|This is the End.|
Now What? I've been asking myself that ever since I started writing. Blog numbers show about sixty or so of you on a given day drop by here (though I'm not sure how many of those are crawlers or other bot traffic.) Then there's the people that watch from Google Plus. I've got something I'm going to try so it's not ho-hum story with no point. Whatever happens this'll be the end of this story. Hang it up. Call it a night. Moving on.
The ship was called Renascent and Will thought it looked tiny. A blue-black speck hiding in a clump of other dark specks in the void he wouldn't have seen if Alice hadn't pointed it out. He took a moment to marvel at a contradiction in play here; ever since he could remember he wanted to go out into space, meet aliens, find a race of sentient robots, and now that basically all three of those things were happening there was little there other than disappointment.Sights no man has seen without the aid of billion dollar probes and entire teams of engineers decoding faint signals, yet here most of the people that rode with him treated it as little better than an extra-long car ride and nothing to do.
Wait. let's back up a tic. How did we get here?
The car Will rode in drove for roughly an hour before the wheels flipped so the sides of the wheels were now pointed down. Instead of behaving as one would expect the car itself stayed put for this and other transformations. No-longer did it look like a car but instead a ship. All curves and swirls and there had to be some adjusting of the outside because the doors were gone. Instead Will watched the roof seem to vanish into a transparent hemisphere.
He looked at Alice's projection now that it had completed a similar shift back to the blue-white near-human look. "I probably should ask lots of things about how and why of all that," Alice smiled faintly at him, "But I'm not. I probably wouldn't understand the answer anyway so I'm just going to assume a space wizard did it."
"Fair enough." The hologram mimed hitting buttons and doing other things to the new controls that dotted it's half of the cockpit. "We'll link up with the others and then we'll be on our way."
"Hey there won't be any problem with anyone seeing us right?" Will twisted around in his seat as he saw the sky turn black as they rose. By our understanding of the physics involved he should have felt crushed against his seat if not injured from the g-forces involved in going from ground to low orbit in a couple minutes, but inside the ship he felt nothing of these outside stresses. Other than seeing the sky, then satellites, then random bits of debris, Will didn't feel any movement.
Alice smiled as their path curved towards the moon. "Unless they're looking out a window right at us they won't know we were ever here."
"Even if I start singing the Russian national anthem right?" He couldn't help the joke.
For her part Alice seemed amused. Then she started singing. Will's laughter continued as they rounded the moon and, shielded from the earth, their craft settled in amongst a crowd of others. There they all started to slowly knit together, re configuring themselves into a larger shuttle-like configuration while Alice sung.
When the song finished Will found himself seated on one side of a short aisle and face to face with the others he had kept in contact with since this job had started.
"Hey there." A skinny girl one row back from Will waved at him. "Alice said these things have a lot of give but... Yea. You guys aren't some kind of demented fever dream or drug trip are you?"
"Tell you what." Fawkes's voice came from the back of the craft, "We'll all meet next week and then we'll all know this either happened, or all of us are having the same delusions."
There was the crackle of speakers coming to life around the passenger compartment. "We'll be at our destination shortly so if I could have everyone's attention." Alice's voice had a professional don't-argue-with-me tone to it. "When we dock you will be given a brief tour before being shown to your rooms for the duration of your stay. Please, for everyone's sakes, do not go pushing random buttons without first clearing it with Me. I know it's tempting and I'm fairly certain all the important functions are locked away from where you will have free reign, but we are in space and unlike myself or the usual crew on the Renascent you need air to breath."
"Gotcha. Hands in Pockets at all times."
And so they were making their approach. At first the ship looked tiny, dwarfed by chunks of rock that looked to those inside the passenger compartment like pebbles. Then they got closer. The ship started growing in size. They could spot details, such as a quartet of guns surrounding a bulbous structure on top of the ship.
"That the bridge?" Will pointed.
"That would be our primary communications array." Alice's voice was calm as a tiny barely there lump was highlighted. "That is the bridge."
"But it's so tiny."
Alice projected an image of herself on the window the Renascent could be seen through and started lecturing. "Most of our ship's space is taken up by engines, communications, and spare parts. We've made accommodation so you lot can spend some time admiring your handy work but it is a temporary setup."
Fawkes looked thoughtful before making a small displeased noise. "These craft you fetched us in. They remade themselves at a fairly basic level very quickly. You wanted specific models. Specific types of things. Why?"
"Truth be told." Alice smiled at him, "Most of that was a smokescreen. Any electronics would have done, but I wanted the chance to look over the best that could be had commercially, and my thought process was you would end up getting curious. I was not disappointed except-"
Alice's head whipped around, "Wait what the." The hologram vanished as several fast moving dots closed in on the Renascent. It's turrets swiveled as Alice spoke. "Unknown vessels this is Alice of the DCS Renascent please state your intentions."
Then, "This is Captain Singlao of the GPX Kuramitsu." The voice, or rather voices, sounded serious one moment, laid back the next, and who knew what after that. "We received your mayday and have been performing system sweeps. You should be free and clear now."
"Thank you Captain." Relief was clear in Alice's voice, "We understand this system is restricted space but had hoped-"
"-That you could lay low, make repairs, and wait until they got bored. We understand ma'am." There was a pause, beeping. "My console shows you're carrying passengers."
"That's right. Is there a problem?"
"Hrm." Captain Singlao sounded thoughtful, or at least one of the voices did. Another had a hint of malice. "You do realize that under Articles of the Masaki Decree no beings from undeveloped systems cannot be taken out of system without express authorization correct?"
"Yes Sir I do."
Captain Singlao continued humorously, "And the penalties for doing so would be severe. Some would say it could end your career as a broadcast specialist."
"No Sir that's not it at all." Alice's tone became plaintive. "Those being ferried to my ship helped with repairs and their payment was going to be a guided tour and a little peek at the wider Galaxy. All from the saftey of their own system. None of them will talk since nobody would believe them when they get back."
"I see." The GPX officer's tone was neutral. "So long as you don't plan on exporting them this is acceptable. However you will have to submit to a deep scan and potential manual sweep before we can allow you to leave is that understood?"
Alice heaved a sigh of relief. "I wasn't sure if they'd raise a stink about you lot. Always problems with people trying to come and go through these systems thinking grab an exotic plaything, sell on the black market." She sighed. "But other than a little paperwork we should be fine."