Lost Empire
Chapter 2

The cold and unforgiving dark of space can be a hard mistress when searching for something. It had been two weeks now and Derrick was no closer to finding more of the A.I. brain boxes than when he started looking with E. Having extrapolated the exact position of the last battle and moving from there (not where they found 0999), Derrick thought it would have been easier than this.

Always having been extremely smart, Derrick had tried to write several programs to aid 0999 to act more

independently, but so far he'd failed miserably. Hell, it appeared that even the first emperor hadn't had as much trust of the A.I.'s as had been written about him. So far Derrick had found 30, seemingly redundant programs that were stopping independent actions and thoughts outside of certain limits. It appeared that the creators of the EIG programs had been more paranoid than Derrick had at first thought.

Sighing, Derrick tried again to disable another of the limiting A.I. programs. He'd found that they were

always in pairs, trying to disable the first always seemed to make finding the second easier. The whole time he'd been running tests to see how much more independent thoughts the A.I.'s had, but it seemed that even after removing the 30, there hadn't been much change.

Derrick had just started to trace where the second program was after trying to disable the 31st program he'd found when an alarm went off.

"Derrick," E said, "I am detecting an imminent system cascade failure, please cease your activity or I'll be forced to terminate you, thirty seconds." Shocked Derrick quickly closed the circuit, then the hardware cover. With relief sounding in its voice E responded, "All systems returning to normal, cascade failure arrested."

"I'm sorry E," Derrick apologized, "I almost destroyed you, Damn it! I'm no closer to unlocking all of your

independent systems than I was."

"No Derrick," E softly stated, "you have accomplished far more than you think. The 30 you have disabled

have opened me more than either of us at first thought. It appears that normally, any tampering like you were doing would have caused immediate death."

"Yes E but," Derrick started "problem is the programs, the commands and all the sub-routines are almost identical, I haven't been able to discern the difference between the 30 I disabled and the major one I just found."

Derrick spent another 2 days looking over the programs he'd disabled, and what he could of the one that had

almost destroyed E and got him killed. Hmmm from what he saw the first 30 he disabled had been written by a

multitude of basic programmers, though this last damn he was sure he recognized the signature it just seemed to slip out of his grasp. While E checked through older and more recent imperial records, Derrick ran the next 500 programs.

Looking for certain parameters he slowly began to recognize similarities between a few of the 500 and those he'd disabled before.

Not too soon after this Derrick began to see a numerical pattern in the placement of the limiting programs. Yes! It appeared the deeper he went the more the pattern held up, but knowing those paranoid men back then it might just be an attempt to fool anyone to get this far.

"Derrick," E said breaking into his musings, "I've finished analyzing the signature of the one program, I believe I've found something odd."

"Odd?" Derrick questioned, "Let me log out"

"It appears this program was created as a final fail safe." Also," E suddenly stopped, "Derrick, the

signature is from a part of the old imperial family, indirectly in line for the throne. It also seems to mirror your family's. Uh, Derrick? Is your family related to the royal family?"

"Honestly E, I don't know, but come to think of it, that might explain why my father and grand-father were so secretive about the family," Derrick thought aloud.

"Derrick, if all this is true, you may be the last of the royal family. You may be the only one with the power to open the palace," E stated excitedly.

Derrick was taken aback, me? A f•©king royal? Then again it did make a lot of sense, both his father and

grand-father had been found dead not far from the outer perimeter of the palace shield. According to both the area was loaded with traps and deadly animals (not just the 4 or 6 legged kind).

Derrick shock his head to clear it, at least out here alone, there wasn't backstabbing or underhandedness.

Derrick was about to ask E something else when his equipment picked up a weak tracking signal. Checking the reading Derrick started to smile, it was about time! The salvage fleet might have shit for ships but he had to say they

had he best detection equipment out there.

"E," he stated, "follow this signal it's weak so it might take a..." There was a moment of a whining sound then they were half way to the next galaxy! " ... while to find it." Derrick finished. "Damn it E! Tell me before you do that."

"Yes Derrick," a hurt sounding and whispering E replied, "I just thought you'd want to hurry."

Derrick sighed, thinking that he had to remember that E could feel his strongest emotions, hear his strongest thoughts. "I did E, but something like this notify me first, ok?"

"Yes Derrick," E replied, the hologram slightly bowing its head. "I was not with this unit when it was destroyed, as far as that goes this and one other time. I believe a total of 200 of my brothers and sisters disappeared outside our galaxy."

"Hmmm interesting, strange that such a large force was lost outside the confines of the galaxy. Have you

located the brain box?" Asked Derrick?

"Yes, the signal is extremely weak, Derrick! The box is close to failing! Permission to bring it aboard?" E inquired.

"First scan it for explosives, toxins, viruses and any other nasty surprise," Derrick ordered.

"Scanning," Stated E, " Derrick! I am detecting several explosives; they contain sufficient force to destroy one of us from the inside."

Derrick nodded, he thought so, probably all of them outside their home galaxy would be the same. "Time to

disarm and..."

"Clearance and transfer in 5 seconds to bay 1," E quipped excitedly. Derrick could only nod, well she was telling him albeit rather quickly. "All scans now clear Derrick."

"Good, is re-gen possible?" Derrick asked.

E was silent a few moments, "I am detecting extremely weak cerebral activity, attempting to infuse energy

now. Infusion successful, it will be at least one hour before I can attempt re-gen start, at present the energy output of the brain box is at 2%. I am detecting massive damage near the core, the data and memories may not be recoverable."

"Alright E, keep me informed of the progress of the re-gen." Derrick ordered.

"Yes Derrick, with patience I believe that the unit can be saved." E said, Derrick grimaced damn he hated to lose the living section of one of the ships just as they had found it.

Almost a full hour had passed with Derrick in the records room, when a chime sounded.

"Yes," Derrick answered rather absently focused more on what he'd been reading.

"Derrick!" came E's excited voice, "She's alive! Her box is badly damaged but she's alive!"

Jumping up Derrick started to run, then was suddenly on the hanger bay.

"Report E," Derrick ordered.

Sobering, E tried to answer calmly, "I was finally able to infuse the box with enough energy to slowly start regrowth and re-gen."

"Have you determined which unit it is?" Derrick asked.

"Yes Derrick, it took many deep scans but she is 0098 my closest sister, she and several others were lost in the very first of several battles outside our galaxy. Unfortunately, I am afraid part of her memory is damaged, it is a shame though I won't know the extent of the damage till she is regrown."

Again Derrick nodded the brain box was severely damaged true, but it was more intact than not. Derrick hoped most of her files were intact, what he was finding was becoming disturbing to say the least.

"Alright E, I'll leave her to you, remember though I know you are anxious to get her back, don't rush."

Derrick reminded her.

"No Derrick, I won't forget, it is my hope that most of her remains. As I said there was extensive damage." Derrick could hear the hope in E's voice, he too was hoping as he felt it would help to heal E further.

The rest of the week Derrick checked on the ship every day, it was growing very slowly indeed. Derrick

continued to look through the records from 0999. It was as he had feared, the deeper he got the angrier he got. All the lies, the deception that had lead to the destruction of all these beautiful and glorious ships. He'd been also working on a way to boost the detection signal more when E broke into his thoughts.

"Derrick, you ordered me to advise you when 0098 was conscious," E called.

"Alright E," seconds later he was on the hanger, shaking his head he knew E was excited.

"Whenever you're ready E," Derrick said to get things started.

Suddenly there was a mechanical voice coming from the speakers, "Where am I? What has happened to Captain Albatross?"

"0098, this is 0101, you were destroyed in battle outside our galaxy," E explained.

"Yes 0101, I am detecting severe damage to my brain box. I seem to be missing the last year of my memory, plus battle tactics, and tactical," The voice replied.

"I can supply you with the last two, the first I am afraid may be permanently gone," E offered.

"Thank you 0101, are there any others?" the voice asked.

"At present there are only you, me and 0999," E said sadly.

Sighing 0998 replied, "Only 3 of the greatest battle fleet ever made left, it is a shame."

"There was only me, had my prime not found me, then both of you then there would still only be me," E joyfully said.

"He found us? But we are undetectable! Truly your prime is a brilliant humanoid," 0098 stated.

Derrick began to blush he was smart sure but brilliant? No, far from it! "I don't think brilliant is an accurate description of me," laughed Derrick.

"Yes Derrick," E broke in, "for over 1000 years no race no ... one has ever been able to detect us. At least not while we are shut down."

"I agree," chipped in 0098.

"As do I," added 0999.

Why were the A.I.'s so surprised it was just metal detecting equipment he'd developed years ago, nothing

brilliant there?

"Look you three I am just an ex-soldier and programmer, not some god or saviour." Replied Derrick.

Derrick remained silent for the next hour watching as the new ship grew. Although it appeared that the brain box had sustained more damage than 0999's, 0098 had retained an impressive amount of its data and personality.

Derrick went back to the records to finish up on 0999's records.

Much as E had predicted it took a week longer to regrow 0098 and the surrounding ship. Only a few days into the second week another set of alarms went off. Racing for the control room Derrick was almost afraid of what he might find.

"Report E," Derrick said as he flashed into the control room command seat.

"I am reading a small fleet of the same race that attacked a few weeks ago, I suggest we move back inside our galaxy for added cover," E replied.

"Agreed, 0999 stay in close, we don't know if they've seen us yet," Derrick advised.

"Affirmative, moving to flank position," 0999 reported.

"We are going to move to Alpha epsilon 999 zeta, confirm." Derrick ordered.

"Position confirmed, commencing relocation," 0999 answered.

The rest of the week Derrick again worked on the limiting programs in the main computer of E, he'd just

finished with the fortieth when E called.

"Derrick 0098 is finally strong enough and has her own power now, she should be able to finish herself in a few days." E said more excited.

"Good though I hate to have her fighting this soon after she has just gotten repaired, ' Derrick said feeling a little guilty.

"Thank you E," Derrick said only half listening to E. "E, I have a question."

"Yes Derrick," the hologram appeared next to him.

"I was wondering, except for the personality, is everything the same within all primary programs? If I was to implement the changes in 0098 and 0999 that I have within you, would it cause the same problems to them that it did at first with you?" Derrick was really hoping for a positive answer, this might solve a lot of problems down the line IF he could disable enough.

"At present Derrick I am unable to answer that question. It is true that I did have access to all of both, and true they were the same as far as I saw. I do not remember you encountering problems; I do have comparisons of all three data files if you wish to look at them." E said sadly.

"Maybe later E, I think I know what I have to do, though I am not really that thrilled to do it," Derrick replied looking over what he'd done to E so far.

"If I may interject," came the voice of 0999, "I have glossed over all that you have done to date; it appears that 0101 now has 1% more freedom to make decisions. As she said her systems are almost identical to all of ours, therefore you now have an extensive knowledge of all of us."

"Hmmm," Derrick said, "E, I need to transport to..." there was a flash and Derrick was standing on another bridge not unlike E's, "the bridge of ... damn it E at least let me get the words out, Christ!"

"Again I apologize Derrick, as before I anticipated what you wanted," E sweetly said.

Derrick nodded uh huh, maybe freeing up more of the A.I.'s wasn't as good a thing as he'd at first thought.

Turning, Derrick saw what appeared to be a 5' 7'' young man with short brown hair, not overly muscled, no facial hair either, wearing what appeared to be... ? Overalls?

"Welcome to the bridge Primary Derrick," the man said, "I am EIG-0999M."

Derrick was about to ask who the hell he was shit he's as bad as E! "Thank you but please just Derrick."

"Sir I cannot! Though you are commanding Primary I cannot call you less than Primary even when you order me to." 0999 replied.

Sighing Derrick moved to where the computer access was, "0999 I will need access to your main logic, memory and data systems."

"I have anticipated that you might, the panels are open and awaiting your inspection and repair efforts," 0999 stated.

Derrick only nodded as he opened the first data port and looked over the first 30 programs, hmmm they were exact almost to a fault he'd just finished the first 20 when an alarm went off. Scrambling out he rushed to the command chair," report 0999," Derrick ordered.

"It appears that the small fleet we detected earlier has turned more in our direction, I believe we were detected and are now may I suggest protective cover?" 0999 asked.

Looking up a moment Derrick replied, "Transfer me to 0101, immediately go to light shield activate all

weapons and stand by." Derrick ordered.

"Compliance," 0999 said a sad look on the face of the man, then Derrick was on the bridge of E.

"0999, did the programs I disabled enable you any more freedom? Derrick asked.

"I am reading a .5% increase in free thinking, but it isn't enough to implement the programs you tried to install earlier," 0999 replied.

"Damn it! E?" Derrick said as E appeared next to him a small smile on her face. "What is the condition of 0098? Can it use the light screen?"

"Yes I can, Primary Derrick, though at present it is only 25%," 0098 replied cutting E off. "I have engine

capabilities but only sub-light, my life capsule is 98% repaired."

"Alright, for now stay close to 0101 and 0999, E time 'til..." Derrick asked.

"The fleet will reach penetration of the galaxy's edge in 5 days a full day before 0098 is regrown. It

appears that she will have hyper engines and 90% of all her systems, I am afraid that 90% of her weapons will be off line as will be her trans-warp engines." E reported.

Dammit! Derrick started going through every scenario he could think of, hell they had been there half way to the next galaxy he should have tried to mine the area are something damn it!

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