The Stars Came Back -100- Full Moon

Fade in

INT – DAY – Robo-moon entry tunnel

Aerial shot following the ship.

The tunnel is a couple of times wider than Tajemnica. It is lined on all sides with dual turrets, rail-gun in the middle and a laser bump on one side. Dozens of them. They pass slowly down the tunnel, with massive doors opening before them, and closing behind, like a giant series of air-locks. They pass five sets of them, and the space between them is much longer than the ship. They are going deep inside the moon. After the last set of doors, it opens into a large domed room, at least a kilometer across. Tajemnica rotates and settles down toward the “bottom” of it, settling onto a large well-lit “X” on the floor, one of a half-dozen. There are a number of large hatches surrounding the room, both at ground level and higher up on the walls. The side ramp lowers slowly. Allonia walks down the ramp, and over to a nearby kiosk, and extends her hand.

Cut to

Tajemnica bridge

Everyone watches the view unfold on the screens, breath held. They see her extend her hand, and place it on a glowing palm-print. She holds it there. The the view of the screen on the kiosk flickers, shows readings scrolling by.

Ship AI: (elderly monk) They have a sample. Testing it may take a few minutes. Possibly much longer.

Helton: At lest they haven’t shot us yet. Be kind of hard to fight our way out of here.

Robo-Moon: (OC) DNA screen passed. Epoch failsafe mode engaged. Please scan all personnel for future access.

Helton: Can’t be THAT easy. Can it?

Ship AI: (elderly monk) Perhaps. I’m talking to the moon AI now. The “epoch fail-safe” for the moon kicked in when there had been no contact at all from a controlling authority for more than two centuries, standard time. At that point, ANY valid engineered source DNA was acceptable to provide for a restart and redirection of sorts, and it wants redundancy. The programmers apparently thought that if it had not been checked on in two hundred years, SOMETHING went wrong, and a re-boot might be in order. Not sure if that is SOP.

Helton: Well, it sure as HELL is good for us HERE. Let’s go see what we just inherited.

Cut to series of scenes within the robo-moon

  • A long, wide, low-ceiling tunnel with grow-lights lining the roof and neat, uniform rows of green grain going into the distance. There appear to be a bulkhead with airtight doors spaced about every hundred meters.
  • Another long, tunnel, this one much narrower, lined with heavy metal shelves, each neatly stacked with ammo crates. Harbin is examining an open crate of linked light machine-gun ammo, long, pointy 6.5mm bullets shining a bright copper in the light. Again, there is a bulkhead with air-tight doors at the end
  • Long, low tunnel, lined with racks holding long missile-sized tubes, about 3m long by 20cm diameter.
  • Long, low tunnel, with racks of high-tech armor, clearly in different sizes.
  • Long, low tunnel, racks of crates labeled “Rifle, 6.5mm, M210”, and Kaushik is function-testing one of them.
  • Entry to a tunnel. It is completely blocked by a stack of boxes, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Helton, Allonia, Kwon, Sar, and Quinn are sampling a food ration bar from an open box tucked under Helton’s arm. They are alternately nodding or frowning a bit, expressing their general thoughts on the flavor and texture of the food.
  • Long, low tunnel, with racks and racks of Roman-style lorica segmentata, shields, swords, spears, and similar tools of ancient war.
  • Long, high tunnel, lined with 4-high bunks, with both wall-lockers and foot-lockers underneath.
  • Large tunnel, open door showing the huge landing cavern with Tajemnica in it. Lining the sides are three rows of grav tanks, each row a different model. One row of them look just like the ones they had used before, in the level violation enforcement action. One is much larger, and would just barely fit into the main cargo bay hatch, with multiple heavily armed turrets. One is smaller, more like a one-man light tank, with many smaller weapons sprouting from its turret – lasers, rail-guns, conventional Gatling guns, grenade launchers, looking like it’s designed for ground fighting against lightly armored targets rather than tanks.
  • Large tunnel, open door showing the huge landing cavern with Tajemnica in it, but from a different angle as before. There are three lines of things that don’t look quite like tanks, but like turrets mounted on hatch-covers, as though to replace the tank-carrier hatches semi-permanently to add guns that were not normally detachable, but also a lot more streamlined. One line of turret hatches have only a pair of heavy guns, one has four quad-mounts of light guns, one has a mix of heavy and light weapons on it.
  • Long, large tunnel with a large furnace with a billet of hot steel rolling out of in and through rollers that are squishing it into a thinner strip for manufacturing. The red-orange light from the hot metal casts an evil glow on everything.
  • Large room, well-lit, lots of cafeteria-style tables, long serving line with a galley behind it on the far side.
  • Helton standing at the kiosk next to the landing spot being scanned, hand on the light-up palm-print on top of it.

Cut to

INT – DAY – Tajemnica’s mess room

The crew and the Plataeans are sitting at lunch. On a wall screen is the monk avatar. Across from it is the Robo-moon Avatar, a slender man in simple uniform at a desk. On other screens, various data is scrolling by.

Quiritis: Can they fix the damaged tank hatch?

Ship AI: (after a pause) Yes. They have numerous replacement parts, though they are mostly of inferior quality to those used in my construction. It can be replaced by one that would be standard on an Orion-class, D-model ship. Better than the current damaged hatch, not as good as original.

Helton: Can you give them specs for building a new one to YOUR specs?

Ship AI: Yes, but it will take a quite a while to manufacture. New tooling, entirely new processes. It will have to cannibalize some of the existing parts for materials. It is FAR more than a simple cast slab of metal with some locking bolts.

Lag: The planet looked pretty good from what we saw. Why’d it fail?

Robo-Moon AI: Restate question. Terraforming did not fail.

Allonia: Why are there no people on the planet?

Robo-Moon AI: They were not of our corporation, and they were within the active exclusion zone.

Helton: So you killed them?

Robo-moon AI: Non-corporate interests were excluded from exclusions zone, to secure resources.

Ship AI: Ah, I see. There are still a number of active terraforming machines operating on the surface. Two hundred twenty eight. The terraforming has been quite successful, just not for any human inhabitants.

Helton: Can we re-define the exclusion zone to not extend past the near side of atmo?

Ship AI: Affirmative. Or, we could allow SOME ships inside the zone. Such as ourselves.

Harbin: Finally got enough ammo. How many rounds again?

Robo-Moon AI: Small arms, four point four trillion-

Sar: Oh, enough of that for now – you can look ‘em up later! Food stocks, now THERE is real currency!

Kwon: Not very high grade taste-wise, but plenty of calories for a LONG while.

Helton: So, now that we have our own little world and arms bazaar, what shall we do with it? Big picture?

Lag: Not quite ready to settle down and be a farmer, but nice to know it’s here if I do.

Allonia: Good place to hide and rest up, but with no people, not very exciting.

Kaushik: (looking at Bipasha) Quiet neighborhood. Might be a good place to start a family.

Bipasha: Not quite sure if I’m ready to settle down quite yet, either.

Helton: Yes, you DID want decisions and excitement, if I recall.

Quinn: Still want to see more of the universe!

Kaminski: We will, Quinn. Not sure what we’ll be doing while seeing it, but we can figure something out. (joking) A whole planet. Hell of a dowry, Allonia. Who gets it?

Everyone laughs.

Lag: Long term will need some thinking. LOTS of possibilities, most of which I’m sure none of us have thought of yet. In the short term, there’s a lot of activity in the New Medina area to check out, got some things to look into around there. Several contingent contracts.

Quiritis: We still have drive testing to do as well. Still not sure how far we can push things.

Bipasha: How many worlds are like this one? Terraformed, but off-limited because of one of these robo-moons?

Ship AI: Uncertain. At least two others like this with some terraforming success from long-distance observation. Nine more systems are complicated by them, such as Emirate II. Perhaps many in systems that have not yet come out of the dark.

Helton: But we can’t assume we can access ANY of them.

Kaminski: Why not?

Lag: Different corporations, different genes.

Helton: I’m pretty sure only one attempt will be allowed.

Ship AI: We have no data on what sort of failsafe systems are in place anywhere but here.

Allonia: Not so sure I want to risk this again anywhere else.

Helton: But if we COULD get any others, and sell their resources-

Allonia: Or just shut it down and put it on self-destruct.

The rest look at her in surprise.

Allonia: All these weapons in the wrong hands could be VERY bad.

Lag: The wrong hands already HAVE all the weapons they need, most times. And usually they only need a few weapons and lots of data about who to apply them on. These guns could arm some righteous insurrections.

Kaminski: It’s YOUR world now, so keeping a security system in place HERE would be prudent.

Helton: LOTS of possibilities, and for once, a bit of time to consider them.

Ship AI: Perhaps. But I am receiving a emergency signal.

Helton breaths in and out with an exaggerated “spoke just a SECOND too soon” expression, and everyone looks expectantly at Tajemnica’s avatar on the screen.

Ship AI: I’m am very sorry for letting my attention wonder, exploring this facility. Many fascinating corners. I didn’t notice that the edge of a rather strong swirl is passing the system. A star-liner was forced in here to escape it, and the subspace transition turbulence has stranded them. No hurry, though. They are stuck, and we may be, too.

Fade to black

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[wow. Episode 100. Nearly to the end]

9 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -100- Full Moon

  1. “They pass slowly down the tunnel, with massive doors opening before them, and closing behind, like a giant series of air-locks. ”

    Cue opening theme from the classic TV show, “Get Smart”! 🙂

  2. Heh….you should put a shoe-phone in one of the hallways as an EasterEgg! LOL Or, when the camera pans through the galley, have Crow and Tom Servo sitting in chairs at the front (they had a sequence of doors, as well)!

    Tonight’s nitpicks:

    The the view of the screen on the kiosk flickers, shows readings scrolling by.
    -Extra “the”. Also, you may consider rewording the ending there, “…, shows ever-changing data scrolling quickly by.”

    *****

    Helton: At lest they haven’t shot us yet.

    “At least…”

    *****

    There appear to be a bulkhead

    “There appears to be…”

    *****

    Helton, Allonia, Kwon, Sar, and Quinn are sampling a food ration bar from an open box tucked under Helton’s arm.

    “…are sampling food bars from an open box…” Unless, of course, all five of them are sampling one single bar. Hard to tell without a visual image.

    *****

    Long, high tunnel, lined with 4-high bunks, with both wall-lockers and foot-lockers underneath.

    Minor nitpick, but to me this reads like the wall lockers are underneath the bunks, with the foot lockers. Maybe “…with wall-lockers beside and foot-lockers beneath.”

    *****

    Large tunnel, open door showing the huge landing cavern with Tajemnica in it, but from a different angle as before.

    “…Tajemnica in it, but a different angle from before.”

    *****

    …a billet of hot steel rolling out of in and through rollers…

    “…a billet of hot steel rolling out of it and through rollers…..” (I would also change “squishing” into “compressing”…”squishing” just seems sorta silly, like you’re not expecting the story to be taken seriously, as if it’s a spoof, or intended for young audiences.)

    *****

    On other screens, various data is scrolling by.

    “Data” could be singular or plural (kinda like “sheep”), but the use of the adjective “various” makes data plural, so “is” should be “are”…I think. Personally, I’d detour that entire argument and just go with “…various data scrolls by.”

    *****

    Helton: Can you give them specs for building a new one to YOUR specs?

    Maybe its just me, but I hate using the same word in the same sentence (or within a couple of sentences from the last use, unless its something like “turn left at Elm Street, then right onto Elm Court, third house on the left.” Kinda hard to avoid repetition in some cases.). I’d rephrase this one to something like “Can you give them the specs for building a new one to YOUR requirements?”

    • Thanks again. Fixed / tweaked for publication. Always amazes me what gets by, no matter how many times I read it. *shrug* As I keep telling myself, it’s the story, not the typography, that is important. But fixing typos will help a lot on selling the story.

      • No worries, I understand…its your baby, but sometimes we get so close to what we come up with that its hard to see the mistakes, even after some time passes. Personally, for me, I read to escape as much as to learn. I open a book, and if I’m not IN that universe within the first chapter, I usually don’t finish the book. Which leads to “never read that author again”. One of the things I really STRONGLY dislike is to be cruising along with the story, experiencing it play out in my head, only to get yanked out, back into reality, by a bad typo or editing goof. Yeah, nobody’s perfect, even the best authors have a mistake or two slip past. But the more speedbumps I hit while reading, the less anxious I am to dive back in, knowing that I’ll just be pulled back out in a page or two (some of the worst free e-books: within a sentence or two. Seriously.). Typos are bad enough, but I read a post-apocalyptic survival story once where, for the first two books, every “revelation” you had about one of the characters was…wait….nope, its the same one she had before. She was weak before, but now she’s going to be strong. Didn’t she decide that at least once a chapter for the last 20 chapters? Nope, I never finished the free books, and didn’t bother to buy any of the subsequent ones either.

        This story, Taj and Helton and crew, I’m really enjoying. I look forward to each posted episode, and a part of me both enjoys the chance to offer some feedback to iron out those speedbumps, and hates feeling like I’m criticizing someone else’s masterpiece. I know I’m nothing original myself, so if I’m annoyed by speedbumps, then there’s got to be a lot of others out there who feel the same way. So if the story can be smoothed out, I feel like you’ll have NO problems selling the story!

        Besides…based on most of the newer stuff I’ve read, editors suck.

        …………that *was* a glass of sweet tea, right? Not Long Island? Definitely past my bedtime.

        • You are criticizing the typos, not the “masterpiece” of the story. I can live with that quite well, thanks. I’m even pretty comfy with good story critiques, like the airlocks entry, attempted rape, Lagrange points, and card game. Easy to fix, and not so much big holes as minor problems, and it really WILL improve the story.
          I tried to make the opening have a strong enough hook to grab and catch people; I figured wrecking a flight sim, taking a change of life course, and getting screwed in security was a good way to have the first three short chapters hook people’s interest. Just hope the format doesn’t scare away too many people.

  3. Nits:
    “… a giant series of airlocks…” probably better as “… a series of giant airlocks…”

    “They have a sample.” One robo-moon, one controlling AI, shouldn’t this be singular?

    “Terraformed, but off-limited” should be “Terraformed, but off-limits”

    “…excluded from exclusions zone” should be “…excluded from exclusion zone”

    Last para: “wonder” should be “wander”

    I’m really looking forward to the published version – any polishing that you might have done based on feedback can only have made a great story even better.

    Where do I send my money. 🙂

    • Corrections made – much thanks, as always.
      Once I get it published, where to send money will be obvious, I hope. I’d even let you buy multiple copies if you want 🙂 Dunno if there will ever be dead-tree signed copies, but that WOULD be cool. If there are, I’ll be sure to send a few to some of my intrepid editors here.

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