The unremitting torpor of the S.C.U.L. biobot's cryosleep was
shattered by an insistently harping sonic alarm. Glowing red
number-glyphs scrolled into S.C.U.L's visual field, confirming its
growing realization that stasis had been prematurely aborted. It
shifted in the cryochamber, stickily unfolding its limbs as the pod's
lid dissolved under the glare of too-bright solar radiation.
S.C.U.L. emerged from the statis pod, shuddering off glistening
rivulets of suspension fluid. Mechanoid needles on hydraulic arms
automatically finalized precisely calibrated time-release adrenal
ramp-up compounds and retracted. S.C.U.L. crawled out of its tank,
across the statis deck and into the ship's ultrasonic cleansing unit.
Baseball sized maintenance robobugs skittered out from concealed
stowage compartments to clean up behind it, absorbing the cryofluid
trail through osmotic membranes in their carapaces.
A scant minute later S.C.U.L. was microscopically clean, and the
adrenal stimulants had dismissed the final cobwebs of its stasis
S.C.U.L. flitted onto the nearby flight deck, whipping a
stinger-tipped tentacle at a control surface, cancelling the alarm. It
quickly checked the waypoint indicator. It had already traveled 16.37
light years on this leg. It wasn't scheduled to be revived for 6.5
more Earth days. What was the anamoly?
Glowing graphic representations sprang to life throughout the flight
deck, abstracting petabytes of data -- the surrounding characteristics
of nearby gravitational point sources, heading indicators along with a
precisely plotted flight path to minimize interactions with normal
matter, holographs of nearby concentrations of metallic compounds...
ion trails... estimations of the shape and position of invisible dark
masses, calculated solely from ghost dog images of distant gamma-ray
bursts. S.C.U.L. spun its personality into seperate threads, sending
each of them to analyze backlogs of recent activity.
Threads started reporting back in... DRCLW... DRFL... the EEKTPPF
gestalt. S.C.U.L. incorporated all of them in nanoseconds to
synthesize the most likely scenario. Ion trails had been reported
converging on the Davis Constellation, with the focal time estimated
at 1100. It was 1045 and the ship's course was unalterable. S.C.U.L.
would be a part of this cosmic parade -- it had no choice.
S.C.U.L. fired a series of sacrificial FTL probes, fitted with
precious atomic-scale tachyon transponders, towards projected
intercept points with several of the ion trail sources. These would be
chunking data back shortly. In the meantime it checked radiation
shielding systems... intact... time-dilation pharmaceuticals... fully
stocked and ready for deployment. Navigating through this parade could
be a deadly challenge.
FTL probes indicated that stiltwalkers, floaties and microfloaties,
mid-sized transport vessels and wisp-like loosely bonded interstellar
cephalopods were all being funneled towards the Davis Constellation.
Early projections indicated that they all would be competing for space
on the same cosmic artery, a section of space wiped clear of gases and
dust by the aftermath of a stellar shock front from a galactically
S.C.U.L. braced for the challenge, reviving older worker threads and
again spinning out more.. H4X... MEGS.... MET and RET. 709, one thread
simply called *. STG. WOM. ZYG. NZPK briefly appeared, then spooled
itself into /dev/null. The parade would be starting... now.
A cluster of dense sonic pings exploded onto the flight deck. Most of
these interstellar travelers relied on radiative wave reflections for
proximity feedback. When these waves hit the hull of the ship, they
were translated into kinetic energy, sending vibration and sound
throughout the vessel. And hey, they sounded a lot like marching
bands, which seemed somehow appropriate.
Space became tight as S.C.U.L. quickly broke into and maintained a
size-shifting orbital formation. The edges of the artery were clogged
with civilian vessels, waiting for larger clusters of traffic to pass.
S.C.U.L.'s worker threads briefly contacted countless other vessels,
exchanging information in nano-scale bursts of microwave chittering.
S.C.U.L. sent marker probes with abandon, leaving an indelible imprint
in its wake.
The time-slicing pharmies started having an effect. Another thread
sprang up -- KPA/FUN -- then disappeared -- and re-emerged, with a
microfloatie bearing space weevils. The space weevils were consumed
nearly instantly as S.C.U.L. burnt massive quantities of energy in
calculations and orbital maneuvers.
Gestalt thread EEK/TAD/PFG spawned child thread YT, briefly sending
off concentric ripples of PORS radiation. Child thread XS also made a
brief appearance as a mechanoid HARV unit, scoping conditions above
the interspace artery.
Jostling for space among all these spacefarers demanded all of
S.C.U.L.'s resources. It was brief, intense, overstimulating and
exhilarating. S.C.U.L. emerged from the stellar conduit as quickly as
it had arrived -- unscathed -- and stronger for it.
Worker threads spun down. All were valourous. ZYG, MET and EEK had the
highest polling frequency, and as such, were named Chic for the day.
S.C.U.L. reintegrated itself and clambered back to the stasis pod to
hibernate -- cold, silent, and at peace -- until the next planned stop
on its galactic journey.
Preliminary mission report:
We marched in the Honk parade from Davis to Harvard Constellation.
As usual in Earth parades the spacelanes were tightly hemmed in,
little foods were rife, and there was chanting of "NIIICE BIIIKE" and
"OMG LOOKA THE BIIIKE". Someday we will find a glossary of Earth
tribal dialect and learn the meaning of these primitive cries.
A variety of misshapen floaties wandered through SCUL space including
giant insects, rogue transports, landgoing fish and abnormally
longlegged hu-mans; but space academy training stood us in good
stead, and Elliptical Burst formation was successfully maintained.
This was the first mission for Peacefrog's babymaggot Tadpole, who
didn't say much but appeared to enjoy himself. It may be awhile
before this one makes pilot, but it's a promising start.