FIVE: DEEP SPACE YELLOW
A FEW MILLION MILES away, in the darkness of space, a ship floated—silent and waiting. To say that the ship was ugly was to say that the complete absence of light made things a bit murky.
The ship was blocky and contained no sense of symmetry. Its color was a dull grey, the hue of dead fish, and the lights that sat randomly about the thing’s hull blinked out of sequence and were in no way appealing to the eye. It was a massive ship, larger than most small moons, and as it sat among the stars, any passerby would be forced to observe that the stars around it looked as if they wanted nothing at all to do with the thing, thank you very much.
The interior, if anything, was far worse. The main control room appeared to have been designed by the custodian of an insane asylum, but only if said custodian had spent years sleeping through the most expensive architecture, art, and design courses. Chairs were strewn around the room in rather odd places, facing nothing in particular. View screens we set at strange angles, causing one to bend or crane their neck just to see what was on screen. But what mostly made the interior an offense to the eye was the cream yellow coloring that covered every surface.
On the ship’s home world, cream yellow—which was known as a color called barf (a word used only by coincidence as in their alien language barf does not mean the same as it does on Earth)—was said to be the most calming of colors. In reality it made any carbon-based life form that did not originate from the ship’s home world feel the need to extricate their lunch from themselves by any means necessary.
Sitting at a command console in the front of the control room, a robot, designated ComBot 1 (which was, incidentally, the same cream yellow as the room), fiddled with a knob as it read through a series of ones and zeros that flashed across a small monitor in the floor.
Based on the reaction of ComBot 1, the message that scrawled across the screen must have been an important one. Robots aren’t normally known for high levels of excitement, but in this case, ComBot 1 could not hold back its giddiness.
It began by cocking its head slightly to the left. Next it rotated its head .098432 millimeters to the right. The robot was practically bursting its seams.
ComBot 4 had noticed ComBot 1’s odd behavior.
“Sir?” ComBot 4 asked. “Is everything okay?”
“The ring has been activated,” ComBot 1 said.
The other robots (ComBots 2, 3, and 5), who were also fiddling with knobs and gazing into monitors, sat bolt upright at the announcement.
“Wake the General.” ComBot 1 said.
“At once, sir,” ComBot 4 said, standing and saluting before leaving through a large door in the back.
ComBot 4 walked along a dark corridor for a minute or two before coming to a stop before the only door in the entire ship that was not cream yellow in color. This particular door was red—a dark, blood red that would have made ComBot 4 sweat were it designed to excrete liquids. The robot pushed a small cream yellow button next to a small cream yellow speaker and a short buzzing sound was heard from the other side of the door.
“I was not to be disturbed!” said a deep voice from within the room.
“I hear and obey, oh Terribly Powerful and Frightening One, but—”
“But nothing!” This time the voice had come from the cream yellow speaker next to the door. “You have defied a direct order. Take yourself down to the maintenance bay and have yourself melted down at once!”
“Yes sir, oh Benevolent and Merciful, but—”
“You dare to argue?! WITH ME?!”
“Of course not, my divine and illustrious General, but—”
“BE GONE FROM MY DOOR BEFORE I MELT YOU DOWN MYSELF! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?”
ComBot 4 suddenly found itself in a bit of a quandary. It was perfectly happy to obey the General’s orders, as it was programed, and to walk itself to the maintenance bay for a good melting down. This new order, however, conflicted with an older order in which they were to inform the General the moment the ring was ever activated. As both orders had come from the General, ComBot 4 floundered on what to do.
After much internal debate, which took a mere .232487634 seconds due to the super computer that was the robot’s brain, the ComBot went for broke and shouted out the words: “The ring has been activated my Lord!”
The ComBot pushed these words out so quickly, however, that the message sounded more like this:
This had been met with silence from the other side of the door.
ComBot 4 waited for a moment, turned away from the door, took a step down the corridor, paused, waited for another moment, turned back, took a step toward the door, waited for an even further moment, then repeated it all again until finally the door slid silently upwards.
“Come in,” said the voice from within the room.
ComBot 4 stepped into the expansive room. Unlike the rest of the ship, the General’s room was red like the door—red walls, red carpeting, red everything—all except for the ivory-white throne in the center of the room upon which the General sat. The General was thin and may have looked frail had it not been for the dark granite-like nature of his skin. The General was tall and hairless. His only raiment was a dark blue body suit with blood red boots and gloves. A symbol ordained the chest of the General’s body suit, its color the same red of his boots. The symbol, though in no language known to the people of Earth, looked much like the letter R.
ComBot 4 walked to the throne and knelt.
“Report,” the General said.
“The ring has been activated, My Lord. Just five minutes ago. On Earth.”
The General stood.
“Take me there,” the General said. “Now.”