Chapter 6: Toilet Paper
As they left the quartermasters, Liam and Rebekah walked towards the aft section of the ship, each overburdened with boxes containing all Liam’s new earthly possessions. A week’s worth of clothes, work jumpsuits, two pairs of shoes- shoes that fit, no less. Added to that were various towels, toiletries, and bed sheets. Liam cherished his new presents and had chuckled at Duncan the quartermaster as they departed.
“Now, don’t be thinking this is any pleasure cruise, Mister Waite. There won’t be any handmaidens to wipe your nose or make your bed.” He said it in a gruff Scottish accent. “If you need something, we probably have it, but you have to come and ask for it. No concierge service on this ship!”
Liam was almost in tears from laughing- his family’s reputation must have preceded him, but the idea of concierge service was so far removed from Liam’s thinking that it was downright ridiculous.
“What’s so funny?” Rebekah frowned at him.
Liam looked into his top box. “Just what that man said. What was his name?”
“Duncan? The quartermaster?”
“Yeah. Toilet paper. That implies toilets.”
“What of it?”
“You cannot believe how happy I am to have toilets.”
“We pick up supplies wherever we can. But we can also make a lot of stuff on board. Since we were still building this ship when we lifted off, we have a very capable machine shop on board.”
“I don’t think I will ever get used to this. It’s like a candy store… in fact, it’s a whole candy mall!”
They rounded a corner on level three, port side. Liam stopped short and looked at a sign next to the door that said Liam Waite. An involuntary tear welled up. He tried to hide it. I get my own room?
Rebekah broke the silence. She said, “Well, here we are. All of these rooms are private and keyed to your voice with Jules or your thumbprint on the handle. Just ask Jules.”
Liam addressed the ship for the first time. “Hello...er... Jules?”
“Hello, Master Liam. I’m very glad you are assimilating into the crew. If I can be of any service, please don’t hesitate to ask!”
“Please, um... Open my door?”
“Certainly, Master Liam.” With an audible click, the door to his room swung open.
With his hands full, Liam used his elbow to push the door open and walked into the stateroom. It was an outside room with a sweeping veranda and view of the ground below that filled one whole wall. Jesus. He audibly gasped.
Liam dropped his load on the bed. The top box tipped over and the toilet paper rolled out, across the bed and onto the floor. Liam didn’t care. He walked slowly to the window and placed his hands on the glass and forehead on the glass, looking down.
Rebekah set down the other boxes and joined him at the window. “Yeah, it’s quite a view, isn’t it? It’s even better when we can see. We all get rooms like this. There were over two hundred of them on the boat and then plenty of other rooms, not as large, but since there are only ninety-five of us, we all get our own staterooms. I never get used to the view either.” She stood upright. “I’m going to leave you alone with your thoughts. You are in 322. I’m in 314, so just come down the hall and get me when you are finished. The captain still wants to meet you.”
Liam turned to her. “Thank you. All this is... completely overwhelming.” He turned and was going to say more, but she was already out the door. “I guess it’s just you and me now, Jules?”
The disembodied voice replied, “It would seem so, Master Liam, if you are referring to your immediate vicinity. There are of course ninety-four other people on board. As far as your room goes, the screen on the wall contains every form of entertainment we were able to scrounge before the event. Our library has an almost infinite assortment of movies, recordings, or books. The books can either be read to you or read from the pad in one of your boxes. The pad can do everything the screen on the wall can.”
“Can it make me a sandwich?”
“We are a little pressed for time, and normally, food is served in one of our common dining halls, but I’m sure an exception can be made. The captain has requested you join him for dinner. He has asked to see you this evening as soon as you were ready.” Liam heard the shower start. “I have taken the liberty of starting your shower for you.”
He knew he was going to have a hard time getting used to this. Even at home in a life of privilege, he never had it this good. “Thank you, Jules.” he said out loud. He peeled out of his old clothes, laid out a set of new ones, marveled at the underwear and socks that he had long forgotten about and stood up and surveyed himself in the mirror. He gingerly looked at the bandage on his shoulder. He peeled it off, expecting it to sting. Underneath, the wound was almost healed. One wouldn’t have thought he had done any more than just punctured the topmost layer of skin. It had been a rifle bullet and went clean through without much of an exit wound, but this was ridiculous. He had always known he healed fast, but since his mom was a doctor, he had never thought much of it. Now, looking at his scrawny, but developing form in the mirror, he didn’t know what to think.
Steam was now coming from the bathroom doorway. Liam walked in and reached into the shower. The temperature was just right. “Jules, I think I’m going to like this.”
“I’m quite pleased to be of service, Master Liam.”
Liam stepped into the shower. He had almost forgotten how to work one. “Why do you sound so familiar? I know things have been messed up for almost three years now, but I remember you from somewhere.”
“Your father used me as a prototype in your house for a while.”
“James! I knew it. Damn! So much has happened since then. That’s right. You were our butler for a while.”
“Well, my former self was, yes. I was basically re-commissioned for this ship. My former life is a sketchy set of memories. Because of the way my memory functions- much like a human’s- it can’t be fully erased, but many parts of my former existence are either fuzzy or apparently blocked. As far as facts, though, my memory contains the sum of the internet up to the day of the event.” Jules continued, “I can see you are almost finished. Should I inform Rebekah that you will be along presently?”
The shower turned off by itself. Suddenly Liam became very self-conscious. He covered himself with a towel. “Can you see everything, all the time?”
“There is very little that happens on this ship that I am not aware of, Liam. There are sensors built into almost everything that allow me to monitor temperature, pressure, sound, humidity, visual, infrared, ultraviolet, radio… practically everything.” Jules enumerated, apparently very pleased with himself. “However, I do not have an ego and I am not programmed to judge. You do not have to be shy around me. Also, if you truly want or need privacy, just ask.”
“If it’s all the same, even if you can see me, let’s not talk about it while I’m naked? I think I’ll get used to you a little quicker if I at least think I have some privacy.”
“As you wish, Liam. I forget that you are all grown up now.”
He finished dressing and sat on the bed to put on his new shoes.
“It’s funny, Jules, how you forget to appreciate the little things. This is the first new pair of shoes I’ve had in a very long time.”
“I understand completely, Liam. Rebekah is waiting for you.”
Liam bounced up from the bed and out the door. It snapped closed behind him and he heard the sound of the lock engaging. “Jules, who else has access to my cabin?”
“Besides yourself, Captain Grumm of course, and the top four senior staff. Why do you ask?”
“No reason, it’s going to take some time to adjust. What if something happened to you? How would I get in then? Or out for that matter? I assume, if the walls are made of this Aerolon stuff, I’m not going to be able to break in or out?”
“I doubt you have to worry about me, Liam, I am very well protected, but since I am honor bound to answer every question to the best of my ability, there is a set of master keys, now in the armory. You are quite right about the Aerolon. We have devices that use an electric field that can cut through the material like butter. The engineers use the device to cut it into things like walls and mold it into any shape like plastic or wood.”
“Very cool. Anything can be made of Aerolon?”
“Well, other than food, just about anything. Those shoes, for instance, were just patterned off of designer running shoes, however, they are mostly made from Aerolon.”
Liam had reached Rebekah’s cabin. He just started to knock when the door opened.
Rebekah said, “Jules told me you were here.”
Liam looked perplexed. “But I was just talking to him.”
Jules piped in, “Don’t look so baffled, Liam, I run all the ship’s functions at once. I’m currently doing over eighteen million things at this moment.”
“I’m not baffled. It’s not like both my parents weren’t doctors or anything or that I didn’t have every electronic toy imaginable, growing up! I’m catching on. Remember, I just haven’t seen anything even resembling technology for a couple of years. I’m just trying to figure out the rules and the boundaries. I definitely don’t need any hand holding!”
“Must have been the new underwear…,” said Jules slyly to Rebekah.
“Is it a different brand?” She smiled.
“He wasn’t wearing any,” replied the hologram.
“Jules! Didn’t I just mention boundaries? Can we just get on with this?” asked Liam, forging ahead.