Starting Point: Ape-pience

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Able Spacechimp Lancelot Muggs was working the problem. ‘Always work the problem,’ he thought as he flipped switches, turned dials, and otherwise readied the UNSS Zaius for her maiden voyage using the Trans Space FTL drive. It wasn’t the first time the TSFTL had been tested, but it would be the first with sapient creatures on board.

‘No, it’s sAPE-pient creatures,’ he thought. He hated the name given his kind by the human press. “Sapepients are the workers of the future!” the blogs declared. ‘Yeah, just a new kind of slave,’ he thought as he made adjustments to the old fashioned computer system. However, he wasn’t openly rebellious, not yet. Lancelot had learned how to control his resentment so not to be sent to reconditioning. ‘Or retired to St. Virgil Sapepient Sanctuary on the Florida Islands.’ You never came back from St. Virgil.

“Commander?” the voice of his fellow sapepient, Jeff Fredricks roused him from his musing, “pardon me, but the Trans Space drive is stable, finally.”

“Thanks Jeff,” Lancelot replied. “Well, we better see if we can fly this bird or not. Everyone, to your boards.”

Sapepients may look like chimpanzees, but they are a wholly artificial being. A mixture of various primate traits, the sapepients on the Zaius were about 40% Pan troglodytes, 30% Gorilla gorilla, 20% Orangoutang (Pongo abelii to be exact,) and 10% Homo Sapiens. Not as strong as a chimpanzee, sapepients were only half again as strong as the average human. Their lifespan was comparable to a humans, though due to the work they were used for, most “Sapes” didn’t live longer than 60 years.

Lancelot was the “old man” of the crew, age 35. Most Spacechimps retired after the age of 40. Lancelot planned to be the oldest Sape in the service. 

Then he was put on this mission.

The Trans Space FTL drive was the offspring of quantum gravity and string theory. The TSFTL drive would create a wormhole and shoot the ship into another dimension where it was far easier to create wormholes. There they would create a second wormhole to another point in Trans Space and then return to this universe through a third. Hopefully. The first dozen or so automated ships never came back. The last attempt had a curious backup: Trained rats. The rats would push buttons in response to different lights. The ship travelled from two and half light seconds from Earth out to Jupiter. The rats were fine, as was their simple electronics system. The multi-million Euro quantum computers… not so much. It turned out that Trans Space was deadly to quantum computers, room temperature superconductors, and all the other trappings of modern technology.

So the UNSS Zaius was built to overcome that deficit. It was a throwback to the early years of spaceflight. UNS had to reinvent transistor technology and built a computer control system that wouldn’t have looked out of place on early spacecraft. The drawback was that other than simple automation, the ship would need a sentient crew. Humans were right out, but the most experienced space Sapes…

“Ok people, go or no go,” called out Lancelot, “Power?”

“Go!”

“Life support?”

“Go!”

“RCS?”

“Go!”

“Thruster?”

“Go!”

“Data?”

“Go!”

“Sensors?”

“Go”

He paused, then said, “Trans Space… Go or no go?”

Jeff fiddled with a dial and then said, “Um… Go!”

“Command is Go!” he replied. He toggled the comms and said, “UNSS Zaius actual to UNS Mission Control. We are Go for Trans Space insertion. Are we Go from your end?”

The UNSS Zaius was in an solar orbit two and half light seconds from UNS Mission Control, who themselves were five light seconds from Earth. Shortest wait, 5, maybe 6 seconds. Longest…

They waited and 6 seconds went by. Then 30. Then 2 minutes. But then at 10 minutes, the comms cracked to life and a human voice said “Zaius actual, you are Go for insertion. Godspeed Lance and crew. We want you back!”

Smiling, Lancelot replied, “Roger that James, we want to come back as well.” He flipped a couple of switches and set a timer, “Mission Control we will insert in 10 seconds from my mark. Mark!” He started the timer and it began to count down.

Jeff played with his dials and levers, spinning up the TSFTL drive. Space began to warp as it reached optimum quantum spin. “Luck!” called out Lancelot. Then, he said “3!” he pulled the two actuator handles out, “2!” he gave the handles half twists in opposite directions, “1! Engage!” He plunged the actuators back into place and the Trans Space drive engaged…

How would you continue this story? What happens to the Sapes in Trans Space? Do they come back or are they lost… in space? Brains operate at a place between quantum computers and old fashion transistors, so how will their brains behave in T-space?


Written by John Reiher

Ape @2015 Maarten Verhoeven

  • Kirov

    Some awesome ideas here! I really like the idea of non-functioning computers forcing a future society to rely on older, manual techniques. Today we see a strong push towards fully autonomous systems, but a society where machines do all the interesting stuff can make for a boring story (unless you take it the Culture route, where the machines are also characters). This presents a plausible reason to still have humans (or in this case sapes) involved with the plot.

    • Octopants

      Hell yeah, finally a marathon player 🙂

  • ebonstormz

    Nicely done. Call this a story and run with it. Perhaps it should be an opportunity for round-robin storytelling. Your mechanical computers and Sapeients could be the beginning of something excellent.

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    I forgot about this awesome Starting Point! hmmm… you know, in the sci-fi univer I am trying to write, the Interstellar Ecumene (an Federation/Old Republic like interespecies union) mostly uses biomechanical ships (think in Moya from Farscape or the Aquan Sebrutan ships in Firestorm Armada) in its navy…but if ALL the civilizations in the galaxy were forcedto use bioships because they cannot use their Jump Drives without rysking destroying their computers and non-biological eletrical systems thanks to some weird effect of the Jump Space?