When last we left, Bobby’s attempt at providing superior customer service had led to the entire planet being targeted by the most feared species in the known universe. Now, not to worry: Bobby’s performance will be given a fair hearing. They’ll take into account extenuating factors such as his supervisor being unavailable to provide mentoring (on account of being possessed by a rogue computer program then shot by a HuFleet security officer) and the fact that the product ordered by the aforementioned fearsome enemy had somehow taken a kind of sentience and was refusing to be delivered. A collaborative tiger-based workgroup composed of all relevant stakeholders will be created to champion processes necessary to workflow the opportunity presented and develop synergistic solutions for customer success.
If the planet survived, of course.
“I guess they didn’t like this week’s hold message. It was about katts, too,” Bobby said. He chewed his nail, as close as he could get to sucking his thumb without being called out for it. “What do we do? I don’t know what else to do!”
“Don’t let them take me,” KatHack wailed again.
Bobby’s voice, too, was taking on a panicked quality. “Oh, Commerce, please don’t let the recording system back up now. I don’t want to die with this on my record! Who doesn’t like katts?’
“Stop it, both of you!” Enigo yelled. “Look, we know Filedise has some of the best defenses in creation. What about weapons? Can we fight back?”
The doctor shook his head. “Filedise is purely defensive. In case of invasion, the planet will destroy itself and the backup planet will take over.”
Bobby looked in horror at his fellow Filedesian, marveling that he hadn’t so much as bitten his lip as he revealed such highly classified information.
As if to emphasize this, a voice spoke over the intercom, and apparently every loudspeaker on the planet. “Attention, beloved citizens and employees of Filedise. Due to an unforeseen circumstance, this planet is under attack. At the current rate of fire, it will break out shields in five minutes. As you know, it is Filedise policy never to surrender its secrets. Therefore, this world and everything on it will be downsized. You have five minutes to wish your fellow workers well, prepare your souls or enjoy that last cup of coffee. We thank you for your loyal service. Five minutes…mark.”
Cheery on hold music reverberated across the entire world.
“You have a backup planet?” Loreli asked.
“You need to sign non-disclosure agreements!” Bobby exclaimed and turned to the console to pull them up.
Enigo asked the doctor, “Will the blast take out the Cybers?”
“Probably. And the Impulsive if it’s still here. Not to mention everyone on this planet who hasn’t been backed up.”
“You back up the people?” Ellie gasped. “Like, teleporter data? I thought Dour was just nuts.”
“No, what the teleporter chief is rudimentary. More ceremony than practical.”
Bobby groaned in distress.
The doctor glanced his way. “I may have said too much.”
Enigo said, “You said enough for me. Bobby, we need a shuttle – just put it on HuFleet’s tab.”
The order pulled Bobby out of his distress just enough to say, “Out the back. Just about a minute’s run. Passcode Filedise1. Be sure to change the code after first use to ensure your security.”
“Right. Come on. We’re going to get back to the Impulsive and let these two settle their differences.”
The music faded. The voice returned. “The attack continues. Destruction in three minutes…mark. Do you like katts? These fuzzy and lovable creatures have a unique ability to win the hearts of….”
“I’m not backed up,” KatHack whimpered. “Back me up? Take me with you?”
“How long would that take?” Ellie asked Bobby. Then seeing that he had started to rock and suck his thumb in earnest, she pushed him out of the way and started giving the computer directions.
“Chica, you outta your mind?” Enigo gasped.
“KatHack’s practically sentient, and it’s learned its lesson, right? It deserves a chance to live.”
“Not as much as we do!”
“It can help us fix the problems its art created.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll help. I just want a chance to redeem myself, to show I can be more. Please?” the program begged.
“Enigo.” Loreli set a hand on his arm.
“I’m gonna regret this,” he muttered and tapped his badge. “LaFuentes to Impulsive. If the Cybers break its defenses, this planet will destroy itself. They estimate about two minutes. We need time. Can you stop them or stall or something?”
On the Impulsive, they were, of course, trying to do just that. The Cybers, however, were ignoring hails and phaser fire alike. On the viewscreen, the Cyber ship fired a steady, concentrated blast at a narrow point in the planet’s shields. They knew that if it broke through, the Cybers could use that opening to digitize and upload all the programs and biological consciousnesses of the planet, then move on to absorbing anything else it might find useful.
Captain Tiberius scowled. Blowing up the planet sounded like a good idea to him. He wanted to tell his chief of security to get the hell out of there; that was an order, but he knew Enigo’s survival instincts would already have said that. Something compelling held them there. “Are you trapped?”
Over the comms, a voice in the background stopped an amusing diatribe about katts long enough to say “90 seconds…mark.”
Enigo said, “Doall is trying to download the KatHack program to take it with us. She needs…?”
“Five minutes?” Ellie said. Her voice quaked slightly.
Jeb clenched his fist. “Explain later – and it’d better be good. Wikadas shields on full. Give it everything we’ve got. Cruz, put us between the Cyber ship and that planet and keep us there.”
Thirty seconds later, the viewscreen of the impulsive flared with light, then dimmed as the screen adjusted to the glare. People blinked spots out of their eyes, many to find their consoles alive with flashing lights indicating warnings and systems in distress.
The artificial intelligence of the Impulsive reported, “This isn’t fun at all, y’all. Just saying.” The fact that it said anything at all indicated the stress being put on its systems.
“Hang in there, Pulsie. Ops, report.”
“The Cyber beam is effectively dispersed, Captain. Shields are holding, but they can’t for long. Maybe eight or nine minutes?”
Meanwhile, Commander Smythe was talking to Teleporter Chief Dour about finding some way to get a lock on the away team and pull them up in a clinch. Dour was promising to consult the portents and speak in supplication to his mistress; in other words, “I’ll try, sir.”
“Impulsive to Away Team. You got seven minutes to get your butts off that planet or I’ll yank you off.”
They have seven minutes. You have seven days unless you binge my blog. Incidentally, don’t forget you can now get the first four episodes of Space Traipse (plus a bonus episode) in lovely, binge-able ebook or paperback. Follow the link!