By Saso Zitnik
Copyright 2016 Saso Zitnik
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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“Well, I did it again.” Amias was proud of himself as he walked down the hallway. But he was careful not to show that. For other people he was just a boring bureaucrat on a dull routine inspection. Checking the checkboxes without really knowing what’s going on.
The hallway was deep under the surface and was part of a huge mining facility. The mine was old and the equipment was worn out. But the mine was still profitable.
“Very profitable as it looks,” Amias thought.
He nodded to some supervisors as he passed them. He could see contempt on their faces. There weren’t any workers in the mine. The mining was fully automated. The company needed only people to supervise the processes.
He came to the elevator, went through the security check and stepped into it. The doors closed and the elevator went up really fast. But still it took a long time to reach the surface. The planet was big and the mines were extremely deep under it’s surface. The planet was completely barren without atmosphere and the gravity was above average.
After he arrived at the surface station he visited the local manager and exchanged formalities with him. All the time inconspicuously checking the manager and the details in the office. He knew already everything that he needed but still he couldn’t get out of his habit. He left the office and went for the landing pad. He had still some time before the shuttle would come so he found himself a nice comfortable place to sit down and wait.
Amias was an internal investigator in the company. It was difficult for the company to control the mining operations. They were distributed around the known universe mostly far away from the headquarters. Even with the interstellar drive it took several days or in some cases more than a week to get to them. Because of that people working at the mines sometimes felt more independently from the company than that they should. And then they started a parallel business, selling on the black market for their own profit. They were good at it. That’s why the company needed good internal investigators like Amias.
Amias was sitting in the shuttle which was taking him to the space station that was orbiting the planet. He was heading for the headquarters of this mining operation.
“I was right from the beginning,” he was thinking. “The books looked to clean, the productivity was to good and the profit was to high. Everything was to good to be true. With such good numbers they tried to avoid any meddling from the company. And that made them suspicious.”
At the station he went to the manager of the mining operation for one last meeting. He presented the results of his inspection. He made sure that his presentation was dull but at the same time putting a lot of emphasis on the results of his inspection. Always giving the impression that his bureaucratic job was one of the most important jobs in the company. He found some shortcomings in how some non important procedures were executed. Of course he presented these shortcomings as really significant. He could see that he was annoying the manager. But something was wrong. All the time he had a strange feeling but he couldn’t put a finger on it. It bothered him.
Amias was waiting with his baggage in the docking bay. A huge cargo ship was docked there. They were loading ore onto it. It had only a crew of two people, pilot and copilot and sometimes a passenger like him.
“Hi, you must be Amias. I’m Cyra, your pilot.”
“Hi, nice to meet you,” answered Amias to the woman that stood in front of him.
“C’mon, I’ll show you your cabin.”
Amias took his baggage and followed Cyra to the ship.
“I like her,” thought Amias. “Damn that I have still to play a fool.”
Three hours later the cargo ship was full. It slowly undocked from the station and started the long way back.
“One day and a half,” Cyra said. “Then we are out of the system.”
“And then almost three days in hyperspace.” Replied Amias.
“I see you are traveling a lot with our ships.”
“Tell me, how can you do such a boring job?” Cyra quickly interrupted him, before he would start explaining in detail his boring business trips.
“Boring?” Amias pretended to be a little offended. “The work that I’m doing is of utmost importance.”
Cyra interrupted him with another question. But soon she had enough and found an excuse to leave him.
Amias was later sitting on his bed in his cabin. He was checking his comm device. It looked like a standard device but it was heavily upgraded and tailored for his investigation work. He went through some data and schematics.
“Well this is the report that they’ll get,” Amias thought. “Then it’s out of my hands. And honestly I don’t really care what they do with this mining operation. My work is done.”
The alarm went off when Amias was sleeping. He was immediately fully alert standing in his room and checking his comm device. He was trained for this kind of situations. Something happened to the ship and they were crashing out of hyperspace. He was running to the bridge as he was checking his device.
“This can’t be happening to me,” he thought. “I can’t be so unlucky.
Hyperspace wasn't 100% stable. In really rare occasions ships crashed out of it. Even with all the heavy traffic going on it was almost 50 years ago that this happened for the last time. The chance for happening that to a person was almost nonexistent.
Just before he reached the bridge he stopped so suddenly that he almost fell. He couldn’t believe what he saw on his device. The analytical programs in his device automatically checked all the ship routines and they found the cause for the crash. There was a small code very well hidden in the routines which triggered the crash. Someone planned to crash the ship.
All the possibilities what this could mean started to pop into his mind. For a moment he became dizzy.
“Focus! Damn! Amias Focus!” Amias tried to concentrate again. “First save your live. Then you will have time to analyze what just happened.”.
But something he knew for sure. They tried to kill him. They tried to kill him in a very excessive way, crashing the ship from hyperspace. There was something strange going on in the mining operation and it wasn’t selling ore on the black market. He stumbled on something really big and he didn’t even know what it was.
Amias reached the bridge. Cyra was completely ignoring him. She was frantically shouting at her copilot and he was shouting back at her. Amias soon got the whole picture. They were crashing out of hyperspace into a planetary system. The ship was still somewhere between hyper and normal space so it was impossible to control it and it was falling with an enormous speed into the star.
“It looks like the theory behind the crash is right,” Amias thought. “Ships that crash out of hyperspace fall into the closest star. I can confirm it first-hand.”
At that moment his device beeped hard. Amias checked it. His device came up with a plan to escape.
“Cyra! Cyra! Cyra!” He shouted like crazy. And he got her attention for a moment.
“We can escape. The escape pods. There’s a chance.”
She looked at him like he would be crazy.
“Let me explain.”
“You fool. Go away. Don’t bother us.”
He tried to get her attention again but without success.
“Damn it” Amias was frustrated. “She still thinks that I’m some stupid bureaucrat.”
He checked his device. He didn’t have time to convince her.
“Well it’s not like that my plan has significantly higher chance of success than hers trying to gain control over the ship.” With this thought in his mind he ran out of the room.
Amias was running through the ship corridors. The ship was shuddering really hard and the cracking noise became louder. He was checking his device under the blinking red light to get to the escape pods. When he came to them he unlocked the closest escape pod, jumped into it, locked the hatch behind him and threw himself in a seat. His device took immediately over the controls of the escape pod. Now he just had to wait.
Cyra was right. Normally this would be a stupid thing to do. The escape pod didn’t have enough power to get away from the ship and to stop falling into the star. Both would fall into the star and burn. Instead of burning in the ship Amias would burn in the escape pod. But the comm device had calculated that the ship would pass close enough to a planet to use its gravity to pull the escape pod away from the ship.
“Unbelievable,” Amias thought. “What’s the chance that the ship would pass so close to a planet in this system.”
For a moment he fell like he was the luckiest person in the universe. But that moment was soon over, while the chance that this plan would work was very low. And then there was another problem. The ship was still between hyper and normal space. The comm device couldn’t calculate if and when the escape pod would return to normal space. Nothing ever survived such a crash, so there was absolutely no data available to analyze. There were only speculative theories.
Amias was looking on his device and nervously waiting. The device was showing him the exact time plan for the escape. The timing of the ejection of the escape pod and the activation of its engine was crucial. That’s why the device took over the controls. It would be impossible to manually execute this plan.
“Let’s go,” Amias thought.
In the next moment the device ejected the escape pod and started its engine. Amias was pushed into his seat. The engine was working for a few seconds and then the device stopped it. After a while the engine started again. This was going on for some very long minutes. All this time the device was carefully maneuvering the escape pod, recalculating the trajectory and making small corrections. Amias felt helpless, there was nothing he could do. He was just sitting and watching the changing data on the device and hoping that this would work.
The engine stopped for the last time. The escape pod ran out of fuel. There was nothing anymore that the device could do.
“The estimation still looks good,” thought Amias. “There’s still a chance that the plan will work.”
He was longing for a window to see what was happening outside, but the escape pod was windowless. The time was going really slowly. He was checking interchangeably the onboard instruments and his device. The waiting frustrated him.
“Ok, finally something,” Amias relaxed a little. The device just informed him that they were back in normal space and that the transition didn’t have any consequences. A minute later the second good news came. The escape pod escaped the ship and was attracted by the planet. Amias relaxed in his chair and breathed deeply.
Then the bad news came. The trajectory of the escape pod was to close to the planet. The plan was that the escape pod would pass the planets orbit. But if it would be to close to the planet it would burn in its thin atmosphere. Amias checked the data several times.
“It can still be done,” he was trying to convince himself. “The escape pod has enough speed to escape the planet’s gravity on the other side of the planet.”
He was counting on the acceleration that the planet’s gravity would give him.
“But it will be hot.”
The escape pod was falling to the planet. It’s speed was accelerating. Soon it was flying through the upper layer of the planet’s thin atmosphere. The hull was heating up. Amias was constantly checking the hull temperature and the speed. It became hot in the escape pod. His device was counting down the seconds until escape from the planet’s orbit. Amias thought that the time was slowing down while each second was longer than the previous one.
The escape pod escaped the planet’s gravity and it was launched into empty space. Amias was trying to relax in his seat. he still couldn’t believe hat he made it. He survived. It was his lucky day. He breathed deeply and steadily. Slowly he gained control over himself.
When he calmed down he checked his device. No trace of the cargo ship. It was destroyed. For a moment he felt sorry for Cyra. Then he activated the special distress signal on his device.
“Well, the company should pick me up in some four days,” he thought. “Enough time to finally analyze what was really going on in the mining operation and why they wanted to kill me.”
He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. His mind started to analyze everything that he experienced in the mining operation, even the smallest non-important detail.
This short science fiction story is part of a collection of stories. All the stories share the same vast universe in the far future with the human civilization spreading through the deep and vast space of our galaxy. Some stories are/will be short stories some stories are/will be novels. All the stories are more or less independent. The main characteristics of the stories are: deep space, exploration, mystery and epic adventure.