Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Squadron with One Pull

In submission to the April Greater Challenge, a re-telling of one of my favorite fairy tales in a sci-fi setting. Alternatively titled "the Brave Little Repairman."

Once upon a time a spacedock worker was flitting about in his repair craft. Having just fitted a new custom propulsion and pulley into his ship, which was no larger than a taxi-craft, the worker was in high spirits as he performed flips and loop-de-loops. Then a division of Imperial Fighters docked at the shipyard. The worker’s boss told him to re-panel all four of the much larger space ships, as well as run maintenance on their pulleys.

“That is not fit for someone with so great a craft like this one,” said the ship repairmen to himself. “Fighter pulleys are bulky, only interested in pulling large asteroids to crash into enemy ships. They do not have the finesse of my craft.”

Nevertheless, he set about his work. “I know, I will make challenges for myself!” He pulled panels and slung the new ones two, three, even four at a time. “I wonder how many I can do?” he asked himself, hoping to stretch the limits of his skill and his craft’s new pulley system. Gathering a dozen panels, he lined them up carefully and then glided his craft back and forth before them like a general rallying his troops.

“You are my Squadron,” he told them. “With you I will repair this Fighter.”

And activating his pulley, he slung all of the panels into place. He zipped over to the Fighter and found not one joint out of place.

“Aren't you someone?” he said to himself, surprised at his own bravery. “The whole system shall hear about this." Leaving his work, he docked his repair ship and designed a new V-RFID for it, A Squadron with One Pull (the words glitzy and animated with sparkles and spinning letters). “The system?” he said further. “The whole galaxy shall hear about this!” And his heart flamed up within him like a comet’s tail.

The repairman installed the V-RFID into his repair craft and set forth into the universe, for surely a fringe system dockyard was much too obscure a place for a man of his bravery. But before leaving he looked about his hangar for something to take with him. Finding nothing, he decided to strip a Fighter of its impact rod. Then, he hitched his craft onto a passing comet to escape without his boss or the Imperial pilots noticing him.

Having saved much of his ship’s energy reserves by latching onto the comet, he figured that he could travel three systems further before refueling. Reaching the edge of the comet’s orbit, he decided to pull it along with him. Since it was not dense, it did not slow him down at all.

The second system was a mostly-abandoned sector of fringe space, with a dull red giant at its center. At the edge of the system drifted an immense freighter class ship, with a large pirate vessel beside it.

The repairman flitted straight up toward the pirate ship and hailed them, saying “Good day, friend. Can you see the whole wide galaxy from here? I am on my way out there to prove myself. Do you want to join me?”

The pirates looked at the little repair craft and sneered. “Lolwut? Wut a nub! Where you gonna go in that little blip?”

"I would scan my V-RFID before saying something like that!" said the repairman. “And then you will find out why my craft is called the ASOP.”

The pirates accessed the V-RFID on their screen and saw A Squadron with One Pull (the words glitzy and animated with sparkles and spinning letters), and thinking that the repairman had destroyed a full squadron of fighters with one asteroid, they gained some respect for the repairman and his little craft. But wanting to put him to the test, the pirates fired up their engines and rammed a drifting piece of debris that had broken off the freighter, destroying it.

“Let’s see your little ship do that,” the pirates messaged the repairman, “if it is as awesome as you say.”

“Is that all?” said the repairman. “That is child's play for a ship like the ASOP.” He spun and loop-de-looped and performed all sorts of dizzying theatrics and then charged an even larger piece of debris: a drifting fuel cell. The repairman slung the impact rod at it, and then he slung himself beneath it, but to the pirates it looked like the ASOP had punched through the cell and caused it to explode. “I did you one better, didn’t I?” said the repairman.

The pirates could hardly believe their eyes. “Hax!” they exclaimed. They pulled a nearby meteor and slung it toward the red giant at the system’s center, so expertly that it took up orbit about the star, until after the sixth revolution it fell into the burning surface. “Now, let’s see you do that.”

“A good pull,” said the repairman, “but it fell into the star. I'll pull one that will break away after three or four turns.” Pulling the comet that he had drug along with him, he tossed it expertly at the red giant. The heat of the star melted away from of the ice so that on the third revolution it suddenly broke off back out into the universe. “How did you like that, friend?” asked the repairman.

“You can pull well enough,” replied the pirates, “but can you tow? If your ship is strong enough, then help us tow this freighter to our base in the center of the system.”

"Gladly," answered the repairman. “But my craft is custom-built and tows by pushing. You tow from the front, and I will lock onto the back and fire my engines as if they were the freighter’s itself.”

The pirates towed from the front of the freighter, but the repairman just latched onto the rear end of the immense ship and the pirates, who could not see him, had to tow the entire freighter plus the little repair craft.

The pirates, after towing the heavy freighter halfway across the system, began to run out of fuel. Hailing the repairman, they said, “Stop pushing. We’ve oomed, we’re gonna have to respawn and come back later.”

Zipping around the ship, the repairman responded, “What, such a big vessel and you already are running out of fuel? I’ve hardly used any myself.”

They moved on together until they came upon a pair of nearly planet-sized asteroids. The pirates pulled the asteroid and slung it into the red giant, then waited expectantly for the little repair craft to throw the other. “Lawl! Can’t your little ship throw this ‘roid?”

“It sure can,” answered the repairman. “Do you think that that would be a problem for a ship named ASOP? I was just looking for something that might be a challenge, instead. But the most I can see is that smallish star over there.”

And with that, he gave a tug on the pirate ship so that it looked like the red giant had suddenly been pulled toward them. So the pirates remained astonished at this mighty little repair craft.

The pirates said, "Dock for the sleep with us at our base."

The repairman agreed and followed them into port. Several other pirate ships were docked, each in their own hangar. “Come inside and we’ll drink space grog!” said the pirates, hoping that they could kill him and take his leet ship, but the repairman refused.

“I am sleepy, I will catch up with you after I wink,” he said.

The pirates directed him to his own hangar. But the repairman needed to refuel, so he left the hangar and went to another to siphon energy. Seeing no reason to go back to the first, the repairman latched his craft to the second hangar’s ceiling and went to sleep. The pirates, thinking that the little craft was still where they had put him, initialized the first hangar’s purge code, incinerating its contents. Then they sang space shanties and toasted grog to one another, thinking they had put an end to the grasshopper.

After they woke up and got over their hangovers, the pirates set off in their ships back to the freighter, having completely forgotten about the repairman. Suddenly, he flitted up to him in the ASOP, hailing them cheerfully and boldly. Fearing that he would destroy them all in one pull, the terrified pirates burned thrusters and left the system, never to return.

The repairman continued on his way, going wherever whim pulled him. After wandering a long time, he came to the central system of the Galactic Empire, and having exhausted his fuel cells, he docked his ship at commercial hub. While he was refueling, everyone about the hub saw his V-RFID, A Squadron with One Pull (the words glitzy and animated with sparkles and spinning letters).

“Oh,” they said, “what is this great fighter doing here in the midst of peace? He must be a famous prized mercenary.”

They sent word to the Empress, thinking that in the Empire's efforts to rule the galaxy they should in any case have this incredible hero on their side. The Empress was pleased with this advice, and she sent one of her Imperial Cruisers to draft the repairman into her fleet.

The Cruiser pulled up into the commercial hub, dwarfing the little repair craft, and then hailed the repairman with the Empress’s offer.

“That is precisely why I came here,” answered the repairman. “I am ready to enter the into the service of the Empire.” Thus he became a valuable asset in the Imperial Army.

However, the flyboys in the Imperial Fleet did not like the little repair craft or its mercenary pilot, and wished that he was light years away. “His allegiance is only to money,” they said amongst themselves, “and so he has no honor. What if he turns on us because our enemies offer him a greater bounty? Whole squadrons will be destroyed with each pull! A fleet like ours can’t stand up to that.”

So they made a pact with one another, and all together they reported to the Empress and asked to be released. “We were not born,” they said, “to fly with mercenaries who destroy squadrons with one pull.”

The Empress was angry that she was going to lose all her devoted fighters because of one man, and she became resentful of the repairman. She wanted to get rid of him, but she did not dare insult him by commanding him to leave, because she was afraid that he would destroy her fleet and then set himself on the imperial throne.

So she schemed and schemed, and finally hit upon a plan. She sent an imperial missive to the repairman, in which she honored him with a special opportunity. Out on a fringe sector there were two great pirate dreadnoughts who were a thorn in the Empire’s side, raiding settlements and plundering freighters. Not even the Imperial Fleet had been able to engage these massive battlecruisers. If he could destroy them, then the Empress would give herself to him in marriage and he would rule along with her. Furthermore, ten full Imperial Squadrons would go with him for support.

“Now I have gained the recognition I deserve,” thought the repairman. “Not just every man gains the attention of the Galactic Empress and is offered her hand in marriage.”

“Yes,” he replied. “I shall destroy these two dreadnoughts, but I do not need the ten squadrons of fighters. Anyone who can take a squadron in one pull has no cause to be afraid of two.”

And so the repairman set out in his little craft, and the Imperial Squadrons followed him. At the edge of the sector, he hailed them. “You all maintain position here. I shall take care of the pirates myself.”

Entering the asteroid field in which the pirates were known to hide, he zipped about with ease, looking hither and thither. Soon he came upon the two dreadnoughts, orbiting just inside the belt. The repairman latched his crafted to an asteroid, and then gathered many smaller rocks about him. Then he began pulling the stones at one of the dreadnoughts.

For a long time the pirates did not notice the debris hitting their hull. Then an instrument panel was struck. Assessing the damage, the pirates hailed their companions. “Why ru trolling us? You broke an array!”

“You must have a broken array,” replied the other pirates. “We’re not hitting you.”

Then the repairman pulled a meteor at the second dreadnought.

“What is this I don’t even…” they exclaimed. “Why ru pull rocks at us?”

“Lawl, nubs, we aren’t pulling nothing,” the other pirates responded.

Further angry words followed between the two groups of pirates, but finally they made peace with one another, for they had long worked together to dominate this sector. They sent out teams to repair the damage to their respective ships. Then the repairman continued his fun. Choosing a rather large meteor, he pulled it directly at the main bridge of the first dreadnought. The rock struck true, denting the blast hull and causing the pirate captain to believe himself lost.

“That’s it!” shouted the pirate captain, then commanded his men to open fire on the other dreadnought. The other ship responded in kind. An epic space battle ensued, with the two pirate ships pulling asteroids from the belt at one another, until finally they both managed to rupture the other’s power containments, and the dreadnoughts were destroyed in massive explosions only seconds apart, killing all of the pirates.

Then the repairman detached his little craft from the asteroid. “I’m rather lucky that they did not pull the asteroid to which I was latched,” he said, “or I would have had to flip away in time and onto another. But the ASOP could’ve handled that.”

Then he went back to the waiting Imperial Squadrons and hailed them. “It is done, my friends. I destroyed them both, but it was quite the battle. In their desperation to destroy me, they pulled nearly the whole asteroid belt to defend themselves! But little good it did them, against me and my ASOP that can handle a squadron with one pull.”

“Is your ship not even damaged?” asked the fighters.

"Everything is all right," answered the repairman. "They did not so much as scratch the paint."

Finding this too much to be believed, the Imperial Squadrons went into the sector and inspected the asteroid belt where the dreadnoughts were known to be. Rings of blackened debris, all that remained of the two pirate vessels, spun in the void.

The repairman returned to the central system in order to receive his promised reward. Regretting her offer, the Empress once again began to scheme for a way to get rid of him. “It is a tradition in Imperial weddings,” she said, “for the guests to dine on roasted space worm. So we cannot be married unless you capture a worm for our wedding dinner.”

“I am even less afraid of a space worm than I was of two dreadnoughts. A squadron with one pull, that is my thing.”

Furling up a massive solar sail, the repairman set off in his little craft to where the space worms are known to burrow. Once again he told the Imperial Fighters accompanying him to wait at the edge of the sector. It did not take him very long to find a space worm: one soon appeared, attempting to swallow the ASOP in one gulp!

The repairman spun the solar sail into a cylinder, and flitted about at the open end. “Come on now,” he said. “Time to thread the needle!” The space worm lunged, chasing him into the cylindrical tube of nano-reinforced fabric. Exiting out the other side, the repairman drew the sheath taut and tied up both ends, the space worm wrapped up inside.

“The early pull gets the worm,” remarked the repairman, and he pulled the captured space worm back to the Empress.

Having no other way to put off the repairman, the Empress was forced to go through with the wedding. At the altar, had she known that it was not some powerful mercenary but a dockyard worker who had once stolen an impact rod from one of her Imperial Fighters, she would have been even more chagrined. The wedding was thus held with great ceremony but little joy, and a repairman became a Galactic Emperor.

Soon after, one night the Empress overhead the repairman speaking in his sleep, “I need to hurry, hurry, if I am to re-panel a full squadron of Imperial Fighters!” From this she determined where the repairman had come from. The next morning she arranged for her Imperial Guard to get rid of him, because he was nothing more than a dock worker.

“I will leave our chamber door unlocked, and you will stand outside. After my husband falls asleep, come inside, bind him, and we’ll put him on a ship set adrift to the Black.”

The Guard Captain agreed. However, his lieutenant, who had a liking for the new Emperor, stole away and told the repairman everything.

“So that’s how it’s going to be, eh?” said the repairman. “I can fix them!” That night he behaved as any other night, bedding down with his wife. When she thought that he had fallen asleep she got up and opened the door. Then the repairman, who had only been pretending to sleep, spoke out as if he was talking in his sleep. “I need to hurry, hurry, if I am to re-panel a full squadron of Imperial Fighters! Because next I will re-fit my Imperial chambers to hold the ASOP, so I won’t even have to leave my pajamas to be battle-ready! I handled a squadron with one pull, destroyed two dreadnoughts, and captured a space worm, and I am supposed to be afraid of a few Imperial Guard standing just outside the bedroom!”

When those standing outside heard these words, they became so terrified that they ran breakneck down the hallway and out of the Imperial Palace, not stopping until they reached the hangar and burned thrusters to another sector. None dared return to the central system ever again.

And so a dockyard repairman was Emperor, and so he remained as long as he lived.

No comments:

Post a Comment