Goodbye Sol – Page 4

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Two short high pitched chirps echoed through my room. “Yes?” I called out and the door opened. Tall and thin, the shape of his backlit shadowy frame was enough for me to know that it was Asher in the doorway. I turned on my lamp and could see his kind, smiling face staring back at me.
“Emeric says it’s time to eat dinner like the crazy pseudo-family that we are.”
“That sounds like him!” I laughed. It felt nice to have my mood lightened after the messages from home. “He does realize both of us know that we do this every time we wake up, right?”
“Yeah, but there’s so few command decisions he needs to make. He would probably die if he didn’t give us some orders.”
Asher turned and began heading down the hall to the stairway. I turned off my displays, and followed him a moment later.
We walked by the captain’s office and quarters before turning to go up a steel staircase. The metal stairs were designed to provide grip, but it also meant that I couldn’t walk around barefoot as the pointy areas would dig uncomfortably into my skin.
The mess was divided from the cryopods by a large wall of storage that went from the engineering section to two thirds of the way to the bridge. It broke up the space in the main part of the ship, creating two rooms and provided space for food, personal items, and replacement parts.
I grabbed a tray from the food dispenser and sat on a stool at the semi-circle table that was affixed to the exterior wall of the ship. A large display on the wall was set-up to show the the view outside, like a window, in an attempt to make the room feel bigger than it was.
“How are you two doing?” Emeric asked.
“Good, sir.” Asher said without looking at him.
“Alright.” I replied staring at my food. I knew it was mostly made from previously frozen pureed vegetables with a salty gravy like dressing on top, but that didn’t make it any more appetizing. At least this time the computer had felt it fair to provide me with a small square of a dense sweet bread. It sat, safe from the vegetables and gravy, in its own predetermined spot on the plate.
“Any news from home?” Emeric prodded again.
“Got messages from my family.” I replied. “They’re all aging so fast… Relatively speaking.”
“Not much new for me.” Asher said.
“How’s your sister?” I asked.
“She sent me a message, text only. They are trying to make her comfortable and trying to slow the progress.” He cleared his throat, and stopped speaking.
“Sometimes I wish my family would send text only,” I said. “Or that they’d send less messages. I haven’t even finished going through the ones that have come in since we were last up.” I scooped a large fork full of the vegetable puree and ate it. It was difficult to swallow down. I had tried baby food often in helping my siblings raise their children, but the meals on the LD always had an extra bitterness from the powdered vitamins and a chalky aftertaste from the protein powder that made the experience so much worse than anything fed to a growing baby.
“I wish I had that problem.” Asher shrugged.
“Yes, yes.” The captain broke in. “The grass is always greener.” He cleared his throat then smiled a little too big, his eyebrows high. “So, sports?” Emeric paused, and I felt awkward as the silence went on too long. “Did you guys see what team won the world series last year?”
“I don’t do teams.” I said, trying not to sound too dismissive. “Is the world series basketball?”
“Baseball.” Asher said, gently. “Though to be honest, I don’t follow it much myself. I did have the IHSP send me videos from the last two hockey seasons. I’ve read that they have been intense.”
“You had the Interstellar Humanity Space Program send you hockey games?” I asked. “Shouldn’t they be doing more important things like tracking our mission, and making sure we are okay? I mean, that is why they sent us out here, right?”
Emeric replied before Asher had a chance to. “Hockey is okay. If you like that flailing around on ice, beating people up, kind of thing. I’ve always been a baseball man, it’s a more civilized game if you ask me.”
I watched as the two men strengthened their bond by making fun of each other’s sport choices. It sometimes felt like the conversation always went back to a sport of some sort. I often thought about researching one just to be able to fit in better.
After a few minutes, the banter died down and the captain smiled. “As always, I’m so glad we have this time together to chat.” Emeric shoved his final forkful of food in his mouth and stood up. “If you two will excuse me.” He smiled, taking his empty plate to the food dispenser and then left heading back down the stairs.
“So,” I said, turning my attention to Asher. “Pool?”
“Yeah, I’d love to.” He smiled. “But first, engines.”
“May I join you?”
“Sure, I could probably use an extra set of hands.”
I stood and took my plate to the food dispenser and Asher did the same. We walked around the wall of storage and turned to walk past the cryopods on our way to the back of the ship.
“I wonder what’s up with the Raven?” Asher said as we passed the two extra pods, which were there for the members of the first expedition.
“I don’t know,” I said. A picture flashed in my mind of their decayed skeletal bodies entombed inside failed cryopods. I didn’t mention it to Asher though, as I knew he didn’t have the stomach for such things.
“Think they’re still alive?” He asked.
“I hope so. But even if they are, they might require a lot of my attention.”
“I’m sure you’re up to the task.” Asher pushed the button to open the door to the engine room. There were two layers of doors that had to open as extra protection from any possible radiation leaks. The first door opened swiftly exposing the second thicker door that took a few moments to open all the way. “I’m sure they’re good people and God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to them.”
I said nothing in response, I simply nodded and looked around the room for a moment. This was definitely not my domain. The power reactors were massive, actually taking up space both on the lower deck and the upper deck, where we were currently standing. There were five reactors powering the ship’s engines and all of its systems. Four large, two storey reactors were dwarfed by the main reactor which sat forward and offset to one side of the ship. The main reactor was surrounded by computer consoles that provided engineering and operational details for every system.
All of the reactors together illuminated the engine room with an eerie green glow. Everything looked strange, and when I caught a reflection of myself on one of the metal safety banisters, I was shocked to see how sickly I looked bathed in the light.
Asher stared over the top of his glasses at the console, his brow furrowed, and his mouth opened slightly, the corners turned down.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Well, this isn’t right,” he said, tapping at different areas of the screen. “By all rights it shouldn’t be happening.”
“What shouldn’t?”
“We’re… Yeah, we are at ninety eight percent. But then… No. Why? What?”
“Asher,” I said in the most authoritative tone I could manage. “What is wrong?”
“Unless I’m reading this wrong, physics is broken.”
“I totally don’t follow.”
“We can’t be. There’s no way… But, we’re slowing down.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“I’d say it’s a bad thing. Yes. Because I don’t know why.” He stared at the screen again and shook his head. “It’s like looking through an extremely powerful microscope and finding out we’re all made of minestrone soup.”
“Well that makes no sense.”
“Exactly!” Asher said throwing his hands up in the air.

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