Star Song Nebula Noctis

Star Song: Nebula Noctis

A soft chiming noise pierced the sea of slumber, and the sleeping woman roused with a disgruntled noise. Nedi reached out blindly for the source of the disturbance as she gritted her teeth at the grating sound of its metallic shuffling. It adeptly avoided her clumsy effort. She lifted her head and glared at the tiny robot that stood on her bedside table. The cute digital screen emoted a cheerful face back at her. Nedi finally reached out with a fist and gently bonked the top of the robot, and the racket stopped. After a moments pause, she gave a heavy sigh as she moved away from the alluring comfort of her pillow and sat up in her bed. She stretched her arms over her head and dropped them with a hum before climbing up to her feet. She checked the time and grumbled. She grabbed a gray jumpsuit from her closet with her name printed across the breast, Nedilla, though she went by Nedi.

She dropped her light sleep shirt and shorts to the floor and climbed into the stall. Her tail swayed behind her as she braced for the hot water that started to spray down across her. Her purple hair was matted down, and she brushed it back, the water running over her blue skin as she got clean and ready for the day. The refreshing water helped her shake off clinging tendrils of sleep as it ran over her gentle curves and down her finned tail. She rubbed the side of her snout and fiddled with one of her teeth with her tongue before she decided to grab it with her fingers and wiggle it free. The sharp, jagged fang was replaceable; by the end of the day, another would have moved to take its place. She belonged to a shark-like humanoid race from an aquatic world, though shed never seen the homeworld of her people, having been born on a colony world of oceans and reefs.

When she finished washing, Nedilla stepped out of the stall and paused by the mirror to look over herself again, a burn scar on her right shoulder and more scars from small faded cuts across the top of her chest and side of her neck. She rubbed them with a brief frown. She shrugged and started to hum a more cheerful tune as she got dressed. She pulled on black underwear that was more practical than showy, and over it went her gray utility jumpsuit, her tail slipping through the lower hole and the fin on her back sliding through the second opening higher up on the jumpsuit. She pulled on a pair of heavy jackboots that were battered and worn from use. She grabbed her black and red lab coat and headed out the door with a wave to the little robot by her bed. It beeped at her cheerfully and saluted with one of its stubby arms. The little mech frame had been modeled after a larger one with a weapon system, but the little one shed made just had a laser pointer. Nedilla locked the door to her quarters and looked up and down the busy corridor with other people waking up and moving to their jobs and posts around the station. She strode down the hall to the lifts.

The halls were brightly lit and clean, little cleaner bots running along the edge of the hallway, staying out from underfoot except when someone spilled a bit of their coffee or got bumped and dropped what they were eating, then the busy little bots would dart in and clean up the mess and polish the floor. They left nothing behind, but Nedi had to hold back a snicker as someone not paying proper attention slipped on a freshly cleaned spot and went down with a curse. She paused and offered the stranger a hand, helping them to their feet while they grumbled and straightened out their suit. Nedi gave a fanged grin and went on with a wave while they nodded in thanks before going on their way in the opposite direction. A few friends passed, and she waved at them cheerfully, getting in the lift and keying it to the docks while others crammed in until she had to wrap her tail around her leg to keep it out of the way while people selected different destinations. With a smooth surge of movement suppressed by inertial compensators, the lift began to slide through the shafts running through the ground complex where they resided and worked.

Nedilla sighed softly as the lift pinged, and a soft robotic voice announced they reached the docks. She squeezed her way out and stretched out her tail with visible relief before continuing to where the transit shuttle lay in port, slowly filling with people. She got in line to enter, scanned her ID at the security kiosk, and walked into the small spaceship, taking a seat in one of the few remaining places squeezing between a felinid in a white jumpsuit of medical and a human in a service suit. She wrapped her tail around her waist and let it rest in her lap while the engines of the shuttle hum and the doors close and bolt shut; again, the feeling of motion suppressed by advanced systems buffet and makes everyone lean slightly with lift-off. Nedi looked out the window and watched the ground station recede in the distance and clouds race by, the ground shrinking until they finally break the atmosphere, and the blue shift drives begin to spin up. The soft hum grew more severe, and then the view of the world was gone, replaced by the streaking lights and peaceful aura of blue light that gave the drives their name. It passed after a few seconds, replaced by the view of a massive space station floating in the void.

The station was a civilian structure with sleek hull lines and reinforced windows that gave a view out into space for those within, lacking the armored plating of a military installation. It was a frontier station built as a large hemisphere with blocky protrusions coming off the bottom. Most of the workstations are built around the edge of the station, with the engine made visible by the complex cooling lines and exhaust vents. Her view of the station shifted as the shuttle came around the docks, Nedi looking at other ships already mated with the station. There were two trader ships, large cumbersome vessels that ran cargo between planets and stations, but nestled up next to them was a sleek black vessel, too small to be anything but a personal ship, and it had the brand mark of Nanotrasen.

The branding mark was no surprise; NT owned the entire station, but that ship was too new and advanced to be anything minor. I wonder whats up that Corporate is visiting? Nedi thought to herself, then looked up as the shuttle pinged and the airlocks clicked, their bolts pulling up and the doors sliding open with a hiss. The passengers got up and moved, and Nedi was no exception, following the flow of people to the door and into the arrivals area. She glanced over at the busy docks watching people and one loader mech carrying cargo under the dutiful eyes of a customs agent, but where the sleek ship was parked, two guards stood in black armor carrying pulse rifles. That made her shiver, and the curiosity of who or what that shuttle had brought to the station burned brighter.

The metal halls of the station were lit by the ever-glowing white lights bustled with people and activity. Security officers patrolled in twos and threes; a cook hurried by carrying a box of ingredients, and assistants moved about with color tags on their IDs showing their duty stations for the shift. A lone head of staff, the chief engineer by the looks of it, moved through the barely organized chaos while people got out of their way like a shark moving through a school of fish. She grinned at the analogy and waved as she spotted a particular sec officer, a tall blue-furred synthetic with wolf-like features and the name GARM stamped onto his armored vest over his heart. He smiled and blew a kiss at her making her blush as she hurried on to robotics and her assigned department.

The purple-striped airlock hissed open as she swiped her ID through the reader and a dark lab greeted her. Shed expected it as shed been assigned by herself for the shift and had to lab all on her own for a change. It wasn entirely unusual, and it meant she had her own choice of music, but it was a little lonely at times. Shed have to bug Garm to visit when he got a break, or maybe Lilith if she showed up at the station later. Either of her lovers would be a welcome sight around her workstation for a break, but for the moment, she hit the light switch and sighed at the mess left behind by the evening shift. Nedi didn like to think poorly of others, with a few exceptions, but she hated that the first thing shed need to do was clean up over others. Spilled oil, grime on the floors, parts of cyborgs left out just lying strewn across tables, it all bugged her. However, the parts would be helpful, at least. She adjusted her lab coat and sat down her bag on a table that was mostly clear of clutter before turning on a playlist of songs with hard bass and a fast beat. She goes to a small closet and pulls out a bucket and mop. Fill the bucket, wet the mop, and get started on the floors first, so she didn slip on the oil spill at the very least, and she hated getting it on her boots and tracking it everywhere even if she didn fall.

Fifteen minutes later, the floor was clean, and Nedi was putting the mop back in the closet, though she kept the bucket out after dumping the fouled water. She looked around again and sighed, starting to clean up the tables and organize the clutter, moving the cyborg limbs around into neat stacks and shuffling piles of metal and glass plates for the machine fabricators into more sightly piles off to the side where theyd be easy to grab and feed into the printers. Another half an hour passes just cleaning up, most of an hour into her shift spent just cleaning up after the previous crew, but at least she knew what she did or didn need now and had a nice stack of internal parts for use making some simple bots for the crew. It wasn a terrible way to start the shift, she thought to herself, but she was annoyed that it had needed doing. The lab was finally clean, though. Now it was time to check the logs and see what was up first for her to-do list.

The console in the corner of the lab lit up and showed the research logs from the last few weeks, not that she needed that, and a work order log for robotics that other departments required. She scanned through the list humming to herself; a couple of medibots for medical, as always, engineering wanted another fire extinguisher bot for public station use. Cargo wanted a Ripley for general use hauling crates, and lastly, security had put in an order for three ED-209s and a Gygax combat mech. The last one made her frown, the ED-209s weren very hard to put together, but a Gygax was a complex mech to assemble by herself and would probably take her a couple of hours to get together by itself. Well, she could get the frame put together now and then do the rest as she reached the other things done.

Nedi nodded to herself and looked around, realizing all her work cleaning was about to be entirely undone by the time she was finished, but it was only fair that she left a mess for the next shift, the same as they left for her. She grabbed metal and glass plates and slid them into the fabricators, loading both machines up with materials before going to them individually and setting in the commands. For the first, Nedi set up to start printing the parts for the Ripley along with its framing pieces; for the second, she queued up a list of components to get bots assembled, mostly assorted cyborg parts. While they began to hum to life and sparked internally while hidden machinery began to shape and cut metal, she gathered the other parts and pieces for the bots as they were the easiest to assemble. The medibots were the easiest to throw together. Hence, they were the priority, plus it never hurt to have medical happy with you. So she got the frames left behind by the last shift, who hadn finished the work, and began fitting in the control circuits and sensors. Each of the three was installed and fitting one at a time, like a mini assembly line on a long table, as she went through the parts one by one.

By the time she finished with the internals and got the frames in place, the fabricator had printed the cyborg limbs the medibots used to do their work, and she mounted them, finally fitting a health analyzer and scanner to the frames. As she checked the scanners, the whole thing blinked lights on and hummed softly, a preprogrammed voice coming out to announce their activation. Nedi smiles happily with herself and the little bots, setting them on the floor and turning on their patrol modes one by one so they have some spacing, the little bots rolling out the doors excitedly going about their work. She goes to the console to report the task complete, then glances over the pile of Ripley parts that the fabricator had printed out. She nods and takes off her lab coat, dropping it on a table and rolling up her sleeves for real work.

The Ripley was one of the most basic mechs she could build, but at ten feet tall, fully assembled, it still took some work to put together, but the Akula was fit and knew her business well as she set herself to the task at hand. She began connecting the internal framing pieces and clamping together the inner lock points before welding them so they didn flex or shift; next was the limbs of the mech. She hooked the frame to a gantry and got it off the floor, and with a grunt of effort, she got each leg into place and then ran the linkages to the frame so they locked in place before lowering the gantry, so it settled onto its legs to test if the connections were indeed seated. She gave a short nod when it stood on its own and grabbed a step ladder. Nedi loaded the arm onto a lift, hauling the heavy limb up to the shoulder and slotting it in place much as she did the legs, running wiring and hydraulic connections before bolting the whole thing in business and going to the other side and repeating the process. Last to go on was the torso, the pilots seat, and the housing for all the electronics shed be installing next. The torso took longer than the limbs to assemble to the frame, and when done, the bones and muscles stood over her. The cockpit hung open, waiting for the control systems to be installed and the power source to be put in.

She paused for a moment and walked across the lab to a small fridge, finally turning on her radio and listening to chatter across the standard band. Her department radio had been quiet for the most part; scientists are rarely the chatty type, and she giggled as she listened to two people arguing over the radio about some petty squabble while others tried to tell them to shut up. She pulled her PDA and turned away from the table she was resting against, snapping a picture of herself with the majority of the Ripley visible over her shoulder, then sent it to her fiance, ”Hey love, just a regular day at work for me. Hows it going on your end of the stars? ”

She waited a few minutes, and when there wasn a response, she shrugged and looked back at the shell of the mech waiting for her to finish what shed started. She nodded to herself and finished her water, unsealing the top half of her jumpsuit and rolling it down to the waist as the lab was a bit warmer than it had been when shed started. She turned her radio back off, the fight continuing with no apparent end in sight, and she had work to do. Rolling her shoulders, she walked back to the mech and gave it a gentle kick, then went to the fabricator, and with a few keystrokes, it was back in motion, printing out the internal parts and sections of outer plating, along with a battery cell to power the whole thing. With the fabricator in action, Nedi returned up the ladder and started the longest part of the entire job, and her least favorite was running the wires through the whole assembly and trimming the wires to fit. Running, splicing, connecting, and then cutting the excess took nearly an hour to fully rig the entire mech, not long when you thought about the size of it, but when shed first started, it took her half a shift to finish the same job if she didn miss anything. A quick plug into her multi-tool sent a low-energy pulse through the wiring, and she smiled when it came back green, everything was hooked up properly, and nothing was grounding out, perfect.

Into the cockpit and along the shell go a set of scanners so the pilot would have a good sense of their surroundings and not back into anyone, or so she hoped. She checked on the fabricator and nodded, seeing it had finished the internal circuitry she needed. The primary control slots in and are connected, then the peripheral board slots in next to it, and she screwed both down. Nedi sealed up the console before climbing back out and going around to the back. In went the capacitors for the charge ports, and finally, she pulled the battery from the fabricator port and threw it into a charger. A quick check of the time and a glance at the fabricator queue before frowning at the charger, its lights blinking, showing the power level, and Nedi sighed and rolled her suit back up before grabbing her PDA and stepping out of the lab. She dodged a sec officer running past without a word and stared questioningly after them for a moment before shrugging and walking down the hall toward the cafeteria. Time for some lunch; maybe theyd have some fish served today. The thought cheered her up, and she walked with a hum, keeping to the side of the hallway, so she didn get caught in the heavier foot traffic.

The cafe was busy, with people coming in and out this time of day. The entire area had the subtle noise of folks talking amongst themselves while they ate; others sat looking at their PDA. One dead-eyed janitor stared at the far wall while slowly chewing his food. Nedilla stepped into the bustle and got in line for the food, grabbing a tray and shifting from one foot to the next as she caught one of her favorite smells from the station; fried fish. Her tail swayed excitedly behind her, and she tried to be patient in the line, finally getting to the front and grabbing a plate of fried fish filets and chips. A couple of the little cups of ketchup follow the plate onto her tray, and she is out of the line without grabbing anything else; finding herself a space at a table, she sat down and began eating. She blew lightly on a filet to try and cool it down a little before taking a bite out of it and chewing happily, fish is one of her favorite flavors, and even the patties of ground-up fish were still so tasty for her. It wasn as lovely as getting it fresh from home, but shed never complain about seeing it at the cafe, even if they overcooked it a little. Sushi was better, but the sushi from the restaurant was dubious at best, and shed had a nasty run-in with it in the past. So now she stuck to the safety of the fried fish.

When the fish was gone, and the chips and their ketchup had followed the filets to their fate, Nedi sat at the table pondering the contents of her PDA, looking into the current station news and announcements. Nothing too important, but her ruminations were interrupted when one of the black-suited guards entered the cafe. He wore the heavy body armor of corporate security and walked past the line for food, loading a tray with food and ignoring the comments of the disgruntled crew waiting for their food. He piled high the tray and went back out the way he came, pausing only when a coughing fit came over him, and he nearly lost the tray. The man recovered from the fit and then went further out the door. Nedi shrugged and got up from her table to head back to her lab as well, the Ripley was almost complete, and the Gygax still needed to be built, then shed begin work on the other projects. As she walked out of the cafe, she spotted drops of blood where the guard had been coughing, and she frowned and looks in the direction he went on his way out. Part of her was worried, but that was others to concern themselves with.

Nedi headed back to her lab, sighing as the doors shut behind her with a soft hiss. She walked over to the charger first, pulling the heavy battery free and throwing a replacement into the charger to fill, and slotting it into the chest of the Ripley before securing it down and connecting it to the power systems. Nedi looked at the pile of plating on the floor by the fabricator and began the final steps of the whole process. First, the plates were lifted by one of the loaders and held in place while she secured them onto the mounting points of the frame; then, she fitted her goggles on tight, and out came the welder sealing them down against each other. The outer plates of the Ripley were not exactly armor, as they were a covering to keep the insides intact. Bullets or a severe strike with a crowbar would do some damage if they were determined. Thankfully the last step of the process didn take long, and soon the completed mech stood on its legs under the white lights of her lab. She grinned up at it before climbing in, her legs slotting down into the upper thighs of the mech and her tail wrapping around her waist before she grabbed the controls in the arms and began moving it. She didn take it far, parking the loader mech in the corner of her lab to be collected later, and for now, she climbed back out and walked over to her order screen to let the cargo techs know they could get it or wait for her to bring it by.

She noticed security had bumped the Gygax as a priority item for some reason and shrugged as she was going to be building that next just to get it out of the way anyways. She glanced at her empty desk and went back to the fabricators to begin a new list of items to print. More metal and glass plates are loaded into them, and they get to work, humming and quickly warming up the lab. The shark closed the shutters for her desk, so they could get her on the radio if they needed something and rolled her suit back down. She moves the ceiling-mounted hauler over to the fabricator as it rolls out the main frame of the Gygax. This mech was no civilian cargo loader; even the structure of it without limbs was an imposing ten feet tall and weighed enough to crush Nedi if it fell on her. She carefully connects it to the lifter and hauls it onto the gantry. Only when it was lifted and secured did she begin connecting the frame to its pieces, turning the limp pile of metal plates into the rigid internal skeleton of a war machine. It had a larger torso than the Ripley, as the pilot sat at the controls rather than stood. There were more slots for internal screens and the ability to seal itself against atmospheric threats and depressurization fully.

The Gygax was always one of Nedis favorite mechs, combining speed and firepower with heavy armor and good endurance. Though it would never match the more heavily armored Durand in a direct engagement, it was far better in urban environments and for rapid response situations. The Gygax was like a shark on the battlefield, a mental image that suited the Akula nicely. She climbed down her ladder as the first of the legs finished printed and grabbed it with her second lifter, pulling it upright and moving it into position. The Gygaxs legs had more connections than the Ripleys, so it took her longer, but it also gave time for the fabricators to work at their jobs. When she finished the linkages on the first leg, she disconnected the lifter and grabbed the second to begin the process all over again. Nedi didn mind the hard work much, it passed the time, and she got into a solid groove. Sweat and bits of oil marred her skin by the time she reached the second leg in place; the shark sat down for a moment and stared at the first of the arms with a heavy sigh. She took a moment to drink some water, then got up and grabbed it with the lifter.

The arms of the Ripley were heavy things that ended in lifting clamps, but the Gygax was a different animal. Even without the armor, they weighed more than Ripleys arms and ended in blunt fists with mountings on the components underside for various weapons. With the multi-role nature of the Gygax, it was designed to be equipped with a list of energy or kinetic weapons, and its systems could run targeting software for all of them. She wasn sure installing all the software onto the board was the best idea, but she didn make it, and it did make it easier to change out the load outs in the field without opening up the inner case. The lifter glides up smoothly, and Nedi guides the arm into the socket on the frame before starting on the linkages that would connect to the main drive when she finally got the torso in place, a process she was not looking forward to doing. By the time she finished the first arm, the second was ready, and the process was no different than the first in getting it in place. A heavy clunk from the fabricators as the front half of the torso slid out of the machine and came to rest on the floor. A moment later, the back half came from the other unit.

Nedi sighed at them, disconnecting the lifter from the arm shed just fixed to the frame, and climbed down, guiding the lifter to the torso and connecting it. The torso of the Gygax was divided into two halves and then welded together down the sides when attached to the frame. Once the torso was in place, it could not be removed or altered without destroying the Gygax due to how it mounted to the body. A flaw as she saw it, but it was designed to be built in an hour by a good team or a few hours by one lonely shark. It had taken her almost two hours to get the arms and legs attached. The torso would take an hour by itself. Then shed install the wiring, computer boards, cockpit seat, and screens, then the final pieces before the outer plating. She nodded to herself and connected the lifter to the front half, as there was only one way to see it done after all.

The front half of the Gygaxs torso is mounted to the frame and locked in place; she started running the connectors for the wiring so shed save herself some headaches later as it was much more difficult to do the same job with the back of the torso in place. With the torso locked to the frame and the connectors run, she climbed out of the half-built machine inside and gets the back half of the cockpit. To do the connectors of the back half, she had to climb into the cavity that would become the cockpit, secure the connections, and pull through the wiring hard points. That done, she climbed back out and rolled her suit around, ignoring the lab heat as sparks of loose metal did poor things for the skin. Her goggles came down again, and she struck up her welder, sealing first one side and then the other, hoping she made no mistakes as now the only way to undo them was to start over completely.

Nedi climbed out of the now mostly built mech, lacking only the head and the internal parts. However, she didn follow the written directions and often connected the hatch hydraulics for the front before putting the head on. To that end, she grabbed the parts she needed and stuffed them in a duffle back and back up the ladder she climbs. She sat in the hollow cavity of the torso that would become a seat for the pilot, linking the hydraulics to the rear panels so they could open. It created a slight weak point in the armor, but one had to be able to get inside the mech from somewhere. Older models of the Gygax were top entry mechs, but the head entry hatch was a greater weak spot than the fold in the back, so it was altered with the current generation. With the hydraulics connected, she grabbed the emergency lever and braced her feet, hauling back on the arm. The freshly installed frame shifted, and the rear hatch opened with a struggle that strained the sharks muscles. Nedi nodded while catching her breath and wiped at the sweat on her face before closing the hatch again and getting out.

She checked the fabricators and went to the board printers. The circuit boards for the Gygax were nearly a foot across and shined brightly in the lights of the lab. She stacked them on each other and carried them over to the table with the other needed parts. Everything was top grade, and one of the small benefits of the private sector was the ability to make even these older model mechs stand up as good as a current front-line equivalent with parts that got the most of their technologies. She looked over the assembled pieces and took a drink of water, and as she did, the lights in the lab shifted suddenly to a violet hue, and alarms started ringing in the station halls. That was the first thing she noticed; the second was the air vents in the lab turning off the grates sealing themselves shit. Nedi walked over to the alert console, swiping away the alert for a level seven biohazard warning and looking at the actual information. There was limited information available from the brief captains announcement beyond th

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