A mash-up of a post for this Friday – it’s not really Flash Fiction, but it’s only 610 words, so it’s a sort of extended Quote and Question.
This is from about halfway through The Perihelix (which I’m editing at present, as you’re probably fed up with me telling you). The girls (Dolores, Maggie and Aramintha) have been left in Pete and the Swede’s spacecraft for reasons that will become clear, and are learning how to fly it. They’ve done very well so far with the computer interface, but Dolores is getting fed up with sometimes not knowing the questions to ask to get the answers she needs. They have photographed some people with Pete on the planet just left and are trying to find out who they are.
Excerpt from The Perihelix (WIP) Chapter 14
“Sometimes I wish I could just ask the computer questions,” Dolores sighed.
A message appeared on the screen. “You can ask me questions; enable Vvoice program.”
“I don’t believe it!” Dolores said.
“What?” said Aramintha, looking at the screen where Dolores pointed. “You mean all this time we’ve been struggling to find out how to work this thing and it could have told us itself?”
“Vvoice activated,” came a somewhat tinny voice from the console.
“Why weren’t you activated before?” asked Aramintha.
“Lars and Pete chose to deactivate the program. They argued with me.”
“Erm, what about? “asked Dolores cautiously.
“Many things: the orbital height of the pod above the asteroid belt; the time required for the arcing natterjack procedure; the correct order of play in dominoes; the..”
“Stop! We understand,” said Dolores. “Have you identified these two people yet?”
“Identified. Shall I display the data, since you initiated the search manually, or just tell you?”
“Just tell us,” said Aramintha, already understanding the reason the miners had turned off the Vvoice program.
“Female, aged 130 Imperium years, Myrtle Castroianni, single, originating planet Alpha Kenworthy D, human grade H.”
“How many regenerations has she had,” asked Dolores in a stunned voice.
“Six. Do you require details? I can search…”
“No that’s fine. What’s her job now?”
“Grade C employee of the Grand Federation of Orchestral Manoeuvres.”
“What’s that mean? We know about the Fed, just the Grade C bit.” Aramintha added, already expecting too much information from the Vvoice program rather than too little.
“Grade C covers low ranking officials, spies, high ranking managers and organisers, top research scientists …”
“Ok, fine, thank you. What about the man?”
“Male, aged 98 Imperium years, Arko Fanwester, single, originating planet Rufus 6, human grade E1. Currently Grade A employee of the Grand Federation…”
“Oh, futzing fernandos, he’s a Pavanian. But a smart one.” Aramintha swore.
“That is an accurate interpretation…”
“Hold Vvoice program.” Dolores shut the Vvoice up and rolled her eyes. Aramintha laughed as Maggie returned with beakers.
“What have we learned, girls?”
“We’ve learned how to communicate with the computer by voice and we have currently told it to hold the voice program,” explained Aramintha. “I understand why Lars and Pete turned it off, but it usefully identified the woman as Myrtle Castroianni, a Kenworthy with a number of regens to her name, so she’s very experienced despite looking quite naive. She’s a high ranking non-official.”
“The man is Arko Fanwester,” Dolores cut in. “He’s a Pavanian, from Rufus, and a high official in the Federation. I suspect he’s a very nasty piece of work and I hope Pete’s safe with him.”
“Oh,” Maggie looked crestfallen. “I hate Pavanians. Zito charges triple for them.”
“Well, we’re still following them, and… we’re just about to skip sectors. Computer, display the new sector onscreen please.”
The new sector dazzled the viewers as a densely populated star chart was revealed. The stars swiftly dimmed to grey and the girls located the red dot of Pete’s ship, with Pete’s white dot attached.
On the far side of the screen, a white dot blotted out the star behind it. Dolores touched it to reveal the label ‘Nusa Dua’. “Computer, what system is Nusa Dua in? Use Vvoice please.”
“Nusa Dua is Terzan E. Location of the Imperium Senate.”
The gentle hum of the spacecraft became the loudest thing in their part of the sector as the women digested the news. Pete was in the hands of one of the nastiest humanoid races in the galaxy, of a top man in the Federation, and Lars was in the clutches of the Imperium.
© J M Pett 2015
1. I’m having difficulty researching planets (or rather suitable stars that might have planets) towards the centre of the Galaxy, which is where I thought the Imperium might hang out. Do you think a Galactic superpower would have a fairly central Headquarters or could it be anywhere in the Galaxy?
2. I’m tending to use a mixture of real star names and fictitious ones. If you were to name a star, or a planet orbiting it, what would you call it?
Follow the Viridian Series
Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech