Space Madness: Episode II


FOR EPISODE I: click here

Paps was worried. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was wrong. The ship was running more smoothly than ever since Hal showed up. He seemed to help Paps to focus, often coming up with brilliant ideas to improve the sensors, the artificial gravity, the air circulation and the like. This was suspicious, but it wasn’t what he was worried about. He ran out of Space Pills quite a while ago, but didn’t suffer any withdrawal symptoms. This was even more suspicious, but no, something else was wrong. He was worried about how friendly he had become with his hallucination, and even more worried about how unworried he had been about the situation. But there was something more worrying that he couldn’t quite pinpoint. He felt quite sane at the moment, which deeply worried him. All this worrying and Paps still couldn’t figure out what was really worrying him. This was worrisome.

He looked over at Hal, sitting down at the navigation station. He was still wearing the fedora, but had discarded the pinstriped suit for a Hawaiian shirt an a lei. Hal was leaning back in the chair whistling “Ride of the Valkyries.” This was more annoying than worrying. “Will you stop that?! I can’t think when my hallucinations are whistling out of tune!”

“Sorry, Captain, I’ll do my best to stay in key next time.” Hal turned his head toward Paps in a maneuver that only an image painted on the retina could pull off. His body still appeared twenty feet away sitting in the chair, but his head was only five feet away. Sensing that this made Paps uncomfortable, Hal’s body climbed out of the chair and placed itself the proper distance away, restoring balance to the appearance of space. Paps let his eyes settle back into their sockets.

“You know, Hal, you haven’t told me much about yourself. Shouldn’t you have amazing stories about some of the other aliens you’ve encountered? Or weird space phenomena that nobody else has ever seen?”

“It’s not as exciting meeting other aliens as you might think. Politics, mostly.”

“Come on, throw me a bone, here, Hal. I hadn’t met any aliens before you, and I don’t even think you are real.”

“Is that what you think?”

“You already knew that I don’t think you’re real. You’re a figment of my imagination, something my mind conjured up to cope with the loneliness of deep space. I figure the least you can do is entertain me with stories about strange aliens.”

Hal looked at Paps with curiosity. He seemed to be studying him, slowly circling and occasionally poking him. “No, no. I meant do you think I am the first alien you have ever met?”

A tingling sensation began crawling its way up Paps’ back. He furrowed his brow. “Ye-e-e-s… unless you count native wildlife on alien planets.”

Hal kept circling. Suddenly he was wearing eyeglasses and had a pad of paper in his hands. “Oh, I see. You don’t remember, do you?”

Paps’ stomach began to rearrange itself into uncomfortable configurations. “Remember what?”

“Tell me, Captain, how long were you on the surface of that planet you were scouting?”

This was a subject Paps did not want to think about. His voice began to shake. “Don’t make me think about that.”

Hal raised his voice. This was new for him. “How long?”

Paps began pacing nervously back and forth. “A couple of days, I don’t know! I was knocked unconscious for a while! What the hell are you talking about?!”

“You were on a mission. Scouting planets for potential new colonies. You crashed on the planet you were scouting. What happened after that?”

The room was spinning around Paps’ head. He had tried for over six months not to think about this very thing. “I don’t want to say!”

“Tell me what happened!”

Paps sat down in the Space Captain’s chair and buried his face in his hands. “We crashed on the planet. We couldn’t even figure out why we crashed, but our navigation instruments stopped working the moment we hit the atmosphere. Doc Riley was killed on impact. We landed in some kind of desert in the middle of a sandstorm. Everybody was panicking. The techs, Billy and Jen, went outside to check the exterior damage before I could order them not to. They should have let the sandstorm pass. I should have…”

“Don’t blame yourself, I just want to know what happened.”

Paps took another deep breath and continued. “Billy and Jen got dragged off by a giant tentacle sticking out of the sand. There was no visibility, I couldn’t see where they went. Mick, the navigator, ran outside after them with his pistol and some explosives. Charlie, the comms officer ran after him. All I heard after that was an explosion. I tried to get the sensors working to get some kind of visual on everyone, but couldn’t. So I ran outside, screaming, seeing if anyone was left, but the sandstorm was so loud I could barely hear myself. Something must have hit me on the head, because I blacked out and woke up back on the ship.”

“How long were you unconscious?”

“I don’t know. Hours, days maybe. The storm had passed when I came to. There was nothing but sand and rocks for miles. No sign of the crew.”

“What if I told you that you were out for years, not days?”

Paps did not like where this was heading. He hadn’t thought of how strange the whole scenario was since he left the planet. Hadn’t thought about how the ship was able to easily take off with half of it buried in sand. Why would he? He was in hysterics at the time. He also hadn’t thought about Doc Riley, and why her body wasn’t on the ship when he took off. Or the fact that all the broken windows on the lower decks weren’t broken anymore. Or the fact that the ship had been practically flying itself for the last few months. “Wait a minute, who fixed the ship?”

“The aliens that saved you, and you don’t even remember them. Curious.”

Paps began to panic again. He now knew what had been bothering him all this time. It was Hal. Every time Paps was on the bridge, Hal was conveniently between him and the navigation console, blocking his view. Paps hadn’t looked at the ship’s heading in weeks. In fact, he hadn’t looked at it since Hal showed up. “Oh my god, where are we going?”

Paps sprinted across the bridge to check the heading. Definitely not Orion, definitely not any system he was familiar with. “Where the hell is this?!”

Hal started to speak in a way that was precisely the opposite of reassuring. “Interesting, I believe this system has a settlement on it. Well, more of a scientific outpost. I don’t think you are going to find them friendly, either.”

Paps had moved on from panic to sheer hysteria. “How do you know that?!”

“Time and space, my friend. Time and space.”

Paps frantically tried to get the Nav computer to change course, but the system was locked. They were only a week out from this system. “No, dammit! Why am I locked out?! What did you do?!”

“If, as you say, I am simply something your mind conjured up, then you must have done it, whatever it is.”

Paps ran around the bridge, pushing buttons, trying to change something. He was suddenly locked out of every control on the bridge.

Hal looked very pleased with himself. “You should be happy. First contact with a new race! No human has ever met these creatures before. You are an ambassador for all human kind. Cheer up!” Hal started whistling again, this time it was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Paps sprinted to the engine room, pinballing against the walls. He could hardly see straight. What happened while he was unconscious? Who was on that planet? Who was on this planet? Why did Hal know about all this?

“Here’s a little song I wrote, I hope that you learn it note for note…”

The door to the engine room was sealed shut. Paps tried the panel on the side of the door. It shocked him when he touched it. How did the panel get electrified?

“Don’t worry…”

There was nothing Paps could do. He had apparently conspired against himself to go to an alien planet he had never heard of. He turned his back to the sealed door and slid down it, alternately crying and laughing. “So this is what stage 6 is like.”

“Be happy.”



5 Responses to “Space Madness: Episode II”

  1. […] Discrete Universe Magnifying the world beyond coherence « Ballparking Space Madness: Episode II […]

  2. MY worriedness for the captain is expanding exponentially!

  3. You seem to have a gift

  4. […] My Discrete Universe Magnifying the world beyond coherence « Space Madness: Episode II […]

  5. this is really very funny! love all the details and description

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