttering to herself something about it needing a damn good spring clean. I knew it was an act, she could have easily just disappeared, but I’d always enjoyed the more human interaction she gave me. There have been times when Sharon has been my only friend, true confident, and the one person who never left me, so no wonder I could never face her being removed and kept her to myself.

I kept myself busy trying to stay alive and keep flying, there were warnings going off all over the console, I’d resorted to shutting most of them down so I could think straight, but every now and again something would re-trigger an alarm and bring it back up on my console. The one warning screen I had kept in the forefront was the passive scan alert, if anyone actively scanned my ship, either with sensors or weapons lock the system would start screaming at me and I’d need to act rashly, but so far my luck had held out and no alerts had been raised.

To be honest that was the one thing which worried me, I’d just broken out of a medium security prison complex, stolen a broken down light Cargo Lifter from one of the worker farms nearby, and so far, nothing. By now the alarm must have been raised, as the sun had come up over the horizon the first checks on the prisoners would have been taken and the suspiciously empty cell I’d been occupying would come to light, and in any sane world that means pursuit. I must have left trace behind, it’s pretty much impossibly not to with even moderately competent sniffers, they would find the missing ship, put 2 and 2 together and it would not take a genius to start some scans and come after me.

The ship was a mess, barely flight worthy, ok, technically not flight worthy, it would never pass any International Aerospace Authority regulation checks, so it must be leaking something somewhere all over the place, add that to the most basic air traffic control scans and even out here in the back end of nowhere someone should see something. Ok, so I’d been careful where I could, I’d flown up a river for a time to disperse any dropped trace, I’d kept low, I’d avoided any settlements and kept a close eye on the EM scans so I avoided anything like a possible signal return. I’d made sure the transponder was gone and disabled all external comms systems, carefully so I could put them back together, but just switching something off does not mean it stops being a beacon, I learnt that the hard way. There was no way I’m that lucky, not with my recent run, I suppose it’s quite possible things could have turned a corner, but somehow I just don’t think so.

‘Where are you’ I muttered to myself

‘Right here sugar, just runnin’ the numbers’

‘I’m talking to myself again Sharon, but now you bring it up, I thought you were faster than this’

‘For your information I have been multi-tasking as all good girls do, now hush your flaps, I got me some thinking to do if I’m going to find you a way out of this mess, just keep us in the air, and head about 2 points further to the west, I’ll pop up a beacon on your HUD to make things simple for you, I know you don’t like complicated things, I may have us a way of this dust ball, but in the mean time I’m busy’

Knowing what she was like, dreading the answer but needing to know anyway I asked,

‘Busy, so what are you doing, exactly?’

‘Well you may have disabled the external Comms and transponder, but I picked up a secondary transponder you missed, damn thing was sneaky to, doesn’t actually send out a traceable signal, but does ping a flash burst GPS co-ordinate so anyone who has access can ID its location every few minutes to within a meter, I caught a ping as it went out, hacked its simple little brain, and currently its sending out a nice little breadcrumb trail taking anyone following off a ways.’

‘Oh for the love of.… damn it, I missed that little trick’

‘No worries sugar, I got your back as always, you can thank me with a sweet little upgrade I’ve had my eye on for a while when we get to civilisation.’

Something told me this sweet little upgrade was going to significantly raid my savings, but my mom always told me to be generous with my praise and my punishments, so given the fact she had likely just answered my unspoken question and dug my ass out of a hole, she deserved a little Something Something as they used to say.

As promised a bright blue marker appeared on my HUD, a nice a subtle set of arrows ushering me to her chosen destination. While a little insulting, I can read a set of compass headings and at a push even navigate without a lot of the fancy systems pilots these days depend on, but I suppose it made it all but impossible for me to miss the mark as the arrows gentle guided our ailing steed through a series of valleys away from her breadcrumbs.

A dozen or so kilometres of coaxing later and we came out of the low rocky hills and onto a vast plane with more vegetation then I’d seen for the last few hours, I guessed we must have covered 75 kilometres from the prison since my escape so I figured we were all but home free and the risk of detection without a transponder had to be worthwhile, and besides those insistent blue arrows led me straight out over the grassland, with nowhere obvious to conceal the ship.

There was no major structures in sight, nothing to give me a clue to where we were heading, and for a moment I doubted if Sharon had made the right call, but bitter and hard experience had taught me many lessons, and one simple one was that when the chips are down she usually pulls through.

‘Sugar, I need to send out a burst now, or we are going to have some trouble real soon, don’t go being alarmed or freaking out on me, I just need to make an ID contact before anyone gets jumpy’

‘Ok, so what are you up to now and what am I letting myself in for?’

‘Oh nothing special is all, I just about got us a lift off this rock, and with a little luck is some comfort to, you see turns out in the dim distant past some of the more paranoid moneyed members of society on this here rock were rightly worried about world class levels of devastation, so they made arrangements for themselves with hidden away escape routes. Turns out there is one such site not a million K’s away and while it looks like it was likely abandoned when the last set of solid trade treaties got signed, its more than an even bet it’s still in fine fettle and will more than suit our needs.

At the very least it’s a nice and secure, out the way bolt hole in which we can lick our wounds and come up with a better plan’

Space to breath. Part 1.0

A violent shudder ran through the ship with every turn, something irreparable was very definitely broken in an important way. Who am I trying to kid, most of this ship has been irreparably broken pretty much since before I stole it. So what now, oh yes, keep going, what other option is there.
I coax the controls gently trying to glide into every turn, keep things smooth, using momentum instead of fighting it like a swordsmen does, but even gentle shifts of tilt or angle make nasty little grinding sounds somewhere in the hull and the occasional musical change in the various siren tones.
But I’m alive, and so is the ship, just. That’s a better situation than I thought I’d be in about 48 hours ago, and at least there is no sign of pursuit. Hopefully that’s a good thing, I can’t help thinking that maybe they just assume I’m a dead man anyway and pursuit would be a waste of resources. But survival has become a habit, a habit I’m good at, I just hope it’s a habit I can transfer to this rust bucket.
There is no way I’ll risk a move outside of the atmosphere, I’m pretty certain the change in pressures would not be healthy, so I’m stuck to staying on this rock and keeping low and slow to stay out of sight and keep my signature low. There is plenty of ground to hide in, and a ship, even a badly abused one like this, has significant advantages over being on foot, that is assuming I can get it on the ground without it turning into my tomb.
For the hundredth time I ran over my options.
I could surrender and give myself up to the tender mercies of the prison system, I could live a few more weeks or months while they punish me for the escape, put me through a trial and with some astounding luck I could get away with only being executed. This would at least be reasonably comfortable, I’d likely have a bed and food and a clean death. But survival is a habit I think I’ll hold onto.
I could set down out here in the more valueless lands with little or no settlers and habitation. I could use the remaining functional scanners on the ship to locate water and any reasonable wildlife, use the ship itself for shelter and power while the reactor holds out, and assuming no one is looking for me, quite possibly live out a reasonable life like a hobo. So what I’d have no off world comms, no data net, no comforts, I’d be alive, I’d probably be healthier than a large proportion of the general populous, and maybe even after a dozen or so years I could re-surface and things could have blown over. Ok, maybe after 25 years. Ok, maybe never, but what the heck, I’d be alive.
I could set down out here and repair the ship, then head into orbit and find my own ship, make the transfer and get the heck out of town. That is assuming my ship is still out there, that this ship is repairable and that I have the skills, tools and materials on board. That also assumes the repairs hold and don’t vent my spleen into the void, and that’s assuming the external comms array will let me recover my ship. That’s a lot of assumptions and I’m sure my mind is actually shying away from many more important assumptions I don’t want to think about, like the chances of getting the ship to ground and off again in one piece, or of exposing myself as I head for orbit. On a risk reward scale, high risk, high reward. Or should that be stupidly high risk, some reward. Lets keep that one in reserve I think.
I could head for a major conurbation, avoid the detection grid, Biometric scanners, random patrols, and the other joys of a technologically advanced hub, jump a ship, maybe even hijack something, get myself into space, trade up to my ship and get the heck out of town. Like that’s going to work. If I had the right counter tech, I could easily disappear in the crowd, avoid, confuse or overpower the lowjack systems which are everywhere and probably make it happen with little or no problems, but without them, my chances are slim to nothing.
Sharon could help.
Support Holographic Artificial Reasoning Orthotic Nanogram, a part program, part nanonetwork engram, part nanny and thinking brain dog I kept wired through out my body and shut down most of the time because her constant “help” can be annoying as it was intrusive, but also so no external scans would pick her up and rip her out of me. I’d lived so long with her, I’m pretty sure if she was removed I go through the full stages of grief, probably even worse than when my mum died.
‘Sharon, time to wake up, activation code Delphinium Milkshake’ Like I’m ever going to use that in conversation.
A tingle ran down my spine as the various nodes trigger, connected and powered up, my fingertips buzzed and my eyesight blurred slightly before a phantom blonde dressed in a blue summery dress appeared floating before my eyes half in and half out of the console.
‘Hay suger, just adjusting my time stamp, I see I’ve been out of the loop for a while, as I’m not detecting the comms net of your ship, I assume you don’t want me actively transmitting at this time, so what trouble you got yourself into you need me to get you’ll out of?’

Her old drawling accent, and dry humour, lightened my mood as ever.
‘Trawl my memory dump will you, it will take too long to explain, I need an exit strategy, and analysis of the potential of bypassing conurbation security to get off planet’
‘Working, my you have been busy, ok, so you got a little time on your hands by the look of things, but your needing a way out without too many more tangles in your hair. That’s not going to be easy, without external access I’m not entirely sure of the local conurbations, but assuming standards, I’d say you got just about a snowballs chance in hell, or roughly 2.3% of you want a solid figure. It’s possible I can make some inroads into the systems to insert a Biometric profile which will let you slide, but getting in and out clean is risky, and besides, it’s possible your ugly mug is already slapped over the net and I can’t really do anything about that despite my repeated suggestions “that some body morphic upgrades would come in useful one day” having been entirely ignored’
‘And as I’ve said many times no one is cutting my face off just so I can fit to the latest tech fashion’
‘Oh sugar, but right now, that fashion would let me smooth out your weather beaten leather and make you harder to ID, but that times passed and best not to dwell on past mistakes’

Welcome to the world inside my head.

The purpose of this blog is 2 fold, to allow me to write and to allow you to read.

It’s not deep and meaningful, don’t expect the meaning of life or a great recipe for goulash, but do expect pulp fantasy, most likely science fiction, in its raw unedited form (ok, partially edited as I go along anyway). I welcome comments, and even criticism, but while I’m not a child, play nice, and remember it’s never going to be complete works.

If things go well, my next Great Experiment will be self publishing, if you like what you see and want to read a more polished, published version, encourage, and don’t disparage, and one day who knows.

Welcome to my mind, it’s a bit strange in here sometimes…… and thank you for reading

James