Ok so I just watched an hour of idiocy disguised as a TV show. This show had some big named scifi stars and cost over $100,000 to produce. What is worse yet is that it was picked up by amazon and it now has an international audience. It has bad writing, bad acting, and bad production and if that is all it takes to make money in the scifi industry then just maybe I am your guy.
So to that end, I am just going to start writing here and see where it goes. Whatever I write here surely can’t be any worse than what I just spent an hour of my precious life watching.
For a few days now a couple of thoughts have been running through my mind. 1- that most of the scifi stories out there deal with the upper echelons of whatever society and 2- they always have something to do with either police or military. I am not sure what to change but I have an idea of a merchant mariner and the proletarians he encounters. As one of the few actual proletarians that I know surely I can come up with something on that little bit.
Oh and forgive my typing this out on a form that I have set up. It was what was on the screen when I sat down to start typing.
By the by I started this at about 2:00 PM and probably won’t get very far as I am sneaking time from my boss.
So we have this Mercury class freighter. This is an ugly bulk of a ship. It is neither sleek nor sexy. Essentially it looks like a giant brick and pretty much flies like one. Unlike most of the freighters in most other stories the owner of this brick is just a guy trying to get by and he really doesn’t have much in the way of upgrades to this monstrosity. It is pretty much OEM, along with some creative southern engineering. The thing barely runs but it does make a regular run along the Jovian shipping lanes. She is not much but she has been reliable to this point.
Her name is the Elizabeth.
Owner/Captain/Engineer/Chief Coffee Maker XXX named her the Elizabeth after Dr Elizabeth Weir of the old Earth TV serial called Stargate: Atlantis. On one of his few trips back to Earth when he was junior mariner on the WHATEVERTHEHELLITSNAMEWAS he found some data crystals that had the whole series on them. Not being very rich or interested in such things this was the only thing that he watched for entertainment when he had downtime during his long hauls. He fell in love with Dr Weir and, quite frankly, had this weird obsession over this TV character.
He probably couldn’t tell you the name of the actor that played the part but he dang sure knew all of her lines in the show.
He worked his way up from spaceman and all the way through the ranks of the merchant marine. His training was all on the job. He could never afford to go to any of the academies to get the education required to join the officers guilds but he had one corp that was willing to give him a chance at command and during his short command he was able to make enough money to buy the Elizabeth.
His money was not made in the salary the Corp gave him but in the side hustles he had going on. I assume you understand that this means not all of his deals were on the just side of corporate policy.
Anyway he got the Elizabeth and after a slow start ---no one wanted to hire a freighter with an unguilded officer--- he managed to get by and even get a little ahead, at times. Even though he was the owner of that tub he rarely made more than the longshoremen in the docks where he ported.
It really didn’t matter much to him. He was free. He had enough money to live on and enough to keep the ship that could take most anywhere in decent repair.
It was a cramped ship. It had a bajillion tons or whatever of cargo space. The design specs said that it was supposed to have a crew of 4. He had a crew of one human and a droid with a bad attitude.
He won the droid in a poker game in the port at Io. The droid was one of those astro droids with a cool sounding spacey name with X1 after it. The droid’s original function was to repair holes on the outside of the ship. That was its sole function when he won it.
Shortly after he won it he had its memory wiped and had a new operating system put it. The droid had some sort of adaptive learning artificial intelligence. Which is all just a lot of fancy talk to say the dang thing could learn. And learn it did. Annoyingly so.
The droid was useful around the ship. It really did take care of the work of three people and it learned all the quirks of the Elizabeth and the quirks of her owner who still needs a really cool space hero kind of name.
The problem is that the damned thing learned to read somewhere along the way. It was always chiming in with quotes from Shakespeare or some other ancient minutiae from the literary world. Unfortunately, the last thing it got its optics on was a copy of the Communist Manifesto.
Now captain whatshisface was a member of the oppressive bourgeoisie in the eyes of the droid.
The Captain would tabula rasa it again but it made a decent cup of coffee and his lasagne was legendary up and down the Jovian run.
It generally takes a freighter running from Io to Titan about 12 weeks to cover the 400 million miles. Once one leaves the port at Io and makes all the necessary adjustments to course and what have you it is a pretty easy run. Duties are generally light on this sort of run. Maintaining ships systems only takes about an hour out of every cycle and aside from incidentals there is little else to do. The enterprising mariner uses this time to study for license upgrades or works on personal side hustles to pass the time. The less enterprising use their time to less enthusiastic pursuits, mostly gambling, sex, and keeping the enterprising from being entirely successful.
But when you and an attiudinal droid are the entire crew you have a little less free time and often must pull a long haul or two to keep things running as they should.
As a general rule the Elizabeth was a sound ship. It didn’t require much to keep her going. She was on a regular service routine that was strictly adhered to. If Captain Bourgeoisie didn’t have the money for the service work he always hiked the price of the next run to cover the cost of the service work. He never left the dock without Elizabeth being properly serviced.
Hell, that sounds dirty don’t it? Hehe, maybe there is a porn story in there somewhere about a man in love with a ship off in the Crab nebula or something… but I digress. I am writing crappy scifi not great porn.
Opps look like I may have to pause to do some real work…
Never mind. It was just someone looking for a cheque
Ok where was I?
Oh yeah, we were on our way to create some drama so that this story would be interesting. As another aside, I really have no idea where this is going. I am just writing away and hoping for some brilliance along the way. I am sure that it shows…
Ok so Elizabeth is humming along on its Io to Titan run. One of the longest, quietest, and of course, loneliest, runs in the Sol system. Our gallant crew is humming along doing routine chores. Captain Hero is in the bridge pushing buttons and looking at gauges while the bitchy android is on his way to do some work on a manifold that has been bothering him. The manifold was fine. There was nothing really wrong with it. One of the couplers was off by 0.0000000000003 micrometers or something off in its calibration and you know how anal a robot can be so it wanted to fix it before they had to fire up the engines again.
Oh yeah, unlike the stupid space operas of the 20th century smart people know that engines are mostly unnecessary in real space travel. Sure you might need them for some adjustments to course and or speed but space flight generally consists of pointing the ship in the right direction and then giving it a good hard shove. Once it was in motion it should pretty much stay motion for all of eternity in zero g. Some minor adjustments are necessary because, well planets have gravity and can pull things around and slow them down. If one is close enough to planet it can cause a ship to crashland. Etc etc blah blah. You know all of this. You are obviously smart, you are reading this.
Hopefully, you are not smart enough to notice that my verb tenses keep changing in the middle of sentences…
Anyway, bitchy droid was walking his way down to engineering to fix this misaligned coupler when his sensors picked up a slight temperature, humidity, and oxygen variation. Remember, droids are particularly anal about details.
“Your oppressiveness, are you listening to comms?’
“Yes.” Captain Hero replied with a sigh.
“I have detected a variance in THO along bulkhead 97-B.”
“How much of a variance?”
The droid paused for a second, ostensibly to do some calculating which was an act of course, he already knew.
He rattled off some numbers and some geek speak about the possibility of a life support system malfunction.
“Is it within acceptable parameters?”
“It is for me I do not require life support.”
“Did you think to worry about me?”
“Worry? I do not understand the question.”
“Am I in any danger from this?”
“Not at present. But if you were it would serve you right, you bourgeois filth.”
“Not now robot. Can it be repaired?”
“I will need more data. No immediate need. Put on maintenance list?”
“Yes, make it your next priority.”
“Order in queue.”
The robot then turned and rolled down the hallway to engineering to fix the not-really-broken manifold.
Captain Hero with no name returned to his minor course corrections and then puttered around the bridge for a while dreaming of having a large crew of scantily clad women about him.
Hell, its cheap scifi, what do you expect?
Things went along swimmingly for a few days and then the Elizabeth got pulled over… well that is somewhat relative… pulled over to where? She got boarded by an Earth Alliance ship. This was all routine. The cops just want to check the manifests and logs, run a bio of check and look for illegal substances and immigrants.
The robot was powered down while this went on. Who needs a Marxist revolutionary robot on a rampage while the fuzz was around?
You know what? I really ought to reread the Communist Manifesto if I am going to have a rampaging robot. I don’t remember anything about it.
Captain Hero without a name never really understood these checks. The shipping lane from Io to Titan was nowhere. There was nothing out here. There was nothin for 400 million miles. Where would he pick up hitchhikers?
Well, that wasn’t totally true. About a month ago the Ariadne was officially opened for business. The Ariadne was an experiment both in building and operating. Ariadne was a joint corp and govt space station situated about halfway on the Io-Titan run. It had taken them so long to even get the idea rolling that Captain hero with no name doubted that it would ever be financed much less built.
The Elizabeth had never docked there.
The whole idea behind the Ariadne was that the inner planets were colonising outwards and that the run from Io to Titan was too long so wayfarers needed a place to get off the boats, stretch their legs, conduct business, go potty, that sort of thing.
Ariadne had been making a splash on the news nets for several years. All the debates in the Earth Senate, the Martian Senate, all the various corporate boards and banks. No one ever really believes that government or corporation could pull this one off. After years of wrangling some starjockey finally got the frame for the first wall set in place and then it seemed like no time before the station was complete.
Now this was the first station of its kind out in space. While it was the biggest one built to this time it was not the grand affair that you used to see on those 20th century entertainment vids. Essentially it was this giant pod out in space with several docking tubes jutting out from it. The port had a few cargo docks where cargo could be dropped and held for someone else. The station had a commercial area, outside the docks this was probably the largest section of the station. In the retail area on could eat at a restaurant, get some clothes cleaned, maybe get some clothes if you were rich enough, nothing fancy here, think airport of the 2oth century.
The Governor appointed by the Earth Alliance was to have his office on Ariadne. Captain no name hero remembered some news vid telling the universe that the Governor, whose title was actually Colonial Governor of the Outer Planets, was to be based on Ariadne with a contingent of 1000 soldiers until Titan had been built up sufficiently for him to move his operation to Titan.
Ariadne’s life support system could only handle 500 people at a time. She had no bunks for employees or visitors. Everyone had to stay on their own ship under their own life support unless their ship was in the repair shop, and even then, most of the time, crews still had to stay aboard their own ships.
Crews were allowed to shop the mall, do business and have fun, what fun there was to have on a space station. People were given 24 hour passes to the station to conduct business, have fun, whatever.
Captain Noname Hero had no intention of stopping at Ariadne this trip. For that matter he had no intention of ever stopping there really. He had been fine all these years without a station he’d be fine for a few more years without one. Governments were bad enough but, governments combined with corporations really gave him the heebiejeebies.
That is a technical term.
“Guess that damned commie bot has been rubbing off on me…” he thought to himself. “I don’t like governments at all and only work with corps because I have to to survive.”
“Robot! Is that THO variance growing?”
“There is a minor increase in the variation. I must finish the coupler repair then this is next in the queue.”
“And thrusters are down until you repair the coupler?”
“Confirmed. We are dead in space until then.”
Oh crap… I have the set up for disaster here… where do I take this? Ugh
Captain noname did a quick scan of the panels in front of him.
“At the present time we are about a quarter of a degree off course. Not good…”
“No, capitalist pig, no it is not. Repairs will take approximately 2.374 Earth standard hours.”
“You better get to it then, pinko terrorist.”
“Aye aye,” robot said perfunctorily.
The Captain finished up so trivial tasks on the bridge and went to the galley for a cup of water. From there he was on his way to his rack. He had been up too many hours watching old Stargate: Atlantis vids last night and he was worn out.
About an hour and a quarter he was violently awakened by annoying alarms and flashing lights. In the foggy groggy haze of being suddenly thrown awake he made his way to the bridge.
Getting to the bridge he noticed thruster control still offline. The alarms told him that the thrusters were offline, which was expected and not really worth an alarm. What was worth an alarm was that life support was haywire. CO2 and temperature reading were all out of whack. According to what The Captain was seeing on the bridge he would be unable to walk by bulkhead 97-B. The carbon dioxide would kill him.
“Robot, where are you?” he asked worriedly.
This is not good. Robot, no matter how upset he got at the capitalist dog was programmed to answer him when he called. The robot simply had no choice.
“ROBOT!” the Captain asked again with a voice not exactly impatient but definitely a tad louder. Maybe the robot didn’t hear him.
The Captain checked his scanners and tracked the damages to the system throughout the ship. Evidently the aft of the ship was filling up with carbon dioxide somehow. How? He had not ventured aft but a time or two after the cargo was loaded and secured. He had spent the rest of the cruise, thus far, in the forward compartments of the ship. He had no need to go aft. That was the Robot’s turf and he chose to have as little engagement with Robot as he he could.
Something must have happened in engineering. Robot was working on a coupler on a thruster. Maybe something happened. Why did he not answer his hails?
Oh yeah… He needs to call Robot again…
“Robot, I need you to respond immediately. ROBOT!? Are you there?”
Dammit, I have to go down there and check things out. I have to suit up. God, I hope that I even can suit up alone…
Donning an EVA suit was a chore when one had a team to help get it on. It could still be done if one was by himself but it was a long tedious task. Fittings had to be checked and rechecked. Tanks had to strapped on and the valves set to the proper levels. All the plugs, widget, and gadgets had to plugged in and all the little bells had to work and the lights had to shine. Any one thing went wrong and the suit would call a malfunction and could shut itself down before one had a chance to get back to clean air. Properly done in gravity, it took about 10 minutes to suit up. In zero g it could take a little longer.
Now The Captain had to suit up because CO2 levels in the aft section were dangerously high. Maybe not high enough to kill him, yet, except for maybe around that bulkhead, but why take the risk.
He pushed several different buttons on the console which closed various doors leading aft.
Ok, I am sorry, I forgot we were on a small freighter… we only have a couple of doors…. No skip that a boat would have several water tight doors down hallways and such… why wouldn’t a freighter?
Ok so The Captain closed off several of the air-tight doors on the ship leading aft towards engineering. He left the doors open along one path. As he crossed a door along his way back he would close it behind him. Of course, he would have to take the time to open them on his way back forward, which could be a serious problem if something happened but he wanted to staunch the bad air getting forward as best as he could.
He then dictated a message for potential broadcast. If he didn’t return to the bridge with in a hour the ship’s computer would broadcast a distress message in the Captain’s voice detailing what he knows at this time about his situation and what his plans are at this point. The broadcast would loop until someone showed up on the bridge to turn it off.
Captain Superhero noname got his suit on an everything checked out o.k. He left the “suit area” where does one keep EVA suits on a freighter? Maybe near an airlock? I am sure they would clutter up a bridge… He left the forward area and walked his way to the aft section of the ship.
He checked every wall console that he came to. These were mini-computers that were attached to the bulkheads in various locations around the ship. They were usually in every cabin and in cargo holds, engineering etc etc. These consoles not only provided an interface to the ship’s computer but they monitored various details about the area around that monitors.
After a couple of the monitors were seen the information he was seeing on the bridge was confirmed. The ship was getting colder to the aft and oxygen was in short supply.
Dr Weir what are you doing to me, girl? He muttered absently to himself.
He pressed the mic switch on the suit. “Robot, I am going aft. About half-way there. Report!” He hoped a reply but didn’t believe he was going to get one.
Alarms and flashing lights of all kinds were going off at Bulkhead 97-B. He ran some quick diagnostics. Oh shit, this is not good. Regulators are fried. Not only are the scrubbers not working but the system is actually cycling carbon dioxide onto the ship rather than scrubbing the air. Damn Damn Damn! It looks like once board is bad and is fouling up the works here. Hopefully, he had a replacement in stowage.
After a few minutes of pushing buttons and turning knobs at Bulkhead 97-B he did manage to slow the flow of co2 onto the ship by a couple of percent but he knew it was not enough. He was not able to raise the temperature.
He made it to engineering. The air was mostly co2 in here. Hmm… the problem started in here. He checked several consoles checking the status of the engines. For the most part the engines looked to be within normal operating parameters. Only the thrusters was borked. The thrusters that Robot was supposed to have fixed by now.
He worked the consoles for a bit. Checking fuel flows, and the heat of the muffler bearings, you know, that sort of thing and then he went to the thruster bay.
The first thing that caught his eye as he entered the compartment was pieces of robot scattered all over the floor. (How do you like my disaster so far? Dramatic, no?)
Robot was in four pieces on the floor. It looked as though he had exploded. His torso was separated from his locomotive unit. His head was separated from his torso and his head was split in half. Something had hit him with tremendous force. Judging from the location of all the pieces his head had evidently struck the bulkhead to split it in twain along the seam in the exoskeleton where the the two hemispheres joined.
He checked his wrist console and noted that the co2 levels in his location were off the scales. Why here? There is nothing here but the top side of the thruster engines. Everything that could vent vented through the lower deck and the decks were were airtight.
He kicked around on the deck a bit and found the coupler that Robot was supposed to replace. He picked it up, cleaned it up and walked over to the manifold that Robot had already dismantled. He studied the scene for a second and decided that Robot had done everything except replace and align the the coupler and reassemble the manifold.
Captain NoNameHero checked his o2 levels and decided that he had time to finish Robot’s job. Robot would just have to wait a bit. It wouldn’t take too much longer and the Elizabeth would be dangerously off course, so off course that he would probably burn up all of his fuel trying to get back on course to Titan and still miss the satellite.
It took him a little over an hour to get the thrusters back in working order. He had just enough oxygen to get forward. He could get out of the suit and then hop up to the bridge and begin the course corrections.
He walked through the hall opening and then closing the airtight doors as he went.
He made it to the bridge where the radio was scratching out something like “Elizabeth… Aridane Station… Marine resc… route… days 13 hours….”
Dang, I forgot the distress call.
He reached for the radio to reply to whomever that was calling. The speaker, much clearer this time blurted out “EAS Elizabeth Actual this is EAS Meridian Actual over.”
Our hero keyed the mic “