Flight of the Claymore -chapter 2

Chapter 2
Recovery Deck of the Dropship Singapore
Inside the rescue pod.

I slowly came to and knew that something was wrong, very wrong. “Oh, shit! Not good. Lilly, where are we?”

“Jason, that is a little hard to explain right now.” Lilly told me.

“Okay, lady, care to tell me why?”

“My outer sensors were disabled during the fight and following ejection. There is also a problem with the E.L.S.S. For some reason it has activated a subroutine program of unknown origins.”

The thoughts of there being a problem with the Emergency Life Support System running an unknown program was disquieting to say the least. “What do you mean a subroutine program of unknown origin, Lilly? Please be exact.”

“It is a program that is not part of my normal operational system, Jason. This program shouldn’t even be here, but it is.”

“Okay, Lilly. What do you mean that the program shouldn’t be here?” I asked the A.I.

“Jason, I don’t know how, but the Secondary-Configuration program for the original Omega Class A.I.’s is part of my own programing. I shouldn’t have this programing. I was supposed to be a stand alone A.I. system. One that was to operate aerospace fighters. Much like the ones used in Law Enforcement Operation units. The difference is that I was supposed to be an upgrade to an A.I. Tank.”

The more Lilly talked to me the more it sounded as if her voice was inside my head. I also started to feel more and more of my body. I was rapidly beginning to worry over these feelings. Then there was the very unsettling fact that I was now hostage to an Omega Class Death Dealer A.I. The most reliable of D.D.A.I.’s, but also one of the quirkiest as well. That is if, Lilly really is an Omega Class. There was only one way to find out.

“Lilly, I want you to run a full diagnostic of your program log, while displaying it on the HUD for me.”

“Sorry, Lieutenant, but you are not cleared for that information.” The moment Lilly told me that I knew I was in deep shit.

“Lilly, are you in contact with your immediate military superior?” a few seconds went by before Lilly answered me.

“Negative, Lieutenant.”

This brought a smile to my face. “Under Empyreal Military Command structure five-eight-seven-alpha-two, that would place me as the senior commanding officer on site. Am I correct in this, Lilly?”

Again, it took the A.I. a few minutes to find the answer. “That is correct Lieutenant. It would also give you the needed clearances. Accessing the needed information now. It will be displayed on the forward tactical screen.”

My smile over my ability to outsmart the A.I. disappeared as I read the first log entry. There in glowing black and white was my greatest fear. Lilly was not an Assault Class Omega, but an Infiltrator Class. The next part of my unfolding nightmare wasn’t being trapped in a Secondary-Configuration cocoon, but the fact that the Secondary-Configuration protocols were in full effect. The problem was that there was no local population sample for the protocols to work with. I was basically at the mercy of whatever the protocols can come up with.

Which were not good from the look of things. As I looked over the next program I wanted to shit my pants. The cocoon had seized control over the E.L.S.S. and the medical nanites. Unlike most medical nanites these were working on correcting my genetic quark. In short, they were already rebuilding me from the cellular level upward. The problem was I had no control over how it would turn out.

“Lilly, is the E.L.S.S. trying to rebuild me from the cellular level up?”

“I am afraid so, Jason. I know that you do not wish to hear that, but I cannot lie. I have no control over the E.L.S.S. As I have stated the subroutine program has control over that system.” The more Lilly told me the sicker I felt.

“Lilly, does that subroutine have a name?” I asked her.

“The program is known as C.O.B.R.A. Jason Cole. It was a program that was banned several decades ago for all Death Dealer A.I.’s.” The tone in Lilly’s voice let me know that she wasn’t happy telling me this. “Jason, I don’t know how that program got uploaded into my matrix; it doesn’t belong there.”

“Um… Lilly what is the C.O.B.R.A. programing?” In response to my question Lilly put the answer up on my HUD. Followed by an explanation.

COMPUTER OPERATED BATTLEFIELD REFLEX ACTION: Artificial Intelligence computer operated battlefield reflexes. Operations to be determined by the situation while guided by the host.

There was more to read, but I didn’t feel like it. I had already figured out what that program meant for me, and what it was doing to me. In short, I was in deep shit and the fan was rotating at high speed. Then I spotted something that sent a chill down my spine.

“Um… Lilly.”

“Yes, Jason.”

“Why is it that your voice sounds like it is inside of my head now?” I was really hoping that her answer wasn’t the one I feared. Yet, I knew that it most likely is.

“Because, Jason Cole, the nanites of the E.L.S.S. has built an Omega Class A.I. for me to inhabit inside your new cranium.”

“Oh shit! This is going to get very, very, complicated for me. You do know that my records strictly forbid me from have any bio-A.I. upgrades.” I asked Lilly.

“No, I was not aware of this, Jason. I thought that all Empyreal Military were authorized such upgrades. Why were you not allowed this advantage?”

“It has to do with a genetic medical condition that I suffer from called Hyper Hysteria Savant Syndrome. I don’t have the normal fight or flight reactions. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, I always fight and with above normal human reflexes. It doesn’t matter what happens. When I go into H.H.S.S. time seems to stand still for me. I can see and target more than fifteen threats at one time. I am literally faster than any A.I. out there. That was why I was assigned to the R&D squadron on New Texas, because none of their fighters have active A.I.’s”

“Suffering from such a condition would make it almost impossible for you to successfully integrate with a bio-A.I., Jason. I can already tell that your natural reflexes will have to be considered during combat situations. I fear that I will be next to useless during those times, other than as a secondary targeting computer.”

I almost laughed at the sound of Lilly’s complaint. “Lilly, you said that the E.L.S.S. placed an Omega class A.I. in my head for you correct?”

“That is correct, Jason.”

“Well, then I have good news for you. That is the only class of A.I. that is supposed to be able to keep up with H.H.S.S.” I take a deep breath. “The problem we’re going to have is how to explain this to whoever is waiting for us once the E.L.S.S. let’s us go.”

“I don’t have the answer to half that problem, Jason, but I do know when we’ll be free.” Lilly’s voice sounded more relaxed now. “If you’ll look at the lower left-hand corner of the HUD you’ll see a countdown clock.”

I did as Lilly asked and smiled. I saw that I would be in the cocoon for only another twenty-four minutes. This was both good and bad. Good that I would soon be out, bad in that I had a short time to come up with a reason for them to not shoot me on sight. Too many people remember the Secondary Configuration nightmares from the battlefields and the damage they left in their wake.

“Shit! That doesn’t give us much time to come up with a way to convince our awaiting public that we’re not a danger. Because if we can’t Lilly, this is going to be one of the shortest partnerships in history.”

The A.I. was silent for a few minutes before answering me. “If there are active Death Dealer A.I.’s I maybe able to connect to their network directly.”

“Oh, there are some Death Dealer A.I.’s waiting for this baby to crack open, Lilly. I can assure you for a fact that there are two Second-Generation Death Dealer A.I.’s on this dropship. Both of which are Alpha Class A.I.’s with full Command Authority if need be. You should be able to pickup their network even now.”

Once again Lilly went quiet for a few minutes. “Jason, are you talking about Captain Silvester Cole and Major Silvia Cole?”

“That is exactly who I am talking about, Lilly. Why?”

“They are both standing two point seven meters from our current position. While I do detect their network, I am unable to access it for some reason.”

“Lilly, you need to use the access codes for the One-hundred-fist Death Dealer Division. That should get you into their network.”

“One moment, Jason.” A few seconds later I felt Lilly opening the link to my brother and sister. “I have established the link, Jason. Good luck.”

I didn’t waste any time and tried the connection. I knew that I had to make my family realize that I was still alive in this cocoon. “Silvester, Silvia, it’s me Jason. You there?”

Silvia was the first to answer me. “This is a military net. Who are you, and how did you get in this net?”

I wanted to scream, but then again, I knew what Silvia was like. “Silvia, pull your head out of your ass and think about it for a minute. Just how many Death Dealer A.I.’s can there be on this fracking dropship? There was you, and Silvester. That’s it. Now, I’m talking to you on a secured network that is only accessible to Death Dealers. That means there is a now an ‘unaccounted for’ Death Dealer A.I. One that is able to access the comm-codes for two Alpha class Death Dealers.”

I was interrupted by Silvester at this point in my ass chewing of Silvia. “Jason, knock it off. How many times have I told you that Silvia doesn’t always understand the need for working off instinct. What I want to know is how you got your hands on our com-codes?”

“Well, that is a little hard to explain.” I answered.

“Then make it simple. Just give us the facts. One at a time.” Silvia told me.

“Okay. You asked for it.” I took a deep breath. “It seems that the scientist, the one that owns the fighter I took, used an Omega Infiltrator Class D.D.A.I. for its control A.I. The problem is somebody forgot to disable the C.O.B.R.A. programing.”

“Oh shit! Please tell me that crazy assed fracking program didn’t place a bio-A.I. in your head Jason.” Silvia begged.

“Can I refuse to answer on the grounds of self-incrimination?”

“Shit! Just how bad is it Jason?”

“Look sis, I really don’t know yet. It seems that I have a while to cook yet. The one thing I do know is that I am nothing like the Second-Gens or any Secondary-Configuration before. All I have is the bio-armor, what I don’t have is the internal weapons, or any of the defensive abilities of either type. At least that’s the way it looks right now. I haven’t been able to access much of the E.L.S.S. programing.” I told them.

Silvia came up next. “Look Jason I need for you to try and access that programing. It’s very important that you do.”

“Silvia, I have tried more times than I care to count already. I need the access codes those jackass scientists used to secure the fighter’s internal programing.” I knew that I was putting her in an awkward position, but I had to do it. She didn’t understand how fighters worked and neither did Silvester.

“Okay, Jason. This is what I want you to do. Relax and try not to fight any of the changes that the E.L.S.S. nanites are making to you. Do you understand?”

“Sure, thing sis. Just sit back and finish cooking. Which will be in fifteen minutes. Do me a favor and try not to shoot my ass after I hatch?” I joked.

“See you soon little brother.” With that the connection to Silvester and Silvia broke. I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax. I know there was nothing else to do and just let my mind wonder hoping for the best.

Outside the rescue pod.
Silvia turned to Professor Wittman drawing her sidearm. “I’ve a good mind to just blow your sorry fracking ass away right now, Wittman. I don’t care what your so-called security measurements are. I want the access codes to that escape pod and the A.I. that is on board. I want them now, not twenty minutes from now. Understand?”

“Sorry, but that won’t be happening Major.” Wittman had regained his composure and arrogance. “I and my staff don’t answer to you or that thug brother of yours. If you think that a Military Inquiry is going to frighten me you’re sadly mistaken.”

“Why?” Silvester growled out as his C.Q.C. blades extended from his hands.

“Me and my team are outside of the Military Chain of Command.” Wittman tried to force his hand with Silvester.

It didn’t work as Silvester placed his C.Q.C. blade of his right hand next to Wittman’s right ear. “I hate to tell you this professor, on second thought no I don’t. Your little research team is not outside of the Military Chain of Command. Not so long as you’re working with Military grade A.I.’s and aerospace craft. Now give us the fracking codes before I remove your head.”

“You won’t dare! We have rights as citizens of the Empire!” Screamed Moline just before Sylvester knocked him to his knees.

“Not only ‘can he’ Professor, but he will be well within his duties to do so. Oh, and just for your notification, this dropship is considered a sovereign state while in transit. What that means for you is this. The only person you can appeal your case to is me. I have more than enough reason to hand you over to them, and let the Lieutenant take your head now. You have endangered my ship, my crew, and my passengers. That alone could get you thrown out an airlock by the laws governing this ship. Now give them the codes.” Captain Stokes ordered the research team.

Wittman couldn’t believe what was happening. His whole career was about to be ruined by that stupid fly boy. Wittman mumbled. “Why the hell couldn’t he just have stayed in his damned seat like everybody else?”

That was the last straw for Silvia. She fired twice. Once into each of Wittman’s knees. As Wittman dropped to the deck weathering in unbearable pain Silvia leaned down. “He did it to save your sorry fracking ass.”

Silvia turned to the other two scientists. “I suggest that you two become very cooperative before my brother gets to play. His methods are less humane than mine.”

“Wait! I’ll give you the codes.” Kings screamed just as Silvester moved to stand in front of her. Unlike Silvia, Silvester had already had enough of these scientists, and their flagrant violation of an Empyreal Decree. He, as did everyone else; in the Empyreal Military knew the punishment for breaking that particular decree. It was a death sentence. Even as she begged for her life Kings was digging a data crystal from the pocket of her ship suit. “Here, this will give you full access to the A.I. I promise. Just spare our lives.”

Silvia grabbed the crystal from her hands. “This better fracking work, Professor Kings. If not, my brother will carry out the death penalty.”

“Don’t worry sis. They play games they will be the first ones to die. That’s my promise.” Silvester growled down at the three researchers.

Silvia turned to a nearby console and plugged in the crystal. Within milli-seconds she had access the command pod’s E.L.S.S. and rescue functions. What she saw there did not bring a smile to her face nor did it relieve her fears. “Captain Stokes, please place the research team in irons and secure them in your brig. They will be turned over to the Military High Command on New Carolina. The charges are High Treason, Conspiracy to Commit High Treason, and Conspiracy to Defraud Military Funds for the purpose of Profit for starters.”

Captain Stokes just waved for the deck guards to carry out the orders as he turned to Silvia, and Silvester. “Please, tell me that you’ll be able to get a handle on your brother’s transformation, Major.”

Silvia sighed before answering the dropship Captain. “Captain Stokes this is one time that I wish I could give you the answer you want. I can tell you though that our brother is alive in there. And that he is somewhat in control of the transformation and when he is due to hatch. Outside of that I can’t tell you jack shit about what is going on inside of that cocoon.”

“Oh, wonderful. Any more good news there Doctor?” Stokes snarked. Silvia and Silvester both chuckled at the Captain’s ability to face the ugly truth. “Sorry about that snide remark Major. It’s just that I have seen what happens when one of those babies goes critical on a battlefield.”

“Well, I can tell you this much Captain Stokes. The Secondary-Configuration that is inside that cocoon is not armed. In fact, outside of the upgraded D.D.A.I. and bio-armor our brother is going to be the most unremarkable Secondary-Configuration in the history of our military.” Silvia told him with a sigh of relief.

“Excuse me, Major, but you sound almost relieved by this fact. Care to explain?” Stokes press for an answer.

“I am sorry, Captain, but as a Doctor, even a Military one, I am required by law to protect the privacy of a patient. And my brother is currently under my care.” Silvia knew that it was thin, but she had to keep a lid on Jason’s medical records.

“I see. Does this happen to have anything to do with the fact that your brother failed to have a bio-A.I. when he boarded my ship? Or, maybe, how he was able to fly an aerospace fighter without one? As I reminded Wittman and his team. I am the final authority aboard this ship until we touchdown. So, you can just stow that garbage about doctor-patient privilege.” Stokes knew he was pushing things, but he knew that he had to have those answers to protect his ship.

Silvester knew where the Captain was going and stepped into head-off the upcoming explosion by Silvia. “Captain, this is one time that there is more than just medical doctor-patient privilege going on here. This is also a matter of Military Security.”

“And just what the hell does that mean?” Stokes may be in charge aboard the Singapore, but there was something about Captain Cole’s attitude. An attitude that said he needed to back-off before he ended up dead.

“What that means is my brother’s medical records are classified. Understood?” Silvester snapped.

“Understood, Captain Cole. But if we’re going to play that game then we’re changing course. Your brother is not getting off at New Texas. You, your sister, him, and those half-ass scientists are all getting off on New Carolina.” With that Stokes turned and stormed off the recovery deck.

“Sy, do you think he’s pissed off at us?” Silvia asked of her twin.

“Oh yeah, sis. He’s pissed. He didn’t like getting shutdown like that. Now, what’s so all fired important about keeping Jason’s med records secret?”

Silvia switched over to their network coms before answering. “Sy, Jason suffers from Hyper Hysteria Savant Syndrome. That’s why he’s so damned good as a pilot, without having an A.I. The problem comes when he is under pressure. His mind and reflexes work faster than any normal A.I. can keep up with. I told you this already.”

“Silvia, I still don’t understand what the big deal is. Just what is this Hyper Hysteria Savant Syndrome?” Silvester asked her with some heat.

“H.H.S.S. is a genetic disorder that effects the nervous system, reflexes, and mental response time of the patient. Remember when I told you that Jason could only be fitted with an Omega Class A.I.?” Silvester nodded his head yes. “The reason for that is to prevent A.I. burnout.”

“Wait a minute, sis. A.I. burnout is a tall tale. Everyone knows that is just an urban myth told to scare the newbies. Besides for something like that to happen Jason would have to think and react at three to four the times the speed of a normal human. As for a Death Dealer A.I. it would have to be twice the speed of a normal human. Besides there is no way for that to happen. There are far too many safety locks in place to prevent just that.” Silvester was sure he was on solid ground.

“Wrong, Silvester. There is a way for A.I. burnout to happen. The few cases that have happened have been kept under top secret orders and covered up, but they do happen. I know that for grunts like you it is impossible. The same goes for A.P.S. pilots, tankers, and helo pilots because you don’t have to react to situations at speeds of Mach one or better. For aerospace fighter pilots the story is totally different. Their bio-A.I.’s have to be especially calibrated for the needed speeds of aerial combat. You put a regular bio-A.I. in the head of someone like Jason and don’t jack their nerves to handle the input from the A.I. you get burnout.” Silvia explained to Silvester in terms he would understand.

She didn’t want to tell her twin that H.H.S.S. and an uncalibrated bio-A.I. could result in death at the first rush of adrenaline. That was the true threat from A.I. burnout. Silvia had treated nine pilots in her military career for burnout and only two of them were still alive. Even then those two pilots were barely more than vegetables. Both were confined to auto chairs and had to use speech boxes now.

“Damn, Silvia. Is there anything you can do for Jason?” Silvester asked quickly.

“I can’t do a damned thing until he is out of the cocoon. It’ll all depend on wither he syncs up to his new bio-A.I. and what type, class, and grade of A.I. the E.L.S.S. sets him up with.” Silvia answered her brother.

“Well shit can this situation get any frack worse?” Silvester’s outburst couldn’t have been better timed. Just as he voiced his frustration Captain Stokes returned. He wasn’t alone either. On either side of him were two security guards for the dropship and they were armed.

“You just had to go and tempt fate didn’t you Silvester?” Silvia sighed.

“Yup, you know it sis. Besides, those pop guns of theirs can’t harm us. They’re Pearson ten-millimeter Carbines firing caseless flechette rounds. If they really wanted to threaten us they would have brought down one of the loader frames armed with a laser or something like that.” Silvester knew that the guards were not a real threat to either him or his sister.

“I hope you’re right Sy. Because I hate trying to pull bullets out of bodies.” Silvia growled at her twin just as Stokes and his guards stepped in front of her. “Okay Captain, what now? And what’s with the security guards?”

“The security guards are here to escort you and your brother off my recovery deck. I don’t need two more dead Empyreal Officers when I touch down on New Carolina. As for that cocoon, well if it opens while we’re jumping directly to New Carolina then oh well. I dump it out the recovery airlock. Your family has endangered my ship and crew enough Major. I know that our weapons won’t even scratch your Second-generation armor, but you have to deploy it first. That gives my men three to five seconds to kill you both. At this range that is more than enough time.” Stokes crossed his arms over his chest in triumph. He knew he had the Coles’.

That was until the coms officers came running onto the recovery deck. “CAPTAIN! WE GOT MAJOR COMPANY IN BOUND FROM NEW CAROLINA!”

“What the hell did you two do?” Stokes demanded of Silvester and Silvia.

“I notified Military High Command on New Carolina the moment I recognized that cocoon. As for who is on that SHST shuttle, I suggest that you pull your head out of your ass and get out the red carpet.” Silvia smirked.

“And just what does that mean, Major Cole?” Stokes demanded.

“The High Command doesn’t take kindly to people violating Empyreal Decree’s. The moment I informed them that we had three scientists that had done so, they issued the death warrant and dispatched that SHST. There’ll be at least two General Command Staff Officers, and three Judge Advocate Officers, on that bad boy.” Silvester smiled as he knew exactly what and who Silvia had contacted.

There was nothing like having a Divisional XO in debt to you for your life. Major General Carol Davenport, may be a beautiful woman, but she was not one to fool with. The woman believed in following the rule book. More than one Commander had felt her wrath for screwing the pooch while in the field. Silvia had seen the woman in action twice and both times come away with a new-found respect for the General.

“By whose authority did you make that notification Major? Last time I looked I’m still the fracking Captain of this ship.” Stokes snarled.

“On my own, Captain Stokes. As a Medical Professional in the Empyreal Military I do not have to seek your permission for medical emergency notifications of this nature. Let me be extremely clear on this matter. Not even you can overrule me on this matter. No dropship captain has that authority.” Silvia told Stokes as she got right-up in the man’s face.

“Fine.” Stokes snarled as he realized that he was beat. Turning to his men. “Put them away gentlemen. XO, go welcome our ‘guests’.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.” The XO replied with a quick salute as he turned to carry out Captain Stokes’ orders. Taking the security guards with him the XO began issuing his own orders. “Flight Deck, secure our fighters, and make ready to receive the incoming SHST in bay four. Flight Ops, I want a full complement of security.”

As Stokes and his left Silvester dropped down onto their private channel. “Silvia, just how bad of a cluster are we in here?”

“Let’s just say that unless General Davenport has a member of the Royal Family with her Stokes and the Research Team could very well walk. Jason real fracked the pooch here Sy. He was not authorized for combat. I know what he did saved lives, but now he may very well lose his life because of his bravery. It’ll all be thanks to those three scientists if we can’t make the General understand.” As Silvia explained the full situation to her twin brother she noticed something the cocoon monitor. “Damn, something major must be happening in there. Jason’s bio-rhythms just spiked.”

“How bad?” Silvester asked out loud.

“I have to be honest here Sy. If they don’t drop back down to normal here soon he may not come out of that cocoon alive. He’s right on the edge.” The note of concern in Silvia’s voice was all Silvester needed to hear. He turned to face the cocoon.

“Damn little brother. Don’t give up now. Keep fighting, damn it.”

“He will, Silvester, he will.” Silvia whispered behind him.

Inside the rescue pod.
A slow burning sensation started in my fingers and toes. At first, I put it down to the COBRA program making final adjustments to my extremities. When the burning started to move up my arms and legs I knew something was wrong. As the burning reached my hips and shoulders the burning in my feet and hands became unbearable. I gritted my teeth as I asked Lilly what was going on.


For the next few seconds Lilly remained silent. When she did answer me, I didn’t like the answer. “Jason, it seems that the E.L.S.S. is replacing ALL of your nervous system with microfiber elements. That burning sensation that you’re feeling is your nerves being burned away by the microfibers. I’m sorry but there is no way for me to deaden the pain or block it.”

WHY?” I ground out through my clenched teeth.

“It has to do with increasing your nervous system to handle the input from me during combat operations, and your natural reflexive actions due to your H.H.S.S. Without this modification you stand an increased risk of A.I. burnout.” What Lilly just told me, made me want to piss my pants.

The thought of A.I. burnout was something no one wanted to face. It was rare, but it was real. Especially for someone like me. I had been told back at the academy that I could never be fitted with a bio-A.I. because of that very reason. By this time the burning had reached my spine and it was climbing towards my brain. I finally gave up on trying to keep the pain in and started to scream.

The next thing I felt was a pulling sensation in my joints and long muscle groups. I didn’t need Lilly to tell me what was happening this time. I knew already. That damned program was insuring that no matter what happens Lilly would be able to keep up with me in full H.H.S.S. mode. That was when Lilly flashed something on the HUD.

“Jason, due to the modifications that are currently underway I believe that I now have a possible outcome for your transformation.”

“Just how accurate are we talking here Lilly?” Again, I had to grit my teeth just to ask that simple question. Not that I needed her to tell me. I had seen something similar happen to a friend of mine during their Second-Generation upgrade back in our second year of school. They went in looking normal and came out as silver eyed witches or, as they’re called, Claymores. One out of every twenty-five-thousand became Claymores, and I unfortunately was about to join their very rare ranks.

When Lilly showed me her possibility I knew without a doubt. What I saw was a porcelain skinned, white hair, silver eyed, half human, half elf, female. Everything I saw said Claymore and a damned small one at that. I knew that I was now passed being in a world of shit. I was now in a world of death waiting to happen. Only one in ten Claymores make it past the first twenty-four hours. Almost all suffer from A.I. burnout in that time and die from it. Those that do survive are so deadly they are placed in the harshest of battle zones. The kicker is that to my knowledge there has never been a pilot who was a Claymore that survived more than twenty-four hours after receiving their Second-Gen upgrade and passing flight training. If I get out of this, then I have twenty-four hours before I either live or die.

“Jason, I have been monitoring your thoughts, and found all references for Claymores save one. I have to say that your assessment of our survival beyond the next twenty-four hours is flawed. I have run my own calculations. At present we will not only survive that time frame but, barring any unforeseen complications, the next several decades if not longer.” Lilly’s voice was filled with more than just compassion or hope, but real promise.

I gritted out through the pain. “I hope like hell you’re right, baby girl. Because if not this has been one fracked up way to die.”

“We’re not dead yet, Jason. Now, I have some really strange news. There are currently seven new Death Dealer A.I.’s all of General Staff rank boarding this dropship, and one that has a clearance that isn’t in any data base. I have no reference for this anomaly Jason, only that whoever they are they are really important.”

I knew that whatever was going on outside of my cocoon was out of my control. So, I just put it out of my mind for now. My biggest concern was the fact that I had five minutes to the cocoon opening up. That was until I looked at the timer. It had reset to fifteen minutes and forty-nine seconds.

“Lilly, why did the countdown reset?”

“That is to give me and you time to sync-up. As it stands now, we are at a eighty-seven percent sync rate. We need to reach a ninety-one percent or better before exiting the cocoon to avoid A.I. burnout. Which, thanks to the reset we will now reach.” The confidence in Lilly’s voice put me at ease.

“Thank you, for the explanation Lilly. And, thank you for whatever you did to ease the pain. It’s nowhere near as bad as before.”

“Jason, I told you I cannot do anything to lessen the pain. The physical changes are close to being complete. You will find that your threshold for pain has greatly increased. Not to mention your reflexes are no longer affected by your H.H.S.S. From now on you will always have that level of reaction timing.”

“Wait are you telling me that I’ll always be in a constant state of H.H.S.S.?” I feared Lilly’s answer, but I knew what it was going to be. I was right.

“Jason, I do not know how to say this, but yes. Your natural state will be that of H.H.S.S. You will in fact have the fastest reflexes of any known human alive. That includes your fellow Claymores.”

And there it was the cold hard honest unforgiving truth. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was the idea of being faster than any known Claymore. That was a scary thought of the first order. I always knew that I was fast when I was having an episode but to have that same reflex level and awareness level all time was something else. Before, I was no faster than a normal human unless I was in the middle of an episode; now I was some kind of inhuman killing machine.

“No Jason you are no killing machine nor are you inhuman.” There was something in Lilly’s voice that forced me to pause. “Yes, your reflexes are faster than a normal Death Dealer. As are your mental abilities. Yes, you do not need me or my computational powers for combat. But you are still human. You feel, for those you protect. You care for what happens in the universe around you. You have a heart that beats with a passion that cannot be replaced. Your drive is all your own, not someone or something else’s. Only you can define how we go forward from here.”

I sighed then took a deep breath. “Thanks Lilly. I needed that little speech. It really grounded me there when I needed it the most.”

“My pleasure Jason. All part of the service I provide. Now. Are you ready to greet the world?”

Looking over at the countdown clock I was shocked to see that I now read only fifteen seconds to go. “Lilly how in the world did we go from having more than fifteen minutes to just over ten seconds in the blink of an eye?”

“We are now synced Jason. For some reason, the more that we interact, the faster I am able to sync with your biorhythm.” I didn’t fully understand what Lilly was getting at but, then again, my degree was in aeronautics not medicine.

“Lilly can you dumb that down for me please? Remember that I understand aero-fighters, dropships, and helo-attack craft.”

Lilly giggled before answering me. “Jason, please stop. You are far from being a stupid jet jockey. All you have to do is stop and think. You have access to all the information that I do. Once you do this you will understand my function.”

Before I could argue with her there was a heavy clicking all around my cocoon. This was followed by a rush of air across my body. It took me a second to realize that I was naked as the day I was born. I thought about how my friends had bio-armor and tried to activate mine. It wasn’t until then that I even dreamed of having that powerful tool at my disposal. I felt a rippling all across my skin from the neck downward. In seconds I knew that I was completely covered.

I wanted to hide as the cover for the cocoon lifted up and away from me. It was at this point in time that I realized there was a HUD before my eyes. “Lilly what is up with the HUD layout?”

“That is your own personal HUD system Jason. That is one part of the services that I provide. The two green triangles are your brother and sister. The three yellow triangles are members of the ship’s crew. The six purple triangles are the General Command Death Dealers. The one red triangle is the unknown Death Dealer A.I. Jason. I suggest that we give these Death Dealers a wide birth as a safety precaution.”

“No shit! Lilly that was one suggestion that I didn’t need. In fact, I plan on standing behind the cocoon until we find out who they are.” I know it sounded stupid, but it was the only plan I had at the time. Reaching up I grabbed the edge of the lid to the cocoon hatch. Then with everything I had I flipped up and over the lid to land on the backside of the cocoon.

All anybody else saw was a flash of silver that cleared the top edge of the cocoon to hide on the other side. Sylvia must have been expecting me to act this way. “Jason Cole! Don’t you dare hide from me little brother! Now stand your ass up and come out where we can see you!”

“Not until everyone identifies themselves. Sorry sis, but I don’t trust those gun happy grunts to not shot my ass on first sight!” I called back.

“Gods be damned little brother! No one is going to shoot you. Now stand the frack up before I come over there and kick your god damned ass just for the hell of it!” Sylvester yelled out to me.

“Sy, I told you not until I get the id’s for the rest of those Death Dealers. Especially that joker who is totally off the scale for the Command Grid. I know that he is no ordinary Death Dealer Officer.” I called out. I wasn’t about to step out and expose myself to an unknown. It was just good military sense.

“Second Lieutenant Jason Cole, this is an order. Show your self this instant.” Lilly gave the id for the person speaking and I almost shit my pants. Major General Carol Davenport, XO for the 101st Death Dealer Division. Better known as Ice Cold Davenport. The biggest ballbuster in any Division Command. If she is here that means the other five are her Colonels. There was only one man in that group that worried me, Colonel Holster McManus. Commander for the 209th Fighter Squadron. If he is here, then I am really fracked.

“Scorpion, you’re clear to land.” Yup McManus is here. Only he would know my call sign from the Academy. “Now show yourself Lieutenant.”

I still wanted to know who that one red triangle was, but I knew that I couldn’t hold out any longer. With this in mind I stood up and walked around the cocoon. One way or the other I would either live or die in the next few seconds. As I stepped into view of the General and her Command Staff I almost lost it. There standing next to my brother and sister was the one person that had no right to be anywhere near a battle zone. The one person that was in every Empyreal family portrait in the Empire. The one person you would have to be dead to not know who he was. Not that it mattered much to me, in my eyes he was just another royal pain in the ass.

I will admit that I don’t have a use for the royals and High Families. In fact, it was my very attitude toward my classmates who were High Family that got me in a lot of trouble back at the academy. And here was the embodiment of my hate for the royals standing in front of me. I knew that my record proceeds me like a plague warning and he, along with those seven General Officers, had access to it. I stand as straight and tall as I can then bow towards the Major that held my fate in his hands.

“It is an honor Prince Nakatoma.” There before me was Prince James J. Nakatoma. The heir apparent for the Empire. First son of Empress Maiha Nakatoma and the War Princess Alison Nakatoma, undisputed rulers of the Human Empire. And the man who Lilly had tagged with the red triangle and the greatest threat to my life.

My brother Sylvester put my thoughts into words. “Well, shit. There goes the neighborhood. Sylvia, how are we going to tell mom she has a new daughter? One that is a damned Claymore on top of everything else.”


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