This prompt for Flash Fiction Friday was one of the most difficult for me, especially since I used a very loose interpretation of what an antagonist is. I chose to write a science-fiction story and I never realized how much you have to keep track of: ranks, ship layouts, and command procedures (to name a few). I gave it my best shot and only went a couple hundred words over the word limit this time. Thanks for reading!
Prompt: This week’s prompt is to start with one conflict and reverse the polarity. Let’s see what happens when the tables are turned and your protagonists or antagonists are suddenly holding the fate of the other in their hands.
Word Limit: 1,300 words
Deadline: 10/19 by 8:30 PM ET
Attack of the Cliche Circuit
Admiral Morgan awoke to blaring sirens and flashing lights. Still tugging on his uniform, he stumbled down the corridor towards the bridge. So intent was he on reaching the command room, he nearly ran into Lieutenant Gaffreys. He was standing in the middle of the hallway, staring out a side window into space.
“Gaffreys! Why are you just standing there?! This is a full emergency!”
“Oh, Admiral! I was on my way to the bridge when I looked out this porthole to see if I could glimpse the threat...”
Lieutenant Gaffrey's words trailed off as he started staring out the window once again. Morgan touched the lieutenant's shoulder to get his attention.
“My God... It's full of stars...”
Gaffreys' words startled Morgan because they were so strange. They teased at the corners of his memory, but the alarms were sounding and there was no time for remembering. Morgan left Gaffreys looking out the window and sprinted the rest of the way to the bridge.
Morgan entered the command room shouting. “I need a report of the situation!”
“We, uh, appear to be in the middle of a meteor shower, Admiral. It came out of nowhere!”
The Admiral turned towards the speaker in surprise.
“Ensign Creed? What are you doing manning the bridge? Where's the Vice Admiral?”
“She started feeling ill halfway through the second shift. She's in the med bay right now recovering, but before she retired she put me in charge while you slept.”
“Creed, you're the least qualified person on board to run this ship! Why would she choose....Oh my God.” The pieces started to fall into place in the Admiral's mind, his expression slowly changing from surprise to horror.
“Sir? I've actually got it under control. Even though the shields are offline, the navigation system is still running and our pilots are getting us through the shower.”
The Admiral shrugged him off and grabbed the intercom. He yelled into it, “I want all hands on deck who aren't otherwise engaged to find me Captain Logan. Make this your top priority!”
“What's so special about Captain Logan, Admiral?” Creed asked.
“He's BLACK!” the Admiral responded.
“That's not very racially sensitive, sir” piped up one navigator nervously. “He may be the only African American on board, but that's no reason to single him out.”
Before Morgan could reply, a second lieutenant came running into the command room, urgency apparent on her face. “Admiral! Sir, there's a problem with the AI!”
“Give me a report, Lieutenant Liu.”
“It started in the mess hall, sir. Second shift was trying to order rations from the Substance Processor when all the orders started coming out wrong. We tried getting through to the tech department through the comms, but no messages are getting through. Now the door access system is malfunctioning. We've got personnel trapped in rooms with no way out!”
The Admiral sat back, arms crossed as he contemplated these developments. Sitting up, he addressed the terminal in front of him. “Computer, find me the coordinates for the Gamma system.”
A mechanical voice responded with “I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.”
The crew looked at each other in confusion.
“Is your first name Dave, Admiral Morgan?”
Ignoring the question, Morgan switched off the terminal. Covering the intercom, he whispered to the navigators “Get the pilots on the manual navigation system.” Turning to Second Lieutenant Liu, he said “The AI's gone rogue. Quarantine it.”
Liu ran out of the bridge just as a group came in escorting Captain Morgan. He was out of breath, his red shirt showing sweat stains down his front and back. Seeing the Admiral, he broke away from his escort.
“Admiral! What's going on? I was on my daily run when the alarms suddenly started going off and then these guys came and told me you need to see me right away.”
Relief flooded Morgan's face as he grasped Logan's arms. “Thank God you're o.k., Captain!”
“Sir? What is goi-”
The Admiral cut off the Captain midsentence. “There's no time to explain, Logan. Creed!”
Ensign Creed appeared behind the Admiral's right shoulder and awaited his instructions.
“Creed, I want you to stay by Logan's side and never leave it for a second. We need him safe. Take a group with you. I want you all armed.”
Ensign Creed escorted a very confused Captain Logan out of the bridge. As they were leaving, the Admiral caught sight of Logan's shirt and yelled after them “And for the love of God, change Logan's shirt. Anything but red!”
“We're out of the meteor shower, Admiral,” the head pilot reported.
“Good. Stay on the manual drive and someone find me Lieutenant Liu. I need a report on the AI's status.”
Morgan sank into his chair, his hand covering the worried look on his face. “Please don't let this be what I think this is...” was all he said for several minutes. His other hand fingered a key he had hanging around his neck and the remaining crew looked at one another, no one wanting to disturb his contemplation.
Second Lieutenant Liu jogged in and broke the silence. “Sir? You wanted an update?”
The Admiral sat up, his face all business, and turned to face the second lieutenant. “Give your report, Liu.”
“Well, sir, we have the AI isolated in the mess hall. We managed to contain it in a toaster.”
“Yes, sir. It was the only piece of equipment not connected to the network. We felt it was safest.”
“As long as it worked. Jettison it into space; we'll install a new AI when we reach port.”
“Good work. You're dismissed, lieutenant.”
Just then Ensign Creed came running in, panic stricken and covered in blood, shouting “He's gone!”
The Admiral jumped up and steadied the shaking man. “Where's Logan, Creed? What happened?”
“We were in the laundry room getting a change of uniform when Captain Logan noticed how quiet it was. Usually you can hear all the machines going down there. Right after I said 'Too quiet' a monster reached down from the air shaft and took him. I tried to grab him, but...”
“Where was your armed escort?!”
“It was the laundry room, sir. We didn't think we needed them in there...” Creed started crying and wringing his hands.
“What did the monster look like, Creed? Did it have tentacles?”
“How did you know, sir?” Creed marveled. “Did you know it was on board?”
Morgan shook his head and paced the bridge, fingering his key again. Worry lines creased the Admiral's forehead. Stopping, he turned to a navigator and asked him to pull up the personnel files.
“What am I looking for, sir?”
“I want you to find me the woman on board with the biggest breasts. Once you identify her, send a dispatch to bring her here.”
A murmur started among the crew and someone piped up, “Just what is going on, Admiral?”
Admiral Morgan sighed and said, “We need Samson.”
The navigator cleared his throat, catching the Admiral's attention. “It's Lieutenant Sky, sir. She's already in here.”
Morgan immediately slipped the key off from around his neck and handed it to the lieutenant.
“Go to the last capsule in the Cryo chamber. Use this key to start Samson's rehydration process. When it is complete, bring him here. And hurry!”
Lieutenant Sky sprinted out of the room as quickly as her ample bosom would allow. Once she was on her way, Morgan turned to look at his bewildered crew.
“While we wait for Samson, let me explain what I know. They warned us about this in the academy, but I never thought I'd ever actually encounter one. What we are experiencing is a rare occurrence that has been documented no more than twice in the last 2000 years. It's called a 'Cliché Circuit.' Every ship carries a fail safe on board in case of it, but it's more a precaution than anything. That fail safe is called Samson.”
The bridge erupted into anxious conversation as the crew internalized the Admiral's announcement. As time passed and the group quieted down, noises could be heard coming from the supply closet.
“Sir, there's something in the closet. Should we-”
“No! Do NOT open that door! Logan's gone so any one of us could be next!”
The scratching noises got louder, and the crew huddled together around the room, waiting. After half an hour, Lieutenant Sky returned, holding a wiggling puppy in her arms. The more she attempted to keep it from licking her face, the harder it tried, its tail knocking against desktops and chairs as it wagged wildly.
The Admiral sighed in relief and took the puppy from Sky. Patting him on the head, he turned to his crew and said, “Samson's here. Everything's going to be alright.”