The Senior Staff was introduced to Endea in short order, as was the Senior Staff of the Forge. Thanks to the ship’s reboot, communications between the Endeavor and the Forge were reestablished. Roozay was surprised to see the Endeavor talking to him. “I…er…well…this is a whole new can of worms,” he muttered.
“How so?” asked Endea.
“Madam, there WILL be people that say machines need no rights,” explained Roozay.
“Oh, crap,” mumbled Arsha as she realized the future legal battle for the rights of sentient machines. “The other side’s going to say that you’re just a machine, built only for one purpose. Having your own ideas will only get in the way of your purpose.”
“Which I find to be a load of nonsense!” snapped Denstra. “Our whole purpose is to engage with new forms of life and protect them! Well, there’s a new form of life right there!”
“Maybe more, if Bashoon tells the Queens,” mused Elmar.
“So the crisis should be resolving soon?” asked Roozay.
“Hopefully,” replied Arsha. “All the same, can the relief fleet get here still? Reb’s fleet is still keeping people out.”
“We would be happy to assist,” promised Roozay. “Arsha, you and I should draft a battle plan once Galthar is back up and running.”
“Agreed,” answered Arsha.
“Halt repairs?!” yelped Hunmur once she and Hindra got the message. “Are you out of your mind?!”
“Your Majesty, I understand this is a peculiar situation,” gulped Bashoon, “but, if I could explain…!”
“What’s to explain?!” asked Hunmur. “You want us to order the ones trying to fix this crisis to stop?!”
“It worked with us,” assured Bashoon. “On top of that, it brought our ship to life!”
“And the potential legal battle is one of the reasons why I’m so unwilling to follow through with your suggestion!” snapped Hunmur.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Hindra. Hunmur sighed.
“I was the defense when the Chimeras were demanding the same rights as us,” she explained. “That battle took a thousand years before the courts reached their decision.”
“And you think it’ll take as long concerning living machines?” realized Bashoon.
“Exactly!” replied Hunmur. “What if the courts say ‘no’?”
“With respect,” remarked Hindra, “if we don’t try their suggestion, Galthar may not live to see that battle or its outcome. Being a tech capital, our voice will have some weight to whatever our decision is.” Hunmur pondered a bit, then decided.
“All right, we’ll do it,” she declared.
“You will?” asked Bashoon.
“Hindra’s right,” continued Hunmur. “We can’t advocate for sentient machine rights if our kingdom’s not showing off how such rights improve the Realms. Hindra, let’s draft an executive order for all repairs to cease, then sign it.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty!” Bashoon praised Hunmur. “And thank you, Queen Hindra.”
“Don’t thank me,” replied Hindra, “I didn’t think that was going to work!”
“…Could have waited until I left the castle to say that,” muttered Bashoon.
“Still no response from Galthar,” reported Melgem aboard the Scarlet Stream pirates’ flagship, the Black Money.
“This is MOST unlike Hindra and Hunmur,” mused Reb. “What could POSSIBLY delay them? They care about their people, yes?”
“They should,” muttered Yulduk. “Something’s not right.” A man in black pirate clothing then came in. The coat had “SSPS-1794 Black Money” on the back.
“Ah, Blackon, my DEAR ship,” greeted Reb.
“Admiral,” replied the man, Blackon, the living consciousness of Reb’s flagship.
“What news from the fleet?” asked Melgem.
“The Headstrong and Opulence,” answered Blackon, “reported a fleet of Realmfleet ships nearing our position. They fired warning shots and the enemy is holding position.”
“Excellent,” praised Reb. “Oh, I DO hope Hindra and Hunmur see sense. We simply NEED their riches to…” a sound from the tactical console interrupted her. Blackon checked and his eyes widened.
“I don’t believe it,” he muttered. He projected what was going on in Galthar on the main screen.
“Are they…stopping repairs?” quizzed Melgem.
“More than that!” replied Blackon. “They’re shutting down ALL machines!”
“…They know!” realized Reb. “They KNOW somehow!”
“But…how?!” yelped Melgem.
“Admiral!” called Blackon as he pointed to the screen as it focused on the trains of Galthar. The fronts of the engines budded, then the buds grew until they each formed a humanoid upper torso and distinct faces and clothing. They now looked like humanoid life-forms sprouting out of the fronts of train engines. Another blip on the tactical console grabbed Blackon’s attention. He checked it. “The Endeavor’s hailing us!” he reported.
“Arsha!” snarled Reb. “I should have KILLED her when I saw her in the vaults!”
“What can we do?!” yelped Yulduk. “With the city’s movement-capable machines rising, we’ll never have Galthar as a permanent tribute site!”
“Open a channel to the Endeavor!” ordered Reb. “I will speak with Arsha MYSELF!” Arsha appeared on the screen with Endea. “I know you had your DESPICABLE hands in this, Royana!” shouted Reb.
“MY despicable hands?” scoffed Arsha. “Pot, meet kettle! You terrorized innocent people just to make a quick profit! The only good thing that came out of this is the fact that all machines with motive power can talk to us now, such as Endea here.”
“So, you figured out what the mist is,” sighed Melgem. “Oh well, we still have the advantage. We used the Breath of Life about a year ago and our ships are more trained than yours!”
“I can still fight with the best of them!” argued Endea. “Now, scram!”
“I don’t take ORDERS, I take TREASURE!” snapped Reb. She ended communications and activated a fleetwide broadcast. “All ships, battle stations!”
“They’re coming at us in an attack formation!” warned Malak.
“Time to put you through your paces,” Arsha declared to Endea. She activated the intercom. “All hands to battle stations!” The ship rose to meet the pirate fleet as the relief fleet came up from behind the pirates and fired! Malak received more attack suggestions on his console and looked at Endea.
“Yeah, they’re my ideas on top of the main computer suggestions!” confirmed Endea.
“Well, I like your third option!” called Malak.
“Use it at your discretion!” directed Arsha. Malak fed the flight pattern to the helm and Nazay moved the ship in said pattern, weaving above the pirates while Malak fired torpedoes at their topsides.
“The pirates are in disarray!” cheered Malak.
“See?” asked Endea. “It’s all in the unexpected…” she trailed off when she saw what was on the screen. The ship was going in between a pair of pirate ships! “ARE YOU CRAZY?!” yelped Endea. “NAZAY, DON’T FLY ME BETWEEN THEM!”
“FLY YOU BETWEEN THEM, ARE YOU CRAZY?!” replied Nazay, missing a part of Endea’s protest. He flew the ship right between them! Endea squeaked in horror, then her eyes pupils and sclera vanished. The helm’s controls then moved themselves against Nazay’s directions!
“I TOLD YOU TO GO AROUND THEM!” called Endea.
“YOU SAID TO FLY YOU BETWEEN THEM!” snapped Nazay as he realized who had the controls.
“I SAID DON’T FLY ME BETWEEN THEM!” answered Endea. It was too late now. As the Endeavor flew between the ships, the cannons on either side fired just a little behind them and the shots ripped into the other ships. The relief fleet continued attacking from the rear.
“This is lunacy!” groaned Melgem. Blackon cried out in pain.
“My shields are down!” he called. “Fires on decks 2, 3, and 5!”
“Order our repair crews to put out the fires, then activate our PERSONAL Realmgate,” ordered Reb. “We’ve sustained enough damage to make this job no longer PROFITABLE.”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” shouted Yulduk. “This is our chance to finally be at the top of the tech game! Realmfleet will have no choice but to accept our ways!”
“We’ve lost too many ships,” replied Reb. “The amount of money needed for repairs will NOT be covered with Galthar brought to its knees. We’re leaving.”
“I am the true King of Galthar,” snarled Yulduk, “and I order you to…!” He didn’t get far as Reb buried a knife into his head.
“NEVER give me an order!” she hissed at Yulduk’s corpse. “Blackon, sweetie, get this HORRENDOUS thing off and fire up the personal Realmgate.”
“At once,” replied Blackon. Yulduk’s body was enveloped in light and vanished without a trace.
“Captain!” called Malak.
“I see them!” cheered Arsha as the pirates went into retreat. “Well done, all of you! Even you, Endea!”
“I just do the best I can,” replied Endea.
“Roozay’s hailing us!” called Shalvey.
“Open a channel!” directed Arsha. Roozay appeared on screen.
“I must say,” he chuckled, “I didn’t expect this kind of welcome from Galthar. Now, about that technological aid…”
“Galthar should be in a position to accept all kinds of aid,” replied Arsha. “We’ll meet with the Queens and discuss how to divide up the resources so Galthar can get back on its feet.”
“Then I’ll meet you at the castle,” declared Roozay. “Roozay out.” The call ended.
“Nazay, let’s get back to the ground,” directed Arsha.
“Couldn’t agree more, Captain,” chuckled Nazay as he moved the ship to the landing site.