Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lonely Space - Chapter Four (Eve)


 Chapter Four


The Salutem Novis Central Computer closely monitored Jay Johnson over the next few years, for much of that time he was idle and withdrawn, he gained weight and he started drawing on the walls. The computer found the behavior fascinating. Then one day Jay Johnson was back on the bridge to see them enter what was called the heliopause. There was not really much to see, since it was a totally imaginary boundary.

“It is for human posterity and the sake of history” Jay Johnson told the computer, watching the massive bands and clouds of dust slowly swirl. “This is where they say comets are born”

Caring about this stuff was out of character for Jay Johnson, as far as the computer was concerned and began yet another sub-routine to study this in and of itself. The computer watched and listened to Jay Johnson continuously, it monitored his dreams when he slept. Yet all of this was just a side hobby for the computer that was keeping the ship in working order, making any course corrections and keeping 265,000 suspended humans alive.

Drawing and painting on the walls seemed to be psychologically soothing for Jay Johnson, the computer determined not to have them erased by the service robots and nanites. Jay Johnon had only encountered, as far as he knew, Gopher- the robot which moved by a rail connection on the ceiling. So when Jay Johnson, now on a “diet” and jogging up and down corridors was heading toward a service robot he had never encountered before, the computer was curious of his reaction.

Jay Johnson was getting exercise these days but he wished Gopher could jog along with him but the little robot seemed to have other duties to attend. Jay had absolutely no idea what those might be but they must be important. He had jogged at least a few miles back and forth on corridors, some of them unfamiliar after all this time. He thought about naming them and putting street signs up.

Then he stopped. In front of him was a large gray and black box on wheels, part of the corridor wall was slide open and he could see activity between them. He had never seen one of these before but it seemed to be doing some kind of repair.

“Hello” he said “And what might be your name?”

The central computer answered “That is corridor service module G-27. This is section G of the ship and we are on the 27th level”

“Well, that's an imaginative name” Jay mocked “Why not Rover? Or Spot?”

“There are already autonomous vehicles aboard called Rovers. There are also Solar Particle Observer Telescopes as part of my sensor suite.” The computer informed him. Jay laughed “Oh, right. Those names were already taken, how stupid were those suggestions, of course”

“If you would like to give the module a name, go right ahead” the computer said, it would be another bit of information as to Jay Johnson's psychological profile.

“How many of them are there? The name suggests there are hundreds but I've never seen any” Jay said getting closer and inspecting the unit.

“You are correct” the computer said “The original plan called for each section of every deck to have one. This was shown to be wasteful but the units aboard were designated for where they are stored and this one is stored in this section on this deck”

Jay nodded “This is his 'hood”

After a moment he stood and slapped the top of the unit and said “Since you are so dark, I am going to call you Goth, okay?” then nodded “Agreed then, you are Goth”

Jay went back to his jogging and soon was just a deck underneath biological habitat #3, this is where some of his murals were painted. A green area at the bottom represented grass, there were kids playing with a ball and a woman lying on the ground in a bikini reading a book. The artwork itself was basic and not detailed but the computer didn't judge their aesthetics.

“Crew member Jay Johnson” the computer said as the man continued to jog “I have been considering your request and I have begun to see the possible benefits of such an arrangement”

Jay Johnson wasn't paying a lot of attention “Which request?”

“The request for a companion” Jay Johnson walked right into a wall when he heard this.

“What, really?” Jay asked “Are you being serious right now? Never mind, that was a stupid question, you're always serious.”

The computer waited for the man to stop talking before he continued “I was considering whether you would benefit most from the loyalty of a dog, or the responsibility of a child, possibly you would benefit from the wisdom of an elder”

“Okay, now I know you are messing with me” Jay said “I don't know if that passes for humor to you, but I'm not laughing”

The computer responded “I understand that you desire a woman, crew member Jay Johnson. The real question is whether it would benefit you or the mission to bring a woman out of cryogenic suspension”

“It will. Not only would I be happier, but there would two humans for you to keep an eye on, Lord knows you always seem to have nothing else to do” Jay Johnson said, feeling a bit angry and frustrated again. The computer did not know whether Jay Johnson knew he was being constantly monitored or was suggesting he felt like it was true.

It was also true that being able to study the interactions of two humans would be educational, the computer might learn a lot from this.

“You understand that anyone who is taken out of suspension will likely be as upset a you were” the computer said “and when she finds out it was at your request, that anger might be directed at you as you directed your anger at me”

Jay found a spot in the corridor and slid to the ground, back against the wall. “You're probably right about that” he rubbed his hands through the hair on his head “Women are fickle though, she would eventually forgive me”

The computer then ventured “There is also a good chance that the woman in question will not find you attractive. A higher than normal chance I would think”

Jay laughed “I guess that's the roulette wheel”

So we are looking for a single woman. Is this in a certain age range?” The computer asked. Jay Johnson stood back up “Are we really doing this?”

“I think it would be interesting. I think I might learn a lot for use in the future, this is rather a long trip across the solar system” The computer said “Close to 6,000 years is quite a long time”

Jay looked around “Should I go to the bridge or something? So we can discuss this”

“It does not matter to me where we discuss this” the computer said “Do you have age or ethnic preferences in a companion? Understanding that this woman might not mate with you”

“Can you stop saying that? I'm pretty young and getting back in shape” Jay told the computer “I played high school football you know”

“Yes, you were the second-string quarterback in the eleventh grade for the Patton High School Generals where you mostly played as the ball holder for field goals” the computer said, Jay tried to round on the computer “Hey, I did a lot more than that! I got to play in some games, too”

“Back to the question at hand” the computer said.

“Oh, that. Well, I'd like her to be younger than me, I don't really care about her race or anything” Jay said, rubbing the back of his neck. “But just don't revive her until I shower, shave and change... not in that order of course”

“If you believe that will help” the computer told him. Jay was already jogging toward what had become his quarters, although he could have used any or all of them.

When he had cleaned up and found his way to the chamber where he had been brought out of cryogenic suspension he was stepping lightly and whistling. Gopher went to him immediately and started trying to mimic the whistling while bouncing up and down.

“Gopher can whistle too” it said.

“Good job, Gopher” he said patting it on the top.

There were not cryogenic pods in the room yet, he wondered if the computer had chosen one yet. Then again it probably didn't take this computer a nanosecond to decide something like that. He went to the table and chairs by the far wall and sat down.

“Ready and waiting” he said, starting to wonder if the computer was really going to revive someone else or not. Was this an elaborate prank by the main computer. Then again, this computer had always been very serious with him.

“What are we waiting for?” he asked looking at Gopher, the little robot turned to face him and answered with its child-like voice “Nothing, the cryogenic suspension pod is approaching”

“The computer didn't say anything” Jay said

“What would the computer say? Everything was already agreed upon” Gopher said “Besides, you get to take the blame if this person is really upset”

Jay got the feeling that the computer wanted him to change his mind, but he was determined not to, there was no telling how long it would take to get another chance. He had waited for years for this chance already. Then a slot in the wall opened and a pod was pushed into the room.

Jay walked to the pod and looked through the transparent top. He saw a young and pretty dark-skinned woman inside, peaceful, looking as if she were sound asleep. Gopher was watching him intently from the other side. “Do you want to mate with her?”

“What? Oh, I don't even know her yet Gopher” he said with a grin.

“What is her name?” Jay asked.

Instead of the main computer answering it was Gopher again. “Her name is Tamita Koroma, she is from Freetown, Sierra Leone” the little robot said “... and she is single and available for Jay Johnson to woo her, wine and dine her, sway her heart”

“Oh stop that” he told the little robot. It backed up and then started swinging from the ceiling in a circular pattern “Try and make me”

Jay Johnson just shook his head and looked back down at the girl in the pod.

The main computer finally made its presence felt “Are you sure about this? You can change your mind, or choose someone else”

Jay shook his head “No. If I don't do this, I will spend the rest of my life alone”

Gopher said “Not completely alone, we have gotten along well all this time haven't we?”

“It's not the same thing Gopher. I don't expect her to play tag the Goth with me” he said, rubbing the top canopy of the pod “Let's just do this, just revive her”

The main computer spoke up “Yes, Jay. Initiating the procedure”

Soon enough the top slid open and the girl inside started moving, she groaned a bit and opened her eyes but they weren't focused at first. Then she sat up and looked around. “Where? Oh. Right...” she looked saddened by this “I'm on the ship”

“Yes” Jay Johnson said “We are on the ship”

Her eyes widened and she looked at him “Who are you?”

He smiled “A fellow passenger, my name is Jay Johnson, that robot over there is Gopher, and it already told me your name”

He held a hand out, she took it and he helped her to get out of the pod. When she noticed the way she was dressed she looked embarrassed. The thin white cloth barely covered more than a swimsuit but was formfitting and left nothing to the imagination “Is there anything to wear?”

Jay Johnson who was wearing normal clothes nodded “I brought some for you, I hope they fit”

“Where is everyone else?” she asked

“It's just us” Jay Johnson said “We are the caretakers or whatever”

“What year is it? I thought I would be revived at New Eden” she said, looking around again.

“It has been about four and half years since we left Earth” he told her, preparing himself for the worst, wondering if she would hit him a lot.

“Can we contact Earth?” she asked.

Jay Johnson tilted his head and wondered why he had never thought to do that in the past few years of being on the ship. “I have no idea”

The computer spoke up “Negative. Once we entered the heliopause I was no longer even picking up a carrier wave from Earth. We could try to send a message once Earth is no longer on the opposite side of the sun from our location”

“It takes some getting used to”Jay Johnson told her “Let me get those clothes for you and then I'll give you the short tour of the ship”

The Salutem Novis main computer noted that the girl seemed a bit sad and withdrawn before she found out they had only recently left Earth. Her inquiry into the ability to contact Earth showed a possible regret in coming aboard the vessel in the first place. It did not seem logical but humans were often not logical, if Jay Johnson was any indication.

Click for Chapter Five

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