Tasina stood at the edge of the skydock, staring out into the fog below that always crept up when it started getting late. In the distance, just at the edge of the horizon, she could make out the few hazy spires that marked the Needled Flats. Lex and Neda had left just after sunrise, and there had been no word. Neda was only supposed to borrow her son for a few hours, yet the entire day had passed. Some time ago, a hulking mass of a Third Empire battleship flew overhead, straight for the Needled Flats. It would have cast an enormous shadow if there were no clouds, but there were always clouds. She just hoped that it didn’t signify anything bad for the two of them.
“Hey, Booker,” she called, glancing into the power core that functioned as a house. Where was he? “Booker?”
“Optimal Efficiency, ma’am!” The robot’s voice startled her as he replied from directly behind her. She held a hand to her chest to catch her breath.
“You really have to stop doing that.”
“[STOP]. Command received. Powering down.” Booker’s arms tucked into his chest as he bent down, collapsing into a ball.
“Gods above, Neda said she fixed that,” she muttered as she manually turned the robot back on. A few small blue flashes of the systems rebooting as Booker’s limbs extended once more, his headpiece scanning the immediate area.
“Greetings, friend Tasina. How may I be of service?”
“I need you to run diagnostics on Tink. Neda’s scanning drone. Designation M-80.”
“[RUN DIAGNOSTICS]. Command received. System link initiated. Would you like me to send it’s compacted data?”
“Just the most recent two hours. But I’d like the audio, too.”
Tasina climbed into the power core and turned on the water heater. She had barely gotten anything done today. With the combination of the expedition Neda and Lex went out on this morning and the ship that had flown over head, it was hard to stay focused. Besides, she needed Booker for her current project, but he wasn’t as reliable as he used to be. Maybe all that rust was finally getting into his head. Neda was supposed to fix all that. She was much better at programming than Tasina, anyway.
As the water heated up, she started brewing coffee, then ascended the stairs to the second level and laid onto the bed. The reactor at the core’s center gave a soft orange light as it hummed and warmed the room. That was one perk to the tiny room, at least. You were never cold. She smiled as she remembered the time when she told Lex what the power cores really were: the dead hearts of Centurions, the first generation mech to be mass produced in the Third Empire’s army. As much as Lex hated the scrapyard, that had brought a smile to his face. They quite literally slept in the hearts of giants.
A harsh explosion came from outside. Tasina bolted up. No time to think, just move.
She vaulted over the ledge and onto the first floor of the re-purposed core. Rushing outside, she saw Booker standing stock still. Another explosion sounded, but its source was much closer than she had expected.
It was the sound of the audio file Tink had recorded. A sigh of relief was followed by an immediate inhale of panic. Tink? Explosions? What of Neda and Lex? Were they alright?
“Pull up a visual of Tink’s data storage from today.”
Booker didn’t respond, as it would disrupt the audio feed, which was mostly static and more explosions. Occasionally, though, a human shout could be heart saying something indistinguishable. At recognition of her command, a blue, holographic screen appeared before him. There was a short list of data samples. It didn’t take long for Tasina to find it. The answer she was looking for.
A confirmed reading of a specimen that weighed over 700 cubens. 96% of it was aenendium.
At least she had some answers. But the fact that she now knew exactly where that behemoth of a battleship was headed was no comfort.
“Booker, stop the audio file.”
The sound cut out. “[STOP]. Command received.” Again, Booker folded back into a ball with little ceremony. Tasina scooped him up and headed towards their spare hoverbike.