Incorrect Notation

Incorrect Notation

A Story by Charles Painter
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Incorrect Notation tells the story of the crew of the Quondam, an ill-fated space ship who comes into contact with a mysterious enemy.

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The complete silence of the ship was like a film that coated the space within it. Nothing moved; nothing stirred. Even the air itself seemed to hold still, captivated by the lack of a pull. All the dust that had travelled with them had settled long ago. The blackness of the outside teemed with millions of tiny dots. It was then that the peace and nothingness of The Quondam ended and the silence was broken.

    Lt. Colonel Rhodes felt the cold again. It rushed up and covered his body; it grabbed him in an icy deadlock. He opened his mouth to scream and the cold lodged a talon down his throat, into his chest, his lungs. A wall of pain slammed into his face.

    Rhodes hit the floor hard; he had face-planted the floor of The Quondam’s stasis deck. He  forced himself up and gagged as nutrient-rich fluids escaped from his mouth and some even from his eyes.  After he had semi-recovered from the nauseating fluids, he collected himself and stood high. There were three days until they arrived at Bausūn. Lt. Colonel Rhodes walked back over to his SCC and scanned his thumb in the reception. The air-lock within the SCC’s storage chamber unsealed and the unit opened up. Rhodes took his uniform out and began to place it on over his stasi-suit. He could see other chambers opening up down the hall, with other soldiers falling out onto the floor and choking on the Stasis Containment Chamber’s vile fluids.

    Colonel Grant’s chamber began to go through it’s wake-up process as Rhodes was finished dressing. Rhodes would need to check in with Grant to make sure there was no cargo on board that needed to be cloaked before entry into Bausūn’s gravitational pull to prevent elemental reactivity. The SCC opened up, followed by a burst of ice-cold steam. Grant fell to the ground, prone.

    Lt. Colonel Rhodes decided to give Grant a moment to collect himself before reporting in for duty. Another SCC opened up next to Rhodes and Master Sergeant Raleigh stumbled out, still in a daze. Rhodes turned to check on Grant. Grant hadn’t moved, he simply lay there on the ground.

    “Colonel Grant, sir?” Rhodes asked tentatively. There was no response. Rhodes rushed to Grant and picked him up. Grant’s eyes had glazed over, the cornea a ghostish blue. Nutrient fluids oozed from his mouth primevally. “Medic,” Rhodes said under his breath. “Medic!”

    Colonel Grant had died a while ago during stasis, or so it seemed. Grant was an older man, and stasis was a bit unpredictable. It’s possible his heart simply gave out. The medics hadn’t expected any casualties on the voyage, considering they were only in stasis for eight months. However, the older were more susceptible to injury within stasis, so it wasn’t a complete anomaly.

    None of this was what struck Lt. Colonel Rhodes the most. What struck him the most was how he was now the highest-ranking officer on the ship. Master Sergeant Raleigh approached Rhodes, who stood on the brig, and saluted.

    “Major Rettingfield is still recovering in the infirmary from stasis,” she said. “What do you want to happen, sir?”

    Rhodes chewed his lip and turned around and stared into space. “Give them three hours, then have them all report to duty. We need to calculate our precise position and re-check our supplies.”

    Master Sergeant Raleigh saluted and left the brig. Rhodes was left alone with his thoughts. Their current voyage to Bausūn was in order to protect and secure a mining convoy who were stationed there. The wildlife on Bausūn was some of the first alien life forms discovered. They were called Wreaps, beast-like hostile creatures. Fortunately for humanity, they were a non-sentient race. They needed simply to be fended off by the crew and marines aboard The Quondam. Was this trip worth the life of Colonel Grant? Rhodes didn’t know.

    He did know that the Uranium veins on Bausūn was more rich t han any other planet discovered, and in order to win the war currently going on, they would need every lat bit of it. The Insurgence was a group of radical liberals who had relocated to mars. They had claimed separation from the governments of Earth and launched terrorist attacks all over the planet. Under this threat, the nations of Earth had formed the California Pact (in honor of an American state that was almost completely destroyed).

    The war was still a close tie between the forces, this expedition and mining facility could be pivotal. Now Rhodes was in charge of it. He was snapped back from his thoughts by the sound of feet walking in. Rhodes turned around and noticed that Master Sergeant Raleigh was back. He saluted her and she returned the courtesy.

    “Sir, the casualty reports have come in,” she said.

    “Reports? Grant wasn’t the only one?” Lt. Colonel Rhodes asked.

    “About twelve deaths, sir. Most happened in the infirmary.”

    “Major Rettingfield...”

    “Will be fine in about a day sir. Sergeant Major Cristobal passed away earlier, and Warrant Officer Brigner is still in the infirmary, making me the... second highest ranking officer on board.”

    Rhodes paused for a moment. “Alright then. We’ll be getting back to work soon.” He took the report from her and stared into the vacuum of space.

    The hours passed quietly and Rhodes finally picked up a crew in the brig. Some were still cleaning the dust off of their terminals. He took the shipmaster’s chair and checked with his crew.  Communication lines were down at the moment, probably a result of the ship’s inactivity for the past eight months. “What’s our location... Himewa?” Rhodes asked one of his crew members.

    “She’s still booting up, sir. However, from what I have here... there! Two days out from Bausūn, just as planned.”

    “Excellent. Set course and depart when ready,” Rhodes replied and reclined in his chair. So far so good.

    “Sir,” came a voice from one of the officers. “Hypracams have visual on Bausūn. Would you like me to pull it up on the window?”

    “If you’d be so kind,” Rhodes responded. The window that separated the bridge from space flashed for a moment, and a small circle appeared in the middle of it, a projection. “Zoom it in, please.”

    The Hypracam zoomed in on the small circle of Bausūn. Suddenly, Rhode’s heart caught in his throat. Bausūn was not what it had been eight months ago. It was brown and destroyed, covered in massive craters and cracks. Dark splotches of strange rectangular nature dotted the planet.

    “What in the name of-” Rhodes began, but cut himself off. The scanners were picking something up.

    “Sir! Multiple spacecraft being launched from Bausūn!” shouted one of the officers on deck. He began to blow away dust in one of the monitors. They’re moving so fast! We don’t have any ships that small that can go this fast sir!”

    Rhodes took a step back and pondered for a moment. They could have arrived at the first encounter of a hostile alien invasion right here. If so, then these creatures wanted only to destroy sentient life, considering that’s almost all that was on Bausūn.

    “Approximate time of interception?” he asked.

    “Thirty minutes.”

    Rhodes knit his eyebrows. “All marines to arms,” he said. “This is not a welcoming committee.” The infirmary was sealed and all available marines rushed to the weapons cache and into their armored uniforms.

    “Can we get a stable visual on the alien spacecraft?” Rhodes called out. The screen on the brig showed the ship. It was a rusty wedge traveling at high speed towards the ship. The quality was bad, but a cockpit could be made out, along with weapons. It was covered in rust, but appeared to be very well made. It sped towards them like a bullet, followed by dozens more. Rhodes noticed the front of the ship had sharp wedges sticking out of it, like a drill almost.

    For a few moments before the attack, everything was silent. The enemy entered within range of The Quondam. Rhode squeezed his hand and shouted the command.

    “FIRE!”

    The space in front of The Quondam lit up with a thousand shots and blasts. The enemy ships were nimble, but the powerful JAGUAR-VII rounds of The Quondam destroyed some of the less-responsive units.  A large thud shuddered through The Quondam.

    “Were we hit?” Rhodes shouted amongst the chaos.

    “If we were, I don’t know by what. These ships are too small to be carrying any sort of heavy-duty rounds. I’ll pull up the cam- oh no. Oh no oh no!”

    “What is it?!” Rhodes shouted.

    “The ships sir, they’re... they’re embedding themselves in our hull and releasing enemies into the ship!”

    Rhodes grabbed the PA module. “All units to arms! Enemies have breached the ship! I repeat, all units to arms!” He unclicked the PA and tensed nervously. “Himewa, bring up a feed where the first enemy spacecraft penetrated our defenses. I want live coverage, now! We need to know what we’re facing against!”
    
    Himewa saluted and pulled the feed up on screen. It was a hallway located near the stasis deck. Giant knives of steel had cut into The Quondam’s hull and cockpits had released the enemy into the ship. The were short, hunched, pale creatures. The wore dark leather and fired upon Rhode’s soldiers with strange weapons that sent out bright light into the men.

    The soldiers were pinned behind cover as more and more of the strange creatures appeared. Rhodes noted their vaguely humanoid shape, albeit the hunch prevalent in all of them. With sudden vigor, a group of soldiers unleashed a tactical wave of fire upon the enemy, taking out their front line, and advanced to behind more debris. Master Sergeant Raleigh was leading them.

    “We can’t let them get to the infirmary!” Rhodes heard her shout over the feed. “We need to secure this area one step at a time!”

    In a blur, one of the alienaoid enemies plucked a sphere from his hand and threw it at the soldiers that had not advanced with Raleigh. There was a bright flash and they were vaporized, all except for one who lost an arm.

    Raleigh and her troops popped up and unleashed a hail of bullets on the enemy. Their accuracy proved their reputations as a notable squad of marines, and the enemy forces began to drop.

    Eventually, Raleigh and what was left of her men stood victorious, collecting corpses and weapons from the fallen threat.

    An explosion outside took Rhodes’s attention away from the feed and back to the battle at hand.

    “Sir!” came a shout from Himewa. “Their numbers are dwindling! We might win this battle just yet!”

    Rhodes nodded and punched a code into his chair’s terminal. [REPULSER ENERGY BEAM] flashed. FIRE? [Y/N] Rhodes selected the fire button and watched as waves of intensely hot gas spewed from The Quondam. Ships began to melt in space, becoming white-hot globs of oozes that let out silent screams. Finally, the radars became neutral, and no more shots were fired.

    The casualty count was relatively high, but manageable. Thanks to Master Sergeant Raleigh’s actions, the infirmary had never been breached. Rhodes was sure she would be promoted. The Quondam turned around and headed away from Bausūn, but had it’s sights pointed on the planet lest any more attacks come from there. The communication lines had not come up yet, so Rhodes could not warn the California Pact or even the Insurgence. So they began to travel back to Earth.

    Lt. Colonel Rhodes was called into The Quondam’s laboratory by Master Sergeant Raleigh later that day. He entered the bright, white room and found her standing there next to two scientists and an alien corpse dissected on the table.

    “Sir...” Raleigh trailed off. “You’re not going to believe this.”

    “What is it?”

    “The autopsy, it showed that the creatures we were fighting... they were humans.”

    Rhodes tried to swallow, but there was nothing there to do so with.

    “Wha... what...” he tried to respond. He stared down at the corpse and the head of a man, a pale dark-eyed mutant of a man stared back at him.

    “We suspect that undetected chemicals on Bausūn had something to do with this,” explained one of the scientists. “We believe they harnessed the Uranium to make these.” He held up one of the Bausūnian’s weapons. A core in the middle glowed a bright yellow.

    “These are nuclear distortion blasters, from what we can tell,” the scientist went on. “However, this kind of technology was... dreams. Prototypes of prototypes. The men on Bausūn must have been geniuses to construct something that can harness the power of the atom in a condensed, and even stable way! They must have secretly been working on this ever since they arrived, perhaps they are a part of the Insurgence after all!”

    Rhodes sat down in a chair and shook his head. “Then we need to get back to Earth and tell them about this now. We can’t wait any longer. I’m ordering all troops back into stasis in two days. It’s then we make way to Earth.

    The scientists nodded and Master Sergeant Raleigh walked with Lt. Colonel Rhodes out of the room. The two went straight for SASCUII, the computer system that controlled stasis on The Quondam.

    Master Sergeant Raleigh began to punch in codes into SASCUII when suddenly she stopped. She rubbed her eyes and then stared back at the screen.

    “Getting tired?” asked Rhodes. “Be sure to enter 2.453 x10^2 into the mainframe for eight months, that’ll get us home again.”

    “No...” Raleigh said. “That’s not possible,” she punched some more codes into SASCUII and suddenly a cry caught in her throat.

    “What is it Master Sergeant? Out with it!” demanded Rhodes.

    “Sir... the last input for stasis time was not 2.453 x10^2. It was placed in as 2.453 x10^7! We were in stasis for sixty-thousand years!”

    Rhodes pushed past her and stared at the screen. The date of last departure was 2232 AD, the current date was 69392  AD.

    Dust that hadn’t been cleaned swirled around his feet.

© 2012 Charles Painter


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Charles Painter
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Added on November 29, 2012
Last Updated on November 29, 2012
Tags: sci-fi, science fiction, short story

Author

Charles Painter
Charles Painter

Nowhere, RI



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