Coding Error

Contributor: Ron Moreau

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The atmospheric conditions of the planet were calm and the navigator had predicted a smooth landing. The ship was half-way through its descent towards the city of Thurn when the engines went out of control. The computer showed that a navigational sabotage beam had hit the vessel. None of the eight crew members could understand who had fired the beam. They'd been sure that the Threl rebel force was immobilized. The report from the robot stationed on the planet's surface had told them that was so:

'Peace in Thurn once again
I walk around the city walls
And hear a Xi fly laughing.'

Captain Benfrey scrutinized the printout and cursed the fact that the remaining surveillance robot that the company had stationed in Thurn was a refurbished humanities teaching device which kept reverting to haiku composition mode in order to write its reports. He shouted out
to his crew members, more in desperation than in hope.

'Is there anything in this report that will help us?'

For the first time on the mission, the quiet cartographer, Coleen, spoke up.

'I think we misinterpreted the report, Captain.'

Benfrey raised one eyebrow but didn't waste time on words. There was not long until the estimated moment of collision with the planet's surface.

'I looked up haiku on the ship's database. Haiku traditionally contain a reference to the seasons, although the reference may be somewhat oblique...'

'Eh? Get to the point can't you? We could die at any second!'

Murray the ship's engineer had lost his composure. He seemed ready at any second to hit something or someone with a telekinetic spanner.

'...the seasonal reference in this report is the laughter of the Xi fly. Unfortunately the Xi fly only produces a sound similar to humanoid laughter at the end of hibernation...'

Now the whole crew craned towards Coleen and the cabin was silent other than for the engine's whine.

'...and the current hibernation period of the Xi fly species finishes ten years from now..The report from the robot was a prediction based on hope...'

The captain stood up before he spoke.

'We're going to make a crash landing on a planet held by rebel forces. Before I initiate the landing sequence, let's get one thing clear. That robot's messages aren't any use to us.'

No one heard Coleen mutter,

'If we don't try to understand them...'

Lights flashed around the cabin as the landing procedures began.

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Ron Moreau lives and works in London and various locations in Austria. He is currently working on a speculative fiction novel set in the near future.
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