The Forbidden deck
The Earth cargo vessel Destiny traveled through the cold darkness of space on a 2 month long journey to the Earth colony a Alpha Centauri. On this run, the Destiny was transporting several species of animal for a zoo on the colony. One of its cargo bays had been converted into a habitat for a group of kangaroos. They had 12 of them, 2 males and 10 females. The cargo bay was huge, more then big enough for all of the kangaroos to live comfortably.
Although the journey was restful, it was long, especially for the Captains 7-year-old son John. Each of the animal habitats was fully self-supporting and used ‘bots’ to clean up and administer to them. Josh was always told that he could go anywhere in the ship except deck’s 50 and 25. Deck’s 50 and 25 were the decks that allowed access to the cargo bays. He could see the animals through windows on other decks but he always wanted to play with them in person.
On more then one occasion e had asked his father if he could make an exception to the rule but he had always been turned down. He was told that decks 50 and 25 were forbidden to everyone. He had told him how the ‘bots’ took care of all of the animal’s needs and that they were to stay away from those decks.
Like most 7 year olds, John was the kind of kid that had trouble taking ‘no’ for an answer. The fact that his dad always called those two decks forbidden only amplified his desire to go exploring them. After being rejected after asking to explore them for what felt like the 100th time, John entered his quarters with a plan. He knew that the lifts wouldn’t take him there and needed to find another way. After spending a month on this ship he knew it pretty well and had mapped out a lot of its crawlspaces used for maintenance. He knew that some of them lead to deck 50, which would allow him access to the kangaroo habitat.
He knew that kangaroo’s liked it warm so he put on shorts, a flannel shirt and a baseball cap and accessed a plan of the ship crawl spaces with the computer in his room. According to the plan, he could take a lift down to deck 48 and enter a crawl space in one of the corridors. The crawlspace would lead to a shaft that was locked, but he had an idea for unlocking it. Once it was unlocked, he could crawl down it to deck 50 and get to the kangaroo habitat. He still had no idea why the entire deck was forbidden, when he had observed the roo’s they had looked playful and the bots kept them healthy with regular medical checkup’s. He couldn’t understand how they could be any kind of threat or could have any diseases.
With the plans memorized, he picked up a small tool kit for defeating the lock to the shaft down to deck 50, put it in his shirt pocket and he was on his way. Today was going to be an exciting day, he was finally going to get to see and play with the kangaroo’s and prove to his dad that the deck was safe and that the whole forbidden title of it was simple paranoia. With a sly grin on his face, he made his way out of the quarters and down the corridor towards the lift.
He was alone in the lift as it reached its destination. When it came to a halt and its doors opened, he slowly walked into the corridor of deck 48. It was dark but there was enough light to make his way. He silently made his way through the corridors in search of an entrance to the crawl spaces. He walked down one hallway and turned right and nearly ran into a security officer who was nearly twice his height. The officer folded his arms and looked down at the boy.
“Mr. Edwards, are you lost?” he asked. John looked up at the tall man with a look of terror on his face and quickly tried to think of an explanation for his.
“No Sir, I’m just exploring” he nervously answered. The security officer looked at him suspiciously, suspecting that something was up.
“What’s with the clothes? I’ve never seen you dress like that before” he asked. John tugged at his shirt and shrugged his shoulders.
“Just trying out something new” he replied. The man looked at him, still suspecting that he was up to something. Unfortunately, he still had rounds to complete and didn’t have to time ask the boy any more questions.
“Carry on then” he said as he walked away. John breathed a sign of relief; he had almost been caught. He continued making his way through the corridor seeking out a hatch to the crawl space. After a few minutes of search, he finally found one. He quickly ran over to it, knelt down and opened it. With a quick check to see if anyone was watching, he crawled inside. To make sure no one knew he was in there, he picked up the hatch and put it back in place. Everything was going as planned.
It was very dark in the crawlspace so he pulled out the small flashlight he had brought with him. He turned it on and it provided enough light for him to see his way though. He slowly crawled through the shaft to make his way to the hatch to the 50th deck, it was dirty in there but he didn’t care, he was determined to see the kangaroos.
He wandered around for what felt like an hour before he came to the large gate that blocked the way to the shaft leading down to deck 50. He tried to open it but as expected, it was locked. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small toolkit, opened it and pulled out an electronic lockpick. He carefully inserted the lockpick into the lock and pressed the buttons on it to unlock the lock. At first it appeared as if it wasn’t going to work but to his elated surprise the success light on it lit up and he heard the lock open. He withdrew the lockpick from the lock, put it back into the kit and pressed the open button to open the hatch. Much to his pleasant surprise, the hatch opened.
With the hatch opened, he crawled into the shaft and was able to stand up to walk over to the latter. As he did so, he took a deep breath. He was finally going to see the kangaroo’s and this time no one was going to stop him. He slowly climbed down the latter, his heart beating faster and faster with each rung. When he finally got down he saw yet another hatch blocking access to the 50th deck. He assumed that it would be locked and had his lockpick ready. Much to his surprise, the hatch opened when he pressed the open button.
“That’s weird, I would have thought it would be locked.” He whispered to himself as it opened. He surmised that the hatch would open into another crawlway but was again surprised when he discovered that it led into a corridor. This corridor was different then the rest, the normally brown walls were beige and the lights were a lot brighter. He also noticed that the temperature was a good deal lower and shivered slightly. He wasn’t sure which way to go and found himself talking to himself.
“Now way which is the kangaroo habitat?” he asked. He received yet another surprise when he heard a voice answer him.
“The Kangaroo habitat is located 200 meters to your left,” it said. It startled him; the last thing he was expecting was a voice interface.
“Who are you?” he inquired.
“Voice interface 56 beta” the computer answered. John wasn’t sure what to think of it but was afraid of getting caught and continued to make his way towards the habitat going in the direction the computer had instructed him.
He was in awe as he walked, there were computers in the hall that appeared far more advanced then anything he had ever seen. He speculated that this was the reason the deck was forbidden, perhaps someone didn’t want them to see this technology. Either way, he was determined to see the kangaroo’s.
He made his way to the airlock that led to the kangaroo habitat and walked up to it. There was another locking mechanism by it and he was determined to get by it. He pressed the button labeled open and the computer sounded an alarm.
“Access to that habitat is denied.” It said.
“Why?” John angrily queried.
“The risk of escape is too great” the computer answered. John was not about to let that deter him and pulled out his toolkit. He pulled out a tool to pry off the locking mechanism so he could access its circuits. As he pryed at it, the computer again warned him, but he disregarded it. With some effort, he was able to get it off. He dropped the tool and the panel and pulled out another tool to work with the circuits.
As the tool did its work, the computer again warned him. But he was foolish and disregarded it. A sly grin came across his face as the tool beeped to indicate success. A few seconds later, the first door of the airlock opened and he put the tool down and walked into the airlock. He expected the first door to close before the second opened but because of the alterations he had made, it remained opened.
As the second door opened, a loud alarm began to blare. The computer warned him that a breech was in progress. Again, he assumed that it was being paranoid that one of the kangaroo’s would escape. He simply ignored the error and ran into the habitat. The kangaroo’s seemed upset by the alarm but he didn’t allow that to bother him.
As he ran into the habitat, he heard something flying above him. He looked up to see three golden colored, spherical shaped bots flying towards him while at least 20 others flew towards the airlock. As he watched in horror, one of the bots released some sort of clamp and grabbed onto his torso. He tried to get away, but its grip was too tight. The front of the bot opened and revealed what almost looked like an eye. A beam emitted from it that scanned his entire body. The bot seemed to communicate something to the other two hovering over him and they flew towards the airlock.
“What are you doing?” John desperately asked.
“Our objective must be maintained.” The bot answered. A small window opened beside its ‘eye’ and a small arm with a tip that looked like a needle came out and approached him.
“What objective? What do you mean maintained?” John nervously asked, struggling to attempt escape.
“We must maintain this species using any means necessary” the bot coldly answered in a monotone voice as it injected John and released him and flew off towards the airlock. He felt a wave of dizziness, followed by pain in his torso and legs. Several of the kangaroo’s hoped up to him with solemn looks on they’re faces, almost as if they knew what was happening.
“What’s happening to me?” John cried as he looked at his arms and saw orange fur growing on them. A tremendous pain that was too much to bear filled his skull and he passed out.
In the command center, alarms were blaring all over the place. One of the computers indicated a breech and that several bots were flying up the shaft from deck 50 to 48.
“Close the hatch! We have to contain them!” The captain yelled. His first officer desperately tried to close it but it was too late. The bots smashed through the closing hatch and flew through the crawl space, each going a different route at junctions. They watched with terror as several of them smashed though the hatches leading into the corridors and flew into them.
“Their breaking into decks 45 through 48!” the first officer yelled.
“Seal off those decks!” The captain ordered. But it was too late, one of the bots interfaced with the ships computer and electronic systems and began overriding the bulkheads. Before the bridge crew could react, the bots were swarming though several decks. Contact with security and other officers on those decks were quickly lost. Out of desperation, the Captain dispatched security to the decks that had been compromised but he feared that it was already too late.
John awoke feeling very strange. He slowly picked himself up and saw that his clothes were in a tattered pile beside him. Two of the kangaroo’s were standing by him looking at him with worried expressions on their faces. When he held his arms out in front of him he saw why. His arms looked just like that of a kangaroo. He looked down at his body to see that it wasn’t just his arms, it was his entire body, he was a kangaroo. This wasn’t what he wanted. All he desired was to spend some time with the roo’s and to get to know then, not become a roo. He wanted to learn about him, but this wasn’t how!
He noticed that the airlock door was still open and in fact appeared to be damaged. The doors seemed to be jammed open and small sparks were shooting from the control panel. He careful hopped out of the habitat and through the airlock. There were escaped kangaroo’s milling around the corridor. He carefully hopped down it until he found a lift. Oddly, the lift now allowed access to this deck. He pressed the button to summon it. When it arrived, he quickly hopped in. In a panic, he pressed the button for the command center. It seemed his only hope was to get to his father so that someone could help him.
When the lift arrived at the command center and the doors opened, he hopped out of it and saw something that terrified him. There were no humans in the command center, only a collection of kangaroo’s with the tattered remains of uniforms on them. Out of the corner of his eyes, John saw one of the bots fly by and scan each of the kangaroos. It didn’t take him long to realize what had happened. The bots had done this to everyone. He had condemned everyone on the ship to life as a kangaroo, all because he couldn’t obey a simple order to stay away from deck 50 and the kangaroo habitat. He using his sense of smell to intentify and hop over to the roo his father had become. The larger adult roo simply started down at John and shook his head. He looked around and reached for a piece of paper and wrote on it. A minute later, he handed it to John and John read it. It said ‘this is why those decks are forbidden’.
For the rest of the trip, the bots took care of all of the new kangaroo’s, making sure they were healthy and happy. When they arrived at the colony, a crew from the zoo got on board with suits to protect them from the bots before deactivating them. As they removed all of the kangaroo’s to take them to their new home at the zoo, all they could do was shake their heads when they watched the replay of what had happened via the security logs.
John had learned an important lesson; restrictions exist for a reason. If you don't heed them you may well end up paying the price.