Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Pod and Planet Fiction Contest YC117

Title: Enigma Redressed
Category: Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden
Author: Easy Esky

Pilot Option Zed lounged at ease within his captain's quarters. Going over the most economic route to tomorrow's series of courier contracts. Maybe a computer could brute-force a flight path. But in the end it was initiation which remained the humans domain. No mere program could match it, thus Capsuleers led where Drones and AI could not follow.

The stars and gates were listed in the main screen, single line linked many places to visit.

From the door into the station, came a solid *clunk* followed by a several ratcheting clicks. But the door slide open quietly to reveal a female Capsuleer. Clad only in the undergarments of a newly activated clone.   She was still completely coated in the gel from the clone bay.

Between deep breaths she panted: "He said you would help me!"

Sitting stunned momentarily, Zed swung his legs from the coffee table, and stood.

Zed thought quickly: Able to override the door lock, and a commanding voice? That had to be the Station Master. Why is he involved? 

"You will need to wash the gel off immediately", Zed said, "please come this way". Zed approached the mirrored panel next to the sleep alcove. This door opened to reveal a stark white tiled bathroom. Colour bothered Zed when ever his clone awoke in the station, and white helped to calm after the experience. 

"Please use the shower, hot as you can stand it. Mind not to scold yourself. Get all of the gel off. When the water is off, there will be an air current to dry you. The black tile there", Zed pointed to it, "will open the wardrobe". "I don't have anything for an Amarrian lady, just a few pieces of Gallante fashion. Just pick something, touch the panel again and this door will open".

She nodded wordlessly, stepped into the room and the door closed behind her.

Zed paused to think for a moment: unlikely that the Station Master would answer his comms request. A couple of steps, and finger tap opened a cupboard above the sleep alcove. Inside were several tins of canned fruit. Another quirk of a new clone for Zed, everything tasted disgusting for about three days. Except for fruit some reason. So Zed kept a stock on hand.

Choosing a can at random, bowl, spoon, peel open can and pour contents. Zed set it down on the coffee table. After what seems an era of checking his various market orders, the woman emerged from bathroom. Wearing a navy blue leather dress, it closed up one side under the left armpit as to not break the seemingly random pattern of golden crescents. She stood before the mirror in rapt study of the dresses pattern. 

"I... there is something here.. but it feels just out of reach" she said.

"It is Leer's Enigma, umm there is a holo-reel. But something we need to action now, please sit next to me here". 

Seated on the lounge, Zed asked her to place her hand flat on the glass of the table.

"It tingles, oh... my." A look of wonder beamed over the oval face.

"That is the Neocom, through cybernetics we can rule world around us with just a thought. But right now I am concerned about your level of skills. You need to grant me access. So I can help you, it will be temporary. Good. Just queue up the final tier of Electronics and Engineering for now. Yep, that's it.", Zed lifted his hand and hers to break contact.

She is a new clone, Zed had seen that during the link.  Yet the nearest Amarran novice system was thirty gates away. The Amarr had once tried to take over Solitude, could she be some residual clone accidentally awoken? 

To forestall Holly Bluerose's questions, her name within the Neocon  Zed distracted with: "You were asking about the dress. A courier contractee refused to pay, so all goods were forfeit. And the pattern is based on inspiration to a polymath called Margaret Leer. Let me show you something".

Zed's finger rested on the table, the star map in the main screen was replaced with a lists of titles, some were duplicate names, yet had different colours. 

"Ah, and the bowl of fruit is for you".

As bold text appeared on the centre screen, the left and right sub-screens winked out.

The producers wish the thank the Gallante Federal Navy, without who's cooperation the making of this reel would not have been possible.

The enigma appeared, then with a fade-in of a still image of waves at a beach. With the crests of waves fitting into the enigma's crescents. The still image went into motion. A very young girl with bright red stands knee deep in the waves. She reaches into the surf and swirling waters to lift out a large conch shell. 

"Grandma, look what I found"
"Yes Phillipa, you may keep it, but now we must be going." The young girl reaches the matron, holding determinedly onto her prize. They walk off the beach together.

An external shot of the primary building of the University of Caille. The camera shifts an auditorium where a lecture is in progress. The lecturer presents before a large screen containing several rows of formula. 

"This will be your assignment during the seasonal break", the lecturer intoned.

Three noted chimes sound, the seated students commence packing their tablets.

In the front row, bespectacled, plainly dressed and long, blonde hair in disarray, one student remained fully immersed in the screen's formula as the remaining students filled out. The camera pans to show a tall female with short cropped hair enter the auditorium and take a seat at the back. Dressed in a long orange coat with the patterns of flames. 

"Will that be all Professor?", the blonde asked.

The lecturer turned back to face the class.

"I would have thought even you Margaret would have plenty to work through."

"It is more pieces of the puzzle.. but it is an orbital slingshot around Gallante Prime out to the asteroid belt mining colonies. Depends on the planetary position in the year. It equates the fuel consumption, the necessary speed of the craft, its distance to the planet, gross craft weight and provides the time to destination. Of course burning fuel means a weight reduction over time during the arc is a tricky affair".

The Professor placed his tablet on the lectern, and a series of numbers pooped into the array. 

Margaret paused, "That must be military grade craft, the hauling industrials are much heavier. But it is 58 days, and a way one trip since the craft is not big enough to carry fuel for a return journey."

"They can refuel at the asteroid mining colony", said the Professor.

"I can do better, and hello Phillipa", said Margaret.

Phllipa stood, and made a grand entrance down the auditorium steps. The flames on the helm of her coat flicker as though real with motion of her walk.

"You are going outshine them all my beloved bright mind", Phillipa said smiling.

As Phillipa draws adjacent to Margaret chair, Margaret leans her head back to receive Phillipa's kiss on the mouth. It is lingering.

The Professor coughs twice and get their attention back, "you said you could be better Margaret?"

"Now that my Muse has arrived, let's see", said Margaret.

Long spindly fingers move over the tablet. On the screen sections of formula move, are replaced and extra text is added. Margaret's intense gaze never leaves the screen.

"That should reduce the fuel consumption by at least seventy percent. In exchange for a twenty percent flight duration", said Margaret. "Assuming no other factor change".

"Let me check this please." said the Professor.

"Has to be worth at least an A plus!" Phillipa said.

"OK, I am going to really test you then Margaret, take this with you over the break and see what you can do with it." the Professor retrieved from his pocket a memory chip, and dropped it into Margaret's outstretched palm. "Now, it is class dismissed".

Margaret and Phillipa stand before a small cottage, it is late afternoon with long shadows. Phillips producing a brass key to unlock the door.

"The home has been in my family for generations", Phillipa said seriously, "You, dearest bright mind are my family. We can spend the entire break here, away from the world."

Cut Scene. The kitchen of the cottage. The nearby windows show it is night.

Philipa cooks at the stove with several pots, whilst Margaret pours over the screen of tablet.

"You have been at that for several weeks now", said Phillipa.

"It is a formula for Quantum Wave Mechanics and the secret to breaking past Light Speed. But its broken somehow. Humanity once did it, we can do it again!"  

"Well, we can do dinner now", Phillipa tapping the wooden spoon on the rim of pot, "then we can walk on the nearby beach. then you can save the world... but save me first."

Margaret looks up, then turns the tablet face down, "the world can wait".

[Zed skips past several erotic scenes - it is a holoreel after all]

Around the kitchen table, a package and a cake are evident. Phillipa prepares breakfast. 

Margaret enters room. 

"The birthday girl awakens", says Phillipa.

"It is our last day", Margaret murmurs.

"There will be other breaks, we can return. A caretaker from the local village will ensure the house is up-kept. Well, are you going to open it?"

Seated, Margaret draws the package close, and rips off the wrapping. Holding up a up a blue dress with crescents sown across the front and back. "You managed this from the antique mechanical".

"Gran's sewing machine, and hand work. I can say that it has sweat, tears and blood into the making"

"This pattern.. where .. did it come from?"

"Its just that photo you took from the beach, the foaming crests of the waves"

Tears well in Margaret's eyes. "It was there all along, my muse, you did it".

"Thanks, I think", said Phillipa.

"What do you get when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? It is where the land meets the sea, you get surf! See the basis of sub-light is using energy to propel matter. But for greater than light travel, energy and matter should never meet - it is the collision which prevents passage. That damnable formula is broken because the premise is. The light barrier is not to be broken, it must be passed. Can I have my tablet now please Philipa?!"

Phillips retrieves the tablet from a kitchen cupboard.

"Because of you, my muse and your wonderful gift", the fingers skimmed over the tablet surface, But Margaret Leer looks at the ceiling in rapture.

"Out shine them all my beloved mind", Phllipa helps herself to a slice of the cake.

Title card: Three years later - the Gallante have constructed Starship Torus.

A control room filled with monitors and personal. On the primary screens show both the pilot in final flight checks and various external cameras of the Torus. At the rear of the room, stand Margaret Leer and Phillipa Sweet holding hands. Margaret is dressed in a business suit. A golden crescent pin on the lapel. Phillipa dressed in a deep purple great coat, with lightning bolts striking around bottom helm.

"Henri, this is control, all checks complete, you have a go."

"Roger control, opening up the throttle". Static external cameras show the Torus gradually accelerate away. There is a burst of light and ship vanishes".

The mission control clock times lapses twenty five minutes.

"Control, this is Chief Foreman at Asteroid Mining Site Two. We can see the Torus, repeat we can see the Torus".

There is an eruption of cheer from the room at this announcement.

Margaret and Phillipa kiss as the screen fades to black and credits roll.

Zed carefully turns off the sound. Rose has leaned into him, appearing to be asleep.

A quiet voice says "Save me now, you can save the world later, just talk for while."

Paused in thought, "Margaret Leer's inspiration in nature later become the founding basis for all Gallante space-faring design. It continues today to be guiding spirit as we navigate amongst the stars. Ships engineers carry a crescent as a talisman in her memory.", Zed's voice trailed off accepting that his guest was now asleep. Zed thought: tomorrow the world...