Adrift


Head over to Trifecta to see this week’s prompt responses.  This week, the word is:

brain (noun)

1

a : the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system enclosed in the skull and continuous with the spinal cord through the foramen magnum that is composed of neurons and supporting and nutritive structures (as glia) and that integrates sensory information from inside and outside the body in controlling autonomic function (as heartbeat and respiration), in coordinating and directing correlated motor responses, and in the process of learning — compare

2

a (1) : intellect, mind <has a clever brain> (2) : intellectual endowment : intelligence —often used in plural <plenty ofbrains in that family>b (1) : a very intelligent or intellectual person (2) : the chief planner within a group —usually used in plural <she’s thebrains behind their success>

3

: something that performs the functions of a brain; especially : an automatic device (as a computer) for control or computation

It immediately brought to my mind the sentient ship books by Anne McCaffrey, so I went with that train of thought.  Let me know what you think!

The artwork below is done by Ozan Çivit, an illustrator and concept artist.  I love how this ship looks so organic – like some huge whale drifting through space.  Click on the picture to take you to more of his work.

The surface of the liquid crystal matrix before him shimmered with his every breath, sensitive to the slightest vibration in the air.

“Good morning, Ship.”

It quivered, melting into human features.

“GOOD MORNING ARKAM. I TRUST YOU SLEPT WELL?”

The hollow voice emanated from all corners of the room.

“Fine.” Arkam slouched and asked, “Any news?”

“SADLY, NO.”

Arkam knew that the computer generated voice couldn’t be modulated, but the mechanical brain sounded apologetic.

Too much time alone isn’t good for a man.

He nodded brusquely. “Any business?”

The ship cleared its throat uncomfortably. “WELL…”

Designed by humans to sound human, Arkam reminded himself.

“IT HAS BEEN SEVEN YEARS, TO THE DAY. AS PER ORDERS, I AM PERMITTED TO ASK ONCE A YEAR. PERMISSION REQUESTED TO JETTISON ALL EXTRANEOUS ORGANIC MATTER IN ORDER TO EXTEND LIFE EXPECTANCY OF LIVING ORGANISMS ABOARD.”

“They are living organisms.”

Dropping one by one into dreams, no symptoms, no warning. No desire to awaken.

“NO, SIR.”

Arkam looked up sharply.

He – it – looks … sad.

“ALL HIGHER ACTIVITY HAS CEASED. AS PER GALACTIC UNION DIRECTORATE ORDER ONE POINT ONE ZERO EIGHT, THEY ARE NO LONGER DEFINED AS LIVING.”

He bowed forward, palms scratched by the rough growth of stubble on his cheeks.

“All of them?” His voice cracked, his eyes burned.

“I AM SORRY. WE TRIED.”

“Life systems after jettison?”

“EIGHT POINT SEVEN FIVE YEARS, ADEQUATE TO REACH AN INHABITED SECTOR.”

Thirty thousand lost. Forever adrift in the dreams they sought refuge in.

“Without?”

It was just meant to help while away the time.

“A WEEK.”

Why couldn’t I plug in, too?

“Permission granted.”

He stood and turned away, shoulders hunched in pain.

The ship’s enormous face shrank down into a silvery human figure. It longingly reached out to the bereft man, silver fingers stroking the clear diamond of its prison.

“I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE FOR YOU, ARKAM.”

Softly spoken, the words didn’t reach past the doors that were already closing behind the lone man.

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44 Comments

  1. Lance

     /  April 3, 2012

    I’m such a science fiction buff. The artificial intelligence becoming his only friend. Loneliness and isolation as characters. The “dialogue” is excellent.

    My only concrit is usually blocking to separate the dialogue to make it slightly less confusing.

    But I really liked this. Just write a novel of this storyline and I’m good.

    • I’m feeling a bit dim – could you explain what you mean by blocking to separate dialogue? I figured the “Arkam” vs inner thoughts vs “SHIP BRAIN” thing would be a clear enough indicator of who is talking or thinking.
      I think if I wrote a full novel of this, the character would be raving mad by the end of it (if he isn’t somewhat already), and I would be having intense conversations with my oven and any other electronics in my house that have a panel to display dialogue. Not even to mention the fact that my car writes “HELLO” to me every time I turn it (her? him?) on! 😉

      • Lance

         /  April 3, 2012

        yeah, i see what you’re saying. Now that I’ve read it for third time. Ignore what I said. The exchanges and notations are perfect for this form. In fact, don’t change anything.

        and do write a novel

  2. Your writing never ceases to impress me. Good job Lexy!!

  3. Diane

     /  April 3, 2012

    Amazing writing. Emotional. The sense of loneliness at the end is striking. Great job!

    • thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. That loneliness was definitely what I was going for, so I’m glad it’s coming across.

  4. This is a wonderful, sad story. It was challenging for me to read (I needed to read it twice to understand that the computer started off the conversation as a big face on the liquid crystal screen) but I think a lot of my stories end up challenging too, so who am I to talk. The emotion here is exquisite and truthful.

    As you mentioned, a novel of this story could be crazy-making, but maybe a longer short story beginning before the others began to drop off into that deep sleep? I think science fiction lovers like to spend a bit more time with other universes. 🙂

    • the original (wayyyy over word count) version described a bit of the ship. I love to hear about the strange and unusual surroundings in a sci fi novel too. I could see it becoming a longer short story for sure, though the idea of writing a full novel of it is intimidating – it can’t all be entirely doom and gloom, after all!

  5. I adore this! Great job!

  6. You’ve hit a sore spot with me: We are so lonely with our technologies. I really enjoyed this, especially, the near-crossover from computer to human.

    • It’s true – so many more ways to connect, so few actual connections.
      Poor Ship, it is sentient, but the human just can’t believe it.

  7. Lexy, I’m short on smart words but can manage to say this: “You be brilliant”. Great post 🙂

    • That’s because you used them all up on your own post 🙂 that, and the hilarious words!
      thanks 🙂

  8. My favorite part was when the ship melted, molded into human form. It sounds like a futuristic Star Trek type movie in the making.

    Staying Connected

    • I figure if ‘ship’ can take the form of a giant head, it ought to be able to take any form, if it wanted to 🙂 It does kind of bring to mind that room in the ship in Star Trek where you could bring the characters of books to life in order to solve a mystery like sherlock holmes, or … well… that’s the only episode I saw with that room in it, but it stuck with me 🙂

      • Oh I think I missed that one. I love that about Harry Potter’s series of tales though, that the pictures on the walls, or in the books come to life. It’s a great way to keep people interested in reading books!

        • Or Inkheart – if reading a book aloud could bring forth characters, just imagine how many more people would be reading 🙂

          • Have you ever read Jasper Ffordes “Thursday Next” series? It’s an interesting take on the characters coming to life idea. And some of it is pretty funny too.

          • I haven’t… but i’ll have to track it down. It sounds intriguing

          • You have a good point in that!

  9. That was the best response I have ever seen. You created the world at its fringes, so that we had exactly the information we needed to move forward with the plot.

  10. Brilliant. Loved this story, especially what seemed like the genuine emotion of the ship at the end.

    • thanks 🙂 The ship is definitely more sentient, and empathic, than the human is aware of!

  11. columbibueno

     /  April 5, 2012

    Great story, lexy.

  12. Excellent job lexy!

  13. great job demonstrating the shift in preserving all life to preservation of self.

    And that last line by “the brain” was creepy…would they REALLY run out of power in a week…or does she…it…whatever 😉 just want him for herself?

    • I’m not sure. I’d like to think she’s a compassionate enough sentience that she isn’t creating that kind of pain, but it’s hard to tell what drives a ship to do what it does. He had already been on the ship with the unconscious people for 7 years, though. Who can say how long a spaceship’s life systems can hold up without recharge?

  14. mrsoneday

     /  April 5, 2012

    Good, solid sci-fi. Your use of the challenge word was well-done and eerie. I loved it!

    Good luck in the challenge.

  15. This is wonderful! I love the dialog between the two. Please tell me you’re going to be making this a continuing part of your blog.

  16. I enjoyed this VERY much. You wrote a hauntingly beautiful and sad story. I loved it.

  17. What a lonely existence. Sad.

  18. trifectawriting

     /  April 6, 2012

    Thanks for linking up to Trifecta this week. If you haven’t already done it, you might be interested in clicking on the “Meet Your Fellow Trifectans” tab on our site and introducing yourself there. Hope to see you back on Monday for the new prompt.

  19. This was poignant and wonderful. I too thought of the sentient ships when I read the prompt, and struggled to come up with something that wasn’t redundant. I think you did a great job here. You know, I feel like the last two lines might be a little superfluous – too explicit a description, in a way. The sentence “It longingly reached out to the bereft man, silver fingers stroking the clear diamond of its prison…” captured the ship’s feeling so well that I don’t think you really needed to explain it. (Just my opinion, for what it’s worth. Plus, it’s just a beautiful line!)

    • That’s a very good point. I had the last two lines written before I added that phrase, which is why I didn’t even consider how the flow of the story was already finished with the prison-sentence.
      thanks for the concrit 🙂

  20. This is sad but really good 😦

    • thanks 🙂 yeah, it’s a bit of a downer… but you never know… sentient ship/human romance has worked in other novels 😀

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