San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Phoenix Rising: Part 3

Editor’s Note: Phoenix Rising is an ongoing series for The Back Page. Click here to read the first part, and here to read the second part. 

“Captain Woods?” a voice sounded through the bulkheads.

Woods, laying down on her bunk, sat up alertly.

“I’m here Adjutant.  What’s the situation?”

The robotic male voice piped through speakers again.

“Incoming message from the chairman.”

Woods hurriedly dressed, barely managing to splash water on her face before nearly running to the communications room.

Activating the room’s virtual console, she found herself face to face with her employer.

“Chairman Faust, what a-”

“Please Eva,” Faust waved his hand dismissively.  “I know you and the crew’s sleeping cycles are thrown off by living in the Leviathan.  I trust you in saying though, I would not have called if it wasn’t an emergency.  That being said, I expect you to answer whenever I call.”

Woods swallowed and nodded.

Relaxing thus, she asked politely.

“How can the Leviathan crew be of service, sir?”

He must have been sitting at his desk, because Faust arose and walked closer to her.

“Captain,” he began.

Woods tried not to flinch at the sound of her name.

“A situation has arisen.  A loose end needs tying up.”

Woods nodded.  The Leviathan was well equipped for any contingency plans, should ground forces find themselves unable to handle a situation.

“Understood sir, where do you need us to be?”

“I need you to take the ship to Cairo, then Istanbul.  Agents in the field are preparing a handoff.  You will be receiving those packages.  Put them in holding cells here on the ship.”

Woods nodded.  Standard stuff so far.

“While over the cities, if you feel the need to deploy Arbiters…well,” Faust paused, “I’ll leave the decision up to you.  Bring the packages to me at my headquarters when you’re done.”

The hologram dissipated and the virtual flared off.

“Lieutenant Mills?”

Her deck officer, an older African-American man, replied over the speakers.  “Yes sir?”

Clearing her throat, Woods spoke.

“Prepare to launch.  We have a destination and an objective.”

“Yes sir.  Beginning pre-launch, downloading coordinates.”

Mills heard the order over the speakers.  Orders he had hoped would never come.  He remembered his orientation training.  Source Point was recruiting ex-Navy, SEAL personnel, all sorts of special forces, and a lot of intelligence spooks.  Faust himself had come to one of their trainings.  He had told them they would be the first of their kind, the crew of the Leviathan and the Arbiters.  The crew had gone off to their training, but the Special Forces groups hadn’t been seen until the end.

They had become Arbiters, A-2 for short.    Augmentations had been implanted in them, allowing them to be an elite fighting force of highly lethal killing machines to be deployed on the ground to quell revolts.  Their counterparts on the ground, Arbiter-1 level, were local police with minor augmentations compared to their A-2 brethren.  The augmentations and conditioning had made the men and women of the A-2 program more machine than robots.

It had also driven half of them certifiably insane.  Their first day together on the super carrier Leviathan, a crewman bumped into one while walking through the hallway.  When they found him, his left arm had been crushed, a lung collapsed and punctured, and half his ribs shattered.  He died en route to the infirmary.  Since then, all Arbiters were being confined to the lower deck, many in holding tanks.  And more were being trained and augmented, readying for any situation across the world.

Wills may have worked for Source Point, but he wasn’t sure why anymore.  He scarcely recognized himself.

“Tesseract?” he asked as the ship’s Virtual Intelligence formed in front of him.  Most Virtual Intelligence were all the same, with few behavioral differences.  Tesseract, in this case, was the most behaviorally inclined  V.I. Mills had encountered.  A blatant disregard for human life, coupled with a cunning, logical think process made him a constant annoyance.  No wonder he and the boss got along so well.

“Yes, Lieutenant Mills?”

“Begin our ascent.  Take us to Cairo.”

“Yes, Lieutenant Mills.  Should I wake the Arbiter’s from their cryo-sleep?”

Woods heard the question as she entered the main deck.  Awaken the slumbering giants?

She remembered Faust’s words.

A loose end needs tying up. If you feel the need…wake the Arbiters, I’ll leave it up to you.

Mills was thinking of what he had been taught.

You all represent a change from the current cycle of human life.  For centuries, we have been content to live among chaos, allowing it to shape our circumstances and situations.  No more.  From now on, humanity will not allow chaos to rule.  For the first time, we have a chance to control our own destiny, and we cannot idly stand by anymore.  We must control our future.

“Do it, Tesseract.”  Mills turned to see Captain Woods standing at the helm.

“With pleasure, sir.”  Tesseract gleefully keyed the activation command.  The carrier shuttered as it rose from the ground and began its journey.  Below deck, a camera captured the Arbiters awakening from their slumber.

“Mills.  This will be the first time in our short history, the Leviathan will be present and over a major city.  We need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t end badly.”

“Aye, sir.”  Mills saluted crisply and left.

Woods leaned forward on the control panel.

“An example will be made sir.”  Tesseract bowed before dissipating, leaving Woods alone.


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Phoenix Rising: Part 3