Ship in the Void – Pt. 8

Welcome back to my sci-fi short story! If this is your first time visiting, I recommend starting with part 1. You can find all of these posts on the Dream Journal page. 

The story continues…

My search for corresponding time stamps in the system logs came up empty. Not only “empty,” but telling in the absence of ANY findings. The problem I now faced was that I had no idea what the missing data might be telling me. 

When looking for a simultaneous trigger for the light turning on and the door unlocking, there were zero corresponding occurrences. In the sixty seconds before and after, no one from my unit, on any floor, in any section, passed by a sensor. 

“If no initiating signal was sent, then why was one received?” I asked myself as I headed back to the malfunctioning-light room. 

My heart kicked up a notch as I entered the hall in which I first saw the light and mysteriously cracked door. This time, I saw no light, and the door remained locked until I reached the appropriate distance to trigger the automation. 

Despite the perfect system response, the click of the lock made me jump. I muttered under my breath about fools and movies. 

Taking a bolstering breath, I stepped into the room with my toolkit and got to work dismantling the two problem areas, starting with the door lock. I tested circuits and traced connections back to the motion sensors. I was hoping—and not hoping—to find a faulty piece somewhere along the line.

Finding it would provide an answer, a specific issue to explore further. Unfortunately, with the breadth of the documented problems, faulty hardware would mean a quality issue of disastrous proportions. The entire ship would be deemed unsafe, and the initial flight would be delayed until a complete retrofit could be executed, perhaps even indefinitely.

As much as I wanted to find the cause of the glitches, I didn’t want it to be a pervasive hardware issue. This ship, this mission, was the foundation upon which my dreams were built. I grew up watching the idea become a reality. Without Inspiration, I’m not sure what I would be doing with my life now.

I traced the lines, hoping as I did so I would find nothing. 

The door came back clean, then the light. Sitting in the center of dismantled panels and electrical parts, I breathed a sigh of relief before realizing I found myself back at square one. My head tilted back, knocking against the wall.

I made a mess and still found nothing!

“Bitsa,” came a voice over the coms, “Isis here. Flash asked me to set up the watch-bot you requested.”

When I explained my theories to Flash, I asked if he could arrange for a programmed bot to watch for any additional instances of “incoming calls without a corresponding “outgoing call.”

“Hey, Isis,” I said. “Thanks for setting that up. Would you let me know if you get any hits?”

“Yeah,” she said, drawing out the word, “that’s why I’m calling. Your bot just pinged.”

I bolted upright. “What’s going on?”

“You caught a big one. Every docking-bay door just received orders to seal and lock.”

“All of them?” I asked, sitting forward to grab hold of my datapad and see for myself.

“Every single one,” Isis verified. “I’ve confirmed no orders were issued to the bay doors.”

“Can you countermand the orders?” After a brief pause, her voice came back on sounding concerned, “Negative. Controls are locked to the core. Bitsa, I’m bringing in Flash and Tryss.”

As Isis brought our leaders up to speed, I dug into the orders received by the doors. They were simultaneous and all contained the same order code.

I felt light-headed when the details on the code came through, the blood draining until my face felt numb. Before I could say anything, Isis cut through again.

“We have a second ping on the watch-bot,” she said. “Inertial dampeners are initiating centralized gravity.”

I dropped the datapad, levered myself up, and took off running.

“All hands, “Tryss said over a universal comm channel, “brace for gravity shift.”

“Tryss,” I shouted as I ran, “you need to get to central command! Now!”

“On my way,” she replied, then followed it with, “Bitsa, explain.” 

“The orders have a common command code this time, “I said, not yet winded. “It’s for the sequence to initiate the interstellar drive!”

Tryss swore, using words of which my mother would not approve, but I understood the sentiment.

“HUD shows me fifteen minutes out from central command,” Tryss reported, then I heard her mutter, “Why is this ship so big?”

“Isis said reversal commands unresponsive,” I noted.

“I heard,” she said before addressing another member of our unit. “Carnival, you’re our drive expert. How long do I have?”

“Not long enough,” came Carnival’s voice, full of resignation. “Once confirmed, the whole sequence takes ten minutes, and we’re already almost three into it.”

“How did this get initiated in the first place?” asked Flash.

I took a corner too fast and bounced painfully off the wall, stumbling back into a sprint. Get to the stairs, ten floors, then another half mile, through a coded door, across the room to a control console to enter the code. In seven minutes?

One of us could probably cover the distance flat out, but stairs and doors would slow us. We still needed to try. Tryss could give someone the code if they made it.

“It shouldn’t be possible,” Carnival answered Flash. “Initiating the sequence has the same restrictions as shutting it down. I’m looking at the footage, and there is no one there to enter a command code.” A pause, “Interstellar core is powering up.”

“Interstellar core is powering up.”

“Block Head here,” another member cheeked in. “Ground Control cannot override. They are working to reestablish control.”

“I’m trying to hack it from here too,” Flash called out. “No luck yet.”

“Seven minutes out,” Tryss said. I looked at my HUD, impressed to note she had made up close to three minutes. Checking my estimate, I said, “Bitsa here, two minutes away.”

My breathing became labored, I had a stitch in my side, and my shoulder throbbed, but I kept running. One more long hall to the door.

“Sixty seconds to drive initialization,” Carnival called.

No, I thought, breaking out of the stairs into the final stretch.

“Forty-five seconds.” 

I hit the door, punching in my code. 

“Twenty-seconds.”

The door didn’t open. “It is not taking my code!” 

“Fifteen seconds,” Carnival said at the same time Try ss called out, “Forty-five, eighty-two!”

My vision tunneled and my hands wanted to shake as I entered her code. The keypad light blinked off, then back on.

“Ten seconds.”

“Red,” I said. “It’s still locked.” 

“Five.”

“Four.”

“Three.”

“Two.”

“One…”

Vertigo. I felt it in my head and gut as the drive kicked in, but there was no additional g-force like a shuttle take-off.

Tryss arrived, sweating and out of breath, and tried multiple codes in the door with no results. It was not until the twelve-minute ride ended that the lock disengaged and allowed us into central command.

“Let’s find out where we are,” she said with more calm than I could muster, striding to a consol and initializing the hologram display.

At first, it showed only the ship. Tryss zoomed out. 

Artist: Aurian Millan (age 11)

An enormous nebula, darkness radiating with blue and purple, served as the backdrop for an alien solar system. A red gas giant swirled with storm clouds, while its blue partner appeared to flow like an ocean. Two of the planets had rings. One of these had multiple sets of rings orbiting the planet on perpendicular planes. 

It was all so foreign. I had no idea where we were. Light-headed, a little in shock, I slid down the nearest wall, staring into space.

The End (for now).

This is the point where I woke up. Much of the detail presented in these stories has been me embellishing the dream fragments into a more cohesive story, but I have a rough idea of where I might take Tryss and team in the future. 

As there has been limited interaction with these posts, I’m probably going to put additional installments on hold for the moment. If you have enjoyed them as they have been released, or you find them randomly in the future and want more, feel free to drop me a comment to let me know. 

As always, thanks for joining me on this journey!

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