The nature of the lady, p.1
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       The Nature Of The Lady, p.1
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           Ray Daley
The Nature Of The Lady
The Nature Of The Lady

  Raymond Daley

  Copyright 23/1/12 by Raymond Daley

  It has always been naval tradition that ships are referred to as she.

  Even now in the 23rd Century as the ships traverse the stars that tradition still stands.

  Stories tell us that men used to steer by the stars, navigating entirely by eye. More by faith than any form of science. As technology progressed charts were drawn up, becoming more and more detailed.

  No longer were the unknown white spaces filled with "Here Be Dragons".

  Technology brought forward radar and sonar but still a good sailor was taught how to use the stars and the sun as instruments of steerage.

  Even today the abyss that is the many galaxies are still unmapped, places are still unknown.

  Here Be Dragons - Perhaps.

  Stranger things have been discovered by the little ships that still explore the depths of space. Back in the 20th Century mankind imagined strange and wonderful creatures on long forgotten TV shows, movies and the beauty that was once the printed book.

  Now we have computers. Intelligent computers. Thinking machines.

  ***

  This is the final log of the Tegan. I named her so from an old Cornish word, it means beautiful thing.

  She is very much a thing of beauty indeed, long glistening lines of silver.

  We were exploring an uncharted sector near Rigel when she logged the other craft.

  "Unidentified vessel, twelve degrees X axis, seventy two degrees Y axis, twelve thousand kilometres out". Tegans voice was like a smooth drink of malt whiskey.

  I often imagined her to have flowing long red hair and cupids bow lips. Funny to attribute such qualities to nothing more than a few circuit boards and a whoosh of electrons.

  Being in space alone does odd things to the mind. You don't HAVE to be mad to work here - but it helps!

  "Send welcome messages on all frequencies in all languages. Let them know we want to be friends" I said, even then prepping weapons and shields.

  Just in case.

  We'd never had a bad reception yet. To date, everyone we'd met had been happy to see us. Happy to learn their species wasn't entirely alone in this huge space. The one thing that seems to always unite us is our fear of being alone. From man to space tiger, all of us fear loneliness.

  "Messages sent."

  Odd, normally Tegan would say sent and acknowledged. Or sent and received.

  Not everyone wanted to say hello back but almost everyone sent back some sort of sign they'd heard what we'd said.

  Not everyone wanted to meet us. Not everyone wanted to talk. But everyone had acknowledged we shared the same space.

  Until today.

  "No response signal?" I queried. Tegan didn't make mistakes and I knew that, but I had to ask.

  "Negative. Signal repeated on rotating frequencies. No sign of acknowledgement or receipt." she replied

  Possibly they didn't communicate like us?

  "Try all bandwidths and wavelengths? Try Light messages too?" I was grasping at straws whilst punching in probable combat manoeuvres and escape vectors.

  "Attempts confirmed. Messages sent." Tegan sounded slightly peeved that no-one was answering back.

  "Unidentified vessel, twelve degrees X axis, seventy two degrees Y axis, One thousand kilometres out. Speed increasing, likely intercept vector. Attack posture imminent." Tegan knew a threat when she saw one. This one was most definitely a threat. And not an idle threat either.

  "Dump all ships logs and records via light probe, fire distraction measures. Make sure that probe gets off. And tell my mother I'm sorry I'm going to miss her birthday."

  I knew this was probably going to be my last chance to send a personal message home, this had been our fourth mission in this rotation and we were scheduled for twelve more. I'd promised my mother I'd see her on her next birthday and I vowed to myself if we got out of this one alive we were shipping straight back home. Screw the schedule.

  Family is more important.

  I felt the slight jink to one side as the light probe launched.

  ***

  Ships log, automated entry generated.

  The alien craft fired one shot.

  It penetrated our shields and hull.

  Captain was clearly targeted as the sole life sign aboard.

  Definite hostile act. Weapon of unknown origin.

  Unlike any weapon previously encountered.

  Logic circuits infer possible subatomic particle design.

  Bridge breached.

  Captain hit.

  Explosive loss of atmospheric pressure detected.

  Hull breached.

  Instruments detected deceased human two points off port side adjacent to hull breach.

  Default mission settings activated.

  If no human life signs detected aboard then return to point of origin soonest

  Course plotted, engines engaged.

  ***

  "This is Gateway Station Terra, unidentified Light Probe detected. Scrambling interceptors for pick-up". announced Operator Nine.

  "What have we we got Operator Nine?" asked the interceptor pilot.

  "Looks like a message buoy, I guess someone finally found an unfriendly" replied Operator Nine.

  The interceptor pilot picked up the Light Probe, as reported it was a message buoy from advanced Scout Ship Yod Three.

  Precautions had been taken with the design of the message buoy, encryption of many layers. If a ship were captured by a hostile force we had ensured it would not give up its secrets easily.

  Many months passed in the decryption process.

  ***

  "This is Gateway Station Terra to craft on inbound Terran vector. Is that you advanced Scout Ship Yod Three?" queried Operator Nine.

  "This is Tegan on inbound Terran vector, fulfilling Captains final request. Please grant planetary clearance." said Tegan.

  Operator Nine knew the long range pilots had a strange relationship with their AI ships. He'd never heard of them being given names before but he was a smart guy, anything was possible.

  "Priority clearance level Gamma Two has been accorded this vessel, Operator Nine. Please comply." said Tegan.

  Operator Nine wasn't going to argue with that particular clearance level. He hurriedly cleared an air corridor.

  "Path Delta Four available now, advanced Scout Ship Yod Three. Planetary clearance open. Proceed with caution" answered Operator Nine.

  Tegan adopted the designated air corridor. Back-tracing all previously sent messages she found the routing that led to Captains home.

  ***

  "This is House. Incoming message for Mother. Please pick up." House announced over all its circuits.

  Mother moved into the kitchen to the closest available receiver and punched up the House circuit.

  "What is it House, a message for me? Where from?" she asked House.

  "Unable to locate source Mother, but message routes as from Captain Pearce" House replied.

  House patched the message through to the kitchen.

  "This is Tegan. Fulfilling Captains final request for message transmission. Please stand by." Although the sultry tones of Tegans voice were unfamiliar to Mother she was aware of her sons shipboard AI, he had spoken of it many times in his various transmissions home.

  There was a short pause. The comm circuit kicked in again.

  "Tell my mother I'm sorry I'm going to miss her birthday". Captains final recording played over Houses comm circuit.

  "This was Captains final request, that I pass this message. Please acknowledge received and understood" said Tegan.

  "Message re
ceived and understood. Thank you Tegan". Mother barely managed to stifle her emotion as she closed the circuit.

  ***

  From a high geosynchronous orbit above the small green island advanced Scout Ship Yod Three transmitted again.

  "Shipyard One, this is Tegan. Permission to come home?" Tegan managed to keep the plea from her voice.

  The short pause prior to answer was an eternity for Tegan.

  "Transmission received and acknowledged advanced Scout Ship Yod Three. Come on home. The landing lights are on" the operator replied in a welcome friendly tone.

  Tegan engaged engines, plotted her course and returned home.

  ________________________________________________________________

  Authors Notes:-

  I've always been a fan on artificial intelligence, especially in ships. Anne McCaffrey is probably the best author in that particular field. I bow my head to her superior story telling skills. If Yod Three looks familiar I borrowed it from Joe Haldemans "Forever War"

  Until I was almost finished Captain had no name at all. I called him Pearce after Hawkeye in MASH but chose to spell the way a friend of mines surname is spelled. Roberto, this one's for you buddy ;-p

  The space tiger reference is to Wing Commanders Kilrathi. By an odd coincidence Rob also likes tigers.

  Tegan was always Tegan from the second I started. And no she's NOT named after the Doctor Who assistant (as much as I like Janet Fielding!), she was named after a song by a band I like called Sing-Sing, For those interested it can be found on the album "The Joy Of Sing Sing", its track 2.

  In the original idea Tegan was going to fight the aliens and destroy them. I changed my mind after deciding fulfilling Captains last request was much more important.

  To make for easier reading all humans are written in normal text, machines are written in italics.

  It is my thinking that eventually mankind will chance his arm and explore the depths of space. We can only roll the dice so many times before we throw snake eyes and meet someone who isn't happy to see us.

  Our own history, planet and species should stand as a testament to the fact that most times indigenous peoples aren't happy to see visitors and that they normally mean trouble. I can but hope that the poor bugger who is in that position hasn't read this before meeting them.

  This is version 2, I spotted a spelling mistake so 27 people have read the mistake version.

 
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