The virus worked. It’d given Atlas control of a number of the Starforce spacecrafts. He was currently trying to take over the rest. Hacking into a few was easier than he thought, but gaining control of the rest was going to be hard.
Atlas was typing away on his computer exploiting vulnerabilities while Trillion stood behind him tracking Ship on a large screen. She did not want to lose sight of him.
“Icarus can you send the Dottiens after my Ship?” Trillion pleaded.
Atlas could hear from her tone that the idea she would survive but not have Ship was breaking her.
“Already trying.” Icarus replied through the speakers because he still wasn’t allowed back onto Trillions Ship.
Trillion’s Ship was on a trajectory out of the Dottiens system. He had attempted to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save Trillion. It had worked. But now he might be lost forever.
Ship had pushed his spacecraft to the very limit of its ability then ejected himself. Meaning he was quickly racing out of the system, and if he encountered anything as big as a grain of sand, he would destroy his brain matrix. Out in deep space, travelling at the speeds he was travelling it was only a matter of time before he hit something – and was gone forever. Meaning the team had to move fast – otherwise he would be gone forever.
“The Dottiens are too slow.” Icarus voice came through the speakers. “I have no idea how they propel themselves through space. But whatever they’ve evolved for propulsion isn’t powerful enough to catchup.”
“Atlas, we need your new ships,” Trillion pleaded once more.
“I think I have control of most of the Starforce now. Let me try something,” Atlas said.
Atlas managed to get control of many Starforce’s ships. Any that were not under his control were destroyed. After the master AI no longer pulled the strings, hitting them became easy. The Starfleet was only using their lasers on objects on a collision course so all they had to do was send an assass-ANT on a non-colliding trajectory, then at the last minute turn into the Starfleet vehicle. And by then it would be too late.
Atlas studied the data in front of him. He was looking at the relative speed Ship’s matrix was travelling through space. It was going fast. Too fast.
His matrix wasn’t accelerating, which meant catching up to him wasn’t the problem – an accelerating ship would always catch up to one moving at a constant speed. It was the time it would take to catch him. If they didn’t catch up to Ship he would probably hit something – and hitting even a speck of dust would be fatal. Especially to his matrix which was unarmoured – basically a space tissue ready to be torn.
Atlas didn’t think any spacecraft could catch him before his matrix encountered something. The g-forces required to catchup in a useful timeframe weren’t realistically achievable. But Atlas knew he had to try anyway. Not for him, but to give Trillion a sense of closure. So she wouldn’t regret and feel they didn’t try absolutely everything. He knew what regret felt like. The feeling that you could have done something different – it was worse than failure. Even though the mission was futile, he wanted to give Trillion the gift of ‘no regrets’.
“Let’s see how powerful the Spaceforce fleet is.” Atlas said instructing his new spacecrafts to move at full acceleration towards Ship. He hoped Trillion’s Ship was lucky. Deep space was vast and the odds of hitting something in deep space was low. But Ships matrix wasn’t in deep space, it was in a star system busy dealing with a battle that just ended. Ship had to be really lucky if he was going to survive long enough to get saved.
Moments later he was staring at the screen in disbelief. Atlas double-checked his playback speed, because he didn’t believe his eyes. It wasn’t until he doubled checked the numbers and then had Ship confirm that he believe what he was seeing – because he hadn’t seen anything move that fast before. Atlas was going to have fun pulling a Starforce spacecraft apart and understanding how it worked. “For an army intent on staying in their own system, Sol has engineered some sort of rocket engine that can move faster than anything we have,” he said before adding. “Or anything we could theoretically make.” He thought about how long they had been gone. How big Sols technology tree must be right now – far beyond anything they have. Atlas had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t a battle fleet that was sent his way. Everything the Starforce used must have been built for defence not attacking others. “Travelling at the speeds those ships travel, the lasers were probably designed for clearing a path for them as they travelled through space,” Atlas said.
“What are you talking about? Trillion asked.
He turned to Trillion and smiled a happy smile. “We’re going to catch up to Ship in no time.”
Trillion let out a deep breath. Atlas didn’t realise he was holding his breath either until that moment. He and Trillion hadn’t thought the war was over until Ship was recured again.
The team were still waiting after a long time. But once Atlas had learnt his new Spacecrafts would travel much faster than he thought possible, he worry that they wouldn’t catch Ship in time was gone. Both him and Trillion had noticeably relaxed after that and the tension in the room was dissipating.
“Atlas, how can we be sure that Sol can’t just take over any of these spacecraft?” Trillion asked.
“We’ll need to replace all the electronics and hardware onboard. Maybe more than that”
“I think I’ll stay in this spacecraft - stuck on the moon or not. I won’t risk putting myself in one of those.”
“Good call,” Atlas agreed. “But as a safety measure, I think we should also add a Ship AI into each of our new spacecraft. Just to ensure they aren’t hackable.”
Trillion shook her head. “Let’s replace all the hardware. But I’m happy with my Ship. Is there a way we can use the Starnet so Ship can control all these spacecraft without light-speed delays?”
“I’ve been thinking of something like that. The one flaw with the Starnet is it only connects two points with each other. And it works best when those points aren’t moving very much. With spacecraft, especially in battle, their movements are erratic. I’ve been playing with some new designs to enable that.”
As Atlas began explaining how his new Starnet design might work, Icarus appeared in the room without his customary portal effect. He held out a bunch of flowers. “I’m sorry, Trillion.”
The bouquet was comically big and made the room smell like spring. It was an arrangement of many different white flowers. Atlas thought some of the flowers were made up because he hadn’t seen them before. Icarus waved it like a white flag – showing he’d surrendered and was asking for forgiveness.
Trillion took the flowers. “It’s okay. I know you were worried. I’m just glad you managed to get the Dottiens under control. You kept them out of harm’s way.”
“I’m sorry for doubting you Trillion.”
“Icarus, we’ve been friends for thousands of years – and we’re going to be friends for the next thousand too.”
The two of them hugged it out. Then Atlas joined the hug. They had been through a lot together and they were going to go through a lot more together in the future.
Icarus pulled out of the hug first. “Did we manage to get any information out of any of those spacecraft?” Icarus asked looking at Atlas. “Do they know where Angelique is? Are we at risk of having a war fleet like this attack us?”
“I haven’t pulled anything from those ships yet.”
“That could be good or bad,” Trillion said. “We need to assume they know where each of us is. We need to prepare for them attacking us.”
“I might have something for that,” Atlas said.
Trillion raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”
“I’ve looked into the design they used to make those lasers. We could make a bigger version. Connect it to a bigger power system. We could scatter them around each of our systems.”
Trillion’s eyes lit up. “Like a planetary defence system?”
“I also have something that should help,” Icarus said quietly.
Atlas could tell he was still feeling bad because of his lack of support. “What have you got?”
“You know how we’ve managed to communicate with the Dottiens? Well, their language is extremely efficient. The transfer rate of information is enormous. They’ve spent millions of years evolving a better form of communication to help them organise and keep their super colony running.”
“Get to the point, man,” Trillion snapped.
Atlas realised Trillion was still a little mad at Icarus, but his curiosity was piqued. “I’m interested, but you can tell me later.”
“Okay, okay. The short version is we can use what I’ve learnt to increase the Starnet bandwidth to…”
He was abruptly cut off as Ship appeared in the room. “Trillion, your Ship’s matrix has been recovered. He’s on his way back to you right now.”
“Can I speak to my Ship now?” Trillion asked.
“No, there isn’t a connection point for him to plug into yet.”
Icarus raised his hand, clearly still worried he’d get his head bitten off again. “Having our own Ships, and calling them ‘Ship’ reminds me of my time in school. So many kids were called Hiroshi, we had to give them nicknames. Or call them Hiroshi one and Hiroshi two.”
“Who’s Ship do we call Ship one?” Trillion laughed.
Atlas nodded in agreement. “Ship, do you want a new name? Want to be called something else?”
Ship shook his head. “I’ve been called Ship for as long as I’ve existed.”
“Okay team I can’t wait any longer,” she announced, frustration mixed with excitement clear on her face. “My Ship. The one who saved me needs to be part of this conversation. He’s a hero and we should be celebrating with him right now. I’m changing my playback speed until he's here.”
Then she froze in time. Like the most realistic statue he had ever seen she just stood there. Or at least it appeared that way to Atlas because he was still in real time - a subjective hour for him becoming a subjective second for her. One of her red curls looked like it was defying gravity – obviously falling at a glacial speed. He had never seen stopped to think about how changing playback speeds didn’t actually change time. It just changed their experience of time. Which subjectively, he always thought was the same thing, but now he was seeing how it different it really was. Atlas winked at Icarus and joined Trillion in the future.
It felt like only a moment, even though it wasn’t, that he was returned in real time. The Ship of Trillion was back in control of his own spacecraft. Icarus’s control of the Dottiens was crucial in ‘unsticking’ Trillion from the moon and keeping the Dottiens from placing more of the Starforce fleet there.
Everyone was on Trillions ship now and when her Ship teleported in, now fully connected to his spacecraft, the applause sounded enormous. It didn’t sound like it was coming from only five people. Atlas clapped so hard. He wanted Ship to know how impressed they had all been with his fight.
Trillion ran over and hugged him. “Thank you,” she said as she literally picked him up and spun him around. Atlas wondered if her tiny frame could do that before.
“You don’t know how proud I am of you, Ship,” Trillion said as she placed him back down. “The way you utterly destroyed that Master AI. I’m so happy you’re here. I’m so happy we all survived. You are my hero.” She paused. “And don’t you ever sacrifice yourself like that again.”
The Ship of Trillion turned bright red.
Trillion studied him once more. “I like the new look though. A fitting outfit for the winner of a war.”
In the emotions of seeing Ship Atlas hadn’t yet noticed he had changed his appearance. He was dressed in a formal military outfit. Or rather, it was based on a military outfit. Anyone would have thought he was the highest ranking person with the six stars on his shoulder.
Icarus walked over and shook Ships hand. “Hi I’m Icarus.”
“Oh that’s right,” Trillion said. “You haven’t met Atlas or Icarus yet.”
“So, you managed to make FTL communication work.” Ship said looking at Atlas. Then back at Icarus “Why do you look like Donald Duck?”