Chapter 14

Ætherglow #267

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“And there I was, alone on that derelict vessel, power completely dead, life support long since gone. That’s where my so-called comrades left me. Only enough food reserves on our ship to get 4 of us to Ceres alive, I should have known we weren’t stopping to examine a shipwreck to try to salvage leftover supplies. When we drew those tiles for who would conduct the EVA, we were really choosing who was getting left to die.

“Only 6 hours of oxygen in my suit separated me from certain death, if I didn’t freeze to death sooner. You may think you’ve been alone before, but when you’re alone in deep space, where worlds are nothing but colorful points of light, with the deadly unfiltered rays of the Sun as your only company, that is when you really know the meaning of loneliness. I knew nobody on my colony would ever know what happened to me, nobody would ever find my still corpse clinging to this ancient wreckage.

“Against the silence of my own breath, I heard familiar beep of my suit’s short range comms system. I’d only activated the suit’s emergency beacon out of habits embedded from my training, I really didn’t have reason to hope. What unthinkable fortune that a ship would be anywhere near me. But luck, my students, always has two hemispheres, and it rotates quickly. That vessel, my one and only chance at survival, was the enemy--Blackstar special ops, the very same we were fleeing in the first place. And me, with my Elthea branded EVA suit, they wouldn’t even capture me alive. I knew their orders were to kill on sight, unless the war had ended in the past few hours.

“I, a lone CommSpec, with interface damage, stood no chance in a fair fight against a squad of elite EvoSpecs. But in war, there are no fair fights. I had a much more potent weapon than they did.

“Before I knew it they were upon me. They made their rendezvous approach with combat efficiency and already had their EVA team ready to depart. Guns were on me the moment they saw my Elthea patch. I put my hands up, and shut my interface off completely.

“‘I’m saved!’ I said.

“‘Identify yourself, Elthea,’ their commander’s voice answered, unamused.

“‘Oh, the suit! I’m not one of them, I’m a hostage! Or I was. They left me here!’

“‘And gave up one of their EVA suits? They’d have just spaced you and been done with it,’ she said. I didn’t need my interface to know she wasn’t buying it.

“‘But that’s what they did! Days and days in that little room, only given water, and then they dragged me out at gunpoint and, put me in a suit, and took me to the airlock. “Please! I’ll die!” I begged for my life. The door opened. “Die now or die later,” that was the choice they gave me.’

“‘Why would they waste resources...’ she was considering it, progress. ‘It has to be a trap! Pull the ship back to a safe distance immediately!’ she said. ‘Girls, sweep this wreckage for a bomb. Search this femboy too, and scan for tracking devices. And you...’ Drawing herself close to me, she stared right into my eyes. ‘Tell us everything you know about the ship and its crew.’

“I had her now. Once she saw how much I knew, she knew I was too valuable not to rescue. And I knew everything about that ship and everyone on board. Why should I keep any of it to myself? They abandoned me, after all. I didn’t have one picogram of neurotransmitters in my brain to waste on company loyalty now. My every thought was of revenge.”

Another intense lecture from Professor Nezumi--you can never know what to expect here in Social Engineering class. He turns his back to the class, letting the florescent reflective green seams of his long silver jacket catch the overhead light with his usual dramatic flair.

“How is it I could convince them?” he says.

“You played on their emotions,” you classmate Ida answers. “A lone survivor stranded in space, people can’t resist that, they want to be a hero. Especially when they’ve been out in deep space in a bitter prolonged war for months. They want to feel good about themselves for once.”

“Partially, yes,” Nezumi says.

“And since they were EvoSpecs you figured they weren’t well trained in picking up on deception without the aid of CommTech. You shut off your interface to make yourself invisible, emotionally,” you classmate Kaz says.

“Yes, that too. Technopathy is nothing but knowing your enemy’s weakness after all,” Nezumi says.

“And once you had their guard down even a little, you could hook them with the most precious resource, information,” Ida says.

“Good, good. However, there is one thing you have failed to detect, perhaps.” Professor Nezumi turns around, with his hair swinging past his face with its reflective silver highlights shimmering in the bright light of his classroom. The gaze of his silver metal eyes sweeps across the class.

“One thing I said in that story was a lie. What was it?”

What was it?

1) “They would have already scanned for explosives and tracking devices before they ever approached.”: 1 (10.0%)
2) “It wasn’t a military ship that rescued you, they would never have given you a chance to explain yourself.”: 1 (10.0%)
3) “The whole thing was a setup, a plan to get you on board the enemy ship and deliver them into your company’s hands with false information.”: 1 (10.0%)
4) “The lie was that you only told one lie. The entire story was made up.”: 7 (70.0%)
Expired 4 months ago (2023-12-10 06:59:16)