The huge interstellar ship flew at tremendous speeds carrying its cargo of beings and goods. It flew through Ion storms, braved the outer edges of black holes and super-hot suns, and passed like a ghost by other worlds with good enough technology to spot it, if they happened to be looking in that exact direction. Unmanned, it ran everything in the darkness, correcting the course, scanning for anomalies, keeping ship’s systems operational.
The crew of the Inner Six, though aboard, were in stasis. Cradled in cushiony softness, heat at just the right temperature and no conscious thoughts intruding made the sleep perfect for the ship compliment of twenty. Wonderful sensations and contentment filled the sleeping beings.
Complex computer programs allowed them to dream, and they did so, of the life they were missing out on, on their own planets, or tales from great imaginations, or mixed up jumbles of meaningless nonsense.
If the dreams turned dark and depressed, they were terminated; nothing must harm the sleepers.
To this end they were even entertained while they slept; sometimes the computer injected dreams of a different sort – drama, comedies, adventures – directly into their minds and the receiver laughed, cried or both, believing they were fully involved. It made it seem that they weren’t sleeping away the majority of their lives.
Weeks passed; if anyone had been awake to notice, they would have seen that the ship changed course abruptly and then slowed down suddenly until it was just creeping along, compared to its former speed. No alarms went off, though, nothing alerted the main systems to any kind of problem. A few more weeks elapsed before something else happened.
The deep warmth was going away… the darkness too. The dream she was fully involved in faded out like steam from a hot cup of ulechik. Sesha tried to cling to it, pulling the soft blanket closer, if possible, around her to keep the warmth that cradled her.
But chill crept in, fresh air forced her to inhale deeply and conscious thoughts intruded until
she was forced to open her eyes and saw light. Dim, but real light, not the light from the dreams she’d been enveloped in.
Her TravelSleep bed had opened, she realized, setting off the sequence that woke her up. That meant she was ordered to get up, but why? Sesha pushed her gleaming white long hair out of her face and took a quick look at her Wrist-Gem to see what the computer had sent her.
This was a neat device, a miniature computer - even though it looked like a plain arm wrap three-inches wide yet half as thick as a transparency sheet – it was extremely powerful for its tiny size. Touch the surface anywhere and it projected a type of touch-board for inputting, or with another touch, switched to giving its input by thought.
The Wrist-Gem was part organic, and attached by microscopically slender tendrils into the arm which linked it directly to the brain for all of its functions.
The device could be removed, and she sometimes did for certain ‘functions’ where she didn’t want the computer recording her reactions, but she usually just left it on, because both disconnection and reconnecting were disorienting experiences.
Everyone on the ships had these personal computers, but they altered them to look the way they wanted, even camouflaged to look like there was nothing there. Sesha liked the jeweled look,
so she had programmed that in and now that she
was awake, it came back on line as well. The hologram covered just over half her forearm and the top of it looked like a thin, gently curved purple/blue/green faceted gem when it was off, in sleep or disguise mode. The securing bands were pure Allerium, a silver-blue metal compound. Touch it in this form and it seemed entirely real. When Sesha touched the gem-like surface, it could perform multiple, complex equations, show needed information, record her vocalizations or anything else she asked it to record for her. It relayed messages to her; sent messages to any and all she asked it too, scanned whatever she aimed it at and recorded its findings. The device kept a running track of her entire physicality and could play back all the readings at any point of the last 12 standard alliance months and alert her if anything was wrong, storing the most important readings for retrieval by command personnel.
There were hundreds of programs she could use for anything from starting a fire to rendering minor first aid.
It could also remotely access the Brain, the ship’s main computer for any information she needed when she wasn’t at her post.
The Wrist-Gem computer told her it wasn’t her shift. In fact, they were all still supposed to be in TravelSleep for several more months. But her bed had unfolded, so Sesha decided to get up to find out what was going on. Better be early than have The Head angry with her again.
Entirely nude, Sesha’s body shivered with the chill in the room. Her light blue skin began to turn a duskier color the colder she got. Cabin temp wasn’t normally this cold but she tried to ignore it as she looked around the crew quarters. So why was no one else awake? The other five beds in this room were still folded, looking like white fluffy buns with a line of purple frosting from the base, across the top to the other side.
This wasn’t fair! Why would The Head have the computer rouse only her? The other pilot, Jaxxim, was First; she was only Second -- well, she believed she was the better of the two but Jaxxim had more time on the job. Sesha had completed her last shift without any real trouble -- except The Head yelled at her for putting her feet up on the empty crew seat beside hers.
Written up once again, and for what…? Gripe, gripe, gripe, that’s all Head could do. But just one time tell her what a good job she was doing? Oh, n-o-o-o. Not her. Not – Sesha cut off the line of thought abruptly. It was too easy to let herself slip back into that depressing line of thought.
The chill was really getting to her as her species was a hot-weather type, so she reached into the deep V of the bed, pulled her blanket out, wrapped it around her body and sighed deeply, feeling very persecuted.
First thing to do would be see if the Head was awake or not, and find out what was going on. She was five steps away when her bed began to quietly fold up, going back into sleep mode. Hearing the hum of the small motor, Sesha pivoted on her toes and tried to get back in it before it closed but she wasn’t able to get there in time. It sealed the edges and the control panel turned purple, in the belief she was safely sealed in and sleeping. This meant she was awake and most probably all alone on a darkened ship that was hyper-speeding through the many galaxies before it finally got back home. Sighing again, very out of sorts now, Sesha set out to find out what was happening.
As she walked the long corridors briskly, her body warmed and she undid the blanket, draped it over her shoulder and kept going. Nudity wasn’t a problem in her culture; in fact it was the norm. The majority of people went entirely nude everywhere,
putting on clothing only when dealing with galactic races who used clothing or if it got cold enough. So
if she did encounter another crewmember, her
lack of uniform wouldn’t get so much as a whimper of protest or a sexual innuendo. Anyway, it was locked up in the base of her TravelSleep bed which was malfunctioning, apparently. Her being awakened had to be a computer problem.
As she headed for the Bridge she mentally asked her Wrist Gem to contact the Head.
I’m sorry, Sesha… the semi-raspy sexy male voice responded inside her head, but she is still asleep at this time, my darling. It then waited for her response. At that moment Sesha seriously considered deleting this vocal program and putting in the standard genderless one, but shook it off. Well then, honey, wake her up, she thought as she touched the mindspeak relay on the pad. Somehow the thought of speaking aloud on so quiet a ship gave her the willies
I won’t, sugar. You should know we’re in Hyper drive… unless you’re having a realistic dream, no one is awake right now, and I can’t wake anyone up.
Pausing in astonishment, Sesha then typed in “what’s my status?” instead of thinking it.
Why beautiful, you’re asleep too! It answered, first to her amusement, then a bit of confusion set in.
Sesha stopped at what looked like a section of a large, blue wall covered with many small patterns. She looked at it, then began to run her fingers over it and there were lights and noises as the computer panel responded, then turned off. She talked to the computer again by touching it when it quieted, and again it answered. But she noticed that parts of the computer panel weren’t talking back the way they should, so she tried those areas again. The sections blinked on as she touched them then went blank. No viable answer, if any. So Sesha tried getting the responding part to talk to the non-responding part, but all the working part could say was that something was wrong with the other part.
Banging her head on the panel in frustration and mentally rattling off a string of curses in several different languages, she strode off to the next control area where another computer wall was and tried again. Nothing.
Now she went to the Head’s TravelSleep room to wake her. It was time; past time! In all her years as pilot, Sesha had never really needed the Head to help her with anything but now… Great Goddess of Nestram’s Light, she did need the Head. But as it was in her room, the beds were sealed and even though she called up the Emergency Override, neither Head’s bed nor any of the others opened up. With a chill that wasn’t from the cooling air of the ship, Sesha realized for sure her bed opening had been a malfunction and that she was completely alone on a sleeping ship with a computer problem she didn’t know how to fix.