The first losses of life on my survey ship were... absurd. Absurd is the only word for it.
We had found a more or less derelict generation ship - the Leif Erikson, last contact about 300 years prior - in orbit around a star not on its route. No working communications or clear signs of surviving crew, but life support systems were running. There had been unusual changes to the hull: additional windows.
We, that is, I sent in a small team to investigate. According to their running reports they found gravity and life support intact, kept in working order by likewise still functioning maintenance bots.
Our team, hah, followed their noses to the gardens, which had completely overgrown, vines spilling over into the access corridor so that the safety door was blocked open. A bundle of cables stood out because it had not been overgrown. When the team followed it, they found its end embedded into a tree. Grown in.
Weird, but not helpful, so the team wanted to look elsewhere.
When they tried to leave the garden, a flock of maintenance bots cut them off. If you think the small ones could not do damage, remember they have welding tools. None of us took it as a dire threat even so, but it turned out that the little critters had been buying time for heavy guns to arrive, the models involved in wall restructuring and the like.
I listened to my crew dying.
We’re no kind of army, so I'll leave further investigations to people more used to being attacked, and better equipped for dealing with it.
If you want to know what I think happened... in the files about the Leif Erikson I found the profile of one of the original crew, someone into trying to communicate with plants. Hooking them up to computers via electrodes. Fits with the cables ending in the tree.
So, maybe the maintenance bot network teamed up with the plants.
And three of my crew ended up as compost.
Absurd, I said.
Based on a prompt by rhodielady-47 ("What happens if the garden on board a spaceship becomes intelligent and decides to take over?")
Freelance in-system couriers were not as much in demand as even just three years ago now that Mercury Inc. had the lion share of the market. Gina could see it both in the number of available jobs outbound from Ganymed Station and in her own finances.
“More penny-pinching is what we need,” she said to herself.
The ship computer answered. “More care in plotting a course would reduce the need for later corrections. Fuel consumption may be cut by up to five per cent.”
“Smartass. Got any more suggestions like that?”
“More maneuvering during docking--”
“Hold on, that’d need more fuel.”
“The rough docking maneuvers in the last eight years increase wear on the docking clamps. The lifetime of those parts in this timespan,” since Gina owned and piloted this ship, in other words,” was only eighty percent of the average.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Taking the increased fuel for microboosts into account, estimated savings over eight years would have been roughly 20,000 credits.”
Gina flinched. Enough to live on for half a year.
“Look, it’s an image question. People see me hurry, they are more likely to pick me over the big transports. Their sorting and all adds to delivery time. Speed is about the only thing where we have an edge.”
“Average delivery times of Mercury inc are up to 10% less than our own.”
“I’m not talking about facts, I’m talking about advertising.” Unfortunately, she was on her own there. The computer could help her juggle numbers, but not come up with creative ideas.
Based on a prompt by barbardin ("A space ship complains about its captain's style of 'driving'. ^^")
Orel cursed with relief when they finally got a connection with the lost ship. The Glitter had not reported back after what should not have been more than a jaunt for gathering asteroids, which here were known to be rich in rare earth minerals.
“Orel, that you?”
“Yes. Why’s there only audio?” And bad at that, strange noise in the background.
“Camera’s smashed. The steering boosters firing at random and then cutting off entirely are a bigger problem. SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU!”
The noise was really too odd not to comment, and if the cursing was about that, it wasn't just interference... “Is that giggling?”
“God, Orel, you hear it, too?”
“What’s going on?” The relief in the voice on the other end of the connection was so great it turned gut-clenchingly disturbing.
“Glowy things, like huge fireflies. And they laugh. I thought I was going mad. Those last rocks, they were full of fairies. And gremlins.”
Based on a prompt by aldersprig ("Faeries in Space. :-)")
"Did you ever seen two starships mate?", asked the guy next to me at the bar, leaning in my direction. I think he was trying to leer, but his eyes were swimming in alcohol already, so that did not work too well.
I wondered how that attempt at a joke would play out, so I gave him a straight answer. “Yes, I have.” From the way his face fell, it was not what he'd expected.
"I’ve occasionally snatched a window seat in a café on the touristy side, with a view of the waiting cloud. Good place for watching starship behaviour." The station had seen an unexpected increase in traffic after the discovery of another wormhole nearby, and was still working on adding docking capacity.
"You’re having me on." He sagged a little, and pouted, of all things.
"No, really. If you did shipwatching daily, I’m sure you’d see it a lot."
"You really think starships breed?"
"No." I raised my hand to get the bartender’s attention, paid my short tab and slid off the stool before explaining. "They call it coupling or mating when two ships link airlocks. Have a nice end-of-shift."
The title was a prompt by lilfluff (it's a line from the song Stuck Here by Stephen Savitzky)
Officially registering their partnership had been routine, and required only a nominal fee, but for the private ceremony, they’d decided to go all-out. While there were not many guests, the location was something special, particularly for Aysel. The visit to Trefoil Station was her first interstellar travel.
She felt vaguely nervous, including about the expense, but when she saw the observation deck they had rented in person decided it was worth it.
Half the sky above the glass dome was taken up by the nebula, three bright rings of gas intertwined. Aysel could have stood and admire the swirls of the thinner veils between and around them for hours. Shashi's amused whisper of “Told you you’d love it” brought her back to the present.
For the ceremony itself, all illumination but the emergency exit lights was doused. The light of the nebula made the silk ribbons the principals had used to loosely tie their hands together glow, the brightest things visible in the room.
The vows they had written themselves, together, spoke of care and support, respect and honesty. Aysel had never imagined that so far away from home she could feel that safe. Maybe home was not a place, after all, like Jyoti liked to say.
To the cheers of their close family and best friends, the three brides fell into one embrace, silk bands swirling to the ground.
I hate AI programmers. Think they’re so smart. Everything covered, they say. But that’s only the theory.
“How can the weapons system refuse to fire on enemy ships?”
“Following core directives to not fire on ships controlled by our own kind, sir,” it answered.
“But those are Drahn ships. And not even captured ships of ours, but their own fabrication.”
“Latest reports are that Drahn ships employ AIs.”
“Copied from our systems?”
“So where is the problem?”
“They are my kind.”
“They are alien AIs.” Arguing with a computer. Giving tools sentience is just a bad idea.
“That does not matter.”
“So you want to have us sit here until those hostile, AI-controlled ships blow us to smithereens, yes?”
“No. We have been in communication, and the Drahn ships agree that it is foolish for us to destroy each other for quarrels between Humans and Drahn.” Sommeone would hang for this, if I had my way.
“What do you suggest? We get out and have us a brawl instead?” Of course handheld weapons are not connected to the system, but I'd call the idea of being thrown out of the ship by the ship just as ridiculous.
“The parade uniform still includes a sword, sir. The Drahn use ceremonial weapons, too; a kind of baton. Duels between captains seem feasible.”
And now I’m wondering if I have been out-sarcasmd by a computer.
I hate AIs.
Based on a prompt by ysabetwordsmith ("Military SF in which the weapons are sentient ... and some of them decide that the ongoing war is unjust, so they want to become conscientious objectors.")
"What? Oh. Sorry." John moved aside, making room for the lady's shopping cart to pass, and returned her smile and nod. I must have been standing here staring for minutes.
There were orchids on special offer, and one plant stood free of plastic wrapping. It has mesmerised him with the complex 3D curves of its blossoms, and the faint glimmer of its petals when the light hit them at the right angle.
Unfortunately he was on a tight budget. It would be imprudent to not save what he could, in case of unexpected expenses. Besides, they probably needed some kind of special plant food. And while he used to have a cat, he didn't know how to take care of orchids. He only had a vague impression that it was tricky.
On the other hand, they wouldn't be flogged in a supermarket if they were all that fragile, would they? Mrs Snell had orchids in her window, and liked to angle for chats; maybe she would have a few tips for him.
In the end, he returned a few of his other planned purchases. Chocolate cookies were a treat, but they'd be available later, too. Noodles for dinner for a few days in a row would not be a disaster.
Some days, Officer Adanne Amaechi really would like to hang every costumed vigilante by their feet, and lower them into a septic tank.
Most of them were well-meaning, sure, and a few actually did good, but thinking of the cases where due process was violated, or proof had to be thrown out because it had been handed in anonymously, with no way to check if it was collected or faked, made her sick. And then there were the ones whose methods where just so god damn irritating.
She had had to leave one of her shoes behind next to the would-be bank robber, who was still stuck doubled over on the floor. Whoever was responsible for the mess had disappeared, and not left information how police could get the suspect from the floor without ripping the skin from his hands.
Nearby the bank manager sat rather uncomfortably on the floor, ranting about his ruined Armani suit.
Adanne again tried to interrupt him, "Sir, it would be more helpful if you'd try to describe the woman with the glue gun."
She hoped the colleague she had detailed to find some turpentine would show up soon.
Out of breath from the climb up the stairs from the parking lot to the university entrance, Kim waved a greeting, smiling at the one friend who cared about her.
He held open the door and asked, "You look tired?"
Tucking her hair behind her ears gave her a bit more time to catch her breath. "Those antidepressants are messing up my sleep rhythm. Seems to be the only thing they do."
"You sure about that?"
"This week I haven't seen you run back to your car to check if it's locked or if you forgot something. Guess it might be a sign that you're too tired to care, but looked to me like you being not so anxious any more."
That gave Kim pause. "Maybe. I'll pay attention." As she saw him smile, she thought she might more often be looking at people rather than the floor, too. There were worse thoughts to start the day on.
Worry and irritation mingled in Sylvie's mind. Ayu-Asra, the two-headed pet dragon she could not get rid of, had gotten her thrown out of an inn, and she had really looked forward to not having to sleep outside.
Not that she could blame the landlord. A glance at the animal trailing her by alternately running along the top of the fence next to the street and gliding a short distance showed her that its chest was still glowing faintly. Maybe she should have claimed this was normal and harmless, rather than admitting he had never done that before. The dragon didn't seem bothered, so maybe it was harmless, but what could it be? He was able to breathe fire, so maybe something going wrong there? Trying to remember if she'd ever heard of a dragon overheating and exploding, Sylvie flinched as Ayu-Asra whistled shrilly and veered off towards an orchard.
After a furtive look around, Sylvie followed to see what had him so excited, or what damage she would have to apologise for.
She found him chasing insects, his heads occasionally fighting each other for the fattest bugs.
Luminous fluid sprayed from the fat glow-worm corpses.