[WRITING CONTEST] Entry "Research Log Qz7"

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Chapter 1:
The smell of artificial coffee wafted through an dimly lit room. The constant noise of machinery made a soft music, too anyone tech addicted. A small holographic clock was silently ticking down the second, minutes and hours of the day.
„Master, the shipment has arrived at drop off point Beta.“
„Hmm? Call up the drop manifest … let's see if i got everything i ordered.“

After an robotic sounding female voice acknowledged the order. An holographic projection lit up the room by quite a few lumen. The face of an tired looking man was starring at it, unkempt messy hair slightly obstructing his view.

„ … what, they didn't send an test pilot again. Haa … how am i to get this project done, if all i get a resources to build prototypes. But not one tiny little test pilot to fly them!“
„Master, statistics show that 100% of all test pilots died. The probability „
„Yeah yeah, i know! They vanished in an short flash of light, no one found the prototypes or the pilots after that. And everything seems to be the result of an explosion. We can't know for sure they died! Haa … we only tested it three times, everyone knew how dangerous it might be.“

Looking tired at the explosion diagram of an type of engine that seemed more like an mass of intersecting rings, he sighed out aloud.
„Well, nothing i can do about it now. Open the news channel. Breakfast.“
After a moment an hover drone dropped a tablet with eggs, bacon and toasted white bread. Together with an fresh serving of coffee. The sound of an anchor news lady came from an holographic projection, that replaced the one of the engine.
“ ... i wish they would send real food here. This 3D-Printed cellular stuff tastes just, not right.”
Watching the graphs of the stock market report, he shoved the food into his mouth and rinsed it with the burning sensation of his hot drink.
“Hnn? Another war. Well it seems humanity keeps splitting itself over and over, into smaller groups of the same believes. First everyone was following the NQ, the o so chosen of the A.R.K AI. Then they split into two factions ... into four ... into over thirty and now we have this mess!”
Scowling at the information broadcast of an war, which was fought over an asteroid belt claim, he noted down that minerals and metals price would probably increase. Some kind of pirate cosplaying organization and another who dubbed themself [Freedom Forces]. FF, how fitting for the way they handled themself.

“Being an freelancer is quite favourable. But each time i see these idiots nuking each other, they just make it harder to get supply from organizations that want my tech.”
[And now an interview with the presumed death Emperor of the Empire, which survived last weeks assassination.]
Scratching the last bits of food of the tablet, he listened to the interview while reading the comments people posted in the chat line below.
“Huh, seems like the empire is made out to be the bad guy? If i remember, that assassination attempt was on an diplomatic trip to an the Xelyahs Republic. Ah, that's the reason ...”
[Mr Emperor, what is your stand on the aggression at Ganye 3?]
[We condemn any military action on an peaceful outpost of our empire. As with the attacking force, it is still unknown who was cowardly attacking unarmed colonists. While our defensive forces where out on a training mission.]
[Let's speak truthfully. We have indices that the colony was just a faux and the empire actually installed a listening post there to spy on the neighbouring Ganye 2, which is held by the Terran Union.]
[Such accusations are based on rumours. We only wanted to claim the natural Radium deposits and peacefully trade with others inside the system.]
The discussion drifted off into a chain of accusations against the Empire. Ending in an commercial break with an /Terran Union/ PR spotlight. Shaking his head, the grumpy unkempt noted down on a pad that another channel was bought out by the strongest force in this new frontier of humankind.
“Ever since the Terran Union got control of the A.R.K, they increased they're control over the 4 solar systems humanity has settled upon. First they made the F.T.L drive public, which was held back by the remains of NQ. Then they acted as if every human was they're to command. Well they got the most advanced shields, weapons and navigation systems. But they stopped advancing in tech since the A.R.K AI kicked them off the ship and out of the systems.”

With an smug smile, he chuckled at that fact. Knowing that they tried to strip the A.R.K of some of it's engines, for [Exploration]. He thought that they well deserved to get they're ass kicked by the only thing that remains from they're old home.
“ ... if only they hadn't angered the A.R.K AI so badly. The tech for Hyper Jump drives is probably lost for a loooooong time. Over 7000 years in hyper space, who knows how far we travelled from our starting point Earth.”
With a hint of sadness, he opened up the explosion diagram with a slight swipe gesture of his hand.
“Music. Ramin Just Like A Gold Rush.”
“Acknowledge, Master.”
With one of the millions of songs available to him to get him into his work rhythm, he made wild gestures that changed the explosion diagram in colourful animations. Permutations of his engine design where simulated, failed and then reworked in a constant repeat of the same song.
“Distress Signal detected, Master.”
“Huh? Wait what?”
“Distress Signal detected, Master.”
“ ... out here? How ... haa, alright who and where?”

Remembering the unofficial laws of space travel. Rule 4 “Distress Signals are to be answered, Space is a lonely and dangerous expanse.”. At the same time ... Rule 1 “In space, no laws exist.” made him remember to be cautious.
“Freighter [Benevolent Sun], approximately 1321,769 SU from the current position.”
“Ehh, that far out? Well i guess, there's some asteroids out there.”

Looking at the map of this solar system with the freighter highlighted as a small glowing dot, he sighed out loudly. This was one of the 4 areas humans had explored, but only a handful of them stayed around. Reasons? A white dwarf, a sun that had not quite enough mass to become a black-hole. But as it transformed from an dyeing sun, that probably warmed this region of space enough to make some planets habitable some billions of years ago, to an white dwarf. It shoved or absorbed every last planets, moon or asteroid out of the system/ existence. What remained here now, were just unlucky straggler asteroids that got caught by the gravity well of the white dwarf and naturally some human made structures. The biggest being an warp gate, which allowed travel to and from this system in an speed that didn't require to wait hundredths of years of waiting in a cryostasis pod.
“Distress Signal detected, Master.”
“Yeah yeah, i get it. Ready the [Foxtail] and load it with some medical supply, resources and ammo.”
“Order received, approximately 34 minutes till launch window. Would you like to postpone launch, Master?”
“ ... no, i am on my way. Geez, i may be slow but not that slow!”
“Parameters adjusted, Master.”
“ ... “
While angrily snarling at the hidden weight remarks of his AI, he cursed at the guy selling it to him. [Life like, just like a real Woman. Except it won't tell you that it has a headache, haha!]. The AI would always find time to jab at his lack of physical activity or point out his eating and working habits. But as it did it's work better then anything he had yet seen on the market, he was stuck with it.
“Alright, pre- flight checks.”
“Everything is go, Master.”
“Do the honours and fly me there without wasting to much fuel.”
The holographic projection of an slim woman in a tight space suit, donning an cowboy hat was shown in something that looked like an fighter cockpit. One of the things deeply programmed into the AI, which he enjoyed even without admitting it. After a initial acceleration of 4,5 G, the ship mellowed out at 1,2G till it hit space.
“Space engines engaged, Yeeaahaa!”
While being a bit embarrassed about the taste of the programmer. He went back to his work, it would take at least 18 hours for him to reach the [Benevolent Sun]. His ever repeating music choice of this morning was still heard when he fell asleep over his cockpit consoles.
[BEEP BEEP BEEEEP]
“ ... nnhh? Ah.”
“It's 3 a.m stellar universal time, Master. We will arrive at our destination in under 30 mins, hard deceleration burn initating in 10.”
“Do we have better visuals now?”
The G force of the deceleration burn was felt, just 3 G for a few minutes but it still pressed him into his seat. Given the lack of military grate sensors, any private ship couldn't get accurate pictures while accelerating or decelerating to fast. The further one was from it's target, the worse it got.
“Visuals now on screen, Master.”
“ ... this. The hull backboards close to the engine has a hole.”
“Extensive explosion damage detected. Radiation leak detected. Life Support deemed to fail in 2 days. Reactor powered down. Heat signatures show that the starboard section 3 harbors the ships crew. Master.”
“Reason for the explosion? I don't see any other ship on our sensors.”
“Confirmed, no other ships detected, Master.”
Looking at the ship, he sighed out mentally. Finally noticing the emblem on its undamaged site.
“This wasn't mentioned in the ships manifesto. An Empire ship?”
“Confirmed, an Empire freighter ship of bull class. Do you wish to abort deceleration burn, Master?”
“Haa ... too late, even if we can't talk to them. The sensor will have noted down our ships transponder by now. If we don't help them we will be pestered by any of the so called humanitarian space travel organizations for being bad humans ... i hate these activists. As if you could instantly travel to someone in need, they blame people who don't reach ships in distress for killing said ships crew ... passively.”
“Deceleration burn will end in 12 minutes, Master.”
“Okay, let's do this. Today i am doing my one good deed quite early.”
After passing out some hails on the broad frequency band humans agreed to use for communication on emergency situations. He made his approach known to the ships sensor log and most importantly to anyone who had listening posts stationed in this system.
“Deceleration finished, Master.”
“Okay, slowly get us to the docking port on the undamaged upper deck.”
The holographic cowgirl was now swinging an lasso while standing on said fighter, aiming to catch in at a descaled version of the slowly spinning freighter. [Yeaaahaa!] was sounded out of the ships stero systems as the docking clamps connected simultaneous with the animation of the now lasso cought freighter being ridden out by the cowgirl.
“Air Pressurization finished, Master.”
“Alright, i will take a look at our new friends.”
The now deadly tired freighter bull, gave in to the cowgirl and stopped it's wild struggle with an exaggerated lump down on imaginary space ground. As the AI adjusted the vector and the spin of it, the new path would lead them towards the warp gate in about 2 weeks. With 0,1 G acceleration, it was quite hard to get an fat freighter moving with just an medium sized personal ship. Surely the AI already filled out an request form of fuel compensation and work time reimburse and logged it with the other ships AI.
“I really hate these space suits. They itch on my head ...”
“Master, the described itch comes from your health routine. Mostly based on to long hairs and an irritated head scalp~”
“ ... how is the here?”
“Oxygen level of air reduced to unsafe levels, duo fire prevention measures of the freighters AI. Request for adjustments denied, Master.”
“Okay, then lead the way to the survivors and connect me to this ships AI.”
“ Master is two timing~ Shocking.”
While grinning about the rare jokes he liked, he wondered what type of AI this ship would have. Most didn't spend any good amount of money on these. So they often had the same rudimentary look and voice, which was taken off the A.R.K AI systems without changes to the programming. One could say, any AI was a sister or brother of the A.R.K AI. As they're core programming was basically the same.
“Welcome aboard the [Benevolent Sun], thank you for your assistance. Please put down all your weapons and deactivate your ships weapon systems.”
“Well, no. I'm here to save you and your crew, not to be saved myself.”
“Acknowledge. Any harm inflicted to personal and the ship will be logged and filed to the authorities of the Empire. Please follow the guidance markers i forwarded to your AI, Mr Greenfox.”
“Fox is good enough. So what happened here?”
“Classification of information confidential.”
Switching to internal only com, after silently cursing at the monotone voice of the other AI.
“Well, can you hack this ships sensors?”
“Yes, Master.”
“Can you give me the information about the cause of the explosion?”
“Yes, Master.”
“ ... give me the information about the cause of the explosion then.”
An animation which pooped up showed the explosion. The force of it was pointed inwards to the ship, not outwards. With an exaggerated sigh, he already gotten an slight headache himself. Switching back to the ship AI, he talked it through an list of things he could assist them with. Finally reaching the sector of the starboard deck, before starting to breathe to heavily duo the physical activity of manoeuvring in zero g.
“Open the door.”
What greeted Jack was two armed guards pointing the guns they had at him. After a moment of pointing weapons meant to kill at each other, the guards seemed to react to an order given by someone coming towards them.
“Welcome, thank you for coming. We didn't know if anyone would even hear our SOS.”
“Good way to welcome your rescuers.”
“I beg to pardon them, we all are ... a bit on our toes here.”
“I presume to have the captain before me? I'm Fox.”
“Ah right, name is Captain Gregor of the Imperial Fleet.”
Looking at the room with the survivors, he counted about 20 of them. The number was way to small for an ship that could easily harbour 10 times that much.
“So what is an freighter of the empire doing out here?”
“Business. I heard from our AI that where on a path to the warp gate, so i take fixing our engines won't be possible?”
“Probably not. Even if i stripped my ship, yours is a total wreck. Your AI told you that already. So what can i do to make this trip a bit more enjoyable for your folks.”
After starring each other in the eyes. The captain shortly spoke to someone or the AI, then shrugged his shoulders.
“We really need our life support systems back online. I doubt your ship can take the load of this many people, did you bring some materials with you?”
“Sure, check the manifesto i just sent you.”
“ ... okay we agree to the prices on these, they're quite fair.”
“Thanks for the business i guess. It seems you are all doing fine physical, so you wont need any medical supply.”
After a short interuption of talking to his AI, the captain got back to Fox again.
“We still have acess to our own supplys. But we would welcome shareing some oxygen for our suits.”
“Alright, hook them up Maya. If you haven't done that already.”
“All done, Master.”
“If you don't need anything else, i will get myself comfortable on my ship.”
The short zero g walk back was uneventful. But this whole situation bothered him, deeply.
“The coms are really down?”
“Yes, Master. The connection to the AI just got reestablished, duo me supplying energy to the ships systems. Any other com systems are still cold.”
“I don't like this. An freighter without resources to fix they're own life supports and emergency reactors? Could you hack into they're cargo manifesto?”
“Failing to do so, breaking the decryption will take 2 years 7 months 12 days 3 hours 12 minutes and 37 seconds, Master.”
Trying to rub his forehead, his hand just rubbed against the helmet he still had on.
“I don't like this. I really don't like this. The Empire is one of the better, more social choices out there. But still it's an big organization that has it's own goals. Outsiders beware.”
Taking off his helmet, he sat down before his consoles. Starring at the slowly decreasing amount of resources in his cargo hold. Which was meant to be used in making new prototypes, got re-purposed for this rescue ops.
“Well i guess we won't hear much from our new friends while on this trip. Notice me if anything weird happens ... anything happens at all.”
“Acknowledge, Master~”
A long silent trip later, they arrived at the warp gate. Barely at 6 SU per hour, they crawled the last bit of the way towards the energy event zone of the warp gate. The same way they crawled through space the whole length of the journey.
“Information of entry time point was given to us from the freighter AI, Master.”
“Hnn, where did they want to go?”
“Alioths Warp Gate, shall i discontinue approach?”
“No keep going, that solar system is a neutral zone.”
The familiar darkness of warp space soon enveloped them. Periodically lights flashed past them, stood still far off in the distance or just right before them. This part of reality was barely scientifically explored, at least to the human survivors that forgot everything about they're previous exploits of science. That they even knew how to build these warp gates and fly great distances with them, was simply duo the help of the A.R.K AI giving them a really detailed explanation on the blueprint files. Sadly, leaving out how this all worked in the end.
“I really hate warp space. It makes my skin itch ...”
“I recommend an actual shower with water, Master.”
“Yeah yeah, even totally clean one can feel this eerie aura.”
“Warp space doesn't have any radiation or matter, Master.”
“Haa ... can't win against you arguments. Well was it 3 Days of travel time?”
“3 Days, 17 hours, 23 minutes and 54 seconds, Master.”
Looking at the new timer, that replaced the old one which had shown the time needed to reach the warp gate. He just couldn't help to worry.
“Well nothing we can do, can't fly faster in warp space.”
“The understanding of warp space gives birth to many theories, the most plausible one being that one doesn't move at all. While the universe around them moves in an unexplained way, till they leave warp space at the destination warp gate they chose. Master~”
“Don't be so smug, just cause you have access to an large scientific database i require for my work.”
The small holographic version of his AI, gave him a salute and vanished while pointing out it's tongue. As the time of arrival reached the hours marker, he began to fidget with an complex version of chess.
“You're cheating.”
“Master~ I would never~”
“Then stop placing your mantis class ship tokens, one field to much to the left each time you move them! Thought i wouldn't notice?”
“I placed them correctly. Master just remembers the placement in a faulty way.”
“Yeah yeah, blame a humans lack of concentration when you cheat. I still will win this!”
Springing the trap on this party of space chess, his virtual forces got annihilated by an swift movement of cold calculated decision making.
“ ... you got one ship left.”
“Master, i still have one ship left~”
“Darn it, i didn't think you would do a suicide run against my forces. I will never give you command of the nav systems in a fight ...”
“Hehe~ Master is scared.”
The holographic projection before him held her hand up, to hide her smile. He well knew that it was basically impossible to beat an AI in a game of space chess, but sometimes he came close.
“Just because you cheat, when you're getting in trouble! Next time i will win this and record it with something not plugged into your systems.”
“The video shows me moving according to the rules~ There's nothing going on, Master.”
“ ... your videos are untrustworthy. Haa, how much longer?”
“ We will arrive in 14 minutes, Master~”
“Stop smiling, I'm not changing the topic. I will get prove of you breaking the rules, soon.”
The shift from warp space to normal, was as abrupt as entering it. After a short moment of dizzyness, alarm bells rang out in the attention seeking way humans programmed them too.
“S-status?”
“Blockade Forces of the Terran Union detected 4,5 SU from the Warp Gate. Notice of surrender to all empire ships is rebroadcast on all frequency. Imperial Space Station [Blue Rock] has been brought into an descending orbit, bound to burn up in Alioths atmosphere in 6 weeks. Fighting registered all around the system. Civilian vessels destruction confirmed on, 27 accounts. It's war, master ...”
“ ... w-what?! Okay stop joking. Get me a real status.”
“Not joking, request immediate emergency retreat. At full burn the [Foxtail] will be able to turn and re-enter warp space, before Terran Union ships are in fire range. Master, requesting immediate action!”
Stunned by the status map of the system. The images of civilian and military wrecks. The news feeds ... request of help and pleas of mercy. The whole mess made his mind into a super viscose sluggish mass.
“Master, requesting immediate action!”
The normally teasing and a bit flirt of an AI, now coldly repeated her request for confirmation of the escape plan.
“ ... “
Gulping down, he knew his choices. By simple math, it was impossible to turn in time with the huge mass of the freighter attached to them. The enemys forces could accelerate in an unforgiving way, duo them not being in need of thowing an big mass with them. Simple cold math, that slowly made the window of escape close.
“How much time do we have.”
“17 minutes and 22 seconds, Master i request immediate actions to escape! This isn't good. This is really bad. B A D!”
Gesturing towards the system map, the holographic projection made exaggerated movements towards the blockade forces close to the warp gate. If they had flown into it at normal speed, they would have already gotten into firing range. Which by the mass of debris, had been the fate of quite a few ships already.
“Get me the Captain of the Gregor.”
“Master, there's no time for this human stuff. We need to burn fast, that since moments ago!”
“GET ME THE FUCKING CAPTAIN.”
After a short moment of silence and the holographic projection shutting of on it's own, with an [I told you ...] facial and body expression. The voice of the freighters captain came into life.
“Thank you for your service, we will need you to haul us to the [Blue Rock]. After we arrive we”
“No, listen here. This system is under war status. You got to get everyone of the freighter and aboard my ship. I will empty out my cargo-hold. Bring your spacesuits, extra air cleaners and as much fuel cells as you can carry. Rip out some life support systems if you can manage that in under 15 minutes.”
“W-what, don't joke around!”
“Do it, now. I up linked you to my sensors, let your ships ai tell you if i am right or wrong. We got no time, get your people moving! NOW!”
After a short moment of silence, where the captain checked with his uncaring AI. Confirming they're doom, he came to his senses.
“ ... we will come aboard. Eta ... 14 minutes. Damn, we're cutting it close! To close!”
“I KNOW! JUST SHUT UP AND GET MOVING!”
He turned off the connection, so the captain wouldn't bother with needlessly talking with him. That he shouldn't leave them here, humanity blabla ... he had no intent to listen to that gibberish of someone in even more panic then himself. When the whole situation really sank into the captains mind, he would just bother him.
“Make preparation for releasing the clamp to the [Benevolent Sun] as soon as everyone is aboard and i got the confirmation. Constantly calculate an escape path from the Terran Union forces.”
No answer came form his AI. Making himself repeat his order, with a bit more urgency layered in it.
“Make preparation for releasing the clamp to the [Benevolent Sun] as soon as everyone is aboard and i got the confirmation. Constantly calculate an escape path from the Terran Union forces.”
“I heard you the first time, Master. Calculations are update. Pre-max G burn preperations are underway. Engines warming up, while deceleration burn is giving us more time to work with. THIS really is a bad choice, Master!”
“What is the status of the blockade forces, did they already see us?”
“Movement of two light frigates confirmed to be on path to us. They're burning hard, Master.”
“Will they catch up to us ...”
“If we ditch the freighter, NOW they won't. Master, please reconsider! I'm programmed to protect life, but they're doomed.”
“Try shakeing them ... get us as much time as you can.”
“Haa ... Master, i can't break our physical laws of the universe. Our engine has it's specs, they got better ones.”
“ ... the engine ... do we have enough material for prototype V39?”
After a moment the holographic projection came back up. Suprising him nearly enough to make him jump up.
“ARE YOU STUPID? Excuse me, you are Human. The prototype engine V39 is untested, each previous test with an test person or automatic system failed. MASTER, that is an even worse idea then your previous!”

Shouting at him at close range, was something he hadn't expected from the AI. Looking at her furrowing her brows and sighing out loudly, he momentarily forgot that she was just a pile of 1 and 0.
“ ... but ... it's our only way out. For all of us.”
“Haaa ... alright. I will get the required resources and fix up the secondary engine to the specs of V39. That will slow our deceleration burn aaaandd ... we will have 30 seconds to fire up V39 to miraculously escape. Without exploding, minding that detail please. I really hate this plan, Master.”
Moments went by, that felt like hours for him. Sporadic updates from the freighter AI gave an optimistic picture of the evacuation. It wouldn't take long and they could release the docking clamp.
“They're all aboard. Docking clamp released. Acceleration increased to 8G, activation of all dampeners to 140%. Dangerous levels of Gravity registered in critical systems of the ship. This is crazy, Master.”
“Nbbgggh. Activate ... V39. Maya!”
“Ahh, what the heck. Here we go!”
A flash of light, the ship vanished and the freighter exploded from the Shockwave of energy which was created.
Pleaes mind the grammar errors and bad wording.
If you find something amiss, point it out xD.

I probably should get someone who is better at english to prooferead these for me :3. But i change stuff so often, while proofreaders got my drafts. That i drive people crazy.

I really liked this story and i think i got into an good flow about halfway through it. Sadly the empire gotten they're ass handed a bit, i plan to get chapter 2 out with a bit more fairness towards that part.

But i think it's portraing how someone onrelated can join up with us.


Anyone that wants to be named in the story. Hands up xD, i can't promise that you will be a glorfied Admiral altough...
PS: I will format this ... soonish. Open Office format didn't get through with copy + paste.
Might just add an PDF file too.
Sadly, school has gotten in the way once again, and I was not able to enter this competition. Maybe if there is another Novawrimo I will enter that...

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