The Forgotten – Chapter 6

“Senior Drone Pilot Rachel Severin awake,” announced the ships artificial intelligence. As the seal of the pod cracked open, a rush of oxygen escaped into the chamber. The lights in the room powered on for dim illumination.

The hypersleep chamber was larger than most due to rank and position, only a single pod with a small table, personal computer station, and a private head. Although they were directly attached to the messdeck and recreational facilities, the technicians and private security personnel lived in open bays with many others. There was no privacy in those areas except for the hypersleep pod which converted to a duty bunk. But all areas were open to inspection, at any time, by command and company officers.

Rachel stretched her arms as the aches left her body. She had jumped enough times to know exactly how to position her body to minimize the soreness that always followed. The ship’s AI always monitored the sleepers vitals, but sore and cramp muscles were not it’s problem. She knew her dark, shoulder-length hair would need some serious attention, no matter where she positioned her head. Unlike most of her crewmates, Rachel refused to shave her head before hypersleep. Most veteran contractors learned hair had little function when you are sleeping in a pod for weeks, or months in the case of this trip, so most just shaved it off before jumping. Space on a spaceship was at a premium, even for something as small as a comb and a brush.

“Good morning, Rachel,” the AI said in a pleasant female voice, “I hope your sleep was pleasant.”

Rachel blinked a few times as her eyes readjusted to focusing and dilating. “Yes, it was, Alice,” Rachel responded using the nickname for computer. “I had many pleasant dreams of sitting on the beach as the waves rolled in.”

“Wouldn’t the radiation danger and unpleasant odor make that difficult, if not impossible, Rachel?” Alice asked.

Rachel fluffed her tangled hair. “I didn’t mean literally. I was imagining what it would have been like back when you could before all the radiation contamination. Before we left, I found some old stories about families taking trips and actually getting in the water. It sounded amazing.”

A 3d hologram of a beach appeared over Rachel’s table. “I have many images of beach vacations in my database, Rachel, if you wish to see them.” The hologram changed to a cottage covered in snow with skiers zipping past. “I also have other experiences such as the Alpine get-away. The company only charges a small fee that can be automatically deducted from your contract if you would like me to add them to your terminal.”

“No, thank you, Alice,” Rachel said sliding her feet out of the pod and on the floor. “I’m sure the company has many exciting offers that can be automatically deducted, but I plan to bring all my contract earnings home and retire.”

“As you wish, Rachel. Please let me know if you choose to enjoy any premium services in the future.”

“I will. How far are we from the target planet?” Rachel asked as she stood up, her naked body shivering from the cold, sterile air. Her legs felt stiff but she nothing a little walking around couldn’t handle. She opened the drawer under her pod and pulled out her issued company jumpsuit.

“At our current rate of deceleration, we will reach our destination in twenty-one point five Terran hours.”

Rachel stopped zipping her jumpsuit and looked at the monitor at her personal station where Alice displayed navigation information.

“Wow, they are really coming in hot. Any reason for that?” Alice asked as she finished zipping her jumpsuit and stepping in her self-fitting boots.

“Negative. There are no issues that have been entered into my systems. The company only wants to increase efficiency and a better return for investors.”

“In other words, they want us to get to work so we can start earning our contract money sooner,” Rachel snapped back, unhappy about the standard deviation from procedure. Usually she was given a Terran week to prepare her team’s drones for deployment. They will have to work a double shift to even have half of the drones ready in time for arrival.

“That is one way to state it, Rachel,” Alice said in her calm computer voice.

“So when’s my first briefing?”

“You have a meeting scheduled in three Terran hours with Project Director Maxwell in the war room.”

Rachel laughed when Alice mentioned the war room. Someone updated the artificial intelligence’s programming before the ship entered N-space will new lingo. She had a good idea she knew the identity of the hacker. When she first arrived on-board, the room was designated the executive conference room, but after the first meeting, she casually called it the war room. Someone had spent a lot of money and a lot of time outfitting that room with the latest technology salvaged from a derelict military Terran cruiser still orbiting Earth.

“Confirm with Project Director Maxwell that I will be there, as scheduled,” Rachel commanded the AI. “And Alice, note on my contract that my contract begins when that meeting starts.”

“Noted, Rachel Severin.”

The Forgotten - Chapter 5
The Forgotten - Chapter 7

Jeff is a multimedia specialist and a serial writer on his website, The Pen in the Stone.

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