Ross spends the next couple minutes busily working to repair the damage Isis has suffered and inflicted upon herself. He doesn’t know if she is aware of how much damage she can suffer and him fix or not. His guess is not but no wound she has been dealt thus far is beyond his capabilities to fix and that is why Isis suddenly takes a breath and her eyes shoot open.

At first all Isis can see is the thick blue goop that is smeared across her visor. It takes her a short while to realise what it is and how it came to be there, but once she does she raises her head. The sound she hears is a sickening squelch and then she wipes her right hand across her visor clearing just enough of it for her to see the carnage she has wrought on her enemies.

“Welcome back. How do you feel?” Ross says sincerely.

“Like I just put my head through a Perish’s face.” Isis answers honestly but with a hint of a smile.

“Seeing as you did I’ll take that as a good indication of my patch-up job then.” Ross adds with a silent chuckle, in addition to a decent amount of pride for his achievements.

“Is there any way we can accelerate these repairs?” Isis asks as she manages to stumble to her feet and then clear her visor proper. It surprises her that more Perish haven’t assaulted the hangar, but she is in no mood to question it.

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” Ross replies before adding, “I can overclock the armours systems and significantly increase all aspects.”

“I hear a but coming along.” Isis mutters as she slides another ammunition ring into her Heaven’s Wake and then rolls her neck in a single circle. Her vertebrae click and crunch in response but it makes her feel better.

“But…that will put the armour beyond tolerances. I don’t know how it will respond after more than a few minutes. It has never been tested for such things and could prove fatal.” Ross explains.

“Always a catch, I knew it.” Isis replies before a short pause during which she considers her options and then seeing no alternative orders, “Do it.”

It takes less than thirty seconds for Ross to deactivate the safety limits that prevent him from overclocking every component of the armour Isis is wearing. Once it is done he informs her. “Limits removed. Now I think we should get going. Looks like The Perish are a hundred metres down the main corridor we need to take to get to those generators.”

“Never a dull moment.” Isis adds as she slides her heavy pistol into its thigh holster and then hefts one of the less bulky looking Perish weapons nearby and a stack of what she hopes are the correct ammunition types for it. Ross passes no judgement but Isis can’t say whether that means she is correct or he simply doesn’t know. She decides that it’s the former, but for no real reason. Then she heads out of the hangar and into the long gently curved corridor which at the moment is empty apart from her.

The lighting of the space is harsh and white and seems to be being shone upward from beneath the red deck plating below her feet. The walls and ceiling which are a single half circle shape that ends at the flat deck plating is a deep orange colour. Still the vibrant use of colours confuses Isis as she shift from a stride to a jog. She isn’t about to push herself into a full run. The armour clad woman isn’t trying to run into the approaching Perish weapons fire. Instead she just wishes to reach the aliens before they make any more ground and make her journey any longer than it will already be. The map of the platform still looms on the right side of her HUD as she presses forward. Its opacity means none of her view is obscured and Isis is thankful for that as she passes through three open what she guesses pass for doorways, without any resistance.

Ahead however, Isis can already see the closed door and shoulders the half metre long Perish weapon. Suddenly she wonders if the weapon has a safety that she doesn’t know about. If it does then her first attempt to use it will be met with failure. Though, as she gets within two metres of the closed door it slides up and to the left to reveal The Perish waiting beyond. Isis curses and then pulls the trigger. To her relief the weapon expels a burst of larger than she would have anticipated projectiles. The first half of the burst almost cut a Perish in half from hip to opposite shoulder, but the rest of the burst splatters the wall ceiling combination. Still, The Perish nearby duck in response to the rounds that ricochet off the smooth curved orange surface in a myriad number of directions. Isis smiles and tightens her grip on the weapon before firing a second burst just as The Perish return fire.

Her first burst had caught them off-guard but the hulking brutes are roaring loudly now. Some of the projectiles catch Isis but she doesn’t slow her advance. The bullets from her second burst hit their targets, a cluster of three Perish. They all go down and then Ross asks, “Please tell me you aren’t planning on clearing your entire route in this manner?”

“Why do you ask?” Isis queries without actually answering the question. That had been her intent and she wonders what soul destroying news Ross is about to drop in her lap.

“Because there are more than three hundred Perish armed and ready along just the next four hundred metres of our route.” And just like that Ross drops exactly the kind of soul destroying information that Isis had been worried he might. She doesn’t blame the AI, though she does wish he’d give her some good news.

“So what do you suggest?” Isis questions as she fires three more bursts of the Perish weapon in her hands.

She has to admit that she is starting to like this weapon, except for its unnecessary weight and extreme recoil. She expects neither are criticisms The Perish would level at these guns, but seeing as The Perish aren’t the talking type she will never be able to find out if she’s right. Isis is fine with that. Much like she is fine with seeing more of them fall under the might of their own ammunition in the moments before she leaps left then right to avoid as much of the incoming projectiles as she can possibly manage. Then she sidesteps right while still moving forward to evade another several volleys. A few of the projectiles hit her no matter how much she dodges and leaps about but she doesn’t notice the wounds inflicted upon her, and certainly isn’t met by anything that stops her in her tracks. She expects that if she took a full volley that might not continue to be the case but has no intention of that as she fires two more bursts. The twin bursts down five of The Perish who had been gathered too close together, and then she checks the map on her HUD. Her eyes flit from the map and back to The Perish ahead. There are a lot of them. Ross had said more than three hundred but the number didn’t really mean register for Isis until she had found herself faced with ugly alien mug after ugly alien mug. Suddenly she catches sight that the room two hundred metres ahead is much larger and more open, instead of it being like the five metre wide corridor she is in right now.

“Scratch that, what’s that room up ahead?” Isis asks before firing off a new burst at point blank range on a Perish who was stupid enough to step out right in front of her. She wonders if it thought her weapon was spent. If that was the case then it had gravely mistimed its moment. Still, the alien is dead now and cannot cause Isis any trouble, or fail and make the same sort of mistake in the future.

“Unknown. Sadly, The Perish don’t seem to give details on their schematics.” Ross informs rather unhelpfully.

“About right.” Isis says with a roll of her eyes and a two burst of the weapon in her hands that then emits an audible click. Isis curses feeling that the weapon has become spent at an inopportune moment. However, she dives into cover behind what she assumes is a support for the corridor and exchanges the spent magazine for a fresh one that she isn’t sure is the same until a ping suggests that it might be. “I’ll soon find out.” She mutters under her breath before asking Ross, “How many Perish are between here and there?”

“Too many.” Is the AI’s response.

“Not helpful. I need accurate numbers.” Isis fires back without a hint of irritation in her voice.

“Are you sure you want to know?” Ross queries much to the surprise of Isis who he should know would only ask that question because she wants to know.

Before Isis can answer a response however, a Perish appears from around her cover. Isis curses, loudly and tries to bring the Perish weapon to bear. She doesn’t manage it and the alien grabs the end of the barrel before forcing it down toward the decking. The beast is stronger than her but she manages to keep the weapon stable enough to unleash a wild burst that shreds its legs to ribbons. The Perish howls and flops to the floor now that it no longer has legs to stand on. Its grip having slipped from the barrel of the weapon in Isis’ hands is then quickly brought to bear and then fired. The burst eviscerates the aliens head reducing it to blue mush that is sprayed against the opposite side of the wall ceiling. The corpse twitches in the middle of the space until a couple seconds later projectiles come rushing through the void above The Perish’s corpse like a wall of death drawing Isis’ attention.

The woman is relieved that she didn’t consider stepping out from cover in an attempt to advance at that moment.

Having realised that she hasn’t responded to Ross Isis goes to speak but the AI answers her question first. “Eighty seven.”

The number isn’t as high as she’d expected and then Ross speaks again, “Another hundred thirty inside.”

“For fucks sake!” Isis spits loud enough that she could be heard outside of her helmet if anyone were alive, could understand her and were within earshot.

“Like I said before, too many.” Ross then offers trying to lighten the mood.

Isis grunts and shakes her head. She has to admit that he is right.

“Is there a way around?” Isis soon queries already sure of what the answer will be.

She’s proven right when Ross says, “No.”

“Options?” Isis then asks. She doubts there will be any and she is fully prepared for that but feels the need to ask nevertheless.

“There’s one, but I’m not sure you’re going to like it.” Ross says with a reserved tone of voice.

“Hit me.” Is Isis’ short response.

“You could kill the artificial gravity.” Ross informs.

“What? How?” Isis questions with surprise as projectiles continue to pepper her cover and the open space of the corridor which is her only path forward.

“Hatch ten metres up on the opposite side of the passage. It’s behind a maintenance panel. There’s a conduit that’s supplying the power that gives this entire section gravity. If you destroy it then gravity will fail.” Ross explains.

Isis sighs. She doesn’t like the sound of this but still chances taking a glance up the corridor to where Ross has indicated.

She gets only five seconds before she has to dip back into cover to avoid losing half her face to the projectiles launched in her direction.

“It’s behind a support like this one. There’s no cover.” Isis responds not liking the idea one bit as she will be left completely open to the wall of death that The Perish are currently throwing her way. The only difference, other than the lack of cover, is that she will be closer to them.

What’s worse is that the aliens have dug in thirty metres up the corridor from where she is currently situated.

“Like I said…” Ross utters without finishing his own statement. He doesn’t need to, his point has been made.

“Might as well just blast through the bulkheads and hope I decompress this place.” Isis grumbles.

“Trust me, if that were an option I’d have given it. But the plating is too thick and it would take you all the ammo you’ve got.” Ross assures.

Isis is about to ask if that is including the Perish weapon in her hands but before she can Ross clarifies, “And yes that is including that burst rifle in your hands.”

Isis slams her jaw closed and thinks. She tries to play out all the possibilities of how well this could possibly go. Her conclusion is that it will end horribly no matter what but she isn’t about to give up now. She’s come this far and survived. There is no way anyone else would have managed such a feat, so maybe the armour clad woman with the AI in her head can continue to buck expectation. Her decision is that she has to.

“What do I have to do to that conduit?” She asks finally.

“You aren’t seriously considering…” Ross begins but Isis cuts him off.

“No other choice. And for the record I don’t like the idea either but it’s all we’ve got.”

“Standard weapons fire will do.” Ross advises without attempting to argue. Though, he does add, “I’ll prep for patch-up.”

I am definitely going to need that, Isis thinks in the seconds before she launches out of cover and propels herself forward firing burst after burst after burst. Her intention is to fire just enough to keep The Perish in cover. But some of the aliens still risk life and limb to peak out and hurl a volley or two of projectiles back her way.

Isis curses as she leaps left then dives right then sideways steps left again. Her movements from side to side are nearly constant but she manages to keep her forward momentum. That’s why before long Isis finds herself on the wrong side of the support. She lets out a sigh of relief but wonders how many wounds she’s sustained. She can’t feel shredded or torn flesh as she takes deep inhales and then exhales, but there is no doubt that she must have suffered at least a few. The reality is that she has suffered a lot more than a few. But Ross has managed, with the safeties removed and overclocks in place, to stop Isis from dropping down dead. The AI is impressed the armour is fairing this well, but even more impressed by his Paragon. At no point has he been in doubt that he made the correct choice in reanimating her. And if there is any proof anyone else might need in the future, if they survive, then this display is what he will showcase. Her will, her determination is like nothing he has ever had uploaded into his vast data stores and that gives him an enormous sense of pride and hope.

Isis checks the magazine of the Perish burst rifle, the name Ross had given it. She agrees that it is better than how she had been describing it, weapon. As she expected the magazine is spent and she quickly slots a fresh one into place before getting the ping to say the rifle is ready again. She hadn’t heard the noise to say it was spent, but that didn’t surprise her in the slightest.

Now all I have to do is brave a hail of gunfire, blast a conduit that I have no idea what the reaction will be when I do and then walk away, Isis says in her head. Her facts aren’t entirely correct but they are close enough to what needs to happen next. That doesn’t mean that the feat is any less arduous, which is why she waits for a few seconds and then as soon as there is a break in the weapons fire she steps out of cover and then leaps diagonally back toward the wall ceiling where the hatch is. She does this just in time to avoid a purposefully delayed series of volleys that The Perish had hoped would fell their adversary. But they were wrong and much to their surprise and confusion she fires at the bulkhead instead of them. They can’t work out why but see no reason not to open up on her and quickly unleash everything they’ve got.

The rounds from the Perish burst rifle in Isis’ hands shred the maintenance hatch and then whatever the conduit exactly is underneath. She never catches sight of it, though she gets a good view of the sparks and flames that burst through the holes toward her covered face moments before she is hammered by enemy weapons fire.

Isis is knocked sideways off her feet as the artificial gravity fails, but she doesn’t move. Her body floats up into the air with no signs of life present.

In fact, all that drift from the area around her body are thick red globules of blood. Then suddenly her arms twitch and she uses her weight to spin herself along her y and then x axis until she is upright and facing toward her goal again.

The Perish in the corridor meanwhile are frantically kicking and failing as they mumble and groan. They don’t understand how the human unlike anything they have ever seen before has managed what it has but they feel desperate and vulnerable. They are feeling that only magnify when Isis opens fire on them.

The lack of gravity has no affect on the bullets in the burst rifle, which shred The Perish as they tumble and collide with each other harmlessly.

Blue misshapen balls of blood float beside the shredded bodies of The Perish as Isis, who used the support to kick off of and propel herself forward, glides past them. She fires burst after burst as she sails forward unaffected by her alien enemies who are clearly completely perplexed by the sight of her effortless movements.

Isis reaches the shuttered doorway, beyond which lies the large room she spied on the map, a couple minutes later. None of The Perish, of which there were eighty seven, are alive now. It took her eleven magazines to dispatch them all. Most of those magazines to be recovered from the bodies and weapons of the dead and at least there is no chance of any of the aliens causing her any future problems now that they’re dead.

“Give me a moment I’ll cycle this door.” Ross announces before using the limited range the armour gives him to study and then breach the simple protocol. It’s something that he is only able to do due to the fact that he left a section of code within the platforms system when he had been inserted. The access is a result of a section of his ancillary code which managed to crack the access authorisation before the system administrator had become aware of his presence.

“Wait, you can do that?” Isis exclaims with surprise.

“And only that. The platforms system routed out all other attempts at further system cracks after it discovered my presence.” Ross clarifies two seconds before the door slides open and a bubble of gravity around it activates at the exact same time.

Isis lands feet first back on the deck purely because she is inside the bubble. But it is what the woman can see within the large room that has her attention.

Her mouth is agape as she finds herself staring at row after row after row of cylindrical tanks filled with a viscous green liquid and Perish.

“They come from test tubes?” Isis mutters in shock.

“Not entirely.” Ross corrects.

“Wait, you knew?” Isis exclaims.

“No. But the scans from your armour are providing limited insight.” Ross answers.

“Do tell.” Isis says as she steps forward expecting an ambush.

“The Perish are born, much like any organic species of the Sol System is. However, it appears as though they use these tanks to accelerate growth and shorten the time between birth and full maturity.” Ross explains as Isis dares to continue moving forward, her head turning right and left as she studies the inert specimens within the tubes.

“That’s sick.” Isis mutters in disgust as she passes tube after tube occupied by Perish who look just as ugly and formidable up close and motionless as they do when they’ve been trying to kill her.

“Are there any active?” Isis asks after a while and having crossed maybe a third of the length of the room that she knows won’t have a name seeing as The Perish don’t seem to give any. She herself decides to call it the Breeding Space. She knows that the term isn’t correct but it’s what she decides at this very moment seems most appropriate.

“No. They are all still awaiting completion of the growing cycle. Once complete they will be fully matured and ready for combat.” Ross informs.

“Don’t they need training?” Isis questions confused.

“Apparently not.” Ross answers without giving any more detail. He wishes he could but the armours scans only permit him to gather so much data from which he can formulate accurate conclusions. The lack of an apparent need for training or learning is not something which he is able to gather any information on and so as a result is unable to give any accurate hypothesis on why this might be the case.

“We should get moving.” Ross then offers and Isis agrees as she picks up the pace and heads for the corridor beyond the doorway on the far side of the Breeding Space.

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