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columbo1977
September 30th, 2010, 02:15 PM
One Man’s Greed


(Word Count 3,244)



It is curious what goes through your mind as death approaches, you hear all the stories of life flashing before your eyes or seeing a white light, but they don’t really explain what happens.

Don saw nothing like that, he was looking out of the view screen at a rapidly approaching shockwave, a profound sense of loneliness settled over him.
The family feud that had seen him scavenging throughout space for the last 10 years hardly seemed worth it, watching as the shockwave passed through Mercury, millions of lives were snuffed out as the planet shattered. All of this happened in the seconds before the shockwave reached his ship, the temperature rose rapidly, he could feel his skin beginning to burn, panic rose as he got hotter and hotter. The instrument panel lit up with warnings of hull breaches and then, mercifully for him there was an explosion, the shockwave continued on its path of destruction.

1 day earlier….

Don swept around Europa, close to the Trojan Point, using the planets gravity to draw him in, and then with a quick boost of the engines his velocity was doubled every few seconds. The Martian patrol vessel was unable or unwilling to copy his maneuver and disappeared from his screens. Once again his small ship had proven it’s worth. He smiled and lovingly patted the control panel in front of him and plotted a course for the disused station he called home on the fringe of the Kupier Belt.
His hold was full of seeder rockets essential for terraforming, He’d be able to sell those to his contacts on Saturn which would keep him comfortable while he dodged the Sol Defence Force (SDF). Not quite enough to buy him his life back. One of these days he’d have enough to do that, and maybe he could get respect, maybe even buy a friend.

After refuelling at his station he plotted a course to the central hub at Saturn where most of the system’s trade took place, other than Earth, he needed a supply run and he wanted to shift the seeders. It was risky going back to that part of the solar system so soon after the incident with the SDF but he needed supplies. Arriving into Saturn’s orbit he sent the signal to the station, requesting docking permission. As he approached the station he could see activity all around, his scanners picked up the patrol vessels but he kept his distance from them. Receiving docking permission with no problems his small ship was soon docking with the station. He activated the drones on board and instructed them to collect his supplies which were already loaded in dock 23, the automated robots zipped out of the cargo hold and didn’t take long to have all of the supplies on board and stowed away, the comm beeped and looking at his screen he saw that the ship was sealed. Sending the signal to leave there was a tense moment as the authorisation did not immediately come back like it normally does, Don hovered his hand over the activation button for the explosive charges that were concealed around his docking clamps. Tension eased as the comm. Beeped and signalled that he was cleared to leave. He powered the thrusters and his ship rose from the rings and headed towards the belt, making sure he was not followed was an old routine that he had gotten into a long time ago, watching the SDF as he engaged the engines and headed home, following one of his complicated routes designed to confuse any ship following him, any ship still following him would have to be SDF. After he felt safe he activated the Hydrodrive and headed home.

Napping on the rack built into the small room off the side of the cockpit he was awoke by the sound of the warning chime, signalling he was nearing the section of the system where he would need to take manual control. He sat up and sighed to himself, ‘waste of bloody time having to travel across the system so slow, they should be able to find a way of using the Hyperspace drives without damaging normal space.’ He pulled his jacket on and headed up to the cockpit, sitting down looking out of the window at the fleeting stars as the ship neared the outer rim of the solar system. Entering the shutdown sequence into the drive computer the ship slowed taking control he rolled the craft, turned it through a complicated course round the debris in the belt to get to its hiding place.

Approaching a large asteroid he banked the ship to fly around it, as he came over the apex of the asteroid he got a glimpse of the station he called home. It looked like a doughnut with a thermometer through the middle. The doughnut section was where the habitation and storage areas were, the bottom of the thermometer housed the thruster control and artificial gravity systems. On the top of the thermometer was the main control centre of the station, it was originally used as an administration centre for the mines that were scattered through this section of the Kupier Belt. It had been long abandoned when he found it, restoring it to functional state had cost a lot of credits. Had he not been able to “acquire” parts and technology cheaply the station would have been unsalvageable. The area afforded him all the peace and quiet he needed as no one had come near this section of the field for decades since the accident that decimated part of the belt, dangerous business mining Heridium, thank god it wasn’t needed for engines anymore. The ship approached and mated with the stations airlock, unsealing the hatch he climbed into the station, walking around the circumference corridor, inspecting as he went. Standing in front of the lift door he placing his finger over the button to activate it, his fingerprint was read and the door opened. The lift connected the habitation deck, engineering and the command deck, he stepped inside pressing the button for the command deck, the lift started to move. Stopping at the top level. A small station when in use, it was like a palace for just Don, he entered the command deck and sat down in the control chair, looking at the many screens lining the walls he checked the scan logs to make sure nothing out of the ordinary had happened while he was gone. He then ran the diagnostics on the station itself, all of this was run on automatic as he sat there, living in a closed system like this meant if anything went wrong it was your life so Don had got into the habit of constantly running scans and pressure checks to make sure that the station was always safe.

He inserted the news disc into the computer panel and watched as the wall mounted screens came to life with all of the current goings on in the Solar System dozens of channels all showing at once. He was drawn to channel 100 Solar News as he watched he listened to the debate still going on about the expansion of the human race.

Newscaster:

“You must agree that the human race has spread as far as it can in our own solar system, we must expand, I am constantly surprised that almost the entire race is confined to the Solar System when we have the ability to colonise other planets. Where is our sense of adventure?”

Guest:

“In over 200 years of space travel the human race hasn’t come across any other life of any kind, other than simple plant life, why do we need to leave our home system to colonise other planets when there is enough space here for all of humanity. New space stations and domes are being constructed all the time and the terraforming projects on the moons are coming along nicely, we don’t need to leave the solar system to find adventure, all we need is right here. Why travel dozens if not hundreds of light years to colonise planets when we can terraform moons in our own solar system to support life, if we stay here we have all the resources of the human race to support our endeavours.”

Don turned away from the screen tuning out the arguments he had heard too many times, he entered the encrypted code into the disc and the hidden message came through.

A voice came over the speaker system “Thought you might find this interesting, remember who gave you it.”



Message Start

Tigthbeam subspace message from Survey team at Vega VI 04:37 Standard Earth Time 21st January 2278

Message for Admiral of the Fleet Sanders

Sir
After receiving confusing scans from the unmanned probe Voyager 107 I was sent to Vega VI by Admiral Walsh to check the planet out..

We initiated scans on entering orbit to find extensive ruins on the surface, after sending scouts down to verify the atmosphere was compatible, and checking that there wasn’t any other surprise we landed the ship and examined the ruins. There are several warehouses which were sealed and inside we have found technologically advanced vehicles and artefacts.

We need a full security and survey team until we can secure the equipment.

Please advise,
Captain John Nail, The Damacles
Sol Defence Force (SDF)


Don stared at the screen in shock, after all this time there was finally evidence of life other than humans. He looked at the message again checking to make sure it was real, and not some elaborate prank. This was amazing all he could think of was the prices he could get for alien artefacts and technology. Looking up at the clock it was 22:00, Don tapped in the commands to set the ship to start the pre flight sequence in the morning to make sure that all was ready. He headed back down to the habitation level and walked round to his quarters, Stripping off his jacket and falling onto the bed he fell asleep to dreams of becoming rich from selling alien artefacts, and finally being able to go home and repair what was left of his relationship with his family.

The alarm woke him at 08:00 Don sat up and yawned he could already feel the excitement building. After getting dressed he headed over to the airlock and entered the ship, he got strapped in and started the engines, releasing the catches the ship drifted clear of the station. Activating the engines and heading out of the belt. He set the computer for co-ordinates of Vega VI and engaged the Hyperdrive. The ship seemed to phase out of normal space with a jolt and was on it’s way. The computer informed him it would take 5 hours to reach the Vega star system, in the mean time Don ran all of the checks on the stealth systems on the ship and made sure there were no problems. When he arrived in the Vega system he dropped out of hyperspace and engaged all of the stealth systems. To any ship scanners there would only have been a blip on their screen and then the ship was invisible to almost all scans.

Closing on Vega VI, Don could see there was massive amount of work going on. There were 4 heavy loaders and a couple of battleships orbiting the planet, shuttles were coming to and from the planet all the time. It was going to be nearly impossible for him to get down to the surface undetected to acquire any artefacts even with his advanced stealth systems. He swore to himself in frustration, so close to all those priceless items, by the time he got to go down to the planet they would have stripped it of anything of use.

He was studying the deployment of the SDF forces and trying to figure out how he could get down unnoticed to get something from the planet to sell, while he was doing this he passively scanned the surface and saw the ruins for himself. it looked allot like one of the cities on Mars where he had grown up except decayed as if no one had been there for a few thousand years. His course was set to take him round the moon so that it would help shield him from the scanners of the fleet now in orbit of the alien planet. As he was moving past the moon an alarm sounded from the scanner program that he had analysing local space. Don turned to the screen and was shown an image of the moon he was in orbit of. It seemed with all of the attention on the planet the moons were being left alone for now, he couldn’t see that carrying on for long so he needed to move fast if he wanted to investigate this before the patrol got near enough to detect the signal. His scans showed him electronic signatures emanating from some caves under the surface of the moon. From the looks of things the battleships were patrolling the planet and only making a pass by the moon every second orbit so he should be ok for about 2 hours according to the computer. He banked the ship and headed into the moons small gravity field gliding down towards the surface. It took the ship 40 minutes to reach the right co-ordinates to get him near enough to the caves. He brought the ship in and landed right next to the entrance.

He walked to the airlock and picked up a mask, he placed it over his head and fastened the clasps. There was a hiss and a beep to say the mask was preasurrised. He put the backpack holding the oxy unit on and and activated the airlock. He would now only have one shot at getting whatever was in here and then he would have to be out of there before the patrol made it nearer the moon. There was always the chance he could be detected and the penalties for piracy were severe. He headed out of the ship and walked towards the cave, the gravity was low enough that he could walk but he didn’t dare test what he could do with the time he had. Entering the cave he saw what looked like old fashioned strip lights hung from the ceiling which lit up as he passed. The cave was small, only a few metres wide and 10 deep. As he neared the end of the passage he felt the air thicken and it became harder to move, he pushed on forcing his way towards what looked like a large sphere sitting on a shelf carved into the rock face. It was sat in a transparent casing and was revolving slowly. Don’s excitement grew. At this point all he could think of was this big score that would set him up for life and validate his choice to break from his family and friends to set out on his own. Greed blinded him to the fact that this was alien technology and also that it was hidden here on a moon and not on the planet, visions of returning to Mars rich and successful went through his mind. He put out his arms to grab the sphere and an alarm blared, he jumped and looked round as if he was expecting to see troppers bearing down on him, there was nothing there. Turning round he could see what looked like writing on the walls, there were several sections all glowing now that the alarm had sounded. His gaze moved along the wall he glimpsed a section that looked like English. He pulled in his breath as he read the message.

“This item is extremely dangerous, placed on this moon by the Cyclic Ascendancy for the protection of the Bandgher people, who reside on the nearby planet. Do not remove this device from it’s casing without the supervision of Cyclic technicians present.”

Looking at the wrist monitor he noticed that the battleship would be in a range in 45 minutes. Don grabbed the casing, with the low gravity the device was quite light, he turned and pushed his way through the cave until he reached his ship. Securing the sphere in the hold he went back to the cockpit and engaged the engines and retraced his path, once at a safe distance he engaged the Stardrive, with the ship on its way he headed down to the hold and looked at his prize, there were glowing runes of some kind all over it and it was spinning faster than when in the cave, Smiling he took some pictures ready for when he emerged in the Sol system.

The ship dropped out of Hyperspace and he engaged the communications dish he pointed it towards Saturn and sent a tight beam encrypted message to his associate who gave him the information. He asked for buyers for an alien artefact acquired from the ruins. Smiling to himself he couldn’t contain his excitement at this find. It didn’t take long before he was contacted by several anonymous buyers offering him silly prices of over 1 Billion credits, he could hold out for more but that was him set for life without having to do anything and he would be glad to get rid of the sphere as he didn’t like holding on to something this dangerous and unknown, let it be someone else’s problem he smiled to himself. He replied to the highest bidder then sent over co-ordinates for the transfer.

He arrived at the belt and the ship was already there, he pulled up and received a message to accept payment, he pressed the activate button and the funds entered his accounts, he readied to send over the device, He activated the drone and opened the airlock but when the sphere reached open space it started spinning at an incredible rate. Before anyone could react it was accelerating into the Solar system at an incredible speed. Don sent a message to the other ship explaining that he didn’t know what was going on but it had already engaged engines and was in pursuit, he also altered course and started to follow the sphere.

Accelerating to full speed he came in range of the sphere just in time to see it fly straight past Earth. not wanting to get too close to the patrols Don plotted a wider course and was helpless as the sphere accelerated again. The computer informed him its trajectory had it heading for the sun, the other ship had already broke off pursuit as patrol ships from the sol defence fleet were closing on the sphere, but Don could already tell they would be too late. The computer blared at him “impact in 7 seconds 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1……..” There seemed to be a violent explosion on the sun’s surface visible from the cockpit and then flares started flying out from the Sun its behaviour became erratic and the surface was becoming unstable. Don looked on as the first shockwave exploded from the sun destroying the defence force ships that had been trying to intercept the sphere

“What have I done” was all he managed before a massive explosion destroyed the Sun and a massive shockwave headed out towards him.

Kordain
October 1st, 2010, 04:17 AM
i like this story, i reminds me of Isaac Asimov.

just some questions that me as a reader would like answered. what does the ship look like, what color, what do the robots look like, what do the battle ships look like, how big are they, what doe the artifact planet look like, green, blue, oceans, continents, how about the moon, then at the end give me some time intervals, who long did it take the sphere to travel to the sol system, how long to reach the sun, how long for the SDF to figure out what was happening?

just details, i liked it because of the speed of the story. some are just so slow i can't keep reading. nice one.

michaelangelo
October 1st, 2010, 07:09 AM
Great story, you've some talent. I have a couple suggestions if you don't mind.


He powered the thrusters and his ship rose from the rings and headed towards the belt, making sure he was not followed was an old routine that he had gotten into a long time ago, watching the SDF as he engaged the engines and headed home, following one of his complicated routes designed to confuse any ship following him, any ship still following him would have to be SDF.

That is a long, long sentence that can be broken up for clarity. There should be a period after belt. I believe that the list following an old routine could be cleaned up by separation as well.


He then ran the diagnostics on the station itself, all of this was run on automatic as he sat there, living in a closed system like this meant if anything went wrong it was your life so Don had got into the habit of constantly running scans and pressure checks to make sure that the station was always safe.


Same thing. There are a couple more like this one that seem needlessly longwinded like those in a Faulkner novel.


The area afforded him all the peace and quiet he needed as no one had come near this section of the field for decades since the accident that decimated part of the belt, dangerous business mining Heridium, thank god it wasn’t needed for engines anymore.

Put a period after belt. I think you mean for the narrator to speak quickly but this is too much.


he was awoke by the sound of the warning chime

He was "awoken" seems right to me. Or to avoid that conjugation as well as the passive voice, "The sound of the warning chime woke him" would suffice.


Tension eased as the comm. Beeped and signalled that he was cleared to leave.

I'm guessing that Word caused this fragment but thought I would point it out anyway.

A couple times you wrote Kupier Belt. I thought it was the Kuiper Belt.

Vorrec
October 1st, 2010, 01:48 PM
On michaelangelo's comment about long winded sentences, I personally do not think that it is a problem to have long sentences. I do believe, however, that it is a run-on sentence with "any ship still following him would have to be SDF" belonging in a seperate sentence. That's the only problem with that sentence, in my opinion. If you want long sentences, go for it - lack of clarity might be a part of your style and may help in the delivery of ideas in your story. Just be sure that that is actually your purpose, and watch out for over-usage. Marquez in 100 Years of Solitude had a rather similar style, and it worked for him. I do believe though that, as Kordain previously mentioned, if you want your readers to be more involved in your story, more descriptions of your world would be nice. And yes, it does also remind me of Isaac Asimov.;-)

Great work. Love the concept. And your writing style is very attractive, I think. It keeps the readers engaged. Keep writing! =)

columbo1977
October 1st, 2010, 03:25 PM
Hi Guys

Thanks for all the comments, I will update some of the sentences, then add more details to the world itself.

Graham