Thursday, 26 January 2017

Icarus (part 4)

She felt herself thrown off her feet but she didn't black out. Flowers didn't; they had no consciousness to lose. Clio was a BioAssistant, colloquially known as Flowers, a subspecies of genetically engineered slaves each with a different specialty. Demeters were farmers, Thalias were councillors and entertainers and Clios were usually archivists or historians. Her speciality was memory and so the fact that someone had slapped an Antimnem patch on her violated her to her core. She was filing the shivering, quaking emotions she received every time she contemplated this under 'Deal With Later,' in order to concentrate on the situation in hand.
Avksenity was unconscious; the lack of Whizzer on his back was making it difficult for him to live conventionally, never mind having half smashed his head against the wall. Luna was out cold next to him and the sounds of scuttling from above had silenced. She was all alone and, according to the view through the end window, she didn't have long left.
Clambering to her feet, Clio pulled herself up the ladder and stuck her head into the technician's duct. "Can you hear me?" She shouted, as loud as she could. The duct snaked away from the opening quite rapidly so even with the amber sprinkle of server bulbs, it was difficult to make Po out. The lack of reply didn't calm her at all but she remembered the old mantra she'd taught herself long ago. Control what you can and allow fate to take its path.
Climbing down from the ladder, she hurried over to Luna and Avksenity on the floor. There was no hope, or point, waking Avksenity, so she instead grabbed Luna's shoulders and shook her until she woke. It didn't take very long; Lourdauds tended to be quite headstrong.
"Huh?" Luna groaned, slightly groggy. "What's going on?"
"We've been hit, some sort of gravitational wave." Clio replied. "I recognise the signs from when I worked on a photon miner."
"You're remembering too!" Luna grinned, her snout wrinkling as she did.
"It doesn't matter what I'm remembering. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Now we've been pushed away from the sun something must be pushing us back, quicker. We're running out of time."
"I'll wake Avksenity." Luna decided, kneeling down but Clio shook her head.
"We haven't time. We need to wake Po and get her to pilot the ship away."
"If she could do that, she already would have. There's got to be another plan."
The sun grew bigger, a crimson sphere of furious energy looming over them, ready to digest them.
The solution was in Clio's mind before she could even begin to comprehend it. Besides the milky white obscurity of the last few days, Clio could remember everything she'd ever experienced. Every conversation, every scent, every pair of smiling eyes, every subconscious tick. She knew every single fact she'd ever been told and she could remember her entire service aboard that photon miner, trying to capture the elementary particles from the grasp of blackholes in the hope of powering special types of cells. She was the ship's clerk and close friends with a lot of the crew, most crucially the ship's Psychic Pilot.
Now, don't get ahead of yourself. A Psychic Pilot wasn't a superhero who could fly a ship with just the power of their mind. They were the metal interface between man and machine, back in the days before the creation of complex TTCs. The idea was that such a person would be hooked up to the computers and would control the ship with just their mind. It was well paid but lonely, and dangerous, work. Clio liked to keep the photon miners' PP company and, through their friendship, she'd learnt an awful lot about it.
"I need to plug myself into the server. Act as a psychic pilot." Clio said.
Luna laughed, almost arrogantly. "Psychic pilots? I frown on them! If it can't be done by hand, what's the point?" Her grin widened still. "I remember! I'm a pilot. I'm a ship pilot."
"That's brilliant, Luna, but it doesn't help us." Clio said. "This ship is automated. It can't have a real pilot, it needs a psychic one."
"Then hook me up." Luna said. "I've got qualifications and everything."
"No." Clio said. "Psychic piloting carries massive brain damage risks. It needs someone dispensable to do it. Let me."
"None of us are indispensable." Luna said. "We're meant to be a crew. That's the point."
"Luna, you're a young pilot. You've got your life ahead of you. If Avksenity dies now, he'll never deal with his grief. Po, well, she's selfless enough as it is. I need to contribute something, and if it's saving all your lives, then that's that."
"No, Luna." She said. "This is my duty."
Luna sighed. "I'll help you do but only if you let me help you pilot too, which means you think what I tell you to think. Understand?"
She nodded. There was no stopping a Lourdaud with good intentions. She'd learnt over the years that too. "Okay. Let's do this. We're going to need cables plugged into the TTC server upstairs. That means we need Po."
Luna nodded and scampered over towards the ladder. She crammed herself as much as she could into the technician's duct. She had longer arms than Clio- a skill that made clothes shopping a nightmare but reaching for unconscious Zoradians as easy as imaginable- and so found the rough fur lying close to the TTC server. She gave a couple of shakes but her hand became damper and soggier with the soaking blood. There was no reply. Po seemed clean out.
There was a sudden electrical buzz in her hand. Luna leapt back, bumping her head on the cage and frowning. Tentatively, she reached out once more, feeling around blindly once more. There was another zap but it was softer this time, perhaps more like a buzz. She reached around and grabbed her electrocutioner. Pulling it closer, she realised. "Whizzer!"
The little red droid flashed at her idly.
"Whizzer, I need you to wake Po up. Give her a zap."
The droid flashed again.
Rolling her eyes, Luna said, "Come on. Help a sister out."
Whizzer flashed in such a way that a sigh was implied. It turned around and rolled back over to Po, reaching out a small prong and zapping the Zoradian. Whatever current touched that purple and grey fur seemed to reverberate through her, smashing her eyes open and dilating the pupils more than previously thought possible. She jolted up and bumped her head into the duct above her head. "Klick." She whispered, patting her head and in the process discovering the bloody welt at its rear. "Oh for gods' sake."
"PO!" Luna shouted. "You're alive. How's the ship? Can you fly us away?"
"How's the ship? How am I? My brain is bleeding."
"Po, we're being pulled into a sun."
"My day can't get anymore Klick, can it?"
"Can you pilot us out of here?"
"No." She said. "The TTC is frazzled. There's no saving us."
"Then we need to do Clio's plan. She wants to be a psychic pilot."
"That's too dangerous!"
"That's what I said but she won't listen. Come on. It's that or we die without a fight!"
Po sighed. "I'm going to have to take Whizzer apart if we're going to do this. I'll need some of his circuits."
Whizzer began to flash in alarm.
Clio heard the request and hurried over to Avksenity. She did her best to shake him awake but he was a big man and heavy for it. It took a lot of violent, vigorous shaking- the sun growing larger and larger all the still- but eventually she got him awake. His face was turning paler by the second, the tan fading.
"Can you hear me?" She asked.
The General frowned at her, his eyes woozy. "Just about. I can also hear a slow chimera's howl but I think I'm making that up."
"We need to take Whizzer apart to fly the ship away from the sun."
"Then do it. The droid won't care and, if he does, you can turn off the emotion chip."
"But what about you? We take out Whizzer, there's no saving you."
"I made my sacrifice." He said. "Now hurry up and save yourselves."
With that, he blacked out once more. Clio placed him lightly against the floor and hurried over towards the ladder, shouting up, "He says we can do it! Come on."
Whizzer seemed somewhat sedated by this, not resisting at all whilst Po pulled the droid apart with her bare hands. She took one of the ringed caskets and hooked it up to the droid's neural relay, which she plugged into the TTC server. She then scrabbled down the ladder and hurried over to Avksenity, pulling the neural transmitter from his forehead and clipping it onto the casket. The wire didn't go very far so Clio had to stand next to the ladder to use it. Luna looked at her. "Are you sure about this?"
She nodded. "Let's do it." And with that, she placed the casket crown upon her head and felt her mind connect with the machine.
The sun disappeared, replaced with the ringed planet emblazoned with 'F' that was the Federation logo. The lights flicked on, the walls move apart. A group of people wearing red jackets hurried in, some grabbing Avksenity and carrying him away, others removing the crown from Clio's head.
"Who the hell are you?" Po demanded, the only one who wasn't unconscious or shocked.
It transpired that they were cadets for the Interplanetary Federation of Cosmic Exploration. All had agreed, as part of their final exam, to undergo a mind wipe to then be placed into a training environment. The exam would assess their capability under pressure in conditions they couldn't possibly prepare for. It also assessed their aptitude for team work.
They all passed with flying colours and received their flying colours in turn, stripes to place on their shoulders to show their qualifications. Clio would go on to become the clerk of an exploratory vessel where Luna worked as its pilot. Avksenity and Po, alongside a reconstructed Whizzer, acted as astromechanics and technicians respectively aboard a merchant ship. The crew of the Icarus Exam flew once more.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Icarus (part 3)

It was warm. Po, who was a Zoradian and so treated Edeners with the good humoured ridicule that they deserved, had heard stories of the long extinct Earthfolk. They'd believed that computers didn't like being warm, so they designed entire cooling systems for the single purpose of cooling down the technical components. Since then, relatively heat retardant materials like Pardium had been discovered and so components- which were fewer in number due to advancements in virtual computing- were built from those. Now, there was no need for a cooling system. The computers didn't mind the heat, only humanoids did, and what humanoid would be stupid enough to crawl through a closed up computer bank when it was on?
Po sighed. This furry little humanoid would be, and she was dragging a droid with her as she did.
The Zoradians of Zorada were a mostly subterranean species with eyes adjusted to darkness and fur evolved to the cold that resulted from heat permeating out of their caves. The computer bank was quite dark, besides the occasional twinkle of orange warning lights, but Po's eyes had grown use to light so they didn't mind it. The heat, on the other hand...
She'd only got a few metres away from the hatch by the time her fur was thickly matted with sweat, her entire body craving hydration. Her eye brows, the pride of her body due to their volume, worked wonders but not miracles, the occasional droplet splashing through. Some of this sweat hit her eyes and stung, momentarily blinding her and blurring the partitions between the lights and the computers. Some of this sweat hit the floor and sizzled.
Po crawled on. Whizzer was on the floor in front of her, rolling along the smooth material of the technician's duct quite happily. It wasn't meant for in flight access, that she knew. On docking, the ship would be deconstructed by robots, each section carried off by conveyors to the department that dealt with it. The computer section would be carried to its relevant technicians and then a stent of sorts would be inserted that expanded the room, making the duct easier to access. It wouldn't get any bigger, most astrotechs were quite small as a result, but unnecessary blockages would be removed. Unnecessary blockages like the one coming up in front of her.
It was a bar of metal. On expansion, it would probably slide up, through the open gap in the duct's caged covering above, and support the roof. Unfortunately, at this current time, it horizontally intersected Po's path. Not even Whizzer could have got past it on his own. Sighing, she hauled herself up as far as she could and pulled the multitool attachment out of Whizzer's rear end. It was heavier than Avksenity made it look but she managed to carry it over towards the obstruction. "Give me a power saw."
Whizzer beeped at her and then a small disk on the top of the multitool began to revolve rapidly. As it got up to speed, she pressed the disk into the obstruction. A shower of sparks resulted, singing her fur and dissipating as they hit the cage surrounding her. The tool began to move through the metal, breaking it down, but the material was thick and it was going to take a while. A pair of second lids dropped over Po's eyeballs, transparent but resistant to the flinging sparks.
With a crunch, the tool broke through the other side of the bar. She quickly removed it and turned to the other side. The rubbery exterior of her spacesuit, pressed against the metal floor, was becoming softer and softer. She cursed and willed the tool to rotate faster.
It felt like an eternity passed before she managed to cut through the metal. The obstruction fell and she pushed it up the duct, rolling Whizzer after it and then crawling on.
From the way the duct was getting hotter, she assumed she was getting closer. She strained her eyes as much as they'd manage and saw, not very far ahead, the machine she was looking for. The Primary Interface. It'd take a few seconds of hot wiring and then she'd be able to take control of the ship from it. Maybe get some answers, maybe find some new questions. Definitely save them. She pushed Whizzer on, ready to reach it.
There was a metal plate over the front of it. It only took a few minutes of sawing from Whizzer and then it had fallen away, allowing her access to the interior workings. She retracted the buzz saw and pulled out the omniport, sliding one of the attachments into smallest attachment on the server. Three patches lit up on Whizzer's brow, signifying it was online. "You hear me, boy? There's a screen just here." Po prodded it twice with one very furry finger. "Try turning it on will you?"
There was a heavy whirring from Whizzer for a few seconds and then silence from the droid. The screen didn't light up. Po frowned and then listened to the series of beeps Whizzer gave off. "Oh." She whispered, reaching over to the exposed cables in front of her. They required a quick rearrangement and then the screen lit up. Giving it a quick poke revealed it wasn't touch screen. She groaned. "How old fashioned?"
Whizzer beeped again and she told him to open up the ship specs. It read simply that the ship was an Automated Carrier, programmed to fly from one destination to another, in this case from Kael to the other end of the Lorem System. She ran a diagnostics scan. It took a few seconds, the background thrum of computers growing stronger momentarily, and then a report flashed up on screen. There'd been some form of EM damage. "What kind of damage, Whizzer?"
The droid beeped and a new window opened on screen, reporting that the Electromagnetic Inteference had scrambled the TTC drive. Beneath her wonderful eyebrows, Po's eyes rolled. The TTC was the Turing Tournament Champion, a computer program that had been programmed to such an extent that it could fool an Edener into thinking it was alive. Such programs were then connected to ships, either assisting their pilots or replacing them. In this case, the TTC had replaced the pilot and now the TTC had been killed, Which meant they were flying into a sun without a pilot.
"PO!" Someone shouted from downstairs. She thought from the hoarseness of the voice it might have been Avksenity but she didn't get a chance to properly think about it. Something hit the ship, shoving her into the cage to her side. Whizzer's omniport snapped, dislodged by some dislodged metal collapsing from the ceiling. The droid fell away and rolled, helplessly on the floor. Its sensors studied Po and realised she was unconscious, blood beginning to soak out of a wound in her forehead.
The ship continued, drawn towards the sun.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Icarus (part 2)

"That's a red giant." Clio whispered, her repetition achieving nothing. The sentiment had already spread and they all basked in their terror and the crimson glow.
Avksenity backed away from the window, as if he didn't want to risk instant vaporisation. There was no preventing such an unfortunate event, however. If they got too close, all the Pardium in the Cosmos couldn't stop them from turning instantly to ash.
"How close are we to it?" Po whispered, clambering up and looked towards the sun. She shielded her eyes, not because it was bright- although it was- but because she didn't want to consider it.
"More than one Astronomical Unit." Clio said. "That's one hundred and fifty million kilometres in old money."
"How do you know that?" Po whispered. She didn't know why her voice was becoming quieter, perhaps out of reverence for the situation they were in.
"You have to be at least one AU away from a red giant to avoid incineration and we're not dead yet." Clio replied. "I remember stuff, it's my thing."
"Remember how we got here?" Po asked. "That'd be real handy."
"Arguments will solve nothing." Avksenity said, creeping back over to the window and allowing Whizzer to close it once more.
"What're you doing, big guy?" Po shouted. "You scared of the sun?"
"No." Avksenity replied as the window closed, banishing the light. "But Lourdauds find extreme light painful, don't they, Luna?"
Luna, who hadn't been able to see since the window had first opened the window, nodded gratefully. A massive, unmoving caterpillar of glowing light covered her view but a few blinks managed to slay it. "Very painful."
"Oh. Sorry lass." Po said and itched her fur. "Right then. I think we have four questions we need to answer."
"Only four?" Clio frowned. "I can think of at least twelve."
"They're rather general questions." Po said. "Question one: Who are you all? Question two: How did we get here? Question three: Who put us here? Question four: What are we going to do about it?"
Avksenity raised his hand. "I think we should revise those questions. Question three and two are basically the same. I think it would make more sense to insert a new question four in the theme of: How long do we have to do something?"
"I don't think the questions we're asking is the important thing here, Av. I think that it's more of a case of answering them." Po said. "But point taken. Now, question one. Who are we?"
"You said you were an astromech." Clio said. "I'm a clerk. What do you two do?"
"I'm a droid tech." Avksenity said. "Luna?"
"I don't know." She frowned. "It hasn't come back yet."
"Lourdauds are statistically more vulnerable to Antimnem Patches." Clio pointed out.
Po raised her fluffy white eyebrows. "How can you remember that but not why we're here?"
"I hate Antimnem Patches." Clio whispered, then said, "I don't know how we got here but I have a theory about the other two questions. If we could get that trap door open, Po could probably fit in and fix the computer to turn us around."
"How long do we have left?" Luna asked.
"I reckon, from the heat of the walls, about twenty, thirty minutes at most." Clio said. "I worked on a Solar Harvester once and they taught me how to recognise the heat traces. Thirty minutes, if that."
"We better move quickly then." Po said. "Av, can you give me Whizzer to take up with me? I'm going to need tools."
Avksenity looked at his feet and then shook his head. "I can't. Whizzer... he's, part of me."
"He's a droid." Po said. "I get people are attached to the silly beggars but still. Share, matey."
"No, I can't." Avksenity sighed. "Look, I, oh Gods, I've never admitted this."
"What is it?" Luna asked. Clio, whose internal circuitry was designed to detect alterations in the visible emotional states of her surrounding counterparts, noticed something she suspected was shame beginning to consume the droid technician.
"I was a soldier, in the Falout Civil War." His voice faltered, that powerful confidence beginning to waver. "I was on the winning side, before you begin panicking and thinking I'm some sort of aristocratic, self obsessive, out of touch monster. It was after the ambush, the Crown had fallen, every man for himself. The coalition government, having deserted the Crown, were hauled up in a bunker beneath the Pantriatic Mountains. We launched a creeping barrage and then the men crept behind, the idea being that we would enter the blown open bunker and take out any survivors. I was one of the generals leading, in an old Oyweian battle tank that'd been 'liberated' from a museum. It was all going to the plan, tank hovering across the remains of the field and then..."
The way his voice trailed off was spooky. It gave Luna the shivers, conjuring images of a legion marching through the smoke and mist of a war torn landscape, there one second, lost in the mist the next.
"What happened?" Clio asked. Her reassurance filters were fully at play, suggesting she reached up and patted his shoulders. She did just that.
Avksenity said nothing. "One of the missiles hadn't exploded. Our hover pads detonated it. The ship, it was torn apart. Erupted the nuclear drive in the process. Every soldier for a twenty mile radius was vaporised, turned to nothing more than radiated ash. Apart from me. I was sat in the pilot's chair, so I was insulated from the full force of it. I landed but in one piece, except for the shard of metal that had sliced through my body. I lost an arm when they dug me up." A tear trickled down his cheek. "I was kept in a decontamination vault for three years. They only let me out when I stopped glowing. Patched me up and stuck a bionic arm on me, controlled by a motor connected to my back, the rest of me kept alive by life support stored in the same area. I've spruced him up since, little Whizzer, but still." His left hand reached over and patted the right. "They grew it, most realistic than any prosthetic before it, but it's still just silicon. My real arm died, like all those..." his voice tipped over the edge and there was no recovery, "all those poor, poor boys."
There's something powerful in watching anyone cry, Clio supposed. She wasn't the type to experience emotion but she could understand it. To see someone as big and powerful, to see someone so used to power and command, crumble before her very eyes... it made her emotional sensors indicate sadness.
Luna padded over to him and draped her arms around him. "They didn't die because of you."
He said nothing.
She hugged him a little tighter and whispered, "And we're not going to either. Save us, General. This is your chance."
He took a deep inhale and shrugged her away, wiping the tears from around his eyes. "Po, I can survive for ten minutes without Whizzer working as life support. We'll get the door open, you'll get in there, and then we'll take Whizzer off. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Po nodded. "We're going to have to be quick."
Avksenity clambered up and followed Po over to the ladder. The small, furry one clambered up and gave the trapdoor a shove. It didn't quite move so Avksenity dropped the cable from the bottom and handed it up to Po to use. An attachment folded out of the multitool and began to plasma cut through the metal, until the panel was loose and Po was able to use it. Then Avksenity took a very deep breath and pressed a button hidden beneath his shirt. Whizzer detached, the right arm going slack, and Luna carried it over to Po.
"Ten minutes." Avksenity said. "Any longer and I die."
"Any longer and we all die." Po said, and then scuttled away into the inner workings of the ship.

Saturday, 7 January 2017


The first thing she thought upon waking was a question. It was a silly question and one that, as her mother said, was tempting fate, but she mentally asked it nonetheless. The question was this: Why haven't I got a headache?
Not that she made a habit of heavy drinking, but the only times she'd ever woken up without a clue where she was, who she was or what had happened the night before it was a result of a trip to the local saloon. A common symptom that accompanied those was a banging headache, like a thunder cloud was raging beneath the pasty white of her forehead. Yet not today, for some unknown reason. She felt fine, except for a distant absence. It took her a few seconds to realise why but eventually she managed it. The missing memories hadn't come back yet. She couldn't picture the sticky wood of the bar or the beer squelched carpets of the tavern, couldn't feel the unintentionally violent shoves and barges as she jumped up and down in some mosh pit, her ears almost bleeding at the scream of the donkey rock before her. None of that was coming back. She didn't like it.
Deciding that she maybe needed a little longer, to allow the headache to flare up and wash her memories back alongside the pain, to negate the panic beginning to wash through her empty mind, she turned her attention to the room around her. It wasn't big; she'd been in escape pods that were more spacious but neither was it homely. Her first space job had been as a cleaner on a Cycler Hotel between Kirkwood and Isherwood and, although it had been ridiculously small, the owners had made it warm, comforting and homely. A grin danced across her face. She was remembering stuff already. Couldn't have been that bad a hangover.
Anyway, the ship she was on now had walls of a dulled grey with strip lighting along the length of the ceiling. There was a huge circular window at the far end but shutters descended across it, blocking the view. Behind her, on the other end wall, was a ladder leading up to a closed door. Through there would be the computer system flying them. This ship was too small to be a manual drive, which she normally wouldn't mind but, in this situation with a lack of memory, it was making her anxious.
Sharing the small autopod with her were three other life forms. They were all relatively humanoid, ranging in height and build. One of them was a bloke, a big one too, maybe a soldier from his huge frame. Another was a woman, all slight and perfectly proportioned. She had a face like an Edener and instantly Luna- OH PRAISE THE LORDS, SHE COULD REMEMBER HER OWN NAME- felt more and more inadequate. She raised a couple of porky fingers and pressed at the round snout in the middle of her face. It wasn't as notable as her tusks but it was beginning to bristle again. She'd have it waxed next supply stop. A frown crinkled across her forehead. Supply stop? She was on a long haul, then, but a long haul where and with who?
The third humanoid, she couldn't identify gender wise. All Luna could tell was that the person was covered in grey fur, interrupted merely by purple spots. There was a black spacesuit covering her stunted body from the neck down but Luna couldn't make out any deliberate branding. Who were these people? And what was the ship?
Before she could ponder the questions further, there was a loud groan. She turned suddenly and saw the big man clambering to his feet. With him stood, he doesn't look nearly as imposing. Sure, he was bigger than your average Edener but his muscles had partially withered away and too much silver flecked his hair for a big Lourdaud girl like herself to be scared. She also couldn't help but notice a large red drum attached to his back with a plethora of cables. It looked almost like a droid but she couldn't imagine what a droid was doing hooked up to someone. He blinked a few times and then faced her, frowning. "Who are you?" He demanded. His accent was the deep confidence of a Falout soldier, maybe a general of some sort.
"Luna." She said, feeling a little woozy. "I think, er, I think I'm something to do with space."
"What do you mean think?" He asked then frowned. "Wait a second. How'd we get here?"
"I've no idea either. I can't remember anything, actually. Just my name and that I was once a cleaner."
"Hm. Turn around a second, would you?" He asked, clambering over the two others and studying the back of her neck. He nodded. "Thought so. Sorry if this stings."
She went to protest but felt his fingers, cold as they were, scrabbling against the back of her neck. And then she felt his nails digging and tearing. A yelp escaped her mouth as he tore something off her. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I'm helping you, lass." He said. "Someone put an Antimnem Patch on you. You know what one of those is?"
She raised her hand to the rectangle on the back of her neck where her hair had been torn away, rubbing it softly. "Yeah, I suppose so. They make you forget stuff, don't they?"
"They inject chemicals into your spinal chords which then disrupt your brain chemicals so you suffer an artificial amnesia." He nodded. "Handy little things, aren't they Whizzer."
Whizzer? She frowned and then saw. The red drum on his back was a droid after all, with a small arm rising up from the dome at the top, extending out different attachments to peel off the patch on the back of his neck.
"You're lucky I have a resistance to 'em, lass, otherwise neither of us would know what were wrong." He said. "I'm assuming our companions on the floor have 'em too. I'll get the ginger one, you deal with Little Miss Furball. Looks like it'll need a delicate touch."
"Yes, of course." Luna said, then paused. "How long does it take for memories to come back?"
"Depends how recent they are, and what species you are." He eyed for a second and then said, "You're a Lourdaud, right?"
She nodded. Fifth generation freed Lourdaud, born in the Lorem System but emigrated to the Edens.
"Well then, probably take you a couple of hours to get your most recent memories but base stuff should come pretty quick. You worried you're gonna remember this is a prison ship?"
"Why? Is it?"
"No idea, love. I had one of the patches on too, you know. Now, go get that patch off Furball before she wakes up and blames us for it."
Luna nodded and, as delicately as a girl of six foot with massive feet could manage, made her way over to the furry thing that the man had labelled a woman. She realised she didn't know the bloke's name but then, introductions would probably be made once everyone was awake. Kneeling down, she turned her attention to the pack of the woman's neck. The fur was fluffy and boisterous all over except for one small rectangle at the base of the neck. Pushing the overlapping fur aside, Luna saw the Antimnem Patch. It was a quadrilateral of clear material, interrupted only by a green barcode at the bottom. She reached down and took hold of it. Did she do it slowly and risk waking the lady up or did she do it as quick as possible like ripping off a plaster? She decided quickly, tightened her grip and yanked.
A small clump of fur came with it and the small creature woke up howling. Although her voice was deep, it was recognisably female. She rolled over and swore a few times in a foreign language. Then she switched to the Eden tongues and said, "What in the Hellfire of Raxillion Beta do you think you're doing, lassie?"
"You, er, you had a, oh, look, you had this." Luna passed over the hairy Antimnem Patch. The furball studided it, her beady black eyes sat beneath huge whiffs of white fur. The more Luna stared, the less she was sure what species the creature was. Suddenly, the black eyes turned to her and Luna nearly leapt out of her skin.
"What's so interesting, huh? My eyebrows wonky or something?" She let out a grin, her huge mouth opening to reveal row after row of white teeth. "Who are you and where are we?"
"I'm Luna, that's, er, what did you say your name was again?"
"I didn't." He said. "But I'll tell you now. My name is Avksenity. The little red guy on my back is Whizzer. Who are you?"
"Po." She said. "Where are we?"
"No idea." Avksenity said. "Maybe this little lady will remember?"
"Do you know her?" Luna asked.
"No, but she's a Clio. She's made for remembering stuff." With that, he knelt down and tore the patch off the back of her neck. The woman breathed in dramatically, jumping from the floor and almost attacking Avksenity. She managed to recover and then glanced around the room, terrified.
Now would be a good time to quickly explain that some of the Cosmos' space stations rely not on captured slave species but instead on genetically engineered and organically grown BioAssistants or, as they were colloquially known, flowers. Each was named after an old Earth god that corresponded to their speciality; Mnemosynes and Clios made ideal secretaries and archivists due to their memories, Ares and Athenas were perfect soldiers and guards due to their brute strength and cunning and Aphrodites and Eros, well, let's leave that to the imagination.
The one in front of them was a Clio, characterised by her ginger hair. Once she'd managed to calm herself, she frowned and said, "What's going on?"
"We don't know." Po said. "I reckon we shine some light on the subject. Your droid hack tech, Av?"
"It can." Avksenity said. "Why?"
"That window down there should have a control panel just to the left. I'd hack it myself- I'm an astromech- but I don't have any tools. See if your droid, what'd you call him?"
"See if Whizzer can open the window up. Let's see where we are." Avksenity nodded and made his way down the length of the ship, sitting down on the bench on the wall and hauling open a small black panel on the wall. Whizzer let out a whirring and then, from the bottom, a cable was released. At the end of the cable was an omni-port which he brought up and clicked into the wall. Whizzer's lights flickered in a strange array, a few inarticulate beeps were given off and then there was a soft hiss. The omni-port was ejected and retracted back into the red drum. "Here we go." Avksenity said.
The huge grey shutter began to unravel, pulling back and growing smaller. The beam of light that shot through the gap blinded them for a few moments and by the time their eyes cleared of luminescent fuzz, they were able to look out in abject horror. "Is that what I think it is?" Luna asked.
"Oh gods. We're going to die." Po grumbled.
Avksenity didn't say anything, leaving it to Clio to identify their untimely fate. They were floating through space towards a huge, rippling ball of crimson fire. "That's a red giant. We'll be vaporised."