(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
(Yes, this is a silly funny story. Nothing serious about it.)
woop," the alarm said. "Woop, woop."
The Faster than
Imagination freighter Calamity Jane was three months out of
Cape Calamari, en route to New Jihadistan, hauling forty million tons of
Trollite ore. This was a routine run – Calamity Jane did it
once every five years on average – and nothing had ever triggered the alarm
Oddly enough, that was
the thought that first came to Captain Burhanuddin Talibani, in his cabin on
the mid-upper deck of the Calamity Jane. "Nothing has ever
triggered the alarm before," he said.
This, of course, was a
problem. Captain Talibani scratched his turban as he tried to recall the
correct procedure to follow. The gulfs of space between New Jihadistan and Cape
Calamari were known to be perfectly safe. Why, even the Somalistani pirates
left this part of the galaxy strictly alone.
"Woop, woop," went the
"To hell with it,"
Captain Talibani said at last, and hit the red emergency button on his turban.
"Wah wah," went the
warbling emergency call. Throughout the passages and cabins, the engine rooms
and the FTI Drive core, the galleys and the bathrooms, the call warbled. "Wah
wah," it said. "Wah wah." And the alarm said "Woop woop," so the two blended
together in a crescendo of noise, each trying to outshout the other: "Woop wah,
woop wah, woop woop wah wah."
From all over the ship,
the crew stumbled to their emergency sessions, cursing. Some of them had been
sleeping. Some of them had been in bed but not sleeping. One of these, Deputy
Captain Anna Lovitskaya, rushed out of her cabin, pausing just long enough to
pull on pants and shoes.
"What’s going on?" she
demanded, grabbing the first crewman she saw by the arm. "What’s the
The crewman goggled at
her, his jaw dropping. "Gwah?" he inquired.
"Oh, sorry," said Deputy
Captain Anna, and rushed back to her cabin to pull on a bra and a shirt.
Deep in the heart of
the Calamity Jane, the armoured control centre had already filled
up with officers by the time the Captain and the Deputy Captain arrived
simultaneously, from opposite directions. Captain Talibani was still adjusting
his turban and Deputy Captain Anna was still buttoning her shirt, so they
dispensed with salutes, keeping in mind the gravity of the situation.
"What is the emergency,
sir?" Anna asked, while they waited for the door to open. It was an old and
temperamental door, and usually reacted with all the alacrity of a lift
descending from the 35th floor. "Do you have any information?"
"All I know is that the
alarm went off," Captain Talibani replied, his beard waggling in agitation. "It
is not supposed to go off."
"No," his deputy agreed.
"Shouldn’t you shut that alarm off now?"
"Yes, maybe it would be a
good idea," the captain assented. He fiddled with a button set into his turban.
The Woop Wah faded. Also, the door opened at last and they
entered the control room.
"What’s going on?"
Captain Talibani demanded to the officers bent over keyboards and scopes.
"What’s the problem?"
"It’s this, Captain,"
First Mate Jagathrakshakan said, and pressed a button. A viewscreen lit up.
"This thing here is blocking our way."
Everyone stared at the
screen. "It appears to be an insect," Deputy Captain Anna said at last.
"A very large insect,"
"A very large, reddish
insect with no wings," Captain Talibani, who had a keen eye for these details,
said. "What’s more, it’s coming closer."
There was no doubt about
that. The distance readout at the bottom of the screen showed that the huge
reddish creature was closing the distance with great rapidity.
"Change course fast!"
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