Weeks had passed and there was still no sign of Lunar River. By Sylvina's reckoning, it might as well have fallen out of sensor range. Lunar River was huge compared to Umbraic Nova. It was two kilometres long and a quarter as wide. The size like that would take it months to match Sylvina's little ship.
'I am having a little discomfort here,' Vohne said. 'It's not right. I feel that someone is still following us.'
'Adema or the Vapidus?' Sylvina asked.
'Come on, we've been through this already.'
'I know,' Sylvina said. 'I just wish Deriph is here to help us. My mind is now an empty large hole without her. I need her guidance.'
'She is just a machine, Sylvina. You know that one,' Vohne said, holding her hand. 'You used to be without her once, did you? She just gave you the stars.'
She nodded. She sighed. Deriph. A familiar name and a very friendly one, too. It was the last message sent by the Serenus system of a human origin. It was the grandest project ever launched into the universe. Initiated by the governor, Deriph was a super-intelligent nano-robots that seeded the galaxy, listening out for Vapidus activities, alien entities as well as deep-space exploring. One of them had landed on Othripus and penetrated Sylvina's mind.
That had changed the entire equation.
Deriph had rewired Sylvina's cortex to interpret and suppress electric field generated by machines. In other words, Sylvina was able to speak with machines. In turn, she had to sacrifice her hair to change into a machine hair filaments to dissipate extra heat from the machines in her mind.
But the War of the Machines had forced Deriph out from Sylvina's mind to take over the intelligence-controlled core of the human city. And now, Sylvina was alone in her mind, save for a few milligrams of swarming machines.
However, this was not the end for her mind. She suddenly felt a mind-numbingly clear picture, like a diamond that had just been polished. She knew it happened during the days of War of the Machines back on Othripus. No doctors in the city knew what went wrong in her mind. They wanted to flush out the machines in her mind, but she refused because she knew it was something other than the machines.
Something alien and yet familiar had entered her mind as well, fighting a place for survival. It didn't affect her much. She just felt like the mist in her mind had cleared away. She could think quick and sharp. Her senses were never been underestimated.
'Alright, here comes the nebula,' Vohne said.
'Fine, turn off all non-essential subsystems,' she said. She knew traversing in the nebula was dangerous. Ionised particles and gases shrouded the area. If more magnetic field lines were emitted from the ship, chances were the ship was going to be paralysed. Even non-electric compliant navigational systems were turned down. As an analogy, it was like venturing in a deep forest.
'Secondary engine off,' Vohne reported. 'We are slowing down to seventy percent of light speed in three more days. Sensors off in three, two and one.'
'Right,' Sylvina said. 'Leave the sonar on.'
'Copy that,' Vohne said. Although they were in vacuum, nebula was a dense place of atoms. Specialised sonar can be trained to look for abnormally agitated atoms due to slipstreams or ripples as some object passed through. 'Sonar on... that's weird...'
Sylvina breathed. 'What?'
'There were two blips on the sonar, one at the stern and one at the starboard side,' Vohne said.
That was right. She could see both blips in grey. It meant that there was no identification code on these two objects. They weren't natural objects. They were clearly closing in. Maybe they were hostile. Maybe they weren't.
'Sensors might be jammed by the electric field in the nebula,' Vohne said. 'These two things are moving in exact speed to each other. Maybe it's a mirror image or a mirage something...'
'It still worries me,' Sylvina said. 'No stealth mode?'
'Unless you want the ship to get electrocuted,' Vohne said.
'It's just a nebula.'
'I can't risk that.'
She sighed. She had to make options again: either to turn off the engines to let it drift through the nebula and risk being found by the two mysterious objects, or ramp up the engines and risk being paralysed.
Both options were equally risky.
Deriph, she sighed. I really need your help on this.