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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Of Nanites and Spies 5

“The Wantis are retreating.” L-T’s voice shattered the minute-long silence.

Olthan scoffed. “They ain’t gonna run yet.”

“They are.” Carnifor’s eyes widened. “How’d you see that?”

L-T shrugged. “No more fighters are being launched, and the ones out there are only covering as larger ships disengage.”

Goofball opened and closed his fists. “I’d give them a run for their money if I were out there.”

Lannetay noticed he didn’t specify which side he’d be attacking. At least he kept operational security while there were spies potentially listening.

Marc reached across the aisle and patted the fighter pilot on the shoulder. Goofball nearly jumped to his feet before blinking away confusion. “Thanks.”

Marc nodded, and Goofball sat without another word.

“Why are . . . the Terrans,” Lannetay recovered before saying “we,” “not giving chase?”

As the Wantis pulled back, fleets from Earth only pounded the trailing edges of the retreat. Eventually space emptied of hostile fire. Through it all, recovery ships from both sides plied their trade – mostly unmolested.

“The match-up is too even now.” Carnifor brought up a display with estimated firepower for each side. “Did you notice the Wrantiban fleet was positioning itself to englobe the Terrans?”

“Then that last group of ships flew in and evened things up too much.” L-T showed he had a good tactical mind.

Lannetay waved the holo away. “Let’s give that area a wide berth. I want nothing to do with armed conflict on that scale.”

“With an unarmed ship, we should avoid it on any scale.” Goofball climbed out of his chair. “I’m going to shower.”

Bill called out after him. “Make it a sonic shower. The water recyclers are running behind.”

Out of character for a Core, Lannetay cautioned.

Oops. Maybe nobody noticed, Bill replied.

Let’s hope our hitchhiking nanites don’t get a chance to report to anyone.

Lannetay said aloud, “Let’s get back on course. Skirt the battle zone, though. I don’t want any more complications.”

Marc and L-T wandered back to the common room, but Olthan stayed in the control room watching Lannetay and Carnifor. “Somethin’s goin’ on. What’s up?”

Carnifor motioned for the lance corporal to have a seat. As the Marine lowered himself into the chair Goofball had just vacated, Carnifor and Lannetay pivoted their recliners to face him.

“We were just boarded and inspected by men from Wrantiban’s Confederation of Stars,” Lannetay said.

Olthan nodded. “They’s gone now, right?”

“Yes,” Carnifor picked up the narrative. “But we were just in a major battle the Confederation lost. That may be the first time in the war that’s happened. So Terran forces are scouring this region of space.”

“What for?”

“Anyone who doesn’t support Earth.” Lannetay didn’t like spelling things out so bluntly.

Carnifor chimed in. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were boarded by Terrans within the day.”

And we can’t take sides when there are nanites in our ship which might report to the Wantis, Lannetay sent. So we have to be very careful what we say aloud.

Olthan looked around. Can they make smart stuff that small? I mean, we all got things in our blood, but flyin’ around an listenin’ in?

Bill sent,Right now they’re just creeping around and looking into every microscopic crack. There are a few hundred inside each of you, so I say we get rid of them.

Lannetay shook her head. We can’t get rid of the nanites yet. That Wanti cutter might still come along.

“I think we can ignore Jenbur Sho now,” Bill said. “The ship just exploded. From the readings I’m getting, a Folecule’s disrupter tore into their main power unit.”

“Kill the nanites, Bill.” Lannetay didn’t like foreign entities on her ship. A thousand nanites could tear apart a person’s heart faster than medical nanites could rebuild it.

Ten seconds later Bill said, “Ninety percent of all foreign nanites are now gone. Ninety-nine percent.” A moment more, “Now there’s not enough to maintain any kind of coordination. They’ve been effectively destroyed.”

“Were many of them . . . in us?” Lannetay wasn’t worried so much about herself as for Marc, and who would take care of him if she died.

Bill’s voice held a cheery note to belie the seriousness of the question. “Quite a few, and more every moment. I’ve analyzed their programming, and they were preparing to sever your brain stems at a remote command from Jenbur Sho, or if they lost contact.”

“Brain what?” Olthan asked.

“Your spine, Olthan.” Carnifor pointed to the back of his head. “Where it connects to your brain.”

Lannetay shivered. Nanites bothered her because they could go anywhere. With enough of them in one place, they could do seemingly anything. “But we’re rid of them, right?”

“Relax,” Carnifor said. “You have medi-nano in your blood. If one or two survived, the good ones will take care of the bad ones.”

“We have a TSN cruiser closing in,” Bill said. “They’re ordering us to cut our drive or they’ll open fire.”

Carnifor scoffed. “Send them our secret credentials, Bill.”

“No!” Lannetay shouted. “If we do that some stealthed Wanti ship might see us skate past.”

“So what?” Olthan said.

Lannetay had been concentrating so much on Bill and Carnifor she’d forgotten the Marine was still at the back of the control cabin. “If they see us given a pass from Terran inspection, they’ll suspect we are spies.”

“Probably will anyway,” Carnifor said. “If the Terrans let us go, the Wantis won’t like it either way.”

Bill’s sarcastic question rang out. “Shall I slow down, or let them destroy us?”

“Stop, Bill.” Lannetay was sometimes infuriated by Bill.

The background hum of their drive changed as Bill slowed the ship. A minute later the drive went quiet. “We’re stopped – as best we can measure against the nearest stars.”

If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.

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