Collision Chronicles Volume 1

Alien Invasion!
Government Tyranny!
Organic Computer, with a catapult! (Catapult?)

That last aside, concentrate on the issues. What has first call on your catalogue of heroic talents: opposing wicked tyrants, or fighting off evil aliens?

What if the human régime doesn’t believe aliens exist? What if all those unelected bureaucrats on all those planets are concentrating on making people obey?

What’s preeminent, the alien menace, or the threat to freedom and human rights? Support or overthrow the government? If you overthrow the government, is humanity vulnerable to annihilation by the aliens? If you convince the government and join them to fight the aliens, are you capitulating to an oligarchy and sacrificing your chances for freedom? When is authoritarianism acceptable in a crisis? When must freedom be sacrificed for safety?

Collision Course is the first book of a series exploring how the end of the human race depends on the moods of a dysfunctional Organic Computer with identity issues.

The dinosaurs had it easier – just before they went extinct.

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Excerpt from Collision Course © Copyright 2023 Alan Zimm

Corporate Captain Manchez was fuming. Exhausted. Frustrated. Worried. Eyes closed, he visualized details of the twitching dreadfuls that a just and righteous universe would inflict on all the idiots he had encountered over the last 24. Who allows morons on space stations? Dammit all and the universe it came in.

Manchez was floating in zero gravity at the pilot’s station in the command deck of Ajax, a bulk cargo shuttle returning from an emergency delivery sortie to Tevil Corporation’s orbiting spaceyard. The cockpit was as dark as his mood, illuminated only by the glow from controls, indicators, and information screens. The forward viewscreen showed black sky, Stars from the edge of the galaxy looked like they were hiding from the wrath of God; below lurked the ugly gray mass of Misplaced-4, one of the universe’s premier boring planets. The pilot’s combined control and survival seat, known in spacer’s black humor as “the coffin,” was shoved as far back as possible so he could stretch his legs. He leaned back, loosened his seat belt, and floated his heels above the instrument panel. All the bull manure he’d suffered through, plus being fourteen hours past bed time, would be enough to make an archangel grab an axe and start doing a Lizzie Borden on every one of those microbrains wearing Tevil Corporation beige.

He yawned widely. A nice siesta was required, say, twelve hours in bed, with somebody friendly.

The radio voice of the computer controlling the low orbital approaches to Dome City Spaceport had the sterile tone characteristic of Organic artificial intelligence computers. “Ajax, this is Spaceport Approach Control Organic—”

Saying ‘who to, who from’ starting every radio conversation was a communications protocol Manchez would like to nominate as spaceflight’s foremost total pain in the posterior. Why did he have to use it when dealing with spaceflight Organic computers? Advanced tankheads, so smart, they ought to be able to figure out who was talking. “It’s for safety,” the Spaceflight Regulating Agency bleats like some developmentally challenged sheep, “clearly identify who is talking to who.” Stupid rules, a bunch of sewage backflush, in Manchez’s highly-refined opinion.

“—my callsign is Approach Control Organic. Your vector good for Approach Cone Charlie. Cleared for approach.”

He wasn’t supposed to make up his own call sign, but dammit, if he had to do the ‘verbatim repeat back’ bullroar, an appropriate call sign would remind that tankhead of the quality of the rocket jock on his end of the conversation.

“Approach Control Organic, Ajax, my call sign is SuperHero. Roger, SuperHero is cleared, Cone Charlie, commencing approach.” And it would be greatly appreciated if you get every other idiot barge out of my way, like now, max blast, speed of light, he wanted to say. But didn’t.

Manchez glanced at the arrival countdown chronometer, and grimaced. The predicted arrival was past date time with Missy Hot-Body. She’d kill him. Or dump him. Bad, bad, bad.

It wasn’t fair, the junior pilot always getting tagged with no-notice sorties. He had just snuggled under the covers, yes, a little late, 0620, near the usual rising time for Tevil’s office peons, but he wasn’t scheduled for another 48. He was happily anticipating a lovely erotic dream after a shakin’ ‘n’ bakin’ night dancing and drinking at three nightclubs when he gets buzzed out of bed and fingered to deliver some Tevil Corporation executive’s bedpans or beauty cream or whatever it was that couldn’t wait for the regularly scheduled lift.

Then he had to deal with all those brain-dead oafs in orbit. First, the slothful union stevedores took the better part of an extended century unloading. Then, the lazy refuelers could have built the bleeding pyramids in the time they took to fill two lousy tanks with rocket-A. Next, in what was surely intentional sadism, Spaceyard Traffic Control couldn’t stop buffing its fingernails long enough to clear him off the dock expeditiously. Okay, Spaceyard Traffic Control was an Organic, and Organic computers didn’t have fingernails, so hell and creation there was no excuse for the piss-poor service.

He was bloody blue-blasted dammit-all late.

Manchez yawned, and scrunched his eyes closed.

Top it all, he got stuck driving Ajax and her freakin’ weird Navigation and Space Systems Organic. It was creepy ghoulish, growing brain tissue out of DNA and programming it like a silicon computer. Organics had superior parallel processing capacity and were honkin’ fast, but sometimes they were just—just weird. Like, Ajax Organic. That tankhead was an arrogant Frankenstein with an overinflated sense of narcissism flaunting the personality of a petulant three-year-old who had just popped his birthday balloon. Manchez would love to go nose-to-nose with the quant who programmed an Organic to sulk. Damn quants. Damn tankheads.

“SuperHero, Approach Control Organic. All approaches clear of traffic. Ground traffic is clear. You are authorized direct approach, Pad Two.”

Hallelujah! P2 was snug up to Dome City, only a three-hundred-meter sprint to the terminal airlock.

His very own Ajax tankhead just had to butt in. “SuperHero, Ajax Organic. Ajax exceeds allowable approach velocity. Stand by for a thirty second Number Six Aft Thruster braking burn. Acknowledge.”

Freya’s frosted bollocks! Clear Cones, direct approach, and something made out of gray glop wants me to go slow? Stupid, worthless rules. Put a tankhead in charge as the autopilot and all they know is their stupid rules. Bloody Organics and their nitpicking. You’d think the quants could program in a little compassion for somebody trying to make a hot date.

Manchez glanced at the Estimated Time of Arrival readout. ETA way too time-late.

Late for Miss Lihwa was a bad idea. Hot-Body Lihwa was too scorching temperamental and lava-volatile for him to hope she would forgive another missed date, or even tardiness. That Geoffrey ass had been hovering near her. Another blunder and the competition might cut him out.

Manchez didn’t make corporate captain by letting the riff-raff push him out of his chosen trajectory. Fork this braking burn bullroar. Feet off the instrument panel, he shifted the coffin forward so he could reach the controls. About time he ran this circus himself.

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