Chapter 13 - Prototype

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The next day, Dawn cornered Haden in the infermary. Tyronden's leg was on the mend, but heavy tranquilizers and a potent sedative had to be employed to keep the man still. Knowing he was aboard a Gaurdian ship served to animate the Commander to the point where he risked undoing the work of the AI. Between Haden and One, the protruding bone in his leg was surgically reinserted and grafted back together. His injury was grievous and would leave a sizeable scar, but he didn't seem to care. Every second his eyes were open, he was craning his head about or attempting to get up. Sedatives and restraining straps, thought Dawn. It will cure what ails you.

"I'm not getting the Hammer back, am I?" She forced her attention on Haden. Her 36 hour medical suspension was expired, but neither the AI nor Terris seemed to be thinking about her reinstatement. Haden peeled back the dressing on Tyronden's leg and peeked dutifully at the wound before replacing it. The Commander began to snore soon after.

"No, Dawn. The Hammer is under Terris' command." He looked up at her, his unwavering android eyes boring into hers. His voice was soft, almost apologetic.

She shook her head. "The Hammer was my commission. I need an explanation."

"Have you seen him pilot this ship?"

"You know I haven't."

"Until you do, you wouldn't understand the explanation I give." The android's word were crisp and carried to her cleanly. "One has informed me that another Hammer resides within the Shield. Upon our return to Proximus, you will assume command of it."

"I don't know the AI."

"You don't know me, either, I'm afraid."

"But I did." She leaned against the wall and crossed one foot over her ankle before folding her arms.

"Yes. Centuries ago. Putting you into stasis is what triggered my program's evolution. Since then, much about me has changed."

"Now, that's a fact." She said with a half grin. "How did my stasis trigger you?"

Haden looked at her as if he were considering something of great import. He took a long moment before opening his mouth to speak.

Panic flashed though his eyes. He reached out, grabbed her by the shoulders, and lifted her from her feet. She was too startled to react. As if she were weightless he threw her into the corner and jumped on top of her, his android body laying prone over hers.

As soon as his weight settled on her, a noise like a detonation deafened her. Her body flattened into the carpeting, as intense inertial force slammed her down. She felt her eyes start to sink in their sockets, her skin slide down her skeleton. She couldn't take a breath, such was the force.

-

Terris, on the command deck, barely registered the other ship before it fired. His arm and shoulder were tender, but the exercise of piloting allowed him to stretch cramped muscles and relieve some of the pain.

He didn't see a light shot, no stream or trail. One moment he was standing in the center of the holo, the next, he was hurtled into the wall fifteen feet away. There was no maintaining his equilibrium. Whatever hit them sent the Dawnhammer into a furious roll. Pinned to the wall, he used the remaining breath in his lungs to shout.

"Stabilize the ship!"

He felt the vibration in the bulkhead as the attitude adjusters fired to life. After what seemed an eternity, the invisible pressure eased up and he slid to the deck.

Haden was projecting his own image inside the spacial hologram, his eyes wide with concern.

"I need to see the ships hull!" Terris shouted. A warning alarm was sounding, short piercing attacks on his auditory senses. "And silence that noise!"

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