A break from politics. It is Week One of 2021 for More Odds Than Ends. I do believe that I will need these prompts as much this year as I did last year, if not more so. Anyway…my prompt this week came from Leigh Kimmel: An archeological expedition to an ancient and much battered megastructure (ringworld? Dyson sphere?) that’s made out of some fundamental force of the universe (congealed time? cosmic string knitted into a fabric?). The archeologists are wowing over the intact sections, but the commander and pilot are looking at the partially destroyed areas and realize it’s battle damage. I’ve not really tried to write space opera or hard sci-fi, so I’m sure there are a lot of problems with this. But, the prompt challenge is meant to be just that, a challenge. So, here you go.
The ship cruised across the structure. Captain Vidhya Khanna stared at the immense ringworld. Even though it had been first discovered years ago, not much was known about it at all, other than it was old relative to Earth.
Vidhya’s questions were perhaps more prosaic. Who built it? More importantly, was it still inhabited and was her ship and its crew, both scientific and naval, in danger? The archaeologists assured everyone they met that this was similar to the Mayan or Incan ruins on Earth. Nothing more than a long-abandoned structure built by a long-gone race.
“This thing is huge,” muttered Dragan Pirš.
Vidhya turned to her first officer. “I know. I didn’t realize…” she trailed off, still staring at the structure looming over her ship.
The ship was a combination naval vessel and passenger ship, designed to take scientific expeditions into unknown and possibly hostile territory. This trip, Captain Khanna was shepherding a group of archaeologists to explore and uncover the secrets of the ringworld. Excited voices came from just outside the bridge along the rank of viewing windows.
“Did you see that? That section over there? That looks like farms or greenhouses! See the skylights?!”
“Oh, so cool! Look! Energy panels…on the dark side!”
“But why would it need energy panels? It’s constructed from cosmic strings!”
“I can’t wait to get down there!”
The babble continued, ebbing and flowing as Vigilant Star slowly crossed over the ringworld. The archaeologists were glued to the windows like children in front of a candy store.
“Ensign, please tell our passengers that nobody’s going anywhere until our crew has made certain that the structure is safe, uninhabited, and non-hostile. They know the drill,” Vidhya said to the junior officer standing on her right.
“Yes, ma’am,” the young woman saluted sharply and strode off the bridge.
Vidhya addressed those remaining on the bridge. “I need everyone to pay close attention to this ringworld. There is not enough known about it for my comfort. Let me know immediately if you spot an anomaly or anything that might indicate it is in fact inhabited, wired to explode, anything. Navigator, give me a slow circuit that covers as much of the ringworld as possible.”
A brief chorus of yes, ma’am’s echoed around the bridge.
Two minutes passed and the archaeologists continued their breathless commentary on the gigantic structure.
Vidhya’s concentration was interrupted by a sharp exclamation from her first officer. He pointed down and slightly to his left.
“What is it?” she followed his finger.
“Damage to that section,” Dragan said softly.
“Helm, bring us a little closer to the area indicated by Commander Pirš,” Vidhya ordered.
“Changing heading,” the ensign at the helm responded.
“That’s not disrepair or simple collapse from neglect. That looks like it blew up,” Dragan muttered.
“It does. Whatever this thing is made of…and I don’t know if I really want to know. It’s bent inward. Whatever blew that hole came from outside,” Vidhya said.
Dragan turned to stare at his Captain. “And that hole is huge. And there are what look like scorch marks above and below the damaged area. That’s battle damage…ma’am.”
“There’s more on that far section. Helm, move us away from the ringworld. Now. Ensign, go back to the archaeologists and let them know they will most emphatically NOT be landing on this ringworld.”
The young ensign tore her eyes from the damaged ringworld, saluted, and went back to the archaeologists.
As the ship retreated from the ringworld, Vidhya turned to Dragan. “Have you ever seen blast marks and damage like that?” she asked, knowing the answer.
“No. I don’t think we have weaponry that can do that,” he replied grimly.
“Helm, put us back on course for home at full speed. We are not stopping here,” Vidhya ordered crisply.
She exchanged another look with Dragan. “I don’t care how ancient this thing is supposed to be. We are not sticking around to find out. Hopefully we can sneak back out of here before whoever did that damage knows we were here. We’ll come back with a fleet of battleships.”
“If that’s the kind of fire power whoever attacked has, we wouldn’t stand a chance,” he said.
My prompt was: The rain fell from a cloudless sky and went to Cedar Sanderson. Head on over to see what she came up with as well as all the other prompts! If you’d like to join us in our prompting fun, we’d love to have you!