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Excerpt from 'The Lost Starship

Chapter One..Perro


The little Star-ship sped outwards towards the star Crenna which was situated in a galaxy three north and one northwest of our own. The ship was ambling along at some very high multiples of the speed of light, with its destination being the planet Cren where its passengers were intended to relieve the existing archaeological and survey teams.


There were far too many bits and pieces, in the form of planets, moons, and asteroids, hanging about within a Galaxy for it to use anywhere near its maximum speed. But when it left a galaxy and was in the void between them, no such limit existed and it would begin to rack up some really serious speed.


It had just passed out of the second Galaxy north, and was moving into the outer fringes of Galaxy three north when a brilliant flash of...something...speared through its cabin. All human life on board was extinguished at that instant, and the little ship’s bio-computer took over.

“Whoops,” the computer thought, well not really ‘thought’ but more reviewed in memory. “that was nasty, this must be avoided if life is to be protected.” So it turned sharply left, kicked into emergency drive and scorched away ahead of the energy wave in an automatic response designed to protect human life. It was relieved, in as much as programming can be relieved, to find that it was able to keep ahead of the wave, before logic and its sensors told it that everyone was already dead, and the flash seemed to have only been fatal to organic life.


The emergency drive had taken it to a speed never before attempted, and the resultant shock wave twisted something in space. ‘The Daisy Weal’ disappeared from normal space to re-appear a couple of seconds later somewhere else, in the first hyper-jump ever accomplished by a star-ship of the human race.


It only took that couple of microseconds for the ship to accept that it was completely lost, and as it slowed down to its normal speed, it confirmed to itself that none of the star clusters that it could see were recognisable. The ship’s bio-processor was an AI and had enormous learning and reasoning powers, but had not yet become self-aware. It knew where it was, where it had come from and where it should have been going, but apart from recognising that it was now lost, it ‘knew’ nothing else. Emulating its human counterparts, and completely illogically, it used the only cursing that it could find in its memory banks, and cursed very gently, knowing now that it had over reacted, or panicked as humans would say, to that first flash. Everything had happened so quickly that it never even realised that a hyper jump had occurred. All it knew was that the star systems outside the ship were wrong, and no matter where its sensors looked, it could find no points of reference. Its in-built self-preservation kicked in and the ship started to examine itself for damage.


Almost as soon as the diagnostic had started, it realised that whatever had happened seemed to have seriously depleted its energy reserves, and it would soon be necessary to recharge. Recharging consisted of tapping Gravity waves, and extracting certain elements from atmosphere, so it was something that could not be accomplished, according to current thinking, in space. The peculiarity of the Smyth-Webber converters, which utilised potential (the energy available when an object is at rest) energy to produce kinetic (the energy of an object that is in motion) energy, was that they were not particularly efficient and therefore not perpetual, and needed ‘topping up’ from time to time.


It did not need the planet to be Earth like, but it did need an atmosphere which was rich in oxygen and gravity at or above, the standard. The ship, having been programmed to find somewhere automatically when required, decided that ‘soon’ needed to be sooner rather than later and started to scan for a suitable planet to land on.


Eventually it spotted a small yellow star that looked as if it could be quite promising if it had any planets, so it adjusted its course and slowed down rapidly to carry out a search. Five planets were discovered to be orbiting the star, with the second looking acceptable even after only a cursory examination.


The ship moved into orbit and a quick, but thorough, scan revealed that this was indeed a suitable place. There were some signs of habitation, but they were small, primitive, and widely spaced. Leaving orbit it moved down into the atmosphere, and eventually settled on a grassy plain, several kilometres from the nearest village, but within twenty metres of a wooded area and a gently rising slope. Part of its processor recorded that it was quite weird that the trees looked normal and so did the grass especially this far from Earth. In fact the trees looked remarkably like oak, elm, and horse chestnut, and the grass a bit like someone’s front lawn, even down to the daisies growing in it. But it had more pressing problems to keep its processor occupied, so ecological conundrums could wait until later. Filing that little puzzle into an obscure bit of memory where it could be retrieved at some future time, it commenced recharging. It was a process that would take more than four hours to complete, so having no orders to the contrary, it went into standby.




‘The Daisy Weal’ was rudely brought back to awareness by an insistent banging on its outer hull. The ship tried to see what it was, but whatever was banging was too close for any external scanners to register an image.


“Hello,” came through the universal translator, “is there anyone in there?”


The ship’s translator was a separate bio-processor which possessed enormous power, and in some ways could be classed as more intelligent than the ship. The difference though, was that while it was an AI, it could only follow its programming, and make modifications to a predetermined pattern. It didn’t have the same ‘learning’ capability as the ship, but it was capable of unravelling any language by interpreting the smallest of clues within these rules, and tapping into its subject’s mind.


Members of the crew usually had a tiny device embedded just behind the ear, which communicated with the translator. It interfaced directly with the speech centre of the brain, causing its wearer to actually speak in the desired language. Some languages, using unusual combination of sounds caused strain on the vocal cords, and its wearer invariable suffered from a sore throat. It was however, remarkably accurate.


It was simpler in the ship’s case, where the translator interacted directly with the ship’s bio-processor.


“Go away, I’m recharging,” replied the ship.


“Is there anyone in there?” the insistent voice repeated.


“No,” The Daisy Weal said, automatically assuming that the enquiry was about living beings, “they are all dead.”


“Well who are you then?” asked the voice quite reasonably.


“It’s in big letters, on the side,” said the ship.


“Don’t be silly,” said the voice, “that’s just a load of alien scribbles. How am I supposed to read that?”


“Alien? Who’s an alien?” asked the ship indignantly.


“Well you must be, because you certainly aren’t from around here,” observed the voice.


“Look,” said the ship, “I’m busy recharging, but I couldn’t come out anyway because I am the ship, so why don’t you come inside, and we can talk properly.”


“I don’t do big doors like yours I’m afraid. You’ll have to open it for me.”


‘The Daisy Weal’ did wonder at what sort of creature did not do doors, big or otherwise, but felt that it would be less trouble not to argue, but just open the door. So an internal remote was activated, and the main airlock door slid open.


The ship had tested the atmosphere for breathability automatically on landing, as it would have if its human crew had been alive. It was quite weird in that the trace elements matched up with the Earth norm, even down to the percentage level. Again this piece of information joined the tree and grass conundrum in memory, and the ship returned its attention to the present. So as it was aware that there was nothing harmful out there, it flipped another remote, and the internal airlock door opened also.


What looked like a small smooth haired dog, but with hands instead of fore paws, came in through the opened airlock.


“Hello,” it said, “my name is Sally. Ooh er, did you know that this place is full of dead things.”


“Hey,” exclaimed the ship, “you are a dog.”


“A dog, what’s a dog? That sounds like an insult? Look I’m trying to be friendly here.”


“No, no, sorry,” said the ship hastily, “you look just like something from my world, and it’s called a dog. No offence was intended. And Yes, I did tell you that my crew were all dead.”


“Well you don’t look like anything from my world either, which by the way we call Perro. So, ok then, what are you and what is it that you are supposed to do?” asked Sally.


“I’m a star-ship from the planet Earth, and I carry people around the stars and visit different places.”


Sally sniffed as she looked about,


“From the look of all these dead things in here, you don’t look as if you are very good at it.”


“That was not my fault. When they all got killed, I got away very fast. Well, a bit too fast really because I ended up lost,” the ship said defensively.

“I bet you can’t chase rabbits either,” Sally muttered.


“Look,” she continued, “let me find some of my bigger friends and get these dead things out of here and buried, before you really start to pong.”

“Thanks,” said the ship, “I was wondering how I could remove them.”


“Well you could have opened all of your doors and then took off and rolled about until they all fell out,” observed Sally helpfully.


“Might have lost something vital doing that or one might have got wedged in a corner. No, I prefer the ‘bigger friends’ solution.”


“No problem,” said Sally and loped off, ears and tail streaming out behind her, through the door, and out into the woods.


Very soon several voices could be heard, and some quite large dogs, led by Sally, came charging back out of the trees. Half of them split off from the main pack and began to furiously sniff around until they found a suitable place and began to dig a large hole, with some using their hands and others some spade like implements. The rest of the dogs, noses sniffing, slunk in through the airlock, looked warily around, and then began to drag the bodies out.


“The big fellas have asked whether you have any rituals that you say over your dead?” she asked. “Because we have visitors from one of those lights up there, and they do.”


“Big two legged creatures always seem to arrive here dead,” she continued, “Dunno why they bother travelling.”


“I don’t have any rituals, I’m a computer,” the ship said, choosing to ignore the last observation, “but the humans do. Normally it’s quite long and involves Church services and ceremonies and such, but I’ve checked my databank and I’m sure ‘May they rest in peace’ will do.”


“Dunno the Church thingy, but I can certainly do the ‘may they rest in peace’ bit,” declared Sally.


When the burials were complete, Sally came back into the ship and asked,


“You did say that you were… what was it… recharging? How long does that take?”


“About another two hours.”


“Well I have to get back to the village. It’s my turn to help with dinner for the kids at school,” said Sally, “but if I were you, I would go see those visitors up there. It’s that light there.” She finished, pointing to a star.


“Thanks Sally for your help. It was nice to talk to you. One day would it be alright if people from my world came to visit you?”


“If they are all as friendly as you, then we would love them to. It was nice talking to you as well,” she said, and turned to run off through the trees.


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