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Projected Casualties

3 years ago

This is a story I wrote in high school for a class. It is largely unedited since then, so keep that in mind as you read it.

 

In the endless dark vacuum of space, the sea of darkness is split only by the comparably dim lights emanating from the Miranda. At the helm of the massive ship stood her captain, a tall man whose jagged muscles stretched at a sharp contrast from the sleek metal covering half his body. His mind constructed like a computer, his very being an affront to the natural order of things. Nature screamed that this man should be dead, his heart beating only with the aid of a constant electric charge, the electrical surges of his mind aided by a network of interconnected processors. His ship was like him, a metal mass welded together but useless without the humanity inside. In the deep vacuum of space, the only way the captain knew his ship still moved was the shift in the stars surrounding the ship, millions of light years on in all directions.

The Miranda was once a colony ship, ferrying the masses from the Earth to Mars, Titan, Europa and the other colonies humanity had forged. It was only when the plague began that the ship was sent away. Infinitely self sustaining, the vessel carried humanity’s hopes, dreams and ambitions with it into deep space, far from the terminal conditions the plague left humanity in. The last radio signals had been sent decades ago, the last fuel burned out shortly after. Newton's laws kept them going. Arguably, the need for a captain disappeared when the ability to maneuver the ship did. Most found it harmless to let the captain keep his stature, however.

So the metal man stood alone on the bridge. His eye, normally trained on the stars ahead, was gazing at movement ahead in the dark.

As the ship got closer to the strange movements, the dim lights began to pierce the shadows concealing the foreign objects. The light washed gently over an asteroid. Then another. Soon, the captain found himself faced with a minefield of randomly flying hunks of frozen rock and ice. He stood silently as the monitor above him sprang to life.

"Danger imminent. Recommendation: shift off course... No fuel detected." The robotic voice of Miranda echoed throughout the bridge, emotionless and stoic. The system set to keep them alive found itself useless, no course of action could be taken. "Projected Casualties: 15,000/55,000"

The first asteroid struck the rear. Thankfully, the useless engines absorbed most of the impact, shattering off of the ship silently save for the shock felt by the rest of the Miranda. A second glanced off the ship's side, shattering glass and sucking oxygen out of the exterior rooms. The captain looked back and saw bodies floating gently out into the void. A third impact crushed the ceiling of the bridge, forcing it inward to the ships protest. The captain stood still as debris floated past his nose. The bridge has been compacted but not breached.

More collisions happened throughout the day, each one taking more people with it. Women floated into space, faces screwed in terror, screaming doing nothing but wasting their lungs away, not heard by even the glassy eyed children huddled against them.

Miranda passed through the asteroid field. The cracked monitor light up. "Danger passed. Damages: 30% hull collapse. 17,500/55,000 casualties. None injured."

The captain looked onward, his emotions long ago replaced with calculating logic. Regardless of losses, 37,500 people were left. Alpha Centauri never felt further away.

Calling the holographic map to him, the captain saw the ship had hardly left its home solar system, a vast amount of empty space separating them from their goal. They didn't know what was awaiting them there, but it was certainly better than what waited behind them. The captain's face betrayed no emotion as he once again faced the reality that, once they got there, they would just go on by. They had been careless with their fuel, and it would be their doom.

 

*****

 

A few months later, the captain once again spotted something strange in space ahead. It appeared much larger than an asteroid, however it moved with much more stability. He waited patiently as the ships light range crawled closer toward it.

A rogue planet came into view. Long ago, it has escaped from its star and travelled into the waiting embrace of deep space. The freezing temperatures killed off any life that could've been on the rocky mass. Fear of this happening was a major reason for the colonies being set up. The rogue planet appeared closest to Mercury in the home system, small and lacking an atmosphere.

As the Miranda approached, the captain felt a raking shutter as the ship was grabbed by the tendrils of gravity. They turned abruptly, their course askew. The planet came into full view, filling the window on the left side of the bridge. The captain could only see so much around the rubble from the asteroids, however he stayed rooted to his spot. He knew that, no matter what he did, he could do nothing for them, those poor souls trapped in the metal tomb that was the Miranda.

The gravity itself was not dangerous per se. It simply ripped the ship off course and sent it randomly into space. The real concern was its moon. The small lunar mass could be compared to Pluto in size, however that was well big enough to destroy the Miranda. Seeming to sense this, the monitor suddenly sprang to life. "Danger imminent. Recommendation: boost to engines... No fuel detected.

"Projected casualties: 20,000"

The captain gazed blankly ahead, calm on the outside but alight on the inside. His mind made full use of its additional power, running through scenarios of catastrophic ends to the ship’s voyage. In the end, the captain decided to simply wait.

The ship sailed far too close to the moon, narrowly avoiding a head on collision. The gravity shattered any window that had survived the asteroids, and the ship automatically locked all the doors to any room containing a window, sealing the fate of all those who chose to spectate the unfolding events. People shot out of the ship, bodies fell to pieces from the force when they slammed into the moon. The ship lurched dangerously, but ultimately completed a slingshot around the moon and flew out into space.

"Danger passed. Damages: all exterior facing rooms with viewing ports locked off and

inaccessible. 25,000/37,500 casualties. None injured."

12,500 were left.

The captain brought up the holographic map, displaying no emotion as he viewed it. 'Will arrive at: Solus 3. ETA: 15 million years."

 

*****

 

This time, the captain noticed nothing coming when the monitor sprang to life. He looked

up at it, staring blankly.

"Danger imminent. Recommendation: turn around... No fuel detected. Projected casualties: 12,499"

The captains' long suppressed human emotion surged forward. The ship expected everyone to die. Everyone except for him. His lapse corrected, the captain looked forward. He still saw nothing, until he noticed the glass fogging up. There was some sort of gas outside. The window began to crack at the edges, and the captain could do nothing but stare. The window shattered, and the strange gas filled the bridge. The captain felt no adverse effects, but then he remembered; he was more machine than man.

A quick check of the ships interior footage showed all the ships inhabitants choking on the gas, dying painfully. They all suffocated within minutes, and the captain was alone. He toyed with the thought that the human race was now wiped out, as he was practically a robot. This thought gave him nothing other than mild amusement. He could not die of Old age, and so the lonely captain settled in for 15 million years of waiting. He kept his eyes on the stars, particularly one star, dim but dead ahead, and he waited.

 

*****

 

The captain looked ahead grimly. His entire ship behind him was a graveyard, skeletons left after years of bacterial consumption. You simply couldn't kill these bacteria. Through his 3 million years of waiting so far, the captain had settled on the explanation that they were alien bacteria from the asteroid field so long ago.

Ahead of his massive monument to humanity's failure, its last strive to survive, was another rogue planet. This one was no mercury analogue. It was more of a Jupiter one. A super massive gas giant had the ship caught in its gravity, there was no escape. All of humanity’s dreams had died millions of years ago with the ship, leaving nothing more than a metal husk with a metallic man at the helm. There was nothing left, and the ghost of the Miranda began to sink into the gas giant's atmosphere. The captain accepted his fate long ago. He knew the odds of getting safely to Solus 3 were so low it was hardly worth looking forward to. He closed his eyes as the monitor sprang to life.

“Danger imminent. Recommendation: … No solution detected. Projected Casualties: 1.”

 

Projected Casualties

3 years ago

Uh, I must have missed this yesterday.

Anyway, since this was written for a class, did you have some limitations on what to write and/or how to write it? Because it could answer a part of my criticism.

I'll start pointing out the good stuff and I'll deliver the hard hit after, when you're all fuzzy from the compliments.

~The Good Stuff~

• Grammar: you haven't made errors (that I noticed) apart from the present tense used in the first sentence. This is not an easy feat.

• Idea: the concept of a spaceship of survivors stranded in space with an half-robot for captain is interesting, and could be developed very well in a storygame. You clearly have the skill to write one, and I think you are versed for longer stories anyway. So gather some determination, plan it, and write ahead. There are many published first tries that look like trolling efforts, so you are likely to shatter our expectations.

~The Hard Hit~

This was like reading a slightly prettier obituary notice (yes, you chose an apt title; no, it doesn't excuse the story). It was a list of repetitive catastrophic events, and the only reaction we got was the blank face of the robocaptain and the counting of the monitor. I get that you wanted to represent a bleak, realistic outcome in a story for once, but well, we already have real life for that. Just to make this clear: I'm not against the negative ending or the fact that everyone dies, it's what happens before that is the problem. Nothing happened. The captain could have been swapped with a dishwasher and no one would have noticed a substantial difference. The repetition of "The captain showed no emotion" was pretty annoying, and if the start of the story was promising, by the end I was begging for some kind of action. Mind you, not in order to save the passengers but just to have something interesting happen. Instead, it was a logical tale of annihilation, written well enough but ultimately unsatisfying.

Ah right, I forgot to ask you one thing that bugged me about the plot: if the captain is half human, wouldn't his human part die?

Projected Casualties

3 years ago

Just on the last note, no, not necessarily. The idea that we can get to a point where, through DNA things and the like, we remove aging and get functionally immortal humans with heavy tech reliance is fair.

Projected Casualties

3 years ago

Hmm apparently humanity was dying from a plague, but yeah I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt; after all, the captain could have been part of an exclusive military project or something like that.

Projected Casualties

3 years ago

In general agreement with Undr, while this was well written with great grammar and a cool concept, it kind of felt repetitive and lacking in any emotion. It was repetitive, and by the second mass death I kind of knew everyone was going to die, and it wasn't expressed in a way that made me too emotional about them. The general tone was kind of cold, and I felt more like I was just slowly watching a number go to zero after being told it represented the amount of humans that were left alive rather than really being got told of it.

So yeah, it's biggest issues were repetition and the lack of impact. Still, while these were fatal flaws the overall game assured me of your ability and general competency, which the writing showed.

Projected Casualties

3 years ago
Oh I guess we're all commenting on this now. I know I talked to you about it briefly in the Discord but didn't really get into a critique. Now it looks like I don't need to, the main thing I'd have brought up is having your main character lacking emotion or just grimly accepting everything doesn't really do you any favors as far as gaining the reader's sympathy, but it looks like that's been covered.

Otherwise I quite liked it though and for a story written in highschool especially it's impressive. I'm not sure how old you are now, but the other story thread you posted when compared to this one was also a good indicator your style has evolved...although it could be you were just experimenting with tone with this one.