The Terracorp Chronicles

The Jettison

Mr. Robotto found himself back on the bridge of the Blutomo. Bill Torque and Captain Rosy Retson were at the control consoles while Mio from Rio watched the navigational control system.

“Senior Robotto, you are back!” exclaimed Mio, glad to see her mechanical friend again. “We thought we had lost you.”

“Hows it goin’, buddy?” asked Bill, also glad to see him.

“What happened, Robotto?” asked Rosy.

“It appears that we passed through a disturbance wave in the space-time continuum which appears to have transposed masses in its path into adjacent points in time and space. Passing beyond the wave seems to have restored me to my origin at the time of intersection, relatively speaking of course.”

“Of course,” replied Rosy.

“It apoears that you are not the only mass to have been displaced,” Mio said, checking the navigation console. “A large mass is pulling us off course. Switching NAV output to central screen.”

“Where did that come from,” asked Rosy as she looked at the large central view screen. On the screen was a sun that hadn’t been there before. “Are we headed into it?”

“No,” Mio informed her. “We are being pulled toward one of its planets.” Mio placed the image of the blue-green planet swirled with clouds on the central screen. It was increasing with size slowly as the starship fell into the depression in space surrounding the large mass.

“This baby can’t handle re-entry,” stated Rosy. “Not with the weight back in the cargo section.” She picked up the hyper-existential communicator microphone and spoke, “Cargo Starship Blutomo to Interstellar Merchant Marine Headquarters – Star Gate Outpost I.” There was no immediate response so she repeated. Again, there was no response and she repeated the message a third time.

The speaker on the communicator squawked, “This is Ensign Marshmellow, IMMHQ. May I be of assistance?”

Rosy replied, “Get me Admiral Bozoni on the horn, quick! This is an emergency!”

“Connecting,” the ensign responded.

There was click that came from the speaker, followed by the eerie music heard in the background at cubicle-cluster Gigamarts. This was followed by a series of clicks and a voice that announced, “This is Admiral Bozoni.”

“This is Captain Retson of the Blutomo,” repeated Rosy. “We have been influenced by a space-time disturbance that has thrown us off course and into the gravitational domain of an uncharted planet. We are overloaded with grain and provisions for Barnard-3. In addition, we took on passengers after our launch: 456 persons and a large assortment of animals from the Gigacorp Tree Museum. They were brought aboard shortly after we launched from the Gigabus space wheel.”

“Let me have an aid run some calculations,” replied Admiral Bozoni. “Why were the passengers brought aboard?”

“To escape a perceived merger of Gigacorp and Commucorp,” answered Rosy.

“I see. We have monitored those actions. It appears that the merger was a false-alarm. Here are the calculations. At your present descent rate and weight, you will not survive re-entry. You have several options. One, you can self-destruct. Hardly the best choice. Two, you can try re-entry as you are. This will cause you to burn fuel too fast and you’ll burn up in the atmosphere of the planet. Again, not a real choice. Three, you can jettison your provisions. But, you don’t know what resources the planet will provide you and making this choice could mean all of you will make it and then starve to death on the planet. Four, you can reduce weight by placing some of your passengers in escape pods and hope they make it down to the planet along with the ship or that they are picked up by an IMM rescue frigate. This choice means that the Blutomo and those aboard have about a 50-50 chance of survival. Those are your choices, Rosy. What do you think?”

“Sounds grim,” was her response. “But we are approaching the planet at an increasing velocity. Give me an order, Admiral!”

Admiral Bozoni paused several seconds, “Given the options, you will implement plan four immediately. We will do all we can to send a rescue craft, but Compol may give us trouble.”

“Attention! Attention!” announced Stedur the monk, standing on an aluminum cargo container. “I have news for all of you from the Captain. We are in trouble. We are rapidly descending toward an uncharted planet. The Captain has turned on the no-smoking and fasten-your-seatbelt signs, but we are also low on fuel.”

“Will you get to the point!” shouted a voice from the crowd of 455 diagnostic programmers surrounding Stedur as the animal refugees from the Tree Museum looked on in wonder.

“Some of us are going to die!” continued Stedur.

“What do you mean?” shouted another voice.

“We don’t have enough fuel to land safely on the planet. Some of you are going to be jettisoned in escape pods to enter the atmosphere on your own or go into orbit and wait for a rescue ship, if one comes.”

A loud murmur went through the crowd. Perceiving that he was losing control, Stedur yelled out over the roar. “Those who are jettisoned have been granted official asylum by the Interstellar Merchant Marines.”

“What does that mean?” the group asked in unison.

“You don’t have to write any more diagnostics as long as you live! Are there any volunteers?”

A cheer resounded throughout the cavernous cargo bay as every hand was raised.

Jortua looked to the mountains. His long neck strained and lifted his head above the tree branches he was eating to stare at the ball of bright-fire in the evening sky. It was growing larger and had developed a comet-like tail that dropped sprinklings of sparks as it roared close overhead and crashed in the marsh beyond the lake. Grunting to Bolula arid Despula, his brothers, and gulping one last branch of leaves, Jortua lumbered his massive brontosaurian body into the lake for the short journey to the marsh.

Moving better in the water than on land, the brothers crossed the lake quickly and converged on the object. It was a large cylinder, half buried in the muddy trench it had plowed through the marsh. The outer surface was charred and pocked with small dents. As Bolula, Despula, and Jortua looked on, a crack developed on the side of the cylinder. Then a rectangle of cracks began to swing outward until whoever was opening it saw the brothers, necks outstretched, sniffing around the hatch.

“Close it, Torque!” shouted a voice from inside the cylinder. The hatch slammed shut quickly. The brontosaurian creatures soon lost interest and began squishing their way through the marsh back toward the lake and the grove of large trees on the opposite shore.

“Where did you learn how to fly a starship?” demanded Rosy Petson.

“Hey, I fell asleep at the CON,” said Bill, sheepishly. “Those things should be gone by now.” He opened the hatch again and helped Rosy, Mio from Rio, and Mr. Robotto climb out of the remains of the Blutomo cargo starship and up the embedded ladder rungs above the hatch until they stood on the top of the ship. The air was rich with oxygen. The sky was becoming a deeper and deeper blue as the night set in and the stars were beginning to appear. A warm wind was blowing across the lake.

“We better stay inside until daylight,” said Rosy, facing the gentle warm breeze. “We have enough power to keep us warm several nights, although this climate seems rather balmy.”

The group climbed back down the rungs and entered the air-lock, closing the outside hatch behind them. The inner air-lock door led into the large cargo bay.

Rosy addressed the monk, “We’ve crash landed, Stedur. And it looks like we’re here for a long time. The ship is damaged beyond repair.”

“Hey!” interjected Torquet clutching his tooibag, “I know how to fix these things. All I need is the technical manual and a diagnostic tape. I’ll have this baby running in about three months.”

Upon hearing tnis announcement all of the diagnostic programmers formed a large circle. Locking their arms together, they began to chant:
“Dy ong no steeks ahnd ly oofs ahh vehlee bet eev ills!
Dy ong no steeks ahnd ly oofs ahh vehlee bet eev ills!
Dy ong no steeks ahnd ly oofs ahh vehlee bet eev ills!
Dy ong no steeks ahnd ly oofs ahh vehlee bet eev ills!
Dy ong no steeks ahnd ly oofs ahh vehlee bet eev ills!”

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