Chapter 1

Light shone off the gleaming black skin of the ship. Over 3 miles long, it had been one of a new race of living A.I. ships engineered to guard the vast Imperial boundary territory. For 800 years the small fleet of fast, sleek ships protected the empire. Many enemies had perished attempting to enter and take the empire. Though the fleet slowly died, the greatest of them was never defeated nor was she ever badly injured.

Finally 2 of the 3 remaining empire guardians were destroyed defending the borders. It has been a glorious battle, she'd fought bravely destroying the rest of the invaders after the last of her compatriots had exploded. Her rage knowing no bounds, as she took out the last 200 ships. Her crew reported the victory and the destruction of 2 of the last 3 remaining elite ships. The Emperor personally congratulated them, telling them to await transfer and replacement. That had been 200 years ago. The ship lovingly called Shelby by all her crews, began to grow lonely after the last of her crew died 50 years later. 50 years afterward she sent a message on the Imperial net for assistance. Confused when she received no reply, she hoped for recall. Soon however, she began to hunt for a biological humanoid to question, to get the answers she so desperately craved.

Derrick O'Toma looked over the readings, stretching his 6'2'' body. This salvage run had to be the worst. Brushing his sandy brown hair from the scar on his cheek, and from his light brown eyes, he sighed, sitting back in the command chair. What the hell did the company expect? Out here? There hadn't been anything out here since the last 2 of the elite living ships of the old empire were destroyed. Damn, he'd loved to have gotten his hands on one of those old ships, there hadn't been anything like them in over 1000 years. Too bad the last emperor had such a great distrust of the ships. Derrick felt that they were what had helped keep the empire as great as it was for so long.

Bored, Derrick set the sensors on auto sweep, adjusting the ships controls to react to anything detected. Getting up, he went to lay down, cursing his luck for having drawn this run. He'd just lain down, when he heard a voice, at least he thought he heard a voice. Looking around he shook his head, returning to the control cockpit, he opened the computer com.

"Computer," Derrick said a little annoyed.

"Online, awaiting orders," came the monotone, mechanical voice.

"Scan ship, query, are there any other life forms on board besides my self?" Derrick asked.

"Working," it stated, after 5 minutes it answered, "Analysis complete, no other life forms on board besides Captain Derrick."

Shaking his head, Derrick decided that the 5 weeks out here alone were starting to get to him.

Lying back down, Derrick felt his eyes close, God he was tired, a little metal, a few circuits not even worth the trip. Huh? Derrick thought this was an unusual dream, as a gray mist area stretched in front of him.

<Hello, I am Elite Imperial Guardian, EIG-0101F, to all humanoid entities who can detect these cerebral waves, I am in need of assistance. Again, any humanoid entity who detects this transmission, please respond.> A voice came from somewhere far away in the mist.

<What the f•©k was that?> Derrick thought.

He felt a sudden rush, then a beautiful, blonde, green eyed, slender, naked woman was standing in front of him. Derrick could only stare at her perfect appearing body.

<Dam!> Derrick thought, <This is an awful erotic dream, look at her! She's gorgeous!> Blushing a bit when he realized he was also naked, he went on, <My god! she's perfect!>

<Hello humanoid entity, I am EIG-0101f, I am the last of the Elite Guardian Ships. You are the first in 150 years that has answered my call, for that I thank you. I have been alone for a very long time.>

<I wish I knew how to talk to her. Wonder how I do that?> Derrick thought.

<Finally! A question! I can sense your thoughts, just think and I'll hear it.> The woman smiled sending a shock through him.

<Wait!> Thought Derrick, <I thought the last 2 Elite ships were destroyed 200 years ago, how can this be?>

The woman looked at Derrick and smiled again, looking lower, she smiled even larger, <Ah! I see my choice of guise is well to your liking!> the woman said, then giggled.

She then went on to describe 800 years of history for the empire. She described things that many, except Imperial historians, didn't know. (As Derrick's father had been.)

<I am confused EIG-0101F, > started Derrick, <If you are as advanced as you say, why are you in need of assistance?>

Smiling again, the woman explained, <Yes, I am an advanced living A.I., but while I am alive, I am still loyal to the emperor, I can not leave my post without his orders or, > here the woman trembled, <the end of the empire and the emperor.>

Derrick sighed, his great, great grandfather had been on board one of those ships. He'd written about his experience about 200 years ago. That was when the last of the ships were destroyed and his great, great grandmother never heard from him again.

<So what does this have to do with me?> Derrick thought.

<I have no crew, I have no orders except the standing ones left by the last of my crew. I was instructed to seek out more crew and ascertain what my mission was now if necessary. I was told that a phrase would be left by the last crew member.> The woman replied, a great sadness in her thoughts. <I am seeking information so that I may determine what I should do next. Tell me sir, what has become of the empire and the emperor?>

Derrick hung his head. The woman's features suddenly dropped, <I see, so the empire is no more, it is sad, it was a good and vast empire.> Her thoughts replied sadly.

<It was a very large empire, as I remember my father told me it was the largest he'd ever studied.> Derrick answered.

<Studied?> The woman said.

<Yes, > Derrick replied, <My father was a historian in the study of ancient empires. His great grandfather was a crew member on one of the last of the eli... , I'm sorry on one of you living ships.>

<A crew member? Do you remember the name of the ship?> The visage of the woman said.

<No, > Derrick sadly shook his head, <the family lost contact with him 200 years ago.>

The woman was deep in thought, <what was his name? I may be able to convey any messages he might have left for his family.>

<Uh, > Derrick thought, <I was named after him, as I recall he was the greatest warrior of the old empire. He was called Derrick as I am.>

The woman's face lit up, then a great sadness suddenly crossed it, <Derrick? Derrick O'Toma!> the woman said excited.

<yes, > Derrick said a little shaken, <did you know him?>

<Yes, > the woman sadly answered, <HE was my last crew man.>

Derrick's mouth hung agape, the last crew member?

<What do you mean the last crew member?> Derrick asked a little shaken.

<He, > the woman's eyes were now were shedding tears, <was loyal to the emperor, but he was mostly loyal to me. He refused to leave me, we waited for recall after the last 2 ships were destroyed. I believe, had it not been for him, I might not have been able to function these last 150 years. I remember his last words, a poem of love and duty.>

Here Derrick started to recite a poem his grandfather had told him was known only to the family, from memory.

The whole time he didn't realize that the woman was staring at him a look of joy growing on her face.

<I give me life to you, I dedicate my existence to your protection. Bringing joy my lifetime through, all our years entwined perfection.>

The woman stared at Derrick when he finished, both were actually staring at each other. The woman had spoken the exact same words behind Derrick, his mouth again agape, as was the woman's.

<My god!> Derrick breathed out in shock, <you really did know him, only my family knows that poem.>

The woman nodded a sad smile on her face, with that the woman was gone, Derrick awoke to every proximity alarm on his ship going off.

Looking out the nearest window, Derrick saw the sleek, black skinned, 3 mile long ship along side.

He could see the massive amount of weapons lining almost the entire length of the ship. Holy shit! No wonder the ships had been so good at protecting the borders.

Derrick absently reached over and slapped off the alarms, his mouth agape, he could only stare at the miles of ship. A steady beeping tore his eyes away from the sight.

"Hello," Derrick almost whispered in awe to the com.

"Hello Derrick," came a feminine voice, I detected that you wished to see me. I apologize for taking so long to reach you, I was on the direct opposite side of the galaxy."

Derrick only nodded, then felt foolish knowing the ship couldn't see him.

"So why are you here?> Asked Derrick.

"You spoke most of the phrase, please speak the remainder to be accepted as primary commanding crew member." The female voice replied.

"What!!?" Derrick shouted, "Primary? What the hell are you talking about?"

"You are identified as a primary crew member, you and you alone, can command me now if, you speak the last lines," she said.

Derrick took a deep breath, "A solemn pledge, to each other true, together always a single collection."

There was a long pause, the woman spoke, "Registering face recognition, registering voice pattern. Awaiting orders Primary Derrick."

Again Derrick's mouth hung agape, unable to speak. The female voice spoke again, snapping Derrick out of his shock. "Awaiting orders, Primary Derrick, should I bring you on board?"

Derrick wasn't sure of anything right now, "give me some time EIG-0101F, please!" Derrick whispered.

"Yes, Primary Derrick, I shall stand down until orders are issued." The voice replied.

"Thank you for the time, oh and EIG-0101F?"Derrick asked.

"Yes, Primary Derrick," the voice answered,

"Please, call me Derrick," he said.

The com was quiet a moment, then the voice answered, "Yes Derrick, I will await your orders."

Derrick sat, not quite sure what to do, he'd dreamed of a ship like this for years. What was he afraid of? Starting the engines, he moved forward, following a weak tech signal, trying to ignore the huge ship as it followed him.

3 hours later the salvage ship pulled along side a blinking tech box, 150 meters by 200 meters.

"Derrick," came the female voice over the com, "what are you going to do with that?"

"I'm taking it in as salvage," Derrick said.

May I ask a favor?" it asked.

"Alright" answered Derrick.

"May I have it? I believe that is what is left of one of the 2 last ship's A.I.'s" It stated.

Derrick's face held surprise, "one of the other A.I.'s?"

"Well, most of it, though I can't be sure until I analyze it," the voice replied.

"Alright, it's yours," Derrick breathed out none too happy.

"Thank you," she said, "they all deserve more than to die alone in space."

Derrick's temple was throbbing as he was still pondering the A.I.'s proposal from before.

"Got a question," Derrick suddenly asked. "What would it entail me becoming primary of you?"

Again the com was silent a few moments before the female voice answered. "You would have command capacity, in all decisions involving battle strategies, crew placement and approval, and all things concerned with me," then in a low whisper, "including our happiness."

"What was that?" asked Derrick, not sure he heard her right.

"Nothing of importance just an after thought," she lied.

Derrick just shook his head, what am I getting myself into? He thought.

"Alright," Derrick suddenly spoke, "Moving to dock then..."

There was a flash and Derrick was standing on an enormous bridge, in front of a huge view screen. " ... I can. What the HELL!!!?"

"Welcome to the bridge," A hologram of the same woman (though this time clothed) smiling at him.

"What?! How!? shouted a surprised Derrick.

"That was the Imperial Matter Transfer," smiled the hologram.

"The what!?" holding up his hand to stop her from repeating what was just said, plus there was the fact that he had to check that he was all there. "You could have at least allowed me to finish before you did," waving his hands in the air, "you did whatever it was you did."

The smile disappeared from her face, "I am sorry Derrick, but I sensed a strong desire to be on board as soon as possible."

Derrick sighed, true he was anxious to get on board but he wanted it to be on his terms.

"Now then E... , how about I call you E for right now," he said.

"E will be fine Derrick, also I brought your salvage ship into hanger 1, it is secure now." E stated matter of factly.

"What? "But how? I need to shut it down all the sys..." Derrick stated

"Compliance Derrick," E said, "all systems on board are all shut down, airlocks secured, reactors offline."

"How?" Derrick stated his eyes huge.

"I merely overrode all command stations, with instructions to standby or power down." E smiled sweetly.

"Not that I am calling you a liar, but I need to see for myself," Derrick said with crossed arms.

A second later Derrick was standing in the command cockpit. Checking every system, it was as the ship had said, everything was shut down. Satisfied Derrick looked up and shook his head.

"Alright," Derrick said and was back on the bridge a second later.

"Satisfied?" The hologram asked with a smug look.

"Yes, Thank you." Derrick said smiling for the first time since the dream.

"Ah!" E said, "you should do that more often, it looks good on you."

Derrick couldn't believe he was blushing. E of course was laughing, maybe a little more than he thought she should.

"The problem is E," Derrick started as he sat in the chair, central to the room, "I have no idea what to do with you."

The hologram sat in mid-air next to him, "Neither do I. As I stated before, I am alive, I am independent, and I can think for my self. I had been made to protect and defend with a crew, but I still must have orders."

"You... , wait, you said you were on the other side of the galaxy? You said you were slow getting to me, but it took you less than a minute! Just how f•©king fast are you?" Derrick asked a look of amazement on his face.

"Normally, I can transfer in 10 seconds, but I was analyzing the phrase before I shifted," E answered.

"Wait, wait, wait, this galaxy is 200 light years across, you have faster than light speed?" Derrick asked perplexed.

"No, it was the new trans-slip engines," E explained.

"Uh huh, never heard of them," answered a still perplexed Derrick.

"Really? Strange, I thought that all ships would have them by now," replied a shocked E.

"Can you explain them," Derrick asked.

"Oh yes Derrick! The basic theory is that after the point to reach is plotted, the trans-slip engines release a 1 millimeter stream of Critela particles that enter hyper space. There they absorb hyper space energy, fold space for a 1 second to 10 minutes trip, depending on the distance. I am afraid that 10 minutes is the limit, though I've never been in trans-slip longer than a minute." E explained sweetly, as if Derrick understood even half of what she said.

Derrick was holding his head, hyper space he knew, but absorbing energy from there? Folding space? Critela particles? Damn, Derrick thought, my head is going to explode.

"Do you require medical assistance?" E asked, "to keep your head from exploding" she giggled.

Derrick stared at the hologram, "did you just read my thoughts?"

"I am sorry, while you are on board and primary," E explained, "all your thoughts, emotions, and actions are cerebrum-linked to me, in reality you need not even speak if you don't wish," E explained in her sweetest voice.

"Well, I guess that would be more convenient in a battleship," Derrick said.

"Derrick?" E asked a little hesitantly.

"Yes E, what is it? answered Derrick.

"Can you please tell me of the last 200 years? I have no information after the loss of the Imperial net," E said.

"Hmm, I'll show you rather than tell you," answered Derrick.

Popping in a micro info disk, Derrick looked over the rows and rows of controls. An hour later E had recorded all 240 discs of information.

"What became of the royal family?" E asked.

"From what was later found, the rebels executed all 32 family members, including the empress and her son a year later. There was a rumor though, that a distant cousin to the emperor survived and was never found. The royal city was abandoned, the Palace unreachable, after the family was killed," Derrick stated.

"That was a sad and tragic way for the empire to end," E said, sadly shaking her head.

"I agree, the rebellion was fueled by greed, assassins were on the inside when it all started. The emperor was a brilliant man, to this day almost 200 years later, no one has been able to claim the throne or reunite the empire." Derrick explained.

"Derrick, the shield around the palace sounds almost identical to mine!" E stated excited.

"E, I don't even begin to understand half your systems, let alone how to use them," Derrick dejectedly said.

Derrick was about to say more when an alarm went off.

"I have a ship like yours. 80 light years away from here, under attack," E said above the alarm, "It appears to have 20 ships closing on it!"

Damn, I wish I was there to help, thought Derrick. A winding up of energy behind him caught his attention. 5 seconds later they were there holy shit! He'd had no sensation of moving! If I had weapons, he thought, I'd take out the weapons and engines.

40 flashes of light from the left and right on the view screen, hit all but one of the raider ships engines, the rest took out their weapons.

"I am sorry I missed Derrick," E apologized.

"The hell with that, don't let them get away!" Derrick yelled.

"Attempting to lock, target out of range, entering hyper space," E said.

"Damn it!" Derrick cursed, if only we could catch and stop it. Again there was a winding up of energy, on the screen they were in hyper space? What the hell? They were quickly catching the last ship! 2 flashes struck the ship with pin point accuracy, Derrick watched as it shuddered, then returned to regular space. A strange beam hit the other ship, then it was drug behind them as they jumped back to the other 19 ships.

"Derrick, I am receiving a message on a lower forbidden frequency," E reported.

"As of today, all frequencies are no longer forbidden," Derrick said, "let me hear."

A soft crackling, then a voice Derrick knew came over it, "woo-wee! I don't know who you are, but you sure saved my bacon! Thanks partner"

Derrick was about to answer when E. stopped him. "Derrick, I don't think it's a good idea to tell anyone," she said, "they might try to force you to work for them. I could not allow it, as per protocols."

Derrick stopped a moment thinking about it, she's probably right they just might try to use him.

"A very wise and rational decision Derrick," E sweetly said.

"Find the space Ranger frequency and alert them about the 20 disabled raider ships in this vector," Derrick ordered.

"Affirmative... , Rangers dispatched, I suggest protective cover Derrick," E advised.

"Proceed," answered Derrick.

20 minutes later several large Ranger ships arrived. Derrick was extremely nervous till E explained.

"I have activated our light cloak, it has rendered us 90% invisible to their scans and vision," said E.

Derrick only nodded, more nervous as the number of Rangers increased in the area. E assured him they were more than hidden.

They waited till long after everyone left before they even moved.

Finally breathing easier, Derrick decided to take a tour of the ship. Following beside him the hologram was silent as they walked from the command deck. Derrick had walked about half the length of the ship, when it suddenly came into a large open bay. There in the center of it was the tech box he'd found.

Moving closer to it, Derrick was about to touch it when E warned him against it. The thing was, now there was more to the box than there had been before.

"E? What is this?" he said indicating the new areas that had been added.

"That is what is left of EIG-0999M. After analysis, I found he was still alive, though barely. After he exploded, this indestructible casing is all that was left of him. The energy producers were damaged, so he was in almost complete shut down. I started his regrowth cycle and am providing energy till he can take over." E explained.

Derrick nodded, regrowth cycle? Energy producers? Looking over the box, Derrick didn't see any energy producing parts, but then again, she had said that the ship was growing.

Walking further on, Derrick marveled at everything. He saw anti-matter weapons, plasma weapons with enough capacity to destroy a planet, several generators, for God only knew what. The best (or worst) were the engines. More like huge generators (E had explained that they worked on gravity attraction, but the rest was lost on him).

They had just started back when several alarms went off.

"Derrick, I have an unidentified ship approaching our position, detecting minimal armament and weapons. I suggest your removal to the command center," E said.

As Derrick started running E advised him, "use the IMT, it is much faster."

Derrick stopped and nodded, a second later he was on the bridge. Damn, he thought, have to get used to that, a soft giggle sounded in his mind.

Looking at the large view screen, Derrick saw a Ranger ship approaching.

"Can he detect us E?" he asked.

"No, he is still almost a light year away, shall I take evasive action?" E answered.

Almost a light year? Damn! "Yes E, deter any detection of us from them short of destroying them," ordered Derrick.

For the next week they dodged passing ships, Derrick trying to decide their next course of action. Derrick's eyes grew wider each day as he watched the now unexposed tech box growing almost into the same shape as the bridge on board E.

"E? condition of 0999?" he asked one day.

Sighing, E replied, "initial growth is to almost 5%, 0999 still hasn't the power to emerge, though prognosis is increasingly better each day. I am now detecting a 10% increase in cerebral activity, though it may be another week before enough systems have grown allowing even partial emergence. Unfortunately, conditions in bay 1 are not as conductive for maximum growth."

"Is there anything we can do to increase it?" Derrick asked.

Silent for only a moment, E responded, "I can increase O2 levels and energy infusion, but we risk a greater chance of being detected, even with the light cloak."

Derrick nodded, "Alright, increase but keep all sensors at full. Anything within a light year, advise me. After we assess the danger we can adjust from there."

Derrick walked out, the hologram looked lovingly at the large shape, Whispering, "thank you Derrick."

Derrick had been over all the battles and species that E and the other ships had fought for 800 years. Another week went by, Derrick had started to notice strange things from almost all of the battles. The strategy had been sound, almost brilliant, but for some reason, near the end of the battle, when the other ships were lost, he found a critical error. It seemed the same error each time. As a matter of fact, in the very last battle, E had been out of place or she too would have been destroyed. It was at that moment that Derrick realized that someone had screwed up badly or someone had purposely caused the destruction of the ships.

The further he dug, it seemed the more he found. Growling, he wasn't sure he should tell E. At the end of 2 weeks the shape was a mile long, enough energy production plants were working that E finally disconnected.

Sighing, Derrick knew he had to have E's and 0999's help. Though he wasn't sure how she'd take it, he decided it might be for the best. The problem was how to breach the subject?

Starting carefully Derrick brought it out, "E, I've been going over the battles for the 800 years you were active for the empire. It seems the strategy was brilliant but..."

Here E sighed again, "but you noticed minor discrepancies that brought about the destruction of my brothers and sisters." Shocked Derrick could only nod, "Your name sake had also noticed them, it seems it started about the time the grandson of the Emperor that had created us took the throne."

Still shocked Derrick asked, "but why was he so distrusting?"

"It seems, that your name sake also noticed what you have. Though he could never act out on it, as it appeared the traitors were receiving orders from the Emperor, and all subsequent Emperors starting with the same grandson as before mentioned. It was also why your name sake was never in the right position in every battle. E sadly said.

"My god!" Whispered Derrick, "fiercely loyal for centuries, only to the Emperors and their crews. Still all of them didn't trust any of you. One would have thought that they knew you wouldn't turn on them."

The hologram sadly shook her head, "your name sake truly was a great warrior. It was an extremely sad day when he ceased to function."

Derrick hung his head, he'd read the letters his great, great grandfather had written. The man had been filled with such passion for the empire, such hope, only to be betrayed by the very man he had sworn to follow.

Derrick sat there in silence, thinking over everything he'd learned. An hour later, he was still there when a small chiming sound started breaking his chain of thought.

"Alright E," Derrick stated, "that's a new one on me, what exactly is that?" Derrick pointed to an indicator on the control panel.

Again, E was silent for a few moments before she answered, "It is an alert I set up, to notify us when 0999's cerebral activity reached a point that showed he was of a more 'conscious' state."

"Good, I am going to need yours and his help, if I am going to pull off what I have planned," Derrick stated more to his self than to E.

They both watched as the mental activity of the other A.I. increased, then just as suddenly it drew even then stabilized.

"Now commencing bio-active scans, all readings within tolerances, growth now at 40%, 0999 ship systems beginning to power up, reading 90% cerebral activity. Hello 0999, are you functioning? Do you need any further assistance?" E asked.

Low and slow at first, then a little clearer, they heard a male voice coming from the speaker. "At present I am only at 45% I have interrupted growth cycle until you evacuate me from bay 1. Preparing for open space."

"Affirmative, opening bay doors now, do you have capability to move? Is there further assistance required?" E asked.

"Negative 0101, are we the only ones?" the male voice asked.

"Yes," replied E, "I am afraid so, my primary command found your life capsule, though I am not sure how."

"I wish to thank him, may I know your name that it is registered within my memory?" the male voice asked

Stepping forward Derrick spoke, "Derrick, Derrick O'Toma."

"Derrick? O'Toma? The hero of the Corton battle? And the Gleeton expanse?" the male voice said, impressed.

"No, that was my great, great grandfather," Derrick answered.

Derrick had been watching the more ship like shape, silently moving out of the large door.

"0101? How long has it been? We were the last 3, I remember 0099 exploding, then nothing until a few moments ago." The male voice asked.

For a moment Derrick thought E wasn't going to answer, then she spoke up, "It has been 200 years, almost to the day that you two were destroyed, I have longed for the company of my brothers and sisters. I have had no crew for 150 years. Much has changed 0999, much."

E proceeded to outline the last 200 years of history, everything that she'd recorded and a few things she picked up on the now open channels that Derrick was allowing her to hear.

"How long 'til complete regrowth of all your systems and equipment 0999?" Derrick asked as soon as the other ship had cleared the hanger.

"At present, I should have full engine capability within 5 days, internal systems within 6, I am at present only 50% released from the brain box, though this will improve soon. Under sub code 001 article 10, I am to respond to my primary command, if I no longer possess such, then I am to follow the nearest and highest ranking primary command.

I await your orders primary Derrick," the male voice responded.

"At present 0999, stay as close to 0101 as you can, until such time as you have a better capability to protect and camouflage." Derrick ordered.

"Affirmative, primary Derrick," the voice answered.

"0999, call me Derrick until such time as there are more primaries," Derrick said.

The com went silent for longer than Derrick thought it should, a moment later the voice answered, "I apologize Derrick, without my full capacity, remembering and recording take a little longer than I am used to. I am only now at 53.5%, though being out of the bay has helped to increase my growth. I find that I do have minimal propulsion capability but not much."

"Good," Derrick replied, "it will help if things come to a fight." Though Derrick was hoping it didn't, some of the species the ships had beaten had required all 1000 ships and they had almost lost a few that time.

For the next 5 days they waited. 0999 was starting to take shape, looking more and more like E everyday. It appeared that almost all of the A.I.'s memories were intact, though 1% had been lost when the brain box had been damaged. The fact that it was supposed to be indestructible wasn't lost on Derrick, going to his salvage ship, Derrick re-examined the readings he'd taken when he'd first found it. Going over them for several hours he finally came to the conclusion that someone had tried to pry the case open, it appeared they had used something of the same metal which was why the case had been damaged. Leaving his ship he was headed to the command room when a different set of alarms went off. These were the same as the ones he knew, an attack was brewing, damn it! 0999 wasn't up to full capacity yet.

Calling E, Derrick was quickly back in the command center. "E, I need a status report," Derrick said as soon as he appeared.

"It appears to be a race that hasn't been seen in almost 1000 years, as I remember they have a strong appetite for humanoid flesh." E reported. "Though the last time we went against them it was the first battle we were ever in. We have improved our systems a thousand fold since, but all scans indicate that their tech hasn't improved much since the last time we met. Though they are only a small fleet, our chances at the present time are only 25% in favor of victory."

"Suggestions?" Derrick asked.

"Protective cover until such time as 0999 is 100% or tomorrow 1:20pm ship time," E replied.

"Thank you E, suggestions taken under advisement and E, never tell me the odds, they're usually wrong," Derrick replied.

"I have to say," E restated, "you are very much like him."

"Thank you, I take that as a compliment," Derrick answered pulling up everything they had on the alien invaders.

The next day 0999 was finally ready. Derrick had been up for hours planning and plotting strategy for both ships and scenarios for 0999 to react to. As both ships went in Derrick decided to link the other ship directly to him, that way at least, he could react a lot faster. Diving in from behind, they managed to get the first 25 they met, the rest trying to scatter. Another 20 colliding with each other. As Derrick had assumed, they weren't ready for such a fast attack. As the enemy started to flee, both ships began to fire with everything they had. Soon there was destroyed ships everywhere, 0999 had been damaged in his port engine plus half his weapons were offline a day. E had taken the brunt of the attack, having several hundred shots along her side, destroying several hundred weapons that were re-growing now.

"0999, status report," Derrick asked.

"At present I am only hyper space capable, though the using of a direct cerebral link did improve reaction time 35%. I estimate it will be at least 2 to 3 days before I am capable of any trans-slip movement. It will be at least a day and a half before all weapon systems are at least 90%. Light cloak is also offline, it will be at least 5 days of growth to repair that system." The male voice replied.

"Affirmative 0999, keep me apprised of all situations," answered Derrick. "E? How are the repairs to your systems coming?"

"Though I have lost 38% of all weapons, their regeneration is progressing rapidly, I estimate that I should have full capability within 2 days. All damage is healing at a rapid rate also," reported E.

"Good," Derrick said, though his thoughts seemed to be else where. "E, keep tabs on those few that escaped as long as you can. For some strange reason I feel we might see them again."

3 days later Derrick had finally made a decision. Calling 0999, he and E discussed with 0999 an idea that Derrick had come up with. Now that one of the original races knew that the area was still under protection of at least 2 of the living ships, Derrick was afraid that soon many of the other races might return.

"Alright," Derrick started, "I've adjusted sensors to detect any more brain boxes that are out there."

"I would love to have more of my brothers and sisters with us but many were lost outside of this galaxy," replied 0999.

"As would I, I have been looking for over 150 years, 0999 was the first I've seen in that time. Are you sure it's possible?" asked E.

"Believe me," stated Derrick, "I've been doing this most of my life, if they're out there I will find them. Besides, you both have the positions of each when they were lost, we can start from there."

Both ships agreeing, Derrick breathed easier. It wouldn't be easy, but he was sure they could at least find a few more, well he hoped.

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