by Mara (talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu)
e-mail comments to talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu or at ketch at hotmail.com
>On to Part 2!
The tiny craft rocketed through the void of space hundreds of
times faster than the speed of light. It was looking for something.
In fact, it had been looking for centuries. Traveling through
long-forgotten spacelanes, skimming the atmospheres of countless
uninhabited worlds, it had come up emptyhanded. Not one of the
planets it had visited had met its needs. Now the craft was getting
tired. It was reaching the end of its programmed life. It feared
that it would never complete its mission. Space was so empty. It
was sure its creators had never guessed how lonely it would be on
the long voyage. After all, it was just a machine.
Ahead lay one last stop, a small blue-green world that the
machineís creators had listed as devoid of intelligent life. Making
a judgment call, the machine calculated its trajectory and rushed
towards the planet as fast as its engines would let it go. Perhaps
the creators had been wrong. Perhaps at last, after hundreds of
thousands of years, it would complete its mission.
* * * * *
Rusty the boy robot was playing video games on a bright and
sunny Saturday morning when he noticed a commotion going on outside
Dr. Slateís lab door. Dr. Donovan was out there, and he was quite
sure he could pick up three unfamiliar voices as well. Curious as
always, Rusty paused his game of Battle Dragon Space Cadets to go
see what was up.
Rusty stopped just inside the lab doorway to view the scene
unfolding before him. Dr. Donovan, Dr. Slateís boss and the CEO of
Quark Industries, along with three people in dark colored suits, were
arguing. Jenny the monkey, Donovanís sarcastic and snippy talking
monkey, was nowhere to be seen. That surprised Rusty. Usually,
Jenny was always sitting on one of Dr. Donovanís shoulders, spouting
rude remarks to anyone in earshot. The other three people, Rusty
soon realized, were part of Quarkís Board of Directors. Rusty had
heard Dr. Slate talking about them. They were the ones that made
all of the decisions around Quark. Rarely seen, but often felt,
they were part of the driving force behind Quarkís success. The
other part was probably Jennyís marketing ploys, but of course, Dr.
Donovan would never admit to that.
"I donít care how much it takes to develop it, itís worth the
cost," Dr. Donovan fumed. "I already have buyers lined up." Donovan
folded his arms over his chest in an indignant show of bravado.
"Itís not viable," a dark-skinned older woman spat back. "Who
knows what it can do? Itís alien technology. I cannot afford another
one of your mistakes, Dr. Donovan." The woman leaned forward as she
emphasized the word 'mistakes.' "Iím sure you remember your failure
with the nurds."
"And that unfortunate incident with the robo-gel gone crazed
partycrasher," the second Director put in. He was tall and had white
hair, just like the man standing next to him.
The third Director held up his hands to calm his colleagues.
Added to his tall stature was a grizzled appearance that couldnít be
completely hidden by the tailored suit he wore. He turned to Dr.
Donovan and spoke in a cultured voice that possessed a bit of an
accent Rusty couldnít identify. "How long do you estimate will it
take to develop the new technology into something we can actually use?"
Donovan rubbed his hands together as he glanced at the angry
woman Director. "Iíd say five months. That would give us plenty of
time to come up with all kinds of practical applications for the device."
"Very well," the third director said. "Iíll give you ten
million to work with, and if you go over the five month trial period,
the project is canceled. Pick your tech team and send daily reports
to my office in Berlin."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Dr. Donovan said.
The third director turned on his heel and walked away, the
other board members in tow. Dr. Donovan thought Ms. Shriff looked
decidedly unhappy as she stalked away behind Dr. Culver. The old
hag had always hated him for some reason. She probably thought he
was too reckless, too much of a risk-taker.
"Oh, well, thatís how we pay the bills, sister," he said
quietly to her receding back. As far as Donovan was concerned,
Quark had bloomed since he had taken over the day-to-day operation
of the company. And no one could convince him otherwise.
Certainly Ms. Shriff couldnít.
Rusty cocked his head as Donovan walked away. The grumpy
lady had said something about alien technology. Rusty wanted to see
it. He quietly followed Dr. Donovan to see if he was going to look
at this new technology.
Dr. Donovan was indeed going to see the alien technology. He
made a beeline for a top security lab where several technicians were
working on decoding the secrets of the small space probe that had
fallen to Earth several weeks ago. So far they had been unsuccessful
in retrieving any data stored in the strange probeís network. Rusty
sneaked in past the heavy vault door just as it was closing behind
Donovan. He hid behind a crate to get a look at the probe.
The probe itself was small and round, about the size of a
ping-pong ball. It was black and shiny silver at the same time. In
fact, the color seemed to be almost moving across the surface of the
object in shimmering waves of alternating pitch black and metal.
Rusty thought it was awful pretty. Dr. Donovan, on the other hand,
was awfully annoyed.
"Okay, people, we only have five months starting today to
develop this, so chop chop." Donovan walked out the door again,
never noticing Rusty hiding behind the crate.
"Chop chop," a freckled female lab technician sarcastically
mimicked as she stuck her nose in the air.
"Yeah, whatís his problem anyways?" a man wearing data goggles
said. "Weíre trying our best." This thing just doesnít want to be
cracked." He bonked the probe with a hammer and smiled. As he did
so the probeís color swirled around the spot the hammer had just
"Well, Iím taking a coffee break," the woman said to her
coworkers. Anyone wanna come with?" She walked over to the probe
and turned on a forcefield that would keep anyone from tampering
with the alien device.
"Sure." The lab techs put down their tools and left through
another vault door and headed towards the cafeteria laughing and
Rusty came out from his hiding place to view the probe close
up. It hovered in the static force field above a lab table.
"Wow," he said. "This sure is neat!"
The probe began to spin at his remark.
"Huh?" Rusty backed up a few steps as the probe began to
bang against the sides of its containment field.
"It must want out," Rusty said to himself.
Almost as if the probe could understand Rusty, it began to
circle inside its cage even more. It slammed against the wall of
the field at incredibly high speeds.
"No," Rusty said, "Iím sorry, probe, but I canít. The last
time I took something that wasnít mine I ended up sticking my friend
Jeffyís mom in the wall of her house. Iím not supposed to play with
things that defy the known laws of physics."
The probe stopped immediately and began to hover again.
"Thatís better," Rusty said.
Rusty turned to leave. As he did so he heard a high-pitched
humming noise coming from the probe. He whirled around just in time
to see the probe build up an energy charge and short out the
containment field. The probe circled on its axis several times and
then opened up several small ports near its center. Out came even
smaller black and silver balls.
These balls, however, did not just hover. They came straight
for Rusty. One hit him square in the head. Before he even had time
to react, the probelet had burrowed right through his titanium armor
and into his brain. Rusty had barely enough time to realize that he
was shutting down before he hit the floor with a thump.
Back to the fanfic index