Human Altered

​

A one-shot for you, enjoy. Comments welcome as always.

I’ve done the [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/yousureimnotarobot) thing if anyone wants to buy me a beer and my [Wiki](https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/wiki/authors/yousureimnotarobot#wiki_burning) is here.

**Human Altered**

Eells stumbled back to the ship, happily singing a half remembered song from Earth. “Something, something.. and I knew it complete..”. He reached the ship. Yeah. Another tour. Dragging through his pockets he found his plan B, a sober pill. He dry swallowed it and waited.

The world came back into unwelcome focus. Another three months in the HMS Shitshow. He dragged his sorry ass back to his berth.

Captain Reid watched his human return. His engineer, for the love of all the gods, stumble back to his ship. He watched as the yellow/red/blue balance that he had learned was human sleeping developed.

“We launch now. Before it wakes up.”

The mining vessel Shahetow left the dock.

Reid hated having a human. No-one else was allowed service the engines, so he was having to put up with it. The insanity of allowing one species to control most of the interstellar hardware sat badly with the Captain. His people had owned the stars for generations before these blind savants had arrived.

The humans had arrived with into the galaxy nothing but a bag of spanners and an open mind. Within a generation they had ‘fixed’ everything so much that no-one would touch a machine if they had gone near it. It was only a matter of time before “Human Altered” became a common sign, then a T-Shirt and a religion.

Then a warning, and finally a law.

Insurance would disavow any injuries, loss or death from an accident unless you had a human engineer or could prove no human had ‘had a look’ at your equipment.

Eells walked through the engine compartment. The refit was over, he could smell the new wiring drying out. The hum of the converters was steady. Still, it sounded off. It would take a month or so before it sang again. He lived to give these gentle giants a voice.

Time to report to Reid. The previous engineer had told him that the Captain could see well into the infra red. Nocturnal hunters somewhere in the bloodline, he guessed. He debated mentioning human vampires. Probably not.

Captain Reid prepared himself for the human. Honestly, why couldn’t they have a proper shell. Talking to a human was like watching a fireworks display. Except they were surly and argumentative. He raised the lights and equipped his sensor dampers.

“Welcome back Engineer” mimed the Captain in his traditional dance. Eells just waited. He waited for the correct moment to sit down.

“Hello again, Captain. The refit seems fine. It will take me a month or so to get the system back to peak performance. I reckon we are running at eighty percent now.”

This, this was why he didn’t like humans. His engineer didn’t dance, just sat there like a bored bonfire. He had paid for the best engineering. The finest upgrades. And this, this tree swinging biped said he could add twenty percent performance. And he would. No-one other than another human would understand how, but it would happen.

“I am grateful for your efforts. Your bonus will, of course, reflect that. However, I have news. The weapons array has been declared off limits to humans. Apparently allowing humans access to ship weapons is now a war crime. Please leave them alone.”

Eells shrugged. The weapons on this tin can were ones he could build as a child’s science project. He wondered which one of his people had taken an interest and why. Generally they didn’t like Xenos seeing them play with guns. They got nervous.

“Are we expecting hostiles? Did I miss a briefing?”

The Captain had learned about human curiosity. Tell them before they find out. And they will find out. Long ago he had watched a human engineer corrupt a kitchen appliance to find ‘sports results’. In the middle of a war. In a deadzone. And it worked.

“One of the edge systems had declared all foreign traders to be spies. Don’t worry, we are far from them. One of your colleagues was attacked and, well the reports are classified, but she reacted badly. They are still recovering survivors. Of the system, not the ship.”

Eells raised his eyebrows at that. His heat signature shifted.

“Perhaps, Captain, I could have a look at the transporters? I feel they lack a little something?”

Reid relaxed, his tail unwinding from the chair. He had expected protests. Excellent. Finally a human that understood.

“Of course, all other systems are yours! Just not weapons.”

“Fine by me.”

Eells was deep in thought when he grabbed a coffee in the canteen. Why the transporters? Well, it’s a delivery system. He reckoned he could play about with this one. Best not mention it to the Captain.

The following day, Reid’s second officer called his office.

“Captain, the human is making the warning noises. It’s rebuilding the aft transporter. It just showed its teeth when I asked what it was doing, apparently you authorized an upgrade.”

“Stars protect us. Which noise? Is it the ‘humming’ or the ‘whistling’?”

“Both, Sir.”

The Captain definitely wasn’t running to find his engineer, but it was close.

Eells was deep in thought as he disassembled the transporter. That was the problem with Xeno tech. They had a good idea, then a generation later they have another great idea and slap that on top. After a few generations, the thing is a mess. A lot of Mankind’s reputation for genius was simply digging right back to the beginning and integrating things properly.

The Captain arrived to find Eells deep into his transporter, parts carefully piled around him. The human didn’t even notice his arrival. It was making the ‘humming’ sound.

No one was quite sure why they did it. Some xenobiologists maintained that it had evolved to warn people that something dangerous was underway and that you should stay away. Reid certainly felt like that.

“Engineer Eells, may I ask what you are doing? We will need this transporter shortly, if you dismantle it I cannot get the ore into the hold. We will lose days of work.”

Eells poked his head out of the machine.

“Hello Captain, didn’t hear you come in. Don’t worry, she’ll be up and running before we hit the asteroid belt. I’m just boosting the range and capacity a little.

When they designed these they didn’t have the power available that we have now. Should speed up collection by maybe forty percent.”

Reid was torn. That was a massive bonus to the ship, but it meant yet another system that only a human would dare touch.

“Isn’t boosting it that much dangerous?”

Eells waved his face about in a way that Reid recognised as indication of a negative.

“No, Captain. In fact it’s safer now. I’m upgrading as I go along. All the fields will be harmonised for once. I can give you a much narrower focus, means we can grab a lot more of the small stuff. Should improve our take as well as our speed.”

The Captain let out a long hiss. This was how the humans had taken over. One system at a time. With these improvements, his shareholders would be ecstatic. And everyone would try and match the improvements. So everyone would need a human, and it would cost him more to keep his one.

“Commendable, Engineer Eells. Can I expect the same from the forward teleporter before we begin?

The human waved his face about again. This was the positive.

“Aye Captain, there or thereabouts.”

Now resigned to it, the Captain simply said “Carry on then, let me know when you are finished.”

Eells continued his work, reflecting that sometimes people, of all types, didn’t see the obvious simply because they were used to normal. Not allowed on weapons? Here he was playing with field generators designed to rip entire asteroids apart. You can keep your antique plasma cannon. The Captain now had something much better if they needed it. One day he might even tell him.

The Shahetow moved back to base two weeks early, with full holds and a happy crew. Eells had tuned the engines to his satisfaction and refined his work on the transporters.

The improvements gave Reid another advantage when it came to unloading the ship quickly. The crew picked up another major bonus as docking fees were cut. The other mining ships started asking about it. They were told to ask the human.

Many drinks later, Eells was stumbling back to the ship again.

He had given his fellow humans a description of the upgrades, as well as a quiet word about its other uses, if they ever needed it. Normally the friendly competition between the engineers would have kept his mouth shut, or at least wearing a big shit eating grin while they tried to figure out how he’d done it. But not this time, not when it might mean lives at risk. When it came to safety, all for one and one for all.

Out in the asteroid belt was a very disgruntled ship. The Retaz was unusual in that it didn’t have a human on board. The engineers had blacklisted it years ago for smuggling and war profiteering. Hardscrabble mining was bad enough, but as the word filtered out of major improvements in the delivery of ore, the price began to fall.

The owner of the Retaz and it’s crew were an insectile race. They realized that this was going to cost them a lot of money.

“It’s the humans again. Destroying our traditions! Our business is ruined. This ship is cursed!”

The Captain knew his crew. He had scraped the barrel hiring them and they were an ugly bunch at the best of times. This was not the best of times.

“Perhaps.. perhaps we get a better ship. One with these improvements. One with a human and a full hold.”

The crew went silent. It didn’t take long to work out that the Captain wasn’t talking about buying a ship. This was piracy. One after the other, they agreed.

“So be it. The next Ship that comes out, we take. The Retaz might be a rubbish mining vessel but she still has the weapons from our smuggling days.”

You didn’t need much stealth in the asteroid field, just turn off the lights and stay off the Comms. The Retaz waited.

Eells had just finished putting the compulsory ‘Human Altered’ signs on the transporters when the Captain called.

“Engineer Eells, your improvements have made a substantial contribution to our success. Thank you. I was wondering if you had any other ideas?”

Eells was surprised. The Captain had seemed reluctant to engage before. Perhaps his shareholders were pushing him.

“Well, Captain, I’d like a really good look at the scanners. They look like they could do with some attention.”

“Of course, whenever you wish. Your help is appreciated.”

Reid ended the call. Since his last run every other Captain, his shareholders and customers had showered him with praise. And money. Apparently letting the Human adjust the transporters had been an act of commercial genius. Now they wanted to see what else he would do. So be it. He was resigned to dying in whatever disaster resulted. At least the human couldn’t blow the ship up using the scanners.

Eells happily pulled the array apart. His suspicions were right. Some of these sensors were older than him. He enjoyed the EVA, always nice to get out of the ship and see space properly. He knew some of the crew found if creepy and weird that humans would happily spend time on the outside of a moving ship, but he regarded it as a perk.

Over the weeks, he fabricated and installed something more suitable. Then he moved to the bridge and began rebuilding the scanner console. He added a few more ‘just in case’ functions, buried in the diagnostic menus.

He was just calling the Captain to tell him the job was finished when the weapons array exploded.

The Captain called him first

“What have you done! I told you to stay away from the weapons! What lunacy have you inflicted on us now?”

Eells tried to explain that he had not touched the weapons, but the Captain wasn’t listening so he just turned the sensors back on. On the screen he could clearly see the ship that must have fired on them.

“Captain, we are under attack.”

“What, who would attack us?”

Elles watched the unknown ship close the distance. Apparently it still believed that it reminded hidden.

“I don’t know Captain, but I’m watching them approach.”

Reid ran to the bridge.

The crew watched as the ship came closer. Eells activated a couple of the new functions. The enemy ship was suddenly identified as he pinged their back up transponder. He guessed anyone with evil intentions would turn off the primary one. Half the ships didn’t even know that a backup existed in all civilian craft. Idiots.

“It’s the Retaz. Anyone know it?”

The Captain hissed, “Yes. Roughneck scum. That’s a smuggling ship, we can’t outrun it.”

Eells wasn’t sure about that, but he preferred to fight anyway. No-one was going to shoot up his ship for free.

Captain Reid was seething. If he was forced to surrender his ship, that was it. He would never get a Command again. No weapons and not enough speed to escape. The policy was clear. Evacuate the ship and run, hoping that no-one died.

He turned to the crew.” Begin the evacuation. We must abandon ship before they arrive.”

Eells was astonished. What did the Captain think he was doing? He had no plans on spending weeks in an escape pod, hoping that these fuckers didn’t shoot them out of space.

“Captain, I need to do some urgent repairs to the transporters.” Take a fucking hint, Captain.

Reid stared at the human. He must have lost his mind. “What are you talking about?”

“Captain, I need to recalibrate the transporters immediately. Then you might find evacuation unnecessary. Bearing in mind that humans aren’t permitted to use weapons, remember.”

Slowly Reid realized. The mad human had a plan. He must always have had a plan, ever since he had forbidden him access to the weapons array. He couldn’t order a human to fight. But he could let him use everything else.

“Of course, engineer Eells. Feel free to do as much.. recalibration as you like.”

“Thank you Sir.”

On the screen a red line appeared between the two ships. Eells took over the transporter control and began aligning the aft and forward fields. He gently fed power from the engines until the fields stood at over four hundred percent of normal output. Slowly they reached out to the red line.

Reid watched. The human practically glowed with concentration. No wonder the galaxy didn’t want them on weapons. He began to wonder what had happened in the edge system that had attacked a human engineer and her ship. No wonder it was classified. He imagined that if this worked, it would be classified too.

The Retaz approached the red line.

“Attention Shahetow, surrender or perish!

You have no weapons and we can outrun you. Flee, we will allow your emergency pods to leave. Oppose us and you will all die. Leave your human on board.”

Eells looked up from the controls.

“Well now it’s personal. Fuck you assholes.”

He watched as the enemy crossed the line. He waited until he was sure they were in range. Then he attacked.

The transporter fields ripped through the ship, tearing the engine apart. The ship crumpled under the assault. Then Eells retracted the fields, grabbing tons of ore from the hold. Once again the fields reached out, slamming the ore through the Retaz. And again. And again.

The Retaz crew couldn’t see who or what was attacking them. Then they were shattered by the hail of ore, the ship pounded into oblivion. All that remained was a mix of rock, metal and body parts. No investigation would betray that a human might have used weapons. Unfortunately for anyone that decided to attack one, for a human engineer, everything could be a weapon. At least the Captain didn’t need to know about the scanner updates. Yet.

He looked levelly at Captain Reid “Captain, the teleporters are calibrated. Our scanners seem to be picking up some wreckage. It looks like someone collided with an asteroid.”

Reid had never seen such a cold-blooded execution. Eells seemed unmoved by the carnage. What were these Humans, on every ship, in every station? Fixing, improving. Perhaps guarding.

“Thank you Eells, we will investigate the.. accident and report it. It is unlikely anyone survived the impact.”

“I’m sure you’re right Captain. I’ll just go over and check. Just in case.”

“Carry on, Engineer Eells. Don’t forget to mark the scanner as ‘Human Altered’.”

​

I’ve done the [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/yousureimnotarobot) thing if anyone wants to buy me a beer and my [Wiki](https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/wiki/authors/yousureimnotarobot#wiki_burning) is here.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you! I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. As an engineer, I know that we tend to mess with things until they are … just so. So, I certainly feel that Eells was well within his rights to ‘calibrate’ the transporters.

  2. Ok, I know you said this was a one shot, but I, for one, would love more in this storyline. What did happen in the edge system? Why the requirement “Human Altered”? These are the things we need to know. Keep up the great work! As an aside, I’m curious to know where you’re from. Nevada here!

  3. Umm Sir … The Terrens are up to something .. Thay have the Mess Hall covered in printouts of the engens . Thay have been drinking hot been water for over three shifts . Wen asked them what thay were doing I was told to do something anatomical to my self .

    ​

    Good one pleas more .

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