The Reticent Vigil, a space-faring frigate, is sent to the planet SLA-738-2G9. After a nine-year voyage, The Vigil finally arrives at her destination, but what will her crew find on the rocky planet?
The dim, multi-colored lights pulsed lazily upon the bulkheads. The rough curvature of the walls and the smooth glass set at the head of the bridge enclosed the room and made it seem cave-like. A graphic display table in the center of the room displayed a giant sphere dotted with jagged mountain ranges and the occasional blue smear of water; its pale light bathed the area in an almost sickly glow. There were thin seats situated along the edges of the area, each meant to be filled by a crewman, but all of those seats were empty at the time. She was a handsome ship, if it could even be called a ship; the damn frigate was enormous in size, gravid with cargo, and armed to the rivets with firepower.
He stood at the center of the room and leaned against the graphic display table, a mug in his hand and his sandy hair still damp from a shower. His brow furrowed as he gazed at the three-dimensional image being projected above the table. This is what they were after: a rocky planet tagged SLA-738-2G9, a name affectionately shortened to Slag-9, that was who knows how many light years away from officially human-controlled space. He snorted softly to himself and pushed himself back from the table, turning away from the image. The projection snapped off, and the planet disappeared, but the table remained on, still humming quietly. He took a sip from his mug, and trails of steam drifted up from the liquid. There were already enough planets meant for mining operations in his opinion, but the pay had to come from somewhere; who was he to judge where his money came from?
“Atlas? You there?” He glanced up at the bulkheads as if he would find Atlas somewhere up there. A soft orange light bloomed across the bulkheads, and he turned back to the display. An auburn moth fluttered above the table.
“When aren’t I? What kind of question is that, Jai?”
Jai tipped the cup back to his lips. “I take it you’re playing nice with Gordon’s watchdog?” he said into his mug.
“According to equipment and device lists, the other Artificial Intelligence, the one belonging to Chairman Gordon, that resides within this ship is not labeled as a ‘watchdog.’ Rather, it is tagged as the ‘Observational Defense and Detection System.’” The large moth drifted down to rest on the table’s surface. Jai raised his eyebrows at him over the rim of his coffee mug.
The moth sighed and beat its wings in a flustered sort of way. “Yes. ODDS was ever so polite during The Reticent Vigil’s nine-year voyage to the Outer Rim. He’s currently preoccupied with monitoring the space between The Vigil and Slag-9.”
Jai nodded to himself and strode around the room. “Were there any complications?”
“Nothing major. Only a few minor disruptions in the routine operating systems concerning the cryogenics as well as one very minor course redirection caught my attention and needed correcting.”
“Nothing exciting? Good.” Jai glanced back at Atlas. “I hope you weren’t too bored along the way.”
“Quite the contrary,” the moth quipped. “I had more fun than you could imagine while learning the effects of jettisoning key parts of The Vigil’s core reactor as well as its cargo into deep space.” Jai gave him a pointed look, and Atlas beat his wings again. “Of course I was bored! You try running a completely silent ship for nine years without anyone to converse with aside from ODDS. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been completely civil, but that’s not to say he was programmed with even a hint of casual familiarity,” he huffed.
“The Chief Officer would have your Quantum Matrix Processor if you ever did something like that to her cargo, Atlas. Anyways, you’ll have plenty of people to heckle soon enough,” Jai told him, chuckling. “Speaking of the crew, how’s the thawing process going?” He moved along the bridge, checking each station on his way.
“Medical is up already, as you already know; they are monitoring the officers now. Half of engineering is awake and getting ready; the other half is almost thawed. All the other crew is set to be taken out of sustained hibernation as soon as the primary staff members have been awakened.” The glass viewing port at the head of the bridge was eclipsed by a semi-transparent view of The Vigil’s cryogenics hold. Hundreds of containers stood in perfect rows throughout the entire hold, dark outlines of still-frozen figures barely discernable behind the fogged glass. Medical staff could be seen milling about the area, checking on multiple pods and on the crew members that were beginning to emerge from their nine-year glass beds.
“Has Gizbourne been defrosted yet?” Jai asked, scanning the screen.
A pause. “Yes. Chief Navigational Officer Gizbourne Ramsey has just been awoken from cryosleep.”
“Perfect. Let me speak to him.” The overhead audio clicked to life suddenly; the sound of hissing air, footsteps, and chatter filled the bridge.
“Hey, Captain,” a hoarse voice croaked over the speaker.
“Morning, Giz. Once you’re warmed up, Atlas and I need your expertise here on the bridge.
“Sure thing, Captain. Just give me a minute.” Gizbourne paused to cough violently, gagging on the liquid in his throat and gasping for air.
Though he knew the Navigational Officer could not see him, Jai smiled apologetically. “Cough it up, Giz. It kept you alive for nine years, but you don’t need it anymore. You’ll be fine.”
“I wish I could believe you,” he rasped back miserably. The audio cut off then, and the bridge was left in silence.
Jai walked back to the center of the room and leaned against the graphic display table once more. The orange moth looked up at him, and Jai smiled. “I say it’s time we get this ship back up and running, don’t you agree?”