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The God Machine

By Brandon Powell All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Scifi

Chapter 1 - 3:1

“Registry reads the name of the ship as The Maineline and it is scheduled to be off loading three tons of Allirium in a week. It is briefly in orbit around Everen Beta. Currently, there are ten bodies of decaying organic matter on board.”

Adil had become so used to his first mate’s oddities that the phrase didn’t even strike him as quirky any more. Instead, he leaned forward in his seat to stare at the main view screen. A large ship was displayed in the screen showing its bulky, nearly blockish design. In fact, the only noticeable differences in its gray hull were the main engines at the rear of The Maineline and the broad red barcode that identified the ship and its purpose. Adil ran a hand through his curly, black hair as he said to himself, “It’s a softshell, so we don’t have to worry about punching through any firewalls. Ten people aboard too, but it’s a private cargo vessel, so I doubt there’ll be more than two or three security personnel armed.”

“That would be a reasonable assumption; though, those have had a three to one ratio of actually being true.” Persius Model 14159PEM or Mod for short stared at the view screen as well with a disinterested look. Mod however, being an android of its model, had no ability to express emotions with such things as facial expressions and mannerisms. In fact, the PEM model stood for Prototype Emotion Module. Mod’s grayscale metal plating was much the same as any other low budget production model; however, the PEM line was the first to incorporate emotions on a mass production scale. Unfortunately, there was a design flaw that allowed the androids to only feel negative or neutral emotions. Its red optic lenses, placed much like eyes, whirred slightly as they moved the focus in and out at The Maineline, taking in different aspects and light spectrums. “I would have to say, if we take into account our history with so called easy projects, we will lose credits, damage the ship, or end up dead”

“You’re such an optimist.” Adil grinned at his lifeless partner in crime before saying, “Launch the decoy probes. Once they’ve been detected, raise the flag through the comm. channels and hail The Maineline.”

Mod looked impassionately at Adil, but said with biting sarcasm through its speaker, “You realize that it takes a grand total of two switches and three buttons to do that, right? I may be an android, but these low tasks are a bit demeaning. Or do the buttons hurt your stubby flesh digitals?”

Adil’s eyes narrowed in exasperation, his dark irises and pupils almost being covered up. He sighed and said, “Fine, I forgot how much better your glorified food processor AI was. Let me get that for you.”

Three probes silently launched from the ship in different directions to surround the cargo vessel not far off. As Adil flipped a few more switches to relay their flag to the vessel and to open communications, Mod commented, “Big words coming from a talking monkey that is going to be food for worms when it dies.”

“At least I won’t be recycled into a toaster.”

Before Mod could give a retort back, a light flashed on the console in front of them. Adil happily flicked another switch to cover half the view screen with the face of an obese, balding man. He looked a good deal annoyed as he yelled into his communications console, “This is Captain Greggor of the United Colonial Emirates Merchants Guild; I demand to know who you are!”

Mod said in a hushed voice, “This captain seems to be overflowing with organic matter.”

Adil had to stifle back a laugh as he proclaimed, “I’m assuming you received the communique of our flag, Captain Greggor. This is the corsair ship Sheppard’s Will. I’m Captain Adil Muhammad; those ships around you are the rest of the corsairs in this sector. They’re also the only other ships in this sector. If you’ll relinquish your Allirium and other valuables, your ship and lives will be spared.”

Greggor yelled back, “We’ve already sent out a distress signal to UCE armada. They should be here within thirty minutes.”

Mod commented, “Correction: They would be here in thirty minutes had we not jammed any outgoing signals. That means you have two choices. Either continue decomposing slowly or allow us to accelerate the process for you.”

“Bastards... Once the UCE finds out they’ll-”

Adil cut him off with, “Excellent, I’m glad we agree. Sheppard’s Will will be docking with you in two minutes. Please prepare to offload as much Allirium as our cargo subsection can hold.” He then flicked off the communications and said, “Would it be too much to ask you to bring us to the vessel?”

Mod paused and then tried to mimic a shrug before he started inputing commands into the ship’s navigational computer.

“Here’s what I’m thinking, Mod. I’ll divide the cargo section and dock it against The Maineline. I’ll oversee the loading while you stay here with the forward command and environmental sections ready to blast any rogue UCE ships that wander in.”

“Well, that is strange.”

Adil laughed and unbuckled his seatbelt, allowing himself to float out of his seat as he said, “Oh what? Did I finally have a good plan?”

Mod stated, “No, these readings are impossible.”

The captain pulled himself closer to the console to look at the readouts. “What? I don’t see anything strange about it? It’s just another cargo ship.”

“If you were more observant, you would be able to notice the Folding patterns coalescing within a kilometer as detected by the tertiary scanners.” Mod punched in a few commands and added, “Yes, see, this is the ratio I was iterating before.”

Adil shouted, “Damn it! How’d they manage to get a message to the armada? Mod, what’s the size? What should we expect?”

Mod studied the readings for a moment before replying, “It seems as if all of our sensors are malfunctioning.” Adil was only able to shoot an angry glare before the android continued, “I have focused all of them on the Folding pattern. After a few algorithms, it would appear the diameter is 1154.3 kilometers, roughly a third the size of Luna.”

“That’s not-” Adil had no chance to finish the statement, as the very fabric of space bent and warped around them. There seemed to be a ripple for a moment in reality itself and then suddenly there was a huge, nearly moon shaped object filling up a large portion of space. Every single instrument in the Sheppard’s Will began whining and beeping excessively along with red lights flashing at every conceivable angle. “Son of a bitch! Mod, get everything back online!”

As it began punching in commands and navigations, Mod yelled, “Oh, yes sir, while I’m at it would you like me to end universal hunger? Maybe conclude all religious warfare?”

“Shut it or we both die.” Adil strapped himself back into his seat and grabbed the helm. Directional thrusters fired all over the outside of the ship as is tipped into a lazy barrel roll and continued on a collision course with The Maineline. He tried manual corrections as Mod made as many calculated corrections as possible. “What isn’t fried, Mod?”

“Due to the proximity, I think you would say ‘we are screwed to hell,’ in the vernacular. I believe I can stabilize the Folding singularity; however, we will most likely crash into The Maineline before that.” The android unhooked itself from the copilot’s seat and began floating to the exit of the cockpit. “I would suggest you figure out a way to steer us away from whatever that is and the cargo ship.”

Adil yelled as he pounded commands into every input he could reach, “Yeah, I get it. You just get down there and get the singularity stable before it goes black on us.” He looked around at the various data streaming into the cockpit and said, “Auto, what systems are still active?”

A computerized voice issued forth from the ship itself, “The only two systems currently active and controllable are life support and weapons.”

“Good then...” Adil paused as he got his first good glimpse at the moon-sized object that had Folded in next to them. He watched for a moment as the surface seemed to twist, shift, expand, and contract almost as if it was alive; however, it looked as if it were made of giant mechanical fibers. A few of the cords, at least as thick as The Maineline if not larger, moved out from the mass towards Everen Beta. They hovered there in space, barely touching the upper atmosphere of the barren planet. “Auto, lock the port missile bay and fire a blank warhead against it. Let it burn on full to steer us away from this... thing. Vent the debris into space afterwards.”

“Commands confirmed, Captain.” The computer system went silent again, but a roar issued forth through the hull as the empty warhead began to turn the ship. As it did, the cords of the giant object shot towards the planet’s surface and were followed by a beam of energy.

Adil said into the inter-ship communications system, “Mod, are you seeing this?”

Mod’s stoic voice replied, “I am receiving the sensor readouts and, if I did not know better, it would seem these would be in error as well. From what I can tell, the atmosphere, soil content, and liquid bases of Everen Beta are being altered to be more habitable for carbon-based lifeforms.”

“It’s terraforming the planet?”

“Yes, much at the expense of the Allirium deposits. It seems whatever this anomaly is, it has the ability to separate dense elements into the lower ones found in naturally occurring life.” Mod paused and added, “In more pressing news, there are additional Folding patterns coalescing.”

Adil punched the arm of his chair and yelled, “Well, shit Mod! Stabilize the singularity and get us a Folding pattern of our own.”

“Of course, sir. Right away, sir. As if I was not already attempting it, sir.”

As the captain watched, numerous ships appeared next to the moon-like object. Adil instantly recognized them as a portion of the UCE fleet. Five cruisers Folded in around the enigma, each with the same basic but huge design. They appeared to be four equilateral triangles pressed together to make the equivalent pyramidal shape. One of the sides had a large thruster while the other sides were covered with docking slots that could release a fleet of small, single man fighters within seconds.

Adil mouthed as many curses as he could think of as all five cruisers released what seemed like every single fighter they had, roughly five thousand. Every one of them headed towards the anomaly without firing initially; however, once they got close enough, the object reacted by moving more of its cords out. Each cord acted more like a tentacle as they slapped apart the fighters or grabbed them and pulled them into the mass. “Auto, the sensors are working properly, correct?”

The ship’s computer answered, “Affirmative, Captain.”

“What can you derive about this giant object?”

The computer started to say something and then a screech came through all the ship’s speakers. Adil covered his ears, trying to not let his eardrums burst. Once the sound ended, Mod said through the comm network, “It appears as if the autopilot/computer system has been fried by a computational error.”

Adil cursed again, but said, “Doesn't matter; we’ll get it replaced once we Fold out of here. How’s the singularity?”

“It has been stabilized, but you realize that we can not Fold without aid from the computer, right?”

Just then, the giant object shot out another beam of energy to blast apart one of the cruisers. Adil shouted, “Screw it, Mod. You’re going to have to give best estimate Fold patterns.”

“The chance of being disseminated throughout-”

“I don’t care about the chances! Just Fold us to anywhere out of the Everen system!”

Everything seemed to stand still in the Sheppard’s Will as the Folding drive activated fully. Reality once again bent, but not to the same degree as the anomaly had created. As the UCE ships were being destroyed and The Maineline continued to spin out of control, Sheppard’s Will seemed to disappear from existence.

The ship reappeared at the same exact time, roughly twenty light years away in dark space. Adil leaned back in his chair, breathing heavily. Mod used the comm system to say in an annoyed tone, “Three to one ratio, what did I say? If there is a god over you fleshlings, then it absolutely hates you.”

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