Spalding Short Chapter 2

From the Blog

Spalding Short Chapter 2

Here’s another chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter: Gants to the Rescue

“Sir, your arm,” gasped Gants, rushing over and placing his hands underneath the side of the cart. Straightening his back he tried to deadlift it up off the old engineer. He strained and gasped with exertion, but was unable to lift the cart so much as an inch.

“Of all the wretched, infernal, programming and mechanical errors,” shouted Lieutenant Spalding.

“It’s too heavy, Sir,” he said in despair, “I’ll have to go for help!”

There was the sound of a switch being clicked back and forth.

A knee bumped into the young crewman. “Get out of the way, lad,” said a furious, older voice.

“Don’t try to move,” Gants insisted, “we need to activate the medical emergency response system and wait until they can safely lift the cart off your arm. We can’t risk moving you now; you could throw a clot!”

“What are you carrying on about?” barked Spalding, wiggling like a worm until he had pulled his arm back out from under the cart. “Quit your blathering and help up to my feet, son,” he said sharply, extending the very arm and hand that had just been ‘crushed’ underneath the cart.

“Your arm!” Gants gaped at the older man, instinctively reaching down and grabbing hold of his arm. “It wasn’t hurt?!”

Spalding looked at the younger man like he was just about the dumbest creature in creation. “If you look, there’s an arm-sized hole in the middle of the carriage so that if the repulsors cut off your arm won’t get caught,” he rolled his old eyes. “Be a pretty stupid design flaw to have the manual cut off set up so it kills the man working on it if’n it was ever used.”

Arriving back on his feet, the ancient space hand glared down at the cart.

“That is if the manual switch worked!” he yelled, drawing his foot back before giving the cart a good, swift kick. Unfortunately he kicked with too much force and yelped, “Owe!” before hopping up and down on the deck.

“Blasted thing,” he grumbled staring at the old grav-cart piled high with used enviro-filters, “there’s no way we can move all of this by ourselves.”

“We’ll have to get another one, Sir,” Gants shrugged helplessly.

“Would I be wandering around below decks with a misfiring cart like this if there was another one available?” Spalding asked rhetorically.

Gants shook his head and looked lost.

“Nope, there’s nothing for it,” Spalding continued. “We’ll have to take a look and see if she’s fixable where she is.”

“That could take hours!” Gants protested.

“Best we start now then, lad,” Spalding said consolingly, “soonest begun is half done and all that ornery old space rot, as my old Engineering instructor used to say anyway!”

“I have to report for duty!” Gants said despairingly.

“No shirking now, son,” Spalding said severely, “can’t leave in the middle of a job. Besides, this won’t take no ‘hours.’ We’ll be done before you know it,” he finished confidently.

“If you say so,” Gants said shoulders slumping. Looking around, he turned and sat down on the edge of the cart, “!hat do we need to do?”

The Old engineer paused and stared at the cart with narrowed eyes. “I’ll start in on the hardware side,” Spalding said, “it’s too bad we can’t access the control interface remotely; we’ll have to call a System Analyst if there a problem on the programming side that can’t be fixed with an automatic reboot.”

Gants jumped back to his feet. “My data slate’s a Sectum VII; I can hook it up to the cart remotely,” he said, his countenance brightening immediately.

Spalding narrowed his eyes at the younger man. “Don’t go gumming up the works tryin’ to fix something that doesn’t need fixing,” he warned, wagging a finger at Gants for good measure. “Last thing we need is to get her working only to have wait for a total system reinstall.”

“Not a problem, Sir,” Gants said confidently, “I’ll just crack her open and take a look.”

“Don’t crack anything,” Spalding growled, “then we’ll just have to fix that too!”

“We won’t actually be cracking…er, breaking anything,” Gants hastened to assure the old spacer.

Spalding eyed him suspiciously for a moment then shrugged. “Go ahead then, but mark my words: take it slow and be careful,” he said.

Gants nodded happily and set to work.

Except for a few calls from Spalding to hand the old engineer a tool, Gants spent the next few minutes busily tapping away on his slate screen.

“Anything yet?” Spalding asked after a few minutes.

“It receives my input — I can tell that from the handshake protocols — but all I’m getting back in return is garbage,” Gants said in frustration.

Spalding wearily got back to his feet. “Let me take a look,” he said, waving his hand in a give it here motion.

Gants looked at him out of the corner of one eye and then reluctantly surrendered his slate.

“Nothing but static,” Spalding said dismissively.

“That’s what I said,” Gants agreed.

“Transmitter must be fouled up,” Spalding said after a moment, “probably why my remote controller stopped working.” He reached into his tool belt and produced said item. “It’s not your fault lad,” he said patting Gants on the shoulder.

But Gants was already reaching into his own belt and quickly produced a thin, plastic-coated wire. “Had the same problem getting a pirated version of Caprian Invaders 39 off my friend’s home network,” he explained, quickly hooking the cord into his slate. He then paused and looked up and down the cart’s surfaces, “Where can I make a hard connection with the cart’s data port?”

Spalding shook his head and showed the young man where he needed to place the wires, before turning back to focus on the connection between the cart’s main battery and the individual repulsors.

“Huh,” said Gants sounding perplexed, “it’s not static, but I still can’t make heads or tails of it. Let’s see…I think I still have that compatibility filter program around somewhere in storage; that should work with most generic code platforms.”

Spalding removed a repulsor grav plate and cleaned the contacts. Then he checked the connections for power before reinstalling the plate and synching it back in tight, but there was still no response from the cart’s systems.

Spalding frowned.

“Ah ha!” said Gants and the cart started to power back up before just as suddenly shutting back down. “Whoa,” he said in surprise, “look at all this code! It’s definitely non-random, and the cart’s still accepting my queries and commands on some level, but it keeps giving me back this stuff. Looks fairly complex too,” he trailed off, clearly distracted.

Spalding’s eyes widened with alarm. “Hand that over here,” he growled, reaching for and swiping the slate from the crewman’s hands.

“Hey…” Gants started to exclaim in protest before trailing off reluctantly.

“I’ll be jiggered for a flat fool,” Spalding spat, glancing up from the screen to glare at the cart. “No wonder you couldn’t make head nor tails of it.”

“You recognize the problem now, Sir?” Gants said doubtfully.

“The problem?!” Spalding exclaimed in exasperation. “This cart — like every other piece of Caprian SDF equipment — has been installed with some version of Sub-machine 2.0, which is why it’s still responding to your queries. The language is so fundamental to its operating system, and buried in there so deep that it’s almost impossible to work around it.”

“I don’t see the problem, Sir,” Gants said his forehead wrinkling, “that sounds like a good thing.”

“Oh aye, I suppose it is,” Spalding replied with a fierce frown. “But while it’s still responding to Machine 2, what it’s spitting out is anything but.”

“I didn’t recognize it and I’m pretty familiar with whole host of modern languages, even if I can’t work in them like a real programmer,” Gants said doubtfully.

“Meaning I’m probably too old and outdated to know what I’m talking about, is that what you mean?” Spalding demanded, shaking his head dourly. “I may be old and out of date with modern children’s games,” he scowled, “but I’m more than old enough to recognize a proto-version of Droid 1.0!”

“That little grav-cart’s going droid?” Gants blurted in alarm as he took a reflexive half-step back. “But…it has far too small a processor and memory banks to do that! Besides, how could it possibly get infected with a droid meme out here in an SDF Warship!”

“Oh, trust me boy-o; it has,” Spalding spat.

“Can you tell what it’s trying to say?” asked Gants warily as he stared down at the incomprehensible data streaming across the screen.

The Deposed King


  1. Emil - September 28, 2013 12:12 am

    I really dig these small teasers, I’d like to ask for more but I know that doing so will take away your time from the actual book.. What a dilemma!

    N.1 Euro Fan

  2. The Deposed King - September 28, 2013 3:57 am

    Actually this short story is already written and the brother is the one editing them. So as soon as he edits them they’re available. So you can feel free to pester away. If I have another chapter… as I do then I can post it if not. Then you can ask and I’ll bug my brother and spur him to finish his editing pass.

    The Deposed King


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