Monday, January 4, 2016

The Relic - Chapter 1

Thanks so much for waiting. I present to you the very first chapter of my open project, The Relic. Please enjoy, and tell me in the comments below or via email any particular first impressions you have- first chapters are important, you know.

The Sakura Sun glides over the drifting halls of a planet’s atmosphere. A long lacing of auroras flow across and caress the ship in their never-ending dance of color and beauty.
“Almost done, brother,” a feminine voice says inside a white, sleek suit, her helmet decked with a curling assortment of antennae. She’s in the right chair on the ship’s helm.
The one in the middle chair, wearing a dark, perfectly concealing atmospheric armor nods. “Thank you, Sun,” he says, his voice striking, definite, and kind.
The one in the left chair, three times the size of the other two, wearing digital camouflage and with a high class aiming visor does not look up from his systems, but shakes its head. “Statement- You continue with these improper classifications. It causes discontentment in me. Question, annoyed tone- why do you feel referring to each other with human terminology and names is appropriate.” It says, its voice monotone, droning, and fierce- kind of like a lawn-mower.
The one in the middle chair shrugs. “Is it wrong to act the way you feel?” He asks.
It shakes its head again, the bright red visor light stroking back and forth in the dark ship. “Statement- Yes. Aside from the concerning act of feeling in general, it signifies faulty programming or malignant A.I. development.”
“But how do you know that the way we feel was in fact the way we were designed?”
“Query, witty- How do you know that it is is.”
“Alright, I see where you’re coming from, but when it comes dow-” The middle one of the three is silenced by a mild beep on the right one’s console.
“Done. There’s gold, platinum, silver, carbon, copper and more… This planet’s a little lacking, as far as materials goes, but the variety’s definitely there. What do you think?” She says, looking over to the tall, dark one in the middle chair.
“That’s considerable- send over the report.”
“Gladly! On screen now, Asegai,” she says.
“Thanks, Sun,” he says. Asegai looks down to his systems, and gradually comes to a nod. “This will do.”
“Really?” She asks.
“Query, disgust- You cannot be serious.” The large one on the left says.
“No, this’ll do. Once we’ve completed a more accurate survey, we shou-”
Asegai’s again interrupted by a beeping system, though this time it’s the collision and space alert. *IMPACT IMMANEN-* The voice of the alert system is also cut short over the great crash following. There’s a jerk, some bangs, the rending of metal, and suddenly, they’re hurtling downward. “What was that?!” Asegai shouts.
Sun looks through her systems with incredible speed. “We hit something, but I can’t see it. Everything’s going out.”
Asegai turns on manual drive and takes up the flight controls. After a bit of movement, he gets up from the controls and opens up the hardware panels. “Controls are stalled, something’s wrong.” Asegai works through the panels with incredible speed to inspect the problem.
“We’re getting pulled in by the gravity. We’re going to crash!” Sun says.
“Query, angry- Why the hell does the ship not have a backup system.” The one on the left says as gravity’s embrace pulls the ship down into the atmosphere.
Asegai takes a deep breath. “That’s it- brace the systems for impact.” They strap in, the shutters close, and they hurtle downward to the unknown planet. Just as the last peek of bright sunlight peers through the shutters, Asegai can swear he sees the fragments of something else descending with them - probably the thing they hit. Peering through his full-helmet visor, he begins calculations as to the cause.
Minutes pass and the group hears the on-board A.I. speak up. “IMPACT IMMANENT, CLASS FOUR,” it says in a voice possessing even less excitement than A-95; a seemingly impossible act.
The three are perfectly silent as a dense, shattering crash lands them. They scrape along the planet for twenty seconds of high velocity fun, and then the ship hits something head on. A giant, jagged rock formation pierces through the heart of the ship, smashed right through A-95’s face. The ship finally ceases movement, and the A.I. pings again. “MOVEMENT OF VESSEL BELOW DANGEROUS PERIMETERS. CABIN MOVEMENT DEEMED SAFE.”
“Thanks, Ai,” Asegai says with a nod as he unbuckles to help A-95, whose head is now more of a hole than anything else.
“MY PLEASURE,” The A.I. blares in its massive, soulless tone.
“Statement, cross- There you go with this bullshit of naming other A.I.s.- just because we follow your orders, that doesn’t make you some inferior meat-ass human that can throw around pet names as you please.”
Asegai chuckles. “Whatever you say, A-95.” He looks over to Sun, the one in the white suit. “Are you alright?”
“Mhmm,” she says without as much as a twinge of discomfort. “I suppose while you’re dealing with A-95 I get us back in shape?”
Asegai nods, and Sun turns to the A.I. console. “Ai, please describe the outside environment for us.”
Asegai and Sun share a quick glance at the news. “Just how intelligent, Ai?” Sun asks as she reaches into a small compartment pocket at the back of her waist and pulls out a chocolate macaroon and stuffs it into a small face-bound slot one could only assume is a mouth.
Asegai hums. “That’s good. I’d imagine they won’t be a problem. Take it from here, Sun.”
“Okay, brother. Ai, can you reposition us off the ridge?”
“YES.” After a moment of difficulty, the engines spit back into life and begins tugging weakly at the planet’s gravity. The group feels a slight lift and scraping as the ship rises out from the dirt. The soft whir of the engines pick up for a few seconds as the Sakura Sun glides somewhere the A.I. deems optimal. The ship lands gently and the blast shields are raised to display a beautiful green countryside, four-horned cattle roaming a lush pasture next to a trickling stream. Roughly a kilometer away is the mountain they smashed into just a minute earlier. Sun gets out to assess the damage, A-95 points his scanners out briefly to search for any possible threat, but Asegai just takes a moment and looks out- appreciating the greens and blues.
A-95’s damage would be a serious problem if it were a human; history has shown that being impaled through the face tends to have dissatisfying side effects for the injured. It is lucky that the entire crew are all robots, then. The now-headless A-95 takes to its feet with Asegai. “Statement, implying- You do understand that if you had invested in those extra-graphical scanners like I had suggested, we would have picked up that object we collided into nearly twenty seconds earlier.”
Asegai shrugs as they turn to exit the ship side by side. “Those can be pretty expensive, you know.”
“Statement, sarcasm- Obviously the previous Sakura Sun A.I.’s body and… macaroon projector have been proving to be finer uses of your Justices,” A-95 says as it becomes aware of a gust of wind attempting to blow it over.
At the same time, Asegai enjoys a simple breeze as it caresses the gentle grass beneath their feet. “I’m happy thus far with how I used the finder’s fee. Sun seems happy and she was always curious what food tasted like.”
“Statement, belittling- Replacing efficiency with perceived pleasure is among the greatest errors any being can make. You should both take joy and pride in the fact that you’re both superior to ninety nine point ninety seven percent of all life that exists anywhere else in the Omniverse,” A-95 drones out as it detects an ant and crushes it immediately with a preemptive strike before the ant can warn its government to activate its planetary defense system.
“Do you think that being stronger makes your superior?”
“Statement, clarifying- being stronger, smarter, and more durable is what I would label as superior- you display all of these traits… usually.”
Asegai shrugs. “Can’t please everyone, I guess. I encourage you to question my motivations, A-95, but in the end you should be trying to understand, rather than constantly making commentary.”
A-95 balls up a massive, metallic fist. “Statement, begrudging- yes sir.”
“Perfect. You’re a cool guy, Agonist,” Asegai says with a nod as they wrap around the side of the ship to find Sun.
The massive robot next to Asegai flinches. “Statement, veiled threat- I certainly hope you’re not attributing a human-like name to me, sir.”
Asegai laughs lightly. “Of course not. The A in ‘A-95’ stands for ‘Agonist’, you know.”
“Statement, clarifying- good. I suppose that will be acceptable.”
“Glad to hear it,” Asegai turns to Sun, “How’s it look?”
Sun, jacking in via wire to the ship’s underbody framework, pulls out her cord abruptly. “Not all that good, brother.”
“Turns out the hit trashed the H.C.C. coupling.”
Asegai pauses a moment, sighs, and then peeks under the ship. There’s a sizable hole where the Hard Core Computer should be. “Well that’s really no good at all.”
Agonist’s fists tighten more, a light bracing of metal audible to the two others. “Query, disbelief- do you mean to say that our H.C.C., the only thing that would allow us FTL travel on our ship, has been destroyed.”
Sun shakes her head. “Not quite, actually. Ai here delivered me the impact data. While ours were destroyed, the object we ran into also had an H.C.C..”
Asegai flinches. “A ship!”
“That’s right. Our scanners weren’t good enough to pick up exactly what happened, but we did pick up the comm tag. It was a Librarium vessel.”
The three share a moment of nervous silence, unceremoniously broken by A-95. “Statement, angry- And this is how it ends- trading our lives for macaroons. Statement, sarcastic- I certainly hope you both enjoy being pounded into trash cubes.”
Sun flinches. “If you could taste them too you’d understand why it was worth it!” She says, straightening her body prudishly.
“Statement, sarcastic- I suppose stuffing one’s face with food really is better than survival. Typical human response.”
“Of course you couldn’t understand, you’ve never felt anything.”
“Statement- I feel disappointed. I appreciated the upgrade to my intellect that you installed in me once you both purchased me, and with that intellect I discern that you’re both fools- especially you, Ex-Sakura Sun A.I., all you care about is food.”
Sun steps up to A-95’s headless body. “You only see it that way because you haven’t experienced what being a human is like- it’s not something you can objectively understand properly.”
“Statement, elitist- All I know is what works. You two can experience as much as you like, but in the end its just impulses based on-” A-95 halts immediately as an iron bolt smashes itself into his torso. The bolt instantly fails, curls, and plops on the ground.
The three look over, and spot a grove of trees that contain the glinting of armor and weaponry.
“Looks as though we have some visitors. I wonder if shooting bolts is considered a greeting here,” Asegai says, breaking the two off from the argument and to the matter at hand. In the upcoming minute, more bolts fly, are destroyed against the robot’s synthetic alloys, and a group of horsemen rally up.