Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Flash Fiction Challange: Starship Unlucky

"And over here to your left, you'll see a scale replica of the first ship to use the Fortuna Drive, the Lucky Strike."

The children gathered around the pedestal, and Marrisa could see the occasional head pop up over the crowd. It reminded her of the archive footage videos from the Old Earth History section of the museum, where small, rodent-like creatures poked their heads above their burrows to scout for danger.

"The Galactic Military's Research and Development branch first came up with the idea in 3177, and built this ship as a prototype. They - "

A small voice interrupted. "My da works for D and R. No, R and Q. Wait, no. Q and D!"

"Excellent!" Marissa said. "Continuing on. The scientists in R and D, " she said with extra emphasis on the acronym, "were looking for a new way to make our ships go much faster. A few of the really, really smart ones came up with an idea that would change space travel for ever."

Marissa had been warned ahead of time that this class was non-augmented children. Without augments, they were still too young to have covered the science necessary to understand the Fortuna Drive.This meant she could gloss over most of the technical details and save herself a bit of time, which she appreciated.

"It took the scientists almost twenty solar years to build the Lucky Strike. Isn't that a long, long time?"

She noted a few heads nodding in the group, though a majority of the children seemed to her to be distracted by the various shiny objects in the display area.

"Since the Fortuna Drive is basically powered by luck, the scientists needed to find a very lucky person to make sure the drive worked right. Does anyone here know who that lucky person was?”

Her question was met with silence, as she suspected it would be.

She flipped a small switch on the display, and a hologram appeared floating over the display. The portrait was of a strikingly handsome man, with short cropped hair that seemed to be perfectly sculpted to fit his head. A short, well trimmed beard adorned a smooth skinned face, with well chiseled features that most people had to pay for these days.

"Right!" she continued, ignoring the silence. "It was Captain ‘Lucky’ Heppin.

"Heppin had joined the Military at a young age and was the first person to ever be promoted within two weeks of enlisting. Isn’t that fast?” she asked in her most cloying voice.

Marrissa had recently gotten a copy of the unofficial report on Heppin, a favor from a friend. Thanks to that report, she knew that he had been promoted to Captain due to a clerical error in his favor, not due to any merit of his own. By the time the mistake had been caught, it would have reflected badly on the Military, so he was allowed to keep his rank.

“Heppin fought bravely for the Military, winning battles on Cirius VII, Fara IX, and many other places. He took big risks, but luck seemed to be on his side, as they always payed off.

“According to the official transcripts, the scientists tracked him down on the field of battle during the Conquest of Mylar XI. Captain Heppin was so inspired that he immediately ordered an all out attack, finishing the battle in record time so he could depart for this very important mission.”

According to the unofficial report, however, Heppin was found in a gambling den, having deserted his troops. He was already up almost twenty thousand credits, which he doubled again before they dragged him out the door. If they hadn’t finally hauled him off, he probably would have been court martialed.

“Soon, everything was in place and the Lucky Strike was ready for its maiden flight. Captain Heppin and his fourteen person crew soon took off for a test flight from Alapus III to Alapus IX.

“Media from all over the galaxies were there for the historic launch. People were awestruck by the beautiful, sleek, shiny ship and it’s new, faster and more powerful Fortuna Drive.

“The Lucky Strike left dock, and sped off toward Alapus IX. With such a short flight, they were expected to return within about an hour. People waited, and waited, for hours on end. Yet the ship never returned.

“To this day, nobody knows what happened to the Lucky Strike, and it’s brave crew. Maybe one day one of you will grow up to find out!”

Marissa stifled a laugh. Sure, like one of these kids would ever figure that out. Besides, the Military already knew what had happened.

Heppin had been talking to Heldig, the engineer, congratulating him on a job well done. When he was leaving, Heppin bumped into Heldig, who fell into the Fortuna Drive. Heldig hit the Drive in just the wrong place and dislodged the main core, which happened to land on a structural weak point. The core was breached, and ended up exploding with enough force to vaporize the ship and everyone on it.

Without that little bit of bad luck, the drive might have gone into production with a tiny, but fatal, flaw that could have costs thousands of lives. The flaw was found, and quickly fixed, leading to the safe and widespread use of the Fortuna Drive all across the galaxy.

Since reading that report, Marissa had found herself wondering if it was bad luck that caused the explosion, or good luck that exposed the problem…

But that was a question for another day. For now, a herd of non-augmented children needed her guidance, and by their slack jawed stares, she figured it was time to move on before they got too restless.

Marissa turned and lead the children to the next exhibit. “Now if you’ll follow me, off to your right you’ll see..”

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