Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zeniff the Spaceman Part Two

I needed a break from editing my novel, and Bob and Larry were both driving me nuts. But I have to write something... So back to the dark and ominous planet where Spaceman Zeniff and his faithful droid have been shipwrecked.

Zeniff jumped to full wakefulness with the same claustrophobic panic that gripped him every time he found himself asleep in a space suit. Fortunately, he regained his senses before his scrabbling hands found the latch and removed his helmet. The sulfur dioxide atmosphere would have been much more suffocating than even the clumsy helmet. He sat still for a moment, waiting for his heart rate and breathing to return to normal. He closed his eyes and imagined the garden in his backyard back home on Earth. After a few minutes all of his bio-indicators were back in the green and he opened his eyes to survey his situation. 

The mining droid was still sitting precisely where he had ordered it to at darkfall. It was staring at him with its odd visual sensors, waiting for the next command. Zeniff puzzled for a few moments as to why it could understand and obey some commands and not others. When he had first set off from the wreckage of his ship and noticed it following him he had turned around to shut it down. When he saw the smashed control panel, he tried to use the wireless controls built into his suit's computer but to no effect. The thing was like a lost puppy that he had made the mistake of feeding. The annoyance he had felt towards it then was completely gone now. Somehow, it had understood last night that he needed light, and some shelter and so when he found a crater and took shelter inside it had joined him, even using its bulky body to further shield him from the wicked night winds that howled across the barren landscape. Still, he was just a little unnerved by the way it sat there staring at him. 

Zeniff brushed some of the orange dust off himself and struggled to his feet. His back ached from sleeping in such an awkward position against the wall of the crater and his feet were tingling as the circulation was restored. Stretching his sore muscles carefully, Zeniff took stock of his situation. Apparently, the navi-computer built into his suit was malfunctioning; it had told him that he had only a short walk back to the mining camp. Instead he had wandered for hours, watching the distance remaining jump up and down crazily. Still kicking himself for not staying with the wreck he wondered if it might not be better to attempt to return to it instead of pushing on into the unknown with a bad navicomp. Checking the water levels in his survival pack he treated himself to a few ounces and an energy pill. The fluid recycler built into the suit would ensure that he didn't dehydrate, at least not before he ran out of breathable air and suffocated. 

The thought of that brought back a memory of his panic at awakening and he knew that he had to get moving towards some objective to clear his mind at least. He stepped past the mining droid and began laboring up and out of the crater. The droid followed him instantly, an orange cloud of dust cascading off the battered chassis as it came to life. Zeniff climbed carefully over the broken, rocky terrain. The boots he wore were intended only for flyers, and were heavy and clumsy on the surface. Suddenly, one of Zeniff's feet slid out from under him and he started sliding backwards down the steep slope. Before he went more than a few meters, the droid was right there to catch him. He lay there on the slope and tried to peer into the machine's sensors again, as if he could read its expression and understand what it was thinking. Yet it was just a machine, and not a very intelligent machine as far as machines go. It was a single-purpose workhorse used to tunnel deep beneath the surface in search of the precious gravitonium. It's value was in its strength and durability, not in its ability to gauge when a human overseer needed help. 

Zeniff found that laying there pondering the inner thoughts of a dumb machine was getting nowhere, so he struggled back upright and continued his tortured trek up the side of the crater. When he reached the rim, he made a small circle while scanning with the sensors in his helmet. No signals of any kind, and the navicomp stubbornly insisted that he only had a kilometer to travel to the mining camp. After pondering the situation for another few minutes, Zeniff turned his back on the crater and set off resolutely, the droid following faithfully a few steps behind.

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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