Pushing a toolkit ahead of her, Cass wriggled through the small gap between the bulkhead and the bottom half of a badly warped door, to slide awkwardly through into the gloomy interior of the ruined ship's bridge
As part of the detail working on rigging the main reactor into an overload, she had left Katrina and Jamie, her teammates, working together, while she had busied herself with disarming each of the failsafe’s preventing the ships eventual annihilation.
The work had been hot and dirty, and by the time it was nearly midday she was more than ready for a rest, but the bridge was to be her last call, and after that there was a much easier, if more unpleasant, task ahead of her
Still clutching the toolkit, Cass rose to her feet pick her way across the detritus strewn floor, her boots crunching through all manner of rubbish from packets of stale donuts and crushed Styrofoam cups, to unidentifiable pieces of broken machinery and more of those weird, old fashioned magazines, full of exploited women with dead eyes and fucked up lives
“Are you on the bridge yet?” Katrina’s voice cut impatiently over the communicator
“Yeah, I just got here” Cass replied “The last failsafe will be disarmed in a couple of minutes, and then I’ll deal with the AI”
“Good. Let us know when you’re done”
“Yeah, will do” Cass clicked the communicator off and blew out a sigh. Katrina had been more than just a little brusque with her of late, and it had been something of a relief to escape her, and leave her with Jamie and his greedy eyes, while she ran her side of the mission on her own
If she was being honest, Cass would probably admit that she didn’t particularly blame Katrina – Were the situation reversed, and the “other woman” had just come sashaying back into her happy life, she’d probably have stooped to acting far, far worse
Shaking her head at the stupid impossibility of the situation, she deposited the toolkit on a nearby desk and extracted her terminal “Where’s this failsafe?” she muttered to herself as she raised the terminal to scope it around her surroundings
A hot burst of sparks suddenly showered from a severed conduit beneath one of the desks, briefly illuminating the bridge in stark white and making her jump “Fuck!”
It took a few deep breaths to calm her jangling nerves after that, and Cass chuckled in almost shamefaced embarrassment, glad for a moment that nobody had been around to see her so jumpy
“I think your colleagues must be doing something in engineering” a female voice crackled over the bridge's speakers
The ship’s AI
Surprised, Cass raised her eyes to regard the disembodied head bobbing behind the spider web of cracks covering the main monitor
The AI's avatar had exactly the sort of appearance you'd expect aboard a ship packed with fetish porn and owned by some kid, barely into his twenties – She was inhumanly perfect; all glossy red lips and vulnerable, azure eyes, framed with blonde hair in an old fashioned but elegant bob
“I thought you were offline” Cass said
“I was damaged” the computer replied “It took me a while to reconfigure the neural interconnects to bring me back online”
“Huh” Cass nodded in appreciation of what the AI had just achieved “Nice work”
“Who are you anyway?” the machine asked
“I’m Cassandra” Cass replied as she raised the terminal and returned her attention back to the task of locating the final failsafe “Gotcha” she murmured after a moment, when the display lit to indicate a service panel on the wall “And you are?”
“I'm Blue”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you” Cass strolled back to her toolkit to extract a pry bar, which she used to lever the service panel open and reveal a numeric keypad next to a tiny display
Crouching down, she tapped a four digit code out on the keypad, and smiled in satisfaction as the readout shimmered to life to inform her that the reactor was now decoupled, and that the self-destruct sequence could now commence
“I don’t want to die” Blue protested forlornly, having guessed at what the Dwarfers were doing
“Of course not” Cass smiled sympathetically as she straightened and turned back to the monitor “Nobody does”
“Then why?” the AI asked “Is it that bad?”
“What does your instrumentation tell you?”
“I... I can’t even feel most of me” the corners of Blue's mouth twitched into something between a grimace and a tight smile “I suppose it'll take a miracle for me to fly again. Maybe I can just stay here?”
“No, I don’t think so” Cass said gently “This is 33AD; you've no place here”
Blue looked crestfallen for a moment, before raising her eyes again
"Maybe I could be like your hologram?" she asked "How did he do that? Do you think I could?"
Cass sighed. She had hoped the AI was going to remain offline and also be a great deal more primitive; it was a shame to kill a thinking, feeling entity like this
"Kenneth's something of a unique case" she began apologetically "His transformation took decades to research, and we don't have that kind of time. Pilate will be here soon; you won't survive the encounter"
"But I don't want to die"
"Let me help you" Cass slid her fingers across the terminal's surface, keying a range of viruses and other unsavoury tools "I'm your friend..."

Emerging from the bridge nearly an hour later, Cass struggled to shake the awful hollow feeling gnawing away, deep inside her
From a mission perspective, she had achieved everything required of her, but Blue was no more. Instead, all that remained of the AI was an unquestioning fanatic with little in the way of higher cognitive functionality, which was bound entirely to her will
Cass keyed her communicator "It's done" she said sullenly
"Then we’re good to go" Katrina replied
Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the ship, the reactor howled out of sync and began its countdown to destruction, breathlessly ticking down, finally to three... two... one...
“It's holding stable” Katrina reported after a moment “Good work with the AI”
“Let me know when you want it to end” Blue cut in over the channel, her voice very different to how it used to be
“Of course sweetie” Cass grimaced
She was about to say something else, but Jay interrupted with a general broadcast to everyone
“Heads up people” he called “The remotes have tripped! Pilate’s on the way in with his honour guard!”
“How many legionaries?” Katrina demanded sharply, leaving Cass suspecting that she might not be the only one on Kat’s shit list today
“The remotes are estimating between thirty and fifty” Jay replied “We’ve almost no chance of taking Pilate down on our own, but if we can somehow lure him onto the ship and then destroy it, that should clear the paradox up nicely”
“Th... That’s the plan!?” Plisken cut in, aghast
“It’ll be fine” Jay breezed “Anyway, heads up: Here comes the first wave to soften us up! – Ten shock troops with heavy force screens, armed with bolt pistols and shit sticks!”
Everyone fell quiet at this
“What?” Jay demanded “Someone did research a way to jam the effects of the barf baton, didn’t they!?”

Where is your character and what are they doing?
Katrina, Cass and Jamie are on the ruined ship, so if you need them off, you’re going to have to stand your ground and fight the shock troops while they evacuate
Let’s find a way of dispatching these first troops and then we’ll deal with any other waves after that
We need to find a way of luring Pilate onto the ship so we can destroy him and it to resolve the paradox – any ideas?
Does Pilate have any odd special abilities that make him so tough to kill?
Over to you :-)

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