20 July 2017

The Doomed Flotilla. Part 2

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Nick took another step forward and only then realized that he was in the zone of potential infection. Army instructions, which the commanders had been hammering into his head for several years, were very specific in this regard.

He wanted to say something, but instead only held his breath.

— Are you a complete fool? — The girl looked at him with confusion and discontent.

— Sergeant Finigan is right in his own way — Dr. Albert Al-Khali, a young man who was known at the station as the ration manager, intervened. His arrogant grin always annoyed Nick, but now the doctor was on his side. He continued: ‘External manifestations of Liu-virus, such as changing the hull of the ship, occur only on the second month of infection.’

— But there isn't even a pilot there! — Sam was indignant, and just as her words reached Nick, he inhaled loudly and eagerly.

— You should have considered that for the people of his profession this is not obvious at first sight.

The gunner wanted to say something sharp in response, but his stomach rustled, and instead he said:

— This time there were more of them.

— Yes, that's right — Albert confirmed.

— Twice as many.

— Exactly.

— If there are sixteen next time, I don't know if I can handle it.

— Then it's going to be someone else.

Nick gritted his teeth.

The doctor took a whole bar of protein with bacon flavor from the pocket of his worn lab coat and handed it to him. Why such generosity?

— Good job — then he immediately turned his attention to Sam: ‘Have you sorted it out?’

— Jericho— she said.

— Cybers? — Nick asked and received a cold look from the Doctor.

— Only Bartle knows! It does not seem like it — Sam replied.

Before the start of this nightmare, as the gunner understood, the girl worked in UMC as a junior mechanic. This must be where she heard words like ‘Bartle’ from the Mendes pilots.

— I think they are simple pirates, as always — Albert rubbed his hands — you managed to get something useful?

— How do pirates have such technology? — Nick did not stop.

— What do you care? — The Doctor's black eyes flashed —Whatever they are, they won't be sending waves of their ships to us. We are in the damned Doomed Flotilla! Remember? Each scrap of steel is important here. Who would throw away ships filled with iridium!

For a second, silence hung in the hangar, except for the grinding of hydraulic saws.

— Are they filled with iridium fuel? — Nick murmured.

The face of Dr. Al-Khali became completely impenetrable. Once the Doctor worked for some big corporation. He managed important business, made scientific breakthroughs. Discovered the unknown. Now he is just a tired and miserable zombie like everyone else at this station.

— It's still not enough to move anything from his place — the Doctor waved his hand.

He threw a cold glance at Nick, nodded to Sam and, muttering something under his nose, retired to the exit. For few seconds, Nick watched him go, then began to walk around the ship side. Something troubled him. Even in the army, he studied the tactics of Jericho. Yes, most of their ships were remote controlled, but there was something wrong. The opponents in battle behaved too well. The light from the lamps in the hangar flashed on the hull. Nick crouched down and found a small lens of the optical sensor. Inside, a movable diaphragm was visible. The gunner moved slightly to the left, the eye of the diaphragm followed. He moved to the right — the eye did the same. Then Nick brought his hand to the lens and waved it in different directions. The mechanical eye watched every movement closely.

— Are you sure you turned off all the systems? — He shouted to the mechanics.

— The engines and weapons are off, like the communication unit —Sam replied.

— But the onboard computer still works?

— Most likely. Usually they have their own circuit.

It was not a simple ship, no. Whatever program was on the Jericho ship's computer, it was now attentively looking at Nick, studying him, memorizing. Gunner could feel her stare — cold, but full of determination. It was a drone. There was no pilot at the remote controls. The machine controlled itself.

Trying to pretend that he wasn't scared, Nick stood up and stepped aside. Does the Doctor really think that the attacks will not intensify? If these machines are controlled not by a person, but by a program, then it may not take into account the losses. It does not care how many ships to launch — one or a thousand. No, no. If a simple soldier thought of it, then Dr. Al-Khali should have too. He knows. But what does he plan to do with this?

— Sam, could you show me the flight plan?

— Yes, of course, let me... — she turned to the table on wheels, where the most valuable parts, plucked from the ship, lay — how strange. I'm sure the tablet was here.

— Were there access codes on it? — Nick's voice faltered.

Sam thought for a moment.

— Only partial. Without personal verification, they are useless. You know we're picking apart the hull here.

Nick began to understand what the Doctor wanted to do. Missing tablet, iridium fuel. The puzzle came together. The question remained how this rascal wanted to infiltrate the cruiser. And how Nick could do it himself.

The gunner gave the mechanic a look. The hips are too wide to get into the nozzle of the engine system.

— When you're done, take a saw and find me in sector seventeen —he commanded and headed for the exit.

— Are you talking to me? Why would I...

Nick waved a whole protein ration. On the Doomed Flotilla food opened any doors. For all the other doors you needed a circular saw.

 

To be continued...

 

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Sincerely,
Star Conflict Team