Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 9: Light Speed

This is the eighth in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Light Speed, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 10th December 2012

Word count: 1,000

Theme: random acts of violence, crazy, anthropomorphic animals, revenge

The story:

Captain Twigg stood up from his chair, faced the camera’s squarely and held out his hand.

“Next stop…” he held a pause for longer than was comfortable, “Alpha Centauri.”

It was all horribly contrived to Second Lieutenant Carlisle, who was sat two meters away, facing away from the cameras, gladly. He considered it an honour to be on board human kind’s first manned faster than light ship, but he also knew far too much about the cluster fuck this mission had already become. For now he must focus on the mission, those were his orders.

Without skipping a beat he reported on time, “Vector eighteen, three hundred kilometres per second.”

“Hmm…” the captain sat back in his chair thoughtfully, “We need to go faster.”

“Increase velocity, thrusters to maximum, helm,” first lieutenant Jordan Sinclair ordered.

“We’re on schedule,” the Second Lieutenant pointed out, wary not only of the mission parameters that called for no heroics in testing the new engines, but also the thought of being stranded where no one could come rescue them.

“We’re going beyond human knowledge, Second Lieutenant,” the Captain stressed the Lieutenant’s rank, “The people of Earth aren’t looking for safety, they want to see us fly high. The collective breaths of an entire world are holding on to see what we can do, let’s not let them suffocate,” all the time looking at the camera. Second Lieutenant Carlisle realised this would go in his blog tonight, an tale of the Captain’s bravery in the face of the cowardice of his underling.

The Second Lieutenant was the only man aboard Captain Twigg had not picked himself, Carlisle was there at the request of the President of the United Earth Alliance himself, charged with keeping in check this Captain Flashheart who had managed to gain control of the mission through a combination of PR experts, and political connections.

“We’re approaching target velocity,” the helmsman John King reported. John was a likeable young man, even though he was hand picked, it wasn’t for being in with the Captain, but that the Captain wanted a token gorgeous person to stand with him in poster shots.

Carlisle only had less confidence builders of the ship, it was starting to shake itself a part. Every bit of her was shaking, rattling, deeper into the ship he could hear a hiss, which he prayed to God, (they must be close enough for him to hear), that it wasn’t a vacuum leak.

“At target velocity,” the Second Lieutenant reported through gritted teeth, he closed his eyes and prayed straight after.

Captain Twigg failed to even hesitate, he pulled the lever on his console and the world exploded for an instant or a millennia.

They’d been warned what to expect, been on drug enhanced simulations, seen footage from the robot probes that preceded them, none of it prepared Carlisle for the real thing. To say all he saw were pins of light would have been an understatement. There was no ship, there was no him, just pins of light that seemingly resembled the ship and crew.

It lasted only moments, but it would stay with him forever.

Suddenly he was back at his console, he now perceived the false colour effect of light speed, they’d done it.

“Threshold breached,” the helmsman reported.

“One more small step,” the captain said into the camera with a wink, though already it would take a better part of a day to be received by earth.

“Applying course corrections,” John King said, his face was blanched. He was now piloting the fastest moving thing known in the universe.

Carlisle read over the readings on his display, “Current velocity eight-hundred and eighty-seven thousand, three hundred and sixteen kilometres per second,” he paused to work it out, “two point nine six times the speed of light.”

“Full speed,” the Captain ordered, “Please see Lieutenant Sinclaire for any urgent matters, I’ll be in my sleep pod.” Just like that, the Captain’s part was over for three months.

The ship continued to accelerate, only it was less dramatic now the light drive was propelling the ship rather than the ion engines. The Second Lieutenant was on rotation for the next two months, and then he was in his sleep cycle for three months too.

It was a three year journey to alpha, at the ships maximum speed of one hundred and forty times the speed of light, (the loss of time was accounted for by the need to accelerate to, and then slow from said speed).

Everyone was awake for the big moment when we started to brake, it was another six months before we actually dropped out of light speed though, and rotated the ship to bring the ion engines into play in slowing us further. This obviously meant more of a bumpy ride.

“Are those lights on the surface?” the Captain asked looking at the highly enhanced viewers.

“We’re receiving a signal sir,” the First Lieutenant said uncertainly, “It’s from the planet.”

“My God,” the Captain said, “We’ve discovered intelligent life. They said we’d find nothing, but look at that.”

On the screen a video signal was being decoded.

“Earthlings,” it said though from no mouth anyone could identify, “You have been found guilty of intellectual property theft. You’re light drive is in clear breach of our patents. We will now destroy the offending items, and ask you to respect the hard work, and effort our scientists and engineers have done.”

“Well there’s go my career,” the Captain said sinking into his chair.

Carlisle just had time to fire off a signal back to earth, of course it wouldn’t arrive for several centuries, but he felt it was the least he should do as the laser beams cut the ship into small bits, leaving it to explode in space. There was no need, the Centauri had transmitted it by advanced means to Earth to issue their proclamation.

The Earth was in shock, but there was nothing they could do, humanity was grounded.

 

No real prompt to this one, and I’m thinking that was a mistake. All I had in mind was the punch line. Worst still, this is the second version I already did  most of it once, and didn’t like it. I think I’d like to do it again at some point, but as a short story, with a bit more planning involved.

Still, the idea is fun, if not the implementation. If nothing else, it serves to show my frustration at the design and ingenuity stifling battles going on between the major technology players in the world. Imagine human advancement, even on a microcosmic scale being completely stifled by a series of lawyers.

I’d call for a return to prehistoric living, but I’m fairly sure that someone will have patented an iClub, and any other clubs are unauthorised derivatives thereof.

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