Asteroid Rake – Chapter 16

“Does this ‘expendable’ thing mean that we can’t ever go back?”

“Honestly, Dana, I don’t know.  The more I get to know the Exos, the more convinced I am that they are not the malevolent beings that our government claims them to be.  I would have thought, before, that the Exos would have used up all of our oxygen long before we found the Makers, but they voluntarily restrained their growth for our benefit.  Now we have a new ally in our ship that can turn rocks into food and air.  Honestly, I think that the Exos and their relatives might not cause the end of the universe as we know it, but might actually be the solution to most of our problems.”

“You think they could reverse pollution, end starvation, be the panacea for all of humanity’s problems?”

When she puts it that way, I have to wonder.  Yes, I think that the Exos could help, but would they cause problems that we can’t foresee?  How many times has a nation imported some plant or animal in order to control a problem, only to find that their country becomes over-run with the “solution?”  I can understand the government’s desire to keep them away, but I can also see the potential help that the Exos could be.

of course we would be beneficial.  You have seen what we can do

Yes, I have seen what you can do.  That’s what worries me.  I have no doubt that you could be a great boon to humanity, and yet if you chose, you could destroy us completely

Don’t you think that, if we wanted to, we wouldn’t have destroyed you already?

But you haven’t reached Earth yet…so I we can’t be certain of your motives.

Do you know that we haven’t reached Earth yet?

“You’re awfully silent…my question make you more pensive than usual?”

While communicating with the Exos, I had almost forgotten Dana’s presence, and so her question startles me.  “Sorry, the Exos were talking to me.”

“I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me anymore.”

“They were just trying to convince me that they would be a panacea.  I’m not entirely convinced anymore…but still, I’m not sure that they’re bad either.”

At points, my ability to instantly communicate with the Exos has seemed like a marvelous gift, but right now, they seem far too close for comfort, especially as they know my thoughts intimately, and I still only know what they reveal to me.  They know my doubts as well as my hopes.  They know my weaknesses and, if they are malevolent, they will know how to manipulate me.  I would suggest to Dana that she find ways to beat the Exos, but they would know what I communicated to her…and despite their assurances, I can’t actually know that they haven’t entered into her system too.  We are completely vulnerable before the Exos.  Are they good?  We can only hope…

~~

writing in response to the “Too close for comfort” prompt at Inspiration Monday where Stephanie Orges gives us 5 different prompts to choose from each week.  Stephanie is convinced that the Exos are evil.  I’m not entirely sure…I suspect that in my story, it’s the leaders of humanity that are the evil ones…however, Stephanie’s doubts now have me wondering what the Exos are really up to.  Only future prompts will let me find out for sure…

I managed a bit more dialogue this week, but it’s still something I struggle with…hope it’s not too stilted…

Asteroid Rake Chapter 15

Just before we depart from the asteroid, I notice that the computer has logged an incoming transmission addressed to all ships:

BE ADVISED:
Be on lookout for: ship: Raw Potential
Captain: Andrew Kelvington

Cptn. Kelvington is believed to be in possession of/infected by potentially harmful alien micro-organism known as Exo-0001.  He has escaped from lawful incarceration and is accompanied by one Dana Ramirez.  It is unknown whether Ramirez is accomplice or hostage.  Cptn. Kelvington and the Raw Potential cannot be allowed to reach Earth or any other inhabited planet or space station.  If you encounter the Raw Potential, use extreme caution.  Cptn. Kelvington is to be treated as armed and dangerous.  Report co-ordinates of the Raw Potential to the nearest military outpost immediately.  If you have an armed vessel, deadly force is authorized.  Dana Ramirez is expendable  She has been deemed an acceptable loss as she is likely also contaminated.

Lovely.  I thought the disaster was having my ship hit by an Exos spore, but apparently that was just the first tremor, and the aftershocks are much worse indeed.

I debate keeping this information from Dana, but apparently she’s been reading over my shoulder.

“I’m EXPENDABLE”?

“Apparently we both are.  We’re in uncharted territory, so the chances of someone finding us is about as close to zero as we can get.  We’ll just have to trust the Exos.”  Even as I say this, I start to wonder why this is uncharted territory anyways, as it is actually quite close to a military outpost.  Thinking is tantamount to communicating with the Exos, but I’m still always a bit surprised when they communicate with me.

We can communicate with you because we are inside of you.  We have relatives that can send out telepathic thought.  We have been aware of your kind for centuries already, and we know your species’ propensity for destroying what it does not understand.  In order to protect ourselves, we have controlled the thoughts of your military and your other ship crews just enough that they have not had any desire to explore in this direction, in fact, they are not aware of this direction at all.

These creatures are either much more intelligent than I had given them credit for, or much more nefarious than I had thought possible if they can create an unnoticed area of space.  I can only hope that they are truly willing to be allies.  I’m a bit worried, though…we can’t exactly stay away from all other human-kind forever.

~~

Written for Inspiration Monday.  I responded to the prompt “aftershock”

The more I write this, the more I see some of my short-comings as a writer:  I want better dialogue between Kelvington and Ramirez, and with the Exos…so something to work at!  I’ve also noticed that when the ship is in space, I keep writing as if gravity is still in play.  Perhaps I’ll do a re-write on this story at some point and fix some of the errors.  I’ve thought of various ways of changing the whole format of this story…for example, I wish I had started this in 3rd person.  But oh well…I’ve started in 1st person, so I guess I need to stick to it!

Asteroid Rake – Chapter 14

As we walk back to the ship, I can’t help but wonder what Dana’s reaction will be to our new guest.  I have with me evidence that this stop did have a purpose, and therefore proof positive that I am indeed in communication with the Exos.

You’ll need to call them something other than exos.  We’ll know what you mean, as we can understand your thoughts, but your companion will get confused if you call all of our varieties ‘exos’.

OK.  I’ll continue to call you Exos, but I’m not sure what to call this new species.  Alchemists seems a bit of a mouthful.

As soon as I say “mouthful”, I expect them to question the meaning, but once again, I’ve underestimated how in tune they are with all of my thoughts…even to the point of understanding colloquialisms and metaphors.

They change one substance to create another.  Why not call them makers?

As we cycle through the air-lock, I consider the name and conclude that makers is as good a name as any.

“Dana,” I say as I enter the ship, “we have a new guest!  Meet the makers!”

“You found a rabbit in outer space?”

Before our eyes, the makers slip from their rabbit form into a goo-like puddle, and then into a perfect model of the ship.  For the first time since we met, Dana’s hard expression softens.  Her eyes light up and she breathes out one word: “amazing!”

But then she hardens again and asks, “but what purpose does it have?  A shape-shifter is cool and all, but parlour tricks are hardly going to help us survive in space!

“Watch!”  I put a small lump of asteroid rock into the mass of makers.  They surround the rock, but at first nothing seems to happen.  I few minutes later, however, they part and reveal a rock of identical size and shape, but now made of a completely different substance.

“Another parlour trick?  I thought that we had come here to get some sort of tool or machine to generate oxygen for us!”

I tried to reassure her: “they’re just demonstrating what they are able to do.  They just changed a rock of one substance into a rock of another.  They can manipulate matter at the atomic level!  They could have just as easily turned that rock into air, or water, or food.”

She fixed me with a blank stare, and I could tell that she was not convinced.  That couldn’t be helped right now, though.  Hopefully with time she’ll see the value in the makers

OK, now we have what we need to make air…now what?

Now we continue on.  We need to show you something, but we still have a long ways to go.  Perhaps you should gather some materials for them to convert into the substances that you will need.

It has been a long time since I have turned on the electro-magnetic rake.  I’ve wanted to get back to my occupation of mining for ferrous metals, but somehow this feels different.  I’m collecting iron, sure, but now instead of using it to generate profit, I’ll be using it as food for the makers in order for them to keep us alive.

Asteroid Rake – Chapter 13

We have been in uncharted territory for 3 days now, and despite what the Exos have told me, I’m getting concerned about the remaining levels of oxygen.  It won’t be long before we pass the point of no return, although even if we did return, my life would be forfeit due to my “contamination”, and Dana probably couldn’t expect much better.

“Where are we?”  Her question startles me out of my self reflection.

“I wish that I knew.  I’m following the instructions of the Exos.”

She gives me a look, someplace between scorn and fear and says, “You expect me to believe that you are in communication with a micro-organism?

I wish that I could have taken back my last sentence.  It was a complete slip-up to tell her that they can communicate telepathically with me.  Now she thinks that I’m insane.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she attacks me and tries to commandeer my ship.

How much farther before we get to where we are supposed to get those supplies?

One more day, based on your reckoning of time, and we will be there.

I decide to take a risk and tell Dana at least part of the truth.  “You already know that the Exos have a cumulative group intelligence?  Since they have entered my body, I have discovered that they have been able to connect with me in a way that, yes, we can communicate.”

“Either that, or insanity is a side-effect of Exo-Itis”  Great.  She’s a comedienne…or worse, she’s serious.

“They tell me that within a day we will arrive at a place where we can gather supplies.  Are you willing to trust me that far? If we don’t arrive someplace with the promised supplies within 24 hours, you can lock me up and take this ship wherever you wish.”

“I don’t know how to fly your ship.  How would that help?”  At least I won’t have to worry to much about a mutiny!

It’s about 21 hours later that we arrive at a small asteroid.  The Exos direct me to leave the ship, so I suit up.  “Do you want to come too?”, I ask, and am rather relieved when she declines.  I wait for the airlock to cycle, step off of the Raw Potential, and follow the almost step-by-step instructions of the Exos.  I arrive at a small cave and step in.  I normally would not do this, as caves on an asteroid can be rather unstable, but the Exos assure me that I run no risk.  A few step in, I am surprised to see a light source coming from deep within.  Not a steady light, but neither does it flicker.  Rather, it is a slow pulsing, as if from something alive

The light comes from a related micro-organism as you would call them.  We suspect that if your human scientists discovered them, they would call them Exo-0002.  There are tens of thousands of types of Exos.  We can all communicate with each other, and we can all help each other out.  But the bio-luminescent ones are not why we are here.  Come further in.

Eventually we get to the back of the cave where I see that the floor is covered in a slowly moving gelatinous ooze.  The Exos tell me that this is yet another of their cousins.  To my amazement, the gelatinous ooze coalesces into a shape that I can only describe as an overly fluffy bunny rabbit.

We wanted the Exo-0003s to present themselves as something that you would find non-threatening, and from the images in your mind, this seemed like a suitable shape.  You humans might think of them as the equivalent of an alchemist, as they are able to manipulate objects at the atomic level.  They will come with us and convert space debris into oxygen as well as edible substances to sustain you.  Come.  It’s time to return to your ship.

~~

The prompt that I am writing to is “fluffy bunnies” over at Inspiration Monday.  And yes, I do realize that this is turning out to be one of the weirdest sci-fi stories ever.  But I figured, “who doesn’t want to read a story that includes space-bunnies with alchemical abilities!!”

Asteroid Rake – Chapter 12

Even as I wonder silently where I should be going, the Exos give me impressions that instruct me the direction to fly and the duration of the flight.

We will gather supplies there

What sort of supplies?

Something that will allow you to produce all the oxygen that you need…even with your companion

She’s hardly a companion, she doesn’t want to be here…doesn’t even like me.

We have searched your thoughts.  We have run through all your words.  Companion was the closest word to what she is.

Of course, they’re not using words exactly, but the impressions they give can only be portrayed as dialogue…and even impressions have a vocabulary of sorts.  Even so, companion seems too familiar.  I’ve been thinking of her as my accidental hostage, but the Exos are right…I can’t really think of her as a hostage either, as I bear no ill-will towards her.  I wish that I could have left without her, but the risk was much too great.  I certainly can’t think of her as a friend…she obviously hates me.

I change the direction of the Raw Potential according to the Exos’ instructions.

Space is a big place.  Even with the amount of time that humans have been exploring, we have only been able to chart a very small area.  I realize instantly with the new heading that we are heading into uncharted territory.  I can only hope that the Exos know where we are going,  because without a star map, the likelihood of me finding anything is about as great as finding a needle in space.  Looks like Dana and I are in for a bit of an adventure, whether we like it or not.

~~

the prompt I wrote to at Inspiration Monday was space needle.  As you can see, I interpreted the prompt in my own way…

Asteroid Rake – Chapter 10

The Exos (as they have consented to let me call them, as exo-0001 was a bit tedious of a name, and they apparently have no name for themselves) have helped me to figure out a way off of The Asclepius.  Each night, while I have slept, someone has come into my isolation room to provide me with fresh food and clean clothing.  I presume anything taken out was immediately incinerated.

I knew, of course, that in order to enter my room, they had to be wearing an environmental suit so that they wouldn’t risk contamination.  Last night, therefore, I forced myself to stay awake while feigning sleep.

Sure enough, about 2 in the morning, according to the ship clock, I was able to observe someone coming in through the airlock.

The plan was simple: wait until I could take the man completely unaware, decouple his helmet and knock him out before he could sound any sort of alarm.  The plan started out perfectly, but when I pulled off the helmet in preparation to deliver the knockout blow, I got a rather unexpected shock.  My mother taught me to never hit a woman, and I wasn’t about to start now.

I did, however, clamp my hand over her mouth and hiss, “I am contaminated, and now you probably are too.”  Her eyes widened in fear, so I continued, “I doubt that your crew members will have any qualms about forcing both of us into the first fire-chamber without an environment suit.  Co-operate with me, and I can get both of us out of this.  Let anybody know what happened here, and your fate will be the same as mine.”

She could not argue with my logic, and so agreed to go and get a second environment suit.

It seemed like an eternity before she returned with a suit for me, and another eternity before we were able to go through the five-chamber fire decontamination chambers.

So far, so good, but I still need to get off of The Asclepius and abscond with the Raw Potential…and I need to do it  before someone discovers what I’ve done and puts the ship on lock-down.  I already anticipated that this would be hard enough to do, but now I have a hostage to deal with too.  She is coming willingly right now, but I suspect that’s out of a sense of self-preservation more than any sense of loyalty to me.

~~

Stay Awake was the one of the prompts at Inspiration Monday this week

Asteroid Rake – Chapter 9

I had been a “guest” on The Asclepius for a week before the voices started.  Well, not voices, exactly, but thoughts that weren’t my own…thoughts that demanded an answer.  These thoughts weren’t in English, but were somehow more…profound…more basic.  I understood the thoughts more clearly, somehow, than I would have ever understood words.  To explain these thoughts, I have to use words, but even more so than changing things from one language to another, much is not conveyed in my translation.

why are you here?

I am being held here, because I might be contaminated with an alien organism

and why do you say contaminated?

It is an organism that consumes all available oxygen, and when they multiply enough, they act as a single being that becomes more and more intelligent as it grows…even to the point of sentience…maybe beyond.

is sentience malevolent?

It was at the point that this thought came into my mind that I knew…I am contaminated.  Somehow, the Exo-0001 organism is residing within me, and speaking to me directly.  Perhaps telepathically, perhaps they have managed to tap into my brain directly.  I don’t know.

I couldn’t answer the thought immediately.  How do I explain to the alien being that, no, sentience isn’t necessarily malevolent…but it can be, and I fear this being.  If it gets to earth, I believe it will destroy all life by consuming our oxygen.  Even now, I wonder how long I have.  If this being is inside me, they are consuming the oxygen that I am inhaling.

Even in my silence, though, they have understood my thoughts enough to have received their answer.

why do you fear us?  Are you not still alive?

But for how long?  Will you not consume all of my oxygen until I suffocate?

were you always the size that you are now?

What?

were you always the size that you are now?

No.  When I was born, I was quite tiny.

I fear that I will have to explain “born” to them, but they delve deeper into my thoughts and memories.  They understand.

how did you grow to the size you are now?

By eating, I suppose

will you continue growing forever?

No.  I stopped growing quite some time ago.  I still need to eat, though.

do you eat more now than you did as a baby?

Yes.

do you eat more and more with each passing year?

No.

what make you think that we will continue to grow indefinitely?  Do you not think that we could expand our colony to just an optimal size, and then divide only in order to maintain our size, like the division of cells within your own body?

Apparently, they have been using my memories as a library.  How else would they know about human growth, and cell division?

let us go to your ship and we will show you something.  We can promise not to consume all your oxygen.  In fact, we can promise you an unlimited supply of oxygen.  This journey will take some time.

But my ship has been impounded, and besides, I am a prisoner here, and likely will be until I get completely lost in the system.

your ship has not yet been taken, and we can help you to escape.

I don’t yet know if I should trust my guest.  My fellow humans, though, have not shown me any reason to expect to be free again.  The Exo-0001, at least, is giving me some sort of hope…even if false hope.

~~

Chapter 9 of Asteroid Rake is written in response to the prompt: “lost in the system” over at the Inspiration Monday website.

 

 

 

 

Learning to Breathe

“But…it’s fluid!” she said, with more than just a touch of panic in her voice.

“Calm down, Ana.  We’ve been though this before.  The atmospheric pressure would destroy your lungs if you had a gaseous substance in them.  It has to be liquid.”

Exploration of the outer planets had been talked about for years.  It began in the twentieth century with unmanned spacecraft sent to orbit the planets and take pictures.  It wasn’t until the twenty third century that scientists at NAASA managed to develop a craft that was actually capable of landing on…or more correctly…in… one of the gas giants.

Now, finally, in 2645, the first human voyage to Neptune was being planned.

A’ron had been the first human subject to breathe the specially engineered ThickAir.  After coming out of the chamber, he had joked, “it’s no worse than drowning!”  La’Ana had nearly drowned as a child, and the thought of going through that again was simply more than she could tolerate.  Intellectually, she knew that Ron had been joking, but still…La’ana just couldn’t bring herself to enter the chamber and purposefully inhale a liquid.

The other explorers had all been able to get the hang of it, and they were getting impatient with the lone hold-out.  She would have been cut from the team if not for the fact that she was the only qualified nano-technician in all of New Amarikka who was still young and healthy enough to make the voyage, but still, if she refused to learn how to breathe, she was simply no good to them at all.

It was during Quen’s practice time in the chamber that it happened.  The chamber was simply a giant hyperbaric room to simulate Neptune’s extreme barometric pressure.  He was wearing his breathing apparatus, but La’ana noticed that it was leaking.  If his ThickAir depleted, his lungs would be crushed in a fraction of a second.  She tried calling him to come out to the depressurization lock, but the com seemed to be broken.  Frantically, she looked around for someone to go in to save him, but there was nobody to be seen.

Finally, she did the only thing that she could.  She suited up herself and went in.  She coughed and gagged as the warm liquid filled her lungs, but found that, amazingly, she could breath the stuff!  She ran in and dragged Quen to the lock.  With hand signs (as speaking is impossible with liquid oxygen), she indicated that he needed to switch back to normal air.

When they were both able to breathe again, he began to laugh.  “My tank wasn’t leaking.” he told her, “Didn’t you see the hose I had over my shoulder?  I was just washing the chamber!”

~~

Written for Inspiration Monday

The Old Lift

Margaret always thought that the old lift seemed incongruous with the the modern sky-scraper.  Like all the other people who worked in the building, she avoided it at all costs, presuming it to be unsafe.  Besides, the glass elevator on the building’s exterior gave a much more thrilling view!

She arrived to work late on Thursday, just in time to miss the departure of the elevator and hear the guard say that the elevator was being closed for maintenance.  She’d have to use the old one.

Reluctantly, she stepped in, pressed “36” for her floor, and found herself there…in nineteen-thirty-six.

image: Copyright -Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

~~

Written for Friday Fictioneers.  Each week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields gives us a picture as a prompt, and then we get to write a story of approximately 100 words on any topic we can come up with, as long as it’s inspired by the picture.

The Earth is Doomed (or is it?)

Copyright - David Stewart

Copyright – David Stewart

Quarrog was always surprised how easy it was to infiltrate the homes of his victims.  In fact, he didn’t have to do anything at all…they just picked him up and carried him in.  Once he sent word back to his home planet, he was confident the invasion of “Thee-yurth” (as the inhabitants called it) would be quite successful.

What he didn’t realize was that the only reason he was getting in so easily was that he looked exactly like a lamp, and the only homes that his people would infiltrate were the ones where the owners were shopping for lamps.

~~

for Friday Fictioneers