Author : Lester L Weil
We were twenty years into the journey to our new planet. The ship required very little maintenance and all of us slept in our pods. The computer detected that one of the pods had malfunctioned, an unheard of occurrence. Protocol was that as Captain, I was to be awaken in the event of any problem to assess the situation. I woke to find a very confused young boy wandering the pod area. I put him to my pod and activated it and notified the computer to update the pod assignments.
Then I set about trying to correct the malfunction. With help of the computer, I discovered that the core mechanism was irrevocably broken, and without a replacement the pod was beyond repair. Almost all parts that needed replacing could be fabricated in our shop, but the pod core wasn’t one of them. There were no extra pods; there was not the space on the ship for ‘extras’.
So there would be no hyper-sleep for me. I would have to stay in real time. I would captain my ship while the rest slept in their pods, waiting to wake to a new world. They would be young and ready to start afresh. I would be an old man, irrelevant after the voyage has ended.
But I’ll be ok I told myself. I’ve always preferred living alone and the quiet days and years in space will give me plenty of time to read and play the piano, although the computer simulation is a poor substitute for my old Steinway.
So I read, thousands of books about everything. I studied history using the computer’s vast library and wrote treatises on various historical events. And what could be more useless on a new planet than an old man: esoteric earth histories. I composed not very good piano music. I wrote a novel and a book on philosophy. I played untold games of chess against the computer.
I got to know most of the passengers by name, and also their life histories by reading their files. I think of the pod rooms as my ‘neighborhoods’. The sleepers are my neighbors and I sometimes have imaginary conversations with them.
And so the years flowed by and another birthday came around. If I subtract the ‘pod’ years I am 86 today. If things go right I will spend my 87th on planet SR6973, our destination.
On this morning’s walk through the pod rooms—It’s odd that even after all these years of artificial lights I still think in terms of day and night, morning and evening. I linger in the section with families, looking at the children and again wonder what their young minds were thinking when starting this voyage. What wild and strange imaginings of their future world?
But enough of this. Today I wake the crew and we prepare for the final descent to our new home. I go to the crew’s section and start making preparations. My X/O is the first to wake. As he shook the cobwebs from his mind, he looked at me in wonder.
“Captain?—Jesus. Is that you? What the hell happened?”