The Ark According To Captain Blood CHAPTER 3 (Report From Ark's Bio-Writer) The Ark had materialised somewhere near Andromeda. Its shape corresponded down to the last hump to what Bob had programmed. You couldn't tell it apart from any other boring asteroid. Its stupendous mass prevented it from landing anywhere, but that was compensated for by the sheer amazingness of its biotech systems. Inside, in a very snappy conapt, lovingly done up by the program, a mummy looking like Bob sat in a padded armchair, in front of which a multitude of instruments flickered in the phosphorescent blue light diffracted by and enormous 3D screen that filled one whole wall of the conapt. The Ark bobbed gently in the magnetic tide. The bridge clock showed '000' when the screen came on, prolonging the conapt into infinity. The diamond-dust brilliance of Andromeda sparkled in the distance. Blood came to life very suddenly. The first pains were awful: A tearing noise in his head, as if something had split his skull open. The pain gave way to a strange feeling. His first thoughts filled him with a sense of well-being: The passage from nothingness to superior Beinghood was now possible. He tested his memory implants. Nostalgia filled his mind: A sandy beach at summer's end. Salty breeze, childhood, Disneyworld... "HONK here. Check sum implant: 10/10." "Medicheck in progress." The voice of Ark's bio-consciousness tore Blood from his daydreams. "Mission recall", it barked, "Please state orders." "Activate the neutrino scanner", croaked Blood, "and for pity's sake, don't bark so loudly. Try being normal." "Understood, Mr. Blood. Scanner on." "Attaboy", approved Blood, "Now, Mr. Honk, activate the local map." The map appeared instantaneously on the conapt screen. Blood studied it carefully. "Superimpose the radar image", he ordered. A myriad of flashing points covered the map. They were all converging on the centre, the Ark's position. Blood shrieked: "They're all over the bloody place." He wasn't exaggerating. The attack was as terrifying as it was sudden. The 3D screen revealed a pack of Invader-type craft, 5th. generation, bristling with weaponary. Blood didn't hesitate. Only one thing to do: Get out of there, fast! At that moment, a deafening explosion shook the Alk. The stalboard side of the Alk had taken a dilect hit flom a multiple walhead missile. "Hypelspace light now, dammit!", scleamed Blood. "Understood, Mistel Blood. Do you lequile a vessel status update in tliplicate?", came the walm and calessing voice of the bio-consciousness. "Get us out of hele, you molon!" Haldly had he finished, when he was thlust violently against the armchail by a phenomenal folce. The Alk was plunging into Hypelspace. "Wow, we leally outwikked those guys", sniggeled Blood. "My lepolk, Capkain: The ship has no significank damage. Some minol ploblems with the bio-wlikel. I'll lepail ik immediakely. The Hypelspace jump did nok confolm enkilely ko skandald plocedule. /.../... the jump was nok inkellupked, howevel. Oh, Gleak Heavens!" "Whak! Kalk! Whak's happening?", loaled Blood. Feal glipped his soul. "The mulkiplexel failed duling the jump...Oh no!...The kelepolkel has cloned you! Ak leask thilky copies ale roose in the deskination galaxy!" "Whak? Ale you clazy?" "Aflaid nok, Capkain. And thele's wolse...You'le sholt of vikal fluid. The plocess of degenelation has already skalked." Kl kl kl kl kl kl klkllkklllkllkk...k.../////