Home > My Favorites, The Fiction of Fans, The Serial Box > Day One Hundred and Seven: The Best in Space, part 2

Day One Hundred and Seven: The Best in Space, part 2

The crowd in Ten Forward was quiet and sparse. Most people at this hour were on duty or busy doing any one of the thousand things that made the Enterprise work. Quiet music was being piped in overhead, and the lights were low, to allow for a better viewing experience out through the large windows. Captain Picard sat by one of the windows, reading an antique copy of Gulliver’s Travels and sipping a fruit drink from Vulcan. He treasured these moments, as brief and rare as they were, when he could relax and feed his mind. No strange encounters, no terrible crises to avert. Just a peaceful trip through the stars and a book to spend time with.

The music became warped and wobbly, and dropped to silence. Picard glanced up from his book and looked around, just as most everyone else was doing. A moment later, the lights began to flicker, then surge in brightness. He stood up, tucking the book under his arm, and adjusted his uniform. Guinan was behind the bar, watching the crowd, but she gave him her full attention when he arrived. “What do you think it is?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “But I certainly mean to find -”

The speakers squealed, a sharp, painful note, and everyone clapped their hands to their ears. A moment later, the ship screamed, “SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!“ The floor lurched under their feet, throwing many people down, and the star field outside bent and shifted, and then exploded into streamers of light as the ship leaped into warp speed.

Picard braced himself against the bar and slapped his communicator. “Picard to bridge!” he yelled. “What the hell is going on?”

His communicator sputtered and coughed, and then a voice cried out, “YEEEEEEEEE-HAAaa!!

Picard and Guinan exchanged glances. “Bridge,” he said. He picked up the book from the floor and went to the port-side exit. The turbolift opened as he approached, and Deanna Troi was already inside.

“There you are,” she said. Picard got in, the doors closed, and the turbolift began its swift route to the bridge. “There is something very wrong with this ship,” she said.

Picard raised an eyebrow. “How did you guess?” he asked.

She put her hands on her hips and smirked at him. “I’m Betazoid, Captain,” she said. “I can sense the delicate ebbs and flows of emotion on board and tune in to the minds that populate it.” She shrugged. “Also, the ship started to scream and launch to warp speed for no reason at all. That was my first big clue.”

“No time for jokes,” Picard said, holding back a smile. “Is there anything you can tell me?”

She shook her head. “Whatever it is, it’s nothing I can get a hold of.” The lift stopped, the doors slid open, and they walked onto the bridge. The red alert lights were flashing and crew members were desperately trying to regain control of the ship. Worf was barking orders to his personnel and Riker was working at the captain’s chair.

“Report,” Picard barked out.

Commander Riker stood up. “Sir,” he said. “The ship’s computer seems to have been compromised. We’re unable to access propulsion or communication systems.”

Picard walked down the ramp and took the captain’s seat. “Life support?” he asked, keying commands into the arm of the chair.

“So far that seems to be unaffected. But communications between decks are sporadic at best, and we can’t slow the ship down.”

Data turned in his seat. “We are currently at warp seven and climbing, Captain. If we continue at this speed, we will achieve warp nine in approximately five minutes. It is inadvisable that we remain at that speed for too long.”

“Understood, Lieutenant,” Picard said. He looked around the bridge. “Where’s Crusher?” he asked, gesturing to the empty conn seat.

Riker and Data exchanged glances. “Last I heard, he was in Engineering,” Riker said. “We found something out there, and -”

Picard held up a hand. “You found something? What did you find? Why wasn’t I notified?”

Riker took his seat to Picard’s right. “It seemed to be a deactivated space probe, sir” he said. “We checked it out, beamed it on board and I gave it to Wesley to look at. I thought it would make a good project for him.”

The look that Picard game him was flat and angry. “And?” he asked.

“Well” Riker said, “I haven’t been able to get back in touch with them, but I think he and Lt. Commander LaForge may have managed to turn it on.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Picard put his hand to his face. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and said, “Conference room.” He stood up. “Data, Riker, Troi, Worf. Now.” He stalked to the conference room, not looking back to make sure everyone followed him.

When they got in, and the door closed, Picard took his seat at the head of the conference table. “What do we know?” he asked.

Riker stood up and tapped a few times on his pad. Pictures and initial scans of the object appeared on the viewscreen. It was roughly spherical and covered in the accumulated debris of centuries in space. “It appears to be some kind of probe,” he said. “Initial scans suggest that there is a computer core in it, though it was inactive at the time we beamed it on board.” He tapped again and new pictures appeared, much more detailed. “These were taken from Wesley’s tricorder in the Engineering server. You can see in more detail that it’s a fairly complex machine, probably an AI built on Earth in the latter half of the twenty-first century. That’s interesting all by itself. What makes me nervous is this.” He tapped again, rotating the onscreen model to display the logo with the words “APERTURE SCIENCE” printed on the side.

The officers looked at the screen. “I don’t understand,” Troi said. “What is Aperture Science?”

“Computer,” Riker said. “Display records for Aperture Science. Authorization Riker, Alpha six-one-six.”

The screen flickered for a moment, then went blank. A moment later, great yellow circle like the iris of an eye appeared on the screen, moving wildly back and forth as if looking at each person in the room. A speaker popped to life. “You the space cops?” a voice said. It was breathy and frantic and electric, and it made Worf growl. “Don’ like the space cops. Goin’ too fast. Too fast.”

Picard stood up, facing the screen. He tried to look stern and authoritative. “Who are you?” he asked. “What have you done with my ship?”

The great eye snapped into focus on him. The iris seemed to pulse, and the lights in the room pulsed with it. “You,” the voice said. “You have a very shiny head. Like a star. You a star?”

Picard glanced around and gritted his teeth. “Tell me who you are,” he said again.

The voice seemed to start singing a tuneless nonsense song. After a moment, it cut off. “Uh-oh,” it said. “There’s the sun. Gotta say Hi.” The screen went black again, replaced after a moment by a detailed classified file on Aperture Science. They only had a moment to study it before the stars outside the window stopped streaking past and they blinked back into normal reality again. The door chime sounded and Picard barked, “Enter!”

When the door opened, a flood of golden light came with it. An ensign in red stepped in, his face pale. “Sir, come quickly. It’s… It’s the sun!” He ducked out again. Everyone at the table looked at each other, and then got up to return to the bridge.

The main viewscreen showed the sun to the starboard side of the ship, far closer than it should have been. “All shields to full,” Picard said, even as Data was entering the commands.

Riker turned to him. “We have to get control of this ship back. Data – did you get all that on Aperture?”

Data turned around to face them. “Aperture Science was an American company in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They explored several different avenues of business, but their greatest successes came in the fields of artificial intelligence and spacetime manipulation.” He tapped his console, and the great, flaming sun was replaced with the information that had been on display in the ready room. It showed pages of text and diagrams, as well as pictoral representations of people, cubes and holes.

“Their AI work was brilliant,” Data continued, “if unstable. Their primary intelligence was a computer named GLaDOS, which they built to run their testing facilities. It went mad and killed most of their personnel within seconds of switching it on. They also built a series of smaller, more restricted intelligences.” The screen displayed a series of small spheres that looked like the one Wesley had been working on. “These AIs were more specific in their functions, and not all of them were particularly… useful.”

He swiped his hand across the console and a new set of pictures were displayed. “Their other achievement was the creation of small, stable wormholes through the use of a hand-held device.” A video appeared on the screen of a young woman in an orange jumpsuit running through a corridor into a vast room with a moat of murky green liquid bisecting it. She fired a large, insectile gun at the far wall, sending out a blue burst of energy. She then fired again, and orange energy hit the wall next to her, creating a hole through which she could see herself. She stepped through, went through a door on the other side of the room, and continued running. “Although a prototype was made,” Data continued, “it was never developed for mass production. Some of the research that went into it, however, was instrumental in the discovery of warp drive technology.”

“So what does that mean for us?” Picard asked.

“If that sphere is indeed an Aperture AI,” Data said, “there is a good chance that it is insane.” The main screen went back to showing the sun, bright and hot in front of the ship. “If it has control of the ship, there’s no telling what it might do.”

The main screen broke up in a burst of static, and an uneasy image appeared of Geordi and Wesley. “Captain!” Geordi yelled. “Captain, can you hear me?”

Picard stood up. “I can hear you, Geordi. What’s going on?”

“Captain, I think I know what this thing wants!” The picture shook and shimmered. “It’s been saying the same thing for a few minutes now, and if it has control of our navigation sys -” The signal cut off, returning to the oversized sun on the viewscreen. Slowly, the ship was turning around, moving the sun out of their field of view. Over the speakers, that staticky, crazed voice was muttering the same thing over and over again.

“Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth.”

The Enterprise’s turn sped up and then stopped, pointing at a pinprick of pale blue light.

“Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth.”

Data looked down at his display. “We are at full impulse power, Captain,” he said. “At this speed, we will reach Earth in approximately fifteen minutes.”

“Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth.”

He glanced out at the viewscreen. “I would point out that we do not know this being’s intentions once we reach Earth. We could go into orbit, or…”

Picard nodded. “Or we could crash.”

They all watched the viewscreen as the pale blue dot slowly grew and the mad machine continued to chant, “Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth. Wanna go t’Earth.”

Aperture Science and the Space Sphere are owned by Valve Corporation.
Star Trek and all related names and ideas are owned by Paramount Pictures.

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