Space Madness: Episode VII
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPACE MADNESS AND LOVE
Captain Pappas’ Manual of Alien Technologies: item 3, the Positron Gun.
The positron gun fires a tight beam of positrons through space at a desired target. The beam fires a 20 millisecond pulse of positrons at a current of anywhere between 50 and 1000 Amperes. The beam stays coherent for a range of up to 200 kilometers. Once the target is hit, the positrons annihilate with the electrons contained in the desired target. The resulting explosion splits the target’s molecular bonds, and creates a high energy plasma which can create secondary explosions.
DO NOT FIRE AT CLOSE RANGE OR WHILE INSIDE AN ATMOSPHERE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
The positrons are contained by a magnetic field generated by a high temperature superconductor of unknown composition. The method of placing the positrons in the magnetic field is at this time unknown.
Paps had been working for months now, cataloguing the various new devices on his ship. There were numerous defense systems: magnetic shielding for the hull strong enough to deflect high power laser pulses, weapons for every occasion, a short range maneuvering system that completely baffled him but made the ship capable of running circles around any ship he had ever seen.
This was leading to the inescapable conclusion that Paps had been handed a warship. He also discovered that the ship’s command systems were keyed to his own DNA and voice patterns. Nobody else would be able to fly this thing. Paps would never be able to leave the ship permanently, unless he was able to key the ships system to somebody else, though he had no idea how to do that.
He needed a computer specialist to help him with this. More than that, he needed a crew if this ship was going to operate at full capacity.
Paps was reluctantly starting to enjoy his task. He had been getting to know every inch of his revamped vessel and was beginning to forget about his desire to leave it for good. He felt exhilarated every time he figured something out. Every new system he discovered seemed to be inviting him to explore, to solve this alien puzzle, to join with the ship.
No, that was crazy. You can’t join with a piece of technology, no matter how advanced, no matter how fascinating, no matter how sexy.
Paps fell to his knees. The ship was in his head, in his nervous system. He could almost feel the movement of the ship through space. He had to fight off these impulses that were driving him. He knew they were coming from this alien influence, which scared the hell out of him, but were also intoxicating. “GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”
“I leave you alone for a little while to let you get to know your ship, and look what happens.” Then there was Hal. Was he part of this? Was he the ship’s first inroad into his mind?
“Fantastic. I’ve got a ship that’s taking over my body, and now you’re back just to watch and be fascinated. How the hell am I going to deal with normal humans when I get back to them?”
Hal responded with his typical air of superiority. “I believe you have your relationship with your ship backwards. It’s not taking you over, it is letting you take it over.”
“And where do you come in? Are you part of the ship, meant to guide me through this? I am being drawn to tinker with every little system. I think the ship is jolting the pleasure center of my brain when I discover something new. Every time I stop, I get the shakes and I have to get back to exploring the ship’s systems. What the hell is it doing to me?”
“I must admit that I don’t know. This is the first time in the history of the universe that a human has been bonded to spaceship in such a way. I am extremely curious about the results.”
Paps was revolted by this idea, though he knew he wouldn’t be revolted for long. Soon his desire to tinker would reassert itself, and he would once again feel the thrill of discovery. “You’re curious?! I’ve lost my mind over here and you’re curious? Just what the hell are you?”
Hal had that “I’m about to tell you something that you definitely won’t believe” look on his face. “I have told you before, I exists in all of time and space, and I like to observe interesting phenomena, interesting species, and you certainly qualify on both counts.”
Paps toppled over, his hands shaking. He had to know something more. “You’ve got to give me more than that. You know about the Duners, how they communicate. You knew about the Remotes before we even entered their system. You’re part of this. At least tell me something about what’s happening before I have the uncontrollable desire to fix the squeaks in all the chairs!” Paps tried to resist thinking that fixing the squeaks in the chairs sounded wonderful, that the chairs would appreciate it oh so much and would give him their eternal gratitude and the seats might seem a little softer and form-fitting and…
“Would you like to hear a story about the Duners and the Remotes?”
“Yes. Especially if it makes what’s going on here make more sense.”
“Well, I can’t promise that. But I can promise it will be interesting, at least it’s interesting to me. I must say that you don’t seem to rejoice in the wonders of the universe the same way that I do. Maybe it’s the stress, or…”
“JUST TELL THE DAMN STORY!”
“Right. Well, a long time ago, the Remotes were a much more outgoing race. This was shortly after their sun became a red giant. This being many millions of years ago, they looked quite different from the way they look now. They terraformed many of the planets in this sector, looking to build a new home that would suit them long term.”
Paps started to relax. He had been working so hard these last few weeks that he hadn’t had time to sleep much. “Go on. If I nod off, that’s probably a good sign.”
“Would you like me to tuck you in here on the floor of the corridor?”
“Just keep talking.”
Hal smirked. “Alright, then. Now the Remotes never got along well with other races. They never really had to, since there was nobody in the galaxy powerful enough to oppose them. They weren’t warlike, mind you, but they would happily bulldoze entire star systems containing ancient civilizations if they proved to have the raw materials required for their needs.
“The Remotes are also expert genetic engineers. Many of the species they encountered were rounded up for observation and experimentation. Some species has traits that the Remotes wished to co-opt for themselves. Others had traits desirable for beasts of burden, but free will usually had to be engineered out of their genome.”
Paps felt a sudden dose of reality stab him in the temple. “Is that what they’ll do to humans if they go to war with us? Kill almost everyone and take the rest for experiments?”
“Possibly, they have probably already done this with a few of you. The Remote back at the space station did say that your species had been catalogued. Lucky for you, they are not as outgoing as they used to be. At least as far as I know.”
Paps sat in silence.
Hal began again. “The ones that they used for labor were usually fairly intelligent. They had to be in order to operate all the terraforming equipment and computers. One of these laborer species was what you like to call the Duners. About 20 million years ago, the Remotes left their planet and, for that matter, all of the other colonies that they had established. They left an interesting legacy behind. On the one hand, they destroyed almost everything that was in their path, extracting all the raw materials from star systems, making it impossible for any kind of life to regain a foothold there. On the other, most of the species and civilizations they destroyed werea also preserved and left on their abandoned colony planets, albeit preserved in a form that rarely resembled what they used to be.”
Paps yawned. “When they abandoned the colonies, where did they go?”
“That’s a mystery that even I don’t know the answer to. They are clearly still around, as evidenced by the base they keep, or rather kept, around their star system of origin. I will say that many of the species left behind learned to resent the Remotes for the havoc they caused. I believe this to be the case with your Duner friends.”
Paps was sound asleep.
Hal was pleased. “When you awake tomorrow, you’ll be refreshed and ready to go back to work.”