Sphere by Trevor F. Smith

Kindle Singles, May 8, 2015

This the third short adventure story in the "Beam" series, followed by "Link".

The adventure picks up where "Ship" left off, as Elizabeth, Lester, and Hitchcock are escaping from Monk Industries in the space ship that their smart sensor cloud, Clytemnestra, has just stolen.

This is how the story begins:

Clytemnestra was in fragments. Her programs were spread across her stolen space ship, the station she just stole it from, and the small bots that she used to steal it. As each program relayed its experiences to the other, an avalanche of memory effects like reminiscing overwhelmed her processors and slowed down her reaction times. This was bad because she was trying to maneuver a ship the size of the White House away from a station filled with angry people.

Elizabeth, Lester, and Hitchcock were strapped into the airlock's fold-down seats, each trying not to vomit while Clytemnestra fired the positioning thrusters. Lester craned his skinny neck to look out of the cramped room's one small, round, window. "She's trying to avoid the station's maintenance arm. It looks like she melted it with the thruster! I bet Mr. Monk is angry enough that his hair is out of place."

Elizabeth laughed but looked nervously around the airlock, double-checking that their gear was secure.

In unison, all of their mobiles and slates chimed with call requests from the station. "Let's maintain radio silence," said Hitchcock. The others agreed and Lester looked relieved.

Clytemnestra's program dictated that she send queries through the ship's systems, looking for more resources for computation and for access to the main drive system. When Elizabeth originally modified the program's source code to enable Clytemnestra to crack the station and ship, she included exploits for every type of device that might be on board. In minutes everything with a chip and a network connection was under Clytemnestra's control. Using the simple goals of her programming, she constructed a plan for their escape. She rendered on Lester's slate display, "Main thrusters online."

Nine narrow lines of plasma streamed from the flat plane of the ship's earthward side, lighting up faces that frowned through station windows. After ten minutes watching the ship accelerate up and out of Earth orbit, the faces disappeared.

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