Starting Point: Out of Options


The bridge shook violently, and one of the computer terminals at the back of the room erupted in a fountain of sparks.

“Shields are offline! Weapons offline! Engines offline!” Operations officer Langford could barely keep up with the list of system failures appearing on his screen. “Coolant leak on deck fifteen. We’re leaking plasma!”

On the opposite side of the bridge, Ensign Yamasaki was keeping track of the enemy ship’s movements. “Sir, they’re coming around for another pass.”

“Dammit!” Captain Kwon clenched his fist and brought it down hard against the padded armrest of his command chair. He was staring defeat in the face, and he knew it. He was out of options… or was he?

If ever there was a time for drastic actions this was it. “There’s only one thing for it,” announced Kwon. “Everybody form a prayer circle!”

OK, so I’m obviously having a laugh with this one, but I’m curious to see if anybody can think of a good science-fictional explanation for Captain Kwon’s unusual command.

How would you continue this story? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Mark Ball.

Image by James Clyne (USS Kelvin concept art for Star Trek 2009)

  • Leonardo Faria

    The crew are pious Jehovah’s Witnesses and Captain Kwon once read on the Watchtower that intense praying is an excellent shield enhancer to photon torpedoes. In the next paras the resort will turn out to be as true as the reiterated prophecies by this Church on the end of the world.
    The attackers take over the ship.
    This is a good science-fictional explanation…

  • Steven Lyle Jordan

    Though the rest of the crew think he’s crazy, he convinces them to hum in a D-flat minor while he chants in a language that even the linguistics-expert communications officer has never heard (although he detects snatches of ancient Druid in the chant).

    Suddenly, the center of the circle erupts in blue flames and brimstone, and an enormous man with an erection as big as his two-foot-long horns appears in the center. “My old friend Kwan,” he says. “Got yourself in another pickle, I see. I hope you can afford what it’ll cost you to get you out of this one!”

    • If Q were real, this is definitely how he’d chose to appear.

  • Jamie Berfield

    Stupid. Keep churchy BS out of sci-fi! That’s all we need…some bible bashing nut bringing g.o.d. into everything!

    • ^^ Grumpy pants award ^^ 🙂
      Sorry Jamie, I agree that religion belongs with the dodos, but I think you might have missed the point. Actually there are three points: 1) I wrote this because I thought it was funny. 2) Characters in sci-fi may have complex religious motivations, and that might be interesting to explore. 3) The religious terminology might refer to something different, such as some kind of group telepathic effort, or a neural link to the ship’s computer (or maybe the enemy ship).
      And then of course there are the multiple god-like beings in Star Trek, such as Q. But god help us if we ever have to pray to him!

  • Kirov

    The physical contact from the prayer circle allows Kwon to take direct control of the entire crews nanobot compliments which usually maintain the body’s health. He uses the enlarged group of nanobots to supplement the ships own nanobots and overcharges the shields for the next attack run. Surviving the next attack gives him the time he needs to jump out and live to fight another day. The praying was just to keep up crew morale while he guided the nanobots.

    • Carl Watson

      I presume you meant complements?

  • A friend of mine (who’s not a sci-fi fan) actually came up with a pretty good explanation for this shortly before I wrote it down. What if the “prayer” is a way of contacting some kind of powerful, ethereal alien entity. Q comes to mind, and that alien in TOS who was posing as Apollo.
    Clearly my sci-fi has rubbed off on even my non-geek friends 🙂

    • Dave Donovan

      this came to my mind also. but in a different way. i wasnt thinking of q, or apollo, but some other etherial being, some thing new and even more dangerous, possibly…

  • Leonardo Faria

    My second take on the subject (the miracle of technobabble).
    All the crew are born again Christians except the head of the engine room, Shiraz Mufhad, who’s muslim. When his comrades form the prayer circle, he thinks in all fairness he can’t do that (peace be to the prophet), so he kneels down on his own, forehead on the floor. But he’s indeed unaware of where Mecca is, so he begins a counter-clockwise rotation to locate the right angle, based on his handful of navigation notions. But he has an active geomuon field generator screwdriver fastened to his ankle, and when the counter-clockwise rotation begins it creates a contrast with the nanoprobe intelligent shrapnel produced by the first photon torpedo. This shrapnel had succeeded in penetrating and inhibiting parts of the shield controllers. But the nanoprobes’ action requires a constant clockwise twirl, now made impossible by the geomuon field whose axis is in the ankle of Shiraz Mufhad. The shield controllers regain their full functionality. The attack is repelled and the vessel is safe.
    Allah uh Akbar.

    • That’s really good! Of course, the Christians will believe it to be a miracle, whether they figure out what really happened or not 🙂
      The Lord works in mysterious ways.

      • Leonardo Faria

        And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose – (Romans 8:28)

        Allah is Omnipotent and Omnipresent having infinite power and being present everywhere – (Qu’ran Surah Qaaf, 50:16)

  • Tim Luther Lewis

    To initiate of the ritual, Kwon began a low dirge. Following his lead, the other members of the bridge crew joined the chant. Time was short but the meditative harmonies and resonances of the ritual could not be rushed: there were rules to observe.
    Finally, after several minutes of forced, unnatural calm amongst the klaxons and broken, venting pipes, the senior staff reached the 5th harmonic resonance. At this moment, the quantum mind of the ship’s A.I. instigated the final phase, gathering both the sound and mental alpha waves of the crew, transcribed them to an array of electron beams, focused on a single point in space. This whole process, quite frankly, gave her the willies.
    Slowly, the veil between dimensions thinned and split. The crew would now bargain for their lives with the minds beyond – and all feared the cost.

  • JeredNA

    “Fetch me Dr Megon,” Kwon said to his first mate who moved off immediately, “and bring the Tignelander!” he yelled over his shoulder after him.
    ”You can’t possibly be attempting to use the Tignlands as an advantage?” asked R.R. Aarons, Dr Megon’s assistant who had already been on deck helping the ship navigator understand the abnormalities on his charts caused by the gravitational anomalies due to unfathomable fluxes of time in the Tignlands of Endrone. Captian Kwon regarded the R.R. “Aarons unless we do something the Deigtic will finish us, they’ve had the advantage since they led us into the Tignlands. Dr Megon’s research could help us turn that advantage against them!”
    “But Captain,” replied Aarons nervosly, “the research is incomplete, if we fail to adjust time correctly and the error is fatal, we won’t have any possibilities of abort. Captain, we could all die.”
    “I understand the risks Aarons,” Kwon said sternly, placing a hand on the young mans shoulder. At that moment Dr Megon entered the Brig, an old green Detigc elder was being hauled behind her by two S.O.’s. The Tignlander.
    “Captain, the ‘Korereigrigke’ is gaining velocity, its coming about quickly!” reported Yamasaki.
    “Langford, any progress on auxiliary engines?” asked Captain Kwon,
    “No Captain. Plasma leakages are freezing auxiliary controls,”
    Kwon turned to Dr Megon, “I’m sorry Megon, I know you arent entirely ready, but we have to try your methods.”
    “Captain i must protest we ca-”
    “That’s an order Megon.” Kwon interrupted her, “get that native into the middle of the prayer circle.” The Tignlander began to struggle.
    “Captain no!” yelled Megon, the frail young Dr reached out and grabbed his sleeve, “you don’t need to intimidate him. I’ve already convinced him to help us, on the conditions that we stay out of his tribes section of the Tignlands,”
    Captain Kwon looked at her for an instance as if she were joking, “Is it aware that the empire has likely slaughtered it’s entire tribe, it won’t like us after that,”
    Megon shook her head. “Do what you need to do,” Kwon said.
    “‘Korereigrigke’ is almost completely about captain!”
    “Quickly Megon,” said Kwon as Dr Megon led the Tignlander into the centre of the bridge, the two S.O,’s followed, one carried the Deigtic artrfact that the Tignlander used to control the Tignelands, the other carried the selective amplification device (The S.A.D.) that would allow the artefact to effect the entirety of ‘The Ecteion.’ Megon and the native began adjusting the device once it was set up, rotating interlocking rings at precise speed. “Captain, the ‘Korerigrigke’ has completed its turn!” reported Yamasaki as the hostility proximity alarms went off, “we are in enemy sights Captain! Captain they’re firing!”
    Kwon saw the flash of the Korereigrigke’s batteries firing. Yet a second later, when the shots should have hit The Ecteion, Kwon and the rest of his crew where throw into the air, floating as if in zero g. outside the Ecteion, time wen’t backwards. The hulls of both spacecraft seemed to repair themselves as they summoned back the shots they had fired and retraced their trajectories in reverse through the Detigc atmosphere.
    Finally time stopped its rewind and the two ships were thrown back into heated battery fire, after a minute of confusion a series of alarms wen’t off and The Ecteion ceased fire, “Captain! Shields are offline! Weapons offline! Engines offline!” reported Operations officer Langford. Captain Kwon stormed over to the communications desk and hailed Dr Megon who would’ve been back in her laboratory at this time, “God dammit Megon! You didnt take us back far enough!”

  • Ned Whitesell

    Maybe a prayer circle is “slang” for an incredibly risky maneuver that would only be used in the most desperate situations.

  • Arthur Kipp

    If you have psionics in this verse, it could be a pyschic link formed with the crew to launch a powerful psionic attack at the enemy.

  • BlackUmbrellas

    Oh, this one is simple- after the prayer circle is initiated, they open communications to the *highly religious* attacking vessel, their display of piety sufficient to buy them a ceasefire and window for negotiations.