Another short story contest entry, this time with a space theme and borrowing characters from that weird and wonderful 2000AD strip Ace Trucking Co. I quite enjoyed doing the 2001 rip off.
It started when we discovered the Monolith. That’s what we called him. That giant figure just standing there, so tall, so massive, so still. A lot of people cried hoax but we know what it really was. Something extra-terrestrial, not of this world, alien. He had those weird letters on his chest, they meant something but we didn't know what. And then we picked up the signal and knew that something was coming. Somewhere out beyond Pluto was an alien spacecraft and it was heading our way.
Rather than just sit back and wait the International Space Agency decided to send up one of the new Shuttles to intercept and try and establish contact. Which is how I came to be on board the ISA Belardinelli heading out of Earth orbit. I was trying to decipher their radio signals and communicate. We had to find out if they were a threat, but the language was impossibly garbled and beyond all of my translating software.
We hadn't even got as far as the Mars orbital plane when we realised that we now had multiple incoming signals. The first craft was the largest and was approaching fast but there were two smaller vessels that appeared to be chasing it. And that’s when the radio crackled to life with something we could understand: “Terran craft, this is Officer Zagger. We are in pursuit of a rogue trader. Do not interfere”.
We were heading into some galactic conflict that we knew nothing about. Our mission parameters said nothing about this but we pressed on. And that’s when things got weird. The first craft sped up and started to move past us, while the pursuers discharged some form of energy weapons at its tail. The radio continued to spout incomprehensible garbage which meant nothing to us but somehow it infected our computers. We lost navigation, telecommunications, and propulsion. All over the shuttle speakers started to echo with verses from old songs. The ghost was in our machine.
Our computer screens showed a kaleidoscope of weird coloured lights. The Captain started ranting about seeing himself in bed. Engineer Poole was shouting about some doors he wanted to open on eBay. At least I think that was what he was saying. And Hadfield produced a guitar and started singing. Where did he get a guitar from on a space shuttle? It was as if our whole ship was experiencing a psychedelic trip. I’m sure it all meant something but even now, 45 years later, I still haven’t figured out what.
And just like that it was over. All our systems rebooted and screens flickered back into life. The two smaller vessels had disappeared and the larger craft had moved past Earth and was heading out into deep space again. Then the translation software finally managed to produce something recognisable and we heard their final message “Thanks for looking after him, good buddies. And a big ten-ten till we do it again. Garp out!”