The Stars Came Back -058- RoboMilMoon

Fade in

EXT – night – space, Capella system, many AUs from the star

The darkness and star-field are as far as the eye can see. The Capella sun is simply the largest star. In the distance, a planet, a large gas giant with a whole flock of moons, hangs, seemingly motionless in the vastness. In the nearer distance, a pock-marked moon covered with small circles slowly spins. Then, a patch of space shimmers, as the few molecules of dust and gas in the near vacuum of space get REALLY pissed off by an emerging starship, and glow a bit as their universe shares it’s space with a bunch of others, and don’t quite know which book of physics to follow. The transition field collapses, and in it’s center, Tajemnica.

Cut to

INT – DAY – bridge of Tajemnica

Helton is at command, Cooper is piloting, Allonia is at comm, Bipasha at sensors, Kaushik at Nav.

Cooper: Welcome to Capella!

Helton: well done! Made good time, and nothing major broken. Very good! Let’s see how the field training went on the flight over: a quick scan, lay in a course for Emirate II, and beam over the custom orders to Capella Prime for Stenson. Anything interesting around here?

Bipasha: Nothing big around here but that moon for a good hundred kilometers. Beautiful!

Allonia: We are being hailed by someone on that moon, but it doesn’t make sense. “Challenge acton tax trust ambition”? (into mike) Please repeat, I don’t understand.

Cooper: (urgently) On speaker!

Moonlet: (OC, on cabin speaker) Challenge galt actinide charlie turtle

Helton and cooper, simultaneously: Oh, shit!

Moonlet: (OC, on cabin speaker) Send Cladistic Profiler

Allonia: (into mike) What? Please say again.

Sirens suddenly start blaring.

Ship AI: (OC, loud, male, military/brisk, urgent) Targeting lock detected!

Moonlet: (OC, on cabin speaker) Exclusion zone breached. Violation.

Helton: Cooper – Transition ANYWHERE NOW!

Coopers hands are already flying.

Cut to

EXT – night – space, viewing Tajemnica and the moon

The glowing sphere of annoyed atoms appear around Tajemnica, then intensify. A streak of light from a missile fired from the moonlet heads toward them, accelerating. It gets closer. The shimmer of glowing atoms grows brighter. Brighter. Missile closer, closer. Tajemnica disappears, the glow fades almost instantly, the missile arrives on target and detonates in a spherical ball of light, right where it was.

Cut to

INT – Day – Bridge of Tajemnica

Everyone looks a bit shaken

Bipasha: What was THAT?

Helton: A gazillion cubic kilometers of empty space, and we pop out less than twenty from a Corp-War robo-moon.

Cooper: Good thing I didn’t try to get us any closer.

Helton: New rule: first entry in a new system at least a a half-million klicks from anything big enough to be trans-space detectable.

Cooper: Good idea. Just trying to get an impressive first view.

Allonia: It WAS impressive, but what WAS it?

Bipasha: And WHY did they SHOOT at us!?

Kaushik: Robo-mil-moon. Know anything about the Corporation-Nation war?

Both of them shake their heads.

Bipasha: I’ve hear of it, but…

Cooper: Wait – lets drop out and take a fast look-see.

He moves the controls, and the lights flash their transition warning.

Cut to

EXT – Night – empty space

The void glows a bit, and Tajemnica pops back into THIS reality, looking small and lonely out there in the blackness.

Cut to

INT – Day – Tajemnica Bridge

Helton: Fast-scan the whole ball, first.

Kaushik: Looks clear here.

Allonia: Nothing.

Bipasha: Nothing inside a millisecond. Five milliseconds… Nothing of note within a hundred light-milliseconds.

Everyone starts to relax a bit

Kaushik: I’ll take sensors, Bipasha – I know about ‘em.

Bipasha: Thanks.

Helton: OK, once we are clear to two light seconds, start getting a fix on things, plot a course for Emirate II AROUND the moonlet. Cooper, run through the fast list and cross-check with Stenson to make sure nothing broke with our sudden transition. (into mike on a spiral cord he takes from the ceiling above his position) All hands, sorry for the extra bounce. Had a small problem, taken care of now. Check your stations, gear, and people. Report any problems to the AI, or me if it can’t help.

Allonia: You were saying?

Helton: When planets were starting to be terraformed, it was initially funded by governments, and it was figured that the sponsoring government owned the newly terraformed planets. Then, some corporations started to terraform them on their own, and claimed their own, private, ownership, essentially starting their own nation. Existing governments didn’t like it, of course, because the corp sponsored planets were better organized and happening faster. But most government buy their weapons from private contractors, so things got ugly and confused VERY fast, and things festered for a while. The corporate heads wanted to cover their asses, so they used some of their terraforming tech and sent out totally automated weapons factories to go to new systems, land on a suitable moon or asteroid, and start building weapons and tunneling out space for growing crops and living quarters as fall-back positions. Basically, a bunch of little robot “Arks” being built in case they had to flee. Dozens of them, maybe hundreds, not really sure just how many. The governments decided to fight them by making genetically engineered and cloned super-soldiers. Some real geniuses involved in the whole mess.

Allonia: (suddenly looking extra alert) Genetically engineered soldiers?

Helton: Yup. Spliced in a lot of extra copies of genes for strength and endurance and such, searched for existing mutations for useful things, cleaned out bad genes, put in experimental stuff. Some died young, some were total aggressive bad-asses that were absolutely GREAT psychotic killers, but not so mentally well connected on more ordinary activities. Some seemed pretty normal until they got “triggered” in battle, then it was a totally different beast. Lots of conspiracies and rumors, not a lot of hard data.

Allonia: So, they looked normal, but might… suddenly go nuts for no obvious reason?

Helton: Dunno. Before my time. Gone now. Lots of experiments done, likely all sorts, from very nice, to wildly crazy and unpredictable. Anyway, both sides started copying the others ideas and designs. Just when it was about to start getting REALLY ugly, a series of nuke strikes took out a bunch of the key leadership on BOTH sides, and security codes and command-and-control was mostly lost on BOTH sides. No-one could shut the little robo-factories down, but as long as you don’t get too close to their exclusion zone, they ignore you, so we ignore them, mostly. The engineered soldiers, figuring they were the new bad-asses on the block, just like everyone in history that thinks they are God’s special chosen ones, tried to take over a few places, but they seem to have got themselves killed off and future creations were outlawed. Then Eta Carinea blew, and the robo-moons had centuries to twiddle their electrons and build defenses and missiles and whatever else their programming directed.

Allonia: (looking a little sad and distressed) Oh. So, the genetically engineered soldiers are all gone, and these robot moons just sit there, making weapons and stuff? No way to shut them down?

Kaushik: (turning from sensors) Nothing inside two light seconds.

Helton: Good. OK, start working out a fix and course. (then, back to Allonia) Not that -I- know of.

Ship AI: (OC) One malfunction and failure has been reported.

Helton: Really? Where?

Ship AI: (OC) 18 years ago, on an asteroid in the Baen system.

Bipasha: What happened?

Ship AI: (OC) A careless prospector found a disabled one on accident, went in, and was able to take partial control. In the ensuing control struggle between interested governments, corporations, and free-lancers it was entirely destroyed, along with its 2.2 billion tons of food, 3.7 trillion rounds of ammunition, 2.7 million offensive and 15 million defensive missile batteries.

Kaushik: Holy- that’s a LOT of weaponry.

Helton: Yeah, it WOULD be kind of hard to take them out now, if they are all like that. Are they?

Ship AI: (OC) There is much speculation, but few hard data-points.

Helton: I’d have thought they might have built in some sort of recognition system, so that they would “know” their guys in case the password got lost.

Ship AO: (OC) That would be difficult.

Allonia: Well, if they were ALSO making clones and genetically engineered soldiers, couldn’t they do something with that?

Ship AI: (OC) Guessing the right genetic code would be somewhere on the order of one in four to the billionth power.

Helton: And if they shoot before you get a chance to get scanned, you’d have to know the code before you got there. Right, a tough problem indeed.

Allonia: So that was the “challenge” they asked about? Looking for a code? But how would you tell them your genetic code by voice? You couldn’t tell them the whole thing – it’d take years! Maybe they are looking for just a little-bitty part of it? Coded somehow?

Ship AI: (OC, normal male voice, gradually becoming more mechanical) That is an interesting guess… galt actinide charlie turtle adenine thymine thymine adenine guanine adenine cytosine thymine. Match. Cladistic Profiler. Match.

Helton: uh, what was that?

Ship AI: (OC, normal male voice) Minor subroutine glitch. A recently found pattern was matched unexpectedly. Internal data possibly affecting optimal path selection protocols. Further testing will be needed at another location. No significance at the moment.

Helton nods in acknowledgment of the explanation.

Cooper: OK, everything seems to check out. We can make a small jump to cut about half the normal-space flight time, then take an easy path in, slightly more than a day conventional.

Helton: Good, good. Anywhere close to the robo-moon?

Cooper: No, well clear of it. Far side, actually.

Helton: All righty, then. Let’s make another little hop, unless someone has a problem. (into the mike) Any problems to report, now’s the time.

They wait, and are rewarded by silence for a few moments.

Helton: Can you use the pair of Sokolovs here? We can test them a bit, too.

Cooper: Should work… Yes, adds about… sixteen seconds on this jump. About an hour conventional.

Helton: Double-check with Stenson, and spin ‘em up.

Fade out.



13 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -058- RoboMilMoon

  1. What is a “robo moon”? Does it actually have arms of it’s own, like a person? “Allonia: (looking a little sad and distressed) Oh. So, the genetically engineered soldiers are all gone, and these robot moons just sit there, making weapons and stuff?”

    • Here, a “robo-mil-moon” or “robo-moon” simply means a moon or asteroid or other natural body that has been extensively occupied by various sorts of automated machinery, such as tunneling drills, refining machines, automated manufacturing equipment, etc. They may or may not have artificial gravity “installed”.

  2. One other question — Are we still in our galaxy or are we in a different galaxy? If we are in a different galaxy, what constitutes a day and a night? Is there really day and night in space? I don’t believe there is.

    • Uh, “galaxy”? There are more than two hundred BILLION stars in our own galaxy alone, and it is over a hundred thousand light years across. These different stars and systems in relatively near space – the whole story takes place within a thousand LY from Earth, mostly within a couple hundred, and even then it takes days to weeks to fly between “popular” systems, not counting time in our “conventional” universe. Terraformed planets in my universe have generally been spun to a roughly 24 hour day (using gravity manipulation), though each planet’s length-of-year is obviously dependent on star mass, class, and fundamental orbital mechanics (though from the nature of your question I’m assuming you are pretty sketchy on those). Outside the ships in space, I’m using “day” and “night” to simply signify whether the ships are brightly lit or not, as there isn’t really a “day” or “night” outside of the rotation of a planet.

  3. Ubu: Dunno if this is genre-wide, but I’ve always assumed that whenever a spacecraft in a sci-fi story starts going through “day/night” routines, they’re using a standard 24-hour day cycle based on Earth-time, unless otherwise specified. I know that once our Navy subs pull out to sea, they shift to an 18-hour day (three 6-hour watch cycles), but still go by a 24-hour calendar day, so you may end up standing watch twice in one calendar day, but only once in a ship-time day. Meals are planned around the calendar day, so you may wake up and eat breakfast, then go on watch, get relieved 6 hours later, and eat lunch, followed by maintenance/training for 6 hours, 6 in the rack (if you’re lucky), and get up for mid-rats. Helps break up the monotony of underway life, but royally screws with your system when you get back into port. I hear that surface vessels follow a standard 24-hour routine, even while out at sea, but my only experience with that was on a civilian tug for two weeks. For the sake of my braincell, though, I just assume a 24-hour Earth-based cycle for all sci-fi stories, unless specifically explained early in the story (usually some chief explaining how things work to a new recruit or the low-tech civilization member who inexplicably finds themselves aboard the advanced-tech spacecraft).

    • Yup, pretty much. Aboard ship, it uses a 24 “universal time” schedule, generally with dimmer reddish lighting at night.

      • I read one book where the author tried to introduce a wonky ship-time, where each ship went by the standard day of their planet of origin, so one may have had a 27-hour day, another a 36-hour day, and one asteroid-colony ship had something weird like a 19-hour cycle. Not to mention all of the land-based units thrown in the mix. The author only mentioned this weirdness once, in the middle of a battle (which was supposed to have “explained” the confusion and massive FUBAR situation that resulted in a civil war between the human worlds). The author also suffered from a timeline that looked about like the stitching in one of my middle-school home-ec classes (yeah, they still made us take them waaaaaaay back when….I made what was *technically* a pillow. It got me through the class, and I never had to take it again, thank the good Lord), where there would be entire weeks/months missing, or referred to in the past tense, including one major space battle that “magically” cleared up several plot points. I finished reading the book mostly out of respect for the money spent on it, and never picked up anything by that author again. I still remember my disgust at the book, and have successfully purged the author’s name from my memory.

        Getting used to the scheduling on a sub was tough, but do-able, mainly cuz I was actually LIVING it. It took some adjustment, though. Keeping things simple, on a 24-hour rotation that your readers will be intimately familiar with, will eliminate a lot of confusion.

        As for the red lighting, I agree, but if there’s not going to be any portholes or windows, the only places you’d need that would be in berthing compartments. There wouldn’t be any need for red lighting on the bridge if there’s no light-leaks (ie, windows). We used it on the bridge due to the periscope, but everywhere else (outside of berthing areas) it was fluorescent fixtures 24/7.

        • About 10+ years ago, I used to participate in a creative writing forum. One of the other forumers wrote sci-fi and, interestingly enough, a submarine drama. He was a dreadful writer but I heard that he had something published so I recently Googled his name to see what was what. Sure enough, he had a sci-fi novel published. He had two rave reviews on Amazon and his novel was ranked in the 3 trillion range….

          That forum was a total hoot. The very best writers on that board were a guy who wrote horror stories and a woman who wrote “slice of life” stories. I remember another man who wrote the worst period dramas in the world! “Oh Papa,” Charlotte cried. “Oh Papa! What have you brought for me?” All crinolines and dust. We also had a faded rock star who wrote off-the-wall poetry.

          Anyway, it was a most fun board, even though most of us didn’t get along and were divided into two camps (those who appreciated period drama and those who didn’t). .

          • Period Drama? Nah, I don’t want to read about PMS 🙂
            There is definitely a lot of bad writing out there, no doubt. Hopefully, mine is somewhere far enough from the bottom that I don’t have to hang my head in shame, and my story (which is a very different thing from the actual writing) is in the top high enough that I can be proud of it. I’m sure you’ll let me know when it’s all done.

          • LOL Sounds like quite the forum! I posted a poem on my blog back on Good Friday, and I think it scared off both of my readers. I’m not about to post any of my stories on there, they tend to lean a bit towards the macabre side of story-telling.

  4. Hmmmm….how much profit would there be in someone hacking that moon (Allonia?) to allow them to dock…regular ammo runs, anyone? Talk about a cash-cow!

  5. A good read; keep ’em coming.

    And now, a geeky quibble: “cubic kilometers of empty space” would be a measure of volume, whereas “we pop out less than twenty” would seem to be a linear measure. Unless I’m (unsurprisingly) not understanding the character’s meaning, in which case just delete my ramblings.

    • Yes, it’s mixing cubic and linear. People do that, but now that you point it out, it’ll bug me until I fix it.
      Thanks. Sort of 🙂

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