By Scott Bailey © 2015
Space. It stretched out before him – endless, dark, enticing. The stars were faint and blurry through the thick glass view port, moving in a slow arc across his vision.
He could feel the endless nothing all around, calling to his soul, a siren’s whisper.
Float with us. Float with us forever! Float and forget.
The dark song was as endless as dreams.
He shook his head, fighting off the draining sensation.
He needed to concentrate.
He turned away to look out the only other viewport.
This one was dominated by the dark shadow of the dead ship. It was only visible against the deeper blackness due to the fading embers of molten metal fragments of its destruction.
They too fade from sight to and die.
Like everyone inside.
Looking out that viewport was hurting his neck. He faced forward again. He was too cramped. He could only move his head left and right and his arms enough to use the control by his hands and the keyboards before him.
He was stuck.
Daydreams had led him here – he couldn’t let them end him here.
A beep from the computer brought his senses back to proper alertness.
It had started. The attacks were coming.
He had anticipated it, though not so quickly and not all at once.
“Update”, he commanded.
The computer’s calm voice responded.
“Interceptors are on the way they will arrive in precisely 623 seconds.”
“They must be responding to the distress call from the prison,” he muttered.
“That would seem a high probability.”
Dammit! He hadn’t been able to cut that off in time.
The computer went on.
“We should send our own distress call, they will be equipped to rescue you.”
“Do not!” he commanded. “Keep radio silence!”
They were not only equipped for rescue. They were heavily armed. Once they learned the truth – and very soon they would – weapons would their first response.
“And our firewall?” he queried.
“The outer defence has been breached but the systems have not yet been compromised.”
That wouldn’t last much longer. The authorities were suspicious already – the presence of such a strong firewall did not to allay those suspicions – so they were hitting the firewall with the best they had.
“And my program?”
“Approximately 800 seconds to completion.”
Not enough time!
He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. There was too much at stake here to fail.
He needed more time.
“Instigate firewall program 42!”
The computer complied and ran the program for him. That would keep the cyber attacks at bay for a little longer.
He shook his head. He had the nagging feeling that this was all just too fantastic!
Only a year ago the only thing he did on a computer was check social media and chat! Spaceships were a thing of science-fiction! Now here he was a master programmer and a fugitive from the authorities flying in space. It all seemed too unreal.
It was the stress of the situation he told himself and he could not afford to be distracted by it.
Besides he wasn’t actually flying a spaceship right now. He was drifting in what was little more than an escape pod.
But the ship he had escaped from was real. As were those bearing down on him. And these were not the only truths he had discovered lately.
He looked at the countdown on the program he was running.
“OK,” he told the computer, “prepare a distress call. But inject the virus I prepared.”
“That is against regulations,” the computer informed him. He barked an override code at it and it proceeded to prepare the distress call.
It was amazing what you could learn in prison. Hacking, override codes. The truth about the universe out there.
Putting him in prison had been their mistake.
Daydreams and curiosity had led him to that prison. he asked too many questions and that had got him into trouble at work and with the Government. That alone would probably not have condemned him but he had also an inventive streak. And a paranoid one.
When they hauled him for questioning he had snuck in a crude listening device.
It had not worked very well but he had caught snippets of conversation.
“He seems immune..”
“Is he any harm though?”
“ … control … inherited or just a ….. “
“He is a dreamer, not a revolutionary.”
“There we go then. We make him a believer…”
Unfortunately, the listening device was discovered – and that sealed his fate. He was shipped off to a deep space prison ship.
A deep space prison ship! One day he was in a world where the space shuttle was the most sophisticated space vehicle man had created and smartphones where the best man seemed to be able to achieve – the next he was in a world of spaceships – and space police!
It was a culture shock, to say the least.
He was dumped into prison and forgotten.
And that was the strangest thing of all. In prison, he flourished.
On earth – in his old life he had been Mr Average Joe to a T. Prison should have broken him. Yet he found that he had more freedom stuck on this ship than ever before.
He learned the truth for one thing.
There existed on earth (and space) a super élite far above anything anyone even suspected existed. They had science and wealth beyond the imagination of most people.
The rests of the population were kept in drug-induced ignorance. Cattle whose sole purpose was to provide this élite with their lifestyle.
Knowledge seemed to flow freely in prison and he absorbed it all. He learnt to program and how to hack computers.
He had vowed to expose the truth and free the world.
So he had concocted his escape. It had cost him the lives of everyone on that ship – and probably his own life too but he didn’t care.
He was filled with fury. He wanted to free the enslaved population of the human race for sure. What he wanted more though was to see the smug bastards who ruled them get their just deserts.
“Distress call is ready to send.”
He nodded, he was about to tell the computer to send it when it preempted him.
“There are two more ships, coming in from the direction of Saturn.”
“No. They bear all the signs of space pirates?”
Space pirates? Pirates? How could pirates exist? That would imply ….
He shook his head. There were too many questions threatening to distract him. He had to concentrate.
“Program completion has been suspended.” the computer announced.
He flung his fingers at the keyboard and dove into code. They had not yet got full control but they managed to stop his program.
Which implied they knew or guessed what he was doing.
He glanced at the other screen. The pirates would get here quicker than the interceptors! And they would shoot first!
He didn’t hesitate now. He called up his virus and made a few changes, then he told the computer to prepare it again and send it.
Then he dove back in and started a counterattack against the hackers. He managed to regain control and get his program running again. He then spent the next few minutes both fighting the hackers off and keeping his exit channels open.
While he did this he also watched as his virus took hold of the interceptors and turned them towards the pirates. They would be forced to fight each other for a bit.
The program was also done. The hackers came on in full force. He struggled to hold them back.
A fireball briefly bloomed in space. All the pirate ships and interceptors signals went dead. They had destroyed each other.
Now the hackers could see the program running even if they couldn’t stop it yet.
A signal flickered back to life on the screen
One interceptor had survived.
It was closing in, weapons charged.
“Program completed!” the computer announced.
“Run it!” he shouted.
He watched the screen as the truth – all the truth – was sent out to every single person on earth.
The lies were exposed.
Come now, float with us…
The interceptor would be in range soon.
He breathed easier.
He had done as much as he could for the world. Now he had to look to his own survival.
He was stranded in space, with limited resources and little time. Air and supplies running out and no hope of rescue.
After the years and years of confinement, he welcomed the challenge – relished it.
“Now this,” he said, with an almost feral grin, “is living!”