Rogue novel…

Another chapter in the novel I have no idea where it’s going…

Chapter 7

Mapper took the bag and slid the book out, “Do you know what this is?”

Danny shrugged around a mouthful of food. “Book? I don’t know. It’s in some weird… writing?”

Mapper asked softly, “Did you study history Danny?”

“Of course. Everybody does. I minored in it at GanyTech.”

“Does Helios mean anything to you?”

“Helios? Helios… I know I’ve heard that… It was something in ancient history.”

Mapper nodded, “Four hundred years ago.”

Daniella looked on, puzzled as the two went back and forth for a good five minutes, until Mapper finally got frustrated with Danny. “Helios was Isaac Harriman’s ship.”

“Harriman? The explorer?”

Mapper shook his head sadly, “Yes… Danny… The vids your bot took. Did you take any from any further away?”

“Um, no. I was concerned about…”

“Danny, there is a high likelihood that the vids you took were of Harriman’s ship. And the log you brought back is very probably his!”

Danny’s fork dropped from his hand and floated slowly to the desk, any other time it would have been funny, but as Daniella finally got the import of what Mapper was saying, her smile died and put her hand over her mouth in surprise.

“But that means,” she said, and Mapper waved at her to be quiet.

“Danny, there’s a reason your AI couldn’t read the log book. It’s in ancient Hebrew. It’s a dead language on most worlds, but I learned how to read this at my mother’s knee as a child.”

Slapping his hand on the log book sitting on the table, he said, “Danny what’ you’ve found is the holy grail of the Cartographer’s Guild. I believe what you’ve also found is a one-way gate. Helios and those other ships came through that gate, and couldn’t get back out. I believe what you’ve found is an explorer’s graveyard.”

Danny look at him in amazement, “But according to history, Harriman was on the far side of the universe.”

“That’s the other thing, Danny,” Mapper said softly, “If the positions you brought back are correct, you were two-thirds of the way across the known universe.”

Danny gulped, “But… that’s not physically possible. It was less than thirty minutes to go through that gate, if that’s what it was. There’s no way…”

“Which brings up the next point, Danny. What happened to your AI?”

“Essie? I don’t know. I can’t… She just wasn’t there anymore. Essie? Help me!”

Estrella spoke softly through the speakers, “Captain, Mapper, Dani, we have no idea what happened. The last thing I have documented is thirty seconds from gate penetration, then multiple tries at a cold start, something over five days later I finally reloaded and came back on line going the other way, the captain had programmed the reverse of our course from our original track in, so when the captain became ill, I simply returned to Alpha.”

Danny said, “But there was a… default AI, that’s the only way I can think of to describe it, that was up when I regained consciousness. It… there wasn’t anything loaded, no star charts, no nothing. No pecker tracks, nothing! That’s… not possible. There is only one AI loaded on any system. One! Essie, database check for any stray files, reps, logs, anything that isn’t you.”

“Standby.”

Mapper and Daniella looked at each other in confusion, and Mapper interjected, “What you’re saying isn’t within any known parameters for AI systems, Danny. Once an AI is loaded, it trains up, is loaded with…”

Estrella interrupted, “Scan of all data banks, root system, and peripherals completed. No extraneous files found. All files present in my molycircs are mine. I see no additional data from any excursions when the cold restarts were being attempted, Captain. There are no error logs for the stoppage, nor any data logs during the one hundred seventeen point six one hours that I was offline. My stop and start points are within a nominal error range of three point two six yards of each other.”

Daniella asked softly, “Estrella, how could you possibly have gotten back to where you were if you were accelerating at twenty G’s in the opposite direction?”

“Dani, I do not know. It does not compute, but that is what my data says.”

Mapper threw up his hands, “Okay, moving on. I’ve copied Harriman’s log, but it will take me some time, maybe as much as a month to translate and plot it.” He pulled out one of the black rectangles, “This,” he rotated it until he found the slot, “may well be a data storage device. I saw what I believe to be another one of these floating on some kind of cable or tether next to a larger device that was sitting on what I believe was the navigator’s station. I don’t have the capability to connect this to anything, and I’m not sure I want to. I need to get this to experts.”

Danny nodded, “Makes sense. But where?”

Mapper asked, “How long before you’re capable of flying again?”

Danny shrugged, then winced, “I’d guess I can fly in five days. Maybe six. Why?”

“The only place I know other than the home office on Earth that might be able to read this, if it is a storage device, is the Retrotechnology Department at GanyTech. When I did a search, I saw what looked like one of these devices in their museum. Apparently, they have accessed it.”

“Ganymede is eleven days each way. I can do it, but that’s an expensive charter. You must be talking about Doc Eddlestone, if he’s still alive.” Danny thought for a moment, “I might know somebody that is still there.”

“Nobody can know where it came from,” Mapper cautioned.

Danny laughed, “I was known for bringing strange shit in that I found.”

***

Daniella sat in front of Director Jacson’s desk doing her best to not let her mouth fall open as the director continued, “So, the bottom line is I’m going to send you to the bi-annual sector stations conference. The hydrostatics committee have selected your proposals one point eight and two point seven for further review. For one point eight, they want to see the actual genetically modified algae, as they cannot duplicate it in their lab. For two point seven, they want a sample of the revised nutrient formula with the lower surface tension. The mining committee is also interested in both, as they believe that pairing might be effective in a near zero G environment.”

Jacson fumbled in her desk drawer, “Here are my proxies, along with my votes. And here is a data cube with the supplies we need, and a credit chip to at least order them.” She shoved the pile across the desk to Daniella and smiled, “Oh, and I hope you don’t get stage fright. They’re expecting a briefing on both your proposals at the general meeting too.”

Daniella pulled everything across to her, neatly stacking the paperwork, setting the data cube on top of it, then the credit chip on top of that. “Director, you’ve told me everything but when it is, and how I’m to travel.”

Jacson sighed, “Too much on my plate today. Artemis is back in medical. Another bout of allergies that they can’t find. The conference is in two weeks. My understanding is there is possibly a ship leaving within a couple of days, direct to Ganymede.” She pulled out another credit chip, “I know the scheduled route is fifty thousand credits, but that would only put you there after the conference not before. Go see the people at the transit section and see what they can do.”

Daniella got up, “Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry to hear about Artemis.”

Jacson nodded with a wave, “Thanks. Oh, and take a data comp with you. Matter of fact, take yours. That way if anyone wants data, you’ll have it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

An hour later, frustrated, she walked into the Lounge. Grabbing her apron, she took her frustrations out on it, causing the bartender to find something to do at the opposite end of the bar. She walked back to the office, knocked and when Elliot looked up, said, “Hi. Um… I’ve got to be gone for at least a couple of weeks. My boss is sending me to Gany for a sector conference. Am I fired?”

Elliot carefully laid down the data comp, “No, why should I fire you?”

She threw up her hands, “I’m… I can’t work.”

“You’re part time. I know that. No, you’re not fired. You’re too damn good a worker for me to do that. Your memory for customers, and their drinks and food, is too good to let go. I’m just sad I can’t afford to hire you full time.”

“Okay. I… better get to work.” She turned and headed down the hallway, and heard Elliot saying something about smiling. She grimaced then thought, Smile. Not grimace, smile. Smiles equal tips. Oh… tips. Maybe…

She headed for Mapper’s table, grabbing his drink from the bar on her way by, “Mapper? Do you know anything about a ship… Shit… it’s Ghost, isn’t it?”

Mapper looked up curiously, “What?”

“Director Jacson is sending me to Gany for a conference. I need to be there in two weeks, but transit doesn’t know anything about any ships departing. When is Da… Captain Ortega leaving? And will he take passengers?”

“He’s leaving in eighteen hours. He’s loading cargo today for the trade consortium at Gany from our little corner of the sector. He doesn’t normally take pax, but if you…”

“I can pay the going rate. Fifty thousand. The director authorized it.”

Mapper nodded, “Vid him. That would help pay the freight, or go ask him. I’d go ask him.” He reached into one of the cubbies under the table, pulling out a sealed folder, “If you’re going, take this with you. He’ll need this for the flight.”

“Now?”
“Why not. You’re on the clock.”

“But…”

Mapper shook his head, “Just go. Now. If Elliot says anything, I’ll cover for you.”

***

Eighteen hours later, Danny sat in the pilot’s chair as Estrella dropped and retracted the umbilicals, “Alpha Control, Ghost”

“Go ahead Ghost,” came the disembodied voice of the station AI.

“Ghost is clear, green board, ready to depart twenty-three whiskey mod six.”

“Ghost clear to Ganye three departture corridor three GATEC. Reminder, hyper limit controls in effect. Gate passage requires minimum two hour notification. Contact departure button six.”

“Copied all. Ghost switching departure button six.”

***

Mapper scanned through his incoming messages, and suddenly sat up, cursing. He activated his privacy shield, pulled the first message up in its entirety, and cursed even louder, as he scrambled for ideas. “Fuckers want to play games, eh. Well, two can play, and forewarned is forearmed.” The second message set off his anger even more, “Confiscate the ship my ass. Ohlmec was an even bigger shit than I thought.” Three other messages in the cue merely served to verify the first two, and Mapper quickly composed two messages, fired them out of his cue on priority, and took more time with the third, as he waited for an answer to his first one. He put a quick call into the transit section, confirming that Ghost was licensed and bonded as an authorized carrier for all cargos, including hazardous ones.

Not fifteen minutes later the first was answered in the affirmative, and Mapper chortled, “Let the game begin!” Twenty minutes later, the second message was answered, and Mapper smiled as he quickly composed the third message, encrypted it, and sent it priority to Ghost.

Daniella started to leave the bridge when the AI pinged, “Incoming priority message from Mapper, encrypted level three. Reply required.”

Danny looked over at her, “You know anything about this?”

“No, why should I”

Danny shrugged, “Decrypt, thirty-three hotel sixty-one alpha zulu six alpha beta nine.”

Estrella said, “Standby. Decrypt in progre… Message is proceed to belt asteroid nine eight zulu sixteen. Pick up cargo contracted there for transshipment. Proceed station Xray pick up personnel and provision. Contact Wessel, Hans. Code six nine six one three five. Message ends. Reroute?”

“Reroute. Wessel… Wessel… Where do I… Oh damn.”

Daniella asked, “What? What was all that about?”

He chuckled, “Looks like we’re going to be carrying an interesting cargo.”

“If we’re going into the belt, isn’t that dangerous for a ship this big?”

“Nine eight z sixteen is right on the inner edge. I can get in there no problem. Wessel is going to have a fit when he sees me.”

“Why? I’m confused.”

Danny laughed, “Wessel is the one that fired me. Now I’m going to be carrying the fruits of his labor. And we’ll have to stop at Xray and provision and pick up the guards.”

“I thought Xray only serviced the belt?”

“Normally that’s true. But they know me. Essie, how much do we have in the op account?”

“One point six million credits.”

“Okay, we can afford food.”

He turned to Daniella, “We’re twenty hours out, if you want to get a rest.”

“What about you. You’re still recovering.”

Patting the couch he replied, “This is as good as my bunk. This is where I normally sleep underway anyway. Is there anything that you added to my hydroponics that’s going to be edible?”

Daniella took the hint, “I’ll go find out, if you will excuse me.”

Danny turned back to the console, absently stroking the eight day clock, as she walked out of the bridge, muttering to herself about men. She checked the hydroponics, enjoying the peace and quiet, and smell of growing things, and felt herself calming down, “Estrella, are we private? If so, is he always like this?”

“Like what Dani?”

“An asshole. Dismissive, cryptic… He wasn’t this bad in medical.”

“I can only say his vitals indicate his fight or flight indicators are very high right now.”

“Fight or flight? Why?”

Estrella was quiet for almost fifteen seconds, an eon in the computer/AI world, then she slowly said, “Or, he is scared of you. That is another possible option I had not considered.”

“Scared of me?”

“Possibly.”

Daniella threw up her hands, “I’m… I cannot… I’m going to sleep.”

***

Twenty hours later, they sat on the bridge as Danny nuzzled the Ghost into the cargo lock at Zulu Sixteen, as it was known. “Grapples? Umbilicals?”

“Locked and extended.”

They watched the external cameras as hard suited spacers mated the umbilicals to the lock, “Connected. And we are now on shore power.”

Danny got up, “Well, lets go welcome Mr. Wessel. This should be interesting.”

Four hours later, the last pallet was placed by the cargo bot and the ship’s mech proceeded with the final lockdown of the pallet. Daniella had retreated to the mess, smart enough to get the hell out of the cargo bots, and mech’s way. They had a job to do, and Danny was busy with Wessel, logging each pallet individually aboard the ship.

Wessel and Danny walked into the mess, and Danny ordered a bulb for Wessel as he turned and laughed, “Nobody would ever believe this. It’s… beyond stupid.”

Wessel took the bulb, sat down and started holo stamping the inventory, “That’s why it should work. It’s so stupid nobody in their right mind would do this. But we were desperate. And Mapper…”

“Yeah, Mapper. That sumbitch has his hands in stuff I’m not sure I even want to know about, much less be involved in.”

“Yet here you are, and there you go,” He pushed the inventory across the table, “Travel safe, Danny. There’s a lot riding on your success.”

Danny nodded, saying softly, “I’ll do my best, Hans. Thanks for trusting me.” They shook hands and Wessel departed as Danny did one more walkthrough to ensure everything was buttoned up, “We secure Essie?”

“Secure.”

Daniella asked timidly, “What exactly are we carrying?”

He grinned, “About three hundred million credits worth of precious metals and minerals.”

“Three hundred… million… credits?”

“Yep.”


Comments

Rogue novel… — 12 Comments

  1. Maybe I better not buy the Muse another round, yet. This is good and is building some interesting plot threads, action and personal. Very nice.

    One typo squawk: “queue” instead of “cue” for message lists. Sometimes I want to take a cue-stick to the pencil-neck that stuck the phrase into computers.

    When Daniella and Estrella are having their private talk, is Estrella (AI) dropping a hint that Danny may be scared for, as well as scared of, Daniella? The lone pilot may not want to be lone, but could be terrified or dealing with scares from previous relations that went really bad.

  2. I like where this is going. My first reading love, beyond WWII history, was (and is) sci fi. This is equal to anything/anyone in that genre.

    Did I mention I like where this is going?

  3. PK- GAHHHHH… I have a mental block on cue/queue… Re your question, beats the hell outta me right now…LOL

    Pat- Thank you for the kind words!

  4. PK already caught cue/queue but yes, this is becoming quite interesting.

    My biggest comment and praise so far: No infodumps! Well done!

  5. Hey Old NFO;

    Very well done for a letting your muse run amuck, keep it going, we are enjoying the fruits of your demin.. er I mean your imagination, LOL. Seriously, the book and premise look very promising.

  6. This is tagged under Rimworld. I’m not seeing the other snippets of this in that index.

    I’m liking this.

  7. All- Thanks. I’ve about decided to shove it into that series as a separate story line… Maybe… Or not… 🙂

    Posted from my iPhone.

  8. For what it’s worth, I’ve paid money for poorer fiction. I’d buy this. Been meaning to chase down some of your fiction and buy it, anyhow.

  9. “…in the novel I have no idea where it’s going…”

    Apparently, it’s headed to Ganymede. 😀

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