Wednesday, August 24, 2011

AP: Suspended Animation, chapter 2

Suspended Animation AP
By Orion Canning
Chapter 2
(Suspended Animation Beta ver 1.43 by Ross Cowman)

Departure Date – Sunday, November 8th, 3:14 Hours, 2020
Ship Log – (8 years, 183 days later) Wednesday May 9th, 2029
-11:57 Hours- When I woke up my bed sheets were stuck to my skin and I had to peel them off like crust, and they took a layer of skin with them. I guess you’d call that freezer burn. I asked DOR for a can of synth skin as I took a piss, because I felt a little raw and it had painkillers in it. Meanwhile she gave me the situation report. We were surrounded by a second group of Alien hostiles, who were trying to communicate with us. I say hostiles because DOR said we were being targeted by their weapon systems.
We had foreseen this sort of encounter and run plenty of training exercises with all number of possible outcomes, so I immediately knew what I was supposed to do. DOR was obviously a military ship and it was likely anyone we ran into would feel threatened by her presence. DOR was, after all, an army in itself. Her analysis showed we could likely take out the entire squadron surrounding us without any significant damages, especially if we made the first strike. But protocol said I had to avoid conflict first, and it was possible still that the other ships didn’t have hostile intentions.
I told DOR to patch the aliens through on a one way communication channel and run translation. It was just an audio feed and it took a while for DOR to begin decoding it. It was a language we had never heard before so the translation programs attacked it like a cipher, cross referencing it with known language patterns and looking for grammatical patterns as clues for syntax, using intonation, length of words, and context to figure out the meaning. It was imprecise but DOR had a lot of processing power, and she eventually paraphrased that the aliens wanted something we had, and would leave us alone if we gave it up. They were also saying that we should be friends and not start off on the wrong foot. Or something like that. I always felt like the translation programs were half guesswork.
I asked DOR what they wanted and she suggested the ship that was still following us. It had come closer when the other ships arrived, just at the edge of 1 parsec. It had tried to get closer but DOR begin targeting it and warming up the weapons systems and it backed off. Apparently it was asking for our protection and the other aliens assumed we had granted it. We had a visual of it now and it was only a small life raft, only big enough for a few hundred survivors, and relatively helpless.
I made a quick assessment of the situation of the kind AI can’t make and humans can. The situation was a paradox. No matter what decision I made I would have to side with one of the alien races or the other, by inaction I would allow the liferaft’s capture or destruction and be seen as siding with the hostile aliens, quite possibly offending a powerful alien race. Of course I risked the same if I defended them. Another important consideration is that I could not take care of the liferaft forever. It would be impossible to let more than a few onto my ship and even then they would not be able to share the new colony with us.
There was also another point of importance. If I could find the home planet of any of these aliens, there might be a suitable place to begin a new human colony. The problem was I would have to displace the race already living there, though DOR was perfectly capable of eradicating all life on the planet and leaving it still habitable by humans.
I told DOR to try to communicate to the hostiles that because I did not know the nature of their conflict I could not risk offending either race. Therefore I could not allow them to harm the people in the liferaft while they were under my defense. I would have to escort them to their home planet. We waited for the aliens to return communications. “Follow us, we will take you to our home.” I was a little surprised by the miscommunication, and the fact that they were offering us an escort to a planet that could meet my objective. I told DOR to accept the offer and follow them.
-Friday, May 18th, 13:31 hours-  We have been following the alien vessel for over a week now, and I’ve been doing the exercise routines to keep my body in shape, since I could be in for an extended wake cycle, or even journey’s end soon. I realized that we have no idea how far we are going or how long it will take and DOR has been using long range sensors to try to locate our trajectory and objective.
We received a transmission from HQ today with new orders. They want me to bring some of the aliens from the liferaft on board into quarantine to study them, possibly communicate with them. They told me to use force if necessary. I wasn’t really comfortable with the orders, but I had to follow them. Nevertheless the first thing I did was grab my disintegrator rifle from my storage locker. I tried communicating with the liferaft as before but again there was no response, and they wouldn’t let us fly closer, so I decided to use the tractor beam on them.
They did nothing to resist once we started dragging them in, though their ship could have easily not been equipped with countermeasures, and we pulled them into the quarantine dock. The other aliens sent us a series of urgent communications. “Do not put it in your ship!” I decided to ignore them, sent them a return message of “Our protection” and told DOR to be ready to open fire if they turned hostile. I turned off artificial gravity and put on my zero atmosphere combat suit, which was just about the toughest protection I could have against pathogens, weapons, extreme temperatures, you name it. I waited outside the ship with my rifle, on the other side of the viewing window, waiting to see if they would emerge on their own. I spoke into the intercom that broadcast over into the dock with DOR translating, and told them to have their leaders exit their vehicle. There was no response, which made sense because we had never heard these guy’s language in the first place.
I sent in some probes to try to open the door to the ship, and they found what looked like a control panel but pushing buttons didn’t do anything. It might have been DNA or fingerprint activated. I told DOR to take over a probe and open up the control panel and hack it, but when she tried cutting it open the black goo came out again. This time it didn’t solidify, it just oozed out onto the ship floor, more and more of it. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I told the probe to analyze it, and then the black goo flinched away from the probe, and I realized it was alive. The thing looked like tar or black pudding, and I couldn’t help but feel revolted. I thought of Amoeba’s and the movie The Blob, which had really freaked me out as a kid. I never was able to get myself to watch the whole thing again. I could just imagine it slowly digesting me inside of it, and I clenched my disintegrator rifle a little tighter.
But I still had my orders. I had to get it into a quarantine chamber somehow for analysis, so I had DOR send out a cage and told the probe to put it in the cage. But not to touch it. The probe was capable of making mild electric shocks, designed at a voltage that was painful but safe for humans and other similar lifeforms. It started shocking the tarball, which flinched away more violently and suddenly let out an eerily human wail, it’s surface vibrating violently. God I wanted to just kill these things.
It fled surprisingly fast away from the probe, and DOR had to drop in wall panels to try to funnel the thing towards the cage, but it was liquid and slipped through the cracks between the panels. I realized then that it was coming for the viewing window. I told DOR to close the blast shield, which was a 6 foot thick metal panel that could have withstood a point blank nuclear blast, It descended swiftly, sealing in the middle. There was silence and I ordered DOR to report, and she seemed to hesitate before telling me the blast shield was compromised. I stood there in shock and asked her to repeat, at which point she set off the alarm and her voice demanded I evacuate the quarantine dock. I stared in horror as somehow the damned thing began pushing through the seal in the blast shield, squeezed against the viewing window. The viewing window was made from extremely strong polymers that were designed to be nearly impenetrable themselves, but the alien begin eating through it like acid. I hit the button to start the airlock cycle as my body temperature rose and made the inside of my suit hot and humid, raising my disintegrator rifle and aiming it where the tarball was digging through the glass. Once it started spilling out I fired on it and it only made a small dent in it that was quickly filled back in. The thing vibrated again, it’s edges blurring like a sine wave, only it sounded harsher this time, angrier.
I fired again and again as it continued pushing out, then fell to the floor with a wet slap. It was only a little bit smaller than when I started, the disintegrator rifle was useless against these things. The airlock door opened behind me as the thing launched itself at my faceplate. I blocked it with the rifle and then throw it away as it latched on, watching as it melted the rifle, pulling it apart and discharging a blast as it bit into the battery. The explosion knocked me back in the airlock and I hit my head, dazed. I struggled to regain my feet and find the button to close the airlock, dizzily.
 I heard another scream and looked back over my shoulder to see the tarball, now more of a half formed sphere, split by a jagged edged tear that was oozing dark crimson. It was bleeding, leaking a trail of red behind it as it weakly slid towards the airlock. DOR closed the airlock for me, thank god. I suddenly returned to my senses and shouted, “DOR, drop the quarantine dock to outside temperatures! Freeze the damn thing!” She did, and I climbed back out of the airlock towards a viewing panel. “DOR, visual on the airlock’s quarantine side.”
The view switched instantly, though there was some static and the camera’s angle was crooked from the disintegrator explosion. I saw the tarball pressed against the corner of the room, against the airlock, throbbing slightly. It slowed, then it’s color slowly changed to a metallic silver. I asked DOR for a visual of the liferaft and some more have the things had oozed out, but they were freezing up too. “Fucking A. That was too close.” I said, and DOR stayed silent. I took off my suit and went to get something to drink, then I went back at the exercise room, trying to get my head together before making my report.
-Sunday, May 20th , 14:31 hours- New orders to go back into stasis. DOR had gathered up the frozen tarballs and was keeping them in separate cages at extremely low temperature. She had analyzed our trajectory and it was a long way away, so I may as well hibernate while DOR continued testing on the aliens. Our escorts had sent us a number of messages asking us if we were “okay”. I responded that we had “Contained the tarball” and this seemed to relax them. I was actually eager to go back into stasis, I felt like I could use the rest.
Cards and Crisis:
Ø  2 void: Crisis alert (Is the alien ship following me friendly or hostile? What caused the alien ship to crash and killed all the animals in the ark?)
o   Response: Risk greater danger for respite, Advance void (What caused the alien ship to crash and killed all the animals in the ark?)
Ø  1 earth: Storage locker access (A disintegrator energy rifle)
o   Response: Discover Earth (A mirror)
Ø  1 star: Incoming transmission
o   Response: Accept new directive, Discover star (Study the Tarball) and Lose Earth (A disintegrator energy rifle)

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