Shattered Space – Part 2

Designer Gede Eugen’s Journal

This planet is cold. It doesn’t matter how high I turn my thermal suit up, the cold still gets through. It winds its way through my bones into the marrow. I have been squatting in this cave for weeks now. I ran out of ration packs two days ago and now I rely to the potage the locals offer me. It tastes like boiled snot but I suppose it’s better than going hungry. A shuttle did drop by a few days ago and the crew were obviously bounty hunters so I kept my distance. They walked off with Lucy though. Which means sooner or later they’re going to come back. I just hope my aristocratic pen pal arrives sooner to pick me up. He said he had a lot of wealth and his personal space ship. A beautiful ivory and gold detailed star hopper called the Audacity that he liked to brag about.

Ahhh… star hoppers. Those are neat little bugs. How I wish I had one of those beauties; a space capsule the size of an old fashioned suburban house. Capable of 80 times the speed of light. Not fast really, but efficient. Once a star ship got any bigger than that the power requirements to maintain a warp fissure increased astronomically. Not to mention the bane of all inter-stellar travellers: gravitational flux. Big ships could easily travel a 1,000 times the speed of light nowadays, but they daren’t ever enter a warp fissure within two astronomical units of a star. Good safety protocol was to only ever enter or exit a warp fissure on the outer perimeter of a star system and taxi in on sub-light engines only.

Wow. This is my first attempt at a journal and like a typical space engineer I am prattling about unimportant matters like the basic realities of space travel. It’s hard to imagine now that only five weeks ago I was thirty-seven light years away in the orbit of the moon standing comfortably in my office chewing protein biscuits instead of cowering in an ice cave on an obscure planet in the Gliese 623 System.

I liked my office. It was small, not much bigger than a broom cupboard. No furniture and standing room only. But it was my office. I even had a shelf in it. When one lives and works on a space station one has to accept that living room is at a premium. Everyone in space sleeps in cages. It’s so that if there’s any orbital turbulence one doesn’t get injured. That’s what they say at least and the common fool believes it. I am no epsilon class idiot though. I am an alpha double plus class citizen, engineer and team leader. At least I used to be. I know the real reason why they put everyone in cages. It’s to remind them who’s in charge.

All the obedient worker drones, as that’s what I call them, have a communal work space where they work, eat, and sweat in front of fifty other people all day long. But I had three opaque walls and a translucent glass door. I was more important. I had privacy.

Fourteen hour work days are the norm for the drones. The genius of the system is they monitor and police each other. Everyone has to report on someone each day. Report them for unpatriotic activity. It’s a high pressure working environment that in theory should produce the highest quality work. But in reality Earth Union workers were the least productive in the galaxy despite their 100 hour work weeks. Special people, like myself, who worked more productively were treated differently. People talented enough have their own private office to stand in. So even though I could stretch my arms out to touch either side of my dull metal grey office, I was privileged beyond comparison with those worker drones. Because I had some privacy, and I didn’t need to degrade myself by “confessing” my politically incorrect feelings each day to the rest of the staff.

Of course, in theory I had to work fourteen hours a day too, but when you have your own office, one without any transparent windows, who’s to know if you’re working or not? Sometimes I would just sit on the floor in one corner and snooze half my day away and no one was any wiser.

I spent most of my time playing number games or coding my own computer games. Yet despite this illegal leisure time I was still more productive than anyone else in my department. I told all the other people in my department that it was because of my vastly superior intelligence to them. They’re all alpha class engineers, but I am the only double plus alpha in the department and they gaze at me in awe… and fear. Awe because they believe my story about my vastly superior intellect… fear because I could have them licking the station’s toilet hose nozzles clean if I felt like it.

Of course, I hadn’t done anything like that yet to my underlings, but my predecessor had and I kept it in mind as a possible punishment to use to keep my research team motivated. There was something euphoric in forcing an alpha class citizen into degrading themselves like that and degrading people was my favourite leisure activity of all.

So when Huxley came snivelling into my office that day I was purposely either ignoring him or giving him withering looks to make him feel his inferiority as intensely as I am feeling the cold in this cave. I liked to put my staff on the spot. Watch them dither around in embarrassment for having any problem at all, no matter how innocent. I am so glad I didn’t get the genes for being easily shamed.

Yet far from the usual annoying drivel about his lamentations in getting the new warp drive to fit into the space allocated by the design specifications Huxley actually had something intelligent to say that day.

“Designer Eugen, I last month I was seconded to another department on this space station. Just to help them with their miniaturisation problems because they had similar problems to us. Well to get to the point they were building a laser cannon, one that used the same power couplings as our warp engine.”

I remember groaning at him, reminding him how boring and irrelevant he was to me. But he kept on talking.

“Designer Eugen, are we building a new weapon? I mean with the warp engine too.”
For the first time in weeks I ingratiated Huxley with my full attention and one of my famous arched eye brows. After so many years of working here he finally figured it out. He was definitely slow on the uptake but nonetheless he had figured it out and frankly in that moment I was impressed.

Of course, I should have reported him, I should have had him arrested at once before he could tell anyone else his suspicions, and he probably would have been taken to the neurosurgeons to have his memory altered so he would forget about his little epiphany.

But instead I was sentimental. At that moment I felt affection for that little beady eyed man for finally putting the pieces together. I let my feelings guide me and that’s how I ended up shivering in this wrecked ice world.
What I did next, I had thought was kind at the time, generous even. I lead him to the end of the corridor and through the doorway that said “strictly no admittance” and revealed to him the great secret: CB-19 wasn’t the space research station it claimed to be. It was supposed to house 5,000 scientific personnel and their research equipment. However, 80% of CB-19 was hollow. On the outside it looked like your regular space orbital habitat: a silver grey brick in space, but on the inside was a massive chamber: An orbital shipyard for constructing an experimental warship far bigger than anything ever before attempted.

That massive chamber was just on the other side of that door marked “strictly no admittance”.

Inside was the shell of the biggest spaceship that had ever been built by men: codenamed the MRO 401, or Military Research Object #410.
Huxley gasped at the vast metal fuselage tightly packed inside the chamber. He was clearly impressed by the enormity of such a vessel. I felt smug drunk watching him overcome with amazement gazing at the vessel. I imagined him thinking how small and insignificant the silly man was.

When he asked me what the MRO 401 was I laughed at him; a cruel mocking laugh.
“It’s a battleship you fool. The first of its kind. That’s what we’ve been working on these last eight years.”

I will never forget the horror on his face. That look of utter revulsion at what he had been spending his life building unwittingly. What happened next caught me completely off guard because for the first time in eight years Huxley made me feel like I was inferior to him. He looked at me and said, “This is wrong! You’ve been lying to us all these years. I thought we were building a new star drive so we could feed our families with faster and bigger cargo ships, not invite disaster upon us all!”

I told him that he couldn’t tell anyone what I had shown him. The whole project was strictly Top Secret. I impressed on him that I had taken him into my confidence and if he told anyone I had shown him this my head could be on the chopping block.

In the next few days Huxley proved himself to be the greatest idiot I have ever known. He not only told everyone else in his work hall what they were working on, he had become the ringleader in a strike action in my department.
He even wrote some grand sounding manifesto about how the Earth Union of Workers Republics had started out as conscientious workers rallying up against their greedy capitalist overseers and it was up to the workers now to restore the alliance back to its original plan of establishing a workers paradise on Earth instead of wasting our lives and talents building weapons of war.

Well I reported this immediately, if I didn’t turn them in myself they would have executed me. It was me or them, and I wouldn’t have Huxley out living me if I could help it. A squad of space marines soon arrived and arrested my entire workforce. I wasn’t alone on CB-19 for long though. The Supreme Commander of the Union Revolutionary Guard arrived and interrogated me for days. I was left in solitary confinement between sessions of interrogations but I clung desperately to my story that I had known nothing about Huxley’s uprising.

Eventually, so I thought, I had somehow convinced the Supreme Commander I had told the truth. He revealed on my release that Huxley had sworn on his dying breath that I had known nothing about what had happened. The idiot had died under interrogation but had valiantly protected me. At least that’s what I was supposed to believe. I didn’t believe it of course. I believed that the Supreme Commander was toying with me. Huxley had obviously told his interrogators everything but I was too important to this project to get rid of just yet. My days were numbered. As soon as the MRO 401 project was finished I was a dead man.

I returned to my office that day and noticed they had installed a security camera in there. I no longer had my own private space. So I put on my virtual reality mask to cover my eyes so they wouldn’t see my tears. Tears of relief that it wasn’t me but Huxley who had died.

Over the next few weeks my staff gradually returned to CB-19, they had all had brain surgery and many had the obvious cranial scars to show this. Some never returned. Erasing memories and adjusting beliefs was still a dangerous procedure and a few of my staff had simply died on the operating table. So new people arrived to replace those who had died under the neurosurgeon’s scalpel: A fresh batch of young alpha class engineers eager to work on our research “to solve the food shortage problem on Earth”, totally ignorant of the real purpose of their research.

But I couldn’t feel smug nor safe anymore: certainly not after the camera had been installed in my office. For the first time in my career I looked at the frightened broken people under my command and I felt sorry for them. They thought they were serving a noble cause. They thought they were working to end poverty and hunger on Earth.

They were in fact building the deadliest weapon ever seen before.
That was when I decided to plan my escape. I had to get away before the project was completed. Because once the Supreme Commander had not further use for me I was surely a dead man.

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Author: philosophicaltherapist

I am philosophical therapist based in Australia. However, I offer Skype services for people who live in regional districts, or internationally providing the time zones do not clash. In my practice I emphasise honesty, self-knowledge, curiosity, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, compassion, empathy, respect for emotions, and understanding how key relationships work.

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