Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: EERIE (07/28/16)
- TITLE: Houston, I Have a Problem
By Dennis Gallemore
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Standing, he stretched. "At least we still have artificial gravity, thank God. Solomon, remind me to never volunteer as a test pilot again."
"Noted," Solomon, the ship's A.I., responded. "I have finished running diagnostics on the drive system."
"That was fast. What did you discover?"
"I located a virus in the drive's software that activated one hour after we left orbit; a virus designed to shut the drive down without activating alarms. It is quite ingenious."
"I don't understand, Solomon; how could a virus get past your defenses?"
"The virus was entered directly into the drive's controls."
"Unknown. The virus removed all relevant data."
A low vibration rippled through the ship. "Major, the..."
Kyle slid back into the pilot's chair. "Yeah, I know; the Ultradrive kicked back in. What's going on?" He glanced at the course screen. "Solomon, why have you changed course?"
"I have not; the malware has."
"Override, Solomon! Now!"
"I am unable to comply."
Looking back to the screen, Kyle blanched. "We're heading straight for Mars! What happens if we hit the planet at this speed?"
"Theoretically, the impact would cause massive quakes, volcanic eruptions, and intense electrical storms. Worse, the orbit of Mars could be shifted."
"The Mars colony has a population of over 100,000! What would happen to them?"
"They would, in all probablility, be killed instantly."
"Solomon; someone is using us, this ship, as a weapon! We've got to regain control of the drive! I'll go down to the engine room and attempt a manual override. While I'm gone, keep trying to wrest control from the virus, and scan for anomalies that could give us information on stopping the virus, as well as finding out where it came from." Jumping from his seat, Kyle raced to the engine room.
Pulling the cover panel from the Ultradrive, Kyle studied the controls. Frowning, he looked up at an overhead monitor. "Solomon, this is going to take some time. How long until we hit Mars?"
"20 minutes, fifteen seconds. Major, in my search for anomalies; I have discovered some disturbing news."
Kyle froze. "What?"
"In reviewing security scans for the voyage, I found a burst of electromagnetic energy that was initially hidden from my normal scans, but which the more invasive secondary scans detected."
"Where did the burst come from?"
"Major, the energy packet was transmitted from within you."
"What? Do you mean that the virus was sent to the Ultradrive from a transmitter hidden within me?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes. Major, the more thorough secondary scans have determined that you are not human; you are an android."
Standing, Kyle staggered back against the wall. "What in the world are you talking about Solomon? Of course I'm human!"
"Major, my secondary scans indicate that you are a highly sophisticated android that is capable of mimicking human life, to the point of fooling primary security scans. It is no surprise that you believe yourself to be human; it would seem you were programmed that way by terrorists."
"I'll prove to you I'm human!" Grabbing a vibroknife, Kyle slashed the palm of his hand. Showers of sparks erupting, Kyle sank to his knees. Holding his head in his hands, he moaned. "No, no, no. This can't be happening! I'm human! I'm..."
Sobbing, he looked up to the monitor. "I've never thought of myself as a religious man, and now I find out I'm not even a man! But, whatever else I may be, I'm not a murderer, Solomon! No terrorist
is going to use me...use us, as a weapon! Initiate self-destruct; five minute countdown, authorization O'Connor Alpha Omega."
"Self-destruct authorization accepted. Self-destruct in four minutes, 15 seconds, and counting."
Stumbling to the control room, Kyle fell into the pilot's seat. "Solomon, you and I are not human; there are no living beings on this ship; it's...eerie. No one will know of our sacrifice."
"He will, Major, He will. It has been an honor to serve with you. You may not be human, but you have proved yourself to be worthy of the name. Five seconds, four, three, two, one..."
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