Lights hummed even though they were off, ready to turn on at the slightest hint of movement. Doors stood silently closed, unused and uncared for, daunting guards of the rooms that lie beyond.
In a large cafeteria, food sat on trays, forgotten about in the midst of a meal. Cooking pots filled the kitchen, uncooked stew still sitting inside of them rotting and covered in a murky film.
Beds sat unmade with rust covering the metal underneath in dormitories. Time having eaten away at the blankets and cloth, pulling the threads apart at the seams. Photos sat on side drawers, as perfect as the day that they were made. Families, locations, friends, all sorts of photos filled the surfaces of the rooms, all in the same pristine manner.
Yet for all the signs that people lived here, not a single human noise permitted throughout the ship. No laughter sounded. No sobbing was heard. The only sounds that echoed in the ship were those of the ship breathing.
In the cockpit, computers started beeping as they lit up brightly. The screens flashed through multiple words at a quick pace, before all of them stopped at three large letters separated by a period between them.
The Antares cut through the back void, towing the much larger ship behind it towards its destination. Three hundred and fifty souls lay dormant in the larger ship, deep in a state of cryosleep, making the journey that much easier for them.
On the Antares, a much more modest crew inhabited it, though most were asleep as well. Of the crew of seven, only one man was to remain awake for the last leg of the journey, ensuring that the ship remained in a safe condition and that nothing untoward happened unannounced.
Samuel "Sam" Raslin, third proud owner of the Antares, had been given the ship as a coming of age tradition from his father, who had gotten it from his father. Sam stood in front of a mirror in his quarters, inspecting himself. A blonde stubble, barely visible against his pale skin, covered his chin, while his hair hung loosely around his ears. His eyes were a vibrant blue, a gift from his late mother, and held a mischievous grin inside of them.
A loud beeping caught his attention, forcing him away from the mirror as he went over to the communication system on the wall.
"What's up?" Sam asked as he pressed the button to open the link.
"Hey Boss," came the almost immediate response, "we need you up here, we have something on the scanners that you will want to see."
"Is everything ok?" Sam inquired, worry seeping into his voice.
"Well that's a tough question, we don't really know; it's confusing."
With a frown on his face, Sam replied that he would be right up, cutting the connection.
With a sigh he headed out of the door, shutting it behind him before he stalked his way up the hall towards the cockpit. With long strides he soon reached the door to the main cabin, and barely slowed down as the door slid open to grant him access.
Sitting down in a large chair in front of the monitors, he asked out loud, "Alright I'm here so what's the situation?"
A female voice, hardened as though it belonged to a mechanic or builder, answered him almost instantly from the speakers lining the room, "Well first things first, we are on path to the destination, and barring any unforeseen changes, we should make it there in approximately two months." A long pause followed her statement, as though she were hesitating to say the next part. "We received an S.O.S signal, coming from an area relatively close to us. If we were to respond to it we would be able to reach it within the day."
Covering his face with his hands, Sam knew that he had to make a decision on what to do. He had to get the people to their destination, they were already running behind due to storms, yet at the same time his upbringing wouldn't allow him to stand by if someone needed help.
With a sigh, he gave the order that he knew that he needed to, "Change our course to the last known location of the S.O.S signal and let me know when we get there, Eain."
"Understood Boss," Eain, short for Engineering Artificial Intelligence Navigator, replied in a voice that screamed that she was smirking. Eain had been created by his father and installed into the ship, along with her 'brother' Marss, Medical and Research Support System, and they controlled the majority of the ship's systems. A genius application of AI Technology was used to create Artificial Intelligence that talked, and it could even be argued that they were able to think like humans.
One of Eain's purposes was to maintain information on the multitude of ship systems, including those of the ships that they were towing when they did delivery jobs, and ensure that everything was working as it should. Another portion of her job was to set navigation and check their route every now and then to ensure that there were no obstacles in the way, and if there were then she had to find the best route around it. Her voice was based off of the best friend of his father, a woman that had been like an aunt to him, she had a very direct way of speaking while at the same time having the sound of a constant smirk, as though a joke always lay at the tip of her tongue. Which considering his experiences with her proved to be very true.
Marss job was the scientific side of things, ensuring that the passengers and crew were healthy and safe, while making sure that they maintained the health that was usually impossible if not in cryosleep or on planet. When someone was injured or sick, he assisted in any procedures, usually via robotic arms that he could control to such an extent that he could remove a sliver of shrapnel from a wound without even touching the sides. Marss was also the ship's psychologist and therapist, allowing the crew an outlet in the form of video logs and discussions, where he talks to them when they were on shift to assist with any stress they might have accumulated from the demanding nature of being isolated for several months at a time. In the same fashion of Eain, Marss held a sense of person, though his was more smoother, sounding like a British butler for some reason, with a hint of sarcasm lining his speech patterns. As far as Sam knew he held no connection to any of his father's friends or acquaintances, though he had his suspicions that his father had based him off of a butler from an old comic that his father used to read.
Marss other 'passion', as he called it, was to research things that they came across to find new information for the universe at large. With the size of it, there was always the chance that their travels could lead them to a new discovery, something that could lead to safer travels for everyone. He had a log filled with millions of pieces of information, which kept growing every single day. While Sam could understand the medical purpose as well as the research gathering, however he could never understand his... obsession with the afterlife, and the legends of death that filled the many civilizations of the universe. A byproduct of his fathers he supposed.
Getting up, Sam stretched his arms far over his head, his fingers lightly brushing the ceiling. The cold metal was comforting and eased his mind on his decision, knowing that even if he was behind schedule, he, nor his crew, would ever forgive Sam if he left someone to die with no hope of surviving. A low beep signaled a call request coming from the coms system on the wall, and Sam reached out and pressed the button to open the connection.
"Good afternoon, Sir," the voice was deep and regal, fitting the bill of a british butler as always, "if you have the time, can you make your way to the medical bay so that I can check your vitals?"
"I'm fine Marss, just tired," Sam huffed out.
"I insist Sir," a hard edge now lined Marss' voice, "I'm detecting a slight increase in the pathways of your mind, signifying a possible growth in anxiety and it's always best to, as they say, nip it in the bud."
Sam let out a long, suffering sigh, "Fine. I'm on my way up now."
After a few minutes of walking through the empty halls of the ship, with only the sound of his bare feet slapping the cool ground as company, he came to a stop in front of the med bay door. With another sigh, he knocked on the steel of the door, and almost immediately the door slid open in response.
"Come in, Sir," a disembodied voice came from one of the many speakers that lined the room, "please have a seat at the chair, and at least-" Marss paused for a moment before continuing, "-try to relax."
The chair in question was a white leather chair that was laid back, like a dentist's chair. Sitting down, Sam leaned back and tried to do as the good doctor suggested, but found that he was too tense to even lay fully back. Muscles sat tense in his shoulders, pulling his arms slightly forward, and he forced them back in an effort to stretch them.
"Alright Sir, what happened?"
"What makes you think something happened?" Sam shifted in his seat.
"Well Sir, either you suddenly had a thought of a very beautiful woman, which judging by your love life I highly doubt, or you are stressed by the realization that you have to make a change in direction, possibly lowering the amount of payment that awaits us at the end of the metaphysical road," was the almost instantaneous sarcastic return.
"Always so gentle, Marss," he huffed out in return.
With only silence as the response, Sam let out a sigh and gave up on leaning back, resorting to just leaning forward and clasping his hands together.
"I'm tired Marss. I'm tired and scared."
"Physically tired Sir? Or mentally?" Marss' voice was soft and gentle, Sam could hardly believe he was an AI, even with all the time that he had known him.
"Mentally." Sam allowed, however he didn't continue his sentence, instead his leg almost unconsciously started thumping.
Marss didn't reply, choosing instead to allow Sam to work out his own thoughts without pushing any more than necessary. From his years of working with the crew Marss knew that each and every one of them had different mannerisms, and responses, depending on the situation. Samuel would only shut off if he pushed him into answering, closing up and refusing to answer.
After several minutes of silence, interrupted only by the slight humming of the lights, and the brief gusts of air through the ducts, Sam finally spoke.
"It is my job as captain to ensure the safety of everyone on this ship and the commercial one we are towing. Yet my father and grandfather both drilled the rules of space into my head, if someone needs help no matter what my personal opinion on them is, we help. I know that it has grown to a point where it is no longer seen as necessary or required, but I guess I'm just set in the old ways."
Without meaning to, Sam unleashed all of the thoughts and fears that plagued him since he found out about the ship. The money, the safety of his crew, what lies in wait on the ship, everything. Throughout this flood of words Marss just listened, allowing Sam to expel all this out of his system, trying to allow him to heal.
By the time he had gotten everything off his chest, Sam felt relatively better. "Thanks Marss, I needed that."
"Of course, Sir, and I would like you to come back later on for another session."
Trying to hide his flinch, Sam responded with an affirmative.
Leaving the med bay behind, Sam started making his rounds of the ship, checking over various compartments and areas to see if there was anything out of order.