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Author Topic: Mark  (Read 729 times)

WarHorse

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Mark
« on: December 13, 2012, 02:53:26 pm »
“Mark!  Mark!  Mark Mark Mark!!”

   Tissues are flying about me as I fling them into the air.  My vision and thinking are too blurry for me to know what I am doing.

   “Mark Mark Mark Mark Mark!  Come back!”

   I empty the box of tissues and am sitting naked on an examination table.

   Where is he?  “Mark!”

   Something comes up behind.  “Perhaps you should lie down.”

   “No,” I reply, “I have to find Mark.”

   “I’m sorry to tell you this, but Mark has been gone for some months now.  Please lie down.”

   I look over my shoulder to find a robot talking to me.  “Who the hell are you?”

   “I am technically known as Hotel/Victor Two-Two Seven.  You may call me Phil.”

   “I don’t want Phil, I want Mark.  Where is he?”

   “Mark is gone.  I am Phil.  Can I get you anything?”

   “I want Mark.  Is there anyone who can get me anything!?”

   “Mark is gone.  I am Phil.  Can I get you anything?”

     My last strand of humanity is connecting me to this examination table.  “I want Mark!”

   “I’m sorry, Mark is not available.  I am Phil.  Can I get you anything?”

   And here I begin the low, slow descent into something I don’t want to describe.  “You woke me up for some reason, what is it?”

   The robot backs away.  “Mark was destroyed.  I’m sorry.  Can I get you anything?”

   “No,” I wave it off. “Mark and I got to know each other.  Why did you wake me up?”

   The robot displays an exterior view.  “Meteoroids.”

   “Oh, shit.”  The exterior hull looks like it has the mumps.  “How far from Earth am I?”

   “Point-zero two seven light years.”

   “That’s a quarter of a tenth of a light year, which is nine and a half trillion kilometers.  A tenth of that is nine and a half hundred billion, and a quarter of that is – did you say your name is Phil?”

   “Yes.”

   “Well go get me some clothes, idiot.”  The robot leaves.  “So if I round it up to a trillion, a quarter is two hundred and fifty billion kilometers.  That’s a long way from Kansas.”

   Phil the idiot had the sense to put me into the gravity ring, so while I can slide off the table and experience gravity, there is the down-side that I’m not used to it, and crumple to the floor.  “Uh, Phil?”

   “I am bringing your clothes.”  The robot floats into the room, bearing the undergarments I would need for an EVA.

   “I need help standing.”  I hold an arm out and Phil puts the undergarments down to help me up.  I lean against the table, gasping for breath.  “How long have I been in stasis?”

   “Fourteen years.”

   “What?  Fourteen years!?!”  The mission was only supposed to last ten.  “What happened?  Why didn’t anyone wake me, or Karen, or Dr. Chang?  We’re not supposed to be in stasis that long.  No wonder I can’t catch my breath.”

   “I’m sorry,” says Phil.  “Mark was destroyed.”

   “You told me that already.  How was Mark destroyed?”

   “It was trying to make repairs to the ship when it was hit by a meteoroid.”

   Crap.  “So who’s been making decisions?”  I start pulling on the undergarments.

   Phil, though faceless, stares past me.

   “Do you mean to tell me that no one has been making decisions on this ship?”

   “There was an accident,” says Phil.

   “I know there was an accident, the only sentient bot on this ship was destroyed.”

   “There was a different accident.”

   “What…”  My blood runs cold.  “What other accident?”

   “An asteroid struck Earth.  It was detected in time, but could not be deflected.  There have been no communications for seven years.”

   “Seven years?!?  I can’t believe you could screw up like that, Phil.  Is Gerta on line?”

   “Gerta is managing the ship.”

   Fastening the last of the undergarment under my neck, I lurch for the hatch.  “Help me out here.”

   Phil provides support and we weave out of the gravity ring and start floating towards the EVA pods.

   “Tell Gerta to plot the fastest route to Earth.  Once I’m out the hatch, wake up Karen and Dr. Chang.”

   “There have been no communications for seven years.”

   “Just because the damned radios are down doesn’t mean there are no survivors.  Now are you going to follow my orders am I going to start switching modules in your head?”

   “Gerta is plotting a course.  The pilot and Dr. Chang are being brought out of hibernation.  Gerta reports that if we loop around Jupiter, we can reduce the length of time needed to twenty three months.”

   “Two more years.”  I sigh as we enter EVA pod Alpha, and Phil begins suiting me up.  “I can’t imagine what you people were thinking, this is only a survey ship.  You should have plotted a course for home as soon as you got the news.”

   “Mark thought it prudent to keep you safe away from the inner solar system.”

   “Well for once Mark screwed up.  And why was he repairing the hull when there is a Hotel/Victor unit available?  You’re just as qualified as he is.”

   “Mark felt it was it’s duty to effect repairs.”  Phil seats my helmet on the locking ring and seals it.  “Test one.”

   “Confirm.”  I move my arms around.  “Feels fine, radio is good.”

   “Test two.”

   “Confirm.”  I move my legs.  “Good mobility.  Would you get the number six tool kit for me?”

   “Test three.”

   “What?”

   “Test three.”

   “There is no test three, Phil.  Get the number six tool kit, I have a bunch of holes to patch.”

   Phil remains motionless.  “Test three.”

   I’ll have to push it out of the way to get to the tool locker.  While Phil probably doesn’t weigh much, I am extremely weak from the time in stasis.  “Look, Phil, I trained for this mission for five years.  There is no test three for EVA checks.  Now either open the tool locker or just get out of the way.”

   “Test three.”

   “Okay, fine.”  Since the EVA pod has me more or less seated, it’s easy to raise my legs and force Phil across the corridor with my feet.  That done, I float myself to the tool locker.

   It is empty.

   Then the outside wall of the corridor separates from the ship, revealing another room.  Dr. Chang, Karen and some other people are there, with Mark in the background, as healthy as a robot can be.

   “What the hell is this?” I ask.

   “Test three,” answers Dr. Chang.  “Extreme duress in isolation.  You did better than I did.”

   I am momentarily gobsmacked.  “You mean there was no asteroid?”

   “No, not even a mission.  We’re still a year away from launch.”

   “Who designed this test?”  I look back and forth between Dr. Chang and Karen, but it is obvious neither of them did it.

   I look to Mark.  “You?”

   The billion-dollar machine tries to grin.  “Had ya fooled, didn’t I?”

   “This isn’t funny!”

   “Maybe not, but it is hilarious.”

   “What was the point?”

   “To find out how you would react under extreme conditions.  You did pretty good.”

   “Pretty well.  I would like to think a robot could speak proper English.”  I unlock the helmet ring and start pulling myself out of the EVA suit.  “If we’re going to be living together for ten years, I have to know I can trust you.”

   “And I have to know I can trust you.”

   I look to Dr. Chang.

   “Mark has been given authority to design the mission parameters.  That includes pre-flight testing of the men and machine.”

   I look from the man to the machine.  “Mark?  Aren’t you a Mark III?”

   “Correct.”

   “Pray there isn’t a Mark IV, because I’m going to send it after your ass.”

   Karen walks past me, slapping my butt.  “You wanted to be the mission specialist!  I’m just going for a long nap.”

   I slip the boots of the EVA suit off my feet.  “Great.”
"The Author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse."  Mattie Ross, True Grit.

Annie Roonie

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Re: Mark
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2012, 06:55:17 pm »
Quote from: WarHorse;84579

   I slip the boots of the EVA suit off my feet.  “Great.”



Nice! Shorts aren't easy, but I enjoy reading them more than any other type of fiction outside of comics and audio. I don't think sci-fi is easy either.  

I don't know how much you write, but if you keep up with the shorts and enjoy them, they can be like those tiny sponges in little shapes that get huge in liquid. You can go back to them for inspiration for longer works. If you begin blogging these someplace, perhaps drop a link to them? Flash, short and micro fiction are fun to read online IMO.

RandallS

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Re: Mark
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 08:32:10 am »
Quote from: WarHorse;84579
   “Pray there isn’t a Mark IV, because I’m going to send it after your ass.”

LOL. Good story. My reaction would have been to go after Mark myself, I suspect.
Randall
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WarHorse

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Re: Mark
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 08:38:46 pm »
Quote from: Annie Roonie;84622
Nice! Shorts aren't easy, but I enjoy reading them more than any other type of fiction outside of comics and audio. I don't think sci-fi is easy either.  


Actually, for some reason shorts are easy for me and longer stuff more difficult.  I've been working on a novel ms for eight years now and can't get it right.


Quote
I don't know how much you write, but if you keep up with the shorts and enjoy them, they can be like those tiny sponges in little shapes that get huge in liquid. You can go back to them for inspiration for longer works. If you begin blogging these someplace, perhaps drop a link to them? Flash, short and micro fiction are fun to read online IMO.

 
Maybe I will do that, thanks for the idea.
"The Author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse."  Mattie Ross, True Grit.

WarHorse

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Re: Mark
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 08:46:08 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;84726
LOL. Good story. My reaction would have been to go after Mark myself, I suspect.

 
I felt myself writing myself into a corner.  I didn't want a sad ending, not at this time of year.  The idea that a mission specialist would become so attached to a sentient robot (not android, like Data) was the basis, then take it (or "him," notice how the pronoun changes) away and leave Phil the Idiot and Gerty the Silent Navigator.

Maybe I should write one called "A Robot Called Wanda." :p
"The Author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse."  Mattie Ross, True Grit.

RandallS

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Re: Mark
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 09:20:47 pm »
Quote from: WarHorse;84804
Maybe I should write one called "A Robot Called Wanda." :p

I'd laugh, but after the shooting today, not much seems funny enough to make me laugh.
Randall
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Emerald

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Re: Mark
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 02:27:25 am »
Quote from: WarHorse;84579


 
That was one of the best sci-fi shorts I've read. :)

You sure surprised me with that twist near the end there too. Nice one. :D:

Aster Breo

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Mark
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 02:51:56 am »
Quote from: WarHorse;84579
“Mark!  Mark!  Mark Mark Mark!!”

Hey, WH.

Thanks for sharing this!  It was an unexpected gem of a story.  I really enjoyed it.

~ Aster
"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

WarHorse

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Re: Mark
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 07:35:14 pm »
Quote from: Emerald;85174
That was one of the best sci-fi shorts I've read. :)

You sure surprised me with that twist near the end there too. Nice one. :D:

 
Thank you!  

Think "Magnum P.I."  I've been re-visiting it lately and I think it had an influence.  A young Tom Selleck's voice would sure fit as the protagonist's.
"The Author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse."  Mattie Ross, True Grit.

WarHorse

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Re: Mark
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 07:41:48 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;85175
Hey, WH.

Thanks for sharing this!  It was an unexpected gem of a story.  I really enjoyed it.

~ Aster

 
Thank you, Aster B!  I wrote the first four lines out of thin air, then thought "Now what?" :D:
"The Author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse."  Mattie Ross, True Grit.

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