Mission 404

Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

6 comments

Science Fiction Suspense

Department of Extraplanetary Exploration

Classified Transcript

Solar Date: 25 May 2150


D7, base of operations has lost visual. Repeat, base has lost visual. D7, acknowledge.

Delta seven, acknowledging. Is the audio clear? Acknowledge, please.

Your audio is clear, D7. Describe your surroundings for the record.

Surroundings haven’t changed since visual shorted out. Repeat, surroundings haven’t changed.

Relay current readings in lieu of description. Describe changes in density of asteroid field.

No change. Asteroids still orbiting at constant rate. Relaying current readings now.

Readings received. Information will be correlated momentarily. Proceed to base, D7.

Acknowledged. Entering flight plan back to—wait, new data registering in sensor relays.

Forward new information to base databanks. Specify new information.

Looks like a solar flare’s heating up. If I can’t maneuver away, the shuttle will feel it.

Data has been received. Recommendation, to proceed to base. Repeat, proceed to base.

Acknowledged—but I’m in the middle of an asteroid field, so proceeding will take time.

Recommendation, to proceed to base. Repeat, proceed to base.

I’ve been relaying with a computer, haven’t I? Can’t I get a human being on the line?

Negative. All on-duty personnel have been reassigned to crisis stations.

Are you telling me they left shuttle communications to a computer?

Affirmative. D7 is currently the sole exploratory craft launched from cruiser Titan.

So it wasn’t worth it to give one shuttle a personal relay?

Affirmative. Cruiser systems are designed to function at peak efficiency.

Isn’t there anyone remotely humanoid listening to this? Acknowledge.

[ . . . ]

Bridge? Engineering? Infirmary? I’ll even take Recreation, if there’s someone there.

[ . . . ]

That solar flare is starting to catch the shuttle. Either an asteroid gets me, or—

Hello? D7, can you acknowledge?

Delta seven, acknowledging. Have I reached a human? Who is this?

Infirmary, responding to your call. What’s your condition?

Infirmary? Since when did Infirmary monitor communications?

I had a free minute and picked up your signal. My crisis station is always here.

Cruiser’s condition must be compromised, if crisis stations were activated.

Engineering would be more exact, but I’m sure condition's less than optimal.

And that means you won’t be helping me.

[ . . . ]

Anyone been to Infirmary yet? From what I hear, you haven’t seen many this trip.

Negative. If enough systems fail, we’ll be seeing them.

System failure? Well, as long as it’s not Engineering, Titan will pull through.

From what I’ve been picking up on the intercom, the solar flare has been affecting—

No, don’t tell me. My own engines will be overloading in a minute.

Can you maneuver out of the asteroid field before that happens?

The flare’s compromised my sensors, and flying this thing without data is a risk.

Well, it’s either blow up or burn up, isn’t it?

You’re not very cheerful—but you’re right. I’m surprised my audio is still relaying.

[ . . . ]

Hello? Anyone there? Infirmary, acknowledge.

Yes, sorry. Infirmary acknowledging. I think Engineering was experimenting with options.

You mean cut communications to supply the engines? What good would that do?

They might try skipping directly to lightspeed, to bypass the flare.

And leave me here? With an untapped asteroid field to log, all by myself? Inconsiderate.

Didn’t catch that last part. Could you repeat?

It’s not important. But if you are shifting to lightspeed, don’t tell me.

Easier to die a hero’s death that way? That’s a risk you scientists take.

I wish the risk was bigger than an asteroid field. Why bother dying for rocks?

Would you prefer Titan to be full of cadets? Or interplanetary committees?

Definitely not interplanetary committees. They never act, just talk.

Cadets? A cruiser full of undertrained, overworked youngsters bleeding adrenaline?

See, that would be a reason to strand me. What’s one scientist over a bunch of kids?

Oh, I just treat the patients. Asking the hard questions isn’t my department.

Any chance you can get this patient back onboard? I’ll even try maneuvering blind.

Engineering’s still debating the lightspeed skip. They don’t want to disrupt the field.

Captain thinks a handful of asteroids is more important than cruiser personnel?

Or someone up the chain does. Why else would we bring a cruiser to analyze the field?

They need a data correlation system, and most exploratory craft aren’t equipped.

But while you’re forwarding data to Titan, this flare shows up.

I don’t think the field and the flare are connected. Could have deployed more shuttles, though.

Why? One asteroid field too much for you?

No, but it’s some of the strangest data I’ve ever—hang on, maneuver in progress.

Better proceed to base of operations before Titan skips off. I think we might be on the move.

Been eavesdropping on Engineering? If they don’t get it right—

Then Titan will take a lightspeed skip right into the flare. Did the computer collect all data?

I think I relayed everything. It didn’t ask for anything else, told me to proceed to base.

[ . . . ]

Infirmary? Are you still there? Acknowledge, please.

Infirmary, acknowledging. They’re cutting communications in a minute, to reroute power.

[ . . .]

D7, acknowledge. Is your shuttle compromised?

Negative. In fact, I just cleared an asteroid. Not that it matters, since the data’s relayed.

If you maneuver quickly, we may be able to pull you in before—

I know how far I am from Titan. There’s not enough time. They don’t need me.

I can plead a medical emergency, delay them for a few minutes—

And risk compromising Titan? I don’t think so. These asteroids are—

Have you been compromised? D7, can you hear me?

Affirmative. I was racing the flare, but an asteroid just took me out of the running.

Can you maneuver? I’ll pull someone from crisis station to calculate the distance—

Doesn’t matter. Engines are overloading. You’ll be in lightspeed soon.

You’re still a member of the crew, and Infirmary is responsible for your safety.

You want to do something for me? Tell me your name.

[ . . . ]

Infirmary, acknowledge. Please, I know you have a name.

It’s David. My name’s David.

Listen, David. I want you to find out why these asteroids are so important.

I’m only from Infirmary. How would I know what to do?

Make my risk worth something. Find out. The data was encoded before it was correlated.

I’m not a computer scientist, D7. Just a doctor.

Then find someone who is. Gather a group, if you have to.

Sounds like extraplanetary espionage to me. I want to help you, but—

David, do you want my death to mean something? I told you, that data is—

D7, acknowledge. We’ve lost your audio. Repeat, D7, acknowledge.

[ . . . ]

Acknowledge, D7. Please, acknowledge.

[ . . . ]

Computer, status report for shuttle D7.

Shuttle D7 has been destroyed. Repeat, shuttle D7 has been destroyed.

January 13, 2021 03:55

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

6 comments

Janey Finch
15:45 Jan 29, 2021

Wow! I really liked that! To be honest, I read the sequel first so once I got to the ending of this story, the sequel made so much more sense and it was a great epiphany! This was a great idea to fit the prompt! I was wondering how anyone could even use this prompt, but you did really well! I also love the [...] that just shows perfectly how the dialogue would be paced! If you have any time, I would love for you to leave some feedback on on of my stories (the latest is probably the best). I only started writing less than 2 weeks ago, so I'm ...

Reply

15:59 Jan 29, 2021

Thanks, Janey! I'd be happy to read some of your stories and leave feedback

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Andrew Krey
02:48 Jan 19, 2021

Hi Emilie, I liked your story, and you set the scene really well (and while still keeping the dialogue natural), although initially it was difficult to know which of the interactions was the AI. At first I thought D7 was the name of the robot/AI, until I realised it was the reference to the shuttle. Giving the person in the shuttle a name would make this clearer...however, I liked that the person sacrificed remains nameless and there was more concern for data than their life. So in balance, I can see the benefit of both :)

Reply

05:08 Jan 19, 2021

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it

Reply

Andrew Krey
13:31 Jan 19, 2021

You're welcome :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
22:20 Jan 14, 2021

Hello readers! If you're interested in a sequel to this story, see "Resolution," also on my page

Reply

Show 0 replies