"Ralph! Wake up!"
"Zzzzzzzz". Ralph was happily dreaming of far away things. Ledgers, balance sheets, business plans... Anything that the section of his brain responsible for dream content could conjure up from his day job back on Earth to keep the other sections of his brain happy and relaxed during sleep.
"Ralph! Wake up! Can you hear something?"
Chuck wasn't sure about the sound he could hear. Some kind of warning, he supposed, but he wasn't sure what it was. It wasn't really his department. There was only one kind of electronic gadgetry that he had mastered, and that was a stopwatch. Some people are bewildered programming their VCRs - Chuck was bewildered just trying to turn the bugger on.
Ralph and the Mission Control people knew this, and had told Chuck just to find Ralph if the on-board computers made any kind of noise other than the It's Log sound of e-mail arriving.
So when the computer started making a rather alarming alarm sound, and flashing a warning with lots of jargon in it on the screen, Chuck figured that this was probably a good time to ask Ralph to withdraw from his accounting dreams and check that everything was okay. Which it wasn't.
Ralph was still fast asleep, a smile on his face as PAYE tax forms in need of filling in gently floated down to where he found himself sitting in a deckchair on the SS Investment Fund. Chuck thought he heard the computer's alarm start to sound more urgent, and reached down and shook Ralph.
Ralph's dreamy world vanished with a start. When someone of Chuck's dimensions and muscular attributes shakes you, you wake up, unless you're entirely dead.
"Ralph. Come quick. There's a noise. An alarm."
They quickly (well, quickly for an environment with virtually no gravity) made their way back to the control deck. Ralph took one look at the instruments and woke up properly. He muted the alarm and reached for the radio.
"Mission Control, this is Penis I. Can you see this?" said Ralph, stabbing the screen with his finger.
"Penis I, can we see what?"
"Our instruments indicate a large number of foreign bodies approaching us."
Chuck was about to retell a joke he'd heard about foreign bodies when he decided better of it. He wasn't sure what was going on, but it certainly seemed to be bothering Ralph, so he thought he'd better not interject.
"We don't see that on our instruments Penis I."
"What does it mean, Ralph?", asked Chuck.
"It means there are a large number of foreign bodies approaching us. And because Mission Control haven't been able to give us any warning, we may not have time to plot a course around them."
Chuck, of course, would not have been able to plot a course around the foreign bodies given his own personal Cray and two year's thinking time, but he did at least understand the problem.
Ralph was studying the angles. The angle of trajectory, the angle the foreign bodies were moving towards them at, the angle they would have to take to get around the foreign bodies and then get back on course without burning too much extra fuel. And of course, he was still wondering what these foreign bodies were.
Whatever they were couldn't be particularly large or dense, otherwise they would have shown up on the instruments back on Earth. So maybe they weren't any danger to the ship? They were still too far off to identify by looking out the window, but there seemed to be at least several hundred of them.
As Chuck looked on, Ralph punched in the keys to get the computer to do some analysis on the foreign bodies. Not that this was quite up to the standards of the analysis the computers could do on those old Star Trek - The Generation After That repeats, but even if they could get some basic information, it might be of help.
The computer could provide some basic information. Some very basic information. Extremely basic. A single word. "ORGANIC."
- The Year 2031
Copyrightę1998 Daniel Bowen