From the Archives: Deep Space

The date on this file says 2001, but I remember writing this a LOT earlier than that. It was a idea for a science fiction serial. In the file, there was about a paragraph and a half of notes (which end in mid-sentence) and the chapter fragment that appears below. The story takes place in the future and has two main characters. One is an experienced space traveler, and the other is a time-displaced earthman from the 20th century. It should be fairly obvious which one is which. There is no mention of just how a man from 20th century earth ended up in the future… I couldn’t answer that question at the time, so I decided to start the story in the middle… thus the episode number.

The reason I abandoned it? It was TOO much of a ripoff of “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. There was no way I could go forward with this without being laughed off the internet for my lack of originality.

Enough talk, here goes:



Deep Space

Episode 639: Ship of Fools

The deep space exploration ship New Voyage burst into hyperspace with a brilliant explosion of light and color. The fabric of space rippled and tore, throwing off rings of red and orange energy. And, as the New Voyage achieved quantum speeds, the tear in space sealed with equal violence, this time showering the area with bright blues and deep purples. The sight of a FTL starship jumping to hyperspace is one of the most beautiful in the known universe… at least theoretically. No one could actually WITNESS such an event in its full splendor unless they were foolish enough to be riding OUTSIDE the ship when it happened.

“That was beautiful,” said Duncan Minlo. “Better than I’d heard.” Duncan and his companion Spencer Gayle were nestled in a small corner near where the mighty ship’s stabilizers were joined to the circular main body. A tiny force field held them fast to the ships surface, where they viewed the splendor through the visors of their space-suits.

“You know, Duncan,” said Spencer. “When you said you could get us this ride to Zel-7, somehow I thought you meant INSIDE the ship.”

“Why bother? We’re perfectly safe out here… even SAFER, considering that fact that we’re stowaways. They shoot stowaways, you know.”

“Perfectly safe?” Spencer reached out and touched the yellow force field holding them to the ship’s hull. The field shimmered, but wouldn’t let his gloved hand through. “You’ve said that before. How many times have you ever been right?”

“Yes, but all those mishaps were YOUR fault, remember?”

“The Rigel Starliner wasn’t my fault.”

“I stand corrected. All those things, EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE, were your fault.”

“Thank you.”

The force field shimmered again.

“Would you mind not touching the force field?” said Duncan.

“That wasn’t me.”

The force field shimmered more violently.

“It’s probably space debris,” said Spencer.

“The ship has their navigation shields up. It wasn’t debris.”

“Well what’s screwing with it?”

“Are you sure it isn’t you?”

“Positive. Check the thingy.”

The Trans-Harmonic Ion Network Generator (Series Y) was a small metal cylindar about one foot
in length and two inches or so in diameter. It was sitting between Duncan and Spencer, with one end emmitting the contianment field and the other firmly attached to the ship’s hull.

At least is was supposed to be firmly attached to the ships hull. The generator was floating freely now, bobbing and weaving in the vacuum, and generally playing havoc with the force field.

“I’m sorry,” said Spencer. “I must have nudged it.”

Duncan grumbled as he grabbed the thingy and brought it gently back into contact with the hull.

“There.”

“Shouldn’t you screw it in or something?”

“The base is magnetic. See…” Duncan poked the generator. It fell over.

“AAAAHHH!”

Duncan and Spencer scrambled for the cylinder. Duncan managed to grab it and re-set it again before the force field vanished.

“Now THAT wasn’t me!” shouted Spencer.

“Something’s wrong with it,” said Duncan. “It’s supposed to stick…”

“Great… we’re stuck out here with a malfunctioning thingy.”

“It’s called a ‘Series Y’, and it isn’t malfunctioning. Maybe it just needs a good cleaning. We’ll have to go inside where I can check it out.”

“Ooh, I’m SO disappointed…”

“Come on. There’s an airlock up there.”

Several minutes later, Duncan and Spencer emerged from a service airlock and found themselves on the deck of the New Voyage. Predictably, everything was white with blue markings, and a bright blue stripe running along the bottom of each wall. Directly across from them, the number 14 was painted on the wall in huge block letter.

“I guess this is deck 14,” said Spencer as he disconnected the breathing apparatus and removed his helmet.

“We have to get out of these spacesuits,” said Duncan. “and find somewhere cozy to hide for the rest of the trip.”

“How long is that going to be, anyway?”

“Couple of hours if we’re traveling at standard speed. Zel-7’s just a short hop from Begath-3.”

Duncan removed his helmet and took a deep breath.

“Ahhhh…. nothing like the smell of a new starsh- GEEZ what’s that smell!?!”

Spencer sniffed and made an unpleasant frown.

“Smells like… cheap plastic. Hey… remember when I bought that new glider on Rigel? The one that exploded? Smells like that.”

“But this isn’t a glider,” said Duncan. “Must be something in the air filtration. Come along… lets-”

“Hey look… paint’s chipping.”

Spencer pulled a long strip of blue paint off of the ’14’ painted on the wall. Now, the wall read ‘4.’

“Yes,” said Duncan “Don’t eat any.”

Duncan walked down the corridor and Spence followed. They stopped at the first door they came to… it was marked “uipment.”

“Must be an equipment room. We can hide in here.”

Duncan hit a button on the control panel beside the door. Nothing happened.

“Oh, dammit.”

He tapped the button much harder, and the control panel fell off of the wall, revealing a nest of poorly connected wires.

“Guess they don’t make ’em like the USED to, eh Duncan?”

“Bah…” Duncan fiddled with the wires until the door opened, sliding upward into the wall with a SSSWOOSH!

“Now THIS is convienient,” said Spencer.

The ‘uipment’ room was only a small closet, but it was packed with spacemen’s uniforms.

Spencer reached in and grabbed two uniforms. He threw one to Duncan. “Here, get dressed.”

“What are you doing?”

“We can pretend to be members of the crew.”

“What’s the point of that?”

“Well you said yourself that the best place to hide is in plain sight. Right?”

“I hate it when you listen to me.” Duncan removed his clothes and began to get dressed. The uniforms were one piece blue and white tights that zipped up the back. Each one bore the markings of second level ensign.

Spencer was still going through the painful contortions required to zip up the uniform when they heard footsteps approach.

A crewman rounded the corner and stopped when he saw them.

“Uhhhh…” said Spencer. Both arms were still twisted around behind his back. “We’re just…uhh…”

The crewman snapped to attention and saluted.

“Carry on,” said Duncan.

“Yes, SIR!”

The crewman walked away.

“Interesting,” said Duncan.

“What?”

“He saluted us.”

“So?”

“He was a lieutenant.”

“Oh.”

“And his uniform was on backwards.”

Dressed as crewman, Duncan and Spencer spent the next hour wandering around deck 14. The inhabited portion of the ship was a large torus, and it took a half hour to walk completely around it. They decided to make a second trip simply because there was nothing else to do. They passed quite a few crewman who looked quite busy either going somewhere or coming from somewhere. Some of them carried clipboards or toolboxes, but most just walked past empty handed. No one questioned Duncan’s or Spencer’s presence… or their apparent absence of anything constructive to do. Meanwhile, Duncan ran the self-diagnostic on the Series Y, which came up completely normal.

“So the thingy’s not broken?”

“No.”

“Then why didn’t it-”

“I have no idea. Let’s try it again…”

Duncan placed the end of the instrument against the wall. When he released it, the Series Y dropped to the floor.

“This isn’t supposed to happen.”

“Didn’t you say that it’s magnetic?”

“Yes. So it should stick to the wall in here AND to the hull outside.”

“Well… maybe the wall isn’t made of metal.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Spencer…of COURSE its made of metal. What ELSE would they make a starship out of? Cardboard? And I guess they’d hold it together with velcro, too.”

“They’re doing wonderful things with plastic these days.”

“Plastic? No one in their right mind would build… or go anywhere NEAR a spaceship made out of plastic. Even if you could build one strong enough to withstand its own weight, it’d fly apart or melt as soon as you tried to jump to hyperspace.”

“Well, it was just a thought.”

“Is it always this boring?” said Spencer.

“Yes. This is a deep space exploration vessel. After they pick up supplies in Zel-7, they’ll be heading out into unexplored territory.”

“Well maybe we should stay onboard then… go out into space and fight the alien menace.”

“What alien menace?”

“Well, there’s ALWAYS an alien menace SOMEWHERE.”

“So far, man has encountered twenty-seven alien civilizations. None of them have turned out to be very menacing.”

“But that doesn’t mean that the NEXT one won’t be.”

“True. But you’re forgetting that we’re stowaways and…”

A group of crewman walked past. Duncan stopped and watched them disappear down the hallway.

“What?” said Spencer.

“That group passed by a few minutes ago. The same crewmen.”

“So?”

“So, don’t you think that’s odd? I’ve seen some of the OTHER crewman more than once as well. It’s like everyone’s just wandering around the ship aimlessly.”

“So. Isn’t that what WE’RE doing?”

“It’s EXACTLY what we’re doing.”

“If you get anywhere near a point, I’d love to hear about it.”

“I need to get to a computer panel. I think we passed one back this way.”

Duncan walked a short distance back the way they had come. There was a large rectangular panel on the wall. Most of it’s area was a large computer display, but here was a grid of buttons down the right side. Duncan began punching the buttons. Each one made a nice ‘beeping’ sound… but nothing else happened. The display remained blank.

“It’s broken,” said Duncan.

“No it isn’t. I heard it beeping… see-” Spencer leaned over and punched a few buttons at random. The beeping continued…. as did the perfectly blank screen.

“Like I said… broken.”

“Well let’s find another one.”

“Wait…”

Duncan grabbed opposite edges of the panel and gave it a good yank. It came away from the wall with a loud ripping noise.

“Duncan! Didn’t know you were that strong.”

“I’m not. It was a fake screen. Lights and sounds… but no actual connection to anything. Now why would they-”

“Hey look…” Spencer pointed to a small strip of material that ran around the space where the panel was set.

“Hey, isn’t that-?”

“Velcro.”

[end of file]

…and Douglas Adams spins in his grave.


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