I calmly disengaged the exo-suit. Stepping out of it, I moved with quick strides to the elevator that went back to the main facility. The pain in my legs became a forgotten ache as the adrenaline coursed through me. As I walked, I questioned Adelaide, “What is the number of Assimilators in the patrol, and their makeup?”

“There are thirteen Assimilators. Six are unidentified, seven are animal type,” said Adelaide immediately.

“Unidentified? The same signatures that keep on showing up?” Damn. I hated not knowing exactly what the hell type of murderous monster was bumbling around near me. It made planning for eliminating them much more difficult.

“The readings from the long-range passive scanners indicate as such,” said Adelaide, “but it’s difficult to tell without a known classification.”

I thought for a minute, and mulled over some options in my head. Although I really wanted to catalogue the unidentified Assimilators, it would take active scans to really get a handle on what they could do. That might expose us, and it wasn’t worth them finding Camelot.

“Continue monitoring them with passive scans. Don’t actively scan them unless they are clearly approaching Camelot. I’m heading to the control room now.”

“Understood, Sam.”

I tried not to run as I moved to the control room. My dad always told me that rushing a problem only led to a rushed solution. Rushed solutions were never ideal solutions. Not running also let me think more, which was good and bad. Good, because I could think of possible responses to the problem. Bad, because none of those responses were any good. I forced myself to stay calm, but I noticed I was breathing faster.

The elevator ride back to the main base felt absurdly long. I was tapping my foot while the doors opened, and by the time I found myself in the control room I realized that I had basically sprinted over to it. Apparently my subconscious was decidedly not calm.

Though this wasn’t the first Assimilator group that had neared Camelot’s perimeter, and none of the previous ones had stumbled upon the base, it didn’t mean the threat was any less serious. Assimilators were, in professional vernacular, really fucking scary.

The control room was a medium sized and centrally located. It was mostly occupied by two arcing rows of seats facing a large empty space. I took the main seat in the control room, a comfortable chair that was slightly elevated over the rest. Usually the commanding officer of the base would have sole claim to it, and my ongoing occupation of it was rationalized by me technically being the highest ranking military personnel in the facility.  As I sat down, Adelaide switched on the holoprojector, giving me a three-dimensional view of the base and the surrounding land. A series of bright red dots appeared, approaching the southwestern side of the perimeter.

“Adelaide, estimate the time until the patrol crosses the perimeter.”

A holographic clock appeared on near the map.

“ETA is four minutes, twenty-two seconds.”

I frowned. Less of a warning than I wanted, but better than nothing.

“Shall I shift defense drones to that area?” The pseudo-AI asked.

I considered it. After a moment, I responded, “It’s probably not a great idea to activate any more systems than we have to. The unidentified Assimilators could have heightened senses.” I tapped the armrest of my chair, “Best case scenario, they just pass us by. Anything that could give us away is a last resort.”

My philosophy on things that could very easily murder me is to not be noticed by them. And, if I was noticed by them, run very fast in the opposite direction. Considering the second part of my philosophy wasn’t possible, I wanted the first to hold as long as it could.

“Understood, Sam. I will keep the defenses on standby.”

I checked the clock. Two minutes, forty seconds.

“Classify the known Assimilators. Quickly”

“There are five Class M1, and two Class R1.”

Static defenses should handle that without issue. The rail cannons and anti-personnel missiles were more than enough. The difficulty came from what would follow. I tapped my foot. Maybe I should send out a drone, try to lure them away? I dismissed the idea immediately. Even if they were led away, a drone had to come from somewhere. If these Assimilators were not intelligent enough to figure that out, their Matriarch cluster would be. My eyes were only loosely fixed on the dots moving on the projection. My options were limited.

“Sam.”

Even if they crossed the perimeter, they might not notice the base. Actually, there was a fairly decent chance they wouldn’t. The first floor didn’t start until about 20 feet down. However, the defenses past the perimeter were scant at best, so if they did notice, things were going to get very ugly, very quickly. A patrol of Assimilators would without a doubt have the capability to quickly burrow into the facility. After they inevitably broke through the hardened concrete exterior, I would just be a squishy human empanada.

“Sam.”

A possibility was to kill power to the top six floors. The fusion reactor couldn’t be shut down, at least not be someone as hilariously underqualified as me, but it was incredibly well shielded so it didn’t give off much passive energy. That would eliminate most identifiable signatures. However, the systems weren’t really meant to be shut down in the first place. It would probably take more than the roughly minute and a half remaining to shut things down safely. And beyond that, turning everything back on would cause a massive energy spike, which could act as a big blinking sign to any Assimilators in the area.

“SAM.”

“What!?” I yelled, snapping my eyes to the ceiling.

“The Assimilator patrol has turned away. They are now on a south-eastern bearing away from Camelot.”

“Oh. Okay.” As I leaned back in my chair, letting the air escape my lungs, I noticed that my legs were really goddamn sore.

 

 

Sometime later, I lay in my bed in the commander’s quarters. It was a nice bed. King sized. Very comfy. I wasn’t sure what the thread count of the sheets were, but they felt quite premium. The commander’s quarters were downright luxurious by military standards. It was fairly large, with a private bathroom containing a shower and a tub. With bubbly jets. It also had a walk-in closet, which looked a bit lonely with my very limited wardrobe squatting in it. The wooden furniture was nice, probably mahogany. I had no idea what mahogany actually looked like but it seemed like a safe bet and nobody was there to prove me wrong. With how nice this room was, I had a sneaking suspicion that Camelot was meant to double as a bunker for VIPs.

“Sam.”

There was an antique desk against the wall. It was a beautiful old thing, large and spacious, perfect for writing letters to governments both foreign and domestic. Currently, it held my Lego pirate ship. F-03 had made the bricks for me. Designing them from scratch had been pretty tricky, so I got Adelaide to scan some 3D models from the database. She complained a bit about copyright infringement, but when I argued that the company was most likely ash at this point, she saw the light. After that, she extrapolated a blueprint based on them, and the rest is history. Some would call the pirating of children’s toys a misappropriation of a multi-billion-dollar computer system that was the closest humanity had come to true Artificial Intelligence. Those people would be stupid.

“Sam. I know you are ignoring me on purpose.”

“Yes, I am,” I said, rolling over on the bed and wallowing on top of the covers. I had built the pirate ship mostly out of nostalgia. I’d had the same model growing up. My plan was to build a samurai castle next, and have them fight. It would keep me entertained for a few days, and would serve as an excellent demonstration of the effectiveness of hot weapons versus cold ones.

“Sam. I believe you should attempt the simulator again.”

I stopped my ruminations and opened my eyes, sighing. “It’s very hard to pointedly glare at you when you don’t have a body,” I said, and then tried it anyway. Glaring at the ceiling felt silly so I gave it up pretty quickly.

“If the Assimilators had broken through the defenses and discovered Camelot, your chance of survival would be less than a tenth of a percent,” Adelaide said, in a roundabout way of calling me a little bitch.

I groaned. I hate it when the computer is right. That wouldn’t stop me from arguing though, because it generally meant that I had to do things I didn’t want to.

“Look Adelaide. I’ve tried the simulator. We did not get along.” We really didn’t. The spider bots had a hell of a time cleaning the vomit out. “The first three times I tried it, I couldn’t even get past the basic requirements test. And the instructor said some really hurtful things. Enduring emotional and physical trauma is not my favorite pastime.”

“Your last simulator attempt was seventy-six days prior to this date.” The computer informed me, “Your training routine since then gives you a 97% chance of clearing the simulator’s basic requirements.”

“I’m claustrophobic?”

“You show no symptoms of traditional claustrophobia.”

I gave a noncommittal grunt and rolled over on the bed again, burying my face in the delightfully soft pillow. If I believed hard enough the problem might go away.

“Do you not wish to pilot a near impervious robotic suit of armor?” she asked. I would be lying to myself if I said I didn’t. She continued, “Completion of the simulator course is required to pilot the Paladin Mobile Infantry Suit.” I think there was a smug pause after that, but I could’ve just been projecting. The worst part is that she was right. I hate it when the computer is right.

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