Space Madness: Episode X
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.”