August 30th, 2019

I was digging through some older stuff looking for some story snippets and came across this bit from Chapter 8 of Star Charmer. It was too long for what I was looking for, but I really like it, so enjoy!

The only setup you need to know is that Thomas is the spaceship. M is his new companion-in-training, and Thomas’s spiderbots are all named after vice presidents because as he puts it, “they are mostly brainless and can’t do anything without my say-so.” Oh, and he forces them to wear costumes.

Before he could answer his own question, Thomas was interrupted by a sudden thump followed by a high-pitched hiss. M turned to see a tiny hole in the hull behind her and noticed a growing circle of blood soaking her shirt just before everything went black. Several drawers opened from what were previously smooth walls as she slumped to the floor. Spiderbots flooded out of the drawers and began dragging her limp body to the Med-Bay which had also opened out of its place inside the wall. A few spiderbots hurried to repair the holes in the hull caused by the micro-meteor. As the Med-Bay closed, M opened her eyes slightly and let out a few confused syllables.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” Thomas said, as she closed her eyes.

* * *

A day and a half later, the Med-Bay opened, and M sat up.

“So this is our Med-Bay,” she slowly swung her legs over the edge. After a moment, she stood, still a bit shaky. “What was that?”

“A micrometeoroid. It happens from time to time. Never went through a passenger before, though. That’s new.”

“Crew,” she corrected. “How long was I in here?”

“Thirty-six hours. Haven’t you ever been in one before?”

“No. My friend was once. She fell out of a tree and broke her arm. It only took a few minutes. Wow, thirty-six hours. That must be some kind of record.”

“Oh no, not even close. One of the other survey ships told me a story about a repair that took a month. Apparently, there were residual skin cells from a previous repair job. The Med-Bay stowed itself away inside the wall, but at some point, the damn thing came on by itself without anyone noticing. It was probably some sort of Single-Upset-Event, perhaps a cosmic ray.”

“Single-Upset-Event?” she asked and yawned.

“That’s what they call it when a bit of radiation affects some electronics. The ship didn’t notice because it’s a completely isolated system. The passenger didn’t notice because the Med-Bay was still inside the wall until it finished and opened up with his clone sitting there looking all dazed.”

“A clone?”

“That’s right. It made a perfect copy from the residue DNA but without any memories. So, it couldn’t even speak. Complete tabula rasa - a blank slate.”

“What did they do with him?”

“Well, they did the only thing you can in a situation like that. They taught it to play cards,” he said as the spiderbots laughed.

M frowned. “More nonsense. Which fallacy is that?”

She walked around to get her balance back and noticed a new spiderbot wearing a silver funnel hat and carrying an oil can.

“I love this one because it’s close to several fallacies. Firstly, our friend number eleven again, Appeal to Authority, where you believe something just because your cousin’s friend from two towns over knows what he’s talking about because he was there. The second one is number twenty-five Ad Nauseum where a story gains credulity through repetition. If you say something often enough, people will believe it. The third fallacy is another one we’ve covered already…”

Don’t Trust Anything Thomas Says,” she repeated with sarcasm.

He laughed, and the spiderbots chittered again.

“The give-away is the Med-Bay being isolated. You should have caught that, M. It’s not a simple Stitcher. It can’t do a thing without me.”

“Whatever. So, we should be at the asteroid by now, right?” she said.

“Well, not exactly.”

“So, where are we?”

“I…pulled out all the reactor safeties and turned back for Earth. We’re nearly there. I suppose we can turn around now that you’re done with your little holiday.”

“You were worried about me,” she accused grinning.

“No, I wasn’t,” he said with indignation, “I simply wanted to be ready for a replacement should that become necessary.”

“Liar. Why the hurry just to drop off a dead body?”

“I have submitted the request for a gravity assist maneuver around Earth so that we can get back on schedule,” he said, ignoring her.

“We have a schedule?”

“No, but I love speed. Speed is goo-ood. Speed is right! This might even be a personal-best for me.”

As they came around the planet in a close arc, Thomas accelerated like a rock in a slingshot.

“No - No - No! Oh, that’s disappointing. Missed it by one percent!”

“It’s over already? I didn’t feel a thing.” M said, surprised.

“Oh, right. Sorry about that. I didn’t mean literally hang on. I keep a constant one gee inside for the comfort of my passengers.”

“Crew,” she corrected, but he ignored her.

“Although,” he laughed, “I discovered through experimentation that I could gradually increase it to one-point-five gees before Dennis noticed.”

“Hey Thomas,” she said in a serious tone, “Thanks - I owe you one.”

The sound of the reply from the committee filled the cabin. It said, “Asteroid Survey Ship Thomas is denied permission to perform gravity assist maneuver,” they both laughed.