THE BLOCKED OUT BLACKOUT
BY: MAVERICK COTSEN
The command center is buzzing at 3:00, with coffee and aspirin on practically everyone's desk, as the center works around the to monitor the Super Durable Space Defender(SDSD). The station is the home of the Universal Shield Generator (USG), the shield that protects earth from asteroids, meteors, and most importantly, aggressive extra-terrestrial beings seeking to claim out new land. However, due to the radiation and intense energy levels that are emitted from the generator, no human is on the station, meaning that all the work and maintenance has to be done by robots controlled by the humans in the center using VR helmets, which takes a long time. But that stuff is for the higher level workers. Theres also other little things that need to be done on the ship, such as checking the circuits and monitoring the energy levels. But that's busywork. Can you imagine having that as your official job? James can. Because....well.... that’s his official job.
James walked down to his station like he did every day at 3:00 a.m. , books in one hand, data pad in the other. He sat down and started his routine. First, he got out his data pad and checked what assignments the UNSOPD(United Nations Secretary Of Planetary Defense) had given him. They were always the same. The first was to check to radiation and energy levels from the generator. The second was to examine the station's shield strength. James sighed. Same as usual. Next he checked his VR rig to make sure it was in proper position. He couldn't see anything wrong with it, so he began the "Lock in" procedure. He set his arms in the holders next to his chair, and placed his feet in correct spots. After the computer recognized that it was really him, it lowered the VR rig onto his head, and another seemingly boring day began.
As the computer booted up, it displayed its usual messages.
" Greetings human. Please scan-"
James knew what to do. He had to recite his pupil code(A code involving an intense series of blinks) After completing it, the computer said,
"Identity confirmed. Welcome, James Archeus Hutchison. Class: Lower level maintenance worker. Date: December 7th, 2250. 546th day of work. Transporting you towards server ward."
Then the VR display went black, and James was left in darkness for a count of 3. After that three second had passed, James's view opened into a stereotypical doctor's office lobby. We was in a soft blue chair, and there were other people sitting in chairs around him, waiting until the nurse called them in to the "office"(AKA the door to your robot on the station) As usual, he was seated to the right of low level programmer Jeff Lamaison, who he hated, and his best friend, Frank Rosenburg, who was the chief of maintenance.
"How's it going buddy?!" Frank said, like he did every day since they'd met.
"Alright Frank. The usual grind. You?"
"Actually, things have been going great! The wife's happy and the kids are excited to go on that trip in 2 weeks!"
"Good for you Frank. How are things in upper management, you lucky dog?"
"Y'know, I can't complain. But lately we have been getting a lot of satellite interference. We don’t know what's causing it, but we suspect it could be a-"
The sound of the nurse calling Frank for duty interrupted their conversation.
"Well, you know what that means. Yak to you later J!"
Frank proceeded to get out of his chair and walk to the door, then disappeared into pixels as he touches the doorknob. Now James was lonely, and was awkwardly waiting for his name to be called, not even bothering to make small talk with anyone. James just sat around, waiting for his named to be called.
Frank was an interesting character. He used to live on a farm, until his mom and dad divorced and his mom took him to the suburbs. He was a straight A student and always
For not 10 minutes go by before the nurse calls James. James groggily gets up, no motivation in his step. He touches the doorknob, and then he vanishes.
He appears in his usual unit, a 2-TKJ type 2 maintenance robot. This little thing was no bigger than a small cat, and rolled around on the ground using high performance mini-wheels. It really only had one set of tools; its interchangeable set of circuit breakers and hammers and Geiger counters and whatnot. James had gotten so bored with the little thing that just for fun, he had memorized its 10 page instruction manual. He sighed. If he was lucky, he would bump into Franks unit, a TKR type 1 human beta robot. But their paths rarely crossed and it was seldom that he would get more than a wave hello. But James didn’t have time to be sad. He had a job to do.
So James started his day, and began with going into the generator room and checking the energy levels. His little robot pulled out the industrial strength mini Geiger counter and held it up near the generator. The Gieger had 5 levels: green, blue, yellow, orange, and red. Green was way too low, red was way too high, and just right was yellow. But this was a tedious process. James had to hold the thing up to the generator 5 times for 20 minutes each, 40 minutes for the energy levels and 60 minutes for the radiation levels. During these, James liked to close his eyes and pretend that he was in a far off land, somewhere sunny and happy and warm where people are smiling. He imagines sitting in a chair with an ice cold lemonade, with an umbrella over his head. The squawks of the seagulls and-
"BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!" The little counter was going off, signaling the end of his first reading.
Only 80 more minutes to go, James thought to himself.
Once James was done with checking the energy levels, he went to check the shield strength. The panel was where it always was, right underneath the control panel. He popped it open and started checking the pulse of the wire. There were 2 main wires, one green and one blue, each controlling a different part of the shield. The green one controlled the amount of power transported to the generator, while the blue one controlled the pace of the power. As usual, they were both the same. Oh well, James thought to himself.
"At least I get to go home early." James said out loud.
But when he turned around, there was a scene he didn’t expect to see. The normal guy that manned the controls was being accompanied by another guy, who seemed to be a little hasty. But James didn't think much about it so he began his lockout sequence. He opened the options menu, clicked exit, and closed his eyes.
But nothing happened.
At first, he just thought he didn’t press the right command to press the exit button. SO he brought the menu up again, clicked exit, and closed his eyes.
But still nothing happened.
At this point, James is freaking out, because if you don't log out properly and just rip the headset off, it could result in permanent brain damage. Frantically, he started screaming for help, but there was none near him, as his room was soundproofed because the United Nations didn’t want anyone else listening to their conversations. SO James did the only thing he knew how to do. He ran around bumping into walking human robots, hoping that one of them would take the hint and save him from trouble. But no one paid any attention to him. Not a single one.
And to make matters worse, James was drifting off, every second he was in that thing he got more and more tired. James knew he wasn’t going to get any sleep from it. He had tried before, with no success. But he couldn’t help it.
And if it wasn’t for the alarm sound, he probably would've drifted off.
James only ever heard the alarm once, for a false alarm over a generator leak. Even though it was a false alarm, it had seemed very real. Whenever there is an alarm on the station, a screen pops up in you POV that tells you what's the alarm is for and what to do about it. It also tells whose job it is to fix it. But this time, there was a blank line in the assigned column.
"A (Red) Alarm has been activated. The following data is available about the situation.
Problem: Power outage in ships main generator
Assigned: N/A (Please stand by)
Course of action for those not involved: Remove headsets, report to main bridge of command"
Uh, yeah. There was only one problem with that. JAMES COULDN’T TAKE HIS FREAKING HEADSET OFF! Around him James could hear the people running around, not paying any attention to the guy stuck in his headset. But James had to remain calm. He took some deep breaths, then examined his situation.
"So, I cannot get out of his headset, so he might as well make the most of it. If the problems in the generator room, then he should check out the control room and see the statistics on the generator. I can go from there." James said to himself, just trying to calm himself down.
James then gripped the controls and started wheeling over to the control room at max speed, not wasting any time to look at anything else. It was clear that everyone but him had now reported to the control room, and there was no doubt that the Secretary of Planetary Defense was on the phone right now with the general, and that the entire command center has huddled around the big screen that show the station. But there were no camera in the control room, so no one saw him as he raised the camera on his robot to look at the generator.
What James immediately noticed is that it wasn’t the generators power, it was the power of the whole station! The wholes station was 0% energy, except for the control room, which had battery backup. James also noticed that there was an outgoing frequency bouncing off the station.
"THAT must have been why I couldn’t take off my headset earlier." James said. "This little robot doesn't have the same protection as the other robots do, so this must be the only robot on the whole station that was affected by the frequency disruption."
It was most likely extra-terrestrial, which means that some alien race was trying to shut down the station. This isn't a surprise though, as extra-terrestrials of all KINDS have tried to down the station with frequencies, but the frequency it would take goes into quadruple digits after the decimal point, and if you tire to do it via computer, the station will identify that and change its code. Which means some alien must have done it by hand. The radar system also reported a large group of extra-terrestrials heading towards earth's orbit, so James needed to act fast. He knew what he needed to do.
James brought the camera down and opened the panel that had all of the data processors in it. If he could find which processor had been bugged, there was a good chance that he could reset it and the computer would change its code again. But as he poked his camera into the data processors, his camera hit something. When his camera turned to face it, he saw that it was a processing wire. And when he turned his camera back he realized just how many data cables there really were. HE would never be able to cut them in time. He needed more tools.
James got out of the processing panel and looked around for anything he may find useful. After a quick scan of his surroundings, he noticed a small box clipped to the side of the wall that was usually used for maintaining the ceiling circuits. If James could reach them, he could use the tools in there to navigate through the wires. Now all he needed was a way up. And he found one, almost immediately.
The "Lock" Lever for the station had a really annoying feature. Whenever you would try to unlock it, you would have to really push, and after that, it would ricochet back to you really hard. Using this to his advantage, James could use it to catapult him to the box, which he would attempt to hit off the wall. So James hurried over to where the lever was, positioned himself, then with all his might pressed against the lever resting next to his arm. The harder he pushed on his lever, the harder his robot pushed on the lever in the station. As he was doing this though, he had a short realization. Even though there were no cameras in the control rooms, what about the camera HE controls? Even though he's controlling the camera, central command can tap into it to see what I see. So that means that command can see everything he is seeing right now. With this is mind, he pushed harder than he ever has before. Finally, the lever shot forward and ricocheted right back with wicked force. The robot got thrown alright. But not in the right spot.
The lever had sent the robot flying to the far left of the box, which was off target from where James wanted to go. In a split second James had to adjust his camera rod, and he just barely managed to extend it far enough to knock the box loose. As James came crashing back down to the station, he heard a small series of gasps. This meant that he was definitely being monitored by command. No extra pressure! No extra pressure at all!
"Incoming: Unknown extra-terrestrial spacecrafts
Approximate TOA: 5 minutes"
Now knowing that command was watching him AND aliens were approaching fast, James turned around as fast as humanly possible and raced toward the gear box. He searched through the box until he found the power checker, a device that, you guessed it, checks the power of the circuits around it. With the power checker in hand, James directed his little robot back to the panel, and placed it down. As soon as he pressed ON, the machine started whirring away and started analyzing every circuit.
"Incoming: Unknown extra-terrestrial spacecrafts
Approximate TOA: 1 minute"
"Cmon you little thing! Hurry!" James screamed.
"Incoming: Unknown extra-terrestrial spacecrafts
Approximate TOA: 30 seconds"
As if on cue, the power checker started beeping, signaling the end of its analysis. James looked over the results and was distressed to see that in fact it was not just one cable that was jammed, it was 3! Without hesitating for a moment, James made his robot pull out it's circuit cutter, and began snipping away at the wires.
"Approximate TOA: 15 seconds"
*Snip*. There goes the first one. Two more to go
"Approximate TOA: 7 seconds"
*Snip*. Just one more! James reached the robots mechanical arm as far as if can. He wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.
"Approximate TOA: 3 seconds"
"Approximate TOA: 2 seconds"
I got it!
"Approximate TOA: 1 seconds"
The second the last wire was cut, the station came back to life. All of the lights started buzzing and circuits started transferring energy again. And you know what that means right? Oh yeah, it mean the shield are back. Even through the soundproofed walls of his cell you could hear the shout of all the people yelling with joy, because the vibrations were just that forceful. And why wouldn’t they be? The planet had just been save dfrom what would have been the death of thousands and the collection of data James felt a wave of emotions run over him. Mostly relief. But also joy. And as he clicked on the exit button, he prepared to receive something he hadn't received in a long, long time.
Lots and LOTS of hugs.