There was a loud hiss as the hydraulic lock on the ramp and the airtight seal engaged. There were a few moments of darkness and silence broken only by the sound of Percy’s laboured breathing that followed. Jason looked down at the young man he carried in his arms, barely older than a boy, and felt a burning anger in the pit of his stomach.
A soft ding played over the speakers as a green strip illuminated the floor in front of Jason. He suspected Tempest was just booting up, but he didn’t really have the time for that. The strip of green light stretched forward to the airlock, illuminating the circular frame of the hydraulic doors.
“Tempest,” said Jason, inquisitively, as he walked toward the airlock. “Lights on, please.”
A soft male voice filtered in through the speakers. “Of course, sir. If you would forgive the delay. I am currently integrating the new ion thruster systems to mine.”
“That is alright, Tempest,” said Jason. He tried not to sound too impatient, but it was difficult. There was an innocent bleeding in his arms. “Prioritize restoring power and function to cameras and Med Bay, Tempest. We have an injured passenger onboard.”
Jason heard the artificial whir of engines coming to life, as well as the deep sound of light switches being flipped. Jason had made sure to have those sound effects included in Tempest’s subroutines. Frankly, he found it unsettling when the lights turned on without so much as a peep.
A vibration rattled through the hull of the ship, as though it were a car starting up. Again, the effect was a fabricated one. Jason had grown up in a different time–had had the pleasure of growing up on Earth before ARK-III departed for Vita Lyrae. The new technology, and the utter silence that accompanied the wakening of a starship, was unsettling.
The airlock doors slid open with a hiss. Jason slipped between them, looking down just in time to see the splattered blood trail he and Percy had left behind them. A small spherical drone, levitated by advanced anti-gravity technology from project ICARUS, flitted into Jason’s field of view.
Jason heard the cameras in the ship clicking to life and felt them connecting to his neural interface. The drone projected a holographic screen in front of Jason’s face. A young man, made purely of digital code, appeared on it. “Sir,” said Tempest, “I was unaware there was a scuffle in the Hangar. I apologize. I would have turned on my weapons systems in response to the threat if had I known.”
Jason allowed himself a brief chuckle. He shook his head. “I took care of it, Tempest, but our young friend here put his life on the line to help.”
“Understood, sir,” said Tempest. The green strip on the floor dinged, turning first yellow, and then red. “Med bay should be operational, sir, but the rest of the ship will take some time to check for possible systems failures.”
“Make sure to check for stowaways, Tempest,” said Jason, when the secondary doors of the airlock opened to let him into the rest of the ship. The corridors were still dark, illuminated only by the soft light of the red strip that ducked into the left-hand hallway past the airlock.
“Of course, sir,” said Tempest. “I appreciate the reminder.” The ship A.I. paused for a moment, the drone projecting his avatar following Jason as Jason walked past. “It’s not like checking for intruders was the first thing I thought of doing when I learned of what had happened in the hangar,” Tempest added, dryly.
Jason chuckled, just as a more robotic voice chimed ‘sarcasm subroutines online.’ “Welcome back, Tempest,” said Jason. “I was wondering when you would show up.”
“Maybe I should leave you in the dark the next time you carry a bleeding twink onto the ship, sir,” said Tempest, the laugh that followed was somewhat metallic. “The Bridge is now secure and ready for you, sir. I’ll take care of the boy.”
A hovering stretcher came down the hallway, its underside lit the same shade of red as the strip on the floor. In fact, the stretcher travelled along the strip, as though on an invisible rail.
“Thank you for the offer, Tempest, but I would feel much more at ease if I took care of the boy that saved my life.” Jason walked over to the stretcher and gently lay Percy on it. His arms were sore, but he felt honour-bound to persevere and help Percy.
Jason gripped the handrail on the stretcher and pushed it along, allowing the stretcher’s resistance against moving outside of the path defined by the red strip to guide him to Med Bay. He felt a twinge of shame at not actually knowing where Med Bay was on his own ship, but then again, he never had the time to properly explore Tempest.
“But sir,” said Tempest, a twinge of frustration in his digital voice. “There are other matters that you need to concern yourself with. I am fully capable of taking care of a .35 caliber gunshot wound in a nonfatal part of the body.”
“I don’t need insubordination right now, Tempest,” said Jason wearily. The med bay doors hissed open in front of him as he stepped inside. He slid the stretcher over to the nearest vacant bed—though all the beds were empty—and transferred Percy over with a grunt.
“I don’t want to hear it, Tempest,” said Jason. “I forbid you from relaying any information to me that is not directly related to the care for and treatment of a gunshot wound until I say otherwise.” The young man in the holographic projection narrowed his eyes at Jason.
“Very well, sir,” said Tempest. “Obviously, the first step would be to remove the bullet.”
“Cut the attitude, Tempest,” said Jason. The holographic projection threw up its hands and shook its head. Jason was aware Tempest wouldn’t be so upset if there weren’t other urgent matters that needed seeing to, but at the moment, he didn’t care.
An innocent had just been involved in the conflict between Jason and his father. That made him furious and sad at the same time. He was going to see to it that Percy was alright before he attended to anything else.
Jason pinched the fabric of Percy’s jumpsuit and pulled. He had helped patent the technology of the improved jumpsuits, which could be torn without losing any significant integrity even on the atomic level thanks to nanotechnology. He removed the entire upper half of Percy’s jumpsuit, and though he appreciated the sight of the young man’s lean but well-defined upper body, the bullet wound was disconcerting.
“Scan his body to find out how deep the bullet went,” said Jason. “I’ll prepare strips for binding his shoulder when we’re done here.”
A ring a few inches wider in diameter than the bed was detached from the wall that the bed was fastened to. It spun slowly as it went, travelling down the length of the bed. Jason watched, apprehensive, as he tore the top half of Percy’s jumpsuit into one and two-inch-wide strips.
“Sir,” said Tempest. The hologram had been looking at Percy on the bed, but it now turned its attention to Jason. “Sir we have bandages literally a foot above the bed in the wall storage.”
Jason raised an eyebrow at the A.I. “And in case we ran out of bandages? I think it’s better I that I know how to improvise.”
“But sir—” Tempest sighed. “—You know what, sir? Nevermind.” The hologram turned its attention back to the scan that was currently taking place. “Should I isolate the scan to his torso, sir?” said Tempest. The ring slowed its forward motion as it reached Percy’s waist.
Jason pondered the question for a moment. He was pretty sure that the damage was localized to Percy’s shoulder, and the torso scan alone was already overkill. Nevertheless, he decided that he couldn’t be too careful. “No. Perform a full-body scan. Perform an in-depth analysis but I want anything about the bullet as soon as possible.”
“Of course, sir,” said Tempest. There was a momentary pause as the hologram of Tempest vanished. It reappeared, although this time Tempest was holding a clipboard in his hands. “I have some good news and bad news, sir,” said Tempest. “The good news is that the bullet is whole. Its shell is magnetic, but I can’t ascertain what it’s made for. The bad news is that it’s pretty deep and probably can’t be pulled out with forceps.”
Jason blinked and looked at the forceps that he already had in his fingers. “Probably can’t be pulled out with forceps. Might be possible. NOT recommended,” Tempest said, dryly, looking up at Jason.
Jason rolled his eyes and reached for the other surgical implement for removing foreign bodies, a soft tube with a camera and a claw at the end. “I trust you know how to retrieve the bullet without doing too much damage, sir?” said Tempest.
“How many bullet wounds do you think I’ve had to treat, Tempest?” said Jason, dryly. “In a world where old lead-and-gunpowder guns are considered more of a hobby than an actual threat, how many bullet wounds do you think I’ve even seen?”
“I don’t know, sir,” said Tempest. “I am not privy to many of the things you do outside my hull.” Tempest’s eyes flicked over to where Percy was in the bed. “And I don’t think I want to be. However, in case you needed advice about pulling bullets out of people, try not to puncture lungs, hearts, or any important organs while you’re doing it.”
Jason blinked for a moment, unsure what to say. “Thank you, Tempest,” he said, flatly. “You are a great help. I wonder what ever I would do if I didn’t have you around.”
“Glad to be of service, sir,” said Tempest. “And if you don’t mind me answering your clearly sarcastic rhetorical question, you would fly whatever poor ship gets stuck with you into a mountain.”
“I will call on you if I needed any further help, Tempest,” said Jason. There was a thread of exasperation in his voice, but he liked the more personable side of Tempest. He wasn’t sure he could deal with the cold, calculating side of most other A.I.
“As you wish, sir,” said Tempest. The hologram blinked out of existence and the spherical drone shot itself into one of hemispherical alcoves in the wall just above the individual supply cabinets over the beds.
Jason lowered the tip of the magnetic probe into the bullet wound. He took one hand and brushed a lock of silver-and-gold hair behind his ear. Gingerly, he searched for the bullet, entire body tense until the magnetic tip of the probe made contact with the bullet.
Jason engaged the grasping claws, which found a good grip on the surprisingly-intact bullet casing. Slowly, he pulled the offending ammunition out. Everything went smoothly until about halfway through, a sudden cough beside him made him jolt. Percy groaned in pain, eyes fluttering slightly open.
“Anaesthesise him, Tempest. Knock him out for four hours, I think,” said Jason. The spherical probe whirred and clicked. This probe was not the same as the one from the airlock. This was very clearly one designed for Med Bay use, plainted purely white save for a red cross on its upper pole.
The probe extended a needle and a laser, searching for Percy’s jugular vein. It was quickly located and the probe administered a dose calculated from Percy’s body scan that would keep him unconscious for about four hours. When the deed was done, the probe returned to hovering by Jason’s side and projected a rather grim-faced Tempest to Jason.
“I’m afraid I have more bad news, sir,” said Tempest. “It’s probably the most idiotic assassination plot in the universe to an A.I. and fans of the movie Transcendence but the bullet was coated with microscopic pieces of highly-radioactive, anomalously-stable Unbiunium isotopes.”
Jason was struggling to process the information. Even when Tempest tried to stop him, he swatted the drone away and pulled the bullet completely free of Percy. “They still haven’t named that fucking element?” he said. “Give me a break. Now they’re just stalling.”
“Sir,” said Tempest, voice low. “This is a serious matter.”
“Let me have this moment, Tempest,” said Jason. He massaged his temples. “Okay. What the fuck did you just tell me, and what does it mean?”
“It means, sir, that young Perseus Jackson might well suffer from the effects of radiation poisoning soon.” Tempest paused. “I currently posses no useful information in treating internal radiation poisoning, but I haven’t updated my data banks since Cycle 10,” said the A.I.
“You haven’t updated your data banks in thirty years, Tempest?” said Jason, incredulously.
“My generalist database has been updated regularly, sir,” said Tempest, “But I was built to be a light transport and scout ship and not a medical facility. My medical data banks are meant only to get seriously injured individuals stable—not cured.”
“Fine,” said Jason. He looked at Percy, a cold knot in the pit of his stomach. “Get me Will Solace, Tempest.”
“On it, sir,” said Tempest. Tempest’s Holographic avatar reached down and picked up a telephone receiver.
Jason blinked. “Seriously?”
“Sir, you programmed my personality. You don’t get to complain.” Before Jason could respond, Tempest held up a finger to silence him. “Sir, three attempts each to Will Solace’s residence, medical ship, and private clinic have gone without response.”
“Patch me through to the bridge of the Scipio.” Jason pinched the bridge of his nose.
“About damn time,” Tempest muttered under his breath. The hologram expanded, gaining definition and proper colour as it became a window into the bridge of the Scipio. A very angry Reyna was standing in front of her captain’s console.
“Fucking hell Grace,” said Reyna. “I have been trying to reach you for the last half-hour.” Jason opened his mouth to try and say something. “Before you say anything more, about your twink, Grace, there’s something you might want to see. Tempest, please.”
Jason heard the momentary hiss of static before a second drone created a screen beside the one showing Reyna. He frowned and looked at what seemed to be a news broadcast. “In today’s devastating terrorist attack on Capitoline Hill that left half of Parliament Building a smouldering pile of rubble and reportedly dozens dead, the executive branch of planetary government is confirmed deceased in its entirety.”
“All eyes now turn to the presently most powerful man on the planet, whose real name is a closely-guarded secret except among his business associates. Government alias: Zeus is set to deliver an address to the C-Vita Lyrae in two hours as he takes temporary control of planetary government, due to what experts are calling the contractor government treaty.”
“If you might recall, last half-cycle, then-incumbent prime minister, government alias: Cronus, expressed happiness at what he called an unprecedented deal between the Hellene Group of Companies and C-Vita Lyrae planetary government. At the time, the prime minister said that dealings were strictly confidential and that details of the deal would be released over the next half-cycle. Until now, there is no official text of the treaty.”
“No Members of Parliament are presently in good enough condition to offer dissent against the instatement of Zeus as temporary prime minister. Zeus has agreed to hold a session once the injured MP’s have recovered to decide who is to be the leader of planetary government, but for the time being, Zeus will act as the de facto prime minister as per the terms of the treaty.”