Author : Jim Brown
Jaller scrambled across the engine’s surface, checking for microfractures and loose connections. The recon ship had taken a direct hit to its hull which both shut down the engine and sent them spinning off course. They had gotten so close.
As he worked, he listened to the details of the battle as they were announced over the speakers. Technologically speaking, this new race was a bit ahead, but nothing that couldn’t be dealt with.
Due to the unknowns of dealing with aliens, transmissions over air other than sound were banned. This meant Jaller flew around the engine with a large amount of wires connecting him to the main repair system. Along with the repair work at hand, he had to also continually reach back and unhook the wires from various snags.
The captain came over his headset.
“How far are you, Jaller?”
“Half way done, sir. Lots of microfractures. Nothing broken so far though, so just this patch work and we’ll be good to go.”
He loved fixing microfractures. Nothing made his day like knowing that he had taken proper care of the engine, especially things about it few others knew about. He knew this love was encoded in him and most of his personality traits had been chosen before he was born, but it didn’t matter. As with everyone, he was made for a purpose.
Then came that odd moment of pity he felt when he thought of all the worlds they had encountered where life was random and finding one’s purpose was a flailing in the dark. It had taken some doing but every race they had come in contact with had been given the joy of predetermination. No one had to wonder if they were in the right place. No one had to get up in the morning and dread the day ahead of them. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to hang on to such a miserable existence.
With that thought, his work was done. All fractures were repaired and the engine was ready to go.
“Done! Fire it up!” he shouted into his headset.
The engine came to life in a controlled explosion of energy and centrifugal motion. He laughed aloud as waves of joy washed over him.
They reached their goal a moment later, positioning themselves between their home and the star they were sent to investigate. He heard the lifepods ejecting and the subsequent evidence of their destruction. They weren’t making it very far at all. Though there was no sound in space, there was sound when debris from a destroyed pod hit the hull.
Jaller set the necessary traps and laid out various tools to give the targets a false sense of the tech they faced. Anyone analyzing the upcoming debris of the ship would assume their level of advancement was fairly low.
Heading to an escape pod, he paused briefly at a terminal to absorb more information that had been collected about this new race, focusing on propulsion and power sources. It became apparent that it would be a short fight and in the end, this race that called itself ‘humanity’ would be cured of the horrible disease ‘free will’.
As the pod shot out into space, he faced the star ahead and threw out his arms. He felt the pod tear apart and the burning heat of the explosion as it tore through his skin. Like his shipmates, Jaller concentrated on the facts of their targets, smiled deeply, and died, his essence and knowledge being caught in a stellar wind and carried along towards home.