Encounter with a Titan
As they climbed down an access ladder, because there were no lifts in evidence, it occurred to Tamita that the darkened corridor also had a higher ceiling than the rest of the ship she had seen. It was like they had simply welded another ship to the front of the Salutem Novis. She meant to bring this up to Jay Johnson but they were both climbing silently.
Finally they reached the next lower deck. Here she was certain the ceiling was higher. Much higher.
“Jay, the ceiling.” she said. He looked up and nodded “Yeah, I noticed that too.”
The main computer spoke to them “I had registered larger spaces through a radar scan but it was not nearly detailed enough to see how large it was exactly.”
They began walking but stopped. There was no corridor here. Instead there was a huge door hatch, and Jay did not see any device that would open it. “I don't know what is going on here, but something is definitely going on.”
Tamita nodded. “I'm not sure I really want to meet what uses this door.”
“Good point.” Jay agreed. “Computer, maybe it would safer to get back to where we belong.”
The main computer answered “I leave this up to you, as the human crew. If you feel it is too dangerous to continue, then by all means return. A hatch that measures 3 meters wide and 8 meters tall is quite a mystery.”
“Everything here looks like part of a different ship.” Jay said “This hatch looks like it might not even be a human one.”
“It's cold here too.” Tamita said “Quite a bit colder, actually.”
Jay nodded, it hadn't registered yet with him but she was right. “What could be the purpose of all this? You don't think it's some kind of protective buffer?”
The main computer “Negative. That possibility is quite remote.”
Tamita was shivering and tapping a foot “I don't want to stay here any more. Can we just leave?”
Jay put an arm around her and started back toward the access ladder. “After we reprogram the Rovers I could come back with a few of them and I can be armed. Then maybe we could find a way to see what is on the other side of that.”
Jay Johnson took off the wrist device and laid it on the floor, facing the hatch. Then he and Tamita climbed back up the ladder past where the ceiling was.
“Why did you do that?” she asked him looking down at him, noticing that he stopped climbing.
“Just a hunch.” he answered “Okay, lets go.”
So they climbed back the way they came and walked back to where they had left Gopher.
“If we go down a couple of decks we should be where that chamber is but on the other side.” he told her as they moved “I have a feeling there is a wall and not a hatch. There are probably not many routes into the dark part of the ship.”
“Okay, so why would they attach another vessel to the front of this one?” Tamita stopped and asked “That doesn't make any sense”.
Jay walked back to her and put an arm around her shoulder, again and walked again. Keep moving, he was trying to say without words. “Maybe the project chiefs didn't know about it. The world was falling into chaos, after all, maybe someone chose that time to make a secret addition.”
“You think there are stowaways?” she asked stopping again.
“Could be!” he said “Just keep walking.”
She looked back into the darker corridor. “There may be other people on this ship with us?”
“Come on” Jay said, this time holding her hand “Gopher is waiting for us.”
The little robot was watching them as they approached. “Gopher, I'm not going down there again without a plasma laser rifle and an army of droids.”
“Droids? Isn't that a fictional designation for robots?” Gopher asked
Tamita said “Don't listen to him. He missed you.”
Gopher moved in front of them and faced him as he walked. “You have formed an emotional attachment to Gopher, shall we hug?” It asked holding its arms wide and stopping. Jay walked right into it “Stop it, this isn't funny.” he said pushing Gophers closing arms away.
Tamita was laughing though.
“Listen, this is serious. I want to find out what is on this ship with us.” he told them “Then I want to know what we can do about it.”
With incomplete information there was no answer to these questions, the computer knew. If indeed there was a presence of other persons or things aboard, then it needed to be assessed whether they might be hostile or non-violent. They seemed to be hiding, this would suggest they did not want to be found and possibly not be offensively hostile. The best course of action in that instance would be to leave them alone.
Something had reprogrammed the rovers and the service modules though and left no real sign of how or why they had done it. That, the computer thought, had been a very hostile act.
“Options, computer, let's hear them.” Jay Johnson said as they entered the room that had become their main room. The two humans sat at the small round table and Gopher hovered nearby.
“If there are indeed others aboard they might possibly be non-violent, preferring to stay hidden. If these persons were responsible for the programming faults of the rovers and service modules, then I would have to classify them as malevolent.” the computer said “The options are, assuming again that they exist and that they are hostile, to completely blockade the few access corridors available. Or, your suggestion, send you in with arms and rovers programmed to defend you. Or I could place you both back into cryogenic suspension to protect you from harm.”
The humans looked a bit stunned by the last suggestion.
“If those things are hostile and responsible for damaging the ship, you can't afford not to have humans around.” Jay Johnson said.
“It would feel kind of strange to wall the area off without knowing for sure what is there.” Tamita said looking at the table top. “Not that I would mind feeling weird.”
Jay nodded “Have you manufactured the new rover computer cores?”
The main computer answered “Yes, Jay. They are available whenever you are prepared to install them.”
“If something in that part of the ship tampered with them before, they could do it again.” Tamita said “Going down there with an army of rovers that might turn against you seems really stupid.”
After some silence, during which the computer noted that Tamita took Jay Johnson's hands into her own as they stared into each others eyes. “I can design and produce what is called an interrupt function, or as you might say, a dead-mans' switch. One that would allow you to shut down the rovers with the touch of a button.”
“I guess I have to do it.” Jay said quietly to Tamita before adding loudly and looking at the terminal on the wall “But I'm going to be armed, okay?”
The switch would be on his belt. He would wear a multi-functional wristband this time as well as carry a plasma pulse laser rifle slung over his shoulder. Before this, though, he would make a space walk outside of the bridge dome and put new cores into 6 of the tiger-like rovers. While there were more rovers locked into a storage shelter, it was decided that these rovers would be the ones to use.
Jay Johnson wasn't exactly sure how they were picked but it happened. Each of them, after being reprogrammed, would have certain attachments to make them into his army. One of them would carry a scanner and jamming system, while another would carry a grenade launcher. Just as a for instance.
“Okay, recruits, fall into line.” he ordered them and they complied. They followed him into the airlock and then out into the corridor. Tamita backed up, she was still afraid of them. Jay smiled and took off his helmet. “I'll get the suit off and then I'll be right back.”
Soon enough they were back into their main room. The computer had something to report to them using the holographic monitor there. The six rovers were waiting patiently outside in the corridor.
“Using the scanning device that Jay Johnson left outside of the hatch in the dark area of the ship I was able to determine that something was moving inside.” the computer said “It is very sketchy but there is most certainly movement.”
An ink blot would have more detail than the images they were being shown.
“I see you do not understand. Let me superimpose the hatch.”
Then the same static-type movement was shown overlaying an image of the enormous hatch, whatever was moving in there was very large.
“That is not a human.” Tamita said “That thing must be at least eighteen feet tall.”
Jay Johnson suddenly felt like his gun was not big enough. “Computer do you have emergency hatch doors if this thing suddenly pulled free from the rest of the ship?”
After a second it answered “Assuming it did so without causing structural damage, yes. I do not understand how the question is germane. Do you have reason to believe that this entity has the ability to separate from the rest of the ship?”
“No.” he admitted “It's just a feeling.”
Then after another moment he asked. “Do you have a way to check how that section is actually physically connected? If you do, check to see if it was added with explosive bolts. If not, I would feel better about all this.”
The computer answered “Yes. I can send nanites into the ship to find out the answer to this query.”
“Nanites?” Tamita asked “You mean you have some of those microscopic robots on board?”
The computer answered “Affirmative. They are invaluable for any number of roles. They repair micro-circuitry, they clean the interior of the ship and other things.”
Jay Johnson stood up and checked the way the gun sling hung from his shoulder “All right. I guess we should get this show on the road.”
“If it gets too dangerous...” Tamita told him “Just get out of there.”
He nodded. “Hopefully it's not hostile. It might not have been it or he or whatever, that sabotage the robots before. We just do not know.”
Tamita walked up to him and kissed him “You better come back.”
“Oh, I will! I'm not that brave.” he told her “The rovers can do the real fighting.”
“Then hurry up.” she told him.
She watched him and the six rovers leave and turn down a corridor. “Okay Gopher, we have some work to do too.”
When Jay and the rovers reached the access ladder he suddenly wondered if these rovers could climb, then he remembered how agile they were. They had no problem climbing the ladder to the deck with the enormous hatch.
“Signals.” he called number six, the one with the scanner and jammer “Can you open that hatch? I mean, I order you to open the hatch.”
The robot pointed itself at the hatch and Jay could hear it send radio frequencies going from low to high and back again. Then hatch clicked.
“Attention!” he said and all the robots were suddenly prepared to do combat. The hatch had unlocked but it did not open automatically “Number One, open the hatch”. The rover put its back legs against the frame of pushed the huge hatch open several feet and then walked back to its position.
Jay Johnson expected something to burst out of the doors but it was quiet. He took a sensor ball from his pocket, another device manufactured by the ship and threw it into the opening in the hatch. He looked at a small screen on his wrist device.
It was dark inside. He saw some shadows, that looked like boxes and crates or furniture. Of course everything he saw was much larger than it should have been. Whatever that huge thing was it was hiding in the shadows. So instead of it being the one to charge Jay, he and the rovers would have to do the charging.
“Okay, go in and spread out, spotlights on.” he told the rovers and they immediately jumped to follow his commands and he followed them in, with his weapon at the ready. He climbed into the hatch and dropped to one knee once he was inside, he scanned back and forth with the gun. The spotlights of the rovers were not as bright or as effective as he had hoped.
“This place really is huge.” he said, knowing the computer had probably already started scanning and mapping it. One of the rovers made a noise and the others all turned in the same direction, so Jay followed them through the gun sight.
Suddenly something in the shadows rose up and up. It was probably even taller than they had first thought, and it was most definitely some type of robot. The lights showed its legs, its torso, some of the long arms and large claw-hands.
Finally the lights of the rovers illuminated the top. Jay fell onto his butt and began backing up toward the hatch door. Up at the place where some sort of robot head should be was the body of a man, it was connected to the huge metal frame through where its arms, legs and the top of his head should be.
Jay felt like he would throw up. His legs wouldn't work right, he was trying to stand up so he could get out of there. He was in the doorway of the hatch when he heard a cackle.
“Run, frightened mouse, run” its metallic voice said “I am the titan who shall inherit the Earth, not you puny pathetic humans!”
“Rovers, attack!” Jay yelled, but he was a bit behind the times. He hadn't seen that this titan had his own robotic army closing in on them. The rovers launched their grenades and fired their guns but the other robots also attacked. A nearby explosion threw Jay completely out of the chamber and past the open hatch.
“Don't think I'm not grateful you've let me out of my prison. I'll reward you with a quick death!” the voice reverberated. Jay told himself this guy or thing had seen way too many bad movies, but seems to have forgotten that the bad guys don't win. Usually.
Another explosion at the hatch as he was climbing the ladder got his attention. The hatch swung open from the blast and pieces of rovers littered the floor between him and the hatch. Finally two rovers backed out of the hatchway firing laser blasts into the chamber. Jay couldn't see much but he returned some fire too.
Jay began to climb frantically. Let the rovers slow them down a bit if they could.
“Computer, if there is a way to separate this part from the rest of the ship, it would be a great idea to do it now.” he said as he reached the top of the ladder and began running up the corridor as fast as he could.
“Not possible.” the computer answered.