The Phantom of Choice

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“That was a close call you know.“

My head was hurting me too much to actually understand. What was happening exactly?

I tried to move, stand up, straighten my body, but the second I moved my entire body started to hurt. The pain in my ribs was so intense I couldn’t even breathe for a second.

“Slow down, easy. It’s okay. You are safe now,” Srura held me down on bed gently.

“What happened?”

“Your ribs were still recovering from the fight with those plants back on that planet. Now they got damaged too much, beyond fixing. I had to take them out and replace them with artificial ones. Your body is recovering nicely. The transplantation was successful. It may take a bit of time to get used to it. But your body is adapting to it well. The only problem might be your own feeling about it.” I tried to sit again but she held me back. “Stay lying. You need as much rest as possible.”

All the memories in my mind started to be very chaotic. I needed to sort them out. The robots went on riot. They tried to kill us. Ligriv tried to kill us all. Peyton caught me and used me as a punching bag when I tried to stop him. I ran to the lab and poured the liquid from the plant on him.

“What happened to the robots?” I needed to be sure the crew is safe. Safety of the crew was my first priority.

“The anaesthetic stopped them. It was all over the ship, we couldn’t get to you sooner to help you. Maybe if I came few moments earlier I could have saved your ribs,” she said with deep regret on her face.

“There is no point in blaming yourself. None of what happened is your fault. And you already gave me new ribs so everything is okay now. I need to speak with Lamreak and Ancelmus. Now.”

She only nodded and called them using a small communication device on her ear. “Duncke ordered to turn down all communication systems until the situation is solved. Until we figure out what exactly happened and all the bugs are removed from the ship,” she explained.

“Good. I would do the same.”

“That was one insane move, you know? Locking us on the bridge while running on suicide mission,” the first one to come was Zorach. He was standing between the doors and just looking on me.

“Someone had to do something. And as a captain, I am responsible for all of you.”

“You know, not even a captain has to sacrifice his life for the crew. That is something I – as a captain with more experience – still need to teach you,” he laughed and sat next to me. “Are you okay?”

“Well, first of all, I did not sacrifice myself; I am still alive after all. And, second, Srura said I need to get used to my new ribs.”

“Wait, what?” he looked as if I told him something unbelievable.

“Srura told me my ribs were broken beyond fixing and that she needed to replace them completely.”

“Holy sea! Are you okay?” he asked me concerned.

“I really don’t know. I am probably still high on drugs, because I feel very weird.”

“Yes, you still have a lot of drugs inside your body system. I wasn’t sure when it is safe to wake you up from the surgery, so I rather waited a bit more. But be glad for the pills. They are keeping most of the pain away,” Srura interrupted us. She came to bed with a small x-ray device on her hand. She put it on the side of my body and a picture of my ribs appeared floating over me. “They are adapting nicely. You will be well in no time.”

I wasn’t sure if she did it to really check on them or just to impress Zorach.

“Verya, you are finally awake. How are you doing?” Ancelmus entered the room followed by Lamreak. “You were asleep for quite some time.”

“Can I stop being a captain now? When she is awake?” few seconds later, Duncke entered the room. He looked somehow tired.

“Tell me everything that happened,” I tried to sit again, but Srura shouted on them not to let me.

“Listen. Your ribs are still not strong enough to keep you up. If you sit now, your chest will collapse into itself. That will lead to serve damage of all internal organs. Do you want that to happen? No, you don’t. Why? Because that will kill you. Now stay lying down nicely.”

“I can’t just stay down when every part of the ship needs me standing!” I again tried to sit but now I was stopped by everyone. All of them pushed me down to bed.

“You need something to support your weight. Your body is not adapted to the ribs completely,” she was explaining, but I was still trying. “If you won’t stop moving, I will chain you down to bed!” now I stopped. I knew she could do that. I saw her doing such things to many cadets in training camps. “Now that is better.”

“So what happened to the robots?” I looked on Ancelmus.

“Honestly. They had a code upload into their system. It was set to turn on after few days of the flight. The purpose of the code was to sabotage the mission in every way possible. If the sabotaging did not work, they were to kill the entire crew and send the ship home.”

“They were even sabotaging the engine repairing process. I was wondering why it didn’t work, but it was working! But those two were just sabotaging it every time we repaired something. The engine now is completely okay and fully working. We even managed to use the cooling stone,” Lamreak was happy. He finally seemed rested. After so many tries and fails all his work finally paid off.

“Those two? Who?” I needed to be sure.

“Peyton and Ligriv. Series seventeen. Seventeen my ass. Just sixteen with more weapons and more deadly intentions,” he said it as if it was the most disgusting thing to happen.

“What about Knave and Scorch?”

“I ordered to keep them all turned down. I was not sure if they are still not programmed somehow. We are keeping them turned off until we manually diagnose them to see, if everything is okay with their programs,” Duncke said.

“They were trying to protect me. I don’t think they have any deadly intentions, but okay, let’s keep them turned off until everything is checked. And take out any energy source out of them to prevent turning them on. Just to be sure,” I agreed with his decision. He could be a good leader some day. “So where are we now?”

“We figured out the map from the satellite. We were still bit far from the planet with the base, when the robots attacked. They somehow managed to damage the engine. We made an emergency landing on one of the planets nearby our position. The civilisation there was very nice, they helped us with repairing.”

“You found a new civilisation?” I lifted my eyebrows. The Creators were keeping us in thinking there are no new civilisations, that everything is already discovered. That all the civilisations were wiped down by the Spectre.

“Oh, yes. They are very nice. Tiny bit backward in housing – they still live inside trees – but very developed in technology and science. They also gave us food and medicines for your ribs. They are somehow... I really don’t know how to put this. They believe in their gods in nature. The nature is their god. They are praying to those gods every day and somehow it works. They took you to their sacred place and made a ritual there. Even Srura said your condition got better. There must be some technological miracle there. But we were not allowed to go there,” Duncke didn’t believe his words when he was explaining. Truth to be said, it did sounded very unbelievable.

“I don’t know how they did it, but your condition got better. Inside your body were no traces of any medicaments. No drugs were used on you, no visible signs on your body. I can’t believe it, but it really is true. The Noucrases just somehow cured you.”


“Yes, that is their name. They gave us something to understand their language,” Srura was talking so happily about it.

“They gave us something that melted the stone. I was able to pour it into the cooling mechanism. The engine is fully operational now in every way,” Lamreak was very educated in every way possible. The fact that he called it something meant it was a mystery for him too. That triggered my curiosity about the race. But we can talk about it later.

“Okay, so where are we now?” I asked changing the subject.

“We left their planet and continued to the planet in the map from the satellite. We should arrive to the orbit in any moment. We solved the whole map. We now know from where the satellite started the journey.”

“Good. Srura, I want to be on my feet when we arrive to the planet.”

“That is not possible,” she protested. “You need to rest. Your ribs were too damaged.

“I don’t care. Figure something out!”

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