Lost Empire
Chapter 39

0001 - Tempro
0003 - Conner
0097 - Ace
0101 - Shelby (mother ship)
0125 - Lars
0200 - Ellen
0301 - Rodrick
0403 - Johnathon
0667 - Marco
0778 - Jan
0798 - Celeste
0908 - Tara
0999 - Zan
1000 - Sherry
________________
Growing
Lucy - 0098

Derrick looked up from the floor at Shelby rubbing the side of his face that felt real! Not like a solid hologram but real flesh and blood! Gaining his feet he slowly backed away from Shelby who as of yet hadn’t moved.

“I don’t know who or what you are but there is no way that you can be Shelby.” Derrick stated.

With a huge sigh Shelby advanced upon Derrick who was still slowly backing from her. “If I have to hit you again Derrick I’m afraid that I might injure you!”

“Injure me? You, and what army? I think that...” Derrick started.

“Derrick shut the hell up and listen to me. I am real, as real as you are. I am human just as my counter-part Shelby is a living A.I. Really Derrick as brilliant as you are you can really be stupid at times!” Shelby said having stopped seeing that Derrick was looking for an avenue of escape.

“A human? I don’t see how, the cloning and transfer projects were abandoned centuries ago. There hasn’t been anyone smart enough to...” Snapping his fingers Derrick’s eyes went wide. “Kimison and Rayburn! That was why! I’ll be damned!” Walking to Shelby he slowly and gently touched her arm. “Soft and warm, reactions to touch excellent. Now the only question is why?”

Shaking her head with a smirk Shelby could only stare at him a moment. “Uh hello? You aren’t going to live forever, and an heir or more will benefit both you and the empire.” With a wry smile she continued, “Besides I find you a hell of lot more than attractive.” Derrick’s eyes flew wide as he stared at Shelby. “An heir? What!? But you ... and I ... a child? I...” was all that Derrick was able to get out.

“As I seem to remember you telling Admiral Hartwell, Derrick close your mouth, it’s undignified.” Shelby told him as she gently reached up and closed Derrick’s open mouth with a giggle.

Derrick nodded as he could only stare at the human Shelby in front of him. Again he reached out to touch her face and arms tentatively. Then suddenly, unexpectedly Derrick grabbed her and crushed her to him as he kissed her long and deep. Coming up for air a minute later when someone cleared their throat, Shelby was reeling as was Derrick.

“I have wanted to do that again since the last time I kissed Shelby in the neuro-link.” Derrick said as a soft giggle came from behind them.

“I’m glad that you enjoyed it as much as it you appeared you did,” came the holographic Shelby. “I’m also glad that you are more back to normal.”

“I don’t know how they kept it from me but I will have to thank them when I see them again.” Derrick told both the Shelbys.

“Actually you’re welcome.” Kimison said as he and Rayburn’s holo-forms appeared beside Shelby.

Derrick nodded then perked up a bit when it appeared that Kimison was waiting for something. “Alright what did you two do now?”

A wide smile appeared on Rayburn’s face as Kimison’s again held shock.

“Well ... uh.” Started Kimison, “Well actually I did ... uh.”

“Good god man, just get it out!” Derrick almost yelled.

“I remembered that you had mentioned finding bits of metal that the brain boxes were made from.” Derrick nodded as Kimison continued. “I thought of the other outfit that does salvage like the one you worked for. What if they had found one or more and they were just sitting there in their yards.”

Derrick was still nodding when his eyes went wide, “You found one?!”

Kimison nodded though when his face fell, Derrick was expecting the worst. “Yes I did, I managed to uh ... acquire it?”

Derrick started to smile, “So you stole it. I take it Mary helped?”

Mary appeared a moment later, “Yes sire I did. I thought it was paramount that we re-acquire it.”

Derrick’s elation suddenly feel when he saw that both Kimison and Mary’s faces had dropped. “What happened? Was the box destroyed?”

“No sir.” Kimison said between tight lips. “The box it’s self was intact. I am afraid the...” Kimison stopped as he turned away from all that were there. “There was no cerebral activity from the box. The son of a bitches starved the ship to death! The boxes survive from solar energy; this one was locked in an air tight, completely light free air lock!” Finally turning back Derrick could see the tears falling from Kimison’s eyes.

Rayburn took over a look of extreme anger on his face. “We tried everything we could sir, nothing worked. It was a shame; he was Shelby’s wing mate!”

Suddenly from behind them all they heard a gasp then a sob as they saw that Shelby was starting to cry. “Gregor didn’t make it? It is indeed a sad day, without mother’s personality creator he is gone forever!”

Both Kimison and Rayburn nodded then Kimison spoke up. “Rayburn and I have been studying the brain box. We believe we have come up with a way to bring it back. Though with a different personality that has been chosen. We’ll get back to it, if we have success we will contact you so Shelby can re-gen it.”

Derrick nodded as they both clicked off. Derrick was rubbing his chin he was surprised he’d forgotten all the wonderful equipment that Tempro had. The A.I. personality transfer program being one of them. Looking at both the Mary and the Shelby holograms he nodded.

“So the both of you knew all this time?” Derrick asked.

“No, I didn’t Derrick. Mother just revealed it to me a few days ago.” Shelby replied.

Turning to look directly at Mary, a slow smile crept onto her features. “Yes sire I knew. It has always been the plan to procure a mate and Empress for you and the empire. As I stated before I am here to keep the laws, and enforce them, while protecting you and the Empire.”

A wide smile also crept onto Derrick’s features, “I have to say this is the furthest out of the loop I have been in a very long time.” Suddenly Derrick’s face got serious, “I do expect that this will be the last time!” Then Derrick smiled at Mary and the Shelby hologram. “Thank you both.”

Both of them smiled then bowed to Derrick as they disappeared, Derrick and his Empress had much to discuss after all.

Derrick and Shelby had been talking for an hour when there was a knock at the door. Shaking his head Derrick opened it surprised to see Lucie Hartwell standing there with a worried look on her face.

“What’s wrong Lucie? You seemed very perplexed.” A now worried Derrick asked.

Suddenly tears were flowing from her eyes, “It’s the voice, and it’s so sad, so lonely sounding. I feel it is almost begging for someone to talk to. I’ve tried to answer it but it can’t seem to hear me. It sounds so weak I feel so powerless to help it! Please help me sir! I can’t take much more of this!”

Derrick’s eyes flew wide; she was far more sensitive to the ship’s A.I.s than he was! “Shelby!” Derrick was yelling.

The Shelby hologram appeared immediately. “Is everything alright Derrick?” A worried sounding Shelby said.

“Lucie is hearing a ship that I cannot. She has tried to answer it but obviously hasn’t developed her mental strength enough yet. Is there a way that you can boost her in that area ‘til such time as she can on her own?” Derrick asked.

Shelby was quiet a moment, then Mary appeared next to her. “There is a way sire though I am afraid that there is a bit of pain involved.” Mary stated.

Lucie’s eyes were wide when Mary mentioned pain, then her features steeled up. “I ... I am willing to take the pain; it can’t be worse than listening to the voice pleading anymore.”

Derrick nodded then looked to the door at a worried Johnathon Hartwell. “When you say pain Mary just how intense are you talking?” Johnathon asked.

Mary was silent for a few moments then stated. “I have searched through the records. There is an old pain index rating from one to four. Estimating the amount of stress mental and physical, I would say that it ranks about a 2.5.” When Lucie only showed confusion Mary sighed. “In comparison it’s somewhat like having several small flames barely brushing your skin all over. An odd, distressing pain, instantaneous and excruciating.”

For a moment Derrick thought Lucie was going to bolt from the room when her bottom lip started quivering. Silent a few more moments Lucie finally stepped up, “I’ll do it. It can’t be worse than what that sick bastard of a Duke tried to do to me. If I can withstand that, this will be nothing!”

Johnathon Hartwell started to growl, “If it’s the last thing I ever do, I am going to kill that son of a bitch!”

Derrick’s eyes were narrowed as he looked over at Johnathon. “As long as I know about it and you aren’t planning to go alone then I am in agreement with you.”

Johnathon smirked as he looked at Derrick. “As long as you let me kill his ass then we’ll have no problem. I owe him a hell of a lot of death for what he did to my family!”

Derrick smiled as he told Johnathon, “Now that I have no problem with!” Walking to a console Derrick stood there a moment reading something on the screen. Then with almost inhuman speed he was typing in improvements. “There I think that will reduce the pain down quite a bit. Nothing as bad as what Mary was describing.”

“It won’t take us more than a few minutes to prepare the apparatus,” Holo-Shelby told all of them.

A few moments later Mary looked up motioning for Lucie. “Please sit here it should not take more than two minutes.”

Lucie nodded her head as she tentatively sat in the chair that Mary had indicated. A skinny tube came out of the wall that had a flattened end. Moving back and forth next to her head it emitted an eerie green light. Lucie sat there with a grimace on her face at first though after it started she began to smile them giggle a bit. Finally as it finished and shut off Lucie was about to fall out of the chair she was laughing so hard.

Johnathon, standing next to Derrick indicated Lucie with a nod of his head toward her, said, “Thank you for that. As much hell as I know she has been through she deserved it.”

“If she is as sensitive as I think she is, she’ll deserve far more than this.” Derrick said as he slapped Johnathon on the shoulder.

Finally over her fit of laughter, Lucie’s eyes suddenly flew wide as she once again cocked her head to one side.

“Hello? Yes I can hear you. You sound so far away! Are you the one I heard before? Yes I am with him, I will tell him, ok.” Startled Lucie turned toward Derrick her mouth hanging open. “She is so far away! She has been alone for so long. She also feels weak but far weaker than the one I heard earlier tod...” Lucie stopped as she cocked her head in the other direction. “Yes I can hear you! Yes he is here. I will tell him as soon as I can!”

Derrick’s eyes were wide in disbelief, he’d heard nor felt nothing! Here she had heard two ships that were in their brain boxes! Damn Shelby was the only one that he’d ever heard still in her box! Lucie walked to Derrick then bowed to him her eyes a little glazed over a strange look on her face.

“Sire, I bring you two messages. The first is from an A.I. near where your recent battle was. She said that the energy from the battle enabled her to recharge far more than solar energy had. Her re-gen started for a few minutes then shut down. The few extra yards of ship have allowed her to reach out. She is weak though and this exercise didn’t help. She said she felt me or she wouldn’t have tried.” Lucie said still in a trance.

Derrick nodded accepting anything now, it appeared that a hell of a lot more was possible than he’d thought. “We will embark as soon as possible to find her. The second message?”

Turning toward Derrick tears started to stream from Lucie’s eyes. “She said I was to tell you she felt so ashamed for failing you sire. She says that you made her so proud to serve you. She also said that she knows the others will mock her for her failure.” Now the tears were falling harder as she turned toward holo-Shelby. “She said to tell you she is sorry that she was the shame of your children. She says that you should let her go, she has accepted that she will die alone, a failure.”

Derrick’s eyes went wide as he whispered, “Lucy!” Walking to Lucie, Derrick started to whisper in her ear. Holo-Shelby also had tears falling from her eyes. How could her daughter give up? After all the wonderful things she had done. NO! She wouldn’t release her ever!

Lucie was nodding the whole time Derrick was whispering in her ear. Derrick had wondered why it was taking so long for Lucy’s re-gen, now he knew. “Yes Sire,” Lucie said. “I am relaying your message now. Yes! He did say that. You can see all that I am; you know that I do not lie! Only if you promise, no! You have to promise and keep it! Good, remember what he said, now then hurry!”

Turning toward Derrick she wiped her eyes, nodded yes to him as the trance like look passed, then passed out with a deep sigh into his arms!

Shelby walked to Derrick and helped him to put the unconscious young woman on a couch. “I am feeling a strong pulse, sister Shelby? Are you detecting any adverse effects of the cerebral wave beam?”

Holo-Shelby scanned Lucie, “No, though I am reading that she is very weak. From what I am reading she hasn’t eaten in almost two days!”

Shelby looked at Johnathon and almost growled at him, “Two days! She was with you almost one of those days and you didn’t think to feed her?! I should have you punished for that! Though it would hurt her, therefore, you have lucked out. Johnathon Joseph Hartwell! If you do something like this again I might forget who your sister is and have you taken to the royal execution/punishment yard. I will then have you punished! Consider yourself warned.” Johnathon was backing away as Shelby’s eyes were flashing.

His head dropping, Shelby could hear him mumble, “Maybe you should anyway I am not the best bro...” Faster than anyone but Derrick could follow, Shelby arose, crossed the room then proceeded to knock Johnathon flat on his ass!

Her eyes still flashing Shelby pointed a finger at him. “If I ever hear garbage like that from your mouth again.” Here she looked at the young woman on the couch then turned back to him. “I will do far worse than Derrick did to you. I may be the Empress but I am no helpless woman, as I hope you just learned!”

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