Archive for July, 2012

Space Madness: Episode XI

Posted in science fiction on July 27, 2012 by Alex

THE WORST PLANETARY DEFENSE PLAN EVER

Paps sat in his holding cell with his face buried in his hands. He thought he could deal with waiting to learn his fate. After all, the vast majority of his time in space was spent waiting. This time, waiting was somehow unbearable. He felt hope for the first time in years the moment he stepped off his ship. Hope that he could rejoin the human race. Only that hope was quickly snatched away from him. His experiences had given the people of Orion reason to fear him, and out of that fear they isolated him, sentencing him to his own personal perpetual nightmare of…

“Stop moping, Captain!” Hal, the bit of insanity that kept Paps sane. No, not sane. On task, whatever task that may be, whoever’s task that may be, but definitely not sane.

“Sorry, Hal. Would you prefer if I jogged in place? The list of things to do while in a holding cell is not very long.”

The holding cell was only big enough for one person. Hal’s face was sticking out of the wall. “You won’t be in here much longer. Your friend the general seems like a reasonably smart fellow, for a human anyway. It won’t take him long to realize that your ship is useless without you in it. And he might even figure out how dangerous it can be without you in it.”

This was news to Paps. “Dangerous?”

Hal began to get excited. Paps instinctually braced himself for something absurdly horrible. “Oh, yes. You have been developing a mental link with your ship for quite some time now. So far it has been on an emotional, subconscious level. The ship can sense your emotions, and react accordingly. It’s quite likely that as this link grows, you will gain the ability to command the ship with your mind.”

Paps had hoped that all of the horrible things that happened to him on the ship would stop once he reached civilization again. He made a mental note to stop hoping for things. He groaned and put his face back into his hands.

The door to his holding cell unlocked from the outside. The door swung open, revealing General Salazar. “Come with me, Captain.”

Paps stood up slowly, grumbled and followed the general out the door. The General seemed more friendly than usual. Paps couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing, so he went ahead and assumed it was a bad thing. “You have news for me, General? Or am I going to be locked up in here indefinitely?”

The General lit a cigar. He seemed to do this for the express purpose of seeming thoughtful. This was not a thoughtful man, however. This was a man who made decisions instantly, with or without all available facts. The cigar smelled like pine. “I have news for you, Captain. We’re going to let you go back to your ship, and provide you with a crew.”

Paps waited for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t. “I don’t get it. Not that I’m ungrateful or anything. But you guys were so scared of me yesterday I thought I was going to be executed on the spot. Now you’ve got volunteers to go out into space with me?”

The General thoughtfully chomped on his cigar. “Well… they’re not exactly volunteers.”

They reached the briefing room. A small stack of personnel reports lay on the conference table. “You have to understand, space travel is not as glamorous as it was back in your day. Most people on the colony believe that you have to be flat-out crazy to venture off into deep space in the first place. You can imagine that people weren’t exactly lining up for a chance to go out to the middle of nowhere with a man who may or may not have eaten his previous crew.”

Paps nodded slowly. “Okay… so, what sort of people did you get?”

The scent of the General’s cigar turned into bacon. This signaled that he was nervous, though Paps didn’t know that. “Well, we did have one volunteer. Your new mental health specialist, Dr. Capitate.”

“Well, if I didn’t kill anyone before, that may change if she’s on board.”

General Salazar laughed a nervous laugh. “I assure you, she is much more agreeable when she is not conducting an interrogation.”

“Is she?”

“Well, less disagreeable, anyway.”

Paps looked at the stack of files sitting on the table. “And how did you get these others to tag along with me?”

“Read the personnel files, you’ll find out.”

“And when I get my crew, what do you want me to do?”

General Salazar extinguished his cigar. The smell of bacon made way for the smell of something unidentifiable, but vaguely pleasant. He sat down and leaned forward. “For the first month you will supervise a survey of all your ship’s advanced technology. Nothing will be removed, but we would like to be able to reproduce what we can.”

Paps was amused by this. Just two days ago his ship was going to be cannibalized. “That incident with your engineers spooked you, I see.”

The General kept talking. If he was angry, he didn’t show it. “I assume that you can stop your ship from electrocuting people if you wanted to.”

Paps wasn’t sure about this. On his journey back, the ship seemed to be the one giving the orders. It wasn’t Paps’ idea to go to the Remotes’ base and blow it up, the ship did that all on her own.

Hal hovered over Paps’ ear. “I would tell him yes, Captain. It would not be wise to let him know who is really in control. Besides, if he sticks to his word and nobody removes anything, or accidentally breaks anything, or scratches or scuffs anything, then I’m pretty sure nobody will get hurt.”

Paps felt completely out of control of the situation, which was the normal state of affairs for him. “Yes, of course.”

The General seemed pleased by this. “Good. During the course of the tech survey you will also get to meet and train your new crew. After the survey, you will help set up monitoring posts around the solar system, as well as automated defenses. Should an invasion come, you will be our first line of defense.”

Paps had listened to enough mission briefings in his time to know that the General was not giving him the whole story. “General, let’s cut the crap, shall we? You put up a good front, better than any CO I’ve ever had, but you can’t possibly like this plan. A crazy deep space captain and a crew dragged out from who knows where as the first line of defense for this whole system? Come on.”

Hal was getting agitated. “What he thinks doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get back on that ship by any means necessary!”

General Salazar dropped his pleasant veneer. “Okay, you got me. I hate this plan. If anybody but you could operate that ship, I would leave you rotting in that cell for the rest of your natural life. If we could salvage the weapons systems and place those on the automated weapons platforms, I would make that happen in a heartbeat. But you and that weird connection you have with your ship leave me no choice. So if these Remotes are the threat you say they are, and we have no chance of stopping them, then you are going to be the first to die. Now read your personnel reports.”

Paps was stunned, Hal was amused. “Well, I’m glad we got that straightened out.”

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Space Madness: Episode X

Posted in science fiction on July 18, 2012 by Alex

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE CRAZY CAPTAIN?

Two security guards were standing outside a prison cell.

Guard 1: “You know, Sam, I think it’s strange to sentence someone to undergo behavioral modification for the rest of his life.”

Guard 2: “Why’s that, Dave?”

Guard 1: “It’s just that behavioral modification is supposed to make you able to function properly when you are released back into society.”

Guard 2: “Yeah, so what?”

Guard 1: “Well, I just think that if you’re never going to be released back into society, it seems kind of pointless.”

Guard 2: “You’re not paid to think, Dave.”

A nervous tension permeated the briefing room. General Salazar stared at the results of the brain scan in disbelief. Dr. Mooney was engorging himself on the technical specifications from the ship. Dr. Capitate sat quietly, trying to breathe like a calm person would, and ultimately failing.

Governor Stone finally walked into the room, oblivious to all the nervous energy floating around. “I hope this is the last time you folks hold a meeting on this station. I don’t ever want to ride on that space elevator again.”

An aide pulled a chair out for the governor. He sat down, then stood up again and started pacing. “I have read the reports you sent me about Captain…” The aide whispered into his ear. “Pappas. You can’t possibly believe all the things he has to say, can you?”

General Salazar was the first to speak. “We didn’t at first, Sir. But what we have found since he arrived has convinced us of at least some of it. His ship is considerably more advanced than anything we’ve got now, much less what we had 200 years ago, when it first left.”

“I thought you were unable to get into the ship to examine it. How do you know it’s really more advanced?”

The General glanced at Dr. Mooney, who finally looked up from his schematics. “Oh. Yes. Well we have been able to determine a few things about it nonetheless. For instance, our scans can’t penetrate the hull, and for that matter we can’t even identify the material composing it. Whatever it is deflects most forms of radiation. The ship could probably land on the sun without any ill effects. We also examined the trajectory it took into the system, and determined that it took about a third of the time that one of our ships would have. The forces required to execute some of those maneuvers would have torn one of our ships apart.”

General Salazar interrupted. “The strangest thing we found wasn’t about the ship, however. After Pappas’ debriefing, we took him to get a full physical workup and a brain scan.”

The general nodded in Dr. Capitate’s direction. She took a brief look at her notes and then spoke. “The brain scan revealed a small device implanted at the base of Pappas’ skull. It has little tendrils that have worked their way through his brain and nervous system, and they seem to be still growing. The working theory is that this device creates some sort of remote link between Captain Pappas and his ship.”

Governor Stone stopped pacing and sat down. He opened his mouth to speak, then he stood up and started pacing again. “Are you saying he can control his ship with his mind?”

“Actually, we’re not sure if he can control the ship, or if the ship can control him, or both, or neither. We are sure that if he can control it, it is in a very limited fashion.”

“You don’t seem to be sure of much, do you, Dr…” The aide once again whispered into the governor’s ear, “Capitate?” Governor Stone shot an angry look in his aide’s direction. The aide shrugged.

“Well, Sir, we do know that the hull of the ship became electrified after Pappas was informed of our intentions to dismantle the ship. There was a 40 millisecond delay, enough time for a short signal to be sent.”

Governor Stone’s pacing grew more erratic. He performed a complicated sequence consisting of stopping, chin stroking, mouth opening and closing, resuming pacing in a variety of orders. His aide fell down trying to keep up with all this motion. Finally the governor spoke. “I guess the question is: what do we do with Captain…” the aide climbed up off the floor and then whispered into the governor’s ear. “Pappas, and his ship? Recommendations?”

Dr. Mooney put in his two cents. “Well, whatever threat he might present would be greater if we kept him locked up. We also won’t be able to access the interior of his ship without his cooperation.”

Dr. Capitate chimed in. “I would like to keep him under observation. We don’t know how this device in his skull is affecting his behavior. We should learn more about it before we let him go.”

General Salazar banged his fist against the table. Everyone stopped and paid attention to him. Everyone except for Governor Stone’s aide, who was paying attention to Governor Stone. “What everybody seems to be missing here is the fact that Pappas encountered hostile aliens out there, and those aliens are now pissed off at us. We need every advantage we can get. And if that means letting a potentially crazy spaceship captain loose and giving him a crew, then so be it. But I for one will not be caught with my pants down when the invaders come. We need to mobilize! And we need the one man with experience with the Remotes to be on the front lines with us! Give the man his crew.”

The general was very persuasive. He knew that nothing galvanizes civilians quite like the threat of impending death. Governor Stone reluctantly agreed. “Very well, General…” the aide whispered into the governor’s ear. “Salazar. Make the preparations.”