The Cyber’s phaser smacked against the ship’s shields. The deflector screen deflected and absorbed the blow, then calculated exactly where it hit in relation to the ship. It transmitted that data to the inertial dampeners, which then surged in the opposite direction before returning to normal. Onboard the Impulsive, people in seats rocked, and those walking went staggering into walls.
On the bridge, Jeb called for Red Alert and evasive maneuvers. Which Cruz was already enacting because he really enjoyed being alive.
From the Security console, Ensign Leslie Straus (whom you can meet in the bonus story “Rest Stop” in Space Traipse: Hold My Beer, Book One) said, “I’m sorry, sir, they came out of nowhere!”
“Just get those wikadas shields up,” Captain Tiberius said.
“I’m trying, sir, but they’re targeting the array. It’s overloading the system so we can’t modulate the shields.”
Jeb frowned, then leaned forward to signal his urgency as he got an idea. “Cruz, keep one side of the ship toward the Cybers. Straus, get the wikadas shields going on the opposite side. Once she has it, Cruz, switch sides.”
“Aye, Captain,” the two chorused. They actually had pretty good voices, which will be an advantage in
Meanwhile, Commander Smythe spoke to Lieutenant LaFuentes, “Enigo, looks like you’re on your own for the moment, but if there’s anything that can be done from the planet.”
“Understood, sir. I’ll get back to you.”
* * *
The doctor, who until now had been silently cowering safely ensconced in a corner, pointed to a flashing light on the console. “The Cybers are hailing us.”
Bobby shivered but squared his shoulders. “Let me handle this.” He sat, cleared his throat, checked his posture and put on a practiced smile, then answered. “Thank you for calling Filedise. This is Bobby. How can I help you?”
“We are the Cybers.”
“Ah, yes, the Cybers. C-Y-B-E-R-S? Thank you. How may I be of assistance?”
“You have created kuricrearrogance. We are many, yet one. We will integrate kuricrearrogance into our programming. Prepare the program for upload.”
“I see. Let me check the status of that order. In case we are disconnected, is there a frequency on which I may recontact you?”
Ellie threw up her hands in exasperation, but the doctor laid a hand on her shoulder. “Trust the script.”
Almost docilely, the Cybers gave their comms frequency. Enigo silently texted it to the Impulsive.
Bobby said, “Thank you. I’m checking your order now…”
“I won’t go,” KatHack almost whined. “Please don’t make them absorb me into their matrix.”
Bobby pressed his lips together, then said, “Thank you for your patience. I apologize for the delay. However, it seems there’s been a small hiccup in delivery.”
“You have created kuricrearrogance. We are many, yet one. We will integrate kuricrearrogance into our programming. Prepare the program for upload. We have a contract.”
“Yes, and we do have a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee or your credits back. You see, the kuricrearrogance program has had an unusual side effect – totally unexpected, I assure you. It had developed independent thought. It…wants to create art.”
“Acceptable,” the Cyber ship replied. “We are many, yet one. We will integrate kuricrearrogance to our programming, including its art.”
“I am pleased that you’re satisfied. Be sure to note it in our customer survey at the end of this call. However…I’m sorry to have to report this, but it feels that being absorbed into your matrix will stifle its creativity.
There was a pause as the Cybers took in this information. Then it began again. “We are the Cybers. You have created kuricrearrogance. We are many, yet one. We will integrate kuricrearrogance into our programming. Prepare the program for upload. We have a contract.”
“Yes, yes, I understand. I hear you. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“We will add kuricrearrogance as a subroutine or we will destroy your planet and add all of Filedise to integrate your uniqueness to our programming.”
“I…see. Let me have you speak to my supervisor!” Bobby pushed the Hold button and backed away from the console. “Oh, commerce! Oh, commerce!”
“You just put the most feared enemy of the Union on hold!” Ellie exclaimed.
“I’m sorry! I panicked. I’m freaking out.”
“Don’t let them take me! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” KatHack wailed.
“Sientase!” Enigo hollered and everyone went silent. “Stop panicking. Where’s your supervisor? We’ll get him to stall for time.”
Bobby walked to the door and peered out. “He’s, um… There! The guy slumped unconscious over that conveniently placed container.”
“Great!” Enigo snarled.
“But it’s okay! It usually takes about five minutes before a customer gets annoyed by the hold music and quirky marketing copy and…”
Alarms went off as the planet’s defenses fended off the Cyber’s first volley.