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Day: 0

Year of event: 22+ 10^( 10.1395)

Notes: n/a

 

Slowly, one by one, like a drop of coloured liquid in water, the lights aboard CASSIE turned on. The concealed vents opened to fill her corridors with breathable air, and the temperature raised from an unpleasant 250 to a more bearable 290. It would later stabilize at a perfect 296,65 degrees Kelvin.

Deep within the metal carcass of the ship, hydraulic pistons were slowly releasing their grasp over a small cryogenic chamber. Like everything else on CASSIE, the chamber had been made just big enough to guarantee the full safety and minimal comfort of its occupant.

As soon as the hydraulics finished their job, magnetic strips were activated. Their task was to bring the sole occupant of the ship all the way from the heart of the vessel, where it had laid dormant for decades, well protected from the harsh environment of outer space, into the med-bay.

On larger ships this process wasn't needed. Cryogenic chambers were usually stored in a sub-section of the med-bay. After all, if the temperature and pressure around the pod didn't vary too much, which it didn't on ships that were active 24/7, then there was no need to store them away behind as many layers of built-in isolation as possible.

The chamber slid into a designated alcove and began rising to a vertical position. Mere seconds ago there was no floor or ceiling in the ship, but as the artificial gravity kicked in, the words 'vertical position' gained meaning.

As silently as it should, the pistons within the dead space from which the chamber had emerged pulled close, allowing for the room on the other side of all this machinery to gain an extra 95 centimetres of width.

CASSIE had a lot of moving parts, which wasn't unusual for a ship her size where thermal efficiency was prioritised over wear and tear. And if the amount of failsafe measures in place wasn't proof enough of her reliability, the fact that her sole passenger was a spacecraft technician should have reassured even the most paranoid crowd.

The chamber containing said technician let out a hiss, as its front panel slid open, and the inner mico-atmosphere mixed and reacted with that of the ship. Dorothy Sanders wasn't awake just yet. Technically speaking, she had never been asleep in the first place. Modern cryogenic technology was more akin to suspending a person in time, through a combination of advanced physics and bio-engineering. It was nothing like sleep, for Dorothy did not dream; she had simply closed her eyes a few decades ago, and would open them only a second later.

A loud gasp echoed through the empty ship.

With a gesture too violent for someone in her condition, Dorothy yanked the breathing tube out of her mouth before hitting the release button on her harness.

She stumbled out of the chamber, losing balance after a few steps, and catching herself just in time on the medical bed. Having used up all her strength, she slowly slid to the floor, just barely holding herself in a sitting position against the bed.

"Nurse!" She called out with a rusty voice.

A nurse might have been helpful in this situation, had there been one on board. Dorothy's already pale skin had become a shade almost as unnaturally white as the floor below her. Cryogenic sleep always did that to her. She had a benign genetic condition, which cosmetic issues aside, did allow for her body to recover faster after prologued cryogenic sleep.


"Right," Dorothy muttered, remembering that she was no longer on a freight ship, and thus had no access to on-call nurses.

She pushed herself up and slowly stumbled towards the control deck. Behind her, the cryogenic chamber closed up. It would have to be manually attached to the wall with clips, but that would be done later, when Dorothy would regain more of her dexterity.

"Cassie, status report." The technician ordered as she fell into one of the two chairs in the command room.

The front wall was instantly illuminated with a tapestry of projected screens.

"We are currently traveling at negative 3 knots." A female voice with a light Texan accent replied. "We have exited sector 18-alpha two light-years ago. Our current coordinates are 03653.09750.00036. All systems are fully operational."

"Mhuum." Dorothy agreed.

Processing information after a long sleep (as Dorothy liked to refer to it) always took extra effort.

"Wait." The woman snapped her fingers towards the console. "Negative 3 knots ? We're basically at a full stop!"

"Correct." CASSIE agreed in her southern accent.

"Why?"

"Unknown."

"It can't be." Dorothy protested. "How far away are we from the Gaia?"

"But alas it is. Our destination is two light months away."

Dorothy brought her hand up to her head and drew several circles over her temple. The brain fog caused by the long sleep had just about worn off, but it didn't make things any easier.

"Our engine is still running?" She finally asked.

"Yes."

"And there are no issues?"

"No issues were detected. The engine is capable of running at full speed." The AI confirmed.

"Did our orders change? Why did you wake me up?" Dorothy asked calmly.

If the engine was fully functional, this must have been a software issue. CASSIE models were not as state of the art as their manufacturer claimed; everyone knew that. But it was hard to argue with the quality of the hardware, especially for the price. Dorothy was fully aware of that, and did not mind - too much - being woken up because of a bug like this.

"We have not received any new communications or directives. Nor have we intercepted any On-Shore messages. I 'woke you up' because Gaia 17-kappa-08 is gone."

Dorothy blinked a few times in disbelief. Then she snapped her fingers by her ears to make sure she was hearing things correctly. Then she pinched her right arm, wondering if this was all part of some very vivid dream.

"A sun harvester went missing is what you're saying." She finally said.

"Gaia 17-kappa-08 is gone." CASSIE confirmed.

"Right..."

Dorothy tapped her fingers against the armrest of her chair.

In the following few minutes she tried to rationalise that concept. She asked CASSIE a few more questions about when and how it might have happened, but overall she didn't gain any valuable information.

"Is there even a protocol for this?" Dorothy asked, finally resigning into acceptance.

"We must return to base." CASSIE replied.

"No no." Dorothy shook her head.

The ship was over thirty light-years away from the nearest base, which wasn't the one they had departed from, and only two light-months away from where an automated star harvester, also known as a Gaia ship, went missing. The math was simple.

"We are going to investigate." Dorothy decided.

"I'm afraid I cannot allow it."

"Protocol overwrite beta-sigma-13-beta-0-0-3." Dorothy quickly said, without hesitation.

The projected screens all turned blue for a short second. Then, the data they had been displaying beforehand reappeared again.

"Semi-manual mode engage. Primary C.A.S.S.I.E. is dormant." A soft, androgynous voice with a touch of a Texan accent said. "Howdy, I am Cassie. I'll be your flight attendant for as long as you are onboard me. If you need anything just say my name, I'll be one hidden microphone away. If you wish to recalibrate my personality parameters, you will have to enter the 'capital M' Menu."

Dorothy shook her head. This was a prime example of corners being cut during manufacturing. She wasn't an expert in AI technology, but she knew that creating two separate personalities instead of a single adaptive one was way, way, cheaper. She didn't know why, and frankly she didn't care. What mattered now was that was going to have to put up with this 'funny' Cassie.

"I want us to go to Gaia. How many solar jumps will it take?"

"Hmmm, let me think. Math is hard. And it depends on how you wanna do this. Are you open to ... breaking some laws?" Cassie answered. If she had had a mouth, she would have grinned.

"You mean like salvage law? Do we need some spare pieces?"

Dorothy was fairly sure that they didn't. She had dismantled and fixed up more than a few Cassie engines, and she knew what they were capable of. But that was the only thing she could think of, considering how deep they were in empty space.

Dorothy pulled up a chart of nearby solar systems. Now that the side-effects of the long sleep had fully worn off, she could estimate that it would take them roughly a dozen solar jumps to get to Gaia. It was a give or take situation, depending on what kind of stars they would be harvesting exotic material from. If they got really lucky with a pulsar in the neighborhood, they could cover a light-month in a single jump. Unfortunate Dorothy’s star-chart reading skills were not advanced enough to determine that.

"No, silly. I mean the section 2-30 of the “capital L” Law: Contact with aborigine populations. See, the other me was somewhat, how to say, in-precise when she gave you a distance estimate. We could make it there in two months, but for that we'll have to cross sector 19-gamma."

Dorothy understood the implied words. That sector must have been an Onshore one.

"But we won't have to land anywhere will we? There should be enough food aboard, and worset case scenario I can go back to sleep." Dorothy thought out loud.

"They might see us, darling. That's why the sector is closed off. I thought you knew. Isn't that why you put the other me to sleep?" Cassie replied with a voice full of fake sweetness.

"No, I didn't want Cassie to turn us back. But now that we're at this stage ..." Dorothy paused to think for a minute. "Well, how advanced are they? Couldn't we just whoosh," she gestured with her hand, in an imitation of a flying spaceship, "stealth through?"

"Oh, I'm afraid not. They haven't built our little Gaia's yet, but they are capable of faster than light travel. There's a reason why we keep a buffer sector between them and us."

"Hmmm..." Dorothy let out a displeased noise.

"But worry not partner, most of the aboriginal population is human! You'll blend right in. Just stay away from the Gromlids, they don't have the same number of eyes as you, so you will stand out like a sore spot. Oh, and the Vimlen as well ..." Cassie trailed off.

"You're assuming I'll be making contact."

"Well, six out of the eight weeks will be spent in Onshore territory. I'm just a girl with a voice, but I think it's wise that we try to blend in. Or wiser yet, you should steal one of their ships." Cassie said with an excited tone.

"I'm not committing more crimes than I have to." Dorothy replied dryly. "How long would it take to go around?"

"An extra two to five months. It depends on the flight pattern of their freight ships. We might have to wait in dead space for a few weeks, their delivery companies aren't that reliable."

Dorothy nodded. Cassie was referring to a route that would go in between sectors, where there would be less or no habited systems or satellites. That route would be longer not only because of the time it would take to get to its point of entry, but also because it was unlikely to have any big stars on it, meaning that the distance between two jumps would be greater and a lot of the journey would be spent at low FTL speeds. This might have not been an issue for a bigger ship, but Cassie was inept to efficiently FTL travel on her own.

Dorothy considered her options. On one hand, there was a safe and well-treaded route. But when a Gaia goes missing, time is of the essence. The other option was to fly through Onshore space; planets and systems that lagged far behind the technological advances of the Offshore. Although these communities were capable of space travel, they were primitive in many other areas, such as social and economic dynamics.

But then again, Dorothy didn't have much of a choice. Her only other real option was to wake up the primary Cassie and head home. But she hadn't come this far out just to turn back at the last minute. Working on a ship like that had always been her dream, after all what girl wouldn’t want to live on a station several times bigger than her home planet? Plus, a ship as big as a Gaia didn't just go missing.


"Right. We'll go through 19-gamma. Adjust our Z vector to 0, speed up to 0 knots, and give me a summary on the situation there. How long will it take to get to the closest point of entry?"

"On it sir. Mam'. Sir. Captain. We'll be there in five hours if we jump, or two days if we don't. Just a reminder, I can fly up to 3 knots if you need me to. That way we'll be at the nearest station of theirs in 8 hours without a jump."

"And you'll be out of fuel by the time we get there. So no. We aren't jumping and you aren't speeding." Dorothy shook her head.

She knew fair and well the technical limits of the ship, and she was starting to consider tweaking some of Cassie's personality settings. But the technician was also well aware that those would reset as soon as Cassie'd go to sleep, which was likely to happen upon entry in 19-gamma.

"Notify me stat if you get any incoming messages, and send a priority 4 report to base." Dorothy added and got up from the pilot chair.

"You can count on me. But shouldn't we make it priority 8? Or at least 6? A wicked big ship just went 'poof' after all."

"Priority 4. If someone is awake, then they'll see it. And if they're asleep, then it will be the first thing they see when they wake up. It's not like anyone is dying or we're under attack by giant eldrich aliens again." Dorothy explained as she made her way towards the small kitchen station.

"Ah, I see. You're being considerate! How nice of you Dorothy. Can I call you Dorothy? Or Captain Sanders, that has more flair to it... captain Sanders?"

"Call me Dot. How are those reports on the locals coming along?" Dorothy asked as she searched through the magnetically locked cupboards for something she'd like to eat.

She settled on a peach-flavoured all-in-one squeeze-tube meal. She unscrewed the lid, and put it inside the machine that re-hydrated and re-heated it.

"What would you like to learn about first? The humans, the aliens, or the culture?" Cassie asked.

"How to travel unnoticed, when doing so aboard a sentient ship that has no weapons and compensates for it with a split personality and a cloaking field." Dorothy replied with a sarcastic grin.

 

Notes: For more information regarding the alien species named here, feel free to contact Prof. Mathew using the comment form down below. To ensure that these questions arrive at the correct department, please refer to Prof. Mathew by name.

The ETHC does not endorse the behaviour described above, but we do understand the reasoning behind it and no legal measures have been taken.

Current year: 22+e^(23.347)

Redactor signature: E.E. Shwartz

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About the author

Evieleyn (Eve)

Bio: Unemployed Geography graduate with dyslexia.

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Comments(18)
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Space Pickle ago

Comments:

"Nurse!" She called out with a rusty voice. me every morning- love it!

A female voice with a light Texan accent replied love it too

"I'm afraid I cannot allow it." I'm sorry Dave.

(Real) edit suggestions:

They might see us, darling If CASSIE's using a Texan accent she'd go with 'pumpkin'. It's way more southern than 'darling' imo.

> CASSIE/Cassie - different spelling

> Justify! Text aligned with margins = more professional as the whole story is spotless!

[Deleted] ago

[Account Deleted]

Consistent Milk ago

Very interesting 1st chapter There were minor typos that I noticed throughout the chapter, but nothing major.

Edit suggestions:

It would later stabilize at a perfect 296,.65 degrees Kelvin.

"A sun harvester went missing is what you're saying." - Isn't there only one sun in the universe? Maybe a star harvester would be more suitable.

    Evieleyn (Eve) ago

    Thanks for letting me know about the typos, I think Grammarly has got all of them now ^^

    As for sun VS star harvester, well maybe some characters like so say things in a certain way ...

Bellwether ago

Edit suggestions:

Cryogenic chambers were usually stored in a sub-section of the med-bay

to recover faster after prolongued cryogenic sleep.

and worset case scenario I can go back to sleep." Dorothy thought out loud.

by giant eldritch aliens again.

Contacting other sapiens sounds like fun :P

Camelboy ago

Excellent so far. I got heavy "Project Hail Mary" vibes from this. If you can make me think of Andy Weir, then you're doing something right :D

Zaq ago

Edit suggestions:

There should be enough food aboard, and worsetworse case scenario I can go back to sleep."

YXplorer ago

Edit suggestions:

and the temperature raised from an unpleasant 250 to a more bearable 290. It would later stabilize at a perfect 296,65 degrees Kelvin. Perfect temp!

Although these communities were capable of space travel, they were primitive in many other areas, such as social and economic dynamics. Hahahaha

PaulTB ago

Edit suggestions:

See, the other me was somewhat, how to say, in-mprecise when she gave you a distance estimate.

worset case scenario I can go back to sleep." Dorothy thought out loud.

where there would be less or no inhabited systems or satellites.

This might have not been an issue for a bigger ship, but Cassie was ineapt to efficiently FTL travel on her own.

'inept' implies being bad at their job/task, 'inapt' implies unsuited to the task. So, for example, a milk truck would not be inept to Formula One racing, it would be inapt.

Year of event: 22+ 10^( 10.1395)

Sometimes you use 10^ sometimes you use e^. Either is valid, but they are not the same so you need to pick one and stick to it. 

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