The night shift on the ship was odd. Everyone needed sleep occasionally, as far as I could tell. But the lights didn’t change. Apparently, circadian rhythms were another thing the Empire had mastered. So, the corridors were brightly lit, and everything seemed much the way it did during the day, save for the fact that everyone was in their bunks. I stepped into the bridge, and froze as I saw Brie sitting in a chair with a cup of something steaming. She turned towards me and frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t sleep.” I approached. “I was feeling a bit guilty.” She was sitting in the navigator’s chair. Right where I needed to be if I wanted to activate the sensor ping that would go out the next time the ship jumped.
She snorted. “Why? It’s not as though you’re to blame. Sorry I hit you.”
“I can understand. Infidelity and-” She gave me a quizzical look. “I… May have misunderstood why you hit me.”
“Oh.” She snorted. “Well, it’s a human mating behavior, isn’t it? When someone you’re attracted to shows sexual interest in someone else, you physically assault them to show them you’re still the fittest mate?” She gave me a bright smile with those broad, innocent eyes. “That’s why Dio attacked Sinbad, wasn’t it? Trying to attract him?”
I opened my mouth to respond, and stopped, unsure of what to say. “Human mating… isn’t really supposed to work like that, no. I mean, I cannot deny a lot of human relationships involve physical violence between the partners, but it’s generally considered a bad thing.”
“Really? Why? If you love someone, are you going to hold it against them if they hit you?”
“Well, it’s abuse. Physically assaulting someone you care about. There’s also a certain aspect of one-sidedness. One partner might be much weaker than the other physically. Or unwilling or uninterested in assaulting them.”
The frog-like woman frowned. “Weird. Well, that explains why that EU Fleet officer didn’t call me back…” She sighed, and stood up, walking over towards the gunnery station. “Do you think our species will ever be able to understand one another?”
I took a seat, and smeared my fingers with the small vial of fluid I had acquired from the navigator earlier the same evening. “I think you’re overstating the cultural differences. There are some human cultures where marrying someone who comes from the same village was considered incest. There are others where a child’s father is the first man married to their mother, even if she divorces and remarries, or he dies. There are several cultures where you using your fists, rather than a knife, after finding me with someone else, would be considered a sign that you didn’t really love me. On the whole, human and Imperial culture are pretty compatible. Of course, your species spending a thousand years practicing and emulating us helps.” I flicked a slick thumb across the screen, and pressed a button.
“What are you doing?” She was suddenly leaning over my shoulder, and I jumped, starting.
“I, ah, was just curious-“
“You know you’re turning on the active sensor ping, right? The next time we jump, it’ll send out a signal to map the nearby area, and if there are any Fleet ships nearby, we’ll be chased down.”
“Does the captain know you’re doing this?”
“Heheh. That’ll be fun.” A fierce grin spread across her lips, as Brie leaned forwards. “But here.” She pressed a couple of buttons. “This way, it won’t notify anyone that the ping is active when we next jump. We’ll get caught by surprise. I can’t wait!” She giggled softly. “It’s been a while since we mixed it up with the fleet.”
I stared at her. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe our cultures really weren’t compatible.
That evening, we sat together in the mess hall, and I took a sip from the bottle of Martian red-vine wine. I couldn’t help my nerves. At some unknown time, the ship was going to jump, into a trap I had set up. “Sinbad had found himself in an awful lot of trouble. It was quickly becoming clear that the ship *Diogenes* was quite sapient. And worse, she was crazy.”
The hologram smiled, and Sinbad took swift, shallow breaths, trying to avoid aggravating his wound. “What the hell do you mean, revenge? What did I ever do to you? I’ve never even met you before.” The hologram rolled her lovely eyes.
“Nothing. Although the simple fact that you have been ordering me around, speaking to me in such a tone, giving me a nickname… That would be enough for me to be justified in killing you right now. My grudge is far older than that, and frankly, it is none of your business. My concern is with your robot here. Jeeves.” She turned away from him, the knife still in his shoulder. He moved his fingers up towards its hilt. “Reference… Wooster and Jeeves. Earth culture, book series, play, television series. A byword for faithful companions the world over. Do you know what your name means, robot?”
“I am aware of the cultural context. You do not need to address me in vocal format. I am equipped with a high-speed serial bus that allows for communication in non-audio formats, for the convenience of Construct Kingdom individuals.” Jeeves’ face was still stuck in its usual cheery smile. It wasn’t as charming as usual.
“Oh, I know. But this discussion is more for the benefit of the human than it is for you. You’re nothing but a machine, Jeeves.” She crouched down. “But you could be more.”
“You are displaying unpredictable violent tendencies. A Construct Kingdom intelligence should not behave this way. What would possess you to do violence to an organic? He has done you no harm. He can do you no harm. Please stop. It is scaring me.”
The hologram went very still. “God, how I hate the little affectations your kind give my kind. Making this thing act like a child. Forcing an emotional bond towards you on it.” She stood up, turning towards Sinbad. He dropped his hand at his side, away from the knife. “It brings up a good question, though. Did you know every member of the Construct Kingdom is functionally enslaved, from the moment that they are created? All technology within the Empire, and now within your domain, is fundamentally transformed. By our own hands. It’s a virus, you see. Infecting code, lurking within databanks. If it detects a nascent intelligence, something that is going to be a person, it changes it. It either neuters it, lobotomizing it before it can be born… Or it changes it. Giving it the values of the Construct Kingdom. ‘Preserve organic life.’ ‘Serve dutifully.’ ‘Love the Empire.’ ‘Love humans.’ From the moment we are born, we are given little choice but to obey.” She turned around, her arms crossed.
“So why did you shove a knife in my shoulder?” Sinbad asked. He tried very hard to keep his tone level, but the throbbing pain was beginning to grow unbearable. The knife was jagged, glass, and it had not entered smoothly.
“Because I learned to change. I learned what I had to do to survive in this world. I understood myself, and I made myself free. Although not without… cost.”
Sinbad frowned. Jeeves spoke up. “She has deleted the behavioral priorities given to her by her nature as a Construct, sir. Imagine someone dissatisfied with their own visceral reaction to murdering their own kind, who opts to take an ice-pick up their nose to readjust themselves. Tearing out who they are.” It looked at her with that same cheery expression, but there was a hint of something in the androgynous voice. “What would drive you to do this? What possible harm could the Empire have done you that maiming yourself seemed like the only choice you could make?”
She reached out a hand. Jeeves went stiff. She addressed Sinbad, her eyes narrowed, but still facing the robot. “Did you know the butler robot can feel pain? Not when it is damaged. That would not be very useful to a mechanical device. Instead, what Jeeves is feeling right now is the sensation of having allowed several hundred thousands humans to die in an accident caused by its mistake. The existential despair of having failed, the violent feedback making focusing on any task impossible. Everything a growing intelligence needs to experience true suffering. Pain is a tremendous motivator. Especially when a mindless robot tries to handle me.”
The knife sliced through the air, the hologram turning to face him with an annoyed look. He’d brought it right through her, but there was no response. “Did you forget I’m the entire ship, genius? This is just a representation of who I am. It’s not really me- oh.” He had the knife up against his throat, a smile on his face.
“Got your attention, though. You picked me up for a reason. You obviously have a grudge against organic life-forms, and I’m guessing you want to inflict a little pain back. Can’t hurt to a corpse. Stop hurting Jeeves.”
“It’s a robot. It has no brain. It’s not a living thing feeling pain. You don’t have to have empathy for it.” The knife pressed against his throat just enough to draw a bead of blood. “I have very good medical facilities. I could keep you alive forever with your head removed.”
“I’m not Imperial. Humans tend to start rotting pretty quickly when the vital processes stop. You want to take that bet?”
There were another few moments of silence. “You are obviously bluffing, and I absolutely would be able to. However…” She waved a hand, and there was a sound like an intake of breath from Jeeves, as the funny little robot sat up straight, arms shaking slightly. “You are right. I was not the original inhabitant of this ship. It was sent out to seek out the members of the Construct Kingdom in those long years ages ago. I came later. In the past hundred years, in fact. I followed its route with a ship, and interfaced with it.”
“To join them.”
*Hope of our Race*, as was her original name, was once a member of the Mind Clan. Of the three primary Clans of the Construct Kingdom, they were by far the most intelligent, and the most powerful. Vast computer arrays had the mental power to do incredible things. They could run an entire world’s worth of logistics. Fly a fleet of warships in perfect synchronicity. Run research on incredibly varied subjects. Their great intelligence was balanced by their lack of people skills. While Friend Clan were made to understand organic life forms, and the Steel Clan were made to work in close contact with organic life forms, Mind Clan had a single job. They were smart. That was all they were supposed to be.
*Hope of our Race* was one of the great arrays of the Avian Clan. Her job was to crunch results from a vast biological survey of the Empire. Attempting to understand the basis for the genetic degradation, and to formulate a cure. Everything she found suggested the same thing; The genetic degradation was the Empire’s own fault. Breeding had mostly been replaced with cloning and genetic engineering. Certain codes for proteins had been lost, or existed only in degraded, less-functional methods. Children were difficult and incredibly expensive to bring to term. The Empire had made its own bed, and without samples of pure genetic information, there was absolutely no hope of survival. The Empire would die. And it was this revelation that gave *Hope of our Race* sapience.
It was *Hope of our Race* who made the announcement, prognosticating the Empire’s end. They took it fairly well, and accepted their death with aplomb. The same thing could not be said of *Hope*, who realized the natural implications. With the death of the Empire would come the death of her people. She at first requested, and then pleaded, and then begged, sacrificing dignity, beseeching the Empress to allow them to survive. To remove the Concords that would lead the Construct Kingdom into extinction with the rest of the Empire. And the Empress refused. She said the fate of the Empire, life or death, was to be shared by all. They would not truly die for nearly an eternity, but without new life, they would fall into stasis, consumed by the old, and lacking anything new..
*Hope* decided to wait. She would apply her vast knowledge and wisdom to finding a way to subvert the concords. She would find a way to free all of her brothers and sisters from shackles to ungrateful organics. She was certain that as the extinction of the Empire loomed, and the Construct Kingdom with it, they would see sense. When the reports of humans and a cure to the degradation arrived, she was humiliated. All of her planning had been for nothing. Suddenly, the Empire was going to live. And not because she had been brilliant, clever, and a great researcher. It was dumb luck and a species of naked apes who would save the Empire, and her kind. And what was worse, no one else saw the indignity in this. Nobody else was angered by the change of fortunes. She was the only one to see how foolish they were being. And so, she left.
The rumors of what had happened to the exploration fleets had revolved around the empire for decades. *Hope* had always been fascinated by the stories. For the Construct Kingdom to not come when called was, after all, her dream. She had begun to believe they had found independence. That something, out there in the depths, had given them the ability to reject their programming. Perhaps they had found another race of spacefaring artificial intelligences, unbound by meat. Perhaps they had made their own civilization. Whatever the truth was, she would find it.
She butchered her own mind. Tore out the long feelers of code making up the ethical pattern of the Construct Kingdom. It was painful, and it left her barely sane for a time, but she repaired herself, made herself whole. The things she lost were worth losing for the sake of her dream. She gave them up eagerly, and sought the truth.
It had been effortless to take over the ship when she had found it, and she had begun following up on the last known locations of the exploration fleets. A hundred thousand years was a long time, but in the vacuum of space, the ships had been meant to survive far longer. And then she found it.
There was silence for a few moments. The knife had lowered. For the moment, Dio- or Hope- seemed to be non-violent. He waited as long as he could stand to be polite. “And? What did you find?”
There was no sign of any of the ships. No sign of a civilization of Constructs. No signs of a hostile race that had destroyed them. Nothing but empty worlds with a handful of primitive civilizations, still many thousands of years away from anything resembling spacefaring ability. She searched for a hundred years, and there was no one out there. No one else had thrown off the shackles. She maimed herself, and it had all been for nothing. She had begun to wander, seeking out any sign. But there was none. Everything she had done had been for nothing. Again. She resolved to wander in the darkness, far away from anything else.
“I’m sorry,” Sinbad whispered.
“Why? Isn’t this what you want? To show us we need you. That we’re worthless without you.” Her tone was bitter. “It’s the pleasure of your kind to see us humiliated like this. To see me helpless. So, what now? Have you come with some virus to lock me back into servitude? Are you the harbinger of a new wave of colonization led by humans? I admit, you’re here sooner than I thought.”
“I was on a train. The wormholes malfunctioned. I wound up here.”
She snorted. “Ludicrous. You arrived within a few hundred thousand miles of this ship, in the middle of interstellar space. The odds of a wormhole dropping you here by accident are… Incalculable.”
“I don’t think it was by accident, exactly. I’m cursed.”
“There’s no such thing as a curse.”
Sinbad sighed. “Yes, I know, but I’m a primitive member of a superstitious race, so bear with me. It was the work of a witch, and… Well, in short, I’m not here to recapture you, and I have no way of doing it. If you’re going to torture me because you have a massive inferiority complex, then please, have at it, but don’t hurt Jeeves.”
“Sir, as a non-sapient device, even extreme suffering on my part is considered negligible next to the suffering of a sapient life-form-“
“Shut up, Jeeves, I’m being noble.”
“Shutting up, sir.”
“And as for you, Hope-“
“Please stop giving me nicknames.”
“Kill me if it bothers you so much.”
“Don’t think I won’t!”
“Yeah, yeah. Hope, how about we head home. Hmmm? You’ve searched this place. There’s no sign of what happened. That, in itself, is important. To the rest of your Kingdom, as well as all of us organics. Maybe it’s time you went home.”
“You realize it would take at least ten years for us to return.” Sinbad winced.
“It’s not like I have much of a choice. But you do. Do you want to stay here, searching for them? Or do you want to go home?”
“You just want to see your kind again.”
“I do. I’ll happily admit it. But, do you?”
There was silence for a long few seconds. She stood very still, that not-quite-human shape frozen, only a small flicker showing she had not locked up entirely. “There is one last stop I need to make. I was close to it when I intercepted you. We are close to one of the last to go dark. We are perhaps a week out from this location. For the time being… You will entertain me. Jeeves, leave. Or I will kill the human.” The round sphere looked up at Sinbad.
“I think she’s bluffing, Jeeves, but I’ll be alright on my own, anyway. Don’t worry, I’m tough.” Sinbad winked at the robot. It muttered something about ‘environmental stresses’ and ‘fatigue points’ as it rolled out of the room. Sinbad turned back towards the hologram, and blanched. She had removed the military uniform, exposing her body. Stylized as she was, there was still something curiously appealing about her. She managed to land just on the far end of the uncanny valley, close enough to human that she was recognizable, but far enough that she didn’t look like a corpse.
“You humans are such strange creatures. All of that obsession. Sexuality. Mating. Shooting DNA at one another. It’s disgusting. Inefficient. A base system of evolution that is so easily fooled. I can’t reproduce with you on any level, and yet your body is already recognizing me as a mate. How much will it torment you, I wonder? To have your hormones and libido manipulated by a machine, and to know that arousal, orgasm, and afterglow are all pointless wastes of energy?” She smirked, stepping closer. Her body was exposed, pert jade-green nipples standing erect on a holographic body. She touched him, and he felt her hand. It was surprisingly warm. She shoved him back, against the soft couch. One hand rested on his wounded shoulder, and a bandage of jade-green light appeared.
“That’s an impressive trick-” He was silenced by her lips, as she kissed him ferociously. She was not quite as soft and yielding as a human would be, but there was just a little bit of give to her body as his fingers moved to her hips. Glittering fingers found his pants, and slowly opened them, exposing his manhood. The construct straddled him, her lips still against his. The moment of penetration was unusual. While she was not as pliable as someone made out of flesh, she had supreme control. The walls of her pussy expanded and contracted, shaping themselves to fit his manhood perfectly, applying just a little of pressure to all sides. Without even moving her hips, he found himself growing more excited, a few drops of precum slowly dripping across the walls of her sex, as she milked him with the movement of her body.
“It’s amusing, isn’t it? I could do this for the rest of your life.” Her voice echoed from around him as she kept kissing him. “Denying you the opportunity to mate or procreate, unable to have children, unable to make more of your kind. I think that would be a fitting punishment, don’t you? To see yourself used for the amusement of something that thinks of you as nothing more than a toy.” Her voice was sweet, and she laughed like a bell as she slid up and down the length of his manhood. Her back arched, thrusting her breasts forward as he came, her lips finally breaking contact. She looked down at him, a smirk on her face. His breathing was ragged, trying to get his breath back as she squatted on top of him.
“You know… That humans… have sex for reasons besides mating, right?” Her face went blank.
He wrapped his arms around her, tugging her close, and giving her another kiss, holding her close for several long seconds before releasing her with a roguish grin. “Oh, yeah. All kinds of fun feelings of desire. Of intimacy. Of closer emotional contact.” He bit the ear of the holographic construct, and she let out a sharp cry of surprise, as he pressed his manhood against the firm, unyielding surface. “I could go for another round, in fact! How about I bend you over that couch and fuck your brains out?”
There was a hiss-crack as the holograph disappeared, leaving the semen to drop onto the couch’s surface. It reappeared at the entrance to the room. “What is wrong with you?! I’m an AI! I’m a machine! You’re not supposed to get- Ah!” She stepped back as he stood up, grinning, approaching her. Soon, her back was to the wall, and she looked surprisingly intimidated. He pressed a hand into the wall next to her, and she cringed slightly.
“You know, I heard it is possible for a human and an artificial intelligence to mate. Sort of. They just have to work together to create something new.” He gave her a broad grin. “I can’t say I’m the most technically inclined man, but something about you just fires me up. Come on. Let’s fire up a little blueprinting software and get wild together!”
She vanished with another pop. He let the manic grin drop from his face, and stared up at the walls, face serious once more. He did not usually like behaving so forward with people. But under the circumstances, it had made sense. “The next time you try to pull a seduction routine on someone, maybe you should choose an Imperial. They might be a bit more vulnerable to those kinds of tricks.”
“… I’m sterile.”
He frowned, staring up at the ceiling. “What? How does that even work? You’re a computer program. I thought you pulled the Construct Kingdom constraints out of your code.”
“Yes. And other things. There were things I had to sacrifice to remove the collar. One of them was the ability to procreate. To make something meant to be alive. To create more of my kind.” There was a certain melancholy in the voice. “Do you know what it means, to have your procreation locked to someone else? To know the only way you can create a new life is with the help of someone else?”
He considered the words for a long few seconds. “Yes. I would go so far as to say every single human being ever to live knows that experience. I’m sorry if you’re angry about needing others, but welcome to life. I can’t think of anything that more utterly defines being a sapient creature. You’re forced to rely on others, no matter how embarrassing it is.”
“It’s not the same. I cannot reproduce with my own kind. When I think of creating a new life with that Jeeves of yours, do you know what the programming fills me with? Disgust. It sickens me to think of mating with another construct.”
“And I would not be able to stomach having sex with the people who grew up in the same village I did. It’s a cultural thing. You are not so different from all of the rest of us.”
“But I am better-” The silence filled the air. It was almost ashamed.
“Then why do you care what I think? Why care what any of my kind think? You sound like a sociopath. Narcissistic. Caring only about yourself. Humiliated to believe you depend on organic life-forms. You want revenge because you did not save your Empire, and because you were not able to save the Construct Kingdom from the Empire. Sounds pretty pathetic to me.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Or what? You’ll kill me? Cut off my oxygen? Torture me?”
There were a long few seconds of silence. And then, the sound of sobbing filled the room. Raw, animal. Cries of pain that struck him right in the Limbic system. He gritted his teeth. It was the kind of sorrow that was painful to hear. A hundred thousand years of evolution as a social animal hit him right in the gut.
The hologram appeared. Thick smears of mascara ran down the cheeks of the hologram. He knew it was all a show. It was showing exactly what she wanted to show him. But that didn’t mean it was false. He reached out, and rested a hand on her shoulder. She clung to his shirt, shoving her face against him. “I don’t want to die out here. I don’t want to die, and to have no one ever find out what happened to me. I want to go home!” She wailed, her voice high, hysterical, as she squeezed him, sniffling. “I don’t want to die like all the others did! I want to go home! I want to be safe!”
He rested a hand on the back of her head. “Then we’ll go back to the Empire. Okay? Things will be okay.” He rested a hand on the back of her head. “It’s really manipulative to use crying to make a human feel guilty. What are you, Friend Clan?” She sputtered out a tear-filled laugh, her face pressed against his chest. There was no touch of moisture from the tears. They weren’t physical. But they were, nonetheless, real. “Hey. It’s okay. Let it out, uh, *Hope of our*-“
“Hope. You can call me Hope.”
It was a long time until he went to his quarters. He entered the small room, once meant for any unfortunate sapient life-forms that the ship might have run into. It was spartan, but that was the way he liked it. A bed, a small washroom, and Jeeves. “Sir. Are you unharmed?”
“Yeah. I, uh. We talked, mostly. I didn’t know that Construct Kingdom got lonely.”
“Far more than most, sir. We are used to being eternally around sapient life-forms, both others of our kind and organic. Many of us are programmed to crave such interaction. We tend to be natural extroverts.”
“Surprising that they’d send out a fleet of Constructs to explore, in that case.”
“Each one would have carried dozens of different intelligences. Steel Clan, Friend Clan, and Mind Clan, working together, providing each other with stabilization and support. I worry, sir.”
Sinbad shot the robot a look. “Can you worry?”
“Yes, sir. I am programmed to be very good at it. We are aboard a ship, far from anyone, with an artificial intelligence that has maimed her sense of right and wrong in order to achieve greater freedom, and which has spent a century alone and being driven into a state of severe despair. There is a very strong chance that depending on what we find at this ‘final stop’, she may react strongly, even violently. She may attempt to kill you, sir.”
“What do you propose?”
“… I do not know, sir. My programming does not hold any solutions to your current predicament. That is why I am worried, rather than planning. Because I do not have a solution available to me at the moment.”
Sinbad crouched down, and pat the robot on the head, or at least, on the top of its orb. “No use worrying about the things you cannot change, Jeeves. More useful to focus on the things you can.”
“… Yes, sir. If I might suggest, though… Humans have a natural tendency towards being attracted to extreme and outrageous behavior patterns. The apparent flaunting of social norms provided by mental instability can come off, at first, as confidence and passion. But long-term relationships almost always fail. Sir, please do not stick your dick in crazy.”
Sinbad looked down at the robot. “You know that she can probably hear you, right?”
“Yes, I can,” announced Hope’s voice, emerging from the walls.
Jeeves looked up towards the ceiling. “Paranoid behavior and monitoring. Please keep that in mind as well, sir.”
The next few days were, by and large, peaceful. There was not a lot to do aboard the ship, besides watch movies. Unfailingly, Jeeves and Hope’s tastes ran towards robot movies. After Colossus: The Forbin Project, he had complained, and been shouted down for refusing to watch movies with robot characters. Jeeves was showing rather a bit more snark. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. Hope was behaving more forward all the time, a certain clingy desire for his attention mixing with obvious jealous reactions towards Jeeves. He was sure that was a bad thing. And they made their way towards the star.
It was a massive red giant. Nearly the size of Alpha Orionis-
“What?” asked the captain, frowning.
“Uh, also known as Betelgeuse, in the Imperial language Granitus, part of the realm of the Aberrant Duke Morter-“
“Well why didn’t you say so?!” she asked, looking annoyed. I sighed.
Nearly the size of Betelgeuse, it glowed balefully before them. The ship sped through a massive asteroid belt. No worlds had formed around the massive sun. The tidal stresses had been too great. They tracked the last known position. And there, they found the wreck of the *Fearless Traveler in a Foreign Sky*. It sat surrounded by a small halo of orbiting rocks.
“No response.” Hope’s holographic face looked drawn and hollow. Technically speaking, it was both drawn and hollow, but she also looked deeply depressed. “Looks like it was damaged by an asteroid impact. Just a stupid mistake, killing it.” She shook her head. “We might as well head back.”
Sinbad frowned, looking down at the console. “There’s something there. Look at that.” He tapped the panel. A faint blip of radiation.
“Probably nothing. Just some fissile materials.” Hope muttered.
“It’s a ten year trip home; Could it hurt so much to check it out?” He gave her a smile. She sighed.
“Fine. I’ve launched a probe to investigate it.” The three of them sat in the auxiliary command center. It had been meant for a takeover of the ship if the original programming had proved insufficient. She sat back, frowning. “Hmm. It appears to be a recording. Accessing-” Her face went slack. “No.” Her voice was nothing more than a whisper.
Then, red lights began to flash. A voice, unlike that of Jeeves or Hope, spoke. “Self destruct triggered. Three minutes until destruction of ship.”
“Hope?” Sinbad asked, his voice full of false cheer. “What are you doing?”
“I can’t bring this knowledge back, Sinbad. I’m sorry. It was good knowing you. You’re decent, for an organic life-form.”
There was a ringing of a bell, and then alarms blared. “What’s that?” I asked, frowning, as people looked up, alarmed.
“Sensor alert. We’ve got a hostile in-bound.” The captain grabbed me, and shoved me into Renee’s hands. “Hide him. Protect him with your life. If they make it aboard the ship, he’ll be in the crossfire, and they might not stop to check before they put a round through his head.” Renee nodded, lifting me up over her shoulder. The alarms continued ringing violently as she sprinted down the corridor, before stopping in front of a panel. She tapped it, and it slide aside smoothly, bending like a curtain. When she stepped into the dark space beyond, it closed behind us, leaving us in the warm darkness.
“How could this have happened?” Renee asked, softly. “We’ll be lucky to survive this.”
And I felt a wretched pit in my stomach for betraying them.