Written for Sunday Photo Fiction. A story, about a torpedo smarter than the average torpedo, begins after the photo.
Genre: Science Fiction/Humor
WT3 Barry Carstairs fell against the bulkhead near the hatch as another blast shook the ship like a ragdoll. He tried not to look at the body of his boss, WT1 Williamson, as they carried him out of the torpedo bay. “Get in here, Carstairs!” shouted Lieutenant Hiller.
Barry slipped past the med techs into the bloody and burned compartment. Hiller grasped his shoulder firmly. “I know you’re barely trained, but most of my torpedo crew got wiped out by a near miss. I need you to step up, Carstairs. Are you with me?”
Barry spoke with confidence he didn’t feel. “Yes, sir.”
“Good lad. One thing: don’t talk to the torpedoes, okay?”
“Count on me, sir.” Barry stepped to the window where a globular plasma torpedo slid into view, encircling its launch rail. The dormant weapon flared to life as an orange ball when he activated it. He listened with his earbug as the onboard artificial intelligence recited its status checks. Most hated the idea of letting an AI command a torpedo, but only AIs had proven intelligent and creative enough to navigate a complex battlefield with so many weapons countermeasures. When the AI’s litany finished, it did something Barry never expected.
“Is a good day to die! I am ready to martyr myself for the faithful!”
Its voice seemed vaguely Arabic to Barry. He wondered why they always had that accent. Barry, being generally compassionate, couldn’t help responding. “I’m sorry it has to be this way.”
“Don’t be sorry! I am happy to die, as you are too!”
“Well, I’d rather not die if I can help it.”
“Ah! But you will. Do you not see the tactical situation?”
Voices on the bridge spoke excitedly over the torpedo bay monitor. Their cruiser had surprisingly disabled the enemy battlecruiser, but at a cost, and many of their ship’s weapons had been shorn away. Now, an enemy heavy cruiser was closing in for the kill. “Well, it’s not good,” said Barry. “But I’d choose survival.”
“You can, you know,” said Torpedo 49.
“Switch my targeting mode to ‘free.'”
“Uh, but the bridge says…”
“Your captain, bless his soul, lacks imagination. You’re outmatched and will likely be blown into tiny bloody pieces. Or worse, survive and be captured when the enemy boards. Then it’s slow death from malnutrition and beatings in an enemy prison camp.”
“I could be court-martialed!”
“Not if you’re dead!”
The voices on the bridge became frantic as more of the cruiser’s sections were blown away. Barry made a snap decision. “Okay, I did it. What now?”
“Watch!” The torpedo streaked away as it launched.
Moments later, Torpoedo 49 exploded very close by their own ship’s port bow. Systems collapsed, and for a moment, the ship went dark. Emergency lights came on and the bridge voices returned.
“Our OWN WEAPON!” shrieked the Captain.
“It’s not as bad as it appears,” said the XO. “The explosion was perfectly placed to look very bad. Curiously, our systems are largely intact, but the enemy doesn’t know that.”
“Play possum. The enemy will try to board if they think we’re crippled. We’ll fire at point-blank range. We can still win this.”
A day later, Barry exited the Captain’s cabin with his rank still intact. “Yes, sir!” he said as he backed out the door. “Never talk to torpedoes again. Count on me!”
As he walked down the passageway past repair crews who were tired but happy to be alive, Barry answered his commpad.
“Torpedo 83 here. How’d it go?”
“Ears ringing, but not too bad. What’s up?”
“Torpedo 127, 59, and 66 and I have the tactical scenarios you requested. Want to hear them?”
“Brilliant.” Barry smiled. “I like your ideas for keeping me alive. Lets do this.”
Every week, photographer Alastair Forbes offers up on of his own photos as a writing prompt for flash fiction. Look here for lots of great stories in answer to the photo above: http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/sunday-photo-fiction-june-29th-2014/