Thirty thousand feet above Oregon, the U.S.S. Pinto entered into a nose-dive. While the greatest in 47th century technology made the airship virtually invincible to enemy fire, it couldn’t do anything to stop gross incompetence from within the Pinto itself. Gross incompetence named Carl.
This particular bit of unspeakably catastrophic foolishness was particularly catastrophic, unspeakable, and foolish because it ended up causing the United States of North America and Associated Islands to lose World War LXXIV. It is worth noting that mankind had solved all its problems, including war, somewhere in the mid-39th century. With nothing much else to do, they started holding a world war every ten years. It’s all fun and games though, as only the robots fight. The first to hold control of Australia (which had been uninhabited since The Great Kangaroo Uprising of 2944) for two weeks wins. And the USNA&AI was just one strategic deployment away from winning the whole thing. Then Carl happened.
Robotic Cannons are pretty low tech. Basically, they’re just standard plasma cannons on wheels. The lack of any AI software makes them difficult for opposing forces to notice, making them a valuable tool for surprise attacks. There were twenty such cannons on the U.S.S. Pinto, and someone made the mistake of asking Carl to run a quick diagnostic scan on all of them. He succeeded in scanning four cannons before dooming the Pinto to crash by not only activating a cannon, but setting it to “Berserk” mode, which was particularly impressive because robotic cannons don’t have a berserk mode. The cannon raced out of the transport dock and into the body of the ship, firing indiscriminately. Carl chased after it, hoping to catch it before anyone noticed the gaping holes in the side of the ship.
Sirens began to blare as the captain announced over the PA system, “Code Indigo. Critical weaponry malfunction. I repeat Code Indigo. This is not a drill.”
Carl chased after the cannon. “I’m on it!” he shouted to the people ducking and lunging for safety, “Tell the captain I’m on it!” Someone did tell the captain, who immediately made another announcement on the PA system. “Code Kind of Blue but Really More of a Green. Please evacuate the ship immediately. I repeat, Code Kind of Blue but Really More of a Green.” The crew rushed to the escape pods as the cannon careened aftward down the corridors with Carl hot on its trail. Only one other person hadn’t fled yet.
A few hundred yards further down the ship, Professor Larry Romulus the Incomprehensible was trying to save as much of his research as possible. His research was so complex that he was literally the only person on Earth that could understand it, hence his title. He managed to shove several hard drives into a bag before grabbing the only working prototype and dashing into the corridor. He was just feet from the starboard escape pod bay when the cannon skidded around a corner and fired a massive ball of glowing blue-white plasma at the professor. He dodged at the last second, mercifully avoiding the deadly glob of energy only to be particularly unmercifully impaled by a large shred of shrapnel from what used to be the escape pod.
In a stroke of luck, the ship tilted starboard and the cannon rolled out of the hole it just made and plummeted into the middle of a Renaissance Faire. This was not so lucky for Hagar the Blacksmith, but was incredibly lucky for Carl. Professor Romulus was dying anyway, so we’ll call it a wash.
With all the escape pods gone or destroyed, the ship tried to stabilize itself. At its current rate, it would crash into the Pacific Ocean in two minutes and six seconds. Carl approached the professor. “Are you okay?” he asked.
The professor coughed shallowly. Then, in raspy rushed breath, he said, “What kind of stupid question is that? I have a giant piece of metal sticking out of my chest.” He coughed some more. “Before I die, I need you to do something for me.”
“What do you need me to do?”
The professor handed him the prototype. It was a sleek gray cube, about six inches on each side. There was a green button on one side and a screen on the front, but it was cracked. “Take this. Use it to escape. Keep it safe.”
“How? What is it?”
“It’s a transdimensional shift facilitator. “
“I don’t know what that is.”
“No one does.”
“What does it do?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Just press the green button and get out of here.”
“Okay. I’m sorry about all this, professor.”
“Just get out of here!” The professor shouted.Carl pressed the green button and disappeared in a flash, leaving behind only a whiff of green smoke.