Cosmic Tales 8: GhostRichard C. Parr / Humor / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction
COSMIC TALES 8: GHOST
Richard C. Parr
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Cosmic Tales 8: Ghost
Copyright (C) 2015 by Richard C. Parr
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This story in the series Cosmic Tales is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, then please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting and supporting the author's work.
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The droning sound from the Chromium Bullet's hyper drive wound down to an idle hum as Captain Wingclipper pulled the lever and slowed the ship to a steady cruise, ending the hyper space section of the journey. He breathed a sigh of relief as the ship had successfully stayed intact through the intense forces and pressure from travelling at a phenomenal speed. The stars ceased to blur, stabilising to dot the far distant background of space, twinkling like peaceful nightlights against the incomprehensible vastness. He lit a cigar and coughed at the first intake of smoke, acknowledging it had been a while since he had sparked up, admiring the taste and quality of the contraband. He puffed out a stream of thick smog, yellowing the cockpit and flooding the front part of the ship before the automatic fans kicked in and sucked out the pollution. He was so pleased that he'd had them installed. No more crew complaints. The enjoyment of a cigar in peace could commence.
Helion V and the galactic records library was less than six hours away, and he thanked the maintenance mechanics on Voloxo who had performed an upgrade on the hyper drive, shaving a whole day off the regular journey time. For the first time in a while he had been able to spend his money on the goods and supplies he desired; in fact, he thanked himself for having sufficient notes to be able to enjoy luxuries, having recently avoided the casinos and game dens on multiple planets. He reminisced and began to worry he was turning soft.
As he took a sharp draw on the cigar, a red light flashed on the cockpit indicating a problem with the defensive shield. For some reason it had been rendered offline. The red light flashed again and Wingclipper pressed the manual override to switch it off. He frowned and stubbed out his cigar, then got up and went to the engine room. He found Elwood and 234 inspecting wires and fiddling with a box of electrics. Sparks dripped from the ceiling.
"There's a problem with the defence shield. It just turned off."
"Sir, the defence shield can only be turned off from inside this room," said 234.
"I didn't touch it," said Elwood. "I'm fixing a fuse box, not tampering with the ship's major controls."
"It's a strange one," said Wingclipper. "I'm getting into the evacuation pod and taking a look outside."
"This won't affect our trip to the records library, will it?" said Elwood tentatively.
"I'm afraid this kind of repair is more important than travelling to the library. You wouldn't want to be in the middle of a deadly exchange with no protective shield, would you?"
Elwood sighed and cursed silently. The trip to the library was all he had been contemplating for about a week. It was the one place this side of the galaxy that might contain large reference books on the history and whereabouts of the earth. He climbed up the small ladder and continued mending a circuit board with a hot needle and delicate, patient concentration.
Wingclipper entered Rodeena's quarters while she was practising her reptilian martial art technique. She span around and hovered a foot millimetres from Wingclipper's nose. He saw the intricate patterning of blue and purple spots on her foot and the nature of her scaly, thickened skin. With the emotion of someone who was bored and unimpressed, he told her to remove her foot before explaining the situation. They walked to the evacuation room in the bowels of the ship and stepped into the emergency pod, while Bink cruised beside them. The pod was activated and a hatch on the bottom of the Chromium Bullet opened up, depressurising the room. The sudden change in pressure caused temporary havoc within Bink's circuitry before it automatically adjusted to a space setting, and the ball droid prepared itself to work in zero atmospheric conditions.
Rodeena lowered the pod and it sank into space. They both saw the underside of the ship and its charred, metallic grids and tiles. Bink followed before the hatch shut them out into the loneliness of space.
"Don't even try to make a move on me," said Rodeena. "And don't think I've forgotten about what happened the last time we were in here."
"It's the last thing on my mind," Wingclipper replied. "We have work to do."
"Work? You're more focused on getting work done? Why can't you be like this more often?"
"Work is only necessary when there's something to do, otherwise finding work to do when it is not necessary is time wasted. That's what I learned in the galactic military. My job was ninety nine percent boredom and one percent total chaos and panic. We would either be shooting in all directions hoping we didn't kill each other, or playing pool and smoking cigars."
"And this is a one percent occasion?"
Wingclipper relit his cigar and said, "Not if you don't nag me," blowing out a smoke plume.
Rodeena ignited the engines softly and two lengthened rods of robotic arms unfolded from a cross position on the pod's roof. Bink followed and watched the arms as they approached the ship's surface. On a screen within the pod's cockpit came a vision of outside via a camera. Wingclipper used a handle to toggle through options and zoomed in. He scrutinised every minute detail of the tiles as they hovered and slid extremely slowly on the underside of the ship. The robotic hands slid across and the sensors came up with nothing abnormal to report on the screen.
"Perhaps it was a fault in the ship's sensory system," said Rodeena. "We should check the electrics from the main cockpit. There is clearly nothing to see here."
As they discussed their options, Bink bleeped and the noise transmitted into the pod's cockpit, breaking their conversation. Bink motioned to an area a few feet away and Rodeena moved the pod towards it. Wingclipper moved the on-screen camera to focus on an area about the size of a square foot.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" said Rodeena.
"Two women at once?"
She elbowed him, then the robotic claws unfolded and ran their sensors over the surface. Properties came back with an X-ray of a green rectangular block attached to the craft. The scan displayed a myriad of electrics, akin to a tiny city within a casing, connected to larger wires and fuses and a very small computer system running the block. Its primary power source was solar. The claws gripped it and Wingclipper pried the item very carefully off the surface, rocking the pod slightly as it detached, while Rodeena retreated the pod back several feet. Wingclipper stubbed out his cigar again and replaced it in his belt.
"We should go back inside and examine this item," he said and Rodeena turned the pod around to face the exit hatch. Unexpectedly, as she rotated the pod, every single light on the Chromium Bullet went out.