The Stars Came Back -049- First Lift

Fade in

INT – Day – Engineering

Stenson is looking at readouts. There is a slight pulsing hum of machinery.

Helton: (OC, over the intercom) How’s it look?

Stenson: All in the green, if only barely. Main power is just about ready to kick on. Annnnnd-

There is a powerful, deep change in the background sound, and a slight lurch.

Stenson: -ONLINE! Main power is ON LINE! Drives arrrrree… Feeling the power. Drives are yellow, rising toward green. Looking like she’s alive again! Three drives nominal. You are now the Captain of a SHIP, not a shop project!

The tone of the background drive noise starts to throb and vary, like God’s own Harley is driving by, and is in need of a valve-job and new plugs.

Cut to bridge

COOPER, a young and dashing-looking man in a blood-red jacket, sits at the pilot spot. Helton is at command. Kaushik at co-pilot/navigation, Allonia at sensors/comm on the left

Helton: Captain!? I like the sound of that.

Cooper: I can’t believe you have a PRINTED pre-flight checklist!

Helton: You knew when we hired you to pilot that this was older than any five of us put together. The AI is quite adamant that we go through it all.

Cooper: You pay the bills, you call the shots, I guess. OK, starting at the top! RAMPS UP?

SGT Kaushik: Check!

Cooper: Ground feeds, power, disconnected?

Stenson: (OC) Check!

Cooper: Ground feeds, Water, disconnected and secured?

Kwon: (OC) Check!

Dissolve to

Bridge, everyone in the same spots. The drive noise has settled down a bit to a more steady throb.

Cooper:-annnd, that’s it. All systems nominal or acknowledged non-critical. Are we cleared to lift?

Allonia: The tower says we are not – they say we have a land-lock on us. What’s that mean?

Cooper: (exasperated) You have GOT to be- Why wasn’t I told about that earlier?

Helton: Land-lock?

Cooper: You didn’t know? It’s a giant lock around a landing strut bolting us to the ground! We can’t lift.

Helton: Are you sure?

Cooper: Who are you paying to be the pilot?

Helton: I don’t remember anything being said about a land-lock. There must be a mistake. Try lifting slowly, just a bit, see what happens.

Cooper: Are you crazy?

Helton: So I’ve been told.

Cooper: You ARE nuts.

Helton: We need to know if we CAN. Try it. Just a little bit. Not really flying, just… sort’a move us up into the air a little bit.

Cooper: OK, but if something breaks, it’s not my fault, right?

Helton: Agreed.

Cooper takes the control yoke in hand, and gently twists it. The pitch of the engines changes. It gets deeper, more pulsing, with discordant overtones; God’s Harley apparently needs a timing chain adjustment and better fuel, too. He slides a lever up a bit, and twists the control yoke a bit more-

Cut to

EXT – day -view of the ship and surrounding area.

The ship slowly lifts, but unevenly. One corner seems to be held down. There is a earthy rending, ripping sound, and as the ship rises a sizable hunk of ground and concrete gets ripped out of the ground, attached to one landing strut by a large curved metal bar. The ship rises a bit more, gets 40 or 50 meters in the air.

Cut to

INT – bridge – day

Everyone is smiling, and looking happy.

The pulsing and rumbling sound of the drives and engines steadies and evens a fair bit, and at the same time, something with a matching beat and rhythm starts playing over the ship intercom and PA system. It is music. A catchy Celtic jig/reel. Snappy, happy, lively, a modern take on a traditional Celtic type dance tune, perfectly mixing with the powerful bass drum-like roll of the drives. It takes a moment for people to notice it, then look around at each other in a moment of confusion.

Cooper: What the hell?

Helton: (suddenly getting an “A-HA!” expression on his face, to ship AI) Time to celebrate?

Ship AI: (sounding somewhat sultry and female) Correct, Sir. First free flight in more than a century IS worthy of celebrating, is it not?

Allonia: She has her dancing shoes back on! Of COURSE she’s happy! Can’t you just… FEEL it?

Allonia closes her eyes and dances a quick impromptu jig step or two at her station to the beat, a delighted expression on her face.

Allonia: (happy and excited) NOW we don’t have to just DREAM about the places we can go together! You can just – she WANTS to FLY!

Cooper looks at them like they are a bit more nuts than he first thought, but is quite willing to eye Allonia for a moment when she’s happy and dancing.

Helton: (grinning) Allonia, if you are quite done anthropomorphizing a dance partner I’d REALLY not want stepping on my toes, please inform the tower that they seem to be mistaken about the land-lock, and we’d like clearance to take a short low-level test flight around the port before landing. Anything we need to know?

Allonia: (after a short pause to listen, while continuing to boogie to the music a bit in place) No response from the tower.

Cut to

INT – Day – Inside the spaceport control tower

All four people there stand, staring out the window, watching in amazement that the ship is actually flying. On the com speaker Allonia’s voice is heard, along with the fast jig music undertone.

Allonia: (OC) Tower, the is the Tajemnica, do we have clearance to do a short flight around the port? Over.

Cut to

INT – day – bridge of the ship

Allonia: Well, the haven’t told us NOT to, so…

Cooper: We’ll give it a shot. Hang on.

He moves the steering yoke gently forward

Cut to

EXT – day – view of the ship hovering in the air, heading off, not quite level.

Cut to

INT-day – bridge

Cooper: (concerned) Seems pretty pretty sluggish.

Helton: Only barely at minimum take-off power, so – it’ll take a while to fine tune the engines.

Cut to

EXT – day – view of Tajemnica flying slowly along

The landing pad and strut with the chunk of ground hanging from it tips slightly this way and that the whole ship sways a bit. Then the strut twitches, shakes, and finally kicks like a dog shaking something off its foot and the whole ship wobbles vigorously, and the hunk of stuff flies off, dropping away not quite straight down. Then it goes to a more normal, level flight, and the strut goes from full to only partial extension, matching the others.

Cut to

INT – Day – bridge

The whole bridge shakes violently for a moment, then stabilizes and levels out.

Cooper: Don’t know what the hell THAT was, but it feels better, now.

Every relaxes a bit

Cut to

INT – day – Engineering

Looking at the readouts, a bank of 8 of them labeled “Pads” are showing. 7 are green, one red and flashing. The ship shakes and the engines’ screeching rolls and complains with the motion, but then the shaking and roaring stop, and the red condition flashes to green. In one corner of a screen, unnoticed, a condition light comes on, and reads “Bubblegum: Full Pack”

Stenson: Ah, much better!

Cut to

EXT – day – street near the space-port

A truck pared in front of a NO PARKING sign in a private lot is flattened under a hunk of fallen concrete and earth. The logo on the side of the truck seems to say in part “Seymore Custom-”.

Cut to

EXT – day – view from the air above Pad D9

Wide shot of the ship doing a quick, easy, swooping circle around the port, coming back, lurching a bit, sagging at an odd angle more, then settling gently onto the ground a bit back from where it was, to avoid a hole in the ground there.

Cut to

INT – day – bridge

Everyone is beaming at one another.

Helton: Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a magic carpet!

Cooper: Not the most elegant craft I’ve ever handled, but pretty good.

Allonia: (still boogieing a bit to the music) Never thought I’d see a view from up there, from in here. She’s perfect!

Kaushik: Didn’t see the power go above 90% current max, we can fly with a decent load, even without tuning things. Stenson, how are things down there?

Stenson: (OC) Glad we’re down. I’m pretty sure I can fix it. One accela-comp failed, one was about too. Got a LOT of good flight data that’ll help sort out a few problems. How’s things go there?

Allonia: (bubbly) Wonderfully! She’s going to be GREAT dancer!

Stenson: (OC) Baby steps before dancing, but good to hear! A few more test flights like that, and I might even certify her to take off with people aboard!

The pulsing and rumbling sound of the power plant and drives fade, and the music with it.

Fade to black

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8 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -049- First Lift

  1. Hmmm. Methinks the AI has gone just a tad too long without proper maintenance, and developed a bit more independence and personality than the design specs probably called for. Along with a bit of a vindictive streak, it seems. 🙂

    • You don’t know the half of it. And you ain’t seen nuth’n yet. A Tajemnica avatar is projected to another ship in a while, and it should give you an idea about what’s still lurking under the hood.

      And again, your timing is very good. Some ship-class history is cued up for Friday.

  2. So we’re looking at a Cortana AI that is just sort-of rampant, rather than a data-style AI that has emotions.

    Just as long as we stay away from Jupiter, i think everyone will be fine.

    • I was thinking more along the lines of an R2-D2 style AI – one that hasn’t had a proper memory-wipe in far too long (or, in R2’s case, possibly never), and as a result has developed a few… quirks.

      • Good guesses, good guesses. But still somewhat wide of the mark. As for developing quirks? Yes, very much so. Many of which will make a lot of sense by the time we get to the end.

        As for Jupiter, I was hoping someone would comment on the “I can’t open the cargo bay door, Helton” scene just after restoring power.

  3. After thinking about it, I’m not sure WHAT AI is closest to the one I have/am creating. I have an opinion on what fictional ship / AI / scenario is closest, but even then, it’s far from a perfect type-match. I CAN’T be the first person to come up with the concept I’ll be laying out, but I suppose it’s possible – someone has to be the first, though I’d be shocked if it was me. When I’m done, I’d be interested in opinions from the readers on what / who it’s closest too.

  4. Maybe its like a Brain-ship. Though in this case, its someone’s brain in a bubble who has had too long in the dark without a friend, and just misses people.

    That could explain the eccentric part, but solitary confinement causes madness, and I hope this one is mostly sane.

    And for what its worth, its probably been 15 years since Ive seen 2001. I caught the joke, but just didn’t comment. Must watch again soon.

    • Yes, madness does play a role, in a way, but it is a specific kind of madness. It has also been hinted at.

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