Thursday, March 19, 2009

Great Hites # 45


This week we have stories from:
Scott Roche
Guy David
Norval Joe
Jeff Hite

Magic Quadrant
By Scott Roche

The first officer spoke in hushed tones "We are now in the Magic Quadrant, Captain."

Captain Sean Thornton nodded sharply to his Deltan science officer. “Thanks Lisor.” The knowledge both amused and terrified the young captain. It was amusing because this area in space was neither magic, nor a quadrant. It was frightening because much like the Bermuda Triangle back on Earth, it was a place where many a ship disappeared without a trace. Of course much like the Triangle a good number of those disappearances where overstated, misattributed, or otherwise explainable. Still, he had been fed horror stories since his first day in the Academy.

He stood and tugged at his uniform tunic, noting not for the first time that it was amazing, given how far technology had come since humans first breached the troposphere, that military clothing still never seemed to fit quite right. He walked up to the con and stood behind his helmsmen. “Mr. Singh, be sure to let me know the second your readouts show any anomalies.”

“Aye, Captain.” The young lady nodded.

“Take us ahead one quarter impulse.” He imagined that he experienced the sensation of the NCC-1710 Kongo slowing down. The Constitution class starship was in tip top shape though, having just left space dock after an extensive overhaul and the addition of some unusual sensor packages. So there was no way that the inertial dampers would be out of whack enough for that to be the case. They were to be the first ship in Starfleet to really give this area a good going over.

Thornton suspected that someone in the upper ranks wanted them to fail. Why else send such a green crew out into this god-forsaken piece of space with bleeding edge technology and so close to the Neutral Zone? Well he wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction.

He made a fist, without realizing it and turned to face the strikingly handsome bald man at the science station. “Anything to report Lisor?”

Lisor smiled, but not too much. “No, Captain. Everything is within normal parameters. Mr. Trangh reported some fluctuation in the warp core, but it too is not unusual.” He bent to his viewfinder again.

Thornton was tempted to be annoyed at the Engineer for not reporting to him, but then he realized he was micro-managing. That was a sign that he needed to talk a walk, maybe get some grub. “Lisor, you have the con. I’ll be in my quarters for a bit.”

“Aye, Captain.” He nodded and slaved his read outs to the captain’s chair. It would alert him of anything needing his attention.

The elevator doors whooshed open at his approach. He grabbed the handrail and called for the deck that held officer’s country, such as it was. Once the door was closed, he ran one hand shakily through tightly curled auburn hair. Off the bridge he acknowledged that he wasn’t only hungry, but indeed famished. He hadn’t eaten since, what had he even taken breakfast? A strong cup of tea with a splash of milk had been it, or as near as the fabricators could come.

The doors opened and he stalked to his cabin, the temper turned on himself for not attending to his bodily needs. Too little food or sleep, even with the intense training and discipline that Starship captains underwent, could lead to disaster. For want of a nail and all that. Once in the cool dark of his room, he was able to fully relax and sprawl on his bed. His rangy form nearly took up the whole thing. It was good that he didn’t have occasion to entertain female visitors as some did, since there simply wouldn’t be room for anyone else.

“Computer, fix me a roast beef sandwich and a side of home fries.” A series of beeps sounded from the console and a small door opened. The odor of the synthesized food was tremendous, even knowing it hadn’t come near a real cow in light years. With great difficulty he moved off of the bed and towards his lunch.

The tray was in his hand and he was walking to the table when the deck dipped forty-five degrees, sending food, captain, and anything not nailed down into the deck plates. Red alerts flashed and sirens screamed all over the ship.

When the Mages Came
By Guy David

Someone once said that when technology is advanced enough, it might seem like magic to those who don't have it yet. The Mages knew this, as they have been studying us for centuries, so when we got to their quadrant, they appeared as magical beings to us. They had the ability to shape-shift. We also had this ability to a limited degree, but they where obviously more technologically advanced. They had space-time travel when we only had space travel. We could learn from them, but they didn't trust us. They have seen the possible future. They had no idea they created it.

They told us the future can be shaped. The universe is magical and modular in a way. You can travel to alternate universes and you can even create them. The key is time travel. You travel to the past, then you change something and suddenly the universe itself is changed, split into two separate universes. The Mages have learned how to harness this ability, to choose their universal destination and to travel through all of alternity.

They told us that throughout the universe, there where only three species capable of doing that. We where one of them, and the scientist that invented our own version of time travel existed on our time. They where there to destroy him, but they only succeeded in splitting the universe again. In one alternate universe, the scientist was destroyed, while in another he was successful in inventing time travel. Now, alternity is shared. That was why they came and told us. They hope they can prevent a possible future, where we have achieved mastery of the universe. They didn't tell us that. We just knew. We are wondering what the third species is. We think we can use them to help us rule over the universe. We will find out. We have time on our side.

The Subway.
By Norval Joe

This was their station. Anyone that wanted to do business here; hookers, drug dealers, pickpockets; would first need to check in with the street gang's representative. There was at least one around the platform, anytime of day or night, and usually there were more. You probably didn't know that they were there, unless you needed to know it. They kept a close eye on all the action, and were quick to rally enough of a presence if some unknown player tried to leave the platform without paying the 'tax'. You could do business here, but running a business always had expenses.
The weekly meeting was about to begin as the 12:05 was pulling away. An unusual number of 'inconspicuous' men had gotten off the subway car just as it pulled away. One of them shouted, "Get your hands in the air!" as they all drew their guns. The new chief of police had declared that he would make the subways 'safe and family friendly' again, but no one expected that the crackdown on gang activities would begin this soon.
The invasion was a surprise, but the gang was not unprepared. Whenever they gathered for official business, and a number of the group would be together and thus at risk, they held an open phone line to one of the boys a few blocks away at a power relay station. He was standing ready to cut the power to the lights, in the event of an emergency, such as this one.
The cop had barely barked his command and the lights were out.
There was a large enough wave of gang members surging up the stairway to the street that the few officers at the top were bowled over, unwilling to shoot into the suddenly dark platform below, the youth and young adults melted into the crowd on the street.
Blocked from escape up the stairway, a group of youth jumped down to the tracks and ran along the rails hoping to find a ladder to the street or some other alcove or utility room where they could hide. Small blue lights placed along one wall every twenty yards generated a faint silver light that gleamed on the steel rails to guide them. The tunnel filled with the shrill whine of an electric rail car that they could not yet see. The four boys raced forward in a desperate effort to find safety from the rapidly approaching inevitable death.
A burst of wind lifted them from the ground and hurtled them forward ahead of the subway car, battering the young men against the walls of the tunnel and rolling them across the ground. The rail car was upon them. They should be torn apart, their bodies mangled between the rail car and the walls of the tunnel, their limbs and torsos severed by the heavy steel wheels as they were drawn beneath the train.
But they weren't.
They got to their feet, dusted themselves off, and looked around. They could hear the subway car fading into the distant tunnel. The blue lights were gone and someone was missing, but they couldn't figure out who it was. They limped along through the dark, following the fading sound of the train.
The sound of the train didn't fade completely away, but stopped suddenly and left only the a ringing silence in their ears. They stood panting not knowing which way to go, with out light or sound to guide them. Very far off, and very faint, came the sound of a single hammer on a bell. But not a bell, and not a hammer, only similar. They stumbled forward in the direction of that single sound, stumbling over unseen rubble, bumping into unexpected turns in the walls. Then the sound again, still distant, and still faint, but not quite as much, so. They increased their pace for a time, but finding their route impeded more frequently with blocks of stone, and twisted pieces of metal, they slowed, and proceeded with a sliding shuffling gait, hands gripping one another's shirts or belts.
They inched along slowly, the temperature increasing in the tunnel with every step. Eventually, in the distance they could make out a dim light, glowing faintly as if from around a corner. Creeping forward they began to make out the objects they had been stumbling over; blocks of stone and broken and rusting rails. The increasing light allowed them to move forward much faster. The sound came again, much louder this time, not nearby, but much closer than before. The sound came again and again in rapid succession; like a tap, tap, tapping, on a metal pipe; and then stopped.
Red light glowed far down the tunnel and they moved toward it with determination, their path increasingly more visible as they traveled. The ringing sounds came more often and were joined by similar sounds, some distant, some close.
They reached the opening in the side of the tunnel where brilliant red light lit up the tunnel. Carefully they peered into the opening, shading their eyes from the intense light. The walls of the room were covered with rubies, each facet reflecting and multiplying the lanterns of the men that worked in the room. The hairy men were short, but wide and had massively muscled arms and shoulders. They were shirtless and wore either leather breaches, or knee length tartan kilts. They hammered metal spikes into the wall of rubies with heavy sledge hammers.
The men stopped to look at the three interlopers, who stood, dumbfounded. The leader of the miners grinned, "You three there!" He boomed with at deep broagh, "You've a choice to make. The dragon will be coming down that tunnel where you stand, in just a few moments. She'll eat you before you've felt her rotten breath on your scrawny necks." It was true, they could hear the pounding of great footfalls echoing down the tunnel, increasing in volume as the creature rapidly approached.
Calmly the squat giant continued, "You can remain where you are and die soon, or enter, here and help us mine fresh rubies for the dragons bed; at which time she will most likely eat you. Quickly boys, you're in the magic quadrant now, and decisions must be made with out delay."
The youth were baffled, the situation was too far outside their understanding and experience; their confusion made their choice for them.
The speaker turned back to his mates, "Well, men, that wont hold her for very long. Let's get back to work and see if we can get enough rubies to satisfy her."

The End
By Jeff Hite

With a spectacular blast that would have made any story teller proud the mountain sized piece of hydrogen ignited as it passed through the super hot jets, of oxygenated fuel from the admirals ship. And in that instant, the war was over.

"That is how the story ends right. The Battle is over, the evil over lord is dead, the universe is saved right?"
"Mark, that's how stories end. this is real life. Yes, the battle is over. Yes, Admiral Weston is dead, or at least we think he is. And, yes the war is pretty much over. But, the story does not end. I mean it does not end there for us. We are still on the outskirts of the Kuiper belt. I would like to get home some time, There are millions dead, the rover colonies are in tatters. There are years of work left to do."
"Wow you are a kill joy."
"I guess this is what happens when you don't really expect to make it out of some place so you through everything into it."
"You mean you don't have a plan?"
"No, I really don't."
"Guys," Lee leaned our of the control seat so he could look at them. "I hate to interrupt this stimulating conversation, but um we do have a couple of problems here."
"Alright lets have it."
"Well you know all those incredible maneuvers we did to draw Weston's ships in here?"
"Well they were very expensive, fuel wise. We don't have a lot of fuel left, and we have a very long trip home."
"How expensive?"
"We are all going to be in stasis for a long time."
"How long a few months?"
"More like a few years, unless they send some one out to get us."
"They who? Earth never acknowledged our claims from the beginning, and crazy or not, Weston was the commander of the Martian fleet. So who exactly do you think they are?"
"He has a point Lee. But, jeez you called me a kill joy."
"Well if we are going to face reality, lets face it. Lee, give us a full ships status."
"Right give me a minute or so." He turned to the console in front of him and flipped through several screens. "Right, if we can believe everything here, and we all know that we will have to make a visual inspection of more than a few systems, we have enough fuel, for one good long burn. It should get us going fast enough that we can reach he inner solar system with in five years, the power for the stasis tubes should have no problem, as there appears to have been little or no damage to the solar array or the reactor. Again we need to check those things. If we can use the solar sail even a little, we might be able to cut as much as 6 months of that time. The problem comes in that, that gets us into the inner solar system, not by anything, like a planet."
"I can't believe that we made it all the way out here, and" he trailed off.
"There is more," Sharron had moved back to her station.
"Yeah, let's say we do this burn that Lee suggests. What planet, or object do we head to. As you pointed out, no one is really going to be happy to see us, and most of the rover colonies were destroyed, it maybe that even if we aimed at one of them, it four and a half or five years there might not be a colony there for us to come home to, they might have abandoned it depending on how badly it was damaged."
"So, do either of you have a plan?"
"I thought you were the brilliant leader," Lee shot back.
"I know strategy, I dreamed up this wild idea on how to draw Weston out here to the magic quadrant. But it was, as I said, supposed to be a suicide run, that is why there were only three of us."
"So we win but we lose? That is sad."
"Wait, a minute, you just said that we had enough fuel and power to make it back to the inner solar system, it will take us a long time, but we can send out a beacon when we get closer and someone will pick it up."
"But like you said, who is going to want to pick us up?"
"Yeah, we will be like the trash that no one wants to take out. They will have plenty of time to see us coming, they could either blow us out of the sky or, just more likely, just let us coast on by, become a long period comet or something."
"We don't have enough water on board to be a comet. We might have a tale for about three or four hours and then we would be like every other dark body in the solar system."
"Alright you too, enough gloom and doom. There has to be a good side to this. I mean we won the war, or at least we ended it. Someone would want to take us in. Even if it is to lock us up for killing their commander."
"I don't know about you, but I would rather take my chances with becoming a short lived comet that be locked up for the rest of whatever."
"I have to agree with Lee on that one Mark."
"So how long can we wait until we have to make a decision?"
"I would say we have three days until we all need to be in hibernation."
"Ok then here is the plan, we start making some calls, we call some of the rover colonies, and the moons of Jupiter, and Earth and see who would be willing to take us in. We see who gets back to us and make a decision based on what sounds like the best answer."
"That is going to be cutting it close. Round trip messages from the inner solar system and then we have to agree on a decision."
"I know but do you have a better suggestion. If we just shoot for the middle, we will be trusting to luck that some one will pick us up, but if we plan to go somewhere."
"We are trusting to luck that whoever answers us is telling us the truth."
"It is better than your comet idea."
"Alright I can accept that."
"So much for the happy endings."


Scott Roche said...

Good round of stories if I do say so myself.