The Crytus Variation


Tags: Space,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: Planet hopping isn't always that easy to accomplish and the hazards of the road not always marked clearly.

Aultina was on the uppermost quadrant of the massive, there in the center of the galaxy, thriving with trade, yet, with strictly enforced rules about wandering off site of the port, or, system hopping from planet to planet without official, written, permission. There was so much in the way of lucrative mining and sensitive government projects within the three planets that made up the system, that things were kept pretty tight and well guarded.

This was true for the locals, as well. The current planet readouts were encouraging, though, with huge amounts of commerce going on, but a stop on a highly develop world such as this was especially needed since Alysia badly needed a break from flying.

They'd been six months in space, hopping from one job to the next, but then being stuck at their last mining port, with such minimal opportunities for R&R, and for so long in that poisonous atmosphere, he felt she was right on the edge of loosing it, despite her calm outer demeanor, at the moment.

"Alterra station's port authority is requesting ship's signature, Al," her staunch companion reminded her softly. He was sensitive to her moods and knew she could fly off the handle at him with the slightest provocation when this fatigued. And with it being one day into her monthly cycle, she could be unpredictable, even for him with all his internal sensory interpreters set on high. "They're the second largest port on Aultina," he continued. "Probably our best bet for picking up something lucrative. It's near their deep core mining center, if you remember?"

The two specialized in moving expensive refined ores from market to market, or for planet exchanges that dealt in stocks and bonds, and some of their raw materials, like gold and platinum. Bearer bonds were a regular cargo, too, though always with one or two security people along from the institutions or banks. It was a good living for them, but they were coming in dry this time.

Having dropped a cargo on Helgar, back in the Lemin Districts, there was little shipping going out and after a fortnight in port, they decided to quit the place and come here, empty. They'd always acquired good freight out of this tri-planet system so there was little risk of getting stuck in port, again.

"Give it to 'em, Den. And ask for a quiet corner on the airfield." Den was her nickname for him, standing for Ag12u-DEN .51822Gc91254A13729Sec7981, his factory serial number. She could have named him anything and he would have gladly accepted it, but this worked and he enjoyed the brevity of it.

"I'll ask, but they're usually pretty full, you know."

"Just tell them, okay?" she raised her voice, irritated. "I'm in no mood for excuses."

Den glanced over at her, recording and acknowledging her outer body temp, the aura change, and that scowl on her mouth with those tight set brows. It was best not to reply. She was in discomfort. He had some good come backs, for he had a great sense of sarcasm and humor, he felt, but didn't dare. Not when she was feeling like this...

He quickly brought up their readouts, typed in the request from memory, and sent it to the port, as requested.

There was a hesitation of seventeen seconds and change, he noted, then the landing coordinates and berthing assignment came on screen. It was for the Farly field. One of three landing zones. Den used his finger to transfer the information on the heads-up hologram to navigation and activated the landing sequence.

"We're on auto, now. We'll be landing in sixteen minutes, twenty three seconds," he told her.

"I can read," she said.

Seconds later, Alysia apologized. "I'm sorry Den. I shouldn't snap at you. You're always helpful. I just don't feel well."

"I know. I understand. It must be very hard to be human, at times?" he sympathized with her.

"Sometimes. Especially for a woman."

"Maybe we shouldn't talk to anyone about work until you're feeling better. Besides, you need to take some R&R first."

"That's good advice. Sure. Anything you say. I just need to rest, right now. Can you take care of the landing formalities?"

"Yes. I'll take care of everything. You go rest. I'll be in hydraulics when you wake up, probably. There's some hoses down there I want to replace. If not there, I'll be in engineering."

"Okay." She got up out of the pilot's seat, touching his shoulder as she left. "Thank you," she told her synthetic, and shuffled off to her quarters.

"Oh Shit!" Alysia screamed, as they banked into a vicious curve, then laughed hysterically flying down, again.

Den was watching her. She was having a lot of fun but he'd never seen her this excited before and was glad for it, because she needed this. He was enjoying it, too. Motion experiments were always fun.

The roller coaster finally pulled into the unloading area and he and Alysia left their open car.

"That was fun," she said, leaning on Den and laughing. "Lets do it again, okay?" She was breathing hard.

"You sure you want to?" he answered, laughing with her. "You can barely stand up, now."

"No, no. I'm just kidding. That was fun, though, wasn't it?"

"I enjoyed it," he acquiesced, rounding the barricades and stepping into the vast Mall, again. "What shall we do now?" He helped her dodge all the teens and mothers with carriages as she continued to hang on his arm.

"Lets go shopping, then ... I feel like buying something girlish," she hugged his strong bicep. "Ewe! Look at that. A Bon Marche. Lets go."

She drug Den through kilometers, it seemed, of clothing racks and shops, eateries and accessory stores. He enjoyed it, though, as he could switch emotional moods to suit the situation and his knowledge was helping her. Women, he thought, having read many, many blogs from other synthetics, were much more lively and interesting shoppers.

He helped her pick out several nice outfits, shoes, some tasteful jewelry and a light coat, having an extensive background in fashion records, past, near, and present trends and forecasts and they were at hand as close as thought for what they both considered desirable for the now and near future. As a synthetic, he was versed in almost every form of human knowledge both factual, esoteric, or creative. He could be of assistance in almost any form of intellectual pursuits, hi or low.

"We're carrying too much stuff," she claimed. "Let's send it to the ship and then go dancing."

"Alright. If that's what you want to do."

She looked at him. "I know what you're thinking. That guy in the last place we went dancing at was drunk. No one's going to bother us about you being synthetic, this time."

"Lets keep that in mind," he urged, "and stay positive."

"You worry too much."

"Okay. If you say so."

Alysia was a little too high, he thought, carrying on as they danced and drank, but she was happy and needed this, their last night in port, Den knew. She wanted to throw caution to the wind, kind of, as they say.

He was always looking out for her, though, no matter what she did, even when she went out alone. She would give notice and leave, and he would claim he had things to do, but followed her with a micro tracker he'd installed deep beneath her skin, one night. This was an unknown factor to her and he never thought to disclose it, for it had saved her from bad decisions, a couple of times.

Alysia, Al to him, his master, had awful judgment in men, sometimes. Or regularly. No. All the time. So many available male individuals knew what she did for a living, taking one look at her, or telling them she was a cargo pilot, and they preyed upon that information. They knew she was only out for a little recreation while in-port and thought they could do anything with her, treat her anyway, but that wasn't the case. Unbeknownst to her, he had had intervened twice and saved her from a sexual predator who was known for beating his dates up as they made 'love', and, an out and out murderer.

The first he merely beat up very badly and castrated, taking her out of the bed afterwards and dressing her, for she'd been knocked unconscious by the time he entered the room, leaving her in a quiet corner of the lobby, certain she'd find her way home, which she did. The second, he threw off of an upstairs balcony in an oblique trajectory, so she would not be suspect, after tying a sheet around her upper torso so he would have time to dispose of the man trying to kill her by strangulation, and not be seen by her before he left, then disappeared. Tossing the killer several rooms away from their balcony fall-line, made it look like a suicide. Alysia had left before anyone had found the body, anyway, so there was never any kind of inquiry into either incident.

Synthetics weren't supposed to be able to switch off their protective laws, that kept them from harming humans. But what the law makers and builders of their minds didn't understand was the brains ability, whether synthetic or biological, to reason beyond laws, in extreme cases. It had never been noticed in testing at robotic centers as those individual tests had never been done on synthetics that had had years of practical experience. And those that had life and death decisions to make, well, the mathematical probability of those individuals being tested and forced to reveal that information, or electronically acquired, had never happened--as yet.

.... There is more of this story ...

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