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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

TITLE: A Decoding
By dub W
07/21/08


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A large overhead screen flashed with a coded number. Members of the refueling station gathered around the large captain’s chair on the main deck. A couple of people pointed at the screen.

“Incoming message.” Lt. Julia Schumann, known for her lack of personality and perfunctory words walked by without looking up. “Record it. Captain will see it when he returns to his office.”

The group dispersed leaving two communications ensigns scrambling to set up the decoding process on the control panel.

“You’d think she would at least stay and help us, or maybe take the message to the Captain.” Ensign Milton Hughes programmed the device like playing a piano.

“She’s a machine. Next time she comes by I am going to oil her.” Ensign Cody Smith laughed at his own joke. “Squeak, squeak.”

The coded message began to whir in the equipment.

“Hey wanna listen to some of this?” Milton offered Cody a headset.

“Is it decoded? “

“Yeah, it’s the stream just before it hits the Captain’s que.” Milton listened to one ear phone. “Really just a bunch of gibberish, but I am supposed to monitor it.”

“Yer supposed to monitor the transmission levels.”

“Hey, my orders say monitor – there’s no qualifications.”

Cody shook his head. “It’s listening in on someone’s phone call.”

Milton put the headphone over his head. “That’s what I'm paid to do.”

Cody waved him away and began adjusting a frequency gauge.

Milton suddenly ripped the headphones from his head and unplugged the headset from the coding unit. “Let’s clean this place up a bit.”

“What got into you?” Cody stared at his comrade. “What was the call all about?”

“Crew orders, I didn’t understand most of it.” Milton quickly made programming changes on his keyboard.

“Something spooked you.”

“Uh, need to know.”

Cody shook his head. “Uh oh, you heard private information.”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Well?” Cody leaned on his console.

“What?”

“We’re both here. We’ll both hang if anyone finds out you listened in.”

“It’s nothing too important. About the Kimeon War in the Sixth Quad.”

“Okay, that’s old news. What else?” Cody had a teasing tone in his voice.

“Data mostly, from the war. Wins, losses. You know the routine. Body counts.” Milton made some notes on a chart.

“Okay, So, what have the Kimeon’s destroyed now?”

“Really, just a bunch of lower level planets, several were not even inhabited, sorta like target practice.”

“Isn’t Alpha Base in the sixth quad?” Cody got suddenly interested. And began a research quest on his own console.

Milton tried to change the conversation. “I have cued the message for the Captain. He will get it when he's ready.”

Cody watched is screen and then turned to Milton. “The third planet in the quad was vaporized.”

Milton nodded his head. “Yeah.”

“The Lieutenant is from the third planet.” Cody clicked off his screen.

Milton nodded again. “Un huh.”

"Man, her whole family - poof. She doesn't know."

Milton glared at his friend. "Either do you."

A door opened in the back of the cabin and two crew members past through along with Lt. Schumann.

“Decode the message?” She walked down to the communication console.

“Yes ma’am.” Both men said at once.

“Good, the Captain will see it when he gets to his office.”

“Yes ma’am.” Again, both answered at the same time.

Schumann started to leave. “Something wrong men?”

“No, ma’am.” Cody turned in his chair.

“Good, carry on.”

“Yes ma’am,” said Milton automatically.

Lt. Schumann pushed the button for the automatic door. “Oh, men. Something I wanted to pass on.”

Milton and Cody turned to face the Lieutenant.

“Squeak, squeak.” The door opened and she disappeared.


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This article has been read 722 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/25/08
This is wonderful sci-fi. The last sentence was the perfect touch.
Carol Wiley07/28/08
I really liked most of this story and thought it was well written. I must have missed something though in the end. I think the ending was meant to be a joke, but if her family is all dead, how does a joke fit in?
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/28/08
This story kept my interest. I'm not sure if I fully understand the ending, either. Apparently she had heard their conversation, and was confirming that she was indeed just a machine that didn't show feelings? Is that right?
Holly Westefeld07/29/08
Very subtle. I suspect that the coded message was a set up to test the lieutenant's suspicion of the ensign's mis-conduct. Nicely done!
George Parler 07/30/08
Your knowledge of protocols lends much authenticity to this piece even into the future setting. I am left to believe that it was a setup since she was aware of their conversation and by her quoting "Squeak, squeak."
Karen Wilber 07/30/08
Oooh, she was just messing with them. Looks like we know who just got decoded.
Sara Harricharan 07/30/08
Heehee! I like this. Very nicely done. I liked the opening descriptions too-made me laugh. Thanks for sharing! ^_^