Wednesday, November 09, 2011

F3 - Cycle 56 - Shields Up!

600 words of Sci-Fi for Friday Flash Fiction.




I calculated all the alternatives. None of them would let me get where I needed to go. I was going to have to batter through the asteroid belt to make it into the Dentari region in enough time. My cargo was small but huge in importance. And this jump was more problematic than a Centauri whore-dog during Intergalactic Chastity Month. 

It all started when I was given the launch sequence that would let me leave the space station. Some joker in HQ thought it would be funny to encode them first. And he didn't use any standard code. I couldn't find it in the empire's code databases, that's for sure. I had to go to the space station library, find an actual "book," and spend my last day of leave and most of my prep time solving the puzzle. That's OK. I got him back. He'll never look at a tube of anti-itch gravity cream in the same way again, I made sure of that. 

Once I was done fiddling around, I barely had time to cram all my gear into my shuttle duffle and kiss my cat goodbye. I ran from sector 17, through the dread zone, past the barber shop and into shuttle bay 7, where I got chewed a new one by Sarge Benson for being late. Fortunately, I'm a gifted pilot and my interns fall all over each other to get things set up before any mission I go on. One aw shucks and a country boy smile and I was off the hook. I made a quick sweep of the panels as I plopped into the driver's seat. Everything seemed fine. 

But I failed to notice the tiniest of mistakes. My outstanding interns didn't factor the subspace variable out far enough and caused my jump to land me here and not on the other side. 

So here I am, my artificial navigator cowering under the sub-engines while I prepare myself for the ride of my life. I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. My buddies and I took turns showing off at the arcade playing Asteroid Belt, which was basically a simulation of what I was about to encounter. 

"Alright, Arty" I said to my chicken-shit navigation computer, "Shields up!"

My shuttle shuddered as the force field unraveled itself outward from the nose cone. I cranked up the view screen and engaged the rock anthem music algorithm. I took a quick scan with the front sensors and set the weapons array up so that it would spread neon green static light particles over all the rocks in my path. It was all routine, really. 

"Speed factor seven," I commanded, "Let's go!"

My field of vision lit up with green lumps that turned into tubes. I felt the impact of the smaller rocks that bounced off my shields as I maneuvered my way around the big boys. Every now and then, I'd see the shields shimmer and weaken; they were taking a pummeling and there was nothing I could do but keep pressing forward. 

"We make it through this, Arty," I said, hanging on tight, "I'll buy you a backbone." 

We crossed in two hours, record time, and I delivered the package to the Dentari chief ahead of schedule.

“Well, Arty,” I said, hopping back into my craft, “Want to see if we can beat our score?”

I think he passed out. And I laughed my way all the way back to another medal and a new crop of interns. 

6 comments:

  1. Great story! Great pace with a nice sense of humor. Could see Han Solo telling a similar story while at some seedy bar on a backwater desert planet.

    It all started when I was given the launch sequence that would let me leave the space station. Some joker in HQ thought it would be funny to encode them first.

    In a case of fact being stranger than even well written fiction did you hear about the time NASA lost a Mars lander a few years back because someone programed the probe using the metric system but later someone at mission control sent instructions using standard English measurements.

    The lander slammed into Mars probably making a nice new crater.

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  2. I really enjoyed this. It really grabs you right from the start and takes you literally on a wild ride. Love the voice. Great job!

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  3. Great fast pace. I saw a wisened old pilot telling the story in an intergalatic bar too. Excellent.

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  4. Great voice, great personality. I can picture this as part of a collection of stories the pilot tells.

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  5. BB: Thank you! And I hadn't heard that story. Too funny/awful!

    Joyce: I usually never hit the word limit but this time, I found myself exceeding it. But I took the time to trim it down and get to the point. I'm glad it paid off.

    Thanks, Charlie and CM! It's interesting that this story feels like it was told in a bar. In retrospect, I agree! I hadn't thought of that when I was writing it.

    Cap'n: ;-)

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