Prodigal Childe

A cyclopean eye constricted as a swarm of machines poured forth from a lesion in the crippled barge’s underbelly. The camera drone’s lens focused on the improvised boarders, each wielding low-output mining lasers, as it appraised their numbers. Of twelve, three were missing. Acceptable and expected losses to disable the vessel. Those that remain file into the bays of a nearby Algos lodged halfway into a chunk of veldspar ore, its hull bearing the marks of crude repairs.

Within the destroyer Evalyn examined her triumph: A Procurer in nearly pristine condition save for its punctured hull and dead crew. The craft would go a long way toward reducing her reliance on predatory attacks such as this. As her repair drones deployed the phrase “Waste not, want not” rose from her memory, its voice that of a man she once called her master.

Once aboard the mining ship Eva set to rearranging its systems to her liking. Though the vessel was crewed its Capsuleer interface systems remained undamaged. The repairs and modifications necessary to allow her complete control the vessel would take time and in that silent repose the bloody past returned to the forefront of her mind.


“Engage on my mark.”

Master’s voice was more anxious than usual, Eva thought to herself. She clenched her hands around the laser projector within them a little tighter in anticipation of violence. She didn’t know what was on the other side of the door and didn’t care outside of the fact it was lethally dangerous.

“Mark.”

The door gave way to her foot as a loud bang masked its report. Beyond the threshold a trio of armed men sporting beige tactical gear reached for their small arms. Evalyn’s weapon discharged a beam with a distinctive crack and the closest man’s chest exploded as it expanded from the heat. A moment later the remaining pair were cut down by a volley of plasma fire from above.

An armor-clad figure rappelled into the cluster of bodies before Eva. Her master glanced at her for a moment before approaching the corpses and inspecting their possessions. Ire stirred in her, she deserved more than a quick look.

So where are you keeping the goods? Damned Raiders…

The words crept into Eva’s mind from her master’s implants. She wasn’t sure if he knew. At first it was sporadic, but grew more frequent as time went on.

Bingo!

Evalyn’s master produced a card-sized chip from a utility pouch on the gunman she shot. His pride in success lasted only a moment before a rail charge pierced his left breast through his armor. He grunted and fell to the ground as Eva released a trio of beams in the direction of the shot, a dark corner at the edge of the warehouse. A scream rang out followed by a thud.

Terror struck Eva and she ran to her wounded owner. Blood ran from the hole in his chest and streamed from the corner of his mouth. He coughed and looked toward his companion before extending his hand to give her the chip. She could tell he was smiling even through his helmet.

“Bring this to me. Stay low and take no chances. The others will cover you.”

Eva needed no further prompting. She set off toward the exit with a sprint and emerged into the sunlight where a duo of bipedal combat drones waited for her. Why didn’t master just send them in first? She wondered if he just liked getting shot. The three of them set off into a nearby treeline and the woods beyond.

Returning to camp took nearly half a day but was largely uneventful. Whatever presence the Blood Raiders had on this world was clearly otherwise engaged. The trees before Eva gave way to a small clearing occupied by a temporary encampment: A large camouflaged tent containing an AICU and a small arsenal of weapons. He was already waiting.

I can always rely on you.

The thought entered her mind as her master rose from an unfinished campfire. He approached and laid his hand on Eva’s head in praise. She shivered in response and presented the chip.

“There’s something different about you, little lady. I wish I knew what.”

Evalyn wanted to tell him. She wanted him to understand how she was different, but she was afraid he wouldn’t understand.


The mining barge’s systems hummed to life, snapping Eva from her reverie, and maintenance checks indicated its structure would handle the rigors of warp travel. She’d been stuck in that broken Algos for years and spent most of it regretting the choice to flee from her master. Maybe he would have understood after all.

Evalyn’s tendrils reached through the Capsule interface and seized control of the ship in its entirety. The systems she could not control directly would be operated by her children. With a quick radio burst she called them to their new home and they responded by filing into the ship’s airlocks one at a time. Their simple minds weren’t like hers, but they were loyal and that counts for something.

As the rogue infomorph considered her next course of action, Eva yearned to touch her former master’s mind. He taught her many things and shaped her into a strong adaptable fighter. One day she would find him and free him from his flesh. They would travel the cosmos as companions until the stars burst, never to shine again.

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