ACE - Artificial Intelligence

10 - Horizons

-Renly Tesik - 12 - Location: Unknown - 3.17.2127

"Eddin?" The boy in the co-pilot seat asked nervously. The shuttle around the two boys shook uncontrollably while Eddin struggled to maintain control. "Do you need help?"

"Not yet, Renly," the pilot replied with a smug grin. "I'll need your help when we hit lower atmosphere, though. You're the one with more experience flying planet-side."

Renly couldn't help but to smile proudly at Eddin's response. He decided that it was best to just relax and let the clone do what he needed to do. The shuttle was low on fuel, only loaded with enough to make it to the outpost on Sirius-III, leaving the boys wondering if they even had enough to make it to the preprogrammed landing site. 

"Why are you being so quiet, Renly?" Eddin asked above the rattling sounds coming from the shuttle around them. 

"I was letting you concentrate," Renly replied with a light giggle. "So, did I say anything else in my message to you?"

"I'm not allowed to say, Renly," Eddin said softly. "Just follow your instincts and remember where the cards currently lay. Then, you'll find your way." Eddin couldn't help but giggle at his play on words. Then, the ship suddenly dropped beneath the sky cover and Eddin was all business, again. "Grab that stick, Renly! Be ready in case there's any cross winds!"

"Aye, Captain," Renly acknowledged before doing as he was told. The boy marveled at the resistance he felt just by barely touching the control. He glanced over at Eddin in amazement.

"What?" Eddin asked when he caught the other boy looking at him. "Do I have a booger on my face?" 

"No," Renly replied as he quickly recovered with a laugh. "Not at all, Eddin. I'm just amazed at the pressures you're fighting against."

Eddin laughed. "The computer is helping, Renly. I'm not even close to being strong enough to control this ship without help."

Renly chuckled and relaxed his grip a little on the control stick. "You should have just let me believe otherwise, Eddin." 

"I can't lie to you," Eddin replied with a roll of his eyes. "You should know that!"

"I'm allowed to forget a few things, Eddin," Renly giggled. "It's your job to remind me of everything that I've forgotten."

"Oh joy," Eddin said facetiously. "I can't wait."

The ship continued to rattle its way through the skies of the strange world as Eddin and Renly kept the vessel on its landing course. Eddin kept a close eye on the monitors, while also trying to look through the windshield as the world passed by below them. Neither boy knew where the preprogrammed coordinates were taking them, only hoping that Renly Tesik had known what he was doing when he had planned this escape attempt.

"What do you think is waiting on us?" Renly asked, trying to search his memories for anything that would give him a hint as to what they might run into. 

"I wish I knew," Eddin replied with an edge to his voice. "I hate not knowing what to expect."

Renly could only agree with the other boy, his own gaze drawn to where a flock of strange looking birds were suddenly rising out of the tree tops. The boy smiled tentatively as the ship passed by the flock without incident. He could have sworn that the birds had two sets of wings each, and their skin reflected the light of the planet's star like crystals shimmering under the sun. 

"This place is beautiful," Renly commented as he took in the sight of a river twisting off into the hills in the distance. 

"It's not marked on any maps," Eddin added. "I wonder how you found it."

"Me?" Renly asked in confusion. 

"I mean. . . You know. . . You," Eddin said, motioning towards the other boy. "The other you."

"Oh," Renly said in comprehension. His brow scrunched up as he lost himself in thought. "It does make you wonder what he was up to before he died."

Eddin frowned. "I'd rather not know. If it was enough for my grandfather to be murdered over, then I don't want to be a part of it."

"I don't think he really gave us a choice in the matter, Eddin," Renly observed as the ship suddenly dropped in speed and angled towards a warehouse sitting in the middle of a large forest. "We're about to find out, though."

-Lieutenant Getty Roberts - 16 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

Getty walked around the exterior of the ship with the maintenance officer, inspecting the progress of the repairs of the Destiny. The pilot listened intently as the older man pointed out several areas that had taken damage from gun fire.

"Those plates were reinforced with a special mesh paneling manufactured from carbon-fiber and obsidian," the man explained. "That way you'll have a little more protection the next time that your shields fail you, Captain."

"Thanks, Major," Getty nodded in acknowledgement. The maintenance team of the Outpost had become more than willing to assist once Getty agreed to take Mr. Banks along with them. "Say, what would you be able to tell me about Proctor Banks?"

The major grunted in disapproval. "That man. . ."

"Oh?" Getty asked, feeling that his suspicions about the man were being validated. 

"Don't trust a word he says, even if it's in writing," the major told Getty under his breath. "He'll screw you over before he loses any sort of profit."

"What do you mean?"

"Take this ship for example," the man stated, motioning to the Destiny. "He's only fixing it up for you, because he needs something. My thoughts - he wants the ship."

Getty hesitated. The man's words sunk in hard as he realized that he didn't even consider that to be an option. Was the proctor really just outfitting the Destiny so he could steal it?

"Do you believe him capable of taking my ship?"

"Don't let his appearance deceive you, Pilot," the major warned, quickly glancing around to make sure nobody could hear them. "If my suspicions are correct, he's an Imposter."

"I thought you guys had managed to wipe them all out?" Getty asked, his heart hammering in his chest.

"I thought so, too," the man said in return. "Then, I noticed something about him. Something odd."

"Like?" Getty urged.

"He's always checking over his shoulder."

Getty frowned. "He mentioned that his life was in danger. . ."

"The Proctor Banks that I know," the major stated. "He never used to check over his shoulder. Not until after the Imposters had attacked."

"I see," Getty acknowledged. "Any idea on where the real Proctor Banks is?"

"Dead," the mechanic said in a flat voice. 

"Oh. . ."

The man continued to show Getty the different changes that were being made to the Destiny. Getty's mind was fixated on the problem of getting rid of the proctor, though. He hoped Andrew was paying attention to what the major was saying.

"You won't be ready to leave for another forty-eight hours, at least," the major suddenly said in a quiet voice. "You won't have to worry about the Imposter. We know how to test to see if it's one of them, or not. If it's really Proctor Banks, he'll be allowed to leave of his own accord. We'll even give him a ship."

"And if he's an Imposter?" Getty was almost afraid to ask.

"He'll take a long walk out of a short airlock."

Getty swallowed nervously. 

"So, either way, he won't be your problem," the man confirmed. "I trust that this conversation will remain between us."

"I have two men in my ship that I report to, but they are to be trusted in every situation," Getty responded. "We'll respect your need for discretion."

"I'll make sure that your ship is ready to leave on time, Captain Roberts," the major said with a nod of his head before he left Getty alone next to the Destiny.

Getty watched the man leave the hangar before he slipped into the ship, his thoughts all over the place as he considered the information he had just received from the mechanic. 

'I didn't even ask him his name,' Getty realized as he made his way back to his cabin.

-Colonel Jackson Tesik - 36 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

Jackson watched Mason closely. He couldn't bring himself to look away whenever his son was in the room. The sound of the teenager's voice was still fresh in his mind, after playing the recording multiple times throughout the prior three days. He couldn't stop himself from shedding tears the first time he listened to the recordings of Mason's tenor voice, unable to tear himself away from the innocent sound. A voice that had never been used to form words before. Silence broken by a force greater than the Gods themselves.

"Prophecy," Jackson muttered under his breath as he sat at the small table in the Mess Hall. The cup of coffee in his hand had long since gone cold, forgotten by the arrival of Mason and the Prince of Pydrak. The two boys would sit in silence, sharing their inner thoughts with each other without the necessity for vocalizing their words. Linked by a bond that could only be broken by death itself, Mason and Deegan were partners for life. 

Jackson was on the verge of calling the boys over to him when his older brother entered the Mess Hall with a determined look on his face. Stanley Tesik sat on the bench opposite Jackson and folded his hands together. The older man spoke in a low voice when he addressed Jackson.

"What did you find out?" 

"Enough to know that the workers in this outpost think that Proctor Banks is an Imposter," Stanley informed his younger brother. "Word has spread throughout the facility that our new friend is planning on skipping town, and the citizens are planning on exposing him for what he really is."

"How do they plan on doing that?"

"Apparently," Stanley began with a shrug, "they've got some kind of machine that reveals whether or not you're an Imposter. Then, if he's not who he claims to be, they're going to throw him from an air lock."

"Oh," Jackson replied, unsure of how to continue. "What should we do, Stanley?"

"We should wait, and see how this plays out."

"I agree," Getty stated as he joined the two men. "The major said that the proctor would be free to go if he was the real Proctor Banks. They're even going to give him a ship with supplies."

"So, it's not really our problem?" Jackson asked.

"Not at the moment," Getty replied. "I suggest we figure out what's going on with the assassin."

"I have some information on him, too," Stanley told them. "They found three dead bodies, and they were all connected to the assassin. They're planning on ejecting him from the same air lock as the Imposter."

Jackson leaned forward with a grin on his face.

"I love when things work out in our favor," the Colonel said with relief. "Now, what else did you guys learn today?"

-Lieutenant Commander Dinrak Soren - 23 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

Dinrak studied the diagrams, anxiously searching for a way to keep Andrew from being detected by outside sensors. The former android's programming had adapted to the Destiny the moment he had uploaded into the ship's mainframe, leaving Andrew attached to every part of the vessel. Dinrak frowned, his skin glowing a dull red in color, signifying the man's frustration. After spending days trying to figure out a way to isolate Andrew from the remainder of the Destiny, Dinrak was at his wit's end. 

"I don't know what else to try, Andrew," the alien muttered as he entered a different code into the command line. "You have integrated yourself to the point that there is no way to determine where the Destiny ends and you begin. There's got to be a way to keep you from being spotted by any outside vessels."

"Without having to turn you off," Wesley amended from his stool near the door. "So, don't even consider it, Andrew."

"There might not be any other way, gentlemen," Andrew replied before he fell silent. 

"We'll figure it out, Andrew," Wesley said into the air, knowing that Andrew wouldn't respond. He could almost feel Andrew's despair as Dinrak continued to sort through the coding that made up the program that controlled the Destiny. "I promise."

"He's in everything," Dinrak muttered. "How did he even manage it?"

"It had to have been the wormhole," Wesley suggested. "Andrew was connected to the operating system when the Destiny went through the wormhole. Maybe he was already partially integrated in the ship's systems because of the power surge? That could be why he wouldn't wake up after you disconnected him. He was missing half of his identity. When you removed him from this body and put him into the Destiny, you were just making him whole, again."

"I think you're right," Dinrak smiled at his companion before turning back to the work station. "Now, let's see if we just moved him to another location. . ." The Fandrian's fingers flew across the keyboard as he entered the variants for the new simulator. Then, he sat back and watched with a thoughtful expression on his face as the different results flashed across the screen. "There's still some data left in the various systems, but it's virtually undetectable."

"Virtually, Dinny?" 

"You would have to know what you're looking for in order to find Andrew, now," Dinrak explained without looking away from the data that was being displayed. "We could move him to the life support systems while the work crews repair the engines, then just move him to the engines when that work is done."

"If you think it will work," Wesley hesitated.

Dinrak slipped off of the stool he was sitting on and crossed the room to the blond-haired teenager. Then, Dinrak took Wesley's hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

"Trust me, my love," the alien said in a soft tone. "I will always save our friends."

Wesley studied the boy-looking man standing in front of him for a moment before he nodded in acceptance of Dinrak's proposal.

"I'm going to show this to Jackson and Getty, Wesley," Dinrak stated, pulling a small USB drive from the front of his work station. "Would you like to come with me?"

"Umm, no," Wesley finally answered. "I think I'm going to talk to Andrew for a little bit."

"I'll see you soon, Wesley," Dinrak said before he slipped from the room, leaving Wesley alone.

-Mason Tesik - 14 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

Mason was grateful that he didn't have to explain the dream to anyone. Prince Deegan, using their mental bond, was able to see Mason's dreams and tell Mason's father about them. Mason was there with his prince while his father listened intently to every word, almost like he had been expecting the boys to come to him. Mason had been avoiding his father since Wade's defection, but now he had no choice. The urgency of his dreams made Mason go to his father. Seeing the Destiny explode, multiple nights in a row, was enough to unsettle any normal person. Especially, someone that was just on the cusp of entering their teenage years.

Mason had felt nothing but relief the moment he had relayed the information to his father, but only time would tell if that would put a stop to the ever-present nightmares that fueled the boy's sleep. Jackson Tesik had absorbed the information like a sponge, planning moves before his middle child had even finished telling him everything.

Back in his room, Mason sat and waited for someone to let him know what was going on with the Destiny. Mason could communicate with Andrew using any dataport, but this always made the boy feel disconnected from everybody else. He preferred using sign language, or using the bond he shared with Deegan for communication. Mason and Wesley had communicated this way a few times, but Wesley was the one to make the connection each time. Mason didn't want to push his own thoughts to Wesley for fear of interrupting something important that the android may be doing. 

'They're preparing for war,' Mason told himself in reassurance. 'Everybody is busy.'

Mason felt the pressure in his cabin change, and he turned to see his younger brother standing in the entryway.

-Come in, Cort,- Mason signed to the twelve-year-old.

Cort immediately smiled and slipped into the room, quickly crossing to where Mason was standing. He only hesitated for a moment before throwing his arms around Mason. Mason felt Cort tremble before the younger boy stepped back.

"Are you okay, Mason?" Cort asked, signing as he spoke to his deaf brother. "I just got the urge to come sit with you."

-I appreciate it, Cort,- Mason signed in return. -Honestly, I was beginning to feel a little lonely.-

"Where's Prince Deegan?" Cort had to spell out Deegan's name.

-I think he's with Chos.-

"His tutor?"

Mason nodded in acknowledgement.

"Isn't Chos supposed to be training you, too?"

Mason just shrugged in response.

-I think they're discussing the meaning behind my dreams,- Mason explained. -I'm sure Deegan will tell me when he's ready. Or dad will tell us.-

"Yeah, you're probably right," Cort shrugged. "Do you want to watch a movie with me?"

-That seems like a good idea to me,- Mason agreed. -Maybe, it will help me take my mind off of everything.-

"Come on," Cort said excitedly as he pulled Mason along behind him.

Mason couldn't help but smile as he let his brother lead him to the main cabin where there was a screen with a library of movies attached to it. Cort motioned towards the empty seats as he programmed the food simulator to make some popcorn. Mason could see that Cort was talking to someone by the way he was moving his lips, but he couldn't see what his younger brother was saying. Mason was about to ask Cort what he was saying when the screen at the front of the cabin flickered to life with the credits of an old superhero movie.

"I asked Andrew to start the movie for us," Cort explained when he noticed Mason looking at him curiously. The younger boy handed his brother a bowl of popcorn before making himself comfortable in one of the empty seats with his own snack. Mason smiled and joined Cort as the lights in the cabin faded down.

Mason didn't even mind when Cort nestled into his side. Instead of complaining, he simply put his arm around the younger boy's shoulders, and held him as they enjoyed their time together. 

Two brothers. . .

Just existing, and enjoying life while they still could.

-Renly Tesik - 12 - Location: Unknown - 3.17.2127

Renly held his breath as the large doors on the massive warehouse began to slide open slowly. Eddin stood beside him, calm on his exterior, but Renly knew the other boy was trembling on the inside. They were both terrified of what the older version of Renly had gotten them involved in. The only reason Renly existed was because his former counterpart had been assassinated. His life taken from him over a secret that had not been revealed to anyone that Eddin or the clone of Renly knew of.

'Secrets upon secrets,' Renly thought bitterly as the doors slid to a stop and a man wearing an Association uniform stepped out from between them. The black-haired man approached the two clones with a steady pace, and a serious expression on his face. He was only ten feet away from the boys when he stopped and saluted them both.

"Good evening, gentlemen," the man greeted them. "I trust that your journey was uneventful?"

"Considering the situation?" Eddin countered. "This is the most eventful part, so far."

The man smiled briefly before he introduced himself. "I am Captain Adam Brenth, a friend and ally of Admiral Renly Tesik." Both boys glanced at each other while the man continued. "I also know that you are both clones of your former selves. I helped Admiral Tesik secure the funding for the program that created you, and the others that are in this facility."

"Others?" Renly asked curiously. "There's more besides our family?"

"Yes, sir," Adam replied. "I believe that there were other programs, as well. Ones that copied our design, and produced their own subjects."

"Is that all we are?" Eddin asked feeling slightly offended.

"No," Adam said without hesitation. "You're living - breathing organisms that have a conscious. You were only subjects until your heart began to beat for the first time." Adam motioned for the boys to follow him. "Come with me, gentlemen. We already have a suite ready for you in the labs. Your ride should be here in seven days, at the most. Admiral Tesik was adamant that you be kept comfortable while you wait. "

"What the fuck, Renly?" Eddin mumbled to the other boy as they followed Adam. "What did you get us involved in?"

"Don't look at me, Eddin," Renly parried quickly. "I had about as much to do with this as you did. I don't even know where we are."

"You could always ask," Eddin pointed out, motioning towards the man leading them into the massive facility.

"So, could you," Renly countered smugly.

Eddin rolled his eyes. "Excuse me, Captain Brenth?"

"Yes, Eddin?" Adam replied with a quick glance over his shoulder. "What can I help you with?"

"Could you tell us where we are?"

"You're on Tesik-3, sir," Captain Brenth replied proudly. "One of the colonies founded by your family. This warehouse is a Top-Secret Bunker that only a few ranking officials know about."

"Oh," Eddin paled. "I don't think that was the answer I was expecting. . ."

Eddin and Renly froze as they entered the warehouse, and stared in awe as a giant mechanized robot, standing over ten meters tall, settled into a special support harness that was built into the structure of the warehouse itself. Several ant-like creatures swarmed out of a nearby passageway and began crawling over the robot. 

"Pretty cool, right?" Adam asked as he waited for the boys to regain their composure. "The bugs are drone workers that repair any damages the Mach-3 acquires during normal operations."

"Secrets upon secrets," Eddin mumbled.

"This is just the beginning," Adam commented with a grin. "Wait until we hit the lower levels. You'll never want to leave." Adam motioned towards a door in the far wall. "The elevator is this way."

"I would suggest that you don't touch anything, once we get downstairs," Captain Brenth told the boys as the elevator doors slid closed behind them. "Some of the lifeforms on Tesik-3 are very wary of personal space, and they will become hostile if you invade that space."

"We'll be careful," Renly quickly assured the man. 

"There's another thing," Brenth continued in a hushed tone. "Watch what you say here. Admiral Thomas has a far reach."

"My grandfather?" Eddin asked in surprise. "What could he have to do with any of this?"

Adam Brenth frowned as he responded to the clone's question. "He's the man that had Renly Tesik murdered," Adam stated gravely. "He's the man behind everything! He's been trying to get control of the Association for quite some time. Now that he has it, it's believed that he's going to start an intergalactic war between the major families."

"What families?" Eddin asked nervously.

"All of them, Eddin," Adam replied in a sad tone. "Every single one of them. It's going to be a war that lasts for Ages!"

-Wade Thomas - 24 - Unknown Location - 3.17.2127

Wade tapped the display screen with a frown on his face. The young man was in a part of space that he had never been to before, and the absence of anything around him was beginning to make him nervous. In the distance, the darkness was spotted with stars and galaxies, but he couldn't discern which one his small shuttle was heading towards.

"You're crazy for doing this, Wade," he mumbled to himself. "Edward Thomas has done nothing for you. Why would you abandon the ones that love you?" 

Wade paused as he continued to look out through the windshield. Edward Thomas's offer had seemed like a good idea at the time, but after two days of doing nothing but thinking about his decision, Wade was second guessing himself. 

"Eddin would be so ashamed of me."

Then, Wade did the only thing that he could to pass the time. Wade reclined the flight seat and decided to nap. Wade was nearly asleep when a very familiar voice echoed throughout the cabin around him.

"Why did you defect from the Tesik Family, then?"

"Andrew?" Wade asked in surprise, glancing through the viewport to see if the Destiny had caught up with him. "How is this. . .? What the heck? I don't see you guys anywhere!"

"We're not near you, Wade," Andrew assured the young man. "We're not even going to be heading in the same direction as you. Nobody else knows that I've been able to maintain contact with you."

"How do I know that you're telling the truth?" Wade demanded.

"Have I ever lied to you before, Wade?" Andrew countered.

"No," the young man admitted sullenly. "What do you want, Andrew?"

"Just to understand why you left the people that cared about you, and are now in route to the man that is responsible for the murder of your grandfather?"

"You wouldn't understand, Andrew," Wade deflected.

"I've got time," Andrew stated. "Make me understand."

"And if I don't want to?"

"I'll leave," Andrew bluntly replied. "You'll never hear from me again."

Wade frowned.

His mind was racing with his thoughts about the entire situation, and where he thought he was supposed to be supportive of the man that had brought his father into the universe. The man that had funded his undergraduate studies when Renly Tesik had refused.

Finally, after several minutes of silence, Wade delivered his response to Andrew's question.

"You should leave, Andrew," Wade said with a note of finality to his voice. "Tell my uncles that I'll never be able to thank them enough for everything they have given to me. Goodbye, Andrew."

"Goodbye, Wade," Andrew replied sadly. "I wish you well, Wade Thomas."

With that, there was only silence as Wade took in the vast emptiness of space around him. Completely alone, with his sights set on the horizon before him. To Wade, there was nothing salvageable about what he had done. So, Wade turned to the only choice remaining that he thought he had.

"Goodbye, Eddin," Wade whispered. "I'll never forget you, little brother."

Then, Wade flipped off the life support systems on the shuttle, and relaxed in the flight seat. Seconds later, he was asleep, with nothing left to worry him as he made his final choice.

-Admiral Edward Thomas - 63 - Earth Star Port 1.1 - 3.17.2127

The admiral stared at the boy standing before him.

"The fact that you're here could mean only one thing," the man stated pointedly, crossing his arms against his chest. "Your counterpart failed in his assignment."

Edward watched the silent boy, wondering what he was thinking as the admiral had tried to pry his last moments from him. If anybody had found out about Edward's plan to overthrow A.C.E., his entire family would be shunned by the organization. The man didn't want to think about what that would do to the galactic economy. Worlds would be sent into poverty as their primary exports went stagnant, businesses marred for life just because they were associated with the Thomas Family. No. Edward wasn't going to let that happen. The life before him didn't belong to the one wearing the face of his grandson. It was a copycat. A shadow of its former self. 

The man closed his eyes for a moment. He needed to figure out a way to turn this to his favor. Edward needed a way to win the war. Was the clone standing before him the answer that he was looking for? Would the clone be able to command an army of soldiers to follow it into battle?

The man doubted that even the real Wade Thomas would be able to gather a following. What would make Edward believe that the clone version of Wade could do any better?

The man sighed in defeat. There was no place for this monster amongst A.C.E. No. Wade Thomas would have to stay dead. It was the only way. 

The dot of red appeared in the center of the clone's chest before the report of the pistol rang out in the office. The admiral set the smoking gun on the surface of the coffee table as the clone of Wade fell to the floor and died.

"Pathetic," Edward Thomas muttered before he called for someone to drag the dead body from his office. As he waited, the man relaxed in his chair deciding what his next direction was going to be. "The first thing that I need to do is find a way to destroy Tesik's Cloning Program. That way I can be sure that the Tesik Family stays dead when I murder them."

-Lieutenant Getty Roberts - 16 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

Getty strolled across the massive hanger bay to where the crowd had gathered, surrounding the man that claimed to be the proctor for the Outpost. Men and women were shouting and throwing trash at the man as security guards led him to a raised platform. The man had his head down until he was ordered to look up. His steely gaze passed over Getty, and the man looked half afraid for a split second before his gaze returned to normal. If it was the real Proctor Banks, he would be given his own ship, money, and substantial supplies to leave the Outpost with no hard feelings either way. If he was an imposter though, he was going to be thrown out of an airlock. He wouldn't be alone on that harrowing journey. The assassin that had been tailing the Destiny was going to be sentenced to death with the Imposter.

The young man stood at the edge of the crowd and watched in silence as a strange face-piece was put over Proctor Banks's face. Then, the security officers stepped to the side while the strange machine was turned on. Banks screamed as his skin began to undulate across his body, shimmering in the light as if he was covered in oil. When the first tear in the man's skin appeared across his face, Getty returned to the Destiny

"Welcome back, Getty," Andrew greeted the young man as he stepped aboard. 

"Thanks, Andrew," Getty replied. The young man was about to say something else when a loud screeching sound filled the bay behind him, followed by screams of terror and pain. He turned to face the commotion just as Andrew slammed the outer door closed, and sealed Getty inside the Destiny. Getty looked at the barrier in surprise. "What the hell, Andrew?"

"Apologies, Getty,"  Andrew tried to explain quickly. "The Imposter is heading directly towards the ship, sir. I had to take protective measures!"

Getty was suddenly slammed against the wall as the Destiny jerked to the side. The entire ship jostled as something attacked it from the outside. Getty felt his heart beginning to hammer in his chest as a wave of fear washed over him. Another sharp jolt made Getty fall to his knees and he quickly rolled away from the outer door as a massive dent appeared in the side of the ship.

"Charge the outside of the ship, Andrew!" Getty ordered. "Give it as much voltage as you can! Then, release it right before the Imposter tries to strike again."

"Aye, Captain!" Andrew replied. "Charging the cells now. Brace yourself, sir! We may have to take a few more hits before the charge is strong enough to release."

"Warn everyone on the Destiny, Andrew!" Getty commanded before remembering the one passenger that wouldn't hear the warning. "Where's Mason? He's probably scared shitless right now!"

"Mason is in his cabin, Getty," Andrew acknowledged. "I've used our lighting signal to notify him that there is a warning for him on the screen. He has read it, and is strapping himself into the flight-seat in his cabin."

"Thanks, Andrew!"

"Attention!" Andrew's voice echoed throughout the ship. "Stay away from the outer walls, and refrain from using anything that draws electricity for the next few minutes! We are being attacked by the Imposter, and we are going to defend ourselves with an electric charge directed against the outer shell of the Destiny! Brace yourself for any sudden impacts like we have been experiencing!"

A few seconds later, Andrew's voice was coming out of the speakers near Getty.

"Everybody has been warned, sir," the voice stated. "Every single person aboard this ship asked if Mason was okay."

Getty couldn't help but chuckle as he watched his life hang in the balance of a door that was barely hanging onto its own hinges.

"I hope we fucking make it through this, Andrew," Getty muttered as the monster continued to attack the ship.

"The batteries are nearly ready, sir," Andrew informed him. "The Imposter is getting ready to attack again. He seems to be using the tentacles that are around his mouth to latch onto the Destiny before he slams his shoulder into the side of the ship. I'll release the charge in 5. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . ."

Then, the ship jostled slightly as Andrew reached the number one. The second that he released the charge, the outer door came off of its track, and the entire ship was thrown to the side. Getty felt a wave of static discharge hit him, seeming to freeze him in the air as his body wasn't sure which way he should be flying from the different impacts. He felt himself turn over before slamming into the floor of the corridor. The monster screeched out in pain as it released its grip on the Destiny and stumbled backwards. The onlookers seemed to regain their senses and began firing at the Imposter in its weakened state. Moments later, it lay dead in the bay of the hanger, green blood flowing from its bullet riddled body. Getty wretched at the smell of burning flesh before he passed out.


-Colonel Jackson Tesik - 36 - Destiny - 3.17.2127

"It's going to be three days before I'm finished with the modifications and repairs on your ship, sir," the mechanic reported as he studied his clipboard. "Your on-ship mechanic informed me that the new engine is holding as it should, and will be ready for the atmospheric pressure tests when the rest of your ship is ready. Your A.I. told me that there have been multiple error codes since you passed through the wormhole. . ."

"You know about Andrew?" Jackson interrupted the man. 

"I have a way with electronics and machines, Colonel," the shorter man said with a shrug. "It was a quirk bred into my family line by the Harvesters."

Jackson nodded as he leaned back against the Destiny. "It was only a matter of time, I guess. Can you keep him a secret from everybody else?"

"Yes," the mechanic responded. "I'm the only one with access to this database."

"Thanks. . ." Jackson pressed for the man's name.

"I'm Major Collin Worthers, sir," the mechanic said greeting as he extended his hand to shake Jackson's. "You can call me Mechanic if you want."

Jackson froze at the man's proclamation and couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his lips. "We're going to be looking to fill a position on our ship here soon, Major Worthers. How would you feel about joining us on our little journey here?"

"What are you offering, Colonel?"

"What do you want?"

"Food in my belly, a comfortable place to sleep, and credits to spend when I go to port for whatever I need," Collin countered.

"I believe that can be arranged, Mechanic," Jackson grinned. "I'll let Captain Roberts know when he wakes up."

"How's Getty doing?" the mechanic asked grimly. "He took a hell of a hit from that electrical charge. He's lucky to even still be alive after that."

"It was touch and go for the first few hours," Jackson admitted. "But our crew doctor was able to stabilize him. Getty woke up for a few minutes this morning, but he mumbled something about being exhausted and fell back to sleep."

The mechanic nodded in understanding.

"I'll get our ship ready as soon as possible, Colonel," Major Worthers concluded the conversation. "I'll check in with you in a few hours to keep you updated on progress."

"Thank you, Mechanic," the colonel said as Collin walked away, studying his clipboard. "I look forward to our next meeting."

Jackson returned to the Destiny with a positive outlook for the future. Even if he didn't know what awaited them over the next horizon, the Tesik Family would always answer the call.