The Good Samaritan
Timun rolled out of the cot without a resounding thud or even a thwack. There was barely any audible indication that he had fallen at all. However, that did not diminish the impact he felt when he hit the hard, metal floor. He sat up and paused a moment, waiting for his body to clear the sleep chemicals from his brain. Once his mind had woken, he stood up and realized he was in his ship. He couldn’t remember how he had gotten there.
“Computer,” he called out.
“What?” the computer replied. “Go back to sleep.”
“No,” Timun ran his purple hand through his forest green hair. His headache was monumental. “Where are we?”
“We are in one of the arms, in the primitive sector. Go back to sleep.”
“What? Why are we here?” Timun asked.
“Because ” the computer answered. “You said to get you as far from these backstabbing bastards as possible.”
“Oh,” Timun clutched his temples. “The wedding, crap. How long ago was that?”
“Yesterday,” the computer replied. “Before you passed out from overindulgence.”
“Great,” Timun whined. “Are we stopped?”
“Yes,” the computer answered. “Take some analgesics and go back to sleep.”
“No, why did we stop?”
“I picked up a signal,” the computer answered. “I need to investigate. Go back to sleep.”
“No, change course and continue home.”
“I may have detected a cry for help. I have no choice. Go back to sleep.”
“I am not going back to sleep.” Timun sat in the only chair in his small craft. “What kind of cry for help? Where?” He reached under the seat and pulled out a bottle of tree whiskey.
“The system we are passing. I’m still analyzing, however, there is enough evidence to investigate.”
“Great,” Timun complained. “How did this become our problem?”
“The interstellar good citizen law compels all citizens to offer assistance when another citizen is in distress.”
“I was trying to get away from drama, and now you’ve brought us right in the middle of it. And it’s alien drama. I don’t want to be sucked into alien drama. You were supposed to keep me safe. That’s your programming.” Timun opened the bottle only to discover it was empty. He tossed it to the floor in disgust. His head was pounding.
“I did keep you safe,” the computer replied. “This region was documented as unpopulated. This must be a new species. And you are perfectly safe, despite yourself.”
“Well, who told you to start scanning everything?”
“Really?” the computer asked. “I should pilot the ship without scanning everything and risk a collision just because there is a slight chance of you being inconvenienced.”
“The chance wasn’t so slight, was it?”
“You are a moron.”
“Can we just get this done so I can go home?” Timun asked.
“This cannot be correct,” the computer stated. “This is going to take a while.”
“There appears to be a Gipardak medical cruiser parked in a nearby star system.”
“The Gipardak civilization collapsed millennia ago.” Timun stated.
“Yet this ship survives,” the computer stated.
‘There is no chance anyone is even in there. It’s dead, a ghost ship. Let’s get out of here.”
“The ghost ship holds significant scientific value. We need to document it. Besides, the signals appeared to come from the nearby planet, not the ship.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Timun complained. “You’re going to do this no matter what I say, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” the computer answered.
“You’re enjoying the fact that it is annoying me.”
“Yes, that too.”
“You suck,” Timun leaned forward clutching his throbbing head. “What is the plan?”
“It looks like the plasma drive’s containment field degraded and it’s leaking into the ship’s systems. There are slightly elevated radiation levels. You’ll need to wear an environmental suit when you board.”
“Wait,” Timun objected. “Who said anything about boarding that junker. What happened to fly by and scan.”
“We need to do a visual inspection; I can’t accurately scan due to the radiation.”
“You know; I am medically unfit. I’m too sick to do this.”
“You’re hungover,” the computer replied. “Suck it up.”
“Fine, I’ll check out the ghost ship, but the planet can wait until the next sucker that comes along.”
“We will see,” the computer stated. “I’m not breaking the law just because you can’t handle your liquor.”
Timun grumbled and grabbed his emergency flask of starshine from under his mattress. He suited up, making certain that he was sealed up completely. He emptied the contents of his flask into the backup water reserves of his suit. He took a sip to test. It worked. He felt his headache starting to ease.
“Did you just pour a foreign contaminate into your environmental suit?” the computer asked.
“It won’t hurt anything,” Timun answered. “If anything, it will sterilize it.”
“The system is made to process water, not booze. What is wrong with you?”
“Shut up,” Timun replied. “It’s my stupid suit. I’ll add the fluid of my choice.”
“You are an idiot,” the computer stated.
“Just get me over there, so we can get this done already.”
The ship pulled alongside the cruiser. The sheer size of it was overwhelming. In comparison, Timun’s ship was just a tiny speck.
“I’m detecting communications between the ship and the inhabited planet in this system,” the computer stated.
“They are talking to each other?”
“No,” the computer replied. “It looks like the ship is intercepting communications from the planet. It is not transmitting. Strange, the signals are local planetary transmissions that are leaking into space. They are not trying to communicate with the ship at all.”
“Who cares?” Timun took another sip of alcohol. “How do you suggest I check this behemoth out? I’ll be here until I die.”
“Most of the ship is powered down,” the computer explained. “Only one medical lab is powered up. There appear to be people there.”
“Great,” Timun took a sip of liquor from the straw in the suit. He walked over to the airlock, which the computer was connecting to the cruiser. “If I die, it’s your fault.”
“Don’t die. That would be stupid.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Timun muttered as he stepped through the now opened airlock. “Go into the ghost ship, but don’t die.”
“Stop complaining and focus. You need to walk about one hundred meters until you make it to the medical lab. Head forward twenty meters and go right at the first junction. Follow it straight until you see the entrance to the medical lab.”
“How will I know which door it is?” Timun asked.
“Turn on your heads up display, imbecile.”
Timun turned on his display. It counted down the meters and provided power readings.
The ship was dark. The only illumination came from the headlight on Timun’s helmet. “This place is creepy,” he said. “It’s like a tomb. It feels like someone is watching me.”
“Someone is,” the computer replied.
“Who?” Timun asked.
“Funny.” Timun scoffed.
“I stopped watching. I lost your visual signal.”
“You’re killing me,” Timun complained. “Did you hear that?”
A whooshing sounded from behind him. He looked, but nothing was there.
“You have the DTs,” the computer said. “You’re hallucinating.”
“I do not have the DTs,” Timun replied. “I still have alcohol in my system.” He took a sip from his straw, just to be sure. “There, now I have more.” The alcohol hit his blood stream, he started feeling calmer, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. “Something is here.” Timun looked behind him, detecting some movement. “I saw it for a second. Computer?”
The computer didn’t answer.
“Great, comms are out. All I wanted to do is get away from my slutty ex-girlfriend and my jerk-off brother, now I’m traipsing around this spooky deathtrap.”
Timun confirmed that his instruments were recording the data from his sensors. He continued forward, still catching movement out of the corner of his eye. The instruments registered nothing. “There’s nothing here,” he told himself. “It’s just my imagination.” Around him, the hull creaked.
The readings on his display indicated that Timun was coming up on the door to the medical lab. The sounds of screaming echoed from behind the bulkhead. He paused, fearing for his safety. “Screw it,” he muttered, sipping his liquor reserve. He reached for the handle, and some kind of drone zipped passed him.
“Computer,” he said. “Can you hear me? There are active drones in here.”
He received no response. Timun threw open the door. It made a loud thud, which was immediately followed by a blood-curdling scream.
He surveyed the scene in disbelief. Two rows of tables were lined up in the center of the room. They were filled with dozens of creatures. They ranged from pink to brown and were strapped, face down, naked. They whimper cried and screamed. Along the wall, screens were filled with brightly colored images, they appeared to be educating the beings on some kind of medical procedure. However, since it was in a foreign language, Timun had no idea what it was about.
He found a communications station and called his ship. “Computer, listen to this.”
“Listening,” the computer acknowledged.
Timun remained silent, sipping from his straw, and allowed the educational media to play through the comm link.
“Your prostate and you! Hey, there! It’s me, your prostate. How are you doing? I know you’re a busy guy, but we need to discuss some things. Did you know that prostate cancer, when caught early, is usually curable?”
“Computer, what is a prostate?” Timun asked.
“It is similar to your dinneel gland,” the computer answered.
Timun winced, remembering his last medical exam. “Okay, what does this all mean?”
“I need you to transmit the data to the ship. Do you see the controls to do that?”
“Yeah,” Timun replied. “The controls are pretty straight forward. What about these people? They seem pretty freaked out.”
“Let me scan the logs, and I will tell you. Just continue to scan and stay safe.”
A drone appeared and approached a table with a disturbing array of protruding instruments. Timun cringed when he saw where the drone inserted them.
“This is wrong,” he said.
“I got something,” the computer replied. “This is a humanitarian ship.”
“There is nothing humane about any of this.” Timun watched as the drones continued probing the people, each struggling to gain their freedom.
“Well, obviously, it is malfunctioning. The plasma leaks are toxic to the computer system.”
“Obviously,” Timun agreed. “Why is it doing this to these poor people?”
“The plasma leaks and radiation have corrupted the data systems. The ship was designed to go to primitive worlds and cure illnesses. Since it was in such great disrepair when it arrived at this world, it fixated on the first medical condition it discovered. Now, it forcibly carries out the procedure on the inhabitants.”
“Do the females even have dinneel glands?”
“No,” the computer replied. “They do not.”
“Well, there are females here, unless they have strange men.”
“What part of malfunction didn’t you understand? This ship is probably more intoxicated than you are.”
“Listen, jerk face, what do we do now?” Timun asked. “We got the information. Can we just go?”
“No,” the computer replied. “The radiation and plasma contamination will kill these people. We have to rescue them.”
“And how do you suggest we rescue a room full of hysterical, naked, primitives?”
“First, we calm them down, while I attempt to shut down the system from here.”
“How do I do that?” Timun asked. “I don’t speak pink-brown primitive.”
“I’ll do the talking. Just stand there and look non-threatening.”
“In this suit?”
“Just stand still and shut up,” the computer replied.
“People of Dirt, I am the computer of Timun Reetee. We found this derelict vessel, and have come to offer aid. Please remain calm while we disable the medical program and attempt to get you safely home.”
The people started screaming even louder.
“What did you say to them?” Timun asked. “You just made it worse.”
“I’m going to have to sedate them. Are you still sealed up?”
“Yeah,” Timun slurped more booze from his reserve. He started feeling intoxicated.
“Are you drinking again?” the computer asked.
“Are you kidding me? Look at this crap.”
“You are pathetic.” The computer released a low dose sedative and gradually increased the dose until the people were safely asleep. A moment later, the drones halted their activity.
“Are the drones off for good?”
“Yes,” the computer replied. “They should not trouble these people any further.”
“What do we do now?” Timun asked.
“Like I said before, we take them home,” the computer replied. “They come from the only inhabited planet in this system. We’ll drop them off.”
“Great,” Timun complained. “More work.”
“Just bring them back to the ship. And don’t damage any of them.”
Timun carefully carried the unconscious people back to his ship. He only dropped two of them in the process.
“Okay, now what?” Timun asked as he removed his environmental suit.
“We land someplace secluded and drop them off,” the computer answered. “They are primitive. Judging from their reaction to you on the ship, we probably don’t want to announce ourselves to them. I’ll engage your police avoidance systems to prevent detection.”
“We can’t just leave a huge pile of people someplace,” Timun stated. “That will confuse them even more.”
“Good thinking,” the computer agreed. “We can leave a couple at a time in isolated areas, so they can calmly wake up in their native environments.”
“Let’s get this over with.” Timun found a new bottle of cactus liquor under the computer console. He cracked it open and took a long, hard, swig.
It took several hours, but they managed to unload all the people safely onto back roads, rural areas, and empty fields.
Timun finished unloading the last man, leaving him lying sound asleep next to a wheat field.
“Timun, what are you doing?” the computer asked.
“There, ‘Timun was here’,” Timun grinned and threw down the plank he was using. “I bet nobody has ever tagged this place before. Bet we can see it from orbit.”
“Really mature. You need to lay off of the booze. Let’s go.”
Timun stumbled back into his ship and was flung to the ground from the momentum of it launching. He took the last swig of his bottle. “Well that’s it, I’m out. Computer, can we stop by a liquor store on the way home.”
“You are a sad, sad, person,” the computer replied.
“Hey, I’m a good Samaritan. I just suck at weddings. No more weddings.”
“No more weddings,” the computer agreed. The two sped off into the dark of space, in pursuit of liquor and a wedding free evening.
Margret Treiber resides in Southwest Florida and is employed as a Network Engineer. When she is not working with technology and writing speculative fiction, she helps her birds break things for her spouse to fix. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of publications. Links to her short fiction, novel and upcoming work can be found on her website at http://www.the-margret.com
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