Welcome to Blue Planet

Archipelago Intro Contest:

Entry by Robert P. Stefko

 David Connor slid into the plush comfort of his office recliner and touched
his thumb to the obsidian surface of his private terminal. "Initiate user
verification, Hal," he chimed mechanically. Hal, his house computer, sprang
to life, scanning a sample of DNA from Dave's thumb, comparing it to a genome
database, confirming that Dave was indeed the resident user. It was a
precaution Dave would never have taken on Earth, but Poseidon had ingrained
in him a healthy paranoia he could not easily shed.
 "Good afternoon, Dave." Hal's soft monotone was lifted from a 20th century
cinema Dave had stumbled across in a CommCore archive in high school. He was
immediately taken with the persona and adopted it for his first bodycomp when
he was seventeen; Hal had been with him through twelve turbulent years and
five hardware upgrades.
 "Hello, Hal. Any mail today?"
 A lens like a smoldering ember inlaid in gray plastic materialized above the
terminal. "You have seven new messages: one audio, six text. Would you like
me to display them for you?" Dave nodded assent. The lens dissolved and was
replaced by a menu of messages, most of them junk mail; however, one caught
Dave's attention immediately. It was an encrypted audio file from Donny
MacDougal, Dave's coworker at Dundalk and long time friend.
 "Play file daveys.eyes.only.hushhush please, Hal." The menu vanished;
glaring red letters appeared: DECRYPTING TRANSMISSION. A few moments later
Donny's familiar voice filled the office.
 "Davey boy, this is Donny." There was a hint of anxiety in the voice, a
hushed tone that clashed with Donny's usual Irish boisterousness. "Do ye
remember that stealthed database I was talkin' to ye about the other day? The
one buried deep in Dundalk's science division maincomp. Well, I cracked it,
and ye won't believe what's inside." Dave leaned forward, intrigued and a bit
amazed at his friend's audacity. "A whole lot o' sensory recordings, dozens
o'em. And they contain some o' the strangest stuff I ever did see. I can't
explain it in words, so I've attached a sample file. Look it through and tell
me what ye think. Bye."
 Dave opened a cabinet beneath the terminal and removed a thin fiberoptic
cable. He clicked one end into a dataport on the terminal's smooth surface;
the other into the socket at the base of his skull. "Execute full
environmental interface, Hal." The computer complied instantly; Dave's eyes
rolled back in his head as his body fell limp into the soft padding of the
 He was in the Poseidon network, a lattice of neon light superimposed on the
infinite blackness of cyberspace. A polyhedral data packet like an unpolished
sapphire hung silently before him. Dave reached out with virtual fingers and
grasped the packet, decompressed the sensory recording, and accessed the file
. . .
 . . . and was instantaneously transplanted into the mind of Ian Mahanney, a
Dundalk exobiologist assigned to Port 37, a commercial refueling station on
the islet of Hanson's Rock, approximately twenty kilometers northeast of
 It was dusk over the Rock. Serpentis bled somber red on the ocean as it fell
slowly from the ochre sky into the sanguine breakers below. A warm breeze was
coming off the water, and Ian had temporarily abandoned the tedium of
cataloguing local flora to enjoy the cool feeling of damp shoreline sand
beneath his feet. Gazing across the islet's natural harbor at the dock and
adjacent electrolysis plant, Ian noticed a cluster of hazy green speckles
moving silently through the shallows. Accompanying them was the sleek,
massive silhouette of a half-submerged adult orca. Slowly, almost listlessly,
the orca ran aground and began shrieking its distress to the Dundalk staff on
the nearby docks. Ian watched in fascination as the human workers scrambled
to the orca's aid . . . and were caught in the hemisphere of flame and
shrapnel that erupted from the miserable creature when the proximity charge
on its back detonated.
 Ian blinked in disbelief, was knocked to the ground by a second explosion
which tore through the electrolysis plant a few hundred meters across the
water. He staggered to his feet, spit blood and grit from between his teeth.
Legs pumping, he sprinted into the brush flanking the beach. From the utility
pocket of a pant leg, Ian withdrew a pair of digital binoculars, focused, and
began to scan the harbor for signs of terrorists. What he saw frightened him
like nothing else he had ever seen.
 Emerging from the water, grouped in troops of six, were what appeared to be
semi-upright rays. Their bodies were mottled cyan and cerise, and ranks of
luminescent green "eyes" lined their backs. They moved low to the ground,
gliding along the sand as if they had never left the water. Each troop
converged on the body of a human worker killed by the blast's concussion -
and still intact, Ian conjectured - lifted it up, and withdrew with it back
into the water. The entire process lasted less than ten minutes, leaving Ian
dazed and confused on Hanson's Rock. A follow-up report attached to the
sensory recording delineated the account Dundalk had released to the press,
which claimed the attack on Port 37 was an act of terrorism perpetrated by an
orca warpod from the Sierra Nuevas. The charred corpse of the orca kamikaze
seemed to verify the report, and no further investigations were launched into
the incident.
 The file ended and Dave disengaged his interface with Hal. After a few
moments' contemplation, he keyed in Donny's net address and established a
visual link with his friend's personal terminal. A few seconds passed, and
Donny's thick strawberry curls exploded into view above Dave's terminal.
 "Davey boy!" Donny grinned devilishly. "How are ye, man? Did you check that
recordin' I sent ye?" Dave nodded. "Excellent." - His voice lowered slightly.
- "What did ye think?"
 "It's scary, Donny,' Dave replied. "I think you should have let this one
alone." Donny snorted in protest, but Dave continued. "This is dangerous,
man. If Dundalk finds out, they'll have your head. Literally!"
 Donny interjected. "I guess ye have no sense of adventure, Davey. This is an
awesome discovery; ye can't just let it sit in some digital vault forever.
People need to know these things exist, that they're out there killin'
 "Donny, they'll kill you."
 "Then I'll take me chances. Goodbye, Davey." Donny terminated the session,
leaving David stunned and silent in his office.
 In other news, David Connor, age 29, and Donald MacDougal, age 27, were
declared dead at the scene following a gangland shootout between rival crime
factions at the intersection of Freemont and Long in the Warehouse District
near the Floats. Dundalk Shipbuilding, the Oceanside residents' mutual
employer, has transmitted its deepest regrets to the families of the two men
on Earth, and has offered full compensatory damages to the widow and children
of David Connor. A full report on the incident is available in the Haven news
archives on CommCore at recentevents/gangland/shootouts/freelong.intrsctn.