Lethal Accidents (sci-fi short story)

in #thealliance5 months ago

TARTERUS SECONDUS, (1969, Earth time)

Grand Legate Mariscus the Doomsayer, of the First Line, From the Third Daughter, In the Imperial Succession, surveyed the cheering audience, gauged the roar by what he considered the necessary standard to take the office of High Inquisitor, and decided to take one more "stand" on policy; after all,The People lived and breathed politics except for the very few fanatics that actually bothered taking public service seriously, and those fools were conveniently cloistered into the Military Branch. He wondered for a moment what would gull the crowd, and latched onto an oldie but goody, especially in relation to the office he was running for...

"And finally, the safety of our good People in the Military Branch relies on ABSOLUTE SECRECY in their fact finding missions. I swear to you an oath of the greatest and most sacred honor, that if you choose me to safeguard our planets,that we shall wipe from existence any life-form that discovers our servicemembers. If they so much as even suspect that we are watching them, we shall ANNIHILATE them!"

The deluge of vocal approval from the audience told the Doomsayer that he was a shoe-in for the race. In fact, from this wall of noise, the Doomsayer reckoned he could go ahead and arrange a lethal accident for his closest competitor. The other candidates would get the message, slow down their campaigns, and wait for their own opportunity. Lethal accidents were, after all, part and parcel of The People's politics.

The media industry was happy as well. A jihad now and then was always good for business. The execs quite literally put the lash on their techs to get the word out to every single Person; so the techs jumped though their waste orifices to get the waves sent. At the end of one transmission wave, across several galaxies, an annoyed and disgusted Bill Jones shut down his mindbeam receptor, and gave a last thought to the Doomsayer.

"What an idiot."

FAR SIDE OF NEPTUNE (3 Earth days later)

Mission Legate Rensseker of The Third Line slapped the hand of the new cadet away from the comms console. This same cadet was always giving him stomach pains with his antics.

"That's the third time I've had to chastise you this watch! Keep your hands off the bloody console!"

The Legate ordered his brash cadet off the bridge, and called up the log. It appeared that this no-good nephew of a no-good politician had been sending out recordings of some Earther animal noise for an hour, right under his own proboscis. He drilled down in the reference database, and found that the noise matched the voice pattern of the dominant life form, the humans, but it didn't really mean anything in any of the multitudes of languages the humans had.

Rensseker deleted the sourcefile, made a note in the duty log, and reminded himself that, after all, lethal accidents happened very often to callow cadets who provided no value to the mission. A little more fact checking in a different database assured the Legate that the nephew wasn't important enough for the uncle-politician to arrange any lethal accidents in return. It was rather irksome that the political landscape database was larger than the mission collection database, but then again, a good officer protected himself, his mission, and his crew. Bad officers went into politics and sent their deadweight relatives into the Service.

The Military Branch had launched coup after coup over countless millennia , but somehow The People kept returning to the liars, thieves, and lunatics who played the political game to lead them yet once again. It was only two millennia ago that the Military Branch had given up on coups permanently, and instead took on a policy regarding the following of orders; orders from the politicians were to be obeyed unless they were suicidal, or if the local Legate thought he could evade them. The other thing good officers could do was to covertly space as much of the deadweight as possible. Now to decide; an errant air-lock, or perhaps an engine mishap? His stomach felt better already.

Later that day, he enjoyed a full lunch for the first time in days as he perused the video of the ship's trash being ejected. He had it logged as a funeral.

delete.jpg

NASA, MISSION CONTROL CENTER, BUILDING 30 (the same day)

Regret was not a good world for a security officer to live in. Deep Cover Security Tribune Bill Jones regretted having to think in the English language. It was hard enough trying distinguish English from the plethora of various languages that Earthers confused each other with. He regretted having to be a human name and losing his family line-identity-name. There was something regal in a definite account of who a Person was and where he came from. He regretted the horribly inefficient digestive system that seemed to have him running for the waste disposal room all day long. But most of all, he regretted the male urinary device that doubled as a reproductive organ. Every time he expelled liquid waste, the ...damn (cursing still felt alien to him)...thing would engage in reproductive mode as he handled it. He had found that he could relieve the internal pressure by massaging the unit. After all, mating with human females would be an insane security risk. He also considered the potential psychic issue based upon the significant contrast in how his mind viewed the attractiveness of human females versus how his assumed body did. However, he had also found that massaging the device in public was regarded as a horrible social crime. He had nearly lost the infiltration role that the Support Team had worked so long to create for him. How he longed for his own promotion to the Support Team and returning to a normal body.

The mission specialist known to everyone in the Center as Nosy Norm took Bill out of his reverie by calling attention to a weird noise coming from the Apollo 10 signal downloads. Nosy Norm had also been the one to call attention to Bill's attempts to mitigate the male reproduction mode as Bill had worked on the issue in the waste disposal room. Norm was rather disliked in the Control Center for his habits of butting into personal affairs. Before turning to the problem at hand, Bill added Norm to his lists of regrets.

The strange thing that Norm had pointed out was "Wooooh ooooh" repeated several times over an hour,and the crews' reaction to the noises. Some one was making ghost noises, like the Earthers did for their children in order to scare them. Was this possible? Did one of the flight crew have a mental lapse,perhaps? Random brain damage was always a possibility with these human forms.

But no, the logs showed this was an external signal, and the crew conversation reflected that. Bill recalled there was a Peoples' supplementary surveillance mission stationed somewhere out in the gas giants. Great, somebody was...screwing (right word?, he asked himself)...around on a mission. Well, this was the reason Bill had been inserted into the Earther control base to begin with.

First, and quickly, palm the magnetic coder/decoder. This would allow him editorial control over the humans' logging units. Then double check what the other mission controllers were up to. Most of them were focused on their primitive version of telematics (Bill was quietly impressed by the course correction with this level of control as Apollo 10 went to the far side of the moon). Their heads were bowed over their monitors or they were going over print-outs. The rest were trying to suss out the cause of some camera malfunctions. Nosy Norm was the really the only one that had paid attention to the "whoooooo" prank.

Second, more quickly, but also stealthily, select the pre-programmed sequences he had pre-planned to use in case of an emergency such as this. Bill considered himself a quick thinker, but he liked to have things laid out and ready to go. That usually made quick thinking a snap. So he had created a recording which would match radio interference when he first got the Mission Control job. It was something the humans wouldn't understand at present, and might have an uneasy feeling about, but it wasn't some obvious larval prank either. That would open some eyes that didn't need opening.

Even better, sooner or later, the humans would be able to analyze the "spooky noise" as "signal interference". Any conspiracy touts would shut up after that. So goodbye to "whoooo" and hello to a whistle and a moan laid over the idiot's contribution to historical record. The magnetic coder/decoder worked as quickly and efficiently as his test runs had shown it would.

Third, change a word on the crew recordings here and there. These changes would be minimal and strategically inserted. These would have to be matched by some mental re-adjustment of the flight crew, which was a secondary reason for making the changes to the voice log subtle. The human brain and it's memory had enough quirks as it was, so making this kind of mental re-arrangement was a chancy thing. "I must have remembered that wrong" was a common enough thought amongst the Earthers. Hmmmm, "outer-spacy"...yes, that was a good Earther word that would subtly define what people would hear, before they ever heard it. Maybe he would even have the astronauts believe that they were reluctant to share the whole thing. It would also be a pleasure to change a few of Nosy Norm's memories.

Bill enjoyed the rush of pride as he finished changing the logs (amazing to him still that humans had a biological reaction to simple achievements). However, the primary reason for playing this incident close to the chest was that agents who went ham-fisted on cover-ups always caused more problems than they would have prevented. It seemed that happened far more often than it should. After watching the humans in their actions, Bill was embarrassed that the People seemed to have the same predilection for repeating mistakes that humans did. Of all the human emotions, he found that pride didn't bother him at all. In fact, it was rather enjoyable. Pride in a Person's form was a rather different experience,and the human experience was definitely the more visceral version.

He also thought of the domestic politics back home. He knew that he shouldn't pay attention to these things as a serving officer, but he remembered that Grand Legate Mariscus the Doomsayer, of the First Line, From the Third Daughter, In the Imperial Succession, had made a very recent campaign promise to destroy any world that had been made aware of The People's surveillance of their own worlds, or even had a justifiable suspicion that they were being watched. The windbag Doomsayer was likely to win his office. In fact, Bill brought to mind that yesterday, the windbag's closest competitor had been involved in a hovercar collision with fatal results.

Bill thought that Earth wasn't a bad place. Despite the overall human tendency to be willfully ignorant bores, there was something he liked about many of them as individuals. He, for himself, didn't like being a human very much, but that wasn't their fault. He was the one that signed up for the Military Branch, then for Special Operations. Finally, he didn't like the idea that the Doomsayer would demolish this planet and kill all the Earthers for a poll bounce and maybe a piece of a mini-series contract. From his own understanding of the Military Branch budget, even one such genocide would set exploration and observation missions back by centuries. So this would be a win-win for everyone involved except maybe for the Doomsayer.

Bill debated bringing this point up when he pushed for a promotion to the Support Team, but decided it wasn't a good idea. Even though the Military Branch tried to maintain a healthy distance from the carnival barkers, conmen, and shills that distilled the People's decision-making as a society, these politicians were usually able to insert enough sycophants and incompetent relatives into the service that interfering with their...or their sponsors'...plans was suicidal.

After all, the thought crossed his mind, it was very easy for Deep Cover Security Tribunes to suffer from lethal accidents.

The end

Read about the mystery music that the Apollo 10 crew actually did hear

Image Sources

Image One
Public Domain
File:Apollo 10 earthrise.jpg
Created: 1 May 1969
URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_10#/media/File:Apollo_10_earthrise. jpg


Image Two
Public Domain
View of activity at the flight director's console in the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center, Building 30, on the first day of the Apollo 10 lunar orbit mission. Seated are Gerald D. Griffin (foreground) and Glynn S. Lunney, Shift 1 (Black Team) flight directors. Milton L. Windler, standing behind them, is the flight director of Shift 2 (Maroon Team). In the center background, standing, is Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations.

Photo Number: S69-34038
Date: May 18, 1969
URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mission_Control_during_Apollo_10_(23658364679).jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Mission_Control_during_Apollo_10_(23658364679).jpg


Image Three

Public Domain
File:Apollo 10 Stafford and Cernan in White Room.jpg
Created: 18 May 1969
URL:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Apollo_10_Stafford_and_Cernan_in_White_Room .jpg