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 Adrift: A Space Ballad

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Pascale d'Artagne
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Pascale d'Artagne

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Adrift: A Space Ballad Empty
PostSubject: Adrift: A Space Ballad   Adrift: A Space Ballad I_icon_minitimeWed Jul 17, 2019 6:21 pm

"Send those pesky physicians up here. See how much they like being bossed around." Cal's voice was nearly indistinguishable from the rattling speaker port. Even the static couldn't hide his obvious disdain.

"Cal, we don't -"

"Threaten hypothetical guests," the rattling voice interrupted. "Hospitality Protocol 3.4.2, last updated five Terran years ago, on the 3rd day of-"

"Yes, Cal, thank you." Jamy groaned, easing into a deep, cushioned seat. A battered, red toolbox clanked in his lap. Even at .3 Grav, his old knees were glad to rest.

"You are welcome." Garbled as it was, Cal's voice was suddenly an eerie monotone.

Jamy brandished a hex wrench, cursing as the detachable head liberated itself to fly - or float, metal also appreciated .3 Grav - across the room. "I should never have shared those audio files. The early days of automated voices were uniquely horrifying. Not that you aren't a proper terror," he ruminated, staring at the cluttered workstation. Small diagnostic lights and buttons winked back, dull red and green. "That Horathian scrapper failed to mention he was selling me an AI with an incurable attitude."

"No time to spare from describing my dazzling intellect."

Rummaging through the toolbox, Jamy's knobby-knuckled fingers found another hex-head. He set the toolbox on the floor and stood, reaching above his head for the malfunctioning speaker port. The wrench clinked against the metal bolts, unwilling to latch on. Jamy's left hand fumbled at his pocket.

"Damn. Where're my optics?"

The speaker rattled, sending vibrations through the wrench and making the grey hair on Jamy's arm stand on end. "Running visual search. Referencing recent image capture: Decrepit_Ship_Pilot_Squints_at_Book.holo."

Creaking, a panel slid back a few feet to Jamy's left. With a flicker of blue light and the coughing whir of cooling fans, the projector spat out a holograph of Jamy, reading as Cal described.

"Decrepit indeed," the man harrumphed, turning back to the speaker. With his free hand, he felt for the protruding bolt, relying purely on tactile ability to fit the wrench over the end. "I thought I forbid you from recording footage in private rooms." The first three bolts came off smoothly, but the fourth
was proving stubborn. A thin layer of sweat slicked his palms at the minor exertion.

"Hospitality Protocol 2.9.3," Cal affirmed, retracting the holograph. "But it became corrupted after I ate that infiltrating virus last week."

"I should've sent you to the surface to see the doctor."

"Or we could've both stayed here, and blocked the health center's sending address. Relocated to another solar system." A pause.

Jamy could almost feel Cal's "eye" cameras watching him struggle in vain with the bolt. "Your optics are in janitorial storage room 3B, by the way. Which also has the plasma powered multi-tool."

"Just. Fetch. The optics," Jamy grunted, straining against the resisting bolt. With a snap, the grease build up finally gave way. Not expecting the sudden release, Jamy fumbled the wrench and caught himself against the curving, steel wall of the outer hull.

Removing the grate was easy after that, revealing a jumble of multi-colored wires. Here was something he would not want to investigate blind. He got down and waited.

A minute later, something thumped into the door on his right.

"Cal?" Jamy prompted, digging in the toolbox for a flashlight.

"Uh, trying. I believe the hydraulic hinge is malfunctioning."

Flashlight in hand, Jamy went to the door. He swung it open, admitting a small cart the size of a shoebox. Plucking out his optics, he remounted his chair and examined the speaker port. The delivery bot ran excited circles around him.

Cal crooned, "Look, it's excited to see you."

"I know it's just you controlling it. Why didn't that door show up on the broken items diagnostic?"
Vision restored, it was easy for Jamy to spot the frayed wire ends. Five seconds later, he had them pinched together and started replacing the out panel.

Cal's voice came through with newfound, and relieving, clarity. "It must have just broken."

"You're either the only bot that's ever lied to me, or the only one that's bad at it."

Cal's response was garbled, and Jamy frowned at the panel. Was it broken again? "Cal?"

"I altered the list," Cal confessed, voice small, but still clear. He must have been exercising his relatively newfound skill of muttering. "It's only been six days since you came back, and all you've done is go around fixing everything."

"And that's a bad thing?"

"I was fond of that flickering light bulb! Alright, I don't care about that outdated luminary, but you should be resting. The doctors said-"

Jamy forced a chuckle. "Shucks, Cal, I didn't know you cared. And since when do we care about the doctors, remember?" His tools fell into the toolbox with a clang, and he sat again in the chair. The flashlight was heavy in his hands.

It wasn't a large room, only two doors, a viewport, and a paper-strewn workstation. The delivery bot sat still at his feet, power indicator blinking out of sync with the light from the ship control panel. An old, old ship, too large for one old man.

Jamy sighed.

Stood, knees creaking.

Leaned over the panel, idly wiping away dust and grime.

Thought, sadly, that he may have been remiss in not including the concept of mortality in Cal's last protocol update.

Shadows settled around him, the overhead lights dimming in their routine imitation of twilight. Through the glass viewport, a thousand thousand stars glimmered across the deep, dark space.

Old Jaremy lifted a hand. "Goodbye, Cal."


He pressed the Big Red Button, and the ship went dark.
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Adrift: A Space Ballad Empty
PostSubject: Re: Adrift: A Space Ballad   Adrift: A Space Ballad I_icon_minitimeThu Aug 15, 2019 4:12 pm

Oil. Tobacco smoke. Heady cologne, pretending to mask the grimy scent of men who didn't bother bathing between the labor of day and the revelry of night.

One such man reclined in a corner booth - or so he might have seemed as such. But every figure in this star-forsaken dive knew full well that Reid O’Donovan's particular stench wasn't from a hard day's work. Unless, of course, it was considered "work" to get black-out drunk at 2 p.m., wander through the back alleys of Township Ailton's industrial district, pass out for the afternoon between Solarium Manufacturing's "burnable" and "ejectable" dumpsters, and be abruptly awakened near dusk by bits of splattered warmth, courtesy of some passing vagrant taking a leak.

And here he was, back for round two. The familiar barmaid sauntered over, ale in hand, frowning. Long gone were the days of impassioned lectures about how he shouldn’t be wasting away his twenties in a stupor – but she still didn’t hide her displeasure at his life choices. He accepted the drink with half a smile, though his eyes winced.

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