Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Jason Hausen studied the 3D holograph of the star Adhara in the constellation Canis Major. Imbedded within the image were the telemetry tracks of the two dozen spaceships that had entered the star system in the last 20 years. Entered, but not exited, noted Hausen. In each case, the ships changed course to either spiral into the system, or to double back after having originally passed it by. “They appear to be landing on the second planet,” observed Hausen.
“That’s our guess too,” replied Kirk Lido, the operations director of Galactic Transportation Inc. “But that planet was not the destination of any of our vessels. We’re not sure why they deviated from their flight plans. In fact, we lost subspace communication once they approached within a light year of Adhara.”
“Perhaps they were seized by pirates?” suggested Hausen.
“No, we’ve ruled that out. There was no evidence of any other ships in the area, and their warp trails didn’t show any sign of resisting a tractor beam or gravity well. Apparently, they flew there of their own volition. We suspect the crew was irresistibly drawn to the planet, not unlike how the mythical Greek Sirens lured sailors to their deaths on the rocky coast of Anthemusa.”
“I’d prefer to believe in a more scientific explanation,” replied Hausen. “Anyway, what does this have to do with me?”
“Well, to be perfectly frank, Mr. Hausen, with your remarkable reputation, we want you to captain the research ship that we plan to send to Adhara.”
Always up to a challenge, Hausen took the bait, “I’m listening.”
“Excellent. Well, we’ve constructed a unique ship for your mission. For the lack of a better description, the HMS Alecto is a one-man interstellar tank. You’ll be in command, but the ship will be run by autonomous robots. In the event that the Sirens, if they exist, manage to take control of your mind, the robots have been programmed to ignore your orders and return the ship to base. I know, I know,” added Lido, anticipating a confrontation, “nobody wants to relinquish command, but believe me, it’s for your own protection. Consider it a fail-safe contingency plan. If you’re right, and the Sirens don’t exist, then you’ll maintain command.”
“Relax, Lido. It will be worth the risk just to prove you wrong. Now, let’s have a look at this ship.”
“Lido, I’m almost within a light year of Adhara, so we’ll probably be losing contact. Just so you know, the first pass will be a fly-by at two times the orbital radius. I’ll simply fly through the system. I’ll call you after I emerge on the far side of the black-out region.”
“Roger, Jason. Good luck.”
As the HMS Alecto approached Adhara, the robot helmsman altered course toward the second planet. “What are you doing?” barked Hausen. “Return to the original course.” But the robot didn’t comply. When Hausen stood up to approach the helm, two robots flanked him and forced him back into his seat. “Hausen to computer, override the helm. Return to base immediately. That’s an order.” But the ship continued toward the planet. When two more robots surrounded him he realized Lido was partially right. There were Sirens on Adhara, but their songs weren’t intended for human ears.