REMOTE CONTROL ALIEN CAPTIVITY
Paps woke up on the floor of the bridge. His head was throbbing, his joints were sore, his ankles and hands were bound with some sort of alien wire, and he had to pee. For the first time in weeks, Hal wasn’t around to say something unhelpful.
Paps wiggled and squirmed, trying to get loose. If he could get to a console, he could order a maintenance robot to come and cut him loose. At least then he could wait to die, or to be processed in comfort. Well, if not comfort, then less discomfort.
He managed to wiggle over to the nearest chair. He wished he could do that thing where you swing your arms underneath your feet to get your hands in front, but he wasn’t that flexible. Paps plopped his face on the seat of the chair. Next step, face on the console. He tried to straighten out his legs to prop up his body. His face got about six inches off the seat of the chair, and then fell back down with a thud. Were these chairs always this hard? Paps made a mental note to put cushions on the chairs when he next had a chance.
Paps panted. He tried sliding his shoulders up the seat back. This seemed to be working. He got his head to the level of the console, swung the chair around until his face was over it, and slammed his head into one of the more prominent buttons. Spanish guitar started playing on the ship’s sound system. Wrong button. The one to the right must be the communications channel to the maintenance robots. He rolled his face over three other buttons to get to the one he wanted. Paps managed to press it with his cheekbone.
Success! “Send a maintenance robot with wire cutters to the bridge.”
The console beeped in acknowledgement. The robot was on its way. Paps breathed a sigh of relief, and then slid off the console back onto the floor. A few seconds later, a tiny robot wheeled out of a hatch on the other side of the bridge, ready to cut Paps loose.
“You know, you could have just used the voice commands from the floor. There was no need to hit any buttons.”
Oh great, Hal was back. The robot cut Paps’ ankles free. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been checking up on your new friends. It seems they are preparing a suite for you, but they are having a hell of a time getting the atmosphere right.”
The robot cut Paps’ hands free, then scurried back to its hatch. “How much time will that buy me?”
“Hours, days maybe. There isn’t any free oxygen in this planet’s atmosphere, so they need to synthesize it from a bunch of methane.”
“There’s a bunch if methane in the atmosphere here?”
“Liquid methane. It’s really cold on the surface.”
Paps was glad suddenly glad the Remotes wanted him alive, and that they bothered to check what he needed to breathe to survive. “Wait, what do these guys breathe?”
Hal expression became excited. This usually meant he was about to explain something in a needlessly complicated manner. “They breathe whatever is around them, and if there is nothing around them, they don’t breathe at all. The Remotes are designed to survive in almost any environment, including the vacuum of space. For a time, anyway.”
Paps started checking the power levels on the ship. Life support was still functioning, but the engines were shut off. They would take some time to restart. “They were designed?”
“Oh yes. Their race has been around for hundreds of millions of years, and for most of that time they have been evolving through the use of genetic engineering and selective breeding. Do you know how much a species can change in a hundred million years? I believe your ancestors of that time were tiny proto-mammals that still laid eggs. Natural evolution without any purpose or direction turned you into what you are today. The Remotes took control of their own evolution a long time ago in an attempt to turn themselves into the perfect species.”
Paps was brought up to believe that this sort of behavior was wrong with a capital W. He tried not to think about what creatures with 100 million years worth of genetic engineering experience would do to him. He needed to get out of here before he found out. “Where are we, anyway? Are we on the surface of a planet?”
“We are in orbit around one of the moons of a gas giant, tethered to the Remotes’ space station. If you look at your scanner, you’ll see that they are siphoning a bunch of methane from the surface.”
Paps flipped on the scanner. The space station Hal referred to looked more like a moon. It was a perfect sphere, with no apparent windows or ports. A stream of glowing gas was being drawn from the planet into the station. “I would really like to know how they’re doing that. I could make a fortune with that kind of mining equipment.
Hal was surprised by this observation. “I think you are missing something important here. A volatile gas is being transported unprotected onto the station. It is a rare occasion that anything the Remotes build is so vulnerable. Shoot it, and you will be free.”
Paps stopped breathing for a moment. It couldn’t be that easy. There had to be a catch. “This ship is a colony scout ship. It doesn’t have any weapons.”
“Sure it does, look over there.”
Paps slowly turned his head to the right. Apparently the ship now had a weapons station. The weapons station had escaped Paps’ notice for months. That was the catch. Paps was not in control of the situation, the Sand Dune Aliens that messed with his brain were. “There is no way the Remotes left me with the ability to shoot anything.”
Hal was looking annoyingly smug. “Try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Paps ran over to the weapons station. A targeting scanner presented itself in front of him. Paps maneuvered the circle on the scanner over a point on the methane stream near the space station. “Here goes.”
The weapon fired. The entire stream of methane ignited, and the flames trailed up into the space station. In a split second, the entire station was blown to smithereens. Paps’ ship got caught in the shockwave, causing everything on the ship to shake violently. “Holy crap, I did it. That explosion took them out. What kind of gun was that anyway?”
Hal smiled. “A positron gun. Matter and anti-matter colliding creating the biggest bang for your buck.”
Paps was dumbfounded. “I’ve got a positron gun on my ship. That is absurd. I’ll try not to worry about the anti-matter containment issue.”
“Quite right not to. You’ve got plenty of other things to worry about.”
“You just started a war with the most powerful race of aliens in the galaxy.”
FIRST CONTACT HAS NEVER GONE SO BADLY. WHAT WILL PAPS DO NOW? WHAT WILL HUMANITY DO NOW? FIND OUT ON THE NEXT EPISODE OF…