Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

The Neptune was a first class luxury star liner, the finest of everything from stem to stern; from her massive chandeliers hanging from cavernous twenty meter and higher ceilings to the never-ending filigree of intricately wood-carved railings and archways. The richest of the rich gathered in her grand ballroom, the behemoth ship orbiting the young star Epsilon Eridani close enough to see its violent magnetic storms through the tinted plexi-panes along her port side.

A whistle sounded and the crowd turned to the grand entrance stairway where the captain was descending with the president of the federation. The people ooed and aahed while applauding heartily. Both men were escorted by lanky, scantily clad, fem bots. Large security bots kept the masses at bay as the two celebrities and their posse made their way to the captain’s table.

“But I must get through, they have to be warned!” a voice came through to the inner circle.

The gruff metallic voice of a security bot stated sternly, “You’ll have to step back sir! Autographs will be signed at the meet and greet session at o-twenty-two-hundred.”

“You lumbering rotard, I don’t want autographs, I must warn the captain!”

As two security bots began to escort the interloper away roughly and without empathy, the federation president asked the captain. “Do you know who that is?”

Captain Rexxon looked both bothered and put out. “He used to be my chief science officer but the new budget cuts caused him to be transferred to a different post at a lesser wage.”
He turned to one of his assistants, “Where is Higgins working now?”

The intern answered, “In the galley sir. He has been learning his new trade of…” The assistant double-checked his hand held, “Cook’s helper.”

The president’s brow furled. “You had your chief science officer transferred to the kitchen? Well that doesn’t make sense at all. Maybe we should see what he’s trying to tell us.”

“Don’t worry Mr. President, he’s obviously disgruntled about his sad but necessary career change.” Then the captain rubbed his hands together. “Ah good, our round of drinks is here!”

By then the poor distraught man was already out of the ballroom and down an access hallway headed for the brig. It made no matter anyhow. Even if the captain had listened to and believed the former science officer and his sudden prediction that a massive bombardment of solar wind was on its way with unknown ramifications, there was no possible way to get the ship into hyperspace in time now.

And as the door slammed shut on the all-purpose cell and the SS Neptune’s newest cook’s helper, Jonathan Higgins, stumbled to the white padded floor, the flare hit.

A gasp came up from the startled ballroom crowd as the entire ship shuddered momentarily. Then there was the briefest instant of stillness followed by a sudden violent shaking as Neptune’s hull was bombarded by the surging wave of radiation.

And then it happened. Up became down and down became up as the surge suddenly cut through the tree trunk thick focused beam inside the ship’s gravity generator, separating it momentarily and then instantly reversing its poles.

In the ballroom and in other parts of the ship’s grandiose causeways and parks people suddenly found themselves falling from a sky of endless carpet, through twenty to sixty meters of air toward harsh landings on metal ceilings and endless chandeliers of diamond and glass.

Inside his prison Higgins sat up dazed but unscathed on the cell’s white padded ceiling; while all around him elsewhere on the ship people were screaming and dying.


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