Ulliana is bored.
Hired to manage company resource transfers between Jovian supply outposts and Personality operated ships, she spends most of her time interacting with sensi-adventures. When Aru, the ship’s Personality discovers a historically valuable object from the past Ulliana is determined to salvage it for the reward, Ulliana soon learns the probe has other dangerous ideas.
A short story set in the near future.
An excerpt from Nemesis Probe:
The avatar Rashmi appeared in the maelstrom of the battle, her long midnight colored braided hair swinging wildly. She clung to her pulse rifle as she ran on reconstructed semi-bionic legs towards the stoic eco-farmer Harshad, who stood defiantly shooting one attacking alien after another as they scrambled over the farm’s perimeter wall. The spindly four-armed creatures were fast and cunning. They had attacked at midday when defensive preparations were still underway, catching the defenders at the worst possible time.
Rashmi’s intense concern for her lover poured over Ulliana, as the avatar slid to a halt and fired. Her rifle, an expensive AGGRESSO-1200, used its internal AI software to target another attacker. Rashmi automatically pulled the trigger as the scope blinked at her to fire, and another attacker fell back to lie motionless.
A warning buzz forced her attention away from the scope. A large number of aliens were gathered atop a nearby storage shed overlooking Harshad’s defensive position. As she watched, several crouched in eagerness, prepared to leap onto the farmer. She turned and began firing as fast as the scope could aim.
“Harshad, look out!”
Harshad turned at Rashmi’s scream; his startling blue eyes were wide and vivid as they locked on his lover. For a moment, the tableau held as each yearned for the other, separated by a short distance, yet held together tighter than the nuclei of a neutron star in a single purpose, a mutual desire, a glorious destiny. It reminded Ulliana of a drop of pure rain hanging from a single leaf, which broke as Harshad was buried under a swarm of leathery alien bodies.
A red dot appeared on the periphery of her vision.
Rashmi screamed an inarticulate sound and without hesitation leapt onto the struggling pile, her pulse rifle forgotten as she tore into alien flesh like a harvesting machine. Ulliana knew the scenario was over. Her fifth attempt and she had failed again. Harshad was gone; only Rashmi and some protector drones remaining to protect the farm region.
Rashmi flung another broken body away. Thin torn limbs and spurting fluids spurted gracefully in the low gravity as Rashmi dug her way relentlessly to her buried lover, heedless of the ones now clawing at her back. Ulliana could vaguely feel every blow but knew Rashmi would never leave without Harshad.
The red dot started blinking.
Rashmi struggled under the growing weight. Her bionic enhancements made her almost invincible against small groups, but as more aliens joined the squirming pile Ulliana sensed her mounting anger. Desperately she strove to reach her lover’s motionless body but the Brownian motion of her opponents were pulling her inexorably away. With a burst of effort she grabbed Harshad’s exposed sleeve and grimly hung on.
Ulliana sensed the avatar’s decision to make a final stand.
With her free hand Rashmi pulled an ovoid shape from her harness, flicked an actuator and plunged the object deep between the alien limbs massing around her. She grinned madly and clung to her lover’s arm, her love unrelenting as she waited. Ulliana was torn from the avatar in a flash of light and sound that expanded into a red overlay as the sensi-vid image froze.
For a moment Ulliana felt the dislocation of leaving one existence and entering another. She cursed as the thoughts and emotions of Rashmi, her in game avatar faded and the real world coalesced around her. Before her appeared the worn instrument panels rubbed smooth and illegible from countless fingers, the faintly chemical smell of recycled air, and the same literal and boring ship Personality, called Aru. She wrenched her sensi-helm off and shook her neatly cropped curls vigorously.
“Damn it Aru, what’s so important?”