by Bob'n Around
Terry was a hot genius, but could he survive the explosive power of what he created?
|Editor's choice, Author's Newsletter 7/26/21. 1013 wc entry into July's 'The Science Fiction Short Story Contest'. Prompt: Explosions! The more fireworks, the better - surprise me!
“How did it start?” Mac Evans stared out the front port of his spaceship.
What had been solar wind striking a nebula cloud of writhing gases blazed with the light of a new formed sun. Terry Cottom's shrugged, “I lit a match.”
“You sure did.” Mac, awakened by the violent vibrations in the ship, set off by the creation, knew he had to wrap his head around what to do next.
“See? I’m not useless after all. I got you all the energy you could want.” Terry beamed an uncertain smile. “All we have to do is harness it,” said as if the job were already done.
Mac had gone to sleep with a ship dead in space. Its reactor had chosen this far out spot in the galaxy to decide to quit. Reason unknown. No other operating vessel was light years close enough to respond to calls for help.
“And you didn’t bother to check with me first,” Mac slammed a fist against the bulkhead, wishing it was Terry’s head doing it, instead.
“Easy peasy, right?” Terry had that glazed look he got whenever losing himself in thought. “All we have to do is get out the emergency solar sail and set it up.”
“By we, you mean me, I take it.” There was only one space suit equipped with the tools for the outside job.
“Well, yeah. I’m too big to fit in it, better hurry, don’t you think?”
The porthole was already shutting down, filters engaging to prevent the solar flare from invading the bridge. Alarms began sounding as the ship struggled to deal with the sudden rising heat index. “I see you brought me my space suit. Thanks.”
From one crisis it had been struck by a worse one. No solar sail could withstand that kind of energy force. It and Mac would melt before it had a chance to do its job. At least he might last a little longer inside the suit. Mac pushed the button to make the space suit open and begin the process of forming itself with him tucked inside.
“Now, we’re cook’n,” Terry dabbed at the sweat coating his plump body. “I’ll hang out in the emergency capsule just in case.”
Emergency lights blinked and went out. Warning sirens gave a final gasp and went silent. “Wait a sec. Let me dial the sun down.” Terry’s fingers slipped and slid over the gizmo he’d been playing with when Mac opened his eyes.
The view port blinked and opened its gaze out into the vast expanse of space once again. Both men fought for front and center before it, to gaze out in wonder. The new sun had condensed into a small seething ball of fire, feeding on itself in pulsing rhythmic patterns. “It won’t explode, will it?” Mac asked.
“Of course it will. Don’t you know anything about plasmic force generators?” Terry avoided Mac’s look that could kill. “I guess not. This is the only one. You have just enough time to get out there and get the job done. I’ll keep tweaking this thing as long as I can.” Terry had the look in his eye of a satisfied inventor’s new baby being shown off for the first time.
Mac, too hot under the collar to speak, donned his space suit and jettisoned himself out to unfold the solar panels. They were warped but not melted completely away, luckily stored in the underbelly of the ship, away from harm. Job done, he emerged back inside and peeled himself free. “You, O.K.?” He asked Terry.
The ship was already responding, motion steadied, electrical backups began to blink and purr. They were on their way. “This is the beta model. You should have seen the fireworks with my alpha. Good thing I made it micro size,” Terry mumbled, intent on playing with his toy.
Mac had wondered about the reason why Terry wanted to space so quickly and far away when they met at the Starlight Bar back in the Conesto quadrant but money had talked. Mac was no more a friend of planet bound authority than any other space jockey.
“That so?” he watched the slow growing distance they were making with a feeling of unease. The small ball of fire continued eating itself, turning into what might become a tiny black hole. The ship began shaking once more, struggling to resist being drawn in.
Terry frowned. “Darn it. Lost the connection.” He went over to look out the porthole with Mac.
They made a closing swing around the darkening mass sucking them in. The gravity pull began loosening objects in the cabin. There was a physical burp and the ship swung free of the pull, following the gentle glowing arc of left over gas swirls safely away.
“Worked just like with the alpha. Don’t know what the authorities' gripe was. Sold them the best trash extractor ever made. Their planet was drowning in it when I got there.”
Mac finished storing his sunburned spacesuit. “Ever think what they are going to do when they don’t have any more junk to feed their personal black hole?” he asked.
“Oh. Hadn’t considered that. I guess nobody’s perfect. Where are we headed?” Terry patted his invention, already dreaming of starry eyed wonders only a masterminded conception away. He was already fired up about using a black hole source to create a wormhole into alternate universes that was beginning to formulate in exotic equations within his mind.
"You don't mind taking an alternate route, do you, Mac? I can pay double."
It would be up to Mac to save Terry from himself. "Let me think about it. I'm worn out. Don't wake me unless the ship starts having hysterics."
Terry turned to ask a question but Mac was already snoring away.
"Hmm, won't hurt to start making adjustments to the polar magnetic indicators." Terry's fingers began stealing helpful pieces of ship to make some necessary adjustments to his invention.