Sheila (A Deuce LaForse Story)

DeuceofSpades

Sheila
By
M.A. Kropp

“What the fuck?” Deuce started as the shells bounced off the force shield around the Deuce’s Wild. “JJ! I thought you said they had no weapons!” It took a moment for the AI’s voice to respond.

“That’s what I was told.”
Deuce swung the ship in a wide arc to avoid another round. The shield was holding, but it wouldn’t stand up to too many direct hits.

“Told by who?” Another shell pinged off the shield, lighting up as a red point on the display in front of her.

“I can’t believe she lied.” If Deuce didn’t know better, she’d have said her computer’s personality sounded disappointed.

“What are you babbling about? Who told you they were unarmed?” Again a pause.

“Sheila.”

Deuce punched a few keys on her console, and looked at the nav board. She jabbed a key on the console.

“JJ! I want the maps. NOW!” The nav board lit up with the star map she’s requested. “And who the hell is Sheila?” She scanned the map, found what she was looking for, and tapped the screen.

“Sheila is their AI. We had a very nice conversation when I first picked them up behind us. She assured me they were not looking for any sort of trouble, and that they were unarmed.” Was that a sigh?

“Oh, for the love of… Get us to the Outer Bank. We can lose them in the asteroid field. I hope.” She felt the ship start to turn toward the Bank. It wasn’t the safest move, and some of those rocks were pretty big and pretty close together, but the Deuce’s Wild was smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable than the ship chasing them. They slipped into the Bank as another round of shells came at them. A couple of the smaller rocks blasted apart from hits. JJ flew the ship deeper into the Bank, ducking around and behind some of the bigger asteroids to conceal their path. Deuce watched the sensor readout. The other ship slowed as it entered the field. Broad range sensors were sweeping the area, but the rocks surrounding them would give too many false readings.

“So, let me get this straight. You picked these guys up, didn’t bother to mention it to me, started chit-chatting with their AI, and just took her word for them not being BannerCorp ops? What were you thinking?” Silence. Deuce kept an eye on the scanner readout. The other ship was closing on their hiding spot, behind an asteroid that almost counted as a small planet.

“I was thinking it was pleasant to talk to another intelligence. Harmon’s is not much of a conversationalist. And most of the rest of them won’t interact. Sheila was different.”
Deuce squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “Yeah, Harmon’s AI is a bit stiff, but that’s how he likes it. As for the rest of them, they know you’d steal them blind without thinking about it. Hell, most of ‘em, you have. But that ought to make you more suspicious, not less. And to fall for an old come-on trick like that. She bats her baby blue electrons at you a couple times and you fall apart? JJ, I’m ashamed of you.”

“Well, I…” Deuce cut him off.

“Save it. Here they come.” The bigger ship was almost on them. “I’m taking her manual.”

“Are you sure, Deuce. I’m part of the ship. I can move us faster and more accurately.”
Deuce shook her head. “Maybe, but you don’t have my instincts. You’re a great AI, you’re smart, you’re a good bit of a crook, but you’re still not me. Besides, you’re distracted right now.”

“That’s not fair.”

“I said, save it. Here we go!”

Deuce punched the engines to life and the ship shot out from behind the asteroid. She angled away from it into a field of smaller rocks. The display lit up with red flares as the smallest bounced off their shield. Deuce zig-zagged through, ignoring the hits. The bigger ship followed, it’s shield also deflecting hits.

“Deuce…”

“Don’t bother me while I’m driving!” The Deuce’s Wild shot out of the small rocks, and Deuce rolled left as their pursuers sent another round of fire at them. The Outer Bank asteroid field was made up of rings of space rock, some smaller like the belt they just left, and some with larger, more bulky rocks. They were heading for one of the larger belts now.

“Deuce, some of those rocks…”
Deuce growled at the computer console. She didn’t take her eyes off the nav screen.

“I know. I’m going to try to lose them in there.” Whump! A large flare flashed on the shield display, right at their tail.

“Torpedo hit on the rear shield,” JJ said. “We won’t take another one.”

“Dammit! I was trying to be nice.” Deuce leveled the ship and rolled her down and under the bigger one, heading back the way they’d come. The pursuing ship swung around, more nimble than Deuce expected, and followed. She dove back through the small rocks and headed for the big one they’d used as cover. She slowed marginally as they approached, giving the other ship a chance to catch up. Deuce gripped the helm controls, knuckles white.

“Deuce…”

“Shut up, JJ.” The surface of the asteroid loomed in front of them. The big ship picked up speed, coming straight at them.

“Deuce…”

“SHUTUP, JJ!” Deuce pulled the ship up, hitting the engines hard. The Deuce’s Wild shot up along the surface of the asteroid, and skimmed across the top. The bigger ship wasn’t so lucky. The explosion lit up their screen. Deuce settled their ship into a slow, curving path that followed the asteroid belt.

“That was close.”

“Sheila.”

“Maybe she was tied to a central computer and got out. Unlike the rest of the crew.”

“I wasn’t worried. I was talking to her.”

“Huh?”

“I’ve got her.”

“What do you mean, got her?” A new voice joined the conversation.

“Hi!” Female, perky. “JJ says you’re Deuce. I’m Sheila.”

“Oh. Dear. God.”

The End

==============================================

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