Saturday, May 28, 2005


      "Research?!" whined Douglas loudly.
      "Indeed," agreed Josef, "Someone needs to scour the sensor readings stored in the flight record database."
      "But I got out of research to come with you guys!" Douglas looked around at the futuristic arcade of computer displays and interface controllers. He looked back at the panel in front of him which read: Very small rock. (7 days ago, result 1 of 8,243,721). "Isn't there anything else I could do?"
      "Short of a degree in Stress Impact Probability Mapping?"
      "No." Josef hopped off the control counter and headed for the door. "Remember Douglas, these terminals provide total access to ship functions. Please be careful."
      Douglas sighed, slouched, and selected the next entry.
      Very small rock.
      It was two and a half very small rocks later that his eyes began to wander. They were mostly as bored by the rest of the touchscreen as they were by the sensor readings. But it was after the disappointing distraction of a medium-sized rock that they spotted it. Voice Interface. Douglas's finger quickly arrived as back-up.
      "Hello? Computer?"
      "Hello, visitor," replied the monotone collage of a synthesized computer voice. Douglas jumped.
      "Groovy! Umm... How are you?"
      "Ship's function at an estimated negative nine percent. Engines inoperable. Navigation inoperable. Sensors inoperable. Fires detected in -"
      "No, no. It was just a polite question."
      There was a pause.
      "I'm fine, thanks," replied the computer, and began to make an unexpected noise.
      "Computer," said Douglas, "Why are you laughing like a girl?" The laughing got louder, and lovelier. Douglas turned around.
      The Command Center, the chaos, the Hyperborean all vanished. He was only aboard the vessel of his mind now. Isis was his expedition.
      "You're Douglas Dent," she said, proud of her own discovery, but also a little scared by it.
      "How..." he felt so nervous he decided to quit while ahead, "How?"
      "I've heard of you," she replied simply, "I bet you've been on so many adventures." And Douglas experienced a strange inclination. He suddenly wanted to say many things which, as far as he could tell, held no resemblance to reality. It was only his resulting sense of surprised silliness that saved him.
      "This is my first actually," he said, and watched as the interest faded from her gray face.
      "Well, anyway, I'm sure you'll try your hardest."
      "You know, when you destroy the Universe."
      Small explosions detonated throughout Douglas's head. He tried to regain control, but it was too late.
      "Oh, come on!" he was yelling, "I'm not going to destroy the Universe! That's not even possible! Besides, how could you know?!"
      Isis stood silent for a moment, then turned and ran out of the room.
      "Shoot," sighed Douglas, frustrated.
      "As you command," responded the computer, "One target within firing range. A small spheroid docked to the ship. Confirm aggression."
      "Yeah, right," said Douglas angrily, "I really want you to destroy our only way of getting off this exploding spaceship. Stupid computer."
      The Hyperborean was rocked by a new, different kind of explosion. Instead of an ominous, tremulous, cacophonous eruption, this was really more of a pop. Goosebumps descended.
      "Douglas," called a strangely calm mouse voice, "1 and I would like to have a word with you."