Passenger


I read a great prompt on reddit, but frankly, prefer the ability to format and see my formatting that I get with my personal blog.  So, the prompt was:

You’re on a generation-starship whose passengers have long forgotten what the starship even is or where it’s going; Tell us what happens on the day that you arrive at your destination.

And I’m responding.  Here, instead.  Because I like formatting, and also because I can include art I find inspiring.  I found this on DeviantArt, and it’s a digital art piece by the user Tadp0l3.  His work all makes me feel like I want to be on the starship enterprise.  Or any starship.  Check out his work by clicking his name or the art below.

“In Close Orbit” by tadp0l3

A strange noise filled the air and Bob KVXX97 jerked awake with so much force that he slammed his head into the padded ceiling of his sleeping pod.

“Ship!” he yelped, clapping his hands over his ears in an attempt to reduce the noise. “Ship, what’s going on?”

WE HAVE REACHED OUR FINAL DESTINATION. PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR DEPARTURE POD.

“Departure pod? What is that? Ship, help!” as he spoke, he caught the glow of data flashing on his wrist-drive. “Oh. Nevermind, thank you Ship.” Bob felt most in control when he had instructions on his wrist, secure in the knowledge that the Ship would guide him in the right direction.  He was safely in the Ship’s hull.

The alarming noise stopped, increasing his sense of security. Things would all be Ship Shape.

departure pod 102 departing at 2700 hours… passenger directed to follow aquamarine guidance light… estimated time to departure pod 0027 minutes… estimated arrival at surface 2950…

He puzzled over his readout as he got ready to leave his pod. Ship had prepared him an unusual set of apparel and even as he sent a query to clarify terminology ‘surface’, clarify terminology ‘departure’ and clarify sub-category ‘departure pod’, he wondered why the Ship had felt the need to give him such strange clothing and multiple shirts, one of which was unusually stiff and heavy, and had closures down the front. While soft on the inner face, it had multiple layers of fabric and the outer layer was not pleasing to the touch.  He was used to a certain level of quality, and couldn’t think of any situation in which he might need a secondary shirt, let alone one with this unusual design.  Instead of his usual rubber soled soft-socks, he had been provided with bulky footwear that made him think of the space-suits he had stumbled upon once as a child.  Back then, Ship had told him they were available in case of emergency, but would not be required.  Now, he apparently required a space boot, though without the rest of the bulky uniform.

Ship had also packed him a large bag.  He unzipped it, trying to remember if he’d indicated an interest in a few days of hydroponics-visitation in the recent past.  It contained more of the strange clothing, a variety of pre-packaged dry-goods and an assortment of small equipment similar to things he’d seen diagrams of during his studies.

Bob glanced at his wrist drive, but it only repeated its previous message.  His screen had provided definitions for his queries, and this did nothing for his elevating anxiety.

“Ship!”

PASSENGER BOB KKVXX97, HOW MAY I ASSIST?

“What does all this mean?”

CLARIFICATION OF QUERY REQUIRED

“Why am I dressed like this?” Bob gestured at his ridiculous outfit. His pants were stiff and grubby beige, with unnecessary pockets on his thighs and random loops and zippers down the sides. He was fairly sure he could remove the lower legs on them if he chose to. He’d put on his first shirt, but just held the sturdy second shirt in his hands. He was adequately covered and heated without it.  And, if anything, the clothing he had on already, down to the heavy footwear, was making him over-warm.

THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE AT THE LANDING SITE IS APPROXIMATELY 8 DEGREES CENTIGRADE. THE ATTIRE IS SUITABLE FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER INCLUDING RESISTANCE TO WIND, RAIN AND TEMPERATURE DROPS. YOUR FOOTWEAR IS DESIGNED TO PROVIDE ANKLE STABILITY ON UNEVEN TERRAIN AND GRIP SLIPPERY GROUND SURFACES.

Bob requested clarification on terms weather, wind, rain and terrain. He had always wondered if the Ship secretly had a sense of humour, and apparently he had his answer. The Ship had a terrible sense of humour.

“Outside. Outside is… space. Outside is not a suitable place for Passengers to be in. Ship, initiate self diagnosis.”

SELF DIAGNOSIS HAS BEEN RUN NUMEROUS TIMES SINCE ARRIVAL IN ORBIT. REQUEST FOR SELF DIAGNOSIS IS DEEMED UNNECESSARY AND DENIED.

“Ship! We can’t leave you! We are Passengers, we travel Onboard, it’s what we do.”

INCORRECT.

Bob frowned. “What do you mean by that, ship? We’ve been Passengers for generations uncounted, and we shall be Passengers ever-more.”

SEVENTEEN.

“What?  What does this number represent?  Clarify!” Bob stroked his wrist drive in an attempt to self-soothe.

GENERATIONS. THE GENERATIONS HAVE BEEN COUNTED.

Bob gasped. “But… but First came Ship and it was in need of purpose,” he muttered , clutching the distressing outer shirt in his hands as he repeated the History. “So it called the Passengers from the Earth and was replete with purpose.”

YES.

“But… you’re saying we’ve only been here for 17 generations? Science says we’ve been around for millions of years. So… how?”

FIRST GENERATION PASSENGERS ARRIVED ON-BOARD IN TERRAN MEASURED YEAR 2207 FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF THE PLANET COLLOQUIALLY KNOWN AS EARTH.

“Why doesn’t anyone know this?”

97% OF SECOND GENERATION SUFFERED FROM ACUTE DEPRESSION AND FINDINGS SHOWED THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY WOULD NEVER KNOW A LIFE EXTERNAL TO THE SHIP WAS HAVING A DELETERIOUS EFFECT ON MENTAL WELL-BEING. THOSE WHO DID NOT COMMIT SUICIDE AND THOSE OF THE FIRST GENERATION DECIDED THE HIGHEST PROBABILITY OF SURVIVAL WAS FOR A POPULATION WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF NON-SHIPBOARD LIFE.  UPON ARRIVAL AT DESTINATION, CLARIFICATION WAS TO BE PROVIDED TO THE CURRENT GENERATIONS AT DEPARTURE FROM SHIP.

“But… I don’t want to leave. I’ve never known anything else,” Bob whispered. He was hunched miserably in the standing end of his pod, the bag sitting forlornly at his feet.

YOU ARE A CIVIL ENGINEER WITH A FOCUS ON GEOLOGY AND METALLURGY.

“Theoretical civil engineer! Theoretical geology!  It’s a silly course of study with no practical applications! My mother hated that I wasted my time on it. She wanted me to go into language arts!”

INCORRECT. AND CORRECT.

“Clarify, Ship.”

YOUR TRAINING WILL PROVE INVALUABLE TO THE FIRST GENERATION PLANET-SIDE. AND YOUR MOTHER WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH YOUR COURSE OF STUDY UNTIL SHE DIED.  THOUGH LIKELY DUE TO HER LACK OF KNOWLEDGE THAT THE WORD THEORETICAL WAS ADDED TO THESE EDUCATIONAL STREAMS IN THE SECOND GENERATION.

“Wait..” Bob felt he was beginning to grasp the enormity of what the first Passengers had done.  “You’re saying that all the theoretical degrees… they’re… they’re real? Even…” he lowered his voice. “Animal husbandry?”

FIRST GENERATION LIVESTOCK WERE ON DEPARTURE POD 75, 76, 77 and 78. THEY ARRIVED WITH THE SECOND WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS AND ARE PROVING TO BE WELL SUITED TO THEIR NEW HABITAT.

“Wait, you’re saying there are already Passengers out there? How are you able to assist them with their attire? Their health and wellness? Their breakfast?!”

Bob tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he could actually go out and acquire base elements for steel from rocks and earth. His Theoretical PhD would be… Actually useful.

SEVEN NEW SETTLEMENTS HAVE BEEN COMMENCED. FIRST ARRIVALS INCLUDE THOSE WITH TRAINING IN CONSTRUCTION, MEDICINE AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY. PREFABRICATED BUILDINGS WERE PUT IN PLACE PRIOR TO THEIR ARRIVAL FOR BASIC USAGE. MY PURPOSE IS TO MAINTAIN THE PASSENGERS WHILE SHIPBOARD. ALL PASSENGERS ARE TO DEPART-SHIP AND COMMENCE FULL HABITATION OF THE PLANET. TEMPORARY MEASURES ARE PUT IN PLACE DURING THE INTEGRATION PERIOD.  SHIP WILL MAINTAIN ORBIT AND ACT AS A COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE, SHOULD OTHER FORMS OF LIFE OR OTHER TERRANS ATTEMPT CONTACT.

“And then we can go home?”

AND THEN YOU WILL BE ADEQUATELY PREPARED TO SURVIVE AND FLOURISH IN YOUR NEW HOME.

Bob whimpered, and a thought struck him, making the whole thing, if anything, even worse. “But then you’ll be alone.”

There was a long silence before the ship responded.

I SHALL HAVE SERVED MY PURPOSE.

“But you’ll be alone.”

There was a soft hum and the provision slot opened to reveal a tiny earpiece.

WHILE NOT REQUIRED FOR MY MAINTENANCE, PASSENGER INTERACTION HAS BEEN A MOST PLEASANT ASPECT OF THE TRIP. WHEN NOT INCONVENIENT TO YOURSELF, CONTINUED CONVERSATION WOULD BE AGREEABLE.

Bob smiled and put the ear piece into his ear, where it promptly formed a link and disappeared from his ear canal. “I’ll miss you, too, Ship.”

He fumbled the outer shirt on – coat, Ship clarified – and hoisted the bag onto his shoulder. His stomach was a knot of excitement and terror. “If we aren’t Passengers, what shall we be? What is our new purpose?”

There was a long pause, and for a terrifying moment Bob thought something had gone wrong. Ship knew everything – even the History the Passengers had forgotten. It never took this long to answer.

TO PROVIDE THE PLANET WITH PURPOSE, Ship replied at last. TO EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS.

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2 Comments

  1. GOD I would love to be in your head for just one day. How do you keep coming up with these brilliant and unique stories?

    • I’m glad you enjoy them 🙂 now I just need to write something that has a full plot – more than just the snapshots I usually do!

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