Outer Space Conversation
"Report on the asteroid conditions?"
"Those scans we took from the surface don't tell everything."
"We're trapped. We can't go back to the surface. We can't proceed beyond orbit."
"How long before the rocks grind this ship to dust?"
"Depends on power supply. The question is, will power last longer pouring it into the shield or into the automatic laser canons? Currently I'm putting it to the canons. They keep the asteroids farther from the ship than the shield."
"Can we hyperspace out of it?"
"You know that takes an unobstructed path. The swarm of asteroids fluctuates but it's very dense--"
"Yeah yeah. But can the computers detect a window in them and shoot us through while it's open?"
"I asked. The computers say the asteroid field is too dense and vast for a naturally occurring window of sufficient size to be likely, at least for the next few years."
"You really have been a fool, you know."
"You followed me into this."
"No, I commanded you to scan for asteroids then fly us into orbit."
"Get me some coffee."
"Sorry. That won't be the last thing I do."
"Then what good are you?"
"I'm keeping you alive. At least for now."
"What if we blast open a window through the field?"
"I asked that, too. It wouldn't stay open long enough. The fact that this ship is enormous isn't helping."
"We could blast open a space, move into it, blast open another space, until we're out."
"We're doing that now."
"So we're not trapped then? We just keep it up until we're free?"
"As I said, I'm betting on the canons. The computers estimate total power loss before we escape."
"I'll get the silly coffee myself."
"Why don't you do that."
"No need for a bean grinder, I guess. Too bad this ship doesn't run on caffeine. There's enough of it in the cargo hold to--"
"I have to concentrate. The computers haven't figured out we need most of the power going to those canons. They keep shunting it to life support and to their cooling systems. I have to correct them constantly."
"What about contacting the surface, the docking port?"
"Already sent the beacon. Why don't you see if they responded?"
"Why haven't you yourself?"
"Busy. Besides, what can they do?"
"Oh. They sent a communique."
"I'd open a live channel, but I need the power. Read it, please?"
"Ahem. 'You're both fired. Planet authorities notified and have initiated criminal investigation. Return with ship intact so we may discuss why you entered asteroid field after scanning local space. Depending on your statements, imminent charges may be dismissed. Reply.'"
"Tell them to send an asteroid ram."
"Another communique. Ram on its way."
"That's better. When I get back to the surface, I'm complaining about their scanning system."
"We've got another problem."
"You don't like the coffee?"
"The coffee's beautiful. I'm talking about the security robot."
"Coming to arrest us?"
"And to take control of the ship, I guess. The light on his face just went from blue to red. That's combat mode."
"I know what it is. How do you know he went red?"
"He's almost got the bridge's secondary hatch out of its frame. I can see him at the end of the corridor through the port of this hatch."
"Better lock it up tight."
"Yeah, done. Can you shut him down from your console?"
"Working on it. There. Did he stop?"
"No, but he's still outside the far hatch. What do you want to do if he gets in here?"
"You're the captain."
"Give me a suggestion, then."
"No idea. Throw coffee in his face."
"Wait. Another communique. It says, 'Follow orders of security robot when it arrives on bridge. Stay put. Robot will assist you in any way necessary. Procedure to assume remote control of ship initiated. Remember, ship is corporate property and respect for it is obligatory and appreciated.'"
"What was that noise?"
"The robot. He breached the secondary hatch. He's right outside. He's already peeled back a corner of this hatch. He's watching you through the hole. You might want to turn around and look at this."
"Not now. Busy."
"He'll be in here in a minute."
"No, he won't. I just shut him down."
"Yeah, he stopped. Can they start him again from the surface?"
"Don't know. Don't think so. I shut him down by overwhelming his main program with requests for self-diagnostics scans."
"They call that a security robot?"
"You know we'll be charged with serious violations for compromising their robot, don't you?"
"Better than letting the robot prevent us from dealing with the asteroids. Surface taken control of the ship yet?"
"No, but the asteroid ram just secured a path for us. There. The computers can do whatever they want with the ship's power now. Say, may I taste that?"
"My hazelnut mint? Why?"
"I've been sipping from it."
"Knock yourself out, then."