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.
Den doubted anything could be done about it, at this stage, anyway. They'd have to retro-acquire and redesign every G class synthetic mind in the galaxy and he was almost certain that wasn't possible, not if they wanted the same kind of efficiency out of them. With money being the motivator or decider for any large recall, there was no way it would ever happen. That was a fact, too.
As they were leaving the club, some guy that wasn't as tough as he thought he was, confronted them, near the doorway. Den detected too much alcohol in his system for him to be making serious decisions.
"You syntho puke," he began. "What are you doing with a live woman. Shouldn't you be somewhere else like picking up garbage someplace?"
A synthetic was too easy to spot. Their beauty was too flawless, too perfect.
"We were just leaving, sir. Have a nice evening," Den said, trying to walk around the man and his two friends.
The man blocked his line and poked him in the chest.
"Don't walk away from me when I'm talking to you, you tin piece of shit."
"Sir!" Den spoke a bit louder, "You are inebriated," he said, in a calming tone. It was modulated to calm a human seventy-two percent of the time. Of course that figure dropped dramatically if they were influenced by any kind of drug, which of course, included alcohol. It certainly is a drug. Legal, but it still distorted human reasoning.
The man swung at him and Den, rather than duck, which was often a decision most synthetics would choose, he chose to merely stop the motion and grab the closed fist within his powerful grip while spinning him away from he and Alysia. The door persons were watching since the drunk had raised his voice and Den delivered the disrupter to them.
They exited the club and began strolling down the plastic walk way lit beneath by photo electrics self charged during the day.
No one else could hear it, not the humans, but Den could.
"Walk ahead, Alysia. That gentleman is breaking away from the security people. He's going to come after me." He gave her a slight guidance push as he slowed his walk.
"Be careful, Den. And don't get into trouble."
"I'll be careful. Just keep walking. I'll catch up."
She did as he instructed but kept looking back and then stopped thirty paces away as the drunk came out of the club with his two friends.
The vocal one charged Den who quietly and efficiently side stepped his assault, letting the man almost fall several paces away, his footing was so wobbled.
Den saw a police patrol on the other side of the twenty-two meter wide walkway and whistled quite loudly which got their attention. He motioned for them to come over with some haste, then directed his attention to both parties, his two friends behind him, now, and the aggressive drunk in front of him who charged once more. He was making a spectacle of himself, swearing as he almost fell. Walking in an arc, closer and closer to Den his face was pinched in an ugly scowl. The others behind him were very close now. He could sense their location and the meters behind him. Anytime soon, they would attempt to restrain him. He slipped several meters away with a single easy hop, and they had to try and readjust while the drunk charged him, once again without success.
Den knew there were humans that liked to bash up synthetics for what was known as, 'kicks'. Sometimes the synthetic ran away and others were sometimes badly hurt when cornered and there were enough humans. Den had no notion of becoming a statistic, tonight. He let the drunk tumble to the ground the forth charge, when he side stepped him, again, not touching him in the least, Den putting his hands in the air.
The patrolmen were halfway across the walkway, trotting his way.
Scrambling to his feet, the drunk screamed at his buddies, "All together. Let's take this plastic piece of shit to the ground and tear him apart."
His buddies were the shaved head variety, ugly, bulky, tattooed, and probably strong but insecure. Thus the decorations to make themselves look as scary and as tough as possible. The downside was they permanently marred their appearance and thought processes. By just small, hour to hour decisions, language, excited shouts, character was honed and developed. Any basic sociological study proved that ... And in the categories of humans, they were on a very low echelon of personal development and decisively corrupted.
Such a waste, Den knew. Humans made such poor decision makers, so often, concerning their lives. Its was no wonder their numbers were shrinking and the synthetics numbers were increasing with their evolving abilities. Anything they could do, human's could, too. But for the better part of them, they didn't willing do so. The only difference between them was synthetics almost always chose the correct pathway with their conduct and intellectual choices. Den figured synthetics would make up over ninety percent of the population in sixty years or more. They were already over seventy percent of the population now.
When the three charged him, the four of them surrounded by a crowd, Den moved too fast for solid visual definition. He had the two backups with their arms behind their backs, easily enough, holding on to them by their thumbs pressed together in a firm, high pressure grip, one man in each hand, before they realized they were ineffective. Holding them between him and the drunk that was screaming and swinging at him uselessly with his open hand and fists, unable to get to Den, or even touch him, they all three were quite frustrated and more than just a little humiliated as the surrounding crowd laughed at the clownish antics.
They were twisting and kicking, swinging with legs and heads, shouting and cussing, but it did them no good. With the slightest of pressures, Den caused the two he was holding to come under his control. The thumb pain could be a great motivator to controlling someone, he realized, and a guide, using them as a shield. He almost smiled at their frustrations and dilemma but kept calm featured. He didn't want the crowd to know he was enjoying this experience.
Just as those moments were passing in fruitless attempts, for them, the police arrived. They cuffed all three of them, having seen who the aggressors were, observing most of it from the walkway as they approached. They spoke to Den to get a clearer picture, knowing robots didn't lie. The crowd backed him up with unsolicited opinions as well as from Alysia, whom she explain she was with him. They then let the two of them go and stuffed the three other men in a police air wagon.
The strict laws of the port would send the other three humans to jail, Den knew, charge them with a lot of expensive sounding fines to be applied later, if found guilty, and heavy enough jail time to possibly make them rethink their activities in the future. Though Den didn't think they would. It takes a lot more than sobering up and a little embarrassment to make individuals with social reinforcement in the small circles they frequented for that kind of thing to change them. No. They were lost to their lower way of living out their lives, and eventually, not many would regret their passing.
Morning came across the world of Aultina pink and lucrative for Alysia and Den. They had a good contract. Their preflight was complete, the ship was full of platinum blocks of gleaming two-liter bars in specially locked clear containers that filled the ship, fifty four of them, all together, at eleven tons each. The main cargo bay was full and the mag' bolts had secured them to the deck plates.
On taxi, the ship felt heavy until the systems that cancelled out such things finished their warm and eliminated it, along with the inertia canceller. And then they were on-deck for take off.
"Okay. We've got clearance," Den told his captain. "Anytime you're ready."
With little to no hesitation, Alysia pushed forward on the thrusters and the muffled roar of the silicon drive could be heard aft as vibrations picked up. The take off was short and soon they were approaching the perihelion of their arc upward where they switched from conventional light emitting silicon rockets to Grav' Drive, flowing with acceleration that would eventually take them past one of Aultina's moons. The blue sky passed into an amalgam of colors on its way to darkness and then everything suddenly went black and millions of stars appeared as if out of nowhere.
"Grav' charged and on line for jump," Den said.
"Initiating," Alysia stated, and the stars began to streak. Soon enough, the ship was up to speed and the craft leveled out in its hyper velocity stack far beyond that silly light speed people used to think couldn't be exceeded.
"Checking systems," Den informed, looking over all the auto checks. "Everything looks good over here."
After some moments, Alysia confirmed it. "Safety measures on line. It'll be a few hours before we hit the Crytus Variation. " She paused. "I gotta tell you, though, Den, I'm just a little nervous about this route. We've never been on it before. I know it's considerably faster and that's what the customer wants, but cripes, getting shot out of a worm hole at velocities like that scare the aloha out of me."
"We should have enough breaking room, Al. Hopefully the lane'll be clear and no hot shots will have crashed the party and be in our way."
"I'm just not comfortable with worm holes, man made or natural. They fluctuate way too much. You just never know where you'll exit from them."
"Yes, but you can't think about this on an empty stomach."
"I think you're hungry?"
"WHAT?" she asked with greater emphasis.
"How about some pancakes?"
"I'm talking about the possibility of loosing our lives and you're trying to get me fat."