SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 47 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 47 of many) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Evidence starts to emerge of baaad things going down.

SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 47 of many)

Victor eventually tracked down Ranger Hancock at his desk in the Ranger headquarters where he was finishing off his own report for Sergeant Glasser.

Pleasantries were exchanged in the form of a reciprocal 'hey' then Victor opened up his notebook on Hancock's desk.

"Doctor Awolowo mentioned that you asked him to take these pictures."

Hancock watched as Victor's finger slid the images of the pipe-gun's action across the screen.

"That's right." He nodded to his own, less flashy, notebook. "I'm still waiting for him to send them to me so I can put them in my report here."

"I can do that for you."

Victor copied and sent the files. Hancock dipped his head in appreciation.

"Thanks. Glasser has been on my ass for this."

"Yeah, they always want the report yesterday. Same shit with us."

Hancock sat back in his chair looking up at Victor.

"You could have done this back from your office or wherever you guys have nested. So I'm guessing you're here because you spotted the same thing I did."

"And you'd be right." Victor tapped the screen. "Primitive pipe-gun rifle, but with a modern action."

Ranger Hancock brought up some stock pictures of other pipe-gun rifles used by the native Brits.

"Normally the best these guys can manage is a workable bolt action. Usually not even that. Plenty of lever actions still out there, even seen muzzle loaders.

So, when I saw this kind of semi-automatic action on that kind of weapon..." He left the statement hanging.

Victor filled in the question.

"You wondered who was supplying modern actions to the locals."

Hancock paused, appraising the suave, manicured security man perched on the edge of his desk.

Hancock was with his sergeant in thinking that the arrival of these big wigs from the Troy organisation put an unneeded and unwelcome strain on the Rangers' resources.

But, they had found that unstable nuclear accident waiting to happen and probably saved a lot of lives by doing so. His own included.

"Yes, and no." He pointed to the screen. "That action isn't as modern as you might think. The design requires the use of the kind of steel we no longer use in modern firearms.

The action on that weapon is pre-Sirtuin."

Victor thought about that for a few moments.

"Seven hundred years?" He didn't sound convinced.

"Even with all the care in the world, I can't imagine a delicate mechanism like that surviving seven hundred years,

and especially in the hands of people who have been pretty much knocked back to Stone Age."

"I agree. But then, the action we are looking at isn't anywhere near seven hundred years old. Only the design. My guess is that this was made any time in the last hundred years or so."

Victor controlled his expression very carefully. The ranger was watching his face closely, likely looking for a clue as to the Troy organisation's mission here. He chose his words with care.

"What makes you think that, Ranger?"

Hancock zoomed in on the best picture of the pipe-gun's incongruous action mechanism.

"Well, mister security man, besides the fact that this design is specific to a weapon only known to have been produced in The Province... Look here."

Victor followed the man's finger. Almost erased by the pitting on the once smooth and shiny metal, Victor made out four letters stamped into the steel. 'SSHS'.

Hancock continued to watch Victor's face closely.

"That stands for 'Sons of the Survivors Historical Society'."

Victor sat up.

"How do you know that?"

Hancock grinned.

"Archaeologists ain't the only one interested in historical stuff. I collect historical firearms. Not the real ones of course.

If any of them were still around it would be highly illegal to possess such a thing. But replicas, like the ones used by those historical recreation groups.

They're made of shit metal so could never fire an actual bullet.

Replica's you can buy mail order, and, wouldn't you know it, one of the biggest suppliers of replica firearms to collectors and groups is the SSHS"

Victor tilted his head at the screen.

"But that isn't shit metal. That's the real thing."

"Yeah, interesting, isn't it?"

Victor chatted with the Ranger for a few more minutes, then he headed back in the direction of the meeting he had left. As he walked his mind worked on what he had learned.

These 'Sons of Survivors' were apparently producing illegal arms, which had somehow ended up in the hands of the warlike tribes of Grande Bretagne.

The evidence was circumstantial, but if it was happening then why? Was it still happening? If so, how?

Victor turned away from the meeting room and headed towards the secure communication facility he had set up. There was no reason for the academics to know what he had learned.

At least not until he had more evidence one way or the other. Even if it was true, it would be up to his boss to decide if the rest of the team was to be told.

Then there was Ranger Hancock.

Bodil and Dr Awolowo spoke together.

"Boat?"

"What Boat?"

Cybil began to search through her notes as Amy carried on.

"When we started asking about 'unusual' stuff being found, several people told us about this boat that turned up a couple of years ago. Well, excavated I guess, kind of.

" Amy's attention was taken by Cybil showing her the notebook. They exchanged whispers, with Amy nodding and pointing at things on the screen.

Bodil's patience began to thin.

"What do you mean by 'sort of'? That's not an academic term I'm familiar with."

Amy snapped her attention back to her audience.

"I'm sorry. We were just... Anyway, sorry." Amy licked her lips. Aside from being famous in her field, Professor Hill was also well known for being rather tetchy with her students.

"All I meant was that the excavation wasn't exactly old but, well within the timescale we are looking at."

Amy would swear she actually saw Professor Hill's hackles fall. She went on with her story.

"What was found was an overgrown collapsed building on what would have been the water's edge seventy years ago.

As we know, the water level has dropped along certain parts of the river due to silting and many small creeks have been formed. The boat was found in one of these."

Dr Awolowo interrupted.

"I thought you said it was a collapsed building?"

"Yes, sir. That's right, and inside was the boat. If you'll look at the pictures Cybil is sending you."

The two senior academicians turned to their notebooks.

The first pictures showed a typical excavation site, all coloured flags, large sieves and muddy duckboards. Then the camera moved to show the excavation itself.

After the initial debris layer, a large black hole had opened up at the bottom of the carefully scraped dig.

"Fortunately," Amy continued. "Nobody was hurt when this collapse happened.

What was originally thought to be a cave in the small hill they were investigating turned out to be collapsed roof of a large timbered building."

Now the photographs showed floodlit examples of sections of the building.

"As you can see, the building was very large and seems to have been constructed from whole tree trunks formed into a stockade and then roofed over.

Tests showed these trees to have been cut exactly around the time we are investigating."

"There seems to be evidence of a lot of burning. A fire?"

"Yes Professor. Exactly right." Amy turned to Cybil and whispered some instructions. After a few seconds, another slideshow of pictures began.

"The fire engulfed the whole building, eventually causing the roof to collapse."

Pictures began to appear that weren't burnt trees. A boat, some might even say a small ship, was buried under the roof timbers.

Its twisted metal hull and superstructure testament to the immense heat of the fire that had engulfed it.

It was Bodil whose professional mind sought the answer to the obvious archaeological question.

"Can we date it?"

Cybil looked up from her screen.

"Yes, professor. Just a moment." Her fingers did things on the screen.

A brightly lit, professionally taken photograph of a ship afloat on clear blue water popped up on all their notebooks.

"This is the Asbjorn. A thirty-metre stern trawler registered in Iceland. She disappeared, surprise surprise, seventy years ago." The image was replaced by another.

Now cleared of all the roof timbers and three quarters of a century of debris that had covered it, the rusting hull of what was clearly the same ship loomed from the screen like dying monster.

"And the Asbjorn two years ago."

The mention of the date wasn't lost on Bodil.

"And now?"

Amy and Cybil shared a look. Cybil's fingers moved. Amy cleared her throat.

"After an investigation of the interior of the boat, it was sealed a week later and reburied."

Bodil frowned and shared a silent exchange with Dr Awolowo. There was usually only one reason why a dig might be sealed.

Images appeared in slow succession on their notebooks as Amy's subdued voice explained.

"The hold of the boat was found to contain many bodies. Over a hundred. Men, women and children." The highly detailed photographs showed several piles of decomposing corpses.

"Some bodies were autopsied and revealed causes of death ranging from blunt force trauma, gunshots, even starvation.

Mainly, though, these people died from exposure to massive amounts of radiation."

The slide show ended.

"There is strong evidence that the fire was started deliberately, probably with the intention of incinerating the corpses.

But, because the bodies were kept in the insulated hold, the fire which gutted the rest of the ship entirely, never touched them."

The room fell silent. Bodil felt nauseous. She had seen death in her time, even uncovered mass burials before.

But they had been skeletal remains, treated with respect yes but still distant with time.

Amy hadn't sat down. Bodil looked at her and Amy took this as a cue to continue.

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