De-Wyrming the Dog

Fiction for the Undiscerning Reader

Fragment – Awry (Science Fiction)

Written about 9 years ago for a game I was running, this is an incomplete bit that was intended to provide some parallel illustration for a background event the players witnessed from the outside (the gyrosuits mentioned in the story).  It’s virtually un-edited and as noted in the post title, incomplete.  Still, it’s always worth seeing past work as well as present work.  You learn things from looking at past endeavors, successes and failures both.

AWRY

Warrant Officer Amanda Chase pulled herself down the cramped tunnel leading to the bridge of the ancient freighter, the Hermes.  Doctor Ralph Mattingly tried clumsily to get out of her way, and bumped her shoulder lightly as she passed.  She smiled as he blushed both at her touch and at his own clumsiness.

He was the youngest of the scientists and engineers aboard, virtually her age given the fossilized nature of most of the others.  He was cute, too.  She enjoyed taunting him entirely too much.  He blushed easy and he sure was nice, if a little preoccupied with his work.

She chuckled under her breath as she went past him and called back, “Keep it up, Ralph, you’ll get the hang of it!”

The poor boy still hadn’t gotten used to zero-gee conditions and was as clumsy as a newborn kitten trying its legs.

He laughed nervously and said, “Warrant Officer Chase, if I ever get the hang of this, I’ll declare myself a Mercurian baron and buy myself a moon.”

And he was funny, too.  She laughed exuberantly for him, and more than a little of it was genuine.

She stopped at the hatch and heaved mightily at the mechanism, her face twisted into a caricature of strain.  The latch clanged loose with a metallic thud that echoed through the ship and she pulled it open.  She hung on to the door latch and bounced as it stopped on its opening swing.  She used the momentum to float through the opening and into the bridge.

Already seated inside were two of the engineers and the science team leader.  Doctors Criddle, Mabouta, and Tiesto.  For a long time, she had a hard time figuring out who was a scientist and who was an engineer based off their titles.  They were all doctors and seemed to really enjoy calling each other doctor.

Criddle was a thin guy with a military buzz.  He was the science team leader.  Mabouta was an inner system defector with more degrees than anyone she had ever met, ranging from astrophysics to nutrition.  Visually, Tiesto was a classic nerd.  His hair was neglected rather than affected and his glasses were oddly shaped and thick-framed – so unflattering that the military term was B.C.: birth control.

“No, no, no.  I’ve told you a thousand times, along with everyone else: that formula is flawed at a fundamental level!”  Criddle’s face was flushed with color as he stared intensely across the bridge at Mabouta.

Mabouta’s accent was thick with crisply drawn vowels and spoke heavily of her African origin.  “You speak without knowledge, Doctor.  We will see soon if it is flawed.”

“Would you two knock it off and concentrate on what we’re doing?”  Tiesto’s voice was surprisingly deep; sexy.  Amanda thought that if she could just sit up front at the helm and make him talk about things, she could listen all day and night and wouldn’t care what he said.  She’d just listen and let the silken sound wash over her like warm butterscotch.  A baritone glove of sound, she could still close her eyes and imagine he was beautiful – that helped her enjoy his voice more, even though he tended to drone about mind-numbingly boring things.

She floated in and braced herself, pulling the heavy bridge door shut and locking it tight.  She then turned and drifted easily through the conversation that continued unabated despite Tiesto’s objections.  She crawled over the pilot’s seat as if swimming, though her actions were even more delicate, and it wasn’t until she was fully strapped into the chair, padded for acceleration, that the others noticed her.

“Ah,” Mabouta breathed pleasantly, “Our captain has arrived.”

Criddle eyed her, annoyance etched across his face from the unresolved conversation.  “Yes, so she has.  I take it nozzle wasn’t blocked, then, to judge by the timeliness of your return?”

Amanda spoke without looking, she already knew the pinched expression he was wearing.  “No, Doctor Criddle, it was blocked, but a little digging took care of it.”

“Digging!  Do you have any idea how that could affect the experiment?”  His voice was already beginning to climb to the traditionally shrill tone it took on when he was upset.

She chuckled to herself and heard him sigh in frustration.  “Doctor,” she said, “I didn’t do any damage and we verified that the alignment is still right on.  It’ll be fine.”

“I’d better go check on it anyway.”

“Actually, you’d better strap yourself in, I just got word that the countdown will start momentarily.”

*          *          *          *          *

Ralph Mattingly settled into his position at one of the consoles amidships.  He checked his belts and sighed nervously.  Doctor Talsis sat about ten meters away, down the same side of the ship he was on and was the only other crewman or scientist he’d be physically capable of seeing for some time.  She looked up at the sound and smiled comfortingly at him.  She’d already put on her helmet, but like most of the crew, he was waiting until something happened before he bothered.  The helmets were always so much in the way if you didn’t need them, and since the vessel was pressurized and climate-controlled, the crew only wore their spacesuits at all as a bow toward prudence.  Their minds were elsewhere.

Doctor Talsis was a little different – a little paranoid.  Then again, so was Ralph.

When Doctor Talsis looked away, her attention diverted by the chaos of the console in front of her, Ralph went to work.  From the cargo pockets of his pressure suit, he extracted two relatively small pieces of plastic and a small hollow tube of ceramic.  He tucked them all into his left hand and snaked his right under his chair, gently pulling a bit of the fabric away and fishing inside the stuffing with his fingers.  His index and middle fingers closed on another piece of plastic that was long and had a hole for the tube and corrugations on the outside near the back.  Finally, from under the console he sat at, he drew a small ceramic and steel assembly.  His hands worked quickly and between his legs where Doctor Talsis couldn’t see, and when he was done, he tucked the small pistol into a cargo pocket before going to work at the keyboard.

*          *          *          *          *

It wasn’t the bridge of a warship, but it would do.

Arrayed about her were improved computers and displays, much better than came with a standard Draft-class freighter.  There was Alpha Control which sat before her, and Beta and Charlie to each side.  Alpha was the largest and most powerful, but Beta and Charlie served equally vital functions, not just as backups.  Each Control station had a complex keyboard and a display that hung by a pole from the ceiling, adjustable height and positioning on all of them.  The helm controls were slaved to the chair itself, and it showed obvious signs of reworking and customization done in a hurry.

Beyond it all, was an old-fashioned window.  Sure she could see the stars better on a vid-screen, but there was just something about seeing the twinkle of stars just beyond your reach, and the knowledge that the only thing standing between you is an invisible pane of high-tech glass – virtually nothing.

Amanda’s fingers darted across the keyboards like a maniacal ten-key operator.  The displays in front of her sprang into full glowing life.

“Countdown to begin…”

The voice wasn’t one she recognized, but that wasn’t surprising with the size the fleet had grown to and the number of new personnel now assigned to the Fontana.  She listened absently.

“…now.  T-minus ten minutes.”

Outside a ten-kilometer radius of the Hermes, space teemed with activity.  Four more Mule-class freighters sat well out and behind the Fontana, the Anvil-class carrier that served as flagship for the vessels of Element A.  The Scorpion and the Gordon Brown were also nearby.  The destroyers Corinth and Henry would be out near the target zone.

Buzzing about like tiny flies were the gyrosuits, most of them modified Escorts.  Iridium, Veggie, Harbinger, and Kiki.  She narrowed focus in on Kiki’s CC Escort.  She was holding station just off the Fontana, her sensors focused on the Hermes.  She was always like a big sister to Amanda, and she was apparently still looking out for her.

“T-minus five minutes.”

Amanda began to run down the final systems checks, the scientists around her finally paying attention to something and rapped off answers as quickly as she requested them.  Everything checked out fine.

“T-minus one minute.”

She keyed her mike, “All systems clear, Fontana.  We’re ready to go.”

“Acknowledged, Hermes.  Keep an eye on the gauges, abort if it so much as twitches.”

“Gotcha.”

She ran down the list again, watching the gauges, alphanumeric readouts, and graphic displays.  In her head, she compared values, ran quick formulas, and manually double-checked the most vital systems.  It was a rush job, and by the time she was done, the guy at the other end of the countdown was closing in on the stepping-off point for a new phase in space travel.

“T-minus ten seconds.  Nine.  Eight.”

Amanda’s whole body began to shiver, a sheath of imagined cold wrapping around her like an ancient shawl pulled violently from under a snow drift and wrapped around her waist and shoulders.

“Seven.  Six.  Five.”

Her fingers began to quiver, and she had to concentrate on maintaining the delicate touch she prided herself on.  She watched her fingertips, making sure that although they shook, they were steadily over the proper keys on the touch-pads.

“Four.  Three.”

She swallowed hard.  All the unmanned tests had been fine, but none of them addressed the questions they needed answered.

“Two.”

She was to be the first human to command a faster-than-light vessel, even if it was just a test mule.  She’d go down in the history books.

She keyed the mike and in her sultriest voice, said, “Wish me luck, boys.”

“One.”

“See you in the debriefing.”  She said, sighing.

“Mark.”

Here goes.

She almost laughed at her own antics and then looked at the button as she pressed it, her sigh echoing through her head.  Her finger touched the green light and it changed to red.

The drive was a fold drive or a teleportation drive, or at least the scientists told her that was the closest approximate definition she was likely to understand.  They explained it not so much as the stuff she’d read in science fiction, but not so much different, either.  The drive in the Hermes would generate a field that triggered weaknesses in the fabric of space.  Based on the calibration of the astrogation computer, that weakness would set up a harmonic resonance chain through what the geeks in lab coats called superspace: a parallel realm that existed only when certain radioactive harmonics were achieved.  In this realm, tiny spikes poked inward, each corresponding to hard-coded spots in n-space, and they reacted notably to certain measurable emissions.  When struck properly, all of superspace seemed to shift, moving beneath the emitter until the spike that matched the emissions came to rest directly relative to the emitter.

Still, no one had been through the process and it seemed that the visual and recorded data shifted each time the probes came back.  So a team of volunteers was assembled to go in and observe the phenomenon in action, to hopefully shed some light on it.

Amanda had been selected from a group of shuttle and capital ship pilots, almost none of which had sufficient clearance to know what it was they were getting into.  Amanda, however, had the advantage of being a backup pilot on the Fontana, and thus, clearance to know what was going on.  Her problem was that there were too many pilots in Element A, and she had little to do but maintain equipment and ferry officers about in shuttles.  This experiment was her ticket out of anonymity.

*      *     *     *     *

What happened?  Did the Hermes make it?  Did Amanda make it?  Did Ralph shoot anyone?  Funny thing is: I can’t remember.  =)  I remember what happened to the player characters after that, but I’m not positive I’d decided what happened to the Hermes on the other side of the experiment but that was definitely where the game was going.

Reading it over it’s got a lot of little flaws, but I think it’s surprisingly readable.  Crazy what you find when you scour your hard drive.

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October 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Greetings

Thanks for stopping by.  For those of you that know me, this is where to look for forthcoming scribbles.

I don’t really know what to put here yet except to say that I intend to post some of the things I write, perhaps talk about the process as it exists for me.  With luck, I will have my first substantive post before the end of October, and hopefully it will entertain.  In the meantime, you may get a few rambling and nonsensical comments designed to frighten off  the uncommitted.

Peace.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment