Wednesday, June 24, 2009

GreatHites #58


This week have stories by:
Scott Roche
WinnerNorval Joe <-------- This week's Winner
Mick Bordet
Jeff Hite

Self Pity
By: Scott Roche

A blue beam shot from the weapon belonging to the creature on the right. It lanced into Lieutenant Avila and she faded from view, without even a chance to scream.

Wilkerson’s reflexes were not only honed to a monomolecular edge, they were augmented by some very gray technology. Before his partner was gone completely he had already thrown himself backward into a roll and came up on his feet a meter behind and to the right of where he had been. The thumb on his right hand managed to spin the dial on his phaser to its highest setting.

The wall nearest the firefight was missing a large portion. It didn’t look like anyone remained in the room beyond. Thankfully it wasn’t an external bulkhead or they would all be sucking vacuum. Either these creatures knew the layout of the ship well or they were careless. Neither thought was comforting.

He pressed the firing stud on his weapon and strafed the group. With any other standard phaser that wouldn’t be possible, but like many things on his person he tinkered with the basic design to improve it, at least in his opinion. The shots went wild, save for one. A weird clicking sound from the insectoid that managed to kill Avila let him know he scored a hit. The multiple shots had the desired effect though and enough time remained to move before the aliens returned fire..

Moving quickly, he threw himself at a door, trusting that it would open ahead of him. It did, though just barely. He found himself in a crew mess, devoid of any diners. A red alert klaxon sounded letting him know that the intrusion had been detected. He wasn’t sure if it was the weapons fire, the transporter being detected, or what, but it meant help was likely on the way.

Wilkerson crawled on his belly towards one of the tables and took cover as best he could. His brain turned the transporter puzzle over while his body worked on survival. They needed to disable the ship’s shields somehow. There was simply no other way he knew of for them to circumvent that particular technology. That left quite a bit of room for ignorance considering he was no engineer. If they could get through shields though this would be a short battle. Were their others on board?

He ripped his communicator from his belt and flipped it open. Before he hailed anyone his brain screamed at him to stop and think. With a trained movement he flipped the communicator closed again. These beings were probably part of his mission. The piece of equipment he planted could easily disable the shields temporarily if they sent the right command. The best thing for him to do was to sit tight and let them do whatever they were here to do.

Serving on board this ship gave him a security officer’s drive, though. He wanted to protect the vessel he was assigned to and yet his duty was to let whatever happened happen. It was the pound of flesh he owed Section 31. Or was it? What if he survived all of this and needed to continue to serve on board? How would he explain his inaction?

No, he would need to play his role to the hilt. He failed in that role by letting Avila die. Self pity wasn’t in his vocabulary, so he didn’t dwell on that. His main motivation was to try and be what he was supposed to be and trust his superiors to work out the details in their end.

That decided, he flipped his communicator back open. “Wilkerson to the bridge. We have intruders on Deck Ten.”

The door slid open and one of the many legged creatures came through. The sight of the lower third made Wilkerson’s stomach flip. Before the bridge could reply to his warning, he carefully closed the communicator’s screen and lay it on the deck plate.

His hands were clammy and his breathing shallow. Getting the drop on the invader would be easy. Taking it alive would be ideal, but the earlier attempt to stun it failed. A more powerful setting would either kill it or if he was lucky be just strong enough to do what he needed it to. Well there was a third option, it might just make the walking nightmare mad.

Nothing appeared to follow it into the small room and the doors closed after its bulk passed through. That was it, they were one on one. There was no way Wilkerson could let it snap off a shot. They were playing for keeps.

He dialed the phaser back to a setting that would be lethal to most humanoids and barrel rolled to his left, firing as he went.

Aliens among us.
By Norval Joe

He didn't know how he had ended up living with the family of aliens. He knew that it had been a long time, maybe even his whole life. His memory only went back a few years.
He crouched on the floor with the spinning device close to his face, his head tilted forward so that he could look at it through his eye lashes. "If I hold it at just the right angle, it seems to make sense. The light flickers as the spokes of the wheel spin around."
One of the alien children attempted to interact with him, but he ignored her as best he could. She snatched the spinning device from his hand and stood up, holding it out of his reach. She was taller than him by more than a foot. There was no way that he could regain the device by force.
"I hate it when they insist on interacting with me." he said to himself. Rather than fight her for the device, he squeezed the palms of his hands against the sides of his head and screamed. His own screaming hurt his head and all he could do was scream even louder.
The adult female alien came into the room and took the spinning device from the girl and gave it back to him. Slowly, he began to calm down as he spun the wheel.
The adult female insisted that he stop spinning the wheel and put his shoes on. This wasn't good. This meant that they would have to go out, into public. Public was not good.
There would be too many aliens there, wherever they went. Whether it was shopping, recreation or religious observation, there would be teaming masses of aliens. They would be noisy, and nosey. They always wanted to interact. "What is your name?" "How old are you?" "What are you reading?" Then the adult female would hold up her hand, extending the four fingers and say, "Tell them you're this many." Except, today, she had told him, "Now you're this many," adding the thumb to the four fingers.
He tried to prepare himself for the coming ordeal. As soon as his shoes were on he found his backpack and checked its contents. Everything appeared to be there. There were three books. One about farm animals, one about outer space and the third was the Disney 'Cars' picture book. There were two packages of fun fruits and a bag of nacho cheese Doritos. He poured all of the items from the backpack and onto the floor. He put the wheeled spinning device inside.
The adult female rushed into the room and uttered some words of exasperated disapproval. She gathered all the items back into the backpack and hooked it over his shoulders.
He rode in the back of the vehicle with the female child. He ignored her by concentrating on a small silver button that raised and lowered the window. The adult female disabled the buttons function from the front seat. He continued pressing the button regardless of the lack of response.

"Mom, make him stop pushing that button, Cindy whined. "He's driving me crazy." She grabbed at her brothers arm and squeezed it. "Stop it Des, stop it." She shouted at him.
He ignored her, and kept pressing the button. Nothing made her angrier than when she couldn't sop his annoying behaviour. Furious, she pinched the skin of his arm between her thumb and index finger. That got his attention and he screamed. He screamed a shrill piercing sound that made Cindy regret pushing him for a response. She wouldn't back down now, though. "Mom, he's screaming. Make him stop screaming."
"Cindy," her mother shouted back, trying to be heard over Desmond's screams. "Whatever you're doing to him, stop it, now. You are twice his age, you need to act like it. Just ignore your brother, until we get to the party." He must have heard the word 'party' because he stopped screaming. Instead he said, "Go Chuckie Cheese?" He had never been to the pizza place, but must have learned the association from television commercials.
"No, Dear, we're not going to Chuckie Cheese. We're going to Gramma's."
"Go Chuckie Cheese?" he asked again. His mother ignored him.
Cindy didn't respond, at first, but after the tenth of twelfth time of asking, "Go Chuckie Cheese?" Cindy told him, "No." With each repetition of the question, Cindy replied, "No" with increasing volume, until she was screaming "No, no, no, no, no," at the top of her lungs.
"Cindy, stop." Her mother interrupted her. "You have to extinguish the behavior by ignoring him. That is what the behaviour specialist told us after Desmond was diagnosed with autism. Don't you remember?"
"But he won't stop Mom. He's driving me crazy."
"I know it can be frustrating, but he would have stopped by now, if you had just ignored him, all along."
"Go Chuckie Cheese," he asked again.

Cindy sat a the end of one of the couches in her grandmothers living room and ignored all the other children and adults gathered around the long dining room table. She slouched down with he arms folded across her chest. She was offended that she had been forced to spend four hours at a 'birthday party' for a kid who didn't care. She thought about the evening and spoke to the air, "He probably doesn't even realize that the party was for him."
Every chance he got, he ran for the door. He made it as far as the street three times. He wouldn't play any of the games, although, all the other cousins seemed to have a good time. The only time he seemed happy was when he watched the candles burning. He screamed while they sang happy birthday, and screamed again when someone else blew out the candles. She muttered to herself, "He would have let them burn right down to the frosting."
When it was time to leave, his mother put him in his pajamas to make it easier to get him into bed, if he fell asleep on the way home.
Cindy followed as her mother carried her sleeping brother into the house. She sat at the kitchen table and moped while her mother put Desmond to bed. A few minutes later, her mother came in from the bedroom and sat in the chair next to Cindy.
With all the self pity she could muster, Cindy asked, "Mom? S\Why can't we be like a normal family? We can't go anywhere, we can't have any fun, just because of him." She said, indicating down the hallway with a glance and a twitch of her head.
"Sweetie, someday he'll be able to show you how much he loves you. He's young and doesn't know how to express himself. When you're older, you'll love him, too, like you did when he was a baby."
She burst into tears as she stood up. She shouted at her mother, "How can you love someone that screams at you all the time?" Missing the irony, she turned and ran from to her bedroom with out waiting for a reply.
"Sometimes it's not easy," her mother said to her folded hands on the table.

She was laying on a chaise lounge next to the pool on a cruise ship. She was delighted to find that she had her youthful figure again. She raised her head to look toward her feet, and admired her flat stomach and long shapely legs. The varicose veins were gone and the tropical sun felt good, warming her golden tanned skin.
She should feel relaxed and rested. Instead, her back ached and she felt a weariness born of long days and short nights.
"Wake up," A steward said as he stepped next to her, tapping her arm. "I am awake," she said to the steward, feeling slightly dizzy.
"Wake up," she heard again, and opened her eyes, to peer blearily at the bedside clock. She had been asleep less than an hour.
"Wake up," Desmond said to her again, patting her arm. So badly, she just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. She had tried extinguishing this behavior by ignoring it before. She had hoped that he would just go back to his bed. He wouldn't, though, on his own. She would wake in the morning to find the results of Desmond's activities.
The cats food dish would be filled with kitty litter, all the bath toys, hair brushes and shampoo bottles would be in the toilet, the bookshelves would be cleared and any cupboard left unlocked would be emptied.
She was too tired to kneel by his bed until he went back to sleep, so she walked with her son to the TV room. They sat together in a rocking chair. He sat on his mothers lap and lay his head on her shoulder. She ran her fingers through his curly brown hair and sang him lullaby's until they were both soundly asleep.
During the few last moments of wakefulness when the thoughts of the day percolated through his mind to become the substance of dreams, Desmond knew that he was home.

Alternative Therapy
By: Mick Bordet

Sarah jumped at the sound of the doorbell, an unexpected intrusion into her daydream. She took a sip of green tea from the chunky mug on the table in front of her, scowling in reaction to how cold it was. She looked at the clock. It was after six; she had been sitting here for almost two hours. The afternoon at her alternative therapy centre had been quiet, so the tea was supposed to have helped raise her spirits. It had failed.

It was almost a year since her mother had passed on, yet she couldn't shake off these feelings of loneliness, boredom and guilt. The former, she could understand, living alone in a flat contained within the small building that served as both her home and her place of work. It was located about four miles away from Fort William in the "back of beyond", as her sister would tease her by calling it. It suited her most of the time; her chosen path through life had been clear to her from early on, but mocked by her mother and sister as well as many of the locals around here. She had proved them all wrong, though they would probably never admit it. The centre had been providing healing remedies, from the fringes of recognised medical practices like hypnotherapy and acupuncture to the more frowned-upon realms of aromatherapy and crystal healing, for over fifteen years now.

The team of reliable experts she had employed meant that the centre operated with very little active input from her these days. Sarah was glad of this when her father's Alzheimer's had started to take its toll on her mother and she was able to visit them on a regular basis, enjoying the attention he always gave her, even as it dwindled with his grip on his faculties. When his time came, she supported her mother through the grieving process, a trial in itself as the old woman became progressively more bitter and miserable as the months wore on. A rift grew between them and Sarah found herself making excuses for not visiting every week, finding things to do in a business that needed little tampering with. She had become bored and restless since her mother died. After years of running after her parents, organising their lives over the phone and latterly just clashing wits with her increasing stubborn mother, she was left with a gaping void in her daily routine, a black hole in her life, threatening to suck her into the pits of its despair.

Sarah creaked up out of her chair, walked from the kitchen into the small, welcoming hallway and opened the door. It took her a moment to recognise the young woman who stood waiting on the step outside.

"Sarah! How are you, honey?" asked the visitor. As soon as the first word left her mouth, Sarah's memory sparked.

"Ciara? I swear your hair is a different colour every time I see you. You look great. Come in, come in. Can I get you a drink?"

Sarah led her guest through to the kitchen, switching the kettle on as she walked past, before pulling out a chair from the table for Ciara to sit on.

"Tea would be good. Green, if you have it," Ciara answered, still standing. She looked Sarah in the eyes, a directed, probing gaze that saw beyond the surface veneer of displayed emotion. If the eyes truly are windows to the soul, then she had opened them wide and stuck her head right through for a thorough inspection.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," said Sarah.

"Well, you shouldn't have taught me it, then," Ciara said. "You look shattered. Have you been sleeping?"

"No. Well, maybe. I don't know. I lost track of time, thinking."

"Your mum?"

"Aye. So much for 'time heals', I feel worse now than the week she died," Sarah said. She forced a smile, a subconscious effort to avoid breaking into tears.

Ciara leaned forward and held her friend in a strong embrace, saying "You're needing a good old Dreamstorm hug, lady."

Sarah hugged Ciara back, relishing the warmth of human contact, something she had missed since her mother's funeral. She wasn't one for seeking out friendships or social groups, but the few friends she did have could always be relied upon. It was only five years earlier that Ciara had first dropped into the centre to ask Sarah to display some leaflets advertising her shop, a veritable treasure-trove of objects mystical, spiritual and occult, from dowsing rods to her own unique range of colourful clothing. They had ended up talking well into the night about their common interests, their failed relationships and recipes for vegetarian paella, and had remained friends ever since. They only saw each other three or four times a year, usually when Ciara was passing through Fort William on her way home to Skye from meeting a supplier in Glasgow or London, but always managed to pick up from where they left off.

They separated from their embrace and sat down at the table, where Sarah poured the boiled water from the kettle into a teapot to brew.

"I feel so silly," Sarah said, "here I am surrounded by a wealth of resources for healing my spirit, cleansing my aura, channeling my chakra, but nothing seems able to shake me out of this. I still feel guilty that I could have helped more."

"Guilt? Oh, come on, Sarah! I only met your mum once, but even then I could see that she was an expert manipulator. I told you as much at the time, I'm sure. She had you wrapped around her little finger. If you're feeling guilt about anything, it's her that's created that for her own ends. I'm not saying it was deliberate, it was maybe just a subconscious skill she had developed, but she used it on you. That much is certain."

Sarah poured the tea into two mugs and passed one to Ciara. "Why would she do that?" she asked.

"To be in control, probably. Didn't you tell me that you would have done anything for your father when he was alive?" Ciara said.

"Yes, he was a wonderful man," Sarah answered.

"Okay, so your mum saw that and wanted you to be like that with her, but you didn't have that type of relationship with her, so she had to be more under-hand. When he died, she just kept on applying the pressure, desperate to maintain that hold over you that your father had without trying. Now that she's gone, she's left her control mechanism, that guilt you've been made to feel, behind. You're like a puppet that's free to leave the stage, but snagged by one of it's own strings."

"So, what now? I'm suffering from Pinocchio syndrome or puppetitis or something? How do I get out of this?"

"I think a dual approach is probably best. First of all, you need to accept that the guilt is of your own imagining and that when you are ready to let go, it will end," said Ciara.

"And then?" asked Sarah?

"Then you need to open that bottle of Vodka that's probably still sat in your sideboard since I bought it for you two years ago, pour us both triple vodkas topped up with whatever fizzy mixer you have handy, then we'll get completely rat-arsed and you can tell me all the awful things that old control freak did to wind you up over the last few years."

Sarah laughed like she hadn't for months and, raising her mug, said "Well, that sounds like an alternative therapy I can drink to. Cheers!"

The Price of Friendship, Part III
By Norval Joe

"Go ahead, Chad." The perpetually smiling secretary said, "Mr. Satoro is ready for you now."
Chad pushed open the door just enough to slip silently through and stood and waited quietly to be noticed. He wished instead that he could just melt into the floor and be done with it.
The heavy middle aged man barely looked up from the papers that he was reading. "Close the door, please, and have a seat in that chair." he said indicating the seat in front of his desk with a glance of his eyes, over the drug store reading glasses perched on his nose. He returned his gaze to the papers held in his hand and scanned them, his bulldog jowls giving his face the appearance of a frown.
"Do you know what I have here, Mr. Baker?" the principal asked holding several papers aloft and flipping them slightly at Chad.
Chad shook his head. "No," he said, his voice cracking. When the principal glared at him, he cleared his throat, and said again, "No, Mr. Satoro."
"It's a report, telling me that you have won a scholarship for your entry in the school district creative writing contest. There is a check here for $250, for first place."
"Oh," Chad stammered yet again. He seemed to be stammering a lot this day. "Well, um. That's good, then, right?" he continued.
"Yes, of course. Very good." Mr. Satoro said, removing his reading glasses. "I wanted to be the first to congratulate you. You have represented our school well. Of course, I will hold on to this check until we present it to you at the end of school year assembly, next week. You can let your mother know to be there."
"Thank you," Chad said. They sat, staring at one another for several heart beats, that seemed to Chad like hours.
"That will be all, Mr. Baker. You may go." The principal said. He returned the reading glasses to his nose and began shuffling through the stack of papers on his desk.
Chad picked up his back pack and left the office as quickly as he could with out knocking anything over in his haste. He passed the smiling secretary and waved at her moronically. When the door to the office closed behind him, he leaned against the outer wall of the office, feeling light headed and slightly relieved.
The bell rang and the halls filled with students hurrying to their lockers or racing to the busses to get the best seats. Chad had time now. Amy would be in choir for another 45 minutes. He thought about her singing unaware of the conflict awaiting her on the baseball field. The choir was preparing to sing at the same assembly where he would be getting his scholarship. 'By then everything should be worked out, I hope.' he told himself.
He walked toward their lunch tree hoping to come up with a reasonable solution before his meeting with Derrick. He sat on one of the benches below the tree that offered him a view of both the music room and the baseball diamond.
He leaned on his elbow, looking at the dirt at his feet. "This is ridiculous," he said out loud, trying to convince himself that there was really nothing to worry about. There was no way that Amy would accept that she had any obligation to Derrick for what Chad might have done to the game player.
The game player. He took it out of his backpack and turned it over in his hands. He must have doe the same thing a thousand times since the first night that he had tried to turn it on. Just holding the device made his heart pound in his chest, and his stomach roll around with anxiety. He pushed the on/off button several times looking closely at the screen for any indication that the device might function normally, but without success.
"What's up Chad?" He started at Amy's voice so close, and jumped to his feet. He hadn't expected her to be here so soon. "Amy, you're here," he exclaimed, stupidly.
"Yeah, you asked me to meet you here. So, can we talk as we walk home?"
"Well, um, no. Derrick..." he mumbled trying to get his thoughts back together. He hadn't worked out how he would broach the subject, and found his mind was now completely blank. "Derrick," he said again, looking at the baseball field and holding up the game player.
Amy looked confused and and concerned as well. She followed Chad's view to the ball field and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, asked, "Chad? Are you ok? What's Derrick got to do with anything?"
"Amy, I'm in trouble," he began and decided it would be best to just run with it. "Derrick thinks that I broke his game player and he wants me to pay for it, and I don't have any money."
"Do you need some money? I could ask my Dad," Chad interrupted her. "No, Amy. He doesn't want money, he wants me to give him you."
"That's right, Amy." The deep voice of the older boy broke in. Chad hadn't seen him approach but he was standing right right next to them. "He owes me, and I'm taking you as payment."
This was all happening too fast. Everything was falling apart like wet toilet paper. He couldn't grab the pieces fast enough to hold onto any of it.
Amy said nothing. She just stared at Derrick, her mouth agape, with a look of shocked recognition on her face.
"Come on," Derrick commanded, "You're mine now." He turned and headed down a small slope toward the baseball field, Amy falling in behind with out argument.
"Wait, Amy, you don't have to go!" Chad shouted as he ran to catch up to Derrick. "Derrick," he said, and heard the pleading in his own voice, "I can pay you for it. I'll have $250 next week. That's enough isn't it?"
Derrick didn't respond, didn't even look back, he just kept walking with Amy just two steps behind him. Her head was bowed and there was an uncharacteristic defeated appearance to her posture.
Chad caught back up to Derrick and grabbed him by the arm, turning him. Derrick stopped and pulled his arm from chads grasp. He still held the game device in his other hand. "Wait, Derrick, you can't take her; take your game. I'll pay you for it."
"Keep it, it's garbage. I have what I want." he said dismissively and turned to walk past the first base dugout toward a nature trail that followed along a slow moving creek.
"Stop," Chad shouted desperately, grabbing Derricks arm again.
Derrick spun like a snake striking at a mouse and hit Chad with an upper cut to his jaw.
When Chad's vision cleared he found himself laying on his back in the grass along the nature trail. The game device close by where it had fallen from his hand.
"Amy," he shouted getting slowly to his feet. The world spun around him and he leaned against an oak tree, blinking his eyes wishing his vision would stabilize more quickly. "Amy," he shouted again, rubbing his jay where Derrick had hit him.
As soon as his legs would hold him, he stumbled down the nature trail calling for his friend, searching the brush and banks of the creek. Several times he tripped over unseen roots in the fading afternoon light under the canopy of oaks. Eventually, he arrived at the street, where the nature trail ended. He crossed the creek and ran back through the brush and brambles, shouting and looking for where Derrick may have taken her.
When he got back to the school buildings he splashed through the shallow creek and up the small slope to sit , exhausted on the bench under their lunch tree. Rivulets of sweat streaked the dust on his face and he gasped for air. He didn't know where he lost the time, he must have been unconcious for hours, because the sun was almost down now.
Amy was gone.
"Maybe this is all just a bad joke. Maybe Derrick let her go, and she had walked home." He tried to convince himself. He should go to her house and check on her.
Feeling terribly sorry for himself, he picked up his backpack, where it had remained all afternoon, and headed to the street. 'The Sniders are going to think I'm crazy." he said as he got to the faculty parking lot. "OH, I know." He said and ran back to retrieve the broken game device. Maybe showing this device to Amy's parents would lessen how foolish he would look.
He got to the spot she it had fallen in the grass. He could see the outline of where his body had lain in the tall grass. But, even though he got down on hands and knees, and sifted through the grass with his fingers, he was unable to find the game player in the fading light.

Running shoes
By: Jeffrey Hite

Even when I was on earth I hated exercise. Now that i was in the low gravity of space it was even worse. The problem was that with no gravity it is actually more work to get yourself into and out of the equipment required to do the exercise that to do it. Of course, exercise in space is all about making sure that you are strong enough to return home. And on a journey this long it was essential that you did it. So day in and day out that is what I did.
That was of course, before. Before the first set of alarms. But, even that didn't stop me from doing them. Some how the idea that we have lost most of our fuel when we were hit with debris from some bit of space junk, didn't phase me. It was not until three weeks later that I gave up my daily routine as much as I hated it.
“Yes, Computer.”
“I have detected another anomaly in the ships systems.”
“Alright, what is it,” by this point I was so used to that statement from the computer that I didn't even think twice about it.
“There seems to be a malfunction in the cryo systems.”
“What is the nature of the malfunction?”
“There was a brief temperature spike in the number three Cryo bed.”
“What was the variance?”
“point zero three degrees.”
I knew by this point in out trip that even though something like that seemed trivial to me, if the computer thought it worth reporting than it was important. But it did seem to be a trivial matter. “What is the safety margin on the cryo beds?”
“Ten degrees.”
“So why bring up such a small discrepancy?”
“Captain, you asked to be informed of any changes to the life support systems, and the cryo beds are part of the life support system.”
“So they are. Is there any danger from this discrepancy?” I asked as my mood began to lift.
“Until this point there has been no variance on the system, above one one hundredth of a degree according the my records. I do no believe that this variance represents and real threat.”
“Good, anything else.”
“Captain, I was not finished. I do not believe that this represents any real danger in and of itself, but it may be the first signs of a larger system malfunction.”
“Alright, keep me informed.”
“Sir, I have something else to report.”
“Ok spit it out.”
“The life support systems are at the top of my priority tree.”
“Yes I know that.”
“But there is a structure that you should be made aware of. That because of our current situation.”
“Alright,” I was beginning to feel a tingle at the back of my neck.
“In the case of a malfunction, life support is the highest priority for self repair. The priority shifts depending proximity to our destination. If the majority of the crew are awake, then the priority is to the active cabin life support, and if most of the crew are in the cryo bed then they are the priority.”
“That makes scene so what is the problem?”
“Right now you are the only one awake. You will be the lowest priority since of of the other officers can be automatically revived, should you expire during the repairs, once the addition repairs are made. The priority tree also shifts you lower if the ship is in imminent danger, but the Cryo beds could be saved if power were pulled from your life support system.”
“Alright, I understand, thank you for letting me know,” the computer was silent after that, and despite being told that it would let me die, in order to repair the Cryo beds or other ships systems, I was not truly depressed. But even that announcement was not really enough make me stop the mandatory exercises. I was not ready to believe that we were in any real danger. Sure the fuel situation was an issue, but there were three ships that were coming behind us. They would have ample fuel to take on more passengers, and if they divided us up there would be no problem. Sure it would mean hanging out in space for much longer than any of us had planed but, those were the risks and we all knew them. So if anything I had more of a reason to be doing my exercises.
It was not until I was about ready to go off shift that my decision was made for me.
“Yes, computer.”
“There has been another anomaly.”
“Alright, please report.”
“We will no longer be able to accelerate in another two hours.”
“What do you mean? I didn't think that we would begin out breaking maneuvers for another three days.”
“We are not scheduled to.”
“So why the change.”
“Our fuel consumption is no longer a constant, we will need to stop accelerating now in order to have enough fuel for the breaking maneuvers.”
“How far outside of the window will that put is due to the reduced velocity?”
“Due to time the dilation effect at this lower velocity, three years, and twelve days.”
“Three years?”
“Yes, captain.”
“That means that we will miss the other ships, they will actually be there before us.”
“That is correct.”
“What about deploying a bouy to warn them?”
“They will not have the supplies necessary to wait for us to arrive and return safely.”
This was the moment that my decision was made. We would make it to the new solar system, and the other ships would have been and gone, their teams having completed their missions. I was not going to let myself get mired in self pity. Our mission was important to the new Earth colony project. Millions of people were counting on us. No, they were counting on me. They needed me to make sure the ship made it to the new solar system safely and got turned around to head back. While the rest of the team went back in to suspended animation in the cryo beds. But, if there was no way for me to make it back to earth there was no way I was going to continue those blasted exercises.
With the change in plans, there were things that would need to change so that I could survive until we reached the destination. The air and water supply and recycling systems were designed to last indefinitely. And the food supply was grown on the ship, so it was just a matter of how much time he would have to spend working in the agra labs. No the problem was going to be power consumption, and consumables like clothing and more importantly medical supplies. He was most definitely run out of the anti radiation medications before the three years were up.
"Yes Captain."
"Is there any way to lessen the need for the radiation medication?" There was a pause while the computer searched, and he watched the blinking searching message on his console screen.
"There are a number of ways to lessen the effect of radiation on your system," It answered finally. "The best one would be to less exposure, by staying in the more highly shielded areas of the ship. Hibernation has been shown to lessen the effects of radiation on the body. Alternatively you could wear one of the shielded suits used to EVAs."
"Well we can count two of those out right away. There is no way I am wearing one of those suits all the time, and I can't go into Cryo there would be no one left awake on the ship." I thought about the last option for a few minutes. "Computer, what is the recycle time for someone coming out of cryo to safely go back into Cryo sleep?" Again the Searching message appear on his screen. This time it lasted a much longer time.
"Captain, there has been no research done on this, but it generally believed that a person should not return to Cryo for at least a month."
"That is an idea I guess," I said to himself. "Computer, how long can the ship be run on automatic, with no human intervention, longest possible projection including maintenance cycles and normal course corrections that require human input." The computer chewed on this request only for a few moments before returning the response.
"The ship could run on automatic for five months without human intervention."
I did some quick calculations and made up my mind. This idea would work, I could stay in Cryo for three to four months at a time, and then be awake for a month, thus cutting my time in awake status down to normal. There were a large number of things that would need to happen before I was able put this plan into action, but first there was something that I needed to do. I floated over to my locker and pulled out the running shoes and headed down to the gym. I hated the idea of the exercises, but if I am going to live and return to earth, I could pity myself only while I was on the tread mill.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Noval Joe's Alien's Among Us. It struck a deep chord with me. Excellent job. I also wanted to say that I think his continuing saga of the Price of Friendship is awesome, and I'm sure the conclusion will astound us all.

Would it be possible to (without too much effort) provide a guide to back episodes that contain an author's same world stories?

Excellent job to everyone involved in ep 58.