18 May 2015

Infinity, and Beyond

To usher in what will no doubt be another sporadic year of blogging* (though I hope to considerably beat the three posts I managed in 2014), I'm bringing you for the first time online a very silly and not entirely un-amusing tale I wrote back in 2002 at the tender age of 12 and the height of my 'random = hilarious' phase (featuring even more excessive usage of parenthetical statements than I am guilty of currently).

This story has a great deal of meaning to me, as I received some very wise input from my older sister Inger while putting it together. Inger always supported my creative projects, and was a constant source of constructive criticism and inspiration. If I ever manage to publish a book, it will be in large part thanks to her teaching me that my own weird voice was worth writing down.

As with all the childhood stuff I've uploaded, I've made only minor edits for spelling and grammar with editorial comments in [square brackets]. Please forgive the juvenile humour of my youth as generously as you forgive the juvenile humour of my adulthood.

*Do people still say blogging?

Infinity, and Beyond
by Austen Erickson

Prologue - The Joruney Begins

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, actually it was a few hundred years in the future, in New York, New Jersey)...



The gazillionth Starbucks outlet opened to the horror of earth's citizens; now every car dealer, clothing warehouse, fast (and slow) food joint, and 70% of every other franchise (not to mention coffee), was under control of The Evil Star Bucks Empire (R). A brave rebellion led by Global-Omni-Time-Warner-McMicrosoft was beginning in the far north, but the citizens of New York, New Jersey (New York, by this time, had encompassed the entire Eastern coastline) had had enough. The citizens of The Far North East part of New York, New Jersey decided to form a union and leave the earth in search of a new, pristine world, to colonize and exploit.

They broke open all their piggy banks and somehow managed to raise enough money to build a spacecraft for the interstellar journey. It was called the A.Y.T. (As Yet un-Titled) Spaceship. It was fitted with a cyro-sleep system, which put the user into a state of suspended animation; it looked like a soda machine for no discernable reason [haha 'soda machine' so random... stupid young Austen]. The outside of the ship was painted in a sort of eight-week-old-banana color. It was as large as the Statue of Liberty and had the most sophisticated light drive system available. All in all it should have taken them about twenty years to complete their journey to the sun's nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri,where it was believed there was not one, not three, but two habitable planets. They had already established a system of government: all the rejects, criminals, and lawyers [haha lawyers are bad... shut up kid] would be sent to the second, less inviting planet, named Centuri Secundus. Everyone else would be on the first planet, Centuri Prime.

Unfortunately, the people who staffed much of the crew neglected to appoint anyone who could use the light drive system. This was discovered slightly after they left the solar system, but before they sobered up from the celebrations. Thankfully, a car enthusiast rigged a makeshift engine made of pinball machine parts and a stripped down Subaru Outback. Just before they went into cyro-sleep the First Mate approached the Captain, "Sir, there is a problem with the new engines."
"What is it Number One," the Captain slurred his words, still tipsy from the party. [haha a drunken Patrick Stewart... actually, that is still quite funny - well done] "Make it quick, I'm going to have a hell of a hangover when I get out of cyro-sleep."
"They will take us a little longer to get there."
"How much longer... exactly?"
"About 100 times the original projected amount," the First Mate mumbled meekly.
"Oh good," the Captain's brow furrowed as he attempted the complex arithmetic, "Let's see, two and one are three, carry the one, divide by the square root... or is it multiply?"
"Actually sir, it will take us roughly 2000 years."
"Oh good," repeated the captain, and he toppled backwards into his cyro-sleep pod

Chapter 1 - Just a Minor Setback

1999 years 11 months and 30 days later...

As the ship tumbled onwards into space, a red light began to bleep on the cyro-sleep control on the bridge. No-one heeded it, there was no-one to see it, but ass it blinked, it was joined by others until the entire bridge was covered with lights and huge alarm signals began to sound.

The Captain awoke to the sound of commotion on the deck, "What's happening, where am I?"
The First Mate ran over to pull the Captain out of his pod, "There has been a problem, and the crew was automatically awakened. We found out the extended warranty on the ship ran out several hours ago - it's falling apart!"
"Bugger. Awake the citizens and bring them to the briefing room."
The First Mate turned to leave. "Wait," exclaimed the Captain. The First Mate turned back. "Get me some aspirin, I have a hell of a hangover."

The Captain faced the crew and civilians. He calmly explained the problem and gave instructions on what to do next. His exact words were "THE SHIP IS FALLING APART!!! EVERYONE GET TO AN ESCAPE POD OR WERE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!" as an afterthought he added "CHILDREN AND CAPTAINS FIRST!!!!!"
He then shoved the First Mate aside and sprinted down the hallway to the escape pods.

As the last escape pod broke away from the ship, the First Mate turned and inspected those on his pod. There was the man who had designed the M.P.S. (Makeshift Propulsion System), the ships' cook, and the martial arts instructor and her assistant. He decided to debrief those in his pod:
"As you know, the mission has been split men." The martial arts instructor, Kara, cleared her throat loudly. "And women," the First Mate corrected himself. "We must work together if we hope to reach the new planet alive and build a civilization. We have lost radio contact with the other ships, we are on our..." his words were cut short as the A.Y.T. Spaceship exploded loudly.
Before the First Mate could gather his wits to continue, Joe, the car enthusiast who designed the M.P.S. spoke up, "How exactly, does something make noise in an almost complete vacuum? And how come our ship had gravity? And why exactly is our ship filled with stereotypical characters and bad cliches..."
"Shut up!!!" blurted out Enrico, the cook, "I wanta to know how long it's gonna takes us to get there, please, what about you, please, yes?"
"How come you talk like that?" asked the First Mate.
"Yes, my English is not good, please"
"That's what I mean!" interjected Joe.
"Now that you mention it," the First Mate continued, ignoring Joe, "it should take us a few hours to get there."

As the crew of Pod 389 gossiped, the Captain was similarly examining those on his pod...

Chapter 2 - Hangover

"Row, Row, Row your boat, gently down the stream! If you see a crocodile, don't forget to scream. AHHHHH!!"
"SHUT UP!!!" the Captain bellowed. "Can't you see I have a hangover???" The singing was emanating from two brothers sitting in a larger corner of the escape pod, taking up most if it. The ship's doctor, along with the Captain, were huddled on the other side. Fred, the doctor, finished examining the Captain and began his prognosis.
"Through a freak co-incidence resulting from cyro-sleep, it appears that your nausea, headache, and sensitivity to visual and auditory stimuli will not improve in your lifespan."
"Wha..??" burbled the Captain.
"Your hangover is permanent."
"Damn," cursed the Captain, "We're going to need more aspirin."
"Oh, I've got stacks," came a quiet voice from a pile of empty milk cartons, "You could have some of mine for a price, uh, I mean, that is, you can have it for free if you let us stay."
"Who are you?" inquired the doctor suspiciously.
"Actually, I'm a stowaway, but my friends call me Mick. Everyone else calls me Douglas J. Trenton, although I haven't the faintest idea why. I'm what some people call an opportunist. I co-founded my small, and perfectly legal, I assure you, business."
"Who is your partner? And why are you here?"
Mick looked somewhat sad. "Actually, the answer to both questions are the same." He gestured to the pile and everyone noticed a pointy hat protruding. It abruptly rose and revealed a small, rather dazed, and smiling man underneath. "He thinks he's magic," whispered Mick helpfully.

"Hello," said the new arrival. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm being pursued by a flock of cucumbers." He sank to the ground and started muttering to himself, a smirk on his face all the while.
"What's he talking about?" demanded the Captain.
"Actually, that's about as coherent as Mr. Stadler gets." Mick said with a sigh.
"How on earth did he make you come here?"
"Well, it's a long story, and it doesn't really take place on earth."
"We do have time, you know. Say, did I hear you mention aspirin a minute ago? I have a terrible hangover."

Mick chose to ignore this, and started his story:
"It all started some time ago, and before we begin, I should tell you I'm not human. At least not in the strictest sense of the word..."

Chapter 3 - Mick's Story

"As you might already know, my companion Mr. Stadler perceives reality in a rather different way. Some might even venture the word 'crazy.'  Nonetheless, he had money and wanted adventure, and I wanted money and had enough adventure for anybody. We eventually came to an agreement: he would provide funding for my research and I would find a way to get off our home planet and take him with me, exploring the galaxy.

You would probably be interested to know that several million years ago your moon was teeming with life. That's what we called home those days. Anyway, I set up a research center in one of the craters and began trying to find a way to travel through space at high speeds. Eventually I did,although not in the way you might expect. One day I was trying to find a way to make a liquid that my equipment suggested had an enormous amount of potential energy into fuel. I tried again and again to find a catalyst when suddenly, wouldn't you know, Mr. Stadler dropped a bottle of aspirin into the liquid 'Just to see what would happen' as he said later.

After the dust settled we found the testing chamber completely demolished. It turns out that my partner had finally discovered a way to efficiently produce enough energy to travel across vast amounts of space in seconds. After further, more careful experiments, we - well mainly me - discovered that a drop of liquid mixed with one aspirin tablet would produce enough energy to travel at six times the speed of light for a minute - that's six light years in a minute! [NOTE: I was aware that this was nonsense when I wrote it, and wanted to convey Mick's utter incompetence, but in retrospect the 'joke' might have been too subtle.]

We got a prototype ship working in a few days and took off. We traveled the galaxy until we reached the center. Our scanners picked up a subspace fluctuating anomaly, which is the fancy way of saying that they hadn't the faintest idea of what it was. We got closer to what we now know was some form of black hole. Unfortunately we didn't know then, and so we ventured just close enough to get sucked in. We were spewed out through a white hole, quite near our own solar system. What most people don't know is that for every black hole there is a white hole, and anything sucked in through the black is shot out the white one. Anyway, we crashed onto our home only to find it a barren and unforgiving landscape.

In desperation we made a small pod out of the debris and managed to launch ourselves into orbit around your earth. When we reached the surface we found it quite a long time in the future. I hypothesized that traveling through the black hole must have caused this jump into time. I think that what we saw in that hole may have some significance, it was..." [Aaaaand just about now I believe that the assignment deadline was looming so close that I abandoned my unfortunate foray into science fiction, and dove headlong into the absurd.]

Mick's words were cut short as a blast rocked the pod. Everyone peered out the windows.
"What is it?" asked the doctor in awe. Everyone stared at the black and white ship, somewhat avian in appearance, as it finished strafing the fleet of escape pods and turned back for another run.

Chapter 4 - The Penguins Attack

"Battle stations!" shouted the First Mate.
"What battle stations?" complained Joe, "That line is just another cliche!"
"SHUT UP!" shouted everyone.
"What I meant was," explained the First Mate, "find something to do that will help us!"
"Yes! Man the cannons! Please!" suggested Enrico, sprinting to one of the Laser control booths.
"Woman the cannons!" corrected Kara with equal enthusiasm, as she took her place at the other contorl booth.
"Power up the shields!" exclaimed her assistant, as she did just that.
"Take evasive action!" blurted out Joe, finally getting into the spirit of things.
As the crew bustled around getting ready to fight, the First Mate stood in the center of the deck shouting directions.
"We're being hailed on the radio, all ships are receiving the same message," said Kara.
"On screen," said the First Mate.

The screen crackled to life. A penguin appeared with a Napoleonic three-point hat and an array of medals attached to his chest. As he quacked, the universal translator took effect.
"Greetings, weak humans. We are the Galactic Penguin Empire, and we hereby declare you our prisoners."
The Captain's response could be heard over the radio "Over my dead body!" The Captain's pod swooped towards the Penguin Battleship, lasers blazing. The penguin general paused only momentarily before saying, or rather quacking, "Your offer is acceptable."
An icicle shaped projectile fired out of the enemy ship's beak. It streaked towards the Captain's pod and hit it straight on. The ship froze solid and began drifting away.
"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" screamed the First Mate.
"Yeeeeeeesssssssssssss!!!!!" mocked the penguin.
The First Mates face hardened and he switched to a friend only frequency. "All ships attack full firepower, on my command. I'm going after the captain. NOW!"

The entire fleet of escape pods flew in towards the Penguin Mother Ship simultaneously. The Penguin Ship's beak opened again and waves of smaller penguin fighters launched out [Trust me, this looked really cool in my head]. As the firefight continued, the First Mate and his crew sped toward the Captain's crippled ship, hoping they could get there in time.

Chapter 6 - The Battle for Centauri Prime

As lasers and icicles streaked across space, immobilizing dozens of ships on either side, the First Mate sped toward the Captain's frozen ship. Once they arrived, they docked their ship to the Captain's and boarded. They peered around, expecting to see devastation. Instead, they found the crew huddled around a campfire coming from a tin can in the midst of the ship. Two people who the First Mate did not recognize were sitting around the fire. The one with the pointy had walked up to them.
"Well pickle me tink!" he chuckled, "If it isn't my old pal Mr. Groucho!" He collapsed to the ground in a giggling heap.
The second stranger came up to them also, "I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive Mr. Stadler's behavior. I'm Mick, pleased to meet you." He thrust out his hand.
"Er... nice to meet you too," the First Mate tried not to look surprised. "Say, you aren't the one's who set up that campfire are you?"
"As a matter of fact I am, I call it the 'Campfire-in-a-Can.'"
"I see."
At this point the Captain interjected, "I hate to interrupt the festivities, but it appears we're winning."
Once again all eyes peered out the ice-covered windows.

Several penguin ships were forming a pyramid shaped formation and charging up, but a single escape pod ran headlong into the first one, sending them all flying in different directions. More penguin ships surrounded and converged on the escape pod, but it merely sped off in a different direction causing a spectacular traffic jam. It was obvious that the penguins had lost, their battered ships flew back into the open beak and the mother ship turned and sped off into the distance until it was merely a distant receding dot, and then nothing at all.

Epilogue - Ever After

The Human Colony on Centuri Prime was prospering well, with a second colony being built not far away. Although the Penguins frequently attacked from Centuri Secundus, with the aid of Mick's technology they drove them off easily every time. The doctor found a good suppressant for the Captain's hangover made with native plant life. The First Mate was elected the Planetary Governor. News reached the colonies that the Starbucks Empire had been defeated and the world was a democracy once more. More ships were on their way with more building materials, a much needed soda shipment, and due to a typographical error, fourteen cats and a Scottish terrier. It seemed a bright future for humanity, and Joe, by now having embraced the spirit of cliches, stepped into the alien sunset to utter those famous words and thus end the story:

"And they all lived happily ever after, The End."