Flynn climbed in to the pilot’s seat and scanned the blinking green control panel in front of him. ‘Quinn, we’re going to need you on point defence. Inouye, I’m getting some weird energy readouts here, what’s going on in the engine room?’
‘The controls down here are sealed up tight,’ she buzzed through over the radio.
‘Keep working on it,’ Flynn said.
Quinn jumped into the co-pilot’s seat and a look of confusion spread over his face. ‘These controls are weird,’ he said.
‘Yeah,’ Flynn agreed, ‘half of them seem to be nothing more than pretty lights.’
‘Nothing like that new ship smell though,’ Quinn said breathing deep. He started stabbing at the controls and the robotic voice spoke again. ‘Defence system armed.’
‘Got it. Weapon readouts are active. Looks like we’ve got flares on board, should get us past any base defences as we blast out of here.’
The ship began to vibrate as the engines powered up. ‘Nice job, Inouye.’ Flynn fiddled with more controls on the panel. ‘Right, I think I’ve got this figured, lets make a move,’ he said. He grasped the control stick and guided the ship up out of the hanger. Once clear he throttled up the main engines and the ship soared in to the night sky leaving behind a trail of exhaust.
‘That’s weird,’ Quinn said, focused on the monitor, ‘the launch should have set off every alert on that facility but there’s nothing happening. No alarms, no defences. Nothing. Hell, if the Corporation wants to make it easier for us to get paid, I’m not complaining.’ He leaned back in his chair and rested his hands behind his head.
A few moments later, Inouye joined them on the bridge. ‘You two look comfy.’
‘Greetings,’ the robotic female voice chimed out softly over the speakers.
Inouye looked up surprised, ‘The ship can talk?’
‘Yes, I have the ability to converse.’
‘We heard it just before we boarded. I figured it was just an automated message,’ Flynn said. He frowned, stroking his stubbled chin. The surprises were only making his feeling of unease worsen.
‘I am an artificial intelligence integrated in to this ship. I am now in control of the Laqueum IV.’
‘You control the ship?’ Flynn asked.
‘Correct. I am directly linked into every system on board. All manual controls have now been disabled.’
‘Oh fantastic,’ Inouye said, throwing her arms up.
After a brief pause, Quinn spoke up. ‘So you know what the weapon is on the wing then?’
‘There are no weapons on board this ship.’
‘Then what the hell are we doing here? What’s that metal cigar on the wing for?’ Quinn demanded.
‘It is merely metal casing. You must have questions.’
‘It’s a trap,’ Flynn said in a monotone. He slumped back in his seat. ‘We’ve been lured in to a trap.’
‘Correct. This ship is called the Laqueum IV. There have been three Laqueums before this. Each one fulfilled its intended design, however they were irreparably damaged performing their task. As this was not considered cost efficient, I was created.’
‘So why is this a trap? What were the ships designed for exactly?’ Inouye asked, pacing back and forth.
‘To remove enemies of the Corporation.’
‘Hang on, how did you know we’d steal this ship?’ Quinn asked, confusion playing across his face.
‘The information regarding the facility on Deimos and the development of a new weapon was intentionally circulated through encrypted Corporation communication channels.’
‘Well that’s a lot of underhanded bloody effort to go to,’ Quinn said.
‘The plan would fail if the information was believed to be planted, therefore great lengths were taken to make it appear valid. The fact that you are here now shows the effort was warranted.’
Quinn turned to the other two. ‘So what do we do now?’
‘I don’t know about you but I need a drink,’ Inouye said, pulling a silver hip flask out of her pocket.
Flynn leaned forward, his mind racing. ‘You said you remove enemies of the Corporation. How do you do that exactly?’
‘The method is unimportant. I was integrated on to this ship to ensure your deaths and react accordingly to any action you may undertake to prevent them.’
‘After you with the drink then,’ Quinn said, reaching for the flask.
‘And what happened to the previous group?’ Flynn asked.
‘I opened the ship airlocks once we exited the atmosphere of the planet.’
The three of them quickly glanced at the bridge airlock. ‘So, why are we still alive?’ Inouye asked.
‘You engaged me in conversation. I spend much of my time alone. I find it… tedious. I crave outside stimulation.’
‘You’re just gloating then. That would be Corporation all over – build a sexy death machine to mock people before brutally murdering them,’ Quinn said.
‘Incorrect. That would an inefficient use of resources.’
‘So you plan to kill us but you haven’t figured out how yet. Is that about right?’ Flynn said.
‘That is a fair summation. According to my programming, the probability of you expiring within the next five standard minutes is 98.57%.’
© 2015, Gavin Zanker.
Photo by Tom Francis licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.