The Blackest Knight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Interstellar lifeform surveyors find more than they bargain for on a strange, savage planet.

Submitted: September 09, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 09, 2019



The Class XXIV interstellar starship, known as the Black Knight, settled into a near-polar retrograde orbit above the glistening alien planet. Captain Michael Carpenter slowly turned from the visiplate and smiled faintly at Lieutenant Neal.

“So this is it. I’ve always wanted to come here. Great atmosphere, an abundant hydrogen and oxygen mixture, and an ambient temperature that is ideal for supporting all these interesting lifeforms. Should be some great specimens.”

Neal, the young and pretty First Officer, looked at him with unabashed excitement in her eyes, glanced to the right, then commented wryly, “Yes, well I just hope this one isn’t as interesting as the last survey planet!”

All eight crew members sobered briefly as they remembered the harrowing experiences they had encountered on K21-4. A planet that they had first assumed to be lifeless had come alive in a most horrifying way, and they had barely escaped with their lives.

Carpenter let a sardonic smile drift to his face. “We’ll just have to be more careful, that’s all”.

Neal chuckled and pointed to the right, towards the Conn. “Tell that to Ensign Gort! He’s the one who had to go traipsing down that lava tube without scanning for life forms first!” That brought a round of laughter from the rest of the crew and a green blush to Gort’s face as he pretended to check the console. The Commander looked back to the visiplate. He loved his job, and he wasn’t going to let a little loss of discipline ruin the exploration of this planet, but for now, he was more focused on the celestial body below.

From the deeply-stored files he had read, the planet had tremendous potential. The famous project had been running for a millennium and High Command thought that it was progressing in interesting ways.

He turned to Lieutenant Neal and asked, “So you have done some preliminary translation work from the frequency signals we have captured from the planet?”

Neal nodded. “Yes, there seems to be a civilization on the planet now that is reaching the point where Moore's Law kicks in. They may have discovered the rudiments of Zero Point, and have delved into the basics of the Primary Force just recently. The planet has many crude languages, all of which use a propagated mechanical oscillation in a pressure wave moving through a medium for their base. They can be both longitudinal waves and transverse waves, according to the medium. There is one indigenous language in the area of Sample Area 9-A, and I have studied and absorbed a written version. However, despite their rudimentary technical development, they are well below the thresholds of the Moral Capacity Score, which disqualifies them for the suspension of the Prime Directive.” she reported in a professional monotone.

Carpenter stared at her with renewed appreciation, finally nodded, and then motioned for the seven other astronauts to pay close attention. “Listen up now crew. We're going to take the scouters down to the surface. Ensign Gort, you will pilot S1, accompanied by Benson, Stevens, and Barnhardt. I will fly S2 with Neal, Harley, and Brady. We leave immediately and will meet at coordinates 33°58.1?N 105°14.6?W at exactly 0200 hours local time. From there we will collect our samples. Got that?”

The crew nodded as one. They knew when their Commander meant business. Carpenter looked at Gort with a severe look on his face but decided to not embarrass the young officer with any further admonishment. Ensign Gort had a streak of daredevil in him, but he was a good pilot with a lot of potential, perhaps even good enough to become a Captain someday, if he ever settled down. And also, on more than one occasion, Carpenter had reminded himself that he too had been reckless early in his career.

Carpenter gave Gort a dryly-delivered order to set the Black Knight to autopilot. The survey team immediately began preparations for departure and rendezvous below. After donning their suits, the two crews separated and entered their separate scouts in the bay of the ship.

When the hatch of S1 was shut, Gort turned to his young companions and joked, “Oh my, the Old Man must be allergic to fun!” Benson, the Project Geneticist, chuckled and added, “I don’t know why he is so serious all the time. We’ve got the best job in the Fleet. We get to travel all over the galaxy. You’ll think he’d lighten up a little every once in a while, wouldn’t you?” Gort shook his head. “Looks to me like he’s showing off his “command demeanor” for Neal. I think he’s got a crush on her!” The others chuckled. “I know one thing, neither the Captain or the First Officer appreciate me very much.” Gort grumbled, “When we get down there, I’m going to show them both just how good of a pilot I really am. We’re going to beat them to the rendezvous, boys!”

The other men just smiled and shook their heads with resignation. Gort looked out the visiplate and saw S2 leaving the portal in the bottom of the mothership. “Here we go!” he exclaimed as the scout hovered then quickly dropped through the hole into the void below, shooting for the surface of the planet.

Within seconds, the two scout ships entered the thin atmosphere, heat building up around the shields. Carpenter’s S2 was in the lead, but Gort was closing the distance in a hurry. As they reached 5000 feet, alarms went off in S2. “What the hell?” yelled Ensign Gort in panic. They were losing altitude fast and something had to be done.

Stevens looked frantically at the controls and shouted, “It looks to be some type of ultra-high-frequency microwave that is scanning us!”

Gort jammed the controls to the side and looked at Stevens for help. “I’m losing control of the ship! We’re too close to S1!”

At the same time, the crew of S1 was dealing with the same confusion. Carpenter calmly reset the Gravity Diffuser and then quickly recharged the Ununpentium feed. The craft stabilized immediately, and the crew let out a collective sigh of relief. Moments later the craft was dealt a terrific blow. Lights and whistles and alarm bells rang out as the craft listed heavily to the side, and then both vehicles began a rapid and uncontrolled descent to the surface of the alien planet below.

Commander Carpenter dreamed of home. It was a wonderful dream, full of peace and beauty. He was lounging at his cabin in the mountains, sitting on the deck relaxing, his eyes closed, enjoying the sunlight on his face. Then the blazing sun went out. And came on again. It stirred him from his delirium and he opened his eyes slightly. He hurt. Everywhere. And his vision was foggy. He smelled burning electrical smoke in the air. And the sun was still shining on his face. Or was it? The sun moved again and now he saw it. A gigantic, hideous monster, holding a chemo-electro light in its hairy appendage, screaming unintelligible gibberish to several other slobbering demons who seemed to be holding crude weapons on him.

He looked frantically for his crew. Where was Lieutenant Neal? Was she OK? His eyes quickly searched the wrecked interior of the ship and found her laying nearby, alive but badly hurt. The other two crew members were obviously dead. The ship? Disabled. Ensign Gort’s ship? Now he remembered. Gort’s ship must have collided with his and they must have both crashed. And now the disgusting aliens were touching him. His revulsion panicked him, and he fought to keep from vomiting. “They smell so bad,” he thought. “And they are so ugly!” The hideous creatures were roughly removing him and Neal from the ship, now strapping them both to some sort of restraining cart, now roughly loading them side-by-side into some sort of crude alien transportation device.

He turned to Neal and asked. “What is to become of us? Are we now prisoners?

Neal replied hopefully, “Perhaps they will take us to their leader and help us. Maybe they will help us to repair our ship and we will be able to return home.”

Carpenter looked hopeful for only a moment and then noticed several of the horrid aliens staring at him. He asked Neal quietly, “Why are they looking at me like that? What are they saying?”

The Communications Officer shook her head. “Remember, I can’t understand their speech, just their written language.”

The two astronauts fell silent, grimacing in their pain while trying to still their panicking hearts. The long, dark terrifying ride with the stinking aliens made matters even worst but then they saw light filtering into their uncomfortable mobile prison. They soon stopped and Carpenter stretched his head up to get a look out of the portal on the side of the alien’s transportation device. He saw what seemed to be large characters of the alien language. “Neal! Look to the side! There, what does it say?”

Neal painfully opened her eyes and slowly telepathed the alien inscription to her Captain, “Roswell Army Air Field.”

© Copyright 2020 Steve Heriot. All rights reserved.

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