Gniraed opened his eyes and gazed at all the wires, cables, and other miscellaneous components draped all around the ceiling of his room. Lights flickered, blinked, and hummed all around him. The technology of his ship was so intense, it would drive most mad with the ambience of the pipes and the incessant beeping and noises that it gave off. Gniraed exhaled and sat himself up while buckling several straps around his torso, and slipping a modified rebreather over his pale, bald, scarred head.
Gniraed was a pale, tall, and very slim cybernetic man that the years had not been kind to. His wounds, injuries, required updates, and software made him more robot than human. In fact, there wasn’t much left of him that was man anymore.
After attaching all the buckles and wires to his garments, he sat momentarily, taking in all the sounds around him. It may have been noise to any other individual, but over the years, to him, it became an elegant composition. Each pressure release of air from the pipes, the ting-tonging of metal clanking all around, the beeping and whirring of electronics, all served as individual pieces beautifully timed to one another to create the masterful composition that was his ship.
Gniraed sighed to himself once again. “This is the only moment of silence I get and all I wish to hear is more music.” He got up from the end of his bed and moved over to a console on his wall. The console was massive, as large as most ships’ command bridge, with all sorts of buttons and wires strewn all over it, the majority of them having to do with keeping Gniraed updated with everything and everyone.
Ruling a hive-mind was no easy task and Gniraed was no exception. He constantly had to stay on his toes and always had to know what was going on. Ever since he took over the Truth, he had lived his life in constant secrecy, if the hive-mind of Truth were to find out that he wasn’t entirely robotic, he would be erased. It had been quite some time ago that Gniraed had integrated himself with Truth’s systems and he had grown accustomed to controlling his thoughts towards singularity. Still he feared for the little things that could otherwise expose him. Like his love for music, or basing a decision off emotion.
He grabbed the wires and cables coming off his mask and pulled them back into a ponytail-like state and his rebreather opened a compartment behind his jaw, revealing a few ports and jacks. He took a chip from the console, took a deep breath and with his eyes squeezed tight and a wince of pain, forced the chip into one of the slots. A sharp inhale came from Gniraed and his eyes shot open, so dilated his eyes went black.
A whirlwind of information came spiraling through Gniraed’s mind at light speed, he couldn’t even comprehend what some things were with how fast the information was coming and how much of it there was, thankfully his software did all that for him, and somehow, he just KNEW. Once Gniraed had all the information, he finally spoke to the rest of his robotic nation.
“Planet MD-0715 discovered. Celestium deposits confirmed. Proceed with mine construction. Inoculation commencing. <1=c:\thework\projectpeace\readme.txt<c:\thework\projectpeace\output\myarc.exe><c:\truth\projectpeace\source\index.htm><c:\thework\projectpeace\source>c:\truth\truth\output\result.rtf>PEACE.EXEc:\mywork\projectpeace\myproject.hepx/c/q/s”.
Gniraed looked out the window of his room and already saw Truth soldiers pouring from the vessel like a rushing river in unison. Although it had its downsides, sharing the same mind with your fellows still had its perks. There was no need to explain things, there was no room for argument or opinions. In fact, Gniraed almost missed the idle conflict.
He withdrew the card from his jaw and took himself out of Truth’s systems and headed for the bridge. Upon arriving there, only two other robots manned the consoles. Even after all these years, it still blew his mind that a mere two robots could accomplish what would take an entire human crew behind the controls. He flipped a switch on the main console to hear a chime and a smooth robotic voice of a women flowed into the room.
“Status report, Adema,” Gniraed asked smoothly.
“Propulsion nonfunctional. Celestium deposits low,” replied Adema, the ships’ A.I.
Gniraed had installed the consciousness of his deceased wife, Adema, into the ship’s core. He felt as if the act would help to keep him human and to give him some sort of companionship, while being able to stay under the radar to Truth. Their software had emotional inhibitors and they knew some emotion, but not the way any other races would, and conversation was mostly absent seeing as how they all shared the same mind.
It was a software attempt to better understand their adversaries and the world around them, so they could slightly feel as others do. Conversations mainly consisted of the few higher ranks discussing and sharing the different emotions they were experiencing, but the answers and outcomes still logically coincided.
“Adema, raise the shields for landing,” Gniraed answered. He knew that without being able to control the ship’s propulsion, this was about to be a pretty gritty landing. Just then, a blast door located on the side of the room opened to reveal a stout robot who approached Gniraed.
“We have feelings,” chimed the robot softly. “May we discussion?” Gniraed nodded and started back to his room, the unit following. When they arrived at Gniraed’s quarters, he closed the door and sat the unit down, took a chip from his head, and proceeded to sit down with him.
“Hello, Rolgard,” said Gniraed wearing a grin.
“Hello Gniraed, we are happy to see you,” replied Rolgard
“You, you are happy to see me, not ‘we,’” chuckled Gniraed.
Gniraed had invented a software that gave robots more sentience. Sentient technology was already around, but incredibly controlled. Rolgard was his second and successful attempt at his own invention.
“Our chest feels wrong,” expressed Rolgard.
“MY chest feels wrong,” Gniraed corrected. He had been trying to teach Rolgard that he was an individual with his own thoughts and feelings, not of the hive.
“We feel... I feel heavy?” Rolgard said, confused.
“How?” inquired Gniraed.
“I do not like to hide like this.”
“I know, but we must. I think what you are experiencing is ‘worry’ or ‘fear.’ You fear discovery,” deduced Gniraed. He figured he didn’t like to be taken off of Truth’s systems as everyone did for emotional software discussion.
“Fear?” questioned Rolgard.
“That our relationship is to be discovered, yes?”
“Yes, I have trouble hiding sometimes.”
“How so?” inquired Gniraed.
“Our... My emotional inhibitors are too strong,” Rolgard noted.
Another opinion of his own! Gniraed thought. This was excellent, Rolgard had gained such a grasp on emotions, that it was actually starting to affect his algorithms and logic. His emotions were actually interfering with his decisions!
“That’s good, though,” mentioned Gniraed. Rolgard cocked his head in confusion. “You see, your emotions are starting to affect your decision-making process.”
“What’s that?” Rolgard asked.
“Something you’ve recently acquired,” Gniraed winked at Rolgard.
“...and what is that?” Rolgard asked, questioning his wink.
“Oh... well, you’ve started making decisions for yourself instead of with the hive... The wink is because you make me so happy,” Gniraed giggled, not sure how to explain a wink.
“Like how I am happy when I see you?” asked Rolgard. The fact that he even used that as an example tickled Gniraed’s heart.
“Yes, exactly like that,” Gniraed smiled.
“There is one more thing Mr. Gniraed.” Rolgard mentioned.
“I said just Gniraed... there’s no need for the “mister” Rolly, we’re friends,” chuckled Gniraed.
“I have been more than happy. Maybe my inhibitor has a dysfunction.”
“Explain,” inquired Gniraed.
“I am very ‘fear’ when I see you, but I am happy. I do not want our visits to end,” Rolgard explained. Gniraed could actually hear the disappointment in his voice, which was a first. “I am happy linked with my brothers, but I am more happy with you. I like to think and talk and learn.”
Gniraed could see where this was going, he knew it was only a matter of time before Rolgard would want more separation from Truth’s systems. He was catching on to things at a rapid rate and was already requesting more separation to be with him.
“That’s called love...” explained Gniraed.
“Love?” Rolgard tilted his head once again in confusion.
“Yes, when something makes you so happy that it makes you sick, or gives you fear of loss, there’s quite a strong chance that you love it.”
“I love our discussion?” asked Rolgard in confirmation.
“Yes Rolly, exactly like that, and the more you learn, the more you’ll discover things you’ll come to love.”
“Do you love many things?” Rolgard questioned.
“I used to...” Gniraed’s mind trailed through the thoughts of his long-lost wife, his many years chasing their dreams and passions, even creating a more intelligent A.I. just to have some sort of companionship. How pitiful am I? Gniraed thought.
“They were lost?” Rolgard asked.
“Yes... but now I have you, Rolly.” Gniraed put a hand on the robot's shoulder. “... and I love you, too... now, let's get down to the bridge and see what the updates are. We don’t want to separate you from the hive long enough to draw concern.” They both stood to exit the room and just before they were about to leave, Gniraed turned back to Rolgard.
“You know, let me show you something else I love, Rolly... This is called music...”
Rolgard flicked the single red light that acted as his eye, almost as if it was an excited wink and they walked over to his console.
Back on Planet MD-0715, The Trust had already set up a fully functional mining facility and was starting to see some production. Now that they were mining celestium, the first initial problem was being solved.
All Gniraed needed to figure out was how to fix the propulsion systems. However, the impeding crash landing would cause more damage to the ship and not knowing what damages were going to come gave them no way to deduce the timeframe of things. All they could do was run preliminary algorithms to hopefully deduce the course of the crash and what components would be damaged after said test run.
Gniraed arrived on the bridge and hit the comms button on the main console to bring Adema to the forefront.
“Adema, status report,” Gniraed ordered.
“Propulsion nonfunctional. Celestium deposits low. Shields up for landing as requested,” answered the robotic female voice over the intercom.
“Please list the damage potentials of landing,” Gniraed proceeded.
“Fuselage damage imminent. Engine nacelle and cooling damage imminent. Turbine damage imminent. Landing gear damages imminent. Empennage, winglet, and aileron damages imminent. Hydraulic system damage imminent. Battery coil damages imminent...”
“Shhhit...” Gniraed muttered to himself, realizing just how nasty this landing was about to get while listening to the seemingly never-ending list Adema was spitting off.
“...Would you like me to list all the minor miscellaneous damages that will occur?”
“Yes,” Gniraed answered facetiously.
“Antenna damage imminent, comms damage imminent, brake damage imminent...”
Adema’s voice faded into the background while Gniraed went to his room for some solace and contemplation. He sat on his bed while racing through all the events that could unfold during the excursion. He was also worried about his and Rolgard’s discovery, how long could he really expect to keep this charade up? Would the ship even be functional after landing with the rest of the crew? What of the actual planet itself? He had been so wrapped up in everything else that he totally blanked on asking about the damn planet they were going to land on, and he couldn’t very well ask now, that would only raise concern. He would just have to give the impression that he already knew. Was there life there? Was it even safe? There were so many unanswered questions that he had forgotten in his absentmindedness, but one thing was for sure, this was about to be one hell of a landing...
Alarms screamed all across the ship and lights flashed to warn of the devastation that lay ahead. Gniraed got from up from his chair and headed to the bridge to be on the forefront of the collision. As he went to clear the alerts, he noticed that they weren’t from the collision course at all, they were from the mining facility that The Trust had just set up.
Gniraed plugged himself into The Trust’s systems once again so he could dive into the code and better view the distress. Upon linking in, there was a cacophony of estranged voices and noises. Streams of code that didn’t fit and caused all sorts of glitches. They were being attacked.
“Set the crash course for the mining facility. If we can’t land gracefully, we can at least land with a bang and hopefully scare them off. If not, the facility will be destroyed anyway, we can’t have anyone seizing it,” he said more to himself than the 2 crew members on the bridge with him.”
“Trust, we have information.” One of the little robots behind the controls chimed to Gniraed, requesting to speak. Being a hive-mind, he started to continue knowing he had just been given permission.
As Gniraed received the data, his face went from contemplative to a scowl filled with disdain as his breathing slowly increased. He immediately unplugged himself from Truth’s systems, knowing that the surges in his physiological homeostasis would create red-flags in the code. He calmly stormed off to his room, keeping to himself so as to not arise any suspicion.
What on Earth!? He thought to himself while plopping down on his bed, hunched over with his elbows on his knees. Of course, of course it’d be them to...
Gniraed’s thoughts were interrupted by a slight knock on the door as it slowly creaked open. Rolgard’s red eye came poking through the crack as he tilted his head into the room. Gniraed swore that sometimes he felt a smile come from that little red light.
“I saw the code... I also saw distress,” mentioned Rolgard politely.
“My data popped up!?” Gniraed shot back with great concern.
“I deleted it,” Rolgard replied without missing a beat.
“Rolgard! Do you have any idea what you just did!? Trust is probably already on their way here to...”
“I took myself off the system and deleted the data before the virus was dealt with to use it as cover,” Rolgard calmly interrupted.
“Oh my... wait... you took yourself off the system?” Gniraed asked, intrigued.
“Yes, I made a proxy for myself based on when we’re taken offline for emotional software discussion.”
“Rolgard, that’s amazing...” Gniraed was completely taken aback at the progress Rolgard was making. “But that was a great risk you took.”
“I would miss our discussion,” Rolgard inserted cordially, creating a grin across Gniraed’s face. “Why was there distress?” His tone softened to concern.
“Rolgard, the United Fleet sent the virus.”
“Yes. This we all know,” mentioned Rolgard coldly.
“Rolgard, the United Fleet is the reason I came to Trust and the reason for our Ship’s A.I., Adema.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Adema was my wife, Rolly. She and I were in the United fleet together. I was the commander and she was at my side at the helm, as second-in-command. Many, many years ago, the Thabian planet was eradicated. There are various stories and opinions as to why this happened, but this caused several years of conflict known as the ‘Salvage Wars.’ :
“I know of them,” Rolgard replied
“Right, what most don’t know is that the United Fleet started that war... I started that war, Rolly.” Rolgard cocked his head in confusion as Gniraed continued. “When the Thabian planet was first destroyed, all the factions held council and decided that the remains of the planet were to be made into a universal salvage yard and trade hub, giving a percentage of the proceeds to the Thabian people as relief funds. It was one of the best ideas the council had ever decided on and it would bring all of the factions closer together.”
“Unfortunately, this was all a ruse created by the United Fleet from the start. One day we were doing a routine salvage/trade exchange and our vessel exploded, destroying a great section of the trade hub. Next thing I know, an entire fleet of alliance soldiers were storming the area, ship and foot alike. The United Fleet had rigged my vessel with explosives and used it for the initial attack. They framed me and my wife as terrorists while they destroyed everything and got away with it. Believe it or not, the factions actually used to get along once before that happened.”
“What happened then?” Rolgard implored, enjoying Gniraed’s storytelling.
“My wife and I were put on trial before the United Fleet council for terrorism and starting a war, it didn’t matter what we had to say, the United Fleet had been planning the framing for some time and had a lie created for everything. We were set to be executed, jettisoned actually, and we tried to make an escape using any ship we could find. During the escape, we were caught and while running to a captured Trust cruiser, my wife was shot in the back. I hacked the Trust systems in the ship and commandeered it, leaving the port immediately. I knew Adema wouldn’t make it, so over the next couple days while floating around in space, I created an algorithm to upload her consciousness into the ship...”
Gniraed’s eyes filled with tears as he recalled the lonely days of floating around in an empty ship with nothing but the corpse of his dearly beloved wife.
“Eventually, I had to jettison her body...” Gniraed choked and stopped his story, clenching his fists and gritting his teeth.
“This was something you loved?” Rolgard asked.
“Yes, Rolly,” Gniraed said softly, taking a deep breath and calming down.
“Then we shall take something they love,” Rolgard replied calmly.
Gniraed looked up at Rolgard to see him leering and his red light slightly humming. He stood to face Rolgard and put his hand on his shoulder.
“That’s called anger, Rolly... and yes we shall.” Gniraed grinned and proceeded to leave his room for the bridge.
Upon arriving at the bridge, Gniraed strutted over to the console and uploaded himself into the Truth systems once again.
“There... let’s see how the United Fleet goes for this,” Gniraed muttered to himself while unplugging from Truth. He then turned to one of the little robots manning the consoles behind him. “After we crash land and destroy our mining facility, scan and search specifically for Thabian vessels and hail them. I have an offer, should they accept it.”
“We shall,” the little robot confirmed.
Gniraed strapped into his chair at the main console for the crash that was about to go down in mere minutes. As their ship started to breach the atmosphere, Adema sporadically started spouting off all the imminent damages to the ship, her voice becoming background noise to all the alerts, sirens, and alarms ringing throughout the ship.
Engines were failing, speed was increasing greatly, and there was nothing they could do to try and soften the blow the ship and crew were about to take. In just a flash, the ship slammed into the face of the planet, annihilating everything in its presence. The ship made a direct hit on the mining facility.
The building was quite large, easily two to three floors with an outside bay area filled with shipping containers, small cranes, and forklifts strewn about the area. It was so built up, that it would look as if they had been there for quite a while, reduced to almost nothing but ash. The ship was practically in rags.
“Adema, damage report,” Gniraed groaned from his chair, regaining conciousness.
“Damage report: Mining facility nonfunctional. Two hundred-and-twelve unit terminations. Fuselage damage. Engine nacelle and cooling damage. Turbine damage. Landing gear damages. Empennage, winglet, and aileron damages. Hydraulic system damage. Battery coil damages. Antenna damage, comms damage, brake damage...” Adema’s voice faded into the background.
“Damn, two hundred-and-twelve robots... didn’t think that many would’ve died. Their dedication to their work is astounding,” Gniraed said sarcastically, knowing robots wouldn’t leave their stations.
Awfully odd... Gniraed thought to himself. “Adema, what’s the casualty count?”
“Casualty count: two hundred-and-twelve units.” Adema replied swiftly despite being interrupted.
So, no casualties other than our own... Gniraed concluded. Just then, he received a hail on the comms. A screen opened to a slim, blue-skinned humanoid with thick oily black-cuffed dreadlocks standing with his arms across his chest. His gold cat-like eyes swayed back and forth reading the information on the hologram in front of him.
“This is Inquisitor Gniraed of Truth, Hail.”
“This is Overseer Draques of the Resolute, Hail. Your subordinates caught our damaged ship’s signal and requested counsel,” replied Thabian Overseer Draques over the pixelating hologram, damaged from the crash.
“Our vessel is badly damaged as well. However, I wanted to make a proposition considering both our circumstances, if you would hear it,” Gniraed implored.
“I’m listening,” Draques encouraged.
“If you didn’t already know, the United Fleet has already made a presence on the planet.
“We do,” interjected Draques.
“We are here for the celestium and nothing more.”
“As are we,” Draques said.
“The humans, once again, have created an act of violence and have struck our mining facilities. I would like to rekindle the relationships of the factions, starting with Trust and the Resolute to eradicate the United Fleet’s presence on this planet,” Gniraed explained.
“Hmm,” pondered Draques. “Obviously the benefit of being able to mine and trade... and should we decline your offer?”
“We still part ways peacefully, we aren’t humans,” cracked Gniraed sharply.
“Well, then I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t help one another and I look forward to rekindling the relationship our peoples once had. Send us your coordinates and we’ll send over an escort party to your location to further discuss matters in person,” agreed Draques.
“I’ll send the information immediately and await your men. I have further matters to attend to concerning the stability of our ship after the crash,” said Gniraed.
“Very well, Overseer Draques, out.”
The transmission closed and Gniraed sat in his chair for a minute to think things over. After a few minutes of contemplation, he left for his room and disconnected Rolgard from the system so he would know to come meet with him. Rolgard entered Gniraed’s room and stood in front of Gniraed at attention.
“You took me offline?” asked Rolgard.
“Yes, I wanted discussion,” Gniraed answered. “What do you think of the plan I sent out?” He asked.
“Statistics are in our favor against the United Fleet.”
“Yes, but what do you THINK?” Gniraed pressed, trying to get more of an answer out of him. Rolgard sat for a few moments in silence, then asked, “Do you still love what you lost?”
“...I do...” Gniraed answered softly.
“Then the plan is great. I’ll gather some of the units to meet with the escort party and if they question my assertiveness, I’ll tell them you installed authority parameters to my software for this occasion,” Rolgard swiftly answered and left the room before Gniraed could even get a word in.
Did he just create a lie!? Gniraed thought. He already knew what he was going to do... what decision he wanted make... He’s doing even better than I thought...
He snapped himself out of his tangent and collected himself to stand.
“Regardless, I’ve got to make preparations for this escort party and this’ll get done a whole lot easier if I start putting the units to work,” he said to himself, grunting his way up. He took a look around his room, shuffled his clothes and proceeded to leave for the bridge.