Monday, November 5, 2018

Chapter 16


Getting back on Leviathan was not easy, but the BrainStream severance helped. Using the payoff from my unjust termination, I bribed myself aboard an antimatter tanker hauling fuel all the way to who-knows-where.

That got me into the vicinity without raising any eyebrows. The hitch was that anti tankers never actually landed on the moonlet. BrainStream was at least wise enough to keep personnel away from their main reserves. They would (very carefully) extract the fuel from the central storage and transfer it into smaller tanks for transport. And by ‘smaller,’ I mean about the size of a big rig.

The full anti containers would be brought to the surface, and a tanker would load it into their exterior holds by way of automated loaders. Then they’d carry it off to the other moons, or wherever. Leviathan antimatter probably found its way to as far and remote locales as Collectivist Freyja.

When the ship touched down to pick up its cargo, that would be my chance. Antimatter storage is not a simple task of fill-her-up. Not only does anti needs to be kept in a complete vacuum, it needs a constant electric field keeping it away from the normal matter of the storage tank. Building those storage containers is expensive, so all the tankers headed to Leviathan would take empties with them. Then they’d drop them off before retrieving the full ones.

Being unemployed, I had plenty of free time to hollow out a replica of those anti tanks and fill it with pressurized air, food, and water. It was excruciatingly boring, floating in that dark chamber for those long days, but I had my cause to keep me company. Immortality is quite the motivator.

So I waited.

My patch into the tanker’s sensors told me when we touched down on Leviathan. I would never have been able to tell that the tanker had dropped its payload with my human senses alone. The impact on the moon was indistinguishable from the periodic shifting of the container against the tanker hull in flight.

I trusted the ship’s instruments to tell me it was time. I switched on my hand lamp and pulled on a vacuum suit over my clothes. Once I tested my suit, I pulled out the handy orbital construction saw I had acquired just for this purpose. Remembering poor Cass’s fate, I punctured the hull of the empty tank and vented the air before cutting out a perfect D’Arcangelo sized hole in the side.

Next, I had to get through the airlock cap that BrainStream had placed over the mineshaft that Cass had drilled years before. That was easier than getting out of the antimatter tank – I built that software interface. BrainStream would have already slapped additional security codes on top, but that is meaningless when you know the ins and outs of what is underneath.

I waited for the tanker to pick up its cargo and sail away, until it gathered enough speed that it could not easily reverse course. I kept a safe distance, then I vented the Leviathan, just as we had when we first landed on it.

This time was more spectacular. BrainStream had widened the entrance to carry more cargo in and out. The storm of pressurized air escaped all the more forcefully. A cyclone of oxygen, equipment, archaeologists, technicians, and thankfully, security personnel whirled its way out of the airlock and spiraled silently into Odin’s orbit.

My enemies flushed down the drain like excrement. I couldn’t help but smile.

Leviathan vented quickly, so I didn’t have to wait long before I bounded over to the open airlock and dropped inside the empty chamber. I surveyed the damage. Plenty of smashed up equipment. A few severed limbs. I shut off the decompression warnings flashing in my face and propelled myself toward the antimatter containment.

I needed to work quickly. The security ships and drones buzzing around Leviathan were meant to prevent threats from outside, not in. But they would have enough emergency personnel to make up a surface team. With any luck, they would focus on collecting the unfortunate gaggle of survivors that had just been shotgunned into space. But I would have to be quick if my plan were to work.

I was delayed by a pained voice. “Help,” he said weakly. I retro’d my suit thrusters to a stop. A quick ping showed me the location of the voice. At first glance, it was just a piece of debris stuck between the inner hull and an automated cargo loader.

The security guard had been lucky to be in-suit when the air vented. The decompression cyclone had pinned the loader to the hull, with him in between. That had also been lucky – he was not currently floating in orbit unmoored.

I swiveled and floated over to examine his plight.

“My suit is breached,” he said when I reached the loader.

It was true. The loader had crumpled from multiple impacts, and one of its inner components had sprung out. That component pierced the security guard’s suit through the man’s arm and into the hull. He would have been able to push it off of himself easily enough in Leviathan’s gravity, but if he did that, his suit would spring a leak of streaming air and blood.

I probed the wound. His visor shade was up, so I could tell from his face that he was in pain. His eyes pleaded for relief.

Those eyes. I recognized them. He was the security man present at my termination. He was the last man I saw on Leviathan.

I smiled. It was fitting. My only disappointment was that he could not see my face. I switched on my construction saw and freed him from the loader. And from his arm.

The suit vented quickly, thankfully, so the screams did not last long.

With him dispatched, I went on with my task. I’ll admit, I was not certain that my modified device would do its job. All of this plan was very much theoretical – I had never tested it. I never had access to nearly enough energy.

Thank Earth they had not torn up my interface equipment and sold it for scrap just yet. I redirected all of the neural net relays to a single purpose, using the interface equipment to modify the signal to exactly the right calibration. My previous research into consciousness transference had led me to an interesting solution.

The concept was fairly simple, similar to neurotainment programs – stimulate neurons in a particular way to simulate the desired sensation. Or in this case, lack of sensation. But my project interfaces with the brain directly, bypassing any implant security that would try to thwart me. Anyone with a human brain, implant or not, would be affected.

I spun up the power and let her rip. The understated light indicator that switched on did not do the moment justice. I watched the signal monitor in my suit’s HUD slowly rise to overwhelm all other signals in the area. Then I tapped into their communications chatter to make sure that my plan had worked.

“-on Earth just happened?” was the first sentence fragment I received. Their confusion told me all I needed to know.

From that point on, all human brain activity in the vicinity would be blocked off from Leviathan. They would be blind to it, and to all of the indications of its existence. Subtly, unconsciously, their attention would be repulsed from the ship. No one would interfere with my work any longer. My discovery would be just that, mine.

A warning klaxon screamed in my brain, and would have knocked me over were I not floating in zero-g.

DANGER.

ANTIMATTER CONTAINMENT FAILURE.

ANNIHILATION IMMINENT.

“What? No!” I said out loud to myself.

“No.

“No, no, no, no.”

I didn’t know how, but something I did must have messed with the electric field keeping the antimatter in. There was no way to know how long before Leviathan was utterly destroyed. I could have shut down the mind block, but there was no way to know if that would even do anything stop the containment failure.

I had to make a choice.

I fled.

I fled immediately, and as fast as my suit would take me, to the escape pods BrainStream installed for this very contingency. I slid into a spartan capsule chamber that made my hollowed-out antimatter tank look like a luxury liner.

Within seconds I was accelerating away from the moonlet as fast as the human body could handle. Just like that, Leviathan was gone. Along with every hope I placed onto her.

I braced myself for the inevitable detonation. With the mass of anti in its hold, the fireworks would be seen from lightyears away, eventually. But minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days.

There were no fireworks to be had.

Perhaps the ship had fixed the containment failure. Perhaps the warning system had malfunctioned, and the ship detected a danger that was not there.

My guess is that the containment failure had been a hoax, a clever security measure implemented by BrainStream to ward off ambitious pirates like me.

And now, thanks to my efforts, not a single person, including myself, would be able to find Leviathan again.

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