“Spears and Zero-G”
Planet: Askalade (Ruins)
Location: In Orbit
The Polera floated dead in space…
“Not much I can do now,” Paul said. He leaned back in his chair on the bridge and closed his eyes.
The pencil slipped from the lips of Doctor Graham as the power went out in the medical lab. The computer was just minutes away from an eight day analysis on alien biological samples when everything shut down.
“You have to be kidding me,” he said.
The doctor floated up off his chair in the now weightless environment and began pushing himself back towards engineering. He slid through the oil covered door into the large chamber housing the system drives. On the floor, Bill cried out in pain with a jagged piece of support structure pinning him down. Graham went to help by trying to remove the sharp metal as though he was performing surgery.
Catherine checked on the dwindling life-support readouts when something caught her out a window on the side of the ship. There, just 40 feet from the Polera was another vessel. It was a beige transport the likes of which she had not seen. It was nearly four times the size of their own craft covered in odd bits of metals and extensions.
After rescuing and patching up their engineer, the four crew members gathered in engineering to assess their situation. Polera was in the right system but orbiting a planet they didn’t recognize. More importantly, an unknown vessel was right beside them with unknown intentions. Even more importantly, Polera had no means of propulsion in the event the situation got worse. And most importantly of all, life support had roughly 23 hours of time left in the batteries.
“Nice navigating, you ass,” Bill said with no effort to hide his contempt. “You screwed the fold numbers and now we’re here.”
“Hey, this isn’t like slipping through the major lanes in the Confederacy,” Paul said. “This system hasn’t been mapped in a hundred years. Things change. We’re lucky we didn’t fold into the planet.”
Bill rose up on his sore leg and yelled, “Well if you did your job right, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
And another battle between the two men carried on for the next five minutes.
Suddenly, the beige ship extended a metallic claw whose grip spanned 30 feet. The claw opened up and grabbed Polera around the top and held her fast. The small transport ship rocked, but after a long silence, nothing else happened.
Catherine and Paul suited up and went outside to inspect both their own vessel and this claw attached to it. With limited training in the zero-g suits, Paul noticed a serious drop in his oxygen level. Focusing his attention on the display on his wrist, Paul almost didn’t notice Catherine slipping free of the ship and tumbling out into space. Paul scrambled with his gloved hand to grab hold of her tether line slipping past. He finally had a solid grip on her line with just a few inches to spare.
Catherine found herself right up against the beige ship. The side of the vessel had a dozen four-foot metal extensions that waved about in space like the eyes of some alien bug. She grabbed hold of one of the extruberances extending out the ship like fingers poking out of the hull waving about to sense something. It seemed like the end of the moving rod in her hand held a lens like a camera. With a friendly wave at whomever was watching, Catherine pushed off the ship and let the pilot reel her back in.
Bill informed the crew that the only way to get any power established was to realign the generator which had come off its mount during the last fold. Polera did not have the capabilities to repair the machinery without landing at a shipyard, putting them in a dangerous position. They were out in the Ruins, next to a world they knew nothing about, with a ship mere feet away sweeping them with sensors but making no effort to contact them.
After much resistance, Bill finally agreed to try to set the generator up in space but needed strong help. Suiting up, Graham and Paul worked outside with their magnetic boots clamped to the underside of the ship. Removing a panel the opened up to the engine room, Bill, also suited up, worked to guide the massive generator into position. After an hour and a half of hard and dangerous work, the men had to give up. They sealed the engine room up again and took a long break.
Catherine, still frightened from her last excursion outside, suited up again and jumped across the 40 foot expanse between ships. This time, she held a white board under her arm with a message scrawled on it. She hit the side of the beige ship, clamped down with her boots, and held the board up to one of the waving cameras.
“We come in peace and mean you no harm. Please release your claw.”
There were several moments of silence, with nothing but the extruberance looking at her with its unblinking lens. Catherine pantomimed a claw (her hand) reaching out to grab hold of the ship (her wrist) and then letting go repeatedly. With no response from the unblinking lens, she pushed off from the beige ship and returned to her own. Before she had even gotten to her airlock, the claw unclamped from Polera and curled up back into the beige vessel. With a satisfied smile, Catherine returned to her friends.
Graham went down to the ship’s cargo room and disassembled the battery from the motorcycle recently purchased. He took it to the engineering room and attached it to the ship’s systems. It would provide a few minutes of control thrusters, some more life support, and possibly a way to communicate.
Paul ran up to the bridge and brought the communications online with what little power they could find. He began to send out messages of friendship to the other ship. He let them know that the Polera needed assistance and was not a threat. With no answer, he repeatedly keyed in an SOS message using static.
“Why wont you answer!” Paul yelled into the radio. “Give us a sign. Say something. Shine a light. Anything!”
The pilot listened to the empty static. He gave up and headed out of the bridge when an intense light from outside flooded cockpit. The other ship had finally spoken.
The crew pressed their faces to the windows to see what the other ship what up to. It’s little sensor arms moved about as always, but a dark opening appeared on the side of the vessel. It seemed to be inviting them in. After some deliberation, Catherine and Graham decided to head over and investigate. Though it looked very dangerous, there wasn’t much anyone could do on the Polera.
Leaping across the expanse for the third time, Catherine made it to the beige ship and pulled the doctor over. The two of them walked across the ship’s surface until reaching the opening. It was an airlock of human design with markings and levers where they should be, but no one greeted them.
The two of them swung inside and the exterior door closed followed by the interior opening up with a hiss. The air readout checked as normal, and the power was clearly on. They walked down a sterile, white corridor with their boots echoing. Around the next turn, the pair were greeted by a small barricade of furniture and a few human guards.
The guards, keeping watch in their immaculate starship, threatened Catherine and the doctor with spears. The two visitors looked at each through their suit helmets with raised eyebrows. They turned back to the guards who wore linen clothing that seemed more appropriate for some backwater, desert community. The guards barked out orders in Trade bringing more men wielding swords, an old shotgun, and a net.
Graham and Catherine chose not to resist in an effort to earn trust. Pinned to the floor by a net, they were met by a robed figure known as Anjileer Chief Modak who ruled over some of the ship’s crew. Modak recognized that Polera and her crew were more technologically advanced and sought their help.
Modak spoke of his planet suffering from a horrible illness. His people had maintained a ship, the Photaegrin, over many generations for just such an emergency. Each person had been given a task to perform to the best of their abilities and passed it along to the next generation. For more than two centuries, their orders were to launch the ship in the event of a major catastrophe on the planet, which is exactly what they had done.
“No sooner had our mighty boat sailed to the heavens when our Lead Ship shut down the Power,” said Modak.
“Lead Ship?” asked Graham.
“Yes, Lead Ship Symous. He took control of the Power from me and made it cold. Now we have drifted here for more than two months, but Symous will not give us life.”
“Why won’t this Symus help with the Power?” asked Graham.
“Symus is a mad man,” Mordak said. “He follows the Cariet rules even it means the end to not only our lives but those back on our world. We were to bring back help from the heavens. What if that help is you and your boat? If you help cure the sickness on our world, we will help restore the Power to your boat.”
Catherine and Graham agreed to assist with the understanding that they would need to meet with Lead Ship Symous first. Symous and Mordak had taken control of two different halves of the ship with plenty of followers on each side. A standoff in the corridors of the large ship had been going on for the last two months before Polera arrived.
Catherine and Graham braved the immaculate hallways of Photaegrin as they made their way towards the rear of the ship. They were greeted halfway by men armed with swords and knives loyal to Symous.
“Take me to your leader.”
Lead Ship Symous met the crew of Polera, and said it was he and his men who had watched them from the extruberances. They did not have access to the communications on board their ship, but did release the claw. Symous gave them a tour of the engine room where specific people were tasked with scrubbing, others with monitoring computer screens that they knew little about, and finally one man whose job it was to call out from a master checklist of tasks to be completed when any situation arose.
When Catherine asked about why the Power was no more, Symous relayed a story.
Soon after leaving their world, Photaegrin was attacked by a small vessel jammed with sensor equipment. The ship closed in without a word and attached itself to the rear of the ship. Graham recognized this little vessel as an infected one they destroyed the last time they were in the system. The Photaegrin’s engines began to malfunction and reach a critical status detrimental to the ship. Even though Anjileer Chief Modak was in charge of the Power, Symous had to shut everything down and the standoff began.
“But why did you do shut down your engines?” Catherine asked.
“Cariet rule #4: The last word is the last word.”
“What was your last word?”
“I was told ‘When it goes Wild, shut it down. Keep it down.’ “
Paul Cole radioed in the suggestion of providing the Photaegrin with an AI cartridge to wipe the ship’s engines clean of any trace of AI infection. Symous and Modak agreed to a truce to allow this “cleansing” to happen. The cartridge was brought on board, and Anjileer Chief Modak proceeded to his engine room under the guidance of Paul. Paul nudged the religious figure in the right direction in how to perform the holy ceremony of cleaning one’s Evotronic tri-system drive of an AI virus. The checklist master made careful note of everything Modak and Paul Cole did so that future generations would know the steps to take. This included every bit of minutiae that Paul performed during the process from chewing gum to tossing the AI cartridge wrapper over his left shoulder to the floor.
It took only a few minutes before Photaegrin’s engines came to life with cheers from both sides of the conflict. It was time to take the visitors back to their world to help them.
As the Photaegrin had a large hold in its midsection that was completely empty, he flew Polera into the storage bay. Symous then took controls of the Photaegrin from the captain’s chair and began calling out a long list of orders to his people to prepare for their journey home. No one seemed to pay any attention to Paul who had assumed control of the ship from a simple pilot station at the front of the bridge. He wasn’t about to let some backwater crew get everyone into more danger.
Checking out the coordinates of their home world, Paul realized that it was the very planet they had been orbiting for the last few hours. Photaegrin’s grand voyage had only been out of their planet’s atmosphere. He sighed.
With everyone prepared for the arduous 11 minute journey back home, Symous (aka Paul at the pilot station) flew the large transport towards home. With some deft piloting on Paul’s part, Photaegrin managed to arrive at a flat docking entrance on the surface of the planet. Doors underneath parted and the large ship slipped through a field of blue energy keeping the planet’s atmosphere out.
Photaegrin descended into world below ground…
1) Meghan: (wrapping up a conversation about her pet, exclaimed proudly) “Let the gerbils run!”
2) Chris: (after meeting the guards armed with spears) “In space, no one can hear you poke.”
3) Meghan: (as casual as one can say it) “I’m for space fucking…zero-g.”