A short sci-fi tale of a crew on a ship where things heat up one day on their trip. I lost sleep to this, please read/yell at Rumanshi for working me so hard. I agree that there could be extra dialogue in some parts, but I admit I got tired. The other part will be available within a month or two. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy and check out my blog for stories of all kinds! Thanks.
A machine voice dictates, “Lead Technician Phil Bolt there is a potential problem with the back up solar panels. Action is advised.”
A man with a rough-hewn body comes to attention from the terminal he’s standing at and pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He clears away the maintenance reports he had planned to sift through during the day. Then, he types out a message detailing his confirmation of the AI’s attached logs concerning a potential problem. He thinks, ‘I hope the engineers didn’t make a mistake, because we’re far from any pit stop.’
Elsewhere, in a dimly lit room a wiry man is stooped over some plant materials and petri dishes. He reaches into his lab coat pockets and fishes out an unmarked petri dish. He takes a dropper and samples some of what’s in the dish into some plants. He adds some chemicals and heads to the opposite side of the room.
He removes a mouse from a bio-container for animals, which has several separations. He takes a little of his final product and grinds it in front of the animal’s small snout. A few seconds afterwards the animal starts to shudder and expel fluids. The man smirks and cleans up his mess. He pockets the final product in a plastic vacuum bag.
He passes through the sanitation shower and exits the lab. He walks toward a cabin labeled “Wei Smith: Asleep” and the window looking into the small space is darkened.
Whereas, in a well-lit room a man with sharp features is glued to a terminal screen at the other ends of the hallway. He is scanning lines of text and occasionally inputting some, but stops when something catches his eyes. He checks it over a few times, then scratches his head. He thinks, ‘This can’t be right, because if it is that’s a major bug in the AI that could compromise manual control of some functions.’ He sighs and makes a quick report to send to the mission control members on Earth.
The monotonous machine voice bellows again, “Software Specialist Albert Enriquez there is a potential Class-1 Breach.”
The man raises his eyebrows and mutters about a false-positive in the middle of nowhere. He starts going into the depth of the system and access the root of the mainframe.
In a less cramped area than the computer room a man wearing official clothing with a stern expression is relaxing in his seat with his eyes peeled to a thin tablet in his hands. He flips through pages with motions of his eyes leading to fluid reading of last week’s news. The headline article seems to be about his ship and suspicions of an official for the space company being involved in corruption. He recalls the suspicions and remembers a conversation earlier in the voyage of the ship as Captain Linnaeus Wang with the Lead Scientist Angela Freeman.
Linnaeus said, “Isn’t the name odd?”
Angela said, “I think the engineers were feeling cocksure giving the ship the name of Icarus.”
Linnaeus said, “I guess none of the lot are superstitious, since we’re going to Venus. Closer to the sun than the Marco Polo.”
Angela inquired, “Actually, about the Marco Polo. I heard that you originally wanted that ship. Why so?”
Linnaeus answered, “I did, because their mission is exploration on a planet with a lot more progress on the terraforming front. Heading to this ol’ godforsaken planet to bolster the floating city is not as fun.”
Angela said, “It’s good work, though I wish we had cryopreservation.”
Phil lumbers in and makes a remark on that, “It works, but sadly they can’t stop our muscles from atrophying yet. For now we have to make do with staying up.”
Linnaeus responds, “I don’t mind a bit. I prefer staying caught up on the world instead of being in the dark when I would wake up from that.”
Phil chuckles and says, “You might never wake up. Really at anytime we could die and those sleep pods would only make it painless and unknown. We’d be resting in cold coffins.”
Linnaeus shrugs off the morbid thoughts brought on by the negative news. He sets aside his tablet and hears from his comms that there are potential problems abound. He thinks, ‘It’s probably just some minor stuff.’ He sends word back to Phil to give him a status update as soon as possible in case the ship needs to be stalled. He leaves Albert to his work.
Phil comms to the hardware specialist Kristen Sier, who’s eating some dried food for a meal.
He says, “I’ll need you to suit up, because there’s something we might have to fix.”
She asks, “What with? I’ll be on my way anyways.”
He says, “A panel seems like it might be oriented the wrong way. We could lose some crucial energy input from that efficiency loss.”
She suits up and heads on over. Phil asks the captain to stall the ship and begins the procedure to send her out into space opening the locks from inside. Kristen reaches the panel and tinkers away to fix it. Phil aids her with occasional instructions and sets about checking the software program to see if it’s corrupted or faulty. He thinks to himself, ‘Standards have really fallen lately. Never had a problem in my last voyage.’
Wei wakes up to a hand over her mouth and an arm restraining her across the waist. Her eyes widen in alarm and she tries to struggle free. In turn the pressure on her abdomen increases. The man from the laboratory shushes her and starts moving her to the bridge.
Angela stops using the treadmill in the exercise room as she realizes the ship has stopped. She heads to the bridge to ask.
The man gets there first with Wei restrained and removes the bag from the sample he created earlier. The Captain is shocked by the sight and at a loss for words briefly. Angela gets to viewing distance, but shrinks away once she sees the hostage situation. She rushes to tell the others.
Linnaeus manages to utter, “Drew Cross, why are you holding Wei like that? I demand to know the purpose.”
Drew says, “It’s exactly what it looks like. She’s my hostage.”
Linnaeus says, “Why would you a biologist be wanting to take life without meaning?”
Drew smirks and says, “That’s not the topic. What I want you to do is listen to me otherwise she dies.”
Linnaeus slowly nods yes and asks, “So, what could you want out in space?”
Drew answers, “What could be brought back to Earth for a lot of money. Start recording a message.”
After Linnaeus complies Drew begins speaking, “Hey headquarters, can you guys kindly turn over the monetary equivalent of this ship and its crew to my account? I wonder how much they’re worth. See, I have some problems that all this money could take care of. I anxiously await your positive response.”
Linnaeus gets a comms from Phil about Kristen having fixed the problem, then Angela interrupts describing the situation on the bridge. Phil informs Linnaeus that he’s running over now while Kristen stays in case of an emergency.
Angela finishes up telling the two and moves to tell Albert who continues working to make some kind of fix for the flaw. Especially as he considers it might be related to Drew. With the mindset that this error had intent he goes through logs and finds record of automated tampering as if someone inserted a prewritten program with knowledge of the ship standards. Angela goes to the laboratory to synthesize a countermeasure to Drew’s biological weapon.
On the bridge it’s still only Linnaeus and Drew with Wei there against her will.
Linnaeus says, “Please, Drew reconsider other options to solve your problem. This is utter madness!”
Drew says, “This is the best solution I had! If you don’t stop talking I’ll off her right now. Less money sure, but less mouth from you for it.”
Linnaeus goes quiet as they all wait.