The lighting flickered, their power source uncertain. And in that dubious illumination, a pool of silver shifted uneasily. No deeper than a hand's length and only a metre in diameter, it wasn't much of a pool. More of a disk with a skiff of quicksilver giving it a skin.
The lighting flickered again, revealing the small chamber that contained the disk as being barely larger than a closet. Then that lighting, wan and pale yellow, went to red. And the silver in the pool began to move more vigorously. With a flicker of energy across the shallow disk, a shape began to rise in earnest out of the quicksilver. A head appeared, then skeletal shoulders, long, thin arms, a bare scaffolding of a spine and rib cage, narrow hips and equally long and thin legs.
The skeleton of silver, crouching over a knee, hesitated slightly, then lifted its head to reveal a featureless face. Featureless, except for a pair of glowing yellow eyes.
I'm awake. Why? An automatic attempt to connect to my ship, the Inferno's network failed. That told me the net was badly damaged. Too damaged for the ship's AI to tell me what happened. Yet I was awakened for a reason, and from prior experience, usually that reason was dire. I shifted my nanite-crafted excursion shell and stood from my sanctum to turn to the sliding door that led to the corridor beyond.
According to the Inferno's layout, my sanctum was stored on M level, near Engineering. A logical location, since I was often given problems to handle that the fleshie crew couldn't. Half expecting the corridor beyond to be filled with fleshies running around in rad gear, I was surprised to find it empty.
- Inferno, this is Kaliban. Status report, please. - I repeated my request with my internal commlink. And again I was greeted by silence.
Carefully I stepped into the corridor. And immediately I felt my excursion shell ripple in response to the waves of hard radiation washing all around me. 'Steady, boys.' I thought, my structural protocols working hard to restore integrity even as the nanites making up my shell shifted nervously.
Solid once more, I carefully made my way to the Engineering section, power failing all around me. A wave over a sensor pad failed to open the door, forcing me to use the emergency manual lever. Released, the door slid to the side and I stepped inside. Or rather, what was left of it. Most of Engineering was gone, leaving a ragged hole where it used to be.
For a long moment I stared into hard space, the question of what had happened returning to my attention. Then the seething mass of a blue-white giant swung in from the left, completely filling the space the ragged gap in the hull created. I didn't need sensors to tell me the Inferno was caught in the star's gravity well. It was just a matter of time before the ship was consumed.
That explained why the crew was no longer aboard. With the Engineering section gone, they would've had little chance to keep the ship from being completely destroyed. As an AI, I was left behind because I was considered expendable.
I shook my head and began to make my way back to the sanctum, not really wanting to watch my destruction slowly approach. Or to find out what had happened, because now it didn't matter.
Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed.