Daniel was ushered into a pure white oval room by friendly translucent drones with nothing all around him except a stand-alone tube in the center, which reminded him too much of the cryogenic chamber that he had just uncomfortably emerged from only seconds earlier. His being was injected into the Holoverse. Now Daniel could see for hundreds of thousands of miles all around the rock that his physical body was inside, but so far he could only bear witness to the impending battle with anxiety in thinking he had no part to play in the defense of the asteroid station himself.
T: We have three dozen Vultures and a drone mothership converging on Belt Sector 3. Emitting instant encrypted alert to every Guild commander in Mid-Sol… Deploy all Human and Cybernetic forces in vicinity… Incoming friendly parties standby for further information.
Waypoint 3 Automated Server: Jackers Guild is requesting access through outer EMT minefield.
T: That was unbelievably fast.
Dar: Since when was belief ever a concern of yours ol’ holoboy? T’was, mere coincidence really… we may have been a bit encumbered and already on our way to your port, but- hey, tis better than dying right? Wait, well you can’t really “die” can you now really?
T: I will never understand pirate humor… nor human for that matter.
Meanwhile, the waypoint was buzzing with activity. All of the inhabitants thereof had been trained to respond against incursions, yet most of the encounters that were fought in the defense of the asteroid were nothing close to battles- more like skirmishes in comparison to the Drone Wars decades before. Hundreds of hidden laser turrets dotted the space rock, and most were automatic, but the larger ones needed sentient emotion (or “drive”, as it was called by the spacers) in order to thermally pinpoint targets. Early on in the development of cybernetics, it was realized that the fusion of organic and artificial sentience resulted in the best effects as opposed to reliance on pure machinery. The guilds learned this the hard way, as primitive spacers and pirates that went overboard with cybernetic development were often destroyed in combat by lightly transformed humans with less space-combat experience.
Dar: My girls always bring in a big haul Tichokiri; I can end this fight in microseconds even though our maneuverability is on the low end.
T: There are at least three dozen Merc ships descending on our belt sector in a rough semi-circle formation… the enemy are using those damn new drones that can disable EMT Bursters. Their automated ships will bypass our outer defense systems with an 86% success rate.
Dar: Three dozen? Are your outer sensors malfunctioning or what? My girls have only detected fourteen Morgan-class cruisers… I was wondering why they’d set out on a suicide mission like this.
T: I take it that you have made some assumptions as to who our attackers are.
Dar: The girls sent a detachment to Europa a ways back because of some suspicious readings we intercepted… there’s a fully functioning outpost under the ice that violates Mid-Sol Conduct Charter…
T: …Seems like there is a string of colonies on the Jovian moons that have been going under the proverbial radar for some time now, any idea who they are affiliated with?
Dar: With their tech, well, these bastards must be subsidized by the EDF, but they certainly have hidden any direct connection with them. Once I’m finished with these assholes we have to destroy those moon bases, T.
The Jackers went into full combat mode. Their sleek frigates were the fastest stealth fighters known in Sol, and the female pirates that operated them were ruthless. Dar’s guild was known for looting corporate vessels uncompromisingly. And in the last few cycles the Jackers had depleted EDF and Corp coffers by disrupting all Inner Sol commerce which was deemed exploitative of lower class people still oppressed across the system.
T: Waypoint Server, put the last resort measure on standby… Daniel, I will begin your warm up procedures, we need every bit of help we can get for this battle.-
Daniel: Get me out of this damn tube! I want to fight.
T: Cannot process a redundant request, your body will be active in ten seconds, you will be prepared to integrate into the defense system… holobeing identity Tichokiri signing off, automatic response systems on…
For all intents and purposes, EDF, which formerly had relatively friendly relations with the Mid-Sol guilds, had declared war abruptly upon the wary yet still surprised inhabitants of Waypoint 3. Daniel would soon find out that his excitement for fighting these tyrannical mercenaries and drones could not be any more naive. He would learn that good and evil in any context is relative, and that horrifying choices must be made even by those that only wish for harmony.