“So, you’re watching me, Android?” Filorya asked.
“Affirmative,” Yuri responded. “There is a considerable risk that you will attempt to escape in spite of our Doctor’s advice. I am here to prevent you from harming yourself or anyone on this crew.”
“Then, you must be built stronger than a pacifican,” Filorya observed.
“I am considerably so,” Yuri stated. “In terms of raw power, durability and reflexes.”
“That so?” Filorya wondered. “Then how did you become property to mere humans? Did they build some kind of obedience program into you?”
“I am not their property,” Yuri corrected. “I am here of my own will as an equal part of the crew. Captain Wester even insisted on compensating me on equal terms even though I do not have much use for credits.”
“So, why serve humans?” Filorya wondered. “If not for credits then what drives you? A desire for adventure? Curiosity? What do you gain here that you couldn’t be offered elsewhere?”
“True companionship,” Yuri answered. “I have observed that most beings view me simply as an asset. They see my abilities as a tool for them to harness to their benefit. The Cerberus crew offered me a place to belong and treated me as a valued comrade.” She hesitated for a moment. “No, it is beyond that. They have treated me as family. It is a connection I value highly.”
They heard a knock and Paul entered.
“We don’t have the ingredients for a proper pacifican meal, but I approximated as best as I could using what we did have.” He set a steaming plate of food in front of Filorya. “There you are. Eat up, keep resting and you’ll be just fine. If you need anything, Yuri will contact me for you.”
Filorya looked over the dish suspiciously. It looked like a braised imitation Razorback Hiluk. She took a hesitant bite. “It’s delicious,” she said. “What meat is this?”
“It is a human meat called lamb,” Yuri answered. “It appears to be slightly under-cooked. But that is in keeping with traditional preparation for braised Hiluk.”
“For such a weak human, he has some skills as a cook,” Filorya said. She was shovelling down her food. Suddenly aware that she hadn’t eaten in quite some time.
“I would not consider him weak,” Yuri stated. “True, he is not a skilled fighter. However, he does possess strong convictions and will act upon them even in situations where it is difficult to do so. As an example, he stood up to a pacifican terrorist named Gn’iol just recently. It cost him his left eye.”
“I heard rumours about that,” Filorya said. “So, that’s the type of human who proudly stands in the path of a warrior. Perhaps I have under-estimated him.”
“We’re departing,” Ophelia reported.
“Stay in contact,” Lucy responded.
“Yes Dear,” Ophelia said.
She carefully navigated the shuttle through the densely packed asteroid field. The little android head guided her way.
It led them through a large cluster that she could barely navigate. The Cerberus would have had to turn back or risk being torn into pieces.
“Strange,” Ophelia muttered. “It seems to want us to go directly towards that massive asteroid.”
“Could the Mausoleum have been torn apart long ago?” Farah wondered.
“I don’t think so,” Kat said. “Grace indicated that our little robot head here was locked onto something for its coordinates.”
“Maybe it’s in the asteroid,” Ophelia suggested. “There could be an opening.”
“It would be a very good hiding spot,” Kat said. “Crafts barely come in the Davonros cluster at all. They certainly aren’t going to get up close and personal with an asteroid larger than your average ship.”
“There,” Farah pointed. “Is that it?”
“Looks awfully small,” Leon observed.
“”It’s barely big enough for us to fit,” Ophelia said. “But I can’t spot anything else. Hold on, I’m going in slowly and we might scrape against it a bit.”
The shuttle squeezed in and continued on its way. A lesser pilot might have gotten stuck or caused serious damage to their ship attempting the cavern. But Ophelia was an expert. She managed the trip with a few minor scratches.
Inside the asteroid, they found a circular cavern. Sitting on a stone platform inside, were several large structures plated in gold and adorned with jewels.
“There we are,” Ophelia said.
“Quite ostentatious, isn’t it?” Kat asked.
“I should have brought sunglasses,” Leon joked.
“The androids are everywhere,” Farah said. “They’re even crawling on the walls.”
“They seem to be maintaining the asteroid around them,” Kat observed. “That’s why it hasn’t broken down yet.”
“Think they’ll attack when we touch down?” Farah asked.
“If they do, we scrap them,” Leon said.
“If they do, we figure something out,” Ophelia said. “We can’t take that many with just the four of us. We’ll try to do this diplomatically. I’m taking us in.”