A formation of 10 arhans flew at an extremely low altitude over the desert. Among the white traditional models was a unique, black arhan, belonging to Kristine. Watching through an optical camera, she confirmed. Hot air blurred the city, in which were the ruins of the military base, where Pioneer was hiding. They were approaching. She reported this information on the internal line to the rest of the detachment.
“Target in sight. Approximately 300 more seconds… I’m going first.”
The second was Veronica.
“Destroy everything that comes in your path.”
Third, Hilde, said sharply, “We’ll show him what we have suffered these past 2 weeks on Earth!”
The airspace control sensor gave a warning signal. Kristine looked up. A real meteor shower burst into Earth’s atmosphere. And it was heading for the ruins.
“A landing squad from the orbital station?”
“Too early. This was not announced at the briefing. They are going to steal our prey?”
A worried Veronica reported, “Message from the headquarters! An arhan and a container with additional equipment were stolen from the combat station platform… It’s the enemy!”
Among the many containers, cutting through the sky, Kristine saw the landing module. At the briefing, they heard that a former security agent escaped, guilty of treason and that the location was unknown. Perhaps he or she was in league with Pioneer, so they had to be careful.
Kristine gritted her teeth. Angela… What an idiot! She pressed on the pedal. The black arhan sped up. The new arhan model, on which Angela was, was 1000 meters above the ground. The slowing parachute had already played its role. The scorching heat resistant shields began to separate. The containers also slowed down and one by one landed in the ruins or somewhere close by.
The arhan took a humanoid form and starting the engines, it began to descend rapidly. It landed carefully right on top of the place where the rocket was located and was expected by a working robot in a cap and Dingo, carrying Angela’s physical body on his shoulder.
Surprised, Angela spoke through an external speaker.
“What are you doing here?”
Dingo watched the containers fall from the sky, leaving a white trail with noise behind.
“Your return was majestic.”
Pioneer said from the robot, <I warned him of the dangers and suggested him to leave this place, but he didn't listen. Angela, you try to persuade him.>
Dingo, interrupting him, said to Angela, “First we need to fix you up. What an awful sight.”
“Awful? That's rude. I was fighting so hard to get here. I'll connect the cable now.”
Dingo approached the arhan. Angela lifted the manipulator. The closures on the fingers opened and flexible cables appeared. The plugs connected to the relay on the back. They were made for loading the virtual personality into the biological brain. Since there was a dedicated terminal for connection, the helmet was not needed.
The physical body jerked. The body nearly fell and appeared right in front of Dingo.
Angela’s blue eyes opened.
“You look much better like this,” Dingo whispered in her ear.
“Ah, well, let go!” Blushing, she tried to push Dingo away. “Do you understand what position you are in? Soon, the security service will attack this place. If you stay here, you might die.”
“It just looks like my important client might have another job for me, so I decided to wait. You yourself said that you will count on me next time.”
Surrendering, she asked, “Are you serious?”
“If you don't work hard on Earth, you won't survive.”
“This time I have nothing to pay you with. Are you still in?”
“After everything, just give me your robot again. I'll sell him to the junkyard.”
Dingo answered carelessly, and Angela looked at him with a serious look. He just smiled.
“It's just that they're going to launch the world’s largest firework display. I would like to see it with my own eyes.”
He looked at the horizon. In the cloud of dust, a group of security service arhans was discernible. Angela also saw them. They were being led by a black arhan. This was Kristine’s machine. He looked away.
“But, those who will try to intervene will be asked to leave.”
“Are you serious…”
“You already called me a fool. Besides, I prepared myself. There are places here where it's better not to go. Remember them properly.”
Dingo handed the city map to Angela. He placed crosses on the places where traps were installed.
Turning, he asked Pioneer, “How are the preparations for the launch going?”
<1220 seconds left.>
“If we keep going like this, victory is ours. Let's go!”
Dingo grabbed a sniper rifle and went down the stairs. Sighing, Angela smiled in confusion.
<Is that alright?>
“It's alright. This is also conscience. Well, to business. Support is on you.”
<You can rely on me.>
Angela opened the panels on the arhan’s back and chose physical control. The cockpit opened. She took the place of the pilot. The steering system rebooted. She fixed the map that Dingo gave her on the console panel. An image appeared on the monitors. She looked where the containers with the equipment fell. All the data about the landing were sent to the arhan. Everything was indicated on the display.
Having found the needed one, Angela raised the arhan. She repeated the gesture of gratitude to Pioneer. She flew up.
The detachment of arhans of the security service, under the command of Kristine, invaded the ruins that hid the rocket. They had never participated in a silent war. There were no signs of warmth, no hints that someone was hiding there. All around were rows of dilapidated buildings.
Veronica reported, “We were informed from the orbit, that a next generation arhan landed with 17 containers.”
“And what is he going to do to us all alone?”
Hilde was obviously having fun.
“Stop all conversations.” Kristine cut in. “All machines, attention. Our goal - the booster rocket. There is also a central processor of an uncontrolled AI. Angela… Be careful with the new arhan. Even though there’s only one.”
And then several missiles appeared from the building. The group of arhans began an evasive maneuver and broke the formation. However, the rockets exploded in the air above them, not reaching their target. It made a smoke curtain. The thick white smoke enveloped the entire detachment of arhans, the visibility of the optical chambers was reduced to zero.
“Don’t panic!” Kristine tried to bring the alarmed group back to their senses, “Switch to infrared mode.”
But it didn’t work. Even in infrared mode, everything remained white. The smoke jammed the signals in the infrared spectrum.
“The satellite tracking system is not responding!” reported the frightened Veronica.
Since infrared mode didn’t work, she wanted to know the situation using satellite tracking system. But the connection was blocked. There was a message about attempted hacking, to prevent it, they had to disconnect. Fortunately, the arhan support system was on a different line, so it remained untouched.
Kristine gave an order to the AI support system.
“Determine the source of the fire, hurry!”
Hilde’s voice was heard.
“Movement detected at 5 degrees. Something is coming closer.”
“The enemy arhan?”
“No, its… heavy construction equipment.”
“I don’t know for sure, there are many signals. Hmm, because the enemy is in minority, he decided to use heavy equipment on us? Get together. However many there are, they can’t our…”
Heavy robots appeared out of the smoke, directed by Pioneer. They surrounded the group of arhans. They weren’t armed. But they had laser targeting systems. And now, they were all aimed at the arhans.
Kristine turned pale.
From above by guidance, they were struck by a lot of ground-to-ground missiles. The robots continued to point at the quickly retreating arhans. The missiles sharply changed directions following their targets. When they got to the arhans, they exploded. There was a noise of a blow to the ground. The arhan was not destroyed, but it was now acting too slowly, so the missiles attacked it like piranhas. The missiles attacked the black arhan also. Kristine activated the laser guns and aimed at the heavy robots by herself. One shot - and that’s it.
The missiles lost their target. Now they switched to the closest moving objects. They pursued the black arhan. To get rid of them, she began to maneuver around the remains of the buildings.
Angela opened one of the equipment containers. She fixed up the rocket installations with the help of the manipulators so that they attacked air targets. Kristine’s detachment, pursued by missiles, had to pass through here.
Checking with her map inside the cockpit, Angela asked, “What is the situation?”
Observing everything through the camera of a heavy robot, Pioneer reported, <Five targets destroyed. The sixth has serious injuries. Not a bad start.>
“What’s with the black arhan?”
Upon hearing this, Angela launched more missiles.
“Now the third trap. Pass to Dingo. Where is the container with the assault equipment?”
<There are still some missiles in this one.>
“Useless. It won’t work the second time. Kristine… The security agents should have adapted by now. They were prepared for this.”
<I understand. Next point is D2.>
Checking with her map, Angela headed there.
Kristine was able to get rid of her pursuing missiles. She rounded the area and came to the robots from behind. She destroyed them all at once. From the 10 arhans, only 4 were left. The accelerators of one were damaged, so he couldn’t maneuver. As a result, only three were left: Kristine, Hilde, and Veronica. Soon new security forces were to arrive, but the trio didn’t want to appear before them with nothing.
Kristine inquired, “Veronica, what’s with the satellite tracking system and connection? Still not working?”
“No, they’re alright. The attempted hacking was just a snag, everything works perfectly. But it will take some time to restart.”
“If we connect, there shouldn’t be any difficulties. Track the positions of the containers. As soon as you find them, destroy them immediately.”
“Angela herself wouldn’t have been able to do this. She has an associate somewhere.”
Frightened, Hilde looked around, and said, “So the uncontrolled AI didn’t do all of this?”
“The traps were made by someone who knows him. Surely, it’s one of the locals. In any case, we’ll have to deal with more than just the new arhan model. Be careful.”
Then, an alarm sounded. Hovering over them, Angela’s new arhan model opened fire. She was advancing, showering them with fire from an assault machine gun. The AI support of all three of the arhans began an automatic evasion from enemy fire. Hilde’s arhan flew up, leveled, and opened fire out of Gatling machine guns, built into both its hands. The noise of the shots was deafening, in a minute it could release 6,000 20mm cartridges. The ground was completely torn. Pieces of concrete and asphalt flew in every direction. And yet, not even a single bullet touched Angela’s arhan. The incredible reaction speed allowed it to evade all the bullets.
Kristine opened fire from the laser guns, and Veronica from a large-caliber rifle, but everything still missed. The forecast of the movement and ballistic analysis was done by Pioneer, but the mobility of the new arhan model was a step higher.
Kristine tried to contact the new arhan model.
“Angela! What are you thinking?!”
There was no answer from Angela. However, the new model, moving in a straight line, turned sharply and fled.
“Wait! At least say something!”
Kristine continued the pursuit, with Hilde and Veronica behind her. And here, the trio was attacked from the back, but they were able to avoid it. The speed of the new arhan was simply incredible, they could hardly keep up with it.
Kristine and Veronica hastily climbed onto the roof of a building. Hilde hid inside of a large residential complex.
Dingo was waiting on an overpass in his buggy.
“Hid in a place, where I can be easily caught.”
He pressed a detonator button. The concrete under Hilde’s arhan exploded. The ground fell through. There was a parking lot below.
The lower part of the body was stuck in the rubble. Hilde struggled to get out. Dingo blew up the other charges. Continuous explosions were heard in the residential complex. Glancing up, Hilde turned pale. Ten floors of the complex began to sink. With a loud noise, the building collapsed. The arhan’s legs were clamped between the debris, it simply couldn’t move. It was too late to use the accelerators.
“Hell! Screw you!”
She shot at the collapsing building with both the Gatling machine guns. It was all useless. The building collapsed, and the arhan was crushed with concrete and metal frames.
The pressure on the overpass was huge. Broken columns of the road began to fall. Dingo ran to his buggy. He hurried away from the collapsing road and a cloud of dust formed because of the fall. Nothing was visible because of the smoke. However, it didn’t look like the arhan could get out. Such traps were installed throughout the whole city.
On choosing buildings into which to install the charges, Dingo was guided by Pioneer’s information, thereby choosing only the buildings that were guaranteed to collapse.
Dingo breathed out a sigh of relief, and then his face became harsh again.
“It’s probably not easy for them in physical bodies.”
A physical body can be destroyed, but a backup copy of the virtual personality was stored in their spine, so a thing like “death” was nothing to them. Although they could experience what diseases and sufferings are.
“And it’s even worse for her.”
Angela led a battle on a roof of one of the buildings with the security service’s arhans. Kristine and Veronica attacked her together. Under incessant fire, Angela had no time to relax. She repulsed with all her strength. She had to do her best; two professional pilots, working together, were not at all simple enemies. Thanks to the high accuracy of the calculation system, she somehow managed to evade, but their support systems worked as a pair too, which made their movements even more complex and too difficult to counterattack. The expense of aimlessly spent ammunition was enormous. She heard a message that the cartridges from machine guns and short-range missiles were all used.
“Where is the closest container?”
<8 degrees, 400 meters. Offensive type.>
She pushed the lever and went down sharply. In between the abandoned buildings, she saw a container in the form of lighting. Following her, Kristine and Veronica also saw it.
Angela sent a signal to the container. The lock was unlocked like four petals. But, the arhan stopped here. It wasn’t possible to take out the contents quickly. Kristine and Veronica had caught up too. The arhan grabbed the top of the container and pulled and the container bent even more. A part of the bottom, near the ground, became an improvised shield, protecting her from the weapons of Kristine’s and Veronica’s arhans. For such tools, the container was too strong. It was not so easy for the energetic and armor-piercing bullets to break through.
Meanwhile, Angela took out the contents of the container. She took out melee weapons, a sword, and a shield. Only with the strength and speed of her arhan could the force of this weapon be fully revealed. However, it wasn’t very easy to provide the tactical support, the pilot must have the skill and also excellent flair.
The shield was installed on one of the manipulators, the sword on the other. The identification of the equipment was done automatically, fire control was switched to control mode. The container was barely holding back the attacks now. While Angela was trying to figure out what was what, the pair tried not to let her get closer.
Veronica changed the type of shells of her large-caliber rifle. She charged high-explosive grenades, aimed at the container and fired. Having met its target, the grenade exploded. The remains of the fuel used in the rocket engine during landing caught fire.
There was an explosion. Angela’s arhan got a serious blow. One leg was literally nailed to the ground. But, it withstood the fierce explosion. The whole cockpit was shaken. Angela, gritting her teeth, clung to her seat. Parts of the container flew in different directions, but she managed to hide behind the shield. However, a warning on the screen showed that the actuators on every joint were under more pressure than normal. The system had some problems.
“I’ll show you!”
Angela took control, went into a fighting position and squeezed the gas pedal. The engine roared. She escaped from the smoke cloud made by the explosion and appeared right in front of Veronica’s arhan. Veronica was dumbfounded by such an appearance and began to aimlessly fire from her large-caliber rifle.
A grenade hit the shield and exploded but, it couldn’t break through the electromagnetic protection. Without slowing down, Angela struck a blow at Veronica. She approached the overturned enemy arhan. With the sword’s help, which was in her right hand, sparks came from the barrel of the rifle. Then she swung her sword again and pierced the control module located in the abdomen.
Sparks sprang up due to the strong vibration of the blade which entered the arhan’s body deeply. Veronica’s arhan was cramped with a spasm, it was no longer able to continue the battle.
Breathing heavily, Angela withdrew the blade from the enemy’s body. There was only Kristine left, she turned around and immediately received a strong blow to her shield, knocking her back. Kristine took advantage of her acceleration to strike.
Angela got up immediately. She looked at the black arhan. And then came the shots from the lasers. Angela heard Kristine’s voice through the communication system.
“Stop it, Angela. Why are you helping an uncontrolled AI?”
Angela answered, “Pioneer, as reasonable and sensible creature as we are.”
“Huh? What nonsense?”
“It’s not nonsense. Before the nano-catastrophe, he began to implement a project to develop deep space, and he’s been working alone for over a century to implement his plan. He isn’t an enemy to Deva. He is doing all this for the sake of the future of mankind. Yes, he is awkward in communication. But that doesn’t mean that you have to simply destroy him.”
Kristine chuckled, “And this was worth betraying the security service and getting into the archive? What a fool.”
“Can you tell me whose life is more valuable to you: yours or this AI’s?”
Lowering her blade, Angela jerked forward. Kristine opened fire from the lasers. All of them were deflected by the shield. But this was just a test. Angela wouldn’t have been able to avoid the arhan’s attack right away.
To avoid the cutting blow from Angela, Kristine needed to just move the upper part of the body, after which she grabbed the edge of the shield. Pulling it to herself, she got Angela off balance. The device for fixing the shield on the manipulator was unlocked. Kristine threw away the shield and immediately opened fire from the lasers. Angela jumped up, avoiding the energy attacks. Increasing the distance between them, she landed and put the sword in front of her, holding it with both hands.
Standing in front of her, Kristine said, “Surrender. I believe you have an ally here, but soon all the forces of the security service will arrive here. You can’t win.”
Angela said nothing. She was looking for a chance to attack. Kristine sighed in disappointment.
“Are you quite despaired? I will ask for your punishment to be softened. And if it doesn’t help, I’ll get into top management and bring you back.”
“It’s not that,” Angela said quietly, “Deva isn’t Paradise. We locked ourselves up in our dreams and dream about fake freedom. I understood this.”
“What? So you understood, that there is real freedom? You’re just an arrogant fool, that doesn’t understand what she’s saying. I don’t want to hear it.”
“I’m not saying that I understand what freedom is. But it’s definitely not there. Such a Deva won’t be able to last long.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you get enough memory, you can do anything. And to provide this memory, you need to get rid of what can be considered useless. Rock and the exploration of space, so many inconceivable things. Look at the real world. People live in this terrible world. They don’t seek Deva. They don’t need it. Do you know why? There’s no versatility. Our world is too fixated on itself. You… also understand this right?”
“No, this can not be. Deva is the root of the human mind. It is the crown of the development of mankind. What you’re saying turns the whole evolutionary path that humanity has gone through upside down. The peculiarity of our technical existence is not some kind of dream. And in order to develop, the security service is constantly in office. You, in fact, also believed in this when you joined.”
“Hey Kristine, evolution is the adaptation to the surrounding environment. Progress and technological development is something completely different. What is Deva adapting to? All I see is that it’s trying to protect itself from the whole world… This is exactly what I see today.”
Dropping it, Kristine began to direct her lasers.
“Say what you want, but I will protect Deva. Because it is my home.”
The lasers fired. The dusty air lit up.
“Yes,” Angela mumbled sadly, calculating the movements of the lasers and avoiding them. Quickly accelerating, she flew up.
She raised the sword above her head. Kristine’s arhan tried to avoid the blow but was a little late. The blade collapsed on the left manipulator. The severed limb fell to the ground. Angela returned the sword to its original position and was going to inflict another blow, but the arhan wasn’t moving like before. Its reaction was slowed down. The consequences of that explosion. The system reported that the actuators began to fail. Self-healing mechanisms worked at the expense of nano-machines, but there was no time to restore to an efficient level.
Kristine wasn’t going to miss such a chance. She pounced on her. She stepped on the new model, lying on the ground. The manipulator with the sword was pressed on by the foot. She placed the other manipulator in the chest, where the cockpit was located.
“Idiot. Quickly return to your backup drive and rest calmly.”
Holding her breath, Angela strained. An electronic sound was heard and a pop-up appeared. There was Dingo. He stood in his flesh, it seemed that neither the explosions nor the enemy arhans had touched him. Understanding that he was seen, he gave a signal. Dingo was located next to the buggy, two hundred meters behind Kristine’s arhan. And with him was a sniper rifle.
“What a pity that her antenna, providing her support, is completely exposed. Get ready, Angela!”
Dingo shot, The bullet burst from the barrel. It hit the antenna on the black arhan’s back. This one was followed by five more shots. All hitting the target.
“What? I was shot?”
Suddenly, the satellite connection was gone and Kristine became panicked. She tried to restore it again, but it would take time.
Angela took up her sword again. The black arhan couldn’t resist. The blade collided with the enemy. Flying off with sparks in every direction, the blade went through the black arhan’s body. Separated from the bottom, the top part of the body fell to the ground. After it, the feet also fell. Kristine’s operation was stopped. Angela’s face was full of feelings, she spoke to Pioneer.
“Did reinforcements arrive?”
<Yes. The second group is on the north-east, 8 arhans. In total there are five groups with a total of 40 units registered.>
The information display showed an image of heavily armed arhans entering the city ruins. The communication channel with Dingo closed. Only the closed channel with Pioneer was left, which couldn’t be intercepted.
“How is the preparation for the launch?”
<5 more minutes.>
Five minutes would be enough for 40 arhans to fully deploy their troops. When the rocket takes off, it will become an excellent target for them all. If possible, it was necessary to reduce their numbers as much as possible.
“This isn’t easy…”
Dingo’s voice sounded tired.
“Hey, don’t you dare give up. After all, the conscience will not let us back down. We’ll do this.”
Dingo headed for the next trap on his buggy. Agreeing with him, Angela nodded confidently. She headed to the next container, ready to resist the army of arhans.
The missile object was in a gorge near the ruined city. It was formed by a giant river in ancient times. It was over a kilometer in depth. Barely any vegetation grew. Only new layers of earth had appeared. A part of the vertical wall began to move. This was a huge passage entrance, disguised as a cliff.
From the depth of the tunnel, a rocket appeared, installed on a launchpad. There was a white icy mist. To preserve the low-melting oxidizer, liquid nitrogen was used to store as much of the nitrous oxide in liquid form as possible. This is where the launch will be done.
The security service arhan detachments had not found this place yet. They didn’t know that the rocket was ready for an emergency launch, so they were only thinking of how to get rid of Pioneer’s accomplices. If they were to find out that the rocket was ready for launch, their highest priority would be to destroy it. To ease the weight, they had to get rid of its armor. It was enough to press, and the aluminum case would have a dent. If a laser or a machine gun were to get it, it wouldn’t fly anywhere.
Just a bit more, but this was the most dangerous moment. Angela’s arhan was damaged throughout its whole body. Fighting ten opponents, it was at its limit. The right hand was lost in battle, and the second carried the shield. A rocket launcher and a blade were built into it. This was a special weapon, but it was impossible to resist all the enemies coming one after another.
Almost all of Dingo’s traps had been used. There were no homemade explosive devices left, but the missile systems left by Angela were reused. However, the security service’s detachment was too large.
Somehow getting rid of her pursuers, Angela got to the next container. She arrived next to a container by a ruined building and gave an order. And then, a danger message popped up.
“It can’t be. They found it?”
Surprised, Angela turned around. She thought of outwitting them. But through the monitor, she saw how a lot of missiles were coming her way. They were aware that one of the containers were here. Angela turned on the accelerators and began to gain altitude. The missiles hit the container and destroyed it. One of the missiles got Angela’s arhan as its target.
She rose above the buildings where she was already awaited by two other areas. They began to shoot at her from machine guns. From afar she was being fired upon by an arhan with a long-range rifle. Angela destroyed attacking missiles by using the ones on the launcher of her shield. In the midst of the explosions, she had a chance to hide from her pursuers among the buildings. Perhaps they knew the locations of all the containers and were waiting in ambush at the next one. But she couldn’t withstand them with just one shield. Due to constant shooting, the electromagnetic protection was almost at its limit, and there were almost no missiles left. It was necessary to keep it up, and when there was a chance, take away the enemy’s weapon.
She heard Dingo’s voice.
“Pioneer, how much longer?”
<All is according to schedule.>
Angela asked, “Has anyone from Deva joined you?”
<There was not a single message on the communication line.>
Angela’s face was grim.
<It was an expected result. I should have talked to the inhabitants of Deva one by one from the very start. Without that, those who wish to go wouldn’t be found.>
Dingo said, “You will fly anyways? Alone, without comrades?”
<Well I am hoping, that one person will still agree.>
A security service arhan flew past Angela. And then it turned. Angela accelerated sharply. It opened fire with a machine gun, but could hardly get her. She managed to escape. But now she was pursued by one more arhan.
Pioneer named the person he was hoping for.
<You, Angela Balzac.>
She received a signal that told her that missiles were launched in her direction. Thanks to the back camera, she saw them following her.
<You were kicked out of Deva, and you have nowhere to go. Do you want to come travel with me? To the edge of the galaxy!>
She opened fire on them, but she ran out of ammunition. The remaining missiles were getting closer. She flew into a narrow line of buildings. She maneuvered through the ruined buildings at top speed. The missiles flew into walls and ruins. All the missiles blew up, and Angela went out into a T-shaped road.
From both sides, arhans opened fire on her. She was too busy with the missiles to track the enemy’s movements. She reversed at full speed. If she were to slow down, she would immediately be caught in a flurry of bullets.
Angela pulled with all her might at the controller. She squeezed the gas pedal all the way. The nozzles opened the whole way and she soared up. At the same time, Angela was thinking over Pioneer’s offer. The offer was tempting.
Pioneer would get a large amount of memory just for her. There will be no discomfort. She would no longer have to think of any missions nor about career growth, for many years she would be able to explore the unknown universe. It is certain that there will be a lot of incredible things there. They may even meet reasonable forms of life. It would be so exciting. Just the thought made one tremble.
A message appeared on the display saying that the arhan had reached maximum height. The two pursuers fell behind, she was all alone at an altitude of 5000 meters. She was being fired at from machine guns and long-range rifles, but perhaps because of the height, the target was out of reach.
It was so quiet in the cockpit that the battle seemed unreal. All around Angela was the real world. Absolutely no nature… She thought and then it seemed to her that the color of the horizon changed.
The horizon line. She was too far to be sure. Yet in this devastated land, the sea could appear once more. If one were to go there, they can reach the beach. And this wasn’t a virtual beach, but a real, unfamiliar beach to Angela.
She told Pioneer and began to descend at full speed. She was hit by a cloud of bullets, but none could get her. She took the blades from her shield. With one sharp movement, Angela destroyed the enemy. She put the shield in standby mode, it went back into its original shape and Angela took the enemy’s machine gun.
She shot another arhan. One more was destroyed. Since the enemy has been firing for a long time, there was only one cartridge left. On a roof nearby was an arhan with a long-range rifle. For accurate hits, Pioneer did the aiming. For accurate shooting, it was necessary to use environmental data, the velocity of the wind, air temperature, and changes in gravity and the Coriolis force. Ballistics, the biography of weapons, the barrel’s temperature and all the information on the identifiers available in the weapon’s memory. All available information was used for firing.
The last bullet went into flight. It went along the planned trajectory and went directly into the barrel of the long-range rifle. The bullet collided with the loaded ammunition. The ammunition stuffed with explosives detonated. The debris of the exploded rifle touched the sensors on the head and antenna. The arhan lost balance stumbled and fell off the roof.
Angela said, “I still don’t know this world well. I want to see so many things. Until I see all this, I can’t leave.”
<I see… A pity.>
There were 10 more security service arhans left. But, by now, they were so intimidated by Angela’s and Dingo’s traps that they were constantly on their guard. More than half of the equipment was simply crushed so it was not surprising. There was still a little time left before returning to the rocket.
Angela threw out the machine gun and landed on the roof of the complex, where the working robot was. Dingo already returned to this place.
“Excellent work,” He waved to Angela’s arhan.
Pioneer said, <Sadly, the goal of the “Ark”, to find a new cradle for humanity, can be considered a failure. I will stop the launch of the rocket and will buy some time so you can escape...>
“Hey,” Angela cut him short, “What’s with you? Do you not want to fly?”
“You’ve been waiting for this moment for a century. What does it matter if it’s important to you?”
<But to go there with people was the proof of my existence.>
“Hey, Pioneer,” Dingo said, “The word ‘man’ has many different meanings. There is no exact definition of what ‘people’ are. You sing songs, act with your conscience, and don’t forget your old comrades. Who are you, if not a man?”
“There were things left in you, that we long since lost and forgot. So you can go with pride. If you meet someone on the way, introduce yourself with pride. You are a descendant of man from Earth.”
Immersed in his thoughts, Pioneer was silent.
“It’s ready,” muttered Kristine in a tired voice. The bisected arhan’s system was successfully restarted. Of course, she would not be able to move. A large part of the monitors and sensors were also out of order. And the antenna shot by Dingo was irreparable, so there was no tactical support. However, the manipulator equipped with a laser was still in working condition. And the power supply was still working. The fire control system also recovered. There was no support system from Deva either, but she was going to provide it at the expense of her resources. Kristine was still going to complete her mission.
Pioneer was going to make an emergency launch of the rocket. Angela was fighting the security forces in a battle that she can not defeat, just to gain time. The position of the launch pad was unknown. But when the rocket starts, everything will be clear.
This was exactly where she was going to direct the entire charge of the laser.
“Just you wait, Angela.”
Kristine grabbed the control system and waited.
Gently, Angela said to the silent Pioneer.
“Tell us what you feel.”
“Right. Tell us what you’re thinking.
<What I’m thinking..?>
“Do you want to fly? Or not?”
After a pause, he answered, <I want to. Yes. I want to fly. Every time I conducted an experiment on the launching of the rocket, I imagined how I would explore space. As you said, I always dreamed of it.>
“Well, then fly Pioneer.”
“Go ahead. No matter how far you are, we will always be with you.”
This time Pioneer answered without hesitation, resuming the launch. He returned the control to a startup mode.
<I will fly.>
Disconnection of external power.
Removal of fuses.
<Thank you both. I will tell stories of this star to the whole world.>
Auxiliary rocket engines, from the first to the sixth were unlocked.
From the seventh to the tenth were unlocked.
<If I meet new forms of life, I will definitely tell them about you. About how I appeared on earth, and how you helped me make my decision to travel.>
Oxidizer mixing valves were ready.
There were no deviations.
<Angela, Dingo, I’ll be going.>
Angela saw that the dashboard display showed the message “not online”. Connection with Pioneer disappeared. The robot stopped his work. His cap fell. Dingo smiled sadly.
The engines lit up, white smoke poured out.
Ignition was successful.
Putting on the cap, Dingo stared into the great ravine. Angela was staring too.
The ground rumbled. The ferocious roar of engines was heard everywhere. The smoke-shielded rocket fuel burned brightly. The rocket fuel, which was collected for many years, was finally used for its intended purpose.
The rocket started to break away from the ground.
And then an enemy signal appeared on the radars of the arhans. An alarm sounded. Angela glanced at the information display. It was not a signal from Pioneer’s rocket. Someone was directing their weapons at them. The target was not Angela or Dingo, but the launching rocket.
“I will not allow this to happen!”
Angela pressed the gas pedal. The nozzles worked at full capacity. The arhan flew up at full speed. She went to the signal. The screen showed Kristine’s arhan. The laser was aimed. It was aimed directly at the rocket. The ballistic calculation of the new arhan gave such a conclusion immediately. Angela opened up her shield, to cover the rocket. The autopilot was going after the rocket at top speed. For some time, she was behind it.
The laser beam of maximum power shot up into the air. Angela used her shield. The electromagnetic protection already exhausted itself, only the composite armor covered in scratches was left. The laser sparks glowed red because of the high temperature.
“Get out of the way, Angela!”
She heard Kristine’s angry voice.
The shield began to melt. Unable to change directions, the laser charge was aimed at knocking down the rocket.
“Open your eyes! Do you want to die? Stop, or else you’ll be cooked!”
The red-hot shield was melting. This way a high power laser beam can also melt a backup recovery disc inside the cockpit. There was no death in Paradise. But Angela was expelled from Deva. She had to live in the real world. Someday, her body will rot. And then Angela will die. Sooner or later, it was inevitable.
Inside her, a primitive fear raged along with an excitement which she had never experienced before. Instinct prompted her. It was the desire to live.
“I won’t get cooked. I decided everything for myself. I will not fulfill any more orders, I will follow my dreams and do only what I want. And I will not let you destroy Pioneer’s dreams.”
The shield melted completely. And still, the laser beam did not reach the cockpit. Angela didn’t get hurt. The laser charge was stopped. The attack prevented.
Kristine shouted and disconnected. There was a signal about a shortage of fuel. The arhan’s accelerators used the whole stock. Its supply ran out and the arhan began to fall. She was at a height of 10,000 meters. On the monitor, she saw the rocket rise, leaving a white trail behind it. Angela repeated the gesture of gratitude and smiled.
Pioneer’s rocket left the terrestrial atmosphere. The reactor and the main module successfully entered orbit. It was necessary, with the help of the accelerators, to reach the point of rendezvous with the “Ark”. He reached the Lagrange point 3 without any problem and met with the “Ark”.
Deva did not pursue him. When he was saving Angela, he left a small trap for the memory. Deva and the combat stations were temporarily disconnected, so no one could see Pioneer going into space.
Sleeping all these years, the robots of the “Ark” had awoken. Finally, the main module was here, the reactor and the control system were connected to the main system of the “Ark”. The checks began immediately. There were no serious problems, preparations for launch began. The helium, for many years blown by solar winds, finally got into the reactor, and the process of nuclear fusion began. The engine of the main power plant started working. Light poured from the plasma stream. The “Ark” began its first movement. The endless journey of Pioneer through the endless universe began.
Angela Balzac watched the night sky through the window of Dingo’s land rover. There was a large cast on her right hand. In landing mode, the new arhan model withstood a fall from a height of 10,000 meters. The shockwave in the cockpit triggered an emergency filling with shock absorbing gel. It did save Angela, but she didn’t get away without bruises and fractures.
Sitting on the passenger seat and looking at the night sky, she said, “I wonder if he’ll be alright?”
It’s already been ten days since the day of the launch. Driving, Dingo answered, “He’s got a difficult path ahead of him. For you too. A new and unfamiliar life awaits.
“Stop scaring me. I’m already feeling uncomfortable without this.”
Angela sighed in displeasure.
“The body is heavy, the air is dusty, there’s only sand around. This world isn’t that great.”
“You regret it?”
Positively declaring this, Angela smiled at Dingo, “Besides, I have such a reliable guide.
He smiled in confusion and looked at her plaster.
“How are your wounds?”
“They’re fine. They don’t hurt anymore. I want to get rid of this cast quickly. My whole hand is sweaty.”
“Well if so, where do you want to go? It looks like the security service isn’t following us, so I can take you wherever you want.”
Angela was now a fugitive. It wouldn’t be surprising if investigators were sent to catch her. But this wouldn’t happen. Everyone who was there saw how Angela’s arhan fell from that height. Everyone was in disarray because they missed Pioneer, so nobody spent the time to look for Angela, so it wasn’t strange that they left her physical body. The kicked her out of Deva, and there was nowhere else to go. This was tantamount to death.
Lost in thought, she said, “Dingo, have you ever been to sea?”
“The sea? Well yeah, but it was a long time ago.”
“Take me there. I want to see the sea… I will start with it.”
“It will be done.”
Dingo spun the steering wheel. The land rover headed for the sea. He turned on the radio. ALISE music flowed out. Angela was sitting and looking at the night sky. A new star lit up there. It was the light of the retreating “Ark”. Thanks to the Doppler effect, the red glow was shifted.
Angela, listening to ALISE, quietly sang along. The light of the “Ark” flickered, as if in rhythm with the music.