18 July 2005


There was a lot of noise, and he didn't care much for it. Each of the five screens had it's own sound system, all blaring the alarm. The screens were flashing brightly colored warnings. He couldn't concentrate because none of the five screens nor their accompanying sirens were synchronized. Loud and distracting, it was one of the most unpleasant noises he'd ever heard in his life.
He spent most of his time watching the five screens and listening to their audio streams. Most of the time his job bored him senseless. With the audio off, he would stare at the ceiling and let his mind wander. It was this habit of not paying attention to the here and now that let him think. He had, out of pure habit, muted all the screens and began to look at them as their messages flickered through the room.
An engine had failed. He didn't know what engine had failed, why it had done so, or anything else about it. He wasn't an engineer and knew practically nothing about them. As a communications analyst, his job was to watch the screens and write reports about the people on the planet below, not meddle with the engines. That was what the engineers were for.
There wasn't one on the ship, he was alone. He was almost through with his year-long observation mission, and hadn't needed one yet. He hadn't needed one ever, he realized once he stopped and thought about it, nor had he ever heard of someone needing an engineer while observing. He knew someone who needed a dentist once while on a mission, but that wasn't going to help him with the engines.
The computer knew enough about the engines to flash screens at him and play sirens, so he shut off the screens and went to the main control console. He switched it over to the engine computers and it's screen began flashing. He hit buttons at random until the flashing stopped, and then read the warning messages. It seemed that some sort of valve thing had failed and caused an engine of some sort to do something which meant that the ship was now falling out of orbit.
The ships were quite spacious, intended to land on planets during the first planetary contact and serve as an embassy until a more formal structure could be built. All of the offices and apartments were sealed off. The analyst could get into them, but didn't want to have the bother of keeping them clean. He knew the ambassador and staff were to arrive in a few weeks, to relieve him and make contact, but the ship was leaving orbit early. It was leaving orbit right then, and although landing on a planet is technically done through a controlled fall, he wasn't very happy with that description. It sounded bad, and things that sounded bad usually were.
He fiddled around with the controls until he was able to get a projection of the ships course. The screen showed the planet's surface, with a small flashing "X" in the middle of an ocean and an estimated impact velocity. He wasn't sure what the number meant, physics wasn't his field, but it was very large and he didn't like it. He furrowed his brow and stared at the screen.
He hit a big button marked 'RADIO' and the screen flashed up another message. 'CURRENT COURSE PLOT WILL RESULT IN COLLISION. (A)BORT or (C)hange'. He tried to abort it, and the map of the planet was displayed again. He pressed the radio button again, aborted again, and looked at the map again. Abort wasn't working, but maybe Change would change him to the radio so that he could call for help. He pressed radio again, pressed change, and saw something new. "SELECT NEW LANDING SPEED/LOCATION" appeared on the map, with bullet instructions on the interface.
He selected a city at random, and lowered the speed as much as the computer would let him. He pushed the execute button and felt larger engines firing. Pilots were trained for thirty years to master what he had done in five minutes. He wondered if he could just take a licensing test and become a landing pilot without the decades of study, there didn't seem to be that much to it, after all.
It wasn't until he landed that he remembered that ambassadors also get several decades of training. He smiled slightly. He had been writing reports on the planets cultures for the ambassador to study. Watching their television broadcasts for so long had left him with a functional use of the language. He wasn't really an ambassador, but for a few weeks at least, he could fake it.

Goe, more later.

1 comment:

Rachmeg said...


Rach, thinks he works for that guy.