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A Story Fragment

 
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Axonite
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:08 pm    Post subject: A Story Fragment Reply with quote

On Station V3, the communicator was beeping. After about the third beep, it switched to an irritating squeal, until Mr. Maintenance Engineer finally walked into the room and opened the message. After reading it, he contacted Floyd, the station's administrator. “I think you'd better get in here and read this!”
“I'm recharging,” Floyd replied. “Can you read it to me?”
“It says 'For Your Eyes Only'.”
“My eyes aren't working right now. But why did you read it if it said that?”
“It said that, but it didn't say it was for you until I read it.”
“So if you've read it anyway, read it to me.”
“It says 'Meeting on A1.'”
“Is that all?”
“It also said 'For Your Eyes Only', and 'To Floyd'.”
“Okay then. I'll be in to read it when I'm done recharging.”
Mr. Maintenance Engineer moved to lock the screen, and then paused. “But I've already read it to you.”
“I know, but it was for my eyes only, so I'm still going to have to read it.”

Floyd rolled into the station's administration office later that day. “I have to go to a meeting on Station A1,” he announced.
“I know,” Mr. Maintenance Engineer replied. “I read that message to you.”
“You couldn't have. It was for my eyes only.”
“Right.”
Floyd spun around. “Anyway, I'll need the shuttle ready to go as soon as possible. Where's Emmit?”
“Most likely he's down in the shuttle bay, looking at the empty space where we would usually keep a shuttle.”
“Why aren't we keeping a shuttle in there now?”
“Because we don't have a shuttle now.”
“Well, that's unacceptable!” Floyd's eye flashed. “We have to have a shuttle in the shuttle bay.”
“That's what Emmit said.”
“Then why don't we have a shuttle?”
“Because shuttles cost money, and you won't spend any.”
“I won't spend any?”
“That's what you said.”
Floyd paused, and then his eye flashed again. “Well, of course I'm not going to spend any money on a shuttle! We're supposed to have a shuttle already.”
“We did have a shuttle.”
“Well, then why isn't it in the shuttle bay?”
Mr. Maintenance Engineer thought for a moment. “I suppose if we could retrieve it from the bottom of the swamp it would be possible to bring it back here and put it in the shuttle bay.”
“Do that, then!”
“It would cost more than buying a new one.”
Floyd's eye flashed several times, and he made a few beeping noises. “Remind me again why we landed the shuttle in a swamp.”
“We didn't really land it in the swamp. It crashed there. We only said it landed so we wouldn't have to fill out the crash report.”
There was a longer pause as Floyd's eye flashed furiously and a few strangled-sounding beeps came out. “Remind me again why we crashed the shuttle in a swamp.”
“It was either that or crash it on the ground, and the swamp was softer.”
“Why did we have to crash the shuttle at all?”
“Most of the systems weren't working, and it was heading for the surface of the planet, so there weren't a whole lot of options.”
Floyd's eye flashed once more. “Well, the next time we get a shuttle, we're leaving it in the shuttle bay where it belongs.”
“Except of course for your trip to Station A1.”
“I'm not even sure we should use it for that.” Floyd beeped once. “Though I suppose I'll have to make an exception. Or two. Go tell Emmit to teleport down to the planet and buy another shuttle.” He beeped again. “Unless it does turn out to be cheaper to get the old one out of the swamp.”

It was close, but in the end, Emmit returned to the station with a shuttle from Honest J!on's Used Shuttles instead of the old one from the bottom of the swamp. He landed it safely in the shuttle bay, and made his way to the administration office. “Ready to leave for Station A1?”
Floyd flashed his eye and beeped. “How did you know about Station A1? That message was for my eyes only!”
“And everyone else's ears.”
Floyd paused. “It didn't say anything about ears.”
“Exactly!”
Floyd paused again. “We leave for Station A1 in an hour. Go pack your toothbrush.”
“You got it.” Emmit paused at the door and turned back to Floyd. “But remember, it's for my teeth only.”
“Is that supposed to be funny?”
“I don't know,” Emmit replied. “Perhaps it was for my sense of humor only.”
Floyd's eye flashed angrily. “Well, here's something else for your ears. You're fired.”
Emmit shrugged. “Okay. Then you can fly yourself to Station A1 yourself.”
“Nonsense! I can get Unit 6 to fly the shuttle.”
“He's in his room recharging, and reprogramming his flight routines after he landed the old shuttle in the swamp.”
“I'll hire a new pilot!”
“I'll take the job.”
“You're hired. We leave for Station A1 in an hour. Go pack your toothbrush.”
“You got it.”
“And we'll end the conversation there this time.”
“You got it.”


Down below on the surface of the planet, some rumormongers were discussing the latest developments. One rumormonger, a small round blue creature, said “You're not going to believe the latest rumor I heard from Julius!”
“Which one is Julius?” asked another rumormonger, who was also a small round blue creature.
“You know! Small round blue guy. Goes around spreading rumors.”
“Oh, right. Him.”
“Yes. He said Floyd got a secret message inviting him to a meeting on Station A1!”
“Seems unlikely. If it's secret, then how did Julius hear about it?”
“I don't know. I guess you don't believe it?”
“Of course I believe it! I told Julius about this rumor myself.”
“Seems unlikely. If Floyd's message was a secret, then how did YOU hear about it?”
“You told me about it when Emmit came down to buy a shuttle from Honest J!on.”
“Oh, right!”
“I still say they would have done better retrieving the one Unit 6 landed in the swamp.”
“Why, what was so much better about that one?”
“Fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror.”


The shuttle bay doors opened, and Emmit carefully guided the shuttle outside, plotted the course to A1, and pressed the button to engage the FTL drive. He turned to Floyd. “We're on our way.”
“That's good.” Floyd looked around for a moment. “I guess this shuttle will have to do, but I don't like it as much as the last one.”
“Of course you don't,” Emmit replied. “There are no fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror.”
Floyd's eye flashed. “That's not it.” He paused and beeped. “Okay, maybe it is. How long before we get to Station A1?”
“A few hours.” Emmit pointed to the back of the shuttle. “There's a recharge socket back there that should be compatible with you.”
“Thanks.” Floyd turned to the back of the shuttle, then turned back again. “'Should' be?”
“If Honest J!on, the shuttle's manual, and the label on the socket can be trusted, then yes. But maybe not.”
“I think I can wait until we get to A1.” Floyd paused and beeped again. “How long did you say it was?”
“Still a few hours.”
“How about now?”
“Still a few hours.”
Floyd turned to the back of the shuttle again. “I think I'll go recharge.”


Mr. Maintenance Engineer watched the shuttle's progress on the screen in the station's administration office. Unit 6, a somewhat boxy looking android, walked up stiffly next to him. “Is that the new shuttle?”
“Yes it is. Did you get a chance to look it over before it took off?”
“Yes. I don't like it as much as the one I landed in the swamp.”
“Of course you don't,” Mr. Maintenance Engineer replied. “No fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror.”
“Exactly.” Unit 6 waved his arm. “Also, the experimental FTL drive looked a bit iffy.”
“Really? Experimental? Why didn't you say anything?”
“I couldn't be sure until I had finished reprogramming myself, so I thought it best not to say anything.”
“And now you've finished reprogramming yourself?”
“And now I think I should have said something.”


Emmit tapped the FTL drive's status display. “That can't be right.”
Floyd rolled over. “What is it?”
“This says we're traveling at a constant rate of speed, but our arrival time keeps changing.”
“Maybe Station A1 is moving.”
“Well, yes, it's orbiting a planet, which is orbiting a star, but all that is supposed to be taken into account, and we're on our way to where it's supposed to be when we get there. But now when we get there keeps changing.”
“So are we doing something unexpected, or is Station A1?”
Emmit tried to make sense of what the display was showing him, and frowned. “I'm not sure. Either way, we might have a problem.”
“See if you can contact Station A1.”
Emmit punched a few buttons on a different console. “No answer.”
“See if you can contact V3!”
Emmit punched the buttons again. “No answer there either.”
“So the radio's broken too?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. The problems with the FTL drive might be causing it. Or the problems with Station A1. Or V3.”
“Well, see if you can figure out what's going on.”
“Good idea. Much better than my plan.”
“What was your plan?”
“Panic, and then see what happens next.”


“Rumor has it something's wrong with the shuttle. Or Station A1. Or Station V3,” said one of the rumormongers.
“Well, we can check on at least one of them,” replied another rumormonger. “Honest J!on has a two-for-one special on teleportation to V3 today. Want to give it a try?”
“You know Honest J!on's 'two-for-one' special just means one person pays two fares.”
“Well, we could try buying a shuttle from him instead and chase down the one Emmit and Floyd are in!”
“Can you afford a shuttle?”
“No.”
“Neither can I. And even if you could, would you be able to fly it?”
“Probably not.”
“I wouldn't either.”
The second rumormonger thought for a moment. “So... We're going to go check out Station A1 instead?”
“We're going to wait until Honest J!on's 'special' is over and teleport to V3.”
“That was my next guess.”


Unit 6 stared at the screen. “The shuttle was there a minute ago.”
“Yes,” Mr. Maintenance Engineer agreed. “And now it's not. You really should have said something about that FTL drive.”
“Well, I wasn't sure.”
“Now you are.”
“Yes.”
“A little late.”
“Yes.”
“So what are we going to do about this?”
Unit 6 thought for a moment. “Call Station A1 and let them know Floyd might be a little late?”
“Works for me!”


Floyd rolled up to Emmit. “Have you made any progress?”
“That's going to depend entirely on your definition of progress.”
“Well, what have you got?”
“The display screen is no longer showing varying arrival times for Station A1.”
“Good!”
“It started saying we're never going to get there.”
“Oh.”
“So I turned it off.”
“Great.”
Emmit pointed to the radio. “I tried the radio again. I still couldn't get Station A1 or V3. Only static when I tried them.”
“Did you manage to pick up any signals at all?”
“Just a smooth jazz station.”
Floyd's eye flashed, and he beeped. “I was considering saying that was better than nothing,” he said after a moment.
“Don't.”
“I won't.”
“Good.”
Floyd's eye flashed again. “So do you have anything else to tell me? Anything good?”
“That's going to depend entirely on your definition of good.”
“Never mind.”


The teleporter activated, and the two rumormongers found themselves on Station V3. “Well, what do you know? It actually worked,” said the first one.
“What were you expecting?” asked the second.
“It's probably better if I don't tell you.”
“And you were willing to use it anyway?”
“It's probably better if I change the subject now.”
“I can't believe you were willing to risk our lives like that! I can't believe you'd have us use a teleporter that might not even work!”
“Hey, look over there,” said the first rumormonger.
“And we paid good money to use the thing! I had to take out a loan from Honest J!on just to afford it!”
“Look over there,” said the first rumormonger again. “There's a plant!”
“What were you even thinking?”
The first rumormonger went over to the plant. “What do you make of this?”
“You're trying to change the subject!”
“I think I said that already.”
“And you think that's going to work on me?”
“I can't believe you didn't notice I was changing the subject!”
Linton, the station's amphibious security officer, walked into the room. “What's going on in here? Did you guys use the teleporter to get here?”
“Yes we did,” said the second rumormonger, glaring at the first one.
“Well, you're not allowed to argue after teleporting here,” Linton replied. “It's a big security risk.”
The rumormongers blinked. “How exactly is it a security risk?” asked the first one.
“I find it annoying.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” asked the second one.
The teleporter activated, and the two rumormongers found themselves back on the surface of the planet. The first rumormonger turned to the second. “Well, now that we know it works properly, should we try it again?”


The inside of the shuttle was dark, illuminated only by Floyd's glowing eye. “Are you sure it was a good idea to shut everything down?” he asked.
“Certainly no worse than leaving everything on,” Emmit replied. “You'd be surprised how often turning something off and then turning it back on again will fix things.”
“I wouldn't be surprised at all. That's what Mr. Substitute did with me the last time I had a problem with my recharge cable.”
“Well, it's been long enough,” Emmit said. “Time to turn everything back on.” He reached over and flipped a few switches.
Nothing happened.
“Was something supposed to happen?” asked Floyd.
“Yes. Everything was supposed to turn back on. That's why I turned everything back on.”
“It doesn't look like it.”
“I've noticed that.” Emmit glanced at Floyd's glowing eye. “You have a full charge, right?”
Floyd's eye dimmed.


“I called Station A1,” Mr. Maintenance Engineer said. “They were a little confused.”
“About the problem with the shuttle?” asked Unit 6.
“About why Floyd was on his way to A1 in the first place.”
“So what did you say?”
“I told them about the Top Secret message that was for Floyd's Eyes Only.”
“Okay. And what did they say about that?”
Mr. Maintenance Engineer glanced back at the communication screen. “Well, for one thing, they say I never should have read it, because it was for Floyd's eyes only.”
“Right.”
“And they also say they haven't sent any messages like that for at least the past fifty years.”
“Ah.”


The teleporter activated, and the two rumormongers found themselves back on the station. “Now, wasn't it nice of Honest J!on to let you take out another loan, and only charge us double for the teleportation this time?” the first rumormonger asked.
“Sure,” the second one replied. “Real nice.”


“How are things going?” asked Floyd.
Emmit was underneath the main console with a flashlight. “There has to be some kind of master reset switch down here to get things going.” There was a soft thump. “Did that do anything?”
Floyd looked at the console. “No.”
There was a quick screeching sound as Emmit tried something else. “How about that?”
Floyd looked at the console again. Nothing had changed. “No.”
There was a crunching sound. “That must have done something!”
Floyd paused for a moment as there was a soft hum and the console started to light up. “Seems like something's happening. The console is coming back to life.”
“Good!” Emmit started to crawl back out from underneath the console.
Floyd turned and looked at the wall. “Is this big red light supposed to be blinking?”
Emmit froze. “Which big red light?”
“The one that says alert.” Floyd paused as another display lit up. “Now there are numbers counting down.”
Emmit ducked back under the console and made some frantic adjustments. The console went dark again. “Are we okay now?”
Floyd looked around. “Everything's off again.”
“Good!” Emmit started to crawl back out from underneath the console again.
“Except for the flashing red light and the countdown.”
Emmit froze again. “What!”
“5... 4... 3... 2... 1...”
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SomethingFawful
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With how experimental the shuttle is, that might actually be a good thing. also way to leave it off on a cliff hanger.
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