It was probably not a suicide, since that form of death was not generally a team sport. – From Tom Clancy’s book, The Bear and the Dragon, a deduction by Russian detectives on the discovery that a body found in a river is actually handcuffed to another body.
“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.” Joseph Heller, Catch 22
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
The man who can’t make a mistake can’t make anything. -Abraham Lincoln
Way too hot.
Arthur threw back the thin cover and put his feet down on the deck, and immediately picked his feet back up. The floor wasn’t that hot but it surprised him. He put his feet back down and quickly walked over to his chair and put on his boots.
“Door open.” Arthur walked out the door, noting he was sweating profusely as he went. Arthur wiped his brow three times while walking to the bridge area even though it was only 20 meters, he slide himself into the pilot’s seat and started to check over the controls. He spun around and checked the environmental controls, gravity normal, pressure normal, and atmospheric mixture normal, ah here it was temperature control. Arthur wiped his brow after looking it over quickly, the temperature was up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the thermostat was only set at 75 degrees.
“What the hey was going on here.”
Arthur started to run a systems diagnostic program on the heating/cooling system on board, and came to the solution a few minutes later. The internal coolant pump was out.
“Nuts” Arthur said in frustration, this was another problem he did not want to deal with, as if he did not have enough problems already.
He got up and walked back towards the tool locker to grab some tools. He pulled up the schematic of the area he had to work on and transferred it to a comm panel. Arthur had been using the comm panel a lot to do various repairs and upgrades to the ship. His ship, not the fleet’s, not someone else’s, but his.
Arthur was proud of what he had done so far, but everytime he did something to improve and shape the ship the way he wanted it, it caused an overload or the power balance to be thrown off in another system, and with no one else to help him fix it he had to do all the work himself. Which was all right with him but it did slow him down. He wanted to get to the Trader’s Center in four months, but everything was taking him longer than he though, so it looked like it was going to take about six months.
Granted he knew that there were going to be problems, he had anticipated a lot of them, but every once in a while he had wished he had taken a few different steps, the biggest thing he wished he had taken a droid with him, at least one of the repair droids, he could use someone to talk to. He could always restore the voice to the ships computer but, it was a little to spooky to have a voice talking to him out of thin air, beside the thing was always talking and if there was one thing Arthur did not like was someone talking all the time.
He had been raised by his father in the Canadian Northwest, and it would be days between the times they talked to each other, especially if his father was in one of his moods. Even when they went into town to trade the furs his father had taken winter, they did not talk to too many people. Arthur just grabbed all the electronics, science and travel books he could find, bought them with the money his father gave him for chopping wood. The only person Arthur talked to a great deal was the traveling trader, Mister Lewis, who came to their house in the woods about once a month in his pickup truck bringing in small amount of groceries that his father would call for and take away some of the wood Arthur had chopped. Arthur’s dad did not talk much, but Arthur would listen to Mr. Lewis tell his stories of the world; traveling on the sea when he had been a merchant marine, and then his long days on the road while driving an eighteen wheeler for a company in the United States.
These stories fueled Arthur’s imagination, and made him want to see the world also.
But that had changed about a hundred or so years ago, and about a million or so miles away. When he had been snatched from his bed by the Outfitters just days before his eighteenth birthday.
Sure Arthur was glad to be away from the cabin in the woods, but he had his own plans for his life and it sure did not included being in some fleet to charge across the galaxy and save Earth. Not that he wanted the Earth destroyed, but he did not want to fight anyone either, he just wanted to be left alone. He wanted to travel and see the world. So after going through the training program for a few months he slipped out of his bunk and made for the supplemental ships that were available and not part of the fleet and took one. It was not stealing, as far as Arthur knew, the ships were there to be used by anyone who did not want to join the fleet, which matched Arthur to a T.
After doing a lot of research, and studying Arthur had made a very informed decision he thought and grabbed one of the fast medium-sized cargo ships and took off.
That was about a month ago, and Arthur had been alone ever since. He had rigged the ship to run at his commands and his commands alone. He had talked to the ship for about three weeks, getting suggestions and such but then he had just about been driven crazy because it, the ship’s computer, talked all the time. When he got up in the morning, when he went to bed at night, and even when he was trying to eat. Finally Arthur had had enough, and shut the voice off, the computer tried to talk to him through the display screens at first but since Arthur stopped reading them and never responded to them, the computer had stopped that after a few days, now all the displays showed was the information he had asked for and that was it.
Arthur had reached the access panel indicated on the comm panel and removed it.
He laid his six foot two, hundred and ten pound frame down on the deck and wiggled into the access area.
It was hotter in here than anywhere else in the ship, Arthur worked as fast as he could, but the sweat was stinging his eyes, and making it hard to handle his tools. After about an hour he had the thing fixed, and crawled back out into the main hallway. After resting on the floor in the relatively cooler air for a few minutes and when he felt some of the sweat stop pouring out of him he got up grabbed his tools and made his way back to the main crew area.
Arthur threw his tool belt back into the alcove that housed the workshop, too drawn out to put it away where it belonged and walked over to the food replicator. This was one of the first things he had reprogrammed, even before taking off from planet Sanctuary.
He went to the slot in the wall and ordered water, cold. The machine hummed for a second and then produced a large glass of cold water. Which was Arthur’s size of large instead of those wimpy little glasses that it used to dispense.
Arthur took the glass over to the table and sat himself down on the cushioned seat, took a long sip of water and relaxed, and tried not to think of all the other things he had to do on the ship, instead he thought of the Trader’s Center.
From all that he read about it while back on Sanctuary the Trader’s Center was one of the few places in Alarian space that allowed free trade, according to the Social/Economic study done by the Outfitters. In part because the Alarian clan that controlled the area also had a large network of spies and information gathering that was done at the Trader’s center. The other thing was the Trader’s Center was a large source of revenue for the Alarians due to the heavy taxation. But Arthur decided he could deal with the taxation, and as for the spies, well he did not know anything so he figured they could not get blood from a stone, as his father used to say.
Arthur leaned back and closed his eyes thinking of all the things he might see, and the places he might go as a trader. Heck he might even go back to Earth eventually, after the fleet had thwarted the Alarians, that is. Arthur was very confident that the fleet would win, the fleet was huge and they were training so hard when he left, he had no doubt they would win, he hoped.
“Huh” Arthur said out loud.
Woooooo. The siren continued to wail.
The ship shuddered and Arthur was thrown out of the chair towards the bridge, Arthur sprang to his feet disregarding the spilled water on the floor and on his pants. Arthur reached the cockpit in two seconds and realized what had happened, the ship was no longer in hyperspace. Leo slide himself into the pilot’s chair and again started pulling up the displays on the current status of the ship.
It took a minute to determine what had happened but he got the answers he needed. There had been a large gravometric fluctuation in his flight path that was unpredicted and thus the hyperspace bubble around the ship had been disrupted. Arthur recalled what he could about gravometric anomalies. They were caused by collapsing stars, or comets or other things that were not necessarily recorded in any stellar cartography. Arthur was already in action as he pulled up the star charts for this particular area. There was a solar system in front of him that might be the cause of it, but his hyperdrive flight path did not take him anywhere really near the system.
He really did not understand, but decided to be careful, so he slowed the ship to half maximum thruster speed and become very curious. The first thing to do was to get information on the solar system, and that required the computer. Arthur hated to do it, but he knew it would be quicker and easier than using the keyboard. He keyed up the proper sequence and reactivated the voice mode of the computer.
“Hello, Arthur.” The nasally southern twanged voice of the computer said, sounding annoyingly cheerful.
Arthur rolled his eyes and replied “Hello, computer.”
“Oh please, Arthur don’t be so impersonal, you can call me Solomon, that is my name you know”
This was the other large regret Arthur had about striking out from the fleet, the computer. He had picked the first ship that he had come across that fit his needs, able to handle a fair amount of cargo, fast, and able to be handled by one person. But the one thing he did not pay that much attention to was the personality of the ship’s computer. The thing was rated highest in three areas friendly, informative, and helpful. By the time Arthur discovered this the computer had been activated too long, to do any major changes to it. After studying the problem extensively Arthur had given up after realizing how long and expensive a process it was to change the personality of a positronic brain after it had developed its own patterns.
“OK, Solomon, I have a problem.”
“Are you referring to the ship suddenly being thrown out hyperdrive, exactly five minutes and thirty-three seconds ago.”
“You know about that? Arthur asked with a bit of surprise.
“Of course, Arthur, you may have turned off my speech capabilities but, you did not turn off my sensors, either internal or external.”
“I see, OK, so what threw us out of hyperdrive?”
There was a pause longer than normal. “That Captain Arthur, was due to an explosion of a ship in our direct flight path.”
Well that would explain it, sort of Arthur thought. But it would have to be a very large explosion. “Is there anything left of the ship, Solomon”
“No sir, except for a few stray pieces of hull, the ship is almost totally obliterated, it appears from the residue in the area that the ship was carrying a large amount of the substance permanor, which is a solid fuel used in moving large stellar bodies, such as asteroids for the purposes of mining.”
“Do you know what caused the explosion, Solomon?” Arthur said not really expecting an answer at this point.
Surprised and annoyed Arthur asked “OK, so what caused the explosion?”
“A shot from the main blaster of the ship currently located in the solar system behind the moon of the second planet in this solar system.”
“What ship, where, has it seen us yet, go to battle conditions, and why didn’t you tell me about that first off?” Arthur panicked and immediately started shutting down various systems on the ships and trying to get the weapons systems charged up all at the same time, and flubbing most of the startup and shut down protocols in his haste.
“Well, sir, to answer your questions sequentially, it is a Alarian raider ship, located behind the moon of the second planet, battle condition is not able to be set at this time due to your current activation of the shield generators but power not being routed to them the proper sequence, and I did not tell you about it because you did not ask.” Now Solomon was starting to sound like his feelings had been hurt “and I remember before you shut off my voice before, you stated you only wanted me to answer questions that you asked, so I was just following….”
“Never mind that right now, Solomon, OK, I’m sorry, here you do this.” Arthur said, stopping his frustrated attempts to route energy to the defensive cannons on the ship.
“Apology accepted, the weapons systems are now operational, Arthur, is there anything I can do for you, are you hungry, according to my records you have not eaten in exactly twelve hours and fifteen minutes, I could prepare a nice steak……”
“Not right now, Solomon, I’m a little worried about that ship.” Arthur replied, trying not to upset him but trying to control his panic at the same time, “Could you tell me Solomon, has the other ship seen us yet.”
“All sensor, indicate that it has not, but it will be able to in approximately five minutes when it finishes its orbit around the small moon.”
Arthur started to amass the information that was on the displays and came up with a quick plan.