Friday, July 22, 2011

Starlight Chapter Five

By J.D. FarnWorth

(082911) All rights belong to that of Joss Whedon, Fox and whoever else would lay claim to the Firefly and Serenity Verse. Don't copy or use this material without the permission of myself AND someone holding the copyright. It is for entertainment use only.

  Also, if you see a spelling error or any other issue, feel free to send me a note as many have in the past week. I will update with corrections so future readers will enjoy the story more and more. You can friend me on Facebook and follow me here. Search for Serenity Lost and you should find me easy enough. Also if you do have a Facebook account please Share my links with your friends. In the end it is all about keeping the ‘verse alive.

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 3, July 12th, 2504, 14:03

The Caf-Deck was strangely quiet. If it wasn’t for the sound of the occasional spoon to bowl, there would be no sound at all. The crew with their heads hung low sipped their soup and drank of their tea.
Gabe raised his bowl and slurped its remains. He had never cared about what people had thought of him. After all was said and done, they were just passing through.


Gabe’s story was like many others, he left the planets of the Core because he was tired of floundering in a pond full of sharks. He bought a ticket on a passenger star-cruiser out of Osiris to Persephone.

He enjoyed peace, for once, on that beautiful planet. It was industrialized, yet kept that friendly feeling, until he had a run in with a small man with an accent.
From Persephone he boarded a Firefly and worked his way to the Vegas sector and then Starlight. They needed their communication system rewired and he needed the ride.
He had always been a gambler and had earned money doing so, but on the Starlight he made his mark. He found his riches in the casino, and his love in a night club. Veronica, she was an artist when it came to dancing and an artist at taking him for his wealth. By the time she was finish he had nothing.
He often wondered if it was all some sort of plan; she took his credits and the casino just happened have an opening for a communication officer.
That was almost ten years, and over 50 kg ago. Since his arrival he hadn’t stepped foot off this station and he was sure he never would. He looked around the table as he always did and told himself, “Yeah, this bunch is just passing through.”
“Excuse me,” Gabe said, clearing his throat and motioning for the rest of the soup. No one complained and he poured the remains of the soup into his bowl.
“Anything going on, in there?” Judy had only asked what was on everyone’s mind. This fact was made clear when everyone leaned in closer to listen.
“They seem to be setting up for some kind of action, the guardsmen are wearing riot gear,” he answered. Lifting the serving bowl above his and tapping to get the last drop. He adjusted his girth and dug his spoon into his second helping.
“You, you think they are going to come after us?” asked Judy, sounding a bit unsure of herself. The rest of the crew looked on not willing to admit that they were also scared.
“No, tight pants came up with that too. If they wanted to kill us they wouldn’t have welded us into this corridor,” he answered, with his mouth full of food. A noodle made its escape down his hairy chin and onto his lap.
“Yep, he is right, they just want us out of the way,” stated the captain. He watched the noodle fall to the floor; he glanced up meeting Gabe’s smile.
“But for what, captain?” asked Marty, losing his temper and throwing his empty bowl across the room. He had always been a hot headed little man. The crew seemed to ignore his random out- bursts, everyone, except his brother, who would always pickup after him.
“Hey, get in here, something is happening,” yelled Jenny from the cabin. Her voice was a bit emotional as if she had been crying.
They ran from the Caf-Deck and into Gabe’s cabin. The monitors were moved in from the head.
“What you go’n do?” Gabe asked.
“I moved them. It was getting uncomfortable sitting on the crapper.” She pointed back into the cramped room.
“It was convenient.”
“For who?”
“Bizui!” exclaimed Zack, clearing his throat. He hadn't spoken for almost an hour and no one had given it much thought.
They took their seats on the available bunk and the floor. The monitors showed the zombie like men and women walking to the arena.
The arena once the crown of the Starlight held shows from all over the ‘verse. Rock stars and Bards alike came to perform for audiences of the uber rich.
“So the guardsmen are over by the stage and the zombies are entering the ramp. Wait, they are going to fight?” asked Jenny, looking round the room at the knowing faces. “You knew!”
“No, not for sure, but it did cross my mind. I have seen the Alliance do many things for progress and the good of the common. Things you wouldn’t do to a farm animal,” answered Adam.
“But why?” asked Jenny, sounding, as though, she was becoming disillusioned about her belief’s.  
“They can, and they will, do what they want for the whim of the powers that be,” laughed Gabe, sounding cynical, even for him.
“Where did you hear that?” asked Adam.
“That show I watch, the Rufflesteins, they got a little too political and the Alliance canceled them. They would have run for seasons but NOOOO!”  
“But that’s just a show, they won’t fight them,” Jenny whispered, looking back to the monitor, and not believing in what she was both saying and seeing.
“Yeah, well they did mention something about stun sticks,” said Adam sitting next to Jenny.
“So, they aren’t planning on kill’n the zombies,” announced Judy, making an awkward expression as she made the statement.
“Okay, everyone lets stop calling them zombies,” demanded Adam, holding his hands up to get everyone’s attention.
“What do you want us to call them?” asked Judy, looking around the room at each of the crew.
“Guests, yeah, no, we should call them visitors,” answered Zack, sounding a little too happy. His eyes were a little too red and his head was damp with sweat.
“Okay, I see where you are going with that and we can call the guardsmen the visitors and the zombies are home team,” stated the captain.
They sat there for a few minutes watching the sides ready themselves.
“I have 10 credits on the home team,” laughed Zack.
“You okay,” whispered Jenny, she had given him a bottle of sedatives to calm him, but she had the feeling he taken way too many.
“What, you think the underdogs are going to take on the guardsmen?” asked Adam.
“I will take that bet, I got ten on the purple bellies,” answered Marty.
Zombies always win.
Everyone looked back to Zack and noticed his blood shot eyes, his sweaty looks, and the nervousness.
He smiled.
* * *

Starlight station, Module two, Casino Floor, July 12th, 2504, 14:21
In the arena the guardsman watched as the Walkers came in from the opposite end of the large room.
“Master Chief, they can barely walk let alone, fight. How are they going to have a chance against us?” asked Jackson.
“They’re not going to put up much a fight,” answered the Master Chief, looking up to the camera and monitor mounted on the wall as the channel clears with a crackle.
Dr. Ryan’s image appeared in the monitor and he waited for the channel to clear. “Be extra careful not to kill my test subjects.”
The Master Chief glanced over Jackson and nodded, telling him that no one believed the Walkers stood a chance.
Hanson leaned over to the Master Chief, asking, “Why are we so concerned about not killin’ them.”
“They’re programming is not meant to be used in this way,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“Yes, doctor,” answered the Master Chief, glaring over at Hanson. He had been with these men since he recruited them out of the ranks of the Alliance’s many services. Each had their abilities, but their closeness made them talk when they should listen.
“My computer program is an AI adaptive game program. It will learn as we teach it, but if you kill the Walkers before it learns how to fight, at the end of the day, it will have learned nothing. Dohn ma?” asked Dr. Ryan.
“So what are we supposed to do, just push them around,” asked Hanson, sarcastically.
“Yes, that would be alright.” He hadn’t recognized the sarcasm. He nodded to some one off camera and looked closer at the monitor, until his image became mostly forehead from the soldier’s point of view.
As if someone had simply thrown a switch the men and women started toward the soldiers. They stepped, shuffling their feet at first, as they walked they gained strength and moved more naturally.
“Okay, here they come,” said the Master Chief, casually.
The soldiers stood and readied their stun sticks; the smell of Ozone permeated the arena.   
As the soldiers zoned out all distractions other than the advancing horde of Walkers, Dr. Ryan’s voice was heard saying, “Okay, let’s not hurt them.”
* * *

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 1, July 12th, 2504, 14:32
Mr. Black and Mr. Blue stood in the freshly cleaned command center. The Petty Officer had seen to the clearing of the food containers and grime himself. It sickened him the lack of maintenance that the station had since the border outcasts had taken over, every system had been neglected.
The monitor flickered and Mr. Black walked over and tapped it on the side asking, “Why is the image so fuzzy?”
“Weak signal sir,” answered Mr. Blue, he turned back to his control board and adjusted the signal again with no change to the image.
“Try to get me a better one,” he ordered, walking over to look at the action on the larger monitor.
The Walkers approached the line of guardsmen.  Just as they were within striking range and they surprised everyone by backing away. Then three of them turned and charged the group of guardsmen. They were brought down quickly, each earning a set of cuffs for their trouble.
“What was that?!” yelled Mr. Black, his anger overwhelmed his patience.
The Walkers mulled around a while before trying again. This time, six walkers sprinted across the room and ran face first into denial. The guardsmen stood in a half circle and defended their position. They dropped the attacking men and cuffed them to each other.
“Turn those Walkers down so they stop struggling against their restraints,” ordered Dr. Ryan over an open channel.  
“Sure thing,” answered an orderly.  
“Okay, here come the rest,” said Dr. Ryan nonchalantly.
Ten Walkers ran at the guardsman and matched blows, neither side making any headway. The Walkers moved away, back to their starting position on the ramp.
“What are they doing? Tell the doctors, I want one of their asses up here to tell me what is going on, gorram it
“Wait, I only count ten, sir,” answered Mr. Blue pointing to the group of remaining Walkers.
“What are you talking about?” asked Mr. Black.
“There are nine on the ground and ten standing. The AI isn’t finished, there they go again.”
The Home team charged once more into the group of Visitors. They beat back the chargers with ease, cuffing them easily. No one noticed the single Walker coming from behind and hitting the Master Chief in the head with his own stun stick that had been leaning against the back wall. The guardsmen turned to beat the man.
“Don’t! I am sorry, please, for the love of God!” screamed the colonist, as he awoke from the hold of the computer.
* * *
Back in the cabin the crew of the Starlight watched the man's body grow limp and his face once again lost all expression.
“Hold on! Did you hear that, the zombie, I mean the man was pleading for his life!” exclaimed Jenny, pulling at Adam’s baggy ship suit.  
On the monitor the guardsmen beat the lump of a man until he stopped moving. The orderly, who had ran to the aid of the Home team member pulled at the soldiers.
On the other monitor, Mr. Black looked on with interest, even smiling as the man died at the extension of his will.
“Why didn’t he stop them? All he has to say is stop,” yelled Adam.
“They don’t care about these people; they are just test subjects,” answered the captain.
They stepped away from the test subject, his body jerked and began to reanimate. Rising to the horror of the crew of the Starlight, the man fell back and remain still.
“For a second there I thought we were in a zombie wave,” laughed Gabe. Everyone noticed he was just as affected as the rest of them by what they were witnessing.
Back at the stage the orderly checked the man’s vitals. The soldiers stood around watching the man bleed to death. They showed no remorse at what they had done. They even laughed as the subject moved. 
“Is he dead?” asked Mr. Black.
The orderly glance up and nodded.
“Yeah, your men saw to that,” answered Dr. Ryan. He seemed disturbed at what he had just witnessed.
“That is unfortunate, have the body incinerated, at once,” said Mr. Black, flatly.
“Why didn’t you stop them?!” demanded Dr. Ryan, pulling his glasses off his face and leaning into the camera his image again filled the monitor.
“Because, doctor, I wanted to know if they would continue to walk even if they were dead.”
“They won’t! I told you that, so you just terminated one of my test subjects on a whim!”
“Doctor, if there is a problem; we can just pick off another settler ship or use one of the Starlight's crew. It is not like they are ever going to be missed.”
“That is not the point, I only have so many harnesses.”
The crew of the Starlight leaned back, each one of them was having their own internal conversation. On the monitors, everyone went about clearing the deck of the wounded and slain.
Jenny broke the silence, “They are more concerned with the equipment than us. I mean them. I mean...”
The captain touched her on the shoulder and said, “Gabe, please tell me you are getting this.”
 “Yeah, I have been recording since they revived them in the casino,” he answered, patting the EC unit sitting next to him.
“That’s what you needed my EC for?” asked Adam.
“Sure, it is just a little security we have just in case they try to bully us around.” answered the captain, letting Jenny go as she ran from the cabin.
“They space one of us, all we have to do is upload to the array and bam everyone will know about it,” said Gabe, slapping his hands together and waking the rest of the crew from their shock.
“As long as I am not the one that gets spaced, it sounds like a plan,” responded Adam, he was joking, but no one was laughing. They crew just stared at the monitors.
“Say, can we hook into the Starlight’s mainframe,” asked Dr. Ryan, looking into the camera.
“Why?” asked Mr. Black.
“If you noticed, the AI, used a battle strategy and made progress,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“You saying we might be able to get these Walkers running better?” asked Mr. Black.
“Yes, that is what I am suggesting.”
The monitors flickered and the captain pulled at Gabe’s shoulder. “Gabe, would it work? You know the Starlight’s capabilities better than anyone.”
“The Starlight isn’t a sophisticated computer but it does have the ability to make billions of calculation a second, the only reason they didn’t take the gorram thing with them, is the computer takes up half a deck on the bottom level. It is just a gaming computer that acts a server for thousands of mother boards in the video machines.”
“So what happens when they hook up to their program?” asked Judy.
“The Walkers will learn to run,” answered Gabe.
“Then won’t that leave a trace in the Starlight’s computer?” asked Adam.
“Oh my,” answered Gabe, going over the implications of what they were getting at.
“What are you saying?” asked Judy, rising to stretch her legs.
“They aren't going to let us live,” whispered Zack, sounding as creep-afying as ever.
“The Starlight will be a witness and they won’t let her survive either. Now, that I think about it. Won’t the images and waves be recorded somewhere?” questioned Adam.
“This is our tomb,” Adam whispered.
Zack began to giggle.