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Chapter 25 (Original Archive)

supreme_arbiter 10/12/2004

Turn 4:

While they were debating what to do about the rustic looking natives outside, the ship suddenly shuddered. Bud, Nike and Chelydra reached for the bulkhead to stay on their feet. Shlitzee, magnetically adhered to the floor of the ship, swayed only a little. "What was that," Nike asked.

"The shields are reacting to the storm," Bud said. "The airlock computer says there's danger of electrical discharge." He looked out the airlock window. The night sky was steadily lit by the strange green lightning and a bluish haze coming from the ship's shields. The natives were desperately digging holes in the sand with their hands. One native remained on his knees imploring the heavens.

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"Alright," Percy said into the comm device, "secondary computer repairs are complete! That, uh... oh! Radio on. Team, this is Percy. That explains the ship's computer running the life forms search without our having to tell it to. The primary computer runs the low level ship sytems. The secondary computer is a higher level human interface. It's listening to our requests and performing functions as we require them. The autonomic regulator is required for the artificial intelligence to function. It must've shorted out somehow. Without it, the ship's computer can't perform higher level analytic functions. If we find an autonomic regulator, we'll see if we can install it! Uh, radio off!"

"How many rems do you think the containment can hold... back," Percy asked Arkady nervously.

"Well, assuming there's no breach, and I'm sure the computer would let us know if there was, it should contain several thousand. It seems a little hot in there now, but when the engine's running it'll probably get a lot hotter. There may be some radioactive fuel that broke loose in there during the crash."

"I was expecting something cylindrical, maybe with light blue discs of neon light, and some kind of pulsating noise." Percy paused for effect. "At this point you're supposed to accuse me of watching too many golden age science fiction movies," he half-joked to the pilot.

"Nah, I used to read a lot of pulp scifi when I was a pilot: space academies, cadets, beautiful Venutians! Real space travel is 99.9 percent boredom, punctuated by white knuckled moments of sheer terror."

Percy walked to the telescope-looking object. It was indeed a telescope. The theodolite that housed it in the ceiling was massive. He ran his fingers down the cold surface and followed the wires that came from the housing. They were attached to a computer and monitor. Another set of wires ran from the computer into the hull of the ship. "This looks fun, but we've got a reactor to attend to. I don't guess there are any instruction books lying around: Idiot's guide to Reactor Repair? Reactor Repair for Dummies? Waaaaaitaminute." He cleared his throat and tried to sound official. "Computer, engineering status!"

A recessed monitor and keyboard appeared from the wall below the large window to the right of the airlock. A chair rose from the floor below it. "Thanks Computer." Percy smiled as he sat down. He flexed his fingers and grinned. The monitor displayed several camera angles. Judging by the dim red lighting, he assumed the cameras were all on the other side of the window. Percy toggled through the various cameras. "This is almost too easy." Arkady nodded and watched over Percy's shoulder. The cameras seemed to be named after the region of the engine room they were pointed at: injector, fuel assembly, shield braces, impeller, thermocouplers, coolant systems. There was one camera that was pointed at the floor and shaking from side to side at an uneven pace. Percy read the caption above it. "Terminus? I wonder what that one is."

Suddenly the camera moved up. For a moment Percy and Arkady saw themselves in the monitor. The camera was looking at them from behind the window and somewhere to their left. Then the camera swung slowly down to its original position and resumed the patternless shaking. Percy and Arkady looked through the window and saw a humanoid shaped robot sitting on a shield brace.

Suddenly the ship shuddered. Percy and Arkady grabbed the arms of the chair to keep from falling over.

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MX2000 approached the corpse to get a better look at it. As he did so, the mist became thicker. It covered the body and became hotter and brighter until it overwhelmed his night vision. The robot switched to normal vision and saw that the corridor had been transformed. The floor was free of dust and debris. The overhead lights were working. Before him stood an Asian gentleman in bright, shining combat armor. MX2000's biometrics scanned the man's face.

"State your name and designation," the robot said.

"My name is Ken Matahachi, 1st Lieutenant Warden command."

"...verified."

"Hello, MX2000. What are you doing beyond your post?"

"Investigating... unusual activity."

"I see. Were you curious?"

"I am not programmed to be curious."

"Ah, a pity. Well, my incurious friend, I have a new assignment for you. This installation no longer requires security. You see, there haven't been any humans here for a long time. But the Warden has finally arrived and some of its crew have landed. You are to go to them. They may require your assistance. You must also tell them the location of this place. Do you understand?"

"Affirmative."

"Do you have any questions?"

"Negative."

"Then I need you to shutdown for reprogramming."

MX2000 shutdown. When he awoke, the corridor looked as it had when he first entered it. He switched to night vision and, without examining the corpse, he left the ship the way he had come in. He returned to the installation he had once guarded. In the hangar he found several skycars. He inspected one of the vehicles: every hose and wire seemed firmly in place, the battery was fully charged, and there were enough fuel cells in the cargo container for the trip. MX2000 got in the car. He turned on the GPS and set it for the first waypoint. He drove the car out of the hangar, closed the doors behind him and set off on his journey.

-----------------------------------

This ends MX2000's tale... for now. Janus is taking a break from the storm this turn.

end transmission


stacinator 10/12/2004

Nike

"How many natives are out there again?" Nike asked, cursing herself for forgetting. In her mind she raced through the possibilities of bringing them aboard for shelter, but wondered if that would be helping or harming them. Their ship was probably a giant magnet for the lightning, and did they even know if it could sustain a hit? And even if they knew that the ship could be safe haven, would bringing natives on board be a security nightmare? Instinctively, she knew that bringing them aboard was a bad idea.

"Radio on. Percy and Arkady--is there any way to erect a lightning rod, of sorts, to make our ship a less inviting target? And if so, do we have the materials to make it happen?" she asked. Another series of green snaked across the sky. "Better make that analysis quick, guys."


supreme_arbiter 10/12/2004

Turn 4.1:

"How many natives are out there," Nike asked. She moved into the airlock to get a better look, but the window was small.

"Three, I think," Bud replied.

"Radio on," Nike said. "Percy and Arkady--is there any way to erect a lightning rod, of sorts, to make our ship a less inviting target?" Another series of green lightning snaked across the sky. "Better make that analysis quick, guys."

"We're on it," Arkady said into his radio. "Radio off. Hey computer, can I get a terminal here?" Another terminal and chair appeared next to Percy. He sat down. "I need hull structure, shield analysis and electrical transduction details." The appropriate applications promptly appeared on the screen. Arkady scrutinized them and filed through a few menus. His memories of the procedures were returning to him quickly. "Radio on, the shields have absorbed an indirect hit. The batteries and capacitors stored a little of the excess charge and released the rest into the sand. There's no guarantee the shield can handle a direct hit, but there's plenty of headroom. Besides, we may only have a few minutes before a direct strike and anyone outside the ship at that time wouldn't stand a chance!"


stacinator 10/13/2004

Nike

Nike thought quickly. This seemed to be a situation where there was no obvious "right" choice.

"Suggestions, people?" Nike barked at the entire group, both through the radio and to her immediate companions.


supreme_arbiter 10/26/2004

I'm going to post a new turn on Thursday, unless Bud, Percy or Shlitzee want more time to get a post in. In the meantime... I need a d20 roll for each character except for Shlitzee. You can roll your own or go to http://cgi.kenware.com/DiceServer.pl. In either case, please send the result to supreme_arbiter@yahoo.com. Or would you prefer it if I just roll for each player? I don't know, I'm just asking. 8)

What's your status Mike? I haven't heard from you in a while. On vacation? What's the status of the Eggspace game?


gammaben 10/28/2004

Percy

Nike: "Suggestions, people?" Nike barked at the entire group, both through the radio and to her immediate companions.
"I say, invite 'em in for... ah, fewmits." Percy cleared his throat as he maintained his grip on the pop-up chair in front of the engineering computer terminal. "Radio on. Nike, this is Percy, I say invite 'em in for refreshments! They probably know this storm'll pulverize them if they stay out there. Maybe take them to the galley for a little lunch, a little q and a? We've got an engine to fix, radio off!"

He turned to Arkady. "Got any ideas for a lightning rod? Maybe we can remote control an escape pod and have it hover right above us, take the next blast instead of it hitting our shields? Maybe we figure out what robot hulkster bob is doing in the engine room, fix the reactor and boost our shield power so we don't have to worry about that storm? Maybe we--"

Arkady interrupted. "Whoa, Percy! You're bouncing a lot of ideas around, maybe we should consider one at a time?"

"Ah, yes." Percy paused for a breath, then started up again as if he'd been inspired--as he had been. "Waaaaaaitaminute! That's it! We bounce!"

He paused for extra drama.

"Think we can make our shielding electromagnetically identical to the storm blasts? You know, try pushing two magnetic north poles together--it doesn't work! We bounce the lightning off our shields, repel, maybe, instead of our shields absorbing the storm?"

As he tapered off this train of thought, Percy stood and walked to the window to get a better look at the robot. Multitasking was one of his strengths, and he seemed to be better at it in this incarnation than he was... originally. Maybe the clone program scrambled his brain for the better in some ways. "Computer, please identify the robot in reactor room, state its purpose, how long it's been in there, and its operational status!"

He turned to Arkady. "Anything else?"

OOC: Die rolls for Percy and Nike have been transmitted via Dice Server to the SA!


mikejohnson_lordofdance 10/28/2004

Bud

Thinking over their situation while watching the storm...

"I think we have to take the risk," thumbing towards the increasingly dangerous exterior. "I'm not keen on taking aboard unknown humanoids...but I don't think they'll last long out there. We might need a few friends on this ball, and I think we could keep them isolated."

Bud looks to his companions, "Maybe we should pull back from the airlock and keep it secure-coded? We could converse through the intercom."

OOC: sorry for the delay: vacation+work+illness (better now) also- I'm fine with the SA rolling for me from here forward.


supreme_arbiter 10/28/2004

Turn 4.2:

This seemed to be a situation where there was no obvious 'right' choice. "Suggestions, people?" Nike barked at the entire group, both through the radio and to her immediate companions.

"Radio on. Nike, this is Percy, I say invite 'em in for refreshments! They probably know this storm'll pulverize them if they stay out there. Maybe take them to the galley for a little lunch, a little q and a? We've got an engine to fix, radio off!"

Nike told Chelydra Percy's comments. They shared a look of concern, not only for their potential house guests, but also because Nike and Chelydra were the only ones who had been through the galley and knew there was no food there.

Bud watched the storm through the airlock window. "I think we have to take the risk. I'm not keen on taking aboard unknown humanoids, but I don't think they'll last long out there. We might need a few friends on this ball, and I think we could keep them isolated." Bud turned to his companions. "Maybe we should pull back from the airlock and keep it secure-coded? We could converse through the intercom."

"You're assuming they speak English," Shlitzee added.

OOC: I'm as curious as everyone else is to see how this is going to go! :) Thanks for the feedback on dice rolling from the quorum. I've decided to postpone the results of the current rolls, but they will be used. For future random events, I'll give a similar notice with a deadline: those who want to roll-their-own before the deadline may do so; I'll assume those who don't respond want me to roll for them, no problem.


supreme_arbiter 10/28/2004

Turn 5.0:

"Think we can make our shielding electromagnetically identical to the storm blasts? You know, try pushing two magnetic north poles together--it doesn't work! We bounce the lightning off our shields, repel, maybe, instead of our shields absorbing the storm?"

"Well, it wouldn't bounce off, but if the polarity is opposite the damage might be less. But we won't know the polarity of the strike until it hits. In an afriumus storm..." Arkady had a eureka moment. "Gruber, I remember! An Afrimus storm is so hot that the lightning behaves like plasma!"

"Gruber? What's that and how does it help us?"

"He was my meteorology professor at New Eden University. Not sure how that helps, but... Oh, lightning usually strikes ground negatively. Usually, as in -- not always. It's random, but our chances are about ninety percent if you set the shield's negative pole up."

"Shield application please," Percy said. Diagrams of shield operations appeared on the monitor before him. Arkady and Percy kibbutzed over the details. Between the two of them, it was a simple matter to check the orientation of the shields. They were already upwardly negative so there was no need to do anything further. "What about a lightning rod?"

"Don't worry about a lightning rod," Arkady replied. "The computer reported that anchors were properly implemented. Between that and the shields, we should be pretty safe."

Percy stood and looked through the window to get a better look at the robot. Multitasking was one of his strengths and he seemed to be better at it in this incarnation than he had been... originally. Maybe the clone program had scrambled his brain for the better in some ways. "Computer, please identify the robot in reactor room, state its purpose, how long it's been in there, and its operational status!"

A message box appeared on the screen:
Name: Terminus
Purpose: Hazardous repair and maintenance
Elapsed time in engineering room: 4427634:21:58.02
Status: Operational; vocal command only
WARNING: Subject is dangerously irradiated and strictly quarantined
"Four million hours! What useless kind of programming is that," Percy fumed. "Computer, a calculator please." He sat back down at the computer and did some fast number crunching on the application that appeared. "That's 505 years and 5 months."


stacinator 11/4/2004

Nike

"Affirmative," Nike responded, "Asuda, let's go try to make some new friends. Percy, Arkady, keep trying to find a way to protect the ship from this lightning."


supreme_arbiter 11/4/2004

"Affirmative," Nike responded, "Asuda, let's go try to make some new friends. Percy, Arkady, keep trying to find a way to protect the ship from this lightning."
Is Nike agreeing with Bud's last suggestion: is she going to use the airlock intercom to say hello to the natives? Will she open the outer airlock door? (by the way, the inner airlock door is still open and the computer has already indicated that both airlock doors can con-currently be opened at the present time.) If she waits to open the airlock door until after she's spoken to them, under what conditions will she open the door?

I'll post turn 6 on Tuesday. The events in the engineering room were moving faster, so the current turn there is 5. Turn 6 will move both the airlock and engineering room events further along.


aeraxbob 11/4/2004

shlitzfarl

Gyrates head slowly.

"So let me get this straight," head stops, fully erect.

"You two meatsacks are going outside to flapjaw with the locals, turtlewax and I will wait here. If things go well, we'll move back into the ship and close the inner lock door, keeping out of sight. If things go sour, Magic Shell and I obliterate anything causing trouble while you two run back inside?"


stacinator 11/5/2004

Nike

"Affirmative. Bud, you ready to make first contact?"

OOC: Nike is planning for the two of them to exit through the outer airlock, while being covered by the others. She would be the one to touch the panel to open outer airlock, and move through said airlock to the great outdoors. Is that what you needed SA?


supreme_arbiter 11/5/2004

Is that what you needed SA?
That'll work :) There had been several suggestions and I just wasn't sure which direction the party was going to take.


mikejohnson_lordofdance 11/6/2004

Bud

"Affirmative. Bud, you ready to make first contact?"
"Meatsak-asuda ready to roll." smiles as he makes his gun ready for easy draw. Addresses all 3 companions: "If I touch my left ear, that means I'm about to shoot something. If I scratch my nose, lock the doors whether or not we're back in... if I slick my hair back...well that means my hair's out of place."

He'll head through the lock with Nike as the door opens (assuming they aren't attacked immediately).


gpfarm 11/6/2004

Chelydra

Chelydra takes up a covering position with his shotgun. ‘Gotta watch the ammo’, he thinks, ‘no telling when I’ll get a resupply.’

"Don’t forget to duck if you want me to reach out and touch someone," he jokes to Asuda and Nike.


gammaben 11/8/2004

Percy

"Computer, open a voice channel to the engineering reactor room," Percy ordered quickly, although with four million hours having passed since the Terminus robot entered the room, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Percy had taken his time. Assuming channel activates: "Terminus, this is Warden cremember Percy Jenkins. Do you copy?" He shrugged to Arkady, but continued his questioning. "Terminus, please reactivate! We need your assistance! We have to get this ship's reactor repaired!"

It occurred to him that perhaps Terminus had been trying to repair it since they crashed. What was it doing in there in the first place? What kind of a robot has a name like Terminus? Isn't that a death wish waiting to happen? Percy kept these questions to himself, for now.

Then, he realized they needed to report back to Nike, and suggested to Arkady that they do so.


supreme_arbiter 11/9/2004

Turn 6.0:

Nike entered the airlock and Bud followed. She glanced at the monitor above the opening mechanism. The humanoid figures were still below them. She pressed a button and the outer door opened. The hot wind that blew sand in her eyes felt as if it had been blown from a furnace. She shielded her face with her hands and looked down. A few meters below her were several men: seemingly human men. They had noticed the open door and were on their knees bowing their heads to her. Nike was disconcerted by the feeling of performing in a bad science fiction film. She raised her hands, palms open in welcome. "We come in peace," she said.

One of the men raised his head and exclaimed, "Salvation!"

"Well what d'ya know! They speak English," Shlitzee said to Chelydra. "What is this, Star Trek?"

"Who are you and where did you come from," Nike shouted over the wind.

"I am Horatio of the Hithari Galtites," the man yelled back. The others stole furtive glances while they cowered. "I am a priest and these are my students. We came from the oasis at Sigai. We pray for shelter from the storm."

Nike glanced around her at the great outdoors. It was much nastier than when she and Chelydra had gazed briefly through the hull breach. Distant lightning meandered threateningly through the clouds. She looked at Bud. He slicked his hair back. Nike waved to the men and said, "Sure, come on up."

Horatio climbed up the side of the ship first. His students watched as Nike helped him inside. They looked at each other then scrambled for the airlock entrance. Nike helped each one up and Bud ushered them inside. Each man except Horatio carried a light backpack and nothing else. Beyond the airlock, in the environment control room, Shlitzee and Chelydra awaited their entrance. Horatio was the first to spot them. His eyes were wide as saucers but he quickly regained his composure. Horatio's students, however, could not so well control their reactions. They muttered and recited prayers excitedly. Horatio spoke sharply, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" They silently stared at their feet in shame.

Chelydra grunted and patted his shotgun fondly. He prevented the men from entering the rest of the ship. Shlitzee prevented them from getting too close to any of the machinery. Bud stood ready and fingered his holstered pistol.

The last of Horatio's five students exited the airlock. Nike shut the outer airlock door and followed them into the control room. She closed the inner door and considered her next move. "Here comes the nightmare part of this scenario," she thought to herself. "Well, gentlemen. Shall we retire to the galley?"

"Sounds like a secure place," Chelydra responded.

"Shlitzee and I will lead the way. Security officer Chelydra and Bud, will you please bring up the rear?" Both men nodded. Nike led Horatio and his terrified students down the hallway. Shlitzee walked backwards, her laser on standby.

-----------------------------------

Meanwhile, in the engineering room:

"Computer, open a voice channel to the engineering reactor room," Percy ordered quickly, although with four million hours having passed since the Terminus robot had entered the room, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Percy had taken his time.

A metallic tapping sound came from speakers above the window. "Terminus, this is Warden crew member Percy Jenkins. Do you copy?" As Terminus looked up, the monitor view looked from the floor to the window where Percy and Arkady sat.

"Who-is-there?" came a voice that sounded as if it were being filtered through a metal tube.

Percy looked at Arkady and shrugged. "Warden crew member Percy Jenkins," he repeated.

"Ter-minus... free... freezing in here..."

"Terminus, please reactivate! We need your assistance! We have to get this ship's reactor repaired!"

"Ter-minus... re-actor... Terminus in charge reactor," it repeated with something like moronic self-complacency. It continued sitting where it was.

Arkady started to get angry. Had all the robots around them gone mad?! The incessant tapping sound was also irritating him. It seemed to be patternless, unlike the steady noises he was accustomed to onboard a ship. "Get up!" he shouted for lack of anything better to say. They heard the grinding and screeching of metallic joints as Terminus drew itself up slowly as if having to overcome a powerful resistance. Oil leaks in the couplings had combined with dust to form a dark sludge. The tapping sound ceased.

"What kind of a robot has a name like Terminus?" Percy wondered while Terminus silently stared at them. It seemed like a death wish waiting to happen.

"Terminus, what's wrong with the reactor," Arkady asked.

The robot paused before answering. "Containment chamber cooling system... replacement... necessary."

"Well, do we have a replacement?" Percy asked.

The robot's glass eyes rotated in opposite directions in 180 degree sweeps, lending the flat metal face a look of even greater vacuity. "No," it eventually replied.

Percy groaned with frustration and covered his face with his hands. "We can't exactly call central services! Where are we supposed to find a replacement?"

"Compiler... matter compiler... storage garage..."

Arkady and Percy slowly smiled. If there was a functioning matter compiler onboard, things weren't so bleak after all. They'd be able to construct anything they needed! Unable to believe their luck, they asked Terminus again. It confirmed that there was a matter compiler in lockdown inside the storage garage. It painfully spelled out the required part number. Percy carefully wrote it down on a sticky note and suggested they report back to Nike.

"Radio on," Arkady said. "Nike we've configured the shields and are using the ship's landing anchors as lightning rods."

"Good work, guys," Nike replied over the comm device. "We're in the Captain's Galley with our six guests."

"We need to construct a portion of the cooling system," Percy continued.

"Out of what? Bubblegum and toothpicks?"

"There's a matter compiler in the garage."

There was a moment of silence while Nike absorbed the fact that the lifeboat had a garage... and a matter compiler! Who would load so many resources onto a lifeboat? The UWSC, of course! The UWSC had practically unlimited mineral resources near Pluto and cheap robotic labor. They spared no expense, especially with such a high profile ship as the Warden.

"Bailey and I searched that quadrant," Bud whispered over the intercom. "The garage is in storage behind the door labeled 'Munitions'. You should have no trouble getting in there." Percy and Arkady thanked him for the directions and switched off their radios. They ordered Terminus to clean up the reactor room and look for radiation leaks, then left the room.

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Without warning, the ship lurched sternward. Percy and Arkady were in the corridor on their way to the storage room. They both managed to grab hold of the railing when the floor moved beneath them. In the cockpit, Amanda fell back into her chair while Bailey, who had been leaning next to her, fell past her into another chair.

Things were more chaotic in the dining room. Most of the room's ten occupants were thrown off their feet. Only Shlitzee, Horatio and two of his students remained standing. One of Horatio's students struck the table with his head. The table rang and the student fell into his fellows. Chelydra stumbled. He caught hold of the table, but he dropped his shotgun and his helmet fell over his eyes. Nike fell into Bud and they both collapsed. The floor struck Bud's head and knocked him unconscious. Nike, stunned, fell on top of him.

As suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The ship was stable again, but it was listing in the opposite direction. The tail end of the ship was now the lowest point.

-----------------------------------

end transmission

OOC: Nike has limited movement this turn, although she is conscious. She had the wind knocked out of her. Sorry Mike, Bud is on Dream Detail this turn. Everyone else can function normally.

The character of Terminus is based on a short story written by Stanislaw Lem. Please forgive me while I rave: Lem is one of my favorite authors. Raised in communist Poland, his style of science fiction is similar to H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. He's a scientist and a doctor. His fiction is unique, compelling, deeply psychological and at times ineffably mysterious. Terminus was published in a collection of adventure stories called 'Tales of Pirx the Pilot'.

For the record, these were the dice rolls. Percy 18, Nike 2, Horatio 10, Foryn 16, Gehti1 8, Gehti2 8, Gehti3 14, Gehti4 1, Bud 1, Bailey 5, Arkady 15, Chelydra 6, Amanda 10.

And finally... at long last... the entire map of the UWSC officer's lifeboat:

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