Origin Timestream Period:
Killgrace and the Weighty Issue
“Cet, this is not funny. Please move.” Susan’s words were polite, but her tone was irritated. The alien’s metal shape had stopped dead the moment it had left the capsule, and now it was blocking the doorway. There was no answer to her question. She frowned, knowing better than to try to push passed without warning it.
“Is there a threat?” she asked after a moment.
“Define ‘Unknown’.” A single blue sensor light irised open beneath the shell, focusing on her. There was no other answer. She cast a quick glance over Cet’s ‘head’ but she could not see any life forms. There was nothing out there but dirt, brown, dusty and muddy, to the far horizon.
“Did your scans detect anything?”
“Then why are you blocking the doorway?” If politeness failed, it was time to be direct. Again the answer was silence, so she verbally prodded him again. “If there is nothing to investigate, you had better come back inside.” There was more silence, and she smirked. “Are you…stuck?” There was another long pause, and then grudgingly, reluctantly, it spoke.
“Anti-gravity systems offline.” Susan chuckled incredulously.
“You’re joking.” She knew Cet was not, but the comment gave her time to think. “A malfunction, or the external environment?”
“Function ceased on exit of the Capsule. No malfunction detected.”
“Then if it’s an environmental factor, once we can get you back inside the system should restart.” She peered over his head again, but there was nothing in sight that looked like a lever, or a ramp. Even if the system did not restart, she needed the alien back inside for the Capsule to work. They could manage repairs back at base.
“How much do you weigh?”
“In this gravity, twenty-five tons.” Any thought of tipping it back inside vanished. Even if she could move it, if the creature could not stop its fall in time it would hit the wall controls. The damage would be severe, and this planet appeared to offer nothing to repair the Capsule with.
“Turn off your electrics. I’ll have to climb over you.” There was a pause, and then a sullen reply.
“Defenses deactivated.” Susan risked a light touch on the metal armour, but there was no shock. The Cull presented a challenge of its own, as she looked for handholds on the smooth surface. Finally she settled for reaching round, gripping the primary manipulator with one hand, and awkwardly pressing the other on top of the sensor dome. She managed to lift herself far enough to get a leg through the gap between the alien and the doorway and half-climb, half-fall through the narrow gap out of the Capsule.
She stood up, straightening her skirt, and looked at the creature.
“I’m going to see if there is anything useful nearby,” she said. If Cet was being so silent it was frustrated, and since its species expressed this by destroying things that was not something she wanted to deal with.
She walked quickly round the Capsule. All there was to see in any direction was dirt – no plants, no animals, no people, no civilisation. Nothing useful. Walking back to her colleague, she took another look at the situation. The lip of the Capsule door was a problem, but the four inches the alien had sunk into the soft earth was a bigger one.
“Do you have any motive force at all?”
“Negative.” Even if the creature could extend secondary manipulators to lift itself, the ground was too soft to take the pressure: the limbs would dig down instead of lifting it up.
She could try to dig the ground out from under the Capsule to lower it, but it was so close to Cet that the effort would likely undermine him as well. If both objects sank it defeated the point. Even if it worked, there was no way she could push the alien.
“Cet, can you lift the Capsule?”
“The weight would embed the armour further.”
“Yes, but if you can tilt the Capsule far enough to get most of your mass inside, the drive may restart.” The Capsule was governed by the rules of their home universe, not the rules of this one that did not appear to permit anti-gravity – at least, not Cet’s form of it. The creature did not speak. Two silver manipulators extended, grasping the outside of the Capsule and tilting it forward. After a moment, the Capsule returned to vertical. Cet had sunk another two inches.
“Drive failed to initialise.” Susan nodded, looking round once more. There was nothing to build a ramp with that could take the creature’s weight. It seemed the drive would not restart unless the drive, or possibly Cet in its entirity, was inside the Capsule.
“Don’t do anything yet,” she cautioned. “Can you lift the entire Capsule?”
“Can you dig under and around your left side, so you can tip sideways?”
“Why can you not do this?”
“Because if you fall on me, neither of us are going home,” she said, absent-mindedly, still mentally measuring angles. Finally satisfied, she took a pen from her pocket and bent down, drawing the outline of a long shallow rectangle in the mud.
“We need a trench this size, and deep enough for you to fall sideways into.” She stepped back, expecting manipulators to extend and start digging. Instead the primary weapon angled and with a flash the mud vaporised.
If it was wasting energy reserves like that, Cet really was feeling frustrated, and probably vulnerable. Neither was a good thing in a military machine with full operative armament. She took a breath, knowing she had to stay calm. As long as she looked as though she knew what she was doing the creature would follow her lead.
“Now, dig out the earth under the left side of your base, so you tip into the trench -“
“Why?” She ignored the interruption and continued.
“- then lift the Capsule over yourself so your gravity drive is inside.” She stopped talking, scrambling back awkwardly to make sure she was clear as manipulator arms dug into dirt. The creature was already tilting, the soft surface compressing and crumbling under its weight. An opposing manipulator extended, bracing against the Capsule, not the ground, and with a crash the armoured form toppled.