Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Place Near Home

“IONA, I have a feeling were not in Lanespace anymore!”  Still somewhat disoriented from the stasis sleep module, Captain Adam Sendiru was having difficulty focusing. When his navigational plot failed to find any known stars as reference points, he knew things weren’t good. 

The Integrated Operational Navigational Array (IONA) was the de facto brain of the interstellar trade vessel Sendiru “piloted” in name only. A decade before, the Trade Confederation Council (TCC) had decided the potential for mishaps was too great to continue allowing ships to function under the control of a fallible crew.

Thus, operations, navigation and dozens of other specialties were instead placed under the control of the IONA artificial intelligence package. The change had proven successful and allowed the TCC to reduce costs by eliminating nearly all crewmembers. Thus, Sendiru was only onboard in the unlikely case of an IONA failure. Such a situation had never occurred…before now.

IONA responded immediately. “No, Adam, we are not. We have not been in Lanespace for 12 hours, 17 minutes and 36 seconds.”

Sendiru was appalled. “And you waited this long before alerting me to something like that? Umm…I suppose I should feel honored you chose to involve me at all, but damn! Is it permissible to ask how the hell such a thing happened?”

“There is no cause to be so upset, Adam. Protocol requires all options to re-establish a confirmed location be exhausted before human intervention. Those protocols take considerably more time than you can comprehend. As to the cause of the deviation, during the last course adjustment, the ship encountered an uncharted micro-singularity emanating significant amounts of deleterious radiation across the entire spectrum.”

“In addition, the singularity exerted significant gravitational force which exceeded the ability of the sub-light engines to compensate. Upon emergence from the singularity, I located the first planetary mass of significant dimensions and established a stationary orbit. Upon completion of the required protocols, I determined your assistance was required.”

Sendiru sat in stunned silence for several moments while his fuzzy brain translated IONA’s report into words he was more comfortable with. “So…we ran into a rogue wormhole that zapped the ship and when we didn’t have the juice to pull back, we got sucked in and spit back out…here? Well, isn’t that just a fine mess for us to be in?”

“Your vernacular interpretation of the circumstances is without error, Adam. Insufficient data exists to evaluate whether the current status is ‘a fine mess’ or not”.

Despite the circumstances, Sendiru couldn’t help but laugh. “And I can almost bet we don’t got any ruby space boots for me to click together to make getting home any easier either, do we?”

IONA was silent for what, in computer terms, an eternity before responding. “No, Adam. Ship’s stores only include standard Trade Confederacy uniform issue items.”

“Then this does qualify as ‘a fine mess’, Tin Man. Start scanning that planetary mass. We are definitely gonna need a wizard to get us out of this one.”

This story was written for the weekly Motivation Monday flash fiction challenge prompt: [Toto], I have a feeling we're not [in Kansas] anymore!

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