|SOFT LAUGHTER (standard:science fiction, 6889 words)|
|Author: Danny Raven||Added: Dec 17 2006||Views/Reads: 1797/1065||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Alex Franks is forced to land on Cyras. The ship's computer told him that the planet was uninhabited but computers can sometimes get things wrong....seriously wrong.|
I The Helium Converter started playing up several billion miles from home. He'd been deep in the Karina System for weeks, mapping gold deposits on a land-search pattern and the increased pull of the planets there had begun to affect it. The thrust required when he left the System had been the last straw. Deep in the ship, the main computer registered the change in the low humming of the Drive and instantly triggered the alarm in the panel above his head. A two-tone whining began. It echoed all over the Bridge, breaking the peaceful silence of his meditation. When he'd settled down on the circular mat some time ago for a session, things had been running smoothly and he'd expected them to stay that way. He'd been into meditation for years and it helped keep him balanced on these long lonesome voyages. Irritated, he tried to tune out the sound but the alarm was insistent. He cursed softly and descended from the silent plateau he'd reached and allowed his mind to identify the noise. It was the alarm....probably the damn Stabiliser again. It had given him trouble before but it was nothing urgent and later would do. Slowly he reached up and felt for the Stabiliser square on the panel above his head and pressed it. He resumed his position and tried to regain the level he'd left. It was a few seconds before he realised the alarm was continuing. He cursed and reluctantly opened his eyes. The Bridge swam into focus, lit by the dim glow of the instrument panels. He uncoiled slowly from his cross-legged position on the mat and stretched like a cat then froze when he saw where the light was flashing. It took his nervous system a few seconds to react then the adrenaline pumped into his bloodstream and his heart started thudding in his chest. He scrambled over to the main console to double check but the Converter square was flashing there as well. His legs suddenly weak, he slumped into the pilot's seat and stared disbelievingly at the panel. ‘It's not happening,' he thought stupidly. ‘It can't be....well it is....hey come on, Converters don't malfunction, they never malfunction, they just don't. Well this one has. The light's flashing in the goddamn square, look – on off, on off, on off. And the alarm's going, hear it ? This is for real, for real, so what the hell are you gonna do about it ?' He bit his lip then reached out a trembling finger and pressed the Converter square. The alarm died but the red light continued to blink on and off. He leaned back in the chair and tried to fight the panic rising in his gut. The critical corner of his mind had already appraised the situation and was trying to reach him through the jumbled fear. ‘Calm down,' it told him. ‘Calm down. Relax. Relax.' He tried to tune in to it. Brush the fear aside. ‘Breathe deeply,' it commanded. He closed his eyes and obeyed. Long slow breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Repeat. Concentrate on the breathing. In through the nose. Hold. Out through the mouth. Pause. Repeat. Relax. Concentrate. He could feel the immediate panic receding. The hammering in his chest subsided. He tried to swallow but his mouth was still dry. Calmer, he opened his eyes and considered his next move. There was nothing he could do up here – the problem lay in the Drive section. He would have to make a visual inspection. On still shaky legs he walked through to the stores cabin and pulled a Click here to read the rest of this story (865 more lines)
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