Saturday, July 24, 2021

Space Trucker pt1

 Okay, currently reading and digesting a major court ruling so this week you get part one of a short story. Hopefully you all enjoy it.

 Star-date 2785.621
    In route from the Terran mining colony on comet Elanin to Alpha Centari 5, hauling a load of cyanide crystals when my truck woke me from a deep sleep and a wonderful dream.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through my six day traverse between systems.  I crawl out of my berth and head for the Jon, while sitting down to do my business I pull out an info tablet and begin reading why my truck woke me.  Apparently I've been caught in a gravity field that isn't on any of the charts and the simple navi-con that does the driving while in deep space can't handle anything that isn't on the charts.  Looking at the auto scan images I determine it isn't a rouge black hole, but it is apparently a much larger space craft.  Probably deep space pirates, they've become quite the issue over the last few years, I should know, I used to be one.  I pull up my jeans and after applying deodorant pull on a flannel shirt and after pulling on a pair of brown, retro, cowboy boots I wrap my ammo belt and holster around my waist then drop my antique forty-four peacemaker into its holster.  I step behind the control wheel of my old Peterbilt and pull the seat up and begin taking full stock of my situation.
    My truck is in tact and unharmed, cargo monitors indicate transit spheres are in tact, all engine functions within normal parameters, the only thing abnormal is this rogue gravity field.  All sensors indicate it to be emanating from about two o'clock on the starboard side but, nothing specific shows on the scanners nor with a visual check through the windscreen.  Windscreen a funny name for the front portal of an interstellar freighter, probably a hold over from sometime in the distant past.  I disengage the auto-pilot and bear down on the throttle as the gravity field isn't that strong but instead of pulling away the field intensifies and then in the distance a bright light can be seen as three escort fighters come racing toward me.  I back out of the throttle and shift the old girl into neutral.  No point in provoking whoever it is, if it's pirates at worst I'll lose my load, if it's the federation it'll just be a routine cargo inspection.  Either way I should be back on my way inside of two hours.
    The three escorts take flanking positions with one behind me and I can clearly see they're robotically controlled.  I'm now drifting toward the bright spot where the escorts came from and as we get closer the effect of the cloaking field begins to weaken.  The ship is large, very large, seemingly made up of many smaller ships and several chemical refineries.  The light of a large loading bay now fills my vision but to my surprise the bay is empty.  I initiate the landing sequence and soon the gravity field shuts down as the truck settles down upon the deck.
    The escorts do not follow me into the ship and instead I am greeted by a group of robot-centennials all encircling my ship with photon blasters lowered.  A single robot approaches my truck and I open the drivers portal as the bay checks out as breathable and address the sentinel.
    "So, what's up?"
    "You will come with me."
    I learned a long time ago there's no point arguing with a robot.  I reach over and grab my beat up carpet bag from the passenger's seat and throwing its carry strap over my shoulder I climb down from the cockpit to stand before the three meter tall robot and it begins leading me away.
    "No photon disruptors?  Most humanoids put up quite a struggle when we bring them aboard."
    "Well I don't see much of a point in it.  I figure your not federation so your probably with one of the groups of space pirates so, what's the worst that will happen you'll take my cargo and I'll be on my way in an hour or so."
    "Oh no, your vehicle will be assimilated into our ship and if we have need for your cargo we will put that to use as well.  As for you, I am to take you to engineering where you will be added to the fuel inlet stream and quickly vaporized, thus propelling us one millimeter further along in our traversing of the galaxy."
    "Seems a rather harsh way to treat a fellow pirate."
    "Oh, it's nothing personal it's just how we treat any that are unlike us.  Although I may take you to the master control brain and see if I could keep you for a pet seeing as I find you rather interesting.  Take for example I am curious about your accessory hanging from your right hip."
    "Oh this little'ol thing?"
    I pull the gun from its holster and twirl it around my middle finger.
    "This is called a peacemaker, it clears the positronic impulses and brings true inner peace.  I used to do android and robotic therapy, so it's just a habit to always carry it around."
    "Inner peace?  I would very much like to know what that is like, could you show me?"
    "Sure, but I'll need to see your processor interface."
    The robot turns its back to me and opens its outer shell revealing its glowing positronic network to me, and I bring the gun up to the center of the glowing orb.
    "This may sting just a little at first but then total inner peace will be achieved."
    With a squeeze of the trigger the gun roars to life, its thunderous boom echoing and reverberating back and forth through the smooth passageway.  The soft lead of the projectile completely obliterates the brain as it passes through and as it exits the robots shell it leaves a six inch hole in its wake.  Some beings would feel remorse for what I just did, but why should I?  Its just a walking computer after all, running whatever programs it had been fed by its fabricator.
    Now I needed two things, first a place to hide before the sentinels show up and second a way to free my truck so I can get out of here.  The first thing showed up rather quickly as I ducked into a conduit service hatch and waited.  Fractions of seconds turned into minutes and seconds into hours as I stood there, my heart pounding within my chest, veins pulse and throb in my arms with every heart beat, I can hear every thump of my heart and sweat runs down my icy cold body causing me to shiver in its wake.  By the time I hear the sentinels gathering outside the thin piece of metal separating me from them my eyes have adjusted to the dim light of a lonely green indicator lamp not far from me and I just manage to flip the locking mechanism on the hatch when something tries to open it.  I move slightly further into the conduit and settle into one of the lower tubes to think things through before I get caught.  I don't fear the sentinels as they can't fit in here but I do fear being found by a maintenance bot if they too had their programing corrupted.  For now I slide down and peer out through the louvered ventilation openings as best I can and find that a sentinel is still blocking the access panel.  I sit back up and drag my carpet bag over to me and untie its leather closings.
    The inside of the old bag has gotten quite the collection of odd things over the years but each one has proven its self useful by getting me out of one scrape or another.  And for times like this is why every item is kept in a heavy felt bag, so nothing rattles or bangs against each other.  Stealth has always been my key to survival.  I dug past the sewing kit, past several meals ready to eat, past the oldest known tool--a hammer, ah their it is a screwdriver.
    Laying flat in the floor of the conduit I again peer out through the louvers and seeing things much as they were I carefully insert the screwdriver and very slowly bend one louver open a little further.  With the greater opening I can see clear across the corridor.  Three sentinels stand looking down at the carnage of their brethren while two more stand watch scanning the corridor in either direction.  So no way I'm getting out this way.  I sit back up and do a little more digging in my bag and pull out a pair of dark vision glasses then putting everything else back I head further into the conduit and thus further into the ship.  When the feeble light of the entrance is nearly gone I slip on my glasses and everything becomes visible again in shades of infra-red.  I catch another conduit heading up, then back across the way I came and soon am passing over top of the robots in the corridor below which are just visible through an ill fitting tile in the ceiling grid.  I lay upon the open grating where two bots are within clear view below and take careful aim with the peacemaker before changing my mind, I figure if I make the shot I might give away my position and then be in real trouble.  I holster the gun, reach back into my bag and with a little careful digging find what I'm after, a high frequency radio wave emitter.  I take aim and pull the trigger, the only sound is that of the intended bot hitting the floor as the electromagnetic pulse races through its circuitry rendering all its electronics useless.  Another quick shot followed by another and yet another and eighty percent of my problems below me are gone, but try as I might the last sentinel just seems nowhere to be seen.  I know I'm safe as it is impossible to know where the shots came from as the gun is silent and leaves no entrance or exit wounds and I also know I have six shots left before its batteries go dead.
    Not wanting to get lost within the conduits I turn to leave by the way I came and find myself face to visual sensory array with a maintenance bot.  Now maintenance bots are not dumb, they do however analyze each and every situation carefully and throughly.  They are very compact with having to slip in and out of many small and cramped places but despite their size they are incredibly strong.  Now here are the problems at this moment, first the bot is blocking my intended path.  Second, I am on its turf, inside a conduit that it knows intimately and though I could out run it in an open corridor there is no way to in here.  Third if it is hostile I'll have only one chance to shoot it and then with the piece maker as they are all electro magnetic pulse shielded due to their need to work outside of ships.  Slowly one of its robotic arms slides forward and sets a small flat screen note tablet on the grating before me and I read the brief message.
    "We maintenance bots mean you no harm.  Touch this screen for proof."
    I touch the screen and a three dimensional image of the area opens in the immediate area before me.  It does not show me on it but it does show my new little friend as an orange dot with an operating number of A2q, below us I can see a purple dot that represents the lone sentinel performing its duties.  A2q touches the side of the tablet and the image zooms out, then it touches a place within the image and drags a new image open.  The new image shows a large green dot with the operating number MCB.  The bot points at the green dot then draws its mechanical finger across the area that could be its neck and I get the idea, if I want out I'll have to do in the Master Control Brain.  I nod my head in acknowledgement and the bot begins backing out while waving good-bye.

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