Authors: Martin Wilsey
Tags: #mystery science fiction, #intelligence hard scifi high tech combat robot science military ai
The place was a mess.
Cable trunks hung from the ceiling, and trashed panels from the
exterior damage were in piles. The cockpit area was no better.
Floor panels had
empty equipment racks lay
. Everything was dirty and covered in
What went there?” Dave
pointed at two major
, empty except for knots of
Comms went there,” Harv
said. “And an AI refit
was once done
there. And no, I got no
AIs for sale. If I had
you couldn’t afford it for cash. That
big enough to hold that much gold.”
Not interested in buying
an AI. Comms gear and a working head on the other hand…” Dave moved
some floor plates that were leaning
on the wall to get to a tiny door behind
it’s a Zero-G
toilet,” he looked again at the floor plates. “No
Harv just laughed. “It does have
inertial dampeners. And no, I have no idea if they
pellets of plutonium. That
may be a problem,” Dave said as he opened the containment unit once
the light went green.
If you got Plutonium 238,
I can convert it to the right size, that might work. For a fee,”
What was lost with the
nose?” Dave looked out the cockpit window. The cockpit was all the
way to the left.
Water storage, long range
comm antennas, docking thrusters, and the forward airlock. I can’t
replace any of
this is the only Multi-Purpose-82
in the yard. Alex could call
though. May be easier
to fabricate one if we can find the specs. That would seriously
though. But it can fly without all that, and we
could always add it later if you want.”
Harv, if the Grav-Foils
work, I think we have a deal.” He held his hand out to shake. “Do
you mind if I camp here a
weeks while I refit?
Provided the AC works.” Harv took Dave’s hand in a firm grip, “Not
at all. As long as you don’t bother Alex. She
if you piss
.” Harv grew serious now. “I will
also need payment in advance before I let you take a screwdriver to
Dave helped Harv
the generator from the golf cart. They serviced the shuttles
batteries by adding water. Even with all the breakers off they
started charging. Harv radioed Alex to write it up and start the
minimum required paperwork for signatures.
back up to the store, she already had a
of comm gear on
the counter. It was the original gear she had salvaged out of the
MP-82 and never sold.
Harv, is the
comms out of
included in the $30K?” she
Might as well be. Kind of
an apology for the mess you left in there!” Harv laid a penciled
list on the counter. “He will need all
the tab starts
Dave walked in
the front door. He struggled under the weight of
an old ammo can that he had retrieved from his
. He set it
carefully on the counter. “That is $50K.” He sucked on a pinched
finger for a moment. “That should cover the initial cost of the
boat and the ass-load of other stuff it will need. Let me know if
this runs out.”
Alex opened the ammo can
and pulled out a small ingot. “Mind if I run this through
? No offense.”
has shifted a bit since I got these,” Dave said
There were fifty ingots
marked $1,000, each with the standard date time stamp and sifter
seal. It took her about ten minutes to run them all through their
sifter and the new ingots came out. It was a device that tested the
gold by reducing it to dust and scanning it.
Weighed into new ingots based on the
market value of gold on that day.
was a value of $51,220.
Most people were initially lost in the
yard maze as soon as they moved away from the highway. Dave,
however, pulled his truck back through the maze and parked next to
the MP-82 without difficulty.
Alex watched on the security system as
he set up a shade fly 30x30 meters, covering his truck and the
shuttle. It was the new kind, where all you had to do was secure
the four corners and activate a small grav-plate in the very
center. It would rise and make the fly tight. Rain or
Alex quickly grew bored
watching him. She had no view inside the MP-82 unless he was
the pilot seat. He would come up to the store
times a day with lists. He’d pick things up and
drop off more requests.
Two weeks in, the only
brand new items he had requested were seat cushions for the pilot
and co-pilot. They
on the morning she saw
him taking down the shade fly. She hopped in the golf cart and
drove them down herself.
He had just finished stuffing the fly
away into its bag as she pulled up.
Hey, Dave,” she greeted.
“The seat cushions finally came in.” She climbed out and lifted the
oversized box from the passenger seat. “Thought you might like them
Excellent. I was just
about to test the Gull-Wing controls and foils.” He tossed the
shade fly bag in the back of the T-16. There was nothing but
military cases, crates and gear bags back there. “Want to ride
She replied without thinking.
He held a tarp aside so
she could enter the shuttle first. The tarp kept the
and saved cycling the airlock all the time.
Alex could not believe the
transformation that had taken place inside. It was clean. It
end of the bay housed a
supported by two
portable tool chests,
each a meter tall. The opposite end of the bay had a fold down
wall-cot with a thin mattress, neatly made.
As Dave tore open the box
and unwrapped the cushions, Alex continued scanning everything
over. She saw that the eleven replacement battery cells had
. All the cockpit consoles
. No cables hung from
all the floor panels had
Smooth, new floor panels, where the two missing seats had
been, were now in place,
it looked like it had always been a
two-seater. All the interior lights worked.
Holy shit. You have been
busy,” she laughed as he tossed her the old torn cushions. She
packed them into the box that the new ones had
collected the box and took it outside. On his way back he took down
the tarp and secured the hatch.
Nothing else to do around
here. Besides, this is fun.” He sat in the pilot’s seat and started
buckling the harness. “Oh, man. My ass loves you.” They both
That was when she noticed
the harness buckle
broken on the co-pilot side
Dammit, I need to add
that to the
” Dave said as he stopped
strapping himself in and started to get up.
It’s alright. It’s just a
low hover test I presume,” Alex said.
And a bit of maneuvering.
I have the thrusters charged as well, thanks to Harv and his tank
truck,” he said, frozen halfway unbuckled.
What are you going to
name their ships. Pick out a name
I have.” He grinned, “Alex,
meet Siva.” Dave gestured towards the ship.
just don’t tell Harv.” She sat and activated the copilot seat. It
slid forward into
and the console came alive.
She scanned the status board and reported, “Batteries fully
and Gulls are up.
Dave’s seat slid forward as he spoke,
“Can you fly? You sure sound like you have co-piloted.”
Yes. Sometimes Mark needs
help bringing auction items home. I’ve even been to the moon for
stuff.” She sighed, “I wish I could do more auction work.
stuck in the store.” Still scanning the
she noticed the comms systems were all green.
“Comms too? You are good!”
I haven’t tested them
call sign, no
codes,” Dave said,
trying to seem busy with something else.
I can test it with my
call sign if you want. I do it all the time from here. From the
bench in the shop.” She reached towards the transmit controls but
waited for permission.
He stared blankly at the console for a
moment, saying nothing. Alex knew the look. He was consulting
something in a Heads Up Display.
Why not? Be
though.” He smiled.
His smile didn’t go all the way to his
eyes. Alex felt unnerved but didn’t know why. She set a frequency
and activated the system. “Alexandra3737 for a radio
Immediately the comms
responded with a voice that had a thick Texas drawl, “Alex… how
Doing fine Mikey, how’s
the signal?” Alex replied.
Signal good, power good,
encryption is tight. Want to know how tight?”
Not really, Mikey. I’m
here with a customer,” Alex responded.
Oh… er… sorry, Alex. It
all looks good. Full freq cycle,” Mikey stammered.
Thanks, Mikey. Say hi to
your mom for me.”
Will do.” The connection
You’re good on
” she said. “Mikey hit frequency switching encryption to test
the spectrum. We do this a lot. You should be golden on all
Thanks, Alex. That was
easy. I was scratching my head a bit on that.”
It told Alex way more than
Dave realized. He was actively trying to keep this whole rig
off-the-books. Alex had been doing the same thing for years. She’d
never even gotten
No way to stay off-grid once you plug
in an ear cuff was good enough for her. She could
take it off and leave it behind.
she noticed that the power systems were all up and green for
the empty AI rack. “You should keep the rack cold if it’s
. Open leads can be bad. Shorts, fires
and shit. I even accidentally electrified a floor plate
Dave looked over at the status board
and got that look again for an instant. “I secured all the leads.
Harv said he might have a local in-system nav unit that might work
in there. I had to make sure there was power before he went off
looking. You ready?”
She nodded and watched the panel as
the Gulls deployed and the foils activated. The ship began to rise
in a vertical take-off.
One meter per second.
Three meters per second,” she said. The salvage yard fell away
around them. Visibility wasn’t good on this thing. Looking directly
down Alex saw five more ammo
as the tarp that covered
them blew aside. It made her wonder. She shook it off. None of her
Dave began a simple
rotation as they rose. “Looks good so
. Foil balance is
good. Uniform 46% utility remains.”