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So this is a fun exercise that I did. I wrote this short story years ago, but I didn’t finish it. I uploaded what I wrote to ChatGPT-4 and had it finish the story keeping the same tone as what was written.
It was a suicide mission. He knew that. that was the reason they even offered it to him. It was the sort of thing that you only hire convicts serving a life sentence to do. The reality of it was just sinking in a bit better now that he was sitting in the cockpit.
He pushed back into the seat a bit, the old leather stretched and cracked as he did so. He knew that it wasn’t going to be a high class spaceship, but he didn’t expect it to be quite this bad. The chair must have been pulled from an old car in a junkyard somewhere. As he examined the interior of the cockpit, it looked like everything in it must have had a previous life of some sort. Even the control stick looked like it was well worn. It probably came from an old arcade machine.
“One Minute until blastoff” a female voice said in his ear.
He looked forward at the sky. All he could see was blue sky and clouds. He knew that up there, beyond the atmosphere was a swarm of deadly alien robots ready to destroy anything that tried to leave the Earth. It had been twenty years since the Earth was permanently quarantined. He didn’t know the reasons, there were some reports on the news, but he was too busy knocking over convenience stores for his heroin habit when it happened. Since then he didn’t really think it was that important.
The corporation hired him to do a gauntlet run through the alien swarm. They’ve hired dozens of convicts in the past to try the same thing. Each and every one of them failed. He had a payload that he was supposed to take past the blockade and activate. Once activated it was supposed to do something that would save the earth or some shit. He suspected that it was a farce. His ship was covered in cameras that would be streaming video of his trip back to the Earth. They would be broadcasting the video as a Pay Per View event.
He didn’t really care about any of that. He just knew that the farther he got, the more money they would give to his family. It was really the only thing he could do to help them. After what he did they wouldn’t come see him. He couldn’t rightly say that he even knew his kids. He might even have grandkids by this point.
“Ten Seconds.” the female voice said again. He grabbed the control stick and got ready.
“Nine… Eight… Seven..” He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer to whomever might be listening.
“Six… Five… Four… “ He held his breath for the last three counts.
“Three… Two… One.” He was pushed back into the seat with more force than he had ever felt in his life. He heard creaks and groans coming from the spaceship that worried him. He wasn’t really sure that this hunk of junk would even get him into space.
Within moments, he was through the clouds and the sky was darkening as he rocketed through layers of atmosphere. He looked out to the side of the cockpit he could see the curvature of the earth. It was really a thing of beauty.
The ship lurched as it dropped the stage one thrusters and moved to the next stage. His heart stood still for a moment while he waited to see if they would even work. If the ship blew up on it’s own this early, he was pretty sure that the corporation wouldn’t care whose fault it was and would pay his family minimally. He briefly wondered if they were watching. Would the kids care that their old man was rocketing to his death for their benefit?
The second phase kicked in, and he was again knocked back into the seat. Something that he couldn’t see behind him made the unmistakeable ping sound of metal breaking free. He forced himself to focus back on what he was doing. He could see the shiny chrome dots of the blockade getting bigger as he approached them. They already seemed to be converging on his trajectory. He veered the ship to try to hit the blockade where it was a bit thinner. He had been through simulations of this quite a few times. The corporation trained him knowing that they would make more money through replays the farther he got.
He knew that it didn’t make a lot of difference where he hit the blockade. He just knew that if he hit it at an angle away from where he was initially heading then the large cluster would have to catch up to him. If the ship was fast enough, then he might even outrun the bulk of them.
He spun the ship so that he could look up out of the cockpit and see the cloud of death robots above him. So far the biggest cluster of them that was anticipating his initial trajectory was behind him. He might have a chance. There was still a number of robots that didn’t move from their positions at all. They maintained coverage around the entire planet even when some converged to take down a single ship.
The ship started to buck as it was hit by laser fire from the robots. Most of the laser fire was absorbed by the shielding that the rocket was coated in. He thought that just maybe he would have a chance to get at least a record distance through the blockade if not all the way through.
The little rocket plunged into the swarm. He could hardly see out of the cockpit windows there was so much laser fire out there. All he could really do at this point is stay on course and hope for the best. Suddenly there was a hissing sound. He looked at the gauges on the control panel. He was losing air pressure. He wasn’t really sure if he should attribute that to being shot at, or just the shoddy construction of the ship. He was wearing an oxygen mask and it was a slow leak, so it would be a while before that leak killed him. He didn’t worry about it too much.
He looked at the monitor that showed how far he had gotten. So far he was about fifteen percent of the way through the blockade. The record so far was seventy five percent. He still had quite a ways to go.
The convict gritted his teeth, trying to keep his focus despite the sound of his impending doom. He knew that if he lost pressure, he was done for. His vision started to go blurry as he struggled to breathe. He tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but the ship was shaking so violently that he could hardly hold onto the control stick.
He thought about his family, wondering if they were watching the live stream. Would they see him die? Would they even care? He couldn’t blame them if they didn’t. He had made so many mistakes in his life, and this was the ultimate punishment for them.
The ship continued to lurch and shake, and he could feel himself losing consciousness. He tried to fight it, but it was too much. His last thoughts were of his family and the hope that they would be able to use the money to start over.
The next thing he knew, he was floating in space. He opened his eyes and looked around, confused. He was alive. He couldn’t believe it. He looked down at his hands, which were covered in blood from where he had bitten his tongue during the pressure loss.
He took a deep breath and checked the gauges. The ship was still flying, albeit barely. He couldn’t see any of the robots anymore. Had he made it through the blockade? He looked out of the window and saw a blue and green planet in the distance. Earth. He had made it.
He smiled, feeling a sense of triumph mixed with disbelief. He had done the impossible. He had survived the suicide mission. He looked at the cameras, knowing that his family was watching. He hoped that they were proud of him.
He activated the payload, not really caring what it did. He had accomplished what he had set out to do. He had made it to the other side. As the ship started to descend into the Earth’s atmosphere, he closed his eyes and let out a deep breath. He had done it. He had really done it.
Uncategorized • March 17, 2023