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Aaaank… Beep. Beep. Beep. Aaaank… Beep. Beep.

I woke to noises coming from a nearby computer terminal, glancing out of one eye where I slept in a strangely comfy chair that could lean back and had a place for my feet. Well, that place was a control panel, but Zoe wasn’t working on it, so I ignored her flat looks and had procured it as my napping spot.

It had been two days since my breakdown. Although I still had a hollow feeling in my chest, I didn’t have the comfort of being able to just lie in bed all day. Besides, there was nowhere comfortable. I didn’t trust sleeping in one of the unburnt houses. I kept feeling like the pirates may return in the night and cut my throat. I had nightmares of them every night. I’d see the people they killed being cut down. I’d see myself being cut down. I’d wake in a cold panic.

Yet, Zoe was always close by, still tinkering on the ship. It was for this reason that I was able to get back to sleep. I only felt safe on this ship. Although this place should look alien by all accounts, what with its strange flickering consoles, bright lights that held out all day long, and metal walls, it was the one place I didn’t have to worry about being seen.

Despite the safe feeling the ship provided, I still ventured out to the island every day. I performed many different tasks. I would gather up every last supply and bring them to the safety of the cave. I couldn’t be certain there wouldn’t be scavengers coming to take things when I wasn’t there to watch it. There were also animals and birds that have already done a number on anywhere they could reach. Therefore, I set out to spare what I could.

The deck of the ship had become a storage area for all the supplies left behind in the village. I only took things that seemed like they’d be useful on a journey. When the time came that we had a boat, I’d transfer all of my stuff there, and we’d be ready to go. I had a little over a years supply of food. I had tons of blankets, bedding, and clothing. I also had taken any remaining toiletries, although the pirates had done their best to clean it out.

I didn’t just take that kind of stuff. I took anything that looked like it had value too. As we left here, I’d need money too. They had ransacked the gold and managed to take everything from my father’s safe and the town’s bank. I still managed to get a few bags of various coins together, not to mention other jewelry and the like. If it was made from precious metal, I bagged it and brought it.

As a result, there were various piles all around. I had stored up as much drinking water as I could. Most of the food I grabbed were things that could be salted and would last for long periods of time. The voyage to the Citadel would be a long and arduous one. It’s not that I had never been on a boat before, but my longest journey had been two days. Now, we were talking about a journey that would take a month to complete. I had never been so far out to sea that I couldn’t see land. That thought terrified me. How do you even navigate out there? I knew the answer, supposedly you used the stars, but that didn’t make me feel any more comfortable about it. After all, the endless sea was endless, and if you missed the island, wouldn’t you sale on endlessly?

When I wasn’t bringing things back to the ship, I was preparing traps or looking for opportunities to further booby trap the place. If the pirates did return, I hoped many of them died falling into spiked pits or being hit by a log. Killing again caused me to still feel a bit queasy, but if they ran into the trap and died of their own ignorance, it didn’t seem as bad.

Aaank.

The console alarmed again. I was taking a break when I was woken up to the sound of a console giving off a strange noise. As I sat up and looked carefully, I saw that it was Zoe sitting at one of the consoles in the middle of the room. It was the largest and most comfy seat, and there was a console with another handprint in it.

She placed her hand on the print, and then it started beeping. After a second, the console turned red, and then there was a loud Aaank noise. I got up to my feet and walked over to her. Her usual placid expression actually showed a hint of frustration. Perhaps she was getting used to being a human now and was showing her feelings sometimes without her awareness. Either that or she secretly wanted me to know she wasn’t happy. She played with the wires again, then tried again. Aaank. And again. Aaank. She finally looked up at me. She had a strange expression of resignation as she gave a long sigh, then she scooted to the side and pointed down at the console.

“Hmm? You want me to touch it?” I asked.

She gave me a flat look, which told me she wasn’t amused. For a slime, Zoe could often be very temperamental. I still struggled to understand where she was coming from and what she was doing. She was, for lack of a better word, a force of nature. As long as she kept popping out orbs for me, I’d keep letting her do what she wanted to do. At that moment, a thought came to me, and rather than touching the control panel. I crossed my arms.

“No.”

She blinked, cocking her head, her expression turning agitated. She waited for a response.

“If you want me to touch that panel, then I need something from you. Those pirates will be returning any day. I need to be prepared to deal with them. I need help. We can’t stay on this island forever.”

She gave an exasperated look and then pointed at the console. Wasn’t she really demanding now?

“I want any edge I can get. There are thousands of slimes on the rocks outside the cove and the beach. I could possibly bring my {Fast Healing} up even higher. If you consume them for me and make orbs and you agree to help me set up traps, then I’ll help you however you want.

At first, she gave a disgusted look when I mentioned her brethren. Then, the irritation on her face was no longer looked subtle. She stared at my chest, unblinkingly as if she was considering my words carefully. Finally, she gave one single nod before turning away and crossing her own arms. That seemed to be as much of a confirmation as I would get. I had a feeling that I needed her a lot more than she needed me. After all, what did a slime really need anyway?

I unwrapped my arms and then cautiously put my hand on the platform, just as I had seen her doing. There was a scanning motion not dissimilar to Skill Relay. A line went up and scanned my entire hand, and while it did this, there was a beeping noise and a buzz. However, instead of the flash of red and the Aaank sound, it was a light-hearted ding.

The ship suddenly roared to life… the subtle vibrations that had started when she had been tinkering with it before were nothing to the roar. Every console flickered on. The bridge became filled with even more lights until it honestly felt too bright. The door that had remained shut sudden opened and then closed, seemingly on its own. As the consoles flickered, a voice started to speak. This wasn’t the voice she had triggered a few days prior. This was a woman’s voice.

“T-t-t-t-t-t-the r-r-r-r-r-r-registration is c-c-c-c-c-c-complete.” The voice seemed to become strapped and stuttered on the first letter of every word.

Zoe was wearing a pouty expression, but then she went under the console and played with some wires. The voice started to even out as she did something to the wires.

“C-c-c-c-c-congratulations. You have been selected as the C-c-c-captain of the Dreadnaught-class craft, Infinity. Please sit in the chair for a total body scan.”

Something opened from the ceiling and came down around Zoe. It started lighting up only to sound out an Aaank sound.

“DNA: Not matched. A foreign contaminant has been detected. A class 4 creature is on board the Infinity. Threat level: minimal. Suggest immediate extermination!”

Zoe looked around, but she was more or less trapped in the chair as the device spun around her. It had changed from a calming blue light to a menacing red light. I didn’t understand most of what the voice said, but I understood extermination.

“Ah! No! Cancel that! Do not!”

“Orders received. Please remove contamination and commence scan.”

Zoe looked even angrier now as the device that had lowered from the ceiling raised up enough that she could leave it. She stuck her tongue out at the ship and then stood up. I stared at her for a moment before she made an irritated gesture to the chair. I really didn’t know what was going on. Registration? Captain? This was just some broken ancient technology.

I sighed and did what she asked anyway. I had promised if she did what I wanted, I’d do what she wanted. As soon as I sat in the chair, the device lowered. I was nervous after seeing it turn red. Did it have the ability to kill me? The scanning, if that was what it was doing, commenced, and I could see various lights flashing around me along with a hum.

“DNA: Match. A descendent of the Citadel has been detected. Authorization: Approved. Registering. Status: Captain. All Administrative protocols unlocked by captain’s order. Please state your name.”

“Um… Miles.”

“Is Ummiles correct?”

“No!’

“Please state your name.”

“Miles.”

“Is Miles correct?”

“Yes!”

“Captain Miles, your registration is complete. You are now Captain of the Dreadnaught Infinity. Current crew roster, 1. Warning: A crew of at least twenty is suggested to safely run the Infinity. Would you like to register a crew member?”

“Um… yes?”

“Please seat crew member.”

I glanced over at Zoe, who was listening to all of this with her brow furrowed and a thoughtful expression on her face. I decided to stand up and gesture for her to sit this time. She looked at it suspiciously but then sat back down again. I didn’t know if it would work. It called her a foreign contaminant before. However, it was worth a try. Predictably, a few moments into the scan, the lady spoke up again.

“A foreign contaminant has been found in the scanning chamber.”

“That’s a crew member!” I shouted stubbornly. “Give her full crew rights!”

“Captain override had been implemented against AI recommendation. This will be logged in the Captain’s report. Do you wish to proceed?”

“Yes!”

“Changing foreign contaminant to ally, granting crew privilege.”

“Give her all privileges! The full ship access. Administration. Captain rights!”

Zoe shot me a surprised look. I could only shrug.

“This is your baby, right?” I said, “You should be able to have control of it.”

“A ship cannot have two captains. A new captain cannot be assigned without the expressed approval of the Citadel Council. The highest level of access available is currently vice-captain. Would you like to set crew member to vice-captain?”

I looked over at Zoe, who looked excited for a bit and nodded to me, almost smiling.

“Yes!”

“Crewmember, please state your name.”

I winced. Zoe couldn’t talk at all! How could she finish registering if she couldn’t even say her name? I was just about to speak up and hope I could register for her when she leaned forward.  

“Zoe…” She said.

Her voice was deep and feminine, but it had a distorted quality as if she wasn’t quite able to replicate the speech perfectly. It seemed that Zoe really could talk, but she needed practice to do it well. I stared at her in complete surprise. She had never once tried to say anything, so I had assumed that the act was impossible for her. She noticed me looking and then gave a shrug.

The rest of the crew registration didn’t take more than a minute. Like that, the devices that had lowered from the ceiling rose back up, and the Infinity now had a crew of two. A captain, and a vice-captain.

What did it matter? We were still trapped. I didn’t even know if this thing could float. I didn’t even know how it got power. I had seen an artificial light before. It used a crank to work. I knew others existed, although they were rare. I had never seen them used to the quantity this ship used all the time. I had sort of expected the lights to go out days ago. Yet, the ship continued to hum despite everything.

“Um… hello?” I called out. “Voice?”

I only heard silence in response. I wanted to ask this thing questions, but it had taken off on me without a word. Zoe was tinkering with the control panel, but it didn’t seem to bring it back.

“Console? Person? Invisible person?” I tried to figure out what to call it. “Infinity?”

“Com…” Zoe’s voice caused me to spin to her. “Poot… rrrr….”

Her words were very rough, and it seemed difficult to get them out. I barely could make out what she said, not that I understood what it meant.

“Compooterr?”

“Yes, Captain?” A voice shot up.

“Um… can I give you a name to call on you?”

“Yes, captain. Please assign a designation.”

Biting my lip to keep from making an audible pause, I quickly thought through names that I could call her. I quickly decided on something easy. Compooterr was just a weird word to say.”

“Alice.”

“Designation: Alice… accepted.”

“Ah… good. Alice… who are you?”  

“I am Infinity’s artificial intelligence construct. I’m here to facilitate the crew’s duties on board of the Infinity.”

It felt so nice to have someone to talk to, even if they were a disembodied voice. For some reason, I felt like crying again. I decided not to. Zoe would assuredly not give me a lap pillow this time.

“Why is the Infinity here?”

“I’m sorry, I do not have data pertaining to this question.”

“You come from the Citadel, right?”

“I’m sorry, I do not have data pertaining to this question.”

“But, you said you needed Citadel Council’s permission to change captains?”

I was met with silence. This made me feel a little frustrated. I was talking with what was essentially an ancient being, yet it had no information on where it came from or why it was here. Had the Governess still been alive, I’m sure she would have been just as frustrated by this.

“Alice… how are you powering the lights?” I decided to go for a simpler question.

“The Dreadnaught Infinity is powered by a Mobius fission reactor. The reaction will continue to provide power for another twenty-thousand three hundred and two years.”

“Well… that answered nothing.” I sighed. “What is the current damage to this ship?”

“Helm: Functional, Navigation: Nonfunctional, Sensors: Short-range only, Environmental: Nonfunctional, Communications: Nonfunctional, Engine: Limited, Ion Shield: Nonfunctional, Power: 50% max capacity, Weapons: Dreadcannon: Currently Charged, Fragment Cannons: Nonfunctional, Laser defense: Nonfunctional, Torpedoes: None loaded. There are currently no hull breaches. Hull integrity, 95%. In the current condition, the ship is sail worthy.”

I shook my head bitterly. Most of those words were gobbledygook, but I did understand a lot of stuff wasn’t working on this ship. Despite that, it was sail worthy. Yet, none of that mattered, because we were trapped under tons of rock. How would I even be able to cut my way out of it?

“Alice, We’re trapped in this cavern,” I said bitterly. “We’re buried under rubble. There is no escape.”

“Calculating…   Captain, if the Dreadcannon is activated, there is a 70% chance it will be able to secure the obstruction and free the ship.”

“Really, do it then!” I said.

Zoe suddenly stood up and then ran over and grabbed my arms. Her look of panic made me realize what I had just said. All I had heard was that we could free the ship, and I had just spoken.

“Alice, what happens in the other 30%?”

“Failure may result in the ship being buried in a thousand tons of rock, the complete destruction of the Infinity, or collapsing and trapping the entire ship.”

“Ah… cancel that!”

“Captain, The Dreadcannon is charging. Due to the current condition of the ship, canceling now will cause catastrophic power failure. I recommend that we continue with firing.”

“Damn it!” I cursed.

The entire ship was shaking now, and I could hear a roaring hum getting louder and louder. It sounded like it was full of energy, and it caused the hair on my head to even rise up.

Zoe and I glanced at each other. Suddenly, she shrank, her skin turning green as she turned into a blob. I blinked as I saw a slime start scooting away.

“Oh, no, you don’t! You’re not running away and squeezing out of some rock!” I cried out.

I leapt on top of the slime, wrapping my arms around it. This was a stupid move. Had Zoe wanted to, I would have been inside her and being digested with a thought. Yet, her outer membrane had maintained its integrity, and even though she was desperately trying to crawl away to someplace safe, she ended up dragging me along with her.

It was at that moment that a massive roar exploded out. A blinding light filled my vision, and all I could hear was endless destruction.

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