“This is Galactic NetNews, brought to you by the Four Systems Coffee Corporation in association with Sportswear Universal. I’m Olivia with another report from the frontline of the Cyber War, dateline 188.8.131.52, continuing my tour of duty aboard the Rapid Response Strike Ship ’Fearless’. I’m witnessing the aftermath of what may prove to be one of the Tellurian Alliance’s greatest victories. Captain Halloran takes up the story…”
Halloran orders his ship to be placed in position for a scanning sweep. He regrets that they missed the fight down below on the planet’s surface, but despite cutting life support to 50% and diverting power to the engines, they still got here after the Third Fleet had completed their mission. He’s impressed by their performance - it was a classic manoeuvre. They caught the Cyberons napping, swooped in and took out their spaceborne defence craft while most of them were still in space dock, then landed a ground force which took out fifty or so well-armed Cyber divisions. Although there were some casualties, they were within acceptable tolerances and it was a fantastic victory for the Tellurian Alliance. Olivia tells him that was just propaganda bullshit, but he argues that even a jaded cynic like her can’t deny this was great victory.
The planet below is designated U-49-NT and it used to be known as Carson’s Planet. Without checking, Olivia already knows it was once an old mining station and she can remember when the Cyber Bloc first took it. Halloran isn’t impressed. He knows she sold half her brain to get a computer and the latest holo-cam technology plugged into her head. They’re interrupted by the sound of an alarm that tells them a Class 7-A Cyber Assault Warrior has been located on the surface. It’s going to look great on the officers’ mess wall back home and a trophy like this will be Halloran’s chance to finally get back to Earth. Olivia may have been in battle zones across half the galaxy and bedded down with all the meanest looking NCOs, but she’s never been on a Cyber-Hunt before!
Down on the planet surface, a traveller walks through the ruins of the city. It’s peaceful and definitely an improvement on Salardos, the last planet he visited, but it’s still too cold and smelly for his liking. It’s also full of dead bodies. He realises for the first time that he’s arrived in the middle of a battlefield - hardly the ideal location for the peaceful contemplation he was hoping for. With the weather getting worse, he decides to head back to his ship, but as he turns to leave, he hears a deep mechanical groan. The huge form of a Cyberon marches towards him and identifies him as human. The man corrects him, but concedes that it’s an easy mistake to make. He tries to make an excuse to leave, hoping to find somewhere more trouble-free instead, but the Cyberon orders him to remain motionless. The traveller notices the Cyberon is severely damaged, but the creature insists that it’s still a superior lifeform. It tells him it’s awaiting instructions and the man realises he’s going to be in for a very long wait…
In the launch bay of the Fearless, Halloran calls over Sergeant Grange and organises a small squad of volunteers from among their best Marines. The life signs of the Cyberon down below look pretty weak, so they’ll need to be quick if they’re to get any honour from the kill before it drops dead. As the troops start to board the shuttle, Olivia arrives and mocks them for wasting military resources on a pointless trophy hunt. Halloran points out that tradition has always recognised trophy hunts as a morale booster, symbolising victory. She may feel it’s barbaric, but Halloran argues that such emotions are an example of the difference between humans and the cold calculating logic of the Cyberons. Olivia refuses to get drawn into an intellectual debate and compares it more to a fox hunt. She boards the shuttle and prepares to accompany the squad down to the planet. The launch bay depressurises and the landing craft takes off…
The traveller notices a dust storm is starting to whip up. It reminds him of a previous adventure when he was caught by a sandstorm in the Sahara. His legs are starting to get a little tired, so he asks the Cyberon if he can sit down, but it simply states that he will be taken for cybernetic conversion. The man insists that he isn’t as young as he looks, so he takes a chance and sits down anyway. Just then, they hear the sound of an approaching ship and the man assumes it belongs to other Cyberons coming to the rescue. However, the creature identifies it as a Tellurian landing craft on final descent. The man realises the humans won’t be friends of the Cyberon and suggests that it should consider surrendering to them. The creature is starting to leak, but when the traveller offers to take a look at its wounds, the Cyberon announces that its plan to take him captive is no longer logical and instead, he must die!
The shuttle slowly comes in to land and settles down in the street between the ruined buildings. Sergeant Grange completes a sweep of the area and picks up a signal 500 metres away, but unfortunately heavy metal particles in the atmosphere are obscuring the visual imaging. On the audio scan they can hear the sound of Cyberon weapon fire and a human voice. The squad disembarks immediately but they find themselves battling their way through a terrible dust storm, unable to see more than a few feet ahead of them. Switching the visors to multi-scan and with communication limited to radio only, they move out into the street. They can hear more blaster fire, but there’s no indication of where it’s coming from. Then they pick up some body heat traces and establish that there’s one active Cyberon nearby and one human, although both seem to be in a bad way. The Class 7-A Cyberons are top of the range models, so it’s going to be carrying some pretty heavy artillery even if it is badly damaged. Olivia can’t understand why they’re waiting - there’s someone injured out there and if the scan said the Cyberon was damaged too it’s probably dead by now. Halloran suggests it might be a trap and the Cyberon could just be waiting for them to make their move. They‘ve all seen it before, a classic bit of cybernetic thinking where the Cyberons will wound a human and use them as bait. Olivia wonders if that means they’re planning to leave the human to die, but Halloran says that would make them no better than their enemies.
Some time later, Olivia finds the injured traveller lying in what appears to be a bomb crater. When she contacts Halloran, the Captain rebukes her for moving away from the main group, then he starts to trace her location. The unconscious man appears to be badly beaten up and burnt, but he starts to revive when she bends down to examine him. By the time Halloran and the others join them, the man is starting to mumble incoherently. The soldiers realise straight away that the man is a civilian and for a moment they wonder whether he might be another journalist. Olivia suggests they get the stranger into an exposure suit quickly as he’ll die of shock if they don’t get his temperature up. As the soldiers slip the man into the protective clothing, he opens his eyes and asks for a cup of tea. Halloran is sceptical that he was ever on the brink of death, but Sergeant Grange suggests he might just be delirious. The man becomes more alert, although he mistakenly addresses the Captain as Brigadier and still has problems remembering exactly who he is. He recalls encountering some sort of cybernetic creature that was badly wounded, then seeing a ship coming in to land. It was their arrival that caused the Cyberon to start shooting him at point blank range! Halloran is confident the creature could have killed him easily if it wanted to and the realisation dawns on him that they must have walked into a trap after all.
Suddenly the air is filled with energy blasts as the Cyberon opens fire on them from an unknown location. Everyone takes cover and starts firing back, but their target is moving too fast and they can’t seem to pin it down. Reports start coming in of several soldiers being killed, but then the firing stops just as suddenly. Halloran orders the troops to regroup, then they start after their enemy. They can’t see anything, but at extreme range their trackers pick up a signal 1,000 metres away and apparently on the run. Halloran is even more determined than before to hunt the killer down. It’s already killed four of Halloran’s men and Olivia realises he isn’t going to receive any honour from this hunt, so she suggests they collect their survivor and head back to the ship. Instead, Halloran hands her a gun and tells her to make her own way back to the landing craft with the traveller while he and his men finish off the job…
As they make their way back through the ruins, the man asks Olivia if they can rest for a minute. They sit down and the man notices the implant in her head and asks if she was involved in some sort of accident. She laughs and tells him she’s a war correspondent. Having an implant is the best way to do the job as it means she can travel light, do the editing while she sleeps and then transmit the pictures direct to the nearest relay satellite. When he asks her about the war, she realises the full extent of his memory loss - he’s not even entirely sure who the enemy is. She explains that Earth has been fighting against the Cyber Bloc for nearly 100 years. 400 billion people have died and another 200 billion have been cybernetically converted. The man recognises the familiar recurring themes of mass destruction and the futility of war. Olivia thinks she sees something moving in the distance, so they decide to get to the shuttle as quickly as possible.
Sergeant Grange takes Captain Halloran and the others to the spot where he thinks he saw the figure fall. There’s no sign of it now, but then they receive a call from one of the other troopers who’s found some sort of tunnel. Halloran is worried it might be booby-trapped and tells the trooper to stay where he is until they can join him, but suddenly there’s a massive explosion! Halloran calls to the soldier, but there’s no reply. The force of the explosion even reached them here and the Captain has a splinter of rock embedded in his leg. Grange helps him get up and is relieved to see he can still walk. They make their way to where the tunnel and discover their comrades are dead. It’s evident the Cyberon must have dug his way to freedom through the makeshift tunnel, then mined the entrance. They also find a trail of fluid which supports the stranger’s story that the Cyberon was badly wounded - but the creature appears to be heading in the direction of their landing craft!
After hearing the explosion, Olivia gets in contact with Halloran and he tells her about the booby trap - but he also warns her there’s a problem heading her way. His troops will get to them as soon as they can, but Olivia and the traveller are still about 500 metres away from the landing craft and the creature is probably burrowing its way towards them as they speak. He orders her to get to the ship and fire up the engines. Olivia tells the stranger to get to his feet, but just then the earth explodes in front of them and the huge Cyberon smashes its way to the surface. It takes no immediate action against them and seems to just stare at Olivia. The traveller approaches it and politely suggests they talk things over, but the Cyberon turns its attention to the nearby landing craft and opens fire. The ship is completely destroyed in a massive explosion. Captain Halloran arrives with his squad and they attack the creature. Realising it’s outnumbered, the Cyberon turns and disappears back down the self-made tunnel, but Halloran suspects the creature is just playing with them. He tries to call the Fearless for back-up, but there’s no response. Either the Cyberon is blocking their signal, or they can’t get through because of the heavy level of heavy metal interference that always follows a battle. Olivia believes the Cyberon was badly wounded and has probably gone somewhere to do running repairs. Halloran demands to know who the traveller is, but the man tells him he has no idea. Sergeant Grange has discovered some fortifications to the north-east where they could set up camp, protected by reinforced concrete in case the Cyberon returns, so they head off in that direction.
Cyber Supervisor Unit GS-1-0-4 sends out a message over the command net and reports that planet U-49-NT has been re-taken by Tellurian Alliance forces. He is the only surviving unit and has engaged the five remaining humans, but he has sustained heavy damage and requests reinforcements.
Later that night, Olivia wakes up inside the fortification after suffering a bad nightmare. Captain Halloran checks that she’s OK while Sergeant Grange goes outside to keep watch. Halloran tells them this was originally one of the human bases but it has since been converted for Cyberon use. There’s still no word from the Fearless, but if the crew in orbit don’t hear from the landing team soon they’re bound to send another shuttle. The Captain is still suffering from the wound to his leg and the traveller recommends he gets it seen to soon. Olivia asks the man if he’s started to remember anything yet, but all he has are vague memories of leaving his friends behind somewhere after something terrible happened. Now he just wants to travel and get away from it all, but he’s obviously chosen the wrong place. Suddenly there’s another explosion nearby and the group are worried that the Cyberon has found them again. Grange races back in and tells them the creature is sitting just outside their range and is lobbing artillery shells at them. There’s another explosion and the entire building shakes. Grange suggests they sit tight and wait for back-up to arrive, but the traveller is worried there might not be much of them left by the time the others find them. He realises the Cyberon must be using weapons it found lying around in the battlefield and suggests they try doing the same. Halloran thinks it’s about time they gave the traveller a name. Olivia used to have a goldfish called Fred who had a memory problem, so despite the traveller’s disapproval, they formally nominate ‘Fred’ as his name. Halloran and Grange decide to go up to street level and keep the Cyberon occupied while Fred and Olivia look around the building for anything they can use as weapons.
Halloran and Grange separate and explore the ruined streets, but there’s no sign of their enemy. They use their communicators to speak to Olivia and Fred, but it’s pitch black in the fort and they’re having trouble finding their way around. Olivia finds her way to another corridor where there’s still some working lights, but when she switches them on she discovers she’s surrounded by dead Cyberons. She’s about to rejoin Fred when she hears the faint voice of a Cyberon. Unable to get in touch with Olivia, Fred calls Halloran and Grange, but by now they’re in trouble of their own and are engaged in a shooting fight with the Cyberon. The two officers wonder whether it’s safe to leave Olivia alone with Fred, but they agree that she’s probably safer with him than she would be up here. They have no idea where the Cyberon is until it starts firing at them again. At last they’re able to work out its location just 750 metres away. They return fire and a full-scale battle begins
Fred races through the underground fort in search of Olivia and eventually finds her lying on the floor, recovering from a mysterious stabbing pain in her head. She must have blacked out, but she feels alright now. She insists it couldn’t have been a malfunction in her implant as she paid a fortune for it and it’s still under guarantee. She remembers the voice, although she believes she “felt” it rather than heard it. Fred wonders whether her implant has kept a record of the last few minutes that they can review, but when she tries to access the recent data, the terrible stabbing pain returns.
On the streets above, the firing eventually stops. Grange is confident he hit the Cyberon, but there’s no sign of it now. Halloran tries to get through to the Fearless again, hopeful that if the Cyberon really is dead or even badly wounded, the interference may have stopped. Eventually they succeed in making contact with their colleagues back on the ship, although the signal is very weak and the communication keeps breaking up. They manage to make out that the crew has received new orders and the ship is leaving orbit. Halloran tells them his team have suffered heavy casualties and needs urgent back-up, but by then they’ve gone out of range. It seems that the Cyberons have launched a massive counter attack and the Fearless has been pulled into the fight. Although they’ve been left behind temporarily, at least they managed to get through, which means their enemy on the planet must be either dead or incapacitated - or possibly that he knows their position is hopeless and just doesn’t consider them a threat any more. Olivia contacts them and asks the Captain to join them back in the fort as there’s something he should see…
Halloran is amazed by what Fred and Olivia have found. It appears to be some kind of laboratory, although it’s hard to tell what the Cyberons were doing here as the place has been badly smashed up. Most of the containers have been destroyed, but there’s one that’s still intact and Fred is curious to know what’s inside it. Halloran is confused as the container is transparent and he can see that there’s evidently nothing inside. Halloran asks if they found any weapons, but unfortunately they’ve had no success there either. He expresses surprise that Olivia “fainted” on the job, given how tough she’s supposed to be. As they seem to have plenty of time on their hands, Halloran agrees to let Fred explore the lab and find out what he can and he asks Olivia to relieve Grange outside so the Sergeant can get some rest. She agrees, but comments on how events seem to have reversed - instead of being a Cyber-Hunt, now the Cyberon is hunting them!
When Grange joins the others in the fort, he offers to share his rations with a grateful Fred. Grange has snatched a couple of hours of rest, but notices that Fred doesn’t seem to need much. The traveller is fiddling with what appears to be a highly sophisticated microscope which he hopes to use to see inside the container. He admits he has no idea what was in the other broken containers but if it was a gas it might already have got out into the atmosphere. He succeeds in getting power to the microscope, so they should find out soon…
Alone on the street outside the bunker, Olivia starts to prepare a report for Galactic NetNews, but realises the military censor will never agree to pass it for broadcast. She hears the sound of the Cyberon as it approaches. It tells her it is alone and in pain, then she cries out and realises she’s feeling its pain too. Just then, Halloran contacts her. He thought he heard her talking and asks if everything is alright, but she tells him she tells him she was reading back her report and there’s nothing happening.
With Grange’s assistance, Fred attaches a probe to the container and activates a viewscreen on the wall. The image from the probe is displayed on the screen and they see billions of artificial microscopic organisms. Fred explains that it’s a form of nanotech, a technology Grange is already familiar with it as it’s used in dry-dock to repair computer systems aboard ships. Fred says they’re basically very tiny robots, programmed with particular tasks, that work on a molecular level and have numerous applications in medicine and science. Through the microscope they look quite vicious and Fred suspects they’re anxious to get to work. Given the Cyberons’ chief preoccupation, it’s likely they’re used to aid the cyber-conversion of human beings. Fred tries to work out how the instructions get transmitted and theorises that the nanotech gets injected into a human and converts them molecule by molecule, re-engineering all organic matter into cybernetic material - flesh and bones physically transforming into plastic and metal and blood changing into hydraulic fluid. Grange is horrified. If the smashed containers were full of this nanotechnology, they could be crawling all over the place…
Olivia asks the Cyberon what it wants and although it doesn’t reply, she can sense that it needs her help. She approaches it and then suddenly it reaches out and touches her, claiming it can actually feel what she’s thinking and sense her emotion. Suddenly Halloran appears outside and sees what’s happening. He orders the Cyberon to stand away, then opens fire on it. The battle rages again and as the Cyberon starts to return fire, Halloran calls Grange for support. Grange and Fred join him outside and the soldiers continue their attack until they succeed in overpowering the creature. For a few more seconds, the Cyberon struggles against its injuries, and then eventually it lies still. Halloran goes over to check on Olivia, who notes wryly that he’s going to get his trophy after all, even if it is a little dented. As Fred and Grange use some power cables to tie the Cyberon up with, just in case it’s not as dead as it appears, they discover to their horror that the laboratory container they were carrying has been smashed during the fight. If there was anything inside it, it’s now been released into the atmosphere!
Later, Halloran comes to terms with the fact that they’re been hiding out in a Cyberon research centre where a new method of cyber-conversion was being tested. Fred once again reminds the Captain that it’s time he re-dressed the wound to his leg and that he should make sure it’s particularly secure. Fred has been scanning the laboratory with the microscope probe and has detected some live nanotech which presumably escaped from the smashed container. He doesn’t know how long they can survive, but Halloran’s leg wound will offer a particularly tempting access point for them. Olivia wonders what will happen if the nanotech is already inside him and Fred admits that he doesn’t know how fast these things work. Halloran turns his attention to Olivia and demands to know how the eight-foot Cyber warrior was able to march towards her over 750 metres of open terrain without her noticing it. More importantly, he wants to know why she allowed it to touch her implant. Olivia claims the creature came out of nowhere and surprised her, but when that doesn’t convince anyone she becomes hostile. Just because she doesn’t approve of humans glorying in the destruction of another life form, that doesn’t make her a Cyberon sympathiser. She feels that winning the war is a job, not something people should enjoy, but Grange steps in and reminds her that people deal with the war any way they can just to get through it.
Olivia decides she’s heard enough and storms off, refusing to join in their celebration of the Cyber-Hunt. When Fred follows her, she tells him she’d rather be on her own, but he knows she can never really be alone. It occurs to him that her mind must be full of other people’s words and faces, full of the things she’s witnessed, which she can always see as if they’re still happening. Olivia assures him the functions of her implant are entirely separate from her conscious mind, but Fred doesn’t believe her. She wonders who Fred really is and how he knows so much, but he tells her it doesn’t matter. He knows she didn’t react when she heard the voice of the Cyberon because she thought it was just another fragment of actuality darting across her conscious mind. Cybernetic creatures transmit commands to each other, but this one was damaged and needed help so it latched onto the transmitter in her mind. Olive admits that the Cyberon asked her for help and said it was frightened. Fred is amazed to learn that it had emotions, but he decides not to tell the others. He wants to take another look at the Cyberon to find out why it developed emotions. With any luck they might even find a way of stopping the 100 years war!
Fred scoops up the fluid surrounding the Cyberon’s body then Olivia passes him the probe. Grange wonders what they’re doing and Fred explains that he’s trying to push back the frontiers of war, rid the galaxy of war and save the lives of billions of innocent people. Grange agrees to operate the microscope which Fred uses to bring the fluid up on the viewing screen. They can see a lot of artificial ingredients inside the ‘blood’, but then Fred recognises something that resembles corgrazine, a painkiller or neural inhibitor which is used to desensitise nerve tissue during brain surgery. It also has a few added chains which suggests its inhibiting properties might have a more far-reaching effect, possibly to inhibit emotion itself. Fred decides to remove the Cyberon’s face plate, much to Grange’s concern as they’re not entirely sure the creature is actually dead. At that very moment, the Cyberon comes to life and struggles against the cables, evidently in great pain. Grange orders the others to stand back so he can shoot it - but before he can act, a shot rings out and the Sergeant falls to the ground.
Standing behind them is Halloran, now mid-way through a cybernetic conversion. The nanotechnology must have affected him after all and his face and body are now covered in plastic and metal. He announces that he’s now taking instructions from Cyber Command and tells them they will be kept alive for future conversion. Olivia tries to talk to him, but he tells her she served her purpose well. He explains that the injured Cyberon used her personal implant transmitter to boost its own signal. Cyber reinforcements will be arriving within the hour and a diversionary attack was deliberately made to draw the Fearless away. Olivia reminds Halloran that the Fearless is his ship and it was the crowning moment of his career when he got command. The Captain starts to remember the time he discussed it with her, but then he says that experience has no meaning for him any more. Olivia says the meeting has no meaning for her either as he was lousy in bed. Fred questions why the Cyber fleet would be willing to engage in a battle just so they could recover a single Warrior. Halloran explains that their priority is to assimilate all the data from the experiment in nano-cyber-conversion. Before he can say any more, there’s a sudden explosion and the cyber-Halloran collapses. Fred and Olivia are amazed to see Sergeant Grange is still alive - but so is Halloran, who starts receiving signals from the Cyberon ship. The Cyberons are about to land, so killing him will have achieved nothing. Just for good measure, Olivia shoots several times at Halloran’s body in revenge for him bringing up her sexual history in public! Grange is fortunate to have only a minor wound and decides to finish off the Warrior before it’s too late, but Fred intervenes and points out that it isn’t struggling any more. The creature pleads with them to help him and asks them why he’s feeling afraid. Fred theorises that the fluid which normally flows through his body and into his brain would cut off any emotional responses, but now that fluid has drained away it’s beginning to experience normal emotions again. Fred asks the Cyberon to transmit a message to Cyber Command telling them the experiment here failed and that everyone is dead. To help persuade it, he tries to get the Cyberon to remember the human being he once was. The creature remembers fighting in the war, but before that he recalls being happy. He remembers an ocean and sand and a woman smiling at him…his mother. He becomes confused and remembers being in charge of the experiment here and it was a success. His primary purpose is to implement the conversion of humans, but now he knows what it’s like to be human again, he can no longer obey his instructions. It’s too late anyway as they can hear the engines of the Cyber ship as it comes in to land. Grange orders them to leave and although Fred points out that the Sergeant won’t get very far with his injuries, Grange says he’s run for his life with bigger holes in him than this before! With any luck, the wounded Cyberon won’t tell the others about them and they might leave the planet without bothering to do a thorough search.
Grange, Fred and Olivia return to ground level and take cover behind some ruins. The ship is enormous and they watch as an army of Cyberons emerges and marches straight towards the fort. Inside the bunker, one of the Cyber Warriors reports to Cyber Command that it has located the project supervisor. They release the wounded creature from its bonds and download its command net log which tells them about the three surviving humans still on the planet. Unfortunately the damaged Cyberon cannot confirm the accuracy of the data, so the Cyber Command dispatches a patrol to search for them.
Grange, Fred and Olivia watch as the search parties spread out and they realise their presence has been discovered. Olivia suggests they make a run for it, but Grange reminds her the Cyberons can run at speeds of up to 40kph for sustained periods. As far as he can see, they only have two choices - they either kill themselves or within a couple of hours they’ll be captured and converted into Cyberons. Grange places a gun in his mouth and prepares to end it here and now, but Fred stops him and asks them to trust him. Just then, some nearby Cyber Warriors spot them and open. Fred stands up and immediately surrenders. A Cyberon disarms them and order them to follow him.
The three humans are brought aboard the Cyberon ship and told that once the nanotechnology has been repaired, they will undergo cyber-conversion. As they’re manacled to a wall, Grange accuses Fred of being a nutter for getting them into this, but Fred tells them he intends to access the commands transmitted to the nanotech to somehow reverse them so they won’t be cybernetically converted. Even if he’s successful, Grange is sceptical that they’ll ever get away. The Cyber ship lifts off from the planet surface and heads off into deep space…
The injured Cyber Supervisor Unit GS-1-0-4 reports to Cyber Command and tells him three nanotech cultures have been prepared and will be injected into the human prisoners. He himself has undergone full internal repairs and claims to be functioning normally again, and although an earlier analysis of his cerebral functions revealed traces of emotional responses, he assures his superior they’ve now been deleted. He is ordered to bring the humans to the control room. As he leaves, another Cyberon reports that the fleet’s engagement with the Tellurian spaceborne forces was successful and the enemy is now retreating. The Cyber Command orders him to send a message saying their mission to this planet was also a success and they will be rejoining the fleet for the final assault and the recapture of this system.
Grange wonders what the Cyberons will make of Olivia’s implant and she guesses they’ll probably just pickle her brain for posterity. The Cyber Supervisor enters and Olivia recognises it straight away from the dented head. It tells them it has been ordered to escort them to be converted, but when Fred asks if it intends to carry out its orders, it goes silent form a moment. Although it then assures them it has undergone full repairs, Olivia asks it if it can still remember them, or remember the sea and the sand? The Cyberon believes they’re speaking like this out of fear, which it dismisses as a weakness. Olivia cries out in pain and can feel its pain inside her mind again. Fred realises that despite pumping him full of neural inhibitor, the Cyberon can still remember what it’s like to be human! He pleads with the creature to let them escape, but the Cyberon surprises them by revealing that it can read Fred’s mind through the implant in Olivia’s head. It tells them it cannot disobey its commands and orders them to accompany it. If they try to escape, it will kill them.
The humans are brought into Cyber Command and the Cyber Supervisor Unit GS-1-0-4 explains that it must make some final adjustments to the nanotech programming before they proceed. The Cyber Command approaches Olivia and notes that she is an interesting specimen. It was through her cerebral implant that the experiment supervisor was able to inform them about the situation, which means she inadvertently aided in the success of their plans. Now the three of them will aid the Cyber cause further by becoming like them and it predicts that Fred’s high level of intelligence will be of particular use. The supervisor reports that the nanotech is ready, so the Cyberons begin injecting their prisoners. As the cyber-conversion begins, the Cyber Command operates a viewscreen to allow the prisoners to watch the Cyber fleet’s victory over the human forces.
Fred, Grange and Olivia realise they aren’t feeling any effect from the injections and they start to wonder if it will be just like drifting off to sleep, but then suddenly there’s an explosion and all the injection tubes shatter. The Cyber Command realises the nanotech is escaping and demands an explanation from Unit GS-1-0-4. The project supervisor reveals that it re-programmed the nanotech to seek out and destroy all cybernetic matter instead. The truth dawns on the prisoners and they realise it must have been working on their side after all. When the Command asks why it has done this, the supervisor starts to talk about the ocean and the sand…and his memories of a woman smiling at him. A woman who cared for him. The Cyber Command orders the humans to be destroyed immediately, but then it starts to slur its words and sink to the floor. To the amazement of the humans, the Cyberons all start literally falling apart. Fortunately, the manacles chaining three of them to the wall are made of the same alloys and they start to disintegrate too.
The prisoners free themselves and watch as the last of the Cyberons crumbles away before their eyes. Then, all is silent. Cyber Supervisor Unit GS-1-0-4 sacrificed itself for them, and all because of one memory of being human. Olivia bends down to speak to the dying Cyberon and it whispers to her that she helped him to remember, and from that moment on, helping her became his primary instruction. Then, slowly, the creature dies. Grange looks up at the viewscreen and sees that the ship is approaching two great battle fleets in space. The ship’s systems start to shut down and they realise they’re drifting off course. None of them are confident about the controls, but Olivia thinks she’s identified the guidance panel. Grange spots the Fearless in front of then, but they watch in horror as it prepares to open fire on them! Fred searches desperately for a means to communicate with the humans, but it’s too late and the Fearless starts shooting. Instead, he finds a control panel for the escape pods and he unlocks a door leading into a small chamber. He encourages the others to get inside while he gets to work on the guidance panel. Grange can see from the viewscreen that the Earth ships are getting hit quite badly and he realises they’re not likely to win this battle. Fred tells him he plans to set the Cyberon ship onto self-destruct and then ram it into the rest of the Cyber fleet. He’s successful and announces that the power source of this vessel will achieve critical mass in about 30 seconds. He joins the others inside the escape pod and seconds later, they disengage from the main ship and launch away from the direction of the space battle. The conditions inside the pod are extremely cramped for three people, but at least they’re alive.
Much later, the rebuilding of Carson’s Planet and the other planets of this system begins. Grange tracks down Olivia and reveals that he’s been promoted in recognition of his outstanding bravery. He’s surprised when she actually agrees with the decision rather than using it as another opportunity to be cynical. She tells him she pulled a few strings and managed to get Fred assigned to the investigation team. He also underwent a full psyche debriefing, so she expects he’ll have got his memories back by now. When she finally tracks Fred down, he thinks she came to see him off. He has no idea where he’s going, but now he remembers who he is and where his ship is. In fact, he has a lot of bad memories and every gory detail has come back to haunt him. She asks him what his real name is, but he thinks it’s time for a fresh start and he wants to leave the past behind. If Fred was a good enough name for Olivia’s goldfish, it’s a good enough name for him. They say their goodbyes and Fred enters his strange looking ship, which dematerialises in front of her eyes…