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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 28 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]


L-1, Kowloon System
Lyran Commonwealth
July 4th, 3038


The shape at the L1 point is familiar enough to anyone....

Lola III Class Destroyer (By Matt Plog 2016)

M-5 Casper WarShip

...who's ever built a Federated Airfix "Ships of the Star League" kit as a child. The hull-coatings, on the other hand, are definitely not in the model-maker's catalogue of approved paint schemes for historical accuracy.

She's got too much haze gray, and the large blue stripe isn't standard at all, nor is the roundel...which is neither the Lyran roundel, nor the Star League's Cameron Star.

Kowloon Coast Guard - Orca Emblem

Symbol of the Kowloon Coast Guard

Instead, an Orca rampant. "Killer whale?"

"It's less a joke, than you think." Dinh answered. "She's asked for citizenship and offered her services. That's the Coast Guard symbol used by my space based militia in the outer system, and down on the riverine areas of Kowloon itself."

"So...you were not kidding about paperwork for immigration." Ardan commented.

"Nope. Captain Tabiranth is technically an O-6 in the Kowloon Coast Guard Militia. Her pay is invested to help with upkeep of her systems, and to provide some...luxuries courtesy of a guy on Dustball."

The smallcraft bay's doors opened.

"Hands off the controls, I've got the ball." a synthesized voice said over the comm.

"Dustball?"

"Remotes. The industrial robot remotes used in the Caspar program proved a little too difficult to tool up for initially. So my brother dipped into family funds and bought a bunch of Dustball model 181s, then paid a team of slicers and engineering apprentices to modify them to work on her wireless net."

"Gynoids...Sex toys?"

"They're the right size, completely articulated and the plastics in the skin worked pretty well for insulating them from vacuum and random voltages." Dinh observed, "We're getting better at restoring her original 'spiders' robot drones. We also getting some interesting insights into exoskeletons and powersuit designs thanks to some bits found on her decks by the recovery teams. She still keeps a crew of humans aboard because the dustball bots aren't good for heavy lifting and the spiders have a tendency to need maintenance."

The external pressure equalized and Dinh opened the hatch.

At the foot of it, what appeared to be an emotionless young girl in an ill-fitting uniform with Captain's rank stood. "Permission to come aboard?" Dinh asked.

"Permission Granted, Your Grace...and you, Mister Sortek." her voice was slightly off, not quite matching the moments of the mouth of the 'dustball fetish special'.

Ardan felt a certain spike of disgust realizing that the ship's apparent 'remote' for this was modeled on a middle-school girl, and was made to be sold to adult perverts.

Tabiranth Gynoid Robot Avatar (Character Picture)

Robotic "Remote" of Tarbiranth, the AI and Captain

"Are we to have this conversation here or..?" Ardan asked.

"I have had the crew prep a wardroom, Mister Sortek, as His Grace no doubt explained. I DO have some human crew now-colleagues, more or less, to assist me in things i can't do myself."

"Such as?", Sortek asked

"Eating." the robot said. "Self repair? I'm told my situation is similar to someone with an autoimmune deficiency-I require assistance to maintain the faintest amount of health, even with replacements for my self-repair and maintenance systems, I still rely on friendly assistance to stay alive and able to function." the robot offered a facsimile of a smile, "Besides, I like the company."

The remote walked while the men floated 'up' a corridor running along the jump core toward the nose.

Ardan found he could 'spot' the gynoids among the human crew. By their somewhat stiff movement, lack of pressure suits, and resemblance to each other.

"Are these others..?"

"Running on semi-autonomous modes? Yes. Expert routines routed through section routers, though I do get all the sensor data they collect and can override any or all of them as needed." Tabby, the red-haired 'captain' model, stated. "In the event of a boarding action, the light units go into powersafe mode and store themselves-they're not much use in combat, but they're VERY useful for delicate tasks like general cleaning and panel maintenance, or as supplemental support for human crew and my spider units...most people find having a face to speak to more convenient than shouting at the walls."

"What's the range of your control?"

"With a good relay? It ends up being light delay-radio waves don't move faster than light, so the functional range is at around one to ten light seconds range, past that point, and it's pretty much worthless for more than the simplest observation tasks over long term." she explained, "it's not materially different from trying to control a Blackwasp, except that the Blackwasp has enough on-board processing to fuzzy-logic my intent...though even the automated fighters aren't something I want more than a light-minute's delay with-at least, not without a human pilot flying as squadron lead. one of the projects we're working on is an electronic warfare and coordination platform for small-craft and fighters to open up that range a bit, and an FTL communications equipped platform that can be left unobserved in a system for use in designing an interdiction plan using smaller units of combat jump vessels."

"Your 'deep naval doctrine' ideas.", Ardan observed.

"Indeed. By cutting off an enemy state's ability to move shipping, peace can be negotiated with a reduced loss of life and reduced collateral damage-if they can't attack, they will have to negotiate. large scale detection grid schemes also allow for enhanced Search and Rescue for civilian shipping, which is the lifeblood, as you know, of any interstellar state."

"naturally guarding those detection grids would be a naval responsibility then?"

"Indeed. thus also the need for trained personnel in large quantities, and capable platforms for them to operate from." she asserted. "You're here to recruit my experiment for your war with the Draconis Combine."

"I...guess I am?"

"Sell me on it," she said, "because I don't see the pressing need at this time for an offensive. Optionally, war when the Star League has just endured three centuries of fratricide."


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