“Who is Mana?”
The look Vykor tossed her way was hard, closed off. It was a look she knew well, one she had grown accustomed to after months of desperate survival against a machine that thought like a man. It was a look that had her quick to remember how he tried to kill her after learning some humans had survived global genocide he had instigated.
After a moment, Tanar, the ship engineer, cleared his throat, drawing their attention to him, before he said, “MANA stands for Mnemonic Accelerator Navigation Artifice. It was discovered by humans during the Second Contact War, a century before humanity was accepted into TEOS.”
TEOS, The Equality of Species, was a galactic power similar to the World Powers in Earth’s turbulent past. In the past, TEOS consisted of apex species known for their ability to thrive and adapt in any situation. Though humanity as a whole fit that classification, TEOS councilors were quick to turn their backs on the struggling species and their plights. History lessons were hard-pressed to stress the fortune of humanity and how TEOS had saved them, a lesson that rested heavily on Zathri’s consciousness.
It was absurd TEOS expected her to conjure compassion and mindless obedience when they showed nothing of the same. Zathri turned to Vykor, meeting the hard gaze blankly, as Tanar patted the gyro and said, “MANA connects and stores all schematics here, a massive store of information always on hand. It is something you’ll need to learn, in the coming months.”
“A pointless endeavor.”
Zathri’s gaze hardened on the sentient machine, lips pressing into a white line. He looked away, gaze turned on the clear window overlooking a distance sun, as he continued, “She cannot withstand MANA’s energy output. The human mind is far too weak. I will handle the navigation personally.”
“Like hell you will,” Zathri felt their gazes on her, one hostile and the rest guarded or cautious. Vykor turned to her, an orange-red-violet flared overtaking his pupils before he offered a calm smile. She held his gaze as the pupils shifted to a sharp, metallic gray as she said, “It would moronic to trust you to control a spaceship.”
“Starship,” Vykor corrected.
Tanar sighed. “This is going to be a long trip…”