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The Future Trap

The Future Trap

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The Future Trap

Length:
100 pages
1 hour
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 13, 2016
ISBN:
9780995380820
Format:
Book

Description

The price of seductive alien technology might be too high, even when it’s a lifesaver . . . Mysterious music leads humanity’s first exomusicologist to a world stranger and more deadly than any he has experienced before.

Bigger is better when humanity takes on the inhabitants of outer space.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 13, 2016
ISBN:
9780995380820
Format:
Book

About the author

The initials in the name “E. W. Story” stand for “Edward William”. He might also be called “Ed”. Ed was possibly born in Cleve, South Australia, and raised in Adelaide, where he may have studied Civil Engineering. Some propose that he lived in Perth and Darwin as well. It’s not beyond the realm of chance that he has a wife (Liz), two children (Luke and Sarah-Jane), and a dog (Darth). He definitely sold a story called “Cold Sleep, Cold Dreams” that was published in the landmark 1994 Australian science fiction anthology Alien Shores. He is also, almost certainly, the author of “On the Blink”, a story that rated third in a readers’ poll of the Canberra SF Society in 1992. That story appeared under the name “Bradley MacMillan”. He published a lot more stories under a third name when he grew up. (Which is the pseudonym? You decide.)

Book Preview

The Future Trap - E.W. Story

In Defence of the Megascopic

Ninety percent of all of the Bad Things that have occurred in my life have been immediately preceded by examples of spectacularly Bad Timing.

The casual links between the two events, however, are not always perceptible.

On the wall-sized, three-d screen of the Helen Keller’s passenger lounge, Dawn Station receded, its silver butterfly wings shrinking, folding, becoming a shining star in the infinite heavens. Earth appeared, a blue ball of intense beauty in one corner of the screen.

There were two of us in the lounge. Only one seemed to find the view at all interesting.

If you build a ship with one engine, said the K’dan, gesticulating with the tip of its extraordinarily motile tentacle, "and that engine fails, then you will be in serious trouble. But if your ship has a billion engines and a million generators, imagine the odds against being marooned without propulsion! The same is true for life support, artificial gravity, communications, navigation – every conceivable aspect of space travel.

This engineering principle, known as Ultimate Redundancy, although technically feasible on Earth before Contact, was mastered centuries ago by the shipbuilders of the Commonwealth.

I nodded dutifully. Unlike some of my fellow-humans – many of whom were still reeling from the shock of Contact, ten years earlier – I understood how the alien ships in which I travelled operated.

But I let it speak anyway, sympathetic of its need to talk. Aliens were people too, and all manner of people were prone to be nervous on take-off.

Machines as tiny as pinheads in every bulkhead, I said. Each the size of a large molecule.

Exactly, nodded the K’dan. Its name had been hominised to Charles Furworth-Tassel III, but everyone aboard the Keller had been instructed to call it Charlie. It resembled a large rose bush stripped of leaves and flowers and half-strangled by a long, grey snake. I’d read somewhere that its species was a symbiotic dyad, that skeleton and serpent could be separated and later re-joined without loss of personality, although the individual halves were scarcely sentient. It spoke through a communicator cunningly concealed at the base of its brain-stem, somewhere below the crown of its taproots.

Exactly, Peter. From the Central Nexus down, this vessel is conglomeration of infinitesimal parts, like cells in a living body. In each square centimetre, you will find engines, power generators, air purifiers and computers. Every metre contains coordinating nexus and ganglia that can, in an emergency, act independently of the rest. Thus we maximise our safety in the event of a catastrophe.

It stopped dead, as though reminded of something.

I thought disasters were so unlikely as to be impossible? I asked, prompting.

Of course. The K’dan bowed its crown in apology. Please excuse me. I must retire before we enter spin.

I excused it with good grace, although the abruptness of its departure startled me. Some species found the passage through spinspace distressing; I had not known that K’dan were such a one. When it had shuffled from the room, I returned my attention to the wall-screen, intending to watch the patient globe of Earth disappear into the starfield.

At exactly that moment, the Helen Keller exploded.

#

In my section of the Keller, there were:

4 by 10exp11 spin drives, 2 by 10exp10 reactionless thrusters, 3.7 by 10exp9 air processing plants, 5 by 10exp8 gravity field generators, and 7 by 10 exp6 control ganglions.

There were also five state rooms and one common-room. Of the six passengers, only three were human. The others were one K’dan, one Shomoi, and part of one Cherrypicker.

There were no windows.

And no crew.

#

The bottom fell out of space somewhere inside my stomach and I knew instantly that we were under spin. The image of receding Earth disappeared from the wall-screen and was replaced by the words:

System malfunction: Control will be restored as soon as.

I frowned.

The screen flickered. The lights dimmed and someone screamed. The cryptic message vanished. In its place appeared one word:

Possible.

I climbed out of the sofa, trying to find my balance in a gravity field that was rolling and inconstant. I lurched out of the common room, up the hallway. Past my cabin around a bend, and to an abrupt halt.

The that corridor had once stretched through the heart of the Keller to the Central Nexus was now sealed by a pulsating membrane that looked to me like living tissue of some sort. It fluttered and shivered, slightly concave, and I scratched my head in puzzlement.

The Cherrypicker lumbered out of its cabin, bellowing through its habitat-bubble. It too came to a halt where the corridor ended, waving its enormous limbs in a parody of shock.

Tragedy? said its translator, trying in vain to express the emotion the creature was trumpeting.

What’s happened? I asked it, locating its central eye amongst the bulging tissue of its face and staring directly at it. At the same time, I took care to avoid its flailing limbs and, thereby, crippling injury.

Severe calamity? it exclaimed. Emergency measures? Utter disaster?

"The Keller has disintegrated," whispered the Shomoi, gliding softly into our midst. Its folds of translucent skin wafted like seaweed in the shifting forces

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